Sunday, December 17, 2017

How Bernie Is Working to Win Over Voters in "Trump Country"

Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: Getty)
Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: Getty)

By Eve Peyser, Vice News
17 December 17

I followed Bernie Sanders as he went to Ohio and explained to crowds how Democrats could win back Trump voters.

y the time I got to interview Bernie Sanders, he was very tired, and honestly so was I—not that I could really complain. The Vermont senator had spent the wee hours of Saturday morning on the Senate floor watching his Republican colleagues pass a tax bill that Sanders called "the biggest act of thievery in the modern history of this country." After sleeping only two hours, Sanders hopped on a flight to Dayton, Ohio, to speak at the first rally of the day. It was part of his weekend-long "Protect Working Families" tour, organized by progressive organizations MoveOn and Not One Penny.

He then journeyed to Akron to speak at another rally and got back to the hotel around 11 PM Sunday, where he got in a little shuteye before sitting down for our interview the next morning for breakfast with his staff.

Sanders ordered a single English muffin, lightly patting his belly as he remarked to the table, "I've been eating too much lately." In an hour, the 76-year-old was flying to Philadelphia, then going to Reading, Pennsylvania (in a county Trump won by 18,000 votes), where he would deliver his final speech of the weekend.

I began the interview by summarizing the past two days before asking, "So, uh, how do you do it?" He burst into a long, hearty laugh, bringing some energy to a table full of tired people who (him included) hadn't even had their coffee yet. "You know, I got a job to do, and I do it," he said matter-of-factly. "We believed the bill was going to be voted on Thursday night, and that’s why we arranged for Louisville on Friday evening and Ohio on Saturday and Philadelphia on Sunday... When I make a commitment, I like to keep it, and we had a very good turnout in Louisville and thought we would in Ohio, so I felt it was important to keep that commitment, so I got up early, and we did it."

Sanders's weekend tour, which had the hectic feel of the campaign trail, was just as much about pushing back against the Republican tax plan as it was about looking ahead, presenting voters with a platform that extended beyond, in Sanders's words, merely "saying no to Trump." He advocated for the policies that are familiar to anyone who followed the 2016 campaign: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding Medicare to cover everyone, raising taxes on the wealthy, expanding Social Security, switching to clean energy, ending mass incarceration (which he pointed out disproportionately affects people of color), closing the gender pay gap, and standing with immigrants.

What was new, however, was Sanders's emphasis on extending compassion to working-class Trump voters. The three states on his tour all went for Trump in 2016, and it seems likely that Democrats will have to take back at least Pennsylvania, and possibly Ohio, to win in 2020. After the Akron audience booed when he mentioned Trump voters, he said, "Let's not boo anybody. Maybe except Trump." (He was completely OK with the crowd booing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, however.)
"The reason [Trump] won Ohio and many other states in this country... [is that] there are millions of people who are hurting," Sanders told the crowd, before emphasizing that Trump campaigned on bald-faced lies—but, hey, we've all been tricked before. In my interview with him the next day, he elaborated on why it's so important to him to address Trump voters with compassion.

"It is clear that there is an element of Trump supporters who are racists, sexists, homophobes, and there’s nothing I’m going to say that’s going to appeal to them," he said. "But I think that the vast majority of Trump supporters are people who are in pain, who are struggling economically, who are worried to death that their kids are going to be in even worse shape economically than they are, and they turned to Trump because Trump said things that made sense. He said he was going to take on the establishment, and he was going to provide healthcare to everybody. You know what, it’s pretty much what I said."

The difference, of course, is that Sanders seems to have a plan to provide benefits like health insurance to large swathes of Americans. The question—which may not be answered until 2020—is whether Trump spoke to those voters because of his vague populist promises or because of his willingness to embrace the nastiest aspects of the culture war.

Sanders, evidently, thinks that it's the former. He has obvious compassion for subsection of Trump supporters, an undeniably practical perspective to have—while some on the left might be giddy about writing off the 62,979,879 Americans who voted for the guy, Sanders wants to win them over with his populist, anti-elitist platform.

“We are winning the fight for the future of America," he told the audience in Dayton. "Please never forget we’re the vast majority of the American people.”

