Patterico's Pontifications


President Trump: What I Said, What I Really Meant To Say

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:04 pm

[guest post by Dana]

In the wake of having been pilloried from all sides after his joint press conference with President Putin, President Trump felt the need was pressured by Republicans to backpedal clarify his statements regarding Russian meddling in the 2016 election. This after he told Sean Hannity in an interview last night that, “I thought that President Putin was very, very strong.” In his clarification today, President Trump expressed his support of the U.S. intelligence community. But of course, he didn’t just leave it at that:

“I thought that I made myself very clear, but having just reviewed the transcript…I realized that there is a need for some clarification,” Trump said Tuesday at the White House. “The sentence should have been…’I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia’.”

“I have felt very strongly that while Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying…that I accept our American intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” the president said.

But, Trump added, “Could be other people also, there’s a lot of people out there.”


During his Tuesday remarks, Trump also said that his administration took the threat of continued Russian interference seriously and vowed to move aggressively to “repel” any efforts by Moscow to interfere in future U.S. elections. “We’re doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference in 2018,” he said.

Responses to President Trump’s statements yesterday were sharp – and insightful – to say the least:

President Trump and Russian president-for-life Vladimir Putin’s news conference in Helsinki on Monday was the lowest point in the history of the American presidency. Standing next to a dictatorial leader accused by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement of attacking the foundations of American democracy, Trump often appeared confused and incoherent — and those were his best moments at the podium. The rest of the time he spent praising the KGB dictator to his left and attacking the institutions he swore an oath to defend. It was a Russia First performance, from beginning to end.

For Putin, the summit was a great success before it even started. Without the recurrent legitimacy of the ballot box — I assume no one still believes that Russia’s elections are real — dictators crave ways to demonstrate their credibility and to pass off their own interests and power as those of the nation. The tried and true methods are war, hosting sporting spectacles and appearing with important foreign leaders, especially democratically elected ones. Putin has managed a hat trick with his invasion of Ukraine still ongoing, the World Cup that ended in Moscow on Sunday and an imposing performance in Helsinki next to a feeble and cowed American president.

Other than Putin wanting it badly, there was no purpose behind this spectacle in Helsinki. Putin’s wish list is transparent: legitimacy as the ruler of Russia and stature on the global stage; Russia as power broker in Ukraine, Syria and Iran; weakening the United States’ commitment to its Group of Seven allies, NATO and the European Union; lowered Western defenses against his attacks; and Trump’s help in all these things. Putin also wants the United States to end sanctions and recognize his annexation of Crimea, but he senses that that would be too much to ask right now, and that they could be taken out of Trump’s hands if he pushes too far. In contrast, there is nothing the United States needs from Putin other than to stop the hostile acts that he uses to achieve his ends. He must be stopped, not negotiated with.

Despite the long list of Putin’s suspected atrocities, including the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine and aiding Bashar al-Assad’s massacres in Syria, Trump eagerly applied the Kremlin’s patented technique of moral equivalence, saying, “I hold both countries responsible” and that “we’re all to blame” for poor Russian America relations. To this I can only cite Polish writer Stanisław Jerzy Lec: Just when you think you’ve reached the bottom, someone knocks from below.



Step It Up, America! President Trump Says We’re Also To Blame For Strained Relations With Russia

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:30 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Before a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump tweeted this:


During the joint press conference held in Helsinki, President Trump was asked whether he holds Russia responsible for the strained relationship between the two countries. Evidencing a questionable commitment to America, the American people and his own government, President Trump claimed while standing next to President Putin, that “we’re all to blame” for the strained relationship with Russia. Unbelievable:

Here’s a transcript:

REPORTER: Do you hold Russia accountable for anything?

TRUMP: We’re all to blame. Yes I do [hold Russia responsible]. I hold both countries responsible.

I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should’ve had this dialogue a long time ago; a long time, frankly, before I got to office.

And I think we’re all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward along with Russia, and we’re getting together and we have a chance to do some great things, whether it’s nuclear proliferation in terms of stopping — you have to do it, ultimately that’s probably the most important thing that we could be working on.

But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the — the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart, it’s kept us separated.

There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. And people are being brought out to the fore (ph). So far that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re going to have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign.

