April 20th, 2017

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ON THE RECORD.....

“I don’t recall every single word I ever said. Something may have come up in a conversation (with Russians last summer about lifting U.S. sanctions.). I have no recollection, and there’s nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression.We’ll see what comes out in this FISA transcript.” -- Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

“And if Hitler had won, should the world just get over it? Lincoln was the same sort of tyrant, and personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.” -- North Carolina state Rep. Larry Pittman (R) after a commenter reminded Pittman that the Supreme Court ruling settled the law on gay marriage and that the lawmaker should “get over it.”

I was sitting at the table.  We had finished dinner.  We’re now having dessert.  And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it. And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded, what do you do? And we made a determination to do it, so the missiles were on the way.  And I said, Mr. President, let me explain something to you.  This was during dessert. We’ve just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing. It’s so incredible.  It’s brilliant.  It’s genius. -- Trump described to Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo how he told Chinese President Xi about his order to launch airstrikes in Syria

What lingers for Trump may be what deals—on what terms—he did after the financial crisis of 2008 to borrow Russian money when others in the west apparently would not lend to him. -- Richard Dearlove, former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service

“It’s been very much misreported that we failed with health care. We haven’t failed, we’re negotiating and we continue to negotiate and we will save perhaps $900 billion.” — Trump, in an interview with Fox Business

“Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?” -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, leaving European diplomats befuddled at a gathering in Italy,”

IN THIS ISSUE

FYI

1. The DAILY GRILL
2. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
3. From the Late Shows
4. Trump Moves to Build Deportation Force
5. As FBI probe continues, Trump says it’s ‘not too late’ to fire Comey
6. British Spies Were First to Notice Trump Ties to Russia
7. Trump Describes How He Launched Airstrikes Over Dessert
8. Lugar Slams Trump Approach to Foreign Policy
9. A Mind-Spinning White House Press Briefing
10. Trump’s Sudden Shift on Russia Leaves Heads Spinning
11. Classified Documents Contradict Nunes Claims
12. Most Americans Want to See Trump’s Tax Returns
13. Trump Says He May Freeze Subsidies to the Poor Until Democrats Repeal Obamacare
14. Andy Borowitz: Jared Kushner Calls Kim Jong-un “totally Unqualified Person” Who Got Job Only Through Nepotism
15. How Trump Hides His Flip Flops
16. Comey Warns of ‘Troll Farms’ Pushing Fake News
17. Trump Loses His Base
18. Trumpcare isn't helping the GOP
19. Trump’s Unreleased Tax Returns Threaten Tax Reform
20. Trump’s Woes Take Toll on the GOP
21. Poll: Trump woes take toll on GOP]
22. Late Nite Jokes for Dems

OPINION

1. Jeffrey Frank The Non-transformation Of Donald J. Trump
2. Jonathan Chait:: Trump Is Just George W. Bush But Racist
3. Eleanor Clift: Hillary Clinton’s Back, and She’s Speaking for the Majority
4. Paul Krugman: Can Trump Take Health Care Hostage?
5. NY Times Editorial: Jeff Sessions, Unleashed at the Border
6. Jennifer Haberkorn and Kyle Cheney: Obamacare repeal bill is the zombie GOP can’t kill — or bring back to life
7. David Brooks: The Coming Incompetence Crisis
8. Sarah Ellison: The Inside Story Of The Kushner-bannon Civil War |
9. Josh Marshall: Trump and The Problem of Militant Ignorance
10. Frank Bruni: Steve Bannon Was Doomed

FYI

1. The DAILY GRILL

“President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your ‘powder’ for another (and more important) day!” — Donald Trump, on Twitter, September 7, 2013.

