July 20th, 2017

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FIGHTING FAKE STORIES WITH REAL ONES

ON THE RECORD.....

“I wasn’t right about a lot of things during last year’s campaign, but I was dead right when I warned that Trump would run the government the way he had run his business — as a family enterprise, the plaything of his children. To me, this is the single greatest threat his presidency poses. ... They strike me as careless people. They know as much about consequence as I do about handbags.”-- Matt Bai 7/13/17

“One man, whose arrogance and ego lead him trippingly into chaos of his own making, can turn a shining city on the hill into a shadowy, taudry replica of itself. Where once we had currency in the world, we are now left holding fool’s gold. ... If he was quiet for five minutes he might hear the echo of Putin’s laughter carried on the wind across countries and oceans. But Trump’s ego is a loud, boisterous thing and will never allow him to hear anything that might cause him to reflect.” Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis

“Why is it lie after lie after lie? The deception is mind-boggling. And there are still people who are out there who believe we’re making it up. And one day they’re gonna realize we’re not and look around and go: Where are we, and why are we getting told all these lies?” — Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, quoted by the Washington Post, saying the White House is lying about its ties to Russia.

“I wish that he would get them out of the way so that we could have a professional staff at the White House on policy issues.” — Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), in an interview with KBTX, saying that it would be in President Trump’s “best interest” if he “removed all of his children from the White House.”

With today’s mix of incriminating, lurid and fantastical news, it’s worth taking a moment to remember that we as a nation made a collective decision to make Trump’s world of corruption and nonsense into our world. And here we are.- Josh Marshall

“It is simply unworkable in any form and would undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions, increase premiums and lead to widespread terminations of coverage for people currently enrolled in the individual market,” -- Blue Cross Blue Shield and America’s Health Insurance Plans in a joint letter to Senate leaders about the  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)-sponsored provision that was included in the latest version of the Senate legislation.

The pettiness radiates outward, as does the viciousness and lack of ethics — to his lawyers, to his kin. And it’s more than just coarse spectacle. It’s an assault on what it means to be president and what the presidency means.  -- Frank Bruni in the NY Times 7/15/17

“A limp-d**k motherf**ker who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation.” — White House adviser Stephen Bannon describing Speaker Paul Ryan in the new book, Devil’s Bargain by Joshua Green.

“Yikes. July 2017 could be the month historians look back to as the moment the GOP lost any credible claim to be a plausible governing party.” -- Bill Kristol‏ @BillKristol on the news that the House GOP doesn't have the votes to bring a collection of GOP-only appropriations bills to the floor.

IN THIS ISSUE

FYI

1. Trump Voters in Denial on Russia
2. It’s All in the Family
3. The DAILY GRILL
4. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
5. From the Late Shows
6. Trump says he wants victories — but he isn’t selling the GOP agenda to voters
7. Peter W. Smith, GOP operative who sought Clinton's emails from Russian hackers, committed suicide
8. Six Months In, Trump Is Historically Unpopular
9. Andy Borowitz: Mitch McConnell Hospitalized with Low White-Vote Count
10. Three GOP Senators Oppose Obamacare Repeal
11. Democratic Donors Buzzing About Kamala Harris
12. Late Nite Jokes for Dems

OPINION

1. Joe Scarborough: Trump Is Killing the Republican Party
2. Greg Unger: Trump’s Russian Laundromat
3. Charles M. Blow: Scions and Scoundrels.
4. Norm Ornstein: The Disturbing Process Behind Trumpcare
5. Van Badham: 'These are not bright guys': watching the Trumps bring about their own destruction
6. Charles Krauthammer: Trump’s defense has collapsed: The Russia narrative just changed radically
7. NY Times Editorial: Obamacare Is Not Collapsing, Imploding or Exploding
8. David Remnick: Trump Family Values
9. Joy-Ann Reid: So This Is What American Greatness Really Looks Like?
10. Jonathan Chait: Trumpcare Collapsed Because the Republican Party Cannot Govern
11. Dean Baker: Obamacare is only 'exploding' in red states
12. Edward Luce: The Rot Inside America’s First Family
13. Molly Ball: Republicans Aren't Turning on Trump—They're Turning on Each Other
14. Dan Balz: A Republican Party at war with itself hits the wall on health care
15. Jonathan Chait: Trumpcare Collapsed Because the Republican Party Cannot Govern

FYI

1. Trump Voters in Denial on Russia

Health care is turning a lot more Republican leaning voters against their own party's leadership than Russia is. On Russia related issues we find a certain degree of willful ignorance among Trump voters that can possibly best be summarized by this finding: only 45% of Trump voters believe Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with Russians about information that might be harmful to Hillary Clinton...even though Trump Jr. admitted it. 32% say the meeting didn't happen and 24% say they're not sure.

That finding is in keeping with the general attitude of Trump voters toward the Russia story which is 'don't know, don't care':

-72% of Trump voters consider the Russia story overall to be 'fake news,' only 14% disagree.

