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Updated: Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:04:50 -0600

 



Trump-Bush Nexus; Trump-Lewis Clash; DNC Chairmanship; Party Like It's 1981

2017-01-19T00:00:00Z

Good morning. It’s Thursday, January 19, 2017, one day before Donald J. Trump’s inauguration. Tonight, Toby Keith will headline a roster of country singers at the Lincoln Memorial. I don’t know if the president-elect even likes that kind of music, but with America’s musical luminaries and Hollywood stars staying away in droves, what choice did he have? One aside for those who don’t know his sound: Toby Keith is a great talent, and fun as well. As for tomorrow’s swearing-in ceremony, those who’ve been in communion with Mr....Good morning. It’s Thursday, January 19, 2017, one day before Donald J. Trump’s inauguration. Tonight, Toby Keith will headline a roster of country singers at the Lincoln Memorial. I don’t know if the president-elect even likes that kind of music, but with America’s musical luminaries and Hollywood stars staying away in droves, what choice did he have? One aside for those who don’t know his sound: Toby Keith is a great talent, and fun as well. As for tomorrow’s swearing-in ceremony, those who’ve been in communion with Mr. Trump say his inaugural address will be inflected by Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural speech, with a dash of John F. Kennedy thrown in. Wise choices. I’ll have more on Reagan’s 1981 inauguration in a moment. First. I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, timely videos, and breaking news, while aggregating opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a full complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Entering Office Under a Cloud: How Trump, Bush 43 Differ. Both faced accusations they weren't legitimately elected, but their responses are miles apart. Rebecca Berg has the story. Trump-Lewis Clash Serves Neither Man’s Purposes. A.B. Stoddard writes that the back-and-forth on both sides of the controversy would hardly do Martin Luther King proud. Few Disagreements Among DNC Candidates at Forum. Caitlin Huey-Burns reports on last night’s chairmanship gathering. How Trump Won: The Northeast and Midwest. Part 3 (Northeast) of Sean Trende and David Byler’s series is here. And Part 4 (Midwest) is here. What We’d Like to Hear on Inauguration Day. Reagan speechwriter Ken Khachigian has these tips for the president-elect. Behind the Cabinet: Justice Department. RCP’s video series continues with this look at changes the department will likely face under Donald Trump. Threat From Kaliningrad Is Real. In RealClearWorld, Jorge Benitez details how the Russian exclave in the European heartland -- formerly known as Konigsberg and once a cradle of the Enlightenment -- imperils NATO. Vaccinate Vaccines From Partisanship. In RealClearHealth, Greg Dworkin explains the danger of bringing politics into a science and public health issue. Time to Expand Early Childhood Education. In RealClearPolicy, Mike McGavick and Mark Shriver urge Congress and the new administration to leverage bipartisan support to expand early childhood education. Why the Legacy of the Shakers Will Endure. Joanne M. Pierce spotlights the once-flourishing sect in RealClearReligion. 10 Landmark Franchise Relocations. Sam Chi and Brian Colella reprise this list in RealClearSports following the Chargers’ announcement that the team is leaving San Diego. * * * President-elect Ronald Wilson Reagan had no trouble attracting top-notch performers at his first inaugural celebration 36 years ago. Some of those who came were his old Hollywood pals. The three days leading up to the January 20, 1981 swearing-in were a veritable feast of art and music. “Every museum in the District has been presenting all-day programs that have taken in everything from jazz and folk music to the classical and contemporary repertory,” the New York Times noted approvingly. “In addition, some of the museums have shows that relate to[...]



Few Disagreements Among DNC Candidates at Forum

2017-01-19T00:00:00Z

With Donald Trump and the Republicans hours away from completing their takeover of Washington, seven Democrats vying for a chance to lead the rebuilding of their party met for a forum to discuss, in part, how to navigate this new era. One consensus: take it to Trump. “Hit him between the eyes with a two-by-four and treat him the way Mitch McConnell treated Barack Obama,” outgoing Labor Secretary Tom Perez suggested.  “The question about whether we fight back right away, that’s been answered,” said Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, calling...With Donald Trump and the Republicans hours away from completing their takeover of Washington, seven Democrats vying for a chance to lead the rebuilding of their party met for a forum to discuss, in part, how to navigate this new era. One consensus: take it to Trump. “Hit him between the eyes with a two-by-four and treat him the way Mitch McConnell treated Barack Obama,” outgoing Labor Secretary Tom Perez suggested.  “The question about whether we fight back right away, that’s been answered,” said Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, calling Trump’s incoming senior adviser Steve Bannon a “renowned” white supremacist. “Of course we have to fight.” “My life is literally on the line,” said South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, referring to the fact that  the new commander-in-chief will be responsible for sending people like himself -- a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve -- to war (or not). “It’s life and death stuff.” Perez, Ellison, and Buttigieg are three of the candidates competing for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, a vacant position that has taken on a greater significance in the wake of the party's losses in November. When President Obama leaves the White House for the final time Friday, Democrats will be without a clear leader. The race to chair the DNC has become a race to fill that leadership vacuum -- or at least one component of it. This year’s election is more than a popularity contest.  Complex strategic questions about whether the party should focus on voters it lost in 2016 or on new voters it could gain in the future – along with ideological tensions between the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton factions of the party -- have added urgency to the voting. The 447 DNC members will choose their leader next month. In addition to Ellison and Perez, who have garnered the most high-profile endorsements of the group, and Buttigieg, the slate includes South Carolina party chair Jaime Harrison, New Hampshire party chair Ray Buckley, Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown, and Fox News contributor Jehmu Greene. When the candidates met for a forum Wednesday night sponsored by the Huffington Post at George Washington University, they sought to downplay their divisions and play up party unity. There was so little dissent among the seven participants that at one point, when asked whether they thought the DNC tipped the scale for a candidate (Hillary Clinton) in the 2016 primary -- a criticism lodged frequently and vociferously by Sanders’ supporters -- none of the participants raised their hands. On other contentious issues facing the DNC, such as whether the party should continue to incorporate superdelegates or ban financing from corporate lobbyists, the candidates were also restrained and conciliatory. “I don’t see, with Republicans in complete control of every aspect of our government, how we take money out of our coffers,” said Harrison, who served as a top aide to Rep. James Clyburn before working as a lobbyist for the Podesta Group. “When lobbyists give money, what do they get from the DNC? We don’t determine laws,” he continued, adding that the committee should also focus on increasing its small-dollar donor list. “If they are committed to helping us get the majority back ... bring it on.” Ellison, a top backer of [...]



It's No Revelation That Intelligence Agencies Are Politicized

2017-01-19T00:00:00Z

Furor has arisen over President-elect Donald Trump's charges that our intelligence agencies are politicized. Spare us the outrage. For decades, directors of intelligence agencies have often quite inappropriately massaged their assessments to fit administration agendas. Careerists at these agencies naturally want to continue working from one administration to the next in "the king is dead; long live the king!" style. So they make the necessary political adjustments, which are sometimes quite at odds with their own agency's findings and to the detriment of national security....Furor has arisen over President-elect Donald Trump's charges that our intelligence agencies are politicized. Spare us the outrage. For decades, directors of intelligence agencies have often quite inappropriately massaged their assessments to fit administration agendas. Careerists at these agencies naturally want to continue working from one administration to the next in "the king is dead; long live the king!" style. So they make the necessary political adjustments, which are sometimes quite at odds with their own agency's findings and to the detriment of national security. The result is often confusion -- and misinformation passed off as authoritative intelligence. After Barack Obama won the 2008 election, George W. Bush intelligence adviser John Brennan stayed on as Obama's homeland security adviser. He is currently the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Under Obama, Brennan loudly criticized the use of enhanced interrogation techniques under the Bush administration. Brennan praised his new boss for his superior approach to combating terrorism. Brennan, who had served a year as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center under Bush, later assured the nation that enhanced interrogation techniques had helped "save lives" and were an important tool in combating terrorism. In 2010, Brennan inexplicably declared that jihad was "a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one's community," rather than the use of force against non-Muslims to promote the spread of Islam, as it is commonly defined in the Middle East. Brennan assured the nation that the Obama administration's drone assassination program had not resulted in "a single collateral death" -- a claim widely disbelieved even by administration supporters. Compare the similar odyssey of James Clapper, former undersecretary of defense for intelligence under George W. Bush. During his Bush tenure, Clapper had declared that weapons of mass destruction in Iraq indeed had existed but were "unquestionably" sent to Syria shortly before the war began -- a hypothesis perhaps favorable to the Bush administration but unsupported by his own intelligence officers. Clapper also stayed on in the intelligence community under President Obama and eventually was promoted to director of national intelligence -- and soon made the necessary transformations to adapt to an entirely new approach to radical Islamic terrorism. Clapper asserted in congressional testimony that the National Security Agency under the Obama administration did not collect intelligence on Americans. Later, he confessed that such an inaccurate response was "the least untruthful" way of answering. Few were convinced when Clapper insisted that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was "largely secular" -- although that declaration fit well enough the themes voiced by Obama in his earlier Cairo speech. Clapper was also faulted by military intelligence officers at CENTCOM for purportedly pressuring Pentagon officials to issue rosy reports about the supposed decline of the Islamic State -- not accurate, but an administration talking point. Former CIA Director George Tenet stayed on from the Bill Clinton administration to serve under George W. Bush. He soon became a chief proponent of the claim that Saddam Hussein had inventories on hand of weapons of mass destruction. Tenet assured the president that WMD in Iraq was a "slam dunk" case -- a conclusion that turned out not to be [...]



On Ethics, Trump Is No Obama

2017-01-19T00:00:00Z

There was a time when American voters had to wonder whether Barack Obama was personally corrupt. In 2008, that was the claim of both Hillary Clinton in the primaries and John McCain in the general election campaign. They charged that he had gotten help buying a house from a crooked, wealthy developer. They depicted him as just another sleazy Chicago machine pol. You may have forgotten all this because it was convincingly refuted and left no permanent stain on Obama. Whatever his failures in the White House, he has not been implicated in old-fashioned graft. He may make huge sums of money...There was a time when American voters had to wonder whether Barack Obama was personally corrupt. In 2008, that was the claim of both Hillary Clinton in the primaries and John McCain in the general election campaign. They charged that he had gotten help buying a house from a crooked, wealthy developer. They depicted him as just another sleazy Chicago machine pol. You may have forgotten all this because it was convincingly refuted and left no permanent stain on Obama. Whatever his failures in the White House, he has not been implicated in old-fashioned graft. He may make huge sums of money after he leaves office. But he didn't do it while he was there. Contrast this picture with the spectacle of Donald Trump, whose administration promises to be a nonstop festival of ethical breaches. Previous presidents have felt compelled by law and political appearances to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Not Trump. Having amassed riches before being elected president, he sees no reason to stop now. He has refused to disclose his tax returns or a full list of his assets, which are extensive. "At least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries across South America, Asia and the Middle East," reported The Washington Post in November. His financial stake in these places gives foreign governments ways to ingratiate themselves or to put pressure on him. Instead of looking only at what makes sense for American security and prosperity, he will have monetary incentives to consider what's good for him and his family. Putting his assets in a trust controlled by his two eldest sons, as he said last week he is doing, is wholly inadequate. He'll still be aware of what the trust owns; he'll eventually stand to profit from the deals it makes; and he intends to resume control after he leaves office. In the interim, he will have opportunities for self-dealing beyond his wildest dreams. Trump, as The New York Times noted this week, has pursued deals in Russia for 30 years without much success. If President Vladimir Putin can accommodate the tycoon on that front, Trump might indulge Putin on Ukraine, NATO, Syria or something else. Unless he transfers his assets to an independent executor with instructions to sell them off and put the proceeds in a blind trust, everything he does will be under a cloud. Next to all this, Obama's alleged impropriety looks comically quaint. When he and his wife bought a house in Chicago in 2005, developer Tony Rezko, a friend who had raised money for Obama, bought a lot next door from the same seller. The suspicion was that Rezko overpaid the owner so the Obamas could underpay. Later, Rezko sold them a strip of land between the houses to expand their yard -- which may have been another financial favor. Rezko later served time on federal extortion charges related to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who also went to prison. After weeks of trying to ignore the issue during the 2008 campaign, Obama finally addressed it head-on. He came to the Chicago Tribune in March and spent 90 minutes giving a detailed account of what had happened and answering every question put to him. He never evaded, never responded defensively and never showed the slightest impatience. He gave the impression of someone who wanted the whole story known, confident it would vindicate his integrity. It did. That fall, McCain tried to use the charge against his opponent, but the[...]



Boycotts Are a Form of Speech

2017-01-19T00:00:00Z

Liberals have organized a campaign to boycott Simon & Schuster over its planned publication of a book by alt-right bad boy Milo Yiannopoulos. Is this boycott a form of censorship? Wendy Kaminer, a civil liberties lawyer, argues that progressives should be troubled by "the chilling effect of consumer book boycotts on speech." I disagree. A consumer boycott does not muzzle anyone. No one is saying that Yiannopoulos can't type what he wants or that Simon & Schuster can't publish his product. But the right to buy something implies the right not to buy...Liberals have organized a campaign to boycott Simon & Schuster over its planned publication of a book by alt-right bad boy Milo Yiannopoulos. Is this boycott a form of censorship? Wendy Kaminer, a civil liberties lawyer, argues that progressives should be troubled by "the chilling effect of consumer book boycotts on speech." I disagree. A consumer boycott does not muzzle anyone. No one is saying that Yiannopoulos can't type what he wants or that Simon & Schuster can't publish his product. But the right to buy something implies the right not to buy something. Boycotts are also a form of speech. That said, I happen to share Kaminer's dim view of this particular boycott. She's right that exacting economic harm on Simon & Schuster over an objectionable author is counterproductive. It showers a creepy individual with free publicity while potentially hurting a company that publishes varied and valuable perspectives. Campaigns to boycott companies, places or organizations have a long history in this country and elsewhere. The causes they support and the results they bring about are a decidedly mixed bag. American colonists boycotted the purchase of British products to protest what they considered unfair taxation by the mother country. In 1773, a campaign to boycott tea specifically became pointless after men disguised as Indians boarded British ships in Boston harbor and threw the tea overboard, in what became known as the Boston Tea Party. The modern civil rights movement was launched by African-Americans refusing to patronize buses with segregated seating in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Montgomery, Alabama. Most of the passengers were black, so their boycott caused economic hardship for the bus operators. Most of their demands were eventually met. More recently, the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores became the target of a boycott after it challenged the Affordable Care Act mandate that employer-provided insurance cover birth control without a copay. The owners argued that the birth control requirement went counter to their religious views, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor. For me, an occasional home sewer, the Hobby Lobby owners' personal views on birth control were a matter of indifference. But their singling out of this basic medical need for women -- out of all the other health services offered -- was not. I haven't stepped foot in their stores since. North Carolina has faced some serious boycotts since its lawmakers passed a bill that quashed local ordinances letting transgender people use the bathrooms of their choice. Several companies announced they wouldn't expand there, and the NBA and NCAA said they would not hold high-profile games in the state. Some boycotts are ridiculous. From the left, you have the boycott of New Balance sneakers because of a misunderstood remark by a company executive supporting an aspect of Donald Trump's trade agenda (to the extent anyone understands it). On the right, you have the annual "boycott" of Starbucks over its decision to make its holiday cups less Christmassy than some want. This year, Trump chimed in: "Maybe we should boycott Starbucks." I put the word boycott in quotes because some of his followers thought they'd register their displeasure by going into Starbucks and buying its coffee. The flourish of protest was to give their name to the coffee makers as "Trump." Like the harried barist[...]



