Recently in Politics, Government & Public Policy Category


I guess Obama loyalists have finally decided to throw Hillary Clinton under the bus. Interim DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile writes that the DNC rigged the nomination for Clinton and against Bernie Sanders.

"Hello, senator. I've completed my review of the DNC and I did find the cancer," I said. "But I will not kill the patient."

I discussed the fundraising agreement that each of the candidates had signed. Bernie was familiar with it, but he and his staff ignored it. They had their own way of raising money through small donations. I described how Hillary's campaign had taken it another step.

I told Bernie I had found Hillary's Joint Fundraising Agreement. I explained that the cancer was that she had exerted this control of the party long before she became its nominee. Had I known this, I never would have accepted the interim chair position, but here we were with only weeks before the election.

Lots more detail in they story. But yep: rigged. It's very possible that Sanders would have won the nomination otherwise.


Shoes continue to drop as a result of the "Russia investigation", whatever that actually means these days. It seems like Trump was the only person not colluding with Russia. From my perspective, the Russia angle (whatever it may be) is minor compared to the vast number of shady conspiracies that are emerging in the wake of the elites' slow defenestration from Washington.

Sometime in October 2016 -- that is, at the height of the presidential campaign -- Christopher Steele, the foreign agent hired by Fusion GPS to compile the Trump dossier, approached the FBI with information he had gleaned during the project. According to a February report in the Washington Post, Steele "reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work."

It was an astonishing turn: the nation's top federal law enforcement agency agreeing to fund an ongoing opposition research project being conducted by one of the candidates in the midst of a presidential election.

Everyone in D.C. believed that "business as usual" would continue forever, whether Democrat or Republican won the presidency. No one counted on an erratic populist winning and overturning the applecart. Trump is certainly flawed, but I for one am glad to see some positive results from the chaos.


I'm not sure what Hillary Clinton's goal is, but her post-election conspiracy theories are growing increasingly odd. Tim Blair injects his comments into this ABC interview with Clinton by Sarah Ferguson.

CLINTON: I feel really terrible about losing it and I'm very clear in the book that I feel like I let people down, that there was so much at stake in this election. I knew it would be hard, I knew it would be close, but I did not know that I would be running against not only Trump but the FBI Director and Vladimir Putin ...

[BLAIR:] The conspiracy count begins!

CLINTON: If you feed false information continuously to people about one candidate versus another, it does have an impact and we now know that the Russians actually paid in rubles for running ads in Facebook and on Twitter making all kinds of accusations against me ...

[BLAIR:] Add Facebook, Twitter and "the Russians" to Hillary's conspiracy count. And all Hillary had at her disposal to counter these social media ads - did anyone actually see them? - was the combined might of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, USA Today, every major television network, all late-night comedy hosts, NPR, CNN, several Fox News presenters, Hollywood stars and music stars, plus tons of Facebook and Twitter content. The poor woman never stood a chance.

And most painfully:

FERGUSON: Are you still angry with the idea that women could hear that tape and hear that language and behaviour and still vote for him?

CLINTON: I'm really disappointed. Michelle Obama said something the other day which I thought was, you know, very much on point - why would any woman give up her own self-respect to side with someone who is clearly sexist and misogynistic and by his own words ah guilty of sexual assault?

[BLAIR:] Hillary is married to Bill Clinton.

What is Hillary Clinton trying to accomplish? Just sell some books? Stay in the public eye... for what? To run for president again?


Michael Barone outlines some interesting potential consequences of California's early primary election schedule. It's always fascinating to me how much effect process has on outcome. See also: path dependence.

California doesn't vote much like the rest of the nation any more. It favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a 30 point margin, the second most Democratic result (after Hawaii) in the nation. California voted 1 to 3 percent more Democratic than the nation in 1988, 1992 and 1996. Since then it has shifted to become more Democratic than the national result: 5 percent more in 2000, 6 percent more in 2004, 8 percent more in 2008, 9 percent more in 2012 and 13 percent more in 2016. This is the first time in American history that our largest state has voted at one end of the partisan spectrum. ...

So despite California Democrats' hopes that an early presidential primary date will give the state greater influence in selecting a Democratic nominee, past history suggests that that's not likely -- and that there's a risk that California, newly installed at the left extreme of the political spectrum, will tilt the process toward an unelectable left-wing nominee.

And it seems likely -- at least this is how it's worked out in the recent past -- that an early California primary will be determinative in the Republican nomination race, which may or may not be in Democrats' interests. Politicians fiddling with the presidential primary schedule should always remember that there's no way to repeal the law of unintended consequences.


