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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Republicans: Failing at African American Outreach for Forty years

A few weeks ago, Trump puzzled African American leaders with comments strongly suggesting that he thought that Frederick Douglass was still alive.  Yesterday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos characterized historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as models of school choice, which a Howard University historian said was "a bit crazy."

On Friday I learned that I was selected to give remarks today for the meeting at the White House with members of the Trump administration, most notably Secretary Betsy DeVos. We learned this weekend that there would be closing remarks by Vice President Pence, but the goal was for officials from a number of Federal agencies (about 5 were there including OMB) and Secretary DeVos to hear about HBCUs.
That all blew up when the decision was made to take the presidents to the Oval Office to see the President. I’m still processing that entire experience. But needless to say that threw the day off and there was very little listening to HBCU presidents today- we were only given about 2 minutes each, and that was cut to one minute, so only about 7 of maybe 15 or so speakers were given an opportunity today.
The Republican Party has been botching African American outreach for decades.

Reeling from back-to-back presidential losses and struggling to cope with the country’s changing racial and ethnic makeup, the Republican National Committee plans to spend $10 million this year to send hundreds of party workers into Hispanic, black and Asian communities to promote its brand among voters who overwhelmingly supported Democrats in 2012.

On December 25, 2003, Darryl Fears wrote in The Washington Post:
Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said increasing his party's share of the black vote is "a top, top priority."
The party is looking into establishing chapters at historically black colleges and universities, he said. Gillespie recalled Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) telling him that the GOP should target black voters between 18 and 35 "because they are most likely to not identify as Democrats."
During a trip to Pittsburgh in July, Gillespie said, he met with Marc H. Morial, the new president of the National Urban League. While in Detroit last month, Gillespie said, he talked for two hours with editors at the Michigan Chronicle, one of the nation's few black daily newspapers. The party has arranged with American Urban Radio to broadcast a weekly message to the huge African American audience the network reaches.
Gillespie declined to specify how much the party will spend, saying he did not want the Democratic leadership to know. "But we're budgeting for it," he said.

The president-elect has shared with me, over a long period of time now, his desire to see the party broaden, to broaden its base, and to bring additional people in. He has led by example in this regard here in the state of Texas. He's made it clear that this is the goal that he wishes that the party to achieve, to bring more people in from the Hispanic community, the African-American community, all regions of the United States of America, and to make this party broader even than it is now.
On Tuesday (9/16), for instance, the party will announce its latest minority outreach program, the first serious effort at attracting minorities to the GOP since the short chairmanship of the late Lee Atwater.
''We've got a lot to overcome,'' Michael Levy, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, acknowledged in an interview Friday. ''But we know that we're reaching out to people who share our beliefs ... and it's time to connect all the dots.''
The GOP with an obvious eye toward the 1998, and even 2000 election campaigns plans to spend $ 1.2 million over the next year to promote its ''New Majority Council,'' which will be charged not only with recruiting minority candidates but also with getting the GOP message out to minority groups.
More importantly, and in contrast to Atwater's largely rhetorical ''Big Tent'' efforts, the ''New Majority Council'' will become an institution within the Republican National Committee (RNC) under the direction of party co-chair Pat Harrison.
''We're going to take this a step beyond anything that Lee tried to do,'' said Levy.
On September 11, 1997, Rachel Van Dongen wrote in Roll Call:
On Tuesday night, an all-star cast - including Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Miss), House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga), Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson, and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman John Linder (Ga) - turned out for a fundraiser sponsored by Americans for a Brighter Future, a PAC aimed at recruiting minority Republican candidates.
Our goals are very simple," said Raynard Jackson, the founder and head of the group who has long been active in GOP circles, working for Sen. Kit Bond (Mo) and ex-Sen. John Danforth (Mo), with whom he helped push the nomination of conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. "To get more minorities elected and interested in the Republican party."
...
"The party has demonstrated that they are very serious about minority outreach and I am convinced that we're going to take that message into 1998 and 2000," Jackson added. "I guarantee you that we'll see a browning of the Republican party."
...
Besides the turnout at the event on Tuesday, NRCC Chairman Linder said the committee, with the help of Hispanic Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla (Texas) and Watts, is paying greater attention to minority recruitment this cycle.
"We're emphasizing minority outreach more than we ever have before," said Linder.
And on a national level, RNC chair Nicholson and co-chair Pat Harrison are also intent on expanding minority participation in the "big tent" party. "We both share the strong goal (that) we want to make this party more inclusive," said Nicholson in a recent interview, adding that the RNC will soon be sending out newsletters in Spanish.
On March 12, 1995, A.L. May wrote in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
"Republicans don't have to abandon our principles to reach out to minorities. We have only to rediscover them," [Rep. J.C.] Watts told "Project Pioneer," a candidate seminar sponsored by the Republican National Committee.

The event's name denotes a new frontier for a party that has either ignored or been rejected by the black community for 30 years. It also reflects a renewed strategy by RNC Chairman Haley Barbour to follow the "big tent" game plan started by the late Lee Atwater in the late 1980s.

"We Republicans have made a terrible mistake over the years in not aggressively seeking the millions of black voters who agree with us on the issues," said Barbour, who argues that there is now a pool of conservative blacks willing to consider the GOP.
On May 21, 1991, RNC chair Clayton Yeutter told the National Federation of Republican women:
We're also going to work outreach very hard, the minority votes, in 1992. My personal impression is that -- and there are a good number of minority folks represented in the room here today. My personal impression is that minorities are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Democrats who simply promise them things and never ever come through with anything in the real world. It is apparent that the jobs that have been generated for minorities in the last decade or so come because of Republican administrations and Republican policies, not Democratic administrations -- because there weren't any -- and not Democratic policies. And we need to make sure that's understood.
On April 24, 1989, Richard Benedetto wrote in USA Today:
Republican efforts to attract more minority voters have shifted into higher gear heading toward the 1990 elections.
GOP National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater has been wooing Asians, Hispanics and blacks in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Atwater met with state Republican leaders Friday in Newport Beach, Calif., urging them to make reaching out to minorities a priority.