Amongst the Demonstrators

2017-01-19T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- This is supposedly the week of multitudinous demonstrations in Washington, D.C. The hordes are getting more media attention than the hundreds of thousands of President-elect Donald Trump supporters who are also coming into town. Whether the demonstrations will be as multitudinous as anticipated by the media, I cannot say. Certainly, they are getting plenty of publicity already, though their actual numbers as of Tuesday night are disappointing. Rev. Al Charlatan's (ne Rev. Al Sharpton's) turnout Saturday was rather puny, I am told. I may have seen it, but then again, I...WASHINGTON -- This is supposedly the week of multitudinous demonstrations in Washington, D.C. The hordes are getting more media attention than the hundreds of thousands of President-elect Donald Trump supporters who are also coming into town. Whether the demonstrations will be as multitudinous as anticipated by the media, I cannot say. Certainly, they are getting plenty of publicity already, though their actual numbers as of Tuesday night are disappointing. Rev. Al Charlatan's (ne Rev. Al Sharpton's) turnout Saturday was rather puny, I am told. I may have seen it, but then again, I may have not. I was on my way to J. Press, a men's store. There was a small demonstration near the Lincoln Memorial. The demonstrators were reclining on the grass in some sort of formation, possibly doing yoga. Could these have been Al's troops? They seemed confused, even disorientated. What also struck me about them was they were shabbily dressed, so shabbily as to appear pathetic. I reported on this aspect of the modern-day street demonstration in this column months ago, at the time of the Republican National Convention. Supposedly the anti-Trump fever was at new heights. Yet the 21st-century street protesters just do not live up to the sartorial standards set back in the 1960s. They are dirty and do not appear to be well-fed, and their clothes appear to be hand-me-downs -- hand-me-downs from street people. Also, many appeared to be dazed. I recall the good old days of the 1960s anti-war demonstrations; the anti-war demonstrations plus the civil rights demonstrations; the anti-war demonstrations plus the civil rights demonstrations plus the legalization of marijuana demonstrations; and throw in the demonstrations for free love and the abolishment of grades -- and perhaps even the abolishment of classes. Those participants knew how to dress. Many looked like Che Guevara before he had his fatal run-in with the CIA. They at least looked like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Tom Hayden. Sure, they were dirty, but it only took a night at Mommy and Daddy's with soap and shampoo to clean them up. And they were ignorant and unhappy, and they could rarely get up for a demonstration before noon. But they dressed in military fatigues -- their clothier was possibly L.L. Bean -- and one could imagine them in the jungle with Guevara before his unpleasant demise. I cannot say I knew Hoffman, but anyway, he did not sound like a lot of laughs. In fact, he proved it in 1989 when he took 150 phenobarbital tablets and liquor, whereupon he assumed room temperature. He had been living in a turkey coop converted into an apartment. One hundred and fifty tablets! I never trusted a demonstrator who could not hold his phenobarbital. Then there was Rubin. He led massive demonstrations, and I even attended a couple of them. Actually, I stood right next to him at one, close enough to observe his belly fat, which enveloped his belt. He was not what I would call physically fit, though he did make his audiences laugh. He went on in the 1970s and 1980s to become a Wall Street titan, then a business consultant and networker. Then he pedaled "life-enhancing" supplements. He had an office in Los Angeles on Wilshire Boulevard (as did President Ronald Reagan). One day, while jaywalking across the six lanes of the boulevard, he was hit by a passing vehicle. He died t[...]



Trump 'Disrespects' the Intel Community? What About Obama's Iraq Bug-Out?

2017-01-19T00:00:00Z

President Barack Obama and his team still engage in a hissy fit over Donald Trump's questioning Obama's place of birth. To even raise the issue is to "otherwise" the first black President. In short, they argue, it is racist. But to claim that Vladimir Putin put Trump in the White House is nothing more than an obvious observation, right? When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of George W. Bush in 2000, a number of disgruntled Democrats referred to him as "President Select." Now President-elect Trump is being hammered over his refusal to except the...President Barack Obama and his team still engage in a hissy fit over Donald Trump's questioning Obama's place of birth. To even raise the issue is to "otherwise" the first black President. In short, they argue, it is racist. But to claim that Vladimir Putin put Trump in the White House is nothing more than an obvious observation, right? When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of George W. Bush in 2000, a number of disgruntled Democrats referred to him as "President Select." Now President-elect Trump is being hammered over his refusal to except the intelligence community's consensus about Russia's alleged role in the election. All of the intel agencies maintain that the Russian government attempted to influence our election, and that Russia preferred Trump over Hillary Clinton. From the outset, Trump doubted both the argument that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and that the release of damaging emails was designed to give him an advantage over his rival. Trump, at least before his recent national security briefing, argued that the hacking could've been done by a number of actors, including China and other state and non-state entities. Trump's reluctance to accept the apparent unanimous opinion of our intel agencies probably has more to do with his rejection of the narrative that but for Russia he would not be president. Russian President Vladimir Putin did not tell Clinton to put a private server in her basement in Chappaqua. Putin did not tell Clinton to delete 30,000 emails while arguing that they were not work related. He did not tell her to destroy evidence that was under subpoena. He did not tell her to falsely assert that she never sent or received classified information, or to falsely claim that she never sent or received information that was stamped classified. Putin did not tell the DNC to ridicule the name of a black woman or to condescendingly suggest that the way to get Hispanic votes was through "brand loyalty" and "stories" because, after all, "Hispanics are the most responsive to 'story telling.' Brands need to 'speak with us.'" Nor did Putin get Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta to agree that the Iran deal is "the greatest appeasement since Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler." But the "Trump doesn't respect the intel community" argument raises another issue. Why doesn't Obama get the same criticism for rejecting his national security and intelligence team's advice on Iraq? As a candidate, Obama called the Iraq War "dumb." He vowed to withdraw the troops and reposition them in Afghanistan -- the good war. As President, this is exactly what he did. But he did so against the unanimous advice of the major national security voices in his administration. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged him to keep a stay-behind force. So did his secretary of Defense, the head of the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the United States ambassador to Iraq and his national security adviser. Army Gen. Ray Odierno, former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said shorty after his retirement that had there been a stabilizing force in Iraq, ISIS could've been dealt with: "I go back to the work we did in 2007 (through) 2010, and we got into a place that was really good. Violence was low, the economy was growing, politics looked like it was heading in the right direction. ... We [...]



Martin Luther King Jr.: A Great American

2017-01-19T00:00:00Z

Abraham Lincoln is generally regarded today as one of America's greatest presidents. But, that wasn't always the case. It took more than half a century after his death before the memorial erected in his honor could be built. The bitterness of the Civil War he waged to preserve the Union lingered long after an assassin's bullet ended Lincoln's life. It took time to bring the perspective needed for Lincoln's greatness to shine. We are now experiencing the same process in the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. The legacies of Lincoln and King were publicly intertwined...Abraham Lincoln is generally regarded today as one of America's greatest presidents. But, that wasn't always the case. It took more than half a century after his death before the memorial erected in his honor could be built. The bitterness of the Civil War he waged to preserve the Union lingered long after an assassin's bullet ended Lincoln's life. It took time to bring the perspective needed for Lincoln's greatness to shine. We are now experiencing the same process in the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. The legacies of Lincoln and King were publicly intertwined when King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech from the Lincoln Memorial. That speech ranks alongside Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as among the best expressions of America's highest ideals. In 1963, however, both the speech and the speaker were as controversial as Lincoln had been in his time. Throughout the 1960s, King was routinely found to be one of the most unpopular men in public life, hounded by the FBI and repeatedly arrested for demanding that America live up to its highest ideals. The bitterness of the Civil Rights movement he led lingered long after an assassin's bullet ended his life. This past Monday, we officially celebrated King's life, and he is now viewed favorably by most Americans. But King still does not get the respect he deserves. As a Baptist preacher, King grieved over the fact that the most segregated hour in America was Sunday morning at church. It is painfully ironic that the holiday honoring King's life has become one of the most segregated days in America. Appreciation of King is limited partly because he is viewed primarily as a great black leader rather than as a great American leader. It's also limited because many Americans know little about the great man beyond his soaring rhetoric. King was a smart, tough and courageous leader who tirelessly promoted nonviolent protests to counter the violence inflicted upon black Americans. It was a brilliant strategy designed to appeal to the hearts and minds of white Americans by presenting a clear choice between right and wrong. But it was tough to sell the idea to many black Americans who were sick and tired of being abused. Recognizing this, King did more than just give nice speeches and hope for the best. He constantly led mass meetings to remind everyone that nonviolence was the only practical path forward. He and his team also prepared protesters for what they would face by clearly expressing the dangers and providing ongoing training exercises. Ongoing daily leadership was needed. Following the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King recognized the potential for violence when black riders prepared to ride integrated busses for the first time. So, he wrote a 17-point memo advising the riders on appropriate behavior. One of those points remains both heartbreaking and powerful: "Be loving enough to absorb evil and understanding enough to turn an enemy into a friend." Leadership like that made Martin Luther King, Jr. one of America's greatest leaders. Like Lincoln, he understood that challenging the nation to live up to its highest ideals put his own life at risk. But King sacrificed himself to make our nation a better place. He created a better world not just for black Americans, but for all Americans. COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM  [...]



How Trump Won: The Midwest

2017-01-19T00:00:00Z

Part 4 in a series We now turn our attention to the biggest prize of the 2016 election: the Midwest.  This region has largely been where our national elections have been won or lost since the Civil War.  Republicans knew that they could not win the presidency without this area; hence all but three of their nominees from 1868 through 1920 hailed from the region (Democrats tended to counter with presidential candidates from electorally rich New York, but all but three of their vice presidential candidates during this time period were from the Midwest). Donald Trump picked up a...Part 4 in a series We now turn our attention to the biggest prize of the 2016 election: the Midwest.  This region has largely been where our national elections have been won or lost since the Civil War.  Republicans knew that they could not win the presidency without this area; hence all but three of their nominees from 1868 through 1920 hailed from the region (Democrats tended to counter with presidential candidates from electorally rich New York, but all but three of their vice presidential candidates during this time period were from the Midwest). Donald Trump picked up a whopping 50 more electoral votes from this region than Mitt Romney did, and very nearly added 10 more.  Moreover, these pickups largely surprised analysts.  It is therefore useful to spend some time looking at how it happened. We’ll start this time with maps, then charts, then some more maps.  What we’ll see is that the contagion that RealClearPolitics identified in a 2009 series on the Obama coalition spread throughout the region, just as it did the other regions of the country:  Democratic strength in rural areas collapsed. But unlike the West and Northeast, it mattered here. So we start with Michael Dukakis’ map.  What I’ve done here – as with most of the articles in this series – is subtracted out the national vote.  This allows us to compare counties where Democrats won by large margins (as in 1996) with elections where they didn’t fare as well.  So what this map shows are counties that Dukakis won, as well as counties that he lost, but by less than his national margin. As you can see, the Massachusetts governor performed well in the region, especially in the western division. This is in part because of the farm recession, but as we’ll see, it wasn’t limited to this.  We note Democratic strength in eastern Ohio, which is part of Appalachia, along the Lake Erie coast (reflecting the strength in old industrial cities), in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and in the Balkans (a rural, yet ethnically diverse section of southeastern Kansas). But in general, it is difficult to identify any particular home for the Democratic Party here.  Democrats perform well in all sorts of places.  This helped Dukakis carry Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, while coming close in South Dakota, Missouri and Illinois. This is true if we back out and look at gradations of red and blue: The 1996 election featured the famous “MOM” strategy, where the Bob Dole campaign focused on Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri. It failed, rather spectacularly, but the region did begin to shift toward the Republicans.  You can see the broad ocean of blue beginning to retreat to islands: This is also apparent in the overall map of the region: In 2008, Barack Obama won a substantial victory in the region, comparable to Bill Clinton’s win in 1996.  Yet his coalition was much narrower, and dependent upon strong showings in the cities. By now you really can pick out individual cities and regions in many of these places.  By 2016, the Democratic coalition has really become islands of blue in a sea of red: I[...]



A Parting Shot at Personal Freedom

2017-01-19T00:00:00Z

On Jan. 3, outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch secretly signed an order directing the National Security Agency -- America's 60,000-person-strong domestic spying apparatus -- to make available raw spying data to all other federal intelligence agencies, which then can pass it on to their counterparts in foreign countries and in the 50 states upon request. She did so, she claimed, for administrative convenience. Yet in doing this, she violated basic constitutional principles that were erected centuries ago to prevent just what she did. Here is the back story. In the aftermath of former...On Jan. 3, outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch secretly signed an order directing the National Security Agency -- America's 60,000-person-strong domestic spying apparatus -- to make available raw spying data to all other federal intelligence agencies, which then can pass it on to their counterparts in foreign countries and in the 50 states upon request. She did so, she claimed, for administrative convenience. Yet in doing this, she violated basic constitutional principles that were erected centuries ago to prevent just what she did. Here is the back story. In the aftermath of former President Richard Nixon's abusive utilization of the FBI and CIA to spy on his domestic political opponents in the 1960s and '70s -- and after Nixon had resigned from office in the wake of all that -- Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which created a secret court that was charged with being the sole authority in America that can authorize domestic spying for non-law enforcement purposes. The standard for a FISA court authorization was that the subject of the spying needed to be a foreign person in the United States who was an agent of a foreign power. It could be a foreign janitor in a foreign embassy, a foreign spy masquerading as a diplomat, even a foreign journalist working for a media outlet owned by a foreign government. The American spies needed a search warrant from the FISA court. Contrary to the Constitution, the search warrant was given based not on probable cause of crime but rather on probable cause of the status of the person as an agent of a foreign power. This slight change from "probable cause of crime" to "probable cause of foreign agency" began the slippery slope that brought us to Lynch's terrible order of Jan. 3. After the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, numerous other statutes were enacted that made spying easier and that continued to erode the right to be left alone guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. The Patriot Act permitted FBI agents to write their own search warrants for business records (including medical, legal, postal and banking records), and amendments to FISA itself changed the wording from probable cause "of foreign agency" to probable cause of being "a foreign person" to all Americans who may "communicate with a foreign person." As if Americans were children, Congress made those sleight-of-hand changes with no hoopla and little serious debate. Our very elected representatives -- who took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution -- instead perverted it. It gets worse. The recent USA Freedom Act permits the NSA to ask the FISA court for a search warrant for any person -- named or unnamed -- based on the standard of "governmental need." One FISA court-issued warrant I saw authorized the surveillance of all 115 million domestic customers of Verizon. The governmental need standard is no standard at all, as the government will always claim that what it wants, it needs. All these statutes and unauthorized spying practices have brought us to where we were on Jan. 2 -- namely, with the NSA having a standard operating procedure of capturing every keystroke on every computer and mobile device, every telephone conversation on every landline an[...]



