Is Jared Kushner the Real Weakest Link?

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Trump Maladministration

Michael Flynn is refusing to honor a Senate subpoena and is pleading the Fifth, a whole lot of news sources are saying. One suspects Flynn is guilty of something. One also suspects the “something” could implicate the Trump Administration.  Trump’s association with Flynn could bring him down, yet. Whatever he’s hiding from the Senate likely will come out eventually. (Do read this Politico piece on Robert Mueller; it will make you feel better.)

However, there’s someone else is the Trump Administration being looked at. There are credible reports that a senior White House adviser close to the so-called president has become a “person of interest” to the Justice Department. And there’s a lot of speculation that PoI is Jared Kushner.

Now WaPo and other sources are reporting that Kushner has kept 90 percent of his real estate holdings, which likely puts him at odds with ethics rules.

Kushner, 36, who is emerging as a singularly powerful figure in the Trump White House, is keeping nearly 90 percent of his vast real estate holdings even after resigning from the family business and pledging a clear divide between his private interests and public duties.

The value of his retained real estate interests is between $132 million and $407 million and could leave him in a position to financially benefit from his family’s business. …

… It is not clear from Kushner’s financial filings whether any of his holdings might intersect with his broad and evolving responsibilities in the White House. This week, Kushner has been close by the president during the administration’s first international trip, with stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, Belgium and Italy.

Kushner rejected a request by The Washington Post to review his ethics agreement with the White House, which would lay out the topics that he has pledged to avoid because of concerns about conflicts of interest. White House officials have said that it is a long-standing policy for the agreements to remain confidential.

Let’s review some other recent Jared Kushner news —

March 27: Senate Committee to Question Jared Kushner Over Meetings With Russians.

March 28: Russian banker who met with Jared Kushner has ties to Putin

April 6: Kushner Omitted Meeting With Russians on Security Clearance Forms

Given the Kushner family history as a pack of opportunistic grifters, odds are very long that baby-faced Jared couldn’t pass an ethics whiff test in a Chanel No. 5 factory.

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Today’s Trump News: Selling Out Human Rights and Coal Miners

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Trump Maladministration

The news from the tRumpus foreign tour, first stop, Saudi Arabia:

President Trump made a splashy debut on the world stage here Saturday, ushering in a new era in U.S.-Saudi Arabian relations by signing a joint “strategic vision” that includes $110 billion in American arms sales and other new investments that the administration said would bring hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs? That’s a lot of arms sales. But there’s more …

In addition to the security agreements, Jubeir said, U.S. business leaders here at an economic forum designed to coincide with Trump’s visit signed deals potentially worth more than $200 billion over the next 10 years.

Executives from a number of major U.S. companies unveiled investment partnerships with the Saudis, including Blackstone, a private-equity giant that announced a $40 billion infrastructure fund. Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone’s chairman and chief executive, is close to Trump and leads the White House’s economic advisory council of CEO’s.

Jubeir also praised ExxonMobil, the energy behemoth that Tillerson ran until retiring to join the administration, as “the largest investor” in Saudi Arabia.

So this is really about oil? This is from Arab News:

Energy — one of Saudi Arabia’s strongest sectors — witnessed a number of announcements with a combined $22 billion worth of new deals signed during the forum by Saudi and American executives in the oil and gas industry.

A major funding boost for the largest oil refinery in the US was among a number of announcements in refining and petrochemicals signed on Saturday at the forum.

Saudi Aramco-owned Motiva Enterprises announced a landmark investment in the US totaling $12 billion with a likely additional investment of $18 billion by 2023.

It is estimated the deal will create approximately 2,500 additional jobs in the short term and a further 12,000 by 2023.

Announcing the deal at the Saudi-US CEO Forum, Amin Nasser, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, said: “Today we are investing in long-term job creation and the future of the refining industry in the United States, and we are delivering on Vision 2030 to expand the US-Saudi partnership,” he said. “The message is clear: the longstanding bonds between our two countries are reinforced by both the value and scale of today’s agreement.”

