Archive

November 28th, 2016

Let's bring back earmarks, please

    For a minute last week, House Republicans almost did something very smart.

    A proposal was offered to bring back earmarks - the pork-barrel spending added to bills that allows individual members a little goody here and there for their districts. Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., put the kibosh on the plan even though it enjoyed significant support within the room, according to The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis. The measure isn't totally dead yet - a task force will look into it, and a floor vote on a revised proposal could happen next year.

    Earmarks have been banned since Republicans retook the House majority in 2010. Then-Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) was a lifelong opponent of earmarking and pushed the prohibition as an example to voters that the GOP was serious about cleaning up Washington. (Republicans had taken a major hit earlier in the decade because of the earmarking scandal of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California.)

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How to cool voter anger? Pay attention to them

    "Why," a reader recent asked after president-elect Donald Trump's stunning upset victory, "don't you liberal mainstream media columnists get over it and write something positive to unify the country?"

    Why, I wondered, must it be left up to liberals to repair the divisions ripped open by conservatives like Trump?

    Maybe Trump supporters have a right to gloat after putting their guy over the top after almost every major poll indicated that he probably was going to lose.

    But two questions still keep tongues wagging: Why are they so angry, and what can be done about it?

    A newly released study of 2,411 voters by the University of Maryland's Program for Public Consultation, confirms one thing that others have found: Trump benefited heavily from a widespread belief that the federal government ignores ordinary people.

    Although this perception crosses party lines, pollsters heard it from Republicans more than Democrats -- and from Trump's voters most of all.

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Build He Won’t

    Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist, is a white supremacist and purveyor of fake news. But the other day, in an interview with, um, The Hollywood Reporter, he sounded for a minute like a progressive economist. “I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan,” he declared. “With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything.”

    So is public investment an area in which progressives and the incoming Trump administration can find common ground? Some people, including Bernie Sanders, seem to think so.

    But remember that we’re dealing with a president-elect whose business career is one long trail of broken promises and outright scams — someone who just paid $25 million to settle fraud charges against his “university.” Given that history, you always have to ask whether he’s offering something real or simply engaged in another con job. In fact, you should probably assume that it’s a scam until proven otherwise.

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Why is Steve Bannon given a pass when Jeremiah Wright was kicked to the curb for less?

    As enraging as it is that President-elect Donald Trump ran a racist and xenophobic presidential campaign, it is even more galling that he is elevating the man who unabashedly took white supremacy out of the shadows to a senior position in the White House.

    When he was the executive chairman of Breitbart News, Stephen Bannon served as the alt-right's sherpa from far-right fringe to mainstream. And he did so using Trump's coattails, first by championing the candidate on Breitbart and then serving as Trump's campaign chief executive. What passed for news on that website was nothing but breathtaking racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic garbage. That Bannon and his influence will be just steps from the Oval Office as chief White House strategist and senior counselor is beyond outrageous, especially in light of what happened with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Surely, you remember him.

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November 27th

Trump may be setting a record for broken promises

    All presidents break campaign promises, some more than others. President George H.W. Bush broke his "read my lips, no new taxes" vow, which contributed to his reelection loss in 1992. President Barack Obama kept most of his campaign pledges, with the exception of not closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, despite repeatedly saying he would.

    But 10 days after winning the presidency, Donald Trump may be changing the rules on broken or scaled-back campaign promises. When he said everything is negotiable, he apparently meant it. Here's a list of promises Trump made during the campaign and backtracked on so far:

    Affordable Care Act

    Then: Trump repeatedly called for repealing and replacing Obamacare, starting on Day One in office.

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The Democrats’ Real Turnout Problem

    Barack Obama’s two victories created the impression of a strong wind at the back of the Democratic Party. Its constituencies — the young, the nonwhite, the college educated — were not only growing but were also voting in increasing numbers. The age-old issue of voter turnout finally seemed to be helping the political left.

