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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Poll Shows Alabama Senate Race Tied

surprising new poll shows that Republican Roy Moore is tied with Democrat Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race. Moore handily defeated incumbent Senator Luther Strange in the Republican primary last month.

In the new poll by Fox News, both Moore and Jones had the support of 42 percent of registered voters. The poll showed that only 53 percent of respondents were extremely or very interested in the race. Of those voters, Jones had a slight led of 46-45 percent.

Previous polling had shown Moore with a lead over Jones. Two polls taken at the end of September showed Moore with a lead of eight and five points respectively. Those polls sampled likely voters, which are historically more accurate than polls of registered voters.

The new poll shows deep divisions in the Republican Party. Forty-two percent of Moore’s supporters have reservations about the GOP candidate, who has a history of controversial behavior and comments. Only 28 percent of Jones voters have reservations.

Moore’s history, including two unfinished terms on the state Supreme Court, explains why a third a Jones voters support the Democrat candidate because they believe that Moore is too extreme. Twenty-one percent say that they are voting against Moore as opposed to voting for Jones.

While campaigning for Luther Strange, President Trump worried that Moore might have problems in the general election. Two months before Election Day, that seems to be a real danger. Thirty-nine percent say that Moore is “out of step” with Alabama compared to 29 percent who say that Jones is too liberal.

In deep red Alabama, the electorate still favors the Republican, but the new poll should be alarming to GOP strategists. Expect both parties to pour money into the state to compete for the 11 percent of voters who are still undecided.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Spurs Coach Blasts Trump As 'Soulless Coward' And 'Pathological Liar'

A pattern has emerged in which President Trump makes some policy gains and earns applause from conservative circles and then blows the whole thing by saying something stupid that distracts from the good that he has done. This was once again the case yesterday when the president made a completely baseless claim in response to criticism that he had not contacted the families of four soldiers killed in Niger. Trump’s claim was such a blatant falsehood that Gregg Popovich, the coach of the San Antonio Spurs, felt compelled to go out of his way to viciously attack the president.

President Trump ignited the firestorm in a press conference yesterday when he claimed that previous presidents did not make condolence phone calls to the families of fallen soldiers. “So, the traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them, didn't make calls,” Trump said. “A lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I'm able to do it.”

 After Trump’s comments, Coach Popovich called Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation, and unloaded on the president with both barrels. “I want to say something,” Popovich began, “and please just let me talk, and please make sure this is on the record.”

“I’ve been amazed and disappointed by so much of what this president had said, and his approach to running this country, which seems to be one of just a never-ending divisiveness,” he continued. “But his comments today about those who have lost loved ones in times of war and his lies that previous presidents Obama and Bush never contacted their families are so beyond the pale, I almost don’t have the words.”

After a pause, Popovich continued. “This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner—and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers—is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this president should be ashamed, because they know better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”

The White House defended Trump’s statement later in the day. “When American heroes make the ultimate sacrifice, Presidents pay their respects,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person. This president, like his predecessors, has done each of these. Individuals claiming former Presidents, such as their bosses, called each family of the fallen, are mistaken.”

It should be noted that no one, including the president, had claimed that past presidents called “each” soldier’s family.

Popovich served in the US Air Force for five years in the early 1970s. During that time, he played for the armed forces basketball team and traveled through Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union on a goodwill tour with the team. Popovich’s military service may have prompted the strong response to Trump’s statement.

Nevertheless, Popovich has never been on the Trump Train. The coach said last year that he was “sick to his stomach” after the election. In a press conference in September 2017, he likened the White House rescinding the invitation for the Golden State Warriors to a “sixth grader” who “disinvites” a friend to party.


The NBA season is just starting, but the Spurs probably should not expect an invitation to visit President Trump in the White House, no matter how well they do. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, October 16, 2017

Liberals Must Have Mixed Emotions As Trump Insults Pence

In what must be an ideologically and emotionally confusing read for liberals, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer goes on the attack against Vice President Mike Pence and, in the process, manages to paint President Trump in a somewhat sympathetic light for social liberals who are critical of the Christian right.  

The article, “The Danger of President Pence,” is essentially a hit piece on the vice president and a cautionary tale. “The worse the President looks, the more desirable his understudy seems,” Mayer writes, but then warns, “If the job is a gamble for Pence, he himself is something of a gamble for the country.”

