Sunday, April 23, 2017

Wrong Way Flows The Don(ald)

I imagine that to a Trump supporter, the president's moves seem like a new direction for the country.

For me, we are taking giant steps backwards.

It's not just the denial of climate science or the reversal of protections for LGBTQ citizens or the hounding of Muslims or threatening North Korea with a ship that was going...the wrong way or any of the other executive orders undoing any number of worthwhile things like protecting consumers from financial advisers who might value commissions over investors or net neutrality or allowing cable television companies to continue to monopolize set-top boxes or trying to repeal a health care law and replace it so that 24 million fewer people are covered by insurance.

No, despite all of those gems, and more, I see the country going back to a time when it was fine to say terrible things to women and minorities and to create groups that deserve protection and those that do not and the ones that do not are usually weaker or vulnerable.

But then there's the light that illuminated the swamp that is FOX News, resulting in the toppling of Chairman O'Reilly and, perhaps, more executives who tolerated his abuse. And there's the energy in Georgia and Montana and the other places where Democrats will be challenging Republicans on their own turf. After all, Trump went into the Midwest and won the election. Surely, Democrats can go into the South and the Plains and win some races there.

The big plus, though, is that Republicans are actually in charge and they are proving the point that it's very difficult to run a government when you want that government to disappear. Yes, the GOP is making noise about reviving the health care bill, but the problem of cost and coverage, especially for those who voted for Trump but still need Obamacare, will doom any attempt to gut the bill, which is really what the rank and file want. They will rue the day.

And tax reform? Show us your returns, Mr. President, so we know how you benefit from the system. Then maybe we'll support an overhaul that actually helps the middle class, but I don't see that being a priority for the right. Get rid of the mortgage and state tax deductions? Slap an import tariff on my Kohl's clothes sprees? Get into a trade war with Canada over milk? Good luck with that.

So maybe things are looking up? A monosyllabic chief executive can only say "great" so many times before he actually has to do something, or get Congress to pass some actual laws. In the meantime, the country will continue to slip backwards, harking back to a time that might have been great for some, but not for all.

It's a shame that we'll have to wait to move forward.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Who Knew It Could Get So Dangerous?

On the (months ago) heels of a 40 watt light bulb going off in the president's head about how complicated health care could be comes another revelation, unstated, about how dangerous the world could be.

Perhaps Donald Trump believed that throwing 59 missiles at Syria would startle Presidents Assad and Putin to the point that they would give up the fight and flee to be replaced by...what. Or maybe Trump giving his generals the green light to MOAB the Afghani desert would cause ISIS to run a white flag up a flagpole like the Vietcong did (not) when Richard Nixon decided that we had too many leftover bombs in our arsenal and thought that Christmas would be a fabulous time to send a message of peace war.

In any case, this is now getting dangerous.

Never mind that North Korea's attempts to rattle us ended in a failure that can be traced back to President Obama's program to disrupt Kim Jong-un's military through cyber-warfare. President Trump (shudder) will try to take credit for waking up in the morning and thinking that his actions will solve any and all real world problems. This is the kind of diplomacy we've seen before from politicians who believe that sending a military message without any diplomatic follow-up will yield meaningful fruit. It will not. Add the yeasty smell of a candidate who questioned the validity of NATO, and you have the makings of a loaf of something that makes matzah seem like a 7 layer cake.

For three months we saw Donald Trump's attempts at domestic policy and the utter failure that resulted from his ineptitude. Foreign policy is much trickier and, as we've seen, can kill far more people than repealing the ACA. Rex Tillerson has his work cut out for him.

Gee, wouldn't it be nice to have a president with some foreign policy and diplomatic experience? Like...

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Trump Has a Good Week: The World and Country Suffer

Some in the media are hailing this past week as Trump's best as president, so let's take a look at the highlights:
  1. The chair of the House committee looking into the Russia scandal had to recuse himself.
  2. The Republicans had to alter Senate rules to get their Supreme Court nominee into a seat that was wrongfully denied to President Obama.
  3. The number of new jobs dipped substantially in what could be considered the first real Labor Department report of the Trump Administration.
  4. The president and House negotiators tried to revive their failed health care bill by adding provisions for states to deny people insurance who have pre-existing conditions and raising rates for the elderly.
  5. The president threw some missiles into Syria after a dastardly and cowardly attack by President Assad. The endgame? Like much of Trump policy, it depends on what's on FOX News tonight.
Compared to the utter helplessness of the first few weeks of the Trump presidency, last week was fairly orderly. And yet...

To be fair, I thought that President Obama should have backed up his red line comment with a military response in 2013, because that's when it could have had more of an impact on the Syrian Civil War, and Trump was justified in responding last week. The issue is what will happen now? Will it take more attacks on children for Trump to respond? If only adults are hit, will we stay silent? And what about the Russians, who I believe are responding disingenuously to something they should have seen coming.

Is Donald Trump having his George W. "No Nation-Building" Bush moment?

As for the other events of the best week of Trump's presidency, it's really par for the overused course. Representative Devon Nunes used information given to him by executive branch sources and then ran and told the president rather than sharing said information with his House colleagues. So now we are in the unique position where only the Senate has the moral authority to investigate the Russia allegations.

On the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch's confirmation won't mean too much for the balance of the court as it replaces one conservative with another, but that seat should have belonged to President Obama's nominee. Changing the filibuster rules will eventually favor Democrats, but by that time the real damage could be more conservatives replacing more liberal voices on the Court. Somehow I think the republic will survive, but Congress will need to step in and pass laws to mitigate some of the legal damage.

And the health care bill? Right now it's pretty dead, but you know how much the GOP loves science. They will try to revive it and make it worse, even though the data suggests that the ACA is healthy enough to keep the insurance companies in green for the foreseeable future. The simple fact is that the GOP needs the money from a health care repeal to pay for their tax cuts, otherwise, it won't have the splash they're looking for, but it's looking more and more like they won't get it. I guess they'll have to soak the middle class even worse than they thought they might.

The Trump presidency is fast approaching its 100th day, the usual, if outdated, benchmark of presidential accomplishment, and it hasn't done much in the way of legislation. Most of the action has been done via formerly-hated-by-conservatives executive orders, and there don't seem to be any grand laws in the sausage grinder at the moment. The believable media has made a great deal about Trump's unpredictability and his penchant for reacting when personally affronted or moved, as evidenced by the Syria gambit. It's really only a matter of time before this manifests itself in something far more dangerous, and darker.

If you can fathom it.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest