That Level of Deference

Barack Obama wasn’t the first – Jesse Jackson was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and did reasonably well, for the times back then. He may have been a black man but he found a sweet spot. He riffed on his prayer at the Poor People’s Campaign march in Washington in 1968 – “I am somebody. I am a child of God. I may not be educated but I am somebody. I may not have any money but I am somebody. I may not eat steak every day but I am somebody. I may not look the way you look but I am somebody.”

Soon little black kids all across America were saying that – “I am somebody” – and there he was on Sesame Street, and the Muppets were saying the same thing. All sorts of kids were saying that – “I am somebody” – and then adults of all sorts – mainly minority adults but not exclusively minority adults – were saying that. It seemed everyone was saying that, and no one could argue with the idea, which is so damned American. We’re a big country. All sorts of folks live here. Everyone deserves respect. Everyone is somebody. It was a brilliant campaign slogan.

It didn’t do him much good. He lost both times – but he paved the way for Barack Obama. He actually built the road, and of course he made the Black Lives Matter movement possible. They just changed his words a bit – and the pro-police Blue Lives Matter movement is the same sort of thing. This is America. Everyone deserves respect. Everyone is somebody. No one here has to “earn” respect. That’s how we set things up – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

That’s “all men” – not some men – and the legal system is the same way. Criminal defendants are assumed to be innocent until they are proved guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, by a jury of their peers. Criminal defendants don’t have to earn respect of any sort. They are presumed innocent. The state has to prove otherwise, definitively. Otherwise, they walk.

Jesse Jackson got it, and Donald Trump doesn’t get it:

Police leaders across the country moved quickly to distance themselves from – or to outright condemn – President Trump’s statements about “roughing up” people who’ve been arrested.

The swift public denunciations came as departments are under intense pressure to stamp out brutality and excessive force that can erode the relationship between officers and the people they police – and cost police chiefs their jobs.

Some police leaders worried that three sentences uttered by the president during a Long Island, N.Y., speech could upend nearly three decades of fence-mending since the 1991 Los Angeles Police Department beating of Rodney King ushered in an era of distrust of police.

“It’s the wrong message,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told Washington radio station WTOP while speaking of the trust-building work that departments have undertaken since King’s beating. “The last thing we need is a green light from the president of the United States for officers to use unnecessary force.”

It comes down to a matter of respect. Police leaders across the country were reminding Trump that everyone is somebody in America, automatically, but Donald Trump has different ideas about respect:

White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway on Friday offered her colleagues some advice about how to approach President Donald Trump in the wake of a staff shake-up that left former chief of staff Reince Priebus out in the cold.

Conway on Fox News cited a conversation she had with Trump in August 2016 when she joined his campaign.

“I said to him something that day I’m going to repeat now, to my colleagues in the White House,” she said.

Conway said she told Trump she would never address him by his first name and told him, “I don’t consider myself your peer.”

“And he said, ‘Okay, that sounds great.'”

No one is his peer:

Conway said she made the remark “to set up that level of deference and humility when you’ve got someone who’s your boss.”

Okay, Donald Trump is to be treated with deference and humility, and you don’t mess with this guy:

Still blistering over the latest defeat of Obamacare repeal, Trump on Saturday threatened to do away with health care subsidies that affect both the poorest Americans and Congress.

“If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly,” Trump tweeted. “BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!”

Someone will pay for their disrespect:

The first part of his tweet is a reference to cost sharing reduction payments, subsidies that allow insurers to offset health-care costs for low-income Americans. Trump has threatened to withhold those subsidies before – a move that insurers and health care providers warn would destabilize the individual health insurance market and cause premiums to soar.

The second half of the missive indicates that Trump is going to continue to target his own GOP-controlled Congress for their inability to undo former President Obama’s signature achievement. Trump’s comment suggests he’d consider ending the employer contribution for health insurance currently provided to lawmakers.

His own Republican Congress is the problem:

Earlier Saturday, he accused Senate Republicans of “looking like fools” and urged them to abolish procedural rules like the filibuster immediately in order to make progress on healthcare.

This is fairly simple. The poor will lose their health insurance – tens of millions of them – many will die – and the insurance markets will fall apart – unless he gets his way. Now THAT is presidential. You don’t mess with this guy. You are NOT somebody.

Someone didn’t get the memo:

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) on Sunday said President Donald Trump’s threat to end health care subsidies that affect both the poorest Americans and Congress would not have changed her vote against Senate Republicans’ bill to repeal Obamacare.

“It would not affect my vote on health care,” Collins said on CNN’s State of the Union.

