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Updated: Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:48:55 -0500

 



Health Bill a Test of McConnell's Leadership Skills

2017-06-24T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pass or fail, there will be one man singularly responsible for the fate of health care legislation in the Senate: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The shrewd Kentuckian has made himself practically the sole arbiter of the bill and will be largely responsible for the outcome, whether it's a win, a loss, or a win that turns into a loss over time as unpopular consequences of the legislation take hold. McConnell decided to keep the bill close, writing it in secret with a close circle of aides and eschewing committee hearings, despite grumbling from fellow Republicans. GOP...WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pass or fail, there will be one man singularly responsible for the fate of health care legislation in the Senate: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The shrewd Kentuckian has made himself practically the sole arbiter of the bill and will be largely responsible for the outcome, whether it's a win, a loss, or a win that turns into a loss over time as unpopular consequences of the legislation take hold. McConnell decided to keep the bill close, writing it in secret with a close circle of aides and eschewing committee hearings, despite grumbling from fellow Republicans. GOP senators were largely in the dark until the legislation was unveiled Thursday and were still getting briefed, without seeing copies of the bill, when it was posted publicly online. McConnell made it clear to President Donald Trump on more than one occasion that Senate business should be left to him, and as a result Trump largely stayed out of the process, unlike during the House's health care deliberations. And McConnell made the decision to release the bill this week and push toward a vote next week, ignoring pleas from some lawmakers for more time. After seven years of GOP promises to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's health care law, McConnell said, they'd already had time enough. "Republicans believe we have a responsibility to act - and we are," McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor. For McConnell, 75, whose reputation as a legislative tactician has grown to near legendary proportions, the health care bill may be the biggest test of all. He's dealing with an unpopular piece of legislation that affects nearly every American personally and a diverse conference that includes moderates and conservatives, both of whom have problems with the bill. And, he has almost no margin for error. McConnell will be able to lose only two senators from his 52-member conference and still pass the bill, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. Democrats are unanimously opposed. "It's like walking through a minefield for him," said Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. "We all have different constituencies, and the ability to thread the needle for all those constituencies is a very difficult task." Nonetheless, allies say if anyone can get the job done, it's McConnell. In a decade leading Senate Republicans, McConnell has displayed his legislative skills time and again. His record is not perfect, but he commands unquestioned respect from most of his conference, especially after his decision to hold a Supreme Court seat vacant after Antonin Scalia's death last year paid off when Trump won the presidency and appointed conservative Neil Gorsuch to a lifetime seat. At the annual Republican congressional retreat earlier this year, colleagues stood up and applauded McConnell for his strategy on the Supreme Court, which some had initially questioned. And now, on health care, McConnell is moving forward with similar resolve, once again ignoring reservations and second-guessing. "Somebody has to lead, and somebody has to govern. He's the leader, and the Republicans are supposed to be governing right now," said fellow Kentuckian GOP Rep. James Comer. "If there's one member of Congress that I believe has the ability to bring us together on a health care bill, it's Mitch McConnell," Comer added. "If he can't do it, then it cannot be done." McConnell's challenges became clear immediately after the bill was released, as four conservat[...]



Mitch McConnell Seeks Votes to Help Push Health Care Bill Through Senate

2017-06-24T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nevada Republican Dean Heller became the fifth GOP senator to declare his opposition to the party's banner legislation to scuttle much of Barack Obama's health care overhaul on Friday, more than enough to sink the measure and deliver a stinging rebuke to President Donald Trump unless some of them can be brought aboard. Echoing the other four, Heller said he opposes the measure "in this form" but does not rule out backing a version that is changed to his liking. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he's willing to alter the measure...WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nevada Republican Dean Heller became the fifth GOP senator to declare his opposition to the party's banner legislation to scuttle much of Barack Obama's health care overhaul on Friday, more than enough to sink the measure and deliver a stinging rebuke to President Donald Trump unless some of them can be brought aboard. Echoing the other four, Heller said he opposes the measure "in this form" but does not rule out backing a version that is changed to his liking. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he's willing to alter the measure to attract support, and next week promises plenty of back-room bargaining as he tries pushing a final package through his chamber. Nonetheless, Heller's announcement underscores the scant margin of error Republican leaders must deal with. Facing unanimous Democratic opposition, McConnell can afford to lose just two of the 52 GOP senators and still prevail. Besides the five who've announced outright opposition, several other GOP senators - conservatives and moderates - have declined to commit to the new overhaul. The measure resembles legislation the House approved last month that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would mean 23 million additional uninsured people within a decade and that recent polling shows is viewed favorably by only around 1 in 4 Americans. Heller, facing a competitive re-election battle next year, said he was opposing the legislation because of the cuts it would make in Medicaid. The federal-state program provides health care to the poor, disabled and many nursing home patients. The Senate bill would also erase the tax penalties Obama's 2010 law imposes on people who don't purchase insurance. It would allow insurers to cover fewer benefits and repeal tax boosts on wealthier people that help finance the statute's expanded coverage. The Senate legislation would phase out extra federal money Nevada and 30 other states receive for expanding Medicaid to additional low earners. It would also slap annual spending caps on the overall Medicaid program, which since its inception in 1965 has provided states with unlimited money to cover eligible costs. "I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans and tens of thousands of Nevadans," Heller said. Trump has spoken favorably about both the House-passed bill and the Senate version unveiled this week, though he declared several times as he ramped up his campaign for the presidency that he would not cut Medicaid. Heller said that to win his vote, GOP leaders would have to "protect Medicaid expansion states" from the bill's current cuts. "It's going to be very difficult to get me to a yes," he said, noting that conservative Republican senators would likely be reluctant to add spending back to the measure. Heller spoke at a news conference in Las Vegas with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican who has also assailed the House and Senate health care bills for cutting Medicaid. The state has added 200,000 more people to its program under the Obama overhaul. Sandoval said the Senate bill "is something that needs to change." It would be politically difficult for Heller to take a different stance on the measure from the popular Sandoval. Heller got an opponent for next year when first-year Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen announced this week she would seek his Senate seat. Just hours after McConnell released the 142-page legislation on Thursday, four[...]



Israel, American Jewry and Trump's Republican Party

2017-06-24T00:00:00Z

Earlier this month Norway, Denmark and Switzerland did something surprising. Norway announced that it was demanding the return of its money from the Palestinian Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Secretariat, for the latter’s funding of a Palestinian women’s group that built a youth center near Nablus named for PLO mass murderer Dalal Mughrabi. Denmark followed, announcing it was cutting off all funding to the group. And last week, the Swiss parliament passed a resolution directing the government to amend Swiss law to block funding of NGOs “involved in racist,...Earlier this month Norway, Denmark and Switzerland did something surprising. Norway announced that it was demanding the return of its money from the Palestinian Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Secretariat, for the latter’s funding of a Palestinian women’s group that built a youth center near Nablus named for PLO mass murderer Dalal Mughrabi. Denmark followed, announcing it was cutting off all funding to the group. And last week, the Swiss parliament passed a resolution directing the government to amend Swiss law to block funding of NGOs “involved in racist, antisemitic or hate incitement actions.” For years, the Israeli government has been urging these and other European governments to stop funding such groups, to no avail. What explains their abrupt change of heart? In two words: Donald Trump. For years, the Obama administration quietly encouraged the Europeans to fund these groups and to ratchet up their anti-Israel positions. Doing so, the former administration believed, would coerce Israel to make concessions to the PLO. But now, Trump and his advisers are delivering the opposite message. And, as the actions by Denmark, Norway and Switzerland show, the new message is beginning to be received. If the US administration keeps moving forward on this trajectory, it can do far more than suspend funding for one terrorism-supporting Palestinian NGO. It can shut down the entire BDS industry before Trump finishes his current term in office. To understand what can and ought to be done, it is first important to understand the nature of the BDS movement. Under the catchphrase BDS, two separate campaigns against Israel and against Jews are being carried out. The first BDS campaign is a campaign of economic warfare. The focal point of that campaign is Europe. The purpose of the campaign is to harm Israel’s economy by enacting discriminatory, anti-Israel trade policies and encouraging unofficial consumer and business boycotts of Israeli firms and products. The US Congress can end this economic war against Israel by passing laws penalizing European states for engaging in trade practices that breach the World Trade Organization treaties. The US Treasury Department can also push strongly and effectively for such an end in its trade negotiations with the EU. The Treasury Department can also investigate whether and how EU trade practices toward Israel constitute unlawful barriers to trade. Unlike the situation in Europe, where the BDS economic war against Israel is fairly advanced, efforts in the US to mount economic boycotts of Israel hit an iceberg early on due to the swift preemptive actions taken by state legislatures. In 2015, then-South Carolina governor Nikki Haley became the first governor to sign a law barring her state government from doing business or investing in companies that boycott Israel. Last week Kansas became the 21st US state to pass an anti-BDS law along the same lines. Last month, all 50 state governors declared opposition to BDS. The second BDS campaign being carried out against Israel is a form of political and social warfare. Its epicenter is US academia. Its purpose is to erode US support for Israel, by making it politically unacceptable and socially devastating to publicly voice support for Israel on college campuses and more generally in leftist circles. As is the case with the economic BDS campaign, the best way to defeat political BDS is through s[...]



Be Well

2017-06-24T00:00:00Z

The message of the Republican health care bill is clear. You have nothing to worry about -- as long as you can be sure that you will always be well. And you must be employed by a company large enough and successful enough to provide health insurance, just in case somebody in the family trips and falls, or needs their appendix out, or worse. Otherwise, watch out. I don't understand how Republicans stand there, with straight faces, and say that what this country needs in a health care plan is tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts in services for the poor and the elderly. I don't...The message of the Republican health care bill is clear. You have nothing to worry about -- as long as you can be sure that you will always be well. And you must be employed by a company large enough and successful enough to provide health insurance, just in case somebody in the family trips and falls, or needs their appendix out, or worse. Otherwise, watch out. I don't understand how Republicans stand there, with straight faces, and say that what this country needs in a health care plan is tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts in services for the poor and the elderly. I don't understand how they can write a bill that would take access to health care away from 23 million Americans so that Warren Buffett can save almost a million dollars in taxes. I don't know what they think is going to happen when people who decide not to buy health insurance get sick. Shall we let them die? Is that the Republican plan? Do we go back to the bad old days when poor people had no choice but to use the most expensive health care providers -- hospital emergency rooms -- as their primary physicians? The underlying premise of Obamacare was a simple and true precept: We are all in this together. When it comes to illness, you never know. If we are all covered, then the costs of expensive illnesses are shared by all of us. If all the young and healthy people opt out of insurance, which the Republicans are inviting them to do, then we face two ugly consequences. First, some of those young and healthy people will turn out to be wrong. They will get sick. Indeed, their chances of getting sick go up if they live in communities where others aren't getting health care: If the poor children playing in the park, or at the toy store, have TB, then there is a good chance your child will catch it. And if she does, and you don't have insurance, what then? Who takes care of those who turn out to be wrong? And how do the rest of us afford insurance if the pool is limited to older and sicker people? Don't blame Obamacare for higher premiums. If the Republicans have their way, they will go through the roof. Oh, yes, and what happens when grandpa or grandma is diagnosed with dementia, or another serious illness, that requires long-term care? Medicaid is not just for "others" -- for poor pregnant mothers and their kids. Medicaid takes care of the elderly in nursing homes. Is the answer that they should die faster so that will cost less? Whose parents and grandparents are we talking about? Of course, the Republicans say that this is all for the states to deal with. That's called phony federalism, as phony as the old states rights pols who claimed they weren't against civil rights, just against the federal government mandating it. Right. As if the states are sitting on piles of cash to take care of the poor, the young and the aged. The late Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey used to say that the test of a society is not how it treats those with money and power, but those who have neither; how we treat the poor, the young, the aged and the ill. The Republican answer is loud and clear. From Donald Trump, a charter member of the lucky sperm club, on down, they have chosen sides. Let the rich get richer. As for everybody else, let them eat cake. How selfish can you be? COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM[...]



Gowdy Will Defer to Mueller, Intel Panel on Russia Probes

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

Rep. Trey Gowdy, the newly minted chairman of the House oversight committee, said he will likely not probe directly Russia’s interference in the 2016 election or the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, hoping to avoid conflicting with investigations conducted by the Department of Justice special counsel or other congressional committees. Gowdy became chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week, replacing Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who plans to retire from Congress at the end of this month. Gowdy said Friday that he would cede priority of potentially...Rep. Trey Gowdy, the newly minted chairman of the House oversight committee, said he will likely not probe directly Russia’s interference in the 2016 election or the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, hoping to avoid conflicting with investigations conducted by the Department of Justice special counsel or other congressional committees. Gowdy became chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week, replacing Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who plans to retire from Congress at the end of this month. Gowdy said Friday that he would cede priority of potentially criminal matters to Special Counsel Bob Mueller, leave matters pertaining to Russia’s election interference to the Intelligence Committee, and leave any oversight of the Department of Justice or FBI to the Judiciary Committee. The South Carolina lawmaker said he had likely interviewed Comey more than any other member of Congress because of his roles on both the intelligence and judiciary committees, but had done so only once in his capacity as a member of the oversight panel. Though Chaffetz had called on Comey to testify before his committee and requested copies of his memos related to President Trump, Gowdy said the panel wasn’t the appropriate place for those matters. “I told Bob Mueller Tuesday that I would never do anything wittingly, or unwittingly, that veered over into his lane. And his lane is broad and it is undetermined at this point,” Gowdy told a group of reporters Friday. The meeting with Mueller fell under Gowdy’s duties in the intelligence committee investigation, and was not related to his work on oversight. That doesn’t mean that he won’t use the latter gavel to probe issues related to the Russia investigations. For example, Gowdy suggested that his committee could look into processes for issuing and revoking security clearances, and whether changes are needed. But Democrats on the committee sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus earlier this week requesting information about the security clearances of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Gowdy said those matters are best left to the special counsel. “Allegations of criminal or quasi-criminal activity is squarely within Mueller’s jurisdiction,” he said. In the session with reporters, Gowdy laid out some of his vision for the oversight committee under his leadership. He said he preferred conducting investigations in private first, and using public hearings to highlight and present facts rather than as a “fact-gathering exercise.” He also emphasized having a good working relationship with the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings. The two were in similar positions as the chairman and ranking member on the select committee investigating the Benghazi attacks in the previous Congress. Gowdy said he’s talked to Cummings a dozen times since taking over from Chaffetz -- Cummings is currently recovering from a heart surgery, and Gowdy has kept him apprised of his thinking on committee action. He said the committee will hold a hearing on criminal justice reform next week -- an issue of deep concern for Cummings -- and likely will hold another hearing later this year after Cummings returns.James Arkin is a congressional reporter for[...]



