How Robert Mueller Outfoxed Donald Trump

Special counsel Robert Mueller faces a unique challenge in his investigation of Russian influence during the 2016 election. In addition to gathering information and prosecuting criminals, he has had to avoid getting fired by his resentful, mercurial, and unscrupulous commander in chief.

Fifteen months into the investigation, he appears to have done a masterful job. By manipulating and distracting Donald Trump and his team of lawyers, he has not only preserved his job, he has maintained complete autonomy and seeded a cluster of spinoff investigations that will be nearly impossible for the White House to stifle. And despite Trump’s insistence that he’s “totally allowed” to intervene whenever he chooses, he won’t dare make a move this close to the midterm election, which means Mueller’s investigation will be protected for at least three more months.

How has he done it?

Read more at the Daily Beast

Tariffs Once Tore the GOP Apart—and May Be Doing So Again

“Tariffs are the greatest!” President Trump crowed on Twitter on Tuesday morning. If that represents a break from contemporary Republican orthodoxy, it’s a message other GOP presidents once embraced. Trump has previously quoted William McKinley declaring that tariffs made Americans lives “sweeter and brighter and brighter and brighter.” (For the record, McKinley only said “brighter” once.) And after Congress passed the Tariff Act of 1909, William Taft declared it “the best bill that the Republican party ever passed.”

But the voters disagreed, vehemently. In the next two elections, they obliterated the GOP’s congressional majority, crushed Taft’s reelection hopes, and sent the party into a tailspin. Tariff policy was one of the most divisive issues in American politics, because its costs and benefits were unevenly distributed. Protectionist policies offered windfalls to large corporations while burdening small businesses and farmers with higher prices. That stirred bitter resentments in less industrialized, agricultural regions, fueling North-South discord before the Civil War, and inflaming Midwestern populism in the early 20th century, splitting political parties in the process. If Trump continues his protectionist course, it could happen again.

Read more at The Atlantic

Uh, John Boehner: Trump Is the Opposite of Teddy Roosevelt

“I think Donald Trump sees himself larger than life,” said former House Speaker John Boehner recently. “He kind of reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt, another guy who saw himself larger than life.”

As a Roosevelt scholar, I beg to differ. Theodore Roosevelt did not see himself as larger than life; he was larger than life. We don’t celebrate him because of his ego; we celebrate him because he was a hero who embodied and championed the virtues that we Americans admire: honesty, courage, compassion, and resolve.

Read more at the Daily Beast

Can Bernie Sanders Overhaul the Democratic Party?

One year ago, Bernie Sanders stood in the sun on the shore of Lake Champlain and opened his presidential campaign with a promise “to build a movement of millions of Americans.” Critics scoffed, dismissing his supporters as callow youngsters destined to drift once #FeelTheBern stops trending. But Sanders’s campaign proved more popular and resilient than anyone expected. Ironically, many Democrats now want him to terminate his movement and convert it into a get-out-the-vote drive for Hillary Clinton.

But that is not how movements work. The celebrated political movements of American history—abolitionism, progressivism, and civil rights—were never subordinate to political parties. Their leaders did not bow to party elites. Great movements transcend partisanship; they are the makers and breakers of parties.

Read more at the Daily Beast

What Game Theory Tells Us About Donald Trump

Donald Trump likes to brag about his negotiating skills, but for a tough negotiator, he's awfully easy to manipulate. There are two types of people in Trumpland: those who are nice to Donald, and those who are not nice to Donald. If you flatter Trump, he'll treat you well. If you criticize him, he'll retaliate. "I'm a counter-puncher," he once told CNN.

So to win Trump's favor, just say something sweet about him; Vladimir Putin praised him last December, and Trump has been preening over the compliment ever since. And to deliberately draw Trump's fire, say something nasty about him; last week Elizabeth Warren called him a bully and a loser, which dragged him into a distracting and unpresidential tweetfight with someone who is not his opponent.

Read more at RollingStone

Why Paul Krugman’s Wrong About Bernie Sanders

Paul Krugman may be a terrific economist, but he should study his history. In a trenchant New York Times column titled “How Change Happens,” Dr. Krugman asserts that legislative change requires “hardheaded realism” and “accepting half loaves.” Dismissing presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s uncompromising idealism as “happy dreams” and “destructive self-indulgence,” he asks rhetorically, “When has their theory of change ever worked? Even F.D.R., who rode the depths of the Great Depression to a huge majority, had to be politically pragmatic, working not just with special interest groups but also with Southern racists.”

But F.D.R. offers a poor parallel to the political situation today. Democrats dominated Congress during his 12-year tenure with supermajorities that sometimes surpassed 75 percent. Krugman is correct that F.D.R. compromised some elements of his agenda, but he compromised from a position of strength, and most of his landmark New Deal proposals passed with large majorities.

