Category: Politics

How Trump Betrays ‘Forgotten’ Americans

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 7.45.29 AMFrom the Supreme Court to labor organizing rules, the president undermines workers’ greatest champions.

Donald Trump promotes himself as a friend of “forgotten” workers, but in ways large and small his administration has undermined what has traditionally been the biggest champion of workers: labor unions.

Most recently, he used his authority as president to deliver a harsh Labor Day message to the 2.1 million people who work for him, canceling pay raises for the civilian employees of the federal government. In May, he issued three executive orders to weaken federal employees’ unions by, among other things, limiting the subjects they can bargain over. (On Aug. 25, a judge ruled that this move violated federal law.) In March 2017, Mr. Trump signed a law repealing an executive order signed by President Obama that sought to keep the federal government from awarding contracts to companies that violate laws protecting workers’ right to unionize, as well as wage and job safety laws.

Since taking office, Mr. Trump has installed a conservative majority on the National Labor Relations Board that has moved quickly to make it harder for unions to organize. Last December, the board overturned a rule, beloved by unions, that made it easier to organize smaller units of workers in big factories and stores. In another board decision, his appointees made it tougher for workers at fast-food restaurants and other franchised operations to unionize, although that “joint employer” ruling was vacated when a labor board member later recused himself because of a conflict of interest. The board is also looking to slow down unionization elections, a move that unions oppose because it would give corporations more time to pressure workers to vote against unionizing.

Mr. Trump’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, was the deciding vote in a case that delivered this year’s biggest blow to workers. In Janus v. AFSCME, the court’s conservative majority, in a 5-to-4 vote, ruled in June that government employees can’t be required to pay any fees to the unions that bargain for them. By allowing many government workers to become “free riders,” that ruling is expected to chop revenues to many public employee unions by one-tenth to one-third.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/03/opinion/trump-labor-unions-greenhouse.html

Inside McCain’s surprise eulogy invitation to Obama

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(CNN)A parting lesson in American civility from Sen. John McCain lies in the roster of leaders he personally selected to pay tribute at his memorial service Saturday at the National Cathedral.

It was a day in early April when Barack Obama received an unexpected call from McCain, who was battling brain cancer and said he had a blunt question to ask: Would you deliver one of the eulogies at my funeral?
Obama, who is responsible for extinguishing McCain’s second bid for the White House a decade ago, immediately answered that he would. He was taken aback by the request, aides say, as was George W. Bush, another former rival, who received a similar call from McCain this spring.
When the 43rd and 44th US presidents stand on the high altar of the soaring cathedral on Saturday, after the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” anthem is sung, they will not only be celebrating the life of John Sidney McCain III. It will be McCain, too, having a not-so-subtle last word, aimed at another president he made clear he did not want to attend: Donald J. Trump.
While neither of the two former presidents were especially close to McCain in life, he and Bush were fellow Republicans, forged together for better or worse, through policy and party loyalty. After a deeply personal and vitriolic primary fight in 2000, McCain went on to endorse Bush and occasionally campaigned with him four years later.
But McCain’s decision to invite Obama to speak at his funeral stands out as far more extraordinary, given their brutal and bitter rivalry during the 2008 presidential race.

I had a daily ringside seat to their feud, covering the campaign for The New York Times, chronicling their fights over the Iraq war and, later, the economy. On those subjects, and many more, McCain viewed Obama as naïve and unprepared for the presidency. To be clear, those critiques lingered long after Obama won, particularly on matters of national security.

So, I’ve been wondering whether McCain and Obama had somehow developed an intimate relationship after Obama left office, if they had been having quiet conversations over the last year or two that haven’t been publicly discussed as McCain neared the end of his journey.

It turns out, after talking to several friends of both men this week, their relationship isn’t intimate at all, but rather one rooted in mutual respect and a shared sense of alarm at today’s caustic political climate. Their telephone call on that April day was first arranged by advisers, not McCain simply dialing up Obama as he would do with his legion of friends, a sign they were hardly tight.
In fact, the two have spoken by phone only a couple of times since Obama left the White House, aides to both men say, most notably last summer when Obama reached out after McCain cast the deciding vote to salvage the Affordable Care Act. He thanked him. The call was brief.

