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Updated: Thu, 25 May 2017 07:34:02 -0500

 



RNC Concerns; Trump's Blue Streak; CBO Health Care Numbers; Superdad

2017-05-25T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Thursday, May 25, 2017. Sixty-six years ago today, a writer named Whitney Ellsworth took his wife, Jane, and their 19-year-old daughter, Patricia, on a road trip. Leaving from their home in Greenwich, Connecticut, the family’s destination was Los Angeles, where Ellsworth had business. They planned to do some sightseeing along the way: The highlight was going to be the Grand Canyon. To be precise, Whit Ellsworth himself wasn’t looking forward to that part. He wasn’t too keen on heights for one thing, which is why he was driving to...Good morning, it’s Thursday, May 25, 2017. Sixty-six years ago today, a writer named Whitney Ellsworth took his wife, Jane, and their 19-year-old daughter, Patricia, on a road trip. Leaving from their home in Greenwich, Connecticut, the family’s destination was Los Angeles, where Ellsworth had business. They planned to do some sightseeing along the way: The highlight was going to be the Grand Canyon. To be precise, Whit Ellsworth himself wasn’t looking forward to that part. He wasn’t too keen on heights for one thing, which is why he was driving to California instead of flying in the first place -- and Ellsworth had extrapolated his phobia of heights to a fear of depths as well. Not that this really mattered. While his wife and daughter were taking in the splendors of the great national park, Ellsworth would be writing away in their room at The Grand Canyon Lodge. And as they began their journey on May 25, 1951, Ellsworth told his wife and daughter about a project he had in mind. While driving across the country, he explained, he was going to “noodle” on an idea for a Superman movie, and he planned to bat out the script while they toured the Grand Canyon. Ellsworth was as good as his word, as I’ll explain more fully in a moment. First, I’ll point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a rich complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * RNC's McDaniel Urges Party Focus Amid WH 'Distractions.'  The new Republican National Committee chairwoman finds herself in the eye of the storm with the 2018 midterms on the horizon, Rebecca Berg reports. Rhapsody in Blue: Trump’s Tribute to Fallen Officers. Anneke E. Green lauds the president’s support for police, which marks a contrast to his predecessor’s relationship with law enforcement. Schiff: Intelligence Committee Will Subpoena Flynn. James Arkin has the details. CBO and America's AHCA Headache. In RealClearHealth, Billy Wynne breaks down yesterday's scoring numbers for the House-passed legislation. Alternative Medicine Is Not the Answer to the Opioid Epidemic. RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy argues that bad science is triggering a bad solution to the problem of drug abuse. Trump Budget Gets One Thing Right: Crop Reinsurance. In RealClearPolicy, Vincent H. Smith praises the administration's proposal for taking on farm subsidies. Democrats Grill DeVos on School Choice and Budget Cuts. In RealClearEducation, Ford Carson and Christopher Beach report on the key moments from Cabinet secretary's appearance before Congress on Wednesday.  Eliminate Dodd-Frank's Overrated Escape Hatch. In RealClearMarkets, Hester Peirce writes that the FDIC's power to unwind troubled banks is creating great uncertainty within banks. Do Budget Deficits Matter? Also in RCM, editor John Tamny reviews Richard Salsman's new book. “The Political Economy of Public Debt.” Closing the Civilian Awareness Gap. In RealClearDefense, Kathy Roth-Douquet spotlights the need for heightened consideration of the pressures military families face. Congress Should Embrace BRAC. Also in RCD, Dan Caldwell urges lawmakers to support a new round of base realignment and closures in 2021 to trim waste and inefficiency. Gathering Intelligence [...]



Trump Meets With EU Leaders

2017-05-25T00:00:00Z

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Visiting a city he once called a "hellhole" to meet with the leaders of one alliance he threatened to abandon and another whose weakening he cheered, President Donald Trump will address a continent Thursday still reeling from his election and anxious about his support. Trump traveled Thursday morning to the European Union headquarters in Brussels for meetings with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, and other EU officials. Trump appeared to be greeted warmly by the leaders, despite his...BRUSSELS (AP) -- Visiting a city he once called a "hellhole" to meet with the leaders of one alliance he threatened to abandon and another whose weakening he cheered, President Donald Trump will address a continent Thursday still reeling from his election and anxious about his support. Trump traveled Thursday morning to the European Union headquarters in Brussels for meetings with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, and other EU officials. Trump appeared to be greeted warmly by the leaders, despite his past comments publicly cheering the United Kingdom's vote to leave the EU last summer and slamming the alliance during his transition as "a vehicle for Germany." Trump has taken a less combative tone since taking office, praising the alliance as "wonderful" and saying a strong Europe is very important to him and the United States. After meeting with Trump on Thursday at the EU, European Council president Donald Tusk said he and the U.S. precedent agreed on the need to combat terrorism but some differences loomed large. "Some issues remain open, like climate and trade. And I am not 100 percent sure that we can say today -- we means Mr. President and myself -- that we have a common position, common opinions about Russia," said Tusk, who said unity needed to be found around values like freedom and human rights and dignity. "The greatest task today is the consolidation of the whole free world around those values," he said. Later in the day, Trump is slated to meet with France's new president and attend his first meeting of NATO, the decades-long partnership that has become intrinsic to safeguarding the West but has been rattled by the new president's wavering on honoring its bonds. Trump has mused about pulling out of the pact because he believed other countries were not paying their fair share and he has so far refused to commit to abiding by Article 5, in which member nations vow to come to each other's defense. But the European capitals that have been shaken by Trump's doubts may soon find a degree of reassurance. Just like his position on the EU, the president has recently shifted gears, praising NATO's necessity. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that "of course" the United States supports Article 5, though Trump still wants other nations to meet their obligation to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. "I think you can expect the president to be very tough on them, saying, 'Look the U.S. is spending 4 percent. We're doing a lot,'" Tillerson told reporters on Air Force One. He also said he thought it would be "a very important step" for NATO to join the 68-nation international coalition fighting the Islamic State. The move, which is expected during Thursday's meeting, is symbolically important, especially since the terror group claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. An anti-terror coordinator may also be named. But most changes will be cosmetic, as NATO allies have no intention of going to war against IS. The 28 member nations, plus soon-to-join Montenegro, will renew an old vow to move toward the 2 percent figure for defense by 2024. Only five members currently meet the target: Britain, Estonia, debt-laden Greece, Poland and the United States, which spends more on defense than all the other allies combined. Many are skeptical about this [...]



Five Steps to Create a Bright Future for Our Nation

2017-05-25T00:00:00Z

Losing faith in our dysfunctional system of politics and government is the essential first step for anyone who wants America to create a bright future for our children and grandchildren. Only by recognizing this reality and losing faith can we be freed to explore other ways of working together in community. That leads directly to the second step each of us can take. We can all get involved and take part in a massive campaign of community problem solving. If your only civic engagement is through the political process, you're not doing enough. To some people, this doesn't seem to be...

Losing faith in our dysfunctional system of politics and government is the essential first step for anyone who wants America to create a bright future for our children and grandchildren. Only by recognizing this reality and losing faith can we be freed to explore other ways of working together in community.

That leads directly to the second step each of us can take. We can all get involved and take part in a massive campaign of community problem solving. If your only civic engagement is through the political process, you're not doing enough.

To some people, this doesn't seem to be enough. They want to gear up the forces to fight a single climactic political battle that will determine our nation's future. I understand the adrenaline rush that comes from getting caught up in such political bouts, but I also know they won't get us where we want to go. We don't live in a Star Wars movie where a single miraculous shot can destroy the Death Star.

Instead, using our freedom to work together in community is the most effective way to defeat the Regulatory State and move the nation forward. But it is not the easy path. A massive campaign of community problem solving requires far more work than simply voting and assuming the politicians will take care of it. And, any effort to work around the Regulatory State will encounter serious pushback from the political class.

So, the third step each of us can take is to be optimistic. Maintaining hope is the only thing that will keep us going during the tough times. We need to develop an optimism solidly grounded in the understanding that those who believe in America's founding ideals have a stronger position than those who believe in the Regulatory State. The fundamentals favor the good guys because a one-size fits all central government cannot survive in the iPad era.

The fourth step is to share the experience. At its core, sharing the experience is important because that's what community is all about. As the shared experience grows, it becomes easier to deal with the loss of faith in our dysfunctional political system, get directly involved in creating a better world and have confidence in America's future.

The fifth step is foundational. While doing the grinding, tireless and often thankless work of community problem solving, we must never lose sight of the fact that we're doing it to lift up America's high ideals. We must cherish and remain true to our nation's commitment to freedom, equality and self-governance.

These are five steps we can all take to create a bright future for our nation: Losing faith in our dysfunctional system of politics and government; getting directly involved in a massive campaign of community problem solving; being optimistic because we realize the culture leads and politicians lag behind; sharing the experience with others; and remaining true to America's highest ideals.

Lose faith, get involved, be optimistic, share the experience, and remain true to our nation's highest ideals. If we do that, we will show that while politics has failed, America will not.

These five steps are excerpted from my new book, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not." The print edition was just released on Thursday, May 25. 

COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM






The Wider Trump Scandal

2017-05-25T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- President Trump's budget demonstrates the costs of accepting lies as a normal currency in politics, broken promises as a customary way of doing business, false claims of being "populist" as the equivalent of the real thing, and sloppiness as what we should expect from government. Trump's fiscal plan was described as dead before arrival, but approaching it this way is a mistake. Many of the steep cuts in programs for low-income Americans mimic reductions passed before by Republicans in the House of Representatives. There's more life in this document than...WASHINGTON -- President Trump's budget demonstrates the costs of accepting lies as a normal currency in politics, broken promises as a customary way of doing business, false claims of being "populist" as the equivalent of the real thing, and sloppiness as what we should expect from government. Trump's fiscal plan was described as dead before arrival, but approaching it this way is a mistake. Many of the steep cuts in programs for low-income Americans mimic reductions passed before by Republicans in the House of Representatives. There's more life in this document than the easy dismissals would suggest. Particularly astounding from a president who promised better health care for Americans who can't afford it is the $1.85 trillion reduction over a decade from Medicaid and subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. But didn't Trump promise not to cut Medicaid? Never mind, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told CNBC's John Harwood. That pledge, Mulvaney explained, had been overridden by his promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Right, and my commitment to losing weight was overridden by my insistence on eating anything I want. We demean ourselves if we cynically normalize the reality that every Trump promise is meaningless claptrap aimed at closing a deal -- and that the vows will be forgotten even before the ink on the agreement is dry. Many who did business with Trump learned the hard way not to trust anything he said. His supporters are being forced to earn the same dreary wisdom. Trump lies so often that journalists tied themselves up in an extended discussion of when it was appropriate to use "lie," and when it was better to deploy such euphemisms as "misstatement" or "fabrication." We should stick to the short and simple word. Allowing Trump any slack only encourages more lying. Although fibbing with numbers is an old trick, the etiquette of budget discussions leans toward references to "rosy scenarios" and the like. But how can you explain a budget that counts $2 trillion in claimed economic growth twice? It's used once to "pay for" massive tax cuts for the wealthy, and another time to paint Trump's budget as reaching balance in a decade. This can't just be careless math. Companies that make comparable errors in their prospectuses for public offerings can face legal action. No wonder former Obama administration economic adviser Seth Hanlon called this plan "the Bernie Madoff Budget." Another sign of fiscal fraud: the budget's blithe assumption that we will hit 3 percent annual GDP growth over an extended period. That would be nice. But no respectable economic forecaster thinks this is credible. Trump is asking us to bank our country's fiscal future on his signature catchphrase, "Believe me." We should know by now that we can't. But there are also philosophical lies, and these may be even more offensive. Trump and Mulvaney are selling this budget as good for hardworking taxpayers by leading us to believe that it would really only hurt moochers and layabouts. Thus did Mulvaney claim that a $192 billion reduction in food stamp spending over a decade was directed at "the folks who are on there who don't want to work." Well, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported, it turns out that in food stamp households with at least one working-age, nondisabled adult, more than 80 percent work in the year before or after receiving benefits, and more than half work while get[...]



RNC's McDaniel Urges Party Focus Amid WH 'Distractions'

2017-05-25T00:00:00Z

“We can’t let the distractions of what’s happening here in Washington take us away from putting meaningful legislation in place that affects people’s everyday lives,” McDaniel told RCP.  Ronna McDaniel knew what she signed up for when she took the reins as chair of the Republican National Committee earlier this year. Unlike her predecessor Reince Priebus, who chaired the RNC during a Democratic presidency, McDaniel would be working for and with a Republican president — her legacy tethered to and tangled up with Donald Trump....“We can’t let the distractions of what’s happening here in Washington take us away from putting meaningful legislation in place that affects people’s everyday lives,” McDaniel told RCP.  Ronna McDaniel knew what she signed up for when she took the reins as chair of the Republican National Committee earlier this year. Unlike her predecessor Reince Priebus, who chaired the RNC during a Democratic presidency, McDaniel would be working for and with a Republican president — her legacy tethered to and tangled up with Donald Trump. For better, or worse.  “We are an extension of the White House,” McDaniel said in an interview Monday in her office. “We work with the White House every day, and President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party.” Roughly four months in, the partnership has already withstood its share of tests: From ongoing investigations into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, to legislative false starts and mishaps, to the president’s own charged tweets.  But McDaniel says she isn’t contemplating pouring Baileys in her cereal, as Priebus once joked during the high-stress presidential campaign. Then again, McDaniel doesn’t drink. “If I go from not drinking to Baileys, we’re in big trouble,” she laughed. Her single crutch, she insists, has been grabbing fast food when she’s been on the road, in a frenzied hopscotch among fundraising events and other party functions.  McDaniel likely won’t enjoy a gentler road ahead. The former Michigan GOP chair inherits the RNC at a transformational, fragile moment for the party. Although Republicans now boast the White House and majorities in both chambers of Congress, the party could face major losses in 2018. Indeed, history does not favor the GOP: Of the six most recent presidents, five saw their party lose House seats in the first midterm election of their presidency, a few by wide margins.  Meanwhile, Republicans continue to grapple with their unpredictable, Twitter-happy president and a White House in varying degrees of disarray. Compounding this dynamic have been near-daily revelations regarding ongoing investigations into potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia, along with questions surrounding the president’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. Trump has supplied his share of self-made controversies, too, such as when he recently disclosed classified intelligence to top Russian officials in the Oval Office.  Focus on Meaningful Legislation For any student of Trump’s presidential campaign, none of this should necessarily come as a surprise. Even Jeb Bush called it. But McDaniel’s approach has been to urge focus. “We can’t let the distractions of what’s happening here in Washington take us away from putting meaningful legislation in place that affects people’s everyday lives,” McDaniel told RCP.  But not all Republicans have been able to wear blinders. For lawmakers facing tough re-election fights, the chaos dynamic has created unusual pressure to carve out distance from the administration, with some awkward results.  A potential watershed moment hit last week, as news reports detailed a memo written by Comey suggesting the president had pressured him [...]



