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Updated: Sat, 22 Jul 2017 07:51:08 -0500

 



Trump's New Hire to Tout Boss's Wins 'More Aggressively'

2017-07-22T00:00:00Z

After six months of upheaval, firings, legislative flameouts and mounting investigations, President Trump reshuffled his White House staff Friday, naming Wall Street hedge fund financier Anthony Scaramucci to become his communications director, while accepting the resignation of Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Scaramucci, rather than the president, announced that the new public spokesperson for the United States is now Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Spicer’s deputy, the third woman to hold that job in White House history.  Scaramucci will report to the president and Sanders will...After six months of upheaval, firings, legislative flameouts and mounting investigations, President Trump reshuffled his White House staff Friday, naming Wall Street hedge fund financier Anthony Scaramucci to become his communications director, while accepting the resignation of Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Scaramucci, rather than the president, announced that the new public spokesperson for the United States is now Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Spicer’s deputy, the third woman to hold that job in White House history.  Scaramucci will report to the president and Sanders will report to the new communications chief, who will begin work in the West Wing Aug. 15. Trump said little publicly on Friday about his goals in shaking up a team that has been rocky from the start. The president presides over a West Wing staff of uneven aptitude, motivated by competing goals and organized in a manner that exacerbates internal tensions. Far from a “well-oiled machine,” as the president once described his White House operations, the West Wing continues to encompass fiefdoms scrambled by Trump’s demands for loyalty, constant affirmation, and volcanic temper. In naming Scaramucci, who has yet to complete the sale of his investment firm, SkyBridge Capital, Trump dismissed advice from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Spicer and others. They had tried for months to recruit experienced political and crisis communications experts with ties to Congress and the GOP political world. They were unsuccessful, and the president instead turned to a business friend who repeatedly expressed his love for Trump Friday, and his determination to explain the president’s successes “more aggressively.” Trump has made no mystery of his belief that he is unfairly covered by the news media, is discounted even by Republicans in Congress, and hounded by federal and congressional sleuths who are probing his family members, finances and business dealings as part of the ongoing Russia investigations. Spicer, who lost the president’s confidence after becoming a ratings sensation and a late-night comedy punching bag because of gaffes and his grim countenance at the White House podium, resigned rather than report to Scaramucci. Spicer plans to depart the White House in late August. Why did the president make the changes? Trump believes he has communications problems that can be remedied with the services of TV-savvy loyalists and an army of ferocious defenders. With his job approval numbers under 40 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, the president knows he will be judged, in part, on the outcome of the ongoing Russia investigations, by next year’s midterm elections, and the GOP legislative and policy agenda blocked by his own party in the Senate, and by detractors in the courts. Scaramucci, viewed by Trump as a peer more than a subordinate, has called the Russia investigations “a hoax,” and told reporters Friday, “I think we’re doing an amazing job.” Before he comes aboard full-time, Scaramucci, who holds an advisory, interim post with the federal Export-Import Bank, will see whether health care legislation moves ahead or becomes a prominent defeat for GOP lawmakers and the president.  This week, Trump told the New York Times in an interview that he was eager to move on after four months of dealing with the Obamacare repeal-and-replace drama that has surprised him with its complexity.[...]



Big Economic Ideas from Art Laffer and Steve Forbes

2017-07-22T00:00:00Z

I participated in perhaps a bit of radio history last week when Steve Forbes and Art Laffer joined me on my syndicated radio show. It may have been the first time these supply-side-economics giants were ever together over the airwaves.Forbes, of course, is chairman of Forbes Media and twice ran brilliant issue-campaigns for president. And Laffer, once a key advisor to President Reagan, is father to the ground-breaking Laffer curve, for which he should have won a Nobel prize. In our discussion together, they didn’t disappoint. (For a full transcript, click here.)We started with...I participated in perhaps a bit of radio history last week when Steve Forbes and Art Laffer joined me on my syndicated radio show. It may have been the first time these supply-side-economics giants were ever together over the airwaves.Forbes, of course, is chairman of Forbes Media and twice ran brilliant issue-campaigns for president. And Laffer, once a key advisor to President Reagan, is father to the ground-breaking Laffer curve, for which he should have won a Nobel prize. In our discussion together, they didn’t disappoint. (For a full transcript, click here.)We started with “one big idea.” That’s how the late Jack Kemp approached economic-policy reform back in the 1980s. And his big idea, embraced by Reagan, was a mix of low marginal tax rates to spur economic-growth incentives and a sound, reliable dollar to conquer inflation and create confidence. (This duplicated the Kennedy prosperity model, which Brian Domitrovic and I wrote about in JFK and the Reagan Revolution.)But these days, if you adhere to that big idea, you’re ridiculed as clinging to the past. My guests would have none of it.“We need it now more than ever,” said Forbes. “To say that just because it worked 40 years ago, therefore, it’s old, is like saying the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are old, therefore we can cast them aside.”Forbes’s version of “one big idea” is a flat tax and a sound dollar linked to gold. If we have that, we’ll be the “land of opportunity again.”Laffer agreed. “Our economic verities have remained forever,” he said. “They go back to caveman, pre-cavemen. Incentives matter: If you reward an activity, then people do more of it. If you punish an activity, people do less of it.”But for the tax side of “one big idea,” Laffer would like to see corporate tax reform. I agree. Reagan used to say, “Give me half a loaf now, and I’ll get the other half later.” Well, I’d take the half loaf of corporate tax cuts right now.And that would work for Forbes, who can see income-tax reform following corporate-tax reform. “Even if we get to this two years down the road,” he said, “I think [Trump would] be amenable to doing something radical like a flat tax.”But why is it that our Democratic friends in the economics profession and politics work so hard to discredit the idea of lowering marginal tax rates on the extra dollar earned to spark the positive incentives that lead to prosperity?“Let me put it just succinctly,” answered Laffer. “These people are willing to rebut arguments they know to be true in order to curry favors with their political benefactors.”To which Forbes added: “A lot of these far-left ideologues would rather have a smaller economy and more government power than a bigger economy and a smaller government.”From that sad truth we moved to prosperity killers, in particular trade protectionism, about which there is still much talk within the Trump camp. Where, I asked, does trade protectionism -- including tariffs on China -- fit into the low-tax-rate, strong-dollar prosperity model?“It doesn't,” said Forbes, who offered an alternative: “The smart approach is get this economy moving through. . . tax cuts and deregulation. And then having a stable dollar . . . you sit down country by [...]



Pining for Old School America

2017-07-22T00:00:00Z

How do we make America great again?  Returning to the curriculum and grading policies of much earlier generations might help. When was the last time you saw “thrift” as a subject taught in elementary school? Or “dependableness” and “housekeeping” — which encompassed “neatness of desk” and “care of books” — listed on a report card? Probably not ever. But there they are, set forth for the 1931-32 public school year in Monroe County, Ohio. That’s where my...How do we make America great again?  Returning to the curriculum and grading policies of much earlier generations might help. When was the last time you saw “thrift” as a subject taught in elementary school? Or “dependableness” and “housekeeping” — which encompassed “neatness of desk” and “care of books” — listed on a report card? Probably not ever. But there they are, set forth for the 1931-32 public school year in Monroe County, Ohio. That’s where my mother-in-law got her education; by all indications, it was a solid one. What brings this to mind is her first-grade report card, which my wife and I stumbled upon in advance of a family reunion last weekend in the Buckeye State. That’s where Loraine Bigler and her eight siblings grew up. Powhatan Point, to be specific. On a farm, to be even more precise. The Bigler kids and their widely spaced neighbors attended a one-room schoolhouse till they entered high school. Imagine that – a lone teacher instilling knowledge and character in charges ranging from age 6 (actually, 5 in Loraine’s case, thanks to a December birthday) to 14. Somehow, it worked. Maybe there’s no mystery. Success took a skilled and tireless teacher, as it does today. And children whose lives were rooted in hard work and discipline, which may be less common. Still, it stands to reason that the focus of education in that era played a big part. Grades were given for reading and writing and ’rithmetic, of course, along with agriculture, civics and the aforementioned thrift. But the bulk of the report card – the two inside facing pages – measures growth both broader and more personal. Under the heading of “Citizenship” are nine focal areas, starting with “Manners” (“courtesy to teachers,” “kindness to associates” and something often missing in our public discourse today, “cleanliness and civility of speech”) and ending with “Punctuality.” In between are what we might once have defined as all-American values: respect for law, order and authority; truthfulness and self-control; effort to do the best work; interest in community welfare; and, under “Reverence,” “attitude toward things sacred.” Imagine the ruckus that last item would raise today in public school circles. There are also seven grading areas that deal with purely personal matters. There’s neatness of dress (including “clothing clean” and “shoes clean”); neatness of person (“face clean,” “nails clean,” “hair brushed”); even posture, among others. The list ends with “weight.” Again, imagine the uproar such grading areas would spark today, when unkempt appearance and childhood obesity are so commonplace. This is not to say anyone should ever be shamed if they fall short, only that there’s good reason to set — and meet — standards. Does lamenting their disappearance make me an old fogy? I hope not. After all, I started first grade 29 years after my mother-in-law did; by the time I reached high school, in the late ’60s, “conformity” was a dirty word and “question authority” was a something of a mantra. As a journalist, holding those in power accountable is an article of faith. But toeing the line in those old-school ways seems lik[...]



Repeal Vote Puts Congress' Neck, Not Trump's, on the Line

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

Getting rid of Obamacare was one of Donald Trump’s key campaign commitments. Several Republican senators said this week they would not vote to support various forms of dealing with the controversial law. Political commentators have construed the announcements as another indictment of the president’s leadership. Yet this interpretation ignores the fact that congressional Republicans have built their majorities on promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If they fail, it’s not Trump who will be blamed by voters.  This reality is driving Senate...Getting rid of Obamacare was one of Donald Trump’s key campaign commitments. Several Republican senators said this week they would not vote to support various forms of dealing with the controversial law. Political commentators have construed the announcements as another indictment of the president’s leadership. Yet this interpretation ignores the fact that congressional Republicans have built their majorities on promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If they fail, it’s not Trump who will be blamed by voters.  This reality is driving Senate Republican leadership’s insistence on voting on some type of Obamacare legislation next week. Earlier this week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s announcement that the Senate was going to move on from repeal-and-replace to just repeal was subsequently overshadowed by three senators saying they would not vote for the latter—Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. In light of these pronouncements, McConnell’s subsequent insistence that there will still be a health-care vote of some sort next week appears somewhat mysterious. Yet there is a method to the madness. Voting on repeal alone is a new option. This Solomonic dividing of the GOP’s repeal-and-replace strategy is both the smartest move that party leadership could make and the only way to nudge holdouts. It’s a form of public negotiation with the caucus. Two of the three official “no” votes on repeal only—Murkowski and Capito—voted in 2015 to do exactly that. The difference then was that with Barack Obama in the White House, there was no chance of repeal actually happening. Indeed, Obama vetoed the bill and Republicans lacked the votes to overturn it. These lawmakers’ newfound recalcitrance already has some on the far right talking about hypocrisy and primary challenges. The come-hell-or-high-water stance by leadership tells Murkowski and Capito in particular that they will not be protected from the appearance of flip-flopping. “Historically, the Senate leader protects his colleagues from tough votes. He is forcing this tough vote on the people who talk out of both sides of their mouths,” one former McConnell staffer tells me. Meanwhile, the president’s critics are poised for a replay of the springtime fumble in Trump’s first pass at tackling Obamacare. He earned criticism then for appearing to lack understanding of what it would take to deal with the boondoggle, famously saying at a meeting of governors, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” Inside-the-Beltway types are trying to cast the cat-herding in the Senate in the same light, saying it is the result of Trump being unable to wrangle allies on the hill. But this is an entirely different situation. Trump will not be embarrassed by a failure in the Senate. The average voter will see this as a failure of the Congress, particularly the typical Trump supporter who, fairly or unfairly, is more likely to view McConnell with suspicion for letting Obamacare happen in the first place. Furthermore, the dance that Trump and McConnell are doing shows a high level of coordination. The president tweeted Monday that they should just move to repeal, and McConnell made a statement to the same effect shortly afterward. They are in [...]



Missouri GOP Aims to Avoid Akin Repeat, Unseat McCaskill

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

As Republicans lay the groundwork for next year’s midterms, there might be no Senate contest with as much emotional baggage for the party as Missouri’s. In 2012, Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill was a key Republican target — until a messy, crowded GOP primary yielded a disastrous opponent in then-Rep. Todd Akin, whose response to a question about abortion sparked an uproar and derailed his campaign. Since then, Republicans have worked to prevent a repeat “Akin moment” in other races across the country, with sharper focus on recruiting...As Republicans lay the groundwork for next year’s midterms, there might be no Senate contest with as much emotional baggage for the party as Missouri’s. In 2012, Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill was a key Republican target — until a messy, crowded GOP primary yielded a disastrous opponent in then-Rep. Todd Akin, whose response to a question about abortion sparked an uproar and derailed his campaign. Since then, Republicans have worked to prevent a repeat “Akin moment” in other races across the country, with sharper focus on recruiting sterling candidates. But, in McCaskill’s first re-election race since the Akin fiasco, Republicans are uniquely determined to prevent history from repeating itself — and are now actively working to cull the primary field beforehand. “State and national Republicans are laser-focused on making sure this race does not slip through their fingers again,” said Brian Walsh, a Republican strategist who was the NRSC communications director during that election cycle. The effort has party leaders pitching in, including Vice President Mike Pence. Pence has only sparingly been recruiting candidates to run for Senate, but he placed a call earlier this month to Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley “encouraging him to take a look at” the race, a source familiar with the call confirmed. (Pence has also waded into recruitment efforts for the upcoming Senate race in his home state of Indiana.) Hawley (pictured), who won election to statewide office last year, is widely viewed as a promising upstart in the Republican Party and has emerged as the likeliest challenger to McCaskill. He has already cultivated an impressive network: In January, Hawley participated in a panel discussion at a donor confab hosted by the Koch political network. Club for Growth President David McIntosh, who is close to Pence, has been promoting Hawley and encouraging him to run, according to a Missouri Republican strategist; and in April, former Sen. John Danforth was a signatory to an open letter urging the attorney general to challenge McCaskill. The field seemed to be developing in Hawley’s favor after Rep. Ann Wagner announced earlier this month she would not run for Senate. But the race is not settled just yet. Multiple Missouri Republican sources expressed doubts that Hawley will jump into the race. And using a statewide post as a launching pad to a plummier office is exactly the sort of thing Hawley has suggested he wouldn’t do. “Jefferson City is full of career politicians just climbing the ladder, using one office to get another,” Hawley said in an ad during his AG campaign, contrasting blatant careerism with his own style. As Hawley remains undecided, another statewide elected official is also in the mix: Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt, who, like Hawley, took office this year. Schmitt has recently ratcheted up his outreach to Republican powerbrokers, traveling to Washington, D.C., last week for meetings with Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and other top NRSC officials. The meetings were confirmed by multiple sources with direct knowledge of them. Hawley and Schmitt are expected to decide whether to run in the next few weeks. But Republicans do not anticipate they would choose to face off in a primar[...]



