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Updated: Sun, 24 Sep 2017 21:55:06 -0500

 



Can We Avoid a Health Care Horror?

2017-09-25T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- It is difficult to decide which is the worst aspect of the Republicans' latest try at repealing Obamacare: the irresponsibility, the cruelty or the lies. There is only one reason the Senate is even considering a vote this week on the catastrophically flawed proposal from Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. The GOP base wants repeal. So never mind what happens to Americans with modest incomes who have cancer, diabetes or heart trouble. Politics matters more than giving serious thought to a bill that would upend one-sixth of our economy. It has been two months since the...WASHINGTON -- It is difficult to decide which is the worst aspect of the Republicans' latest try at repealing Obamacare: the irresponsibility, the cruelty or the lies. There is only one reason the Senate is even considering a vote this week on the catastrophically flawed proposal from Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. The GOP base wants repeal. So never mind what happens to Americans with modest incomes who have cancer, diabetes or heart trouble. Politics matters more than giving serious thought to a bill that would upend one-sixth of our economy. It has been two months since the last repeal bill was defeated. Did the GOP's House and Senate majorities use the time to hold hearings on the bill that's being considered? Did they bring in doctors, nurses and insurers to help craft something sensible? Of course not. They scheduled a quickie, last minute hearing this week for show. Since this vote is all about appearances, who cares about expertise? President Trump and his party want "a win." They're willing to wreak havoc on the insurance markets, state governments and people's lives to get it. If they had engaged in any serious deliberative process, they would have had to grapple with the views of the bipartisan National Association of Medicaid Directors on Graham-Cassidy's approach of marrying block grants to severe cuts. The association's statement last week called the bill "the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk from the federal government to the states in our country's history." "Any effort of this magnitude," the Medicaid directors added, "needs thorough discussion, examination and analysis, and should not be rushed through without proper deliberation." No kidding. This was Sen. John McCain's admirable rationale for voting against the last repeal bill. And even though Graham is his best friend in the Senate, he stuck to principle and announced Friday he was voting against this bill, too. Here's hoping he eased the path for other Republicans to oppose this legislative contraption whose cruelty is obvious. There has always been something deeply wrong about our country's failure to provide health insurance for all our citizens, which every other wealthy industrialized nation does. It's not OK for people to face bankruptcy simply because they are doing everything they can to stay alive. Obamacare was a cautious, market-friendly attempt to make the system a bit kinder. Since the Republicans launched this year's repeal offensive, many Americans who thought of the Affordable Care Act as a vague sort of failure have heard the compelling stories of those with pre-existing conditions and serious illnesses who are far better off today because of the law. Support for Obamacare has risen, while only about a quarter of the country backs Graham-Cassidy. Many who believed Trump and other Republicans when they promised to pass something better than Obamacare now know that this pledge was a sham. What the GOP really wants is to spend a whole lot less government money helping people get health care. But they can't admit it because it sounds heartless. So instead, they lie outright about what their bill does. Slate's Jamelle Bouie provided one of the best compendiums of falsehoods being offered on behalf of this bill. Jimmy Kimmel called out Cassidy for failing to live up to what the senator himself called the "the Jimmy Kimmel test." Kimmel described this as a pledge that "no family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwi[...]



Driverless Madness

2017-09-25T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Driverless vehicles may not be all that they're cracked up to be. Indeed, they may be harmful to our collective security and well-being. Unless you've been vacationing on Saturn, you know that driverless vehicles are the next Big Thing. Almost every major car company (General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Mercedes) has a program, often in cooperation with tech firms. A few of those, Google being a prominent example, have their own prototypes. In a recent study, Navigant Research -- a consulting firm -- counted 18 projects. To be sure, the appeal of driverless cars is powerful....WASHINGTON -- Driverless vehicles may not be all that they're cracked up to be. Indeed, they may be harmful to our collective security and well-being. Unless you've been vacationing on Saturn, you know that driverless vehicles are the next Big Thing. Almost every major car company (General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Mercedes) has a program, often in cooperation with tech firms. A few of those, Google being a prominent example, have their own prototypes. In a recent study, Navigant Research -- a consulting firm -- counted 18 projects. To be sure, the appeal of driverless cars is powerful. In 2015, 35,092 people died in road accidents nationwide, says the Department of Transportation. It attributed more than 90 percent of the crashes "to human choice or error." If these people had been riding in driverless cars, many of these accidents would not have occurred, the argument goes. The hazards of drinking, texting, speeding and other driving dangers would have been sharply reduced. The broadest case for driverless vehicles is that they would allow us to recapture the many hours we spend sitting in traffic, fuming and wasting time. Instead, we'd program our vehicle with the destination. It would drive, while we snoozed, streamed TV shows and movies, attended to work, read a book or gazed at the scenery. Billions of hours would be recovered. There are some obvious obstacles to this seductive future. Under favorable circumstances, it would take years to materialize. There are roughly 250 million cars and other light-duty vehicles (pickups, SUVs) on the road. In a good year, the industry sells 17 million vehicles. Even if, beginning in 2018, all these were driverless, it would be 15 years before today's fleet is replaced. And these assumptions are, of course, unrealistic. "Some people actually like driving," says economist Benjamin Leard of the think tank Resources for the Future. Most won't be customers for driverless vehicles. Neither will many Americans who don't trust the reliability of self-driving vehicles. That's about 60 percent of the public, reports an opinion survey conducted by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of Sustainable World Transportation, a research group at the University of Michigan. Still other potential customers may be deterred by the high costs of all the needed sensors, cameras, computer chips and software. With present technology, this could add $10,000 to the cost of new vehicles, though that is expected to decline with time, says Leard. Even those who expect to benefit from driverless vehicles may be disappointed, notes Sivak. True, typical drivers spend an hour a day on the road, which seems an ample period for other uses. But there's a catch. "The fact [is] that current trips in light-duty vehicles average only about 19 minutes -- a rather short duration for sustained productive activity or invigorating sleep," he says. So the benefits of driverless vehicles may be modest, at least at the start, while the costs could be considerable. A clear danger would be digital hacking. In a recent special section on cybersecurity, a writer for The Wall Street Journal put it this way: "As vehicles fill up with more digital controls and internet-connected devices, they're becoming more vulnerable to cybercriminals, who can hack into those systems just like they can attack computers. Almost any digitally connected device in a car could become an entry point to the vehicle's central communications network, o[...]



President Trump, Puerto Rico Needs a Hero

2017-09-24T00:00:00Z

The entire state of Connecticut will lack a power grid, and perhaps potable water, for weeks or months. Following a historic natural disaster, the only power in hospitals and hotels – and private homes -- comes from generators, which burn expensive propane or gasoline. As economic activity plummets, employers lay off workers, the tax base will shrink, and the state’s utility company faces insolvency. Without air conditioning, old people will suffer, schoolchildren will wilt in buildings designed without proper air flow. Mosquitoes carrying a lethal new form of Lyme disease...The entire state of Connecticut will lack a power grid, and perhaps potable water, for weeks or months. Following a historic natural disaster, the only power in hospitals and hotels – and private homes -- comes from generators, which burn expensive propane or gasoline. As economic activity plummets, employers lay off workers, the tax base will shrink, and the state’s utility company faces insolvency. Without air conditioning, old people will suffer, schoolchildren will wilt in buildings designed without proper air flow. Mosquitoes carrying a lethal new form of Lyme disease will proliferate. Able-bodied residents will flee, leaving behind the poorest, oldest, and most infirm. The governor will apply for federal aid, and will get it. It won’t be nearly enough, as rebuilding efforts will be stalled by the lack of electricity. Only two words in those paragraphs above are untrue. “Lyme” disease should read “Zika” virus. And that dystopian future, of course, is not in Connecticut. It’s what’s facing Puerto Ricans after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. I substituted Connecticut not because so many of the nation’s media moguls live there, but because it’s closely resembles Puerto Rico in population and land mass. Both have around 3.5 million people in an area of approximately 5,400 square miles. Think how the television networks and other news outlets would be acting if Connecticut had no electricity—and no prospect of getting it anytime soon. Yet those are Americans in Puerto Rico, and it’s time we acted like it. Helping the people on that island is infinitely more important than cable news’ typical fare. Sean Spicer’s handwritten notes, Paul Manafort’s taxes, Bono’s disapproval of Donald Trump. I don’t care about that stuff this week—and won’t next week. What I do care about, partly because my son and daughter-in-law live and work in San Juan, is what President Trump is doing about Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s time for dramatic action, creative action. It’s a time for heroic leadership. So far Trump has said and done what presidents say and do in such situations, as has Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. Trump immediately declared a federal disaster, allowing residents to apply for assistance. He discussed the gravity of the situation clearly, displayed empathy, and announced he’d visit the Caribbean island. Good for him, good for us. Donald Trump is acting like a U.S. president. But this requires extraordinary measures. This will take the Army Corps of Engineers, and maybe the U.S. Army itself. The reasons are no mystery. Puerto Rico was underwater before it was underwater. Financially, it was $74 billion in debt -- $9 billion of it belonging to the commonwealth’s electric utility -- before two consecutive hurricanes formed in the Atlantic. In midsummer, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority filed for bankruptcy, announcing that it was broke – and needed $4 billion to modernize its outmoded electricity generation plants. Yes, long before Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico was a fiscal basket base, the Detroit of the Caribbean. The reasons are varied. They range from a bloated bureaucracy to longtime government giveaways to public employees’ unions and include well-intended, but ill-conceived, tax incentives enacted by Cong[...]



Trump Comments on Curry, NFL Protests Anger Athletes

2017-09-24T00:00:00Z

SOMERSET, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump denounced protests by NFL players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two-day rant that targeted top professional athletes and brought swift condemnation Saturday from league executives and star players alike. Wading into thorny issues of race and politics, Trump’s comments in a Friday night speech and a series of Saturday tweets drew sharp responses from some of the nation’s top athletes, with LeBron James calling the president a “bum.” Hours later, Major...SOMERSET, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump denounced protests by NFL players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two-day rant that targeted top professional athletes and brought swift condemnation Saturday from league executives and star players alike. Wading into thorny issues of race and politics, Trump’s comments in a Friday night speech and a series of Saturday tweets drew sharp responses from some of the nation’s top athletes, with LeBron James calling the president a “bum.” Hours later, Major League Baseball saw its first player take a knee during the national anthem. Trump started by announcing that Curry, the popular two-time MVP for the Golden State Warriors, would not be welcome at the White House for the commemorative visit traditionally made by championship teams: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Later, Trump reiterated what he said at a rally in Alabama the previous night — that NFL players who kneel for the national anthem should be fired, and called on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to tell them to stand. Goodell and several team owners criticized the comments. The Warriors said it was clear they were not welcome at the White House. Curry had said he did not want to go anyway, but the Warriors had not made a collective decision before Saturday — and had planned to discuss it in the morning before the president’s tweet, to which coach Steve Kerr said : “Not surprised. He was going to break up with us before we could break up with him.” Others had far stronger reactions. “U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going!” James tweeted in a clear message to the president — a post that Twitter officials said was quickly shared many more times than any other he’s sent. “So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!” Curry appreciated James’ strong stance. “That’s a pretty strong statement,” Curry said. “I think it’s bold, it’s courageous for any guy to speak up, let alone a guy that has as much to lose as LeBron does and other notable figures in the league. We all have to kind of stand as one the best we can.” Curry added that he doesn’t believe Trump “respects the majority of Americans in this country.” James also released a video Saturday, saying Trump has tried to divide the country. “He’s now using sports as the platform to try to divide us,” James said. “We all know how much sports brings us together. ... It’s not something I can be quiet about.” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said he was surprised by the invitation being pulled, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was disappointed that the Warriors won’t be at the White House. “The White House visit should be something that is celebrated,” Myers said. “So we want to go to Washington, D.C., and do something to commemorate kind of who we are as an organization, what we feel, what we represent and at the same time spend our energy on that. Instead of looking backward, we want to look forward.” Added Kerr after his team’s first practice of the season, &ldqu[...]



How Trump Is Helping to Save Our Democracy

2017-09-24T00:00:00Z

The election of Donald Trump could be one of the best things that ever happened to American democracy. We say this even though we believe that Trump poses a genuine danger to our republican institutions and has done enormous damage to our country. He has violated political norms, weakened our standing in the world and deepened the divisions of an already sharply torn nation. But precisely because the Trump threat is so profound, he has jolted much of the country to face problems that have been slowly eroding our democracy. And he has aroused a popular mobilization that may far outlast...The election of Donald Trump could be one of the best things that ever happened to American democracy. We say this even though we believe that Trump poses a genuine danger to our republican institutions and has done enormous damage to our country. He has violated political norms, weakened our standing in the world and deepened the divisions of an already sharply torn nation. But precisely because the Trump threat is so profound, he has jolted much of the country to face problems that have been slowly eroding our democracy. And he has aroused a popular mobilization that may far outlast him. Many of the trends that led to Trump's election have been with us for years; he has created a crisis by pushing them to their alarming endpoints. Political norms, for example, have been decaying for decades, but Trump has eschewed norms altogether. One reading is that there will be no going back from the diminished public life he has created, and it's certainly true that the breaching of norms often produces a cascading effect: behavior previously considered inappropriate is normalized and taken up by others. Yet Trump's sheer disregard for the normal practices and principles of presidential behavior has cast a spotlight on the vital role that norms play in regulating and protecting our democracy. Only when norms disappear are we reminded of how important they were in the first place. The steady radicalization of the conservative movement since the 1960s paved the way for Trump by undermining trust in government and promoting a sense that public officials are not interested in solving the problems of everyday Americans. This was a successful strategy for the Republican Party, but it produced the least-qualified and least-appropriate president in the nation's history. While many Republicans remain in denial, hoping that Trump will deliver them policy victories and court seats, some of them are starting to reexamine their consciences and their long-term political interests. A large group of influential conservative thinkers -- Jennifer Rubin, Michael Gerson, Max Boot, George F. Will, Peter Wehner, William Kristol and Tom Nichols, to name just a few -- has spoken out against the nativist and xenophobic strain in the Republican Party that gave rise to Trump and against his manifest disrespect for our institutions. They want a problem-solving Republican Party, a necessity for our political system to operate. Only a handful of Republican politicians have joined them, but their ranks are growing and include Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Meanwhile, the Republicans' failure to pass any major piece of their legislative agenda, despite their control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, is a sign that tea partyism provides no plausible path to governing. A purely anti-government creed is out of touch with an American majority that may mistrust government but still expects it to provide significant services, social protections and help in time of catastrophe. We have seen this in the backlash to the efforts to repeal Obamacare. Republicans are scrambling now to pass another destructive repeal bill that would leave millions without health insurance, simply because the congressional majority is desperate for a legislative victory. But it has already lost the battle for public opinion. The Trump era has push[...]



