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Updated: Mon, 27 Feb 2017 13:12:00 -0600

 



Health Care, Supreme Court on Agenda as Congress Returns

2017-02-27T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress returns to Washington this week to confront dramatic decisions on health care and the Supreme Court that may help determine the course of Donald Trump's presidency. First, the president will have his say, in his maiden speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. Majority Republicans in the House and Senate will be closely watching the prime-time address for guidance, marching orders or any specifics Trump might embrace on health care or taxes, areas where some of his preferences remain a mystery. Congressional Republicans insist they are working...WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress returns to Washington this week to confront dramatic decisions on health care and the Supreme Court that may help determine the course of Donald Trump's presidency. First, the president will have his say, in his maiden speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. Majority Republicans in the House and Senate will be closely watching the prime-time address for guidance, marching orders or any specifics Trump might embrace on health care or taxes, areas where some of his preferences remain a mystery. Congressional Republicans insist they are working closely with the new administration as they prepare to start taking votes on health legislation, with the moment finally upon them to make good on seven years of promises to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. House Republicans hope to pass their legislation by early April and send it to the Senate, with action there also possible before Easter. Republicans will be "keeping our promise to the American people," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said as he sent lawmakers home for the Presidents Day recess armed with informational packets to defend planned GOP changes to the health law. But land mines await. The recess was dominated by raucous town halls where Republicans faced tough questions about their plans to replace the far-reaching health care law with a new system built around tax credits, health savings accounts and high risk pools. Important questions are unanswered, such as the overall cost and how many people will be covered. There's also uncertainty about how to resolve divisions among states over Medicaid money. The lack of clarity created anxiety among voters who peppered lawmakers from coast to coast with questions about what would become of their own health coverage and that of their friends and family. It has forced Republicans to offer assurances that they don't intend to take away the law and leave nothing in its place, even though some House conservatives favor doing just that. "What I have said is repeal and replace and more recently I have defined that as repairing the ACA moving forward," Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., insisted to an overflow crowd in his politically divided district this past week. "I think we have a responsibility in Washington to try to make the system better." It remains to be seen whether the release of detailed legislation in the coming days will calm, or heighten, voters' concerns. Details on the size of tax credits to help people buy insurance, and how many fewer people will be covered than the 20 million who gained coverage under Obama's law, could create bigger pushback and even more complications. With lawmakers set to return to the Capitol on Monday, it will become clearer whether the earful many got back home will affect their plans. GOP leaders are determined to move forward, reckoning that when confronted with the reality of voting on the party's repeal and replace plan, Republicans will have no choice but to vote "yes." Many Republicans say that how they will handle health legislation will set the stage for the next big battle, over taxes. And that fight, many believe, will be even trickier than health care. Already, it has opened major rifts between House and Senate Republicans. Senators also will be weighing the nomination of federal appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump's pick for the Supreme Court. Hearings soon will get underway in the Senate Judiciary Committee; floor act[...]



Trump's Follow-Through; Anti-Semitism Canard; Perez's Challenge; Lincoln's Turning Point

2017-02-27T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Monday, February 27, 2017. On this date 157 years ago, Abraham Lincoln visited New York City. Early in the day, he went to the new photography studio operated by Mathew B. Brady on Bleecker Street. At 8 p.m. Lincoln gave a well-received 7,700-word oration at Manhattan’s newest college, Cooper Union. Both events were a smashing success. Lincoln scholars believe they played a decisive role in making him president. Honest Abe apparently agreed with this assessment himself. I’ll have more on this in a moment. First, I’d point you to...Good morning, it’s Monday, February 27, 2017. On this date 157 years ago, Abraham Lincoln visited New York City. Early in the day, he went to the new photography studio operated by Mathew B. Brady on Bleecker Street. At 8 p.m. Lincoln gave a well-received 7,700-word oration at Manhattan’s newest college, Cooper Union. Both events were a smashing success. Lincoln scholars believe they played a decisive role in making him president. Honest Abe apparently agreed with this assessment himself. I’ll have more on this in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a full complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Trump Is Doing What He Said He’d Do. (Bad Idea.) Bill Scher writes that the president is limiting his re-election chances by not reaching out to those who didn’t vote for him. The Idiocy of Accusing Trump of Anti-Semitism. In a column, I explain why attempts to tar the president with this charge are way off base. As DNC Chair, Perez Must Harness Trump ‘Resistance.’ Caitlin Huey-Burns has this analysis of Saturday’s election. The Battle for the Soul of Conservatism. Peter Wehner laments what he sees as Donald Trump’s degrading effect on the right’s bedrock beliefs. Trump, Aides, Battle Journalists, Leaks & Probes. The White House disputes claims the president's advisers huddled with Russian officials before the election, Alexis Simendinger reports. Don't Throw Children Under the Bus. In RealClearHealth, Joan Alker argues to protect the children's Medicaid program in light of a study connecting their enrollment to future educational and life success. Trump and the Institutional Quandary. In RealClearWorld, Christine Guluzian warns that there are few institutional checks on the president’s foreign policy decision-making process. How to Fix the Orgasm Gap. RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy spotlights research indicating why heterosexual women have fewer orgasms than lesbians. Top 10 NFL Combine Performers. RealClearSports compiled this list. * * * On February 27, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was an unannounced candidate for president whose voice had rarely been heard by voters outside of Illinois. His likeness hadn’t been widely glimpsed, either. All that was about to change. The invitation to speak that night was originally tendered by Henry Ward Beecher, the abolitionist pastor of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. By the time Lincoln arrived in New York, an influential Republican Party group had taken over sponsorship of the event and moved it to the larger venue at Cooper Union. In the myth-making that followed Lincoln’s presidency and martyrdom, it was sometimes written that Cooper Union was packed for Lincoln’s speech by ardent supporters who braved a snowstorm to hear him speak. Actually, as historian Harold Holzer has noted, the weather was temperate that day in New York and the Cooper Union auditorium was one-fourth empty that night. No matter, the speech Lincoln delivered there was a pivot point in U.S. history. He devoted the first part of his talk to disproving the South’s contention that limiting the spread of slavery to new states and territories wen[...]



Healthcare, Supreme Court on Agenda as Congress Returns

2017-02-27T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress returns to Washington this week to confront dramatic decisions on health care and the Supreme Court that may help determine the course of Donald Trump's presidency. First, the president will have his say, in his maiden speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. Majority Republicans in the House and Senate will be closely watching the prime-time address for guidance, marching orders or any specifics Trump might embrace on health care or taxes, areas where some of his preferences remain a mystery. Congressional Republicans insist they are working...WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress returns to Washington this week to confront dramatic decisions on health care and the Supreme Court that may help determine the course of Donald Trump's presidency. First, the president will have his say, in his maiden speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. Majority Republicans in the House and Senate will be closely watching the prime-time address for guidance, marching orders or any specifics Trump might embrace on health care or taxes, areas where some of his preferences remain a mystery. Congressional Republicans insist they are working closely with the new administration as they prepare to start taking votes on health legislation, with the moment finally upon them to make good on seven years of promises to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. House Republicans hope to pass their legislation by early April and send it to the Senate, with action there also possible before Easter. Republicans will be "keeping our promise to the American people," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said as he sent lawmakers home for the Presidents Day recess armed with informational packets to defend planned GOP changes to the health law. But land mines await. The recess was dominated by raucous town halls where Republicans faced tough questions about their plans to replace the far-reaching health care law with a new system built around tax credits, health savings accounts and high risk pools. Important questions are unanswered, such as the overall cost and how many people will be covered. There's also uncertainty about how to resolve divisions among states over Medicaid money. The lack of clarity created anxiety among voters who peppered lawmakers from coast to coast with questions about what would become of their own health coverage and that of their friends and family. It has forced Republicans to offer assurances that they don't intend to take away the law and leave nothing in its place, even though some House conservatives favor doing just that. "What I have said is repeal and replace and more recently I have defined that as repairing the ACA moving forward," Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., insisted to an overflow crowd in his politically divided district this past week. "I think we have a responsibility in Washington to try to make the system better." It remains to be seen whether the release of detailed legislation in the coming days will calm, or heighten, voters' concerns. Details on the size of tax credits to help people buy insurance, and how many fewer people will be covered than the 20 million who gained coverage under Obama's law, could create bigger pushback and even more complications. With lawmakers set to return to the Capitol on Monday, it will become clearer whether the earful many got back home will affect their plans. GOP leaders are determined to move forward, reckoning that when confronted with the reality of voting on the party's repeal and replace plan, Republicans will have no choice but to vote "yes." Many Republicans say that how they will handle health legislation will set the stage for the next big battle, over taxes. And that fight, many believe, will be even trickier than health care. Already, it has opened major rifts between House and Senate Republicans. Senators also will be weighing the nomination of federal appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump's pick for the Supreme Court. Hearings soon will ge[...]



White House Will Propose to Boost Defense Spending

2017-02-27T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House will propose boosting defense spending and slashing funding for longtime Republican targets like the Environmental Protection Agency in a set of marching orders to agencies as it prepares its budget for the upcoming fiscal year. President Donald Trump's proposal for the 2018 budget year, which will be sent to agencies Monday, won't make significant changes to Social Security or Medicare, according to an administration official. The official, as well as Capitol Hill aides, confirmed details of the upcoming blueprint on the condition of anonymity to...WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House will propose boosting defense spending and slashing funding for longtime Republican targets like the Environmental Protection Agency in a set of marching orders to agencies as it prepares its budget for the upcoming fiscal year. President Donald Trump's proposal for the 2018 budget year, which will be sent to agencies Monday, won't make significant changes to Social Security or Medicare, according to an administration official. The official, as well as Capitol Hill aides, confirmed details of the upcoming blueprint on the condition of anonymity to discuss nonpublic information and a sensitive process. Trump's first major fiscal marker will land in the agencies one day before his first address to a joint session of Congress. For Trump, the primetime speech is an opportunity to refocus his young presidency on the core economic issues that were a centerpiece of his White House run. The Pentagon is due for a huge boost, as Trump promised during the campaign. But many nondefense agencies and foreign aid programs are facing cuts, including at the State Department. The specific numbers aren't final and agencies will have a chance to argue against the cuts as part of a longstanding tradition at the budget office. Trump is expected to release his final budget proposal in mid-March. The president previewed a boost in military spending during a speech Friday to conservative activists, pledging "one of the greatest build-ups in American history." "We will be substantially upgrading all of our military, all of our military, offensive, defensive, everything, bigger and better and stronger than ever before," he said. In an interview with Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said cuts to Social Security and Medicare would not be part of the administration's first budget. Trump's priority is passing legislation to reduce middle-class and corporate taxes, he said. As a candidate, Trump promised to leave major entitlements untouched, breaking with some Republican leaders who believe the costly programs need to be reformed. The White House budget office issued a statement confirming that an interim budget submission will be released in mid-March but declining to comment on an "internal discussion." "The president and his Cabinet are working collaboratively to create a budget that keeps the president's promises to secure the country and restore fiscal sanity to how we spend American taxpayers' money," said Office of Management and Budget spokesman John Czwartacki. Czwartacki said that the March submission would only address agency operating budgets funded by Congress and that proposals on tax reform and so-called mandatory programs - they include food stamps, student loans, health programs and farm subsidies - will be released later. The March release is also expected to include an immediate infusion of cash for the Pentagon that's expected to register about $20 billion or so and contain the first wave of funding for Trump's promised border wall and other initiatives like hiring immigration agents. By increasing defense and leaving Medicare and Social Security untouched, the Trump final budget plan is sure to project sizable deficits. In the campaign Trump promised huge tax cuts but top GOP leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin don't want this year's tax reform drive to add to the budget defici[...]



Trump Is Doing What He Said He'd Do. (Bad Idea.)

2017-02-27T00:00:00Z

“Basically all I've done is keep my promise,” President Trump told CPAC attendees after describing his plans to intensify the deportation of undocumented immigrants. At a press conference earlier this month, Trump scoffed, “Some people are so surprised that we are having strong borders. Well, that's what I've been talking about for a year and a half.” Similar sentiment was expressed by Rep. Raul Labrador, who told the Idaho House the president is just “doing the things that he said he was going to do” and...“Basically all I've done is keep my promise,” President Trump told CPAC attendees after describing his plans to intensify the deportation of undocumented immigrants. At a press conference earlier this month, Trump scoffed, “Some people are so surprised that we are having strong borders. Well, that's what I've been talking about for a year and a half.” Similar sentiment was expressed by Rep. Raul Labrador, who told the Idaho House the president is just “doing the things that he said he was going to do” and “"it should concern you all” that “people are reacting like this is something unusual or illegitimate.” On the contrary, it should concern you all – whether you oppose or support Trump -- that he and his allies are trying to shut down debate over his policies by citing campaign rhetoric instead of defending his actions on the merits. The mere fact that he said during the campaign he was going to do something in the abstract does not grant him, as president, immunity from scrutiny upon proposing or implementing a specific policy. Details matter. Execution matters. Fealty to the Constitution and the law matters. The Founders designed a system of checks and balances. Presidential directives are supposed to receive rigorous debate and scrutiny from the legislative and judicial branches. Citizens retain their First Amendment right to be vocal and may press their representatives to thwart the president if they choose, because democracy doesn’t stop between Election Days. All of that is happening today, and it’s not “unusual or illegitimate.” Such pushback should not surprise Republicans. They did not say Barack Obama was just doing what he said he would do regarding health care, Wall Street reform, taxes, climate change and immigration. They stormed town halls. They resisted in the Congress. And when that didn’t work, they petitioned the courts. Republicans should also remember what can happen when you assert a mandate that isn’t really there. Upon winning re-election in 2004, President George W. Bush decreed, “I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.” He pledged to follow through on his campaign rhetoric and add private accounts to Social Security. Democrats, undaunted by Bush’s popular vote majority, scorched the plan as antithetical to Social Security’s premise. Public opinion quickly turned against the president’s plan. Given the certainty of a filibuster, the idea never came to a vote, and Bush’s political capital was sapped. Bush couldn’t conjure a mandate after he had a popular-vote majority. Trump doesn’t even have that. And his immigration agenda fared worse in Election Day exit polls, with only 41 percent supporting a border wall, and 25 percent supporting deportation of undocumented workers. More recent polls peg border wall support below 40 percent, and similarly weak support for his deportation policy. Yet he’s not putting forth an agenda that would expand his base of support. By saying don’t be “so surprised,” Trump is effectively telling the 54 percent of voters who didn’t back him that he’s only going to do what his most ardent supporters like. In other words: Blue America, get over it. That should concern those who hope to see him re-elec[...]



