The White House’s deep involvement in hiring decisions across the government is frustrating some of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet secretaries, spurring early tussles between the president’s advisers and leaders of federal agencies.
White House officials have sometimes rejected candidates who have previously criticized the president — even if they boast sterling credentials or have the endorsement of top Republicans. And they’ve often imposed their choices on agencies, according to more than a dozen people inside and close to the administration.
Many Cabinet nominees joined the administration believing they’d have wide latitude to pick lieutenants, but they’re beginning to realize Trump’s powerful advisers are looking over their shoulders. The White House’s approach has already slowed hiring — and the dozens of vacancies at key agencies could make it more difficult to implement some of Trump's policy proposals.
So far, Trump has nominated fewer than three dozen of the 550 most important Senate-confirmed jobs, according to an analysis by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that advised Trump officials during the presidential transition.
Trump has been praised for his most important cabinet picks, powerful leaders in their own right, with an assumption that they will keep Trump in check.
After JFK was assassinated, LBJ didn't have a vice president because there was no 25th Amendment to the Constitution (enacted in 1967).
Section 4 of the 25th Amendment says the Vice President shall become acting president, -- that's the title -- acting president, whenever the vice president and a majority of the cabinet decide '... that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.
In other words, if the inner circle of the White House aides is protecting Trump and/or enabling Trump, and the cabinet thinks Trump is unfit for office, they have the power to name Mike Pence as the "acting president".
Richard Nixon once said that Spiro Agnew was his secret weapon. What he meant was that Agnew was worse than Nixon.
Trump's VP on the other hand, is a mainstream Republican, trusted by the Republican party, and often acts as Trump's "acting president" especially to calm the country and the world.
I doubt Trump knows as much about the 25th Amendment as Nixon did. Trump should read it and start acting accordingly. Impeachment is a tortious process. While Section 4 of the 25th Amendment is not.
February 22, 2017
When I was in college, conservatism was a serious intellectual study. CPAC was my generation's Woodstock. The first draw was Ronald Reagan, who was not only a conservative, but was a man of great intellect. Of course Reagan was influenced by Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley, but he also put conservatism into practice as a two-term governor of the nation's largest state. Between California and the White House, Reagan was a syndicated columnist. He wrote his columns on paper and when there was a fire at his ranch, his wife Nancy grabbed them before anything else. It is almost never mentioned that Reagan was an A student, who had to develop a personality to be liked, vs. a nerd that wasn't.
Somewhere down the line, speakers went from Pat Buchanan and Newt Gingrich, to Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity. And then to Donald Trump to Breitbart's Milo Yiannopoulos. Once arguably too wonky and prudish, today’s conservatism, judging by CPAC’s invited speakers, is increasingly crude, vulgar, and lowbrow.
Of course CPAC did the right thing by disinviting Yiannopoulos after gross comments he made surfaced.
But by inviting Yiannopoulos, that says a lot about the state of intellectual conservatism today, 44 years after CPAC was formed. True conservatism has been replaced by a fetish for fighting political correctness.
Ronald Reagan must be rolling in his grave.
February 21, 2017
Self admission. I don't get racism and I don't get religious prejudice. While many people fear people of different color or religious belief, I am mostly afraid of angry white people. Especially when I see giant crosses erected within interstate viewing.
I have many close friends who happen to be Jewish. These relationships were organically formed. Which is to say, these friendships came first. And as an after-thought, I later learned about their ethnicity.
My Jewish friends are now concerned by bombing threats. I might not understand prejudice, but these friends do.
Trump, whose daughter is now Jewish through marriage, has not responded to Jewish organizations who want him to decry anti-semitism. Why?
Of all the things I can say bad about Trump - and there are many - I don't think he is a man of prejudice.
But he knows his 40% is.
Trump's fire wall is the 40%. If you wonder how Trump is ever going to survive his presidency, look no further than his silence on anti-semitism.
February 20, 2017
This weekend, everyone from the left to Chris Wallace of Fox News, said that Trump calling the media "enemies of the American people" crossed a dangerous line.
The problem with this "crisis", is that Trump makes at least one "crisis" a day.
Why? Everything Trump does or says is a diversionary tactic, with all things pointing toward Russia.
Reuters just reported in more detail, what the NY Times article of last week said: the FBI is investigating Trump and his associates with Russia.
There are four main camps within the Trump universe. The insiders who are protecting him and executing policy and rhetoric. The "grown ups" - Tillerson and Mattis - who are out of the loop and contradicting him. The GOP who needs Trump to enact their legislation. And the Russians looking for ways to get out of sanctions.
Reince Priebus is a member of the insider camp. He dismissed the NY Times story and blamed the fake news press on all the Sunday talk shows.
James Comey briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday regarding the FBI's investigations, and the GOP silence was deafening and telling. Sans Marco Rubio who said "we are going to take this seriously".
So put yourself into Trump's shoes. If this is real, everything he said in the campaign and during his first month in office makes more sense.
Trump couldn't release his tax records without exposing his ties to Russia. So he said "wait" before being elected and then "never" after being elected.