Great Moments in Fake News 'Journalism'

2017-05-25T00:00:00Z

What about President Donald Trump's complaint about "fake news"? Let's look at some examples of "Great Moments in 'Journalism'" over the last few years. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., in an appearance on ABC's Sunday morning political show hosted by George Stephanopoulos, called former Democratic Alabama Gov. George Wallace a "Republican." Ellison said, "At the same time, (in Trump) we do have the worst Republican nominee since George Wallace." Stephanopoulos either ignored or was ignorant of the fact that Wallace -- who proudly...What about President Donald Trump's complaint about "fake news"? Let's look at some examples of "Great Moments in 'Journalism'" over the last few years. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., in an appearance on ABC's Sunday morning political show hosted by George Stephanopoulos, called former Democratic Alabama Gov. George Wallace a "Republican." Ellison said, "At the same time, (in Trump) we do have the worst Republican nominee since George Wallace." Stephanopoulos either ignored or was ignorant of the fact that Wallace -- who proudly proclaimed, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" -- was a long-standing Democrat who served four terms as governor and twice sought the Democratic nomination for president. Tellingly, Stephanopoulos did not correct Ellison. Fortunately, another guest, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., did correct the history-challenged Ellison. Candy Crowley of CNN, one of the 2012 presidential debate moderators, "corrected" Mitt Romney when the Republican candidate accused President Barack Obama of failing to call the assault on Benghazi a "terror attack." Obama claimed he immediately called the assault on Benghazi an "act of terror": Romney: "You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?" Obama: "Please proceed, governor." Romney: "I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror." Obama: "Get the transcript." Crowley: "It -- it -- it -- he did in fact, sir. So let me -- let me call it an act of terror." Obama: "Can you say that a little louder, Candy?" Crowley: "He -- he did call it an act of terror." In truth, the day after the attack, Obama said: "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for." He only referred specifically to the deaths of four Americans in Libya as "an attack" or "this attack." Fourteen days after the attack, Obama was asked: "I heard Hillary Clinton say it was an act of terrorism. Is it? What do you say?" The President responded: "We're still doing an investigation. There's no doubt that (with) the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn't just a mob action. We don't have all the information yet, so we're still gathering it. But what's clear is that around the world, there's still a lot of threats out there." Clearly, Crowley was wrong when she "corrected" Romney and defended Obama. This was a turning point in the election. MSNBC's Luke Russert, covering the 2008 presidential election, said students at the University of Virginia will vote Obama because: "You have to remember, the smartest kids in the state go there, so it's leaning a little bit towards Obama." Get it? Smart people vote Democrat. Dumb people vote Republican. Russert later apologized. CNN's Carol Costello laughed hysterically as a frantic Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah Palin, told cops she was assaulted at a party. Listen to how a gleeful Costello introduced the audiotape of Bristol describing the attack to the police: "This is quite possibly the best minute and a half of audio we've ever come across -- well, come across in a long time, anyway. A massive brawl in Anchorage, Alaska, reportedly involving Sarah Palin's kids and her husband. [...]



Trump's Budget: A Slow Boat to Ruin

2017-05-25T00:00:00Z

Donald Trump's first budget proposal is a brazen mix of ideology and dishonesty, seasoned with irresponsibility and pulled out of the oven as soon as it was half-baked. Those qualities make it surprisingly similar to the budgets of Barack Obama and George W. Bush -- and largely in accord with public desires. Its defects are neither new nor accidental. The plan has been assailed by Democrats and various activist groups for coddling the rich, punishing the poor and shortchanging important functions. Trump proposes to cut outlays for Medicaid, food stamps, Head Start and Social Security...Donald Trump's first budget proposal is a brazen mix of ideology and dishonesty, seasoned with irresponsibility and pulled out of the oven as soon as it was half-baked. Those qualities make it surprisingly similar to the budgets of Barack Obama and George W. Bush -- and largely in accord with public desires. Its defects are neither new nor accidental. The plan has been assailed by Democrats and various activist groups for coddling the rich, punishing the poor and shortchanging important functions. Trump proposes to cut outlays for Medicaid, food stamps, Head Start and Social Security disability. Ditto for Environmental Protection Agency enforcement and State Department security. He would close the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This list may give the impression that the president is fiercely determined to tame runaway federal spending. Not so. The portions of the budget that he attacks are those that matter least. As Brian Riedl of the conservative Manhattan Institute points out, Trump has spared Social Security, Medicare and defense, and he can't control interest on the debt. These outlays make up more than half the federal budget, and under his plan, they would balloon over the next decade. "Advocates of all other budget priorities are left to fight viciously over the rapidly-shrinking scraps," writes Riedl. Even if he got everything he requests, overall spending would not fall. It would rise. But many of the proposed cuts stand little chance on Capitol Hill. The problem with cutting small programs is that it can produce a lot of bad publicity without saving much money. Diplomatic security? That would invite "a lot of Benghazis," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Medicaid? Some dozen Senate Republicans have expressed worry about the impact back home. The NEA? Its grants are disbursed to every single congressional district. And what member of Congress wants to be pilloried for endangering Daniel Tiger? A lot of these ideas are familiar because they've been raised before and rejected. Former NEA Chairman Dana Gioia notes that Ronald Reagan's budget director wanted to eliminate funding for the agency, but by the time Reagan left office, its budget was bigger than ever. "Republicans have been trying to strip government subsidies from public broadcasting almost since the inception of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1967," reported Politico in 2010. Yet it's still there, where it is likely to remain. Cutting expenses is thankless work that carries more political risks than rewards, which is why many of these programs will come through intact. Democrats have no powerful attraction to fiscal austerity. Republicans champion it mostly when there is a Democrat in the White House. Touching Social Security and Medicare is even more politically explosive, and the payoffs come mostly in the future. For the member of Congress worried about the next election, bringing down entitlement costs in 2035 is not a priority. Tax cuts hold more allure, because they let lawmakers assume the posture of giving something to voters rather than taking things away. It's possible Trump could work out a tax plan satisfying enough members in both parties to get through Congress. The catch is that it would leave the[...]



Roger Ailes' Exit Stage Right

2017-05-25T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- A major threat to the predominance of the Kultursmog in these United States passed away last week, but he succeeded in what he set out to do, namely, damaging the left in America beyond any hope of recovery. Not many people recognize this, but it is nonetheless true. It will possibly take years before this realization becomes apparent to all, but we discerning minds understand what has happened. Broadcasting will never be the same after Roger Ailes, the begetter of Fox News on cable, died last week. He alone made it happen. He challenged the Kultursmog, that collection of...WASHINGTON -- A major threat to the predominance of the Kultursmog in these United States passed away last week, but he succeeded in what he set out to do, namely, damaging the left in America beyond any hope of recovery. Not many people recognize this, but it is nonetheless true. It will possibly take years before this realization becomes apparent to all, but we discerning minds understand what has happened. Broadcasting will never be the same after Roger Ailes, the begetter of Fox News on cable, died last week. He alone made it happen. He challenged the Kultursmog, that collection of attitudes, ideas, tastes and personages that are polluted by the politics of the American left. He won. He beat it night after night, day after day. And, now, others networks are rising to challenge the dispensers of the smog. Sinclair Broadcast Group is the preeminent challenger of the smog on the horizon, and it may even challenge a badly weakened Fox. It has agreed to buy Tribune Media, and after, it will have 233 stations in 108 markets, even major markets like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Other networks will doubtless follow. Even The New York Times understands the threat facing the Kultursmog. In front-page news stories, the Times and the Washington Post warn of the coming threat from Sinclair. The threat is also called competition, and it will come like gale-force winds wiping away the fetid, debilitating atmosphere that Americans have been inhabiting perforce, especially on both coasts. Politically, the left has been making heavy weather of it for years. It has a hard time competing in free elections and an open marketplace. Yet in the realms of Kultur, the left has had an almost dictatorial sway. Over the past year, its influence was even felt at Fox News, where then-76-year-old Ailes was given the heave-ho over charges of sexual harassment. He got the boot unceremoniously, along with various understudies and stars of his. Well, we shall see how the smog's understudies and stars play with the conservative audience that Ailes built up at Fox, an audience that can now simply turn its dials to Sinclair and others. I knew Roger for many years and had him over for dinners with my writers and supporters in New York. He was often our honored guest. He was "an absolute star every time," recalled Andrew Whist, one of my wisest friends and the former chairman of the U.S. chapter of the America-European Community Association. Roger was, as Andrew assessed, "an absolute genius" and "a wonderful companion." I can attest to that. I would often stop by his Manhattan office for a chat. He always had time. Sitting back in his easy chair, he would tour the horizon, much as his friend Richard Nixon was famous for doing. He was at ease talking for an hour or more and always asking questions. He was interested in my slant on politics, which I doubt was that useful to him. I always agreed with my jaunty indomitable friend. At his funeral in Palm Beach, Florida, over the weekend, there were many memorable lines. Rush Limbaugh was there; he said Roger was "an American original." And Fox News host Sean Hannity pronounced him "an American patriot at the highest level." Yet there was another theme that struck me powerfully. The priest presidin[...]



Focus on Victims Rewards Terrorists

2017-05-25T00:00:00Z

Familiar rituals followed the terrorist bombing at the arena in Manchester, England. Flowers piled up near the site of carnage. Reporters plumbed every line of the attacker's profile, speculating on what may have inspired his vile act. Rallies called for solidarity and a rejection of "hate." And the media drenched the public with tearful accounts of the pain exacted, often with musical accompaniment. The cable channels ran the few seconds of panicked crowds fleeing the arena in a hypnotic loop. And there were the agonizing stories of the victims and the grieving loved ones they...Familiar rituals followed the terrorist bombing at the arena in Manchester, England. Flowers piled up near the site of carnage. Reporters plumbed every line of the attacker's profile, speculating on what may have inspired his vile act. Rallies called for solidarity and a rejection of "hate." And the media drenched the public with tearful accounts of the pain exacted, often with musical accompaniment. The cable channels ran the few seconds of panicked crowds fleeing the arena in a hypnotic loop. And there were the agonizing stories of the victims and the grieving loved ones they left behind. This is a problem for those who want to cut off the terrorists' cracked system of rewards. To normal people, seeing the terrible aftermath should somehow punish the terrorists: "Look at what you've done." But the terrorist responds, "Look at what horrid things I can do." The more outraged the public the greater the payoff. There is no easy way to ratchet down the response. Blowback is sure to accompany any suggestion that the innocents and their suffering families should receive less attention. And for media competing for audience, wringing every bit of pathos out of a tragedy marked by evil and sympathetic victims is a sure draw. I'll be honest here. Though I regard the victim-centric coverage as counterproductive to fighting the scourge of terrorism, I, too, have difficulty turning away. But there can be limits to letting one's emotions get played for the benefit of terrorists. Those limits were reached in the hours after the bombing when, in a long phone conversation shared on-air, CNN's Don Lemon milked the emotions of a distraught mother unable to find her daughter. This was a mother's nightmare brought to us raw and live. Lemon's words of comfort and request that anyone with information about the girl call CNN came off as not entirely wholesome. For sure, this was compelling television (and radio), and we can understand the business reasons to keep it going. But it also fed terrorists' thirst for power over the world's suffering bystanders. Surely, the conversation could have been ended earlier. And though the video of terrified people scrambling out of the arena was part of the news, was it necessary to run it again and again, all night and into the next day? Unavoidable but also unfortunate in such stories is the intense focus on the targets of the attack. Young women and girls filled the audience at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. For a bomber intentionally aiming at this tender demographic, the especially horrified reaction would have spelled success. It's been impossible to ignore the angelic face of 8-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos, who died that night. But there must be a way to scale down the power of such images, thus ensuring they don't enhance the power of the killers. Perhaps using them a bit less would help. Or putting a death in the context of the thousands of other people who've perished through similar barbarism. No easy answers here. Whom the terrorists go after is obviously important information for confronting the threat -- along with location and possible links to hideous ideologies. As these gruesome events pile up, the public is learning to grimly go about its business in the aftermath. The terrorists' ability[...]



Is President Trump in Trouble?

2017-05-25T00:00:00Z

The bad news for President Donald Trump keeps coming his way, notwithstanding a generally bravura performance on the foreign stage this past week in Riyadh, Jerusalem and Vatican City. Yet while he was overseas, his colleagues here in the United States have been advising him to hire criminal defense counsel, and he has apparently begun that process. Can the president be charged with obstructing justice when he asks that federal investigations of his friends be shut down? Most legal scholars agree that the president cannot be prosecuted while in office and that the appropriate remedy for...The bad news for President Donald Trump keeps coming his way, notwithstanding a generally bravura performance on the foreign stage this past week in Riyadh, Jerusalem and Vatican City. Yet while he was overseas, his colleagues here in the United States have been advising him to hire criminal defense counsel, and he has apparently begun that process. Can the president be charged with obstructing justice when he asks that federal investigations of his friends be shut down? Most legal scholars agree that the president cannot be prosecuted while in office and that the appropriate remedy for presidential criminal wrongdoing is impeachment. Impeachment, of course, is traumatic for the country, as it involves Congress' dislodging from the presidency the person validly, legally and constitutionally entitled to hold it. Under the Constitution, the House of Representatives serves as a sort of grand jury and determines whether to impeach by a simple majority vote. The charge must be for treason, bribery or another high crime that strikes at the integrity of the government. Obstruction of justice -- interfering with a criminal prosecution -- is probably one of those crimes. I say "probably" because, though the Supreme Court has not ruled on this, it formed the basis of the charges brought against President Richard Nixon and those prosecuted against President Bill Clinton, and the legal community has generally accepted obstruction of justice as the type of high crime intended by the Framers to be a basis for impeachment. Nixon resigned from office prior to impeachment. Clinton was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate, which failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to convict him and remove him from office. What is the case against President Trump? The short answer is: So far, nothing. Though I did not vote for Trump and though I differ with him on many issues and on his tone and manner of governing, he is the president, and I want him to succeed in shrinking the government and liberating the free market. Nevertheless, there are forces at work inside the government and elsewhere that have leaked a disturbing series of private communications involving the president. This leaked information can fairly be characterized as painting a picture of a president fearful of a criminal investigation, long underway by the FBI, and determined to impede it. The New York Times has reported on Trump's efforts to persuade then-FBI Director James Comey to cease the investigation of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, as well as of the Trump campaign. The unsupported allegations against Flynn are that he was a secret foreign agent at the time he was the president's national security adviser. The unsupported allegations against the Trump campaign are that it conspired with Russian intelligence agents to influence the presidential campaign by hacking into the computers of Trump's adversaries. Trump's detractors claim that he attempted to place material impediments between the FBI and his former colleagues, including Flynn, when he asked Comey to dial back the investigation and then fired Comey when he declined to do so. The Washington Post has reported that Trump agai[...]



Why a House Democrat Is Lobbying for a Former GOP Lawmaker to Be FBI Director

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Many analysts have argued that the next FBI director shouldn't be a politician. But try telling that to Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), who has been pressing Senate Democratic leaders to consider former GOP congressman Mike Rogers (Mich.) for the post. Ruppersberger told me Wednesday that in conversations with Democratic leadership, he had endorsed Rogers's "integrity, competence and patriotism." Rogers, a former FBI agent who served as House Intelligence Committee chairman until his retirement in 2015, has also been endorsed by the FBI Agents...

WASHINGTON -- Many analysts have argued that the next FBI director shouldn't be a politician. But try telling that to Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), who has been pressing Senate Democratic leaders to consider former GOP congressman Mike Rogers (Mich.) for the post.

Ruppersberger told me Wednesday that in conversations with Democratic leadership, he had endorsed Rogers's "integrity, competence and patriotism." Rogers, a former FBI agent who served as House Intelligence Committee chairman until his retirement in 2015, has also been endorsed by the FBI Agents Association. The group said in a May 13 statement that Rogers "exemplifies the principles that should be possessed by the next FBI director."

The renewed lobbying over the FBI post follows the disclosure that former senator Joe Lieberman, who appears to be President Trump's first choice for the job, is likely to withdraw his name. That's because he works at the same law firm as Marc Kasowitz, whom Trump has reportedly hired to represent him in dealing with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation of possible collusion between Russian intelligence operatives and the Trump campaign.

Rogers is said to be one of a half-dozen names Trump is considering. His political background has been seen as a liability for the job. But Ruppersberger argues that he and Rogers demonstrated that bipartisanship can work when they were ranking Democrat and chairman, respectively, of the House intelligence panel.

Rogers infuriated conservatives when he backed a bipartisan committee report in 2014 that rebutted conspiracy theories about the Benghazi attacks and alleged misconduct by Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state. That conservative opposition was one reason Rogers was dumped as head of the Trump transition team on intelligence after the election.