Entering Office Under a Cloud: How Trump, Bush 43 Differ

2017-01-19T00:00:00Z

Donald Trump will not be the first president to face a deeply polarized country and doubts about the legitimacy of his victory as he is sworn in. But he has so far wrestled these challenges much differently than another modern president who weathered the same.  George W. Bush has been here and done that. He won the presidency more than one month after Election Day, when the Supreme Court ruled that a recount of votes in Florida should be halted. The decision awarded Bush a victory in the Electoral College, even as he trailed Vice President Al Gore in the national popular vote. Bush...Donald Trump will not be the first president to face a deeply polarized country and doubts about the legitimacy of his victory as he is sworn in. But he has so far wrestled these challenges much differently than another modern president who weathered the same.  George W. Bush has been here and done that. He won the presidency more than one month after Election Day, when the Supreme Court ruled that a recount of votes in Florida should be halted. The decision awarded Bush a victory in the Electoral College, even as he trailed Vice President Al Gore in the national popular vote. Bush faced immediate protest, with some Democrats questioning whether he would be a “legitimate” president. When NBC News anchor Tim Russert raised the L-word with House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, in an interview just days after the Supreme Court’s decision, Gephardt refused to utter it — sticking to his talking points throughout an excruciating few minutes of follow-up questions. The next day, Bush met with Gephardt and other congressional leaders on Capitol Hill, where a reporter asked Gephardt why he had dodged the question and whether he indeed viewed Bush as a “legitimate” president.  “Yes, is my answer,” Bush chuckled, along with others in the room. Gephardt, cowed, acknowledged that Bush would be sworn in as president the following month. “I don't know how you can get more legitimate than that,” he added. Trump will take the oath of office at his inauguration Friday, following an election outcome that was never in dispute. Although Trump lagged Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes in the national popular vote, his victory in the Electoral College was incontestable. Revelations since then about the extent and focus of Russian interference in the election have added a wrinkle, however, lending fuel to Trump’s critics in a tinderbox political environment. But if Bush publicly laughed off questions about his claim to the office of the presidency, Trump has taken a markedly different approach. Trump and his top advisers have on multiple occasions suggested that U.S. intelligence assessments blaming Russia for seeking to influence the presidential election through hacking, propaganda and other means have been politically motivated to undercut Trump. In an interview this month with the New York Times, Trump called it “a political witch hunt.” Meanwhile, Trump has attacked critics who have cast aspersions on his victory, including Democratic Rep. John Lewis. "I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis said on “Meet The Press” last week, drawing a fiery response from the president-elect. Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to...... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017 mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017 Senators get their first opportunity Wednesday to publicly question Georgia Rep. T[...]



Trump-Lewis Clash Serves Neither Man's Purposes

2017-01-18T00:00:00Z

Rep. John Lewis knew what he was doing when he said Donald Trump isn’t a legitimate president, and the iconic civil rights leader also knew what it might provoke from the thin-skinned counter-puncher. But as the nation celebrated what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 88th birthday this week, the spat unleashed responses from all sides that would have appalled the man Lewis fought beside, and showed a widening and hardening divide that was hard to imagine even a year ago. On one side, Republican Rep. Steve King said that Lewis hasn’t contributed anything...Rep. John Lewis knew what he was doing when he said Donald Trump isn’t a legitimate president, and the iconic civil rights leader also knew what it might provoke from the thin-skinned counter-puncher. But as the nation celebrated what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 88th birthday this week, the spat unleashed responses from all sides that would have appalled the man Lewis fought beside, and showed a widening and hardening divide that was hard to imagine even a year ago. On one side, Republican Rep. Steve King said that Lewis hasn’t contributed anything in 50 years since being beaten during the peaceful protest in Selma, Ala., and that “he trades off of it.” On the other side, rapper Snoop Dogg made vile threats that he would “roast” any black performers daring to perform at the inauguration. There’s more. This week CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill accused the sports stars and entertainers, including television host and comedian Steve Harvey, who visit with Trump of being used, and said the president-elect intentionally meets with people unable to challenge him on policies that affect inner cities. “Yeah, it was a bunch of mediocre Negroes being dragged in front of TV as a photo op for Donald Trump’s exploitative campaign against black people,” Hill said. To Hill’s toxic comments, Sheriff David Clarke, a Trump supporter, tweeted, “I am tired of this jigaboo telling black people who they should be, what they should do. He’s a lackey for Democrats.” Can it get any worse than this? Lewis’ comments, that Russian intervention in the November election rendered Trump illegitimate in his eyes, was met with swift nasty-grams on Twitter from Trump, who accused the congressman of ignoring his Atlanta district, which he called “crime infested,” and said Lewis was “all talk, talk, talk - no action or results.” Lewis also said he would boycott the 45th president’s inauguration, something he had never done before. Only it turns out Lewis had boycotted the 43rd president’s inauguration as well. That was because the Supreme Court had ended the 2000 recount in Florida and Lewis also thought George W. Bush wasn’t not legitimately elected. When confronted, Lewis’ staff said he didn’t recall that since it was nearly 20 years ago. While Trump’s response was predictably ill-advised, there is no doubt this has not been Lewis’ finest hour. “Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It’s a permanent attitude,” Martin Luther King once said. “Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness,” he said another time. Trump didn’t adhere to these principles, and neither did Lewis. But the debate over the latter’s political ploy --  as well as Trump’s treatment of, and standing among, African-Americans -- is as angry and bitter as those from decades gone by, and will further erode what’s left of a fragile unity in America. The 60 Democrats joining Lewis in his boycott Friday are indulging themselves at the expense of our democracy, which would not only deeply sadd[...]



The Shameful War on Betsy DeVos

2017-01-18T00:00:00Z

The controversy over the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education has been, if nothing else, clarifying. We now know that working to give poor kids more educational opportunities is considered a disqualifying offense for the Left. For decades, DeVos has devoted herself to creating alternatives to a public-school establishment that fails its most vulnerable students, and she earned the eternal enmity of defenders of the status quo in doing it. The assault against her by the teachers unions and their allies speaks to a certain desperation. They have been steadily losing ground in the...The controversy over the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education has been, if nothing else, clarifying. We now know that working to give poor kids more educational opportunities is considered a disqualifying offense for the Left. For decades, DeVos has devoted herself to creating alternatives to a public-school establishment that fails its most vulnerable students, and she earned the eternal enmity of defenders of the status quo in doing it. The assault against her by the teachers unions and their allies speaks to a certain desperation. They have been steadily losing ground in the debate over educational choice at the state and local level, and now DeVos threatens to occupy the commanding heights of federal policy at the Department of Education. Through her activism and philanthropy, DeVos has pushed for every form of educational choice, whether charter schools, school vouchers, or tuition tax credits. She championed the charter-school law in her home state of Michigan and has been chair of the American Federation for Children, devoted to electing state legislators around the country who favor choice. (By way of full disclosure, her husband, Dick, sits on the board of the National Review Institute.) Her nomination has elicited a motley collection of charges running the gamut from the silly to the serious, if wholly misleading: She’s wealthy. Well, yes, most philanthropists are. She once spoke of wanting to “continue to advance God’s kingdom.” Her critics might find this less threatening if they had more than a passing familiarity with how Christians talk and what they believe (every Christian wants to advance God’s kingdom). She doesn’t necessarily care about punishing sexual assault. This is absurd innuendo built on the $10,000 in donations that she and her husband gave to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The group is dedicated to protecting free speech on campus, but also advocates for due-process rights for the accused in sexual-assault cases. The crux of the case against DeVos is that she is ruining education, as allegedly demonstrated by the experience of the charter schools that she has championed in Michigan. Her detractors argue that charters in Detroit in particular have been a disaster. If Detroit’s charters are hardly world-class, they are demonstrably better than the city’s traditional public schools, which is the most relevant metric for Detroit parents. The traditional public schools have failed abysmally for generations (about half of adults in Detroit are functionally illiterate). Jason Bedrick and Max Eden summarized the data on Detroit’s charters for the publication EducationNext. A study by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that roughly 50-60 percent of charter schools outperformed comparable district schools. A report from a nonprofit called Excellent Schools Detroit rated 16 percent of charter schools as excellent or good compared with only 5 percent of district schools, whereas 62 percent of the district schools were weak or failing compared with 35 percent of the charters. [...]



What We'd Like to Hear on Inauguration Day

2017-01-18T00:00:00Z

When Ronald Reagan reviewed the first draft of his inaugural speech 36 years ago, he remarked that while he appreciated eloquence, what he really wanted was for America to hear, in his straightforward voice, words that would raise the curtain on his administration.  He reminded me that in Hollywood he wasn’t known as a good script writer, but that he was a pretty good script doctor.  And the final version achieved precisely what he wanted: letting his fellow citizens know how he planned to pull the nation out of the crisis crippling our economy and sapping our...When Ronald Reagan reviewed the first draft of his inaugural speech 36 years ago, he remarked that while he appreciated eloquence, what he really wanted was for America to hear, in his straightforward voice, words that would raise the curtain on his administration.  He reminded me that in Hollywood he wasn’t known as a good script writer, but that he was a pretty good script doctor.  And the final version achieved precisely what he wanted: letting his fellow citizens know how he planned to pull the nation out of the crisis crippling our economy and sapping our emotional strength. This reminiscence of decades past illustrates the challenge faced by President-elect Trump when he steps up to the podium on Friday.  Mr. Trump’s campaign rally remarks in Warren, Mich., and Tampa, Fla., will be little noted and long forgotten, but his words this week will echo.  Thus, what is it that the new president should seek to achieve in his first big moment as leader of the free world?  First, he should not obsess about finding phrases to line the shelves of famous presidential quotations.  Those are hard to come by.  In eight years, only two of President Reagan’s quotes emerge again and again: asking Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall and his inaugural observation that government was the problem, not the solution, to the economic crisis of that day.  And certainly no one expects exquisite poetry from the deal artist.  Instead, Mr. Trump should strive for message and tone. But messages and tone can get submerged in the arcana of detail.  In his acceptance speech at the GOP convention in Cleveland, the nominee laid out a sumptuous agenda table to lift the economy, stop crime, cut taxes, end illegal immigration, reduce debt, fund infrastructure, put America first, and resolve Iran, ISIS and Iraq.  But the inaugural address is not a State of the Union address.  There is plenty of time and opportunity to let the Congress know the minutiae of the Trump game plan.  Chuck Schumer knows he will get a finger poked in his eye very soon; it doesn’t have to be on January 20. What I think we’re looking for in this speech is what made the 2016 election so unique – what made it possible for Donald Trump to vanquish a dozen and a half Republicans and then stop cold the Clinton machine in the Electoral College.  Yes, he knew he was going to win all along, but most of America did not.  So, he saw something in our country, and the country saw something in him.  Crossing America, the Manhattan billionaire had the opportunity to peek into the back rooms of America, a rare excursion to witness a yearning for hope and change that wasn’t the dreamy, mushy kind out of a Bob Dylan song – but that which grew out of a life busted by political correctness and misplaced government. Congress’ Joint Inaugural Committee switched the swearing-in ceremony to the West Front of the Capitol for President Reagan’s first ceremony, and it has been there ever since.  Donald Trump will be looking west, symbo[...]



Dems Need History Lesson on U.S. Elections

2017-01-18T00:00:00Z

Rep. John Lewis' claim that President-elect Donald Trump isn't a legitimate president wouldn't matter by itself. Lewis dismissed President George W. Bush as illegitimate, too. But the attacks by leading Democrats are mounting, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, President Obama's Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Hillary Clinton's former press secretary Brian Fallon and dozens of lawmakers who are boycotting the inauguration. All are insinuating that Trump lacks legitimacy because the Russian government allegedly tried to sway the election. "If we can't carry out...Rep. John Lewis' claim that President-elect Donald Trump isn't a legitimate president wouldn't matter by itself. Lewis dismissed President George W. Bush as illegitimate, too. But the attacks by leading Democrats are mounting, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, President Obama's Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Hillary Clinton's former press secretary Brian Fallon and dozens of lawmakers who are boycotting the inauguration. All are insinuating that Trump lacks legitimacy because the Russian government allegedly tried to sway the election. "If we can't carry out an election without disinformation being pumped into it by another country, we've got a huge destruction of our system going on," exclaimed Feinstein. These pols need a refresher course on American history. Foreign countries have always tried to tilt our elections using fabricated news and propaganda. The same problem plagues all powerful nations. There's nothing new about the latest interference except the technology: internet hacking. Russian operatives hacked into the Democratic National Committee servers and then publicized the information by handing it to WikiLeaks. Included were emails showing that Clinton was leaked debate questions and that Democratic staffers disdain Catholics. Meddling with public opinion is different from tampering with voting machines or vote tallies. False statements can be countered with accurate ones. Words alone do not diminish the legitimacy of an election. It they did, the U.S. would have a long history of illegitimate election results. At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts cautioned, "Foreign powers will intermeddle in our affairs, and spare no expense to influence them." The framers tried to reduce the risk by barring federal officials from taking gifts "from any King, Prince, or foreign State." Another fail-safe against foreign interference was the framers' decision to entrust the actual conduct of the elections to local officials, keeping it decentralized. Even with these safeguards, foreign mischief has been a part of American elections since the beginning. In 1796, agents of the French government tried to tilt the election toward Thomas Jefferson by smearing incumbent Vice President John Adams as a monarchist and organizing local pro-Jefferson societies in many states. Fast-forward to 1916, when European countries, embroiled in World War I, intruded upon the presidential contest between incumbent President Woodrow Wilson and Republican candidate Charles Evans Hughes. A prominent government-backed newspaper in Germany urged German-Americans to support Hughes. That sparked alarm that, in Theodore Roosevelt's words, German meddling would "make the American President in effect a viceroy of the German Emperor." Twenty-five years later, according to Politico, Britain's secret intelligence service used every type of chicanery to defeat American politicians who opposed entering World War II to defeat Hitler. Agents bugged offices, linked anti-war candidates to Hitler and produced phony polls purporting public support for U.S. intervention in Europe. The Brits hoped to [...]



