Trump’s Only Substantive Tweet

Forget About How Democrats Want “Soft, Crime Producing Borders”, “Liddle” Bob Corker, Disrespectful NFL Players: There’s Only One Thing In Trump’s Latest Tweetstorms That Will Make Any Difference In The Long Run

Except let’s talk about Corker for a second, just to make two quick observations:

  1. Corker has not gotten a single other Republican in the Senate or House to join him in his Cassandra-like prognostications about the perils of Trump. As this almost comical Politico story relates, most of his fellow party members who are speaking out, politely suggest that Corker shut up (and Trump too). Although as Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine points out, while Corker is warning about pending global catastrophe, Trump is just calling him short.
  2. We don’t know why the President didn’t go all the way with his insult and call the Tennessee Senator “Widdle” Bob Corker.
Obviously not a recent photo

OK, Now That We’ve Dispensed With That, Let’s Talk About One Tweet You Might’ve Missed

• Trump’s referring to using an Executive Order to revive small group plans, which we’ve talked about a little before. But the issue’s complicated (and has some surprise twists!), so we thought we’d dive in a little deeper.

• Group plans allow people who are related by profession but work individually to band together to buy insurance, bringing the cost down versus individual policies. Traditionally, they’ve been sold state-by-state; Trump is proposing they be sold across state lines as well.

• Group plans were largely eliminated by Obamacare: which moved buyers into the individual marketplace instead, in order to build a larger pool.

• Most stories we’ve come across broadly characterize group plans as “bad”. Bad for Obamacare, yes. But they are not necessarily bad for people who make too much money to qualify for Obamacare subsidies. During years we worked as freelance journalists or documentary film makers, we were in group plans that were far cheaper than individual plans and offered far more choices of doctors and hospitals than anything available to us under Obamacare. The catch: they did not cover pre-existing conditions.

• Which seems to be the crux of any discussion on changes to Obamacare: will we be forced back to a time when pre-existing conditions are not covered? And if we are going to keep covering them, how do we make healthcare affordable without requiring healthy people to buy it too?

Following up on his Tweet, Trump said his new executive order is “largely worked out”. Which is usually Trump-speak for “nonexistent”.

The President also explained his motivation for the new EO: “With Congress the way it is, I decided to take it upon myself“. Except…and here’s the twist…Trump’s not doing it himself, he’s got someone to do all the heavy lifting for him: Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

Paul has long supported group plans and his Twitter feed would seem to indicate he’s got a lead role in shaping the President’s thinking:

Which is curious: because Trump squarely blamed Paul for the last and most recent failure by Senate Republicans to repeal Obamacare.

Typically, Trump is not forgiving, never mind in a couple of weeks, but ever. And Trump doesn’t even seem to mind that Paul goes out of his way to take a lot of credit for the plan: we all know how much Trump hates to share credit. Guess we should’ve taken it as a positive sign that even though Trump Tweeted against Paul he never called him a “fun” derisive name.

Trump Is Doing A Lot Of North Korea’s Propaganda Work For It…

The President was briefed by his National Security team on military options for North Korea as several very strange stories emerged. Meanwhile, for the first time in a few weeks, two U.S. B-1B bombers, along with South Korean fighter jets flew over the Korean Peninsula.

One politician in South Korea’s ruling party alleges North Korea stole battle plans drawn up should a military confrontation arise. While this is plausible, since North Korea has apparently successfully hacked into South Korean and U.S. systems before, publicly announcing this kind of thing is also exactly what you’d do if you want North Korea to think they stole your legit plans. (Wired has a really interesting story about why the U.S. hasn’t been more successful hacking North Korea’s nukes).

Meanwhile, Japan’s Minister of Defense, out of the blue, implied Trump has set a deadline for mid-November at which point military options are possible.

Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times has a great piece about his recent visit to North Korea. What we found most surprising about his story is that Trump’s Tweets and provocations are being disseminated to the North Korean public virtually filter-free: Escalating tension and patriotic fervor within the country beyond what run-of-the-mill propaganda alone could achieve. So Trump, while deepening divides in the United States, is unifying North Korea like never before.

California Wine Country Fires Continue To Burn Out Of Control; Trump Remains Silent

17 people are confirmed dead, and evacuations are expanding every hour, as winds, which subsided for a time, are picking up again today. SF Gate has continuous updates.

One of our colleagues told us about a family in Santa Rosa, who had to evacuate quickly in the middle of the night. Their entire neighborhood burned to the ground. They are safe, but homeless, with their 3rd child due any day.

Air-quality is now also an issue, with the National Weather Service warning people in most of the San Francisco Bay area to stay indoors.

The White House has granted emergency disaster relief after California Governor Jerry Brown asked for it. However Trump remains silent. As of time of publication of this newsletter: Not a Tweet.  The fire has been burning since Sunday. California didn’t vote for him by and large (especially not this part of California).

2016 Presidential Election map

So we don’t think it’s too soon to interpret the President’s lack of interest as a deliberate message: people who didn’t vote for him aren’t going to get his attention even in times of dire emergency, and they better be grateful for whatever support they do get.

Update: Puerto Rico

The White House just asked Congress for $5-billion to help make up for cash shortfalls across the territory. Puerto Rico gets a lot of income from taxes on tourism, which is now gone.

The New York Times has a deep and thorough examination of the public health crisis in the wake of Hurricane Maria. People are dying from infectious diseases contracted in contaminated floodwaters. 40% of the territory still lacks drinking water, and electricity is still out for 85%. While most kidney dialysis centers are open, a fuel shortage for generators is so severe they are only providing patients with a fraction of the normal time they would get to have their blood cleaned. Right now the official number of hurricane deaths is 43, but that number’s been played around with by politicians from the beginning: kept very low until Trump’s visit and then doubled almost immediately after his departure.

Regardless, this dilapidation within in the U.S. is shameful. And Trump adds to that shame every time he gives himself and A+ and tries to conceal the fact that while people are working really hard, progress is really slow. Heck, he could just blame everything on Obama, and then take credit for fixing it, why not? Oh right, Puerto Rico votes don’t count in Presidential Elections.

In Case You Didn’t Catch It Already

Forbes’ interview/profile of President Trump is worth reading. You know, it’s the one where he challenges his Secretary of State to an IQ contest…BTW in doing so Trump seems to be denying the possibility someone can be both a genius and a “f*cking moron”. We know several

Those Patriotic Pittsburgh Penguins Get Their White House Visit

When Trump dis-invited the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, he touted the fact that the hockey Champs would be coming. Not to take anything away from the Penguins who are incredibly talented, and certainly entitled to a White House visit. But as you can see from the photo, there are not many people of color (so don’t tell us this is not about race). And, as we reported to you several weeks ago, most are not from the U.S.  More than 60% of the team is from Canada, Sweden, Russia, and other places. Trump called them “incredible patriots”.