Blow and Krugman

In “Trump Is Girding for a Fight” Mr. Blow says Trump and team are attempting to defame and delegitimize the Russia investigation.  Prof. Krugman considers “Zombies, Vampires and Republicans” and when Trump is just an ignorant bystander.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Special counsel Robert Mueller and his widening investigation seems to be closing in on Donald Trump and his coterie of corruption, but Trump and his emissaries aren’t sitting idly by. They’re girding for a fight.

Last week The Washington Post, citing unnamed officials, reported that Mueller was widening his investigation to include “an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice.”

This set Trump off. As the sun rose on Thursday morning, he posted the first of what would be a daylong barrage of statements on Twitter, attacking the “phony story”; later he lamented “crooked H” and “Hillary Clintons family and Dems dealings with Russia.”

But that wasn’t enough.

He started up again Friday morning, this time posting: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”

This seemed like an acknowledgment that he was indeed under investigation. But on Sunday, the Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow made the talk show rounds to insist that what the president wrote was not what the president meant. Sekulow stated emphatically, “The fact of the matter is the president has not been and is not under investigation.”

Whatever the truth may be, Trump is certainly behaving like a man who is under scrutiny and like one who is determined to defend himself every step of the way.

Last week it was reported that Mueller hired more than a dozen lawyers for his team, but as soon as he did, they came under attack by Trump cronies like Newt Gingrich. On Sunday on ABC, Gingrich issued a blistering attack on some of the lawyers Mueller has hired, suggesting Mueller stacked the deck with Democratic mercenaries out to get the president for political reasons.

At one point in the interview, Gingrich claimed:

“You tell me why the first four names that came up, I don’t know about the next nine, the first four names are all people who gave to Democrats. Two of them are people with a record of hiding evidence from the defense. And one of them is a person who defended the Clinton Foundation. Now in this environment with a Justice Department where 97 percent of the donations last year went to Hillary, 97 percent, explain to me why I should relax as a Republican.”

This was a stinging about-face from when Gingrich praised Mueller when he was selected. Host Martha Raddatz pointed this out: “In May you said he was a superb choice for special counsel with an impeccable reputation for honesty. Less than a month later, you say he won’t be fair.”

But that’s the thing with Trump and his hangers-on: They will say and do anything, even if it directly contradicts what they said or did moments earlier. This is how truth becomes degraded: by being casually disregarded.

This investigation is in the early stages, but Trump has no plans to wait for it to either condemn or clear him. He is taking a much more aggressive approach, one that in the end may do more harm than good.

He is attempting to defame, discredit and delegitimize.

Trump knows that whether anything from this investigation sees the light of day in a court of law, the investigation is already being litigated in the court of public opinion. In that court, he’s already guilty.

Trump’s public petulance about being mistreated is in fact a public appeal, in order to rehabilitate his brand.

If a legal case against Trump is born of this investigation, Trump is no stranger to a courtroom.

As USA Today reported last year, Trump has been involved in over 3,500 legal matters, which was an unprecedented number for an American presidential nominee.

Trump often prevails. As USA Today put it: “Among those cases with a clear resolution, Trump’s side was the apparent victor in 451 and the loser in 38. In about 500 cases, judges dismissed plaintiffs’ claims against Trump.”

Trump knows that the law can be fuzzy and the legal system pliable, bending in particular under the weight of massive resources like money.

Fighting has worked well for Trump. He knows that one of the critical flaws in American jurisprudence is that it too often favors fight over right.

So Trump will fight this investigation that he calls a “witch hunt,” because he realizes that it is a sprawling inquiry, potentially ending up far afield from where it started.

Mueller is not in search of a conjurer but a culprit, and he’ll shine a light in every dark corner to find one.

Gingrich told Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Friday of the investigation:

“They’re going to get somebody. I don’t think they’re going to get the president, but they’re going to get somebody, and they’re going to get him for something. And they’re probably going to go to jail.”

I agree: When federal investigators start looking for something, they often find something. I’m not removing the president so quickly from jeopardy.

