I read about Bannon and Clinton so you don’t have to

(CNN)“Devil’s Bargain” — Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Joshua Green’s in-depth exploration of the mind and machinations of former Breitbart News boss and Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon — and “Shattered” — a painstaking account of Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful campaign by Jonathan Allen, also of Bloomberg, and Amie Parnes of The Hill — have both climbed the bestseller lists and monopolized the attention of the chattering classes since their releases. (“Shattered” was published in April; “Devil’s Bargain” hit shelves this past week.)

They’re both absorbing reading for anyone interested in better understanding the unlikely and unprecedented set of circumstances that put reality show multimillionaire Donald Trump into the White House. Both offer fascinating (and juicy) revelations; neither should be read on its own, since their access journalism roots make each a half-book at best, covering just one of the two campaigns, and always from the perspective of sources whose personal agendas make them eager to talk.
Here’s my scorecard of how they stack up.

    “Devil’s Bargain:” Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency

    Most compelling character:
    Given that the book reads like an odd hagiography of Steve Bannon, it’s impossible for him not to be its most compelling character: Brilliant, slovenly, gleefully opportunistic and given to profane eruptions and weird turns of phrase, proudly referring to Trump supporters as fellow “hobbits” and “grundoons,” and dismissing dumb and useless people as “schmendricks” and “mooks” (ironic, since Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager was, of course, Robby Mook). A close second: Robert Mercer, the eccentric right-wing billionaire who backed the Trump insurgency. Prior to backing Donald Trump, Mercer’s primary electoral investment had been in the unsuccessful congressional campaign of a quack scientist with an obsessive fixation on human urine.

      What you need to know about Steve Bannon

    Biggest revelation:
    Bannon conceived of activating the internet’s legions of disaffected, meme-addicted young males after investing (and losing his shirt) in IGE, a Hong Kong-based business that “farmed” gold and virtual items for resale to online gamers. Bannon realized that these underemployed and overeducated denizens of message boards like 4chan and Reddit were susceptible to misogynist and racist symbolism (when disguised with snark) and highly adept in launching viral campaigns. They became the digital shock troops for the booming growth of Breitbart News and, later, the Trump campaign.
    Most memorable quote:
    From Steve Bannon: “(House Speaker Paul Ryan is) a limp-d*** m***rf***er who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation.”
    Best anecdote:
    All the anecdotes that paint Bannon as larger-than-life even in his own mind, like the one about an oil painting of Bannon reimagined as Napoleon Bonaparte that hangs in his personal office — a gift from British ultranationalist and Brexit proponent Nigel Farage. Or the one about how Bannon recruited a strikeforce of “beautiful young women” to Breitbart News, whom he proudly referred to as his “Valkyries.”
    Best anecdote about Chris Christie:
    According to Green’s sources (or conjecture), Chris Christie’s exile from the Trump inner circle began when he dared to tell The Donald that when Clinton was ready to concede, President Obama would call the governor and Christie would hand his phone to Trump. Trump, a fanatical germophobe, was reportedly repulsed at the thought of having Christie’s mobile against his face and barked back, “Hey, Chris, you know my f***ing number. Just give it to the President. I don’t want your f***ing phone.”
    Key takeaway:
    Steve Bannon is a fascinating and monstrous character, who undoubtedly bears great responsibility for Donald Trump’s shocking victory. But the interesting revelations about Bannon are primarily constrained to the first half of the book, and focused mostly on his rise to power; by the book’s midpoint — when it begins to cover the campaign in earnest — Bannon feels oddly sidelined, and the narrative becomes much more of a by-the-numbers diary of Donald Trump’s slouch toward the Oval Office.