Trump's Dangerous Confusion on the Iranian Deal

2017-09-24T00:00:00Z

When it comes to the Iranian nuclear deal, the Trump administration is a carnival of contradiction. Its attitude brings to mind the story of the inmates who complained that the prison food was terrible and they weren't allowed seconds. In his tirade at the United Nations, the president said the accord is "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into." During the campaign, he promised to dismantle it. But eight months after he took office, his administration is still abiding by it. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley insists that Trump...When it comes to the Iranian nuclear deal, the Trump administration is a carnival of contradiction. Its attitude brings to mind the story of the inmates who complained that the prison food was terrible and they weren't allowed seconds. In his tirade at the United Nations, the president said the accord is "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into." During the campaign, he promised to dismantle it. But eight months after he took office, his administration is still abiding by it. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley insists that Trump "has grounds" to assert that Iran is not complying. But Trump has twice certified that the Tehran regime has upheld its end of the bargain. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged Wednesday that Iran is in "technical compliance" -- which is true in the same sense that Tillerson is technically secretary of state. He had the chance to lay out any violations during a meeting Thursday with his counterparts from the other signatory governments. But European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who chaired the meeting, said "all agreed" that Iran is complying -- including, she stipulated, the United States. Tillerson, however, is not satisfied just because Iran has done what it agreed to do. He resents that some of the provisions that restrict Iran have expiration dates. But you would think the best thing about a bad agreement is that it doesn't run forever. You would want the terms to be permanent only if you think it's desirable. The accord is highly desirable, because it deprives Iran of the means to build a nuclear weapon for a long time. It forced Iran to shut down most of its centrifuges, surrender 97 percent of its fissile material, convert two reactors to peaceful uses and accept stringent international inspections. In exchange, Iran got the removal of some economic sanctions and access to $100 billion in assets that had been frozen abroad. The disadvantage of preserving the deal is that it lets Iran expand the number of operating centrifuges after 10 years and the stockpile of enriched uranium after 15 years. The disadvantage of renouncing the deal is that it would let Iran do those things immediately. Giving up the restrictions because they won't be in place after 2030 is like abandoning your car on the side of the road today because it will eventually stop running. It would make more sense to negotiate to extend the deal. Backing out of the agreement would be even worse than not reaching it in the first place. That's because Iran has already gotten a large share of what it sought -- notably, the $100 billion it was able to reclaim. If Trump were to shred the agreement, Iran would get to keep the money without having to keep its promises. I don't think that decision would merit a chapter in the next edition of "The Art of the Deal." At the U.N., Trump denounced Iran as an unrepentant "rogue state" that funds terrorism and uses its resources "to shore up Bashar al-Assad's dictatorship, fuel Yemen's civil war and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East." Well, yes -- and freeing Tehran from the constraints of the deal would help how? If there's anything worse than a regime full of bad dudes, it's a regime full of bad dudes that has an atomic arsenal. "You don't make nuclear deals with Sweden," Ben Rhodes, who was deputy nati[...]



Trump Rallies for Strange in AL, Vows He Will 'Drain the Swamp'

2017-09-23T00:00:00Z

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — President Donald Trump implored his supporters Friday to get behind an establishment-backed incumbent in a Republican runoff race in Alabama, arguing that Sen. Luther Strange will “drain the swamp” and doesn’t know the Senate Majority Leader “at all.” Acknowledging he was putting his own political capital on the line, the president insisted to thousands of cheering fans in Huntsville, Alabama, that backing Strange — who was appointed in February to temporarily fill the seat that opened up when Jeff...HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — President Donald Trump implored his supporters Friday to get behind an establishment-backed incumbent in a Republican runoff race in Alabama, arguing that Sen. Luther Strange will “drain the swamp” and doesn’t know the Senate Majority Leader “at all.” Acknowledging he was putting his own political capital on the line, the president insisted to thousands of cheering fans in Huntsville, Alabama, that backing Strange — who was appointed in February to temporarily fill the seat that opened up when Jeff Sessions became attorney general — would help further the Trump agenda. “We can only win the fights and we can only drain the swamp if we have smart, tough, tenacious leaders who know who they are and know how to deliver,” Trump said. “Luther Strange is our man.” Despite Trump’s endorsement and heavy spending by a super political action committee tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Strange remains locked in a tight race against former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a jurist known for opposing gay marriage and pushing unsuccessfully for the public display of the Ten Commandments. The runoff vote will be held Tuesday. Trump said Strange had wrongly been branded an establishment insider, saying people have unfairly claimed Strange is “friendly with Mitch.” Trump called that a “bum rap.” He also praised Strange for agreeing to back Republican health care legislation with no strings attached, saying, “That’s the coolest thing that’s happened to me in six months.” Trump noted the Alabama race was close, but said he appreciated Strange’s support during the push to overhaul President Barack Obama’s health care law. Said Trump, “We have to be loyal in life.” And Trump insisted he was taking a political risk, saying if Strange loses, “they’re going to go after me.” Moore is favored by many of Trump’s supporters and allies, including former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who headlined a rally for Moore Thursday night. Moore also appears to have the support of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson — though a confidant insisted his praise wasn’t an endorsement. In a statement released by Moore’s campaign, Carson called the former judge a “fine man of proven character and integrity” who “reflects the Judeo-Christian values that were so important to the establishment of our country.” But Armstrong Williams insisted the praise was “not an endorsement” and said Carson was “just showing support for his friend.” The president acknowledged he had friends who supported Moore — Including some who worked for Trump, though he joked, “They may not have a job by Monday.” Trump argued Moore will have a harder time winning the general election against Democrat Doug Jones, but still promised to campaign “like hell” for Moore if he wins. While Trump emphasized his support for Strange, his freewheeling speech also delved into his White House agenda, as well as many of his campaign themes. He lashed out at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, calling him a “madman.” H[...]



McCain Opposes Graham-Cassidy Health-Care Bill

2017-09-22T00:00:00Z

Sen. John McCain announced Friday he opposes his party’s latest Obamacare repeal legislation, dealing a significant blow to the measure’s chances of passing the upper chamber next week. McCain said in a statement he would have considered supporting the bill, proposed by Sens. Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham, had it gone through the regular legislative process of hearings, debate and amendment. “I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal,” McCain said. His support was viewed as critical for Republicans as they seek 50 votes for the...Sen. John McCain announced Friday he opposes his party’s latest Obamacare repeal legislation, dealing a significant blow to the measure’s chances of passing the upper chamber next week. McCain said in a statement he would have considered supporting the bill, proposed by Sens. Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham, had it gone through the regular legislative process of hearings, debate and amendment. “I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal,” McCain said. His support was viewed as critical for Republicans as they seek 50 votes for the Affordable Care Act repeal ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline. If they don’t pass a measure before then, parliamentary rules require them to seek 60 votes, making it impossible to pass on a party-line basis. McCain cast the decisive vote against repeal in late July, at the time killing the effort to fulfill the GOP’s seven-year campaign promise to repeal and replace the health care law. But in recent weeks, Graham and Cassidy’s proposal -- which would have eliminated key portions of Obamacare and turned the funding into block grants so states could set up their own systems -- has gained momentum ahead of the deadline next week. McCain had said repeatedly that he wanted “regular order” on health care legislation, and the Senate Finance Committee scheduled a hearing Monday on the Graham-Cassidy proposal. Republicans had hoped that McCain, who is close friends with Graham, could have been persuaded to support the legislation. “I take no pleasure in announcing my opposition,” he said. “Far from it. The bill’s authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are acting consistently with their beliefs and sense of what is best for the country. So am I.” Graham said his friendship with McCain is not based on how he votes but respect for him as a person. Still, the South Carolina senator said he respectfully disagrees with this decision, and that he feels an obligation to continue pushing repeal.  "I’m completely convinced taking money and power out of Washington and returning it to states to administer health care is the best way to replace a collapsing Obamacare system,” Graham said in a statement. “I’m excited about solutions we have found in Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson.” Republicans would have likely needed McCain’s vote to pass the legislation this time. Sen. Rand Paul strongly opposes the measure, calling it “Obamacare lite” and saying it doesn’t represent a full repeal. Sen. Susan Collins, who opposed the repeal effort in July, said she has serious concerns about the new legislation and most Republicans believe she would oppose it. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who also voted against the July measure, has not yet indicated her support for the legislation, and several other senators have yet to take an official position. It’s unclear whether Republicans will still bring the measure to the Senate floor for a vote next week, but McCain’s opposition makes it extremely unlikely they would be able to secure the needed 50 votes.James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twi[...]



What the Facebook-Russian Nexus Can Teach Us

2017-09-22T00:00:00Z

Facebook is being understandably cautious in its statements about Russians using the tech company to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. What is publicly known, or at least believed, is that in 2015 and 2016, Russian-linked groups spent $150,000 to purchase about 5,200 ads promoting politically divisive content. The relatively small amount of money used — $150,000 versus $1.4 billion in total digital ad spending during the 2016 election season — suggests that the groups chose their tactics carefully. While Facebook was a good vehicle, it is likely that the Facebook ads...Facebook is being understandably cautious in its statements about Russians using the tech company to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. What is publicly known, or at least believed, is that in 2015 and 2016, Russian-linked groups spent $150,000 to purchase about 5,200 ads promoting politically divisive content. The relatively small amount of money used — $150,000 versus $1.4 billion in total digital ad spending during the 2016 election season — suggests that the groups chose their tactics carefully. While Facebook was a good vehicle, it is likely that the Facebook ads were part of a larger social media effort.  The revelation triggered an outcry from politicians and advocacy groups calling for investigations, for Facebook to release everything it has on the matter, and for increased regulation of the company and other social media platforms. Is Facebook little more than a convenient scapegoat for these critics, many of whom benefit from the political divide? Probably.  How did the Russian agents provocateurs use Facebook? Not much is publicly revealed — and I have no inside information — but it appears that the culprits used well-known political marketing tactics: They identified emotionally charged topics, chose words and phrases that trigger confirmation bias and promote tribalism, and targeted influencers — people whose mention of an ad ensures that it will be noticed and forwarded to others.   While the actual impact of the Russian campaign may never be known, understanding how such strategies work will teach us how to address them. The first thing to recognize is that the scheme exploits political divides in which — as the Pew Research Center Center’s “Political Polarization in the American Public” and other studies have shown — each camp has its own truths, vocabularies, and places to live and work. Each faction holds beliefs about others that are not seen as true by the group in question. Actual communication between the camps is rare. The divide is also reflected in news programs. As economists Gregory Martin and Ali Yurukoglu demonstrate in their paper “Bias in Cable News: Persuasion and Polarization,” CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC each echo the divisions.  Something else to understand is that the ads leveraged social media influencers by using a strategy to plant “idea viruses” that are spread by others. According to media reports, the ads were short on substance and emphasized keywords that deepen the perception that people in other camps are ignorant, or somehow lack proper moral fabric.  If the virus metaphor is appropriate, then immunization is the key response. We immunize not by censorship, but by exposing people to ideas in ways that help them critically evaluate these beliefs, seeing their underlying presuppositions, logical fallacies and values. Universities should be primary providers of immunization, though many have become so infected that some faculty now incubate and spread these idea viruses to others. There is hope, nonetheless, as some universities have begun to be aware of the problem: the Heterodox Academy being a good example of an academic effort to encourage thought and dialogue in spa[...]



Twin Crucibles for GOP: Alabama Runoff, Obamacare Repeal

2017-09-22T00:00:00Z

Republican senators aiming to end frustration over their stalled agenda and fend off the threat of 2018 primary challenges face two critical tests next week: their last-chance effort to repeal Obamacare, and a primary runoff in the Alabama special election that has reignited establishment-outsider tensions. If Republicans succeed in their long-shot bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act by Sept. 30 and incumbent Sen. Luther Strange pulls out a come-from-behind victory Tuesday in the Alabama race, it could silence anti-establishment critiques and throw cold water on insurgent primary efforts....Republican senators aiming to end frustration over their stalled agenda and fend off the threat of 2018 primary challenges face two critical tests next week: their last-chance effort to repeal Obamacare, and a primary runoff in the Alabama special election that has reignited establishment-outsider tensions. If Republicans succeed in their long-shot bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act by Sept. 30 and incumbent Sen. Luther Strange pulls out a come-from-behind victory Tuesday in the Alabama race, it could silence anti-establishment critiques and throw cold water on insurgent primary efforts. Conversely, if the Obamacare effort fails for a second and final time ahead of a critical deadline, it could reinflame base frustration with the GOP’s failed agenda, and a loss for Strange could embolden potential challengers to run against other incumbents. “We’ve seen that sort of thing happen before, and it’s not a pretty picture,” Sen. John Cornyn said of the potential for energized primary challenges.   The Obamacare effort resurfaced in full force this week nearly two months after Republicans fell one vote short of completing their seven-year pledge to repeal and replace the law. Sens. Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham have been pushing a proposal that received little attention in the wake of the original failure, but that has gained support from most of the GOP conference in recent days. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesperson said it was McConnell’s “intention” to consider the legislation on the floor next week. Whether it can pass is an open question, with none of the three Republican senators who voted no in July  -- John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski -- having come out in favor, and Rand Paul a staunch opponent of the new legislation. Republicans have until Sept. 30 to complete the legislation, which repeals portions of Obamacare and converts the funding into block grants allocated to the states. If they can’t act by next Saturday, a procedural rule would force them to seek 60 votes rather than 50. Before that deadline, however, all eyes will be on the Alabama primary runoff in the race for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat. In a dynamic familiar to McConnell and GOP senators, a rabble-rousing conservative is challenging incumbent Luther Strange, who was appointed to replace Sessions in February, and threatens to inflame divisions within the party if he wins. The runoff -- after former state Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore took 39 percent in the August primary to 33 percent for Strange -- harks back to previous election cycles as allies of McConnell spend big to protect the incumbent while outsider groups and conservatives rally around the insurgent. GOP senators have concerns about Moore, whom many believe would not be a team player in the already narrowly divided Senate. The runoff also puts President Trump on the establishment side, pitted against his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Trump endorsed Strange and is flying to Alabama Friday to rally for him, while Bannon and his key allies are backing Moore. Bannon has threatened to back other challengers to sitting GOP senators, and[...]



Trump's Alabama Rally May Spotlight GOP Divide

2017-09-22T00:00:00Z

Donald Trump's visit to Alabama on Friday night to rally the troops for Republican Sen. Luther Strange figures to be a jubilant homecoming, as the state served as something of a launching pad for his presidential campaign. But by Wednesday morning, he could be feeling a bit of a hangover. A Republican primary runoff to fill the U.S. Senate seat held by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions might be headed for an upset, as controversial Judge Roy Moore leads in the polls against Strange, who was appointed to the upper chamber in February. A Moore victory would deliver a gut punch to...Donald Trump's visit to Alabama on Friday night to rally the troops for Republican Sen. Luther Strange figures to be a jubilant homecoming, as the state served as something of a launching pad for his presidential campaign. But by Wednesday morning, he could be feeling a bit of a hangover. A Republican primary runoff to fill the U.S. Senate seat held by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions might be headed for an upset, as controversial Judge Roy Moore leads in the polls against Strange, who was appointed to the upper chamber in February. A Moore victory would deliver a gut punch to Republican Party leaders, who have poured money in to defeat him and prop up the incumbent. Such an outcome is one Trump would understand better than anyone. Which is why voters in the state and conservative activists outside it were perplexed -- some even disappointed — that he waded into the race on behalf of the Mitch McConnell-favored candidate, or "Big Luther," as the president calls the 6-foot-9 senator. Indeed, many of the president's supporters, including former adviser Steve Bannon, are backing Moore. The pro-Trump super Pac Great American Alliance hosted a rally on behalf of the former state Supreme Court chief justice Thursday night, where Sarah Palin, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, and recently ousted White House strategist Sebastian Gorka were headliners. Iowa Rep. Steve King endorsed Moore on Thursday. Candidate Trump, campaigning in Alabama and running against the establishment GOP, might have also supported Moore, who is more in his mold than Strange. But President Trump doesn't have many loyalists in Congress, and insists he is rewarding the incumbent for being one of the few. "Looking forward to Friday night in the Great State of Alabama. I am supporting ‘Big’ Luther Strange because he was so loyal & helpful to me!" he tweeted. Now, the president's task is to push Strange over the finish line in a race that places Trump himself on the other side of his supporters. And while Trump remains wildly popular in Alabama, the runoff on Tuesday will test his clout. The administration is sending in the cavalry in the final days of the primary. Fresh off high-stakes meetings with world leaders at the United Nations and amid increased provocations from North Korea and a decision looming on the Iran nuclear deal, the president will travel to Huntsville Friday night to host a rally on behalf of Strange. On Monday night, Vice President Mike Pence will visit the state to campaign for the senator. Trump's visit is likely to draw large crowds of excited fans. But Republicans in the state say such enthusiasm isn’t necessarily transferable. "People are going to stick by the president regardless of who he is supporting. But it doesn't mean they're with Luther Strange or against Judge Moore," says GOP operative David Ferguson, an Alabama native aiding the administration ahead of the visit. "Alabamans don't necessarily want someone else to influence how they vote." Strategists in the state say there is a deep distrust of Washington, and financial support directed by establishment-linked groups, like the McConnell-backed Senate Leadership Fund, might push Trump supporters away from St[...]



