April 27th, 2017

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ON THE RECORD.....

“The only way I will vote to fund the stupid border wall idea of Donald Trump is if Russia pays for it.” — Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)

Trump’s border wall is just a stupid use of money. I will block any funding for it. --Kamala Harris ✔@KamalaHarris

“We’ll tell ‘em to pound sand.” -- Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), ranking member on the House Budget Committee, saying that the Democrats are prepared to shut down the government if the White House insists that the wall funding be included. 4/22/17

“More than a belief in the power of positive thinking or the casual audacity of a tireless salesman, Trump has perfected a narrative style in which he doesn’t merely obscure reality—he tries to change it with pronouncements that act like blaring, garish roadside billboards. Unrelenting in telling his own story, he has defined himself as a success no matter what—by talking the loudest and the longest, and by insisting on having the first word and also the last. And it’s worked. Again and again, throughout his adult life, Trump in essence has managed to succeed without actually succeeding.” -- Michael Kruse 4/23/17

“Congratulations. Tremendous.” -- Trump while presenting the Purple Heart to Sergeant First Class Alvaro Barrientos, who was recently injured in Afghanistan. 4/23/17

“We want wall funding. We want (immigration) agents. Those are our priorities… We know there are a lot of people on the Hill, especially in the Democratic Party, who don’t like the wall, but they lost the election.”-- OMB Director Mick Mulvaney4/21/17 http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/20/trump-government-shutdown-talks-237435

IN THIS ISSUE

FYI

1. Russian Think Tank Had Plan to Help Elect Trump
2. Ted Nugent’s repeated calls for Obama’s death didn’t stop Trump from hosting him at the White House
3. The DAILY GRILL
4. Mental Health Professionals Warn About Trump
5. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
6. House Democrats Grow Bullish After Trump Stumbles
7. Polls
8. Inside Democrats’ Campaign School
9. Andy Borowitz: Obama’s Barrage Of Complete Sentences Seen As Brutal Attack On Trump
10. Trump Will Not Pay for Proposed .Cuts
11. Sources: Russia tried to use Trump advisers to infiltrate Trump campaign
12. GunFAIL CCXXXIV
13. The Swamp Is Getting Tired Of Winning
14. Long hours, low pay at Chinese factory used by Ivanka Trump’s clothing-maker
15. Late Nite Jokes

OPINION

1. David Brooks: The Crisis of Western Civ
2. Antony J. Blinken: How America Is Losing the Credibility War
3. Paul Krugman: The Balloon, the Box and Health Care
4. NY Times Editorial: Donald Trump Threatens to Sabotage Obamacare
5. Charles M. Blow: A Fake and a Fraud
6. Philip H. Gordon: A Vision of Trump at War
7. Jeet Heer: Nixon Had His “Madman Theory.” Trump Is Just a Madman.
8. Brian Beutler: When Donald Trump Needs a Win, America Loses
9. Jeff Shesol: Can President Trump Learn On The Job?
10. David Remnick: A Hundred Days Of Trump
11. Paul Krugman: Zombies of Voodoo Economics
12. Bob Cesca: Donald Trump literally knows nothing: The moronic fiction of his “really, really good” health care plan is now obvious
13. Graydon Carter: Trump Family Values
14. Max Boot: America Is Getting Used to Trump’s Insanity
15. Amy Davidson: Donald Trump’s Unintelligible Presidency

FYI

1. Russian Think Tank Had Plan to Help Elect Trump

“A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system,” three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.

“They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election.”

“It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said.” 4/19/17 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-election-exclusive-idUSKBN17L2N3

2. Ted Nugent’s repeated calls for Obama’s death didn’t stop Trump from hosting him at the White House

Deplorable.

On Wednesday evening, President Trump dined and posed for photos with rock star Ted Nugent, a man who became the target of a Secret Service investigation after he said in 2012 that if President Obama were reelected, Nugent would “either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

Nugent’s 2012 comments about Obama — who he has called a “piece of shit” and a “subhuman mongrel” — are far from the only threat he’s made against prominent Democrats. As the Daily Beast chronicled, Nugent discussed shooting Harry Reid during the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in 2015. In January 2016, he called for both Obama and Clinton to “be tried for treason & hung.” Nugent once called Clinton a “worthless bitch” and called for her to “ride one of these [guns] into the sunset.” He told Obama to “suck on my machine gun.”

Nugent’s reprehensibleness goes beyond making threats.

And yet Trump invited him to the White House anyway. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise — after Nugent’s 2012 comment about how he’d “either be dead or in jail by this time next year” if Obama won reelection, Trump defended him and suggested his comments were justified.

