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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The White House Is Incompetent at Dealing with Congress

Mike Allen reports at Axios:
When the balky hardliners of the House Freedom Caucus visited the White House earlier this week, this was Steve Bannon's opening line, according to people in the conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building: 
"Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill." 
Bannon's point was: This is the Republican platform. You're the conservative wing of the Republican Party. But people in the room were put off by the dictatorial mindset. 
One of the members replied: "You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn't listen to him, either."
Tim Alberta reports at Politico about Trump's Thursday meeting with the Freedom Caucus
"Forget about the little shit," Trump said, according to multiple sources in the room. "Let's focus on the big picture here." 
The group of roughly 30 House conservatives, gathered around a mammoth, oval-shaped conference table in the Cabinet Room of the White House, exchanged disapproving looks. Trump wanted to emphasize the political ramifications of the bill's defeat; specifically, he said, it would derail his first-term agenda and imperil his prospects for reelection in 2020. The lawmakers nodded and said they understood. And yet they were disturbed by his dismissiveness. For many of the members, the "little shit" meant the policy details that could make or break their support for the bill—and have far-reaching implications for their constituents and the country. 
"We’re talking about one-fifth of our economy," a member told me afterward
On Tuesday, Trump spoke to the entire GOP Conference
Then Trump made a mistake. After singling out Meadows and asking him to stand up in front of his colleagues, Trump joked that he might "come after" the Freedom Caucus boss if he didn't vote yes, and then added, with a more serious tone: "I think Mark Meadows will get on board

It was a crucial misreading of Meadows, who has been determined to please both the White House and his conservatives colleagues on the Hill. Upon assuming the chairmanship of the Freedom Caucus earlier this year, Meadows was viewed suspiciously by some of his members who worried that the North Carolina congressman is too cozy with Trump and would hesitate to defy him. Meadows campaigned extensively with Trump last fall and struck up a relationship with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who communicates with him almost daily by text. Meadows knew the health care fight would be viewed as a test of his independence from Trump, and the moment the president called him out, he was boxed in.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Left and Right Go Secular

Peter Beinart writes at The Atlantic:
Whatever the reason, when cultural conservatives disengage from organized religion, they tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasizing morality and religion and emphasizing race and nation. Trump is both a beneficiary and a driver of that shift.
So is the alt-right. Read Milo Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari’s famous Breitbart.com essay, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right.” It contains five references to “tribe,” seven to “race,” 13 to “the west” and “western” and only one to “Christianity.” That’s no coincidence. The alt-right is ultra-conservatism for a more secular age. Its leaders like Christendom, an old-fashioned word for the West. But they’re suspicious of Christianity itself, because it crosses boundaries of blood and soil. As a college student, the alt-right leader Richard Spencer was deeply influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, who famously hated Christianity. Radix, the journal Spencer founded, publishes articles with titles like “Why I Am a Pagan.” One essay notes that “critics of Christianity on the Alternative Right usually blame it for its universalism.”

Secularization is transforming the left, too. In 1990, according to PRRI, slightly more than half of white liberals seldom or never attended religious services. Today the proportion is 73 percent. And if conservative nonattenders fueled Trump’s revolt inside the GOP, liberal nonattenders fueled Bernie Sanders’s insurgency against Hillary Clinton: While white Democrats who went to religious services at least once a week backed Clinton by 26 points, according to an April 2016 PRRI survey, white Democrats who rarely attended services backed Sanders by 13 points.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thrasymachus on the Hudson

Jonathan Chait writes at New York:
It is remarkable — and perhaps praiseworthy — that Donald Trump gave a long and detailed interview on the subject of his being a pathological liar. The interview, with Time’s Michael Scherer, covers a wide range of Trump’s lies, and features many of his own justifications for them. The truly revealing moment of the interview comes at the end, when Trump gives up the game. “But isn’t there, it strikes me there is still an issue of credibility,” asks Scherer, referencing Trump’s hallucinatory claims to have been surveilled by his predecessor, which his own intelligence officials have refuted. Trump rambles through various talking points, and lands on this conclusion: “I guess, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.” 
This small line is an important historical marker of the bizarre and disconcerting reality into which American politics has plunged. Trump is not merely making an attack on truth here. He is attacking the idea of truth. His statement is a frontal challenge to the notion that objective reality can be separated from power.

Commissars

Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin write at The Washington Post:
The political appointee charged with keeping watch over Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and his aides has offered unsolicited advice so often that after just four weeks on the job, Pruitt has shut him out of many staff meetings, according to two senior administration officials.
At the Pentagon, they’re privately calling the former Marine officer and fighter pilot who’s supposed to keep his eye on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “the commissar,” according to a high-ranking defense official with knowledge of the situation. It’s a reference to Soviet-era Communist Party officials who were assigned to military units to ensure their commanders remained loyal.
Most members of President Trump’s Cabinet do not yet have leadership teams in place or even nominees for top deputies. But they do have an influential coterie of senior aides installed by the White House who are charged — above all — with monitoring the secretaries’ loyalty, according to eight officials in and outside the administration.
This shadow government of political appointees with the title of senior White House adviser is embedded at every Cabinet agency, with offices in or just outside the secretary’s suite. The White House has installed at least 16 of the advisers at departments including Energy and Health and Human Services and at some smaller agencies such as NASA, according to records first obtained by ProPublica through a Freedom of Information Act request.
These aides report not to the secretary, but to the Office of Cabinet Affairs, which is overseen by Rick Dearborn, a White House deputy chief of staff, according to administration officials. A top Dearborn aide, John Mashburn, leads a weekly conference call with the advisers, who are in constant contact with the White House.
Commissars who enforce loyalty may someday find others questioning them.  From Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon
"The undersigned, N. S. Rubashov, former member of the Central Committee of the Party, former Commissar of the People, former Commander of the 2nd Division of the Revolutionary Army, bearer of the Revolutionary Order for Fearlessness before the Enemy of the People, has decided, in consideration of the reasons exposed above, utterly to renounce his oppositional attitude and to denounce publicly his errors."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Russia and Trump

