Monday, October 23, 2017

Myeshia Johnson: Trump 'Made Me Cry Even Worse'

The widow of US Army Sgt. La David Johnson has finally broken her silence about the phone call she received from President Donald Trump. Reports that the president was disrespectful in the phone call set off a controversy about the treatment of Gold Star families last week.

Myeshia Johnson appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday morning to give her side of the story. The appearance is the first time that Mrs. Johnson has publicly spoken about the controversy although Sgt. Johnson’s mother had previously corroborated claims by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fl.) that Trump’s comments during the call had upset the family.

Mrs. Johnson spoke with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos in a recorded interview. Johnson said that the president called as they were arriving at Dover AFB to meet Sgt. Johnson’s body. She asked that the phone speaker be turned on so that other relatives could hear.

From the ABC News transcript, Mrs. Johnson tells what happened next:
“The President, said that he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway. And it made me cry ‘cause I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said he couldn’t remember my husband’s name. The only way he remembered my husband's name is because he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him and that’s when he actually said ‘La David.’ I heard him stumblin' on trying to remember my husband’s name and that’s what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country why can’t you remember his name. And that’s what made me upset and cry even more because my husband was an awesome soldier.”

Johnson said that after the call she was “very, very upset and hurt” and that “it made me cry even worse.” She added that Rep. Wilson was a longtime family friend and that her claims about the content of the phone call were “100 percent correct.”

Mrs. Johnson also said that she has questions about the circumstances of her husband’s death in Niger. “I want to know why it took them 48-hours to find my husband,” she said, adding that she was never allowed to view her husband’s body.

“They just told me that, um, it was a massive gunfire and my husband as of October 4th was missing, they didn't his whereabouts,” Johnson said. “They didn't know where he was or where to find him and a couple days later is when they told me that he went from missing to killed in action. I don’t know how he got killed, where he got killed or anything.”

Myeshia Johnson said that she intends to keep pushing for answers about her husband’s death and that she “want[s] the world to know how great of a soldier my husband was and [what] a loving and caring father and husband he was to our family.”


“He died as a hero,” she said.


Originally Published On The Resurgent

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Did George W. Bush Really Bash President Trump?

There has been a lot of criticism from Trump supporters for President Bush after his speech on conservative values this week. The criticism stems from the perception that Bush was attacking Donald Trump in the speech, even though Bush never specifically mentioned Trump.

In the speech, Bush laid out the case for traditional conservative solutions and decried a number of disturbing trends that are rocking western countries. Among the problems that Bush cited are lack of public confidence in institutions and democracy, bigotry, casual cruelty, nativism, and isolationism. Pundits, both on the left and the right, assume this to be an attack on Trumpist populism.

What most observers miss is that many of these problems are as easily attributed to the left as to the right. For example, wasn’t it Barack Obama who argued that America should have a smaller role in world affairs and who led the national retreat from the world stage? With his opposition to free trade and interventionist foreign policy, Bernie Sanders can be called an isolationist as easy as Donald Trump.

It was also Barack Obama’s presidency that saw public faith in government shattered. Ironically, the president for whom government was the solution to every problem presided over eight years in which public confidence in almost every branch of government fell to historic lows.

With respect to bullying and bigotry, would Trump supporters and others on the right argue that Antifa and Black Lives Matter are not bullies and bigots who engage in casual cruelty? Leftist groups that promote violence in place of civil discourse and who value one ethnicity over others are as deserving of these labels as anyone.

But in fairness, President Bush’s words do bear a strong resemblance to President Trump as well. If the president’s partisans get defensive on these counts, it is probably because the general denunciation of policies and attitudes can be applied as easily to the new Republican Party as to the left. It is only by looking back to past Republican presidents, that we can fully see much the GOP has changed in recent years.

The “deficit of confidence” that President Bush named as “one of our worst national problems” applies not only to both Donald Trump and Barack Obama, but to Democrats and Republicans in general. For more than a decade, government has seemed incapable of addressing anything but the simplest problems. If you need a post office named, they can do that. Anything more significant gets bogged down in partisan stalemate.

President Bush’s speech was not aimed at Donald Trump. Or rather, it was not aimed only at Donald Trump. But it is understandable why Trump partisans would take offense. It is, after all, the truth.


If the shoe fits, wear it.  

Originally published on The Resurgent

Stop Weaponizing Gold Star Families

The brouhaha over President Trump’s phone call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson has gotten even worse in recent days. After Chief of Staff John Kelly inserted himself in the debate, Kelly, himself a Gold Star father, became the subject of attacks from the left.

What have we become as a country when we use the families of fallen soldiers as weapons to attack political opponents? Or attack these families to protect politicians on our own side?