Trump has other strong candidates, including several current and former FBI officials and federal judges. And the argument for having a nonpolitical director will carry weight, after the trauma that surrounded Trump's firing of James B. Comey.

The counterargument is that the FBI, like the CIA, might benefit from having a director with the political skills to protect the agency. That was the case with former congressman Leon Panetta, whose selection as CIA director in 2009 was initially controversial, and with former congressman Mike Pompeo, who's now running the agency and appears to be getting good marks from his colleagues.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group


davidignatius@washpost.com



China's Sovereign Debt Downgraded by Moody's

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

China’s finance ministry chastised Moody’s on Wednesday after the US rating agency downgraded Beijing’s sovereign credit rating, highlighting investor concerns over rising debt and the slow pace of economic reforms intended to transform the country’s growth model. “Moody’s has overestimated the difficulties faced by China’s economy and underestimated the government’s ability to deepen reforms,” the ministry said in response to the downgrade, which initially rattled China’s stock markets and...China’s finance ministry chastised Moody’s on Wednesday after the US rating agency downgraded Beijing’s sovereign credit rating, highlighting investor concerns over rising debt and the slow pace of economic reforms intended to transform the country’s growth model. “Moody’s has overestimated the difficulties faced by China’s economy and underestimated the government’s ability to deepen reforms,” the ministry said in response to the downgrade, which initially rattled China’s stock markets and currency. Moody’s downgraded China one notch from Aa3 to A1, its fifth-highest rating. On the credit scale used by rival agencies Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poor’s, the move is equivalent to a downgrade from double A minus to A plus. S&P still rates China at double A minus although with a negative outlook, while Fitch already had China at A plus. “The downgrade reflects Moody’s expectation that China’s financial strength will erode somewhat over the coming years, with economy-wide debt continuing to rise as potential growth slows,” Marie Diron, the agency’s associate managing director for sovereign risk, wrote in an announcement on Wednesday. “While ongoing progress on reforms is likely to transform the economy and financial system over time, it is not likely to prevent a further material rise in economy-wide debt, and the consequent increase in contingent liabilities for the government.” The news initially unnerved Chinese investors. The yield on benchmark Chinese five-year government bonds rose from 3.8 per cent to 3.95 per cent in the minutes following the announcement, but had returned to the previous level by midday, according to the National Interbank Funding Center. Domestic investors generally ignore foreign ratings of Chinese bonds. Foreign penetration of China’s bond market remains tiny, with foreigners owning about Rmb424bn ($61.5bn) of Chinese government bonds at the end of April, equal to 4 per cent of the outstanding total, according to China Central Depository and Clearing.  Moody’s shifted its ratings outlook for China to negative in March last year, with S&P following suit four weeks later. Fitch, which has generally been more bearish on China than its counterparts, has maintained its A plus ratings with stable outlook since 2007. While Moody’s acknowledged China’s efforts to rebalance its economy away from reliance on debt-fuelled stimulus, the agency believes progress is too slow to arrest deterioration in its financial strength. “The planned reform programme is likely to slow, but not prevent, the rise in leverage,” the agency said. “The importance the authorities attach to maintaining robust growth will result in sustained policy stimulus. Such stimulus will contribute to rising debt across the economy as a whole.” Luke Spajic, who heads Pimco’s emerging Asia portfolio, said the risks highlighted by Moody’s had already been “well flagged” by the market. “Markets have been anxious about policy tightening and the upcoming political changes,” Mr Spajic said, refer[...]



Rhapsody in Blue: Trump's Tribute to Fallen Officers

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

In news cycles dominated by special investigations and bipartisan suspicion, it’s nice to pause occasionally to appreciate when someone does the right thing — especially if that person is President Trump. May 15 was Peace Officers Memorial Day, the annual observation to honor law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. It’s a sad but necessary event that could use more national attention. Police officers die in the line of duty—that duty consisting of serving their communities—every year. Each death is a tragedy and a testament...In news cycles dominated by special investigations and bipartisan suspicion, it’s nice to pause occasionally to appreciate when someone does the right thing — especially if that person is President Trump. May 15 was Peace Officers Memorial Day, the annual observation to honor law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. It’s a sad but necessary event that could use more national attention. Police officers die in the line of duty—that duty consisting of serving their communities—every year. Each death is a tragedy and a testament to the existence of evil in the world. While those in uniform and their families know that an untimely, often violent end is a hazard of the job, that awareness does nothing to mitigate the grief when the terrible “what if?” comes to pass. What can bring some comfort is to have the sacrifice acknowledged from the nation’s highest office. Donald Trump delivered the keynote address to the bereaved friends, families and colleagues of the fallen police officers who gathered on the west lawn of the Capitol. He spoke of the 394 names of law enforcement officers that were added to the memorial in downtown Washington, D.C. (Many were felled in 2016; others are recently discovered officers who died years ago.) These men and women join 20,000 heroes whose names were already etched in stone and whose commitment to serve and protect cost all they had to give. Trump was there to tell the police what they don’t always know: that our nation is grateful. “Please know that you do not grieve alone,” he said. “Though we cannot fathom the depths of your loss, nor fully appreciate the bond that forms in the precinct and between partners on the beat, your sadness is left and felt by all of us. Every drop of blood spilled from our heroes in blue is a wound inflicted upon the whole country. And every heartache known by your families in law enforcement is a sorrow shared by the entire family of the American nation.” It is a hard time to be a cop in America. “More officers are being targeted for violence simply because of their uniform,” Fraternal Order of Police President Chuck Canterbury said at the service. “In pledging to serve and protect, they willingly place themselves in harm’s way. But now, all too often harm is seeking them out and they find themselves in the crosshairs of individuals consumed with hatred of police who are determined to kill them.” Furthermore, individual police officers are encountering greater public mistrust as the nation struggles to come to grips with the problem of institutional racism in the justice system and some movements to rectify that end up villainizing good men and women in uniform. Thanks to technology, bad cops are increasingly caught on camera, but viral footage of brutal interactions between citizens and cops casts a pall on those whose service is better characterized by sincerity and selflessness. The unfortunate truth is that the people tasked with keeping our streets safe have not felt supported by the White House in a long time. Canterbury alluded to[...]



testing

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

China’s finance ministry chastised Moody’s on Wednesday after the US rating agency downgraded Beijing’s sovereign credit rating, highlighting investor concerns over rising debt and the slow pace of economic reforms intended to transform the country’s growth model. “Moody’s has overestimated the difficulties faced by China’s economy and underestimated the government’s ability to deepen reforms,” the ministry said in response to the downgrade, which initially rattled China’s stock markets and...China’s finance ministry chastised Moody’s on Wednesday after the US rating agency downgraded Beijing’s sovereign credit rating, highlighting investor concerns over rising debt and the slow pace of economic reforms intended to transform the country’s growth model. “Moody’s has overestimated the difficulties faced by China’s economy and underestimated the government’s ability to deepen reforms,” the ministry said in response to the downgrade, which initially rattled China’s stock markets and currency. Police block the Street of June 17th with concrete barriers in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. The Brandenburg Gate can be seen in background. Police in Berlin have stepped up security in preparation for major events in the German capital, days after the deadly attack in Manchester. Some 100,000 people, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, are expected to attend a gathering starting Wednesday of German Protestant Church members as the country marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. (Lino Mirgeler/dpa via AP) Lino Mirgeler/dpa via AP Moody’s downgraded China one notch from Aa3 to A1, its fifth-highest rating. On the credit scale used by rival agencies Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poor’s, the move is equivalent to a downgrade from double A minus to A plus. S&P still rates China at double A minus although with a negative outlook, while Fitch already had China at A plus. “The downgrade reflects Moody’s expectation that China’s financial strength will erode somewhat over the coming years, with economy-wide debt continuing to rise as potential growth slows,” Marie Diron, the agency’s associate managing director for sovereign risk, wrote in an announcement on Wednesday. “While ongoing progress on reforms is likely to transform the economy and financial system over time, it is not likely to prevent a further material rise in economy-wide debt, and the consequent increase in contingent liabilities for the government.” The news initially unnerved Chinese investors. The yield on benchmark Chinese five-year government bonds rose from 3.8 per cent to 3.95 per cent in the minutes following the announcement, but had returned to the previous level by midday, according to the National Interbank Funding Center. Domestic investors generally ignore foreign ratings of Chinese bonds. Foreign penetration of China’s bond market remains tiny, with foreigners owning about Rmb424bn ($61.5bn) of Chinese government bonds at the end of April, equal to 4 per cent of the outstanding total, according to China Central Depository and Clearing.  Moody’s shifted its ratings outlook for China to negative in March last year, with S&P following suit four weeks later. Fitch, which has generally been more bearish on China than its counterparts, has maintained its A plus ratings with stable outlook since 2007. While Moody’s acknowledged China’s efforts to rebalance its economy away from reliance on debt-fuelled stimulus, the agency believes progress is too slow to arrest deterioration i[...]



Schiff: Intelligence Committee Will Subpoena Flynn

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

The House Intelligence Committee will subpoena former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the election, the panel’s top Democrat said Wednesday. Flynn declined a request to appear before the committee and to provide documents, according to Rep. Adam Schiff, prompting the decision to prepare subpoenas for the information. Flynn similarly said he would not  provide information to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which also plans to issue subpoenas to gain access to it. “We will be following up with...The House Intelligence Committee will subpoena former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the election, the panel’s top Democrat said Wednesday. Flynn declined a request to appear before the committee and to provide documents, according to Rep. Adam Schiff, prompting the decision to prepare subpoenas for the information. Flynn similarly said he would not  provide information to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which also plans to issue subpoenas to gain access to it. “We will be following up with subpoenas and those subpoenas will be designed to maximize our chance of getting the information that we need,” said Schiff at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “I think we need to use whatever compulsory mechanism necessary to get the information that he possesses.” The California congressman added that he is skeptical Flynn would be granted immunity in exchange for his testimony and information, something the former national security adviser has requested from the committees. Schiff said requests for immunity are not something that his panel would entertain “until far later, if at all,” and that they would need to consult with Bob Mueller, the special counsel appointed by the Department of Justice to investigate the matter, before taking action. Schiff also said his committee is taking steps to try to obtain any recordings of conversations between President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey. He said they are also seeking any documents or memos related to a Washington Post report that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to publicly push back against the FBI investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia. “If all of this is part of a pattern by the White House of interference or worse, that’s something we have to find out about and that’s something we have to stop,” Schiff said. Though several of his colleagues have increased calls for Trump’s impeachment based on the numerous allegations reported in the press recently, Schiff said that was not a judgment members should rush toward making. He said there is a legal standard and a practical standard. “We’re only at the stage of allegations at this point,” he said of the legal standard. “The far more practical issue is we’re in a Republican Congress,” the committee’s ranking Democrat said, echoing his party’s leadership in Congress. “I think for the evidence to get to the point where you even talk about impeachment, the Republican members would have to believe that the president’s conduct is so serious as to disqualify him from further service in office, and the country would have to believe that as well.” Despite much of the discussion revolving around the investigation of Trump and his campaign associates, Schiff had some criticism for President Obama’s handling of Russia’s [...]



The Leakiest House on the Block

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

What's the leakiest house in Washington, D.C.? Here's a hint: It's on Pennsylvania Avenue. Ask anyone who's been inside the White House lately. There's never been anything like it. Sinking ships leak. As do losing campaigns, lame-duck administrations, and most White Houses, eventually. But not in April and May of a president's first year in office. This is ridiculous. Or not. In case you haven't noticed, hardly a day goes by without a source very, very close to the top leaking some very, very damaging tidbit about the latest Donald Trump explosion,...What's the leakiest house in Washington, D.C.? Here's a hint: It's on Pennsylvania Avenue. Ask anyone who's been inside the White House lately. There's never been anything like it. Sinking ships leak. As do losing campaigns, lame-duck administrations, and most White Houses, eventually. But not in April and May of a president's first year in office. This is ridiculous. Or not. In case you haven't noticed, hardly a day goes by without a source very, very close to the top leaking some very, very damaging tidbit about the latest Donald Trump explosion, implosion, incredibly stupid mistake or attempt to maybe obstruct justice. Most of these stories appear in The Washington Post and the so-called "Failing New York Times" (a nickname that amuses its staff). Failing no more, thank you, Mr. President. Just to give you an example: It isn't easy to get a transcript of the word-for-word notes taken when the president meets with the foreign minister of, say, a somewhat important country such as Russia. Think about the last time you saw a transcript like that. That's because there are very few people who could transcribe one, and none of them are loose-lipped members of the chattering class. They are "all the president's men" (and women). And they are -- they have to be, because no one else knows this info -- leaking like sieves. Why? That's what a few of us have been asking ourselves. I mean, it's one thing if we don't like Donald Trump and think he and his administration are doing an embarrassingly bad job, but why should they be selling that? The answer -- the one I keep hearing from people who know such things, and the one that makes sense -- is the ultimate irony. It's the only way for the top staff to get through to their boss. He doesn't listen to their opinions. He doesn't even ask them. The only way they have to get ideas in front of him, to get through to him just how serious they are, is to have them appear in the "Failing New York Times" -- which he reads and pays attention to, because everybody he cares about does. Take that, Mr. and Mrs. Populist. The thing to remember, for those who missed Dick, is that Richard Nixon didn't fall from favor and lose the support of his party in a day. In fact, unbelievable as it may sound, he was quite busy during the drip-drop of bad stories in the same two aforementioned newspapers: He went to China, was starting the Environmental Protection Agency, was busy being an effective president (with the dual exceptions of Vietnam and Watergate). So for now, Americans keep hoping that something good might happen for them economically; that their insurance premiums won't go through the roof; and that their kids get into a decent charter school. But you can play out the next few months in your head: Michael Flynn's taking the Fifth (it's very bad to take the Fifth: The only thing worse is going to jail because you didn't take it); the public testimony from James Comey; the investigation led by Robert Mueller; the testimony of the deputy attorney general; the question of what the president knew and when he knew it; the president's ha[...]



Montana Election; Border Tax; Dershowitz and Trump; TR and Friends

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, May 24, 2017. On this date 110 years ago, Theodore Roosevelt delivered the commencement address at Friends School in Washington, the venerable institution now known as Sidwell Friends. In the Quaker school’s institutional memory, the 26th U.S. president’s speech is not exactly a source of pride. Not that Quakers are supposed to boast, necessarily, but let’s just say that Teddy’s talk is not required reading for Sidwell students. This is not a case of “presentism.” One gets the feeling that...Good morning, it’s Wednesday, May 24, 2017. On this date 110 years ago, Theodore Roosevelt delivered the commencement address at Friends School in Washington, the venerable institution now known as Sidwell Friends. In the Quaker school’s institutional memory, the 26th U.S. president’s speech is not exactly a source of pride. Not that Quakers are supposed to boast, necessarily, but let’s just say that Teddy’s talk is not required reading for Sidwell students. This is not a case of “presentism.” One gets the feeling that administrators on the dais back in 1907 winced when the president launched into a speech titled “The American Boy.” Perhaps TR was focused on one particular Friends School student in the audience: his own son Archie. But the record shows that half of the 1907 graduating class of six were young women. I’ll have more on “The American Boy” in a moment. First, I’ll point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Dems Target Trumpcare in Uphill Montana House Race. Party officials bet voters’ fears about GOP health policy will carry their candidate to victory in the red state special election, Caitlin Huey-Burns reports. House GOP Pushes Border Adjustment Tax Despite Opposition. James Arkin reports on yesterday’s Ways and Means Committee hearing. Who Will Stand Up for Civil Liberties? Alan M. Dershowitz asserts that he is not pro-Trump despite his criticism of a special counsel/grand jury process he considers unfair. Mr. President, Here's Your Trillion Dollars. In RealClearPolicy, Lynn Fitch & Jon Christensen suggest a way for states to help pay for Trump's infrastructure agenda. A Tale of Two Allies. As Trump attends the NATO summit, Gary Schmitt assesses the military readiness of Germany and the U.K. in RealClearDefense. German Defense Spending -- a Case Study. Also in RCD, John Beckner spotlights budgetary allocations based on industrial, rather than military, priorities.  Detroit and Puerto Rico: Which Is the Worse Insolvency? In RealClearMarkets, Alex Pollock lays out the comparison. With China vs. the United States, Spot the Capitalist. Also in RCM, Allan Golombek examines Trump administration trade policies he finds troubling. Why Nutrition Guidelines and Policies Should Continue. In RealClearHealth, Deborah Cohen explains why healthy eating shouldn't be a partisan issue. More Money Is Never Enough. In RealClearEducation, Jonathan Butcher and Liv Finne push back against persistent calls from teachers' unions for increased education spending. Top 10 Baseball Brawls. Recent bench-clearing confrontations prompted this list from Ben Krimmel in RealClearSports.  * * * Numerous sons and daughters of prominent American statesmen [...]



