Archive

February 4th, 2017

Shock. Outrage. Resistance. Repeat. Is this the new normal in Trump's America?

    In Donald Trump's America, there may be no more weekends - just an incessant cycle of shocks, of actions and reactions. For the second weekend in a row, Friday to Sunday was wall to wall with resistance and outrage.

    On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning people from seven nations in the Middle East and Africa from entering the United States.

    On Saturday, protesters began heading to the airports to welcome international travelers, some of whom were detained for hours without access to lawyers.

    On Sunday, thousands pushed peacefully against the fences around the White House in protest of Trump's order. The signs spelled out embarrassment and resolve - and a cheeky self-awareness that only Washington can muster.

    "SHAME ON AMERICA."

    "DEATH TO FASCISM."

    "PROTEST IS THE NEW BRUNCH."

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No, Trump, Not On Our Watch

    When Barack Obama was in office — remember the good old days, just over a week ago, when we didn’t wake up every morning and wonder what new atrocity was emanating from the White House — Republicans were apoplectic about his use of executive orders. They called them “unilateral edicts” and “power grabs.” As Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley once said in a floor speech: “The president looks more and more like a king that the Constitution was designed to replace.”

    What a difference a week makes.

    Now many of those Republicans are as quiet as church mice as Donald Trump pumps out executive orders at a fevered pitch, doing exactly what he said he’d do during the campaign, for all of those who were paying attention: advancing a white nationalist agenda and vision of America, whether that be by demonizing blacks in the “inner city,” Mexicans at the border or Muslims from the Middle East.

    Trump’s America is not America: not today’s or tomorrow’s, but yesterday’s.

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'Just the facts': How media can build trust

    Journalism, according to the renowned media scholar and historian Sean Hannity, is dead.

    Of course, the Fox News host and Donald Trump disciple also described White House press secretary Sean Spicer's opening-day debacle as "awesome."

    No, journalism is far from dead - as anybody who has followed the investigative reporting of The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold, for one, can attest - but it sure has taken a number of body blows. And some are self-inflicted.

    One of the worst: the sharp drop in public trust. Now, with a media-bashing president presenting a threat to press freedom, we need to get it back.

    "Maybe this situation calls for a return to the old view, which asks for less analysis and more reporting, less personality and more facts," said David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who spent 25 years in Washington with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe, where he won a Pulitzer Prize for history-conscious political columns.

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Democrats should filibuster Gorsuch with 2018 in mind

    Senate Democrats should use any and all means, including the filibuster, to block confirmation of President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. They will almost surely fail. But sometimes you have to lose a battle to win a war.

    This is purely about politics. Republicans hold the presidency, majorities in the House and Senate, 33 governorships and total control of the legislatures in 32 states. If the Democratic Party is going to become relevant again outside of its coastal redoubts, it has to start winning some elections -- and turning the other cheek on this court fight is not the way to begin.

    Trump's pick, Judge Neil Gorsuch, has the resume required of a Supreme Court justice. But so did Judge Merrick Garland, former President Obama's last nominee, to whom Senate Republicans would not even extend the courtesy of a hearing, let alone a vote. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., left the late Antonin Scalia's seat open for nearly a year to keep Obama from filling it. That, too, was purely about politics.

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Will Trump have the guts to stand up to Big Pharma?

    President Donald Trump and other Republicans have talked about the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. Recently, Trump said (rightly) that Big Pharma is "getting away with murder." But talk is cheap. The question is: Will Republicans really have the guts to join me and many of my colleagues in standing up to the drug companies to fight for American consumers and end the disgrace of having our country pay by far the highest prescription drug prices in the world? If Trump believes what he has said about the industry, he will rally his party to help save American lives. Here's why.

    The five largest drug manufacturers made more than $50 billion in profits in 2015. Meanwhile, nearly 1 out of 5 Americans could not afford the medicine they were prescribed. The result: Millions of Americans became sicker, and some ended up in emergency rooms at great cost. Others unnecessarily lost their lives.

