I didn’t get why everybody was so mad in “Network,” either.
Just to examine the other side of the coin…
My last post quoted a Trump supporter on the subject of his detractors, saying “I just don’t get it.”
Well, far be it from me to let on to be wiser than others when I’m not. (As a Twain protagonist said, “I was born modest; not all over, but in spots.”)
The thing is, I don’t get Trump supporters. Oh, I can cite this or that overt reason that they give for holding the views they do. But I don’t have a good grip on what an editor I used to work with called “the emotional center.” And normally, I would.
After past elections, I’ve pretty much understood what happened, on most levels. Not this time. I read about people having (some of) the same reservations about Trump that I did, and voting for him anyway. And with some of those folks, I understand the underlying emotion — they really, really hated Hillary Clinton. I consider it rather intemperate and unwise to hate anybody that much, but I don’t doubt the force of that impulse.
But there’s something bigger than that going on, something at the root of the nihilism I kept writing about during the election (much to the irritation of some of you). Something that caused people to feel they wanted to blow it all up, regardless of the consequences. Something that made them want to give a grossly unqualified, deeply unfit man the most powerful job on the planet. Something they were just fed up about.
At this point, Doug is jumping up and down, saying, “I knew it! I kept saying you didn’t get it!” But I do get that the impulse was out there. What I don’t get — not being a cynic like Doug — is the rational basis for it.
I hear about “economic dislocation.” But that seems inadequate. I’m a white male who is as economically dislocated (the position I worked my whole life for, and performed very well, has ceased to exist) as anyone, and I strongly suspect that a lot of Trump voters, quite likely most of them, have higher current incomes than I have.
I see the anger is there, and I see it as key to what has happened (it certainly didn’t happen for calm, rational reasons). But I can’t connect to it.
And the feeling is familiar. I felt the same way back in the 1970s, when I saw “Network.”
To this day, I have no idea what Peter Finch’s character was on about when he kept babbling, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” (In the larger sense, I mean — the immediate cause was that he was getting fired.)
Mad as hell about what?, I kept wondering. It made no sense, yet in the film, he turned out to be perfectly in sync with America. The viewers loved it. And that’s the tough part, see. I understood that Howard Beale was unhinged. But why did it strike such a chord?
I thought people running to their windows and shouting about how mad they were about some nonspecific “this” was absurd. I still think that.
I’ve heard all sorts of explanations as to what the Trump voters were mad about beyond the economic stress thing. And I fully believe in some of them — such as the feeling of being ignored and mocked and insulted by coastal elites. That I can dig; it’s based in something real. I can also understand frustration with the mess the parties have made of our politics — but electing Trump always seemed to me the surest way to make things worse, not better. And even if you take every ostensible cause and double it, and add them all together, and throw in Doug’s powerful disgust at government in general, it just does not add up to a justification for what just happened, and keeps happening every day.
It just doesn’t.
And yeah, it may seem stupid for me to try to explain a visceral phenomenon in rational terms, but I do try. I just don’t arrive…
There’s just this enormous cognitive gulf, and we’ve apparently made little progress in bridging it.
Most of us who would never, ever have dreamed of even joking about voting for Donald Trump see his daily insanities, and think, All those people who voted for him have to be regretting it all now.
But the truly shocking thing is, apparently they’re not. Apparently, these folks and their philosophical forebears had been waiting for a president just like this for the last 228 years. Ever since the election of 1788, we’ve seen a progression of presidents who were serious, well-informed individuals who approached the duties of the office with respectful decorum and dignity and hewed mainly to more or less intelligent policies that served the national interest. And most of us thought that was a good thing, and disapproved of those who in one way or another strayed from the norm, such as James Buchanan and Andrew Jackson.
But apparently, these folks didn’t want qualifications or gravitas or depth of understanding or honesty or any of those other qualities in a president at all. They wanted — a Reality TV star.