On her website, Palin wrote that “President Trump’s invitation for dinner included bringing a couple of friends; it was the highest honor to have great Americans who are independent, hardworking, patriotic, and unafraid share commonsense solutions at the White House.” https://thinkprogress.org/trump-hosts-ted-nugent-white-house-c0da4b94c51


3. The DAILY GRILL

I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power. --Attorney General JeffJessions

VERSUS

“Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics,” adding, “Hawaii was built on the strength of diversity & immigrant experiences- including my own. Jeff Sessions’ comments are ignorant & dangerous.” -- Senator Mazie Hirono (Hawaii D)

 

"We'd offer them $1 of CSR payments for $1 of wall payments. Right now that's the offer that we've given to our Democratic colleagues," -- Trump's budget chief, Mick Mulvaney referring to the insurance company reimbursements known as cost-sharing reduction (CSR) which offset costs for insurers who cover ObamaCare's low-income enrollees. http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/329961-mulvaney-white-house-offering-trade-on-obamacare-border-wall

 VERSUS

"The White House gambit to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, in order to force American taxpayers to foot the bill for a wall that the President said would be paid for by Mexico is a complete nonstarter." -- Matt House, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

 

New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s “soft on crime” stance.” -- From a Justice Department statement, justifying a letter sent out to nine so-called “sanctuary cities” threatening loss of federal funds if they don’t collaborate and assist Trump administration immigration policies.

VERSUS

The US Department of Justice is fearmongering in a way utter untethered from reality. NYC is SAFER across the board than in 2016. -- John Pfaff @JohnFPfaff

 

Hillary Clinton is to blame for her defeat. Period. http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/18/politics/hillary-clinton-new-book/index.html  -- Chris Cillizza ✔@CillizzaCNN

VERSUS

Remember: Every losing campaign was run by idiots. Every winning campaign, geniuses. Rise, repeat. -- Josh Marshall ✔@joshtpm

 

“We're going to get paid for it one way or the other. I know there's $4 billion a year in excess payments, according to the Department of the Treasury's own inspector general several years ago, that are going to payments to people — tax credits that they shouldn't get. Now, these are mostly Mexicans. And those kind of things add up — $4 billion a year for 10 years is $40 billion. There are a lot of ways we can find money to help pay for this (wall).” — Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to ABC’s This Week.

VERSUS

"The vast majority of that $4.2 billion, the filer may be undocumented, but you have to have a child to receive it. And the children are overwhelmingly U.S. citizens.” -- Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

4. Mental Health Professionals Warn About Trump

Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists).

In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president. -- Letter to the NY Times fromDr. Dodes is a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Schachter is a former chairman of the Committee on Research Proposals, International Psychoanalytic Association, signed by 33 other psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/opinion/mental-health-professionals-warn-about-trump.html?smid=fb-share&_r=2

5. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

Right-Wing Outlets Falsely Claim Former CIA Director “Colluded” With Foreign Countries To Oppose Trump. https://mediamatters.org/research/2017/04/21/right-wing-outlets-falsely-claim-former-cia-director-colluded-foreign-countries-oppose-trump/216142

6. House Democrats Grow Bullish After Trump Stumbles

House Democrats are heading toward the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency with the kind of feel-good unity they haven’t experienced since the election, the Washington Post reports.

Coming off a rowdy recess where Republicans continued to be skewered by constituents on everything from health care to Russia to Trump’s tax returns, Democrats say walking through the political wilderness isn’t so bad — at least for now.

It’s a stunning reversal from the despair dominating the caucus just a few months ago when Trump entered the White House and Republicans seemed poised to wreak havoc on Democratic priorities. 4/23/17 http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/23/house-democrats-mood-trump-237470

7. Polls

-- Trump's Job Approval in First Quarter Lowest by 14 Points: Gallup finds that Donald Trump averaged 41% job approval during his first quarter as president, 14 percentage points lower than any other president in Gallup’s polling history. Bill Clinton had the previous low mark of 55%. The average first-quarter rating among post-World War II presidents elected to their first term is 61%, with John Kennedy’s 74% the highest.” 4/20/17 http://www.gallup.com/poll/208778/trump-job-approval-first-quarter-lowest-points.aspx

-- Democrats Hold Big Enthusiasm Edge for 2018: A new Public Policy Polling survey finds Democrats lead the generic congressional ballot by 47% to 41%. But what’s more notable is the enthusiasm imbalance. 63% of Democrats say they’re ‘very excited’ about voting in the 2018 election, compared to only 52% of Republicans who express that sentiment. When you look at the 2018 House picture just among the voters most excited about turning out next year, the lead for Democrats grows to 19 points at 57-38. Republican leaning voters are comparatively disengaged, with the GOP holding advantages only among voters who are ‘somewhat excited’ (48-40) and ‘not that excited’ (46-31). http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2017/04/democrats-have-big-enthusiasm-edge-for-2018.html

-- Majority Want Independent Probe of Russian Tampering: A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that 73% of Americans want an independent, non-partisan commission instead of Congress to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.Still, a majority of Americans — 54 percent — believe that Congress should investigate whether there was contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, which is essentially unchanged from February's NBC/WSJ poll. That includes 84 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents who want to see this congressional investigation, but just 21 percent of Republican respondents who want it. http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/poll-73-back-independent-probe-russian-election-interference-n750161

