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Updated: Sun, 21 Jan 2018 21:31:32 -0600

 



Remembering That Government Can Work

2018-01-22T00:00:00Z

TROY, Mich. -- Episodes of congressional disarray feed an ideologically loaded narrative that government is hopelessly incompetent and can never be counted on to do much that is useful. Even if President Trump and the Republicans ultimately come to bear the burden for Washington's disarray, episodes of this sort bolster the standard conservative view of government as a lumbering beast whose "meddling" only fouls things up. The private sector is cast as virtuously efficient and best left alone. The power of this anti-government bias is enhanced by our failure to revisit...TROY, Mich. -- Episodes of congressional disarray feed an ideologically loaded narrative that government is hopelessly incompetent and can never be counted on to do much that is useful. Even if President Trump and the Republicans ultimately come to bear the burden for Washington's disarray, episodes of this sort bolster the standard conservative view of government as a lumbering beast whose "meddling" only fouls things up. The private sector is cast as virtuously efficient and best left alone. The power of this anti-government bias is enhanced by our failure to revisit government's successes. We don't often call out those who wrongly predict that activist politicians and bureaucrats will bring on nothing but catastrophe. This is why conservatives would rather lock up the government rescue of General Motors and Chrysler under President Obama in a memory hole. In the end, taxpayers invested some $80 billion in the rescue and recouped all but approximately $10 billion of that. And that figure does not take into account the taxes paid by workers who might otherwise have been unemployed. Remember that when this was debated, critics insisted that the federal government could not possibly understand a complicated business and that it would turn the auto companies into some kind of patronage dumping ground. If the bailout happened, Mitt Romney famously wrote, "you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye." Rush Limbaugh accused Obama of trying to "take over" the American auto companies in order to turn them into "another industry doing his bidding." Former Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said the bailout would amount to throwing good money after bad. "Just giving them $25 billion doesn't change anything," he said in November 2008, citing the estimated upfront cost at the time of saving the companies. "It just puts off for six months or so the day of reckoning." In fact, in the most capitalist of terms, the initiative worked spectacularly well. Auto sales rose for seven straight years starting in 2010, before finally taking a small dip in 2017. On May 29, 2009, GM stock cratered to 75 cents a share -- yes, 75 cents. The restructured company went public again in 2010 at $33 a share, and it was trading at around $43 a share last Friday. Fiat Chrysler, the merged company that came out of the government-led restructuring, debuted on the New York Stock Exchange at $9 a share in October 2014 and is now trading in the range of $24 a share. Although Obama organized the details of the rescue and took the heat for it, former President George W. Bush deserves some credit here. While he was initially reluctant to do so, Bush responded to Obama's desire to keep the future of the companies open. He eventually fronted GM and Chrysler some $25 billion from the funds set aside for the bank bailouts after the economic implosion. Bush said in December 2008, "If we were to allow the free market to take its course now, it would almost certainly lead to disorderly bankruptcy." For such a staunch capitalist, it was a candid -- one might say courageous -- admission that the market, operating on its own, would create chaos. And this bedlam would have taken a severe human and social toll, since the job losses from that "disorderly bankruptcy" would have hit not only the auto companies themselves but also their suppliers and other enterprises, large and small, that served them. Instead, Michigan, along with other parts of the region, has staged an impressive comeback. The state's seasonall[...]



China and the Global Race for Knowledge

2018-01-22T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The National Science Foundation and the National Science Board have just released their biennial "Science & Engineering Indicators," a voluminous document describing the state of American technology. There are facts and figures on research and development, innovation and engineers. But the report's main conclusion lies elsewhere: China has become -- or is on the verge of becoming -- a scientific and technical superpower. We should have expected nothing less. After all, science and technology constitute the knowledge base for economically advanced societies...WASHINGTON -- The National Science Foundation and the National Science Board have just released their biennial "Science & Engineering Indicators," a voluminous document describing the state of American technology. There are facts and figures on research and development, innovation and engineers. But the report's main conclusion lies elsewhere: China has become -- or is on the verge of becoming -- a scientific and technical superpower. We should have expected nothing less. After all, science and technology constitute the knowledge base for economically advanced societies and military powers, and China aspires to become the world leader in both. Still, the actual numbers are breathtaking for the speed with which they've occurred. Remember that a quarter-century ago, China's economy was tiny and its high-tech sector barely existed. Since then, here's what's happened, according to the "Indicators" report: -- China has become the second largest R&D spender, accounting for 21 percent of the world total of nearly $2 trillion in 2015. Only the United States at 26 percent ranks higher, but if present growth rates continue, China will soon become the biggest spender. From 2000 to 2015, Chinese R&D outlays grew an average of 18 percent annually, more than four times faster than the U.S. rate of 4 percent. -- There has been an explosion of technical papers by Chinese teams. Although the United States and the European Union each produce more studies on biomedical subjects, China leads in engineering studies. American papers tend to be cited more often than the Chinese, suggesting that they involve more fundamental research questions, but China is catching up. -- China has dramatically expanded its technical work force. From 2000 to 2014, the annual number of science and engineering bachelor's degree graduates went from about 359,000 to 1.65 million. Over the same period, the comparable number of U.S. graduates went from about 483,000 to 742,000. Not only has Chinese technology expanded. It's also gotten more ambitious. Much of China's high-tech production once consisted of assembling sophisticated components made elsewhere. Now, says the report, it's venturing into demanding areas "such as supercomputers and smaller jet liners." Of course, there are qualifications. China still lags in patents received. Over the last decade, American firms and inventors account for about half the U.S. patents annually, and most of the rest go to Europeans and Japanese. Recall also that China's population of 1.4 billion is more than four times ours; not surprisingly, it needs more scientists, engineers and technicians. In a sane world -- shorn of nationalistic, economic, racial and ethnic conflicts -- none of this would be particularly alarming. Technology is mobile, and gains made in China could be enjoyed elsewhere, and vice versa. But in our contentious world, China's technological prowess is potentially threatening, as the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressional watchdog group, has often pointed out. One danger is military. If China makes a breakthrough in a crucial technology -- satellites, missiles, cyberwarfare, artificial intelligence, electro-magnetic weapons -- the result could be a major shift in the strategic balance and, possibly, war. Even if this doesn't happen, warns the commission, China's determination to dominate new industries such as artificial intelligence, telecommunications and computers co[...]



Durbin and Trump: Men of Their Words

2018-01-21T00:00:00Z

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he believes Dick Durbin, the Illinois senator who emerged from a White House meeting on immigration and ran to the media complaining that President Trump used coarse language to describe Haiti, El Salvador, and various unnamed African countries. Although that sounds like Trump, there are reasons for skepticism. For starters, as some Republicans present pointed out, Durbin has a record of unreliability when snitching on White House meetings. Five years ago, he claimed in a Facebook post that during tense negotiations over a looming budget shutdown,...Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he believes Dick Durbin, the Illinois senator who emerged from a White House meeting on immigration and ran to the media complaining that President Trump used coarse language to describe Haiti, El Salvador, and various unnamed African countries. Although that sounds like Trump, there are reasons for skepticism. For starters, as some Republicans present pointed out, Durbin has a record of unreliability when snitching on White House meetings. Five years ago, he claimed in a Facebook post that during tense negotiations over a looming budget shutdown, “one GOP House leader” told President Obama, “I cannot even stand to look at you.” This didn’t sound remotely like Rep. Eric Cantor, presumably the man Durbin was referring to, and both Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner denied that anyone made such a comment -- and denounced Durbin for saying so. White House officials sided authoritatively with the Republicans. “It did not happen,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters bluntly. Asked to apologize, Durbin refused, even though he wasn’t present at the meeting. So that’s one thing. Here’s another: The second-highest-ranking Senate Democrat has a track record of sounding tin-eared and hyper-partisan -- and can be counted on the play the race card. When Loretta Lynch, the Obama administration’s choice to head the Justice Department, wasn’t fast-tracked for confirmation, Durbin declared on the Senate floor that “the first African-American woman nominated to be attorney general is asked to sit in the back of the bus.” In 2005, he repeated a stupid joke about why President Lincoln might have been Jewish (“His name was Abraham and he was shot in the temple”). In 2012, asked why the Democrats had removed the words “God” and “Jerusalem” from the party platform, Durbin lashed out at Fox News for merely mentioning it. During last year’s confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Durbin asked the nominee whether “we should condemn or congratulate” an Oxford professor named John Finnis for lamenting the decline of the “purity” of white European culture. Not only did Durbin mischaracterize Finnis’ research, but the question had a guilt-by-association aspect to it: Finnis was one of Gorsuch’s college professors. Then there was the time Durbin compared the U.S. treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo to atrocities committed by “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings."  Specious analogies aside, Donald Trump has greater credibility issues than Durbin, not to mention his own trove of racially insensitive remarks -- and even dumber historical references. So, the president is not easily defended or believed. For the record, Trump (sort of) denied Durbin’s claims. He insisted he never said anything derogatory about Haitians, while implying that Durbin deliberately misconstrued the context of his comments. Two other Republicans in the room, Tom Cotton and David Perdue, backed Trump up, to the degree that they told people privately that the president had used a slightly less vulgar term than the one Durbin made famous. For their trouble, they were attacked by Schumer. “To impug[...]



Four Resolutions for 2018

2018-01-21T00:00:00Z

Closing 2017, Republicans were breathing a sigh of relief: Tax reform had been signed, the federal government remained open, and the stock market was soaring. That’s not an impressive list. Washington is a one-party town and while tax reform is essential, alone it won’t uncork the American economy. In 2018, Congress must resolve to boost infrastructure spending, advance immigration reform, create an education system that fits our new world, and pass a visionary jobs bill. Poor infrastructure harms U.S. competitiveness—the United States ranks ninth in the World...Closing 2017, Republicans were breathing a sigh of relief: Tax reform had been signed, the federal government remained open, and the stock market was soaring. That’s not an impressive list. Washington is a one-party town and while tax reform is essential, alone it won’t uncork the American economy. In 2018, Congress must resolve to boost infrastructure spending, advance immigration reform, create an education system that fits our new world, and pass a visionary jobs bill. Poor infrastructure harms U.S. competitiveness—the United States ranks ninth in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index—and it keeps growing companies away from places hungry for jobs. Amazon isn’t going to build their new headquarters in a decaying city. NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, has offered some solutions, including using public-private partnerships (P3s). President Trump has abandoned P3s. That’s shortsighted. With $20 trillion in debt, the federal government alone can’t fund this priority and states are in trouble too. We need greater private sector involvement in infrastructure. On immigration, Congress must focus on addressing the U.S. labor shortage, not on building a wall. That means giving hard-working DACA recipients a shot at citizenship and then moving on to comprehensive reform. Major U.S. industries, including construction, face devastating worker shortages, which impede everything from disaster recovery to growth. The U.S. government should welcome any individual who has the skills or work ethic to fill one of our nation’s nearly 6 million unfilled jobs. Last August, Canada launched a matching program that ranks foreign-born applicants against positions employers have open. The U.S. government, and every state, needs something similar. The lack of construction workers drives up U.S. housing prices, putting homeownership out of reach for some. Immigration reform will help more families achieve the American Dream. We also need to rethink K-12 education. Our economy is undergoing a revolution, but our schools are built for the last one. The IMD World Competitiveness Center’s global ranking examines how effective countries are at attracting, developing, and retaining talent. We’re 16th. IMD said the United States “risks losing some of its global competitiveness” if we don’t increase education investment. While more taxpayer money isn’t the only solution, starving the U.S. Education Department without a reform plan also won’t work. Lack of opportunity drives decay. It’s partly responsible for our devastating opioid epidemic. Hope begins at the schoolhouse doors, and so does a plan to rebuild our middle class. We also need a visionary jobs bill focused on training and relocation. The GOP’s tax bill ended the program that allows Americans to deduct job-related moving expenses. We have a labor mobility problem in this country and, while I supported this legislation, that provision takes us backward. It must be fixed. Congress must make it easier, not harder, for individuals take a job in another state. Policymakers also must provide better incentives for retraining. Today, new opportunities in core industries like manufacturing and construction are highly technological. To bring Americans back into these sectors, we need to give them th[...]



Trump Does Not Believe in America

2018-01-21T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Even for those of us who braced for catastrophe, the first year of Donald Trump's presidency was worse than expected -- more divisive, mean-spirited, erratic, unhinged, incompetent and egomaniacal than could have been imagined. Any glimmer of hope for a better Trump after the election, any speck of it once he took his oath of office, all that is now extinguished. Sure, there are glimpses of the seemingly reasonable guy beloved by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the one who on Tuesday says he'll "take all the heat" on immigration, who wants to sign a "bill...WASHINGTON -- Even for those of us who braced for catastrophe, the first year of Donald Trump's presidency was worse than expected -- more divisive, mean-spirited, erratic, unhinged, incompetent and egomaniacal than could have been imagined. Any glimmer of hope for a better Trump after the election, any speck of it once he took his oath of office, all that is now extinguished. Sure, there are glimpses of the seemingly reasonable guy beloved by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the one who on Tuesday says he'll "take all the heat" on immigration, who wants to sign a "bill of love." Do not be fooled. He is a chimera. By Thursday he will have vanished, leaving you feeling slimed and gaslighted. Graham was right the first time: Trump is a "kook" who is "unfit for office." Even after all that came before, this presidency does not lose its power to horrify. Nothing -- not even the Trump campaign and Trump transition -- truly prepared us for a president who behaves as Trump has. The biggest lie ever told by a candidate to the American people came from Trump, repeatedly, during the campaign: "At the right time, I will be so presidential, you will be so bored." Now we know: He is characterologically incapable of fulfilling this vow. But it is important, as we steel ourselves for Year Two, to identify what is so extremely, so uniquely wrong with Trump's presidency. It is not ideology. Whatever his own political convictions, if any, Trump has governed, mostly, as a conservative. And so many true conservatives reconcile themselves to swallowing Trump's outrages by pointing to what they consider his achievements: The confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch and a record number of conservative appellate judges. The move to dismantle or loosen rules across the regulatory landscape. The passage of a major tax cut. The withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. The repeal of the individual mandate to purchase health care. The crackdown on undocumented immigrants. It is important to remember, as we fume about Trump, that any Republican president, enabled by a Republican House and Senate, would have done most if not all of these things. People like me may disagree with those actions, but they are the natural result of having elected a Republican president. Don't conflate or confuse Trump outrage with outrage over run-of-the mill Republican policies. Elections have consequences. Likewise, it is not, or not only, about temperament, as expressed in tweets and similar outbursts, and in the unceasing eruption of untruths that spew forth with no hint of embarrassment. These are unnerving and unseemly. That we are having a national parsing of the invisible distinction between "hole" and "house" illustrates how much Trump has degraded the office. And when it comes to provocations like "Little Rocket Man" and boasts about button size, Trump's tantrums may be affirmatively dangerous. The mantra among Trump-reconciled conservatives is that while the tweeting may be unfortunate and regrettable, it is fundamentally irrelevant and should be ignored, like an unsightly rash. This approach is essentially correct. Trump's tweets offer a cyber-billboard for his narcissism and ignorance. But the tweeting alone, along with other displays of emotional incontinence, does not get to the essence of the Trump problem. Which is two-fold, a short-term threat and a long-term one. The immediate risk is to n[...]



Democrats Using Same Strategy Republicans Tried in 2013

2018-01-21T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- In 2013, House Republicans shut down the federal government in a doomed effort to defund then President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. It lasted 17 days and accomplished nothing. Amazingly, Democrats have decided to follow the same lame playbook. Back in 2013, Obama called it the "Republican shutdown" -- and he was right, even if his party controlled the White House and Senate. Top aide Dan Pfeiffer likened the shutdown caucus to terrorists with a "bomb strapped to their chest." Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., had a similar view. The solidly...WASHINGTON -- In 2013, House Republicans shut down the federal government in a doomed effort to defund then President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. It lasted 17 days and accomplished nothing. Amazingly, Democrats have decided to follow the same lame playbook. Back in 2013, Obama called it the "Republican shutdown" -- and he was right, even if his party controlled the White House and Senate. Top aide Dan Pfeiffer likened the shutdown caucus to terrorists with a "bomb strapped to their chest." Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., had a similar view. The solidly conservative congressman called those pushing the shutdown "lemmings with suicide vests." Now some Democrats are pushing to shut down the government if they can't pass a "clean" bill to extend Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which provided legal status for as many as 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children. Here "clean" means 100 percent one-sided. Others, like Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., support a bill they see as a compromise, but it doesn't reflect the scales of power. Republicans own the House and the White House. Senate Republicans, with a slim majority of 51, need Democrats to pass a 60-vote hurdle. If they insist on DACA as a condition to keep the government operating, they will have overplayed their hand. Friday morning, when there was time to pass a bill, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney already was calling it "the Schumer shutdown" in reference to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Across town, the Democratic National Committee sent out a press release with the headline, "Republicans Created the Trump Shutdown." The Democrats' push for a shutdown was fueled by a week of saturation news coverage over Trump's reported term for Haiti and African nations -- "s---hole countries" -- during a Jan. 11 White House meeting with Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., as the duo pitched their bipartisan compromise to extend and expand DACA. Trump denied using that word. Cable news pundits, however, engaged in precious debates about Trump's exact language. Democrats' wrath could not be contained. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., berated Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as "a threat to this country" after she testified she did not hear Trump say the word in question, but she did hear "tough" language. Schumer and Graham seemed to think they were a breath away from a deal. The DNC issued this talking point: "After saying he would sign a deal, Trump rejected a bipartisan agreement and threatened to shut down the government over his wall," referring to the president's desire to build a wall along the southern border. The Durbin-Graham measure has support from senators from both parties, but it also has garnered fierce opposition, especially in the GOP House. As a senior administration official told reporters, the Trump White House wants a deal that does not "recreate a second DACA wave." She added that border crossings are increasing. Graham himself told CNN on Thursday that the measure is not the Bible; it can be amended. With no Senate DACA deal, House Republicans tried a different approach to woo Democrats. Thursday the House passed a short-term continuing resolution that would reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Plan,[...]



Government Shutdown Begins and So Does the Finger-Pointing

2018-01-20T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans awoke Saturday to learn that bickering politicians in Washington had failed to keep their government in business, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. It was a striking display of Washington dysfunction, and the finger-pointing came quickly. Trump tweeted that Democrats “wanted to give me a nice present” to mark the start of his second year in office. The Republican-controlled Congress scheduled an unusual weekend session to begin...WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans awoke Saturday to learn that bickering politicians in Washington had failed to keep their government in business, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. It was a striking display of Washington dysfunction, and the finger-pointing came quickly. Trump tweeted that Democrats “wanted to give me a nice present” to mark the start of his second year in office. The Republican-controlled Congress scheduled an unusual weekend session to begin considering a three-week version of a short-term spending measure and to broadcast to the people they serve that they were at work as the closure commenced. It seemed likely that each side would push for votes aimed at making the other party look culpable for shuttering federal agencies. The fourth government shutdown in a quarter-century began at the stroke of midnight Friday, last gasp negotiations crumbling when Senate Democrats blocked a four-week budget extension. Behind the scenes, however, leading Republicans and Democrats were trying to work out a compromise to avert a lengthy shutdown. The closure began at the start of a weekend, so many of the immediate effects will be muted for most Americans. Damage could build quickly if the closure is prolonged. And it comes with no shortage of embarrassment for the president and political risk for both parties, as they wager that voters will punish the other at the ballot box in November. Trump said Democrats “could have easily made a deal but decided to play Shutdown politics instead.” In a series of tweets hours after the shutdown began, the president tried to make the case for Americans to elect more Republicans in November “in order to power through this mess.” He noted that there are 51 Republicans in the 100-member Senate, and it often takes 60 votes to advance legislation. Social Security and most other safety net programs are unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions will continue, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay. But if no deal is brokered before Monday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed. After hours of closed-door meetings and phone calls, the Senate scheduled its late Friday night vote on a House-passed plan. It gained 50 votes to proceed to 49 against, but 60 were needed to break a Democratic filibuster. Democrats balked in an effort to pressure on the White House to cut a deal to protect “dreamer” immigrants brought to the country as children and now here illegally — before their legal protection runs out in March. Democrats are laying fault for the shutdown on Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress and the White House and have struggled with building internal consensus. Republicans are holding Democrats responsible after they declined to provide the votes needed to overcome a filibuster over their desire to force the passage of legislation to protect some 700,000 younger immigrants from deportation. “Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous” border with Mexico, Trump tweeted. Republica[...]



Trump Tells March for Life: 'We Are With You All the Way'

2018-01-20T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday delivered new support to the anti-abortion movement he once opposed, telling thousands of activists demonstrating in the annual March for Life, “We are with you all the way.” In an address broadcast from the White House Rose Garden, Trump said he’s committed to building “a society where life is celebrated, protected and cherished.” The moment marked the president personally stepping to the forefront of the anti-abortion movement in the United States as the anniversary of his...WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday delivered new support to the anti-abortion movement he once opposed, telling thousands of activists demonstrating in the annual March for Life, “We are with you all the way.” In an address broadcast from the White House Rose Garden, Trump said he’s committed to building “a society where life is celebrated, protected and cherished.” The moment marked the president personally stepping to the forefront of the anti-abortion movement in the United States as the anniversary of his inauguration approaches. Last year, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the crowd in Trump’s absence. In the year since, Trump has delivered on rules and policies he had promised in an effort to help curb abortion rights legalized 45 years ago. Chief among them is the confirmation of conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch. Trump’s administration on Friday also announced more actions in line with long-standing demands from social and religious conservatives. The Department of Health and Human Services spelled out plans to protect medical providers who refuse to perform procedures such as abortions because of moral or religious scruples. HHS also pulled back an Obama-era policy that posed a legal roadblock to conservative states trying to cut Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood. The announcements coincided with the annual March for Life on Washington by abortion opponents, with Trump addressing marchers via video link Friday. Vice President Mike Pence gave a preview Thursday night when he told the marchers, “In one short year, President Donald Trump has made a difference for life.” HHS said it is proposing a new regulation that sets out how existing federal conscience protections will be enforced in real-world situations. That follows an announcement Thursday of a new division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights devoted to protecting the conscience rights of clinicians. The new rule is “meant to ensure full compliance with laws that have been under-enforced,” said Roger Severino, a conservative lawyer who heads the rights office under Trump. “These provisions are standard stuff when it comes to civil rights enforcement.” Under the regulation, hospitals, universities, clinics and other entities that receive funding from HHS programs like Medicare and Medicaid will have to certify that they comply with some 25 federal laws protecting conscience and religious rights. Most of these laws address medical procedures such as abortion, sterilization and assisted suicide. Violations could result in loss of federal funding. Also Friday, HHS took action that may help conservative states cut or eliminate Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood. The department rescinded guidance to states from President Barack Obama’s administration that narrowed the circumstances in which they can exclude a medical provider to cases involving fraud, criminal activity or being unfit to provide care. However, states are still required to set “reasonable” standards in determining which medical providers can participate in their Medicaid programs. In addition to providing abortions, Planned Parenthood is a major source of routine medical care for women. The HHS action follows last year’s[...]



A Summons to Save Democracy

2018-01-20T00:00:00Z

A sense of impending doom is in the air. The left’s best and brightest proclaim that President Trump is racist, mentally ill, lawless, and should be removed from office at the first opportunity. Many in the rank-and-file right believe that the media elites, entrenched government bureaucrats, and political establishments of both parties -- whom they elected Trump to rein in -- are demonstrating their determination to overturn the 2016 presidential election. Significant segments of both camps are convinced that their partisan opponents have plunged the country into a crisis from which...A sense of impending doom is in the air. The left’s best and brightest proclaim that President Trump is racist, mentally ill, lawless, and should be removed from office at the first opportunity. Many in the rank-and-file right believe that the media elites, entrenched government bureaucrats, and political establishments of both parties -- whom they elected Trump to rein in -- are demonstrating their determination to overturn the 2016 presidential election. Significant segments of both camps are convinced that their partisan opponents have plunged the country into a crisis from which it may never recover.  Despite their dark moods, both sides offer not just diagnoses of the country’s ills but prescriptions for restoring health that exude a certain self-confidence. Each supposes that if only it were put in charge and emancipated from the other’s poisonous interference, it would govern effectively and justly.  The dark moods and the underlying self-confidence obscure a disquieting possibility. Suppose the country’s problems do not stem from partisan hypocrisy, arrogance, and ineptitude. Perhaps the dysfunction of American party politics reflects instead larger forces that have gained sway over both camps. Perhaps each side’s determination to vilify the other is itself a symptom of a more fundamental crisis. Perhaps so many on the left and right are ill-tempered and self-righteous because they have lost sight of the core principles of freedom and democracy that undergird the American experiment in self-government.  That denizens of the West have been cut adrift from their civilization’s defining values and no longer recognize its sustaining principles is the chastening possibility that Rob Riemen raises in “The Fight Against This Age: On Fascism and Humanism.” His short book consists of a portentous introduction that explains what he regards as the obtuseness to the rise of fascism within Europe, and two learned, lyrical, and lofty essays, both of which were originally published in the author’s native Dutch. One examines the permanent fascist impulses within “mass democracy.” The other explores the ideal for the sake of which the mounting menace must be defeated. While both essays appeared before Trump upended American politics, Riemen indicates in the introduction that the celebrity tycoon’s ascent to the White House reflects the same fascist tendencies poisoning Europe.  A writer of philosophical essays about culture and politics and founder in 1994 of the Nexus Institute, which provides “a counterweight to nowadays society and its mere one-dimensional focus on science, technology and commercial values,” Riemen argues that the spirit of the age is at war with the spirit of Enlightenment humanism, which he understands as heir of the “Judeo-Christian tradition.”  He asserts in the introduction that “populism,” the favorite explanation for the discontents roiling liberal democracies in the West, is a euphemism that masks the authoritarianism of our politics and the bankruptcy of our morals. Citing the appeal of populism in accounting for the contemporary “revolt of the masses” is, h[...]



Thorny Global Issues Abound a Year Into Trump Presidency

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

With a sharp departure from years and sometimes decades of U.S. foreign policy, President Donald Trump has made a seismic global impact during his first year in office. It has been delivered with his own brand of bombast and occasional threats. Contentious issues have always existed, especially in conflict-ridden or volatile countries, but has he improved or worsened matters? Twelve months into his presidency, Associated Press correspondents take stock: RUSSIA Trump repeatedly declared in his campaign that he would improve relations with Russia but was never specific. A year into his...With a sharp departure from years and sometimes decades of U.S. foreign policy, President Donald Trump has made a seismic global impact during his first year in office. It has been delivered with his own brand of bombast and occasional threats. Contentious issues have always existed, especially in conflict-ridden or volatile countries, but has he improved or worsened matters? Twelve months into his presidency, Associated Press correspondents take stock: RUSSIA Trump repeatedly declared in his campaign that he would improve relations with Russia but was never specific. A year into his presidency, it’s no clearer. Moscow and Washington are at odds over issues ranging from North Korea to Ukraine, despite Trump’s open admiration of President Vladimir Putin. Russian officials had high hopes that Trump would move to abandon or reduce the sanctions that the United States imposed over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. Instead, Trump approved selling lethal weapons to Ukraine for the fight against the rebels, he appointed a Russia hawk as Washington’s envoy for Ukraine’s peace process, and his U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, declared that the Crimea sanctions wouldn’t be lifted unless the peninsula is returned to Ukraine. Trump even signed legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia — unwillingly, but effectively forced to by the measure’s near-unanimous Senate approval. Publicly, the Kremlin contends Trump is hogtied by suspicions of Russia held over from the Barack Obama era and by hysteria over allegations that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election and that Trump and Russia had colluded. Trump himself has criticized Russia, saying Moscow “seeks to challenge American values, influence and wealth,” and complaining he is not satisfied with Russia’s role in easing tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Russia contends the U.S. wants to undermine the deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program and that Washington clandestinely supports Islamic fighters in Syria. Although Trump has a taste for defying conventional political wisdom, his potential moves toward Russia appear constricted until the investigation into his campaign’s dealings with Russia concludes and leaves him untarnished. While the probe continues, the Kremlin is edging from quiet disappointment into needling suggestions of U.S. weakness. “Will they show good will? Will they gather courage, exercise common sense?” Putin said. ASIA Asia was one of Trump’s punching bags during his election campaign. Chinese and Japanese exports were destroying U.S. jobs. South Korea and Japan weren’t paying enough for U.S. troops defending their countries. Then came Kim Jong Un. Two weeks before Trump took office, the leader of North Korea declared in a New Year’s address that preparations for an intercontinental ballistic missile were in “the final stage.” Trump tweeted in response: “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!” Both sides traded threats and insults, and No[...]



Trump Steps to Forefront of Anti-Abortion Movement

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — He once called himself “pro-choice.” But a year into his presidency, Donald Trump is stepping to the forefront of his administration’s efforts to roll back abortion rights. And though his record is mixed and a midterm election looms, abortion opponents say they have not felt so optimistic in at least a decade. “I don’t think anybody thinks that the White House is a perfectly regimented and orderly family ... but that doesn’t change their commitment to the issue,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser,...WASHINGTON (AP) — He once called himself “pro-choice.” But a year into his presidency, Donald Trump is stepping to the forefront of his administration’s efforts to roll back abortion rights. And though his record is mixed and a midterm election looms, abortion opponents say they have not felt so optimistic in at least a decade. “I don’t think anybody thinks that the White House is a perfectly regimented and orderly family ... but that doesn’t change their commitment to the issue,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which is expanding its door-knocking operation across states with Senate incumbents who have voted for abortion rights. With a Republican-controlled Congress at his back on this issue, Trump is cementing his turnaround on abortion with a video address Friday to the annual March to Life. That’s a symbolic change from last year, when Vice President Mike Pence — in practical terms, the leader of the anti-abortion movement in the United States — addressed the group in Trump’s absence. “In one short year, President Donald Trump has made a difference for life,” Pence told march leaders Thursday night. Trump has given anti-abortion activists a few key victories. Chief among them: the confirmation of conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Trump also has revived and expanded a ban on sending U.S. aid to groups overseas that provide abortion counseling. And he signed legislation allowing states to withhold federal family planning dollars from clinics that provide abortion services. The administration has made its priorities clear in other ways, too — including appointments to key government posts and a new mission statement for the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency announced it is dedicated to supporting Americans at “every stage of life, beginning at conception.” On Thursday, the administration announced the creation of a new office to protect the religious rights of medical providers, including those who oppose abortion. Supporters of abortion rights say it adds up to a president doing administratively what he’s often failed to accomplish through Congress. “Time and again, we have seen this administration radically redefine religious freedom to impose one set of ultraconservative beliefs on all Americans,” said Sarah Hutchinson Ratcliffe, vice president of Catholics for Choice. Trump has failed to deliver on promises to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding or permanently ban taxpayer dollars from being used for abortions. The effort to defund Planned Parenthood, for example, failed with the Republican effort to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law. Behind the mixed record is Trump’s complicated personal history on abortion. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says his transformation from supporting to opposing abortion rights dates back to at least 2011. And while she says he has shown his commitment to the anti-abortion movement “early and often,” he has at times seemed uncomfortable with the issue. Dannenfelser recalls her struggle in 2016 after the SBA List told GO[...]



Tough Road Ahead for Trump in Year 2

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

As we reach, gingerly, the anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration as president, none of the disasters feared by critics has come to pass. The economy has turned at least mildly upward rather than plummet to depression. The executive branch has obeyed court orders. No military disaster has occurred. Fears that seemed plausible to many have proved unjustified. In some important respects, Trump and the congressional Republican majorities have made important changes in public policy -- in appointing judges, dismantling regulations, cutting tax rates and changing the tax system. You...As we reach, gingerly, the anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration as president, none of the disasters feared by critics has come to pass. The economy has turned at least mildly upward rather than plummet to depression. The executive branch has obeyed court orders. No military disaster has occurred. Fears that seemed plausible to many have proved unjustified. In some important respects, Trump and the congressional Republican majorities have made important changes in public policy -- in appointing judges, dismantling regulations, cutting tax rates and changing the tax system. You don't have to agree with his opponents and critics to understand how they must be infuriated that such a narrow electoral result has proved to be so consequential. But Trump has not yet delivered on what The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib correctly identifies as his signature issues in his 2015-16 campaign -- immigration, trade and infrastructure. And it's far from certain how and whether he will do so. Take immigration, currently much in the news. Trump's decision in September to withdraw Barack Obama's probably illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program in March has given him leverage over Democrats. They want a statute legalizing the presence of the 700,000 or so people brought illegally to the country as children, and he needs some Democratic votes. But he has veto power and therefore is positioned to demand other changes Democrats don't want -- such as an end to extended-family chain migration and the visa lottery, moves toward a skills-based immigration system like Canada's and Australia's, mandating E-Verify to determine the status of job applicants, and, of course, the border wall. Unfortunately, Trump is not always clear about these things. He told people at a bipartisan congressional meeting that he'd sign anything they want, but at the next meeting, he indicated -- reportedly in scatological terms -- that he wants no part of the package put together by Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Lindsey Graham. In the process, he seemed unaware that we tend to get high-skilled immigrants from many "s---hole countries," from which brainy people naturally want to escape. And it's not clear he appreciates that we've been getting a generally higher-skilled immigrant inflow since the Great Recession than we did before. Some Democrats, perhaps misled by biased press coverage, are willing to risk a government shutdown rather than compromise on DACA. Some want to flay Trump as a racist in the hope that he'll cave. Some Republicans oppose the reforms Trump purportedly seeks. It's a negotiation with many moving parts, on which the press is an unreliable narrator and in which the president often seems to be practicing something other than the art of the deal. Meanwhile, offstage, negotiations are ongoing with Canada and Mexico on revising NAFTA. The chief danger here is that overweening American demands could affect Mexico's July presidential election. Currently leading the polls is the left-wing Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who tied up Mexico City's streets for months with demonstrators protesting his narrow loss in the 2006 election. AMLO, as he is c[...]



For GOP, No Trump Juice or Coattails in November

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

Rick Saccone is a “special person” who is campaigning in a special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District to replace Rep. Tim Murphy, a pro-life Republican who resigned in disgrace after asking a mistress to have an abortion. Saccone got the “special” seal of approval from President Trump, who leans on the adjective when making a hard sell -- for anything from a candidate to the latest Obamacare repeal plan to Derek Jeter to women of the #MeToo movement. Trump’s trip to tout the GOP tax reform law Thursday coincided...Rick Saccone is a “special person” who is campaigning in a special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District to replace Rep. Tim Murphy, a pro-life Republican who resigned in disgrace after asking a mistress to have an abortion. Saccone got the “special” seal of approval from President Trump, who leans on the adjective when making a hard sell -- for anything from a candidate to the latest Obamacare repeal plan to Derek Jeter to women of the #MeToo movement. Trump’s trip to tout the GOP tax reform law Thursday coincided with some politicking for Saccone, though the White House insisted the taxpayer-funded trip was strictly, officially, an agenda-promoting jaunt. Naturally the president gave it away in a morning tweet, writing that he was going to give his “total support” to Saccone, and “we need more Republicans to continue our already successful agenda!” Trump’s enthusiastic push underscores widespread panic among Republicans that the race for PA-18 is tighter than it should be. Far more is on the line than one House seat -- and Trump personally wants to break a losing streak showing that, thus far, he is politically useless. Indeed the hope that Trump would be kingmaker has crashed into the reality that candidates he supports have lost, those he has encouraged to run have declined, and all that winning he promised seems to be happening to Democrats. Not only did the minority party over-perform in special elections that Republicans won last year, but Democrats have had victories in Virginia and Alabama, and this week in Wisconsin -- trends that Republicans are finding ominous. Indeed an 11-point win by a Democrat in a state Senate district Trump won by 17 points is a “wake-up call,” Gov. Scott Walker warned his fellow Wisconsin Republicans in a tweet Wednesday morning. Congressional Republicans, painfully aware of the polling in a challenging electoral landscape, have briefed Trump on their grim assessments. They have also warned him that a Democratic takeover could lead to impeachment proceedings. The president has offered to campaign and fundraise for Republicans. Cash will help, and perhaps campaigning in GOP primaries will also, but Trump’s appeals in general elections likely will not. It’s clear from the data that if he remains radioactive with more than 60 percent of the country he will continue helping to drive even the most politically estranged Democrats to the polls. This past week and half, just for example, wasn’t helpful for Republicans. After shocking the world with bipartisan outreach on immigration at a televised White House meeting, Trump stepped on it with “s-hole”-gate. Then he tweeted about foreign surveillance he didn’t comprehend and, after nearly derailing a House vote on the legislation and being schooled by House Speaker Paul Ryan on policy he hadn’t bothered to learn or understand, had to tweet a correction. News broke that he reportedly had a lawyer pay off a porn-star mistress a month before the 2016 election. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who must be grateful he’s not facing a t[...]



Blame Game Ramps Up as Shutdown Draws Near

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

The House passed legislation Thursday to temporarily keep the government open, but it appears doomed in the Senate ahead of a potential vote Friday. Hours after the House voted, debate in the upper chamber devolved into a partisan blame-game, with Democratic and Republican leaders digging in their heels, convinced that the other party would suffer the political consequences of a government funding lapse. Republicans argued that they successfully funded the government in the House, and their legislation provided time to continue negotiating bipartisan agreements on immigration and long-term...The House passed legislation Thursday to temporarily keep the government open, but it appears doomed in the Senate ahead of a potential vote Friday. Hours after the House voted, debate in the upper chamber devolved into a partisan blame-game, with Democratic and Republican leaders digging in their heels, convinced that the other party would suffer the political consequences of a government funding lapse. Republicans argued that they successfully funded the government in the House, and their legislation provided time to continue negotiating bipartisan agreements on immigration and long-term spending levels. The GOP also would have provided most of the votes in the Senate to keep the government open – though, crucially, they were likely several votes short of funding it on their own, even without a filibuster from Democrats. “The only people standing in the way of keeping the government open are Senate Democrats,” Speaker Paul Ryan said shortly after the House vote. “Whether there is a government shutdown or not is now entirely up to them.” Democrats countered that Republicans control all levers of power in government, and that it was incumbent on them to negotiate legislation that could pass both chambers, rather than force a take-it-or-leave-it option. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blamed President Trump for the lack of an immigration agreement, and said his wavering on what he would sign to solve the looming DACA crisis made it impossible to find a bipartisan agreement before the shutdown deadline. “The White House has done nothing but sow chaos and confusion, division and disarray,” Schumer said. “And it may just lead us to a government shutdown that nobody wants, that all of us here have been striving to avoid.” It wasn’t clear early Thursday if Democrats would need to threaten a filibuster to hold up the short-term spending bill. The hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus had threatened to withhold enough votes to tank the bill in the lower chamber, hoping to force leadership to provide concessions. After negotiations that lasted until just an hour before the House vote, the Freedom Caucus won several minor concessions and agreed to support the short-term funding patch. But it was clear at that point that the House measure would fail in the Senate. Most Democrats opposed it, and several Senate Republicans also said they opposed it – enough that it wouldn’t have passed even without a filibuster. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed Democrats for their intransigence, arguing on the Senate floor there was nothing in the legislation they actually opposed, but that they were holding it hostage for a solution on immigration. Schumer, meanwhile, pushed for an immediate vote, hoping it would fail and force further negotiations. When the Senate reconvenes Friday, lawmakers will have just hours to negotiate a solution, with both parties appearing prepared to hold firm. Meanwhile, the White House expressed little immediate concern over the shutdown deadline. Trump traveled to Pennsylvania Thursday to campaign for a[...]



Twenty-First Century Slavery

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

It is actually remarkable that one of the things conservatism has preserved the best in the United States is a culture of life. Just as secular liberals have had to rebrand again as progressives since people stopped liking liberals, they also have to rebrand the idea of "choice" as "women's health." But the underlying issue is still the same. They want to murder children legally. And support for that proposition continues to be a minority proposition in the United States. Make no mistake about it. Abortion is the willful killing of children. As society has grown more...It is actually remarkable that one of the things conservatism has preserved the best in the United States is a culture of life. Just as secular liberals have had to rebrand again as progressives since people stopped liking liberals, they also have to rebrand the idea of "choice" as "women's health." But the underlying issue is still the same. They want to murder children legally. And support for that proposition continues to be a minority proposition in the United States. Make no mistake about it. Abortion is the willful killing of children. As society has grown more selfish, the arguments have taken on a greater intensity. "My" seems to reign supreme, i.e. my body, my choice, my freedom. Few stop to point out that there is another person involved, one who cannot speak for herself. We hide this barbarism behind the euphemisms of "abortion" or "choice," or now, "women's health," but only to mask the barbarism. It is the ironic grand end game of modern American feminism that would see future girls torn limb from limb in the name of the sexual revolution. But support for abortion in this country is still a minority proposition, though an article of faith among Democrats and the left. And as the left has failed to quash support for life, they have become increasingly radicalized in their approaches to stamping out life. In California, for example, pregnancy centers that do not perform abortions are forced, by the state, to advertise for abortion providers. Proving there is nothing new under the sun, modern progressivism functions like a 5,000-year-old death cult to Moloch. Children once sacrificed for the rain gods must now be aborted to stave off global warming. Children once sacrificed to the gods of harvest must now be aborted to stave off mass starvation. What is old is new again. In fact, the old arguments for slavery made by white plantation owners in the South have been repackaged as the new arguments by white progressives for abortion. Slaves were property the slave owners could do with as they pleased. Now we talk about bodies and how no one else can tell a woman what to do with her body. If she wants to have an abortion, who cares about the kid. It is her property. Likewise, slaves were not real people according to the plantation owners. Now, babies in the womb are not real people. Slaves were actually better off on plantations than as savages in Africa, defenders of the institution told us. Now we are told it is far better to kill the child than have her be born unwanted or unloved. Slaves, we were told, could not really feel the pain of the beatings. Now, babies in the womb cannot feel pain until they leave the womb. Never mind what science says. Science is a useful tool with which to bludgeon the religious in political fights, but the science says children in the womb can feel pain. We must ignore that to advance the abortion agenda. The church and Christendom led the cause against slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries. Preachers and churches were condemned for interfering with property rights and trying to impose their religion on people. Some churches were co-opted and[...]



Preparing Our Middle East Partners to Fight Their Own Battles

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

FORT POLK, La. -- In training exercises in a mock Afghan village constructed here on a base amid swampland, the U.S. Army is applying the military lesson of the war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq: Help your partners beat the enemy, but don't try to do the fighting yourself. Letting others fight the battle hasn't been the American way in modern times, to our immense national frustration. The U.S. military became bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, much as it had a generation earlier in Vietnam, by trying to reshape societies with American firepower. For the military,...FORT POLK, La. -- In training exercises in a mock Afghan village constructed here on a base amid swampland, the U.S. Army is applying the military lesson of the war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq: Help your partners beat the enemy, but don't try to do the fighting yourself. Letting others fight the battle hasn't been the American way in modern times, to our immense national frustration. The U.S. military became bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, much as it had a generation earlier in Vietnam, by trying to reshape societies with American firepower. For the military, the lesson from these quagmires is to step back -- and help local forces with training, advice and airpower. Fort Polk is a final warmup for the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade, one of the Trump administration's most innovative military experiments. About 1,000 soldiers are being trained here this month before deploying this Spring to Afghanistan. The preparatory exercises all focus on the same basic theme: Step back, and insist that partners do the front-line combat. Gen. Joseph Votel, the Centcom commander who oversees U.S. military operations from Libya to Afghanistan, brought me along on a visit Thursday to the SFAB final training site. He summed up the concept behind the new brigade this way: "We have to let our partners own it. That's hard for us to do. It's in our DNA to dive in. But our job is to help our partners fight, not fight for them." The Afghanistan simulations are carefully staged in the military version of a movie set, with a mosque tower, goats meandering in the street, peddlers hawking flowers and posters of President Ashraf Ghani on the walls of make-believe Afghan National Army (ANA) headquarters. The idea is to make soldiers "comfortable with the uncomfortable," says Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, the commander at Fort Polk. Over 14 days of training, the soldiers practice helping Afghan partners reclaim a police station from the Taliban in the imaginary village of "Marwandi" and arrest a Taliban financier who's sheltered by the local population. In one exercise, soldiers practice rescuing their comrades who've gotten caught in a firefight, applying quick tourniquets to their wounds and dragging them to safety. At each stop, Votel listens as soldiers repeat the new doctrine: "Put the ANA in the front," says a sergeant heading for Afghanistan. "We have to remove ourselves so it's not our fight." Votel replays that unconventional message to the troops through a long day. "What we're really going to rely on is your adaptability," he admonishes one advisory team. When the brigade moves into Afghanistan in several months, it will have 36 combat advisory teams, with about a dozen members each, partnered with ANA divisions spread across the country. Team members will be able to request supporting fire from planes, drones and advanced artillery. Other teams will assist at headquarters and in logistics operations. They will join more than 10,000 U.S. troops already in Afghanistan. The new brigade, cobbled together quickly with volunteers from divisions ac[...]



Donald Trump's Greatest Gift Is His Enemies

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

Every morning, it seems, President Donald Trump's most determined opponents awake to find out what sort of obnoxious, fact-challenged, puerile, norm breaking thing he has offered that day and say to themselves: "Oh, that's nothing. We can do something dumber than that!" So the nation wades from one bizarre and nonsensical controversy to another. As I write this, I can't even recall what topic we were debating last week, but I'm certain it was idiotic. Part of the problem is that those who drive coverage of Trump are obsessed with the president in unhealthy ways,...Every morning, it seems, President Donald Trump's most determined opponents awake to find out what sort of obnoxious, fact-challenged, puerile, norm breaking thing he has offered that day and say to themselves: "Oh, that's nothing. We can do something dumber than that!" So the nation wades from one bizarre and nonsensical controversy to another. As I write this, I can't even recall what topic we were debating last week, but I'm certain it was idiotic. Part of the problem is that those who drive coverage of Trump are obsessed with the president in unhealthy ways, ways that have absolutely nothing to do with policy or governance. For a couple of weeks now, our self-styled guardians of democracy have engaged in a concocted controversy about the president's mental state. It wasn't only liberal columnists plying their readers with this wishful thinking; the entire city of Washington, according to Politico, was consumed with using the 25th Amendment to remove the president. It was a major topic of conversation on the Sunday shows. Former Trump booster Joe Scarborough squeezed a week of coverage out of it. When the president's physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson -- a man who has been the White House doctor since 2006 -- explained that Trump is, in fact, "very healthy" and has "incredible genes" and excellent cognitive health, the White House press corps was in disbelief. I mean, Michael Wolff had told us the opposite was true. One reporter asked why Trump "appeared to slur his words" at a recent press conference. Another reporter asked why Trump had the "sniffles." Everyone was worried about his insalubrious meal plans. "Is he limited to one scoop of ice cream now?" a real reporter asked the presidential doctor. Jonathan Karl of ABC asked, and I kid you not, "Can you explain to me how a guy that eats McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken and all those Diet Cokes, and who never exercises, is in as good of shape as you say he's in?" Confirming what everyone in the world who eats right and exercises daily yet still struggles to keep their weight down already knows, Jackson answered, "It's called genetics. More importantly, the doctor also said Trump passed an extensive cognitive exam that tests for "all those things" and repeated the conclusion that the president doesn't suffer from mental issues. So the conspiracy theories began on social media, not by random tweeters but by White House correspondents of the nation's leading newspapers and leading reporters of the nation's biggest networks. CNN chief medical correspondent and former Hillary Clinton adviser Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked Jackson, the doctor who actually examined the president, whether Trump has heart disease. Jackson said no. On Wednesday, Gupta claimed on television that Trump does have heart disease. (It took a little more than one year to go from "Russia stole the election!" to "Trump is too fat to be president." Those 15 to 20 pounds are a killer.) There is simply no way we would have gone through a similar round of frenetic mental-health coverage if the president had a D next to his o[...]



A US-Turkish Clash in Syria?