President Bush, encouraged by polls that show his support among blacks higher than predecessor Ronald Reagan's, will speak at the May 13 commencement of predominantly black Alcorn State University in Mississippi. Alcorn State President Walter Washington said he's invited every president since Lyndon Johnson; Bush is the first to accept.
''Even a small increase in minority votes (for Republicans) will make the difference between victory and defeat in many elections,'' Atwater told the GOP officials.
[RNC Chairman Lee] Atwater's mentor, Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), was a symbol and beneficiary of the white backlash that drove millions, including Thurmond, out of the Democratic Party and into the GOP. But now, Atwater said in an interview, "minority outreach is my command focus, and I'm going to insist it drive my daily schedule." 
Through appointments to administration jobs and party posts, Atwater hopes to spur the creation of "an alternative leadership structure" in black communities. "Affirmative action has worked, and there's now a much larger black middle class," he said. Pointing to surveys showing weaker Democratic identification among young, better-educated blacks, Atwater said, "The time is right for us to reach out to them."
Unstated by Atwater but acknowledged by other GOP operatives is the fact that the "outreach" strategy could not have worked with Ronald Reagan in the White House and the Justice Department leading the battle against civil rights rulings obtained under previous Democratic administrations.
The Republican Party embarked on a new program Saturday to enlist minority participation because, GOP Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf said, Republicans ''do not intend to turn our backs on black Americans.''
''No subject is more critical to the future of our party than minority participation,'' Fahrenkopf told the summer meeting of the Republican National Committee.
The RNC created an advisory commission on minority participation to study the problem. Historically, the Republican Party has done poorly among black voters. President Reagan got only 9 percent of the black vote in 1984.
Fahrenkopf named Edward Lujan, chairman of the Republican Party in New Mexico, to head the commission.
''The purpose of the commission is to make recommendations to the RNC chairman with the goal of taking steps to attract more minority commmunities into our party's activities,'' Faharenkopf said.
On May 15, 1982, Richard E. Cohen wrote in National Journal:
It appears to be the Mission Impossible of the 1982 campaign, but Richard N. Richards, chairman of the Republican National Committee, is pulling no punches. "It's very important we elect one or more black Republicans to the House this year," he said in an interview. "I'm very confident we will."
In light of the Reagan Administration's repeated gaffes on civil rights issues and the high unemployment rate among blacks, Richards's goal may seem especially improbable. But the GOP already has two apparently strong candidates for November, and several others are possible. "We have to be concerned," said a Democratic political aide.
No black Republican has served in the House since 1928. In recent years, the national party has trumpeted its "outreach" efforts to expand the party's racial base. But Richards concedes those efforts have failed and says the way to succeed is to elect some black Republicans who can symbolize efforts to expand black trust in the GOP "I can't do that on my own," Richards said, adding, however, that things could change once Republicans make blacks feel comfortable within the party.
On July 13, 1980, Martin Tolchin wrote in The New York Times:
With black unemployment rising at a rate about double the national average, inner cities eroding and President Carter cutting social programs, Republican Party leaders hope this year to make inroads into the traditionally Democratic black vote.
''There's a lot of opportunity there,'' said Bill Brock, the Republican national chairman.
Detroit was selected as a convention site, at Mr. Brock's behest, at least in part because the
Republicans hoped to make it a symbol of a new commitment to older cities, to blue-collar workers and minority groups.
In their preconvention deliberations, the Republicans unanimously adopted a new platform plank on black Americans for the first time in modern history. The plank urged Federal programs for the inner cities, strong enforcement of civil rights statutes, and a nondiscriminatory system of Federal appointments.
The plank said: ''For millions of black Americans, the past four years have been a long trail of broken promises and broken dreams. The Carter Administration entered office with a pledge to all minorities of a brighter economic future. Today there are more black Americans unemployed than the day Mr. Carter became President.''
The plank was the work of Ronald Reagan's political strategists, who say that he will address the concerns of black Americans from a conservative viewpoint.
On August 8, 1977Newsweek reported:
Bob Dole meant to win black friends with his conciliatory speech to the National Urban League last week, but he committed a gaffe that undid his mea culpas. "We may have gotten what we deserved in terms of the black vote in 1976," the Republican Vice Presidential candidate began. ". . . I'll confess we haven't done enough. I promise we'll do more. We can't run with Lincoln any more." Unfortunately, Dole's speech didn't end there. "Vernon [Jordon] said he was sending a warning to both parties," the Kansas senator declared. "We got ours. We got ours in spades." There was an audible ripple of groans. "That's not offensive to me," Dole said later. "In the Midwest that means we were clobbered . . . I don't think it's anything at all unless somebody makes something of it."

