Pieces of the Same Puzzle: SOTU, DACA, FBI

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

There are three issues swirling around in the news lately that may appear to be unrelated: The recently-delivered State of the Union (SOTU) address, the ongoing controversy over the DACA immigrants, and the about-to-be-released FBI memo regarding the basis of the FISA warrants in the Russia collusion investigation. They are not unrelated. Quite the opposite: They are all incredibly important pieces of the same puzzle. Let’s look at them individually and then put the pieces together into one big picture.

Piece 1—The State of the Union Address

President Trump, by all accounts, delivered a very direct, surprisingly inclusive, clearly-America-first State of the Union address last week. Polls indicate Republican and Independent approval of the speech in the 75-80% range and even Democratic voters gave him a mid-40% approval rating. On issue after issue, he pointed to clear evidence of the success of his policies and approaches, coupled with a clear vision for moving the country forward.

His harshest critics, the ones who will never concede to him even the smallest smidgeon of credit, the ones to whom he is an “embarrassment,” an “aberration,” had their minds made up about his SOTU speech before he uttered even a single word. Their take on his dynamic, inspiring performance was—sadly, predictably— “Well, he did a pretty good job of reading a speech that someone else wrote, but in my mind, he doesn’t deserve credit for that.”

As if every president doesn’t “read a speech that someone else wrote.” The president may or may not actually write a majority (or any!) of the speech itself, but regardless, the speech is directly, accurately reflective of the president’s policies, plans and future strategies. The president edits, shapes, tweaks and ultimately approves the speech. The SOTU speech is the president’s speech, regardless of the actual authorship.

The written/spoken line, “We’re going to keep Guantanamo Bay open” was as indisputably Trump’s as “I’m going to close Guantanamo Bay” was Obama’s. Regardless of who originally wrote it, those lines represent each president’s intended policy and they each deserve the credit or criticism as appropriate. That’s the way it is with the entire SOTU speech…and with every speech given by any president, for that matter.

However, much to his opponents’ unending irritation, President Trump has an unambiguous, clear, and yes, inspiring manner of expression. He is capable of reaching and convincing a significant portion of the undecided “casually-attentive” voting bloc. That talent was clearly on display this past January 30th. The sophisticated liberal sect and their liberal media allies would never succumb to such a simplistic, transparent presentation. Instead, they purport to see right through his rhetoric, as if it was nothing more than the intentionally-misleading, disingenuous pap of an old-time snake-oil huckster.

Unfortunately for the Democrats in Congress and CNN/MSNBC, President Trump pointed to much success for which he can justifiably take credit:

  • Extremely low unemployment, especially among Blacks and Hispanics
  • Dramatic stock market gains, to the direct tangible benefit of individual investors, pension participants and educational savings account owners
  • The decimation of ISIS as a direct result of new military Rules of Engagement instituted under Trump
  • The personal and corporate tax cuts, resulting in immediately greater individual disposable income and greatly increased corporate investment and expansion.

Piece 2—The DACA Compromise

President Trump is on the cusp of pulling off a political coup by giving into a key Democratic demand—the acceptance of DACA. Not just the 800k actual DACA persons themselves, but 1.8 million, which includes giving unequivocal amnesty to extended family members of the so-called Dreamers. Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, fresh off his humiliation in the ill-fated Schumer Shutdown, is now in the uncomfortable position of having to take “yes” for an answer on the Dreamers in return for agreeing to funding the Wall, ending chain migration, instituting a merit-based immigration system and ending the visa lottery system. The American public favors all of these positions.

Trump has artfully maneuvered the Democrats into either accepting what the public views as a perfectly reasonable compromise to the hitherto vexing immigration conundrum, or, with a refusal to compromise, exposing what many feel is the real Democratic aim on immigration: to simply maximize the importation of future low-income/Government-dependent Democratic voters by turning a blind eye to illegal immigration.

President Trump’s strategy has yet to bear fruit and there is no guaranty that it will. The Democrats’ stubbornness and willingness to avoid working with President Trump is incredibly deeply-ingrained, bolstered by their never-lessening resentment over his having beaten the anointed Hillary and their certainty that their liberal media allies—no, stronger—accomplices will sway public opinion in their favor regardless of the Democrats’ actions.

Piece 3—The FBI Memo

The Democrats’ ace-in-the-hole is, of course, the Russia investigation. If the investigation can somehow uncover some conclusive, destructive evidence of Trump Administration’s legal wrongdoing, then the Democrats will have succeeded in dissembling and delegitimizing the Trump presidency and, as a bonus, ruining the Republican brand for several voting cycles to come. By which time, of course, all those extra imported Democratic voters will be securely in place, ensuring comfortable Democratic national electoral victories in perpetuity.

The Democrats’ real fear about the FBI memo being released is that it will show the FBI to have acted in a corrupt, overtly-partisan manner that tried to influence the 2016 election in Hillary’s favor. If that is shown to be true, it removes the legal basis for the investigation of Trump in the first place, exposing the Democrats’ blatantly political motives for the entire matter.

Without their “collusion” investigation, the Democrats are shorn of their ability to distract the public and thus it lays bare the fact that they are not cooperating with President Trump—purely for political reasons—on an immigration policy with which the public approves. Bolstered by the extremely strong public approval of his SOTU speech, President Trump’s DACA proposal is now much stronger than it would have been.

If the released FBI memo badly damages the Democrats’ anti-Trump activities, it sets in motion for them a nightmare domino scenario that will derail their efforts at unfairly manipulating public opinion and forces them to actually settle the immigration matter—something they are loathe to do. Absent their treasure-trove of illegal-immigrants-turned-future-Democratic-voters, the election process will return to something of a level playing field, issues-oriented contest. A nightmare indeed for the Democrats.

It all fits together so neatly. The completed puzzle presents a crystal-clear picture: For the Democrats, it’s all about collecting votes by any means possible and gaining power. Maximizing illegal immigration increases the number of future Democratic voters. Ruining Trump’s image with a ginned-up investigation wrecks the Republican brand and increases the number of future Democratic voters.  A strong Trump SOTU address coupled with his sane DACA proposal and the danger posed by the release of the FBI memo does not add up to a pretty picture for the Democrats.

 

Warren Henry is the pen name of an Illinois attorney who writes an annoyingly compact and nuanced email that I receive. Annoying to me, because apparently his purpose is to “question his priors” and his emails often contain enough OTOH’s to leave one begging for a positive affirmation that does so in no uncertain terms. He is undoubtedly a very thorough lawyer.

One of his latest missives deals with technology – social media in particular – and the dangerous collapsing of institutions in terms of trust, but also in terms of how they are run. He links to a wonderfully written if alarmist article in Buzzfeed by the site’s political editor Katherine Miller titled: Donald Trump, #Me Too, Facebook, And The Breakdown Of Institutional Power. In her article she links the sex abuse scandals by the powerful towards those who lack it, to the general degradation of institutions:

Smash the exterior of an institution and you may reveal catacombs of cruelty, shame, sickness, all the terrible things people with power can do to those without it in the corridor of a hotel suite, inside an office, inside a home, in small places you feel you are not meant to be.

After wondering why our institutions do not foster and protect virtue, or kindness (she leads her list with the church and the military, two of the institutions that try to do precisely that and have not fallen nearly as far as somewhere like Hollywood or mainstream media or Congress) she turns to the new institutions of social media:

And then there’s all of us, consuming this weird year through our phones, living inside new institutions that are mind-blowing in scale and horribly ill-equipped for the task of handling us.