First off, somebody should tell the coal miners in Kentucky and West Virginia that Trump just sold them down the river. In the short term, anyway, this investment promises to be the final nail in the coffin of the coal industry, seems to me. Coal technology won’t be able to compete.

But in the long term — I guess this means we’re not trying to phase out fossil fuels, huh? Wrong move.

I’m not happy about the arms part of the deal, either. Brian Schatz writes at Mother Jones:

As Donald Trump heads to Riyadh today on his first international trip as president, he brings with him a gift: a massive arms deal reportedly worth more than $100 billion for Saudi Arabia. According to Reuters, the deal is specifically being developed to coincide with the visit, where he will meet with Saudi leaders and discuss the war in Yemen. And its success seems to be crucial to the president, whose son-in-law Jared Kushner has personally intervened in the deal’s development. According to the New York Times, earlier this month, in the middle of a meeting with high-level Saudi delegates, Kushner greased the gears by calling Lockheed Martin chief Marilyn A. Hewson and asking her to cut the price on a sophisticated missile defense system.

Yep; Jared Kushner personally intervened to be sure the Arabs could get a better deal. Such a guy.

Other details of the package, though, have been somewhat shrouded in mystery—Congress, which will have to approve any new arms deal, has to yet to be notified of specific offerings—but it is said to include planes, armored vehicles, warships, and, perhaps most notably, precision-guided bombs.

It’s that last detail in particular that is making many in Washington sweat. The Obama administration inked arms deals with the kingdom worth more than $100 billion over two terms, but it changed course in its last months. As Mother Jones has regularly reported, the Saudi-led war against the Houthi armed group in Yemen has been fueled in part by American weapons, intelligence, and aerial refueling, and it has repeatedly hit civilian targets, including schools, marketplaces, weddings, hospitals, and places of worship. Civilian deaths are estimated to have reached 10,000, with 40,000 injured. In response, the Obama White House suspended a sale of precision-guided bombs to the country in December.

In lifting the suspension, Trump essentially is signalling the world that we’re okay with whatever Saudi Arabia does. Trump’s deal is going to face a big fight in the Senate, Brian Schatz writes. Even a number of Republicans have been appalled at what the Saudis have done in Yemen. Some are saying the sale would violate both the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act, although of course no one in the Trump Administration would care about those things.

See also Trump may be helping to create a famine in Yemen. Congress could stop him.

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Today’s Woopsies

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Trump Maladministration

The so-called president is on his way to foreign places, where he will no doubt say really stupid things and continue to be an embarrassment to the nation. But until that happens, here are some other facepalm-worthy news items.

You remember a few days ago, when the House passed (with much fanfare but no Democratic votes) a health care act that was intended to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act? And how Republicans, including the so-called president, celebrated and said See? We can accomplish stuff after all! It’s a win!

Well, maybe not. The bill never went to the Senate. It may never go to the Senate. The House may have to do it over.

Bloomberg News:

House Speaker Paul Ryan hasn’t yet sent the bill to the Senate because there’s a chance that parts of it may need to be redone, depending on how the Congressional Budget Office estimates its effects. House leaders want to make sure the bill conforms with Senate rules for reconciliation, a mechanism that allows Senate Republicans to pass the bill with a simple majority.

Republicans had rushed to vote on the health bill so the Senate could get a quick start on it, even before the CBO had finished analyzing a series of last-minute changes. The CBO is expected to release an updated estimate next week.

In order to qualify as a reconciliation bill, a bill has to slice at least $2 billion off the federal budget. Otherwise, it has to go to the Senate as a regular bill, which makes it subject to filibuster.

We’re learning more about this week’s Big Woopsie — Trump’s meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office. The New York Times has learned that Trump bragged to the Russians that firing FBI Director Comey had taken the pressure off.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

Guess again, sweetums.