Jeff Horwitz and Chad Day report at AP:
President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests. 
Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.
  Reuters reports:
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump downplayed his business ties with Russia. And since taking office as president, he has been even more emphatic.
“I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia,” President Trump said at a news conference last month. “I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia.”
But in the United States, members of the Russian elite have invested in Trump buildings.
A Reuters review has found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida, according to public documents, interviews and corporate records.
The buyers include politically connected businessmen, such as a former executive in a Moscow-based state-run construction firm that works on military and intelligence facilities, the founder of a St. Petersburg investment bank and the co-founder of a conglomerate with interests in banking, property and electronics.
Historian Timothy Snyder writes at The New York Daily News:
In 2011, a Russian information war manual concluded that operations in what Russians like to call the "psychosphere" were more important than conventional military engagements. The chief of staff of the Russian armed forces concurred in 2013. The basic aim of war, he averred, was to get inside the national mind of the enemy, reconfiguring habits of mind and frames of discourse so that Americans would do what the Russian leadership wanted.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the main enemy was the United States.
The information manual very well describes the experience of being an American citizen in 2016: "the population doesn't even feel it is being acted upon. So the state doesn't switch on its self-defense mechanisms." Even though many American citizens had a vague sense that something was uncanny about the presidential campaign, and those who read the newspaper knew that Russia was interfering, few realized the scale of the operation or its significance.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Arrant Nonsense

 Gordon Corera reports at BBC:
The claim that GCHQ carried out surveillance on Donald Trump during the election campaign is "arrant nonsense", Rick Ledgett, the number two at the US National Security Agency (NSA) has told the BBC in an exclusive interview.
A commentator on Fox News had claimed that GCHQ had carried out the activity on America's behalf, but Mr Ledgett said the claim showed "a complete lack of understanding in how the relationship works".
...
"Of course they wouldn't do it. It would be epically stupid," he told me.
...

"Our job in the intelligence community is to be apolitical. Our job is to speak truth to power," he emphasised.
The origins of much of the tension lie in the assessment by the US intelligence community that Russia interfered in the presidential election, and the subsequent reaction from Donald Trump.
Mr Ledgett said the evidence of Russian involvement was "extraordinarily strong" and "irrefutable" and that the NSA had played a key role in establishing the case.
Mr Ledgett said he was "dead solid 100% confident" that the Russian state was behind the attempts - although he said it was not for the intelligence community to evaluate the actual impact of those attempts on the vote itself.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Is Congress Broken?

A new book from Brookings:

Is Congress Broken?
The Virtues and Defects of Partisanship and GridlockEdited by William F. Connelly, Jr.John Pitney Jr., and Gary J. Schmitt March 21, 2017

Contents
Chapter One




Making Congress Work, Again, Within the Constitutional System

Congress for many years has ranked low in public esteem—joining journalists, bankers, and union leaders at the bottom of polls. And in recent years there’s been good reason for the public disregard, with the rise of hyper-partisanship and the increasing inability of Congress to carry out its required duties, such as passing spending bills on time and conducting responsible oversight of the executive branch.

Congress seems so dysfunctional that many observers have all but thrown up their hands in despair, suggesting that an apparently broken U.S. political system might need to be replaced.

Now, some of the country’s foremost experts on Congress are reminding us that tough hyper-partisan conflict always has been a hallmark of the constitutional system. Going back to the nation’s early decades, Congress has experienced periods of division and turmoil. But even in those periods Congress has been able to engage in serious deliberation, prevent ill-considered proposals from becoming law—and, over time, help develop a deeper, more lasting national consensus.

The ten chapters in this volume focus on how Congress in the twenty-first century can once again fulfill its proper functions of representation, deliberation, legislation, and oversight. The authors offer a series of practical reforms that would maintain, rather than replace, the constitutional separation of powers that has served the nation well for more than 200 years.

272 Pages
Brookings Institution Press, March 21, 2017
Paperback ISBN: 9780815730361
Ebook ISBN: 9780815730378
ABOUT THE AUTHORS


William F. Connelly, Jr., is the John K. Boardman Politics Professor at Washington and Lee University. He is also founder and director of the university’s Washington Term Program.

John J. Pitney, Jr., is Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College. He previously served on the staff of Senator Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY) and the House Republican Policy Committee.

Gary J. Schmitt is resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he directs the Program on American Citizenship. He previously served as the Democratic staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and executive director of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Mercer and Bannon

Matea Gold reports at The Washington Post that the Mercers, unlike the Kochs, have focused more on media than voter mobilization.
The Mercers’ partnership with Bannon began in 2011, thanks to an encounter that Robert and Rebekah had with Andrew Breitbart.
During a spring meeting of Club for Growth donors at the Ritz Carlton in Palm Beach, Fla., the Mercers sought out Breitbart after watching him deliver a talk about how to co-opt the political strategies used by liberals.
The conservative media entrepreneur, who liked to denounce the mainstream press as the Democrats’ “dominant partner in crime,” was arguing at the time that government policies could not be changed until conservatives seized control of the media narrative.
The message resonated with the Mercers, according to a person familiar with their views.
Breitbart introduced them to Bannon, then a screenwriter and producer in Southern California who was directing a movie called “Occupy Unmasked” that featured Breitbart. It was co-produced by the conservative advocacy group Citizens United, whose allied foundation would later receive Mercer funds.


The Mercers also joined the Council for National Policy, which the Times has described as a “little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country.” The Mercers have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars. The group swears participants to secrecy. But a leaked 2014 roster revealed that it included many people who promoted anti-Clinton conspiracy stories, including Joseph Farah, the editor of WorldNetDaily. The group also brought the Mercers into the orbit of two people who have become key figures in the Trump White House: Kellyanne Conway, who was on the group’s executive committee, and Steve Bannon.