Trump and Bannon Are the 'Corporatists'

2017-02-27T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Just when you despair that only chaos animates the Trump administration, along comes Steve Bannon, the White House ideologue, to offer the Rosetta Stone illuminating what this circus is all about. And when you realize what Trump & Co. might really be up to, your despair turns to alarm. There is no way of knowing how much Donald Trump truly cares about the ideas that Bannon holds close to his heart. Trump seems far more obsessed with attacks on him from many directions -- and genuinely worried that investigations of his team's ties to Russia could pose a mortal...WASHINGTON -- Just when you despair that only chaos animates the Trump administration, along comes Steve Bannon, the White House ideologue, to offer the Rosetta Stone illuminating what this circus is all about. And when you realize what Trump & Co. might really be up to, your despair turns to alarm. There is no way of knowing how much Donald Trump truly cares about the ideas that Bannon holds close to his heart. Trump seems far more obsessed with attacks on him from many directions -- and genuinely worried that investigations of his team's ties to Russia could pose a mortal threat to his power. After Bannon had offered his Deep Thoughts on Trumpism at the Conservative Political Action Conference last Thursday, there was Trump on Friday morning back to his usual grubby business of using Twitter to denounce his enemies. His target in this case was the FBI. He accused the agency of being "totally unable to stop the national security 'leakers'" and being guilty of leaks of its own. Trump's anxiety was likely heightened by word that Reince Priebus, his chief of staff, asked the FBI to deny reports that several members of Trump's team had contacts with Russian agents during the 2016 campaign. Priebus' intervention raises serious questions about whether the White House is trying to shut down or influence inquiries that are plainly in the national interest. Bannon, appearing with Priebus, may have had this in mind when he told the assembled conservatives that "every day, it is going to be a fight" and pushed Team Trump's attacks on the media to a new level. Trump picked up on the theme in his own CPAC remarks on Friday, echoing countless authoritarians in repeating his condemnation of "fake news" outlets as "the enemy of the people." Trump's survival may depend on his supporters ignoring a lot of bad news and inconvenient facts. But it is Trump's opponents and the not-yet-committed who need to pay close attention when Bannon, the president's visionary chief strategist, promises an ominous-sounding "new political order." Philip Stephens, a columnist for the Financial Times, had a nice description of Bannon's job, describing him as "the ideologue who informs Mr. Trump's impulses." And Bannon actually made sense of Trump's seemingly bizarre habit of naming people to head up agencies whose missions they openly oppose. When Bannon listed the administration's central purposes, the first two were unsurprising: "national security and sovereignty" and "economic nationalism." But then came the third: the "deconstruction of the administrative state." Bannon explained that officials who seem to hate what their agencies do -- one thinks especially of Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency who has sued it repeatedly to the benefit of oil and gas companies -- were "selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction." Thus did Bannon invoke the trendy lefty term "deconstruct" as a synonym for "destroy." This is a huge deal. It reflects a long-standing critique on the right not just of the Obama and Clinton years but of the entire thrust of American government since the Progressive Era and the New Deal. Critics of the administrative state -- "the vast administrative apparatus that does so much to dictate the way we live now," as Scott Johnson, a conservative lawyer and co-founder of the Power Line blog, put it[...]



The Age of Disbelief

2017-02-27T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- We live in an age of disbelief. Many of the ideas and institutions that have underpinned Americans' thinking since the early years after World War II are besieged. There is an intellectual and political vacuum into which rush new figures (Donald Trump) and different ideas (America First). These new ideas and leaders may be no better than the ones they displace -- they may, in fact, be worse -- but they have the virtue of being new. Almost everything about the American election defied belief, from Trump's victory, to the Russian hacking of Democratic computers, to...WASHINGTON -- We live in an age of disbelief. Many of the ideas and institutions that have underpinned Americans' thinking since the early years after World War II are besieged. There is an intellectual and political vacuum into which rush new figures (Donald Trump) and different ideas (America First). These new ideas and leaders may be no better than the ones they displace -- they may, in fact, be worse -- but they have the virtue of being new. Almost everything about the American election defied belief, from Trump's victory, to the Russian hacking of Democratic computers, to Trump's numerous falsehoods and smears. Could this really be happening? The campaign recalled humorist Dave Barry's famous line, "I'm not making this up." To say that this is an era of disbelief means, quite literally, that millions of Americans no longer believe what they once believed. There is a loss of faith in old orthodoxies and the established "experts" who championed them. There are three areas where Trump suggests major departures from existing policies. First, the economy. Despite a 4.8 percent unemployment rate, the recovery from the 2007-09 Great Recession has been middling. The number of payroll jobs, 145.5 million in January, was only 5 percent above the level in January 2008, the peak in the previous economic expansion. Millions of workers have dropped out of the labor force, notes Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute. Gross domestic product (GDP) -- the economy's output -- has been growing only about 2 percent annually. The Trump administration believes it can raise that to 3 percent or more through lower tax rates, less regulation and more aggressive trade policies. Second, the world order. Since the late 1940s, the United States has provided physical and economic security for our allies through alliances (NATO) and trade agreements. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 signaled the success of this strategy and -- it was said -- marked the beginning of a long period of peace and prosperity, presided over by the United States. Trump is unsympathetic to this global role, which (he argues) burdens us with large costs in both blood and treasure. He wants trade agreements to be more favorable to us and for our allies to pay for more of their defense. Third, the welfare state. Here, Trump's plans are fuzziest. He has said he would protect Social Security and Medicare but other anti-poverty programs could face cuts. One way or another, immense sums are involved. Under existing policies, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that all welfare programs, from Social Security to food stamps, will cost $34 trillion from 2018 to 2027; that's two-thirds of federal spending projected over this period. The deficit is already $9 trillion for these years. To be sure, there are other areas of policy differences from the status quo, immigration and climate change being two examples. Just what will be proposed and enacted, and the consequences, are unknown. There are plenty of skeptics -- including me -- who think Trump's agenda is largely impractical or undesirable. To take one example: Since at least John F. Kennedy, presidents have pledged to increase economic growth. What we have learned is that, over meaningful time periods (say, four or five years), they can't control economic growth. [...]



Oscar Rants

2017-02-26T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Actress Meryl Streep likely set the stage for a very political Academy Award ceremony Sunday night when she accepted a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes in January. Now the question is, will President Donald Trump be watching what is likely to be a four-hour verbal pounding of his person and policies? Streep indirectly panned Trump's immigration policies as she warned about kicking out people from diverse backgrounds out of the country. She also delivered a scorching indictment against Trump without naming him when she knocked the moment during the campaign...WASHINGTON -- Actress Meryl Streep likely set the stage for a very political Academy Award ceremony Sunday night when she accepted a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes in January. Now the question is, will President Donald Trump be watching what is likely to be a four-hour verbal pounding of his person and policies? Streep indirectly panned Trump's immigration policies as she warned about kicking out people from diverse backgrounds out of the country. She also delivered a scorching indictment against Trump without naming him when she knocked the moment during the campaign when "the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back." Trump took to Twitter the next day. He berated Streep as "one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood" and denied his intent was to mock New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski's disability (even though that's how it appeared). Trump did not challenge Streep on what is perhaps Hollywood's most annoying conceit -- the precious notion that those who work in La-La Land take political stands that require inordinate courage and character. "All of us in this room, really, belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now," Streep said, as if she believed it. I can only say that that if having extravagant award ceremonies, staff to shield you from an adoring public and all the other perks of celebrity signify being "vilified," bring it on. As for the empathy and ability to live in other people's skin which Streep hailed as hallmarks of her profession, those traits were lacking when Streep gave the back of her hand to Middle America. "Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners," she said. "If you kick 'em all out, you'll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts." (You don't get the feeling that Streep's take on Trump and his supporters is tinged with a sense of self-superiority and entitlement, do you, artless Chow Yun-Fat fan?) Left-leaning lectures have haunted the Oscars since 1973, when Marlon Brando, who won best actor for his role in "The Godfather," dispatched Sacheen Littlefeather to the stage with a statement about the entertainment industry's treatment of American Indians. At least Brando was holding up standards for his own industry -- not everyone else. Rather than prop up Brando as an exemplar of courage even to the point where he risked his amazing career, Hollywood shrugged off the episode as sorry evidence of Brando's growing eccentricity. It's more common these days for liberal award winners to hail in an orgy of self-congratulation the bravery of like-minded entertainers who criticize conservatives. Oh, the courage they show. At the 2013 Golden Globes, Jay Roach, executive producer of HBO's "Game Change," saluted the bravery of Julianne Moore for playing one of the left's favorite pincushions, Sarah Palin. When George W. Bush was president, the occasional Oscar recipient railed against the war in Iraq. When Barack Obama assumed office, U.S. troops still served in Iraq, but the anti-war chants met a mute button. Robert Davi, who showed up at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland last we[...]



The Idiocy of Accusing Trump of Anti-Semitism

2017-02-26T00:00:00Z

Among political elites, speculating about President Trump’s mental health has become a parlor game. While those who support him consider such talk simply a political smear, his critics find it a realistic and scary possibility. Here’s another worrisome thought: Trump’s detractors have already become unhinged. The “anti-Semitic” slander against Trump is a classic case study. Seeking a question from a “a friendly reporter” during his first solo White House news conference, Trump looked around the East Room before settling on...Among political elites, speculating about President Trump’s mental health has become a parlor game. While those who support him consider such talk simply a political smear, his critics find it a realistic and scary possibility. Here’s another worrisome thought: Trump’s detractors have already become unhinged. The “anti-Semitic” slander against Trump is a classic case study. Seeking a question from a “a friendly reporter” during his first solo White House news conference, Trump looked around the East Room before settling on 30-year-old Jake Turx, an untested rookie on the beat who covers politics for an obscure Orthodox Jewish weekly based in Brooklyn. Perhaps Turx’s beard, yarmulke and Hassidic curls suggested an ally in Trump’s mind. And he did get a friendly question, or rather, he got a professional question asked in a friendly way. Turx prefaced his query by saying, “I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren -- you are the zayde.” The president smiled at the affectionate Yiddish term for grandfather and said, “Thank you,” as Turx continued to the heart of his question: How was the administration responding to a reported uptick in anti-Jewish hate crimes across the country, including numerous bomb threats to synagogues and vandalizing a Jewish cemetery in suburban St. Louis? Trump lost it instantly. Like a hyperactive kid without his Ritalin, Trump said he “hated” the question, accused the reporter of lying to get the floor, told him to “sit down,” then said “Quiet! Quiet! Quiet!” when Turx tried to say he’d never even hinted the president was anti-Semitic.  “Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your life,” Trump said. “Number two, racism: The least racist person.” Even for Donald J. Trump it was a performance of astonishing tackiness. Yet it was followed, as his bloopers always are, by even more fatuous defamations aimed at the president from his critics. On Presidents’ Day, 11 bomb threats were phoned into Jewish community centers around the country, the fourth spate of such apparently coordinated psychological attacks against American Jews in 2017. This time, Trump spoke out forcefully. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” he said after visiting the National Museum of African American History & Culture on Tuesday. “This tour,” the president added, “was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.” In another universe, one where hyper-partisanship didn’t rule every aspect of domestic politics, Trump’s critics would have expressed gratitude that he spoke out—even if they’d preferred he had done so earlier—and taken heart that his Justice Department had said it was investigating and that Trump’s vice president had added [...]



As DNC Chair, Perez Must Harness Trump 'Resistance'

2017-02-26T00:00:00Z

ATLANTA — As the Democratic National Committee gathered here to select its new leader, members invoked the phoenix, the symbol of the city's reconstruction after being burned to the ground during the Civil War. Given the party’s defeat in November and the uphill road ahead with GOP control of the White House and Congress, it seemed an apt image. Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was chosen to lead that rebuilding effort as chairman of the DNC. Immediately after securing the majority tally needed in the second round of voting Saturday, Perez named rival Keith Ellison...ATLANTA — As the Democratic National Committee gathered here to select its new leader, members invoked the phoenix, the symbol of the city's reconstruction after being burned to the ground during the Civil War. Given the party’s defeat in November and the uphill road ahead with GOP control of the White House and Congress, it seemed an apt image. Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was chosen to lead that rebuilding effort as chairman of the DNC. Immediately after securing the majority tally needed in the second round of voting Saturday, Perez named rival Keith Ellison as deputy chairman, a move intended to unite the Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders coalitions they represent. The new chairman told those assembled that when historians look back on this moment in time, they will ask, “Where were you in 2017, when we had the worst president in the history of the United States? We will be able to say that the Democratic Party led the resistance, and made sure this was a one-term president.” While characterized as an establishment candidate because of endorsements from the former president and vice president, Perez has well-established progressive credentials. In his confirmation vote to lead the Labor Department in 2013, no Republican senator supported him, a rarity then for executive appointments. But with his inclusion of Ellison, Democrats hope to avoid potential controversies that the Minnesota congressman could have brought. Though some Ellison supporters walked out when the 235-200 vote count was announced, the runner-up warned that “we don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided.” After the 2016 election left Democrats without power in Washington, and exposed how decimated their ranks were in state and local offices across the country, the race for DNC chair became one to determine a new national direction for the party. But in the intervening months, a highly energized opposition to President Trump has emerged, bringing into question the relevance of the party committee.  For a party out of power, the head of the DNC plays an outsized role as its face, along with serving as chief organizer, fundraiser, and a strategist for the short and long term. But in the era of nearly weekly protests, raucous town-hall meetings, and new organizing groups springing up, the job description has the added challenge of keeping up with a restive base and converting its energy into electoral results.   "It's not merely about organizing and building the party, it’s about positioning the party within a broader movement of people who are energized in a way that hasn’t happened in my lifetime," said Peter Buttigieg, the 35-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., who dropped out of the chairmanship race and is considered a rising star in a party struggling to retain both young voters and older ones in the Rust Belt.   Buttigieg was often described as a dark-horse candidate, representing the "fresh face" the party might need to successfully rebuild. But he dropped out of the running shortly before ballots were cast, a move taken to ensure a smoother process for his chief rivals, Ellison and Perez. Buttigieg's decision will likely elevate his profile,[...]



The Battle for the Soul of Conservatism

2017-02-26T00:00:00Z

One of the concerns those of us who are conservative had about the right rallying around Donald Trump is that he would have a degrading effect on conservatism itself. It hasn’t taken much time for those concerns to be realized. One recent example: In an interview broadcast just prior to the Super Bowl, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly pressed President Trump on his repeated expressions of respect for the brutal, authoritarian leader of Russia. When O’Reilly described Vladimir Putin as a killer, Trump responded, “There are a lot of killers. You think our...One of the concerns those of us who are conservative had about the right rallying around Donald Trump is that he would have a degrading effect on conservatism itself. It hasn’t taken much time for those concerns to be realized. One recent example: In an interview broadcast just prior to the Super Bowl, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly pressed President Trump on his repeated expressions of respect for the brutal, authoritarian leader of Russia. When O’Reilly described Vladimir Putin as a killer, Trump responded, “There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?” (This was hardly the first time that Trump denigrated America in the context of defending Putin. During the 2016 campaign, when MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said Putin “kills journalists, political opponents and invades countries,” Trump replied, “At least he’s a leader.” Besides, Trump added, “I think our country does plenty of killing also.”) A second example: A little more than a week ago, Milo Yiannopoulos, a crude and nihilistic figure on the “alt-right,” was invited to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, America’s largest gathering of conservative leaders and activists. (The invitation was rescinded only after a video tape was circulated showing Yiannopoulos speaking sympathetically of pedophilia.) Now, a thought experiment: Assume it was Barack Obama, not Donald Trump, who slandered America in an effort to defend Putin; and assume it was a liberal gathering rather than a conservative one that invited a Yiannopoulos-like individual to speak and enthusiastically justified it, which is what CPAC did before the comment celebrating pedophilia went viral. (Yiannopoulos, an admirer of Trump who refers to him as “Daddy,” has among many other things described Joe Bernstein, a media writer for BuzzFeed News, as “a typical example of a sort of thick-as-pig-sh** media Jew.”) We all know what the reaction would have been. The right, and especially conservative media and evangelical leaders, would have gone ballistic. But Trump and his supporters are given a pass by many of the very same people who would have been (loudly) outraged if this behavior had emanated from the other side. One explanation for such a double standard is political tribalism; the attitude that whatever is done by “my team” is defensible and that for conservatives to criticize Trump and those who support him is an act of betrayal, a sign of weakness that aids and abets the forces hostile to conservativism. Trump is being harshly criticized by the left, they argue. He doesn’t need those on the right to pile on as well. If Trump infuriates the left, this logic suggests, he is therefore deserving of support on the right. I understand that the pull of partisanship is strong. But such justifications ultimately underscore the moral and intellectual decay that has spread as a result of Trump and Trumpism. Many people on the right, in choosing to support Trump over Hillary Clinton, began to accommodate themselves to their decision. They began the process of normalizing Trump, and normalization is now g[...]



