Tag: Trump

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Two new reports on the Trump-Russia thing today.

This morning, the AP revealed that Paul Manafort, Trump’s first campaign manager, failed to disclose that he had worked for a Russian oligarch. The purpose of his job, according to the AP, was to advance the interest of Vladimir Putin:

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.

Manafort, you may remember, was forced out of the Trump team when it was revealed that he had taken Russian money to lobby on behalf of pro-Russia factions in the Ukraine. This was one of the first revelations that made people question Trump’s ties to Russia. The revelation that his campaigning on behalf of Putin goes back even further is disturbing. If there’s any fire to all this smoke on Russia, Manafort will be where you’ll find it.

Tonight, however, the news got even worse:

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.

The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.

Now, caveat time. All the sources that CNN sites are anonymous. Moreover, even if they are telling the truth, all this means is that the FBI is investigating these claims, not that they’ve found anything. At the moment, this is simply more smoke.

There have been allegations that the intelligence community has become politicized over this. Even though the loudest accuser is Roger Stone, who admitted to being in communication with the Wikileaks hackers, I’m not inclined to dismiss this line of criticism. It’s certainly possible that’s what we’re seeing.

Which is why we need to end the rumor mongering and put together a independent commission to look into this. To look into all of it. The current investigation — through the House Intelligence Committee — is only muddying the waters further. If Trump people cooperated with Russia to win the election, that’s a very serious scandal. And if the intelligence community is exaggerating this to undermine Trump, that’s a very serious scandal. Time to bring this all out in the open.

The Follies Begin

Last night, the Senate passed a budget resolution. This budget included the first step in repealing Obamacare: setting the situation so that key parts can be repealed by reconciliation. Contra the Left, this did not repeal any part of Obamacare; it set the stage for repeal.

The budget has significant issues, mainly in that it adds $9 trillion in debt over the next ten years, with no significant cuts to spending or entitles and no tax increases or changes. That’s just the baseline right now. If Trump is serious about enacting a giant tax cut when he gets into office, we could be staring down $20 trillion in debt over the next decade, a budget hole that makes Obama and Bush look like models of fiscal rectitude.

As for the Obamacare repeal, I am against a naked repeal of the bill without a replacement in place. Simply repealing the law would throw insurance markets into chaos, throw at least 20 million people off of insurance and roil a sixth of our economy. Indeed, a number of people — including hospitals, insurance companies and state governors — are lining up against a naked repeal for just this reason.

The model I prefer is repeal and replace, enacting a new healthcare reform act. There are several proposals out there but the problem here is getting it passed as one bill. Democrats will oppose and while Obamacare can be repealed with a simple majority, a new bill can not be enacted without a supermajority.

That brings us to the current strategy which is called “repeal and delay”. The idea is that the GOP would repeal Obamacare now, sunsetting it in two years. That would give them two years to come up with a replacement and put Democrats in the position of either supporting the GOP bill or letting Obamacare die.

It’s also one of the most reckless things I can imagine.

Look, we’ve been here before. We have seen Congress enact laws to try to force future Congresses to make tough choices. And it always been a disaster. Because there is no reason to think that future Congress will be any bolder or smarter than present Congress. So we enact tax cuts hoping to “starve the beast” — a trick akin to eating a huge slice of cake to try to force yourself to go the gym. And deficits explode because Congress decides massive debt is politically easier than spending cuts. We enact a sequester thinking that such a dumb way of cutting spending will force Congress to do it more wisely. And the sequester is enacted anyway because choices are hard. “Repeal and delay” is simply shoving 20 million people out of an airplane with a vague promise that you’ll get a parachute to them at some stage.

Trump appears opposed to “repeal and delay” as do many key members of Congress. But they can only delay so long as we are already seeing the beginning of a death spiral in individual insurance markets. This is a problem I have been shouting about ever since Obamacare passed: the GOP needed an alternative. Not a bunch of conflicting vague plans, but an actual plan that the entire caucus had agreed to.

