Stumbling Into Government

Donald Trump was going to be a disrupter. Just enough voters in just the right places decided they wanted a disrupter in Washington, and now the government is his. Well, not really – because his Republican House won’t do what he wants – to repeal and replace Obamacare – or they simply can’t do what he wants. They don’t report to him and half of them want one thing – all vestiges of Obamacare gone – and the other half wants to keep the good stuff and just call it something else. Donald Trump has been looking on helplessly – and very angrily. How hard can this be? Repeal the damned thing and pass something else. It doesn’t matter what it is. It can be modified later. He wants a win. They’re making him look like a fool.

This ruins the narrative. Government is easy. Bring in a businessman – a master dealmaker – and he’ll blow away all the foolishness and get things done. Obama was weak and stupid. Every other president had been weak and stupid too. Trump did say this – “I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians. There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians – none whatsoever.”

He plans to send his son-in-law over there to fix this in an afternoon meeting or two. After all, Jared Kushner is a young real estate tycoon and this is just another real estate deal. Every diplomat who tried to broker peace over there had failed, because not one of them, in the seventy years Israel has been an actual nation, had been a cut-the-bullshit businessman. This calls for a disrupter – and if Jared can’t do it Ivanka can.

Of course, Steve Benen just had to note this:

Trump thought being president would be easy but “it turns out” to be profoundly difficult. Trump thought the NATO alliance is obsolete, but “it turns out” to have value. Trump thought China had the power to pull North Korea’s strings, but “it turns out” to be a far more complex dynamic. Trump thought overhauling America’s health care system would be practically effortless, but “it turns out” to be “complicated.”

That may be a bit unfair. Trump said “nobody knew” health care policy was complicated, so you can’t blame him. Like the rest of us, he just discovered that. And then everyone laughed at him.

Donald Trump hates that. Anyone would. Anyone who stumbles into a new job that’s not as easy as they scoffed that it would be in the job interview hates being laughed at  – and it’s worse when you stumble into a job like running the world’s most consequential government. People should cut you some slack. People shouldn’t laugh. People should be stopped.

That might explain this odd little item in the Huffington Post:

The U.S. Capitol Police officer who decided to arrest an activist because she briefly laughed during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing in January is a rookie cop who had never conducted an arrest before nor worked at a congressional hearing. Nevertheless, prosecutors persisted this week in pursuing charges against the 61-year-old woman the rookie had taken into custody.

Katherine Coronado of the U.S. Capitol Police was in her second week on the job when she was assigned to keep watch over Sessions’ confirmation hearing on Jan. 10. Coronado was involved in the arrest of Desiree Fairooz, an activist affiliated with the group Code Pink, after Fairooz laughed when Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said that Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.” (Sessions had been rejected as a federal judge in the 1980s because of concerns about his views on race, and back when he was still a Democrat, Shelby himself actually ran an ad suggesting Sessions had called the Ku Klux Klan “good ol’ boys.”)

Fairooz was seated in the back of the room, and her laugh did not interrupt Shelby’s introductory speech. But, according to the government, the laugh amounted to willful “disorderly and disruptive conduct” intended to “impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct” of congressional proceedings. The government also charged her with a separate misdemeanor for allegedly parading, demonstrating or picketing within a Capitol, evidently for her actions after she was being escorted from the room.

This is a First Amendment issue that may hinge on whether there is such a thing as “involuntary” sudden laughter – a spontaneous giggle – and whether such an involuntary action can be prosecuted as a crime. If so, Trump may make us all criminals, and there’s this:

Fairooz is being tried alongside Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi, who dressed as KKK members and pretended to support Sessions. Bianchi is representing himself, while a lawyer representing Barry argued that their political satire did not break the rules because it took place before the Senate session was gaveled open and did not cause a delay in the proceedings.

Political satire is also a problem for Trump. He’s tried to bury Saturday day Night Live in a weekly avalanche of righteous tweets – and people have laughed at those too. Should he go after the studio audience? They’re the ones laughing – and then there are the millions of viewers. Katherine Coronado can’t arrest them all.

As for Desiree Fairooz, spontaneously giggling at Richard Shelby saying that Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented” may have been quite appropriate:

The Justice Department has decided not to bring charges against the officers involved in the death of Alton Sterling, whose videotaped shooting by police in Baton Rouge last summer prompted unrest across the city, and is planning to reveal in the next 24 hours that it has closed the probe, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Jeff Sessions is a disrupter too:

The case will be the first time under Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the department has publicly declined to prosecute officers investigated for possible wrongdoing in a high-profile case, and officials in Baton Rouge have been girding for a possible reaction there.

Sterling’s death last summer sparked tense protests across the city. President Barack Obama weighed in on the matter then, declaring his confidence in the Justice Department probe and remarking, “We have seen tragedies like this too many times.”

Jeff Sessions sees no tragedy:

By the police account, officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake saw Sterling, 37, outside a convenience store in July after it was reported that a man had threatened someone there with a gun. Sterling, who was selling CDs outside the store, fit the description of that man, according to a search warrant affidavit in the case.