VERSUS

“What I did should’ve been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it. And you would’ve, I think Syria would’ve been a lot better off than it has been.” — Trump, on Fox Business. 7/15/17

2. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

CNN's Jeffrey Lord: "Think Of President Trump As The Martin Luther King Of Health Care"https://mediamatters.org/video/2017/04/13/cnns-jeffrey-lord-president-trump-martin-luther-king-health-care/216012

Fox News Co-Host: Jeff Sessions' Immigration Crackdown "Sounded A Lot Like Fugitive Slave Laws To Me"https://mediamatters.org/video/2017/04/12/fox-news-co-host-jeff-sessions-immigration-crackdown-sounded-lot-fugitive-slave-laws-me/216007

Fox Contributor: Undocumented Immigrants "Are A Scourge Upon Our Land" --Fox's Steve Cortes: Only Deporting One Legal DACA Resident Mistakenly Is "A Pretty Darn Good Record"  https://mediamatters.org/video/2017/04/19/fox-contributor-undocumented-immigrants-are-scourge-upon-our-land/216112

3. From the Late Shows

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: InfoWar's Alex Jones Has Nothing On Tuck Buckford: https://youtu.be/8qBNml_sSVo

Playback: All the shenanigans at Trump’s first Easter Egg Roll
http://www.politico.com/video/2017/04/playback-all-the-shenanigans-at-trumps-first-easter-egg-roll-062969

SNL: Easter Message from Sean Spicer (Melissa McCarthy): https://youtu.be/_RvfzFv3c6Y

SNL Cold Open Donald Trump: https://youtu.be/CgNgkwTusM4

4. Trump Moves to Build Deportation Force

The Trump administration is quickly identifying ways to assemble the nationwide deportation force that President Trump promised on the campaign trail as he railed against the dangers posed by illegal immigration.

An internal Department of Homeland Security assessment shows the agency has already found 33,000 more detention beds to house undocumented immigrants, opened discussions with dozens of local police forces that could be empowered with enforcement authority and identified where construction of Trump’s border wall could begin. 4/12/17 https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-administration-moving-quickly-to-build-up-nationwide-deportation-force/2017/04/12/7a7f59c2-1f87-11e7-be2a-3a1fb24d4671_story.html

5. As FBI probe continues, Trump says it’s ‘not too late’ to fire Comey

President Trump said in an interview aired Wednesday morning that he has “confidence” in FBI Director James B. Comey, - but adding that “it’s not too late” to oust Comey from his post, “We’ll see what happens. You know, it’s going to be interesting.”

“Director Comey was very, very good to Hillary Clinton, that I can tell you. If he weren’t, she would be, right now, going to trial.”

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, all of this is bonkers. Hillary Clinton wasn’t indicted; she didn’t face charges; she was never found “guilty” of anything; and Comey never intervened to “save” her. Trump described details that appear to exist only in his mind.

In fact, Comey intervened in the election in such a way that almost certainly cost Clinton the presidential race, all while hiding information from the public about the Trump campaign being under investigation for possibly cooperating with a foreign adversary. To say that Comey was “very, very good to Hillary Clinton” is hopelessly ridiculous and completely at odds with the real-world events of 2016.

Why would Trump make such absurd, demonstrably false claims about Comey now? Probably because the president wants to lay the groundwork for future complaints: if the FBI finds evidence of collusion between Team Trump and Moscow, the president wants to be able to tell his partisan allies, “I told you Comey was on Clinton’s side.” 04/12/17 http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/fbi-probe-continues-trump-says-its-not-too-late-fire-comey

6. British Spies Were First to Notice Trump Ties to Russia

Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives.

GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious ‘interactions’ between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information… Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians.

One source suggested the official investigation was making progress. “They now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion,” the source said. “This is between people in the Trump campaign and agents of [Russian] influence relating to the use of hacked material.” https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/13/british-spies-first-to-spot-trump-team-links-russia

7. Trump Describes How He Launched Airstrikes Over Dessert

Trump describing to Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo how he told Chinese President Xi about his order to launch airstrikes in Syria last week:

I was sitting at the table.  We had finished dinner.  We’re now having dessert.  And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it.

And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded, what do you do?

And we made a determination to do it, so the missiles were on the way.  And I said, Mr. President, let me explain something to you.  This was during dessert.

We’ve just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing.

It’s so incredible.  It’s brilliant.  It’s genius. April 12, 2017 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/04/12/president-trumps-throughly-confusing-fox-business-interview-annotated/?utm_term=.654f08c32d14#annotations:11656844

8. Lugar Slams Trump Approach to Foreign Policy

Former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), “who personifies the measured approach to U.S. foreign policy,” offered his first comprehensive critique of President Trump’s “forays into world affairs,” the Indianapolis Star reports.

“It wasn’t pretty.”