Trump Legal Team Looking to Investigate Mueller Aides

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump's legal team is evaluating potential conflicts of interest among members of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigative team, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. The revelation comes as Mueller's probe into Russia's election meddling appears likely to include some of the Trump family's business ties. Attorney Jay Sekulow, a member of the president's external legal team, told The Associated Press Thursday that the lawyers "will consistently evaluate the issue of conflicts and raise them in the...WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump's legal team is evaluating potential conflicts of interest among members of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigative team, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. The revelation comes as Mueller's probe into Russia's election meddling appears likely to include some of the Trump family's business ties. Attorney Jay Sekulow, a member of the president's external legal team, told The Associated Press Thursday that the lawyers "will consistently evaluate the issue of conflicts and raise them in the appropriate venue." Two of the people with knowledge of that process say those efforts include probing the political affiliations of Mueller's investigators and their past work history. Trump himself has publicly challenged Mueller, declaring this week that the former FBI director would be crossing a line if he investigated the president's personal business ties. The focus on potential conflicts with Mueller's team may well be an effort to distract from snowballing federal and congressional investigations into possible election year coordination between Trump's campaign and Russia. While Trump has assailed the probes as a partisan "witch hunt," the investigations have increasingly ensnared his family and close advisers, including son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner. As the investigations intensify, Trump's legal team is also undergoing a shakeup. New York-based attorney Marc Kasowitz, whose unconventional style has irked some White House aides, is seen as a diminishing presence in the operation, according to the two people with knowledge of the matter. John Dowd, an experienced Washington attorney, is expected to step up his role on the president's outside legal team, which also includes Sekulow. They're just a few of the fast-growing cadre of attorneys stepping up to represent the president, his family and close advisers as the investigations continue to expand. In another sign of a shakeup, Mark Corallo, who has been working as a spokesman for the legal team, is no longer part of the operation, according to those familiar with the situation. They insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with the investigations, which threaten to shadow his administration for months or even years. In an interview Wednesday with The New York Times, Trump warned Mueller that it would be a "violation" if he investigated the Trump family's financial entanglements. Mueller's mandate in overseeing the federal probe is broad. He's authorized to investigate Russia's election interference, any potential Trump campaign ties and any matters that stem from those inquiries. Sekulow told the AP that the president "has not received any indication" from the special counsel that he personally is under investigation. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump has no intention of firing Mueller "at this time," but she did not rule out doing so in the future. She also reiterated Trump's concern about the scope of Mueller's investigation, saying it "should stay in the confines of meddling, Russia meddling, and the election and nothing beyond that." California Rep. Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said Mueller has the authority to investigate an[...]



Subpoenas at the Ready; GOP Predicament; Waste Not, Want Not; Papa's Prose

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Friday, July 21, 2017. On this date in 1899, in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, a physician named Clarence Hemingway went to the front porch of his house and blew merrily on his cornet. Thus did Dr. Hemingway announce to the world -- or at least to his neighborhood -- the arrival of his second child, a boy, whom he named Ernest Miller Hemingway. Later, Ernest Hemingway would call the predominately Protestant and upper-middle-class place of his birth a town of “wide lawns and narrow minds.” Yet he learned to love reading and writing there, and...Good morning, it’s Friday, July 21, 2017. On this date in 1899, in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, a physician named Clarence Hemingway went to the front porch of his house and blew merrily on his cornet. Thus did Dr. Hemingway announce to the world -- or at least to his neighborhood -- the arrival of his second child, a boy, whom he named Ernest Miller Hemingway. Later, Ernest Hemingway would call the predominately Protestant and upper-middle-class place of his birth a town of “wide lawns and narrow minds.” Yet he learned to love reading and writing there, and his father taught him to fish and hunt and think for himself at their cabin in Northern Michigan. In a moment I’ll have more on this iconic American writer, who appears in my new book, “ON THIS DATE: From the Pilgrims to Today, Discovering America One Day at a Time.” First, let me point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Grassley: Subpoenas Ready for Trump Jr., Manafort. Rebecca Berg has details on the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman’s plans to hear testimony from the president’s son in its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. How Health Care Impasse Imperils GOP.  Next week’s vote on Obamacare will force Republicans’ hand as midterms approach and the party has no significant legislative achievements, Caitlin Huey-Burns writes. GOP Rep. Messer Blames Senate for Inaction, Mulls Bid. James Arkin reports on the Indiana congressman’s plans. Defense Nominees Pressed by Senators to Cut Waste. Sandra Erwin recaps this week’s tough questioning by lawmakers concerned about runaway costs and poor accountability in Pentagon procurement. DeVos in Denver: School Policy Best Left to States. The Cabinet secretary was met by protesters, but her address to a legislative group thrilled conservatives, Chris Beach writes in RealClearEducation. Digital Health Hope: Personalized Care Is the Final Frontier. In RealClearHealth, Kevin Campbell ends his series by exploring the biggest promise of modern medicine.  Saving Net Neutrality Requires Bipartisanship. In RealClearPolicy, Harold Ford Jr. argues that legislation is a better way to save net neutrality than FCC action. Dunkirk Up Close. RealClearBooks has this excerpt from Joshua Levine’s “Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture.” The Inside Story of the Week That Saved the World. In RealClearLife, K.S. Bruce recounts the highly consequential meetings that took place in London ahead of the troop evacuations at Dunkirk. * * * Eschewing college, young Ernest Hemingway landed a writing job on the Kansas City Star, tried to enlist when the United States entered World War I, and when poor eyesight kept him out of the Army, he volunteered to drive Red Cross ambulances at the front. Weeks later, he was wounded by a mortar round while handing out supplies in the trenches. An Italian soldier beside him was killed and another’s legs were blown off. Hemingway was riddled wit[...]



The Star-Crossed History of CIA Paramilitary Action

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

ASPEN, Colo. -- What did the CIA's covert assistance program for Syrian rebels accomplish? Bizarrely, the biggest consequence may be that it helped trigger the Russian military intervention in 2015 that rescued President Bashar Assad -- achieving the opposite of what the program intended. Syria adds another chapter to the star-crossed history of CIA paramilitary action. These efforts begin with the worthy objective of giving presidents policy options short of all-out war. But they often end with an untidy mess, in which rebels feel they have been "seduced and abandoned" by the...ASPEN, Colo. -- What did the CIA's covert assistance program for Syrian rebels accomplish? Bizarrely, the biggest consequence may be that it helped trigger the Russian military intervention in 2015 that rescued President Bashar Assad -- achieving the opposite of what the program intended. Syria adds another chapter to the star-crossed history of CIA paramilitary action. These efforts begin with the worthy objective of giving presidents policy options short of all-out war. But they often end with an untidy mess, in which rebels feel they have been "seduced and abandoned" by the promise of U.S. support that disappears when the political winds change. One Syrian opposition leader highlighted for me the danger for his rebel comrades now: "The groups that decided to work with the U.S. already have a target on their back from the extremists, but now will not be able to defend themselves." The demise of the Syria program was disclosed by The Washington Post this week, but it's been unraveling since President Trump took office. Trump wanted to work more closely with Russia to stabilize Syria, and a program that targeted Russia's allies didn't fit. The White House's own Syria policy remains a hodge-podge of half-baked assumptions and conflicting goals, but that's a subject for another day. The rise and fall of the Syria covert action conveys some useful lessons about this most delicate weapon in America's arsenal. To summarize, the program was too late, too limited and too dependent on dubious partners, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia. It was potent enough to threaten Assad and draw Russian intervention, but not strong enough to prevail. Perhaps worst, the CIA-backed fighters were so divided politically, and so interwoven with extremist opposition groups, that the rebels could never offer a viable political future. That's not to say the CIA effort was bootless. Run from secret operations centers in Turkey and Jordan, the program pumped many hundreds of millions of dollars to many dozens of militia groups. One knowledgeable official estimates that the CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies over the past four years. By the summer of 2015, the rebels were at the gates of Latakia on the northern coast, threatening Assad's ancestral homeland and Russian bases there. Rebel fighters were also pushing toward Damascus. CIA analysts began to speak that summer about a "catastrophic success" -- where the rebels would topple Assad without creating a strong, moderate government. In a June 2015 column, I quoted a U.S. intelligence official saying, "Based on current trend lines, it is time to start thinking about a post-Assad Syria." Russian President Vladimir Putin was warily observing the same trend, especially after an urgent visit to Moscow in July by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's "Quds Force" and Assad's regional patron. Putin got the message: He intervened militarily in September 2015, decisively changing the balance of the Syrian war. What Trump did in ending the CIA program was arguably just recognizing that ground truth. What could the U.S. have done to provide a different outcome? Here are some thoughts gathered from U.S. and Syrian officials who have followed the CIA program closely. -- CIA support could have s[...]



Christianity, Inc.

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

Eugene Peterson is not a name familiar to most Americans, but within evangelical circles, Peterson is well-known. He wrote a translation of the Bible called "The Message," which is a preferred text for churches trying to lure in new members who might be put off by the "thou shalls" and "thou shall nots" of the King James Version and the more accurate scriptural translations like the English Standard Version. Peterson, in an interview connected to the release of his last book (Peterson is retiring from public life), told a reporter he would perform a gay marriage...Eugene Peterson is not a name familiar to most Americans, but within evangelical circles, Peterson is well-known. He wrote a translation of the Bible called "The Message," which is a preferred text for churches trying to lure in new members who might be put off by the "thou shalls" and "thou shall nots" of the King James Version and the more accurate scriptural translations like the English Standard Version. Peterson, in an interview connected to the release of his last book (Peterson is retiring from public life), told a reporter he would perform a gay marriage in the United States. Liberal Christians quickly praised Peterson and swiftly condemned faithful Christians who expressed even the slightest disappointment in Peterson's secular evolution. Within 48 hours, however, Peterson had walked it all back and declared, again, the Bible is inerrant, marriage can only truly exist between a man and a woman and he would do no further interviews. Peterson's walk back struck some as being pressured by his publisher at a time Lifeway, the largest Christian bookstore chain in America, said it would pull Peterson's books if he abandoned Christian orthodoxy. Lifeway had previously pulled Jen Hatmaker's books when she abandoned Christian orthodoxy for worldly popularity. Two weeks ago, GracePointe Church in Franklin, TN, announced it would be moving to Nashville, TN. The church decided to abandon Christian orthodoxy and embrace gay marriage. It then decided it needed to move to the city and rebrand itself as a "progressive" church in order to keep growing. It put up for sale its $5.7 million property that includes 22 acres of land and a 12,000 square foot church. The pastor at GracePointe said he has received numerous calls from pastors across the country who want to support gay marriage, but are afraid of what it might do to their congregations. Evangelicalism in the United States is increasingly a business. There is a long line of pastors who are more interested in revenue streams than saving souls. Gay congregants, often childless, tend to provide a healthy source of revenue. One megachurch pastor in the Southeast I know has said his gay congregants are the best tithers and he, therefore, expressly avoids approaching any portion of the Bible that might hurt their feelings. It is not just a rejection of orthodoxy disrupting Christianity in America. There are numerous evangelical pastors in the nation who have tied themselves to President Trump. They will defend anything the man says or does so long as their own perceived agenda is winning. The President can expect his Christian supporters to keep their mouths shut when the President declares he can grab a woman by...well...you know. They will defend his every misquote and misuse of scripture as the shortcomings of a new believer or even the second coming of Cyrus. The media and secular left in the country would prefer to focus on the Christian money makers of the right hitching their wagons to the president. In so doing, they could not care less about the pastors losing souls to the world because they have abandoned consistent Christian orthodoxy to make a buck. In both cases, however, Christianity in America is suffering setbacks. The most faithful pastors in this country are not the cowards trying to fi[...]



Is Iran in Our Gun Sights Now?

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

"Iran must be free. The dictatorship must be destroyed. Containment is appeasement and appeasement is surrender." Thus does our Churchill, Newt Gingrich, dismiss, in dealing with Iran, the policy of containment crafted by George Kennan and pursued by nine U.S. presidents to bloodless victory in the Cold War. Why is containment surrender? "Because freedom is threatened everywhere so long as this dictatorship stays in power," says Gingrich. But how is our freedom threatened by a regime with 3 percent of our GDP that has been around since Jimmy Carter was president?..."Iran must be free. The dictatorship must be destroyed. Containment is appeasement and appeasement is surrender." Thus does our Churchill, Newt Gingrich, dismiss, in dealing with Iran, the policy of containment crafted by George Kennan and pursued by nine U.S. presidents to bloodless victory in the Cold War. Why is containment surrender? "Because freedom is threatened everywhere so long as this dictatorship stays in power," says Gingrich. But how is our freedom threatened by a regime with 3 percent of our GDP that has been around since Jimmy Carter was president? Fortunately, Gingrich has found a leader to bring down the Iranian regime and ensure the freedom of mankind. "In our country that was George Washington and ... the Marquis de Lafayette. In Italy it was Garibaldi," says Gingrich. Whom has he found to rival Washington and Garibaldi? Says Gingrich, "Maryam Rajavi." Who is she? The leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, or Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which opposed the Shah, broke with the old Ayatollah, collaborated with Saddam Hussein, and, until 2012, was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State. At the NCRI conference in Paris in July where Gingrich spoke, and the speaking fees were reportedly excellent, John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani were also on hand. Calling Iran's twice-elected President Hassan Rouhani, "a violent, vicious murderer," Giuliani said, "the time has come for regime change." Bolton followed suit. "Tehran is not merely a nuclear weapons threat, it is not merely a terrorist threat, it is a conventional threat to everybody in the region," he said. Hence, "the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs' regime in Tehran." We will all celebrate in Tehran in 2019, Bolton assured the NCRI faithful. Good luck. Yet, as The New York Times said yesterday, all this talk, echoed all over this capital, is driving us straight toward war. "A drumbeat of provocative words, outright threats and actions -- from President Trump and some of his top aides as well as Sunni Arab leaders and American activists -- is raising tensions that could lead to armed conflict with Iran." Is this what America wants or needs -- a new Mideast war against a country three times the size of Iraq? After Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, would America and the world be well-served by a war with Iran that could explode into a Sunni-Shiite religious war across the Middle East? Bolton calls Iran "a nuclear weapons threat." But in 2007, all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies declared with high confidence Iran had no nuclear weapons program. They stated this again in 2011. Under the nuclear deal, Iran exported almost all of its uranium, stopped enriching to 20 percent, shut down thousands of centrifuges, poured concrete into the core of its heavy water reactor, and allows U.N. inspectors to crawl all over every facility. Is Iran, despite all this, operating a secret nuclear weapons program? Or is this War Party propaganda meant to drag us into another Mideast war? To ascertain the truth, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should call the heads of the CIA and DIA, and the Director of National Intelligence, to testify in open session. We are told we [...]



Be Very Worried About the Future of Free Expression

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

"Ads That Perpetuate Gender Stereotypes Will Be Banned in U.K., but Not in the Good Ol' USA!" reads a recent headline on the website Jezebel. Yay to the good ol' USA for continuing to value the fundamental right of free expression, you might say. Or maybe not. Why would a feminist -- or anyone, for that matter -- celebrate the idea of empowering bureaucrats to decide how we talk about gender stereotypes? Because these days, foundational values mean increasingly little to those who believe hearing something disagreeable is the worst thing that could happen to..."Ads That Perpetuate Gender Stereotypes Will Be Banned in U.K., but Not in the Good Ol' USA!" reads a recent headline on the website Jezebel. Yay to the good ol' USA for continuing to value the fundamental right of free expression, you might say. Or maybe not. Why would a feminist -- or anyone, for that matter -- celebrate the idea of empowering bureaucrats to decide how we talk about gender stereotypes? Because these days, foundational values mean increasingly little to those who believe hearing something disagreeable is the worst thing that could happen to them. Sometimes you need a censor, this Jezebel writer points out, because nefarious conglomerates like "Big Yogurt" have been "targeting women for decades." She, and the British, apparently, don't believe that women have the capacity to make consumer choices or the inner strength to ignore ads peddling probiotic yogurts. This is why the U.K. Committee of Advertising Practice (and, boy, it takes a lot of willpower not to use the cliche "Orwellian" to describe a group that hits it on the nose with this kind of ferocity) is such a smart idea. It will ban, among others, commercials in which family members "create a mess, while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up," ones that suggest that "an activity is inappropriate for a girl because it is stereotypically associated with boys, or vice versa," and ones in which "a man tries and fails to perform simple parental or household tasks." If you believe this kind of thing is the bailiwick of the state, it's unlikely you have much use for the Constitution. I'm not trying to pick on this one writer. Acceptance of speech restrictions is a growing problem among millennials and Democrats. For them, opaque notions of "fairness" and "tolerance" have risen to overpower freedom of expression in importance. You can see it with TV personalities like Chris Cuomo, former Democratic Party presidential hopeful Howard Dean, mayors of big cities and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is Sen. Dianne Feinstein arguing for hecklers' vetoes in public university systems. It's major political candidates arguing that open discourse gives "aid and comfort" to our enemies. If it's not Big Yogurt, it's Big Oil or Big Somethingorother. Democrats have for years campaigned to overturn the First Amendment and ban political speech because of "fairness." This position and its justifications all run on the very same ideological fuel. Believe it or not, though, allowing the state to ban documentaries is a bigger threat to the First Amendment than President Donald Trump's tweets mocking CNN. It's about authoritarians like Laura Beth Nielsen, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University and research professor at the American Bar Foundation, who argues in favor of censorship in a major newspaper like Los Angeles Times. She claims that hate speech should be restricted, and that "Racist hate speech has been linked to cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and requires complex coping strategies." Nearly every censor in the history of mankind has argued that speech should be curbed to balance out some harmful consequence. And nearly every censor in history, soo[...]



