Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trump Stands By 'Big Luther'

At a rally in Huntsville, Ala. last night, President Trump continued to strongly endorse incumbent Republican Senator Luther Strange. Strange, who is linked to a corruption scandal in Alabama, will face challenger Roy Moore in the Republican primary runoff next Tuesday.  

The president kicked off his speech with support for Senator Strange, who he said “will fight for your interests, defend your values and always put America first.” In a rambling speech, Trump said that he liked “Big Luther,” nicknamed for his height, for his loyalty, including a no-strings-attached commitment to vote for the Obamacare reform bill that Trump called the “coolest thing that has happened to me in six months.”

“The last thing I want to is be involved in a primary,” Trump said, adding that he wanted to repay Strange’s loyalty by helping him when he was down in the polls.

“I might have made a mistake,” Trump said of his endorsement. “If Luther doesn’t win, they’re not going to say we picked up 25 points in a very short period of time. They’re going to say, ‘Donald Trump, the president of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the [finish] line.’”

Trump said that Strange and challenger Roy Moore were “both good men.” The president said that if Moore won the primary, he would be “campaigning like hell for him,” but expressed doubts that Moore could win the general election.

Politico reports that polling in the race shows Moore with a slight lead in the race. Moore was the top finisher in the first round of polling in August, finishing six points ahead of Strange. The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Doug Jones in a general election on December 12.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, September 22, 2017

Drone Collides With Army Helicopter Over New York

It was bound to happen. With hundreds of thousands of drones flying in the United States, many with amateur operators, one of them was bound to hit a manned aircraft sooner or later. New York City’s ABC 7 and Fox 5 are reporting that today was the day.

The local news teams say that a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was struck by a drone over Staten Island today. The helicopter, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C. was conducting security patrols for the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly when it collided with the drone at approximately 500 feet above the ground.

The drone was apparently shattered by the collision. Pieces of the drone damaged two rotor blades and the fuselage of the helicopter. A fragment of the drone was reportedly embedded in the helicopter’s oil cooler.

The Blackhawk pilot was able to safely land the helicopter after the collision. There were no reported injuries.

There have been a number of reported collisions between manned aircraft and drones, but this may be the first in the United States. A Youtube video purporting to show a drone strike the wingtip of a Southwest Airlines 737 in 2015 was revealed to be a hoax.

Under current FAA regulations, “model aircraft” under 55 pounds are exempt from federal registration if they meet certain requirements. These model aircraft are not supposed to be flown higher than 400 feet or in a manner that conflicts with manned aircraft.

The drone collision over New York seems to have inflicted minimal damage on the helicopter, but future incidents might well be worse. Popular Mechanics notes that, unlike the flock of seagulls that sent US Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson in 2009, a drone is made of denser materials.

“Birds can disintegrate relatively get something like a very viscous bulk of fluid on the other side” said Javid Bayandor of the Crashworthiness for Aerospace Structures and Hybrids (CRASH) Lab at Virginia Tech. “A drone can be like a rock going through the engine.”

As drones get bigger and become more and more common, the danger they pose increases. A large drone that is ingested into an aircraft’s engine – or worse, hits the cockpit at a high closing speed – at low altitude could have disastrous consequences.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Trump Decides to Decertify Iran Deal

Donald Trump spent a great deal of time campaigning against Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Nine months into the Trump Administration, the rubber on the Iran deal is about to meet the road. President Trump must decide by Oct. 15 whether to certify to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the terms of the deal. Under US law, the president must certify Iran’s fulfillment of the deal to Congress every 90 days. Trump has made the certification twice, but there are indications that this time may be different.

The president told reporters on Wednesday that he had made up his mind about the deal, but declined to reveal his decision. Trump is keeping his cards close, telling reporters, “I’ll let you know what the decision is,” but without saying when he would do so. Politico reported that the president even declined to share his decision with British Prime Minister Teresa May.

NBC News reports that the president is leaning toward decertifying Iran’s compliance with the deal, citing four unnamed sources within the White House. The sources indicate that the president has resolved to change the “status quo.”

If the president decertifies Iran’s compliance with the deal, it would not necessarily mean that the entire deal would be scrapped. NBC’s sources indicate that the president would use the decertification to attempt to persuade the European partners to renegotiate the deal. At this point, Britain, France and Germany are strongly opposed to ending the deal.

There are other options if the president decertifies the deal as well. If the president decertifies the deal, then Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to impose sanctions on Iran. The president could also choose to withdraw from the deal entirely as Ambassador John Bolton has urged.

Trump’s position is awkward. The president has spoken out strongly against the treaty, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday, “Perhaps the technical aspects have (been met), but in the broader context the aspiration has not.” Tillerson said that reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency “continue to confirm that Iran is in technical compliance with the agreement.” A common complaint is the fact that Iran continues to test ballistic missiles, which are not covered under the agreement.

President Trump’s decision will be closely watched by North Korea, where the president is currently engaging Kim Jong Un in a tit-for-tat over the country’s missile tests. How the president handles the agreement with Iran will almost certainly impact the resolution of the North Korean problem.

Whatever direction Trump is leaning now, nothing is certain until a formal announcement is made. Last spring, the president reportedly changed his mind on withdrawing from NAFTA at the last minute. More recently, the president’s commitment to withdrawing from the Paris climate treaty and his hardline immigration policy have been called into question as well.

Time will tell how strong President Trump’s resolve to confront Iran is and which faction of White House advisors have his ear. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Claims Of Obama-Era Domestic Spying Are Overblown

As a conservative, it pains me to be perceived as defending Barack Obama. I was a strong and consistent opponent of Obama during his eight years in the White House and rarely, if ever, agreed with him on anything. Yet at times, the criticism and attacks on Obama went too far and I feel obliged to speak up. Such was the case when conservatives charged, against all evidence, that Obama was actually a native Kenyan and that he planned to declare martial law in Texas. It’s the case now with charges of rampant spying on political opponents by the Obama Administration. Objectively speaking, the evidence to support these claims is simply not there.

Such is the case with the recent op-ed by Sharyl Attkisson in The Hill. As with many on the right, Attkisson assumes recent revelations of the surveillance of Paul Manafort are really an attempt to spy on Donald Trump. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Like the others, Attkisson fails to mention that the surveillance started two years before Trump tapped Manafort to be his campaign manager. Attkisson also overlooks the fact that there were many valid reasons for Manafort to be under scrutiny after he closely worked with the party of Ukrainian dictator and Putin figurehead, Viktor Yanukovych.

If the CNN report on the monitoring of Manafort is to be believed, and Attkisson seems to think it does, Manafort was apparently not under surveillance while he was Trump’s campaign manager. The report states that the two FISA warrants that covered Manafort were active from 2014 through “some point” in 2016 and again through fall of 2016 to early 2017. This seems to exclude the period from March through August 2016 when Manafort worked for the Trump campaign and possibly the entire time that Trump has been president.

Other examples of surveillance of by Attkisson are similarly overblown and misinterpreted. She cites comments by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates that “they, too, reviewed communications of political figures, secretly collected under President Obama.” When examined, the testimony in question deals primarily with Michael Flynn, the national security advisor who was fired for lying about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Flynn’s case falls under incidental surveillance in which the Russian diplomat, not Flynn himself, was the person under surveillance. Spying on foreign diplomats is a legitimate role of the intelligence community.

Likewise, Attkisson’s claim that the Obama Administration spied on Congress is misleading. The Wall Street Journal article on which her claim is based makes clear that the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the surveillance target, not members of Congress. The article makes clear that the NSA did not intentionally monitor the congressmen, saying that the incidental collection of their conversations with the Netanyahu government led to an “Oh-s— moment” and very valid concerns that the Obama Administration was intentionally monitoring the legislative branch.

Attkisson also cites the example of Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.). In the 2012 article linked by Attkisson on, Harman was allegedly the subject of two NSA wiretaps in 2006 and 2009. Obama can obviously not be blamed for the first wiretap since George W. Bush was president in 2006. In any case, once again we see that the target of the surveillance was not Rep. Harman, but a suspected Israeli agent.

Attkisson’s example of Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is another example of a congressman being snared by contact from suspected foreign agents. In Kucinich’s case, the government recorded a call made to his congressional office by Saif el-Islam Qaddafi, at the time a high-ranking official in Libya’s government and a son of the country’s ruler, Moammar Qaddafi.

While the Obama Administration did spy on Fox News journalist, James Rosen, it appears that it did so legally. The Department of Justice obtained a warrant to search Rosen’s emails in connection with an investigation into leaked classified information, says the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Likewise, the cyber spying on the Associated Press was “legal, as far as I can tell,” CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said at the time. “The administration isn't violating the First Amendment. But they are certainly doing more than has ever been done before in pursuing the private information of journalists. And we'll see if there's any political check on them, because there doesn't appear to be any legal check on what they're doing.”

Attkisson’s claim that the Obama Administration spied on her is also unverified. The CBS News article describing the breach that Attkisson links to contains a disclaimer: “To be clear, the federal government has not been accused in the intrusion of Attkisson's computer; CBS News is continuing to work to identify the responsible party.”

Attkisson sued the Obama Administration over the hacking in 2015. The suit is ongoing and she says that the Trump Administration is continuing to defend the case in court. She fails to explain why the Trump Administration would defend illegal actions by the Obama Administration, especially if Donald Trump was also a victim of Obama’s illicit surveillance.

In her closing argument, Attkisson cites alarming statistics about the increase in surveillance under Obama. Nevertheless she fails to point out that, per her source, in 2016, when Obama had supposedly increased surveillance at an alarming pace, only 336 US citizens were targeted by FISA warrants. Likewise, the same memo that Attkisson cites as evidence that the “intelligence community secretly expanded its authority in 2011 so it can monitor innocent U.S. citizens like you and me” actually says that the NSA realized that “its compliance and oversight infrastructure… had not kept pace” and “undertook significant steps to address these issues….”

Additionally, the alarmists fail to acknowledge that the first request for a FISA warrant on Trump campaign staffers was rejected in June 2016. This rejection seems to indicate that at least some intelligence officials under Obama took domestic surveillance protections seriously.

Likewise ignored is a statement in The New York Times from April 2017. Citing an unnamed official, the Times reported with respect to surveillance of Carter Page, another Trump campaign official, “The Justice Department considered direct surveillance of anyone tied to a political campaign as a line it did not want to cross.” This may explain the break in surveillance of Paul Manafort as well.

While there is a lack of evidence of systemic abuse of surveillance by the Obama Administration, there are legitimate concerns. For example, how did the recording of Kucinich’s phone conversation find its way into the hands of reporters four years later? The leaks of Michael Flynn’s conversations to the media were illegal, the lies Flynn told about them to Vice President Pence notwithstanding. The leakers have never been publicly identified or punished.

The unmasking of American subjects of incidental surveillance by Obama Administration officials is also problematic. Susan Rice appears to have been cleared of wrongdoing by House investigators, but Samantha Power still needs to explain her actions.

Finally, the revelations that the CIA inappropriately accessed Senate computers in 2014 shows the need for strict third-party oversight. Nevertheless, the fact that the breach was disclosed at all is encouraging. A subsequent review found that the incident was the result of an error and not intelligence officers acting in bad faith. More protections for journalists from surveillance would be an appropriate reform as well.

The claims of rampant Obama-era spying reflect many of the hallmarks of a classic conspiracy theory. For instance, the dots must be connected between many disparate events and rational explanations have to be ignored. A conspiracy by the Obama Administration to spy on political opponents would mean that virtually everyone in a leadership role in the intelligence community would be complicit, yet few have been fired by President Trump. When he did fire James Comey, illicit spying on Americans was not one of the reasons given.

Originally published on The Resurgent
Occam’s Razor holds that the simplest explanation is most often correct. In the case of Obama’s domestic surveillance, the simplest explanation is that there was probable cause for monitoring in most cases. That includes the cases of Paul Manafort and Carter Page. In other cases, some Americans were caught up in incidental surveillance of legitimate surveillance targets. Michael Flynn fell into this category. Donald Trump may have as well. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Bill Cassidy Fires Back at Jimmy Kimmel

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) has responded to Jimmy Kimmel’s charge that Cassidy “lied right to my face” about health care reform. On MCNBC’s “Morning Joe” and a separate CNN interview, Cassidy claimed that the Graham-Cassidy bill does meet the “Jimmy Kimmel test.”

