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Updated: Fri, 17 Nov 2017 08:11:40 -0600

 



Moore Problems; Groping for Answers; Waitress Blues; Capitol Comity

2017-11-17T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Friday, November 17, 2017. On this date at the turn of the 19th century, members of Congress met for the first time in the partially completed U.S. Capitol. If you think inclement weather in Washington, D.C. snarls traffic today, you should have been there in 1800 when snow blanketed the East Coast. After meeting for 10 years in Philadelphia, which was beset by a cholera epidemic, most members of Congress were eager to see their new capital. But not all of them could get there in time due to the autumn storm. A planned parade was cancelled and only 15 senators...Good morning, it’s Friday, November 17, 2017. On this date at the turn of the 19th century, members of Congress met for the first time in the partially completed U.S. Capitol. If you think inclement weather in Washington, D.C. snarls traffic today, you should have been there in 1800 when snow blanketed the East Coast. After meeting for 10 years in Philadelphia, which was beset by a cholera epidemic, most members of Congress were eager to see their new capital. But not all of them could get there in time due to the autumn storm. A planned parade was cancelled and only 15 senators answered the roll call, two short of a quorum. When a sufficient number finally arrived four days later, Senate and House leaders invited President Adams to address them. I’ll have a word on that appearance 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 original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * The Takeaway: Moore Problems for GOP in Alabama. Tom Bevan's weekly highlights from new polling data can be found here. McConnell Wants Ethics Probe of Franken in Groping Case. James Arkin has the details. Restaurant Sex Abuse: At Full Boil, But on a Back Burner. In RealClearInvestigations, James Varney reports on a problem more pervasive than harassment by celebrities: workaday indignities suffered by waitresses. Time to Stop the War Against Imports. In RealClearPolicy, Steven Globerman contends that the administration's protectionist stance will not benefit American workers, but instead decrease employment opportunities and real incomes for Americans.  Europe’s Existential Threat to U.S. Capital Markets. Jason Trennert explains in RealClearMarkets. Why the U.S. Missed the 2018 World Cup. In RealClearLife, Sean Cunningham sifts for clues to what happened and what’s next. * * * Accepting the invitation of congressional leaders, President John Adams went by carriage on November 22, 1800 to the drafty, unheated, still-unfinished U.S. Capitol. It must have felt familiar: Adams had been living in a drafty, unheated, and still-unfished White House. Although Americans didn’t yet know who their new president would be, they knew it wasn’t going to be Adams. He and his Federalist Party had lost his re-election bid to the anti-Federalist ticket of Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. The new nation was still sorting out whether Jefferson or Burr would be president, a drama that would play out into the new year. But suffice it to say that President Adams, America’s second chief executive and the lamest of lame ducks, acquitted himself graciously in the new Capitol. “I congratulate the people of the United States on the assembling of Congress at the permanent seat of their government, and I congratulate you, gentlemen, on the prospect of a residence not to be changed,” Adams said, warming to the task. “Although there is cause to apprehend that accommodations are not now so complete as might be wished, yet there is great reason to believe that this inconvenience will cease with the present session.” Before launching into a State of the Union address that would be the last one delivered in person for the next 113 years, Adams offered what might be call[...]



Saudi Political Explosions Risk Collateral Damage

2017-11-17T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Nearly two weeks after the double political explosion that rocked Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to be doing damage control in ways that may help stabilize Saudi Arabia and the region. The first bombshell was the Nov. 4 arrest on corruption charges of 201 prominent Saudis, including princes and government ministers. Now MBS, as the 32-year-old crown prince is known, is beginning a resolution process that may settle many of these cases out of court. A senior Saudi official told me Thursday that the kingdom's anti-corruption commission would follow the...WASHINGTON -- Nearly two weeks after the double political explosion that rocked Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to be doing damage control in ways that may help stabilize Saudi Arabia and the region. The first bombshell was the Nov. 4 arrest on corruption charges of 201 prominent Saudis, including princes and government ministers. Now MBS, as the 32-year-old crown prince is known, is beginning a resolution process that may settle many of these cases out of court. A senior Saudi official told me Thursday that the kingdom's anti-corruption commission would follow the standard "plea-bargain process" that is "usually conducted by the public prosecutor prior to transferring a case to the relevant court." The commission's overall aim, he said, was to "send a strong message" that corruption won't be allowed, "irrespective of rank or status." The crackdown may have consolidated support for MBS among younger Saudis who resent older, wealthy princes and palace insiders. But his power play risked a backlash within the royal family because it violated the kingdom's traditional consensual politics. Resolution of corruption cases out of court may dampen such high-level dissension. The second Nov. 4 explosion was Saad Hariri's announcement from Riyadh that he was quitting as Lebanon's prime minister. Hariri's resignation, which Lebanese sources told me came under pressure from MBS, risked causing instability in Lebanon that would have enhanced Hezbollah's power there, the opposite of what the Saudis wanted. On Thursday, the Saudis agreed to allow Hariri to travel to France; Lebanese sources said he will then return to Lebanon. The Hariri episode appears to have convinced Washington and Riyadh that their interests are better served by stability in Lebanon than instability, even though that approach requires some cooperation with Hezbollah, the dominant political faction. A Saudi official told me that the kingdom plans to work with the U.S. to support Lebanese institutions, such as the army, that can gradually reduce the power of Hezbollah and its patron, Iran. MBS seems to have recognized that combating Hezbollah is a long game, not a short one. Hariri's resignation and seeming house arrest made him a hero in Lebanon and a symbol of the country's yearning for sovereignty. This may give him some new leverage when he returns to Beirut. Lebanese sources told me Thursday that Hariri's supporters may urge Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Yemen as a gesture of solidarity. Hariri will also campaign anew for international support for Lebanon's economy and military. MBS' sweeping arrests sent shock waves through the kingdom and the region, and surprised even some Saudis who are close to the crown prince. But the warning signals were there: King Salman said back on March 10, 2015, in his first major speech after taking the throne, that he had "directed the government to review its processes to help eradicate corruption," according to a Reuters report at the time. MBS had a reputation as a freewheeling businessman himself before joining the royal court. But he underlined the anti-corruption theme in a May 2017 interview with Al Arabiya television: "If fighting corruption is not on the top of the agenda, it means the [king's] fight is not succeeding. ... I reiterate that anyone who is involved in corruption will not be spared." As examples of the corrupt deals that led to the Nov. 4 arrests, a senior Saudi official ci[...]



Will Political Setbacks Unite the Republican Party?

2017-11-17T00:00:00Z

The inexorable workings of the political marketplace seem to be enforcing some discipline over hitherto fissiparous Republican politicians. The question is whether this is happening too late to save the party's declining prospects in the 2018 midterm elections. You can see this in Republicans' reactions to the tax bills Congress is currently considering. Last spring, when the party's congressional leadership teed up its health care bills, purportedly repealing and replacing Obamacare, they faced rebellions from practically every corner of their party's caucuses. In the...The inexorable workings of the political marketplace seem to be enforcing some discipline over hitherto fissiparous Republican politicians. The question is whether this is happening too late to save the party's declining prospects in the 2018 midterm elections. You can see this in Republicans' reactions to the tax bills Congress is currently considering. Last spring, when the party's congressional leadership teed up its health care bills, purportedly repealing and replacing Obamacare, they faced rebellions from practically every corner of their party's caucuses. In the House, the Freedom Caucus trotted out one criticism after another. This is in line with standard practice, going back at least to October 2013, when Freedom Caucus types, heeding newly elected Senator Ted Cruz's calls to defund Obamacare, produced a government shutdown that sent the party, predictably, plummeting in the polls. House Republican rebels made purist arguments, cited pledges never to vote for government expansion, called for constitutional conservatism. They chided Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for insufficient boldness, seemingly forgetting that the Constitution gave President Barack Obama a veto. Now things look different. With Republicans holding the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress, the purism that resulted in defeat of the House's first attempt at Obamacare revision, followed by the defeat of a second in the Senate, leaves Republicans double-digits behind Democrats on the generic which-party-would-you-back question. Democrats' big victories in the Virginia and New Jersey governor races also struck a chord. These states, dominated by high-education suburbs in major metro areas, tilt more Democratic than the nation. But Republicans have been losing legislative special elections even in red-state Trump districts. So just about all the erstwhile rebels are suddenly supporting Speaker Paul Ryan's tax bill, even though it's easy to find complex provisions to which purists could object. They've discovered that in the American political marketplace, whose rules usually limit competition to two parties, a majority party that can't perform is liable to severe punishment. But for some -- notably former White House advisor Steve Bannon -- the point is not to win, but to oust the current Republican leadership. Just as California billionaire Tom Steyer conditions contributions on pledges to vote for impeachment, so former Goldman Sachs exec Bannon requires pledges to vote for ouster of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. That left him endorsing, apparently with no visible effect, Roy Moore in the special election Republican runoff for the Alabama Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Moore, a dim bulb, was twice ousted from the state Supreme Court for disobeying a federal court order (banning his Ten Commandments courthouse statue) and the Supreme Court decision proclaiming a right to same-sex marriage. His stands proved popular with many evangelical voters. But his argument, that the order and decision were wrong, shows either ignorance of the supremacy clause in Article VI of the United States Constitution or a commitment to lawlessness that is the opposite of conservatism. But all that has been pushed to the side after last week's Washington Post story that as a 30-something lawyer, Moore had at least one sexual encounter with a 14-year[...]



Quid est Veritas?

2017-11-17T00:00:00Z

"Quid est veritas?" Pontius Pilate asked Jesus of Nazareth. What is truth? It is in short supply in the 21st century. Western civilization is not really in decline, as many fret. It is reverting to its Greco-Roman pre-Christian norms. In the Roman Empire, the vast majority of the wealth was held by the top two percent. Gnosticism was on the rise with a logically incoherent world view that echoed Christianity and promoted androgyny. "Science said" became all the rage even then. People gave lip service to the gods, but it was mostly for show. We are going full..."Quid est veritas?" Pontius Pilate asked Jesus of Nazareth. What is truth? It is in short supply in the 21st century. Western civilization is not really in decline, as many fret. It is reverting to its Greco-Roman pre-Christian norms. In the Roman Empire, the vast majority of the wealth was held by the top two percent. Gnosticism was on the rise with a logically incoherent world view that echoed Christianity and promoted androgyny. "Science said" became all the rage even then. People gave lip service to the gods, but it was mostly for show. We are going full circle. Nowadays every cultural-sociological movement has a medical doctor and a scientist with a Ph.D. to form the basis of their claims. There are doctors who promote the idea that vaccines cause autism. There are scientists claiming having children is "scientifically proven" to harm the environment so smaller families are a moral obligation. Some doctors will tell you life does not begin until a child exits a womb. Others will tell you that it is scientifically possible for a boy to become a girl. We are even told that though we might pick whether we are a boy or girl, we are born heterosexual or homosexual. Language then tracks the political consensus of the scientific community. And it is a political consensus. Secular liberals have worked very hard to co-opt cultural institutions so that, regardless of truth, science reflects opinion instead of the other way around. The two-parent heterosexual nuclear household may be, for thousands of years, the most stable way in which to raise kids, but get a bunch of liberal sociologists masquerading as scientists together in a room and soon they'll tell you science says the two-parent heterosexual nuclear household is bigotry, white supremacy and part of the patriarchy. The Associated Press has gotten in on this game. The opposite sex's pronouns or new ones can now be used to describe people. A single person can talk about himself in the plural sense to reject the conformity of language. One boy can be they and a girl can be he or even ze instead of she. Likewise, Caitlyn Jenner always was and Bruce never was because in the mind-numbing logic of "gender conformity," Caitlyn was always there just waiting to be revealed. Truth no longer matters because truth can be whatever one wants. This is a disease of society that started in our culture and floated downstream into our politics. In the 90s, conservatives screamed that character mattered as they tried to impeach Bill Clinton for a lie under oath. The lying under oath, for which Clinton lost his law license, is overshadowed by his affair with a White House intern. In the 90s, feminists praised Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky was declared an empowered female. Conservatives who said Lewinsky was a victim were shouted down by prominent feminists who said they would have gladly performed the same sex act on the president in appreciation for what he did for feminists. Now, decades later, many of the people who promoted the Clintons are throwing them under the bus. Bill is an abuser and Hillary his apologist. It is a sign the Clinton power is at an end. One could hardly imagine this change of heart from the left if Hillary had been elected. But the right is not spared the cultural rot. They served as apologists for a man caught on video bragging that famous men could grab women inappropriately among other terrible things he said and did. The[...]



Is America Up for a Second Cold War?

2017-11-17T00:00:00Z

After the 19th national congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October, one may discern Premier Xi Jinping's vision of the emerging New World Order. By 2049, the centennial of the triumph of Communist Revolution, China shall have become the first power on earth. Her occupation and humiliation by the West and Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries will have become hated but ancient history. America will have been pushed out of Asia and the western Pacific back beyond the second chain of islands. Taiwan will have been returned to the motherland, South Korea and the Philippines...After the 19th national congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October, one may discern Premier Xi Jinping's vision of the emerging New World Order. By 2049, the centennial of the triumph of Communist Revolution, China shall have become the first power on earth. Her occupation and humiliation by the West and Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries will have become hated but ancient history. America will have been pushed out of Asia and the western Pacific back beyond the second chain of islands. Taiwan will have been returned to the motherland, South Korea and the Philippines neutralized, Japan contained. China's claim to all the rocks, reefs and islets in the South China Sea will have been recognized by all current claimants. Xi's "One Belt, One Road" strategy will have brought South and Central Asia into Beijing's orbit, and he will be in the Pantheon beside the Founding Father of Communist China, Mao Zedong. Democracy has been rejected by China in favor of one-party rule of all political, economic, cultural and social life. And as one views Europe, depopulating, riven by secessionism, fearful of a Third World migrant invasion, and America tearing herself apart over politics and ideology, China must appear to ambitious and rising powers as the model to emulate. Indeed, has not China shown the world that authoritarianism can be compatible with national growth that outstrips a democratic West? Over the last quarter century, China, thanks to economic nationalism and $4 trillion in trade surpluses with the United States, has exhibited growth unseen since 19th-century America. Whatever we may think of Xi's methods, this vision must attract vast numbers of China's young -- they see their country displace America as first power, becoming the dominant people on earth. What is America's vision? What is America's cause in the 21st century? What is the mission and goal that unites, inspires and drives us on? After World War II, America's foreign policy was imposed upon her by the terrible realities the war produced: brutalitarian Stalinist domination of Eastern and Central Europe and much of Asia. Under nine presidents, containment of the Soviet empire, while avoiding a war that would destroy civilization, was our policy. In Korea and Vietnam, Americans died in the thousands to sustain that policy. But with the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the breakup of the USSR, it seemed that by 1992 our great work was done. Now democracy would flourish and be embraced by all advanced peoples and nations. But it did not happen. The "end of history" never came. The New World Order of Bush I did not last. Bush II's democracy crusade to end tyranny in our world produced disasters from Libya to Afghanistan. Authoritarianism is now ascendant and democracy is in retreat. Is the United States prepared to accept a world in which China, growing at twice our rate, more united and purposeful, emerges as the dominant power? Are we willing to acquiesce in a Chinese Century? Or will we adopt a policy to ensure that America remains the world's preeminent power? Do we have what is required in wealth, power, stamina and will to pursue a Second Cold War to contain China, which, strategic weapons aside, is more powerful and has greater potential than the Soviet Union ever did? On his Asia tour, President Trump spoke of the "Indo-Pacific," shorthand for the proposition that [...]