Or is it that we are ill-equipped to handle the way we interact on social media platforms and the way we seek out information on them? The connected global village (to use a phrase that is so quaint nowadays it seems hopelessly archaic) has turned out to be a rather toxic place. Back when people didn’t laugh at you for using phrases like “global village”, radical academic Lawrence Lessig wrote this:

Ours is the age of cyberspace. It, too, has a regulator. This regulator, too, threatens liberty. But so obsessed are we with the idea that liberty means “freedom from government” that we don’t even see the regulation in this new space. We therefore don’t see the threat to liberty that this regulation presents.

This regulator is code — the software and hardware that make cyberspace as it is … For unless we can understand how cyberspace can embed, or displace, values from our constitutional tradition, we will lose control over those values.

I can barely write a few (mostly wrong) lines of code in Python or HTML, but let me just say it’s really the software we’re talking about here when we say code. No kidding huh? But to the bigger point: Code is Law. That seems to be the creed for hacktivists whether related to Wikileaks or to the fact that you were dumb/unlucky enough to let someone hack your Ether coin. Code is law. And if you’re good at code, and good at a little psychology and bithneth, you build platforms that acquire a critical mass that makes them dominant players in today’s world. And where the engineering-dominant culture, according to another Buzzfeed article by Charlie Warzel, is:

… one that views nearly all content as agnostic, and everything else as a math problem.

Ok. Really? What scares you more? Content viewed as agnostic? Isn’t that the liberty that Lessig was crying out for back in 1999? Or non-binary transgender queer activists threatening you physically if you work at Google and don’t agree with their world views, and them deciding what content you should see?

Katherine Miller ends her article with the following words:

Whatever it is, now we are free to tear apart every last institution until every last vestige of that kind of pain is gone, hurtling towards some new future where you can only hope the kindness in our hearts wins out.

Allow me to dissent from Miller’s apocalyptic and poetic vision. Let us hope instead that the founder’s sober wisdom on the nature of mankind provides us a guide with how to live with social media in an age of partisan division and conflicting values. And to use that wisdom to sort out how to prevent another Russian or other foreign assault on America’s political system and it’s values. To do that we need to know more than we do right now on what happened this past election campaign. And to be able to come to some sort of judgement on what in fact happened. We’re not there yet.

Also, “liberty” and “code” are truly now inseparable. They will be part of every debate from here on in. Code is becoming law. But law will, or should, still lead us.

A Starbucks in suburban Virginia. Maybe one of the ones near Arlington National Cemetery. Five men in their forties and early fifties in jeans and windbreakers huddle in the parking lot. The tallest one – really tall – tells a worried-looking younger man, the youngest of the group:

I swear to God, I will never, ever forget. Do you understand now?

The worried younger guy gulps and says

Yes.

But it doesn’t work that way, does it? So, the point being that according to Texas GOP Rep John Ratcliffe – who’s also Chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity – there is a reference to a “secret society” within the FBI, in the texts exchanged between FBI Agent Strzok and former FBI Attorney Page. Of which now there appears to be a few months of missing texts – from mid December 2016 to May 2017, when Mueller was appointed special prosecutor. Close to 50,000 texts apparently, gone, missing in action. Due to a glitch.

Let’s take a leap of conspiratorial speculation and assume for a moment there may have been (or still be) a rogue group within the FBI, and this is what the words “secret society” refer to.

We have no idea at this point what evidence there may be of their purpose. We can guess, however, that it would involve spreading incriminating information – or disinformation – on the Trump campaign, then on the Trump transition team, and finally, on the Trump administration itself. All in order to prevent, and then frustrate, and perhaps resist an elected administration. Or even help overturn it.

Do they have secret codewords and rotate their meetings between parking lots around Northern Virginia and D.C.? Uh, no, surely not. In other words, the evidence that any supposed group of FBI employees might have or might still exist will have to be parsed from convoluted, bureaucratic procedures, and mountains of partial evidence that on it’s own may appear trivial at times but within a larger context may prove damning.

But why do we have to go looking for a secret society? When former intel chiefs are in the media warning of the dangers of President Trump? When Sally Yates – Deputy Attorney General and Acting Attorney General for 10 days in January 2017 – defied her new boss over the first travel ban, rather than resign. She sided with the 9th Circuit rather than the White House, stating:

For as long as I am the acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of th[is] executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.

Did you applaud? Would you care if I pointed to Scalia’s dissent in Morrison v. Olson in 1988, and how it illuminates the entire special counsel/independent counsel dilemma? If you applauded you don’t care about Scalia’s theory of the “unitary executive” of which the Department of Justice is part. Trump shouldn’t be president and Sally Yates was right to display undue deference to the lower courts’ doubts about the ban.

So why should we unduly worry about a secret society in the FBI? When former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper states:

Having some understanding of the levers of power that are available to a president if he chooses to exercise them, I found this (Trump’s speech in Phoenix last August) downright scary and disturbing.

Never mind that he lied to Congress about the NSA surveillance program, Trump’s the scary one.

When the much of the media agrees with Clapper, should we be shocked and disturbed that some members of the FBI might have worked more as an opposition research team, aiding and abetting Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele, along with the DNC and Hillary’s campaign team, than as impartial agents of the law? Yes, it is troubling. And yes, #Resistance may involve far more than just disgruntled EPA employees. But surprising?

Sure, conspiracy can be fun to watch on Netflix. At least before Kevin Spacey’s fall from grace. But this “secret society”, if it indeed exists, will be far more confusing and muddled and layered than any episode of House of Cards. And if it does indeed exist, those of you who applauded Sally Yates will justify and rationalize it’s actions. And that’s the truly troubling part.

If Democrats Take the House, They’ll Impeach Trump

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Historically, the first mid-term elections in a new president’s first term result in major losses for the President’s party. The most famous recent example was in 1994, following the 1992 election of Bill Clinton. In spite of Clinton’s oratory skill, favorable media coverage and appealing looks/smooth demeanor, the 1994 mid-terms were a disaster for the Democrats.

Led by the “villainous, scary” Newt Gingrich, Republicans won 54 House seats. In what came to be called the “Republican Revolution,” they wrested Congressional control away from Democrats for the first time since 1952. Once in control, Gingrich instituted his Contract with America programs, a series of Congressional initiatives designed to implement what the Republicans felt was their electoral mandate from the populace. The liberal media hated Gingrich and the Republicans and resented their victory tremendously, ceaselessly deriding the Republican-controlled efforts and referring to it as the “Contract on America.”

Similarly, during Ronald Reagan’s first term in 1982, his Republican Party lost 27 Congressional seats, despite Reagan’s overwhelmingly lopsided presidential victory over the hapless Jimmy Carter just two short years prior. It appears that even popular presidents coming off strong wins are susceptible to profound Congressional losses in the first contest out of the gate.

The Republicans may well lose control of Congress in 2018 for the first time since 2006. This is significant, because one of the things a Congressional majority has the power to do is bring articles of impeachment against a sitting president.

In recent (post-World War II) history, this has only been done once, when the Republican House voted in 1998 to impeach President Clinton for his alleged lying under oath and obstruction of justice during the Monica Lewinsky matter. It certainly would also have happened during the President Nixon/Watergate affair in 1974, but President Nixon resigned before any formal charges were brought.

The standard for Congress to level charges against a sitting president are a clear and willful commission on the president’s part of “high crimes and misdemeanors” against the country, such that the rule of law, national security or the common good is grievously threatened. It’s an inexact standard, to be sure, subject to the political whims and mood of the controlling Congressional party.

