Take the Fifth

5th

I won’t say the Trump presidency is beginning to unravel because that would require congressional Republicans to put country over party, and I’m not ready to make that bet.

This is despite the fact that, the day after firing the guy in charge of the investigation of Trump’s potential collusion with Russian interference in the election, Trump was welcoming the Russian Foreign Minister into the Oval Office (along with Sergey Kislyak, the spymaster Russian ambassador to the U.S.) at Putin’s request. The Russians brought along a photographer, while all U.S. media was kept out. When the Russians released photos of the meeting (including Kislyak who the White House was not acknowledging as part of the visiting delegation), the Trumpters whined about the tricksy Russians and how they lie.

However, that was quickly overshadowed by Trump’s interview with NBC’s Lester Holt today saw him contradict all of the messaging his administration has put out on why FBI Director James Comey was fired, making the phrase of the day “Obstruction of Justice.”

This may be the most extreme case of Trump incriminating himself, and it may even stick this time. If so, we’ll soon be hearing a lot of Trump’s associates seeking their protections under the Fifth Amendment. As Josh Marshall noted in Talking Points Memo today, Trumps contradiction has caught a lot of people helping to spread lies.

While you sit back and watch, it might be a good time for a 5th Amendment cocktail. The recipe via Kindred Cocktails is:

1.75 oz bourbon

.25 oz Yellow Chartreuse

.25 oz Fernet Branca

.5 oz Velvet Falernum

2 dashes Hawaii Bitters Lilikoi Bitters (see note below)

Lemon peel

Stir over ice and strain over a large rock

A couple of notes on variations and additional Trumpian elements: It is a pleasant easy drinking bourbon cocktail, the Fernet was somewhat pronounced, but that may be because I followed one of the suggestions and cut down the Falernum to .25 oz. Also, I’m not sure of the original flavor intent here because WTF are lilikoi bitters?

A bit of research tells me lilikoi is a Hawaiian variant of passionfruit. To compensate, Similar one of the commenters on Kindred Cocktails used a dash each of orange and peach bitters. I used a dash of orange bitters, too, but I went with 18:21 Hibiscus Bitters since I kept seeing those passion flowers and had nothing else citrusy, so I went floral instead.

The drink originated in Hawaii, the actual birthplace of Barack Obama, despite what Trump says. The other Trump similarity is that I couldn’t get details on the lilikoi bitters because the company seems to have disappeared in 2013 leaving a lot of paid orders unfilled. Sounds almost presidential.

Cheers!

 

 

Vive la France!

75

Today, France delivered a major victory in the fight against resurgent fascism with the landslide election of Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen.

The Washington Post set the scene well, saying:

The anti-E. U. French leader Marine Le Pen’s larger-than-expected defeat Sunday in her nation’s presidential election was a crushing reality check for the far-right forces who seek to overthrow Europe…Given one choice after another since Trump’s U.S. presidential victory, Western European voters have delivered mainstream candidates to office despite a post-November sense that an anti-immigrant populist wave was washing over the Western world. Far-right candidates in Austria, the Netherlands and France have faltered.

Many battles remain, but in keeping with yesterday’s post, let’s have a drink to keeping the world safe for democracy for another day. In this case, the World War I inspired cocktail is the French 75.

In yesterday’s post, I quoted from President Wilson’s address to Congress seeking a declaration of war against Germany, using the famous part about making the world safe for democracy. However, Wilson’s closing is also important, and also echoes the aspirations we need today:

It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.

To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.

This speech was 100 years ago, yet here we are again.

The origin story of the French 75 varies between being developed at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, or by soldiers in the field looking for something refreshing to drink. Like its namesake cannon (the one used by Harry Truman’s outfit) the drink is smooth, but packs a wallop.

The recipe as taken from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh, aka Dr. Cocktail, is:

2 oz gin

1 oz lemon juice

2 tsp sugar or 1 tsp simple syrup

Champagne

Shake gin, lemon juice and sugar over ice, pour into a champagne flute or collins glass, top with Champagne, stir gently and add lemon peel garnish.