Obama has not been among the long parade of visitors who came to see McCain on his Arizona ranch as he fought brain cancer. George and Laura Bush dropped by not long ago, as did former Vice President Joe Biden, a close and longtime friend of McCain’s in the Senate, who will deliver a eulogy at a memorial service on Thursday in Arizona.

But McCain’s decision to ask Obama and Bush to eulogize him is part of a carefully choreographed — and, yes, even strategic — message for America and the world in the wake of his death. It’s also perhaps, one last opportunity for McCain to try and tamp down a fervor that first awoke in the Republican Party during his 2008 race and has swelled ever since.
Steve Duprey, a longtime friend of McCain’s and a senior adviser in his 2008 campaign, said the senator respected Obama, even if the two were never particularly close and wounds from their race were raw for years.
“I think it is John McCain imparting a lesson in civility by asking the two men who defeated him to speak, as an example to America that differences in political views and contests shouldn’t be so important that we lose our common bonds and the civility that is, or used to be, a hallmark of American democracy,” Duprey said.
David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama in his campaigns and in the White House, said the clear message McCain is sending is “about our shared heritage, our shared trust of this democracy that transcends party and transcends tribe.”
“It really does animate his message of national unity,” Axelrod said. “There is a kind of poetry to it that he wanted his two erstwhile opponents to eulogize them.”

Even unspoken, the lesson also shines a light on McCain’s outward disdain for Trump and his presidency. And McCain hardly shied away from that in a farewell, posthumous message released on Monday in which he echoed his concession speech to Obama from a decade ago.

“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here,” McCain wrote in the statement released after his death. “Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”

But as the remarkable story of McCain’s life has been replaying this week — his acts of wartime heroism and his admissions of congressional mistakes — it’s striking the degree to which the old quarrels seem almost charming in the era of Trump.

Opinion: Trump’s presidency reaches a Nixon moment, GOP must put America first Donald Trump and the D.C.swamp creatures are doing real damage to America

The enduring greatness of America is proven by our country’s endurance of dreadful presidents, from a drunken Andrew Johnson, to Warren Harding presiding over Cabinet bribes, to Richard Nixon talking to portraits of his predecessors.

None as dreadful, or as dreadfully dangerous, as the 45th President, Donald J. Trump.

This week, Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to illegally funneling hush money to porn star Stormy DanScreen Shot 2018-08-23 at 9.51.16 PMiels and Playboy model Karen McDougal to influence the election, while former campaign adviser Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of financial fraud.

RELATED: Manafort juror says 1 holdout prevented 18-count conviction

The cesspool of Donald Trump’s government was again on full display early Thursday morning with Trump denouncing his own Attorney General for recusing himself in the Russia investigation. “What kind of man is this?” he asked.

Trump decried “flippers,” like Cohen — participants in criminal behavior who decide to cooperate with prosecutors, and suggested deals like his ought to be made illegal.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the second House member to endorse Trump in 2016, appeared in court to face charges he and spouse took $250,000 in campaign funds to support a lavish personal lifestyle.

The first Trump endorser, Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, has already been indicted on charges of tipping off his son to dump a drug stock after learning that the company’s wonder drug had failed a test. He made the call from the White House lawn.

What proverb sums up the situation? A fish rots from the head down.

Or the Turkish variation: The fish stinks first from the head.

A generation ago, we had principled Republicans who put country first.

READ MORE: https://www.sfgate.com/local/politics/article/Trump-nixon-manafort-cohen-flynn-impeach-opinion-13177648.php

Welcome to the Resistance, Omarosa

Omarosa Manigault Newman, the reality show villain who campaigned for Donald Trump and followed him into the White House, is an amoral, dishonest, mercenary grifter. This makes her just like most people in Trump’s orbit. What separates her from them is that she might be capable of a sliver of shame.