Monday, February 27, 2017

Captive Trumpistas

Peter Wehner writes at RealClearPolitics:
I understand that the pull of partisanship is strong. But such justifications ultimately underscore the moral and intellectual decay that has spread as a result of Trump and Trumpism. Many people on the right, in choosing to support Trump over Hillary Clinton, began to accommodate themselves to their decision. They began the process of normalizing Trump, and normalization is now giving way to loyalty. They are now following his lead. What they once found unacceptable is increasingly tolerable. Donald Trump is now steering this ship, so why not relax and come along for the wild ride?
A redefinition of the Republican Party and conservatism, then, is well underway. That was clear from CPAC, where Trump and Bannon were dominant and even celebrated figures. (Arguing that Trump’s effort to refashion conservatism is a worrisome thing doesn’t mean that he won’t make good selections and do good things from time to time. Both can happen at once; and he knows the latter will help him achieve the former.)
Events, including the new administration's own ratio of competence to incompetence, will ultimately determine how successful Trump and his aides, including Steve Bannon and Steve Miller, are in realizing their ambitions. In the meantime, some of us will continue to resist their efforts to transform conservatism into an ethno-nationalist, blood-and-soil movement, one animated by grievances and a Nietzschean ethic. And those on the right who are making their accommodation with Trump might reflect for a moment on the words of Edmund Burke, who wrote that certain means, once tolerated, are soon preferred.
Sol Stern writes at The Daily Beast:
The far bigger danger that [David] Horowitz and other pro-Trump conservative intellectuals are in denial about is our new president’s uniquely flawed character, his ignorance of the world and his evident incompetence to organize an American government now facing acute and unprecedented worldwide challenges.
In his 1953 anti-totalitarian classic, The Captive Mind, the Czech writer Czeslaw Milosz described how European intellectuals betrayed their commitment to thought and truth for the illusion that their utopian hopes for change might be satisfied by real communism in power. In the early days of the New Left, Horowitz recognized that this age-old dream of a better world could easily be corrupted when it was attached to state power and a demagogic party leader using the big lie technique. A half century later, in the strange case of Donald Trump, Horowitz has fallen for the same illusion he once warned against.
I am convinced this will end badly for our country, but it’s almost as disturbing that it will end badly for the once idealistic conservative movement in America. This time, when the dreams of radical change fall apart, there will be no redemptive moment as in The God That Failed for Horowitz and his fellow Trump intellectuals.
It will, instead, be transparently pathetic and shameful that men and women of intellect and ideas served as a bodyguard of lies for a low-life con man who managed to disgrace the American presidency.
Tim Alberta writes at Politico:
In his meandering 48-minute speech, Trump did not once use the words “liberty” or “constitution.” He did not invoke the name of Ronald Reagan, the last Republican president to address CPAC during his first year in office, and to whom he was incessantly compared throughout the week. He made no reference to “government,” in terms of keeping it small, limited or otherwise. And the only time he uttered the word “conservative” was in reference to his triumph at the ballot box. “Our victory was a victory ... for conservative values,” Trump declared.
Then, in a stroke of strategic and rhetorical genius, the president conflated those “conservative values” with his own. “The core conviction of our movement,” Trump told his standing-room-only audience, “is that we are a nation that will put its own citizens first.” The crowd ate it up.
To Trump—and to his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who appeared on a Thursday panel alongside chief of staff Reince Priebus—this means pursuing an agenda of “economic nationalism” that, among other things, restricts trade, subsidizes certain domestic businesses and borrows and spends large sums of money to spur job growth and wealth creation. None of this is remotely compatible with the modern conservative movement, which has been defined to a large extent by its adherence to the principles of free trade, free markets and fiscal restraint.
It wasn’t just the ubiquitous deification of Trump that was so jarring. It was the degree to which his worldview was accepted, championed and cheered by conservative speakers and attendees with no obvious connection to the new president. Consistently, anti-trade rhetoric drew the loudest ovations, especially when packaged as part of a broader assault on “globalism,” a particular hobbyhorse of Bannon and the Breitbart crew.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Trump v. Reagan

I know there are some who want to turn back, who want to return to the more insular and isolationist days of old. I vetoed the trade bill last week because I don't believe we can or should turn back. Critics of our policies complain that, on one hand, America is, as they say, "exporting jobs," which is to say our companies invest overseas, and on the other hand, that America is "selling itself to foreigners," which is to say that foreign companies are investing here. Put it together, and what they're really saying is "turn back." The isolationism of their foreign policy walks hand in hand with the isolationism of their economic policy, and both will lead us to disaster.
Dan Balz writes at The Washington Post:
“We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so,” Ronald Reagan told one of the first CPAC gatherings in January 1974. “The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia.” Quoting Pope Pius XII after World War II, Reagan said, “Into the hands of America, God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.”
Contrast that with what President Trump said Friday when he addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference. Trump’s speech, coupled with the appearance a day earlier by White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, provided the most definitive articulation of the “America First” philosophy that carried Trump to victory in November and that is redefining conservatism and, with it, the Republican Party.

“We need to define what this great, great unprecedented movement is and what it actually represents,” Trump said. “The core conviction of our movement is that we are a nation that put and will put its own citizens first. For too long, we’ve traded away our jobs to other countries. So terrible. We’ve defended other nations’ borders while leaving ours wide open.”
...
Trump opened his speech Friday with another screed at the media as dishonest, repeating his claim that news organizations are the enemy of the American people. When Reagan appeared before CPAC in 1981 shortly after his inauguration, he said this:
“During our political efforts, we were the subject of much indifference and often times intolerance, and that’s why I hope our political victory will be remembered as a generous one and our time in power will be recalled for the tolerance we showed for those with whom we disagree. . . . We must hold out this exciting prospect of an orderly, compassionate, pluralistic society, an archipelago of prospering communities and divergent institutions.”