After being elected, he has stuck to a message that his 40% agree with, instead of the nation's 100%. Why did Trump go to Florida for a campaign rally this weekend? To buttress his standings with the 40%.
The bet Trump is making, is that his 40% are enough to protect his presidency.
The GOP faces a Sophie's choice of investigating Trump vs. enacting their legislation.
And Russia? There are many reports that Russia is having "buyers remorse". If Trump is taken down, Russia faces an even more hostile US.
And Trump? He says - using Bill Clinton-speak - that "he has had no relations with that Russia".
That makes Trump and his insiders vulnerable if and when grand juries are convened. That makes Tillerson and Mattis risks to Trump and his insiders if they resign. That makes the GOP vulnerable if they back a losing horse too long. And that makes Russia even more dangerous (see Russia buzzing US warships in the Black Sea and their spy ship patrolling the East Coast and being located near a U.S. naval base in Virginia within the last week).
If some factory's plan was to construct a direct opposite of Obama, a successful product would be Trump.
A man of calm vs. a man of chaos.
A man who faced a real giant crisis vs. a man who made up a crisis.
A man of action to save the Rust Belt through saving the automobile industry vs. a man who exploited the Rust Belt's forgetting of such actions.
A man who cared about people and their families that guided his policies vs a man who says he cares but doesn't have any policies to help.
A man who worked until 2AM reading briefing books vs a man who only watches cable television.
A man who was willing to risk his presidency for what was right vs. a man who is obsessed with polling and the size of television show's audience numbers.
A man of the people who is not afraid of human hugs vs. a man who hasn't been afraid of more salacious touching of one gender.
A man not afraid of getting emotional about human suffering regardless of race vs. a man who lacks empathy in general and especially for people who are not white.
A man who saw America as that shining city on a hill vs. a man who sees America as such a disaster that it no longer cares about being the light of the world.
A man with the temperament to be president vs. a man who does not.
A man who sought to balance the rights of women, minorities and sexual differences vs. a man who seeks to peel other people's rights away.
Finally a man who presidential historians - who usually take decades to fully recognize the rankings of presidents - just voted as the 12th best president of the US vs. a man who is likely not going to be able to achieve anything close.
February 19, 2017
Months ago we all asked who was the real Trump. A candidate who would be more presidential after being inaugurated? Or a candidate that was a dictator?
Now just one month into his presidency, we know that Trump would like to be a dictator, but he is too mentally stupid and lazy to become one.
With all due respect to dictators, Trump doesn't have the chops for the position.
Dictators understand messaging. They understand creating a narrative. And they understand less words are better.
Which brings me to today's Trump Press Conference. I forced myself to watch the entire 90 minutes.
Besides the normal and irritating Trump tendencies to (a) deliver disordered stream-of-consciousness words and not sentences and (b) to say he us either the best or the least in every category since Adam and Eve; there were a number of WTF statements. And any rational viewer can see that Trump is not only way in over his head, but he is losing his mind.
Trump inherited a mess from Obama?
Trump's administration is working like clockwork?
He is mad about leaks that are false and given to the media (which is a contradiction)?
Trump had the largest electoral college victory since Reagan. What about Obama? I mean the largest Republican victory since Reagan. What about Bush 41's +400? I was given that information, I was just given it?
Trump assured everyone he wasn't ranting and raving while saying I’m just telling you you’re dishonest people?
Trump hunting for a friendly reporter?
Drugs are cheaper than candy bars?
Trump - the least anti-semite and the least racist person in the history of the world - asked a reporter, who happened to be an African American, if she could hook him up with the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus)?
Reporters are beginning to giggle when Trump talks. Despite Trump saying he has gotten more things done in his first month than any other president in history, the American people are either going to continue to giggle or just tune him out.
Sorry Donald. We called Hell. And the Devil said that past dictators are also giggling at you.
February 16, 2017
Last summer, FBI Director James Comey dropped the "dangerous" email crime of Grandma Clinton's email server.
Then less than two weeks before Election Day 2016, Comey announced that the FBI was again investigating whether there were previously unreleased emails from Hillary Clinton on a laptop that she did not own; even though the search warrant showed that the FBI had no new evidence, that Clinton had done anything wrong.
Now we know that when Comey spoke up about Clinton while remaining silent about allegations of contact between Trump’s team and the Russian government, not only were there mere allegations but also concrete evidence that such contact was frequent and ongoing.
Seriously, how could the threat of emails without proof of one candidate, be more important to tell the electorate, than the other candidate was working with Russia with proof?
Furthermore we know that Trump offered and Comey accepted continuing on as the FBI director.
I am not sure Comey was being political. Most believe he wasn't.
But with the FBI investigating Trump ties to Russia, shouldn't Comey have resigned by now?
February 15, 2017
A divisive president, with many enemies, is obsessed with his "legitimacy" to be president.
A president who at his heart was driven by paranoia.
A president that required staff members to decide if the president was acting out of impulse or not.
A president for a penchant for secrecy because he didn't believe he could unite a democratic government.