It seems that, in spite of his loyalty to the unorthodox President Trump, Mike Pence is (gasp!) “’a full-spectrum conservative’ on social, moral, economic, and defense issues.” Mayer notes that Pence could be easily considered an establishment Republican who has strong connections to deep-pocketed Republican donors including the bogeymen of leftist dark money concerns, the Koch brothers.

Anti-religious leftists will enjoy the most-quoted sections of Mayer’s piece, those which detail how President Trump mocked Pence’s Christian beliefs. Mayer quotes several associates and staff members who say that Trump likes to “let Pence know who’s boss.” Trump reportedly asks people who have met with the vice president, “Did Mike make you pray?”

The president also reportedly teased Pence about his pro-life views and his opposition to the gay rights movement. Sources say that in a meeting with a legal scholar who pointed out that states might choose to legalize abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned, Trump said, “You see? You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.”

When talk at the same meeting turned to homosexuality, Trump gestured toward Pence. “Don’t ask that guy,” Trump said. “He wants to hang them all!”

The New Yorker article paints Vice President Pence as someone who believes what he says and who acts on those beliefs. Mayer includes a laundry list of socially conservative issues where Pence took stands as governor of Indiana, from tax cuts (“Pence’s commitment to the Kochs was now ironclad”) to the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, although he does get a pat on the back from her for opting in to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

Interestingly, Mayer points out that both the height of Trump’s campaign and the biggest scandal that he has faced are both linked to Mike Pence. Pence’s connections to Republican donors made Trump’s election victory possible. Pence also helped make Trump palatable to Midwestern and Christian voters who were not natural supporters of the brash New Yorker.

At the opposite extreme, Pence was embroiled in the Michael Flynn firing that ultimately grew into the full-fledged Russia investigation. Unlike the other potential VP candidate, Chris Christie, Pence did not raise objections to Flynn’s appointment as National Security Advisor. Flynn was fired in February for lying to Pence about contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition period.


Although Trump’s mocking comments are what has generated the headlines, Mayer’s main message is that, if Trump is impeached or forced to resign, liberals might like Pence even less. “Democrats should hope Trump stays in office,” said Democrat strategist Harold Ickes, noting that Pence would likely be much more effective at working with Congress and implementing a conservative agenda. 

Originally Published On The Resurgent

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Is Trump's Obamacare Executive Order Constitutional?

There has been a lot of discussion about President Trump’s healthcare Executive Order. Most of the discussion centers around the likely effects of the order while little has been said about the constitutionality of Trump’s executive action. For a party that roundly condemned President Obama’s abuse of executive authority, a big question should be whether Trump has the legal authority to make the changes that he proposes.

The bottom line is that Trump’s Executive Order doesn’t actually make any changes to the Affordable Care Act. What it does do is to order cabinet secretaries to “consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, consistent with law.” In other words, Trump isn’t proposing changes to laws passed by Congress, he is considering changes to regulatory laws enacted by bureaucrats. These changes will be “considered” in three main areas.

First, the president wants to expand access to association health plans (AHPs). Health Affairs notes that these plans are more loosely regulated than traditional insurance plans. They are normally regulated by the states, but can be regulated by the federal government in the case of some national associations. The order instructs the Secretary of Labor to “consider” expanding the definition of “employer” under ERISA to allow more groups to sell AHPs and to “promote AHP formation on the basis of common geography or industry.” To purchase insurance, consumers would have to be a member of the association.

Second, the Executive Order moves to expand Short-Term, Limited-Duration Insurance (STLDI) policies. The order notes that STLDIs are “exempt from the onerous and expensive insurance mandates and regulations” of the Affordable Care Act, but that “the previous administration took steps to restrict access to this market by reducing the allowable coverage period” to less than three months. “To the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy,” the president directs cabinet members to “consider allowing such insurance to cover longer periods and be renewed by the consumer.”

STLDIs are not considered to be individual health insurance policies and do not fall under the insurance policy requirements of the Affordable Care Act. The policies are governed by rulemaking agencies of the Department of the Treasury, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services. Therefore, these departments can amend the rules for STLDIs without going through Congress.

Third, the Executive Order instructs relevant cabinet secretaries to “consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, to the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy, to increase the usability of HRAs, to expand employers' ability to offer HRAs to their employees, and to allow HRAs to be used in conjunction with nongroup coverage.”

