Friday, April 20, 2018

More Than Ted Cruz

It's obscured, arguably concealed, yet potentially extremely important.

TIME annually publishes a list of the 100 most influential people in the world and the blurb recognizing Donald Trump was written by Texas senator Cruz, who (in full) remarked

President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America. The fact that his first year as Commander in Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.

The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump’s popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump’s achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans. While pundits obsessed over tweets, he worked with Congress to cut taxes for struggling families. While wealthy celebrities announced that they would flee the country, he fought to bring back jobs and industries to our shores. While talking heads predicted Armageddon, President Trump’s strong stand against North Korea put Kim Jong Un back on his heels.

President Trump is doing what he was elected to do: disrupt the status quo. That scares the heck out of those who have controlled Washington for decades, but for millions of Americans, their confusion is great fun to watch.

It's hard to imagine so much minsinformation in seven sentences, but most reaction- understandably- has been on the effusive praise given freely to a man who has so insulted (first video from 3/16; the latter from 5/16)the Senator's family. Typical was one from a Matt Fuller:

Cruz will be easily renominated but is in very serious danger of losing his November re-election bid to Democrat Beta O'Rourke. Therefore, it's counter-intuitive that he would strive to endear himself to Trumpists while risking support among independents and right-leaning Democrats. Steve M, however, suggests the possiblility "he grovels because he thinks he's going to lose in November. Hey, there are sure to be some openings in the Trump administration in 2019, right?"

Not only will there be openings in the Trump administration in 2019, but even more in the unlikely event of a second Trump term.

Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz has argued nine times before the US Supreme Court and is seemingly unaware that the US Constitution establishes the President as Commander in Chief only "of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several states, when called into the actual Service of the United States."

But of course he does know that because he is the same Rafael Edward Cruz of whom Al Franken once said "I like Ted Cruz more than my colleagues like Ted Cruz, and I hate Ted Cruz." Veiled and obscured in fulsome praise in TIME, the message is: do not question Donald Trump- he is our Commander in Chief, to whom full obedience is due.

Ted Cruz was, is, and evermore shall be a con man. However, this goes well beyond Ted Cruz.  If the President is re-elected, he will need the cooperation of his minions to get out the messages that dissent is unpatriotic and all resistance is futile.  Fulfilling the latter aim would be law enforcement agencies which would be called into service at each level of government- perhaps assuming credibility by acting on behalf of the "Commander in Chief."

But there will be individuals tasked with the first aim and expected to undermine the First Amendment's protections of a free press and freedom of speech.  It would be too important to leave to the President, who on his own cannot destroy the fabric of society. In this first term, congressional Republicans offer no resistance to the President, and often serve as his attack dog.  In a second term, the stakes would be much higher, and Ted Cruz has performed very well indeed in his first audition.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Timid Trio

Enabling President Trump to continue his antisocial behavior, Jeff Flake has voted for all of the President's legislative priorities while posing as a fervent critic of Mr. Trump Therefore, at first thought, it was simply another example of Flakes' uselessness when

A confluence of events put President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead NASA on the verge of an unexpected blockade Wednesday afternoon.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona had initially voted against limiting debate on the nomination of GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, but after almost an hour, he switched his vote.

While Flake was recorded against the cloture motion on Bridenstine, the vote was deadlocked 49-49. His reversal allowed the nomination to move forward 50-48. A confirmation vote is likely before the Senate wraps up work for the week on Thursday.

Under the normal course of events, a generally partisan tie vote could have been overcome with the assistance of Vice President Mike Pence, voting to break the tie in favor of Trump’s nominee.

Wednesday, however, Pence was joining Trump for meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida. So the Senate would have needed to hold open the Bridenstine vote, potentially for hours.

All 98 of the 100 senators expected to be available to vote Wednesday were present, with John McCain battling brain cancer in Arizona and Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, taking leave after giving birth on April 9.

The first thought would be inaccurate, however, as Flake appears to have gotten a concession, albeit unknown and probably minor and irreversible, from the Administration on either immigration or Cuba.

But not every Republican senator who gets an A+ on Submission 101 has gotten something in return.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asserted that (assuming it is approved next week in committee) he would not put on the floor a bipartisan, combined (Tillis-Coons/Graham-Booker) bill which would give Special Counsel Robert Mueller an opportunity to appeal a presidential decision to fire him. Though McConnell is understandably loathe to admit it, his strategy will protect members of his caucus from casting a vote, which in either direction would leave them electorally vulnerable.