-Only 24% of Trump voters even want an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, 64% are opposed to an investigation.

-Even if there was an investigation, and it found that the Trump campaign did collude with Russia to aid his campaign, 77% of his supporters think he should still stay in office to just 16% who believe he should resign.

-Only 26% of Trump voters admit that Russia wanted Trump to win the election, 44% claim Russia wanted Hillary Clinton to win, and 31% say they're not sure one way or the other.

-Just 13% of Trump voters believe that members of Trump's campaign team did work with the Russians to help his campaign, to 81% who say they didn't. On a related note only 9% believe that either Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner engaged in illegal activity to help Trump get elected, to 77% who say Kushner didn't and 79% who say Trump Jr. didn't. http://www.publicpolicying.com/main/2017/07/health-care-a-mine-field-for-republicans-many-trump-voters-in-denial-on-russia.html

2. It’s All in the Family

Trump’s embrace of a kind of nepotism that’s historically been more common in banana republics than the first world continues to backfire on him — creating a myriad legal and political headaches. And they’re probably only going to get worse.” 7/14/17 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/07/14/daily-202-trump-s-children-become-bigger-liabilities-for-the-white-house-complicate-damage-control-efforts/5967dc63e9b69b7071abcb2e/

3. The DAILY GRILL

“I alone can fix it.” — Donald Trump (video), at the Republican national convention in July 2016.

VERSUS

“I’m not going to own it.” — President Trump, after the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare collapsed.

 

… you know, in Pennsylvania, two weeks ago they opened the mine -- the first mine that was opened in decades.  Opened a mine. And you know all the people that were saying the mining jobs?  Well, we picked up 45,000 mining jobs in a very short period of time.  And everybody was saying, well, you won’t get any mining jobs.  We picked up 45,000 mining jobs, and the miners are very happy with Trump and with Pence.  And we're very proud of that.  -- Trump 

VERSUS
.
BLS data estimates the nation has added roughly 41,500 new mining and logging jobs in the first six months of 2017, but just 1,000 of them are mining (not including oil and gas mining jobs, which account for another couple thousand.) -- Politifact

 

“The Senate must go to a 51 vote majority instead of current 60 votes. Even parts of full Repeal need 60. 8 Dems control Senate. Crazy!” -- Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump.

VERSUS

Senate Democrats had nothing to do with the fact that the bill, which Republicans could’ve passed with a party-line vote in the Senate, never made it to the floor. -- Think Progress

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

Fox's Gregg Jarrett: "Vladimir Putin, former KGB, could have sat in on that [Trump Jr.] meeting and it wouldn't be a crime" -- Gregg Jarrett: "The Constitution gives us the freedom to freely associate with anybody, including Russians"https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/07/14/foxs-gregg-jarrett-vladimir-putin-former-kgb-could-have-sat-trump-jr-meeting-and-it-wouldnt-be-crime/217272

Fox's Meghan McCain: Kid Rock can run for Senate on the "all-American platform" of "tax cuts, guns, and strippers" -- Meghan McCain: "I think tax cuts, guns, and strippers sounds like a pretty all-American platform to me"https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/07/14/fox-host-kid-rock-can-run-senate-all-american-platform-tax-cuts-guns-and-strippers/217271

Fox & Friends' Steve Doocy proclaims that "the Russia story is starting to fall apart" -- NBC reports that at meeting with Russian lawyer, Trump Jr. also met with former Soviet intelligence officer. https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/07/14/fox-friends-steve-doocy-proclaims-russia-story-starting-fall-apart/217262

Fox’s Brit Hume: Obamacare’s “coverage for pre-existing conditions…basically defeats the whole idea of insurance” -- Hume: "For example, in the automobile insurance market, if you could wait until you had a wreck and then buy insurance and have the repairs covered, that's comparable to what we're doing here "https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/07/16/fox-s-brit-hume-obamacare-s-coverage-pre-existing-conditions-basically-defeats-whole-idea-insurance/217273

5. From the Late Shows

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: John Oliver: The Don Jr. Scandal Is Something (If Something Means Anything): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSuD7gMQ0x4

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Donald Jr.'s Best Defense? That He's An Idiot: https://youtu.be/Jjk7GT9GkuY

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Stephen Recreates Kellyanne Conway's 'Fun With Words': https://youtu.be/KAtClXJJ5pY

6. Trump says he wants victories — but he isn’t selling the GOP agenda to voters

The president has treated health care and a host of other legislative agenda items, from taxes to infrastructure, as issues to be hammered out by lawmakers with often-scant direction from the executive branch — and with decidedly mixed signals from Trump himself.

