Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category

John McCain Makes His Choice: To Eat the Cake, But He Wants to Have It, Too

leave a comment »

In the Atlantic James Fallows has an excellent column on McCain’s smokescreen to hide his actions behind a tapestry of words:

The effort to repeal Barack Obama’s health-care bill is not over, and neither presumably is the public career of John McCain. But each crossed an important threshold yesterday, and Senator McCain gave us a clearer idea of who he is and what he stands for.

The repeal effort isn’t over, because debate and further voting is now under way to determine whether the bill will pass and, more basically, to define what it would actually do. McCain will have more votes to cast, on this measure and others, and it’s possible that in the end he will turn against this bill because of its provisions (whatever they turn out to be) or because of the rushed and secretive process that led to it. Just this afternoon, McCain voted No on a “straight repeal” bill that would eliminate Obamacare without any replacement.

If in the end John McCain makes as decisive a stand against this proposal as he did in favor of it last night, then the historical verdict on this stage of his career will be more complex than it would be right now. As of the moment the story would be that McCain, soon after his diagnosis and treatment for aggressive brain cancer, responded to this memento mori by flying back to Washington to help take medical coverage away from other people.

There’s still time. But yesterday was important, for the bill and for McCain.

* * *

Not even U.S. senators are often in a position where just one of them, strictly on his or her own, can directly affect the welfare of tens of millions of people. John McCain was in that position yesterday. By definition, in a vote this close, every vote is the “decisive” one. But McCain built drama by holding his vote until the very end. He wanted to take center stage. And he did so—by voting Yes, to let this bill proceed.

He voted to keep alive a bill opposed not by some but by all major medical-professional and health-related groups. A bill that an organization of nuns called “the most harmful legislation to American families in our lifetimes.” A bill with absolutely no across-the-aisle Democratic amendments, as compared with well over 100 Republican amendments in the original Obamacare plan, and with virtually no open hearings or debates. A bill whose support level in opinion polls is roughly half that of Donald Trump himself. A bill—well, the litany is familiar, all leading up to the point that it’s a bill that John McCain could have chosen to stop yesterday, and didn’t.

If he had stayed home in Arizona, the bill would have died. If he had voted No, at least this effort at repeal would have ended. Of course, perhaps Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could have squeezed either Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski, the two Republican defectors, to switch their votes, so he could still eke out a 50-50 tie, allowing Mike Pence to make it 51-50. Perhaps if McConnell had failed yesterday, he would have kept looking for some other way to get an anti-Obamacare “win,” despite the distortion the crusade is causing in everything else the Senate has to do. Perhaps McCain thought he was saving his influence within the GOP for later—later stages of deliberation on this bill, later encounters with Trump. Perhaps, perhaps. For certain, McCain made a choice yesterday, and he did something no one looking back on this moment will admire.

(Whenever I hear about politicians saving influence “for later,” I cannot help thinking of the unfortunate Ricky Ray Rector, the man whose name is a shorthand for the most heartless thing Bill Clinton did in his drive for the presidency. Rector was a murderer who tried to blow his own brains out when about to be captured by police. He survived but with profound mental disabilities. An Arkansas jury nonetheless convicted him and sentenced him to death; the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case. Young Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, then in a very tight contest in the Democratic primaries of 1992, and all too aware that only four years earlier Michael Dukakis had been badly hurt by a “soft on crime,” Willie Horton race-baiting campaign, approved the execution and went to Little Rock to be in the state when it occurred. When Rector was offered a last meal before being put to death, he told the jailers that he wanted to save his dessert “for later.” When politicians talk about “saving” their influence, this for later is what I hear.)

* * *

John McCain himself went out of his way to highlight why his choice was so sad, and so hypocritical. As David Graham noted yesterday, McCain immediately followed his vote with one of his trademark speeches on the need to take the high road in politics—the need to stop doing things in a rushed and secretive way, to stop simply looking for partisan wins. Elevated words, of the kind McCain is accustomed to being complimented on. But the words were entirely at odds with his actions of just minutes before—when he had the chance to stop a rushed and secretive push toward a partisan win, and he whiffed. Later that same evening, just hours after he somberly declared that “I will not vote for this bill as it is today,” McCain went right ahead and voted for that bill as it was yesterday, one of only 43 Republicans to do so.

And he didn’t need to do this, any of it.  . .

Continue reading.

