Not Quite Canadian

Liberals do think about giving up on Trump’s America and moving to Canada, where liberals actually call themselves liberals and don’t feel the need to hide behind the term “progressive” or other such nonsense – a nation of modest polite people now led by a young open-hearted whip-smart decent fellow – a nation with universal health care that welcomes and celebrates diversity. We just turned away a whole lot of people at our borders, even those we had granted visas. Justin Trudeau, through Ahmed Hussen, his immigration minister, just offered all of them temporary residency in Canada if they’d like. It seemed the decent thing to do, even if that may piss off Donald Trump. Ahmed Hussen was born in Somalia, by the way. Now, with Trump’s new executive order, Ahmed Hussen cannot enter the United States – they’d turn him back at the border. That sort of thing makes Canadians giggle. They don’t get angry. They’re big on common decency. We’re not. That’s our problem, not theirs. We own Donald Trump. They don’t. We did that.

But this wasn’t the day to move to Canada. Yes, Donald Trump likes to punch others in the face until they thank him for stopping and do what he wants them to do – crude but effective, except with the Mexican government last week – but this wasn’t the day that Donald Trump nominated Ted Nugent to the Supreme Court, just to piss off liberals and rub in what total losers they are. Donald Trump decided to be reasonable – not quite Canadian, but reasonable. He did this:

President Trump on Tuesday nominated Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge in Denver, to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, elevating a jurist whose conservative bent and originalist philosophy fit the mold of the man he would succeed.

“Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline, and has earned bipartisan support,” Mr. Trump said, standing beside the judge and his wife, Louise, in the East Room of the White House. “It is an extraordinary résumé – as good as it gets.”

If confirmed, Judge Gorsuch would restore the 5-to-4 split between liberals and conservatives on the court, handing Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, 80, who votes with both blocs, the swing vote.

At 49, Judge Gorsuch is the youngest nominee to the Supreme Court in 25 years, underscoring his potential to shape major decisions for decades to come. In choosing him, Mr. Trump reached for a reliably conservative figure in the Scalia tradition but not someone known to be divisive.

Gorsuch isn’t nuts. He’s severely conservative, but in a boring sort of way – so if Justice Kennedy wants to retire he can, without any qualms, maybe. Gorsuch isn’t Ted Nugent:

A Colorado native who was in the same class at Harvard Law School as Mr. Obama, Judge Gorsuch is known for his well-written, measured opinions that are normally, though not exclusively, conservative.

He holds a Ph.D. from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar, and a pedigree as a law clerk at the Supreme Court to Justices Byron R. White and Kennedy.

That’s a key element here:

Judge Gorsuch’s personal connections to Justice Kennedy are no accident. By choosing a familiar figure, several officials said, the White House is sending a reassuring signal to Justice Kennedy, 80, who has been mulling retirement.

Choosing a more ideologically extreme candidate, the officials said, could tempt Justice Kennedy to hang on to his seat for several more years, depriving Mr. Trump of another seat to fill.

That’s clever, and probably not Trump’s doing – Trump is an impulsive fellow who loathes planning. Someone thought this through. Trump may have just been along for the ride, but it doesn’t matter much. It’s done, and there were no surprises here:

He has voted in favor of employers, including Hobby Lobby, who invoked religious objections for refusing to provide some forms of contraception coverage to their female workers. And he has criticized liberals for turning to the courts rather than the legislature to achieve their policy goals.

He’s also pro-life. Abortion may be illegal again. The use of any sort of contraception may soon be illegal too – but Trump won the election. This was going to happen. Corporations are people. Voting rights are not guaranteed – that’s an issue for the states or for Congress, not the courts – and it’s the same with women’s rights and gay rights. It’s the usual array. It’s just packaged nicely – and he could rule on the actual merits of each new case before the court and surprise everyone now and then. It happens – Justice Roberts was the swing vote that saved Obamacare. Gorsuch could do the same, and Trump can’t fire him. Trump might try to tweet him to death, but tweets don’t reverse Supreme Court rulings.

This could work out, but some would rather not take that chance:

Liberal activists rallied in front of the Supreme Court building in a swift condemnation of Mr. Trump’s choice. They derided Judge Gorsuch as a right-wing ideologue who would lay waste to important judicial decisions in areas including civil rights and abortion rights as well as environmental and worker protections.

Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice called Judge Gorsuch “a disastrous choice,” adding that his record showed “no sign that he would offer an independent check on the dangerous impulses of this administration.” Ilyse Hogue of Naral Pro-Choice America said that Judge Gorsuch “represents an existential threat to legal abortion in the United States and must never wear the robes of a Supreme Court justice.”

Conservative groups started their own push in defending Mr. Trump’s nominee. Within minutes of the president’s announcement, organizers said, the Judicial Crisis Network was to begin the first phase of a $10 million television advertising campaign on the nominee’s behalf, along with a website promoting Mr. Trump’s pick. More than 50 groups were backing the effort, including gun rights and anti-abortion rights activists and the Tea Party…

Juanita Duggan, the president of the National Federation of Independent Business, an organization representing small businesses, said she was also heartened by the choice, because of Judge Gorsuch’s willingness to challenge “regulatory overreach.”