However, most Republican senators, though relieved McConnell is blocking the legislation, nevertheless have a different strategic consideration:

South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds said Tuesday that Trump should make the decision on his own and be responsible for the consequences.

"I think having Congress tell him what we believe he should do in this case is simply poking the bear, and I'd just prefer not to do that," Rounds said.

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Lankford said the bill is a "political distraction."

"You create this whole constitutional political stir over something that is not going to happen," he said.

Others said there was little point.

"It's about as popular as cholera with the leader in the Senate and it's about as popular as malaria in the House," said Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy, a member of the Judiciary panel. "I think most people think we're picking an unnecessary fight with the president."

(Below: Deficit hawk Lankford pleads his concern about the deficit before voting for a tax bill increasing deficits $1.4 trillion over ten years.)

Picking a fight. Political distraction. Poking the bear.  Against such fear, logic cannot prevail, though Delaware's

Coons bristled at the criticism that the legislation is unconstitutional, noting that several courts have upheld similar special counsel statutes.

"If I were convinced this were unconstitutional, I would not be moving it," said Coons, a lawyer.

(Warning: antiquated phrases ahead.) In the bygone days of an era long gone, we youngsters would call the likes of Rounds, Lankford, and Kennedy "scaredy cats." They are frightened, craven men shivering in a corner, afraid that Donald Trump will send out an upsetting tweet if they do the wrong thing by him.

Republican Robert Mueller has been a highly decorated Marine and platoon commander, head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, and director of the FBI. That's not a bad resume, and is only part of it.

Senators Tillis, Coons, Graham, and Booker aim only to offer the Special Counsel a judicial review if removed- but there are Republican senators simply too intimidated to back their colleagues and Mueller.  Although somewhat spineless, Jeff Flake seems to be a little principled. But these other guys are damaging to the Republic and are truly wretched.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Something Missing In This Story

The "liberal media" is at it again.

We begin with the oft-conservative The Hill, which reports

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that the Senate would not take up legislation limiting President Trump's ability to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

"I'm the one who decides what we take to the floor, that's my responsibility as the majority leader, and we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate," he told Fox News.

McConnell has an explanation, as The Hill adds

But McConnell has said for months that he does not believe legislation protecting Mueller is necessary. He told reporters last week that he had seen no need to pass such a bill. 

"That's not necessary. There's no indication that Mueller is going to be fired. I don't think the president's going to do that. And just a practical matter even if we passed it, why would he sign it?" McConnell said Tuesday on Fox News.

We move on to USA Today, which also notes that the Majority Leader stated “We'll not be having this on the floor of the Senate" and "there's no indication that Mueller's going to be fired."

Roll Call points out that McConnell maintained Mueller shouldn't be fired and won't be fired “so, this is a piece of legislation that’s not necessary in my judgement."

Surely, President Trump's "Fake News CNN," which is not only "FAKE" but a "loser," would be more thorough. Unfortunately, it also quotes McConnell as contending "I don't think he should fire Mueller and I don't think he's going to "so this is a piece of legislation that isn't necessary in my judgment."

In his effort to get The Washington Post to shut up, the President has gone after owner Jeff Bezos personally and the paper generally, claiming Amazon, also owned by Bezos, is profiting off the US Postal Service and government leaks. Yet, its coverage of McConnell's decision not to deter Trump from firing the Special Counsel is similar to the others, adding that McConnell stated “Just as a practical matter, even if we pass it, why would he sign it?”

The "paper of record" with "all the news that's fit to print," which President Grump calls "the failing New York Times," also fails, as does US edition of the liberal/progressive The Guardian.

Six respected news organizations and not one of them found it important even to mention a critical fact about the Senate Majority Leader.

Mitch McConnell is married to Elaine Chao. That's Elaine Chao, as in Secretary of the Department of Transportation Elaine Chao, as a cabinet member serving at the pleasure of President Donald J. Trump.

That may not be the primary reason McConnell refuses to put up the bill sponsored by conservative Republican Thom Tillis of North Carolina and centrist Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware.   The Majority Leader is not anxious to force Republican senators to cast a vote in the affirmative- which would put them at jeopardy with the GOP popular base- or in the negative, which would reveal them as members of Team Russia and would not well serve those senators up for re-election.