-- Support for Immigration and Trade Hit New Highs: Americans’ support for immigration and free trade hit record highs in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, just three months after the inauguration of a president who pledged to curtail both.”Six in 10 Americans said immigration helps the nation more than it hurts—up 6 points since the last sounding, in September 2016…. Support for free trade rose slightly in the latest survey, with 57% saying it is beneficial for the U.S. and 37% saying it isn’t—a gap of 20 points, and a record level of support. https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-back-immigration-and-trade-at-record-levels-1493092861

-- Young Voters Still Don’t Like Trump: A new Harvard IOP poll finds that just 32% of 18 to 29 year old Americans approve of President Trump’s job performance overall. http://iop.harvard.edu/youth-poll/harvard-iop-spring-17-poll

-- Americans Don’t Want to Repeal Obamacare: A new ABC News-Washington Post poll finds just 37% of Americans say Obamacare should be repealed and replaced; 61% say it should be kept and fixed instead. Even more broadly, the public by 79% to 13% says Trump should seek to make the current law work as well as possible, not to make it fail as soon as possible, a strategy he’s suggested.4/25/17 http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/appetite-repealing-obamacare-large-majorities-support-key-provisions/story?id=46989828

-- Most Say Russia Tried to Influence Election: A new ABC News-Washington Post poll finds that 56% of Americans think Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election, and 39% think the Trump campaign intentionally tried to assist such an effort. Just among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, suspicions soar: Sixty percent think Trump aides assisted Russian efforts. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/views-russian-influence-reflect-partisan-finger-pointing-poll/story?id=47008462

8. Inside Democrats’ Campaign School

If an anti-Donald Trump wave is coming, House Democrats want to be ready to catch it. So they're sending hundreds of operatives to school in a massive training operation that they say is bigger and starting earlier than anything the party has attempted before.

Over 1,300 aspiring campaign managers, field directors, and finance chiefs have so far enrolled in what the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is calling "DCCC-University."

Like "American Idol" for political junkies, students who show the most promise in each of the cities will be invited to a more advanced course in Washington, D.C. 4/24/17 http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/democrats-vs-trump/democrats-hold-american-idol-events-take-trump-n749546

9. Andy Borowitz: Obama’s Barrage Of Complete Sentences Seen As Brutal Attack On Trump

In an appearance at the University of Chicago on Monday, former President Barack Obama unloaded a relentless barrage of complete sentences in what was widely seen as a brutal attack on his successor, Donald Trump.

Appearing at his first public event since leaving office, Obama fired off a punishing fusillade of grammatically correct sentences, the likes of which the American people have not heard from the White House since he departed.

“About five or six sentences in, I noticed that all of his sentences had both nouns and verbs in them,” Carol Foyler, a student at the event, said. “I couldn’t believe he was going after Trump like that.”

Obama’s blistering deployment of complete sentences clearly got under the skin of their intended target, who, moments after the event, responded with an angry tweet: “Obama bad (or sick) guy. Failing. Sad!” http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/

10. Trump Will Not Pay for Proposed Tax Cuts

The Trump Administration has no plans to pay for its proposed tax cuts, according to revealing comments made Thursday by top White House officials Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin at an Institute of International Finance conference. There will be no border adjustment tax — the trillion-dollar hike on imports raised in Paul Ryan’s plan — nor any other big new revenue generators.

“Both Cohn and Mnuchin said economic growth would be the primary way to pay for corporate and individual tax cuts, while fewer deductions and tax simplification would also play roles. It is not an opinion that is widely shared by on Capitol Hill, including among Republicans.” 4/20/17 https://www.axios.com/trump-tax-cuts-wont-be-paid-for-2370992617.html

11. Sources: Russia tried to use Trump advisers to infiltrate campaign

The FBI gathered intelligence last summer that suggests Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisers, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign, according to US officials.

The new information adds to the emerging picture of how the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election, not only through email hacks and propaganda but also by trying to infiltrate the Trump orbit. The intelligence led to an investigation into the coordination of Trump's campaign associates and the Russians.

Intelligence analysts and FBI investigators who analyzed various strands of intelligence from human sources to electronic and financial records have found signs of possible collusion between the campaign and Russian officials. But there is not enough evidence to show that crimes were committed, US officials say. .4/21/17 http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/21/politics/russia-trump-campaign-advisers-infiltrate/

12. GunFAIL CCXXXIV

The week of the February 19-25 was a humdinger. I don’t know what was going on in gun world, but that week saw 79 forgotten guns picked up by TSA agents in the carry-on luggage of airline travelers across the country, 21 people who accidentally shot themselves, 12 kids accidentally shot, 9 accidental gun fatalities, 8 law enforcement officers involved in gun accidents, 8 people who accidentally fired their weapons while out shopping and dining among the rest of us, 8 people who accidentally shot family members or significant others, 4 people who accidentally fired their guns while cleaning or disassembling them, and 3 who accidentally fired them into neighboring homes and apartments. Details and more at http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/4/21/1635593/-Is-that-a-tax-refund-in-your-pocket-or-are-you-just-happy-to-see-me-GunFAIL-CCXXXIV

13. The Swamp Is Getting Tired Of Winning

While the president has his moments where he harkens back to populist campaign-style Trump — as he did last week in Wisconsin on a buying and hiring American initiative — the swamp he pledged to drain remains as murky and swampy as ever.