No one wants to take any chances, and David Leonhardt notes the other issue here:

It’s important to remember just how radical – and, yes, unprecedented – the Senate’s approach to the previous Supreme Court nominee was.

Republican leaders announced last March that they would not consider any nominee. They did so even though Barack Obama still had 10 months left in his term and even though other justices (including Anthony Kennedy) had been confirmed in a president’s final year.

The refusal was a raw power grab. Coupled with Republican hints that no Hillary Clinton nominee would be confirmed either, it was a fundamental changing of the rules: Only a party that controlled both the White House and the Senate would now be able to assume it could fill a Supreme Court vacancy.

The change is terribly damaging for the country’s political system. It impedes the smooth functioning of the court and makes it a much more partisan institution.

That may be so, so Leonhardt has some advice for Democrats:

First, they need to make sure that the stolen Supreme Court seat remains at the top of the public’s consciousness. When people hear the name “Neil Gorsuch,” as qualified as he may be, they should associate him with a constitutionally damaging power grab.

Second, Democrats should not weigh this nomination the same way that they’ve weighed previous ones. This one is different. The presumption should be that Gorsuch does not deserve confirmation, because the process that led to his nomination was illegitimate.

It’s quite simple:

Democrats simply cannot play by the old set of rules now that the Republicans are playing by a new one. The only thing worse than the system that the Republicans have created, is a system in which one political party volunteers to be bullied.

Right, but if you don’t have the votes to stop this guy, well, you can’t do much of anything, really, and Lisa Hymas notes what we’re getting here:

Anne Gorsuch – whose son has just been nominated by President Trump for the Supreme Court – was administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 1981 to 1983, under Ronald Reagan. And much like Scott Pruitt, Trump’s EPA nominee, she wanted to rip the agency apart.

Anne Gorsuch slashed EPA’s budget by 22 percent and aggressively rolled back clean air and clean water rules and other protections. A lawyer herself, she apparently did not like to see the legal system used to protect the environment: “In the first year of the Reagan administration, there was a 79 percent decline in the number of enforcement cases filed from regional offices to EPA headquarters, and a 69 percent decline in the number of cases filed from the EPA to the Department of Justice,” a House staffer told Grist in 2004. Anne Gorsuch resigned less than two years into the job over a scandal involving mismanagement of the Superfund program.

Oops. Beware:

During his decade as a federal appeals court judge, Neil Gorsuch has not ruled on notable environmental cases, so he doesn’t have much of a track record to assess. He is a staunch conservative like his mom, though, and that’s enough to have environmentalists very worried.

Canada is looking better every day, but Team Trump doesn’t think so:

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is citing the Sunday terrorist attack on Muslims at a mosque in Quebec City as an example of why his own anti-terror policies are needed – though those policies have targeted Muslims and though the accused killer is not Muslim.

“We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant, and why the president is taking steps to be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” press secretary Sean Spicer said at his daily briefing on Monday…

The Quebec City massacre killed six Muslims who were attending a mosque for evening prayers. Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old university student, has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder.

Spicer did not specifically identify the policies he was referring to, but the “proactive, rather than reactive” language is similar to the rhetoric Trump and his allies have used in defending his “temporary” ban on refugees and by visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which has caused a worldwide uproar.

Take in refugees and these things happen, except for this:

A shy chess-player, a bullied introvert, a moderate conservative turned far-right troll – these are the descriptions being offered of Alexandre Bissonnette since he was accused of perpetrating a deadly shooting at a Quebec City mosque…

He came across as intelligent to his peers, and joined the chess club at Laval University, where he studied anthropology and political science.

Bissonnette appeared to enjoy discussing politics with select classmates at university. Jean-Michel Allard Prus, who took a politics class with Bissonnette, said they often debated with each other on Facebook.

In these debates, Bissonnette expressed fairly mainstream conservative views. A hunter, he opposed gun control and was pro-Israel, but otherwise didn’t bring up more divisive issues such as Muslims or immigration.

And then things changed:

As Bissonnette began to espouse more radical views, he stopped interacting with his fellow students. He took part in at least one informal discussion group, but quickly found its members too moderate and stopped attending.

“He was not interested by our politics meeting because we are conservative and moderate right wing,” said Éric Debroise, a Laval University student and member of the discussion group.

“He is more far-right or alt-right.”

Debroise described Bissonnette as nice but anti-social. In their meetings, he said, Bissonnette often spoke admiringly of U.S. President Donald Trump and the French far-right politician Marine Le Pen…

In a Facebook post, a refugee support group said Bissonnette is “known to several activists in Quebec City for his pro-Le Pen and anti-feminist positions.”

The group said Bissonnette is fond of using the term “feminazi” – alt-right slang for those who advocate women’s rights.

