GOP health-care bill: House Republican leaders abruptly pull their rewrite of the nation’s health-care law
House Republican leaders abruptly pulled a rewrite of the nation’s health-care system from consideration on Friday, a dramatic acknowledgment that they are so far unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“We just pulled it,” President Trump told The Washington Post in a telephone interview.
In a news conference shortly after the decision, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) conceded that his party “came up short.”
The decision came a day after Trump delivered an ultimatum to lawmakers — and represented multiple failures for the new president and Ryan.
“I don’t blame Paul,” Trump said, referring to Ryan….
I especially liked this quote from Ryan: “Doing big things is hard.”
Yes, I realize this is likely to feel like déjà vu — this is about much the same point as this post yesterday.
But I was conversing via email with someone about that, and he shared this, so I’m going to share it with you.
Why return to the same topic? Because it’s an important one, making points that I think a lot of folks still haven’t absorbed.
Ever since Election Day — or maybe even since Trump captured the nomination — I’ve had this conversation over and over with some of you, and with others… Someone will say, “What are you so upset about? Why don’t you wait until Trump does something truly horrible, and react to that?” Which I answer with what seems to me excruciatingly obvious: He’s doing it already, every single day — with every crude lie he Tweets, with every embarrassing moment with a foreign leader, practically with every breath he takes. By being our president, he’s taking the greatest country on Earth and making it smaller, cruder, stupider, tackier — demeaning the treasure that our forebears bequeathed us.
It’s not something I can kick back and regard as normal. In fact, that would be inexcusable.
is probably too much to expect President Donald Trump to have read “Defining Deviancy Down,” the 1993 essay by the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Much noted at the time, and remarkably prescient, Moynihan’s essay warned that Americans were seeing a decay in social behavior (for example, the rise in gun violence), and were becoming inured to it. To accept such deviant behavior as normal—to “normalize” it, to use a word lately in fashion—was bound to render America a less civilized society, Moynihan wrote.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
He was, of course, correct: In the quarter century since, we have accustomed ourselves to the ongoing coarsening of our society, from small things like the vitriol of Americans writing on social media and in the comments sections of news articles, to big things like our increasingly ugly political debates.
Early on in the presidential primary season, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart cited Moynihan in declaring that candidate Trump’s embrace of “nativist, racist, misogynistic slop” was defining deviancy down in the presidential campaign—mainstreaming coarse rhetoric and prejudicial views. Today, with President Trump continuing to exhibit deeply unpresidential behavior in the White House, he isn’t just defining deviancy down for political campaigns; whether intentionally or not, he is defining the presidency itself down.
Moynihan would have turned 90 this month. Decades ago, I had the honor of serving as one of his top aides. He was in many ways Trump’s polar opposite—a self-made statesman, sociologist, political scientist and lifelong student of history, someone who had seemingly read every book in the Library of Congress. The man had a core set of principles. He insisted on factual accuracy, believed that “governing requires knowledge,” and, famously, often said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” He required his staff to double- and triple-check factual assertions, and was known to include footnoted citations in his speeches and sometimes even his letters….
I like that this one cites Moynihan. I always liked that guy. Not that I ever met him or anything.
In fact, I only saw him once in person. (Warning! Brad’s about to reminisce again!) It was that time in 1998 that I mentioned recently, when I went to Washington to check on Strom Thurmond and see if he was still functioning, and also visited Mike McCurry at the White House. Anyway, as long as I was there, McCurry arranged for me to attend a ceremony in the East Room marking the 50th anniversary of NATO.
That afforded me an extra opportunity to observe Strom, as it happened. After everyone else was seated, President Clinton walked in with Strom beside him holding onto his arm. Bill walked the nation’s senior senator to his front-row seat and got him situated before heading up to the podium to speak. (We Southern boys are brought up to act that way with our elders, and I thought better of Bill for it.)