To say that Democratic politicians in DC, Hillary’s 60+ million voters and the liberal mainstream media regard President Trump as an illegitimate president is an understatement. They have been complaining and protesting his presence in the Oval Office since day one, starting with their invention of “Crowdgate,” where they purported to show how much bigger President Obama’s Inauguration Day attendance was than President Trump’s. That day—Day One of his presidency—gave birth to liberal “fake news” coverage of his tenure in office, as the liberal cable stations shamelessly and disingenuously compared early morning photos of Trump’s crowd with peak afternoon pictures of Obama’s crowd.

So it has continued, unabated, non-stop for over a year. Each roughly-worded Trump Tweet, every criticism by him or his staff of the liberal media, every non-sugar-coated statement to the press, every matter where he calls it as most people think it (but politicians would never actually say it) is trumpeted by his political and media adversaries as yet more proof of his astonishing unsuitability for the Presidency.

“Had enough yet? What more do you want? See? This is unbelievable, isn’t it?”

The lowest possible, arbitrary, inexact standards of “high crimes and misdemeanors” to which the Democratically-controlled Congress can possibly stoop will undoubtedly be fulfilled very early on in the new Congressional year, as the Democrats rush to satisfy their highest priority—removing President Trump—to the complete and total exclusion of anything else the country needs to be done.

One can only imagine the breathless, frantic, grandstanding speeches and Floor declarations from the likes of Maxine Watters, John Lewis, Nancy Pelosi, Shelia Jackson Lee, Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings as they compete for national liberal media adulation with one overwrought, hyperbolic performance after another.

Their impeachment effort will not be successful, of course. Once the Democratic House passes the Articles, it goes to the Senate for trial, where a super majority is required for a conviction leading to removal from office. This is a high threshold for passage, as it should be. In the face of actual “high crimes”—such as a president transferring military secrets to an adversary in exchange for personal financial gain—no doubt that threshold would be met.

But President Trump’s “crimes” are stylistic, not legally substantive. He does say things in a manner offensive to many and certainly well outside the bounds of historically-normal Presidential behavior. Yet the Russian “collusion” issue—the only controversy with any legal overtones whatsoever– is vaporware. There is no “there” there, not even with a fully-armed battalion of partisan Democratic investigators looking under every pebble for well over a year. In contrast, Hillary’s illicit e-mail server containing unauthorized classified material was tangibly illegal, yet she was not charged or prosecuted. In today’s political climate, the perception of criminal activity in DC is inextricably linked to party affiliation.

Trump’s supporters will point to his many actual policy successes, accomplished in only his first 12 months in office:

  • The appointment and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court
  • Punishing Syria for their humanitarian crimes with a 59-cruise missile strike
  • Withdrawing from the disadvantageous Trans Pacific Partnership agreement
  • Withdrawing from the pointless, expensive, anti-American Paris climate accords
  • Approved Keystone Pipeline
  • Reducing/eliminating hundreds of Obama-era business regulations, leading to a surge in business sector confidence and hiring
  • Over one million new jobs added since he took office
  • S. unemployment at 17-year low due to expanding economy
  • Stock market at record highs, boosting individual retirement accounts and institutional pension solvency alike
  • Black unemployment at a 17-year low due to expanding economy
  • Hispanic unemployment at all-time low due to expanding economy
  • Food stamp usage at a 7-year low, due to expanding economy
  • Passed sweeping tax reduction, leading to many companies raising wages, distributing bonuses and making immediate plans for expansion and additional hiring
  • Opened previously restricted areas (like ANWR) to energy exploration

His opponents will argue that these are not pluses to be bragged about; rather they’re examples of bad policy decisions—calamitous, even— that will have far-reaching negative consequences for the country. That’s fair: disagreements over actions on major economic, foreign-policy and social issues are the lifeblood of a vibrant, working democracy. In fact, the out-of-office party always says that the opposing president’s decisions will permanently harm the country. That’s as predictable as the sunrise.

However, there is a major difference—an order-of-magnitude difference—between vociferously opposing the President on policy grounds on one hand and fabricating non-existent legal transgressions in order to justify the gratuitous political theater of groundless impeachment on the other.

If the “good of the country” is the Democrats’ goal, this won’t happen. If it does, it will tell us all we need to know.

Yes Roy, God is in control. If I may quote the good book:

A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Good Lord directeth his steps

Proverbs 16:9

Many of those telling you to fight on can quote the Bible with far more facility than a rather unchurched conservative like me, admittedly. And there is an abundance of quotes therein. And many of them that support you are understandably alarmed by Doug Jones’ view on a woman’s right to abortion. But having Doug Jones as Alabama’s next junior senator will not change Roe v. Wade one iota.

Yes, the Senate advises and consents to SCOTUS appointments; but having you, Roy, in the Senate wouldn’t have necessarily made it any easier for President Trump to get anything done, including appointing another Justice should someone like Ginsburg or Kennedy finally retire. The Supreme Court of the United States will, perhaps, take on Roe v. Wade at some point in the future. Perhaps. Perhaps not, or not for a long while yet. On the other hand, any investigation into Planned Parenthood’s resale of baby parts is a far more important battle for pro-life proponents at this point in time. And that does not require Roy Moore in the Senate.

Because the battle for life is cultural above all, and how that pre-political culture works its way into the judicial decision making process. Did I say pre-political? Sorry. The pre-anything is political in today’s fevered progressive/radical worldview. So the battle is literally in the streets and homes, not in the court room. In other words, until life is truly valued in a clear majority of society at large, it will be next to impossible to overturn what is considered settled law by many in the judiciary and also considered settled law by a slim but solid majority in the Supreme Court.

President Trump kept his distance from you then winked at you across the poker table during the last hand, and put all his chips on you. He lost. You lost. Now the Democrats are quickly filling in the details on the jackpot narrative they will steamroll through and over and around mainstream media.

  • First step: Expel Franken and Conyers and proudly contrast yourself with the Republicans.
  • Second step: Paint the GOP as the party of sexual abusers, precisely because of your example Roy. Although Congress and state and local legislatures are likely filled with examples from both sides of the aisle. We’ll see about that.
  • Third step: Make sure the media revisits Trump’s own accusers from last year’s presidential campaign.
  • Fourth step: Have over 50 female members of the House Democratic Caucus demand an investigation into accusations of harrassment or abuse by President Trump from years gone by.
  • Fifth step: If the Russia probe fizzles even on its obstruction of justice charges against Flynn and potentially President Trump, use the newly commissioned sexual abuse probe to try and impeach Trump. Strike while the iron of outrage is melting hot.
  • Sixth step: Accuse now-President Pence of being oppressive in his views towards women because he’s a practising Christian who doesn’t party without his wife. And who’s idea of a party is likely a quiet get together with his family.
  • Seventh step: Get Hillary to shut up and shame America into electing Kamala Harris in 2020.

Long term strategies seem impossible in the current political climate but that’s more a reflection of the daily outrage/controversy that’s keeping profits nicely plump at large media groups. But longer-term strategies are being planned and will at least be attempted. You can bet the Democratic war rooms are basically working on something like the list above.

So do you concede or don’t you Roy? The twenty odd thousand write-in votes are almost identical to Doug Jones’ margin of victory. Perhaps the election will be clearer once the write-in votes are all counted. If the write-in votes narrow the margin enough to bring it to 0.5% then it seems your state’s electoral laws will allow a recount. I will assume that any concession speech from you, Roy, will have to wait. But keep in mind a proverb or two. You might need to reflect on them fairly soon.

Any bill that funds the governments business requires 60 votes in the Senate. That means that 60 minus 52 = 8 Democratic Senators will need to sign on to any funding bill the GOP puts forward in the upper chamber. And, unfortunately, it’s wiser to write out the formula rather than say that 8 Democrats will be needed with no further qualifications.

Why?

