Open Thread

The Open Thread for April 5, 2017

News that Vice President Mike Pence is close to a deal with the House Freedom Caucus has some Republicans optimistic that a bill can pass the House. While still unlikely, there’s even a chance it could be brought up for a vote this week.  The Huffington Post says the deal is dependent on both wings of the party signing off on a provision that would allow insurers to once again deny coverage based on consumers’ pre-existing medical conditions.  So in addition to what the CBO estimates to be 24 million people who would lose their health coverage under the GOP proposal, the deal being negotiated would create a backdoor for insurers to get rid of one of the most popular features of the Affordable Care Act.

So Republican lawmakers will be asked to put themselves on the record by voting for a deeply unpopular bill that has no chance to pass the Senate. Most GOP senators at this point would probably prefer that the bill just die in the House.  By caving to the demands of the Freedom Caucus, the GOP health care bill is becoming even more unpalatable for moderate lawmakers who fear getting swept up in a wave election. It’s political suicide to force them to vote on this bill.

But then again, “[a]ttempts to reach a deal this week on health care are unraveling fast, with conservatives already blaming House Speaker Paul Ryan for blocking the White House bill, and leadership sources saying that’s nonsense and that the Freedom Caucus is making unreasonable demands that are losing net votes. It’s a bad sign for Republicans ahead of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the Capitol tonight,” Axios reports.  Said a senior Republican source: “While we haven’t picked up any votes yet, this concept is already showing signs of losing a ton of them.”

“Where the plan is heading will potentially lose more votes than it picks up. The Freedom Caucus, they say, is moving the goal posts again and trying to shift blame.”

A new Quinnipiac poll finds President Trump has a negative 35% to 57% job approval rating.  In addition, voters opinions of some of Trump’s personal qualities are mostly negative:

  • 61% to 34% that he is not honest
  • 55% to 40% that he does not have good leadership skills;
  • 57% to 39% that he does not care about average Americans;
  • 66% to 29% that he is not level-headed;
  • 64% to 33% that he is a strong person;
  • 61% to 34% that he does not share their values.

Said pollster Tim Malloy: “Trump continues to struggle, even among his most loyal supporters. Many of them would be hard pressed to see even a sliver of a silver lining in this troubling downward spiral.”

Here is an excerpt of Susan Bordo’s book, “The Destruction of Hillary Clinton” at the Guardian.

Before I go any further, let me put my own cards on the table. The destruction of Hillary Clinton, I firmly believe, while propelled by a perfect storm of sexism, partisan politics and media madness, was bookended by two immensely powerful assaults. One was the inappropriate, inaccurate and inflammatory interference in the general election by FBI director James Comey. The other occurred much earlier, during the primaries, but its consequences are felt even today. I know I will make some of my younger feminist colleagues (and other left leaners) furious, which was distressing to me then, and still is.

These people, in so many ways, are my natural colleagues, and most are as upset as I am by Trump’s victory. But they played a big role in the thin edge (not a landslide, as Trump would have us believe) that gave Trump the election. For while Trump supporters hooted and cheered for their candidate, forgiving him every lie, every crime, every bit of disgusting behaviour, too many young Democrats made it very clear (in newspaper and internet interviews, in polls, and in the mainstream media) that they were only voting for Hillary Clinton as the lesser of two evils, “holding their noses”, tears still streaming down their faces over the primary defeat of the person they felt truly deserved their votes. Some didn’t vote at all. And as much as I am in agreement with many of his ideas, Bernie Sanders splintered and ultimately sabotaged the Democratic party – not because he chose to run against Hillary Clinton, but because of how he ran against her.

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With that said [above Trump’s latest example of outrageous hypocrisy], Charles Pierce says that it’s time to put all that behind us.

This clamorous futility [between the two factions in the Democratic Party] has to end. There’s too much at stake. The country is going off the rails and there’s a cartoon character at the wheel…

If Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp think they can’t survive without throwing Gorsuch a vote, well, I think they’re wrong. But engaging either one of them in a doomed primary attempt would be a diversion of energy and money and time that the Democratic minority can ill afford. Look, instead, to what Jon Ossoff is doing down in the Georgia 6th. He’s got them running scared—the oppo is beginning to drop—and he’s doing it without raking old intra-party wounds and settling old intra-party scores. I’m sure that, if he were to win, one day, he’ll cast a vote for which the Purity Brigade will call him a neoliberal. Other people will leap to defend him. I’m also sure that I will not be able to care less about either position.

What I do know is that electing Jon Ossoff gets the country one step closer to Minority Leader Paul Ryan, and that’s the game that matters.