Trump’s sporadic salesmanship on the bills and ambitions lingering on Capitol Hill has become a defining characteristic of the complicated relationship between the president and congressional Republicans. Although Trump routinely proclaims his desire for political victories, he has yet to make a full-throated case to the country about legislation that Congress is pursuing and has spent a modest amount of time attempting to twist arms in the House or Senate. 7/14/17 https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-he-wants-victories--but-he-isnt-selling-the-gop-agenda-to-voters/2017/07/14/5ffea51a-67eb-11e7-8eb5-cbccc2e7bfbf_story.html

7. Peter W. Smith, GOP operative who sought Clinton's emails from Russian hackers, committed suicide

A Republican donor and operative from Chicago's North Shore who said he had tried to obtain Hillary Clinton's missing emails from Russian hackers killed himself in a Minnesota hotel room days after talking to The Wall Street Journal about his efforts, public records show.

For years, former Democratic President Bill Clinton was Smith's target. The wealthy businessman had a hand in exposing the "Troopergate" allegations about Bill Clinton's sex life. And he discussed financing a probe of a 1969 trip Bill Clinton took while in college to the Soviet Union, according to Salon magazine.

Investigations into possible links between the Russian government and people associated with Trump's presidential campaign are underway in Congress and by former FBI chief Robert Mueller. He is acting as a special counsel for the Department of Justice. Mueller spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on the Journal's stories on Smith or his death. Washington attorney Robert Kelner, who represents Flynn, had no comment Thursday. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-peter-smith-death-met-0713-20170713-story.html

8. Six Months In, Trump Is Historically Unpopular

Trump’s approval rating as of last Thursday, 175 days into his presidency, was 39 percent, according to the FiveThirtyEight Trump approval tracker. Combined with a disapproval rating of 55 percent, Trump’s net approval rating (approval minus disapproval) was -16 percentage points.

Trump’s early-term unpopularity is unusual. In the decades since World War II, the average first-term president before Trump had an approval rating of 62 percent on his 175th day in office, 23 percentage points higher than Trump’s. Only two other presidents have had an approval rating south of 50 percent at this point in their terms, and only Gerald Ford, at 35 percent, had an approval rating lower than Trump’s; Ford’s rating tumbled following his decision to pardon Richard Nixon.”

“Trump’s disapproval rating, however, is much higher than Ford’s, and Trump is the only president of whom a majority of Americans have said they disapprove of the job he is doing this soon after his inauguration. His net approval rating is 54 points below average and remains by far the lowest in the period for which we have data. 7/17/17 https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/six-months-in-trump-is-historically-unpopular/

9. Andy Borowitz: Mitch McConnell Hospitalized with Low White-Vote Count

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was rushed to the hospital late Monday night with what doctors diagnosed as a low white-vote count.

Doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center said that when McConnell arrived at the facility his white-vote count had fallen below fifty and he had gone into shock.

Dr. Harland Dorrinson, a physician at Walter Reed who is monitoring McConnell’s condition, called his low white-vote count “very serious.”

“Mitch McConnell needs a white-vote count of at least fifty in order to function,” he said. “If it falls below fifty and stays there for an extended period of time, he cannot survive.”

Efforts to boost the Senate Majority Leader’s white-vote count have so far proved fruitless, as doctors acknowledged that they have been unable to find additional white votes that are compatible with McConnell.

McConnell was first rushed to Walter Reed after showing symptoms commonly associated with a low white-vote count, including a feeling of hopelessness and uncontrollable sobbing. https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/mitch-mcconnell-hospitalized-with-low-white-vote-count

10. Three GOP Senators Oppose Obamacare Repeal

“I did not come to Washington to hurt people. I have serious concerns about how we continue to provide affordable care to those who have benefited from West Virginia’s decision to expand Medicaid, especially in light of the growing opioid crisis… I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan.”-- Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)

“I do not think that it’s going to be constructive to repeal a law that at this point is so interwoven within our health care system without having a replacement plan in place. We can’t just hope that we will pass a replacement within the next two years.” -- Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)

As I stated earlier this year, I cannot vote to proceed to repeal the ACA without reform that allow people the choice they want, the affordability they need and the quality of care they deserve. -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski @lisamurkowski

11. Democratic Donors Buzzing About Kamala Harris

“The Democratic donor class is abuzz about Kamala Harris after the freshman California senator was feted this weekend at an event in the Hamptons surrounded by top fundraisers,” The Hill reports.

“The Bridgehampton event, where Harris mingled with top donors and supporters of Hillary Clinton, was the ultimate signal that Harris is ‘thinking much bigger’ than the Senate, one top bundler said.”