The Takeaway: Moore Problems for GOP in Alabama

2017-11-17T00:00:00Z

Intriguing tidbits from the week in election surveys and public opinion polls.  That Sinking Feeling Down South: Even taking into account that the National Republican Senatorial Committee wants Roy Moore out of the December 12 special election in Alabama, the NRSC poll showing the GOP nominee trailing Democrat Doug Jones by 12 points hit with a loud thud Wednesday.  Previous polls taken last week had shown Moore maintaining a small, if shrinking, lead. But with more accusers continuing to come forward and the unrelenting negative media coverage, many prominent Republicans...Intriguing tidbits from the week in election surveys and public opinion polls.  That Sinking Feeling Down South: Even taking into account that the National Republican Senatorial Committee wants Roy Moore out of the December 12 special election in Alabama, the NRSC poll showing the GOP nominee trailing Democrat Doug Jones by 12 points hit with a loud thud Wednesday.  Previous polls taken last week had shown Moore maintaining a small, if shrinking, lead. But with more accusers continuing to come forward and the unrelenting negative media coverage, many prominent Republicans now believe Moore is likely to lose, and are devising drastic plans in an effort to save the seat. As of now, however, Moore looks like he’s not going anywhere. On Wednesday, he tweeted at Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “Bring. It. On.”  At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Moore again vowed to remain in the race. It’s Not the Economy, Stupid: A new survey from Gallup shows that only 15 percent of Americans cite economic issues as the “most important” problem facing the country. That’s the lowest it’s been since 1999 -- and a 71-point decline from the peak in February 2009 when the United States was rocked by the Great Recession. So what do Americans consider the biggest problem facing the country today? Twenty-three percent listed “dissatisfaction with government.” The sentiment appears to be growing: Such dissatisfaction is up five percentage points in the last three months. Running Man?  On Monday, Joe Biden said he is “not closing the door” on a third run at the White House, and a new poll from Politico/Morning Consult may have the former veep pushing it open even wider. The survey shows Biden beating President Trump by 11 points in a hypothetical match up, 46 percent to 35 percent, with one in five voters undecided.  It’s worth noting, however, that a “generic” Democrat performed even better against Trump, beating him 48 to 34 percent with nearly the same number of voters undecided. Tar Heel Blue? Speaking of 2020, a new poll of North Carolina voters conducted by Elon University shows Republican Sen. Thom Tillis has just a 28 percent approval rating.  This is significantly lower than Trump’s approval rating in the Tar Heel State, which at 37 percent isn’t great. This is a red flag for Republicans in a place they still consider a red state. Bay State Status Quo: One year from  Election Day 2018, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, and Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, enjoy overwhelming support in Massachusetts, according to a new poll from WBUR. Baker’s favorable rating is 67 percent, and he leads in match-ups against potential challengers by as much as 40 points. Warren’s 55 percent favorable rating is lower but still comfortable in this environment. Longtime Republican Party activist Beth Lindstrom is currently the strongest potential GOP challenger to Warren but still trails, 56 percent-33 percent. Credibility Gap: A new HuffPost/YouGov survey gauges public opinion on the credibility of sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations made against Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Bill O’Reilly, and Donald Trump. Sixty-three percent believe the allegations against Wei[...]



Russia Investigation Includes Spectacular Level of Lies

2017-11-17T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- I spent part of my convalescence from a recent illness reading some of the comprehensive timelines of the Russia investigation (which indicates, I suppose, a sickness of another sort). One, compiled by Politico, runs to nearly 12,000 words -- an almost book-length account of stupidity, cynicism, hubris and corruption at the highest levels of American politics. The cumulative effect on the reader is a kind of nausea no pill can cure. Most recently, we learned about Donald Trump Jr.'s direct communications with WikiLeaks -- which CIA Director Mike Pompeo has called a...WASHINGTON -- I spent part of my convalescence from a recent illness reading some of the comprehensive timelines of the Russia investigation (which indicates, I suppose, a sickness of another sort). One, compiled by Politico, runs to nearly 12,000 words -- an almost book-length account of stupidity, cynicism, hubris and corruption at the highest levels of American politics. The cumulative effect on the reader is a kind of nausea no pill can cure. Most recently, we learned about Donald Trump Jr.'s direct communications with WikiLeaks -- which CIA Director Mike Pompeo has called a "hostile intelligence service helped by Russia" -- during its efforts to produce incriminating material on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. But this is one sentence in an epic of corruption. There is the narrative of a campaign in which high-level operatives believed that Russian espionage could help secure the American presidency, and acted on that belief. There is the narrative of deception to conceal the nature and extent of Russian ties. And there is the narrative of a president attempting to prevent or shut down the investigation of those ties, and soliciting others for help in that task. In all of this, there is a spectacular accumulation of lies. Lies on disclosure forms. Lies at confirmation hearings. Lies on Twitter. Lies in the White House briefing room. Lies to the FBI. Self-protective lies by the attorney general. Blocking and tackling lies by Vice President Pence. This is, with a few exceptions, a group of people for whom truth, political honor, ethics and integrity mean nothing. What are the implications? Trump and others in his administration are about to be hit by a legal tidal wave. We look at the Russia scandal and see lies. A skilled prosecutor sees leverage. People caught in criminal violations make more cooperative witnesses. Robert Mueller and his A-team of investigators have plenty of stupidity and venality to work with. They are investigating an administration riven by internal hatreds -- also the prosecutor's friend. And Trump has already alienated many potential allies in a public contest between himself and Mueller. A number of elected Republicans, particularly in the Senate, would watch this showdown with popcorn. But the implications of all this are not only legal and political. We are witnessing what happens when right-wing politics becomes untethered from morality and religion. What does public life look like without the constraining internal force of character -- without the firm ethical commitments often (though not exclusively) rooted in faith? It looks like a presidential campaign unable to determine right from wrong and loyalty from disloyalty. It looks like an administration engaged in a daily assault on truth and convinced that might makes right. It looks like the residual scum left from retreating political principle -- the worship of money, power and self-promoted fame. The Trumpian trinity. But also: Power without character looks like the environment for women at Fox News during the reigns of Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly -- what former network host Andrea Tantaros called "a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny." It looks like Breitbart's racial transgressiveness, providing permission and legitimacy to the alt-[...]



House Passes Tax Bill in First Step Toward Major Overhaul

2017-11-16T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans rammed a near $1.5 trillion package overhauling corporate and personal taxes through the House on Thursday, edging President Donald Trump and the GOP toward their first big legislative triumph in a year in which they and their voters expected much more. The near party-line 227-205 vote came as Democrats on the other side of the Capitol pointed to new estimates showing the Senate version of the plan would boost future taxes on lower and middle-income Americans. Those projections, coupled with complaints by some GOP senators about their...WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans rammed a near $1.5 trillion package overhauling corporate and personal taxes through the House on Thursday, edging President Donald Trump and the GOP toward their first big legislative triumph in a year in which they and their voters expected much more. The near party-line 227-205 vote came as Democrats on the other side of the Capitol pointed to new estimates showing the Senate version of the plan would boost future taxes on lower and middle-income Americans. Those projections, coupled with complaints by some GOP senators about their chamber’s proposal, suggest party leaders still face a challenge in crafting a measure that can make it through Congress over solid Democratic opposition. House passage raised GOP hopes that Trump would be able to claim a big victory in a year highlighted so far by the Senate crash of the party’s effort to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law. The first major tax rewrite in three decades has been a career-long goal of countless Republicans politicians, who tout the reductions as a boon to families, businesses and the entire economy. “Passing this bill is the single biggest thing we can do to grow the economy, to restore opportunity and help those middle income families who are struggling,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Thirteen Republicans — all but one from high-tax California, New York and New Jersey — voted “no” because the plan would erase tax deductions for state and local income and sales taxes and limit property tax deductions to $10,000. Defectors included House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., who said the measure would “hurt New Jersey families.” Democrats derided the plan as a scheme to help the rich but do little for others. “Republicans have brought forth a bill that is pillaging the middle class to pad the pockets of the wealthiest and hand tax breaks to corporations shipping jobs out of America,” declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. Both the House and Senate versions of the legislation would cut the 35 percent corporate tax rate to 20 percent, while reducing some personal taxpayers’ rates and erasing and shrinking deductions for individuals. Projected federal deficits would grow by $1.5 trillion over the coming decade. Before the vote, Trump urged House Republicans at the Capitol to approve the bill, though it was clear beforehand that they had the votes. “He told us that we have this once-in-a lifetime opportunity to do something really bold, and he reminded us that is why we seek these offices,” Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas said of the closed-door rally. While House Republicans celebrated, the news was less encouraging for the version making its way through the Senate Finance Committee. New numbers from Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation showed that beginning in 2021, many families earning under $30,000 annually would face higher taxes under the Senate package. By 2027, families making less than $75,000 would face tax boosts while those making more would enjoy lower levies. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, top Democrat on the Finance panel, said the projections showed the Senate bill was “just shameful” bec[...]



McConnell Wants Ethics Probe of Franken in Groping Case

2017-11-16T00:00:00Z

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into accusations that Sen. Al Franken groped and kissed a model and television host without consent during a USO tour in 2006. "As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter," McConnell said Thursday. "I hope the Democratic leader will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable -- in the workplace or anywhere else." Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, agreed....Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into accusations that Sen. Al Franken groped and kissed a model and television host without consent during a USO tour in 2006. "As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter," McConnell said Thursday. "I hope the Democratic leader will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable -- in the workplace or anywhere else." Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, agreed. In a statement, he called sexual harassment “never acceptable” and added, “I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.” Leeann Tweeden said she and Franken were traveling together in December of 2006 to perform for troops, and that the then-comedian wrote a skit that called for them to kiss on stage. Tweeden said she intended to turn away or block the kiss during the skit, but Franken insisted they rehearse it backstage, and forced himself on her. “We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth,” Tweeden wrote in a piece for KABC Thursday morning. “I immediately pushed him away with both my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.” As the tour traveled back to Los Angeles after their performances, Tweeden said Franken groped her chest while she was sleeping without her consent. Her post on the KABC website included a picture of Franken smiling at a camera as he grabs her chest while she is wearing a Kevlar vest and military helmet. VIA KABC Franken, in an initial statement Thursday, apologized for the actions. “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” Franken said. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done that.” The Minnesota lawmaker issued a lengthier statement hours later, saying he will "gladly cooperate" with an ethics investigation into his behavior. "I respect women. I don't respect men who don't. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed," he said.  Of the photograph, he said there was "no excuse" and he feels "disgusted with myself" looking at it. "It isn't funny," Franken added. "It's completely inappropriate. It's obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what's more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it -- women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me." Sen. Claire McCaskill issued a statement Thursday saying that “comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct, and I believe there should be an ethics investigation.” The Missouri Democrat called the behavior “completely unacceptable.&[...]



Who Will Stand Up to Unforgivable Recklessness?

2017-11-16T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The GOP bill that should be called the Cut Taxes on President Trump and Other Very Rich People Act of 2017 always had a secondary purpose: to jack up the deficit so Republicans could later cry out in horror, "Look at that awful debt!" They'd then use the pools of red ink they created to justify deep cuts in social programs. But people who call themselves conservative are shovelling out so much money so fast to corporations and the privileged that they needed some health care cuts upfront -- at the expense of coverage for millions of our less fortunate brothers and...WASHINGTON -- The GOP bill that should be called the Cut Taxes on President Trump and Other Very Rich People Act of 2017 always had a secondary purpose: to jack up the deficit so Republicans could later cry out in horror, "Look at that awful debt!" They'd then use the pools of red ink they created to justify deep cuts in social programs. But people who call themselves conservative are shovelling out so much money so fast to corporations and the privileged that they needed some health care cuts upfront -- at the expense of coverage for millions of our less fortunate brothers and sisters. And so on Tuesday, the Senate majority took an appalling bill and made it even more atrocious. To their ungainly concoction of tax breaks for the various interests that support them, they added the repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. According to the Congressional Budget Office, scrapping the mandate would reduce the number of Americans with health insurance by 13 million over a decade. To which the champions of redistributing money to the board rooms and the yacht clubs say: Oh, goody! This cut back in coverage would save the government $318 billion. The Republicans would use this money to pay part of the cost of making their corporate giveaways permanent, thus getting around budget rules. They also nudged up temporary personal income tax rate cuts and increased the child tax credit. The idea is to disguise just how much this bill tilts toward the wealthy. It gets worse: The CBO says that ending the individual mandate would raise health insurance premiums by 10 percent -- another way regular folks are being asked to cough up cash because of this bonanza for the well-heeled. And while the child tax credit hike sounds good, it, too, helps the better-off more than lower-income Americans. Those who make less money can't qualify for most of the new increase because they tend to pay little in income taxes (even as they often pay significant payroll taxes). As Sharon Parrott of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted, "some 10 million children in low-income working families would get $75 or less." On the other hand, she said, a "married couple with two children earning $500,000 would newly receive a full $4,000 child tax credit, even as many are getting additional tax cuts from other provisions." Then there is this sleight of hand: While the Senate bill makes the corporate tax cut permanent, it sets all the proposed reductions for individuals to expire at the end of 2025. This artificially decreases the short-term costs of the bill. If those tax cuts did expire, Americans in large numbers would eventually see their taxes go up under this deal. Let's take a step back and ponder the exceptional irresponsibility of what's transpiring here. The same people who complained that more than a year of hearings, analysis and debate around Obamacare constituted "rushing" the bill are now recklessly spiriting through the system a gigantic piece of legislation that would touch all corners of the American economy. They are changing it willy-nilly, day-by-day, to accommodate this or that political problem. They are rationalizing their thrown-together product with false claims about everything from whom it will bene[...]



A Patriot's Pledge

2017-11-16T00:00:00Z

This week, a group of wealthy individuals will send a letter to Congress opposing the Republican tax package. These men and women are patriots—they want to give back to the country that gave them so much opportunity. They are right about the problem. Our economy is undergoing a major shift. Inequality is a growing problem, and middle class stagnation breeds hopelessness, economic isolationism, and social fragmentation. We must do something. The tax increases these individuals propose, however, aren’t the solution. They aren’t the best way to give back, and they...This week, a group of wealthy individuals will send a letter to Congress opposing the Republican tax package. These men and women are patriots—they want to give back to the country that gave them so much opportunity. They are right about the problem. Our economy is undergoing a major shift. Inequality is a growing problem, and middle class stagnation breeds hopelessness, economic isolationism, and social fragmentation. We must do something. The tax increases these individuals propose, however, aren’t the solution. They aren’t the best way to give back, and they won’t help the middle class. Rate increases and provisions like the estate tax only hurt taxpayers who cannot afford expensive accountants and what’s wealthy in Omaha, Neb. isn’t what’s rich in Washington, D.C. If we raise rates on a couple earning $200,000 in my hometown, we hurt two veteran public school teachers. Higher taxes also will reduce growth, which impacts those at the lower end of the income scale the most. To get the wealthy to fund education, research, and roads, we need a visionary tax overhaul, not one that relies only on old ideas. My grandfather used to say, what got you to square one won't get you to square two. What helped expand the middle class before won’t necessarily work today. Tax policy reform must include tax policy innovation. Unfortunately, the GOP plan also falls short. Republicans are right to reduce middle class taxes by doubling the standard deduction and cutting marginal rates. Capping the mortgage deduction at $500,000 makes sense since the median U.S. home price is $319,700. Reducing rates for Main Street businesses and incentivizing companies to bring profits back home will spur job growth, but a visionary plan also should help Americans relocate for a job or get training to find work in a different industry. Lawmakers should consider proposals like the Aspen Institute’s Worker Training Tax Credit, which businesses would use to invest in training for low- and middle-income workers. The GOP’s corporate rate cut will help the middle class. According to Boston University’s Lawrence Kotlikoff, it will increase worker wages by $3,500. In my businesses, we’ll use our savings to hire more people and invest in new projects. Roughly 70 percent will go to my employees. Progressives acknowledged business rate cuts would increase wages when President Barack Obama wanted them. President John F. Kennedy also knew that if entrepreneurs had the incentive to risk, create, and build, the tide would rise and lift us all. Growth hit 5.8 percent in 1964, the year JFK’s last tax cut was signed into law, and 6.5 percent the next. When it comes to how the rich can fund our future, we need a patriot’s pledge. Right now any taxpayer can check a box on their IRS form to donate to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for public financing of presidential campaigns. Why just the FEC? Why isn’t there a box for a Housing and Urban Development affordable housing fund, a Transportation Department infrastructure account, or Labor Department job-matching program? Why can’t I make a patriot’s pledge to fund to m[...]