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This Could Take Awhile

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Trump Maladministration

At WaPo, on the naming of  Robert S. Mueller as special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:

Rosentein’s order charges Mueller with investigating “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Mueller is also empowered to probe possible attempts to stymie his investigation. That language gives him leeway to interpret his mandate broadly if he chooses. It also might mean he goes after people who leaked classified information related to the bureau’s Russia investigation. He can continue his work however long he wants, and he is broadly “authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation.”

— That means this could last for years – potentially through the president’s 2020 reelection campaign.

We can discuss what should happen until we are blue; what’s going to happen is what’s going to happen. The wheels are in motion; the game is afoot; etc. If Mueller is the tough and honest guy everyone says he is, then I trust many things will come to light.  And I suspect those “many things” will go way beyond a mere attempt to interfere with the 2016 election. The election issue is the least of what might have been going on.

Original photo by Evan Guest, flickr.com

 

Here is the latest, from Josh Marshall:

Reuters says that Mike Flynn and other Trump campaign officials were in contact with Russian government officials at least 18 times between April and November of last year.

McClatchy reports that shortly before President Trump’s inauguration, Mike Flynn effectively killed a military operation against ISIS that would have used Kurdish paramilitaries. The plan was later revived after Flynn’s ouster. But his decision delayed it for months. Any US operations with the Kurds would be firmly against the wishes of Turkey. This was while Flynn was working on behalf of the Republic of Turkey as an unregistered foreign agent.

The Timesreports that on January 4th, Flynn notified Trump Transition lawyer and now White House Counsel Donald McGahn that he was being investigated for his undeclared lobbying work on behalf of Turkey.

And that’s just the stuff about Flynn and Turkey. See also Report: Russian bank whose CEO met secretly with Jared Kushner helped finance Trump’s Toronto hotel. And I still say there’s something going on with Trump and the Russian mob.

Josh also says,

Vice President Mike Pence is often portrayed as Trump’s squeaky clean, perhaps goofy second, ready to take over if the avalanche of scandal overwhelms Trump. As I noted earlier this week, this is far from the case. Pence has managed to get implicated in most if not all of the big scandals – that just hasn’t gotten a lot of attention yet.

There’s a lot of arguing that we can’t get rid of Trump because then we’ll end up with President Pence, which could be worse.  I’m inclined to think that if Mueller’s investigation brings Trump down, Pence would go down with him.

But that’s in the event of a standard (if such a thing could be called standard) impeachment process. Trump clearly is not a stable person. And that brings us to the 25th Amendment:

The 25th amendment describes a process by which a president may give away power owing to his or her own disability, and a separate process by which power may be taken from a president owing to disability or inability.

The key players in the second case are the vice-president and the top 15 members of the cabinet. If the former and a majority of the latter decide the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”, they submit that information in writing to the House speaker (currently Paul Ryan) and Senate president pro tempore (currently the Utah Republican senator Orrin Hatch) and just like that, the vice-president would be acting president.

The president may challenge such a decision, at which point a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress would be required to stop the president from regaining power.

I can easily imagine Republicans in Washington preferring this option to watching both Trump and Pence being ground to bits by endless investigation. And if Trump’s behavior grows increasingly bizarre, as I expect it will, watch out for this. I’m sure the Republican establishment would rather cut Trump off at the knees and have Pence in the White House than endure a Whitewater-type investigation dragging their own party through the mud. The investigations would continue, but much of the heat would be removed from the Republican Party — unless Pence becomes a target, too.

I’d want congressional Dems to block Trump from being removed this way. Don’t let ’em off easy.

The other possibility is that Trump will leave the White House voluntarily, whether horizontally or vertically (someone with his ego is unlikely to be able to face the ignominity of being perpwalked out of the White House). Again, that would not necessarily be the end of  the political fallout.

So, hang on to your butts.

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Roger Ailes, 1940-2017

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News Media

We weep and we mourn. But, truth be told, not a whole lot.

