You’ve Been Duped

This article puts to rest the pernicious Republican lie that Obamacare is in a death spiral and the only way to save ourselves is to accept their fix, the godawful Trumpcare replacement that kicks 23 million Americans off health insurance . It’s written by J. Mario Molina, M.D., the former CEO of Molina Healthcare, one of the largest health insurance companies serving Medicaid and Marketplace programs. He has three decades of experience caring for low-income patients.


by J. Mario Molina

As I watch the debate unfold over repeal of the Affordable Care Act, I keep thinking about the Hans Christian Anderson story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In the story, the emperor’s weavers convince him that they have made him clothes of special cloth, invisible to those too stupid to appreciate their beauty. The emperor parades through town stark naked, and his subjects are too afraid to state the obvious until one little boy blurts out that the emperor has no clothes. The emperor looks down and realizes the boy is right.

You might guess that President Donald Trump is the emperor in my metaphor, but you’d be wrong. The emperor is the American public, who has been duped into believing that the Affordable Care Act is failing, even as Republicans work behind the scenes to destroy it.

And who is the little boy in this story? I am. I am the former CEO of a health insurance company, and I have been warning publicly what will happen if Trump continues to effectively sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this month, I lost my job.

When Trump ran for president, he promised reforms to ensure there would be health insurance for everyone and that it would be a “lot less expensive” than under President Barack Obama’s health care law. We have yet to see the plan he described during his campaign. Instead, earlier this month, House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act – a bill the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined would cause 23 million Americans to lose health insurance coverage.

When confronted with the dire projections about how their bill will make insurance unaffordable for their constituents, most of the representatives who voted for the bill often echo a line that Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and Trump have used repeatedly: that the Affordable Care Act is in a so-called “death spiral” that will inevitably “explode,” so they need to pass a bill, no matter how terrible, before it does. That narrative is patently false. In fact, most of the instability driving up premiums in the marketplace can be directly traced to Republicans’ efforts to undermine the health care law for their own political purposes.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, was among the first to land a blow. In 2014, he proudly led a successful effort to cut funding for the “risk corridors” program. Rubio called the payments made from these funds a “bailout” for insurers, but in fact the program was an integral backstop to help control premiums as insurance companies in the marketplaces adjusted to the new population they were covering. The consequence of that ploy to score political points was that some insurers left the marketplace, and many Americans’ premiums went up.

Since Trump took office in January, these kinds of sneak attacks on the law have accelerated. During the final week of the open enrollment period, when consumers can sign up for a marketplace health care plan or choose a new one, Trump officials within the Department of Health and Human Services decided to cancel advertising and outreach for the website. That decision came despite the fact that it is well documented that younger, healthier enrollees tend to sign up at the last minute. It was a transparent effort to damage the stability of the health insurance marketplace and to create the illusion that demand for insurance was decreasing.

Perhaps the most drastic way that the Trump administration is sabotaging American’s health insurance is by refusing to commit to reimbursing health plans for the cost-sharing reduction payments they make to lower out-of-pocket costs for their lowest income members. Insurance companies are currently in the process of determining their rates for the 2018 plan year, and without a guarantee from the administration that they will receive the payments they are owed, they will factor that added cost into their premiums for next year. And you don’t have to take my word for it – the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that insurers would need to raise premiums for silver-level plans by an average of 19 percent to compensate if the administration will not commit to making the cost-sharing reduction payments.

One common thread in all these efforts is that Americans who purchase their health coverage through the individual market are the ones harmed, not insurance companies. The administration and Republicans in Congress want you to believe that insurers raising premiums for their plans or exiting the marketplaces all together are consequences of the design of the Affordable Care Act instead of the direct results of their own actions to sabotage the law. Don’t let them fool you.

If you think Obamacare is failing, I have one simple message for you: Open your eyes and stop being the emperor.

A Republican Strategist Speaks the Sooth


The day before the Montana Congressional special election, when Republican Greg Gianforte body-slammed a Guardian reporter for having the temerity to ask a question about the Trump health care bill, most republicans shrugged, dismissed it, and even agreed that it was a really good idea. “Montana justice” was invoked, even though Gianforte is from Pennsylvania out of New Jersey. Republican strategist Rick Wilson, however, had a different take. One that I agree with. It’s harsh, but for my money, straight to the point. Thank you sir, maybe it is possible for republicans and democrats to agree on something.