“I'm sorry he does not understand," Cassidy said. “More people will have coverage and we protect those with pre-existing conditions.”

The Graham-Cassidy bill allows states to apply for waivers from Obamacare’s essential health benefits requirement. The bill would require that states exercising waivers to show that coverage would still be “adequate and affordable” for those with pre-existing conditions. Kimmel and other critics argue that this requirement is too weak and vague to offer protection.

“The counterargument will be pre-existing conditions will be up to the pricing of the particular state and market,” countered CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “So, the protection is not the same, senator, on that one point.”

“The protection is absolutely the same,” Cassidy answered. “There is a specific provision that says that if a state applies for a waiver, it must ensure that those with pre-existing conditions have affordable and adequate coverage.”

Cuomo argued that people with pre-existing conditions would pay more, based on a schedule of rates being circulated.

“I think the price will actually be lower,” Cassidy responded. “What is being circulated is by those that wish to preserve Obamacare and they’re doing everything they can to discredit the alternative.”

The Congressional Budget Office is currently scoring the bill, but because the budget resolution must be passed before the end of September, the analysis will be incomplete. “CBO will not be able to provide point estimates of the effects on the deficit, health insurance coverage, or premiums for at least several weeks,” the office said in a statement.

“There will be more people covered under this bill than under the status quo,” Cassidy claimed.

Originally published on The Resurgent

What the Surveillance of Paul Manafort Means

The big story these days is the breaking news that Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was under FBI surveillance. This has brought forth a flurry of claims that Trump was right about his charges of wiretapping, that the FBI only tracked Manafort to find out what Trump was doing and that Manafort was only guilty of talking to Russian diplomats.

The real story is that this news isn’t breaking news at all. The story broke during the campaign that there was an active FISA warrant for surveillance of members of the Trump campaign staff. A November 2016 article by Heat Street (which has since been acquired by MarketWatch) reported that a broad FISA warrant request in June 2016 included Donald Trump as a target. This request was denied, but a subsequent, more narrow request was granted in October.

This was confirmed by the BBC in a January 2017 article which described how the warrant was issued to investigate two Russian banks. The investigation stemmed from intelligence passed to the US by an unnamed Baltic nation in April 2016. The intelligence allegedly included a recorded conversation “about money from the Kremlin going into the US presidential campaign.” The BBC article mentioned, but did not name, “three of Mr. Trump's associates were the subject of the inquiry.”

One of the three was Michael Flynn. Flynn was Trump’s first national security advisor. Flynn was fired early in the Trump Administration after it was revealed through leaked surveillance information that he had lied about conversations with the Russian ambassador. Flynn’s contacts with the Russians were apparently uncovered as an incidental target as the intelligence community monitored Russian diplomats. Flynn is still under investigation by both the Pentagon and Mueller’s task force.

In April 2017, the New York Times named a second target of the investigation. The report stated explicitly that Carter Page had been the target of a FISA warrant after he left the Trump campaign. “The Justice Department considered direct surveillance of anyone tied to a political campaign as a line it did not want to cross,” the report said, citing an unnamed official.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, was the third target of the investigation. Manafort had long had ties to the Putin government. He had worked as a consultant for the pro-Russian political party that controlled the Ukraine until it was toppled by a revolution in 2014. Manafort’s name was listed in the so-called “Black Ledger” that detailed secret payments by the Ukrainian ruling party. The ledger, which was discovered after the revolution, showed that Manafort received at least $1.2 million from the pro-Putin ruler of Ukraine per AP reports. Manafort was fired by Trump in August 2016 after the story of the Ukrainian payments broke.

The new story by CNN detailing Manafort’s surveillance says that Manafort was the subject of two FISA warrants. The first, centered on his work in the Ukraine, began in 2014 and “was discontinued at some point last year [2016] for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources.”

The dates for the second warrant are not known but it apparently began after “FBI interest deepened last fall because of intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves.” The warrant reportedly continued until early 2017. The dates suggest that Manafort was not monitored while he was an official part of the Trump campaign, although they do cover a period when he had discussions with President Trump. “It's unclear whether Trump himself was picked up on the surveillance,” CNN notes.

Another report by the New York Times says that federal agents raided Manafort’s home in July 2017. Again, this was after his official role as a member of Donald Trump’s campaign staff was long over.

So was Donald Trump right when he claimed that Obama was “tapping” his phones? So far there is still no evidence of this. Surveillance of Trump’s associates is not the same as surveillance of Trump himself. This is especially true if the surveillance did not occur during the period when Trump’s associates were working on his campaign. This would also indicate that the surveillance was not to find out what the Trump campaign was up to.

Further, the surveillance of Paul Manafort was not the result of business-as-usual contacts with Russian diplomats. A FISA warrant was issued for Manafort because he was communicating with Russian agents. A FISA warrant is not proof of guilt, but it does require probable cause. The denial of the June 2016 warrant request is proof that warrants are not issued on a frivolous basis.

The investigation into Paul Manafort and the Russian interference in the 2016 campaign is not yet complete. In the weeks and months to come, we may learn exactly why Manafort was talking to the Russians and what was said. At this point, there is no smoking gun, but there are indications, such as the decision to threaten Manafort with indictment, that Special Counsel Mueller is building a strong case. Part of that case may be on incriminating evidence that resulted from surveillance under the FISA warrant.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Jimmy Kimmel Goes Off on Bill Cassidy Over Health Bill

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel veered off into leftist politics again last night when he ripped into Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.). In a seven-minute monologue on Jimmy Kimmel live, Kimmel charged that Cassidy “lied right to my face” about promises that he made to Kimmel regarding Obamacare reform in an appearance on the show in May.

The controversy centers over Cassidy’s promise that a healthcare reform bill would meet the “Jimmy Kimmel test,” a term that Kimmel says was coined by the senator. “In a nutshell,” Kimmel said, the test holds that “no family should be denied medical care — emergency or otherwise — because they can't afford it.”

“He said he would only support a healthcare bill that made sure a child like mine would get the health coverage he needs," Kimmel continued, "no matter how much money his parents make, and that did not have annual or lifetime caps.”

Cassidy appeared on Kimmel’s show in response to another monologue in which Kimmel described how his infant son required heart surgery that could be considered a pre-existing condition.