She had to state the obvious:

Collins said that the subsidies “are not an insurance company bailout but rather help people who are very low-income afford their out-of-pocket costs toward their deductibles and their copays.”

“That’s what we need to remember,” she said. “So it really would be detrimental to some of the most vulnerable citizens if those payments were cut off.”

That is rather obvious:

Collins also remarked on her warm reception when she arrived back home in Maine after the nail-biter Senate vote early Friday morning that scuttled Republicans’ latest attempt to repeal Obamacare.

“I got off the plane and there was a large group of outbound passengers, none of whom I happened to know, and spontaneously some of them started applauding, and then virtually all of them started to applaud,” she said.

Collins said “it was just amazing.”

“I’ve never had that happen in the 20 years that I’ve been privileged to serve in the Senate, so it was very encouraging and affirming, especially arriving back home after a very difficult time,” she said. “It really was so extraordinary, heartwarming and affirming.”

She can thank Jesse Jackson for that, and it’s not just Maine:

A majority of Americans are ready to move on from healthcare reform at this point after the U.S. Senate’s effort to dismantle Obamacare failed on Friday, according to an exclusive Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Saturday.

Nearly two-thirds of the country wants to either keep or modify the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, and a majority of Americans want Congress to turn its attention to other priorities, the survey found.

Republicans have vowed to dismantle the Affordable Care Act since Democratic President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2010, and it appeared they finally had their chance when Republican President Donald Trump took office in January. But the law, which helped 20 million people obtain health insurance, has steadily grown more popular.

The July 28-29 poll of more than 1,130 Americans, conducted after the Republican-led effort collapsed in the Senate, found that 64 percent said they wanted to keep Obamacare, either “entirely as is” or after fixing “problem areas.” That is up from 54 percent in January.

This battle is lost:

The survey found that support for the law still runs along party lines, with nine out of 10 Democrats and just three out of 10 Republicans saying they wanted to keep or modify Obamacare.

Among Republicans, three-fourths said they would like their party’s leaders to try to repeal and replace Obamacare at some point, though most listed other issues that they would give a higher priority right now.

Even most Republicans say it’s time to move on, but Donald Trump has not been treated with the proper deference and humility:

The Senate should not vote on anything else until it’s voted again on repealing Obamacare, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Sunday.

Mulvaney said that “yes,” it’s official White House policy that the Senate shouldn’t hold a vote on another issue – not even an imminent crisis like raising the debt ceiling – until the Senate votes again on health care.

“In the White House’s view, they can’t move on in the Senate,” Mulvaney said on CNN’s State of the Union. “You can’t promise folks you’re going to do something for seven years, and then not do it.”

Yes, you can, but Donald Trump will have none of it:

In a string of recent tweets, President Donald Trump has urged Republican senators to not “give up” on repealing Obamacare and to continue to work on the issue “unless the Republican senators are total quitters.”

That made this inevitable:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Sunday that he will “absolutely” introduce legislation on single-payer healthcare now that the Senate GOP’s bill to repeal ObamaCare has failed.

“Of course we are, we’re tweaking the final points of the bill and we’re figuring out how we can mount a national campaign to bring people together,” Sanders told Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union.

Sanders promised to introduce a “Medicare for All” proposal once the debate over repealing ObamaCare ended. He is one of several progressive lawmakers who back the healthcare model that has divided Democratic lawmakers.

Fred Hiatt explains why that had to happen:

Much has been said about White House dysfunction and how little President Trump has accomplished in his first six months. But that’s not the whole story: In Washington and around the world, in some surprising ways, things are happening – but they are precisely the opposite of what Trump wanted and predicted when he was sworn in.

It’s not just healthcare legislation:

The boomerang struck first in Europe. Following his election last November, and the British vote last June to leave the European Union, anti-immigrant nationalists were poised to sweep to power across the continent. “In the wake of the electoral victories of the Brexit campaign and Donald Trump, right-wing populism in the rich world has appeared unstoppable,” the Economist wrote. Russian President Vladimir Putin would gain allies, the European Union would fracture.

But European voters, sobered by the spectacle on view in Washington, moved the other way. In March, the Netherlands rejected an anti-immigrant party in favor of a mainstream, conservative coalition. In May, French voters spurned the Putin-loving, immigrant-bashing Marine Le Pen in favor of centrist Emmanuel Macron, who went on to win an overwhelming majority in Parliament and began trying to strengthen, not weaken, the EU.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Trump belittled for having allowed so many refugees into her country, has grown steadily more popular in advance of a September election.