Trump in Alabama; GOP's Twin Tests; Facebook-Russia; Atonement

2017-09-22T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Friday, September 22, 2017. On this date 155 years ago, a wartime president boldly changed the course of our nation’s history. Using the carnage on Antietam’s battlefield as a pretext, Abraham Lincoln issued his preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation.  On the first day of the coming year, Lincoln’s September 22, 1862 order proclaimed, “all persons held as slaves within any State…in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The...Good morning, it’s Friday, September 22, 2017. On this date 155 years ago, a wartime president boldly changed the course of our nation’s history. Using the carnage on Antietam’s battlefield as a pretext, Abraham Lincoln issued his preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation.  On the first day of the coming year, Lincoln’s September 22, 1862 order proclaimed, “all persons held as slaves within any State…in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The measure was carefully constructed to avoid turning public opinion against the federal government in border states, where slavery was still practiced. But once Lincoln’s edict was issued, the die was truly cast. The politician who had insisted that his motivation was to keep the Union intact, the president who had exhorted his generals to crush the rebellion, the prairie statesman who had long argued against human bondage -- suddenly, with a stroke of the pen, those three were one and the same. In a moment, I’ll have more on this pivot point in the evolution of the United States. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Trump’s Alabama Rally May Spotlight GOP Divide. Caitlin Huey-Burns previews the president’s appearance in the state, where he remains popular but the man he supports is considerably less so. Twin Crucibles for GOP: Alabama Runoff, Obamacare Repeal. James Arkin examines next week’s health care vote in the Senate and special election, the outcomes of which could color Republicans’ chances in the 2018 midterms. What the Facebook-Russian Nexus Can Teach Us. Mark A. Jamison warns against cutting off communication between adversarial groups, which solidifies divisions rather than bridges them. Federal Flood Insurance Didn't Magnify Losses in Florida and Texas.  RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny rejects the notion that bailout expectations created extra incentive for people to build where they're most likely to be flooded. If Trade Deficits Are Bad, Why Do Rich Countries Have Them? Also in RCW, Allan Golombek explains that the benefits of trade do not flow exclusively to countries based solely on how much they export. Audit the Defense Department. In RealClearDefense, Sen. David Perdue writes that because the DoD has never completed an audit, it is vulnerable to waste and inefficiency. High Standards, Skills Training Are Keys to Success. In RealClearEducation, former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell explains the importance of rigorous standards and career training. * * * Out of respect for the rule of law, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation under his authority as a wartime commander-in-chief. And in 1864, he would convince the delegates at the Republican convention to include in the party’s platform a plank calling for a constitutional amendment barring slave[...]



Don't Fall for Jimmy Kimmel's Cheap Zero-Sum Emotionalism

2017-09-22T00:00:00Z

In recent months, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has taken to scaremongering his audience with well-worn Democratic Party talking points regarding health care insurance policy. Between yuks, he occasionally accuses Republicans of being would-be baby killers, which is treated as an important political development because, well, Jimmy Kimmel is famous. This week, the comedian was back to explain why the new Graham-Cassidy Republican "repeal" bill is bad news. There were only two things wrong with his monologue: Almost everything he said was either completely untrue or highly...In recent months, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has taken to scaremongering his audience with well-worn Democratic Party talking points regarding health care insurance policy. Between yuks, he occasionally accuses Republicans of being would-be baby killers, which is treated as an important political development because, well, Jimmy Kimmel is famous. This week, the comedian was back to explain why the new Graham-Cassidy Republican "repeal" bill is bad news. There were only two things wrong with his monologue: Almost everything he said was either completely untrue or highly misleading, and his simplistic emotional appeal was completely disconnected from the real world. The comedian's interest in policy was sparked by the harrowing experience of having a newborn son who suffered from a rare health condition. Thankfully, his boy is OK. "If your baby is going to die and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make," said an emotional Kimmel in May. "I think that's something that, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?" Yes, everyone agrees. As far as I know, there isn't a single politician in America who has ever supported allowing babies to die because they are born with birth defects, even if the parents can't pay. Not pre-Obamacare, and not post-Obamacare. In any event, after Kimmel's May rant, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy showed up on his show to explain his position. These types of culture encounters shouldn't be dismissed, because the fact is most viewers are unaware of specific policies and have a notional understanding that's prejudiced by the establishment media's coverage. Cassidy came up with something he called the "Jimmy Kimmel Test," a test that no "family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can't afford it." Kimmel claims that the new bill doesn't meet this threshold. "This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face," the talk-show host said on Tuesday night during an extended political rant. He went on to say, "And by the way, before you post a nasty Facebook message saying I'm politicizing my son's health problems, I want you to know: I am politicizing my son's health problems." OK. He explained: "Coverage for all? No. Fact, it will kick about 30 million Americans off insurance." Not a single person would be "kicked off" his or her insurance. Rather, the Congressional Budget Office review of the AHCA found that of the 24 million Americans who would no longer have health insurance after an Obamacare repeal, 14 million would choose not to buy insurance in 2018 in the absence of a penalty. And if Obamacare were not repealed, the CBO projects another 6 million people would voluntarily leave the Obamacare markets. Now, if you don't believe Americans should be afforded the choice to leave or not buy insurance, just say that. No one is being kicked off. Moreover, if Kimmel supports the individual mandate, Graham-Cassidy allows California to institute it -- as I am sure it would. Kimmel says: "Pre-existing conditions? Nope. If the bill passes, individual states can let insurance companies charge more if [...]



The Devolution of Repeal-and-Replace

2017-09-22T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Motivated by the cynical aims of fulfilling a bumper-sticker campaign promise and lavishing tax cuts on the wealthy, Republicans are threatening to pass a health care bill they know will make millions of Americans sicker and poorer. Do they think we don't see what they're doing? Does Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, think we didn't hear what he said Wednesday? "You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn't be considered," he told reporters. "But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry...WASHINGTON -- Motivated by the cynical aims of fulfilling a bumper-sticker campaign promise and lavishing tax cuts on the wealthy, Republicans are threatening to pass a health care bill they know will make millions of Americans sicker and poorer. Do they think we don't see what they're doing? Does Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, think we didn't hear what he said Wednesday? "You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn't be considered," he told reporters. "But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That's pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill." There you have it: Who cares what this legislation would do? Vote for it anyway. The GOP's efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have undergone a process of devolution, with each new bill worse than the last. The measure that the Senate plans to vote on next week essentially takes away most of the protections, benefits and funding of the ACA, but leaves in place most of the taxes. That's supposed to be good politics? Seriously? In his desperate haste, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decided not to wait for the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to analyze the bill before bringing it to the Senate floor. The CBO estimated that July's Better Care Reconciliation Act, which would have repealed the ACA with a vague promise to replace it later, would have caused 32 million people to lose health insurance coverage. Some outside experts fear the impact of this new bill could be even worse. I should acknowledge that the measure -- sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. -- would do one popular thing: Eliminate the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance or pay a fine. But the list of things that people surely won't like is staggering. Perhaps chief among them is that the bill eliminates the ACA's guarantee of affordable health insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer. State officials would be able to let insurers charge whatever they wanted to the infirm and the elderly -- and also could let insurers reinstitute lifetime caps on coverage. In practice, this means that the old and the sick could be priced out of the insurance market. And it means that those who are insured but have expensive ailments could see their coverage expire after a certain dollar amount had been paid in benefits. At first glance, this looks like a gigantic gift to the insurance industry. But the powerful lobbying group America's Health Insurance Plans came out strongly against the bill Wednesday, saying it "would have real consequences on consumers and patients by further destabilizing the individual market." The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association opposes the measure as well, saying it would "increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans' choice of health plans." The American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and AARP adamantly oppose the new Senate bill as well. [...]



Trump -- American Gaullist

2017-09-22T00:00:00Z

If a U.S. president calls an adversary "Rocket Man ... on a mission to suicide," and warns his nation may be "totally destroyed," other ideas in his speech will tend to get lost. Which is unfortunate. For buried in Donald Trump's address is a clarion call to reject transnationalism and to re-embrace a world of sovereign nation-states that cherish their independence and unique identities. Western man has engaged in this great quarrel since Woodrow Wilson declared America would fight in the Great War, not for any selfish interests, but "to make the world safe for...If a U.S. president calls an adversary "Rocket Man ... on a mission to suicide," and warns his nation may be "totally destroyed," other ideas in his speech will tend to get lost. Which is unfortunate. For buried in Donald Trump's address is a clarion call to reject transnationalism and to re-embrace a world of sovereign nation-states that cherish their independence and unique identities. Western man has engaged in this great quarrel since Woodrow Wilson declared America would fight in the Great War, not for any selfish interests, but "to make the world safe for democracy." Our imperialist allies, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, regarded this as self-righteous claptrap and proceeded to rip apart Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Ottoman Empire and to feast on their colonies. After World War II, Jean Monnet, father of the EU, wanted Europe's nations to yield up their sovereignty and form a federal union like the USA. Europe's nations would slowly sink and dissolve in a single polity that would mark a giant leap forward toward world government -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "Parliament of man, the Federation of the world." Charles De Gaulle lead the resistance, calling for "a Europe of nation-states from the Atlantic to the Urals." For 50 years, the Gaullists were in constant retreat. The Germans especially, given their past, seemed desirous of losing their national identity and disappearing inside the new Europe. Today, the Gaullist vision is ascendant. "We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government," said Trump at the U.N. "Strong sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect. ... "In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch." Translation: We Americans have created something unique in history. But we do not assert that we should serve as a model for mankind. Among the 190 nations, others have evolved in different ways from diverse cultures, histories, traditions. We may reject their values but we have no God-given right to impose ours upon them. It is difficult to reconcile Trump's belief in self-determination with a National Endowment for Democracy whose reason for being is to interfere in the politics of other nations to make them more like us. Trump's idea of patriotism has deep roots in America's past. After the uprisings of 1848 against the royal houses of Europe failed, Lajos Kossuth came to seek support for the cause of Hungarian democracy. He was wildly welcomed and hailed by Secretary of State Daniel Webster. But Henry Clay, more true to the principles of Washington's Farewell Address, admonished Kossuth: "Far better is it for ourselves, for Hungary, and for the cause of liberty that, adhering to our wise, pacific system, and avoiding the distant wars of Europe, we should keep our lamp burning brightly on the western shore as a light to all nations, than to hazard its utter extinction amid the ruins of fal[...]



U.S. Must Think Outside the Box on North Korea

2017-09-22T00:00:00Z

President Trump thundered Tuesday that the U.S. will "totally destroy" North Korea to defend itself and its allies. But Defense Secretary James Mattis blandly insisted the next day that it's "still a diplomatically led effort." Somewhere in this maze of public statements-including Thursday's announcement of new economic sanctions on North Korea--there's a nuanced American policy. But the seeming binary options are weirdly reminiscent of the nuclear standoff of the Cold War, when the only choices seemed to be a conflict with massive loss of life -- or...President Trump thundered Tuesday that the U.S. will "totally destroy" North Korea to defend itself and its allies. But Defense Secretary James Mattis blandly insisted the next day that it's "still a diplomatically led effort." Somewhere in this maze of public statements-including Thursday's announcement of new economic sanctions on North Korea--there's a nuanced American policy. But the seeming binary options are weirdly reminiscent of the nuclear standoff of the Cold War, when the only choices seemed to be a conflict with massive loss of life -- or surrender to the adversary's demands. To escape this straitjacket, strategists in the 1970s and '80s began to devise new conventional and nuclear weapons, and ultimately, missile defenses. A similar creative re-examination is needed now. We can always hope that the Trump administration's strategy will work: Maybe Trump's threat to Pyongyang of "fire and fury" will convince China to halt oil deliveries; perhaps the North Koreans will enter negotiations; maybe an interim peace agreement will stabilize the situation so "final status" talks begin about eventual de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and withdrawal of American troops. That's the best outcome, certainly. But to be prudent, U.S. officials and their allies should assume it won't work. They need to be planning other options, with a coldblooded rationality that is the opposite of schoolboy taunts about "Rocket Man." U.S. officials need, first, to decide how serious a threat North Korea truly poses to America. If major cities are at risk, and Kim Jong Un's erratic behavior can't be deterred, then perhaps the U.S. should indeed be planning to de-nuclearize North Korea by force. If the U.S. adopted this maximalist strategy, it would begin a buildup of forces that, by most estimates, would take at least two months. Japan and South Korea would begin intensive civil-defense programs to protect their populations and minimize civilian casualties. This is a nightmare scenario, but if you believe Kim is truly a nightmare leader, then you must think about the unthinkable. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to be doing just that. His op-ed in The New York Times Monday was more polite than Trump's bombast, but no less firm. He urged "concerted pressure" against "an unprecedented, grave and imminent threat from North Korea." Suppose you take a less drastic view of Kim and conclude that the real target of his antics is China. He clearly fears Beijing's influence: He brutally murdered his uncle and half-brother, both of whom were said to be close to China. His missile and nuclear tests defy Trump, but even more the repeated warnings he has received, and ignored, from President Xi Jinping. If we see Kim as a regional threat, rather than a global one, then perhaps the right response is an intelligence strategy that begins with the reality of his split with China -- and takes off from there. Back in 2003, China suspended oil deliveries for several days (blaming the problem on a supposed pipeline malfunction) and North Korea quickly began negotiations. In the deniable realm of i[...]



I Have More Moral Authority Than Jimmy Kimmel

2017-09-22T00:00:00Z

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel has been on a roll lately. As Stephen Colbert's ratings have gone up by capturing the attention of angry liberals, Kimmel had to do something. So he took up the crusade against touching Obamacare and is using his son for moral authority. His facile logic is simple. His son had a terrible health problem and thanks to Kimmel's great insurance and very well paying job, his son was able to get the surgery he needed. Consequently, if Republicans change or repeal Obamacare, they will hurt kids who do not have Jimmy Kimmel's income and insurance plan. So...Late night host Jimmy Kimmel has been on a roll lately. As Stephen Colbert's ratings have gone up by capturing the attention of angry liberals, Kimmel had to do something. So he took up the crusade against touching Obamacare and is using his son for moral authority. His facile logic is simple. His son had a terrible health problem and thanks to Kimmel's great insurance and very well paying job, his son was able to get the surgery he needed. Consequently, if Republicans change or repeal Obamacare, they will hurt kids who do not have Jimmy Kimmel's income and insurance plan. So Republicans must be stopped. It has certainly helped him in the media. Kimmel got more mentions by the press than Stephen Colbert last week and Colbert had just hosted the Emmy's. To be fair to Kimmel, good for him. He has every right to take his position as an American citizen. He has a platform and is using it for a cause he cares about. As a side benefit, it helps him in the ratings against another host who has been doing the same thing. But now Kimmel can make it even more personal and humanize himself more than Colbert. The problem is not what Kimmel is doing, but that the same reporters who lament the election of a reality TV star as president are giving moral authority to Jimmy Kimmel to talk credibly about public policy because of his son. He gets expert status and headlines in the press to talk about Obamacare because he is a highly paid celebrity who has access to doctors, income and insurance that the average Obamacare recipient does not have. But based on this standard, I have vastly more moral authority than Jimmy Kimmel. In addition to earning far less than he does, I am writing this column right now with a pulmonary embolism. And upstairs from me, resting, is my wife who has cancer. Thanks to our health care insurance, which I get through my employer, we have the means to pay for her monthly medicine, which would otherwise cost more than I make. If we had Obamacare, we would not be able to afford the medicine. Eventually my wife's cancer will mutate to get around the medicine she is taking. We will have to work with a doctor to find a new medicine to keep the cancer at bay. With Obamacare, the bureaucratic processes would be far more difficult, costing us valuable time. So I oppose Obamacare because I believe we can do better. Neither Jimmy Kimmel nor I have to worry about being a self-employed middle class father with a sick child. But I know more than one forced to go on Obamacare and their experiences are far worse and more costly than what they had before Obamacare. I am sure in his coastal bubble and groupthink, like most Democrats, Kimmel has never encountered someone whose health care situation became worse after Obamacare. There are several million Americans in that situation. But Kimmel had a sick son, so who cares about those people. Because Jimmy Kimmel had a sick son, there is no reason at all to care about my friend, who, to avoid the fine for not having insurance, now has a health care insurance plan that literally no [...]