That too is a contrast between the 40th president and the 45th.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

"This Is Not the Intelligence Assessment the President Asked For"

Shane Harris reports at The Wall Street Journal:
An intelligence report by the Department of Homeland Security contradicts the White House’s assertion that immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries pose a particular risk of being terrorists and should be blocked from entering the U.S.
The report is the latest volley in a struggle between intelligence officials and the Trump administration that has rippled across several agencies. Some officials have critiqued administration policies, while the president and senior members of his staff have accused officials of leaking information to undermine his administration and the legitimacy of his election.
The report, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, came from Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis. It said that its staff “assesses that country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.” The White House on Friday dismissed it as politically motivated and poorly researched.
...
“The president asked for an intelligence assessment. This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for,” a senior administration official said. The official said intelligence is already available on the countries included in Mr. Trump’s ban and just needs to be compiled.

The senior administration official is an Obi-Wan Kenobe wannabe:

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Greg Miller and Adam Entous report at The Washington Post:
The Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the intelligence community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia, a politically charged issue that has been under investigation by the FBI as well as lawmakers now defending the White House.
Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, U.S. officials said.
The calls were orchestrated by the White House after unsuccessful attempts by the administration to get senior FBI officials to speak with news organizations and dispute the accuracy of stories on the alleged contacts with Russia.
...
The decision to involve those officials could be perceived as threatening the independence of U.S. spy agencies that are supposed to remain insulated from partisan issues, as well as undercutting the credibility of ongoing congressional probes. Those officials saw their involvement as an attempt to correct coverage they believed to be erroneous.
The effort also involved senior lawmakers with access to classified intelligence about Russia, including Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees. A spokesman for Nunes said that he had already begun speaking to reporters to challenge the story and that, “at the request of a White House communications aide, Chairman Nunes then spoke to an additional reporter and delivered the same message.”

Friday, February 24, 2017

CPAC: Commend Putin, And Capitulate

James Hohmann at Washington Post:
Ed Schultz speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference would have been inconceivable a year ago. But Donald Trump is president now, and his brand of protectionism is having its moment.
On his MSNBC show in 2009, Schultz said that “there are parallels” between “some of the things Hitler was saying and some of the things that were at the CPAC convention.” He added, “They are not Americans.” In 2011, per CNN, Schultz called Trump a racist and said “nobody” wanted him to become president.
Schultz now hosts a nightly show on RT, which is a propaganda arm of Russia and funded by the Kremlin. At what for decades has been the signature cattle call on the right, he praised Trump as someone who “is not bought and paid for by anyone.” Then he expounded on what he sees as the horrors of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and NAFTA.
Alluding to the intelligence community’s determination that his patrons in Moscow interfered with the presidential election in an effort to boost Trump, Schultz said during an afternoon panel: “Full disclosure: The Russians did not tell Hillary Clinton not to go to Wisconsin. They didn’t tell her not to go to Michigan, either.”
No one booed. Instead, heads nodded. The times, they are a changin'.


Spencer Ackerman reports at The Guardian:
The White House has confirmed that its chief of staff spoke with top FBI officials about the bureau’s inquiry into links between Donald Trump’s associates and Russia – a conversation which appears to violate justice department rules to ensure the integrity of investigations.

The administration had sought to push back against reports from CNN and the Associated Press that chief of staff Reince Priebus had asked the FBI’s top two officials to refute news reports about Trump allies’ ties to Russia.
But in doing so, the White House on Friday acknowledged that Priebus, FBI director James Comey and deputy director Andrew McCabe had discussed what the FBI knew about Russian ties to the Trump presidential campaign.
“The White House appears to have violated accepted protocols and procedures”, said former FBI special agent Ali Soufan.

“As an FBI agent, we always know there shouldn’t be any appearance of political interference over a pending investigation. Any kind of appearance of political influence will be considered against existing protocols and procedures.”

Another retired FBI special agent, Michael German, said the FBI leadership had potentially jeopardized an investigation.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Orange to Blue

Nate Cohn reports at The New York Times:
There is no guarantee that the Democrats can put the House in play, even if Mr. Trump’s approval ratings remain as low as they are now or slip further. The Republicans have so many safe seats that they could even survive a so-called wave election like the ones that swept Democrats to power in 2006 and out of power in 2010. The Democrats need 24 seats to retake the House.
But whether the Democrats can do it will come down to places like Orange County, which is more populous than Iowa. Four congressional districts that have at least some territory in the county still have Republican representatives, and all four were carried by Mrs. Clinton.
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the road to a Democratic House begins and ends at Laguna Beach.
Darrell Issa, who represents the California coast from southern Orange County almost to La Jolla, is probably the nation’s most vulnerable incumbent. That’s based on factors that tend to predict which districts are likeliest to be competitive — like the result of his last election (he won by just 1 point) and how the district voted in recent presidential contests.
By the same measures, the 24th-most vulnerable Republican is Dana Rohrabacher, whose district is immediately north of Mr. Issa’s — stretching up the Orange County coast from Laguna Beach to Sunset Beach. In between, Ed Royce and Mimi Walters represent the 13th- and 20th-most vulnerable districts.
...
But Orange County is not an outlier. Across the nation, the most vulnerable Republican incumbents among the 50 or so most competitive seats tend to be in relatively well-educated, metropolitan districts with above-average Hispanic populations. It’s the opposite of most of the 2016 presidential battleground states, which were whiter, less educated and far less Hispanic than the country as a whole.
From The Orange County Register:

 


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Anti-Trump Manual Sounds Like Tea Party Guidelines

The Iron Law of Emulation is at work.  In 2009, liberals complained about astroturf protests at Democratic town halls, pointing out that the protesters had written guidelines.