But except in the extremely remote possibility that Chao is looking for an exit strategy from Trump's cabinet, McConnell's decision has been affected by his wife's situation. Unless all these co-conspirators simultaneously dreamt that this is no factor, it still would be something worth mentioning who one of the three most powerful politicians in the country is married to.

It would be recognized as important to a coldly objective press. However,  the press itself and Democratic politicians portray it as objective while  the GOP slams it as as "liberal," largely because most reporters lean left.

Yet, most reporters, performing as professionally as they're able, will not allow their personal biases to determine their coverage. Perhaps yhey are affected by the preferences of their employers, most of which are corporations. Or they are intimidated by media-bashing Republican politicians and conservatives in the public. Maybe there is an element of groupthink. Whatever the mix of influences or motives, the mainstream media (let alone the powerful right-wing media) on balance skews Republican, as coverage of this issue exemplifies.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Boon, Not A Bug

No doubt up early for church, the President on Sunday tweeted "Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!"

Dressing furiously so as not to be late for the pastor's opening announcements, Trump paused briefly to inform everyone "I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His “memos” are self serving and FAKE!" and "Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!"

The President would never chance missing worship were it not to warn Americans that the former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is the worst FBI dirctor ever, a fake, and a slimeball.

There was no reason that this Lord's Day should have been any different from any other for a President who actually did chance to visit a church on Easter Sunday. This followed a series of tweets including  "Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. 'Caravans' coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!" On church grounds, he readied his heart for prayer by condemning immigrants and Democrats.

The President obviously is at his classiest on Sunday mornings, even though the Los Angeles Times later on Easter rudely suggested "The tone of the president's holiday tweets differed markedly from the sentiments of goodwill commonly expressed by previous U.S. chief executives on national or religious occasions."

The pettiness and the nastiness have affected upon the President's popularity.  On April 11, history professor Rodney Hessinger observed

The most recent Pew polls suggest that President Donald Trump hasn't just held his support amongst white evangelicals but actually has grown his support since the Stormy Daniels story took hold.

With his white evangelical support having dropped to 61 percent in December, Trump now enjoys 78 percent support, just a shade beneath the support he won from white evangelicals on Election Day.

Hessinger notes

Many commentators have puzzled about the seeming hypocrisy of those who would see adultery and womanizing as grave sins. And yet for those who know the history of evangelicalism in America, this should be no surprise at all.

In fact, there are good reasons why we should expect this result. The history and sexual politics of evangelicalism in America fit well with Donald Trump and his message.

Whatever the history and sexual politics of evangelicalism in the USA, Donald Trump can no longer be validly seen as enormously popular with the white Christian right despite his attitude, language, and behavior.

"Christian conservatives," NYT columnist Michelle Golberg notes, "may believe strongly in their own righteousness. But from the outside, it looks as if their movement was never really about morality at all."  Ironically, in the case of Trump, maybe it is about morality- except in reverse.

Donald Trump lacks regard for traditional Christian virtues as sexual morality, honesty, kindness, charity toward others, compassion, humility, personal responsibility. He openly exhibits contempt for Christian customs, such as communion, the virgin birth, and asking for forgiveness. For him, these are not barriers to popularity with his most enthusiastic constituency. They are an admission ticket.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Changing Circumstances

It's too early to handicap the 2016 presidential race. It's too early to predict the outcome of the general election or even the outcome of the primary race in the Democratic Party. (It's even too early to do so for the GOP nomination, though if a President Trump runs for re-election, the outcome is predetermined.)

It's too early in part because we don't know who, or how many candidates, will vie for the Democratic nomination.  Mentioned at one time or another have been Kamala Harris, Adam Schiff, and Eric Swallwell of California; John Hickenlooper of Colorado; Chris Murphy of Connecticut; Joseph Biden of Delaware; Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Steve Bullock of Montana; Cory Booker of New Jersey; Andrew Cuomo and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Sherrod Brown and Tim Ryan of Ohio; Joaquin Castro of Texas; Bernie Sanders of Vermont; Terry McAuliffe and Tim Kaine of Virginia. Your mileage may vary.

Some of these guys and gals will decide against competing for the nomination but other politicans, not yet thought of, will do so. Additionally, there is the possibility of celebrities, most controversially Oprah Winfrey, and oddly including Michelle Obama. That a couple of months ago Steve Zuckerberg was floated- seriously- as a possible candidate demonstrates how a list can change in almost the blink of an eye.