Anyway, after the event was over and most of the media folks were headed back to the West Wing, I stepped out of the door that opens into the covered portico on the northern side of the House. I stood at the top of the steps for a moment deciding whether to continue to the press room or go back in and chat with folks, and watched as cars picked up the dignitaries, there at my feet.
I nodded to Strom as he came out, and watched him negotiate the steps pretty well. But there was a guy in front of him having all sorts of trouble hobbling down to his car.
It was Moynihan. He was only 69. Strom was 95 at the time.
It’s a shame Moynihan didn’t take better care of himself. If he had lived to be 100 like Strom, he’d still have 10 years to go now, and we’d have the benefit of his perspective as the nation so dramatically defines its self-respect downward…
You’ve probably already seen this gag — other people I showed it to this morning had — but for those who missed it, here’s a funny for you.
And no, it’s not supposed to be serious commentary or anything; it’s just a funny picture that was suggested by Trump’s body language in the photo, combined with Angela Merkel’s expression, which looks like a teacher addressing a wayward pupil. So lighten up, Francis.
I don’t know who did it. It was brought to my attention by this Tweet, from someone who didn’t know who had originated it, either…
Can’t let the day go buy without a post about Trump’s (and Mulvaney’s) insane proposal to cut the State Department by almost 30 percent:
The State Department faces cuts of nearly 29 percent, with $10 billion shaved off its core program funding under proposals to eliminate climate-change initiatives and to slash foreign aid, contributions to the United Nations and cultural exchanges.
The basic budget for the State Department and USAID, which houses many U.S. development and economic aid programs around the world, will shrink from $36.7 billion to $25.6 billion. The Trump budget also calls for $1.5 billion for Treasury International Programs, a 35 percent reduction from the previous year, a figure the White House included in its discussion of State’s budget. The administration also proposes $12 billion for operations in war-torn areas such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, down from more than $20 billion this year. Overall, the budget would shrink from $52.8 billion to $37.6 billion.
The proposal reflects a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy to an “America First” focus on whether programs meet specific U.S. interests. Many of the spending cuts are in programs whose missions are deemed poorly managed or insufficient in advancing U.S. foreign policy goals….
“America First starts with protecting our national security and as our military leaders are the first to say: hard power alone will not keep America safe. The danger of cutting one-third of our civilian forces at a time of such extreme global threats, famines of historic proportions, and a refugee crisis not seen since World War II is unimaginable.
This debate between hard and soft power is a relic of the Cold War that ended after 9/11. Congress must recognize that we face complex 21st century threats from the rise of ISIS to the pandemics that can show up on our shores. Reject these dangerous cuts to diplomacy and development and invest in smart power – military and civilian tools alike. The stakes are just too high for America to retreat.”
Note the statements from religious, business, NGO and military leaders linked from that page.
Incidentally, the USGLC is the outfit that SC GOP Chair Matt Moore is leaving to go work for.
Here’s a statement on this stuff from Lindsey Graham:
“Historically, presidential budgets do not fare well with Congress.
“I appreciate that this budget increases defense spending, yet these increases in defense come at the expense of national security, soft power, and other priorities.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and President Trump to create a budget that is fiscally responsible, makes our country safer, and preserves wise investments in our future.”
Defense hawks, rural conservatives and even some of Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress sharply criticized the president’s first budget proposal on Thursday, pushing back on the huge potential hike in defense spending as insufficient and decrying some other cuts to federal agencies and programs.
Capitol Hill Republicans, however, did not seem terribly worried about the prospect of such a budget being enacted, stating matter-of-factly that it is Congress, after all, that controls the purse strings.
“Presidents propose, Congress disposes,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) the former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “We’ve not had our chance yet.”
Rogers was one of several GOP lawmakers to dismiss Trump’s budget as a pie-in-the sky wishlist with little hope of surviving negotiations in Congress. Most Republicans gave passing support to Trump’s general goal of increasing defense spending while reducing costs elsewhere in the budget. But none would embrace the specific White House blueprint….