(Remember that exchange in “Ghostbusters” when Sigourney Weaver says “You know, you don’t act like a scientist,” then Bill Murray, taking it as a compliment, says, “They’re usually pretty stiff,” and Sigourney slam-dunks that by saying, “You’re more like a game show host?” Well, this is kind of like that, only without Murray’s goofball appeal as a protagonist.)
So they’re happy with what they got — if The Post has it right, but remember, the media are the Enemies of the People — and they can’t imagine why the rest of us would be so critical of their guy. They assume that it’s about being sore losers or big babies, or having nasty ulterior motives or something. As one supporter puts it:
“There’s such hatred for the man,” she said. “I just don’t get it.”
And that’s a huge problem, the not getting it. If none of the chaos we’ve seen out of the White House since Jan. 20 has clued these folks in yet, if this in fact is what they want, then there’s little hope of Republicans in Congress seeing the kind of movement in polls that would embolden them to initiate proceedings to get rid of this guy. (And yeah, some of y’all will say I’m getting ahead of myself even thinking that way, but hey, I see a problem of this magnitude and I immediately start looking for the solution, whether everybody else is ready for it or not.)
It would be poignant, if it weren’t so awful for the country. As the Post says of these folks:
Many of President Trump’s most dedicated supporters — the sort who waited for hours in the Florida sun this weekend for his first post-inauguration campaign rally — say their lives changed on election night. Suddenly they felt like their views were actually respected and in the majority.
But less than one month into Trump’s term, many of his supporters say they once again feel under attack — perhaps even more so than before….
It’s almost enough to make me feel bad for them. But not quite, because, you know, they’re getting their way. And it looks like they will continue to do so for quite some time….
Well, I couldn’t read the Times piece because I’d exceeded my free reads for the month, and I have no intention of subscribing. But I was able to read this response from another recipient of the email — someone who you can see is obviously a Democrat (and someone I’m not going to name because I have no indication he meant it to be published):
An answer: do not normalize the Administration in any way whatsoever.
An answer: daily resistance.
An answer: reorganize the left-of-center ship—and well, frankly, be organized—and call failed leadership to account.
An answer: approach 2018 as if the everything is on the line (it is). It’s time to stop playing backyard croquet campaigns.
An answer: Democratic officials need to stop endorsing Republicans. (I can’t even believe I live in a state where that is necessary to type.)
I responded thusly:
I agree with [the gentleman] that Trump must not be normalized, and that he must be resisted daily — which I certainly do on my blog.
I disagree VEHEMENTLY with his apparent assumption that the answer is more partisanship… Especially his assertion that “Democratic officials need to stop endorsing Republicans…”
There is nothing MORE likely to normalize Trump than to treat this problem as just another inning in the absurd left-right, Democratic-v.-Republican game.
You really need to get out of that “left-of-center” rut and recognize that Trump is a phenomenon that has no place on the left-right spectrum. He is a unique problem, unlike anything this country has ever seen.
And conservatives — real conservatives — are just as capable of seeing that as liberals. If not more so — at least they can see this is not about the usual partisan games.
You need those people — and people like me who reject the whole left-right thing altogether (and are fed up with it) — on your side in the matter of Trump.
This isn’t about winning the next inning of the perpetual game in 2018.
This guy has to go. And you know who has to reach that conclusion? Republicans in Congress.
Yep, we’re a long way from that happening right now. Republican members are tiptoeing around as though in a minefield.
But you and I and everyone who understands what a threat to the nation Trump truly is should do anything and everything we can to give them room to reach the right conclusion.
And every time a Democrat tries to make it about party, that makes Republicans more likely to close ranks. In other words, it normalizes the situation.
You know where you could start to make the situation better? By supporting and encouraging Republicans who have the guts to stand up to Trump. Sure, it’s just Graham and McCain so far, and writers such as Bill Kristol and Bret Stephens. But the more of this bad craziness that Stephens wrote about today that we see, the more likely others are to wake up.
… IF the rest of us don’t chase them back into their partisan comfort zones. Which I see too many Democrats are eager to do.
MORE of the partisan nonsense that has turned off people across the political spectrum, from Sanders’ supporters to Trump’s, is most assuredly NOT the answer to this national crisis.