No, the “grownups” won’t save us

May 30, 2017

The thing I’ve noticed during the past twenty years or so of my development into a mature old guy is the startling absence of any kind of institutional or historical memory by the American voting public. This may not be a new thing, as I was reminded last night watching again the still relevant 1976 movie ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, and hearing Jason Robards (as Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post) tell Woodward and Bernstein in the picture’s final speech, ““Y’know the results of the latest Gallop Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit.” 

I remember speaking and writing ad nauseam after Bush Jr was appointed President by his dad’s buddies on the Supreme Court that this would not end well, that I had researched just a little of Shrub’s history as a person and politician, read how he had failed to show up in Alabama to serve out his required duty in the National Guard,  saw what serious damage he had done as Governor in Texas, learned how he had helped some friends screw the Curtis-Mathes Company out of the land they ended up using to build the new ball park for the Texas Rangers by buying the judge who condemned the land, and a dozen other giant red flags that told me whatever he had done in Texas he would do ten-fold for the country, simply out of ignorance, lack of curiosity, and inexperience. This was all information readily available to anyone, but all I heard from republican friends and family was “You’re just a Bush hater, Mark—he’s really a good guy.”

Fast forward 16 years. Same strokes, same folks, a different joke in the White House, arriving there under the same cloak of national dimwittedness and determined ignorance from the people who thought that even if the Orange Man-Child might be unqualified, at least the people around him would keep him from doing the damage that he is now inflicting on the world at an appalling rate.

Heather Digby Parton writes to this strangely American phenomenon, where no one seems willing or able to learn from history, and Americans who insist on qualified professionals in every other aspect of their lives from their own personal health care to their family’s financial well-being to who repairs their plumbing nevertheless come to the bizarre conclusion that a completely inexperienced known felon whose whole life is a record of personal unaccountability, financial failure and  generally horrible treatment of nearly everyone he encounters—-THIS is the guy who should be given the keys to the Oval Office and entrusted with the nuclear codes. Because, apparently, the “adults” he appoints will act as some kind of check on his worst instincts.

Yeah, that always works out. So, some history. And a fairly bleak conclusion from Ms. Parton. Worth the read, it’s brief.



Donald Trump’s supposedly respectable advisers have become enablers to a regime of lies, incompetence and idiocy.

Back in January of 2001, after a protracted post-election legal battle that ended with the Supreme Court seating George W. Bush in a 5-4 partisan decision, the Beltway establishment was giddy that the jejeune Clinton administration was finally out of office and responsible adult leadership was back in town. The late conservative commentator Kate O’Beirne memorably put it this way on the eve of the inaugural:

“There’s a whole lot less Hollywood this weekend than there is Houston, and it’s not a boomer — baby boomer inaugural, despite the fact that George W. qualifies as a baby boomer. The grownups are back in charge.”

Whatever reservations Washington may have had about the incurious George W. Bush, they were soothed by the presence of the old Republican guard represented by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and others who reminded them of a time before Bill Clinton and his boomer buds roared into their “little village” and “wrecked the place.”

The president himself was a man who acted like a frat boy most of the time and could barely string a coherent sentence together. Recall just a few of the memorable quotes from the man who would soon be sitting in the Oval Office as these pundits were excitedly welcoming the adults back to Washington:

“I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.” — Nashua, N.H., Jan. 27, 2000

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?” — Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

“We’ll let our friends be the peacekeepers and the great country called America will be the pacemakers.” — Houston, Sept. 6, 2000

“Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream.” — LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000

It was obvious that our new president’s antenna didn’t pick up all the channels, if you know what I mean. But the pundits didn’t care because it wasn’t important. The grand poobahs of the GOP establishment would make America great again.

We all know what happened: 9/11. Democrats rallied around the president and he shot up to a 90 percent approval rating and stayed between 60 and 70 percent for the better part of the next two years. This was when the grownups led the nation — first into a war in Afghanistan that has really never ended, and then into Iraq, making their longtime fever dream of an occupation come true.

Their agenda had little to do with the challenges of terrorism. These men of the past were fighting the last war — the Gulf War of 1991, which many of them believed had been mistakenly left unfinished. Indeed, even the untried son, Bush junior, openly proclaimed that he was proposing the war as an act of revenge for an earlier assassination attempt on his father, President George H.W. Bush. And many members of the administration had signed on years before to an American imperialist agenda, with an invasion of Iraq serving as the fulcrum for “benevolent global hegemony.”

It turned out that these éminence grises, these respectable men in suits and ties who were going to bring honor and dignity back to the White House, were radicals. And the man they were charged to instruct in the ways of Washington was more than willing to be just as radical as they were.