And so it is with appropriate caution that Steve Mahtesian would consider in Politico Magazine the likelihood of Joe Biden, "the rare national Democrat who can connect with blue-collar constituencies that have long since left the fold," running for, and winning, the Democratic presidential nomination.

Yet, in "Joe Biden Is The Front-Runner. Uh-Oh," Mahtesian acknowledges that the former vice-president has had in his career conflicting views about financial reform, abortion, and criminal justice reform.  He concludes "as a septuagenarian white male, Biden is a highly unlikely prospect to lead that new coalition" of Democrats committed to a decidely liberal or progressive perspective on these issues.

That's accurate as far as it goes, including the immediately following and final remark "it's a testament to his talents that it's even subject to debate."

But hold on there- on the notions that he would be a longshot or that it's subject to debate.

If individuals change (as they do), events, the mood of the public, and rivals change even more.  That's demonstrated by an extremely informative, even insightful, article by Five Thirty Eight's David Wasserman dated February 12, 2016. Given Hillary Clinton's defeat in the 2016 general election and the most common explanation of it, the piece comes with what now appears to be an ironic, if not myopic, title. However, in the body of the article Wasserman explains

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Hillary Clinton is relying on a coalition that looks almost the opposite of the one she assembled in 2008. Eight years ago, she prevailed among working-class whites while losing well-educated whites and African-Americans to Barack Obama. But her path to overcoming Bernie Sanders and winning the 2016 nomination now appears to rely on a marriage of upscale whites and African-Americans.

As in 2008, Clinton supporters are still likelier to be older voters, women and self-identified Democrats rather than independents. But in terms of class and race, Clinton’s support looks surprisingly similar to Obama’s. Maybe that shouldn’t be so shocking: Clinton has talked up her connections to Obama, bringing him up repeatedly during the debate Thursday night, and primary voters who preferred to “generally continue Obama’s policies” backed Clinton by 42 percentage points in Iowa and by 25 points in New Hampshire.

Eight years ago, in the run-up to New Hampshire, Obama seemed poised to simply run away with the nomination after Iowa gave him a convincing win and signaled the viability of his candidacy to African-American voters elsewhere. But Clinton’s stunning upset in New Hampshire revealed for the first time that she could count on working-class white Democrats, who loudly and clearly told Obama, “not so fast.”

This is a crucial bit of electoral history that is conveniently ignored because it doesn't fit into the narrative of the 2016 presidential election in which Hillary Clinton beat opponent Donald Trump among young people, racial/ethnic minorities, and affluent and educated voters while getting clobbered by the white working class (and the elderly).

Admittedly, that narrative is borne out in significant part by the vote breakdown nationally, as well as Clinton's stunning and ultimately decisive defeat in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, states traditionally won by Democrats and arguably dominated by the white working-class. Additionally, Clinton was defeated by Trump in the huge swing state of Ohio (another "working-class" state), won in November 2008 and November 2012 by the Democratic nominee, as well as in nearby Kentucky and West Virginia.

Ironically, in her New Hampshire contest with Barack Obama in 2008 (video below from primary night 4/08 in Pennsylvania)

her entire 7,589-vote victory was attributable to big margins in just five working-class Granite State towns: Manchester, Nashua, Rochester, Salem and Berlin. This pattern became a blueprint for Clinton’s later primary wins in working-class states like Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

In the 2016 primary campaign, Clinton generally beat Sanders among more affluent voters and especially the better educated, and among blacks. Similarly, among whites in the general election, she garnered more support than did Trump from blacks and hispanics and the more highly educated.

In those states which Obama won and Clinton lost in the month of November, several factors intervened, including Obama's superior campaign skills, the opposition each faced, and the issues highlighted during the campaigns. Further, the Party has increasingly responded to a constituency- which Obama himself emphasized- of ethnic and sexual minorities, the well-educated, secular individuals, urbanites, and women voluntarily single. These groups have noticed. So have the others.

Hillary Clinton found it far easier to capture the support of white working-class (and elderly) voters when she ran against Barack Hussein Obama than she did running against Donald Trump.  However Clinton has changed probably was the least significant factor in this shift. Additionally, times change; issues change; voters change.

Democratic Party activists generally are energized by the need to regulate the financial services industry, expand reproductive and other rights of women, and reform law enforcement and criminal justice.  Intuitively, therefore, it's likely that candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. would face obstacles with the popular base while continuing to appeal to white working-class voters. But as Hillary Clinton would admit if subjected to truth serum:  don't bet on it.