It’s time to rise above, and help all Americans, not just those of your own ideological ilk, to see what’s at stake…
I wrote all that in response to an email thread on Jan. 31. Since then, I’ve seen more and more instances in which Democrats act like this is business as usual. For instance, there is talk of pulling out all the stops to try to block Neil Gorsuch from the Supreme Court. Which is insane. It shows that these Democrats completely fail to understand what is going on — or, they don’t care.
Gorsuch is a highly qualified nominee and representative of the kind of judge that a mainstream Republican would nominate. If Democrats waste what tiny amounts of political capital they have left (were it gunpowder, they’d hardly have enough for a firecracker) on this, then they’re saying Trump doesn’t pose any sort of extraordinary problem for the nation — because they’d do the same with any Republican president.
It’s hard to think of a better way for Democrats to normalize Trump than to fight Gorsuch with all their might.
Bottom line, it just looks increasingly unlikely that the Democratic Party is going to play any kind of constructive role in helping the country out of this mess. Which leaves it up to the rest of us.
Editor’s note: I wrote most of this early in the week, and never quite finished or posted it. So it may seem a bit dated, but here you go:
I saw the second Sean Spicer skit on SNL over the weekend, and it was funny. But I found myself wondering, OK, I get why they did this gag once. Spicer was way over the top in that first performance on Saturday, Jan. 21. It was a bizarre situation, with Trump sending him out with specific orders to go on the attack with a bunch of silly, obvious lies. But is he still like that? Hasn’t he calmed down?
In other words, is this not overkill? Is the joke still relevant?
Well, how would I know? I work. How would I know what the daily press briefings are like? I’m not one of these people who does nothing but watch cable TV all day (or ever, these days).
… Q Earlier this week. You say the — this is in context of Nordstrom and not about what she was counseled about, but about something she said to CNN earlier this week, is that the President doesn’t comment on everything. And so I want to contrast the President’s repeated statements about Nordstrom with the lack of comments about some other things, including, for example, the attack on a Quebec mosque and other similar environments. Why is the President — when he chooses to —
MR. SPICER: Do you — hold on — because you just brought that up. I literally stand at this podium and opened a briefing a couple days ago about the President expressing his condolences. I literally opened the briefing about it. So for you to sit there and say —
Q I was here.
MR. SPICER: I know. So why are you asking why he didn’t do it when I literally stood here and did it?
Q The President’s statement —
MR. SPICER: I don’t understand what you’re asking.
Q Kellyanne’s comments were about that the President doesn’t have time to tweet about everything.
MR. SPICER: Right.
Q He’s tweeting about this.
MR. SPICER: Right.
Q He’s not tweeting about something else.
MR. SPICER: I came out here and actually spoke about it and said the President spoke —
Q I’m talking about the President’s time.
MR. SPICER: What are you — you’re equating me addressing the nation here and a tweet? I don’t — that’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.
Q I’m talking about an attack on Nordstrom on —
MR. SPICER: Okay, I’m done. This is silly. Okay, next.
Q — and an attack on people, and you’re equating —
MR. SPICER: Thank you. You’ve asked your question. Thank you.
Q Does that not diminish the language that you’re using?
MR. SPICER: Thank you. Go ahead [to another reporter]…
It’s not exciting; it’s not funny like throwing a big wad of half-chewed gum across the room, but the very unfunny alienation comes across. So is the fact that there is little communication going on.
The bits where he dismisses reporters with undisguised irritation (“Okay, I’m done. This is silly. Okay, next…”) are very uncomfortable to watch. Although maybe the weirdness of the interactions is not as noticeable unless you’ve been journalist. And of course, if you’re a Trump supporter, this undercurrent of hostility and alienation is just what you want to see. You don’t want to see a professional interaction. You want to see someone giving journalists a hard time.
But if you’re someone who cares about having functional politics, it’s distressing. Government can’t work this way. Trump may think he’s the Tweeter of the world, but bottom line, most people are going to get most of their information about this administration, directly or indirectly, from the people in that room. It helps everybody to have a smooth dialogue going.
