Trump is cultivating a state of panic

Far from being confused or opportunistic, Trump has a consistent, well-developed view of the universe and his (prominent) place within it. The world is in chaos. Our country is being infiltrated by child-murdering illegal immigrants and “massive . . . flows” of disloyal, unscreened refugees. American communities are overwhelmed by violence, impoverished by unfair trade and betrayed by politicians who refuse to “put America first.” The institutions that are supposed to defend us are dominated by special interests and rigged by elites.

These claims are wrong, exaggerated or cherry-picked in nearly every respect. But the message resonates. A majority of Americans regard their country as being on the “wrong track ” and have for some time. Conservative media and “breaking news”-driven cable networks reinforce this sense of decline and crisis.

And our institutional challenges are not imaginary: A long-term, wage-earner recession (to which Republicans have offered little practical response). Educational mediocrity concentrated in high-poverty communities. Congressional dysfunction. A Supreme Court that seems overly political and outcome driven. Everyone can find some reason for disillusionment.

But there are two possible responses to such failures. The first is the institutionalist answer: To rebuild with existing materials. To reform, repair, reclaim and renew our patrimony. The second alternative is the promise of deliverance by a man on horseback — a single leader claiming to embody the interests of “the people.”

In Cleveland, Trump offered the second option with more forthright clarity than any politician in my lifetime. The speech contained almost no serious discussion of public policy or ideological argumentation. Instead, Trump said: “I am your voice.” “I am not able to look the other way.” “I know the time for action has come.” “I can be your champion.” “I will fight for you, and I will win for you.”

Trump is cultivating a state of panic to increase public tolerance for political risk — in this case, the risk of a candidate who is untested, unprepared, unstable and unfit. And the requisite sense of emergency is being created by populating American nightmares with migrants, refugees and Muslims. Standing on the convention floor, I could see what the face of American authoritarianism might look like.

he Caesarian option — rolling the dice with a populist authoritarian, using democratic majorities to undermine democratic structures — is common in history. Any Latin American or African can tell you what strongmen or “big men” are like.

But Trump’s version of “Americanism” is not, in fact, very American. Our constitutional system was designed to make personal rule both impossible and unnecessary. The idea that political salvation might be found simply by replacing one leader at the top of government would have been regarded as perverse by the Founders. The United States has benefited from skilled leaders — a Lincoln or an FDR — at moments of genuine national crisis. But this is not such a time. And this is not such a leader.

(Excerpted from Gerson, Washington Post 7/22/16)

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Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy

DONALD J. TRUMP, until now a Republican problem, this week became a challenge the nation must confront and overcome. The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions. Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.

Any one of these characteristics would be disqualifying; together, they make Mr. Trump a peril. We recognize that this is not the usual moment to make such a statement. In an ordinary election year, we would acknowledge the Republican nominee, move on to the Democratic convention and spend the following months, like other voters, evaluating the candidates’ performance in debates, on the stump and in position papers. This year we will follow the campaign as always, offering honest views on all the candidates. But we cannot salute the Republican nominee or pretend that we might endorse him this fall. A Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world.

there is nothing on Mr. Trump’s résumé to suggest he could function successfully in Washington. He was staked in the family business by a well-to-do father and has pursued a career marked by some real estate successes, some failures and repeated episodes of saving his own hide while harming people who trusted him. Given his continuing refusal to release his tax returns, breaking with a long bipartisan tradition, it is only reasonable to assume there are aspects of his record even more discreditable than what we know.

The lack of experience might be overcome if Mr. Trump saw it as a handicap worth overcoming. But he displays no curiosity, reads no books and appears to believe he needs no advice. In fact, what makes Mr. Trump so unusual is his combination of extreme neediness and unbridled arrogance. He is desperate for affirmation but contemptuous of other views. He also is contemptuous of fact. Throughout the campaign, he has unspooled one lie after another — that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated after 9/11, that his tax-cut plan would not worsen the deficit, that he opposed the Iraq War before it started — and when confronted with contrary evidence, he simply repeats the lie. It is impossible to know whether he convinces himself of his own untruths or knows that he is wrong and does not care. It is also difficult to know which trait would be more frightening in a commander in chief.

Given his ignorance, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr. Trump offers no coherence when it comes to policy. In years past, he supported immigration reform, gun control and legal abortion; as candidate, he became a hard-line opponent of all three. Even in the course of the campaign, he has flip-flopped on issues such as whether Muslims should be banned from entering the United States and whether women who have abortions should be punished . Worse than the flip-flops is the absence of any substance in his agenda. Existing trade deals are “stupid,” but Mr. Trump does not say how they could be improved. The Islamic State must be destroyed, but the candidate offers no strategy for doing so. Eleven million undocumented immigrants must be deported, but Mr. Trump does not tell us how he would accomplish this legally or practically.

