The Unbearable Silliness of the Academic Left

The Unbearable Silliness of the Academic Left

From The Weekly Standard:

Somehow it is fitting that the most extraordinary academic hoax of our time would deal with dog parks, dildos, Hooters, masturbation, fat shaming, and a feminist Mein Kampf.

In a prank that is alternately hilarious, appalling, and disturbing, three puckish academics managed to place no fewer than seven “shoddy, absurd, unethical” articles in “respectable” academic journals that trafficked in the growing field of grievance studies—a field that includes gender and queer studies, critical race theory and a variety of post-modern constructivist theories now fashionable in the humanities and social sciences. If nothing else, they demonstrated that academic leftism is a target ripe for ridicule as well as outrage.

As they note in their paper, “ Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship,” the seven fake papers were the “tip of the iceberg” of sophistry in the hyper-ideological swamps of academia.

Indeed, they would surely have gotten more fake pieces published if their article about “dog park culture” had not attracted so much attention for its obvious risibility. The “dog park” article, was published with some fanfare in the journal Gender, Place, and Culture, was titled “Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity in Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon,” and argued that “dog parks are rape-condoning spaces and a place of rampant canine rape culture and systemic oppression against “the oppressed dog.” The study claimed that the observation of the dogs would provide “insight into training men out of the sexual violence and bigotry to which they are prone.” One peer reviewer gushed: “This is a wonderful paper—incredibly innovative, rich in analysis, and extremely well-written and organized given the incredibly diverse literature sets and theoretical questions brought into conversation.” The authors note that the journal honored the article about dog parks and rape as “one of twelve leading pieces in feminist geography as a part of the journal’s 25th anniversary celebration.”

The absurdity of the paper was first highlighted by the twitter account known as @RealPeerReview, which exposes a wide range of junk scholarship (if you don’t follow it, you really ought to.) When the Wall Street Journal and others began sniffing around to ascertain the authorship of the piece, however, the gig was up and the three hoaxers decided to come clean. They admitted that they were also behind the “nutty and inhumane” idea to make white male students sit on the floor as a form of reparations, a paper that explored why straight men “rarely anally self-penetrate using sex toys,” and had even gotten a paper accepted in a feminist journal that was actually a chapter from Mein Kampf, “with fashionable buzzwords switched in.”

In addition to the seven papers that were accepted, they had another three accepted but not published; another seven were “still in play,” and only six had been rejected by peer reviewers.

Brett Kavanaugh and the Uses of Anger

Brett Kavanaugh and the Uses of Anger

From The Weekly Standard:

“Anger [is] a short madness: for it is equally devoid of self-control, regardless of decorum, forgetful of kinship, obstinately engrossed in whatever it begins to do, deaf to reason and advice . . . and very like a falling rock which breaks itself to pieces upon the very thing which it crushes.”

Seneca

Because we are required to disagree angrily about everything, we now find ourselves in a debate over the proper uses and display of anger.

Opponents of Brett Kavanaugh saw his performance last Thursday as an unhinged, petulant tantrum, while his supporters saw a display of wholly-justified, righteous anger, when he denounced what he called “this grotesque character assassination.”

His fury was on full display as he asserted his innocence and lashed out at the Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee and “left-wing opposition groups.”

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups. This is a circus. 

The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades.

He is surely right about that last part, because this confirmation fight seems likely to leave a cloud over the nation’s highest court for a generation or more. His testimony has already been immortalized by Saturday Night Live.

In the short run it seems to have been effective. Kavanaugh’s philippic, followed by Lindsey Graham’s en fuego eruption, succeeded in rallying conservatives to his cause and may wind up securing his confirmation.

But by any measure, his harangue was atypical for both the judge and the venue. Judicial nominees generally do not interrupt and bait members of the United States Senate, nor do they indulge in partisan conspiracy theories in public settings.

