‘Hush Money’ Now Playing Everywhere – Gail Collins and Brett 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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Trump Really Wants His Wingman – by Gail Collins. Lindsay and Schomaker respond.

“Donald Trump may be going to Korea! Also, to Moon Township, Pa.!

While the president’s plan to have direct talks with the North Koreans is fascinating, in a sort of unnerving way, right now we’re going to look at the Moon Township angle. There’s a special House election coming up on Tuesday, and it’s perfectly possible that when it comes to international détente versus the 18th Congressional District, the White House’s real fixation is western Pennsylvania.

The 18th C.D. is at the heart of the white, working-class vote that won Trump the Electoral College. It also has wildly gerrymandered borders aimed at guaranteeing Republican control unless the incumbent does something incredible, like championing anti-abortion legislation after hinting to his mistress that she ought to get an abortion if she’s pregnant.

Whoops. That was Representative Tim Murphy. Gone but not forgotten.

So there’s this special election, which features Democrat Conor Lamb, a handsome young former federal prosecutor, versus Rick Saccone, a Republican state representative who is hanging onto Donald Trump like — um, we will not say Stormy Daniels. That would be totally tacky, and this is a serious political moment. We’ll just say that Saccone says he wants to go to Washington and be the president’s “wingman.”

David Lindsay:
We gave a modest donation to Conor Lamb today—$20. Kathleen Schomaker and I decided to do this after reading about him in the NY Times during the last two weeks, and I probably posted some of those articles to blog 1, InconvenientNews.wordpress.com. Today, Gail Collins’ piece put us over the top. But then I hesitated.
Should we support this insurgency in the rust belt of Pennsylvania? Sun Tsu, in The Art of War, wrote that the best attack is a surprise attack. Should we hold our very limited powder and shot for the November 2018 election, so as not to warn the right wing billionaires that they have to do even more to secure their electoral gains?
I have read in the NYT recently that the Trumpistas are calling all hands to make sure their surrogate wins this special election, since Trump won this district by 20%. They do not want the resistance to see that they can draw blood. However, this is not a military battle in southern China, but a political awakening of the diverse progressive sub-groups in the United States, who don’t regularly bother to go to the polls and vote, and of white working class folk, who are realizing that Trump is an environmental, political and economic disaster for the nation and the world.
While there is a small danger that early progressive victories might invigorate Trump’s billionaire financial supporters, we decided that there is a bigger benefit to drawing blood, and creating some sense that Americans can work together to fight the propaganda and fake news of the Trumpistas and the right-wing oil and gas and media billionaires.

Trump’s Worst Watcher – by Gail Collins – NYT

“Do you remember back when everybody thought John Kelly was going to calm down the Trump White House?Stop laughing. Although it has been another wow of a week, hasn’t it? We had one top administration official, Rob Porter, resigning over claims of domestic abuse regarding two ex-wives. Kelly defended Porter as “a friend, a confidant and a trusted professional” shortly before a picture popped up of one former Mrs. Porter sporting a black eye.

This was a little bit after Kelly himself made headlines for suggesting that some young immigrants couldn’t qualify for federal help because they were just “too lazy to get off their asses” and file some paperwork. Meanwhile the president, apparently unsupervised, was calling for a government shutdown and lobbying enthusiastically for an expensive new military parade. Because he saw one in Paris and thought it was cool.A good chief of staff advises the president against doing things that will make the administration look stupid or crazy. So, are we all in agreement that Kelly, retired general turned Trump chief of staff, appears to be … a failure? And sort of a jerk in the bargain?When Kelly first came over to run the Trump team there was near-unanimous expectation that he’d be the adult in the room. And indeed the chain of command got more efficient and some problem employees were evicted. However, there’s a limit to how long you can live off your laurels for firing Omarosa and The Mooch.”

Socrates is a trusted commenter Downtown Verona. NJ 15 hours ago
Here are John Kelly’s full ‘fine people’ remarks:

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

“That (John Kelly) statement could have been given by Confederate general (and unrepentant rebel) Jubal Early in 1880,” said Stephanie McCurry, history professor at Columbia.