What the candidate does offer is a series of prejudices and gut feelings, most of them erroneous. Allies are taking advantage of the United States. Immigrants are committing crimes andstealing jobs. Muslims hate America. In fact, Japan and South Korea are major contributors to an alliance that has preserved a peace of enormous benefit to Americans. Immigrants commitfewer crimes than native-born Americans and take jobs that no one else will. Muslims are the primary victims of Islamist terrorism, and Muslim Americans, including thousands who have served in the military, are as patriotic as anyone else.

The Trump litany of victimization has resonated with many Americans whose economic prospects have stagnated. They deserve a serious champion, and the challenges of inequality and slow wage growth deserve a serious response. But Mr. Trump has nothing positive to offer, only scapegoats and dark conspiracy theories. He launched his campaign by accusing Mexico of sending rapists across the border, and similar hatefulness has surfaced numerous times in the year since.

In a dangerous world, Mr. Trump speaks blithely of abandoning NATO, encouraging more nations to obtain nuclear weapons and cozying up to dictators who in fact wish the United States nothing but harm. For eight years, Republicans have criticized President Obama for “apologizing” for America and for weakening alliances. Now they put forward a candidate who mimics the vilest propaganda of authoritarian adversaries about how terrible the United States is and how unfit it is to lecture others. He has made clear that he would drop allies without a second thought. The consequences to global security could be disastrous.

Most alarming is Mr. Trump’s contempt for the Constitution and the unwritten democratic norms upon which our system depends. He doesn’t know what is in the nation’s founding document. When asked by a member of Congress about Article I, which enumerates congressional powers, the candidate responded, “I am going to abide by the Constitution whether it’s number 1, number 2, number 12, number 9.” The charter has seven articles.

Worse, he doesn’t seem to care about its limitations on executive power. He has threatened that those who criticize him will suffer when he is president. He has vowed to torture suspected terrorists and bomb their innocent relatives, no matter the illegality of either act. He has vowed to constrict the independent press. He went after a judge whose rulings angered him, exacerbating his contempt for the independence of the judiciary by insisting that the judge should be disqualified because of his Mexican heritage. Mr. Trump has encouraged and celebrated violence at his rallies. The U.S. democratic system is strong and has proved resilient when it has been tested before. We have faith in it. But to elect Mr. Trump would be to knowingly subject it to threat.

Mr. Trump campaigns by insult and denigration, insinuation and wild accusation: Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; Hillary Clinton may beguilty of murder; Mr. Obama is a traitor who wants Muslims to attack. The Republican Party has moved the lunatic fringe onto center stage, with discourse that renders impossible the kind of substantive debate upon which any civil democracy depends.

Most responsible Republican leaders know all this to be true; that is why Mr. Trump had to rely so heavily on testimonials by relatives and employees during this week’s Republican convention. With one exception (Bob Dole), the living Republican presidents and presidential nominees of the past three decades all stayed away. But most current officeholders, even those who declared Mr. Trump to be an unthinkable choice only months ago, have lost the courage to speak out.

The party’s failure of judgment leaves the nation’s future where it belongs, in the hands of voters. Many Americans do not like either candidate this year . We have criticized the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the past and will do so again when warranted. But we do not believe that she (or the Libertarian and Green party candidates, for that matter) represents a threat to the Constitution. Mr. Trump is a unique and present danger.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 7/22/16)

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Trump considering fracking mogul Harold Hamm as energy secretary

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is considering nominating Oklahoma oil and gas mogul Harold Hamm as energy secretary if elected to the White House on Nov. 8, according to four sources close to Trump’s campaign.

The chief executive of Continental Resources (CLR.N) would be the first U.S. energy secretary drawn directly from the oil and gas industry since the cabinet position was created in 1977, a move that would jolt environmental advocates but bolster Trump’s pro-drilling energy platform.

Addressing the convention on Wednesday night, Hamm called for expanded drilling and said too much environmental regulation threatened to limit U.S. oil production and increase the country’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil producers.

Hamm, 70, became one of America’s wealthiest men during the U.S. oil and gas drilling boom over the past decade, tapping into new hydraulic fracturing drilling technology to access vast deposits in North Dakota’s shale fields.

Trump, who has yet to make any announcements about his prospective cabinet, has already surrounded himself with strong advocates of traditional energy sources like oil, gas, and coal and has promised to gut environmental regulations to boost drilling and mining if elected.

He tapped U.S. Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a climate skeptic and drilling advocate, to help draw up his campaign energy platform, and picked Indiana Governor Mike Pence, also a climate skeptic, as his running mate.

