Illinois GOP shares meme depicting minority Dem congresswomen as ‘the jihad squad’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Illinois GOP group shares meme depicting minority Dem congresswomen as ‘the jihad squad’

Washington (CNN)Two top Illinois GOP officials are condemning a meme recently posted to the Facebook page of the Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association that depicted four minority congresswomen as being “THE JIHAD SQUAD.”

The image, which has since been taken down from the group’s page, is modeled after an action movie poster and edited to include the four lawmakers’ faces on the bodies of various characters. The women in the photo are Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. The image includes the words “THE JIHAD SQUAD” below the names along with the words “POLITICAL JIHAD IS THEIR GAME” and “IF YOU DON’T AGREE WITH THEIR SOCIALIST IDEOLOGY, YOU’RE RACIST.”
The meme also includes the association’s logo. It’s unclear who in the party posted the image, or if those responsible have been admonished.
President Donald Trump has recently criticized the four women, known as “the Squad,” in racist terms as part of an effort to define the Democratic Party as far-left. Omar and Tlaib are the first two Muslim women in Congress, and Ocasio-Cortez identifies as a Democratic socialist.
CNN has reached out to the offices of the four lawmakers for comment.
screenshot of the post shared by Craig Wall, a reporter for CNN affiliate WLS in Chicago, shows the image was live as of late Friday night. On Sunday, Tim Schneider, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, condemned the post.
“I strongly condemn evoking race or religion as the basis for political disagreement. The recent social media post coming from the IRCCA does not reflect my values or the Illinois Republican Party’s values,” Schneider said in a statement.
Schneider added, “Bigoted rhetoric greatly distracts from legitimate and important policy debates and further divides our nation” and said that although he disagrees with the policy positions held by the group of lawmakers, his “intense disagreement … has absolutely nothing to do with their race or religion.”
Mark Shaw, the president of the RCCA, said Sunday in a statement that he “condemn(s)” the posting, which he said was “unauthorized.”
“I am sorry if anyone who saw the image was offended by the contents,” Shaw said in a Facebook post, adding that the posting “is an unfortunate distraction from the serious debate surrounding the policies advocated by” the lawmakers.
Shaw also said the approval process for social media posts will be reviewed in the wake of the posting “to insure that any content posted in the future represents the ‘big-tent’ nature of the Republican Party.”
The Cook County Democratic Party called the image “a racist and inflammatory attack.”
“The post perpetuates the recent attacks by President Trump, promoting lies and racism to alienate immigrants, women, and people of color,” the county Democratic Party said in a statement posted to Facebook. “This language of hatred and bigotry has no room in our society and has dangerous consequences.”
The four progressive lawmakers have been outspoken critics of Trump, particularly his immigration policies. Last week, the House voted to condemn the racist language used in the tweets by the President, who on Sunday continued his attacks, questioning in a tweet their commitment to America and saying that they are “destroying the Democratic Party.”

GOP Armed Services senator breaks with Trump: I find North Korean missile tests ‘very disturbing’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE HILL’ NEWSPAPER)

(OPED OLDPOET56)(WHY SHOULD ANYONE EVER CARE WHAT 2 HABITUAL LIARS (Trump and Kim Jong Un) HAVE TO SAY ABOUT ANYTHING?)

GOP Armed Services senator breaks with Trump: I find North Korean missile tests ‘very disturbing’

GOP Armed Services senator breaks with Trump: I find North Korean missile tests 'very disturbing'
© Getty Images

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, broke with President Trump on Sunday over North Korean missile tests.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Ernst said she finds recent missile tests from the regime “very disturbing” and warned that she wouldn’t trust North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“I find them very disturbing, and certainly wouldn’t trust Kim Jong Un,” Ernst said. “I think we need to keep our eyes on North Korea, I understand the president wants to maintain a relationship … so that we can work with them. However, those strikes are disturbing.”

The comments come in response to a Saturday tweet from Trump in which the president dismissed concerns about missile tests and said he has confidence in Kim.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” he tweeted. “I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me.”

When asked whether she found Trump’s comments, made while in Japan for a diplomatic visit, disturbing, Ernst on Sunday replied: “Certainly.”

“I think Japan does have reason to be concerned, and I am concerned as well,” the senator said. “We need to see north Korea back off of those activities, and we need to take a very strong stance on that.

Ernst added that she understands Trump “has a job to do on negotiating,” but urged for a stronger “pushback” on North Korea to ensure that the regime is following United Nations guidelines prohibiting it from firing ballistic missiles.

“We can’t continue to let them further develop any type of weapons systems,” she said.

Trump has touted his friendly relationship with Kim as a step toward denuclearization on the Korean peninsula, but after two in-person summits, the two leaders have failed to reach a deal on nuclear negotiations and sanctions.

