Opinion | Is It Policy- or Just Reality TV? – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“The other day the Trump administration announced a new trade deal with South Korea. It also announced that President Trump was nominating the White House physician to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. What do these announcements have in common?

The answer is that both are indicators of how Trump views his job. He doesn’t seem to see actual policymaking as important; instead, he treats it all as an exercise in reality TV.

Unfortunately, what looks good on TV isn’t necessarily good for America, or the world.Ronny L. Jackson, the veterans affairs nominee, certainly looks good on TV, as we saw when he gave Trump an excellent bill of health, including a declaration that the president, while overweight, is just shy of being officially obese — thanks to having apparently grown an inch in office.

However, girtherism isn’t the real issue here; as David Axelrod says, “a waist is a terrible thing to mind.” The point, instead, is that running veterans’ health is a management, not medical, job — and Jackson has no managerial experience.”

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Opinion | Mitch McConnell- Your Female Colleagues Are Fed Up – The New York Times

“Over the past six months, Americans have come to understand the galling ubiquity of sexual misconduct and how such misdeeds are too often swept under the rug. Now some of the most powerful women in the United States are saying they’ve waited long enough to address these issues at their own workplace.

All 22 female members of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, are demanding the chamber’s leadership stop stonewalling an overhaul of Congress’s byzantine method of handling complaints of sexual harassment against members of Congress and their staffs under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995.”

Wooing Saudi Business- Tabloid Mogul Had a Powerful Friend: Trump – The New York Times

“In July, David J. Pecker, the chairman of the company that owns The National Enquirer, visited his old friend President Trump at the White House.

The tabloid publisher took along a special guest, Kacy Grine, a French businessman who advises one of Saudi Arabia’s richest men and sometimes acts as an intermediary between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Western businesses.The two men and other Pecker associates chatted with the president in the Oval Office and briefly met with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy, Jared Kushner. Before moving on to dinner with the group, the president had a photographer snap pictures of the guests standing with him behind his desk.

Mr. Pecker has long used his media empire to protect Mr. Trump’s image. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Pecker’s company, American Media Inc., suppressed the story of a former Playboy model who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump.The night of the dinner, Mr. Pecker got something from Mr. Trump: an unofficial seal of approval from the White House.”

David Lindsay:

Ouch. I can’t wash this dirt off my hands, it won’t come off.  Yes to this article. Here is one of many comments I recommended:

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New York 1 hour ago

So Pecker buys the Stormy Daniels story and doesn’t print it thereby covering for Trump. In return, Trump hooks Pecker up with Saudi investors. I’ll bet Pecker would have done the same thing if the story were about Obama. Right?

Trump repeatedly told us he’d drain the swamp; instead he’s filled it with the shadiest, sleaziest, most corrupt collection Washington, D.C. has ever seen. The Republican Congress thinks everything is just fine. Please leave our boss alone so we can go back to work tearing down protections for the poor, minorities, the environment, women, the 99%, public education, victims of the N.R.A., etc. As Ryan has repeatedly told us, Trump is new to the job; we need to give him time to “get adjusted.” In 2018 and 2020 we need to tell the Republican Party that their brand is destroying America.

Opinion | The 2016 Exit Polls Led Us to Misinterpret the 2016 Election – The New York Timesby Thomas Edsall – NYT

“The Pew Research Center and the Center for American Progress have produced methodologically sophisticated surveys of the electorate that sharply contradict 2016 exit polls.Perhaps most significant, a March 20 Pew Research Center public opinion survey found that 33 percent of Democratic voters and Democratic leaners are whites without college degrees. That’s substantially larger than the 26 percent of Democrats who are whites with college degrees — the group that many analysts had come to believe was the dominant constituency in the party.

According to Pew, this noncollege white 33 percent makes up a larger bloc of the party’s voters than the 28 percent made up of racial and ethnic minorities without degrees. It is also larger than the 12 percent of Democratic voters made up of racial and ethnic minorities with college degrees.In sum, Pew’s more precise survey methods reveal that when Democrats are broken down by education, race and ethnicity, the white working class is the largest bloc of Democratic voters and substantially larger than the bloc of white college-educated Democratic voters.In a detailed analysis of the 2016 vote, Pew found that 44 percent, or 60.1 million out of a total of 136.7 million votes cast on Nov. 8, 2016 were cast by whites without college degrees — demographic shorthand for the white working class.”