“It’s the Jim Crow version of the causes of the Civil War. It tracks all of the major (revisionist) talking points of this pro-Confederate view of the Civil War.”

“The South wanted a separate nation where they could protect slavery into the indefinite future. That’s what they said when they seceded. That’s what they said in their constitution when they wrote one,” said McCurry.

“This is profound ignorance; that’s what one has to say first, at least of pretty basic things about the American historical narrative. I mean, it’s one thing to hear it from Trump, who, let’s be honest, just really doesn’t know any history and has demonstrated it over and over and over. But General Kelly has a long history in the American military,” says historian David Blight.

It turns out there are no ‘fine people’ in the Trump Administration.

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David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT Pending Approval
I wanted to quibble with Gail over her words, “It’s hard to remember many times that Kelly’s outspokenness helped the president out of trouble. After the Charlottesville tragedy, he did look depressed while Trump blathered an off-key defense of the Nazi-friendly marchers. But later when Kelly had a chance to comment himself, he offered up a theory that the Civil War was caused by “the lack of an ability to compromise.””
Socrates above has a better response than mine, but the quibble remains. There is some truth in what John Kelly said. I remember reading one famous historian who wrote, One of the great causes of the Civil War was that both sides underestimated the seriousness of the other side. Both sides thought the other side would collape or negotiate after the first gunshots were fired. In other words, both sides had a kind of arrogant stupidity, which actually, has been a trademark of American foreign policy debacles in the last half century. Think Vietnam and Iraq. An ability to compromise with the political opposition requires some humility, and the intelligence to realize that the truth is hard to discern if you happen to be human. As Sun Tsu wrote, one of great laws of war is to know your enemy as well as you know yourself. If you can’t easily win, don’t engage in warfare.
x
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at The TaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

On What Planet Is the F.B.I. Anti-Republican? – By GAIL COLLINS and BRET STEPHENS – NYT

Bret: Punxsutawney Phil might want to cover his ears for this one: Barring a market meltdown, Democratic chances of retaking one or both houses of Congress are slipping. Trump outplayed Chuck Schumer over the government shutdown, and he’s outplaying (or out-demagoguing) Democrats on immigration, too. For immigration restrictionists, showing charity toward the Dreamers is a relatively small price to pay for building a wall and fundamentally changing the rules of the game when it comes to who gets a shot at coming to this country. His State of the Union line that “Americans are dreamers, too” pretty much sums it up.

I could be wrong for all sorts of reasons, but I think Democrats need to stop playing to the most passionate quarters of their Trump-hating base and start targeting a different demographic: namely, the millions of people who voted for Obama in 2012 but went for Trump in 2016.

DL: Amen.

Stupid Trump Tricks – by Gail Collins – NYT

“If we were going to cruise down the highway of political virtue this week, talking policy and watching the climate change, we’d discuss health care. Trump is deliberately undermining a program that many working and middle-class Americans rely on to pay for their insurance coverage. Among many deeply depressing changes, he’s axing government payments to insurance companies that help subsidize policies for the poor.

On Friday the president talked about it very briefly with reporters. But he managed to explain, in a nanosecond, why he hates the subsidies: “Take a look at who those insurance companies support and I guarantee you one thing. It’s not Donald Trump.”

Low road beckons. Really, it’s waving its hand in desperation. So let’s just mention that at the signing ceremony held to celebrate one of the new health-care-wrecking changes, Trump forgot to sign. Pence had to drag him back to the little bitty table to write down his name.

There are good reasons the most influential commentators on this administration are the late-night comedians.”

Spot on Gail Collins.

Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski- the Health Vote Heroines – by Gail Collins – NYT

“And he underestimated two Senate Republicans, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. John McCain’s “no” vote was the high point of the drama, but Collins and Murkowski were the fierce, consistent forces of resistance that gave McCain his opportunity.
My favorite moment came when Trump dispatched Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to warn Murkowski that if she continued to vote against the bill, her home state of Alaska would lose stuff it wanted from the federal government.”