There are lobbyists waivers, the White House’s decision to not release visitor logs, and some personnel decisions (like Trump recently saying nice things about Janet Yellen). These decisions have left some in Trumpland scratching their heads and wondering if the swamp was just too rooted in Washington.

“You’ve heard of The Empire Strikes Back? Well, the swamp has struck back,” said a source close to the administration. “The establishment has ruled Washington, DC, for so long, it’s so entrenched and powerful, it’s proving harder to kill than we envisioned.” 4/28/17 https://www.buzzfeed.com/adriancarrasquillo/the-swamp-is-getting-tired-of-winning?utm_term=.iyQ1EpWVBx#.jsN3QLjzo1

14. Long hours, low pay at Chinese factory used by Ivanka Trump’s clothing-maker

“Workers at a factory in China used by the company that makes clothing for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line and other brands worked nearly 60 hours a week to earn wages of little more than $62 a week,” the Washington Post reports. 4/26/17 https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/workers-endured-long-hours-low-pay-at-chinese-factory-used-by-ivanka-trumps-clothing-maker/2017/04/25/b6fe6608-2924-11e7-b605-33413c691853_story.html

15. Late Nite Jokes for Dems

Sarah Palin visited the White House along with Ted Nugent and Kid Rock. All three expressed their regrets that Honey Boo Boo couldn't make it. -- Conan O’Brien

Today, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned that he might unleash a “super mighty preemptive strike.” When she heard, Mrs. Kim Jong-un rolled her eyes and said, "Trust me, I wouldn’t worry about it." -- Conan O’Brien

President Trump had a very important meeting in the Oval Office with Ted Nugent and Kid Rock. How the hell did they get into the White House? Kid Rock is not even allowed in a Waffle House. -- Jimmy Kimmel

A new report says the U.S. border wall could cost three times as much as previously estimated. However, Trump says he’ll keep costs down with his secret business trick called “not paying for stuff. -- Conan O’Brien

Fox News fired Bill O’Reilly. The head of Fox News said, “There’s only one place for an angry old guy that demeans women, and that’s the White House.” -- Conan O’Brien

This is a lesson for all of us: If you behave like an animal who sexually harasses women, you can’t host a talk show. You can be president, but you can’t host a talk show. -- James Corden

At the White House today, President Trump hosted the Super Bowl champion, the New England Patriots. You know, they were lucky to catch the president. It’s Wednesday — usually he’s on his way to the Mar-a-Lago for the weekend. -- Jimmy Kimmel

They celebrated O’Reilly’s career, saying, “By ratings standards, Bill O’Reilly is one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news.” By rating stands he is. By moral standards, he was a self-righteous landfill of angry garbage. -- Stephen Colbert

OPINION

1. David Brooks: The Crisis of Western Civilization

Over the past few years especially, we have entered the age of strong men. We are leaving the age of Obama, Cameron and Merkel and entering the age of Putin, Erdogan, el-Sisi, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.

In America, the basic fabric of civic self-government seems to be eroding following the loss of faith in democratic ideals. According to a study published in The Journal of Democracy, the share of young Americans who say it is absolutely important to live in a democratic country has dropped from 91 percent in the 1930s to 57 percent today.

While running for office, Donald Trump violated every norm of statesmanship built up over these many centuries, and it turned out many people didn’t notice or didn’t care.

The faith in the West collapsed from within. It’s amazing how slow people have been to rise to defend it.

There have been a few lonely voices. Andrew Michta laments the loss of Western confidence in an essay in The American Interest. Edward Luce offers a response in his forthcoming book “The Retreat of Western Liberalism.” But liberalism has been docile in defense of itself.

These days, the whole idea of Western civ is assumed to be reactionary and oppressive. All I can say is, if you think that was reactionary and oppressive, wait until you get a load of the world that comes after it. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/opinion/the-crisis-of-western-civ.html?_r=0

2. Antony J. Blinken: How America Is Losing the Credibility War

As President Trump confronts the twin challenges of North Korea and Syria, he must overcome a credibility gap of his own making. His insistence on remaining the most prominent consumer and purveyor of fake news and conspiracy theories is not only corrosive of our democracy — it’s dangerous to our national security. Every fact-averse tweet devalues his credibility at home and around the world. This matters more than ever when misinformation is a weapon of choice for our most dangerous adversaries.

Part of the problem is that Mr. Trump’s itchy Twitter finger can’t resist bluster. A series of sophomoric presidential missives — “North Korea is behaving very badly”; “North Korea is looking for trouble”; if China won’t help, “we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”; North Korea’s quest for a nuclear-tipped ICBM “won’t happen!” — has given Pyongyang a rare chance to take the high road. “Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” its vice foreign minister declared.