Risky Words; Price on the Hot Seat; DeVos, Pruitt Hearings; JFK & Ike

2017-01-18T00:00:00Z

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, January 18, 2017, two days from the inauguration of America’s 45th president. Yesterday, we revisited Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address as commander-in-chief. On this date in 1961, Americans were absorbing the true scope of Ike’s speech -- the significance of the career soldier and five-star general-turn-president warning Americans about the dangers of Washington’s “military-industrial complex.” Eisenhower had originally wanted to say “military-industrial-congressional...Good morning. It’s Wednesday, January 18, 2017, two days from the inauguration of America’s 45th president. Yesterday, we revisited Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address as commander-in-chief. On this date in 1961, Americans were absorbing the true scope of Ike’s speech -- the significance of the career soldier and five-star general-turn-president warning Americans about the dangers of Washington’s “military-industrial complex.” Eisenhower had originally wanted to say “military-industrial-congressional complex” but was persuaded that challenging the Pentagon was a big enough target without roping Capitol Hill into the concept. But that was implied. I also cited a couple of Eisenhower biographies in yesterday’s note, but was remiss in not mentioning “Three Days in January,” a timely new book written by Bret Baier with Catherine Whitney. It explores the exact time frame I’m writing about this week. “Three Days in January” has an evocative cover photo of Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy walking together at Camp David. That Pulitzer Prize-winning picture was taken in April 1961. On this date that year, as Todd Purdum recounted in a memorable 2011 Vanity Fair piece, President-elect John F. Kennedy was feeling fat. Reassured by his internist that everything was fine, JFK ordered his usual cholesterol-laden breakfast, visited the dentist, got fitted for his silk hat, and headed to Washington for the biggest Democratic Party since the end of World War II. I’ll have more on Kennedy’s inaugural speech in a moment. First. I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, timely videos, and breaking news, while aggregating opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a full complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * The Danger of Delegitimizing Trump. Caitlin Huey-Burns and I explore the rationale and risks behind the comment John Lewis and other Democrats have made. Dems Plan Hot Seat for Price at HHS Hearing. Senators today will grill him on his past support for replacing Medicare with vouchers, James Arkin reports. DeVos Withstands Pointed Questioning on Education. Christopher Beach has the story. Heated Exchanges Likely at Pruitt’s EPA Hearing. Bill Murray has this preview. Interior Nominee Zinke Says Goal is “Restored Trust.”  Federal-state feuds over public lands are escalating, the Montana congressman testified Tuesday. Melissa Cruz has the details. Leaving the WH Press Space as Is Could Benefit Trump. Alexis Simendinger explains why moving the press corps out of the West Wing carries liabilities for the new president. Trump vs. Media Is More Than Meets the Eye. RealClearInvestigations editor Tom Kuntz lays out the dynamics affecting this strained relationship. No, Mr. President-Elect, the Dollar Is Not “Too Strong.” RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny notes the oddity of Donald Trump promoting the devaluation of [...]



Interior Nominee Zinke Says Goal Is "Restored Trust"

2017-01-18T00:00:00Z

Department of Interior secretary nominee Ryan Zinke emphasized two of his qualifications at his confirmation hearing Tuesday: An upbringing in the Montana woods gave him a deep understanding of the department's mission, he said, and his days as a Navy SEAL would help him command an agency that has vast and frequently conflicting roles. The Republican congressman told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that his goal as both a Westerner and former military official is to bring “collaboration, communication, and a restored trust” to the Interior...Department of Interior secretary nominee Ryan Zinke emphasized two of his qualifications at his confirmation hearing Tuesday: An upbringing in the Montana woods gave him a deep understanding of the department's mission, he said, and his days as a Navy SEAL would help him command an agency that has vast and frequently conflicting roles. The Republican congressman told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that his goal as both a Westerner and former military official is to bring “collaboration, communication, and a restored trust” to the Interior Department, which oversees 500 million acres, mostly in the West, and their resources.  Committee members posed several questions to Zinke on how he would manage the department as part of Donald Trump’s administration, including its plans to reverse President Obama’s emphasis on renewable energy. If confirmed, the at-large Montana lawmaker promised an “all of the above” energy strategy that would include oil and gas drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and developing alternative energy sources on public lands. Several Democratic senators echoed environmentalists’ concerns about the impact of drilling and fracking on climate change, which the president-elect previously called “a hoax.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was one of the most vocal critics, first asking Zinke point-blank if he shared the president-elect’s views on climate change. After some back-and-forth during which Zinke said there was debate “on both sides of the aisle” concerning the issue, Zinke affirmed: “I do not believe it is a hoax.” When Sanders pressed him on whether the department should continue allowing oil drilling on public land despite climate change, Zinke referenced the “all of the above” approach, saying, “We need an economy and jobs, too.” Zinke also expressed an interest in reforming the way the department communicates with public land managers. He said he hoped to “restore a voice for local communities” and to be a “listener and advocate” for their needs. Years of inflexible regulation under the Obama administration, Zinke said, had led to growing mistrust between states with large areas of public land and the Interior Department. “If your front line isn’t happy, the rest of your team isn’t doing well,” Zinke explained. Zinke also said states “should have a say” on whether national monuments are dedicated on land within their borders, a frequent complaint among Republican senators on the committee who said President Obama wielded his Antiquities Act authority too often in designating such monuments. But Zinke also qualified his intention to work to improve relations between states and the department, stating he did not support the transfer of U.S-owned public lands to the states. “I believe Teddy Roosevelt had it right when he put lands under federal control,” Zinke said. The committee then called on Zinke to justify[...]



Sponsors of Anarchy

2017-01-18T00:00:00Z

Hoodlums will be out in full force this Inauguration Day weekend. Count on it. I've covered the left's criminal anarchist element for more than 20 years -- from the animal rights terrorists who have harassed, threatened and firebombed scientific researches across the U.S. and Europe to the anti-capitalist thugs who wreaked havoc on downtown business owners at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle and the 2010 G-20 summit in Toronto to the ANSWER Coalition and Code Pink's not-so-peaceful peaceniks who disrupted congressional hearings and menaced veterans memorials...Hoodlums will be out in full force this Inauguration Day weekend. Count on it. I've covered the left's criminal anarchist element for more than 20 years -- from the animal rights terrorists who have harassed, threatened and firebombed scientific researches across the U.S. and Europe to the anti-capitalist thugs who wreaked havoc on downtown business owners at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle and the 2010 G-20 summit in Toronto to the ANSWER Coalition and Code Pink's not-so-peaceful peaceniks who disrupted congressional hearings and menaced veterans memorials and military recruiting stations throughout the George W. Bush years to the Occupy Wall Street vagrants and rapists of 2011-12 to the rent-a-rioters who hijacked Ferguson, Baltimore and other Black Lives Matter demonstrations against police. My favorites over the years? I'll never forget the seditious mother in Olympia, Washington, who tied bandanas over her kids' faces and recklessly planted them in the middle of a street 10 years ago to block trucks carrying military shipments. She was so caught up in the excitement of her "direct action" that she dropped her baby on the ground as her anarchist compatriots threw rocks at police and soldiers driving around them. Then there were the "progressive" nitwits who handcuffed themselves to concrete-filled barrels in January 2015 and shut down traffic in the Boston area (risking the lives of crash victims waiting for an ambulance that was blocked) to protest ... something or other. Clenched-fist troublemakers will use any mass gathering as an excuse to undermine civil society. Social media and the irresistible lure of virality have only strengthened their incentive to "FSU" (f--- s--- up). Here's another thing you can take to the bank: "Mainstream" protesters on the streets of D.C. will look the other way at these lawless vandals who leech onto any available cause. Their common goal is not "social justice." It's destabilization and disorder. In Oakland, California, far-left "activist" Mayor Jean Quan groveled to Occupy agitators and refused to crack down as small businesses were destroyed and cops were attacked. Oberlin grad Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Democratic mayor of Baltimore, infamously created a safe space for rioters sabotaging inner-city businesses. The American Civil Liberties Union has written the literal playbook for redefining violent protest as "free speech" and obstructing police planning efforts to defend cities against left-wing chaos. Kory Flowers, a North Carolina-based law enforcement expert on domestic anarchists and criminal subversive groups, describes the persistent pot stirrers as "cause parasites." In 2012, at the Democratic National Convention, where international media coverage was assured, Flowers reported that anarchists had manufactured "urine-filled eggs, acid-filled Christmas ornaments, and water guns containing urine, all meant to be used against the law enforcement security forces throughout the city." Five years later, investigative journa[...]



Heated Exchanges Likely at Pruitt's EPA Hearing

2017-01-18T00:00:00Z

Verbal fireworks are expected in the Capitol during Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Few areas of the government deal with issues as polarizing as environmental policy, and Pruitt’s record as one of the most outspoken critics of President Obama’s environmental plans is expected to be questioned aggressively by many Democratic members of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. Pruitt, as Oklahoma’s Republican attorney general, has filed...Verbal fireworks are expected in the Capitol during Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Few areas of the government deal with issues as polarizing as environmental policy, and Pruitt’s record as one of the most outspoken critics of President Obama’s environmental plans is expected to be questioned aggressively by many Democratic members of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. Pruitt, as Oklahoma’s Republican attorney general, has filed or joined over 25 lawsuits against the EPA since 2011, including ones against the Clean Power Plan, an airborne mercury rule, and regulations designed to keep air pollution from crossing state lines. Pruitt has also voiced controversial positions on climate change, arguing that the science “is far from settled” and that he has doubts over “the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” Given his positions, it’s no surprise the criticism coming out of the country’s environment community has been forceful. The nominee “has an unbroken record of filing lawsuits against the EPA that in no instance seeks less pollution or greater health benefits than the EPA rules he wants to overturn,” said John Walke, clean air director with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “He wanted to overturn clean air standards that the EPA projected would save up to 45,000 lives every year.” In his appearance before the committee, Pruitt’s likely defense, given his past arguments, will be that the federal government has dramatically “overreached” in its authority to regulate economic activity during Obama’s time in office. He is expected to anchor this assertion with a call to allow states greater regulatory power, a position that will likely find friendly listeners among the 11 Republican members of the committee. The panel includes 10 Democrats and tends to attract members who are more partisan than those on other committees. Expect harsh rhetoric from Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, both of whom view climate change as a major threat to Americans. “When members join these committees, they chose … and are at times chosen because they have strong views,” said Kevin Book, a principal with the energy-focused public policy firm ClearView Energy Partners. Sanders and Whitehouse are likely “going to argue that Pruitt cannot responsibly administer the EPA if he doesn’t believe in what the EPA does.” In Pruitt’s corner will be more than 90 percent of the Republican caucus, as well as most of Trump’s inner circle, who are seen as skeptical of climate change and have been agitating for more than two decades to lessen the scope of federal environmental oversight.  If confirmed by the full Senate, Pruitt won’t be the first Rep[...]



Trump's First Week

2017-01-18T00:00:00Z

Donald Trump will be busy Friday. He and Mike Pence have promised, Mother Jones magazine points out, that on Trump's first day in office he will repeal Obamacare, end the "war on coal," expel illegal immigrants, begin construction of a "beautiful Southern border wall," fix the Department of Veterans Affairs, come up with a plan to stop ISIS, get rid of "gun-free zones," "start taking care of our ... military," withdraw from the TPP trade agreement, cut regulations and designate China a currency manipulator. OK, much of that was probably just...Donald Trump will be busy Friday. He and Mike Pence have promised, Mother Jones magazine points out, that on Trump's first day in office he will repeal Obamacare, end the "war on coal," expel illegal immigrants, begin construction of a "beautiful Southern border wall," fix the Department of Veterans Affairs, come up with a plan to stop ISIS, get rid of "gun-free zones," "start taking care of our ... military," withdraw from the TPP trade agreement, cut regulations and designate China a currency manipulator. OK, much of that was probably just campaign talk. I'm grateful for that. I hope some of it never happens. But there's a lot of good Trump and Pence could do their first day, or, let's be generous, their first week. How about this? Monday: Abolish the Department of Commerce. Trump is a businessman, so he knows that business works best when government stays out of it. Why does America need something called a Commerce Department? Commerce just happens; it doesn't need a department. Today the Department of Commerce spends $9 billion a year subsidizing companies with political connections, gathering economic data, setting industry standards and doing a bunch of things companies ought to do for themselves. Get rid of it. Tuesday: Abolish the Department of Labor. The Department inserts itself into almost every protracted argument between workers and management. Why should we let government referee every argument? Let workers, bosses, unions and their lawyers fight it out. Then people can make contracts as individuals so they can get deals tailored to their individual needs. That's fairer than letting government bureaucrats and labor union bosses pretend to speak for them. The Labor Department also spends about $9 billion gathering information on workers. Top labor-union bosses make six-figure salaries. I'm sure their organizations could spend a little on statistics and workplace studies. Leave the poor, oppressed taxpayer out of it. Wednesday: Abolish the Small Business Administration. I love small businesses and the entrepreneurs who create them. That's exactly why I don't want them chosen or coddled by the state, just as big corporations shouldn't be. Entrepreneurs should devote their energy to inventing things, not sucking up to bureaucrats who give loans to businesses they favor. Businesses should sink or swim in accordance with the wishes of customers on the open market. Thursday: Abolish the Department of Education. Every time government pokes its nose into some activity, it pretends that activity could never have happened without government. Left-wing activists agree and pretend the sky will fall if anyone got rid of a department. But we've only had a federal Department of Education since 1980, and it's done nothing useful. The department doesn't teach kids or pay teachers. It comes up with studies, test requirements, and one-size-fits-all rules that limit what schools can do if they want federal money. That money gets taken from states and shipped [...]



The Danger of Delegitimizing Trump

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

On January 20, 2001, John Lewis did not attend George W. Bush’s inauguration. He didn’t make a big deal about it, but Bush losing the popular vote coupled with the contentious Florida recount left Lewis feeling less than magnanimous. According to contemporaneous press accounts, the Georgia congressman and civil rights icon spent Inauguration Day in his Atlanta district. Lewis was hardly the only prominent Democrat who had trouble accepting the new president after the 2000 election was finally decided. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Jesse...On January 20, 2001, John Lewis did not attend George W. Bush’s inauguration. He didn’t make a big deal about it, but Bush losing the popular vote coupled with the contentious Florida recount left Lewis feeling less than magnanimous. According to contemporaneous press accounts, the Georgia congressman and civil rights icon spent Inauguration Day in his Atlanta district. Lewis was hardly the only prominent Democrat who had trouble accepting the new president after the 2000 election was finally decided. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Jesse Jackson trashed the U.S. Supreme Court and questioned Bush’s “legitimacy.” Recognizing the starkness of such hyper-partisanship, moderator Tim Russert asked Dick Gephardt if he considered George W. Bush “a legitimate president.” Gephardt, a longtime Democratic congressional leader, refused to grant Bush that status -- though Russert tried three times. Meanwhile, a Democratic Senate leader was being similarly coy on ABC. Asked by Sam Donaldson if he thought news organizations should undertake their own vote recounts in Florida even if it might “delegitimize” Bush’s presidency, Tom Daschle implied that the latter was already the case. “We already know that Al Gore got more votes in the popular election,” he said. In other words, the path John Lewis and other Democrats are taking prior to the 2017 inauguration is not untrodden ground. But what is taking place now is far more than acting out against the Electoral College. This is entrenched opposition, some of it organized, some spontaneous. It’s being stoked in the grassroots, at the highest level of the Democratic Party, and in the media. And it’s all aimed squarely at Donald J. Trump. Here are some manifestations: -- The “Not my president” impulse of feminists dismayed by Trump’s election morphing into the Women’s March on Washington. Scheduled for the day after the swearing-in, it may attract a larger crowd than Trump’s inauguration itself. -- Liberals’ concerted effort, not repudiated by leading Democrats including Hillary Clinton or President Obama, to intimidate or inspire “faithless electors” who would go against how their state voted to deny Trump the presidency. -- Meryl Streep using her Golden Globes lifetime achievement award to excoriate Trump. That’s not merely another Hollywood liberal taking a potshot at a Republican. Streep is a prominent Democratic activist who spoke at the party’s Philadelphia nominating convention on behalf of Hillary Clinton. -- Robert Reich going on CNN and talking about impeachment—10 days before Trump had even been inaugurated. Again, that’s not simply the musings of a liberal California college professor: Bob Reich is an influential Democratic writer and thinker who served as a Cabinet official in the administration [...]