A president with a 'mad man theory" to keep enemies and allies scared of him by using unpredictability as leverage.
An imperialistic president who felt that his presidency could not be brought down.
A president with leaks at the beginning of his presidency from a Washington-permanent civil service that believed his secrecy needed to be exposed.
A president with contempt for the media.
A president who served his entire term with national protests.
A president with aides who said they had to walk with their backs to the wall because other aides would stab you in the back.
A president with rivals amongst his top aides.
A president with an enemy list.
A president determined to plug leaks instead of just telling the truth.
A president who is told by the FBI he is overreaching and that could bring down his presidency by breaking the law.
Michael Flynn. We hardly new ye.
It is nearly impossible to track every crazy happening in Trump's first 25 days as president. I will try to remember some just off the top of my head. The tweets. The "Apprentice" Crowd sizes. 5 million illegal votes. Alternative facts. Stephen Miller (who is now Joseph Goebbels which I guess demotes Kellyanne Conway to Magna Goebbels)
Check out what Miller said on the weekend talk shows. Trump shouldn't be questioned. Trump is ruling planet earth. Sean Spicer is always 100% correct. You will not deny that there are a lot of illegal voters. Trump is 100% right.
And Trump has done more in three weeks than any other president. I guess that is right if we are talking about a reality show that has the most drama. But as far as I can ascertain, Trump hasn't done anything in his first three weeks including a Muslim ban that was so rushed that Trump's lawyers couldn't defend it in a federal appellate court.
Trump knew about Flynn's Russia problems weeks ago. Mike Pence only found out about it less than a week ago.
When you consider that Trump has already fired Russian interest purveyors, Paul Manafort and Carter Page, is it a coincidence that three aides were brought on the Trump train?
Trump didn't fire Flynn until the Washington Post ran with the story?
All of this leads to a logical question. Does Trump have Russian ties? Does he hope that firing aides with Russian connections distances himself from congressional investigation?
If so, he is dead wrong.
The Flynn firing is now just a jumping off point for both parties to investigate Trump and the Russian involvement in the election with even more vigor.
To Americans, the best case scenario, is that Trump is a bumbling administrator who needs a crash course in consistent messaging.
The next best scenario is that Trump has tossed out the all important first 100 days in office when presidents are in the midst of a honeymoon stage. My God. His party controls both houses of Congress, and he is at great risk for not getting anything done.
The worst scenario, quoting Howard Baker during Watergate, is the asking of what Trump knew and when did he know it. Impeachment is no longer an un-probable hypothetical question.
As I mentioned before, Barack Obama was the first two-term president, without scandal since Eisenhower. While Trump's scandals started right after he was inaugurated.
Check back tomorrow. I am going to quote everything that was said about Richard Nixon. And you may not be surprised that it reads as if the quotes are about Trump.
February 14, 2017
The Democratic Party is now doing their own post-election autopsy. And the general consensus is that Obama screwed up the makeup of national and state legislatures. This is a patently ridiculous causal argument.
It would take too long to explain the changing paths of the Democratic and Republican parties. What I can say is that both have changed opportunistically due to ever-changing demographics and social flash points.
This past election's social fault line was the wide economic gap in the country post the 2008 Financial Crisis. Two populist approaches were offered. A con to undereducated/economically disenfranchised voters with no substance and another con to the same voters with concrete but dead-on-arrival programs such as universal health care coverage and tuition free college.
The former won out. The Trump-led GOP has ceased any intellectual arguments. William Buckley is dead. Bill Kristol is outside looking in. And George Will has left the party to become an independent. The Trump-led GOP is a coalition of racists and undereducated voters. These voters don't subscribe to intellectual arguments. They fail to see the con of a billionaire cabinet and an Education Secretary who isn't interested in public education.
The right path to a new Democratic Party is the centrist Obama coalition. A coalition where intellectualism flourishes, exceptional candidates are recruited/offered and the concerns of the less fortunate are equally shared.
A Centrist Obama coalition doesn't swing towards universal health care and free college tuition. Rather it sticks to health care reform based on private markets and a progressive college loan system based on a percentage of future wages.
Wage disparity is a generational problem that requires a generation solution: more college educated Americans without the worry of medically induced bankruptcy for themselves and their parents. Not a national hissy fit every two to four years. And recognizes that demographics will continue to change, with millennials - who endorsed Obama's centrist policies - growing into middle age.
Obama won both of his elections easily. Instead of blaming the makeup of federal and state legislative on Obama - who had a full time job of running the country - the Democratic Party needs to embrace his coalition.
They also need to stop tinkering with the party because Trump will take down the GOP by 2018/2020. The Democratic Party shouldn't confuse ideology with a weak presidential candidate. The Democratic Party should remember Trump only won as many votes as Romney did. HRC was simply a older failed version of Obama who couldn't get enough people in the Obama coalition to vote.
The DNC not only should stick with Obama's centrist ideology, but seek to attract more George Will independents/intellectuals. And falsely lurching to the left, is not only a bad idea, but precludes welcoming intellectual independents.
This is my free advice as an intellectual independent voter looking for a new home.
February 11, 2017