The president and his White House are going to fight this tooth and nail, but in the end “someone is probably going to go to jail.”

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Zombies have long ruled the Republican Party. The good news is that they may finally be losing their grip — although they may still return and resume eating conservative brains. The bad news is that even if zombies are in retreat, vampires are taking their place.

What are these zombies of which I speak? Among wonks, the term refers to policy ideas that should have been abandoned long ago in the face of evidence and experience, but just keep shambling along.

The right’s zombie-in-chief is the insistence that low taxes on the rich are the key to prosperity. This doctrine should have died when Bill Clinton’s tax hike failed to cause the predicted recession and was followed instead by an economic boom. It should have died again when George W. Bush’s tax cuts were followed by lackluster growth, then a crash. And it should have died yet again in the aftermath of the 2013 Obama tax hike — partly expiration of some Bush tax cuts, partly new taxes to pay for Obamacare — when the economy continued jogging along, adding 200,000 jobs a month.

Despite the consistent wrongness of their predictions, however, tax-cut fanatics just kept gaining influence in the G.O.P. — until the disaster in Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback promised that deep tax cuts would yield an economic miracle. What the state got instead was weak growth and a fiscal crisis, finally pushing even Republicans to vote for tax hikes, overruling Brownback’s veto.

Will this banish the tax-cut zombie? Maybe — although the economists behind the Kansas debacle, who have of course learned nothing, appear to be the principal movers behind the Trump tax plan, such as it is.

But even as the zombies move offstage, vampire policies — so-called not so much because of their bloodsucking nature, although that too, as because they can’t survive daylight — have taken their place.

Consider what’s happening right now on health care.

Last month House Republicans rammed through one of the worst, cruelest pieces of legislation in history. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the American Health Care Act would take coverage away from 23 million Americans, and send premiums soaring for millions more, especially older workers with relatively low incomes.

This bill is, as it should be, wildly unpopular. Nonetheless, Republican Senate leaders are now trying to ram through their own version of the A.H.C.A., one that, all reports suggest, will differ only in minor, cosmetic ways. And they’re trying to do it in total secrecy. It appears that there won’t be any committee hearings before the bill goes to the floor. Nor are senators receiving draft text, or anything beyond a skeletal outline. Some have reportedly seen PowerPoint presentations, but the “slides are flashed across the screens so quickly that they can hardly be committed to memory.”

Clearly, the goal is to pass legislation that will have devastating effects on tens of millions of Americans without giving those expected to pass it, let alone the general public, any real chance to understand what they’re voting for. There are even suggestions that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, might exploit loopholes in the rules to prevent any discussion on the Senate floor.

Why this combination of secrecy and speed? Obviously, this legislation can’t survive sunlight — and I’m by no means the first to make the analogy with vampires.

This is unprecedented. Ignore Republican lies about how Obamacare was passed: the Affordable Care Act went through extensive discussion, and Democrats were always very clear about what they were trying to do and how they were trying to do it.

When it comes to the Republican replacement for Obamacare, however, it’s not just the process that’s secretive; so is the purpose. Vox.com asked eight Republican senators what problem the legislation is supposed to solve, and how it’s supposed to solve it. Not one offered a coherent answer.

Of course, none brought up the one obvious payoff to taking health care away from millions: a big tax cut for the wealthy. As I said, while bloodsucking isn’t the main reason to call this a vampire policy, it’s part of the picture.

Oh, and one more point: What’s going down isn’t just unprecedented, it’s unpresidented. You can blame Donald Trump for many things, including the fact that he will surely sign whatever bad bill is put in front of him. But as far as health care is concerned, he’s just an ignorant bystander, who all evidence suggests has little if any idea what’s actually in Trumpcare. Maybe he’s too busy yelling at his TV to find out.

So this isn’t a Trump story; it’s about the cynicism and corruption of the whole congressional G.O.P. Remember, it would take just a few conservatives with conscience — specifically, three Republican senators — to stop this outrage in its tracks. But right now, it looks as if those principled Republicans don’t exist.

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