NATO Rolls Out the Red Carpet, Buffs Its Image for Trump

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

BRUSSELS (AP) -- NATO is not only rolling out the red carpet for U.S. President Donald Trump in Brussels Thursday, the military alliance - which Trump once declared obsolete - has been busy repackaging its image and is ready to unveil a new headquarters worth more than 1 billion euros. In recent months, member nations have strained to show they are ramping up defense spending as Trump has demanded, even though they have been doing so for a few years in response to an aggressive Russia. And while they agree with the chief of the alliance's most powerful member that NATO can do more to...BRUSSELS (AP) -- NATO is not only rolling out the red carpet for U.S. President Donald Trump in Brussels Thursday, the military alliance - which Trump once declared obsolete - has been busy repackaging its image and is ready to unveil a new headquarters worth more than 1 billion euros. In recent months, member nations have strained to show they are ramping up defense spending as Trump has demanded, even though they have been doing so for a few years in response to an aggressive Russia. And while they agree with the chief of the alliance's most powerful member that NATO can do more to fight terrorism, they say it can be achieved with more of the same; training and mentoring troops in Afghanistan, and equipping local forces in Iraq so they can better fight the Islamic State group themselves. "They'll only talk about what he cares about, so really he should come out of this meeting feeling as though NATO responds to him," said Kristine Berzina, NATO analyst at the German Marshall Fund think tank. "At least that's what they hope here." Indeed, as part of the repackaging to be announced during Trump's 24-hour visit to the city he branded a "hellhole," NATO is likely to agree to join the 68-nation international coalition fighting IS. The move is symbolically important, especially since the group claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. An anti-terror coordinator may also be named, but most changes will be cosmetic, as NATO allies have no intention of going to war against IS. "It's totally out of the question for NATO to engage in any combat operations," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, on the eve of the meeting. The 28 member nations, plus soon-to-join Montenegro, will renew an old vow to move toward spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. Still, many are skeptical about this arbitrary bottom line that takes no account of effective military spending where it's needed most. Germany would have to virtually double its military budget and spend more than Russia. Putting some meat on the pledge, the leaders will agree to prepare action plans by the end of the year, plotting how to reach 2 percent over the next seven years, and show how they will use the money and contribute troops to NATO operations. Only five members currently meet the target: Britain, Estonia, debt-laden Greece, Poland and the United States, which spends more on defense than all the other allies combined. "It's not fair that we're paying close to 4 percent and other countries that are more directly affected are paying 1 percent when they're supposed to be paying 2 percent," Trump told the Associated Press in an interview last month. Tomas Valasek from the Carnegie Europe think tank says the president's demands on overdue debts have shaken up the other allies. "Trump has challenged the idea that active engagement in Europe is a core U.S. interest," Valasek said. "He appears to regard all foreign relations as z[...]



Trump to Pope Francis at the Vatican: 'We Can Use Peace'

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe. Trump, midway through a grueling nine-day, maiden international journey, called upon the pontiff in a private, 30-minute meeting laden with religious symbolism and ancient protocol. The president, accompanied by his wife and several aides, arrived at the Vatican just after 8 a.m. local time. The president greeted Francis in Sala del...VATICAN CITY (AP) -- President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe. Trump, midway through a grueling nine-day, maiden international journey, called upon the pontiff in a private, 30-minute meeting laden with religious symbolism and ancient protocol. The president, accompanied by his wife and several aides, arrived at the Vatican just after 8 a.m. local time. The president greeted Francis in Sala del Tronetto, the room of the little throne, on the second floor of Apostolic Palace. Upon completing their meeting, the pope gave the president a medal featuring an olive branch, a symbol of peace, among other gifts. "We can use peace," the president responded. The visit began with a handshake after each man arrived, Trump in a lengthy motorcade, Francis in a Ford Focus. The president was heard thanking the pope and saying it was "a great honor" to be there. They posed for photographs and then sat down at the papal desk, the pope unsmiling, as their private meeting began. It ended a half hour later when Francis rang the bell in his private study. The pontiff was then introduced to members of Trump's delegation, including his wife Melania, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as aides Hope Hicks and Dan Scavino. Smiling for the staff, Francis had a light moment with the first lady, asking via translator, "What do you give him to eat, potizza?" referring to a favorite papal dessert from her native Slovenia. The first lady laughed and said "Yes." She and Ivanka covered their heads in a sign of papal respect, a gesture they did not partake in Saudi Arabia. As is tradition, the pope and president exchanged gifts. Trump presented the pontiff with a custom-bound, first-edition set of Martin Luther King Jr.'s works, an engraved stone from the King memorial in Washington and a bronze sculpture of a flowering lotus titled "Rising Above." "I think you'll enjoy them. I hope you do," Trump said. The pope presented Trump with the medal, a message of peace and three bound papal documents that to some degree define his papacy and priorities, including the family and the environment. The pope told Trump he signed the message "personally for you." Trump said he would read the books. When Trump departed, he told the pope: "Thank you, I won't forget what you said." Later, as he met with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Trump said of the pope: "He is something." "We had a fantastic meeting," the president said. "It was an honor to be with the pope." A statement released by the Vatican later said "satisfaction was expressed" at their "joint commitment in favor of life" and that there was hoped-for collaboration on health care and assistance to immigrants and protection of Christian communities in the Middle East. In recent days, Francis and Trump have been in agreement on [...]



Who Will Stand Up for Civil Liberties?

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

At a moment in history when the ACLU is quickly becoming a partisan left-wing advocacy group that cares more about getting President Trump than protecting due process (see my recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal), who is standing up for civil liberties? The short answer is no one. Not the Democrats, who see an opportunity to reap partisan benefit from the appointment of a special counsel to investigate any ties between the Trump campaign/ administration and Russia. Not Republican elected officials who view the appointment as giving them cover. Certainly, not the media who are reveling in...At a moment in history when the ACLU is quickly becoming a partisan left-wing advocacy group that cares more about getting President Trump than protecting due process (see my recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal), who is standing up for civil liberties? The short answer is no one. Not the Democrats, who see an opportunity to reap partisan benefit from the appointment of a special counsel to investigate any ties between the Trump campaign/ administration and Russia. Not Republican elected officials who view the appointment as giving them cover. Certainly, not the media who are reveling in 24/7 “bombshells.” Not even the White House, which is too busy denying everything to focus on “legal technicalities” that may sound like “guilty man arguments.” Legal technicalities are of course the difference between the rule of law and the iron fist of tyranny. Civil liberties protect us all. As H.L. Mencken used to say: “The trouble about fighting for human freedom is that you have to spend much of your life defending sons of bitches: for oppressive laws are always aimed at them originally, and oppression must be stopped in the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” History demonstrates that the first casualty of hyper-partisan politics is often civil liberties. Consider the appointment of the special counsel to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Trump.” Even if there were such direct links, that would not constitute a crime under current federal law. Maybe it should, but prosecutors have no right to investigate matters that should be criminal but are not.  This investigation will be conducted in secret behind closed doors; witnesses will be denied the right to have counsel present during grand jury questioning; they will have no right to offer exculpatory testimony or evidence to the grand jury; inculpatory hearsay evidence will be presented and considered by the grand jury; there will be no presumption of innocence; no requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, only proof sufficient to establish the minimal standard of probable cause. The prosecutor alone will tell the jury what the law is and why they should indict; and the grand jury will do his bidding. As lawyers quip: They will indict a ham sandwich if the prosecutor tells them to. This sounds more like Star Chamber injustice than American justice. And there is nothing in the Constitution that mandates such a kangaroo proceeding. All the Fifth Amendment says is: “no person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury.” The denials of due process come from prosecutorially advocated legislative actions. The Founders would be turning over in their graves if they saw what they intended as a shield to protect defendants, turned[...]



Why the Superbugs Are Winning

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

The deadliest superbug yet -- Candida auris -- is invading hospitals and nursing homes, killing a staggering 60 percent of patients it infects. Some exposed patients don't succumb to infection but silently carry the germ and infect others. So far, the lethal germ has sickened patients in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois and Massachusetts, with 122 cases reported so far this year, up from only six last year. The germ -- a fungus -- lingers on bedrails and on the uniforms and hands of doctors and nurses, ready to attack the next patient. Once it gets inside a catheter or breathing...The deadliest superbug yet -- Candida auris -- is invading hospitals and nursing homes, killing a staggering 60 percent of patients it infects. Some exposed patients don't succumb to infection but silently carry the germ and infect others. So far, the lethal germ has sickened patients in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois and Massachusetts, with 122 cases reported so far this year, up from only six last year. The germ -- a fungus -- lingers on bedrails and on the uniforms and hands of doctors and nurses, ready to attack the next patient. Once it gets inside a catheter or breathing device and invades a patient's body, it kills. Candida auris is already in 15 hospitals in New York, including prestigious medical centers. Acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat calls it a "catastrophic threat." Strong words, but don't expect health authorities to do much. They're saying what they always say -- patients dying from these infections were already seriously ill. Well, duh. Who else goes to a hospital? Health care infections -- from Candida auris and many other germs -- kill at least 75,000 hospital patients a year and five times that number in nursing homes. That's nearly half a million deaths a year. Politicians talk nonstop about insurance guaranteeing seriously ill people access to care. But the biggest risk to these patients isn't lack of insurance. It's infection. Infections jeopardize vulnerable patients' access to organ transplants, cancer therapy and HIV/AIDS treatments, even if they have insurance. New York City is ground zero, with three-quarters of the cases. But the state's health commissioner Howard Zucker claims Candida auris "poses no risk to the general public" because it "impacts patients who are already ill for other reasons." Why write them off? Watching officials downplay Candida auris is deja vu all over again. In 1999, researchers revealed the existence of a killer germ CRE (short for carbapenem-resistant bacteria) at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. But state health officials and the CDC failed to act. By 2008, the germ had reached 22 states, often carried by patients from New York. In 2011, a woman with CRE transferred from a New York hospital to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, which set off an outbreak that killed 11 patients there, including a 16-year-old boy. Not until 2013 did health officials label carbapenem-resistant germs "nightmare bacteria" and call for "urgent and aggressive action." Tough words but no follow-up. Now CRE is in hospitals and nursing homes nationwide. Yet the CDC is dithering instead of insisting all hospitals screen patients likely to have the germ so precautions can be taken to stop its spread. And Medicare doesn't reimburse for screening, though it's a necessary tool. CRE lodges in sink drains of infected patients' rooms, and nothing short of ripping out the plumbing gets rid of it. It adheres to medical devices, turning them dea[...]



The Midterms Might Become the 'Impeachment Election'

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- President Nixon was heading for a big re-election victory in November that would confound his critics. He had just returned from a pathbreaking visit to China and had big transformative ideas for foreign policy. Yet he felt hounded by his enemies and a media elite that opposed him at every turn. And there was that pesky FBI investigation into a "third-rate burglary" at the Watergate office building, about which the media were asking meddlesome questions. Nixon wrote in his diary after a later, revelatory Washington Post scoop about Watergate that this was "the...WASHINGTON -- President Nixon was heading for a big re-election victory in November that would confound his critics. He had just returned from a pathbreaking visit to China and had big transformative ideas for foreign policy. Yet he felt hounded by his enemies and a media elite that opposed him at every turn. And there was that pesky FBI investigation into a "third-rate burglary" at the Watergate office building, about which the media were asking meddlesome questions. Nixon wrote in his diary after a later, revelatory Washington Post scoop about Watergate that this was "the last burp of the Eastern Establishment," recalls Evan Thomas in a recent book. Nixon was trying to do the people's business, but he felt angry, isolated and embattled. Then Nixon did something very stupid. On June 23, 1972, he instructed his chief of staff to contact the CIA and have its deputy director, Vernon Walters, tell the FBI to back off on its investigation: "They should call the FBI in and say that we wish for the country, don't go any further into this case, period." The tape recording of this conversation became known as "the smoking gun." President Trump, it's said, doesn't read presidential biographies. That's a shame. For he appears to be making the same mistakes that destroyed Nixon's presidency. That's the thrust of the Post's big story Monday night reporting that Trump asked U.S. intelligence chiefs to challenge the FBI's investigation of possible links between his campaign and Russia. "History does not repeat, but it does instruct," writes Timothy Snyder in his new book, "On Tyranny." Some people, apparently including Trump, just don't learn. The world is probably baffled by Washington's obsession with the Russia scandal. Trump seems popular abroad, as Nixon was. That's especially true in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and China where leaders are tired of being lectured by America and the public is fascinated by the cartoon-like "big man" character that Trump projects. Give Trump credit for the unlikely foreign policy success he's had: His trip to Saudi Arabia embraced a Muslim monarchy that is trying to break with its intolerant past. He convinced the Saudis and other Gulf States to ban financing of terrorists, even by private citizens. That's a "win" for good policy. Earlier, he cajoled China into playing a stronger role in dealing with North Korea. Yes, these are "flip-flops" -- reversing his earlier, inflammatory anti-Muslim and anti-Beijing rhetoric -- but so what? They're smart moves. Yet no foreign or domestic success will stop the slow unfolding of the investigation that is now underway. That's the importance of last week's appointment of the impeccable Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Russia matter. The process can't be derailed now. If the president or his associates are guilty of wrongdoing, Mueller will find it. If they're innocent, he'll discover that, too. Fr[...]



Dems Target Trumpcare in Uphill Montana House Race

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

The steady stream of revelations about the U.S. intelligence community’s Russia investigation and the White House provides ample political fodder for the loyal opposition. The appointment of a special counsel slightly more than 100 days into the new administration and President Trump's loose lips figure to help stock the arsenal. But Democrats aiming to rebuild their party see health care and other Trump policies as more potent and accessible issues for voters. The day after a new report that Trump allegedly asked top intelligence officials to push back against the FBI...The steady stream of revelations about the U.S. intelligence community’s Russia investigation and the White House provides ample political fodder for the loyal opposition. The appointment of a special counsel slightly more than 100 days into the new administration and President Trump's loose lips figure to help stock the arsenal. But Democrats aiming to rebuild their party see health care and other Trump policies as more potent and accessible issues for voters. The day after a new report that Trump allegedly asked top intelligence officials to push back against the FBI probe, Democrats seized on the president's newly released budget proposal, which would make cuts to programs that have benefitted constituencies that voted for him. On Wednesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is slated to release its analysis of the House Republicans' already unpopular health care replacement bill, which will likely create more fuel for opponents. And while a group of Democratic lawmakers is calling for Trump's impeachment, congressional leaders have tried to tamp down those cries.  That's not to say Democrats' don't see political advantages in Trump's controversies. The president's approval rating dropped below 40 percent last week, and some polling found him losing ground with key support groups. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added 20 new Trump districts to its 2018 target list this week. But even with chances to criticize Trump so abundant, some Democrats are concerned about repeating their 2016 mistakes by not reaching voters on issues that impact them. “It always comes back to kitchen table issues," said Democratic strategist Lynda Tran. "I don't think the current reality we're in has changed that all that much ... you cannot allow your candidacy or campaign to be sidetracked by the daily chaos coming out of the Trump White House." The potency of both health care policy and the political climate surrounding the president comes to a head in a special election in Montana on Thursday to fill an at-large House seat vacated by Republican Ryan Zinke, who is now secretary of the interior in the Trump administration. Republicans have held the seat for two decades, and Trump won the state by more than 20 points. But Montana voters have an independent streak. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester has represented Montana for two terms, as has Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who defeated Republican businessman Greg Gianforte last year by four points. Gianforte is now running for the open congressional seat and, unlike in his last run, he is fully embracing Trump. Gianforte, 56, has campaigned on supporting the president and his agenda and has welcomed Donald Trump Jr. and Vice President Mike Pence to campaign for him in the state. Gianforte, who was born in New Jersey and moved to Montana over 25 years ago, made his money a[...]