GOP Senator Who Made ‘Hanging’ Remark Attended ‘Segregated’ Academy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

GOP Senator Who Made ‘Hanging’ Remark Attended ‘Segregated’ Academy

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith recently drew criticism for remarks condoning public hangings and the Confederacy.
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Cindy Hyde-Smith, the Republican Mississippi senator who made comments condoning “public hangings,” attended a “segregated” school when she was younger, the Jackson Free Press reported Friday after unearthing a 1975 yearbook photo.

The school, Lawrence County Academy, was set up for white parents to avoid sending their children to school with black children, according to the Free Press. Many such schools, dubbed “segregation academies,” were created in the South following desegregation as inexpensive, private educational options.

Hyde-Smith is identified in a caption beneath the yearbook photograph, which shows a row of cheerleaders smiling as they lie on the ground, propped up on their elbows, as a girl dressed in what seems to be Civil War–era regalia stands in the center holding an apparent Confederate flag.

Lawrence County Academy was established in 1970, one year after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Mississippi to desegregate its schools. For 15 years after desegregation became law of the land, Mississippi dragged its feet on integrating black and white students.

A former student who provided the photo to the newspaper said she realized at the time that her parents sent her to Lawrence County Academy to avoid interactions with black students. Segregation was not openly acknowledged at the school, she said.

Hyde-Smith sent her daughter to a similar school, Brookhaven Academy, which is nearly all white despite being located in a majority-black town.

The senator faces Democratic challenger Mike Espy in a special election Nov. 27. She was appointed by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to fill the seat vacated in April by former Sen. Thad Cochran, who stepped down for health reasons.

Hyde-Smith has been heavily criticized this month for making racist comments on the Confederate South.

In a state with an ugly history of terrorizing African-Americans with lynchings, Hyde-Smith said of a local rancher in early November, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” Espy called the comment “reprehensible.”

Although she later apologized for her remark, she accused her opponents of twisting her words for political gain.

A 2014 Facebook post in which Hyde-Smith praises Confederate history subsequently surfaced. Alongside a smiling photo of herself in a Confederate hat and holding a rifle at a museum exhibit, the senator wrote, “Mississippi history at its best!”

She also appeared to voice support for voter suppression at a campaign stop earlier this month, telling constituents “maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult” to vote due to the “liberal folks in those other schools who maybe we don’t want to vote.”

“And I think that’s a great idea,” she said.

President Donald Trump, of whom Hyde-Smith has been a vocal supporter, will hold two rallies in Mississippi on Monday to whip up support for the Republican candidate.

Trump seethes, two weeks after midterms

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWSPAPER)

 

Trump seethes, two weeks after midterms

 

Donald Trump is seething, publicly and privately, almost two weeks after midterm elections in which he at first believed he had scored a moral victory.

Democrats have run up the score in the House of Representatives and the political world has turned its focus to ominous signs for the president’s reelection hopes. In response, Trump has hit out on Twitter, in impromptu comments to reporters, and in a Sunday TV interview.

Behind the scenes, it’s no better.

“The issue was not election night. But 10 days later, we are still seeing the fallout and losing races,” said one source familiar with the president’s thinking.

Other sources who spoke with The Hill described a similar atmosphere.

“Right after the election, we felt a sense of relief that the impact of the blue wave had not been so great,” said one GOP operative with ties to the White House. “But there has been a rising tide of Democrats flipping Republican seats over the past week-and-a-half, and that has really concerned Republicans and raised eyebrows.”

People close to the administration recall, somewhat wistfully, the buoyant mood in the White House on election night, as early returns seemed to point toward a respectable showing for the GOP.

Trump’s spirits had already been lifted by the adoring crowds that had greeted him during an intense bout of campaigning in the run-up to Election Day.

On election night, the initial sense was that he had been vindicated — and not just in Senate contests.

The projection that Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) had won his competitive reelection race was met with particular pleasure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The president had campaigned for Barr in mid-October.

But the sweetness of moments like that have curdled as Democratic gains keep ticking up. And the president seems to be taking it personally.

“All in all, it’s not bad. We are now at 37, going on 40,” the source familiar with Trump’s thinking said, referring to total seat losses for the House GOP.  But “the expectation was, for a guy who spent as much time and effort, that it would have been better.”

The president’s souring mood has been evident on Twitter, where initial proclamations of victory have given way to familiar complaints about unfair treatment by the media.

“People are not being told that the Republican Party is on track to pick up two seats in the U.S. Senate, and epic victory: 53 to 47,” he tweeted on Friday. “The Fake News Media only wants to speak of the House, where the Midterm results were better than other sitting Presidents.”

In a “Fox News Sunday” interview with Chris Wallace, Trump insisted that his mood was not dark, as Wallace posited, but “very light.”

But his later answers belied that claim. He sought credit for some victories while arguing that GOP defeats showed only that Republican candidates could not match his appeal to voters.

“I have people that won’t vote unless I’m on the ballot, okay? And I wasn’t on the ballot,” Trump told Wallace.