Dr. James Madara, president of the American Medical Association, wrote in Fortune that the bill could possibly allow states to opt out of affordable coverage for pre-existing conditions. “While insurers are still required to offer coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions,” Madara wrote, “allowing states to get waivers to vary premiums based on health status would allow insurers to charge unaffordable premiums based on those pre-existing conditions.”

Kimmel said that the Graham-Cassidy bill passed a different Jimmy Kimmel test. “Your child with the pre-existing condition will get the care he needs if – and only if – his father is Jimmy Kimmel. Otherwise, you might be screwed,” he joked.

While the bill does not eliminated coverage for pre-existing conditions or allow insurance companies to establish caps for lifetime benefits, the bill does return the power to regulate insurance to the states. Politico notes, “States would be allowed to apply for waivers that could change what qualifies as an essential health benefit,” a term originally defined by the Affordable Care Act. The waivers could “impact people with pre-existing conditions and undermine prohibitions on annual and lifetime limits for insurance coverage.”

Kimmel thanked Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) for voting to kill the previous Republican healthcare bill. He urged the trio to vote against Graham-Cassidy as well.

In a part shot, Kimmel invited Cassidy to work for a health care bill that met with Kimmel’s approval, “and if not, stop using my name, because I don’t want my name on it.”

“There’s a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you,” Kimmel scolded Cassidy. “It’s called a lie detector test. You’re welcome to stop by the studio and take it anytime.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, September 18, 2017

My Trip Through Harvey to Houston

I spent most of the day Monday trying to get home to my family northeast of Houston. We live in a small town that has been heavily impacted by Hurricane Harvey's rains. The resulting road closures seemed to make the journey impossible.

As I wrote previously, I was out of town on business when Harvey hit. We expected wind and rain, but nothing like the torrential rains and flooding that we got.

With flights into Houston canceled and the city's airports closed, the closest I could get to home on Sunday was Dallas. I rented a car and spent Sunday night there.

On Monday, I set out down I-45 towards Houston. The weather was good and traffic was light in both directions. There were many trucks pulling boat trailers headed into the storm to offer assistance. God bless the Texas and Louisiana rednecks of the Cajun Navy.

Since we live northeast of Houston, I stopped at the Buckee's in Madisonville for gas. The famed Texas-size convenience store was teeming with people, some fleeing the storm and some rushing to help.

Rather than try to get close to Houston on I-45, I drove toward Crockett. At this point, it wasn't raining although I did pass flooded fields and side roads. The rain started, first as a drizzle and then as a downpour as I approached Livingston and Texas Highway 59.

I knew from Google Maps and the TX DOT website that Highway 59, the route home, was closed. I decided to see how far I could get. If I had to turn back, I would retreat north and find a place to spend the night.

South of Livingston, near Goodrich, a large sign proclaimed the road closed. Cones diverted traffic to the exit ramp and Texas State Patrol cars made sure that no one kept going.

I pulled to the side of the road and got out. I walked up to the State Patrol car and asked the trooper if there was any way to get into my town, telling him that my wife and children were there.

I expected him to tersely order me back up the road. Instead, he said that he didn't know, but had heard that one of the eastern roads into town might be open. He said that I was welcome to try that way, but that 59 was under "deep water."

"It won't hurt to try," he said.

I thanked him and he gave me a weary, "Good luck."

I followed the trooper's directions toward the roundabout route home. By this time, it was raining very hard and steadily. I was far from the only vehicle on the road, but most were large pickup trucks.

After about 20 miles of driving, I turned into the road to my town. I crossed the Trinity River on a bridge that was intact and above water, but could see that the Trinity was raging far over its banks.

On the west side of the river, a sign proclaimed the road closed. Several pickups were parked near the entrance to a rural subdivision. The road itself was above water here, but flooded to both sides. I could see the tops of cars sticking out of the water.

I saw a young man with a firefighter's turnout pants on and went to talk to him. I asked about the road since trucks were going past the closure sign and splashing through the water that covered the road beyond.

"You can get through this," he said, "but you can't get all the way to town on this road." He gave me another road that he thought was open.

"We've been trying to get people out with boats," he said, "but nobody wants to leave."

I turned around and backtracked toward Livingston. A few miles back, I turned down the other road to town.

About 10 miles down the road, I passed a "road closed" sign that had been pushed to the side.

"I'll see what it looks like," I thought. "I can always turn around."

I passed through a few areas where shallow water swept across the road. Carefully I pressed on. As I got closer, I began to think that this might actually work out.

Suddenly water splashed up all around me. I had driven into an area where deeper water completely covered the road. In the driving rain, I couldn't tell that water completely covered the road until I was in it.

I slammed the rental car into reverse and backed my way out of the water.

As I contemplated my next move, a truck came toward me from the opposite direction. As he pulled up, I rolled down my window and asked how it was up ahead.

"You can get through," he answered. "Just stay to the far side. They water isn't as deep there."

By this time, I could see a steady stream of vehicles from town, some no bigger than my rental car. I waited for a gap. The semi behind me honked impatiently.

When I could get in the left lane, I took off through the water. I stayed slow and to the shallow side of the road, only going right to get around oncoming traffic.

The road was covered for several hundred feet before it cleared again. I passed over the bayou bridge just outside town and saw that the water in the bayou was within inches of washing over the bridge.

I finally made it to town. Roads were closed there, but not flooded. I paused to take a picture of water spurting like a fountain through holes in a manhole cover.

I turned down the state highway that leads to my house and zipped around the sign proclaiming the road closed. "No problem," I thought.

A few hundred feet down the road, I stopped short.

Water was deeper here than I had seen anywhere. The Exxon station two miles from my house was underwater. A pickup truck sat up to its doors. A semi truck was flooded and nosed down in the water, apparently in a ditch.

And there were headlights. Another pickup was headed my way. Water was up to the headlights, but it was moving. It came slowly, leaving a wake in the gathering gloom.

Let me just say that this was not smart. Every year, people are killed in Texas as their cars get swept away in water far shallower than this. It only takes a few inches of fast water to lift a car off the road and drop it off the embankment to the side, drowning the driver and passengers. An entire family on the south side of Houston died this way the same day I made my journey.