HRAs are health reimbursement accounts. They allow employers to contribute money on a pre-tax basis to reimburse employees for health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. HRAs were created by Congress, but executive branch agencies have leeway in how to regulate them.

President Trump’s decision to halt Obamacare subsidies to insurance companies is not part of the Executive Order, but is on firm legal ground. House Republicans sued the Obama Administration over the subsidies in 2014. In May 2016, a federal judge ruled that Congress had authorized the payments, but had never appropriated money for them. The Obama Administration appealed the ruling, but the decision by President Trump seems to be merely accepting the court’s initial decision.

This doesn’t mean that the Trump Administration will be able to stop making the payments. Several states ultimately joined the appeal, claiming that the Trump Administration was not adequately defending their interests. Now 18 states have filed a new lawsuit seeking an injunction against President Trump’s decision.

Because the President Trump’s Executive Order does not change existing law and only instructs cabinet members to “consider” making changes to bureaucratic regulations within the framework of the law, the order is constitutional. It remains to be seen what regulatory changes the various cabinet secretaries will propose, but the changes will probably be much less sweeping than claimed by either right or left-wing pundits.


President Trump’s Executive Order is legal in large part because it doesn’t do much. The president simply does not have much authority to change laws that have been passed by Congress. The decision to stop insurance company subsidies is a more serious threat to Obamacare, but even this is unlikely to take effect until the lawsuit by the states is settled. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, October 13, 2017

Cruz Says Tax Reform May Be Delayed Until Next Year


After the disappointment on Obamacare, Republicans looked to tax reform to score an elusive legislative victory. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) set a goal for passing the tax reform bill by the end of the year, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is casting doubt on that timetable.

On CNBC, Cruz said, “I believe that we will get tax reform done,” but that it will be “late this year or early next year.”

There are big obstacles in the way. FiveThirtyEight explained that there was one major division among Republicans on healthcare, while there are at least three different GOP divisions on tax reform. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has been under attack by President Trump in recent weeks, leads a faction of deficit hawks who insist that tax reform not add to the deficit.

There is the question of whether to make the tax cuts permanent or temporary. Under reconciliation rules, the bill cannot increase the deficit after 10 years. One way of preventing the CBO from scoring the bill as increasing the deficit is to make the cuts temporary. Temporary tax cuts can lead to a fiscal cliff like the one Congress faced under President Obama.

A third question is who gets the tax cuts. Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have indicated that the current plan does not cut taxes enough on the middle class. In particular, Paul said that the bill “should not be a tax hike on anyone.” But if tax cuts are increased for one group, the questions of deficit scoring and whether they are to be permanent are raised once again.

The question of whether to end the federal tax deduction for state income taxes has been particularly thorny. Cruz said, “We can end that deduction if we're lowering the tax rate enough that even people in those blue states are seeing a net tax reduction.”

“I do think virtually every Republican wants to get to yes,” Cruz said, but noted that the slim Republican majority in the Senate made passing any major bill difficult.

“We have an excruciatingly narrow majority, 52 Republicans” Cruz said. “That means if any three Republicans jump ship, we’re toast. Wrangling together 50 out of 52 Republicans with this very diverse, fractious conference is not easy.”

There are already four Republicans who have been identified as potential mavericks on the bill. Bob Corker, who is concerned about the effect on the deficit, as well as John McCain (R-Ariz.) and perennial swing votes Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) will be senators to watch.

The new Alabama senator may present a problem as well. Even if Republican Roy Moore wins the senate race there, Moore is an avowed opponent of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and is unlikely to be a reliable vote. Moore’s position on the tax bill is uncertain, but he had opposed the Republican Obamacare reform bill.


Passing tax reform may be critical for Republicans in the 2018 midterms. Cruz acknowledged that “people are frustrated” because the Republican congressional majority is “not getting the job done.” With former White House strategist Steve Bannon leading a right-wing revolt against incumbent Republican senators, failure to win a victory on taxes could have dire consequences for the party.


Originally Published On The Resurgent

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sasse Responds To Trump's Attacks On First Amendment

Ben Sasse’s last name has a silent “e,” but Twitter users can be forgiven for thinking the Nebraska Republican’s name is pronounced “sassy.” The adjective is an accurate description of the Sasse on the popular social media platform. Sasse most recently turned his sharp retorts toward President Trump after the president launched into what can only be described as a series of attacks on the First Amendment freedom of the press.