Excerpt: Updated How The Right Lost Its Mind

Excerpt: Updated How The Right Lost Its Mind

From the Weekly Standard:

Late on the afternoon of October 7, 2016, I texted an old friend, fellow Wisconsinite Reince Priebus. The Access Hollywood videotape had just been released, showing the GOP presidential nominee describing his approach to seducing and perhaps assaulting women. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them,” Donald Trump said on the tape. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

In the course of his campaign, Trump had insulted POWs, women, disabled reporters, members of minority groups, and his opponents without derailing his candidacy. But this felt like it might be different, and events were moving quickly.

Trump was due to visit Wisconsin the next day for a rally with Speaker Paul Ryan, their first joint appearance of the campaign. Relations between Trump and Ryan had been fraught, with the speaker accusing his party’s nominee of “textbook racism” while Trump derided the speaker as “our very weak and ineffective leader.” The Wisconsin event was the culmination of Priebus’s peacemaking efforts. Like other members of the GOP mainstream, Priebus had been a Trump skeptic, but as chairman of the Republican National Committee he had embraced Trump’s candidacy with apparent enthusiasm. He was also one of Ryan’s best friends, so the joint event would be a symbol of his efforts to normalize Trump’s candidacy and rally the disparate wings of the GOP behind the erratic billionaire.

But now all of Priebus’s friends and colleagues from Wisconsin would have to stand on stage with their pussy-grabbing nominee. It would be the photo-op from hell, a month before the general election.

Despite our deepening political differences, Reince and I had kept in touch throughout the campaign. At lunch in Milwaukee in September, we had talked about our lives after the election. He wanted to stay on as RNC chair to pick up the pieces before returning to law or perhaps a cable television deal. I told him that I was writing a book; he said we should stay in touch because, unlike Trump’s campaign staffers, he had never signed a nondisclosure agreement.

So that afternoon when the tape was released, I texted Priebus. He wasn’t going to allow Trump to drop a bomb on Wisconsin Republicans, was he?

Priebus responded quickly: “I am the guy trying to fix this!” he texted. “I am in tears over this.”

Democrats Behaving Badly

Democrats Behaving Badly

From the Weekly Standard:

For some reason, I find myself thinking a lot about Paul Wellstone’s funeral lately. A popular and outspoken liberal Democrat, the Minnesota senator died tragically in a plane crash just weeks before the 2002 election. Not surprisingly, emotions ran high, culminating in a nationally televised funeral that morphed into a raucous political pep rally.

Some of the speeches took on a harsh partisan tone and the crowd booed Trent Lott, then the Senate Republican leader, when he entered the arena at the University of Minnesota for the service. Afterward, some of the organizers apologized for the tone of the event, but the damage had been done. Democrats assumed that former Vice Presidential Walter Mondale would be able to ride the tide of emotion and hold Wellstone’s seat, but Mondale wound up losing to Republican Norm Coleman (who would, in turn, lose to comedian Al Franken six years later). Many observers blamed the backlash to the funeral at least in part for his defeat.

Which brings us to the latest iteration of over-the-top political theatricality—last week’s hearings on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Democrats are understandably concerned about the nomination, but the histrionics of senators Corey Booker, Kamala Harris, and even a few who are not running for president, suggest that he Democrats have a deeper problem: Demagoguery is a helluva drug and some Democrats apparently cannot help themselves from over-reaching, even it undermines their case.

That may not be decisive in the upcoming midterms, but it poses a longer-term problem for the party, especially in 2020. And it seems awfully familiar to those of us who watched what has happened to Republicans and conservatives over the last decade.

The Oddity of That Anonymous NYT Op-Ed

The Oddity of That Anonymous NYT Op-Ed

From the Weekly Standard:

There are lots of ways to leave a lousy job. In 2011, a young man named Adam, a shift duty manager of a Taco Bell in New York, was required to work on July 4, despite having worked 22 straight days. Fed up, he climbed up to the sign outside the restaurant and published a brief, but pointed op-ed, in giant letters:

“I QUIT – ADAM. F--- YOU.”