In and around the White House, there is speculation about how the president’s political team might change.

Political director Bill Stepien, who is held in broadly high regard even in the faction-riven White House, has been seen as likely to join the president’s reelection campaign — though some question where he would fit into a chain of command that already has a campaign manager, Brad Parscale.

Renewed speculation over chief of staff John Kelly’s future also impacts the picture.

Kelly is seen, by allies and detractors alike, as more concerned with policy and managerial order than with the finer points of electoral politics.

Were he to be replaced by a more political figure — such as Nick Ayers, currently chief of staff to Vice President Pence — that would likely have ripple effects through the in-house team.

Trump fueled the Kelly gossip during his “Fox News Sunday” interview when he pointedly declined to repeat his prior pledge that his chief of staff would remain in place until 2020.

Trump noted of Kelly, “There are a couple of things where it’s just not his strength. It’s not his fault, it’s not his strength.” Those comments could be seen as a reference to Kelly’s perceived lack of interest in campaign-style politics.

A brief but intense return to the trail could provide one salve for Trump’s spirits, however.

On Nov. 26, he will hold two rallies in Mississippi, where Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith is seeking to hold off Democrat Mike Espy in a Senate runoff set for the next day.

Meanwhile, some Trump loyalists rationalize his mood as an understandable swing after the rigors of the campaign trail.

“The last couple of days, he looked tired. I think he is probably exhausted from the [pre-election] sprint,” said Barry Bennett on Friday. Bennett served as a senior advisor to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

But, Bennett insisted, there was no underlying reason to fear for Trump’s reelection hopes.

“Structurally, I just don’t see much there,” he said. “Of course I wish we’d kept the House, but that was historically improbable.”

There are warning signs for Trump, however, including the strong performance of Democratic senators in the Rust Belt states that made the difference between winning and losing in 2016.

Democratic senators in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio all won reelection comfortably. All four states were carried by Trump two years before.

Brad Blakeman, a member of the senior staff in President George W. Bush’s administration and a supporter of the current president, demurred when asked if those results were troubling.

“I don’t think it’s troubling. I think it’s concerning,” Blakeman said. “Any president up for reelection should be concerned with his support in battleground states. But there is some comfort that can be taken from the shellacking President Obama and President Clinton took, and yet they both won reelection handily.”

In the broader Republican world, however, there is concern not just at the bottom-line results but at exit polls that showed the party faring poorly with college educated voters, female voters and in the suburbs.

Some more establishment-friendly voices place the blame on Trump, contending that his fiery rhetoric on topics such as immigration and the caravan of migrants that originated in Central America, put off as many voters as it attracted.

“I think the immigration rhetoric lost us several seats in Hispanic districts, and it’s not going to get better in 2020,” lamented one GOP operative who worked on the midterms. “There is no district we lost here that we are going to win in 2020 — and it’s going to hurt recruiting, quite honestly.”

Independent experts agree that there are portents of trouble for Trump in the midterm results, even though they stress plenty of caveats.

“Midterms are not presidential elections, and they are not predictive,”cautioned Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“But the president’s standing is undeniably shaky and his deliberately divisive style is not allowing him to capitalize on a time of relative peace and prosperity.”

That’s the kind of verdict likely to stoke Trump’s ire to new heights.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.

G.O.P. Congressman’s 6 Brothers And Sisters Say: Don’t Vote For Our Brother

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Rep. Paul Gosar’s siblings in new ad: Don’t vote for our brother

Washington (CNN)Six siblings of Republican Rep. Paul Gosar delivered a stark message in a new television advertisement: Vote for their brother’s opponent.

The Democrat challenging Gosar in Arizona’s 4th District unveiled a new ad Friday that features Grace, David, Jennifer, Tim, Joan and Gaston lambasting Gosar over Social Security, health care, water policy and more.
“Paul’s absolutely not working for his district,” David says.
Then comes the big reveal: Gosar is their brother — but they endorse David Brill, the Democrat running against him.
Paul Gosar is the oldest of 10 children.
In response to the ad, Gosar told CNN in a statement Saturday that the siblings featured in the ad are “liberal Democrats who hate President Trump” and slammed Bill for engaging “in this shameful attack.”
“These disgruntled Hillary supporters (sic) are related by blood to me but like leftists everywhere, they put political ideology before family. Lenin, Mao and Kim Jung (sic) Un would be proud,” Gosar said. “It is unfortunate that my opponent chose to use family political differences to launch attacks on me rather than focusing on the issues.”
He added, “You can’t pick your family. We all have crazy aunt’s and relatives etc and my family is no different. I hope they find peace in their hearts and let go all the hate. To the six angry Democrat Gosars — see you at Mom and Dad’s house!”
Gosar has a long history of controversial remarks and actions. He promoted the conspiracy theory that the white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year was a plot by the left financed by Democratic mega-donor George Soros, who Gosar said “turned in his own people to the Nazis.”
In July, Gosar spoke in London at a rally for an anti-Muslim activist. He is also one of the staunchest opponents of legal rights for undocumented “Dreamers” in Congress.
His district, made up of mostly rural western Arizona, is generally not considered competitive in November: Gosar won by more than 40 percentage points in 2016. President Donald Trump won there by 39 points in 2016, and Mitt Romney carried the district by 36 points in 2012.
But the sharply personal ad is certain to generate attention for Brill’s campaign.
The Phoenix New Times reported that the ad and others were unveiled at a fundraiser in Phoenix on Thursday night — and that in another spot, which is not public yet, Grace Goser says that “it would be difficult to see my brother as anything but a racist.”
It’s just the latest ad to feature a politician’s family member this year.
In Wisconsin, Democrat Randy Bryce’s brother is featured in an ad backing Republican Bryan Steil in the 1st District race for retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan’s seat.
And the parents of Republican Kevin Nicholson, who was a Senate candidate in Wisconsin before he lost the primary to state Sen. Leah Vukmir, gave the maximum contributions allowable under federal campaign finance law to the Democratic incumbent whom Nicholson hoped to challenge, Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