McCain is a Republican. That is significant, and tells us a lot.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2017 at 4:10 pm

A clear-eyed view of the Republicans in Congress

leave a comment »

Jennifer Rubin concludes a column today with this pointed remark:

In sum, the consolation for a meltdown in legislative order, rationality and responsible government is that we now know just how incapable the GOP is of governing. Years of antagonism toward government have made them cavalier about the harm they can do to ordinary citizens in their quest to avoid blame. What a shabby group they are. Let’s hope they don’t do real damage before they lose their majority.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2017 at 10:39 am

DOJ: No Sessions recusal paper trail

leave a comment »

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have a press release:

The Department of Justice has no unreleased documents or notes on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation, according to information made public by a FOIA lawsuit by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

According to the DOJ, the only two records ever created regarding his recusal were a press release and a short email to top DOJ officials that was made public in June. Documents obtained by CREW in the lawsuit also show that Sessions announced his recusal about an hour before he was scheduled to meet with his staff to discuss the recusal.

“For such a major decision, it’s a little odd that there’s virtually no paper trail,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “This suggests the whole process was haphazardly done, and it provides the Department with very little guidance on the scope of the recusal.”

Assuming the DOJ is correct that there were no records beyond a press release and a short email, that means that no written analysis or detailed explanation accompanied Sessions decision, suggesting he may have made the decision alone in the immediate aftermath of reports of his meeting with Russian officials.

“Whatever the explanation, the story behind the Sessions recusal is noteworthy,” said Bookbinder, a veteran of the Justice Department. “This is not how the Department of Justice normally does business.”

Read the documents here

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2017 at 8:46 pm

Trump Watch, Volume 10: Sessions prepares for crackdown on pot (if he isn’t fired first), White House publishes personal information of people who expressed concern about privacy, Trump and dictators

leave a comment »

Radley Balko has quite a list. I give here just the first few entries.

Note: Until now, Trump Watch had only included statements, policies, proposed policies and other changes specifically proposed by President Trump and his political appointees. I didn’t include any existing policies that began in the Obama or prior administrations. It seemed unfair to hold Trump responsible for civil liberties policies without giving him an opportunity to change them. But Trump has now been in office for six months. If he had interest in changing any of these policies, that seems like an adequate amount of time to have done so. Going forward then, I’ll be including in Trump Watch all policies, statements, practices and procedures that come from the federal government, regardless of when they began.

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2017 at 2:32 pm

From ‘fake media’ to Clinton, Trump brings political attacks to the Scout Jamboree

leave a comment »

Just when you think Trump could not sink lower. John Wagner and Jenna Johnson report on Trump’s appearance at the National Scout Jamboree:

Ahead of President Trump’s appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering’s official blog: Fully hydrate. Be “courteous” and “kind.” And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as “build the wall” and “lock her up.”

But from the moment he took the stage, Trump — who was never a Scout himself but touted his role as the “honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America” — started leading them down a very different path.

Over the next 35 minutes, the president threatened to fire one of his Cabinet members, attacked former president Barack Obama, dissed his former rival Hillary Clinton, marveled at the size of the crowd, warned the boys about the “fake media,” mocked pollsters and pundits, and said more people would say “Merry Christmas” under his presidency. He also told a rambling tale about a famous, now-deceased home builder that meandered from a Manhattan cocktail party to a yacht and then to places that the president would only allow the boys’ imaginations to go.

The speech was, in fact, very much like the rally speeches that Trump gave across the country last year, although he sprinkled in some pieces of inspirational advice (“Do something you love”) and reflections on Boy Scout values (“We could really use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.”).

Trump was joined by former Scouts who serve in his Cabinet, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The latter wore a Scouting outfit for the occasion. “Ryan is an Eagle Scout from Big Sky country in Montana,” Trump relayed.

As the president’s speech continued, Perry appeared to grow bored as he stood behind Trump, chatting with others, flipping through a book and then filming a video of the crowd. Not invited on the adventure: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an Eagle Scout whose day job appears in jeopardy in Washington.

Trump began the official address, delivered from a lectern with the presidential seal, by pledging to talk about things loftier than politics.

“Tonight we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C., you’ve been hearing about with the fake news,” the president told the crowd of Scouts and volunteers gathered in Glen Jean, W.Va. “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?”

But before long, Trump dived into the politics of the Republican health-care bill, which could die if it doesn’t clear a key procedural vote on Tuesday. Trump pointed to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who has been tasked with selling the legislation.

“Hopefully he’s going to get the votes tomorrow,” Trump said, emphasizing the importance of overhauling the Affordable Care Act, which he called “this horrible thing that’s really hurting us.”

