Browsing the archives for the Trump Maladministration category.

Republicans Are Still Trying to Take Away Your Health Care

Trump Maladministration

The continents are getting slammed. Hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes. I don’t really want to talk about politics. But duty calls.

The Senate is trying to pass another repeal-and-replace bill, and it’s a doozy. It’s safe to say that if this goes through, whatever health care plan you have now would be screwed, sooner or later.  See Sarah Kliff, I’ve covered the GOP repeal plans since day one. Graham-Cassidy is the most radical. See also Obamacare 101: What would the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill do?

Mitch McConnell is pushing this bill as hard as he can push it.

The pressure is on because Republicans are attempting to use a procedure known as budget reconciliation to pass the bill. The process allows them to avoid a Democratic filibuster and pass the bill with only a simple majority. Republicans currently hold 52 seats in the Senate.

But the rules that allow Republicans to use reconciliation will run out at the end of September, per a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian. This has spurred intense urgency to pass the legislation.

The intention to introduce the bill to the floor likely means that the GOP is close to the necessary votes — and that McConnell may be pressuring some wavering members. Cassidy told reporters that the bill is supported by 48 or 49 Republicans.

So it’s going to be another close vote on absolutely devastating legislation. The Washington Post has an analysis of which votes are likely and which are still up for grabs. It’s going to be another nail-biter, I’m afraid.

Greg Sargent had some positive news today.

Unfortunately for the bill’s supporters, a new study just came out that will enable Republicans to make a somewhat more informed decision about this legislation, after all. And it could deal a blow to the bill’s chances. It should, anyway.

The study, which was released this morning by Avalere Health, a consulting firm, finds that many states will see sizable cuts to the federal money that would flow to their states, relative to current law. Some of those states are represented by the GOP senators who are currently deciding whether to back the bill, including Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), Rob Portman (Ohio) and John McCain (Ariz.).

This graphic shows which states would lose and which would gain, funding wise. Blue is lose, green is gain. Texas makes out nicely, for some reason. California is the most screwed.

This is the Graham-Cassidy bill; I see Graham’s South Carolina gains funds, but Cassidy’s Louisiana loses. Weird. Anyway, I hope these results will keep senators Murkowski, McCain and Collins on the right side.

Speaking of Cassidy, last night Jimmy Kimmel ripped Cassidy a new one on the teevee:

On his show on Tuesday night, Kimmel attacked Cassidy as a “liar” for coming on his show earlier this year and saying that he would not back any legislation that does not protect people with pre-existing conditions, or does not cover families who face healthcare emergencies. Kimmel drew attention earlier this year for delivering a monologue in which he talked about his infant son’s heart surgery, and made the case for affordable health care for families who have less means in such emergencies.

But Cassidy insisted that his healthcare legislation would pass what he has dubbed the “Kimmel test,” or ensuring that all families have affordable care.

“It was a personal attack, and I cannot help that, but all I can say is if you are in Texas, or if you are Maine, or Virginia, or Missouri, there will be resources in your state that you have not had that can provide you coverage, and we have protections for pre-existing conditions,” he told NBC News.

Texas, Virginia and Missouri maybe; not so much Maine. California, definitely not. Actually, Sarah Kliff says Graham-Cassidy brings back the preexisting conditions problem and allows insurers to deny coverage or charge higher rates for them.

In short, contact your senator, now. If you have a Republican senator, contact them multiple times.

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Trump at the UN: He Kept His Shoes On

Trump Maladministration

Khrushchev and his shoe at the UN, 1960

Trump addressed the UN this morning, and I’m pleased to say that he did not at any point pull off a shoe and pound it on the podium. Credit where credit is due.

However, that’s the good news. Here’s the bad news: The content of the speech.

The headlines from the speech are calling out Trump’s threat to bury North Korea.  Well, okay, he said “totally destroy,” not “bury,” which arguably is worse. But at least he didn’t remove articles of clothing to make a point. I’m sure someone in media will give him presidential points for being presidential and all, that he didn’t disrobe on live TV.

Here’s a snip from the Washington Post:

The president warned of growing threats from North Korea and Iran, and he said, “The scourge of our planet is a group of rogue regimes.”