It was a necessary reframing, at least for me. After I half-woke up at 5 AM Saturday morning, I made the critical error of checking my phone for the time, where I was rudely flooded with a slew of notifications informing me the tax reform bill had passed the Senate, something I assumed would happen when I fell asleep the night before. The magnitude of the whole thing hit me extra hard so early in the morning, and I went down a rabbit hole of despair I have learned to largely avoid as someone who writes about politics for a living.

The tax bill the Senate passed stands to disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans, lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent, repeals the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, and would likely increase the national debt by $1 trillion over ten years. (It's not clear how closely the final bill passed by Congress as a whole will be to the Senate version.) The bill was unpopular, and the vast majority of economists said that it wouldn't grow the economy the way Republicans claimed. It was rushed through the Senate so sloppily that revisions were written in the margins of the bill's text. This seemed to be evidence that no matter what the left did, no matter what the American people wanted—only about a third of Americans are in favor of the bill, according to a recent poll—the right, funded by Koch brothers and other billionaires, would be able to advance a radical agenda.

But as Bernie addressed the crowded theater of 1,300 in Dayton, proclaiming, "This is class warfare, and we're gonna stand up and fight!" I was like, OK, maybe we're not completely doomed. It's rare you hear any senator talk about the extremism of the GOP as "class warfare," never mind calling his Republican colleagues "employees" of the Kochs.

I might've felt exhausted by the GOP's unabashed greed, but the crowds at the Sanders's rallies were bursting with energy. At each rally, activists from the surrounding areas spoke before Bernie. In Dayton, Portia Boulger, a Sanders delegate from Appalachia who self-identified as a "Bernie bro," bellowed, "Power to the people! No justice no peace!... We will not yield!" to uproarious applause from the audience, many of whom were supporting Bernie gear.

During his Dayton speech, Sanders warned that in the coming months, Republicans might suggest cutting Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security in order to offset the billions and billions their tax bill would add to the national deficit. “One of their ideas is to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare,” he said, prompting emphatic boos from two older people sitting a couple of rows in front of me.

"I could never understand, as the Koch brothers do, having $90, $100 billion, and feel the need to lower their taxes," Sanders said in Dayton. “There is something weird and wrong about people who need more and more, and are willing to step over the elderly and the sick [to get it].”

In Akron, the crowd of 1,100 rose to their when Sanders proclaimed, “We have to guarantee healthcare to every man, woman and child in this country.” Half of them began chanting "USA! USA! USA!" while others began a "Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!" chant.

At breakfast, I asked Sanders how he avoids feeling demoralized when the Republicans control every branch of government. "What goes on in the White House and what goes on in the extreme right-wing leadership of the Republican Party concerns me every single day," he told me. "But we just don’t have the time to be demoralized. The stakes are much too high."

"I get a lot of very positive energy from these rallies," he told me. "As I have said many, many times, if we are successful, it’s not about one person, it is absolutely not about one person, it’s about millions of people beginning to stand up and understand that they have power in a democracy and they can make change. That’s what the goal is."

Saturday, December 16, 2017

City of Nazareth cancels Christmas celebrations in protest of Donald Trump's Jerusalem embassy move

Donald Trump promised to bring Christmas back (as if it ever went away), telling his biggest fans over and over again that Christmas would be better than ever. Welp, after his decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the mayor of Nazareth is pulling the plug on a planned Christmas celebration. From the NY Daily News:
The Israeli town of Nazareth has canceled Christmas celebrations, with the mayor saying the end of festivities is due to President Trump.
Mayor Ali Salam, who presides over the town in northern Israel of mostly Muslims and Christians, announced Thursday that planned events such as a Christmas market and festival were called off.
He cited the U.S. decision directly and said that it had taken the "joy" from the celebrations in the hometown of Jesus Christ, according to 10 News.
Thanks a lot, Scrooge! You canceled the Christmas celebration in Jesus’ own hometown!