Because the GOP in the Senate has a hard time agreeing on anything. They miraculously managed to agree on tax reform – but we’ll see how the final bill is shaped by the time it leaves conference and heads to President Trump’s desk for signing.

So Republicans might need more than 8 Democrat senators in order to keep government open if, say, a Susan Collins objects to the demands that Dreamers – the children of illegals and many illegals themselves – not continue to be given the protection that the Obama administration handed them a couple of years ago. But of course, there is also plenty of disagreement on the Democrat side when it comes to how to respond to any funding bill the GOP put forward.

Will Senator Schumer bend to the will of the angry, activist wing of his party and demand that DACA be kept intact in exchange for keeping the government open? In other words: you want to keep government open? Open up the borders and keep them open! That seems to be where these negotiations are heading. DACA is essentially an entitlement – an entitlement to be above the law if you were brought to America illegally as a younger child or if you were born to illegals. And trying to curtail or roll back an entitlement – like Obamacare – has proved impossible at the federal level since LBJ’s Great Society in 1965 brought the modern welfare state into existence.

It’s almost a given that Schumer will take the activist side of the Democratic Party and ignore those senators who are facing re-election in Trump friendly states and whose voters have concerns about DACA. You can imagine Schumer’s and Pelosi’s soundbites: Republicans build walls and elect child molesters! Although the matter of Roy Moore’s election still has to be decided on December 12, but if another stopgap measure is passed and the government funding deadline moved out to December 22, then Chuck and Nancy will have about a week and a half to claim their party are the party of the pure having ejected Conyers and Franken. And then to demand DACA be maintained in exchange for the votes necessary to pass a funding bill.

Never mind that Conyers left with no admission of guilt and appointed his 27 year old son to take his place, and that Franken has barely apologized; why look at that Roy Moore! Imagine Schumer with his arm around a bright university student who happens to be a Dreamer solemnly denouncing the GOP for allowing a predator into their chambers. And no, Chuck will make sure he doesn’t squeeze any cheeks if the Dreamer happens to be cute. This is some of what Moore’s presumed election to the US Senate will bring.

There are never any peaceful moments in this administration. Not even at Christmas.

My first question regarding the showdown at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is this:

If you are a CFPB staffer who quickly took Acting Director Mulvaney’s offer of a Dunkin’ Donut and trundled up to his office to partake, will you go on a Democrat black list? Will you find your career as a beltway bureaucrat from now on strangely stymied over and over again by the opaque, clutching hand of the administrative state of which you, until recently, were a proud member?

How does a CFRP staffer accept a donut from the man who called your beloved agency a “sick joke”? How ingratiatingly do you smile and how eagerly do you bite down on the proverbial apple, if you will allow the mixed (up) metaphor?

Because whether you like it or not, you treasonous muncher of sweets, you are and have been in the center of a grand struggle over what the administrative state’s reaches are or should be. And most likely you are perfectly aware of the struggle which has been waged since the CFPB was brought into existence in 2010.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is Senator Elizabeth Warren’s brainchild. She did the wonky academic groundwork as a Harvard Law professor, publishing her work around 2007, on the cusp of the financial meltdown and subsequent Great Recession. Senator Warren – as an academic at Harvard, as a member of the Congressional Oversight Panel that was in charge of keeping track of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (or TARP), and as a senator, has been pushing for and getting increased regulation of the financial industry. It’s her goal and her baby.

Who has been fiercely critical of Mulvaney whose appointment as an Acting Director of the CFPB has been public news for a few weeks now – the White House knew that ex-CFRP Director Richard Cordray was going to pull a fast one at any time – and which spurned Cordray to do what he did last Friday?

Senator Warren.

Who did recently appointed Deputy Director Leandra English (until Friday she was Cordray’s Chief of Staff at the CFPB) go see on Monday, along with, naturally, Chuck Schumer?

Senator Warren.

The CFPB was put together in a way that was designed to make it as independent of any Congressional oversight as constitutionally possible. Did I say constitutionally? Sorry, sorry. There is at least one case winding it’s way upward that is based on the complaint that the CFPB is not constitutional, given the way it’s Director has broad sweeping powers not typical of an agency.

The specific issue is who has the authority to appoint an Acting Director at the CFPB. There is a conflict between Dodd-Frank and 1998’s Federal Vacancies Reform Act. But both White House counsel and the CFPB’s own legal counsel – General Counsel Mary McLeod – agree that the president has the authority and that the Vacancies Act takes precedence over Dodd-Frank, in this matter. McLeod has published a memo in which she considers the implications of both pieces of legislation and concludes that:

… the statutory language, legislative history, precedent from the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice and case law all point to the conclusion that the President may use the Vacancies Reform Act to designate an acting official, even when there is a succession statute under which another official may serve as acting.

On the other hand, contrast General Counsel McLeod’s compelling clarity with Deputy Director (and supposedly Acting Director if you take the Democrat side in this) Leandra English’s lawsuit filed on Sunday:

Ms. English has a clear entitlement to the position of acting director of the CFPB.

Interesting. Leandra English is entitled not necessarily authorized to be Acting Director. Even her own damn lawyers know full well this a political move, not really a constitutional one, although they wish it were. In other words, English should be Acting Director because her heart is in the right place; seated beside her mentor and master Senator Warren.

Should the White House prevail in this appointment tussle over an acting director at an administrative agency, this will mark a key victory in their attempt to roll back the administrative state. This is about way more than donuts, and you know that, you white-mustachioed staffer. Welcome to the right side.

Louis CK liked (and surely still likes) to expose himself to women, often it would seem, with zero consent on the part of the unlucky and harassed co-workers. So did Harvey Weinstein. Remember Anthony “The Messenger” Weiner? He almost seems like a long lost innocent fool compared to what’s being brought to light every day, lately courtesy of Roy Moore of course.

So, as far as Giant of the Senate Al Franken (I never really found him that funny years and years ago on SNL but maybe I missed some of his puns if you will) is concerned, does his requesting an ethics probe of himself over his own harassment of LeeAnn Tweeden qualify as ethical wanking? That’s getting so far out in front of the story that you’re naked.

It’s absurd and who knows how this will work out for Senator Franken or what other stories may emerge, but the underlying event – his groping of Tweeden on a USO tour with the excuse of “rehearsing” a kiss for a skit – is not funny. Nor is the foto that she produced. You can see it everywhere on the net. Look at the expression on Franken’s face. More creepy than funny.

About a decade or so back I recall Franken cracking a joke (was it on Conan O’Brien’s show?) about how a woman had to be at least as old as his daughter for him to stare at her backside. The audience laughed, I may have laughed a little. Never really was funny, especially if you’re being stalked by an older creep. Not at all funny now.

Scientology-worshiping actors. Film Producers. Bible-thumping Alabama politicians. Wheelchair-bound ex-presidents. Wall Street financiers. Ex presidents whose wives would have been president. IMF heads who were part of the D.C. and NYC sex-swapping scene – that case involving the very French Dominique Strauss-Kahn. There’s a long, long line up of women who have a story to tell. And they’re not being intimidated anymore. I feel sorry for a freshman who says a slightly tart comment on campus and ends up being hounded out of his chosen university. My heart goes out to the children whose fathers’ actions have disgraced their lives.

I do not feel sorry for Franken or Roy Moore, or any of the others being named.

So if Senator Franken wants to wank his way through a self-referential ethics probe by rending his garments and beating his chest, go for it Al. Maybe you’ll convince us you’re truly sorry. But I can only feel sorry for you.

From Alaska to Texas, they’re saying Roy step down. If the stories are even half-true. That is, GOP senators from across America are clearly demanding that Roy Moore step aside from his run to be elected in Jeff Sessions’ seat in Alabama, if the stories of sexual harassment are true.