Democrats Have a Clear Path to Senate Majority in 2018

2017-11-16T00:00:00Z

Until recently, it looked like Republicans were almost certain to retain control of the U.S. Senate following the 2018 mid-term elections. Many commentators noted that Nancy Pelosi's team might have a shot at winning control of the House. But the Senate was different. Only a third of the Senators stand for election each cycle and the GOP was protected by a very favorable electoral map. Only one GOP Senator (Nevada's Dean Heller) is running for re-election in a state won by Hillary Clinton. The only other soft spot in the GOP lineup is Arizona, where Senator Jeff Flake's fights...Until recently, it looked like Republicans were almost certain to retain control of the U.S. Senate following the 2018 mid-term elections. Many commentators noted that Nancy Pelosi's team might have a shot at winning control of the House. But the Senate was different. Only a third of the Senators stand for election each cycle and the GOP was protected by a very favorable electoral map. Only one GOP Senator (Nevada's Dean Heller) is running for re-election in a state won by Hillary Clinton. The only other soft spot in the GOP lineup is Arizona, where Senator Jeff Flake's fights with President Trump made it impossible for him to win re-election. Flake dropped out and there is an open seat in this toss-up state. But, Republicans assured themselves, even if the Democrats win both Arizona and Nevada, they still end up only with a 50-50 tie in the Senate. In that case, Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote to keep the GOP in charge. All of a sudden, though, the landscape has shifted to give the Democrats a clear path to disrupt that narrative. The immediate cause of the shift is Alabama's Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. It is virtually impossible for a Republican to lose a Senate seat in the South, but Moore's well on the way to proving it can be done. If Democrat Doug Jones defeats Moore, the GOP majority will dwindle to 51-49. Picking up Arizona and Nevada in 2018 (while protecting all their own seats) would give the Democrats a Senate majority. That's not an unreasonable expectation given last week's election in Virginia. However, the GOP problems are deeper than just Roy Moore. The underlying difficulty is their collective failure to deliver on campaign promises. After seven years of promising to repeal Obamacare if they had the power to do so, they didn't. Some Republican voters blame Donald Trump for not having a sound legislative strategy. Others blame Congressional Republicans for behaving the way Congressional Republican always behave. Regardless, the bottom line is that voters did their part and their leaders did not. Some GOP voters may simply conclude it's not worth the effort. Additionally, because there are always surprises in politics, other seats may open up for the Democrats. While sad to contemplate, there is a reasonable possibility that John McCain will leave the Senate early. If that happens, Arizona will become the third state in half a century to host two Senate elections in the same year. And, it's quite possible that Republicans could lose both. To be clear, I am not saying that the Republicans will lose control of the Senate in 2018. The Democrats have problems of their own including a message that doesn't resonate in large segments of the country. And, they are defending ten Senate seats in states won by President Trump. The Republicans have legitimate pick-up opportunities in several of them. At the same time, it's important to note the seismic shift in the midterm election dynamics. If the Democrats win in Alabama, they will for the first time have a clearly definable road to victory in the midterm Senate elections. COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM[...]



America's Indispensable Friends

2017-11-16T00:00:00Z

The world equates American military power with the maintenance of the postwar global order of free commerce, communications and travel. Sometimes American power leads to costly, indecisive interventions like those in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya that were not able to translate superiority on the battlefield into lasting peace. But amid the frustrations of American foreign policy, it is forgotten that the United States also plays a critical but more silent role in ensuring the survival of small, at-risk nations. The majority of them are democratic and pro-Western. But they all share the...The world equates American military power with the maintenance of the postwar global order of free commerce, communications and travel. Sometimes American power leads to costly, indecisive interventions like those in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya that were not able to translate superiority on the battlefield into lasting peace. But amid the frustrations of American foreign policy, it is forgotten that the United States also plays a critical but more silent role in ensuring the survival of small, at-risk nations. The majority of them are democratic and pro-Western. But they all share the misfortune of living in dangerous neighborhoods full of bullies. These small nations are a far cry from rogue clients of China and Russia -- theocratic Iran, autocratic North Korea and totalitarian Venezuela -- that oppress their own people and threaten their regions. In the Middle East, there are two places that consistently remain pro-American: the nation of Israel and the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Both show a spirit and tenacity that so far have ensured their survival against aggressive and far larger neighbors. Both have few friends other than the United States. And both are anomalies. Israel is surrounded by Islamic neighbors. The ethnic Kurds live in the heart of the Arab Middle East. Quite admirably, the U.S. continues to be a patron of both. For some 500 years, the Ottoman Empire terrified the Christian Middle East and Mediterranean world. Almost every country in its swath was Islamicized. Two tiny unique places were conquered but not transformed: Armenia and Greece. Both suffered terribly at the hands of the Ottomans and their successors, the early-20th-century Turkish state. Yet both Armenia and Greece remained Christian and kept their languages and cultures. Today, both are still quite vulnerable to renewed neo-Ottoman Turkish pressures. America has been a friend to both Armenia and Greece, although their histories with the U.S. were often controversial. In turn, they have sent millions of talented and skilled immigrants to the U.S. The world is a far better place because there are 11 million Greeks who keep the legacy of Hellenism alive. Armenia still remains a Western outpost -- the first country to formally adopt Christianity as a state religion, and a nation that has preserved its faith under centuries of cruel foreign persecutions. Without the United States, there would never have emerged a free and independent Taiwan and South Korea. The former would have been absorbed by communist China in 1949. The latter would have been wiped out in 1950 by Chinese-sponsored North Korea. Today, Taiwan and South Korea are models of international citizenship, democracy and prosperity. They have given the world singular products and brands, from Foxconn and Quanta Computer to Samsung and Kia. Given their relatively small areas, Taiwan and South Korea likely would not have survived Chinese bullying or, more recently, North Korean nuclear provocations without strong American support and protection. Our relationships with all of these vulnerable nations are as much practical as principled. All follow international law. All have[...]



Trump: China Agrees NKorea Nuclear Weapon Freeze Not Enough

2017-11-16T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. and China agree that North Korea cannot just freeze its nuclear weapons program in exchange for concessions and that it must eliminate its arsenal. Trump was restating a long-standing U.S. position but suggested that China now concurred with Washington that a “freeze-for-freeze” agreement was unacceptable. China and Russia have proposed that as a way to restart long-stalled negotiations: that the North could freeze its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for the U.S. and its close ally...WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. and China agree that North Korea cannot just freeze its nuclear weapons program in exchange for concessions and that it must eliminate its arsenal. Trump was restating a long-standing U.S. position but suggested that China now concurred with Washington that a “freeze-for-freeze” agreement was unacceptable. China and Russia have proposed that as a way to restart long-stalled negotiations: that the North could freeze its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for the U.S. and its close ally South Korea stopping regular military drills that Pyongyang considers as preparation for invasion. China has not made a public disavowal of the proposal. China said Wednesday that it would send a high-level special envoy to North Korea amid an extended chill in relations between the neighbors. Trump was speaking a day after he returned from a 12-day trip through Asia that included a state visit to China, where he was hosted by President Xi Jinping. “President Xi recognizes that a nuclear North Korea is a grave threat to China, and we agreed that we would not accept a so-called freeze for freeze agreement, like those that have consistently failed in the past,” Trump said. He said that Xi pledged to implement U.N. sanctions that aim to deprive North Korea of revenues for its weapons programs “and to use his great economic influence over the regime to achieve our common goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.” China is North Korea’s traditional ally and accounts for about 90 percent of the isolated nation’s external trade — including virtually all its oil supplies. Speaking at the White House, Trump cast his Asian sojourn as a “tremendous success,” saying the United States was feted by foreign leaders and asserted its strength in the world. “America’s renewed confidence and standing in the world has never been stronger than it is right now,” Trump said, detailing his stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. Trump said he had three goals on the trip: to unite the world against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, to strengthen alliances in the region and to insist on “fair and reciprocal trade.” Trump pledged to work “as fast as possible” to eliminate sizable trade deficits with U.S. trading partners. He said it was “unacceptable” that the U.S. trade deficit with other nations stands at about $800 billion a year and promised to “start whittling that down as fast as possible.” He did not say how he planned to achieve that goal. Earlier, Trump used social media to spar with media coverage of his trip. He tweeted criticism at The New York Times. He said the paper “hates” that he has good relationships with world leaders and “they should realize that these relationships are a good thing, not a bad thing.” He called the paper “naive (or dumb)” on foreign policy. The president also tweeted Wednesday that he was “forced” to watch CNN during the[...]



First Republican Senator Opposes Tax Bill in Early Sign of Problems

2017-11-16T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson on Wednesday became the first Republican senator to say he opposes his party’s tax bill, signaling potential problems for GOP leaders. Passage of a similar package seemed certain Thursday in the House, where a handful of dissidents conceded they expected to be steamrolled by a GOP frantic to claim its first major legislative victory of the year. Eager to act before opposition groups could sow doubts among the rank-and-file, Republican leaders were anxious to hand Donald Trump the first crowning bill of his presidency by...WASHINGTON (AP) — Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson on Wednesday became the first Republican senator to say he opposes his party’s tax bill, signaling potential problems for GOP leaders. Passage of a similar package seemed certain Thursday in the House, where a handful of dissidents conceded they expected to be steamrolled by a GOP frantic to claim its first major legislative victory of the year. Eager to act before opposition groups could sow doubts among the rank-and-file, Republican leaders were anxious to hand Donald Trump the first crowning bill of his presidency by Christmas. Trump planned to visit House GOP lawmakers Thursday at the Capitol in what seemed likely to be a pep rally, not a rescue mission. “Big vote tomorrow in the House. Tax cuts are getting close!” Trump enthused in a tweet Wednesday. “Why are Democrats fighting massive tax cuts for the middle class and business (jobs)? The reason: Obstruction and Delay!” The two chambers’ plans would slash the 35 percent corporate tax rate to 20 percent, trim personal income tax rates and diminish some deductions and credits — while adding nearly $1.5 trillion to the coming decade’s federal deficits. Republicans promised tax breaks for millions of families and companies left with more money to produce more jobs. “It represents a bold path forward that will allow us as a nation to break out of the slow-growth status quo once and for all,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, as his chamber debated the bill. Democrats said the measures would bestow the bulk of their benefits on higher earners and corporations. In the Senate Finance Committee, they focused their attacks on two provisions designed by Republicans to save money. One would repeal President Barack Obama’s health law requirement that people buy coverage or pay a fine, a move the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects would result in 13 million more uninsured people by 2027. The other would end the personal income tax cuts in 2026 while keeping the corporate reductions permanent. “We should be working together to find ways to cut taxes for hardworking middle-class families, not taking health care away from millions of people just to give huge tax cuts to the largest corporations,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. The Republican-led Finance panel was on track to approve its proposal by week’s end. It shut down Democrats’ initial efforts Wednesday to modify the Senate bill, voting along party lines against amendments aimed at protecting health care coverage for veterans or people with disabilities, mental illness or opioid addition if the insurance mandate is ended. But with GOP leaders hoping for full Senate passage early next month, concerns by Johnson and perhaps others would have to be addressed. Republicans controlling the Senate 52-48 can approve the legislation with just 50 votes, plus tie-breaking support from Vice President Mike Pence. With solid Democratic opposition likely, they can lose just two GOP votes. Besides Johns[...]



Impeachment Call; NAFTA Support; Oklahoma OK!

2017-11-16T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Thursday, November 16, 2017. On this date 110 years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a proclamation designating Oklahoma as the 46th state in the Union. As a mid-20th century Californian, my earliest familiarity with that state came in the form of its emigrants, courtesy of John Steinbeck, the sage of Salinas. “The Grapes of Wrath” was required reading for students of a certain generation, and the word “Okies,” which probably wouldn’t pass muster today, was part of our lexicon. For many Americans, however,...Good morning, it’s Thursday, November 16, 2017. On this date 110 years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a proclamation designating Oklahoma as the 46th state in the Union. As a mid-20th century Californian, my earliest familiarity with that state came in the form of its emigrants, courtesy of John Steinbeck, the sage of Salinas. “The Grapes of Wrath” was required reading for students of a certain generation, and the word “Okies,” which probably wouldn’t pass muster today, was part of our lexicon. For many Americans, however, their frame of reference to the Sooner State was the more upbeat Broadway musical “Oklahoma!” by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Set in a small Oklahoma town a year before statehood, it features a convoluted love story and some truly memorable tunes, including the title song itself. The plot is dated now, not to mention the cultural references, and has been for some time. In the song “Kansas City,” for instance, one of Claremore’s worldly cowpokes sings about how everything is up to date in Kansas City where “they went and built a skyscraper seven stories high -- about as high as a building ought grow.” And yet the musical is still performed regularly, as very modern performers sing its quaint numbers, including the ever-optimistic “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.” Some things never change, it seems. By that I mean that seven decades after the folksy cowboys and cowgirls of “Oklahoma!” took Broadway by storm, the music scene in the real Oklahoma is best known for its home-grown country and western singers. I’ll link to some of their best songs 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 original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * House Democrats Split on Impeachment. James Arkin has the story. For Border States Michigan and Arizona, NAFTA Is Essential. Richard K. Studley and Glenn Hamer speak for their respective chambers of commerce in this plea to President Trump. Government-Sponsored Monopolies Won't Fix Procurement. In RealClearPolicy, Drew Johnson argues that a GOP proposal to reform the federal procurement process would result in a "government giveaway” to Amazon. Is Anti-Semitism France’s New Normal? In RealClearWorld, Robert Zaretsky writes that the desecration of a Paris memorial reflects a wider, and troubling, attitude. The Whole World Is Doing More to Secure Borders. In RealClearDefense, Daniel Goure points out that Trump’s promise of a southern wall echoes an increasingly common call elsewhere. The Cost of Protection vs. the Cost of Regret. Also in RCD, Peter DiMaggio and Nick Misselbrook spotlight blast analysis modeling tools that could mitigate the damage from terrorist attacks. * * * Garth Brooks, Toby Keith, are Reba McEntire[...]



