“He quit because of the madness”

mattis

Some great reporting Washington Post reporting here (27 current and former White House officials) on the Mattis departure:

Here is a taste:

President Trump began Thursday under siege, listening to howls of indignation from conservatives over his border wall and thrusting the government toward a shutdown. He ended it by announcing the exit of the man U.S. allies see as the last guardrail against the president’s erratic behavior: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whose resignation letter was a scathing rebuke of Trump’s worldview.

At perhaps the most fragile moment of his presidency — and vulnerable to convulsions on the political right — Trump single-handedly propelled the U.S. government into crisis and sent markets tumbling with his gambits this week to salvage signature campaign promises.

The president’s decisions and conduct have led to a fracturing of Trump’s coalition. Hawks condemned his sudden decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Conservatives called him a “gutless president” and questioned whether he would ever build a wall. Political friends began privately questioning whether Trump needed to be reined in.

Read the rest here.

And then, as if the chaos was not bad enough, last night Trump sent out Stephen Miller to try to calm things down:

Or maybe Miller sent himself out.  He may be running the country right now.

It’s Trump Adviser Stephen Miller, Not the Democrats, Who Want Family Separation at the Mexican Border

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This story is just breaking.

I have no doubt that Miller wrote the press release I blogged about earlier.  How does this square with Trump’s claim that he has nothing to do with the policy of separation families at the border?

And where are most of the court evangelicals?  Why aren’t they speaking out about this with a sense of outrage?  Where is their moral courage?

“What happens when right-wing trolls grow up to run the world?”

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Stephen Miller is one of the Trump administration’s survivors.  We have written about him a few times here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, but nothing close to McKay Coppins’s long-form piece at The Atlantic.  Here is a taste of “Trump’s Right-Hand Troll“:

In the campy TV drama that is Donald Trump’s Washington, Miller has carved out an enigmatic role. He lurks in the background for weeks at a time, only to emerge with crucial cameos in the most explosive episodes. The one where Trump signed a havoc-wreaking travel ban during his first week in office, unleashing global chaos and mass protests? Miller helped draft the executive order. The one where the federal government shut down over a high-stakes immigration standoff on Capitol Hill? Miller was accused of derailing the negotiations. (“As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we’re going nowhere,” Senator Lindsey Graham grumbled.) To watch him in his most memorable scenes—theatrically hurling accusations of “cosmopolitan bias” at a reporter; getting his mic cut in the middle of a belligerent Sunday-show appearance—is to be left mesmerized, wondering, Is this guy serious?

I put that question to Miller, one way or another, repeatedly over the course of our meeting. He insists that he believes every word he says, and that he is not a fan of “provocation for its own sake.” But after some reflection, he admits that he has long found value in doing things that generate what he calls “constructive controversy—with the purpose of enlightenment.”

This is what makes Miller different from all the other Republican apparatchiks who became supervillains when they joined the Trump administration: He has been courting infamy since puberty. From Santa Monica High School to Duke University to Capitol Hill, his mission—always—has been to shock and offend the progressive sensibilities of his peers. He revels in riling them, luxuriates in their disdain.

Inside the White House, Miller has emerged as a staunch ideologue and an immigration hawk championing an agenda of right-wing nationalism. But people who have known him at different points in his life say his political worldview is also rooted in a deep-seated instinct for trolling. Miller represents a rising generation of conservatives for whom “melting the snowflakes” and “triggering the libs” are first principles. You can find them on college campuses, holding “affirmative action bake sales” or hosting rallies for alt-right figures in the name of free speech. You can see them in the new conservative media, churning out incendiary headlines for Breitbart News or picking bad-faith fights on Twitter. Raised on talk radio, radicalized on the web, they are a movement in open revolt against the dogmas of “political correctness”—and their tactics could shape the culture wars for years to come.

The story of Miller’s rise to power offers an early answer to an urgent question: What happens when right-wing trolls grow up to run the world?

Read the rest here.

The Cosmopolitan Elite

Last night I published a post about Trump adviser Stephen Miller’s response to CNN’s Jim Acosta’s question about the connection between the spirit of American immigration and the RAISE Act.  Read it here.

Throughout this exchange, Miller accuses Acosta of being a “cosmopolitan.” The first reference comes at about the 3:40 mark and then again at the 4:15 mark.