Lots of people are apparently surprised that Congressional Republicans have completely failed to live up to their decade of promises to repeal Obamacare. Newsflash: you can't trust politicians. You can't trust Republicans, you can't trust Democrats, you can't trust any of them.

Senate Republicans, short of votes, abandoned their latest and possibly final attempt to kill the health care law Tuesday, just ahead of a critical end-of-the-week deadline.

The repeal-and-replace bill's authors promised to try again at a later date, while President Donald Trump railed against "certain so-called Republicans" who opposed the GOP effort. But for now, Trump and fellow Republicans who vowed for seven years to abolish President Barack Obama's law will leave it standing and turn their attention to overhauling the nation's tax code instead.

The GOP's predicament was summed up bluntly by Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, a lead author of the legislation: "Through events that are under our control and not under our control, we don't have the votes."

"Am I disappointed? Absolutely," he said after a GOP lunch attended by Vice President Mike Pence.

I'm disappointed too, but not really surprised.

This is a perfect example of why we shouldn't give the government so much power.


For the past seven years we've been hearing promises from Republicans that if we'd just elect them they'd roll back the leftist takeover of America. First we put them in the House, then the Senate, and finally the Presidency (not to mention 33 governors and numerous state legislatures), but even with total control of the government Republicans are apparently powerless.

A Republican Senate could not muster even 50 votes for the full repeal of Obamacare's taxes and spending. Six Republican senators who had voted for repeal in 2015, when the party was merely pretending it was possible, flipped on Wednesday rather than deliver.

Five of the six represent states President Trump won in November. The sixth hails from a state Trump lost by less than 3 points.

An argument can be made that repealing these parts of Obamacare while leaving its regulatory structure largely in place is a bad idea. But we are discussing a law that Republicans spent seven years campaigning against. Every GOP senator except one either voted for repeal in the past or campaigned on it in a recent election cycle. Their leader was said to have a "secret plan" to repeal Obamacare "root and branch."

There was ample time for a contingency plan or even a better approach to replacing the healthcare law.

No amount of time ever seems to be enough.

They reason they were voting on such a poor repeal plan is because it was the best they could almost agree on. They were too incompetent to write a good plan, and too bumbling to even pass an incremental half-measure.

Humiliating.


Says Joe Biden about Hillary Clinton. But Mrs. Clinton's upcoming book will set the record straight on who's to blame for her loss to Donald Trump.

While the book will zero in on Russia and Comey -- which Clinton believes are the two biggest contributing factors to her loss -- it will also examine other factors she blames for a role in her defeat, including sexism and misogyny. ...

At a Recode tech conference in May, Clinton said, "I take responsibility for every decision I make -- but that's not why I lost" -- a sentiment she has also told allies.

Everyone got it? She takes responsibility for her decisions, but the buck stops with Russia, Comey, sexism, and misogyny.


My opinion on the Trump Jr.-Russia thing is that everyone does it, but the Trump campaign wasn't shrewd enough to keep it at arms length. I don't think this is good or right, but I also don't believe the shocked, shocked responses I'm reading in the media.

Regarding the use of opposition research obtained in distasteful ways:

For his part, Carney, writing via email, offered ways a campaign might have handled such a situation, had it arisen. "If the emails did show up, most serious campaigns would not touch them directly -- legalities and all. But friends of the campaign would strongly encourage the turncoat to dump them to reporters. Easier not to have fingerprints on questionable documents."

"Foreign governments would always use high-level U.S. third parties, not any direct campaign contacts, and most likely they would end up in the media," Carney continued. "So YES -- campaigns would seek the emails, but not directly if they were not legally available or the sources were questionable."

Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was unseemly, but does it better serve America for campaigns to perform such distasteful activities through deniable intermediaries?

This discussion of the ethics of opposition research is very high-minded, but I believe the crux is here:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right, but even if -- Christina, even if the campaign says, we're not going to do this, there are other tabloids and others out there who may be engaging in this kind of research.

CHRISTINA REYNOLDS: Sure.

"Everyone in politics would have taken that meeting," says Jeff Berkowitz, a veteran Republican opposition researcher, but:

the task instead should have fallen to a lower-level campaign researcher or paid consultant, rather than the candidate's son. Berkowitz, a former White House official who worked as research director for the Republican National Committee and Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign, said the revelations about the younger Trump's meeting with the Russian also serve to underscore the bare-bones nature of his father's unorthodox political operation.

The senior Trump, a novice to politics, defied convention by running his 2016 presidential campaign aided by a core group of family members and a few dozen staffers and consultants, compared to the hundreds on Clinton's campaign workforce.