Equally problematic is Mr. Trump’s challenged relationship with veracity, documented almost daily by independent fact-checking organizations. The greatest hits include his repeatedly debunked claim that former President Obama tapped his phones, that a nonexistent terrorist attack occurred in Sweden, that Germany owes NATO vast sums of money, that Mr. Obama released more than 100 detainees from Guantánamo who returned to the battlefield and that Democrats made up allegations about Russian efforts to influence our election. Mr. Trump’s canards risk undermining his ability to counter propaganda from our adversaries.

If Mr. Trump continues to spread his own misinformation on matters large and small, he will cede that advantage and America will be seen like any other country — which is just what our adversaries want. This will complicate his administration’s ability to rally others against threats to our national security.

Every country has a founding mythology. For Americans, it starts with our first president’s youthful encounter with a cherry tree and refusal to tell a lie.

Mr. Trump would do well to find inspiration in that story, which goes to the heart of what makes America different — and our foreign policy effective — around the world. 4/18/17 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/18/opinion/how-america-is-losing-the-credibility-war.html?ref=opinion&_r=1

3. Paul Krugman: The Balloon, the Box and Care

Each GOP plan turns out to have a fatal flaw. Millions will lose coverage; or they’ll keep coverage, but it will become so threadbare it’s almost worthless; or premiums will skyrocket for the most needy unless vast sums — hundreds of billions of dollars — are devoted to those high-risk pools.

The important thing to remember is that these problems don’t keep popping up because the people devising the plans are careless, and keep forgetting crucial issues. They’re popping up because the G.O.P. is trying to stuff a big balloon into a small box, and every time you squeeze it somewhere it inflates someplace else.

And because the task Republicans have set for themselves is basically impossible, their ongoing debacle over health care isn’t about political tactics or leadership. Even if Donald Trump were the great deal maker he claims to be, or Paul Ryan the policy wonk he poses as, this thing just can’t work.

The only way Republicans might have been able to do what they promised would be if they had some way to make health care much cheaper. That would in effect let some air out of the balloon, and maybe make it possible to get it into the box after all. But they don’t.

This raises the obvious question: If Republicans never had a plausible alternative to Obamacare, if this debacle was so inevitable, what was the constant refrain of “repeal and replace” all about?

The answer, surely, is that it began as a cynical ploy; at first, the Republicans hoped to kill health reform before it really got started. And now they’ve trapped themselves: They can’t admit that they have no ideas without, in effect, admitting that they were lying all along.

And the result is that they just keep trying to stuff the balloon into that box. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/opinion/the-balloon-the-box-and-health-care.html

4. NY Times Editorial: Donald Trump Threatens to Sabotage Obamacare

After Republican leaders in Congress failed to destroy the Affordable Care Act last month, President Trump tweeted that the law would “explode.” Now he seems determined to deliver on that prediction through presidential sabotage.

Mr. Trump is threatening to kill a program in the A.C.A. that pays health insurers to offer plans with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses to about seven million lower-income and middle-class people. The president thinks that this will get Democrats to negotiate changes to the 2010 health law. This is cruel and incredibly shortsighted. Without these subsidies, health care would be unaffordable for many Americans, including people who voted for Mr. Trump because they were frustrated by high medical costs.

It is not surprising that Mr. Trump would see the subsidies as a bargaining chip. Governing, to him, is a matter of quick-hit deals, and he shows no concern about gambling with the health of millions of people. 4/19/17 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/opinion/donald-trump-threatens-to-sabotage-obamacare.html

5. Charles M. Blow: A Fake and a Fraud

Donald Trump’s mounting reversals, failures and betrayals make it increasingly clear that he is a fake and a fraud.

For many of us, this is affirmative reinforcement; for others, it is devastating revelation.

But it is those who believed — and cast supportive ballots — who should feel most cheated and also most contrite. You placed your faith in a phony. His promises are crashing to earth like a fleet of paper airplanes.

He oversold what he could deliver because he had no idea what would be required to deliver it, nor did he care. He told you what you wanted to hear so that he could get what he wanted to have. He played you for fools.

He isn’t cunningly unpredictable; he’s tragically unprepared and dangerously unprincipled.

He accrued his wealth by selling hollow dreams of high society to people who wanted to flaunt their money or pretend that they had some.

Put another way, Trump’s brand is built on exclusivity, not inclusivity. It is about the separate, vaulted position of luxury, above and beyond the ability for it to be accessed by the common. It is all about the bourgeois and has absolutely nothing to do with the blue collar.

And yet somehow, it was the blue collar that bought his bill of goods. People saw uncouth and thought unconventional; they saw raffish and thought rebel.

They projected principle and commitment onto a person anathema to both. Now, we all have to pay a hefty toll as Trump’s legions cling to thinning hope. 4/20/17 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/20/opinion/a-fake-and-a-fraud.html


6. Philip H. Gordon: A Vision of Trump at War

Just a few months into the Trump administration, it still isn’t clear what course the president’s foreign policy will ultimately take. What is clear, however, is that the impulsiveness, combativeness, and recklessness that characterized Donald Trump’s election campaign have survived the transition into the presidency. Since taking office, Trump has continued to challenge accepted norms, break with diplomatic traditions, and respond to perceived slights or provocations with insults or threats of his own. The core of his foreign policy message is that the United States will no longer allow itself to be taken advantage of by friends or foes abroad. After decades of “losing” to other countries, he says he is going to put “America first” and start winning again.