Both moves cheered the energy industry but alarmed environmental activists who say a Trump presidency would set back years of progress on issues like pollution and climate change.

“Given that Hamm’s as close as we’ve got to a fracker-in-chief in this country, it would be an apropos pick for a president who thinks global warming is a hoax manufactured by the Chinese,” said leading environmental activist Bill McKibben.

(Excerpted from Reuters 7/21/16)

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Trump’s courtship of black voters hampered by decades of race controversies

Trump’s outlook on race has come under new scrutiny in recent days….

Trump, however, faces many challenges in winning over black voters, in part because he has been at the center of controversies regarding his racial views for decades.

The first front-page news story about Trump was a 1973 report about the federal government’s lawsuit against him and his father in a racial bias case. Trump denied discriminating against black housing applicants and settled the case without admitting guilt.

Several years later, after Trump had expanded his real estate empire by building casinos in Atlantic City, a former executive from his business accused him of making racist statements. John O’Donnell, who was president of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and later wrote a memoir about his experience, said Trump blamed financial difficulties partly on African American accountants.

“I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza — black guys counting my money!” O’Donnell’s book quoted Trump as saying. “I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. Those are the kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else. . . . Besides that, I’ve got to tell you something else. I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is; I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.”

Trump told Playboy magazine that O’Donnell’s memoir was “probably true.” He told The Post earlier this year that the book was “fiction,” although he hadn’t read it. Trump said he fired O’Donnell, but O’Donnell said he quit.

In 1989, Trump inserted himself into a racially charged case in New York City. Five boys, four black and one Hispanic, ages 14 to 16, had been arrested for the brutal attack and rape of a woman who had been jogging in Central Park. Two weeks later, Trump paid for a full-page ad in four New York newspapers urging the return of the death penalty and warning of “roving bands of wild criminals.”

The boys were convicted and served six to 13 years in prison. But years later, a career criminal confessed to the rape, providing a DNA match. The convictions were overturned, and the city paid $41 million to settle a wrongful-imprisonment suit that the men had filed. Trump called the settlement “a disgrace,” refused to apologize, and said, “These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.”

A few months after the Central Park incident, Trump appeared on an NBC-TV special called “Racial Attitudes and Consciousness Exam,” hosted by Bryant Gumbel. He appeared to criticize affirmative action.

“A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market,” Trump said on the program. “I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that. I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I believe they do have an actual advantage.”

During Trump’s time as the star of his reality show, “The Apprentice,” he worked with a number of African American contestants.

Kwame Jackson, a Harvard Business School graduate who was on the first season of the show, said he saw the “Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde” nature of Trump. During the taping of the show, Jackson said, Trump was respectful and Jackson didn’t think of him as racist. But when Trump became a leading voice of the “birther” movement and questioned whether Obama was born in the United States, and then spoke critically of Mexicans and Muslims, Jackson said he sadly came to a different conclusion.

“People thought he is flirting with racism, or manipulating American anger, then it became pure racism,” he said. “My distance [with Trump] grew to true disdain.”

In November, Trump drew criticism when he retweeted a tweet that said blacks killed 81 percent of white homicide victims. The claim quickly was shown to be false. The actual number was 15 percent; 82 percent of whites were killed by whites.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 7/19/16)

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GOP Platform Proposes To Get Rid Of National Parks And National Forests

The Republican platform committee met this week to draft the document that defines the party’s official principles and policies. Along with provisions on pornography and LGBT “conversion therapy” is an amendment calling for the indiscriminate and immediate disposal of national public lands.

The inclusion of this provision in the Republican Party’s platform reflects the growing influence of and ideological alliance between several anti-park members of the GOP and anti-government extremists, led by Cliven Bundy, who dispute the federal government’s authority over national public lands.

“Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to the states,” reads the adopted language. “We call upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the transfer of those lands identified.”
The provision calls for an immediate full-scale disposal of “certain” public lands, without defining which lands it would apply to, leaving national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, and national forests apparently up for grabs and vulnerable to development, privatization, or transfer to state ownership.

“That’s a very broad brush to basically say we’re going to turn over all federal lands to states; some states don’t have the resources to handle it,” said West Virginia state Senator and committee delegate Vic Sprouse, who was pushing for a similar provision, but with milder language. He said this more extreme language would instead “willy-nilly” turn over federal property without regard to the type of land or willingness of the state to manage it.