It was a stylish and clean break. But, apparently, this sort of thing is a lost art form, at least in the higher reaches of government.

Washington is consumed, as its wont, with the anonymous op ed in The New York Times by a “senior official in the Trump Administration,” announcing that he is part of a “quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first.” Unlike the Taco Bell manager, the official apparently intends to stick around as part of a group of people who “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

The reaction to this sensation is, of course, sensational, with the president’s own reaction described as “volcanic.” An already paranoid and dysfunctional White House is now consumed with multiple mole hunts, as Trump himself descends to opera bouffe by demanding that the Times turn the anonymous official “over to government at once!”

A more likely scenario is that the author will be exposed and forced out of government and onto cable television in the very near future. At that point, we will be able to come to some sort of a judgment about his or her motivations in penning this extraordinary, and very odd, essay.

Some clarification here: the piece is odd, but not wrong. The author’s description of Trump’s character is precise and the characterization of Trump’s erratic style of governing is familiar. The author also seems to grasp the gravamen of our political crisis: 

The Catholic Church Isn't Immune to Tribalism

The Catholic Church Isn't Immune to Tribalism

From the Weekly Standard:

Two weeks ago the satirical website The Babylon Bee posted a parody in which the pope says that he will address the sex abuse scandal after he’s finished talking about climate change

The head of the Roman Catholic Church claimed he is deeply concerned with the tragic report, but is “just too swamped” with work fighting climate change, criticizing capitalism, and advocating for other issues of social justice to talk about the repulsive report at the moment.

But parody can no longer keep up with the pace of reality.

This week, Chicago’s Cardinal Blasé Cupich, channeled the Bee, when he told a local television station that “the Pope has a bigger agenda," than responding to charges by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò that he knew about incidents of sexual abuse. "He's got to get on with other things,” Cardinal Cupich said, “of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We're not going to go down a rabbit hole on this."

The rabbit hole, of course, is the decades-long molestation of thousands of children and the church’s role in enabling and covering up the crimes. More specifically, the cardinal was referring to allegations that Pope Francis knew that former Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick had preyed on seminarians and had been admonished by the pope’s predecessor.

The Rot at the Top

The Rot at the Top

From the Weekly Standard:

Republicans have bet their future on the proposition that character does not matter, or at least not the character of Donald Trump.

So, perhaps too late, they are discovering that having a president who is a chronic liar is both morally and politically problematic. As a New Yorker, Trump is surely familiar with the hoary adage that “the fish rots from the head down.” As president, he has turned it into a governing principle.

The consequence is that Republicans now face a midterm election that is likely to turn less on tax cuts than on the miasma of sleaze and corruption that surrounds them.

Until now, Republicans have been able to comfort themselves by pointing to policy wins, a strong economy, and a political culture in which nothing matters. And maybe nothing does. But this feels like a turning point of sorts. This week was the worst of Donald Trump’s presidency. But it seems likely there will be worse still.

The Unbearable Lightness of Falwell the Lesser

From the Weekly Standard

“No man who says, 'I'm as good as you,' believes it. He would not say it if he did.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

One of the inestimable blessings of social media is that one does not have to be a student at Liberty University to have the benefit of the historical or moral insights of the institution’s president.

On a regular basis, Jerry Falwell Jr. dispenses his evangelical wisdom to his tens of thousands of Twitter followers, and provides an invaluable guide to the moral and political shapeshifting among evangelical leaders as they struggle to rationalize their support for Trumpism.

Even in an era of marked by exquisite self-humiliations, Falwell has distinguished himself. Along with his wife, Falwell Jr. famously posed for a thumbs-up picture with Donald Trump in front of a wall of Trump memorabilia—including a cover of Playboy magazine featuring a younger Trump with a provocatively posed model. 