No, Colin Kaepernick Is No Muhammad Ali

2017-11-16T00:00:00Z

GQ magazine named former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick its 2017 "Citizen of the Year." In doing so, GQ overlooked NFL Houston Texans' J.J. Watt, who raised some $37 million for hurricane relief. Many of Kaepernick's supporters liken his protest to that of boxer Muhammad Ali, who refused to be inducted into the military. The comparison is not well-taken. For whatever reason, Kaepernick chose not to give the magazine an interview, passing up an opportunity to clearly explain the purpose of his protest. At first, Kaepernick insisted his protest was about the alleged...GQ magazine named former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick its 2017 "Citizen of the Year." In doing so, GQ overlooked NFL Houston Texans' J.J. Watt, who raised some $37 million for hurricane relief. Many of Kaepernick's supporters liken his protest to that of boxer Muhammad Ali, who refused to be inducted into the military. The comparison is not well-taken. For whatever reason, Kaepernick chose not to give the magazine an interview, passing up an opportunity to clearly explain the purpose of his protest. At first, Kaepernick insisted his protest was about the alleged epidemic of police brutality against blacks. Shortly after he started his protest, Kaepernick said: "There's a lot of things that need to change. One specifically is police brutality. There's people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. The cops are getting paid leave for killing people. That's not right." Contrast this with Muhammad Ali's protest. He argued that his religious beliefs made him a conscientious objector who ought not be forced to join the military. In doing so, Ali faced up to five years in prison and was stripped of his ability to fight in the U.S. for more than three years, his prime years as an athlete. While the heavyweight title-holder avoided prison during his appeals process -- that ended up in the Supreme Court -- he was forced to hand over his passport, which prevented him from fighting overseas, as well. Banned from boxing and stripped of his world heavyweight title, Ali argued his case on the road, speaking at a number of colleges and universities, where he repeatedly stated that he would rather abide by his religious convictions rather than violate them in order to make money. Martin Luther King Jr. urged his followers to "admire (Ali's) courage. He is giving up fame. He is giving up millions of dollars to do what his conscience tells him is right." By contrast, Kaepernick wants to have it both ways. The NFL allows players to stand or not, depending upon their own choice. So the league actually gives players permission to stand or not to stand for the national anthem. In Ali's case, his refusal to join the military cost him the ability to earn a living in his chosen profession. The Supreme Court eventually sided unanimously with Ali, ruling that the appeal board failed to properly specify the reason why Ali's application for a conscientious-objector exemption had been denied. The ruling required Ali's conviction to be overturned, and the court said the record shows that Ali's "beliefs are founded on tenets of the Muslim religion as he understands them." After his Supreme Court victory, Ali could have sued for lost wages, arguing that he was illegally forbidden from working as a fighter. Ali refused, arguing that he would rather look ahead then exact revenge. Kaepernick, on the other hand, filed a grievance against the NFL, claiming the owners "colluded" against hiring this mediocre-quarterback-turned-locker-room distraction. What about the merits of Kaepernick's argument? Is there an epidemic of police brutality against[...]



Go Ahead, Republicans. Investigate Hillary. Again.

2017-11-16T00:00:00Z

Whenever the legal walls start closing in on Donald Trump, the president releases a bad rabbit on the political field, a creature invisible to all but the haters of Hillary Clinton. The most recent example is his attorney general's call to "evaluate certain issues" regarding the sale of a majority stake in Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation. Yes, that again. There was absolutely zero wrong with or troubling about the Uranium One transaction. Even Fox News viewers who heard Shep Smith dismiss the wild charges as nonsense know that. And that's why Democrats should resist...Whenever the legal walls start closing in on Donald Trump, the president releases a bad rabbit on the political field, a creature invisible to all but the haters of Hillary Clinton. The most recent example is his attorney general's call to "evaluate certain issues" regarding the sale of a majority stake in Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation. Yes, that again. There was absolutely zero wrong with or troubling about the Uranium One transaction. Even Fox News viewers who heard Shep Smith dismiss the wild charges as nonsense know that. And that's why Democrats should resist the urge to chase this non-scandal down the rabbit hole of Trumpian distraction. Provoking them to become players -- to angrily defend Hillary with their files of facts -- is the point of Trump's game. So go ahead, investigate Hillary for the 10,000th time. Other than a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars, there's little harm in taking another look at the Uranium One sale. OK, Jeff Sessions, go forth and direct federal prosecutors to look into "potentially" unlawful international dealings -- at least as imagined by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee. A special counsel could be appointed if they find something, which they won't. This sideshow immediately followed the release of Don Jr.'s secret correspondence with Russian-controlled WikiLeaks during the presidential campaign. The Atlantic reports that campaign advisers Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Hope Hicks and Brad Parscale knew about it. There is nothing imaginary about Robert Mueller's investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and our Russian adversaries. The Trump position has moved from "there was no collusion" to "collusion is not illegal." U.S. intelligence has long held that WikiLeaks acted as an arm of the Russian military to push the race in Trump's favor. Trump ally Roger Stone was in touch with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and worked with the Russian agents running Guccifer 2.0, the entity that launched cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee. We know that because he stupidly bragged about it. "There is one 'trick' that is not in my bag, and that is treason," Stone said last September in his defense. Ooooh. We don't know about that. Lest anyone doubt that a fire could be raging under this heavy smoke of denials, the Department of Homeland Security and the director of national intelligence on election security issued a joint statement last year that "the recent disclosures ... are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts." Funny that Trump was in Asia this month telling Americans to trust Russian strongman Vladimir Putin but not the leaders of their own intelligence services. Actually, it was not funny at all. Harassing a political opponent no longer in office is not without risk for Trump. Given the tawdry family history -- going back to the '90s, when a bankrupt Trump turned to Russians for loans -- the president has provided ample opportunity for his successor to push for inv[...]



How 'Fiddler on the Roof' Explains the GOP Tax Bill

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The supposed price tag for the Republican tax bill is $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Republicans would have you believe that the measure would sprinkle enough magical growth dust throughout the economy to wipe out that cost. Don't believe them, but also: Don't believe for a moment that the bill would cost a mere -- mere! -- $1.5 trillion. Peel away the budget tricks and it becomes clear that the real price tag would be hundreds of billions of dollars higher. Which is where "Fiddler on the Roof" comes in -- specifically "Sunrise, Sunset." What once was...WASHINGTON -- The supposed price tag for the Republican tax bill is $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Republicans would have you believe that the measure would sprinkle enough magical growth dust throughout the economy to wipe out that cost. Don't believe them, but also: Don't believe for a moment that the bill would cost a mere -- mere! -- $1.5 trillion. Peel away the budget tricks and it becomes clear that the real price tag would be hundreds of billions of dollars higher. Which is where "Fiddler on the Roof" comes in -- specifically "Sunrise, Sunset." What once was schmaltzy ballad is now the blueprint for Republican tax gimmickry. The House and Senate measures differ in details, but both play the same hide-the-cost games to disguise the real price -- the House to the tune of $400 billion, the Senate clocking in at $515 billion, according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. By the way, those numbers understate things, because they don't include the cost of paying interest on the additional debt. Some provisions have a "sunrise" -- that is, they phase in over time. Of those, the priciest is the estate tax. To begin with, the House bill would merely -- merely! -- double the size of estates exempt from taxation, from $11 million per couple to $22 million . But beginning in 2024, the estate tax would be repealed entirely. There is zero policy basis for this change. It serves only to display a lower price tag during the initial 10-year window and to mask the real long-term cost. Of the first-decade price tag of $172 billion, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, all but $39 billion accrues in the second five years. Next, "sunsets." The opposite of delayed implementation is the pretense that a break once provided to taxpayers will ever be taken away. Thus the House measure hands out a $300-per-adult tax credit -- but sets it to end after 2022, shaving $225 billion off what would have been the 10-year cost. The Senate sunsets most of its individual tax goodies -- lower rates, doubling the standard deduction and child tax credit -- after 2025, "saving" $240 billion. These sunsets are one reason why many middle-income families whose tax bill would be lower at first would end up paying more by the end of the decade than if current law were to stay in place. So either Republicans are lying when they say these taxpayers will be better off -- or they are lying about the true cost of the plan. But of course there will be a clamor to make the cuts permanent -- just as there was with the George W. Bush tax cuts, which played similar games, although not quite on this audacious scale. Then there is the biggest gimmick of all -- think of it not as sunrise or sunset but as an eclipse, obscuring a whopping $462 billion in deficit-financed cuts. That is the cost of assuming that the size of the tax cut should be measured by how it differs from current policy, not from current law, under which many tax breaks are set to expire. In the real world, they en[...]



The Uses of Disgrace

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

In 1983, two congressmen, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, were censured by the House. Both had admitted to having affairs with 17-year-old pages. The Republican, Daniel Crane, represented a conservative Illinois district. His constituents sent him packing the following year, despite his apology and request for forgiveness. The Democrat was Gerry Studds, who represented a liberal Massachusetts district. His relationship had been with a young man. He admitted to a "very serious error in judgment," but seemed to imply that he was owed more latitude because he was gay....In 1983, two congressmen, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, were censured by the House. Both had admitted to having affairs with 17-year-old pages. The Republican, Daniel Crane, represented a conservative Illinois district. His constituents sent him packing the following year, despite his apology and request for forgiveness. The Democrat was Gerry Studds, who represented a liberal Massachusetts district. His relationship had been with a young man. He admitted to a "very serious error in judgment," but seemed to imply that he was owed more latitude because he was gay. "It is not a simple task for any of us to meet adequately the obligations of either public office or private life, let alone both," Studds said in an address to the House, "but these challenges are made substantially more complex when one is, as I am, both an elected public official and gay." He was reelected six more times and retired voluntarily in 1997. At the time, conservatives saw the congressmen's differing fates as symbolic of a difference between the parties. Sure, we conceded, there are bad apples everywhere, but the way they are received tells you something about their constituents. Do they bend the rules when one of their own is caught in a transgression? And how do you define what a transgression really is? In the 1990s, liberals and feminists unloaded on Sen. Bob Packwood and Justice Clarence Thomas. These were teachable moments, they said. A superior must never take advantage of his position to pressure a subordinate for sex or even for dates. Anita Hill was anointed as the "Rosa Parks of sexual harassment." And then came Bill Clinton -- and a resounding "never mind" echoed through liberal world. Gloria Steinem herself offered Clinton absolution in a New York Times op-ed. "If President Clinton were as vital to preserving freedom of speech as he is to preserving reproductive freedom," she asked, "would journalists be condemned as 'inconsistent' for refusing to suggest he resign? Forget it." Bottom line: Having the "right" views amounted to a get-out-of-jail-free card. Hapless Harvey Weinstein thought the card was still valid. When his gross conduct was first reported in The New York Times, he issued a statement promising to go after the NRA with renewed vigor. Of course, some conservatives are now up to their nostrils in hypocrisy themselves. They believed Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick, but the multiple accusations against Donald Trump were just political hits (despite his acknowledgement on the Access Hollywood tape). And with Roy Moore, we've reached a truly upside-down world in which social conservatives find themselves saying that a district attorney who scoured shopping malls and courthouses for girls who couldn't even drive yet was OK because, well, something about Joseph and Mary. Republicans have come a long way since Daniel Crane. Some liberals are now coming around to the idea that, as Matt Yglesias of Vox put it: "I wonder how much [...]



Republicans Begin Pushing Tax Cut Bill Through Congress

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans began pushing a broad tax cut for businesses and many individuals through the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, a measure complicated by a late addition — repeal of the Obama health care law’s requirement that Americans get insurance coverage. Erasing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate provided Republicans with more money that they used to make some tax breaks for people modestly more generous. But it raised questions about whether it might prompt some moderate GOP senators to back away from the measure. The...WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans began pushing a broad tax cut for businesses and many individuals through the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, a measure complicated by a late addition — repeal of the Obama health care law’s requirement that Americans get insurance coverage. Erasing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate provided Republicans with more money that they used to make some tax breaks for people modestly more generous. But it raised questions about whether it might prompt some moderate GOP senators to back away from the measure. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has projected that dismantling the requirement would mean 4 million additional uninsured people by 2019 and 13 million more uninsured by 2027. Worries about leaving more people without coverage were among the reasons GOP attempts to outright repeal much of President Barack Obama’s law crashed in the Senate this summer. Republicans controlling the Senate 52-48 can afford to lose only two votes and still push the measure through the chamber, since all Democrats seem likely to oppose the package. In another money-saving move, Hatch changed his bill late Tuesday to abruptly end the personal tax reductions after 2025. Under Senate rules, if legislation bill drives up federal budget deficits after 10 years it cannot be shielded from bill-killing filibusters by Democrats. It takes 60 votes to end a filibuster, numbers Republicans don’t have. The corporate tax cuts would be permanent. They include dropping the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. “Keeping the individual mandate tax in place means retaining the status quo, which isn’t working all too well,” said Senate Finance panel chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “Zeroing it out means we have a chance to provide greater tax relief to middle-class families, through both reduced penalties and lower overall rates.” The Finance committee was hoping to approve the measure by week’s end. Republicans were planning the House would approve a similar tax bill on Thursday, though that version left the health law’s coverage requirement intact. White House legislative director Marc Short said President Donald Trump spoke Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., about the tax legislation. Trump plans to talk to House Republicans about their measure at the Capitol on Thursday to rally support before the House vote. Short said Republicans feel they have momentum but added, “We’re always concerned. The reality is we don’t have a large margin in the Senate.” Eliminating the mandate provides Republicans with $318 billion in 10-year savings, due to fewer people who’d be expected to get government-subsidized health coverage. It imposes a tax penalty on people who don’t have insurance at work and don’t buy an individual[...]



House Democrats Split on Impeachment

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

Six House Democrats released articles of impeachment against President Trump Wednesday morning, but party leaders in the chamber do not support that effort. The disparate messages reflect a broader disagreement within the party about whether investigations into Trump and potential impeachment of the president should be highlighted before the 2018 midterms, or whether Democrats should focus on kitchen-table economic issues as they aim to retake majorities in Congress. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee said there are six sponsors for the five articles of impeachment they released Tuesday. The...Six House Democrats released articles of impeachment against President Trump Wednesday morning, but party leaders in the chamber do not support that effort. The disparate messages reflect a broader disagreement within the party about whether investigations into Trump and potential impeachment of the president should be highlighted before the 2018 midterms, or whether Democrats should focus on kitchen-table economic issues as they aim to retake majorities in Congress. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee said there are six sponsors for the five articles of impeachment they released Tuesday. The articles include obstruction of justice over Trump’s firing of former FBI Director Jim Comey; violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution; and the president’s “undermining” of the federal judiciary and freedom of the press, according to Cohen. The other sponsors are Reps. Al Green, Adriano Espaillat, Luis Gutierrez, Marcia Fudge and John Yarmuth. Cohen (pictured) said they support Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, but believe that there are already sufficient facts to support moving forward with impeachment. “There’s no reason we don’t start now with definite violations of our Constitution and threats to our democracy,” Cohen said. “There are already sufficient facts in the public record to warrant the start of impeachment proceedings in Congress. Given the magnitude of the constitutional crisis, there is no reason for delay.” However, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said in a briefing with reporters Wednesday that he and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi disagree with the sponsors. He said they share their colleagues’ belief that Trump’s actions have been “dangerous, inappropriate and harmful” but asserted that those actions do not amount to an impeachable offense. “Electing a president of the United States is the most important act that American citizens take in setting the policies of their country,” Hoyer said. “That should not be overturned except for the most egregious and demonstrable facts, and both Leader Pelosi and I believe that it is not timely to address that issue given what’s in front of us.” The disagreement is not simply over the facts of impeachment, however, but the politics. Cohen said he believes introducing impeachment would be politically beneficial for Democrats in 2018 by firing up their political base, which is frustrated with Trump and his administration. Espaillat, a freshman lawmaker from New York, said their push for impeachment was not made in a “vacuum,” but reflects that people in his district are calling for it. Hoyer sharply disagreed. “The issue is not impeachment, the issue is the economy,” he said. &l[...]