Lugar called Trump’s foreign policy goals “simplistic, prosaic and reactive,” according to prepared remarks. They are characteristic of “a selfish, inward-looking nation that is being motivated by fear, not a great superpower with capacity to shape global affairs.” April 12, 2017 http://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2017/04/11/lugar-calls-trump-foreign-policy-simplistic-reactive/100346222/

9. A Mind-Spinning White House Press Briefing

The Hitler comparison offered up by White House press secretary Sean Spicer was a terrible analogy, phrased terribly, at a terribly inconvenient time. It’s made worse by the casual relationship the Trump White House has had with facts, and with findings of U.S. intelligence agencies. Remember the context here: The comment stemmed from a Trump administration effort to put pressure on the Russians to accept Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s involvement in last week’s chemical attack. Assad has done awful, horrible things, and he did those things whether Hitler did anything similar. The Russians, of all people, do not need lessons about Nazi atrocities; one can imagine President Vladimir Putin’s amusement regarding this particular lecture.”

Back to the broader case, the Trump administration is saying that intelligence conclusions about Assad’s involvement, and, possibly, Russian knowledge of the regime’s weapon capabilities, must be respected. This comes from the administration of the same president who questioned the findings and motivations of intelligence agencies when it came to revelations about Russian election interference. This case was mind-spinning in its complexities even without a Nazi history lesson. April 12, 2017 http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/note-spicers-slip/story?id=46746636

10. Trump’s Sudden Shift on Russia Leaves Heads Spinning

Even in a presidency marked by unpredictability, the head-spinning shift from coziness to confrontation has left Washington and other capitals with a case of geopolitical whiplash. The prospects of improving Russian-American relations were already slim given the atmosphere of suspicion stemming from Kremlin meddling in last year’s election, but the détente once envisioned by Mr. Trump has instead deteriorated into the latest cold war.” April 12, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/11/world/europe/russia-putin-trump.html

11. Classified Documents Contradict Nunes Claims

After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal,” multiple sources in both parties tell CNN.

“Their private assessment contradicts President Trump’s allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the ‘unmasking’ of US individuals’ identities. Trump had claimed the matter was a ‘massive story.' April 11, 2017 http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/11/politics/intelligence-contradicts-nunes-unmasking-claims/index.html

12. Most Americans Want to See Trump’s Tax Returns

A new MoveOn/Global Strategy Group poll finds that 80% of Americans want President Trump to release his tax returns, including even 64% of Republicans. https://www.axios.com/64-of-republicans-want-to-see-trumps-tax-returns-2359211284.html

13. Trump Says He May Freeze Subsidies to the Poor Until Democrats Repeal Obamacare

On Wednesday, President Trump announced that he plans to use the powers of his office to jeopardize health-care access for millions of low-income people, while destabilizing America’s insurance markets — because he believes that voters will blame the ensuing chaos on the Democratic Party, leaving Chuck Schumer desperate to negotiate with the White House over Obamacare repeal.

“I don’t want people to get hurt,” Mr. Trump said. “What I think should happen—and will happen—is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”

Shorter Trump: Nice affordable health care for the poor you got here, would be a real shame if something happened to it.

There are a couple obvious problems with this plan:

1) Trump’s hostage and his ransom are the same thing: He’s threatening to cut off health-insurance subsidies for poor people if Democrats don’t vote for his health-care plan, which significantly reduces health-insurance subsidies for poor people.

2) It will be hard to convince the public to blame Democrats for Obamacare’s destruction, after you publicly declared your intention to destroy Obamacare so that people would blame the Democrats for what you did. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/04/trump-i-may-sabotage-obamacare-until-democrats-repeal-it.html

14. Andy Borowitz: Jared Kushner Calls Kim Jong-un “totally Unqualified Person” Who Got Job Only Through Nepotism

Offering a stunningly blunt appraisal of the North Korean leader, Jared Kushner said on Tuesday that Kim Jong-un was a “totally unqualified person” who attained his position of power only through nepotism.

“Here you have a guy who has no government experience, and he’s in charge of the whole thing,” Kushner said, in an interview with Fox News.

“It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of.”

Kushner called the notion of such an unqualified person conducting foreign policy “beyond belief.”