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

The war for dominance in the Middle East, following the crushing of ISIS, appears about to commence in Syria -- with NATO allies America and Turkey on opposing sides. Turkey is moving armor and troops south to Syria's border enclave of Afrin, occupied by Kurds, to drive them out, and then drive the Syrian Kurds out of Manbij further south as well. Says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "We will destroy all terror nests, one by one, in Syria, starting from Afrin and Manbij." For Erdogan, the Kurdish YPG, the major U.S. ally in Syria, is an arm of the Kurdish PKK in Turkey, which...The war for dominance in the Middle East, following the crushing of ISIS, appears about to commence in Syria -- with NATO allies America and Turkey on opposing sides. Turkey is moving armor and troops south to Syria's border enclave of Afrin, occupied by Kurds, to drive them out, and then drive the Syrian Kurds out of Manbij further south as well. Says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "We will destroy all terror nests, one by one, in Syria, starting from Afrin and Manbij." For Erdogan, the Kurdish YPG, the major U.S. ally in Syria, is an arm of the Kurdish PKK in Turkey, which we and the Turks have designated as a terrorist organization. While the Kurds were our most effective allies against ISIS in Syria, Turkey views them as a mortal peril and intends to deal with that threat. If Erdogan is serious, a clash with the U.S. is coming, as our Kurdish allies occupy most of Syria's border with Turkey. Moreover, the U.S. has announced plans to create a 30,000-man Border Security Force of Kurds and Arabs to keep ISIS out of Syria. Erdogan has branded this BSF a "terror army," and President Bashar Assad of Syria has called BSF members "traitors." This U.S. plan to create a BSF inside Syria, Damascus declared, "represents a blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity and unity of Syria, and a flagrant violation of international law." Does not the Syrian government have a point? Now that ISIS has been driven out of Raqqa and Syria, by what authority do U.S. forces remain to arm troops to keep the Damascus government from reimposing its authority on its own territory? Secretary of State Tillerson gave Syria the news Wednesday. The U.S. troop commitment to Syria, he said, is now open-ended. Our goals: Guarantee al-Qaida and ISIS do not return and set up sanctuary; cope with rising Iranian influence in Damascus; and pursue the removal of Bashar Assad's ruthless regime. But who authorized this strategic commitment, of indefinite duration, in Syria, when near two decades in Afghanistan have failed to secure that nation against the return of al-Qaida and ISIS? Again and again, the American people have said they do not want to be dragged into Syria's civil war. Donald Trump won the presidency on a promise of no more unnecessary wars. Have the American people been had again? Will they support a clash with NATO ally Turkey, to keep armed Kurds on Turkey's border, when the Turks regard them as terrorists? Are we prepared for a shooting war with a Syrian army, backed by Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite militias from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, to hold onto a fourth of Syria's territory in alliance with Kurds? The U.S. coalition in Syria said this week the BSF will be built up "over the next several years" and "be stationed along the borders ... to include portions of the Euphrates river valley and international borders to the east and north." Remarkable: A U.S.-created border army is going to occupy and control long stretches of Syria's borders with Turkey and Iraq, over Syria's [...]



An Administration With No Credibility Cannot Lead

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The rude, petulant man-child in the Oval Office is reeling ever more wildly out of control, and those who cynically or slavishly pretend otherwise are doing a grave disservice to the nation -- and to themselves. How do you like him now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? President Trump convened a made-for-television summit at the White House and said he'd sign any immigration bill Congress passes. "I'll take the heat," he boasted. So a bipartisan group of senators came up with a deal -- and he rejected it out of hand, launching into an unhinged rant...WASHINGTON -- The rude, petulant man-child in the Oval Office is reeling ever more wildly out of control, and those who cynically or slavishly pretend otherwise are doing a grave disservice to the nation -- and to themselves. How do you like him now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? President Trump convened a made-for-television summit at the White House and said he'd sign any immigration bill Congress passes. "I'll take the heat," he boasted. So a bipartisan group of senators came up with a deal -- and he rejected it out of hand, launching into an unhinged rant about "shithole countries." What about you, House Speaker Paul Ryan? You came up with a clever way to get Democrats to agree to a stopgap funding bill, dangling the possibility of a long-term renewal of the vital Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). But the president tweeted that "CHIP should be part of a long term solution" and not a short-term measure to keep the government from shutting down. Is this what you signed up for, chief of staff John Kelly? In a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, you said that some of Trump's campaign positions on immigration were "uninformed" and that there will never be a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. You reportedly added that whatever partial barrier gets built, Mexico won't pay for it. But the president slapped you down with another series of tweets, claiming that his promised wall "has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it" -- and that Mexico will, too, pay for the wall, "directly or indirectly." How was your week, White House physician Ronny Jackson? You did what is expected of everyone who stands at the podium in the briefing room: lavish the president with flowery, over-the-top, Dear Leader praise. He is in "excellent health," you announced. But the test results you released, according to many other doctors, indicate that Trump suffers from moderate heart disease and is on the borderline between overweight and obese. In your view, the next step down from "excellent" must be "deceased." Having fun, Steve Bannon and Corey Lewandowski? As bigwigs in the Trump campaign, you helped a manifestly unfit blowhard get elected president. This week, you did the White House a favor by stonewalling the House Intelligence Committee in a way that angered even the Republicans on the panel, which is hard to do. But you remain in the crosshairs of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, and the best-case scenario is that you emerge unindicted but saddled with mountainous legal bills. No one should feel sorry for those who choose to aid and abet this travesty of an administration. They made their choices. They elected to trust a man they know to be wholly untrustworthy, and to lie shamelessly to massage his swollen ego. At this point, I wouldn't believe Sarah Huckabee Sanders if she told me that water is wet and the sky is blue. But the larger impact is something we all must worry about: One year into the Trump pres[...]



Bipartisan Abortion Consensus Could Be Midterm Factor

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

For years Americans have been told that abortion is an intractable, politically unsolvable issue. But polling numbers tell a different story. Far from being either a thorny political issue or a partisan one, a clear way forward now exists.  Four-and-a-half decades after Roe v. Wade and its sister case, Doe v. Bolton, were decided, more than three-quarters of Americans want substantial restrictions on abortion, not the nearly unrestricted abortion regime that these cases allowed.   The numbers come from the latest KofC-Marist poll done earlier this month, and for the 10th...For years Americans have been told that abortion is an intractable, politically unsolvable issue. But polling numbers tell a different story. Far from being either a thorny political issue or a partisan one, a clear way forward now exists.  Four-and-a-half decades after Roe v. Wade and its sister case, Doe v. Bolton, were decided, more than three-quarters of Americans want substantial restrictions on abortion, not the nearly unrestricted abortion regime that these cases allowed.   The numbers come from the latest KofC-Marist poll done earlier this month, and for the 10th year in a row, about three-quarters or more of Americans want abortion restricted to – at most – the first three months of pregnancy.    Notably, strong majorities of every major political persuasion now want restrictions, including more than nine in 10 Republicans, almost eight in 10 independents and more than six in 10 Democrats.   Many in Washington adhere to Bismarck’s old adage that “politics is the art of the possible.” It’s increasingly obvious that major action on abortion policy is politically possible. In fact, it is politically desired by the constituents of both parties and those of neither party.   As citizens of a representative democracy, we have a right to expect our voices to be heard and we have a right to expect our representatives to represent our views. On the issue of abortion, that is, sadly, too often not occurring. Instead, we are locked into a debate that looks at labels.   Because a slim majority of Americans identify as pro-choice, many assume they want abortion on demand. Here again, the numbers tell a different story – one at odds with much of the contemporary political and media belief. Six in 10 who identify as pro-choice don’t support abortions after the first trimester. A similar number of those who say they are pro-choice likewise support the specific policy of banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. And 40 percent of them want to stop taxpayer funding of abortion.   Those who identify as pro-life are overwhelmingly unified in their support for such restrictions. In case after case, about nine in 10 people who identify as pro-life support policies that would limit abortion in some way. And so do 40 to 60 percent of those who identify as pro-choice. We have a national debate on abortion policy, but it is almost entirely internal to those who say they are pro-choice.  Roughly half of both Republicans and Democrats say abortion is a major factor in how they vote in congressional elections. About a quarter more of each party say it’s a minor factor. More than half of those who say they are pro-life and 44 percent of those who say they are pro-choice also say it a major factor.   For those that are pro-life, it is a sure bet that if abortion policy is important to their votes, they will prefer candidates who favor laws like limit[...]



Autonomy, Inclusion and the Abortion Debate

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Forty-five years after Roe v. Wade was decided, the right to abortion that the Supreme Court discerned remains controversial and disputed. The expectation of legal abortion is deeply embedded in American law and practice. Many states were lifting restrictions on the procedure even before Roe. Justice Harry Blackmun's landmark decision seized upon an existing social trend. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 79 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances. A constitutional amendment against abortion -- favored by many social conservatives --...WASHINGTON -- Forty-five years after Roe v. Wade was decided, the right to abortion that the Supreme Court discerned remains controversial and disputed. The expectation of legal abortion is deeply embedded in American law and practice. Many states were lifting restrictions on the procedure even before Roe. Justice Harry Blackmun's landmark decision seized upon an existing social trend. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 79 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances. A constitutional amendment against abortion -- favored by many social conservatives -- is a practical impossibility. But the Supreme Court created a legal regime more extreme than the general consensus. The dogged pro-life activists who return to Washington each year to protest Roe during the March for Life are not alone. In the same Gallup poll, 49 percent of Americans agreed that abortion is "morally wrong" (compared with 43 percent who find it "morally acceptable"). Just 29 percent believe abortion should be legal in every circumstance. A number of states have moved to restrict abortion at the edges -- requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers, ensuring that abortion providers have visiting privileges at local hospitals, restricting the procedure after the fetus can feel pain. Why does this issue refuse to fade from our politics? One reason concerns Roe itself, which was (as Justice Byron White put it in his dissent) "an exercise in raw judicial power." Blackmun's ruling does not hold up well on rereading. His system of trimesters and viability was (and is) arbitrary and medically rootless -- a fig leaf covering an almost limitless abortion right. Blackmun's weak argument largely substituted for the democratic process in 50 states. Fiat replaced deliberation and democratic legitimacy. This was a recipe for resentment and reaction. But judicial fiat can't be a sufficient explanation. The Obergefell decision legalizing gay marriage in every state was also sweeping. It has produced almost no political reaction. The contrast to Roe could hardly be starker. And the explanation is rather simple. All the great Civil Rights movements have been movements of inclusion. The first modern Civil Rights campaign -- militating for the end of the British slave trade -- set the pattern with its slogan: "Am I not a man and a brother?" Susan B. Anthony asked: "Are women persons?" The most rapidly successful Civil Rights movement of our time -- the gay rights movement -- used the strategy of coming out to reveal gay people as friends and family members. All these efforts expanded the circle of social welcome and protection. The pro-choice movement, in contrast, is a movement of autonomy. Its primary appeal is to individual choice, not social inclusion. And the choice it elevates seems (to some people) in tension with the principle of inclusion. A fetus is genetically distinct from t[...]



The Out-of-Touch Party

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

Democrats are out of touch. They made that abundantly clear when every liberal lawmaker rejected the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and did everything possible to obstruct its historic passage. Instead of working in a bipartisan manner to help grow the U.S. economy and restore the American dream for all, liberal politicians -- including Democratic Party leadership -- told voters the GOP tax bill would be bad for them, bad for the economy and a gift to the rich. Then millions of Americans got a raise -- faster than liberals could knit another pussy hat. Just ask the multitude of blue- and white-collar...Democrats are out of touch. They made that abundantly clear when every liberal lawmaker rejected the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and did everything possible to obstruct its historic passage. Instead of working in a bipartisan manner to help grow the U.S. economy and restore the American dream for all, liberal politicians -- including Democratic Party leadership -- told voters the GOP tax bill would be bad for them, bad for the economy and a gift to the rich. Then millions of Americans got a raise -- faster than liberals could knit another pussy hat. Just ask the multitude of blue- and white-collar workers across industries and demographics who are enjoying higher wages, lucrative bonuses, extended family-leave benefits and an abundance of other perks thanks to the tax reform bill, which not a single Democrat voted for. Yet despite the fact that AT&T is giving out $1,000 bonuses to 200,000 U.S. employees as a result of the new law and scores of other American businesses are doing the same, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters, "In terms of the bonus that corporate America received versus the crumbs that they are giving to workers to kind of put the schmooze on, it's so pathetic. ... I think it's insignificant." Only an out-of-touch 1 percenter like Pelosi -- a well-known multimillionaire -- could dismiss thousands of dollars in working families' pockets as mere "crumbs." To the contrary, for 99 percent of the population, it's significant. Notwithstanding, Apple announced this week that it's going to invest $350 billion in America. This investment includes expanding existing campuses and building new facilities, as well as creating 20,000 jobs. The maker of the iPhone also said it's giving the majority of its employees $2,500 in stock options. But that's not all. Apple's CEO told his employees in a letter: "I'm happy to announce that starting immediately and running through the end of 2018, Apple will match all employee charitable donations, up to $10,000 annually, at a rate of two to one. In addition, Apple will double the amount we match for each hour you donate your time." So the charity sector will also benefit from the GOP tax bill the out-of-touch party resisted. So far, 164 American companies have said they are voluntarily practicing wealth redistribution by sharing their profits with employees because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was passed with President Donald Trump's leadership. His presidency has already added nearly $8 trillion in value to the stock market. Naturally, those in the out-of-touch party are desperately trying to distract voters from Trump's remarkable achievements by criticizing his weight, mocking his eating habits and lobbing every imaginable insult his way -- when they're not walking around in tinfoil hats. It won't work. Voters see their 401(k) accounts and paychecks surging, their businesses thriving and the Dow Jones indu[...]



Trump Needs to Act Soon on Infrastructure Promises

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

President Trump has been in office for a year now, but Americans are still waiting on the $1 trillion infrastructure plan he promised so often as a candidate for the Oval Office. The administration’s infrastructure policy over the past year has been characterized by good intentions and false starts. If the president still wants to deliver on his campaign promise, his administration must deliver the highly anticipated introduction of an infrastructure bill sometime in the very near future. The administration has so far produced talking points and fact sheets that define the contours...President Trump has been in office for a year now, but Americans are still waiting on the $1 trillion infrastructure plan he promised so often as a candidate for the Oval Office. The administration’s infrastructure policy over the past year has been characterized by good intentions and false starts. If the president still wants to deliver on his campaign promise, his administration must deliver the highly anticipated introduction of an infrastructure bill sometime in the very near future. The administration has so far produced talking points and fact sheets that define the contours of its plan. Those early indicators include several promising features, including efforts to streamline regulations to help deliver infrastructure projects on time and on budget. The president prides himself on going big and bold. His infrastructure package should follow suit – with details. The fact is, making America great again also means working to reclaim America’s infrastructure advantage over our global competitors. Making U.S. infrastructure No. 1 in the world again will be a boon to manufacturers and farmers who depend on a safe and reliable infrastructure to succeed in a global business environment. What separates a random stimulus package from a visionary infrastructure bill is strategy; any legislative proposal must be accompanied by a strategy designed to make U.S. infrastructure tops in the world again. The administration has already made good progress toward streamlining regulations to expedite project delivery, a top priority for manufacturers. There are a few additional guidelines the administration should follow in developing a long-term infrastructure vision. The Trump plan should focus on networks and systems – not one-off projects. The plan should recognize that our infrastructure is interconnected, and should work together seamlessly. We should also ensure that our infrastructure maximizes smart technology. Technology has revolutionized our economy since America laid the foundation for its infrastructure, and will continue to evolve and advance in the decades to come. Our policy leaders should ensure that any infrastructure plan accommodates emerging technology, and is able to accommodate changing technology in the future. Our infrastructure must also ensure that our urban and rural areas are adequately connected. Recent polling has shown that the need to invest in infrastructure is one of the few issues on which Americans in urban and rural areas agree. President Trump’s plan should ensure that our infrastructure assets – from roadways to waterways, from locks and dams to ports – work to connect every corner of our nation. The White House has also done admirable work in emphasizing that our infrastructure extends beyond roads and bridges, and into broadband for rural areas, and improved energy and utility[...]



