Resistance, Get Your Red-State Dems In Line!
Gina Haspel reports to work as new CIA Director
For those who came in late, we’re currently in the middle of an existential crisis in our always shaky at best Constitutional democracy. Donald Trump is president. And that brings a daily no-pride parade of horrors, like for instance this:
But don’t worry too much. We have ourselves an officially hashtagged #Resistance. But resistance can sometimes feel futile. The Trump administration can wear you down like a giant glacier of illegal ooze and racist hate.
Let's put on our trademarked, available for purchase for home use, Wonkette Monocles and closely examine Trump's cabinet picks, which are like a less-colorful, more-evil Legion of Doom.
(Tangentially, the Legion seems less dysfunctional than the Trump administration. Notice how in the above clip they came to a “compromise” over their headquarters? I also doubt anyone in the Legion regularly leaks meeting details to the press.)
Anyway, a common refrain we hear from Senate Democrats regarding Trump’s latest awful cabinet selection is “what if the next one’s worse?” Now, this might be why someone winds up dating Donald Trump Jr., but it’s a really depressing factor in the Senate confirmation process.
When Senator Marco Rubio (R-KOCH BROS LLC) made some showy gestures about possibly opposing Trump’s then-soon-to-be-disgraced Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, Jennifer Rubin argued that Rubio shouldn’t back down (NARRATOR: He did back down) just because Trump’s other picks “could be worse” (NARRATOR: They were in fact worse).
After Trump dumped Tillerson a year later via tweet, he chose Mike Pompeo to replace him. Pompeo is awful, a chief “diplomat” who overtly loathes Muslims, LGBT people, and women who like to maintain autonomy over their bodies, all of whom do actually exist in the world. Yet Pompeo was confirmed by a slightly wider margin than Tillerson — likely benefitting from the instability his predecessor’s abrupt termination created.
All Republicans voted for Pompeo, again demonstrating that Trump — despite Stormy and Mueller — has suffered no erosion of support from his party. "Red-state" Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Doug Jones of Alabama all folded like lawn chairs. New York magazine’s Ed Kilgore suggested something silly:
You can make the case that in a foreign policy apparatus led by Trump and at least partially steered by John Bolton, Pompeo looks a whole lot less dangerous than he might have appeared in a normal Republican administration.
By the same logic, placing a crack pipe on the table in front of a small child is crazy but if the crack pipe is surrounded by a handgun and a katana sword, it suddenly seems “a lot less dangerous.”
Kilgore, before going out to buy some magic beans, added:
Indeed, his close relationship with the boss leads some to think he can operate as a moderating influence. It’s an open question as to whether he can do a better job than Tillerson in getting along with his own employees and filling urgently needed foreign-policy posts.
I’d hate to think we barely lived through the past year of Trump’s presidency without learning that there’s no such thing as a “moderating influence” on him. He’s a large vat of unregulated country moonshine. Adding a couple ice cubes to it before ingesting will still make you go blind. The same Mary Sunshines said that Chief of Staff John Kelly would "moderate" Trump. Now, Kelly’s being praised by white supremacists for his comments denigrating immigrants.
Meanwhile, Pompeo’s elevation opened up his job as director of the CIA. Trump picked Gina Haspel, who is "controversial" because from 2003 to 2005 she oversaw a CIA program "known to use brutal interrogation tactics on terrorism suspects, including putting people in coffins and depriving them of sleep."
Personally, “controversial” seems a benign description for someone who reminds me of the villain from an old episode of The Avengers who prepares for an “enhanced interrogation” session with Mrs. Peel by slipping on surgical gloves and pulling out a scary-ass tray of what you hope are just dental tools (scalpels, needles, and some random items that’s just there to spook you because your ass ain't making it past the scalpels and needles).
She should be an easy no. But “red state” Dems folded again -- including Mark Warner of Virginia, which isn’t even a red state. (Jon Tester of Montana, though, whose main issue is veterans' rights, managed to keep his no intact.) And it’s not even like Warner's really into torture. You could almost respect that -- it's why we love Mr. Blonde dancing to "Stuck in the Middle With You" -- but instead he sort of makes these mealy mouthed defenses of the “moral code” of a woman who couldn’t manage to publicly declare it immoral to slice off someone’s ear with a rusty razor. No, she had to later write a carefully considered letter, about 15 years (and one week) too late.
Maybe he was afraid Tom Cotton would be worse ... but again, they're ALL worse.
Warner also insists that Haspel won’t buckle under to pressure from Trump to bring back torture or otherwise do anything immoral or illegal in his immoral and illegal administration. That seems far-fetched, but I’m not a fancy Senator with significant investments in Kansas beachfront property.
Literal Russian bot Jill Stein is fond of blaming Democrats for things that Republicans do because they’re in the majority (Stein apparently got her medical degree from a school where math was only an elective), but Haspel is the first instance in which her confirmation would’ve stalled without Democrat support. John McCain, Rand Paul, and Jeff Flake (!) all came out against her.
This almost makes you feel sorry for Betsy DeVos, who needed Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote to nail down a job her family had already paid $200 million for. I guess it was impossible for Senate Dems to imagine anything being worse than this:
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.