Naturally, Manigault Newman’s new book, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House,” is self-serving, a way to avenge her 2017 firing and make money telling us what we already know about this wretched administration. Nevertheless, she had other options for cashing in. She has revealed that she was offered a $15,000-a-month position on the Trump re-election campaign in exchange for keeping her mouth shut. She could have had a career in right-wing media; an African-American celebrity willing to say that the Republican Party isn’t racist will always find patrons.

Instead, she chose to speak out against the man who made her a star, and repent for her complicity in electing him. She may be a manipulative narcissist, but she’s behaving more honorably than any other former Trump appointee.

That’s not a high bar, and I wouldn’t take most of the claims of “Unhinged” at face value. But we don’t have to, because Manigault Newman has receipts. When I got a prepublication copy of the book on Friday, I wasn’t sure what to think of the scene in which Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, fires her, making thuggish threats to destroy her reputation if she doesn’t go quietly. On Sunday, “Meet the Press” played her recording of the exchange, which unfolds exactly as she described.

Similarly, I didn’t quite trust her account of the post-firing phone call she received from Trump, in which the president expressed surprise and dismay that she has been let go. “No one even told me,” she quotes him saying, adding, “I don’t love you leaving at all.” But on Monday, the “Today” show played Manigault Newman’s recording of this exchange. And that $15,000-a-month contract? You can read it yourself in The Washington Post.

Of course, just because Manigault Newman is telling the truth about some things doesn’t prove that she’s telling the truth about everything, including the alleged existence of outtakes from “The Apprentice” in which Trump uses racial slurs. “Unhinged” has lots of evidence-free gossip, including speculation that Trump was sleeping with Paula White, the pretty blond prosperity-gospel preacher who gave the invocation at his inauguration. My opinion of Trump could scarcely be lower, but I won’t be convinced that he floated the idea of being sworn in on “The Art of the Deal” instead of the Bible, as Manigault Newman claims, until I hear it myself. (Lordy, I hope there are tapes.)

Still, there’s no question she has useful knowledge of our ruling clique. Perhaps the most interesting thing about “Unhinged” is its insights into how Manigault Newman, a former Democrat who’d worked in Bill Clinton’s White House, rationalized being part of Trump’s white nationalist campaign. I’ve always been mystified by how the president’s enablers, who understand his venality and incompetence, justify their behavior to themselves. (Even most bad people want to believe that they’re good.) Manigault Newman is an unreliable narrator, but her book is still the best account we have of how the Trump cult — a term she uses repeatedly — looks from the inside.

Her version of her own motivations is probably sugarcoated, but it still isn’t pretty. She’d been part of a pro-Hillary Clinton “super PAC” and was bitter that she didn’t get a job on Clinton’s campaign. Meanwhile, Manigault Newman, who grew up in poverty, knew she owed her cherished celebrity to Trump. (As she points out, he likes to surround himself with fame-worshiping people whose fortunes depend on him.) “The Trump team, unlike HRC, was true to its word and had officially brought me on board as a senior adviser and director,” she writes. “Regardless of whether Mr. Trump was being taken seriously, I was.”

She suppressed whatever unease she felt about selling out by trying to convince herself that she was representing African-American interests in the campaign and administration. Manigault Newman did graduate work at Howard, the revered historically black university. She had roots in African-American Democratic politics. When she switched sides to back Trump, the disgust of old friends and colleagues hurt. Throughout “Unhinged,” you sense her trying to explain herself to them.

Studies have shown that the people who are most likely to leave cults are those who maintain intimate links to people outside them. Manigault Newman, who last year married a pastor who campaigned for Hillary Clinton, could never fully sever ties with Trump critics.

In the end, you don’t have to trust her sincerity to see “Unhinged” as a serious indictment of Trump. Either she is telling the truth when she calls Trump “a racist, a bigot, and a misogynist” in serious mental decline, or the Trump campaign’s former director of African-American outreach, a woman frequently called upon to testify to Trump’s lack of racism, is a lying con artist. No matter how little credibility Manigault Newman has, the man who gave her a top-ranking job in his administration has less.

SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/13/opinion/columnists/omarosa-unhinged-book-trump

DeVos Ends Obama-Era Safeguards Aimed at Abuses by For-Profit Colleges

hospitalWASHINGTON — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos formally moved Friday to scrap a regulation that would have forced for-profit colleges to prove that the students they enroll are able to attain decent-paying jobs, the most drastic in a series of policy shifts that will free the scandal-scarred, for-profit sector from safeguards put in effect during the Obama era.

In a written announcement posted on its website, the Education Department laid out its plans to eliminate the so-called gainful employment rule, which sought to hold for-profit and career college programs accountable for graduating students with poor job prospects and overwhelming debt. The Obama-era rule would have revoked federal funding and access to financial aid for poor-performing schools.

After a 30-day comment period, the rule is expected to be eliminated July 1, 2019. Instead Ms. DeVos would provide students with more data about all of the nation’s higher education institutions — not just career and for-profit college programs — including debt, expected earnings after graduation, completion rates, program cost, accreditation and other measures.

“Students deserve useful and relevant data when making important decisions about their education post-high school,” Ms. DeVos said in a statement. “That’s why instead of targeting schools simply by their tax status, this administration is working to ensure students have transparent, meaningful information about all colleges and all programs. Our new approach will aid students across all sectors of higher education and improve accountability.”

But in rescinding the rule, the department is eradicating the most fearsome accountability measures — the loss of federal aid — for schools that promise to prepare students for specific careers but fail to prepare them for the job market, leaving taxpayers on the hook to pay back their taxpayer-backed loans.

The DeVos approach is reversing nearly a decade of efforts to create a tough accountability system for the largely unregulated for-profit sector of higher education. In recent years, large for-profit chains, which offer training for everything from automotive mechanics to cosmetology to cybersecurity, have collapsed under mountains of complaints and lawsuits for employing misleading and deceptive practices.

The implosions of ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges generated tens of thousands of complaints from student borrowers who said they were left with worthless degrees. The Obama administration encouraged the expansion of public community colleges as it forgave at least $450 million in taxpayer-funded student debt for for-profit graduates who could not find decent jobs with the degrees or certificates they had earned.

The regulations passed in the wake of those scandals remade the industry. Since 2010, when the Obama administration began deliberating the rules, more than 2,000 for-profit and career programs — nearly half — have closed, and the industry’s student population has dropped by more than 1.6 million, said Steve Gunderson, the president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, the for-profit industry’s trade association.

Even for-profit leaders concede the gainful employment rule has had its intended effect. Mr. Gunderson said that for-profit institutions had to adjust programming to be more affordable and responsive to the job markets.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/us/politics/betsy-devos-for-profit-colleges.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Trump’s stealth attack on Obama’s legacy

While many of us have been distracted by Rudy Giuliani’s latest legal theories — and President Trump’s latest tweets — the Trump administration is making two big moves that will get him closer to his goal of erasing President Obama’s biggest policies.

What’s happening: The administration is allowing the sale of health insurance plans that undermine some of the main rules of the Affordable Care Act. And today, it will freeze federal fuel efficiency standards, undermining Obama’s goal of making them progressively tougher.

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Why it matters: This is being done through rulemaking, which gets the attention of health care and environmental reporters, yet flies under the radar of the cable news networks. These moves have huge, long-term consequences — and they show how easily Trump can achieve his policy goals while the TV cameras are focused on the outrage of the day.

  • “The President’s daily feeding of the outrage machine allows us to get work done on the agency level that would invite much more scrutiny in a ‘normal’ administration,” a former senior Health and Human Services official tells Swan.
  • “Cable news anchors spend hours and hours of airtime dissecting the latest Trump tweet, yet they barely notice when we achieve long-sought conservative policy goals” — like adding work requirements to Medicaid and stripping federal funds from Planned Parenthood.