One would have thought Americans had learned their lesson after having lived through the disaster of the Bush years. But 16 years later the Republican Party served up another unqualified, ill-equipped nominee, and he too became president without winning the most votes. Once again the establishment tried to reassure the public that he would be held in check by the vice president and the respectable appointees: Gen. Jim Mattis at the Pentagon, Gen. John Kelly at Homeland Security and — after the first choice was fired — Gen. H.R. McMaster as national security adviser. Since the military is the only institution left in America that maintains even the slightest respect among the public, this seemed like a good idea. These men had commanded legions, surely they could control the likes of Donald Trump.

That’s not happening. The people who were supposed to help Trump become a responsible leader have instead followed their boss into his morass of lies, corruption and incompetence. As Tom Ricks (who encouraged these people to join the administration for the good of the country) points out in this piece for Politico, they have degraded their reputations without making the slightest improvement in Trump’s performance as a leader.

Defense Secretary Mattis embarrassed himself on “Face the Nation” on Sunday by bizarrely asserting that by appointing him, a big supporter of NATO, the president had endorsed the alliance. This came despite the fact that Trump behaved like an ill-mannered boor at the annual NATO meeting in Brussels and refused to publicly affirm the mutual defense imperative known as Article 5. Mattis claimed that it doesn’t matter what Trump said; we should be content  that he deigned to attend the meeting at all.

The Secretary of Homeland Security, Gen. Kelly, appeared on “Meet the Press” and blithely dismissed reports that President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had asked the Russian ambassador to use secure Russian embassy communications facilities for a covert channel to the Kremlin. Kelly said, “I think any time you can open lines of communication with anyone, whether they’re good friends or not-so-good friends, is a smart thing to do.” His reputation, already strained by his willingness to enact Trump’s draconian immigration agenda, is now no better than that of a partisan hack.

McMaster is the only one of the Trump “grownups” still in uniform. As Ricks points out, that means he is required to tell the truth and shun conduct unbecoming of his position. Ricks suggests that McMaster should feel compelled to resign rather than continue to spin Trump’s obviously inept behavior, believing now that these experienced hands are doing nothing more than enabling a president who will never listen to them.

The lesson in all this is that it is foolish to count on advisers and appointees to make up for what’s lacking in our leaders. These aides can be malevolent or ineffectual but either way, they can’t fix the fundamental problem of an unqualified president. The political establishment needs to stop assuming they can. The person sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office is the one who needs to be a “grownup.” It’s a basic requirement of the job.

“Moral and Intellectual Rot” At the Center of Today’s GOP

I find it more than “interesting” the extent to which conservative writers and commentators in the national media are abandoning the Republican Party and its current leadership. This latest short essay by Jennifer Rubin, a mainstay conservative on many network and cable news shows and a staff writer for the Washington Post, demonstrates the revulsion that many liberals have been expressing for months. And the reasons for it. David Frum said this morning that the way things are going it won’t be long until “we’re discussing whether treason is a good thing or a bad thing.” Listen to Ms. Rubin:

May 28, 2017

President Trump has had more-scandalous weeks. He has had weeks with more bombshell bad-news stories. But no week has matched this one in revealing the moral and intellectual rot at the center of the GOP. Pandemic intellectual dishonesty and celebration of uncivilized conduct now permeate the party and its support in the conservative ecosystem. Consider what we saw and learned this week:

  • Trump in Saudi Arabia disclaims any concern for human rights.
  • Trump bullies NATO allies in public (and physically shoves one leader).
  • Trump’s budget is built on a rickety scaffold of math errors, economic nonsense and fantasyland predictions.
  • Trump’s advisers defend massive cuts to the safety net, coupled with huge giveaways to the rich.
  • The Congressional Budget Office score, which the House did not require before voting on a mammoth health-care bill, confirms that GOP leaders falsely claimed they protected people with preexisting conditions.
  • Trump’s lawyers contemptuously swat away a request for information relating to his receipt of foreign monies, finding that it is too impractical to abide by his own promise and the Constitution.
  • Trump has nothing but praise for thuggish autocrats, including Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
  • Trump continues to pursue a Muslim ban, repeatedly struck down by the courts as bigotry disguised under the cloak of national security.
  • A GOP congressional candidate, conclusive evidence suggests, attacks a reporter and apparently lies about it (he later apologizes for actions he denied less than 24 hours earlier), but party leaders do not repudiate him or demand that he withdraw.
  • Jared Kushner, the beneficiary of egregious nepotism, now is a focus of the FBI’s Russia investigation, bringing a once-in-a-lifetime scandal one step closer to the presidency.
  • Sean Hannity is forced to stop propagating a detestable hoax about a young man’s murder; Fox News after a week withdraws the original false report without much explanation or an apology.

