Diplomats to Biden: Don’t give the plum Europe posts to donors and allies

“Most presidents in recent decades have given 30 percent of ambassadorships to political appointees, including major campaign donors. Trump increased that number to roughly 44 percent, which included posts in some countries that usually went to career diplomats, such as Thailand and Kenya. That’s why the pressure is on Biden to revert to a smaller number.
A White House official said Thursday the administration expects the percentage of political ambassadors to be lower than that of the previous administration and closer to the traditional amount.”

How Trump is hunting down the GOP’s leading families

“Whether it’s the Cheneys, the Bushes or the lesser bloodlines — such as the Romneys or the Murkowskis — Trump has been relentless in his efforts to force them to bend the knee. Even Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Sen. John McCain — who herself has never run for office — has been knocked down, censured by Trump allies who run the state Republican Party in Arizona.”

“The modern GOP, George W. Bush told NBC’s “Today” show earlier this month, is “isolationist, protectionist, and to a certain extent, nativist.”

“It’s not exactly my vision,” Bush said. “But, you know, I’m just an old guy they put out to pasture.””

Fox News has become a jobs program for some Trump family members and ex-staffers

“Fox News fancies itself, at least outside of its Hannity-style programming, as a journalistic outlet. But its recent string of hires tells a different story.

Despite the Trump administration’s legacy of unrelenting dishonesty and Trump’s recent turn against Fox, the network has hired several former Trump officials of late, basically becoming a jobs program for any former Trump aide who desires gainful employment — and ensuring that Trump’s brand of politics will have a regular, prominent place on national television.”

“While there’s ample precedent for former White House officials making the leap into news media when their tenure in government is through — George Stephanopoulos went from the Clinton White House to ABC News, for example, and Dana Perino went from the George W. Bush White House to Fox News — the volume of former Trump officials Fox News has hired is notable, particularly because Fox News staffing itself with Trump family members and former staffers will keep Trumpism relevant.”

“Donald Trump, meanwhile, can self-promote by calling in to friendly hosts who will let him opine about Biden’s purported failures on national TV, even if he can no longer post tweets.

It won’t be good journalism, but that’s rarely the point with Fox. What it will do is help Trump maintain control over the Republican Party heading into the 2022 midterms — and beyond.”

Birx rightly said most US Covid-19 deaths were preventable. But she won’t acknowledge her complicity.

““I look at it this way: The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge,” Birx told CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta. “All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”

In sum, Birx suggested that thousands of American deaths were all but unavoidable as a result of the initial surge of the coronavirus in February and March of last year. But she said better adherence to public health guidelines — including mask-wearing and social distancing — could’ve saved the lives of many of the 450,000 people (and counting) in the US who have died since then.”

“While Birx’s suggestion that as many as 100,000 deaths were too difficult to prevent is arguable — a better-prepared federal government could have limited spread and saved lives by building out a testing infrastructure much more quickly than the one overseen by Trump”

How Many False Claims Did Biden Make In His First 100 Days Compared To Trump?

“Biden made 67 false and misleading statements in his first 100 days in office, according to a report Monday from The Washington Post’s fact checker. That compares to 511 such comments from his predecessor Donald Trump in his first 100 days.”

“Two of Biden’s falsehoods have earned the Post’s “Four Pinocchio” rating, designated for “whoppers.” He claimed several times that Georgia’s GOP-led election law will end voting hours early. It won’t. The other is Biden’s claim that federal government contracts awarded to foreign companies went up by 30% under Trump, when in fact it was likely much less.
The fact-checking analysts noted that when Biden made exaggerated claims, he would often amend his wording in subsequent addresses in apparent response to news coverage.

Trump’s tally grew at a dramatically faster rate as his presidency progressed. Toward the end of his term, he was making around twice as many false claims a month as he did in his entire first year in office. On Nov. 2, the day before the election, Trump made 504 false claims in a day, nearly the same amount he made in his first 100 days.”

Time for Conservatives To Rethink Their Priorities

“the GOP has embraced many policy positions—and attitudes—that have little to do with advancing human liberty. Throughout my career, conservatives and libertarians have been allies on many issues and at odds on others, but now we’re like residents of different planets.

For instance, both groups agreed on the dangers of Soviet expansion. Libertarians, however, warned that giving American security agencies too much power would undermine liberties at home. Conservatives and libertarians worked together to fight progressive assaults on property rights, but libertarians wondered why conservatives couldn’t see how the drug war undermined those goals.

Still, we had many opportunities to work together. Whereas conservatives in Europe never had a problem using big-government to achieve their ends, American conservatives were about “conserving” America’s particular traditions. Our nation’s founding fathers were classical liberals, so conservatives often defended libertarian ideals.

The Trump era solidified long-brewing changes in the conservative movement, as it moved toward a more European-style approach that wasn’t concerned about limits on government power. Trump wasn’t a political thinker, but a marketing savant who tapped into popular and often-legitimate resentments of the increasingly “woke” Left.

Republican politicians mostly stood by Trump, even as he shattered democratic norms and reshaped conservative policy prescriptions, less out of fear of Trump himself and more out of fear of the conservative grassroots voter. What does it even mean to be a conservative these days?

