This is a tale of two (sets of) walls. One wall is begging for funds. The other walls are being firmed up, at least temporarily, by a San Francisco, (if not a 9th circuit), court decision. The same people who want to tear down the wall that is now begging for funds, are the ones who cheer when the set of other walls gets buttressed by a judge’s decision. And yes, those who wish to strengthen the begging wall are the same people who would like the DOJ and the Trump administration in general to tear down the set of other walls.

It’s an apt description to call the southern border the begging wall. People begging to get in is the image the other-wallers would like to project when the public thinks of illegal immigrants, sneaking or being smuggled across the southern border. And the other-wallers (like mayors in San Francisco and Los Angeles and let’s not forget Chicago, among other cities) love it that the begging-wallers have to hope that funds can be raised in Congress. A hope that is looking much less likely at mid-week with the stop-gap funding running out on Friday.

It looks like the Trump administration has given up – for now at least – on getting what is a very low sum of money when considering federal budget numbers in the temporary budget deal, in order to shore up the southern border with things like fencing and additional border personnel.

What’s left is talk that the GOP is trying to get a trade-off getting some additional money for border security (GOP members of Congress say it’s in there; Democrats say it isn’t) in exchange for keeping the subsidies to insurance companies for covering money-losing customers (the CSR or Cost-Sharing Reductions). So yet another feature of Obamacare is being accepted by Congress while what amounts to pennies on the dollar for some non-wall types of border security are ushered into the budget deal disguised with wigs and masks.

Clearly the GOP could not get enough, or even any, moderate Democrat Senators to agree to funding for a border wall. I’m sorry, that would be moderate GOP senators as well.

And a San Francisco federal court judge, William Orrick, has ruled that the loss of funds resulting from President Trump’s executive order would cause sanctuary cities “to suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction.” So he did. Block the executive order that is. There will be an appeal, no doubt, but it is another (hopefully temporary) setback handed to the administration by the very liberal west coast circuit.

So where the money counts in the budget and where the lower courts are concerned, identity politics rules uber alle. Perceived discrimination by American border patrol or customs officials matters more than upholding the laws of the country. Cutting off funds because of a lack of cooperation by local police with ICE officers is a major pecado in the eyes of progressive judges. So. The begging wall will go begging. The other (set-of) walls around sanctuary cities will stay in place or even be raised further by municipal policy and lower court decisions, until the higher courts decide at some point in the future.

How dare conservatives ask for a wall, or for free speech? That’s only for liberals.

 

President Trump: Seriously vs. Literally

 

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

Some politicians are Charmers, like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and JFK. They have charisma, a personal attractiveness that makes them appealing to a wide swath of voters of all races, genders and ethnicities. Voters of their own party are absolutely sold; Independents are enthralled and interested, and even a fair number of the opposite party can see themselves voting for this candidate. Charmers are always Democrats, since by definition, no purveyor of hard-hearted, business-oriented Republican positions can “charm” anyone.

 

Then there are politicians who base their candidacies on a mastery of the issues, logic, and personal competence. Although these candidates can often come across as stiff, overly measured, too cautious and uninspiring, their appeal is that they appear know what’s going on, they understand the details and minutia and they not only make sure they cross the t’s and dot the i’s, they revel in it. Their competence and attention to the small stuff gives their supporters a tremendous level of confidence in them, a feeling that “things will be handled.”

 

Finally, there are the Tough Guys, the ones who won’t take any guff from anyone, who will never be taken advantage of, who will show everyone “who’s the boss.” The Chris Christies and Donald Trumps of the world fall into this category. This is a tricky category, because in order to be able to win the confidence of a majority of voters and prove to the always-skeptical liberal media that they are worthy, the Tough Guy candidate must establish their bona fides regarding their mastery of the issues and knowledge of details very quickly and definitively, or else they’ll be painted as being all-bluster-but-no-substance. In addition, tough can’t be perceived as cold or unsympathetic; in order to be successful, “tough” can only be relentless and uncompromising in getting things—the right things—done.

 

This brings us to the wildly disparate views of Donald Trump. Rarely have the supporters and detractors of a president been separated by so wide a gulf. His detractors think he’s patently unqualified and no amount or degree of favorable economic or foreign policy progress will ever convince them otherwise. To them, his personal transgressions alone disqualify him from even the most fleeting of serious consideration, and his subsequent daily demonstrations (to them) of his total lack of understanding of basic Presidential governing principles only adds to their absolute conviction of his embarrassing unfitness for office. The word that best describes their feeling is horrifying. If there is a stronger, more descriptive word, then they’ll use that.

 

His most ardent supporters think his approach and style are exactly what has been missing from the ultra-cautious, overly-soft, pathetically politically-correct governance we’ve suffered under for far too long. His supporters—remember, enough to have won the Electoral College very, very convincingly—feel that America has veered so far off course economically, socially, militarily and judicially that only a “tough guy” can set it straight (or at the very least, stop the bleeding).