The Forgotten Slaughters of the Innocents

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

For now, everyone knows the sonorous name and cherubic face of 8-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos. She's the littlest known victim of Monday night's jihad attack in Manchester, England. Her doe-eyed image spread as rapidly across social media as the #PrayForManchester hashtags and Twitter condolences from celebrities. But I guarantee you that beautiful Saffie Rose will evaporate from the memories of those most loudly proclaiming "Never forget" faster than a dewdrop in the desert. Look no further for proof of the West's incurable terror attack amnesia than the reaction to...For now, everyone knows the sonorous name and cherubic face of 8-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos. She's the littlest known victim of Monday night's jihad attack in Manchester, England. Her doe-eyed image spread as rapidly across social media as the #PrayForManchester hashtags and Twitter condolences from celebrities. But I guarantee you that beautiful Saffie Rose will evaporate from the memories of those most loudly proclaiming "Never forget" faster than a dewdrop in the desert. Look no further for proof of the West's incurable terror attack amnesia than the reaction to the Manchester massacre. Reporters, politicians and pundits expressed shock at the brutality of Muslim murderers targeting children and young people. Labour Party leader Yvette Cooper posited on BBC Live that it was a "first." "The architects of terror have hit a new low," a Liverpool newspaper editorialized. U.K. columnist Rosie Millard described the bloody bombing as an "attack unique in its premeditated targeting of the young." What planet have these people been living on for the past 16 years? How quickly the blind, deaf and dumb virtue signalers forget. Last year, the Orlando, Florida, nightclub jihadist purposely targeted young people simply having a good time. Among the youngest victims cut down in their prime: Jason B. Josaphat, 19, and vacationing high school honors student Akyra Monet Murray, 18. Somali jihadist Abdul Razak Ali Artan plowed his car into Ohio State University students last fall before stabbing several of them. The attack was swept under the rug as the usual, terror-coddling suspects worried more about a nonexistent "backlash" against Muslims than they did about the steady infiltration of refugee jihadis and Islamic extremists at colleges and universities across the country. In 2004, Islamic baby-killers attacked a school in Beslan, Russia, during a three-day siege that took the lives of 186 young children. At Fort Hood in 2009, soldier Francheska Velez and her unborn child were murdered by jihadist Nidal Hasan with 13 other victims. Her last words: "My baby! My baby!" Eight children were murdered on airliners that jihadists hijacked and crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. Christine Hanson, 3, was on United Airlines Flight 175 with her parents. She was on her first trip to Disneyland. Juliana McCourt, 4, was traveling with her mom -- also on her way to Disneyland. David Brandhorst, 3, was traveling with his adoptive dad and his companion. Sisters Zoe Falkenberg, 8, and Dana, 3, were headed to Australia with their parents on American Airlines Flight 77. Bernard Brown Jr., 11; Rodney Dickens, 11; and Asia Cottom, 11, all from Washington, D.C., were also on the Falkenbergs' flight. They were public schoolchildren traveling with their teachers on an educational trip. An additional 10 pregnant women and their unborn babies died as the Twin Towers toppled. Eight [...]



Times' Green Baloney

2017-05-24T00:00:00Z

The New York Times' hostility to industry gets worse every day. Last week, the Times ran a big picture of a bay in Alaska with the headline "In Reversal, E.P.A. Eases Path for a Mine Near Alaska's Bristol Bay." While this was just another of their stories about how Donald Trump will poison America, it caught my eye because of the big photo and because I once reported on that mine. Attempted mine, I should say. No holes have been dug. I reported on Pebble Mine because the EPA rejected the mine even before its environmental impact statement was submitted. The Obama...The New York Times' hostility to industry gets worse every day. Last week, the Times ran a big picture of a bay in Alaska with the headline "In Reversal, E.P.A. Eases Path for a Mine Near Alaska's Bristol Bay." While this was just another of their stories about how Donald Trump will poison America, it caught my eye because of the big photo and because I once reported on that mine. Attempted mine, I should say. No holes have been dug. I reported on Pebble Mine because the EPA rejected the mine even before its environmental impact statement was submitted. The Obama EPA squashed Pebble like it squashed the Keystone XL pipeline. It just said no. This shocked CEO Tom Collier. He's a Democrat who managed environment policy for Al Gore and Bill Clinton. He was convinced Pebble could be developed safely and assumed EPA regulators would follow their own rules. They didn't. "They killed this project before any science was done, and there are memos that show that!" Collier complained. I'm skeptical when sources say things like that, but in this case, there are documents that reveal collusion between the EPA and Pebble's political opponents. One of America's richest environmental groups (they collect more than $10 million per month) is the Natural Resources Defense Council. Their website claims "Science empowers NRDC's work," but the NRDC is run by lawyers, not scientists, and many are anti-progress activists upset about "corporate greed." NRDC spokesman Bob Deans told me that the NRDC isn't anti-progress -- it just wants the "right" kind: "Wind turbines, solar panels ... this is what the future needs." "But we also need copper and gold," I said. "Well, that's right," he replied. "But we have to weigh those risks." "Are there some mines where NRDC says, 'Go ahead!'?" I asked. After thinking for a while, he said, "It's not up to us to greenlight mines." I asked, "Are there any you don't complain about?" "Sure," he told me. He said he'd send us names. He never did. Unfortunately, there's a revolving door between groups like the NRDC and the EPA. One NRDC activist who walked through that door was Nancy Stoner. EPA administrators aren't supposed to conspire with former activist colleagues, but she did, telling them that she couldn't coordinate with them directly but could meet with them so long as they communicated via other people and invited people besides her to meetings. After her correspondence about that was revealed, Stoner left the EPA, but Pebble had already been rejected. Now Trump's in charge and his EPA says it will reevaluate the mine. Good. It should. But New York Times reporters can't stand that. They've smeared Pebble year after year in their headlines. 2008: "Mine would irreparably harm a centuries-old salmon fishing industry." 2012: "A Threat to Bristol Bay." 2013: "Native Alaska, Under Threat.[...]



Trump & Francis: After Clashing, a Search for Common Ground

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- They are stylistic opposites, one a bombastic tycoon-turned-president, the other a famously modest pope. They disagree openly on such weighty issues as immigration, climate change and economic policy. But President Donald Trump and Pope Francis share a trait that adds drama to their first meeting Wednesday: unpredictability. And when they greet each other - in a Vatican ceremony laden with history and symbolism - they may well find common ground, particularly in denouncing religiously inspired violence and demanding Muslim leaders take a greater stand in rooting out...VATICAN CITY (AP) -- They are stylistic opposites, one a bombastic tycoon-turned-president, the other a famously modest pope. They disagree openly on such weighty issues as immigration, climate change and economic policy. But President Donald Trump and Pope Francis share a trait that adds drama to their first meeting Wednesday: unpredictability. And when they greet each other - in a Vatican ceremony laden with history and symbolism - they may well find common ground, particularly in denouncing religiously inspired violence and demanding Muslim leaders take a greater stand in rooting out fanaticism from their places of worship. To reach public harmony, the two men, unquestionably two of the most famous figures on the planet, will have to set aside their past and very public conflicts. When Trump took his oath of office on Jan. 20, Francis sent him a telegram of congratulations, offering his prayers for wisdom and strength that the new president's decisions would be guided by ethical values. "Under your leadership, may America's stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need, who, like Lazarus, stand before our door," the message read. It was a subtle reminder that the two leaders had gotten off to a very rocky start over their different views on migration. Francis early last year was sharply critical of Trump's campaign pledge to build an impenetrable wall on the Mexican border and his declaration that the United States should turn away Muslim immigrants and refugees. "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian," Francis said then. The pontiff has been a vocal advocate for aiding refugees, particularly those fleeing the violence in Syria, deeming it both a "moral imperative" and "Christian duty" to help. Trump has never been one to let an insult, perceived or real, go by without a response, and he made no exception for the world's best-known religious leader. He called Francis "disgraceful" for doubting his faith. Trump's visit to the Vatican is the third leg of his tour of the world's three main monotheistic religions, coming after he visited the cradles of Islam and Judaism. While pope and president differ on many social and economic issues, the two are preaching from the same playbook in demanding that Muslim leaders take a greater stand against extremists in their mosques and communities. It's likely that both sides will seek to highlight such common ground after their Wednesday morning audience. In Saudi Arabia on Sunday, Trump implored Middle Eastern leaders to extinguish Islamic extremism from the region and described it as a "battle between good and evil" rather than a clash between the West and Islam. Those words echoed what Francis said [...]



House GOP Pushes Border Adjustment Tax Despite Opposition

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

House Republicans aren’t backing off a controversial proposal at the center of their tax overhaul plan despite continued opposition from key GOP leaders in the Senate and the Trump administration. Rep. Kevin Brady, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, held a hearing Tuesday examining border adjustability, a proposed 20 percent tax on imports -- while exempting exports -- that is at the heart of the blueprint he and Speaker Paul Ryan helped craft last year. “Our goal is not simply to eliminate any tax reason to move American jobs overseas, but to reestablish...House Republicans aren’t backing off a controversial proposal at the center of their tax overhaul plan despite continued opposition from key GOP leaders in the Senate and the Trump administration. Rep. Kevin Brady, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, held a hearing Tuesday examining border adjustability, a proposed 20 percent tax on imports -- while exempting exports -- that is at the heart of the blueprint he and Speaker Paul Ryan helped craft last year. “Our goal is not simply to eliminate any tax reason to move American jobs overseas, but to reestablish America as a 21st-century magnet for new jobs and investment,” Brady said in his opening statement. But even as House Republicans on the tax-writing committee were debating the pros and cons of the proposal Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was throwing cold water on its viability. “One of the problems with the border adjustment tax is that it doesn’t create a level playing field,” Mnuchin said at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit, according to Politico. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called border adjustability “controversial” and said it probably couldn’t pass in the upper chamber. Despite that pushback, House Republicans forged ahead with the proposal, and still consider it a key portion of their tax plan, saying it could raise more than $1 trillion in revenue to help pay for lower corporate and individual tax rates. Tuesday’s hearing was a key opportunity to debate the issue, and try to win over some of the skeptics. “We recognize this is a significant change from our current tax code. We know there are legitimate concerns” from stakeholders, including some of those testifying at the hearing, Brady acknowledged. The concerns from opponents include whether the tax would be compliant with the World Trade Organization and whether it would increase the power of the dollar to offset any setbacks for consumers. In particular, the opposition has come from large retailers – notably Walmart and Target – that import massive amounts of goods, and could face steep taxes under the new plan. Target CEO Brian Cornell testified against the proposal Tuesday.   “Under the new border adjustment tax, American families – your constituents – would pay more so many multinational corporations can pay even less,” Cornell said. That opposition could be a potent weapon against border adjustment among Republicans, and it highlights the growing need for Brady and Ryan to sell the plan to the public. Two committee Republicans – Rep. Erik Paulsen, who represents a district that borders Minneapolis, the corporate home of Target, and Rep. Jim Rena[...]



In Mideast, Trump Says Israel, Arab Nations Share "Common Cause" Against Iran

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

JERUSALEM (AP) -- As he hopscotches through the Middle East, President Donald Trump is urging Israel and its Arab neighbors to unite around a "common cause": their deep distrust of Iran. Trump's first trip abroad has highlighted the extent to which strident opposition to Iran now serves as an organizing principle in his efforts to remake America's relationship with the Middle East. He leaned heavily on concerns over Iran's destabilizing activities in the region during his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, Tehran's long-time foe. During meetings Monday in Israel,...JERUSALEM (AP) -- As he hopscotches through the Middle East, President Donald Trump is urging Israel and its Arab neighbors to unite around a "common cause": their deep distrust of Iran. Trump's first trip abroad has highlighted the extent to which strident opposition to Iran now serves as an organizing principle in his efforts to remake America's relationship with the Middle East. He leaned heavily on concerns over Iran's destabilizing activities in the region during his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, Tehran's long-time foe. During meetings Monday in Israel, which considers Iran its biggest threat, Trump said Arab nations' own worries about Tehran could ultimately lead to new regional support for a Middle East peace deal. "There is a growing realization among your Arab neighbors that they have common cause with you in the threat posed by Iran," Trump said as he opened talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But it's unclear how thoroughly Trump has thought through what his anti-Iran policy will look like in practice. Will it force him to make good on his promise to unravel President Barack Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran? How will his support for anti-Iran allies in the Middle East square with his relationships with allies that also signed the deal? Does overtly siding with the Saudis over Iran mean the U.S. will automatically take the kingdom's side in proxy Sunni-Shia battles in the Middle East? Jon Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Iran's willingness to meddle in the Middle East also requires Trump to consider this: "How do you escape a dynamic whereby Iran keeps doing cheap, asymmetrical things that force you to do expensive things?" When Obama grappled with these questions he landed firmly in the other camp. Obama pushed the Saudis to "share the neighborhood" rather than vie for influence in a destabilizing cycle of proxy conflicts. Pointing to wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, he warned that stoking the divisions could ultimately mean forcing the U.S. to intervene. Telling allies that Iran is the source of problems "would mean that we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor of the Middle East," Obama told The Atlantic last year, explaining his policy. That approach - and the diplomacy and nuclear accord it spawned - did little to endear Obama to leaders in Israel or Saudi Arabia. Trump appeared to have learned that lesson. On Monday, he was greeted with lavish praise from Netanyahu. "I want you to know how much we appreciate the change in American policy on Iran," the prime minister said. Yet Trump has yet to bring about the kind of change to America's Iran policy[...]



The Sanders Factor; Holding the House; Advice for Dems; 'Tonight Show' on Trial

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Today’s news from Manchester, England, was particularly sickening and enraging, even in a world where depravity has become so frequent. A lone madman who could inflict such carnage would be a difficult societal problem to address, but this bombing fits a more disturbing profile. To underscore the point, Islamic State supporters gloated on social media about the murder of so many children -- and called for similar attacks. Obviously, abettors of such horror aren’t susceptible to reason. But exterminating such thinking...Good morning, it’s Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Today’s news from Manchester, England, was particularly sickening and enraging, even in a world where depravity has become so frequent. A lone madman who could inflict such carnage would be a difficult societal problem to address, but this bombing fits a more disturbing profile. To underscore the point, Islamic State supporters gloated on social media about the murder of so many children -- and called for similar attacks. Obviously, abettors of such horror aren’t susceptible to reason. But exterminating such thinking isn’t easy, partly because the tools of free expression pioneered in the West, and cherished by enlightened people, are employed against civilized societies. Should we curb free speech to make ourselves safer? It’s an enduring dilemma, as an event on this date in 1979 reminds us. That was the night Johnny Carson allowed himself to be “hanged” on national television. Watching that program was an impressionable 13-year-old Rhode Island boy named Nicholas DeFilippo Jr. I’ll have more on his tragic story, and its legal ramifications, in a moment. First, I’ll point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * How Hillary Clinton’s Party Produced Bernie Sanders. David Byler has this analysis of ideological change among Democratic voters, who warmed to the throwback populism of the Vermont senator. Losing the House Is Not a Pre-Existing Condition for GOP. Peter Wallison and Joseph Antos explain why they believe House Republicans’ vote to repeal Obamacare won’t lead to election losses next year. How Democrats Can Hasten Trump’s Departure. Paul Bledsoe prescribes three moves the party should take before the midterms. What Would a President Pence Mean for America’s Future? In RealClearDefense, Loren Thompson has this assessment of the potential commander-in-chief. Cost and the Pre-existing Conditions Pledge. In RealClearHealth, Robert Graboyes warns that the current reform debate does not focus on the high cost of care -- only on who pays. Will the EPA Abandon the Science of Risk? In RealClearPolicy, Jeff Stier urges the Trump administration to resist calls to disregard risk analysis in environmental regulation. Google Is Building the Future, and That Depresses the NYT. RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny comments on a Times lamentation that the government is increasingly leaving artificial-intelligenc[...]