    It is beyond comprehension that while Americans are suffering and dying because they cannot afford the medications they need, the 10 highest-paid chief executives in the pharmaceutical industry collectively made $327 million in 2015. These executives get richer while Americans die. That's not acceptable.

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February 3rd

Refugees are already vigorously vetted. I know because I vetted them.

    I conducted one of my last interviews as an immigration officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Istanbul with Mahmoud and his 8-year-old son from Aleppo, Syria. His son had lost his legs in the explosion that killed Mahmoud's wife, sister and other children. It was supposed to be his son's first day at school in two years. Instead, they were here in my office, reliving the worst experiences of their lives to come to the United States. Mahmoud trembled as he spoke about returning to his home from work one day and digging his family members out of the rubble.

    I had never been both so sad and proud that this boy would be able to come to the United States and start school and a new life. Now I imagine them, four years after leaving Syria and three after registering as refugees and being told to go back. Go back where?

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Two theories about why Steve Bannon midwifed such a bad executive order

    It's been a few days since the White House issued an executive order regarding refugees and visa holders that generated just a wee bit of legal and political blowback. There seems to be a whole lot of confusion about how things went down and why. So let's stipulate a few facts before speculating on some possible explanations.

    FACT #1: This was Steve Bannon's baby.

    We know from the New York Times' Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush that Bannon has gained greater influence over Trump at the expense of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and everyone else in the West Wing not related to Trump. Bannon's appointment to the National Security Council has raised more than a few eyebrows, and it's indicative of his influence.

    According to multiple news reports, Bannon was the architect of much of the first week of the Trump administration. Regarding this order in particular, Washington Post reporter Karen DeYoung reports that Bannon "was directly involved in shaping the controversial immigration mandate." CNN's reporting offers some details backing this up:

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Un-American? Yes. Illegal? Not so fast.

    No, President Trump's order curtailing entry to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries is not the "total and complete shutdown" he threatened in December 2015, but it's bad enough.

    Even after the dust settles from its spectacularly mishandled early days, even after the administration patches up its worst flaws - such as the exclusion of green-card holders and those who aided U.S. troops in the Middle East - the measure recasts the United States as a country so fearful of an admittedly serious terrorist threat that it would retreat from its most generous traditions.

    In a world where millions seek haven from war and repression, Trump's order suspends refugee admissions for 120 days, even for those already thoroughly vetted and approved, and slashes them thereafter from the previous target of 110,000 in fiscal 2017 to 50,000.

    Whether this bad policy is unconstitutional, or even illegal, however, is a different issue - and not an easy one.

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Trump is recklessly reversing Americans' progress in Iraq

    Though he campaigned with the urgent goal of defeating the Islamic State and reasserting American greatness, President Donald Trump has embarked on a policy that could in fact lead to the loss of U.S. influence in Iraq and the worsening of the Sunni-Shiite divide there.

    Whatever happens in the short term in the fight to liberate Mosul and other parts of the country from the Islamic State, this policy could lay the groundwork for the emergence of another similar Salafist group there.

    Trump would have taken us backward, not forward, in the fight against terrorism and seriously eroded our role in a key Arab state that so many Americans gave so much to free and then to help stabilize under two presidents.

    The immediate cause of our concern is the executive order Friday that prevented the movement of most Iraqis to the United States - including some who served and sacrificed alongside U.S. forces in the war there - along with citizens of six other nations in the region. But in fact the problem is broader and deeper.

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Supreme hypocrisy

    You want bipartisanship on Supreme Court nominations? Let's have a consensual moment around Sen. Ted Cruz's idea that having only eight Supreme Court justices is just fine.

    "There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices," the Texas Republican said last year when GOP senators were refusing even to give a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee.

     Cruz cited a Democratic court appointee, Justice Stephen Breyer, to give his case heft. He noted that "Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job."

    If that argument was good in 2016, why isn't it valid in 2017? After all, some Republicans were willing to keep the seat vacant indefinitely if Hillary Clinton won the presidential election. "I would much rather have eight Supreme Court justices than a justice who is liberal," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in October.

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