 

 

 

 

 

GOP senator fumes over marijuana memo reversal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Fiery Senate speech on pot spotlights GOP Sen. Cory Gardner

GOP senator fumes over marijuana memo reversal

  
  • Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, broke with his party twice recently
  • He plays a key role as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee

Washington (CNN)When famous marijuana advocates come to mind, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado is not typically on that list.

After all, he opposed his own state’s initiative to legalize pot in 2012.
But the first-term senator has since defended Colorado’s decision, and in the past 24 hours he’s become the face of a bipartisan effort that has him butting heads with the Trump administration.
At 8:58 a.m. ET Thursday, Gardner learned through Twitter of a Justice Department decision that would soon lead him to the Senate floor with a fiery speech railing against the attorney general.
He was furious that Jeff Sessions had rescinded a memo that adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws. Critics, like Gardner, say the move violates states’ rights and causes uncertainty in legal marijuana industries.
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It also goes against a campaign promise that Donald Trump made in 2016, when he told a Colorado news station the state should be allowed to keep observing its marijuana laws. “I think it’s up to the states, yeah. I’m a states person,” Trump said at the time. “I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”
On the Senate floor Thursday, the usually mild-mannered Gardner was outraged, calling the decision “a trampling of Colorado’s rights, its voters.” He vowed to put a hold on every Justice Department nominee until Sessions reverses course.
He also said the decision by Sessions broke a personal pledge the former Alabama senator had made to Gardner before his confirmation last year: “I would like to know from the attorney general: What changed?”
Gardner spoke briefly with Sessions by phone afterward and the two men plan to meet soon, according to a Gardner aide.
It was the second time in recent months that the senator has very publicly gone against members of his party.
But Gardner, who hails from a state with a libertarian streak, is still a largely reliable vote for Republicans. He holds a leadership position in the caucus as chief of the Senate GOP campaign arm. Despite landing in the headlines recently for challenging those in his own party, it’s unlikely he’ll join the small chorus of Republicans who’ve become outspoken critics of President Trump, a la Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee.
Still, it was just months ago that Gardner led the risky charge to expel a potential Republican colleague.
As chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he released a bombshell of a statement in November shortly after The Washington Post reported allegations of sexual abuse against Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in the Alabama US Senate special election.
Gardner said if Moore “refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him.” While many Republicans in the Senate urged Moore to drop out of the race, none of them had publicly gone as far as Gardner in saying Moore should be expelled if he were elected.
Even when the Republican National Committee decided to resume its support for Moore’s campaign, despite cutting ties just weeks earlier, Gardner and the NRSC held fast. “Roy Moore will never have the support of the senatorial committee,” Gardner told The Weekly Standard. “I won’t let that happen. Nothing will change. I stand by my previous statement.”
When Moore was defeated days later in an upset win by Democrat Doug Jones, Gardner didn’t need to follow through with his call to expel Moore: “Tonight’s results are clear — the people of Alabama deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve in the US Senate.”
Gardner has also joined Flake and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina in working heavily with Democrats to pursue a deal on immigration — and has stood apart from his party leadership in supporting Graham and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin’s legislation that would make the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program permanent.
Elected to the Senate in 2014, Gardner, 43, was previously a two-term US congressman and a member of the Colorado House of Representatives. He served as a congressional staffer early in his career.
In the Senate, he’s sought to build up his foreign policy credentials as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, with a focus on North Korea. He is also a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and the Budget Committee.

Republicans Despise the Working Class

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Photo

President Trump looking at guests identified as “middle class families.” CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

You can always count on Republicans to do two things: try to cut taxes for the rich and try to weaken the safety net for the poor and the middle class. That was true under George W. Bush, who sharply cut tax rates on the top 1 percent and tried to privatize Social Security. It has been equally true under President Trump; G.O.P. legislative proposals show not a hint of the populism Trump espoused on the campaign trail.

But as a terrible, no good, very bad tax bill heads for a final vote, something has been added to the mix. As usual, Republicans seek to afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable, but they don’t treat all Americans with a given income the same. Instead, their bill — on which we don’t have full details, but whose shape is clear — hugely privileges owners, whether of businesses or of financial assets, over those who simply work for a living.

And this privileging of nonwage income isn’t an accident. Modern Republicans exalt “job creators,” that is, people who own businesses directly or indirectly via their stockholdings. Meanwhile, they show implicit contempt for mere employees.

More about that contempt in a moment. First, about that tax bill: The biggest-ticket item is a sharp cut in corporate taxes. While some of this tax cut might trickle down in the form of higher wages, the consensus among tax economists is that most of the break will accrue to shareholders as opposed to workers. So it’s mainly a tax cut for investors, not people who work for a living.

And the second most important element in the bill is a tax break for people whose income comes from owning a business rather than in the form of wages. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has evaluated the Senate bill, which the final bill is expected to resemble. It finds that the bill would reduce taxes on business owners, on average, about three times as much as it would reduce taxes on those whose primary source of income is wages or salaries. For highly paid workers, the gap would be even wider, as much as 10 to one.

Continue reading the main story

As the Center’s Howard Gleckman notes, this might mean, for example, that “a partner in a real estate development firm might get a far bigger tax cut than a surgeon employed by a hospital, even though their income is the same.” (Yes, a lot of the bill looks as if it were specifically designed to benefit the Trump family.)

If this sounds like bad policy, that’s because it is. More than that, it opens the doors to an orgy of tax avoidance. Suppose that I could get The Times to stop paying me a salary, and instead to pay the same amount to Krugmanomics LLC, a consulting firm consisting of one person — me — that sells opinion pieces. I would probably get a big tax break as a result.

Now, the bill will contain complicated rules intended to limit such gaming of the system, and they’ll probably prevent me personally from taking advantage of the new loophole. But as Gleckman says of these rules, “some may fail and some may work too well” — that is, deny the tax break to some business owners who really should qualify. On average, however, they’re likely to fail: a lot of revenue will be lost to those who game the system. Think about it: We’re pitting hastily devised legislation, drafted without hearings over the course of just a few days, against the cleverest lawyers and accountants money can buy. Which side do you think will win?

As a result, it’s a good guess that the bill will increase the budget deficit far more than currently projected. And meanwhile, after all those promises Republicans made about simplifying our tax system, they’ve actually made it far more complicated.

So why are they doing this?

After all, the tax bill appears to be terrible politics as well as terrible policy. Cutting corporate taxes is hugely unpopular; even Republicans are almost as likely to say they should be raised as to say they should be lowered. The Bush tax cuts, at least initially, had wide (though unjustified) popular support; but the public overwhelmingly disapproves of the current Republican plan.

But Republicans don’t seem able to help themselves: Their disdain for ordinary working Americans as opposed to investors, heirs, and business owners runs so deep that they can’t contain it.

When I realized the extent to which G.O.P. tax plans were going to favor business owners over ordinary workers, I found myself remembering what happened in 2012, when Eric Cantor — then the House majority leader — tried to celebrate Labor Day. He put out a tweet for the occasion that somehow failed to mention workers at all, instead praising those who have “built a business and earned their own success.”

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Yes, it was just a gaffe, but a revealing one; Cantor, a creature of the G.O.P. establishment if ever there was one, had so little respect for working Americans that he forgot to include them in a Labor Day message.

And now that disdain has been translated into legislation, in the form of a bill that treats anyone who works for someone else — that is, the vast majority of Americans — as a second-class citizen.

Trump-Moore: A G.O.P. Tragedy in Four Acts

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Photo

A Trump supporter at a rally for Roy Moore in Fairhope, Ala. CreditEmily Kask for The New York Times

With Roy Moore’s humiliating loss in the Alabama Senate race, the Trumpified Republican Party finds itself both defeated and dishonored, with no sign that it has yet hit bottom.

At every stage of the run-up to this special election, Republicans could have resisted, pushed back, or drawn lines, but their failure to do so lead them inexorably to this moment: the defeat of an unreconstructed bigot and ignorant crank who had the full-throated backing of the president they have embraced and empowered.

It may be worthwhile charting the party’s descent to this moment.

Think of it as a drama in four acts.

In Act I, the curtain opens to reveal a gaudy golden escalator, and as Donald Trump descends to announce his candidacy for president, the scene has the feel of a French farce. But the humor is tinged with menace, as his lies and insults pile up, targeting women, the disabled and minorities. As the curtain closes, it is unclear whether Republicans will bring themselves to embrace the erratic usurper. (Exit Jeb! stage right.)