"You didn't have gatekeepers to handle these things and decide whether it was something useful," Berkowitz said of advance vetting of the Veselnitskaya meeting.

"Everyone in politics would have taken that meeting. This is the nature of politics," he said. But, he added: "It just should have been someone other than Donald Jr."

It seems to me that Trump Jr.'s primary offense was failing to sufficiently distance himself and his candidate from the Russian source.


Says Senator Pat Toomy by way of explaining why Congressional Republicans are floundering.

No kidding. I too can report that, from June 16, 2015, to November 8, 2016, the feeling among the elected officials, party functionaries, consultants, strategists, and journalists in our nation's capital was that Donald J. Trump stood no chance of becoming president of the United States. And because the political elite held this view with such self-assurance, with all the egotism and snobbery and moral puffery and snarkiness that distinguishes itself as a class, it did not spend more than a second, if that, thinking through the possible consequences of a Trump victory.

Among those consequences: The expectation that Republicans might actually try to keep the promises they've made to voters over the last eight years.

Congress needs to get its act together fast or people will rightly conclude that Republicans aren't capable of governing.


John Hinderaker writes that the leaks from the White House and the breathless stories in the media have had only one significant effect.

The Democrats desperately hope that someone on Trump's campaign team may have conspired with the Russians to phish the DNC's email server, as well as the RNC's. (Not sure how that works, but liberal conspiracy theories don't have to make sense.) But we know there is no such evidence. If there were, Democrats in the intelligence agencies, who, it now appears, were violating the law to a massive extent in search of dirt on Donald Trump, would have leaked it before the election.

Absent evidence of collusion, the Left's hysteria over Russia is going to fizzle out. In the end, it will look silly. Meanwhile, everyone knows that the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, the Associated Press, etc., are using anonymous leaks in an effort to bring down the Trump administration on behalf of their party, the Democrats. I doubt that ten percent of the population could deny that proposition, and pass a lie detector test. So if nothing else, we have achieved clarity.

Information like this is good, because it helps people make decisions in the market of ideas. Citizens can observe the chaos in Washington and decide how to vote locally and in the midterm elections in 2018.


Victor Davis Hanson outlines four Never-Trump nightmares, and I want to highlight one of them and then his conclusion.

First: violence. For all the bloviating about Trump as a rising fascist dictator, the only political violence that has occurred since he entered the race for President has come from the left.

So far all the political violence associated with the election of Trump, from Inauguration to the latest campus rioting, has been on the Left. No pro-Trump crowds don masks, break windows or shut down traffic.

Political violence has no place in American politics; it should be condemned by everyone, and vigorously pursued by law enforcement.

Finally, VDH points out that Trump's election is the result of the Republican party's failure. When the "reasonable" politicians ignore people for too long, they create an opening for an "unreasonable" politician.

Finally, there was something deeply wrong in the Republican Party that at some point required a Trump to excise it. The Republican Party and conservative movement had created a hierarchy that mirror-imaged its liberal antithesis, and suggested to middle class voters between the coasts that the commonalities in income, professional trajectories, and cultural values of elites trumped their own political differences. How a billionaire real estate developer appeared, saw that paradox, and became more empathetic to the plight of middle-class Americans than the array of Republican political pundits is one of the most alarming stories of our age.

Trump was not so much a reflection of red-state Americans' political ignorance, as their weariness with those of both parties who ridicule, ignore, or patronize them--and now seek to overturn the verdict of the election.


President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey completes Comey's hero's journey. I agree with Scott Adam's assessment: Comey didn't want to take away America's ability to choose our president. You can say, "that wasn't his job", or "he should have just followed the law", or whatever. All true. It's hard to know what's right/best when you're in the middle of a disaster.

In this case, the disaster was created by Hillary Clinton, and Comey did what he thought was best for America. It cost him his job and reputation, but he was successful in exposing Hillary's guilt without hamstringing America's democracy. If you don't like the outcome (the election of President Trump) then blame Hillary for her actions, not Comey for revealing them.

My opinion of Comey's handling of the Clinton email issue remains the same. I believe he sacrificed his career and reputation to avoid taking from the American voters their option of having the leader of their choice. If Comey had pushed for Clinton's indictment, the country would have ended up with a President Trump without a "fair" election. That was the worst-case scenario for the country and the world. Comey prevented that disaster while still making it clear to the American public that Clinton was not guilt-free with her email server. He let the voters decide how much weight to assign all of that. In my opinion, Comey handled the Clinton email situation like a patriot. The media is spinning the situation as "making it all about himself." That's true in the same sense that a Medal of Honor winner who jumped on a grenade to save his buddies is "making it all about himself." I don't disagree with the characterization that Comey was trying to be the "hero" because that's how it looks to me too.