You notice something? All these people who know something about governing are on one side, and the new “outsider” president is on the other. You know why? Because he and his loyal retainers, who wouldn’t know a fact if it bit them on the… ankle…, don’t have a clue.
Here’s a nice excerpt from the “sometime scathing” (according to The Guardian) order by federal district judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu striking down Donald Trump’s second attempt to bar travel from certain Muslim countries.
Basically, he’s calling “bull” on the alleged motives for the ban:
The Government appropriately cautions that, in determining purpose, courts should not look into the ‘veiled psyche’ and ‘secret motives’ of government decision-makers and may not undertake a ‘judicial psychoanalysis of a drafter’s heart of hearts’.
Judge Derrick Kahala Watson
The Government need not fear. The remarkable facts at issue here require no such impermissible inquiry.
For instance, there is nothing ‘veiled’ about this press release: ‘Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’
Nor is there anything ‘secret’ about the Executive’s motive specific to the issuance of the Executive Order:
Rudolph Giuliani explained on television how the Executive Order came to be. He said: “When [Mr. Trump] first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’”
Romulus Augustus resigns the Crown (from a 19th-century illustration).
Let’s elevate this discussion to the level of a separate post.
I regularly refer to “real Republicans,” a group to which Donald J. Trump — ideologically and otherwise — does not belong. This is an important distinction. To say he’s just another Republican — as plenty of Democrats and Republicans both would have it — is to normalize him.
A lot of Democrats insist that the thing that’s wrong with Trump is that he’s a Republican, end of story. This works for them because they demonize all Republicans, and it doesn’t matter how bad Trump is, he’s just another. Which means, they completely and utterly miss the unique threat that he poses to our system of government. They also miss the fact that unless Republican eventually rise up against him — something they’re unlikely to do soon, and even less likely if Democrats are calling him one of them, triggering the usual partisan defensive response — we’ll never be rid of him.
A lot of Republicans, including all the ones who know (or once knew) better, have dutifully lined up behind him, starting when he seized their presidential nomination. They’re now in they’re usual “R is always good” mode, any misgivings they may have had a year ago forgotten.
As usual, the two parties work together to support and reinforce each others’ partisan stances. The more Democrats push the line that Trump’s just another Republican, the more Republicans will embrace him and defend him. The more Republicans close ranks around him, the more certain Democrats are in seeing him as just another Republican.
And the more the rest of us see them falling into that pattern, the more disgusted we are with the mindlessness of parties. (Some of us, anyway. Many independents — the inattentive sorts whom both parties despise — are highly suggestible, and may lazily fall in with the usual binary formula that there are only two kinds of people in politics.)
In recent hours (and for some time before that), both Bud and Bill have been pushing the idea that my notions of what constitutes a “real Republican” are outdated and therefore wrong. Today, they say, Trump is a real Republican, and so is Tea Partier Mick Mulvaney.
Fellas, you seem to think I’m blind, but I’m not. I’ve watched as successive waves of barbarians (in the definition of the day) have washed over the GOP. I missed Goldwater because I was out of the country at the time, but no matter; he was a temporary phenomenon. Four years later Nixon had recaptured the party for the mainstream. But I remember when the Reaganites came in and took over for almost a generation, and the Bushes and the Doles got on board. Then, starting early in this century, things got crazy. There were so many bands of barbarians at the gate that it was hard to keep them straight. There was Mark Sanford and his Club for Growth hyperlibertarians, then the Tea Party with its snake flags, and Sarah Palin with whatever that was (probably just a subset of the Tea Party), and then Trump’s angry nativists.
And yes, the people I call “real Republicans” have been embattled, often seeming to fight a rear-guard action. And yes again, with all these elements pushing and pulling at the party, it has changed to where a Prescott Bush or a Robert A. Taft would not recognize it.
But let me pose a question to you: Was Odoacer a real Roman? After all, he inherited control of Italy after he seized it from the last emperor, Romulus Augustus, in 476.
No, he was not. Not only was he a barbarian (apparently — note the mustache on his coin), but the Western Roman Empire is seen as having ended the moment he took over. He ruled as King of Italy, rather than emperor of anything.