The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform. A leaked memo from Bob MacGuffie, a volunteer with the FreedomWorks website Tea Party Patriots, details how members should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress:












— Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
— Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”
— Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”
Paul Sperry reports at The New York Post:
Organizing for Action, a group founded by former President Barack Obama and featured prominently on his new post-presidency website, is distributing a training manual to anti-Trump activists that advises them to bully GOP lawmakers into backing off support for repealing ObamaCare, curbing immigration from high-risk Islamic nations and building a border wall.
In a new Facebook post, OFA calls on activists to mobilize against Republicans from now until Feb. 26, when “representatives are going to be in their home districts.”
The protesters disrupted town halls earlier this month, including one held in Utah by House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, who was confronted by hundreds of angry demonstrators claiming to be his constituents.
The manual, published with OFA partner “Indivisible,” advises protesters to go into halls quietly so as not to raise alarms, and “grab seats at the front of the room but do not all sit together.” Rather, spread out in pairs to make it seem like the whole room opposes the Republican host’s positions. “This will help reinforce the impression of broad consensus.” It also urges them to ask “hostile” questions — while keeping “a firm hold on the mic” — and loudly boo the GOP politician if he isn’t “giving you real answers.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Anne Frank Center on Antisemitism and Trump

From the Anne Frank Center:
MR. PRESIDENT, YOUR TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE ACKNOWLEGMENT OF #Antisemitism TODAY IS NOT ENOUGH.
Statement of Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, on President Trump's acknowledgment of Antisemitism today:
“The President’s sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration. His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Antisemitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record. Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration. The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial. And it was only yesterday, President’s Day, that Jewish Community Centers across the nation received bomb threats, and the President said absolutely nothing. When President Trump responds to Antisemitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment.”

Iowa to the Right, Nevada to the Left

Thomas Beaumont writes at AP:
After decades as the crossroads of prairie populists and checkbook conservatives, Iowa has suddenly become solidly Republican like many of its Midwestern neighbors.
It was one of four states — along with Kentucky, Missouri and New Hampshire — that flipped to complete GOP control in the November election, but Iowa's rush of new legislation has been the most intense.
In an all-night session last week, Iowa lawmakers approved a bill similar to one enacted in Wisconsin six years ago that strips most public sector unions of long-held collective bargaining rights, including health insurance.

Jeff Orvis, a veteran northern Iowa high school teacher, said he sees the measure leaving permanent damage to Iowa's century-old reputation for quality schools, enshrined on the state's 2004 commemorative quarter: "Foundation in education."
"Now, I don't even see how Iowa is going to attract good teachers," said Jeff Orvis, a union representative from northern Iowa. "That's my biggest worry."
Jeff Singer writes at Daily Kos:
Daily Kos Elections’ project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation hits Nevada, a rare Democratic bright spot in 2016. You can find our master list of states here, which we'll be updating as we add new states; you can also find all our data from 2016 and past cycles here.
Hillary Clinton carried the Silver State 48-46, a drop from Barack Obama’s 52-46 win against Mitt Romney. However, Clinton’s narrow victory, thanks in no small part to the formidable get-out-the-vote machine built by retiring Sen. Harry Reid, helped Team Blue avenge its embarrassing loss of both chambers of the state legislature two years before. Democrats all but conceded the 2014 gubernatorial race against GOP incumbent Brian Sandoval, and uninspired Democratic voters largely stayed home; Team Red won a 27-15 majority in the Assembly, and an 11-10 edge in the Senate.
But 2016 was a complete reversal, with Democrats taking back a 27-15 Assembly majority and an 11-10 Senate edge. A few days later one Republican, state Sen. Patricia Farley, announced that she was becoming an independent and caucusing with the Democrats, giving her new allies a 12-9 majority. The entire Assembly is up every two years, while half the Senate was up in 2016 and the other half, including Farley, will be up in 2018.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Iran-Contra Redux

Megan Twohey and Scott Shan report at The New York Times:
A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.
Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
...
The amateur diplomats say their goal is simply to help settle a grueling, three-year conflict that has cost 10,000 lives. “Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?” Mr. Cohen asked.
But the proposal contains more than just a peace plan. Andrii V. Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, who sees himself as a Trump-style leader of a future Ukraine, claims to have evidence — “names of companies, wire transfers” — showing corruption by the Ukrainian president, Petro O. Poroshenko, that could help oust him. And Mr. Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Mr. Putin.
“A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, a U.S. agent, a C.I.A. agent,” Mr. Artemenko said. “But how can you find a good solution between our countries if we do not talk?”
Sounds an awful lot like Iran-Contra... 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Powerful Analysis of Trumpism

If some of you in this room are students of political philosophy, you know where this argument originates. This is a version of Thrasymachus’s argument in Plato’s Republic that justice is the advantage of the stronger and that injustice “if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice.”
Substitute the words “truth” and “falsehood” for “justice” and “injustice,” and there you have the Trumpian view of the world. If I had to sum it up in a single sentence, it would be this: Truth is what you can get away with.
...
One of the more fascinating aspects of last year’s presidential campaign was the rise of a class of pundits I call the “TrumpXplainers.” For instance, Trump would give a speech or offer an answer in a debate that amounted to little more than a word jumble.
But rather than quote Trump, or point out that what he had said was grammatically and logically nonsensical, the TrumpXplainers would tell us what he had allegedly meant to say. They became our political semioticians, ascribing pattern and meaning to the rune-stones of Trump’s mind.
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In his 1953 masterpiece, “The Captive Mind,” the Polish poet and dissident Czeslaw Milosz analyzed the psychological and intellectual pathways through which some of his former colleagues in Poland’s post-war Communist regime allowed themselves to be converted into ardent Stalinists. In none of the cases that Milosz analyzed was coercion the main reason for the conversion.
They wanted to believe. They were willing to adapt. They thought they could do more good from the inside. They convinced themselves that their former principles didn’t fit with the march of history, or that to hold fast to one’s beliefs was a sign of priggishness and pig-headedness. They felt that to reject the new order of things was to relegate themselves to irrelevance and oblivion. They mocked their former friends who refused to join the new order as morally vain reactionaries. They convinced themselves that, brutal and capricious as Stalinism might be, it couldn’t possibly be worse than the exploitative capitalism of the West.
I fear we are witnessing a similar process unfold among many conservative intellectuals on the right. It has been stunning to watch a movement that once believed in the benefits of free trade and free enterprise merrily give itself over to a champion of protectionism whose economic instincts recall the corporatism of 1930s Italy or 1950s Argentina. It is no less stunning to watch people once mocked Obama for being too soft on Russia suddenly discover the virtues of Trump’s “pragmatism” on the subject.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