That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily. And, frankly, we beat her — and I’m not even saying from the standpoint — we won that race. And it’s a shame that there could even be a little bit of a cloud over it. People know that, people understand it. But the main thing — and we discussed this also — zero collusion.

And so forth…

Apparently, what defines an “enemy” is up for grabs in this season of Trump. And that unfortunately makes the United States rather vulnerable to Putin and his thugs:


Watch the entire press conference here, or read the transcript here. There were a number of interesting – and dismaying – exchanges. This for example:



When Your Party Passes You By

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:59 am

[guest post by JVW]

How old is Senator Dianne Feinstein? She was appointed to the California Woman’s Parole Board by Governor Brown — um, Governor Pat Brown, Moonbeam Jerry’s dad. She’s held elective office for nearly a half-century, ever since being elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors back in 1969, and she’s held elective office longer than at least ten of her Senate colleagues have been alive.

This past Saturday, as she is in the midst of preparing to run for fifth full term which would take her into her ninety-second year, Senator Feinstein suffered the indignity of having her party fully endorse her opponent, State Senator Kevin de León, who is running on a platform of making California’s Congressional delegation even further left-wing than it has been. Feinstein secured the endorsements of the key labor unions and business interests that are friendly to Democrats, and even received outside endorsements from the likes of Barack Obama. But it wasn’t enough to overcome de León’s popularity among young leftists, who are increasingly taking over the state party. In the end, 65% of the voting delegates favored the Los Angeles man, surpassing the 60% threshold needed to secure the party endorsement. Sensing that she was headed towards defeat, Feinstein made a last-ditch effort to encourage party delegates to withhold an endorsement by abstaining from the vote, but she could not muster the numbers to stop de León’s momentum.

Well, she had a good run anyway. Once upon a time Dianne Feinstein was allegedly the most popular politician in all of California, with worshipful scribes like the annoying Tom Elias continually singing her praises as the moderate Democrat perfectly in tune with the mores of the state. Here is what I wrote last year, when the first stirrings of dissent were percolating among activists Dems:

Feinstein, a super-wealthy San Franciscan whose husband made a financial killing on defense and other government contracts while she served in the Senate, is what passes for a moderate in California these days. She has in the past voted for tax cuts and tax increases both, depending upon which way the political winds are blowing, and she is happy to support defense spending when it benefits the Golden State. Yet at the same time, Senator Feinstein has parked herself safely on the Barbara Boxer/Nancy Pelosi left on every social issue under the sun, with her particular fondness being a unstinting cheerleader for abortion. This has made her a favorite of the wealthy progressive set in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and a particular favorite of the dopey columnist Tom Elias, who regularly sings praises to her as the ideal politician for the Golden State.

But California Democrats are now moving at warp speed to the Social Democrat model. De León favors single-payer health care; Feinstein is leery of it. De León wants to abolish ICE; Feinstein isn’t sure that’s such a great idea. De León believes that impeachment hearings should begin in the House immediately; Feinstein doesn’t yet believe that an adequate case has been made. De León’s supporters view this endorsement as the changing of the guard, when a new generation of party activists seize the reins of power long held by older white Democrats like Feinstein, Jerry Brown, Nancy Pelosi, and Barbara Boxer. Feinstein’s supporters see this endorsement as party insiders attempting to dictate the party’s direction irrespective of what the voters desire (Feinstein beat de León in the open primary last month, 44% to 12%), and ironically compare this to Hillary Clinton using superdelegates to lock Bernard Sanders out of the nomination (both Feinstein and de León endorsed Clinton over Sanders in 2016; for his part, Sanders has not yet endorsed either candidate in this election).

Feinstein is still the odds-on favorite, having bested de León in every single county during the primary, even beating him in his own district. But the party endorsement has the potential to be a game changer, as Democrat money will now be directly used in support of de León (Feinstein has a huge fund-raising advantage) and the party’s organizational apparatus will be at his disposal. The June primary typically brings out an older, whiter, and wealthier electorate which clearly favored Feinstein. Who knows: perhaps if California Democrats channel their Trump anger and turn-out the diverse young budding socialists, Feinstein might find herself back in San Francisco permanently.