 

A descriptive phrase emerged from the campaign that perfectly sums up the Trump phenomenon:

 

His detractors take him literally but not seriously, while his supporters take him seriously but not literally.

 

I admit to not knowing who originated this phrase (it wasn’t me), but it’s amazingly accurate.

 

Let’s look at two recent examples of this:

 

  1. The “Look what happened in Sweden last night” comment. On February 18th, 2017 while addressing a rally in Orlando FL, Trump uttered that phrase and the liberal media was quick to pounce. They shouted in unison that nothing specific or reportable happened in Sweden on February 17th“last night”—and so they were quite satisfied with themselves for proving, yet again, that at best Trump has a very poor command of the facts and issues and at worst he willfully and intentionally lies to mislead his audiences. Just the latest in a long string of such occurrences.

 

A perfect example of taking him “Literally but not seriously.”

 

His supporters are quick to point out that they understood that Trump was not necessarily referring to “last night February 17th,” but instead, he was referring to what’s happening now in Sweden as a result of the overwhelmingly unvetted immigration of Muslims and refugees, and how that is having a huge negative impact on Swedish society and culture: the non-assimilation of >99% of those immigrants has caused a huge increase in gun violence, rape and property damage. The implications of Trump’s comments are obvious to his supporters—we must not allow a huge influx of that kind of immigration here, or we’ll suffer the same consequences. They take him seriously but not literally. That Sweden has since suffered explicit acts of terrorism only adds to the credence and legitimacy of Trump’s underlying contention.

 

  1. “Obama wiretapped me at Trump Towers.” From a literal standpoint, this will never be proven to be true. First of all, Obama would never allow his fingers to be caught in any sort of wiretapping or espionage cookie jar. He’s far too crafty a political operative and if any such action was conducted, Obama would have several layers of plausibly-deniable distance between himself and any wrongdoing. “Obama wiretapped me at Trump Towers” will never be proven to be literally true.

 

It doesn’t have to be. From the very first non-denial denial (“President Obama never ordered any wiretapping on Trump”), the Obama Administration has been careful to parse, slice and dice their exact wording very carefully. Of course Obama never ordered any such thing—presidents don’t do that. They nudge-nudge/wink-wink and let “what needs to be done” be done, but without their specific knowledge. Since Trump’s original allegation, the entire Susan Rice fandango has exploded, where we now know that the Democrats did “something” untoward, dishonest or unethical with regards to illicit intelligence gathering on their Republican political opponents during the 2016 campaign. Trump’s contention of being wiretapped is entirely correct, if wiretapping means the unlawful electronic collection of campaign information. It’s inaccurate if it’s taken to mean that President Obama ordered a trap be put on Trump’s phone so Obama or someone from his administration could personally listen in.

 

Once again, it’s the perfect distinction between “seriously” vs. “literally.” Trump’s opponents will never cede the point. His supporters understand it instinctively.

 

Liberal media double standards are alive and well, of course. When Obama said during the 2008 campaign that he’d visited “all 57 states,” there was hardly a mention of it to be found anywhere. Even though every 2nd-grader in the country knows there are 50 states, Obama’s “literal” gaff was ignored with an accommodation that no Republican would have been afforded. When Obama outright lied—quite intentionally, since he knew the ins and outs of his ‘signature legacy achievement’ better than anyone—by saying, “If you like your doctor and your plan, you can keep them,” not one damaging criticism of his literal lie was trumpeted by the liberal media.

 

Trump is a big picture corporate CEO. He envisions overall strategy but his subordinates execute the niggling details in his businesses. As head of the Trump conglomerate, he is not used to the media hanging on and parsing every word for nuance and implication on an hour-by-hour basis. Will he get better at this and not be trapped as often by the hostile minions at CNN and the NY Times? Perhaps a little, but never better enough to satisfy them of his competence and mastery of the issues. Will the 60-odd million who voted against him ever be convinced or swayed? No.

 

But his supporters know the difference between literally and seriously. They take Trump’s policy proposals seriously, even if what he said literally may not be precisely accurate to that exact moment or specific situation.

 

He has named the extremely competent Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia. He has re-authorized the Keystone XL pipeline. He has rolled back punitive, job-killing environmental regulations on businesses (regulations that didn’t really help the environment, instead serving only to buy Green votes). He has pressured big corporations (Lockheed, Boeing, Ford, Carrier, etc.) into reducing prices, keeping factories in America, and expanding their investment in this country. He has shown Assad (and all our adversaries worldwide) that crimes against humanity and contrary to American national interests will not stand and that America will respond quickly and forcefully, without telegraphing its punches weeks in advance. He has redoubled our support for Israel. All this in under three months.

 

To his supporters, this is serious. To them, that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did we overlook the Oversight Committee when everyone was caught flat-footed in the kitchen having a cup of coffee when suddenly Jason Chaffetz decided to bail on a promising political career? Is that really what the Utah Republican’s surprise announcement is all about?