And there’s the big surprise:

Trump’s win seemed certain to bring US-Russian ties out of the deep freeze. Again, the opposite has happened. Congress, which can’t agree on anything, came close to unanimity last week in endorsing tough, Trump-proof sanctions against the Putin regime. Russia is expelling diplomats and seizing US diplomatic properties. The new Cold War is colder than ever.

And then there’s healthcare legislation:

The third sure thing, once Republicans took control, was the quick demise of Obamacare. We saw last week how that turned out. But here’s the boomerang effect: Obamacare is not just hanging on but becoming more popular the more Trump tries to bury it. And if he now tries to mismanage Obamacare to its death, we may boomerang all the way to single-payer health insurance. This year’s debate showed that most Americans now believe everyone should have access to health care. If the private insurance market is made to seem undependable, the fallback won’t be Trumpcare. It will be Medicare for all.

Bernie Sanders already has that covered, but there’s more:

Trump’s flirting with a ban on Muslim immigration encouraged federal judges to encroach on executive power over visa policy. Firing FBI Director James B. Comey entrenched the Russia investigation far more deeply. Withdrawing from the Paris climate treaty spurred states from California to Virginia to toughen their policies on global warming. Threatening the research budget may have strengthened the National Institutes of Health’s hand in Washington.

Perhaps Jesse Jackson was right all along:

Trump’s policies are turning against him, and not only because his execution has been so ham-handed. The key factor is that so many of his policies run so counter to the grain of cherished values and ideals.

It turns out that Americans really don’t like the idea of poor people not being able to see a doctor. We don’t feel right cozying up to a dictator whose domestic opponents are rubbed out and whose neighboring countries are invaded and occupied.

Yes, everyone is somebody:

Maybe Newton’s third law of motion doesn’t translate perfectly into the political sphere, but a version of it applies: For every malignant or bigoted action, there will be an opposite reaction. And you can never be sure where it will begin.

Jennifer Rubin, however, suggests it begins with this:

In many ways, President Trump behaves just how poor people imagine rich people do – with garish, ostentatious displays of wealth, imperiousness toward the common folk and disregard for the rules others must follow. He and his staff also act how dumb people imagine smart people behave. Trump talks in circles, repeating stock phrases so as to deflect any questions that might reveal his ignorance. (Heaven forbid someone should ask him what was in the House healthcare bill). He says he has a very good brain, something people with very good brains never say. He never apologizes, because he is never wrong; the facts others cite are wrong. He is smarter than all the generals, you see. In Trumpland, it’s axiomatic that everyone with experience and detailed knowledge is “stupid”; by contrast, they (the Trumpkins) require no expertise or experience because they are so darn smart. Trumpkins are certain that getting rich (even by inheritance) is evidence of competence and smarts.

They have no peers – everyone else is nobody, really. And then there’s Trump’s son-in-law and his new communications director:

It’s no mystery why Kushner and Scaramucci are where they are. They were hired by the person most grievously out of his depth and most embarrassingly ignorant, the president. Trump only wants a few people around him whom he knows really well and who are in no position to recognize the president’s intellectual shortcomings. He relies on family and other businessmen whose obsession with moneymaking has left little time for anything else and whose arrogance prevents them from acknowledging what they do not know (most things). In other words, he hired people much like himself with exactly the same flaws, just a little less rich. He’s an intellectual giant, you see, among the apple-polishers he has put in high offices.

That’s a bit harsh. There is a fix in the works, but Jonathan Swan wonders about that:

General John Kelly starts Monday as the new White House Chief of Staff. After getting sworn in first thing in the morning, and sitting through his first cabinet meeting, he’ll begin making his rounds in the West Wing.

West Wingers are excited and nervous about what his arrival means, but one told me it won’t be enough for Kelly to fix processes and lines of authority; he needs to change the culture. For six months, White House officials have leaked unflattering anecdotes about the President and planted hit pieces on their colleagues. Officials wander freely in and out of the Oval Office, and some, like Omarosa, never worried about protocol, and used their personal relationships with Trump to subvert Reince’s authority.

“We’ve got a culture problem right now,” a White House official tells me. “Now you have Kelly come into this. Is it a new power center or someone without a dog in the fight? Is that level of respect that he comes in with what it takes to have some kind of calming presence in the West Wing? Reince didn’t have the credibility to broker peace between anybody.”

There are some questions:

Does Trump let Kelly be a true gatekeeper, in the tradition of effective chiefs of staff? I.e. does all information flow through Kelly, or do certain officials, such as Anthony Scaramucci, Jared and Ivanka, continue to answer only to the President?