Opinion | David J. Shulkin: Privatizing the V.A. Will Hurt Veterans – The New York Times

“It seems that these successes within the department have intensified the ambitions of people who want to put V.A. health care in the hands of the private sector. I believe differences in philosophy deserve robust debate, and solutions should be determined based on the merits of the arguments. The advocates within the administration for privatizing V.A. health services, however, reject this approach. They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed. That is because I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans.

Until the past few months, veteran issues were dealt with in a largely bipartisan way. (My 100-0 Senate confirmation was perhaps the best evidence that the V.A. has been the exception to Washington’s political polarization). Unfortunately, the department has become entangled in a brutal power struggle, with some political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what’s best for veterans. These individuals, who seek to privatize veteran health care as an alternative to government-run V.A. care, unfortunately fail to engage in realistic plans regarding who will care for the more than 9 million veterans who rely on the department for life-sustaining care.”

All the President’s Thugs – The New York Times

“Among the most disturbing accusations the pornographic film star Stephanie Clifford made in her “60 Minutes” interview about President Trump was that after she sold her story about Mr. Trump to a magazine in 2011, a man approached her in a parking lot, while she was with her infant daughter, and said: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.”

“And then he leaned around,” she continued, “and looked at my daughter and said: ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.’ ”Five years later, said Ms. Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, when Mr. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen offered to pay her $130,000 to be silent about her relationship with Mr. Trump, she took the deal because she “was concerned for my family and their safety.”

There is, of course, only Ms. Clifford’s word on this incident, which reads like a scene from a low-grade gangster movie. But this is not the first time that someone who has crossed Donald Trump has spoken of being threatened.”

Stormy Daniels Spanks Trump Again – by Michelle Goldberg – NYT

“Nevertheless, the Daniels interview aired on Sunday was important, portending danger for both Trump and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen. As I’ve written before, the Daniels affair is a corruption scandal disguised as a sex scandal. And on the corruption front, we learned things on Sunday that could help unravel Trump’s wretched presidency.

Daniels’s most shocking disclosure was her account of being threatened, apparently on Trump’s behalf, in 2011, a few weeks after agreeing to tell her story to a gossip magazine for $15,000. She said she was in a parking lot with her infant daughter when a man approached and said: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.” Then, she said, he looked at the baby and warned, “A beautiful little girl — it would be a shame if something happened to her mom.” “

The Danger of President Pence | by Jane Mayer – The New Yorker

“The Kochs, who are not religious, may have been focussed more on pocketbook issues than on Pence’s faith. According to Scott Peterson, the executive director of the Checks & Balances Project, a watchdog group that monitors attempts to influence environmental policy, Pence was invited to the Koch seminar only after he did the brothers a major political favor. By the spring of 2009, Koch Industries, like other fossil-fuel companies, felt threatened by growing support in Congress for curbing carbon emissions, the primary cause of climate change. Americans for Prosperity devised a “No Climate Tax” pledge for candidates to sign, promising not to spend any government funds on limiting carbon pollution. At first, the campaign languished, attracting only fourteen signatures. The House, meanwhile, was moving toward passage of a “cap and trade” bill, which would charge companies for carbon pollution. If the bill were enacted, the costs could be catastrophic to Koch Industries, which releases some twenty-four million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year, and owns millions of acres of untapped oil reserves in Canada, plus coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.

Pence, who had called global warming “a myth” created by environmentalists in their “latest Chicken Little attempt to raise taxes,” took up the Kochs’ cause. He not only signed their pledge but urged others to do so as well. He gave speeches denouncing the cap-and-trade bill—which passed the House but got held up in the Senate—as a “declaration of war on the Midwest.” His language echoed that of the Koch groups. Americans for Prosperity called the bill “the largest excise tax in history,” and Pence called it “the largest tax increase in American history.” (Neither statement was true.) He used a map created by the Heritage Foundation, which the Kochs supported, to make his case, and he urged House Republicans to hold “energy summits” opposing the legislation in their districts, sending them home over the summer recess with kits to bolster their presentations.