This is the state of the GOP — a refuge for intellectual frauds and bullies, for mean-spirited hypocrites who preach personal responsibility yet excuse the inexcusable.

Conventional wisdom says that Trump executed a hostile takeover of the GOP. What we have seen this week suggests a friendly merger has taken place. Talk radio hosts have been spouting misogyny and anti-immigrant hysteria for years; Trump is their ideal leader, not merely a flawed vehicle for their views. Fox News has been dabbling in conspiracy theories (e.g. birtherism, climate-change denial) for decades; now Republicans practice intellectual nihilism. Nearly every point of criticism raised against the left — softness on foreign aggressors, irresponsible budgeting, identity politics, executive overreach, contempt for the rule of law, infantilizing voters — has become a defining feature of the right.

Anti-Trump Republicans have debated whether the GOP can be “reformed” or must be abandoned. Where would one even begin to reform a party such as this — and who would lead such an effort? (Sorry, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska cannot themselves run a national party.) It would take a clean sweep of not merely officeholders but also right-wing media outlets to recover anything approaching the intellectual rigor and moral decency conservatives used to cherish.

The country needs two parties and benefits from the ideas associated with classical liberalism (small “l”) — the rule of law (over the law of the jungle), respect for the dignity of every individual, prosperity-creating free markets (including trade), values-based foreign policy. The Republican Party no longer embodies those ideals; it undermines them in words and in deeds. It now advances ideas and celebrates behavior antithetical to democracy and simple human decency. Center-right Americans, we have become convinced, must look elsewhere for a political home.

Standing Up, Speaking Up

Despite the negative opinions I’ve read and heard about the “disrespectful” student walkout at the Notre Dame commencement, I think this article most clearly represents what actually happened and why. The Notre Dame ethos and mission statement is all about compassion and social justice, two subjects with which VP Pence seems totally unfamiliar with. The peaceful refusal of some Notre Dame graduates to participate  in welcoming a speaker whose career in politics stands in opposition to those ultimately Christian values should be applauded, not denigrated.


At the University of Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony, graduates got up and walked out of Vice President Mike Pence’s speech as he began speaking. A Notre Dame faculty member had this to say about the students’ decision to leave:

“There will surely be negative responses to the Notre Dame graduates who walked out during the commencement speech by Mike Pence today. But you should know they are not snowflakes or sheeple, they are not ignorant or intolerant, they are not entitled or disrespectful. They are committed to the Notre Dame ethos of compassion for the marginalized, and to the university’s mission of fighting for social justice, and they believe that everything Mike Pence represents stands at odds with that, so they choose to make a visible yet peaceful statement opposing him. I proudly stood with a number of my colleagues outside the stadium, to applaud our students for their four years of hard work and their powerful choice of protest in literally standing up for what they believe is right for them, for social justice and civil rights, and for Notre Dame.”

As governor of Indiana, Mike Pence led a vicious crusade against LGBT rights, social welfare programs, Planned Parenthood, immigrants, and abortion access. In March 2015, Pence was catapulted into the national spotlight for signing a bill into law that allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT Americans under the guise of religious liberty. Indiana faced swift backlash as businesses and events, including the NCAA, pulled out of the state.

A student activist group, We StaND, had organized the walkout, and anticipated as many as 100 students leaving once Pence took to the podium. They released a statement explaining their rationale for the impending walkout, part of which read: “During his time as governor of the state of Indiana and now as a Vice-President, Pence has targeted the civil rights protections of members of [the] LGBT+ community, rejected the Syrian refugee resettlement program, supported an unconstitutional ban of religious minorities, and fought against sanctuary cities. All of these policies have marginalized our vulnerable sisters and brothers for their religion, skin color, or sexual orientation.”

The hashtag #WalkOutND was used to promote the protest on social media. This came on the heels of over 1,700 ND alumni signing a letter expressing their disappointment at Pence being selected as commencement speaker. Bryan Ricketts, the organizer of the walkout, said that what Pence stands for is “a very legitimate thing for people to be scared.” He further explained how his appearance is a direct insult to some graduates. “Some students are undocumented and some parents are driving to see their kid graduate because they can’t get on a plane.”

