Politics postsWednesday July 26, 2017
An American Travesty, Worn with Pride
John Cassidy, New Yorker, “The Senate Health-Care Vote Is a Travesty,” before the Motion-to-Proceed vote yesterday:
When future historians look back on American governance during the early decades of the twenty-first century, they will have many tragic and troublesome episodes to dwell on: the hanging chads of Palm Beach County, the invasion of Iraq, the passage of the Patriot Act, the Citizens United ruling, the Republican-controlled Senate's refusal to grant Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing, and the election of Donald Trump and his subsequent dumbing down and demeaning of the Presidency.
In this chronology, Tuesday's health-care vote may also figure prominently: it could well be remembered as a historic abuse of the legislative process that the Founders spent so much time and energy constructing. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, is asking his colleagues to vote blindly and authorize consideration of a health-care-reform measure that could dramatically affect the welfare of tens of millions of Americans and shake up roughly a sixth of the U.S. economy. ...
It is a ludicrous situation, and one that makes a mockery of the idea of the Senate as a highfalutin deliberative body. No major bill in recent history has been railroaded through the upper chamber in such a manner—conceived of and written in secret, and subject to no markups or committee hearings. If McConnell were to succeed in getting some sort of bill passed, it would be a travesty.
About the only thing that can be said for the lawmakers who brought things to this juncture is that they have been pretty open about their intentions. Indeed, they appear to wear their cynicism with pride.
The motion to proceed passed. Now they're voting on all kinds of versions of a health care bill to see which one sticks. The GOP can do this because it has its own propaganda machine (Fox News, Breitbart, Drudge, Rush, Alex Jones), and can spin this travesty as a victory.
'A Final Vote You'll Be Stuck With. Forever'
Yesterday sucked. The Republican party is awash in bastards and weak-kneed quislings. They're cowed by a bully who is despised around the world, and beloved only by toadies, racists and rich bastards.
Does the GOP have anyone worth a damn? Here's former U.S. Senator David Durenberger (R-MN), who, the day before, in USA Today, urged Republican Senators to vote against the Motion to Proceed on Mitch McConnells' unknowable and immoral health care bill:
This week, the Senate once again is set to vote on a health care bill that will radically change how people get coverage and who can afford their care. But unlike normal times, Senators, you are being asked to approve a Motion to Proceed to a vote:
- Without knowing what will be in the bill you would vote on.
- Without knowing what the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office will say about the impact of major amendments and the final bill on coverage and premiums.
- With full knowledge that the Senate parliamentarian, who rules on what can and can't be allowed in a budget bill, has said that the Senate must remove provisions intended to prevent an insurance market death spiral of sicker patients driving up costs.
- Without knowing the details of the secret state Medicaid waivers the Trump administration insists will make the bill work.
- Without knowing how your own state budget will be impacted.
- Without knowing how you will defend the provisions you will only learn about later, including the payoffs and other things that will be sneaked into the bill at the last minute.
- Without even knowing which bill you are being asked to vote on, what the defining amendments will be and how much time you will have when being pressed for a final vote you'll be stuck with. Forever.
They did it anyway. John McCain, rushed from the hospital where he was receiving medical treatment via taxpayer dollars, voted to approve a motion that might soon (today?) lead to medical treatment being taken away from tens of millions of taxpayers. Then he went on the Senate floor and lambasted the entire process ... which he'd just voted should proceed. This to aid a president who has shown him nothing but contempt. The mind reels.
On Facebook, Rick Perlstein quoted writer Scott Timberg, whose father, Robert, a Marine who was badly wounded in Vietnam, became McCain's first biographer:
My old man could never make sense of the Sarah Palin choice or his '08 campaign. ... 'How could a man who wouldn't let a Viet Cong jailer break him ... get broken by the Republican party?'
And again. Now the Senate is doing nothing but voting on shitty health care bills. They keep tossing them up and voting on them. I think of Cheney's line about how terrorists have to be right, or victorious, only once. That's the GOP with health care. The GOP is our terrorists.
Sean Spicer Resigns
It's tough to keep up with the news about the Trump administration. Every day a new disaster. Is anyone double-checking productivity in the U.S.? Is it going down because it's so difficult to keep up with this soap opera? John Oliver on “Last Week Tonight” calls the Trump/Russia scandal “stupid Watergate” because it's like Watergate if everyone associated with that scandal was stupid. Similarly, you could call Trump “Stupid J.R.,” since he shares the unethical qualities of Larry Hagman's infamous nighttime soap opera character but without the smarts.
Anyway, the news this morning: Sean Spicer has resigned as White House press secretary. On principle.
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, resigned on Friday morning, after denouncing chaos in the West Wing and telling President Trump he vehemently disagreed with the appointment of the New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. ...
Mr. Scaramucci, who founded the global investment firm SkyBridge Capital and is a Fox News Channel contributor, is known for his spirited on-air defense of Mr. Trump, but he also enjoys good relationships with journalists from an array of outlets, including those the president has labeled “fake news.”
In a way this isn't really news, since Spicer will be replaced by someone just as awful or worse. Think of it as a “Meet the new WH press secretary, same as the old WH press secretary” kind of thing.
And while everyone is jokily sending their condolences to Melissa McCarthy, who killed with her Spicer imitation on SNL over the last six months, the New York Times offers a jokes-aside look at the ways in which Spicer, and the Trump admin., has effed up the White House press conference: Not only with its lack of civility but with rewarding and calling on right-wing propaganda outlets over legitimate, mainstream news sources.
Mr. Spicer has also awarded first questions to reporters in the new “Skype seats” that appear on two large flat-screens on either side of the lectern, including one to the CBS affiliate in his native Rhode Island. In addition to local TV networks, Skype seats have gone to conservative radio hosts and a Kentucky newspaper publisher.
All of that, I'm sure, will continue.
Hope Spicer took notes for his book. Hope he puts country above party. Not holding my breath on that last one.
UPDATE: The new White House press secretary, hardly a surprise, is Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She'll be just as awful. Maybe worse.
UPDATE: Ryan Lizza doesn't pull punches for Spicer on the way out. He also writes about the odd way new communications director Anthony Scaramucci was chosen: over the objections of the White House chief of staff. I do find it interesting that in anticipation of being hired, Scaramucci sold his investment firm to prevent conflicts of interest. In this way, he's already leagues ahead of his boss. And yes, not hard.
UPDATE: The bigger story could be the resignation of two of his attorneys, including Marc Kasowitz, although maybe the shift is simply from the NY-based Kasowitz to the DC-based Ty Cobb and John Dowd. (There's also Jay Sekulow but the less said of him the better.) Cobb and Dowd could play good cop/bad cop for Trump's legal strategy, since Cobb's rep is easy-going while Dowd is known for combativeness. Then there's the baseball theme. Cobb is a distant relative of his more famous baseball namesake, while Dowd helped investigate Pete Rose in the 1980s and repped Ted Williams in a civil lawsuit.
Dirty, Russian Money
“Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. 'They saved his bacon,' says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump's developments in the 1980s...
”.. whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians...“
-- Craig Unger, ”Trump's Russian Laundromat," The New Republic, July 13, 2017
The Mess of Texas
Why did Trump happen? Why is there such political gridlock? Why aren't things getting done? Why is one political party insistent on taking away insurance from tens of millions of Americans for a tax break for the wealthy?
You might want to look not only to the post-Reagan obstinance of the GOP, (first exemplified, stridently, by Newt Gringrich in 1994), and to the rise of right-wing media and propaganda (Fox News, Rush, Breitbart, Sinclair, Drudge, and on and on and on), and to all that right-wing money being poured into races and so-called think tanks (see: Jane Mayer's “Dark Money”), but to redistricting and gerrymandering.
Native Texan Lawrence Wright has a piece on the history of politics in his state in the July 10th New Yorker, and it ain't pretty. An excerpt:
In May, 2003, the redistricting plan came up for a vote in the Texas House. .... The redistricting had a revolutionary effect. Today, the Texas delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives includes twenty-five Republicans and eleven Democrats—a far more conservative profile than the political demography of the state. The Austin metropolitan area, the heart of the Texas left, was divvied up into six congressional districts, with city residents a minority in each. All but one of these districts are now held by Republicans. I'm currently represented by Roger Williams, a conservative automobile dealer from Weatherford, two hundred miles north of Austin. Another Republican congressman, Lamar Smith, lives in San Antonio, but his district includes—and neutralizes—the liberal area surrounding the University of Texas at Austin. Smith, a member of the Tea Party Caucus, in Washington, denies that human activity affects global warming. He heads the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, which oversees nasa, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Lloyd Doggett is the only Democrat representing the Austin area, and his district runs along I-35, from East Austin to East San Antonio, scooping up as many Democrats as possible in one basket.
Texas's redistricting process has since been replicated in statehouses around the country, creating congressional districts that are practically immune to challenge and giving Republicans an impregnable edge in Washington. “Texas became a model for how to get control,” Craddick told me.
And ever since, the GOP has been out of control. Wright's piece, by the way, is called “The Future is Texas.” God help us.