#TrumpPressConference

This is trending on Twitter even this morning. It took the two lead stories on NewYorkTime.com. Why would the so-called Leader of the Free World spend 90 minutes giving the kind of performance he gave yesterday? Why would whoever is pulling his strings, if any of the rumors on that are true, let him?

My theory is: Don’t watch Trump when he does something like this. Watch what he’s trying to distract us from. Yesterday, any of these other stories merited top news coverage:

17harward-master768Trump’s Pick to Replace Flynn Turns Down the Job. Robert S. Harward, retired Vice-Admiral and former Navy Seal, turned down the job to replace Michael Flynn, who resigned in disgrace as National Security Advisor less than one month into the job. While the official story was “personal and family commitments,” the back story is that this man steered away from working with Trump and his cronies, fearing that he wouldn’t be allowed to do the job effectively. This is another, and very serious, example of the fact that qualified people do not want to be drawn into the hot mess that’s going on in the White House.

House G.O.P. Leaders Outline Plan to Replace Obama Health Care Act.  “Outline” is the operative word here since Ryan’s press conference failed to tell us how the changes would be paid for or who would lose coverage. What is clear is that state budgets will be stressed and the plan intends to rip apart the 1960’s Great Society Medicaid program. Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act’s formula for subsidizing the purchase of health insurance will be tossed out in favor of tax credits to those who purchase health insurance. And the tax credits will be based on age rather than income. So, rather than provide funds at the point of purchase, people will need to wait months to get their tax credits, and if their income is low enough, they won’t get the tax benefit at all. Big story? Not when overshadowed by a 90-minute show in the White House Press Room.

Also yesterday, Trump finally conceded his Travel Ban loss in the courts, with Justice Department lawyers withdrawing their prior plan to seek a rehearing before the full Ninth Circuit. Instead, the Administration will issue a new Executive Order next week. They are probably hoping to get more sympathetic judges in the next round.

The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon signed an executive order. The order establishing the EPA was ratified by committee hearings in the House and Senate. In 1970, Congress also enacted legislation substantially strengthening federal powers in the face of what was then a national emergency caused by air and water pollution. Many people today are too young to remember the condition of the Great Lakes, many rivers, and the air in our cities — and they would not tolerate it today. But Trump intends to remove the controls that prevent those conditions from returning. Scientists, environmental lawyers, and policy experts are taking the unprecedented step of calling their members of Congress to oppose Trump’s nominee for Administrator of the EPA – even if they are employees of the EPA. This didn’t come up in the Trump Press Conference yesterday.

Restaurants and other businesses across the country closed yesterday On A Day without Immigrants. This would have been a lead story on many days. But not with the Trump 90-minute presser.

Meanwhile, in Congress, a constitutionally co-equal branch of our government, Trump’s new head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement dictated to Members of Congress who would be allowed to attend a meeting those Members had requested from the Agency.

“Later today there is a bipartisan meeting with the acting Director of ICE, Thomas Homan.  ICE has told the Speaker that they will designate – you may remember, yesterday we had Members of the Judiciary Committee, the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a representative of the [Congressional] Asian Pacific American Caucus addressing some of the issues on the raids and the ban and the rest, and they were supposed to have a meeting yesterday with the acting ICE Director.  They canceled the meeting and said, “We are not having any meetings just with Democrats.  We are only having bipartisan meetings.”  So that meeting is scheduled for today, but ICE said they would designate which Democrats could attend the meeting.

It’s a stunning thing.  I mean, we’ve never seen anything like that, nor have we ever seen other issues that relate to nondisclosure agreements between people who work on the Hill and work with the Administration.  But in any event, not good.” Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the House.

So, that’s what #TrumpPressConference covered up yesterday. What will his rally in Melbourne distract us from today?

 

Blitzkrieg

The Republican-controlled Congress, in conjunction with Mike Pence and Donald Trump, plan to execute Blitzkrieg next week. Blitzkrieg means “lightning war,” a term from German military tactics in World War II. The object was to disorient and disorganize the enemy with overpowering multiple and simultaneous attacks. The Republicans are about to execute Blitzkrieg politics.  To help sports fans understand, the Washington Post has described the plan as the “no-huddle offense.”