"You Are the Special People"

Darren Samuelsohn and Annie Karni report at Politico:
So, this is my real group,” Trump said at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, on November 18, according to the audio tape. “These are the people that came here in the beginning, when nobody knew what this monster was gonna turn out to be, right?”

He added: “I see all of you. I recognize, like 100 percent of you, just about.”
Trump had a packed schedule of meetings that weekend less than two weeks after the election. On the Saturday after the cocktail party, Trump met with Mitt Romney, Michelle Rhee, Betsy DeVos, Todd Ricketts, Bob Woodson, Lew Eisenberg and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. On Sunday, John Gray, Kris Kobach, Wilbur Ross, Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Robert Johnson and David McCormick all schlepped out to Bedminster for meetings.
Trump often appears to want to include his friends in the decision-making process.
Turning to a longtime club member that night, he said: “We were just talking about who we [are] going to pick for the FCC, who [are] we going to pick for this, who we gonna accept -- boy, can you give me some recommendations?”
The supportive crowd ate it up as the relaxed Trump, in his element, gave them a close-up view of how he was setting up the government. “You are the special people,” he told the crowd of about 100 members, who mingled around a sushi station served by a waiter wearing a camouflage “Make America Great Again” cap.

Meat Loaf and Beans

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says President Donald Trump made him order meatloaf when they dined together at the White House this week.
Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, joined Trump at the White House on Tuesday.

The Republican governor said while guest hosting a New York sports talk radio show Thursday that Trump pointed out the menu and told people to get whatever they want. Then he said he and Christie were going to have the meatloaf.
‘‘This is what it’s like to be with Trump,’’ Christie said. ‘‘He says, ‘There’s the menu, you guys order whatever you want.’ And then he says, ‘Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.’’’
There is a similar story about LBJ, who also liked to humiliate people.   In a 1995 issue of The Washington Post, Diana McLellan reviewed  the memoirs of Pierre Salinger, who served as press secretary under Kennedy and (briefly) under Johnson:
Sadly, he omits everybody's favorite LBJ-Pierre Salinger tale. According to this grand and ancient legend, Johnson shouted down the table to him at a small luncheon, "Pierre, you haven't eaten your beans." "Mr. President, I happen not to care for this variety of beans." "Pierre, eat your beans!" Eventually, reluctantly, the tale went, Salinger ate all his beans -- and that was the day he quit. Does the story's absence mean that it's purely apocryphal? A pity, if so. But you'd think that a one-time gossip's apprentice would give it an airing if just to deny it.

Incompetent Vetting

Tara Palmeri reports at Politico that the White House dismissed six aides who were already on the job. They flunked  the SF86, a Questionnaire for National Security Positions
Among those who won't be working at the White House was President Donald Trump’s director of scheduling, Caroline Wiles, the daughter of Susan Wiles, Trump’s Florida campaign director and former campaign manager for Governor Rick Scott. Wiles, who resigned Friday before the background check was completed, was appointed deputy assistant secretary before the inauguration in January. Two sources close to Wiles said she will get another job in Treasury.
Rene Marsh and Eugene Scott report at CNN:
A political appointee at the Department of Housing and Urban Development was fired for an op-ed he wrote before the election that criticized then-candidate Donald Trump, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN.
In an October op-ed for The Hill, Republican consultant Shermichael Singleton said Trump was taking the Republican Party to a "new moral low."
"We allowed that hostile takeover to happen on our watch," he wrote. "This individual recognized a moment of great disparity in the Republican base and, like cancer, attacked and spread, consuming everything in his path."
Singleton's piece criticized Trump's rhetoric about African Americans during the campaign. After the election, the 26-year-old worked with Ben Carson during his confirmation process to become HUD secretary. Singleton, who is African American, then joined the department as a senior adviser.
Eliana Johnson reported last week at Politico:
President Donald Trump intervened at the last moment to deny Rex Tillerson his pick to be deputy secretary of state — former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams.
The president overruled his secretary of state — following meeting with Tillerson,
Abrams and son-in-law Jared Kushner — after reading news reports about their meeting, which included references to Abrams' criticisms of Trump during last year's presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the decision. Though his staff was aware of Abrams' statements, the president was not — until he read news reports about their meeting earlier this week.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Defying the Odds


Bitterness and joy, outrage and satisfaction, shame and pride, escapes to safe places and displays of celebration—these were just a few of the conflicting reactions that greeted the election of Donald Trump. One point lays beyond dispute: Donald Trump defied the odds, whether set by bookmakers or political pundits, or pollsters.