While attacking “fake news” has proven a popular shtick for the president, he reached a new level on Tuesday with a tweet that suggested that NBC News’ license should be “challenged” on the basis of their report that Trump had said that he wanted to increase the US nuclear weapons arsenal by a factor of 10 in a July meeting. The meeting prompted Secretary of State Tillerson to allegedly call the president a “f---ing moron.”

On a day when the sitting president of the United States directly attacked the First Amendment, the response from Republican officials was underwhelming. While Republicans lined up to denounce NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, it was extremely difficult to find anyone in the GOP who was willing to go on record criticizing Trump’s statements. A piece in The Hill describing the backlash fails to cite a single sitting Republican. In fact, there seemed to be only one Republican responding to the president’s shocking remarks, the sassy Sasse.

It has only been a few weeks since Sasse wowed the non-alternative-right with his Twitter takedown of neo-Nazi Richard Spencer. The viral series of tweets brought adulation from traditional conservatives who felt left behind by the new Republican Party and the lack of condemnation for race-baiters like Spencer, who was an organizer of the riotous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Given his history of using Twitter to communicate a strong conservative and pro-freedom message effectively, it should be no surprise that Sasse was the one to put the president’s remarks into constitutional perspective.

“Mr. President,” Sasse tweeted, “Are you recanting of the Oath you took on Jan. 20 to preserve, protect, and defend the 1st Amendment?”

[Mic drop.]

The tweet also contained a somewhat longer statement released by Senator Sasse. The full statement reads, “Mr. President: Words spoken by the President of the United States matter. Are you tonight recanting of the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect and defend the First Amendment?”

Trump did not respond directly to Sasse, but later in the day, the president doubled down on his attack on the freedom of the press, saying in a White House press conference, “It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it.”

Another tweet from the president on Tuesday night was even more specific. “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!” the man sworn to defend the Constitution said.

As a refresher, the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….” The Bill of Rights makes no exception for “fake news,” biased reporting or even outright lies.

FCC rules do “prohibit holders of broadcast licenses from broadcasting false information concerning a crime or a catastrophe if the licensee knows the information is false; and the licensee knows beforehand that broadcasting the information will cause substantial ‘public harm.’” Stories critical of President Trump would not fall under this category.


As the president becomes increasingly bold in his attacks on the First Amendment, the big question for conservatives is where the other defenders of the Constitution are. The silence from other Republicans is deafening. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Entire Civil Rights Struggle Just Slipped Mike Ditka’s Mind



For those of us outside of Chicago, Mike Ditka is remembered as the former coach of certain team known as “Da Bears.” Ditka jumped into NFL controversy today with a historically inaccurate observation that there was no oppression in the United States in the past century.

 “All of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression,” Ditka told Jim Gray on Westwood One’s pregame show, quoted by the Chicago Tribune. “There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of. Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people.”

Ditka, who was born in 1939, should know better.

Growing up in the North, Ditka may not have witnessed much of the segregation that was present in Southern cities of the time, but integration was a major story of his lifetime. He would have been eight-years-old when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947. A year earlier, Kenny Washington had become the first black player in the NFL.

Ditka was in his 20s during the civil struggles of the 1960s. The Freedom Riders hopped aboard Greyhound buses in 1961 when Ditka was 22. Medgar Evers was murdered in 1963 when Ditka was 24.

In 1961, Mike Ditka was drafted by the Chicago Bears and played for the team until 1967, when he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. In 1966, shortly before he left the Windy City, Martin Luther King led the Chicago Campaign, a series of marches and demonstrations aimed at achieving fair housing practices.

During one march through Chicago’s West Side in July 1966, violence erupted as white counterprotesters attacked the marchers with bottles, bricks and rocks. King, who was struck by a rock, said, “I have seen many demonstrations in the south but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today.”

Two years later, King was murdered in Memphis. The story generated headlines as far away as Philadelphia.

In 1969, Ditka went to the Dallas Cowboys. Although racial segregation has been outlawed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Ditka must have seen some vestiges of the racist attitudes that had been prevalent only a few years before. In Texas, integration of both blacks and Hispanics was still ongoing at the time.

The Chicago Tribune notes with some irony that the Chicago Bears, a team that Ditka coached as well as played for, was the subject of the movie, “Brian’s Song.” The 1971 film is the story of the first interracial teammates to room together on Bears road trips.