Read more at the History News Network

Anita Bryant and the Myth of the Militant Homosexual

Indiana Governor Mike Pence is shocked—shocked—that people see anything objectionable in Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “Was I expecting this kind of backlash?” he exclaimed, “Heavens no.”

After all, who could object to religious freedom?

Yet, there is something fishy about the Christian right’s newfound passion for spiritual liberty. For most of American history, the First Amendment has been the redoubt of religious minorities: Catholics, Jews, Mormons, atheists, and others. The 1993 federal law that Indiana lawmakers claimed to innocently reproduce was inspired by a Native American who was fired for smoking ceremonial peyote.

Mainstream Protestants, safely in the majority, have had little need for such protections, and right-wing groups have often opposed efforts by the ACLU and other civil rights organizations to defend religious minorities.

So why the sudden clamor for religious freedom?

Read more at the Daily Beast

I Sorted Hillary Clinton’s Email

When Hillary Clinton released emails from her personal account last week, many assumed that her attorneys had personally reviewed the messages before sending them to the State Department, but that’s not what happened. As detailed in her press statement, the review team used keyword searches to automatically filter over 60,000 messages, flagging about half as work related.

“I have absolute confidence that everything that could be in any way connected to work is now in the possession of the State Department,” Clinton declared.

I’m afraid that I don’t share her confidence, and I speak from experience. Twenty years ago, I used the same method to sort the Clinton administration’s email communications, including those of First Lady Hillary Clinton. It failed miserably.

Read more at New York Magazine

Ken Burns and the Myth of Theodore Roosevelt

The Roosevelts, a new PBS documentary by director Ken Burns, presents President Theodore Roosevelt as a political superhero. In photo after photo, Burns’s famous pan-and-zoom effect magnifies Roosevelt’s flashing teeth and upraised fist. The reverential narrator hails his fighting spirit and credits him with transforming the role of American government through sheer willpower. “I attack,” an actor blusters, imitating Roosevelt’s patrician cadence, “I attack iniquities.”

Though exciting to watch, Burns’s cinematic homage muddles the history. Roosevelt was a great president and brilliant politician, but he was not the progressive visionary and fearless warrior that Burns lionizes. He governed as a pragmatic centrist and a mediator who preferred backroom deal-making to open warfare. At the time, many of his progressive contemporaries criticized him for excessive caution. The “I attack” quote, for example, came from a 1915 interview in which Roosevelt defended himself from accusations that he had been too conciliatory.

Read more at New York Magazine

Theodore Roosevelt on Net Neutrality

“Above all else,” President Theodore Roosevelt admonished Congress in 1905, “we must strive to keep the highways of commerce open to all on equal terms.”

Roosevelt could not have imagined digital computers and fiber-optic cables. He was talking about railroads, the highways of commerce in his day.

But though the technology has changed, the principle TR expressed remains as essential as it was a century ago. We ignore it at our peril.

Read more at Reuters

GOP's obstructionism is suicide strategy (CNN.com)

A suicide bomber walks into a bar. He shouts at the bartender, "Gimme the money, or I blow this place to bits!" The worried bartender hands him a wad of cash, and the bomber departs.

The next day, the suicide bomber returns to the same bar. He shouts at the bartender, "Gimme the money, or I blow this place to bits!"

"Are you nuts?" answers the bartender. "If I give you money every day, I'll go out of business. Plus, you're scaring away the customers."

"I tell you what," replies the bomber, "Gimme the money, and I won't come back until the day after tomorrow."

Welcome to the art of negotiation, Republican style.

Read more at CNN.com

Why Etch A Sketch gibe will be hard for Romney to shake (CNN.com)

Mitt Romney is in a bind. He must present himself as a staunch conservative in order to appeal to skeptical right-wing voters in the Republican presidential primary, but if he plays it too conservative, he'll alienate moderate voters in the general election.

Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom is not overly concerned, though. On Wednesday, he expressed confidence the campaign would hit the "reset button" after the nomination and redraw Romney as a moderate candidate.

Read more at CNN.com

Why evangelicals love Santorum, hated JFK (CNN.com)

Sen. Rick Santorum, who is campaigning to become America's second Catholic president, disagrees from the bottom of his gut with the first Catholic to hold the office.

In October, he told a Catholic university audience that when he read the 1960 speech in which John F. Kennedy said: "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute," he "almost threw up." More recently, he elaborated on his dyspeptic condition in an ABC television interview, calling JFK's credo "an absolutist doctrine that was abhorrent at the time of 1960."

Read more at CNN.com

For congressional tweeting, Weiner's got competition (CNN.com)

This much we know. Over Memorial Day weekend, someone used U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner's Twitter account to publish a photo of an underwear-clad male crotch apparently in a sexually excited state.

The New York Democrat denies posting the photo, claiming that his Twitter account was hacked, but he has deflected persistent inquiries into whether he is the owner of the offending (apparent) genitalia.

Read more at CNN.com