The Great War One Hundred Years Ago Today

Filed under: General — JVW @ 2:58 pm

[guest post by JVW]

On July 15, 1918, the German First and Third Armies attacked the French Fourth Army just east of Reimes, beginning what came to be known as the Second Battle of the Marne. By this point the German forces had been ravaged by influenza, and despite having successfully advanced in Northern France from March until June of that year, the Kaiser’s troops were overworked, undernourished, and dispirited. The German commander, General Erich Ludendorff, had led the spring offensive hoping to penetrate the Allied lines on the Western Front, thus rallying his troops while simultaneously providing Germany with one last opportunity for an end-run to Paris.

File found at

File found at

The fighting commenced the day before with Germany firing 17,500 gas shells at the American 42nd Rainbow Division whose Chief of Staff was a 38-year-old newly-promoted brigadier general named Douglas MacArthur. The 42nd was about 20 miles west of Reims at Château-Thierry, so the attack appears to be intended to prevent the Americans from reinforcing the Fourth Army to the east. The gas would incapacitate over 1,000 American troops and blind dozens, though only six were killed. On that same day, Bastille Day, Second Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt, son of the former President, was shot down and killed piloting his Nieuport 28 ten miles east of the 42nd in Chamery (now known as Coulonges-Cohan).

The Germans also bombed the French lines at Souain-Perthes-lès-Hurlus, 10 miles east of Reims. The French, however, had advance warning of the assault thanks to intelligence from some prisoners of war, and left a skeleton crew in their front trenches as they fell back to the rear. Thus, the Germans basically wasted their heavy artillery to kill a very few troops left behind in the ruse. At the same time, the advance intelligence on the German movements gave the Americans and French the opportunity to shell the German lines as they assembled to attack, further disorienting the Hun. As the German First and Third passed through the abandoned trenches, they were quickly cut down by French troops who had dug new trenches a quarter-mile back from the German bombardment.

The next day, July 16, the Germans fired a half million shells against the French and American forces, dropping over 9000 tons of mustard gas, phosgene, and diphenylchlorarsine as the Kaiser himself watched from the First Army observation point 14 miles to the northeast. Despite the onslaught, the French heavy guns managed to destroy 20 German tanks (the tank being new to the war, appearing on the battlefield for the first time a year earlier) and French bombardiers along with American artillery successfully destroyed every bridge that the Germans had managed to build to cross the Marne River. German troops attempting to ford the river at its most shallow points were easily mowed down by waiting Yank machine gunners. Even the Italian troops (insert your favorite Italian war joke here) got in on the act, repelling a German offensive at Nanteuil-Pourcy. On July 18, the Allied armies under Marshal Ferdinand Foch launched their counter-attack, driving the Germans back four-and-one-half miles and capturing 20,000 prisoners in one day’s worth of fighting.

The events of July 15, 1918 would be recognized as the last significant German offensive of the Great War. The Second Battle of the Marne would officially last until August 6, at which point the Kaiser’s lines had been driven back 28 miles, several beyond the point where they had launched the spring offensive five months earlier. The American poet Joyce Kilmer would be killed in action on July 30 while accompanying Major William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan (who founded the Office of Strategic Services in the next war) to scout the position of German machine guns prior to an impending Allied attack. A little over three months later, the war mercifully concluded.

Note: Most of the above is taken from the late Sir Martin Gilbert’s excellent account, The First World War. I regret that I loaned my copy of the late John Keegan’s The First World War to my father, as I would have liked to consult it as well in writing this post. Both books are indispensable for an understanding of that momentous conflict.


Trump’s Advice to Theresa May on Brexit

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:21 am

If only she had listened! New York Times:

Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday revealed the advice President Trump had given her on how to negotiate Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union: Go straight to court.

Mrs. May was asked by the BBC about comments Mr. Trump made both in an interview in the British tabloid The Sun and later at a news conference on Friday at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, northwest of London.

“He told me I should sue the E.U.,” Mrs. May said.


[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 60 and More

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am

It is the eighth Sunday after Pentecost, and I have a lot of music for you today — not just Bach. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort” (O eternity, you word of thunder):

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 6:14-29.

John the Baptist Beheaded

King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

Others said, “He is Elijah.”