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stealth Attack

It was widely believed that such tweets as the following from President Trump were exclusively about Amazon, or at least Jeff Bezos:

Guess again.  As the article begins, this New York Times article appears to be merely a frightening look at the autocratic rule Donald Trump has in mind for the USA if he survives his first term, runs for a second, and is re-elected.  Michael D. Shear of The New York Times reports

President Trump abruptly issued an executive order on Thursday demanding an evaluation of the Postal Service’s finances, asserting the power of his office weeks after accusing Amazon, the online retail giant, of not paying its fair share in postage.

In the executive order, issued just before 9 p.m., Mr. Trump created a task force to examine the service’s “unsustainable financial path” and directed the new panel to “conduct a thorough evaluation of the operations and finances of the U.S.P.S.”

The president does not mention Amazon in the order, but it is clear that he intends for the panel to substantiate his repeated claim that the financial arrangement between the Postal Service and Amazon, its biggest shipper of packages, is a money loser.

In December, Mr. Trump railed against the service on Twitter for being “dumber and poorer” by losing billions of dollars and not “charging MUCH MORE” to Amazon and other shippers. His Twitter attacks date back as far as 2013, when he scoffed at the service for planning to eliminate Saturday mail delivery — “our poor, poor Country,” he wrote — and raising the cost of stamps.

Postal Service experts and even Mr. Trump’s own advisers have privately urged him to back off the accusations, noting that the huge number of packages shipped by Amazon is actually helping to keep the Postal Service financially solvent.

While the service has consistently reported net losses for a decade, much of its financial woes are the result of a prolonged decline in the volume of marketing mail and first-class mail. The service makes money on packages, and Amazon is the service’s biggest single shipper of packages.

But the president has refused to believe those arguments, insisting in a tweet as recently as March 31 that “the U.S. Post Office will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon.”

“That amounts to Billions of Dollars,” he continued.

Mr. Trump’s repeated attacks on Amazon have focused in part on the company’s billionaire owner, Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. People close to Mr. Trump have said the president’s tirades against the retailer often come after The Post has published negative articles about him.

President Trump has continued his vendetta against the federal law enforcement agency- the FBI- and against the nation's intelligence agencies. However, he will turn on a dime if re-elected.  No personal or political enemy of the President of the United States of America will be off-limits as a re-elected, unrestrained President marshals the power of the federal government to establish one-man rule.

Trump rails against Jeff Bezos because he owns one of the two greatest daily newspapers in America. But it is more than a hint of what would come in a second term. In a cunning sleight of hand, the President is using his grudge against the free press to divert attention from yet another effort at privatization.  Shear continues

In the order, the president calls on the task force to examine various parts of the Postal Service’s business, including ones that appear to directly involve large parts of Amazon’s business.

That includes the “expansion and pricing” of the package delivery market and the service’s role in competing with other, private delivery companies. The task force should look at the decline in mail volume and the implications for the service, Mr. Trump said.

The order also calls for the task force to look at the service’s “universal service obligation,” which requires the service to deliver to everyone in the United States, given changes in technology and e-commerce.

Some parts of the order appear to hint at further privatization of the Postal Service, indicating that members of the task force should examine “the U.S.P.S. role in the U.S. economy and in rural areas, communities, and small towns.”

Like a Vietnamese village in the war US forces conducted there- or Medicare or Social Security, which Republicans have longed to cut in order to "preserve," "save," or "restructure" for "future generations"- the Postal Service must be destroyed so as to keep it. We learn

In the order, Mr. Trump said that the longstanding financial problems at the Postal Service demand some kind of action.

“A number of factors, including the steep decline in First-Class Mail volume, coupled with legal mandates that compel the U.S.P.S. to incur substantial and inflexible costs, have resulted in a structural deficit,” Mr. Trump says in the order. “The U.S.P.S. is on an unsustainable financial path and must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout.”

At the moment, arguably our best hope at maintaining relatively inexpensive first-class mail service is the incompetence of this Administration, for

It is unclear how quickly the task force will be assembled, or when its review might result in changes at the Postal Service that could directly affect Amazon and other shippers.

Early last week, the FBI executed a search warrant upon the home, office, and hotel room of Michael D. "Thug" Cohen, Donald Trump's "fixer." When news broke that the President had ordered a bombing raid on Syria, speculation arose that he had implemented a "wag the dog" strategy by launching the (limited) war to distract attention from the Special Counsel's investigation into his campaign's conspiracy with Russia and related matters.