    The longer view is starting to look quite different, however. None of the other three most recent Democratic presidential nominees — Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Al Gore — inspired great turnout. George W. Bush, as you may recall, was widely considered to have won the political ground game. In off-year elections, Democratic turnout is even spottier, which helps explain the Republican dominance of Congress, governor’s mansions and state legislatures.

    Since Donald Trump’s shocking victory, much of the political diagnosis has focused on white working-class swing voters, and for good reason. Across the industrial Midwest, white voters who had supported Obama and previous Democrats abandoned the party for Trump.

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So Many Options, Yet Trump Picks the Ugly

    Early signs of what the Trump administration may look like: A man associated with white supremacy and misogyny will be White House chief strategist; a man rejected for a judgeship because of alleged racism will be attorney general; and an Islamophobe who has taken money from Moscow will be national security adviser.

    No, this is not satire.

    I’ve repeatedly noted that my side lost this election, that elections have consequences, and that President-elect Donald Trump should be given a chance. He seems intent on blowing that chance.

    The announcement that Trump has recruited Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser is particularly alarming. Flynn is smart and knows the world very well, but he was fired from his last government job for incompetence. Worse, he today is regarded by many Republican and Democratic foreign policy specialists as a kook.

    It’s all complicated. Flynn had a brilliant military career and did an outstanding job in Iraq and Afghanistan. Five years ago, he was widely admired as the best intelligence officer of his generation.

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My Fair Trump

    "After meeting with Mr. Trump . . . Mr. Obama realized the Republican needs more guidance. He plans to spend more time with his successor than presidents typically do, people familiar with the matter said."

    -- The Wall Street Journal

    President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump sit in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden sits on the sofa, sipping tea.

    Trump: You said I was unfit for office, so I brought these barbells.

    Obama: Did you bring anything else?

    Trump: Was that pun not enough to win you over?

    Obama: No, Donald, it wasn't.

    Biden: (to Obama) No way. There's no way.

    Obama: I can make a president of him, Joe. Now he's a simple huckster, a mere orange con artist, but I can make something of him. I was a professor before I was a senator. I can make sure he knows the fundamental principles of our democracy, at least.

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In a Trump Era, Schumer Declares, Democrats Are ‘the Barrier’

    Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wasn’t planning on being leader of the Senate minority — and by extension the Democratic opposition — as the Trump era dawns in the nation’s capital.

    “Do I regret what happened? Yes,” said Schumer, who was hoping to be President Hillary Clinton’s right hand as Senate majority leader before both he and Clinton came up short of their Election Day goals. “Late moments at night, do I think what could have been? Yes.”

    “But I am fully occupied with the job at hand,” Schumer said in an interview in his Senate office on Friday, just a few days after being formally chosen by his colleagues to succeed his mentor, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., as leader of the Senate Democrats.

    That job, in Schumer’s view, is to serve as the bulwark against a unified Republican government led by his former campaign donor, President-elect Donald Trump; to use the power of the Senate minority to try to force compromise when possible; and to stand in the way of Republicans when necessary.

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From an improbable to first independent president

    Viewed through any conventional lens, President-elect Donald Trump's candidacy was improbable from start to finish. Today, two things about his victory seem to be in sharper focus: one, that Trump's victory might best be understood as the success of the country's first independent president, and second, that the Trump coalition may be even more uniquely his than President Barack Obama's has turned out to be.

    Think again about how he prevailed. There are a handful of major events during a general election that give the nominees a chance to showcase themselves, their judgment and their vision. One is the selection of a running mate. Another is the staging of the conventions. A third is performance in the debates. Hillary Clinton did better than Trump on all three tests, though Trump's team believes the debates did not fall so decisively in her favor.

    Then there are the other factors that go into producing a successful candidacy. These include resources, the operations and mechanics of campaigning, and the skill with which candidates avoid mistakes and deal with the unexpected setbacks.

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