Roy Moore himself has produced a defiant email refusing to step down and essentially claiming that this is a political witch hunt courtesy of the Washington Post. Of course, that defiant email was a fund raising email sent to supporters. What will he be saying in a week’s time? What will he be saying tomorrow?

This all depends on the veracity of several women, starting with Leigh Corfman who has come forward to talk about some clearly abusive groping and fondling on the part of Moore in the late 70’s when she was barely a teenager. Right now one has to take her words very seriously. Yes, Roy Moore is innocent until proven guilty but if more women step forward with what appear to be legitimate claim, it seems impossible for him to continue. Even if the Corfman story is surely the result of frantic oppo research that could have been funded just as easily by Mitch McConnell’s backers as by Democrats.

Roy Moore was 32 when the incidents with Corfman took place in 1979. He was an assistant DA by then, 2 years out of law school and 5 years out of the military as a captain in the military police. Unfortunately, there have been times when such behavior – if it is indeed true – was disgustingly easy to get away with for even minor officials, as well as theatrical agents, film industry folks, managers, etc. etc. etc. Have been? It’s still happening, and there’s a flood of stories coming out about harassment which means those days finally seem to be coming to an end thanks to liberals turning on their own rich, powerful and lecherous icons like Weinstein.

It’s long past time that abusive or harassing behavior be called out and punished wherever and whenever it occurs. When it really occurs, that is. University campuses have been plagued by false accusations and kangaroo courts, but the way to solve that is by due process. Whether on the one hand it’s mattress girl’s victim, or whether on the other, it’s Roy Moore’s accusers or Kevin Spacey’s victims. Due process applied carefully but forcefully, where evidence is given without shame and considered without hysteria.

But of course we need to be sure Moore did indeed do what he has been accused of. Because that is impossible to do without a full trial, which means possibly years of lawyers battling it out in court in a he-said she-said situation, we therefore don’t have that sort of time. Moore has to be honest with himself and decide what kind of a man he wants to be, despite what kind of a man he may very well have been.

And finally, what if Moore refuses to step aside, the accusations remain but somehow he gets elected? Or, on the other hand, if he does step aside and his rushed replacement loses the election, or if Moore stays in the race and loses? Then we essentially have a split Senate.

In other words, is Roy Moore merely the byproduct of the messy dismembering of the GOP as we know it? In which case, politically, it doesn’t really matter what sort of a man he is.

Should one be grateful for Senator Thad Cochran’s return to the upper chamber after his recent health issues? The senator was apparently rather confused when reporters asked him a few simple questions in the halls of Congress, one of which supposedly was where the Senate chambers were located. No matter. His aides whisked him away, although it’s hard to imagine the verb ‘whisking’ applying to a 79-year old man recovering from health problems.

On that frail mind and body depended yesterday’s budget vote that now paves the way for tax reform. One that may very well fail, but at least has a chance to be voted on in the Senate without needing Democrat support. But the Senate shall make its own rules, and that’s how the future of tax reform hangs on the vote of someone who should be in bed, being attended to by his nurses.

Should we be angry at Kentucky’s Senator Paul, for being ideological instead of pragmatic on such an important issue for Americans and the economy? Perhaps, but his condition to get to a yes vote was pretty simple: keep to your own spending caps. A solitary voice saying you have to control spending to make any tax cut truly effective in terms of its longer term impact on the American economy. But that would require a simple commitment to not raise spending. Or at least by not too much. And even that slight nod towards the other side of fiscal discipline – spending restraint – is seen as disruptive by the media and by the Republican party. Easier to talk about cutting taxes by closing loopholes – unless the loopholes are deemed to important to key constituencies to be able to close.

So Rand is a disruptive radical for insisting on spending caps. And if you want to close all those loopholes in the tax system you need to realize this:

Some loopholes are apparently Too Big To Close (TBTC if you like). Look at the mortgage interest deduction. Consider high-tax states like New York and California and the angry reaction of those states’ GOP Members of Congress to plans to eliminate deduction of state and local taxes. How dare they? Every loophole has an army of lawyers/lobbyists defending it’s purpose, and the longer the loophole has been around the deeper it’s roots on K Street.

Does this sound like a Senate that’s ready to tackle substantial tax reform?

People in Silicon Valley get ready! Compliance is a coming!

From showboating Democrat senators, accusing Facebook of slow-walking the algorithms that Congress so desperately wants to see, specifically how they track ad-spending (which FB surely tracks very very carefully) to Twitter executives politely knocking on Congressional committee doors so they can be grilled mercilessly, the Russia Hunt continues. This time with Silicon Valley social media behemoths and sorta moths Facebook and Twitter in their sights.

So Russia or Russian-related groups (the evidence is second or third hand and rather scattered at this point) seem to have spent a fair bit of cash compared to you or me on ads in Facebook, but loose change compared to even local-race campaign budgets.

Did those ads – most of which did not mentions the president or either party (again this is all second or third hand stories about leaks about committee members options on ads that they may not have even seen yet) – influence voters in any statistically significant way? You can’t dismiss the possibility but it seems like hard evidence of Jared Kushner’s data operation’s alleged connection with Russian-sponsored actors is nowhere to be seen at this point. So now they have to haul Facebook and Twitter before Congress to make sure that FB and Twitter exec’s admit to knowing that Russia really spent far more on social media ads than the evidence suggests.

In other words, the targets keep changing when evidence is lacking but the investigation rolls on. Yes, that is in part how investigations should proceed, but it seems that Congress is moving towards some sort of compliance structure for social media companies when it comes to ad spending, specifically political ads. But how do you define a political ad in 2017? With identity politics labelling everything as political, and any opinion that doesn’t conform to radical theory as racist, then ANY ad is potentially political. Especially at election time.

Imagine Facebook now has to change their algorithms so that they can file quarterly (monthly maybe?) reports to some agency in the beltway, giving information on who spent what on which ads. Because Congress recognizes that standard campaing financing no longer works. Just ask Luther Strange and Mitch McConnell. And they’re furious about it. Social Media must pay for the changing habits of voters it seems.

And once compliance rules – detailed, ambiguous, and recondite – are in place, then you have a new industry for former Congressional aides! Social media compliance lobbyists!! Facebook might just be hiring a few very soon, if not yesterday. Twitter too. And whether Jared Kushner is an evil traitor, well we’ll just let that question hang for a while. Until some sort of evidence shows up.

​It seems we were all hasty, according to Byron York. In a cautionary tale, he gives a warning well worth listening to in his recent piece in The Washington Examiner. Despite the AP headlines about an imminent deal between the White House and Pelosi, Schumer & Aides Inc. it may be that the tweeting was hasty, as tweeting is wont to be.

Here’s the statement or note Pelosi passed to her Democrat colleagues in Congress the morning after the infamous dinner:

“We agreed to a plan to work out an agreement to protect our nation’s DREAMERS from deportation.”

Ok. So they agreed to a plan to work out an agreement. That’s at least 3 degrees of separation from an actual, bona fide, signed in soya sauce on a linen napkin agreement.

You agree. To a plan. To work out. An agreement. To protect. DREAMERS from deportation.

Pelosi, Schumer & Aides Inc. couldn’t have covered their alleyways any better. But neither AP, nor NeverTrump’ers, nor Angry Trump supporters, nor the rest of us, got that detail right. The point being that the suspicion that a deal with Democrats on anything on the part of the president, might be possible after the initial pivot is what triggered much of this reaction.

Here’s the thing. Trump doesn’t need to stop tweeting. That’s impossible. He needs to have someone helping him to get out in front with his tweeting. You do dinner with Nancy and Chuck, you have a few options on what you tweet. And you tweet before they do. Or you put up with their tweets. Rather than chase their tweets from behind, like a angry Top Gun chasing a Chinese surface to air missile, which is what President Trump was forced to do.