Trump's Preposterous Rationale for Revoking Transgender Bathroom Rights

2017-02-26T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration's move to rescind bathroom access protections for transgender students rests on the idea that school bathroom policies are "a states' rights issue," as White House press secretary Sean Spicer has explained, and that, in any event, it is "preposterous on its face" that the authors of the federal law barring sex discrimination in schools imagined it would cover transgender students. On the states' rights question, the administration is both wrong and offensive. On the issue of what the authors of Title IX contemplated in...WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration's move to rescind bathroom access protections for transgender students rests on the idea that school bathroom policies are "a states' rights issue," as White House press secretary Sean Spicer has explained, and that, in any event, it is "preposterous on its face" that the authors of the federal law barring sex discrimination in schools imagined it would cover transgender students. On the states' rights question, the administration is both wrong and offensive. On the issue of what the authors of Title IX contemplated in 1972, it is correct but irrelevant. The issue isn't what the authors intended but what discrimination "on the basis of sex" means. For Gavin Grimm, the 17-year-old high school student whose case is now before the Supreme Court, it means that he is a boy -- he has an amended birth certificate saying so -- who, alone among the boys at his rural Virginia school, is barred from using the boys' room. Tell him that's not discriminating on the basis of sex. The states' rights argument, redolent of 1960s resistance to civil rights protections for African-Americans is, to repeat Spicer's language, "preposterous on its face." Of course, education is traditionally a state and local issue. But the federal government provides billions of dollars every year to local schools -- and attaches a host of conditions to the receipt of that funding. Among those conditions: that they not discriminate on the basis of sex. It was the authors of Title IX -- the very legislators whose intentions Spicer is so solicitous of -- who determined that sex discrimination in educational institutions was not a states' rights issue but a matter of federal concern. If treating transgender students differently is discriminating on the basis of sex, the Trump administration's argument is with Title IX itself. Why should a transgender student in Gloucester County, where Grimm lives, be treated differently, and enjoy fewer protections, than a transgender student elsewhere? So the relevant question remains: Are transgender students protected under Title IX? Here, Spicer is undoubtedly correct that the authors of Title IX didn't have transgender students in mind. That's not the point, nor is it the way that the court interprets statutes. Back in 1972, no one imagined that sexual harassment was a form of sex discrimination. The legal theory didn't exist. That has not stopped the Supreme Court from recognizing that sexual harassment constitutes impermissible discrimination, including under Title IX. Dismissing legislative intent in interpreting statutory meaning in favor of focusing on the language of the statute itself is not some rogue liberal method of judging -- it's what the late Justice Antonin Scalia advocated. Thus Grimm's lawyers, in their just-filed brief at the Supreme Court, cite Scalia from 1998: "Statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed." That case involved male-on-male sexual harassment in the workplace, clearly not what the authors of the 1964 Civil Rights Act had in mi[...]



Cronyism Thwarts Telemedicine and Other Innovations

2017-02-26T00:00:00Z

The goal of health care reform is to provide better health care to everyone at a lower cost, year after year. The solution is not to provide a better third-party-payer system -- e.g., health insurance or government-provided health insurance -- but instead to allow technological development and entrepreneurship to improve the current business model through groundbreaking innovations that empower consumers, improve quality and cut prices. We have seen it happen in many industries, such as transportation, room and board, and tech. Of course, special interests benefiting from the old model do not...The goal of health care reform is to provide better health care to everyone at a lower cost, year after year. The solution is not to provide a better third-party-payer system -- e.g., health insurance or government-provided health insurance -- but instead to allow technological development and entrepreneurship to improve the current business model through groundbreaking innovations that empower consumers, improve quality and cut prices. We have seen it happen in many industries, such as transportation, room and board, and tech. Of course, special interests benefiting from the old model do not appreciate being challenged. As a result, rather than make it easier for new models to thrive by ensuring that rules and regulations do not stifle innovation, politicians often choose to protect established industry players at the expense of consumers. Examples of this are easy to find. New York City is now retroactively fining Airbnb hosts thousands of dollars for competing with hotels to provide affordable short-term rentals. Likewise, Uber has faced opposition from politically connected taxi cartels almost everywhere it operates. These services provide additional income for those with capital resources that would otherwise go unused, and they make travel more convenient and cheaper for customers. Some services strive to do something even more impactful by making health care more affordable and accessible, yet they are held back by outdated rules and hostile competing industries. Take, for example, telemedicine -- the use of modern communications technology, such as videoconferencing and using smartphones, to facilitate patient care. It has the potential to help millions of Americans struggling to pay the skyrocketing costs of health care. But instead, some politicians are siding with their campaign contributors in the health care industry and not the constituents they supposedly are in office to serve. Telemedicine can benefit a variety of medical fields, especially when a visit to the doctor for answers to routine questions often costs a pretty penny. For instance, most modern phones are capable of taking high-quality images of a questionable mole or rash, which can then be transmitted by an app for review by a dermatologist. Instead of waiting weeks for an appointment, the patient can get an answer faster and at a lower cost. Like the other disruptive services, telemedicine is running into opposition from politically connected competitors. Consider eye care, where telemedicine holds great potential. Several startups are trying to make it easier for patients to receive new prescriptions by offering exams through smartphones, which are as good as traditional exams. The results are reviewed by a licensed optometrist, who then provides the prescription. Optometrists, who make a lot of money by prescribing and selling specific brand-name versions of contact lenses and eye care products, are fighting to prevent this use of telemedicine in multiple states. The California State Board of Optometry used taxpayer dollars to engage in a public relations campaign against one telemedicine startup. Indiana enacted a law last year [...]



Trump, Aides Battle Journalists, Leaks, and Probes

2017-02-25T00:00:00Z

President Trump was unhappy Friday with news coverage and with leaks. And while he complained publicly, his White House spokesman took up the same arguments with members of the news media. At the root of the unhappiness was the president’s continued denial that his campaign advisers engaged in contacts with Russian officials before the election -- allegations the FBI reportedly is exploring as part of a probe of Russian hacking during the 2016 election. Trump and his top aides also took issue with news reports asserting the FBI declined a request by White House Chief of Staff Reince...President Trump was unhappy Friday with news coverage and with leaks. And while he complained publicly, his White House spokesman took up the same arguments with members of the news media. At the root of the unhappiness was the president’s continued denial that his campaign advisers engaged in contacts with Russian officials before the election -- allegations the FBI reportedly is exploring as part of a probe of Russian hacking during the 2016 election. Trump and his top aides also took issue with news reports asserting the FBI declined a request by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to refute New York Times and CNN reporting about alleged ties to Russia. The White House denied that Trump and his team pressured the FBI to help the White House battle what it believes is erroneous reporting. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that Priebus discussed with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe the disputed news coverage, but the White House denies there was any effort to influence the FBI or the Justice Department. Spicer said the chief of staff responded to McCabe’s voluntary observation that the FBI believed news accounts of frequent Russian contacts with advisers close to the Trump campaign were incorrect. The private conversation leaked to multiple news outlets, enraging the president, who voiced his unhappiness with the FBI via Twitter Friday, and his objections to news coverage later in the day during a speech. The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security "leakers" that have permeated our government for a long time. They can't even...... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2017 find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2017 During a prepared speech a few hours later to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump fumed about news coverage he said was both negative and based on multiple unnamed sources he claimed did not exist.  “They have no sources; they just make them up when there are none,” the president told Republicans, referring to a Feb. 9 Washington Post article that described his former national security adviser’s discussions about U.S. sanctions with a Russian diplomat during Trump’s transition. “I saw one story recently where they said, `nine people have confirmed.’ There're no nine people. I don't believe there are one or two people,” Trump said, referring to the article’s unnamed sources inside and outside government. “Somebody reads it and they think, `Oh, nine people. They have nine sources.’ They make up sources,” the president said. Recent polling shows the public is attentive to the Trump-Russia news coverage, and a majority of Americans believe Russia interfered in the 2016 election by hacking Democratic National Committee emails and the Gmail account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman. That was the conclusion reached by the Obama admini[...]



As Critics Sneer, Trump Is Maneuvering to Unmuzzle Economy

2017-02-25T00:00:00Z

Virtually the whole world is beating up on the Trump administration for daring to predict that low marginal tax rates, regulatory rollbacks, and the repeal of Obamacare will generate 3 to 3.5 percent economic growth in the years ahead. In a CNBC interview last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held the line on this forecast. He also argued the need for dynamic budget scoring to capture the effects of faster growth. Good for him. But what’s so interesting about all the economic-growth naysaying today is that President Obama’s first budget forecast roughly eight years...Virtually the whole world is beating up on the Trump administration for daring to predict that low marginal tax rates, regulatory rollbacks, and the repeal of Obamacare will generate 3 to 3.5 percent economic growth in the years ahead. In a CNBC interview last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held the line on this forecast. He also argued the need for dynamic budget scoring to capture the effects of faster growth. Good for him. But what’s so interesting about all the economic-growth naysaying today is that President Obama’s first budget forecast roughly eight years ago was much rosier than Trump’s. And there was nary a peep of criticism from the mainstream-media outlets and the consensus of economists. Strategas Research Partners policy analyst Dan Clifton printed up a chart of the Obama plan that predicted real economic growth of roughly 3 percent in 2010, near 4 percent in 2011, over 4 percent in 2012, and nearly 4 percent in 2013. But it turned out that actual growth ran below 2 percent during this period. Was there any howling about this result among the economic consensus? Of course not. It seems they’ve saved all their grumbling for the Trump forecast today. And what’s really interesting is that the Obama policy didn’t include a single economic-growth incentive. Not one. Instead, there was a massive $850 billion so-called spending stimulus (Whatever became of those spending multipliers?), a bunch of public-works programs that never got off the ground, and finally Obamacare, which really was one giant tax increase. Remember when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that the health-care mandate was in fact a tax? But it wasn’t just a tax. It was a tax hike. And added to that were an 3.8 percent investment tax hike, a proposed tax hike on so-called Cadillac insurance plans, and yet another tax increase on medical equipment. So eight years ago tax-and-spend was perfectly okay. And the projection that it would produce a 4 percent growth rate perfectly satisfied the economic consensus. Make sense? No, it does not. So here’s President Trump reaching back through history for a common-sense growth policy that worked in the 1960s, when JFK slashed marginal tax rates on individuals and corporations, and again in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan slashed tax rates across-the-board and sparked a two-decade boom of roughly 4 percent real annual growth. But the economic consensus won’t buy Trump’s plan. One after another, Trump critics argue that because we’ve had 2 percent growth over the past ten years or so, we are doomed to continue that forever. This is nonsense. Most of the Trump critics point to the decline in productivity over the past 15 years. They say, unless productivity jumps to 2.5 percent or so, and unless labor-force participation rises, we can’t possibly have 3 to 4 percent growth. Stanford University economics professor John Taylor, who’s also a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and one of the nation’s top academic economists, has charted how productiv[...]



CPAC Activists Back the Left's Right to Protest Trump

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

OXON HILL, Md. – Participants at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference here have noticed the high level of energy and activism among Democrats in the early days of the Trump administration, but they’re not put off by it. In fact, some find it encouraging. CPAC falls this year at the end of a week highlighted by raucous town halls, along with other protests and pushback directed at Republican members of Congress during their first recess since President Trump took office. Democratic constituents have angrily questioned lawmakers on their efforts to repeal and...OXON HILL, Md. – Participants at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference here have noticed the high level of energy and activism among Democrats in the early days of the Trump administration, but they’re not put off by it. In fact, some find it encouraging. CPAC falls this year at the end of a week highlighted by raucous town halls, along with other protests and pushback directed at Republican members of Congress during their first recess since President Trump took office. Democratic constituents have angrily questioned lawmakers on their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and challenged them to provide more oversight of the White House. But while Trump has dismissed these protests, many conservatives here cheered the opposition’s right to make its voice heard. “Political participation is important,” said Christina Pushow, 26, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins. “I don’t care what side you’re on. I think it’s great that people feel motivated to protest. I think it’s great we live in a free country where we’re allowed to protest.” Karina Lopez, 18, a college student from Los Angeles, said some of the protesting has been over-the-top, but she cheered more active engagement by the left. “I completely support their right to protest, though I do think it’s getting excessive,” Lopez said. “Every decision being made is being protested. But I hope that motivates them to go out and vote and be active and make their voices heard, because we sure did." Iman Redzepi, a 19-year-old student from New Jersey, said she would “defend until my last breath people’s right to protest.” “Everyone has the right to disagree with [Trump] or fight back or protest against it, obviously,” she said. “If he does deserve it, I think it’s a good thing. But I think everyone needs to give him a chance. … It hasn’t even been 100 days yet. I think he’ll surprise everyone in a good way." During his remarks to the conference, Trump called Obamacare a “failed health care law that threatens our medical system with absolute and total catastrophe.” He then addressed some of the demonstrations against the agenda to repeal and replace it.   “Now people are starting to develop a little warm heart, but the people that you're watching, they're not you,” he said. “They're largely -- many of them are the side that lost, you know, they lost the election. It's like, how many elections do we have to have? They lost the election.” That message came two days after Trump tweeted about “so-called angry crowds” that were “planned out by liberal activists. Sad!” Some in the crowd agreed. Pushow, the Hopkins student, said she thought some of the protests were “manufactured” and not “self-funded.” Another attendee, a policy writer in Washington who declined to give his full name, said he was “a little wary of astro-tu[...]



We Should All Thank Vice President Pence

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

Mike Pence’s surprise visit Wednesday to a historic Jewish cemetery in Missouri, where 200 headstones were desecrated last weekend, gave a deeply divided country the most unifying moment since President Trump took office Jan. 20. Pence’s healing words and deeds -- he joined volunteers raking debris from the graveyard -- uplifted not only a fearful community facing new, intensified threats, but millions of other Americans who were disturbed, if not horrified, that something like this could happen in the United States. This “vile act,” as Pence called the...Mike Pence’s surprise visit Wednesday to a historic Jewish cemetery in Missouri, where 200 headstones were desecrated last weekend, gave a deeply divided country the most unifying moment since President Trump took office Jan. 20. Pence’s healing words and deeds -- he joined volunteers raking debris from the graveyard -- uplifted not only a fearful community facing new, intensified threats, but millions of other Americans who were disturbed, if not horrified, that something like this could happen in the United States. This “vile act,” as Pence called the attack on Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery, follows 54 bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers in 27 states since the start of the year alone. Pence, a deeply religious man, told those gathered they were “inspiring the nation by your love and care for this place, for the Jewish community, and I want to thank you for that inspiration -- for showing the world what America is really about.” The stop, which Pence added to his schedule for a planned visit to a business nearby, will be remembered long after the blur of events of the last four weeks is long forgotten, and showed that small acts can be as powerful as large, loud ones.   There are no press statements or tweets that can take the place of showing up. A picture of President George W. Bush surveying the damage of Hurricane Katrina from the comfort of his airplane instead of visiting the victims; President Obama’s decision to skip a unity march in Paris following the Charlie Hebdo terror attack, as other world leaders linked arms with the French president in support of his nation -- both mistakes said it all. Indeed, Pence’s presence in surburban St. Louis said everything. Trump’s young administration has been working hard to fulfill promises he made to supporters during his campaign. But whether it was his Happy New Year wishes to “my enemies and to those who fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do,” or his inaugural address last month, Trump has spoken mostly to the 46 percent of voters who cast ballots for him and not to the rest. Aides like Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, when asked about Trump’s intentions to reach out to those he hasn’t won over, routinely cite his remarks from election night about bringing the nation together, but nothing since then. While heightened threats and discrimination against Jews have risen sharply just since he took office, Trump has refused to condemn them until this week. Several times last week he avoided denouncing the dozens of bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers. When asked the first time, standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Trump said: “Well, I just want to say that we are, you know, very honored by the victory that we had — 306 Electoral College votes. We were not supposed to crack 220. You know that, right? There was no way to 221, but then they said there’s no way to 270. And there&rsq[...]