    “shattered:” Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

      Authors: Hillary Clinton didn’t grasp populism

    Most compelling character:
    Not Hillary Clinton — but that’s by design, as Allen and Parnes’ thesis about the campaign’s failure depends on Clinton’s being framed as simultaneously world-weary and naive, controlling and remote, distracted and obsessive, but most of all, incredibly boring. Bernie Sanders comes off as far more interesting, though he’s also firmly presented as unelectable. Though a minor character, the most memorably described figure in the book comes early: Clinton true-believer Adam Parkhomenko, whose desire to see her elected president was so passionate that it led him to found the scrappy grassroots movement Ready for Hillary and spend a full decade tirelessly fighting to make her POTUS.
    Biggest revelation:
    Hillary Clinton was far closer to picking Elizabeth Warren as her running mate than anyone suspected — in part because they connected so deeply on the girl-wonk level. Would making the surprise pick of the popular — and populist — Warren have turned things around for Clinton? Quite possibly. The roadblock to Warren’s selection? She’d run afoul of President Obama, calling him out for nominating a banker to a key Treasury Department role. “It’s safe to say she’s not a favorite person in this building,” one White House official observed.
    Most memorable quote:
    “When you’re done with a condom, you throw it out.” — unnamed Democratic insider, whom Green describes as “familiar with Mook’s thinking,” discussing Robby Mook’s attitude toward the grass-roots zealots of Ready for Hillary.
    Best anecdote:
    In May 2016, when Hillary Clinton was being pressured to give a high-profile public interview in the face of the rise of Bernie Sanders and the relentless drip-drip-drip story of her private email server, she was asked by her communications chief what journalist she’d most prefer for a one-on-one TV conversation. Her team thought she said “Brianna,” and reached out to CNN’s Brianna Keilar as a result; Clinton had actually said “Bianna,” referring to Bianna Golodryga of Yahoo! News, the wife of former Clinton administration economic aide Peter Orszag. The interview — brutally intense, rather than softball — turned out to be “a disaster” for Clinton.
    Best anecdote about Bernie Sanders:
    Sanders was asked to film a TV ad to seal the deal of his endorsement of Clinton. He was fine with everything that the Clinton campaign asked him to say — putting a stamp of approval on her positions regarding education, health care and the minimum wage — but refused to say the script’s final words, “I’m with her.” “It’s so phony!” he griped. “I don’t want to say that.” He didn’t. The ad ultimately never ran.

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    Key takeaway:
    “Shattered” appears to have been written with a key assumption in mind: that Hillary Clinton was almost entirely responsible for her own defeat, and that this defeat was predestined because of her personal history and prior political choices she’d made. That makes it a strangely off-key read in an era where new revelations about Russian interference in the campaign and potential collusion (perhaps the true “devil’s bargain”) are erupting on a daily basis. But it also seems to put a capstone on Clinton’s political career, having her declare to her “Hillaryland” team after her loss that 2016 is the “last campaign” of her life. Fact, or wishful thinking on the part of the authors? We’ll undoubtedly see as the gears of 2020’s campaign begin to grind.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/21/opinions/devils-bargain-shattered-opinion-yang/index.html


    What we need to learn from Linkin Park frontman’s death

    (CNN)It’s a tragic day for the music industry. The lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, was found dead in his Los Angeles home at 41. Sadly authorities were treating the case as a possible suicide. Eerily, Bennington died on what would’ve been his dear friend Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday — the Soundgarden frontman hung himself on May 18, 2017. Both men are now part of a long, disturbing history of rock and roll and untimely death.

    Linkin Park was a groundbreaking rock band that shattered the music industry with 2000’s “Hybrid Theory.” In an era of overly sweet pop music with boy bands and copycat starlets, the group was a refreshing mix of angst, grit and raw emotion.
    Chester Bennington’s melodic but rugged voice helped spawn rock classics like “In the End,” “Numb” and “What I’ve Done.” Arguably, one of Linkin Park’s most brilliant (and unexpected) moments was pairing with Jay-Z for 2004’s “Collision Course.” The album was a mashup of Jay and Linkin Park, and launched the single “Numb/Encore.” Not since Aerosmith and Run-DMC did “Walk this Way” had people heard this perfect fusion of rock and hip hop. The six-track album was critically acclaimed and a smash hit, going to number one on the Billboard album chart and selling over two million copies.
      One thing no one can deny is the significant pain in Bennington’s voice. He clearly purged his anguish through his music. Bennington was open with his history of abuse and struggles with drugs and alcohol, which he claimed helped him create some of the band’s biggest songs. When describing the song “My Suffering,” he told the music website Noisecreep.com in 2009 it’s “literally about (how) being an alcoholic and a drug addict has paid off for me in many ways. I have been able to tap into all the negative things that can happen to me throughout my life by numbing myself to the pain, so to speak, and kind of being able to vent it through my music.”
      He said that another song, “Crawling,” is “probably the most literal song lyrically I’d ever written for Linkin Park and that’s about feeling like I had no control over myself in terms of drugs and alcohol. That feeling, being able to write about it, sing about it, that song, those words sold millions of records, I won a Grammy, I made a lot of money. I don’t think I could’ve been inspired to create something like that by watching someone else go through that. So in a lot of ways that’s been very constructive for me.” This sentiment is sadly familiar for many artists who are obviously struggling with pain or addiction and see the battle as a space of creativity.

        Linkin Park singer on his past, drug use (2009)

      Tragically, when I think about artists like Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell and so many more, I can’t help but wonder what is the price for singing the lifelong blues? Do you have to suffer for your art to create? Even back to the days of Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, all of whom died too young, these artists were living every note, lyric and chord of their music.
      Sure, pain and angst create great music. But considering the phenomenal artists we have lost in the past few years to suicide and inner demons, it is long past time to prioritize real mental health over the sporadic catharsis of bars and chords. According to Health.com, musicians are fifth in the top ten professions with high rates of depressive illness.
      If you make a choice to not suffer for your art, can you still be a great artist? The answer is, yes. When Adele released her “25” album, she admitted she would no longer thrive off of depression to create. When Mary J. Blige was criticized for “getting happy,” she specifically told me in an interview for BET.com, “Some of them (fans) are mad at me for making the switch, but I would’ve died over there. Literally, I’d be six feet under.” Thankfully, Mary and Adele made the switch.

