During President Trump’s first few months in office, media coverage has tended to vacillate between covering Trump’s substantive political agenda–his Supreme Court nominee, his healthcare reform, his budget, etc.–and the alleged connection between members of the Trump administration and the Russian government. Trump opponents had a politically great news cycle last week about the Republican healthcare bill. Jimmy Kimmel offered some brilliant pathos about ensuring that all families have access to healthcare, and House Republicans made it clear that they don’t share his priority by passing a healthcare bill which has been projected by the CBO to deny coverage to 24 million Americans, many of whom are poor and working people who voted for Trump. This is a moment of profound contrast in moral and political values and it’s a brilliant opportunity to expose the con that was Trump’s promise of universal healthcare, a con underlined by the subsequent praise he offered to the Australian healthcare system when that system looks nothing like the bill he’s championed in the House. But instead of staying with this issue, the press and the commentariat have quickly jumped back over to the Trump/Russia scandal (let’s call it “Trussiagate”) in response to the firing of FBI Director James Comey. A lot of people get excited about this scandal’s political potential because they’d like to use it to someday impeach Trump. But it’s not nearly as politically useful as it appears to be, and it’s dumbing down our foreign policy debate.
A few people have asked my opinion on the Michael Flynn scandal. As I understand it, anonymous sources from within the intelligence community have leaked to the press that Flynn, President Trump’s National Security Adviser, was in contact with the Russian government prior to Trump’s inauguration and lied about his connections. Further leaks claim that Trump knew about this, and that other members of his team were also in contact with Russia. Flynn has resigned. If there was contact, this contact would be illegal under the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from conducting US foreign policy. Violators of the Logan Act can go to prison for three years. Many Democrats want to use the Logan Act to go after the Trump administration, while the Trump administration prefers to emphasize the illegality of the leaks:
The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by "intelligence" like candy. Very un-American!
The Vice Presidential debate last night between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence was a sad affair–Pence was able to “win” the debate without knowing any policy by repeatedly attacking Clinton’s record while only vaguely referencing policy issues. Rather than force Pence to defend his vague policy assertions, Kaine relied on a variety of canned talking points, many of which were personal attacks on Trump that moved the conversation away from the issues (Kaine repeatedly referenced my 5 bad anti-Trump arguments instead of my 5 good ones). This made Kaine look like he was running from policy, allowing Pence’s assertions to go unchallenged and giving Pence command of the room. Pence was able to accuse Kaine of running an insult-driven campaign, and Kaine’s response to that was to petulantly interrupt, get defensive, and resort to more insult-driven talking points, all of which reinforced Pence’s point. There were many claims Pence made that were open to attack, but I want to focus on one in particular today–Pence eliminated the major policy difference between his campaign’s and Kaine’s on Syria, and in so doing he eliminated the foreign policy case for Trump.
There’s a lot being said about Indiana’s recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Some people believe the law is innocuous–many other states (and the federal government) have religious freedom laws with seemingly similar language. Others claim the law is a naked endorsement of discrimination against LGBTs. I’ve spent much of my life in Indiana, and even I was not initially sure what the law actually does. So I’ve done some research, and I’m now prepared to share it with you. Read the rest of this entry »