Archive

February 5th, 2017

Kansas is model for Trump's voter-fraud bluff

    If President Donald Trump wants a good gauge of how much voter fraud he will find if he launches a federal investigation, one of his campaign advisers, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is a good person to ask.

    Kobach, you might remember, became a national hero among conservatives by championing restrictions on voting, with the avowed purpose of battling the scourge of voter fraud. During Trump's presidential transition, he was photographed meeting Trump while holding a document listing plans to bar foreigners and deal with "criminal aliens." Illegal immigration and voter fraud are intimately linked in conservative mythology, where dusky undocumented immigrants are forever handing election victories to Democrats by voting illegally.

    Kobach is a smart lawyer and a skillful salesman. "Voter fraud is a well-documented reality in American elections," he wrote in the Wall Street Journal after becoming Kansas's secretary of state in 2011.

    Well-documented.

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Immigration ban hurts Iraq, aids terrorism

    There are many good reasons to object to the Trump administration's new ban on allowing people from seven predominantly Muslim Middle East countries to travel to the U.S. and halting the acceptance of Syrian refugees. I am among the many Americans ashamed that our great country could so easily push aside its history of caring for people with the most desperate needs in the world. I also am among the national security analysts who don't see how this helps deliver on the promise of protecting the U.S. from terrorism, and worry that they will inflame the resentment and anti-Americanism that fuel attacks against our citizens at home and abroad.

    But, most tangibly and practically, I am among the millions of Americans who served as soldiers, diplomats or humanitarian workers in Iraq or Afghanistan, and therefore have insights into how the immigration ban has made Defense Secretary James Mattis's job of devising a plan to eradicate Islamic State a whole lot more difficult.

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Dear CEOs: A Concerned Citizen’s Plea

    Dear America’s Business Leaders:

    I am writing you today because it will soon become clear that you’re going to need to do a job that you’ve never thought of doing before: saving the country from a leader with a truly distorted view of how the world works and the role America should play in it.

    There is no Republican Party today to restrain President Donald Trump’s worst instincts. Save for a few courageous senators, the GOP has melted into spinelessness. The mainstream media can expose misbehavior, but can’t veto legislation. The Democrats control no levers of power. And Jared Kushner couldn’t even stop the Steve Bannon-led White House from issuing a Holocaust Remembrance Day decree that deliberately omitted any reference to Jews.

    The only group whom Trump has some respect for, who can get access to him and who can maybe counter the malign ideological instincts of Bannon & Co. are the likes of Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Jeff Immelt, Mark Zuckerberg, Eric Schmidt, Jamie Diamond, Mike Bloomberg, Elon Musk, Indra Nooyi, Ginni Rometty, Dennis Muilenburg and Doug McMillon.

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A Trump-era guide to ignoring all that noise

    The first 10 days of President Donald Trump's administration were a blur. For Trump, chaos is a feature, not a bug. That means the rest of us could use some help sorting things out. With that in mind, here's a guide to what not to focus on.

    "Watch what we do, not what we say," Attorney General John Mitchell said in 1969 at the start of the Richard Nixon administration. That's good advice for any presidency-watcher, especially in 2017. Trump talks or tweets all the time, often with little thought. His words can't be ignored -- he's the president. But keep them in context and don't allow him to use tweets as diversions.

    Looking ahead, expect Trump to pop off in the next few weeks about taxes and spending, infrastructure and a robust military. What matters is when his administration submits a budget next month. Then we'll see how his neo-populist promises to prevent cuts in entitlements like Social Security square with his choice of a hardliner on spending, U.S. Representative and Tea Party champion Mick Mulvaney, to head the Office of Management and Budget.

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February 4th

A disgraceful exercise in cruelty

    President Trump's refugee ban and travel restrictions are a disgraceful exercise in cruelty. They do nothing to make us safer -- and may, in fact, make us less safe -- but they punish Muslims, and that is his whole point.

    Fear and loathing of Islam was one of Trump's campaign themes. He appealed to those who wrongly see the fight against terrorism as a clash of civilizations between Christian and Muslim worlds -- and see Muslim immigrants as a kind of fifth column intent on destroying America from within.

    During the campaign, Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." He later modified this position into a call for "extreme vetting" of Muslim immigrants, including Syrian refugees. But he continued to cite a discredited survey, conducted by a stridently anti-Muslim group, purporting to show that many Muslims in this country support "global jihad" and the replacement of our legal system with Islamic Sharia law.