Not all of the families of fallen soldiers are going to say things that patriotic Americans agree with. Cindy Sheehan, the mother of Spc. Casey Sheehan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, is a prime example of a Gold Star mother who says things that are offensive to many other Americans.

The bottom line, however, is that they have the right, as American citizens, to express their opinions. As Americans who have sacrificed a family member, they have paid an unusually high price for the right to speak their minds freely. Their opinions should be respected, if not necessarily agreed with.

Can we resolve the issue of the phone call to Mrs. Johnson without calling either President Trump or Cowanda Jones-Johnson a liar? Yes. It’s surprisingly easy to guess what happened when we lay aside political grudges and preconceptions.

Keep in mind that first-person witnesses to an event are notoriously unreliable. This is especially true in cases where the individuals are under stress and distracted. Neither side recorded the call so both only have their fallible human memories and impressions to fall back on.

My best guess as to what happened is that President Trump made the call to Sgt. Johnson’s widow in good faith and went off script, as he tends to do. What seemed to be an innocuous comment to the president and Gen. Kelly was taken differently by the Johnson family and Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fl.).

One of my favorite philosophies is Hanlon’s Razor, which advises, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” This advice applies to both sides in the current debate.

First, liberals should acknowledge that Donald Trump would not intentionally act so callously toward the widow of a fallen American soldier. The fact that Gen. Kelly now backs up Trump’s claim is a powerful argument that Trump’s statement may have been misheard or misinterpreted.

Second, Trump supporters should not assume that the family is intent on using the death of Sgt. Johnson to embarrass and attack the president. To assume that a grieving family would lie about what they heard the president say, knowing that it would cause Sgt. Johnson’s name to be dragged through the mud and that family members would be subjected to personal attacks in their time of grief, defies logic.

Kelly’s statement seems to support the idea that the president unintentionally misspoke. Recalling the words of Gen. Joseph Dunford after the death of his own son in Afghanistan, Kelly said, “He was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that one percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we were at war. And when he died he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That's what the President tried to say to the four families the other day.”

That's what the President tried to say.

Kelly said that he had advised the president not to call the families of the fallen soldiers, but Trump had insisted. “If you're not in the family, if you've never worn the uniform, if you're not in combat, you can't even begin to imagine how to make that call,” Kelly said.

It would be easy, for a distraught wife and mother, especially if they were not fans of Donald Trump in the first place, to read disrespect and callousness into the president’s comments. This is especially true if he did indeed start to ramble.

If there is a villain in the story, it is Rep. Wilson. It was Wilson who politicized the phone call. Even if the family members were offended by Trump’s remarks, it was Wilson used that pain for political gain. It was Wilson who has continually subjected the family to unnecessary pain by keeping the issue in the news. It is Wilson who has led much of the country to question the integrity of Sgt. Johnson’s family, who undoubtedly loved and cared for him very much.

At this point, both sides should stand down. Let’s agree that attacking Gold Star families, whether they are the Johnsons or the Kellys, Democrats or Republicans, liberal or conservative, should be off limits. Families of fallen soldiers are entitled to speak, but, in the name of decency, politicians should refrain from speaking for them.


When Cindy Sheehan attacked President Bush in 2005, his response was a great example of dignity, patience and honor. “I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan,” Bush said at the time. “She feels strongly about her position, and she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has the right to her position.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, October 20, 2017

Nikki Haley Calls Russian Election Interference ‘Warfare’

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, hit back hard at Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections on Thursday. Haley, speaking to an audience in New York, delivered one of the strongest denunciations yet against Vladimir Putin’s “weapon of choice” and called Russia’s meddling an act of “warfare.”

“I will tell you that when a country can come interfere in another country’s elections, that is warfare. It really is, because you’re making sure that the democracy shifts from what the people want to giving out that misinformation,” Haley said in Politico. “And we didn’t just see it here. You can look at France and you can look at other countries. They are doing this everywhere. This is their new weapon of choice. And we have to make sure we get in front of it.”

Haley continued, “I find it fascinating because the Russians, God bless ‘em, they’re saying, ‘Why are Americans anti-Russian?’ And why have we done the sanctions? Well, don’t interfere in our elections and we won’t be anti-Russian. And I think we have to be so hard on this and we have to hold them accountable and we have to get the private sector to understand they are responsible for this, too. We all have to step up from this event.”

President Trump has frequently denied that Russia attempted to manipulate the 2016 elections, but did sign a sanctions bill passed by Congress. A few weeks ago, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) announced that the Trump Administration had not yet implemented the sanctions.

Even though the president has been largely silent on Russia’s interference, other members of his administration in addition to Haley have spoken out to confirm and condemn the cyberattacks. CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are among the members of the Trump Administration who have expressed concern about Russia’s interference in the election.