He praised the U.N. for enacting economic sanctions on Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. But he emphasized that if Kim Jong Un’s regime continued to threaten the United States and to destabilize East Asia, his administration would be prepared to defend the country and its allies.

“We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said, before calling Kim by a nickname he gave the dictator on Twitter over the weekend. “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.”

Trump added, “If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.”

Ooo, we’re even calling Kim Jong Un funny names. That’s so … third grade.

Aaron Blake writes,

President Trump took to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday and, in his maiden speech there, called the leader of North Korea “Rocket Man,” decried “loser terrorists” and said certain parts of the world are “in fact, going to hell.”

But Trump’s perhaps oddly chosen colloquialisms masked what was a pretty astounding escalation of his rhetoric when it comes to North Korea. Just to be clear: The president of the United States threatened to wipe a country of 25 million people off the map.

Well, when you put it that way, it does seem unprecedented. And unpresidented.

Trump’s speech Tuesday ratcheted things up in two respects: saying the United States would also unleash a massive response on behalf of its allies, and threatening to “totally destroy” the country.

We still have allies? Who knew?

Polls show the American people are not confident in Trump’s ability to handle the North Korea situation, with 61 percent saying they are “uneasy.” Trump’s words Tuesday likely won’t calm many fears, but he’s clearly gambling on North Korea backing down in the face of big talk.

Yeah, that’s been working so well so far. Oh, wait …

The speech news gets better

President Donald Trump spent much of his address to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday berating Iran and complaining about the “embarrassment” of a nuclear deal his predecessor signed with the country.

There’s an embarrassment, all right, but it’s not the Iran nuclear deal.

“It is far past time for the nations of the world to confront another reckless regime,” he said upon first referring to the nation, following a condemnation of North Korea. “One that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.”

The many leaders and nations worked hard for that nuclear deal, just as they worked hard for the Paris Agreement. They aren’t going to renegotiate it on Trump’s say so.

“The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind a false guise of a democracy,” he said.

Well, Trump would know corrupt dictatorships behind a false guise of a democracy. And I bet he knows shoes, too. He could have brought some samples of Ivanka’s shoes and pounded some of them on the podium. Then Ivanka could tweet about which retailers carry her shoes. I wonder why he didn’t think of that.

After all, at one point in the speech he said, “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone but rather to let it shine as an example.” Some of Ivanka’s shoes are pretty blingy. Yes, we lead the first world in income inequality, I believe, or at least we’re in the top ten. We’re also number one among the wealthier industrialized democracies in the percentage of citizens with substandard health care. I doubt very much that other nations want our way of life imposed on them, frankly. But who doesn’t like shoes?

I’m sure there will be more commentary about this speech later in the day, as soon as the people who write political commentary have a stiff drink and mutter at the walls for a while. It was some speech.

See also: Here Are the Most Trump Things Trump Said in His United Nations Speech

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Ken Burns’s Vietnam War

Trump Maladministration

I watched the first episode of the PBS Vietnam War series and thought it was good so far. I don’t think anything was said I didn’t already know, but a lot of it was stuff most people don’t know.

I was a bit dismayed to find people on social media trashing it, some of whom apparently didn’t even watch it. One person decided to not watch it because one of the sponsors was Bank of America, and she was certain it wouldn’t be any good. Others assume it will be a whitewash of U.S. crimes and refuse to watch.

I left a comment somewhere that the first episode (which covered the beginning of French colonialism to 1961) was accurate, and got a response from someone named Doug Zachary — “Barbara you are the perfect fascist citizen. fall in line. smile, really BIGLY!” I take it Doug has Issues.

Of those who claimed to watch it and who dissed it as propaganda, my impression is that they won’t accept anything that isn’t an anti-American polemic. The problem with that is that they seem to want to think that Americans in the 1950s and 1960s went to Vietnam just to napalm Vietnamese children for kicks and grins, and don’t want to hear how mostly well-meaning people talked themselves into thinking that the war was the right thing to do, even though it wasn’t.

To me, that last part is the most important part of the story, and the part of the story that people need to understand. Because that’s how evil works. Most people who do wrong things don’t recognize they are doing wrong things at the time. They persuade themselves they are doing the right thing. We keep doing wrong shit because people get worked up into thinking that the wrong shit is righteous and necessary, and then when it all goes bad nobody wants to look back try to understand how they could have been so mistaken. Well, here’s a chance. Those of you who are too young to remember Vietnam could apply this same lesson to several more recent misadventures, like Iraq.