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      I hope there is a lesson that can be learned in the deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. We need to support our artists to be healthy and loved even when they evolve out of the sadness that inspired our favorite songs. Depending on pain to create is a dangerous road to travel. I can’t help but wonder about the sonic and vocal brilliance we will, now, never get from Chester Bennington.
      Long live a god of rock.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/20/opinions/lesson-in-chester-bennington-death-opinion-cane/index.html


      To fix health care, look to state governors

      (CNN)The recent collapse of Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare can be blamed on disagreements about policy more than anything else.

      For seven years, Republicans at all levels of government were able to articulate the simple message that President Barack Obama’s signature health care law had to go, and a set of better, market-based policies needed to replace it.
      But once the GOP captured control of the White House and both houses of Congress, it became clear that the devil really was in the details. Within their own ranks, Republicans remain divided on fundamental questions of policy — whether to change how Medicaid is financed, whether there should to be tax credits to help low-income Americans afford private insurance, and how far to go in deregulating the marketplace.
        So, what’s next? Republicans may soon vote on a bill that will mirror the 2015 legislation they passed (and Obama vetoed) repealing large parts of Obamacare, without an accompanying package of replacement reforms. This approach, dubbed “repeal and delay” because it offsets the repeal of Obamacare by two years, raises significant concerns. It would introduce dramatic uncertainty into the health care system, place the most vulnerable among us at risk of losing the coverage they need, and punt on the important work of replacing Obamacare with reforms that could actually lower costs and expand choices for consumers.
        The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated the impact of “repeal-and-delay” and found that, while it would decrease budget deficits significantly, it would also leave 32 million more Americans uninsured in 10 years, as compared to Obamacare. Moreover, a recent survey from the Associated Press and the University of Chicago showed that, by a 2-to-1 margin, those polled believed that Obamacare should not be repealed until a replacement was available.
        This suggests that Republicans would be the ones who would “own” the political consequences for rising premiums, diminishing choices, and lost coverage during the two years before Obamacare is actually repealed — a period of time that includes a crucial midterm election.
        Plus, the notion that a two-year delay would be an action-forcing mechanism is sheer folly. It is an approach that has never been particularly effective at encouraging policymaking amongst members of Congress on even the most urgent of priorities (see the much-maligned budget sequester for evidence of this).
        But there is another route.
        Despite the many policy differences between Republicans that torpedoed the recent repeal-and-replace effort, there was common ground between Senators (and many governors, as well as members of the House) on the value of federalism and state-led reforms in our health care system. This concord should form the basis of any future GOP discussions about the fate of Obamacare, or what should go in its place. It might even jumpstart bipartisan discussions about the future of health reform, as some Democrats have suggested that state-focused solutions are a reasonable step forward.
        A number of existing legislative proposals speak to this emerging consensus.
        The stalled GOP Senate bill included a notable provision that dramatically expanded upon a state innovation provision contained in Section 1332 of Obamacare. This section of current law allows states to waive many of the law’s mandates and requirements so long as they establish health solutions that don’t increase the federal deficit, and furnish coverage that is at least as affordable, comprehensive and widespread as that provided for by Obamacare.
        The Senate bill basically eliminated these guardrails and deemed state reform plans presumptively valid, so long as they did not increase the federal deficit. Many conservatives cheered this change and believed it would create an “escape hatch” from Obamacare for many states, particularly those governed by conservative leaders.
        Earlier this year, Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Susan Collins of Maine — two skeptics of the Senate Republican legislation — introduced their own bill that, at core, would allow states the option of implementing Obamacare (with its mandates and requirements) or designing their own health systems, with some or none of Obamacare’s regulatory structure.
        Their legislation would keep many of Obamacare’s tax hikes in place, but send this money to states that, at a minimum, elected to maintain protections for those with preexisting health conditions. While most conservatives balked at the notion of retaining so many of Obamacare’s tax increases, the federalist core of the Cassidy-Collins proposal should be appealing to Republicans looking for a way forward.
        Finally, Senator Lindsey Graham has a proposal that mirrors many elements of the Cassidy-Collins proposal (in fact, media reports indicate that he worked with Cassidy on his plan) that would retain almost all of Obamacare’s tax hikes, as well as its protections for patients with preexisting conditions, in return for block grants to states. These grants would give states significant flexibility in each pursuing the solutions that suit their citizens best.
        Republicans have long advocated for solutions that empower governors and state elected officials to address major public policy challenges. Reforms such as the landmark 1996 welfare reform legislation, which granted states significant latitude to design safety net programs that suited their populations best, illustrate the value that such an approach can have.