As chants of “USA! USA!” broke out, Trump asked Price: “By the way, are you going to get the votes? You better get the votes. Otherwise, I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired.’ ”

Trump also slipped in a reference to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, one of the Republican holdouts on moving forward with the bill, which would leave up to 22 million fewer Americans with health insurance by 2026, according to estimates.

“You better get Senator Capito to vote for it,” the president told Price.

Seemingly returning to the teleprompters, Trump pivoted to another subject.

“Boy Scout values are American values,” the president said. “And great Boy Scouts become great, great Americans. As the Scout law says, a Scout is trustworthy, loyal – we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.”

It wasn’t clear what Trump was referencing. Perhaps it was fellow members of his party refusing to vote for health-care legislation. Perhaps it was Sessions, whom earlier in the day Trump had called “beleaguered” in a tweet. Trump harshly criticized Sessions last week for recusing himself from investigations involving Russian interference in the 2016 election. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2017 at 7:49 pm

A Timeline: Russia and President Trump

leave a comment »

Steven Harper has an interesting timeline at BillMoyers.com:

This timeline was originally published on Feb. 15, 2017 and was last updated on July 17, 2017 at 10:08 p.m. ET. We update the timeline each week.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2017 at 4:45 pm

How Fake Cops Got $1.2 Million in Real Weapons

leave a comment »

Eli Hager reports for the Marshall Project:

When you think of a federal sting operation involving weaponry and military gear, the Government Accountability Office doesn’t immediately jump to mind. The office is tasked with auditing other federal agencies to root out fraud and abuse, usually by asking questions and poring over paperwork.

This year, the agency went a little more cowboy. The GAO created a fictitious law enforcement agency — complete with a fake website and a bogus address that traced back to an empty lot — and applied for military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense.

And in less than a week, they got it.

A GAO report issued this week says the agency’s faux cops were able to obtain $1.2 million worth of military gear, including night-vision goggles, simulated M-16A2 rifles and pipe bomb equipment from the Defense Department’s 1033 program, which supplies state and local law enforcement with excess materiel. The rifles and bomb equipment could have been made functional with widely available parts, the report said.

“They never did any verification, like visit our ‘location,’ and most of it was by email,” said Zina Merritt, director of the GAO’s defense capabilities and management team, which ran the operation. “It was like getting stuff off of eBay.”

In its response to the sting, the Defense Department promised to tighten its verification procedures, including trying to visit the location of law enforcement agencies that apply and making sure agents picking up supplies have valid identification, the GAO report said. The department also promised to do an internal fraud assessment by April 2018.

A Defense Department spokesman declined to comment further.

The sting operation has its roots in the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. At the time, many were surprised to see law enforcement respond to protests with armored trucks, sniper rifles, tear-gas bombs and other weapons of war.

Reporting by The Marshall Project and others found that much of the equipment came from the obscure 1033 program, which dates back to the Clinton era. Any equipment the U.S. military was not using — including Humvees, grenades, scuba-diving gear and even marching-band instruments — was available to local cops who could demonstrate a need.

The program has transferred more than $6 billion worth of supplies to more than 8,600 law enforcement agencies since 1991.

After Ferguson, then-President Barack Obama issued an executive order prohibiting the military from giving away some equipment and deeming other equipment “controlled,” establishing strict oversight and training requirements for law enforcement agencies that wanted it. The order also required a Defense Department and Justice Department working group to ensure oversight.

But since President Donald Trump took office, the group has not met, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan thinktank that had been participating in the meetings. Trump has said that he will revoke Obama’s executive order, although he has not yet.

Congress ordered the GAO to look into the program last year. A survey of local law enforcement did not turn up any instances of outright abuse at the state level but did find one illegitimate agency that had applied as a federal entity and was approved for equipment, Merritt said.

That’s when the agency launched the sting. Contrary to its public image, GAO has snagged other agencies with undercover work in the past, including an investigation of the Affordable Care Act in which the agency submitted fictitious applications and was approved for subsidized healthcare coverage.

In this case, the GAO created the fake law enforcement agency — whose name the agency would not reveal — and claimed it did high-level security and counterterrorism work. Once approved, the agency easily obtained the items from a Defense Department warehouse of unused military goods.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, which lists rescinding Obama’s executive order one of its top priorities for the Trump administration, said the possibility of fraud does not indict the whole program. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2017 at 3:19 pm

%d bloggers like this: