Open Thread

The Open Thread for January 26, 2017

“The Trump administration is preparing executive orders that would clear the way to drastically reduce the United States’ role in the United Nations and other international organizations, as well as begin a process to review and potentially abrogate certain forms of multilateral treaties,” the New York Times reports.

“Taken together, the orders suggest that Mr. Trump intends to pursue his campaign promises of withdrawing the United States from international organizations. He has expressed heavy skepticism of multilateral agreements such as the Paris climate agreement and of the United Nations.”

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Jennifer Rubin thinks it might be time for the 25th Amendment.

We are not calling — yet — for invocation of Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. (“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”)

We are calling for someone, perhaps his children, to see if they can prevail upon him to stop behaving in this way, for if not, legitimate worries will mount about whether he is able to carry out his duties. We also are saying that Republicans need to be pressed to state their view: Is he lying or is he unable to separate what he wants to believe and what exists, literally, in front of his eyes? The first makes him morally unfit…If the latter, they — and we all — have a constitutional crisis the likes of which we have never seen.

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White House adviser Stephen Bannon is apparently registered to vote in two places, New York City and Sarasota County, Florida, according to the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

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Dan Balz: “There is no benign explanation for President Trump’s false assertion that millions of people voted illegally in the last election. It is either a deliberate attempt to undermine faith in the democratic process, an exhortation to those who favor new restrictions on access to the ballot box or the worrisome trait of someone with immense power willing to make wild statements without any credible evidence. By repeating as president what he had said as a candidate, for whatever purpose, Trump is now striking at the foundation of a democratic society.”

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Government office that protects whistleblowers fires a warning shot across Trump’s bow on gag orders and non-disclosure agreements. Here’s the story.

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“The Trump administration is mandating that any studies or data from scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public,” the AP reports.

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Senate Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told USA Today that the odds were “50-50” that Senate Republicans won’t be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a signature promise by Trump and other GOP candidates.

“Republicans insist they want to keep the most popular provisions of the law known as Obamacare, including provisions that ensure people with pre-existing medical conditions can buy insurance. But he notes they are divided on how to achieve that and pay for it.

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John Judis on the Australian lesson on universal healthcare:

Under a Labor government, Australia passed a national health insurance system called Medibank in 1974 that was similar to America’s Medicare system, but applied to all Australians. Liberals (who in Australia are the “conservatives”) used their majorities in Australia’s upper house and in the state legislatures to undermine the system — refusing, among other things, to levy a tax to support its subsidies for care. Australia’s doctors, with Liberal support, jacked up their rates well above what Medibank was willing to pay. In 1981, a Liberal government, having taken power, repealed the legislation, which didn’t seem to be working. But the story doesn’t end there.

With no protection against rising healthcare costs, the public turned against the Liberals, and in 1983 voted in a Labor government nationally and in four of the six states, which reintroduced a new stronger healthcare bill, dubbed Medicare, which was funded through its own tax. It is popular and remains in place, although government has changed hands several times since then.

In the United States, support for national health insurance has remained very high during its absence — helping Democrats win the White House in 1992 and 2008 — and has fallen when an administration proposed an actual system, as the Clinton administration did in 1993, or when an actual system was adopted, as the ACA was in 2010. If the Republicans gut the ACA, support for national health insurance will revive. You can bet on it. And Democrats may even get a chance in 2020 to implement a new system as the Australian Labor Party did.

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Brian Beutler says Trump will validate Obama’s legacy rather than destroying it:

In the end, the strategy of emboldening birthers and doomsayers while championing a farm team of clean-cut fixers was destroyed by its own internal contradictions. Republicans whet the right-wing appetite for a leader who closely resembled the extreme and unrepentant resistance to Obama. Republicans won the presidency almost by accident, with a candidate whom they loathed, feared, and widely condemned. They are now leashed to a man whom they recently described as untrustworthy and unfit.

This is terrible news for the country, but for narrower legacy questions, it helps explain why Obama has spent the last several weeks touting the stability he’s passing along to the new administration. Because Trump rose to power as Obama’s antithesis, their respective regimes will be held up against one another as totems of competing visions of the country’s future. And if Trump fails by running the country on behalf of a slender but feral base, he will bolster Obama’s legacy rather than destroy it.

Over four or eight years, Trump can repeal a lot of laws, but to genuinely erase Obama’s legacy, he’ll have to do more than sign bills. He’ll have to challenge major new points of consensus—that government should guarantee the public health care coverage; that same-sex couples deserve all the same rights as heterosexual ones; that climate change is a major threat to the future of civilization; that Obama rescued the country from global recession—and undo them. I expect him to lose every one of those arguments, and by losing, he will vindicate Obama’s presidency, if not Obama’s governing vision for the country.

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Rick Klein: “His team has telegraphed an Israeli embassy move to Jerusalem so explicitly that it will be hard to walk back now. The same goes for undoing the Iran nuclear deal. North Korea, China, Russia – the list of countries that may want to provoke a response from the new and unpredictable Trump Administration is long. And the president stepped on his own message in his first meeting with US intelligence officials, when he used the appearance to declare ‘war’ on the media.”

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“Top Senate Republicans are drawing a hard line on the Supreme Court, guaranteeing that no matter what tactics Democrats deploy, they will be forced to swallow Donald Trump’s imminent nominee to the high court,” Politico reports.

“Republicans won’t come out and say it, but there’s an implicit threat in their confidence: If Democrats play things the wrong way, they might find themselves on the wrong end of a legacy-defining change to Senate rules that scraps the chamber’s 60-vote threshold to confirm Supreme Court nominees.”

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Ezra Klein: “The Trump administration is creating a baseline expectation among its loyalists that they can’t trust anything said by the media. The spat over crowd size is a low-stakes, semi-comic dispute, but the groundwork is being laid for much more consequential debates over what is, and isn’t, true. Delegitimizing the institutions that might report inconvenient or damaging facts about the president is strategic for an administration that has made a slew of impossible promises and takes office amid a cloud of ethics concerns and potential scandals.”

Jay Rosen has a suggestion for the media fighting back: “Put your most junior people in the White House briefing room. Recognize that the real story is elsewhere, and most likely hidden.”

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Some words of wisdom for Democrats from former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, via RealClearPolitics: “…Democrats must diligently seek to establish countervailing power – stronger trade unions, community banks, more incentives for employee ownership and small businesses, and electoral reforms that get big money out of politics and expand the right to vote…The Party must change from being a giant fundraising machine to a movement. It needs to unite the poor, working class, and middle class, black and white – who haven’t had a raise in 30 years, and who feel angry, powerless, and disenfranchised.”

2 comments on “The Open Thread for January 26, 2017

  1. I just wanted to thank you for these open threads. It’s always been where I start my day!

  2. How ’bout that Chris Coons? Seems he woke up one morning and discovered he’s supposed to be a Dem and started voting against Trump’s insane nominations. Liked the Australian analogy on healthcare, it just may be apt for America as repealing Obamacare seems to be nothing like the slam dunk Paul Ryan and company imagined. Seems the law has helped more than a few people, I’m one of them, and they don’t like the idea of their insurance being yanked out from under them. It’s also attracting lots of attention to Ryan’s plans for Medicare, perhaps even more evil than what he’s trying to do to the ACA.

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