The theory goes that Chaffetz – chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform – was all geared up to chair a long and continuing investigation of President Hillary Clinton’s various scandals. Especially the email scandal. In other words, Chaffetz was sure that Hillary would win, and he saw a great political future in Hillary’s victory. One where his chairmanship of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee would give him a platform to launch any further political ambitions he may have had.

So he made the wrong bet and saw his party’s own candidate win. Now what the heck was he going to do with all that research on Hillary? One anonymous Utah Republican told The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins that:

Aside from Trump and Clinton, nobody’s fortunes changed more on presidential election night than Jason Chaffetz.

You have to wonder if that anonymous quote comes from Evan McMullin, who is on record as considering helpfully whether he should be possibly stepping in to run for the apparently soon-to-be-empty seat. But if Chaffetz is indeed returning to the private sector here’s somewhere he might make some good money by filling in a suddenly slightly empty schedule:

Fox News.

Of course, it’s hard to see how Chaffetz could ever be as compelling a media figure as Bill O’Reilly has been for much of his career – even before he became a centerpiece of Fox’s strategy. And Chaffetz would have to have his own show and build his own brand. And his show would be all about: Hillary and her scandals. All that preparation could suddenly be put to good use without the bother of all those House rules, so to speak.

Look. The First Amendment is the keystone of the constitution. But that means that everyone has a shot at being obnoxious – within some limits. That means that media companies that pulled their advertising dollars from O’Reilly’s show had and have every right to do so. Even if it makes people think they are rushing to judgement in order not to earn the wrath of pressure groups, like O’Reilly attorney Kasowitz is claiming. Kasowitz may be right. He is certainly at least half-right. And his job is to defend his client’s reputation against negative speech. But that negative speech has every right to express itself in various and sundry ways. Including the liberal groups who went after O’Reilly after the NYT story came out last month.

But does Reilly’s reason for being let go have to do with free speech? Or bad behavior? He settled, so it can’t be litigated in a courtroom. Unless Kasowitz finds some way to sue someone for something. Which he probably will. Loud speech about facts which aren’t quite clear. More information will come out, and it will likely paint O’Reilly as an insult-hurling and demanding boss. Was he abusive? We don’t know at this point.

So maybe Jason Chaffetz can have a new show at Fox News where his first guests are … Hillary and Bill O’Reilly. Let the free speech roll!

By the time Democrat hard-left progressive poster boy John Ossoff faces off against GOP contender Karen Handel – former Georgia Secretary of State – in a June 20 run-off election in Georgia’s 6th, a few things may or will have happened:

  • Government will have been shut down – temporarily but how long is anyone’s guess should that happen. It will likely be due to the president not renewing the so-called CRS which are subsidies to insurance companies under the ACA. Defunding Planned Parenthood might also be pointed at as the cause of a lack of an agreement.
  • Government will not have been shut down, because Democrats and maybe a few Tuesday Group Republicans will have ensured that CRS – Cost-sharing reductions – remain in place. Those much-loved subsidies to insurers under Obamacare that subsidize their money-losing policies.
  • The Supreme Court, with Justice Gorsuch in Scalia’s old seat may, by June 20 although it’s not likely, have ruled on religious freedom, in Missouri’s Trinity Lutheran Church vs. Pauley case. Which has to do with paving school playgrounds. Which has to due with government handouts for doing things like paving a school playground with suitable, even ecologically friendly, surfaces. Ok, it actually involves recycled rubber tires in order to make playgrounds safer. How friendly recycled rubber is to your kid’s health is another matter. And it involves state funds, and who gets that bag of goodies: public schools AND religious organizations. Or just secular state institutions.
  • Oh, the new governor of Missouri ruled that religious institutions CAN get that bag of goodies. So the suit is moot in a local, immediate political sense. But not in a broader political sense seeing other states have similar programs with possible lawsuits arising from one side or the other.
  • America fought a short war with North Korea and Seoul was spared the horrible damage through quick decisive action by America and its allies in the Pacific region. Kim-Jong Un was hanged upside down by his own people. Like in Romania. And Italy, a ways back.
  • America is fighting a war with North Korea and things are out of control with millions dying in Seoul and elsewhere. Nuclear weapons have been used by both sides. China is on … wait for it …. red alert but has not undertaken any direct military action. Yet.
  • Russia invades Estonia. NATO declares war. Swedish leaders blame Western islamophobia for the Russian invasion, then hide in bunkers that last saw a fresh coat of paint in 1986.
  • Russia hacks Estonia – again. Julian Assange through Wikileaks raises suspicions about possible fascist ties to the Estonian government.

So there will be plenty of fodder – not to mention other possible black swan events – for Handel and Ossoff to debate in the run up to the June 20 run off election in Georgia’s 6th. If things get really crazy elsewhere, we may not even pay much attention to the run off when it comes. Let’s hope we do.