For Border States Michigan and Arizona, NAFTA Is Essential

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

As the presidents of two border-state chambers of commerce, we know firsthand of the power of the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA is an indispensable component of our states’ economic prosperity.  Not surprisingly, our states’ international neighbors represent our largest trading partners. And for each of us, the other NAFTA partner country is our second-largest export market. For Arizona and Michigan, and for so many states, NAFTA means jobs. Nationally, 14 million jobs are tied to trade with Mexico and Canada. In Arizona, the total is more than...As the presidents of two border-state chambers of commerce, we know firsthand of the power of the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA is an indispensable component of our states’ economic prosperity.  Not surprisingly, our states’ international neighbors represent our largest trading partners. And for each of us, the other NAFTA partner country is our second-largest export market. For Arizona and Michigan, and for so many states, NAFTA means jobs. Nationally, 14 million jobs are tied to trade with Mexico and Canada. In Arizona, the total is more than 200,000; in Michigan, it’s nearly 400,000. Which is why President Trump’s rhetoric over trade and his threats to exit NAFTA are both troubling and perplexing. Troubling because throughout its nearly 25-year history, NAFTA has fueled economic growth in our states, growing jobs here while preventing entire supply chains from migrating overseas to regions like Asia. Perplexing because cutting off U.S. manufacturers’ access to foreign markets and increasing the costs of everyday products here at home runs completely counter to the administration’s stated goal of achieving 3 percent economic growth. While we share the president’s position on the need to reform our tax code and reduce job creators’ regulatory burden, making trade more cumbersome and expensive is a recipe for economic malaise, an opinion shared by over 80 percent of economists in a recent Wall Street Journal survey, who believe a NAFTA exit would result in an economic slowdown. The anti-NAFTA position is also strange for a president who not only won our states in the 2016 election, but whose victory hinged on winning Michigan. Pursuing a policy that harms the very voters who tipped the scales in your favor is hardly the foundation for re-election. The connections of our states’ economies with Canada and Mexico run deep, making us more competitive against foreign competition and proving the difference between adding jobs and shedding them. For example, electric car manufacturer Lucid Motors cited its forthcoming Arizona factory’s proximity to Mexico and the highly integrated cross-border automotive supply chain as a reason for the company’s $700 million investment in the state. In Michigan, the Detroit metro area alone is an international export powerhouse, sending $15 billion worth of exports marked “Made in the USA” to Canada and $17 billion worth to Mexico in 2015. That’s two-thirds of the state’s exports. In fact, an analysis by the credit ratings agency Fitch finds that Michigan has the most to lose if NAFTA is dismantled. Michigan’s exports account for 7.4 percent of its gross state product, which Fitch says leaves the state “uniquely exposed” if the agreement were unwound. It's easy to see why the potential for dramatic job losses[...]



Sessions Seeks Balance in Pondering Clinton, Uranium One Special Counsel

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — In asking senior federal prosecutors to examine a number of Republican grievances, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is trying to strike a balance. He appears to be attempting to placate a boss who has repeatedly suggested that Sessions’ own job might be in jeopardy for failing to investigate his Democratic rivals. At the same time, Sessions is taking a step toward defending the Justice Department’s credibility by leaving the actual work to senior officials whose findings, while unlikely to please everyone, would have more credibility. In a letter...WASHINGTON (AP) — In asking senior federal prosecutors to examine a number of Republican grievances, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is trying to strike a balance. He appears to be attempting to placate a boss who has repeatedly suggested that Sessions’ own job might be in jeopardy for failing to investigate his Democratic rivals. At the same time, Sessions is taking a step toward defending the Justice Department’s credibility by leaving the actual work to senior officials whose findings, while unlikely to please everyone, would have more credibility. In a letter this week, the department directed senior federal prosecutors to “evaluate certain issues” raised by Republican lawmakers. Among them: whether a special counsel should be appointed to look into allegations that the Clinton Foundation benefited from an Obama-era uranium transaction involving a Russian state company, a deal President Donald Trump himself has continually urged the Justice Department to investigate. Unlike other members of the president’s Cabinet, the attorney general is construed as mostly an independent operator, under longstanding policy, practice and executive protocol. The Justice Department is not supposed to be influenced by the White House in deciding which cases to prosecute and which to discard after a review. The department’s top staff is a mix of career officials and political appointees who juggle investigations behind closed doors while working more publicly to advance the administration’s law enforcement agenda. Sessions may be trying to dig himself out of a bind with a move that allows him to say he handled the allegations properly by referring them to prosecutors, who could then credibly close the case without debasing the Justice Department. Neither the letter, signed by Stephen E. Boyd, an assistant attorney general, nor Sessions named the senior prosecutors who will be involved in the review sought by Republicans. But they will most likely be career officials accustomed to operating free from political sway. While the term “senior prosecutor” could also refer to a politically appointed U.S. attorney, Sessions would face immediate backlash for putting the probe in the hands of a Trump-appointee. But while this may offer Sessions a greater measure of job security for now, a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday showed he has so far satisfied very few of his critics. Despite attempts to reassure Democrats to the contrary, the mere issuance of the letter immediately raised alarms that Justice was attempting to do the bidding of the president, who has publicly lamented that he has so little direct influence over the agency’s affairs. And Republicans, who have long called for an investigation of Hillary Clinton, questioned why a probe hasn’t been underway by[...]



Mandate Repeal; Curbing Drug Costs; Swamp Drainage; Seeds of Partisanship

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, November 15, 2017. Twenty-three years ago today, in a series of meetings in Washington and halfway around the world in Indonesia, American public officials provided a glimpse into a dystopian political future epitomized by hyper-partisan gridlock. It didn’t start out that way. The initial signal emanating from the White House was to find areas of compromise between the Clinton administration and the incoming Republican majority that had just conquered Capitol Hill in the 1994 midterm elections. At first blush, it seemed these efforts were...Good morning, it’s Wednesday, November 15, 2017. Twenty-three years ago today, in a series of meetings in Washington and halfway around the world in Indonesia, American public officials provided a glimpse into a dystopian political future epitomized by hyper-partisan gridlock. It didn’t start out that way. The initial signal emanating from the White House was to find areas of compromise between the Clinton administration and the incoming Republican majority that had just conquered Capitol Hill in the 1994 midterm elections. At first blush, it seemed these efforts were successful. White House Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta not only met with Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole and House Speaker-in-Waiting Newt Gingrich, but in deference to the new reality of GOP strength, Panetta went to Capitol Hill to meet them. “We want to change how this town does business,” he said afterward. Sounding upbeat and conciliatory, he characterized the session as a “very good meeting,” adding, “We did talk about issues where we can achieve some agreement.” Those issues included lobbying and campaign finance reform, the line-item veto and passage of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) -- and progress would be made on all of them. Yet there were other, less conciliatory, voices making themselves heard that day, and in hindsight, those were the ones that mattered more. I’ll explain 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 original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Senate GOP Plans to Repeal Obamacare Mandate in Tax Bill. James Arkin has the story. Experts: We Can Lower Drug Prices. Chris Beach and Tony Mills report on an RCP-sponsored forum Tuesday. A 10-Point Plan to Drain the Swamp. In RealClearPolicy, Fred Wertheimer and Norman Eisen outline their "government integrity compact with America." “America First” Means Other Nations Put America Last. In RealClearMarkets, Allan Golombek argues that Asian nations’ revised TPP shows President Trump’s trade stance is backfiring. The Real Possibility of Conflict With North Korea. In RealClearWorld, Francois Godement warns that the current standoff over the Kim regime’s nuclearization efforts may be the calm before the storm. Will the U.S. Lead on Carbon Capture? In RealClearEnergy, Eliot Bakker writes that investment in the new technology could prove to be an economic boon as well as an environmental one. Five Terrible Science News Headlines. Ross Pomeroy spotlights the offenders. * * * In 1993, congressional Republi[...]



Silence on Sleaze-Bob Menendez

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

The verdict is in. I pronounce Democrat leaders, left-wing feminists and Beltway journalists guilty of gross negligence and hypocrisy over a dirty rotten sleazeball in their midst. For the past 11 weeks, Bob Menendez has been on trial for 18 counts of bribery, fraud and corruption involving nearly $1 million in gifts and donations. The jury remained deadlocked as of Tuesday. A new Media Research Center analysis reported that ABC, CBS and NBC devoted 40 times more of their morning and evening TV newscast coverage this past week to Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore's alleged sexual...The verdict is in. I pronounce Democrat leaders, left-wing feminists and Beltway journalists guilty of gross negligence and hypocrisy over a dirty rotten sleazeball in their midst. For the past 11 weeks, Bob Menendez has been on trial for 18 counts of bribery, fraud and corruption involving nearly $1 million in gifts and donations. The jury remained deadlocked as of Tuesday. A new Media Research Center analysis reported that ABC, CBS and NBC devoted 40 times more of their morning and evening TV newscast coverage this past week to Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore's alleged sexual assault accusers than to the ongoing federal trial of one of the Democrats' most powerful, visible and entrenched figures on Capitol Hill. Four years ago, when the FBI raided the Florida home of creepy Democratic donor and eye doctor Salomon Melgen, Menendez suddenly remembered that he had failed to pay back his "hermano" $60,000 for private-jet flights to the Caribbean -- where Melgen owns a tony home in the private Casa de Campo resort. As the party-boy buds tell it, their two decades of favor-trading were innocent, brotherly acts of affection. That little reimbursement thing for joy rides shuttling Menendez, his girlfriend, his son and his son's office manager around the world? It "fell through the cracks," the former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and lawyer explained. Oopsie. As government investigators discovered, the "friendship" entailed much more than backslaps and beach nights. Melgen was convicted this spring on 67 counts of massive Medicare fraud totaling $90 million. Prosecutors allege Menendez and his staff pulled strings and put pressure on public officials to back off Melgen's billing blow-up. Menendez asserts he did nothing illegal and acted not out of obligation to a high-dollar donor, but because of his sincere policy concerns about how Medicare is run. How noble. My favorite M&M production involves what I dubbed the 36DD visa program. This is not in dispute: Menendez and his staff pressured the State Department to expedite the foreign tourist and student visa approval processes for a bevy of buxom foreign beauties. One of them, Brazilian actress and porn pinup star Juliana Lopes Leite (a.k.a. "Girlfriend 1"), had her F-1 student visa application moved to the top of the pile in 2008 after Menendez and his staff intervened as a favor to model-lovin' Melgen. Another, Rosiell Polanco-Suera, testified that her rejected visa application (along with her sister's) received reconsideration and instant approval after Melgen promised to "fix it" by reaching out to Menendez. Flying the crony skies on taxpayer time. Systematically bilking sick old people. Turning America's visa programs into an international dating app for Dem donors. Ho-hum. Top Democrat leade[...]



Roy Moore and the Augean Stables

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

We were going to have this conversation one of these days -- if you consider a barrage of claims, assertions, denials and calls for resignation a conversation. However, I digress. We were going to find ourselves tied in knots eventually over matters plucked from a traditional moral matrix and handed over for consideration to you and me and her and him and them and everybody in the world, qualified or otherwise. Qualified? Say, what's that t to do with anything? We're all our own judges of what goes and what doesn't: "we" meaning especially Roy Moore right now, but...We were going to have this conversation one of these days -- if you consider a barrage of claims, assertions, denials and calls for resignation a conversation. However, I digress. We were going to find ourselves tied in knots eventually over matters plucked from a traditional moral matrix and handed over for consideration to you and me and her and him and them and everybody in the world, qualified or otherwise. Qualified? Say, what's that t to do with anything? We're all our own judges of what goes and what doesn't: "we" meaning especially Roy Moore right now, but also Donald Trump, the Clintons, Bill O'Reilly, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Steve Bannon, the NFL's take-a-knee crowd, on and on. The ongoing erosion of norms and standards leaves us adrift, deciding for ourselves what works and what doesn't -- sometimes hitting the mark, just as often missing it. The resulting messes the media exhibit and volunteer to clean up; e.g., what about a senatorial candidate with a past fixation on teenagers? The more we hear about Moore the wilder the matter sounds. "Didn't the boy have no fetching up?" we Red State Americans would once have asked. How about internal checks -- alarm mechanisms that go "brrt" when temptation arises in the heart and other, shall we say, anatomical regions? Had he none of these? He had a West Point education: "Duty, Honor, Country," and all that. It might have deterred the weird behavior in which, by unrefuted accounts, he is alleged to have indulged with teenage girls. Was not the basic trouble that, by Moore's time, the old rules no longer held, no longer exercised their jurisdiction -- however tenuous -- over human relationships? Was the trouble not that people, in alarming degree, had forgotten the degree to which rules were expected to hold sway over behavior? You didn't necessarily do what you wanted to. Because you shouldn't have. You were to ask first. Such was the bread and milk by which society hoped a majority, perhaps just the barest, might be nourished. The task of obtaining general acceptance of moral basics is arduous at the most settled of times: all the harder after a hundred years of exploding belief in the right to do your own thing, set your own boundaries. Things formerly judged "unseemly" -- such as hitting on teenagers -- became in our time matters of personal right. The me-first ethic and its consequences have come to dominate front pages and website comment sections -- about Moore, the president, Weinstein and so on. Small wonder. If fun is life's purpose, why not help to yourself to it -- at least until you're found out and have to show some becoming sense of shame? It seems even our leaders -- maybe especially our leaders -- claim entitlement to do as they will. What to do in this context is the [...]



Republican Governors Gather Amid Setbacks, Turmoil

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republicans who control two-thirds of the nation’s governorships are gathering this week in America’s largest red state, in part to strategize about how to maintain their political dominance. But electoral defeats last week, unfulfilled congressional promises and President Donald Trump’s plummeting popularity have some attendees concerned about a shifting political landscape. Vice President Mike Pence will be the keynote speaker during the two-day gathering of the Republican Governors Association, which kicks off Wednesday in...AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republicans who control two-thirds of the nation’s governorships are gathering this week in America’s largest red state, in part to strategize about how to maintain their political dominance. But electoral defeats last week, unfulfilled congressional promises and President Donald Trump’s plummeting popularity have some attendees concerned about a shifting political landscape. Vice President Mike Pence will be the keynote speaker during the two-day gathering of the Republican Governors Association, which kicks off Wednesday in Austin, Texas. Some of the former Indiana governor’s ex-colleagues may need a pep talk. Just as some Democrats facing tight midterm elections once shied away from President Barack Obama, there might now be Republicans tempted to tip-toe away from their party’s leadership. “The national environment is affecting every elected official at every level,” said Republican political strategist Matt Mackowiak. He said the Trump administration and GOP-controlled Congress still can deliver wins on policies such as tax cuts. But if that doesn’t happen, Mackowiak said, “There are going to be questions about not getting the benefits of Washington being fully run by Republicans.” Earlier this year, Democrats lost special congressional elections in Kansas, Montana, Georgia and South Carolina, but last week won the governorships in Virginia and New Jersey. The party also erased a previously dominant Republican majority in the Virginia House and gained control of Washington state’s Senate. Republicans will still hold a 33-16 advantage in governorships nationwide after January. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is an independent up for re-election next year. The Democratic successes revealed some potentially troublesome trends for Republicans. In Virginia, suburban women failed to turn out strongly for GOP candidates. In 2016, that demographic helped put Trump in the White House. By comparison, minority turnout for Democrats was strong. Republican Governors Association spokesman Jon Thompson called the results a “voice of displeasure with some things that are happening in Washington.” Republicans in Congress failed to make good on their promise to “repeal and replace” Obama’s health care law and are still trying to craft a tax cut plan with sufficient support to pass. Meanwhile, Trump’s approval ratings are sagging and the investigation into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election has accelerated. Even so, Thompson said Republicans should not panic. “You already have Republican governors in some blue states that have their own brand separate from Washington,” said Thompson, pointing t[...]