So after the big UN week in Manhattan. And after the speculation about whether UN Ambassador Haley is already gunning for Tillerson’s job at State. And after Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico and the island territory demands billions more in aid. After all that, we will still have the White House and Congress with a packed agenda this fall. And both sides of the aisle matter in whatever deals get done and whatever bills get passed. Even if it’s to ignore one side or the other on any specific issue.

President Trump needs to weaponize his tweeting impulses. No he hasn’t done that yet. They have been more like loose ordinance so far, causing smoke and debris to scatter around. He needs instead to target his tweets like well-aimed missiles, aimed straight at the narrative media groups like AP or Democrat Senators construct on a daily basis.

​It won’t be single-payer! It won’t be single-payer!

Sorry for shouting at Senator Sanders out here on the sidewalk. Here’s what I mean.

Like in the case of gay marriage or de facto open borders, the Democratic Party is shifting hard to the left on health care, and dragging some moderate or RINO Republicans with them.

Yes, this has to do with Bernie Sander’s surprisingly successful campaign, which ignited millennial interest and brought Scandinavian-style socialism to the doorstep of American politics in a way that previous hard left groups were unable to do. And attitudes are shifting. Whether attitudes are following or leading Sanders’ efforts to introduce single-payer health care in America is something that perhaps the wonks at 538.com can figure out.

But today we hear about Sanders’ plan. And here’s why it will never be truly single-payer.

To achieve single-payer it’s not Trump supporters whose corpses you will have to bulldoze out of the way. They tend to be open to entitlement goodies including government healthcare which in America mostly means Medicare.

It’s the wealthy and solidly upper middle class blue voters in places like NYC and San Francisco that will never, ever, ever give up their employer-based health insurance. To let go of a system that allows them a wealth of choices with regards to their daily health care needs and that their employer mostly foots the bill for, is asking far too much of righteous, well-paid lawyers, accountants, techies, and managerial level workers. They won’t do it, and people like Pelosi and Schumer know this perfectly well because they feel exactly the same way, because that’s also who they are.

So, if over the next few years single-payer becomes a real possibility, how do you preserve employer-based insurance and how the heck do you pay for single-payer? Goodbye corporate tax-cuts? Goodbye tax cuts period, is more like it.

And what model does America look to to consider ideas for Medicare-for-all-except-us-wealthy-liberals?

Here’s a suggestion that President Trump can use in his bargaining with Canada over the northern neighbor’s terms for a revamped NAFTA:

You want to preserve some form of NAFTA up in Canada, on which your wealth greatly depends? You get to send us a committee describing how your single-payer system works. Wait. Wait. Don’t smile. AND. We get to set up employer-based insurance policies for all of you (fairly) wealthy, liberal Canadians. Think of it this way:

Ivanka gets photo ops with their Prime Minister. Smiliing about her universal daycare policy with a rainbow of adorable little kids scattered around them on the White House lawn.

Jared gets photo ops with the CEO’s of Unitedhealth, Wellpoint Inc., Kaiser Foundation Group, Humana, and Aetna. In Ottawa. Smiling next to whoever is in charge of leading Canada’s brave new revamping of it’s creaking government healthcare system.

So Medicare for all can smooth Canadian feathers by asking for their wisdom on how to let government run health care. And American enterprise can uproot Canada’s government monopoly on healthcare and give Canadians something magical … choice of healthcare plans. All in exchange for preserving some form of NAFTA.

And Senator Sanders? He gets to work away in committees on the Hill, arguing over how much to raise taxes on wealthy liberals to pay for his scheme. Unfortunately those raised taxes won’t just be on wealthy liberals, will they?

​Let’s say that climate alarmists are mostly right and that their meteorological models are reasonably accurate and that after Irma another huge storm hits the Gulf or East coast. So that 3 large storms hit the USA including Harvey in a matter of weeks.

Would the Senate use Irma and Benjy (the name of our theoretical third storm) as excuses to pass otherwise controversial or at least debatable legislation? Amost certainly yes.

Because that’s what they’re doing with Harvey. The Senate has just attached an increase to the debt ceiling to the House bill providing aid for Texas, an aid package that passed in days if not hours in the lower chamber. You want to provide an aid package for Harvey’s victims? Raise the debt limit please. It is thought that the amended bill will be approved anyway by House Republicans when it lands back on their front porch in a day or two.

But it doesn’t stop there. Democrats are insisting that action on DACA accompany any relief package for Texas. You can imagine the language:

The administration will tear these hard-working young Americans from their homes and dump them in countries they don’t know where life is hard and often dangerous!

Democrats can’t stop the aid package, but they sure can ride it for all it’s worth.

In other words an opportunity for avoiding debate on the debt ceiling increase in the case of Senate Republicans, or an oppotunity for provoking partisan name-calling rather than real constructive debate on the part of Democrats in both houses, is what a devastating storm has provided for them.

Now imagine that Congress gets to work – grumpily, divisively, and chaotically – on some sort of revised DACA that deals with these 800,000 young residents who were brought to the counrty illegally. Imagine Hurricaine Irma is as bad as the predictions are saying it will be and that, say, South Florida is hit as hard as Texas, with perhaps more lasting damage because … well they’re not quite Texas and they might not quite have the engineering in place to handle Irma. But then again, South Florida knows hurricanes like almost no other place in America.

More tragic photos. Young kids clinging to parents. Boats with grim looking first responders. Cuban Americans helping elderly retirees from say NYC. Stories of heroic efforts by young Americans who just happen to be DACA beneficiaries.

How does Senator Cotton shoehorn his RAISE Act into the DACA reform process now? He has to give way and live to fight another day, most likely. And that would hold – in this theoretical – for any modest enforcement of immigration law presented as a quid pro quo for giving DACA beneficiaries permanent residence.

Finally, imagine Huricane Benjy (our theoretical third storm) hits the mid-Atlantic seaboard during a mild spell in late October and the photos are of the Potomac overflowing and Trump fleeing in a helicopter to his golf course in New Jersey. Finally after a few days, he tours the still-wrecked Mar a Lago (thanks to Irma) and rambles about how:

A lot of good people … you should them, they’re just great. I mean they are so strong …. this is a disaster … we’re going to get together and solve this, they’re such good people. We have to fix this …

And the president – helped by Ivanka and Jared – proclaims climate change to be the greatest threat ever to mankind and promises a 2 trillion infrastructure bill to build dams, highways, bridges, and everything else under the sun.

And the bill passes both houses with LOTS of pork handed out across the land, as Time Magazine runs a cover of the president looking worried but almost statesmanlike with a title something like:

Trump Turns Against his Deniers.

Doesn’t it seem that Congress loves a good disaster? That every perceived or (in the case of Harvey and most likely Irma) very real disaster is an opportunity that can’t be left to waste. If you’ll forgive the metaphor if you’re shoveling out wet drywall from your home in Houston.

When you paint the world in apocalyptic terms – as climate change narratives tend to do – then a complete lack of deliberation is one consequence – whether untintended or intended. Suddenly we’re all Noah, and everyone’s got climate change religion and a monstrous mega-Ark made by the government is our only last living hope.

Yes, Congress loves a good disaster.

John Marini is professor of political science at The University of Nevada-Reno. He worries about Hegel and Bismarck, as it applies to America’s administrative state. Tom Nichols is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. He worries about our current admiration for martial virtue as a bulwark against civilian instability, specifically regarding the cheers – by many of us – at John Kelly’s appointment as White House Chief of Staff. Between the two of them, one can see the outlines of what may be an emerging set of trends in America that may be cause for concern.

