News Sips 2/17: Rorschach Trump, Returning to Campaigning, West Wing Personnel Additions, and Republicans Need a Chiropractor in Chief
Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the February 17, 2017 edition:
The President held an hour-long press conference yesterday. It was either a cathartic takedown of the dishonest media by a long-sought-after politician who’s not afraid to punch back at lies or an exemplar of a Presidential trainwreck. It really depends on your perception of the President. What was clear from the event was that the President was having a good time taking questions from the media and directly airing his grievances about dishonest coverage from numerous sources.
As we’ve pointed out on this site numerous times before, the President is right to hold a grudge against certain outlets that have rushed forward with stories that are either underdeveloped or totally false. The fact that “Blue Checkmark Twitter” is simply an echo chamber for liberal journalists means that even gossip gets reported as news. It’s understandable why this happens, but it’s sincerely unfortunate given the “everything’s a crisis” narrative being pushed by media outlets killing one another for marketshare and clicks.
While folks can disagree about whether the President’s style is, well, Presidential, the fact remains that he is, well, the President. Therefore, it is de facto, Presidential. What this means is that we’re seeing a different type of Presidential interaction with the press. Mr. Trump’s combative, free-wheeling nature (he took around 17 questions in fairly quick succession—no long-winded, Obama-style answers) is what many Republicans have dreamed about for years. Gone are the days of the Bushes smiling and deflecting or Reagan’s jokes and disarming quality. Rather, instead of taking questions like a politician, Trump answered the questions like a real person.
As a slight tangent, I was in Arlington the other day and saw a sign that read “Trump is a Liar.” My immediate reaction to the sign was that it was false. Sure, Donald Trump may be perceived as a bully against the press. He may get numbers wrong and exaggerate, but the one thing that Mr. Trump is not is a “liar.” He has undertaken to do exactly what he told people he would do on the campaign trail. He’s not afraid to directly interact with the press and tell them what’s going on in his Administration and his feelings about a whole host of issues. Sure, you can hate him for it, and, I suppose, a lot of folks do, but the one thing Donald Trump has shown is that he’s not a liar.
The other main takeaway from the press conference was that the President covered a lot of substantive issues. From Russia to Israel to tax reform and Obamacare replacement, he really did make a lot of headway on most every story that has been reported about the Administration for the past month. Obviously, not all of his answers were what journalists and the Left wanted to hear, but the press conference wasn’t the vapid, devoid-of-substance love-fest that was the hallmark of the Obama Era. Rather, Donald Trump, for good or for ill, jumped straight into the fray. It’s also critical to realize that Donald Trump is the best booster for Donald Trump. We should give Sean Spicer credit for representing the Administration as Press Secretary, but Mr. Trump remains the best communicator in his Administration with average Americans.
Returning to the Campaign
The President is set to return to the Campaign Trail tomorrow with an evening rally in Melbourne, Florida. The President, who has already filed to run for re-election, is going back to doing what he does best: drawing big crowds to talk about politics. It’s clear from yesterday’s press conference that the President is getting frustrated with having his message being distorted by the media before it reaches the American people.
Throughout his campaign, the press was derisive about crowd sizes and Trump’s raucous events. They were consistently critical of Trump’s message and the way in which he talked with the groups who came to see his talks. Then Trump won.
Trump’s free-wheeling style and his ability to pick up on cues from his audience were hugely beneficial to his eventual success last November. He is definitely looking to capitalize on that same energy now that he is President. He understands that much of what he now needs to do is spin a counter-narrative to the one coming out from the media and let people know about the positive developments he’s made in just the first month of his Administration.
You can bet that there are going to be more campaign-style events in the future for the President in swing states and states where he has focused on growing jobs and the economy.
West Wing Personnel Updates
There have been a few changes and updates in the West Wing’s personnel. Following the departure of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, it’s been reported that the Administration offered the post to retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward. Harward turned down the post citing personal reasons. Currently, former Chief of Staff of the National Security Advisor and former General Keith Kellogg is the acting National Security Advisor. It’s unclear whether the President will simply confirm General Kellogg in this post to skip any more drama.