45 Years Later, Oval Office Tape Still Echoes

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

Forty-five years ago today, Richard M. Nixon made a momentous mistake in judgment, with fateful ramifications for his legacy. It occurred in a late morning Oval Office meeting with White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman. In their conversation, Haldeman tells the president that Attorney General John Mitchell has concocted a plan for containing the fledging FBI investigation into the break-in six days earlier at the Democratic National Committee’s offices in the Watergate complex. Mitchell’s damage control strategy, approved by White House counsel John Dean, is to have...Forty-five years ago today, Richard M. Nixon made a momentous mistake in judgment, with fateful ramifications for his legacy. It occurred in a late morning Oval Office meeting with White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman. In their conversation, Haldeman tells the president that Attorney General John Mitchell has concocted a plan for containing the fledging FBI investigation into the break-in six days earlier at the Democratic National Committee’s offices in the Watergate complex. Mitchell’s damage control strategy, approved by White House counsel John Dean, is to have Deputy CIA director Vernon Walters instruct acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray to back off the bureau’s investigation into the Watergate burglary -- citing national security concerns. “The way to handle this now is for us to have Walters call Pat Gray and just say, ‘Stay the hell out of this,’” Haldeman tells the president. The two men were alone at the time, and could have plausibly denied that any such conversation took place, except that Richard Nixon had installed a secret taping device in his office under the theory that it would provide historians with invaluable insight into his presidency. This proved to be true, although not in the way Nixon intended. The June 23, 1972 conversation between the president and his chief of staff was the subject of a protracted legal fight that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. On July 24, 1974, the high court ruled unanimously that the tapes must be released to special prosecutor Leon Jaworski. On August 5 of that year, the Nixon administration complied with the court’s order. Jaworski promptly concluded that Nixon’s acquiescence to the Mitchell plan constituted obstruction of justice, and Nixon resigned from office four days later. Even four and a half decades after the fact, the “smoking gun tape” makes for riveting listening. A contemporary audience is aware of things now that were unknowable at the time. Not only that the conversation would seal the fate of Nixon’s presidency, but that one of the two participants would go to federal prison, along with several others mentioned in the discussion. Even administration figures whose names arose that morning but who avoided criminal prosecution were forever tainted. Another name Haldeman brought up was Mark Felt, then the FBI deputy director. “Mark Felt wants to cooperate,” Haldeman said, “he’s ambitious.” Nixon and Haldeman went to their graves never knowing that Felt was the Bob Woodward source who came to be known as “Deep Throat.” All this seems familiar again as the FBI investigates another incumbent president’s campaign operation, the president drops hints about (and then denies) the existence of surreptitious tapes of compromising conversations, and the opposition party on Capitol Hill hints darkly at “obstruction of justice” in the executive branch.   “The coverup is worse than the crime” was one of the enduring phrases that came out of Watergate. As Woodward and Bernstein explained five years ago (and I explored in my Sunday column five days ago), this isn’t really true, but it was Richard Nixon himself who planted that idea in our collective consciousness. The break-in at the DNC offices occurre[...]



Senate's Repeal Plan; Pelosi Digs In; Heitkamp's Chances; White House Tapes

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Friday, June 23, 2017. Forty-five years ago today, Richard M. Nixon made a momentous mistake in judgment, with fateful ramifications for his legacy. It occurred in a late morning Oval Office meeting with White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman. In their conversation, Haldeman tells the president that Attorney General John Mitchell has concocted a plan for containing the fledging FBI investigation into the break-in six days earlier at the Democratic National Committee’s offices in the Watergate complex. Mitchell’s damage control strategy,...Good morning, it’s Friday, June 23, 2017. Forty-five years ago today, Richard M. Nixon made a momentous mistake in judgment, with fateful ramifications for his legacy. It occurred in a late morning Oval Office meeting with White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman. In their conversation, Haldeman tells the president that Attorney General John Mitchell has concocted a plan for containing the fledging FBI investigation into the break-in six days earlier at the Democratic National Committee’s offices in the Watergate complex. Mitchell’s damage control strategy, approved by White House counsel John Dean, is to have Deputy CIA director Vernon Walters instruct acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray to back off the bureau’s investigation into the Watergate burglary -- citing national security concerns. “The way to handle this now is for us to have Walters call Pat Gray and just say, ‘Stay the hell out of this,’” Haldeman tells the president. The two men were alone at the time, and could have plausibly denied that any such conversation took place, except that Richard Nixon had installed a secret taping device in his office under the theory that it would provide historians with invaluable insight into his presidency. This proved to be true, although not in the way Nixon intended. The June 23, 1972 conversation between the president and his chief of staff was the subject of a protracted legal fight that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. On July 24, 1974, the high court ruled unanimously that the tapes must be released to special prosecutor Leon Jaworski. On August 5 of that year, the Nixon administration complied with the court’s order. Jaworski promptly concluded that Nixon’s acquiescence to the Mitchell plan constituted obstruction of justice, and Nixon resigned from office four days later. I’ll offer an observation about what became known as the “smoking gun tape” in a moment, First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Senate Unveils Obamacare Replacement. James Arkin has the details. Pelosi Insists She Won’t Step Down as Leader. Caitlin Huey-Burns reports on the minority leader’s response to critics following her party’s latest special election loss. Can Heitkamp Win Again in Red North Dakota? David Byler has this assessment of the Democratic senator’s re-election chances next year. Make 2017 Last Year Again. Windsor Mann offers his take on the president’s campaign-style appearance Wednesday in Iowa. Senate Bill Isn't 'Better Care' for Anyone. In RealClearHealth, Billy Wynne analyzes the new legislation. The Digital Health Hope: Transforming Outcomes. Also in RCH, Kevin Campbell discusses the potential that big data has for solving many public health problems. This is the first in a five-part series. Thornberry: $640 Billion for Military Still Up for Negotiation. The House armed services chair will compromise, but he wants spending caps lifted down the road, Sandra Erwin reports in Re[...]



The Outlook After the Special Elections

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

The victory of Republican Karen Handel in the special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District on Tuesday has discouraged Democrats and encouraged Republicans. Democrat Jon Ossoff won 48.1 percent in the special election's first round April 18, and Democrats had high hopes that they could take this House seat from the Republicans. But even with $30 million spent -- in what became the most expensive House race ever -- and with a turnout of 260,000 (more than the 210,000 who voted in the 2014 midterm), Ossoff won exactly 48.1 percent again. Not quite enough. Georgia's 6th...The victory of Republican Karen Handel in the special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District on Tuesday has discouraged Democrats and encouraged Republicans. Democrat Jon Ossoff won 48.1 percent in the special election's first round April 18, and Democrats had high hopes that they could take this House seat from the Republicans. But even with $30 million spent -- in what became the most expensive House race ever -- and with a turnout of 260,000 (more than the 210,000 who voted in the 2014 midterm), Ossoff won exactly 48.1 percent again. Not quite enough. Georgia's 6th District was significant because it's a traditionally Republican district whose college-educated voters (59 percent of adults, sixth-highest in the country) were repelled by Donald Trump. Mitt Romney carried it 61 to 37 percent in 2012; Trump won it by only a 48.3-46.8 percent margin last year. That's a huge shift from the persistent partisan patterns that have mostly held for two decades. The good news for Democrats is that they were able to hold Handel to a Trumpish rather than the traditionally expected margin in such a district. The bad news is that there aren't that many other Republican-held districts with a lot of highly educated voters. Republicans hold only six of the 23 districts with college graduate majorities. Most were won years ago by Democrats in elections in which the persistent partisan patterns held true. Of the Republican-held districts where 40 percent or more of the voters are college graduates, only 14 were carried by Hillary Clinton last year. These 14 seats -- plus the four more that Trump carried by less than 5 percent -- are obvious Democratic targets, and the result in Georgia suggests that Democrats could be competitive in many of them. But Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats for a House majority, and in good years, parties usually gain only half the seats they seriously target. Moreover, Republican incumbents won 15 of these 18 seats by double-digit margins in 2016 despite the local Trump undertow. Most or all are running again, and though Democrats may try to field stronger opponents against many, the Georgia result won't help recruitment. There's a contrast between the special election in Georgia's 6th District and the three other special elections in districts with far lower percentages of college graduates (23 to 31 percent) -- Kansas's 4th District, Montana's at-large district and South Carolina's 5th District. Trump carried all three by wider margins than Romney, but in each, Republicans failed to match his showing and won with results reverting toward or falling below the levels of the persistent partisan pattern. This is often the pattern in special elections, wherein you can cast a protest vote without affecting the balance of partisan power much. And it's especially true when, as in these examples, no one expects the incumbent party's candidate to lose. That was the case Tuesday in South Carolina's 5th District, where 87,000 voted -- one-third the turnout in Georgia's 6th District. In off-year congressional elections, the dynamics are different. Incumbents enter with an edge and often without serious opposition. You can't cast a protest vote without risking a change in party control, a risk that seems likely to be palpable in 2018. And the ol[...]



Make 2017 Last Year Again

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

President Trump is running for president for the first time again. On Wednesday night, he held a campaign-style rally in Cedar Rapids. It was so campaign-like that campaign staffers were there, it was in Iowa, and people listened to a Lee Greenwood song on purpose. President Nixon gave a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars during Watergate for the same reason that Trump gave his in Iowa: He knew he wouldn’t get booed. Just as Nixon found an ally in America’s silent majority, Trump found 6,000 of them in downtown Cedar Rapids, and they were far from silent....President Trump is running for president for the first time again. On Wednesday night, he held a campaign-style rally in Cedar Rapids. It was so campaign-like that campaign staffers were there, it was in Iowa, and people listened to a Lee Greenwood song on purpose. President Nixon gave a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars during Watergate for the same reason that Trump gave his in Iowa: He knew he wouldn’t get booed. Just as Nixon found an ally in America’s silent majority, Trump found 6,000 of them in downtown Cedar Rapids, and they were far from silent. “We love you!” a woman shouted. “Thank you, darling,” Trump replied. Trump spoke extemporaneously for 70 minutes about nothing in particular. His speech was sufficiently devoid of content as to be sufficiently entertaining. This was @realDonaldTrump in the flesh, tweeting out loud, before a friendly audience, and on TV. Instead of “likes” he received applause and a standing ovation. He made a few impolitic remarks—such as “I just don’t want a poor person,” which is fun to quote out of context—and more than a few inaccurate ones. He denounced his critics—“the cynics,” “fake news,” “dishonest media corporations,” Democrats—but not the 57 percent of voters who disapprove of him. He boasted of his accomplishments (unparalleled “in the history of this country and maybe beyond that”), lamented his travails and declared victory multiple times. “All we do is win, win, win,” he said. In typical meta fashion, he bragged to the crowd about how big the crowd was. “We’re not even campaigning,” he said, “and look at this crowd!” “Every seat is packed,” he said, neglecting the 500 seats that were blocked off. Still, it was a big crowd for an event with no specified purpose. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “I think anytime the president can talk directly to the American people, that’s a good thing. … It’s good for the American people to be able to get a message directly from him.” And what was Trump’s message? Simply this: “The truth is, people love us. … They haven’t figured it out yet.” In high school, this was my message to myself when girls rejected me. When Trump speaks, it’s not because he has something to say. It’s because he wants to be heard. And millions of people listen. That’s how good he is at saying nothing. Part of the reason our politics is so dysfunctional is that we reward successful campaigners and ignore or punish successful governors and legislators. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a former Harvard Law professor, rose to prominence because of her rhetoric and passion, not because of her intellect. Thanks to technology, we are transforming politics into performance art, and Trump is accelerating and exploiting this trend by pseudo-campaigning for a job he already has, just for the fun of it. “You don’t want me to leave,” Trump told the crowd, right before he left. “I don’t want to leave, either.” As he left the stage, the song “You Can’t Alwa[...]



The Passing of the Pelosi Era

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

In the first round of the special election for the House seat in Georgia's Sixth District, 30-year-old Jon Ossoff swept 48 percent. He more than doubled the vote of his closest GOP rival, Karen Handel. A Peach State pickup for the Democrats and a huge humiliation for President Trump seemed at hand. But in Tuesday's final round, Ossoff, after the most costly House race in history, got 48 percent again, and lost. If Democratic donors are grabbing pitchforks, who can blame them? And what was Karen Handel's cutting issue? Ossoff lived two miles outside the district and...In the first round of the special election for the House seat in Georgia's Sixth District, 30-year-old Jon Ossoff swept 48 percent. He more than doubled the vote of his closest GOP rival, Karen Handel. A Peach State pickup for the Democrats and a huge humiliation for President Trump seemed at hand. But in Tuesday's final round, Ossoff, after the most costly House race in history, got 48 percent again, and lost. If Democratic donors are grabbing pitchforks, who can blame them? And what was Karen Handel's cutting issue? Ossoff lived two miles outside the district and represented the values of the Democratic minority leader, whom he would vote to make the speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. The Pelosi factor has been a drag on Democrats in all four of the special elections the party has lost since Trump's November triumph. Prediction: Democrats will not go into the 2018 Congressional elections with San Fran Nan as the party's face and future. No way. As President Kennedy said, "Sometimes party loyalty asks too much." Post-Trump, it is hard to see Republicans returning to NAFTA-GATT free-trade globalism, open borders, mass immigration or Bushite crusades for democracy. A cold realism about America's limited power and potential to change the world has settled in. And just as Trump put Bush-Romney Republicanism into the dumpster in the 2016 primaries, Hillary Clinton's defeat, followed by losses in four straight special elections, portend a passing of the guard in the Democratic Party. So where is the party going? Clearly, the energy and fire are on the Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren left. Moreover, the crudity of party chair Tom Perez's attacks on Trump and the GOP, being echoed now by Democratic members of Congress, suggest that the new stridency to rally the angry left is gaining converts. Trump's rough rhetoric, which brought out the alienated working class in the ten of thousands to his rallies, is being emulated by "progressives" -- imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. Nor is this unusual. After narrow presidential defeats, major parties have often taken a hard turn back toward their base. After Richard Nixon lost narrowly to JFK in 1960, the Republican right blamed his "me-too" campaign, rose up and nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964. A choice, not an echo. After Hubert Humphrey lost narrowly to Nixon in 1968, the Democratic Party took a sharp turn to the left in 1972 and nominated George McGovern. A 21st-century variant of McGovernism seems be in the cards for Democrats today. The salient positions of the party have less to do with bread-and-butter issues than identity politics, issues of race, gender, morality, culture, ethnicity and class. Same-sex marriage, abortion rights, sanctuary cities, Black Lives Matter, racist cops, La Raza, bathroom rights, tearing down Confederate statues, renaming streets, buildings and bridges to remove any association with slave-owners or segregationists, putting sacred tribal lands ahead of pipelines, and erasing the name of the Washington Redskins. The Democrats' economic agenda? Free tuition for college kids, forgiveness of student loan debt, sticking it to Wall Street and the 1 percent, and bailing out Puerto Rico. And impeachment -- thoug[...]



Can Heitkamp Win Again in Red North Dakota?

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

If you were to ask nearly any political analyst or forecaster which Democratic senators are most vulnerable in 2018, Heidi Heitkamp would almost certainly be on their lists. The North Dakota lawmaker, elected by a narrow margin in 2012, has been performing a delicate balancing act: trying to work well with her co-partisans while keeping the electorate of her heavily Republican home state happy. So it’s worth asking -- when we talk about vulnerable Senate incumbents, why does Heitkamp’s name keep coming up?   There’s a simple way and a complex way to...If you were to ask nearly any political analyst or forecaster which Democratic senators are most vulnerable in 2018, Heidi Heitkamp would almost certainly be on their lists. The North Dakota lawmaker, elected by a narrow margin in 2012, has been performing a delicate balancing act: trying to work well with her co-partisans while keeping the electorate of her heavily Republican home state happy. So it’s worth asking -- when we talk about vulnerable Senate incumbents, why does Heitkamp’s name keep coming up?   There’s a simple way and a complex way to think about this -- both of which illuminate exactly how our elections work.   The Simple Explanation -- She’s From an Extremely Republican State   Donald Trump won North Dakota by about 36 percentage points, and presidential-level partisanship exercises a great deal of influence in senatorial elections.   Here at RCP we’ve developed a model that predicts the results of Senate elections based on the president’s approval rating on Election Day; the state’s partisanship; incumbency; and whether a problematic candidate is in the race. You can play with the model here (please read the caveats first), but the results are straightforward. Incumbency helps Heitkamp, but the partisanship of her state harms her.   In order to win, she would either have to benefit from very favorable circumstances (e.g. a low Trump approval rating), successfully run away from the national Democratic brand or draw a weak Republican challenger. While any of those circumstances (or some combination of them) are possible, all the Republican candidate needs to do to stand a good chance of winning is make this race a generic Republican vs. Democrat contest.     The More Complicated Explanation -- North Dakota Is a Natural One-Party GOP State   The 2016 election put the political battle lines in America on clear display. Age, race, urbanization, education and religion were all strong predictors of the vote at the top of the ticket. Older, white, rural and evangelical voters were more likely to vote for Trump than younger, nonwhite or urban voters. Among whites, more educated voters pulled to the left and non-college-educated white voters moved right.   In some swing states, these warring groups provide each party with a base. But most of North Dakota falls on the Republican side of these cultural and demographic divides.   North Dakota is the seventh whitest state, with only Montana, Iowa, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Vermont and Maine having a higher non-Hispanic white percentage of the population (data from the 2015 ACS 5-year estimates). According to our CBSA Divisions (described here), there are no cities in North Dakota -- only rural areas, small towns and large towns. And college education among whites doesn’t function in the same way that it does in other states. In many swing states, college education among whites powerfully predicted where Trump and Hillary Clinton would make gains over Mitt Romney and Barack Obama (Trump tended to make gains in areas with many non-college-educated whites and Clinton made gains in more highly educated areas). But in North Dako[...]



