Overwhelming Second Thoughts

After six months Donald Trump is still our president, and in a Washington Post op-ed, Colbert King said we asked for this:

Trump the candidate showed himself to be an ignorant, undisciplined, ranting bully who exaggerated and lied without shame. A man who wore tough-guy masculinity but was actually a coward, who picked on women, demeaned minorities and was thoroughly lacking in human decency. Trump’s character defects were on full display well before the polls opened… The country can’t claim not to have seen this coming…

Colbert King is a scold, but perhaps that’s exactly what the country wanted, or maybe not. A country can have second thoughts:

President Trump’s standing with the American people has deteriorated since the spring, buffeted by perceptions of a decline in U.S. leadership abroad, a stalled presidential agenda at home and an unpopular Republican healthcare bill, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Approaching six months in office, Trump’s overall approval rating has dropped to 36 percent from 42 percent in April. His disapproval rating has risen five points to 58 percent. Overall, 48 percent say they “disapprove strongly” of Trump’s performance in office, a level never reached by former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and reached only in the second term of George W. Bush in Post-ABC polling.

That’s a record. It took the second George Bush almost seven years to sink to this level – the only one who ever sank this low in seventy years of presidential polling. The country has a lot of second thoughts:

Almost half of all Americans (48 percent) see the country’s leadership in the world as weaker since Trump was inaugurated compared with 27 percent who say it is stronger. Despite the fact that Trump campaigned as someone skilled at making deals that would be good for the country, majorities also say they do not trust him in negotiations with foreign leaders and in particular Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There’s a lot of that going around:

Just over one-third of all Americans say they trust the president either “a great deal” or “a good amount” in any such foreign negotiations. Asked specifically about Trump-Putin negotiations, almost 2 in 3 say they do not trust the president much, including 48 percent who say they do not trust the president “at all.”

People are paying attention:

The Post-ABC poll finds 60 percent of Americans think Russia tried to influence the election outcome, up slightly from 56 percent in April. Some 44 percent suspect Russian interference and think Trump benefited from their efforts. Roughly 4 in 10 believe members of Trump’s campaign intentionally aided Russian efforts to influence the election…

But of course there’s the usual split:

Among Democrats, 8 in 10 believe Russia attempted to influence the election and more than 6 in 10 think members of Trump’s team attempted to aid their efforts. But among Republicans, one-third think Russia tried to influence the election outcome, and less than 1 in 10 think Trump’s associates sought to help them.

It all depends on how each side looks at one event:

Last week, information was revealed by the New York Times that Donald Trump Jr. and two other senior campaign officials met with a Russian lawyer and others after being offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton and told that the information was part of a Russian government effort to help Trump.

Asked about this revelation, more than 6 in 10 Americans say the meeting was inappropriate, with just about a quarter saying it was appropriate. But almost half of all Republicans call the meeting appropriate.

That’s sixty percent versus half of forty percent. The verdict is in, for good reason:

The survey points to many causes for Trump’s troubles. As Republican senators attempt to pass major health-care legislation, the poll finds about twice as many Americans prefer the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, to GOP plans for replacing it – 50 percent to 24 percent.

People have been paying attention:

On one key issue in the debate over the Republican plan, the public by 63 to 27 percent says it is more important for the government to provide health coverage to low-income people rather than cutting taxes. Republican proposals include major reductions in spending increases for Medicaid, while eliminating many taxes and fees imposed by the 2010 Affordable Care Act to expand the program.

All that is fairly obvious, but Mark Landler reports from New Jersey, from beautiful Bedminster:

President Trump unleashed a new fusillade of tweets on Sunday morning, defending his son Donald Trump Jr., slashing the news media and tarring his long-vanquished opponent, Hillary Clinton.

After a leisurely Saturday afternoon spent at a women’s golf tournament at his club here, where he waved to the crowd from a glassed-in viewing stand, Mr. Trump awoke with a familiar list of grievances.

“HillaryClinton can illegally get the questions to the Debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News media?” he tweeted shortly before 7 a.m. Forty minutes later, he posted, “With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country.”

Yes, the guy waving to the crowd from a glassed-in viewing stand was tweeting about distorting democracy – a bit of visual irony – but managing the optics of such things is difficult:

White House planned to repackage the president’s economic message with a string of “theme weeks.” The first, this week, will be “Made in America,” focusing attention on American workers and goods they produce.

But on Sunday, the subject largely remained Russia. The top Democrats investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election said that emails that Donald Trump Jr. sent about the meeting appeared to confirm that members of the Trump campaign had intended to cooperate with Russian officials.