“I mean, why would you let someone with no experience in foreign affairs anywhere near such important decisions?” Kushner added. “Why would anyone take someone like that seriously?”

Kushner said that the people of North Korea must look at the powerful position attained by the “totally inexperienced and unqualified” Kim and shake their heads. “They’ve got to be asking themselves, ‘Who elected him?’ ” he said. http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report

15. How Trump Hides His Flip Flops

Mr. Trump sometimes cloaks his evolving positions by declaring victory before retreating. For instance, he had criticized NATO for not fighting terrorism and leaving the financial burden to the United States. As he met with NATO’s secretary general on Wednesday, Mr. Trump asserted that the alliance had changed.”

“But the alliance has hardly changed in three months. Just three more members out of 28 have committed to raise military spending to target levels by next year, and the only shift in NATO’s approach to terrorism was to create a new intelligence office before Mr. Trump’s inauguration.” April 14, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/us/politics/donald-trump-policy-reversals.html?_r=0

16. Comey Warns of ‘Troll Farms’ Pushing Fake News

FBI Director James Comey said Americans “should be aware of foreign efforts to undermine confidence in U.S. elections and mindful of the possibility that what they’re reading might be part of an organized disinformation campaign,” the AP reports.

Said Comey: “The most important thing to be done is people need to be aware of the possibility that what they’re reading has been shaped by troll farms looking to push a message on Twitter to undermine our confidence. https://apnews.com/981fa961d82943c88e5270595c473958/FBI-director:-Public-should-know-of-agenda-driven-fake-news?utm_campaign=SocialFlow&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=AP_Politics

17. Trump Loses His Base

As Trump struggles to keep his campaign promises and flirts with political moderation, his most steadfast supporters — from veteran advisers to anti-immigration activists to the volunteers who dropped their jobs to help elect him — are increasingly dismayed by the direction of his presidency.

“Their complaints range from Trump’s embrace of an interventionist foreign policy to his less hawkish tone on China to, most recently, his marginalization of his nationalist chief strategist, Steve Bannon. But the crux of their disillusionment, interviews with nearly two dozen Trump loyalists reveal, is a belief that Trump the candidate bears little resemblance to Trump the president. He’s failing, in their view, to deliver on his promise of a transformative ‘America First’ agenda driven by hard-edged populism. April 13, 2017 http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/trump-base-supporters-turn-on-him-237200

18. Trumpcare isn't helping the GOP

This is from the Pew Research Center poll that came out yesterday: Democrats now have a 19-point advantage over Republicans on who does the best job on health care. They've always had a bit of an advantage, except for the rockiest period right before the full implementation of Obamacare. But this is easily the biggest gap since Obamacare was passed. April 18, 2017 https://www.axios.com/trumpcare-isnt-helping-the-gop-2365671702.html

19. Trump’s Unreleased Tax Returns Threaten Tax Reform

President Trump’s “promise to enact a sweeping overhaul of the tax code is in serious jeopardy nearly 100 days into his tenure, and his refusal to release his own tax returns is emerging as a central hurdle to another faltering campaign promise,” the New York Times reports.

“As procrastinators rushed to file their tax returns by Tuesday, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, emphasized again on Monday that Mr. Trump had no intention of making his public. Democrats have seized on that decision, uniting around a pledge not to cooperate on any rewriting of the tax code unless they know specifically how that revision would benefit the billionaire president and his family.”

“And a growing roster of more than a dozen Republican lawmakers now say Mr. Trump should release them.” April 17, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/us/politics/tax-code-overhaul-trump.html?_r=0

20. Trump’s Woes Take Toll on the GOP

A new Pew Research survey finds President Trump’s approval rating is 39% — precisely the same as two months ago. The percentage of Americans who disapprove of Trump is virtually unchanged: 54%, compared to 56% in February.