In the face of such blatant adversity – a man who has single-handedly promoted one of the most anti-LGBT agendas in modern history – it is encouraging to see so many young people stand up for what they “believe is right for them, for social justice and civil rights, and for Notre Dame.” It was right for the United States of America, as well

BY  (Occupy Democrats, May 22, 2017)


Good Riddance to A Bad Person

News item: Roger Ailes, founder and CEO of Fox News (until recently losing his job when his habit of sexually harassing his employees finally caught up with him), died. He was 77.

We have observed the necessary moment of silence. Now let us remember ex-Fox News head Roger Ailes for who he truly was: a man who did more damage to American democracy than any other individual in the nation. A man who transformed news into a propaganda effort, a man who transformed conspiracies and paranoia into a new conservative ideology, a man who dedicated the entirety of the apparatus he oversaw to lying to Americans in very specific, calculated ways. He was a bad person. He did great harm, and he died too late to do anyone any good.

Ailes was a monster who was pushed out of the network he founded because dozens of women who had worked for him came forward and reported that he had sexually harassed them. And the legacy he leaves behind is a propaganda machine he created in his own image that has done incalculable damage to the country, slanting facts and information — and sometimes completely inventing them — in service of a vicious, right-wing agenda.

In Fox News, Ailes found a way to exacerbate and monetize the conservative movement’s paranoid opposition to the “liberal media,” turning millions of Americans into devoted followers who were inculcated to trust no other source of information. Mainstream outlets soon internalized his critique, forced by constant accusations of bias to elevate hackish conservative commentators and provide false balance.

Ailes saw political opponents as enemies and created a network that demanded the same behavior of conservative politicians. Fox brought political vitriol to a new level. Chasing the approval of Fox’s hosts and its audience, Republican politicians became ever more partisan and intransigent, making congressional bipartisanship and even collegiality a thing of the past.

Conspiracy theories, bigotry, paranoia, more conspiracy theories, a culture of misogyny run rampant; the Ailes legacy is malevolence, and fear, and contempt. You could not name any American in the modern era who has harmed his nation more. His life will be his legacy, and his life was rotten to the core.

–Hunter, Daily Kos (with contributions from Media Matters For America)


An International Perspective

From Der Spiegel, May 20, 2017


Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media’s tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.

Trump is a miserable politician. He fired the FBI director simply because he could. James Comey had gotten under his skin with his investigation into Trump’s confidants. Comey had also refused to swear loyalty and fealty to Trump and to abandon the investigation. He had to go.

Witnessing an American Tragedy

Trump is also a miserable boss. His people invent excuses for him and lie on his behalf because they have to, but then Trump wakes up and posts tweets that contradict what they have said. He doesn’t care that his spokesman, his secretary of state and his national security adviser had just denied that the president had handed Russia (of all countries) sensitive intelligence gleaned from Israel (of all countries). Trump tweeted: Yes, yes, I did, because I can. I’m president after all.

Nothing is as it should be in this White House. Everyone working there has been compromised multiple times and now they all despise each other – and everyone except for Trump despises Trump. Because of all that, after just 120 days of the Trump administration, we are witness to an American tragedy for which there are five theoretical solutions.

The first is Trump’s resignation, which won’t happen. The second is that Republicans in the House and Senate support impeachment, which would be justified by the president’s proven obstruction of justice, but won’t happen because of the Republicans’ thirst for power, which they won’t willingly give it up. The third possible solution is the invocation of the 25th Amendment, which would require the cabinet to declare Trump unfit to discharge the powers of the presidency. That isn’t particularly likely either. Fourth: The Democrats get ready to fight and win back majorities in the House and Senate in midterm elections, which are 18 months away, before they then pursue option two, impeachment. Fifth: the international community wakes up and finds a way to circumvent the White House and free itself of its dependence on the U.S. Unlike the preceding four options, the fifth doesn’t directly solve the Trump problem, but it is nevertheless necessary – and possible.

No Goals and No Strategy

Not quite two weeks ago, a number of experts and politicians focused on foreign policy met in Washington at the invitation of the Munich Security Conference. It wasn’t difficult to sense the atmosphere of chaos and agony that has descended upon the city.

The U.S. elected a laughing stock to the presidency and has now made itself dependent on a joke of a man. The country is, as David Brooks wrote recently in the New York Times, dependent on a child. The Trump administration has no foreign policy because Trump has consistently promised American withdrawal while invoking America’s strength. He has promised both no wars and more wars. He makes decisions according to his mood, with no strategic coherence or tactical logic. Moscow and Beijing are laughing at America. Elsewhere, people are worried.