Read the rest here: https://www.weeklystandard.com/charles-j-sykes/falwell-the-lesser

 

We Are All Trapped in Trump's Reality TV Show

We Are All Trapped in Trump's Reality TV Show

From the Weekly Standard:


With apologies to Dorothy Parker: What fresh hell is this?

Even in a presidency that has become a series of bizarre moments, this week seems to mark a milestone of sorts. On Tuesday, a White House briefing about Omarosa Manigault Newman was interrupted, if only briefly, by a question about ISIS, an actual war we are fighting in the real world. But it quickly reverted back to the reality-star-turned-White-House-aide’s latest allegations and the president’s tweets about her—because we all live in Trump’s World now.

The New York Times’s Michelle Goldberg described Omarosa, the “reality show villain who campaigned for Donald Trump and followed him into the White House,” as “an amoral, dishonest, mercenary grifter. This makes her just like most people in Trump’s orbit. What separates her from them is that she might be capable of a sliver of shame.”

Goldberg ought to have stopped at “grifter.”

The Price of GOP Surrender

The Price of GOP Surrender

From Time.com:

Political parties do not lose their souls or their identities all at once. Usually, it is a gradual process of compromises that make sense in the moment, but which have a cumulative effect — like a frog being gradually boiled.

There are obvious reasons why Republicans have been so unwilling to stand up to President Donald Trump: political tribalism, transactionalism, anti-anti-Trumpism and, yes, timidity. While expressing dismay in private, GOP officials know that the Republican base remains solidly behind Trump. In a hyper-partisan environment, standing on principle can be dangerous for your political health.

But the price of the GOP’s bargain with Trump, however, has continued to rise. Republicans in Congress now not only have to swallow Trump’s erratic narcissism, but also his assaults on the very core principles that supposedly define their politics: fiscal conservatism, free trade, the global world order, our allies, truth and the rule of law.

Conservatism in Eclipse in the Age of Trump

Conservatism in Eclipse in the Age of Trump

From The Guardian:

As Donald Trump extends his control over the Republican Party, American conservativism has entered a pseudo-Orwellian stage where weakness is strength, appeasement is toughness, lies are truth, and America First means Blame America First.

Last week’s fiasco in Helsinki, where the president openly sided with Vladimir Putin over his own country’s intelligence agencies, was not a one off for this president, but rather an exclamation point on what has happened to the American Right.

As an outspoken conservative for the last four decades, the experience has been vertiginous. On one issue after another -- from Russia and free trade to corruption, and the rule of law -- Republicans have adjusted their principles to conform with Trumpism, which often means with Trump’s latest glandular impulse.


I came of age watching Ronald Reagan call on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” as he reasserted America’s role as leader of the free world. Last week we saw Trump insult our allies, undermine our friends, and truckle to the Russian autocrat.

The GOP Needs to Stop Tweeting, And Actually Do Something

The GOP Needs to Stop Tweeting, And Actually Do Something

From Sunday's New York Times:

Enough with the indignant press releases, strongly worded emails, disapproving tweets and mournful cable television appearances.

Republicans in Congress need to realize that they are not merely constitutional potted plants. Despite mantras of impotence, the elected members of the party need to remember that they have the power to pressure the White House. And they can do it without derailing a conservative agenda.

At that news conference in Helsinki, the world was confronted with an extraordinary stew of narcissism, appeasement, moral surrender and the chronic dishonesty that Republicans have been willing to tolerate for so long. But now the stakes are higher.

In just a few days, President Trump undermined the global world order, weakened our alliances, cast doubt on our commitments to NATO, sided with Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence agencies and suggested that the Russians be allowed to interrogate a former ambassador to their country. Despite the attempted walkbacks, clarifications and various obfuscations about dropped contractions, the damage is real. And now Mr. Trump wants Mr. Putin to come to Washington.

The danger should be obvious. That’s why mere expressions of outrage simply are no longer adequate.