My prediction? I think Trump isn’t so dumb as to think “repeal and delay” is a great idea. I suspect what will happen is that the GOP will pass a series of fixes to Obamacare to gradually repeal and replace it with a sounder and more market-oriented system (step one: allow insurance to be sold across state lines). And as long as it gets rebranded “Trumpcare”, I expected the President to go along with it.

Update: There’s a great tweetstorm from Justin Amash — rapidly becoming one of my favorite members of Congress — about why he voted against the bill.

To read it, click on the date at the bottom of the tweet and then scroll down through the points he makes.

Islamophobia. And Conservaphobia

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen Donald Trump responding to a question about how we can get rid of Muslims:

Confronted with a questioner who called Muslims a “problem” and asserted that President Obama is a Muslim and not American, Donald Trump did not correct him on Thursday night.

“We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. Our current President is one. We know he’s not even an American,” said a questioner at a town hall in New Hampshire. “We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question, when can we get rid of them?”

“A lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and a lot of different things,” Trump responded.

Trump has been a leading proponent of the discredited theory that Obama was not born in the United States.

I will be as fair as I can to Trump. Politicians tend to draw nuts to them. This is especially true of politicians who are perceived as outsiders challenging the system. Libertarians have had to deal with this kind of crap for decades. The nuts turn up not because they agree with Libertarian philosophy but because they are attracted to just about any political outsider. But even mainstream politicians get crazies. I’ve talked to Congressional staffers about some of the insane letters and calls they get from nutty constituents. Trump laughs nervously halfway through the question and doesn’t really address it. I don’t think he’s embracing the views expressed at all. He’s just not smacking it down.

That having been said, it’s been a couple of days and he’s had plenty of time to disown the man’s comments. He hasn’t. It won’t hurt him right now bceause part of Trump’s appeal to many is precisely that he doesn’t constantly apologize. But it’s yet another thing that could come back to bite him badly should he win the nomination and yet another reason for anti-Trumpers to dislike him. And it’s yet another way the GOP’s willingness to play footsie with the lunatic fringe has damaged the brand.

Here’s the thing, though. As bad as this question was and as bad as Trump’s response was, possibly the worst response has been that of the Left. They are gleefully citing this clip as an example of what conservatives are really like. They are trotting out every invective you can imagine. To hear them say it, conservatives a racist, bigoted, Religious Right fundies who want to purge the country of a religious minority.

And, to me, that’s much worse. The reason it’s worse is because the view that we need to rid our country of Muslims or that Obama is some kind of Islamic caliphatist Manchurian candidate is on the lunatic fringe. Someone says something like that and they are instantly branded as a nut. The question was so nutty, in fact, that some conservatives are wondering if he was a plant or if the question was a joke.

But the view that conservatives are evil racists is mainstream. It is propounded every day by mainstream blogs, mainstream pundits, mainstream comedians, mainstream politicians. And it has a far more malefic effect on our politics. Conservative views and conservative politicians are ignored because everyone knows they’re racist. Objections to things like Dodd-Frank and Obamacare — objections proving increasingly well-founded — were ignored because everyone knew the Republicans just opposed these laws because they were filled with hate.

The most dangerous tendency in politics is to see your political opponents as The Other. To see them as fundamentally deformed and immoral, rather than people who have a different set of values or a different perspective.

Conservatives, including myself, are not immune from this, obviously. We’ve had six years of people trying to tar Obama as a communist or an America-hater or whatever. But again, there’s a difference. The mainstream media writes those views off as irrational and partisan. But the view that conservatives are mean-spirited racists is never regarded as irrational and partisan; it’s regarded as a revealed truth.

No one has a monopoly on rationality or intelligence. I haven’t seen a political figure yet who didn’t have a good point about something. But this incident has once again revealed that the Left and their MSM dogwashers do believe they have a monopoly on racial and religious tolerance. And that’s not just wrong, it’s dangerous. Far more dangerous some fruit loop in New Hampshire who thinks we can get rid of Muslims.