The President and the Attorney General

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

"It's Bobby," President-elect John F. Kennedy supposedly whispered, announcing that he had chosen his brother as his attorney general. A brother or sister is what every president wants. The attorney general is the only Cabinet member who can effectively take the president's job away. So of course the president is upset with his attorney general. He's upset because he wanted him to run the Russia investigation -- run it right into the ground. If there is one thing that has been consistent about Donald Trump, it's his determination to shut down the investigation..."It's Bobby," President-elect John F. Kennedy supposedly whispered, announcing that he had chosen his brother as his attorney general. A brother or sister is what every president wants. The attorney general is the only Cabinet member who can effectively take the president's job away. So of course the president is upset with his attorney general. He's upset because he wanted him to run the Russia investigation -- run it right into the ground. If there is one thing that has been consistent about Donald Trump, it's his determination to shut down the investigation of his, his campaign's and now his family's connections with all things Russia, including its government's assistance in subverting this nation's democracy. How could Jeff Sessions not have understood that he was being put into place to shut down an investigation that had already taken on a life of its own? I'm no defender of Sessions, but he did the right thing in recusing himself. And if he hadn't, he would have had to appoint a special counsel, as his deputy did. It's not because either man was out to get the president. That, of course, is Trump's worldview -- beginning and ending as it does with him. But an attorney general cannot intervene to shut down an investigation of the role of the Russian government in courting the favor of the president by influencing the election in his favor. Half his appointees would resign in protest. You'd have Congressional investigations. It's not done. If he'd asked, and they'd dared, anyone who had spent any time in the swamp could have told him about that old-fashioned Justice Department thing about integrity. Now, if you're sitting in the middle of a swamp, and you've done nothing wrong, you don't say: "Fire the sheriff" or "I'm thinking about firing the sheriff." You say: "We're going to get to the bottom of this. We're going to find out who did what, and what the Russians did to try to influence our democracy, and let the chips fall where they may. I'm not afraid of the truth." Ever hear President Trump say that? The Trump Organization does not have a Constitution, three branches of government, a fourth estate and a tradition that values the rule of law above all. President Trump is no fan of any of the above as applied to him, and he makes no bones about it. It is said -- every day, by every analyst, and with reason -- that this is what Trump's base supporters, the 40 percent who keep his ship afloat, keep Washington Republicans looking the other way, like about him. He is tough. He pulls no punches. Says what he thinks. Sessions should have told him. Sessions sucker punched him. You don't sucker punch Donald Trump. Except he's not tough at all, not really. He can't get anything done, even though he controls both houses of Congress. His arrogance becomes incompetence. He could have been the hero, called Republicans and Democrats to the table to hammer out a deal on health care, taken credit if anything got better, putting aside a mostly intractable problem. Instead, the Republicans' failure will be the centerpiece of his first year. And what is with this romance with Vladimir Putin? Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave. How can Republicans sit silent, or wo[...]



How Health Care Impasse Imperils GOP

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

Six months into a long-awaited Republican administration with no major legislative accomplishments to show for it, GOP leaders in Congress are anxious to get a move on—so much so that senators are preparing to vote next week on a motion to proceed on a health care measure without knowing, exactly, what it will entail. Waiting for all the details ahead of time, Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters, is a "luxury we don't have." Republicans have spent the past seven years and multiple election cycles pledging to repeal and replace Obamacare. The election of a GOP...Six months into a long-awaited Republican administration with no major legislative accomplishments to show for it, GOP leaders in Congress are anxious to get a move on—so much so that senators are preparing to vote next week on a motion to proceed on a health care measure without knowing, exactly, what it will entail. Waiting for all the details ahead of time, Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters, is a "luxury we don't have." Republicans have spent the past seven years and multiple election cycles pledging to repeal and replace Obamacare. The election of a GOP president, they argued time and again, would be the final puzzle piece. Now, with Donald Trump behind the Resolute Desk, the health care debate has become a proxy for credibility and governance. In other words, if Republicans can't make good on a signature promise—one that has been akin to an organizing principle for the base—how can they sell the party to voters? As lawmakers consider voting for legislation that is unpopular and is projected to leave roughly 22 million uninsured, according to analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, they are also weighing the political fallout for the party if they don't proceed with it. "Failure is not an option," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is up for re-election next year, said after a meeting at the White House with his colleagues. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who like Cruz also ran for president, insisted that Republicans would eventually replace Obamacare. "It may not happen this week or next week, but it’s going to happen," he said. "We have at least 51 people here who promised to do it, and we intend to keep that promise." The health care measure is key to the GOP agenda, as it was designed to pave the way for tax reform. And while congressional committees are already at work on tax policy, a failure to resolve health care bleeds into the remainder of the party's agenda. "There's no question this is a long held promise that virtually every Republican has made to voters, so it does have significant consequences if given the opportunity and they and can't get it done," said GOP strategist Josh Holmes, a former aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell, majority leader. "The biggest problem Republicans could face in 2018 is an ongoing narrative that they are unable to govern." Conservative outside groups have banded together to pressure Republicans into fulfilling their campaign pledges, arguing that a failure to do so would depress the party base in the midterms. "They are going to need to call hospice because their control [of Congress] is not long for this world," Club For Growth President David McIntosh said. Brent Bozell, president resident of the conservative Media Research Center, said conservative voters are going to blame Republicans—not the opposing party—for failure. "If they feel betrayed and have no reason to vote, they won’t vote," he said. That prospect is also starting to weigh on House lawmakers, some of whom have expressed concern that Senate inaction might take a toll on members beyond the upper chamber. “Senators have now wasted seven months doing nothing," said Florida Rep. Dennis[...]



The Detroit Riot, 50 Years Later

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

Fifty years ago this weekend, a deadly urban riot began in Detroit. It started around 3:30 a.m., when police arrested 85 patrons of a blind pig -- an illegal after-hours bar -- in the midst of an all-black neighborhood that had been all-white 15 or 20 years before. The statistics are horrifying. Rioting went on for six nights, with some 2,500 stores looted and burnt, some 400 families displaced and property damage was estimated around $300 million in 2017 dollars. Forty-three people, many of them innocent bystanders, were killed. More than 1,000 people were wounded. The reality was even...Fifty years ago this weekend, a deadly urban riot began in Detroit. It started around 3:30 a.m., when police arrested 85 patrons of a blind pig -- an illegal after-hours bar -- in the midst of an all-black neighborhood that had been all-white 15 or 20 years before. The statistics are horrifying. Rioting went on for six nights, with some 2,500 stores looted and burnt, some 400 families displaced and property damage was estimated around $300 million in 2017 dollars. Forty-three people, many of them innocent bystanders, were killed. More than 1,000 people were wounded. The reality was even more horrifying. That summer, I had wangled a job as an intern in the office of Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, a young, bright and ambitious liberal. Elected with near-unanimous support of black voters, he had aggressively launched anti-poverty programs, trying to make the nation's fifth largest municipality a model of the Great Society's War on Poverty. He had not succeeded, however, in changing the modus operandi of a police department that was only 5 percent black in a city with a 38 percent black population. In retrospect, this was a tragic consequence of the migration of one-third of American blacks between 1940 and 1965 from the mostly rural South to the big cities of the North. That meant that Detroit, which had about 150,000 black residents before World War II, had about 600,000 a generation later. At a time when almost no whites would remain in neighborhoods with a significant black population, and when there were significant differences in the mores and culture of blacks and whites, this was inevitably going to be problematic. Notwithstanding Cavanagh's liberal policies, and those of Michigan's Republican Governor George Romney, the riot should not have been the surprise it was. If it was more destructive than the riots in so many other cities, well, Detroit was bigger than just about all those other cities and had had a larger influx of Southern blacks than all but Chicago and New York. I arrived at the City County Building on the warm morning of Sunday, July 23, and spent the next six nights at work. Unfortunately, I made no notes at the time and so my vivid memories may not be entirely accurate. But they show how fragile the web of civilization can be, just as what happened to Detroit over the next decades show how difficult they are to repair after they're torn to shreds. I remember listening after sundown in the police commissioner's office to the police radio, as one officer after another reported abandoning another neighborhood -- whole square miles -- to the rioters. I remember the mayor, concerned about the trigger-happy performance of National Guard troops, trying to persuade the governor to demand federal troops from a reluctant President Lyndon Johnson and Attorney General Ramsey Clark. I remember riding around in a (nonpolice) car with Congressman John Conyers, then in his second term and now the senior member of Congress, as he told young black men to cool it and stop the violence. After several days, the experienced (and not all-white) 101st Airborne came in and calmed the c[...]



Keep Focus on Killing Cruel Health Care Bill

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Focus, America, focus. The most urgent task right now is to make sure a stake is driven through the heart of the Republican effort to gut Medicaid and balloon the ranks of the uninsured. I know that the Russia investigations are charging ahead, with Capitol Hill appearances by members of President Trump's inner circle scheduled for next week. I know that Trump gave an unhinged interview to The New York Times on Wednesday, bizarrely undermining his own attorney general. I know that one of the few remaining giants in Washington, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has received a tough...WASHINGTON -- Focus, America, focus. The most urgent task right now is to make sure a stake is driven through the heart of the Republican effort to gut Medicaid and balloon the ranks of the uninsured. I know that the Russia investigations are charging ahead, with Capitol Hill appearances by members of President Trump's inner circle scheduled for next week. I know that Trump gave an unhinged interview to The New York Times on Wednesday, bizarrely undermining his own attorney general. I know that one of the few remaining giants in Washington, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has received a tough medical diagnosis. There will be time to digest all of that. At present, however, health care is still the main event. Keep in mind that this isn't the first time the GOP's gratuitously cruel effort to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act has looked dead. Back in March, House Speaker Paul Ryan called off a showdown vote and glumly declared, "We're going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future." But he managed to get a revised bill passed in May, prompting President Trump to hold a sophomoric victory rally at the White House. That bill would have caused 23 million people to lose health insurance over a decade and slashed Medicaid spending by more than $800 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The action then shifted to the Senate, which came up with legislation that would grow the numbers of uninsured by 22 million and cut Medicaid by $772 billion. Experts who tried to parse the details gave differing opinions on which version was more heartless. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's attempt to ram through his monstrosity collapsed in a heap last weekend, as both the far-right and moderate wings of the GOP caucus balked. In desperation, McConnell then proposed an approach that Trump once ruled out but now eagerly embraces: Repeal the Affordable Care Act now and worry about replacing it later. According to the CBO, taking the repeal-only route would mean 17 million more uninsured within a year and 32 million more in a decade. Insurance premiums would soar, and in more than half the nation's counties there would be no insurers willing to service the individual market. Appalling. McConnell's gambit appeared to fail Tuesday when three GOP moderates -- Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia -- announced they would vote no. Their stance means McConnell lacks the votes even to open debate on repeal-only, let alone pass it. That should be the end of the story. But it would be a mistake to take anything for granted. Senate naysayers are under tremendous pressure to give in, and the reason has nothing to do with health care. It's pure politics. For seven long years, since the day the Affordable Care Act was passed, Republicans have been vowing to eradicate it "root and branch," as McConnell likes to say. And for seven long years, the GOP has reaped political benefit from that categorical promise -- while giving no serious thought to what a replacement system would look like. [...]



Why Would You Want Putin as a Friend?

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

Leaving aside the question as to whether there was actual collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election, it is undisputed that candidate Donald Trump was eager for a friendship between our two nations. The most recent accounts of the president seeking out more one-on-one time with Putin at the G-20 dinner -- using only a Russian translator -- is the latest evidence that this enthusiasm is undiminished. President Trump has offered scores of comments about Vladimir Putin over the past four years, many times leaning over backward to doubt whether Putin...Leaving aside the question as to whether there was actual collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election, it is undisputed that candidate Donald Trump was eager for a friendship between our two nations. The most recent accounts of the president seeking out more one-on-one time with Putin at the G-20 dinner -- using only a Russian translator -- is the latest evidence that this enthusiasm is undiminished. President Trump has offered scores of comments about Vladimir Putin over the past four years, many times leaning over backward to doubt whether Putin was really guilty of assassinating reporters and opposition figures. Had Putin "been found guilty," Trump demanded. On many occasions, Trump gushed that Putin was "very nice" to him, and praised the dictator's "strength." On May 5, 2016, he told Fox News' Bret Baier, "I know Russia well. I had a major event in Russia two or three years ago -- Miss Universe contest -- which is a big, incredible event, and incredible success ... And you know what? They want to be friendly with the United States. Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got (along) with somebody?" Perhaps this is a generalized wish for international peace. But if so, why didn't Trump show similar benevolence toward China? Instead, throughout the 2016 cycle, he repeatedly promised to label China a currency manipulator and threatened to impose high tariffs on Chinese imports. You have to overlook a lot to imagine that Russia's intentions toward the United States and the West are benign. Consider that Russia has blocked eight United Nations resolutions condemning Syria's use of chemical weapons. Russia was tasked, in an agreement the Obama administration blundered into, with overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. As recently as April 2017, Bashar Assad gassed civilians with Russian connivance. In 2016, Gen. Phil Breedlove, supreme NATO allied commander for Europe, testified before Congress that not only was Russia not targeting ISIS (a favorite fantasy of Putin fans in the U.S.) but it was also intentionally bombing hospitals and other civilian targets in Syria to frighten more refugees into fleeing the country and swamping Europe. Thus has Russia "weaponized" the creation of refugees to destabilize Europe. Anything that undermines the legitimacy of free and democratic nations in the West is guaranteed to get Russian support. Putin sows distrust and chaos, and he has shown himself willing to use "disinformation" -- an old Soviet technique -- as well as financial support for extremists of both left and right. Russia supports rightists, such as the Jobbik party in Hungary and the National Front in France, as well as left-wing parties, such as Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece. The Russians have stood solidly behind their ally Iran, even selling the Islamic Republic sophisticated S-300 surface-to-air missiles in 2016, which would make any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities by Israel or the U.S. much more militarily risky. On state-run media in Russia, the [...]



An American President's Subservience Toward Russia

2017-07-21T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- In the normal course of events, the revelation of attempted collusion with Russia to determine the outcome of a presidential election might cause an administration to overcorrect in the other direction. A president might find ways to confront the range of Russian aggression, including cyber-aggression, if only to avoid the impression of being bought and sold by a strategic rival. But once again, Donald Trump -- after extended personal contact with Vladimir Putin and the complete surrender to Russian interests in Syria -- acts precisely like he has been bought and sold by a...WASHINGTON -- In the normal course of events, the revelation of attempted collusion with Russia to determine the outcome of a presidential election might cause an administration to overcorrect in the other direction. A president might find ways to confront the range of Russian aggression, including cyber-aggression, if only to avoid the impression of being bought and sold by a strategic rival. But once again, Donald Trump -- after extended personal contact with Vladimir Putin and the complete surrender to Russian interests in Syria -- acts precisely like he has been bought and sold by a strategic rival. The ignoble cutoff of aid to American proxies means that "Putin won in Syria," as an administration official was quoted by The Washington Post. Concessions without reciprocation, made against the better judgment of foreign policy advisers, smack more of payoff than outreach. If this is what Trump's version of "winning" looks like, what might further victory entail? The recreation of the Warsaw Pact? The reversion of Alaska to Russian control? There is nothing normal about an American president's subservience to Russia's interests and worldview. It is not the result of some bold, secret, Nixonian foreign policy stratagem -- the most laughable possible explanation. Does it come from Trump's bad case of authoritarianism envy? A fundamental sympathy with European right-wing, anti-democratic populism? An exposure to pressure from his checkered financial history? There are no benign explanations, and the worst ones seem the most plausible. There is no way to venture where this approach ends up, except that it involves greater Russian influence and intimidation in Eastern Europe and in the Middle East (where Iran, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah are winners as well). But we can already count some of the costs. Trump is alienating Republicans from their own heroic, foreign policy tradition. The conduct of the Cold War was steadied and steeled by Ronald Reagan, who engaged with Soviet leaders but was an enemy of communism and a foe of Soviet aggression. In fact, he successfully engaged Soviet leaders (BEG ITAL)because(END ITAL) he was an enemy of communism and a foe of Soviet aggression. There is no single or simple explanation for the end of the Cold War, but Republicans have generally held that America's strategic determination played a central role. Now Trump pursues a policy of pre-emptive concession with a Russia that is literally on the march in places such as Georgia and the Ukraine. Trump is the Henry Wallace of the populist right (which more than occasionally finds common cause with the populist left). "We should recognize," Wallace argued following World War II, "that we have no more business in the political affairs of Eastern Europe than Russia has in the political affairs of Latin America, Western Europe and the United States." The difference now is that Russia has made the political affairs of the United States very much its business. With almost no serious American response. Russian interference in Amer[...]