And I invite Trumpistas and others who take a dim view of the press to note that the demeanor of the reporters asking questions does not match the stereotype of the howling mob — and is generally more respectful of Spicer than he is of them.
Television has created a misleading impression. A reporter spends a long, frustrating day trying to get a certain question answered. Maybe a lot of that day has has involved trying to get various people on a cell phone while standing in a mob of other frustrated media types. Then, suddenly, the person who can answer the question — possibly the only person on the planet who can answer it — gets out of a car in front of the reporters and walks in into a building, which means you have maybe three or four seconds to get your question answered, and you know that odds are against your even being heard. So yeah, you very urgently and insistently call out your question, desperately trying to be heard over the rest of the gaggle.
And those two seconds when you’re calling out the question, and your competitors are calling out theirs, is all that people who only get their news from television (which they shouldn’t) will see of you trying, against the odds, to do your job.
I’ve had thousands of interactions with newsmakers over the years, and can count on two hands the number of times things got unruly. (Of course, most of that time I was an editor, not a reporter.)
But all that aside — for all my interactions, I’ve only attended a White House press briefing once. But it was at a pretty tense time for the press secretary. It was in 1998. I had gone to Washington to talk to Strom Thurmond in person and try to get an impression of his mental state, since he was declining to meet with our board in that election year. (Yeah, newspapers had money to do stuff like that then.) And since a South Carolinian, Mike McCurry, was Clinton’s press secretary, I arranged to go by and interview him for a column. The interview was set for after the daily briefing.
On my way in from the airport, I had noted a bunch of TV news trucks outside a federal courthouse, and my cab driver — who was probably from one of those countries Trump would rather people not come from — simply explained in a heavy accent, “Monica Lewinsky.”
The scandal was at its height. And the White House press corps was in no mood for having their questions deflected. There were moments that would fulfill the stereotype of the howling mob, if one didn’t know what was at stake. At one point, the lady next to me jumped up, practically climbing over the seat in front of her, to roar, “Aw. COME ONNN, Mike!” Everyone else around me was doing something similar, but I remember her in particular.
For his part, McCurry smiled disarmingly — sort of a specialty of his — and braved his way through a session in which some of his answers were less than entirely satisfactory. Hence the yelling.
But before and after the yelling, there was a cordiality and a congeniality that stood in marked contrast to what seemed to run through that Spicer briefing on Feb. 9. At the start of the briefing there was a little ceremony for a member of McCurry’s staff who was leaving for a different job, and the reporters all applauded politely and congratulations were offered. There was real friendliness.
Republicans and other media detractors will say, “Of course it was congenial; it was a room full of liberals.”
But no — the atmosphere in that room (except during the outbreaks of yelling) was more typical of normal interactions between the media and their subjects regardless of party. Normally, there is a mutual recognition of each others’ humanity. A topic I’ve written about quite a few times.
You’ll note that even when the aggressive young woman next to me seemed like she wanted to put her hands around McCurry’s throat and throttle the truth out of him, she still called him “Mike.” Which is normal.
Whereas the interactions between Spicer and the press are not quite normal. And the weirdness seems mostly to be on his side. Of course, if I had his job, trying to sell the world on Trump’s version of events, y’all might find me acting pretty weird, too.
In the end, it’s not funny. And it’s not healthy, either…
I used to work for a publisher who had come up through the newsroom, and he used to say that if a company’s employees vote to unionize, that’s the CEO’s fault: He had failed to run the company so that employees didn’t feel the need for a union.
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Production workers at Boeing’s South Carolina plant voted Wednesday not to join the Machinists, maintaining southern reluctance toward unionization.
Vote totals weren’t immediately available. Under NLRB rules, workers must wait a year before another union vote.
In a statement, Machinists organizer Mike Evans said the union was disappointed with the vote but vowed to stay in close touch with Boeing workers to figure out next steps.
