January 20th, 2017

Trump may have just destroyed the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare

    When even the most committed Republicans came around to support Donald Trump in 2016, they made a kind of bet. It wouldn't matter much that Trump had no apparent fealty to conservative ideology or that he was a complete ignoramus about policy, because he'd be leaving all that boring stuff to them. The Republican Congress would pass its agenda, he'd sign whatever they put in front of him, and they'd all live happily ever after.

    But now it's not looking so simple. In fact, Trump just dealt a huge blow to their top priority: repealing the Affordable Care Act. Accomplishing repeal without causing the GOP a political calamity is an extremely delicate enterprise, and the last thing they want is to have him popping off at the mouth and promising things they can't deliver. Which is what he just did, as The Washington Post reported Sunday:

    "President-elect Donald Trump said in a weekend interview that he is nearing completion of a plan to replace President Obama's signature health-care law with the goal of 'insurance for everybody,' while also vowing to force drug companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices in Medicare and Medicaid . . .

Trump could cause 'the death of think tanks as we know them'

    For decades, Washington think tanks have been holding pens for senior government officials waiting for their next appointments and avenues of influence for sponsors of their research. Donald Trump's incoming administration is bent on breaking that model.

    Trump's appointments have so far have been heavy on businessexecutives and former military leaders. Transition sources tell me the next series of nominations - deputy-level officials at top agencies - will also largely come from business rather than the think tank or policy communities. For example, neither the American Enterprise Institute's John Bolton nor the Council on Foreign Relations' Richard Haass is likely to be chosen for deputy secretary of state, while hedge fund manager David McCormick is on the shortlist. Philip Bilden, a private equity investment firm executive with no government experience, is expected to be named secretary of the Navy.

The importance of Russian meddling

    The hallmark of a democracy is the peaceful transfer of power following an election. An essential, if painful, corollary of that rule is to accept the outcome of the election even when its conduct may have been marred, even when questions linger about the nature of the victory.

    That was the difficult lesson of the 2000 campaign. But for a flawed butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County that diverted confused voters to Pat Buchanan, Al Gore would likely have been declared the winner in Florida and thus the 43rd president.

    But there are no do-overs in elections, especially presidential ones. There may be flaws and disputes. But at some point, after the procedures established by the rule of law have run their course, the country needs to accept the result, however difficult it may be.

Martin Luther King, institutions and power

    When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, he was in Memphis, supporting striking sanitation workers. By that time in his crusade for racial justice, he had elevated full employment to a key plank in his platform. The full name of the March on Washington was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A common placard held up that day read, "Civil Rights Plus Full Employment Equals Freedom," a powerful economic equation indeed.

    In my experience, too few people remember this aspect of King's movement, instead emphasizing his stirring spiritual commitment to racial inclusion. But King was of course thoroughly versed in the reality of the institutional barriers blocking blacks and his unique genius was to combine deep spiritual awareness with an equally deep understanding of the role of power in economic outcomes. That's one reason he was in Memphis, supporting the union.

It's more important than ever to fight hate and bigotry

    For more than a century, our two organizations have fought on behalf of justice and equality. We have worked together on anti-lynching laws, school desegregation, voting rights legislation, hate crime laws and criminal-justice reform.

    Both the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP have done much to make the United States a fairer and stronger nation, and we often have done it together. Either organization simply could stand on its legacy, especially on a day set aside to remember a hero of the civil rights battles of the past. But on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we recognize that this is no time to wax poetic about past triumphs or rest on our laurels. Now more than ever, we must build a strong coalition of now.

Trump's nominees are putting us all at risk by ignoring ethics laws

    President-elect Donald Trump is selecting nominees to run his government. It's no secret that I have deep reservations about the policy views of many of these nominees. I will vote against some of them.

    But before we can debate and vote on whether these nominees' policy positions make them suitable to run important parts of our government, it is critical that each nominee follows basic ethics rules to ensure that they will act for the benefit of all the American people and not simply to boost their bank accounts.

    The Republican-led Congress wants to brush off these ethics requirements as a mere inconvenience. Failing that, they are willing to intimidate the public servants charged with implementing the rules. If they succeed, the Republican-led Congress will erode public confidence in our democracy and set the new administration up for scandal and failure.

A tale of two crowds in one city

    Two big and passionate crowds have descended on Washington -- one thrilled by Donald Trump's inauguration, the other appalled.  Never in my lifetime has a new president been anticipated with such raw enthusiasm on one side and such fear and loathing on the other.

    Admit it, you have no idea what a Trump administration will actually be like. Neither does Trump, I would wager. He is a 70-year-old business executive and self-promoter extraordinaire whose lifelong working habit is to go to his office, see what opportunities the day presents, and then improvise. He is not going to change.

    Americans have elected as president a man who was caught on tape boasting of how he assaults women, kissing them and touching their genitals without invitation, and gets away with it because of his celebrity. It is fitting, then, that the biggest planned protest is Saturday's Women's March on Washington, with scheduled speakers such as Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis. A-listers such as Katy Perry are expected to attend.

Trump's economy: Plan for the worst

    An ironic contradiction is likely to define the global economic community's convocation in Davos this week as it awaits Donald Trump's inauguration. There has not been so much anxiety about U.S. global leadership or about the sustainability of market-oriented democracy at any time in the past half-century. Yet with markets not only failing to swoon as predicted, but actually rallying strongly after both the Brexit vote and Trump's victory, the animal spirits of business are running hot.

    Many chief executives are coming to believe that, whatever the president-elect's infirmities, the strongly pro- business attitude of his administration, combined with Republican control of Congress, will lead to a new era of support for business, along with much lower taxes and regulatory burdens. This in turn, it is argued, will drive major increases in investment and hiring, setting off a virtuous circle of economic growth and rising confidence.

Trump's attack on John Lewis fits a pattern

    In November 2015, when most Republicans and political journalists, including this one, were discounting Donald Trump's ability to win the presidency, Trump tweeted an image of a thuggish-looking dark-skinned man holding a handgun over a set of 2015 statistics about race and crime.

    The statistics, attributed to the nonexistent "Crime Statistics Bureau -- San Francisco" for a year that then wasn't even concluded, were transparently bogus. But two related data points were especially notable.

    One said that 81 percent of white victims of homicide in the U.S. had been murdered by blacks. The companion stat indicated that white murderers accounted for only 16 percent of white homicides. In reality, FBI statistics for 2014, the most recent year available then, proved the inverse; whites were responsible for 82 percent of white homicides.

    Trump's data was fake, but as a window into the means and ends of his propaganda, the false stats proved highly relevant. Fear of violent black crime was a constant theme of Trump's campaign.

Trump is wrong about black America

    Rep. John Lewis is the son of sharecroppers. As a child, he wanted to be a preacher; he practiced by delivering fiery sermons to the family's chickens. But history had other plans for him: lunch counter sit-ins, Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a seat in Congress representing most of Atlanta. No sane person would accuse such a man of being "all talk, talk, talk -- no action or results."

    But that is precisely what Donald Trump said of Lewis. It was not the first time the president-elect raised questions about his own sanity, and I doubt it will be the last.

    As I've said before, Trump's compulsion to answer any perceived slight with both barrels blazing is a sign of dangerous insecurity and weakness, not strength. We are about to inaugurate a president with the social maturity of a first-grader.