In 2020, the GOP dispensed with its platform and passed a resolution stating its enthusiast support for the president’s agenda. Party platforms are unenforceable, but they provide the faithful with an opportunity to create a mission statement. Apparently, being a conservative now means supporting whatever the leader happens to believe.

Such an approach is temperamentally and philosophically non-conservative, as are many of the goals of the Trumpiest wannabes. Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.), best known for giving a fist pump to MAGA protesters before some of them stormed the Capitol, recently introduced a plan to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

“MAGA conservatives want libertarians to join their tribe, but their publications offer frequent attacks on the free market. The populist right wants to boost federal spending, impose draconian immigration controls, expand the power of police and spy agencies, step up the drug war and, well, stop when you see something of value to libertarians.

Since Reagan, conservatism has revolved around four concepts, explains Jonathan Last in The Bulwark, a right-leaning anti-Trump publication. There was “temperamental conservatism,” which worried about the consequences of progressive social engineering. There also was “foreign-affairs conservatism,” “fiscal conservatism” and “social conservatism.”

“‘Conservatism’ as it is now viewed by the majority of people who identify as conservatives—and who once believed in all or most of those four precepts—is now about one thing and one thing only: Revanchism,” Last wrote. Sure, I had to look it up, but “revanchism” means “a policy of seeking to retaliate, especially to recover lost territory.”

Yes, that “own the libs” approach has muscled out principled discussions about long-held conservative ideals and goals.”

“slow change rather than dramatic progress, a focus on prudence, trust in human liberty and variety, respect for societal norms, love of virtue, and commitment to social peace—are at odds with the nihilistic bomb throwing of a conservative populist movement that seems as radical at times as its progressive enemy.”

Trump Never Told Georgia’s Lead Election Investigator To ‘Find the Fraud’

“One of the most damning indictments of President Donald Trump’s behavior in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 presidential election was that he allegedly pressured Georgia’s lead elections investigator to “find the fraud.” The Washington Post first reported this detail on January 9, and countless other mainstream media sites publicized it.

But that reporting was wrong. Trump never used the phrase “find the fraud” during his December phone call with Frances Watson, the chief investigator within the secretary of state’s office; moreover, he never promised Watson that she would be a “national hero” if she did discover evidence of fraud.”

“Watson discovered an audio file during an effort to retrieve documents for a public records request. This file, which was published last week by The Wall Street Journal, makes clear that the quotes supplied by the anonymous source were erroneous.

During the call, Trump told Watson that she had “the most important job in the country” and that she would be praised “when the right answer comes out.” He also made several incorrect statements, and continuously asserted that he had actually won the state of Georgia.

“I won Georgia, I know that, by a lot, and the people know it,” said Trump. “Something happened. Something bad happened.”

Trump deserves criticism for repeatedly and loudly making this false claim, which eventually culminated in some of this more rabid and deluded supporters assaulting the U.S. Capitol. But the notion that he pressured Watson to specifically uncover evidence of fraud looks much weaker now that a recording of the call has been released.

Trump’s other call with Georgian election officials, a transcript of which has been available for months, continues to look quite bad for him: He repeatedly stated an exact number of votes that he would like the investigators to discover. It would not be wrong to conclude that Trump inappropriately exerted pressure on Georgian election officials. But he did not say precisely what the media alleged that he had said”

Why Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton Are Like Trump Cover Bands

“Nobody expected the mob of bands that followed the Beatles’ early success would replicate the lads’ triumphs just because they wore their hair long, sported the same suits and drew on the same musical influences. And they didn’t. The imitators wrote hits, filled theaters and even caused young girls to scream, but Beatlemania—almost a mass delusion, a form of ecstatic consciousness provoked just by the toss of a mop-topped head, or an arrival on an airport tarmac—remained highly specific to the actual Beatles.

The Donald Trump phenomenon is the closest thing we’ve seen in American politics, with the Republican base standing in for smitten teenagers in 1964. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that when the base gathered for its annual conclave at CPAC last week, none of Trump’s would-be successors roused more of a response than a group of Fab Four impersonators at a sock hop.

They tried—boy, did they try. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), trying to boost his anti-immigration credentials, dropped a quip about the Biden administration’s border policy—“That’s not catch-and-release,” he said, “that’s recruit-and-release!”—at which point a “few polite titters rippled through the ballroom,” reporter Elaina Plott observed in the New York Times. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) bombed, too, as he tried to out-Trump Trump with an anti-China line that zinged Hunter Biden. (He “paused for a reaction that never came,” wrote Plott.) Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the college debate champion and one-time Tea Party darling, treated the session like a stand-up comedy gig, drawing only scattered applause. The only Cruz line that made the crowd roar was one in praise of Dear Leader Trump, the Texas Monthly reported.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Trump impressions did better, but the winners of the battle of the bands were Govs. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), both of whom ranked second and third to Trump in CPAC’s 2024 straw presidential poll—but more from their resistance to the pandemic lockdown than their evocation of Trump himself.

Can nobody in the GOP wear the big man’s big suit and endless red tie? Trump himself got a decent response from the “ebullient crowd” (Washington Post) when he spoke at CPAC, so the base hasn’t tired of his jokes, insults, grievances and bombast. They just needed to hear the original hits as performed by the original hit-maker.”