“She’s running for president. Take it to the bank,” another fundraiser said. “She’s absolutely going to run.”” 7/18, 2017

“Kamala has come to embody what’s next for our party,” said Ben LaBolt, a Democratic strategist and former spokesman for former President Barack Obama. http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/342431-dem-donors-buzzing-about-kamala-harris

12. Late Nite Jokes for Dems

Over the weekend, it came out that President Trump’s approval rating is at 36 percent. But Trump defended the number, saying that it was “almost 40.” Then he said, “And if you read 36 upside down, it looks like 93, which is almost 100. So I’m doing amazing. Almost 100 in Upside Down world.” -- Jimmy Fallon

Did you see that last week Trump’s son, Don Jr., tweeted screenshots of emails from the Russian lawyer who offered sensitive info to his dad’s campaign? When he heard that his son tweeted about an ongoing investigation, Trump was like, “The student has become the master.” -- Jimmy Fallon

Donald Trump Jr. has admitted to holding an undisclosed meeting before the election with a Russian lawyer and a Russian lobbyist who reportedly once worked for the KGB. And the hardest part to believe is there was a Donald Trump dumb enough to do that and it wasn’t this one. -- Seth Meyers

President Trump attended the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Tournament this weekend, so just to be safe, the golfers got changed in their cars. -- Seth Meyers

It’s Russia Week, and I just want to get out ahead of the story here. I recently met with a lot of Russians. I can’t remember why, maybe because I was in Russia. Oh, some of them worked for the government. This week, we’ll be showing you one Russian field piece. Sorry, I meant to say two Russian field — my lawyers are telling me five Russian field pieces. -- Stephen Colbert

Meanwhile, back in the United States — Russia. Folks, things are not looking good for the president’s son Donald Trump, Jr. because of a meeting he took last year with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. And now we’ve learned that there was another Russian at that meeting, Russian lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin. Funny detail — he’s reportedly a former Soviet counterintelligence officer. Of course, when it comes to Don Jr., there’s not much intelligence to counter. -- Stephen Colbert

Our president is worried that people are going to get hit on the head with drugs and die. So he wants a wall you can see through. It’s unbelievable. He’s turning the country into an aquarium! We are all going to be living in SeaWorld with President Shamu if he gets his way. -- Jimmy Kimmel

13. Watching ‘Fox & Friends,’ Trump Sees a Two-Way Mirror

The producers of children’s television know the key to holding a distractible audience’s attention: interactivity.

Dora the Explorer asks kids to repeat after her (“Swiper, no swiping!”). Mister Rogers broke the fourth wall to welcome them to his neighborhood. The hosts of “Romper Room” pretended to see them through a “magic mirror,” and read their names on the air.

It turns out you can apply the same formula to morning news. “Fox & Friends,” the three-hour wake-up program on Fox News, is an interactive magic mirror for Donald J. Trump.

President Trump is the show’s subject, its programmer, its publicist and its virtual fourth host. The stars offer him flattery, encouragement and advice. When he tweets, his words and image appear on a giant video wall. It’s the illusion of children’s TV — that your favorite show is as aware of you as you are of it — except that for Mr. Trump, it’s real. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/arts/television/donald-trump-fox-friends.html

OPINION

1. Joe Scarborough: Trump Is Killing the Republican Party

“I did not leave the Republican Party. The Republican I did not leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left its senses. The political movement that once stood athwart history resisting bloated government and military adventurism has been reduced to an amalgam of talk-radio resentments. President Trump’s Republicans have devolved into a party without a cause, dominated by a leader hopelessly ill-informed about the basics of conservatism, U.S. history and the Constitution.

America’s first Republican president reportedly said , “Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” The current Republican president and the party he controls were granted monopoly power over Washington in November and already find themselves spectacularly failing Abraham Lincoln’s character exam.

It would take far more than a single column to detail Trump’s failures in the months following his bleak inaugural address. But the Republican leaders who have subjugated themselves to the White House’s corrupting influence fell short of Lincoln’s standard long before their favorite reality-TV star brought his gaudy circus act to Washington.

When I left Congress in 2001, I praised my party’s successful efforts to balance the budget for the first time in a generation and keep many of the promises that led to our takeover in 1994. I concluded my last speech on the House floor by foolishly predicting that Republicans would balance budgets and champion a restrained foreign policy for as long as they held power.

I would be proved wrong immediately.

Political historians will one day view Donald Trump as a historical anomaly. But the wreckage visited of this man will break the Republican Party into pieces — and lead to the election of independent thinkers no longer tethered to the tired dogmas of the polarized past. When that day mercifully arrives, the two-party duopoly that has strangled American politics for almost two centuries will finally come to an end. And Washington just may begin to work again. 7/17/17 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-killing-the-republican-party/2017/07/16/048056dc-68c4-11e7-a1d7-9a32c91c6f40_story.html

2. Greg Unger: Trump’s Russian Laundromat

The very nature of Trump’s businesses—all of which are privately held, with few reporting requirements—makes it difficult to root out the truth about his financial deals. And the world of Russian oligarchs and organized crime, by design, is shadowy and labyrinthine.

But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia.

Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. https://newrepublic.com/article/143586/trumps-russian-laundromat-trump-tower-luxury-high-rises-dirty-money-international-crime-syndicate

3. Charles M. Blow: Scions and Scoundrels

What befalls a country riven by a dynasty of deception and disrepute? What comes of a country being forced by its puerile “president” to retreat from its world leadership, set to a soundtrack of world mockery? What to make of an enterprise of corruption that Trump calls a family when they abandon any semblance of propriety and all things we once found appropriate?