Tension Between President and Congress Is Politics as Usual

2017-09-22T00:00:00Z

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the president seems out of alignment, on policy and political goals, with his party in Congress. This strikes many as an anomalous, even alarming, situation. But if you look back at history, it's more like the norm -- even if Donald Trump isn't. The current presidential/congressional alignment began in January 1998, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke into the news. For several years before that, President Bill Clinton had engaged in what was called triangulation, positioning himself on issues between his party's liberal congressional...For the first time in nearly 20 years, the president seems out of alignment, on policy and political goals, with his party in Congress. This strikes many as an anomalous, even alarming, situation. But if you look back at history, it's more like the norm -- even if Donald Trump isn't. The current presidential/congressional alignment began in January 1998, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke into the news. For several years before that, President Bill Clinton had engaged in what was called triangulation, positioning himself on issues between his party's liberal congressional leaders and the conservatism of House Speaker Newt Gingrich. His collaborations with Gingrich resulted in serious bipartisan legislation -- welfare reform, a children's health care package, balanced federal budgets. In the process, Clinton pointedly ignored House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. That ended when Clinton needed solid Democratic support during the impeachment process against him for his lying under oath about his affair with Lewinsky. George W. Bush was generally in sync with congressional Republicans, and when he lost some of their votes -- on education and Medicare prescription drugs -- he was able to attract enough Democrats to compensate. Barack Obama worked in tandem with Democratic congressional supermajorities in 2009-10, and they supported his "pen and phone" governing process afterward. Donald Trump's bombastic anti-Washington rhetoric on the campaign trail, including stabs at Republican Party leaders, meant that the two decades of presidential-congressional alignment was most likely over. His cordial meeting with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, whether or not it results in immigration enforcement compromise legislation, indicates it is. Trump did give vague verbal support to House Speaker Paul Ryan's and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's proposals for tax cuts and repealing and replacing Obamacare. But he reportedly, and plausibly, was miffed when they didn't result in bills he could sign. Not my fault, he apparently thought. But of course, it was -- partly. Bush and Obama had serious policy shops that worked closely with their parties' leaders on both process and policy. Trump doesn't. Bush and Obama and their policy shops were knowledgeable about the contents of major proposals and bills. Trump isn't. That gives him plenty of room to maneuver. And it undercuts and perhaps completely eliminates the leverage of the members of the House Freedom Caucus whose hostility to Ryan prevented him from getting a 218-vote House majority out of his 241-member caucus. Now Trump and Pelosi have such leverage, as it's clear that withholding Freedom Caucus votes can mean policy victories for the left. Caucus head Mark Meadows inferentially acknowledged as much when he promised that his group would support the Graham-Cassidy health care bill if it were to pass the Senate. Lack of alignment between a president and his congressional party may be unfamiliar, but it's certainly not new. Frankl[...]



'Uncle Tom' Is More Destructive Than the 'N-word'

2017-09-21T00:00:00Z

The pejorative "Uncle Tom" causes more damage than does the word "n-----." The "N-word," when used by a white person as an epithet against a black person, is an insult, designed to convey to the recipient that he or she is a second-class citizen. It is designed to make one feel inferior. But it hasn't worked. My parents, as did the parents of my friends, said no one can make you feel inferior without your permission. Lesson learned. For decades, tests measuring self-esteem show that teenage black boys and girls test higher than do white boys and white...The pejorative "Uncle Tom" causes more damage than does the word "n-----." The "N-word," when used by a white person as an epithet against a black person, is an insult, designed to convey to the recipient that he or she is a second-class citizen. It is designed to make one feel inferior. But it hasn't worked. My parents, as did the parents of my friends, said no one can make you feel inferior without your permission. Lesson learned. For decades, tests measuring self-esteem show that teenage black boys and girls test higher than do white boys and white girls. "Uncle Tom," on the other hand, when used by a black person as an epithet against another black person, is designed to do one thing and one thing only -- to label that person as a traitor, a sellout, as a black person who colludes with white racists to undermine the success of black people. During my pre-election debate at an inner-city black church in Los Angeles against Roland Martin of "NewsOne," a "black" news show on cable channel TV One, Martin advised me to "get in touch with my blackness." My crime? I supported the candidacy of Donald Trump, and predicted he would attract a greater share of the black vote than did Mitt Romney. I suggested that the damage done to the black family by the welfare state was far more than the degree of racism in today's America. Because of blacker-than-thou people like Martin, the black community is not having a robust debate about, for example, whether there is a causal connection between the welfare state and the growing number of fatherless households. How bad is this lack of critical thinking? During the O.J. Simpson murder trial, a New Jersey high school teacher wrote about the reaction to the case by his mostly black and brown students. Out of 110 students, only four thought Simpson actually did it. Whenever anyone dared suggest an alternative theory, that possibly Simpson himself might have murdered two people, he or she was denounced as a sympathizer for the wrong side. Several thought Kato Kaelin, Simpson's houseguest, did it. Another thought O.J. Simpson's friend Al Cowlings did it, despite a complete and utter lack of evidence. The teacher observed that the black females in his class exerted what he called "social control" over the others in the class to induce unanimity on Simpson's innocence. Because of the intolerance of different points of view in the black community, we are not having a fact-based debate about the allegation of "systemic" racism in the criminal justice system. The real "traitors" are those who continue to push a false narrative about the alleged "proliferation" of anti-black police brutality, when, according to the Centers for Disease Control, police killings of blacks are down nearly 75 percent since 1968. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel admitted that the Black Lives Matter movement has made officers reluctant to proactively police, and that cops have become increasingly passive: "There's no doubt Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Cleveland, in my view, have p[...]



Bannon's Way; Trump Doctrine; Veterans and Suicide; Mideast Dreams

2017-09-21T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Thursday, September 21, 2017. Six years ago today, an American president spoke at the United Nations on an elusive subject: world peace, starting in the Mideast. “The fact is, peace is hard -- but our people demand it,” Barack Obama told the delegates of the world community. “Even as we proclaim our love for peace and our hatred of war, there are still convulsions in our world that endanger us all.” America’s elected leader spoke of his nation’s unshakeable support for Israel, and also for a two-state...Good morning, it’s Thursday, September 21, 2017. Six years ago today, an American president spoke at the United Nations on an elusive subject: world peace, starting in the Mideast. “The fact is, peace is hard -- but our people demand it,” Barack Obama told the delegates of the world community. “Even as we proclaim our love for peace and our hatred of war, there are still convulsions in our world that endanger us all.” America’s elected leader spoke of his nation’s unshakeable support for Israel, and also for a two-state solution that would give the Arabs of Palestine their own nation. “We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve,” Obama said. “There's no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long.” “But understand this as well,” the president added. “America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.” I’ll have more on this speech, and on what Obama said that day that did prove prescient -- and on the September 21 actions regarding the Mideast from an earlier U.S. president -- in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Tell Us, Mr. Bannon -- Just What Is Trumpism? A.B. Stoddard writes that the former White House strategist’s anger is misdirected. Trump’s Principled Realism. In RealClearDefense, Joseph Bosco finds much to praise in the president’s U.N. speech. Veterans, Society and Suicide. Also in RCD, Rebecca Burgess points to studies showing that the majority of veterans who committed suicide in the past decade weren’t those who had spent much, if any, time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stopping the Drug Epidemic. In RealClearPolicy, John P. Walters asserts that the answer lies in reducing the supply of addictive substances. Make Sure the Patent Law Doesn’t Stifle Innovation. In RealClearMarkets, Mead Treadwell argues that it is time for Congress to redo the 2011 Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. When Billionaires Build Fancy Stadiums, Taxpayers Get Whacked. Also in RCM, Ray Keating spotlights the bad deals in Atlanta and elsewhere. An Off-the-Grid Guide to the Alaskan Wilderness. Kinga Philipps goes deep into “the last frontier” in this RealClearLife report. * * * In his September 21, 2011, speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Barack Obama noted with a palpable sense of satisfaction that he’d cut U.S. troops levels in Iraq by half, and would bring[...]



Trump Through a Pinhole

2017-09-21T00:00:00Z

During the recent eclipse, NASA urged us all to protect our eyes by turning our backs on the sun itself, observing the eclipse only through pinhole cameras. A similar technique proves remarkably useful in observing the Trump administration. If you ignore the strangely dazzling figure of the president himself, examining instead the second order effects he’s producing, you’ll find that a certain reassuring clarity emerges. To wit: Item: Congress may have thwarted the administration’s effort to replace Obamacare, but wherever the administration has been able to take...During the recent eclipse, NASA urged us all to protect our eyes by turning our backs on the sun itself, observing the eclipse only through pinhole cameras. A similar technique proves remarkably useful in observing the Trump administration. If you ignore the strangely dazzling figure of the president himself, examining instead the second order effects he’s producing, you’ll find that a certain reassuring clarity emerges. To wit: Item: Congress may have thwarted the administration’s effort to replace Obamacare, but wherever the administration has been able to take action on its own it has done just that, demonstrating not incompetence but considerable effectiveness. Consider ISIS. When Trump gave him a free hand in dealing with the terrorist organization, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that the United States and its allies would no longer permit ISIS to recapture territory after staging merely tactical retreats. Instead we would encircle ISIS forces—and destroy them. Since then, the territory that ISIS controls has fallen by roughly one half. Or look at illegal immigration. After three decades in which administrations of both parties have failed to enforce immigration laws that were already on the books, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has begun to do so. Illegal immigration has dropped by some 70 percent. The list goes on. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has begun rolling back regulations, notably on clean water, that the EPA had used to usurp the legislative function of Congress. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney has announced that for every new regulation any federal agency promulgates it must eliminate two. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has overturned the sexual harassment rules that the Obama administration had forced on universities. The White House has followed the nomination of Neal Gorsuch to the Supreme Court with the nominations of more than 30 others to the federal bench—and each of those nominees is, like Gorsuch, athoroughly vetted originalist. Still only eight months old, the Trump administration has demonstrated the ability to absorb new information and adjust to circumstances—that is, to learn in real time. It has displayed seriousness. It has gotten things done. Item: Animal spirits and tax reform. After eight years in which Washington displayed an attitude toward business that looked a lot like passive aggression—remember the seven years it took the Obama administration to review the Keystone Pipeline before rejecting it?—every American in business knows at some basic level that the Trump administration is on his side. This releases energies in itself. As even Keynes admitted, “Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive…can only be taken as the result of animal spirits.” Capital formation, job creation, growth: We now have an administration that celebrates these things instead of denigrating them—an[...]



Diplomats Meet on Iran Deal as Trump Stays Mum on Decision

2017-09-21T00:00:00Z

NEW YORK (AP) -- President Donald Trump has determined how he wants to approach the Iran nuclear deal - which he has called the worst agreement ever negotiated by the United States - but has not told even his top national security advisers what his decision is. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that Trump had not informed him or others in the administration about his decision and had refused to share it with British Prime Minister Theresa May when she asked him about it. Tillerson said he had been surprised when Trump publicly announced he had reached a decision. The secretary...NEW YORK (AP) -- President Donald Trump has determined how he wants to approach the Iran nuclear deal - which he has called the worst agreement ever negotiated by the United States - but has not told even his top national security advisers what his decision is. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that Trump had not informed him or others in the administration about his decision and had refused to share it with British Prime Minister Theresa May when she asked him about it. Tillerson said he had been surprised when Trump publicly announced he had reached a decision. The secretary told reporters it would now take some time to prepare to implement the decisions. He gave no hint as to the direction Trump would take, but repeated the president's long-standing position that the deal does not address troubling non-nuclear behavior despite the hopes of those who negotiated it. Tillerson spoke to reporters following a meeting of the parties to the nuclear deal, including Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The meeting marked the highest-level U.S.-Iranian encounter since Trump became president. European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who hosted the meeting, said all parties to the accord - including Tillerson - agreed it "is working and is delivering for its purpose." Tillerson did not dispute Mogherini's characterization but said that while Iran might be meeting its obligations to the letter of the deal, it is violating its spirit. "Perhaps the technical aspects have (been met), but in the broader context the aspiration has not," Tillerson said. He later conceded that reports from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, "continue to confirm that Iran is in technical compliance with the agreement." However, he said the Trump administration was determined to address the flaws in the deal, the most serious of which are so-called "sunset provisions" that allow Iran to resume some aspects of its nuclear program after certain periods of time. Those provisions relate to enriching uranium to levels near those needed to produce the fuel for a nuclear weapon, as well as other activities that limit Iran's atomic capabilities at various sites. "One can almost set the countdown clock to Iran resuming its nuclear activities," Tillerson said. He added that the world was made less safe by the Iran agreement as it stands, particularly at a time when the U.S. and its allies are being threatened directly by a nuclear-armed North Korea. In her comments, Mogherini also alluded to North Korea, but made the opposite argument, saying "the international community cannot afford to dismantle an agreement that is working." Mogherini declined to say whether Tillerson had pledged to remain committed to the deal, but said the European Union is committed to preserving it. She suggested that U.S. complaints about Iran's troublesome non-nuclear a[...]



There Is No Proper Mix of Government, Community and Business

2017-09-21T00:00:00Z

I grew up in suburbia, and have spent various parts of my life in small towns, a Southern city and in rural Indiana. Moving may be a hassle, but new experiences in new locations provide wonderful opportunities to learn and explore. That's certainly true as I adjust to life in New York City, a vastly different environment than anything I've tried before. Living in the city, my wife and I have encountered government as never before. We rely on the subway to get around, enjoy strolls through Central Park, routinely see police officers and traffic cops and have heard about city...I grew up in suburbia, and have spent various parts of my life in small towns, a Southern city and in rural Indiana. Moving may be a hassle, but new experiences in new locations provide wonderful opportunities to learn and explore. That's certainly true as I adjust to life in New York City, a vastly different environment than anything I've tried before. Living in the city, my wife and I have encountered government as never before. We rely on the subway to get around, enjoy strolls through Central Park, routinely see police officers and traffic cops and have heard about city regulations on just about everything we ask about. Many of the rules and regulations (but not all) make sense. Because government is so visible in the city, many who live here have a hard time grasping why so many other Americans see government as, at best, a necessary evil. It's not really a philosophical view or an ideology so much as just the practical reality of day-to-day life. But, when I've lived in rural settings, the day-to-day reality was entirely different. People in such settings rarely encounter government and instead see a society guided by community organizations, churches, helpful neighbors and informal arrangements. When there's a problem to be solved, people get together and solve it. Government rules and regulations from a distant capital are often mocked as unrealistic and intrusive. For people in such settings, it's impossible to understand why some people think government should have the right to intrude on just about anything that involves day-to-day life. In reality, both imagined experiences are incomplete. The heavy government presence in New York blinds many to just how much the vibrant informal society and business community do to make the city work. And, in rural areas, the reverse is true. While government plays a background role, all the other organizations and neighborhood activity typically obscure it. A healthy society requires leadership from all organizations and individuals in the community. It cannot survive with an overly dominant government or without any government. It cannot survive without individuals, community organizations, and businesses working together and making their world just a little bit better. But, as should be obvious to all, the right mix of leadership depends upon the community. What works in New York City will not work in rural Indiana. That bit of common sense wisdom is often missing from our national political dialogue. Too often we carry out national political debates as extensions of our local experience. People who live in cities often expect the government to regulate everything that moves and distrust those who advocate any other solutions. Those who live outside the cities typically see a government that already is doing too much and are equally distrustful of other views. We can never resolve these differences at the natio[...]