ABA and Dems Smear Court Picks

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

Democrats and the liberal media are slamming President Trump for packing federal courts with "unfit" judges. Nonsense. Trump's nominees have impressive credentials. What's the left's real gripe? These judges will decide cases based on what the U.S. Constitution says, instead of rewriting law to suit a progressive agenda. Look for fireworks in the U.S. Senate Wednesday, when the American Bar Association tries to justify rating several of Trump's nominees "not qualified." ABA ratings are a political hit job masquerading as high-minded...Democrats and the liberal media are slamming President Trump for packing federal courts with "unfit" judges. Nonsense. Trump's nominees have impressive credentials. What's the left's real gripe? These judges will decide cases based on what the U.S. Constitution says, instead of rewriting law to suit a progressive agenda. Look for fireworks in the U.S. Senate Wednesday, when the American Bar Association tries to justify rating several of Trump's nominees "not qualified." ABA ratings are a political hit job masquerading as high-minded objectivity. Consider the ABA's "not qualified" rating of Leonard Steven Grasz, a Nebraska attorney nominated to the appeals court. The ABA claims Grasz is unfit because of his "deeply held social agenda." During his 11 years as Nebraska's chief deputy attorney general, he defended many of the state's laws, including a ban on partial birth abortion. Defending that law was his job. Opposing any limit on abortion is enough to outrage pro-choice activist Cynthia Nance, the law professor who led Grasz's recent ABA review. She stooped to grilling him on why he sends his children to religious schools -- an out-of-bounds question -- instead of sticking to probing his legal philosophy. Apparently, being religious is disqualifying. Grasz reiterated his "solemn obligation" to put aside personal views and "faithfully apply" Supreme Court precedent. Astonishingly, that's an assurance the left rejects. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D. R.I., argues "there's simply no way to prevent a judge's ... personal beliefs from influencing" rulings. The conclusion is obvious. To Democrats like Whitehouse, only nominees with left-wing agendas are acceptable. Another nominee rated "unqualified" by the ABA is Brett Talley, Trump's nominee to a federal district court in Alabama. Last Thursday, Talley won Senate Judiciary Committee approval despite the ABA's claim that Talley lacks "requisite trial experience." In truth, Talley is superbly qualified -- with a law degree from Harvard, clerkships at the trial and appeals court level, litigation experience in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and a stint as Alabama's deputy solicitor general. He's got about as much trial experience as Justice Elena Kagan, rated "well qualified" by the ABA when President Obama nominated her to the highest court. What's Talley real problem? His political views and Trump connections. (His wife is chief of staff to the White House counsel, a fact he should have disclosed sooner.) Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., grilled Talley about abortion, gun control, gay marriage and his disdain for Hillary Clinton -- whom he once dubbed "Hillary Rotten Clinton" on Twitter. Imprudent maybe, but hardly in the league with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's comment to The New York Ti[...]



Trump's Extraordinary 12-Day Adulation Tour

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- As President Trump ends his Asia trip, he might sum up the 12-day journey with a revision of the remark attributed to Julius Caesar: Veni, vidi, blandivi. I came, I saw, I flattered. Trump's trip was closer to a pilgrimage than a projection of power. The president rarely explained details of U.S. policy. Instead, he mostly asked other leaders for help, lauded their virtues, and embraced their worldviews. Along the adulation tour, Trump spoke of his "really extraordinary" relationship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; his "incredibly warm"...WASHINGTON -- As President Trump ends his Asia trip, he might sum up the 12-day journey with a revision of the remark attributed to Julius Caesar: Veni, vidi, blandivi. I came, I saw, I flattered. Trump's trip was closer to a pilgrimage than a projection of power. The president rarely explained details of U.S. policy. Instead, he mostly asked other leaders for help, lauded their virtues, and embraced their worldviews. Along the adulation tour, Trump spoke of his "really extraordinary" relationship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; his "incredibly warm" feeling for Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he called "a very special man"; his "great relationship" with the "very successful" Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte; and his empathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose nation is "an asset to our country, not a liability." And the president praised himself at nearly every stop, telling reporters on the way home that the trip had been "tremendously successful" with "incredible" achievements. Trump's trip may indeed prove to be historic, but probably not in the way he intends. It may signal a U.S. accommodation to rising Chinese power, plus a desire to mend fences with a belligerent Russia -- with few evident security gains for America. If the 1945 Yalta summit marked U.S. acceptance of the Soviet Union's hegemony in Eastern Europe, this trip seemed to validate China's arrival as a Pacific power. As Xi put it to Trump, "The Pacific Ocean is big enough to accommodate both China and the United States." Trump voiced a clear desire for accommodation with an aggressive Russia, too. Much was made of his regurgitation of Putin's denial that he had conducted a covert action against America during last year's presidential campaign. "President Putin really feels -- and he feels strongly -- that he did not meddle in our election." Remarked one former senior CIA official: "When the Art of the Deal meets the KGB, the KGB wins." But far more important than Trump's credulous response to Putin was his eagerness for Moscow's help in bolstering America's global position. Trump has noisily drawn a red line on North Korea, for example, but he evidently needs Russia's help, in addition to China's, to deliver without going to war. To get Moscow's help on North Korea, and Syria, too, Trump seems willing to give Putin a pass. Here's how Trump put it during a press conference in Hanoi, which may have been the most important statement of the trip: "People don't realize Russia has been very, very heavily sanctioned," Trump said. "It's now time to get back to healing a world that is shattered and broken. ... And I feel that having Russia in a friendly posture, as opposed to always fighting wit[...]



One Simple Way to Improve GOP's Tax Reform Proposal

2017-11-15T00:00:00Z

After a year of failures, Congress is on the verge of reforming America’s convoluted tax code for the first time in more than three decades. Both the House and Senate tax plans have the potential to unleash economic growth, create American jobs, increase wages for American workers, allow families to keep more of their hard-earned money, and make U.S. businesses more competitive across the globe. That said, no tax reform is perfect and each plan has room for improvement. Fortunately, Senate Republicans announced they plan to include the elimination of Obamacare’s individual...After a year of failures, Congress is on the verge of reforming America’s convoluted tax code for the first time in more than three decades. Both the House and Senate tax plans have the potential to unleash economic growth, create American jobs, increase wages for American workers, allow families to keep more of their hard-earned money, and make U.S. businesses more competitive across the globe. That said, no tax reform is perfect and each plan has room for improvement. Fortunately, Senate Republicans announced they plan to include the elimination of Obamacare’s individual mandate tax penalty to their tax overall. Given the Senate’s rules and unnecessary, self-imposed budget constraints, most improvements would require congressional tax writers to find “savings,” i.e., tax increases, elsewhere in the tax code. As we have seen, those trade offs can be painful in a town filled with corporate welfare, cronyism and self-entitlement. That is why eliminating Obamacare’s individual mandate tax penalty is such a politically advantageous option available. Let’s start with the obvious: Obamacare’s individual mandate is an affront to small government conservatives and does not work, as evidenced by the 6.5 million who paid the individual mandate penalty and the 13 million who claimed an exemption in 2015. It also penalizes those that can least afford to hand over even more money to the federal government. In 2015, 90 percent of households that paid the Orwellian “individual shared responsibility payment” earned less than $75,000, and more than one in three household made less than $25,000. From a health care and freedom standpoint, eliminating the individual mandate tax penalty is obvious, but given the absurd logic used by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) it also “saves” $338 billion over the next decade. Those savings could be used to “pay for” additional tax cuts for hardworking Americans left reeling from the 2008 financial crisis. To be clear, the CBO’s estimate is absurd because it assumes that millions of people would reject free health insurance in the form of Medicaid or massively subsidized health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges if they were not forced to buy it. That fallacy hampered congressional Republicans during this year’s debate on repealing and ultimately replacing Obamacare, but it now provides some additional wiggle room when it comes to tax reform and Obamacare relief. While $338 billion may sound like a lot, in the context of overall tax reform those ‘savings’ will evaporate quickly as problems are iden[...]



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2017-11-14T00:00:00Z

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Experts: We Can Lower Drug Prices

2017-11-14T00:00:00Z

During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump vowed to rein in rising prescription drug costs, even suggesting that the government get directly involved in negotiating prices. After the recent nomination of pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the president’s critics are wondering whether the campaign rhetoric was all bark and no bite. While a near-consensus exists that drug prices are a problem, there’s less agreement about the cause, much less a solution. Enter New Jersey state Senate President Steve Sweeney. Earlier this year,...During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump vowed to rein in rising prescription drug costs, even suggesting that the government get directly involved in negotiating prices. After the recent nomination of pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the president’s critics are wondering whether the campaign rhetoric was all bark and no bite. While a near-consensus exists that drug prices are a problem, there’s less agreement about the cause, much less a solution. Enter New Jersey state Senate President Steve Sweeney. Earlier this year, he helped launch the nation’s first online auction to select a pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) to deliver prescription drug benefits to the state’s public employees. The bipartisan solution to alleviate rising drug costs is expected to save New Jersey taxpayers more than $1.5 billion over the next three years -- without any benefits cuts. Sweeney, the architect of the legislation, headlined a symposium in Washington Tuesday with health-care industry leaders, who offered innovative solutions for improving competition in the pharmaceutical supply chain and lowering the cost of medicine for patients. The New Jersey lawmaker explained how the Democratic-controlled state legislature joined with Republican Gov. Chris Christie to harness new technology and create what he called an “eBay for PBMs,” resulting in a “victory for state and local budgets and for taxpayers.” Now Sweeney hopes other states will follow New Jersey’s example. The event, “Examining the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain: From Production to Patient,” was hosted by RealClearPolitics to illuminate the intricacies of today’s system for delivering drugs to the market. Manufacturers, employers, insurance companies, PBMs, and pharmacies all play roles in this complex process, and with different interests at stake.  Lori Reilly, executive vice president for policy, research and membership at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, asserted that many of the problems plaguing the current system originate with the discounts and rebates that manufacturers offer in order to incentivize the various parties to offer their drugs. Instead of seeking out the best product at the best price for customers, employers often seek out the drugs with the biggest discounts and rebates, which they can use to lower premiums or utilize in other ways. Reilly stressed that “discounts and rebates should find their way back to the patient” in order to lower drug prices. In a panel di[...]



Senate GOP Plans to Repeal Obamacare Mandate in Tax Bill

2017-11-14T00:00:00Z

Senate Republicans plan to add a repeal of Obamacare’s individual insurance mandate in their tax legislation this week, adding a controversial debate about health care to their effort to overhaul the tax code before the end of this year. President Trump and conservatives in both chambers of Congress have urged GOP leaders to add a mandate repeal to the tax bill, though some Republicans have expressed concern that it could further complicate the already difficult process of passing an overhaul of Internal Revenue code. Still, Republican senators discussed the issue during their...Senate Republicans plan to add a repeal of Obamacare’s individual insurance mandate in their tax legislation this week, adding a controversial debate about health care to their effort to overhaul the tax code before the end of this year. President Trump and conservatives in both chambers of Congress have urged GOP leaders to add a mandate repeal to the tax bill, though some Republicans have expressed concern that it could further complicate the already difficult process of passing an overhaul of Internal Revenue code. Still, Republican senators discussed the issue during their weekly policy lunch Tuesday and determined the majority of them want to include a repeal. “We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters following the lunch. Sen. John Thune, a member of party leadership, said he is confident a bill that includes the repeal could pass on the Senate floor. He said the revenue saved by eliminating the mandate would allow for further adjustment of tax rates, thereby increasing the measure’s benefits for middle-class earners. The Congressional Budget Office estimated last week that repealing the individual mandate would reduce budget deficits by $338 billion over a decade. That gives Republicans more flexibility as they try to craft their legislation to fit Senate parliamentary rules requiring that it not add more than $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, and that it not add any more outside of the first decade. The CBO analysis predicted that mandate repeal would result in 4 million fewer people having health insurance in 2018, and as many as 13 million fewer having insurance in 2027. It also forecast that premiums in the individual marketplace would rise as fewer people purchased insurance. Democrats sharply criticized Republicans for inserting health care into the tax legislation. “Rather than learning the lessons from their failure to repeal health care, Republicans are doubling down on the same partisan strategy that would throw our health care system into chaos,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “If the American people weren’t already outraged by this bill, injecting health care into it will certainly do the trick.” Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski expressed some concern about including a repeal in the tax measure, suggesting that it added new complications to the process. Both senators voted against the Senate’s Obamacare repeal legislation earlier this year, but neither said whe[...]



If Republicans Believe Moore's Accusers, Why Not Trump's?

2017-11-14T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Question for Republicans: If you believe the women now, why didn't you believe the women then? Specifically, if you believe the women accusing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, why did you ignore the women who accused presidential candidate Donald Trump? If you're troubled by Moore's alleged behavior, why were you so nonchalant about Trump's?  I'm waiting. Since the Harvey Weinstein story broke almost six weeks ago, the matter of Trump's conduct has been festering beneath the surface of most public discussion. Indeed, Trump's...WASHINGTON -- Question for Republicans: If you believe the women now, why didn't you believe the women then? Specifically, if you believe the women accusing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, why did you ignore the women who accused presidential candidate Donald Trump? If you're troubled by Moore's alleged behavior, why were you so nonchalant about Trump's?  I'm waiting. Since the Harvey Weinstein story broke almost six weeks ago, the matter of Trump's conduct has been festering beneath the surface of most public discussion. Indeed, Trump's reported behavior is more like that of Weinstein than Moore. Both businessmen were accused of using their power in the marketplace to obtain -- or coerce, especially in Weinstein's case -- sexual favors. By contrast, notwithstanding Trump's creepy interest in barging into beauty-pageant dressing rooms to ogle young contestants and his even creepier comments about dating his own daughter, Trump, unlike Moore, faces no allegations of improperly pursuing teenagers, including those beneath the age of consent. Trump's alleged conduct is unacceptable; Moore's is even more appalling. But the Trump-Moore comparison is unavoidable, painful as this may be for Republicans and, even more, for the White House. In both cases, Republican candidates stand accused of sexual misconduct. In Moore's, a growing chorus of Senate Republicans have chosen to believe the women -- and with good reason. The similarity of their accounts, the absence of evident partisan or other improper motive, and the existence of contemporaneous corroboration all argue in favor of their credibility. And in Trump's case? Much the same. Consider the account of Kristin Anderson, who told The Washington Post that, at a Manhattan nightclub in the early 1990s, Trump reached under her skirt and touched her vagina through her underwear -- much as Trump described behaving in the "Access Hollywood" tape. Consider the account of former People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff, who described how, while on a 2005 reporting trip to Mar-a-Lago to interview Trump and his then-pregnant wife, Trump "shut the door behind us ... and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat." Trump's response, as characteristic as it was unconvincing, was the same as Moore's: total denial. "Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign," he said in October 2016. "Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over." Waiting on that one, too. The Moore situation backs Republicans, and [...]



Trump Faces New Challenges in Tax Overhaul, Alabama Race

2017-11-14T00:00:00Z

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — President Donald Trump headed home Tuesday buoyed by an Asia tour he called “tremendously successful,” but he’ll face immediate challenges with the Republican tax overhaul and the party meltdown in Alabama over a Senate candidate accused of sexual misconduct. Underscoring the sharp political stakes for Trump, who lacks a major legislative achievement after nearly 10 months in office, Trump will meet with House Republicans on Thursday ahead of an expected vote on the tax overhaul legislation. Republican leaders in Congress view...MANILA, Philippines (AP) — President Donald Trump headed home Tuesday buoyed by an Asia tour he called “tremendously successful,” but he’ll face immediate challenges with the Republican tax overhaul and the party meltdown in Alabama over a Senate candidate accused of sexual misconduct. Underscoring the sharp political stakes for Trump, who lacks a major legislative achievement after nearly 10 months in office, Trump will meet with House Republicans on Thursday ahead of an expected vote on the tax overhaul legislation. Republican leaders in Congress view passage of the first major tax revamp in 30 years as imperative for the GOP to preserve its majorities next year. Trump has urged GOP leaders to make steeper cuts for the wealthy, even as a nonpartisan analysis of the Senate version of the legislation showed it actually would increase taxes for some 13.8 million moderate-income American households. Also waiting Trump’s attention is a party crisis over the Alabama special election to fill former Sen. Jeff Sessions’ seat. GOP candidate Roy Moore is caught up in allegations of sexual misconduct, and many Republicans have said Moore should withdraw. Moore is backed by former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon. Trump was upbeat, however, as he ended his Asia trip. As Air Force One rolled down the runway in Manila, Trump told the reporters traveling with him that “it’s been a really great 12 days.” On trade, the president said confidently that U.S. trading partners “will be treating us much differently than before.” “I think the fruits of our labor are going to be incredible, whether it’s security of our nations, whether it’s security of the world or whether it’s trade,” Trump said. Trump teased a “major statement” on trade at the White House, where he also plans an in-person appeal to lawmakers as the tax overhaul proposal faces a crucial vote in the House. Trump, who campaigned for office on a promise to tear up multilateral trade agreements that he said have harmed the U.S., insisted during the nearly two-week trip that multibillion-dollar deficits that favor U.S. trading partners will be reduced to zero, and that trade overall must be fair and mutually beneficial. “The United States has to be treated fairly and in a reciprocal fashion,” he tweeted Tuesday. “The massive TRADE deficits must go down quickly!” Trump pressed that point on every stop on the grueling tour of Japan, South [...]