I once heard a story about a guy who pulled a woman out of a car that was on fire. He got burns on his arms doing it. He saved her life, but I don't like him because he was trying to be a hero. That guy made it all about himself.

Megan McArdle sees Comey's firing as autocratic and inept.

Start with the reason Comey was fired. Coming from the man who basked in chants of "Lock her up!" at his campaign rallies, firing someone for mishandling the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails does no more than provoke helpless laughter, liberally mixed with tears. Politico's reporting offers a much more plausible explanation: Trump was frustrated by the investigation into his campaign's Russia connections, and wants it to go away. So he fired the guy at the head of the agency that's conducting it.

This is not the behavior of an American president; it is the behavior of a tinpot autocrat who thinks that the government exists to serve him, rather than the country. And it's almost as troubling that Trump seems unaware that he is not a tinpot autocrat; he is the head of a state with a long (if perhaps somewhat checkered) democratic tradition.

However, the fact is that Comey was irrevocably tainted by his heroism. He bravely went outside the law to do what he thought was best for America, and thereby damned himself. Democrats have been demanding his ouster for months -- does anyone think that a President Hillary Clinton would have kept him as FBI director? Of course not.

It makes for a certain type of good story when the hero triumphs and prospers, but that's not always how things work in real life.


Kurt Schlichter asks a good question (among some provocative hyperbole):

Here's a little test. It's been about six months since Trump treated The Smartest Most Accomplished Woman In The World like a NordicTrack treats Harry Reid, and does anyone know even one person who has said, "You know, I voted for Trump, but now after Neil Gorsuch, General Mattis and H.R. McMaster, I really wish I had checked the box for Felonia von Pantsuit?"

There are people who disliked Trump before the election and still do; there are people who are disappointed with what he has accomplished so far; there are people who think he's doing a great job -- but is there anyone who voted for President Trump and now wishes that Hillary Clinton had won?

I doubt it.


The biggest news from President Trump's tax proposal is the plan to eliminate the federal deduction for state income taxes. This would mean that you wouldn't get to subtract your state income tax from your income when calculating your federal income tax, and it would have the greatest effect on residents of high-tax states.

To offset the loss of revenue from lower tax rates and other changes, Cohn and Mnuchin said they were proposing to eliminate virtually all tax deductions that Americans claim, provisions that they argued primarily benefited wealthier Americans. Cohn said they would preserve tax breaks for mortgage interest, retirement savings and charitable giving. But almost all others would be jettisoned.

This includes the tax deduction people can claim for the state and local taxes they pay each calendar year, a provision that saves taxpayers more than $1 trillion every 10 years. These taxes can be particularly high in states with higher income taxes, such as California and New York, so the change could be acutely felt there.

"It's not the federal government's job to be subsidizing the states," Mnuchin told reporters at the briefing with Cohn.

Cohn is right: the deduction is a subsidy for state governments... a subsidy that benefits high-tax states that primarily vote for Democrats. On principle I'm in favor of eliminating most deductions, and I'm sure it's no coincidence that Trump's political adversaries will be hardest hit.


In the midst of advising California Democrats to not mote the state's primary earlier in the year for the 2020 election cycle, Michael Barone notes that America's most populous state has been drifting pretty far left from the mainstream.

As I wrote in a December 2016 Washington Examiner column, is that for the first time in the nation's history our largest state has voted at one end of the political spectrum. California has become a political outlier. New York, the largest state in censuses from 1820 to 1960, almost always voted within 5 percent of the national average in those years. So did California from the time it became the largest state in 1963 up through 1996. But it voted 6 points more Democratic than the nation in 2000 and 2004, 9 points more in 2008, 10 points more in 2012 and a whopping 14 points more Democratic than the nation in 2016. Only one state, Hawaii, voted more Democratic, and by only 1 point.

This monolithic drift isn't good for America, and it isn't even good for left-wing Californians. Breaking the state up into several smaller states would allow the people in different regions of California to have governments that most suit them -- and a break-up could easily be crafted that preserves a net advantage of two Senators for the Democrats. The only people who would lose from the break-up would be the hacks who sit atop the pyramid of government now.


Why have Republicans been caught flat-footed now that they've finally won power? They voted 16 times to repeal Obamacare over the past seven years, and now they don't even have a plan that Republicans can agree on?

Idiots.