In the Pacific, warships – American and Chinese – circle each other in close proximity. The conflict with North Korea is escalating. Who can be certain that Donald Trump won’t risk nuclear war simply to save his own skin? Efforts to stop climate change are in trouble and many expect the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because Trump is wary of legally binding measures. Crises, including those in Syria and Libya, are escalating, but no longer being discussed. And who should they be discussed with? Phone calls and emails to the U.S. State Department go unanswered. Nothing is regulated, nothing is stable and the trans-Atlantic relationship hardly exists anymore. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Norbert Röttgen fly back and forth, but Germany and the U.S. no longer understand each other. Hardly any real communication takes place, there are no joint foreign policy goals and there is no strategy.

In “Game of Thrones,” the Mad King was murdered (and the child that later took his place was no better). In real life, an immature boy sits on the throne of the most important country in the world. He could, at any time, issue a catastrophic order that would immediately be carried out. That is why the parents cannot afford to take their eyes off him even for a second. They cannot succumb to exhaustion because he is so taxing. They ultimately have to send him to his room – and return power to the grownups.

Yes, the Republican Party is perfectly willing to betray this country

It is difficult to say which is more appalling—the thoroughly bizarre, flailing behavior of the current Occupant of the White House in attempting to justify this week’s shocking actions, or the stone-cold silence of the political Party that is backing him.

Paul Krugman in today’s New York Times has some choice words about the Republican members of the Congress and Senate who have chosen to stand mute while an unbalanced, self-styled tyrant attempts to tear down our country’s institutions with his agitated Twitter fingers.  Krugman specifically singles out Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, both of whom actually rose to defend Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey to thwart the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia, a collusion that may have determined the outcome of last year’s Presidential election:

Everyone understands that Mr. Comey was fired not because of his misdeeds during the campaign — misdeeds that helped put Trump in the White House — but because his probe of Russian connections with the Trump campaign was accelerating and, presumably, getting too close to home. So this looks very much like the use of presidential power to cover up possible foreign subversion of the U.S. government.

Krugman believes that the Republican leadership’s willingness to turn a blind eye to possible treason reflects that Party’s transformation in recent decades into an organization solely dedicated to the lowering of taxes for its multi-millionaire donor base.  Trump’s attempt to destroy the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) simply provided an irresistible opportunity for the Party to fulfill that prime function.  Everything else—including the risk of undermining the integrity of our Constitutional government—suddenly became secondary to that overriding imperative:

 [T]he two leading Republicans in Congress are apparently O.K. with that cover-up, because the Trump ascendancy is giving them the chance to do what they always wanted, namely, take health insurance away from millions of Americans while slashing taxes on the wealthy.

A Party that used to wrap itself in the flag, reflexively hurling accusations of disloyalty against Democrats who objected to such catastrophic mistakes as McCarthyism and the contrived invasion of Iraq, now finds itself cheering on the meddling of a hostile foreign power into our most sacred Democratic institutions. All to succor the desires of our wealthiest citizens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes towards the common good:

At this point, in other words, almost an entire party appears to have decided that potential treason in the cause of tax cuts for the wealthy is no vice. And that’s barely hyperbole.

To explain how this is happening before our stunned eyes, Krugman shows how the Republican Party has gradually morphed into an institution dominated by a nativist, “America-First” (really a “Me-First”) core philosophy so extreme and radical that it willingly embraces murderous foreign leaders if it doesn’t get its way:

What isn’t often mentioned is that many of the most prominent America-firsters weren’t just isolationists, they were actively sympathetic to foreign dictators; there’s a more or less straight line from Charles Lindbergh proudly wearing the medal he received from Hermann Göring to Trump’s cordial relations with Rodrigo Duterte, the literally murderous president of the Philippines.

This is now a Party made up of people so blinded by their ideology that they would gladly discard the integrity of the entire country in pursuance of their narrow self-interests. Trump (with the aid of Fox News and other “conservative” propaganda outlets) has simply given voice to a sentiment Republicans have harbored now for decades—that any opposition to their belief system is by its very nature illegitimate and must be destroyed, even if that means the destruction of our pluralistic society along with it. This is the same mentality that for the past eight years mindlessly fought and attempted to subvert President Obama’s every action geared to actually improve Americans’ lives.

We saw it immediately at the outset of this Administration’s short tenure, as every Republican Senator calmly voted to approve Trump’s appointments to the same Federal Agencies they had previously reviled or even vowed to destroy. It is a mentality of nihilism, premised on the thoughtless “privatization” of anything and everything intended for the public welfare, in which the founding principles of Democracy that form the core of our Constitution can be disregarded because “Republicans know better.” It is a complete abandonment of the public trust, finally finding its enabler in the persona of Donald Trump.