Losing the House Is Not a Pre-Existing Condition for GOP

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

Should Republicans be worried that they will lose control of the House in 2018 because they adopted legislation that repeals Obamacare? Don’t bet on it. We have seen this movie before. The last time, it was called Occupy Wall Street. A little band of dissidents camped out in a park near the New York City’s financial center to protest inequality of income and other wrongs of American society. The media celebrated it as the progressive answer to the Tea Party movement, but it soon disappeared.  This time the outrage is sparked by the Republicans giving states more...Should Republicans be worried that they will lose control of the House in 2018 because they adopted legislation that repeals Obamacare? Don’t bet on it. We have seen this movie before. The last time, it was called Occupy Wall Street. A little band of dissidents camped out in a park near the New York City’s financial center to protest inequality of income and other wrongs of American society. The media celebrated it as the progressive answer to the Tea Party movement, but it soon disappeared.  This time the outrage is sparked by the Republicans giving states more control over their health insurance markets. States could let insurers take a person’s health status into account when deciding how much to charge in premiums. According to the media narrative, this would take away coverage from those with pre-existing conditions ranging from acne to heart disease. The public furor over this allegation is predictable. But that does not make pre-existing conditions an existential threat to Republican political chances in the next election.    Some believe, or hope, that Republicans will face the same fate experienced by Democrats in 2010. But Obamacare was an affront to many Americans who saw a government penalty for not doing something as a major threat to personal liberty. And Obamacare was financed by billions of dollars in new taxes. At a time when employers were already cutting back on health benefits, Obamacare’s Cadillac tax penalized plans that politicians deemed to be too generous. Large numbers of Americans who already had what they considered adequate health insurance became concerned that Obamacare would force them to pay more for less, or lose access to their regular doctor. They noisily protested in 2010 town-hall meetings and then turned out to turn over control of Congress to the Republicans, who had made clear their opposition to Obamacare. These lessons shaped the American Health Care Act, which shifts control back to states and individuals, and provides additional resources to protect people with pre-existing conditions.  The Republican plan protects everyone who remains continually covered by health insurance. They cannot be charged more if they have a pre-existing condition. Only people who avoid purchasing coverage until they need it would be charged more. They would pay a 30 percent late enrollment penalty for one year before the premium drops back to the standard rate paid by everyone else.  The bill also provides $123 billion over 10 years to offset the higher costs faced by people with serious health conditions.  That money could be used to fund high-risk pools, direct subsidies to high-risk individ[...]



Trump Condemns 'Evil Losers' Who Carried Out Concert Attack

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday condemned the "evil losers" responsible for a deadly attack on concert-goers in England and called on leaders in the Middle East in particular to help root out violence. "The terrorists and extremists and those who give them aid and comfort must be driven out from our society forever," Trump said in Bethlehem alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "This wicked ideology must be obliterated." Trump spoke on his fourth and final day in the Middle East. After meetings with Arab leaders...BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday condemned the "evil losers" responsible for a deadly attack on concert-goers in England and called on leaders in the Middle East in particular to help root out violence. "The terrorists and extremists and those who give them aid and comfort must be driven out from our society forever," Trump said in Bethlehem alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "This wicked ideology must be obliterated." Trump spoke on his fourth and final day in the Middle East. After meetings with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, the president has been pushing the prospect of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He said an agreement with Israel could "begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East." Abbas said he was keen to "keep the door open to dialogue with our Israeli neighbors." He reiterated the Palestinians' demands, including establishing a capital in East Jerusalem, territory Israel claims as well, insisting that "our problem is not with the Jewish religion, it's with the occupation and settlements, and with Israel not recognizing the state of Palestine." Palestinians, Abbas said, want to focus on building their institutions along with a "culture of peace and denouncing violence" while building bridges instead of walls." The White House said Trump was being updated on the attacks in Manchester, England, by his national security team. More than 20 people were killed by an apparent suicide bomber. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. "So many young, beautiful innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life," Trump said, echoing the theme he presented during his meetings with Arab leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The White House said it was Trump's idea to use the term "evil losers." Trump declared that he would not call the attackers "monsters," a term he believes they would prefer, instead choosing "losers," a longtime favorite Trump insult and one he has directed at comedian Rosie O'Donnell, Cher and others.. To get to Bethlehem from Jerusalem, Trump's motorcade passed through streets lined with heavily armed security forces and an opening in Israel's towering separation barrier, a visual reminder of the complexities of the conflict in the region. Israel built the barrier a decade ago, saying it was a defense against Palestinian militants who carried out deadly attacks. Palestinians say the barrier is a land grab because it slices off 10 percent of the West Bank. Trump was returning to Jerusalem later Tuesday to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and deliver remarks. He'll then head to Rome for a meeting Wednesday at the Vatican with Pope [...]



A Special Prosecutor for Criminal Leaks

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

Who is the real threat to the national security? Is it President Trump who shared with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov the intelligence that ISIS was developing laptop bombs to put aboard airliners? Or is it The Washington Post that ferreted out and published this code-word intelligence, and splashed the details on its front page, alerting the world, and ISIS, to what we knew. President Trump has the authority to declassify security secrets. And in sharing that intel with the Russians, who have had airliners taken down by bombs, he was trying to restore a relationship. On fighting Islamist...Who is the real threat to the national security? Is it President Trump who shared with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov the intelligence that ISIS was developing laptop bombs to put aboard airliners? Or is it The Washington Post that ferreted out and published this code-word intelligence, and splashed the details on its front page, alerting the world, and ISIS, to what we knew. President Trump has the authority to declassify security secrets. And in sharing that intel with the Russians, who have had airliners taken down by bombs, he was trying to restore a relationship. On fighting Islamist terror, we and the Russians agree. Five years ago, Russia alerted us that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had become a violent radical Islamist. That was a year and a half before Tsarnaev carried out the Boston Marathon bombing. But upon what authority did The Washington Post reveal code-word intelligence secrets? Where in the Constitution or U.S. law did the Post get the right to reveal state secrets every U.S. citizen is duty bound to protect? The source of this top secret laptop-bomb leak that the Post published had to be someone in the intel community who was violating an oath that he had sworn to protect U.S. secrets, and committing a felony by leaking that secret. Those who leaked this to hurt Trump, and those who published this in the belief it would hurt Trump, sees themselves as the "Resistance" -- like the French Resistance to Vichy in World War II. And they seemingly see themselves as above the laws that bind the rest of us. "Can Donald Trump Be Trusted With State Secrets?" asked the headline on the editorial in The New York Times. One wonders: Are these people oblivious to their own past? In 1971, The New York Times published a hoard of secret documents from the Kennedy-Johnson years on Vietnam. Editors spent months arranging them to convince the public it had been lied into a war that the Times itself had supported, but had turned against. Purpose of publication: Damage and discredit the war effort, now that Richard Nixon was commander in chief. This was tantamount to treason in wartime. When Nixon went to the Supreme Court to halt publication of the Pentagon Papers until we could review them to ensure that sources and methods were not being compromised, the White House was castigated for failing to understand the First Amendment. And for colluding with the thieves that stole them, and for publishing the secret documents, the Times won a Pulitzer. Forty years ago, the Post also won a Pulitzer -- for Watergate. The indispensable source of its stories was FBI Deputy Director Mark Felt, who repeatedly violated his oath and [...]



The Impeachment Delusion

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

Several things are amiss with the impeachment machine that's starting to shake and smoke as progressives put their hands to the crank. The first thing is the calendar date. Donald Trump has been president since Jan. 20. That makes his regime -- which does have the aura of a regime -- four months old. Roman emperors occasionally wore out that fast. Nero had three successors before things settled down for a while under Vespasian. Americans, by contrast, are more patient; they prefer waiting to see how things work out. Talk of leveraging Trump from power at this early hour looks a little...Several things are amiss with the impeachment machine that's starting to shake and smoke as progressives put their hands to the crank. The first thing is the calendar date. Donald Trump has been president since Jan. 20. That makes his regime -- which does have the aura of a regime -- four months old. Roman emperors occasionally wore out that fast. Nero had three successors before things settled down for a while under Vespasian. Americans, by contrast, are more patient; they prefer waiting to see how things work out. Talk of leveraging Trump from power at this early hour looks a little previous, as my Southern forbears were given to saying. It looks all the more so on account of the fragile assertions that constitute the case for impeachment. He fired the FBI director so as to stopper investigation of his "Russian ties"? Wait a bit. How do we know that, any more than we know what is meant by "Russian ties"? We're barely at the start of this inquiry, which no firing of an FBI director was ever going to deflect, legally speaking. As to the Russian angle, may one ask innocently what difference Russian "influence" could really make in an American election? And what payoff are the Russians seeing for it, if so? Have there been any signs of American concessions or moral rollovers that are likely to strengthen Vladimir Putin? And did Trump give the Russians sensitive information in a meeting with the ambassador and foreign minister? Not according to his national security adviser. And would such a deed have been treasonous, according to the constitutional definition? We normally think of treason as something like opening the city gates at 2 a.m. to admit the howling barbarians -- or selling purloining military secrets, a la Ethel Rosenberg. Are we saying that, mere weeks into his presidency, Trump was selling his country down the river? That's what it sounds like the impeachment crowd is hinting at. The unaccountable nature of our incumbent president -- one minute all you hear from him is angry tweets, the next minute he's charming the Saudis and the Israelis -- makes it easy to suspect him; easier still to wish you might wake up one day and find Mike Pence running the country. That doesn't change the circumstances, though reporters, bloggers and high-powered Democrats sharpening their hatchets for impeachment; and memories of Watergate are starting to festoon political commentary. The fabled establishment has completely written off a man it regards as "unworthy" of his high office. Says The New York Times' Ross Douthat, a supposed conservative: "He's at war with the institutions that sur[...]



The Crisis in American Journalism Benefits No One

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

DETROIT -- If you are a person of a certain age, it's odd to drive down a major artery of a large metropolitan American city and strain to find a newspaper box at any of the crossroads. That's especially true in a city such as Detroit that has a storied history of competitive journalism that dug deep into holding power in check, whether it was city hall, the unions or large corporations. It's not that those papers are gone. The lack of boxes is partly because of contractual delivery systems and partly because of vandalism. But it's mostly because we consume our news...DETROIT -- If you are a person of a certain age, it's odd to drive down a major artery of a large metropolitan American city and strain to find a newspaper box at any of the crossroads. That's especially true in a city such as Detroit that has a storied history of competitive journalism that dug deep into holding power in check, whether it was city hall, the unions or large corporations. It's not that those papers are gone. The lack of boxes is partly because of contractual delivery systems and partly because of vandalism. But it's mostly because we consume our news differently. That consumption is contributing to a crisis in American journalism that benefits no one. Turn on the television at any given moment of the day and you are likely to hear the anchor say "breaking news" at least 12 times in one hour. Go on Twitter and you are likely to see the hashtags #breakingnews #scoop #exclusive filling your timeline from reporters and news organizations in the Washington, D.C., and New York City newsrooms. And go on Facebook and you'll see that half of your friends are posting stories from a left-leaning news organization's take and the other half are posting stories from a right-leaning news organization, and most of them are declaring one or the other "fake news" with lots of words in all capital letters. It's exhausting. It's frustrating. And it leaves consumers wary of how they navigate the news. Here is the hard truth: No one is exempt; there is a shared responsibility in this lack of trust between the American people and the press, and unless we find a way to unravel it, that mistrust is only going to get worse. Take my profession. Beginning in the 1980s, Washington, D.C., and New York City newsrooms began to be dominated by people who had the same backgrounds. For the most part, they went to the same Ivy League journalism schools, where they made the right contacts and connections to get their job. And the journalists who came from working-class roots found it in their best interest to adopt the conventional left-of-center views that were filling the halls of newsrooms. In short, after a while you adopt the culture in which you exist either out of survival or acceptance, or a little of both. Or you really just want to shed your working-class roots for a variety of reasons: shame, aspiration, ascension, etc. So, when fewer and fewer reporters shared the same values and habits as many of their consumers, inferences in their stories about people of faith and their struggles squaring gay marriage or abortion with their belief systems were picked up by readers. Same goes for[...]



How Democrats Can Hasten Trump's Departure

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

Washington can hardly keep up with the unprecedented pace at which Donald Trump’s presidency is cascading out of control. Ironically, the appointment last week of Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election may slow White House hemorrhaging, taking pressure off GOP congressional leaders and their weak investigations and temporarily shoring up support for Trump on Capitol Hill. For Democrats and independents concerned about the safety and well-being of the country, however, the priority must be getting Trump out of...Washington can hardly keep up with the unprecedented pace at which Donald Trump’s presidency is cascading out of control. Ironically, the appointment last week of Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election may slow White House hemorrhaging, taking pressure off GOP congressional leaders and their weak investigations and temporarily shoring up support for Trump on Capitol Hill. For Democrats and independents concerned about the safety and well-being of the country, however, the priority must be getting Trump out of the White House as quickly as possible. He is simply too great a threat to America’s security and integrity, and his departure from power should take precedence over all other objectives. To help accomplish this goal, Democrats must develop and deliver such powerful political and economic messages -- and recruit enough strong candidates -- that congressional Republicans feel compelled to abandon Trump for fear of losing their majority in 2018. Unlike a normal presidency, there is a genuine possibility that Trump, who is certain to be both perpetually dogged by scandal and tired of the “harder than I thought” stresses of the job, might resign before his term is completed. A strong Democratic Party could have a key role in hastening the process. If Republicans fear going into the 2018 midterms that Trump could cost them their seats, his GOP support will start to erode. If Trump does not leave voluntarily, Democratic capture of the House and perhaps even the Senate in 2018 increases the likelihood of successful impeachment proceedings. But to be successful, the Democrats’ strategy cannot just be about demonizing Trump, as recent election returns have shown. Instead, Democrats must undertake three specific approaches to wining back the broader political and policy debate -- and with it control of government. First, they must return to the big tent, economic-focused but regionally diverse party messages of the Bill Clinton years. Second, they need to recruit a deep bench of candidates in winnable southern, border, midwestern and mountain states -- a process already made much easier by Trump’s continuing outrages. Third, and perhaps least appreciated, Democrats must elevate more moderate messengers who can gain wide appeal nationally ahead of the midterms to nationalize that election and position the party for victory in the 2020 presidential race. In short, in this period of national upheaval caused by Trump and a rudderle[...]