The details on the fuel rollback, from energy columnist Amy Harder:

  • The proposal includes a range of options, but the administration’s preferred one is the most aggressive: Freezing the standards at 35 miles per gallon in 2020 for six years, instead of rising to 50 mpg under Obama’s plan.
  • It would also revoke a federal waiver California has to issue tougher standards, which a dozen states also follow. The rollback goes further than most automakers have said they want.
  • Between the lines: Early in Trump’s administration, business urged him to slow down on deregulating, stressing that narrow regulation is better than none in a changing political climate. Today’s announcement is one of the starkest signs that Trump is throwing that advice out the window — and inviting lawsuits and regulatory uncertainty.

The details on the health care rule, from health care editor Sam Baker:

  • HHS finalized new rules yesterday that expand access to inexpensive, bare-bones insurance plans that don’t have to comply with the rest of the ACA’s rules. They’re technically “short-term” plans, but they can be renewed for up to three years.

This isn’t the only swipe the Trump administration has taken against Obama’s health care law since the repeal effort failed:

  • The administration has also expanded access to other forms of non-ACA coverage.
  • Plus, it has slashed the budgets for programs that promote enrollment.
  • Congressional Republicans nullified the law’s individual mandate, and now the Justice Department is using that move to try to knock out pre-existing condition protections.
  • None of those cuts are fatal in isolation. But they’re not happening that way: Each one will pull a few more healthy people out of the ACA’s insurance markets.

The bottom line: There’s a lot that the agencies can do to wipe out Obama’s legacy on their own — and they’re making full use of the space that Trump’s rhetorical battles are giving them.

Go deeper: What Trump’s latest changes mean for the ACA.

Jay-Z on ‘Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story’ and Activism

In the six-part docu-series “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story,” the filmmakers Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason recount the teenager’s life and his deadly encounter with George Zimmerman in a gated townhouse community outside Orlando. Through interviews with key players, including Mr. Martin’s family and Don West, a defense lawyer for Mr. Zimmerman, the directors zero in on what they see as a flawed criminal justice system. They also make an argument that the divisive case (in which Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter) galvanized both the Black Lives Matter movement and white nationalists.

The documentary makes a case for viewing Trayvon Martin’s death and the Zimmerman verdict as a turning point that galvanized progressive political activists and white supremacists alike. Did it help spark your own desire to be more publicly outspoken about politics?

I wouldn’t use that as the catalyst. So many things have been going on and the whole climate in America has changed again. I mean, obviously, I think it was the pendulum swinging back from Obama being president. I feel like it was festering and I think the Obama administration just brought those frustrations to another place where people can spread the propaganda of hate.

Also, on the flip side, we’re looking at people who, in areas like Middle America, were not really taken care of. You know? They vote for Democrats because their parents voted Democrat and America was a different place at that time. The middle class was allowed to thrive and there was steel in Indiana and the car jobs in Detroit and all these places where these factories were to provide a way for you to start somewhere in low income, get middle class and then maybe end up with the house of your dreams. This was the American dream and it was real. Then that America changed and no one addressed that.

The filmmakers and Mr. Martin’s parents hope “Rest in Power,” which debuts Monday on the Paramount Network and BET, moves Mr. Martin beyond the realm of symbolism and demonstrates the costs of ignoring these issues. “I hope people walk away knowing who Trayvon Martin really was,” Sybrina Fulton, Mr. Martin’s mother, said.

“I want people to walk away having a clear view of what this country is about right now, and not what they thought it is,” she added.

The docu-series was first announced in early 2017 as part of a production partnership between Jay-Z and The Weinstein Company. But the Weinstein Company and Harvey Weinstein have been scrubbed from the credits of “Rest in Power” since the publication of sexual assault and harassment allegations against Mr. Weinstein in The New York Times and The New Yorker last year. (The company did not have editorial input on the series, according to Paramount, which said it “owns and financed the project” in full. Ms. Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, have said that the Weinstein Company owes them money for the rights to their book, which served as source material for the documentary.)

SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/29/arts/jay-z-interview-rest-in-power-the-trayvon-martin-story