Wow- Trump Can’t Terminate – by Gail Collins – NYT

Gail Collins today is priceless. For everything else, there is Mastercard.

“Trump appears completely unaware that he’s beginning to look like the worst terminator in history. Introducing Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, at an event this week, the president jovially said that Price had better get the health care bill passed through Congress, “otherwise, I’ll say: ‘Tom, you’re fired.’ I’ll get somebody.”

This was at that Boy Scouts jamboree when Trump did such a great job of impersonating your Uncle Fred Who Gets Drunk at Family Dinners. How many of you think the Boy Scouts have been yearning for the day when the president would come to their big event, tell the teens that their federal government is a “sewer,” recount a long and incoherent story about a real estate developer who went off to make whoopee on his yacht, and brag incessantly about having won the election? On the plus side, Trump did not misrepresent the Scout position on Hezbollah.”

To understand this brilliantly funny last line, you will have to read all of Gail’s column.

The Warp-Speed Presidency – by Gail Collins and Brett Stevens – NYT

“Gail Collins: Bret, it’s been a while since I had a chance to converse with a fellow Times columnist. Welcome! And in honor of your arrival, you get to choose our first subject.

Bret Stephens: Thanks, Gail. It’s flattering to step into David Brooks’s shoes. Kinda daunting, too.Here’s my topic: Acceleration. The pace of news, of scandal, of Trump. It’s like a hot dog-eating contest. We’re shoveling in the Trump news with little time to chew it over and even less time to digest it.

I know this is a little dated but the other week I noticed someone on Twitter trying to summarize five days’ worth of Trump news. I can’t find the tweet but here is how I remember it. On Monday it was 18 Days of Flynn. On Tuesday we had the Comey Firing. Wednesday brought the full flowering of the Rosenstein Defense. With Thursday came the Holt Admission. Friday featured the Comey Threatening.”

Nice column. Good comments. This one inspired my to post the op-ed.

Historian Aggieland, TX 13 hours ago

“Conservatives always point out that U.S. corporate tax rates are among the highest in the world, but they don’t tell the rest of the story. There are so many loopholes that 26 firms, among the Citigroup and AT&T, paid more to their CEO alone than they paid in corporate taxes in 2011. In fact, our corporate tax revenue, 1.8 percent of GNP, is tied with Turkey for the lowest in the developed world. If libertarian models are correct, our current corporate tax structure manages to achieve the worst of all possible worlds: the least revenue and the most economic distortion from attempts to dodge it. We need to lower the nominal rate, but also to devise policies that assure it is actually paid. For starters, restore the old rule on offshoring that requires any corporation with less than 50 percent foreign ownership to be taxed as American.”

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Trump’s Can’t-Do Record – by Gail Collins – NYT

“Well, heck, who said Donald Trump isn’t going to accomplish anything in his first 100 days? All of a sudden there’s a one-page tax plan and a raft of deal-making, while the Senate was bused over to the White House grounds for a briefing on North Korea.

Maybe the president believes that when you can make an entire chamber of Congress ride around like so many tour groups, the world will understand that you’re a can-do kind of guy.”

David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval at NYT

Gail,
This is a very funny piece, thank you. I can’t get over how the commentators do not reference your piece at all. They are so busy continuing their own personal public blog, that they do not even reference that they are enjoying your readership, and your fount of wit.

One of the better belly laughs: “Everybody knows that Trump wants a can-do record when he hits Day 100 on Saturday. To get there, he appeared to be adopting the garb of Somewhat Normal Republican (SNORE).”

The Trump War on Public Schools – by Gail Collins – The New York Times

“One of the most disturbing things about the Trump administration is its antipathy toward public schools.

Perhaps you remember the president’s mini-rant in his inaugural speech about an “education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”

Well, Trump’s choice for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, is responsible for Michigan’s charter school boom, which currently costs the state about $1.1 billion a year. A 2014 investigation by The Detroit Free Press found myriad examples of “wasteful spending and double-dipping.” Thanks in large part to DeVos’s lobbying in the Legislature, there’s virtually no oversight. So much for the young and beautiful students.

Take that for a rant.”