Why the New FDA Chief Matters

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

A Life and Death Tale of a Life Saving Drug’s Journey to Market The week before last, with little fanfare, Dr. Scott Gottlieb was confirmed as the new leader of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unlike other high profile nominees, not much ink or airtime was spent on his hearings or his ascent to his new job. But for Americans awaiting treatment from new drugs being created at some of America’s most innovative companies, any change at the FDA is cause for optimism. One doctor turned drug company executive’s quest to bring a life-saving drug to market should...A Life and Death Tale of a Life Saving Drug’s Journey to Market The week before last, with little fanfare, Dr. Scott Gottlieb was confirmed as the new leader of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unlike other high profile nominees, not much ink or airtime was spent on his hearings or his ascent to his new job. But for Americans awaiting treatment from new drugs being created at some of America’s most innovative companies, any change at the FDA is cause for optimism. One doctor turned drug company executive’s quest to bring a life-saving drug to market should be a story the new FDA Commissioner uses to illustrate the problems at the FDA that need fixing. The story will get Americans from red and blue states alike mad. Dr. Joseph Gulfo’s parents weren’t very happy that their grown son was a medical doctor who wasn’t seeing any patients. In their minds, he wasn’t doing what he’d been preparing to do much of his life--help people. His valuable and expensive medical degree, which his parents helped pay for, was being wasted. Their doctor son left the practice of medicine to become a business executive at – of all places--a pharmaceutical company. Try as Gulfo tried to explain to his parents that he was not merely treating diseases in his new job--he was working to discover new cures--nothing changed their hearts or minds. Their boy was a paper pusher. A businessman. Which is why Gulfo decided to invite his parents to an event that what was surely the most single important of his professional life. He invited them to watch their doctor son play defense lawyer in a very unusual courtroom drama, set in a very unusual court with a very unusual defendant. Gulfo was about to argue the most important medical case of his life in a drug court that very few Americans know much about, but should. It’s a drug court that decides the fate of millions of Americans--an FDA drug court with the power to approve, or not approve, drugs for the consumer market. And the drug he was defending, the drug he had worked for four years to bring to market, was no ordinary drug. It was a drug designed to cure bladder cancer, which afflicts over half a million Americans. Valstar had been shown to cure--CURE--22% of the patients who took it. The fight he was fighting, if he won, could alter the lives of untold numbers of cancer patients. That’s what he wanted his parents to see--that the medical degree they paid for had not been squandered and was put to an even higher us[...]



How Hillary Clinton's Party Produced Bernie Sanders

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

Why Bernie Sanders? Why in 2016 (and beyond)? For the past two years, virtually everyone who’s interested in Democratic politics has asked some variation of those two questions. Sanders is atypical -- he’s consistently to the left of almost all of his Senate colleagues, his rhetoric is populist and he’s not actually a Democrat -- yet he was able to win about 43 percent of the vote in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. And since Donald Trump won the White House, the Vermont senator has remained active in progressive politics, giving his stamp of approval to...Why Bernie Sanders? Why in 2016 (and beyond)? For the past two years, virtually everyone who’s interested in Democratic politics has asked some variation of those two questions. Sanders is atypical -- he’s consistently to the left of almost all of his Senate colleagues, his rhetoric is populist and he’s not actually a Democrat -- yet he was able to win about 43 percent of the vote in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. And since Donald Trump won the White House, the Vermont senator has remained active in progressive politics, giving his stamp of approval to candidates he thinks are sufficiently liberal. So why did Democratic voters respond so well to someone who is, in some ways, outside their party’s norm? And why didn’t someone like him gain traction in 2008 -- and why at this point in time instead of 2020 or 2024? Obviously there’s more than one way to answer these questions, and I’m far from the first to take a stab at them. But I want to add one more high-level explanation to the mix: that Bernie Sanders is, in some fundamental ways, a throwback. Specifically, he embodies the fusion of an older populist style of liberalism and a more modern universalism. This fusion is possible because some of the economic and social factors that previously pushed against Democratic populism have receded since the end of the Cold War and the 2008 financial crash. In other words, some of the forces that caused Democrats to lean away from Harry Truman-esque candidates and toward standard-bearers like Adlai Stevenson may now be gone, allowing populism to reassert itself on the left. One important note before getting into the arguments: I’ve relied heavily on John Gerring’s “Party Ideologies in America 1828-1996.” Terms like populist, universalist, liberal, etc., get used in a variety of contexts in modern political discourse, and Gerring’s definitions as well as his ideas about ideological change anchor this analysis. Many Modern Democrats -- Including Hillary Clinton -- Are Universalists To fully understand why Sanders seems out of place in the modern Democratic Party, we need to describe universalism, the currently dominant ideology within the party. Gerring writes that universalism started to take hold in the Democratic Party in the postwar era as national Democrats shifted away from an anti-elitist, populist message and toward rhetoric centered on unity, peace and prosperity. Universalists tend to see abstract [...]



Can Captain Trump Keep Control of His Ship?

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

Back in 1951, Herman Wouk published the definitive book about the Trump administration. He set it in 1943, during the war in the Pacific, aboard a destroyer-minesweeper skippered by a paranoid man with a compulsion to blame others for his mistakes. The captain was named Philip Francis Queeg, his ship was called the USS Caine and the novel was "The Caine Mutiny." It won the Pulitzer Prize. It's a dead certainty Donald Trump never read it. But maybe he saw the movie in which Humphrey Bogart plays Queeg, a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination, or the Broadway play,...Back in 1951, Herman Wouk published the definitive book about the Trump administration. He set it in 1943, during the war in the Pacific, aboard a destroyer-minesweeper skippered by a paranoid man with a compulsion to blame others for his mistakes. The captain was named Philip Francis Queeg, his ship was called the USS Caine and the novel was "The Caine Mutiny." It won the Pulitzer Prize. It's a dead certainty Donald Trump never read it. But maybe he saw the movie in which Humphrey Bogart plays Queeg, a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination, or the Broadway play, "The Caine Munity Court-Martial" -- but none of that is likely, either. The character of Queeq would have been too close to home for him and the mutiny too terrible to contemplate. In seizing command, Queeg's fellow officers invoked Article 184, which is the Navy's version of the Constitution's 25th Amendment. I wrote about this amendment -- which provides for the removal of a president if he is incapacitated -- in early January, convinced that the Trump presidency, like a winged pig, was an oxymoron that was bound to crash. The man was not yet president, but he had revealed his character over the years in his business dealings and his public pronouncements. It was enough for me that he had insisted that Barack Obama was not American-born. Trump had no evidence -- just a lack of scruples. Nothing has changed. In "The Caine Mutiny," our first hint that Queeg is unbalanced comes when he tries to cover up a serious mistake -- running over a towline in a gunnery drill. Later, when the Caine has to participate in an invasion of a Pacific island, Queeg cuts and runs and then demands his officers support his decision. They choose instead to keep silent. We have many such similarities with Trump. Maybe the most psychologically egregious occurred right after the inaugural when he sent out Sean Spicer to lie about the size of the crowd. This was seemingly a small matter, but the inability to distinguish between the trivial and the consequential is, we now know, a Trump character malfunction. In Queeg's case, the telling incident has to do with some missing strawberries. The captain orders an investigation and has the ship laboriously searched for a nonexistent duplicate refrigerator key. "They laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, with geometric logic, that a duplicate key to the ward room icebox did exist," Queeg says when he takes the stand at the court-martial of[...]



Donald Trump Is Good for Business -- the Trump-Bashing Business

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

Last year, during the presidential campaign, I told Bill O'Reilly, then of Fox News, that things would not end well for Donald Trump, that even if he somehow won the election, given his erratic behavior, his would be a tumultuous presidency. I didn't need a crystal ball to figure that out. He acted more like a nasty kid in middle school than a man running for president. Marco Rubio was "little Marco." Ted Cruz was "lyin' Ted." Jeb Bush was "low-energy Jeb," Hillary Clinton was "crooked Hillary," and Carly Fiorina had a face that...Last year, during the presidential campaign, I told Bill O'Reilly, then of Fox News, that things would not end well for Donald Trump, that even if he somehow won the election, given his erratic behavior, his would be a tumultuous presidency. I didn't need a crystal ball to figure that out. He acted more like a nasty kid in middle school than a man running for president. Marco Rubio was "little Marco." Ted Cruz was "lyin' Ted." Jeb Bush was "low-energy Jeb," Hillary Clinton was "crooked Hillary," and Carly Fiorina had a face that didn't belong in the White House. Enough Americans didn't care. Many of them hoped he'd rise to the occasion if he won. Besides, they had had enough of the old way and wanted someone brash to shake up the stodgy establishment. But now that he's president, Donald Trump isn't exactly draining the swamp. If anything, the swamp is draining Donald Trump. He's learning a lesson about how it was a bad idea to compare the intelligence community to Nazis and to bash powerful news organizations as fake news. Every day there are embarrassing leaks that dominate the news and force the White House to explain the president's side of the story -- before the explanation changes and his people have to explain it all over again. One day, the biggest story in the world is his firing of FBI chief James Comey. Then it's a story about the president giving secret information about ISIS to the Russians in the Oval Office. A day later, it's news that he asked Comey, when he was head of the FBI still, to back off the investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Maybe it's all a misunderstanding. Maybe he's a victim of a smear campaign. Maybe. But in the eyes of a lot of Americans, Donald Trump no longer gets the benefit of the doubt. He has said too many things that turned out not to be true. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that only 39 percent of Americans approve of the job the president is doing. Not good! But in spite of the low numbers, there are more than a few high-profile Americans who, even though they detest the president, ought to send him a case of champagne and a few dozen roses along with a thank-you note for all he's done for them. Who are these people? They're liberals in the media -- both the news and entertainment media -- who are doing fabulously well thanks to none other than Donald J. Trump. These are people who would rather walk barefoot on broken glass than say something nice about the president. But they've discovered a ve[...]



Trump's House of Betrayal

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- It is another stomach-turning development in the vast, unfolding scandal that is the Trump administration: President Trump's denigration of former FBI Director James Comey to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office. In a New York Times story, Trump is quoted as saying, "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job." Aside from the irony of the statement itself, it is appalling that an American president should be caught boasting about obstructing justice to the representative of a power that is so expert on the topic. Such is...WASHINGTON -- It is another stomach-turning development in the vast, unfolding scandal that is the Trump administration: President Trump's denigration of former FBI Director James Comey to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office. In a New York Times story, Trump is quoted as saying, "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job." Aside from the irony of the statement itself, it is appalling that an American president should be caught boasting about obstructing justice to the representative of a power that is so expert on the topic. Such is the mindset of our Erdogannabe. "I faced great pressure because of Russia," Trump went on. "That's taken off." So the president is delusional as well as dishonorable. And yet. How in God's name did the reporter gain access to a discussion in the Oval? According to the story, the memcon -- the memorandum of conversation -- was "read to The New York Times by an American official." Let that sink in. This is a document of very limited distribution. According to sources I consulted, it typically would not have even been given to the director of the CIA. This was a leak of an extremely sensitive and highly classified document by a very senior person. There are a number of explanations for why leakers leak. They may be trying to kneecap a rival. Sometimes leakers are embittered or just want to look and feel important. The "nut job" leak suggests something different: a real attack on the president from within his inner circle. It was designed to reveal Trump as a foolish figure and expose him to charges of obstruction. Whoever read this material over the telephone to a reporter was playing for the highest stakes. He or she was also risking not only a career, but a prison term. If the leaker is exposed, this administration would give no quarter. As someone who handled classified material during the George W. Bush administration, I can attest to the deadly seriousness of these matters. This type of a high-level leak leaves the president and his inner circle unable to trust his team. It leaves foreign officials unable to feel confident in the confidentially of the highest-level diplomatic discussions. And it points to a foreign policy establishment that is making political judgments, which involve serious dangers. I have no doubt that Trump himself created the snake-pit atmosphere in which leaks are incessant. He raises questions about his own [...]



Campus Liberals Are Too Easy to Bait

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

"Rising to the bait" is a fishing term. Anglers lure fish hiding in the deep by positioning bait on or near the surface. Fish that rise to the bait usually end up on someone's dinner plate. Conservative groups routinely try this technique on college liberals. Their lure is an inflammatory right-wing speaker. The catch comes in duping liberals to act badly as censors of free speech or, even better, violently. The protesters provide free entertainment on Fox News Channel. And the broader public sees them as spoiled college kids. It's painful to watch. Why else would Berkeley..."Rising to the bait" is a fishing term. Anglers lure fish hiding in the deep by positioning bait on or near the surface. Fish that rise to the bait usually end up on someone's dinner plate. Conservative groups routinely try this technique on college liberals. Their lure is an inflammatory right-wing speaker. The catch comes in duping liberals to act badly as censors of free speech or, even better, violently. The protesters provide free entertainment on Fox News Channel. And the broader public sees them as spoiled college kids. It's painful to watch. Why else would Berkeley College Republicans invite the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on their famously left-leaning University of California campus? A publicity freak trafficking in racist slurs, Yiannopoulos is currently best known for advocating sex between men and boys. Taking their cue in a play their enemies wrote, the offended ones made a big deal out of this cartoonish character. The cameras caught "protesters," some wearing masks, in full rampage. They trashed the campus before heading off into downtown Berkeley to smash some windows. (By the way, who exactly were these people hiding their identities?) Over at the State University of New York at Buffalo, agitated students all but shut down a speech by Robert Spencer, an alleged Islamophobe. Spencer's claim to fame is his controversial Jihad Watch website. Behind many such speaking engagements is a group called Young America's Foundation. And behind Young America's Foundation are the Koch brothers, Richard and Helen DeVos and other very rich financiers of the right. Their agenda relies on discrediting anyone to their left. Frankly, I don't care enough about Ann Coulter to even dislike her. Her political shock act ran its course long ago, and being ignored is probably her greatest fear. But the left seems determined to revive her career. Coulter's scheduled speech at Berkeley was canceled after protests raised security concerns. It should surprise no one that the foundation was picking up her $20,000 speaking fee. College Republicans and the foundation are now suing Berkeley for allegedly violating Coulter's First Amendment rights. What should smart lefties do? Three things. One is develop a very thick skin. Many of you are unable to distinguish between merely provocative and totally offensive. You can simplify by dropping such distinctions. Both kinds of speech are prote[...]



Trump Administration Sends Congress $4.1 Trillion Budget

2017-05-23T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump is sending Congress a $4.1 trillion spending plan that relies on faster economic growth and steep cuts in a range of support programs for low-income individuals to balance the government's books over the next decade. The proposed budget, for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, was being delivered to Congress Tuesday, setting off an extended debate in which Democrats are already attacking the administration for trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. Lawmakers from both parties have said major changes will be needed as the measure...WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump is sending Congress a $4.1 trillion spending plan that relies on faster economic growth and steep cuts in a range of support programs for low-income individuals to balance the government's books over the next decade. The proposed budget, for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, was being delivered to Congress Tuesday, setting off an extended debate in which Democrats are already attacking the administration for trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. Lawmakers from both parties have said major changes will be needed as the measure moves through Congress. The proposal projects that this year's deficit will rise to $603 billion, up from the actual deficit of $585 billion last year, But the document says if Trump's initiatives are adopted the deficit will start declining and actually reach a small surplus of $16 billion in 2027. However, that goal depends on growth projections that many private economists view as overly optimistic. The government hasn't run a surplus since the late 1990s when a budget deal between Democrat Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans combined with the longest U.S. economic recovery in history produced four years of black ink from 1998 to 2001. During the campaign, Trump attacked the weak economic growth of the Obama years, and pledged that his economic program would boost growth from the lackluster 2 percent rates seen since the recovery began in mid-2009. Trump's new budget is based on sustained growth above 3 percent, sharply higher than the expectations of most private economists. "The president believes that we must restore the greatness of our nation and reject the failed status quo that has left the American dream out of reach for too many families," the administration said in its budget which was titled, "The New Foundation for American Greatness." According to budget tables released by the administration, Trump's plan cuts almost $3.6 trillion from an array of benefit programs, domestic agencies and war spending over the coming decade - an almost 8 percent cut - including repealing and replacing Obama's health law, cutting Medicaid, eliminating student loan subsidies, sharply slashing food stamps, and cutting $95 billion in highway formula funding for the states. Cuts to a popular crop insurance program have already landed with a thud. A program de[...]