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        Health care is an area where federalism not only has the potential to lead to more innovative solutions, but to forge consensus between conservatives — and maybe even across the partisan divide.

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/19/opinions/health-care-federalism-opinion-chen/index.html


        Collectors Rejoice! Topps Just Released A Limited-Edition Hall Of Famers Pack That Includes Each Legends Stance On Abortion

        Read more: http://www.clickhole.com/article/collectors-rejoice-topps-just-released-limited-edi-6220


        We need to hear FBI nominee’s view on hate crime epidemic

        (CNN)With hate crimes increasing in the past year throughout the country, too many Americans are fearful they will become the next target of violence simply based on their race, religion, gender, disability, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation.

        While President Donald Trump’s new nominee to be the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Christopher Wray, will no doubt face questions during Wednesday morning’s hearing about how he plans to address matters of national security, Americans also deserve to know how he will ensure that the FBI prioritizes civil rights enforcement and will investigate hate crimes.
        Hateful rhetoric and the violence inspired by such rhetoric makes us less safe. Those that carry out hate crimes seek to tear communities apart. This occurred recently in the city of Portland, Oregon, when a man started hurling virulent anti-Muslim words of hate at two teenage girls, including one teen who wore a hijab. When a few brave observers stepped in to help the young women, two were killed and another seriously wounded. This tragedy rocked the city of Portland and the entire nation.
          In recent months, white supremacists and others filled with hate toward people they perceive to be different have been newly emboldened, and their actions have brought pain to and instilled fear among many. This past weekend, white supremacists marched in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of Confederate statues in the city. The Southern Poverty Law Center has said the number of hate groups across the country has increased in the past year and is growing to “near-historic highs,” while the FBI reported a rise in hate crimes in 2015.
          The spike in hate groups and hate incidents makes clear that we must combat the root causes of these crimes. But we cannot stop there. Victims, survivors, and witnesses need support — from law enforcement, and from service providers. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, immediate crisis intervention is crucial for victims who have been the target of a hate crime. Without this support, victims can experience nightmares, flashbacks, and even memory problems that can interfere with their health, ability to work, and ability to support their family.

            What is a hate crime?

          Inspired by the work done to combat hate across the country, 19 national nonprofit civil rights and legal organizations joined to launch Communities Against Hate in March. This initiative provides a way for survivors and witnesses of hate incidents to document their stories. It also connects individuals in communities across the country to the critical support systems they need as they face the uptick in hate. The initiative offers access to legal resources and social services to support victims of hate incidents. It includes a resource hotline (1-844-9-NO-HATE) with a focus on serving the needs of organizations working to combat hate incidents in their respective communities.
          While we are proud to join that effort through the Communities Against Hate initiative, we also need to see real leadership at the federal level. That begins with the consideration of Trump’s FBI director nominee. This week, Senators must ask Wray how the bureau will prioritize combating hate crimes and whether he will publicly condemn the scapegoating and demonizing of immigrants, religious minorities, and other groups historically targeted by hate violence. Wray must also answer whether he will ensure the FBI’s Civil Rights Unit and agents across the country have sufficient resources and support to thoroughly investigate hate crimes.

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          The spirit of community and of fairness that prompted three brave men to act in Portland must not be forgotten. We must all join together to stand against hate. We must ensure that the new Director of the FBI is prepared to lead an agency dedicated to fully investigating hate crimes and the domestic terrorism of white supremacist groups.

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/11/opinions/hate-crime-fbi-opinion-clarke-gupta/index.html


          New sanitary pad tax exposes India’s archaic period taboos

          (CNN)Sanitary pads, an essential need for all adult women, have been placed in a non-essential tax bracket by the Indian government.

          In a surprise move, the recently passed Global Sales Tax (GST) bill — which brings all of India under a single tax rate for the first time — placed sanitary pads in the lower middle 12% bracket.
          The 12% number is ironic, because according to a 2011 study by AC Nielsen, only 12% of India’s 335 million adult women can afford sanitary napkins.
            A 12% tax on sanitary napkins is an improvement from the earlier proposal of 18%, but comes as a shock since sindoor– the red powder applied to a married Hindu woman’s scalp, bangles and bindis (the dot motif used to adorn a woman’s forehead) — has been bracketed as “essential” and therefore exempt from tax.
            Of the four tax brackets, the lowest 5% tax rate has been applied to items of mass consumption, while the highest of 28% to luxury items. Everything else is clubbed into the 12% and 15% brackets.

            Cow dung sanitary pads

            The Indian government’s apathy and utter ignorance of women’s health issues is deeply concerning.
            Most women in India (88%) still use scraps of cloth, newspaper, ash, wood shavings, dried leaves, hay or even cow dung — basically the cheapest, most absorbent material that they can lay their hands on.
            Incidents of reproductive tract infections (RTI’s) are 70% more common amongst women who do not use sanitary pads than those who do. Around 64% of gynecologists believe that the use of sanitary napkins reduce the risk of cervical cancer, according to a 2010 AC Nielsen study.
            Furthermore, because of the immobility that using paper/cloth/cow dung imposes on them, it is common practice for girls to drop out of school for the week of their period.
            According to the AC Nielsen study, inadequate menstrual protection means that adolescent girls miss on average 5 days of school in a month (50 days a year).
            It is considered taboo for most women in India to work, visit temples, enter communal bathing areas or kitchens during their periods.