Tonight’s episode covers 1961 to 1963. I expect to see the corruption of the Diem regime and Kennedy’s signing off on Diem’s assassination. This article in Newsweek contains some pans of some of the episodes that haven’t been shown yet. So we’ll see.

See also “What Trump Needs to Learn from Vietnam.”

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Trump, Painted in a Corner

Trump Maladministration

Greg Sargent writes that Trump supporters are in meltdown mode:

With the chatter intensifying about the possibility of President Trump cutting a deal to protect the “dreamers,” The Post reports today that his loudest supporters are in a fury. They are warning that “the base” will desert him if he commits such a massive betrayal.  …

…The most vocal immigration hard-liners who backed Trump in the media and Congress — people such as Ann Coulter, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), and Stephen K. Bannon and his merry Breitbart warriors — are warning Trump that his voters won’t tolerate it if he agrees to legislative protections for hundreds of thousands of people brought here illegally as children, as part of a deal with Dems.

However, Sargent goes on to argue that what they’re really afraid of is not that Trump’s base will turn against him, but that it won’tRobert Costa and Michael Scherer write,

Yet the lasting political cost of Trump’s engagement with top Democrats on immigration remained ambiguous. While Coulter and others vented, several conservative leaders Thursday remained hesitant about breaking with the president publicly given his continued grass-roots support and their desire to focus Republican ire on the leadership in Congress.

“The jury is still out on whether the base starts to leave him. And I’m not sure what the truth is,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said in an interview. “If this stands and we end up with amnesty, the base that was pulled together because of immigration will start to peel off in significant ways.”

But, King added, “No one is quite sure about how this will play out and whether it’s truly what we worry it’ll be.”

Since there actually is no deal on DACA — and I’m skeptical there ever will be — I doubt the base is that perturbed. Many of them probably aren’t aware of any of this. We’re not talking high-information voters here. It’s also the case that a recent poll showed that only 15 percent of Americans favored deporting dreamers. This suggests that at least some Trump supporters are at least ambiguous about it. However, Huffpost reports a few are burning their MAGA hats.

Elsewhere in WaPo, we read that Republicans on the Hill don’t know what to do with themselves.

Despite their control of both chambers and with a GOP partner in the White House, congressional Republicans are laboring, sometimes awkwardly, to project leverage over efforts to rewrite the nation’s tax laws and craft a bill to decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

Some are privately fuming over the valuable political cover Trump is giving to centrist Democratic senators who are top targets in the 2018 midterms in states the president won. By negotiating with them and appearing at events together, the president is potentially easing their challenge of winning conservative voters.

I think a lot of people in media are making way too much of the “new,” supposedly bipartisan Trump. Along with being a bigot and a grifter, Trump is also a sucking black hole of emotional neediness. If Nancy and Chuck figure out how to exploit that to get some concessions here and there, grand. But nobody can be Trump’s friend, or at least not for long, without completely capitulating to the needs of his ego. So the Donald, Nancy and Chuck show can’t possibly last forever.

My impression is that Trump just wants to succeed at something, and he’s been thrashing around trying to find the magic formula that will enable him to do that. And he’s noticed that the Republican Congress isn’t getting anything done that he can sign and claim as an accomplishment so that he will be praised in the New York Times. He doesn’t know why, but it isn’t.  Maybe this bipartisan thing will work.

But his problem is that if he does something that pleases most Americans, the Right will turn on him like a rabid skunk. If he caters to the Right, he’s stuck with dealing with the whackjob Freedom Caucus in the House, and nothing gets done. He’s in a completely untenable place.

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Donald, Nancy and Chuck Hit a Wall

Trump Maladministration

I just saw Trump on MSNBC, from Fort Myers, saying there would be no agreement on DACA that didn’t include funding for his wall.

“We have to have an understanding…that the wall will be funded,” the president said on the Ft. Myers’ tarmac. “Otherwise we’re not doing any deal.”

“If we don’t have the wall,” he said, “we’re doing nothing.”