Is Secession a Solution to Cultural War?

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

As the culture war is about irreconcilable beliefs about God and man, right and wrong, good and evil, and is at root a religious war, it will be with us so long as men are free to act on their beliefs. Yet, given the divisions among us, deeper and wider than ever, it is an open question as to how, and how long, we will endure as one people. After World War II, our judicial dictatorship began a purge of public manifestations of the "Christian nation" that Harry Truman said we were. In 2009, Barack Obama retorted, "We do not consider ourselves to be a Christian nation."...As the culture war is about irreconcilable beliefs about God and man, right and wrong, good and evil, and is at root a religious war, it will be with us so long as men are free to act on their beliefs. Yet, given the divisions among us, deeper and wider than ever, it is an open question as to how, and how long, we will endure as one people. After World War II, our judicial dictatorship began a purge of public manifestations of the "Christian nation" that Harry Truman said we were. In 2009, Barack Obama retorted, "We do not consider ourselves to be a Christian nation." Secularism had been enthroned as our established religion, with only the most feeble of protests. One can only imagine how Iranians or Afghans would deal with unelected judges moving to de-Islamicize their nations. Heads would roll, literally. Which bring us to the first culture war skirmish of the Trump era. Taking sides with Attorney General Jeff Sessions against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the president rescinded the Obama directive that gave transgender students the right to use the bathroom of their choice in public schools. President Donald Trump sent the issue back to the states and locales to decide. While treated by the media and left as the civil rights cause of our era, the "bathroom debate" calls to mind Marx's observation, "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." Can anyone seriously contend that whether a 14-year-old boy, who thinks he is a girl, gets to use the girls' bathroom is a civil rights issue comparable to whether African-Americans get the right to vote? Remarkably, there was vigorous dissent, from DeVos, to returning this issue to where it belongs, with state and local officials. After yielding on the bathroom question, she put out a statement declaring that every school in America has a "moral obligation" to protect children from bullying, and directed her Office of Civil Rights to investigate all claims of bullying or harassment "against those who are most vulnerable in our schools." Now, bullying is bad behavior, and it may be horrible behavior. But when did a Republican Party that believes in states rights decide this was a responsibility of a bureaucracy Ronald Reagan promised but failed to shut down? When did the GOP become nanny-staters? Bullying is something every kid in public, parochial or private school has witnessed by graduation. While unfortunate, it is part of growing up. But what kind of society, what kind of people have we become when we start to rely on federal bureaucrats to stop big kids from harassing and beating up smaller or weaker kids? While the bathroom debate is a skirmish in the culture war, Trump's solution -- send the issue back to the states and the people there to work it out -- may point the way to a truce -- assuming Americans still want a truce. For Trump's solution is rooted in the principle of subsidiarity, first advanced in the 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII -- that social problems are best resolved by the smallest unit of socie[...]



Steve & Reince Show; Illinois' Woes; Pence Steps Up; Courting Controversy

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Friday, February 24, 2017. I’ll resist the temptation to joke about global warming, but I will say that the spring-like weather we’ve been experiencing in Washington -- with a month yet to go in winter -- has been a welcome respite to our cold and bitter politics. Speaking of which, 214 years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the new president (Thomas Jefferson) and his secretary of state (James Madison) had been in violation of the law two years earlier when they refused to let outgoing President John Adams’...Good morning, it’s Friday, February 24, 2017. I’ll resist the temptation to joke about global warming, but I will say that the spring-like weather we’ve been experiencing in Washington -- with a month yet to go in winter -- has been a welcome respite to our cold and bitter politics. Speaking of which, 214 years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the new president (Thomas Jefferson) and his secretary of state (James Madison) had been in violation of the law two years earlier when they refused to let outgoing President John Adams’ “midnight judges” take their seats on the federal bench. This was the first constitutional clash between the judicial and executive branches. As we have been reminded in the early days of the Trump administration, it was hardly the last. I’ll have a further word on Marbury v. Madison in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a full complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Bannon, Priebus Regale CPAC With Odd-Couple Rapport. Rebecca Berg reviews the pair’s appearance at the conservative confab outside Washington. Cotton Emerging as Valued Trump Wingman in the Senate. Rebecca reports on the Arkansas senator’s key role. Justice Eyes Federal Enforcement of Recreational Pot. The White House suggested the U.S. attorney general may begin prosecuting non-medicinal marijuana users. Alexis Simendinger has the story. ILexit: Time to Pull the Plug on a Failed State. Tom Bevan considers the ways Illinois, his adopted home state, is weighing the country down. We Should All Thank Vice President Pence. A.B. Stoddard applauds his appearance at a vandalized Jewish cemetery following Trump’s evasive remarks regarding anti-Semitism. The State of Entrepreneurship in America Today. Tom Bevan’s video interview with Kauffman Foundation CEO Wendy Guillies is here. What’s Next for Trump’s Unconfirmed Cabinet Picks? Melissa Cruz lays out the schedule. Can Trump Manufacture New Jobs, or Only Nostalgia? In an op-ed, Scott Paul writes that the steel and automobile industries’ glory days can be resurrected in a new form with the right policies. The Cost of Trump’s War on the Media. Peter J. Wallison asserts that the president’s skirmishes with the press obscure delaying tactics by Senate Democrats. Missing the Medicare Forrest for the Obamacare Trees. In RealClearHealth, Yevgeniy Feyman discusses how Medicare needs to be reformed alongside the ACA. We Need a Compassionate Immigration Policy. Derek McCoy makes his case in RealClearPolicy. Planned Planethood Exposed. RealClearScience’s Tom Hartsfield offers a light-hearted take on what we call planets and exoplanets. Spawning a Market for Institutionalized Discontent. RealCle[...]



ILexit: Time to Pull the Plug on a Failed State

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

In case you haven’t heard, a fringe group of California progressives is agitating for the Golden State to secede from the Union in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. They’re collecting signatures to put the question of “Calexit” to voters on the next statewide ballot. California ultimately won’t leave the country – nor should it. Yes, it’s incredibly far to the left culturally and politically, chock-full of self-important, politically correct bureaucrats and arrogant Hollywood elites. But it’s also...In case you haven’t heard, a fringe group of California progressives is agitating for the Golden State to secede from the Union in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. They’re collecting signatures to put the question of “Calexit” to voters on the next statewide ballot. California ultimately won’t leave the country – nor should it. Yes, it’s incredibly far to the left culturally and politically, chock-full of self-important, politically correct bureaucrats and arrogant Hollywood elites. But it’s also home to a massive economy driven by cutting-edge entrepreneurialism, great food, great weather, and some of Mother Nature’s finest masterpieces. I grew up in the West, just south of Seattle, and while those of us in Washington state always had a bit of an inferiority complex regarding California in those days, I’d personally hate to see her go. Illinois is a different story. I’ve spent most of my adult life here; for more than 25 years I’ve called Chicagoland home. I started a business and raised my family here. But the more I’ve watched the city of Chicago and the state flail about in the last few years, unable to protect its citizens and unwilling to put its fiscal house in order, the more convinced I’ve become that maybe it’s time for Illinois to leave the Union – as a favor to the rest of America. I’m joking about “ILexit,” but less than you might think. In the city of Chicago, the carnage – and, yes, I use that Trumpian phrase on purpose – continues unabated.  Six people were shot dead on Wednesday, including a pregnant woman in her 20s, making it the deadliest single day in the city since eight people were killed on Christmas.  So far this year, homicides are outpacing last year’s obscene total of 762, a 55 percent increase from 2015 and the highest number of murders the city has seen since 1996. Decades of mismanagement, lavish spending programs, and kowtowing to public employee unions have left the city’s finances in shambles. Taxes and fees in the city are skyrocketing, while its bond status has been reduced to junk. Despite all this, voters have continued to reward just one party with power. Democrats have run the city of Chicago since before Franklin Roosevelt was president. Outside of Chicago, things are no better, even if they’re a bit more bipartisan. Of Illinois’ last four governors, two (Republican George Ryan and Democrat Rod Blagojevich) went to prison. (Two others, Otto Kerner and Dan Walker, both Democrats, also spent time in the slammer.) In Springfield, Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, another Chicago Democrat,  has ruled the state legislature with an iron fist for 31 of the last 34 years. During his tenure, Illinois has gone from the Midwest’s economic powerhouse all the way to the poorhouse. Illinois currently has a backlog of $11.9 billion in unpaid bills and rough[...]



The Cost of Trump's War on the Media

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

The war between President Trump and the media has obscured an unprecedented effort in the Senate to scuttle the president’s agenda. Without the numbers to defeat Trump’s nominees to top Cabinet positions, Democrats have adopted a strategy of tying up the Senate’s advice and consent process. In doing so, they have exposed themselves to a deadly political charge, but the absence of a sensible strategy from the Trump White House has thus far saved them from any political cost. It’s possible that the current effort will be focused only on Trump’s...The war between President Trump and the media has obscured an unprecedented effort in the Senate to scuttle the president’s agenda. Without the numbers to defeat Trump’s nominees to top Cabinet positions, Democrats have adopted a strategy of tying up the Senate’s advice and consent process. In doing so, they have exposed themselves to a deadly political charge, but the absence of a sensible strategy from the Trump White House has thus far saved them from any political cost. It’s possible that the current effort will be focused only on Trump’s Cabinet nominees, but since it is a response to the hysterical left, there will be immense pressure on Democrats to continue it in the future. Hundreds of lower-level nominees for positions throughout the administration can be challenged and delayed in the same way, stalling Senate action on the president’s program. Needless to say, there has never been an opposition tantrum like this in U.S. history. Yes, the South seceded from the Union with the election of President Lincoln (who also won with less than a majority of the popular vote), but in a sense secession was a more honest policy than keeping a legitimately elected government from functioning. If the Democrats indeed continue this strategy, it will be nothing less than an attack on the legitimacy of the presidential election process, and a threat to the future of our democracy. Still, the stakes are high for the Democrats. Wholesale obstruction is a risky strategy. Harry Reid’s obstructive efforts between 2010 and 2014, while it protected Senate Democrats from having to vote on popular conservative legislation, also deprived voters of any reasons to re-elect them. As a result, the Democrats lost Senate seats in 2010 and control of the Senate in 2014. In 2016, the public’s frustration with Washington elected Donald Trump. Even most Democrats agree with this analysis, so it is remarkable that Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has adopted a strategy for 2018 that assumes the electorate will reward them for preventing Trump from getting anything done. Like Reid’s strategy, it plays to the Democrats’ leftist base, but leaves the senators from states with center-right populations seriously exposed.  Indeed, Schumer’s strategy could be catastrophic for his party. Just to hold its current minority position in the upper chamber, the Democrats must re-elect 10 incumbents  from states Trump carried in 2016. A net loss of eight Democratic seats in 2018 will allow Republicans to overcome filibusters on legislation and leave the opposition unable to affect the direction of national policy for at least two years.    Unfortunately, the appalling irresponsibility of the current Schumer policy is not getting the attention it deserves—or  potentially forcing Democrats to pay any electoral price—because President Trump and his White House sta[...]



Trump Has a Grating Style But Significant Substance

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

Substance and style -- it's easy to get them confused or mistake one for the other. And they're never entirely unconnected, though exactly how much so is a matter of debate. That's especially true when it comes to evaluating Donald Trump's performance -- a word particularly ambiguous in his case, as referring to either oratorical style or policy substance. The new president's detractors see a would-be autocrat threatening freedom of the press ("dishonest media") and the independence of the judiciary ("so-called judge"). They see a barefaced liar or...Substance and style -- it's easy to get them confused or mistake one for the other. And they're never entirely unconnected, though exactly how much so is a matter of debate. That's especially true when it comes to evaluating Donald Trump's performance -- a word particularly ambiguous in his case, as referring to either oratorical style or policy substance. The new president's detractors see a would-be autocrat threatening freedom of the press ("dishonest media") and the independence of the judiciary ("so-called judge"). They see a barefaced liar or fantasist who maintains that his 306 electoral votes (two of which were cast for others) were more than George H.W. Bush's 426 in 1988, Bill Clinton's 379 in 1996 and Barack Obama's 365 in 2008. But the detractors' case can be overstated -- and often has been in the press, much of which seems bent on validating Trump's news conference statement that "the press has become so dishonest." They pooh-poohed his misleading reference to immigrant violence in Sweden, only to learn, from rioting just a few nights later, that it's a real thing. The press expects that Trump's denunciation of leaks is the preliminary to a government crackdown on free speech. But so far, there has been nothing like the Obama administration's subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen, its naming Fox News' James Rosen as an unindicted co-conspirator in another case and its prosecution of more leakers under the Espionage Act of 1917 than all previous administrations combined. In substance, Trump's administration has accomplished quite a lot in five weeks. It overturned a passel of Obama administration executive orders issued on the falsifiable and now falsified assumption that Democrats would hold the White House indefinitely. The Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines are now headed for approval, and the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States mega-regulations are on the way out. Federal hiring is frozen, and two old regulations must be rescinded for each new one issued. The result has been some major changes in policy, as promised during the campaign -- the way the political process is supposed to work. The executive order blocking travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries has been blocked by a federal appeals court decision -- labeled "totally unconvincing" by former New York top court judge and Trump critic Robert Smith -- which the administration has meekly obeyed. A rewrite is being prepared. Meanwhile, this week's executive order enforcing existing immigration laws that the Obama administration refused to enforce ("prosecutorial discretion") seems likely to deter future illegal entries. And it may well incentivize people who are already here illegally to, in Mitt Romney's phrase, "self-deport" as state legislation in Arizona has done over the past decade. Trump critics have pointed out, accurately, that immigration from south of the b[...]



Bannon, Priebus Regale CPAC With Odd-Couple Rapport

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, two of President Trump’s top advisers, sought to project a united front Thursday as they shared the stage at CPAC, the annual conservative meeting near Washington, D.C. Their unlikely working relationship has become a buddy comedy of intense fascination in Washington — with Priebus, the clean-cut former Republican National Committee chairman and reluctant Trump supporter, currently the president’s chief of staff — and Bannon, the unkempt former Breitbart News chairman and GOP rabble-rouser, now Trump’s chief...Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, two of President Trump’s top advisers, sought to project a united front Thursday as they shared the stage at CPAC, the annual conservative meeting near Washington, D.C. Their unlikely working relationship has become a buddy comedy of intense fascination in Washington — with Priebus, the clean-cut former Republican National Committee chairman and reluctant Trump supporter, currently the president’s chief of staff — and Bannon, the unkempt former Breitbart News chairman and GOP rabble-rouser, now Trump’s chief strategist. Originally billed as co-equal partners in Trump’s White House, the reality has proved more nuanced, producing an interesting study in contrasts. Priebus has taken on a managerial role, keeping the White House running, while Bannon has established himself as the lead thinker, steering policy for the president.  But as the White House has unevenly sought to establish its footing, their working relationship has sparked endless gossip and anonymously sourced reports — about who’s up, who’s down and who’s really in charge. “In regard to us two,” Priebus said Thursday, “I think the biggest misconception is everything that you’re reading.” Priebus likely did not include in that sweeping assessment a recent string of peppy joint interviews with Bannon, each one an opportunity to lovingly rib each other and tout their terrific partnership. Bannon and Priebus took that show on the road with their Conservative Political Action Conference appearance, a public display of affection where they even looked the part of an odd couple: Priebus wore a crisp navy pinstriped suit with an American flag pin on his lapel; Bannon opted for khakis with a black shirt and blazer, sans tie. “I love how many collars he wears,” Priebus noted. “Interesting look.” Their mutual, strategic ribbing has at times taken on the quality of a cheesy sitcom couple — the political equivalent of Bannon nagging Priebus for leaving the cap off his toothpaste, or Priebus scolding Bannon for abandoning dirty dishes in the sink. But underlying that banter is a more sober objective: to signal a well-oiled, focused and at-ease administration, when a string of controversies has suggested the opposite.  “I think if you look at the opposition party [the media] and how they portray the campaign, how they portrayed the transition and now how they're portraying the administration,” Bannon said, “it's always wrong.” “Just like they were dead wrong on the chaos of the campaign and just like they were dead wrong in the chaos of the transition,” Bannon added, “they are absolutely dead wrong about what's going on today because we have a team that's just grinding it through on what President Donald Trump promis[...]



