Category Archives: Politics

What happens to the military in a government shutdown?

President Trump tweeted this morning that if the government shuts down, it would be “devastating to our military.”

So, what happens to the military in a government shutdown?

US officials say the armed forces are considered essential and would still report for duty, unlike rank and file government employees.

And military personnel still get paid, unless a shutdown lasts until February 1. That’s because funding runs through midnight Friday and the last paychecks went out last Monday. Personnel must report to work and still would be paid at the first pay period after the shutdown ends.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake compares Trump to Stalin

Republican Senator Jeff Flake forcefully condemned Trump on the floor of the Senate today, comparing the president’s attacks on the news media with Joseph Stalin’s.

“No longer can we compound attacks on truth with our silent acquiescence. No longer can we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to these assaults on our institutions,” Flake said in his speech. “An American president who cannot take criticism — who must constantly deflect and distort and distract — who must find someone else to blame — is charting a very dangerous path. And a Congress that fails to act as a check on the President adds to the danger.”

He criticized the President for calling the news media the “enemy of the people,” calling it “an assault as unprecedented as it is unwarranted.”

“It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own President uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies,” he said. “It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.”

It’s easy for Flake to denounce the president in such direct language in a Senate speech because he is not seeking another term. However, depending on how this plays, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Flake is considering a primary challenge to Trump in 2020.

Oprah for president? Hang on just a minute.

I don’t rule out the possibility of Oprah Winfrey running for and winning the presidency. And yes, it would be a smart move for Democrats to recruit her, if only because it would represent an excellent chance for a win. Nor do I even rule out the possibility that Oprah could unite disparate political factions in our country and provide inspiration to dispirited people. Those aren’t bad things.

The poison pill, however, is that it would represent a disturbing trend in America: Someone with a lot of knowledge and experience for the job is dismissed for those very reasons, and we require only that our leader be a “celebrity,” which we now view as a more important qualification than experience.

Apply that thinking to other things and let’s see how it would work out. Your child is very sick and needs help. But you think doctors are condescending because of all the learning they’ve acquired, so you instead take her to an actor who plays a doctor on a favorite TV show for treatment. Or maybe a famous comedian who’s told lots of doctor jokes. Think that will work out?

This idea in America that learning, knowledge, experience, and intelligence are things to be frowned upon, and that celebrity, comic timing, or loudmouth “populist” pronouncements are much more important than actually knowing how to do something, is a very troubling sign for our country.

But perhaps it’s inevitable, given our penchant for portraying intelligence and education as “boring” and the spunky outsider with no experience as the real hero of every situation. How many TV shows or movies turn that plot around? Just about none.

Don’t blame NBC News for the Oprah tweet.

This morning I heard a radio talk show host griping about “NBC News” tweeting an “endorsement” of Oprah Winfrey for president.

That is incorrect. It was NOT NBC News that tweeted it, it was NBC, the network.

The third-party live tweeter working for NBC during the telecast was wrong to not include context referencing Seth Meyer’s joke. And the network was right to delete and apologize for the misunderstanding. But it was NOT NBC News‘ tweet.

That’s how fake news really works: slipping in that it was the news division, and then going on a hellfire and brimstone crusade against “the news media” over it.

I realize we’re living in a fact-free world now, but it still matters.

The publisher of “Fire and Fury” issues a stirring defense of free speech

When lawyers for Donald Trump sent the publisher of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House a cease-and-desist demand, the CEO of Macmillan sent a memo to employees explaining why he decided to not only resist the intimidation but move up the publishing date. It is a stirring defense of free speech.

We cannot stand silent. We will not allow any president to achieve by intimidation what our Constitution precludes him or her from achieving in court. We need to respond strongly for Michael Wolff and his book, but also for all authors and all their books, now and in the future. And as citizens we must demand that President Trump understand and abide by the First Amendment of our Constitution.

Read the full text of the memo below the fold.

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Stephen Miller attacks “Fire and Fury” with fire and fury

Stephen Miller defended his boss, President Trump, Sunday morning from claims made in the book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff. Miller is, as you’d imagine, full of invective against the tell-all.

But Miller may also be smarting from the description Wolff offers of him in the book:

Miller, a fifty-five-year-old trapped in a thirty-two-year-old’s body, was a former Jeff Sessions staffer brought on to the Trump campaign for his political experience. Except, other than being a dedicated far-right conservative, it was unclear what particular abilities accompanied Miller’s political views. He was supposed to be a speechwriter, but if so, he seemed restricted to bullet points and unable to construct sentences. He was supposed to be a policy adviser but knew little about policy. He was supposed to be the house intellectual but was militantly unread. He was supposed to be a communications specialist, but he antagonized almost everyone.

— Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (pp. 64-65). Henry Holt and Co. Kindle Edition.

CNN’s Jake Tapper got fed up with Miller’s refusal to directly answer or even address the questions he was asked in their interview:

“Fire and Fury” hits the White House hard

The publication and incredibly brisk sales of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” seem to have really gotten under President Trump’s skin.

Capture

“Fire and Fury” has upended the administration in a way no scandal previously has. Insiders report the White House has turned into a “three-ring circus” and caused a very ugly public split between the president and his former top strategist Steve Bannon.

The book describes Mr. Trump as being terrified of dementia, calling him “a man whose many neuroses included a horror of forgetfulness or senility,” and his tweets in response to the questions being raised about his mental fitness seem to bear that out.