This is a shift from what he said earlier this morning, before he left Washington for Florida. Earlier this morning, he just said “strong border security” without making the wall a condition. The wall would be funded later, he said.

Josh Marshall wrote, also before Trump got to Fort Myers —

The word this morning is that leaders Pelosi and Schumer say Trump agreed to make DACA law as part of a deal that upped funding for “border security” but not for a wall. But Trump came out and said there’s no deal. So it’s all a mess and a big dispute.

I think if you look closely, that’s not quite what happened….

…The Democrats came out of the meeting last night saying they’d agreed to make DACA law as part of a bill that would include border security but not a wall. The White House put out a different statement that didn’t say quite the same thing but very conspicuously did not mention the wall.

Was this a “deal” or “agreement”? The Dems didn’t say they had a “deal”, which I take to mean they’d hashed out the specifics and terms. They said they’d agreed to do this kind of legislation: DACA plus Border Security minus Wall. This is basically a semantic difference. The words (deal or agreement) can mean anything you want them to. The key thing in my mind is that if you look closely, I don’t see where they’re really disagreeing on what happened. If Trump or the White House had come out this morning and said, “No way. The price for DACA is the Wall,” that would be a major disagreement. They have not done that.

However, what he was saying in Fort Myers just now was that they had to agree to fund the wall some time in the future, or the deal or agreement or whatever is off.

Let’s just say that Trump has a bad case of the flip flops, and not just about DACA. Today, Gail Collins writes that Trump shifts positions on tax cuts almost hourly. His only written tax plan, which he insists that Congress enact immediately, fits on one page.

Still, Trump is ready to roll. Details, schmeetails. “With Irma and Harvey devastation, Tax Cuts and Tax Reform is needed more than ever before,” he tweeted. “Go Congress, go!” Negative thinkers pointed out that the hurricane devastation required federal spending, not revenue reduction. Also that “is needed” was grammatically … tragic.

Plus, again, the no-plan thing. “It’s really important for people to understand — the administration is urging Congress to vote fast on a proposal that doesn’t exist,” said Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center. The center made a rather heroic effort to figure out what the consequences would be if you cobbled a proposal out of all the tax stuff Trump has mentioned, and concluded it would add about $8 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years.

People keep calling Trump a deal-maker, but the truth is he doesn’t do deals. A “deal” means that two or more parties have agreed to terms for their mutual benefit, and that they all intend to abide by those terms. Trump has a long and well-known history of getting people to agree to his business plans by making promises he doesn’t keep and had no intention of keeping them when he made them. Such an arrangement is not a “deal”; it is a “grift.”

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What Do We Want? Universal Coverage!

Trump Maladministration

Let’s look at some good news. Paul Waldman writes that Democratic politicians are finally embracing single payer.

While some of us have been predicting for a few months that support for some version of single payer health care would gradually become the default position for those seeking the 2020 presidential nomination — and thus for the party as a whole — it’s happening faster than one might have thought.

A bunch of potential candidates, including Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris, have moved from their previous position — a somewhat vague support of single payer in the abstract — to becoming co-sponsors of Bernie Sanders’ single payer bill, which is set to be released this week. Today Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who’s up for reelection next year, added her name to the list, and so did Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, joining a number of others. A single payer bill in the House is cosponsored by more than half the Democratic caucus (though Nancy Pelosi is notably holding off).

I know some people will argue that a few of these politicians — Harris and Booker in particular — are just trying to kiss up to the progressive left. And what’s wrong with that, I say? It means they are taking us seriously, instead of brushing us off as unicorn lovers.

For starters, it would be better if we referred not to “single payer” but to “universal coverage,” since the latter is the real goal, while the former is just one way to achieve that goal (see Harold Pollack for more on this). One big question about Sanders’ plan is whether it will be the kind of “Medicare for all” he’s advocated in the past, or something like “Medicare for all who want it,” which would retain a role for private insurance. There are multiple paths to universal coverage, and no one who is serious about the complex policy questions involved believes that a true single payer plan is the only way to get a system that does what we want it to. But that reality may be powerless in the face of the fact that “single payer” is a simple two-word slogan that people are already rallying around.