“Ultimately it will be the workers who dictate what happens next,” Evans said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to talk with hundreds of Boeing workers over the past few years. Nearly every one of them, whether they support the union or not, have improvements they want to see at Boeing. Frankly, they deserve better.”…
Since you have the union’s response, I’ll also give you this one from Lindsey Graham:
“Boeing’s South Carolina workforce is second to none. As South Carolinians, these employees make us proud each day with every 787 Dreamliner that rolls off the assembly line. They have earned every accolade that comes their way.
“I was pleased to hear the results of yesterday’s election. The employees’ decision will keep in place a business model that attracted Boeing to South Carolina in the first place. Their vote is a strong signal to other businesses that South Carolina is a great place to call home.
“Boeing is a valued community leader, an admirable employer, and a staple of the South Carolina business community. We are proud they decided to call South Carolina home years ago and I continue to look forward to a beneficial relationship for the employees, community, and company in the years to come.”
As for what I think, well, I’m not a big union guy. I tend to think like Reid Ashe, my old publisher: It’s up to the employees, and I see no point in a union getting between employer and employed if they have a good, healthy relationship. (In other words, Bryan, if it’s a “happy ship.”)
Benjamin Netanyahu met with Trump at the White House.
Some quick takes:
Mideast Peace Doesn’t Require 2-State Deal, Trump Says— Remember in “Mr. Mom” when Michael Keaton tries to impress Martin Mull by boasting that he’s rewiring his house himself, and Mull asks whether he’s doing everything as 220, and Keaton looks blank before saying, “220, 221, whatever it takes…?” I thought of that when I read Trump’s quote: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state.”
Labor nominee withdraws amid rising GOP concern — Apparently the standard is, if really bad stuff is said about you on “Oprah,” you’re toast. It’s good to know there IS a standard. I think maybe she needs to bring back the show, and help America vet these nominees.
With her Nordic beauty — the icy blue eyes and the blonde pigtails — and of course her automatic weapon slung across her belly, she seemed the perfect female counterpart of Roland the Thompson Gunner, Norway’s bravest son. Except, you know, she has a head.
Yeah, I know “submachine” doesn’t work as a substitute for “Thompson” — it doesn’t scan right, or the metre’s wrong, or something. (I’ve long ago forgotten exactly what those terms mean, although I remember that “outfielder” is a dactyl. That’s not from school, though; it’s from Herman Wouk’s novelCity Boy.) In any case, too many syllables.
Go ahead, sneer at my poetry. I just thought I’d share. And I hope that Boris Roessler and the European Pressphoto Agency don’t mind my showing you their photo of the lovely, well-armed cop…
Last night, I gave platelets, and the morning after I often feel a tad out of it — not quite the thing, you know?
And then the alarm woke me when I was deep, deep into a stress dream — one of those where you’re trying to get a big, complicated (in fact, truly impossible in this case) thing done, and worrying over how to do it, and because you were awakened in the wrong part of the cycle, you have trouble shaking the worried feeling, like part of your brain still believes that you have to solve this problem…
OK, maybe you don’t do that, but I do.
When my wife got up, I told her a little about it, and she sort of chuckled at the sillier aspects, which helped put it in perspective a bit, but I still hadn’t shaken the feeling of needing to deal with it when I headed downtown to have breakfast, thinking coffee ought to sort me out…
Well into my second cup, something came to me. Moments later, I Tweeted this:
Having breakfast downtown, I recall that it’s Valentine’s Day. Called wife & told her where to find flowers I’d hidden in closet. Not great.
Once I settled in at the Red Cross and starting pumping the red red krovvy, I started watching something on Amazon and forgot all for the moment. But then, in my second hour, the wifi started acting up, so I switched to reading stuff in The Washington Post that I had missed earlier in the day.
And it seemed that everyone who had stopped to think made the obvious comparison.
Remember Hillary Clinton’s email server? Something I thought was really stupid and insecure, but — unlike what a lot of you out there thought — not quite a disqualifier for office, especially if the alternative was Donald J. Trump?