            Lack of awareness

            At the heart of the matter is the lack of awareness among both men and women.
            In 2010, the government launched the first phase of the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme (MHS) introducing subsidized sanitary pads called “Free days” priced at 7.50 rupees ($0.11) for a pack of six. Typically, sanitary pads cost between five rupees ($0.08) and 12 rupees ($0.20) each.
            The scheme failed due to irregular supply and quality of the pads.
            According to conversations that I have had with women in pilot villages of the MHS, the low quality of the government sanitary pads, meant that alternatives — made with cloth, hay or even cow dung cakes — were often considered more comfortable. Women also spoke of the problem of disposal of conspicuous sanitary pads.

            Shirking from the subject

            While the tax imposed on sanitary pads is certainly a sign of India’s inherent patriarchy, it is not just the men who are to blame. Instead of shirking from the subject, Indian women too need to speak up.
            Ever since we were little girls, we have been taught to be embarrassed about our periods, to never speak about our monthly “curse,” to hide sanitary napkins up our sleeves.
            I know so many married men, who live with wives, mothers and daughters, yet have never seen a sanitary napkin in their lives. This is not just their fault, it is also ours — for allowing ourselves to be part of a culture that punishes women for simply having their period.
            According to leading gynecologist Malvika Sabharwal who runs Jeewan Mala Hospital in New Delhi India, it is a shame that the government is imposing such a tax on sanitary napkins especially when usage among women is already so low.
            Even in urban centers like Delhi, taboos around menstruation prevent women from talking about problems and then trying to hide anything related to their period, including sanitary pads.
            “It is this unhealthy attitude of shame which prevents us from progressing towards more positive change in menstrual hygiene,” says Sabharwa.
            The taxation of sanitary pads is a starting point of a much-needed conversation and deeper cultural change on menstruation and more.
            India is lagging behind the curve.
            In the West, women have moved on from the sanitary pad to the tampon– and though tampons are more hygienic, more cost-effective, more convenient and easier to dispose, the sale of tampons in India is negligible because Indian women are discouraged from using due to cultural myths related to virginity and the tampon.
            Women of all ages and at every rung of society will suffer if we remain silent.
            At the end, it is up to us women to break the archaic and unnecessary taboos that surround our periods.

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/30/opinions/sanitary-pads-india/index.html


            McConnell’s test: Can he do more than obstruct?

            (CNN)Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing a major test this week. Since revealing the details of the Republican health care plan, McConnell has watched as a number of important senators in his own party announced their concerns or opposition. Some, such as Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, have urged him to postpone the vote based on the assumption that, at this moment, it would not pass the upper chamber where the majority only has a slim 52 seats.