“This is about as clear of evidence you could find of intent by the campaign to collude with the Russians, to get useful information from the Russians,” Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he wanted to speak with those who attended the meeting. “You saw not only willingness, but actually glee from the president’s son, as well as involvement of the campaign manager and the president’s son-in-law to say, in effect, yes, bring it on,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

But the president tweeted his thanks to a former campaign adviser, Michael Caputo, “for saying so powerfully that there was no Russian collusion in our winning campaign.”

It was a former campaign adviser versus everyone else, and there was that poll:

“The ABC/Washington Post Poll, even though almost 40% is not bad at this time, was just about the most inaccurate poll around election time!” he tweeted.

This was not bad at this time? Donald Trump doesn’t like data. Everyone’s having second thoughts. Joe Scarborough is having second thoughts:

I did not leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left its senses.

When I left Congress in 2001, I praised my party’s successful efforts to balance the budget for the first time in a generation and keep many of the promises that led to our takeover in 1994. I concluded my last speech on the House floor by foolishly predicting that Republicans would balance budgets and champion a restrained foreign policy for as long as they held power.

I would be proved wrong immediately.

As the new century began, Republicans gained control of the federal government. George W. Bush and the GOP Congress responded by turning a $155 billion surplus into a $1 trillion deficit and doubling the national debt, passing a $7 trillion unfunded entitlement program and promoting a foreign policy so utopian it would have made Woodrow Wilson blush. Voters made Nancy Pelosi speaker of the House in 2006 and Barack Obama president in 2008.

After their well-deserved drubbing, Republicans swore that if voters ever entrusted them with running Washington again, they would prove themselves worthy.

Forget that:

Trump’s party was given a second chance this year, but it has spent almost every day since then making the majority of Americans regret it.

The GOP president questioned America’s constitutional system of checks and balances. Republican leaders said nothing. He echoed Stalin and Mao by calling the free press “the enemy of the people.” Republican leaders were silent. And as the commander in chief insulted allies while embracing autocratic thugs, Republicans who spent a decade supporting wars of choice remained quiet. Meanwhile, their budget-busting proposals demonstrate a fiscal recklessness very much in line with the Bush years.

And there was that last straw:

Last week’s Russia revelations show just how shamelessly Republican lawmakers will stand by a longtime Democrat who switched parties after the promotion of a racist theory about Barack Obama gave him standing in Lincoln’s once proud party. Neither Lincoln nor William Buckley nor Ronald Reagan would recognize this movement.

It is a dying party that I can no longer defend.

That was a Sunday op-ed in the Washington Post, but it was a follow-up:

Former Republican congressman and current MSNBC host Joe Scarborough announced he’s leaving the Republican Party during a taped appearance along with co-host and fiancée Mika Brzezinski on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday afternoon…

The appearance came shortly after Scarborough and Brzezinski’s public dust-up with Trump when the president of the United States appeared to lose the plot and began tweeting a stream of underhanded personal attacks on the pair, but specifically Brzezinski. During the interview, Colbert asks about the current state of the GOP and why it continues to fall in line behind a president that is increasingly contemptible. Scarborough describes continued Republican support as “inexplicable” and lists a series of GOP capitulations – on Trump’s Muslim ban, his silence on David Duke and the KKK support of his candidacy, and Trump’s assertion during the campaign that a Hispanic federal judge couldn’t be impartial to him because he was “Mexican” – where the party “betrayed their core values.”

“But aren’t you a Republican?,” Colbert asked Scarborough, who was elected in 1994 in Florida’s 1st District and served three terms in office before resigning in 2001 in the middle of his fourth term.

“I am a Republican, but I’m not going to be a Republican anymore,” Scarborough said.

Everyone has second thoughts, particularly when things like this happen:

The U.S. Secret Service on Sunday said Donald Trump Jr. was not under protection during his meeting with a Russian attorney in June 2016, adding that they would not have screened any of his meetings.

“Donald Trump, Jr. was not a protectee of the USSS in June, 2016. Thus we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time,” Secret Service spokesman Mason Brayman said in a statement to Reuters.

On Sunday morning, Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump’s legal team, questioned on ABC News’ “This Week” why the Secret Service allowed Trump Jr. to meet Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

“Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in. The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me,” he said.

It was foolish question. The Secret Service provides physical protection, and Josh Marshall summarizes the situation:

A few days ago, I predicted that we would soon arrive at the stage where Trump supporters would be arguing that “The Trump’s deserve our pity rather than our contempt. Where was Obama to help them? They are a family of mentally-challenged individuals with no experience following the law.”

It seems we’re getting close to that.

Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow now says the Secret Service, in addition to ensuring the physical security of candidates, should protect the candidate, the candidate’s advisors and even the candidate’s family from their own potential criminal wrongdoing – a seriously expanded brief.