Putin's Playthings

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

About a year ago, Donald Trump Jr. met with a mysterious Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Trump Jr. was purportedly eager to receive information that could damage Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. Veselnitskaya denies that she was working for the Kremlin to lobby for favorable Russian treatment. But in the past, Veselnitskaya has been connected with a number of Russian-related lobbying groups. Trump Jr., for his part, proved naive and foolish to gobble such possible setup bait. The Russians proved eager to confuse, confound and embarrass everyone involved in the 2016...About a year ago, Donald Trump Jr. met with a mysterious Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Trump Jr. was purportedly eager to receive information that could damage Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. Veselnitskaya denies that she was working for the Kremlin to lobby for favorable Russian treatment. But in the past, Veselnitskaya has been connected with a number of Russian-related lobbying groups. Trump Jr., for his part, proved naive and foolish to gobble such possible setup bait. The Russians proved eager to confuse, confound and embarrass everyone involved in the 2016 election. This latest Trump family imbroglio piggybacks on six months of Russian collusion charges. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned less than a month into his job after being less than candid about his contacts with the Russians. Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's erstwhile campaign manager, had some questionable Russian business interests and resigned well before the election. All these stories were luridly headlined in the press. Yet several intelligence officials from the Obama administration -- former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey and former Director of National intelligence James Clapper -- asserted that they had found no evidence of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign to rig the election. Former FBI head Robert Mueller is now overseeing the probe into possible Russian meddling as a special counsel. There are also several other Russia-related investigations being conducted by various agencies and congressional committees. Some members of Congress are asking why Obama administration officials such as Brennan, Samantha Power and Susan Rice requested surveillance files on Trump campaign officials, may have unmasked names, and may have allowed those names to be illegally leaked to the press. Earlier, some Republican anti-Trump operators (and later some Clinton campaign operatives) hired former British spy and opposition researcher Christopher Steele to compile a dossier on Donald Trump that would include some ludicrous Russia-related allegations. Weirder still, Steele's firm may have had some contacts with none other than Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Sen. John McCain, a former target of candidate Trump's invective, acquired the anti-Trump dossier and made sure that the FBI investigated the phony dirt. Comey did just that. In no time, the so-called Steele dossier was leaked. The website Buzzfeed admitted it could not verify any of the accusations but published the entire sordid file anyway. One of the principals of the Clinton campaign, John Podesta, was a board member of a green energy firm that suddenly saw an infusion of Russian cash -- purportedly in an attempt to sway Podesta. Congressional science and energy committees and subcommittees are currently interested in whether the Russians funneled cash into American anti-fracking groups such as Sea Change on the expectation that they might help derail American energy exploration and production. [...]



Grassley: Subpoenas Ready for Trump Jr., Manafort

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

The Senate Judiciary Committee will subpoena President Trump’s son Donald Jr. and former campaign manager Paul Manafort if they do not agree to testify next week, the committee’s chairman told RealClearPolitics. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley has signed off on the subpoenas along with the ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Grassley confirmed Thursday — meaning no further action would need to be taken should Trump Jr. or Manafort fail to testify. “We’ve already authorized a subpoena,” said Grassley, adding that...The Senate Judiciary Committee will subpoena President Trump’s son Donald Jr. and former campaign manager Paul Manafort if they do not agree to testify next week, the committee’s chairman told RealClearPolitics. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley has signed off on the subpoenas along with the ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Grassley confirmed Thursday — meaning no further action would need to be taken should Trump Jr. or Manafort fail to testify. “We’ve already authorized a subpoena,” said Grassley, adding that the committee would take that next step “almost immediately, if they don’t accept.” The subpoena would mark a historic moment, with a committee controlled by the sitting president’s own party questioning his eldest child in public. Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. have not yet responded to the committee’s request, but they will need to do so by Friday, Grassley added. The committee is also hoping to hear testimony from Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, who commissioned the unverified but potentially explosive pre-election “dossier” regarding Trump, after Simpson said he was unavailable for a previous hearing. The Judiciary Committee ratcheted up the pressure on its would-be witnesses Wednesday when it published their names online as scheduled witnesses for the hearing next week — although Manafort, Trump Jr. and Simpson had not yet agreed to appear. Still, the advisory set off a predictable media frenzy as reporters considered the spectacle. The potential appearance by Manafort and the younger Trump comes after the president’s son disclosed emails earlier this month from June 2016, during the heat of the presidential campaign, in which he expressed interest in receiving damaging information on Hillary Clinton purportedly supplied by the Russian government. Manafort, who was copied on the emails, attended a meeting a few days later with Trump Jr. and his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, who were joined by multiple people with ties to the Kremlin. These revelations sparked a firestorm, with Democrats and some Republicans calling on Trump Jr. and Manafort speak with the Senate Intelligence Committee, as Kushner now plans to do in closed session Monday. The president’s son tweeted that he would be "happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know." But, unlike with the Intelligence Committee, testimony before the Judiciary Committee would necessarily unfold in public — training the spotlight squarely on the president’s son at a moment when the administration is already under intense scrutiny. Reached by phone Thursday, Senate historian Betty Koed could recall just one instance of a sitting president’s child testifying to Congress: when President George H.W. Bush’s son Neil Bush appeared before the House Banking Committee in 1990. But Democrats controlled the House at that time, casting a partisan light on the decision to call [...]



On Sessions, Trump Ignores the Facts and the Law

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- It is no surprise, but it is still a shock, to see how little President Trump understands about the independence of the Justice Department and the importance of the rule of law. Trump's jaw-dropping interview with The New York Times featured an unprecedented and unvarnished invitation to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to quit, an invitation Sessions on Thursday declined, at least for now. Sessions' sin is failing to do his job, which, as Trump sees it, is not overseeing the impartial administration of justice but assiduously protecting the legal interests of Donald J....WASHINGTON -- It is no surprise, but it is still a shock, to see how little President Trump understands about the independence of the Justice Department and the importance of the rule of law. Trump's jaw-dropping interview with The New York Times featured an unprecedented and unvarnished invitation to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to quit, an invitation Sessions on Thursday declined, at least for now. Sessions' sin is failing to do his job, which, as Trump sees it, is not overseeing the impartial administration of justice but assiduously protecting the legal interests of Donald J. Trump. Thus, in Trump's view, it was "very unfair to the president" -- actually, "extremely unfair, and that's a mild word" -- for Sessions to have recused himself from overseeing the department's probe into Russian meddling into the election and the possible role of the Trump campaign. Let us review the facts and the law. The facts: Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump and served as a close campaign adviser. That is conflict enough, but he piled conflict on conflict by meeting during the campaign with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and then omitting to inform the Senate Judiciary Committee of the meetings when questioned about it. The law: Justice Department regulations provide that "no employee shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship" with the subject of the investigation or "any person or organization which he knows has a specific and substantial interest that would be directly affected by the outcome of the investigation or prosecution." A political relationship "means a close identification with an elected official ... arising from service as a principal adviser thereto." So Sessions' situation and the question of whether he could oversee the Russia investigation isn't a close call. As Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, "That regulation states, in effect, that department employees should not participate in investigations of a campaign if they have served as a campaign adviser." In other words, it's a no-brainer, at least if you understand basic concepts of conflict of interest. What Trump perceives as betrayal is Ethics 101. Trump's related argument -- that Sessions at the very least should have given him a head's up in advance so that he could have picked a different attorney general at the start -- suffers from a similar flaw. A different attorney general might not have needed to recuse himself, but in the end that attorney general would have come to the same conclusion as the deputy left acting in Sessions' place, that a special counsel was required to oversee the investigation. Again, the law: Justice Department regulations require appointment of a special counsel when the attorney general, or someone acting in his stead, determines that investigation through the normal departmental processes "would present a conflict of interest for the Dep[...]



Tax Reform Obstacle; Voter Fraud; Mattis' Tech Focus; Man on the Moon

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Thursday, July 20, 2017. Forty-eight years ago today, on their fourth day in space, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins made final preparations toward accomplishing the goal President Kennedy had set eight years earlier -- and that human beings had dreamed of for millennia. At 4:18 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, the landing vehicle known as Eagle, with Armstrong and Aldrin aboard, separated from the command module and began its historic descent to a place on the moon’s surface named the Sea of...Good morning, it’s Thursday, July 20, 2017. Forty-eight years ago today, on their fourth day in space, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins made final preparations toward accomplishing the goal President Kennedy had set eight years earlier -- and that human beings had dreamed of for millennia. At 4:18 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, the landing vehicle known as Eagle, with Armstrong and Aldrin aboard, separated from the command module and began its historic descent to a place on the moon’s surface named the Sea of Tranquility. At the completion of this cosmic event, Armstrong radioed back to Mission Control in Houston a simple four-word message that became an iconic expression in the American language: “The Eagle has landed.” I’ll have more on this historic pivot point in a moment. As many of you know, these daily essays are the format of my new book, “ON THIS DATE: From the Pilgrims to Today, Discovering America One Day at a Time.” I’ll be discussing it at 6:30 this evening at Kramerbooks & Afterwords at DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C. I’d also point you, as I do each day, to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * GOP Divide Threatens 2018 Budget -- and Tax Overhaul. The House Budget Committee passed its fiscal blueprint for next year, but trouble lies ahead for Republicans’ broader goals, James Arkin reports. Trump Panel Hunts for Voter Fraud Evidence. Alexis Simendinger has the story.  Defense Secretary Listening Tour to Focus on Technology. Jim Mattis wants assurance that the military is up to speed on artificial intelligence, software and other innovations. Sandra Erwin has the details in RealClearDefense. Empowering the Administrative State. In the fourth part of RealClearPolicy's series, Nicholas Bagley tells M. Anthony Mills that critiques of executive power miss the mark. The accompanying podcast is here. A Sensible Constraint on State Sales Tax. Also in RCPolicy, Skip Estes makes a case against taxing online retailers. Why Repeal What Is Already Dying? RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny writes that repeal of Obamacare would have been an impressive headline for the GOP, but the short- and long-term politics of repeal would have been worse than doing nothing. A World Without Antibiotics. At RealClearHealth, Tanya Parish explains the population-level dangers of not taking a complete antibiotic course. 6 "Common" Medical Conditions That Do Not Exist. RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy describes several modern-day maladies that are disorders of the imagination rather than the body. How a Hair Metal Band Wrote One of the Gre[...]



GOP Divide Threatens 2018 Budget -- and Tax Overhaul

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

The House Budget Committee passed its fiscal blueprint for next year Wednesday evening with unanimous GOP support, but intra-party divisions threaten to derail the measure in the full House, jeopardizing plans to pass an overhaul of the tax code, a key legislative priority of President Trump and congressional Republicans. It’s a familiar position for the party: Hard-line conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus are frustrated that the conference isn’t pushing further to curb spending; moderates are wary that they’re pushing too far; and those supportive of the...The House Budget Committee passed its fiscal blueprint for next year Wednesday evening with unanimous GOP support, but intra-party divisions threaten to derail the measure in the full House, jeopardizing plans to pass an overhaul of the tax code, a key legislative priority of President Trump and congressional Republicans. It’s a familiar position for the party: Hard-line conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus are frustrated that the conference isn’t pushing further to curb spending; moderates are wary that they’re pushing too far; and those supportive of the budget are concerned that detractors are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. The budget committee passed the GOP’s fiscal year 2018 budget along party lines late Wednesday evening after a marathon committee markup that lasted nearly 12 hours. Committee Chairman Diane Black said she is proud of the work done by the committee and that the budget is "a plan that the entire House Republican conference can support and will form the cornerstone of our legislative agenda" in this Congress. But conservatives insist it doesn’t have the support to pass on the House floor next week before members depart for the annual August recess.  Unless negotiations bear fruit by the end of next week, the odds of significant action on tax reform – already an extremely difficult legislative task to complete before the end of the year – will dim even further. With efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act flagging in the Senate, many Republicans turned their eyes toward tax reform as the party’s best chance for a major legislative win this year. Those efforts are underway, with both the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee holding preliminary hearings this week on comprehensive tax reform. But Republicans are using the same budget reconciliation process for tax reform that they used for health care, which allows them to bypass a filibuster in the Senate and pass a plan without Democratic support. Failing to pass a budget to create the vehicle for tax reform would mean any tax legislation would need Democratic votes to pass.   “People need to remember that reconciliation is a train car, and you’re just voting to have a train car. Tax reform is what you vote to put on that train car,” Rep. Bill Flores, a Texas Republican, told RealClearPolitics. “I don’t think you can connect the votes today and say I’m not going to vote for the train car, because all that does is make absolutely sure that you don’t have tax reform.” Conservatives, however, disagree. They feel frustrated by the seven-month process on health care, which was jump-started by a vote on a budget in January despite few agreed-upon details on the Obamacare repeal plan. They want assurances on elements of the tax overhaul before they agree to ba[...]



Venezuela's Maduro, Foes Head Into Crucial Showdown

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his opponents face a crucial showdown Thursday as the country's opposition calls the first national strike since 2002 stoppage that failed to topple Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez. Fifteen years later, Chavez's socialist party controls vast swathes of the Venezuelan economy, making it harder to bring the country to a halt. Easing the opposition's task is the fact that much of the economy is already faltering, hamstrung by a plunge in oil prices and years of corruption and mismanagement. The 24-hour strike...CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his opponents face a crucial showdown Thursday as the country's opposition calls the first national strike since 2002 stoppage that failed to topple Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez. Fifteen years later, Chavez's socialist party controls vast swathes of the Venezuelan economy, making it harder to bring the country to a halt. Easing the opposition's task is the fact that much of the economy is already faltering, hamstrung by a plunge in oil prices and years of corruption and mismanagement. The 24-hour strike is meant to begin at 6 a.m. as an expression of national disapproval of Maduro's plan to convene a constitutional assembly that would reshape the Venezuelan system to consolidate the ruling party's power over the few institutions that remain outside its control. The opposition is boycotting a July 30 election to select members of the assembly. The country's largest business group, Fedecamaras, has cautiously avoided full endorsement of the strike but its members have told employees that they won't be punished for coming to work. Fedecamaras played a central role in the months-long 2002-2003 strike that Chavez's political rivals and opponents in Venezuela's private business sector orchestrated in an attempt to topple him. Chavez emerged from the strike and exerted control over the private sector with years of expropriations, strict regulations and imports bought with oil money and meant to replace local production. Business groups estimate that 150,000 Venezuelan businesses have closed over the last 15 years. "This is a work stoppage by civil society. He who wants to work, work. Who wants to stop, stop," said Francisco Martinez, the president of Fedecamaras. Government-run industries will remain open and Labor Minister Nestor Ovalles said the Maduro administration would punish private companies that close in sympathy with the strike. "We won't allow, and we'll be closely watching, any disruption that violates the working class' right to work," Ovalles said. "Businesses that join the strike will be punished." The business group's incoming president, economist Carlos Larrazabal, said the strike would be of limited duration to avoid worsening Venezuela's already dire shortages of food and other basic products. "Inventory levels right are very precarious," Larrazabal said. "If the supply chains are affected more than they are right now, we could have a bigger problem." However, the Venezuelan Workers' Confederation, a labor coalition with ties to the opposition, said at least 12 of its 20 member organizations across the country had decided to join the strike. Transportation workers in the capital, Caracas, also said they would participate. "There's an appeal to the conscience of the Venezuelan people," said Pedro Jimenez, head of a major transport workers' union. "There won't be transportation ser[...]