This is right; we might have to be careful about the “single payer” slogan.  It’s also the case that the same person who might say yes to a program labeled “single payer” might say no to the same program labeled “socialized medicine.” We also will have to fight off the inevitable “but it will raise taxes” arguments and explain that people will end up with more money in their pockets, anyway. We have a lot of educating to do.

One thing we can say, however, is that Democrats probably don’t need to be too paralyzed by fear of the inevitable Republican charge that it would represent big government controlling your life. As Republicans discovered when they tried to kick millions of people off Medicaid and undermine the program, the American public is perfectly fine with the government helping to give people health coverage. Medicare and Medicaid are both extremely popular with their recipients, who in total now number about 130 million….

… But single payer offers Democrats something extremely powerful: an ambitious policy change that will motivate their own voters to haul themselves to the polls.

Wow, actually promising to work for something grand that we’ve wanted for several years, instead of telling us that we’re naive and unpragmatic and believe in fairies and unicorns? What a concept!

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Trump and the Emolument Clause

Trump Maladministration

McClatchy reports today:

A major construction company owned by the Chinese government was hired to work on the latest Trump golf club development in Dubai despite a pledge from Donald Trump that his family business would not engage in any transactions with foreign government entities while he serves as president. …

… The companies’ statements do not detail the exact timing of the contract except to note it was sometime in the first two months of 2017, just as Trump was inaugurated and questions were raised about a slew of potential conflicts of interest between his presidency and his vast real estate empire.

Now, let us consider the emolument clause of the U.S. Constitution — Article I, Section 9, paragraph 8.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Is Trump in violation of the emolument clause? Peter Overby recently reported on NPR:

Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, sued President Trump three days after he took office, saying he is “submerged in conflicts of interest” because of foreign governments’ spending at the D.C. hotel.

The Constitution doesn’t ban foreign emoluments outright. It empowers Congress to approve them or not, and lawmakers have passed judgment on foreign gifts to lesser officials for more than 200 years.

Trump could agree that the hotel spending amounts to emoluments, and ask for congressional consent. But last January his lawyer, Sherri Dillon, said he doesn’t have to.

“No one would have thought, when the Constitution was written, that paying your hotel bill was an emolument,” she said at a press conference. “Instead, it would have been thought of as a value-for-value exchange. Not a gift. Not a title. And not an emolument.”

The Justice Department agrees, arguing in the CREW case that the hotel transactions are business transactions, unrelated to the president’s office, and thus not emoluments.

However, the Constitution is an 18th century document, and the language has changed. So what did emoluments mean in the 18th century? John Mikhail, a professor at Georgetown Law School, investigates.

Mikhail told NPR he and his researchers looked at all the known dictionaries between 1604 and 1806 that define emolument — 40 books in all. He said only three gave definitions in ways favorable to Trump, “kind of a narrow, even technical meaning, tied to the salary or official duties of an office,” while the other 37 used “a broader meaning that would encompass sort of the profits of ordinary market transactions.”

Almost all of the dictionaries used the word profit in their definitions. The two other go-to words were advantage and gain.

In the CREW case, the Justice Department cites two dictionaries that also used the words office and employ. “They had selected, maybe cherry-picked even, a couple of dictionary definitions,” Mikhail said.

An online search of Founding Fathers’ papers at the Library of Congress failed to produce any indication the Constitution’s Framers had consulted either of those dictionaries, he added.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has accused Trump of violating the emoluments clause more than 20 times, and that was before today’s McClatchy report.

Blumenthal said Trump “has never sought the consent of Congress” for the profits from deals in the more than 20 countries where he has business operations.

Just one example he offered: Trump has sought — and obtained — valuable trademarks from China’s government but did not clear those transactions with Congress.

Today’s example might or might not fit; back to McClatchy —

Trump’s partner, DAMAC Properties, awarded a $32-million contract to the Middle East subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corporation to build a six-lane road as part of the residential piece of the Trump World Golf Club Dubai project called Akoya Oxygen, according to news releases released by both companies. It is scheduled to open next year. …

… Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programs and strategy at Issue One, which works to reduce the role of money in politics, said doing business with a foreign entity poses several potential problems for a president, including accusations that a foreign government is enriching him, gaining access to or building goodwill with him and becoming a factor in foreign policy.