Amyloid and Alzheimer's

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

Some years ago, my colleague and client Dr. Paul Aisen, an internationally recognized researcher of Alzheimer's disease and the director of the Alzheimer's Therapeutic Research Institute at USC, discovered that people with Alzheimer's all have elevated levels of the protein amyloid in their brains. Following this discovery, clinical trials targeted amyloid in patients with Alzheimer's disease, but those trials failed: Intervening after the disease has already resulted in significant degeneration of the brain did not work. Still, the relationship between AD and amyloid...Some years ago, my colleague and client Dr. Paul Aisen, an internationally recognized researcher of Alzheimer's disease and the director of the Alzheimer's Therapeutic Research Institute at USC, discovered that people with Alzheimer's all have elevated levels of the protein amyloid in their brains. Following this discovery, clinical trials targeted amyloid in patients with Alzheimer's disease, but those trials failed: Intervening after the disease has already resulted in significant degeneration of the brain did not work. Still, the relationship between AD and amyloid has become so established that elevated amyloid levels and mild or moderate cognitive impairment is now classified as pre-AD. Thirty percent of Americans 65 and over have elevated levels of amyloid in their brains. The incubation period for Alzheimer's disease -- the period during which you can have elevated amyloid levels but no symptoms -- can be as long as 10 years, longer than the period of dementia. In a study published by Dr. Aisen and his colleagues last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, healthy people with elevated amyloid levels were twice as likely to develop symptoms of AD than those who did not start out with elevated levels of amyloid. After four years, 32 percent of those with elevated amyloid showed symptoms of dementia. Analyzing a smaller group after 10 years showed 88 percent of those with elevated amyloid levels suffering significant mental decline, Aisen told me over the phone. Eighty-eight percent. I was silent. I am not a doctor or scientist, but I recognize a public health crisis when I hear one. In 2014, 15 percent of the population -- 46 million people -- were 65 or older. In 2050, that number will reach 22 percent, a total of 88 million people. The answer? Likening amyloid's relationship to Alzheimer's to cholesterol and heart attack, Dr. Aisen and other researchers have hypothesized that the key is to reduce or eliminate amyloid buildup before degeneration sets in -- in other words, early intervention. "To have the greatest impact on the disease, we need to intervene against amyloid, the basic molecular cause, as early as possible," Dr. Aisen says. Clinical trials are underway around the world, of different drugs, different therapies. They all depend on one thing: us. We baby boomers, if we are to defeat this scourge, will have to be a generation of volunteers. Dr. Aisen thinks the patients who volunteer for these clinical trials -- people with elevated amyloid levels who agree to participate in studies where they might be given a drug that they don't actually need (because they might not develop dementia) or might not be given a drug that they could desperately need (because otherwise they will develop dementia) -- are ensuring that their children will not face this scourge. If you turn down the partisan bickering in the background, it is hard to think of anything we could do that is more important for our children. For if we fail, they are the ones who will bear our burden. And what a terrible one. I do not know anyone who has not been touched by AD. We do our crossword puzzles, keep our minds active. But if biology is destiny, then we m[...]



Trump's Embrace of Strongmen Betrays an American Ideal

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- In 1983, President Ronald Reagan delivered his "Evil Empire" speech, which immediately offended Soviet leaders and the foreign policy establishment. (Reagan must have been equally pleased by both.) "I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written," he said. "I believe this because the source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual. And because it knows no limitation, it must terrify and ultimately triumph over those who would enslave their fellow...WASHINGTON -- In 1983, President Ronald Reagan delivered his "Evil Empire" speech, which immediately offended Soviet leaders and the foreign policy establishment. (Reagan must have been equally pleased by both.) "I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written," he said. "I believe this because the source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual. And because it knows no limitation, it must terrify and ultimately triumph over those who would enslave their fellow man." In a Siberian jail, Russian dissident Natan Sharansky read the speech and secretly spread the news to his fellow prisoners. According to Sharansky, "The dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth -- a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us." That was a long time ago -- Reagan's speech was about as close to World War II as we are to Reagan's speech -- and it sounds strangely quaint to modern ears. But this was more than rhetorical fluff. The speech embodied a strategic insight -- that the hope of oppressed people for lives and dignity and freedom is eventually favorable to the community of free nations. It was hard power -- tanks and missiles -- that kept the Cold War from being lost. It was soft power -- the superiority of a spiritual ideal of freedom to a materialistic vision of historical forces -- that allowed the Cold War to be won. Is the world now fundamentally different? Is the spiritual ideal now outdated or overmatched by distorted but powerful appeals of nationalism and religious fundamentalism? It is the theory of "America First" foreign policy that this ideal is outdated. The urgency of defeating terrorism, in this view, requires the active cooperation of Middle Eastern leaders, and it matters little or nothing how oppressive they are at home. "We are not here to lecture," President Trump said in Saudi Arabia. "We are not here to tell other people how to live." Trump has extended this approach, in various forms, to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt (doing a "fantastic job"), to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, and to President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines (doing an "unbelievable job"). Some of this warmth for strongmen is surely due to Trump's personal fascination with authoritarianism. But this is also proposed as a strategy -- as a way to maximize American interests in a dangerous world. And here it is less realistic than simplistic. The main problem is not moral but temporal. This foreign policy approach assumes that the current order in oppressive countries can be indefinitely preserved -- as long it is not destabilized by meddling outsiders. In reality, the instability of oppressive governments emerges from within. They prevent the diffusion of choice and power, which is the source of economic and social success in the modern world. Monopolizing power encourages cronyism, corruption, resentment and discontent. Strongmen can succeed for a time by feeding hatred of enemies, real and imagined. But this is the path of arrogance, mediocrity and insurrection. In such soc[...]



Democrat Anger Is Helping Republicans

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

This past week, after spending $30 million, Democrats lost their fourth special election since Donald Trump became president. So convinced are Democrats that the president is toxic, they failed to realize that in many parts of the country they are toxic. For perspective, in November last year, the Democrat challenger to Congressman Tom Price received 38.3 percent of the popular vote in the sixth congressional district of Georgia. Jon Ossoff only improved that by 10 percent with $30 million. Democrats may say the race should not have been that close, but the reality is spending that much money...This past week, after spending $30 million, Democrats lost their fourth special election since Donald Trump became president. So convinced are Democrats that the president is toxic, they failed to realize that in many parts of the country they are toxic. For perspective, in November last year, the Democrat challenger to Congressman Tom Price received 38.3 percent of the popular vote in the sixth congressional district of Georgia. Jon Ossoff only improved that by 10 percent with $30 million. Democrats may say the race should not have been that close, but the reality is spending that much money to drive out 100 percent of Democrats plus some anti-Trump Republicans cost them $30 million they now cannot spend elsewhere. And they still lost. Any reasonable person should have been able to look objectively at the data and see that district was a Republican district. Not only did the Democrats waste all that money, but they did so with a candidate who did not live in the district and who campaigned like a moderate Republican. He did not run on the so-called "living wage" or on universal healthcare for all or even impeaching the president. He ran sounding like a corporate CEO. He wanted to inspire technology investment, work across the aisle, and find bipartisan solutions. He would not even take a position on voting for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker. But the GOP still successful tied Ossoff to Pelosi. While polling showed President Trump is not necessarily liked in that district, Pelosi is downright despised. Much of the left, however, believes Ossoff's loss means the party should go aggressively leftwing. Therein lies a real problem for Democrats. They can be assured of some success next year by virtue of history. The party that does not control the White House typically does well in off-year elections. In South Carolina's fifth congressional district, which held a special election the same day as Georgia's, the Democrat came within a few percent of beating the Republican in a district President Trump won by 60 percent. Under the radar, Democrats are engaged. But the moment they appear on radar, Republicans engage too. Democrats have spun stories that are not working to draw voters to them. With more and more evidence the president did not collaborate with Russians to steal the election, Democrats are more and more convinced he did. Instead of talking about job creation or healthcare reform, they want everyone to believe the president is a traitor. When Democrats do talk issues, they spend more time fixated on letting men use the women's bathroom and forcing Christians to provide goods and services to gay weddings than they do anything that really helps most people. They have abandoned skepticism of unlimited immigration and now call anyone who disagrees a bigot. In fact, anyone who does not support Democrats is considered a racist, bigot, homophobe, or misogynist. Instead of trying to solve the nation's problems, the Democrats seem very busy trying to drive people with whom they have disagreements from the town square. While there are many people who believe Democrats need to run for something[...]



With Health Care Bill, the GOP Is Mounting a Historic Heist

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The "health care bill" that Republicans are trying to pass in the Senate, like the one approved by the GOP majority in the House, isn't really about health care at all. It's the first step in a massive redistribution of wealth from struggling wage-earners to the rich -- a theft of historic proportions. Is the Senate version less "mean" than the House bill, to use President Trump's description of that earlier effort? Not really. Does the new bill have the "heart" that Trump demanded? No, it doesn't. The devil is not in the...WASHINGTON -- The "health care bill" that Republicans are trying to pass in the Senate, like the one approved by the GOP majority in the House, isn't really about health care at all. It's the first step in a massive redistribution of wealth from struggling wage-earners to the rich -- a theft of historic proportions. Is the Senate version less "mean" than the House bill, to use President Trump's description of that earlier effort? Not really. Does the new bill have the "heart" that Trump demanded? No, it doesn't. The devil is not in the details, it's in the big picture. Fundamentally, what Republicans in both chambers want to do is cut nearly $1 trillion over the next decade from the Medicaid program, which presently serves almost 70 million people. Medicaid provides health care not just for the indigent and disabled but also for the working poor -- low-wage employees who cannot afford health insurance, even the plans offered through their jobs. Additionally, about 20 percent of Medicaid spending goes to provide nursing home care, including for middle-class seniors whose savings have been exhausted -- a situation almost any of us might confront. Roughly two-thirds of those in nursing homes have their care paid by Medicaid. Why would Republicans want to slash this vital program so severely? You will hear a lot of self-righteous huffing and puffing about the need for entitlement reform, but the GOP's intention is not to use the savings to pay down the national debt. Instead, slashing Medicaid spending creates fiscal headroom for what is euphemistically being called "tax reform" -- a soon-to-come package of huge tax cuts favoring the wealthy. That's the basic equation in both the House and Senate bills: Medicaid for tax cuts. Both bills start with various of the taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act, but those are mere appetizers. The main course is intended to be big cuts in individual and corporate tax rates that would benefit the rich. There is no other point to this whole exercise. All the "Obamacare is in a death spiral" talk is Republican wishful thinking, aided and abetted by active sabotage. The ACA is far from perfect, but recall that it was designed with input from the insurance industry. The main reason so many insurers are pulling out of the program is that Congress and GOP-dominated state governments refuse to live up to their end of the bargain. Congress will not commit to funding promised subsidies to cover treatment for the poor and those with expensive ailments, or to keeping in place the mandate forcing individuals to buy insurance or pay a penalty. Republican governors and state legislatures refused to set up exchanges that would make insurance more affordable and declined the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage. It's actually a wonder that the ACA works as well as it does, given the GOP's determination to make it fail. Neither the House nor the Senate bill fully dismantles the scaffolding of Obamacare; rather, they allow the states to do most of the dirty work. Philosophically, Republican majorities in both chambers want to erase the central concept that the ACA established: that health ca[...]



Puberty Suppression and FGM

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

Michigan is set to become the 26TH American state to join the federal government in criminalizing female genital mutilation, even as two Detroit area doctors and one of their wives await trial for inflicting the procedure on a number of young girls. FGM, which is common in some parts of Africa and the Middle East, involves using a razor to remove all or part of a girl's clitoris and parts of the vulva. By Western standards, this amounts to child abuse and criminal assault. FGM defenders claim that the practice makes girls feel "clean;" that it helps them to fit into their...Michigan is set to become the 26TH American state to join the federal government in criminalizing female genital mutilation, even as two Detroit area doctors and one of their wives await trial for inflicting the procedure on a number of young girls. FGM, which is common in some parts of Africa and the Middle East, involves using a razor to remove all or part of a girl's clitoris and parts of the vulva. By Western standards, this amounts to child abuse and criminal assault. FGM defenders claim that the practice makes girls feel "clean;" that it helps them to fit into their subculture; and that it promotes good marriages. We're not swayed by such rationalizations -- but can we see past our own cultural blind spots? Our clinics are performing their own mutilations on perfectly healthy people -- delaying puberty in boys and girls with "gender dysphoria." While adults are free to make their own decisions about their bodies, and there may well be some percentage of the population who are happier to live as a simulacrum of the opposite sex, the rapid adoption of puberty-blocking hormone treatments for children -- with a view to facilitating sex reassignment surgeries at age 18 or above -- is nearly as disturbing as FGM. Children, after all, are not capable of making irrevocable decisions about their own welfare, and, as Drs. Paul Hruz, Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh object in the spring edition of The New Atlantis ("Growing Pains"), the use of puberty-blocking hormone treatments is "drastic" and highly experimental. These drugs have been in use only since 1993 for rare cases of "precocious puberty" (before age 8 in girls and 9 in boys). The use of such drugs to delay puberty until a normal age, Hruz, Mayer and McHugh argue, is justified because doctors understand what causes "precocious puberty." They do not have a comparable grasp on the causes of gender dysphoria, and for that reason among others, the resort to puberty-blocking hormones is not good medicine. The physical effects include retarding growth (which may or may not be reversed by later cross-hormone treatment), reduced bone density, possible increased susceptibility to cancer, obesity in natal males and, if followed up by sex reassignment surgery, permanent infertility. In addition, all transsexuals are consigned to a lifelong regimen of cross-sex hormones, the effects of which have not been well studied. If such drugs were proposed to treat anything other than a sexual complaint in children, the medical community would be in an uproar. Children must rely on parents and other adults to see them through developmental stages and safeguard their welfare. Parents, in turn, rely on experts to advise them about childhood problems, and that's where our current rage for transgender identities becomes disturbing and unhinged. Whereas the normal protocols for medical interventions include careful testing, clinical trials, and follow-up studies, the medical establishment is heedlessly plunging into "affirmative treatment" for gender dysphoria. Rather than helping the child to align his or her identity [...]



What If Donald Trump Doesn't Sink the Republican Party?

2017-06-23T00:00:00Z

What if Republican voters who don't particularly like President Donald Trump are also able to compartmentalize their votes? What if they dislike Democrats more than they do the president? What if, rather than being punished for Trump's unpopularity, local candidates are rewarded for their moderation? This would be a disaster for Democrats. And Tuesday's runoff election in Georgia's 6th District shows that it might be possible. Now, had Jon Ossoff come out ahead of Karen Handel, the coverage would have painted this as a game-changing moment: a referendum on conservatism...What if Republican voters who don't particularly like President Donald Trump are also able to compartmentalize their votes? What if they dislike Democrats more than they do the president? What if, rather than being punished for Trump's unpopularity, local candidates are rewarded for their moderation? This would be a disaster for Democrats. And Tuesday's runoff election in Georgia's 6th District shows that it might be possible. Now, had Jon Ossoff come out ahead of Karen Handel, the coverage would have painted this as a game-changing moment: a referendum on conservatism itself, a harbinger of a coming liberal wave and a rejection of Trump's disastrous presidency. It would have illustrated that Democrats had figured out how to flip those suburban and affluent Republicans who aren't crazy about the president. Perhaps some of that will still play out during the midterms because one race (or even four) doesn't tell us everything we need to know. Every district is unique. Still, there are definitely ominous signs for Democrats. You can try and grasp at moral victories, of course, as I saw a number of liberal pundits on cable television trying to do yesterday. You can tell yourself that Ossoff had come closer than any Democrat ever in the 6th District. But there are numerous problems with this optimism. For one, there won't be many red districts where the president is less popular. Democrats are going to have to flip some of these seats to win back a majority. Second, it's difficult to imagine how the environment could be any worse for the GOP (though that, too, is possible). Moreover, Ossoff spent a record $23.6 million on a House race, yet Handel outran not only him but also Trump. This last point is mentioned as often as the others, yet it's probably the most important. Trump's approval rating in the 6th District is equal to the national approval rating of 35 percent, which is to say exceptionally low for a Republican area. He had won the district by less than 2 percentage points back in November. According to a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, the majority of Republicans surveyed (55 percent) said, "expressing their opinion on Trump wasn't a factor in their decision-making" for the special election. It's true that neither Ossoff nor Handel mentioned the president much during the race -- which, in itself, bolsters the theory that Trump might not be as consequential in these races as Dems hope. But the race was nationalized. Its implications were national. The coverage was national. The parties treated the race as one that would have national implications. Certainly, the money that poured into the race was national. One imagines that every Georgia Republican who went to the polls understood what this race meant for the future of the parties. When you nationalize races, Republicans will take more than the president into account. We already know that an electorate can be happy with a president and dislike his party. Why can't the reverse be true? President Barack Obama, for example, carried healthy approval ratings for the [...]