The most profound shifts in the Pew survey are in Americans’ perceptions of the GOP beyond Trump. Just 40%  of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, down from 47% in January, prior to Trump’s inauguration.” April 17, 2017 http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/poll-trump-approval-republicans-237289

21. Poll: Trump woes take toll on GOP

Here's why Trump's poor start matters: A president's first three months in office are the EASIEST time to rack up legislative wins that can't be simply erased by the next president. The honeymoon phase, traditionally, has been when a president's power with his own party, with the opposition, and with independents is at its highest. But there's been no honeymoon at all for the nation's 45th president. And that's arguably been the major storyline of Trump's first 100 days in office.April 17, 201 http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/why-trump-s-poor-start-matters-n747251

22. Late Nite Jokes for Dems

Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino from "Jersey Shore" is facing up to 15 years in prison on tax evasion charges. So basically, if you’re a reality star in this country and you don’t pay your taxes, we either put you in prison or make you President of the United States. -- Conan O’Brien

After being accused of sexual harassment by five women, Bill O’Reilly announced he is taking a vacation. And if there’s any justice in the world he’ll be flying United. -- Conan O’Brien

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has apologized for his Hitler comments and admitted he "screwed up." I don’t think Spicer learned his lesson though, because he then said, "Even Hitler didn’t screw up as badly as I did." -- Conan O’Brien

A new article says that Donald Trump has changed the definition of the word "conservative." It used to mean "traditional" and "right leaning" - now it means "batshit crazy." -- Conan O’Brien

Donald Trump will be running the White House Easter egg roll this year. Every year at the White House they have an egg roll. Which I think President Trump assumed was a menu item at P.F. Chang's. -- Jimmy Kimmel

Before he was press secretary, Sean Spicer actually played the Easter bunny at the egg roll during the Bush administration. Which means this week, for the first time maybe in history, we got to see the Easter bunny apologize for comments about the Holocaust. -- Jimmy Kimmel

Congratulations to the first lady, Melania Trump, who just got a nice payout from a British tabloid newspaper, The Daily Mail. According to CNN, Melania received $2.9 million in damages, which she's using to build an escape tunnel back to Slovenia. -- Jimmy Kimmel

Because of the scandals, "The O'Reilly Factor" has lost 2/3 of its advertisers in one week. On the bright side, United Airlines is still with him! -- Conan O’Brien

That video of the doctor being dragged off the plane and then the airline's response to I it has turned into an absolute nightmare from a PR standpoint. Even Pepsi was like, I wouldn't want to be you guys this week. -- Jimmy Kimmel

Meanwhile, President Trump has been flying a lot lately, privately, of course. Donald Trump is on pace to spend more on travel in his first year as president than president Obama spent all eight years in office combined. The president's trips to Florida every weekend have already cost more than $20 million of taxpayer money. See, this is the guy we need United to drag off the plane. -- Jimmy Kimmel

Trump has also played 16 rounds of golf in his first 80 days, one round every five days. You turn on the TV, a lot of people are complaining Donald Trump's off playing golf instead of working. I don't understand that. I want him off playing golf instead of working. I'd like him to join the senior PGA tour. -- Jimmy Kimmel

During his daily briefing sporty spice, as he is known, made an absolutely incredible statement about Syrian President Assad, that if it wasn't so disturbing, would have been Hit-larious. He said, even someone as despicable as Hitler didn't sink to using chemical weapons, which of course is very wrong. Sean Spicer might be the only press secretary who needs a press secretary. -- Jimmy Kimmel

OPINION


1. Jeffrey Frank The Non-transformation Of Donald J. Trump

It’s astonishing, isn’t it, how suddenly Donald J. Trump is being viewed, in certain precincts, as—what’s the word?—yes, “Presidential,” and all it took was for him to issue an order to launch fifty-nine cruise missiles against a Syrian airbase. It’s as if a national-amnesia button got pushed, one able to wipe out memories of the actual President: the former reality-show star, real-estate brander, double-talker, and serial distorter of reality. Although some Trump supporters seemed confused by this new tack (the talk-show host Laura Ingraham tweeted, “Missiles flying. Rubio’s happy. McCain ecstatic. Hillary’s on board. A complete policy change in 48 hrs.”), there was wide approval from the foreign-policy establishment. The former Secretary of State John Kerry was said to be “absolutely supportive” and “gratified to see that it happened quickly,” and there’s been non-stop gushing within the Trumpian orbit. Kellyanne Conway, gusher-in-chief and Presidential counsellor, spoke about “our very tough, very resolute, very decisive President.” She added, “What the world saw last night was the United States Commander-in-Chief, and also a father and grandfather,” as if her boss had not launched his first act of war but had simply administered a resolute spanking of the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, with a warning not to misbehave again.