Appreciating John McCain

2017-09-21T00:00:00Z

For many years, conservatives were ideological zealots. Like Spanish inquisitors, they were on guard for the slightest indications of heresy. Talk radio gurus in particular were punctilious keepers of the flame. If a Republican figure was thought to be "squishy" on any matter -- guns, spending, immigration, or anything else -- he or she was reviled. Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator who headed the Heritage Foundation for a time, said in 2009 that he'd rather have 30 conservative purists in the Senate than 60 Republicans of varying hues. Now the Republican Party is...For many years, conservatives were ideological zealots. Like Spanish inquisitors, they were on guard for the slightest indications of heresy. Talk radio gurus in particular were punctilious keepers of the flame. If a Republican figure was thought to be "squishy" on any matter -- guns, spending, immigration, or anything else -- he or she was reviled. Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator who headed the Heritage Foundation for a time, said in 2009 that he'd rather have 30 conservative purists in the Senate than 60 Republicans of varying hues. Now the Republican Party is led by a man who donated to Democrats, promised never to reform entitlements, insisted more than once that we should "take the oil" from the Middle East and spewed more apostasy in five minutes than most Republicans could manage in a lifetime. Accordingly, we are told that personality is more important than substance. I still care a great deal about substance, but character more. Before too long, many Americans may conclude that we need dull competence in public life and particularly in government. The spirit of President Calvin Coolidge would be salutary. He was laconic even by the standards of the early 20th century, but when he spoke or wrote, it was after thinking. He observed about politicians: "The political mind is the product of men in public life who have been twice spoiled. They have been spoiled with praise and they have been spoiled with abuse. With them nothing is natural, everything is artificial. ... They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation, which sooner or later impairs their judgment." He was wry. "What I have ever been able to do has been the result of first learning how to do it. I am not gifted with intuition. I need not only hard work but experience to be ready to solve problems." Quaint, right? On the subject of character, this seems a good time to praise John McCain. McCain is one of those Republican Party squishes whose lily liver -- or something - supposedly drove heaps of disgusted voters to choose a reality TV star. Being human, McCain isn't perfect. Being a politician, he has compromised and trimmed many times. But his courage and dignity are magnificent things to behold. I have no idea how McCain will vote on the latest Obamacare modification bill. But when it comes to human rights, the Arizona senator has always been stalwart. When Bill Browder knocked on his door looking for justice for the murdered Sergei Magnitsky, McCain didn't hesitate. He became one of the first sponsors of the Magnitsky Act. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson intimated that human rights were all very well, but henceforth America's foreign policy would be based on hardheaded self-interest and realism, McCain fired off a passionate defense of human rights, denying that they are in conflict with our interests. "I consider myself a realist. ... Wh[...]



Trump's Tough Talk Makes Us Weaker

2017-09-21T00:00:00Z

NEW YORK -- The worst aspect of President Trump's speech at the United Nations on Tuesday was not his immature taunting of a dangerous foreign leader when the stakes far outweigh those of a schoolyard fight. Calling North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Un "Rocket Man" may make Trump happy by reminding him of the glory days of "Little Marco," "Lyin' Ted" and "Crooked Hillary." But it does nothing to win over the allies we need. And his pledge "to totally destroy North Korea" is what you'd expect to hear in a bar conversation from...NEW YORK -- The worst aspect of President Trump's speech at the United Nations on Tuesday was not his immature taunting of a dangerous foreign leader when the stakes far outweigh those of a schoolyard fight. Calling North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Un "Rocket Man" may make Trump happy by reminding him of the glory days of "Little Marco," "Lyin' Ted" and "Crooked Hillary." But it does nothing to win over the allies we need. And his pledge "to totally destroy North Korea" is what you'd expect to hear in a bar conversation from a well-lubricated armchair general, not from the leader of the world's most powerful military. But the most alarming part of an address that was supposed to be a serious formulation of the president's grand strategy in the world was the utter incoherence of Trump's "America First" slogan. The speech tried to rationalize "America First" as a great principle. But every effort Trump made to build an intellectual structure to support it only underscored that his favored phrase was either a trivial applause line or an argument that, if followed logically, was inimical to the United States' interests and values. The notion that "sovereignty" is in such danger that it demanded 21 mentions is absurd. No member state at the United Nations rejects national sovereignty, and many use it as a cover for dismissing the values of democracy and human rights, casting both as the impositions of outsiders. No wonder Trump won applause when he said that "you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first." Selfishness is popular. Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping no doubt nodded approvingly when they were briefed about Trump's words. But Trump was so selective and inconsistent in his application of sovereignty that the concept itself had collapsed before he finished. If sovereignty is the highest principle, what justification does he have for threatening to destroy North Korea (which asserts its sovereign right to nuclear weapons)? How can he suggest intervention against Venezuela simply because we disapprove of its governing system? Trump's criticism of Venezuela was clearly based on the idea that some things actually are more important than sovereignty. Trump proudly invoked Harry Truman, a fine role model. But Truman was the antithesis of Trump's us-above-everybody-always talk. The 33rd president understood that American power was more effective when exercised in cooperation with other nations, and he pioneered the creation of multilateral organizations that have endured for decades. The Marshall Plan was very much in our country's interests. But its passage required facing down the America Firsters of Truman's day. Its opponents could not understand why we would spend so much of our own money to rebuild the economies of Western Europe. Trump said that Polish, French and British resistance to Nazism[...]



Trump Could Confuse Our Way Back Into Climate Deal

2017-09-21T00:00:00Z

Will President Trump bring the country back into the Paris climate agreement? The bets are on, and this bet says he will. The past few days have produced clashing reports that he may or may not come around. Confusion is how Trump gets turnarounds past the base. What happened right after he spoke of helping the "dreamers," immigrants brought to this country illegally as children? He defended his earlier controversial remarks equating the Charlottesville racists to the protesters. And he retweeted anti-Muslim sentiments. After his call to ban transgender troops from serving in the...Will President Trump bring the country back into the Paris climate agreement? The bets are on, and this bet says he will. The past few days have produced clashing reports that he may or may not come around. Confusion is how Trump gets turnarounds past the base. What happened right after he spoke of helping the "dreamers," immigrants brought to this country illegally as children? He defended his earlier controversial remarks equating the Charlottesville racists to the protesters. And he retweeted anti-Muslim sentiments. After his call to ban transgender troops from serving in the armed forces, our military leaders pushed back, and Trump pulled back. Defense Secretary James Mattis is now tasked with devising a new policy months hence. Meanwhile, transgender people are re-enlisting. What makes one think that Trump will follow a similar trajectory on the Paris climate deal? Several things. One, and I hate putting this first because it should be the least consequential: his approval ratings. They've been inching up from the depths for three weeks in a row. Trump's moves toward moderation, which includes working with Democratic leaders, are surely playing a part. A rising applause meter lowers a reality TV star's blood pressure. Two, and it's a shame this has to go second, is Emmanuel Macron. The French president excels in courting Trump's grandiosity. As other European leaders gave Trump a wide berth, Macron gallantly invited him to Paris for the Bastille Day parade. At the Elysee Palace, Macron had Trump sitting on gilded chairs that the gilded chairs in Trump Tower wish they could be. Trump was so impressed by the Bastille Day spectacle that he's proposing a Fourth of July parade in Washington that would "top it." This relationship has led Macron to opine that Trump may reverse the decision to leave the Paris deal. Shortly thereafter, economic adviser Gary Cohn said Trump still plans to withdraw. But no matter. Macron said there will be no renegotiation -- "we won't go back" -- but added the "door will always remain open." The dance is a minuet, controlled and ceremonious. Three is Cohn's participation in the climate issue. Cohn had been an advocate of staying in the Paris agreement. During the United Nations General Assembly, he met with the climate ministers from big-economy countries. Note Cohn's words. He said the withdrawal will happen "unless we can re-engage on terms more favorable to the United States." However, the Paris agreement lets countries set their own targets for cutting greenhouse gases. That includes lowering them. Also, every country can meet the targets in its own way. So Trump can change some numbers under the Paris rules and call it a renegotiation. He's good at that sort of thing. Next, there is an economic downside to standing outside this international[...]



The Vietnam Syndrome: How We Lost It, Why We Need It

2017-09-21T00:00:00Z

In Kabul, Afghanistan, American Embassy personnel who want to meet with their counterparts at the nearby U.S. military base have to travel a mere 100 yards. But they don't make a practice of walking or driving. They go by military helicopter, reports The New York Times. The space between is too dangerous to cross on the ground. It's the sort of bizarre fact that might have emerged in Ken Burns' new PBS series on the Vietnam War, illustrating our inability to turn South Vietnam into a safe, stable place. But it's not the past; it's the present. The Vietnam War was the...In Kabul, Afghanistan, American Embassy personnel who want to meet with their counterparts at the nearby U.S. military base have to travel a mere 100 yards. But they don't make a practice of walking or driving. They go by military helicopter, reports The New York Times. The space between is too dangerous to cross on the ground. It's the sort of bizarre fact that might have emerged in Ken Burns' new PBS series on the Vietnam War, illustrating our inability to turn South Vietnam into a safe, stable place. But it's not the past; it's the present. The Vietnam War was the greatest U.S. military catastrophe of the 20th century. A conflict begun under false pretenses, based on ignorance and hubris, it killed 58,000 Americans and as many as 3 million Vietnamese. It ended in utter failure. Never in our history have so many lives been wasted on such monumental futility. It was a national trauma worse than any since the Great Depression, and it left deep gashes in the American psyche. It instilled an aversion to wars of choice that became known as the Vietnam syndrome. The allergy might have lasted for generations. It didn't. In 2001, just 26 years after the fall of Saigon, the United States invaded Afghanistan. American troops have been fighting there twice as long as we fought in Vietnam. Once again we find ourselves mired in an incomprehensible land, amid people who distrust us. Once again we are aligned with a corrupt regime that couldn't survive without our help as we incur casualties in the pursuit of goals we never reach. In Burns' documentary, President Lyndon B. Johnson is heard in 1965 confiding, "A man can fight if he can see daylight down the road somewhere, but there ain't no daylight in Vietnam." Afghanistan has also been an endless journey down a pitch-black mine shaft. The American military drew some obvious conclusions from Vietnam. Gen. Colin Powell, who served in combat there, had them in mind when he formulated what became known as the Powell Doctrine. It advised going to war only if we can identify a vital interest, have clear, achievable purposes, are prepared to use decisive force and know our exit strategy. But Powell's wisdom eventually was forgotten. How could we be repeating the mistakes of Vietnam already? We didn't wake up one day with severe amnesia. It was not a one-step process. It occurred through a succession of military interventions that convinced us we were clever enough to avoid the pitfalls that had brought us to such ruin in Southeast Asia. Ronald Reagan lamented the Vietnam syndrome but shrewdly declined to send American forces to fight leftists in Central America. He did, however, undertake one brief, low-risk invasion -- of the Caribbean island of Grenada, against a Castro-backed Marxist regime. Our forces removed the government[...]



Hillary, Here Is What Happened

2017-09-21T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- What did I tell you? Late in November of last year, after the presidential election that finally ended Bill and Hillary Clinton's 24-year pursuit of power in Washington, D.C., and diminishment of the Democratic Party, I wrote that they were finished. I had consulted my sources. What is more, I reported that on election night, Hillary Clinton had a meltdown. That is why she never showed up to thank her supporters who were milling around New York City's Javits Center all night. Few others in the media reported it. Yet now I have more evidence -- provided by Clinton...WASHINGTON -- What did I tell you? Late in November of last year, after the presidential election that finally ended Bill and Hillary Clinton's 24-year pursuit of power in Washington, D.C., and diminishment of the Democratic Party, I wrote that they were finished. I had consulted my sources. What is more, I reported that on election night, Hillary Clinton had a meltdown. That is why she never showed up to thank her supporters who were milling around New York City's Javits Center all night. Few others in the media reported it. Yet now I have more evidence -- provided by Clinton herself. I wrote on Nov. 23: "She reverted to the form that all of us who have covered her for years have been reporting. She screamed, shouted some very unladylike epithets, threw some objects at her servitors' heads and availed herself to more adult beverages than was prudent." Then, I added, "she is scrambling to get a presidential pardon before Congress and various prosecutors move in." She failed to get that pardon, and she'd better pray that Congress and the prosecutors are too busy to move in. Her emails alone constitute a corpus delicti. On election night, she made a brief late-night call to President-elect Donald Trump. Then she collapsed, my sources said, leaving her campaign chairman, John Podesta, to notify the disappointed throng at Javits Center that she would address them the next day after the votes were verified and, presumably, she had freshened up. It is all in her latest book, "What Happened," which appeared last week. I found the book oddly affecting. She is angry. She is blaming everyone for her defeat but herself. Yet in the end, she is reflective, repeatedly turning to scripture and the Lord for answers. She speaks of her newfound humility. She speaks of the guidance of her pastor, Rev. Bill Shillady. He published much of that guidance in a book that was to be the transcendental side of their presumed celebration. It is titled "Strong for a Moment Like This: The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton." Unfortunately, the book turned out to be just another Clintonian fraud. It is full of obvious plagiarisms. Its publisher, Abingdon Press, has recently had to recall it from bookstores and pulp the returned books. Referring to Shillady's work, the president of the publishing house said, "Abingdon Press has zero tolerance for plagiarism." Embarrassing. At any rate, Clinton's reaction to her defeat in "What Happened" corroborated much of what I wrote last November. "I yelled at the television," she writes. "I nearly threw the remote control at the wall." And she introduces the subject of medication, saying: "Friends advised me on the power of Xanax and raved about their amazing therapists. Doctors told me they'd never prescribe[...]



Allegations of Foreign Election Tampering Have Always Rung Hollow

2017-09-21T00:00:00Z

On her current book tour, Hillary Clinton is still blaming the Russians (among others) for her unexpected defeat in last year's presidential election. She remains sold on a conspiracy theory that Donald Trump successfully colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin to rig the election in Trump's favor. But allegations that a president won an election due to foreign collusion have been lodged by losers of elections throughout history. Some of the charges may have had a kernel of truth, but it has never been proven that foreign tampering changed the outcome of an election. In 2012,...On her current book tour, Hillary Clinton is still blaming the Russians (among others) for her unexpected defeat in last year's presidential election. She remains sold on a conspiracy theory that Donald Trump successfully colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin to rig the election in Trump's favor. But allegations that a president won an election due to foreign collusion have been lodged by losers of elections throughout history. Some of the charges may have had a kernel of truth, but it has never been proven that foreign tampering changed the outcome of an election. In 2012, then-President Barack Obama inadvertently left his mic on during a meeting with outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Obama seemed to be reassuring the Russians that if they would just behave (i.e., give Obama "space") during his re-election campaign, Obama would have "more flexibility" on Russian demands for the U.S. to drop its plans for an Eastern European missile defense system. Medvedev's successor, Vladimir Putin, did stay quiet for most of 2012. Obama did renege on earlier American promises of missile defense in Eastern Europe. And Obama did win re-election. But that said, Obama would have defeated Mitt Romney anyway, even without an informal understanding with Russia. In 2004, there were accusations that the George W. Bush administration had struck a deal with the Saudi Royal family whereby the Saudis would pump more oil, leading to lower U.S. gas prices. Bush supposedly wanted to take credit for helping American motorists and therefore enhance his re-election bid. Whether the conspiracy theory was true or not, Bush beat lackluster Democratic nominee John Kerry for lots of reasons other than modest decreases in gasoline prices. During the 1980 presidential campaign, supporters of incumbent President Jimmy Carter alleged that challenger Ronald Reagan had tried to disrupt negotiations for the release of the American hostages being held in Teheran. They claimed that Reagan's team had sent word to the Iranians that they should keep the hostages until after the election. The Reagan team countercharged that Carter himself timed a hostage rescue effort near the election to salvage his failing re-election bid. The truth was that by November, nothing Reagan or Carter did could change the fact that Carter was going to lose by a large margin. Sometimes challengers have been accused of turning to foreigners for election help. There were allegations that in 2008, Obama secretly lobbied Iraqi officials not to cut a deal with the outgoing Bush administration concerning U.S. peacekeepers in Iraq. Supposedly, Obama didn't want a stable Iraq, which might have helped Iraq War supporter and rival candidate John McCain[...]