Cheers!

Safe for Democracy?

Sidecar

The passage of “Trumpcare” by the House of Representatives sucked up most of the attention this past week, but there were other things going on that will likely have a deeper and more lasting impact.

That is not to belittle what just happened with the AHCA vote, but as anyone who has seen Schoolhouse Rock understands, this bill has a way to go before it’s law. As E.J. Dionne said in The Washington Post, “the Anti-Health-Care Bill passed on Thursday bids to be the most remarkable redistribution of income in congressional history, from the poor and middle class to the very wealthy.” He added that this heartless vote will define the House Republicans and the Cook Political Report said the vote moved ratings on 20 House seats more favorably toward the Democrats.

So, yes, the healthcare vote could have a lasting impact on Republicans, but the more troubling impact for all of us came on the international front where we continued to turn our backs on 100 years of global leadership.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a speech to State Department employees saying that too much reliance on human rights principles really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, and our economic interests.

Tillerson’s move away from promoting human rights simply follows one of Trump’s few consistent policy directions. During the campaign Trump said the U.S. didn’t have the right to lecture other countries on human rights because things are so bad here now. In the past week, Mother Jones reported Trump renamed the White House office of “multilateral affairs and human rights” as the office of “international organizations and alliances.”

The last week also saw Trump say he would be “honored” to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who he has regularly praised, and invite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House. One of the only other ways Trump is consistent (in addition to golfing at one of his resorts every weekend) is his praise for dictators and despots around the world.

All of this comes weeks after the 100th anniversary of a moment that defined the direction of America for a century. After years of keeping the United States out of the war that would become World War I, neutrality was no longer viable and on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to seek a declaration of war. A part of his address would set us on a path that only now we seem to be leaving:
The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.
The United States needs to reaffirm its aspiration to these Wilsonian principles. Today we are following the misguided isolationist path of America First and raising up opponents of democracy from Putin to Erdogan (leaders of countries where Trump has financial interests).
At this point 100 years ago America was mobilizing for the Great War. Those doughboys were the ones who helped make America great in the eyes of the world, and we largely stayed that way for the past century. Despite his slogan, Trump is threatening to tear down what makes America great.
As you mobilize for this fight, have a cocktail that grew out of WWI, the Sidecar. This classic recipe is:
1.5 oz cognac
1 oz Cointreau
.5 oz lemon juice
Orange twist garnish
Shake over ice and strain into a chilled, sugar-rimmed cocktails glass (sugar not pictured), add garnish
Cheers!

Perfect Manhattan: No Trump

Perfect

On the eve of Trump’s first visit to NYC since becoming president, all of us in the vicinity could use a drink.

Presidential visits create massive disruptions as a rule, but rarely do you get the added snarl of citywide protests. From his arrival at JFK airport to his dinner on the Intrepid aircraft carrier in midtown, the area will be a mess for much of the day.

Fortunately, his Orangeness will spare the metro area from a lengthy visit and immediately hightail it to his golf resort in rural New Jersey after dinner.

As a reminder of how nice NYC is when Trump is not here (or signing executive orders that cost, demean or otherwise fuck over New Yorkers) I suggest fortifying with a Perfect Manhattan.

No better source than Philip Greene’s book The Manhattan: The Story of the First Modern Cocktail.

2 oz rye (or bourbon)

.5 oz dry vermouth

.5 oz sweet vermouth

2 dashes aromatic bitters

Cherry for garnish (lemon peel also suggested, real Americans use real cherries)

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish

Cheers! (He’ll be gone soon)

Toro!

Matador

The presidency of Theodore Roosevelt gave us the Bully Pulpit, Trump just gives us a bull in a China shop.

As the Reign of Error reaches its 100-Days milestone today, people are not so much tired of winning as they are tired of sweeping up aisles of broken glass.