Moore Pressure; GOP's Future; China's Heavy Hand; a Maestro Emerges

2017-11-14T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, November 14, 2017. Seventy-four years ago today, a young musician got his shot at professional success -- and made the most of it. In some ways, the evening brought to mind Wally Pipp. He was the veteran New York Yankees first baseman who was given a day off on June 2, 1925. Pipp’s place in the lineup was taken by a strapping lefthander from Columbia University named Lou Gehrig, who merely played every game for the Yanks for the next 14 seasons. It gave rise to a verb, to be “Pipped,” which means to take a day off and lose...Good morning, it’s Tuesday, November 14, 2017. Seventy-four years ago today, a young musician got his shot at professional success -- and made the most of it. In some ways, the evening brought to mind Wally Pipp. He was the veteran New York Yankees first baseman who was given a day off on June 2, 1925. Pipp’s place in the lineup was taken by a strapping lefthander from Columbia University named Lou Gehrig, who merely played every game for the Yanks for the next 14 seasons. It gave rise to a verb, to be “Pipped,” which means to take a day off and lose your job forever. This isn’t fair: Lou Gehrig was simply more talented than Wally Pipp. One generation gives way to the next regardless, which is what happened in New York City on this date in 1943 in the field of classical music. Once again a star was born. I’ll tell that story 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 original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Calls for Moore to Quit Race Grow After New Accusation. James Arkin reports on the latest developments in the Alabama Senate election. Who Will Vote for Republicans Next Year? A.B. Stoddard reflects on the predicament the GOP finds itself in after last week’s elections. China and the Rise of “Authoritarianism International.” In RealClearInvestigations, Richard Bernstein spotlights a global trend that poses a challenge unlike any faced by the West since the Cold War. The Ethics of a Military Strike on North Korea. In RealClearDefense, Crispin Rovere responds to moral arguments against U.S. military action. Seattle's Income Tax Gambit Will Likely Fail. In RealClearPolicy, Erica York argues that the city’s attempt to "mimic the policy choices of Chicago and Detroit" is both legally questionable and economically shortsighted. On Trade With Asia, Look to the Taiwan Model. In RealClearWorld, Seth Cropsey writes that lessons can be gleaned from the tiny nation’s economic policy and progressive liberalization. iPhone Supply Chains Mock the Notion of a U.S. in Decline. In RealClearMarkets, Allan Golombek lauds globalized production. Good Books, Lousy Covers. Also in RCM, Ray Keating praises two new works on American presidents but complains that their dust jackets do the co[...]



Who Will Vote for Republicans Next Year?

2017-11-14T00:00:00Z

The wave election in Virginia and elsewhere last week, which buoyed the other broken party -- Democrats -- jolted congressional Republicans running for re-election in 2018. They don’t really know who their voters are anymore and whether there will be enough of them left next year to defend their majority. As they shoulder Trump’s tweet tantrums and toxic approval ratings in the very districts the GOP needs to keep, watch many of their colleagues retire in frustration, and gird themselves for more bad news from the Russia probe, Republicans are tired of the...The wave election in Virginia and elsewhere last week, which buoyed the other broken party -- Democrats -- jolted congressional Republicans running for re-election in 2018. They don’t really know who their voters are anymore and whether there will be enough of them left next year to defend their majority. As they shoulder Trump’s tweet tantrums and toxic approval ratings in the very districts the GOP needs to keep, watch many of their colleagues retire in frustration, and gird themselves for more bad news from the Russia probe, Republicans are tired of the “winning” they heard so much about last year. Their base still loves Trump and is furious with them for failing to enact his agenda in Congress. Trump loves the blame game and has proven he will pile on. Steve Bannon’s earth-scorching has produced Roy Moore and Democrats now enjoy the kind of significant lead in the generic ballot polling that historically presages a rout. As the kids would say, Republicans are “shook.” There are some comforting data points to cling to, however: The GOP has powerful structural advantages in the congressional map because of redistricting. The results in Virginia, where a surprising surge of Democratic support gave Ralph Northam a nine-point gubernatorial victory, by no means guarantee that Democrats will turn out to vote in midterm elections they sat out and lost badly in 2010 and 2014. But Republicans should prepare for it, and plan accordingly because some of the results in the Commonwealth were alarming. Northam beat Ed Gillespie among white college-educated women by 16 points. Take note, those are pre-Roy Moore numbers. Also, voters ages 18-44 chose Northam over Gillespie by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Those ages 18-29 chose him by 39 percentage points, and those 31-44 chose him by 24 points. The kids were shook too. And after uniting behind a repeal of Obamacare for four political cycles, Republicans watched it become a winning issue for Democrats last week. In exit polls, 39 percent of Virginia voters chose health care as a top concern, out-polling all other issues by 22 percentage points. Alarmed Republicans found an easy answer -- blaming the inaction of the GOP majority on Capitol Hill. And because Trump actually doesn’t lead on policy, that is perfectly fair. Former state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli fingered congressional Republicans for the Democrats’ sweep, saying Gillespie was damaged by “the utter failure o[...]



Murdoch's Teflon Coating Is Wearing Thin

2017-11-14T00:00:00Z

Back in 1983, then-Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., was fixing eggs for her kids when she looked down and got an idea about President Ronald Reagan. She called him "Teflon-coated" because nothing bad stuck to him. The same could be said about Rupert Murdoch. He's the Teflon mogul. Earlier this year, the Fox News that he controls signed Bill O'Reilly to a $25 million-a-year contract even though the company knew that O'Reilly had recently settled a sexual harassment claim for $32 million. That tidy sum was just the latest of O'Reilly's sexual harassment...Back in 1983, then-Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., was fixing eggs for her kids when she looked down and got an idea about President Ronald Reagan. She called him "Teflon-coated" because nothing bad stuck to him. The same could be said about Rupert Murdoch. He's the Teflon mogul. Earlier this year, the Fox News that he controls signed Bill O'Reilly to a $25 million-a-year contract even though the company knew that O'Reilly had recently settled a sexual harassment claim for $32 million. That tidy sum was just the latest of O'Reilly's sexual harassment settlements, the grand total being about $45 million, which, until he revives his career, has to remain some kind of record. Not only was 21st Century Fox aware of the settlements, it even helped O'Reilly come up with some of the money and included, in the new contract, that he would be fired if new allegations arose. Not too long before, Fox News forced out its president, Roger Ailes, who also, it turned out, was a serial harasser. In sum, Murdoch presided over a smarmy frat house where sexual harassment was rampant, and, for the longest time and through herculean effort, the network managed to look away. Somewhat in the same vein, Murdoch did not know that reporters at one of his British newspapers, the News of the World, were hacking into the phones of various newsworthy people. Murdoch, a newspaperman to his bones, apparently never wondered where the scoops were coming from. One of the hacked phones belonged to a murdered school girl. This was too much even for Fleet Street, but Murdoch, three monkeys in one, apparently never saw, heard or said anything. Murdoch's lifelong passion has been newspapers, but his real power base is Fox News. The network is to Republican conservatives what The Daily Worker was to American communists -- the only trusted news source. With the possible exception of the way the once isolationist Chicago Tribune dominated the Midwest, there has never been anything like it. In the last presidential campaign, fully 40 percent of Trump voters said their main source of news was Fox. Just 8 percent of them relied primarily on CNN -- enough, nevertheless, to send Donald Trump baying to the moon about fake news. These figures are not only bad news for Fox's competitor, but they are also bad news for the Republican Party. Fox has been a force in converting the party of Lincoln into the party of Trump. The network's allegiance to Trump approaches mindless adoration. It once had the occasional nig[...]



Reining In the Rogue Royal of Arabia

2017-11-14T00:00:00Z

If the crown prince of Saudi Arabia has in mind a war with Iran, President Trump should disabuse his royal highness of any notion that America would be doing his fighting for him. Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, the 32-year-old son of the aging and ailing King Salman, is making too many enemies for his own good, or for ours. Pledging to Westernize Saudi Arabia, he has antagonized the clerical establishment. Among the 200 Saudis he just had arrested for criminal corruption are 11 princes, the head of the National Guard, the governor of Riyadh, and the famed investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The...If the crown prince of Saudi Arabia has in mind a war with Iran, President Trump should disabuse his royal highness of any notion that America would be doing his fighting for him. Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, the 32-year-old son of the aging and ailing King Salman, is making too many enemies for his own good, or for ours. Pledging to Westernize Saudi Arabia, he has antagonized the clerical establishment. Among the 200 Saudis he just had arrested for criminal corruption are 11 princes, the head of the National Guard, the governor of Riyadh, and the famed investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The Saudi tradition of consensus collective rule is being trashed. MBS is said to be pushing for an abdication by his father and his early assumption of the throne. He has begun to exhibit the familiar traits of an ambitious 21st-century autocrat in the mold of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. Yet his foreign adventures are all proving to be debacles. The rebels the Saudis backed in Syria's civil war were routed. The war on the Houthi rebels in Yemen, of which MBS is architect, has proven to be a Saudi Vietnam and a human rights catastrophe. The crown prince persuaded Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE to expel Qatar from the Sunni Arab community for aiding terrorists, but he has failed to choke the tiny country into submission. Last week, MBS ordered Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Riyadh, where Hariri publicly resigned his office and now appears to be under house arrest. Refusing to recognize the resignation, Lebanon's president is demanding Hariri's return. After embattled Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at its international airport, Riyadh declared the missile to be Iranian-made, smuggled into Yemen by Tehran, and fired with the help of Hezbollah. The story seemed far-fetched, but Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the attack out of Yemen may be considered an "act of war" -- by Iran. And as war talk spread across the region last week, Riyadh ordered all Saudi nationals in Lebanon to come home. Riyadh has now imposed a virtual starvation blockade -- land, sea and air -- on Yemen, that poorest of Arab nations that is heavily dependent on imports for food and medicine. Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni are suffering from cholera. Millions face malnutrition. The U.S. interest here is clear: no new war in the Middle East, and a negotiated end to the wars in Yemen and Syria. Hence, t[...]



In Asia, Trump Let Flow a Gushing Stream of Nonsense

2017-11-14T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- We are running a terribly unwise experiment: What happens when you replace U.S. presidential leadership with the slapstick antics of a clown? On Saturday, President Trump issued the following statement: "Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?' Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend -- and maybe someday that will happen!" There is a natural tendency to become inured to Trump's gushing stream of nonsense. Resist the urge. Read that statement again. The president of the United States, in...WASHINGTON -- We are running a terribly unwise experiment: What happens when you replace U.S. presidential leadership with the slapstick antics of a clown? On Saturday, President Trump issued the following statement: "Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?' Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend -- and maybe someday that will happen!" There is a natural tendency to become inured to Trump's gushing stream of nonsense. Resist the urge. Read that statement again. The president of the United States, in the midst of a trip to Asia, taunted the nuclear-armed dictator of North Korea in a manner most sixth-graders would consider juvenile. There was a time when the world looked to the American president to speak clearly in defense of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. I refer to the entirety of modern U.S. history before January, when Trump assumed the high office he now dishonors. His Asia tour has been at times a disaster, at times a farce. What was the most shameful moment? Perhaps when he announced that he has a "great relationship" with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has encouraged police and vigilantes to fight the trade in illegal drugs by assassinating suspected traffickers without the bother of arrests or trials. At least 7,000 and perhaps as many as 13,000 people have been slain. The White House claimed that human rights came up "briefly" in a private meeting between the two leaders, but Duterte said it didn't come up at all. In fact, during a gala dinner, the buffoonish Duterte serenaded Trump with a Philippine ballad that includes the lyric, "You are the love I've been waiting for." The spectacle was simply appalling. One might argue, however, that Trump's kowtowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin was even worse. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that the Russian government directed a multipronged campaign to meddle in the 2016 election, with the aim of helping Trump win. Putin denies having committed this hostile act, and Trump, for some reason, takes the former KGB officer at his word. "He said he didn't meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times," Trump told reporters on Air Force One, flying over Vietnam from Danang to Hanoi. "Every time he sees me, he says, 'I didn't do that.' And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it." Putin's[...]



Trump Hopes Swift Return of UCLA Players Detained in China

2017-11-14T00:00:00Z

BEIJING (AP) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday he's hopeful that three UCLA basketball players detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting will be allowed to return home soon. Trump said he had a long conversation on the matter with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. "They're working on it right now," Trump told reporters in the Philippines as he prepared to return to Washington after a nearly two-week visit to Asia that included an earlier stop in Beijing. "He's been terrific," Trump said, in an apparent reference to Xi. Asked about the case...

BEIJING (AP) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday he's hopeful that three UCLA basketball players detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting will be allowed to return home soon.

Trump said he had a long conversation on the matter with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

"They're working on it right now," Trump told reporters in the Philippines as he prepared to return to Washington after a nearly two-week visit to Asia that included an earlier stop in Beijing. "He's been terrific," Trump said, in an apparent reference to Xi.

Asked about the case Tuesday, China's foreign ministry said it had no additional comment. On Monday, ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that three American men were being investigated in the eastern city of Hangzhou for alleged theft and that China and the U.S. were in contact over the matter.

"China will handle this case in accordance with law and protect the lawful rights and interests of the people involved," Geng said.

 Chinese authorities detained the UCLA freshmen for questioning about allegations of shoplifting before a recent game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai. The UCLA team returned to the U.S. without them on Saturday.

The Los Angeles Times has identified the players as Cody Riley, Jalen Hill and LiAngelo Ball — the brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball.

Citing a source with firsthand knowledge of the investigation, sports channel ESPN last week reported the players could be Hangzhou for "a week or two" while the situation is resolved. The source told ESPN there is surveillance footage of the players shoplifting from three stores inside a high-end retail center.






Oil Has a Price. Wildlife? Priceless

2017-11-14T00:00:00Z

The Bible tells how Esau sold his birthright for a "mess of pottage." It is a lesson on the foolishness of choosing immediate gratification over something of far more value but in the future. Esau, in sum, traded his right to be recognized as the firstborn son -- with all the advantages his society attached to that status -- for a bowl of lentil stew. A mess of pottage is being cooked up again in the form of renewed efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. The hunger temporarily sated would be for $1 billion -- the proceeds from selling drilling...The Bible tells how Esau sold his birthright for a "mess of pottage." It is a lesson on the foolishness of choosing immediate gratification over something of far more value but in the future. Esau, in sum, traded his right to be recognized as the firstborn son -- with all the advantages his society attached to that status -- for a bowl of lentil stew. A mess of pottage is being cooked up again in the form of renewed efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. The hunger temporarily sated would be for $1 billion -- the proceeds from selling drilling rights -- to help pay for a buffet of tax cuts over 10 years. Bear in mind two things. One is that $1 billion would be a tiny drop in the ocean of $1.5 trillion in deficits the tax cuts would set off. And two, it's about seven times what some oil industry experts say the sales would actually bring in. As the name implies, wildlife refuges are areas set aside for native mammals, birds and fish to multiply and flourish. President Theodore Roosevelt established the first wildlife refuge in 1903, Florida's Pelican Island. Back in the "drill, baby, drill" days of a decade ago, many conservatives argued that exploiting the oil and gas reserves in the Arctic refuge would help free America from dependence on foreign oil. And it would bring down the price of gasoline at the pump. Were the U.S. facing a national emergency (which we weren't back then, either), we'd be having a different conversation. Not only is America now far less dependent on energy imports but also it's become an exporter. And note that there's currently very little rending of garments over the price of gas. Thanks to the shale oil drilling boom, the U.S. is the world's largest producer of oil and gas. Domestic demand, meanwhile, has flattened as Americans shift to more efficient vehicles. Consider also that the revolution in electric vehicles has barely begun. Falling energy prices have destroyed about 100,000 oil jobs in Texas since 2014. The industry's one bright light has been a surge in exports being sent out of ports in Texas and Louisiana. Destinations include South Korea, India and, of course, China. Some of the crude from West Texas shale fields is ending up in European countries seeking supplies outside politically unstable parts of the Mideast and Africa. So why all of a[...]