Blame Game; Tattered Coattails; Abortion Consensus; Scott Brown's Uprising

2018-01-19T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Friday, January 19, 2018. It’s the eve of Donald Trump’s one-year anniversary as the 45th U.S. president, and Washington is on the precipice of yet another partial government shutdown. On this date in 2010, a Republican challenger stunned the Democratic Party establishment by winning an open Senate seat long held by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Can it really be only eight years ago that Barack Obama’s nascent presidency was stung by the election of a Massachusetts moderate named Scott Brown? Think of everything that’s happened in...Good morning, it’s Friday, January 19, 2018. It’s the eve of Donald Trump’s one-year anniversary as the 45th U.S. president, and Washington is on the precipice of yet another partial government shutdown. On this date in 2010, a Republican challenger stunned the Democratic Party establishment by winning an open Senate seat long held by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Can it really be only eight years ago that Barack Obama’s nascent presidency was stung by the election of a Massachusetts moderate named Scott Brown? Think of everything that’s happened in American politics since then. I’ll revisit that election -- and offer a thought about what it might portend for the 2018 midterm elections -- in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. * * * Blame Game Ramps Up as Shutdown Draws Near. James Arkin has the story. For GOP, No Trump Juice or Coattails in November. A.B. Stoddard spotlights an ominous lack of “winning” when the president stumps for Republican candidates. Bipartisan Abortion Consensus Could Be Midterm Factor. Carl Anderson points to polling indicating that even pro-choice voters want some restrictions on abortion, which could shape candidate messaging. Trump Needs to Act Soon on Infrastructure Promises. In an op-ed, Dennis Slater argues that the president must not only go big and bold but provide a detailed plan for upgrades. Republicans Are Shooting Themselves in the Foot With the Cadillac Tax. In RealClearPolicy, James C. Capretta takes issue with the GOP's inclusion of a provision to delay the Obamacare-related tax in their temporary funding bill. Junk Debt as Punchline to Krugman’s Delusions. RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny considers what a North Dakota town’s boom-and-bust predicament says about government spending and economic growth. U.S. Military Needs to Regain Its Swagger. In RealClearDefense, Mackenzie Eaglen calls for a new war-fighting strategy. The Six Stages of a Failed Psychological Theory. Ross Pomeroy explains in RealClearScience. * * * As RCP co-founder Tom Bevan and I wrote in the aftermath, Scott Brown’s surprisingly strong 2009-2010 Senate campaign presented a dilemma for the White House. President Obama’s senior staff were slow to see the threat posed by Brown’s candidacy and, after finally recognizing the problem, they couldn’t agree on how to tackle it. Democrat Martha Coakley wasn’t an easy candidate to help anyway. For starters, the relentlessly negative ads aired by her campaign alienated swing voters, a problem compounded by repeated gaffes on Coakley’s part. She claimed no terrorists were in Afghanistan, mocke[...]



Pa. Special Election; Romney as GOP Outlier; Shutdown Primer; High Flyer

2018-01-18T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Thursday, January 18, 2018. On this date 107 years ago, a slender young Iowan with a mechanical bent and a derring-do that belied his quiet Midwestern upbringing landed a flimsy airplane on the deck of a Navy cruiser in San Francisco Bay. The sailors aboard the ship cheered lustily, while other boats in the harbor tooted their horns and whistles. The pilot, Eugene B. Ely, calmly stepped out of the cockpit, kissed his wife, Mabel, who was waiting on deck, then repaired to the captain’s cabin for a leisurely lunch. Forgotten today, Gene Ely was in January...Good morning, it’s Thursday, January 18, 2018. On this date 107 years ago, a slender young Iowan with a mechanical bent and a derring-do that belied his quiet Midwestern upbringing landed a flimsy airplane on the deck of a Navy cruiser in San Francisco Bay. The sailors aboard the ship cheered lustily, while other boats in the harbor tooted their horns and whistles. The pilot, Eugene B. Ely, calmly stepped out of the cockpit, kissed his wife, Mabel, who was waiting on deck, then repaired to the captain’s cabin for a leisurely lunch. Forgotten today, Gene Ely was in January of 1911 the toast of the nation. As I mentioned when I first wrote about him five years ago today, even as he was championed by an inward-looking American public, a handful of military men envisioned the portentous implications of Ely’s feat: namely, the aircraft carrier. I’ll have more on this pioneering aviator in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. * * * Trump Visit Shows High Stakes for Pa. Special Election. James Arkin has this look at the race with implications for both parties’ chances in November. Trump-Critic Romney Seen as Midterm Outlier for GOP. Caitlin Huey-Burns writes that the uniqueness of the Utah electorate affords Romney liberties in speaking out that Republican candidates in other states wouldn't enjoy. Why Conservatives Are Proposing a DACA Deal. Michael A. Needham explains the rationale for a bill that contains targeted amnesty for current DACA recipients. What You Need to Know About Government Shutdowns. The bipartisan group No Labels offers this overview in RealClearPolicy. Common European Defense Awakens. In RealClearDefense, Jacqueline Westermann explains how a long-gestating plan for permanent structured cooperation is finally taking shape. First Success for Army Acquisition Reform? Also in RCD, Daniel Goure calls for changes to procurement for the urgently needed Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense system. American Health Is Getting Better and Worse. In RealClearHealth, Hanns Kuttner argues that the latest government data on American mortality isn't all bad news. Denying Payment for ER Visits Can Spell Death. Also in RCH, Donna Christensen and Paul Kivela contend that some insurance plans discourage patients from visiting the hospital. The Y Chromosome Is Slowly Degenerating. In RealClearScience, Peter Ellis and Darren Griffin estimate that the gene carrier will disappear completely in 4.6 million years. “12 Strong” and Hollywood’s Changing View of the War on Terror. In RealClearLife, Ethan Sacks writes that the new film skirts the moral messages permea[...]



Trump Visit Shows High Stakes for Pa. Special Election

2018-01-18T00:00:00Z

President Trump’s visit to western Pennsylvania on Thursday is the latest sign of GOP concern over a special election that could fuel Democrats’ hopes for a wave election this fall -- or stifle that enthusiasm as Republicans seek to maintain their congressional majorities.    Unlike the battlegrounds in last year’s high-stakes special elections, Pennsylvania’s 18th District is mostly white, rural and filled with blue-collar workers; though Democrats maintain a registration advantage, it voted heavily for Trump in 2016. The outcome of...President Trump’s visit to western Pennsylvania on Thursday is the latest sign of GOP concern over a special election that could fuel Democrats’ hopes for a wave election this fall -- or stifle that enthusiasm as Republicans seek to maintain their congressional majorities.    Unlike the battlegrounds in last year’s high-stakes special elections, Pennsylvania’s 18th District is mostly white, rural and filled with blue-collar workers; though Democrats maintain a registration advantage, it voted heavily for Trump in 2016. The outcome of the March 13 face-off there provides a test case for whether Democrats can win back the working-class vote that fled the party in droves to support Trump, and whether Republicans can transfer the president’s popularity with his base and generate enough enthusiasm to limit losses this fall.   Republicans are hoping Thursday’s visit – and potential future events with Vice President Mike Pence – sparks enthusiasm with local voters, many of whom may not yet be aware of the election less than two months away. Though Trump’s trip is an official event at a local business to tout the new tax law, Republicans hope it will provide a shot in the arm to the campaign of state Rep. Rick Saccone, who will be in attendance. “This is Trump country,” Saccone (pictured, at left) told RealClearPolitics in an interview. “I think he may be more popular now than he was when was elected. … People are calling and want to come see the president. They love him.” For his part, Trump signaled he's all in for Saccone in a tweet Thursday morning: Will be going to Pennsylvania today in order to give my total support to RICK SACCONE, running for Congress in a Special Election (March 13). Rick is a great guy. We need more Republicans to continue our already successful agenda! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018 The Republican cavalry arrived outside Pittsburgh well before the president’s trip there. Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC allied with Speaker Paul Ryan, opened two offices in the district this month and has 50 full-time volunteers knocking on doors, hoping to hit 250,000 before Election Day. Citizens United, a GOP group run by David Bossie, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, endorsed Saccone on Wednesday, and Republicans maintain an edge in early advertising: Ending Spending, a Republican super PAC backed by billionaire Joe Ricketts, pledged $1 million earlier this month, and has been running ads both in favor of the Republican and against the Democrat, Conor Lamb.  Lamb’s campaign purchased its first television advertising this week in answer to the GOP spending; the new spot references his military and prosecutor backgr[...]



The Trillion-Dollar Chameleon

2018-01-18T00:00:00Z

Twenty years ago, no one had heard of either Facebook or Google, neither of which existed yet. For that matter, no one knew much about social media or search engines in general. Cellphones were still simply mobile, small and expensive telephones. There was no concept of a phone as a handheld computer. Today, five companies -- Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet (Google's parent company) -- have a collective worth of more than $3 trillion. Yet such transnational companies remain mostly exempt from the sort of regulations and accountability faced by most other industries. Major...Twenty years ago, no one had heard of either Facebook or Google, neither of which existed yet. For that matter, no one knew much about social media or search engines in general. Cellphones were still simply mobile, small and expensive telephones. There was no concept of a phone as a handheld computer. Today, five companies -- Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet (Google's parent company) -- have a collective worth of more than $3 trillion. Yet such transnational companies remain mostly exempt from the sort of regulations and accountability faced by most other industries. Major corporations understandably fear product liability laws. Oil companies are hectored by class-action lawsuits and headline-grabbing attorneys badgering them to pay up for supposed climate change brought on by commuters filling up each week. Tobacco companies have paid out billions of dollars due to cigarettes' contribution to lung cancer. Pharmaceutical corporations are often forced to pay millions in fines when their prescription drugs cause dangerous side effects. Yet every year, nearly a half-million Americans are injured in traffic accidents due to distracted driving involving a cellphone. No one knows how many millions of people worldwide are addicted to the apps on their smartphones -- a habit that can be harder to break than an opiate addiction and can leave addicted users in a similar zombie-like condition. Yet unlike Big Pharma, Big Oil and Big Tobacco, Big Tech is rarely held responsible for the deleterious effects of its products on millions the world over. In most states, public boards and commissions regulate companies that provide public utilities. The theory is that such corporations use public spaces -- from power poles to underground pipelines -- to serve a captive public domain and provide an essential need. Radio and television stations are likewise regulated by the federal government on the similar assumption that the airwaves are not private property. Tech companies such as Google and Facebook are also utilities of sorts that provide essential services. They depend on the free use of public airwaves. Yet they are subject to little oversight; they simply make up their own rules as they go along. Antitrust laws prohibit one corporation from unfairly devouring its competition, capturing most of its market and then price-gouging as it sees fit without fear of competition. Google has all but destroyed its search engine competitors in the same manner that Facebook has driven out competing social media. Facebook and Google are now called a "duopoly." The two companies rake in roughly half of all internet ad revenue. Both companies sometimes censor and electronically snoop on their customers, massaging everything from the daily news to what we [...]



Will Trump Spark a Kindness Backlash?

2018-01-18T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- If you are appalled by the chaos, division and meanness of the Trump presidency, if you are tired of the lies he and his apparatchiks tell, take heart. Most of your fellow Americans feel the same way. There is a condescending habit in the nation's capital of seeing voters as detached and indifferent to the day-to-day workings of government. The folks who promised to drain the swamp are guilty of a particularly pernicious form of this elitism. President Trump's defenders regularly claim that his base is so blindly loyal that nothing he says or does will ever drive its...WASHINGTON -- If you are appalled by the chaos, division and meanness of the Trump presidency, if you are tired of the lies he and his apparatchiks tell, take heart. Most of your fellow Americans feel the same way. There is a condescending habit in the nation's capital of seeing voters as detached and indifferent to the day-to-day workings of government. The folks who promised to drain the swamp are guilty of a particularly pernicious form of this elitism. President Trump's defenders regularly claim that his base is so blindly loyal that nothing he says or does will ever drive its members away. But news from across the country should shatter these illusions. A large majority of voters, including many erstwhile Trump supporters, are rebelling. The evidence is overwhelming that Trump's foes are as determined and motivated as any opposition in recent memory. This message was already delivered in elections in November and December. The latest tidings are from Wisconsin, which led the way toward the style of politics that Trump exploited to get to the White House, even though he fared poorly there in the 2016 primaries. In the rural 10th Senate District in the state's western reaches, Democrat Patty Schachtner defeated Republican Assemblyman Adam Jarchow by an impressive 9 percentage points in a special election on Tuesday. Consider that Trump carried the district by 17 points in the presidential election (up from a 6-point margin for Mitt Romney in 2012) and that the seat had been Republican for 17 years. It was, as my Washington Post colleague Dave Weigel noted, the Democrats' 34th legislative pickup from the Republicans since Trump's election. Republicans have flipped just four. And lest anyone dismiss the importance of what happened, Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who rode to power on the 2010 conservative wave, warned that Schachtner's victory was "a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin." It might usefully rouse Republicans in Washington, too. Wisconsin matters, and not simply because it was, along with Michigan and Pennsylvania, one of the closely run states that gave Trump his Electoral College victory. It is also the place where American progressivism took root at the turn of the last century, but where conservatives have staged a dramatic realignment of popular sentiments over a short period. Democrats won it in every presidential election from 1988 to 2012. Hillary Clinton's strategists made the mistake of taking the state for granted in 2016. What they missed were trends brilliantly analyzed by Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin, in her prophetic book, "The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker." It was published [...]



Republicans Don't Really Want to Fix Immigration

2018-01-18T00:00:00Z

President Trump and the Republican leadership have made clear that they have no intention of repairing our chaotic immigration system. Why not? Because illegal immigration is a problem that bothers most Americans. Fix it and all these politicians have are tax cuts for the rich, environmental degradation, soaring deficits and the loss of health care. As a campaigner, Trump learned that when audience passion flagged, he could demand a wall with Mexico and his folks would jump to their feet. The week that America went into convulsions over Trump's racist vulgarities about certain immigrants...President Trump and the Republican leadership have made clear that they have no intention of repairing our chaotic immigration system. Why not? Because illegal immigration is a problem that bothers most Americans. Fix it and all these politicians have are tax cuts for the rich, environmental degradation, soaring deficits and the loss of health care. As a campaigner, Trump learned that when audience passion flagged, he could demand a wall with Mexico and his folks would jump to their feet. The week that America went into convulsions over Trump's racist vulgarities about certain immigrants is a week we'll never get back again. But it did cancel right-wing displeasure over his seemingly constructive comments on immigration reform a few days earlier. "Is Trump a racist?" the TV commentators kept asking. He said racially disgusting things as a candidate and again as president. Asking whether he's a racist deep in his cheesecloth soul is a pointless exercise. Trump shows all appearances of "not playing with a full deck," despite a doctor's report of good cognitive health. It really doesn't matter much whether he is crazy or just acts crazy. But with his promises to protect working people breaking like fine crystal dropped from Trump Tower's 26th floor, his policy deck has become quite thin. Illegal immigration remains one of the few potent cards he has to play. Why take it out of play by solving the problem? This thinking did not begin with Trump. In 2013, the U.S. Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform in a bipartisan vote. It would have legalized the status of most undocumented immigrants while putting teeth in enforcement going forward. There were enough supportive Democrats and Republicans to pass the reform in the House, as well, but then-Speaker John Boehner didn't put it up for a vote. Passage would have made some hotheads in his Republican caucus unhappy. Some foes of comprehensive reform pointed to the 1986 immigration deal as the reason they couldn't support that one. Their reason was baloney. True, the law enacted in 1986 gave amnesty to millions without stopping the flow of more undocumented workers. Its big flaw was letting employers accept documents that merely "looked good" as ID for hiring someone. An explosion of fake Social Security cards and other documents greatly weakened the ability to enforce the ban on employing those here illegally. The 2013 legislation would have closed that loophole. It would have required companies to use E-Verify, a secure database, to determine every job applicant's right to work in the United States. That would have made all the difference in hiring practices and the ability of government to enforce the law. Had the reform passed in 201[...]