Trump told Reuters that he misses his old life and he thought being president would be easier. That can help explain why he’s been running around breaking everything from alliances to promises. The NAFTA debacle is evidence he doesn’t understand what he is doing, or even supposed to do. After announcing he would sign an Executive Order to withdraw from NAFTA, he backtracked, saying discussions with the leaders of Mexico and Canada led him to give the agreement another chance after renegotiation.

However, as Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) noted, this isn’t really how this works. He told PBS NewsHour:

The fact that he doesn’t quite understand the ramifications, quite frankly, even the process — he said they already started negotiating, when the fact of the matter is you have to send a letter to Congress to even begin the process of having the conversation within your own country, within your own Congress, within the industry groups that would be affected by it.

That’s a 90-day process before you even start the negotiations with the other countries. And the fact that he didn’t even know that before he made his statements is worrisome to me, that he may actually, through trying to renegotiate NAFTA, he may actually make the process worse.

Trade policy, foreign policy, healthcare policy, none can be designed in 140 characters. They’re complicated. They are not meant to be ruled by royal decree, no matter how much the GOP Congress is willing to go along.

As the Trump administration bull rampages across our democracy, fortunately we have a growing cadre of bullfighters. As Nicolas Kristof wrote in the NY Times, nothing deflates an authoritarian more than ridicule.

In recruiting for the Trump resistance, Stephen Colbert may be more successful than a handful of angry Democratic senators. Trump can survive denunciations, but I’m less sure that in the long run he can withstand mockery.

The Atlantic also touches on this in a cover story on Alec Baldwin’s SNL portrayal of Trump.

So much of Trump’s popularity hinges on his image as a self-made miracle, a winner, a strong and successful man who is the best at everything and always gets his way. Baldwin has become our deflator in chief, a weekly pinprick in Trump’s balloon. Every time Trump tweets a wounded Sunday-morning response, every time Spicer laughs off McCarthy’s portrayal but then tries a little harder to bury his rage, every time Conway shows up on TV looking a little more challenged and broken, Baldwin can tell himself that SNL is not just making laughs but effecting change.

As you join the bullfight today, get prepared with a Matador Cocktail. As Philip Greene notes in his book The Manhattan, the recipe for the Matador was published in London in 1937, likely tied to the popularity of bullfighting, especially as noted in the writings of Ernest Hemingway. This refreshing variation on a Manhattan is:

.75 oz silver tequila

.75 oz dry vermouth

.75 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon peel

Cheers!

The Union Forever!

Scorch

The United States has a history of defeating those who would enslave others.

Our victories over the Soviets, the Nazis, and the Confederates help to define who we are as Americans. Republicans from Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan have led or supported that fight.

Today, the descendants of those defeated enemies have coalesced into an insurgency that threatens our democracy, all too often with the cooperation of the GOP. Evidence continues to mount that the Russians, led by a former Soviet KGB officer, undertook a disinformation campaign designed to help their choice of candidates get elected President, or at least create maximum confusion and mistrust with our political system.

Trump, the Conman-in-Chief with his fascist-leaning tendencies, has put into the highest reaches of our government actual Nazis and Nazi-sympathizers, along with an assortment of white supremacists. Meanwhile, Republican politicians in the former Confederate States work to suppress the votes of African-Americans, or simply undermine the workings of governing process.

These enemies are emboldened now. Just yesterday, GOP candidate for governor of Virginia Corey Stewart, who was born in Minnesota, said there is nothing worse than “yankees” saying Confederate monuments don’t matter, as Louisiana began taking down its monuments. Of course, there are many things worse, including slavery!

The fool has continued to double down on the nonsense today. Now Stewart tries to claim that taking down monuments to Confederate leaders is destroying U.S. history and next the politically correct left will tear down monuments to Washington and Jefferson. Of course, they weren’t traitors trying to pull the country apart, but perhaps we should spend more money on history education in our schools.