Hearing Previews; How Trump Won, Cont'd.; Meaningful "Silence"; Ike's Warning

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, January 17, 2017. We’re into presidential goodbyes and hellos this week, so what better time to recall President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address, delivered 56 years ago today? Coming just three days before John F. Kennedy’s inspiring inauguration ceremony, Dwight Eisenhower’s last speech as a president was a contrast in staging. The outgoing president delivered his speech in a near monotone, stumbling over the occasional word, then correcting himself, sounding for all the world like a man who had memorized a...Good morning. It’s Tuesday, January 17, 2017. We’re into presidential goodbyes and hellos this week, so what better time to recall President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address, delivered 56 years ago today? Coming just three days before John F. Kennedy’s inspiring inauguration ceremony, Dwight Eisenhower’s last speech as a president was a contrast in staging. The outgoing president delivered his speech in a near monotone, stumbling over the occasional word, then correcting himself, sounding for all the world like a man who had memorized a speech. This was true. But what a speech! The U.S. Army lifer, the five-star general who’d led the greatest armed force in history during World War II, had something big to impart: Americans should beware, he said, of a permanent and growing U.S. “military-industrial complex.” I’ll have more on Ike’s prescient warning in a moment. First. I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, timely videos, and breaking news, while aggregating opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a full complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Trump to Cabinet Picks: “Be Yourself.” Does He Mean It?  The eight nominees in confirmation hearings this week may test the president-elect’s tolerance for dissent, writes Rebecca Berg. Democrats Ready to Grill DeVos on School Choice. Christopher Beach previews today’s hearing for the nominee to lead the Education Department. How Trump Won: The West. Part 2 of Sean Trende and David Byler’s analysis. A Defense of Obama That Cherry-Picks the Facts. Peter Berkowitz reviews Jonathan Chait’s “Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail.” Reboot, Rather Than Abandon, Free Trade. In RealClearMarkets, Jeffrey Kucik offers advice to the incoming president. Long-Term Investment Needed in the Middle East. In RealClearWorld, Jessica Ashooh also has a suggestion for Trump. Messages for Our Noisy Age in Scorcese’s “Silence.” In RealClearReligion, Ann Corkery comments on the new film, which is steeped in themes relevant in these troubled times. Botox May Help Treat Depression. RealClearLife spotlights a potential new development.  * * * President Eisenhower played against type the night of January 17, 1961, when he introduced an evocative new phrase to the American language. But “Ike,” as a generation of Americans knew him, was evincing old themes -- and consciously taking his cue from George Washington, another general-turned-statesman. In his farewell address, Washington had warned his countrymen of getting entangled in “permanent” foreign alliances. Washington also implored Americans, in[...]



Trump to Cabinet Picks: 'Be Yourself.' Does He Mean It?

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

Donald Trump has insisted he does not expect his Cabinet nominees to agree with him on all issues. But a new batch of confirmation hearings this week, leading up to the inauguration, might test the president-elect’s tolerance for public dissent. Eight more of Trump’s picks for Cabinet posts are slated for their Senate hearings Tuesday through Thursday, and many will likely face uncomfortable questions about disagreements with Trump or their outright political attacks on him in the past.  The nominees’ turns in the spotlight will follow a string of...Donald Trump has insisted he does not expect his Cabinet nominees to agree with him on all issues. But a new batch of confirmation hearings this week, leading up to the inauguration, might test the president-elect’s tolerance for public dissent. Eight more of Trump’s picks for Cabinet posts are slated for their Senate hearings Tuesday through Thursday, and many will likely face uncomfortable questions about disagreements with Trump or their outright political attacks on him in the past.  The nominees’ turns in the spotlight will follow a string of hearings last week in which other Cabinet nominees starkly diverged from Trump on matters of both substance and style. Trump shrugged off those instances, telling reporters Friday, “We want them to be themselves.”  “I told them, ‘Be yourself and say what you want to say. Don’t worry about me.’ I’m going to do the right thing, whatever it is. I may be right, they may be right,” Trump continued. “But I said, ‘Be yourself.’ I could have said, ‘Do this, say that.’ I don’t want that. I want them all to be themselves.”  Trump, as showcased during his presidential campaign and since, often seems to be driven less by ideology than by political pragmatism and expediency. Still, the contrasts with his nominees drew widespread attention, suggesting cracks in the administration before Trump is even sworn in. Rex Tillerson, Trump’s would-be secretary of state, used harsh terms to describe Russia, which Trump has framed as a potential partner, and defended America’s commitment to NATO, which Trump has questioned.  Retired Gen. James Mattis, nominee for secretary of defense, likewise warned of Russian President Vladimir Putin “trying to break the North Atlantic alliance.” And Rep. Mike Pompeo, the president-elect’s nominee to lead the CIA, defended the agency’s work in light of Trump’s suggestions that the intelligence community has worked to undermine him, and his doubts about its report on Russian hacking to influence the election.  Now, a second round of hearings promises to raise both new and familiar areas of divergence between the president-elect and his slate of Cabinet secretaries.  South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Trump’s choice to serve as ambassador to the United Nations, who will appear for her hearing Wednesday, was a sharp critic of Trump during the Republican presidential primary. In her response last year to President Obama’s State of the Union address, Haley rebuked Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims traveling to the United States, saying, “No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country." But Haley will also likely be made to answer for Trump&rsquo[...]



Reagan and Trump: American Nationalists

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

Since World War II, the two men who have most terrified this city by winning the presidency are Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. And they have much in common. Both came out of the popular culture, Reagan out of Hollywood, Trump out of a successful reality TV show. Both possessed the gifts of showmen -- extraordinarily valuable political assets in a television age that deals cruelly with the uncharismatic. Both became instruments of insurgencies out to overthrow the establishment of the party whose nomination they were seeking. Reagan emerged as the champion of the postwar conservatism that...Since World War II, the two men who have most terrified this city by winning the presidency are Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. And they have much in common. Both came out of the popular culture, Reagan out of Hollywood, Trump out of a successful reality TV show. Both possessed the gifts of showmen -- extraordinarily valuable political assets in a television age that deals cruelly with the uncharismatic. Both became instruments of insurgencies out to overthrow the establishment of the party whose nomination they were seeking. Reagan emerged as the champion of the postwar conservatism that had captured the Republican Party with Barry Goldwater's nomination in 1964. His victory in 1980 came at the apogee of conservative power. The populism that enabled Trump to crush 16 Republican rivals and put him over the top in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan had also arisen a decade and a half before -- in the 1990s. A decisive advantage Reagan and Trump both enjoyed is that in their decisive years, the establishments of both parties were seen as having failed the nation. Reagan was victorious after Russia invaded Afghanistan; Americans were taken hostage in Tehran; and the U.S. had endured 21 percent interest rates, 13 percent inflation, 7 percent unemployment and zero growth. When Trump won, Americans had gone through years of wage stagnation. Our industrial base had been hollowed out. And we seemed unable to win or end a half-dozen Middle East wars in which we had become ensnared. What is the common denominator of both the Reagan landslide of 1980 and Trump's victory? Both candidates appealed to American nationalism. In the late 1970s, Reagan took the lead in the campaign to save the Panama Canal. "We bought it. We paid for it. It's ours. And we're going to keep it," thundered the Gipper. While he lost the fight for the Canal when the GOP establishment in the Senate lined up behind Jimmy Carter, the battle established Reagan as a leader who put his country first. Trump unapologetically seized upon the nationalist slogan that was most detested by our globalist elites, "America first!" He would build a wall, secure the border, stop the invasion. He would trash the rotten trade treaties negotiated by transnational elites who had sold out our sovereignty and sent our jobs to China. He would demand that freeloading allies in Europe, the Far East and the Persian Gulf pay their fair share of the cost of their defense. In the rhetoric of Reagan and Trump there is a simplicity and a directness that is familiar to, and appeals to, the men and women out in Middle America, to whom both directed their campaigns. In his first press conference in January of 1981, Reagan said of the Kremlin, "They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat. ... We operate on a different set of standards." He called t[...]



A Defense of Obama That Cherry-Picks the Facts

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

In his farewell address last week, President Obama contended that his administration had accomplished more than one could have reasonably expected. But Donald Trump’s election threatens the legacy of the president who aspired to be transformative in the manner of Ronald Reagan. Leading progressive voices trace the threat to nefarious causes. In a widely read article, Atlantic national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates asserted, “Trump’s candidacy was an explicit reaction to the fact of a black president.” In a forum at The New Republic, Annette...In his farewell address last week, President Obama contended that his administration had accomplished more than one could have reasonably expected. But Donald Trump’s election threatens the legacy of the president who aspired to be transformative in the manner of Ronald Reagan. Leading progressive voices trace the threat to nefarious causes. In a widely read article, Atlantic national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates asserted, “Trump’s candidacy was an explicit reaction to the fact of a black president.” In a forum at The New Republic, Annette Gordon-Reed, a Harvard law professor, agreed with Nell Irvin Painter, a Princeton professor emeritus, who stated that Trump’s election had nothing to do with Obama “personally, except that he’s a black man.” According to the professors, “Trump was a gut-level response to what many Americans interpreted as an insult eight years ago, and have been seething against ever since.” In the New York Times Magazine, staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote, “[S]tates that reliably backed Obama—states like Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—flipped Republican” because of “racism and racial anxiety.” Although racism has not been eradicated, public opinion polling refutes the grim assessments emanating from The Atlantic, The New Republic, and The New York Times. In February 2009, a few weeks after his inauguration, Obama’s job approval rating reached 65.4 percent in the RealClearPolitics poll average. On Nov. 9, 2016, the day after Trump’s election, Obama’s approval rating stood at 52 percent. Although, like his predecessors, he faced rough stretches, Obama will end his eight years in the White House the way be began them—as a popular president. Meanwhile, on Election Day 2016, according to the RealClearPolitics average, only 31.2 percent thought the country was on the right track while 61.9 percent thought it was on the wrong track. This was no anomaly. In not a single month of Obama’s presidency did a majority approve of the country’s direction and for nearly all of his time in office a substantial majority disapproved of it. The razor-thin margins by which Trump defeated Hillary Clinton are better explained by the manifest weaknesses of the candidate Obama backed to succeed him and even more by the sound suspicions among key constituencies in crucial Rust Belt states that she would perpetuate the president’s persistently unpopular progressive policies. Obama loyalists are likely to find such a conclusion far-fetched if not offensive. In their eyes, the president’s achievements have been spectacular and where he fell short it was because of Republican intransigence or malice or both. This is certainly part of the story, according to O[...]



When Trump Goes Low, Media Can Go Away

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

Dog trainers have long advised owners against reacting to their pets' attention-seeking antics -- the barking, jumping and pushiness. "Dog owners often inadvertently reinforce (reward) these behaviors by interacting with the dog," writes veterinary behaviorist Lisa Radosta. "Any attention can be regarded as a reward, even yelling." Similar advice is doled to parents of whining, tantrum-throwing toddlers. Many in the media could use it, as well. All that sputtering over Donald Trump's personal taunts and stupid tweets is exactly what the president-elect seeks....Dog trainers have long advised owners against reacting to their pets' attention-seeking antics -- the barking, jumping and pushiness. "Dog owners often inadvertently reinforce (reward) these behaviors by interacting with the dog," writes veterinary behaviorist Lisa Radosta. "Any attention can be regarded as a reward, even yelling." Similar advice is doled to parents of whining, tantrum-throwing toddlers. Many in the media could use it, as well. All that sputtering over Donald Trump's personal taunts and stupid tweets is exactly what the president-elect seeks. Turn away. Turn away. If Trump won't take questions from serious journalists at a news conference, it's not a news conference. Reporters are merely playing "straight man" on a reality TV show -- complete with paid hecklers and promotions for Trump properties. They don't have to be there. Their job is to cover what Trump does, which includes his appointments and ties to foreign adversaries. If Trump publicly insults U.S. or foreign leaders, that's still news. If he insults newspeople, so what? But voices of high-minded journalism continue to pump up Trump as some all-powerful controller of American freedom of expression. For example, Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post, writes that Trump's attacks pose "a deep danger for legitimate, aggressive journalism." They do no such thing. Trump has no control over what the professional media or anyone else says about him. Perhaps the media should alter their own traditions in accordance with the changing times. They don't have to obsess over every dumb thing the president-elect says, especially because his saying dumb things is no longer news. Better to start puncturing Trump's self-inflated titan-of-business balloon. The conservative Wall Street Journal made a fine start in reporting that Trump owed financial institutions $1.5 billion more than he listed on his disclosure forms. And it has thrown cold water on Trump's claim to economic genius, with such headlines as "The Market Has Already Started to Dump Trump." Big media can stop playing defense against a man whose approval ratings are probing the earth's core. It was a nice gesture for Fox News to defend CNN after the recent "news conference" -- as CNN had done for Fox in the past. But there's no need for a journalistic mutual defense pact. (Disclosure: I write occasional opinion pieces for CNN.) When BuzzFeed posted the unverified stories of salacious conduct by Trump, Trump tried to blame CNN for their release. CNN explained that it did not air the nasty material, which was appended to an intelligence report on Russian interference in the recent election. CNN didn't even link to it. It just noted its existence. Well done, but CNN and other members of the respectable media went overboard in scolding BuzzFeed for go[...]



Trump: A Gong Show With No Gong

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Whether he knows it or not, the specter of Lyndon Baines Johnson haunts Donald John Trump. There are some jarring similarities -- two big fleshy men given to vulgarities and gauche behavior, boastful, thin-skinned, politically amoral, vengeful, unforgiving and, most important, considered illegitimate presidents. For Johnson that took some time to sink in; Trump is already there. Johnson ascended to the presidency upon the death of John F. Kennedy and then won election in a landslide over Barry Goldwater. Nevertheless, an air of illegitimacy clung to him like an odor. It...WASHINGTON -- Whether he knows it or not, the specter of Lyndon Baines Johnson haunts Donald John Trump. There are some jarring similarities -- two big fleshy men given to vulgarities and gauche behavior, boastful, thin-skinned, politically amoral, vengeful, unforgiving and, most important, considered illegitimate presidents. For Johnson that took some time to sink in; Trump is already there. Johnson ascended to the presidency upon the death of John F. Kennedy and then won election in a landslide over Barry Goldwater. Nevertheless, an air of illegitimacy clung to him like an odor. It thickened as opposition to the Vietnam War became more and more furious and it peaked, in my estimation, with a hoax in 1967 by Paul Krassner in the counterculture magazine The Realist. Tongue in cheek, it reported that Johnson had climbed into Kennedy's casket and there done unspeakable things. The story was abominable, tasteless and deserved any other insult you could throw at it, but some people believed it. I know. I heard it. Jump now a half-century to the recent stories relating to Trump and alleged shenanigans in Russia at a time not all that distant. The accounts, unverified and as revolting as any concocted about Johnson, had a currency that can only be explained by Trump's own behavior -- a persona that seems so self-indulgent, so juvenile, that almost any sort of behavior seems credible. Trump called the report fake news and, as always, blamed the messenger (the media, the intelligence community, etc.) but he ought to have looked in the mirror and wondered why he looks so ugly to so many people. Krassner is an obscure 1960s figure; Rep. John Lewis is not. He said the other day that Trump's presidency was illegitimate and he would not, as an invited member of Congress, attend the inaugural. Trump, of course, tweeted a disparagement. As he did when he belittled John McCain's heroism under torture, Trump said Lewis was "all talk" and "no action." Lewis is one of the last of the great civil rights era heroes. He marched. He protested. He had his head cracked at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. It was 1965 and the Alabama police nearly beat him to death. He is a man of immense courage and morality, so much greater than Trump in those respects. Yes, Trump won in the Electoral College and that, alas, is all that matters. But on the larger point, Lewis is right. Trump conducted a dirty, dishonest campaign which sullied the very presidency he won. He questioned Barack Obama's legitimacy, trafficked in racism and demagoguery and seems to have had poll workers in far-off Moscow. Still, he'll be the president. But Trump ought to pay attention to Lewis and what he represents. The president-elect will take the oath with a minority of the popular vote -- a [...]