Trump is president by a combination of the most despicable factors: a Russian cyberattack, voter suppression, racial anxiety and rampant sexism. People will struggle to explain it in other terms, and some will do so with dazzling language that apes the tone and tenor of intellectualism, but at its base an explanation that ignores those factors is a lie. It is a lie that covers a cyst. It is a lie that shields a sickness. It is a lie that excuses the inexcusable.

Donald Trump is president because a multiethnic, forward-thinking coalition twice elected a black man president and in so doing sent pulsing waves of fear down the spine of the traditional power structure in America. Barack Obama represented a fast-approaching future in which whiteness is not synonymous with power, in which power is more widely shared.

Therein lies an inherent insecurity, if you held a legacy claim to security simply by accident of birth and a systematic oppression of people who would compete with you for that security.

Donald Trump is president because American sexism, misogyny and patriarchy know no bounds. All politicians have flaws; Clinton had flaws. I could fill this column enumerating them. But as Bernie Sanders was fond of saying during the campaign, “On her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and president than the Republican candidate on his best day.”

On Trump’s best day, he was worse than the other Republican candidates. And yet, he won the nomination, and that man — the worst of the worst — beat a woman who had more qualifications on the first page of her résumé than he could ever have achieved in his whole pathetic life.

And now that man and his spawn — born into nefariousness and groomed by nepotism — are waging an all-out war on the country he is supposed to lead. 7/13, 2017
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/13/opinion/donald-trump-jr-emails.html

4. Norm Ornstein: The Disturbing Process Behind Trumpcare

Since I came to Washington in 1969, I have been immersed in Congress and its policy process. I have seen many instances of unpopular bills considered and at times enacted. I have seen many instances of bills put together behind closed doors. I have seen bills enacted and repealed after a public backlash. I have seen embarrassing mistakes in bills, and lots of intended consequences.”

But I have never seen a process like the one Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is using in the Senate with his so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act, BCRA, to presumably repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act; nor have I seen lawmakers responding to the bill, and their own constituents, this way.

Put it all together, and what emerges is a truly disturbing picture of a failed legislative process built on a deep distortion of representative democracy. A thoroughly partisan, ill-conceived and ill-considered bill, slapped together without the input of experts or stakeholders, done not to improve the health care system but to aid plutocrats, crafted in a fashion that will hurt millions and millions of Americans, by lawmakers doing whatever they can to avoid interacting with their own constituents. Dismaying, even despicable. And worse is that so many senators who should know better, and many who do know better, will actually vote for the monstrosity—and give this illegitimate process their imprimatur. -- 7/17/17 https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/the-disturbing-process-behind-trumpcare/533850/

5. Van Badham: 'These are not bright guys': watching the Trumps bring about their own destruction

History and literature are littered with the bodies of princelings who were formerly convinced their privilege was actual divinity. It’s this arrogant assumption that provokes extreme machinations by which they, eventually, learn humility.

A self-appointing ruling family like the Trumps performs to the gold curtains of power with theatrical flair, but no one needs to attend the theatre to witness the messy price of hubris. You can google the scenes of Mussolini’s deposition, or Gaddafi’s, or the Ceaucescus’ on the internet. Neither marble palaces nor the absolute power of tyranny spared any their narrative inevitability. In democracies, depositions are rarely bloody, but the Trumps may want to note that they can be swift and just as final.

An excellent piece analysing the present American intrigue appeared in Talking Points Memo this week. “This is not like a media war in New York City where … you can bludgeon your enemies by buying your own papers,” wrote the author of The Vipers and The Derp. “I have a persistent sense they don’t quite grasp the seriousness of the situation they’re in.”

It echoes a quote from another great narrative of deposition, All the President’s Men: “These are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.”

I’m seeing this quote a lot; it refers to a previous generation’s Republican party princes behind the scandal that was Watergate.

And while it’s not entirely pleasant to watch Junior, Kushner and the others stage this somewhat gormless, witless, feckless reenactment, the story remains entertaining. Watching the powerful bring about their own destruction always satisfies an audience. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/14/these-are-not-bright-guys-watching-the-trumps-bring-about-their-own-destruction

6. Charles Krauthammer: Trump’s defense has collapsed: The Russia narrative just changed radically

The Russia scandal has entered a new phase and there’s no going back.

For six months, the White House claimed that this scandal was nothing more than innuendo about Trump campaign collusion with Russia in meddling in the 2016 election. Innuendo for which no concrete evidence had been produced.

Yes, there were several meetings with Russian officials, some only belatedly disclosed. But that is circumstantial evidence at best. Meetings tell you nothing unless you know what happened in them. We didn’t. Some of these were casual encounters in large groups like the famous July 2016 Kislyak-Sessions exchange of pleasantries at the Republican National Convention. Big deal.

I was puzzled. Lots of cover-up, but where was the crime? Not even a third-rate burglary. For six months, smoke without fire. Yes, President Trump himself was acting very defensively, as if he were hiding something. But no one ever produced the something.

