Demonize and Distract

Satan

Quite a day for Trump spokesman Sean Spicer yesterday. While attempting to defend Trump’s ill-conceived and ineffective airstrikes in Syria, Spicer (in the way only NPR could describe it) “overlooked the Holocaust.”

Saying that Hitler didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons in World War II as proof of the need to bomb Syria drew a response from the White House briefing room. As the New York Times reported:

Asked to clarify his remarks, Mr. Spicer then acknowledged that Hitler had used      chemical agents, but maintained that there was a difference.

“I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Mr. Spicer said, incorrectly, before mentioning “Holocaust centers,” an apparent reference to Nazi death camps.

This brought about a clamor on social media that threatened to drown out the United Airlines re-accommodated passenger story, and brought calls for Spicer to be fired. Spicey, though, wasn’t finished. He went on CNN to apologize for the remarks, but he said he did not want his comments on Hitler to distract from Trump’s attempts “to destabilize the region.”

It just feels like there’s a Freudian slip in here. It is hard to believe the level of stupidity and incompetence we have seen from the Administration, so it is only natural to believe this is part of some master plan of deception and distraction.

The Washington Post story that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to monitor former Trump adviser Carter Page only fed the idea that Trump needs to distract us from what is seeping out about his campaign’s collusion with Russia during the election.

Applying Occam’s Razor, however, the more likely explanation is that Spicer simply bungled his Hitler reference (owing to an already apparent tentative grasp on history), which was made in service of justifying a bungled response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons by using the well-worn playbook of demonizing your enemy.

The author of that playbook, Lucifer, just kicked back, twirled his mustache, and awaited some new arrivals. As the demonizations continue, the rest of us can kick back with a Satan’s Whiskers cocktail to see whether Spicer gets fired, or was just following orders. The recipe via Brad Thomas Parson’s Bitters is:

.5 oz gin

.5 oz sweet vermouth

.5 oz dry vermouth

.5 oz orange juice

.25 oz orange curaçao

3 dashes orange bitters

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass, garnish with an orange twist

Cheers!

Greatest Show On Earth

Barnum

Exactly seven weeks from today, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will bring an end to nearly a century and a half of entertainment as its tours conclude and it folds its tents one last time.

Never fear, though, the calliope plays on in Washington D.C. After the GOP primary clown car of 17 major candidates, we elected Donald Trump to make sure the circus would continue.

Trump can draw a line from the great showman P.T. Barnum, who started with his American Museum in downtown New York City in 1841 and revolutionized the circus by adding the freak show. Meanwhile, Trump continues to fill out his cabinet. As Trump settles the $25 million lawsuit over Trump University, we can be reminded of the saying P.T. Barnum is famously credited with, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

And as we see Nick Kristof’s report in the New York Times today, “In Trump Country, Shock at Trump Budget Cuts, but Still Loyalty,” the obvious drink tonight is the Barnum (Was Right) Cocktail.

Pulled from Dr. Cocktail Ted Haigh’s book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond, the drink was clearly in reference to Barnum’s sucker quote. As the cocktail is a slight variation on a Pegu Club cocktail, and similar to others such as the Barbara West Cocktail, Haigh said cocktail patrons inevitably would find themselves muttering; “Hey! This is nothing but a blah blah cocktail with a little blah blah in it! Barnum was right!

2 oz gin

1 oz apricot brandy (Haigh suggests Marie Brizard’s Apry)

.5 oz fresh lemon juice

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake over ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist.

Cheers!

Drive On, Don’t Mean Nothing

Maine

The Reign of Error has reached week 10, and once again this week we have been overwhelmed by details of scandal, malfeasance and just outright stupidity. Before it slips down the memory hole under much bigger news, it is worth mentioning comments the Grifter-in-Chief made about Iraq this week.

On Tuesday, Trump made comments about things going well in Iraq to a group of Senators at the White House, saying “our troops are fighting like never before.” The near universal response, particularly from veterans, was: Asshole!

Among others, Montel Williams took to social media to respond:

“Mr. President, you signed up to be the Commander in Chief, HAVE YOU NO DECENCY SIR. Thousands of troops paid the ultimate price on Iraq while you were on the NY social circuit and hosting a reality TV show. Many more thousands came back badly wounded, more still came back with invisible injuries they may well bear for life. Their sacrifice, their blood, sweat and tears in battle, should not be denigrated by a television star, now President whose only military experience was dodging the draft.