Why the Budget Doesn't Balance

2017-05-22T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Almost everyone has a simple cure for America's stubborn budget deficits: faster economic growth. The Trump administration is particularly keen on this. It argues that its proposed tax reductions and regulatory cuts will accelerate economic growth and shrink the deficits. No doubt faster growth would help. But a more realistic appraisal is that, even with accelerated growth, huge gaps would remain between government spending and taxes. As the White House presents its first full budget (segments were released earlier), this is worth emphasizing. It suggests that only...WASHINGTON -- Almost everyone has a simple cure for America's stubborn budget deficits: faster economic growth. The Trump administration is particularly keen on this. It argues that its proposed tax reductions and regulatory cuts will accelerate economic growth and shrink the deficits. No doubt faster growth would help. But a more realistic appraisal is that, even with accelerated growth, huge gaps would remain between government spending and taxes. As the White House presents its first full budget (segments were released earlier), this is worth emphasizing. It suggests that only unpopular tax increases and spending cuts will bring the budget close to balance. There's no magic in faster growth. Indeed, the focus on speeding up economic growth may distract attention from the harder questions of what government should do and who should pay for it. Not just Medicaid and food stamps, but Social Security, other programs and higher taxes should also be on the table. No one denies that U.S. economic growth lags post-World War II trends. From 1950 to 2016, the economy grew an average of 3.2 percent annually, reports the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). But growth has dropped to about 2 percent annually since 2010. Though this one percentage point difference in growth rates sounds small, it isn't. In an $18 trillion economy, one percentage point of output is worth an extra $180 billion. That's foregone income that could be split between the government and private households. In its latest forecast, the CBO projects that the economy will only grow at a 1.8 percent annual rate from 2017 to 2027. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has argued that the administration's policies could boost this to 3 percent, roughly equaling the postwar average. Many economists are skeptical, because slower growth stems from two hard-to-change trends: (1) the massive retirement of baby-boomers, which reduces the workforce; and (2) weak productivity gains -- businesses are struggling to become more efficient. A new report from the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget concluded that restoring 3 percent annual growth would be enormously difficult, though not impossible. In a press briefing, Marc Goldwein of the CRFB said the economy would have to revert to its 1990s performance, with stable economic policies, widespread technological[...]



Senators Warn of Fiscal Fallout After Erdogan Visit Violence

2017-05-22T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The senators who oversee the U.S. foreign aid budget have warned the Turkish government there could be fiscal repercussions if Ankara fails to punish the bodyguards responsible for a violent incident in Washington. In a letter to the Turkish ambassador to the United States, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Patrick Leahy say there could be "potential implications for assistance to Turkey" if the unseemly incident isn't taken seriously by Ankara. Their letter to Ambassador Serdar Kilic is dated May 18 but wasn't released until Monday. Video shows Turkish President...

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The senators who oversee the U.S. foreign aid budget have warned the Turkish government there could be fiscal repercussions if Ankara fails to punish the bodyguards responsible for a violent incident in Washington.

In a letter to the Turkish ambassador to the United States, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Patrick Leahy say there could be "potential implications for assistance to Turkey" if the unseemly incident isn't taken seriously by Ankara. Their letter to Ambassador Serdar Kilic is dated May 18 but wasn't released until Monday.

Video shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security detail violently breaking up a peaceful protest last week outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington.

Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, are the chairman and ranking member of the Senate's foreign operations subcommittee.

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Comey, Mueller and Anthrax; Gubernatorial Map; Trump & NAFTA; John Carroll's Memo

2017-05-22T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Monday, May 22, 2017. Fourteen years ago today, John S. Carroll, the editor of the Los Angeles Times, sent a memo to the section editors of his newspaper. The son of a venerated journalist Wallace Carroll, John had covered the Vietnam War for the Baltimore Sun and the White House for the New York Times before becoming an editor. At a succession of newspapers -- the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lexington Herald-Leader, Baltimore Sun and, finally, in Los Angeles -- he became the most respected and acclaimed editor of his generation. Carroll was a reporter’s...Good morning, it’s Monday, May 22, 2017. Fourteen years ago today, John S. Carroll, the editor of the Los Angeles Times, sent a memo to the section editors of his newspaper. The son of a venerated journalist Wallace Carroll, John had covered the Vietnam War for the Baltimore Sun and the White House for the New York Times before becoming an editor. At a succession of newspapers -- the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lexington Herald-Leader, Baltimore Sun and, finally, in Los Angeles -- he became the most respected and acclaimed editor of his generation. Carroll was a reporter’s editor, too. I know because I worked for him at the Sun covering John’s old beat at the White House. On this date in 2003, however, John was displeased by a piece that had appeared in his own newspaper. The subject line to his memo simply said “credibility/abortion.” And in it he wrote bluntly about the blatant political bias on this topic that had manifested itself in a front-page L.A. Times article. I’ll have more on this in a moment. First, I’ll point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * When Comey and Mueller Bungled the Anthrax Case. In a column, I offer reasons to tamp down enthusiasm about the man appointed to investigate possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. Sizing Up the 2018 Gubernatorial Map. David Byler has this assessment, which offers encouraging news for Democrats. What Trump Wants From NAFTA Is What He Had With TPP. Allan Golombek explains in RealClearMarkets. An America That Speaks Mandarin. In RealClearWorld’s continuing series on the U.S.-China relationship, Jeff Wang emphasizes the importance of learning a language spoken by one-fifth of the world’s population. Trump Gives Defense Hawks the Upper Hand. In RealClearDefense, Sandra Erwin previews this week’s release of the military budget. The Dangers of Loyalty in Governing. In RealClearPolicy, Andy Smarick warns that when leaders prioritize loyalty, other essential aspects of decision-m[...]



Trump Arrives in Israel in Search of "the Ultimate Deal"

2017-05-22T00:00:00Z

JERUSALEM (AP) -- President Donald Trump opened his first visit to Israel Monday, saying he sees growing recognition among Muslim nations that they share a "common cause" with Israel in their determination to counter the threats posed by Iran. Arriving directly from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Trump expressed his hope for cooperation among U.S. allies in the Middle East. His second stop on the nine-day tour aimed to test the waters for reviving the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Trump, who had previously suggested that it would be easier than anticipated to solve the conflict...JERUSALEM (AP) -- President Donald Trump opened his first visit to Israel Monday, saying he sees growing recognition among Muslim nations that they share a "common cause" with Israel in their determination to counter the threats posed by Iran. Arriving directly from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Trump expressed his hope for cooperation among U.S. allies in the Middle East. His second stop on the nine-day tour aimed to test the waters for reviving the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Trump, who had previously suggested that it would be easier than anticipated to solve the conflict that has vexed his predecessors for decades, said that conditions were right in both Israel and the Arab world to strike what he has called "the ultimate deal." "We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and to its people," Trump said upon arrival in Tel Aviv. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Trump "a true friend" to Israel and expressed optimism about the president's role in the Middle East peace process. But obstacles have emerged that may complicate the relationship between the White House and the Knesset. Trump's first stop was a meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. In a statement following the meeting, Trump addressed his meetings the previous day with Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, and said that there is growing realization that they share a "common cause with you" in their determination to defeat extremism and deter "the threat posed by Iran." But Trump may face concerns from Israelis over the new $110 billion arms deal he announced during his previous stop in Saudi Arabia as well as questions from Israeli officials about revelations that he disclosed sensitive Israeli intelligence to Russian officials. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking to reporters onboard Air Force One, said the U.S. could provide clarifications to Israel about the disclosure but said, "I don't know that there's anything to apologize for." White House aides have also tried to play down expectations for significant progress on the peace process during Trump's stop, casting the visit as symbolic. Tillerson referred to the visit as "a moment in time" and suggested that the U[...]



Republican Businesswoman Lena Epstein to Run for Senate in Michigan

2017-05-22T00:00:00Z

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Republican businesswoman Lena Epstein announced Monday she will run for U.S. Senate in 2018, saying Michigan is ready for another outsider with business experience after its voters favored Donald Trump in the presidential election. Epstein's family owns Vesco Oil Corp., a large distributor of automotive and industrial lubricants based in the Detroit suburb of Southfield. A relative political newcomer who has not held elective office, she was a co-chair of Trump's Michigan campaign last year and said she will "take the fight directly to" Sen. Debbie...LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Republican businesswoman Lena Epstein announced Monday she will run for U.S. Senate in 2018, saying Michigan is ready for another outsider with business experience after its voters favored Donald Trump in the presidential election. Epstein's family owns Vesco Oil Corp., a large distributor of automotive and industrial lubricants based in the Detroit suburb of Southfield. A relative political newcomer who has not held elective office, she was a co-chair of Trump's Michigan campaign last year and said she will "take the fight directly to" Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat who is expected to seek a fourth term and who coasted to re-election in 2006 and 2012. "Politicians have failed us, and Michigan citizens are looking for another way," Epstein, 35, said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. "Michigan spoke loud and clear in the last election - we want an outsider with business leadership skills who can inspire the people of Michigan with a bright vision for the future. I will speak for those who have not been spoken for. I will represent those who know, deep down, that their government has failed them and their families." Epstein, a third-generation co-owner of Vesco who helps manage the business, is the first Republican to enter the race. It is unclear to what extent she could spend her own money on the campaign. She has a bachelor's from Harvard University and a master's of business administration from the University of Michigan. Her campaign website describes her as a sought-after mentor and motivational speaker. It features a video of her positive comments about Trump and the presidential race on political TV shows, which has allowed her to grow her profile with broader audiences. She said people want greater job opportunities, safer borders, steady home values and to see America invest in infrastructure and become the world's manufacturing hub once again. Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Epstein, of Bloomfield Hills, to the Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board in 2012. She also serves on the boards of the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Detroit Historical Society and the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan. Since Trump took office, Stabenow, 67, has opposed his proposed c[...]



Can the Pope Save Trump?

2017-05-22T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- If anyone ever needed a conversion experience -- and fast -- it is President Trump. The issue here is not switching religions. What he could use is an honest examination of his conscience, his attitude toward himself and others, and his approach to what it means to be a leader. Even to suggest such a possibility seems absurd, more an inspiration for a "Saturday Night Live" sketch than a serious prospect. Moving an incorrigible narcissist toward self-criticism is as likely as changing the course of a river or the trajectory of the Earth's rotation around the...WASHINGTON -- If anyone ever needed a conversion experience -- and fast -- it is President Trump. The issue here is not switching religions. What he could use is an honest examination of his conscience, his attitude toward himself and others, and his approach to what it means to be a leader. Even to suggest such a possibility seems absurd, more an inspiration for a "Saturday Night Live" sketch than a serious prospect. Moving an incorrigible narcissist toward self-criticism is as likely as changing the course of a river or the trajectory of the Earth's rotation around the Sun. But some people believe in miracles. One of them is Pope Francis, with whom Trump will be meeting on Wednesday. Might this compassionate Jesuit who preaches a God of mercy and the power of humility abandon his diplomatic role to engage in a pastoral intervention with a man whose soul (like all of our souls) could use some saving? We're unlikely to know if the pope even tries. Communiques on papal meetings with heads of state are usually opaque. At worst, the encounter may be blandly described as "a full and frank exchange." The Vatican knows that a lot of American Catholics voted for Trump, and the Catholic Church hasn't survived all these centuries by ignoring realpolitik. Those of us who are critics of the president are hoping for something more: a stern talking-to from a religious leader who stands passionately on the opposite side of Trump on so many questions. Francis, after all, has explicitly condemned "trickle-down" economics as a system that "has never been confirmed by the facts" and "expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power." Capitalism, as he sees it, "tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits." He added that "whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market." The pope wrote an encyclical stating emphatically that a "very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system," that "things are now reaching a breaking point" and that greenhouse gases are "released mainly as a result of human activity." To protect the planet, Francis[...]



Sizing Up the 2018 Gubernatorial Map

2017-05-22T00:00:00Z

Over the past few weeks, we’ve established that the 2018 Senate map is worrisome for Democrats, but what about the gubernatorial map? An enormous number of the country’s laws are made at the state level and, perhaps more significantly, many of the governors elected in 2018 will have a say in the next round of congressional redistricting. That gives Democrats, who have a low level of power in the states and sometimes assert that gerrymandering is at the heart of their minority status in the House, a big incentive to invest in these races. And right now, many on the left...Over the past few weeks, we’ve established that the 2018 Senate map is worrisome for Democrats, but what about the gubernatorial map? An enormous number of the country’s laws are made at the state level and, perhaps more significantly, many of the governors elected in 2018 will have a say in the next round of congressional redistricting. That gives Democrats, who have a low level of power in the states and sometimes assert that gerrymandering is at the heart of their minority status in the House, a big incentive to invest in these races. And right now, many on the left seem optimistic about their prospects. A number of Republican governors in key states are retiring or will be termed-out, and some GOP incumbents are defending swing or blue states. Democrats are only defending a few seats, none of which are in truly red states. Moreover, Democrats are hoping that national conditions will be favorable in November 2018, allowing them to regain states Republicans won in 2010 and 2014. While it’s too early to know exactly what the conditions will look like next year or how these elections will turn out, it’s possible to dig deeper into the data and get a better idea of exactly how promising this map is for Democrats. The Democrats Have a Good Map The top-line numbers -- how many Republicans are retiring, which states they’re retiring in, etc. -- are positive for the Democrats. There are multiple ways to display this data, but my preferred method looks like this: This graphic shows the partisan lean of every state (each of which is represented by a dot; the procedure for calculating partisan lean is detailed here) with a Republican governor heading into each election from 1986 to 2018. Right-leaning states are located above the black vertical line; left-leaning states are below it; and a black outline indicates that an incumbent is running. I assumed that all eligible governors would run for re-election in 2018 unless they have stated otherwise (this might not end up being true, but it’s a useful approximation). The basic idea is to show how much ground the Republicans have had to defend in the past, compare it to 201[...]



America's Internet Delusion

2017-05-22T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The United States may have escaped most digital damage from the global "ransomware" virus, though cyber experts fear more attacks. One possible explanation is that the malicious software ("malware") harms older versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system, which most Americans have replaced. Perhaps many users in other countries haven't. Whatever the explanation, this is not the end of internet threats. The unmistakable lesson of recent years is that the internet is a double-edged sword. Despite enormous benefits -- instant access to huge...WASHINGTON -- The United States may have escaped most digital damage from the global "ransomware" virus, though cyber experts fear more attacks. One possible explanation is that the malicious software ("malware") harms older versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system, which most Americans have replaced. Perhaps many users in other countries haven't. Whatever the explanation, this is not the end of internet threats. The unmistakable lesson of recent years is that the internet is a double-edged sword. Despite enormous benefits -- instant access to huge quantities of information, the proliferation of new forms of businesses, communications and entertainment -- it also encourages crime, global conflict and economic disruption. The drift seems ominous. The Russians, it is widely agreed, hacked into the computers of the Democratic National Committee, raising fears that the U.S. presidential election was compromised. In Dallas, hackers turned on the city's emergency sirens for more than an hour. Cyber thieves stole $81 million from Bangladesh's central bank, though some of the money has apparently been recovered. We are dangerously dependent on internet-based systems. All these incidents threatened the social fabric of the victimized societies. If the Russians hacked the Democrats, who might be next? Could whoever triggered Dallas' sirens turn off the traffic lights or the local power grid? How safe are electronic financial transfers? "Ransomware" validates these fears. What was stunning is how quickly it spread. One estimate had it quickly migrating to 150 countries and affecting 200,000 computers. Despite the rapid response -- the discovery of a so-called "kill switch" in the malware that deactivated the virus -- the basic message remains: Much health care, transportation and ordinary business might close if deprived of internet access, whether by hostile governments (North Korea?) or cyber criminals. This makes the internet a weapon that can be used against us -- or by us. In a presentation to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, put it this way: "Our adversaries are becoming more adept at using cybers[...]