Archive

January 24th, 2017

Things Can Only Get Worse

    If America had a parliamentary system, Donald Trump — who spent his first full day in office having a temper tantrum, railing against accurate reports of small crowds at his inauguration — would already be facing a vote of no confidence. But we don’t; somehow we’re going to have to survive four years of this.

    And how is he going to react to disappointing numbers about things that actually matter?

    In his lurid, ghastly Inaugural Address, Trump portrayed a nation in dire straits — “American carnage.” The real America looks nothing like that; it has plenty of problems, but things could be worse. In fact, it’s likely that they will indeed get worse. How will a man who evidently can’t handle even the smallest blow to his ego deal with it?

    Let’s talk about the predictable bad news.

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Sean Spicer's Worst Week in Washington

    On Saturday night, White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivered his first press conference in the James S. Brady press briefing room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Except that he used the occasion to yell at the press and take no questions from them.

    It was the most inauspicious of beginnings to what was already a deeply fraught relationship between the administration of Donald Trump and the journalists assigned to cover him. And it was a telling sign of just how much Spicer -- and the rest of the White House staff -- will be required to publicly address perceived grudges and slights against the sitting president of the United States.

    "Some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting," Spicer insisted at the start of the briefing, citing a pool report that said a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the White House. (The pool report was corrected relatively quickly; the reporter in question -- Time's Zeke Miller -- explained that a Secret Service officer had obstructed his view of the bust in the Oval Office.)

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Kellyanne Conway says Donald Trump's team has 'alternative facts,' which pretty much says it all

    If there was one Sunday-morning talk show exchange that describes the new reality for the political media - and for the truth - during the President Donald Trump era, this was it.

    It was a discussion about White House press secretary Sean Spicer, on his first full day in that job, having taken to the podium and made easily disproved claims about the size of Trump's inauguration crowd.

    "Why put him out there for the very first time, in front of that podium, to utter a provable falsehood?" "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd asked Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. "It's a small thing, but the first time he confronts the public, it's a falsehood?"

    After some tense back and forth, Conway offered this:

    "Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You're saying it's a falsehood, and they're giving - our press secretary, Sean Spicer, gave alternative facts to that. But the point really is -"

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Don't expect the Oval Office to change Trump

    The hope of the many people who harbor reservations about Donald Trump is that the presidency will change him. That's also what his hard-core supporters fear.

    Trump's inaugural address showed why those hopes and fears won't materialize. It was harsh, nationalistic, lacking in civility or generosity, reflecting his dark view of politics. It had some of the same themes that Ronald Reagan offered 36 years earlier, but with none of the uplift that the 40th president radiated.

    Presidents don't grow to become new people. They can rise to occasions, alter perspectives, turn to different advisers for counsel. But the Oval Office hasn't changed the basic compass or persona of any modern president.

    "The character of the president remains the same as it was before he was president," said Shirley Anne Warshaw, a political science professor at Gettysburg College. "The values, personalities and character do not change. What changes is the awesome responsibilities they will face. And how they will handle that, we don't know."

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8 politicians who will make you feel good about politics

    The first 96 hours of President Donald Trump's tenure have been filled with claims, counter-claims, accusations of bias, outright falsehoods and lots of other things that make people hate politics, politicians and everything about Washington.

    It's enough even for me - a political junkie through and through - to wonder what we are even doing out here. It all feels terrible, unwatchable, nauseating.

    But not all of politics - or all politicians - operates like this. There are lots of politicians doing it - by and large - right, working to represent their constituents and views with a modicum of humility and humor, not to mention a commitment to finding solutions, not just calling out problems.

    It does the heart good to read about these folks. So here are a few politicians who should make you believe, again, in public service - even in these tempestuous times.

 

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The Women's March didn't resolve all feminist debates. It didn't need to.

    They drew inspiration from Princess Leia, "Hamilton," and Leslie Knope, and Beyoncé's "Sorry," and "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," and the late Fred Rogers. They walked down to the Mall carrying signs that said "Three Doors Down Hasn't Had a Hit in Ten Years," "We Are The Granddaughters Of The Witches You Weren't Able To Burn," and arguing for universal health care and Black Lives Matter and the integrity of science. They chanted "Hands too small! Can't build the wall!" They waltzed in the crowd to "A Change Is Gonna Come." They drove Lexuses with "Run The World (Girls)" blaring out the windows, and they pushed themselves in wheelchairs.

    In Washington, where hundreds of thousands of women gathered to protest Donald Trump's young presidency and to show solidarity for causes ranging from keeping Planned Parenthood open to supporting protesters at Standing Rock, the Women's March was a lot like the feminist Internet from which it sprang: huge, varied, pop culture literate, a little bit disorganized and hugely promising.

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The cat in the hat certainly understands that: At a Women's March, the men mattered most.

    Women everywhere. Pink hats, black hats, hard hats, no hats. A crushing polite crowd, well prepared with healthy snacks and tissues. A crowd so sprawling, it nearly covered the march route end-to-end. It was mighty and powerful.

    Best of all, there were men there. Thousands of them. Some wore the pink p---yhats. Some were just there to condemn President Trump.

    "I just hate him. I am totally against Donald Trump," one guy told me, when I asked why he'd come to the Women's March. "The women are fine; they're strong."

    No worries, dude. We'll take you. We're all going in the same direction, anyhow. Come along.

    And that's the key.

    "We are all the same," said 8-year-old Asa Bergander's sign. He gets it.

    When I asked him why he came to the march, he said, "Girls don't get as much money as boys when they do the same work."

    Asa for president!

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Our President Speaks

    The word popped up in the opening sentence of Barack Obama’s first inaugural address and in the opening paragraphs of George W. Bush’s.

    “Humbled,” each man said of himself, and while it was pure cliché, it was also what we wanted and needed: a sign, no matter how rote, that even someone self-assured enough to pursue the presidency was taking the measure of that responsibility and asking if he was worthy of it.

    Does that question cross Donald Trump’s mind?

    I don’t think so. I certainly didn’t get that sense from his inaugural remarks, and not just because “humbled” went missing. As he stood just feet from four of the last six presidents, he trashed them, talking about a Washington establishment blind and deaf to the struggles of less fortunate Americans.

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Trump's clenched fist address

    This will be the presidency of the raised fist, not the outstretched hand.

    Inaugural addresses are traditionally occasions of inclusion and healing. In that transformative moment, the new president sheds a partisan identity and assumes the mantle of national leader, president of and for all the people. If any new president should have sounded that soothing note, it was President Trump. If any nation needed to hear it, it was America today.

    The state of our union is dangerously frayed. The country is in a volatile and fragile condition that requires attending to, not ignoring. More citizens voted against the new president than for him, and the reports since Election Day about Russian efforts to install Trump in the presidency have only served to deepen those anxieties. The 45th president takes office with less popular support than any president in the history of polling.

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January 23rd

Trump turns a JFK phrase against his message

    The crucial passage in President Donald Trump's inaugural address Friday tracked John F. Kennedy's swearing-in speech, with one huge difference: Trump's America First message was 180 degrees away from Kennedy's Cold War embrace of global leadership.

    The combination of homage to Kennedy and subversion of his liberal internationalist vision tells you a lot about what Trump's presidency is going to look like -- much more than the populist rhetoric about giving America back to the people.

    The key Kennedy allusion came in Trump's issuance of a "new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first."

    The setup of the new decree heard far and wide echoes Kennedy's lines: "Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike … "

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