Trump Election Panel Hunts for Voter Fraud Evidence

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

A tweet by President Trump launched a nationwide search for something widely viewed as so fictional – a U.S. election swayed by fraudulently cast ballots – that the first meeting Wednesday of the president’s new voter fraud commission attracted mostly skepticism from experts not in the room. From the panel’s mission, to the team Trump appointed, to the group’s research tools and resources, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has been dismissed as an elaborate cover for Trump’s favorite myth: his assertion that...A tweet by President Trump launched a nationwide search for something widely viewed as so fictional – a U.S. election swayed by fraudulently cast ballots – that the first meeting Wednesday of the president’s new voter fraud commission attracted mostly skepticism from experts not in the room. From the panel’s mission, to the team Trump appointed, to the group’s research tools and resources, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has been dismissed as an elaborate cover for Trump’s favorite myth: his assertion that the popular vote last year went to Hillary Clinton because of 3 million to 5 million illegal ballots. In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016 “You will approach this important task with a very open mind and with no conclusions already drawn,” the president told co-chairs Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, plus 10 appointed commissioners. “For years, claims of fraud have been used to justify unwarranted voting restrictions. There is strong reason to suspect this commission is not a legitimate attempt to study elections, but rather a tool for enabling voter suppression,” the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice said in a statement.  Trump, surrounded by American flags, hailed the commission as objective just seconds after describing his worries that “very large numbers of people” voted illegally in November. “This issue is very important to me because throughout the campaign and even after, people would come up to me and expressed their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities, which they saw, in some cases, [as] having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states,” he said. The president wasn’t the only person in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building eager to compile research to support a hypothesis. Kobach, who is running for governor in Kansas, has a reputation for prosecuting people in his state for election violations. He boasted of seeing eight convictions in cases where Kansans cast more than one ballot, and he wants to cross-check federal data about non-citizens in the country and people who are deceased against state data and get to the bottom of how many people nationwide are registered to vote in more than one state (which is not illegal).  The commission’s initial request to all 50 states for access to their public voter roll data was greeted with such skepticism outside of Washington that dozens of states refused to cooperate or limited submissions, citing state laws and privacy concerns. A few states have reported that voters in noticeable numbers are unregistering t[...]



Remembering Apollo 1

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong famously took "one small step for a man" and "one giant leap for mankind." He and Buzz Aldrin stepped into the history books that day as the living embodiment of an amazing technological achievement. We'll hear a lot more about that trip in the coming years as we approach the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing. The story will be told of the U.S. responding to the Sputnik satellite and the fear that gripped many when Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth. Our nation caught up when John Glenn took three trips...On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong famously took "one small step for a man" and "one giant leap for mankind." He and Buzz Aldrin stepped into the history books that day as the living embodiment of an amazing technological achievement. We'll hear a lot more about that trip in the coming years as we approach the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing. The story will be told of the U.S. responding to the Sputnik satellite and the fear that gripped many when Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth. Our nation caught up when John Glenn took three trips around the earth in Freedom 7. After that, stunning breakthroughs became routine until the Apollo 11 mission than finally put two men on the moon. As the narrative unfolds, however, we're not likely to hear much about Apollo 1. And, it's a story that should be told as a reminder that great accomplishments come with great risks and a high cost. On January 27, 1967, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee climbed into the Command Module for a launch rehearsal. Grissom was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts and had been into space on a pair of earlier missions. White had become the first American to walk in space on the Gemini 4 mission in 1965. Chaffee was looking forward to his first flight after years of training. Tragically, a fire broke out in the Command Module on that day and there was no way to release the hatch from the inside. The three men suffered a horrific death and images of the charred Command Module shook the nation. All three men left behind a wife and young children. Viewed from the perspective of the 21st century, perhaps the most amazing thing about the story is how quickly the space agency regrouped and put men into orbit again. In today's world, politicians and bureaucrats might have shut the program down completely. Back then, there were Congressional hearings, but unmanned test flights continued. It took just 20 months before Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham flew a redesigned Command Module into space on Apollo 7. The courage displayed by those three men was an essential part of the successful race to the moon. Throughout the flight, there was tension between the crew and ground controllers, perhaps a natural result of knowing what had happened to their friends and colleagues on Apollo 1. After that, events moved quickly. In December 1968, Apollo 8 orbited the moon. In March, Apollo 9 flew the Lunar Module for the first time. Apollo 10 flew to within just a few miles of the lunar surface in May of 1969 and Apollo 11 made history in July. Today, private companies are leading the return to space. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is spending a billion dollars a year to fund Blue Origin with hopes of building a colony on the lunar surface. His dreams of conquering space were inspired by watching Neil Armstrong's firs[...]



Once Washington Gives a Program Life, It's Hard to Kill

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Has America reached the point where, once Washington has expanded a program, not even the new spending's most vociferous critics dare to cut it back? President Donald Trump's efforts to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act shout that the answer is yes. Before Trump won in November, the GOP House had voted repeatedly to terminate Obamacare; the Senate passed a repeal measure in 2015. When President Barack Obama was around to veto their handiwork, Republicans saw little downside in voting to repeal Obama's signature legislation. Now that...WASHINGTON -- Has America reached the point where, once Washington has expanded a program, not even the new spending's most vociferous critics dare to cut it back? President Donald Trump's efforts to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act shout that the answer is yes. Before Trump won in November, the GOP House had voted repeatedly to terminate Obamacare; the Senate passed a repeal measure in 2015. When President Barack Obama was around to veto their handiwork, Republicans saw little downside in voting to repeal Obama's signature legislation. Now that Republicans control the White House, Senate and House, there is no one standing in their way but themselves. House Speaker Paul Ryan corralled the votes needed to pass a measure in the House. It wasn't easy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to herd 52 GOP senators behind a Senate version of Trumpcare. Like Ryan, he watched as what was done to woo moderates cost support from the GOP base. What pleased the hard-liners horrified the moderates. Four senators announced they'd oppose the Better Care Reconciliation Act, and that was that. So McConnell proposed a vote on a straight-up repeal of Obamacare. That should be a smart move -- 52 Republicans passed such a bill in 2015. But Tuesday three GOP senators scotched that idea, including two senators -- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia -- who voted to repeal Obamacare in 2015. Still, McConnell is expected to put a repeal-only measure to a vote next week and it is expected to fail. "In some ways, it took everyone by surprise" that the GOP efforts failed, said Center on Budget and Policy Priorities senior fellow Aviva Aron-Dine, but "in other ways it seems baked in." Voters "overwhelmingly didn't want to see it repealed and replaced." Over the last six months, voters started to like the formerly unpopular package. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that 51 percent of voters viewed Obamacare favorably, and 41 percent did not. "It's hard to get rid of everything," Tea Party Express chief strategist Sal Russo observed. "Every program has something for somebody." Galen Institute senior fellow Doug Badger explained the two facets of the Affordable Care Act -- "what you're taking away from roughly 16 million people who are gaining coverage or what you're doing to the tens of millions of people" who are priced out of the market or are paying more for less coverage. "It's a fight about money," said Badger. Democrats shrewdly gave federal dollars to states that expanded Medicaid coverage to able-bodied childless adults -- that assured the support of governors who opted into that plan. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed on in order to get coverage for 210,000 Nevadans. Sandoval joined 10 other governors in a bipartisan statement that urged the Senate to "immediately re[...]



Why Obamacare Won and Trump Lost

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The collapse of the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a monumental political defeat wrought by a party and a president that never took health care policy or the need to bring coverage to millions of Americans seriously. But their bungling also demonstrates that the intense attention to Obamacare over the last six months has fundamentally altered our nation's health care debate. Supporters of the 2010 law cannot rest easy as long as the current Congress remains in office and as long as Donald Trump occupies the White House. Congress can undermine the act...WASHINGTON -- The collapse of the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a monumental political defeat wrought by a party and a president that never took health care policy or the need to bring coverage to millions of Americans seriously. But their bungling also demonstrates that the intense attention to Obamacare over the last six months has fundamentally altered our nation's health care debate. Supporters of the 2010 law cannot rest easy as long as the current Congress remains in office and as long as Donald Trump occupies the White House. Congress can undermine the act through sharp Medicaid cuts in the budget process and other measures. And Trump, placing his own self-esteem and political standing over the health and security of millions of Americans, has threatened to wreck the system. "We'll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us," Trump said after it became obvious that the Senate could not pass a bill. But if Obamacare does implode, it will not be under its own weight but because Trump and his team take specific administrative and legal steps to prevent it from working. "I'm not going to own it," Trump insisted. But he will. And if Trump does go down the path of policy nihilism, it will be the task of journalists to show that it is the president doing everything in his power to choke off this lifeline for the sick and the needy. As long as "repeal Obamacare" was simply a slogan, what the law actually did was largely obscured behind attitudes toward the former president. But the Affordable Care Act's core provisions were always broadly popular, particularly its protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions and the big increase in the number of insured it achieved. The prospect of losing these benefits moved many of the previously indifferent to resist its repeal. And the name doesn't matter so much with Obama out of office. To the surprise of some on both sides, the debate brought home the popularity of Medicaid, which for the first time received the sort of broad public defense usually reserved for Medicare and Social Security. The big cuts Republicans proposed to the program paradoxically highlighted how it assisted many different parts of the population. This creates an opening for a new push to expand Medicaid under the ACA in the 19 states that have resisted it, which would add 4 million to 5 million to the ranks of the insured. Republicans also found, as they did during the budget battles of the 1990s, that when they tie their big tax cuts for the wealthy to substantial reductions in benefits for a much broader group of Americans, a large majority will turn on them and their tax proposals. For critics of the GOP's tax-cutting obsession, said Jacob Leibenluft of the Center on[...]



When Institutions Go Left

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- I have recently been reminded of one of my earliest conclusions about the American left. I arrived at that conclusion when it was relatively civilized. In those days, we called it American liberalism, but even then it was fla fla. My conclusion was that when any entity falls under the dominance of liberalism, it loses all sense of its fundamental purpose. A city loses all sense of its purpose, which is governance. A university loses all sense of its purpose, which is education. You name the entity -- if it falls under the dominance of liberalism, it becomes utterly confused as...WASHINGTON -- I have recently been reminded of one of my earliest conclusions about the American left. I arrived at that conclusion when it was relatively civilized. In those days, we called it American liberalism, but even then it was fla fla. My conclusion was that when any entity falls under the dominance of liberalism, it loses all sense of its fundamental purpose. A city loses all sense of its purpose, which is governance. A university loses all sense of its purpose, which is education. You name the entity -- if it falls under the dominance of liberalism, it becomes utterly confused as to its goal. Now, under liberalism's more extreme evolutionary stage, called progressivism or leftism, progressives and the left cannot even maintain a public toilet facility for men or women. Going to the bathroom at a public comfort station today can be a source of embarrassment, or even an actionable civil rights matter where the left is in charge. Yet the excellent Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump's wise choice for secretary of education, is weighing in on the Obama administration's torturing of Title IX. Then-President Obama made sexual abuse on federally funded campuses a federal offense in 2011. Last week, Secretary DeVos brought together aggrieved students who say they have been raped, aggrieved students who say the sex was consensual or, perhaps, did not happen at all, and university administrators and parents to sort the whole thing out. Frankly, I think when such charges begin to fly, the university should call in the cops and stick with what a university's real purpose is: education. That is difficult enough. Law enforcement is fully equipped to deal with charges of sex crimes. About the time Secretary DeVos called her meeting last week, a left-wing university was finishing its long and preposterous ordeal that proves my point. It has lost all sense of what its purpose is, to wit, education, not patrolling the campus for sex deviants or violent criminals. If serious infractions of the law are alleged, call in the cops. In 2012, a Columbia University student, Emma Sulkowicz, accused a fellow student of sodomizing her without her permission. She filed a complaint with the university and, according to The New York Times, a university panel "found him not responsible." Then, more than a year and a half later, she filed a police report. But, apparently, something intervened and she stopped talking with the police. Hence, no charges were brought. Yet she continued to voice here complaints on campus, and they gained attention. In the time between Sulkowicz's unhappy encounter and her graduation, she was apparently quite active. Her complaints led to a demonstration against the alleged assailant. Two more girls [...]



A Winning Strategy to Repeal Obamacare

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

When President Ronald Reagan was asked why he settled for a 5 percent tax cut in 1981, half what he had proposed, he answered that "half a loaf is better than none." That's good advice right now. This week's news that the Senate failed to repeal Obamacare is a bitter disappointment to the 18 million people in the individual market struggling with unaffordable premiums and deductibles. It's also bad news for another 8 million who are opting to pay hefty penalties rather than buy those unaffordable plans. And things are only getting worse. Health insurers are asking for...When President Ronald Reagan was asked why he settled for a 5 percent tax cut in 1981, half what he had proposed, he answered that "half a loaf is better than none." That's good advice right now. This week's news that the Senate failed to repeal Obamacare is a bitter disappointment to the 18 million people in the individual market struggling with unaffordable premiums and deductibles. It's also bad news for another 8 million who are opting to pay hefty penalties rather than buy those unaffordable plans. And things are only getting worse. Health insurers are asking for giant rate increases this fall, as high as 50 percent in Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia. Ouch. If members of Congress were feeling the same pain, they'd be more focused on repealing and replacing the collapsing law. But they've got a sweetheart deal. Even though the Affordable Care Act requires them to purchase their coverage on Obamacare exchanges and follow the same rules as the rest of us, President Obama set up a way for them to weasel out of it They get to choose from 57 gold plans and have John Q. Public pick up most of the tab. Meanwhile, in nearly half the counties in the nation, ordinary folks will have only one insurer available. Or none at all. Congress needs to stop horsing around. Republican Senators lack a majority to fully repeal and replace Obamacare. Resistance to Medicaid reform is holding up the works. At least six GOP Senators won't budge. The way forward is to set aside reforming Medicaid for another day, and pass a repeal bill immediately to undo the coercive individual mandate, the job-killing employer mandate and the Obamacare regulations that are making private insurance unaffordable. The Affordable Care Act is actually two laws glued together. First, there's the vast expansion of Medicaid, the public program serving the poor and disabled. That's where most of the previously uninsured gained coverage. Second, there's a federal takeover of the private insurance market, previously regulated by each state. Since several Republican Senators are balking at changing Medicaid, GOP leaders should pass the other half of repeal and replace, to rescue consumers in the individual market. There's no reason not to seize half a victory. Republicans have enough votes in both the House and Senate to pass a bill that gives consumers choices, premium relief and generous protections for people with pre-existing conditions. There's a consensus that people with pre-existing conditions should be able to get insurance and not be spending much more than anyone else. Republicans and Democrats agree on that. The issue is who pays the hefty price tag for their care. Obamacare forced healthy buyers in the individual market to foot the entire[...]



Collusion? What About Chinagate and Ted Kennedy's Outreach to the USSR?