Senate Unveils Obamacare Replacement

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

After weeks of private negotiations, Republicans publicly released a draft of their legislation to repeal and replace major tenets of the Affordable Care Act Thursday morning, a week ahead of an expected vote on the measure. Similar to legislation that passed the House earlier this year, the Senate bill would repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates, as well as most of the new taxes imposed under that law. It would also scale back the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, though on a slower timeline than the House bill prescribes, by beginning to curtail federal funds for...After weeks of private negotiations, Republicans publicly released a draft of their legislation to repeal and replace major tenets of the Affordable Care Act Thursday morning, a week ahead of an expected vote on the measure. Similar to legislation that passed the House earlier this year, the Senate bill would repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates, as well as most of the new taxes imposed under that law. It would also scale back the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, though on a slower timeline than the House bill prescribes, by beginning to curtail federal funds for the program in 2021 and returning them to pre-Obamacare levels by 2024. The legislation would also overhaul Medicaid, capping federal spending at a per-person allotment rather than the open-ended funding currently allowed under the program. Though the broad structure was similar to that of the House measure, there were key differences. The House version provided tax credits based on age to help people afford health insurance; the Senate version would tie those credits to age, income and geography, similar to how they were structured under Obamacare, though they would cover a smaller portion of the population and would cover slightly more generous plans. It would also not include the state waivers crafted in a key amendment to the House version that helped earn conservative support. The House bill would allow states to seek waivers to opt out of essential health benefits, including maternity care, mental health, prescription drugs and others, as well as a regulation preventing sick people from being charged higher premiums. Instead, the Senate bill would provide funds to help states seek waivers already in the Affordable Care Act allowing them to make changes to essential health benefits, though they would not be able to waive community rating (the Obamcare regulation preventing insurers from charging higher prices based on health status) under that process. Republican senators spent more than an hour Thursday morning being briefed privately on the legislation by key staffers of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office and the committees with health-care jurisdiction, though they were not given text of the legislation, which was posted online as they continued their meeting. Republicans are proceeding using the complex budget reconciliation process, which means they can pass it with just 51 votes while bypassing a filibuster. Before the vote, however, rules dictate up to 20 hours of debate on the Senate floor, split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, followed by an unlimited amendment process, known as a vote-a-rama. Senators in both parties can force votes on as many amendments as they like, which will give Republicans a chance to change the legislation and Democrats a chance to attempt to do likewise or force a number of politically difficult votes.  Though the vast majority of Senate Republicans appeared likely to support the legislation, several key senators raised concerns within hour[...]



No Tapes: Trump Says He Didn't Record Meetings With Comey

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump said Thursday he "did not make" and doesn't have any recordings of his private conversations with ousted FBI Director James Comey, speaking up on Twitter after a month-long guessing game that began with him delivering an ominous warning and ended with his administration ensnared in more scandal. "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information," Trump said he has "no idea" whether there are "tapes" or recordings of the two men's...WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump said Thursday he "did not make" and doesn't have any recordings of his private conversations with ousted FBI Director James Comey, speaking up on Twitter after a month-long guessing game that began with him delivering an ominous warning and ended with his administration ensnared in more scandal. "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information," Trump said he has "no idea" whether there are "tapes" or recordings of the two men's conversations. But he declared he "did not make, and do not have, any such recordings." The saga began in May, just days after Trump fired Comey, who was then leading an investigation into contacts before and after the election between the president's campaign and Russian officials. Trump disputed Comet's version of a January dinner during which Comey said Trump had asked for a pledge of loyalty. The president responded with an unmistakable threat, tweeting that Comey "better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" But what appears to have started as an angry, or perhaps mischievous missive triggered a series of consequences each weightier than the last. Ultimately the cryptic comment resulted in the appointment of a special counsel who is now reportedly investigating Trump's own actions in a probe that could dog his presidency for the foreseeable future. At a Senate committee hearing this month, Comey suggested that the president's reference to possible recordings inspired him to disclose to the media through an intermediary a memo he had written of an Oval Office conversation from February. In that meeting, according to the memo, Trump asked Comey to consider dropping an investigation into the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. One week after the memo was disclosed, the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to take over the investigation into contacts between Russia and the Trump political campaign. The absence of recordings almost certainly elevates in significance to investigators the notes made by Comey at the time. Those notes, shared with close associates and testified about to Congress, would likely be weighed by investigators against Trump's own account of the conversations in any investigation that looks into whether the president tried to obstruct justice. Investigators will also weigh the credibility of Comey against a president who has shown a wobbly commitment to accuracy. Trump's tweets on Thursday raised questions about why the president would have staked his reputation and political capital on promoting something that wasn't real. And more questions may soon emerge as to why, in his tweets denying he recorded Comey, did he raise the possibility anew that he might be under some sort of surveillance in the White House. Several outside advisers who speak to Trump regularly have said the president has not mentioned the existence of tapes during their conversations. Whit[...]



Pelosi Insists She Won't Step Down as Leader

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

Nancy Pelosi insists she isn't going anywhere. Responding to calls by some in her Democratic caucus for new leadership in the wake of four special election losses, the House minority leader said she won't be pressured into stepping down from her post. "I love the arena. I thrive on competition," Pelosi said at a press conference Thursday. "My decision to stay is not up to them," she said of her critics, noting that she welcomed and respected "the ambition that exists in my caucus" and members who are "having fun on TV."  Pelosi...Nancy Pelosi insists she isn't going anywhere. Responding to calls by some in her Democratic caucus for new leadership in the wake of four special election losses, the House minority leader said she won't be pressured into stepping down from her post. "I love the arena. I thrive on competition," Pelosi said at a press conference Thursday. "My decision to stay is not up to them," she said of her critics, noting that she welcomed and respected "the ambition that exists in my caucus" and members who are "having fun on TV."  Pelosi dismissed concerns that she will be an albatross on members of her party in the 2018 midterms,   arguing that she is a prolific fundraiser for Democrats, a savvy strategist and a "master legislator" who has kept her conference unified. Her virtues, she insisted, outweigh the way in which Republicans have successfully made her a political pariah. "I think I’m worth the trouble," Pelosi said. The party leader's defense comes as some younger members of her caucus have voiced concerns about the Democratic brand and appeal with Pelosi at the helm. In Tuesday's special election in Georgia, Republicans consistently tied Democrat Jon Ossoff to the national party. Over the past several election cycles, GOP operatives have used Pelosi as a foil, and as a proxy for a liberal agenda. Critics within Democratic circles fear these tactics will continue to weigh down candidates. "Nancy Pelosi was a great speaker. She is a great leader. But her time has come and gone," Rep. Kathleen Rice told MSNBC on Thursday morning. "There comes a time in every leader’s life that they have to know it’s time to leave and usher in the next generation of leaders." The New York lawmaker criticized the silver lining portrayed by Democratic leadership: that candidates in special elections have gained ground since 2016 by cutting into their loss margins. "But we're still losing. ... When are we going to wake up?" Rice said. "I want to win. It is not fun being in Washington when you’re in the minority." That fact of life is on display this week as Republican legislation to unravel much of Obamacare was unveiled in the Senate, with Democrats virtually helpless to prevent its passage. They are left to depend upon divisions within the GOP to derail the bill. Democrats had hoped a victory in Georgia would imperil the Republican agenda by putting members on edge about paying for risky legislation with their seats. Instead, the victory gave the majority party a sigh of relief, for now — and emboldened the president. "I certainly hope the Democrats do not force Nancy P out. That would be very bad for the Republican Party - and please let Cryin' Chuck stay!" Trump tweeted on Thursday, the morning after he took something of a victory lap with a campaign event in Iowa. Pelosi argued that Republicans would demonize any Democratic leader, whether it be her or someone else. "They always want to choose our leaders," she said. "And usually they go after the most effe[...]



Dems Seek Lessons, Direction After Special Election Losses

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

Donald Trump's presidency has galvanized Democrats in a way their own leaders have been unable to do, a phenomenon that masked persistent party divisions. But four straight special election losses, culminating Tuesday in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, have again exposed those fracture lines and other flaws.   As Democrats pick up the pieces ahead of next year’s midterms, they’re largely in agreement that the party needs a sharper economic message and stronger candidates. But just what kind of message and what kind of candidates will deliver...Donald Trump's presidency has galvanized Democrats in a way their own leaders have been unable to do, a phenomenon that masked persistent party divisions. But four straight special election losses, culminating Tuesday in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, have again exposed those fracture lines and other flaws.   As Democrats pick up the pieces ahead of next year’s midterms, they’re largely in agreement that the party needs a sharper economic message and stronger candidates. But just what kind of message and what kind of candidates will deliver victories in the Trump era remain points of contention.   It took the most expensive House race in history to make clear that while resistance to the new president excites some Democrats, the voters needed to regain control of the lower chamber just weren’t ready to come aboard. Even if many rank-and-file Republicans harbor a distaste for Trump, it isn't yet driving them to support a Democrat down ballot, particularly if they associate that candidate with Nancy Pelosi.   Even Democrats acknowledge that Republicans have effectively mobilized their voters by using the former House speaker as a proxy for liberal rule in Washington. That awareness has been palpable among younger lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who fear the party hasn’t absorbed any of the lessons from last year’s election.   “Our brand is toxic,” said Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who challenged Pelosi for the top leadership position earlier this year. Candidates like Jon Ossoff in Georgia and Archie Parnell, who lost an unexpectedly close election in South Carolina’s 5th District on Tuesday, “cannot carry the toxicity of the national Democrat brand,” Ryan said. “That’s just the bottom line.” Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, a former Marine and a rising party star, said the special elections should be a “wake-up call” for Democrats. “Business as usual isn’t working,” he tweeted. Later Wednesday, Moulton announced his support for eight veterans challenging Republicans in House races.  One case in point is Joe Cunningham, a young Democrat challenging South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford in 2018: He pledged Wednesday to not support Pelosi, who is the party’s most prolific fundraiser and a savvy operator on legislation. “The Democratic Party needs new leadership now,” he tweeted.   Democrats looking to rally the troops might point to candidates, including Cunningham, who are entering the fray despite uphill climbs in GOP-held districts. They point to Democrats overperforming their predecessors in each of the four special elections so far this year to argue that the Trump-era climate remains favorable. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan predicted Wednesday that his party would win back the House, arguing that there are over 70 districts that are[...]



Dems' Dilemma; Centrists Needed; Softball Detente; 'Fearless Freddie'

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Thursday, June 22, 2017. On this date 101 years ago, U.S. Army Gen. John J. Pershing received an angry telegram from his superior officer. Pershing’s unit had been tasked with capturing Pancho Villa, which they had been unable to do, and the regiment had walked into a trap set by Villa loyalists and complicit Mexican government troops who were supposed to be helping the Americans. “Why, in the name of God, did I hear nothing from you?” Gen. Frederick Funston demanded in his telegram. “The whole country has known for ten...Good morning, it’s Thursday, June 22, 2017. On this date 101 years ago, U.S. Army Gen. John J. Pershing received an angry telegram from his superior officer. Pershing’s unit had been tasked with capturing Pancho Villa, which they had been unable to do, and the regiment had walked into a trap set by Villa loyalists and complicit Mexican government troops who were supposed to be helping the Americans. “Why, in the name of God, did I hear nothing from you?” Gen. Frederick Funston demanded in his telegram. “The whole country has known for ten hours, from Mexican sources, that a considerable force from your command was apparently defeated yesterday with heavy losses at Carrizal. Who is responsible for what, on its face, seems to have been a terrible blunder?” It wasn’t a blunder, actually. The losses were not heavy and in his defense Gen. Pershing had been double-crossed by Mexican President Venustiano Carranza. By now you’re wondering: How was it that John J. Pershing had a superior officer in 1916 -- when less than a year later, he would lead the American Expeditionary Forces to France? And who was Frederick Funston anyway? I’ll explain in a moment, although I would note that a century ago, “Fearless Freddie” Funston was more famous in this country than “Black Jack” Pershing. But 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 a complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Dems Seek Lessons, Direction After Special Election Losses. Caitlin Huey-Burns has the story. A Call to Revive America’s Political Center. Morton Kondracke urges leaders who are fed up with our partisan bickering to spearhead a movement dedicated to problem solving. Women’s Congressional Softball Game Shows Best Side of Sports. Cory Gunkel writes that last night’s contest helped build relationships between the two major political parties and the media that covers them. Thornberry, McCain Want More Funds and Oversight for Defense.  The armed services chairmen seek $640 billion in 2018 and changes in the way the department does business, Sandra Erwin reports in RealClearDefense. A Better Resolution to Medicaid Expansion Divide. In RealClearHealth, James Capretta pitches a suggestion to those formulating the Senate's Obamacare repeal bill. Drug Dispute Shows Importance of Intellectual Property Rights. In RealClearPolicy, C. Boyden Gray defends intellectual property rights in light of an ongoing legal dispute about pharmaceuticals. An Opportunity to Put Growth Ahead of Political Theater. Also in RCPolicy, Albert Wynn encourages Democrats and Republicans to work together on inf[...]



Trump and His Generals

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

Donald Trump earned respect from the Washington establishment for appointing three of the nation's most accomplished generals to direct his national security policy: James Mattis (secretary of defense), H.R. McMaster (national security adviser) and John Kelly (secretary of homeland security). In the first five months of the Trump administration, the three generals -- along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO -- have already recalibrated America's defenses. At home, illegal immigration is down by some 70 percent. Abroad, a new policy of principled...Donald Trump earned respect from the Washington establishment for appointing three of the nation's most accomplished generals to direct his national security policy: James Mattis (secretary of defense), H.R. McMaster (national security adviser) and John Kelly (secretary of homeland security). In the first five months of the Trump administration, the three generals -- along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO -- have already recalibrated America's defenses. At home, illegal immigration is down by some 70 percent. Abroad, a new policy of principled realism seeks to re-establish deterrence through credible threats of retaliation. The generals are repairing old friendships with allies and neutrals while warning traditional enemies not to press their luck. Trump has turned over most of the details of military operations to his generals. According to his critics, Trump is improperly outsourcing to his generals both strategic decision-making and its tactical implementation. But is Trump really doing that? In his campaign, Trump vowed to avoid new ground wars while not losing those he inherited. He pledged to wipe out ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism without invading Middle Eastern countries to turn them into democracies. Those are wide but nonetheless unmistakable parameters. Within them, the U.S. military can drop a huge bomb on the Taliban, strike the chemical weapons depots of Syria's Bashar Assad, or choose the sort of ships it will use to deter North Korean aggression -- without Trump poring over a map, or hectoring Mattis or McMaster about what particular move is politically appropriate or might poll well. Other presidents have done the same. A wartime President Lincoln -- up for re-election in 1864 -- wanted the tottering Confederacy invaded and humiliated. But he had no idea that Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman would interpret that vague wish as nearly destroying Atlanta, and then cutting his supply lines to march across Georgia to the sea at Savannah. When Sherman pulled off the March to the Sea, Lincoln confessed that he had been wrongly skeptical of, totally surprised and utterly delighted with Sherman's victories. He then left it to Sherman and General Ulysses S. Grant to plan the final campaign of the war. Had Sherman lost his army in the wilds of Georgia, no doubt Lincoln would have relieved him, as he did so many of his other failed generals. President Franklin D. Roosevelt demanded a cross-channel invasion of France by mid-1944. He did not worry much about how it was to be implemented. The generals and admirals of his Joint Chiefs handled Roosevelt's wish by delegating the job to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and his Anglo-American staff. Had Eisenhower failed on the Normandy beaches, Roosevelt likely would have fired him and others. Other critics complain that decorated heroes such as Mattis, McMaster and Kelly should not [...]



