Saturday, August 26, 2017

Trump’s Dumps Likely To Backfire

A protester confronts a line of riot police who had
earlier used tear gas to disperse a crowd outside an
Aug. 22 Trump campaign-style rally in Phoenix.

Matthew Lively, The Republic |

President Keeps Taunting Lawmakers He Should Be Courting

Donald Trump, the most unpopular president in American history, helicoptered off to Camp David for the weekend leaving behind a fresh array of divisive, distracting “news dumps,” perhaps in hope they would fade into the background of the potentially more important concern over the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana. Although hardly a day has passed since Jan. 20 that Trump has not controlled headlines, the need for clearheaded focus on the fate of the nation becomes more urgent within the coming week, ahead of the post-Labor Day return of Congress on Sept. 5.
As Category 4 Harvey, the first hurricane to make landfall in more than a decade zeroed in on Texas (before being downgraded overnight to a tropical storm), Trump's White House applied what has become a classic Washington tradition: the Friday news dump:
An executive order to the Department of Defense to implement a ban on transgender servicemembers.
An official pardon of 85-year-old convicted serial human rights abuser Joe Arpaio of Arizona.
Firing discredited and utterly unqualified anti-Muslim “adviser” and former Fox News talking head Sebastian Gorka.
There were also reports that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team have issued subpoenas for officials with ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to testify to a grand jury, and North Korea apparently resumed firing long-range missiles. If the president hoped the storylines he personally created would be swallowed up in the storm, he didn’t count on the quick response from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who slammed the news dump as "so sad, so weak."
"As millions of people in TX and LA are prepping for the hurricane, the President is using the cover of the storm to pardon a man who violated a court's order to stop discriminating against Latinos and ban courageous transgender men and women from serving our nation's Armed Forces," Schumer wrote in a series of tweets. "The only reason to do these right now is to use the cover of Hurricane Harvey to avoid scrutiny."
Even before the latest hits, Trump had set the stage for what is expected to be a rough time on Capitol Hill after a flurry of insulting tweets and comments about key members of his own party, threatening a government shutdown over funding for his “great wall” along the border with Mexico at a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, and in random tweets, in which he took potshots at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc). Trump accused both of botching efforts so far to increase the debt ceiling and avoid a government shutdown that could lead to a federal default on government obligations this fall. The president also is tangling with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has expressed doubt about Trump's competence and stability. Trump crowded still more lies into his Arizona rally ramblings, including a threefold exaggeration of the size of his audience.
So far, Trump has avoided any real involvement in spelling out his legislative wishes regarding healthcare, tax reform, the federal budget and the imminent prospect of federal default. Nor has he defined how he expects Congress to pay for his long-promised wall, which members on both sides of the aisle insist is a nonstarter issue. Top White House aides are pushing Trump to protect “dreamers,” young people brought into the country illegally as children – and then use the issue as a bargaining chip for a larger immigration deal in exchange for legislation that pays for a border wall and more detention facilities, curbs legal immigration and implements E-verify, an online system that allows businesses to check immigration status, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the situation. Congressional Democrats flatly insist there will be no such deal.
Since 2015, the Treasury Department has used emergency measures to delay a default. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he will run out of options on Sept. 29, meaning the Treasury Department could miss a payment if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling in time. Although McConnell and Ryan have pledged there will be no default, they haven’t detailed how they intend to fulfill that promise.
Trump is also vocal about frustrations over the failure of Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which he calls a disaster, and continues to tweet complaints that Republicans in Congress haven’t worked hard enough to protect him from various investigations into possible collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia to influence the election. He has threatened to support GOP primary challengers against Republican legislators who defy or criticize him, among them Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona).
Trump also remains deeply frustrated that legislators from both parties say he still has not been strong and clear enough in his condemnation of white supremacists following the deadly rally in Charlottesville, VA, earlier this month. After business executives resigned from two White House advisory councils because of Trump’s tepid response to the violence in Charlottesville, Trump disbanded both.

Most Disliked President Ever

In the Saturday, Aug. 26, edition of Newsweek, Tim Marcin wrote, “No president in the history of modern polling had an approval rating so poor at this point in his tenure, according to FiveThirtyEight's tracker, though Gerald Ford was quite close. His approval rating was 37.4 percent on day 218 of his presidency, just 0.2 percentage points better than Trump's on Friday. It's worth noting that Ford's popularity plummeted after he pardoned his predecessor, Richard Nixon, who resigned in disgrace following the Watergate scandal. It was a widely condemned move at the time, but perceptions have since shifted and it is now largely seen as a brave decision that helped the country heal.”

The CNN report on Trump’s “Friday news dump” is here.
The NBC News report of federal grand jury subpoenas for Trump-related officials is here.
The NPR report on renewed North Korean missile launches is here.
The U.S. News & World Report summary of Trump’s feud with members of Congress is here.
The Washington Post report on legislative priorities looming in September is here.
The MSNBC report on a sought-after trade of protection for qualified children of undocumented immigrants for funding for a border wall and other immigration reform is here.

