Saturday, March 25, 2017

GOP, Unfit for Government

So with huge Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, Trump blames Democrats for the massive belly-flop his Trump-Ryancare bill suffered yesterday.


The man learns nothing.

Meanwhile, it takes a Republican member of Congress to put his finger on exactly the psychological condition that makes this bunch so lame at governing:
“We have to do some soul-searching internally to determine whether or not we are even capable of functioning as a governing body,” said Representative Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota. “If ‘no’ is your goal, it’s the easiest goal in the world to reach.” ("In Major Defeat for Trump, Push To Repeal Health Law Fails")

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trump: All Hat, No Cattle

Amazing how fast Trump abandoned his repeated (and repeated) campaign promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something far better. Much, much better. So better it'll make your head swim. Believe me.

Those were applause lines, and Trump loves applause. He loves applause a whole hell of a lot more than he loves public policy, and he's never had (a) much of an idea what was even in the Ryan health insurance bill and certainly not what got changed to please the Freedom Caucus and (b) a plan of his own. He doesn't care what's in the bill. He just wants to sign a bill. Because that would be winning.

So he threw a snit-fit late yesterday and sent a stern message to recalcitrant Republicans in the US House -- demanded, really -- told 'em to take an up or down vote on the Ryan bill (as changed, mainly to remove more and more "essential insurance services" from coverage, like emergency room visits), and if it didn't pass, he said, then WE KEEP OBAMACARE FOR ETERNITY.

So much for the art of the deal and the magic touch of the almighty businessman.

And about all that applause that Trump laps up like a pussy cat laps cream and which he always gets when he promises to repeal Obamacare:
A Quinnipiac University national poll found that voters disapproved of the Republican plan by lopsided margins, with 56 percent opposed, 17 percent supportive and 26 percent undecided. The measure did not even draw support among a majority of Republicans; 41 percent approved, while 24 percent were opposed.
Meanwhile, into the face of that adverse wind, Trump tweeted out at 7:28 a.m. yesterday morning, “Go with our plan. It’s going to be terrific.” Nobody with at least two active synapses believes the fool, and fewer and fewer are even listening to that kind of empty talk.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Republicans Caught on the Horns of a Dilemma

What will they do today? More specifically, what will Virginia Foxx do? (We know. We just love to ask.)

Either Republicans will pass the Ryan-Trumpcare bill that will wreak havoc with their own voters and impact their own re-election prospects.

Or they will vote it down, undermining President Steve Bannon's agenda.

If the bill fails, “How do we have any momentum to do anything else?” asked Representative Richard Hudson, Republican of North Carolina. “Without this bill, I don’t know how you do tax reform,” he said. If the bill fails, “it’s going to have negative repercussions for all of us.”

But what if it succeeds? (And of course Foxx will vote for it, because she's a company suck.) For true right-wingers, success for this bill means abject failure for the promise to repeal Obamacare: “The bill maintains Obamacare’s overall structure and approach, an approach that cements the federal government’s role in health insurance” -- Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.).

For more moderate Republicans (you mean, there are still some of those left on this earth?!), success for this bill will mean more hardship for their constituents. Doctors, nurses, and hospitals have come out strongly against the measure, and insurance companies have been largely "skeptical," to put it mildly.

"Much has changed in the years since the Affordable Care Act passed, with millions of Americans, many in red states, now getting health insurance as a result of the law, as well as treatment for the prescription drug addictions that have plagued scores of communities" (Jennifer Steinhauer).

Spending money to help people is exactly what the Republican "Freedom Caucus" intends to stamp out. Ordinarily, Virginia Foxx would be right there with them, but she owes Paul Ryan for her committee chairmanship. So "Obamacare Lite" is fine with her.

Devin Nunes, Tattle-Tell

Devin Nunes (R-Calif.),
Chair of the House
Intelligence Committee
FBI Director James Comey threw a clod in Trump's churn on Monday, confirming that there is an investigation into collusion between Trump's campaign and the Russians, and he threw a second clod in there when he refused to validate Trump's lie that President Obama had wiretapped him during the transition.

But here comes little Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) yesterday to change the subject and sow confusion by immolating himself in front of the press. Nunes is the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and is supposed to be leading the House's investigation into the Russian subversion of our election. But he was also a member in good standing of Trump's transition team, so yuge conflict of interest.

But yesterday was the capper:

1. Nunes suddenly called a press conference and charged American spy agencies of gathering and sharing information unrelated to the Russian charges that was inadvertently picked up in "communication intercepts" of conversations involving foreign nationals who are presumably targets for investigation. (According to the NYTimes, "American intelligence agencies typically monitor foreign officials of allied and hostile countries, and they routinely sweep up communications linked to Americans who may be taking part in the conversation or are being spoken about.")

2. Nunes also admitted that he had no evidence that Trump or his associates had been directly eavesdropped on.

3. The real horror, Mr. Nunes told reporters, was that "he could figure out the identities of Trump associates from reading reports about intercepted communications that were shared among Obama administration officials with top security clearances. He said some Trump associates were also identified by name in the reports." Which is why he went running to the White House with the leaked information to tattle to the man he's supposed to be investigating.