Why the Doolittle Raid Still Matters 75 Years Later

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All Rights Reserved.

History is always relevant if we’re willing to learn from it. A good example is the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo Japan on April 18th, 1942. By way of quick background, the United States was forced into World War II after the surprise Japanese attack on our naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japan had been aggressively moving against other countries in the Pacific realm for several years, taking territory and raw materials to satisfy its expansionist aims. The Japanese correctly saw the US Pacific Fleet, stationed at Pearl, as the biggest threat to their continued activities and so devised a plan to mount a surprise attack on December 7, 1941 against our forces. The surprise worked. The attack sank or disabled eight of the nine battleships in the Fleet (only the USS Pennsylvania, in dry dock, escaped major damage), destroyed dozens of aircraft on the ground and killed over 2300 US military and civilian personnel, all for the loss of only 29 Japanese aircraft.

The following day, December 8th 1941, the Japanese attacked our main air base in the western Pacific, Clark Field in the Philippines, destroying dozens of US fighters and bombers on the ground, effectively neutralizing our military strength in that region. Therefore, in less than two days, the Japanese dealt the US military two huge defeats, setting the stage for the fall of the Philippines and leaving the entire Pacific essentially unprotected from Japanese attack.

What is less known but unquestionably just as significant as the dual attacks on Pearl Harbor and Clark Field is the Japanese sinking of the British battleships Repulse and Prince of Wales in the South China Sea, just three days after Pearl Harbor, on December 10 1941. The British had dispatched significant naval forces to protect their interests in the Pacific, especially then-colony Singapore, from Japanese aggression. Britain, although a small country in terms of land mass and population, had long been among the world’s pre-eminent naval powers. From Admiral Nelson’s many decisive victories in the late 1700’s-early 1800’s (culminating with his defeat of Napoleon’s fleet off of Trafalgar in 1805) to Admiral Jellicoe’s leading the British Grand Fleet in all-out battleship warfare against the German’s High Seas Fleet at Jutland in 1916 to the powerful mastery of the seas enjoyed by the Royal Navy right through the beginning of World War II, British naval tradition was a source of national pride and identity, very much part of the fabric of their culture.

Only seven months prior (in May 1941), Prince of Wales had played a central role in one of the greatest wartime triumphs ever achieved by Britain: the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck. The Bismarck—a fast, modern, heavily-armed ship—was intended to be a North Atlantic commerce and cargo ship raider. If it managed to break out into the vast undefended expanse of the North Atlantic, it would be free to extract potentially crippling losses from the nation-saving material assistance coming over to England by convoy from the United States. “Sink the Bismarck!” became a national rallying cry in Britain in May 1941, as the deadly German ship attempted to make its way into the open waters of the Atlantic.

The Brits sank it, and the Prince of Wales played a major part, inflicting the initial damage on the Bismarck that led to its eventual demise. If ever an inanimate object—a warship—could become a national hero, the Prince of Wales did.

As stunned and shocked as America was after Pearl Harbor and Clark Field, Britain’s response was one of utter disbelief and horrified astonishment over the sinking of Repulse and Prince of Wales. As 1941 turned into 1942, the Philippines were falling to the Japanese in yet another humiliating defeat for America, Britain was deadlocked in a bitter struggle of attrition against the Germans in North Africa and Germany was inflicting incredible casualties on the Russians on the Eastern front.

The allies—led by America and Britain—were losing everywhere. Morale was low. Eventual victory seemed impossible. Something needed to be done. A bold, unexpected stroke to rock Japan back on its heels and give a beleaguered public something to cheer about.

President Roosevelt and Army Air Corps Lt. Colonel James Doolittle came up with a daring plan: Strike Japan from the air, using carrier-launched planes. Attack Tokyo, right over the heart of Japan, when Japan was at its militarily-invincible height. In a stroke of immeasurable luck, America’s aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese attack. They were out at sea on maneuvers. In a stroke of immeasurable strategic shortsightedness, Japanese Admiral Nagumo elected to withdraw his forces back to Japan instead of ordering a follow-up strike, in spite of the fact that Pearl’s air cover was gone. A follow-up attack could well have finished off the US Navy completely, since the carriers returned to Pearl later that day.

But the Japanese didn’t strike again and America’s carrier force was intact. So the plan was this: assemble a task force centered around the carrier USS Hornet and sail towards Japan. Once the force was about 400 miles away, they’d launch their planes and then reverse direction for a fast escape.

The Navy had no planes that could fly 400 miles to Japan, then fly several hundred more into China, where the plan was they’d land in more-or-less friendly territory and the crews would then somehow make it back home.