Though public land disposal language was also present in the GOP’s 2012 platform, the position takes on new meaning in the wake of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover earlier this year. The now-indicted leaders of the takeover, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and other extremists present at the refuge similarly demanded that the U.S. government give up authority over national public lands in the West.
“I have long believed that public lands are an equalizer in America, where access to public lands ensures that you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy the great outdoors or to introduce your children to hunting, fishing and hiking,” said Senator Martin Heinrich during a recent floor speech on ALEC-funded land seizure legislation. “This land grab idea is just as ludicrous as denying climate change, just as detached from reality, and similarly comes at the expense of our public health and protection of our public lands and resources.”

(Excerpted from Think Progress 7/15/16)

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Gov. Mike Pence As Vice President?

Mike Pence’s record as is full of Trump-like extremism. Here’s a quick overview of Trump’s new right-hand man, Mike Pence:

  • Pence has championed discriminatory anti-LGBT policies: As governor of Indiana, Pence pushed for a broad Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill that made it easier to discriminate against LGBTQ Hoosiers. Championing the bill had significant consequences on the state’s economy: After RFRA passed, many businesses such as Apple, Angie’s List, Salesforce, and even the NCAA protested the discriminatory bill. Overall, it is estimated that Pence’s RFRA lost or put at risk over $250 million for Indiana. Pence created such a mess for Indiana with his RFRA bill that he had to hire a public relations firm to do damage control, which some report cost up to an additional $2 millionfor Indiana.
  • As governor, Pence has severely limited a woman’s right to choose: This year, Gov. Pence signed HEA 1337, an incredibly anti-choice bill, which forced women to have particular justifications for seeking an abortion. Pence’s actions inspired women across Indiana and the country to start “Periods for Pence” in protest. The bill was later ruled unconstitutional and blocked from going into effect by a federal judge. This was not Pence’s only anti-choice action during his career: when he was in the U.S. House of Representatives, Pence co-sponsored a federal personhood amendment, led efforts todefund Planned Parenthood, and also co-sponsored a bill that allowed hospitals to refuse women life-saving abortions.
  • Like Trump, Pence is incredibly anti-immigrant: Based on his record, it appears Pence will fall in line with Trump’s “build a wall” immigration policies. Pence opposed comprehensive immigration reform in 2014, opposed a pathway to citizenship in 2010, supported revoking birthright citizenship for children of immigrants in 2009, and proposeddeporting millions of immigrant families in 2006.
  • Pence supports irresponsible foreign policy: Like Donald Trump, Pence’s views on foreign policies will likely make Americans less safe. While in the House, Pence made 56 speeches on the House floor to defend the Iraq War. He even delivered 15 speeches declaring “victory” in Iraq. As governor of Indiana, Pence joined other Republican governors to oppose the Iran nuclear deal.

In addition to these extreme positions, Pence believes that “smoking doesn’t kill,” is a climate denier, and has voted multiple times against strengthening equal pay protections.

(Excerpted from Think Progress 7/5/16)

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What a President Needs to Know

Viewed in historical terms, a Trump presidency would pose an unusual risk to the country. American Presidents can be agents of change, yes, but they are also custodians of a social and political order that requires sophistication, balance and a fluency in the basic vocabulary of government and of statecraft. Trump, however, is a creature of the moment, of improvisation, of polarity. Strikingly, he’s learning public policy less from experts and briefing books–the traditional means of presidential preparation–and more from newspapers and what he once called “the shows.” His tendency to wing it–to act on his gut–effectively means that he’s working off what might be called “political hearsay.” No President can know everything, but all Presidents have to know enough to assess the validity of the inevitable advice that swirls through the Oval Office. While a President Trump can hire experts, experts won’t be making the final calls. Only he can–and will.

You don’t need a Ph.D. to lead the nation, but you do need to know–as Trump did not appear to grasp in one of the debates–what the nuclear triad is. Or that the Quds and the Kurds, not to mention Hamas and Hizballah, are different things. Or that you can’t order military officers to engage in illegal torture. Or that Ted Cruz’s father was not linked to the Kennedy assassination. Or that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, not Kenya. At his first joint appearance with Clinton on the campaign trail, President Obama put the matter clearly: “You’ve actually got to know what you’re talking about.”

With Trump’s nomination in Cleveland, Americans are about to face the starkest of political choices: a contest between Clinton, one of the most experienced and policy-fluent candidates in history, and Trump, the least conventional major-party nominee in modern times. Fundamentally, the Clinton-Trump race will be a campaign of the Conventional vs. the Confident, of the Prepared vs. the Provocateur, of the Realist vs. the Ringmaster.

(Excerpted from Meacham, Time 7/114/16 )

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Trump’s vice-presidential hopefuls reveal their desperation — and his poor judgment

In every presidential election, politicians campaign to become their party’s vice presidential pick, often by heaping undeserved praise on their party’s presidential nominee. It is rarely more than mildly embarrassing. But when the presidential candidate is Donald Trump, the slobbering is repulsive.