What's Next for Trump's Unconfirmed Cabinet Picks?

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

Many of President Trump’s high-profile nominees for Cabinet positions have gradually made their way through a contentious confirmation process, despite Democratic opposition often slowing the pace to a crawl. There have been a number of party-line votes, with the GOP’s narrow majority in the Senate tilting the outcome, thanks to a filibuster rule change that Democrats engineered in 2013 – much to their dismay now. Nonetheless, Republicans are quick to complain that this is the longest installation process a president has endured since George Washington. Four...

Many of President Trump’s high-profile nominees for Cabinet positions have gradually made their way through a contentious confirmation process, despite Democratic opposition often slowing the pace to a crawl. There have been a number of party-line votes, with the GOP’s narrow majority in the Senate tilting the outcome, thanks to a filibuster rule change that Democrats engineered in 2013 – much to their dismay now. Nonetheless, Republicans are quick to complain that this is the longest installation process a president has endured since George Washington.

Four  nominees still await votes from the full Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has filed cloture motions en masse for these secretary-designates to more quickly begin the 30-hour debate time limit for each person. (Cloture now requires just 51 votes instead of the previous 60.) Two other nominees have yet to appear before their respective committees for hearings, as is also the case for the new national security adviser-designate, H.R. McMaster, who was tapped this week to succeed Mike Flynn.

Here is a brief update rundown of their status:

Wilbur Ross: Commerce

Approved by the Senate Commerce Committee
Cloture vote was taken Feb. 17
Awaiting full Senate confirmation vote, scheduled for Feb. 27

Ryan Zinke: Interior

Approved by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
McConnell has filed cloture
Awaiting full Senate cloture vote, scheduled for Feb. 27
If cloture vote passes and Democrats use all allotted debate time, confirmation vote would commence 30 hours later.

Ben Carson: Housing and Urban Development  

Approved by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
McConnell has filed cloture
No cloture or confirmation vote scheduled

Rick Perry: Energy

Approved by Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
McConnell has filed cloture
No cloture or confirmation vote scheduled

Alexander Acosta: Labor

No nomination hearing or vote scheduled

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander said he will not officially issue notice of a confirmation hearing until the panel has received Acosta’s committee paperwork along with an Office of Government Ethics agreement. (Acosta was nominated by Trump last week after the president’s controversial first choice, Andrew Puzder, withdrew.)

Sonny Perdue: Agriculture

No nomination hearing or vote scheduled

H.R. McMaster: National Security Adviser

No nomination hearing or vote scheduled






Russia's Global Hacking Efforts Are Far from a 'Ruse'

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- One of the most startling allegations in a January report by U.S. intelligence agencies about Russian hacking was this sentence: "Russia has sought to influence elections across Europe." This warning of a campaign far broader than the U.S. got little attention in America. We may be missing the forest for the trees in the Russia story: The Kremlin's attempt to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is part of a much bigger tale of Russian covert action -- in which Donald Trump's campaign was perhaps a tool, witting or unwitting. This secret...WASHINGTON -- One of the most startling allegations in a January report by U.S. intelligence agencies about Russian hacking was this sentence: "Russia has sought to influence elections across Europe." This warning of a campaign far broader than the U.S. got little attention in America. We may be missing the forest for the trees in the Russia story: The Kremlin's attempt to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is part of a much bigger tale of Russian covert action -- in which Donald Trump's campaign was perhaps a tool, witting or unwitting. This secret manipulation, if unchecked, could pose an "existential threat" to Western democracy, argues Gerard Araud, France's ambassador to Washington. The investigations begun by the FBI and Congress hopefully will reveal or debunk any connections between the Trump team and Russia's hidden manipulators. A larger benefit is that these inquiries will bolster trans-Atlantic efforts to reclaim the political space the Kremlin is trying to infiltrate. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last weekend in Munich that the world is entering the "post-West" era. Unless the U.S. stands solidly with its allies, Lavrov's claim may prove accurate. The Russians are masters of what they call "active measures" in the "information space." Their intelligence services have been using "fake news" and stolen information for more than a century to try to manipulate Europe and America. What's different now is that the power of digital technology allows intelligence agencies to alter the very landscape of fact. The assault on America's elections signaled a "new normal" in Russian influence operations, warned the U.S. intelligence community on Jan. 6. "We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election to future influence efforts in the United States and worldwide, including against U.S. allies and their election processes." Let's look at Germany, which faces parliamentary elections in September. The German government told the Bundestag in a Dec. 22 report that German computer networks were hit once a week last year by foreign intelligence services. The German government warned "there might be a Russian cyberattack on the federal election in Germany" this fall, based on the U.S. 2016 campaign, and cautioned that the Bundestag itself was "the focus of Russian intelligence interest." The report found a direct Russian role in attacks last May and August on the Bundestag and German political parties, which it attributed to malware known as "APT 28," identified by the FBI as a Russian hacking tool. Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany's intelligence service, was blunt about the foreign hackers' aim. "The perpetrators have an interest in delegitimizing the democratic process," he told the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung in late November. Hans-Georg Maasse[...]



Our Broken American Covenant

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

The story of the Old Testament is of a people chosen by God who continually reject him. Again and again the Lord calls His people back and sends messengers calling His people to repent. Finally, the Lord sends them into exile. Their temple is destroyed and they are scattered. Still, God remains faithful to His people even then. God keeps His promises. God keeps his covenant. There is a civic religious strand that runs through American culture that suggests we have some divinely intended covenant. Our nation is on the planet for something great. It was once a manifest destiny to stretch from...The story of the Old Testament is of a people chosen by God who continually reject him. Again and again the Lord calls His people back and sends messengers calling His people to repent. Finally, the Lord sends them into exile. Their temple is destroyed and they are scattered. Still, God remains faithful to His people even then. God keeps His promises. God keeps his covenant. There is a civic religious strand that runs through American culture that suggests we have some divinely intended covenant. Our nation is on the planet for something great. It was once a manifest destiny to stretch from sea to sea. Then it was that we were set apart as the torch bearers of liberty in the world, bringing light to darkness. What set our nation apart was that we were not tied to blood and soil, but to an idea and truth. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The United States had always been a nation of many different people working together to advance liberty and reveal those self evident truths. Our two fold motto is "In God We Trust" and also "E Pluribus Unum," or "out of many, one." Anyone could come here and so long as they committed themselves to the idea of America they could become American. Our demand on them was then to contribute to advancing American society. We, as a nation not tied to blood and soil, could chart new paths through history. We had no aristocracy. The merit of men raised them up in society. The poor man with a good idea could best the rich man with a bad idea. The immigrant who came from nothing could die a wealthy American. Each generation then committed itself to our American covenant. Something though has gone wrong. No longer are we a nation that looks to America the idea, but to America the blood and soil. If you don't sound like us, don't have the right skin tone, don't have the right religion, or are from the wrong part of the world, some would say you cannot take part in our American covenant. The American dream is to be restricted. Beyond that, those who would restrict this covenant to those already here, would then build up protectionist walls to stop competition, capital, and merit from freely flowing. That protectionism breeds aristocracy. The United States becomes like Europe. The irony here is that many of the people embracing a blood and soil nationalism do so to preserve our unique American identity. But in doing so they become exactly like the European nations they are trying to avoid us becoming. As the nation moves forward through the present turmoil, we should recommit ourselves to policies that embrace our American covenant of life, liberty, and the pursuit of [...]



Enough About the Shoes

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

That the two most prominent women in the Trump administration should be caught up in a controversy about shoes tells you (if not our new leader) how far we have to go. In a world threatened by ISIS, in a nation of immigrants wondering who will next be deported, is Kellyanne Conway's endorsement of Ivanka Trump's shoes really worthy of a federal investigation, really enough to hold up her security clearance, really deserving of the millions of words that have been written about it, most of them fairly vicious? In case you're not a follower, Nordstrom, the department-store chain...That the two most prominent women in the Trump administration should be caught up in a controversy about shoes tells you (if not our new leader) how far we have to go. In a world threatened by ISIS, in a nation of immigrants wondering who will next be deported, is Kellyanne Conway's endorsement of Ivanka Trump's shoes really worthy of a federal investigation, really enough to hold up her security clearance, really deserving of the millions of words that have been written about it, most of them fairly vicious? In case you're not a follower, Nordstrom, the department-store chain known for its great shoe department, announced that it would no longer be carrying Ivanka Trump's line of shoes because of slow sales. Some people questioned whether it was poor sales or partisan politics that led to the decision. One of them was her father, who took Nordstrom to task in a tweet (what else). And the top woman in the administration, who reportedly was brought on to manage the campaign at Ivanka Trump's urging, defended her sponsor and her shoes on Fox News. Asked about the shoes, Conway said that she thought the shoes were stylish and comfortable, that she sometimes wore them herself, and that women should buy them online. Of this, a federal case is being made. Seriously. I understand, as every story finds a present or former Hill staffer to point out, that one of the first things you learn when you jump in the so-called swamp is that you are not supposed to use your official position to endorse private interests. What makes this rule so amusing, of course, is that there is nothing wrong with accepting millions of dollars (through the proper committees) from private interests and then doing their bidding in legislation worth far more. We call that "fundraising." It is actually the first thing you learn when you go to work for an elected official. You can return favors every day of the week when doing official business, so long as you don't flaunt the fig leaf that one thing has nothing to do with the other. But speaking up for Ivanka Trump's shoes? Stop the security-clearance process for that woman! The White House is always a trap for those who enter it for the first time. Remember Hillary Clinton's dust-up with the travel office, when as first lady she dared to suggest reorganization of the office, which catered to the every need of the press corps. And poor Vince Foster, may he rest in peace, who I think virtually everyone can finally agree was not the victim of some inside conspiracy but of the humiliation that can be heaped on newcomers who do not know how the game is played. Of course, Conway may be new to the White House, but she is an experienced political player: if she could get this man into the White House, she is not going to be stopped in the s[...]



Stop Belittling The Holocaust With Your Stupid Nazi Analogies

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

When the Associated Press dropped a breathless piece contending that the Trump administration was "considering" and "weighing" using 100,000 National Guard troops to help round up illegal immigrants, the media erupted into its usual hysterics. Soon, the White House denied it had ever considered the memo (and so far, there is no reason to believe it is lying). We soon learned the memo itself doesn't say anything about 100,000 National Guardsmen rounding up illegal immigrants. We can theorize about who leaked the story, but it looks to be the epitome of President Donald...When the Associated Press dropped a breathless piece contending that the Trump administration was "considering" and "weighing" using 100,000 National Guard troops to help round up illegal immigrants, the media erupted into its usual hysterics. Soon, the White House denied it had ever considered the memo (and so far, there is no reason to believe it is lying). We soon learned the memo itself doesn't say anything about 100,000 National Guardsmen rounding up illegal immigrants. We can theorize about who leaked the story, but it looks to be the epitome of President Donald Trump's Yogi Berraisms about a real story being fake news. As always, none of this stopped the shameful Hitler and Nazi analogies from immediately clogging up social media. Comparing everything to 1932 is now a big part of our national discourse, Not only by angry partisans but also people who should know better than to habitually make these correlations. This isn't Mel Brooks' "Springtime for Hitler." Whether you're a fan or a detractor of Trump, these gross equivalences belittle the memory of millions who died in unimaginably horrifying ways. Moreover, exaggeration and historical illiteracy undermines the very cause these people claim to care about, unless that cause is desensitizing people to the terror of the Holocaust. Jamil Smith, a senior national correspondent for MTV News, was just one of the high-profile journalists to use this intellectually lazy analogy. "First, they came for the undocumented," he tweeted. (In his next tweet about the memo draft, he contends, "Whether or not it's true doesn't matter," which is emblematic of much punditry today.) He is, of course, referring to Martin Niemoller's famous poem, which reads: "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -- /Because I was not a Socialist./ Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -- / Because I was not a Trade Unionist./ Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- / Because I was not a Jew./ Then they came for me -- / and there was no one left to speak for me." People love to use this poem as a cudgel against anyone who fails to match their own hyperbole on political issues, appropriating the suffering of others for their causes. Implied, of course, is that those who do not share their outrage are ignoring an event that is in some ways akin to the Holocaust. It's a convenient formulation because, after all, you'd be hard-pressed to disprove events that haven't yet transpired. And if, for some reason, Trump's term doesn't actually turn into a Hitlerian nightmare of the left's imagination, then they'll tell you it was because they took Niemoller's warning to heart and stopped the impending evil. So it's a win-win. First of all, even if the authorit[...]



A Heartfelt Look at How Evangelical Gays Are Finding Their Place

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- There will be no Academy Award for young filmmaker Stephen Cone's considerable achievement: Best Movie Depiction of the Evangelical Subculture Without Lampooning It. Cone's small, heartfelt film , "The Wise Kids" (available on Netflix and iTunes), gives conservative Christians a largely sympathetic but sharp-eyed treatment. Evangelicals will find the music familiar. Also, the propensity to end discussions with: "I'll send you the verse." And the tendency of evangelical youth to end public prayers: "In Your awesome, holy, amazing, awesome,...WASHINGTON -- There will be no Academy Award for young filmmaker Stephen Cone's considerable achievement: Best Movie Depiction of the Evangelical Subculture Without Lampooning It. Cone's small, heartfelt film , "The Wise Kids" (available on Netflix and iTunes), gives conservative Christians a largely sympathetic but sharp-eyed treatment. Evangelicals will find the music familiar. Also, the propensity to end discussions with: "I'll send you the verse." And the tendency of evangelical youth to end public prayers: "In Your awesome, holy, amazing, awesome, awesome name we pray." But the movie is important because it depicts a traditional religious community in the midst of a moral earthquake. The film's protagonist (Tim) is a gay, Christian high-school senior, and not particularly anguished about the whole thing. In part, this reflects Cone's own experience as the gay son of a Southern Baptist preacher in South Carolina, which was considerably less traumatic than you might imagine. "At the age of 12," Cone told me, "I wanted to see 'Philadelphia' [a groundbreaking movie about a gay man with AIDS] and my Dad took me. Afterward, there were no lessons offered, no discussion of immorality. He just let it be." Cone reports that he has gotten some criticism for his movie's lack of bitterness. His parents, he said, "found a way not to close off the possible." But that has hardly been the uniform evangelical response to changing social norms. Mostly it is denial. "The Wise Kids" depicts how three generations of gay Christians have been accommodated in conservative churches: an older organist who could never even imagine the possible and is treated as a likable eccentric; a music director who finds himself trapped in a good marriage without physical attraction; a sensitive, talented young person who goes off to art school in New York and is likely to find communities willing to accept his whole self. Cone's film emphasizes something that non-evangelicals often miss. Evangelicalism is not fundamentalism. It is a form of conservative Christianity determined to engage culture rather than escape it. And the influence goes both directions. Secular music and films, scientific cosmology and modern conceptions of gender are powerful forces of modernity, transforming even those who try to resist. Many evangelicals have made their peace with a more equal role for women in society. Nearly every religious tradition admits that some of the cultural assumptions on gender held by the authors of sacred texts (say, the Apostle Paul's instruction that women remain silent in church) are not normative. Many evangelicals also are not, hmmm, living in a manner consistent with New Testament views on divorce (where it is seldom justified). Divorced people g[...]



Can Trump Manufacture New Jobs -- or Only Nostalgia?