It's Not About Trump, It's About His Voters

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

In Election 2016, Democrats seemed to assume that the unpopularity of Donald Trump would be enough to keep him out of the White House. It's true that most Americans viewed him unfavorably, but the same was also true of Hillary Clinton. Given such an unappealing choice, millions of voters decided that Trump was the lesser of two evils. In a series of 2017 special elections, Democrats have continued to make the same mistake. They look at the president's low job approval ratings and assume that simply opposing President Trump should be sufficient to win elections. That was the theory...In Election 2016, Democrats seemed to assume that the unpopularity of Donald Trump would be enough to keep him out of the White House. It's true that most Americans viewed him unfavorably, but the same was also true of Hillary Clinton. Given such an unappealing choice, millions of voters decided that Trump was the lesser of two evils. In a series of 2017 special elections, Democrats have continued to make the same mistake. They look at the president's low job approval ratings and assume that simply opposing President Trump should be sufficient to win elections. That was the theory behind Tuesday's special election in Georgia where Democrats from around the nation financed the most expensive Congressional campaign in history but still came up empty. Blinded by rage at the president, many Democrats are struggling to come to grips with how this could happen. Convinced that the continuous headlines about Russia, special prosecutors and James Comey have made impeachment a real possibility, they failed to notice that the president's job approval rating has been steady for three full months. Perhaps the most succinct rationale was provided by Representative Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio: "Our brand is worse than Trump." In other words, the president may be unpopular, but many voters in the middle still consider his team the lesser of two evils. Data from earlier this year backs him up. Simmons Research found that 17 percent of voters are unhappy that Trump is president but happy Clinton isn't. At the time Simmons did their research, 52 percent of voters were either happy that Trump was president or at least happy that he kept Clinton out of the Oval Office. Those data points were collected a little more than a month into the Trump administration, between February 27 and March 5. At that time, the president's approval was only 44 percent, so there was an 8-point gap between the job approval and the combined support for Trump's victory. There is no data measuring that gap today. However, it may be even bigger today than it was a few months ago. The president's declining job approval rating may have been offset by an increase in the number who still consider him the lesser of two evils. If so, it's not unreasonable to conclude that a narrow majority of voters remain pleased that Clinton is not serving as president. Tuesday's results from Georgia indicate some support for that theory. The final results were very similar to the president's showing in the district last fall. Anecdotal evidence also comes from the fact that many Republicans and conservatives complain about the president while also expressing relief that he added Justice Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. For Democrats, therefore, being opposed to Trump is not enough. They must convince some reluctant Trump supporters that things have changed enough for the Democrats [...]



A Victory for Party, Not Trump

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- What we learned from Tuesday's special congressional election in Georgia is that there is no magical solution to the country's Trump problem. This will be a long fight. Karen Handel's victory over Democrat Jon Ossoff was not an endorsement of the president. It was a personal and party success achieved despite him. Democrats are, well, blue because a loss is a loss. You can measure their disappointment by imagining the triumphalism we'd be hearing had Ossoff prevailed. But nothing that happened should make Republicans feel secure about their hold on the House...WASHINGTON -- What we learned from Tuesday's special congressional election in Georgia is that there is no magical solution to the country's Trump problem. This will be a long fight. Karen Handel's victory over Democrat Jon Ossoff was not an endorsement of the president. It was a personal and party success achieved despite him. Democrats are, well, blue because a loss is a loss. You can measure their disappointment by imagining the triumphalism we'd be hearing had Ossoff prevailed. But nothing that happened should make Republicans feel secure about their hold on the House of Representatives. Nationalizing the swings against them in the special elections held for GOP seats this year would likely deprive them of control in 2018. The key for Handel was the time she had between April's first round of voting (which Ossoff led in an open primary with 48.1 percent, just short of the majority he needed to settle matters then) and the second (in which Ossoff's vote almost precisely matched his earlier share). "Ossoff's problem is that he didn't win the first round," Brian Fallon, senior adviser to Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, said in an interview. "The longer this race was in the national spotlight, the more money it drew from the Republicans, and the more they were able to consolidate their base." And while Democrats were mourning in Georgia Tuesday night, they almost stole a House seat in South Carolina where Archie Parnell came within about 2,800 votes and 3 percentage points of defeating Republican Ralph Norman. In races without the national focus and Fort Knox-level spending, energized anti-Trump voters appeared to turn out at far higher rates than dispirited Republicans. Thus did Democrats sharply cut the Republicans' 2016 margins in Kansas and Montana districts earlier this year. The moral for GOP strategists: They face real threats in less hospitable territory. This also suggests that Democrats should broaden their aspirations beyond suburban areas seen as especially hostile to President Trump. Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant and Handel strategist, underscored her success in turning the contest into a normal partisan choice. "The voters decided that Karen Handel was a better representative of their values, their interests and their perspective than Jon Ossoff," he told me. "Karen Handel ran a relentlessly localized campaign that focused on that perspective." Notice those words: "relentlessly localized." To pull this off Handel had to keep her distance from Trump. Ayres put the matter diplomatically: "The president structured the broader environment but didn't determine the outcome of this particular race." Exactly. Yet if Trump was unpopular in the district, his approval rating, Fallon said, was "6 or 7 points higher" there than his standing nationwide. Trump was thus disliked enough to give Os[...]



Minimum Wage Laws are Destroying Jobs -- Just as Predicted

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

In the '60s my parents opened a small diner near downtown Los Angeles. As a child, I watched my parents sitting at the kitchen table, discussing their plans for what they considered a huge expansion of the business -- hiring a dishwasher. But my parents kept putting off the decision, in large part because of a proposed minimum-wage hike. This would've made the additional employee, as I recall my parents concluding, "too expensive." This brings us to the impact of recent minimum wage hikes in California. The owner of a small restaurant told me that Los Angeles Mayor Eric...In the '60s my parents opened a small diner near downtown Los Angeles. As a child, I watched my parents sitting at the kitchen table, discussing their plans for what they considered a huge expansion of the business -- hiring a dishwasher. But my parents kept putting off the decision, in large part because of a proposed minimum-wage hike. This would've made the additional employee, as I recall my parents concluding, "too expensive." This brings us to the impact of recent minimum wage hikes in California. The owner of a small restaurant told me that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti invited several small business owners to city hall to discuss the impact of a proposed minimum wage hike. Several brought profit-and-loss statements. Each business person, the small restaurant owner said, tried to convince the Democratic mayor that their profit margins were too small to take the wage hike without laying people off, cutting hours or raising prices, which usually means a falloff in business. At the end of the meeting the mayor simply said, "I feel confident that you can absorb the cost." A new study by two researchers, one with Mathematica Policy Research and the other with Harvard Business School, focused on "the impact of the minimum wage on restaurant closures using data from the San Francisco Bay area." The researchers concluded that "a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to approximately a 4 to 10 percent increase in the likelihood of exit." They wrote: "The evidence suggests that higher minimum wages increase overall exit rates for restaurants. However, lower quality restaurants, which are already closer to the margin of exit, are disproportionately impacted by increases to the minimum wage." So the most vulnerable restaurants -- the more "affordable" ones -- appear to be the most hurt by a minimum wage hike. In January, the East Bay Times reported that 60 restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area had shuttered their doors since September. Even the mighty have fallen. The Fresno Bee recently wrote: "Joining San Francisco's restaurant die-off was rising star AQ, which in 2012 was named a James Beard Award finalist for the best new restaurant in America. The restaurant's profit margins went from a reported 8.5 percent in 2012 to 1.5 percent by 2015. Most restaurants are thought to require margins of 3 and 5 percent." In San Diego, voters approved an $11.50 per hour minimum wage for 2017, up from an $8 minimum wage in June 2014. This is an increase of 44 percent -- in just two and a half years! The San Diego Union Tribune recently reported: "Evidence has emerged of an economic dark side to San Diego's decision last year to vault over the state minimum wage -- it may have already destroyed thousands of jobs for low-wage workers even as higher pay helps tens of thousands of others. "Conside[...]



James T. Hodgkinson, Just Another Well-Intentioned Progressive

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Have you followed the drift of the mainstream media as to what provoked James T. Hodgkinson to attempt the massacre of the Republican House baseball team as it practiced in Alexandria, Virginia, last week? Not the Democratic team, not the Washington Nationals but the Republican team. Well, it was not necessarily Hodgkinson's politics, we are told. After all, they were pretty much mainstream progressive. According to the MSM, Hodgkinson had a "Volatile Home Life in Illinois." That is the way The New York Times put it on the front page on Sunday. There was an...WASHINGTON -- Have you followed the drift of the mainstream media as to what provoked James T. Hodgkinson to attempt the massacre of the Republican House baseball team as it practiced in Alexandria, Virginia, last week? Not the Democratic team, not the Washington Nationals but the Republican team. Well, it was not necessarily Hodgkinson's politics, we are told. After all, they were pretty much mainstream progressive. According to the MSM, Hodgkinson had a "Volatile Home Life in Illinois." That is the way The New York Times put it on the front page on Sunday. There was an allusion to strong drink. Anger and violence were also mentioned as features in his rural Illinois home. Moreover, Hodgkinson was described as abusive toward the foster children that he and his wife of 30 years had under their care. One of the children committed suicide by lighting herself afire. Another died of a drug overdose. And he reportedly dragged his grandniece around by her hair. Hodgkinson was also charged with property damage and a couple of misdemeanor counts in recent years. It makes one wonder what the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services -- which the Times mentioned in blase fashion -- is good for. Yet, as I say, the MSM is soft-pedaling this lunatic's politics, and I can see why. There was nothing particularly unusual about them. He could have been one of Bernie Sanders' nondescript supporters at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia last summer. In the world of the American left, there is nothing extreme about carrying placards denouncing the rich or the giant corporations. There is nothing too extreme one might say about the environment, or the plight of the poor, or the fate of the LGBT community.   And why not bring the whole family down to Central Park in New York for a little Shakespeare in the Park? This month is "Julius Caesar," and featured in place of Caesar is the president of the United States, who dies of multiple knife wounds onstage. Why didn't someone, say, The John Birch Society, think of such a skit back in President John F. Kennedy's day? On the other hand, the whole family can curl up in front of the TV and watch the comic geniuses Stephen Colbert or Bill Maher test the limits of the First Amendment. The fact is that Hodgkinson was, in many ways, just another progressive -- note that they do not call themselves liberals anymore. I wonder why. Is the word "liberal" too tainted by defeat or too moderate? Or is it that the left pretty much agreed with me when I titled my obituary for liberalism "The Death of Liberalism" in 2011? Actually, that Hodgkinson is pretty much a standard-issue progressive ought to give everyone the creeps. His politics are no different than those of a local librarian, a schoolteacher or a union guy back in [...]



Trump's Putin Crush, and Other Signs of Guilt

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

How do you identify the Trump supporters at a football game? Easy. They're the ones who leave at halftime. They assume they know the outcome. They don't realize the teams will return to the field. Or they think the game is taking way too long. That's the equivalent of their belief that the suspicions of collusion between Donald Trump's campaign and Russian operatives have been dispelled and should not be pursued any longer. Since former FBI Director James Comey testified on Capitol Hill, the Trump camp has declared victory. "After 7 months of investigations &...How do you identify the Trump supporters at a football game? Easy. They're the ones who leave at halftime. They assume they know the outcome. They don't realize the teams will return to the field. Or they think the game is taking way too long. That's the equivalent of their belief that the suspicions of collusion between Donald Trump's campaign and Russian operatives have been dispelled and should not be pursued any longer. Since former FBI Director James Comey testified on Capitol Hill, the Trump camp has declared victory. "After 7 months of investigations & committee hearings about my 'collusion with the Russians,' nobody has been able to show any proof," Trump tweeted. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, insisted, "I have yet to see anything, even a scintilla. And so it's time to wrap this up." An article in National Review said Democrats have "all but given up on their quest to prove the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow." Oh, really? Comey did say that when he left the FBI, Trump was not under investigation. But he didn't exactly pulverize the collusion fears. The Trump campaign, he said, was under investigation, even if the person in charge was not (at least not at the time Comey was fired). Sen. Tom Cotton asked, "Do you think Donald Trump colluded with Russia?" Comey replied, "It's a question I don't think I should answer in an open setting." Some exoneration. If Trump has not been directly targeted in the investigation of Russian interference, that doesn't mean he won't be. The possible director of a conspiracy is not necessarily the first to be investigated. More commonly, lower-level people are questioned first so evidence against higher-ups can be gathered. Each investigation follows its own timetable. Ken Starr's investigation of the Clintons took more than four years. The lack (so far as we know) of direct evidence implicating Trump hardly proves that he or his campaign didn't work with the Kremlin. He publicly invited Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton's emails, which was collusion in plain sight. People working for him had many contacts with Russian officials and businesspeople -- at least 18 calls during the final seven months of the campaign, according to Reuters. What were they talking about? Ice hockey? Borscht recipes? A lot of evidence in criminal cases is circumstantial. It doesn't directly prove guilt but supports inferences of guilt. Trump's conduct offers a lot of evidence consistent with the theory that he was up to no good. He has done business with Russian investors and met with Russian oligarchs. In 2008, son Donald Jr. said, "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets." High-level Trump aides have exploited moneymaking opportunities in Russia. Maybe all the contacts between T[...]



Morality Tale at Uber: Reputation Still Counts

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

Travis Kalanick helped found and build Uber into a corporate giant worth more than Ford Motor Co. On Tuesday, Uber's board effectively fired Kalanick. This was a direct reaction not to Kalanick's infamously immature bad-boy behavior but to what his toxic personality was doing to the ride-hailing service's bottom line. It recognizes that consumers don't scour the internet for the lowest price and, on that basis alone, make a purchase. Reputation still counts. Kalanick had become the leading representative of an obnoxious "bro culture." He and his managers both...Travis Kalanick helped found and build Uber into a corporate giant worth more than Ford Motor Co. On Tuesday, Uber's board effectively fired Kalanick. This was a direct reaction not to Kalanick's infamously immature bad-boy behavior but to what his toxic personality was doing to the ride-hailing service's bottom line. It recognizes that consumers don't scour the internet for the lowest price and, on that basis alone, make a purchase. Reputation still counts. Kalanick had become the leading representative of an obnoxious "bro culture." He and his managers both mocked and discriminated against women. They partied at strip joints. They sneaked around local regulations, abused drivers and have been accused of stealing technology owned by Google's parent company. Kalanick's official core values included "stepping on toes" and "always be hustlin'." Uber's big investors decided they'd had enough. The Uber case is just one example of companies' acting on worries that they are lending their good name to questionable activities. Another was JPMorgan Chase's decision to withdraw its advertising from NBC's Megyn Kelly interview with the creepy conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Delta Air Lines and Bank of America pulled back sponsorship of a New York Shakespeare in the Park production of "Julius Caesar" that featured the assassination of a Donald Trump-like figure. In a similar vein, CNN fired comedian Kathy Griffin after she posed lifting a mock severed head of Trump. All these decisions were solid ones. A critic for The Guardian quoted an English theater director as saying that corporate sponsorships of performances are, in effect, censorship. That is nonsense. Bill O'Reilly's sponsors were in no way censoring the Fox News personality when they pulled ads from his show because of multiple reports of his piggish treatment of women. And it mattered not that O'Reilly still had a big audience. They didn't want to be seen as enabling socially repugnant behavior. O'Reilly retains the right to say what he wants to, and Fox News has a right to give him airtime, though it decided to let him go. But companies also have a right to advertise or not. As for the ads themselves, I don't care much for overtly political messages, even when the messages jibe with my own worldview. They have an air of manipulation, playing with my civic emotions to sell a product having nothing to do with government or politics. But I have no problem with companies that sponsor news shows promoting views I greatly disagree with. As long as the content is vaguely honest, the sponsor's reputation remains intact, in this opinion. There was a time when advertisers saw social media -- Facebook, Twitter and the like -- as a means to maintain tighter reins, directing c[...]