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Rats and Lifeboats

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Trump Maladministration

One of the most interesting things I read yesterday was from Erick Erickson, for pity’s sake. Yeah, I know, it’s loathsome Erick Erickson. But here it is:

What sets this story apart for me, at least, is that I know one of the sources. And the source is solidly supportive of President Trump, or at least has been and was during Campaign 2016. But the President will not take any internal criticism, no matter how politely it is given. He does not want advice, cannot be corrected, and is too insecure to see any constructive feedback as anything other than an attack.

So some of the sources are left with no other option but to go to the media, leak the story, and hope that the intense blowback gives the President a swift kick in the butt. Perhaps then he will recognize he screwed up. The President cares vastly more about what the press says than what his advisers say. That is a real problem and one his advisers are having to recognize and use, even if it causes messy stories to get outside the White House perimeter.

I am told that what the President did is actually far worse than what is being reported. The President does not seem to realize or appreciate that his bragging can undermine relationships with our allies and with human intelligence sources. He also does not seem to appreciate that his loose lips can get valuable assets in the field killed.

Wingnuts, by definition, are people who can’t see reality until it personally smacks them in the face. But let’s go on … this has a ring of truth for me, and it certainly is consistent with everything else we hear about Trump. (See, for example,  I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ with Trump. His self-sabotage is rooted in his past.) He’s a walking character pathology incapable of doing the job he was elected to do. I mean, he can’t even do it badly; he is not doing it at all.

I keep hearing from people, some of them lefties, who are calling the Russian leaking/Comey firing stuff a “distraction.” No, it is not. It is the fruit of a political crisis in the U.S. that is unprecedented in our history. That such a man could actually have been elected — and I believe he was more or less fairly elected; the Russian hacks didn’t have that much impact — and that he continues (although perhaps not for long) to be protected by a major political party, tells us that our political culture has utterly failed. We need a new one.

So no, the meltdown of the Trump Administration is not a “distraction.” It really is the main event. See also Paul Waldman on Why the GOP could face 2018 with nothing to show for it, despite total control. No, Republicans in Congress are unlikely to be able to pass a bunch of nasty new laws while we’re being “distracted” by the Trump antics.

About a year ago I wrote a post about managed democracy and about how the two front-running presidential candidates were unpopular:

But what I really want to write about is, it appears the general election campaign will be between two unpopular candidates. How did that happen? And what does that say about the status of democracy in America?

First, this tells me the political system is being played, and not by the people. An honest competition actually decided by the people ought to have given us more popular candidates. What we’re seeing is a symptom of managed democracy, a term usually aimed at Vladimir Putin’s Russia but which, many argue, describes the United States.  In a paper about managed democracy in Russia, we find,

According to Tretyakov’s definition, managed democracy is a democracy (as there are elections, voters have alternative options, there is media freedom, leaders are changing), but it is corrected by the ruling class (or rather that part of it that holds power).

Put another way, this is why we can’t have nice things. We aren’t really in charge.

See also Ted Morgan in Salon, “This Isn’t How a Democracy Should Work.”

I blame both parties for this.

Anyway — After this week, I don’t see how Trump’s situation is salvageable, especially since he seems incapable of learning from mistakes. We’re in for many more weeks of drama, of course, and there are some smart folks who think Trump will stay in office. but too many forces are in motion that point to an early termination of the Trump Administration.

WaPo just reported this:

Congressional Republicans are increasing pressure on the administration to produce records related to the latest string of controversies involving President Trump, amid flagging confidence in the White House and a growing sense that scandal is overtaking the presidency.

As the White House sought to contain the damage from two major scandals, leaders of two key Senate committees asked the FBI for documents related to former director James B. Comey, who was leading an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election before Trump fired him last week.

At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) broke his silence on the Comey affair to say lawmakers “need to hear from him as soon as possible in public to respond to the issues that have been raised in recent days.”

See also Jonathan Chait on how the Republican wall protecting Trump is cracking.

Another signal the rats are deserting:

When President Donald Trump casually shared highly classified intel with top Russian diplomats last week, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who was in the room, did not immediately realize the significance of what Trump divulged, according to an NBC News report out Wednesday.