Every time they praise Mr. Trump’s leadership skills, these political opportunists should be asked about the candidate’s apparent ignorance of the Constitution and his contempt for essential principles such as freedom of speech. Every time they talk about how Mr. Trump would keep Americans safe, they should be asked about which Americans they mean — surely not minority groups who would feel under constant scrutiny and threat in Mr. Trump’s America. Every time they attack Hillary Clinton for dishonesty, they should be asked aboutMr. Trump’s constant, flagrant lying about basic facts, as when he claimed that he saw thousands of American Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks.

For good measure, they should also be asked how they could support a man they know is unqualified to be commander in chief. Before endorsing Mr. Trump, Mr. Christie criticized him for acting “like a child” and insisted he is not “suited to be president of the United States.” National Review reported that Mr. Pence privately loathes the presumptive GOP nominee. Mr. Gingrich called Mr. Trump’s attacks on a judge for his ethnicity “inexcusable.”

Treating Mr. Trump as a normal candidate is a grave insult to the country’s democratic tradition. This election year presents an unusually clear moral choice. Not only are Mr. Trump’s supplicants on the wrong side of history, but they are also actively and knowingly aiding the candidacy of an unacceptable, dangerous demagogue for their own personal gain. The fact that Mr. Trump’s vice presidential shortlist contains two unpopular governors and a disgraced ex-speaker of the House shows that his judgment is as poor as it seems to be or, more likely, that only desperate, unprincipled panderers would consider joining his ticket.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 7/13/16)

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Donald Trump is wrong about Saddam Hussein

SADDAM HUSSEIN was not “so good” at killing terrorists, as Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed. On the contrary, he was one of the contemporary world’s foremost sponsors of terrorism. He harbored or funded some of history’s most infamous killers and jihadists, including the current chief of al-Qaeda, and plotted numerous terrorist attacks of his own, including an attempt to assassinate former president George H.W. Bush with a suicide bomb. Long before the U.S. invasion of 2003, his regime was formally identified by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism. That Mr. Trump would insistently assert the opposite serves to underline not only his profound and disqualifying ignorance of foreign affairs, but also his creepy and dangerous affinity for dictators.

The Iraqi despot was not, as some in the Bush administration suggested before the invasion, complicit in the al-Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But multiple independent and bipartisan reports before and after the war have established beyond any doubt that Hussein was deeply enmeshed with terrorist activity from the time he took power in the late 1970s until the eve of his last war. Among the thugs he hosted in Baghdad were the Palestinian terrorists Sabri Banna , or Abu Nidal, and Muhammad Zaidan (Abu Abbas); the latter was the leader of one of the most notorious terrorist attacks in history, the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro and murder of American Leon Klinghoffer.

The conspirator who mixed the chemicals for the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, in 1993, Abdul Yasin, found harbor in Baghdad, where he was paid a monthly stipend. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of al-Qaeda in Iraq, spent most of 2002 in the Iraqi capital and received medical treatment there. According to captured Iraqi documents, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaeda, was funded by Iraq beginning in the late 1970s, when he led an Egyptian terrorist group. And the 9/11 Commission, among others, reported that Iraqi officials met numerous times with al-Qaeda and may have offered Osama bin Laden haven in 1999.

Mr. Trump’s ignorance — or denial — of all this is disgusting but no longer surprising. So it’s disturbing to see some Republican leaders excuse or sidestep his lies. On Thursday, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) claimed that Trump had been “taken out of context” and was really speaking about “getting tough on terrorism.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the strongest supporters of the Iraq invasion, and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq War veteran, refused to comment. For Mr. Trump, that amounts to validation; for the Republican Party, it’s more disgrace.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 7/09/16)

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Schaefer shows his cards on Planned Parenthood inquiry. He’s got nothing.

Schaefer, a state senator from Columbia, held a news conference to announce the results of his nearly yearlong harassment, er, investigation, into Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

After hearings, subpoenas and threats of jail — all based on nothing but innuendo — Schaefer and his political witch hunt ended up in the same place Attorney General Chris Koster had months earlier, which is to say, the investigation found no evidence that Planned Parenthood — the sole provider of abortions in Missouri — was breaking any laws.

At his news conference, Schaefer pleaded weakness. It was as though he held up his Trumpian hands to Republicans expecting indictments and apologized for not being able to blow up a forest with an assault weapon.

“The Legislature’s ability to conduct investigations is very, very limited,” said the man who just two months earlier was standing on the Senate floor threatening to send the sergeant at arms to handcuff Planned Parenthood CEO Mary Kogut.