A Call to Revive America's Political Center

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

Before our savagely polarized country rips itself apart with violent language and violent deeds, it’s time for the nation’s adult leaders to rally and fortify the political center. I’m not talking about national Republican and Democratic leaders. They’re hopeless. They’re momentarily talking up bipartisan unity after the near-massacre of the congressional GOP baseball team last week. But otherwise they’re doing everything on a divisive, partisan basis—as usual. House and Senate GOP leaders are cutting Democrats out of any...Before our savagely polarized country rips itself apart with violent language and violent deeds, it’s time for the nation’s adult leaders to rally and fortify the political center. I’m not talking about national Republican and Democratic leaders. They’re hopeless. They’re momentarily talking up bipartisan unity after the near-massacre of the congressional GOP baseball team last week. But otherwise they’re doing everything on a divisive, partisan basis—as usual. House and Senate GOP leaders are cutting Democrats out of any role in remaking health care, an industry that makes up one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Democratic Party leaders have declared themselves “The Resistance” to President Trump and all his works. And Trump has tweeted, stumbled, and insulted his way to become the most polarizing president in modern American history. The center—it’s weak, but it does exist—has to be bolstered by our national heavyweights. Accomplished and respected people such former Secretaries of State James Baker, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and George Shultz; former Defense Secretaries Leon Panetta, and Robert Gates; business leaders like Kenneth Chenault of American Express, Ellen Kullman of DuPont, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Jeff Immelt of GE, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook. Retired top military figures like Adms. Mike Mullen, James Stavridis and Bill McRaven and Gens. Stanley McChrystal, James Jones and David Petraeus. Plus, ought-to-have-been presidential candidates Mitch Daniels and Michael Bloomberg. This is just an examples list and it’s incomplete. The point is that Americans of this caliber must come together—and I mean meet face-to-face—and resolve to act jointly in service to their country. They need to recruit others of talent and stature to join them. And resolve to speak out often—in op-eds and full-page ads, on television and social media--demanding action on the country’s most pressing issues, criticizing politicians’ bad behavior, praising positive policy proposals when they occur, then aggressively lobbying for them. With money and influence, they need to support existing centrist groups that, with little notice, are already at work. Organizations such as No Labels, The Centrist Project, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Reformicon movement, Third Way, Level the Playing Field, Represent.Us, the Campaign Legal Center, and FairVote. This list is incomplete, too, but all of these groups are working in various ways to advance policies to solve America&rsqu[...]



Is President Trump the Subject of a Criminal Investigation?

2017-06-22T00:00:00Z

I was surprised last weekend when one of President Donald Trump's lawyers told my colleague Chris Wallace twice on "Fox News Sunday" that the president is being investigated by the FBI and then told him twice that he is not. This same lawyer repeated the "not being investigated" argument on a half-dozen other Sunday shows but did not repeat the "is being investigated" remark. This produced substantial consternation in the news media and at the White House, since the president himself had tweeted over the weekend that he is being investigated for firing FBI...I was surprised last weekend when one of President Donald Trump's lawyers told my colleague Chris Wallace twice on "Fox News Sunday" that the president is being investigated by the FBI and then told him twice that he is not. This same lawyer repeated the "not being investigated" argument on a half-dozen other Sunday shows but did not repeat the "is being investigated" remark. This produced substantial consternation in the news media and at the White House, since the president himself had tweeted over the weekend that he is being investigated for firing FBI Director James Comey by the same person -- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein -- who recommended Comey's firing and that the investigation is a "witch hunt." So, who is correct, the president or his lawyer? Is the president under criminal investigation by the FBI? If he is being investigated as he claims, is the investigation a witch hunt? Here is the back story. When Donald Trump began running for the Republican nomination for president in June 2015 and made novel arguments indicating that his view was that Europe should essentially pay for its own military defense, this triggered concern in European capitals, and it resulted in the commencement of now well-documented British surveillance of Trump and his principal adviser on national security matters, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. The foreign surveillance was eventually passed on to American spies, who acceded to demands from the West Wing of the Obama White House and handed over transcripts of conversations and names of participants. This went on throughout the presidential campaign and into the transition period after Trump had been elected. President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, recently confirmed that she ordered transcripts of surveilled conversations and names of participants -- this is called "unmasking" in intelligence community lingo -- and James Clapper, the Obama administration's director of national intelligence, recently acknowledged under oath the existence of the foreign and domestic surveillance of Trump in 2015 and 2016, as well as the unmasking. One of the unmasked conversations handed over to Rice was between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Portions of that conversation were leaked to The Washington Post, and that generated interest in the relationship, if any, of the Trump campaign and transition team to the Russian government. This provoked a preliminary FBI investigation into Flynn. Flynn apparently was interviewed by the FBI while ignorant of the FBI's possession of transcripts of his conversations with Kislyak. If Flynn lied in that interview as has been reported and speculat[...]



The Perils of Over-Lending

2017-06-21T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Among the many things it does, the federal government is one of the nation's largest lenders. It lends to farmers, homeowners, students, small businesses, exporters and rural electric utilities, among others. Altogether, there are more than 100 loan programs administered by 20 agencies overseeing lending worth $3.4 trillion in fiscal 2015, up from $1.5 trillion in 2007. These fascinating figures come from a new report on federal credit programs. The report's verdict is mixed: Many programs are justified to correct failures of private credit markets, but lending...WASHINGTON -- Among the many things it does, the federal government is one of the nation's largest lenders. It lends to farmers, homeowners, students, small businesses, exporters and rural electric utilities, among others. Altogether, there are more than 100 loan programs administered by 20 agencies overseeing lending worth $3.4 trillion in fiscal 2015, up from $1.5 trillion in 2007. These fascinating figures come from a new report on federal credit programs. The report's verdict is mixed: Many programs are justified to correct failures of private credit markets, but lending standards are often too lax, resulting in unnecessary losses to the Treasury and harm to borrowers. In theory, the government -- that is, taxpayers -- could be on the hook for the entire outstanding amount of $3.4 trillion (actually, the total is greater now). This would be a significant addition to the existing publicly held federal debt of more than $14 trillion. But in practice, the government's exposure is more limited, because many of the federal loans will be repaid in full or, if not, repaid in part from the proceeds of a business or the sale of houses, which serve as collateral for home mortgages. Just how large losses might be is unclear. The report, supported by the American Society for Public Administration, was written by Thomas Stanton, a well-known expert on government credit programs; Alan Rhinesmith, a former top official of the Office of Management and Budget; and Michael E. Easterly, a former staff member of the commission that investigated the 2008-09 financial crisis. As they describe it, federal lending has taken on a life of its own. Of the outstanding amount of $3.4 trillion, roughly two-thirds are loan guarantees (the government reimburses private lenders for losses) and the remainder are direct loans (borrowers stiff the government directly). Government lending is dominated by two categories: housing credit ($1.9 trillion) and student loans ($1.1 trillion). But there are many other sizable programs. For example: -- Small Business Administration loan guarantees, $106 billion -- Export-Import Bank, $85 billion -- Advanced vehicle manufacturing, $16 billion -- Transportation infrastructure, $11 billion Federal lending is usually justified to offset the reluctance of private lenders -- with the benefits assumed to exceed the costs (delinquencies and defaults). The Federal Housing Administration was created in the 1930s because "the private sector was failing to serve the credit needs of thousands of prospective homebuyers who [could] repay mortgage loans," the report says. But over time, political pressures have rationalized m[...]



Georgia Takeaways; Jim Risch; Health Care Secrecy; Vexed by France

2017-06-21T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Fifty-four years today, Charles de Gaulle’s government shocked France’s allies -- most notably the United States -- by announcing that it was withdrawing the French navy from the NATO fleet. “Why is de Gaulle screwing us?” John F. Kennedy complained to White House aides. “What does he want?” These are questions that American presidents have asked themselves about the French government down through the years. It also happened five years ago (when I first wrote about Kennedy and de...Good morning, it’s Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Fifty-four years today, Charles de Gaulle’s government shocked France’s allies -- most notably the United States -- by announcing that it was withdrawing the French navy from the NATO fleet. “Why is de Gaulle screwing us?” John F. Kennedy complained to White House aides. “What does he want?” These are questions that American presidents have asked themselves about the French government down through the years. It also happened five years ago (when I first wrote about Kennedy and de Gaulle) as France surprised the U.S. again by announcing a unilateral, earlier-than-planned pullout from Afghanistan. I’ll have more on Franco-American relations in a moment. First, I’ll point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Five Takeaways From Tuesday’s Special Elections. Sean Trende has this analysis of last night’s results in Georgia and South Carolina. Behind Risch’s Defense of Trump in Senate Russia Probe. James Arkin profiles the Idaho senator who caught the public’s eye during the intelligence committee’s grilling of James Comey.  Senate Dems: GOP Health Bill Secretive, in Contrast to Obamacare. The partisan rift over the signature issue seemed deeper than ever Tuesday, Ford Carson writes in RealClearHealth. Pentagon Nominee Grilled on Ukraine, Conflicts of Interest. Sandra I. Erwin recaps yesterday’s confirmation hearing for a former Boeing executive tapped to serve as deputy secretary of defense. The United States Has No Fiscal Space Left. In RealClearPolicy, John Merrifield and Barry Poulson make a case for fiscal policies aimed at restoring balanced budgets. Trump Tried to Strong-Arm Ford, and It Moved Jobs to China. In RealClearMarkets, Allan Golombek accuses the president of substituting bluster and bullying for recognition of market economics. Can Renewables and Nuclear Co-exist in a Clean Energy Future? In RealClearEnergy, Steve Kerekes addresses environmentalists’ dilemma. Top 10 NBA Mock Draft. Jack Beaman compiled this list in RealClearSports.  * * * NATO was a post-World War II organization designed to protect Europe from Soviet aggression, not serve as a point of irritation between the United States and its allies -- and France was a founding member. John F. Kennedy’s[...]



Five Takeaways From Tuesday's Special Elections

2017-06-21T00:00:00Z

Last night, the political world was glued to computer and television screens in a manner reminiscent of a general election, to watch returns filter in from a previously obscure congressional district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs.  Democrats had high hopes that they could capture the open congressional seat previously held by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.  But Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff by a surprisingly large margin of four percentage points in a district that looked like it was getting away from Republicans just a few...Last night, the political world was glued to computer and television screens in a manner reminiscent of a general election, to watch returns filter in from a previously obscure congressional district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs.  Democrats had high hopes that they could capture the open congressional seat previously held by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.  But Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff by a surprisingly large margin of four percentage points in a district that looked like it was getting away from Republicans just a few weeks ago. Republicans are spinning the loss as terrible news for Democrats’ hopes of claiming a majority in 2018, while Democrats insist that Republicans dodged a bullet.  To them, the real story is that they came close in a heavily Republican district – two, if you count South Carolina’s 5th District, which also held an election last night. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.  Here are five observations on the elections, and the state of play in the House: 1. Georgia 6 isn’t great news for Democrats. Although these numbers have been tossed about frequently, they probably bear repeating, because a lot of the interpretation of this race comes down to what you think the nature of the district is. GA-6 had been reliably Republican for decades, since the creation of its rough present form in 1992. Indeed, over the course of its existence, it has regularly turned out large margins for Republicans.  In 2012, it was the 83rd most Republican district; there are 157 districts more Democratic than it is that are nonetheless held by Republicans. So, if this is the proper baseline, the result is actually quite good for Democrats. But it isn’t the only way to read GA-6.  The district has the most college-educated whites of any district held by Republicans in the country, and it swung hard against Donald Trump in 2016. Only 26 Republicans hold seats where Hillary Clinton won a larger share of the vote.  If this represents the outer bounds of where Democrats can hope to win, their path to a 24-seat gain runs through the psephological equivalent of an inside straight. Which one you think is more important in defining the district is difficult to sort out, but what we can say is this: The district defines one potential path for Democrats to a House majority in 2018.  Democrats had hoped that an Ossoff win would suggest that traditionally Republican suburban districts, particularly in the South, were abandoning their GOP roots and pre[...]



Behind Risch's Defense of Trump in Senate Russia Probe

2017-06-21T00:00:00Z

At the blockbuster Senate Intelligence Committee hearing earlier this month featuring the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey, the honor of opening statements and initial questioning went to the panel’s chairman and vice chairman.  The next senator to have the floor wasn’t Marco Rubio, the former presidential candidate -- or Tom Cotton, the freshman senator with the outsize national profile. And it wasn’t either member of Republican leadership on the committee. Instead, it was Jim Risch, junior senator from Idaho, the second-longest-serving...At the blockbuster Senate Intelligence Committee hearing earlier this month featuring the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey, the honor of opening statements and initial questioning went to the panel’s chairman and vice chairman.  The next senator to have the floor wasn’t Marco Rubio, the former presidential candidate -- or Tom Cotton, the freshman senator with the outsize national profile. And it wasn’t either member of Republican leadership on the committee. Instead, it was Jim Risch, junior senator from Idaho, the second-longest-serving Republican on the panel.  Risch, a former prosecutor and committee member since he joined the Senate in 2009, may not be the most recognizable lawmaker taking part in the high-stakes, high-profile probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, but he commands a powerful position. “The one thing you should know is all of us on the intelligence committee are schooled in this stuff because this is not the first rodeo for these Russians,” Risch said during an interview Tuesday in his Capitol Hill office. “They’ve been doing this for a long, long time.”  For Risch, as for many of his colleagues on the panel, the seven-minute period he had to question Comey was likely his biggest public moment yet as an intelligence member. It also encapsulated Risch’s approach to the investigation: simple questions eliciting clear responses, and a healthy dose of skepticism that there is any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump or anyone on his campaign. Risch thanked Comey for his service and complimented him on his testimony and contemporaneous note-taking documenting his conversations with Trump. He then established that Trump had not been personally under investigation when Comey was fired; asked Comey to clarify that he believed a New York Times report about alleged communications between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence was false; and spent several minutes parsing the precise meaning of Trump telling Comey, in a private Oval Office meeting, that he hoped the director could “see his way” to letting go of the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Comey made clear he took it as a direction from Trump.  “You may have taken it as a direction,” Risch said, “but that’s not what he said.” When Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the panel a week later, Risch asked him about the routine nature of senators meeting with foreign diplomats [...]



The Double Murder of Otto Warmbier

2017-06-21T00:00:00Z

We may never know what brutal torture and malign neglect American student Otto Warmbier suffered at the hands of North Korea's dictatorship before losing his life this week at the age of 22. But it wasn't the first time the free-spirited Ohio native died. More than a year before succumbing to the unknown illness or injury that left him in a coma thousands of miles away from home, Otto Warmbier's own countrymen murdered his reputation. His character. His humanity. Click-hungry media ghouls knew nothing about Warmbier's small-town upbringing, his family life, politics,...We may never know what brutal torture and malign neglect American student Otto Warmbier suffered at the hands of North Korea's dictatorship before losing his life this week at the age of 22. But it wasn't the first time the free-spirited Ohio native died. More than a year before succumbing to the unknown illness or injury that left him in a coma thousands of miles away from home, Otto Warmbier's own countrymen murdered his reputation. His character. His humanity. Click-hungry media ghouls knew nothing about Warmbier's small-town upbringing, his family life, politics, personality, disappointments or dreams. But they gleefully savaged a young man who made a mistake on a doomed trip to a totalitarian hell. Warmbier's thoughtless taunters instantly transformed him into a bigger, badder villain than the barbaric DPRK goons who beat, starve, rape and kill enemies of the state for such offenses as listening to foreign radio broadcasts, possessing Bibles and disrespecting Dear Leader -- in Warmbier's case, by attempting to steal a propaganda sign that read "Let's arm ourselves strongly with Kim Jong-il's patriotism!" as a souvenir. The Huffington Post published an acid rant by "Blogging While Black" writer La Sha titled "North Korea Proves Your White Male Privilege Is Not Universal." She rejoiced at Warmbier's sentence because, she gloated, it taught him that "the shield his cis white male identity provides here in America is not teflon abroad." Instead of faulting a repressive socialist regime, La Sha blamed Warmbier for "being socialized first as a white boy, and then as a white man in this country." The HuffPo's megalomaniac millennial had the gall to compare her daily plight of living and breathing freely in America to Warmbier's captivity: "The hopeless fear Warmbier is now experiencing is my daily reality living in a country where white men like him are willfully oblivious to my suffering even as they are complicit in maintaining the power structures which ensure their supremacy at my expense." But it wasn't just babbling diversity bloggers who exploited Warmbier's imprisonment. For a few cheap yuks, liberal black comedian Larry Wilmore plowed ahead with smug disregard to how Warmbier's parents, family and friends must have suffered as photos and videos of their son and loved one were plastered all over media. To canned laughter, Wilmore mocked Warmbier on his Comedy Central show with a graphic labeling him an "ASS," which spelled out a fake frat name, "Alpha Sigma Sigma." "It's just tough for me to have much sympathy fo[...]



