November 2018 Archives


I don't know who will win in court over Jim Acosta's press pass, but I'm pretty tired in general of lawyers fractally parsing our laws into incomprehensible gibberish. "Legal analysts" quoted by the media are predicting that CNN will win the lawsuit, but it's pretty obvious they shouldn't. The First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It's obvious that no individual person has a right to a press pass to the White House. Jim Acosta is free to continue writing and saying whatever he wants. He has no right to have access to the President, either at the White House or anywhere else. If I applied for a White House press pass I'd be denied, and no one would be up in arms about it. Jim Acosta has no more rights than you or I do.

What's more, his employer, CNN, has dozens of press passes for its employees. To the extent that the First Amendment should be understood to protect corporations, CNN has plenty of alternatives to Jim Acosta. Even if you think CNN has a right to access the White House (which would be absurd) there's no reason they have to send Jim Acosta.

President Trump is obviously correct to assert that he is under no obligation to let any journalists into the White House.

Donald Trump sought Wednesday to land a massive blow in his long-fought battle against the news media, with administration lawyers asserting in court that the president could bar "all reporters" from the White House complex for any reason he sees fit.

The sweeping claim, which came in the first public hearing over CNN's lawsuit to restore correspondent Jim Acosta's White House credentials, could have a dramatic impact on news organizations' access to government officials if it is upheld in court.

Politico's characterization is dramatic and overwrought. Public officials don't talk to reporters because they're forced to by the Constitution, or merely because the reporters have physical access to a certain location. They talk to reporters when they want to. The relationship between a president and the journalists who cover him really depends on the whims of the president. Here's some data on the number of press conferences held by recent presidents:

By president: Total / average per month:

Obama - 163 / 1.72
George W. Bush - 210 / 2.18
Bill Clinton - 193 / 2.01
George H. W. Bush - 137 / 2.85
Reagan - 46 / 0.48
Carter- 59 / 1.23
Ford - 40 / 1.36
Nixon - 39 /0.59
Lyndon B. Johnson - 135 /2.18
JFK - 65 /1.91
Eisenhower - 193 /2.01
Truman - 324 / 3.48
Franklin Roosevelt - 1,020/ 7.0
Hoover - 268 / 5.58
Coolidge - 407 / 6.07

President Trump talks more than any past president -- directly to citizens via Twitter even if not to the media. He's under no Constitutional obligation to talk to anyone.


Being loyal to your friends, family, God, and country is a generally seen as an admirable trait, in stark contrast to the traitor who turns against people who put their trust in him. But Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker isn't appropriately loyal to the president who appointed him, he's a no-good Trump loyalist!

The main complaint lodged against the acting attorney general is that Whitaker is a Trump loyalist: During his tenure as Sessions' chief of staff, Whitaker reportedly served as a "balm" between the Justice Department and the president, acting as the president's "eyes and ears" within what Trump viewed "an enemy institution."

Consider former Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch -- were they loyal, or loyalists? It's hard to imagine either of them allowing a special counsel to investigate Obama or Hillary under any circumstances. Would we prefer unelected, nearly unaccountable appointees to govern us according to their own will, rather than the Will of the People as embodied in their elected President? President Trump has already had to waste two years bending the bureaucracy to the will of the electorate, and the DOJ has been among the most intransigent.

The proof came early: Within two weeks of Trump's inauguration, acting attorney general and Obama administration holdover Sally Yates directed Justice attorneys not to defend the president's travel ban, forcing Trump to fire her. Since then, congressional investigations, Freedom of Information Act requests and dedicated work by Sessions have exposed additional efforts by Justice and FBI career employees to undermine the president. And yet even after nearly two years of cleaning house, just two months ago a supposedly senior official in the Trump administration claimed anonymously in the New York Times that "many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda."

While Trump's opponents may cheer such insubordination, our country suffers when unelected and unknown bureaucrats seek to thwart the agenda of the man freely chosen by voters to serve as our president. Whitaker's fidelity to Trump may be striking in contrast to the status quo in the D.C. swamp, but it is most assuredly not a stain on the acting attorney general's credentials or character.

It's not too much to expect loyalty from your subordinates; if you can't be loyal in good conscience, then you should resign. You'll have another chance to make your case to the American people in the next election.


Monica Showalter argues that Obama's campaigning was ineffective because many of the candidates he worked for lost, but I think that's the wrong way to look at it.

That said, the big loser who stands out here is hard-campaigning President Obama, the guy who thought he was the star of the Democratic Party and who, throwing the tradition of former presidents staying aloof from politics out the window, campaigned hard, long, and loud, for Democrats in this midterm. Turns out the ones he fought the hardest for lost.

Now he stands exposed as politically irrelevant, powerless, an embarrassment. Sorry 'bout that legacy thing, Barry-O.

Some of the Democrats campaigned for were in very tough races. If Obama wanted to maximize his "win rate", he would have stuck to the easy races.

But then there were the midterm campaigns that weren't gimmes, some very high profile, and high media-exposure ones: Joe Donnelly of Indiana for Senate. Bill Nelson of Florida for Senate. Andrew Gillum of Florida for governor. Stacey Abrams of Georgia for governor.

Those were the ones Obama went hoarse campaigning for, yelling and waving his arms, voice cracking, speeches described as fiery, telling voters to vote for these guys or die. With Gillum in particular, racial appeals were a factor and Obama's presence was supposed to help. Gillum had a big media buildup about being a first black governor of Florida as an argument to draw votes, and he later cried racism to fend off corruption allegations. Adding Obama to campaign was obviously part of the appeal. This time, the race-politics identity card simply failed.

And Obama? What did he get? Zilch. Zip. Zero. Nada. The voters rather noticibly rejected the ex-president's appeal for votes. Been there, done that.

The listed candidates faced an uphill battle, and many of the races were very close. I'd say that the Republican victories reflect voter preference for Republican policies, not a failure on the part of Barack Obama.


It's natural to expect big results when "your team" controls the levers of power in Washington D.C., but as Republicans have noticed over the past two years you're likely to be disappointed. President Trump has had some major victories in the first half of his first term, but few legislative accomplishments. But maybe Congressional inaction is the best that Americans can hope for these days, and that's exactly what last night's election results are set to deliver.

The idea that gridlock is good is based on the notion that most of what Congress does is probably bad, and that when Congress can't do much we're better off. As Bill Kort wrote in 2017, "Gridlock is good because when Congress is tied up in knots they can't do anything to hurt us. This idea has been verified by the market many times over the past 25 years."

It would be nice for our government to return to "normal", with both parties finding a sliver of common ground to make positive change (haha), but I find it hard to imagine that the Democrats are going to want to work with Trump, and Trump is going to bang them like a drum as he campaigns for re-election over the next two years. If there's another Supreme Court vacancy, the Democrats will be apoplectic.

So my prediction is that nothing much gets done, and that's probably just fine.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2018 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2018 is the previous archive.

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