Luck - or more likely, Providence - was with this driver. He drove out of the water and up the small hill where I sat watching him.

We, along with the occupants of the truck behind me, talked for a few minutes, sharing information about roads around town. The driver of the truck offered to lead the way back though the water and "push the water out of the way" for us.

I and the driver behind me both declined. We didn't feel like dying today after coming so far.
About this time, my wife was able to get through on my cell phone. She said a neighbor had found a way from town to our neighborhood.

I met the neighbor, who had a big truck, in town. I followed him back down the road that I drove in on, though the deeper water, and down a side road. Water was across the road here as well, but not as deep as what I had already come through.

I followed the neighbor the rest of the way to my house. I opened the door and walked in, to a very surprised wife and kids and lots of happy hugs. There were some happy tears as well.

We thought about going out the same way I had come in since the rain was forecast to continue for another few days. In the end, we decided to stay since it was getting dark. The house was not flooded, the power was on and we didn't want to chance driving on flooded roads at night.

As I write this, spirits are high and our supplies are holding out. Rain picked up again during the night and roads have gotten worse again, so we plan on staying home. Direct TV, whose signal has been almost uninterrupted, video games, board games and books help pass the time. We may go kayaking down the street (literally) if the rain lets up.

The cellphone tower down the road is flooded, which makes communication difficult, but we are in much better shape than many families.

We are anxiously awaiting an end to the rain so that we can begin to assess damage. I parked my truck at Hobby airport when I left town on Thursday so I suspect that it is underwater.
Trucks and homes can be replaced though. For now, we are thankful that we are together and safe.

On behalf of all Houstonians and Texans, I would like to thank everyone around the country and the world for their prayers and concern. Please keep the prayers coming. Harvey is not finished yet and recovery will be long and difficult.

I also cannot speak more highly of the people of Texas and those who have come to assist. Emergency personnel, both full-time and volunteer, have done an outstanding job and saved countless lives. Neighbor has also helped neighbor in the best traditions of Texas and the American spirit.

Maybe something good can come of Harvey if it helps to bring the country together.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Republican Senators Try a 'Hail Mary' On Obamacare

After their embarrassing failure to repeal and replace Obamacare over the summer, Republicans in the Senate are gearing up for a “Hail Mary” attempt to at least make a modicum of reforms to the health care law. The Senate, where the previous attempt to rein in Obamacare died, may vote on the last-gasp effort by the end of September.

As explained previously in The Resurgent, Republicans cannot fully repeal Obamacare without 60 votes. The previous attempt at reforming Obamacare fell apart over details of how the law’s subsidies should be treated and how to handle medical care for the uninsured. Moderate Republican support for the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid also caused serious problems in crafting a replacement bill.

The new bill, written by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), is much more modest than the failed American Healthcare Act. The proposal doesn’t completely repeal Obamacare, but does replace Obamacare’s tax subsidies with state block grants, repeals the individual mandate and scales back the Medicaid expansion.

“It's basically federalism where you just block grant the whole thing,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) told the Washington Examiner. “You block grant Obamacare back to the states. Just the whole thing.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated that he will bring the bill to the floor for a vote if at least 50 of the 52 Republican senators support it. At the moment, the bill is short of that mark, but Politico reports that it is gaining steam after Graham publicly lobbied President Trump and others. Estimates put Republican support for the bill at 48 or 49 senators.

The bill appears to be on a fast-track. The Washington Post reports that Republicans have already submitted it to the Congressional Budget Office for analysis. If the bill is not passed before the end of September, the Post notes that the authority to pass the legislation with a simple majority under budget reconciliation rules would expire. This would effectively kill any attempts to reform Obamacare until next year.

If the bill does pass the Senate, it faces an uncertain future in the House of Representatives. The previous bill, which originated in the House, had to be finely tuned to pass by a slim majority. Under budget reconciliation rules, the House would have to pass the Graham-Cassidy bill with no changes.

No Democrats are expected to support the bill. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted, “The Graham-Cassidy @SenateGOP ‘health care’ bill IS Trumpcare, & it will rip health care away from millions of Americans.”

As with the previous Obamacare reform bill, opposition to the bill is expected to come from the right as well as the left. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has announced that he will oppose the bill, calling it “Obamacare lite.” If Paul stands firm, the defection of any other Republican will doom the bill.

Paul’s stance against “Obamacare lite” begs the question of whether he and the Freedom Caucus would prefer the full version of Obamacare to an imperfect Republican reform bill. For the foreseeable future, those are the only two options. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

The $1,000 iPhone And The Digital Divide

Apple’s announcement of the iPhone X brought ecstatic excitement from Apple fanatics and stunned disbelief from the rest of us. A thousand dollars for a phone? Can the new iPhone possibly be worth what Apple plans to charge?

Most of the buzz about the new phone stems from the facial ID, longer lasting battery and a new 12-megapixel camera. Is there anything worth the increased cost over older iPhones or newer Android models?

To people who are not Apple fanatics, the answer would seem to be no. For example, the LG G6, introduced seven months ago, has a 13-megapixel camera. Android phones even have expandable memory. With iPhones, you are stuck with what you buy originally. Facial recognition? In an age of NSA lurking and surveillance algorithms, many people don’t want their face on their phone any more than absolutely necessary.

Apple is increasingly positioning itself as the electronics provider to the elites. The company’s products are well-engineered, but in the post-Steve Jobs era, are hardly revolutionary. As prices increase and yield diminishing returns, the company’s market share is decreasing. Apple recently dropped to third-place in the global mobile phone market share, ranking behind both Samsung and the Chinese company Huawei.

Apple’s decline and Huawei’s rise is purely related to the laws of supply and demand. As the price of Apple’s phones increases, the demand will slow. At the same time, the demand for cheaper phones increases.

The average income for an American head-of-household is about $36,000 annually or $3,000 per month. How many Americans will be able to afford a phone that costs a third of their monthly income when cheaper Android phones can visit Facebook and play cat videos just as well, if not better?

In the rest of the world, the numbers are even more stark. The global average income is only about $20,000. An iPhone X would represent weeks or months of labor for people in most parts of the world. This is why Huawei is doing so well with its cheap phones.