11 Lessons From Russia Week

11 Lessons From Russia Week

From the Weekly Standard:

The pace has been dizzying. With all the walk backs, reversals, dropped contractions, and various obfuscations: Russia week has been Peak Trump. Herewith some quick takeaways.

(1) “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter,” Mark Twain once observed, “tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” But Twain could hardly have guessed that international relations would one day turn on the difference between “would” and “wouldn’t.”

(2) You simply cannot underestimate the credulity of some elements of the electorate. Case in point: anyone who accepted Trump’s explanation that when he said he didn’t know why Russia would hack our elections, he really meant he didn’t know why they wouldn’t. The episode once again called to mind H. L. Mencken’s observation. “No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” Trump continues to count on it.

"The Fall of Wisconsin"? Not Quite

"The Fall of Wisconsin"? Not Quite

From National Review:
What happened in Wisconsin should be a cautionary tale for the Left in the Age of Trump. But as this book makes clear, the Left declines to be cautioned.

According to the publisher, The Fall of Wisconsin gives “the untold story behind the most shocking political upheaval in the country.” But that story has, in fact, been told repeatedly, and author Dan Kaufman adds little to those accounts. Rather than a thoughtful critique of how progressives in a state with such a rich political tradition squandered their historical advantages, what we get is a work of ideological nostalgia, written with political rage goggles. Kaufman yearns for a return to the days of Scandinavian-style social-democratic politics, which he thinks have been defaced and degraded by a deep-pocketed and malign conservative machine.

The Fall of Wisconsin is packed with the sort of stories that progressives tell one another to account for their multiple defeats. It wasn’t anything we did, they reassure themselves; it was big money, the Koch brothers, Citizens United, voter-ID laws, gerrymandering, and a vast conservative infrastructure.

Kaufman paints a dystopian picture in which conservatives such as Governor Scott Walker (very much the villain of the book) “pitted Wisconsin citizens against one another, paving the way for the decimation of laws protecting labor unions, the environment, voting rights, and public education.” The results of those Republican victories, he writes, have been “disastrous” for just about everyone and everything, from the middle class to the environment, children, and small animals.

How awful — except that I live in Wisconsin and I can testify that, contra the title of this book, it has not “fallen.” Actually, it’s quite nice here, especially during our six weeks or so of summer. Despite his depiction of Wisconsin as a reactionary hellhole, the unemployment rate here is 2.9 percent, well below the national average; both the labor force and wages are growing; everyone in poverty is covered under Medicaid; the state has the ninth-best high-school-graduation rate in the country, and school spending is on the rise; and the state’s GDP has grown faster than that of neighboring Minnesota.

No, It's Not Worth It

No, It's Not Worth It

From the Weekly Standard:

George Will has described Donald Trump as a “Vesuvius of mendacities.” But as we have discovered in the last 24 hours, we have failed to grasp the full scope of his volcanic recklessness; his obsequiousness, his dishonesty, his willingness to insult his own country, all the while suggesting a moral equivalency between Vladimir Putin’s thugocracy and American democracy.

It seems only moments ago that Republicans derided Barack Obama’s “apology tour.” But that has been replaced by Donald Trump’s Groveling Tour, a peculiar combination of bullying our friends and fawning on our enemies. Monday’s summit seems destined to be recorded in the annals of diplomatic folly, with geopolitical consequences that will last far longer than our own frenetic attention spans.

By now it is almost tedious to point out the contrast between Trump’s disdain for the leaders of our closest allies and his fascination with the world’s most thuggish and violent dictators. What we have learned again is that at the heart of every truculent and strutting bully is a craven sycophant eager to cower before a bigger bully.

On Monday, Trump found that bigger bully and his cowering was the embarrassment heard round the world.