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Turnout in 2016, Uncompetitive House Races

A release from Nonprofit VOTE:
With election results finally certified by state election offices, Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project release “America Goes to The Polls,” a report that ranks all 50 states in voter turnout for the 2016 election and identifies policies that help contribute to higher turnout.
  • National turnout of eligible voters was 60.2% – 1.6 percentage points above the 58.6% turnout in 2012, though slightly lower than 2008. Four in ten eligible voters did not vote.
  • The highest turnout states were Minnesota (74.8%), Maine (72.8%), New Hampshire (72.5%), Colorado (72.1%), Wisconsin (70.5%), and Iowa (69.0%). All six offered same day voter registration, enabling voters to register or update their registration when they vote. Five were battleground states targeted by the presidential campaigns.
  • The lowest turnout states were Hawaii (43%), West Virginia (50.8%), Texas (51.6%), Tennessee (52.0%) and Arkansas (53.1%). These five states were at the bottom for the third consecutive presidential election. None were battleground states. All five cut off the ability to register or update a registration three to four weeks before Election Day.
“We continue to see higher voter participation in states with same day registration even as four additional states adopted the policy.” said Dr. Michael McDonald, Director of the U.S. Elections Project. “The data shows clearly that same day registration is one of most effective strategies states can implement to increase turnout and help more voters participate.”
The report also highlights new data on the low level of electoral competition in both the presidential race and House races – a major contributor to low voter turnout in non-competitive states and districts.
  • 147 million (65%) of the nation’s eligible voters live in non-battleground states where the outcome is largely a foregone conclusion. The major presidential candidates understand this and thus invested less than 10% of their ad spending and campaign visits on reaching those voters.
  • Competition for U.S. House races hit its lowest mark in at least 30 years. Just 33 House races ended with margin of victory between the top two candidates of 10% points or less. Most House races (74%) were landslides or uncontested.
The report features a range of state policies to promote voter participation and improve the voting process such as same day voter registration, automatic and online voter registration, as well as policies that could increase competition, such as Electoral College reform and nonpartisan redistricting.
“Voter participation is at the core of active citizenship and a healthy democracy,” said Brian Miller, Executive Director of Nonprofit VOTE. “This report offers the reader an opportunity to learn from the practical experience of policies already enacted in many states to promote voting, encourage healthy competition, and improve election integrity.”
To download America Goes to the Polls 2016, visit www.americagoestothepolls.org.

Friday, March 17, 2017

TrumpTalk

"Don't let your mouth get your ass in trouble." -- John Shaft

Adam Liptak writes at The New York Times:
In quick succession on Wednesday night, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland blocked President Trump’s revised travel ban. They said statements Mr. Trump had made as a presidential candidate, including his call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” helped doom the executive order.

The judges said Mr. Trump’s promises to impose a “Muslim ban” were too telling and categorical to be ignored. “Simply because a decision maker made the statements during a campaign does not wipe them” from judicial memory, wrote Judge Theodore D. Chuang of Federal District Court in Maryland.

Outside the context of Mr. Trump’s two travel bans, few judicial rulings have addressed how much weight courts may put on statements from political candidates. Even informal remarks from sitting government officials are often ignored by courts, which can be reluctant to conduct what the Supreme Court has called “judicial psychoanalysis.”

But decisions about religious discrimination allow courts to consider government officials’ real purposes, even if their stated ones are neutral.
The Supreme Court has said judges may not turn a blind eye to the context in which government policies on religion arose. “Reasonable observers have reasonable memories,” Justice David H. Souter wrote in a leading religion case.
 John Wagner and Matt Zapotosky write at The Washington Post:
Trump boosters say his freewheeling rhetoric, in person and on social media, is a large part of his appeal and has kept him in good stead with his political base. But it is also making governing more challenging.

In recent weeks, Trump has pledged that he would provide “insurance for everybody” at a lower cost, setting an impossible standard for congressional Republicans as they seek to craft a bill to scale back Obama’s signature health-care law.

And Trump’s allegations on Twitter — without citing any evidence — that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower last year has eaten up investigative resources in Congress and chipped away at his credibility among GOP leaders key to advancing the president’s ambitious agenda.

But perhaps nowhere have Trump’s words been as damaging as his attempts to implement the travel ban — which may have been damaged further by Trump’s remarks at his Nashville rally. Trump inflamed controversy during the campaign by calling for a temporary ban on all foreign Muslims from entering the United States, then later shifted to vague pledges to ban people from countries with a history of Islamist terrorism.

“I am sure that challengers will use the president’s comments last night as further evidence that the true intent of his executive order is to bar Muslim immigration,” said Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School.
Julie Pace writes at AP:
 Trump is unaccustomed to being held accountable for his words.
As a real estate mogul and reality TV star, he thrived on over-the-top claims and attention-getting hype. His approach, honed through decades working with New York tabloids, deeply frustrated his political rivals during the presidential campaign and sent fact-checkers into overdrive. His campaign advisers responded by encouraging voters and the media to take him seriously, but not literally.
But that's not an option for the president of the United States. His words can move financial markets, reassure or unnerve allies, quiet or antagonize opponents, set the direction for administration policy and — as Trump saw this week — carry significant legal weight.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Gorka

Heckuva job on vetting, Orangie.

Lili Bayer and Larry Cohler-Esses report at The Forward:
Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s top counter-terrorism adviser, is a formal member of a Hungarian far-right group that is listed by the U.S. State Department as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II, leaders of the organization have told the Forward.
The elite order, known as the Vitézi Rend, was established as a loyalist group by Admiral Miklos Horthy, who ruled Hungary as a staunch nationalist from 1920 to October 1944. A self-confessed anti-Semite, Horthy imposed restrictive Jewish laws prior to World War II and collaborated with Hitler during the conflict. His cooperation with the Nazi regime included the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jews into Nazi hands.
Gorka’s membership in the organization — if these Vitézi Rend leaders are correct, and if Gorka did not disclose this when he entered the United States as an immigrant — could have implications for his immigration status. The State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual specifies that members of the Vitézi Rend “are presumed to be inadmissible” to the country under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Talal Ansari reports at Buzzfeed:
Sebastian Gorka, a top national security adviser to President Trump, stonewalled when BuzzFeed News asked about a report that he belongs to a Nazi-allied group.
“Send a request to White House press,” Gorka told BuzzFeed News.


He later made a denial to Tablet:
 “I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend. Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v.’ initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism.” It’s a perfectly plausible explanation, and you’d have to be of a very specific mindset to still pursue allegations of Nazi affiliation.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Old "Duplication and Redundancy" Line...

Announcing an executive order on government reorgnization, Trump said:
Today there is duplication and redundancy everywhere. Billions and billions of dollars are being wasted on activities that are not delivering results for hardworking American taxpayers, and not even coming close.
This order requires a thorough examination of every executive department and agency to see where money is being wasted, how services can be improved, and whether programs are truly serving American citizens.
The Director of Office of Management and Budget will oversee the evaluation working with experts inside and outside of the federal government, as well as seeking input from the American people themselves.