What’s most worrisome about Trump is what’s been worrisome all along: that he doesn’t think through the consequences of what he says and does, and that he acts without a glimmer of consistency, or guiding principle; he’s a man of constant surprise. In that way, Trump is not unlike another erratic world figure, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, who also seems capable of acting in extremes, without warning, at any time, and at any level of incitement. That’s another way to view Trump’s Syrian strike: the risk of miscalculation, even nuclear miscalculation, just rose by many multiples. http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-non-transformation-of-donald-j-trump

2. Jonathan Chait: Trump Is Just George W. Bush But Racist

The Bush presidency was the most comprehensive governing failure of any administration since at least Herbert Hoover, and it ought to have poisoned the party’s national brand as deeply as it did Hoover’s GOP (which did not win another presidential election for twenty years). But the Republican Party managed to largely skirt the reputational fallout from the Bush catastrophe. It did so, in part, through the tea party: Conservatives hailed right-wing protests against Barack Obama as a call for ideological purity, cleansing the supposed big-government, cronyist tendencies of the Bush administration. The Republican Party of the Obama era insisted it had learned the lessons of the Bush years, when its agenda had devolved into little more than shoveling cash to K Street. The post-Bush GOP was allegedly sadder and wiser and filled with righteous abhorrence for the temptations of lobbyists and deficit spending.”

“Those lessons have all been forgotten. The Republican government, under Trump, has retraced the steps it took under Bush — from the obsession with tax cuts for the rich, to the vanishing line between the party’s paid lobbyists and its public servants. The reality is that, contrary to the willful misreading of conservatives elites, the tea-party revolution was not fundamentally a reaction against deficits or crony capitalism: It was a heavily racialized backlash against social change. And that spirit — the true animating spirit of the grassroots right — has lived on in Trump’s presidency.” http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/04/donald-trump-is-just-george-w-bush-but-racist.html

3. Eleanor Clift: Hillary Clinton’s Back, and She’s Speaking for the Majority

Young women who weren’t excited about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy are energized by her loss in ways they probably never could have imagined. They’re showing up at town halls, signing up for candidate training, and joining activist groups. And it’s not only millennial women waking up and fueling the resistance. Women across the spectrum—schoolteachers, nurses, IT workers—are turning up the political heat, and Clinton is taking notice.

Clinton spent some time walking in the woods, but she’s not a dreamer and she’s not a wounded loner. She’s a practical woman determined to figure out how she can use the platform that she gained by winning almost 3 million votes more than Donald Trump in the November election.

“For activists and voters around the country, she’s a reminder the country wanted something different, something better. It’s a powerful juxtaposition,” says the former aide, who did not want to be identified getting too far out front of where the ever-cautious Clinton is in her thinking.

“For whatever other questions voters may have had about her, Americans generally viewed her as smart and right on the issues. And she has an important ability to focus people’s attention and shine a spotlight on the deficiencies in Donald Trump’s approach to things,” said Democratic pollster Geoff Garin.4/14/17 http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/04/14/hillary-clinton-s-back-and-she-s-speaking-for-the-majority.html

4. Paul Krugman: Can Trump Take Health Care Hostage?

Three weeks have passed since the Trumpcare debacle. After eight years spent denouncing the Affordable Care Act, the G.O.P. finally found itself in a position to do what it had promised, and deliver something better. But it couldn’t.

And Republicans, President Trump very much included, had nobody but themselves to blame. Basically, the party has been lying all this time, and the lies finally caught up with the liars. Mr. Trump promised health care that would be “far less expensive and far better”; in the event, all he and his allies had to offer were surging premiums, higher out-of-pocket expenses and mass loss of coverage.

But Mr. Trump, as you may have noticed, isn’t big on accepting responsibility for his failures. Instead, he has decided to blame Democrats for not cooperating in the destruction of their proudest achievement in decades. And on Wednesday, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he openly threatened to sabotage health care for millions if the opposition party doesn’t give him what he wants.

It’s a nasty political tactic. It’s also remarkably stupid. APRIL 14, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/14/opinion/can-trump-take-health-care-hostage.html

5. NY Times Editorial: Jeff Sessions, Unleashed at the Border

Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to the border in Arizona on Tuesday and declared it a hellscape, a “ground zero” of death and violence where Americans must “take our stand” against a tide of evil flooding up from Mexico.