The Trump Organization agreed to not engage in any new foreign deals or new transactions with a foreign entity — country, agency or official — other than “normal and customary arrangements” made before his election.

The China State Construction Engineering Corporation is not just a Chinese-based company; the government of China is the principal owner.  McClatchy also notes that CSCEC appears in the Panama Papers.

Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programs and strategy at Issue One, which works to reduce the role of money in politics, said doing business with a foreign entity poses several potential problems for a president, including accusations that a foreign government is enriching him, gaining access to or building goodwill with him and becoming a factor in foreign policy.

The Trump Organization agreed to not engage in any new foreign deals or new transactions with a foreign entity — country, agency or official — other than “normal and customary arrangements” made before his election.

But Trump ignored calls to fully separate from his business interests when he became president. Instead, he placed his holdings in a trust designed to hold assets for his “exclusive benefit,” which he can receive at any time. He retains the authority to revoke the trust.

McGehee said Trump clearly knew foreign arrangements could be problematic because he outlined a list of restrictions, although vague ones, for his company to follow while he served as president. But more importantly, she said, the writers of the U.S. Constitution knew they could be too.

The Emoluments Clause in the U.S. Constitution says officials may not accept gifts, titles of nobility or emoluments from foreign governments with respect to their office, and that no benefit should be derived by holding office.

Back to NPR:

But going back to the word in question: “It’s clear in the 1780s this was a very broad term, understood by most people,” Peter Sokolowski, a lexicographer at the dictionary publisher Merriam Webster, told NPR. “As often happens, the definition that is the broader one, which happens to be the one that was in most common use in the 18th century, is the one that has sort of fallen away.”

Cato Institute senior fellow Walter Olson said in an interview that Congress may have the final say on the definition. “At that point, the mood that Congress has, whether it is mad at the president or indulgent toward him, is going to make a lot of difference.”

In other words, if they ever do get in the mood to impeach him, they’ve got a ready-made issue close at hand.

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Democrats and Litmus Tests

Trump Maladministration

James Hohmann writes that immigration has become a litmus test for Democrats. One of the reasons the Dream Act, which passed in the House in 2010, failed in the Senate is that five Democrats voted no. If Senate Dems had unanimously voted yes, it would have passed.

But of those five, only one, John Tester of Montana, is still in the Senate. and now Tester supports DACA and the dreamers. Apparently in 2010 he got slammed for that no vote.

Hohmann continues,

Understandably, most of the media’s coverage of the Trump administration’s Tuesday announcement has focused on cleavages in the Republican ranks. The president has placed his adopted party in a bind by putting the onus on Congress to protect the 800,000 “dreamers” with a legislative fix in the next six months. Reflecting the fraught politics, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) — who is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — backed a bipartisan bill yesterday that would shield young immigrants from deportation and give them a pathway to citizenship.

— The untold story, though, is the degree to which Democrats are now in lockstep on what not long ago was an issue that divided them. Not a single Democrat in either chamber of Congress has expressed support for getting rid of DACA.

— This is part of a larger lurch to the left in the Democratic Party on a host of hot-button issues. No matter where you’re from, it is harder than ever to be a Democratic candidate who is against gun control, abortion rights or single-payer health insurance. That doesn’t mean you cannot be, but one risks losing major donors and drawing the ire of the progressive grass roots – even if you represent a red state.

This is a hopeful sign, I think. Maybe the Dems have gotten the message they have to actually stand for something. And it shows us the progressive grass roots are having an impact.

But I also want to point out that just over a month ago, Democrats were having an internal pissing contest over “litmus tests,” which are supposed to be bad, say some people.

This is from The Hill, July 31:

Democrats will not withhold financial support for candidates who oppose abortion rights, the chairman of the party’s campaign arm in the House said in an interview with The Hill.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said there will be no litmus tests for candidates as Democrats seek to find a winning roster to regain the House majority in 2018.

“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” said Luján, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”

Author Lindy West responded (August 2, the New York Times):

I relate to the flailing panic that is no doubt undergirding such a morally putrescent idea. Nineteen hyenas and a broken vacuum cleaner control the White House, and ice is becoming extinct. I get it. I am desperate and afraid as well. I am prepared to make leviathan compromises to pull us back from that brink. But there is no recognizable version of the Democratic Party that does not fight unequivocally against half its constituents’ being stripped of ownership of their own bodies and lives. This issue represents everything Democrats purport to stand for.