Based on this input, we will develop a detailed plan to make the federal government work better -- reorganizing, consolidating, and eliminating where necessary: In other words, making the federal government more efficient and very, very cost productive.
President Obama said the same thing ... a number of times.

In 2013: "I've proposed and signed into law the elimination of dozens of Federal programs and cut even more that were either duplicative, not working, or no longer needed, saving billions of dollars a year. And the basic principle is simple: Taxpayers deserve the biggest bang for their buck, especially at a time when budgets are tight, and we've got to do a lot more with less."

In 2012:  "No business or nonprofit leader would allow this kind of duplication or unnecessary complexity in their operations. You wouldn't do it when you're thinking about your businesses. So why is it okay for our Government? It's not. It has to change."

In 2011:  "So we've received nearly 20,000 suggestions from Federal employees. I just completed a videoconference with the 4 finalists of our annual SAVE Award, 20,000 submissions of ideas from Federal employees about how we can reduce waste, eliminate duplication, redundancy, paperwork."

In 2010: "We have gone through every department's spending, line by line, item by item, looking for inefficiency, duplication, and programs that have outlived their usefulness."

In 2009: "And that means investing in priorities like energy and health care and education that will grow our economy again. But it also means eliminating those programs that are wasteful and duplicative and that we simply cannot afford. We have to once again live within our means."



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Stand Up Republic Ad




Josh Rogin reports at The Washington Post:
Stand Up Republic, a nonprofit organization led by former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin and his running mate, Mindy Finn, is launching a public campaign aimed at building support among Republicans for consolidating the various congressional Russia-related investigations into one empowered and fully funded select committee. The organization’s ad, which goes live Tuesday with a six-figure television ad buy, makes the case that the Russia issue is too important not to investigate fully.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Portside Organizing

Joe Garofoli reports at the SF Chronicle:
Susan Campodonico hadn’t been out on the street protesting since the Vietnam War. But there she was, standing in front of the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland on a Tuesday afternoon, holding a neon green sign that read: “Honk for single payer NOW!”

She credits her presence to “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.” Modeled on the success of the conservative Tea Party, the 24-page step-by-step activist playbook has exploded since it went online three months ago. It’s been downloaded almost 2 million times since then by people who want to interrogate Republicans like Rep. Tom McClintock at a town hall in Mariposa or goad Democrats like Sen. Dianne Feinstein into attending one in Oakland.

What started out as some congressional staffers sharing organizing tips has mushroomed into an organization that has inspired small, autonomous groups across the nation. Not surprisingly, many of the 5,802 “Indivisible”-inspired groups have emerged in the predominantly liberal Bay Area — 200 across six congressional districts.
...
Indivisible is just one of the political startups working to channel that liberal anxiety in the current political landscape. Others, like Sister District Project, Flippable, Swing Left and the Resurgent Left, are focused on showing progressives how to campaign in red Congressional districts or state races where their help and cash will be needed.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Getting BTU'd on Trumpcare

David Nather reports at Axios:
Sen. Tom Cotton warned House Republicans on Sunday that the House Republican Obamacare replacement bill can't pass the Senate as written — and that they could lose the House in next year's elections if they vote for it. "I'm afraid that if they vote for this bill, they're going to put the House majority at risk next year," Cotton said on ABC's "This Week." He warned that it would have "adverse consequences for millions of Americans" and wouldn't lower costs: "Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote."
From the transcript:
"George, you were in White House in 1993. You remember when House Democrats voted for a BTU energy tax, not only did that not become law, it didn't even get a vote in the Senate. And those Democrats lost their next election because they voted on that tax, getting BTU'd." 
In 2011, Steve Benen recalled at The Washington Monthly:
In 1993, President Bill Clinton pressed congressional Democrats to vote for proposal to tax the heat content of fuels — the so-called “BTU tax.” Rank-and-file House Dems didn’t like it, but many of them grudging went along, following Clinton’s lead. A few months later, budget talks stalled in the Senate, and the White House felt it had no choice but to drop the BTU measure.
A year later, vulnerable House Dems were slammed with attack ads for having voted for the measure — and having nothing to show for it — and the issue likely contributed to Democrats losing their majority in 1994.
But only about 11 percent of current House members were around at the time.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

College America and Non-College America

At the NYT, Thomas Edsall writes:
In fact, Trump’s impact on voting patterns was not to increase the share of the white vote won by the Republican presidential candidate. Both Trump and Mitt Romney carried whites by the same 20-point margin.
The big shift Trump wrought was to change the type of whites who voted Republican.
From 1948, when American National Election Studies began polling, to 1964, college-educated voters were decisively Republican and those with high school degrees or less were reliably Democratic. In 1960, for example, voters with high school degrees or less voted 54-46 for John F. Kennedy while those with college and postgraduate degrees voted 62-38 for Richard Nixon.
Beginning in 1968, when Southern whites and some working class whites in the North began to abandon the Democratic Party, Republican candidates made major inroads among non-college voters. Nixon won voters with high school degrees with 52 and 67 percent in 1968 and 1972; Ronald Reagan won them with 55 and 58 percent in 1980 and 1984.
As a result, from 1980 to 1992, whites with and without college degrees generally cast similar margins for Republican presidential candidates. The pattern of white college and non-college voting is shown in the accompanying chart, which relies on data from the Pew Research Center.Starting in the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, non-college whites became substantially more Republican in their presidential voting than whites with degrees. By 2012, Mitt Romney won whites with degrees by 14 points and those without degrees by 25 points.
In 2016, however, Trump won college-educated whites by four points and non-college whites by a record-setting 39 points, a larger margin than Ronald Reagan, the previous record-holder at 29 points.
Put another way, insofar as Trump voters define the contemporary Republican electorate, non-college whites are the majority, 55.1 percent, with college -educated whites becoming the minority at 44.9 percent.
The Republican Party, then, has moved closer toward the goal Kevin Phillips outlined 47 years ago:
I wish we could drop into the Potomac all those obsolescent conservatives who are still preoccupied with Alger Hiss and General MacArthur, and who keep trotting out laissez faire economics and other dead horses. They make the Republican party look musty to millions of ignored working‐class people who are looking for a party that relates to their needs.
Trump has oriented the party toward heightened anger, intensified racial resentment, animosity to immigrants and opposition to trade.
This is an exceptionally volatile mix. Trump is fanning rather than quelling the flames — everything he has done so far has been to raise, not lower, the heat. The next question is whether the Republican Party will be able to continue to exploit this mix or whether it will boil over in ways that cannot be predicted.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Newt: Anti-Intellectual or Professorial?