It was familiar Sessions-speak, about drug cartels and “transnational gangs” poisoning and raping and chopping off heads, things he said for years on the Senate floor as the gentleman from Alabama. But with a big difference: Now he controls the machinery of federal law enforcement, and his gonzo-apocalypto vision of immigration suddenly has force and weight behind it, from the officers and prosecutors and judges who answer to him.

The problem with Mr. Sessions’s turbocharging of the Justice Department’s efforts against what he paints as machete-wielding “depravity” is how grossly it distorts the bigger picture. It reflects his long fixation — shared by his boss, President Trump — on immigration not as an often unruly, essentially salutary force in American history, but as a dire threat. It denies the existence of millions of people who are a force for good, economic mainstays and community assets, less prone to crime than the native-born — workers, parents, children, neighbors and, above all, human beings deserving of dignity and fair treatment under the law.

“Be forewarned,” Mr. Sessions said in Arizona. “This is a new era. This is the Trump era.”

President Trump has shown his mind to be a place where ideas and principles can morph without warning or explanation. It is a vacuum that allows ideologues like Mr. Sessions — who know their minds — to do their worst. On immigration, that is a frightening thing to contemplate. APRIL 13, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/opinion/jeff-sessions-unleashed-at-the-border.html


6. Jennifer Haberkorn and Kyle Cheney: Obamacare repeal bill is the zombie GOP can’t kill — or bring back to life

The Obamacare repeal effort that has helped define the Republican Party for seven years may live on in a sort of political purgatory — with no one willing to pull the plug even though there are few signs of life. The uncertainty created by that zombie state could compel health insurers to stop offering coverage in the exchanges next year, paralyze action on other legislative priorities on Capitol Hill and come back to haunt Republicans at the polls in 2018.

Republicans, though, fear that if they let the Obamacare repeal zombie die, the base will turn against them in 2018.

"If they don’t get it done, I don’t know that they’ll admit defeat," Club for Growth President David McIntosh said shortly before the group went up with ads hammering 10 of the moderate Republicans whom conservatives see as blocking repeal. "In a year and half, they may be admitting regret if their base doesn’t show up on [Election Day] and they’re no longer" in the majority.

"We don't have any option but to repeal," said Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), who supported the House repeal bill. "We need to build a bonfire under some of my colleagues on the House side to get this bill passed."
04/14/17 http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/obamacare-repeal-bill-gop-zombie-237215

7. David Brooks: The Coming Incompetence Crisis

The White House staffing system is successfully answering the question, How many scorpions can you fit in a bottle? And in general, the personnel process has been so rigorous in its selection of inexperience that those who were hired on the basis of mere nepotism look like Dean Acheson by comparison.

But still, I worry that at the current pace the Trump administration is going to run out of failure. So far, we’ve lived in a golden age of malfunction. Every major Trump initiative has been blocked or has collapsed, relationships with Congress are disastrous, the president’s approval ratings are at cataclysmic lows.

But can this last? By midsummer, during the high vacation and indictment season, we could see empty hallways in the West Wing and a disorienting incompetence shortage emanating from Washington.

The executive branch could simply go dark. CNN’s ratings will plummet. Columnists will wither and die. Liberals will have to go without the delicious current of schadenfreude and their daily ritual baths of moral superiority. APRIL 7, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/opinion/the-coming-incompetence-crisis.html

8. Sarah Ellison: The Inside Story Of The Kushner-bannon Civil War

All West Wing staffs come to reflect the presidents they serve. Trump’s West Wing is beginning to resemble the family real-estate business Trump grew up in, which has always had more in common with The Godfather than with The Organization Man. Trump has pulled family close. Kushner now occupies the office that is physically closest to the Oval Office. Ivanka Trump has taken on an official role despite her initial intention to simply be “a daughter.” The appointees who have been championed by Ivanka and Jared seem at the moment to be on the rise—no surprise to some. “There is an asymmetry here. You can’t compare family members to other staffers,” the West Wing veteran told me. “You aren’t going to fire your son-in-law or your daughter.” A close associate of Trump’s narrowed that safe zone even further: “Everyone is dispensable, except one person: Ivanka.” But, this person warned, speaking of Jared and Ivanka, “at some point you get them out of this,” because otherwise they are going to get destroyed. The best rule of thumb for survival may come from Thomas Barrack Jr., a longtime friend and ally of the president’s: “Anyone who works for him and becomes victim to unfounded hubris will quickly be taken down to size.”