A video of the shooting shows Sterling lying on his back with two officers on top of him. One of the officers appears to yell, “He’s got a gun!” and then shots ring out. A detective wrote in the search warrant affidavit that officers had observed the butt of a gun in Sterling’s front pants pocket. At issue in the investigation was whether Sterling was reaching for the weapon, as officers claimed, when he was shot and killed.

The two officers were sitting on top of him. Sterling could not have drawn his gun if he wanted to, but never mind:

Trump has cast himself as a pro-law-enforcement president, and Sessions has previously questioned broader police reforms. Last month, Sessions ordered the Justice Department to review the court-mandated reform agreements it has with troubled police departments across the country, and he has said he is worried that such agreements might bar aggressive police tactics.

Sessions also has – unlike the previous attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch – offered a tacit endorsement of what’s known as the “Ferguson effect,” which refers to the contested idea that police might be afraid to get out of their cars and enforce the law for fear of ending up on a viral video.

People laughed at that too. Police cannot do their job, and will not do their job, if people are going to see what they actually do? Jeff Sessions seems to want a police state where the police take care of black thugs, or potential black thugs, or incipient black thugs, with extrajudicial actions that will unclog the courts, and no one has the right to know just how they do that.

Desiree Fairooz should have done more than giggle, and there’s more to come:

The Justice Department under Sessions still has a major investigation of possible police misconduct in the case of 43-year-old Eric Garner, who died after he was taken to the ground and put in an apparent chokehold by New York City police in 2014. That incident – like Sterling’s death – was caught on video and prompted outrage across the country.

The case was the subject of a vigorous debate under Lynch, who decided only at the end of her tenure to allow prosecutors to move forward and again present evidence to a grand jury. The timing of her decision effectively left the matter to Sessions, who last month declined to comment on what he might do.

There’s no mystery there. That will be dropped too. Start questioning how the police do their job and we’ll all die. The black thugs will take over.

Jeff Sessions is stumbling into his new job too, unable to shed his past as a Southern good ol’ boy, but he’s not alone. The House Republicans have stumbled into their new job of governing, not just bitching from the sidelines. Now they have to govern, which they said would be easy, and at the moment, their stumbling has gotten worse:

A sense of gloom settled over House Republicans on Tuesday as support for their Obamacare repeal plan seemed to erode even further and members began reckoning with the unthinkable: They may never be able to repeal Obamacare.

But House GOP leaders and the White House kicked into high gear Tuesday night in a last-ditch effort to save the bill.

Speaker Paul Ryan and his team began crafting an amendment aimed at assuaging moderates’ concerns about how the bill treats people with pre-existing conditions. The language, multiple sources say, is expected to be released Wednesday.

Another amendment won’t fix this:

Discussions of a new amendment followed a disheartening day for House Republicans. Rank-and-file members increasingly acknowledged the difficult path to passage for their long-stalled bill, the American Health Care Act.

Their pessimism stemmed from the defection of a key leadership ally, Rep. Fred Upton. The Michigan Republican, who once authored a slew of Obamacare repeal measures, said the latest GOP proposal failed to protect people with preexisting conditions.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who helped broker the latest version of the AHCA, said Upton’s departure could be a significant blow to the cause.

“Obviously that’s not a move in the right direction,” Meadows said.

They may never be able to repeal Obamacare:

All day, House leaders struggled to shake the hardening narrative that sicker Americans would suffer under their plan. Ryan argued to lawmakers in a closed-door GOP conference meeting that people with pre-existing conditions would not be harmed by the latest draft. Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price spent the afternoon huddling with lawmakers attempting to tamp down their concerns.

House leaders even began floating the notion of piling billions of additional dollars into a fund meant to cover costs for people with preexisting conditions in an attempt to woo back reluctant moderate Republicans. It is unclear if the changes might win over skeptics like Upton and Long. It’s also unclear whether the Freedom Caucus, which currently backs the bill, would approve.

Democrats are now trying to suppress their involuntary and possibly illegal giggles, and Margaret Hartmann adds the details:

Protecting people with preexisting conditions may be Obamacare’s most popular provision. A recent Kaiser poll found that even among the 26 percent of Americans who want Obamacare repealed, 38 percent changed their mind when told that would hurt people with preexisting conditions.

The original vote on the American Health Care Act in March was canceled, in part, because opponents of the bill – which only had the support of 17 percent of Americans – called their representatives and protested at town hall meetings. Now Republicans say they may vote this week on a version of the bill that’s even worse for the sick, the elderly, and the poor – yet there’s been less organized resistance to the latest health-care push.

There is now no need for organized resistance:

It’s been hard to keep track of GOP efforts to revive Zombie Trumpcare, and Republicans aren’t advertising that the latest version would weaken protections for people with preexisting conditions. President Trump added to the confusion in recent days when he appeared to offer false information about the contents and status of the GOP health plan.

“I want it to be good for sick people. It’s not in its final form right now,” he told Bloomberg News on Monday. “It will be every bit as good on pre-existing conditions as Obamacare.”