As a prelude to the Blitzkrieg coming next week, this week we have a mini-Blitzkrieg going on:

  • Revival of the “Holman Rule,” which allows Congress and the President to reduce the pay of any federal worker to $1.00. Thus, if any federal employee attempts to abide by a law that Trump disagrees with, his pay gets slashed. (Perhaps we now understand the Transition Team’s request for specific names of employees involved in enforcing certain policies.)
  • Congress made it easier to sell off federal lands, a boon to anti-environmentalists.
  • These were part of a package of Standing Rules for the upcoming Congress that can’t be changed for the next two years. Initially, they included eliminating the independent House Ethics panel — and that drew all the fire and press attention so other ugly things slipped through.
  • Trump’s battle with Lindsey Graham and John McCain over credibility of the U.S. Intelligence Service. In what world does a President-Elect side with Julian Assange over the combined opinion of the Defense Intelligence Agency, CIA, and FBI? In Trump World, that’s where. “Every American should be alarmed by Russia’s attacks on our nation. There is no national security interest more vital to the United States of America than the ability to hold free and fair elections without foreign interference,” McCain said in his opening statement at Thursday’s hearing.
  • Speaker Ryan announced the Republicans will defund Planned Parenthood as part of the budget process they are using to dismantle Obamacare.
mcconnell-tillerson
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson

Next week will be this week on steroids, as the Washington Post laid out in Thursday’s “202” column. Wednesday will be Blitzkrieg Day:

  • Trump gives his first press conference since last summer. This is distraction, period.
  • Mitch McConnell has scheduled a “vote-a-rama” on budget bills, including bills related to the repeal of Obamacare (it’s a complicated law, they can’t repeal it in one vote).
  • The Senate Hearing to confirm Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (racist, homophobe, misogynist, liar) is set to start. Here’s a handy, more diplomatic summary of his history: https://www.aclu.org/report/report-confirmation-sessions  This is the guy who said in November that he wouldn’t characterize grabbing women “by the pussy” as sexual assault; “I think that’s a stretch,” he said.
  • The same day, Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, with his ties to Vladimir Putin and long tenure as CEO of ExxonMobil, will appear before the Foreign Relations Committee to begin his hearing for confirmation as Secretary of State.
  • Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Mike Pompeo, appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee to begin the confirmation process. How much media scrutiny can this confirmation hearing get, with important questions about slashing CIA staff numbers and, perhaps, reducing the pay of analysts who criticize Putin (see Holmes Rule, above) on the table?
  • The Senate Education Committee will kick off hearings on the confirmation of Elizabeth DeVos, even though she hasn’t yet returned the committee’s written questionnaire or submitted financial disclosures — usually grounds for delaying a confirmation hearing.
  • John Kelly’s confirmation hearing to run the Department of Homeland Security, which will have jurisdiction over Trump’s proposed deportation force and crackdown on illegal immigration, begins before the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee.
  • Wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chao, will appear before the Senate Transportation Committee to begin her hearing as Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Transportation.

In the face of all this activity in one day, it’s hard to imagine that Sessions, Tillerson, and DeVos will get the scrutiny the country deserves based upon their shabby (should I say despicable?) records. Much less will Senators have the opportunity to pin down Pompeo’s plans for disarming the CIA in the face of Putin’s threat. Or John Kelly’s plans for building walls and private prisons.

It’s likely that the process of dismantling Obamacare will begin unnoticed. Once people start getting notices that their insurance is canceled or premiums skyrocket, Trump, Ryan, and McConnell will have free-rein to blame the Democrats for creating the system in the first place.

The night before the Blitzkrieg begins, President Obama will deliver his Farewell Address to the Nation at McCormick Place in Chicago. We can hope he’ll have something useful to say. Perhaps something along the lines of Ike’s warning against the coming “military-industrial complex,” though that hasn’t done us much good. Perhaps he will issue a call to arms that will inspire protests on Blitzkrieg Day.  I’m not betting on it. The danger of Obama’s timing is that news coverage of his address will further clog the airwaves and headlines the next morning, distracting the nation from the takeover that is going on.

What can we do? Remain vigilant, remain focused. Read and quote credible news sources rather than inflammatory, discreditable ones. Organize, protest. Demand that your Senators and Congresspeople represent YOU, not the oligarchs. Note that this week that when Congress was flooded with calls and emails about their action to get rid of the House Ethics Office, they reversed course.

Now would be a good time to start composing your phone and email messages to be part of the flood that, I hope, will overwhelm Mitch McConnell’s Leader Office and Kentucky home state offices next Wednesday, Blitzkrieg Day.

In World War II, Blitzkrieg caused shock and disorganization among the Germans’ enemies, enabling the Germans to defeat the opposing forces with minimal resources. Let’s not become shocked or disorganized.