Calls for Moore to Quit Race Grow After New Accusation

2017-11-13T00:00:00Z

A growing number of Republicans are calling for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore to step down from the special election set for next month after another woman said Monday that Moore sexually assaulted her decades ago. She is the fifth accuser in the past week to say Moore made sexual or romantic advances when the women were teenagers. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes the women who have accused Moore, and called for him to step aside. He and others have floated the possibility of another candidate mounting a write-in bid in the race. Sen. Cory Gardner, the chairman...A growing number of Republicans are calling for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore to step down from the special election set for next month after another woman said Monday that Moore sexually assaulted her decades ago. She is the fifth accuser in the past week to say Moore made sexual or romantic advances when the women were teenagers. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes the women who have accused Moore, and called for him to step aside. He and others have floated the possibility of another candidate mounting a write-in bid in the race. Sen. Cory Gardner, the chairman of Republicans campaign committee, said the women who had spoken out did so with “courage and truth.” “If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate,” Gardner said in a statement. Expulsion would require backing from two-thirds of the Senate, something that has not been done since the Civil War and has never been done since senators became directly elected by the public. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted Monday afternoon: “In light of the most recent allegations and the cumulative effect of others, I believe #RoyMoore would be doing himself, the state, the GOP, and the country a service by stepping aside.” The latest accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, said at a press conference Monday that when she was 16 and Moore was a county district attorney in the late 1970s, he groped and attacked her after offering her a ride home from the restaurant where she was a waitress. “I tried fighting him off while yelling at him to stop. But instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch,” Nelson said. She added that Moore told her “no one will ever believe you” if she told others about the incident. Nelson and Gloria Allred, the attorney representing her, brought as evidence Nelson’s high school yearbook with a signature from Moore, who wrote, “To a sweeter, more beautiful girl, I could not say. Merry Christmas…. Love, Roy Moore, D.A.” Nelson said she felt motivated to share her story after several other women spoke to the Washington Post about their experiences with Moore a[...]



Roskam at the Center of Political Fight Over Taxes

2017-11-13T00:00:00Z

Republicans for weeks have said passing an overhaul of the tax code, thereby securing a major legislative victory, is imperative to their 2018 election efforts. Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam stands squarely at the center of that effort -- and could be imperiled by it. As chairman of the tax policy subcommittee in the House, he’s playing a critical role in crafting the GOP tax legislation and shepherding it through the chamber – it passed the Ways and Means Committee on Thursday along party lines and is expected to be voted on by the full House this week. Roskam is also at the...Republicans for weeks have said passing an overhaul of the tax code, thereby securing a major legislative victory, is imperative to their 2018 election efforts. Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam stands squarely at the center of that effort -- and could be imperiled by it. As chairman of the tax policy subcommittee in the House, he’s playing a critical role in crafting the GOP tax legislation and shepherding it through the chamber – it passed the Ways and Means Committee on Thursday along party lines and is expected to be voted on by the full House this week. Roskam is also at the center of the political debate over taxes as Democrats vilify the plan and Republicans search for a legislative victory to run on next year. Illinois’ 6th Congressional District sprawls across suburbs to the west and northwest of Chicago and represents the precise type of district Democrats view as key to taking back the House: It’s highly educated, with more than 50 percent of residents holding college degrees, and has a median household income of nearly $100,000 -- 40 percent higher than the national average. Last year, Hillary Clinton carried the 6th over Donald Trump by seven percentage points and Roskam is one of 23 Republicans in districts she won. If Republicans pass their plan, Roskam’s home base will be a critical test for Democrats: Defeating an architect of the GOP plan in a district won by Clinton would likely mean Democrats can find success in similar districts across the country.     Republicans roundly dismiss Democratic hopes in the area. Roskam, who has represented IL-6 since 2007, won re-election last year with nearly 60 percent of the vote, and has won every re-election by double-digit margins. He’s a successful fundraiser and, unlike some other members in targeted districts, there is no wavering from Roskam on the tax bill. “I’m going to run on this plan, undoubtedly,” he said in an interview following the committee passage of the bill. “I think that when it’s all evaluated in its totality, this is a winner for my district.” American Action Network, an outside group aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan, has spent $18 million on the tax issue, and its ads have run in Roskam’s distri[...]



Are Tax Breaks Immortal?

2017-11-13T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- If you want to understand why the tax code is so hard to overhaul, consider the case of the mortgage interest deduction. The issue is so sensitive that the House and Senate are dealing with it in completely opposite ways. To its many defenders and beneficiaries, the mortgage interest deduction symbolizes and subsidizes the American Dream. It promotes homeownership, which gives people a stake in stronger neighborhoods and safer streets. And, of course, homeownership is the ticket to the middle class. By allowing homeowners to write off their mortgage interest expenses -- thus...WASHINGTON -- If you want to understand why the tax code is so hard to overhaul, consider the case of the mortgage interest deduction. The issue is so sensitive that the House and Senate are dealing with it in completely opposite ways. To its many defenders and beneficiaries, the mortgage interest deduction symbolizes and subsidizes the American Dream. It promotes homeownership, which gives people a stake in stronger neighborhoods and safer streets. And, of course, homeownership is the ticket to the middle class. By allowing homeowners to write off their mortgage interest expenses -- thus reducing their taxes -- the government purportedly encourages all these good things. The cost in lost tax revenue is considered money well spent. In 2017, that would be $64 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Case closed? Not exactly. For years, many economists have argued that the standard narrative about the deduction is mostly a self-serving fairy tale. The reality, they say, is that the subsidy promotes oversized homes and higher real-estate prices. Upper-middle-class households are the main users of the deduction, which barely -- if at all -- raises the homeownership rate. "People are being bribed by the government [through the mortgage interest deduction] to buy exceptionally big homes," says economist Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In effect, there's a subsidy for McMansions. Homeowners rely more on debt, because some interest expense can be written off. Gruber recently did a study with economists Henrik Kleven of Princeton and Amalie Jensen of the University of Copenhagen that seems to prove the point. Like the United States, Denmark has a mortgage interest deduction. In 1987, the Danes reduced the deduction's generosity. If the deduction increased homeownership, a reduction should have diminished it. That didn't happen. "The mortgage deduction has a precisely estimated zero effect on homeownership," the study concluded. "Just under 60 percent of the population are homeowners, a number that has stayed remarkably constant over time," it said. This stability suggests that factors other than sheer economics -- culture, psychology, geography -- influence homeownership. The erosion of the [...]



Trump's Real Constituency: The Super Rich

2017-11-13T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The focus on President Trump's political strength among white working-class voters distracts from a truth that may be more important: His rise depended on support from rich conservatives, and his program serves the interests of those who have accumulated enormous wealth. This explains why so few Congressional Republicans denounce him, no matter how close he edges toward autocracy, how much bigotry he spreads -- or how often he panders to Vladimir Putin and denounces our own intelligence officials, as he did again this weekend. The GOP leadership knows Trump is tilting our...WASHINGTON -- The focus on President Trump's political strength among white working-class voters distracts from a truth that may be more important: His rise depended on support from rich conservatives, and his program serves the interests of those who have accumulated enormous wealth. This explains why so few Congressional Republicans denounce him, no matter how close he edges toward autocracy, how much bigotry he spreads -- or how often he panders to Vladimir Putin and denounces our own intelligence officials, as he did again this weekend. The GOP leadership knows Trump is tilting our economy toward people just like himself, the objective they care about most. To borrow from the president, he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and still not lose House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as long as they have a reactionary tax bill to push into law. Last Tuesday's elections demonstrated how fed up large parts of the nation are with Trump and how mobilized his opponents have become. The returns ratified polls showing the overwhelming majority of Americans rejecting his stewardship. Rather than just celebrate the good news, Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans should move next to undermine Trump's key asset. He needs to be exposed as a fraud whenever he says he has the backs of the "forgotten men and women" whose living standards have been shattered in the new economy. Admittedly, doing this will be harder for conservatives than for progressives. After all, many conservatives have defended trickle-down economics for decades. But there is a wing of conservatism that has criticized the GOP for exploiting the votes of working-class Americans for years, even before, Trump while delivering them a whole lot of nothing. This was the argument of the 2008 book "Grand New Party" by Ross Douthat, now a New York Times columnist, and Reihan Salam, an independent-minded conservative policy analyst. They proposed that Republicans become "The Party of Sam's Club." But the existing party's tax proposals confirm that the GOP is the Party of Prada. And Prada may be a trifle downscale to capture the radical redistribution upward that these tax cuts would bring about. It is Exhib[...]



Roskam's Tax Mission; Mass Shootings; War Weariness; a Seat on the Bus

2017-11-13T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Monday, November 13, 2017. On this date in 1956 the perseverance of four black women from Alabama -- and the acumen of their lawyers -- was rewarded by a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that constituted a body blow to Jim Crow. The African-American plaintiffs were Aurelia S. Browder, Susie McDonald, Claudette Colvin, and Mary Louise Smith. Their attorneys of record were Fred Gray Sr. and Charles D. Langford, though as the case of Gayle v. Browder progressed through the courts they were assisted by an able NAACP in-house counsel named Thurgood Marshall. These...Good morning, it’s Monday, November 13, 2017. On this date in 1956 the perseverance of four black women from Alabama -- and the acumen of their lawyers -- was rewarded by a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that constituted a body blow to Jim Crow. The African-American plaintiffs were Aurelia S. Browder, Susie McDonald, Claudette Colvin, and Mary Louise Smith. Their attorneys of record were Fred Gray Sr. and Charles D. Langford, though as the case of Gayle v. Browder progressed through the courts they were assisted by an able NAACP in-house counsel named Thurgood Marshall. These four women had refused to comply with the back-of-the-bus rules used to enforce segregation aboard city buses in the state capital of Montgomery. Today, the world remembers Rosa Parks, as it should. But her iconic act of defiance was part of a wider and well-coordinated campaign of civil disobedience, economic boycotts, and legal challenges. Aurelia Browder had been cited seven months before Rosa Parks for the same offense. Fred Gray did not include Parks, who was also his client, in the litigation because he didn’t want local officials to muddy the issue by mixing it up with Parks’ criminal prosecution. Gray chose Browder, a hard-working widow and 45-year-old college graduate, as his lead plaintiff because he thought she would make an excellent witness. It never came to that, as I’ll explain 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 original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Roskam at the Center of Political Fight Over Taxes. James Arkin has this profile of the congressman playing a critical role in crafting the GOP tax legislation and shepherding it through the House. Addressing Mass Shootings: Every Idea on the Table. In a column, I consider steps that neither left nor right will like, but which may be needed as such incidents continue unimpeded. Poll: Americans Skeptical of U.S. Military Interventions. James Hitchcock has details. The Ci[...]



Addressing Mass Shootings: Every Idea on the Table

2017-11-12T00:00:00Z

For some children of the ’60s, the decade’s most traumatic crimes weren’t the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy or the martyrdom of Martin Luther King—or even the appalling 1963 Klan church bombing that killed four black girls in Birmingham. It wasn’t even the rape, torture, and strangulation of eight student nurses by a psycho named Richard Speck in Chicago in mid-July of 1966. The most terrifying violence came two weeks later when a former U.S. Marine named Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother before taking an arsenal to the...For some children of the ’60s, the decade’s most traumatic crimes weren’t the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy or the martyrdom of Martin Luther King—or even the appalling 1963 Klan church bombing that killed four black girls in Birmingham. It wasn’t even the rape, torture, and strangulation of eight student nurses by a psycho named Richard Speck in Chicago in mid-July of 1966. The most terrifying violence came two weeks later when a former U.S. Marine named Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother before taking an arsenal to the University of Texas tower and shot everyone he saw. By the time an Austin cop took him out, Whitman had killed 16 people and wounded 31. As a kid growing up the Bay Area, I viewed Stanford’s Hoover Tower and the Campanile at UC-Berkeley differently after that. One day, while walking by Saints Peter and Paul Church in North Beach, my dad said that Joe DiMaggio had gotten married there. My kid brother asked if a madman had ever used the cathedral as a perch to shoot people below in Washington Square. Parents assured their children with the only logic they could muster: Such crimes are rare, they said. This was true then. It’s not true anymore—and hasn’t been for a while. As a cub police reporter in San Diego in 1979, I was on the scene for the first mass shooting at an American elementary school. The anomaly wasn’t only the choice of target, Cleveland Elementary School, but also that the shooter was a girl, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer. The first mass shooting in a church took place the following year when a 46-year-old atheist walked into the First Baptist Church in Daingerfield, Texas, yelling “This is war!” It wasn’t war, but it seemed like hell to the parishioners cowering in the pews. Daingerfield and the Cleveland Elementary School revealed that no place was a sanctuary. Since then, America has suffered through at least eight other such attacks on places of worship, one of them a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Three of these killers have professed racist, homophobic, or white supremacist views; another hated Baptists. One was a Muslim angry about the killing[...]



On Taxes, Who'll Be Crying in Their Beer?

2017-11-12T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders found a clever way to combine two passions -- tweaking reporters and supporting big tax cuts -- during a recent press briefing. She laid out a scenario in which 10 reporters had a beer together every day and paid the $100 tab under a mechanism akin to the federal income tax system. Four reporters paid nothing, while the highest-paid journalist kicked in $59. When the bar proprietor decided to cut prices and the scribes calculated how to spread the savings, the highest-paid reporter enjoyed a $10 windfall, the other five journos...WASHINGTON -- White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders found a clever way to combine two passions -- tweaking reporters and supporting big tax cuts -- during a recent press briefing. She laid out a scenario in which 10 reporters had a beer together every day and paid the $100 tab under a mechanism akin to the federal income tax system. Four reporters paid nothing, while the highest-paid journalist kicked in $59. When the bar proprietor decided to cut prices and the scribes calculated how to spread the savings, the highest-paid reporter enjoyed a $10 windfall, the other five journos enjoyed smaller savings, and the four who drank free gained nothing. "Why should he get $10 back?" nine reporters complained, because they saved far less, or nothing at all. Sanders' cautionary tale had laid out how any tax cut should be expected to benefit the wealthy the most because affluent people pay the most taxes. The night after the rest of the pack complained, the top-paid journalist didn't show, and the remaining nine could not afford their brews. In 2014, the right-leaning Tax Foundation calculated, the top 1 percent of earners paid 39.5 percent of personal federal income taxes. According to the left-leaning Tax Policy Center, 45 percent of tax filers pay no federal income tax. The Senate released its Tax Cuts and Jobs Act late Thursday, which analysts are busy comparing to the companion House bill. But the crux of the opposition essentially is the same for both bills, and it mirrors the nine journalists' lament in Sanders' allegory: People who pay more taxes will get a bigger break than those who pay less or nothing. Thus Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer described the Senate measure as a vehicle "grounded in tax cuts for big corporations and the very rich." Schumer said, "They actually hurt middle-class people because they need to give those big breaks for the wealthiest." Both the House and Senate bills would reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent to take away the tax disadvantage of doing business in the United States. The average corporate tax rate in the Organization for Economic Co-o[...]