In Real Clear Politics, Marini talks about the emergence of the administrative state in America, as a consequence of Hegel’s belief back in Bismark’s Germany, that progress is rational and the result of the “cultivation of knowledge” as Hegel put it. In other words the state must become a huge corps of unelected bureaucrats and supposed experts that handle the details of much of the regulations that nowadays affect voters’ daily lives. Never mind natural rights on which the framers based the constitution. Never mind human nature as Aristotle and the Greeks did. It’s all about experts in their specific area of knowledge. So, we now have a Congress which has assumed a powerful but strangely unaccountable role as members of the House and Senate distance themselves from the nuts and bolts of policy making and act as “co-administrators in various parts of the apparatus.”

That means that Congress no longer really acts as a deliberative body. You want to know the details on how the ACA actually works and why the GOP Congress has been unable to repeal and replace? Talk to the federal and even state bureaucrats. That’s where the power increasingly is.

But it gets worse if you consider this. In Hegel’s and progressives’ vision, including current day liberals and progressives, the administrative state is politically neutral, managing and accumulating knowledge and guiding us poor uninformed deplorables upwards and onwards towards a socially just society where bathrooms are gender neutral and where identity politics is an ever expanding great blob crushing all who attempt to oppose it’s steady slimy creeping progress.

In other words, what happens when one realizes that this administrative state has never been neutral? When an overwhelming percentage of bureaucrats vote Democrat? You now have something approaching a one party state. Like in Eastern Europe a generation ago. For example. And the fact that cultural neo-marxism underlies much of the tenets of current day progressivism makes this outcome frighteningly inexorable.

Tom Nichols, on the other hand, is worried about a sort of soft praetorians, the preponderance of generals in President Trump’s cabinet, who are admired, even by some progressive commentators, for their martial virtue. And who, it is hoped, will bring some discipline to the White House. This crosses a red line marking the boundary between civilian spheres of action and military ones, according to Nichols. His concern, as he admits, may be exaggerated; from Eisenhower to Haig, to Scowcroft, Powell, Shineski, etc. there have been military men in politics for much of America’s history. But the concern is because of Trump’s indiscipline and Trump’s apparent respect for military men, to the exclusion of everyone else.

Here’s a thought: what if these two trends – a powerful politically partisan progressive administrative state, and a increasingly politicized military whose martial virtue is seen as a saving grace in an age of decaying morals – combine to share much of the power normally vested in Congress, The Executive, and The Judiciary in America? Even though right now, martial virtue – at least in Trump’s White House, leaving aside the intel community – seems to be on opposite sides to the administrative state. But what if they join sides? And what if that inevitably leads to the very corruption of martial virtue by the de facto one party administrative state?

That’s a very grim picture and one that seems a little too dramatic and dystopian to ever really come true. But it sure gives pause for thought, and makes one think of civics – as in family values and local grassroots organizations – as something we can scarcely afford to lose.

Who is Imran Awan? A former (he was employed up until Tuesday by Wasserman Schultz) IT employee of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and previously several other Democrat members of congress, who is now released under “high-intensity” supervision (involving curfew and a restriction on his ability to travel and including a GPS monitor he has to use). All this after he was detained at Dulles trying to flee the country on Tuesday.

But Awan has been in the FBI’s sights for some time now, for bank fraud. Last January he wired $283,000 to two individuals in Pakistan. These funds were apparently obtained from a fraudulent loan from the Congressional Federal Credit Union meant for a principal residence but used to purchases a rental property. The question is: where else might those $283,000 come from? Awan and other family members worked at inflated salaries for several Democrat members of congress, including Wasserman Schultz, since 2004-2005. Were these funds the result of overbilling? Were they the result of theft of IT equipment that Awan is accused of, involving the offices of members of Congress that he worked for as an IT consultant? Are they the fruits of a series of scams he seems to have been running?

What the heck is going on here?

Consider this: Wasserman Schultz threatened Capitol police in late May for not returning a laptop and perhaps other computer equipment that are clearly part of the investigation. Why? What does she not want investigators to find on that laptop and other devices? Why was Awan, who has been the target of the fraud investigation since at least early this year and whose wife fled with their children to Pakistan back in March, still employed by Wasserman Schultz until just this Tuesday morning when they finally fired him??

It is interesting to note that Awan had access to certain members of Congress’ email lists and even files stored on staffers’ computers. Is there blackmail involved here?

And who the heck in Pakistan received those funds? A quarter million dollars (plus 33 thousand just to top it off) goes a along way in Islamabad, for example. Is this just plain old fraud by a smooth-talking operator? Or is there more involved, given that Wasserman Schultz has kept him on the payroll until just a day or two ago?

Yes, Trump’s announcement of cancelling Ash Carter’s policy of beginning to officially accept transgendered military personnel will suck up a lot of oxygen over the next few days. And the Senate’s attempt at passing a skinny health care bill that will serve as the basis for conference with the House, is also key. But Awan’s and Wasserman Schultz’s story is one that should be receiving more media attention. Who knows where it will lead?

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.

Landmines Abound for Republicans in Obamacare Replacement

 

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Now that Republicans control of both houses of Congress as well as the presidency, the process of Obamacare repeal and replacement has begun in earnest. Once the ACA is formally, officially repealed, the Republicans will “own” the healthcare issue and the pressure will be on for them to deliver something better than Obamacare.

As the alternatives for a new Act fly back and forth, the obvious trap for Republicans is crafting a piece of health legislation that is actually better, not merely different. Wider coverage, easier access, more provider choices, lower costs, more provider accountability, less wasted mandated coverage (no maternity coverage for post-menopausal women, for example), no religious/moral/Government mandate conflicts, etc.

The list of must-have items for a successful replacement plan is long. Crafting a plan that satisfies all those requirements is a monumental task and will likely take several iterations past this initial effort.

However, regardless of the details of the actual replacement plan, gaining widespread public acceptance and overcoming structural anti-Republican bias is going to be at least as big a challenge as crafting the legislation itself.

There are three essential public relations issues with the Republican alternative to Obamacare that are problematic, any one of which by itself could spell doom in terms of widespread public acceptance. All three together mean disaster.

  1. Obamacare is President Obama’s “signature domestic achievement” as they call it. It’s his crowning glory. Supporters claim it comes closer to providing universal health care than anything that has come before. it’s President Obama’s achievement. He personally gets the credit for it. His supporters and cheerleaders love this, and do not want his so-called legacy jeopardized by having it dismantled. To repeal it will leave millions without medical coverage in the immediate short term, and because of the potential administrative and logistical time lag before a replacement plan is in place, millions may fall through the cracks and be left without any workable, affordable coverage whatsoever. Republicans must deal with this quickly and effectively.
  1. The liberal mainstream media is virulently anti-Republican/anti-Trump and is loathe to run stories that cast either the President or Republicans in a good light. These media outlets include not only the traditional liberal media like the broadcast networks, major papers like the NY Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe, cable news like CNN, MSNBC, but also social media sources like Zuckerberg’s Facebook, which has been exposed for downplaying conservative stories, and the supposedly “neutral” Internet resources like Snopes, a “fact-finding” site which has been caught multiple times putting forth a liberally-sympathetic version of the facts and being very slow to change when the conservative-favoring side of the story proves to be true. Any proposed Republican alternative to Obamacare, regardless of its actual merits, will be dismissed by the liberal mainstream media as unacceptable, in order to preserve their pro-Obama narrative.