Can Kelly exert any influence whatsoever over Trump’s behavior? Can he stop his most egregious actions – such as his unrelenting attacks on the Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community?

How will Kelly rearrange West Wing staff and which new people will he bring inside? I’m told he’ll appoint into a senior position Kirstjen Nielsen, his Chief of Staff from the Department of Homeland Security. Several White House officials have already clashed with Nielsen and say she’s going to be a “big problem” if she comes in. A DHS spokesman, David Lapan, responded on Nielsen’s behalf: “Kirstjen has advocated strongly and professionally on behalf of the Department and Secretary Kelly.”

Under Kelly, do factional enemies in the West Wing put aside their hatreds and, while they’ll never agree on policy, at least agree to stop trying to annihilate each other?

This may not go well:

Top White House employees on Sunday had no idea whether their colleagues will report to newly minted chief of staff John Kelly, who replaced his embattled predecessor Reince Priebus on Friday.

“I don’t know,” White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney said on CNN’s State of the Union when asked whether all current staff members will begin reporting to Kelly on Monday when he’s sworn in. “As far as I know, my reporting doesn’t change.”

Mulvaney said he was not sure whether White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci will report to Kelly.

Anthony Scaramucci had Reince Priebus fired. He can have General Kelly fired too – and McMaster and Mattis and Tillerson too. Hell, he can fire Trump and assume the duties of the presidency himself – well, maybe not that, but Kelly is dealing with a man who demands the proper deference and humility from lesser beings, and has hired Scaramucci to make sure he gets just that. General Kelly is not safe.

It’s a bit ambiguous:

“I’ll speak with him about that,” senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News Sunday, referring to Kelly.

Conway said she hopes for “discipline and a chief of staff that empowers the staff to succeed.”

“I’m always a protocol and pecking order kind of gal. I’m a very deferential person,” she said. “I will do whatever the President and our new chief-of-staff Gen. Kelly ask me to do.”

That’s the proper deference and humility from a lesser being, but the editorial board at Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal sees the real problem:

President Trump announced late Friday on Twitter – how else? – that he is replacing White House chief of staff Reince Priebus with Homeland Security secretary John Kelly. The decision was probably inevitable given how the President publicly humiliated Mr. Priebus in recent days, but this shuffling of the staff furniture won’t matter unless Mr. Trump accepts that the White House problem isn’t Mr. Priebus. It’s him.

They were not kind to Trump:

Presidents get the White House operations they want, and Mr. Trump has a chaotic mess because he seems to like it. He likes pitting faction against faction, as if his advisers are competing casino operators from his Atlantic City days. But a presidential Administration is a larger undertaking than a family business, and the infighting and competing leaks have created a dysfunctional White House.

Perhaps Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine general, can impose some order on the staff. But then that’s what Anthony Scaramucci was supposed to do for the communications team, only to blow up in adolescent fashion this week by trashing Mr. Priebus and others in public. White House leakers then let it be known that Mr. Trump liked Mr. Scaramucci’s X-rated rant.

The reason Mr. Priebus wasn’t as effective as he could have been is because Mr. Trump wouldn’t listen to him and wouldn’t let him establish a normal decision-making process. Mr. Trump has a soft spot for military men so perhaps he’ll listen more to Mr. Kelly. He’d better, because on present course his Presidency is careening toward a historic reputation where names like Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon reside.

Heather Parton says that’s not fair:

Jimmy Carter wasn’t a crook and an imbecile. Even Nixon wasn’t an imbecile. That is an unfair comparison. He isn’t careening toward anything. His reputation is already way past anything we’ve ever seen before.

And no, he won’t listen to Kelly. He doesn’t listen to anyone who doesn’t say what he wants to hear. The Mooch and Ivanka and Jared and God knows how many others outside the White House have easy access to him and he pays just as much attention to them.

General Kelly has a tough task. He has to deal with a president who will NOT be disrespected by lesser men and women – and that would be everyone, because he has no peer. He’s said so. Approach him with the proper deference and humility – or pay the price.

And what does everyone else in America say? “I am somebody. I am a child of God. I may not be educated but I am somebody. I may not have any money but I am somebody. I may not eat steak every day but I am somebody. I may not look the way you look but I am somebody.”

Other nations are saying that to America now too. Jesse Jackson was a flawed politician – he refused to repudiate Louis Farrakhan and he once referred to New York City as “Hymietown” – but he got the American idea right. Everyone is somebody. Someone should mention that to Donald Trump – not that it would do any good. He can’t believe that.

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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