“We can place someone in jail for a term,” Schaefer said in May, when he was falsely accusing Kogut of standing in the way of his sham of an investigation. He went so far as to explain to his fellow senators that when it comes to investigating institutions or people — including private citizens — the Legislature has no checks and balances. No court hearings. No Supreme Court oversight. “We are it,” he said. “It is us.”

Of course, that was during a time when Schaefer was still the powerful budget chairman of the Senate. He was busy talking tough on all sorts of things because that’s what today’s conservative does.

Once a Columbia moderate, Schaefer has spent the past several years remaking himself to hold off a primary challenge. He’s twisted himself into a Gus’s pretzel of conservatism, finding new ways to be more pro-gun or more anti-Planned Parenthood than the next guy.

Once a bully, always a bully.

(Excerpted from Messenger, St. Louis Today 7/07/16)

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Our Political Culture Doesn’t Know What to Do With Trump’s Explicit Prejudice

Trump isn’t responsible for his followers. He doesn’t direct them. But he doesn’t criticize or rebuke them either. He hems and haws when asked if he renounces an endorsement from a white supremacist; he demurs when confronted with anti-Semitic attacks in his name; he indulges and amplifies bigotry from supporters at his rallies and events; he incorporates their ideas about cultural takeover into his speeches. Anti-Semites and white nationalists have built new networks and communities, and Trump is expanding their reach in the most direct ways possible. The Star of David tweet isn’t the first broadcast to mainstream politics, and it won’t be the last.

If political media exists to do anything, it’s to reveal this flow from the fringe. To educate audiences on what these ideas mean, to give context for symbols like the one we saw on Saturday. Thus far, the media seems ill-equipped for the job. For every display of “pro-truth” bias, there are a dozen examples of mindless coverage, as reporters present racist rhetoric as simple “controversy” or frame anti-Semitic propaganda as a “he said/she said” dispute.

This is how ideas and symbols that were once considered beyond the pale become less so. They leave the realm of taboo and enter the world of partisan combat, where ethics and meaning are a function of tribal identity. People who wouldn’t have backed this rhetoric now defend it. And even those who don’t, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, decline to change their political commitments. In short order, the boundaries of political speech expand to include outright bigotry. Right now, Trump is showing his dedicated following of white supremacists that you can deny the humanity of other people and still thrive in mainstream politics. If this all feels dangerous—like the beginning of a new, more frightening kind of politics—that’s because it is.

(Excerpted from Bouie, Slate 7/05/16)

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Missouri Republican Kurt Schaefer gets another $1.4 million from mega donor Rex Sinquefield

Three political action committees funded by retired St. Louis investor Rex Sinquefield cut checks to a Republican candidate for attorney general on Friday that totaled more than $900,000.

A week earlier that candidate — Republican state Sen. Kurt Schaefer of Columbia — got more than $500,000 from those groups.

That $1.4 million infusion of cash puts the total Sinquefield has invested in Schaefer’s attorney general campaign at more than $2 million.

(Excerpted from Kansas City Star 7/05/16)

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Donald Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric is textbook hypocrisy

You’ll have to forgive our skepticism that Donald Trump is actually a friend of working people. He said our wages are too high. Really, he did. Trump wants to destroy labor unions. His position on wage-suppressing right-to-work laws is “100%”, and he has routinely moved union jobs to right-to-work states. Trump actually rooted for the collapse of the housing and real estate market. He bet on himself and against America. People lost their homes, their jobs and their life savings. And Donald Trump was cheering all the way to the bank.

Hard-working families in Pennsylvania, Ohio and across America are hungry for a new direction on trade. They are sick and tired of policies that destroy jobs and hold down wages. At the AFL-CIO, we are focused on rewriting the trade rules, the structures that for too long have left our communities poorer and weaker.

This isn’t a matter of whether or not to trade. It’s about what the rules are and who benefits from them. Of course, we should open up new markets for our products and do business all over the world. The real challenge is to advance trade policy that creates shared prosperity. The pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), like Nafta before it, fails that test miserably.

Donald Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric amounts to little more than bandwagon bluster and textbook hypocrisy. He knows the TPP is unpopular in the states he needs to win so he pretends to care about lost jobs and shuttered factories. But Trump has always seen working people as nothing more than a means to an end: labor to be exploited, customers to be bilked and human capital to be used and then discarded. We refuse to sit back and be co-opted as a talking point for a profiteer who has traded away our future for his own personal gain. It’s our job to explain that Donald Trump is not the answer to our trade problems – he is the problem.

