Archive

March 1st, 2017

The remarkable inconsistency of Trump's attacks on the media

    President Donald Trump just can't get his story straight.

    At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, he accused the news media of widespread fabrication, claiming without evidence that "they have no sources; they just make 'em up when there are none."

    It is a charge Trump has leveled before. Yet it is wholly incompatible with his assertions, at other times (or on the same day), that U.S. intelligence officials are leaking classified information to reporters - and must be ferreted out. Friday morning, he tweeted:

    "The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security "leakers" that have permeated our government for a long time. They can't even......"

    "find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW"

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Reince Priebus and Stephen Bannon: A love story

    Reince Priebus and Stephen Bannon definitely get along. Everything you have heard about their relationship, says Priebus, is wrong. If you have heard that they are slowly engaged in a battle to the death, that is definitely not true. That is their, uh, belligerent chemistry. They are like brothers (Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Nam), just regular brothers.

    They are the best of friends, like Frog and Toad, or even Bert and Ernie, if you catch them on the right evening. They talk all night until they fall asleep, holding hands. This is what they told New York Magazine's Olivia Nuzzi:

    "We talk a lot, pretty much all day long," Priebus said. "And then we communicate at night -"

    "Until we fall asleep," Bannon interjected with a laugh.

    Priebus cut in, "Until somebody falls asleep ... You fell asleep last night."

    "I did," Bannon said.

    "I think, like, a quarter to 11," Priebus added.

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A Fake Savior’s Betrayal

    Dear Trump Voters,

    You’ve been had. President Donald Trump sold you a clunker. Now that he’s in the White House, he’s betraying you — and I’m writing in hopes that you’ll recognize that betrayal and hold him accountable.

    Trump spoke to your genuine pain, to the fading of the American dream, and he won your votes. But will he deliver? Please watch his speeches carefully. You’ll notice that he promises outcomes, without explaining how they’ll be achieved. He’s a carnival huckster promising that America will thrive with his snake oil.

    “We’re going to win, we’re going to win big, folks,” Trump declared Friday at the CPAC meeting, speaking of his foreign policy.

    Great! Problem solved. Next? He then outlined his take on drug trafficking and what will surely be his outcome:

    “No good. No good. Going to stop.” Wow! Why didn’t anyone else think of that?

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Two Consonants Walk Into a Bar …

    At this  point the consonants are so tightly fused it’s as if they were always and inevitably so: LGBT.

    But just a decade ago, the T teetered. It wobbled.

    It was eliminated from a federal bill to protect lesbians, gays and bisexuals from discrimination in employment. The 2007 legislation’s principal backers — including Barney Frank, an openly gay congressman — decided that pressing fellow lawmakers to cover transgender people as well was a bridge too far.

    That bill failed anyway. But the tinkering reflected broader apprehensions. If not publicly then privately, many gays and lesbians wondered not only about the political costs of an alliance with transgender people but also whether the alliance made any real sense.

    A few still wonder.

    Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told me that at a recent banquet for an LGBT health organization, a wealthy gay donor said to her: “Can you walk me through why we’re all one big community? I just don’t get it.”

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Trump's deportation plan is economic suicide

    There are a lot of things you can say about the Trump administration's recently announced deportation plan. You can say it is cruel, a policy that could only come from a president who lacks a heart. You can say it has more to do with President Donald Trump's fevered imagination than the reality of the immigrant presence in the U.S. You can say that it's counterproductive, likely to uproot the very people this country should embrace - people who have struggled to get to the U.S. with the goal of working hard and making a better life for themselves and their children.

    But if Trump is able to get the money from Congress to hire the 10,000 additional immigration cops and 5,000 more border agents he wants, if he gets local sheriff's departments to help the federal government round up undocumented immigrants, and if he does indeed begin to deport hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of them, then I think you'll be able to say something else about his policy: It will be economic suicide.

    In 2014, the latest year for which numbers are available, there were 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center. That's down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007.

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Trump's preposterous rationale for revoking transgender bathroom rights

    The Trump administration's move to rescind bathroom access protections for transgender students rests on the idea that school bathroom policies are "a states' rights issue," as White House press secretary Sean Spicer has explained, and that, in any event, it is "preposterous on its face" that the authors of the federal law barring sex discrimination in schools imagined it would cover transgender students.

    On the states' rights question, the administration is both wrong and offensive. On the issue of what the authors of Title IX contemplated in 1972, it is correct but irrelevant. The issue isn't what the authors intended but what discrimination "on the basis of sex" means.

    For Gavin Grimm, the 17-year-old high school student whose case is now before the Supreme Court, it means that he is a boy -- he has an amended birth certificate saying so -- who, alone among the boys at his rural Virginia school, is barred from using the boys' room. Tell him that's not discriminating on the basis of sex.

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Trump gets a free ride on conflicts of interest

    It's often said of the weather that everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it. The political chatter here is similarly rife with speculation about how President Trump can somehow be brought to heel, but there is no credible plan.

    Numerous scholars on the Constitution have cited Article I, Section 9: "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept any present, Emolument, Office or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State."

    While the rules of punctuation in force in the late 18th century might seem baffling to present-day eyes, the meaning of the paragraph is clear and straightforward enough. No officeholder should be offered a payoff or inducement, and no one should accept either one from any foreign power.

    This "emolument clause" has never been effectively invoked against an American president to remove him from the Oval Office, or effectively cited as grounds for impeachment by the House of Representatives.

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The Trump White House just inflicted a serious wound on itself

    President Donald Trump on Friday unleashed another fearsome fusillade of tweets, this time blasting the FBI directly for failing to control leaks.

    "The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security 'leakers' that have permeated our government for a long time," Trumpsaid. "They can't even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S." Trump closed with a demand that the leakers be caught: "FIND NOW."

    Trump's rage is misdirected. Whatever culpability the FBI bears for its leaking, the better target for Trump's anger right now is the White House itself. The news Trump was apparently responding to is a self-inflicted White House wound.

    As CNN first reported, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus personally asked the FBI to publicly debunk recent media reports of contacts between Russia and Trump campaign aides during the campaign:

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State Department writes anti-leak memo, which promptly leaks

    The State Department legislative office prepared a four-page memo for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warning of the dangers of leaking by State Department employees. It promptly leaked, to me. That's only the latest sign that the relationship between the Trump administration political appointees and the State Department professional workforce is still very much a work in progress.

    The Feb. 20 memo by State Department acting legal adviser Richard Visek to Tillerson is entitled "SBU: Protecting Privileged Information." The SBU stands for Sensitive But Unclassified, a designation used on documents that are not technically secret but also not supposed to be shared. The memo itself is marked SBU and begins with detailed explanation of how and when Tillerson has the privilege of protecting certain types of information from public disclosure, such as anything that has to do with internal State Department deliberations.

    But the bulk of the memo is devoted to arguments for clamping down on unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information, also known as leaking.

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Leaks are part of government and that's OK

    House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is outraged over Washington leaks. Just like the cop in "Casablanca" who was "shocked, shocked" to discover gambling in a gambling den.

    The California Republican is demanding an investigation of leaks about President Donald Trump's conversations with foreign leaders and more leaks about Trump's cashiered national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Nunes charged, on CBS's "Face the Nation," that the unauthorized disclosures broke the law, and he blamed holdovers from President Barack Obama's administration who are supposedly "burrowed in, perhaps all throughout government."

    Nunes, Trump and others who fulminate about leaks should listen to Leon Panetta, a former White House chief of staff, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Secretary. "Leaks are a problem that every president has complained about," Panetta said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

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