For most people, the expenditures don’t stop with the purchase of the phone either. A phone is no good without a cellular service provider and probably Wifi for you home as well. If want to watch TV or movies, you’ll need subscriptions to Netflix or Hulu. For music, you’ll be paying Pandora or Rhapsody or something similar. There are eBooks and dating apps and a thousand other subscription services to spend your monthly paycheck on. And don’t forget to insure that expensive phone! Otherwise you’ll be like countless other iPhone owners walking around with cracked screens that they can’t afford to repair.

Phone owners may be going broke, but Apple isn’t. In August, the company reported seven percent growth and revenues of more than $45 billion. Yet the company is in danger of becoming a niche player.

No matter how good Android phones are, Apple is still the gold standard of mobile phones. The Apple logo on your phone is a status symbol. But like most status symbols, it is a luxury that much of the world cannot afford.

Apple may be on its way to becoming a luxury electronics product that is a little more than a way to show off for the wealthy and trendy electronics users. The rich will always be able to afford iPhones, maybe even a gold-plated one. Likewise, college students who follow electronics fads and don’t mind camping out overnight at the Apple store to add an extra thousand dollars to their mountain of college debt won’t be fazed by the Apple price tag.

For the rest of us, Android is increasingly the mobile phone of choice. Whether high-end Samsung and LG models or supercheap Huaweis, Android phones are increasingly capable and, in many ways, better and more practical than the elite Apple products.

The digital divide, like income inequality itself, will always be with us. But there are things that can unite Apple and Android users… like making fun of those who still carry a Blackberry.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fox News Exposes Hidden Bias Of CBS News

Fake news has been a hot topic this year. What the term actually means is different to different people, but a recent puff piece on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray by CBS News falls into that category.

While the piece was not fake in the sense that CBS made up fake information, it was an egregious example of the liberal bias that is prevalent in the mainstream media. Howard Kurtz of Fox News pointed out the shoddy reporting on Fox’s “MediaBuzz” program on Sunday.

In the CBS piece, correspondent Erin Moriarty profiled Cordray, the first director of the agency created in 2010 at the urging of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). In the course of the piece, Moriarty interviewed four law professors who defended Cordray and attacked Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and his Financial Choice Act that would limit the power of the CPFB.

CBS did present both sides of the issue. Even though it was very sympathetic to Cordray, who Moriarty says “may be the best friend that the consumer has ever had,” she did interview Hensarling as well. So, what is the problem?

The issue is that the four professors interviewed for the piece, Christopher Peterson, Patricia McCoy, Kathleen Engel, and Adam Levitan, were not just random law professors who happened to be fans of the CPFB. In all four cases, the professors had professional relationships with Cordray and his bureau. The professors had either worked directly for the CPFB or had served on its consumer advisory board. CBS did not disclose these relationships in its report.

While it isn’t improper to interview former employees and associates of Cordray, it is improper to not disclose that they had worked for Cordray’s agency. The CBS report left viewers with the impression that the professors were objective, when it fact they were personally involved in the issue.

The internet version of the CBS report contains an “editor’s note” at the end of the article that says, “Some members of the panel of college professors and consumer advocates featured in this report also have previous work experience with or have served on advisory boards for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” The video report did not contain a similar disclosure and on the internet version there was no mention of the fact that the relationships were not disclosed in the original report.

The CBS report can be legitimately called fake news on the basis of its hidden bias. Either CBS failed to do due diligence on the background of all four professors or, more likely, the network chose not to disclose their relationships with Cordray. Either way, it was poor reporting of the sort that feeds the public distrust of the media. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review: ‘The Paradigm’ By Jonathan Cahn

The Paradigm by Jonathan Cahn (fair use)
When Jonathan Cahn speaks, the Christian world takes notice. The messianic Jewish rabbi is most famous for The Harbinger, his 2012 book that detailed the striking parallels between ancient Jewish history detailed in the Bible and modern events that have shaped the world we live in today. The Harbinger and its follow up, The Shemitah, were both runaway best sellers.

Now Mr. Cahn is set to release his fourth book, The Paradigm: The Ancient Blueprint That Holds The Mystery of Our Times. In The Paradigm, due out September 19, Cahn has once again found a pattern in which American history seems to be replaying historical events that took place in the Middle East almost 3,000 years ago.

I have long thought that America seemed to be following the paradigm, or pattern, that the Bible described of ancient Israel. The nation was founded on the basis of God’s commandments and, while it followed and honored those commandments, it thrived. In ancient Israel, the people eventually rebelled against God in spite of the blessings that he had given them. Success became pride and pride led to sin and rebellion. I could see that America seemed to be following the same general pattern.

Rabbi Cahn takes the analogy a step further. Cahn describes how the United States, once a Christian nation, is following the pattern of allowing our success to lead us into apostasy. The parallels between modern culture and that of ancient Israel are eerily similar.

Cahn describes how the proliferation of Baal worship turned Israelite morality on its head. Marriage became separate from sexuality as prostitution became part of the worship of Baal, a Phoenician fertility god. As sex was removed from the marital bedroom, it was increasingly put on public display. As a result, culture became more coarse, crude and harsh. Even gender became subjective as male prostitutes became a part of Baal worship.

What was evil began to be viewed as good and what was good came to be viewed as evil. The remaining worshippers of the Lord came under persecution as a culture war raged for the soul of the country.

The most heinous part of Baal worship was the sacrifice of children to the monstrous deity. At first, child sacrifice was illegal, but eventually it became commonplace and was even endorsed by the government and practiced by the royal family. The obvious parallel here is the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of babies through abortion, which was encouraged by the federal government in the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  

This general parallel should be alarming enough to those who are familiar with how Israelite history ends, but Cahn goes even further. He describes specific parallels between the dynasty of the Israelite King Ahab and his wife, the notorious Queen Jezebel, and American political history over the past 30 years. The links are too numerous and specific to list here, but Cahn vividly and in detail shows how the dynasty of Ahab has been replayed in American politics with astounding accuracy.

In ancient Israel, the reign of Ahab and his son Joram represented a defining moment. As the cult of Baal grew, Israel teetered on the brink of irreversible apostasy. In Biblical history, the turning point came when the prophet Elisha anointed Jehu, a soldier in Joram’s army and a political outsider, to become king. Jehu came from nowhere in a meteoric rise to upset the status quo. In a lightning fast campaign, Jehu killed Joram, the sitting king, and his mother, Jezebel, and assumed the throne of Israel.