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Why the media should not become the opposition party

    It is not unprecedented for a White House to view the media as the enemy - the "opposition party," as presidential adviser Stephen Bannon labeled us last week.

    But it is vital that we not become that party.

    After an exhausting, often alarming first week of the Trump administration, many people were telling journalists that we can no longer conduct business as usual.

    "You're bringing a spoon to a knife fight," one acquaintance told me.

    We need to stop covering the president's tweets, we were advised. We need to label his false statements as lies. If White House counselors are dishonest, we should stop interviewing them. If Breitbart or parts of Fox peddle Trump propaganda, we should be the voice of the other side.

    No. The answer to dishonest or partisan journalism cannot be more partisan journalism, which would only harm our credibility and make civil discourse even less possible. The response to administration insults cannot be to remake ourselves in the mold of their accusations.

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Trump plans to target the wrong kind of immigrants

    President Donald Trump seems intent on tackling immigration early in his administration. Vox.com obtained leaked drafts of four executive orders that give us some idea of what the president is planning.

    Three of the draft orders focus on longtime Republican priorities of reducing illegal immigration, keeping out supposedly dangerous refugees and reducing welfare payments to legal immigrants. These orders will undoubtedly be controversial, and probably won't do much good for the country -- refugees tend not to be dangerous, illegal immigration has already gone into reverse, and legal immigrants tend not to use many welfare benefits.

    But it's the last order that has me worried the most. Trump plans to curtail several programs for high-skilled legal immigration. Currently, H-1B holders -- skilled workers who are sponsored by companies, and often end up becoming permanent residents -- are allowed work visas for their spouses. Trump's draft would reverse that, making it much harder for skilled workers to maintain a good standard of living in the U.S. The order would also make it harder for foreign students to work while in the U.S., and make it somewhat harder for H-1B workers to get green cards.

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Our history shows there's a dark side to 'Buy American'

    "We will follow two simple rules," President Trump promised in his inaugural address. "Buy American and hire American."

    Trump's program might sound appealing. But the Buy American exhortation follows a long history of similar campaigns steeped in racism, especially against Asians and Asian Americans, that have had real, destructive consequences. It's not that the Buy American call is racist in itself - there's nothing wrong with seeking to reinvest our dollars back in good local jobs. The problem lies in the way in which it frames the issues.

    Buy American presumes an imagined economic nation that pits working people in the United States against those of other countries, casting them as the enemy. From there, it's often been a quick step to racial distinctions and attacks, as the past has shown. Buy American also has played into the hands of transnational corporations and other elites, who are happy if working people in the United States turn against those from other countries, while the corporations themselves flit about the world seeking low-cost labor.

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It's time for journalists to stop pretending 'objective' means 'mindless'

    Last week, President Donald Trump's chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, gave an interview bashing the New York Times (and those of us here at The Washington Post) to the New York Times that was about as punchy and conniving as you'd expect.

    As tempting as it is to treat Bannon himself as the poisonous tree and to ignore the fruit that emerges from his lips and keyboard, his repeated references to the media as "the opposition party" in cadences that mirror his boss's ought to point the press toward a new and reinvigorated understanding of its role.

    One of the most pernicious ideas governing our politics right now is that everything fits into neat binaries. You're either for Trump or you're against him. If you have issues with Democratic strategy, you must be secretly rooting for the Republicans. The idea of the press as a "Fourth Estate" didn't emerge from an attempt to situate journalism within a bipartisan political system, though, but rather from Edmund Burke's efforts to describe the civic roles played by institutions such as the clergy, the nobility and the citizenry.

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It's time for a new kind of resistance

    I'm happy to join my Obama administration friends at Shadow Government. But I wonder if this approach -- Democrats from the old regime offering constructive criticism and advice to the new one -- is right for the Trump era.

    During the George W. Bush years, I condemned many of the then president's policies. But I never saw him as wholly outside the norms of the country I love. I got to know members of his administration, tried to understand their point of view, and thought I could persuade them of mine, because I knew we basically shared the same aims -- keeping America safe and free, while advancing our ideals and interests in the world. I have Republican friends who were often angry at President Barack Obama, while still recognizing him as a decent man dedicated to the same aims.

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