            Meanwhile, on Monday, the Congressional Budget Office announced that under the Senate bill there would be 22 million more uninsured Americans by 2026, making McConnell’s efforts to pass the bill that much more difficult.
            But McConnell’s supporters believe he can make this happen. They see McConnell as a modern-day Lyndon Johnson, who has served as both Senate minority and majority leader, an old-school legislator who can twist arms and cut deals to bring his party together. They are confident that despite all the potential problems with this bill, McConnell must have enough tricks up his sleeve to defy conventional wisdom.
              But the truth is it’s nearly impossible to predict if McConnell will succeed. To many, he has defined his career as an obstructionist rather than as someone who creates new policies. The challenge he faces this week is fundamentally different than much of what he has confronted in his time as a party leader.
              Most of McConnell’s skills have come as a member of the congressional minority or as a majority leader facing a president from the other party. Under those conditions, McConnell could be brilliant and devastating. Shortly after President Obama’s inauguration, Utah Republican Bob Bennett recalled McConnell telling a retreat of Republicans: “We have a new president with an approval rating in the 70% area. We do not take him on frontally. We find issues where we can win, and we begin to take him down, one issue at a time.”
              His track record as an agent of obstruction is legendary. Throughout the Obama presidency, McConnell proved to be extremely effective at blocking many key legislative initiatives, from immigration reform to climate change regulations to criminal justice reform, that sometimes even commanded bipartisan support. The senator proved he knew how to whip up a no vote and to stand firm against intense political pressure to act.
              He demonstrated the same savvy with judicial and executive branch appointments. McConnell was more than willing to let seats remain empty. Never was his ability to hold the party together as clear as when Justice Antonin Scalia died during President Obama’s term. The Senate majority leader refused to even hold hearings on the nomination of Merrick Garland, based on the spurious argument that the next president should have the right to decide on the appointment. The seat remained vacant until a Republican controlled the White House.
              As an obstructionist, McConnell demonstrated he was able to ignore the scrutiny of the media no matter how hot it became. When pundits and policymakers took to the airwaves to lambast the Republicans for failing to govern or for creating a constitutional crisis, McConnell didn’t flinch. The breaking news cycle didn’t faze him. He plays, as he titled his memoir, the “Long Game” with an eye on the needs of his party. Between 2009 and 2017, he kept up the pressure on his colleagues in the Senate to stick to their guns, and it worked.
              Now the situation is different. For the first time in his career as a party leader (other than the brief moment he was selected as Senate majority leader in 2006), the public will see just how well he can perform in making things happen rather than blocking progress.
              But the skills are different on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
              Part of the job of the majority leader in times of united government is to bring disparate parts of the party together around proposals to change the status quo. “Trumpcare” would do just that. This is legislation that will strip away the health care benefits for millions of Americans and create a period of great uncertainty for health care markets.
              Some conservatives want Congress to do much more in dismantling government. To them, the government would still be spending too much money subsidizing markets and leaving too many regulations in place. Others in the GOP are not willing to make such grandiose changes, realizing the effects it will have on their electorate. In particular, they fear the effects of the rollback of Medicaid on their populations as well as the higher deductibles that people with more illnesses will face.
              Can McConnell bring these sides together, and work with the intransigent Freedom Caucus in the House, around legislation that will change the status quo and where Republicans will likely be blamed for any negative outcome?
              In the modern era, part of the job of the majority leader has also been to sell ideas to the public. This is where the job of the obstructionist is very different than the job of the policy creator. Unlike some recent Senate majority leaders, McConnell doesn’t really like to be on television and he tends to avoid reporters whenever possible. In this case, that comes at a cost since the natural face of the party is not out there convincing Americans why this is a good idea. That task is left to others, and right now his fellow salesmen, as reflected in public opinion polls about the health care bills, are doing a poor job.
              Until now, President Trump has not tested McConnell, since he has focused almost exclusively on executive actions and avoided the legislative front on large-scale issues.
              It is worth noting that McConnell does not really have many legislative issues that he is known for, other than his fierce opposition in the 1990s to campaign finance reform. This week he is dealing with a major issue that would have his signature in the history books.

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              Can McConnell deliver on this controversial legislation? Can he play the part of leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, who delivered when Democrats controlled the White House and Congress in the mid-1960s? Or, is this problematic bill something that is just too hot for this legislative leader to deliver?
              This is a question that will be answered as the week unfolds.

              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/26/opinions/mcconnell-health-care-opinion-zelizer/index.html


              Would Trump make a good royal?

              (CNN)The power of the British monarchy has been on display during recent tragedies.

              Whether comforting victims of the Grenfell tower block fire or unveiling the priorities of her government in the state opening of Parliament, Queen Elizabeth II has demonstrated the sort of steady, dignified endurance that rises above the chaos of a divisive Brexit vote and an inconclusive general election.
              Leave it to Prince Harry to spoil it all.
                In a revealing interview with Newsweek, the Queen’s most rebellious grandson let slip the secret at the heart of his family.
                “We are involved in modernizing the British monarchy. We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people…. Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time,” he said.
                Prince Harry’s words are extraordinary. But he should know better than anyone if his father Charles and brother William, both groomed for the job since birth, do not even want the throne.

                  Prince Harry opens up about Diana’s funeral

                Who, after all, could survive the nonstop attention and demand for selfies? Who would thrive under such scrutiny, and do it all while wearing a gold crown weighing more than three pounds?
                It would take a certain type of person. The sort of person who fills his court with relatives, perhaps, who thinks the separation of powers is a foreign concept, and who would quite fancy himself as the head of a church.
                Anyone coming to mind here?
                President Donald Trump may be struggling to navigate power in the world’s greatest democracy. But how about the top job in a smaller, dustier administration?
                There may be centuries of convention about how the monarch is supposed to relate to Parliament (keep quiet and sign the bills when they arrive), but an unwritten constitution means there is nothing to stop him doing whatever he wants.
                These days, marrying a Catholic is not even a problem, so Melania is safe.
                It is, of course, a stupid idea. A poor joke deployed by a Brit in America (yours truly) trying to make sense of Prince Harry’s comments and the truth about duty.
                Harry’s point is that nobody should want the crown. Nobody should want the awesome responsibilities that come with it. The accident of birth has rather ruled him out of contention anyway. Prince Harry now stands fifth in line to the throne.