That term was invented by Rush Limbaugh, and Alexandre Bissonnette seems to be a Trump guy. He’d be more comfortable down here, and that led to this:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office released a statement Tuesday slamming Fox News for “spreading misinformation, playing identity politics, and perpetuating fear and division” by describing the alleged gunman in a shooting at a Quebec City mosque as Moroccan in a tweet posted Monday.

Kate Purchase, director of communications for Trudeau’s office, wrote that the tweet contained “false and misleading language” that was “left to stand,” as quoted by the National Post.

“These tweets by Fox News dishonor the memory of the six victims and their families by spreading misinformation, playing identity politics, and perpetuating fear and division within our communities,” Purchase wrote.

She closed the letter by asking Fox News to “either retract or update the tweet” to reflect the alleged gunman’s actual identity.

Now, in Trump’s America, common decency, and factual accuracy, are both a sign of weakness, but the Canadians will have none of it:

In the original tweet, which has since apparently been deleted, Fox News described the suspect as “of Moroccan origin,” according to a report by Global News.

The suspect charged with opening fire in a Quebec City mosque on Sunday night, killing six people and injuring nineteen others, was identified Monday as Alexandre Bissonnette.

Bissonnette is a 27-year-old of French-Canadian origin, contrary to Fox News’ deleted tweet.

And he’s a big Trump fan.

The Canadians aren’t exactly thanking us for that – but at least, for one day, Donald Trump was a bit Canadian. He nominated a modest polite guy (with what seem to be terrible ideas) to the Supreme Court. He didn’t talk about all the losers he has rightly humiliated, publicly, as they deserved. He didn’t sneer at anyone. He is not a moral monster. Americans aren’t moral monsters – and his executive order, closing the border to the wrong sort of people for now, was just a bit of housekeeping.

That may not be so. Brian Bennett and Noah Bierman in the Los Angeles Times report on how Trump’s top advisors believe his immigration order is just the beginning of a much larger crackdown:

Trump’s top advisors on immigration, including chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior advisor Stephen Miller, see themselves as launching a radical experiment to fundamentally transform how the U.S. decides who is allowed into the country and to block a generation of people who, in their view, won’t assimilate into American society…

The chief architects of Trump’s order, Bannon, Miller and National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn, forged strong bonds during the presidential campaign. The trio who make up part of Trump’s inner circle have a dark view of refugee and immigration flows from majority-Muslim countries…

“We don’t want a situation where, 20 to 30 years from now, it’s just like a given thing that on a fairly regular basis there is domestic terror strikes, stores are shut up or that airports have explosive devices planted, or people are mowed down in the street by cars and automobiles and things of that nature,” the [Bannon] official said.

Kevin Drum adds this:

Steve Bannon, of course, has made it very clear on previous occasions what he thinks of Islam. In a presentation to a Vatican conference a couple of years ago he attributed the growing power of the populist right to two things. First, there was the Great Recession, which showed ordinary people that capitalism was rigged against them. And second, there is Islam…

Dark times are coming:

Bannon acknowledges that the populist right includes “some aspects that may be anti-Semitic or racial,” but that doesn’t bother him much. They provide useful shock troops, and eventually “it all gets kind of washed out” anyway.

So: do you think Bannon’s intent when he orchestrated Trump’s immigration order was anti-Muslim? Hell, he’s all but admitted it. Bannon believes we’re in the middle of a global war, and when push comes to shove, he’s on the side of the white, Christian West, and against the brown, Muslim East. And he believes there’s little time to waste.

FDR felt the same way about the Axis in 1940, but he knew the country wasn’t ready to go to war. He needed a provocation, and it needed to be something big enough to rally the country behind. He passed up several opportunities because they were too small to accomplish what he wanted, but eventually the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and that was all he needed. The country united behind him and we spent the next four years dedicated to the unconditional surrender of fascism.

Friday’s immigration order is merely the opening salvo in Bannon’s war, designed to stir up the troops and begin the process of targeting Muslims as the enemy. Think of it as Lend-Lease. To truly get the United States – and the West – dedicated to the unconditional surrender of Islam, he needs a mammoth provocation. Even 9/11 wasn’t enough. He’s going to need something bigger.

Would he be willing to engineer such a provocation? Probably. Could he actually do it? That’s a lot harder to answer. But I don’t doubt that, one way or another, this is his ultimate goal. That’s why he’s now a principal on the National Security Council. That’s why he’s an illegal immigration hawk: not because he cares much about Mexico, but because it gains him the right kind of allies for a war he does care about. And it’s why he appeals to white nationalists and far-right European parties: not because he believes their racial nonsense (probably), but because they’re exactly the kind of people who are most likely to support a war against Islam…

The immigration order is a pinprick, just something to test the waters. Think of it as market research. More will be coming.

That’s what’s been going on in the background. For one evening, of one day, Donald Trump was a bit Canadian – he didn’t nominate Ted Nugent to the Supreme Court. He didn’t sneer. There was no reason to move to Canada. Neil Gorsuch is not a moral monster and the best the Democrats are going to get – but there are moral monsters. Canada looks better all the time – but now they might not admit any of us – nor should they. This is our problem.


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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