Doolittle decided to use 16 twin-engined Army B-25 medium bombers to fly off the Hornet. The B-25 had the range and payload capability that was needed for the mission, far in excess of any Navy plane then in service. Flying a large 2-engine medium bomber off a carrier’s deck had never been done before. The crews of five practiced for weeks on land airstrips painted to the Hornet’s dimensions. The B-25’s themselves were stripped of all unnecessary weight to make the task easier: The bottom gun turret was removed, the upper and side guns were taken out and replaced with wooden broom sticks painted black to look like guns, the heavy precision Norden bombsight was removed and replaced by a lighter, simpler device, and extra fuel tanks were installed to extend the planes’ range.

En route to target, the ships encountered a Japanese fishing trawler about 800 miles out from Japan. (Different reports over the years have put this distance anywhere from 170 miles beyond the 400 mile out launch point—570 miles out— to 400 miles short of the launch point—800 miles out.) The boat was quickly sunk by gunfire from an accompanying U.S escort cruiser, but there was no way to determine if the trawler was just a harmless fishing vessel or a radio-equipped spy ship disguised to look like a fishing boat. Unsure if their cover had been blown, Doolittle’s planes either had to launch immediately or the task force had to turn around.

All 80 of the B-25 crews said, “We go now!” Not a single dissent among the group, all of whom had volunteered for what was almost certainly a suicide mission.

Incredibly, all 16 planes—heavily-laden with fuel and bombs—took off successfully and headed towards Japan. They achieved complete surprise, struck a factory complex and flew away towards China without a single loss to Japanese defenses. It was a total success and the Japanese military planners and public alike were indeed awe-struck and rocked back on their heels. Not even five months after Pearl Harbor, amidst never-ending catastrophic news from every front around the world, American boldness and unfathomable bravery struck a blow for the allies and their people, lifting the morale and spirits of everyone, everywhere, to an incalculable degree.

This was Presidential leadership at its finest. Roosevelt understood the need for our country, and the British too, to have a ‘victory,” to buttress the will of the people to go on fighting, to end the string of bad news. The Doolittle mission didn’t accomplish anything of great material significance—the number of planes was too few, their bomb loads too small—and the idea of risking the loss of an invaluable American carrier task force for what was, in all candor, simply a publicity stunt was total lunacy, from both a logical and strategic standpoint.

However, rallying public support behind a difficult nationally-shared concern of major import is as important a task as a president has. George W. Bush was able to garner similar support and enthusiasm when he stood among the 9-11 ruins with a bullhorn and said, “..and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” Presidents Kennedy and Reagan were similarly and legitimately inspirational, any number of times.

But recent Presidents seem instead to get caught in the lower-level minutia-du-jour, whether it’s saying that a local town police force acted stupidly or proclaiming that a hoodie-wearing trouble-maker “could be my son,” or sending out electronic communications regarding an individual’s physical appearance. It’s been a while since we’ve heard a President lead a rally for public support of a great national scientific effort or deliver a reassuringly-fatherly address after a national emergency or tragedy, or present the country with a reasoned, logical, non-condescending explanation of why the country is about to embark on a difficult course that will result in the betterment of our situation in the long run.

History is a good teacher. Roosevelt’s decision to green-light the seemingly illogical Doolittle Raid serves as an excellent example of the sort of bold, big-picture, for-national-benefit actions a President should take. Actions that today seem to get lost too often in the instantaneous chaos of media-driven small-minded partisan conflict.

 

Epilogue—Results of the Doolittle Raid:

All 16 planes made it safely out of Japanese airspace, but being low on fuel because of the greater-than-planned flying distance, all crash-landed in either eastern China or eastern Russia. Three crewmembers were killed during the landings. Eight crewmen were captured by occupying Japanese soldiers in China; three were executed and five were imprisoned, one of whom died in captivity. The rest eventually made their way back and resumed their military service. Doolittle thought he was going to be court-martialed for losing all 16 planes and failing to get his crews home quickly, but instead, he received the Medal of Honor and a promotion to brigadier general when he returned home in June 1942.

 

Sources

Famous Bombers of the Second World War, © 1959 William Green, Doubleday & Co.

Airwar, © 1971 Edward Jablonski, Doubleday & Co.

Air Force © 1957 Martin Caidin, Bramhall House

American Combat Planes © 1982 Ray Wagner, Doubleday & Co.

The Two Ocean War © 1963 Samuel Elliot Morrison, Little-Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s all over for the GOP. 2018 will be a disaster. We’ll lose the House. Why? Kansas. Kansas will lose us the House? No, Estes! Estes or Kansas? Estes is in Kansas! And he, what? Lost an election? No, he won the election. And that’s why we’ll lose the House? Yes. Because Estes won. By only a 7% margin.

Methinks they worry too much. Or doth cheer a little too lustily in the case of Democrats.

Ron Estes won a special election in Kansas’ deep Red 4th District, because former seat holder Mike Pompeo is now at the CIA giving Julian Assange some double-barrelled criticism. The race was unexpectedly close and support was required from the White House and Senator Ted Cruz, no less. The former State Treasurer beat back a challenge by Democratic candidate James Thompson by margin of 53% to 46%.