Friday, December 15, 2017

The GOP Is About to Tumble Into Full-Scale Panic

Doug Jones. (photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Doug Jones. (photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
By Frank Rich, New York Magazine
15 December 17
Most weeks, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich speaks with contributor Alex Carp about the biggest stories in politics and culture. Today: the stunning outcome of the Alabama Senate race and its potential effects on American politics.
n an election that had forecasters puzzled, Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore last night, reducing GOP’s Senate majority to one vote. What do you take away from the results in Alabama?

I am one of those pessimists who thought Moore would eke it out in Alabama. How happy I am to be wrong! I am also one of those optimists who firmly believes that Donald Trump will look for a White House exit before the end of his first term — whether he’s done in by the Robert Mueller investigation, a desire to rescue his family business and the two relatives in gravest legal jeopardy (son Fredo and son-in-law Jared), or his diet of junk food and Diet Coke. That optimism is bolstered by yesterday’s Alabama vote. Jones’s victory will further destabilize Trump both psychologically and politically. Psychologically because he hates being seen as a loser, and his futile all-in endorsement of an alleged child molester for the U.S. Senate implants a big L on his chest that no Twitter rant can erase. This scarlet letter will drive him crazy — or, perhaps one should say, crazier. Meanwhile, he will be imprisoned in political gridlock. The GOP, having lost a safe Senate seat in one of the nation’s reddest states, is about to tumble into full-scale panic as it tries to ward off the erosion and possibly the evisceration of its Congressional majorities in 2018. It will not even pretend to do Trump’s bidding while swing voters are watching closely.

The Republicans have a lot to fear. As the Washington Post put it, the only achievement they have to run on next year is “a tax-cut bill that has polled poorly and delivers most of its direct benefit to corporations and the wealthy.” (Even this achievement is predicated on the widespread but perhaps not airtight assumption that the final bill will sail through Congress between now and Jones’s senatorial swearing-in after New Year’s.) This morning, Republicans on next year’s ballot have to be looking hard at some of the more alarming (for them) findings of the Alabama exit polls. The most significant of these may be African-American turnout. Midterm election results during Barack Obama’s presidency — as well as Hillary Clinton’s defeat last year — consistently showed diminished black turnout when Obama was not on the ballot. That was not true yesterday: The African-American percentage of voters in Alabama matched that of the Obama victories of 2008 and 2012. Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the John Roberts Supreme Court are doing everything possible to aid and abet local efforts to suppress minority voting, but yesterday black voters fought back in Trump-era Selma (where Jones routed Moore) as they did in the Jim Crow Selma of a half-century ago. It’s a potentially momentous development for states and districts up for grabs next year.

The gender and generational gaps were also devastating for Moore. In Alabama and beyond, Trump has solidified the party’s national identity as a last redoubt for old white guys who can’t get enough of Sean Hannity. No wonder the latest national Marist poll this month finds that voters are leaning toward generic Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans in 2018 by a margin of 13 points. As the conservative writer John Podhoretz points out this morning, the two parties were in a virtual dead heat on this poll question at the same juncture in 2009, ten months before the GOP gave the Democrats what Obama rightly called a “shellacking” in the 2010 midterms. As Podhoretz concludes, the Republicans have a good chance of being “smashed into a million pieces next November.”

Roy Moore’s campaign was the clearest demonstration yet of the Bannon/McConnell fault line within the Republican Party.  How does Moore’s loss change Steve Bannon’s hopes for a party insurrection?

As has been true since Trump’s rise began, some analysts are once again hopefully spotting a resurgence of McConnell-Ryan Republicanism over the Trumpism codified by Bannon into a toxic admixture of nationalism and white supremacy. That is hardly the case. That new Marist poll finds that while Trump has only a 37 percent national approval rating, his approval rating among Republicans is still 84 percent. The latest Quinnipiac poll finds roughly the same (an 85 percent Trump approval rating among Republicans). Yesterday’s Alabama exit poll put McConnell’s approval rating at 16 percent among Moore and Jones voters alike. There’s no ambiguity here: The GOP is still the party of Trumpism, no matter what happened to Moore or what happens to Trump. The mathematical problem for the GOP is that that loyal Trumpist base, more than four-fifths of Republicans but only a third of the country, is not and never will be a national majority. If Democrats can peel off that roughly 15 percent of Republicans (suburban, female, young) who are repulsed by Trump-Bannonism and energize their own base, as happened yesterday in Alabama and earlier this year in Virginia, the numbers are there for a wave election next year and perhaps two years after that. (Unless the Democrats find a way to screw it up — as always a possibility never to be underestimated.)