Where to Look for the Wave

2018-01-18T00:00:00Z

It's normal for the party out of power to gain ground in a midterm election. The big question in 2018 is whether the Democrats will gain enough ground to win a majority in the House of Representatives. While the political winds currently favor the Democrats, 390 of the 435 House races are pretty well locked in for one party or the other. Only 45 out of 435 races are even somewhat competitive. Still, a race-by-race analysis on ScottRasmussen.com suggests that a normal midterm gain would get the Democrats very close to their goal. The starting point is 187 races that are rated as either...It's normal for the party out of power to gain ground in a midterm election. The big question in 2018 is whether the Democrats will gain enough ground to win a majority in the House of Representatives. While the political winds currently favor the Democrats, 390 of the 435 House races are pretty well locked in for one party or the other. Only 45 out of 435 races are even somewhat competitive. Still, a race-by-race analysis on ScottRasmussen.com suggests that a normal midterm gain would get the Democrats very close to their goal. The starting point is 187 races that are rated as either Strong or Likely Democratic and nine more tilting or leaning in that direction. With decent midterm turnout, the Democrats would win all of these races bringing their total to 196. With a good midterm turnout, the Democrats could also win just about all of the toss-ups or races currently just tilting in the GOP direction. These are races like the open seat contest in Washington's 8th Congressional District. Republican incumbent Dave Reichert opted out of a re-election battle in a District where Hillary Clinton attracted more votes than Donald Trump. Barack Obama also carried the District in both 2008 and 2012. While nothing is certain in politics, Washington-8 is the type of race Democrats should expect to win with a good midterm performance. At ScottRasmussen.com, we place 17 races in this category. Winning all them would get the Democrats to 213 seats, still five votes short of a majority. To get over the top, the current minority party will need an electoral wave that washes out some seats that would remain in GOP hands during a normal election cycle. At ScottRasmussen.com, we've identified 19 races that currently lean Republican but could be at risk in a wave election. That means the best way to tell if a wave is coming is to follow these 19 races. If the Democrats do well in these campaigns, they will have a very good chance of winning a Congressional majority. On the other hand, if the GOP can solidify its position in these races, there will be no wave and the Republicans will preserve a narrow majority. The 19 wave watch districts are California-45 (Mimi Walters), Georgia-6 (Karen Handel), Illinois-6 (Peter Roskam), Illinois-12 (Michael Bost), Iowa-1 (Rodney Blum), Iowa-3 (David Young), Kansas-2 (Open), Kansas-3 (Open), Kentucky-6 (Garland Barr), Maine-2 (Bruce Poliquin), Minnesota-3 (Erik Paulsen), Michigan-8 (Mike Bishop), New Jersey-7 (Leonard Lance), New Jersey-11, (Rodney Frelinghuysen), Pennsylvania-7 (Patrick Meehan), Pennsylvania-8 (Brian Fitzpatrick), Pennsylvania-15 (Open) and Utah-4 (Mia Love). Geographically, many of these districts should be friendly to Democrat[...]



Trump-Critic Romney Seen as Midterm Outlier for GOP

2018-01-18T00:00:00Z

If Mitt Romney does indeed run for the U.S. Senate this year, his long-held -- and sharply stated -- anti-Trump sentiments could place him on an island far removed from fellow Republican candidates. But that isolation likely won’t handicap him either. Even as the GOP prepares for a midterm election in which the traditional challenges facing the party in power figure to be exacerbated by Donald Trump's low approval rating and self-inflicted controversies, few Republicans see a path to electoral success that involves excoriating the president. Trump's national ratings may be...If Mitt Romney does indeed run for the U.S. Senate this year, his long-held -- and sharply stated -- anti-Trump sentiments could place him on an island far removed from fellow Republican candidates. But that isolation likely won’t handicap him either. Even as the GOP prepares for a midterm election in which the traditional challenges facing the party in power figure to be exacerbated by Donald Trump's low approval rating and self-inflicted controversies, few Republicans see a path to electoral success that involves excoriating the president. Trump's national ratings may be low, but he remains popular among conservative voters, especially those who show up for primaries. In many states around the country, GOP candidates have been endearing themselves to Trump. So, when Romney this week condemned his alleged remarks about certain immigrant nations – calling the words "antithetical to American values" — it was noteworthy because most of Trump's Republican denouncers are either comfortably outside of Congress or on their way out. "So far everyone is trying to get as close to the president as possible," said one GOP Senate campaign operative. "In almost all of the races, everyone has been angling to be the most Trump-esque." Indeed, party candidates aiming for U.S. Senate seats in Arizona, Tennessee, West Virginia and other key states the president won are sounding much more positive notes about Trump. Arizona Rep. Martha McSally is considered the establishment choice for the Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, but she launched her campaign as an ally of the president. "Like our president, I'm tired of PC politicians and their BS excuses," she said in her opening ad. Flake, a top Trump critic, acknowledged he wouldn't be able to win a primary in this environment. His impending retirement has freed him up to speak out further against Trump, but few of his GOP colleagues are following suit. On Wednesday, he gave a scathing rebuke on the Senate floor of the president's treatment of the press, comparing his tactics to         those of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. (But he spoke to a mostly empty chamber.) Romney's positioning isn't surprising. He called candidate Trump a "phony" and a "fraud" during the 2016 campaign. And while he and the president-elect briefly made amends while the 2012 presidential nominee was under consideration for secretary of state, Romney has been a vocal critic since then. "What he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn," Romney said of Trump's response to racial violence in Charlottesville over the summer.[...]



Under the New Trump Standard, Why Wasn't Obama Impeached?

2018-01-18T00:00:00Z

In the era of President Donald Trump, Democrats think presidents should be impeached over policy differences. In Trump's case, the Democrats accuse him of winning the election by "colluding" with Russia to win. After nearly a year of investigations, there does not appear to be any evidence. Yet many Democrats have already called for impeachment. In truth, Democrats want this President out because they don't like him or his policies. One of Trump's major campaign promises was to build a "wall" to protect our southern border. Never mind that, in 2006, 26...In the era of President Donald Trump, Democrats think presidents should be impeached over policy differences. In Trump's case, the Democrats accuse him of winning the election by "colluding" with Russia to win. After nearly a year of investigations, there does not appear to be any evidence. Yet many Democrats have already called for impeachment. In truth, Democrats want this President out because they don't like him or his policies. One of Trump's major campaign promises was to build a "wall" to protect our southern border. Never mind that, in 2006, 26 Democratic senators -- including Hillary Clinton, then-Sen. Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer -- voted for hundreds of miles of barriers and fencing. And every Senate Democrat voted for 2013's Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, which again called for hundreds of miles of barriers. But Trump is "racist" and "xenophobic." Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, calls Trump a "bigot in the White House who incites hatred and hostility," which, says Green, is a "high misdemeanor" that constitutes an impeachable offense. All right, let's apply the Democrats' new standard for impeachment to President Obama and his decision in 2011 to pull all the troops from Iraq against the advice of his national security team. President George W. Bush warned his successor. Bush turned around the Iraq War with his controversial "surge," a troop increase of about 21,500 in 2007. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, in October 2011, two months before Obama pulled out all the troops in Iraq, said that Bush's 2007 agreement envisioned a negotiation for a stay-behind force: "There was another provision in (Bush's status-of-forces agreement) that's very important, seems to have been ignored, which was that we would also reserve the right to negotiate with the Iraqis on some stay-behind forces. ... They're a new democracy; they're not very well-organized yet. I worry that in the rush for the exit here, that we may in fact make it very difficult for them to succeed." But then-Sen. Barack Obama, who called the Iraq War "dumb," not only opposed Bush's surge but also predicted it would make things worse: "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse. ... So I am going to actively oppose the President's proposal." But the surge did work. By 2008, the violence subsided to the point where American soldiers, celebrating with Iraqis in Ramadi, were on the streets not even wearing their helmets. War correspondent Dexter Filkins, who had all but given up in Iraq when he was last there just two years earlier, could[...]



What Is the Real Message of #MeToo?

2018-01-17T00:00:00Z

The feminist website Babe published an account of a date gone bad. The pushback has been swift and sharp. I share some of the concerns of the critics, but I also think young women are sending a message that is being missed. The account by the anonymous "Grace" about a bad date with comedian Aziz Ansari was, if not "3,000 words of revenge porn" (Caitlin Flanagan's phrase), certainly a low journalistic blow. To permit an anonymous accuser to assassinate the character of a famous man is a sucker punch. He may have behaved badly, but even assuming that her entire account...The feminist website Babe published an account of a date gone bad. The pushback has been swift and sharp. I share some of the concerns of the critics, but I also think young women are sending a message that is being missed. The account by the anonymous "Grace" about a bad date with comedian Aziz Ansari was, if not "3,000 words of revenge porn" (Caitlin Flanagan's phrase), certainly a low journalistic blow. To permit an anonymous accuser to assassinate the character of a famous man is a sucker punch. He may have behaved badly, but even assuming that her entire account is true, nothing she describes seems remotely awful enough to justify the public humiliation to which she has subjected him. There is no way to know who is behind this. It could be someone with a grudge against Ansari. It could be someone who routinely makes accusations against people. Babe.net was grossly irresponsible to publish it. But the cultural chord it struck is revealing. There were countless "attagirl" responses to Grace on social media. A recent New Yorker short story, "Cat Person," about a creepy sexual encounter generated a similar buzz. And sympathetic takes on Grace from sites such as Vox and Salon suggest that the #MeToo movement is fast becoming not just a protest of workplace sexual harassment but a broader uprising among young women against today's sexual culture. To be clear, the critics, including Flanagan, Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan and even Catherine Deneuve, make two essential points. One, it is crucial to make distinctions between behavior that is boorish or uncouth and conduct that is abusive or criminal. Two, women must be forceful and direct in speaking up for themselves, or in Weiss' words, "claiming agency." But I think we are seeing something much larger than pushback against male predation. What we are seeing in the broader culture now is something that has been evident on college campuses for some time: Women are unhappy about the state of sex and romance. They feel pressured, they feel disrespected, and they are fighting back. Sadly, our culture has so exalted sexual license that the only form of sexual conduct women are permitted to protest is coercion. It should not be surprising, then, that the terms "assault" and "rape" have been expanded beyond reasonable bounds. Caitlin Flanagan says that Grace "wanted affection, kindness, attention. Perhaps she hoped to maybe even become the famous man's girlfriend." Isn't that what many people want when they embark on a date? What does it say about dating in our time that those are unrealistic expectations? Perhaps Ansari's particular reputation for sensitiv[...]



Why Conservatives Are Proposing a DACA Deal

2018-01-17T00:00:00Z

With President Trump’s blessing, various factions within the Republican Party are cracking the door open to an amnesty deal for illegal immigrants currently enrolled in the unlawful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Last week, Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Michael McCaul, Raul Labrador and Martha McSally introduced a relatively narrow and targeted amnesty for current DACA recipients that would come alongside increased border security, robust internal enforcement, and 21st-century reforms to our nation’s legal immigration system called the Securing America’s...With President Trump’s blessing, various factions within the Republican Party are cracking the door open to an amnesty deal for illegal immigrants currently enrolled in the unlawful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Last week, Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Michael McCaul, Raul Labrador and Martha McSally introduced a relatively narrow and targeted amnesty for current DACA recipients that would come alongside increased border security, robust internal enforcement, and 21st-century reforms to our nation’s legal immigration system called the Securing America’s Future Act. To be clear, the Goodlatte bill does contain amnesty. Amnesty, as The Heritage Foundation explained in 2013, “comes in many forms, but in all its variations, it … treats law-breaking aliens better than law-following aliens.” Conservatives have rightly opposed amnesty in the past as a failed policy that is anathema to the rule of law, fundamentally unfair to Americans and would-be legal immigrants, and a magnet that attracts more illegal immigration in the future. Those critiques remain as true today as they have been in the past. Given the unique political circumstances and the legal quagmire created by former President Obama’s unlawful actions, many congressional conservatives are contemplating how best to limit the scope of an amnesty and thus its damage, while also securing important changes to address security, protect sovereignty and enhance economic competitiveness. The shift is exemplified by Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows urging the House to vote on the Securing America's Future Act. So why are some House conservatives -- and many of their Senate colleagues -- opening the door to amnesty? First, the Goodlatte amnesty provision is extremely narrow. It would only allow illegal immigrants who currently have “deferred action on the basis of being brought to the U.S. as minors [to] get a 3-year renewable legal status allowing them to work and travel overseas.” In other words, there would be no permanent status or path to citizenship. And while the Pew Research Center estimated 1.1 million illegal immigrants were eligible for DACA in 2012, only 790,000 ultimately took advantage of the program and fewer than 690,000 remain in it. That number is about 94 percent smaller than the Bush- and Obama-era amnesty proposals, which would have resulted in upward of 11 million illegal immigrants being eligible for one of the greatest gifts imaginable: American citizenship. Secon[...]



The Expanding Millionaire Class

2018-01-17T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Call them the new millionaires. Once upon a time -- certainly within living memory -- becoming a millionaire was a big deal. It was a badge of economic distinction, enjoyed by a tiny elite. No more. By 2016, slightly more than 9 million U.S. households had a net worth of $1 million or more, according to new calculations by economist Edward N. Wolff of New York University. Of these, an estimated 1.85 million households had a net worth exceeding $5 million. Now, go back a few decades and correct for inflation. In 1983, only 2.4 million households had a net worth of greater than $1...WASHINGTON -- Call them the new millionaires. Once upon a time -- certainly within living memory -- becoming a millionaire was a big deal. It was a badge of economic distinction, enjoyed by a tiny elite. No more. By 2016, slightly more than 9 million U.S. households had a net worth of $1 million or more, according to new calculations by economist Edward N. Wolff of New York University. Of these, an estimated 1.85 million households had a net worth exceeding $5 million. Now, go back a few decades and correct for inflation. In 1983, only 2.4 million households had a net worth of greater than $1 million. This was less than 3 percent of all households. By contrast, the 9 million in 2016 represented more than 7 percent of households. Probably most of these new millionaires consider themselves comfortably upper-middle class, not super-rich. Indeed, it's conceivable that 10 percent of households are now millionaires. The reason: Wolff's study doesn't cover 2017, when stocks soared roughly 25 percent. Most gains would have been captured by the rich and upper middle class, pushing many over the $1 million threshold, because stock ownership is concentrated at the top. The richest 10 percent of Americans own about 90 percent of the stocks. (Note: Net worth reflects the difference between household assets -- mostly homes and stocks -- and debts, dominated by home mortgages and credit card balances.) Wolff's analysis -- based on data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, conducted every three years by the Federal Reserve -- has some other good news: A steep decline in the indebtedness of U.S. households. Among the middle-class (which Wolff defines as the middle 60 percent of the population by wealth or income), average debt dropped from $98,100 in 2007 to $69,900 in 2016. Lower debt suggests that many Americans are less vulnerable to an economic slump than in the 2007-09 Great Recession. But Wolff's conclusions mostly confirm the conventional view of a society that is increasingly economically stratified. The Great Recession hurt almost everyone. But the upper classes have recovered faster than the middle class. It's not entirely clear why, though the surging stock market helped upper-income households and a fall in homeownership rates -- reflecting foreclosures -- harmed the middle class disproportionately. In any case, median household net worth was only $78,100 in 2016, a decline of a third from its peak of $118,600 in 2007. Wolff calls this the study's most disappointing finding. There were also wealth losses from previous peaks[...]