How Privacy Purists Are Helping Criminals

2017-06-21T00:00:00Z

Next time you set out to commit armed robbery, leave your cellphone at home. Timothy Carpenter was convicted of robbing a string of T-Mobile and Radio Shack stores, stealing smartphones. But he wasn't too smart himself. He used his cellphone to call 15 getaway drivers. The calls were his undoing. The FBI used the records from his wireless carrier to confirm his proximity to every robbed store when it was hit. Now Carpenter and the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging the conviction, and the Supreme Court just agreed to hear the case. Activists determined to guarantee total...Next time you set out to commit armed robbery, leave your cellphone at home. Timothy Carpenter was convicted of robbing a string of T-Mobile and Radio Shack stores, stealing smartphones. But he wasn't too smart himself. He used his cellphone to call 15 getaway drivers. The calls were his undoing. The FBI used the records from his wireless carrier to confirm his proximity to every robbed store when it was hit. Now Carpenter and the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging the conviction, and the Supreme Court just agreed to hear the case. Activists determined to guarantee total privacy to criminal suspects, no matter what the cost to society, are thrilled. They're predicting Carpenter v. United States could be a landmark victory for privacy. How foolish. A victory for Carpenter would tip the scales of justice in favor of criminals and against law enforcement's ability to keep us safe. The ACLU claims using wireless companies' records to pinpoint suspects' locations violates the Fourth Amendment's privacy protections. Don't fall for it. The Supreme Court already has already ruled the actual content of cellphones cannot be searched without a court-issued warrant, because the Fourth Amendment bars "unreasonable" searches by government. But in Carpenter, the ACLU is stretching the notion of privacy, trying to block police from identifying a cellphone's location. Not its content, just its location. Carpenter v. United States is part of the ACLU's campaign to hobble police and shield wrongdoers -- both terrorists and common criminals -- from the latest technologies available to law enforcement. In the Carpenter case, the ACLU insists the FBI overreached by looking at many months of Carpenter's phone records, revealing where he prayed, slept and shopped. But how else could agents find out whether he was near the robbed stores? Carpenter's spree went on for months. Lawyers defending the FBI say phone records are vital for "promptly apprehending criminals and exonerating innocent suspects as early as possible." They also argue Carpenter had no reason to expect his phone records would be private. Anyone who signs up for a cellphone knows the phone company -- a third party -- will have call records. They're not private. Not so fast, said Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a previous case. Sotomayor suggested that "it may be necessary to reconsider the premise" that there is no privacy right once someone gives information to a third party -- like the phone company. If other justices agree [...]



'Stingy' Jeff Bezos

2017-06-21T00:00:00Z

Thursday, right before Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced he'd acquire Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, he tweeted a "request for ideas" for "philanthropy strategy." If you have suggestions re "helping people in the here and now... reply to this tweet." Here's my reply: Don't do it, Jeff! I understand why you asked. Giving well isn't easy. Charities often squander donations. Cancer Fund of America gave less than 5 percent of donations to charity. When I confronted its owner, James Reynolds, he blithely said, "True, if they give it to the...Thursday, right before Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced he'd acquire Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, he tweeted a "request for ideas" for "philanthropy strategy." If you have suggestions re "helping people in the here and now... reply to this tweet." Here's my reply: Don't do it, Jeff! I understand why you asked. Giving well isn't easy. Charities often squander donations. Cancer Fund of America gave less than 5 percent of donations to charity. When I confronted its owner, James Reynolds, he blithely said, "True, if they give it to the telemarketer, they get 85-90 percent." Charity-rating services try to separate good charities from bad, but they get conned, too. Measuring "charitable work" is hard. How should the CEO's first-class hotel expenses be classified? Some charities perpetuate dependency -- rewarding passivity rather than effort. Some perpetuate poverty -- destroying local businesses by forcing them to compete with "free." Still, Jeff Bezos, you have $80 freakin' billion. Isn't it your moral duty to give more? No. I know, you've been called "stingy." A Slate article sneered that lemonade stands donate more. Like much of what is in Slate, that wasn't true. You've given millions to various causes, including our alma mater. (Dumb -- Princeton doesn't need the money.) Still, you give less than .1 percent of your wealth. Stingy as that sounds, I say that's good -- because you are not a normal person. I give to charity. But I'm just a reporter. I don't create wealth like you do. You employ more than 300,000 people. Amazon saves everyone time and money. You created that from nothing. I bet soon you will find ways to improve food distribution, and your Blue Origin rockets will make space travel practical. Already, you are more efficient than NASA. There's no doubt that you are a wealth creator. So was Ted Turner. Nineteen years ago, the billionaire told me it was "appalling" how cheap rich people are. "I saw 'A Christmas Carol'," said Turner. "I assumed everybody with a lot of money gave it away, because they didn't want to be Scrooge! ... We should shame rich people into giving." Shortly afterward, he announced that he would donate $1 billion to the U.N. The press cheered. But wait, the U.N. is famous for waste! It spends millions on bureaucracy, coddling dictators, sucking up to celebrity ambassadors, etc. I assume the U.N. squandered much of Turner's gift. But Turner the entrepreneur created Turner Broadcasting, CNN and more. Today his companies employ thousands of people. So I asked him[...]



Republican Handel Wins Georgia House Seat in Key Contest

2017-06-20T00:00:00Z

DUNWOODY, Ga. (AP) -- Republican Karen Handel has won a nationally watched congressional election in Georgia, avoiding an upset that would have rocked Washington ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Her narrow victory Tuesday over Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia's 6th Congressional District allows Republicans a sigh of relief after what's being recognized as the most expensive House race in U.S history, with a price tag that may exceed $50 million. Yet the result in a historically conservative district still offers Republicans a warning - and Democrats some encouragement - that...DUNWOODY, Ga. (AP) -- Republican Karen Handel has won a nationally watched congressional election in Georgia, avoiding an upset that would have rocked Washington ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Her narrow victory Tuesday over Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia's 6th Congressional District allows Republicans a sigh of relief after what's being recognized as the most expensive House race in U.S history, with a price tag that may exceed $50 million. Yet the result in a historically conservative district still offers Republicans a warning - and Democrats some encouragement - that President Donald Trump's tenuous standing will dominate the looming campaign cycle. Georgia's outcome follows similar results in Montana, Kansas and South Carolina, where Republicans won special House races by much narrower margins than they managed as recently as November. Democrats must flip 24 GOP-held seats to regain a House majority next November, but the latest losses mean party leaders and liberal groups will have to rally donors and volunteers after a tough stretch of special elections. Handel, 55, becomes the latest in a line of Republicans who have represented the district since 1979, beginning with Newt Gingrich, who would become House speaker. Most recently, Tom Price resigned the post in February to join Trump's administration as health and human services secretary. The president himself struggled here, though, edging Democrat Hillary Clinton but falling short of a majority among an affluent, well-educated electorate that typically has given Republican nominees better than 60 percent of the vote. "This is such an important election because of what goes on in D.C.," said Tom Greathouse, 52, a business owner who supported Handel. He added that there's been "a ton of emotion" in a district used to watching Republicans coast. In April, Handel trailed Ossoff in the first round of voting but led all Republican candidates to qualify for a runoff. Ossoff tallied 48 percent, just shy of an outright victory. A former Georgia secretary of state, Handel emphasized throughout the campaign that she has lived in the district for 25 years, unlike Ossoff, who grew up in the district but lives in Atlanta, a few miles south of the 6th District's southern border. Handel also pointed to the district's pedigree throughout the campaign, urging Republicans not to let Democrats "steal" a seat that became a proxy for the national dynamics in Washington. Party organizat[...]



Trump as Caesar: Irresponsible, Nasty, Fun

2017-06-20T00:00:00Z

Lend me your ears. You'll be glad. Today's subject is the controversial production of "Julius Caesar" in which a Donald Trump-like figure gets assassinated. Given today's angry political climate, the costuming showed poor taste at the very least. Delta Air Lines and Bank of America withdrew their sponsorship, and who could blame them? But let's give a closer look to the Shakespeare play, which just finished a run at New York's Central Park. Its deeper message apparently flew over the heads of the pro-Trump hecklers and no doubt many in the cheering...Lend me your ears. You'll be glad. Today's subject is the controversial production of "Julius Caesar" in which a Donald Trump-like figure gets assassinated. Given today's angry political climate, the costuming showed poor taste at the very least. Delta Air Lines and Bank of America withdrew their sponsorship, and who could blame them? But let's give a closer look to the Shakespeare play, which just finished a run at New York's Central Park. Its deeper message apparently flew over the heads of the pro-Trump hecklers and no doubt many in the cheering audience. "Julius Caesar" does not simplistically celebrate the violent removal of would-be dictators. There are opposing arguments here, both voiced by noble Romans. And the assassins also end up dead. That's why few went crazy five years ago when a "Julius Caesar" production at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis chose an actor resembling Barack Obama for the title role. In 2015, Providence's Trinity Repertory Company cast a woman, suggesting Hillary Clinton as Caesar -- without incident. More on that later. A protester at the Trump-themed production rushed the stage. Her colleague hollered from his seat, "You are all Goebbels," a reference to the Nazi propaganda minister. The two disrupters were publicity hounds tied to a right-wing conspiracy factory. Isn't it cute how professional right-wing liars like to accuse others of being exactly what they are? I will not do them the honor of naming their affiliation. (Spare me your outrage about leftists shouting down conservative speakers on campus. They're obnoxious, too.) The next evening, some Trump fans picketed outside the theater. Fair enough. They have a right to free speech, as does the theater. But in stating their case, they also revealed the self-pity and distorted reality often running through the Trump base. "People like me, I don't even know if they'd let me in," Pauline Pujol said in martyred tones. I know I'm right about this: A ticket, not proof of voter registration, is all that's needed for entrance. And the tickets are free to voters and nonvoters of all persuasions. Pujol carried a sign that read, "Far Left Hates America!" That's the story many right-wingers keep telling themselves. Ask this woman why any patriot would support a president hindering a probe into a hostile foreign plot to destabilize American democracy. I doubt you would get a coherent answer. Anyhow, listening to Mark Antony's funeral oration condemn[...]



The Capitulation of Marco Rubio, the Florida Butterfly

2017-06-20T00:00:00Z

Little Marco has made up with Big Donald. The pliable Republican senator from Florida and the deranged president of the United States now get along. It was only a bit more than a year ago that they were hurling verbal spitballs at one another. Donald Trump called Marco Rubio "Little Marco," and Rubio called Trump a "con artist." Rubio suggested Trump had small hands and Trump responded by displaying his regulation-sized ones. Trump said Rubio sweated too much and had a severe water addiction, which was a sign of something, and then the two of them traded jabs about who...Little Marco has made up with Big Donald. The pliable Republican senator from Florida and the deranged president of the United States now get along. It was only a bit more than a year ago that they were hurling verbal spitballs at one another. Donald Trump called Marco Rubio "Little Marco," and Rubio called Trump a "con artist." Rubio suggested Trump had small hands and Trump responded by displaying his regulation-sized ones. Trump said Rubio sweated too much and had a severe water addiction, which was a sign of something, and then the two of them traded jabs about who used too much makeup until, finally, Rubio alleged that Trump during one of their debates had wet his pants. Trump declared that he had not -- and was elected president. It is refreshing, in an aerosol sort of way, to have that squabble behind us and the room fumigated. Only Trump remains, spewing resentful tweets from somewhere in the White House. I could say that it is a good and wholesome thing to return to yesteryear when the day's rancorous politics ended with bourbon 'n' branch and the comradery that comes from acknowledging that the real enemy is not across the aisle, but the American people. They can vote you out. But with Trump, there is no going back to the old ways. Just as "Macbeth doth murder sleep," so has Trump broken Washington. He has changed the town just as surely as the Huns did Rome, and in similar fashion -- with boorishness, bullying and violence of a verbal nature. His tweets, along with his occasionally non-tweeted remarks, are not only unpresidential, they'd be sufficient grounds for a timeout in almost any American family. And yet, it has to be said that Trump has not only won, he's conquered. The capitulation of the Florida butterfly, pinned by Trump for display, is just one example. The more consequential one was last week's Cabinet meeting in which almost all but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis abased themselves before a totally hallucinogenic Trump. One by one around the table, Trump's ministers praised him, singing hosannas to his obvious greatness. Reince Priebus, a man who speaks lies to power, told the president to his face that it was an "opportunity and blessing that you've given us to serve," and Trump, a man who does not gag, stoically lapped it up. Just moments before, the president observed of the president that no president, "with few exceptions" has "passed more legislation [and[...]



Bill Cosby and the Crumbling of an Icon

2017-06-20T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The final chapter of Bill Cosby's public life is far from the most important spectacle we are witnessing, but it may be the saddest. Cosby's trial in Pennsylvania on rape charges ended with a hung jury Saturday, which means it didn't end at all -- prosecutors announced immediately that they will try him again. I fully understand that decision. This may be the only chance, in a criminal court, to hold the 79-year-old Cosby accountable for dozens of alleged sexual assaults. His accusers deserve a verdict. And there are so many accusers -- at least 60, according to...WASHINGTON -- The final chapter of Bill Cosby's public life is far from the most important spectacle we are witnessing, but it may be the saddest. Cosby's trial in Pennsylvania on rape charges ended with a hung jury Saturday, which means it didn't end at all -- prosecutors announced immediately that they will try him again. I fully understand that decision. This may be the only chance, in a criminal court, to hold the 79-year-old Cosby accountable for dozens of alleged sexual assaults. His accusers deserve a verdict. And there are so many accusers -- at least 60, according to the most reliable count I can find. I confess that I've watched the crumbling of Cosby's iconic persona mostly with peripheral vision, glancing and then quickly turning away. I haven't wanted to delve too deeply into the allegations or even closely follow the trial. I didn't want to deal with the fact that a man I admired so much was accused by dozens of women of being a serial sexual predator. It is hard to overstate Cosby's cultural importance. I doubt there are many African-Americans of a certain age who don't remember how thrilling it was when "I Spy" debuted on NBC in 1965. Cosby, a black man, co-starred and shared equal billing with Robert Culp in a series whose improbable premise -- the tennis circuit as a setting for espionage -- did not detract from the show's social impact. It didn't matter that Culp played the tennis pro and Cosby played his trainer. Cosby's character was an equal partner in the duo's exploits; he was smarter, just as brave, and possessed of great dignity. Culp always got the girl, but it was beyond the realm of possibility that Cosby would have on-screen relationships with white women. The film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," starring Sidney Poitier, wouldn't challenge that taboo for another couple of years. Cosby was also known in my family's household as the greatest stand-up comedian of his time. Unlike other top black comics, such as Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley, Cosby never worked blue and never spoke in stereotypical dialect. He was funny in a circumspect, respectable way. Parents could let the children listen. Fast-forward to 1984 and "The Cosby Show." This time, Cosby's influence on the culture was even greater. In its portrayal of an upper-middle-class black family, the show was uplifting and aspirational -- not just for African-Americans but [...]