Trump Is Wrong About Black America

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Rep. John Lewis is the son of sharecroppers. As a child, he wanted to be a preacher; he practiced by delivering fiery sermons to the family's chickens. But history had other plans for him: lunch counter sit-ins, Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a seat in Congress representing most of Atlanta. No sane person would accuse such a man of being "all talk, talk, talk -- no action or results." But that is precisely what Donald Trump said of Lewis. It was not the first time the president-elect raised questions about his own sanity, and I...WASHINGTON -- Rep. John Lewis is the son of sharecroppers. As a child, he wanted to be a preacher; he practiced by delivering fiery sermons to the family's chickens. But history had other plans for him: lunch counter sit-ins, Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a seat in Congress representing most of Atlanta. No sane person would accuse such a man of being "all talk, talk, talk -- no action or results." But that is precisely what Donald Trump said of Lewis. It was not the first time the president-elect raised questions about his own sanity, and I doubt it will be the last. As I've said before, Trump's compulsion to answer any perceived slight with both barrels blazing is a sign of dangerous insecurity and weakness, not strength. We are about to inaugurate a president with the social maturity of a first-grader. There is another troubling aspect of this episode, however: Trump took a gratuitous swipe at Lewis' majority-black congressional district, saying it was "in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested)." In a subsequent tweet, he said Lewis "should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S." We've heard this sort of thing before from Trump. When he thinks of African-Americans, Trump apparently pictures "inner cities" that are godforsaken hellholes of despair. He sees dystopian enclaves beset with record levels of crime -- ramshackle places that are "falling apart" in every sense. This vision is patently wrong, grievously insulting and guaranteed to ensure that the new administration's support from black America remains minimal. Trump received just 8 percent of the African-American vote; if anything, he is driving some of those few supporters away. In August, Trump made this campaign pitch to an almost all-white audience in Akron, Ohio: "The Democrats have failed completely in the inner cities. For those hurting the most who have been failed and failed by their politicians -- year after year, failure after failure, worse numbers after worse numbers. Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing, no homes, no ownership. Crime at levels that nobody has seen. You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it's safer than living in some of our inner cities that are run by the Democrats. And I ask you this, I ask you this -- crime, all of the problems -- to the African-Americans, who I employ so many, so many people, to the Hispanics, tremendous people: What the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance. I'll straighten it out. I'll straighten it out. What do you have to lose?" Ridiculous. Begin with the question of poverty. It is true that the poverty rate for African-Americans, at about 27 percent, is almost triple the rat[...]



How Trump Won: The West

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

The second part in a series On Monday, we examined the expansion of the GOP coalition in the South over the past 28 years.  We framed this as a follow-up to a series that the lead author and Jay Cost wrote eight years ago at RealClearPolitics.  That series identified the Democrats’ growing weakness in the West South Central and East South Central regions of the country, but missed the full import of this discovery. It is our claim today that, in retrospect, the original series identified a contagion at the heart of the Obama Coalition: the weakness with rural and...The second part in a series On Monday, we examined the expansion of the GOP coalition in the South over the past 28 years.  We framed this as a follow-up to a series that the lead author and Jay Cost wrote eight years ago at RealClearPolitics.  That series identified the Democrats’ growing weakness in the West South Central and East South Central regions of the country, but missed the full import of this discovery. It is our claim today that, in retrospect, the original series identified a contagion at the heart of the Obama Coalition: the weakness with rural and small-town voters. We believe that this contagion was (a) consequential and (b) spread throughout Barack Obama’s two terms.  We’ll discuss (b) throughout the series, but we wanted to offer a few notes on (a). The spread of this contagion was consequential for two reasons.  First, as we described in the previous piece, rural and small-town America still casts a lot of votes. In some of these geographical divisions, rural and small-town America casts a majority of the votes; winning less than a third of those votes in the region would therefore doom a Democratic campaign.  Second, rural and small-town America is, generally speaking, efficiently spread throughout the United States. Today, as we examine the West, we will see an example of what happens in states where the rural vote isn’t efficiently spread.  This will be a shorter report, as the West wasn’t really where the “action” was in 2016. We started yesterday with charts, and then moved to maps.  Today, we start with maps. Although the West has shifted toward Democrats over the course of the past few decades, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the maps. Here is what it looked like in 1992: If you’re up on the political geography of the region, you can see the outlines of the Democratic coalition pretty well.  In New Mexico, it runs diagonally across the state, separating “Little Texas” from the northwestern portion of the state (which includes one of the oldest Hispanic communities in the country).  In Colorado, you see the familiar “C,” which links the historic Hispanic community in the southern portion of the state with liberal communities on the Front Range and in greater Denver. In the Pacific region, the coastal “grass belt” is distinct from the inland rural areas, although the north/south divide that marked California in earlier decades is still somewhat apparent. Bill Clinton performed well in the region, winning Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Montana.  He came close in Arizona.  Many analysts believed that this was a fun[...]



Betsy DeVos: Caring and Skilled Leader

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

There are few people who care more for children and who have done as much for them as Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee to be U.S. Secretary of Education. Despite the manifold and significant contributions she has made to provide a better education for children in failing school districts, she has been vilified by those in the education community that oppose schools of choice and competition in education. As a member of the Board of Trustees of Northern Michigan University, I have seen firsthand the significant impact the schools we charter have on our students. Without Ms....There are few people who care more for children and who have done as much for them as Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee to be U.S. Secretary of Education. Despite the manifold and significant contributions she has made to provide a better education for children in failing school districts, she has been vilified by those in the education community that oppose schools of choice and competition in education. As a member of the Board of Trustees of Northern Michigan University, I have seen firsthand the significant impact the schools we charter have on our students. Without Ms. DeVos and her leadership, we simply would not have as many children in charter schools today and we would not be providing as much competition and choice for our young people. But, my purpose is not to debate the school choice issue, that heated argument is already taking place on numerous platforms. I want to discuss Betsy DeVos’ character, leadership skills, and experience, because all are imperative to her success as a cabinet secretary. I have known Betsy DeVos for more than twenty years and she is one of the most fundamentally kind and decent people I have ever met. She is a warm, caring person who has been involved in political and charitable work all of her life. She treats everyone she meets, whether they are rich or poor, young or old, powerful or not, with the same sense of dignity. I have watched her interact with governors and senators, with people from all walks of life and from all religions, races, incomes, and jobs, and in every instance the people with whom she meets have been treated with the same respect, concern and compassion no matter their station in life. I’ve seen her in a small group quietly discuss how she and her husband spend time reading letters from people who request contributions from them, and how moving it is for them to be able to help; how hard it is to choose some over others, because they can’t help everybody, even with their enormous wealth. Helping others is an integral part of who she is. It is the reason she and her husband became so involved in the school choice issue. She felt that children, especially those in urban areas, were not getting a good education; that their school systems were failing them. Her goal has been to provide a better education for those youngsters, so they in turn could provide a better life for themselves and for their children. She has been able to accomplish her goals because she has such strong leadership skills. I watched how she built an outstanding and successful team as Chair of the Michigan Republican Party and as leader in the school of choice movement. In both instances, the first thing[...]



Democrats Ready to Grill DeVos on School Choice

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

Betsy DeVos, the billionaire conservative activist and nominee for secretary of education, will likely face one of the most contentious confirmation hearings in the history of the department on Tuesday. Since being tapped by President-elect Donald Trump, DeVos has been a lightning rod in the media and on Capitol Hill. Her supporters praise her outspoken commitment to school choice and her efforts to expand charter schools around the nation. On the other hand, critics believe that her agenda will undermine public education and drain resources from traditional public schools. DeVos will face...Betsy DeVos, the billionaire conservative activist and nominee for secretary of education, will likely face one of the most contentious confirmation hearings in the history of the department on Tuesday. Since being tapped by President-elect Donald Trump, DeVos has been a lightning rod in the media and on Capitol Hill. Her supporters praise her outspoken commitment to school choice and her efforts to expand charter schools around the nation. On the other hand, critics believe that her agenda will undermine public education and drain resources from traditional public schools. DeVos will face rigorous questioning regarding her school choice advocacy, her past political contributions, and her views on civil rights, according to conversations with key members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “Parents across the country want to know that their government is doing everything possible to make sure that their kids, and all kids, have access to a high quality and safe public education,” Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the committee, told RealClearEducation. “So I look forward to asking tough questions about Ms. DeVos’s extensive record, career experiences, financial history, and vision for the Department of Education and the many ways it impacts students and families.” Democrats on the panel believe that DeVos's wealth and prior political activities make her a target-rich candidate. Asked for a comment in advance of the hearing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's office responded with a link to the 16-page letter she sent to DeVos on January 9, replete with aggressive questioning and cutting criticisms of her record. "There is no precedent for an Education Department Secretary nominee with your lack of experience in public education," the Massachusetts lawmaker wrote. Sources close to DeVos say she is preparing for difficult questions and will avoid a war of words should the hearing become overly heated. However, her supporters are ready to mount a strong counteroffensive on her behalf, if necessary. “She’s looking forward to a very thorough, even spirited, discussion,” said Ed Patru, spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos, an independent effort formed by allies of the nominee to represent her views in the media leading up to the hearing. “The picture that will emerge from this hearing is that of a dedicated education reformer who is eminently qualified to lead the department.” Allies of DeVos say that the tone of the hearing will determine if, and how hard, they will fight back. Should the hearing become hostile, they will counter attacks on her recor[...]



A Guide to Basic Differences Between Left and Right

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

Source of Human Rights Left: government Right: the Creator Human Nature Left: basically good (Therefore, society is primarily responsible for evil.) Right: not basically good (Therefore, the individual is primarily responsible for evil.) Economic Goal Left: equality Right: prosperity Primary Role of the State Left: increase and protect equality Right: increase and protect liberty Government Left: as large as possible Right: as small as possible Family Ideal Left: any loving unit of people Right: a married father and mother, and children Guiding Trinity Left: race, gender and class Right:...Source of Human Rights Left: government Right: the Creator Human Nature Left: basically good (Therefore, society is primarily responsible for evil.) Right: not basically good (Therefore, the individual is primarily responsible for evil.) Economic Goal Left: equality Right: prosperity Primary Role of the State Left: increase and protect equality Right: increase and protect liberty Government Left: as large as possible Right: as small as possible Family Ideal Left: any loving unit of people Right: a married father and mother, and children Guiding Trinity Left: race, gender and class Right: liberty, In God We Trust and e pluribus unum Good and Evil Left: relative to individual and/or society Right: based on universal absolutes Humanity's Primary Division(s) Left: rich and poor; strong and weak Right: good and evil Ideal Primary Identity of an American Left: world citizen Right: American citizen How to Make a Good Society Left: abolish inequality Right: develop each citizen's moral character View of America Left: profoundly morally flawed; inferior to any number of European countries Right: greatest force for good among nations in world history Gender Left: a social construct Right: male and female Most Important Trait to Cultivate in a Child Left: self-esteem Right: self-control Worth of the Human Fetus Left: determined by the mother Right: determined by society rooted in Judeo-Christian values Primary Source of Crime Left: poverty, racism and other societal flaws Right: the criminal's malfunctioning conscience Place of God and Religion in America Left: secular government and secular society Right: secular government and religious society American Exceptionalism Left: chauvinistic doctrine Right: historical reality Greatest Threat to the World Left: environmental catastrophe (currently global warming) Right: evil (currently radical Islamist violence) International Ideal Left: world governed by the United Nations; no single country is dominant Right: world in which America is the single strongest entity Primary Reason for Lack of Peace in Middle East Left: Israeli settlements in the West Bank Right: Palestinian, Arab and Muslim denial of Jewish state's right to exist Purpose of Art Left: challenge status quo and bourgeois sensibilities Right: produce works of beauty and profundity to elevate the individual and society Guns Left: ideally universally abolished, except for use by police, the armed forces and registered sportsmen Right: ideally widely owned by responsible individuals for self-protection and the protection of others Race Left: intrinsically significant Right: intrinsically insignificant Racial, [...]



Leaving the WH Press Space as Is Could Benefit Trump

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

Every four or eight years in Washington, incoming White House staff members brandish ideas they see as fresh and unique to a new president, only to discover the told-you-so downsides later on. Such may be the case with President-elect Donald Trump’s interest, confirmed by his incoming senior White House staff, to rethink a work area used for decades by journalists at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The urge to purge reporters from the West Wing seemed so in keeping with the businessman’s M.O., even during his campaign, that few in the Fourth Estate were surprised when an...Every four or eight years in Washington, incoming White House staff members brandish ideas they see as fresh and unique to a new president, only to discover the told-you-so downsides later on. Such may be the case with President-elect Donald Trump’s interest, confirmed by his incoming senior White House staff, to rethink a work area used for decades by journalists at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The urge to purge reporters from the West Wing seemed so in keeping with the businessman’s M.O., even during his campaign, that few in the Fourth Estate were surprised when an anonymous transition source told Esquire that in the West Wing, the press corps will be perceived as “the opposition party.” Plenty of presidents before Trump have voiced contempt for the news media, chafed at what they saw as bias, and devised end runs around media scrutiny. But many also exploited the benefits of having reporters under foot. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Trump spokesman Sean Spicer were pressed this week to explain what’s in store for White House workspace that was dedicated in 2000 to Ronald Reagan’s former press secretary, James S. Brady. The space, after fanfare led by President George W. Bush, reopened just 10 years ago after a major $9.5 million renovation partially funded by six television networks and a host of smaller media outlets. Trump wants more members of the Fourth Estate to cover his White House, not fewer, his advisers insisted. But the newcomer to governance is weighing whether reporters should be moved to a new location, and his top advisers are pondering how to do it. “There's no work space right now for them anywhere but where they are,” Spicer told MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Monday. “Is there a chance that they would, when the press assembles, be actually in the White House or be across the street?” Scarborough persisted, pointing to reports that Trump and his team have other uses in mind for the square footage devoted to the White House press briefing room and workspaces assigned to credentialed media outlets. (More and larger office space to accommodate senior Trump advisers unaccustomed to closet-sized cubicles is just one rumor.) “I don’t know,” Spicer said. “We only have 49 seats in the Brady briefing room. And the idea has been, and it literally has just been a discussion at this point, is to look at other rooms that exist that hold a greater capacity so that more folks can actually attend these briefings.” Since 1896, journalists have viewe[...]