Citing an unnamed U.S. official with direct knowledge of the matter, NBC reported that McMaster “is not steeped in counterterrorism” and thus was not immediately aware of the importance of the information Trump gave to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

McMaster, who originally had forcefully said the reports of Trump blabbing information were totally false, possibly is realizing he is the new Colin Powell — the guy who blew his sterling reputation by providing an authoritative face for a pack of lies.

There are reports that Trump is coming unglued. If he’s as unstable as I think he is, someone had better make sure he doesn’t have access to sharp knives or loaded guns.

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Today’s Trumpbomb

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Trump Maladministration

The New York Times is reporting that Trump asked James Comey, while Comey was still FBI director, to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn. This happened in an Oval Office meeting in February, and Comey had documented this request in a memo written shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” Trump said to Comey, according to the memo.

The NYTimes also says “The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation.”  Comey had shared the memo with senior FBI officials and close associates, one of whom read it to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Josh Marshall:

With the latest revelation – that President Trump straight up asked James Comey to end the Flynn investigation – this is starting to feel like a prize fight where one boxer just took three straight punches to the head. It’s hard to know how much longer this can go on. But I suspect the answer is this: a lot longer.

We talk a lot about smoke and fire. But this isn’t smoke. This is the fire. It’s not clear to me what more we need to know. The only question is whether we decide to put it out or just let it keep burning. As I said above, I bet we’re going to let it burn for quite a while longer. …

… Firing an FBI Director while such an investigation like this is afoot is something like that, breaking a fence. In theory, the President has every right to fire an FBI Director. But doing so while such an investigation is underway has the look of trying to end the investigation. But in this case, asking Comey to end the probe itself doesn’t break one of the fences. It’s the thing itself. There’s no question of intent or misunderstandings. It’s the hand in the register. There’s just nothing more to know. It’s the thing itself.

However, with a Republican majority in Congress there’s not exactly going to be a stampede to write up articles of impeachment. (And if Hillary Clinton were POTUS and got caught doing the same thing today, those articles would be on their way to the Senate already.) The degree to which Republicans will attempt to brush this off will be a precise measure of their own corruption.

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David Brooks Redeems Himself

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Trump Maladministration

Best sentence he ever wrote:

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

See also Digby at Salon.

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Trump Caught Blabbing Secrets to Russians

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Trump Maladministration

WaPo just reported:

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said that Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information Trump relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said that Trump’s decision to do so risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

Let’s see him tweet his way out of this one.

Update: More from the article.

U.S. officials said that the National Security Council continues to prepare multi-page briefings for Trump to guide him through conversations with foreign leaders but that he has insisted that the guidance be distilled to a single page of bullet points, and often ignores those.

“He seems to get in the room or on the phone and just goes with it – and that has big downsides,” the second former official said. “Does he understand what’s classified and what’s not? That’s what worries me.”

It really is entirely possible he just blabbed something out loud that was in his head without understanding that it was classified.

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American Dental Care Bites

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Trump Maladministration

In WaPo:

As the distance between rich and poor grows in the United States, few consequences are so overlooked as the humiliating divide in dental care. High-end cosmetic dentistry is soaring, and better-off Americans spend well over $1 billion each year just to make their teeth a few shades whiter.

Millions of others rely on charity clinics and hospital emergency rooms to treat painful and neglected teeth. Unable to afford expensive root canals and crowns, many simply have them pulled. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans older than 65 do not have a single real tooth left.

This is the problem with “free market” capitalism, in a nutshell. According to “free market” ideology, as long as government doesn’t interfere the Holy Free Market naturally finds the most cost-effective and efficient way to provide what people need. It’s like a natural law; water flows downhill, flowers bloom in the spring, free markets create abundance for everybody. But in the real world, that’s now how it works. Without government intervention, free markets let some people sink into genuine deprivation in favor of providing boutique, luxury services for the wealthy.

This is particularly true where it comes to health care. There are some things that can’t be done on the cheap, no matter how free the markets are. And I believe we are the only developed nation still trying to provide health care through a mostly private system, and which has little to no controls in place to stop price gouging.