A new SurveyUSA poll finds Jon Ossoff (D) grabs 43% of likely voters. Republicans Karen Handel (15%), Bob Gray (14%), and Dan Moody (7%) round out the top four. All other candidates combined make up 15%, and an additional 7% are undecided. Right now, Ossoff polls below the 50% needed to avoid a runoff.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions “ordered Justice Department officials to review reform agreements with troubled police forces nationwide, saying it was necessary to ensure these pacts do not work against the Trump administration’s goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime,” the Washington Post reports.

“The memo was released not long before the department’s civil rights lawyers asked a federal judge to postpone until at least the end of June a hearing on a sweeping police reform agreement, known as a consent decree, with the Baltimore police department that was announced just days before President Trump took office.”

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Damn.

“A former campaign adviser for Donald Trump met with and passed documents to a Russian intelligence operative in New York City in 2013,” BuzzFeed reports.   “The adviser, Carter Page, met with a Russian intelligence operative named Victor Podobnyy, who was later charged by the US government alongside two others for acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government. The charges, filed in January 2015, came after federal investigators busted a Russian spy ring that was seeking information on US sanctions as well as efforts to develop alternative energy. Page is an energy consultant.”

ABC News: “Two years before joining the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser, Page was targeted for recruitment as an intelligence source by Russian spies promising favors for business opportunities in Russia, according to a sealed FBI complaint.”

The Washington Post reports that Page has admitted it.  In a statement, Page “confirmed his role in the 2015 Justice Department spy case, adding another twist to the still unfolding story of Trump’s peculiar and expanding ties to people connected to Russia.”

“Page said he assisted U.S. prosecutors in their case against Evgeny Buryakov, an undercover Kremlin agent posing then as a bank executive in New York. Buryakov was convicted of espionage and released from federal prison just last week, a few months short of completing a 30-month sentence. Buryakov agreed to be immediately deported to Russia.”

The Los Angeles Times continues its editorial series on Trump:

The insult that Donald Trump brings to the equation is an apparent disregard for fact so profound as to suggest that he may not see much practical distinction between lies, if he believes they serve him, and the truth. […]

He is dangerous. His choice of falsehoods and his method of spewing them — often in tweets, as if he spent his days and nights glued to his bedside radio and was periodically set off by some drivel uttered by a talk show host who repeated something he’d read on some fringe blog — are a clue to Trump’s thought processes and perhaps his lack of agency. He gives every indication that he is as much the gullible tool of liars as he is the liar in chief.

He has made himself the stooge, the mark, for every crazy blogger, political quack, racial theorist, foreign leader or nutcase peddling a story that he might repackage to his benefit as a tweet, an appointment, an executive order or a policy. He is a stranger to the concept of verification, the insistence on evidence and the standards of proof that apply in a courtroom or a medical lab — and that ought to prevail in the White House.

A new Gallup poll finds that 55% now support the Affordable Care Act, a major turnaround from five months ago when just 42% approved. This is actually the first time a majority of Americans have approved of the healthcare law since Gallup first asked about it in November 2012.  Meanwhile, a new Kaiser Health Tracking poll finds that 64% of Americans think it’s a “good thing” that the Republican health care plan didn’t pass the House.   It also finds that 61% of Americans believe that President Trump and Republicans in Congress are responsible for the country’s health care system, while just 31% think Democrats are responsible because they originally passed the law.

Ari Berman at The Nation lists the reasons why Democrats are right in filibustering Neil Gorsuch, despite threats of a nuclear option:  “The problem with [the save the firepower] argument is that it’s delusional to believe that Mitch McConnell—who prevented Merrick Garland from even receiving a hearing—would allow Democrats to filibuster the next Supreme Court vacancy if they allow Gorsuch to go through. If Justice Kennedy or a liberal justice like Ginsburg or Breyer stepped down and Republicans had the ability to overturn landmark laws like Roe v. Wade with a 6-to-3 vote, they would do everything in their power to make it happen and wouldn’t blink for a second about going nuclear. Moreover, because a number of red-state Democrats are up for reelection in 2018, Senate Democrats may have fewer seats and even less leverage when the next Supreme Court vacancy occurs.”

Eugene Robinson’s take on Jared Kushner, jack of all trades, master of none:

President Trump is apparently convinced that his son-in-law, who serves officially as a senior adviser, can fix anything. Make that everything…When you think about it, Kushner’s outsized role should be no surprise. The only kind of business Trump knows is family business; he started out working for his father, and now his children are his top lieutenants at the Trump Organization. In the way they put family above all else, there is a bit of the Corleones in the Trumps. Minus all the homicides.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka is also taking a senior — and unpaid — advisory post in the White House. This will put her in a good position to cover her husband’s flank — and he’ll need it.  […]

Access to the president equals power, and none of Kushner’s rivals can compete on that score. He is a callow young man who cannot possibly accomplish all that is being asked of him. But think what being Trump’s son-in-law must be like. Maybe peace in the Middle East doesn’t look so hard.

