Archive

February 24th, 2017

Jeff Sessions must recuse himself from the Flynn investigation

    The gravity of the issues raised by the events that led to national security adviser Michael Flynn's resignation cannot be overstated or ignored. Revelations about Flynn's contact with the Russians and reports indicating that he may have lied to the FBI about that contact may be only the tip of the iceberg. There's an overwhelming view in our intelligence community that Russia tried to influence our election.

    The American people, and indeed American democracy, require a thorough and independent investigation into what transpired and whether any criminal laws or constitutional precepts were violated. Such an investigation and any resulting prosecution would normally be carried out under the purview of the attorney general, as the nation's chief law-enforcement officer with oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But in this case, given his deep and long-standing ties to President Donald Trump and many of Trump's top advisers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot lead such an investigation.

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Blessed are the winners. Big time.

    The Lord is my shepherd. OK? Totally. Big league. He is a tremendous shepherd. The best. No comparison. I know more than most people about herding sheep. And that's why I won the election in a landslide and it's why my company is doing very very well. Because He said, "I'm with you, Donald. You will never want."

    So we were on this green pasture by the still waters and He said, "Lie down." I said, "Lie down?" He said, "Lie down." And He made me lie down. Right there in the pasture. So I lie down. People are so surprised that I lie down -- "Oh, he's lying down." But He's my shepherd. Great shepherd. Not just good. Great. It was right there that I thought, "This is going to be a tremendous golf course. Terrific greens. Plenty of water. And it is. Everybody who plays it comes away saying, "That is the greatest course in the entire world." Everybody.

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Trump’s Russia Motives

    The mystery at the core of the Trump-Russia story is motive.

    President Donald Trump certainly seems to have a strange case of Russophilia. He has surrounded himself with aides who have Russian ties. Those aides were talking to Russian agents during the campaign, and some are now pushing a dubious peace deal in Ukraine. Trump recently went so far as to equate the United States and Vladimir Putin’s murderous regime.

    But why?

    It’s not a simple question. In their Russia-related inquiries, the FBI and the Senate Intelligence Committee will need to focus first on what happened — whether Trump’s team broke any laws and whether the president has lied about it. Yet the investigators, as well as the journalists doing such good work reporting this story, should also keep in mind the why of the matter. It will help explain the rest of the story.

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If it’s an ‘enemy,’ why must press serve as Trump’s chump?

    Questions to ask after one month of Trump:

    -- Is Stephen Colbert our new Edward R. Murrow?

    -- Is Stephen Miller a human or a hologram?

    -- The same for Kellyanne Conway: real or Memorex?

    -- If the media are, as Donald Trump says, enemies “of the American people,” why are members of the press genuflecting at his knee? Why are they indulging him at all?

    What would Ed Murrow say about Donald Trump? I promise you it would be curt.

    In 1953, the CBS icon initiated Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s fiery fall from eminence by assailing his “hysterical disregard for decency and human dignity.”

    Sixty-four years later, and on the same network, Stephen Colbert is taking on a president and his mouthpieces who show hysterical disregard for truth.

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We have met the enemy -- and he is us!

    Take a good look at all 45 presidents so far. Regardless of party, they all have one thing in common. From George Washington to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton to Donald Trump, they all had their problems with the media.

    Indeed, they all complained about their press coverage. But none of them hated -- yes, hated! -- the media like Donald Trump.

    For Trump, it's an obsession. His ego has no bounds. Any story that does not talk about how wonderful he is sets him off. It's just more proof, in his mind, that the "very, very dishonest media" are out to get him, advancing their own political agenda and actually working for the opposition party.

    Not only that. If media companies don't unabashedly praise Donald Trump, they might even be anti-American. On Friday, he told his 25 million Twitter followers: "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!"

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February 22nd

The death of a hero

    We buried one of my heroes on Friday. She was my mother-in-law.

    In the case of Helen Boyle, hero might be a form of understatement. Rather than begin with gushing words and bloated adjectives, permit me to recite just a few facts about her 85 years on this earth.

    She lost her father at age 5, and learned of his death from a kid on the street while she was walking home. He looked at her and said, in that mean and matter-of-fact way that kids can muster, "Your father's dead." Helen was shocked and didn't know what to say, so she snapped back, "I know," even though she didn't.

    When she was 38, she gave birth to twins, Neil and Sharon, who died within days of being born. From here, I will let her son Kevin pick up the story.

    "The pain that must've meant for my mother must've been extreme, but she had little time to grieve. More was waiting for her. Just a few weeks later my father went in for an operation for what they thought was an ulcer.

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Trump's hall of mirrors

    President Donald Trump's fake-news pivot isn't subtle. First he benefited from fake news stories during the campaign; then as president-elect and now president, he has constantly used the epithet against mainstream media outlets that dare criticize him.

    Any negative polls, he has proclaimed, are "fake news." So are news stories that put him in a bad light - even if they are corroborated by Trump's own officials, as with reports that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch termed comments about the judiciary "demoralizing" and "disheartening."

    What's happening here is more than the simple continuation of Trump's well-documented tendency as a candidate to lie flagrantly and refuse to back down. It is more than his narcissistic incapacity to receive bad news.

    It is more dangerous. Trump is deploying a strategy, used by autocrats, designed to completely disorient public perception. He's not just trying to spin the bad news of the day; all politicians do that. He seeks nothing less than to undermine the public's belief that any news can be trusted, that any news is true, that there is any fixed reality.

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Trump ethics means jobs for Washington lawyers

    Norm Eisen likens the appropriate response to President Donald Trump's ethics challenges to the broken-windows theory of crime prevention: If you stop the misdemeanors and minor felonies it might deter the serious stuff.

    Eisen, the ethics czar to President Barack Obama, now is chairing the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington with Richard Painter, the ethics counselor for President George W. Bush. The committee is bipartisan, but its fire is aimed at Trump.

    In less than a month it has filed two lawsuits, five actions or statements, and 37 freedom-of-information demands. These range from accusing Trump of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which forbids presidents from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments, to potential conflicts of interest involving the Trump family, to the lack of transparency involving outside advisers.

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The economy is already pretty great

    President Donald Trump asserts that the U.S. economy is a disaster and that he alone can fix it. The truth is that the U.S. economy is doing better than most Americans realize, and activist attempts to fix what ain't broke are one of the gravest threats to it. What's at stake is not simply that the president is vague or wrong about the facts. It's that bad facts make for bad policy.

    Since the second quarter of 2009, the U.S. economy has expanded consistently for almost eight years, a record that is already better than six of the 10 expansions since the 1950s. In contrast, the previous recovery, starting in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, lasted only six years. The Obama-Trump expansion will soon overtake the Reagan-Bush expansion of the 1980s, making it the third longest of the post-war era.

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The Republican war on deficits is a farce

    Mother Jones's Kevin Drum spotted a great quote from Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, who is concerned about Republican hypocrisy: "I hope we're not going to a place where all of the sudden, because we're in office, we don't think the deficit matters anymore."

    I want to reassure Corker, Drum, and everyone else (and there are a lot of them) who think Republicans care about federal budget deficits only when Democrats are in office. Nope. The truth is that most Republicans never care about federal budget deficits. They do talk about them strategically, so they sound hypocritical. But if you watch what they support, the truth is that most congressional Republicans and their allies flat-out reject the entire notion of budgeting.

    Budget deficits are, of course, the difference between revenues and spending. Call that, I don't know, the technical definition.

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