Similarly, if Trump and his core followers are the Republican Party now, then it’s time to call it something else, rather than confusing it with the party of John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Lamar Alexander, Mitch McConnell, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Robert A. Taft, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
And perhaps that’s where we are. But let’s be clear: With Donald Trump — as much a barbarian as any political figure this nation has produced — in the White House, the nation faces a crisis that should not for a moment be diminished by portraying it as just more of the same games between Republicans and Democrats.
All the whys and wherefores and details and adjustments are kind of irrelevant to me. What I see is that the entire effort — which he has made the top priority of his first days in office — is completely unnecessary. It’s an overwrought, complicated solution to a problem that does not exist. It is absurd every bit as much as it is offensive and unAmerican.
The administration keeps mouthing the ridiculous justification that this is needed to “keep America safe.” I won’t go into that except to note that Charles Krauthammer — who takes a backseat to no one in advocating for national security — dealt with that with the contempt that it deserved a month ago: “Not a single American has ever been killed in a terror attack in this country by a citizen from the notorious seven.” Which is now six, Trump having discovered that Iraq is an ally.
So, you say what you have to say about it. I’m done for the moment…
I see that Rep. Jeff Duncan has given Chad Connelly a boost — at least, I assume it constitutes a boost — in his efforts to differentiate himself from the crowd seeking the GOP nomination for Mick Mulvaney’s seat.
Duncan believes Connelly, a former chairman of the state GOP, would work with him and President Donald Trump to “drain the swamp, secure our borders, and limit government.”
There’s nothing terribly surprising that one Tea Party Class Republican would use those terms in speaking of another of his party.
I just think it’s worth noting that this is where we are now. Which means we’re a long, long way from the Trump nightmare being over.
It won’t be over, of course, until he is gone from office, and gone in a way that even his supporters are glad to see him go.
That won’t happen as long as Republicans are invoking his name and using his talking points to praise each other. (At least, the first two are Trumpisms. The third point, “limit government,” is just one of those things some Republicans say the way other people clear their throats.)
They won’t go immediately from this point to denouncing him, mind you. If and when things start to get better, the first sign will be simply tactfully neglecting to mention him. That will be promising. Then they will mildly demur. Then they will hesitantly denounce, and so forth.
The White House currently is a raging cauldron, a place that emits chaos the way a volcano emits lave. At any time, it is likely to generate the Tweet or other eruption that will be the beginning of the end.
Last week, I read another excellent piece by Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal. It was headlined “Do We Still Want the West?,” with the subhed, “The best antidote to the politics of Trump or Le Pen is a course in Western Civ.”
Because of that paper’s pay wall, I’m going to push the envelope a mite on Fair Use here so that you get the point fully, and I hope the Journal will forgive me.
The piece begins anecdotally, telling about how the left’s culture warriors chanted Western Civ right out of the curriculum at Stanford in the ’80s, and how a vote to bring it back (a student vote, because grownups no longer dare to make such decisions) failed, 6 to 1.
Then, he sets out the problem:
The thought comes to mind following Sergei Lavrov’s Orwellian speech last week at the Munich Security Conference, in which the Russian foreign minister called for a “post-West world order.”…
Mr. Lavrov understands something that ought to be increasingly clear to American and European audiences: The West—as a geopolitical bloc, a cultural expression, a moral ideal—is in deep trouble. However weak Russia may be economically, and however cynical its people might be about their regime, Russians continue to drink from a deep well of civilizational self-belief. The same can be said about the Chinese, and perhaps even of the Islamic world too, troubled as it is.
The West? Not so much.
The United States has elected as president a man who has repeatedly voiced his disdain for NATO, the World Trade Organization and other institutions of the Western-led world order. He publicly calls the press “an enemy of the American people” and conjures conspiracy theories about voter fraud whose only purpose is to lend credence to his claim that the system is rigged. He is our first post-rational president, whose approach to questions of fact recalls the deconstructionism of the late Jacques Derrida: There are no truths; reality is negotiable….
He goes on about the crisis of faith in Western ways in Europe, and notes how the non-aligned — who once were so eager to join the Western club — are drifting toward other power centers, such as Russia and China.
In other words, moving toward cultures that still believe in themselves, or at least in their own myths.
Then comes the best part:
There was a time when the West knew what it was about. It did so because it thought about itself—often in freshman Western Civ classes. It understood that its moral foundations had been laid in Jerusalem; its philosophical ones in Athens; its legal ones in Rome. It treated with reverence concepts of reason and revelation, freedom and responsibility, whose contradictions it learned to harmonize and harness over time. It believed in the excellence of its music and literature, and in the superiority of its political ideals. It was not ashamed of its prosperity. If it was arrogant and sinful, as all civilizations are, it also had a tradition of remorse and doubt to temper its edges and broaden its horizons. It cultivated the virtue of skepticism while avoiding the temptation of cynicism.
And it believed all of this was worth defending — in classrooms and newspapers and statehouses and battlefields….
Donald Trump was elected by people who for whatever reason just don’t seem to get the fundamental assumptions of the West — they don’t know the history; they don’t embrace the ideals. It’s hard to talk to them about what’s wrong, because they don’t see it. Maybe it’s too late for them, but it’s time we started overtly teaching our children what’s valuable about the West.
But first, of course, we need to decide whether we still believe in it ourselves…
David Frum on Tavis Smiley’s show earlier this week.
The other night, as I turned off the Apple TV and paused just before turning off the tube altogether, I saw that Tavis Smiley was interviewing David Frum — former speechwriter for George W. Bush and current senior editor for The Atlantic.
So I stopped myself from turning it off, because Frum usually has smart, interesting things to say.
He immediately said something rather outlandish. He suggested it was highly possible that Donald Trump’s main goal in being president of the United States is to become the richest man in the world. And that as long as his tax returns are not disclosed, he’s likely to achieve it.
I was about to scoff, but paused. That would be a ridiculous goal to me, or to Barack Obama, or to George W. Bush (despite what Bud and others seem to believe about Republicans.) The sheer petty, two-bit cupidity of it is laughable, particularly since in our history, no one who was thus motivated has ever sought such a position, much less attained it.
But I then reflected that lots of people actually are that motivated by money, as Doug keeps insisting to me that everyone is. And if there’s anyone on the planet who might be that acquisitive, it’s Donald J. Trump.
Well, fine. I don’t care if he does become the richest man in the world. Were it in my power, I would write him a check for the full amount he wants if only he’d walk away and stop doing what he’s doing to our country.
I don’t know, but suspect, that Frum would do the same. Because the problem for him, and for me, is the startlingly insidious ways that Trump is undermining our republic, its institutions — particularly the effectiveness of our vaunted checks and balances — and its standing in the world as a beacon of how self-government can work. Whatever Trump’s goal is — money, popularity, power for power’s sake — the really horrible thing is what he’s doing to get there.
During the interview with Smiley, Frum alluded to a piece he’d written in The Atlantic. I finally read it tonight. It is without a doubt the most brilliant, incisive, on-point, and chilling thing I’ve read since this nightmare began.
Orwell’s 1984 has been enjoying a surge of popularity in recent weeks, especially it seems since Kellyanne Conway’s remark about “alternative facts.”
Well, the first 878 words of this essay is a bit of speculative fiction imagining the world four years from now, when Trump has just easily won re-election. It’s scarier than 1984 because it’s not a theoretical projection of just how horrible things might get in a place like Stalin’s Russia. It’s chilling because everything it describes, in explaining how Trump becomes a power that can’t be challenged, is completely, immediately believable. It wouldn’t have been before the past year, but it is now. We’re seeing it happen.