It could be that Trump is simply staking out tough bargaining positions as a tactical matter, the approach to negotiations he has famously called “the art of the deal.” President Richard Nixon long ago developed the “madman theory,” the idea that he could frighten his adversaries into believing he was so volatile he might do something crazy if they failed to meet his demands—a tactic that Trump, whose reputation for volatility is firmly established, seems particularly well suited to employ. 

The problem, however, is that negotiations sometimes fail, and adversaries are themselves often brazen and unpredictable. After all, Nixon’s madman theory—designed to force the North Vietnamese to compromise—did not work. Moreover, putting the theory into practice requires the capacity to act judiciously at the appropriate moment, something that Trump, as president, has yet to demonstrate. And whereas a failed business deal allows both parties to walk away unscathed if disappointed, a failed diplomatic gambit can lead to political instability, costly trade disputes, the proliferation of dangerous weapons, or even war. History is littered with examples of leaders who, like Trump, came to power fueled by a sense of national grievance and promises to force adversaries into submission, only to end up mired in a military, diplomatic, or economic conflict they would come to regret. http://www.cfr.org/military-operations/vision-trump-war/p38967

7. Jeet Heer: Nixon Had His “Madman Theory.” Trump Is Just a Madman.

In Nixon’s own words, as recorded by aide H.R. Haldeman, the “madman theory” was about convincing adversaries that Nixon had a clear agenda and no limits on what he would do to achieve it. “I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war,” Nixon told Haldeman on a late night walk on the beach. “We’ll just slip the word to them that, for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry—and he has his hand on the nuclear button—and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”

For Nixon, being a madman meant having a singleminded focus and no restraint on tactics. Trump’s version of the madman theory is quite the opposite: being unpredictable because he can’t control the various factions in your government and has a flighty temperament.

Nixon was a flawed figure, while Trump is a farcical one. Trump is less a twenty-first century Nixon than his absurd doppelgänger. Despite his warped personality, Nixon made some substantial, positive, and lasting changes in American foreign policy. So far, Trump is only sowing confusion and disorder. But there is one area where Nixon and Trump really are similar: As American presidents, both held the power of life and death over the world. 4/21/17 https://newrepublic.com/article/142205/nixon-madman-theory-trump-just-madman

8. Brian Beutler: When Donald Trump Needs a Win, America Loses

Donald Trump’s political career has been defined by his philandering relationship with the truth. When reality doesn’t meet his needs, he rejects reality until reality changes or he finds someone or something to blame for the disappointment.

If attendance at his campaign rallies sagged, he would nevertheless boast about his “record crowds.” After debates and at various other intervals he would tout fictional or outlying polls that had him winning (joke’s on us—he won). When stubborn facts still refused to accommodate him, he would retreat to the aggrieved terrain where he and his core supporters connected most strongly, scapegoating Muslims and Mexico and China and (((globalists))) for all of the world’s problems. When huge crowds failed to materialize for his inauguration, he claimed the fake media used camera tricks to obscure throngs of adoring fans.

Like his record-shattering inauguration turnout and “massive landslide” electoral-college victory, these claims reside in the crowded safe-space of Trump’s imagination. With exceptions for his administrative action in the regulatory and immigration enforcement realms—and the Supreme Court appointment of Neil Gorsuch, a fait accompli—Trump’s first months in office have been marked by incompetence, backstabbing, judicial injunctions, and legislative failure.https://newrepublic.com/article/142184/donald-trump-needs-win-america-loses

9. Jeff Shesol: Can President Trump Learn On The Job?

It is not a stretch to say that Trump knows less about policy, history, the workings of government, and world affairs than any of the men who preceded him as President. Trump’s ignorance sends historians and commentators scrambling for sufficient adverbs: to Daniel Bell of Princeton, Trump is “abysmally” ignorant; to Josh Marshall, of Talking Points Memo, he is “militant[ly]” so. “Proudly” is another popular one. Last summer, Trump told the Washington Post that he doesn’t need to read much because he makes great decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense.” The problem is not just what Trump doesn’t know; there is an expanding, alternative universe of things he imagines or insists to be true, from his claim that “millions” of illegal immigrants gave Hillary Clinton her victory in the popular vote to his charge that President Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower. “He has made himself the stooge, the mark, for every crazy blogger, political quack, racial theorist, foreign leader or nutcase peddling a story that he might repackage to his benefit as a tweet, an appointment, an executive order or a policy,” the Los Angeles Times editorial board wrote earlier this month. Trump is somehow both credulous and cynical; if he were “mugged by reality,” in the old, conservative cliché, he would pin it on Obama, or perhaps Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This is not to say that Trump is incapable of learning in office. His recent changes of tone, opinion, and direction—on the importance of nato, for example, or U.S.-China relations—might be signs that his thinking is evolving. They could also be tactical moves, or head-fakes, or further evidence that—unmoored from any core convictions—he is easily swayed by certain advisers. Whatever the case, it is one thing for Trump to acquaint himself with reality; it is another thing to know what to do about it. The singular burden of the Presidency is not merely to acknowledge obvious facts; it is, as Neustadt wrote, to determine a course of action “when conventional wisdom fails, the experts disagree and confusion dominates.” It turns out this job is not so easy. http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/can-president-trump-learn-on-the-job?mbid=social_twitter

