Archive

November 18th, 2016

Trump, the conflicts-of-interest president

    When Donald Trump starts work in the Oval Office in January, he will have more potential business and financial conflicts of interest than any other president in U.S. history. How transparently and directly he addresses those conflicts will provide an early look at what kind of a leader he plans to be, and what kind of an administration he plans to run.

    The private company Trump controls and oversees, the Trump Organization, sits atop a lucrative array of real estate holdings, hotels, golf courses and licensing operations -- all of which threw off, perhaps, as much as $557 million in revenue last year. (Trump reported that figure to the Federal Election Commission earlier this year, but it's never been publicly verified by an independent auditor. Trump could help clear up the matter by releasing his tax returns, but he's broken with recent presidential tradition by declining to do so.)

    While most federal officials working in the executive branch can't collect outside business income while serving in the U.S. government, longstanding conflict-of-interest laws exempt the president from that stricture. So a president is free to handle private business from the White House if he or she likes.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Trump business ties will clash with Constitution

    Donald Trump will face wide-ranging questions about his ethics and integrity from the moment he enters the White House in January.

    The president-elect says he'll turn over his vast financial holdings to his kids. But many doubt a blind trust will insulate him completely, potentially exposing him to conflicts of interest or the appearance of such conflicts on a range of domestic and foreign issues as no president before. During the campaign, Trump branded his opponents with nicknames such as "Lyin Ted" and "Crooked Hillary." Yet more than Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton, he lied and shrewdly assumed that the media, especially television, would never catch up with him as he moved to the next deception. That should be harder for a president.

    The public will have reason to believe that Trump's "decisions are influenced by personal interests," says Stephen Gillers, an ethics expert and professor at New York University Law School. "The problem is exacerbated because of the number and diversity of his financial interests. It is not just a peanut farm. It is further compounded as the public doesn't know what all these interests are."

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

The next attorney general

    The president-elect is at work on identifying appointees for his new administration. Both New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani have been floated as possibilities for the role of attorney general. Neither appointment would serve the work we most need at the Justice Department: a restoration of impartiality, fairness, nonpartisanship and thoroughgoing avoidance of conflicts and the appearance of conflict.

    A Christie aide and an appointee have just been convicted in the "Bridgegate" scandal over the closing of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Christie, who was not himself indicted, claims he did not know about the lane closings, but three people contradicted him under oath: Bridget Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff when the closings occurred; Bill Baroni, a top Christie appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and David Wildstein, a political ally of the governor and also a senior official at the Port Authority at the time of the scandal. According to the New York Times, "It was impossible for even casual trial observers not to discern, from witness after witness, the evident viciousness and grubbiness of the governor and his administration."

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

November 17th

Trump will have vast powers. He can thank Democrats for them.

    Liberals are understandably panicked about what Donald Trump can carry out. "We have a president-elect with authoritarian tendencies assuming a presidency that has never been more powerful," Franklin Foer wrote this past week in Slate. Trump will command not only a massive nuclear arsenal and the most robust military in history, but also the ability to wage numerous wars in secret and without congressional authorization; a ubiquitous system of electronic surveillance that can reach most forms of human communication and activity; and countless methods for shielding himself from judicial accountability, congressional oversight and the rule of law - exactly what the Constitution was created to prevent. Trump assumes the presidency "at the peak of its imperial powers," as Foer wrote.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Stay angry America

    The ascendancy of Donald Trump is surprising, but it is not shocking. How could this have happened? Easily. We are not a society of angels. The poisons that Trump peddles have been loose in the land for a long time. For decades the Republican Party has played with this fire with increasing recklessness, until finally it surrendered to the ravaging flame. There was never anything "unimaginable" about the nasty anti-modern furies that carried this repulsive demagogue to the White House; more precisely, liberals appear to have suffered yet again from a failure of imagination. If our allegiance to the ideals of justice and equality and tolerance leaves us shocked at the persistent vitality of their opposites, then our idealism is parochial and naiive. This is a country of wildly different destinies, and the belief in equality does not make people equal: The unprecedented pace of change, the daze of historical acceleration in which we live, produces a sensation of insecurity, a terrible volatility, that often results in fear. Trump battened off working-class panic and white panic. He practices the politics of panic. He is not the first: There is a tradition of such politics in America. In the wake of its victory, we must attend to its causes. Why all this American panic?