The Affordable Care Act amounted to a system of regulations and subsidies designed to make the existing system fairer, which it did, although not perfectly so. It had several cost-control measures in place that seemed to be having some effect to slow the increase in health care cost, although that is disputed.

But the Republican plan primarily seems to be to lower insurance costs allowing companies to cover fewer medical problems, without doing anything to tackle the factors that are driving up medical cost. This is like driving down the cost of home owners insurance by selling policies that don’t cover fires.

But getting back to dental work — modern dentistry is not going to make itself more affordable to the poor in the same way that consumer electronics companies might find ways to lower the prices on their gizmos. (See Why Your Dentist Costs So Much.)

The WaPo article describes a two-day clinic “event” in which a bunch of dentists volunteered to see people for free. Mostly they pulled teeth that were too far gone to save. People who hadn’t seen dentists for many years drove there from five states. Many people had jobs, but they had no dental insurance and no “leftover” cash to take care of dental problems as they came up.

Matello had both problems, adding to her frustration about being cut off from a world that many wealthier Americans take for granted.

“The country is way too divided between well-off people and people struggling for everything — even to see the dentist,” she said. “And the worst part is, I don’t see a bridge to cross over to be one of those rich people.”

Matello voted for Barack Obama in 2008, thinking he offered the best option for working people, but she sat out the 2012 election. Last year, she rallied behind Trump after listening to him talk about “the forgotten men and women of our country, people who work hard but don’t have a voice.”

“I’m running to be their voice,” Trump said repeatedly.

What Matello heard was a promise “to restore pride to the working poor.”

A big part of that promise was Trump’s assurance that he would build a “beautiful” health-care system to serve every American, a system that would cost less and do more. But nearly four months into Trump’s presidency, Matello sees Trump backing a Republican health care plan that appears to leave low-income people and the elderly worse off.

“I am hearing about a number of people who will lose their coverage under the new plan,” Matello said. “Is Trump the wolf in grandma’s clothes? My husband and I are are now saying to each other: ‘Did we really vote for him?’ ”

We might argue that Ms. Matello and others like her were hopelessly naive to believe anything Trump said, but television news media were normalizing him way too much. Nobody on tee vee ever explained why Trump couldn’t possibly deliver what he was promising.

And here’s why we should be more concerned about dental problems:

George Acs, director of the dental department at Chesapeake Health Care, a clinic near Salisbury, said people with oral pain and infections are inundating hospitals. Last year, more than 2 million U.S. emergency room visits were attributed to neglected teeth.

“What I am seeing is absolutely horrifying,” said Acs, who recently testified about the problem before the Maryland state legislature.

Although those hospital visits cost an estimated $1.6 billion a year, the ER is generally not equipped to fix dental problems, Acs told lawmakers. So ER doctors just medicate people with “a perpetual cycle of antibiotics and opioids.”

That cycle is feeding a nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction.

The business of keeping dentistry separate from other medical problems is stupid to begin with and needs to stop. But as some of the people interviewed in the article say, having bad teeth is a real social and economic impediment as well as a medical problem.

Over two days, 116 dentists treated 1,165 patients, providing $1 million worth of fillings and other care, according to the Mission of Mercy. Matello was grateful. She was told her panoramic X-ray and extraction would have cost $600 to $800 in a regular office.

She looked at some of the others who had come here, despite working for a living cutting down trees, building homes, minding a town library, running small businesses.

“We are not staying home, not sleeping and living off the government,” she said.

She wondered why there wasn’t a better system for people like her. She tried not to look at the 51-year-old truck driver lying next to her who had three teeth pulled, his mouth stuffed with bloody gauze.

“I am trying to think that this is not demeaning,” she said as she cleared the chair for the next person in line. “But it is. It’s like a Third World country.”

Yes, and it’s maddening that people like Ms. Matello support politicians who are making things worse for her, but in the recent elections, what did Democrats offer to do for her? If anything?

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