The mood is more somber in Act II, as Republicans ponder their choice. A solitary Hamlet-like Paul Ryan paces the stage in a torn doublet and laments the evil days that have fallen on his party; he is accompanied by a Joker (who looks a lot like Lindsey Graham) who tells him that Donald Trump is a “kook,” someone who is “not fit to run the country.” But after several long monologues, in which he rationalizes that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” the young Mr. Ryan decides that the election is a binary choice and he and other Republicans must go along. He wavers after Mr. Trump engages in what he calls a “textbook definition” of racism and is caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women. Other women come forward, but they are largely ignored. Republicans make the choice to stick with him and to everyone’s surprise, Donald Trump wins. (Exit Mr. Ryan and Joker stage left.)

Continue reading the main story

Act III opens to a scene shortly after the inauguration. One after another, Republican leaders bow the knee to the newly enthroned Orange God King, who is surrounded by a motley court of misfits, sycophants and brigands. Even as Mr. Trump’s behavior becomes increasingly outrageous and often unhinged, the party’s grandees appease and flatter him. Courtiers, who come and go, repeatedly reassure him that he is winning. After all, he is giving them what they want: judges, tax cuts, deregulation and an end to Obamacare mandates. Enter Paul Ryan, who is better dressed and a much more cheerful character in this act. He is asked: What choice would Republicans now make?

We already made that choice,” he said. “We’re with Trump.”

“That’s a choice we made at the beginning of the year. That’s a choice we made during the campaign, which is we merged our agendas.”

And this is the New Normal for Republicans: the surrender of the party now seems complete. When the president retweets racist videos from a British fascist group, Republican leaders simply ignore it. They have grown accustomed to the politics of rationalization and the moral compromises it demands. So, as President Trump’s lies become more flagrant, they shrug. His conflicts of interest generate little attention, his tweet-rages hardly a blink. Even as the special prosecutor’s noose appears to close around the president’s inner circle, party leaders mimic Mr. Trump’s denunciations of the investigation. Despite toxic polling, Republicans have fallen into line behind his tax plan, even though it threatens to explode the deficit. There are dissenting voices, who are quickly hustled offstage, but they leave behind haunting warnings.

By the end of Act III, though, it is increasingly clear that this drama is less Hamlet and more Faust. It has only begun to dawn on the protagonists that in a Faustian bargain, you often get your heart’s delight, only to find out that the price was far more than you expected. (Alarms and excursions offstage.)

Act IV opens with a solitary, dark figure, a sort of infernal Falstaff (Steve Bannon), who, despite his banishment from the White House, remains an avatar of the forces that have been unleashed by Donald Trump’s presidency. Now Mr. Bannon presents the Republican Party with its future: Roy Moore.

Many are horrified by the prospect of this figure of appallingly vileness, who was twice removed from the bench for his refusal to follow the law, has expressed nostalgia for slavery, suggested that homosexuality should be illegal, that women should not be allowed to run for public office, and that Muslims should not be allowed to serve.

But at Mr. Bannon’s urging, Mr. Trump embraces Mr. Moore and the Republican National Committee obediently follows suit. The women who have accused Mr. Moore of harassment, sexual assault and molestation are either disbelieved as “fake news,” or discounted because it was more important to defeat the Democrat than to take the issue of sexual abuse seriously. For many Republicans, this is a reprise of the choice they made a year ago, when they decided to overlook Donald Trump’s own conduct and character. But this time the result is a stunning electoral defeat for Mr. Trump in one of the reddest states in the country and a diminished majority for Republicans in the Senate, putting their entire agenda at risk.

There were voices of resistance. Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders tried to distance themselves from Mr. Moore. The former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney declared: “Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate would be a stain on the G.O.P. and on the nation. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.”

But in this act, the Republican Party learns the full weight of the choices it has made, and their moral and political consequences. There was a certain inevitability to all of this. Step by step, Republicans embraced a politics that was post-truth and post-ethics. Now, in defeat, the party — or at least its leadership — is officially post-shame.

10COMMENTS

Some will argue that Republicans actually a dodged a bullet in Alabama, because they will not have to deal with the nightmare of a Senator Moore. But Republicans now head into a fearsome storm of outrage, tightly lashed to both President Trump and memories of Roy Moore’s horrific candidacy.

Throughout this final act, the party’s leaders will desperately try to pretend that this is not a tragedy and that they were not the ones who brought this upon themselves. Some of them will know better, but I suspect that in the final scene they will be left with the question “What have we done?”

GOP’s New Tax Scheme Revels The Scam At Its Core

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

The Plum Line

GOP’s new scheme to save Trump’s tax plan reveals the scam at its core

 November 28 at 10:13 AM

(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

THE MORNING PLUM:

Amid the final push to pass the Senate tax plan, which is at a make-or-break moment today, Republicans have now hatched two separate schemes, each designed to win over a different bloc of undecided senators. But the two maneuvers could contradict each other — and the contradiction would neatly reveal the big scam at the heart of this whole enterprise.