Oppression in 20th century America was all around Mike Ditka. He can probably remember many of these events if he tries. Civil rights history was happening all around him.   


America is a great country, but not all of our past is great. Although tempting, we shouldn’t blot out the bad parts. We need to remember them so that we can learn from them. Studying America’s dark racial past also serves to show us how far we have come. 

Originally Published On The Resurgent

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Conservatives Are Unifying Around Tax Reform... For Now

Republican unity has long been a problem. Factional fighting within the GOP is a problem that predates President Trump, but things have not gotten better under the new administration as Republican infighting resulted in the death of the Obamacare reform bill. Now, however, there are signs that conservatives may be uniting around President Trump’s framework for tax reform.

In contrast to the Republican healthcare bill, broad support is emerging for the tax reform plan. A coalition of 30 conservative organizations has sent a letter of support for the plan to House members.

“We urge Congress to expeditiously pass a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions so that the promise of tax reform can be made a reality,” the letter, which is posted in its entirety on the Chamber of Commerce website, says. “It has been 31 years since Congress last reformed the tax code. Since then, the code has become an anchor weighing down the economy, job creation, and wage growth for American families.”

“The single-most important next step is for Congress to adopt a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions that will permit tax reform to move forward without the threat of a filibuster,” the group said. Using a budget reconciliation will allow the tax reform bill to be enacted with only 51 votes in the Senate, but subjects the bill to additional restrictions.

At this point, the tax reform legislation is still being written, so many of the specifics of the plan are not known. As the bill is put together, factional differences over details may make it difficult for some Republicans to support the final product. It was these factional differences between the party’s conservatives and moderates that doomed the party’s healthcare reform effort.

With only 52 Republicans in the Senate, a loss of more than two votes would kill tax reform. Conservatives will be watching senators such as John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Susan Collins (R- Maine) closely for signs of wobbliness.


If Republicans can stay unified on the issue, they may finally be able to score a legislative victory on one of the core issues of the 2016 campaign. If they can’t pull off tax reform, it will likely give a boost to Steve Bannon’s effort to remake the party in President Trump’s image.    

Originally published on The Resurgent

Steve Bannon Declares War On Republicans

With a call for one sitting Republican senator to resign and announcement that he plans to back primary challengers for nearly every sitting Republican in the Senate, Steve Bannon, former White House strategist and past and present chairman of Breitbart News, has effectively declared war on the Republican Party. While ostensibly still backing President Trump, Bannon’s effort also includes challengers to some Trump allies.

Bannon’s primary target at the moment is Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). After Corker and Trump engaged in a flame war on Twitter over the weekend, Bannon called for the Tennessean to resign for his disloyalty to President Trump. In a tweet, Corker, who is not running for re-election,  likened the White House to a “day care center” and said in a New York Times interview that President Trump acted “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something” and that his lack of diplomatic skills could put the world “on the path to World War III.”

“If Bob Corker has any honor, any decency, he should resign immediately,” Bannon told Sean Hannity on Fox News.

“This is what they think about President Trump behind closed doors,” Bannon added. “He happened to tell The New York Times exactly what he thought, it's totally unacceptable. In a time of war, we have troops in Afghanistan, in the Northwest pacific and Korea. We have a major problem that could be like World War I in the South China Sea. In the Persian Gulf, we have American lives at risk every day.”

That Bannon equates Corker’s comments with all Republican incumbents provides insight into why he plans to try to unseat practically every Republican senator. The Washington Post notes that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is reportedly the only senator who will not be fending off a Bannon-backed challenger, but a CNN source said, “Nobody’s safe.” Cruz was a favorite of Bannon’s Breitbart until Donald Trump usurped that role. Cruz angered many Trump supporters with his long-delayed endorsement of Donald Trump and his heated exchanges with Trump in the primary.

Breitbart quotes Andy Surabian, a senior adviser to the Great America Alliance and ex-White House aide, who said, “We’re planning on building a broad anti-establishment coalition to replace the Republican Party of old with fresh new blood and fresh new ideas.” The site notes that the Great America Alliance is a “pro-Trump Super PAC.”

The Breitbart article also quotes Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who said, “The conservative tidal wave that carried Donald Trump into the White House may soon be eclipsed by what appears to be a conservative tsunami that threatens the [Republican] establishment death grip on the U.S. Senate.”