What? No one knows what’s going on, but these guys are new at this stuff:

In Trump’s defense, the Republican plan to get AHCA passed by making it crueler doesn’t make any sense – unless your real aim is to shift the blame for the GOP’s failure to make good on seven years’ of promises to replace Obamacare with something better. The Post reported on Monday that House GOP leaders are now focused on one political goal: “Pass a bill they can say repeals Obamacare – even if it has no hope of survival in the Senate – to shield their members in next year’s elections.”

This has become a farce:

This time around, the House Freedom Caucus would prefer not to take the brunt of the blame for AHCA’s failure, and they’ve successfully pushed the legislation to the right. They frame reducing Obamacare’s protections for people with preexisting conditions as cutting costs and making the U.S. health system freer.

But GOP Representative Mo Brooks slipped on Monday, admitting that he doesn’t think we should punish healthy people for being “good” by forcing them to pay for people who don’t take care of themselves.

“It will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy,” explained Brooks. “And right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

Twitter quickly filled up with people asking Brooks what moral failing gave them thyroid cancer, or how their poor choices at age three ended in a car accident.

People were laughing at them, and out here in Hollywood, a comedian wasn’t:

In a heart-wrenching thirteen-minute monologue, Jimmy Kimmel opened up about his son’s heart condition, which was discovered just hours after his birth ten days ago. With tears in his eyes, the host described the harrowing ordeal, which started with a nurse noticing baby William John Kimmel’s color was off and ended with him being rushed into open-heart surgery.

Baby Billy is doing well, though he’ll need several more surgeries. Kimmel closed with a plea for politicians to make sure others have a similarly happy outcome, even if they aren’t born to wealthy parents.

Yeah, Kimmel went there:

We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all. You know, before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease, like my son was, there’s a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance, because you had a pre-existing condition. You were born with a preexisting condition. And if your parents didn’t have insurance, you may not even live long enough to get denied because of a preexisting condition.

If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?

And then he drove the point home:

We need to make sure that the people who are supposed to represent us, people who are meeting about this right now in Washington, understand that very clearly.

Hartmann points out the obvious:

Around two million people watch Kimmel’s show each night, and his name was trending on Twitter following his moving monologue about his son. Kimmel succinctly explained what tinkering with protections for preexisting conditions could do to an innocent baby – and pointed out that’s what the GOP is trying to do this week. What wavering House Republican is going to decide now is the time to come out in favor of the bill?

Well, the new Disrupter-in-Chief has an answer to that:

President Trump on Tuesday called for a government shutdown later this year and suggested the Senate might need to prohibit future filibusters, threatening to fracture Washington’s basic underpinnings to make progress on his legislative goals.

His latest outbursts – no sitting president has called for the government to be shut down like this – could cast a shadow over how Congress approaches numerous bills this year. Trump wants Congress to overhaul the tax code, approve a $1 trillion infrastructure package and raise or suspend the debt ceiling before the government begins falling behind on its obligations.

He has made little legislative progress in any of these areas, and he is on the verge of being dealt another stinging defeat as House Republicans splinter on a health-care bill for the second time in recent weeks. Trump’s new threats suggest he will jettison attempts at compromise and instead use the bombastic partisan warfare he employed during his campaign.

He’d do that because he doesn’t like being laughed at:

The threats come after White House officials said they were furious at what they viewed as gloating by Democrats over the terms of a short-term spending bill that funds government operations through Sept. 30. In morning Twitter posts, Trump said he had to make concessions because Senate rules require 60 votes to pass legislation and Republicans control only 52 seats in the 100-seat chamber.

That pissed him off, and that’s the last thing anyone should do:

Trump could easily trigger a partial government shutdown in October, by directing Republicans not to negotiate with Democrats or by refusing to sign a spending bill that Congress sends him for approval.

Almost every senator, Republican and Democrat, was appalled, but Trump is who he is:

Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University, said Trump’s threat of a shutdown was “totally, totally, totally” unprecedented.

He said the threat, coupled with talk of changing filibuster rules, was typical of Trump’s approach.

“Really what he’s talking about is destroying congressional procedures to get his way,” Naftali said. “When he’s losing, he likes to flip the game board.”

Others saw this:

Republican Judd Gregg, a former senator from New Hampshire, said Trump was finally coming to grips with the major differences between finding success in Washington compared with the business world.

“I get the sense they are beginning to realize this isn’t like building a building or opening a golf course,” Gregg said of the White House. “This is high politics, not high-rise buildings, and the process is entirely different. The motivation is entirely different.”

Former senator Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota and like Gregg an ex-chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said Trump’s call for a shutdown shows how he refuses to adjust to his role as president.

What did they expect? Anyone who stumbles into a new job that’s not as easy as they scoffed that it would be in the job interview hates being laughed at  – and it’s worse when you stumble into the job of running the world’s most consequential government. People won’t cut you some slack. People will laugh, and they can’t be stopped – there’s no way to toss them all in jail.

They also worry. And then they vote. They won’t make the same mistake twice. Maybe.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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One Response to Stumbling Into Government

  1. DWhite says:

    What many people do not realize, since they get good insurance through their employer, is that repealing the ACA may also affect these plans. They may lose pre-existing condition coverage, bans on lifetime caps, and loss of many essential services. This is not just about the people getting subsidized insurance under ACA.

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