My view was: Collusion? I just don’t see it. But I’m open to empirical evidence. Show me.

The evidence is now shown. This is not hearsay, not fake news, not unsourced leaks. This is an email chain released by Donald Trump Jr. himself. A British go-between writes that there’s a Russian government effort to help Trump Sr. win the election, and as part of that effort he proposes a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” possessing damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Moreover, the Kremlin is willing to share troves of incriminating documents from the State Prosecutor.

There is no statute against helping a foreign hostile power meddle in an American election. What Donald Jr. — and Kushner and Manafort — did may not be criminal. But it is not merely stupid. It is also deeply wrong, a fundamental violation of any code of civic honor.

I leave it to the lawyers to adjudicate the legalities of unconsummated collusion. But you don’t need a lawyer to see that the Trump defense — collusion as a desperate Democratic fiction designed to explain away a lost election — is now officially dead. 7/13/17 http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/trump-defense-collapsed-article-1.3324596

7. NY Times Editorial: Obamacare Is Not Collapsing, Imploding or Exploding

The biggest lie that President Trump and other Republican leaders have been repeating about the Affordable Care Act for years is that it is collapsing, imploding or exploding. The truth is that the law is actually working reasonably well, and even the part that has shown the most weakness — the health insurance marketplaces — has been stabilizing.

Insurers that sell policies to individuals and families are doing better financially than in the first two years of the A.C.A. They are also doing better than they were before the federal and state governments opened the marketplaces in 2014, according to a Kaiser Family Foundationreport published on Monday. The data showing improvement confirms earlier reports by Standard & Poor’s, the Congressional Budget Officeand research groups that were based on 2016 numbers. While there are still problems in marketplaces in some states, the A.C.A., or Obamacare, is hardly coming undone.

Yet Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration continue to peddle horror stories about the A.C.A. as they try to gather the votes for repeal of major provisions of the law. To that end, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, says he will present a new version of his health care bill on Thursday. His earlier proposal would take health insurance away from 22 million people and raise premiums for millions of others, according to the C.B.O. There is no indication that the changes he has in mind will meaningfully improve that dreadful legislation.

The A.C.A. is not perfect, but its problems are fixable. In fact, 71 percent of Americans want Republicans to work with Democrats to improve the law; just 23 percent want lawmakers to repeal and replace it, according to a Kaiser poll. Democrats have said they would be willing to work with Republicans to strengthen the law. But Mr. McConnell and his party have become so blinded by their rage against Obamacare that they are losing sight of what ought to be their goal: safeguarding the health of their constituents. 7/13/17 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/13/opinion/obamacare-collapsing-imploding-trumpcare.html?ref=opinion

8. David Remnick: Trump Family Values

Last week, a hunk of Antarctica the size of Delaware, weighing a trillion metric tons, hived off from the Larsen C ice shelf and into the warming seas. Such events now seem almost ordinary—and harbingers of far worse. It is quite possible, the environmental writer Fen Montaigne wrote recently, in the Times, that, should the much larger West Antarctic Ice Sheet thaw and slip into the ocean, sea levels across the globe could rise as much as seventeen feet. This would have devastating implications for hundreds of millions of people, disrupting food chains, swamping coastal cities, spawning illnesses, sparking mass migrations, and undermining national economies in ways that are impossible to anticipate fully.

Around the time that this event was taking place, Donald Trump, who has lately detached the United States from the Paris climate accord and gone about neutering the Environmental Protection Agency, was prowling the West Wing of the White House, raging Lear-like not about the fate of the Earth, or about the fate of the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was dying in captivity, but about the fate of the Trump family enterprise. In particular, he decried the awful injustice visited upon him and his son Donald, Jr., who had, in a series of e-mails last June, giddily advertised his willingness to meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-connected lawyer, to receive kompromat intended to undermine the reputation and the campaign of Hillary Clinton. He did not mention another participant in the meeting: Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-born lobbyist, who admitted to the A.P. that he had served in the Soviet Army, but denied reports that he was ever a trained spy.

Meanwhile, as the Trump family consumes the nation’s attention with its colossal self-absorption and ethical delinquencies, the temperature keeps rising. 7/14/17 http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/24/trump-family-values

9. Joy-Ann Reid: So This Is What American Greatness Really Looks Like?

One wonders whether this democracy, as fragile as it has been revealed to be, and whether the presidency as an institution is entirely salvageable, now that Trump has exploded the norms we thought constrained the office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Since becoming president, Trump has flouted the emoluments clause and openly profited from his office, taking payments from all comers, from the State Department to foreign governments at his golf courses, hotels and his private Florida club. He has encouraged his children to treat the White House as a marketing tool for the Trump businesses, and allowed them to commingle their business activities and ongoing involvement in his government. He has turned American foreign policy into a Santa’s workshop for Saudi and Russian interests and goals, from the needless fight with Qatar to pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords to attempting to return the Kremlin’s spy facilities, which the Obama administration seized in retaliation for Russian interference in our election, to giving Russian oligarchs direct financial interest in the Keystone pipeline boondoggle to having his administration lean on House members to soften a Russia sanctions package. (He even briefly floated the outrageous and absurd notion of cybersecurity cooperation with the Kremlin.) He has invited the Russian foreign ministry into the Oval Office out of the eye and earshot of the American media, who now are reduced to audio-only press briefings where they take a back seat to Trump sycophant right-wing blogs, and he has now canoodled with Putin himself, taking the murderous Russian autocrat’s word for it that no election meddling occurred.

