Sunday, June 25, 2017

Danger Lurking

Identifying "workarounds (which) are almost as dangerous to the American system of goverment as the Trump presidency itself," David Frum notes

The U.S. government is already osmotically working around the presidency, a process enabled by the president’s visible distaste for the work of governance. The National Security Council staff is increasingly a double-headed institution, a zone of struggle between Kushner-Flynn-Bannon types on one side, and a growing staff of capable, experienced, and Russia-skeptical functionaries on the other. The Senate has voted 97-2 to restrict the president’s authority to relax Russia sanctions. It seems the president has been persuaded to take himself out of the chain of command in the escalating military operations in Afghanistan. National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster recently assured the nation that Trump could not have done much harm when he blabbed a vital secret to the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office, precisely because the president was not briefed on crucial “sources and methods” information.

That may be the least of our problems, however. Frum claims "It’s not seriously disputed by anyone in a position of authority in the U.S. government—apart from the president himself—that Donald Trump holds his high office in considerable part because a foreign spy agency helped place him there."

That's inaccurate.  Though Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell have not explicitly denied Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, neither has gone beyond expressing confidence in the nation's intelligence services.  And neither has come within a time zone of even implying Russian involvement played a role in the defeat of Hillary Clinton.

But the major problem lies in Frum's accurate phrase "anyone in a position of authority."  For the individual most likely to be President of the United States- Lord, help us- now is not in a "position of authority." And while he has been largely quiet, he is generally dismissive of the inquiry into Russian meddling.

On May 10, shortly before the President would admit he fired James Comey because of the Russia probe, Vice President Mike Pence maintained

that FBI Director James Comey was fired to restore “trust and confidence” in the law enforcement agency, and said the ongoing probe into ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government did not play any role in the decision.

The Russian probe “is not what this is about,” Pence said in brief comments to reporters at the U.S. Capitol.

This might be dismissed as a Vice-President simply wishing to avoid contradicting the President. However, Pence is something more, and not in a positive way. Appearing last week at the 40th anniversary of the right-wing evangelical Focus on the Family, Pence

announced that he would donate an ultrasound machine in his own name to a faith-based crisis pregnancy center. (These centers, which are marketed like typical abortion clinics, but are set up to persuade women to avoid abortions, make up a major part of Focus on the Family’s efforts).

Pence, devoted to the cause of frightening women in their most vulnerable moments, also claimed

Trump stood for the “vulnerable: the aged, the disabled, and the unborn.” He promised a full de-funding of Planned Parenthood, as well as a new post-repeal approach to health care based on “freedom,” “personal responsibility” and the free market — all to raucous applause.

At other times, however, Pence’s remarks seemed to subtly reassure evangelicals of his influence in the White House to bolster religiously-motivated policy. He told the story of how Trump “personally” sent him to the January anti-abortion March for Life highlighting that Pence first brought up the possibility of attending.

He didn't explain why children with cancer, elderly women in nursing homes, and the veterans who use Medicaid must assume "personal responsibility."  Nor did Pence explain his dedication to the roughly 48% of the unborn whose birth is paid for by Medicaid.

Whatever President Trump's views on health insurance, he wisely bought himself a pretty good impeachment insurance policy in Mike Pence.

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