Second thoughts about this crowd are appropriate. That’s the issue now:

A top Senate Republican vowed on Sunday to bring the party’s healthcare bill to a vote as soon as possible, even as detractors said they would use a delay caused by the absence of Senator John McCain to mobilize further opposition to the measure.

“I believe as soon as we have a full contingent of senators, that we’ll have that vote,” the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

But questions emerged Sunday over when that might be. Mr. McCain, 80, had a craniotomy – a procedure in which doctors create an opening in the skull – on Friday to remove a blood clot above his left eye, and he is recovering at home in Arizona. A statement from his office had indicated that he would be out this week, but neurosurgeons not involved with Mr. McCain’s surgery said the recovery period for such a procedure was often longer.

The Senate has struggled to pass a health care bill, delaying a vote on a previous version of the legislation in June.

Several Republican senators have expressed reservations or outright opposition to the new version as well, and Republicans need Mr. McCain’s vote to have any chance of passing it.

Second thoughts about this crowd are growing:

Critics of the Senate’s health care bill, taking advantage of the delay, said Sunday that Republican leaders needed to rework the legislation in fundamental ways. Given the additional time, they said, Senate committees should hold hearings to solicit opinions from the public and from experts on health care and insurance.

“We should not be making fundamental changes in a vital safety net program that’s been on the books for 50 years, the Medicaid program, without having a single hearing to evaluate what the consequences are going to be,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

There was an answer to that:

Roughly 20 million people have gained coverage through the Affordable Care Act, a pillar of President Barack Obama’s legacy. But Mr. Cornyn described the law on Sunday as a failed “exercise in central planning and command and control.”

Those are buzzwords. Central planning and command and control are communism. Everyone hates communism. Central planning and command and control are wonderful in the military. Everyone loves our military. Central planning and command and control can be useful, so the vice president tried to have it both ways:

On Friday, Mr. Pence assured skeptical governors that “the Senate health care bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society,” putting the program, which serves more than 70 million low-income people, on “a path to long-term sustainability.”

But Ms. Collins said: “I would respectfully disagree with the vice president’s analysis. This bill would impose fundamental, sweeping changes in the Medicaid program, and those include very deep cuts. That would affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including disabled children, poor seniors. It would affect our rural hospitals and our nursing homes. And they would have a very difficult time even staying in existence.”

She added, “There are about eight to 10 Republican senators who have serious concerns about this bill.”

That’s the problem:

Republicans hold 52 Senate seats, and all Democratic senators oppose the bill. Ms. Collins and Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, have said they will vote against even starting the debate, meaning all other Republican senators need to vote for the legislation if it is to pass.

Mr. Paul’s reasons for opposing the bill are very different from Ms. Collins’s; he says it retains too much of the Affordable Care Act. And he predicted that support for the legislation would erode because of the delay prompted by Mr. McCain’s absence.

He’s worried that central planning and command and control will win out:

“The longer the bill’s out there, the more conservative Republicans are going to discover that it’s not repeal,” he said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And the more that everybody’s going to discover that it keeps the fundamental flaw of Obamacare. It keeps the insurance mandates that cause the prices to rise, which chase young, healthy people out of the marketplace and leads to what people call adverse selection, where you have a sicker and sicker insurance pool and the premiums keep rising through the roof.”

Voters “elected us to repeal Obamacare,” Mr. Paul added. But with the bill drafted by Mr. McConnell, the senior senator from his home state, he said, “we’re going to keep most of the taxes, keep the regs, keep the subsidies and create a giant bailout superfund for the insurance companies.”

Maybe that’s the idea, but the Los Angeles Times’ Noam Levey says Rand Paul needn’t worry:

Both the House GOP bill that passed in May and the revised Senate GOP bill unveiled last week effectively eliminate the coverage guarantee by allowing health insurers to once again sell skimpier plans and charge more to people with preexisting health conditions who need more-comprehensive coverage.

At the same time, the House and Senate bills dramatically scale back financial aid to low- and moderate-income consumers, and slash funding for Medicaid, the government safety-net plan that has helped millions of sick and poor Americans gain coverage.

That combination – looser insurance requirements and less financial assistance for patients – will once again put health plans out of reach for millions of sick Americans, according to numerous analyses.

“The fundamental guarantee at the heart of the Affordable Care Act was that people who are sick can get insurance at the same price as everyone else,” said Larry Levitt, an insurance market expert at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. “The House and Senate replacement bills move the system back to a place where healthy and sick people are treated very differently.”

This is quite simple:

Obamacare’s coverage guarantee remains among the most popular parts of the 2010 law, with nearly 7 in 10 Americans rating it favorably.

Trump administration officials and congressional leaders insist the Republican bills won’t leave anyone behind.