CNN interview, February 20, 1995:
BOB FRANKEN: Oftentimes people say that your political speeches are really Professor Newt lecturing to a larger audience.

Rep. NEWT GINGRICH: They are. They are. Very deliberately so. I am the most seriously professorial politician since Woodrow Wilson. I believe the purpose of my speeches is didactic. They're supposed to be educational.

BOB FRANKEN: So you're educating your peers, your political peers?

Rep. NEWT GINGRICH: The citizenry.

Marc Fisher quotes Gingrich at The Washington Post:
“I’m pretty happy being anti-intellectual,” he said. “We have a lot of academics and intellectuals in this country who are just wrong.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Everybody Hates Trumpcare

Rep. Jim Cooper has a list of organizations opposing Trumpcare.  Add the American Nurses Association, too.
  • AARP: This bill would weaken Medicare’s fiscal sustainability, dramatically increase health care costs for Americans aged 50-64, and put at risk the health care of millions of children and adults with disabilities, and poor seniors who depend on the Medicaid program for long-term services and supports and other benefits. 
  • American Medical Association: …we cannot support the AHCA as drafted because of the expected decline in health insurance coverage and the potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations. As you consider this legislation over the coming days and weeks, we hope that you will keep upmost in your mind the potentially life altering impact your decisions will have on millions of Americans who may see their public, individual or even employer-provided health care coverage changed or eliminated. 
  • American Hospital Association: Any ability to evaluate The American Health Care Act, however, is severely hampered by the lack of coverage estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Lacking that level of analysis and needed transparency, we urge that Congress should wait until an estimate is available before proceeding with formal consideration.
  • Federation of American Hospitals: Based on our review of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as currently drafted, and in the absence of a Congressional Budget Office analysis and estimate of the cost and coverage impacts that might allay our concerns, we have significant issues with this legislation.
  • American Diabetes Association: On behalf of the nearly 30 million Americans living with diabetes and the 86 million more with prediabetes, the American Diabetes Association (Association) is writing to express our serious concerns with the American Health Care Act…we have serious reservations about many of the proposals in this bill. Our initial areas of concern include the tax credit proposal, proposed changes to Medicaid, potential disruption of coverage and repealing the prevention and public health fund.
  • American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network:…reduced federal funding combined with state-specific eligibility and enrollment restrictions will likely result in fewer cancer patients accessing needed health care. For low-income individuals these changes could be the difference between an early diagnosis when outcomes are better and costs are less or a late diagnosis where costs are higher and survival less likely.
  • American Health Care Association (AHCA)/National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL): The residents in long term care centers are uniquely vulnerable. More than one million individuals call nursing centers their home and most rely on Medicaid for their care. This bill will cut Medicaid funding for seniors and individuals with disabilities, jeopardizing access to the care they need. We strongly encourage Congress to protect Medicaid access for seniors and people with disabilities in the Obamacare repeal and replace effort.
  • America’s Essential Hospitals: We are particularly disappointed lawmakers seem willing to consider this bill in committee without a Congressional Budget Office score and an estimate of how the bill might impact healthcare coverage. A score is crucial, as this legislation could place a heavy burden on the safety net by reducing federal support for Medicaid expansion over time and imposing per-capita caps on the program.
  • America’s Hospitals and Health Systems: We are very concerned that the draft legislative proposal being considered by the House committees could lead to tremendous instability for those seeking affordable coverage. Furthermore, we are deeply concerned that the proposed Medicaid program restructuring will result in both the loss of coverage for current enrollees as well as cuts to a program that provides health care services for our most vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly and disabled.
  • American Public Health Association: This proposal would jeopardize the health and lives of many millions of Americans…American lives are on the line…It is particularly troubling that legislators plan to consider this proposal without a score from the Congressional Budget Office. We urge House members to oppose this plan and instead strengthen our nation’s commitment to improving the health and safety of all Americans.
  • National Disability Rights Network: The legislation revealed by House Republicans last night is a giant step backwards in the treatment and care of individuals with disabilities…It permits discrimination against people with disabilities in the insurance market for their pre-existing conditions…The National Disability Rights Network urges the House not to send people with disabilities back to a time when it was nearly impossible for us to obtain health insurance, live in the home of our choice or participate in community life. We will never go back to those days. Never.
  • Consortium For Citizens with Disabilities: While many of the policy points are troubling, it is simply unconscionable to use the Medicaid program to pay for the repeal of the ACA, the repeal of corporate and provider taxes, and to provide new tax benefits for individuals. Medicaid provides services and supports that maintain the health, function, independence, and well-being of 10 million enrollees living with disabilities.
  • Easterseals: Easterseals is greatly concerned that AHCA removes the federal funding guarantee that currently exists in Medicaid. People with disabilities rely on Medicaid-funded services such as attendant care, adult day and home health services to remain in their homes and communities and live productive lives.
  • National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA): When people do not have access to the family planning care and education they need, they are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted disease and at a greater risk of unintended pregnancy and poor birth outcomes, all of which have high personal costs and translate into increased expense across the entire health care system. Lawmakers should block this dangerous measure and return to thoughtful, bipartisan deliberation on improving access to affordable, high-quality health care in this country. There is too much at stake.
  • National Partnership Women and Families: The Republican repeal bill is an affront to women and families. It reflects its authors’ determination to deny women access to quality, affordable health care, including the comprehensive reproductive health care and abortion services that are essential to their health, equality and economic security… This bill takes us back to the days when there were few benefit standards or consumer protections in place – to a time when insurers were the ones who decided what and who they would cover, what doctors we could see, and where we could get care.
  • National Physicians Alliance: The National Physicians Alliance opposes the draft Republican House bill revealed last night. We believe the drastic cuts it proposes to Medicaid, coupled with the substantial reductions in subsidies that helped millions afford healthcare would be extremely detrimental to our patients… All the while, the proposed legislation hands millionaires, billionaires and health insurance CEOs a massive new tax break.
  • AFL-CIO: The reality is, this isn’t a healthcare plan at all. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from working people to Wall Street. For more than a century, the labor movement has fought to make health care a right for every American. The Republican plan contradicts this very idea by making care less affordable and accessible. It’s bad for healthcare, it’s bad for working families, it’s bad for our economy and we will fully oppose it.