With Trump’s Twitter smear against Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrats are lining up behind the senator’s call for Trump’s resignation over multiple allegations of sexual assault.  How does Jones’s victory strengthen the party’s ability to oppose the president?

Perhaps the most important (and exciting) national political development ratified in Alabama yesterday is the power of the #MeToo movement. It is still too early to gauge where this overdue and ever-swelling tsunami of political and social change is going to lead. In the short term, it is imperative that Democrats and any brave Republicans out there keep after the president’s own admitted history of serial sexual assault.

That Gillibrand’s call for Trump’s resignation provoked such a gross tweet in response revealed two things: (1) He is fearful of his accusers as they again are emboldened to go public with their stories; (2) He has no sense of how much momentum and power this movement has gathered in the months since his election.

It may soon be incumbent upon even GOP senators like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to join Democrats like Gillibrand. It remains essential that NBC and the producer Mark Burnett release any evidence of Trump criminality contained in videos or files from The Apprentice. We should not overlook the possibility that Trump’s history of sexual assault has as much potential to cripple or end his presidency as Mueller, the 2018 midterms, and Big Macs.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a 'serious as a heart attack' contender for president in 2020

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 12:  U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) (C) leaves after a news conference December 12, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The lawmaker held a news conference to discuss "the Stop Underrides Act of 2017," legislation designed to prevent deadly truck underride crashes, which occur when a car "slides under the body of a large truck, such as a semi-trailer, during an accident."  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Washington pundits have been breathlessly obsessing over the Democrats' lack of a national leader ever since Election Day last year. Time for them to take a break. Not only is it irrelevant to 2018—Alabama and Virginia have proven that there's enough anti-Trump sentiment to elevate good candidates with strong local messages—but we started to get a glimpse this week of a candidate with potential 2020 pedigree.

Not only did New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have the guts to lead her party on drawing a line in the sand over Sen. Al Franken's sexual misconduct, she followed that up by going toe-to-toe with Donald Trump Tuesday and getting the better of him.

Last I checked, Gillibrand had more than 126,000 retweets of her charge that Trump had brought "shame" to the Oval Office, while Trump had gotten only 20,000 retweets of his suggestion that the “Lightweight” senator would “do anything” in pursuit of fundraising.

Gillibrand replied, "You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out.”

Gillibrand has taken a lot of heat over the past month for saying that Bill Clinton should have resigned over his affair with Monica Lewinsky and even for leading the charge on the ouster of Franken, a senator who has banked a lot of good will with progressives. But whatever you might think of either of those positions, Gillibrand is boldly placing herself in the middle of a political moment despite the difficulty of doing so. In short, she is leading, not following.

As MSNBC political strategist Steve Schmidt observed on Deadline Tuesday, "Being the nominee of your party requires a certain level of toughness or ruthlessness, and Kirsten Gillibrand has showed it this month ... she is a serious as a heart attack candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2020."

I personally have been waiting for a Democrat to distinguish themselves by recognizing an organic political moment and finding a way to meet it. We have seen plenty of contenders jump on the single-payer bandwagon, for instance, when Bernie Sanders announced his Medicaid-For-All bill along with a host of potential 2020 hopefuls—like Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Jeff Merkley. But to date, we haven't seen anyone really set themselves apart.

Gillibrand is the first to seemingly break new ground in the midst of a Trump-era political earthquake and to demonstrate a great amount of spine while doing so. She's not riding anyone else's coattails. And she's making her mark on an issue she comes by naturally—having been an early and outspoken advocate against sexual assault both in the military and on college campuses

“There is nobody in the Democratic Party who has had a better month," observed Schmidt, "a month where they have elevated themselves more so than she has."
I agree.

