Are Tweets By The President Official Statements Of Policy?
It’s a question many U.S. and world leaders are struggling with, and courts are likely to for a long time. North Korea’s decided it’s through with all that: Trump’s Tweets are, and that means we’re at war. The increasingly outspoken Foreign Minister : suggesting Trump declared war this weekend, with this Tweet
As a result, Ri said, North Korea will now feel free to shoot down U.S. military jets even if they are not in North Korean territory. This weekend, the U.S. Air Force sent fighters very close to the North Korean coast, way North of the DMZ (which marks the division between North and South Korea).
Ri’s assertion triggered a statement from the White House that “We have not declared war on North Korea.” Video of Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is here:
For now, it’s all still just words. And North Korea is as big on hyperbole as Trump. Still, it’s pretty mind blowing for the U.S. to feel compelled to announce we’re not actually at war with another country. Because that means it would not be far-fetched if we were.
“Nobody Has Got To Buy A Lemon Just Because It’s The Last Car On The Lot”
That assessment of the Graham/Cassidy health care bill from Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden. (Yes, Democrats can be folksy too!)
And a presumed “no” became a firm “no” as Maine Republican Susan Collins said she could not support it. That led the Washington Post to proclaim “Senate GOP effort to unwind the ACA collapses.” Thing is, they’ve proclaimed similar before, only to have Trumpcare rise from the grave, often in more sinister form. We’re waiting until the window to pass it this fiscal year closes. That won’t be until Saturday. (And guess what? Even that’s a temporary stall).
Senate Republicans told lots of lies in order to rekindle support for their all-or-nothing effort. The biggest coming from Senate Leader Mitch McConnell when he Tweeted:
Except there very clearly are Democrats who would be willing to work on a compromise, bipartisan bill.
Senate Republicans held the bill’s only hearing, in the Finance Committee, mainly to try to show a semblance of “regular order” (and appease John McCain). The only 2 witnesses were the 2 sponsors of the bill. Activists, many of whom were in wheelchairs, delayed the hearing until they were removed from the Senate chamber. 181 were arrested. You can (really should) watch some of it here:
And that long awaited CBO report came out, containing very few specifics (which they warned us might be the case since they had so little time). The CBO pretty much only saying the bill would cut $133-million from the budget deficit and cause “millions” of people to lose their health insurance.
Surprise! (Well Not Really): Tax Reform Plan Looks Likely To Mostly Benefit The Rich, Despite Trump’s Promise It Wouldn’t
Details of the plan are leaking out, although nothing can be considered definite or finalized until Trump announces exactly what’s in it in a speech tomorrow. According to Axios, the top tax rate for people making $400,000+ a year will fall from 39.6% to 35% But perhaps more significantly, taxes on sole proprietorships, or single-person businesses, which are currently taxed as income, will be slashed to 25%. When that was originally proposed we wondered why everybody in the country wouldn’t just become a one-person business?
Supreme Court Drops Travel Ban Off The Docket
Hearings on the President’s original ban were set for October 10th, but now that Trump’s made his new proclamation that doesn’t exclusively target Muslim countries, the court wants to know if the case might be moot. As we’ve mentioned, the new ban amounts to little more than sleight-of-hand: almost nobody comes to the U.S. from North Korea, and Venezuela ban doesn’t really block tourists.
At any rate, the Court asked attorneys on both sides to hand in their arguments by October 5th on whether there’s still a valid dispute. They’ve also asked the White House what it plans to do with the complete ban on refugees that’s set to expire on October 24th, since that isn’t mentioned in the President’s new proclamation. Axios says the President is planning to slash openings for refugees even lower than the 50,000 he originally said he’d allow.
Strange Days Indeed…
That’ll literally be the case if Luther Strange wins today’s Alabama Republican Senate Primary. And if he loses, it’s going to get even weirder. That’s because he’s running against a former judge who was kicked off the bench twice, once for refusing to comply with federal law on same sex marriage. Roy Moore was considered a walking and talking joke who had little success as a candidate until Trump legitimized all the racist, exclusionary and hateful things he espouses. He was also a rabid “birther”. The two are vying for the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Strange is in that seat, on a temporary basis right now.
In short, Moore is nothing short of a professional rabble-rouser, by far the more Trump-like of the candidates, so it’s been strange that both Trump and Mitch McConnell have come out in support of Strange. (Adding to the peculiar dynamic: McConnell looks like he’s become political poison, thanks in part to Trump, who bad-mouthed the Senate Leader again in a call-in to an Alabama radio show in support of Strange.) Trump also repeatedly called Roy Moore “Ray” and when corrected said “it’s not a good sign” for the President not to know your name.
(BTW, stumping for Strange was what Trump was doing in Alabama last Friday night in the first place, although most people probably don’t know that considering Trump, as usual, made the event about himself, and the NFL. And it’s hard to tell whether his showing up to support will really turn out to have significant impact. (Many people attending said they wanted to see Trump, but they’d be voting for the other guy…)
Why should you care? Because there are big implications for 2018 and beyond that no one’s really talking about. If spots on Republican tickets keep going to extreme Right-wingers like Moore, it’ll result in a party that’s much more radical, much more unified, and ready to run rampant. As the Atlantic points out, It’s also a test for Far Right media: they are Moore’s #1 booster. Can Steve Bannon duplicate the success he had with Trump in state level races?
Which means even if Democrats pick up seats in the mid-terms, unless they score a majority in the House or Senate, they’ll be facing a significantly more radical Republican party. Also, Democrats are mostly likely to flip seats held by more moderate Republicans, so there’ll be less of those for that reason too.
Trump Finally Spares A Couple Of Tweets For Puerto Rico
But it’s more of a status update vs. a promise of solidarity and/or support.
He kicks off by telling the people of Puerto Rico what a great job he’s done in Texas and Florida.
He acknowledges the broken utility that could leave power out for months, but offers no specific assistance.
So if they’re thinking they might get relief on the billions of dollars in loans they owe, forget about it!
Trump also Tweeted this morning about the Dallas Cowboys’ unusual response before Monday Night Football. The entire team took a knee together, including owner Jerry Jones (who’d donated at least $1-million to Trump), before the national anthem, then stood, arms locked, for the anthem. Jones explained it as the result of the team getting together to make a statement about “unity and equality” that everybody could get on board with.
(We are assuming Trump has some special Presidential decibel measuring device). because the booing was robust but not the loudest we’ve ever heard. Trump then shifts gears and says Dallas actually did good by standing for the anthem, and seems to take some credit for it: “Big progress being made.”
Which doesn’t change the symbolic but historic fact that every NFL team this week felt compelled to show some form of solidarity in support of teammates, and in opposition to words from the President. (We also learned anger makes Trump happy!)