Yesterday, the Senate voted along Party lines (except for John McCain’s defection) to confirm Representative Mick Mulvaney as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. While OMB Director isn’t a job that gets a lot of press, it’s a critically important (and very powerful) role in the Executive Branch tasked with oversight of funding. Mulvaney, while in Congress, was a fiscal hawk and refused to endorse constant increases in defense spending (this is why McCain voted against him). Mulvaney’s libertarian streak on budget matters should be warmly welcomed by folks who want to see responsibility in government.
Reports this morning are that the President is going to be appointing Mike Dubke as Communications Director. Currently, Sean Spicer was occupying the roles of both Press Secretary and Communications Director following the President’s first choice for Communications Director, Jason Miller, pulling out of the job. This is a welcome addition to the West Wing and will free up Spicer to just do one critically important job at a time. It’s interesting to note that Dubke and Crossroads were opposed to Trump throughout the primary.
Oklahoma Attorney General and nominee for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is set for a vote this afternoon. Despite one potential GOP defection (and the possibility that John McCain may skip the vote), two Democrats, Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp may vote to confirm Pruitt.
After Andrew Puzder pulled out from contention for Labor Secretary, the President has nominated Alexander Acosta to the role. Acosta, Dean of Florida International University’s Law School is a Harvard Law graduate who is seen as a consensus choice.
Needing a Chiropractor-in-Chief
Most folks who have watched politics for any period of time know that Republican politicians sometimes have problems with their spines. Certainly, in Donald Trump, some of us anticipated that he would function as a Chiropractor-in-Chief for vacillating Congressional Republicans. On issues ranging from tax policy to a repeal and replacement of the rapidly-failing Affordable Care Act, Congressional Republicans’ puffery for the last eight years had given their constituents hope for real conservative, government. Of course, governing is harder than promising. Despite the political will in the West Wing, Congressional leadership has dithered in the first days of the Trump Administration. Rather than actively pursuing a conservative governing strategy, reports are that moderates in the Party are wringing their hands behind closed doors, fearful of a leftist backlash if they govern based on their principles.
Frankly, it’s understandable. From a human perspective, a lot of these folks don’t want to lose their jobs. There’s a chance that, if the rollout is botched, repealing Obamacare could be met with fierce electoral backlashes. Here’s the problem, though: the Democrats are smart enough that any changes to Obamacare are going to be met with backlashes. That’s the point. Moreover, because the health care law is failing quickly, the Party in power, in this case, the GOP, will get blamed for it.
This isn’t really that complicated, and it’s exactly what people were warned about when Obamacare was originally passed: the goodies were front-loaded to get people hooked in a law that was designed to fail. Why was it designed to fail? So that we could “fix” it by moving to a single-payer, a la Medicare-for-all, system. There wasn’t enough political will among Democrats to upend the healthcare system like that when the law was originally passed, so it was more meant as an ease-in to socialized medicine. This isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s precisely what would have had to have happened if Hillary Clinton had won the Presidency. There are those on the Left, like Bernie Sanders, who have made no secret that this is the ultimate goal. Given that the law would have collapsed “but for government’s intervention,” you can easily see how we get to single-payer.
Here’s the problem with the plan: Trump won. Now, Republicans are tasked with actually holding to their promises to unwind the tangle that is the Affordable Care Act. The task is gargantuan, and, as it was designed to do, people are hooked on the frontloaded benefits of the program. Now, Republicans are in a very difficult situation. However, what they need to realize is that the chance of coming out of this with a big public relations victory is highly unlikely. What they need to do is follow what the people who elected them are asking them to do and actually govern like conservatives.
It’s telling that the Left is attempting to hijack townhall forums with Republican members of Congress like the Tea Party did in 2009 and 2010. Some of it is organic anger, but a lot of it seems to be generated by the Left’s favorite word: “organizing.” It’s disappointing that members of Congress are giving into the rage from the Left and not holding in-person meetings with constituents (I get it, we want members to be safe, but, at most of these events, there are a battalion of police. Hold the forums and actually engage with voters). It remains to be seen how long these angry fits from the Left will continue. It’s also unclear exactly how average Americans are perceiving leftist anger and violence.
Of course, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.