To legislatively oppose abortion is to be, at best, indifferent to the disenfranchisement, suffering and possibly even the death of women. At worst it is to revel in those things, to believe them fundamental to the natural order. Where, exactly, on that spectrum is Luján comfortable placing his party?

I’m mostly with West on this, although it’s also the case that if, hypothetically, an anti-choice Democrat won his primary and had a chance at knocking Ted Cruz out of the Senate, I’d say fund him. But the larger point is that there’s a natural tension between people extolling the “big tent” and those who say the Democratic Party brand means nothing any more.

In years past we’ve seen, time and time again, Democrats being their own worse enemy. We watched many of them vote to allow George Bush invade Iraq. We watched some of them fight against the Affordable Care Act, causing it to be watered down. For a long time the Party pretty much surrendered the field to the Right on gun control. Too many Democrats have been squishy on unions. And, of course, Democrats as well as Republicans have a long history of votes to help the corporate interests that donate to their campaigns.  See also “Democrats once represented the working class. Not any more” by Robert Reich.

Too many Democrats still think that appealing to blue collar voters means moving right on social and cultural issues. This is phony. I say we can stand firm on social and cultural issues and move left on economic issues and labor. Even in “red” districts. We’re not winning those districts, anyway; at least show the voters they have a choice other than Republican or Republican Lite.

“Big tents” are grand, but IMO the problem the Dems have had is that they made the hypothetical big tent so big that the party itself became meaningless. Maybe they’re learning.

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Stuff to Read About DACA

Trump Maladministration

I haven’t little to add to what has already been written about Trump’s abrupt ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, except for the obvious: This is just Trump getting his jollies by being an abusive son of a bitch. There is no other purpose served by ending DACA.

Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker:

On Tuesday morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump Administration was ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (daca), the Obama-era policy that protects close to a million undocumented immigrants who grew up in the U.S. Many Americans, including the President, refer to the beneficiaries of the policy as Dreamers, but at a press conference in Washington, Sessions called them by a different name. They were, he said, “a group of illegal aliens” who were taking jobs away from citizens, contributing to “lawlessness,” and threatening the country’s “unsurpassed legal heritage.” The decision to end daca wasn’t personal, he insisted. “This does not mean they’re bad people or that our nation disrespects them or demeans them in any way,” he said. It was just a matter of “protecting the integrity of our Constitution.” President Barack Obama, who created daca by executive action—without congressional approval—had “unilaterally” granted Dreamers “amnesty.” Sessions’s tone suggested that he believed these words were as abhorrent to his listeners as they were to him. “We simply can’t admit everyone who comes here,” he said. Then he took a drink of water, and praised Donald Trump. “The President has delivered to the American people,” Sessions said.

Since daca was implemented, in 2012, its beneficiaries, who came to the U.S. as small children, have been living in the country under “lawful status.” They’ve been able to obtain work visas and driver’s licenses, and were free from the immediate fear of arrest and deportation. But daca does not grant citizenship. “It’s a temporary, stopgap measure,” Obama said when he first announced the policy. Yet years have passed and Congress never formalized Dreamers’ status, despite the fact that a majority of Americans, across ideological lines, supported both their citizenship and their right to remain in the country. Ninety-seven per cent of daca recipients are in school or in the workforce, and—per the conditions of the program—not one of them has a criminal history.

Josh Marshall, Trump Wishes Dreamers Luck as He Tosses Them Out of the Plane

Jennifer Rubin, And Trump didn’t have the nerve to make the announcement himself

Greg Sargent, Don’t be fooled by the scam that Trump will pull today on DACA

James Hohmann, DACA decision highlights chasm between Trump’s compassionate rhetoric and reality

Roberto G. Gonzales, DACA’s beneficiaries landed good jobs, enrolled in college, and contributed to society


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Harvey Could Still Be Trump’s Katrina

Trump Maladministration

Amy Davidson Sorkin writes at the New Yorker:

The problem is not that President Trump does not realize that Harvey is huge; a number of his tweets on the storm have contained the word “Wow,” and he called it “epic” and “historic,” adding that “Texas can handle anything!” But the enormity of the situation does not seem to have organized his thoughts beyond declarations of how it will be matched by the greatness of his Administration and its allies. On the flight to Texas, on Tuesday morning, he had retweeted a message from Brazoria County, which consisted of a red box containing the words “notice: The Levee at Columbia Lakes has been breached!! get out now!!” Get out to where? What are the practical consequences of a breach? Trump didn’t say. (Vox has a more technical breakdown of the levee situation.)