Well, a lot of very serious folk did think it was a disqualifier. Much umbrage was taken at this criminal carelessness. Congressional committees gathered to investigate, and so forth.
Well, what was that to taking a call about a North Korean missile launch at a table at the Mar-a-Lago club, and dealing with it then and there, discussing the matter and shuffling classified documents in full view of the club’s other guests, the Japanese premier, and the waiters and bus boys? Doing all so openly so that the other guests could give a full account of the proceedings to CNN?
Chaffetz thought Clinton’s use of a private email server threatened national security. But over the weekend, Trump proved more brazen: He plotted his response to North Korea’s latest missile test from the main dining area of his Mar-a-Lago Club. Club members posted photos on Facebook of Trump and Japan’s Shinzo Abe discussing the matter and poring over documents in proximity to waiters, club members and guests.
In this open-air situation room, Trump spoke by mobile phone and aides used their cellphone flashlights to illuminate papers — not the textbook way to handle sensitive information. One club member posted photos online of the nuclear “football” and its minder….
Oh, but wait, wait; this just in: Sean Spicer assures us that “no classified material was discussed publicly at the Mar-a-Lago resort over the weekend.”
Whew! That’s a relief. Because you know, he never gets anything wrong.
So, never mind. I’m sure everything’s fine. Aren’t you?
Meet the WWII computer programmer whose name will replace white supremacist’s at Yale — All those words, when the headline could have said “Grace Hopper” and “John C. Calhoun.” (And “white supremacist?” Seems kind of anachronistic for Calhoun. Like saying Attila the Hun had self-esteem issues.) We know who those people are, right? I may have told this story before, but: My Dad was sent to take a course taught by Adm. Hopper back in the 1950s. He kept thinking, I’m a naval officer. Why do I need to know about computers? How will they ever affect my life?
Court deals blow to Trump, maintains freeze on travel ban — This is old now, but I missed it when I posted the Open Thread early yesterday. And it’s yuge. Yay, Constitution! The most telling fact in the case is that the administration has NO evidence that anyone from any of those countries posts a threat to the U.S. As Charles Krauthammer notes, “Not a single American has ever been killed in a terror attack in this country by a citizen from the notorious seven.” If you want to know just how unhinged Trump is from reality, you might start there.
As Trump Backs Off on Taiwan, China Gains Upper Hand — In other words, he lost face in China by going all in-your-face, then backing down to the default One-China policy. That’s another thing about Trump. Even when he does the consensus, conventional thing, he manages to do it in a context where the U.S. loses. What worries me is that if this story’s right, he may never walk back a confrontational position again.
I’m trying to get through some backed-up email right now and go home and have dinner, so I’m not going to try to look into this at the moment (I mean, I Googled, and did not immediately find anything saying this was a hoax, but I only took a couple of seconds). I’m just going to share the email with you, and get back to my In box:
The Satanic Temple Hosts Valentine’s Day Fundraiser to Support Reproductive Rights Lawsuits
Please see the below press release, and let me know if you would like to schedule an interview or require more info. Thanks so much! – Molly
The Satanic Temple Celebrates Valentine’s Day with Fundraising Drive to Support Reproductive Rights Lawsuits Against State of Missouri “Hugs and Kisses for Satan” fundraiser drive seeking sponsors across the United States to engage in constructive and pro-social activities that benefit and build communities.
(National) February 9, 2017 – The Satanic Temple is seeking sponsors for its Valentine’s Day fundraising drive, “Hugs and Kisses for Satan,” which is aimed to support the Temple’s reproductive rights lawsuits against the state of Missouri’s mandatory abortion waiting periods and reading materials that claim life begins at conception. The Temple objects to these State requirements on religious grounds.
The Satanic Temple has filed both State and Federal lawsuits against the State of Missouri on behalf of Mary Doe, a pregnant woman seeking an abortion. Missouri law requires that all women seeking to lawfully terminate their pregnancy must be given reading material claiming that life begins at conception, and they must endure a 72-hour waiting period between their initial appointment and their actual abortion procedure. The Temple objects to these restrictions on religious grounds because they violate the Temple’s belief in the inviolability of one’s body.