  • American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees: The replacement plan put forward by congressional leadership is no replacement at all for the tens of millions of Americans who rely on the Affordable Care Act to keep their families healthy without fear of bankruptcy. It is simply a tax cut for corporations and the wealthy, funded by gutting Medicaid and shifting health care costs onto states and working families.
  • National Council of La Raza (NCLR): This bill is a threat to America’s well-being and represents a step back to the days when health insurance was financially out of reach for too many working Americans. Our nation’s future depends on healthy and hard-working families. The changes to Medicaid will devastate a program that is a lifeline for 74 million vulnerable Americans, including children, people with disabilities, and 18 million Latinos. This effort to radically change the financing structure of Medicaid will jeopardize their lives.
  • Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum: Many things are clear from the bill, yet many unknowns remain. What we know is that millions of Americans, including Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AAs and NHPIs) relying on coverage under the ACA will be worse off. Under the guise of flexibility, this plan would end Medicaid as we know it by phasing in per-capita caps.
  • National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare: The ACA is a highly complex piece of legislation that includes many benefit increases for seniors on Medicare, contains many program improvements that help to drive the cost of health care down and extends the solvency of the Part A trust fund. For these reasons, we strongly believe that any replacement legislation should do no less than the ACA for our senior population.
  • National Center for Transgender Equality: Under this bill, millions would lose coverage and millions more would pay more for their health care…President Trump and leaders in Congress don’t seem to understand that this is not a political exercise—they are playing with millions of Americans’ lives.
  • United Methodist Church: This bill has been promoted as a “fix” to the health care system in the United States but will do nothing to improve access and affordability. Instead, it will harm many in the congregations and communities in which we live and serve. People will die because of efforts like this to roll back health care.
  • The Episcopal Church: This current proposal falls woefully short of our spiritual calling to care for the ‘least of these,' as well as the noble values upon which our great nation was founded.
  • Catholic Health Association of the United States: We strongly encourage the full House to reject this ‘replacement’ bill and work to craft legislation that addresses the real issues without creating unneeded chaos in the system and coverage loss for those who need health care.
  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT): That Republicans are now trying to ram something through after keeping it under lock and key makes it clear that they want to hide the details and cost from the American people. If something sounds too good to be true, it is. They know that if their true intent were exposed, Americans would soundly reject their efforts.
  • National Education Association: It’s time for the Republican leadership to come clean with the American people. Repealing the ACA will harm our students and their families by forcing cuts to critical programs, reducing financial support for lower-income Americans, and taxing the middle class. Bottom line, working Americans will pay more for less coverage while insurance executives and the wealthy get handouts.
  • American Federation for Suicide Prevention: We must ensure the gains we have made in mental health and substance use disorder coverage remain in place so every American has a path to a more healthy and productive life.
  • National Women’s Law Center: The House Republican ACA repeal bill would be devastating for women. Rather than protecting access to care and coverage, this bill undermines the infrastructure of our nation’s health system, targets low-income individuals, and restructures the system in favor of wealthier individuals. All of this comes at the expense of women, who will be particularly harmed by the repeal bill.
  • Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: The bills released by the two House committees this week fail to adequately protect people living with cystic fibrosis and place the lives of millions of Americans living with serious and chronic diseases at risk.
  • HIV Medicine Association: These proposals will not only harm individuals with HIV but will compromise our nation’s public health by leaving fewer with access to the antiretroviral treatment that keeps patients healthy and reduces their risk of transmitting HIV to near zero. We strongly urge the committees to reconsider the bill and the accelerated and non-transparent process with which these proposals have been advanced.
  • Federal AIDS Policy Partnership: This is likely to result in a loss of coverage and services for individuals with HIV and millions of other low income individuals with chronic illnesses and diseases whose access to healthcare and lives depend on this vital program. Formal analysis and comment by the Congressional Budget Office, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment Access Commission and the Government Accountability Office is critical to evaluate how the 70 million Americans who rely on this program stand to be affected by the proposed changes.
  • Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: This proposal is truly disheartening. It doesn’t ensure that all Americans will continue to have health coverage, as its supporters claim. Rather, it drastically cuts financial assistance for low-income people living at or below the poverty line, undermines and places severe limitations on the Medicaid expansion, and proposes to defund Planned Parenthood centers from the Medicaid program.
  • MomsRising: The American Health Care Act makes a mockery of every campaign promise Donald Trump made about health care. It sets the stage for deep, punitive, permanent cuts to Medicaid in just a few years, which would cause grave harm resulting in rationing care for some of the most vulnerable people in our country: low-income families, pregnant women, people with disabilities and the elderly. The Republican plan would allow insurance companies to raise premiums and out-of-pocket costs, especially for seniors. The only winners would be the wealthy.
  • Children’s Defense Fund: The American Health Care Act would reverse progress and make children worse off by depriving them of the comprehensive and affordable child-appropriate coverage they are guaranteed today, jeopardizing their futures and also the nation’s future economic and national security.
  • Families USA: The GOP health care proposal would be laughable if its consequences weren’t so devastating. This bill would strip coverage from millions of people and drive up consumer costs. It shreds the Medicaid social safety net that serves more than 72 million people, including many children, senior citizens and people with disabilities. And it once again leaves millions of people in America with chronic illness and disease at the mercy of insurance companies. 
  • Consumers Union: The American Health Care Act would, as currently written, be a major step backwards for our nation’s children…marking up a bill that will impact millions of lives without a CBO score and without providing transparency and allowing for fair review is irresponsible and unfair to consumers.
  • Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK Advocates for Catholic Social Justice: Our test for any ACA replacement bill is simple: Does the bill protect access to quality, affordable, equitable healthcare for vulnerable communities? After reviewing the House GOP replacement bill, the answer is a resounding no. Instead of providing greater health security, the bill increases costs for older and sicker patients and drastically cuts the Medicaid program, all while providing huge tax cuts to wealthy corporations and individuals. This is not the faithful way forward and must be rejected. 
  • Young Invincibles: House Republicans introduced a bill to repeal and replace the ACA, which would have devastating effects on millions of young adults, a group which has seen the greatest health care gains under the ACA: in the past six years, Millennial uninsurance rates have dropped from 29 percent to 16 percent.
  • Planned Parenthood: One in five women in America has relied on Planned Parenthood, and their health care shouldn't get caught up in congressional Republicans' extreme agenda. This proposal would deny millions of women access to cancer screenings, birth control, and STD testing and treatment.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Medicaid Demographics