Funding Replay; the Year That Wasn't; Reforming the CFPB; Vino Bravo

2018-01-17T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, January 17, 2018. Michelle Robinson, later to be Michelle Obama, came into the world on this day. That was in 1964, the same year sublime heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay announced that henceforth he’d be known as Muhammad Ali. “Cassius Clay is a slave name,” said the famous fighter who was also born on this day -- in 1942. “I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it.” Fair enough, but his parents actually had named the future champ after an enlightened and influential...Good morning, it’s Wednesday, January 17, 2018. Michelle Robinson, later to be Michelle Obama, came into the world on this day. That was in 1964, the same year sublime heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay announced that henceforth he’d be known as Muhammad Ali. “Cassius Clay is a slave name,” said the famous fighter who was also born on this day -- in 1942. “I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it.” Fair enough, but his parents actually had named the future champ after an enlightened and influential anti-slavery statesman. Cassius Marcellus Clay was born into a wealth family of Kentucky planters, but while at Yale College in the early 1830s, he went to hear influential abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison speak. Immediately transfigured, Clay joined the cause, later freeing his father’s slaves, arguing for emancipation, joining the nascent Republican Party, serving in Congress, surviving assassination attempts, and serving as Abraham Lincoln’s envoy to Russia, where he worked to build support in Moscow for the Union. Because I’m in Northern California this week, however, and taking a little time from my duties to sample this state’s fine wines, I’m going to mention a third January 17 birthday -- that of Benjamin Franklin. Why does Ben Franklin remind me of wine? I’ll explain below. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. * * * Fourth Time May Not Be the Charm on Funding, DACA. James Arkin updates Congress’ efforts to avert a government shutdown Friday, though it appears long-term budget and immigration solutions remain out of reach. All That Didn’t Happen During Trump's First Year. Looking back at year-ago predictions, David Azerrad notes that the sky did not fall. Charting a New Course for the CFPB. In RealClearPolicy, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter urges the Trump administration to seize the opportunity to reform the controversial agency. New Englanders Have Only Themselves to Blame for Energy Price Spikes. In RealClearEnergy, William Murray argues that an "anti-infrastructure pose" is raising the cost of electricity. New Thinking for Grid Defense. In RealClearDefense, Travel Nels examines ways to protect the power grid. And Paul Feldman addresses related issues in RCE. If China Didn't Exist, We Would Have to Invent It. RealClearMarkets[...]



Fourth Time May Not Be the Charm on Funding, DACA

2018-01-17T00:00:00Z

It’s déjà vu all over again on Capitol Hill. For the fourth time in the last four months, Republicans hope this week to pass a short-term patch to fund the government temporarily and skirt a shutdown deadline at midnight Friday. But that plan leaves two key issues unresolved: an agreement on funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year, and any bipartisan solution for DACA, the Obama administration executive order protecting young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, which President Trump rescinded, effective in early March. An...It’s déjà vu all over again on Capitol Hill. For the fourth time in the last four months, Republicans hope this week to pass a short-term patch to fund the government temporarily and skirt a shutdown deadline at midnight Friday. But that plan leaves two key issues unresolved: an agreement on funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year, and any bipartisan solution for DACA, the Obama administration executive order protecting young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, which President Trump rescinded, effective in early March. An agreement on the former, proposed by House GOP leadership Tuesday evening, would fund the government through Feb. 16, giving lawmakers four weeks to find a way forward on immigration and long-term spending. The short-term bill would also include six years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program -- which had been a major sticking point in previous negotiations -- as well as delays on several minor Obamacare taxes intended to woo Republican votes. Though lawmakers and aides are confident a shutdown can be avoided – at least this week – both parties still cast pre-emptive blame for potential failure. President Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, “Democrats want to shut down the Government over Amnesty for all and Border Security.” Democrats responded by pointing out that Republicans control both chambers of Congress and the White House, insisting that blame would fall on the GOP. Some Republicans agreed. “If Republicans control all levers, they should be able to — in theory at least; obviously this has been difficult in the past — keep its House and Senate in order,” said Doug Heye, a former RNC official. Still, it’s likely that a funding measure this week will follow a similar pattern to the one agreed to in December. Republican leaders will likely need to secure enough GOP votes to pass the measure in the House – meaning they can only afford about two dozen defections. Sixteen Republicans voted no in December. Just 14 House Democrats supported the short-term funding bill last month, but waited until it was clear it would pass without their help.   “If they need Democratic votes, the CR and the spending package will be reflective of Democratic priorities,” Rep. Joe Crowley, a member of House Democratic leadership, told RCP. If the House can clear the measure – expected to be voted on Thursday – the dynamic w[...]



The Trump-Russia Collusion Investigation Is Far From a 'Witch Hunt'

2018-01-17T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- "Does this concern you at all?" asks a tart email message from a Trump supporter who wonders why the mainstream media doesn't take a closer look at allegations that the Justice Department's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election has been tainted by bias. It's a fair question. President Trump has made very serious charges, tweeting in December that the FBI's "reputation is in Tatters -- worst in History!" And Republicans in Congress have claimed that the bureau was manipulated by a former British intelligence officer named...WASHINGTON -- "Does this concern you at all?" asks a tart email message from a Trump supporter who wonders why the mainstream media doesn't take a closer look at allegations that the Justice Department's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election has been tainted by bias. It's a fair question. President Trump has made very serious charges, tweeting in December that the FBI's "reputation is in Tatters -- worst in History!" And Republicans in Congress have claimed that the bureau was manipulated by a former British intelligence officer named Christopher Steele, who supposedly pumped up allegations about Trump-Russia collusion with a "dossier" that was financed by Hillary Clinton. What's true here and what's false? A careful look at the evidence rebuts the claim that the FBI was misused by Steele, and that the bureau's operations are in disarray. The FBI isn't perfect, and text messages show that some officials favored Clinton (just as others supported Trump). But Republicans delude themselves in claiming that the Russia probe is a partisan concoction. Trump operatives have admitted in plea agreements that they lied to the FBI about their contacts with Russia. In a rational world, Trump would apologize for smearing America's top investigative agency, but that's not where we live right now. So let's instead listen to FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was appointed by Trump after James Comey was fired. Wray told a House committee last month: "What I can tell you is [I see] tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off to keep Americans safe from the next terrorist attack, gang violence, child predators, spies from Russia, China and North Korea, and Iran." A senior official of one of the nation's largest police departments agrees: "I work with the FBI every day, and I don't see tatters." Several bureau veterans offered similar assessments; Trump's comments offended even Comey's detractors in the FBI. What about Republican claims that Steele spawned what Trump calls a "witch hunt"? It's true that Steele was hired by Fusion GPS, an investigative firm paid to dig up dirt on Trump, first by Republican opponents, then by Clinton supporters. But Steele went through well-established contacts, and the FBI got serious only after it obtained its own independent information. Steele's main FBI connection was a senior agent he had met in 2010, when he shared information about corruption in the international soccer federation known as FIFA. Steele, who had re[...]



All That Didn't Happen During Trump's First Year

2018-01-17T00:00:00Z

It was supposed to be the worst of times: an age of foolishness, a season of darkness, and a winter of despair. According to the experts, the presidency of Donald J. Trump would “cause the stock market to crash and plunge the world into recession,” threaten “the planet’s health and safety,” bring “fascism” to America, and maybe even “get us all killed.” “In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order,” Andrew Sullivan announced in New York magazine, “Trump is an...It was supposed to be the worst of times: an age of foolishness, a season of darkness, and a winter of despair. According to the experts, the presidency of Donald J. Trump would “cause the stock market to crash and plunge the world into recession,” threaten “the planet’s health and safety,” bring “fascism” to America, and maybe even “get us all killed.” “In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order,” Andrew Sullivan announced in New York magazine, “Trump is an extinction-level event.” Paul Krugman warned his New York Times readers that America would soon turn into “Trumpistan,” with Trump ushering in “an era of epic corruption and contempt for the rule of law, with no restraint whatsoever.” “And you have to wonder about civil liberties, too,” he added. “The White House will soon be occupied by a man with obvious authoritarian instincts, and Congress controlled by a party that has shown no inclination to stand up against him. How bad will it get? Nobody knows.” His conservative colleague Ross Douthat was no more reassuring. He offered his three “baseline dangers for a Trump administration”—not far-flung predictions mind you, but the “perils that we would very likely face”: “sustained market jitters leading to an economic slump,” “major civil unrest,” and “a rapid escalation of risk in every geopolitical theater.” And yet here we are, a full year into the Trump presidency, with America and the world somehow still standing. Not a single one of the overblown doomsday scenarios that Trump was supposed to unleash has panned out. Quite the contrary, in fact. The stock market is roaring and economic growth is set to exceed 3 percent for a third consecutive quarter. America remains a democracy, with an independent judiciary and a free press. More than 70 free and fair special elections (many won by Democrats) have taken place since Donald Trump was inaugurated. ISIS’s caliphate is no more. And North Korea is at the negotiating table. While President Trump cannot claim full credit for all of this, he can point to some real accomplishments of his own. He appointed a record number of good appellate judges to the federal bench, enacted a major overhaul of the tax code, and has been pursuing an aggressive deregulatory agenda. It is hard to imagine any of the other 16[...]



Big Brother on America's Fishing Boats

2018-01-17T00:00:00Z

Salt water. Seagulls. Striped bass. My fondest childhood memories come from fishing with my dad on the creaky piers and slick jetties of the Jersey shore. The Atlantic Ocean is in my blood. So when fishing families in New England reached out to me for help spreading word about their economic and regulatory struggles, I immediately heeded their call. Now, these "forgotten men and women" of America hope the Trump administration will listen. And act. The plague on the commercial fishing industry isn't "overfishing," as environmental extremists and government officials...Salt water. Seagulls. Striped bass. My fondest childhood memories come from fishing with my dad on the creaky piers and slick jetties of the Jersey shore. The Atlantic Ocean is in my blood. So when fishing families in New England reached out to me for help spreading word about their economic and regulatory struggles, I immediately heeded their call. Now, these "forgotten men and women" of America hope the Trump administration will listen. And act. The plague on the commercial fishing industry isn't "overfishing," as environmental extremists and government officials claim. The real threats to Northeastern groundfishermen are self-perpetuating bureaucrats, armed with outdated junk science, who've manufactured a crisis that endangers a way of life older than the colonies themselves. Hardworking crews and captains have the deepest stake in responsible fisheries management -- it's their past, present, and future -- but federal paper-pushers monitor them ruthlessly like registered sex offenders. Generations of schoolchildren have been brainwashed into believing that our seas have been depleted by greedy commercial fishermen. In the 1960s and 1970s, it is true, foreign factory trawlers from Russia and Japan pillaged coastal groundfish stocks. But after the domestic fishing industry regained control of our waters, stocks rebounded. Reality, however, did not fit the agenda of scare-mongering environmentalists and regulators who need a perpetual crisis to justify their existence. To cure a manufactured "shortage" of bottom-dwelling groundfish, Washington micromanagers created a permanent thicket of regional fishery management councils, designated fishing zones, annual catch limits, individual catch limits and "observers" mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Even more frustrating for the fishing families who know the habitat best, the federal scientists' trawler surveys for assessing stocks use faulty nets that vastly underestimate stock abundance. Meghan Lapp, a lifelong fisherwoman and conservation biologist, points out that government surveyors use a "net that's not the right size for the vessel," which produces "a stock assessment that shows artificially low numbers. The fishing does not match what the fishermen see on the water." Instead of fixing the science, top-down bureaucrats have cracked down on groundfishermen who fail to comply with impossible and unreasonable rules and regulations. The observer program, which [...]



Get Off the Couch If You Want Medicaid

2018-01-17T00:00:00Z

Last week, the Trump administration announced it will allow states to impose a "community engagement" requirement on healthy adults getting Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income people. So far, 10 states intend to do it, though not welfare-haven New York. To get Medicaid, adults in these states will have to work or look for a job, study for a high school diploma, learn English as a second language, volunteer, get addiction treatment or take care of a family member. In short, they must do something. Democrats and the liberal media call the requirement...Last week, the Trump administration announced it will allow states to impose a "community engagement" requirement on healthy adults getting Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income people. So far, 10 states intend to do it, though not welfare-haven New York. To get Medicaid, adults in these states will have to work or look for a job, study for a high school diploma, learn English as a second language, volunteer, get addiction treatment or take care of a family member. In short, they must do something. Democrats and the liberal media call the requirement "cruel" and "pathological." Baloney. There's no reason taxpayers should pick up the tab for able-bodied people who won't get off the couch. Medicaid was created in 1965 as a safety net health program for pregnant women, children and the disabled. Then Obamacare distorted it into permanent insurance, raising the allowable income level and opening it up to healthy adults who refuse to work. The Medicaid rolls now top 74 million, and are projected to reach 87 million within a decade. As Medicaid dependence soars, the left brags that more people are "covered." Technically true, but misleading. Medicaid's ballooning enrollment is creating a national crisis. And not just because it's the fastest growing federal entitlement program and the biggest item in many state budgets. Medicaid is sending commercial health premiums through the roof. How? It shortchanges hospitals and doctors, and they make up for it by shifting the unmet costs onto privately insured patients, explains Don George, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont. Every family that buys insurance or is covered through an employer gets socked with hundreds, or often thousands, of dollars extra in yearly premiums. The bigger Medicaid grows, the higher these premiums will skyrocket, threatening to kill private insurance as a viable option. Yikes. Democrats boasting about the millions of people newly enrolled in Medicaid aren't about to admit it's driving premiums skyward. Allowing states to impose conditions for Medicaid will help curb the enrollment explosion. The history of welfare reform proves it. Welfare reform, enacted in 1996, introduced a work requirement, as well as a time limit on cash benefits. New York's Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted "children sleeping on grates, picked up in the morning, frozen." Instead, welf[...]



Red-State Democrats Gamble

2018-01-16T00:00:00Z

Months from now, as the pressures of midterm elections bear down on a handful of incumbent Democratic U.S. senators in states President Trump won in 2016, pundits may start to recall a meeting held at the White House on a cold January afternoon and wonder whether they missed something important. Immediately after the televised Jan. 9 meeting, everyone discussed the meeting as a live-mic free-for-all and focused on the theatrics. They speculated openly that Trump held the meeting to dispel any notion that he is mentally fit. Once again, the pundits were missing the little nuances of how much...Months from now, as the pressures of midterm elections bear down on a handful of incumbent Democratic U.S. senators in states President Trump won in 2016, pundits may start to recall a meeting held at the White House on a cold January afternoon and wonder whether they missed something important. Immediately after the televised Jan. 9 meeting, everyone discussed the meeting as a live-mic free-for-all and focused on the theatrics. They speculated openly that Trump held the meeting to dispel any notion that he is mentally fit. Once again, the pundits were missing the little nuances of how much American politics really has changed -- and what that may mean for future results. Importantly, three Democratic officials in states that went heavily for Trump in 2016 -- Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill -- were all absent. Sens. McCaskill and Manchin said they were not invited to the White House event. Normally, the lawmakers who represent states that voted for the other party's presidential nominee are the most bipartisan -- even if it's just to listen. Early on, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Sen. Donnelly hopped on a plane with Trump. But now that they're in the heat of fundraising, they do not want any part of it. They have made the bet of picking their donors in California and New York over their voters back home. They could be trying hard to find places where they could work productively with the president, yet the closer the elections get, they get farther from the White House. It is yet another example of how U.S. Senate races have changed: These races are all national now, and the bulk of the candidates' money comes from outside their state. The result: They focus on their real constituency, their national donor base. In turn, they ignore the people in the states they represent. There isn't one of those incumbent Democrats whose voters and union members in their state would not love them to work with Trump on infrastructure. You know who wouldn't like that? The high-dollar donors in San Francisco and New York and Los Angeles. If anyone of those senators were to get caught near Trump, all of those donors would ditch them in a minute. They're basically asking McCaskill and Donnelly to do an act of levitation: Win without doing the things your voters would like you to do. [...]



The Coup That Succeeded

2018-01-16T00:00:00Z

The Wall Street Journal celebrated the new year with wonderful news. "We're pleased to report that there hasn't been a fascist coup in Washington," announced a Jan. 1 editorial. True enough, but as two Harvard professors point out in a new book, coups are so 20th century. Democracies perish, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt point out, by a kind of civic Alzheimer's. They forget to function. This has been the case in Poland, Hungary, Venezuela and Turkey, to name just four countries under odious regimes. As for the United States, a kind of coup has already succeeded....The Wall Street Journal celebrated the new year with wonderful news. "We're pleased to report that there hasn't been a fascist coup in Washington," announced a Jan. 1 editorial. True enough, but as two Harvard professors point out in a new book, coups are so 20th century. Democracies perish, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt point out, by a kind of civic Alzheimer's. They forget to function. This has been the case in Poland, Hungary, Venezuela and Turkey, to name just four countries under odious regimes. As for the United States, a kind of coup has already succeeded. Truth has been commandeered by the state and dispatched to a new gulag. It is called Fake News. The first casualty of war, the saying goes, is truth. But with Trumpism, truth is not collateral damage, it is the enemy itself. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a member of the senate's dwindling anti-Trump caucus -- Flake himself is about go into honorable retirement -- put his finger on a useful historical analogy. In an upcoming speech he likens Trump to Joseph Stalin. It turns out that the late Soviet dictator also liked to call the media the "enemy of the people." Flake says he is about to expound on his insight in a senate speech. It is virtually a sure thing few of his colleagues will listen, because they will think, in the manner of the Wall Street Journal editorial, that the comparison is overdrawn. This is somewhat true. Trump has murdered no dissidents and has yet to airbrush deposed aides from official photos -- although Bannon's day may be coming. Still, one has to zero in on Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, to fully appreciate Flake's warning. In her demeanor and her willingness to straight-face the preposterous, she'd bring an appreciative smile to Stalin's face. He has seen her type before. After Trump denounced a Wall Street Journal story as "FAKE NEWS!" Sanders followed up with a tweet of her very own. The Journal had quoted Trump as saying, "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un," the North Korean dictator. Trump, who was being interviewed by the Journal when be brought up Kim, quickly protested. He did not say "I," he insisted. He had said "I'd." The White House provided a tape to substantiate its contention. The Journal then provided one of its own. "I?" "I'd?" Hard to tell. I'd go with the Journal, bu[...]