2017-02-24T00:00:00Z

There are very few issues that can bring together President Trump and the clamorous opposition at this point. If recent polling is an indicator, a resurgent manufacturing sector is one of them, which has the added benefit of boosting jobs in blue and red states.  But some economists, pointing to long trends toward a service-based economy, automation, and globalization, mock the notion. And many of the rest of us roll our eyes, since we have lost touch with factory work as it has fled overseas.  To be fair, some of the skepticism is warranted, because the way in which Trump...There are very few issues that can bring together President Trump and the clamorous opposition at this point. If recent polling is an indicator, a resurgent manufacturing sector is one of them, which has the added benefit of boosting jobs in blue and red states.  But some economists, pointing to long trends toward a service-based economy, automation, and globalization, mock the notion. And many of the rest of us roll our eyes, since we have lost touch with factory work as it has fled overseas.  To be fair, some of the skepticism is warranted, because the way in which Trump characterizes manufacturing invites scrutiny: We’re going to bring it all back. A month into his presidency, his language hasn’t changed. It’s still replete with imagery of the industrial glory days of the 1950s and ’60s, when domestic steel was unrivaled and Detroit was king – misty-eyed nostalgia, impossible to achieve.  But, as the president gathered manufacturing executives at the White House to discuss job creation this week, don’t dismiss the notion that we can and should create new factory jobs, including those in the auto and steel industries. Donald Trump’s idealization of manufacturing can’t solely be explained away by his bond with working-class voters in the industrial heartland. Whether he realizes this is immaterial; steel and autos are both 21st century American success stories. They’ve survived waves of global disruption, including two recessions, and continue to make and contribute most of their gains directly into the domestic economy.  That’s a story very unlike the tech sector’s, which road the waves of globalization to China, depriving Americans of the opportunity for sustaining jobs. The Economic Policy Institute estimates the U.S. has lost 1.2 million computer and electronics jobs to China alone since 2001. Consider the American auto industry, which emerged from its near collapse nine years ago to return to profitability, hiring, record sales, new capital investments, and better product quality – all aided by a timely and targeted rescue. Yes, automobiles are made in Asia, Mexico, and Europe, as well as here, but the industry still has a large footprint in the U.S., and it’s coming off a year of record sales. Or consider domestic steel, which weathered a global financial crisis in the late 1990s and a consequential flood of bankruptcies and layoffs before resurfacing with the aid of a tariff, and in one instance, collaboration between the steelworkers union and the current Commerce secretary-designate, Wilbur Ross, to form a sustainable new company. Steel was pummeled once mor[...]



Justice Eyes Federal Enforcement of Recreational Pot

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

President Trump may seek to prosecute recreational marijuana sales and use under federal law, reversing the cautiously evolving posture embraced by his predecessor, the White House suggested on Thursday. Eight states and the District of Columbia currently allow recreational use of pot, which the president’s spokesman said is different than medicinal marijuana used to alleviate chronic pain and other disease symptoms. “The president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing, especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these...President Trump may seek to prosecute recreational marijuana sales and use under federal law, reversing the cautiously evolving posture embraced by his predecessor, the White House suggested on Thursday. Eight states and the District of Columbia currently allow recreational use of pot, which the president’s spokesman said is different than medicinal marijuana used to alleviate chronic pain and other disease symptoms. “The president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing, especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.  The nuanced rhetoric about federal enforcement pits Trump’s law-and-order platform against the growing acceptance among average Americans of all political stripes for an issue of emerging state law, continued community debate, and industry potential. The administration’s federal heft on recreational pot clashed Thursday with its argument on behalf of states’ rights while opposing President Obama’s deference to transgender students who sought to use school restrooms that matched their gender selection rather than their biological sex. Trump terminated that guidance to schools, relying on the Justice Department’s insistence that transgender restrooms are a question for states and local school districts, not the federal government. “I do believe that you'll see greater enforcement of [recreational marijuana],” Spicer predicted, drawing a distinction between state laws legalizing medical marijuana and recreational pot use and sales, which he said the Trump administration opposes. The Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be “looking into” tougher recreational cannabis enforcement, Spicer said, appearing to draw a connection between marijuana use and a national surge in opioid drug addiction. Studies have pointed in the opposite direction on the question of whether marijuana use increases opioid painkiller abuse. Indeed, some studies indicate recreational and medical marijuana ward off rather than heighten opioid addiction by presenting users with an alternative. But the White House appeared cool to Obama’s view that states rather than Washington could establish legal and enforcement policies when it comes to the expanding recreational marijuana industry nationwide. That marketplace could grow to $20.6 billion in revenue by 2020, according to an industry report authored by Arcview Market Research. “When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blo[...]



Cotton Emerging as Valued Trump Wingman in the Senate

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

In search of a new national security adviser after Michael Flynn resigned his post earlier this month, President Trump and his inner circle leaned on input from an informal, but increasingly influential, adviser on the outside: Sen. Tom Cotton.  The Arkansas Republican would come to play a leading role at this high-stakes juncture in steering Trump toward Flynn’s replacement, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster — consecrating a fruitful partnership between Cotton and the White House that both sides have cultivated for months.  On the day after Flynn’s...In search of a new national security adviser after Michael Flynn resigned his post earlier this month, President Trump and his inner circle leaned on input from an informal, but increasingly influential, adviser on the outside: Sen. Tom Cotton.  The Arkansas Republican would come to play a leading role at this high-stakes juncture in steering Trump toward Flynn’s replacement, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster — consecrating a fruitful partnership between Cotton and the White House that both sides have cultivated for months.  On the day after Flynn’s resignation, the freshman senator told RealClearPolitics that Trump would need “a national security adviser who will be an honest broker between ... Cabinet members, someone in the Brent Scowcroft or the Stephen Hadley model,” nodding to two former advisers under Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, respectively. “Dave McCormick and H.R. McMaster are two people who I think would be very excellent in that model,” Cotton added. “They’re not celebrities, they’re not high-profile, but we don’t need that in a national security adviser.” At the time, neither man was being bandied about as a top candidate. When asked whether he had relayed those recommendations to the White House, Cotton said he was doing so through his statement to a reporter.  But Cotton ultimately did express his preferences directly to the White House, a senior adviser there said — and McMaster, under whom Cotton had served in the Army, would subsequently emerge as an attractive pick. After retired Vice Adm. Bob Harward turned down an offer, the president would land on McMaster. "He is a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience," Trump said, announcing his pick this week. Cotton, the senior White House adviser said, was the first person to float McMaster as a candidate. His recommendation carried unusual sway: With Trump’s loyal wingman Jeff Sessions having retired from the Senate to run the Department of Justice, Cotton very well might be the administration’s new favorite senator.  “Senators can always get their calls returned, and administration officials are polite when a senator makes a personnel recommendation or raises a policy issue,” said Bill Kristol, editor at large of the Weekly Standard. “What's different with Tom is that lots of people throughout the administration, from its Trumpiest to least Trumpiest parts, genuinely respect his advice and assume that he's actually thought things through strategically.” The Harvard-educated Army veteran has found a p[...]



Amid Backlash, Conservatives Push GOP on Obamacare

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

President Trump has dismissed the constituent backlash against Republican lawmakers at recent town halls as "planned out by liberal activists." But with policy items GOP lawmakers have been pushing for years—namely, the repeal of Obamacare—hanging in the balance, conservative groups say they know better. They have seen this script before—eight years ago, to be precise. The Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders wrote off the Tea Party protests in the spring of the new president's first term as "astroturf" organizing,...President Trump has dismissed the constituent backlash against Republican lawmakers at recent town halls as "planned out by liberal activists." But with policy items GOP lawmakers have been pushing for years—namely, the repeal of Obamacare—hanging in the balance, conservative groups say they know better. They have seen this script before—eight years ago, to be precise. The Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders wrote off the Tea Party protests in the spring of the new president's first term as "astroturf" organizing, manufactured to look like a grassroots movement. Democratic lawmakers were caught off guard by raucous demonstrations at town halls in the summer of 2009, and dozens would be swept out of office the following year. Now, with a restive liberal base taking a page from the same playbook—and even earlier than their conservative predecessors—some conservatives are fighting back. Groups including FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and Heritage Action are organizing advertising, town halls, and rallies of their own. Republican organizations aligned with GOP leadership in Congress launched a combined $5 million in advertising in several states defending the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. Action on the right will give Republican lawmakers some political assistance, but it will also add pressure to  uphold their campaign promises, even in the face of widespread angst and increasing support for Obamacare. The implied message from conservative voters: don't get soft on us now. "It's absolutely real, and it would be a mistake to try to say it's astroturf," Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, told RealClearPolitics about the protests at town halls this week. "It's just like how the Tea Party and explosion of activity we had was real." But, Phillips said, it's important for Republican lawmakers to remember their campaign commitments to repeal the Affordable Care Act. "Obamacare repeal has been litigated in four consecutive national elections, and the result has been the most devastating losses for the Democratic Party since the 1920s," Phillips said. "The greatest peril for Republicans in Congress will be if they break their word." FreedomWorks, a conservative group active in the early days of the Tea Party, is planning a March 15 rally in Washington, featuring GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, designed to hold lawmakers accountable, along with visits to congressional district offices. "Even though conservatives won, and won big, now is not the time to take a break and bask in success," wrote FreedomWorks [...]



Can Democrats Rise to Trump's Challenge?

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The most striking aspect of the vast and swiftly organized movement against Donald Trump is how little it had to do with the Democratic Party. Whoever is elected to chair the Democratic National Committee this weekend should draw two conclusions from this, and they are in tension. First, the anti-Trump effort, while broadly motivated by a progressive worldview, is diverse in both philosophy and experience. Trump incites antagonism from the center and the left. Those protesting him include citizens who have long been engaged in politics but also many recently drawn to activism by...WASHINGTON -- The most striking aspect of the vast and swiftly organized movement against Donald Trump is how little it had to do with the Democratic Party. Whoever is elected to chair the Democratic National Committee this weekend should draw two conclusions from this, and they are in tension. First, the anti-Trump effort, while broadly motivated by a progressive worldview, is diverse in both philosophy and experience. Trump incites antagonism from the center and the left. Those protesting him include citizens who have long been engaged in politics but also many recently drawn to activism by the sense of emergency this dreadful administration has created. Second, Democratic leaders need to organize this discontent into a potent electoral force at a time when the very words "party" and "partisanship" are in disrepute, particularly among young Americans who are playing a key role in the insurrection. Democrats will not be up to what has become a historic responsibility if they indulge their tendencies toward heaping blame on the factions they oppose ("It's Hillary's fault" vs. "It's Bernie's fault") or relishing the narcissism of small differences. Thus the political tightrope the incoming head of the DNC will have to walk: A political party should not get in the way of a spontaneous and principled uprising rooted in so many movements across civil society. But in the end, as the tea party understood, power in a democratic nation comes from winning elections. And a two-party system, like it or not, requires picking sides. As Ryan Grim and Amanda Terkel reported this week for The Huffington Post, this process is starting to happen on its own as once-moribund local Democratic parties suddenly find themselves inundated with recruits inspired by the urgency of resisting Trump. Whoever wins the DNC job will have to do far more than national leaders have done in the past to nurture this energy in the precincts and neighborhoods, and to build party structures in places where they don't even exist. Almost as important will be fighting misleading assumptions about why Democrats failed in 2016. At the top of the list: the idea that Trump brought together a brand new coalition and scrambled politics entirely. Wrong. Trump largely rallied the Republican base (he carried 88 percent of Republicans, according to exit polls, and 81 percent of conservatives) and received only 2 million more votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012 (62.98 million for Trump against 60.93 million for Romney). Those 2 million were crucial, of course, and they were distributed in the right st[...]



What's Up With Rape in Sweden?

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

President Donald Trump was more right than wrong about Sweden. Fox News was slightly misleading. As you've heard, Trump referred to "(what happened) last night in Sweden." On Twitter, smug critics circulated lists of anodyne events like concerts and road accidents and accused the president of inventing a terror attack. He didn't cite a terror attack, though his words were characteristically imprecise. Two days later, as if to underscore that Trump had a point, riots erupted in a suburb of Stockholm. As Andrew Brown of The Guardian put it, Sweden looms large in the...President Donald Trump was more right than wrong about Sweden. Fox News was slightly misleading. As you've heard, Trump referred to "(what happened) last night in Sweden." On Twitter, smug critics circulated lists of anodyne events like concerts and road accidents and accused the president of inventing a terror attack. He didn't cite a terror attack, though his words were characteristically imprecise. Two days later, as if to underscore that Trump had a point, riots erupted in a suburb of Stockholm. As Andrew Brown of The Guardian put it, Sweden looms large in the "fantasies of the outside world." It is, by turns, a socialist utopia, a sexually liberated Busch Gardens or a "Mad Max" hell-scape, depending on your agenda. Fox News and, more particularly, certain right-wing websites have been conjuring the "Idyllic Sweden destroyed by Muslim refugees" line, complete with "no go" zones, Sharia law and terror attacks. That's an exaggeration, but so is The Washington Post's take: "In 2015, when the influx of refugees and migrants to Europe from Africa, the Middle East and Asia was at its peak, Sweden took in the greatest number per capita. By and large, integration has been a success story there, save for incidents such as the one on Monday night." In fact, Sweden has been taking large numbers of refugees and immigrants for decades. They've accepted Balkans, Iraqis, Somalis and many others. The Washington Post notwithstanding, there is a connection between immigration and criminality and other problems. As the Swedish economist Tino Sanandaji has noted, the employment rate for native Swedes is about 82 percent, but it's only 58 percent for immigrants, and lower still for non-Western immigrants. Among native Swedes, the crime rate is equivalent to Iceland's. But in immigrant-heavy neighborhoods, lawbreaking is comparable to the much higher overall rate in the U.S. (though not to the high-crime areas of U.S. cities). Immigrants have found integration into Sweden's homogenous culture very difficult, partially because low-skill jobs have been disappearing as Sweden -- like others in the developed world -- de-industrializes. Though many immigrants, like Sanandaji himself, have managed the challenge, others rely on welfare state subsidies. Joblessness and alienation have sparked riots and other antisocial behavior. At outdoor festivals such as "We Are Stockholm," women have been groped. Public swimming pools have become venues for gangs of young immigrant men to harass women. Malmo has been losing its small Jewish population, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center is[...]



How Did America Get Stuck With a Regulatory State?

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have proven the ability to disrupt millions of lives with the stroke of a pen. Last week, I wrote of how the EPA arbitrarily changed the rules simply because it didn't like the results of Election 2016. The week before I noted that by placing its faith in unaccountable bureaucrats to pick winners and losers, the Regulatory State is a rejection of the core American values of freedom, equality and self-governance. How did this hostile takeover of America's government come about? There have always been people who preferred rule by elites, even...Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have proven the ability to disrupt millions of lives with the stroke of a pen. Last week, I wrote of how the EPA arbitrarily changed the rules simply because it didn't like the results of Election 2016. The week before I noted that by placing its faith in unaccountable bureaucrats to pick winners and losers, the Regulatory State is a rejection of the core American values of freedom, equality and self-governance. How did this hostile takeover of America's government come about? There have always been people who preferred rule by elites, even in the earliest days of our nation's history. For example, at the Constitutional Convention, Alexander Hamilton proposed that we elect a monarch for life and give him extensive powers. A century later, a young scholar who later became president described voters as "selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish." Woodrow Wilson dreamed of a nation led by "a corps of civil servants prepared by a special schooling and drilled, after appointment, into a perfected organization, with appropriate hierarchy and characteristic discipline." Elite support for centralized power grew steadily. Still, for most of our history, the public commitment to freedom and self-governance generally prevented things from getting too far out of hand. That all changed on the morning of December 7, 1941. "Never before or since has America been so unified," according to historian Craig Shirley. "There were virtually no Americans against their country getting into World War II after the unprovoked attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor." In that unity, and in a desire to preserve the nation, Americans trusted their government as never before or since. President Roosevelt used that trust, took command over every aspect of national life, and won the war. When it ended, the U.S. enjoyed an economic boom unrivaled in history. The response to Pearl Harbor gave the federal government a fair amount of credibility and a large dose of goodwill. It was this historical aberration -- a brief moment in history when Americans placed enormous trust in the federal government -- that allowed the regulatory state to firmly take root in American society. The moment didn't last. During the 1960s and early 1970s, the next generation of politicians squandered whatever good will and credibility the federal government had earned. But it wasn't just the mistakes of politicians that created the distrust. It was simply a return to the natural order of things. Unfortunately, before Am[...]