In Corpus Christi, speaking to Governor Abbott, Trump began by acknowledging that it wasn’t time for congratulations, but offered a prediction that Houston would soon be better than ever: “We’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished.” Later in the day, at a briefing at a control center in Austin, he said that his team’s coördination had been “incredible—everybody’s talking about it,” then offered this observation on the challenge that they faced: “Nobody has ever seen this much water. . . . The water has never been seen like this, to this, to the extent. And it’s, uh, maybe someday going to disappear. We keep waiting!”

Trump seems to think that once the water goes away, everything will just go back to normal.

What will be harder is persuading not only Trump but the Republican Party that Harvey has a reality that reaches beyond the borders of this storm, and involves major policy issues. Both Senators Cruz and Cornyn voted against a major emergency-relief bill allocating funds for rebuilding and recovery after Superstorm Sandy. Cruz, in particular, has misrepresented that bill’s contents and its purpose, saying that two-thirds of the money in it wasn’t really related to Sandy but was, rather, pork and other wasteful government spending. (Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s fact checker, gave Cruz three Pinocchios for that.) Cruz and others, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, also complained that the bill wasn’t really for emergency spending because it covered things like improving forecasts and repairing damaged infrastructure in a way that protected it against the next storm. This time, for the congressional Republicans, as much as for Trump, the emergency can’t stop when the rain does.

Here’s Glenn Kessler’s fact check of Cruz’s claim.

I think most Americans are looking at Texas and thinking it’s going to take a ton of money to put things right. I have read that up to a million cars are ruined. I have read that 80 percent of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed have no flood insurance. We’re hearing about exploding chemical plants and who knows how much petroleum and other toxic things being released into the water. So far I haven’t heard an assessment of how many businesses have been shut down and how many jobs are lost. I haven’t heard an assessment of repairing roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

And most of the issues involved in all these things deal with policy matters that Republicans don’t like to deal with. They want the private sector to somehow take care of it all.

Speaking of the private sector, there’s a pernicious pattern of disasters being used as opportunities for all kinds of political patronage and profit. See Naomi Klein, “How Power Profits From Disaster.”

One of those moments arrived in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, as I watched hordes of private military contractors descend on the flooded city to find ways to profit from the disaster, even as thousands of the city’s residents, abandoned by their government, were treated like dangerous criminals just for trying to survive.

I don’t think we ever got an honest assessment of how much taxpayer “recovery” money was lost to waste and fraud after Katrina, and a lot of that money disappeared into the pockets of contractors, sub-contractors and various middlemen. People’s lives were put on hold for months and years waiting for help. The Bush Administration was colossally inept, but does anyone think the Trump Administration is going to do better?

On top of that — while everyone’s been focused on Hurricane Harvey, wildfires are raging through the Pacific Coast states. Home owners are getting evacuation orders. Yosemite National Park is threatened.

On top of that, there’s a category 3 hurricane out in the Atlantic named Irma that might strike the Atlantic coast next weekend. That’s not certain though.

On top of that, North Korea.

So, shit’s getting real, and Republicans plan on converging in Washington this month to cut taxes for rich people.

Back to Amy Sorkin:

If the tragedy of Harvey is not met properly and consistently, on a national level and with an eye toward a long-term commitment, it could mean the decline and fall of a great American city.

Today’s Republicans have absolutely no grasp of what “properly and consistently, on a national level and with an eye toward a long-term commitment” even means, and Trump is incapable of commitment except to himself. Twelve years ago, Republicans were perfectly content to leave New Orleans to rot. And they largely got away with it. Somehow, I don’t think they’ll get away with letting Houston rot.

See also:

Donald Trump in Houston: “Have A Good Time Everybody”

He Can’t Even Fake It

And an old Mahablog post, What Is Evil?

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