Trump's Tightening Legal Noose

2017-09-21T00:00:00Z

The Donald Trump I know is a smart guy who often thinks a few steps ahead of those whose will he is trying to bend. But I lately wonder whether he grasps the gravity of the legal peril that is beginning to show up around him. In the past week, we learned of an unfiltered public confession of frustration and weakness among his lawyers and we learned that his former chief confidant and campaign manager is about to be indicted. This is very bad news for President Trump. Here is the back story. Trump has hired two experienced Washington criminal defense lawyers to represent him in dealings with...The Donald Trump I know is a smart guy who often thinks a few steps ahead of those whose will he is trying to bend. But I lately wonder whether he grasps the gravity of the legal peril that is beginning to show up around him. In the past week, we learned of an unfiltered public confession of frustration and weakness among his lawyers and we learned that his former chief confidant and campaign manager is about to be indicted. This is very bad news for President Trump. Here is the back story. Trump has hired two experienced Washington criminal defense lawyers to represent him in dealings with Robert Mueller, the independent special counsel who is investigating what connection, if any, there was between Trump's presidential campaign and elements of the Russian government. Mueller has apparently struck a raw nerve in the West Wing of the White House, where Trump's criminal defense lawyers and the White House legal counsel all work. The nerve was struck over the appropriate response to document requests from Mueller. White-collar criminal investigations, of which this is one, often begin with documents. The government seeks from a potential defendant what it believes is evidence of his crimes from his own records. In the Trump/Russia investigations, Trump's personally employed criminal defense lawyers have disagreed with the federal government-employed White House legal counsel about whether to surrender everything that Mueller has requested. The criminal defense lawyers who represent the president as a private person are apparently of the belief that he has done no wrong and the surrendering of documents to Mueller would only confirm that. The White House legal counsel, which works for the presidency as a governmental institution, recognizes that as president, Trump enjoys many privileges, among them the right to keep certain communications secret. That is known as executive privilege. It was crafted by Trump's predecessors and articulated by the courts to permit presidents to keep from prosecutors and Congress and the public secret communications about military, diplomatic and sensitive national security matters. The White House counsel worries that if he were to give Mueller everything Mueller seeks, the White House would not be able to claim the privilege should a communication it has already surrendered prove harmful to the president. Those on the criminal defense team believe that their client has done no wrong and a complete surrendering to Mueller of all the documents he seeks would accelerate the end of his investigation. One of the criminal defense lawyers even told Trump that Mueller would be off his back by Thanksgiving. How do we know all this? We [...]



A Do-It-Yourself Liberal Education

2017-09-20T00:00:00Z

In the name of social justice and diversity, students at elite colleges are casting aside the very works that probe those topics so deeply. The central authors of the Western tradition—from Plato and Aristotle to Mill and Orwell—are no longer part of the required curriculum in the social sciences and the humanities.  Their absence carries a high price. It means liberal-arts students are no longer liberally educated. They are not historically literate or well-versed in such uniquely Western achievements as free speech, government by consent, rule of law, secure...In the name of social justice and diversity, students at elite colleges are casting aside the very works that probe those topics so deeply. The central authors of the Western tradition—from Plato and Aristotle to Mill and Orwell—are no longer part of the required curriculum in the social sciences and the humanities.  Their absence carries a high price. It means liberal-arts students are no longer liberally educated. They are not historically literate or well-versed in such uniquely Western achievements as free speech, government by consent, rule of law, secure property rights, and religious toleration. That don’t understand the rarity or fragility of those achievements, the struggles needed to secure them, or the ways they protect ordinary citizens from tyranny. One cost of this ignorance is now painfully obvious. Free speech is imperiled on campus, burned at the stake of other values deemed more important: “social justice,” “inequality,” and “oppression.” The campus warriors overlook the crucial question: Who decides?   To understand the other losses inflicted by this cultural shift, it helps to remember a once-popular but now forgotten name from mid-century America: Clifton Fadiman. Fadiman served as a friendly, knowledgeable guide to the world of liberal education, a maître d'hôtel for that rich banquet. He played that role at a time when many Americans wanted to improve their education and appreciated a helping hand. Many, like me, lived far from good bookstores, far from universities. Beyond reading Shakespeare and “Huckleberry Finn,” we didn't know where to begin. Fadiman showed us. His most lasting achievement was "The Lifetime Reading Plan," a book meant for Americans who wanted to educate themselves and so enrich their lives. That guide, now in its 4th edition, is still immensely valuable. Intellectuals looked down their noses at Fadiman and his ilk, dismissing them as "middlebrow." Whether their brows were middle, high, or low, these egalitarian educators were doing important work. They were skilled guides for anyone with a library card and a thirst for learning. Fadiman and others, like Encyclopædia Britannica, which published the Great Books, revealed a great truth: With a little guidance, you can do a lot to educate yourself, and you can do it at any age. Fadiman’s Lifetime Reading Plan does that. The Kirkus review of the first edition captures its flavor well: “[Fadiman] sees, in the books and writers he has chosen, the tools not only of self-enhancement but of self-discovery. … This is not a reading plan for the[...]



Tax Reform Must Go Bold

2017-09-20T00:00:00Z

Whatever you think of President Trump, you know he likes to win. And a commitment to winning is exactly what we need as we enter the critical drive for tax reform that can increase workers’ paychecks, reduce the cost of living and bolster savings for the future.   With more countries than ever vying for jobs and business, we need a big play for our workers, our manufacturers and all Americans.  That starts with pursuing, passing and securing the most competitive tax code America has ever seen....Whatever you think of President Trump, you know he likes to win. And a commitment to winning is exactly what we need as we enter the critical drive for tax reform that can increase workers’ paychecks, reduce the cost of living and bolster savings for the future.   With more countries than ever vying for jobs and business, we need a big play for our workers, our manufacturers and all Americans.  That starts with pursuing, passing and securing the most competitive tax code America has ever seen. We should think big and go bold. Timidity never wins.  What does that mean, specifically? First, it means the corporate tax rate that businesses in America pay, and in turn limits the creation of new wealth for more, should be no higher than 15 percent — just as the president has argued.  Today, businesses in America face the highest corporate statutory rate among the 35 industrialized nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The top rate in America can exceed 39 percent when you add up the federal and state rates. That’s more than 50 percent higher than the average OECD rate. We’re not even playing on the same field.   We are just handing other countries a competitive edge — making it more attractive to do business there instead of here. It’s time to reclaim that advantage for ourselves. And it begins with a rate of 15 percent.  But it’s not just the corporate rate that is essential to reform. We must stop treating our small businesses — those that file at the individual rate — as an afterthought. We have to seriously lower rates on small businesses.  Many small businesses face marginal tax rates of more than 44 percent, thanks in part to the additional taxes from the Affordable Care Act. That’s shameful. Our elected leaders love to talk about how they admire small businesses, but the best way to show they stand with small businesses would be supporting bold reform that helps them grow, hire and hold their own. Just give them a chance.  In addition, we have to stop punishing U.S. companies, which have already stuck with us in the face of a punishing tax code, when they reinvest overseas earnings back into the United States. American-based companies are double-taxed on overseas earnings brought back home while foreign-based companies are not.   We need to fi[...]



Donald Trump: Modern Day Diplomat

2017-09-20T00:00:00Z

President Trump’s words mean little and matter a lot. When he speaks, the world listens—and gets confused. This is especially true when he speaks to the world, as he did at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.  Trump began his address by bragging about America by humble-bragging about himself. “The United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th,” he said. America is exceptional because of Trump’s exceptionalism.  He repeated his mantra of “America first,” a principle in...President Trump’s words mean little and matter a lot. When he speaks, the world listens—and gets confused. This is especially true when he speaks to the world, as he did at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.  Trump began his address by bragging about America by humble-bragging about himself. “The United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th,” he said. America is exceptional because of Trump’s exceptionalism.  He repeated his mantra of “America first,” a principle in which he believes so firmly that he wants other countries to emulate it (Namibia first!). He enunciated a policy of “principled realism,” which is a contradiction in terms: foreign policy based on practical, rather than moral, considerations, but in a “principled” way. “Principled realism” in international affairs is as illogical as polygamous monogamy in extramarital affairs. It obfuscates more than it clarifies, but at least it sounds fancy.  So far, the foreign policy of the Trump administration is not to have a foreign policy, or at least not an intelligible one. The Trump Doctrine is saying whatever you want at any time for any reason.  Scripted Trump is better than extemporaneous Trump, but even scripts are imperfect. “This is the foundation for cooperation and success,” Trump said. “Strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect.” So, according to Trump, the way for the Korean Peninsula to succeed is for South Korea and North Korea—two countries with different, indeed diametrically opposed, values, cultures and dreams—to work together and to have “mutual respect” for each other. This won’t happen, and it can’t happen—nor should it: Free societies should not respect totalitarian societies. Suggesting otherwise is diplomatic excess, the result of translating Hallmark cards into foreign policy.  Trump espoused ideals that he himself fails to practice. “We must uphold respect for law,” said the same man who pardoned Joe Arpaio and urged police officers to beat up suspects.  “In America,” Trump said, “we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch.” This is true in the Trump era. Everyone is watching our experiment in Trumpism, a spectacle most Americans do not wish to impose on anyone else.  At times,[...]



Tell Us, Mr. Bannon -- Just What Is Trumpism?

2017-09-20T00:00:00Z

Days after Steven Bannon’s blustery, accusatory interview on “60 Minutes,” in which he warned the apostates blocking President Trump’s agenda that he’s coming after them, Trump confirmed it -- there is no such thing as Trumpism. In recent weeks he’s assured Democrats he backs legalizing the Dreamers, affirmed a commitment to foreign aid in front of the United Nations, and said he’s adding troops in Afghanistan. Will Trump now accept “better” terms he wants in the Paris climate accord? Too bad for Bannon,...Days after Steven Bannon’s blustery, accusatory interview on “60 Minutes,” in which he warned the apostates blocking President Trump’s agenda that he’s coming after them, Trump confirmed it -- there is no such thing as Trumpism. In recent weeks he’s assured Democrats he backs legalizing the Dreamers, affirmed a commitment to foreign aid in front of the United Nations, and said he’s adding troops in Afghanistan. Will Trump now accept “better” terms he wants in the Paris climate accord? Too bad for Bannon, because none of this is remotely the fault of his favorite punching bags, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, just Trump himself. Bannon’s new self-described role as “wingman” growling from outside instead of inside the White House -- where as chief strategist he fought openly against the “globalist” forces he believed included Trump’s family members -- isn’t going very well. Trump keeps screwing things up for the Breitbart News commander. After getting fired last month he lamented to the Weekly Standard that “the Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over.” But upon reflection, Bannon realized that lame duck talk diminishes his own power, so he’s in overdrive fighting for scraps of a policy vision the president embraces spasmodically. Bannon says he’s enjoying having “my hands back on my weapons,” but he’s outside looking in at a West Wing filled with elites from Goldman Sachs -- the very definition of “the swamp” that Bannon is always frothing about. There, a president is spending political donations on legal fees while his staffers go deep in debt with mounting lawyer bills, visitor logs are kept secret so voters have no idea who is permitted into the Oval Office to influence the president, and a kleptocracy thrives where Trump and his children continue to be enriched by business connected to foreign governments, including the Chinese. Cabinet secretaries are using government planes for private use and private planes for government work -- violations that would have sparked endless Breitbart bonfires under President Obama. In reality, however, there was little left of Trumpism to trumpet even before Bannon was fired. He’s got the travel ban (or at least a modified version of it), and maybe the promised withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement; Bannon will claim credit if Trump pulls out of the Iran nuclear deal -- but that’s about it. On trade and immigration, the president [...]



Trump Says He's Come to a Decision on the Iran Nuclear Deal

2017-09-20T00:00:00Z

NEW YORK (AP) -- President Donald Trump said Wednesday he has made a decision on whether to walk away from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran but refused to say what it is, setting the stage for a particularly contentious meeting of the parties to the agreement. The meeting will be the highest-level U.S.-Iranian interaction of Trump's presidency and comes a day after he delivered a blistering attack on Iran and the accord at the U.N. General Assembly. Compounding the animosity ahead of the meeting, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to Trump by calling his Wednesday speech...NEW YORK (AP) -- President Donald Trump said Wednesday he has made a decision on whether to walk away from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran but refused to say what it is, setting the stage for a particularly contentious meeting of the parties to the agreement. The meeting will be the highest-level U.S.-Iranian interaction of Trump's presidency and comes a day after he delivered a blistering attack on Iran and the accord at the U.N. General Assembly. Compounding the animosity ahead of the meeting, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to Trump by calling his Wednesday speech "ignorant" and "unfit" to be heard at the United Nations. Trump, when asked by reporters about the nuclear accord, said, "I have decided." Pressed for details, he replied coyly: "I'll let you know." His comment and Rouhani's, came just hours before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were to attend a European Union-hosted meeting about the agreement at the U.N. A year ago, such a get-together would have been considered routine as nations strove to implement an agreement that curtailed Iran's nuclear activity in exchange for an end to various oil, trade and financial restrictions on the country. In the current environment, however, it is anything but ordinary. Addressing the General Assembly, Rouhani said his country won't be the first to violate the nuclear agreement "but it will respond decisively to its violation by any party." In a direct jab at Trump he said, "It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics." "By violating its international commitments, the new U.S. administration only destroys its own credibility and undermines international confidence in negotiating with it or accepting its word or promise," Rouhani said before taking aim at Trump's scathing Tuesday criticism of Iran. "The ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric filled with ridiculously baseless allegations that was uttered before this august body yesterday was not only unfit to be heard at the United Nations, which was established to promote peace and respect," Rouhani said. Trump had used his U.N. General Assembly speech to launch a withering critique of Iran, saying its government "masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy" and ruthlessly represses its people. "It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos," he said, repeating a [...]



Republican Senator Defends Health Bill Against Kimmel Attacks

2017-09-20T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. Bill Cassidy defended his health care bill Wednesday after late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel accused the Louisiana Republican of lying to him about it, heightening the tension around the last-ditch GOP effort to make good on years of promises to repeal "Obamacare." "I am sorry he does not understand," Cassidy said of Kimmel on CNN, arguing that his bill would in fact protect people with pre-existing conditions, a claim that Kimmel as well as leading health advocacy groups dispute. "I think the price will actually be lower." "This guy...WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. Bill Cassidy defended his health care bill Wednesday after late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel accused the Louisiana Republican of lying to him about it, heightening the tension around the last-ditch GOP effort to make good on years of promises to repeal "Obamacare." "I am sorry he does not understand," Cassidy said of Kimmel on CNN, arguing that his bill would in fact protect people with pre-existing conditions, a claim that Kimmel as well as leading health advocacy groups dispute. "I think the price will actually be lower." "This guy Bill Cassidy just lied right to my face," Kimmel said on his ABC show Tuesday night, referring to Cassidy's promises to Kimmel and others that his health bill would pass the "Jimmy Kimmel test." Cassidy coined the phrase to mean that people with pre-existing conditions would have protections and not face lifetime caps on coverage from insurers. "We can't let 'em do this, to our children and our senior citizens and our veterans, or to any of us," said Kimmel, who jumped into the heath care debate after his son was born with a congenital heart defect in April. The back-and-forth between the lawmaker and the entertainer came as President Donald Trump and Senate GOP leaders pushed for votes to pass the legislation by the end of next week. If Senate Republicans don't succeed by Sept. 30, the bill will lose special legislative protections from Democratic filibusters that expire at the end of the fiscal year. With Democrats unanimously opposed, the GOP's years-long quest to repeal and replace Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act would once again collapse, this time perhaps for good. Trump, who promised repeal and said "it will be so easy" during the election campaign, took to Twitter Wednesday to urge support for the bill, which was co-authored by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "I hope Republican Senators will vote for Graham-Cassidy and fulfill their promise to Repeal & Replace ObamaCare. Money direct to States!" Trump wrote. The president also took a shot at GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has announced his opposition to the bill, arguing it doesn't go far enough in repealing the 2010 health law. "Rand Paul is a friend of mine but he is such a negative force when it comes to fixing healthcare. Graham-Cassidy Bill is GREAT! Ends Ocare!" Trump wrote. Underscoring the administration's intense focus on the issue, Vice President Mike Pence stepped out of the U.N. General Assembly gathering in New York on Wednesday to speak with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about the legisl[...]