10 Thoughts on the President and the 'S---hole Countries'

2018-01-16T00:00:00Z

Here are ten thoughts on the president's alleged use of the word "s---hole" in describing Haiti, a Central American country and African countries: 1. There are few filters between President Donald Trump's mind and mouth. That is his appeal and his weakness. It is very common that a person's strengths are also weaknesses. I wish Trump's tweets and comments were as forthright -- as un-P.C. -- as they are now but stated in a sophisticated way. I also wish that cheesecake were not fattening. But just as cheesecake comes with sugar, Donald Trump comes with...Here are ten thoughts on the president's alleged use of the word "s---hole" in describing Haiti, a Central American country and African countries: 1. There are few filters between President Donald Trump's mind and mouth. That is his appeal and his weakness. It is very common that a person's strengths are also weaknesses. I wish Trump's tweets and comments were as forthright -- as un-P.C. -- as they are now but stated in a sophisticated way. I also wish that cheesecake were not fattening. But just as cheesecake comes with sugar, Donald Trump comes with unsophisticated rhetoric. People are packages, not a la carte menus. 2. As a rule, a president of the United States should not label countries, let alone continents, "s---holes. I don't know what word the president actually used, but had he used the word "dysfunctional" instead of "s---hole," that actually might have been a service to the people of many of these countries. I have been to 20 African countries. Corruption is Africa's greatest single problem. That's why those who truly care about Africans, many of whom are terrific people, need to honestly describe the moral state of many or most African countries. What benefit is it to honest, hardworking Africans or Latin Americans or others to deny the endemic corruption of these societies? As Guatemalan columnist Claudia Nunez wrote on Trump in the Guatemalan newspaper Siglio 21: "The epithets he uses to describe certain groups are unfortunate and exemplify the decadence of the current political scene. But he has also said things that are true, for example, that it is we citizens of migration countries who have accommodated ourselves to the need to export people, as we have calmly allowed excessive levels of corruption to grow for decades." 3. Though many wonderful immigrants come from the world's worst places, there is some connection between the moral state of an immigrant's country and the immigrant's contribution to America. According to data from the Center for Immigration Studies, 73 percent of households headed by Central American and Mexican immigrants use one or more welfare programs, as do 51 percent of Caribbean immigrants and 48 percent of African immigrants. Contrast that with 32 percent of East Asians and 26 percent of Europeans. 4. The press's constant description of Trump as a racist, a white supremacist, [...]



Democrats Need to Stop Ingesting the Right's Propaganda

2018-01-16T00:00:00Z

Donald Trump is fabulously adept at taking credit for and exaggerating every bit of good news, especially good economic news. When the news is bad, he changes the subject. Trump is the master, but Republicans generally are skilled at fine-tailoring reality for their benefit. Democrats are the opposite. They seem to assume that the public automatically sees the good things happening when they're in charge. Like psychologically abused children, they internalize almost any criticism. That's why rather than retell the story in the most flattering light, they dive into a defensive...Donald Trump is fabulously adept at taking credit for and exaggerating every bit of good news, especially good economic news. When the news is bad, he changes the subject. Trump is the master, but Republicans generally are skilled at fine-tailoring reality for their benefit. Democrats are the opposite. They seem to assume that the public automatically sees the good things happening when they're in charge. Like psychologically abused children, they internalize almost any criticism. That's why rather than retell the story in the most flattering light, they dive into a defensive crouch. The inability to blast through the negative makes much of the public think them blameworthy. We are now in the ninth year of a global economic expansion. For all but one year of it, Barack Obama was president. "Global" means that many countries are doing well. Some, meanwhile, are doing better than the United States. It's not Trump's economy. The stock market has indeed posted lovely gains since Trump came into office. From his inauguration to Jan. 5, the day after the Dow Jones industrial average broke through 25,000, the market rose 26 percent. In the same period of Obama's first term, however, the Dow gained 33 percent. (And Obama saw no need to trash the environment to make polluters richer.) Did you hear Democrats loudly heralding Obama's economic genius? Neither did I. Since 1980, the biggest gain in the Dow during an eight-year presidency was 227 percent under Bill Clinton. The second-biggest was 149 percent under Obama. Coming in third was Ronald Reagan's, at 135 percent. But to whom does American lore give the biggest plaudits for robust markets? Reagan. Many factors other than the president influence the economy (and stock prices), but that's not the point here. The point is that the flamboyant right-leaning media send out an 800-piece brass band every time a record is set or something goes well for two consecutive months when the president is a Republican. You barely heard a peep from Obama when the Dow hit all-time highs during his presidency -- and that happened 122 times. That may have reflected admirable modesty on Obama's part, but as politics, it was close to malpractice. After passage of the Affordable Care Act, Democrats running for re-election let right-wing attacks and[...]



Joining With China; What Chappelle Knows; Museum of Failure; Last Call

2018-01-16T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, January 16, 2018. On this date in 1920, Americans who liked to imbibe in any acholic beverage other than communion wine wondered just what in hell a freedom-loving people had done to themselves. Whether you favored a locally brewed beer at your favorite saloon, a nicely aged red wine with dinner, or an exquisite island single-malt Scotch sipped in the privacy of your study -- it didn’t matter. If you lived in the United States, you were about to be confronted with a stark decision: You could quit drinking altogether. Or become a lawbreaker....Good morning, it’s Tuesday, January 16, 2018. On this date in 1920, Americans who liked to imbibe in any acholic beverage other than communion wine wondered just what in hell a freedom-loving people had done to themselves. Whether you favored a locally brewed beer at your favorite saloon, a nicely aged red wine with dinner, or an exquisite island single-malt Scotch sipped in the privacy of your study -- it didn’t matter. If you lived in the United States, you were about to be confronted with a stark decision: You could quit drinking altogether. Or become a lawbreaker. That’s the choice that Congress, with concurrence from state legislatures, had created. A social experiment of unprecedented scope, it was called Prohibition, and it impacted Americans from coast to coast. In San Francisco, the streets were packed with people eager to score one last drink -- or take home a stash of beer, wine, or stronger stuff. New York City, by contrast, seemed more subdued: Liquor store owners put their wares in wicker baskets on the street at going-out-of-business prices. Gotham's hotels draped their restaurant tables in black cloth. Not everyone was in mourning, however. Non-drinkers were ecstatic, as we’ll see in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. * * * A U.S.-China Solution to North Korea. In RealClearDefense, Michael Martinez argues that quelling China’s concerns about the U.S. is paramount in building a bilateral approach to the Kim regime’s nuclear ambitions. The Soft Power Opportunity in Yemen. Also in RCD, Ajit Maan offers a strategy for diminishing the recruitment capacities of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Will China and Russia Stand By Venezuela? In RealClearWorld, Benjamin Gedan and Michael McCarthy caution against U.S. overreaction to meddling in the troubled nation’s affairs. Dave Chappelle Gets China Better Than Most Pols. In RealClearMarkets, Allan Golombek cites a comedy routine in which Chappelle provided a succinct explanation of why it makes little sense for the United States to pursue a protectionist trade [...]



Trump Accuses Democrat of Undermining Trust on Immigration

2018-01-16T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump turned his Twitter torment on the Democrat in the room where immigration talks with lawmakers took a famously coarse turn, saying Sen. Dick Durbin misrepresented what he had said about African nations and Haiti and, in the process, undermined the trust needed to make a deal. On a day of remembrance for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Trump spent time Monday at his golf course with no public events, bypassing the acts of service that his predecessor staged in honor of the civil rights leader. Instead Trump dedicated his weekly address to...WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump turned his Twitter torment on the Democrat in the room where immigration talks with lawmakers took a famously coarse turn, saying Sen. Dick Durbin misrepresented what he had said about African nations and Haiti and, in the process, undermined the trust needed to make a deal. On a day of remembrance for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Trump spent time Monday at his golf course with no public events, bypassing the acts of service that his predecessor staged in honor of the civil rights leader. Instead Trump dedicated his weekly address to King’s memory, saying King’s dream and America’s are the same: “a world where people are judged by who they are, not how they look or where they come from.” That message was a distinct counterpoint to words attributed to Trump by Durbin and others at a meeting last week, when the question of where immigrants come from seemed at the forefront of Trump’s concerns. Some participants and others familiar with the conversation said Trump challenged immigration from “shithole” countries of Africa and disparaged Haiti as well. Without explicitly denying using that word, Trump lashed out at the Democratic senator, who said Trump uttered it on several occasions. “Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting,” Trump tweeted, using a nickname to needle the Illinois senator. “Deals can’t get made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our Military.” He was referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children. Members of Congress from both parties are trying to strike a deal that Trump would support to extend that protection. Durbin said Monday the White House should release whatever recording it might have of the meeting. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the six senators in the meeting with Trump on Thursday, supported Durbin’s account. As well, Durbin and people who were briefed on the conversation but were not authorized to describe it publicly said Trump also questioned the need to admit more Haitians. They s[...]



Feeling Demoralized Lately?

2018-01-16T00:00:00Z

"Demoralization" is the word that currently burbles up at 3 a.m. like the red pepper flakes from a second helping of spaghetti. Demoralization is afoot. We must define it. We must think about it. We must, in the end, worry about it. We need, for starters, a moral Alka Seltzer. The definition of "demoralize," from the Oxford English Dictionary: "Corrupt the morals or moral principles of; deprave." From which I extrapolate: Demoralization means, in large part, accepting as fine and fitting and who-cares-anyway that which once you wouldn't have accepted on..."Demoralization" is the word that currently burbles up at 3 a.m. like the red pepper flakes from a second helping of spaghetti. Demoralization is afoot. We must define it. We must think about it. We must, in the end, worry about it. We need, for starters, a moral Alka Seltzer. The definition of "demoralize," from the Oxford English Dictionary: "Corrupt the morals or moral principles of; deprave." From which I extrapolate: Demoralization means, in large part, accepting as fine and fitting and who-cares-anyway that which once you wouldn't have accepted on account of principles seen as right and wise and honorable. It means lowering yourself. That is the prospect to be guarded against in this tumultuous : the lowering of the American character, its demoralization. You guessed I was talking about the president? Aw, how come? On account of his insulting, in the presidential office last week, countries and peoples a U.S. president doesn't normally insult in public, perhaps? No one should wonder at the fire and fury Trump's reported remarks about supposedly primitive nations ignited. Their flame revealed much that is, well, demoralizing. Our president -- and he is ours, the president of us all -- is walking, and has been, a pathway strewn with antipersonnel mines and elephant traps. Pride, I have always heard, goeth before a fall, the kind of fall that awaits any personage in love with his own importance, never at fault, never guilty of bad judgment or behavior, in spite of "fake news." If -- when -- he does fall, it's going to be a mess, with bloody noses and cracked crowns all around. I want to make clear none of this is to disparage the political good that our president, or others in his name, have done in a year's time -- whacking regulations, cutting tax rates, naming explicit conservatives to the federal bench, etc. It is all quite grand. Hillary Clinton wouldn't have done the like. Any more questions before I make the next inquiry? Which is: When is our noble leader going to figure out that his personal style of democratic leadership -- "Big I, Little You" -- is neither democratic nor leader-like? It's more the style of an "Arabian Nights" sultan than a representative of the American people. The argument for [...]



Trump Rejects American Ideals of Diversity

2018-01-16T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- President Trump's intent could not be more explicit: He wants immigration policies that admit white people and shut the door to black and brown people. That is pure racism -- and the Republican Party, which traces its heritage to Abraham Lincoln, must decide whether to go along. Silly me. The GOP seems to have made its choice, judging by the weaselly response from most of the Republicans who were in the Oval Office on Thursday when Trump made vile and nakedly racist remarks. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., heard the president clearly: Trump referred to African nations as...WASHINGTON -- President Trump's intent could not be more explicit: He wants immigration policies that admit white people and shut the door to black and brown people. That is pure racism -- and the Republican Party, which traces its heritage to Abraham Lincoln, must decide whether to go along. Silly me. The GOP seems to have made its choice, judging by the weaselly response from most of the Republicans who were in the Oval Office on Thursday when Trump made vile and nakedly racist remarks. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., heard the president clearly: Trump referred to African nations as "shithole countries," a shocked Durbin reported. At another point, discussing potential relief for groups of immigrants -- including Haitians -- who are losing their temporary permission to remain here, Trump reportedly said, "Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out." According to Durbin, Trump asked why the U.S. wasn't welcoming more immigrants from places such as Norway, whose prime minister had visited the White House the day before. To Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the president's message apparently came through. His colleague Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who was not at the meeting, said Graham told him that Durbin's account was "basically accurate." Graham himself would say only that "I said my piece directly" to the president and that "I've always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals." Other Republicans at the meeting cravenly claimed deafness or memory loss. Perhaps they simply agree with Trump's race-based immigration approach. Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., issued a joint statement saying they "do not recall ... specifically" the "shithole countries" slur; Perdue later went further, flatly denying the words were spoken. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she did not recall "that exact phrase." House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. and Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., apparently have been stricken mute. I mention them all because they deserve to be enshrined in a Hall of Shame. I suppose I should also mention that Trump now denies making the statements, but there is absolutely no reason to believe [...]



Trump Is at War With the Central Ideal of the Republic

2018-01-16T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Sometimes it is necessary to begin with the obvious. The claim that America needs more Norwegian migrants and fewer Africans from "sh-thole countries" is racist. It is not the same as arguing for a higher-skilled immigrant pool. That argument might go something like: "We need a higher-skilled immigrant pool." President Trump, according to the compelling weight of evidence, treated African countries (along with Haiti and some other nations) as places of misery filled with undesirable people. That is a prejudice based on a stereotype rooted in invincible...WASHINGTON -- Sometimes it is necessary to begin with the obvious. The claim that America needs more Norwegian migrants and fewer Africans from "sh-thole countries" is racist. It is not the same as arguing for a higher-skilled immigrant pool. That argument might go something like: "We need a higher-skilled immigrant pool." President Trump, according to the compelling weight of evidence, treated African countries (along with Haiti and some other nations) as places of misery filled with undesirable people. That is a prejudice based on a stereotype rooted in invincible ignorance. Why not assume that men and women arriving from poor, oppressed and dangerous countries would love America all the more? Because, well, they are those kind of people. What kind of people? The ones who don't look like Norwegians. On this issue, Trump has not earned the benefit of a single doubt. His racial demagoguery in the Central Park Five case ... his attribution of Kenyan citizenship to Barack Obama ... his references to Mexican migrants as rapists and murderers ... his unconstitutional attempt at a Muslim ban ... his moral equivocation following the Charlottesville protests and killing ... his statement, reported by the New York Times, that Nigerians would never "go back to their huts" after seeing America ... all of these constitute an elaborate pattern of bigotry. Trump makes off-hand racist comments, he promotes racist stereotypes and he incites racism as a political strategy. And still it is difficult for me to write the words: "The President of the United States is a racist." The implications are too horrible. But unavoidable. It means, for starters, that the president is blind to the contributions of African migrants to our country. It means that the president has undermined American foreign policy across a strategic continent -- alienating people disproportionately prone to like the U.S and respect its global role. It means that many Americans of color understandably view Trump as the president of white America, leaving a legacy of distrust that will not quickly fade. It means that bigots also view Trump as the president of white America, providing energy and [...]