To put it bluntly, many Republican politicians think of Medicaid as a program for poor African Americans and Latinos.  Nationwide, however, non-Hispanic whites make up the largest group of program beneficiaries.  According to KFF, the distribution of non-elderly recipients is as follows:

White.............................42%
African American.............19%
Hispanic.........................31%
Other..............................08%

In key electoral states, whites make up an even larger share of Medicaid recipients:
  • Ohio 65%
  • Michigan 60%
  • Wisconsin 60%
  • Pennsylvania 49%


Landslide Counties in 2016

David Wasserman writes at FiveThirtyEight:
President Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton was among the narrowest in history, and the country is deeply split on his job performance so far. But if you feel like you hardly know anyone who disagrees with you about Trump, you’re not alone: Chances are the election was a landslide in your backyard.
More than 61 percent of voters cast ballots in counties that gave either Clinton or Trump at least 60 percent of the major-party vote last November. That’s up from 50 percent of voters who lived in such counties in 2012 and 39 percent in 1992 — an accelerating trend that confirms that America’s political fabric, geographically, is tearing apart.
Of the nation’s 3,113 counties (or county equivalents), just 303 were decided by single-digit margins — less than 10 percent. In contrast, 1,096 counties fit that description in 1992, even though that election featured a wider national spread.1 During the same period, the number of extreme landslide counties — those decided by margins exceeding 50 percentage points — exploded from 93 to 1,196, or over a third of the nation’s counties.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Report This Team to the Academic Standards Committee

Previous posts have noted the Trump team's misstatements, misspellings, and punctuation mistakes.


During the summer, speechwriters for Melania Trump plagiarized a speech by Michelle Obama.

Monica Crowley had to withdraw from an NSC job because she had plagiarized portions of her dissertation.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Alienation, Religion, and the White Working Class

Emma Green writes at The Atlantic:
Back in October, PRRI and The Atlantic conducted a study of white, working-class voters—the Americans, it turned out, who were so important to Trump’s victory in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan. Unlike other pollsters, they defined “working class” as people without a college degree who are also paid by the hour or the job, meaning white-collar workers were excluded.
Compared to their white, college-educated peers, these working-class Americans were more likely not to attend religious services. Of the people in their late 30s and 40s, half said they seldom or never go, compared to less than a third of college-educated people in that age group. In general, white people under 35 are unlikely to be big church-goers:
Nearly half of both the working class and the college-educated said they rarely or never attend services. But young, highly educated white people still claim to be religious: Only 31 percent of this group said they’re not affiliated with any particular faith, while 43 percent of young, white working-class people said the same.

This matters for politics. “They’re going to be missing one of the major pipelines toward voting and civic participation,” said Robby Jones, the CEO of PRRI, in an interview. “Churches have served, for most of the nation’s life, as pipelines to all kinds of civic engagement—and not just because they hand out voter-registration cards or have them in the lobby. We actually see a link between all kinds of civic activity and church activity.”
This pattern shows up in PRRI’s research. White working-class Americans of all ages were much less likely than their college-educated peers to participate in sports teams, book clubs, or neighborhood associations—55 percent vs. 31 percent said they seldom or never participated in those kinds of activities. Especially for young white voters, “there’s a real question whether … there will be a lower civic participation rate over that cohort’s entire lifespan,” Jones said, including everything from voting in elections to being involved in community groups.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Banquo on Trump

Were such things here as we do speak about?
Or have we eaten on the insane root
That takes the reason prisoner?

Comey Calls BS on Trump

Michael E. Schmidt and Michael D. Shear:
The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones, senior American officials said on Sunday. Mr. Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected, they said, but the department has not released any such statement.
Mr. Comey, who made the request on Saturday after Mr. Trump leveled his allegation on Twitter, has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law, the officials said.
A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment. Sarah Isgur Flores, the spokeswoman for the Justice Department, also declined to comment.
Mr. Comey’s request is a remarkable rebuke of a sitting president, putting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the position of questioning Mr. Trump’s truthfulness. The confrontation between the two is the most serious consequence of Mr. Trump’s weekend Twitter outburst, and it underscores the dangers of what the president and his aides have unleashed by accusing the former president of a conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump’s young administration.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The English Patient, Continued

President Trump has spoken frequently about his undergraduate success at Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania's top-notch business school.

But while claims of Trump's academic prowess at the Ivy League school have been around for decades, questions about how strong his record actually was continue to swirl.
The 1968 Wharton graduate's name does not appear in a report of dean's list students from that year or among students who graduated with honors, according to records from the university and its student newspaper.

Claims that Trump was a top student at Wharton appear to have first surfaced in 1973, when a New York Times profile reported that he graduated first in his class. No attribution was given for that statement. Another early Times profile, in 1976, also said he was first in his class, and the assertion has been repeated many times in the decades since.
Ever since the early days of the campaign, Trump has made many mistakes in grammar, spelling, diction, and punctuation.

The first time the one word was spelled as two: "hear by."
 


Friday, March 3, 2017

Ryan on Transparency

This new Washington Way isn't open debate broadcast on C-SPAN; it's closed-door, backroom deals. The Washington Way doesn't seek input from both sides of the issue; it muscles through bills on strict one-party votes. And the Washington Way isn't interested in honest up-or-down votes on transformational programs. It rigs the process to produce the outcome it desires through any means necessary. The ends justify the means. Bend the Constitution to keep up with the change.
...
The initial goal was to pass the bill before the August recess. But when that deadline wasn't met, tens of thousands of Americans got the opportunity to express their opposition to the bill when members went back to their districts for town hall meetings. Suddenly, news reports and YouTube were full of videos of angry citizens confronting often dazed the defensive members of Congress.  Immediately after that, the president and a small number of advisers and Democratic leaders retreated behind closed doors to write their health-care bill.  They didn't like what they were hearing from Americans, so they told us, in no uncertain terms to shut up and sit down. 
Robert Pear reports at The New York Times:
It was “find the Affordable Care Act replacement” day on Thursday as publicity-seeking Democrats — and one frustrated Republican — scampered through Capitol corridors, hunting for an elusive copy of a bill that Republican leaders have withheld from the public as they search for party unity.