Krugman concludes with a warning about the insidious nature of the Republican Party’s willing, even casual betrayal of our country:

[I]it’s time to face up to the scary reality here. Most people now realize, I think, that Donald Trump holds basic American political values in contempt. What we need to realize is that much of his party shares that contempt.

The simple truth is that these Republicans don’t care about the country or Americans in general, beyond their tiny base of millionaire and billionaire donors.  We’re a nuisance to them, to be “worked around,” or, more preferably, silenced altogether.

This is the reality of what we as Americans are up against, and the inaction of McConnell, Ryan and the Republican Party simply confirms it.

—–Dartagnan, Daily Kos

The Joker’s Smile

Sure torturing the facts is grotesque, as is a flagrant disregard for truth, but neither is as bad as that smile.


It was 2009 and we had just moved to Franklin, Tennessee, a quaint little town just south of Nashville, which was in the process of becoming a hub of techno and health businesses, and the election had recently ended and Barack Obama had been inaugurated president. We were getting to know the neighborhood and one evening the people who lived right next door invited us over for drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

They were a middle-aged couple who lived in a nice house on a large piece of property, drove nice cars, and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle in an area surrounded with pastoral Tennessee beauty — farmland planted with soybeans and corn, horse farms with fenced fields of grass replete with riding rings and very expensive polo ponies, homes that ranged from famous 19th-century mansions to modern McMansions built by country music singers and tech millionaires.

They knew I was a writer and that we had moved there from L.A. where I had spent 15 years in the movie business. The roads were crowded with nice cars — Mercedes and BMWs and Cadillac Escalades — with McCain bumper stickers and new ones expressing sentiments like “He may be your president, but he’s not mine.” Ours was not among them.

My wife had told me they were Republicans — hell, that wasn’t a surprise, everyone in Williamson County was — and we had agreed to avoid “political” topics in favor of keeping the neighborhood waters if not exactly smooth, at least relatively unperturbed. Wine was poured, cheese and crackers were eaten and everything was just fine until the host started talking to me about books. He knew I had written novels, and he asked me if I was a fan of Michael Crichton and if I had read one of his recent books, “State of Fear.” I had to admit that I hadn’t.

A strange little smile appeared on his face, and he began telling me all about Crichton. He had read all of Crichton’s books and this was his favorite. With that strange little smile plastered on his face, he began describing the plot. It seems that in advance of a big conference on climate change, a group of ecoterrorists is manufacturing fake “natural disasters” to convince everyone of the catastrophe of global warming. These individuals are indifferent to people being killed by their fake “disasters” and are assassinating anyone who opposes them. Crichton knows what he’s talking about. He shows the whole global warming thing is a hoax because there are footnotes and appendices. Crichton graduated from Harvard Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in biological anthropology! There’s nothing this guy isn’t an expert in!

The neighbor’s story of the plot is going on and on. The ecoterrorists are getting more and more corrupt, killing more and more people. The hero has to stop the killing, but mostly he has to save the world from believing in this fake catastrophe of global warming. There’s a final showdown on the Solomon Islands when the hero and his love interest brilliantly stop the ecoterrorists from creating a gigantic tsunami that will engulf the coast of California right at the time of the climate conference. A bad-guy environmentalist stand-in for liberal activist actor Ted Danson is eaten by cannibals, and the ecoterrorists are drowned by their own tsunami and global warming is shown to be a lie. In short, the sick, corrupt liberals get what’s coming to them in the most ironic way possible.

My host is sitting there with the strange little smile on his face waiting for my reaction. I knew he was trying to make a big allegorical point about how the election had been stolen by these corrupt Democrats who would tell any lie, pull any illegal maneuver to get their fake intellectual candidate elected. I had lived in the South for years in the 1980s. I had gotten in my share of political arguments with conservative Republicans, and I had seen racism cloaked in coats of many strange colors. But I had never seen the weird smile this guy had on his face. I knew we were facing years and years of obstruction and denial about Obama’s becoming our president. What I didn’t know was that in that guy’s strange little smile, I was seeing the future.

I’ve started calling it the joker’s smile. This week, we’re seeing it again and again plastered on the faces of the members of the so-called House Freedom Caucus as they stand in the Capitol in front of a marble bannister with the great columns of some rotunda in the background telling lie after lie about the new version of the Republican health care bill. The big contention is over pre-existing conditions.