“On the issue of the civilians apparently killed in a coalition airstrike, while likely just
imprecise words, I certainly hope the death of civilians doesn’t constitute ‘fighting like never before’ in this President’s mind. It’s for the military to figure out what happened, but one thing I know for sure, for certain is none of the troops involved joined to kill civilians.”

I agree with Williams, particularly on the point that Trump may be making good on the GOP carpet bombing talking point from the Primary with the civilian deaths from this airstrike. However, I remember a time before any mention of military service was not reflexively met with “thank you for your service.” I enlisted around the time Magnum P.I. began changing the image of Vietnam vets from being a deranged baby-killing criminal to a cool badass. So with everything going on, I will apply that lesson I learned long ago; Drive on, don’t mean nothin’, not a thing.

The language Trump uses is often questionable, self-aggrandizing and propagandistic. This seems to fit that pattern. The problem with Trump’s language is that he leads a party with control of the executive and legislative branches of government, so just how far will the sycophant Fortunate Sons in the GOP go to please what they believe are the boss’ wishes.

At a time when some half-baked slogan from Trump could have history-altering impacts, it seems only right to toast the weekend with a Remember the Maine cocktail.

Remember the Maine was the slogan pushed by the fake news purveyors of the late 1890s, mostly the yellow journalists working for William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, proprietors of the New York Journal and the New York World. Based on the mysterious sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana harbor, the slogan helped push the U.S. into war with Spain. The result of the brief Spanish-American War of 1898, as History Today tells us, was the “independence” of Cuba and American control of the Philippines and Puerto Rico. It also signified the arrival of the U.S. as a great power.

So, as we approach the nadir, pour a Remember the Maine for all of those who “fought like never before.”

From Brad Thomas Parson’s book Bitters:

2 oz rye

.75 oz sweet vermouth (preferably Carpano Antica)

.25 oz Cherry Heering

2 dashes Angostura bitters (or Dr. Adam’s Orinoco Bitters)

Splash of absinthe (as rinse)

Stir all but the absinthe over ice until chilled. Add the absinthe to a chilled cocktail glass, roll the glass to coat and discard excess absinthe. Strain chilled ingredients into the prepared glass.

Cheers!

 

The Big Con

Right Hand

“If this thing blows up, the Feds will be the least of our problems,” – Kid Twist, from The Sting.

It will be pretty disappointing if the Trump clan turns out to be the transparently petty grifters they seem and there’s not some deeper more interesting con going on. Several times a day, the Entertainer-in-Chief provides us with what would be considered a major scandal in most any other presidency.

One of those today was the news that his daughter Ivanka would become an unpaid federal employee. This comes after a bit of an uproar over her getting an office in the White House to be an informal advisor to her father. She will now join her husband as an unpaid advisor.

As The Reformed Broker Josh Brown said on Twitter today:

“We aren’t paying Ivanka for the same reason Facebook users aren’t paying Zuckerberg. Because we’re not the customer, we’re the product.”

So now daddy’s little girl is ensconced right next to him in the White House as an “employee.” May as well toast this play with a Right Hand cocktail since that’s where Ivanka sits now. Meantime, we can watch to see if there’s a bigger con going underneath the obvious conflict of interest riddled swindle happening in broad daylight.

The Right Hand was created by Michael McIlroy of Milk and Honey and Little Branch in 2007 according to the Bitterman’s website recipes page. It is:

1.5 oz aged rum

.75 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth

.75 oz Campari

2 dashes of Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters

Stir, serve up in a cocktail glass.

Cheers!

Grounds for Separation

Grounds

Will Rogers famously said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party… I’m a Democrat.”

In the aftermath of the Trumpcare vote debacle in Congress, however, it is the traditional Republican Party unity that is being called into question. Today’s New York Times piece  “Trump Becomes Ensnared in Fiery G.O.P. Civil War” said that Trump now finds himself shackled to rules and consequences of fractious party politics he thought did not apply to him.

“Mr. Trump faces a wrenching choice: retrenchment or realignment. Does he cede power to the anti-establishment wing of his party? Or does he seek other pathways to successful governing by throwing away the partisan playbook and courting a coalition with the Democrats he has improbably blamed for his party’s shortcomings?”