Trump has made political thuggery the new American political standard; throwing allies overboard and cuddling up to dictators and autocrats around the world. He has diminished American influence and credibility every day he has been in office.

One wonders whether the presidency can recover, or whether we’re doomed to live in an endless cycle of lowbrow celebrity autocracy—America remade in the image of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi.

Already, other entertainers are bellying up to the bar, eager to follow Trump’s grubby example and take their turn at political powerball. We could soon have a national leadership that includes The Rock, Kid Rock, and who knows, maybe Ted Nugent, now that white nationalism and public vulgarity have gone mainstream.

What hope is there for a country that has reduced itself to this? What future? For now, it’s hard to see a particularly bright one. If this is what making America great looks like, God help us when greatness ensues. http://www.thedailybeast.com/so-this-is-what-american-greatness-really-looks-like

10. Jonathan Chait: Trumpcare Collapsed Because the Republican Party Cannot Govern

Donald Trump promised during the campaign that he would quickly and easily replace Obamacare with an alternative everybody would love. “You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost,” he said. “It’s going to be so easy.”

One might dismiss this kind of rhetoric as a typical Trumpian boast. But the candidate was merely translating into the vernacular the somewhat more carefully hedged promises his party had made for years into terms in which they were meant to be understood. Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” road map offered what it called “a step-by-step plan to give every American access to quality, affordable health care. … more choices and lower costs.” And why wouldn’t Republicans believe this? After all, Obamacare was, supposedly, a train wreck, a complete failure of design. It therefore followed that they could easily replace it without significant harm to anybody.

In truth, it was never possible to reconcile public standards for a humane health-care system with conservative ideology. In a pure market system, access to medical care will be unaffordable for a huge share of the public. Giving them access to quality care means mobilizing government power to redistribute resources, either through direct tax and transfers or through regulations that raise costs for the healthy and lower them for the sick. Obamacare uses both methods, and both are utterly repugnant and unacceptable to movement conservatives. That commitment to abstract anti-government dogma, without any concern for the practical impact, is the quality that makes the Republican Party unlike right-of-center governing parties in any other democracy. In no other country would a conservative party develop a plan for health care that every major industry stakeholder calls completely unworkable. 7/18/17 http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/trumpcare-collapsed-because-republicans-cannot-govern.html

11. Dean Baker: Obamacare is only 'exploding' in red states

When he talks about his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Trump almost always asserts that Obamacare is “exploding.” Republican members of Congress make similar claims, insisting that Obamacare is unsustainable—and that they therefore have no choice but to “repeal and replace” it.

There is some basis for this argument. More than 1,300 counties only have one insurer in their exchanges, meaning there is no competition. But there is a nuance that Republicans willfully ignore: This is a problem of their own creation that is largely confined to red states.

Where Republican governors have sought to sabotage the program, they have largely succeeded. Where Democratic governors have tried to make the ACA work, they too have largely succeeded.

Democratic governors generally tried to persuade people to buy insurance, while Republican governors were more often neutral, if not openly hostile, to the program. As a result, fewer healthy people bought into the exchanges in their states, making the system less profitable for insurers.

In addition, Republican governors and Republican insurance commissioners were often less cooperative with insurance companies. While Democratic governors cajoled insurers to enter and stay in the exchanges, and met reasonable regulatory concerns, Republican governors had little interest in making their exchanges work.

Now we see Trump and the rest of the GOP boasting about their sabotage. Because Republicans have been so successful in keeping many of their residents from getting insurance, they think the country should trust them to overhaul the ACA.

Sorry folks, it doesn’t work that way. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-baker-obamacare-red-state-20170713-story.html

12. Edward Luce: The Rot Inside America’s First Family

Last year the American people rejected political dynasty. Farewell Clintons. Goodbye Bushes. In their stead, we have the most dynastic first family in American history.

Donald Trump’s administration is little more than the Trump family plus some disposable retainers. It is unclear where the White House ends and the Trump business empire begins. One reason Mr Trump took against Qatar may have been that an influential Qatari denied Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, a $500m loan.

The Gulf state has reportedly rejected Mr Trump’s requests in the past. What were we thinking — that Mr Trump suddenly developed strong views on Gulf Arab politics? As the saying goes: follow the money. It is a mistake to read too much into Mr Trump’s actions. They are usually hidden in plain sight.