On this Confederate memorial day, when Alabama and Mississippi close state offices, there is no better time to sing The Battle Cry of Freedom, to rally around the flag, and as that favorite song of Union soldiers says:

We will welcome to our numbers
The loyal, true and brave,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom;
And although they may be poor,
Not a man shall be a slave,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom. 

Within those numbers, let’s hope there’s a Ulysses S. Grant, a George S. Patton, or a William Tecumseh Sherman. While we plan our fight against the traitorous scum and toast the Union Forever, let’s make the drink a Scorch the Earth cocktail in Sherman’s honor.

The recipe, from Kindred Cocktails and attributed to Gary Regan, calls for:

1.5 oz cognac

.5 oz sweet vermouth

.5 oz Cynar

Stir over ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with flamed lemon peel

Cheers!

Avenue to Impeachment

Avenue

Trump may not know where our aircraft carriers are headed, but the direction of his presidency is getting clearer every day: Impeachment.

As evidence of corruption and collusion with the Russians mounts, the real question is whether Republicans in Congress will find their patriotic spine and/or recognize the damage Trump is doing to their party to begin impeachment proceedings, or will it take the wave of Democrats elected in 2018.

Earlier this week in Slate, Harvard Constitutional Law Professor Noah Feldman defined high crimes and misdemeanors in laying out potential impeachment options for Congress. The options include public corruption in the ways Trump’s conflicts of interest are enriching him, abuse of power as he continues to threaten his opponents with power of the Presidency, and undermining the rule of law, most notably if the case is made for colluding with Russia to interfere with the election.

The corruption angle is difficult to keep up with since this is not an hourly blog. Despite contradicting the advise of our foreign policy officials, Trump congratulated Turkish President Erdogan on his (tainted by fraud) victory in a referendum weakening democracy and extending Erdogan’s power. I’m sure Trump’s business interests in Turkey had nothing to do with that.

In The Washington Post this week, Jennifer Rubin told us that Trump’s ethical squalor is worse than we thought:

On the financial side of the Trump sewer, matters are going from bad to worse. Trump never divested himself of his business holdings or released his tax returns. The extent of his conflicts of interest are therefore unknown. He has now amended the trust (showing how flimsy it is if it can be altered on a whim) to allow him to withdraw funds and to receive periodic briefings from his son Eric (who “can do that as chair of the trust’s advisory board, and told Forbes magazine last month that he plans to give his father big-picture financial briefings every quarter or so”). All this should underscore how ludicrous it is to claim separation between Trump and his business operations.

But the elephant in the room continues to be the questions about Trump’s collusion with Russia, and this week continued the drip-by-drip advance of the story. Further details of Trump advisor Carter Page and his ties to Russia that drew scrutiny from the FBI, the revitalization of the House Intelligence Committee investigation, and the big Reuters story on the Putin-linked group’s plan to sway the U.S. election.

This week also saw the professor who predicted Trump’s election publish a new book, The Case for Impeachment. Allan Lichtman, history professor at American University, is now predicting Trump will be impeached before his term is finished. One interesting point brought up in the Financial Times article on the book is:

Lichtman points out that Nixon faced impeachment for what was arguably the least important of his three big offences — the burglary of the Democratic offices in the Watergate complex. Even then, it was the cover-up, rather than the crime itself, that led to Nixon’s undoing.

Just last night, someone who knows a few things about Watergate, Carl Bernstein told a Trump advisor on CNN that “there’s an active cover-up going” with regard to the Russia investigation.

There is a lot more we need to learn, but as we look down the road toward Trump’s impeachment, we can raise an Avenue cocktail to the journey. This classic from the 1930s makes an appearance in Dr. Cocktail Ted Haigh’s book Vintage Cocktails and Forgotten Spirits. The recipe is:

1 oz Bourbon

1 oz Calvados

1 oz passionfruit juice (or nectar, I used syrup and cut the amount in half)

1 dash grenadine

1 dash orange flower water

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Cheers!