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

During President Bill Clinton's 1996 campaign for re-election, several individuals allegedly worked on behalf of the Chinese government to influence the presidential election in favor of Clinton. "Chinagate" began when the Los Angeles Times reported, a couple months before the '96 election, the following: "The Democratic National Committee has returned a $250,000 contribution from a recently established subsidiary of a South Korean electronics company because it violated a ban on donations from foreign nationals in U.S. elections, a party spokesman said Friday....During President Bill Clinton's 1996 campaign for re-election, several individuals allegedly worked on behalf of the Chinese government to influence the presidential election in favor of Clinton. "Chinagate" began when the Los Angeles Times reported, a couple months before the '96 election, the following: "The Democratic National Committee has returned a $250,000 contribution from a recently established subsidiary of a South Korean electronics company because it violated a ban on donations from foreign nationals in U.S. elections, a party spokesman said Friday. ... "David Eichenbaum, DNC communications director ... said that the DNC fund-raiser who was responsible for the contribution was under the impression, erroneously as it turned out, that it fulfilled the legal qualifications. He said it was unclear whether the fund-raiser was misled or there had been a misunderstanding." DNC did the standard "Oops, we made a boo-boo, here's your money back, it's all OK now" dog and pony show. That worked for a while. But a few months later, on Feb. 13, 1997, The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Brian Duffy reported: "A Justice Department investigation into improper political fund-raising activities has uncovered evidence that representatives of the People's Republic of China sought to direct contributions from foreign sources to the Democratic National Committee before the 1996 presidential campaign, officials familiar with the inquiry said. ... "The Chinese effort to win influence with the Clinton administration can be traced to 1993, one source said. ... Some investigators suspected a Chinese connection to the current fund-raising scandal because several DNC contributors and major fund-raisers had ties to Beijing. Last February, Charles Yah Lin Trie, a fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee, used his influence with party officials to bring Wang Jun, head of a weapons trading company owned by the Chinese military, to a White House coffee with Clinton. "Wang also heads a prominent, state-owned investment conglomerate. Clinton has since said he should not have met with Wang, and $640,000 in checks that Trie delivered to president's legal defense fund has been returned because of questions about the source of the funds." The DNC vice chairman and fundraiser at the center of the DNC's illegal contribution was formerly a top executive involved with Asian and Chinese corporations, with some holdings sold to the Chinese government. Before joining the DNC, he left his corporate job with a large severance and worked at the Commerce Department for 18 months, where he enjoyed a top-secret clearance. Evidence showed more than 70 calls from his Commerce office to a bank controlled by his former[...]



Curbing Traffic Stops Would Save Lives

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

Last weekend, in the wee hours of the night, Chicago police stopped a car carrying four people. When officers approached it, they saw a passenger holding a gun. The outcome was a familiar one: an 18-year-old man was shot by police. Too often, traffic stops lead to tragedy. Philando Castile was shot to death in his car by a police officer in Minnesota. Last week, a mistrial was declared for a University of Cincinnati officer prosecuted for killing 43-year-old Samuel DuBose, whose car had a missing front license plate. Sandra Bland, yanked out of her car by a Texas state trooper after allegedly...Last weekend, in the wee hours of the night, Chicago police stopped a car carrying four people. When officers approached it, they saw a passenger holding a gun. The outcome was a familiar one: an 18-year-old man was shot by police. Too often, traffic stops lead to tragedy. Philando Castile was shot to death in his car by a police officer in Minnesota. Last week, a mistrial was declared for a University of Cincinnati officer prosecuted for killing 43-year-old Samuel DuBose, whose car had a missing front license plate. Sandra Bland, yanked out of her car by a Texas state trooper after allegedly failing to signal a lane change, died in jail. All three victims were black. Cops are also at risk. In March, a police officer died in a shootout with a passenger who ran from a car that had been pulled over in Tecumseh, Okla. In June, a police lieutenant was fatally gunned down after a stop in Newport, Arkansas. When an officer stops and approaches a vehicle, both the cop and the driver are in vulnerable. Any wrong move or misjudgment can turn the encounter deadly. "Traffic stops and domestic violence are the highest-risk calls -- you have no idea what you're walking into," John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, told the Orlando Sentinel in 2010. Even when motorists get off unharmed, the experience can be frightening, infuriating or humiliating. Stops breed fear and distrust of law enforcement, particularly among minorities. So why do cops rely so much on the practice? Enforcing traffic laws is a large share of what they do. Ignoring motorists who drive too fast or ignore signals could foster chaos on the road. But there are other ways to combat bad driving. University of California, Berkeley law professor Christopher Kutz points out that police in France do traffic stops at less than one-third the rate that American cops do. In England and Wales, it's one-fourth. The obvious alternative is using cameras. Speeders and red-light runners can be detected and ticketed by electronic means. Upon paying the fine, says Kutz, the offenders could be required to show that they are licensed and insured. I've gotten citations from red-light and speed cameras, and while I resented the fines, I was grateful that I wasn't detained on the roadside by an armed officer. The time I got a mere warning for (barely) failing to come to a complete stop on an empty suburban street after midnight was considerably less pleasant. Being a gray-haired white male, I've been pulled over only three times in my adult life. Castile, 32, had been through that experience 49 times -- and "was rarely ticketed for the reason he was sto[...]



Not Enough Exercise, Too Much: Americans Polarized Here, Too

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

The boarding process for a recent flight required going up a modest set of stairs. Greatly slowing it all was a woman carrying at least 80 more pounds than were optimal. Every step was a labored exertion. She looked to be in her 40s and in the bloom of health other than the excess weight. I thought: "This can't be fun. Why doesn't she take better care of herself?" Later in mid-air, I'm reading about a life-threatening condition that has been sending fitness fanatics to the hospital. Rhabdomyolysis causes horrible pain, turns the urine brown and threatens the kidneys....The boarding process for a recent flight required going up a modest set of stairs. Greatly slowing it all was a woman carrying at least 80 more pounds than were optimal. Every step was a labored exertion. She looked to be in her 40s and in the bloom of health other than the excess weight. I thought: "This can't be fun. Why doesn't she take better care of herself?" Later in mid-air, I'm reading about a life-threatening condition that has been sending fitness fanatics to the hospital. Rhabdomyolysis causes horrible pain, turns the urine brown and threatens the kidneys. Cases are rare but seen in exercisers engaged in killer workouts, notably brutal Spinning sessions (stationary bicycle drills). The stricken tend to be new to the exercise, and their bodies haven't adjusted to the physical demands. Even on the matter of fitness, our population has become polarized. Large numbers have surrendered to obesity, while others seem willing to suffer hugely in pursuit of uber-fitness. So many of us, it seems, cannot enjoy good health in a relaxed way. This could be linked to diverging social and economic trends. There are people who've basically given up on themselves in multiple ways. And there are perfectionists driven to excel in every endeavor. They're not necessarily on the path to wisdom, either. "Extreme exercise" may be propelling some marathoners toward an early death, according to a piece three years ago in The New Yorker. Cardiologists argued that it damages the heart and can be blamed for sudden deaths among some heralded athletes. Dr. John Mandrola, a heart doctor at Baptist Medical Associates in Louisville, Kentucky, himself a former elite cyclist, saw the problem as psychological as well as medical. It involved a constellation of questionable lifestyle choices. "The inflammation of excess," he called it. "It's not just being on that edge in a race," Mandrola said. "It's being there in training, at home, at work, and for decades. Always on the gas -- yes, this is the problem." I live surrounded by both wings of the fitness spectrum. But there is also a centrist group to which I seek membership. The third way combines a moderate exercise regimen with a way of life that incorporates exercise in everyday activities. The members garden. They walk, and they vacuum. They peel carrots as they cook generally healthy meals. My gym has a device called "the sled." The sled is basically a heavy platform. The muscle guys pile it up with weights and then push the big thing across a resistant floor covering of fake grass. Whenever my real grass needs mowing, the sled comes to mind. On muggy days I'd rather do my taxes all over again[...]



Was Donald Trump Jr.'s Russian Meeting a Criminal Act?

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

Last week, The New York Times revealed that in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son; Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and chief confidant; Paul Manafort, Trump's then-campaign chief executive; and others met secretly at Trump Tower with a former Russian prosecutor and a former Soviet counterintelligence agent to discuss what negative (most likely computer-generated) information the Russians might have to offer them about Hillary Clinton. Within days of the meeting, the elder Trump announced publicly that he would soon release a litany of reasons why...Last week, The New York Times revealed that in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son; Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and chief confidant; Paul Manafort, Trump's then-campaign chief executive; and others met secretly at Trump Tower with a former Russian prosecutor and a former Soviet counterintelligence agent to discuss what negative (most likely computer-generated) information the Russians might have to offer them about Hillary Clinton. Within days of the meeting, the elder Trump announced publicly that he would soon release a litany of reasons why Clinton was unqualified to be president and that they would include new allegations about Clinton and Russia. The new allegations did not come. When the Times reporters asked the younger Trump about the meeting last week, he initially claimed it concerned Americans adopting Russian babies. Then he claimed it was about Russian concerns over American economic sanctions on select Russians. When the reporters told him they had his emails, which tell a different story, he released his emails to the public so as to beat the Times to the punch. Then, media hell broke loose about whether the Trump campaign was working with the Russians to acquire information about Clinton, and, particularly, whether any Trump campaign officials engaged in criminal behavior. Here is the backstory: No seasoned campaign official would have met with foreign people, particularly former government officials, in order to discuss any materials they might have about an opponent, because the acquisition of materials from a foreign person or government is illegal under federal law. The inquiry that Donald Jr. received from a friend who served as an intermediary between the Trump campaign and the Russians should have been run past the campaign's legal counsel, who no doubt would have told his colleagues to stay clear of such a proposed meeting, and then reported the overture to the FBI. Donald Jr. claims that the meeting lasted 20 to 30 minutes and produced nothing of value or of interest to the campaign. Yet the emails paint a picture of him as hungry for dirt on Hillary ("if it's what you say I love it," he wrote), and ready, willing and able to meet with the Russians to see what they had. Was Donald Jr.'s meeting a criminal act? Standing alone, the meeting itself was probably not a criminal act. But the varying versions of it that have been given by the president and his son (Were you lying then, or are you lying now?); and the failure of Kushner, who has a national security clearance, to advise the FBI of it in his application for the security clear[...]



GOP Rep. Messer Blames Senate for Inaction, Mulls Bid

2017-07-20T00:00:00Z

Indiana Rep. Luke Messer, a member of Republican leadership in the House and potential 2018 Senate candidate, wouldn’t commit to a run for the upper chamber Thursday, but said he’s frustrated by Senate inaction on GOP legislative priorities. Messer, in an interview for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program, said he and his House colleagues are upset this week at the Senate’s apparent failure to corral enough votes to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. “There are a majority of senators who have promised the American people...Indiana Rep. Luke Messer, a member of Republican leadership in the House and potential 2018 Senate candidate, wouldn’t commit to a run for the upper chamber Thursday, but said he’s frustrated by Senate inaction on GOP legislative priorities. Messer, in an interview for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program, said he and his House colleagues are upset this week at the Senate’s apparent failure to corral enough votes to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. “There are a majority of senators who have promised the American people that they would repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better,” Messer said in the interview. “My House colleagues, we’ve passed a bill. We sent a bill to the Senate that does that, and so far we’ve gotten crickets. We’ve gotten noting and that’s not acceptable.” Yet despite his frustration with the upper chamber, Messer is considered likely to run for a spot in the Senate next year. Indiana’s Joe Donnelly is up for re-election and is considered one of the more vulnerable Democrats next year after President Trump won the state by nearly 20 percentage points. The three-term congressman declined to say whether he would run, noting he and his family would make that decision “in the coming days and weeks.” But he said the current crop of Senate Republicans isn’t getting the job done. “Right now, we’re not where we want to be as a Republican leadership team. We’ve got to deliver more for the country,” Messer said. “There’s been a lot done over the last six months but it’s difficult to get major legislative items through the Senate if you don’t have a full team over there.” Messer isn’t the only House Republican interested in challenging Donnelly, however. Rep. Todd Rokita is widely expected to run as well, which could set up a brutal primary next year -- Rokita and Messer have already traded criticisms in recent weeks, though neither is an official candidate and the primary isn’t until May 2018. Messer said he’s spoken to Vice President Pence, the former congressman and governor from Indiana, about the race, though he declined to give specifics on what the two discussed. Messer holds Pence’s old congressional seat, and Pence’s brother is on Messer’s finance committee. “Certainly I’ve had some brief conversations there,” Messer said. “I appreciate his private counsel and I’ll leave it at that.” Correction: An earlier version[...]



And All for the Want of a Spine

2017-07-19T00:00:00Z

John McCain’s blood clot, which caused Republican Senate leadership to suspend formal consideration of Obamacare replacement, isn’t by far the Grand Old Party’s gravest malady. Nothing in the diagnostic manual of political afflictions compares with the near-complete disappearance of the party’s backbone. If it’s not one thing causing GOP senators and governors to equivocate on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, it’s something else: Medicaid expansion vs. Medicaid contraction; cheaper vs. costlier insurance policies; eligibility...John McCain’s blood clot, which caused Republican Senate leadership to suspend formal consideration of Obamacare replacement, isn’t by far the Grand Old Party’s gravest malady. Nothing in the diagnostic manual of political afflictions compares with the near-complete disappearance of the party’s backbone. If it’s not one thing causing GOP senators and governors to equivocate on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, it’s something else: Medicaid expansion vs. Medicaid contraction; cheaper vs. costlier insurance policies; eligibility for coverage of pre-existing conditions; contraception coverage; etc. Meanwhile a united Democratic Senate bloc watches with ill-disguised amusement. This is how you get things done in an age of political acrimony — you just do ’em. Good things, bad things, it doesn’t matter. You do ’em and wait to see what happens. Such was Democratic strategy when Obamacare was enacted — everything rolled together in a package under Harry Reid’s and, especially, Nancy Pelosi’s tutelage. Collaboration with the Enemy — Republicans — was a hanging offense. No Democrat opted for the discipline of Nancy’s noose. Obamacare passed without a single Republican vote cast in its favor, or even one Democratic vote cast against it. The circumstances of Obamacare’s birth indicated both the strength of the opposition to repeal and the necessity of Republican unity in overcoming that opposition. Alas, Democrats have proved to love Obamacare more than Republicans, as a body, detest it. The likelihood swells daily that the whole repeal-replace movement, once instrumental to the Republican political recovery of 2010-16, is a thing of hot air; an exercise in breast-beating and theoretical thinking. It becomes obvious, once again, that Republicans and Democrats are two parties — separate and distinct, with different drive wheels, different motives. They play different games. Democrats are naturals when it comes to offense; they love to batter down doors and burn down barns to get done those things they have decided for one reason or another need doing, such as the creation of a program of federally subsidized health care. Republicans by temperament play defense; they hold that line — or fail to hold it — and then fall back to work out terms that might make the situation a little less disagreeable than it was before. Republicans are never entirely unhappy with half a loaf. They think on how much less than half they could have gotten[...]



Manufacturing Hate for 'Made in America'

2017-07-19T00:00:00Z

It's "Made in America" week in Washington, D.C. You'd think this would be cause for bipartisan celebration. Who could be against highlighting the ingenuity, self-reliance and success of our nation's homegrown entrepreneurs and manufacturers? Enter Bill Kristol. The entrenched Beltway pundit ridiculed a festive kickoff event on Monday at the White House, where President Donald Trump hosted companies from all 50 states to showcase their American-made products. "Maybe it's just me," killjoy Kristol tweeted, "but I find something off-putting...It's "Made in America" week in Washington, D.C. You'd think this would be cause for bipartisan celebration. Who could be against highlighting the ingenuity, self-reliance and success of our nation's homegrown entrepreneurs and manufacturers? Enter Bill Kristol. The entrenched Beltway pundit ridiculed a festive kickoff event on Monday at the White House, where President Donald Trump hosted companies from all 50 states to showcase their American-made products. "Maybe it's just me," killjoy Kristol tweeted, "but I find something off-putting about turning the White House into an exhibition hall for American tchotchkes." (That's the Yiddish word for useless trinkets.) "Tchotchkes"? Tell that to the engineers at Hytrol, the Arkansas-based conveyor manufacturer that brought a mechanical display of its technology to the State Dining Room. Hytrol's late founder, Tom Loberg, started out as a gopher at an electronics parts factory during the Great Depression, worked his way up to designing Navy turbines, hydraulic pumps and cylinders, and entered the conveyor belt business after perfecting bag-transporting machinery for seed, grain and tobacco farmers. Hytrol's state-of-the-art products are now used by companies ranging from Amazon.com to Office Depot to leading pharmaceutical, retail, food and publishing conglomerates around the world. A pioneer in the materials handling industry, Hytrol employs 1,300 high-skilled workers and will rake in revenues of more than $200 million this year alone. "Tchotchkes"? Tell that to the employees of Wisconsin's Pierce Manufacturing, which displayed one of its 30,000 custom-built fire trucks on the White House front lawn. Pierce started out as an auto body shop operating out of a converted church and now boasts a 2,000-person workforce. The company produces the iconic aerial tillers, pumpers, tankers and rescue trucks driven by first responders across the country every day. "Tchotchkes"? Tell that to Iowa-based RMA Armament's founder Blake Waldrop, a former Marine and police officer, who was inspired to manufacture stronger body armor after losing a comrade in Iraq to an IED attack. His ceramic plates, also featured at the "Made in America" event on Monday, have been purchased by police departments in Baltimore, Los Angeles and Waterloo, Iowa. Waldrop is working on partnerships to bring his products to the U.S. military and overseas. "I always tell people I didn't invent armor any more than Steve Jobs invented the computer," Waldrop told the Des Moines Register earlier this year. "I just found a better way to do it,[...]