If a Trump Supporter Had Shot a Democratic Congressman

2017-06-20T00:00:00Z

What would have happened if a Trump supporter had shot a Democratic congressman and other Democratic Washington officials? The answer is obvious. The New York Times, the rest of the left-wing media and the Democratic Party would have made the shootings the dominant issue in American life. It is not possible to understand the left -- and, therefore, the media and the current state of American life -- without understanding how the left uses and relies on hysteria. Hysteria is to the left as oxygen is to biological life. From the moment Donald Trump was elected president, America has been...What would have happened if a Trump supporter had shot a Democratic congressman and other Democratic Washington officials? The answer is obvious. The New York Times, the rest of the left-wing media and the Democratic Party would have made the shootings the dominant issue in American life. It is not possible to understand the left -- and, therefore, the media and the current state of American life -- without understanding how the left uses and relies on hysteria. Hysteria is to the left as oxygen is to biological life. From the moment Donald Trump was elected president, America has been drowning in left-wing hysteria, all fomented by the media and the Democratic Party. The charge of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign is hysteria. The claim that the president engaged in obstruction of justice is hysteria. As I have pointed out, the charge of Trump's election unleashing hate and anti-Semitism, which dominated American media for months, was hysteria. If Democrats had been shot by a Trump supporter, all you would be hearing and reading about is how much hate the Trump election has unleashed in America, how his election is threatening our democracy and how he is unleashing fascism. But it was a not a Trump supporter who attempted to murder a Democratic congressman, Capitol Police officers, a House GOP aide and a lobbyist; it was a Trump-hating leftist who attempted to murder a Republican congressman and other Republican officials. And, for that reason, what would have been the dominant issue in America today is already a nonissue. The shooting took place on Wednesday. On Friday, the only article about it on The New York Times front page was about the "harmony" engulfing Democrats and Republicans in the wake of the shooting. By Saturday, there was nothing about the shooting on the front page. The "harmony" issue is worth noting. As sure as the sun rises in the east, had a Trump-supporting fanatic shot Democratic officials, the Democrats would not have said a word about the need for "harmony," or the need to lower the temperature in American political discourse. On the contrary, they would have greatly raised the temperature of their already blistering rhetoric. They would have attributed the shooting entirely to Trump's "hateful" rhetoric having permeated conservative and Republican America. But it was [...]



Spicer's Future; Dems' Health-Care Focus; Tight Georgia Race; Almost Heaven

2017-06-20T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, June 20, 2017. On this date in 1863, West Virginia became the 35th state in the Union, though “Union” was a loaded word then -- and very much in doubt. West Virginia had broken away from Virginia at the onset of the Civil War because its people did not want to secede from the U.S. for any reason, especially over the issue of slavery. The forbidding geography of western Virginia had long before stamped itself on the character of its people. The Appalachians weren’t conducive to growing cotton or even large-scale farming, so...Good morning, it’s Tuesday, June 20, 2017. On this date in 1863, West Virginia became the 35th state in the Union, though “Union” was a loaded word then -- and very much in doubt. West Virginia had broken away from Virginia at the onset of the Civil War because its people did not want to secede from the U.S. for any reason, especially over the issue of slavery. The forbidding geography of western Virginia had long before stamped itself on the character of its people. The Appalachians weren’t conducive to growing cotton or even large-scale farming, so Southern-style plantations were a rarity. An independent-minded identity took root among the hardy men and women who hewed a living out of those mountains. These were people offended by those who would wring their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces. West Virginia’s state seal told this story succinctly. At its center is a boulder inscribed with the date of statehood. On either side of the boulder stand two men, each of whom represents the extraction industries that have long driven West Virginia’s economy. One is a farmer with an ax and a plow; the other is a miner wielding the implements of his occupation. In the foreground lie two rifles, resting on the ground, accompanying a red liberty cap. Circling the seal is the state name along with its motto: Montani Semper Liberi, which means “Mountaineers Are Always Free.” I’ll have a word on how that attitude manifests itself today in a moment. First, I’ll point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * What Changes Will Trump Make to WH Communications?  Alexis Simendinger examines indicators the president will restructure his media team. Democrats Spotlight Health Care Amid Russia Probe. Caitlin Huey-Burns reports on the minority party’s efforts to focus voter attention on the issue considered more likely to flip control of Congress next year. GA-6 Poll Shows 2-Point Lead for GOP’s Handel. James Arkin has the details. Pentagon Cyberwarriors Find Fertile Groun[...]



Journalism & Mr. Jones

2017-06-20T00:00:00Z

The world needs a common way of viewing the world. Which it won’t likely have anytime soon: on account of the world’s lack of a real and tested approach to the living of life: stemming from everyone’s enjoying — on no express warrant — “the right to be heard”: wherefore the media fill all ears with junk and gunk, the trademarks of an embarrassing moment in history. Nor is the fault simply Donald Trump’s. It’s pretty much general. I come to these present reflections through membership in a profession...The world needs a common way of viewing the world. Which it won’t likely have anytime soon: on account of the world’s lack of a real and tested approach to the living of life: stemming from everyone’s enjoying — on no express warrant — “the right to be heard”: wherefore the media fill all ears with junk and gunk, the trademarks of an embarrassing moment in history. Nor is the fault simply Donald Trump’s. It’s pretty much general. I come to these present reflections through membership in a profession nominally dedicated to the quest for truth. We care what Megyn Kelly said on TV to Alex Jones? We care what Mr. Jones said back to her? It is has come to this? — that “truth” is other than it was thought to be in the age of Aristotle or, for that matter, Walter Cronkite? Jones is out for himself. Likewise Miss Kelly and her NBC employers. It’s about, as can be read between the lines, showing up Donald Trump for too much reliance, supposedly, on the views of a self-anointed expert — a mouth like many other mouths, really — with nothing to say and millions ready to hear him say it (e.g., the Sandy Hook school massacre never occurred). The acquisition of profit and wealth — in the name of public service — is the unitive feature here. The more people you can get to watch, the more money you make. I’m going to talk some non-politics here. So duck. Politics is the only topic Americans seem to want seriously to address today: this policy or that one; this “investigation” or another; election elite, establishment; Chuck Schumer, Robert Mueller, Jared Kushner; little of it interesting save in a secondary, under-the-surface way. Politics doesn’t get at this business of why we wait for Megyn Kelly to dress down Alex Jones, as demanded last week by bien-pensants of the right and the left. Two complementary breakdowns are underway in modern America: one in education, the other in moral understanding. Both proceed from the winding-down of normative guidelines — things to do, things to avoid doing; things to make you wiser, things to… as if that were anyone’s business but yours! The educational breakdown centers on the abandonment, especially over the past half century,[...]



What Changes Will Trump Make to WH Communications?

2017-06-20T00:00:00Z

President Trump thinks he should get better press coverage and be able to control his message, and he may soon retool his White House team with those goals in mind. That’s been the news since January. But on Monday, those headlines re-circulated after media outlets learned that press secretary Sean Spicer may soon shift out of his current duties, if he can help locate a replacement before nailing down a new White House role for himself. At the moment, the White House lacks a communications director (Mike Dubke resigned in May); has no dedicated rapid response team to deal with...President Trump thinks he should get better press coverage and be able to control his message, and he may soon retool his White House team with those goals in mind. That’s been the news since January. But on Monday, those headlines re-circulated after media outlets learned that press secretary Sean Spicer may soon shift out of his current duties, if he can help locate a replacement before nailing down a new White House role for himself. At the moment, the White House lacks a communications director (Mike Dubke resigned in May); has no dedicated rapid response team to deal with questions about multiple ongoing investigations; and has a small and overworked staff of press aides who are buffeted by a president who prefers to dictate his own communications, often with little advance notice. Spicer, a foil for late-night comedians and scrutinized by millions who tune in to watch his briefings, reportedly covets a White House position with more strategic impact and less public exposure. White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders -- asked if Spicer was interviewing candidates to succeed him -- issued a statement: “We have sought input from many people as we look to expand our communications operation,” she said. “As he did in the beginning, Sean Spicer is managing both the communications and press office.” Among the challenges inside the Trump White House is recruitment. Plenty of skilled and experienced GOP communicators do not want to work inside a West Wing where the factional infighting is intense, the hours long, the pay modest in comparison to the private sector, and the president’s message discipline a challenge. Adding to the risks: ongoing investigations tied to the White House may force aides to hire expensive private attorneys and increase their political and policy anxieties in what is customarily considered a star-burnishing workplace.  The president, who fired the acting attorney general, his national security adviser, and the FBI director since January, displays a short fuse among his senior staff and is not given to trusting advisers who did not embrace his 2016 campaign and try to offer communications and messaging wisdom. Lately, Spicer has experimented with less heated[...]



Democrats Spotlight Health Care Amid Russia Probe

2017-06-20T00:00:00Z

With the political world, and the president himself, transfixed by multiple Russia investigations hanging over the White House, Democrats are growing increasingly concerned that movement on Republican legislative priorities will fly under voters’ radar. This week, Democrats are adjusting their focus — and, they hope, that of the public — toward GOP-led efforts in the Senate to repeal Obamacare, an issue party strategists anticipate to have more sway in next year’s midterm elections than myriad investigations. As Senate Republicans aim for a vote on...With the political world, and the president himself, transfixed by multiple Russia investigations hanging over the White House, Democrats are growing increasingly concerned that movement on Republican legislative priorities will fly under voters’ radar. This week, Democrats are adjusting their focus — and, they hope, that of the public — toward GOP-led efforts in the Senate to repeal Obamacare, an issue party strategists anticipate to have more sway in next year’s midterm elections than myriad investigations. As Senate Republicans aim for a vote on yet-to-be-finalized legislation by the July 4 recess, Democrats are employing tactics to slow their progress and spotlight the process. This comes ahead of a highly anticipated special election Tuesday in Georgia's 6th Congressional District that Democrats hope will serve as a referendum on President Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress. The close race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel in suburban Atlanta has become the most expensive House campaign in history, with $50 million raised by the candidates and outside groups. The district, which Trump narrowly won and that has been represented by Republicans for decades, is the type Democrats are eyeing in their ambition to regain control of the House. And there, health care has been a focal point of Ossoff’s campaign, not Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. "The kitchen table issues are what people are going to show up to the polls for. When it comes down to it, and you talk to voters in the 6th, they're more concerned with health care and economic issues than others," says Michael Smith of the Georgia Democratic Party. "I don't think Russia is playing a significant role in this election whatever." Back on Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers are balancing congressional oversight tasks as they relate to the Russia probe with other voter concerns. "I think it’s time we start focusing almost all of our attention on health care. This is a red alert moment, this bill is speeding to the floor," Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy told RCP last week. "Bob Mueller is going to continue the Russia investigation, and I’d be advi[...]



The Liberal Media's Double Standard

2017-06-20T00:00:00Z

In 2011, after a severely mentally ill young man in Tucson, Arizona shot Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, wounded almost 20 more, and killed six, including a 9-year-old girl, it took the liberal media elite a nanosecond to pin the crime on -- who else? -- conservative Republicans and their supposed "toxic rhetoric." While police were still scouring the crime scene, Paul Krugman, The New York Times hard-left columnist wrote: "Where's that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let's not make a false pretense of balance: it's coming, overwhelmingly, from the...In 2011, after a severely mentally ill young man in Tucson, Arizona shot Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, wounded almost 20 more, and killed six, including a 9-year-old girl, it took the liberal media elite a nanosecond to pin the crime on -- who else? -- conservative Republicans and their supposed "toxic rhetoric." While police were still scouring the crime scene, Paul Krugman, The New York Times hard-left columnist wrote: "Where's that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let's not make a false pretense of balance: it's coming, overwhelmingly, from the right." An editorial in the Times also pinned the Tucson violence on Republicans: "It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman's act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge." Reporter Matt Bai wrote in the Times that conservatives who use words like "tyranny" to describe politicians shouldn't be "blind to the idea that Americans legitimately faced with either enemy would almost certainly take up arms." In Politico, Michael Kinsley, a quasi intellectual of the progressive left, wrote that, "The suggestion, finally, is that the right is largely responsible for a political atmosphere in which extreme thoughts are more likely to take root and flower." They blamed Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly and Fox News in general and Sarah Palin in particular. Never mind that the gunman was mentally ill -- and not just a little bit. Never mind that there was not a shred of evidence that he ever heard the name Sarah Palin or any of the others. That, to elite media liberals, was irrelevant. The only point they cared about was linking conservatives to a crime committed by a mentally unstable young man. Now it's 2017 and we have the shooting on the baseball field. And we have lots of people on both sides saying it's time to tone down the rhetoric. Sounds good. But before we attempt that, a few questions are worth asking: Where were the liberal elites when Madonna said she wanted to burn down the White House? Where were the liberal elites when so-c[...]



GA-6 Poll Shows 2-Point Lead for GOP's Handel

2017-06-19T00:00:00Z

A poll released on the eve of the special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District shows Republican Karen Handel with a slim two-point lead over Democrat Jon Ossoff.  The survey shows Handel with 50.46 percent of the vote, while Ossoff has 48.59 percent, within the margin of error. The poll, done by Trafalgar Group, a Republican polling firm, surveyed more than 1,100 likely voters June 17-18. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.  Handel has a hefty lead among senior voters, according to the survey, while Ossoff has an...A poll released on the eve of the special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District shows Republican Karen Handel with a slim two-point lead over Democrat Jon Ossoff.  The survey shows Handel with 50.46 percent of the vote, while Ossoff has 48.59 percent, within the margin of error. The poll, done by Trafalgar Group, a Republican polling firm, surveyed more than 1,100 likely voters June 17-18. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.  Handel has a hefty lead among senior voters, according to the survey, while Ossoff has an edge among non-seniors. The Democratic candidate has a 0.2 percentage point edge in the RealClearPolitics Average, and both parties consider the race a tossup. It is the most expensive House contest in history, with more than $50 million having been spent on behalf of the two candidates.  Democrats are hoping a win in a Republican-leaning district will give them momentum as they prepare strategy for the 2018 midterm elections, while Republicans are hoping to hold the seat -- vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price -- denying Democrats wins in any of the nearly half-dozen special House elections this year. James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.[...]



No Health-Care Plan or Tax Cuts? Then No Vacation

2017-06-19T00:00:00Z

When I appeared on Fox Business Network for the live release of the May jobs report, I argued to Maria Bartiromo that the deceleration in employment gains is a massive warning to Capitol Hill. Voters handed the GOP a clean sweep in 2016: both houses of Congress and the White House. In return, these Americans expect—and deserve—swift, tangible policy prescriptions to deliver the economic growth they so badly need. Instead, the May report showed only 138,000 new jobs, which barely keeps up with population growth. Meanwhile, the two prior months were revised downward as well....When I appeared on Fox Business Network for the live release of the May jobs report, I argued to Maria Bartiromo that the deceleration in employment gains is a massive warning to Capitol Hill. Voters handed the GOP a clean sweep in 2016: both houses of Congress and the White House. In return, these Americans expect—and deserve—swift, tangible policy prescriptions to deliver the economic growth they so badly need. Instead, the May report showed only 138,000 new jobs, which barely keeps up with population growth. Meanwhile, the two prior months were revised downward as well. Worse still, wage growth remains stuck at 2.5 percent, hardly enough for most workers to stay ahead of cost-of-living increases. There are many reasons Donald J. Trump pulled off perhaps the biggest upset in U.S. electoral history, but none were as crucial as working-class Americans’ frustration with slow economic growth. The sluggish Obama recovery growth rate of between 1 and 2 percent worked nicely for the highest strata of our economic scale, but not for the working class. As the owners of assets – particularly stocks and real estate – thrived, blue-collar America saw almost no real expansion.  Thankfully, those inside this White House understand the urgency of substantial and immediate relief in the form of an Obamacare repeal-and-replace and serious tax cuts. But Congress, which still seems stuck in a pre-Trump mindset, has been dragging its feet. Its members appear far too comfortable with the status quo that has served Washington so well, to the detriment of the rest of the country. Adding insult to injury, our public servants plan on working a total of 22 days between now and Labor Day.  I certainly don’t take all of August off from work. Most of the readers of this article won’t either. Why, then, should our elected lawmakers reward themselves for inaction with a lengthy vacation while collecting the salaries we pay them? Whether the denizens of Washington “swamp” know it or not, tax cuts are the Holy Grail of the Trump movement. So, tax relief should not be that elusive a quest. Yet [...]