                  Prince Harry hosts Obama at Kensington Palace

                But it is easy to understand how a fun-loving 30-something would balk at the idea.
                His mother died in a car accident in a French road tunnel as she was pursued by paparazzi, photographers trying to sate the massive interest in the Royals’ real-life soap opera.
                A photo of Harry walking in his mother’s funeral cortege became the public’s defining image of the young prince.
                “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” he said in the Newsweek interview.
                “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen.”
                It got worse as Harry got older and became fair game for the tabloids. Now every girlfriend is scrutinized by a public that knows him only from a distance.
                When he dressed up as a Nazi for a fancy dress party, photographs turned up on newspaper front pages.

                  UK royals talk candidly about losing Diana

                And as his brother William will one day find out, being king rather makes showing up at a Colonials and Natives themed party a bit of a no-no. (Although his choice of outfit at that notorious 2005 party — a lion costume — shows the way he has been groomed from a young age to avoid accidentally triggering outrage by dressing up as a murderous fascist.)
                We have all watched the crown and marveled at the way Princess Elizabeth blossomed into a young queen as she grappled with her new burden and the duties she learned at her father’s side.
                How much more difficult that transition would be today, in our nonstop world of Twitter, hot takes and rolling news.

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                Anyone lusting after the position of sovereign would possess not just an unhealthy masochism, but a level of narcissism at odds with the humility displayed by the Queen during this past week.
                What kind of monster would want that life?

                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/22/opinions/prince-harry-trump-royal-opinion-crilly/index.html


                No tapes? Trump has us through the looking glass

                (CNN)As the Mad Hatter of the White House tweeted his response to Congress’s questions on Thursday about the existence of audiotapes related to James B. Comey’s firing as FBI director, he stayed true to character. “I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” President Trump announced. But he also added that “with all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea…”

                Trapped in a controversy of his own creation after tormenting Comey, the Congress, the press and the American public with the implication that he might have bugged the White House, Donald Trump fell back on one of his regular tricks, offering a unclear clarification and acting more like a bad magician than President of the United States.
                In the immediate term, all this craziness may well divert the nation from revelations of the Senate’s heretofore secret health care legislation and the fact that it would do grievous harm to Donald Trump’s own promise to leave the Medicaid system intact.
                  In the long term, the actions of President Trump and his team will inspire an even more dogged pursuit of the truth by Congress and the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller — who, it must be remembered, would have never been named if Donald Trump had left James Comey alone in the first place.
                  By speaking of “tapes,” the President cavalierly evoked the Watergate scandal and the worst political crisis in the history of the presidency in order to hint that he, like Nixon, was capable of secretly recording his visitors.
                  Richard Nixon fought the release of his tapes because he knew that the system had caught him planning and ordering the post-Watergate cover-up that drove him from office. Donald Trump, on the other hand, made the false claim that he possessed tapes because he understood the power of merely making the suggestion that recordings exist.
                  In this game, the President implied that he possessed valuable evidence to support his own position and discredit and intimidate James Comey, the man who knew more than anyone about the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. He hoped, in this gambit, to benefit from two factors: the idea that people would assume that no President would take the risk of bluffing on such a matter and his belief that he could get away with anything. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” was how Trump put it during the 2016 campaign.
                  The problem for Trump, when it came to Comey, was that the former FBI director couldn’t be bluffed. “Lordy I hope there are tapes,” Comey said when he testified before a Senate committee, because he believed that accurate recordings of his conversations with Trump would support his contention that the President had pressured him on the Russia matters.
                  President Trump would have known that his bullying bluff would fail if he understood how principled people like Comey work. During decades of service, Comey had built a reputation for integrity and made it clear to almost everyone in Washington that he was not a man to mess with. In 2004, it was Comey who successfully defied President Bush when he tried to get hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign an order reauthorizing a domestic spying program. When Scott Pelley of CBS News asked him in 2014 if his loyalty belonged to the President, Comey said no. “I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” he said.
                  Never one for deep reflection, Donald Trump missed the signs of Comey’s true character and deemed him a “showboat.” He’s made this kind of mistake of misjudging people before. In the early 1990s, he underestimated the strength of his first wife, Ivana, as she fought him, leak for leak, in the war of the tabloids that accompanied their divorce. Later he underestimated author Tim O’Brien and his publisher when he sued over O’Brien’s book. The defendants prevailed and the record created by the case made Donald Trump look irrational, as he claimed that his net worth depended, in part, on his level of self-esteem.
                  These are just two examples — in many cases, Donald Trump’s miscalculations are followed by intense efforts by underlings and hirelings to somehow shape reality to conform to the big man’s impulsive remarks and actions. Those who stick with him through these exercises do so because they lack the gumption to say no. Their efforts, unfortunately, only bolster his belief that people generally act out of self-interest and not on the basis of any higher moral values.