Cahn says that the warrior Jehu arrived to deliver the country a temporary reprieve from apostasy and ultimate judgment. Jehu’s goal was reform toward worship of the Lord, an ancient version of “draining the swamp.” In that vein, he killed the prophets of Baal as well as the members of the royal lineage of Ahab and Joram.

Cahn points out that while Jehu was used by God to temporarily halt the Israelite slide into apostasy, he was not necessarily a man of God. “Some undoubtedly saw Jehu’s rise as a calamity,” Cahn writes. “Others saw it as the answer. It was neither. It was a window.”

Cahn makes the same case for the election of Donald Trump. The Trump Administration, he believes, represents a reprieve for America from irreversible apostasy. The question is what the president and the country do with the postponement of the ultimate rejection of God and the judgment that would follow. “A political answer cannot solve a spiritual problem,” Cahn says. The only way to avert judgment in the long run is through national repentance and revival. Trump’s election may provide an opportunity for that revival.

As in his other books, Cahn offers little in the way of prophetic claims for the future. His focus is on how God is sending messages to America through the modern echo of ancient Israel’s history. He does note that the Biblical Jehu was only partially successful in “making Israel great again.” The Bible tells us that Jehu “was not careful to keep the law of the Lord” and “did not turn away from the sin of Jereboam,” worshipping the idol of the golden calves. Jehu’s false religion was of a more nationalist nature than the foreign god imported by Ahab and Jezebel, but it was still sinful.

The revival necessary for the redemption of Israel never happened. It was in the years following Jehu’s reign that the signs that Cahn described in The Harbinger began to appear. The warnings and “shakings” were ignored and, ultimately, the kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians.

In discussing Jonathan Cahn’s books, it is important to note that he never engages in replacement theology which holds that America has become a new Israel. Instead, he presents parallels that he believes God is using as warnings for America. Cahn’s core message is that America is careening toward judgment unless we change course. He urges nonbelievers to repent and believers to follow the models of Elijah and Elisha who stood strong to resist the moral decline of their country.

Some will also say that the replaying of ancient Israelite history in modern America is a series of coincidences. As the series becomes larger and more detailed, the question becomes how many coincidences are necessary to show evidence of an omnipotent God who controls events and history. At some point, the odds against the manifestation of such an improbable series of events repeating itself become astronomical.

Jonathan Cahn makes a compelling case that America is following the same pattern of disobedience and rebellion that ultimately led the kingdom of Israel to destruction. Regardless of whether you accept Cahn’s conclusion that history is repeating itself in a way that seems preordained by a higher power, it seems clear that the country is on an unsustainable path.

If America is to be saved, it must repent. And if America is to repent, it needs people like Jonathan Cahn to sound the warning.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Susan Rice Explains Unmasking of Trump Officials

A subplot to the scandal of Russian interference in the 2016 election was the discovery that Obama Administration officials had “unmasked” the identity of certain Trump campaign officials in intelligence reports. The unmasking was later traced to Susan Rice, who was President Obama’s national security advisor at the time. The unmasking constituted a potential crime.

CNN cites multiple sources who say that Rice told House investigators in a closed-door session that she requested the unmasking to try to determine why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates made a trip to New York during the transition period. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan met with several Trump transition officials including Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner while in the US. last December. The Obama Administration was not notified of the trip by the UAE as is customary for visits by foreign dignitaries.

“I didn't hear anything to believe that she did anything illegal,” said Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fl.), a member of House panel investigating the Russian interference.

The term “unmasking” refers to the practice of revealing the identity of American citizens who appear in the incidental collection of surveillance data where the primary target of the surveillance is a foreign national. Intelligence officials can request that the identities of the US citizens be “unmasked” in certain circumstances.

Judicial Watch had previously requested National Security Council records relating to the unmasking, but was informed that they had been transferred to the Obama Presidential Library. “You should be aware that under the Presidential Records Act, Presidential records remain closed to the public for five years after an administration has left office,” the NSC response noted.

It is not clear whether the case is completely closed on Rice’s unmasking request, but her testimony goes a long way towards explaining the issue. There was also no indication of why the UAE did not disclose the visit by the crown prince to the Obama Administration. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump Sees DACA Deal As Win-Win

Chaos broke out last night after a dinner between President Trump and Democrat congressional leaders Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.). In the wake of Trump’s deal with Democrats on the debt ceiling, there were late-breaking reports that the three had reached an agreement to extend President Obama’s DACA program.

Fast forward a few hours to this morning and President Trump is denying almost everything. In a tweet, the president said, “No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.”

The president continued, “The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built.”

Then, in a third tweet, President Trump changes tacks. “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?” he asks. “Really!” He continued in that vein in a fourth tweet, “They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own - brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security”

Taken together, the tweets indicate that President Trump may not have a final agreement on an extension of DACA, but he wants one. Even though Trump ran his campaign as a hardliner on immigration, he gave several indications that he was not firmly committed to the issue.

In August 2016, three months before the election, there were reports that Trump was flip-flopping on immigration. He denied the charge, telling Fox News at the time, “We want to come up with a fair but firm process. Fair but firm."

In December 2016, the president-elect directly addressed the “Dreamers” in his “Person of the Year” interview with Time magazine. “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” he said. “They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The signs were there all along that President Trump would cut a deal. And there are benefits for the president if he does. Its unpopularity among Republicans notwithstanding, most Americans like DACA and don’t want to deport the Dreamers. For many people, how President Obama created the DACA program, usurping congressional legislative authority, is more of a problem that the program itself. And let’s be honest, many people don’t even care if Obama exceeded his executive authority to create the program. Recent polling shows that most Americans approve of DACA by double-digit margins. Even a third to a half of Republicans support continuing the program.

Not just any illegal immigrant is eligible for DACA. Candidates must have come to the country illegally or overstayed a visa when they were younger than 16 and have continuously resided in the United States since 2007. The must be in school, have a GED or high school diploma or have been honorably discharged from the US military. A felony or more than three misdemeanors is not allowed. Participants also had to pay $980 in initial fees and $465 for renewals, all for a program that did not give official legal status. Whatever DACA was, it was not amnesty. The prospect of prosecution and deportation was still there.

