Wednesday, November 16, 2016

16 Ways of Looking at a Mugwump

Mugwump, noun: 1. a Republican who refused to support the party nominee, James G. Blaine, in the presidential campaign of 1884. 2. a person who is unable to make up his or her mind on an issue, especially in politics; a person who is neutral on a controversial issue.

1. Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law, has conducted a "purge" of certain members of Trump's transition team, starting with Gov. Chris Christie who was fired as head of the transition last Friday. Former Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan and Matthew Freedman, a lobbyist who consults with corporations and foreign governments, were also fired. Both had ties to Christie.

2. The President-elect sent a tweet very late last night insisting that everything was going smoothly. “Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!”

3. Rebekah Mercer, a major donor to Trump’s presidential campaign and member of his executive transition team, told Republican operatives that she was having difficulty finding people interested in rank-and-file administration posts.

4. Trump took his first conversations with foreign leaders without reviewing official State Department briefing materials, and he broke from diplomatic practice by delaying conversations with close U.S. allies. Trump’s first call was with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, followed by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. British Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t get through to Trump until almost a day later.

5. As of yesterday, officials at both the Pentagon and State Department said they have heard nothing from Trump’s transition team.

6. Trump’s newly-named chief strategist, Steve Bannon, helped turn Breitbart News into a platform for the white nationalist alt-right. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a possible choice for attorney general, was once turned down for a federal judgeship after several U.S. attorneys testified that he made racist comments in court. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s extensive business ties to Qatar and Venezuela complicate reports that he could be chosen as secretary of state.

7. Eliot A. Cohen, a former State Department official who had criticized Trump during the campaign but said after his election that he would keep an open mind about advising him, said yesterday on Twitter that he had changed his opinion. After speaking to the transition team, he wrote, "stay away!” adding, “They’re angry, arrogant, screaming ‘you LOST!’ Will be ugly.”

8. Donald Trump and some of his family went to dinner last night at the super-expensive 21 Club in Manhattan (where you can get a ribeye for $68) and said to the well-heeled diners, "We'll get your taxes down -- don't worry about it."

9. Vice President-elect Mike Pence -- who now heads the transition after the firing of Christie -- did his own purge, reportedly dismissing the several registered lobbyists who had moved in, leaving the transition "short-staffed" but closer to Trump’s campaign promise to “drain the swamp.”

10. Former Goldman Sachs partner and Trump loyalist Steven Mnuchin is the frontrunner for treasury secretary. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is now favored to serve as attorney general. Seen arriving at Trump Tower yesterday was one-time campaign rival Ted Cruz. Joining the national security transition team is Frank Gaffney Jr. -- labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes,” and who last year defended Trump’s proposed Muslim ban as “common sense.”

11. Rudy Giuliani let his freak flag fly and admitted in public that he's pretty sure he'll be picked as Secretary of State. John Bolton’s name also surfaced for that job. Republican Sen. Rand Paul immediately objected, calling Bolton “unfit” for the job. “You want to have a diplomat in charge of diplomacy. You don’t want a bomb thrower,” Paul told CNN. Then Paul lumped the former mayor of New York City in with Bolton: “I think Giuliani and Bolton are very similar. Bolton just has a more extensive cheerleading background with regard to war in the Middle East.”

12. Republicans will have a one-seat majority in the Senate, meaning any defection -- by a senator like Rand Paul -- could pose a serious roadblock to confirming Trump’s top Cabinet picks. 

13. One source with knowledge of the Trump transition described it as a "knife fight."

14. A particular challenge for the Trump transition is lack of clarity about the division of power among Reince Priebus, named Chief of Staff of the Trump White House; Steve Bannon, the Harvard-educated white supremacist and campaign Svengali; and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has Trump's ear like no one else. Another source tied to the transition described the resulting confusion as "buffoonery."

15. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has emerged as a leading candidate for national security adviser. Flynn was a vocal and sometimes inflamatory advocate for Trump during the campaign. At the Republican National Convention he delivered a fiery speech attacking Clinton (as being in the enemy camp, along with Barack Hussein Obama) and waving the bloody flag of "American exceptionalism." He echoed Trump's rhetoric of crushing terrorism, cozying up to Russia, and dissing NATO.

16. Trump on the campaign trail promised repeatedly not to change Medicare. Now his official website says: modernize Medicare, so that it will be ready for the challenges with the coming retirement of the Baby Boom generation – and beyond.” "Modernize"? House Speaker Paul Ryan has a different term: "Medicare is going to have price controls.”

A nation and its Constitution are one. A nation and its Constitution and Donald Trump are one. (Apologies, Wallace Stevens!)

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