8 Things we Learned From the Kavanaugh Appointment

8 Things we Learned From the Kavanaugh Appointment

From the Weekly Standard:

(1) Naming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is the least Trumpiest thing Trump has done so far (tied with his appointment of Neil Gorsuch.) The often-erratic president followed a highly un-erratic path to this pick, outsourcing the vetting to groups such as the Federalist Society and working off a list of highly qualified, intellectually credible candidates. So we get a sterling pick for SCOTUS, from a White House that has in the past given us Seb Gorka, Anthony Scaramucci, and Omarosa. As Ross Douthat notes, at least on this one issue, “Trump has demonstrated that he’ll take his Trumpishness only so far.”

Rather than choosing a red-meat fight to entertain his base, he went with a candidate that the conservative legal establishment will embrace with enthusiasm (and relief).

(2) Naming Kavanaugh was the Bushiest thing Trump has done as president. No, we didn’t get Judge Janine or someone championed by Sean Hannity. Instead, Trump chose a veteran of the Bush White House and a Bush appointee, and (forgetting the unforgettable Harriet Miers fiasco for a moment), a judge very much in the mold of John Roberts and Sam Alito, the two George W. Bush appointees. And no, he’s not going to be another David Souter. That’s the point of having a list.

Our Summer of Jerkitude

Our Summer of Jerkitude

From the Weekly Standard:

As America continues its downward spiral of incivility, we have entered the Summer of Jerkitude. (I had thought about using a different word that ended in “-holery,” but wasn’t sure it would pass muster with the editors of a tasteful and intellectual publication like THE WEEKLY STANDARD.)

But “jerkitude” is a useful concept for our national moment of irritation and obnoxiousness. As it happens, some years ago, Eric Schwitzgebel, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, developed a comprehensive theory of the essence of jerkitude:

The jerk culpably fails to appreciate the perspectives of others around him, treating them as tools to be manipulated or idiots to be dealt with rather than as moral and epistemic peers. . . .The jerk himself is both intellectually and emotionally defective, and what he defectively fails to appreciate is both the intellectual and emotional perspectives of the people around him.

Which brings us to the owner who kicked Sarah Huckabee Sanders out of her restaurant, Robert DeNiro’s f-bomb at the Tony Awards, President Trump’s twitter feed, Corey Lewandowski’s “mwah-mwah” about a child with Down Syndrome, Maxine Waters, and actor, director, and thorough jerk, Seth Rogen.

Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump and the New Cruelty

Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump and the New Cruelty

From The Weekly Standard:

n the movie L.A. Story, the character played by Chevy Chase goes to a hyper-fashionable restaurant named, appropriately enough, L’Idiot.

He is greeted by the maitre d’, played by Patrick Stewart, who asks, ‘Your usual table?”

“No,” Chase’s character responds, “I’d like a good one this time.”

“I’m sorry, that is impossible,” Stewart’s character replies.

“Part of the new cruelty?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Although L.A. Story was released in 1991, it has supplied us with an apt rubric for our own times; the New Cruelty is the Trumpian successor to the New Deal and Great Society.

I was reminded of it watching the viral video of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, defend the policy of separating children from their mothers and fathers at the border. (Less than 24 hours later, Trump would reverse course and issue an executive order he said would stop the practice, although it’s unclear how that will work.)

Appearing on Fox News, Lewandowski mocked a story about a 10-yearold with Down syndrome being separated from her parents. “Wahh, wahh,” Lewandowski cracked, making “a dismissive trombone-like sound effect,” as the Washington Post described it.

The reaction to Lewandowski’s crassness was justifiably outraged. “There is no low to which this coward Corey Lewandowski won’t sink,” tweeted Megyn Kelly, “This man should not be afforded a national platform to spew his hate.”

And, indeed, Lewandowski seems especially vile in an era in which vileness increasingly appears to be a career path. But was his insensitive gibe off-message? Or was it simply a cruder version of the New Cruelty that has displaced whatever was left of “compassionate conservativism.”