Show Biz Meltdown: Bombs Away!

2017-09-20T00:00:00Z

The numbers don't lie. Across the entertainment industry, viewers and fans are tuning out. It's no coincidence ratings are cratering as unhinged celebrities crank up their anti-Trump and anti-American antics. Pro tip, Tinseltownies: Swapping your jazz hands for middle fingers and waving resistance fists at your customer base is bad for business. Let us count the waning ways. Emmy emetics. Who wanted to see smirking Stephen Colbert lead a cast of Botoxed starlets and men in hot pants, handing out TV industry awards to diamond-draped elites hoisting up their gilt statues as emblems of...The numbers don't lie. Across the entertainment industry, viewers and fans are tuning out. It's no coincidence ratings are cratering as unhinged celebrities crank up their anti-Trump and anti-American antics. Pro tip, Tinseltownies: Swapping your jazz hands for middle fingers and waving resistance fists at your customer base is bad for business. Let us count the waning ways. Emmy emetics. Who wanted to see smirking Stephen Colbert lead a cast of Botoxed starlets and men in hot pants, handing out TV industry awards to diamond-draped elites hoisting up their gilt statues as emblems of victory on behalf of the hegemonically oppressed? Not as many as the boob-tube titans had hoped! The show's overall viewership of 11.4 million tied an all-time low; the key ratings demographic of 18-49 adults sunk 10 percent lower than last year's historic low. Most of America had better things to do than watch a privileged cabal of left-wing, coastal one-percenters preening indulgently about their progressivism. Conservative actor James Wood had the response of the night to the Emmy ego-thon, noting that "the stunning lack of political diversity in Hollywood is interesting, when you consider their consumer base is so evenly divided." Oscars' abyss. Earlier this year, the Academy Awards show earned the second-lowest viewership ratings in its history. Program host Jimmy Kimmel and other celebs turned their stage and red carpet into Trump-bashing soapboxes for anti-cop rants, open borders pleas and Quran promotion. Box office beatdown. Hollywood's summer movie season launched more duds than North Korea's Rocket Man. By Labor Day weekend, revenue plunged "nearly 16 percent over last year, the steepest decline in modern times," according to the Hollywood Reporter, adding that "(a)ttendance also plummeted, and is almost assured of hitting a 25-year low in terms of the number of tickets sold, according to Box Office Mojo." Variety dubbed it "the worst the movie industry has seen in more than a decade." I don't want my MTV. The network that used to broadcast music videos now has a hard time attracting eyeballs to its marquee Video Music Awards. Go figure. Its 10th annual awards show was "the least-watched one in its history," marking the "fourth year in a row that the network has seen a decline in the crown jewel of its annual calendar," according to the Associated Press. Al Gore's man-made disaster. Among the summer's hottest messes? Environmental scare-monger Al Gore's climate change sequel to "An Inco[...]



Trump at the U.N.; Bold Tax Moves; Recommended Reading; Truman Show

2017-09-20T00:00:00Z

Hello, it’s Wednesday, September 20, 2017, and Hurricane Maria is raking Puerto Rico as I write these words. Say a prayer for those in the storm’s path; if you’re not a praying person, keep your fingers crossed. The infrastructure on that island was already sorely stressed by Hurricane Irma. On this date in 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a speech in Philadelphia to celebrate the University of Pennsylvania's 200th birthday. FDR opened his address by expressing tongue-in-cheek regret that Penn’s founders hadn’t opened their college a...Hello, it’s Wednesday, September 20, 2017, and Hurricane Maria is raking Puerto Rico as I write these words. Say a prayer for those in the storm’s path; if you’re not a praying person, keep your fingers crossed. The infrastructure on that island was already sorely stressed by Hurricane Irma. On this date in 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a speech in Philadelphia to celebrate the University of Pennsylvania's 200th birthday. FDR opened his address by expressing tongue-in-cheek regret that Penn’s founders hadn’t opened their college a year earlier, in 1739, so that he wouldn’t be speaking to students in the midst of an election campaign. So Roosevelt simply asked his audience to pretend it was 1939, which was his way of explaining that he was about to give a non-partisan speech. For the most part, FDR complied with his own ground rules: Although he touted Social Security and a new minimum wage increase, he did so only in passing. In other words, it’s always been difficult for U.S. presidents to resist tooting their own horns -- even in foreign policy speeches delivered on the world stage, as we were reminded again Tuesday at the United Nations. I’ll have more on this theme, from a Harry Truman speech delivered on this date, in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * At U.N., Trump Threatens to ‘Totally Destroy’ N. Korea. Caitlin Huey-Burns has the story. Donald Trump: Modern Day Diplomat. Windsor Mann offers his take on the president’s  speech. Tax Reform Must Go Bold. In an op-ed, Jay Timmons has advice for the president and Congress. A Do-It-Yourself Liberal Education. Charles Lipson spotlights Clifton Fadiman’s “Lifetime Reading Plan,” a guide to the books that provide an essential foundation in history, philosophy, sociology, politics, and economics. Rebuilding With Public-Private Partnerships. In RealClearPolicy, R. Richard Geddes advocates a new approach to post-disaster reconstruction that emphasizes infrastructure resilience.   A Bright Spot for Bipartisanship? In RealClearEducation, Liz Simon highlights the growing consensus across the political spectrum for developing solutions to fi[...]



Sanders Bill Makes Health Insurance Illegal

2017-09-20T00:00:00Z

Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All Act, introduced last week, outlaws private health insurance. Curiously, not one of the Democratic presidential wannabes crowding around Sanders for photo ops mentioned this alarming fact. If Sanders has his way, 180 million Americans who currently have private coverage would have it ripped away and be automatically enrolled in public insurance. Kids would be enrolled at birth. "Medicare for All" doesn't just offer government health insurance to the needy. It makes private coverage illegal, including the health plan you get at your job....Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All Act, introduced last week, outlaws private health insurance. Curiously, not one of the Democratic presidential wannabes crowding around Sanders for photo ops mentioned this alarming fact. If Sanders has his way, 180 million Americans who currently have private coverage would have it ripped away and be automatically enrolled in public insurance. Kids would be enrolled at birth. "Medicare for All" doesn't just offer government health insurance to the needy. It makes private coverage illegal, including the health plan you get at your job. Employers are prohibited from covering workers, retirees, and their families. (Sec. 107, Sec. 522) Sanders' bill raises a critical question: If you're seriously ill, will you be able to get the care you need? Sanders guarantees you hospital care, doctors' visits, dental and vision care, mental health, and even long term care, all courtesy of Uncle Sam. Amazing, right? But read the fine print. You'll get care only if it's "medically necessary" and "appropriate." Government bureaucrats will decide, and they'll be under pressure to cut spending. (Sec. 401) That's because Sanders' bill imposes a hard and fast dollar limit on how much health care Americans consume in the aggregate each year. (Sec. 601) He makes it sound simple -- Uncle Sam will negotiate lower prices with drug companies. Voila. But driving a hard bargain with drug makers won't make a dent in costs. Prescription drugs comprise only 10 percent of the nation's health expenditures. Limiting costs will necessitate capping how many mammograms, colonoscopies, hip replacements and other procedures Americans are allowed. That's how single-payer systems work. Britain's National Health Service -- the oldest single payer system -- is struggling to stay within its current annual spending limit. Patients have to wait 18 weeks just for a referral to a specialist, and routinely wait 15 months for a cataract removal, according to a new Harvard Business Review report. In Sanders' scheme, regional health authorities will curb "overutilization" of care, just the way British local health authorities manage the skimping. British patients at high risk of colon cancer are waiting as long as 13 weeks for a colonoscopy. Heart patients who could benefit from angioplasty have to settle for "watchful waiting." This month, NHS doctors warned that "a record number of patients could lose their lives if waiting times and bed shortages remai[...]



Trump's Welcome Flirtation With the UN

2017-09-20T00:00:00Z

NEW YORK -- When you discount the rhetorical overkill, the most surprising thing about Donald Trump's address to the United Nations Tuesday was how conventional it was. He supported human rights and democracy; he opposed rogue regimes; he espoused a global community of strong, sovereign nations. Pretty shocking stuff. Because he's Trump, the zingers got the headlines: He repeated his childish, snarky (but sort of funny) playground denunciation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission." And he offered a bombastic threat that if North Korea...NEW YORK -- When you discount the rhetorical overkill, the most surprising thing about Donald Trump's address to the United Nations Tuesday was how conventional it was. He supported human rights and democracy; he opposed rogue regimes; he espoused a global community of strong, sovereign nations. Pretty shocking stuff. Because he's Trump, the zingers got the headlines: He repeated his childish, snarky (but sort of funny) playground denunciation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission." And he offered a bombastic threat that if North Korea attacks the U.S. or its allies, "we will have no choice but to totally destroy" it. OK, got that: It's a restatement of the existing U.S. policy of nuclear deterrence. Trump also thanked China and Russia for their diplomatic help and pushed them to do more. He said the Iran nuclear deal was "an embarrassment" and its regional actions were a "scourge," but he didn't say he would tear up the deal. He appealed to the Iranian people, without exactly calling for regime change. He checked all the hard-liner boxes, in other words, without making any new commitments. It was a well-cooked pudding, the sort of speech Trump might have given at his inauguration back in January if he hadn't been so angry. Back then, he spoke like a wrecker (raging about "American carnage"). Now he's using the alliterative phrases that are speechwriters' earwigs, as in calling for "a renewal of will, a rediscovery of resolve and a rebirth of devotion." Stirring, pleasant to hear, otherwise incomprehensible. Trump even had one of those JFK-style false-dichotomy "ask not ... but what ..." passages when he talked about the choice between lifting the world to a new height or letting it fall into a "valley of disrepair." The speech was reportedly written by Stephen Miller, aka Darth Vader among many in the mainstream media, but this seemed to be Miller 2.0, and perhaps the language left his now-deposed mentor Steve Bannon gnashing his teeth: What happened to the insurgent populist Trump who talked a year ago as if he wanted to topple the global order? On Tuesday, Trump seemed instead to embrace an updated version of it. Trump's address offered a heavier dose of nationalism and self-interest; he wanted to root collective action in sovereignty and reciprocity, rather than a vaguer "globalism." He spoke about righteousness defeating evil, a "great re-awakening" of nations, and other [...]



Detoured by Government

2017-09-20T00:00:00Z

Michelle Freenor's business almost failed before it began. That would have been a loss, since her Savannah, Georgia, walking tour gets only good reviews from customers. "Top notch tour guide giving us a lot of history of Savannah's Historic District," said one five-star Yelp review. "Great, informative," said another. But that didn't matter to Savannah politicians. They said she had to get a government license if she wanted to charge people for tours. And getting the license was difficult. She had to pay $100 and then "pass a college-level history exam...Michelle Freenor's business almost failed before it began. That would have been a loss, since her Savannah, Georgia, walking tour gets only good reviews from customers. "Top notch tour guide giving us a lot of history of Savannah's Historic District," said one five-star Yelp review. "Great, informative," said another. But that didn't matter to Savannah politicians. They said she had to get a government license if she wanted to charge people for tours. And getting the license was difficult. She had to pay $100 and then "pass a college-level history exam with tons of obscure gotcha questions," Freenor told us. Passing required "three to five months of studying because it was about 120 pages. I had to map out where I was standing, what I was saying." It's one more example of abuse of licensing rules. Dick Carpenter, author of the book "Bottleneckers," lists how these regulations strangle new businesses. "She also had to do a criminal background check, which meant she had to give a urine sample and a blood sample." Carpenter told me. "She also had to go through a physical fitness test." No matter, said the city, you must pass the test and you must pay the fee. "The city was making a nice bit of money," says Freenor. A Stossel.com video producer went to Savannah to confront the licensing rules' biggest promoter, Alderman Bill Durrence. "A lot of people think that this fee is just another money grab by the city," he admitted, "but I hear a lot of tour guides saying things that make me cringe." So what? Some of the more popular Savannah tours are "ghost tours." Those tour guides must take the test, too, although it includes no questions about ghosts. The city even had some wrong answers on its test. It claimed "Jingle Bells" was written in Savannah. Most people say it was written in Massachusetts. The test also misidentified the city's largest square. Savannah's politicians demanded aspiring tour guides pass a test that included rules about horse-and-buggy and tram tours, even if the guides only intended to walk. Freenor took the exam and passed it on her first try. But then she got sick; she has lupus. "When I told them, hey, I don't think I can pass the physical this year, I was actually told by a city official, well, I guess you're going to have to find another occupation." Durrence admits, "There were a couple of points that maybe went a little too far in the licensing process, (like) having to have a [...]



Colleges Come to Their Senses the Hard Way

2017-09-19T00:00:00Z

Harvard University came under justified attack when it named Chelsea Manning a visiting fellow. Critics asked how Harvard could honor a former U.S. Army private convicted of leaking 750,000 classified or sensitive documents. The university rescinded the invitation, and Manning hit back, tweeting, "Honored to be 1st disinvited trans woman visiting Harvard fellow." That went far in answering the "how could Harvard" question. Chelsea Manning, born Bradley Manning, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for espionage. President Obama commuted her sentence after she had...Harvard University came under justified attack when it named Chelsea Manning a visiting fellow. Critics asked how Harvard could honor a former U.S. Army private convicted of leaking 750,000 classified or sensitive documents. The university rescinded the invitation, and Manning hit back, tweeting, "Honored to be 1st disinvited trans woman visiting Harvard fellow." That went far in answering the "how could Harvard" question. Chelsea Manning, born Bradley Manning, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for espionage. President Obama commuted her sentence after she had served seven. Manning went on to cultivate her celebrity, gracing glossy magazines as a stylish woman. Harvard, it would appear, invited Manning to be a fellow at its prestigious Institute of Politics as a gesture toward transgender rights. Its news release heralded her as the "first transgender fellow," leaving the prison part for the end. Harvard came to its senses after Michael Morell, a deputy director of the CIA under Obama, resigned from the program in disgust. He wrote that Harvard's invitation honored "a convicted felon and leaker of classified information." So Manning looked to be a checkmark on Harvard's list of good deeds in the name of identity politics. But was it indeed a good deed? It was not. Just this summer, President Trump called for banning transgender people from the armed forces. Our military leaders pushed back in their defense. Transgender troops were serving bravely and with distinction. Progressives and others applauded. So what will it be? Are transgender service members to be regarded as honorable warriors, equal to the others? Or are they somehow weaker and thus given extra latitude when they act dishonorably? For too long, the University of California, Berkeley had indulged a left-wing campaign to censure conservative views on campus. Perhaps the roughing up of a peaceful right-wing demonstration last month was the last straw. Whatever, Berkeley has found its spine. The university decided to employ hundreds of police to protect a recent event featuring conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. The police presence cost $600,000. A large protest against Shapiro's talk was overwhelmingly peaceful, but a handful of exhibitionists went violent. Their arrests nailed into place Berkeley's determination to defend free speech. Berkeley says it's ready to spend similar amounts prot[...]