The other several thousand words of the piece elaborates on how we get from here to there, and it’s amazing. Frum doesn’t generalize. He explains in detail why it’s highly likely that the checks and balances we rely on — from official ones like Congress to unofficial ones like the press — are being quite effectively neutralized. He sets out beautifully, for instance, how Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are motivated to look the other way because they need Trump more than he needs them. It explains so much.
As for the media, well, Trump is redefining the nature of truth itself, or at least the way Americans regard it. An example of how that works:
One story, still supremely disturbing, exemplifies the falsifying method. During November and December, the slow-moving California vote count gradually pushed Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump in the national popular vote further and further: past 1 million, past 1.5 million, past 2 million, past 2.5 million. Trump’s share of the vote would ultimately clock in below Richard Nixon’s in 1960, Al Gore’s in 2000, John Kerry’s in 2004, Gerald Ford’s in 1976, and Mitt Romney’s in 2012—and barely ahead of Michael Dukakis’s in 1988.
This outcome evidently gnawed at the president-elect. On November 27, Trump tweeted that he had in fact “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” He followed up that astonishing, and unsubstantiated, statement with an escalating series of tweets and retweets.
It’s hard to do justice to the breathtaking audacity of such a claim. If true, it would be so serious as to demand a criminal investigation at a minimum, presumably spanning many states. But of course the claim was not true. Trump had not a smidgen of evidence beyond his own bruised feelings and internet flotsam from flagrantly unreliable sources. Yet once the president-elect lent his prestige to the crazy claim, it became fact for many people. A survey by YouGov found that by December 1, 43 percent of Republicans accepted the claim that millions of people had voted illegally in 2016.
If you sow enough cynicism, you don’t have to murder journalists or imprison opponents. There are subtler ways of achieving autocracy, which have been employed in recent years in places like Hungary, and we Americans are just beginning to learn about them.
He sort of leaves open the idea that Trump is a fascist, and moves beyond it, to tell us that our notions and labels and expectations are behind the times:
Whatever else happens, Americans are not going to assemble in parade-ground formations, any more than they will crank a gramophone or dance the turkey trot. In a society where few people walk to work, why mobilize young men in matching shirts to command the streets? If you’re seeking to domineer and bully, you want your storm troopers to go online, where the more important traffic is. Demagogues need no longer stand erect for hours orating into a radio microphone. Tweet lies from a smartphone instead….
But I’m not going to be able to do justice to this piece with excerpts. You need to go read it yourself. If you care, you have to.
I’ll just close with a neat thing Frum did today on Twitter. He set out some of the main points of his essay with a series of 21 Tweets. Here they are:
1) Sessions story today is a sinister confirmation of central thesis of my autocracy article: https://t.co/zx5HE02N19
Democratic Coalition Urges People to #BlackoutTrump During Speech Tonight
February 28th, 2017 – Washington, DC – The Democratic Coalition, part of Keep America Great PAC, today called on people to skip watching President Trump’s address to Congress. Using the hashtag #BlackoutTrump, the organization urged Americans to do something that will actually help “Make America Great Again.”
“Donald Trump cares about ratings more than he cares about this country and its people,” said Scott Dworkin, Senior Advisor to the Democratic Coalition. “Let’s send him a message by skipping his speech and instead working to help the people his administration is going to hurt.”
There are lots of ways to use the time that would otherwise be wasted watching the President talk about how terrible our country is. The Democratic Coalition provided a quick list:
-Plan your attendance at a townhall – if GOP members of Congress ever hold them again
-Get organized for campaign volunteer opportunities
-Volunteer to rebuild recently desecrated Jewish cemeteries or clean anti-Semiitc graffiti off houses of worship
-Make calls to raise money for organizations that help refugees
-Dine out at literally any restaurant in the nation (providing work for immigrants)
-Call your member of Congress urging them to keep ACA in place
-Volunteer to improve your local community
-Retweet/Share the hashtag #BlackoutTrump
-Review the Dossier on Trump’s connections with Russia, more of which gets confirmed daily
Jarad Geldner, Senior Advisor of The Democratic Coalition added: “Though it will be closely watched in Russia, this speech doesn’t really mean anything to Americans. The President’s been in office an excruciating 39 days, but he hasn’t really accomplished anything beyond signing executive orders that scare people. We should all focus on ensuring that he cannot enact his agenda which aims to rob America of all its greatness.”