Rick Klein and Shushannah Walshe: “President Trump is back to attacking the ‘crooked scheme against us.’ This time there’s a new player in the thriller, one who’s particularly familiar to Trump backers and viewers of Fox News, which is offering new reporting on which the president is seizing. Susan Rice, who was President Obama’s national security adviser, now stands accused of seeking the ‘unmasking’ of Trump associates caught up in U.S. surveillance efforts, the suggestion being that she sought to reveal their identities for political purposes.”

“There are plenty of legally permissible reasons for a national security adviser to want more information about who was talking to whom in captured communications. There are potentially nefarious reasons, too. But proof is not yet in evidence in either direction. What is in evidence is that the White House has spent much of the past month seeking to justify a presidential tweet that the FBI director himself has said has no basis in evidence. President Obama still did not order his successor to be wiretapped.”

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee leaders “have already met with 255 potential candidates across 64 districts, convinced that the shifting political environment has opened new opportunities that they’ll chase in next year’s midterms,” Politico reports.  “A rough profile of their ideal candidate has started to emerge: veterans, preferably with small business experience too. They’d like as many of them to be women or people who’ve never run for office before — and having young children helps.”

“The FBI is planning to create a special section based at its Washington headquarters to co-ordinate its investigation of Russian activities designed to influence the 2016 presidential election,” the Financial Times reports.

“The move, a sign of how seriously the bureau is taking allegations of Russian meddling in American politics, is also aimed at giving FBI director James Comey greater visibility into the investigation’s granular details.”

Said one FBI agent: “It’s meant to surge resources.”

5 comments on “The Open Thread for April 5, 2017

  1. The Susan Bordo exerpt is a barnburner. I’ve been talking about this with a few friends for a couple of days now. Two big things resonate with me —
    1. That HRC — with a resume of moving the bar for feminist and children’s causes for all of her life could somehow be establishment. And the only real proof of that was her Wall Street ties and her Democratic ties. Even though Wall Street was part of her constituency as a Senator. And even though her track record of voting for Wall Street friendly stuff doesn’t reach that of our two local Senators. The establishment label never accounted for any of her achievements (and resume that is arguably better than her husband’s) and let those who went for the easy label to never have to look for or judge her on her real worth. It was the sexism, stupid.

    2.While not specifically called out here, you can see the imprint of the need by a certain kind of progressive for a Messiah figure. The need for someone who you can plausibly project the ability to single-handedly give you the world you want. It doesn’t matter that we have a government that doesn’t let one person wave a magic wand and make everything right. HRC was never going to be as charming and interesting as Obama or even her husband, but this was someone who you could push to get closer to the right thing.

    I’ve seen so-called feminists recently post about an HRC event saying that she needs to shut up and get out of the limelight. Which is pretty appalling, really. HRC will still have accomplished more than any of these women will accomplish even if she decides to just hike and visit with her grandkids for the rest of her life. It isn’t particularly feminist to ask for a woman to shut up, even if you don’t like her much. Because when the world tells you to shut up, you won’t have much backup to push back on that.

    • delacrat

      “Which is pretty appalling, really. HRC will still have accomplished more than any of these women…”

      So you were not appalled at the failed states she accomplished in Honduras and Libya ?

  2. It’s amazing that Kushner seems to be running a bunch of high-profile actions that the Secretary of State really should be doing. This isn’t even good business sense. But then, Tillerson is looking like he is a fish-out-of-water in a job where he can’t just be focused on energy extraction for his shareholders.

  3. I’m feeling like I should be worried about this from the DCCC:

     “A rough profile of their ideal candidate has started to emerge: veterans, preferably with small business experience too. They’d like as many of them to be women or people who’ve never run for office before — and having young children helps.”

  4. Total agreement about Bernie and his campaign, it went on too long and it became anti Hilary with time, at some point he lost sight of his goal. The “Jared Kushner jack of all trades, master of none” line is apt, like so many other Trumpsters in the White House he seems ill suited for his assorted jobs. That and Trump’s diversionary tactics, while easily the thing he does best, are becoming obvious, even to the corporate media. All of a sudden the tweet storms target Susan Rice, and no one cares. Finally the Republicans seem to be primed for another healthcare bill disaster, as expected they caved to the ultra far right “freedom caucus” and now seem poised to advance allowing insurance companies to not cover pre existing conditions. Expecting rage, fury and a deep desire for revenge will be the result.

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