4. In a second impromptu press conference on the driveway outside the White House, following his moment with Trump, Nunes was clearly trying to steer everyone away from the Comey bombshell on Monday by dangling the newest shiny object: dastardly leaks of classified information and inappropriate behavior by the intelligence agencies.

 5. Nunes said he received the information from an anonymous source ... after criticizing the media for publishing leaks.

6. He shared it with the press before his Intelligence Committee colleagues, including ranking Democrat Adam B. Schiff of California.

7. He went to the White House to brief Trump about the material despite leading an investigation involving the Trump administration.

For his part, Trump was clearly refreshed that Nunes had set himself on fire on the White House driveway: “I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found.”

What would be happening today in America if this spectacle of improper tattling had happened between a Democratic House investigative committee chair and, say, President Hillary Clinton? Hmmm? Any idea?

The noose is tightening around this White House. Yesterday actually started with an AP investigative report that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had "agreed to advance Vladimir Putin’s political interests beginning in 2006 under a multimillion-dollar contract with one of the Russian president’s key allies."

It's always the cover-up that gets 'em.

In the meantime, Nunes must go. Go quickly. Go far away from any semblance of public trust.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Donald Trump Has Become His Own Cartoon

“He’s deeply, deeply insecure about how he’s perceived in the world, about whether or not he’s competent and deserves what he’s gotten. There’s an unquenchable thirst for validation and love. That’s why he can never stay quiet, even when it would be wise strategically or emotionally to hold back.”
--Tim O’Brien, author of “TrumpNation,” a 2005 biography that documented Trump's early years

"As a presidential candidate, he wanted to look dour, and vetoed any campaign imagery that so much as hinted at weakness, aides said. Which is why every self-selected snapshot — down to the squinty-eyed scowl attached to his Twitter account — features a tough-guy sourpuss. 'Like Churchill,' is what Mr. Trump would tell staffers when asked what look he was going for."
--Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman

“With almost every barbed, unscripted tweet, he deletes some story his administration wants to tell,” said David Axelrod, one of Mr. Obama’s top advisers. “He reacts to every affront, real or imagined, in Pavlovian fashion. He beats every perceived slight to death and, even when he’s won the point, continues beating.”

Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trump Installs Loyalty "Commissars" in His Cabinet Departments

They are sent from the White House to keep an eye on the "loyalty" of Trump's top lieutenants. They demanded -- and got -- prime office space right next to the cabinet secretary's office. They appear at all high-level staff meetings to spy for Trump and report back to the White House. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has already gotten pissed off about the unsolicited advice, so he reportedly banned his "commissar" from many staff meetings.

According to Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin,
The arrangement is unusual. It wasn’t used by presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. And it’s also different from the traditional liaisons who shepherd the White House’s political appointees to the various agencies. Critics say the competing chains of command eventually will breed mistrust, chaos and inefficiency — especially as new department heads build their staffs.
But what's a little more mistrust, chaos, and inefficiency in this particular administration?

The problem of "watchers" in the cabinet agencies is exacerbated by the fact that Trump has failed to even name appointees to high-level deputy positions in many departments, let alone get them through the confirmation process. He clearly intends for his departments to go understaffed, which is fine if you're filming an independent porn film, perhaps, but may be disastrous for our government.

But never mind. Trump's spies will report to HDQs about the wreckage.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Board of Elections Power Grab Ruled Unconstitutional

A three-judge panel on Friday issued decisions about three contested power grabs by the Republicans in the NC General Assembly. Just weeks before Democrat Roy Cooper took office, the GA passed a law changing the composition of the state Board of Elections (and all county boards) that would effectively keep Republicans in charge of elections in even-numbered years; another law taking the power of appointment of executive branch workers away from the new governor; and another law mandating an NC Senate confirmation process for Cooper's top ten department heads.

The three-judge panel threw out the first two laws and in a 2-1 split decision, kept the last one. All of this is likely to be appealed to the NC Supreme Court by one or both sides.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Just Another Day in Trumpland

The leader of the Free World met yesterday in the Oval Office with the militaristic white nationalist leader of a fading empire, and the jerk refused to shake her hand.

The white nationalist had been harshly critical of Chancellor Angela Merkel last fall for allowing refugees into Germany. Refugees.

For her part, Merkel said, “I’ve always said it’s much, much better to talk to one another, and not about one another.” Which perhaps prompted the white nationalist to attempt a joke that both he and Merkel had been wiretapped by Barack Obama. Joke fell flat.

As Merkel and the white nationalist sat together in front of TV cameras in the Oval Office, the press pool began asking for the historic handshake, a request that Trump ignored. When Merkel turned to him and asked, "Do you want to have a handshake?" Trump wouldn't even look at her. That's how an asshole behaves.

Trump has now insulted, demeaned, or belittled many of the world leaders he's met with. And that's how a white nationalist behaves.