Find sponsors who will contribute for every hug or kiss you receive on Valentine’s Day;
Fill-out each sponsor’s information on the Pledge Sheet;
On Valentine’s Day, solicit hugs and kisses using the XO Card and ask the people who hug or kiss you to write their initials on the Contact Sheet;
After Valentine’s Day, collect contributions from your sponsors based on the number of hugs and kisses you received. Contributions and Contact Sheet should be forwarded to The Satanic Temple by either PayPal or mail (as a check or money order) by Feb. 28.
The Satanic Temple, 64 Bridge Street, Salem, MA 01970
“Hugs and Kisses for Satan” is the first in a series of campaigns the Temple is promoting as a means by which people can engage in constructive and pro-social activities that benefit and build communities. Next year, the Temple hopes to launch a “My Blood Valentine” blood drive.
About The Satanic Temple
The mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will. Civic-minded, The Satanic Temple has been involved in a number of good works including taking a stand against the controversial and extremist Westboro Baptist Church. For more information about The Satanic Temple, please visit http://www.thesatanictemple.com.
Right now, there must be a bunch of evangelicals, and possibly some of my fellow Catholics, going, “I KNEW it!”
Do you suppose the folks putting this out lack a sense of irony, or just have way too much of it?
President Trump provides neither coherent nor conservative leadership on policy. He creates foreign policy fiascoes. He has not resolved his conflicts of interest and still arguably operates in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause. When, irate Democrats and some Republicans plead, will Congress do something about him?
Well, I’m not saying this is enough by a long shot, but it’s a start. This is from Lindsey Graham:
Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce Legislation establishing Congressional Oversight of Russia Sanctions Relief
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of Senators today introduced legislation, The Russia Sanctions Review Act of 2017, which provides for congressional oversight of any decision to provide sanctions relief to the Government of the Russian Federation.
“Russia has done nothing to be rewarded with sanctions relief,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina). “To provide relief at this time would send the wrong signal to Russia and our allies who face Russian oppression. Sanctions relief must be earned, not given.”
“If the U.S. were to provide sanctions relief to Russia without verifiable progress on the Minsk Agreements, we would lose all credibility in the eyes of our allies in Europe and around the world,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland). “Since the illegal annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2014, Congress has led efforts to impose sanctions on Russia. We have a responsibility to exercise stringent oversight over any policy move that could ease Russia sanctions.”
“The United States should not ease sanctions on Russia until Putin abandons his illegal annexation of Crimea, verifiably and permanently ends Russian aggression in Ukraine, and fully implements the Minsk accords,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida).
“The Ukrainian community in Ohio knows firsthand the dangers of unchecked Russian aggression,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “Lifting sanctions now would only reward Russia’s attempts to undermine democracy – from Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to our own U.S. election. This commonsense, bipartisan legislation will give Congress – and more importantly, the constituents we answer to – a say in critical national security debates.”
“Easing sanctions on Russia would send the wrong message as Vladimir Putin continues to oppress his citizens, murder his political opponents, invade his neighbors, threaten America’s allies, and attempt to undermine our elections,” said Senator John McCain (R-Arizona). “Congress must have oversight of any decision that would impact our ability to hold Russia accountable for its flagrant violation of international law and attack our institutions.”
“Vladimir Putin is a thug bent on tearing down democracy—and Russia’s meddling in U.S. institutions is a threat to our national security,” said Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri).“Any decision to roll over on sanctions needs to meet a high bar in Congress.”
Before sanctions relief can be granted, The Russia Sanctions Review Act requires the Administration to submit to Congress:
A description of the proposed sanctions relief for individuals engaged in significant malicious cyber-enabled activities, those contributing to the situation in Ukraine, and those engaged in certain transactions with respect to Crimea.
Certification that the Government of the Russian Federation has ceased—
Ø ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, supporting, or financing, significant acts intended to undermine the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, including through an agreement between the appropriate parties; and
Ø cyberattacks against the United States Government and United States persons.