So what does this mean? Can we extrapolate all sorts of grand trends from this one election? Real Clear Politics’ Sean Trende cautions from reading too much into this special election. Local factors on the ground, like Governor Sam Brownback’s low approval ratings and Thompson’s relatively conservative stance on issues like 2nd amendment rights, were important in squeezing the margin. However, Trende also warns that if President Trump’s ratings remain relatively low going in to the midterm elections in about 18 months, then that could be a problem in terms of the GOP holding on to the House.

So Speaker Paul Ryan has Georgia on his minds now. And has apparently helped raise $22 million. The problem is, the GOP field is almost as crowded as the presidential primaries in the fall of 2015. The seat formerly held by Tom Price now at Health and Human Services, will be contested with all the candidates on one ballot and a runoff between 1st and 2nd place, if no one gets to 50%.

At last count, 11 Republicans and 5 Democrats have thrown their hats in the ring. That’s a lot of hats. Right now the media is all hot and bothered over liberal Jon Ossoff, born and raised in the 6th district. He attended Georgetown and LSE, and was an aide to Hank Johnson, who represents Georgia’s 4th district. A perfect young progressive wonk (he’s 30) and a native son.

Money is being spent on ads, and early turnout is high. Will Ossoff pull off an upset in another red district? If he does, you can be sure that the media’s joyful lamentations over the demise of the GOP will be deafening. Will it, however, signal a wave of House seats being flipped to Democrats in 2018? The mid-terms are 19 months away. That’s several life times in politics. We’ll just have to see.

It’s time to take a closer look at Jared Kushner. Not just the photos of him that lately have shown him as a gaunt and alert presence – a little like a tall, much better looking Nosferatu, gazing darkly at some perhaps unsuspecting target.

The problem is, this liberal, New York, (yes he’s from New Jersey but he’s New York), Democrat is gaining power by the day if not the hour in President Trump’s White House. And the president trusts Jared it seems, as much as he does Steve Bannon. And not only that, Jared has shown an uncanny ability to emerge relatively unscathed during these stormy early days and weeks. Somehow deflecting attention away from himself by being impressively agile and discreet during the epic battles on healthcare, the immigration executive order, and the Russia investigation. Jared Kushner is very un-Nunes and un-Bannon let’s just say.

Until now perhaps.

Yes, call the plumbers, the White House is leaking again. The point being that someone inside is leaking to the press about an apparent slug-fest between Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. And it’s no surprise that there may be some open conflict between the scrappy, elder Irish populist and the young, urbane and seemingly ruthless liberal. The policy direction of the White House is at stake.

Who does Trump trust just that little bit extra?

No, the question should be this: what are Trump’s core political beliefs? And while any healthy does of skepticism regarding anyone’s core beliefs in Washington D.C. might lead one to dismiss the question, that would be a little too cynical. President Trump is … the president. Of America. There’s nowhere he can hide his opinions and beliefs. Nor is he inclined to. And his core beliefs matter. And that’s where most of the criticism from the right focused their contempt for Trump’s candidacy on. He’s a Democrat. He’s a New York Liberal. He’s not one of us. He can’t be trusted. While the left attacked him lustily on the very grounds he was claiming: nationalist populism and a sort-of America First recycling of earlier movements. Even as they shared a sort of disbelief with the right at his rise through the primaries and the election itself.

At this point, Trump has assembled an impressive and mostly conservative cabinet and group of advisers. With Bannon as a fire-breathing populist apparently in various key positions. Until his demotion this week at the National Security Council. Right at the same time as Kushner seems ascendent in the Trump White House.

Has Kushner carefully cultivated relationships with officials and cabinet members as he studiously avoided the limelight? We don’t really know. Is he advising the president to move left on healthcare and work with Democrats? We can’t really tell. Is he helping shape policy in the Middle East, in places like Syria? We have no idea if he travelled there to be a faithful observer for President Trump, or if he has an agenda.

It’s time to shine a little light on Jared Kushner. Perhaps the following weeks and months will bring some needed details on what the President’s son-in-law’s role, or roles, in the White House really are. And it may be that some conservative media outlets on good terms with Bannon will be more than glad to take up that task.

Follow the Votes

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

There’s an old cliché that applies to many situations: “Follow the money.” This means, of course, that many actions, statements and rationalizations are best understood when the observer realizes that the initiator has their own financial self-interests at heart as they undertake various acts and then attempt to explain them.

In the current political environment, there is a close corollary to Follow the Money: Follow the Votes. Many issues cause politicians and activists on both sides to engage in logic-defying, contradictory actions and statements in their transparent attempt to convince voters.