I covered Kirsten Gillibrand on the Hill when she was a newly appointed senator from New York in 2009/2010. Despite being a freshman senator, she found a way to make big differences on successful bids to end "don't ask, don't tell" and secure aid for 9/11 workers in the final hours of the 111th Congress. She was crafty, scrappy and focused and she got the job done.

I am not endorsing Gillibrand over any other Democratic candidate for 2020. What I am saying is that anyone who underestimates her ability does so at their own peril.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Can the Courts Bring About a Climate Fix? Three Judges Are About to Decide

Activists in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. (photo: Getty Images)
Activists in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. (photo: Getty Images)

By John Light, Moyers & Company
12 December 17

The Trump administration is arguing that 21 young Americans do not have a constitutional right to a stable climate.

hree judges in San Francisco potentially have the power to decide how the US government deals with climate change. Later today, 21 young Americans will make the case that President Trump has endangered their future by aiding and abetting the dirty industries responsible for the global crisis. And they will argue that they can hold him legally accountable.

Trump and his predecessors in the Oval Office, these young Americans claim, have not only let climate change occur, they’ve encouraged it. Despite research going back to the mid-20th century that pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would destabilize the climate, they say the government incentivized the companies that did so through such programs as fossil-fuel subsidies.

Thery further attest that Donald Trump has upped the ante, with his administration outlining plans to lend a helping hand to the coal companies whose CEOs have donated to his campaign — regardless of the dirty fuel’s dim future prospects — and promoting fossil fuels internationally.

The 21 young plaintiffs originally filed their suit against President Obama in 2015, but Trump inherited it, and Justice Department lawyers quickly redoubled efforts begun by the Obama administration to have the case dismissed.

Whether they can will be decided following today’s hearing: A lower court is set to hear the youth’s arguments in February, and the Trump administration has appealed to a higher court, the 9th Circuit, to throw the case out before it goes to trial.

In November 2016, days after the election, District Court Judge Ann Aiken allowed the case to proceed. The Trump administration’s decision to ask a higher court to weigh in is highly unusual.

But so, too, is the young plaintiffs’ suit, which seeks a judicial solution to climate change, a crisis that is growing increasingly urgent and that the other branches of the government have failed to adequately address. The suit argues both that the government cannot put kids in harm’s way by encouraging fossil-fuel production, but also that the earth’s atmosphere is a public trust that the government has failed to protect.

US Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eric Grant, who was appointed to work in the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in April, will be representing the government. Formerly a California-based lawyer, Grant clerked for conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the late Chief Justice Warren Burger.

Three fossil-fuel industry lobbying groups, meanwhile, have quit the suit. After the young plaintiffs filed their initial lawsuit against the Obama administration in 2015, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the National Association of Manufacturers joined as co-defendants, challenging the case in court. But after November 2016, when a court gave the plaintiffs the green light to proceed to trial, the lobbying groups bailed, claiming that the Trump administration would more adequately defend their interests than the Obama administration.

Interestingly, although Trump himself has spoken extensively of his doubts on climate change (“global warming hoax,” etc.), his legal team assigned to this case has not denied the reality of the threat during recent proceedings. Instead, they’ve sought to wriggle out of the case on the grounds that what the young people are asking for — both in terms of their legal remedy and in terms of discovery — is overly broad. The US may be a rogue state when it comes to climate change — the only one no longer on board with the Paris Agreement — but, the government’s attorneys argue, that’s not their problem. The Constitution, they say, says nothing about climate change.

In its briefing to the court last June, the government wrote:
The Supreme Court has recently emphasized how, under established separation-of-powers principles, Congress, through legislation, defines the EPA’s authorities and duties regarding the control of greenhouse gas emissions, while the executive executes them… There is no room in the constitutional structure for a federal court to take on the role of overseeing the propriety of all governmental actions that may be viewed as contributing to the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere.
But the government’s approach to the case may change. As E&E News reported earlier this month, the Justice Department has been speaking with scientists who have been critical of the case or who have expressed dissenting views on climate change, which may indicate DOJ lawyers plan to put on trial the science behind climate change.