In this book—as they have for every presidential election since 1992—James Ceaser, Andrew Busch, and John Pitney Jr. revisit the race for the presidency and congressional and state elections through the short lens of politics today and the long lens of American political history. At the core of the 2016 election, they seek to understand and explain the different reasons for Donald Trump’s success at each stage of the campaign. With its keen insights into the issues and events that drove the 2016 election, Defying the Odds will be an invaluable resource for students and all political observers seeking to understand an election that was decades in the making and will continue to resonate throughout American politics for many years to come.

Approval

President Donald Trump's 40% job approval rating about one month into his presidency is 21 percentage points below the historical average rating for elected presidents in mid-February (61%). It is also 11 points below the lowest mid-February reading for any other president.
Bill Clinton held the previous low for a president near the end of his first month in office, at 51%. Ronald Reagan was the only other president with ratings at this point in his tenure below 60%. John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter enjoyed approval ratings above 70% at similar points in their presidencies.
Trump's initial job approval rating was 45%, making him the first president to begin his term with less-than-majority approval. Since then, his approval has fallen by five percentage points.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Tell-Tale Trump

...with apologies to Edgar Allan Poe

True! But why will you say that I am ranting and raving? I don't rant and rave. Hearing?  I have amazing hearing.  I hear everything. Sit down.  I will tell you the whole story.

I have the best memory, but I don't remember when I got the idea.  I have a lot of ideas, terrific ideas. That's why I won the election by the biggest margin, ever.   I loved the old man.  So much love.  But he had this eye, a disgusting eye.  [Opens his eye wide with his fingers and imitates a spasm.]  "Oh, look at me, I'm so horrible!"  It was like a vulture's eye, with a film over it. So like, many people were saying, you gotta do something about it.

Now this is the point. The very dishonest media say "Trump's a bad man." Bad men don't know anything.  But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I acted.  Terrific caution. Fabulous foresight.  I was never kinder to the old man   So nice.   And every night I checked in on him, which you won't hear from the lying media.

On the eighth night, I had my head in,, and the old man got up in bed, yelling --"Who's there?"  Don't blame him. Crime is terrible there.  People have to lock themselves in.  We'll fix that, believe me.

I kept still and said nothing. I have terrific silence and stillness.  Then I put a pillow on his head, very very gently, you know, like one of those snore strips.  Just wanted him to go to sleep, so he would close that disgusting eye.  And he did.  As Spicer would say, plain and simple.

I knew he was okay because I could hear his heart. Did I mention that I have the best hearing? Anyway, I am the greatest real estate guy, so I knew that he would have a  nice place to sleep under the floorboards.  Really classy.  Really clean. Like a fine-tuned machine.

Then somebody leaked.  They will pay for that, by the way.  Three police officers came by.  I had them set down and we had a wonderful meeting.  I told them that we are going to have law and order in this country and support our police,  Crooked Hillary never said that, did she?

The thing about the old man was supposed to stay secret.  I'm a big believer in privacy.

I showed the police officers around the place.  Melania is doing a great job with the tours, by the way. But I kept hearing the old guy's heart.  Now, I believe that you gotta have heart, but this was getting ridiculous.

The officers absolutely loved me.  Big supporters. Then some reporters came by.  Bad people, Disgusting people.  They said that they heard something about the old man dying.  "Fake news!"  I said.  The police laughed, cuffed the dishonest media, and went away.  Gotta remember to comp them to a reception at Mar-A-Lago.

But I kept hearing that heartbeat.  So I knew what to do.  I want to get along with the Russians, not fight with them.  So I called Putin and told him the story.  He said, "We can make problems like that disappear."  And he did.  Great guy.

And I lived happily ever after.

Inheriting a Mess

Trump just said: "I inherited a mess. At home and abroad. A mess.... no matter where you look, a disaster... we'll take care of it. I just wanted to let you know- a mess."
  • And at home, we were facing a financial crisis that just about every credible economist said had the potential to plunge us into another great depression, an economic crisis that was producing stagnant wages, falling incomes, and a shaken middle class, and a deficit crisis that was saddling our children with a mountain of debt. That's what we inherited when we came in. -- Barack Obama, September 29, 2010.
  • "We inherited a recession. The first three quarters of my Presidency were negative growth. That means it's a recession." -- George W. Bush, August 24, 2002
  • "Now they want to hold us accountable for all the messes that we inherited from them. At least we can hold them accountable for the decisions they've taken in the last 21 months." -- Bill Clinton, November 7, 1994
  • "Who can remember any other time in this country when we faced double-digit inflation, a trillion-dollar debt, 21 1/2-percent interest rates, and the highest peacetime tax burden in our history, all at the same time? Yet, that's exactly the situation that we inherited 20 months ago." -- Ronald Reagan, October 6, 1982
  • "I said 2 years ago that we would remove fraud, waste, and corruption from the Government, and we are doing it-not overnight; it took a long time to create the mess that we inherited and we can't eliminate it in 1 year." -- Jimmy Carter, September 27, 1978
  • "Why have they [prices] gone up? Very simply: because the previous administration, over a period of years, had spent far more than the tax system would produce with full employment. And when you do that, when you have runaway spending in Washington, you have runaway prices at home. And I say, let's get the big spenders out of Washington and get the savers into Washington." -- Richard Nixon, October 19, 1970 
  • The times demand that all of us solve problems which at times appear to some of us to be unsolvable, problems that we inherited, problems that are thrust upon us by years of injustice and years of neglect. -- Lyndon Johnson, June 10, 1968