Pressure on GOP; Foxx's Education Role; "First 100 Days"; Lincoln's Stealth Arrival

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Thursday, February 23, 2017. On this date 156 years ago, President-elect Abraham Lincoln arrived, furtively, in Washington, D.C. His train trip from Illinois’ state capital began with fanfare on February 11, 1861, the day before his 52nd birthday. He arrived in the nation’s capital 12 days later in near secrecy. “To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything,” Lincoln had told the crowd at the Springfield train station. “I now leave with a task before me greater than that which rested upon...Good morning, it’s Thursday, February 23, 2017. On this date 156 years ago, President-elect Abraham Lincoln arrived, furtively, in Washington, D.C. His train trip from Illinois’ state capital began with fanfare on February 11, 1861, the day before his 52nd birthday. He arrived in the nation’s capital 12 days later in near secrecy. “To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything,” Lincoln had told the crowd at the Springfield train station. “I now leave with a task before me greater than that which rested upon [George] Washington.” This was no overstatement, as the subsequent four years would show. But on that day, Lincoln still hoped that the Union could be preserved without the spilling of American blood. “While some of us may differ in political opinions, still we are all united in one feeling for the Union,” Lincoln said at a stop in the Indiana town of Lafayette. “We all believe in the maintenance of the Union, of every star and every stripe of the glorious flag, and permit me to express the sentiment that upon the union of the states, there shall be between us no difference.” So it went, through Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and again in Pennsylvania, where the decision was made to cut the trip short and slink into Washington unobtrusively. I’ll explain why in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a full complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Amid Backlash, Conservatives Push GOP on Obamacare. Americans for Prosperity and like-minded groups are pressuring lawmakers to uphold their promises to repeal the health law, Caitlin Huey-Burns reports.   Voters Confront Republican Lawmakers at Town Halls. James Arkin has the story after attending two Virginia gatherings. In Foxx, Trump & DeVos Have a Staunch Education Ally. Chris Beach interviews the North Carolina congresswoman who heads a House committee with oversight of education issues. The First 100 Days: Episode 5. In RCP’s weekly podcast, James talks with Angel Padilla and Sarah Dohl of Indivisible, a group organizing the protests at congressional town-hall meetings. And Chris Beach talks with Rep. Virginia Foxx. A Pleasant Day Protesting All Things Trump. Charles Lip[...]



Actually, Sweden Is Having Big Trouble With Mideast Refugees

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

As if on cue, riots broke out in a heavily immigrant suburb of Stockholm as soon as the media mocked President Donald Trump for a vague warning about immigration-related problems in Sweden. At a campaign rally over the weekend, Trump issued forth with a mystifyingly ominous statement. “You look,” he declared, “at what’s happening last night in Sweden.” What? Had the president invented a nonexistent terror attack? As it turned out, the reference was to a segment on Sweden he had watched on the Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight the previous...As if on cue, riots broke out in a heavily immigrant suburb of Stockholm as soon as the media mocked President Donald Trump for a vague warning about immigration-related problems in Sweden. At a campaign rally over the weekend, Trump issued forth with a mystifyingly ominous statement. “You look,” he declared, “at what’s happening last night in Sweden.” What? Had the president invented a nonexistent terror attack? As it turned out, the reference was to a segment on Sweden he had watched on the Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight the previous night, rather than to any specific event in the Nordic country. The ensuing discussion quickly took on the character of much of the debate in the early Trump years — a blunderbuss president matched against a snotty and hyperventilating press, with a legitimate issue lurking underneath. By welcoming a historic number of asylum-seekers proportionate to its population, Sweden has indeed embarked on a vast social experiment that wasn’t well thought out and isn’t going very well. The unrest in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby after police made an arrest the other night underscored the problems inherent in Sweden’s immigration surge. Sweden’s admirable humanitarianism is outstripping its capacity to absorb newcomers. Nothing if not an earnest and well-meaning society, Sweden has always accepted more than its share of refugees. Immigration was already at elevated levels before the latest influx into Europe from the Middle East, which prompted Sweden to try to see and raise the reckless open-borders policy of German chancellor Angela Merkel. Sweden welcomed more than 160,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, including nearly 40,000 in October of that year alone. For a country of fewer than 10 million, this was almost equal to 2 percent of the population — in one year. The flow doubled the number of asylum-seekers at the height of the Balkans crisis in 1992. The foreign-born proportion of the Swedish population was 18 percent in 2016, double that of 1990. As of 2015, the most common county of origin for the foreign-born was Finland, which makes sense as it is a neighboring Scandinavian country. Next are Iraq and Syria. Predictably, it isn’t easy to integrate people who don’t know the language, aren’t highly skilled, and come from a foreign culture. Sweden’s economic policies don’t help. As a report of the Migration Policy Institute put it politely, [...]



Trump Eviscerates the Liberal Media -- What Took So Long?

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

It was riveting. In his first solo press conference, President Donald Trump spent much of the hour berating the media for what Trump called anti-Republican bias and its relentlessly negative "tone." It's about time. The liberal media has long been sticking it to Republicans. In October 1992, during the presidential race between President George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Investor's Business Daily found that over 90 percent of the economic news in newspapers was negative. At the time, the economy was well into a recovery, on its 19th consecutive month of growth. Yet much...It was riveting. In his first solo press conference, President Donald Trump spent much of the hour berating the media for what Trump called anti-Republican bias and its relentlessly negative "tone." It's about time. The liberal media has long been sticking it to Republicans. In October 1992, during the presidential race between President George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Investor's Business Daily found that over 90 percent of the economic news in newspapers was negative. At the time, the economy was well into a recovery, on its 19th consecutive month of growth. Yet much of the business news was sour. The next month, November 1992, Bill Clinton won. Investor's Business Daily found that suddenly only 14 percent of the newspapers' economic news was negative, a dramatic decline in negativity and upswing in positive economic news. ABC News' Peter Jennings, NBC's Tom Brokaw and CBS' Dan Rather anchored the nightly news for the then-"Big Three" networks on the first day in office of both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. On Clinton's first day in office, he reversed a President Ronald Reagan policy forbidding the use of federal money for abortions. President Bush reversed Bill Clinton's reversal. So how did networks cover each president's first day on their evening news broadcasts? Peter Jennings, ABC News, 1993: "President Clinton kept a promise (emphasis added) today on the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Mr. Clinton signed presidential memoranda rolling back many of the restrictions imposed by his predecessors." Peter Jennings and Terry Moran, ABC News, 2001: "President Bush begins by taking a tough line on abortion," said Jennings in a teaser for the story. Moran then reported: "One of the president's first actions was designed to appeal to anti-abortion conservatives (emphasis added). The president signed an order reinstating a Reagan-era policy that prohibited federal funding of family planning groups that provided abortion counseling services overseas." Tom Brokaw, "NBC Nightly News," 1993: "Today, President Clinton kept a campaign promise (emphasis added), and it came on the 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion." Tom Brokaw, "NBC Nightly News," 2001: "We'll begin with the new president's very active day, which started on a controversial note (emphasis added)." Dan Rather, CBS News, 1993: "Today, with the stroke of a pen, President Clinton deliver[...]



In Foxx, Trump & DeVos Have a Staunch Education Ally

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

With control of all three branches of government, Republicans are set on unraveling President Obama's education legacy and pushing an unprecedented amount of funding and authority back to states. Leading this charge is Rep. Virginia Foxx, the newly appointed chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Her mission, as she told RealClearPolitics in an interview for the new episode of the “First 100 Days” podcast series, is to make the federal government “as minimal as possible.” In fact, the North Carolina Republican has no qualms...With control of all three branches of government, Republicans are set on unraveling President Obama's education legacy and pushing an unprecedented amount of funding and authority back to states. Leading this charge is Rep. Virginia Foxx, the newly appointed chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Her mission, as she told RealClearPolitics in an interview for the new episode of the “First 100 Days” podcast series, is to make the federal government “as minimal as possible.” In fact, the North Carolina Republican has no qualms about abolishing the entire Department of Education. “If the Lord put me in charge, I would do it,” Foxx said. But she admitted, “I do not think it's politically feasible.” Instead, the GOP is busy chipping away at specific Obama-era regulations related to the nation's new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). And the Trump administration just took an axe to Obama's controversial Title IX transgender restroom rules. Foxx approved of the decision and added that Obama had circumvented the legislative process and tried to “interpret into the law something that was never intended.” (At the time of her interview with RCP, the administration's decision was imminent but had not yet been issued.) You might describe Foxx as a strict constitutionalist. The seven-term congresswoman is a staunch believer that powers not specifically granted to Congress or the executive branch by the Constitution should be delegated to the states, and that includes decisions involving education. Furthermore, she asserts that the federal government's intervention in education has not been effective. src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/309056263&color=ff5500&auto_play=true&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" frameborder="no" width="320" height="531" scrolling="no"> Foxx pointed to the fact that the U.S. has spent over $3 trillion on Title I funding directed at improving outcomes for low-income students, yet “reading levels have not changed one bit since 1965.” “Something is wrong with this scenario,” she added. (According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation's Report Card, reading scores for fourth- and eighth-graders have ticked up marginally over the past[...]



A Pleasant Day Protesting All Things Trump

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. That’s unusual for Presidents’ Day in Chicago, where the weather is typically a mournful dirge for Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, with blowing snow and biting wind. But in 2017, it was a gentle, sunny day that felt like mid-May. A good day for a protest, and one had gathered on the riverbank opposite Trump Tower. There were lots of police nearby, but they were relaxed, without much to do. The demonstration was clearly peaceful, so I decided to walk over and see what it was about. It was about President Donald Trump, and...It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. That’s unusual for Presidents’ Day in Chicago, where the weather is typically a mournful dirge for Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, with blowing snow and biting wind. But in 2017, it was a gentle, sunny day that felt like mid-May. A good day for a protest, and one had gathered on the riverbank opposite Trump Tower. There were lots of police nearby, but they were relaxed, without much to do. The demonstration was clearly peaceful, so I decided to walk over and see what it was about. It was about President Donald Trump, and the demonstrators did not care for him one bit. What was interesting, though, was the cheerful, benign feel of the crowd, juxtaposed to signs saying they were victims of fascist oppression and to speakers egging them on. No one seemed to notice the inconsistency or care about it. There were about 1,000 people, standing on the sidewalk, courteously making way for pedestrians, chatting with friends, and occasionally repeating slogans tossed out by various speakers. One was talking about transgender people, another about home foreclosures, and concluded with an attack on the new Treasury secretary and a brief chant, “Lock him up.” No one seemed to know who he was, and none had signs about housing, but everyone enjoyed a chance to repeat the line once directed at Hillary Clinton. Another speaker tried a different tack, “The people, united, will never be divided.” Hearing that old protest bromide, I mumbled to myself, “I think that’s true by definition.” A woman standing nearby started laughing and her boyfriend said, “That’s just what I was saying.” I asked some police, leaning against their cars or traffic barricades, if everything had been this calm before I arrived. “Oh, yes,” was the common reply, leading some older ones to tell their younger colleagues about less happy occasions. I asked the same question to several people in yellow T-shirts, representing the National Lawyers Guild. They gave the same answer. When I asked them why they were there, they said they were “looking for misconduct by state agents.” The phrased sounded like Sgt. Joe Friday, funneled through Inspector Clouseau. No matter. The yellow T-shirts hadn’t found any bad “state actors” and seemed content to enjoy the sunshi[...]



The LA Movie That Should Have Won Best Picture

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

My candidate lost, and yes, I still can't get over it. I speak of the 1997 movie "L.A. Confidential." A riff on the creepy film-noir movies of the 1950s, its dark brilliance lay clouded in the bloated shadow of "Titanic." This year, another Los Angeles movie is doing a lot better. "La La Land," a sunny musical romance, has amassed 14 Oscar nominations, tying "Titanic" and "All About Eve" (1950) for the record. Movie critics have responded to "La La Land" with 50 shades of praise, ranging from total to grudging. What it and...My candidate lost, and yes, I still can't get over it. I speak of the 1997 movie "L.A. Confidential." A riff on the creepy film-noir movies of the 1950s, its dark brilliance lay clouded in the bloated shadow of "Titanic." This year, another Los Angeles movie is doing a lot better. "La La Land," a sunny musical romance, has amassed 14 Oscar nominations, tying "Titanic" and "All About Eve" (1950) for the record. Movie critics have responded to "La La Land" with 50 shades of praise, ranging from total to grudging. What it and "Titanic" have in common are their bigness, striking special effects and pedestrian love stories. Look, any filmmaker with the guts to make a colorful song-meets-dance movie in the year 2016 deserves a lot of credit. Grumpy me felt she got her money's worth feasting on the Hollywood pool party and splendid West Coast sundowns -- just as she appreciated the skill behind "Titanic's" computer-generated blow-by-blow of a sinking ocean liner. But she's seen "L.A. Confidential," with its devil characters and pained relationships, four times. I would not again watch "La La Land" (or "Titanic") were it free on a 12-hour flight across the Pacific -- not unless my iPad battery gave out. Or I might just hang in for the movie's boffo opening, a frenetic dance number on a gridlocked Los Angeles freeway. But that celebration of modern LA's diversity of skin colors grated somewhat, for no sooner did the traffic start moving than the story dissolved into a microscopic close-up of the ambitions, frustrations and faces of a leading couple as white as the Rockettes of 1956. The male character's (Ryan Gosling) obsession with the African-American art form of jazz added more dissonance to the diversity theme. Many people of color are in the background, but only one gets character development -- and not much. That would be the jazzman turned '80s retro band leader, played by real-life musician John Legend. Nothing wrong about a story centered on white people who aren't even ethnics. The Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals never get old. But if you're going to make a big deal of LA's racial and ethnic mosaic, the least you can do is give some of the other pieces a personal life. When it comes to dancing, Gosling and the female lead, Emma Stone, are no Fred and Ginger. The music score is not Gershwin. But again, congrats to director Damien Chazelle for even doing a musical comedy, albeit without the comedy. [...]



Nouns and Verbs and Obama Do Not Agree

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- "Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped -- in his life, convictions and outlook on the world -- by reading and writing as Barack Obama," said Michiko Kakutani, the literary critic of the famed New York Times. Did you know this? Frankly, I did not know President Obama was so wedded to books and the printed word as to be compared to President Abraham Lincoln, author of the Gettysburg Address and the magisterial second inaugural address and devotee of Shakespeare. To be honest, I did not think that by the wildest leap of imagination Obama...WASHINGTON -- "Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped -- in his life, convictions and outlook on the world -- by reading and writing as Barack Obama," said Michiko Kakutani, the literary critic of the famed New York Times. Did you know this? Frankly, I did not know President Obama was so wedded to books and the printed word as to be compared to President Abraham Lincoln, author of the Gettysburg Address and the magisterial second inaugural address and devotee of Shakespeare. To be honest, I did not think that by the wildest leap of imagination Obama could be compared even to Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, who holds a doctorate, or Ulysses S. Grant, the author of -- until now -- the finest presidential autobiography of all time. That is, if Mark Twain is to be believed. Twain compared Grant's memoirs to Julius Caesar's commentaries. Yet Kakutani has delivered the above testimonial. Moreover, others who have had the pleasure of reading Obama's earlier writing have been equally lavish in their praise of his literary saga. I had known him to deliver passable speeches from a teleprompter, ad-lib tolerably well on contemporary life and watch sports on television. But to be shaped by books as Lincoln was? As these other presidents were? Michiko, baby. What have you been smoking? What has Barack been smoking? I know that in Obama's January interview with Kakutani, he mentioned a dozen or so authors and books that had caught his fancy. But so far as I know, that is about the only time he ever mentioned them. Of course, there is a very good reason for his artsy name-dropping. He wants to hook a big fat literary contract from a big fat lazy publisher of books that are bought but rarely read. Do I hear talk of a $30 million contract? He has already had help from the likes of Jonathan Raban, Joe Klein and Britain's the Guardian. All have read -- or claimed to have read -- "Dreams From My Father," Obama's 1995 best-selling memoir. Supposedly, after immersing himself in the memoir, Raban called Obama "the best writer to occupy the White House since Lincoln." Klein said it "may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician." And the Guardian's reviewer esteemed the book the fifth best nonfiction book of all time -- yes, of all time! Unfortunately, others have also read [...]