Deficits Forever?

2017-07-19T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans, who are now deliberating the government's 2018 budget, pledge to eliminate deficits within a decade. Well, good luck with that. It must be obvious that chronic deficits reflect a basic political impasse that can be broken only if majorities in Congress do things they've refused to do: trim Social Security benefits; raise taxes significantly; control health spending. There is a giant mismatch between what Americans want from government and what they'll pay for with taxes. Anyone who thinks otherwise should consult new figures from the...WASHINGTON -- House Republicans, who are now deliberating the government's 2018 budget, pledge to eliminate deficits within a decade. Well, good luck with that. It must be obvious that chronic deficits reflect a basic political impasse that can be broken only if majorities in Congress do things they've refused to do: trim Social Security benefits; raise taxes significantly; control health spending. There is a giant mismatch between what Americans want from government and what they'll pay for with taxes. Anyone who thinks otherwise should consult new figures from the Congressional Budget Office. They show how entrenched deficits have become. The table below, based on the CBO figures, compares three different budget plans for the decade from 2018 to 2027: (1) CBO's "baseline" budget, a projection of what current policies would produce; (2) the Trump administration's budget (there's much overlap with the House budget); and (3) Trump's budget as modified by the CBO to reflect what it considers more realistic assumptions. For each budget, the table includes the following: the rise in publicly held federal debt over the 10 years (the debt is the total of annual deficits); the debt in 2027 as a share of our economy (in 2016, debt was 77 percent of gross domestic product); and the deficit in 2027 as a share of GDP.  COMPARING BUDGETS OVER 10 YEARS   CBO Baseline Trump Trump/CBO modified Added Debt $10.1 trillion $3.2 tril $6.8 tril Debt/GDP 2027 91 percent 60 pct. 80 percent Deficit/GDP 2027 5.2 percent 0 2.6 percent The table's clearest message is that even the most optimistic budget -- Trump's -- involves heavy borrowing over the next decade, roughly $3 trillion on top of the outstanding $14 trillion debt at the end of 2016. Still, on paper, Trump's plan seems the most appealing. By 2027, it balances the budget, and the debt grows more slowly than the economy (GDP). There's the rub. To the CBO -- and many observers -- Trump's budget is fanciful. A big difference involves economic assumptions. The White House expects GDP to grow about 3 percent annually over the decade, much higher than the 1.9 percent that CBO and many private economists expect. The difference over a decade is worth about $3 trillion, mostly tax revenues. Faster economic growth generates higher revenues, because the tax base -- wages, salaries, profits -- is larger. Any viable budget plan faces a harder problem. As baby boomers retire, Social Security and Medicare spending increases, intensifying pressures to [...]



'That's Politics'

2017-07-19T00:00:00Z

So it doesn't matter, you see, according to realdonaldtrump (aka the president of the United States), that his son, son-in-law and campaign manager were looking for Russian help to turn the election, specifically for trash the Kremlin might contribute about Hillary Clinton; it doesn't matter that Vladimir Putin himself might have been in the room, given the connections of those who were. "That's politics," Donald Trump tweeted, echoing the sarcasm of his love-lost son, Donald Trump Jr. That is not politics. That is absolutely not politics. These people have no idea...So it doesn't matter, you see, according to realdonaldtrump (aka the president of the United States), that his son, son-in-law and campaign manager were looking for Russian help to turn the election, specifically for trash the Kremlin might contribute about Hillary Clinton; it doesn't matter that Vladimir Putin himself might have been in the room, given the connections of those who were. "That's politics," Donald Trump tweeted, echoing the sarcasm of his love-lost son, Donald Trump Jr. That is not politics. That is absolutely not politics. These people have no idea what politics is, and no respect for it -- which is to say, they have no respect for the Constitution. I know most of the people, on both sides of the aisle, who have done politics for the last few decades. There are some bad apples, but no traitors that I am aware of. Not a soul, not a one, who would "take a meeting," as Hollywood Don Jr. likes to call it, with Russian operatives representing the Russian government seeking to help his father by influencing the U.S. election. No, President Trump, I don't know anyone in politics with as little respect for all the values that brought us to politics in the first place. I don't mean love of power (though that seems to be what brought you). I mean love of country, love of democracy, love of the idea that the children and grandchildren of immigrants and a new generation of Americans could come together and build the greatest country on earth. It's noisy business. It's messy business. We push the envelope. We really want to win. But we don't go to the Kremlin for help. I lost another friend from politics last month, the late, great Carl Wagner, who is mainly known these days as the father of Alex, but in my day he was known as one of the most talented, charismatic, actually inspirational guys working in politics. Not to mention a strategic wizard. He was the first person who told me Bill Clinton would be president someday, back in 1979. He helped him get there. And he taught me how to "do" politics -- not just how to run a field organization in New Jersey, though there was that, or organize rabbis, or target primaries, though there was all of that -- but to love what I was doing, and to believe in it, no matter what it happened to be. We were there because we were kids from Iowa and Levittown and Lynn, and politics was what we did to make sure that the American dream really was there for everyone. Tell me about "doing" politics and I'll tell you about Carl Wagn[...]



Health Bill Collapse; Joint Military Exercises; Revisiting Dunkirk; Hello, Norma Jeane

2017-07-19T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, July 19, 2017. When a 20-year-old blonde showed up at the studios of 20th Century Fox for a screen test on this date in 1946, the odds were stacked against her. The young woman had no previous acting experience, a hard-to-pronounce surname, and little clue of the culture she was attempting to join. For starters, dying her hair blonde for the audition was a miscalculation: Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck preferred brunettes. She also told studio makeup artist Allan “Whitey” Snyder to paint her face heavily, as though she were going...Good morning, it’s Wednesday, July 19, 2017. When a 20-year-old blonde showed up at the studios of 20th Century Fox for a screen test on this date in 1946, the odds were stacked against her. The young woman had no previous acting experience, a hard-to-pronounce surname, and little clue of the culture she was attempting to join. For starters, dying her hair blonde for the audition was a miscalculation: Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck preferred brunettes. She also told studio makeup artist Allan “Whitey” Snyder to paint her face heavily, as though she were going onstage, causing cinematographer and casting director Leon Shamroy to explode. The commotion upset Norma Jeane Dougherty, who began to sweat and stammer. Her face flushed, leaving red blotches. Assured that the screen test required no talking, however, she went through with it. What happened next would have effects that rippled through Hollywood, the world of American letters, U.S. popular culture and beyond -- from the New York Yankees to the Oval Office to the ranks of U.S. grunts fighting in Korea, as well as to future generations of artists. I’ll have a brief additional word on Marilyn Monroe’s fateful screen test, as I did in this new book, in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Senate GOP’s Obamacare Repeal Fails to Muster Support. James Arkin has the details. Trump ‘Surprised’ by Senate GOP Revolt on Health Bill.  The president shifted into damage-control mode Tuesday after the collapse of the repeal effort, Alexis Simendinger reports. The GOP's Collision With Health Care Reality. At RealClearHealth, James Capretta lays out why the health care kerfuffle yesterday was bound to happen. Europe, U.S. Troops Practice Drills as Russia Tensions Grow.  Hungary, Romania and 21 other allies have welcomed American soldiers this summer.  Sandra Erwin has the story in RealClearDefense. Reversing the Air Force Pilot Shortage. Also in RCD, a military veteran explains the problem and what he believes is the solution. The EPA Is Everywhere. In RealClearPolicy, Ted Hadzi-Antich and Ryan D. Walters urge the agency to recon[...]



Crumbling Health Bill Dents McConnell Image as Top Tactician

2017-07-19T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- When the banner Republican effort to scuttle and rewrite President Barack Obama's health care law crumbled this week, the falling debris popped a hefty dent into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's image as a dauntless legislative tactician three chess moves ahead of everyone else. His two attempts to craft legislation replacing Obama's law have collapsed for lack of GOP support. Republican opposition seems likely to doom a vote next week on his Plan C, a bill simply repealing much of Obama's statute. Along the way, conservative Sen. Ron Johnson,...WASHINGTON (AP) -- When the banner Republican effort to scuttle and rewrite President Barack Obama's health care law crumbled this week, the falling debris popped a hefty dent into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's image as a dauntless legislative tactician three chess moves ahead of everyone else. His two attempts to craft legislation replacing Obama's law have collapsed for lack of GOP support. Republican opposition seems likely to doom a vote next week on his Plan C, a bill simply repealing much of Obama's statute. Along the way, conservative Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., accused McConnell of a "serious breach of trust" by telling moderates that proposed Medicaid cuts would not occur. His fellow Kentucky Republican, Sen. Rand Paul, was a constant thorn and the most vociferous opponent of McConnell's effort. And Utah Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, gave party leaders little advance word when he and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, deserted the bill late Monday, effectively killing it in the dark of night. "This has been a very, very challenging experience for all of us," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. And in a telling attempt to shift the focus, he answered a question about how he'd explain the health care defeat to GOP voters by citing the Senate's confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, the repeal of some Obama regulations and his plans to tackle a tax overhaul and infrastructure legislation. Democrats, who often grudgingly marvel at McConnell's moves, kept waiting for him to pull a rabbit from what turned out to be an empty hat. They said he overreached by turning a bill reshaping Obama's law into one that cut nearly $1 trillion in taxes over a decade and sliced almost $800 billion from Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, disabled and nursing home patients. They say he boxed himself in by rushing to deliver on his party's seven-year-old overpromise to repeal Obama's law. That proved an arduous task that angered tens of millions who've benefited from the statute, especially with much of McConnell's work performed behind closed office doors. "I don't have any sympathy for him," said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., his party's No. 2 Senate leader. "I assume he felt duty-bound as the Republican leader" to pursue repeal of Obama's law. But he said McConnell should have known that "rewriting the health care system of America on the fly and in secret was not going to work." A senator for 33 years, [...]



Trump 'Surprised' by Senate GOP Revolt on Health Bill

2017-07-19T00:00:00Z

President Trump sounded perplexed in the wake of the Senate GOP’s health care debacle this week, and unclear about what exactly his divided party should do next. There was a time when he promised supporters that ridding the country of President Obama’s signature legislative creation would be “so easy.” But on Tuesday, that certainty gave way to indecision, finger pointing and ample evidence that Trump is perceived, including by Republicans in Washington, as so out of his legislative depth as to be a liability. “It is a terrible environment on...President Trump sounded perplexed in the wake of the Senate GOP’s health care debacle this week, and unclear about what exactly his divided party should do next. There was a time when he promised supporters that ridding the country of President Obama’s signature legislative creation would be “so easy.” But on Tuesday, that certainty gave way to indecision, finger pointing and ample evidence that Trump is perceived, including by Republicans in Washington, as so out of his legislative depth as to be a liability. “It is a terrible environment on so many levels when policy and political types begin all strategic-assumption conversations with a focus on how to avoid or at least mitigate the president,” said a GOP source with extensive Capitol Hill and administration experience.  The president ricocheted through a series of morning tweets that blamed Senate Democrats and “a few Republicans,” while advocating letting the Affordable Care Act law “fail.” Senators, Trump advised, should alter their rules to dispense with a 60-vote filibuster threshold once and for all (even though his party could not find 50 votes to move the legislation he favored). And he predicted, as if it were unclear, that Republicans, with narrow majorities in the House and Senate, “need more victories next year” in the midterm elections. Hours later, the president distanced himself from GOP senators whose dramatic disagreements about health policy he observed for weeks, but made no appreciable headway in settling. “I am disappointed, because for so many years I've been hearing `repeal and replace.’ I'm sitting in the Oval Office right next door, pen in hand, waiting to sign something. And I'll be waiting,” Trump said. The president and his West Wing team insisted they were not giving up after two wobbly efforts in the House, which resulted in narrow passage of a health care measure Trump later told senators was “mean,” and after consideration of two versions of a Senate measure, neither one of which had sufficient appeal to come to the floor. While Trump tried to focus public attention on Republicans’ promised push for substantial tax changes this fall, his aides conceded that health care was inextricably tied to tax reform, each tethered to the other for budget reasons. And in Washington’s pra[...]



Loving Animals to Death

2017-07-19T00:00:00Z

We need to sell more rhino horns, quickly. That may be the only way to save rhinos from extinction. Today, rhinos vanish because poachers kill them for their horns. Businesses turn their horns into ornaments or quack health potions. Some horns sell for $300,000. No wonder poachers risk their lives for one. How do you fight an incentive that strong? Flood the market! That's a solution suggested by Matthew Markus. Markus's biotech company can make artificial rhino horn in a laboratory that's virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Put enough of that...We need to sell more rhino horns, quickly. That may be the only way to save rhinos from extinction. Today, rhinos vanish because poachers kill them for their horns. Businesses turn their horns into ornaments or quack health potions. Some horns sell for $300,000. No wonder poachers risk their lives for one. How do you fight an incentive that strong? Flood the market! That's a solution suggested by Matthew Markus. Markus's biotech company can make artificial rhino horn in a laboratory that's virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Put enough of that lab-grown horn on the market and supply and demand will bring the price way down. Then poachers won't risk getting killed trying to steal real rhino horn. "One way to devalue something is to create a lot of it," said Markus. "When things are abundant, people don't kill." South Africa tried a mild version of this solution once. For 20 years, they made it legal to own rhinos and sell their horns. Poaching dropped because legal rhino farming took away the poachers' incentive. Rhino farmers bred rhinos and protected them. Once in a while, they'd put rhinos to sleep with tranquilizer darts and saw off their horns. The horns grow back. The rhino population quadrupled. Win-win. But animal welfare activists are never happy with any solution that involves profiting from nature. South Africa banned sales of rhino horn again. Poaching rose 9,000 percent from 2007 to 2014, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Now South Africa is considering legalization again, but they will have to fight the NGOs. Some, like Humane Society International, even oppose sale of that artificial horn. They asked the U.S. government to block a shipment of a sample of rhino DNA that might have created better artificial horn. I confronted the Humane Society's spokeswoman about that. Our interview will be one of the first videos for my new project: "Stossel on Reason." I will post videos weekly on Facebook, Twitter and Reason TV. We start this week. In this first story, the Humane Society's Masha Kalinina passionately argues against re-legalizing rhino farming and the sale of artificial horn. "This is dangerous! Absolutely dangerous for rhinos and their survival," she says. "This is greenwashing an illegal activity. ... The problem is that people still see animals as commodities, natural resources for their use!" Yes. An[...]



Is Quiet Persuasion More Effective Than Shouting?