AP Sources: Republicans Tentatively Agree on Tax Number

2017-09-19T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Top Republicans on a key Senate panel have reached a tentative agreement on a tax plan that would add about $1.5 trillion to the government's $20 trillion debt over 10 years, according to congressional officials. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, a member of the chamber's dwindling band of deficit hawks, said on Tuesday that Republicans have "potentially gotten to a very good place" on agreeing to how much the upcoming tax measure might cost, once the Senate's tax writers have blended together rate cuts, additional revenue raised through curbing tax...WASHINGTON (AP) -- Top Republicans on a key Senate panel have reached a tentative agreement on a tax plan that would add about $1.5 trillion to the government's $20 trillion debt over 10 years, according to congressional officials. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, a member of the chamber's dwindling band of deficit hawks, said on Tuesday that Republicans have "potentially gotten to a very good place" on agreeing to how much the upcoming tax measure might cost, once the Senate's tax writers have blended together rate cuts, additional revenue raised through curbing tax breaks, and the beneficial effects of what he called "pro-growth tax reform." Corker didn't offer a number, but officials familiar with the Senate Budget panel's internal discussions said the tax measure would amount to $1.5 trillion. Corker said he's willing to be flexible with revenue estimates and said, "I'm all for pro-growth tax reform but over a decade it needs to pay for itself per valid models." The divide between the Senate GOP's deficit hawk and "supply side" wings has to be overcome before action on this fall's tax measure can commence in earnest. The work of the budget panel is critical since Republicans need to agree on a Capitol Hill budget plan in order to pass a follow-up tax bill that's a top priority of President Donald Trump and a centerpiece of the party's fall agenda without fear of a filibuster by Democrats. But both House and Senate Republicans are divided and the budget debate is months behind schedule. Earlier Tuesday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., one of the budget panel's more ardent advocates of tax cuts, said a 10-year, $1.5 trillion tax cut "ought to be a minimum." Many Republicans in Washington promise that cutting corporate and individual rates and ridding the code of inefficient tax breaks, deductions, and preferences will boost the economy and cause a burst of new revenue. Congress' impartial scorekeepers have accepted the premise of such "dynamic scoring," but past studies by the Joint Tax Committee and Congressional Budget Office have been more pessimistic about how much economic growth and tax revenues would follow tax cuts. Corker said he wouldn't feel bound by conservative estimates from Capitol Hill scorekeepers, raising the possibility of using analysis from outside economists. The development also means, under the tricky Senate rules governing[...]



At U.N., Trump Threatens to 'Totally Destroy' N. Korea

2017-09-19T00:00:00Z

In his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump issued his toughest warning yet to Pyongyang, saying that if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies against North Korea, "we will have no choice but to totally destroy" the rogue nation. In the stately and iconic setting, Trump’s somber speech included typically irreverent touches, as when he said of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un: "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself." Trump, who had been critical of the United Nations as a presidential candidate, called...In his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump issued his toughest warning yet to Pyongyang, saying that if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies against North Korea, "we will have no choice but to totally destroy" the rogue nation. In the stately and iconic setting, Trump’s somber speech included typically irreverent touches, as when he said of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un: "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself." Trump, who had been critical of the United Nations as a presidential candidate, called upon the organization to stop Kim's nuclear pursuit, which “threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of life." "If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph," he told the 193 member-state delegations gathered at the U.N. headquarters in Manhattan, calling the North Korea regime "depraved." The president then sought to nudge would-be partners in the cause with both criticism and praise. He complimented Russia and China for backing a unanimous Security Council resolution to place sanctions on North Korea, but called it an "outrage" that countries still trade with and provide financial assistance and arms to it. Tuesday's 40-minute address marked a key moment in Trump's presidency, as he outlined his "America First" vision in front of dozens of world leaders gathered together on U.S. soil and in the context of the role he sees for the United Nations. Trump's word of the day was "sovereignty." He argued that member nations should prioritize pursuits of their individual interests, but stand united when faced with a common threat. “The success of the United Nations depends upon the independent strength of its members,” Trump said. “I will always put America first, just like you ... should, as the leaders of your countries, put your countries first." “In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone but, rather, to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch,” he said. At the same time, Trump censured Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and pledged to "take further action" to restore democracy there. The administration has imposed economic sanctions on the strife-ridden country, and Trump deployed Vice President Mike Pence to South America over the summer[...]



President Trump's Full Remarks at the U.N. General Assembly

2017-09-19T00:00:00Z

Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, world leaders, and distinguished delegates:  Welcome to New York.  It is a profound honor to stand here in my home city, as a representative of the American people, to address the people of the world.  As millions of our citizens continue to suffer the effects of the devastating hurricanes that have struck our country, I want to begin by expressing my appreciation to every leader in this room who has offered assistance and aid.  The American people are strong and resilient, and they will emerge from these hardships more...Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, world leaders, and distinguished delegates:  Welcome to New York.  It is a profound honor to stand here in my home city, as a representative of the American people, to address the people of the world.  As millions of our citizens continue to suffer the effects of the devastating hurricanes that have struck our country, I want to begin by expressing my appreciation to every leader in this room who has offered assistance and aid.  The American people are strong and resilient, and they will emerge from these hardships more determined than ever before. Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th.  The stock market is at an all-time high -- a record.  Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever before.  Companies are moving back, creating job growth the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time.  And it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defense.   Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been.  For more than 70 years, in times of war and peace, the leaders of nations, movements, and religions have stood before this assembly.  Like them, I intend to address some of the very serious threats before us today but also the enormous potential waiting to be unleashed.   We live in a time of extraordinary opportunity.  Breakthroughs in science, technology, and medicine are curing illnesses and solving problems that prior generations thought impossible to solve.   But each day also brings news of growing dangers that threaten everything we cherish and value.  Terrorists and extremists have gathered strength and spread to every region of the planet.  Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.   Authority and authoritarian powers seek to collapse the values, the systems, and alliances that prevented conflict and tilted the world toward freedom since World War II.     International criminal [...]



Obamacare Repeal Plan Is Gaining Momentum

2017-09-19T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Top Senate Republicans say their last-ditch push to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law is gaining momentum. But they have less than two weeks to succeed and face a tough fight to win enough GOP support to reverse the summer's self-inflicted defeat on the party's high-priority issue. "We feel pretty good about it," Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a leader of the effort along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday. "He's the grave robber," No. 3 Senate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota said of Cassidy....WASHINGTON (AP) -- Top Senate Republicans say their last-ditch push to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law is gaining momentum. But they have less than two weeks to succeed and face a tough fight to win enough GOP support to reverse the summer's self-inflicted defeat on the party's high-priority issue. "We feel pretty good about it," Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a leader of the effort along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday. "He's the grave robber," No. 3 Senate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota said of Cassidy. "This thing was six feet under" but now has "a lot of very positive buzz," Thune said. With Democrats unanimously against the bill, Republicans commanding the Senate 52-48 would lose if just three GOP senators are opposed. That proved a bridge too far in July, when three attempts for passage of similar measures fell short and delivered an embarrassing defeat to President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. McConnell said he'd not bring another alternative to the Senate floor unless he knew he had the 50 votes needed. Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote. On Tuesday, Pence planned to briefly leave his United Nations meetings in New York to attend the Senate Republican policy lunch in Washington, and then return to the U.N. later in the day. For Senate Republican leaders, a victory would allow them to claim redemption on their "repeal and replace" effort. The House approved its version of the bill in May. The 140-page bill would replace much of Obama's law with block grants to states, giving them wide leeway on spending the money. It would let states set their own coverage requirements, allow insurers to boost prices on people with serious medical conditions, end Obama's mandates that most Americans buy insurance and that companies offer coverage to workers, and cut and reshape Medicaid. Democrats backed by doctors, hospitals, and patients' groups mustered an all-out effort to finally smother the GOP drive, warning of millions losing coverage and others facing skimpier policies. Sixteen patients groups including the American Heart Association and the March of Dimes said they opposed it, as did the American College of Physicians and the Children's Hospital Association. Potentially complicat[...]



Haley to the Fore; Challenging Trump; the Missing Imam; Corporate Chicanery

2017-09-19T00:00:00Z

Hello, it’s Tuesday, September 19, 2017, and another violent Atlantic storm is on course to ravage the same Caribbean islands raked by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago -- and on a direct heading for Puerto Rico. Weather experts are warning of devastating wind damage, 9-foot storm surge, and flash flooding on that beautiful island. Ten years ago today, a human gale that had wreaked havoc throughout corporate America finally blew itself out. This tempest had a name, William S. Lerach, and on this date in 2007, the San Diego-based class-action attorney woke up for the first time in his...Hello, it’s Tuesday, September 19, 2017, and another violent Atlantic storm is on course to ravage the same Caribbean islands raked by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago -- and on a direct heading for Puerto Rico. Weather experts are warning of devastating wind damage, 9-foot storm surge, and flash flooding on that beautiful island. Ten years ago today, a human gale that had wreaked havoc throughout corporate America finally blew itself out. This tempest had a name, William S. Lerach, and on this date in 2007, the San Diego-based class-action attorney woke up for the first time in his adult life with no cases to try: The day before, he’d admitted to federal prosecutors to using kickbacks as a way of recruiting plaintiffs in more than 150 class-action lawsuits against U.S. companies. “From a historical perspective, this is the fall of a titan,” proclaimed Columbia University law school professor John Coffee. “Bill Lerach did not invent the securities class-action lawsuit. But he converted it from being an irritant and a nuisance to public corporations to being a major threat.” As part of a plea bargain, Lerach agreed to pony up $8 million -- $7.75 million in unlawful gains, and a $250,000 fine -- and agree to serve a federal prison sentence of up to two years. Some rival attorneys whom Lerach had done battle with openly rejoiced at the fall of a lawyer they’d suspected of ethical shortcuts. Executives from Silicon Valley to Wall Street breathed sighs of relief. No longer would Lerach file a “quick-strike suit” alleging wrongdoing on no more evidence than a dip in a company’s stock price. Prosecutors expressed satisfaction that the rule of law had been enforced. All of that was true, but something else was true, too: Corporate fraudsters also breathed sighs of relief, knowing they’d be less likely to be held to account for their dishonesty. I’ll have more on this in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, incl[...]



Trump's Move to the Left Ensures a Primary Opponent

2017-09-19T00:00:00Z

Ronald Reagan wasn’t Ronald Reagan before Ronald Reagan was Ronald Reagan. In other words, while he is now revered by many as the first-among-equals Republican president, perhaps even more than Abraham Lincoln is, it wasn’t always so. From the time he burst onto the political scene in 1964 until his passing, Reagan was often derided by the political establishment and no more so than in 1976, when he audaciously took on Gerald Ford for the GOP nomination. It was a bold move to go head-to-head against an incumbent president from his own...Ronald Reagan wasn’t Ronald Reagan before Ronald Reagan was Ronald Reagan. In other words, while he is now revered by many as the first-among-equals Republican president, perhaps even more than Abraham Lincoln is, it wasn’t always so. From the time he burst onto the political scene in 1964 until his passing, Reagan was often derided by the political establishment and no more so than in 1976, when he audaciously took on Gerald Ford for the GOP nomination. It was a bold move to go head-to-head against an incumbent president from his own party. Not since 1912, when Teddy Roosevelt challenged William Howard Taft, had it been attempted. But it nearly worked. On August 18, 1976, the penultimate day of the Republican convention, Ronald Reagan lost the primary to Ford by a mere 117 delegates, out of more than 2,000 votes cast.  It was the narrowest of margins, though some thought Ford's win was tainted. Reagan may have lost the nomination, but he certainly did not lose the hearts of Americans. While Ford went on to lose against Jimmy Carter, Reagan wasted no time in engineering his next run for president, just weeks after the 1976 election, eventually winning by landslides twice in 1980 and 1984. Unlike other primary losers, Reagan was not forgotten after 1976. Quite the contrary.  Ronald Reagan’s and Gerald Ford’s primary fight was rife with accusations, backhanded remarks, and down-right nastiness. The two despised each other by the end, and Nancy Reagan and Betty Ford couldn’t be in the same room with each other.  In the primaries, Reagan went straight after Ford’s inability to lead and inability to govern as chief executive. “I have become increasingly concerned about the course of events in the United States and the world,” he had said in announcing his candidacy in November of 1975. “The free world is crying out for strong American leadership.” He also went after Ford on ideological grounds, most notably U.S.-Soviet relations.  Ford’s short and ultimately forgettable presidency was marked by odd choices that made most conservatives angry[...]



Trump's U.N. Trip Draws Spotlight to Nikki Haley

2017-09-19T00:00:00Z

As President Trump prepares to deliver his maiden speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, his visit to the Manhattan headquarters also places a spotlight on his top ambassador, Nikki Haley, who has emerged as a high-profile player on the foreign policy stage. The former South Carolina governor has seen her political star rise rapidly over the past few years. Now, just eight months into her new job as the nation’s U.N. envoy, speculation abounds about possible future roles for her — as an eventual successor to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and, later,...As President Trump prepares to deliver his maiden speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, his visit to the Manhattan headquarters also places a spotlight on his top ambassador, Nikki Haley, who has emerged as a high-profile player on the foreign policy stage. The former South Carolina governor has seen her political star rise rapidly over the past few years. Now, just eight months into her new job as the nation’s U.N. envoy, speculation abounds about possible future roles for her — as an eventual successor to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and, later, to the president himself. Haley's perch in New York has afforded her unique opportunities. For starters, the job helps burnish her credentials in the realm of international relations, while expanding her political network in the Big Apple. And being removed from Washington leaves her untarnished by controversies inside or around the White House. An experienced and charismatic politician, Haley has increased her national profile as a frequent guest on cable news shows, booked to speak for the administration on pressing foreign policy issues. Her high visibility, compared to that of Tillerson -- a former corporate chief executive who favors a low-key approach to diplomacy and whose relationship with Trump appears tenuous — has sparked questions about whether she might soon replace him. Haley has been navigating the tricky territory between publicly supporting the president despite controversies and advancing a more traditional party policy agenda. Trump's speech to the United Nations and its reception could provide clues about her influence. “I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people, and he comes out with the U.S. being very strong in the end," Haley told reporters last week during a briefing at the White House. Anthony Cordesman, a national security analysist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, sees a similarly well-defined role for the U.N. ambassador: “It's certainly clear people know who she is and take her seriously." Cordesman noted that "there has been a significant shift in this president's approach to th[...]



What Will Your Rabbi Talk About This Week?

2017-09-19T00:00:00Z

Tomorrow night is Rosh Hashana, one of the two High HoIy Days of Judaism, or "Days of Awe," as they are called in Hebrew. The other High Holy Day, nine days later, is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Just as there are many Christians who only go to church on Christmas and Easter, there are many Jews who only go to synagogue on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The combination of the unique importance of the High Holy Days and the uniquely large number of Jews in synagogue makes the rabbis' sermons on these days their most important of the year. Many rabbis begin preparing for them...Tomorrow night is Rosh Hashana, one of the two High HoIy Days of Judaism, or "Days of Awe," as they are called in Hebrew. The other High Holy Day, nine days later, is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Just as there are many Christians who only go to church on Christmas and Easter, there are many Jews who only go to synagogue on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The combination of the unique importance of the High Holy Days and the uniquely large number of Jews in synagogue makes the rabbis' sermons on these days their most important of the year. Many rabbis begin preparing for them months in advance. One of the themes of these High Holy Days is an "accounting of the soul." Jews ask themselves: What type of person have I been this past year, and how can I be a better person next year? That is why the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are known as "The Ten Days of Repentance." Some variation on this subject is what rabbis have most often talked about for as long as they have given these sermons. Another theme of the two Holy Days is mortality. As the most famous of the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur prayers puts it: "Who will live and who will die? ... Who will be tormented and who will be at peace? ... Who will die by fire and who will die by drowning?" It's serious, sobering stuff. And the liturgy is all about God. The other Jewish biblical holidays -- Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost) and Sukkot (the Feast of the Tabernacles, or the "Holiday of Booths") -- all commemorate Jewish national events. But Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are universal holidays. And the liturgy repeats and repeats one overwhelming theme: On this day, God judges humanity -- yes, every single human being. Given these enormous themes, you would think that rabbis have a deep well from which to choose the subject of their sermons. And many do. But Jews from all over America increasingly tell me that their rabbis speak about what most of us would deem politics. Many non-Orthodox rabbis (and I do not write this as an Orthodox Jew) have chosen the holiest days in the Jewish calendar to speak about global warming, racism, sexism, transgender issues, immigration,[...]