(Excerpted from Richard Trumka Pres. AFL-CIO, The Guardian 7/04/16)

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Paul Ryan’s flimsy health plan

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) seemed to promise better when he announced that he would roll out an ambitious policy agenda this summer. Instead, last week he released an Obamacare alternative that is less detailed in a variety of crucial ways than previous conservative health reform proposals. The outlines that the speaker did provide suggest that it would be hard on the poor, old and sick.

Mr. Ryan’s plan would replace Obamacare with a tax credit available to people buying insurance plans in markets regulated by the states, not the federal government. The proposal does not say how valuable the credit would be, nor the rate at which it would increase. The document also does not predict how many people it would cover, nor how much the plan would cost. The latter is a major question in part because the plan would waste money offering tax credits to everyone, regardless of income. Republican staffers argue that the proposal is just a starting point for discussion. Yet other Obamacare-replacement proposals have included such numbers. The fact that Mr. Ryan’s does not renders the plan difficult to evaluate or take seriously. This many years on, the GOP has no excuse for blank spaces.

The proposal hints that the credit would be sufficient to cover the cost of plans that existed before the ACA. This is not reassuring: Pre-ACA, individual-market insurance plans were often thin, with limited benefits, extensive cost-sharing and other elements designed to deter anyone who might actually need care. Without strong coverage requirements, insurers would have limited incentive to offer plans that appealed to people who may be — or may become — sick. States would be hampered in responding to these issues: The proposal would allow insurers to sell plans across state lines, so the state with the skimpiest regulations would likely set the national standard.

People with money to put into health savings accounts (which the proposal would expand), could cover gaps in thin insurance coverage with tax-advantaged out-of-pocket spending — but this would not be a realistic option for low-income people. As for the old, the plan would scale up the tax credits with age, but it would also permit insurers to raise premiums with age much more than the ACA currently allows. The proposal gives no sense that the two will come close to matching up; as in other conservative plans, those in late middle age could face much higher costs. For the sick, meanwhile, Mr. Ryan’s plan would offer an ultimate backstop by funding high-risk insurance pools. But health-care experts caution that this approach would cost a massive amount of federal money — a fact that has caused Republican lawmakers to balk at policies like it when fleshed out.

At least, Republicans might argue, Mr. Ryan’s proposal would eliminate the hated individual mandate requiring people to buy insurance. Yet it would replace it with an even more coercive system. Protections for those with preexisting conditions would only apply for those who kept continuous health-care coverage. Under the current system, if you fail to obtain health insurance in a year, you might have to pay a penalty of few hundred dollars. Under Mr. Ryan’s plan, the Urban Institute’s Linda Blumberg explains, “If you slip through the cracks, your penalty is you may never be able to get health-insurance coverage again.”

(Excerpted from Washington Post 6/25/16)

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Donald Trump’s assault on our values

IT HAD not seemed possible, but Donald Trump descended this week to a new low of bigotry, fear-mongering and conspiracy-peddling. Republican leaders who said last week that they expected a change in tone after Mr. Trump’s racist attacks on a California judge quickly received their answer. What can House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) possibly say now? As the country mourned the wanton slaughter of 49 people early Sunday, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee took a victory lap, hinted darkly that President Obama is an enemy of the nation, libeled American Muslims and, in grotesque punctuation, finished up with a vindictive attack on the media .

“Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism,” he tweeted. “I don’t want congrats,” he continued, as though that were not exactly what he wanted, “I want toughness & vigilance.” Mr. Trump may have calculated that a suddenly anxious electorate would be more receptive to his campaign of fear and prejudice, emotions he immediately attempted to inflame.

In a Monday speech, Mr. Trump painted a false picture of a nation infiltrated by waves of unscreened Muslim refugees and immigrants, who, abetted by Democrats, are destroying American values and threatening the public. Among other things, he chillingly accused Muslim Americans of complicity with terrorists: “The Muslims have to work with us,” he said. “They know what’s going on. They know that [the Orlando shooter] was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death, and destruction.”

To generalize as Mr. Trump does about “the Muslims” is to set the nation down a dangerous road it has trod, to its eventual regret, in the past: banning Chinese immigrants a century ago, rounding up U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent in the 1940s, expelling “wetbacks” a decade later.

Mr. Trump also raised suspicion in television interviews that Mr. Obama wants terrorists to strike the United States, or at least looks the other way as they scheme. “We’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart or has something else in mind. And the something else in mind — people can’t believe it. People cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on.” He invited poisonous speculations about his Democratic opponent’s motives, as well: Hillary Clinton “wants to allow radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country,” he said. Informal Trump adviser Roger Stone, meanwhile, claimed that Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide, might be “a terrorist agent.”