Immigration Opinion

Thomas Edsall writes at The New York Times:
National polls show majorities in support of granting legal status or citizenship to undocumented immigrants. The problem for those calling for the enactment of liberal policies, however, is that immigration is a voting issue for a minority of the electorate. And among those who say immigration is their top issue, opponents outnumber supporters by nearly two to one. In this respect, immigration is similar to gun control — both mobilize opponents more than supporters.
Nolan McCarty, a political scientist at Princeton, put it this way:
Purely in terms of politics and strategy, the Democrats have played immigration badly. They have allowed their position to be associated with open borders and sanctuary cities. They have based their opposition to the immigration restrictionists in terms of identity politics rather the economic benefits of well-managed immigration. This has caused them to be deaf to concerns that many voters have about the effects of immigration on wages and public services. While I do not think the evidence shows immigration has these alleged harms, the Democrats have to do better than dismiss all opposition to immigration as racism.
McCarty specifically disputed the argument that Clinton’s lenient position was a net plus because it was crucial in mobilizing Hispanic voters.
It was probably her underperformance in mobilizing African-Americans that hurt her most, and they are generally the group least enthusiastic about open door immigration policies.
McCarty cited an October 2016 Pew poll to show that “African-Americans support for immigration is about 15 points below Democrats overall.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Puzder

The Senate lists rejected and withdrawn Cabinet nominations.  At the bottom of this page are the seven that have failed during the past 30 years, and I add the reasons for the failure.  All involved questions of about ethics or personal misconduct.  (Kerik later went to prison on other charges.)

The list shows that the last four presidents -- George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all lost a nominee in their first couple of months in office.

It seems very likely that Labor nominee Andrew Pudzer will be the latest entry.

Manu Raju reports at CNN:
Top Senate Republicans have urged the White House to withdraw the Andrew Puzder nomination for labor secretary, a senior GOP source said, adding there are four firm Republican no votes and possibly up to 12.
Puzder needs at least 50 votes to pass with the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence, and Republicans only hold control of 52 seats.
Puzder, the CEO of the company that owns the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast food chains, has faced fierce opposition mostly from Democrats in part related to his position on labor issues as well as the fact that he employed an undocumented housekeeper.
=========================================================
Name: John G. Tower
Nominated by: George Bush
Nomination Position: Defense
Date Nominated: January 20, 1989
Date Rejected: March 9, 1989 Vote: 47-53
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Name: Zoe E. Baird
Nominated by: William J. Clinton
Nomination Position: Attorney General
Date Nominated: January 21, 1993
Date Withdrawn: January 26, 1993
Reason:  Undocumented household employee
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Name: Anthony Lake
Nominated by: William J. Clinton
Nomination Position: Director, CIA
Date Nominated: January 9, 1997
Date Withdrawn: April 18, 1997
Reasons: policy disputes, financial issues
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Name: Hershel W. Gober
Nominated by: William J. Clinton
Nomination Position: Veterans Affairs
Date Nominated: July 31, 1997
Date Withdrawn: October 27, 1997
Reason: sexual misconduct allegations
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Name: Linda Chavez
Nominated by: George W. Bush
Nomination Position: Labor
Date Nominated: January 3, 2001
Date Withdrawn: January 9, 2001
Reason: undocumented household employee
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Name: Bernard Kerik
Nominated by: George W. Bush
Nomination Position: Homeland Security
Date Nominated: December 2, 2004
Date Withdrawn: December 10, 2004
Reason:  undocumented household employee
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Name: Tom Daschle
Nominated by: Barack Obama
Nomination Position: Secretary of Health & Human Services
Date Nominated: December 11, 2008
Date Withdrawn: February 9, 2009
Reason: tax issues

The Manchurian Candidate and His Campaign

Back in August, Tim Mak and Alexa Corse reported at The Daily Beast:
The Trump campaign went out of its way to dramatically alter the Republican Party’s official position on Ukraine—against the wishes of GOP hawks and despite senior Trump aide Paul Manafort’s insistence that they weren’t involved.

The move, first reported by The Washington Post, alienated Republicans who have made up the party’s foreign policy base for decades, and indicates that the Trump campaign has a particular interest in Ukraine, where Manafort had previously worked for a pro-Putin leader.

Manafort said on NBC’s Meet the Press this past weekend that the change in language on Ukraine “absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign.”

But this account is contradicted by four sources in the room, both for and against the language.
The New York Times reports:
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.
The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.
But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.
Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto and Evan Perez report at CNN:
High-level advisers close to then-presidential nominee Donald Trump were in constant communication during the campaign with Russians known to US intelligence, multiple current and former intelligence, law enforcement and administration officials tell CNN.

President-elect Trump and then-President Barack Obama were both briefed on details of the extensive communications between suspected Russian operatives and people associated with the Trump campaign and the Trump business, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

Both the frequency of the communications during early summer and the proximity to Trump of those involved "raised a red flag" with US intelligence and law enforcement, according to these officials. The communications were intercepted during routine intelligence collection targeting Russian officials and other Russian nationals known to US intelligence.
Among several senior Trump advisers regularly communicating with Russian nationals were then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and then-adviser Michael Flynn.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Prescott Bush's Comments on McCarthy Also Fit Trump

On December 1, 1954, Senator Prescott Bush (R-CT), the father of President George H.W. Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush, explained why he was voting for the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy:

He has caused dangerous divisions among the American people because of his attitude, and the attitude he has encouraged among his followers, that there can be no honest differences of opinion with him.  Either you must follow Senator McCarthy blindly, not daring to express any doubts or disagreements about his actions, or in his eyes you must be a Communist, a Communist sympathizer, or a fool who has been duped by the Communist line.

Congressional Record (bound), December 1, 1954, 16268.