Memo to Meryl: A Simple Thank You Would Have Sufficed

2017-01-17T00:00:00Z

By now Meryl Streep's well-rehearsed performance at the Golden Globe awards may feel like old news. But like so much of Streep's work, it stays with us long after the show has ended. A less skilled performer would have called Donald Trump out by name, and not just once or twice, but over and over -- and in a loud, angry voice. Streep never uttered his name in her 5 minute and 47 second speech -- even as she calmly berated him to a worldwide TV audience. I'm still thinking about her observation that "All of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in...By now Meryl Streep's well-rehearsed performance at the Golden Globe awards may feel like old news. But like so much of Streep's work, it stays with us long after the show has ended. A less skilled performer would have called Donald Trump out by name, and not just once or twice, but over and over -- and in a loud, angry voice. Streep never uttered his name in her 5 minute and 47 second speech -- even as she calmly berated him to a worldwide TV audience. I'm still thinking about her observation that "All of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now." The remark haunts me all these days later because I had no idea that beautiful people who make millions of dollars and live in luxurious houses in Beverly Hills were such victims. Thank you, Meryl Streep, for pointing this out to me and to so many other un-cool people who didn't know. She talked about diversity, about how so many actors in the room came from so many different places in America and around the world. But it apparently never crossed her progressive mind that while the room -- and Hollywood in general -- was loaded with geographical and ethnic and racial diversity there wasn't much ideological diversity there -- or for that matter, in Streep's line of work. If you're a conservative in Hollywood, let's just say you don't brag about it. Imagine if a Golden Globe winner had taken the stage and said, "I agree with much of what Meryl Streep said a few minutes ago. I think it was deplorable that Donald Trump mocked a reporter with a physical disability. And I don't believe him when he says his critics have it all wrong, that he would never would do such a thing. And I also agree with Meryl when she said that a principled press must hold the powerful accountable. Too bad she didn't say that during the entire eight years of the Obama presidency. This may come as news to those who work in Hollywood, but for many Americans Donald Trump represents hope. He represents change. He is a symbol, a middle finger extended in the direction of elites who think they're smarter than (SET ITAL) ordinary (END ITAL) Americans, and better, too. We here in Hollywood are out of touch with Middle America. And I think many Middle Americans will view Ms. Streep's speech as one more example of the elitism they don't like. Ms. Streep de! serves the lifetime achievement award she was given. She is a great actress. But Americans don't want rich, privileged and, yes, too often sanctimonious, actors lecturing them about how if Donald Trump kicks all the foreigners out of America all they'll have le[...]



The Importance of Russian Meddling

2017-01-16T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The hallmark of a democracy is the peaceful transfer of power following an election. An essential, if painful, corollary of that rule is to accept the outcome of the election even when its conduct may have been marred, even when questions linger about the nature of the victory. That was the difficult lesson of the 2000 campaign. But for a flawed butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County that diverted confused voters to Pat Buchanan, Al Gore would likely have been declared the winner in Florida and thus the 43rd president. But there are no do-overs in elections, especially...WASHINGTON -- The hallmark of a democracy is the peaceful transfer of power following an election. An essential, if painful, corollary of that rule is to accept the outcome of the election even when its conduct may have been marred, even when questions linger about the nature of the victory. That was the difficult lesson of the 2000 campaign. But for a flawed butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County that diverted confused voters to Pat Buchanan, Al Gore would likely have been declared the winner in Florida and thus the 43rd president. But there are no do-overs in elections, especially presidential ones. There may be flaws and disputes. But at some point, after the procedures established by the rule of law have run their course, the country needs to accept the result, however difficult it may be.  So for all of John Lewis' heroic service to his country, the Georgia congressman's assertion that Donald Trump is not a "legitimate" president was not appropriate or helpful. Indeed, it is not even the right way to think about the question. Trump is a legitimate president because our system demands finality and acceptance even in the presence of uncertainty. Posting an asterisk next to an election result is not healthy for democracy. Yet there is a difference between debating whether Trump is a legitimate president and continuing to express concerns about the legitimacy of the election. Exactly what factors produced Trump's victory can never be measured with precision: Hillary Clinton's flaws or miscalculations? FBI director James Comey's improper intervention? Russian meddling? Any or all of these could have made the difference. We will never know. We never can know.  Trump, however reluctantly and belatedly, acknowledges the undeniable, the existence of Russian interference. But much as Trump and his team insistently proclaim a nonexistent landslide, they peddle the fiction that the absence of Russian hacking directly into voting machines equates to the absence of worry about the influence of other Russian mischief. The two are not the same. Russia meddled. Trump himself eagerly seized on the fruits of its hacking. "I love WikiLeaks," he announced during the campaign. He cannot now be taken seriously in asserting its irrelevance. "Donald Trump won this election fair and square," vice president-elect Mike Pence kept saying, as he made the rounds of Sunday shows. Yes, Trump won. It was not necessarily fair and square. Trump can blame the victim -- it was the sloppy Democratic National Committee. He can obfuscate -- other countries [...]



How Trump Won: The South

2017-01-16T00:00:00Z

The first in a four-part series In 2009, the lead author of this piece co-wrote a series of articles with Jay Cost, who was then with RealClearPolitics. That series (the lead author’s first published articles at RealClearPolitics) focused on a crucial question: How Barack Obama won the 2008 election.  It examined census regions and used a combination of maps, election returns, census data, and exit poll data to try to determine what President Obama’s coalition looked like at the sub-national level. This series will emulate that approach, with a deep dive into...The first in a four-part series In 2009, the lead author of this piece co-wrote a series of articles with Jay Cost, who was then with RealClearPolitics. That series (the lead author’s first published articles at RealClearPolitics) focused on a crucial question: How Barack Obama won the 2008 election.  It examined census regions and used a combination of maps, election returns, census data, and exit poll data to try to determine what President Obama’s coalition looked like at the sub-national level. This series will emulate that approach, with a deep dive into election returns and state-level politics.  As with the 2009 series, we focus on census regions.  These census regions and census divisions are shown on the following map: The 2009 article examined the South in two parts, one focusing upon the West South Central and East South Central Division, and another focusing on the South Atlantic.  We will not do so here. This is because these divisions moved in different directions, and had different electoral significances, in 2008.  The West and East South Central divisions had been the heart of the Democratic Party for over 150 years.  Only one Democrat (John F. Kennedy in 1960) had won without Kentucky or Tennessee, and he only lost them narrowly.  In 2008, however, these regions stayed in the Republican fold while Barack Obama won the presidency comfortably. The South Atlantic Division, by contrast, had been a core part of the Republican coalition since the 1970s.  Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida had all been thought to be reliably Republican.  They combined to give George W. Bush 78 electoral votes in 2004, more than a quarter of the total he needed to win.  Yet in 2008, Barack Obama won most of the division’s electoral votes, which was a key component of his victory. The 2016 cycle was different.  The story in the South is actually that all three divisions did basically the same thing.  This is part of an even broader story, however.  What happened in the South in 2008 is probably key to understanding what happened in the Midwest in 2016, and the election in general. And it is here that we find the overarching theme of our series, and tie it in with those 2009 articles.  In retrospect, the 2009 series identified the problems that would beset the Democratic coalition in the 2010s, and would cost Hillary Clinton the election in 2016.  As Cost and Trende observed, when discussing the Ea[...]



How Trump Won; Reagan's Words; Bipartisan Legacy; Giving MLK His Due

2017-01-16T00:00:00Z

Good morning. It’s Monday, January 16, 2017. Today is a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. It’s also inauguration week in Washington, D.C., which is both a historic occasion and a logistical challenge for those who live in the nation’s capital and must get around the city by negotiating myriad road closures. As I have done previously, I’ll recount a little-known episode that helped make the Rev. King’s birthday a national holiday. First. I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll...Good morning. It’s Monday, January 16, 2017. Today is a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. It’s also inauguration week in Washington, D.C., which is both a historic occasion and a logistical challenge for those who live in the nation’s capital and must get around the city by negotiating myriad road closures. As I have done previously, I’ll recount a little-known episode that helped make the Rev. King’s birthday a national holiday. First. I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, timely videos, and breaking news, while aggregating opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a full complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * How Trump Won: The South. Sean Trende and David Byler launch their four-part analysis. From Reagan’s Mouth to Trump’s, Obama’s Ears. In a column, I refer both the outgoing president and the incoming one to a predecessor who kept it classy from start to finish. Obama’s Unsung Bipartisan Legacy. Bill Scher recounts forgotten -- or often discounted -- deals the president forged across the aisle. Democrats’ Only Man With a Plan Is Obama. A.B. Stoddard comments on the outgoing president’s efforts to rebuild the party. Lack of Staff Raises Questions About First Family’s Role. Emily Goodin reports on a hiring lag in the East Wing of the White House and indications of a limited role for Melania Trump. Martin Luther King’s Free Market Legacy. In RealClearMarkets, William Boyes and Dwight Lee assert that King not only expanded civil rights for all Americans but also their economic potential. Confirm DeVos and Give More Parents the Power of Choice. David McIntosh makes his case in RealClearEducation. Why Republicans Can’t -- and Won’t -- Repeal Obamacare. In RealClearHealth, Henry J. Aaron outlines an alternative plan for lawmakers. Does Congress Want to Govern? In RealClearPolicy, Lee Drutman and Kevin R. Kosar consider what Congress could do to reclaim legislative power from the executive branch. Is There an Element Zero? RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy wonders whether neutronium exists at the heart of neutron stars. * * * In the summer of 1983, Rep. John Conyers and the Congressional Black Caucus were hoping to mark the 15th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination by passing legislation Cony[...]



Obama's Unsung Bipartisan Legacy

2017-01-16T00:00:00Z

After eight years in office, President Obama leaves an America more divided than when he arrived. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for a man who burst onto the political stage with a powerful message about unity. And many want to pin the blame for the heightened polarization on how he governed. On the right, Obama’s ruthless partisanship is at fault -- jamming Obamacare through Congress without any Republican votes, then relying on what opponents deem unconstitutional executive orders when he could no longer cajole Congress. On the left, you hear the opposite critique: Obama...After eight years in office, President Obama leaves an America more divided than when he arrived. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for a man who burst onto the political stage with a powerful message about unity. And many want to pin the blame for the heightened polarization on how he governed. On the right, Obama’s ruthless partisanship is at fault -- jamming Obamacare through Congress without any Republican votes, then relying on what opponents deem unconstitutional executive orders when he could no longer cajole Congress. On the left, you hear the opposite critique: Obama was too naïve in his futile pursuit of bipartisanship, allowing Republican obstructionism to reign supreme, which prevented him from unifying the country around his agenda. Both narratives overlook Obama’s unsung bipartisan legacy. Almost everything he did accomplish on the domestic front was due to his tenacious pursuit of Republican votes. Yes, Obamacare passed without any Republican support, but that’s the single example of purely partisan legislation in the Obama Era. Every other bill signed by Obama came with at least one Republican vote. Granted, some came with more than others. But getting just one vote from the other side always involved determined negotiation and substantive compromise. The Recovery Act – the economic stimulus law that blunted the recession – only passed after Obama accepted the demand from three Senate Republicans to reduce the size of the package by about $100 billion, mostly by paring back spending proposals. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill also squeaked through the Senate with three Republican votes. Obama sealed the deal after making a key concession to newly elected Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown, scrapping an outright ban on commercial banks investing in high-risk funds in favor of allowing limited investments. In his second term, Obama withstood the civil libertarian outcry that followed the Edward Snowden leaks and shaped a bipartisan surveillance reform law – supported by more than three out of every four House Republicans -- that made some small concessions to privacy advocates without hindering the National Security Agency’s core counter-terrorism work. Obama had several other bipartisan successes in which he kept a low profile during the legislative process, allowing Republicans to cross the aisle without seeming like they were doing him a political favor. The Penta[...]



From Reagan's Mouth to Trump's, Obama's Ears

2017-01-15T00:00:00Z

It was a big week in politics. President Obama went to his adopted hometown of Chicago to officially say adieu, while President-elect Trump stayed in his native city to say hi, howdy. Both performances made me nostalgic for the Gipper. Donald Trump is 70 years old and Barack Obama has been president for eight years, so it seems neither man will ever learn a thing from Ronald Reagan’s example, which is too bad. Let’s begin with Trump’s Wednesday press conference at—where else?—Trump Tower. Here is some of the invective the incoming president...It was a big week in politics. President Obama went to his adopted hometown of Chicago to officially say adieu, while President-elect Trump stayed in his native city to say hi, howdy. Both performances made me nostalgic for the Gipper. Donald Trump is 70 years old and Barack Obama has been president for eight years, so it seems neither man will ever learn a thing from Ronald Reagan’s example, which is too bad. Let’s begin with Trump’s Wednesday press conference at—where else?—Trump Tower. Here is some of the invective the incoming president aimed at his interlocutors in the Fourth Estate: “BuzzFeed, which is a failing pile of garbage.” (To a CNN reporter): “Your organization is terrible. … No, I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news.” (About the media in general): “very, very dishonest people.” In fairness to the man, he was provoked. CNN and BuzzFeed disseminated details of a salacious report on Trump’s supposed activities in Russia. No source for the information is identified, and it was apparently funded by Democrats. As far as anyone can tell, this wasn’t an “intelligence dossier,” as advertised; it was a political smear. But does that excuse Trump’s demeanor? After winning the presidency in 1980, Ronald Reagan held a press conference, too. Not two months later, but on November 6, three days after the election. True, Reagan wasn’t questioned about a sleazy report claiming he’s a pervert and a Manchurian candidate, but Reagan was asked a series of questions revealing an ideological slant in contravention to his own. Reagan was asked if he was even going to bother appointing secretaries of education and labor, since he’d vowed “to abolish” those departments. (He hadn’t quite said that.) He was asked if he was going to let Vice President George H.W. Bush do anything other than attend funerals; if he’d put a Democrat in his Cabinet; how he’d reassure European allies alarmed by his election; if the Moral Majority had veto power over his Cabinet appointments; whether he’d pledge right then and there to be “a one-term president” on account of his advanced age; and how he could “reassure” Americans who felt “disenfranchised” by his victory. So, not friendly questions, even if they were politely phrased. Guess how many times Reag[...]