I'm not disappointed that the health care bill failed, I'm disappointed that the bill was the best the Republicans could offer after making promises for seven years.

It's not like the need to do something about Obamacare was a surprise. Republicans have been promising to repeal it for most of a decade. And it's not like Obamacare was popular or successful. Premiums are rising, providers are dropping out, and costs are going up. It's true that the Obamacare bill, pushed through on a procedural technicality that avoided a filibuster but left it impossible to fix at the time, was a mess. It's also true that the legislation was drafted, and the regulations implementing it were designed, in part to make it hard to undo.

Nonetheless, the Republican inability to deliver a bill that could get a majority in the GOP-led House is a colossal failure, and pretty much undercuts its entire reason for being. For years the congressional GOP leadership failed to deliver on promises to constituents, and offered the excuse that it couldn't do anything without control of the White House. Well, they've got that, so what's their excuse now? And where are the bills on infrastructure, on tax reform, on free speech?

Hopefully they can get their act together soon.

Update:

Ouch.

Obamacare's getting repealed, just not today. Nor next month apparently, since the 438 members of the House can't seem to do more than one thing at once. Of course, if Ryan didn't have them working just eight days in April - yeah, you heard me right - maybe they could accomplish something besides managing to look both inept and lazy while currying favor with the zillionaires. You might as well wear top hats and monocles because you seem hellbent on validating every hack cliché about Republicans.


President Trump is facing a tough reality: Congress is completely dysfunctional. He has been hoping for a quick win on health care, but Congress has cursed him with a dud bill that no one likes. His "charm offensive" seems to have had little effect (are you surprised?). The New York Times' first quote is, of course, from former Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- the opposition politician who pushed through Obamacare seven years ago.

"I don't know whether he will ultimately succeed or fail, but I will tell you that President Trump is so transactional, who knows what transactions he will be willing to make to pass this," said Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, who passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010 as speaker.

"So far he's acting like a rookie. It's really been amateur hour," she added. "He seems to think that a charm offensive or a threat will work -- that saying 'I can do this for you' or 'I can do this against you' will work. That's not the way it works. You have to build real consensus, and you have to gain a real knowledge of the policy -- and the president hasn't done either of those things."

Ouch.

And to be fair, Pelosi is entitled to a little gloating. Maybe this experience will be a good learning opportunity for Trump. (Like no one has said that before.)


Lots of people are opposed to the Republicans' plan to replace Obamacare in phases -- Democrats are unified in their opposition, and many Republicans also don't like what Speaker Paul Ryan has put on the table. Everyone who hates it does so for different reasons, but that doesn't mean the plan is a moderate compromise.

I personally don't have a strong opinion on the matter. Ideally, in my opinion, we'd roll back the clock and make it as if Obamacare had never happened, and then use that as our new baseline for future healthcare legislation -- but that doesn't seem to be possible. Given where we are now, it's not obvious that there's a path forward that is both politically feasible and likely to improve our healthcare situation. That stinks.

For the Republican party, it seems likely that the best bet is to do nothing -- wait until Obamacare implodes, and keep their hands clean so they don't get too much blame. It's not at all obvious that letting Obamacare implode is the best path for our country, however.

What a mess.


Wow.

Within 180 days after the closing date for the submission of suggestions pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, the Director shall submit to the President a proposed plan to reorganize the executive branch in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of agencies. The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions. The proposed plan shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.

This will be fun to watch.


The play "Her Opponent" sounds utterly fascinating, and I wish I had an opportunity to see the whole thing. Here's a 2-minute clip from a rehersal.

Guadalupe reached out to Joe Salvatore, a Steinhardt clinical associate professor of educational theatre who specializes in ethnodrama--a method of adapting interviews, field notes, journal entries, and other print and media artifacts into a script to be performed as a play. Together, they developed Her Opponent, a production featuring actors performing excerpts from each of the three debates exactly as they happened--but with the genders switched. Salvatore cast fellow educational theatre faculty Rachel Whorton to play "Brenda King," a female version of Trump, and Daryl Embry to play "Jonathan Gordon," a male version of Hillary Clinton, and coached them as they learned the candidates' words and gestures. A third actor, Andy Wagner, would play the moderator in all three debates, with the performances livestreamed. ...

Many were shocked to find that they couldn't seem to find in Jonathan Gordon what they had admired in Hillary Clinton--or that Brenda King's clever tactics seemed to shine in moments where they'd remembered Donald Trump flailing or lashing out. For those Clinton voters trying to make sense of the loss, it was by turns bewildering and instructive, raising as many questions about gender performance and effects of sexism as it answered.

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