Several quick thoughts:

  1. Acosta misspoke and said that England and Australia are the only sources of English-speakers who come to America.  Does this make him a “cosmopolitan?” Stephen Miller thinks so.  Maybe I don’t understand the meaning of the word “cosmopolitan” (“citizen of the world”).  I wrote a book about it, but maybe the definition has changed since the 18th century.  But if Acosta really did believe that English is only spoken in two nations, wouldn’t that mean he was not very cosmopolitan?  Wouldn’t that make him parochial or provincial?
  2.  “Cosmopolitanism,” of course, is an anathema in a presidential administration that celebrates the idea of “America First.” For example, the Obama administration was cosmopolitan in its efforts at working together with other nations around the globe. Miller knows that simply mentioning the term is the equivalent of throwing red meat to the Trump base.  Steve Bannon knows this too.
  3.  Last night Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse tweeted a 1972 article “about how Democrats like George McGovern weren’t connecting with the white working class.”  The source reminds us that the white working class has been criticizing cosmopolitans for a long time:

Cosmpolitan

The Trump White House Needs Another Lesson in Historical Thinking

beautiful-day-to-seeStephen Miller, a senior aide of Donald Trump, is now telling reporters what is “ahistorical” and what is not.

In case you did not hear, today Trump and two United States Senators rolled out the “RAISE Act.”  In a nutshell, this law will limit future legal immigration to “highly skilled” workers and those who already speak English.

Today Miller met with reporters to answer questions about the RAISE Act.  Jim Acosta of CNN asked him if a bill limiting immigration to skilled workers and English-speakers violates the spirit of the words behind Emma Lazarus’s 1883 sonnet “The New Colossus.” Lazarus wrote “The New Colossus” to raise money for the construction of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.  The statue was dedicated in 1886.  The “New Colossus” was engraved on a plaque inside the statue’s lower level in 1903.

I quote it here in full:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Here is the exchange between Miller and Acosta:

Several thoughts:

  1. Miller is technically right.  “The New Colossus” was added seventeen years after the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.
  2. Miller is wrong when he says that “The New Colossus,” with its reference to the “tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” was not connected in any way to the Statue of Liberty.  As noted above, Lazarus wrote it to raise money for the statue.
  3. Miller is probably correct to suggest that the addition of “The New Colossus” to the Statue of Liberty in 1903 turned the statue into a symbol of immigration.  One could even argue that the Statue of Liberty did not become associated with immigration until well after immigration to the United States dried in the wake of the 1924 Immigration Act.
  4. But all of these points miss Acosta’s argument.  Acosta wanted to know if the RAISE Act violates the spirit of American immigration as embodied in the words of Emma Lazarus.  Miller said that Acosta’s argument was “ahistorical” because he did not know that “The New Colossus” was added after the Statue of Liberty was raised.  Do you see what Miller is doing here?  He is practicing a form of misdirection.  His correction of Acosta on the facts is little more than a sneaky attempt to avoid the real question the CNN reporter asked about the connections between the past and present.  When Acosta asked about the relationship between the RAISE Act and the spirit of American immigration, he was asking a pretty good historical question. It deserved a better answer.  There is a difference between knowing facts about the past and doing history.
  5. Acosta could have responded to Miller’s misdirection without throwing the National Park Service under the bus.  The way Miller dealt with the past today bears little resemblance to the way the National Park Service promotes history.

Andrew Sullivan Tries to Explain Stephen Miller

miller

You may recall Stephen Miller from last Sunday morning when he appeared on all the news shows.  He is apparently one of Trump’s closest advisers.  We wrote about this here.

Over at New York Magazine writer Andrew Sullivan tries to explain this guy:

I feel like I know Stephen Miller, the youthful Montgomery Burns who lectured the lügenpresse last Sunday morning in his charm-free Stakhanovite baritone. I feel like I know him because I used to be a little like him. He’s a classic type: a rather dour right-of-center kid whose conservatism was radicalized by lefties in the educational system. No, I’m not blaming liberals for Miller’s grim fanaticism. I am noting merely that right-of-center students are often mocked, isolated, and anathematized on campus, and their response is often, sadly, a doubling down on whatever it is that progressives hate. Before too long, they start adopting brattish and obnoxious positions — just to tick off their SJW peers and teachers. After a while, you’re not so much arguing for conservatism as against leftism, and eventually the issues fade and only the hate remains.

Read it the rest here.  Sullivan’s take makes sense.