The Republicans’ bill makes covering them optional, leaving the option up to the states, but they want everyone to believe that the bill keeps coverage of pre-existing conditions, that they’re not reversing the way Obamacare provided coverage. They’re lying, and they lie with that weird little smile plastered on their faces. Have you watched Jim Jordan, from Ohio? Or the Freedom Caucus’ chairman, Mark Meadows? They are masters of the fuck-you political smile. They stand there in the Capitol lying through their exposed teeth, and they know they’re lying. They know that the reporter sticking the mic in their face knows they’re lying. And they know they won’t be called on it outright, and that thought delights them and makes them smile.

It’s not even a smile of self-satisfaction. It’s a sick little smile that says, Watch me. You’ve got nothing. Fuck you. Where does it come from that they’re like that? That they just stand there and smile and throw everything away — throw away people’s health, throw away people’s jobs, throw away people’s hunger, throw away people’s poverty, throw away lives led by the people they represent, all in service of what? For whose benefit? And why does it make them smile? Do they think we can’t see through it? That they’re getting away with it?

Perhaps they are. The method and the language used by the media in reporting on mendacity of this magnitude isn’t adequate to tell the story of how disgusting, bizarre and utterly unacceptable this kind of lying is. Leaving aside everything else and taking just the health care lies for the moment: You can choose to cover pre-existing conditions or you can choose to make covering them optional and this will leave some people in the lurch. You can’t do both, yet they act daily like doing both is as easy as saying it’s so.

It’s as if words have no meaning. Convictions don’t count. Principles don’t count. It isn’t a matter of left and right. It’s not Democrat and Republican. It’s not even right and wrong, light and dark. It’s a matter of what is real, and what isn’t. Increasingly, we are living not just in two Americas, but in two realities. Take a look at last weekend. The two realities were on full display. Instead of attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, like every president has for decades, Trump gets on the Big Jet and flies all the way to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for a big rally where he gives a completely unhinged address to an auditorium that wasn’t even completely filled with his adoring base. Starting off with about 15 minutes of attacking the press and making fun of Democrats and celebrating his Big Victory last November, he went straight into his old stump speech — the wall! the immigrants! ISIS! repealing Obamacare! — to rapturous applause, complete with throwing someone out of the rally and celebrating the incident.

Then an interview that Trump had given a few days before ran on one of the Sunday shows and showed that not only has he given up on every single promise he made about health care during the campaign; he also doesn’t have even a teeny clue about what’s in the Republican bill to replace it. In other words, two more days of bragging, bluster, lies and mendacity. He may be at only 40-plus in the polls, but something like 96 percent of his voters are pleased as punch with the reality that they’re living in.

In the other reality — well, it’s hardly necessary to describe it. Large demonstrations in multiple cities against Trump’s disassembly of the Environmental Protection Agency. Actual journalists not in the company of platoons of B- and C-list celebrities gathering for an actual correspondents’ dinner addressing actual threats to the First Amendment. A few Democratic talking heads on Sunday trying to point out the obvious bullshit about the so-called Republican health care bill.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that you can live in one of the two realities but not in both. You’re either in Trump’s 40 percent, blissfully supportive of his fumbling bumbling toy presidency, or you’re in the other reality. The problem with members of the media is their trying to live in both. They think they have to cover Trump like he is an actual president, existing in an actual reality, when he’s not even a figurehead; he’s a bobblehead. The words coming from his mouth are not even remotely attached to anything real. That he tells multiple lies every single day is almost beside the point. To him, to his 40 percent, his lies are real.

We’ve now reached a point where you have to decide not just which side are you on, but which reality are you going to live in. There will be consequences from the decisions made in Washington. Destroying departments like the EPA will create new Flint Michigans, poisoning children, and people will die. Passing tax laws that make a few rich people richer will make a lot of people a lot poorer and people will die. Eliminating safety regulations on automobiles in factories will cause injuries and people will die. Taunting insane dictators will start wars and people will die. Embracing insane dictators will enable their repressive regimes and people will die. Eliminating coverage of pre-existing conditions will make sick people sicker and people will die.

There will be consequences to the decisions we make as well. There will be winners and losers. Those who embrace this separate reality that is unmoored from science and reason and morals will lose jobs, lose their health, lose their children and loved ones because people will die. There just has to be a way to wipe the joker’s smile off these assholes’ faces because people dying isn’t funny.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives on the East End of Long Island and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. He can be followed on Facebook at The Rabbit Hole and on Twitter @LucianKTruscott.