Much of the antipathy to the “establishment” Republicans seems to stem from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) refusal to end the filibuster and change Senate rules to allow passage of bills with a simple majority, commonly referred to as the “nuclear option.” President Trump urged McConnell to change Senate rules in a tweet in August. Mr. McConnell told Politico in April, “There’s not a single senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster. Not one.”

Surabian hinted at the “nuclear option” when he noted, “The group of candidates we are looking to support in 2018 are all bound together in their agreement that the new Republican Party must be bold in their thinking and aggressive in their tactics.”

Bannon’s tactics have potential downsides. If his candidates defeat Republican incumbents in the primary, they still must win the general election. This could present a problem for some Bannon-backed candidates, particularly in moderate states. President Trump alluded to this risk in deep red Alabama when he campaigned for incumbent Luther Strange (R-Ala.) against primary challenger Roy Moore, who was supported by Bannon. With a slim majority of only two seats, Bannon’s war against Republican incumbents could tip the Senate to the Democrats.

A second problem is that, if Bannon’s plan succeeds and the filibuster is killed permanently, Democrats would have the same advantages the next time they are in power. President Trump’s agenda could be passed more easily without the cloture rule, but it would also be easier for the next Democrat majority to repeal Trump’s reforms and enact their own leftist agenda.

Bannon’s frontal assault on sitting Republicans brings the GOP civil war into the open. Trump supporters like Bannon are attempting to purge the party of traditional Republicans who represent the “establishment,” regardless of voting records or conservative credentials. CNN notes that even John Barasso (R-Wy.), typically considered a Trump ally, is a target of Bannon’s effort.


It is normally very difficult to unseat incumbents, but 2018 may be different. There may be additional retirements that leave open seats vulnerable to Bannon’s candidates. Further, polling shows that President Trump is far more popular among Republicans than congressional leaders. If Republican voters back primary challengers supported by Bannon and President Trump over party incumbents, it will signal a permanent shift in the direction of the Republican Party. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, October 9, 2017

Trump Proposal May Kill DACA Bill

Back in September, President Trump and congressional Democrats announced that they were close to a deal that would allow “Dreamers,” illegal aliens who were brought to the US as children, to stay in the country. Now a new framework issued by the White House may kill the budding agreement before it is finalized and sent to Congress.

The Trump Administration delivered a list of “principles” to congressional leaders Sunday night that included funding for Trump’s border wall, an item that Democrats say was specifically excluded from the deal in their earlier negotiations.

In a joint statement quoted by Reuters, Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.). said, “The administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans.” They continued, “The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the president was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so.”

In September, President Trump gave Congress six months to find a legislative solution to continue President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. A short time later, President Trump and Democrats announced that they were close to a deal on extending the program.

In addition to funding for the wall, the list also includes verification of immigration status for workers, revising the criminal code to increase penalties for immigration violations, increasing the ability of the government to deport illegal aliens, streamlining the legal process for deportations and limiting protections for asylum-seekers and unaccompanied minors.

A White House official denied that the list violates the terms of the agreement with Schumer and Pelosi. “There was a deal to work on a deal as fast as possible, that's what the deal was,” the senior administration official told CNN.

The official also said that the Administration still opposes a pathway to citizenship. “As we look to legalize the status of DACA recipients, we are not interested in granting citizenship,” he said.

It is not clear how firm the White House is in demanding the items on its wish list. Many of the items on the list would almost certainly scuttle any agreement between congressional Republicans and Democrats.

“It reads like a laundry list for comprehensive immigration reform, and if Congress has proven an extraordinary ability to do anything, it's to fail at comprehensive immigration reform,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).


In September, a Morning Consult poll found that 58 percent of registered voters believe that Dreamers should be allowed to stay and be given the opportunity to become citizens. A further 18 percent said that they should be allowed to stay, but not be allowed to become citizens while 15 percent favor deportation. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Is President Trump Pushing For Return To Fairness Doctrine?

Many of today’s conservatives probably don’t remember the Fairness Doctrine. Many in the political world today never lived under it since it was repealed 30 years ago in 1987. If it still existed, the world of political talk radio would never have come into being. So why would President Trump want to bring it back?

In a series of tweets on Saturday morning, President Trump once again attacked the media, which is not unusual, but in two tweets he raised the question of whether the Administration should get “equal time.” In the first tweet, Trump said, “Late Night host are dealing with the Democrats for their very ‘unfunny’ & repetitive material, always anti-Trump! Should we get Equal Time?”