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                  So when Donald Trump made the mistake of musing about “tapes,” and left the door hanging open with his tweets, he once again put both his legal team and his White House staff in the awful position of trying to explain his actions and contain their damage. It’s no wonder that Sarah Huckabee Sanders fell back on a Trumpian trope when pressed by reporters to address the President’s relationship to facts, saying, “Look, the President won the election.” While generally true, this statement has nothing to do with the problem of a President who refuses to offer straight answers to a host of questions, including whether he believes in the science that shows the world’s climate is changing due to human activity or that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election.
                  Huckabee Sanders and the press office intensified the Wonderland atmospherics at the White House when they refused to let her appearance be shown on video and then described an announcement of this refusal as “NONREPORTABLE.” In other words, journalists were barred from distributing images of Huckabee Sanders, then told, in Red Queen style, that they better not say why.
                  In the story of Wonderland, Alice eventually left behind the Mad Hatter and all of the other unruly and unsavory characters who lived there and shared with the world what she had seen. In Washington, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller now occupies the Alice role. And like her, he will likely emerge from his investigation with quite a tale to tell.

                  Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/22/opinions/trump-in-wonderland-comey-tapes-dantonio-opinion/index.html


                  Wenstrup: Baseball aside, we’re all playing for the same team

                  (CNN)I never expected a baseball field in America to feel like being back in a combat zone, but Wednesday morning it did.

                  For months, a group of my colleagues and I have been heading to Alexandria early in the morning before work to practice for the charity baseball game that Democrats and Republicans have participated in since 1909.
                  I was pulling on my batting gloves and heading to the batting cages along the first base line when I heard the crack of a rifle shot. I turned — only to hear my Mississippi colleague and fellow Iraq War veteran Trent Kelly yell, “shooter!”
                    Everyone started dashing for cover. I saw House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, at second base, drop. The minutes ticked by as we watched the gunman, who started out near the third base line, move steadily around the diamond. Shot after shot ripped through the air. It felt like being back in Iraq, only without my weapon or any infantry.
                    What happened could have been far worse, had it not been for the courage of the Capitol Police who ultimately took down the shooter. Steve may have taken the bullet, but his presence — he’s one of the few lawmakers in Congress with a security detail — saved all of us. Without his security detail, we would have been completely defenseless. Special Agents Crystal Griner and David Bailey are the true heroes of the hour.
                    As soon as the shooter was down, I ran alongside Jeff Flake and Mo Brooks, and others, to provide emergency medical attention to Steve and stanch the bleeding until the medics could arrive. In the following hours, reporters kept asking me: “What were you thinking out there? Were you afraid you were going to die?” But in the flash of the moment you don’t think. Instincts kick in. I simply did what I had been trained to do. Only after it was over and I was back at the Capitol hugging my wife and 3-year-old son did I really think about how blessed I was to have made it out alive.
                    Later, as we learned more about the individual behind the shooting, it became clear the act was politically motivated, fueled by hatred of our President, Republicans, and anyone with a political ideology that differed from his own. It is a single event, but it provides a piercing commentary on today’s political climate — both in Washington and across the country.
                    Blame it on social media’s anonymity, the 24-hour news cycle, the vitriol of the campaign trail, or a dozen other factors, but it is undeniable that there is a chilling undercurrent to political discourse in our country today. It is not simply the presence of anger or frustration, which are often well-deserved when it comes to our bloated government and the arrogance of Washington-knows-best-policies. Beyond that, though, our political dialogue has become tainted with a stunning lack of civility that points to an even deeper problem: a lack of humanity.
                    It might be politically effective to demonize and dehumanize our opponents — it is certainly easier than taking time to empathize, listen closely, research the facts, and understand the other side’s arguments. But what is easy isn’t always what is right. We have tremendous freedom in this country to speak and act as we wish, but that liberty requires responsibility. As Pope John Paul II said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” As we passionately debate policy and argue our ideas, we need to hold on to our humanity. We need to rediscover the lost art of civil disagreement, the ability to hold opposing viewpoints without resorting to hate.
                    Perhaps most sobering is the fact that by demonizing one another, we have effectively forgotten who our true enemies are. While we are bogged down in partisanship, our adversaries across the globe are not so easily distracted. Whether it is Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, or radical Islamic terrorists — there are actors around the world who are actively working to undermine, diminish, and ultimately destroy the security and democracy of the United States of America. As long as our strength is segmented into factions and our political process consumed by partisan theatrics, we are playing directly into their hands.

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                    Ultimately, the attacker in Alexandria was an example of the worst in this country, but the response afterwards represents what is best about this country. That same morning, the House floor was packed as members of Congress stood shoulder to shoulder, hands over hearts, pledging allegiance to our flag. One nation, under God. Democrats huddled in prayer for their colleagues across the aisle. It was an important reminder that our unity is our strength. We’ve seen it before — let’s not forget it. Despite all the disagreements and differences, at the end of the day, we’re all Americans. It’s this communal bond and American spirit that spurs us to greatness. It’s what sets us apart from the others. It’s what will move us forward.
                    Because, baseball games aside, we’re all playing for the same team.

                    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/15/opinions/baseball-game-combat-ground-wenstrup-opinion/index.html