The hashtag was first deployed in late January, by deploying it today, the Super PAC intends to send the message that the American people are stronger and less divided than the White House would have us believe.
About The Democratic Coalition
The Democratic Coalition Against Trump, now The Democratic Coalition, formed in the Spring of 2016, with the main goal of making sure that Donald Trump never became President. The Democratic Coalition now exists to hold the Trump White House accountable, and is directly countering Donald Trump, along with Republican elected officials and candidates who support him, through aggressive digital and traditional advertising, grassroots action, in-depth opposition research, and a nationwide rapid-response team.The organization has chairs in all 50 states, comprised of Democratic elected officials, party chairs, delegates, grassroots leaders and activists.
Really? You’re going to get rid of this guy by hurting his ratings? And you don’t think going in ignorance about the insane things he may say is a bit of a high cost to pay to accomplish that?
You want a hashtag? How about #Vigilance?
Did you notice what the release said in the “about” footer? “The Democratic Coalition Against Trump, now The Democratic Coalition, formed in the Spring of 2016, with the main goal of making sure that Donald Trump never became President.”
Yeah, great job. Evidently, you still have the same strategists running your organization…
After President Trump said that deporting undocumented immigrants was “a military operation,” Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, speaking in Mexico, clarified that there would be “no use of military force in immigration operations.”
After Trump, standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, upended decades of U.S. policy by saying he was open to a one-state solution to the conflict in the Middle East, U.N. envoy Nikki Haley asserted that the United States “absolutely” supports a two-state solution.
And after Trump alarmed European allies by declaring NATO obsolete, Vice President Pence flew to Munich and Brussels, where he reassured a worried continent that the president remains “fully devoted to our transatlantic union.”
One of the unofficial duties of Trump’s Cabinet, it seems, is cleaning up the statements of the man they serve. Five weeks into Trump’s tenure in office, his deputies have found themselves softening, explaining and sometimes outright contradicting the president….
Perhaps the only hope we have to cling to in this crisis is the fact that most of the world understands that the president of the United States is, for the first time in history, a complete nincompoop (see how I didn’t call him an “idiot” just then), so there’s the possibility of grownups cleaning up his messes before they blow up completely. No guarantee it will work, of course, but there’s the possibility.
Here’s what we’ve come to: Our own Nikki Haley, who had basically zero qualifications for the job of ambassador to the U.N., is now the grownup who has to step in and set things right when the president of the United States screws up on the global stage.
Scary, isn’t it?
I don’t want to take anything away from Nikki by saying that. It’s not her fault she was unqualified for the position. To my knowledge, she never sought the position, and can be forgiven for not having prepared herself for it before it fell in her lap. I applaud how well she’s doing scrambling to catch up. She’s apparently listening to the right people, and doing her best to learn, and I honor her for it.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the guy who picked her for the job would do the same thing? But he won’t. He’s destroyed our hopes of his ever doing that, over and over again.
So everyone around him — or the competent ones, anyway, who are too few — will have to keep cleaning up after him, as well as they can for as long as they can. Which is cold comfort…
I was purging inactive or irrelevant feeds from those I follow on Twitter today. Some time back, I settled on 600 as the maximum number of feeds I would follow, and so whenever the number climbs above that, I go looking for slacker feeds to eliminate.
When I got to @LaCasaBlanca, I figured, That’s one I can ditch! This White House certainly has no used for a Spanish-language feed!
As it turns out, yes and no.
The Trump administration signaled its willingness to keep reaching out to Spanish-speakers with this Tweet, 11 days after the inauguration:
¡Hola! ¡Bienvenidos a @LaCasaBlanca! Sígannos para mantenerse al tanto de las últimas noticias sobre @POTUS Trump y de su administración!
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…
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?
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.