Donald Trump's Sinister New Pardon Show

Donald Trump's Sinister New Pardon Show

Watch the television images: the joyous reunion of an elderly black woman with her family after being freed by a dramatic presidential pardon. Alice Marie Johnson had been imprisoned for more than 20 years on drug conspiracy and money laundering charges. But she was freed by presidential fiat—Donald Trump commuted her sentence—after a high-profile appeal from Kim Kardashian.

The reviews were ecstatic across the political divide. ”Huge victory!!” declared commentator and progressive activist Van Jones, “Congrats to everyone who kept fighting, even when they said it was impossible.” On CNN, Jones hosted an emotional interview with Kardashian, who described the momentshe called Johnson with the news of her freedom.

"We cried, maybe, on the phone for like three minutes straight," an emotional Kardashian told CNN's Van Jones, recounting her advocacy for Johnson, and her role in President Donald Trump's decision to grant Johnson clemency on Wednesday. "Everyone was just crying."

This was all powerful stuff and no one understood the extraordinary made-for-television quality of the moment more than that inveterate television watcher, Donald Trump.

This will work for him, and he knows it.

Trump has already used his sweeping powers to wipe away the convictions of right-wing troll Dinesh D’Souza and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, as well as the late great Jack Johnson, but the president’s enthusiasm for pardons seems to be growing.

Under the Constitution, the power to pardon or commute is virtually unlimited. With the exception of impeachment, there are no real checks or balances. He requires no congressional action or even consultation; the courts play no role. With the exception of ordering military action, the pardon is perhaps the most awesome of presidential powers.

Roman emperors learned that they could score points with the public by providing bread and circuses; but at the heart of the imperial power was the gesture of thumbs up or thumbs down.

The pardon is the presidential equivalent of the thumb. With a simple edict, the president can confer freedom and redemption, at least for a favored few.

The Mystery of Scott Pruitt's Mattress

The Mystery of Scott Pruitt's Mattress

From the Weekly Standard:

I get the grifting, I even get the graft.

Human nature being what it is, there is nothing mysterious about Scott Pruitt’s penchant for self-dealing and aggrandizement. He is hardly the first newcomer to be seduced and corrupted by the blandishments of ego, power, prestige, and greed that power the nation’s capital.

This is especially true for officials in an administration that takes its cue from the firm of Giuliani, Cohen, and My Cousin Vinny.

So it’s cringeworthy, but not particularly shocking, that the EPA administrator would have a taste for sweetheart deals with lobbyists, first-class airfare, a 20-person security entourage, motorcades with flashing lights, and a $43,000 super-secret phone booth.

Given the concentric circles of sleaze in Trump World, not even Pruitt’s taste for nepotism seems especially out of place. We now learn that Pruitt somehow found the time to task an EPA aide with trying to help wrangle a Chick Fil-A franchise for his wife Marilyn.

Three months after Scott Pruitt was sworn in as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, his scheduler emailed Dan Cathy, chief executive of the fast-food company Chick-fil-A, with an unusual request: Would Cathy meet with Pruitt to discuss “a potential business opportunity”?

Apparently, nothing came of it, but the attempt to use his office and his staffers to score a deal for his family doesn’t win many points for subtlety (or legality). For Pruitt, it probably just seemed like an another day in a town that now does much of its schmoozing at the Trump Hotel and where the lines between governing and the family business often seem a bit vague.

Pruitt, nonetheless, has become the quintessential swamp creature of the Trump era. Given the competition, this is quite an accomplishment for a guy from Oklahoma.

I get all that. What I don’t get is the mattress.

In testimony to congressional investigators, Pruitt’s now ex-scheduler says that the EPA boss instructed her to track down a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel and to help him find a new apartment.

This is likely illegal:

Federal ethics standards prohibit such personal assistance by a subordinate, even if the employee is working outside of office hours . . . One provision bans the use of government time to handle personal matters. A second provision prohibits bosses from asking employees to handle personal matters for them outside of the office.

It is also incomprehensibly gross.