Several deficit-hawk senators, such as Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), are demanding that some kind of “trigger” be added to the bill, which would raise taxes later if the plan’s tax cuts end up adding to the deficit. The bill would boost the deficit by $1.4 trillion in the short term. Some Republicans have argued that the spectacular growth unleashed by the plan would offset that, but Corker and company (and many economists) are skeptical; hence the demand for a tax-hike trigger. As of now, how this trigger would work, and whose taxes would go up, are unspecified.

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At the same time, Senate Republicans are currently looking at ways to make the bill more generous to owners of “pass-through” businesses, to win over holdouts Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Steve Daines of Montana. Research has shown that most pass-through income goes to the top 1 percent: As the New York Times put it, to win them over, Republicans are “increasingly tilting” their plan “to benefit wealthy Americans.”

 2:10
Why the GOP deficit hawks sound a little less hawkish lately

The Washington Post’s Damian Paletta looks at the arguments that Republicans are using to promote their tax overhaul.

But here’s the rub of the matter: As one tax analyst tells me, if Republicans make the plan more generous to the wealthy by doing more for pass-throughs (to win over some senators), this would also add to the deficit (which should drive away the others). And this leads us right back to the con at the heart of this whole affair.

The center of the Senate GOP tax plan is a large permanent cut to the tax rate paid by corporations. These would themselves overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, because the vast majority of their benefits would go to shareholders and capital. But Republicans face two challenges. The first is to sell this primarily as a middle-class tax cut, so voters accept it. They do this by front-loading a bunch of preferences for the middle class along with cuts to individual rates across the board. The second challenge is to do this while simultaneously making the case that the plan would not balloon the deficit, to hold on to deficit-hawk senators and because if it raises the deficit in the long term, procedural it can’t pass by simple majority with only Republican votes. Republicans address this problem by ending all the middle-class preferences and individual rate cuts after 2025.

But the problem is that the second imperative undermines the first. Because the middle-class benefits must be temporary to avoid busting the long-term deficit, analyses have found that in the long run, it would shower enormous long-term benefits on the rich while the benefits to the middle class fade away and taxes go up later for many less-fortunate earners. The whole point of back-loading the losses on to that latter group later is to prevent the permanent corporate tax cuts from ballooning the long-term deficit, allowing a huge permanent tax cut overwhelmingly benefiting the rich to pass with no Democrats.

The two new maneuvers Republicans are now contemplating both typify and exacerbate this core problem. Senators who want the plan to be more generous to pass-throughs saythey want the small businesses in their ranks (there are some) to get equivalent treatment to wealthy corporations. But Joseph Rosenberg, a senior research associate at the Tax Policy Center, tells me that this itself would add to the deficit.

“Changes that would make the pass-through provision more generous would further increase the cost of the bill and the deficit,” Rosenberg emailed me. What’s more, Rosenberg notes that such a change would likely be something the wealthy in particular can take advantage of, because they’d be more inclined and able to reclassify their income as pass-through. As “taxpayers look for opportunities to take advantage of the tax benefit,” Rosenberg says, this would “disproportionately benefit higher-income households.”

For all of this to go through, consider the most likely way it would happen: The deficit hawks would have to accept a plan that on paper does balloon the deficit in the short term, on the basis of triggers that allow them to claim tax hikes will kick in if growth doesn’t offset that. (Either these triggers remain unspecified, or Republicans will be declaring that some specific groups may be hit with tax hikes later.) Meanwhile, to make conservatives happy, the plan would have to include still more benefits for the rich under the guise of mainly helping small businesses.

All that could very well happen. But if so, it will just underscore how many different ruses are necessary to paper over the basic con at the center of it all: Republicans are giving the wealthy a large permanent tax cut while selling it as mainly a large middle-class tax cut andas something that won’t bust the deficit.

Update: Reporter Steven Dennis points out that Johnson and Daines are proposing to pay for their idea of making the bill more generous to pass-throughs by doing away with some deductions enjoyed by corporations.

But Seth Hanlon, a tax analyst with the Center for American Progress, tells me that we should not presume this offset will prove to be real until we actually see it in the bill and it’s subjected to serious scrutiny. If not, Republicans would have to find the money to pay for this elsewhere, or it would increase the deficit.

Beyond this, the broader point still holds: The underlying problem here has always been that Republicans are trying to push a permanent tax cut that would overwhelmingly benefit the rich, while selling it as primarily a middle-class tax cut and claiming it won’t bust the deficit.