The suit also comes at a time when the lack of a presidential or legislative response to climate change has made the US unique in a world that has at least acknowledged the necessity of action. As a result, environmentalists and legal scholars alike increasingly look to the courts for a solution. Judge Ann Aiken’s decision to let the suit proceed, days after Trump won election, “was a ray of sunshine in what was a very dark day for the environmental community,” Michael Burger, the executive director of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told

Trump’s climate change-blind policies could “make it more likely the courts will step into this situation,” David Bookbinder, chief legal counsel for the libertarian Niskanen Center, told Bloomberg Environment. Trump’s election, lead plaintiff Kelsey Juliana told us in May, “has really lifted our case up and given our case even more importance and urgency.”

In the short term, it comes down to the three 9th Circuit judges who will hear the case today. Two are Clinton nominees, and the third, Alex Kozinski, is a Reagan nominee. It’s unclear what effect, if any, allegations of inappropriate sexual misconduct by six court staffers against Kozinski, reported by The Washington Post Friday, will have on the hearing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Watergate reporter: Fox News hosts are 'abetting the cover-up' in White House special counsel probe

Carl Bernstein on CNN's 'Reliable Sources'
Carl Bernstein calls out Fox News
Fox News hosts have launched an all-out attack on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election. CNN gathered a string of recent clips that are simply jaw-dropping  monologue from Jeanine Pirro calling for a purge at the FBI and the Department of Justice:
There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and department of justice. It needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but who need to be taken out in handcuffs. The stench coming out of the Justice Separtment and the FBI is like that of a third world country. Time to take them out in cuffs.
Calling for politically motivated arrests of FBI agents and lawyers at the Department of Justice! Of course, Pirro neglected to mention that she’s got her own axe to grind here: her husband was once convicted on 34 counts of tax evasion and conspiracy.

Newt Gingrich had the gall to go on Fox News and say “Mueller is corrupt, the senior FBI is corrupt.” But it wasn’t so long ago Gingrich felt very differently about Robert Mueller, who is a Republican and was appointed to lead the FBI by a Republican president. Here’s what ‘ole Newt had to say back in May, when Mueller was first appointed as special counsel:

Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel.  His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity.  Media should now calm down."

Newt Gingrich praises Robert Mueller
What’s changed for Newt? Mueller is getting closer to the truth.
After a string of clips showing Fox News is actively engaged in public relations warfare, propaganda for the Fox News base, Carl Bernstein calls it plainly: Fox News hosts are “abetting a cover-up.”

What the jaw-dropping round-up of attacks on Mueller and listen to Bernstein’s analysis. Video and full transcript below:
BRIAN STETLER: We know the president watches and listens to these shows. What's the impact of this anti-mueller campaign? Back with me now Carl Bernstein. Carl, you say this is abetting a cover-up?
CARL BERNSTEIN: Yes. It abets a cover-up because there is a cover-up going on in the White House and among Trump's aides and former aides relating to these investigations. We don't know what the cover-up is about, whether it constitutes an obstruction of justice or a criminal conspiracy at this point. Though there's some evidence that suggests it might be the case. But yes, because the commentators that you are hearing and showing there are not open in any way to the best obtainable version of the truth, to facts, to context, who seem to be oblivious of the serial lying of the president of the United States, and members of his family, and those on his staff and those in the Trump organization. Yes, they are abetting a cover-up. More important, where we need to go again is the idea of making the conduct of the press the issue, the conduct of the prosecutors the issue, making the conduct of everyone the issue except the president of the United States and those around him, including those who have pleaded guilty already.
BRIAN STETLER: I've seen differing opinions about the real purpose of this anti-Mueller rhetoric. You know, you see some people say this is about goading Trump to fire Mueller. Others saying this is impeachment politics, Mueller will find something damaging, that impeachment proceedings will begin and attacking Mueller is a way to give Republicans a defense in an impeachment proceeding. How do you see it? Is it an attempt to goad trump into firing Mueller?
CARL BERNSTEIN: That's a little overcomplicated. I think there is an attempt to defend Donald Trump by his base and by many, many Republicans on Capitol Hill and also ordinary Republican voters to defend him at any cost including the cost of the truth. Because unlike Watergate, let's go back to Watergate, and look at who the heroes were. They were Republicans who said you know we have a criminal president of the United States, the fact that he is a Republican does not excuse him of criminality and he needs to leave office. We don't seem to have that same attitude among mainstream Republicans as well as Republicans of the Congress of the United States today about the fairness of an open inquiry into Donald Trump and what might have occurred in his campaign related to the undermining of an election apparently by the Russians according to our Intelligence agencies. We are in a situation today in which again everyone's conduct except those under investigation is suspect. It doesn't make sense. It's not logical. But we also are not living in a logical time.
I mentioned this cold civil war a few moments ago in the earlier segment and I think we need to look at so much of our culture in terms of the cold civil war and the willing participation of combatants, incidentally, on all sides of the cold civil war and willingness to be oblivious to facts is undermining our very culture and system. And these attacks are the most prominent evidence of how we are undermining truth and indeed abetting a cover-up by not being willing to look at what is staring us in the face and that is, first of all, the lies of the president of the United States. Why is he lying? These same commentators at Fox and elsewhere ought to be asking. Doesn't mean necessarily he ought to be impeached, there's impeachable evidence. That's what the Mueller investigation is about. To find out is there a real conspiracy? What is the conspiracy if it exists, et cetera, et cetera? But it is a legitimate inquiry being conducted legitimately and the fact that Mueller has isolated a couple of people in his investigation who seem to have expressed some political beliefs that are anti-Trump is more evidence of Mueller's attempt to conduct a fair and impartial and factual investigation rather than the contrary.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Susan Collins (R-ME) Begins To Realize The Terrible Mistake She Made