In her remarks, Haley indicated that the silence from the president does not mean that the threat from Russia is being ignored. The ambassador said that US counterintelligence agencies are “working overtime” to counter the Russian cyberthreat.

Haley made her comments at the “Spirit of Liberty” forum in New York sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute. President Bush made a keynote address at the conference as well, in which he singled out Russia as an external threat to American democracy.


Originally Published on The Resurgent

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Relax. Melania Trump Has Not Been Replaced By a Robot

Presidents and parties may come and go in Washington, but conspiracy theories remain. It doesn’t seem to matter if which party is in power, the cottage industry of conspiracy theorists will find something sinister to be alarmed about. George W. Bush allegedly engineered the September 11 attacks. Barack Obama supposedly had secret plans to invade Texas and impose martial law. Now the internet’s self-appointed guardians against the New World Order have uncovered a conspiracy that involves President Trump.

This conspiracy doesn’t involve Russian meddling in the 2016 elections or claim that the Trump Administration is covering up second shooter in Las Vegas. The armchair warriors against “Them” are worried that – wait for it –Melania Trump is robot.

Seriously.

To be fair, not everyone thinks that Melania is robot. Some just think that she has been replaced by a flesh and blood body double.

The claim that Melania is not Melania seems to have begun with Joe Vargas, a Twitter user whose handle is “BuyLegalMeds.com.” If you need further clues as to Vargas’ credibility, his Twitter page prominently features the green cross used to identify marijuana dispensaries.

Vargas posted a CNN video clip of the president and First Lady with the caption, “This is not Melania. To think they would go this far & try & make us think its [sic] her on TV is mind blowing. Makes me wonder what else is a lie.”

Trump’s often awkward behavior and phrasing fed the conspiracy. The clip that Vargas posted began with the president referring to “my wife, Melania, who happens to be right here,” leading the woke ones to wonder why he had to remind people that Melania was right beside him if it was really Melania.

“I initially didn't notice, but thought it was strange when he said ‘my wife Melania, she's right here’ to try & convince media it was her,” Vargas tweeted. As further proof, the True Believers noted that Melania did not speak.

Others fed the growing conspiracy as they recalled another weird moment from a few weeks ago. Visiting Florida after Hurricane Irma, President Trump said, “I just want to thank everybody, the first responders, on behalf of myself, our vice president. Melania really wanted to be with us. It's really touched her heart what's gone on.”

Sounds normal, right? The only problem [cue spooky music] is that Melania was standing right beside President Trump the whole time. The video of the moment has gone viral.

“Yo they're actually using a fake Melania Trump stunt double,” Treymeister89 tweeted. The laughing emoticons in his tweet suggest that Trey is not treating the crisis with the gravity that it deserves.

In a tweet that has apparently been deleted, “Pumpkinsauce” claimed, “Melania trump was replaced by a very lifelike robot 14 years ago the only giveaway from this remarkable machine is the cold, dead eyes.” Perhaps “They” hacked into his account to delete the tweet.

Strangely enough, Business Insider, not known for conspiracy reporting pointed out that there is a real woman in the Trump entourage, presumably a Secret Service agent, who bears a striking resemblance to Melania. The two have been photographed together on numerous occasions. It isn’t clear whether the mysterious woman was also present when the Vargas video was made or at the press conference in Florida.

There is no evidence that the presumed Secret Service agent has ever acted as a double for Melania. If her purpose was to be a body double, it is unlikely that the Secret Service would put her in place to be photographed with Melania, essentially blowing her cover.

Occam’s Razor holds that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. The simplest explanation in this case is that Melania is Melania and that President Trump is poor public speaker when he doesn’t have prepared remarks. The president has had other gaffes that were plainly not slips that uncovered a sinister conspiracy. For example, it was only last week that Trump said that he met with the president of the Virgin Islands when Trump himself is the president of the Virgin Islands since they are a US territory.

Much of the fuss is satire or people mocking the True Believers, but quite a few seem to seriously believe that Melania is not Melania. As shocking as it may seem, I suspect that Vargas may have crafted the original tweet as a viral marketing tool for his “medicinal” internet business.


The bottom line on the Melania body double conspiracy is a simple one: This is your brain on drugs. Don’t do drugs. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Alexander Points Finger At Trump As Opposition to Obamacare Deal Mounts

Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) deal to stave off the collapse of Obamacare is meeting with a less than ecstatic response. As the bipartisan framework meets opposition, Alexander pointed to President Trump as the force behind the tentative agreement.