That may have played a role, though with revelations coming fast and furious, almost any major action by this President could be viewed as a distraction. This includes Donald Trump's preliminary moves against The Washington Post and the U.S. Postal Service, both of which in a second Trump Administration would have a devastating impact upon the country he despises.

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out.

In "The Tragedy of Paul Ryan," published on April 11 in Politico Magazine, Tim Alberta notes "Paul Ryan came to Congress as a Jack Kemp conservative and will depart as a Donald Trump Republican."

Once Donald Trump won the presidency, Alberta maintains, Ryan wanted to return as Speaker so he could

have a chance to pursue the legislation of his dreams: repealing Obamacare, rewriting the tax code, reforming entitlement programs and rebuilding the military. But it would be possible only if he partnered with the very man whose offenses were so manifest that Ryan disinvited him from his own Wisconsin congressional district a month before the election.

The Affordable Care Act, although weakened, will not be repealed during this Congress. (Alternatively, though it will not be repealed, Obamacare is a shell of its former self.) Congress has passed a bill which President Trump pushed for "rebuilding" the military, because spending more on the military than the next seven or eight nations combined was, Ryan seems to have believed, dangerously insufficient.

The corporate tax scam passed by the GOP Congress in the last few days of 2017, whose specifics baffled accountants and the public alike, likely will result in significant cuts to Medicare, will explode the debt beyond Ronald Reagan's wildest wet dream, and will shove money upward at a furious rate. Further, as an economist who worked under President Obama noted, "it leaves low- and middle-income workers with even fewer resources to invest in their children, and increases the number of Americans without health insurance.”

Paul Ryan has done his job- as he planned it- very well, and almost all Americans insufficiently financially advantaged to be a major donor to Paul Ryan will be the worst off for it.

The day before Alberta's article was published, Mieke Eoyang argued that Ryan, now that he is free from any concern about backlash from the ultra-right among his colleagues and in the GOP base, has a chance to redeem himself. She explains

Under House rules, the speaker may, at any time, remove any member of a select committee at his or her discretion. In the past, members have been stripped of their committee assignments for causing problems for the leadership. Thus, unlike other committees, where the caucus or a steering committee has a say in the committee leadership, HPSCI is effectively under Ryan’s thumb. So he owns Nunes’ shameful handling of the Russia probe, and his hijinks on behalf of the White House.

One year ago, chairperson of the House Select Committee on Intelligence Devin

Nunes dashed off to the White House in the middle the night and the next day, called two bizarre news conferences during which he accused President Barack Obama’s team of improperly “unmasking” the identities of Trump associates. 

Having debased himself in this shameless display of obeisance to Donald Trump, Nunes announced that he was recusing himself from the committee's oversight of the Russia investigation. However, he did no such thing, and in January demanded the Justice Department give, Eeyong reminds us, "highly sensitive documents related to ongoing criminal investigations to congressional investigators."

Ryan backed Nunes, as he did when the committee the following month recklessly- against the objection of the FBI and the DOJ- released (on a party-line vote) its partisan memorandum accusing the FBI of misconduct in its handling of the application for a warrant for Carter Page.

Shortly thereafter, Nunes leaked text messages of vice-chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner. This past week

he threatened to hold in contempt and begin impeachment proceedings (against) Rosenstein and Wray if they did not provide other documents that are part of the government’s case against people charged in the Mueller investigation. This isn’t oversight—it’s a bald-faced attack on America’s law enforcement institutions that runs contrary to the GOP’s long-standing respect for the rule of law.

If it wasn't yet obvious what Nunes was up to, later that day he told Laura Ingraham "We're not going to just hold in contempt, we will have a plan to hold in contempt and to impeach." He was not referring to Donald Trump.

Eoyang wants Speaker Ryan to replace Nunes with Representative Conaway (next-senior Republican on the committee) or someone else credible, encourage the committee head to appoint respected career professionals as staff, and significantly tone down the rhetoric.

But of course he won't do that. He won't do that because Paul Ryan has been as interested in containing President Trump as he has had in the issue of poverty, a short-lived, boutique cause for him. He remains, as Charlie Pierce has periodically called him, "the biggest fake in American politics."

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More Than Ted Cruz

It's obscured, arguably concealed, yet potentially extremely important. TIME annually publishes a list of the 100 most influentia...