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 5: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) walks to the Senate floor as she leaves a meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill, December 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. After the Senate passed their tax reform legislation last week, the next step will be a conference committee with members of the House to iron out the differences between the two bills. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
No wonder she doesn't look happy. She screwed Mainers and herself.
You may recall Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) basking in the limelight last week during the run-up to the GOP’s vote to ram through its catastrophic tax giveaway to corporations and other Billionaires at the expense of the rest of the American public.

As one of the so-called “moderate” Republicans, her vote was solicited with tender care by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, who apparently promised her that the American middle class might, just might still retain some meager crumbs left over from his Party’s loot-fest of the public treasury in the form of keeping their property tax and medical expense deductions. She also obtained an “assurance" from McConnell that a 4% cut to Medicare would certainly never be included in the final Bill, once it was reconciled with the version devised by the good, caring Republicans in the House. Hey, she had it in writing!
“There's a real fear that the tax bill is going to trigger a 4% cut in Medicare," Collins added. "I am absolutely certain that 4% cut in Medicare that I mentioned will not occur. I have it in writing from both the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and also Senator Mitch McConnell.”
But even these tiny, miserable morsels casually tossed to ordinary Americans were coldly eliminated and deemed too much of a sacrifice to the Superyacht class and their proxies in the Republican Congress:
News reports this week revealed that House Speaker Paul Ryan told congressional staff after the Senate vote that he was not a party to McConnell’s promise to pass the provisions that Collins demanded.
“She made a political error that’s going to cost Mainers and cost people across the country basic lifelines while [helping] the wealthy,” said [MarieFollaytar] Smith,” [an activist and co-founder of Mainers for Accountable Leadership].
In fact it’s absolutely clear that Medicare is next on the chopping block for Ryan’s willing executioners, precisely as a result of the tax scheme Collins voted for:
As the tax cut legislation passed by the Senate early Saturday hurtles toward final approval, Republicans are preparing to use the swelling deficits made worse by the package as a rationale to pursue their long-held vision: undoing the entitlements of the New Deal and Great Society, leaving government leaner and the safety net skimpier for millions of Americans.
Now faced with a severe backlash back home, the former It-girl with well-known aspirations for the Maine Governorship is feverishly backtracking on her blunder:
Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she may change her vote on the Senate tax bill if amendments she added are not included in the final bill.

Collins believes the amendments she added in the Senate version on property tax and medical expense deduction for retirement funding improved the bill and that in time, it will lower the debt.

But as she told WMTW’s media partner, WABI, if those changes are not included in the final package, she will consider changing her vote.