* TAX CHANGES WON’T DO MUCH FOR MIDDLE CLASS: Even as the plan is being changed in ways that will further reward the wealthy, the New York Times reports that Senate GOP leaders aren’t that interested in helping another group of taxpayers:

Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida, for example, appear to be making little progress in persuading party leaders to expand access to the child tax credit for low-income families, by allowing the credit to be refundable against payroll tax liability. Such a move would allow working parents who do not currently face income tax liability to still benefit from the expanded credit envisioned in the bill.

Per usual, it appears the changes are geared toward winning over conservative holdouts, because Republicans who say they want a less regressive bill can be counted on to vote “yes” in the end.

Conservatives (GOP) introduce measure demanding Mueller’s resignation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO)

 

Conservatives introduce measure demanding Mueller’s resignation

It’s the latest sign of GOP resistance to the special counsel’s Russia probe.

Three House Republicans on Friday moved to pressure special counsel Robert Mueller to resign over what they contend are “obvious conflicts of interest,” the latest instance of rising GOP resistance to his Russia probe.

Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), introduced a measure that, while nonbinding, would put the House on record describing Mueller, a former FBI director, as unfit to lead the probe because of his relationship with James Comey, his successor at the bureau.

“[B]e it Resolved, That House of Representatives expresses its sense that Robert Mueller is compromised and should resign from his special counsel position immediately,” the resolution states.

Mueller is investigating whether any Americans aided Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election as well as whether figures in the Trump administration may have obstructed justice in part by moving to oust Comey in May, when the FBI’s Russia investigation was picking up steam. Mueller was appointed by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein after an uproar following President Donald Trump’s decision to fire Comey.

The move by the three lawmakers to seek Mueller’s resignation is a sign of intensifying frustration among Trump’s allies during the same week Mueller issued his first indictments in the probe: money laundering charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates. Mueller also secured a guilty plea from George Papadopoulos, a low-level campaign foreign policy adviser, who lied to the FBI about his attempts to arrange a meeting between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

The anger from Republicans appears to mirror the feelings of Trump, who on Friday unloaded in a series of tweets urging his own Justice Department to investigate Democrats — not him — for transgressions he says occurred during the 2016 election.

“This is real collusion and dishonesty. Major violation of Campaign Finance Laws and Money Laundering,” he said, accusing Democrats of the same charges that Manafort was hit with. “[W]here is our Justice Department?”

Most Republicans, including those in GOP leadership, are not on board with dismissing Mueller.

But the conservative push has worried some on the left, who are urging Democratic lawmakers to step up their defense of Mueller.

“While it might be ideal to wait to speak out until Mueller finishes his investigation, Trump’s defenders in Congress are not waiting to defend the President’s actions or to pass judgment on the investigation,” CAP Action Fund wrote in a memo being prepared for lawmakers and obtained by POLITICO. “The heightened risk to Trump from Mueller’s investigation also means there is a heightened risk to the Mueller investigation from Trump.”

Other conservatives, like Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), have already called for Mueller’s departure.

DeSantis, too, has ramped up his efforts to hinder Mueller’s investigation. He recently pushed an amendment, which failed to gain traction, that would have curtailed Mueller’s probe within six months and limited its scope.

And in a Thursday interview with Breitbart Radio, DeSantis blamed Rosenstein for a “clumsy” decision to appoint Mueller without putting strict limits on his scope.

“Rosenstein really muffed this,” he said.

Breitbart News Editor Alex Marlow, who interviewed DeSantis, promised to give his proposal a lot of airtime and ink.

“We’re going to be pushing it heavily or at least content on it heavily,” he said.

In his interview, DeSantis also foreshadowed the end of the House Intelligence Committee’s separate investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“The good news on the congressional side, at least in the House, is from what I understand, they’ve really increased the frequency of the interviews of the people and I think on the House side this Russia-Trump [probe] is going to come to an end soon,” he said.

DeSantis isn’t on the intelligence panel but said talking to committee members, he’s convinced it’ll be done “certainly before the end of the year.”

He also said he’s been urging Speaker Paul Ryan to curtail the House investigation.

“I said, ‘Mr. Speaker, we’ve been spinning these wheels. There’s no evidence. If there is, produce it. I think we’d all like to see it. But if not, then we’ve got to get on with our business,’” adding, “I think that message has been received.”

While the new resolution faults Mueller for leading the probe despite his professional relationship with Comey, it also includes a broader broadside against the FBI.

The three lawmakers say the agency should be investigated for “willful blindness” over a seven-year-old sale of uranium production facilities to Russian interests, which conservatives have argued was approved in part by the Hillary Clinton-led State Department at the same time a party to the deal was making donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Mueller, they note, was presiding over the FBI at the time the agency was investigating a Russian bribery and extortion scheme connected to the uranium deal, but the agency declined to notify Congress of its investigation and prevented a confidential informant from notifying lawmakers.

“Any thorough and honest investigation into the corruption of American-uranium related business must include investigating the willful blindness of the FBI and its leaders,” according to the resolution.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the name of President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.
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