Newsweek reports “Polls Show Trump, the Least Popular President Ever, Is Seeing His Approval Rating Sink to an All-Time Low,” here.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Trump Seeks To Undo Social Contract

Mass military demonstration in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capitol. North Korea, with a population just over 21 million, claims a 10-million member army, including reservists, and a rapidly advancing nuclear missile capability, already tested several times this year.
KCNA via The Sun (London)

A beaming Kim Jong-un receives a congratulatory hug from a North Korean Army senior general following a successful ICBM test in March.
KCNA via The Sun (London)

Trump Escalates Rhetoric Amid Multiple Distractions
Donald Trump’s escalation on Thursday, Aug. 10, of his ad lib threat to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea have suddenly and dramatically devalued American diplomacy, especially in U.S. dealings with dictator Kim Jon-un. As concerning as an actual military confrontation between the United States and North Korea may be, however, it is, as with many things under this president, a distraction from the awful, rapid, systematic dismantling of a bipartisan framework of federal rules and regulations underpinning America’s social contract – the most fundamental concept of our government.
As The Los Angeles Times pointed out, “Trump’s threats against North Korea have highlighted as never before the tension between the president’s duties as chief executive and the role he often seems to prefer as the country’s highest-profile TV and Internet commentator.
Despite Trump’s blustery warning of “fire and fury,” warships are not known to be moving toward the Korean peninsula, a tactic deliberately publicized during previous tense times to signal U.S. resolve. Meanwhile, however, Trump is intent upon pursuing another kind of conflict, continuing the avowed conservative war on what it calls the “nanny state,” in a process accelerated decades ago, in the administration of President Ronald Reagan. But Trump, apparently laser-focused upon erasing any trace of the progress made by the Barack Obama presidency to strengthen the social safety net for millions of disadvantaged Americans, and to secure equal justice under law during the Barack Obama presidency, is doubling down on that agenda, vowing to eliminate or at least freeze enforcement of as many as 80 percent of Obama-era regulations affecting, as Politico described it, “… everything from student loans and restaurant menus to internet privacy, workplace injuries and climate change.” Many of these changes, notably in immigration, civil rights, workplace safety, and environmental protection, if carried out, will reshape American life for decades.
Already, the government faces legal challenges from two LGBTQ legal groups, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Boston-based GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), seeking to block Trump’s tweeted ban on "transgender" service in the U.S. Armed Forces. And the ACLU has filed several document requests in the first stages of Trump administration efforts to block reversal of Obama’s previously pledged protections of “dreamers,” children of undocumented immigrants, under DACA, in what promises to be a drawn-out fight over immigration policy.

Demonstrators against President Trump's military transgender ban gather in New York's Times Square, Wednesday, Aug. 9.

On Jan. 30, Trump wielded his favorite tool of office -- an executive order -- to require federal agencies to offset the cost of every significant new regulation by eliminating existing regulations or making them less onerous. The order declares that “the total incremental cost of all new regulations” issued this year “shall be no more than zero.” Some of the effects have been immediate and obvious, such as the transgender rights policy shift Trump tweeted out in late July, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Blowback was immediate, and included the Pentagon disavowing any intention of carrying out the change without a detailed and specific order from the commander-in-chief.

Trump tweeted the ban as leverage with Congress over whether taxpayer money should pay for gender transition and hormone therapy for transgender service members. The dispute had threatened to kill a $790 billion defense and security spending bill.
Another, reinforced by legislation enacted in February, was a rule reversal that now allows coal-mining operations to dump waste directly into nearby waterways. Separately, Idaho was spared in a July Interior Department review of 27 national monuments under consideration for removal or reduction of their status. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the 460,000-acre Craters of the Moon National Monument in southern Idaho “is no longer under review.”
Public reaction is just beginning to a somewhat more obscure reversal of limits on monopoly ownership of broadcast media, is just beginning to be felt in the form of an overt pro-Trump propaganda effort by the nation’s largest broadcast conglomerate, Maryland-based Sinclair Media Group. Outlets will be required to air right-wing opinion pieces by Boris Epshteyn, “chief political analyst,” the former spokesman for Trump’s presidential campaign.
In April this year, the Federal Communications Commission eliminated restrictions on the number of local TV and radio stations individual companies can own, thereby encouraging even more consolidation of an industry dominated by a half-dozen telecom giants. Within weeks of legislative approval, Sinclair announced a $3.9 billion deal to purchase the Tribune Media Company, increasing its broadcast holdings to 233 stations in 108 U.S. markets, including several in Idaho. The merger is currently under review.
These are just some of the challenges we face. None of them could have been anticipated a year ago, but this is the hand we have been dealt since Nov. 9, 2016. We can’t expect a new deal, and we can’t leave the table. In short, we are enmeshed in the very real potential for military conflict in the Pacific, an FBI criminal investigation of Donald Trump’s family members and associates regarding possible collusion with Russia, and an unrelenting stream of attempts to destroy the American social contract – represents an unprecedented challenge to democracy. While it is practically impossible to follow all these diverse hateful and destructive activities, we encourage you to keep faith in the democratic process, to keep up regular contact with elected officials at all levels, and to encourage friends and neighbors to do the same.
For contact information, visit the United Vision for Idaho Website resources at
The Los Angeles Times report on the disconnect between Donald Trump as president and the rest of the U.S. process of governing is here.
Global Firepower’s breakout of North Korean military capabilities is here.
The Washington Post's report on cancelation of hundreds of federal rules and regulations is here.
The Vox report on Trump’s tweeted undoing of Obama Administration transgender rights is here. The New York Times report on concerns about conflicts of interest and secrecy within Trump’s chosen deregulators is here.
The authority under which Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress dismantle regulations is outlined in this Washington Post report.
The NPR story on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s acquisition of Trubine Broadcasting is .
ProPublica’s report on the Justice Department’s policy shift regarding civil rights law enforcement is here.
NPR reports on outstanding questions regarding the ongoing FBI investigation of possible Trump and Trump associates’ involvement in criminal activities in relation to Russia and Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election campaign here.