The Surprising Truth About Gun Silencers

2017-01-15T00:00:00Z

In "The Godfather," a Mafioso prepping young Michael Corleone to assassinate some rivals gives him a pistol for the job. After firing a bullet into the wall, Michael complains, "Ow! My ears!" His friend says, "Yeah, I left it noisy. That way, it scares any pain-in-the-ass innocent bystanders away." The Corleones would have had little interest in a bill allowing gun owners to obtain silencers without the federal permits required since 1934. Some people like the deafening boom of a gunshot. Most shooters don't, and the National Rifle Association is pressing...In "The Godfather," a Mafioso prepping young Michael Corleone to assassinate some rivals gives him a pistol for the job. After firing a bullet into the wall, Michael complains, "Ow! My ears!" His friend says, "Yeah, I left it noisy. That way, it scares any pain-in-the-ass innocent bystanders away." The Corleones would have had little interest in a bill allowing gun owners to obtain silencers without the federal permits required since 1934. Some people like the deafening boom of a gunshot. Most shooters don't, and the National Rifle Association is pressing for enactment of the Hearing Protection Act, which also has the endorsement of Donald Trump Jr., an avid trophy hunter. The proposal horrifies gun control advocates, who see it as a favor to homicidal maniacs. The Violence Policy Center in Washington argues that silencers pose a grave danger to public safety because they "enable mass shooters and other murderers to kill a greater number of victims more efficiently." Some perspective is in order. Right now, getting a federal permit requires a $200 fee, an extensive background check and a wait of several months. Possession of a silencer without a permit is a felony that carries a 10-year prison sentence. Under the proposed change, silencers would be treated like ordinary guns. Criminals would be ineligible, since they can't pass the required federal background check for purchases. Only law-abiding adults would have legal access. The industry prefers the term "suppressor" because the devices don't eliminate the noise; they merely diminish it. The American Suppressor Association attests, "On average, suppressors reduce the noise of a gunshot by 20-35 decibels, roughly the same sound reduction as earplugs or earmuffs." A shot from a 9 mm pistol equipped with a silencer is about as loud as a thunderclap. Recreational shooters and hunters would like to have silencers because they don't want to damage their hearing but dislike using ear protection. If the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had been around in the 1930s, gun rights lawyer Stephen Halbrook quipped to The Washington Post, it probably would have mandated their use. Silencers also reduce the recoil and improve the accuracy of guns. For the average gun owner, there is no downside. There are collateral benefits, too. In rural and unincorporated areas where shooting is allowed, they minimize the disturbance to neighbors and wildlife. It's not hard to imagine how[...]



Can Trump's Cabinet Save Him from Himself?

2017-01-15T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration's first Cabinet meeting should be an interesting affair. On issue after issue -- Russia, the border wall, the Iran nuclear deal, climate change, torture, NATO -- President-elect Donald Trump's nominees have diverged from his stated positions. So whose views will prevail? Could Trump's secretaries help save Trump from himself -- and the country from Trump? Will they offer a sobering dose of reality therapy for the reality TV president? There are strong arguments for either outcome. I am tending ever so cautiously -- clinging perhaps -- to...WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration's first Cabinet meeting should be an interesting affair. On issue after issue -- Russia, the border wall, the Iran nuclear deal, climate change, torture, NATO -- President-elect Donald Trump's nominees have diverged from his stated positions. So whose views will prevail? Could Trump's secretaries help save Trump from himself -- and the country from Trump? Will they offer a sobering dose of reality therapy for the reality TV president? There are strong arguments for either outcome. I am tending ever so cautiously -- clinging perhaps -- to the optimistic one. The official position of the Trump transition is no. "At the end of the day, each one of them is going to pursue a Trump agenda and a Trump vision," incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Thursday. Spicer dismissed the nominees' divergence from Trump at their confirmation hearings as answers when "they're being asked their personal views here and there." Wait. A personal view is if you prefer opera to hip-hop. The nominees' testimony reflects their policy positions and assessments, in some cases deeply held convictions at the core of future responsibilities. So it is a significant expression of policy -- not a personal view -- when Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis says about Russia and Vladimir Putin, "I'm all for engagement, but we also have to recognize reality and what Russia is up to. And there's a decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively and an increasing number of areas where we're going to have to confront Russia." Or when CIA Director nominee Mike Pompeo, similarly, says, "Russia has reasserted itself aggressively, invading and occupying Ukraine, threatening Europe and doing nothing to aid in the destruction and defeat of ISIS."  Contrast that with Trump, throughout the course of the campaign and as recently as the day before: "If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia. Russia can help us fight ISIS." Trump himself, in an early morning tweet Friday, purported to be just fine with his team of dissidents. "I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!" he wrote. Right. Everyone who's watched Trump over the last stretch knows how well he deals with what he perceives as challenges to his authority. The argument for Trump[...]



Don't Give Silicon Valley More H1B Visas

2017-01-14T00:00:00Z

In San Francisco a few years ago, my co-workers and I built a multi-million-dollar technology business without the traditional venture capital required to hire Silicon Valley’s “best and brightest.” With little money raised, we were forced to go in another direction. We hired interns and displaced workers from other industries, ambitious and scrappy types who had not gotten the chance to shine. Then we trained them on the job and gave them increasing decision-making authority.  The results were inspiring: Emerge Digital Group revenue accelerated greatly,...In San Francisco a few years ago, my co-workers and I built a multi-million-dollar technology business without the traditional venture capital required to hire Silicon Valley’s “best and brightest.” With little money raised, we were forced to go in another direction. We hired interns and displaced workers from other industries, ambitious and scrappy types who had not gotten the chance to shine. Then we trained them on the job and gave them increasing decision-making authority.  The results were inspiring: Emerge Digital Group revenue accelerated greatly, but equally dramatic was the transformation of workers into cutting-edge digital advertising professionals in one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. My “aha” moment came when Google and Facebook poached our employees. Helping almost anyone get a job and succeed in technology, especially if they wanted to, I realized, was possible. My tech brethren, or the ones who run the biggest companies there at least, disagree. Increasing the number of H1B visas is their common position. Those are the federal waivers handed out to highly trained workers in fields such as technology who don’t plan to immigrate here. Already, Washington hands out 65,000 of these visas to specialist workers and another 20,000 to graduate students every year. Now Silicon Valley heavyweights are lobbying Washington for even more waivers. In a letter dated November 14, a lobbying group whose members included Twitter, Netflix, Facebook, and Google urged President-elect Donald Trump to increase the number. “The U.S. immigration system must allow more high-skilled graduates and workers to stay in the United States and contribute to our economy,” wrote Michael Beckerman, president of the Internet Association. Last week, tech big shots like Apple CEO Tim Cook, Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella met with Trump in New York. You can bet the pitch was similar. Their economic argument, that the industry suffers from a shortage of workers, is false and misleading. Big tech companies take advantage of the H1B program to drive their bottom line. The law permits companies to lay off their own employees in favor of foreign workers doing the work in the states or overseas. Think about that. The law does more than look the other way at firms that hir[...]



Lack of Staff Raises Questions About First Family's Role

2017-01-13T00:00:00Z

Incoming first lady Melania Trump has yet to publicly name her senior White House staff, raising questions about whether the positions have been filled amid uncertainty about the Trump family’s role in the administration. The lack of announcements from the president-elect’s transition team is notable given that Melania Trump is not moving to Washington, D.C., right away and speculation abounds about the role Ivanka Trump will play in her father’s White House. There has been no chief of staff, communications director or social secretary named for the East Wing....Incoming first lady Melania Trump has yet to publicly name her senior White House staff, raising questions about whether the positions have been filled amid uncertainty about the Trump family’s role in the administration. The lack of announcements from the president-elect’s transition team is notable given that Melania Trump is not moving to Washington, D.C., right away and speculation abounds about the role Ivanka Trump will play in her father’s White House. There has been no chief of staff, communications director or social secretary named for the East Wing. And the chief of staff and social secretary positions are particularly important, usually carrying the “Assistant to the President” title, which is the most senior designation for the White House staff. In contrast, Michelle Obama filled those two positions shortly after her husband was elected president. She hired chief of staff Jackie Norris and social secretary Desiree Rogers in November of 2008. But there has been no word on these matters from Team Trump, raising questions about how prepared the East Wing, which handles social events for the administration, will be on Day One of the Trump presidency. Incoming senior staff for the West Wing will meet with their counterparts at the White House on Friday, but first lady Michelle Obama’s office did not respond to an inquiry concerning how the East Wing is handling its transition. While most people know that the East Wing handles holiday parties and state dinners, its staff also organizes official White House events. For example, Rogers was responsible for the swearing-in ceremony for Obama’s Cabinet, which happened shortly after the president’s inauguration. Plus, events at the White House involve issues not seen at most receptions: Staffers have to figure how to get guests cleared through the White House security system and arrange the seating (paying close attention to protocol), plus handle any special requests. In speaking with Trump transition staff, those advising the transition team and other Republicans tied to the Trump camp, it’s unclear whether the incoming administration is playing its cards close to the vest and not releasing names or if no final decisions have been made. “His priorities are getting the Cabinet in place and filling out the Whi[...]



Democrats' Only Man With a Plan Is Obama

2017-01-13T00:00:00Z

Democrats may have watched President Obama giving his final address in Chicago Tuesday night, taking credit for much and blame for little, and wondered just how they will crawl out of the hole he left them in. “Yes, we did,” he told them, and “yes, we can.” Some may have smirked at the irony of his pledge to keep working alongside them, but guess what, Democrats? He’s all you’ve got. Wound-licking still continues, not only by those who worked on Hillary Clinton's campaign, but among many Democrats who would prefer to imagine the...Democrats may have watched President Obama giving his final address in Chicago Tuesday night, taking credit for much and blame for little, and wondered just how they will crawl out of the hole he left them in. “Yes, we did,” he told them, and “yes, we can.” Some may have smirked at the irony of his pledge to keep working alongside them, but guess what, Democrats? He’s all you’ve got. Wound-licking still continues, not only by those who worked on Hillary Clinton's campaign, but among many Democrats who would prefer to imagine the implosion the GOP would be suffering now if Donald Trump not been able to eke out the 0.56 percentage-point margin to beat Clinton in three states by a combined 77,000 votes. That would have been quite an autopsy indeed. But not only did Clinton, a disastrously flawed candidate, disgust more voters than Trump did -- or something like that -- the Democratic Party has systematically destroyed its once durable reach  into rural and white working-class America. Many of these voters are former Democrats, many even voted for President Obama twice, but they not only rejected Clinton they voted for Trump. The Clinton era is dead, and while the Obama presidency may have driven the party over a cliff, the president himself seems to be the only Democrat working on a path forward. According to the New York Times, Obama gathered House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer last week, along with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, to engage their help in one of his top post-presidency goals: to start winning back the state and federal offices Democrats lost so badly during his two terms. It appears Obama has, at least privately, acknowledged the extent of the damage the last eight years have inflicted on his party. A winnable election was lost to Trump, Democrats have bled so many hundreds of seats in Congress, state legislatures and governorships that the GOP has more power than at any time since the 1920s. Around the corner, the Supreme Court could see three new conservative justices in the years to come. Obama has watched the monopoly that redistricting gave Republicans in Congress help derail his agenda after 2010, and he realizes his party can no longer wait for kooky GOP candidates like former Rep. Todd Aiken -- who ques[...]



The Comforting Fictions of Obama's Farewell Speech

2017-01-13T00:00:00Z

Watching President Barack Obama's soaring 2008 Democratic National Convention speech in Denver, I never imagined the kind of turmoil his presidency would incite. Almost everything has changed in the subsequent years, and yet his farewell speech to the nation was brimming with the same brand of haughty lecturing. Obama loves to conflate progressivism and patriotism, pitting the forces of decency and empathy -- his own -- against the self-serving profiteers and meddling reactionaries who stand in the way. All of it is swathed in phony optimism. The president's central case for...Watching President Barack Obama's soaring 2008 Democratic National Convention speech in Denver, I never imagined the kind of turmoil his presidency would incite. Almost everything has changed in the subsequent years, and yet his farewell speech to the nation was brimming with the same brand of haughty lecturing. Obama loves to conflate progressivism and patriotism, pitting the forces of decency and empathy -- his own -- against the self-serving profiteers and meddling reactionaries who stand in the way. All of it is swathed in phony optimism. The president's central case for government's existence rests on the notion of the state being society's moral center, engine of prosperity and arbiter of fairness. Obama speaks of government as a theocrat might speak of church, and his fans return the favor by treating him like a pope. This was true in 2008. And it's true now. Just check out liberal Twitterdom. And for the most part, nothing is his fault. "When Congress is dysfunctional," Obama explained, "we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes." For the president, a dysfunctional Congress is a Congress unwilling to pass progressive legislation. That is not the definition of dysfunctional, I'm afraid. Nor is it the definition of extreme. There is nothing in the Constitution instructing legislators to acquiesce to the president. In the near future, the Republican Congress will be passing tons of legislation, and I can assure you neither Obama nor his many fans in the media will be celebrating the fact that Congress is finally "getting stuff done" or "doing its job." Progress will no longer be measured in the number of bills signed. And it shouldn't be. After all, if voters were displeased with the way legislators treated Obama's agenda, they had the ability to replace these obstinate lawmakers with more cooperative ones. They did not. That's because gridlock was created by a party that fooled itself into believing it could rule unilaterally. Also, after Democrats passed their massive health care law -- and certainly, there were other reasons -- Republicans kept expanding their majorities, and not only in Congress. Americans voted for equilibrium in Washington, D.C. Congress was working exactly as it was intended. And it[...]



The Intelligence Community, Russia and Trump

2017-01-13T00:00:00Z

On Wednesday, in his first news conference as president-elect, Donald Trump came out swinging -- against some of the media (while praising others), against the policies and performance of the Obama administration, and against the intelligence community. He had some legitimate reasons. One was CNN's report that Trump had been briefed that Russian operatives say they have compromising information about him. And BuzzFeed published a 35-page document it described as "a dossier, compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official, (alleging) Russia has...On Wednesday, in his first news conference as president-elect, Donald Trump came out swinging -- against some of the media (while praising others), against the policies and performance of the Obama administration, and against the intelligence community. He had some legitimate reasons. One was CNN's report that Trump had been briefed that Russian operatives say they have compromising information about him. And BuzzFeed published a 35-page document it described as "a dossier, compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official, (alleging) Russia has compromising information on Trump." Pretty dodgy stuff. It turns out that this dossier had been circulated widely to news organizations, which have been trying to verify some of the charges and failed to do so. Trump praised his perennial nemesis The New York Times for declining to air the document, and BuzzFeed even noted, "The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors." One of those errors Trump was able to point out. His staffer Michael Cohen -- said by the person claiming to be a former British intelligence official to have communicated with Russians in Prague -- showed, by photographing his passport, that he hadn't been out of the country at the time. "Fake news," Trump charged at the news conference, turning back on his critics a meme they have been using to suggest that voters were gulled into voting for him. "I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out." One must add that it's not clear that "intelligence agencies" let out the information. But if they did, it was in line with the report they delivered to President Barack Obama last week claiming with high degrees of confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed the hacking and release of emails from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman. That report said the Russians wanted to discredit Clinton when she was the favorite to win the election. But she was the favorite to win -- on psephological websites, in betting markets and in newsrooms everywhere -- until about 9 o'clock Eastern time on election night. It also said they wanted Trump to win[...]