Just a week before two powerful House committees plan to vote on the measure, opponents spent hours making the point that almost no one has actually seen legislation that would affect the lives and pocketbooks of millions of Americans.

“The Republicans have played hide-and-seek with us,” said Representative Lloyd Doggett, Democrat of Texas.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said party leaders were determined to plow ahead with repeal legislation, despite lingering disagreements among Republicans and outright opposition from Democrats.

Trumpism v. Conservatism

David Brooks on Trump's speech to Congress:
The first thing we learned was that Trumpism is an utter repudiation of modern conservatism. For the last 40 years, the Republican Party has been a coalition of three tendencies. On Tuesday, Trump rejected or ignored all of them.
There used to be Republican foreign policy hawks, people who believed that it was in America’s interest to serve as a global policeman, actively preserving a democratic world order. Trump explicitly repudiated this worldview, drawing instead a sharp distinction between what’s good for America and what’s good for the rest of the world.
There used to be social conservatives, who believed that the moral fabric of the country had been weakened by secularism and the breakdown of the family. On Tuesday, Trump acted as if this group didn’t exist. He didn’t mention a single social issue — abortion, religious liberty, marriage, anything.
 Finally, there used to be fiscal hawks who worried about the national debt. Trump demolished these people, too, vowing a long list of spending programs and preservation of entitlement programs.
...Trump’s speech on Tuesday offered those of us who want to replace him an occasion to ask the big question: How in the 21st century should government unleash initiative and dynamism while also preserving order? Trump’s answer: Nationalize intimidation but privatize compassion. Don’t look to government to offer a warm hand; look to it to confront your enemies with a hard fist.
Michael Gerson:
The Trump budget — which still exists only in its barest outlines — would increase defense spending by more than $50 billion, cut discretionary spending by a similar amount and leave entitlement programs alone. All of these elements represent the fulfillment of campaign pledges. But, taken together, they seem like the liberal caricature of a Republican budget: Cut poverty-fighting programs and international aid in order to fund more ships and tanks, but leave programs for the elderly (who disproportionately vote Republican) untouched.
...
The Trump budget outline is underdeveloped, compared with those of other presidencies; it leaves the trajectory of deficits unchanged; it imposes cruel and indiscriminate cuts in discretionary spending; it is cowardly, especially on the main drivers of future debt; it is injurious to elected Republicans who will risk the wrath of the Trump base in order to make rational budget choices; it is an indication of governing unseriousness and a preference for positioning over leadership.
But the speech was nice.
Mona Charen:
More than fiscal responsibility, conservatism is founded upon modesty about what government can achieve. As the Republicans rose to cheer “Every problem can be solved,” we saw that insight go out the window.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Russia Update

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday he will recuse himself from any investigations related to the 2016 presidential campaign, which would include any Russian interference.
Speaking at a hastily-called press conference at the Justice Department, Sessions said he had met with department ethics officials soon after being sworn in last month to evaluate the rules and cases in which he might have a conflict.
“They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation,” Sessions said. He added that he concurred with their assessment, and would thus recuse himself from any existing or future investigation involving Trump’s campaign.
The announcement comes a day after The Washington Post revealed that Sessions twice met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and did not disclose that fact to Congress during his confirmation hearing.
In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.
American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence.
Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates.

HINT, HINT, HINT!
As Inauguration Day approached, Obama White House officials grew convinced that the intelligence was damning and that they needed to ensure that as many people as possible inside government could see it, even if people without security clearances could not. Some officials began asking specific questions at intelligence briefings, knowing the answers would be archived and could be easily unearthed by investigators — including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which in early January announced an inquiry into Russian efforts to influence the election.
The New York Times also reports:
Michael T. Flynn, then Donald J. Trump’s incoming national security adviser, had a previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador in December to “establish a line of communication” between the new administration and the Russian government, the White House said on Thursday.
Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and now a senior adviser, also participated in the meeting at Trump Tower with Mr. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. But among Mr. Trump’s inner circle, it is Mr. Flynn who appears to have been the main interlocutor with the Russian envoy — the two were in contact during the campaign and the transition, Mr. Kislyak and current and former American officials have said.
But the extent and frequency of their contacts remains unclear, and the disclosure of the meeting at Trump Tower adds to the emerging picture of how the relationship between Mr. Trump’s incoming team and Moscow was evolving to include some of the president-elect’s most trusted advisers.
The White House has repeatedly sought to play down any connections with Mr. Kislyak. Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged this week that he had met twice with him during the campaign, despite previous denials.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

"Free Trade ... Has to Be Fair Trade"

I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be fair trade. It's been a long time since we had fair trade. The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the "abandonment of the protective policy by the American government… will produce want and ruin among our people." Lincoln was right -- and it's time we heeded his advice and his words. (Applause.) I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers be taken advantage of us any longer. They have taken advantage of our country. No longer. (Applause.)
The Lincoln line is from an 1847 tariff discussion. 

Ronald Reagan had a different view of protectionism:
You see, at first, when someone says, "Let's impose tariffs on foreign imports," it looks like they're doing the patriotic thing by protecting American products and jobs. And sometimes for a short while it works-but only for a short time. What eventually occurs is: First, homegrown industries start relying on government protection in the form of high tariffs. They stop competing and stop making the innovative management and technological changes they need to succeed in world markets. And then, while all this is going on, something even worse occurs. High tariffs inevitably lead to retaliation by foreign countries and the triggering of fierce trade wars. The result is more and more tariffs, higher and higher trade barriers, and less and less competition. So, soon, because of the prices made artificially high by tariffs that subsidize inefficiency and poor management, people stop buying. Then the worst happens: Markets shrink and collapse; businesses and industries shut down; and millions of people lose their jobs.