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”

For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Bach never directly addressed the beheading of John the Baptist in his cantatas. But his cantata is a dialogue between allegorical figures representing the fear of death (sung by the alto) and the hope of salvation (sung by the tenor). Hope wins out.

The text of today’s piece is available here. Here are the words of the final chorale, “Es ist genug” (It is enough), heard at 14:50:

It is enough:
Lord, if it pleases You,
then release me!
My Jesus comes;
good night now, o world!
I journey to heaven’s house,
I go there securely in peace,
my great suffering remains behind.
It is enough.

The setting of the chorale was an inspiration for part of Alban Berg’s violin concerto:

Listen around 19:40 and you’ll clearly hear the rising whole tones in the orchestra and then the violin.

The cantata also quotes the Book of Revelation in a meaningful reflection on death and hope:

Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herren sterben, von nun an.
Soll ich von nun an selig sein:
So stelle dich, o Hoffnung, wieder ein!
Mein Leib mag ohne Furcht im Schlafe ruhn,
Der Geist kann einen Blick in jene Freude tun.

This means:

Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord, from henceforth.
All right!
If I shall be blessed from now on:
o hope, reappear to me!
My body may rest without fear in sleep,
while the spirit can cast a glance upon that joy.

It is impossible for me to read the words “Selig sind die Toten” without sharing with you portions of Brahms’s Requiem. Let’s start with the passage that quotes those same words:

The words sung here are from Revelation 14:13:

Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herrn sterben, von nun an. Ja, der Geist spricht, daß sie ruhen von ihrer Arbeit; denn ihre Werke folgen ihnen nach.

This means:

Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

And here is the gorgeous opening movement, opening with the same words: “Selig sind” (Blessed are…). If this opening movement does not hook you on the piece, nothing can.

The words sung here are from Matthew 5:4:

Selig sind, die da Leid tragen, denn sie sollen getröstet werden.

Which means:

Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.

Reflections on hope, for a day when the Gospel passage is filled with death. In Christ, there is always hope.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


Rosenstein Presser and Indictments

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:37 pm

There should probably be a separate thread for this. It seemed like what Mueller should be doing, and I thought Rosenstein’s statement about putting partisanship aside was compelling.

Your thoughts below.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Stop Overselling the Importance of the Strzok Texts

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:37 am

I did not watch the Strzok partisan shoutfest. But Phillip Bump at the #FAKENEWS Bezos Post has a point about the evil Peter Strzok:

In a written statement offered before he testified before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday, Strzok pointedly noted that there was no effort on his part to keep Trump from winning the White House — and, further, that he was one of only a few people who could have potentially leaked details from the investigation in an effort to block Trump’s victory.

“In the summer of 2016,” Strzok wrote, “I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign. This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.”

This is a nearly impossible point to rebut.

Before Election Day, there were rumblings that Russia was engaged in the campaign in nefarious ways and that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to see Trump win. There were rumors — theories, really — that Trump was more than happy to have Russia’s help or even might be aiding that effort. In the closing days of the campaign though, the two most important stories about the Clinton and Trump investigations were ones that solely worked to the eventual winner’s advantage.

On Halloween 2016, the New York Times detailed what was known about the investigation into Russian interference (an effort addressed earlier that month in an unusual public statement from the government). The headline, though, summarized the good news for Trump’s effort: “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”

“None of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government,” the article read. Since Trump was inaugurated, of course, we’ve learned much more about links between the campaign and Russia — involving even members of Trump’s family. The effect of the story, though, was to quash those rumors about Trump’s motivations.

Paul Waldman expands on this concept:

This is the core of what makes the Republican effort to discredit the Russia investigation so utterly insane. They want us to believe there was an FBI conspiracy to prevent Trump from being elected president, and what did that conspiracy do? First, it mounted a cautious investigation of what nearly everyone now acknowledges was a comprehensive effort by Russia to help Trump get elected, an effort that people on the Trump campaign and even in Trump’s own family tried to cooperate with. But then it kept that investigation completely secret from the public, lest news of it affect the outcome of the investigation in any way.

You will notice that Republicans have not been able to produce any evidence that Strzok or anyone else took any official action that was biased, unfair or inappropriate in their investigation of Russian interference and the Trump campaign.

The view of the FBI as a hotbed of partisan leakers is indeed difficult to reconcile with the fact that this stuff was not leaked at the most critical time. Also, these were private messages, and nobody would like having their private messages aired to the country.