According to the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, after Pence began promoting the Kochs’ pledge the number of signatories in the House soared, reaching a hundred and fifty-six. James Valvo, the policy director for Americans for Prosperity, who spearheaded the pledge, told the Reporting Workshop that support from Pence and other Republicans helped “a scrappy outlier” become “the established position.” The cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate.”

Source: The Danger of President Pence | The New Yorker

Putting the Ex-Con in Conservatism – Paul Krugman – NYT

“And this sustained reliance on the big con has, over time, exerted a strong selection effect both on the party’s leadership and on its base. G.O.P. politicians tend disproportionately to be con men (and in some cases, con women), because playing the party’s political game requires both a willingness to and a talent for saying one thing while doing another. And the party’s base consists disproportionately of the easily conned — those who are easily fooled by claims that Those People are the problem and don’t notice how much the true Republican agenda hurts them.

The point is that Trumpism was more or less fated to happen. Trump’s crude racism and blatant dishonesty are only exaggerated versions of what his party has been selling for decades, while his substantive policy agenda — slashing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, taking health care away from lower-income families — is utterly orthodox.

Even his protectionism is less of a departure from Republican norms than people imagine. George W. Bush put tariffs on steel, while Reagan limited imports of Japanese autos. Cutting taxes on the rich is a fundamental G.O.P. principle; free trade isn’t.Once you realize the extent to which Republican politics has been shaped by the big con, three implications follow.”

‘Hush Money’ Now Playing Everywhere – Gail Collins and Bret Stephens – NYT

“Speaking of which, I know we’re in agreement about the gun issue, and nearly everybody was moved by the marches over the weekend. But I still do wonder why the country was so totally mobilized by what happened in Florida when the response to previous disasters — for God’s sake, grade-school kids in Newtown — was so comparatively muted.

Do you think it was because these survivors are older and so articulate? Or that having Trump in the White House made everyone more sensitive to moral issues? I even wondered if it was because this time it happened in a political barometer-state like Florida.Bret: All of the above, I suspect. The Parkland students have spoken out to magnificent effect, something the Newtown children were simply too young to do for themselves.

I also get the sense that the pace of these atrocities has accelerated. Before Parkland it was the church shooting in Sutherland Springs. Before that, the concertgoers in Las Vegas. Before that, the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise at the baseball field near Washington. Maybe, at some level of the national psyche, we understood that we we’re coming dangerously close to accepting these atrocities as an accepted fact of life. Defining deviancy down for the sake of Wayne LaPierre’s N.R.A.? No, thank you.

Gail: Whenever I feel depressed I remind myself that the N.R.A. is having its worst year ever.Bret: One of the paradoxes of the Trump presidency is that it has galvanized the country in all sorts of positive ways. From Charlottesville to l’Affaire Stormy, he has brought to the surface all sorts of ugliness that is simply unignorable. For instance, do you think the #MeToo movement would have taken hold the way it did if he weren’t in the White House?

Gail: It’s a necessary stage in women’s progress — socially and economically — so we’d have gotten there anyway. But having the worst-possible male image in the White House probably propelled things forward faster.

I guess you could say he’s so bad he’s making us better.

David Lindsay: Yes. Here is one of many good comments:

R. Law is a trusted commenter Texas 2 hours ago
Gail, you say:

“But I still do wonder why the country was so totally mobilized by what happened in Florida when the response to previous disasters — for God’s sake, grade-school kids in Newtown — was so comparatively muted.”

Partly this was because Parkland had just been named the safest city in Florida, partly this was because the city is only a 1/2 hour drive from Mar-a-Loco (the southern asylum), but mostly, it’s because Broward County tax-payers support a school district that EDUCATES their kids – the schools require public speaking instruction from an early age and THIS year, the kids in high school were already debating gun control, as all aptly described by Dahlia Lithwick’s article:

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/02/the-student-activists-of-mar…

There’s really a wonderful story here of actual, comprehensive public education that deserves more focus, which raises standards in surrounding counties as it partly bleeds over into the way Miami-Dade’s schools are run by the superintendent that NYC unsuccessfully tried to lure as its Schools Chancellor.

Kudos to Broward County tax-payers, and to the educators who devised/implementedthe excellent curriculum to motivate future leaders to excel, producing such dynamic, well-spoken young leaders !”
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