10. David Remnick: A Hundred Days Of Trump

On April 29th, Donald Trump will have occupied the Oval Office for a hundred days. For most people, the luxury of living in a relatively stable democracy is the luxury of not following politics with a nerve-racked constancy. Trump does not afford this. His Presidency has become the demoralizing daily obsession of anyone concerned with global security, the vitality of the natural world, the national health, constitutionalism, civil rights, criminal justice, a free press, science, public education, and the distinction between fact and its opposite. The hundred-day marker is never an entirely reliable indicator of a four-year term, but it’s worth remembering that Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama were among those who came to office at a moment of national crisis and had the discipline, the preparation, and the rigor to set an entirely new course. Impulsive, egocentric, and mendacious, Trump has, in the same span, set fire to the integrity of his office.

Trump has never gone out of his way to conceal the essence of his relationship to the truth and how he chooses to navigate the world. In 1980, when he was about to announce plans to build Trump Tower, a fifty-eight-story edifice on Fifth Avenue and Fifty-sixth Street, he coached his architect before meeting with a group of reporters. “Give them the old Trump bullshit,” he said. “Tell them it’s going to be a million square feet, sixty-eight stories.”

This is the brand that Trump has created for himself—that of an unprincipled, cocky, value-free con who will insult, stiff, or betray anyone to achieve his gaudiest purposes. “I am what I am,” he has said. But what was once a parochial amusement is now a national and global peril. Trump flouts truth and liberal values so brazenly that he undermines the country he has been elected to serve and the stability he is pledged to insure. His bluster creates a generalized anxiety such that the President of the United States can appear to be scarcely more reliable than any of the world’s autocrats. When Kim In-ryong, a representative of North Korea’s radical regime, warns that Trump and his tweets of provocation are creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment,” does one man sound more immediately rational than the other? When Trump rushes to congratulate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for passing a referendum that bolsters autocratic rule in Turkey—or when a sullen and insulting meeting with Angela Merkel is followed by a swoon session with Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the military dictator of Egypt—how are the supporters of liberal and democratic values throughout Europe meant to react to American leadership? http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/01/a-hundred-days-of-trump

11. Paul Krugman: Zombies of Voodoo Economics

Supply-side economics is a classic example of a zombie doctrine: a view that should have been killed by the evidence long ago, but just keeps shambling along, eating politicians’ brains. Why, then, does it persist? Because it offers a rationale for lower taxes on the wealthy — and as Upton Sinclair noted long ago, it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

Still, Donald Trump was supposed to be different. Guess what: he isn’t.

To be fair, it’s not clear whether Mr. Trump really believes in right-wing economic orthodoxy. He may just be looking for something, anything, he can call a win — and it’s a lot easier to come up with a tax reform plan if you don’t try to make things add up, if you just assume that extra growth and the revenue it brings will materialize out of thin air.

We might also note that a man who insists that he won the popular vote he lost, who insists that crime is at a record high when it’s at a record low, doesn’t need a fancy doctrine to claim that his budget adds up when it doesn’t.

Still, the fact is that the Trump agenda so far is absolutely indistinguishable from what one might have expected from, say, Ted Cruz. It’s just voodoo with extra bad math. Was that what his supporters expected? 4/24/17 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/24/opinion/zombies-of-voodoo-economics.html?ref=opinion&_r=1

12. Bob Cesca: Donald Trump literally knows nothing: The moronic fiction of his “really, really good” health care plan is now obvious

During a joint press conference with the president of Italy, Trump said, “The plan gets better and better and better, and it’s gotten really, really good. And a lot of people are liking it a lot. We have a good chance of getting it soon; I’d like to say next week, but it will be — I believe we will get it, and whether it’s next week or shortly thereafter.”

Words have no meaning for Trump.

“It’s gotten really, really good” isn’t the language of a man who’s familiar with the details. In fact, he can’t say anything specific about anything related to health care, for two reasons. First, he just doesn’t know. Generally, the ongoing rule about Donald Trump is that he knows nothing. Second, the details of Trumpcare, at least in terms of what’s being discussed partly in secret, totally undermine his promises for universal, affordable coverage. Discussing those details out loud would expose the game. Oh and incidentally, “gotten really, really good” might sound familiar because it’s the same awkward phrase Will Ferrell once used in a George W. Bush parody video back in 2004 (check the YouTube clip at 40 seconds in). In other words, at least until recently, describing how things have “gotten really, really good” was merely a joke at the expense of stupid people. Now the actual president talks like that. Hashtag Make America Great Again.

