Archive

February 17th, 2017

In a remarkable interview, Kellyanne Conway's spin about Mike Flynn crashes and burns

    Facts and reality: 1. Trump administration: 0.

    Michael Flynn resigned as Donald Trump's national security adviser late Monday, after The Post reported that the Justice Department had privately warned White House officials weeks ago that Flynn had badly mischaracterized his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

    Flynn had told Vice President Mike Pence that he never discussed sanctions against Russia with the ambassador, which the Obama administration instituted in response to charges of Russian meddling in the election. The FBI had established that this was false, and acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned senior White House officials in late January that this made Flynn vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

    Yet Flynn remained in his post for weeks after that. In a remarkable interview on NBC Tuesday morning, senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway tried to spin her way out of this basic set of facts, but could not do so, because the facts would not yield.

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Why does the United States still let 12-year-old girls get married?

    Michelle DeMello walked into the clerk's office in Colorado thinking for sure someone would save her.

    She was 16 and pregnant. Her Christian community in Green Mountain Falls was pressuring her family to marry her off to her 19-year-old boyfriend. She didn't think she had the right to say no to the marriage after the mess she felt she'd made. "I could be the example of the shining whore in town, or I could be what everybody wanted me to be at that moment and save my family a lot of honor," DeMello said. She assumed that the clerk would refuse to approve the marriage. The law wouldn't allow a minor to marry, right?

    Wrong, as DeMello, now 42, learned.

    While most states set 18 as the minimum marriage age, exceptions in every state allow children younger than 18 to marry, typically with parental consent or judicial approval. How much younger? Laws in 27 states do not specify an age below which a child cannot marry.

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A Trump staff shakeup won't solve his problem

    President Donald Trump, who prefers cable news to reading, should take a quick glance at a book by the late Walt Kelly. He's the cartoonist who invented Pogo and had him say, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

    As Trump deals with his first resignation of a top White House official and, according to multiple reports, considers a deeper staff shakeup following the rockiest start of any modern president, Pogo could teach him something important that he appears determined to ignore: The problem is the president.

    The chaotic lack of discipline, duplicity, ad hoc actions and ad hominem attacks that mark Trump's first weeks in office were hallmarks of his campaign. It worked then, but it's a lot harder to govern that way.

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US Muslims' defense: The Constitution

    Two weeks ago, Sarah Cochran awoke to an inbox full of panicked emails.

    The night before, Reuters had reported that President Donald Trump would soon sign an executive order blocking visas for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa. The move, an expression of the "Muslim ban" that Trump touted during his campaign, marooned Muslims legally working or studying in the United States and threatens to divide families who have relatives in their home countries.

    Cochran is director of the Virginia chapter of Emerge USA, an organization founded in 2006 to help Muslims get involved in local politics across five states. It's one of many organizations that American Muslims created in the aftermath of 9/11 to protect and advocate for their embattled community. That very morning, she was already set to travel to Richmond to meet with state lawmakers to communicate the concerns of Muslim Virginians.

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Things might work out if Trump borrows from Abe

    I have occasionally been accused of metaphorically hugging Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but so far I've never had the chance to do so in literal terms. Not so Donald Trump, who gave a brotherly hug to the Japanese leader at a meeting at the White House on Friday. But I hope that in addition to hugging the man, Trump embraces Abe's approach to governing. In the past four years, Abe has created a template for a responsible, positive modern nationalism.

    When Abe was elected at the end of September 2012, many on the Japanese left and in the foreign press denounced him as a dangerous right-wing nationalist. His grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, served in the militarist Japanese government during World War II. He has worked to loosen the country's postwar restrictions on its military, and his appointees have included Nanjing Massacre denialists. For these reasons, the "Abe is Hitler" memes flew fast and furious in his administration's early days.

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Under Trump's plan, Mexico won't end up paying for the wall. You will.

    Last week, Donald Trump signed an executive order directing construction of the border wall between the United States and Mexico, one of his signature campaign promises. After President Trump restated his claim that Mexico would pay for the wall, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico promptly canceled a planned meeting with Trump for the following week. The next day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced a plan that the wall would be funded through placing a 20 percent import tax on all imports from Mexico.

    What exactly is an import tax and who pays it?

    An import tax is a tax levied by the federal government on foreign goods shipped to the United States for sale in the United States. The tax is typically collected at customs upon entry. The importer pays the tax and passes some of that cost on to consumers by raising the sales price of the good.

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Ignorance Is Strength

    When I travel to Asia, I’m fairly often met at the airport by someone holding a sign reading “Mr. Paul.” Why? In much of Asia, names are given family first, personal second — at home, the prime minister of Japan is referred to as Abe Shinzo. And the mistake is completely forgivable when it’s made by a taxi driver picking up a professor.

    It’s not so forgivable, however, if the president of the United States makes the same mistake when welcoming the leader of one of our most important economic and security partners. But there it was: Donald Trump referring to Abe as, yes, Prime Minister Shinzo.

    Abe did not, as far as we know, respond by calling his host President Donald.

    Trivial? Well, it would be if it were an isolated instance. But it isn’t. What we’ve seen instead over the past three weeks is an awesome display of raw ignorance on every front. Worse, there’s no hint that either the White House or its allies in Congress see this as a problem. They appear to believe that expertise, or even basic familiarity with a subject, is for wimps; ignorance is strength.

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Trump is misusing crime statistics to scare us

    President Donald Trump wants the federal government to start publishing weekly lists of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. An executive order on "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States" that Trump signed last month calls for the reports, which would also identify "sanctuary jurisdictions," cities and counties where local law enforcement authorities don't report immigration status violations to the federal government.

    But from my own work building a national database of crimes by police officers, I've learned that collecting and distributing reliable stats in real time may be much harder than Trump thinks. Especially for an administration that seems to have little regard for facts, good data or scientific integrity.

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February 16th

The health-care debate we're missing

    With the debate about the Affordable Care Act drawing so much scrutiny, a broader Republican agenda to fundamentally change the federal role in health care is flying under the radar. It's the most important issue in health care we are not debating.

    Many Republicans in Congress want to convert Medicaid to a block-grant program and transform Medicare from a plan that guarantees care into one in which seniors would receive a set amount of money to purchase coverage. Meanwhile, Republicans would replace existing subsidies for premiums under the ACA with less generous tax credits - all while eliminating the expansion of Medicaid that enables states to cover low-income childless adults.

    Taken together, these changes would amount to a fundamental rewriting of the health-care role of the federal government. They would end the entitlement nature of Medicaid and Medicare, cap future increases in federal health spending for these programs and shift much more of the risk for health costs in the future to states and consumers.

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Staying true to yourself in the age of Trump: A how-to guide for federal employees

    Less than three weeks into the administration of President Donald Trump, resistance from inside the U.S. government is growing. About a thousand State Department employees have signed an unusual "dissent cable" expressing their opposition to the president's executive order placing a temporary ban on immigrants and refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries. After the White House ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to cease advertising and outreach related to the Affordable Care Act, former agency workers and the law's supporters pushed back, prompting the ban to be lifted in less than 24 hours. Still other federal workers have created social media accounts to leak information about new policies and directives from Trump's political appointees. Nearly 200 civil servants signed up to attend a recent workshop to discuss legal rights and ways to challenge unethical or unconstitutional policies.

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