This week’s revelations about Donald Trump Jr are a case in point. For the first time since Mr Trump took office, the word “treason” has entered the currency. But its connotations are too Machiavellian. People who commit treason against their country are usually seduced by ideology or inducement.

Either way, they are aware of the sacred boundary they crossed. What if your family is your country? What if your kin are your religion? To a neutral observer, Mr Trump Jr’s emails make clear that he solicited damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin. To his father, they show a son’s loyalty. To the Russians, they proved that the Trump family was ready to do business. To US prosecutors it is “smoking gun” evidence of collusion with a foreign power. https://www.ft.com/content/9fb4ad50-6654-11e7-8526-7b38dcaef614?mhq5j=e2

13. Molly Ball: Republicans Aren't Turning on Trump—They're Turning on Each Other

The House is mad at the Senate. The Senate is mad at the House. Various factions in the House and Senate are mad at each other or mad at their leaders.

Republican lawmakers have yet to turn on President Trump in any meaningful way. But they’re starting to turn on each other.

On Monday, the Republicans’ tortured health-care effort hit a seemingly permanent snag. But that was only the latest blow; after half a year of consolidated GOP control, not a single major piece of legislation has been enacted. With other priorities similarly stalled, legislators’ frustration is mounting.

Still, some wonder whether the current sniping isn’t better directed to Pennsylvania Avenue, where the scandal-mired president creates new headaches with every passing day. “We’re a big-tent party, so of course there are divisions,” the member of Congress told me. “But the only thing that could unite the clans is consistent and engaged leadership from the president. And it’s fair to say we’ve gotten mixed signals.

A House Republican staffer described the fractious mood on Capitol Hill as “Republican-on-Republican violence.” As for why lawmakers don’t train their ire on the real root of their problems, the staffer shrugged: “Maybe it’s just easier to attack people without 13 million Twitter followers.” 7/18/17 https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/republicans-arent-turning-on-trumptheyre-turning-on-each-other/533952/

14. Dan Balz: A Republican Party at war with itself hits the wall on health care

By any measure, the collapse of the Senate health-care bill represents an epic failure for the Republican Party and a major embarrassment for President Trump. The crusade that animated — and bound — conservatives for seven years proved to be a mirage, an objective without a solution. Power comes with consequences.

There is no way to spin to those who were promised that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed and replaced once Republicans held full power in Washington that what has happened is the fault of forces outside the party. This has been a GOP undertaking from start to finish. It is as though Republicans unknowingly set a trap and then walked into it without having prepared escape routes.

William Galston of the Brookings Institution noted Tuesday that the health-care debate showed anew that Republicans have not bridged the gap between campaigning and governing. This has been a longtime problem for a party that is at best ambivalent about the federal government and at worst openly anti-government, at least rhetorically. This condition existed before Trump came on the scene. It has worsened because of his political success.

In normal times, a party would look to its president to hasten the healing process and pick up the pieces. But these are not normal times. Trump operates by his own standards. And this is a Republican Party that has yet to come to terms with what it has become and what is expected of a majority party 7/18/17.https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-republican-party-at-war-with-itself-hits-the-wall-on-health-care/2017/07/18/3c3c1002-6bd0-11e7-b9e2-2056e768a7e5_story.html

15. Jonathan Chait: Trumpcare Collapsed Because the Republican Party Cannot Govern

Donald Trump promised during the campaign that he would quickly and easily replace Obamacare with an alternative everybody would love. “You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost,” he said. “It’s going to be so easy.”

One might dismiss this kind of rhetoric as a typical Trumpian boast. But the candidate was merely translating into the vernacular the somewhat more carefully hedged promises his party had made for years into terms in which they were meant to be understood. Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” road map offered what it called “a step-by-step plan to give every American access to quality, affordable health care. … more choices and lower costs.” And why wouldn’t Republicans believe this? After all, Obamacare was, supposedly, a train wreck, a complete failure of design. It therefore followed that they could easily replace it without significant harm to anybody.

In truth, it was never possible to reconcile public standards for a humane health-care system with conservative ideology. In a pure market system, access to medical care will be unaffordable for a huge share of the public. Giving them access to quality care means mobilizing government power to redistribute resources, either through direct tax and transfers or through regulations that raise costs for the healthy and lower them for the sick. Obamacare uses both methods, and both are utterly repugnant and unacceptable to movement conservatives. That commitment to abstract anti-government dogma, without any concern for the practical impact, is the quality that makes the Republican Party unlike right-of-center governing parties in any other democracy. In no other country would a conservative party develop a plan for health care that every major industry stakeholder calls completely unworkable.

The Trump administration might lash out at Obamacare by continuing to sabotage its functioning markets. They will find, however, that sabotaging the insurance exchanges will create millions of victims right away, as opposed to the luxury of delaying the pain until after the elections. The power to destroy remains within the

Republican Party’s capacity. The power to translate its ideological principles into practical government is utterly beyond its reach. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/trumpcare-collapsed-because-republicans-cannot-govern.html

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