“The legislation ensures that every American with preexisting conditions has access to the coverage and care they need, no exceptions,” Vice President Mike Pence told a meeting of the National Governors Assn. in Rhode Island on Friday.

But that assurance has been contradicted by nearly every independent evaluation of the Republican healthcare bills, including two lengthy reports by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Pence’s claims are also at odds of with the assessment of health insurers themselves.

Everyone had second thoughts:

On Friday the heads of the industry’s two leading advocacy groups – America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association – called the Senate bill “simply unworkable,” warning it “would undermine protections for those with preexisting medical conditions.”

Similarly, in a letter to Senate leaders this month, the American Academy of Actuaries warned that provisions of the Senate GOP bill “could erode preexisting condition protections” and “make it more difficult for high-cost individuals and groups to obtain coverage.”

Nearly every major patient advocacy organization has reached the same conclusion.

“Older and sicker individuals would face the full cost of these higher premiums, leaving millions of people with chronic conditions and disabilities unable to afford the kind of coverage they need,” a coalition of 13 patient groups wrote in a letter to senators last week, condemning the latest version of the Senate bill.

The coalition includes the American Heart Assn., the American Lung Assn., the March of Dimes, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the AARP and the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society.

Central planning and command and control can be useful:

The kind of deregulated insurance markets envisioned by the House and Senate bills would mark a return to what health insurance looked like before the current healthcare law was enacted in 2010.

Before Obamacare, most insurance companies worked aggressively to exclude sick customers, either denying coverage altogether or charging unaffordable prices to people with preexisting conditions such as cancer, diabetes, even acne.

That left tens of millions of Americans with next to no options for coverage.

Central planning and command and control fixed that:

Obamacare fundamentally equalized how health insurance treats patients. Insurers were not only forbidden to deny coverage to sick consumers, they had to provide a basic set of benefits.

That standardization ensured that sick Americans were not forced to pay more for health insurance than healthy Americans, who might be tempted to buy skimpier plans that did not offer some benefits, such as prescription drugs or mental health and substance-abuse therapy.

This meant higher costs for some consumers, particularly those who enjoyed lower premiums before the law, when insurers were allowed to exclude the sick.

But uniform standards are necessary to ensure equal access to coverage, said Manatt Health managing director Joel Ario, a former insurance commissioner in Oregon and Pennsylvania. “It doesn’t work unless everyone participates on the same terms.”

It seems that doesn’t matter:

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price suggested Sunday that the nation’s health insurance system ought to operate as it did before the Affordable Care Act was passed.

During an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Price was asked to respond to a blistering criticism of the Senate Republicans’ health care proposal by two major groups representing the U.S. health insurance industry. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) earlier this week, the groups called the latest version of the bill “simply unworkable in any form” and warned that it would cause “widespread terminations of coverage” to people with serious medical problems.

“It’s really perplexing, especially from the insurance companies, because all they have to do is dust off how they did business before Obamacare,” Price said.

That’s true, but since the Truman administration Americans have had second thoughts about how we didn’t have any sort of national healthcare system at all. Obama came up with something, light central planning of a system that subsidized the purchase of standardized healthcare policies from the for-profit insurance industry. It was an awkward compromise but it was something. Now the Republicans are having second thoughts about those second thoughts – and Donald Trump has no particular thoughts about any of this at all. He just wants a win.

That may be why the nation is having second thoughts about him. He just set the record for that – not that it matters. He’s not going anywhere. That’s our system too. Everyone has second thoughts.


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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3 Responses to Overwhelming Second Thoughts

  1. As I read this one, I kept thinking of one of those useful pieces of wisdom in the Christian Scriptures (to some, the new testament): it’s piece about Peter denying Christ three times. You don’t need to be a Christian to get the down-home wisdom of that particular story: we humans are experts are denying reality. Often times it only damages us personally. Now, it threatens to threaten our very existence as a credible “shining light on the hill”.
    Collectively, we knew what we were getting, in Trump. Basically, he just parroted our most negative hopes and dreams, and we believed him, at least enough to elect him President. The Republicans saw him as a useful tool, but I don’t think they’d end up in charge of everything, and here we are with the bizarre situation in Washington.
    The motto of Minneapolis is a good French motto: En Avant. I think that means, “forward”. The body politic screwed up, and the body politic has to fix it.

  2. PS to previous: I keep seeing that 81% of Evangelical Christians supported electing this liar, and their support continues. For anyone interested, here’s a link about what that means, generally, in this United States of ours. http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

  3. Ret MP says:

    Winning. Winning. Winning…The presidency is not a competition. He’s not an athlete. Sigh. Thanks for writing every day. – Ret

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