Nevertheless, if Trump were to actually tell us what’s in the latest version of Trumpcare, he might have to acknowledge that there’s no legislative text; there’s no actual bill yet. Nothing exists on paper. He’d also have to acknowledge that this new iteration won’t be more affordable and indeed that many more people will be kicked off their insurance policies under the new “really, really good” version of Trumpcare than would have lost insurance under the now-defunct American Health Care Act. http://www.salon.com/2017/04/24/donald-trump-literally-knows-nothing-the-moronic-fiction-of-his-really-really-good-health-care-plan-is-now-obvious/#.WP4_VpV4C5g.twitter

13. Graydon Carter: Trump Family Values

Though the First Lady is as quiet as her husband is noisy, and seemingly in no rush to join him in the White House, the pair do appear to subscribe to a similar belief system.

t hasn’t been a particularly good month for the grandiose hothead in the Oval Office. Just as the chaos within the West Wing was starting to resemble the economy section of a United Airlines flight, the president dipped into the nation’s pocket and blew $60 million worth of Tomahawk missiles on an attack on Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad after Trump was shown images and TV reports that Assad had used what was later determined to be sarin gas on civilians, including children. The gas attack was horrific; the U.S. response, impulsive and ineffectual (and a reversal of Trump’s own stated policy). It told the Syria-Russia coalition that Trump was unpredictable and given to showy gestures—a description all too familiar to most Americans these days. More to the point, it diverted the press and the public’s attention from the Trump-Putin coalition, which many believe will ultimately be the president’s undoing.

You’re not alone if you think you are living through an Allen Drury novel—or, depending upon your age, Dr. Strangelove or Wag the Dog. Sean Spicer, the poor fellow, is living through his own episode of South Park. In the B.T. (Before Trump) era, most people I know went about their daily lives reasonably confident in the knowledge that the papers or news sites they read that morning were all they needed to stay informed for the rest of the day. But now, A.T., all that has changed. Those same people check their phones with the regularity of lovelorn teenagers—wincing as they look to see what fresh horrors the great man in the White House has unleashed. Trump may thrive on conflict and disorder, but most of us do not. May 2017 http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/04/graydon-carter-on-trump-family-values

14. Max Boot: America Is Getting Used to Trump’s Insanity

As he approaches his 100th day in office, Donald Trump does not have many achievements or much support. Fewer than 42 percent of Americans approve of his job performance, the lowest level of support of any president at this point in his administration — lower even than Gerald Ford’s numbers after pardoning Richard Nixon. But he is benefiting from two trends. First, his base still loves him; his approval rating among Republicans is, I’m sorry to say, 84 percent.

The second trend is harder to discern, and it can’t be reduced to numbers, but I am convinced it is real. I refer to the country’s growing acceptance of the unacceptable.

People adjust to any situation, no matter how bizarre or abnormal. An alien landing on Earth would be “yuge” news, to use Trump’s favorite word, but alien landings every day would quickly become ho-hum. So it is with the outlandish occupant of the Oval Office — he is increasingly being treated as a normal president even though he is anything but.

What was once unthinkable is now unremarkable. There is now a tendency, even among many of my Never Trump friends, to shrug their shoulders at his latest shenanigans. It is simply too difficult to stay outraged nonstop for 100 days, much less for 1,461 days — the length of one presidential term. Trump continues to say and do things that are, by any reasonable standard, egregious, but we notice his offenses less and less because they are such a frequent occurrence. 4/25/17 https://www.yahoo.com/news/america-getting-used-trump-insanity-193905169.html

15. Amy Davidson: Donald Trump’s Unintelligible Presidency

This week, indeed, he will have been here for a hundred days. During that time, he has delivered a plodding address to a joint session of Congress (“A lot of the people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber”); ordered the firing of fifty-nine Tomahawks at Syria (“I’m saying to myself, ‘You know, this is more than just like, seventy-nine [sic] missiles. This is death that’s involved,’ because people could have been killed”); and met with world leaders like Angela Merkel (“one of the best chemistries I had . . . unbelievable chemistry.”) He also had a Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, confirmed. “Don’t forget, he could be there for forty years,” Trump said. Since Gorsuch is only forty-nine, that comment falls into the narrow category of Trump statements that are true. Presidents do get to shape the country, if not in the Trumpian manner of conjuring up facts.

During the A.P. interview, as Trump talked about the greatness of his first hundred days, he returned, again and again, to vaguer paradigms—to what might be called the mood music of Trump’s world, and his ability to call the tune. One of his accomplishments, he said, was that “our military is so proud. They were not proud at all. They had their heads down. Now they have their heads up.” His spirits had also improved since he stopped watching certain cable-news shows, such as “Morning Joe,” which, he said, had inexplicably turned against him.

“I never thought I had the ability to not watch what is unpleasant, if it’s about me,” Trump said, in a jarring acknowledgment of a narcissist’s needs. “Or pleasant. But when I see it’s such false reporting and such bad reporting and false reporting that I’ve developed an ability that I never thought I had. I don’t watch things that are unpleasant. I just don’t watch them.” 4/26/16 http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/donald-trumps-unintelligible-presidency

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