No one has been secure in his or her position. Trump’s initial selection for national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned after misleading White House officials about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Six weeks after his departure, he offered to testify before Congress, possibly about his former colleagues, in exchange for immunity. Next up was Kellyanne Conway, who was effectively sidelined. Then it was Bannon’s turn. “I’m not sure Steve does a lot of actual work,” said one person in the Trump circle shortly before Bannon was removed from the National Security Council, a position he had enjoyed for fewer than 10 weeks. Prior to his removal, Bannon had repeatedly threatened to quit the administration if he were ousted from the N.S.C., according to two people familiar with the matter. “It was almost like they were calling his bluff,” said one of these people. This person told me that, while Bannon and Kushner got along well during the campaign, Bannon seems to have felt betrayed by Kushner and has retaliated by planting negative stories about him. Kushner sees Bannon as an ideologue whose approach has stymied the president’s effectiveness. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/04/jared-kushner-steve-bannon-white-house-civil-war

9. Josh Marshall: Trump and The Problem of Militant Ignorance

What is endearing, terrifying and hilarious about Trump is not simply his ignorance, really his militant ignorance, but his complete lack of self-awareness about his ignorance. Trump told a reporter for The Wall Street Journal that his understanding of the problem of North Korea changed dramatically after hearing ten minutes of history from the President of China. Needless to say, Trump didn’t need to admit this. But neither was it candor.

So far the Trump Presidency has been a sort of Mr Magoo performance art in which the comically ignorant Trump learns elemental or basic things that virtually everyone in the world of politics or government already knew – things that the majority of adults probably know. Health Care: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” North Korea: “I felt pretty strongly that they had tremendous power. But it’s not what you think.” There are perhaps half a dozen examples equally stark.

In other words, President Trump is open about his discoveries and even eager to share them but universally projects his previous state of comical ignorance onto the general public or whomever he is talking to. In other cases, this would make sense. If Trump discovered that humans could fly if they hold their nose, close one eye and say “Shazam!” I’d want to know. Because that’s awesome. And I wouldn’t think worse of Trump for not knowing it before. Because this is new and amazing information. But learning that health care policy is complicated is a different kind of discovery. APRIL 14, 2017 http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/trump-the-problem-of-militant-ignorance

10. Frank Bruni: Steve Bannon Was Doomed

If you’re any student of politics, you saw Steve Bannon on the cover of Time magazine in early February — “The Great Manipulator,” it called him — and knew to start the countdown then.

Dead strategist walking.

He’d crossed the line that a politician’s advisers mustn’t, to a place and prominence where only the most foolish of them tread. Or at best he’d failed to prevent the media from tugging him there.

He was fine so long as he was a whisperer. On the campaign trail and on the Potomac, you can whisper all you want.

He was damned the moment he was cast as a puppeteer. That means there’s a puppet in the equation, and no politician is going to accept that designation, least of all one who stamps his name in gold on anything that stands still long enough to be stamped. Or whose debate performance included the repartee: “No puppet, no puppet. You’re the puppet.”

Bannon is still on the job, and Trump may keep him there, because while he has been disruptive inside the White House, he could be pure nitroglycerin outside. He commands acolytes on the alt-right. He has the mouthpiece of Breitbart News. He has means for revenge. He also has a history of it.

And “Trump’s got a new favorite Steve,” according to a headline in Politico on Thursday. The story below it charted the rising fortunes of Bannon’s deputy, Stephen Miller, who has been cozying up to Kushner and, according to Politico, complaining that “Bannon tried to take too much credit for Trump’s successes.”

Today’s Steve appreciates where yesterday’s went wrong. He understands that if you want to be the Svengali, you have to play the sycophant. That was a performance beyond Bannon’s ken. He never had a chance. APRIL 15, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/15/opinion/sunday/steve-bannon-was-doomed.html

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