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Should the world get ready for Secretary of State Bolton?

    Who will be America's next secretary of state?

    Several names keep popping up on the list to become the top U.S. diplomat in the wake of Donald Trump's victory Tuesday. They include Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and European history buff; Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Richard Haas, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Dept. official in the George W. Bush administration; and John Bolton, U.N. ambassador under Bush.

    Obviously, any one of these men - all veterans of the D.C. swamp Trump said he would drain - could be tapped. Corker, one Hill staffer says, was called out of a staff meeting to speak with Trump during the president-elect's visit to the Capitol on Wednesday; Haas briefed Trump on foreign policy last summer, though a source familiar with the Trump team says "Haas may be angling for the job, but it's not entirely clear."

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Resist Much

    This is a very dangerous man, our next president. Dangerous in his certitude about what he doesn’t know. Dangerous in his ignorance of history, his antipathy toward reading, his inability to sort fact from fiction. The last man to play things by the gut while in control of the world’s most powerful military left a mortal mess.

    But welcome, for now, President-elect Donald Trump. It feels, in much of the nation, like the death of a loved one — the sudden, unexpected kind. I haven’t felt this way since the nuns told our second-grade class that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Still, grief is an emotion that has little power in politics.

    A majority — well, not from the popular vote, which Hillary Clinton won — chose radical change over reasoned predictability. They’re going to get plenty of change, much of it chaotic and cruel. Those who think Trump can be contained, or trained by seasoned K Street hacks to act reasonable, are deluding themselves. He’ll do it his way.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Repealing Obamacare looks easy; replacing it isn't

    The Republican-led Congress has voted at least 60 times in six years to repeal Obamacare. With Donald Trump in the White House and a Republican majority in both chambers of Congress, the next attempt may well succeed.

    But what would replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010? Throughout the campaign, Trump spoke of "erasing the lines," by which he meant letting insurers sell health plans across state lines to increase competition and decrease premiums. On Thursday, the president-elect's new website laid out a bare-bones health-care transition plan to do just that.

    It makes some sense. More competition, after all, usually leads to lower prices and better products as companies compete for a bigger share of the market. For Republicans, the benefit of increased competition is an article of faith.

    Except that, when it comes to the health-insurance market, the usual rules don't apply. What Trump and congressional Republicans propose wouldn't solve the problems that Obamacare was designed to fix. It might even return millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Putin knows working with Trump won't be fun

    In Moscow, many allies of President Vladimir Putin appeared to be in a festive mood after Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election. They aren't stupid, though: They know the gap between Trump's relatively pro-Russian rhetoric during the campaign and his actual policy may be "yuuuge." The celebratory noise is tactical -- an attempt to flatter Trump so he doesn't forget all the nice things he had promised Putin while he ran against that notorious Russia hawk, Hillary Clinton.

    The Kremlin will know if the tactic has worked when Trump picks his Cabinet, but chances are it won't work too well.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Outsiders inexperienced about government must now take over a huge bureaucracy

    Tuesday's election results shocked the political professionals, the country and the world. As its true implications become clear, many people who thought they would be doing one thing for the next four years are now confronted with a stark and different future. This kind of cognitive adjustment is difficult for even the most levelheaded of individuals. Readers should offer empathy for those who must process this news the quickest.

    I am referring, of course, to Donald Trump and his transition team.

    While many commentators are lambasting the Clinton campaign for not reading the political moment better, the postmortems show that Trump's team was only marginally less surprised by the outcome. Bloomberg's Joshua Green and Sasha Issenberg report that "even on the eve of the election Trump's models predicted only a 30 percent likelihood of victory." Politico's Nancy Cook and Andrew Restuccia note a similar mind-set:

    "Many members of the 100-plus Trump transition team were surprised by the election results. Many privately expected the Republican to get lambasted at the polls."

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!