Global Warming is certainly a prime example of this. Whether it’s Barbara Streisand maintaining her famously lavish, energy-intensive homestead, or Leonardo DiCaprio flying in an “eyebrow artist” 7500 miles from Australia to make himself look pretty for his Oscars attendance or Global Warming Champions Al Gore and Robert Kennedy Jr. famously taking fuel-gulping/pollution-spewing private jets to various events, the degree of hypocritical actions and statements in support of pet political causes is nothing short of incredible.

The hilariously-but-tragically labeled subject of “choice” is another perfect case. The apparent utter disregard for human decency and compassion that leads supposedly “Catholic” Democratic politicians like John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi to support unrestricted late-term abortion—essentially the birth of a full-term child who is then mercilessly killed upon delivery, just seconds before qualifying as a legal “life”—is a horrifyingly excellent illustration of “Follow the Votes.” We must have choice, after all, and we must capture the voters who support that.

However, as spot-on as the above examples are, there is one subject that defines Follow the Votes better than any other. That issue is immigration. Specifically it is the leniency towards illegal immigration espoused by Democrats.

By current estimates, there are somewhere around 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Most have come through our southern border from Mexico and other Latin countries. U.S. southern border security is less than Berlin Wall-esque tight, to put it mildly. Republicans and Democrats alike decry our immigration system as “broken” and constantly cite the need for some vague, sweeping “comprehensive immigration reform,” the details of which are frustratingly never delineated in an actual bill.

The crux of the illegal immigration issue is the fact that children born to illegal immigrants residing in the United States automatically become U.S. citizens, with all the rights and privileges that that status confers—including the right to vote. Democrats’ vehement defense of sanctuary cities, their oh-so-concerned, outraged protests over Republicans’ supposed desire to wantonly deport illegals and cold-heartedly break up families, the Dems’ dramatic assertions that illegals “play an indispensable role in our economy, pay taxes and do jobs that Americans won’t do,” it all amounts to nothing more than a disingenuous smokescreen in an effort to obscure their actual intent: to grow the ranks of future Democratic voters.

Latinos are the fastest-growing American demographic group and the prediction that the United States will become a “majority minority” country within a generation is based in large part on the growth of the Latino segment. Democrats can read predictive demographic trends as well—or better than—Republicans and have therefore oriented their illegal immigration strategy accordingly, realizing full well that illegal immigrants are low-income people whose families will be in need of Democratic-sponsored entitlement programs. The citizen offspring of illegal immigrants will be guaranteed reliable Democratic voters.

This brings us to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which is offered as the rationale for why children of illegals become U.S. citizens. When the 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868, its primary intent was to ensure that newly-freed slaves were accorded full citizenship and rights under the Constitution. It is the famous opening clause,

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

that is cited as the primary reason for the U.S.-born offspring of illegal immigrants being accorded full citizenship.

Some Constitutional scholars assert that illegal immigrants are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Rather, they are subject to the jurisdiction of their native country, since they have entered the United States illegally without any formally-recognized renunciation of allegiance to their own country, and therefore the “jurisdiction” reasoning of the 14th Amendment does not apply to them.

Nonetheless, in 1982, Supreme Court Justice William Brennan Jr.—a staunchly liberal justice who supported abortion rights and opposed the death penalty—made a ruling that read, “…no plausible distinction with respect to the 14th Amendment ‘jurisdiction’ can be drawn between resident aliens whose entry into the United States was lawful, and resident aliens whose entry was unlawful.”

This addendum by Brennan is widely regarded as the modern-day legal justification for the citizenship of children born to illegal immigrants. No argument is being made here as to the logic or defensibility of Brennan’s 1982 ruling. But that ruling has given rise to a concerted Democratic political strategy spanning the last 35 years: Maximize—by any means needed, by any remotely-plausible argument, by demonization as inhumane anyone who opposes it—the presence of illegal immigrants in the U.S. so that they have as many citizen children as possible to swing the future voting pendulum permanently in favor of the Democrats.

Follow the votes. Every Democratic position, utterance and policy proposal regarding illegal immigration is geared towards that goal.

 

 

As the Senate Majority party – the GOP of course – exercises the nuclear option and allows cloture with a simple majority vote, there is an interesting historical connection that arises. One that seems very relevant today.

Cloture – the ending of debate on Senate bills – came into being in 1917 during WW I, over the blocking of legislation by a group of senators that would have allowed merchant ships to arm themselves. Against whom? The Kaiser’s U-Boats of course, who were pursing a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, sinking merchant ships, passenger ships, and naval ships of any allied or even neutral countries. It was a scorched-earth policy carried out underwater, as a way to try and gain some control of the seas against the Royal Navy.

And in a rather eye-opening piece in the Federalist, John Davidson compares America’s current dilemma with that which the emerging superpower found itself in in 1917. The sinking of the Lusitania and the Zimmerman telegram which exposed a mad plan by Germany to support a Mexican invasion of America’s southern border (remember the Mexican-American War was a far more recent event in those days), with a possible alliance (or axis if you will) with Japan as well.