Most voters also approve of President Trump’s first deal with the Democrats. Rasmussen found that two-thirds of voters think it’s good for the country if Trump and the Democrats work together.

President Trump likely sees a DACA deal as a win-win. He can become more popular by reaching across the aisle to enact a policy that he likes anyway. From a pragmatic perspective, the Republicans have been unable to get anything done, so a pivot to the left makes sense.

Could Republicans block collaboration between Trump and the Democrats? Assuming the Democrats all vote together, in the Senate, a deal would need 13 Republican votes for cloture and three votes for passage. In the House, 23 Republican votes would be needed for a simple majority. Between Republican moderates who support DACA and Trump supporters who will follow the president’s lead, a Trump-Democrat deal would be hard to stop.

The problem with a nonideological president is that his principles and platform are not firmly grounded. If he wants to accomplish things – anything – and be popular, he won’t necessarily continue to dance with the voters who brought him to the Washington.

And what of the Trump base that voted for the Wall and deportation?

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters,” Trump famously said of his base during the campaign.

His pivot on DACA may be about to put that theory to the test.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bernie Sanders to Introduce Medicare-For-All Bill

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) says that he plans to introduce a bill that would replace private health insurance with Medicare for “every family in America.” Sanders, who bills himself as a democratic socialist, believes that the answer to the Obamacare crisis is more government control of the nation’s healthcare.

Under the Sanders plan, a four-year transition period would move the country from private health insurance to a national single-payer plan. Sanders describes the details of the transition:

“In the first year, benefits to older people would be expanded to include dental care, vision coverage and hearing aids, and the eligibility age for Medicare would be lowered to 55. All children under the age of 18 would also be covered. In the second year, the eligibility age would be lowered to 45 and in the third year to 35. By the fourth year, every man, woman and child in the country would be covered by Medicare for All.”

Sen. John Barasso (R-Wy.) pre-empted many of Sanders’ arguments in a Tuesday op-ed on Fox News. Barasso, a medical doctor, pointed out that single-payer plans in other countries have not worked out well. “The British have found rationing necessary partly because of the exorbitant cost of ‘free’ medical care,” he wrote. Barasso also cited “the shortage of professionals to provide this care” as the number of British doctors, nurses and midwives has dropped in recent years.

While Sanders and others cite poor outcomes of American healthcare, Barasso points out, “The U.K. ranks 20th out of 24 western countries for breast cancer survival. The U.S. is first. For ischemic stroke the U.K. is 25th out of 30 countries. The U.S. is fourth.”

While Sanders’ proposal will be a nonstarter in the Republican-controlled Congress, it could portend things to come if Democrats return to the majority. Opinion polls in recent months have indicated a growing support for a federal role in healthcare. Pew Research found that 60 percent of Americans say that it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure healthcare coverage for all Americans. Last spring, an Economist/You Gov poll found that that 60 percent favored a Medicare-for-all approach. That number includes 40 percent of Trump voters.

While most conservatives and Republicans will ridicule Sanders’ proposal as radical and dead-on-arrival, the idea of Medicare-for-all might have broader appeal than they suspect. If conservatives do not confront the idea head-on by enacting a better proposal, it is very possible that Republicans could face an invigorated Democratic Party in 2018 and 2020.

It is a cautionary tale to recall that Republicans defeated Hillarycare in the 1990s, but then failed to enact healthcare reforms of their own during the Bush Administration. That failure led directly to the election of Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act.

Originally published on The Resurgent

A Year of Democrat Attacks On Trump Has Been Ineffective

For the past year, Democrats have unloaded on Donald Trump with both barrels. The attacks against Mr. Trump have been withering and unrelenting. The problem for Democrats is that they have not been particularly effective.

Sure, President Trump’s approval rating has a double-digit deficit, but his numbers seem to have bottomed out in the mid-30s. The Real Clear Politics average found that Trump’s average approval was at its lowest in August at 37 percent. This was 20 points less than his disapproval rate. Since then, Trump’s numbers have improved only slightly to 39 percent, still a 16-point net disapproval rate.

The problem for Democrats is that Trump’s approval has always been low and a year of attacks has not markedly changed his numbers. This may be partly due to the large number of different tactics used by the Democrats, none of which has been a homerun. Trump has been charged with not keeping his promises, with having problems with his temperament, with lying and even with colluding with Russia and supporting white supremacists, but none of the attacks seems to be a silver bullet.

There has been speculation since 2015 that Trump’s antics would cost him support among Republicans. So far that has not happened. The Washington Examiner reported last month that two polls showed Republican support for Trump was still at 75 percent. Trump’s Republican support may be eroded by the failure to repeal Obamacare and enact tax reform, a rumored amnesty for DACA participants, not building the wall, or his recent pivots to Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), but few Republicans would be likely to back a Democrat alternative.

To secure a victory in the midterms and 2020, Democrats need to offer independent voters something other than “Not Trump” and it is here that they are falling flat. Politico reports that the traditional Democrat platform planks don’t excite many voters outside the Democrat base. Voters worry that free college tuition proposals will still cost them money. Obamacare has gained majority approval and the idea of government health care for all is gaining popularity, but it still generates suspicion and is very divisive.

Democrats are learning the same lesson that the Republicans were faced with during the Obama era. Opposition to an unpopular president will only get you so far. An agenda that convinces people that you can make their lives better is needed to seal the deal.

It is on this point that one Democrat line of attack seems to show promise. Politico notes that a recent DCCC poll showed that Democrats lead President Trump by 17 points on the question of who “fights for people like me.” Last February, Trump and the Democrats each received 50 percent on the question. The change may be the result of Democrat charges that many Trump policies, such as financial deregulation, tax reform, and opposing Obamacare, are intended to benefit the rich at the expense of everyone else.

In the end, upcoming elections are likely to be referendums on President Trump’s job performance and the economy. If undecided voters feel that the country – and their own lives and careers – are going well, then they may decide to reward Trump and the Republicans despite their misgivings.

“He is the president,” Matt Canter, a focus group analyst told Politico. “The assessment that voters will make is, is he a good one or not? While Democrats like me have come to conclusions on that question, most of the voters who will decide future elections have not.”

Originally published on The Resurgent