The Labyrinth of Illegal Immigration

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

Activists portray illegal immigration solely as a human story of the desperately poor from south of the border fleeing misery to start new, productive lives in the U.S. -- despite exploitation and America's nativist immigration laws. But the truth is always more complex -- and can reveal self-interested as well as idealistic parties. Employers have long sought to undercut the wages of the American underclass by preference for cheaper imported labor. The upper-middle classes have developed aristocratic ideas of hiring inexpensive "help" to relieve them of domestic chores. The...Activists portray illegal immigration solely as a human story of the desperately poor from south of the border fleeing misery to start new, productive lives in the U.S. -- despite exploitation and America's nativist immigration laws. But the truth is always more complex -- and can reveal self-interested as well as idealistic parties. Employers have long sought to undercut the wages of the American underclass by preference for cheaper imported labor. The upper-middle classes have developed aristocratic ideas of hiring inexpensive "help" to relieve them of domestic chores. The Mexican government keeps taxes low on its elite in part by exporting, rather than helping, its own poor. It causes little worry that some $25 billion in remittances sent from Mexican citizens working in America puts hardship on those expatriates, who are often subsidized by generous U.S. social services. Mexico City rarely welcomes a heartfelt discussion about why its citizens flee Mexican exploitation and apparently have no wish to return home. Nor does Mexico City publicize its own stern approaches to immigration enforcement along its southern border -- or its ethnocentric approach to all immigration (not wanting to impair "the equilibrium of national demographics") that is institutionalized in Mexico's constitution. The Democratic Party is also invested in illegal immigration, worried that its current agendas cannot win in the Electoral College without new constituents who appreciate liberal support for open borders and generous social services. In contrast, classically liberal, meritocratic and ethnically diverse immigration might result in a disparate, politically unpredictable set of immigrants. La Raza groups take it for granted that influxes of undocumented immigrants fuel the numbers of unassimilated supporters. Measured and lawful immigration, along with rapid assimilation, melt away ethnic-based constituencies. Immigration activists often fault the U.S. as historically racist and colonialist while insisting that millions of foreigners have an innate right to enter illegally and reside in such a supposedly dreadful place. Undocumented immigrants themselves are not unaware that their own illegal entry, in self-interested fashion, crowds out legal immigrants who often wait years to enter the U.S. Increased demands on [...]



How Trump Affects the Presidential Rankings

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

Any president can change the future. Donald Trump stands out for his ability to change the past, without even trying. He's already altered perceptions of what happened in America decades and centuries ago. We know that because of a new survey of presidential historians conducted by C-SPAN, asking them to rank presidents on various attributes and overall performance. The latest scorecard, which included responses from 91 historians, is similar in most respects to those compiled in C-SPAN's first two, in 2000 and 2009. But it holds some surprises that suggest that things look...Any president can change the future. Donald Trump stands out for his ability to change the past, without even trying. He's already altered perceptions of what happened in America decades and centuries ago. We know that because of a new survey of presidential historians conducted by C-SPAN, asking them to rank presidents on various attributes and overall performance. The latest scorecard, which included responses from 91 historians, is similar in most respects to those compiled in C-SPAN's first two, in 2000 and 2009. But it holds some surprises that suggest that things look different with Trump in the picture. Some things are fixed. The greatest president is Abraham Lincoln, who has finished first in each poll. Coming in second, for the second straight time, is George Washington. Franklin Roosevelt is third, just ahead of cousin Theodore. The worst, three times running, is James Buchanan, who preceded Lincoln and whose indulgence of pro-slavery forces is blamed for helping to bring on the Civil War. Second-to-last each time has been Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln and was the first president to be impeached (though he was not convicted). This is the first poll to include Barack Obama, who came out ahead of his most recent predecessors. Obama is ranked No. 12, three spots below Ronald Reagan but ahead of George W. Bush (33), Bill Clinton (15) and George H.W. Bush (20). Obama is one of the lowest-rated presidents in terms of relations with Congress -- worse, somehow, than William Henry Harrison, who died a month after taking office -- and got mediocre marks on foreign relations, but he scored high on pursuing equal justice for all. The biggest improvement was registered by Dwight Eisenhower, ranked ninth in 2000 and eighth in 2009. He landed at fifth, jumping over John Kennedy, Thomas Jefferson and Harry Truman, who were ahead of him the last time around. The biggest decline was that of Andrew Jackson, who slid from 13th in 2000 and 2009 to 18th. Richard Norton Smith, a presidential biographer and member of C-SPAN's advisory team, suggests that the changing fortunes of Eisenhower and Jackson are both partly the product of a "Trump effect." Eisenhower, Smith told me, benefits from being "the anti-Trump -- massively competent, self-effacing, moderate." He had been supr[...]



The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost

2017-02-23T00:00:00Z

Last week, The Wall Street Journal revealed that members of the intelligence community -- part of the deep state, the unseen government within the government that does not change with elections -- now have acquired so much data on everyone in America that they can selectively reveal it to reward their friends and harm their foes. Their principal foe today is the president of the United States. Liberty is rarely lost overnight. The wall of tyranny often begins with benign building blocks of safety -- each one lying on top of a predecessor -- eventually collectively constituting an impediment...Last week, The Wall Street Journal revealed that members of the intelligence community -- part of the deep state, the unseen government within the government that does not change with elections -- now have acquired so much data on everyone in America that they can selectively reveal it to reward their friends and harm their foes. Their principal foe today is the president of the United States. Liberty is rarely lost overnight. The wall of tyranny often begins with benign building blocks of safety -- each one lying on top of a predecessor -- eventually collectively constituting an impediment to the exercise of free choices by free people, often not even recognized until it is too late. Here is the back story. In the pre-Revolutionary era, British courts in London secretly issued general warrants to British government agents in America. The warrants were not based on any probable cause of crime or individual articulable suspicion; they did not name the person or thing to be seized or identify the place to be searched. They authorized agents to search where they wished and seize what they found. The use of general warrants was so offensive to our Colonial ancestors that it whipped up more serious opposition to British rule and support for the revolutionaries than the "no taxation without representation" argument did. And when it came time for Americans to write the Constitution, they prohibited general warrants in the Fourth Amendment, the whole purpose of which was to guarantee the right to be left alone by forcing the government to focus on bad guys and prohibit it from engaging in fishing expeditions. But the fishing expeditions would come. In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was intended to rein in the government spying on Americans that had been unleashed by the Nixon administration. FISA established a secret court and permitted it to issue warrants authorizing spying on agents of foreign governments when physically present in the United States. People born in foreign countries who are here for benevolent or benign or even evil purposes have the same constitutional protections as those of us born here. That's because the critical parts of the Constitution that insulate human freedom from [...]



Voters Confront Republican Lawmakers at Town Halls

2017-02-22T00:00:00Z

BLACKSTONE, Va. – Rep. Dave Brat was barely three minutes into introducing himself at a town hall here Tuesday night in front of 200 people when the chants from outside – where several hundred others who couldn’t fit in the room were gathered – starting to rain down: “Questions! Questions! Questions!” Soon, some in the room were chanting too. “Don’t worry -- I’m not delaying. I’ll take as many questions as you guys want,” Brat said, trying to drown out the chants before quickly...BLACKSTONE, Va. – Rep. Dave Brat was barely three minutes into introducing himself at a town hall here Tuesday night in front of 200 people when the chants from outside – where several hundred others who couldn’t fit in the room were gathered – starting to rain down: “Questions! Questions! Questions!” Soon, some in the room were chanting too. “Don’t worry -- I’m not delaying. I’ll take as many questions as you guys want,” Brat said, trying to drown out the chants before quickly wrapping up his bio. It was an apt start to a spirited town-hall meeting in which Brat faced consistent outbursts from the restive crowd and tried to answer hostile questions from Virginians who didn’t vote for him or President Trump—but who wanted to be heard anyway. The second-term Republican, famous for defeating then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 primary, stuck to the style he’s known for, speaking professorially and citing Adam Smith, James Madison and even Emmanuel Kant to try to explain his thinking. But for the most part, the crowd wasn’t having any of it. They booed when Brat said the best route to preserving a clean environmental was “economic growth”; a chorus of angry shouts came when Brat said that the Affordable Care Act “has just collapsed”; and there was another sustained outburst later when he said he didn’t deny climate change because “the climate changes all the time.” src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/309056263&color=ff5500&auto_play=true&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" frameborder="no" width="320" height="531" scrolling="no"> In many ways, it was the exact scene scores of Brat’s colleagues are hoping to avoid by choosing not to hold town-hall meetings this week, the first recess since Donald Trump took office. Many held “tele-town halls” or found other ways to meet outside the public eye. Those who forged ahead were often met with long lines of angry Democrats who loudly demanded answers on everything from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act to Trump’s Cabinet choices and inves[...]



Why Trump Loves to Hate the Media

2017-02-22T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- There was a brief moment after Donald Trump's election when it was conceivable to ask whether he would strive to be a "uniter" or a "divider." The moment passed quickly as Trump made it clear that he does not intend to abandon the style of politics -- insulting and divisive -- that got him elected. His declaration last week that the news media are "the enemy of the American people" is but the latest reminder. Trump's theory of politics is that it's OK to offend five voters if seven voters approve. Dividing the country is the name of...WASHINGTON -- There was a brief moment after Donald Trump's election when it was conceivable to ask whether he would strive to be a "uniter" or a "divider." The moment passed quickly as Trump made it clear that he does not intend to abandon the style of politics -- insulting and divisive -- that got him elected. His declaration last week that the news media are "the enemy of the American people" is but the latest reminder. Trump's theory of politics is that it's OK to offend five voters if seven voters approve. Dividing the country is the name of the game. The object is to create a coalition of the resentful. Polarization is not only the consequence. It is the underlying purpose and philosophy. In this strategy, the news media are tempting targets. There are so few of them -- actually, I mean so few of "us" -- that we are easily cast as scapegoats for assorted disappointments. Even in good times, we can be hard to like. No one elected us; our political and cultural values are skewed liberal; and we are often arrogant in our assumed role as guardians of American democracy, holding elected officials accountable and defending free speech. It's also well-known that our popularity has plummeted. The latest Gallup poll finds that only 32 percent of adults "trust the mass media," down from 55 percent in 1999. In another Gallup poll, which asks slightly different questions, the media's standing seems even lower. Only 20 percent expressed strong confidence in newspapers, 21 percent in TV news and 19 percent in internet news. Just why confidence has collapsed isn't clear. In part, it may reflect a general loss of trust in institutions. In 2016, confidence in Congress was 9 percent; in 1998, it was 28 percent. The explosion of news sources on cable and the internet has probably contributed. Many sources (MSNBC, Fox News) are openly ideological. The more choices people have, the more they may think poorly of the ones they don't make. Regardless of cause, the present media-White House brawls are hardly without precedent. As Sanford Ungar -- an ex-Washington Post reporter and expert on free speech -- has reminded us, the confrontations over the war in Vietnam in the 1960s and Watergate in the early 1970s seem every bit as bitter an[...]



Immigration Enforcement; Peace Corps Values; Putin's Upside? Cherry-Picking Facts

2017-02-22T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, February 22, 2017. When I was growing up in California, this date was celebrated as George Washington’s birthday. (We observed Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, too, on February 12.) Both iconic presidents were celebrated in the mid-20th century for their integrity. “Honest Abe” was presented to us as a young store clerk who walked several miles to return a few extra pennies inadvertently overcharged to a customer. The imposing George Washington was made more accessible to 20th century schoolchildren by teachers who...Good morning, it’s Wednesday, February 22, 2017. When I was growing up in California, this date was celebrated as George Washington’s birthday. (We observed Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, too, on February 12.) Both iconic presidents were celebrated in the mid-20th century for their integrity. “Honest Abe” was presented to us as a young store clerk who walked several miles to return a few extra pennies inadvertently overcharged to a customer. The imposing George Washington was made more accessible to 20th century schoolchildren by teachers who related how young George fessed up to his dad that it was he who had chopped down a small cherry tree with the famous declaration, “I cannot tell a lie.” Mark Twain had fun with this legend, at least according to Archibald Henderson. Better known as George Bernard Shaw’s biographer, Henderson wrote one book about Twain in which he quotes the bard of the Mississippi as quipping: “I am different from Washington; I have a higher, grander standard of principle. Washington could not lie. I can lie, but I won’t.” I digress, however. The point of my note this morning is that the George Washington cherry tree episode is a true story. That’s what I believe, and history Garry Wills does, too. Discerning readers will note that I’ve written about this before. I intend to keep doing so -- presenting alternative facts, if you will -- each February 22 until the Wills-Cannon version gets traction. I’ll explain in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a full complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Trump Beefs Up Immigration-Law Enforcement. The White House put undocumented immigrants on notice Tuesday, Alexis Simendinger reports. What Our Children Show Us -- and the World. Mark Salter reflects on his daughter’s decision to join the Peace Corps. The Evidence-Based Revolution. In RealClearPolicy, Robe[...]



Trump Beefs Up Immigration-Law Enforcement

2017-02-22T00:00:00Z

The Trump administration on Tuesday defended its policies focused on border and immigration enforcement, arguing that almost all unauthorized migrants pose a threat and potentially should be deported, especially if they violate U.S. law. President Trump carved out a temporary reprieve for nearly 800,000 migrants who entered the country as children to the United States and were allowed to work and avoid deportation under a program created by the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama. That program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, will continue for the time...The Trump administration on Tuesday defended its policies focused on border and immigration enforcement, arguing that almost all unauthorized migrants pose a threat and potentially should be deported, especially if they violate U.S. law. President Trump carved out a temporary reprieve for nearly 800,000 migrants who entered the country as children to the United States and were allowed to work and avoid deportation under a program created by the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama. That program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, will continue for the time being, but may be subject to later Trump administration enforcement actions, according to DHS and White House officials.  “The message from this White House and from the DHS is that those people who are in this country and pose a threat to our public, or have committed a crime, will be the first to go, and we will be aggressively making sure that that occurs,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.  “Everybody who is here illegally is subject to removal at any time,” he added.  Under the guise of national security and a federal crackdown on crime, Trump is rewiring his argument that without waiting for Congress, he is making good on changes he promised during his campaign. The president used a hastily convened White House news conference and a Florida campaign-style rally last week to sharpen his pitch that he’s keeping his campaign promises. On Friday, he plans to reprise his themes when he addresses Republicans at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C. Border enforcement and the expulsion of unauthorized immigrants who are deemed law-breakers will be part of his CPAC speech. In less than a week, Trump will also address a joint session of Congress for the first time as president during an evening event covered live on television. Trump on Tuesday conferred privately with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the details of a replacement executive order he seeks to release this week – an order the administration believes can lift a court-ordered freeze o[...]