The public demanded America defend herself and she entered the First World War and became an ally of the U.K. Something America had arguably not been up until that point.

Now we have the southern border as a deeply divisive domestic issue, as well as the Middle East and ISIS, looming over any decision on foreign policy that Trump’s administration might make. And of course, Syria is the latest heart of darkness, following in the bloody tradition of Afghanistan and Iraq.

And once again, Syria presents us with horrifying images, cruel enough to make the humanitarian in each of us want to weep and them grab a weapon and go hunt for Assad. Pronto.

President Trump has signaled he wants action on this. But what action? Davidson’s warning in the Federalist essentially says that you need a very clear set of policy objectives before invading a country like Syria. Or entering a World War. In another related article also at The Federalist, Sean Davis lists a dozen questions that should be asked before committing to invading Syria. All of them tough and all of them hard to answer. And Rob Tracinski (yes also at The Federalist) models a possible approach on America’s support of Afghan rebels in the 80’s. When Osama Bin Laden was one of the famed mujahadeen.

Ok.

Yes, America can start a proxy war in Syria and we can all feel we are helping those wounded children – the ones who survive the gas attack that is – and as the operation bogs down and the “rebels forces” America supports in yet another proxy war, become indistinguishable from ISIS terrorists, what then? Do you send in American ground troops (some are already there by the way)? Do you start WW III with Russia and unleash a nuclear conflict? And unlikely outcome, but not impossible.

Or – at best perhaps – does Syria turn into another Afghanistan. Always just a few policy and defense tweaks away from becoming stable and not a nightmare patchwork of corruption, tribal betrayals, and islamic terrorism?

Do you send in a Navy Seal team to somehow kidnap and bring Assad back to, say, Guantanamo Bay? And then what happens in Syria? Peace? From one day to the next? Justice and revenge are linked. Let’s not kid ourselves. But they are not the same. And thinking that justice can be achieved in Syria by taking revenge on a killer like Assad makes for dangerous foreign policy. Trump’s generals in his administration need to think this one through carefully and advice the president well. Syria must not trap America in a quagmire.

Listening to Democrat Senators threatening and cajoling their colleagues on Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, you would think that the 60-vote cloture rule was enshrined in the Constitution way back in 1789 or thereabouts. Sorry. Not true.

Cloture and the filibuster have always been procedural and therefore tactical rules of engagement in Congress, especially in the Senate. That means that they have been modified from time to time. Usually as the result of anger at a filibuster, or anger at the failure of a filibuster. And for much of the 20th century, that anger came from Southern (often Democrat) senators who were not keen to see civil rights legislation spread too far or wide in America.

In the late 40’s cloture thus required a hefty two-thirds vote. A filibusterer’s paradise, if you will. But by the mid 70’s (after the failure to filibuster the 1964 Civil Rights Act into oblivion by Senator Robert Byrd among others) that threshold for ending debate was reduced to three-fifths, or 60 votes in today’s senate.

So now we are faced with the nuclear obliteration of the filibuster – at least in relation to Supreme Court Nominations – to use the language of Democrats and much of the media. And the GOP as well, if you’re being honest. Because both sides don’t mind the theatre that such a simile produces. And the media loves it of course. But is it really the procedural equivalent of an A-bomb being dropped on a legislative body?

Hardly. Ask yourself this question:

Is the filibuster a vital parliamentary tactic that we would be wise to keep? It really doesn’t seem so. Constructive debate is the cornerstone of a parliamentary democracy, and Congress fulfills that role in America’s republic. And filibustering is the tactic used when the votes aren’t there, after the constructive debate has run it’s course. It’s all about delaying, laying siege to the intentions of the opposition and hoping to drain the lifeblood out of any proposed legislation. Think of the filibuster as a little bat that hangs in the rafters of Congress until it’s time every now and then to swoop down on the procedural process, and suck the life out of a bill.

Yes, the Democrat’s base is howling for blood. Like rabid wolves on the steps of Congress hoping to wake up that little bat in the rafters, and then watching with glowing eyes, as the proposed nomination dries up like a desiccated corpse.

Good luck. Not going to happen. And therefore, we are again at a point where the filibuster is about to change. It starts with Supreme Court nominations. Does it end there? Or will it eventually be gone forever if Democrats follow through and refuse to give Gorsuch the 60 votes for any (theoretical) cloture? It’s close and the next few days will see whether the filibuster survives.

If it dies, will Democrats insist on keeping Justice Ginsburg on life-support (literally) if – God forbid – she succumbs to a life-threatening disease. Will her votes be recorded by the beeps on her heart monitor? How many beeps make a yes? A no?

Silly perhaps. But because of the need to placate their base, Democrats may regret not giving Gorsuch the 60 votes. Let’s hope they do, for the sake of procedure, and that little bat in the rafters. Even if its presence is hardly the Senate’s most glorious feature.