Daily Bread for 2.12.18

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be sunny and cold, with a high of nineteen. Sunrise is 6:54 AM and sunset 5:23 PM, for 10h 28m 47s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 10.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred fifty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets at 7 AM, and her Planning Commission at 6:30 PM.

It’s Lincoln’s birthday. Every tradition has its fringe, and among some who call themselves libertarian, there’s opposition to Lincoln. They could not be more wrong; Lincoln is exceptional and canonical to our politics the way Shakespeare is to the English language. See Elesha Coffman, A Libertarian’s Lincoln (reviewing Thomas Krannawitter’s Vindicating Lincoln) and Nick Gillespie’s A Libertarian Lincoln? (reviewing The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America).

  Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Kyle Swenson reports Rob Porter ex Jennie Willoughby: ‘The truth exists whether the President accepts it or not’:

When Jennie Willoughby went public with the physical and emotional abuse she allegedly suffered in her marriage to former White House aid Rob Porter, the ex-schoolteacher found herself catapulted into a media and political storm.

Following a Feb. 6 Daily Mail article recounting allegations of abuse against Porter by both Willoughby and his first ex-wife Colbie Holderness, the 40-year-old White House staffer resigned from his position as staff secretary. Willoughby did not hide from the ensuing public conversation. In cable interviews and her own writing, she tackled the messy emotional fallout of domestic violence, a candor that planted her on the front lines of the #MeToo movement and won her heartfelt supporters.

The publicity also attracted angry detractors — including figures at the top rung of the current administration.

On Saturday, President Trump snapped out a tweet obliquely addressing the Porter scandal. Although Axios has reported the president has privately said he believes Porter’s ex-wives, on Twitter the president cast skepticism on both the current White House intrigue as well as the larger movement.

➤ Damian Paletta reports In big reversal, new Trump budget will give up on longtime Republican goal of eliminating deficit:

President Trump on Monday will offer a budget plan that falls far short of eliminating the government’s deficit over 10 years, conceding that huge tax cuts and new spending increases make this goal unattainable, three people familiar with the proposal said.

Eliminating the budget deficit over 10 years has been a North Star for the Republican Party for several decades, and GOP lawmakers took the government to the brink of default in 2011 when they demanded a vote on a amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit the federal government from spending more than it takes in through revenues.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), when he used to chair the House Budget Committee, routinely proposed tax and spending outlines that would eliminate the deficit over 10 years, even though critics said his changes would lead to a severe curtailment in government programs.

In 2013, Ryan proposed $4.6 trillion in cuts over 10 years, an amount he said was sufficient to eliminating the deficit. Those changes were not adopted by Congress or supported by the Obama administration.

The White House and GOP leaders have largely jettisoned goals like this since Trump took office last year. Trump’s budget plan will call for a range of spending cuts that reduces the growth of the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years, but it would not eliminate the deficit entirely, said the people familiar with the proposal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plans before they’re publicly unveiled.

➤ Eliot Cohen writes The Truth About Military Parades:

Victory parades are easy enough to figure out. The Grand Review of the Armies in May 1865 included 145,000 troops from three Union armies—of the Potomac, Tennessee, and Georgia—marching past cheering throngs of onlookers. There were some uncomfortable moments. General William Tecumseh Sherman, still bristling over what he regarded as unwarranted and brusque orders from Secretary of War Stanton, refused to shake the latter’s hand. But overall, the mood was joyous, albeit still shadowed by the assassination of President Lincoln little more than a month before. The armies marched down Washington streets for two days, and then quietly, almost instantly, melted away to their homes.

Americans don’t goose step. But they are not immune to an adolescent fascination with weaponry, and a celebration of raw strength. Hence the unseemly pronouncements in the current case by pundits and politicians, most of them remarkably devoid of military experience themselves or among their children. One thing they may miss is that a military parade would show off some really old pieces of hardware, first designed and deployed (if modernized since) over 30 years ago—M-1 Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, F-15 jets. One thinks of the aging alpha male baboon who attempts to intimidate the rest of the troop by baring his teeth, but has failed to notice that some of his fangs have dropped out. The Chinese colonels taking careful notes might be less impressed than the talking heads of Fox News.

What parades do not do is adequately celebrate today’s soldier and his or her spirit. What they do not show is the personal appreciation Americans should appropriately offer men and women who have repeatedly left family behind for danger and boredom, often leaving pieces of who they once were on the battlefield. What they do not do is replace the barbecue or the beer, the patience with the far-away look and sudden irritability, the long walk and the arm around the shoulder, the welcoming smile and the attentive ear.

Thirty-five years ago, during my own brief and inglorious Army reserve career, I went to an officer’s basic course with D. J. Reyes, who unlike me, later spent nearly 34 years doing hard work in hard places, including serving as then Major General David Petraeus’s intelligence officer for the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. “Quiet warrior, quiet professional is the motto,” he recently reminded me. We should respect that spirit, realizing that Orwell was right, and that parades say more about those who order and watch them, than those who participate in them.

➤ Ezra Klein writes Donald Trump, Fox News, and the logic of alternative facts (“The Nunes memo and the FBI texts gave Trump the alternative story he needed”):

Watching all this play out, I’ve been thinking about a profile Molly Ball wrote of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, limning her peculiar talent for cheerfully denying the towering masses of factual evidence against her boss’s statements. “She figured out that she doesn’t need to win the argument,” Ball wrote of Conway. “All she has to do is craft a semi-plausible (if not entirely coherent) counternarrative, so that those who don’t want to look past the facade of Trump’s Potemkin village don’t have to.”

We like to imagine American politics as a kind of scored debate, with political actors acting as the debaters, the media acting as the judge, and the public acting as the audience. Much of cable news is based, implicitly or explicitly, on this metaphor. Panelists from different sides of issues are introduced to “debate” an issue; shows sell themselves as “no-spin zones”; networks brag that they’re “fair and balanced” or place “facts first.” Under this conception of American politics, a memo that proves a fraud, an argument that proves a bust, a politician who is seen to lie — all of it is revealed and punished, the system self-regulates.

But that metaphor is often wrong, and it’s particularly wrong in the ecosystem driven by Fox News and Trump’s Twitter account. What Conway and others understand is that if you’re just trying to activate your tribe, you don’t have to win the argument, you just need to have an argument; you need to give your side something to say, something to believe. Something like the Nunes memo or the various out-of-context texts aren’t part of a search for truth — they’re an ammo drop, or, to go back to the way Ball put it, “a semi-plausible (if not entirely coherent) counternarrative.”

Charlie Sykes, a conservative talk radio host turned Trump critic, put it well. “The essence of propaganda is not necessarily to convince you of a certain set of facts. It is to overwhelm your critical sensibilities. It’s to make you doubt the existence of a knowable truth. The conservative media is a giant fog machine designed to confuse and disorient people.”

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