That’s what tends to happen when you have nine religious leader activists getting themselves arrested occupying your office back home to protest what can most charitably be described as your utter naivete if not outright stupidity:
It was the second group of protesters this week to be arrested in the offices of Maine’s senior senator while urging her to reject the sweeping changes to the federal tax code that are presently being negotiated in Washington, D.C. On Monday, police arrested five protesters, who had staged a sit-in at Collins’ Bangor office.
But the problem for Collins is that the GOP doesn’t need her anymore. With Mike Pence available to break any ties, and Bob Corker (R-TN) the only recorded Republican “no" vote in the Senate, they already have the votes to pass this monstrosity without her, in whatever mutated form the House disgorges back.

Instead, when Collins comes home and settles down in front of the TV with a nice cup of cocoa this holiday season, she’ll be treated to this ad sponsored by a group called Save My Care:
“Senator Collins said Republican leaders promised her they would fix things,” the narrator intones, while headlines about resistance in the House to her bills flash on the screen. “Now we know they lied to her and Mainers will suffer the consequences.”
But had she done the right thing by her constituents to begin with instead of trusting in a Party that actively recruits child molesters into its ranks, she wouldn’t be in the position she finds herself now, when it's too late.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Tax experts have finally had a chance to read the Republican tax bill: 'Holy crap'

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 26:  A protestor holds up a sign during a rally against the GOP health care plan, on Capitol Hill, July 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. GOP efforts to pass legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, were dealt setbacks when a mix of conservative and moderate Republican senators joined Democrats to oppose procedural measures on the bill. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
What happens when you jam 479 pages of hand-scribbled legislative text through the Senate in the middle of the night? You get a mess. Tax experts—who didn't have the opportunity to sit in committees and work with senators on a series of mark-ups—are now reading this thing and are agog at its sloppiness.
Some of the provisions could be easily gamed, tax lawyers say. Their plans to cut taxes on "pass-through" businesses in particular could open broad avenues for tax avoidance. […]
Some provisions are so vaguely written they leave experts scratching their heads, like a proposal to begin taxing the investment earnings of rich private universities' endowments. The legislation H.R. 1 (115) doesn't explain what's considered an endowment, and some colleges have more than 1,000 accounts. […]
"The more you read, the more you go, 'Holy crap, what's this?'" said Greg Jenner, a former top tax official in George W. Bush's Treasury Department. "We will be dealing with unintended consequences for months to come because the bill is moving too fast."
Then we get to the part where we say "fuck you" to Politico reporter Brian Faler, who's writing this story. "Some liken it" (and you know you're doing it wrong when you start a sentence with that) "to when Democrats rushed the Affordable Care Act through Congress and ended up with scads of legislative snafus." You must be new around here, Mr. Faler. If you have some time, here's a really great history lesson on the 25 days the ACA was debated on the Senate floor for 169 hours of total consideration, the weeks it spent in two committees, and the 1,064 bipartisan amendments that were brought up. You can read that or if you don't have time, just look at this.

Faler does note that the process Democrats followed for the ACA took six months, while Republicans did this in just five weeks, but he misses a larger difference.

Republicans were included in every step of the ACA process, and bogged it down at every point they could. They sat in those hours of committee meetings offering amendments. They had meetings with President Obama, and there was a whole summer of the Finance Committee chair, Max Baucus, having unending meetings where Republicans Chuck Grassley and Olympia Snowe strung him along.

In contrast, Republicans completely shut Democrats out of this one. They set the process up under budget reconciliation so that they could pass the whole thing without any Democratic votes and they didn't bother to allow Democrats any consultation. In their cursory hearings, they maintained a united front against Democratic amendments.

Yes, there were a few legislative glitches in the ACA, ones that could have been pretty easily fixed had Republicans been willing to allow it. But here we have a bill that won't just impact part of the nation's economy, like the ACA, but the whole damned economy. And it's the equivalent of scribbles on a dinner napkin.

The GOP Tax Scam is a "working definition of a tax boondoggle" for banks, big oil, developers—and it still needs to pass both houses of Congress before it becomes law.  Call your members of the House AGAIN TODAY at (202) 224-3121, and tell them you are absolutely furious and they must vote NO.