A few minutes later, in a second tweet, he said, “More and more people are suggesting that Republicans (and me) should be given Equal Time on T.V. when you look at the one-sided coverage?”

Equal time is essentially what the Fairness Doctrine was about. The Fairness Doctrine was implemented by the FCC under the Radio Act of 1927. In 1949, the FCC interpreted the law to mean that radio and television stations must provide contrasting views on issues of public importance and that, if a public personality was attacked on the air, they had to be given an opportunity to answer.

The policy was upheld in 1969 by the Supreme Court in Red Lion Broadcasting v. FCC. In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that the Fairness Doctrine did not violate the First Amendment and upheld the FCC rule that the subject of a personal on-air attack must be provided with a tape, transcript or summary as well as an opportunity to respond regardless of ability to pay for air time. In 1987, the FCC panel repealed the Fairness Doctrine with a 4-0 vote.

When Barack Obama took office in 2009, conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh feared that the new administration would reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine. Instead, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski killed the policy permanently in 2011.

Now President Trump’s tweets seem to indicate that the president would like a new version of the Fairness Doctrine. Although Republican politicians do not seem to be lining up to support the president’s call for “equal time,” many of the president’s supporters vocally support the idea on social media.

Although it survived an encounter with the Supreme Court, the Fairness Doctrine has traditionally been viewed as an assault on the First Amendment by conservatives. It is difficult to imagine how conservative talk radio would survive if stations had to provide equal time to the liberal targets of conservative talkers every day. Advertising revenue would be lost and listeners driven away as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and others got their equal time every day. It is no coincidence that The Rush Limbaugh Show premiered in 1988, the year after the Fairness Doctrine was repealed, kicking off the golden age of political talk radio.

The intention of the Fairness Doctrine was to protect free speech, but, as government regulations so often do, it had the opposite effect. Free speech blossomed with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine where before, the Big Three networks had an effective monopoly on news and political commentary.

There is no shortage of news outlets who present the conservative side of stories. Even among the mainstream media there are the Wall Street Journal, the most successful newspaper in the country, the Washington Times and Fox News, to name just a few. There are many more conservative voices in the alternative media and blogosphere.

The traditional conservative answer to a problem with a free speech problem has been to call for more speech. It is troubling that Mr. Trump’s instincts are to call for more government oversight of speech and limitations on the First Amendment.


Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Trump Administration to End Obama's Contraception Mandate

One of the most egregious examples of a federal attack on religious liberty in recent years may be about to come to an end. There are reports that the Trump Administration is preparing new regulations that will end the birth control mandate established by the Obama Administration as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The New York Times reports that new rules, which could be issued on Friday, would offer exemptions to certain employers who have moral objections to providing insurance that includes contraceptives to their employees. The new rules would reportedly cover employers and insurers who hold “sincerely held religious beliefs” or “moral convictions” against providing contraception.

The mandate was not part of the ACA, but was the product of regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services. While the Obama Administration did provide a religious exemption from the rules, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo noted in 2011, “Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify as ‘religious enough’ for the exemption….”

Many private employers also objected to the fact that the regulation required them to purchase insurance for their employees that included not only contraceptives, but drugs that induce abortions. Others, such as employers who are Catholic, objected to contraception in general.

The mandate prompted several lawsuits. The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious charity made of nuns who practice celibacy, went to the Supreme Court to seek relief from the mandate. In 2015, Hobby Lobby won its lawsuit and the government was forced to amend its rule to provide religious exemptions. In the final rule, insurers were still forced to provide coverage for these employees, but the employers were not billed for the contraceptive coverage.

President Trump promised to end the revised mandate during the campaign, but so far has not taken steps to do so. In August, Daniel Dinardo, now the Catholic Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, wrote an op-ed in The Hill asking why the Obama-era policy was still in place.

It is important to note that changing the contraception mandate will not ban contraception in any way. It would merely mean that employers would not be forced to pay for drugs that they find morally objectionable. Their employees will still be able to get birth control and abortifacient prescriptions, they would just have to bear the cost, about $50 per month, on their own.

If President Trump does decide to roll back the Obama-era mandate, he will have fulfilled an important part of his promise to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience. The big question is why he waited so long to do so.


Originally published on The Resurgent