The liberal media is always going to highlight and key in on any aspect of a new Republican plan that they deem inferior to the existing ACA, while ignoring any benefits or advantages. We’re already seeing headlines like, “Why Republicans’ health-care plans are bad deals for Americans” (Washington Post 3/9), “GOP health-care bill would drop addiction treatment” (Washington Post 3/10), “Doctors, hospitals rip health plan” (Providence Journal, 3/10).

Liberal media headlines like these are as predictable as a Brady win in the playoffs.

  1. The Republicans always seem focus on tax credits as a way to help pay for healthcare insurance. In order to receive tax credits, an individual or family must earn enough money such that offsetting the tax they owe is a relevant and attractive proposition. In the Hartford Courant on 3/10, they reported, “CT Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman (D) criticized the tax credits proposed by House Republicans to subsidize health care as useless to Connecticut’s poorest residents. ‘If you don’t pay taxes, what do you get a credit for?’ she asked.”

The underlying, undeniable-but-rarely-admitted liberal position is that Obamacare—which is essentially just affordable insurance that the Government will largely pay for if the party can’t afford to pay for it on their own—is a partway measure at best. What the Democrats really want to do is to find a way to flat-out give healthcare away to everyone, regardless of their tax status or income. Democrats want single-payer (Government-run) healthcare, not the private system involving for-profit insurance companies that we have now.

Any of these three—a threat to Obama’s legacy, relentlessly inaccurate, biased reporting by the liberal mainstream media or the perception that the Republicans are against the poor because their favored tax credit-based approach assumes employment and sufficient earnings—give Democratic lawmakers more than enough ammunition for high-profile public grandstanding.

How do Republicans avoid their usual PR disaster?

First, the final version must be a good bill, a legitimate improvement over the existing ACA. This submission is the first step, but it won’t be the final bill.

Then, the Republicans need to learn a lesson that they seem incapable of learning: They need to understand that the merits of the issue do not carry the day in the court of public opinion. It’s the 10-second soundbite that wins the attention of the casually-attentive swing voter. Democrats are very good at that—“Tax cuts for the rich,” “Bush lied, people died,” “Big pharmaceutical companies are ripping you off,” etc.—especially since the liberal media never hold the Democrats to account for the veracity of their statements. Republicans have the challenge of not only crafting a 10-second soundbite that distils the complex essentials down into an easily-memorable clip, but they also have to be accurate and truthful, because the liberal media will not let them get away with the same fuzzy math that they let slide for the Democrats. Tall order, but it’s about time Republicans learned how to play this game.

Third, they must be unified. They need to avoid the destructive public infighting that gives the liberal media the opportunity to say, “See? Even the Republicans don’t like it.” When Rand Paul declares that the House version is “Dead on arrival” in the Senate, he plays right into the Democrats’ hands and the liberal media pounces right on cue. The Democrats are much better at standing unified on legislative issues than the Republicans are, and this works against the Republicans’ PR interests.

Fourth, strike first and strike often. Set the tone and terms of the public healthcare discussion. Be proactive in speaking about why the new bill is a huge improvement, point out the current ACA’s shortcomings and failures again and again and keep the pressure on the Democrats about that. Make the Democrats respond to you, not the other way around. They are already behind the curve on this, but they can reverse that with something as basic as calling a press conference—today!!—and outlining their plan’s advantages. Then, all of a sudden, the Democrats will be forced to play, “But wait….” catch up.

The actual ACA replacement bill is an interesting proposition, but even more fascinating to veteran political observers will be watching how the Republicans present and defend the progress of their bill, and how they deal with the inevitable negative reaction of the liberal media.

 

 

Oh Commonwealth of Virginia! What the heck is your problem? Is it that your valleys and hills enfold the nation’s capital, creating some of the wealthiest suburbs in America? And that proximity creates a sense of privilege? At least in those zip codes well within the beltway. First there’s Mcauliffe, your governor. A partisan with little scruples some may say.

Now your elected GOP representative, Bob Goodlatte, tried to pull a fast one – along with most of the House GOP members it must be said – and gut the power of the Office of Congressional Ethics by bringing all the decision making back to where Bob and his cohorts felt it should belong. With them in the House Committee on Ethics, peopled by the same subjects who may from time to time come under the Ethics Office’s gaze.

Yes Representative Goodlatte, it is a pain when an anonymous charge brought by a crazed little NGO whispers its way into the Office of Congressional Ethics, and starts a process rolling in which you, the elected representative, do not have quite the same due process as you would as a citizen in a court of law. Yes, the process can and often will be partisan, and therefore political.

So what? You are not an ordinary citizen. You are a representative of your district and of America. You should have to face a higher level of scrutiny. And the timing … just awful, wasn’t it? Instead of the Army Corps of Engineers dutifully draining the swamp under the President-Elect’s mandate, you would instead have those Army Corps engineers feeding those submerged alligators who only pop up above the surface at feeding time. Yes, that would be you.

Your Speaker of the House told you: please don’t do it. Your House Majority Leader called an emergency meeting to scrap the plan to gut the ethics committee. And your President-Elect aimed his twitter bazooka right at you, Bob.

Do most of your colleagues, on both sides of the aisle by the way, want some sort of “reform” of the House Committee on Ethics? Absolutely, and there seems to be agreement that not now, maybe later, is the best plan. But all this does not go down well with the voting public. The House Committee on Ethics was the result of scandals on your side of the aisle, and voters don’t mind seeing you guys sweat from time to time.

So good for Trump that he went straight to his iPhone and tweeted loud and clear. Any change to the ethics committee should be done in broad daylight with lots of debate, all of it out in the open. Not snuck in through the back door.

Speaker Ryan, heeding voter anger, postponed a vote – a secret ballot – in the House of Representatives on earmarks. And yes, he used the phrase “drain the swamp” when he managed to convince his colleagues to at least hold off on the vote. But that didn’t stop Florida’s Tom Rooney – one of the 3 sponsors of the proposal – to let people know what this vote was about.

The Army Corps of Engineers. Or Corps of Engineers, for those on the righteous side of the sandbanks, dams, and newly-designated swampland on your aunt’s 80 acres of farmland. Tom Rooney is sick of being ignored by the CoE. Who respond to a chain of command that ends up in the White House. Not Congress. And Tom Rooney would like to get a dam built on the shores of Lake Okeechobee. Yes, the huge inland lake that sits at the heart of Florida’s Everglades and demarcates the western border of the 17th congressional district that Rooney represents.

In the 1920’s the Army Corps of Engineers built dikes around Lake Okeechobee, after devastating flooding in the wake of two hurricanes. More devastating flooding occurred in the late 40’s. These were the latest in a long string of projects, including canals, meant to … drain the swamp and create agricultural land – mostly sugar – in South Central Florida. Sometime in the 70’s, resistance grew and by 2000 legislation has been in place to restore the Everglades to its former glory. If you are environmentally inclined that is, and regard swampland with a propensity to flood as glorious. As a libertarian eco-activist might say: South Florida wants to be a swamp.

Not on my watch, says Tom Rooney. You see, to get the Corps of Engineers to built that dam that his constituents apparently want, he claims he needs earmarks. Earmarks targeted at the Army Corps of Engineers. These earmarks would have the USACE directly responding to Congressional spending authority. Because right now, you have to go through the Assistant Secretary of Army (Civil Works), run by Jo-Ellen Darcy, an Obama appointee who has lengthy experience in land and water management, including a stint in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. One suspects she doesn’t eagerly answer her phone when Tom Rooney tries to call her.

So who decides how wet South Central Florida should be? The President and his hand-picked appointees? Or Congress? It’s a fascinating battle, but one cannot help but feel that the law of unintended consequences will inevitably apply if Congress even brings back a more limited, and transparent version of earmarks. And then expands earmarks, just a touch. And just a touch more. This battle is not over.