Mr. Trump capped a day of assaulting fundamental liberal democratic values by announcing he would ban Post reporters from covering his campaign events. If this is his inclination now, imagine how he might wield the powers of the presidency.

Before the Orlando shooting, Beltway analysts speculated about how a terrorist attack might affect the presidential election. Now we know at least part of the answer: Mr. Trump would reveal himself more clearly than ever as a man unfit to lead.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 6/13/16)

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Corporate agribusiness gets more sway on Missouri’s Clean Water Comission

Legislation now before Gov. Jay Nixon could give corporate agriculture more input into the state’s water resources. It could lead to more industry representatives, which would mean fewer public voices on the Missouri Clean Water Commission.

Near the end of session, it’s not unusual for controversial amendments to be tacked on to bills. This change, sponsored by Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, fits that description.

“Just out of the blue, he offered an amendment that nobody had ever seen,” said Tim Gibbons, communications director for Missouri Rural Crisis Center. “It had never been a stand-alone bill. It had never been vetted by the public or taxpayers.”

The amendment was to a bill that requires the Department of Natural Resources to share information on technology for lagoon-based wastewater system. It changes the wording for members of the Clean Water Commission, the state’s oversight panel for the Clean Water Act. The new language calls for “no more than four” representatives of the public and “at least two” representatives of the agriculture and mining industries. Under existing statute, there must be “at least four” public representatives and “no more than two” with industry ties.

The commission lists two members as “industry or mining” now.

“What that language can and will do is completely take the public out of the Clean Water Commission,” said Gibbons.

One of the main duties of the commission is to approve construction permits for facilities that have the potential to damage Missouri waterways, like concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

(Excerpted from Stl. Public Radio 6/09/16)

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You Don’t Really Care about Poverty

Today, Republicans have unveiled a fake poverty program that shows, yet again, they are out of touch with the realities of poverty in America. This is nothing more than a weak attempt by Republicans to make it look as if they really care about the problems they have long ignored. But the American people know the truth. The GOP could care less about ending poverty in America. And this proposal is proof positive of that fact. It is jam-packed with the same old cringe-inducing policies that would only hurt and blame the poor, not help them.

“For example, the plan would place unrealistic time limits and so-called work requirements on families who rely on public or assisted housing. Of course, they completely ignore the high cost of rental housing and how that contributes to not only poverty but also homelessness. They also give no consideration for job training, education, job availability, child care, and the myriad other issues that prevent people from getting ahead. If Republicans were truly concerned about poverty, they would invest in these kinds of critical social services programs instead of trotting out the same old tired rhetoric.

“This plan also takes a potshot at our nation’s seniors. Democrats have worked closely with the Department of Labor to protect seniors from financial advisers who provide conflicted advice about their retirement assets, which has cost our retirees $17 billion each year. The proposal continues Republicans’ unrelenting attack on the Labor Department’s efforts to prohibit such conflicted advice and to help ensure that all Americans can retire with dignity and security.

“But as this plan makes all too clear, Republicans don’t really care about poverty, ending poverty, or people in poverty.”

(Excerpted from Waters House Financial Services Committee )

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What happens when bullies control the state legislature

An editorial writer for the Warrensburg Daily Star Journal succinctly summarized the Republican majority’s responses to each of those three most important needs [crumbling highways, support for public schools, ethics reform]: “Lawmakers did nothing, next to nothing and worse than nothing.” Exactly.

If only they had stopped there. They didn’t, of course.

Instead, the grand finale of the session was the passage of a proposed constitutional amendment to require photo identification for voting. There’s no evidence of any fraud that requires correction, but plenty of evidence that the folks most likely to be turned away from the polls would be poor or minority. Which party would you expect to lose those votes?

The two most popular targets this year were Planned Parenthood and our university. In both cases, the charge was led by Boone County’s own Sen. Kurt Schaefer, who wants very much to be the state’s attorney general (with, I’m guessing, his sights set a good deal higher). In both cases, the senator was a bully.

In the Planned Parenthood case, a federal judge eventually called him on it, ruling that “political pressure” pushed a state agency into revoking the license of the organization’s Columbia abortion clinic. No extra credit for identifying the loudest source of that political pressure.

In the university’s case, Senator Schaefer was more successful. In addition to a fiscal penalty, he sponsored and won partisan support for a special committee with no apparent qualifications for the job to scrutinize the university’s operations before the next session.

Even more troubling was the report a couple of weeks ago in which investigators for the American Association of University Professors concluded that the Board of Curators “violated basic standards of academic due process” in firing faculty member Melissa Click.

The investigators attributed that violation to “legislative intrusion.” The leader of the intrusion? Senator Schaefer.

(Excerpted from George Kennedy Columbia Missourian 5/26/16 )

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