I’m sure that’s exactly what is on his Orangeness’ mind as he spends yet another weekend at his golf course.

But this sense that fissures in the GOP threaten Trump’s agenda is a pervasive theme in the press now. If we can remember all the way to the days before November 8, 2016, most of the talk was about how the Republican Party was going to break apart after the election. Most of that talk went away after the Republican sweep of electoral power. However, as Barron’s pointed out a couple of weeks ago, the GOP is splintered into three groups despite the election. It classified those groups as the Chamber of Commerce Faction, the Tea Party Rebels, and the Steve Bannon Populists. The Washington Post today whittled that down to simply a GOP right flank and left flank.

As difficult as it may be for those groups to remain under one roof, the folks we find most in need of some space in Washington is the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

The Washington Post yesterday explained “The committee probing the Russia scandal has erupted into open warfare” as Republican Committee Chairman Devin Nunes appears to be acting on behalf of the Administration than running an independent investigation of it.

Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff today called for an independent commission to investigate the facts on Russian interference in our elections.

Therefore, today is a good day for a Grounds for Separation, a less bitter variation on the Grounds for Divorce cocktail. From the Kindred Cocktails website, Grounds for Separation contains:

2 oz Bourbon

.5 oz Aperol

.5 oz Averna amaro

.5 oz Punt e Mes (sweet vermouth)

1 dash of Angostura bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled coupe, no garnish (unless the drink and/or the world is still too bitter, then by all means add a nice Maraschino cherry, we all need more cherries)

Cheers!

It’s Complicated

Harvard

Nine weeks into the Reign of Error, and the party that holds power in Washington continues to work to prove government doesn’t work.

Today, the Republicans in the House – who have voted to repeal Obamacare something like 6,000 times over the last few years – pulled their Trumpcare replacement bill because they couldn’t get enough of their members to vote for it. The bill had Trump’s backing and fulfilled Speaker Paul Ryan’s college dream of kicking people off Medicaid, but only had 17% approval in polls.

A few weeks ago, Trump lamented “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Of course, everybody but Trump knew this. Turns out pulling the bill was just another brick in the wall for Trump this week with treason bubbling under the surface of investigations of Russian collusion in the election and a pending filibuster of his SCOTUS nominee.

Trump may feel he don’t need no education on health care, but he got one today. In honor of all that potential learning, tonight let’s toast the death of this Trumpcare bill with a Harvard Cocktail. The recipe from Philip Greene’s The Manhattan calls for:

1.5 oz cognac (Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula)

1.5 oz sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula)

3 dashes Dr. Adam’s Bokers Bitters

Lemon peel garnish

Stir with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish

Happy Friday!

Cheers!

Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a…

Doctor

As Republicans in the House prepare to vote on the Obamacare replacement tomorrow, the American Health Care Act, I am continually drawn to the words of America’s most famous physician, Dr. Leonard H. “Bones” McCoy.

I would love to hear how the Chief Medical Officer for the USS Enterprise would describe the AHCA. The estimate that even more people will end up without health insurance under AHCA than would result from a simple repeal of Obamacare has me thinking he’d come in along the lines of Dark Ages, barbaric, or Spanish Inquisition.

Of course, there are plenty of current members of Congress also giving the AHCA a similar review (and those who don’t think it goes far enough). The reporting ahead of tomorrow’s vote paints a grim picture for Paul Ryan and his college dream to throw people off Medicaid. With headlines like The Washington Post’sGOP health-care plan, facing conservative revolt, lacks the votes for House passage,” we may need to start quoting Dr. McCoy’s most used line; “He’s dead, Jim.”

The difficulties are happening even as Trump threatens and cajoles House Republicans. This, of course, brings up McCoy’s other most famous line, I’m a doctor, not a (fill in the blank). Most appropriately, in Episode 41 “The Deadly Years,” which aired on 8 December 1967, Bones uttered, “I’m not a magician, Spock, just an old country doctor.”

So tonight, in honor of Dr. McCoy and functioning health care, I’d prescribe a simple Doctor Cocktail. And let’s hope there’s no need tomorrow to quote Dammit Jim! Taken from Ted Haigh’s (aka Dr. Cocktail) Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails book, this 1936 classic is:

2 oz Jamaican rum

1 oz Swedish Punsch

1 oz fresh lime juice

Shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lime twist.

Cheers!