That said, unlike the #Resistance, I’m not ready to canonize Strzok. The messages were written on government devices. He is an adulterer. While the conclusions he came to about Trump’s personality are similar to the conclusions many of us came to, having a guy this openly and emotionally partisan involved in these investigations feels very inappropriate and disturbing.

But it’s not enough for me to decide that the FBI and Mueller are involved in a #WitchHunt. That’s what Donald Trump wants me to think, but no sale.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


Trump Superfans on Trump and Putin

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:52 am

Trump superfans on Trump and Putin: Trump doesn’t seem to go easy on Putin. What has he ever done to help Putin?

Also Trump superfans on Trump and Putin: I think it’s awesome that Trump is threatening to pull us out of NATO.


SCANDAL!!!1!!!!11!! Kavanaugh Bought Baseball Tickets

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:44 am

The Washington Post has this incredible scandal regarding Judge Brett Kavanaugh Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. It sounds pretty bad in this headline: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh piled up credit card debt by purchasing Nationals tickets, White House says:

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh incurred tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt buying baseball tickets over the past decade and at times reported liabilities that could have exceeded the value of his cash accounts and investment assets, according to a review of Kavanaugh’s financial disclosures and information provided by the White House.

White House spokesman Raj Shah told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh built up the debt by buying Washington Nationals season tickets and tickets for playoff games for himself and a “handful” of friends. Shah said some of the debts were also for home improvements.

In 2016, Kavanaugh reported having between $60,000 and $200,000 in debt accrued over three credit cards and a loan. Each credit card held between $15,000 and $50,000 in debt, and a Thrift Savings Plan loan was between $15,000 and $50,000.

Wow. He “built up” debt that exceeded his assets. Quite irresponsible! Bad judgment!

I doubt Raj Shah said Kavanaugh “built up” the debt, because (as we will see) that did not happen. (Which means, of course, that Raj Shah does not exist, because he was possibly misquoted and people who were possibly misquoted do not exist.)

You have to pull apart the facts here to understand that there is no story. The headline (“piled up”) unjustifiably suggests that Kavanaugh accrued this credit card debt over time, for expenses he and his family irresponsibly incurred himself. The story adds to the “piled up” narrative with phrase “built up.” But let’s read on to see how this debt “piled up” and “built up” over time:

The credit card debts and loan were either paid off or fell below the reporting requirements in 2017, according to the filings, which do not require details on the nature or source of such payments. Shah told The Post that Kavanaugh’s friends reimbursed him for their share of the baseball tickets and that the judge has since stopped purchasing the season tickets.

Shah did not provide the names of the friends or additional details about the tickets. Kavanaugh, who is known to be a Nationals fan, declined to comment.

Shah said the payments for the tickets were made at the end of 2016 and paid off early the next year.

“He did not carry that kind of debt year over year,” Shah said.

So he bought expensive tickets in bulk for himself and his friends — no doubt due to bulk discounts — and then was quickly reimbursed.


Where does this “built up” and “piled up” nonsense come from? The need for drama. That’s all. The editors are asking themselves: how do we even justify publishing this nonsense? And the answer is: make it sound worse than it really is.

The worst part of all is that trifles like this distract from a far more serious lapse in judgment — one that, in a sane world, would end Kavanaugh’s nomination immediately:

At Yale, the judge was highly regarded among his classmates, his friends say. He spent nights working on the Yale Law Journal, where he served as notes editor. He made those late shifts “palatable” with a constant stream of jokes, said Brochin, who also worked on the journal.

But when it came to food, the future Supreme Court pick found hardly anything palatable, Christmas said. Kavanaugh was a “bland eater,” his roommate explained, who never ate his pasta with anything more exotic than tomato sauce or ketchup on top. At visits to Yorkside Pizza following late nights at Toad’s Place — the friends did not go often, Christmas said, as Kavanaugh had “limited dance moves” — the judge’s pizza had to be plain cheese, or sometimes just pepperoni.


This shows an unforgivable lack of judgment.

It’s not too late to get Barrett. We might have little idea how she would actually behave as a judge, but she would trigger the libs — and I bet she would never put ketchup on pasta.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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