Trump fires FBI Director Comey

James_ComeyPresident Trump fired James B. Comey, the director of the FBI.

The reason given was his off-again, on-again investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal, which Democrats blame, in part, for their presidential defeat.  But why would Trump make an issue of that, long after his election?

Democrats are claiming that the real reason is Comey’s investigation into the Russian involvement in the election and the connection between the Trump administration and Vladimir Putin.  (See this and this.)  And, indeed, if President Trump thinks that Comey had anything to do with Trump Tower being bugged, that could be a factor.

But I suspect it had more to do with Comey’s poor performance at his recent congressional testimony, in which he made inaccurate statements about Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s e-mails that he had to take back.  The White House released a memo from the Justice Department saying that the FBI’s reputation has been hurt by Comey and that a new start would be helpful.  President Trump makes decisions spontaneously, and he doesn’t like his administration to look bad.

But much of the media is playing this like Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” when he fired the people investigating his misdeeds.  You would think that the Democrats would cheer the firing of Comey.  But they have another agenda now. [Read more…]

The Republican defeat on the spending bill they passed

3237249328_4313b14e58_z (2)Republicans control the presidency, the House of Representatives, and the Senate.  And yet, in passing the spending bill to keep the government funded through September, Republicans gave away just about everything they stood for in order to get Democratic votes.

President Trump had proposed major cuts to make up for increased spending in defense and a few other areas.  The spending was increased, but the proposed cuts were dropped.

President Trump wanted to cut out funding for the arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  These survived.  So did funding for Planned Parenthood.

Some agencies that Trump wanted to cut actually had their funding increased.

Are Republicans incapable of governing?  Is their party effective only when it is in opposition?

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The French set-back for global Trumpism

2014.11.17_Emmanuel_Macron_Ministre_de_l_economie_de_lindustrie_et_du_numerique_at_Bercy_for_Global_Entrepreneurship_Week_(7eme_CAE_conference_annuelle_des_entrepreneurs)Many observers thought that the ascendancy of Donald Trump and Great Britain’s vote to leave the European Union heralded a new movement in global politics, with nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment casting out establishment governments.

But in the French presidential election on Sunday, the anti-immigrant, pro-nationalistic Marine LePen was defeated in a landslide by centrist Emmanuel Macron, who won on a pro-immigrant, pro-European Union platform.

And yet there still may be something to the notion that Trump heralds a new anti-establishment political movement.  Macron won as an independent, without the support of any of the established political parties.  Both the leftwing and the rightwing parties that have dominated French politics for decades were shut out of the election.

Maybe the real contribution of the Trump phenomenon is the repudiation of conventional party politics.

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Trump signs religious liberty order

30279870283_985b3bfa2f_zPresident Trump issued an executive order on religious liberty.  It allows churches and other religious and charitable organizations to carry out political action without worrying about losing their tax-exempt status.  It also exempts religious groups from having to fund contraceptives under Obamacare.

But it does not provide what many religious groups were hoping for and what many secular groups feared:  There is no exemption from anti-discrimination laws for those who object to LGBT issues on moral or religious grounds.

The executive order does not change the law.  It just directs the IRS and the health care system to exercise “maximum enforcement discretion” in levying penalties.

A bill has been introduced in Congress to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which restricts tax-exempt non-profits, including churches, from endorsing candidates and carrying out overt political activity.

Some fear that eliminating the restriction could further politicize religion and turn churches into “dark money shops” for political candidates.  And this religious liberty advocate says the order is “worse than useless.”

Is this the kind of religious liberty protection that is needed today?

 

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House votes to repeal & replace Obamacare

640px-Obamacare_replacement_brainstorming_sessionThe House of Representatives voted to repeal and replace Obamacare, a long-time Republican commitment that they could not pull off in March. Now the measure must be passed by the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain and where further changes are likely.
The “American Health Care Act” still leaves us with a national health care program much like Obamacare, resting as it does on individuals buying health insurance.  But the mandate forcing them to do so would be eliminated.  Also the subsidies will be replaced by a different system of federal tax credits.  And states can opt out of various requirements, including being able to set up high risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions.
For a detailed list and explanation of the differences between the proposed “American Health Care Act” and the previous “Affordable Health Care Act,” go here.
One complaint about Obamacare is that it is so complicated.  Trumpcare will also be complicated.  It is basically a revision of Obamacare, but one that is not so generous.  It will leave more people uncovered, since it is no longer forcing them to sign up.  The premiums should be lower, but so will the amount of government money available to help pay for them.
Do you think this new healthcare plan, assuming it gets through the Senate, will be more popular or less popular than the one it replaces?  Does it still do far too much, as far as conservatives are concerned?  Does it do far too little to satisfy the general public?  Will it be a net gain or a net loss for Republicans?
Photograph of White House brainstorming sessions for the American Health Care Act (March 2017) by Vice President Pence @ twitter – Caption; Picture URL, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57023717

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Shake-up at the Heritage Foundation

360px-The_heritage_foundation_building_on_mass._ave (1)Liberals have long used universities to do the research that guides their policies.  Conservative scholarship, often anathema in leftist-dominated academia, has instead been developed in think-tanks, institutions devoted exclusively to research and policy-making.

The most important conservative think tank, arguably, is the Heritage Foundation, which has generated ideas for Republicans from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump.

A few years ago, Senator Jim DeMint was made president of Heritage.  Since then, he has made the organization more and more stridently political, shifting its focus away from its intellectual and research focus.

Now the board of the organization has fired DeMint.

What this means is not completely clear.  DeMint is a big supporter of Donald Trump, who used Heritage to help manage his transition.  Some board members are old-school conservatives who are suspicious of Trump and his populism.  And yet I am hearing that Trump’s loose-cannon advisor Steve Bannon is being considered to take DeMint’s place.  But picking him would make the organization even more political.  Then again, in the eyes of some Trump supporters, the Heritage Foundation represents the Republican “establishment” that they are rebelling against.

Whether this coup against DeMint is the establishment coming down upon a pro-Trump CEO, or whether it is a pro-Trump insurgency seeking to change the establishment institution isn’t clear.  Though DeMint is surely on Trump’s side.

I suspect that, as the board statement says, the problems with DeMint were managerial, not necessarily ideological or political.

But we’ll know more when we see who replaces him.

Isn’t it odd how conservative institutions–Fox News and now the Heritage Foundation–are going through such turmoil, even though the entire government seems to be in conservative hands.

(Disclosure:  Years ago, I was a Salvatori Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.) [Read more…]