2017-07-19T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The Chinese government, subtle masters of propaganda, seem to have discovered a Sun Tzu formula for taming dissent on the internet: The best strategy may not be to confront critics directly, but to lull or distract them with a tide of good news. This intriguing argument is suggested by a recent article in the American Political Science Review titled "How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, Not Engaged Argument." With complex data, it supports a simple thesis about life in the internet age: Arguing the facts often doesn't...WASHINGTON -- The Chinese government, subtle masters of propaganda, seem to have discovered a Sun Tzu formula for taming dissent on the internet: The best strategy may not be to confront critics directly, but to lull or distract them with a tide of good news. This intriguing argument is suggested by a recent article in the American Political Science Review titled "How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, Not Engaged Argument." With complex data, it supports a simple thesis about life in the internet age: Arguing the facts often doesn't work; frequently, confrontation just makes people resist harder. The study analyzes China, but its implications are relevant for America in the age of Donald Trump. As I noted in a column last August, Trump's supporters sometimes seem impervious to fact-based argument. Trump's base has mostly stayed loyal since his inauguration, despite his lack of legislative achievements and his impulsive, arguably unethical, actions. Why is this so? Read on. The Chinese case examines the same conundrum explored by Christopher Graves, an Ogilvy public-relations executive turned behavioral scientist. He summed up the limitations of factual argument in an October 2016 article in Harvard Business Review, "When Saying Something Nice Is the Only Way to Change Someone's Mind." That's a lesson Trump critics haven't learned. Trump makes inflammatory statements, opponents howl in outrage, and his core supporters applaud. The impasse continues. Let's get back to China. That country presents an internet puzzle that was examined by Gary King of Harvard, Jennifer Pan of Stanford, and Margaret Roberts of the University of California, San Diego (their work was highlighted for me by Eileen Donahoe of Stanford). The paradox is that China probably has the most prolific social-media activity in the world, but its authoritarian government also fears opposition. So how does Beijing maintain control? The three American researchers wanted to test the widely held theory that the Chinese government mobilizes an army of more than a million internet commentators to combat criticism of the regime. This supposed cadre of thought police is often described as "Fifty Cent," because analysts thought they were paid a small amount for every post that endorsed the party line and rebutted foreign c[...]



Senate GOP's Obamacare Repeal Fails to Muster Support

2017-07-18T00:00:00Z

Enough Senate Republicans rejected plans Tuesday to simply repeal the Affordable Care Act, thus dooming their party’s health care bill and any chance to undo the law that they have campaigned against for the better part of a decade. The insufficient support for repeal alone comes after months of negotiations, false starts and intra-party fighting over legislation that has left Republicans frustrated and, in some cases, questioning their ability to govern. When it became clear Monday night that their replacement plan couldn’t pass, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced...Enough Senate Republicans rejected plans Tuesday to simply repeal the Affordable Care Act, thus dooming their party’s health care bill and any chance to undo the law that they have campaigned against for the better part of a decade. The insufficient support for repeal alone comes after months of negotiations, false starts and intra-party fighting over legislation that has left Republicans frustrated and, in some cases, questioning their ability to govern. When it became clear Monday night that their replacement plan couldn’t pass, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that they would proceed with a vote to repeal the measure with no replacement set in place. By early Tuesday afternoon, it was apparent there was enough Republican opposition to sink that plan as well – likely ending their long quest without even debating it on the Senate floor.   “It’s pretty clear that there are not 50 Republicans, at the moment, to vote for a replacement for Obamacare,” McConnell said in a press conference Tuesday. Given that reality, Republican senators began to seriously consider Tuesday something that only two weeks ago McConnell had used as a threat: working with Democrats to shore up the troubled Affordable Care Act. Multiple senators said Tuesday they hoped health care would be moved into committees, something that was bypassed as they negotiated the replacement legislation mostly behind closed doors. Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate’s health committee, said that regardless of how the repeal vote went, he would hold hearings in the coming weeks to explore ways to stabilize the health care market. Democrats, for their part, had remained unified in their opposition to GOP plans, and were jubilant at the apparent failure to unwind the health care law. They reiterated calls for a bipartisan approach to fix the problems with the individual insurance market. “We need to hit the pause button, stop in place for right now, pivot next week,” said Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, who noted he’s been having conversations with multiple Republicans on a path forward. “The pivot would be for the administration to stop destabilizing the exchanges and for us to begin stabilizing them.” Before that effort takes place, howev[...]



Spy Plane Push; Endangered Species; Holy Cow; Silicon Supremacy

2017-07-18T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, July 18, 2017, the publication date of “ON THIS DATE: From the Pilgrims to Today, Discovering America One Day at a Time.” This week, I’m excerpting essays from the book, which grew out of this Morning Note. But today is also the official pub date of “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency” by Joshua Green. Josh is a terrific political writer, so RCP will have more on his book at a future date. On this date in 1968, however, the brilliant Robert Noyce...Good morning, it’s Tuesday, July 18, 2017, the publication date of “ON THIS DATE: From the Pilgrims to Today, Discovering America One Day at a Time.” This week, I’m excerpting essays from the book, which grew out of this Morning Note. But today is also the official pub date of “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency” by Joshua Green. Josh is a terrific political writer, so RCP will have more on his book at a future date. On this date in 1968, however, the brilliant Robert Noyce bolted from Fairchild Semiconductor to form the Intel Corp. I’ll explain why that move was a seminal event in the history of Silicon Valley -- and in our understanding of human intellectual capacity -- in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Aviation Heavyweights Make Final Push for New Spy Plane. In RealClearDefense, Sandra Erwin describes the competition to replace the Air Force’s aging surveillance fleet. Reform, Don't Repeal, the Endangered Species Act. In RealClearPolicy, Gary Mowad calls for changes at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. One College Promotes a Campus Culture of Free Expression. In RealClearEducation, Michael Poliakoff applauds the creation of a new institute at Johns Hopkins University. Can Bitcoin Continue to Lead the Cryptocurrency Market? RealClearLife has the story. What the Internet of Things Can Learn From Used Cars. In RealClearFuture, Anne Hobson and James Czerniawski spotlight the need for mechanisms to earn consumer trust. Hinduism and Its Complicated History With Cows. Wendy Doniger explains in RealClearReligion. * * * Six decades ago, two U.S. scientists from different Midwestern towns, working in different labs, were in one of the great races in the history of technology. Each man was trying to produce the integrated circuit—to place transistors, resistors, and capacitors on a single “chip” of semiconductor material so they could work in rapid sequence. The comp[...]



Health Care Bill Collapse Leaves Divided Republicans at Crossroads

2017-07-18T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The implosion of the Senate Republican health care bill leaves a divided GOP with its flagship legislative priority in tatters. Now, a wounded President Donald Trump and congressional leaders face dicey decisions about addressing their perhaps unattainable seven-year-old promise of repealing President Barack Obama's law. Two GOP senators - Utah's Mike Lee and Jerry Moran of Kansas - sealed the measure's doom late Monday when each announced he would vote "no" in an initial, critical vote that had been expected as soon as next week. Their startling,...WASHINGTON (AP) -- The implosion of the Senate Republican health care bill leaves a divided GOP with its flagship legislative priority in tatters. Now, a wounded President Donald Trump and congressional leaders face dicey decisions about addressing their perhaps unattainable seven-year-old promise of repealing President Barack Obama's law. Two GOP senators - Utah's Mike Lee and Jerry Moran of Kansas - sealed the measure's doom late Monday when each announced he would vote "no" in an initial, critical vote that had been expected as soon as next week. Their startling, tandem announcement meant that at least four of the 52 GOP senators were ready to block the measure - two more than Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had to spare in the face of a wall of Democratic opposition. "Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful," McConnell said in a late evening statement that essentially waved a white flag. It was the second stinging setback on the issue in three weeks for McConnell, whose reputation as a legislative mastermind has been marred as he's failed to unite his chamber's Republicans behind a health overhaul package that's highlighted jagged divides between conservatives and moderates. In late June, he abandoned an initial package after he lacked enough GOP support to pass. The episode has also been jarring for Trump, whose intermittent lobbying and nebulous, often contradictory descriptions of what he's wanted have shown he has limited clout with senators. That despite a determination by Trump, McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to demonstrate that a GOP running the White House and Congress can govern effectively. Now, McConnell said, the Senate would vote on a measure the GOP-run Congress approved in 2015, only to be vetoed by Obama - a bill repealing much of Obama's statute, with a two-year delay designed to give lawmakers time to enact a replacement. Trump embraced that idea last month after an initial version of McConnell's bill collapsed due under Republican divisions, and did so again late Monday. "Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!" Tru[...]



The Country Deserves Better -- Much Better

2017-07-18T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- It's exhausting, I know, but don't let outrage fatigue numb you to the moral bankruptcy and gross incompetence of the Trump administration. This ugly departure from American norms and values must be opposed with sustained passion -- and with the knowledge that things will probably get worse before they get better. Heaven help us, look where we are. We have a president -- commander in chief of the armed forces, ostensibly the leader of the free world -- whose every word is suspect. President Trump is an inveterate liar. He dismisses provable facts as "fake...WASHINGTON -- It's exhausting, I know, but don't let outrage fatigue numb you to the moral bankruptcy and gross incompetence of the Trump administration. This ugly departure from American norms and values must be opposed with sustained passion -- and with the knowledge that things will probably get worse before they get better. Heaven help us, look where we are. We have a president -- commander in chief of the armed forces, ostensibly the leader of the free world -- whose every word is suspect. President Trump is an inveterate liar. He dismisses provable facts as "fake news" and invents faux facts of his own that bear no relationship to the truth. He simply cannot be trusted. We have a president whose North Star is naked self-interest, not the good of the country. Trump cares about his family, his company and little else. He dishonors the high office he holds, then reportedly spends hours each day railing against cable news coverage that he finds insufficiently respectful. His ego is a kind of psychic black hole that devours all who come into its orbit. We have a president whose eldest son, son-in-law and campaign chairman met with emissaries who claimed to have been sent by the Russian government to deliver dirt on Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump claimed on Twitter that "most politicians" would have gone to such a meeting, which is another lie. Try to find politicians who say they would have attended. We have a president who fired the director of the FBI for continuing to investigate "this Russia thing" -- a sophisticated effort by the Russian government, according to U.S. intelligence officials, to tip the election in Trump's favor. Will he also try to fire special counsel Robert Mueller? If he does, will Congress let him get away with it? We have a president -- was he made in Russia? -- who has declared this to be "Made in America" week, despite the fact that so many of the retail products that bear his name and that of his daughter Ivanka are made in Mexico, China, Indonesia and Bangladesh. When asked about this irony by Politico, a White House spokeswoman responded that "we'll get back to you on that." They won't. Trump has broken his promise to help the struggling middle class. After pledging health insuran[...]



Why Obamacare Must Be Repealed and Replaced

2017-07-18T00:00:00Z

Beyond question, ObamaCare has failed and is leaving millions of Americans in economic distress. Republicans in Congress are striving to find solutions that will decrease health insurance costs and increase accessibility for all Americans, particularly for the 7 percent with non-group coverage (83 percent of Americans have government funded or employer sponsored insurance). Their efforts to date demonstrate that even failed entitlement programs are harder to repeal and replace than to expand and perpetuate. Progressive Democrats want to create a government run--enormously expensive--single...Beyond question, ObamaCare has failed and is leaving millions of Americans in economic distress. Republicans in Congress are striving to find solutions that will decrease health insurance costs and increase accessibility for all Americans, particularly for the 7 percent with non-group coverage (83 percent of Americans have government funded or employer sponsored insurance). Their efforts to date demonstrate that even failed entitlement programs are harder to repeal and replace than to expand and perpetuate. Progressive Democrats want to create a government run--enormously expensive--single payer health care system to replace ObamaCare. Predictably, they choose to address the problems an expansive government program created by further expanding government. That is not the answer. The only effective way to reduce insurance costs and improve quality is through competition. With a single payer system, by definition, there would be none. Senate Republicans have a far better alternative. Their recently revised bill would decrease government control while increasing private sector competition, substantially repealing and vastly improving ObamaCare. First, it would effectively repeal ObamaCare by eliminating both the individual and employer mandates, ending this misguided attempt to substitute government compulsion for consumer choice. The Senate bill would then replace these government mandates with increased private sector competition by (1) putting money in the hands of consumers to purchase health insurance through refundable tax credits (2) empowering insurers to compete for those dollars by expanding the coverage options they can offer, and (3) expanding the use of Health Savings Accounts (“HSAs”) so consumers can choose the insurance coverage that best meets their needs and competitively shop for non-insured medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. This is a rational free market based approach that will reduce health insurance costs. Using refundable tax credits (either a tax deduction or a check) to put money in consumers’ hands effectively shifts decision making power from the government back to the people. The Senate bill provides age and means tested credi[...]



Nukes Threaten People; Ideas Threaten Civilizations

2017-07-18T00:00:00Z

Last week, I tweeted, "The news media in the West pose a far greater danger to Western civilization than Russia does." To my surprise, the tweet went viral. And while there were more likes than dislikes, 99 percent of the written reactions were negative. Typical reactions were: --"F--- you." --"Move to Russia." --"Your very full diapers pose a very great danger, please change them." That received 1,880 likes. --"I've wiped s--- off my shoes more trustworthy and patriotic than your sorry a--." That received 606 likes. You get the...Last week, I tweeted, "The news media in the West pose a far greater danger to Western civilization than Russia does." To my surprise, the tweet went viral. And while there were more likes than dislikes, 99 percent of the written reactions were negative. Typical reactions were: --"F--- you." --"Move to Russia." --"Your very full diapers pose a very great danger, please change them." That received 1,880 likes. --"I've wiped s--- off my shoes more trustworthy and patriotic than your sorry a--." That received 606 likes. You get the idea. But it wasn't the ad hominem insults that I found troubling. What was troubling was the low state of logical thinking that so many responses reflected. This was exemplified by their reminding me how important a free press is to democracy (as if attacking the behavior of the media were the same as denying the need for a free press); their asking how many nukes the media have compared with Russia (as if a threat to lives were the same as a threat to a civilization); and their thinking that my tweet was about President Donald Trump (he was never mentioned, and the words were just as true when Barack Obama was president). My tweet was about the Western left undoing Western civilization. My one regret is that I did not mention universities along with the media. The tweet had nothing to do with the existence of a free press. Attacking what the media is doing is not the same as attacking the existence of the media -- any more than attacking Trump is attacking the existence of the presidency. With regard to Russia having more nukes than the media, those who noted this fact so missed the entire point of the tweet that it is almost breathtaking. When one speaks about dangers to a civilization, one is speaking ideologically, not physically. Of course, if Russia were to unleash its nuclear weapons against the West, it would kill vast numbers of Westerners. However, that would no more mean the end of Western civilization than the Holocaust meant the end of Jewish civilization. Civilization connotes a body of ideas and a value system. Furthermore, a Russian nuclear attack threatening the West's physical existence is an utterly remote possibility. Russian leaders, just as Soviet leaders bef[...]



The Real Crimes of Russiagate

2017-07-18T00:00:00Z

For a year, the big question of Russiagate has boiled down to this: Did Donald Trump's campaign collude with the Russians in hacking the DNC? And until last week, the answer was "no." As ex-CIA director Mike Morell said in March, "On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians ... there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all. ... There's no little campfire, there's no little candle, there's no spark." Well, last week, it appeared there had been a fire in Trump Tower. On June 9, 2016, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort...For a year, the big question of Russiagate has boiled down to this: Did Donald Trump's campaign collude with the Russians in hacking the DNC? And until last week, the answer was "no." As ex-CIA director Mike Morell said in March, "On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians ... there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all. ... There's no little campfire, there's no little candle, there's no spark." Well, last week, it appeared there had been a fire in Trump Tower. On June 9, 2016, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met with Russians -- in anticipation of promised dirt on Hillary Clinton's campaign. While not a crime, this was a blunder. For Donald Jr. had long insisted there had been no collusion with the Russians. Caught in flagrante, he went full Pinocchio for four days. And as the details of that June 9 meeting spilled out, Trump defenders were left with egg on their faces, while anti-Trump media were able to keep the spotlight laser-focused on where they want it -- Russiagate. This reality underscores a truth of our time. In the 19th century, power meant control of the means of production; today, power lies in control of the means of communication. Who controls the media spotlight controls what people talk about and think about. And mainstream media are determined to keep that spotlight on Trump-Russia, and as far away as possible from their agenda -- breaking the Trump presidency and bringing him down. Almost daily, there are leaks from the investigative and security arms of the U.S. government designed to damage this president. Just days into Trump's presidency, a rifle-shot intel community leak of a December meeting between Trump national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn and Russia's ambassador forced the firing of Flynn. An Oval Office meeting with the Russian foreign minister in which Trump disclosed that Israeli intelligence had ferreted out evidence that ISIS was developing computer bombs to explode on airliners was leaked. This alerted ISIS, damaged the president, and imperiled Israeli intelligence sources and methods. Some of the leaks from national security and investigative agencies are felonies, n[...]