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will have 120 days to act — or decline to take action — on any proposed sanctions relief. During this period, the President may not waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of sanctions with respect to the Russian Federation. After 120 days, if both the Senate and House have not voted in support of a Joint Resolution of Disapproval, sanctions relief will be granted.
A plan to raise S.C. gas taxes by roughly $60 a year was approved Tuesday by a panel of S.C. House members.
The bill will be considered by the full S.C. House budget-writing panel on Thursday.
The proposal is an effort to address the the $1 billion a year the Transportation Department has said it needs to repair and maintain the state’s existing road network….
And good for Speaker Jay Lucas and the other leaders who’ve gotten behind a bill to do the obvious: raise the gas tax to improve our roads.
I haven’t written about this courageous and rational move because I hadn’t fully made up my mind what to say about it. It’s basically a laudable, long-overdue proposal that is nevertheless seriously flawed.
The reasons why it’s laudable and long-overdue are obvious to all but those rendered blind by ideology:
This tax is our state’s mechanism for paying for roads.
We need road repairs, and don’t have enough money.
Our gas tax is one of the lowest in the country.
It hasn’t been raised since 1987.
So, you know, duh — raise it. Especially since we no longer have a governor who absurdly (and we’re talking Alice in Wonderland absurdity) threatened to veto a gas tax increase that wasn’t accompanied by a much larger decrease in other taxes, thereby more than erasing any benefit from raising the gas tax.
But here’s the rub: It’s not paired with reform of the state Department of Transportation. And it needs to be. That agency needs to be more accountable before we give it more money.
Unfortunately, after last year’s non-reform of the agency, the most recent in a long line of non-reforms our General Assembly has handed us, there’s little appetite or energy for trying again this year, knowing the same obstacles exist. As Cindi wrote today, “the reality is that if our best advocate, House Speaker Jay Lucas, isn’t pushing reform, we’re not going to get reform.”
So that’s that. (Oh, and if you decry the power Hugh Leatherman regained upon his re-election as president pro tem of the Senate, this is an issue where you have a point — he’s a big obstacle to reform.)
Bottom line, we need to raise the tax, and we need reform. I haven’t yet fully decided what I would do were I a lawmaker. But I do admire the courage of those who finally broke the ridiculous taboo in that committee vote today — while I hope against hope for some reform to get attached to it later in the process.
To begin with, it’s not a solution. Since $4 billion of that would go to roads, that kicks the problem down the road four years, no more. Which, conveniently, would be after the date that Henry McMaster hopes to be elected to stay as governor.
Given what we’ve seen from this Legislature over the last two decades and more, it is highly unlikely that it will be in the mood to raise the gas tax or any other tax four years from now. The fact that the House leadership is ready to do so now is something of a miracle — possibly resulting from giddiness over the departure of Nikki Haley — and unlikely to be duplicated.
Then there’s the fact that the federal government exists to fund and address national needs and priorities. There is no proposal currently on the table (that I know of) that would provide this level of funding nationally, so why should South Carolina — a state that with its super-low gas tax has refused even to try to pay for its own roads — be singled out for such largess? And no, “Because the president owes our governor big-time” is not an ethical answer. It probably makes sense in the deal-oriented private world Donald Trump has always inhabited, but to say the very least, it’s not good government.
My position on this is much the same as my reasoning against the state lottery way back when — public education is a basic function of the state, and if we want good schools, we should do what responsible grownups do: dig into our pockets and pay for them, not try to trick someone else into paying for them.
Similarly, if we want safe and reliable roads, we shouldn’t rely on some deus ex machina — or worse, cronyism — to deliver us from the responsibility of paying for them.
I see now that Henry is saying raising the gas tax should be the “last resort.” No, governor, trying to pay for our own needs ourselves should be our first resort. At least, it should come well before taking the begging cup to Washington. Besides, we’ve avoided doing this for 30 years now. How long do you go before it’s time for the “last resort?”