After a phone call with the president, Sen. Alexander claimed that the deal was Trump’s idea in the first place. “Trump completely engineered the plan that we announced yesterday,” Alexander told Mike Allen of Axios. Alexander said that Trump repeatedly called to push him toward a deal that included Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “He wanted a bipartisan bill for the short term,” Alexander said.

A few minutes after Alexander’s appearance with Allen, President Trump appeared to throw then senator under the bus. Trump tweeted, “I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co's who have made a fortune w/ O'Care.”

Meanwhile, there are signs that the deal may be a tough sell for Republicans. A spokesman for Speaker Paul Ryan said, “The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare.”

Business Insider reported that Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) had announced that he would oppose the Obamacare deal. Hatch, who penned an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled, “Obamacare doesn’t deserve a bailout,” told reporters, “It would last two years and spend a whopping amount of money and not solve the problem.” John Thune (R-S.D.), the Senate’s third highest ranking Republican, said that the bill had “stalled out.”

The effort did pick up several cosponsors as Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) signed on to the bill. There were reports that more cosponsors from both parties would announce their support soon.

The bill could pass with combined support of Republicans and Democrats, even if a large number of conservatives withhold their support. Small Republican majorities in both houses make it difficult to pass a unilateral bill. Republicans alone do not have the numbers to win a cloture vote in the Senate and the loss of only three senators is enough to scuttle a budget resolution that requires only a simple majority to pass. However, a bipartisan coalition could conceivably muster enough support to win a vote as well as end a filibuster by holdouts.

At this point, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not indicated his position on the deal. As leader of the Senate, McConnell could doom the bill by preventing the Senate from bringing it to a vote.  

If the bill dies, the Trump Administration has announced that it will suspend Obamacare subsidy payments to insurance companies in accordance with a federal court decision earlier this year. The effect that this would have upon insurance markets is uncertain, but insurance company stocks tumbled after the president announced the decision.


Sen. Alexander said that Republicans may reintroduce the Graham-Cassidy bill if the Alexander-Murray deal fails. Graham-Cassidy was withdrawn last month after four Republican senators announced that they would vote against it.  

Originally published on The Resurgent

Bipartisan Deal Would Preserve Obamacare For Two Years

In an “if you can’t beat them, join them” moment, Republicans appear to have reached a deal with Democrats to preserve key components of the Affordable Care Act in the wake of President Trump’s announcement that his administration will stop paying subsidies to insurance companies under the Obama-era law. The tentative agreement was announced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Tuesday.

“Sen. Murray and I have an agreement. We're going to round up co-sponsors as best we can,” Alexander told Politico.

President Trump appeared optimistic about the deal. “Lamar has been working very, very hard with the Democratic, his colleagues on the other side,” Trump said. “And they're coming up and they're fairly close to a short-term solution. The solution will be for about a year or two years. And it’ll get us over this intermediate hump.”

The deal reportedly contains funding for Obamacare’s subsidies to insurance companies for 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well as funding for state Obamacare enrollments. In return, Republicans would get expanded access to state waivers to approve lower cost plans and consumers over 30 would be allowed to purchase “copper plans” that cover only catastrophic illnesses for a lower premium, but have higher out-of-pocket costs.

There would also be an important advantage for Republicans in postponing the shakeout of the insurance industry that would accompany stopping the subsidy payments. No one knows precisely what would happen if the Trump Administration stopped the payments, but the likely chaos in insurance markets would probably not reflect well on Republicans as midterm elections approach. The deal would give Congress two additional years to resolve the issue.

Whether the bill can pass Congress is uncertain. Chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) tweeted, “The GOP should focus on repealing and replacing Obamacare, not trying to save it. This bailout is unacceptable.” Others, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), adopted a wait and see attitude.

“Most of the members of the conference are finding out about the details for the first time. I don’t think anybody beyond Lamar and a few others know,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said. “The details are important.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) seemed to favor the bill. “We think it's a good solution and it got broad support when Patty and I talked about it with the caucus,” he said. “We've achieved stability if this agreement becomes law.”

If Schumer and Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) can deliver Democrat votes, the bill could become law in spite of almost certain opposition by conservative Republicans. At this point, it seems likely that Democrats would favor the bill, which would preserve most of Obamacare intact and force the Trump Administration to continue paying subsidies.

At this point, there is no indication of how fast the bill will move through Congress. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “We haven't had a chance to think about the way forward yet.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has not publicly addressed the new deal, but told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Monday that he preferred a comprehensive approach to replacing the Affordable Care Act.


“I think we’ve got to do more to get it fixed, but the answer is not to shovel more money at a failing program that is doubling premiums and causing monopolies,” Ryan said. “The answer is to reform the underlying failure of the law and one of those underlying failures is the lack of choice and competition in health insurance.”

Originally published on The Resurgent