Dreamers For a Wall

The President, if he wants his wall, is going to have to trade something to the Democrats for it. The Democrats think they can win on the wall shutdown because (1) they have polling showing most Americans are opposed to it and (2) they have the media to spin for them.

But the President has a loyal base who want the wall, and he is okay with a shutdown too because his base will be okay with not paying federal bureaucrats over Christmas among other things. A shutdown seems likely.

However, the President and his supporters want a wall, and I am not convinced the Democrats want citizenship for dreamers. They seem to want the issue more than they want the issue resolved. Just last year the President and Democrats nearly agreed on the wall for dreamer citizenship. I think the President needs to consider a variant on this now.

Offer dreamers the right to stay in the country without threat of deportation in exchange for the wall. Don’t offer up citizenship. They get the right to stay, and they no longer have to live in the shadows. They get residency without citizenship. The President doesn’t even have to offer up a path to citizenship. He needs to remove the threat of deportation.

Then toss it to the Democrats. They can either reject it and let dreamers live with the fear of deportation. Or they can take it and fund the wall as well. Make it their choice.

This is the President’s last best chance to get the wall going. He needs to offer something, and I think this is the way to move it forward.

President Trump: All I Want For Christmas Is A Government Shutdown

Americans must have been naughty this year because it looks as if one of their early Christmas gifts may be a government shutdown, courtesy of President Trump, Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). After a contentious Oval Office meeting on Tuesday, there seems little chance of agreement on a stop-gap measure to fund the government through the holidays. Unless a funding bill is passed, the government will shut down on Dec. 21.

In the televised meeting, the president repeatedly emphasized the need for border security that specifically includes a wall and threatened to shut the government down in order to get it. Pelosi and Schumer repeatedly said that they were seeking a compromise that would keep the government open.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” President Trump stated as the discussion became heated, “because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So, I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down, it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting down.”

Leaving aside that the Democrats do make valid points (a phrase I seldom have to type) about the cost, practicality, and effectiveness of the wall, the president’s embrace of the shutdown strategy is a losing proposition. Although government shutdowns play well with the Republican base, they seldom achieve their policy objectives and usually end in an abject surrender often by Republicans who normally are shutting the government down because they lack votes.

Government shutdowns call to mind the Underpants Gnomes of “SouthPark.” The Gnomes famously described their business plan as follows:

Phase 1: Collect underpants

Phase 2: ?

Phase 3: Profit

In the case of government shutdowns, the plan seems similar:

Phase 1: Shut down the government

Phase 2: ?

Phase 3: Victory

Like the Underpants Gnomes, shutdown advocates focus on Phase 1 and Phase 3 while the vital details of the all-important Phase 2 remain sketchy. In fact, no one has ever been able to give me a reasonable explanation of Phase 2.

When it comes to passing legislation, the Constitution is specific about the process. Those of us who came of age in the ‘80s learned about it between Saturday morning cartoons with a Schoolhouse Rock short called, “I’m Just a Bill.” The abridged version is that any bill, including Trump’s border wall funding proposal, has to be passed by both houses of Congress.

The rub for the current Congress is a detail not mentioned by Schoolhouse Rock, the filibuster and cloture votes. Even though Republicans control both houses of Congress until the new Congress convenes in January, their slim majority in the Senate means that they don’t have enough votes for cloture.

Senate rules require a cloture vote to end debate on any bill. This modern, “gentlemen’s” filibuster requires 60 votes to advance a bill to a floor vote in the Senate. In practical terms, that means that Republicans need a minimum of nine Democrats to vote for cloture and end a filibuster.

What does this have to do with government shutdowns? Everything. The only way to pass a bill is to have the required number of votes. If Republicans can’t get Democrats to cross the aisle then the wall funding bill won’t pass, shutdown or no shutdown.

The problem for President Trump is that shutting down the government does nothing to entice Democrats to vote for the wall. If President Trump leads Republicans into a shutdown over wall funding, my prediction is that Republicans will eventually surrender and agree to reopen the open the government after a few days or weeks of wrangling.

This is what happened in 2013 when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) led Republicans to shut down the government over Obamacare. The shutdown lasted 16 days during which Republican approval ratings plummeted to their lowest level in history (up to that point anyway). Republicans surrendered and agreed to a deal to reopen the government and increase the debt limit. The Affordable Care Act survives to this day. The shutdown cost taxpayers $24 billion.

The shoe was on the other foot earlier this year when Democrats shut down the government in hopes of forcing an immigration deal that would legalize Dreamers. In this case, Democrats were the ones lacking the votes and they eventually had to give in.

The bottom line is that whichever party enters a shutdown without the votes they need is going to exit the shutdown without the votes that they need. There are only two ways to change votes in Congress: compromises and elections. Shutdowns just force both sides to dig in deeper. Both parties lose in public opinion. The other big loser is taxpayers who foot the bill for all the political drama. Contrary to popular belief, shutdowns cost more than keeping the government open.

President Trump wants border security in the form of a wall, but he won’t get it from a shutdown. His best bet would be to embrace his status as an artist of deal-making and present Democrats with an offer too good to refuse. That’s what he promised in the campaign and what voters sent him to Washington to do. Pressing ahead to a government shutdown is setting himself and his party up for failure.

Brett Kavanaugh Just Helped Planned Parenthood Keep Its Funding

In a surprising move, newly minted Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the Court’s liberal justices to prevent the high court from deciding whether states could defund Planned Parenthood. The move will let stand lower court rulings that struck down two state laws in Louisiana and Kansas that would have barred the abortion provider from receiving Medicare funds.

Louisiana and Kansas had sought certiorari to allow the Supreme Court to hear their appeals in Gee v. Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast and Andersen v. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. Four judges must agree to accept a case and the votes of Kavanaugh and Roberts to deny certiorari killed any chance that the Court would hear the Planned Parenthood cases, let alone allow states to defund the group.

Several other states have attempted to ban funding for Planned Parenthood at the state level after Republicans in Washington were unable to move a funding ban through Congress. For now, it appears that any further attempts to cut off the group’s federal money will be defeated.

Chief Justice John Roberts typically votes in the conservative bloc but has been key to some high-profile disappointments for constitutionalists. Roberts was the key vote in saving Obamacare with his opinion that the individual mandate was really a tax and therefore constitutional.

Kavanaugh’s vote may surprise some, but several observers predicted that if President Trump wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade, Kavanaugh was the wrong judge to pick. Similar to Roberts, Kavanaugh ruled on an Obamacare case in which he did not dispute the constitutionality of the health insurance law. Prior to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) argued that Kavanaugh was a judge who would uphold precedent. That statement was interpreted as an indication that Kavanaugh would not strike down Roe and possibly Obamacare as well.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who was appointed to the Court by the recently departed George H.W. Bush, dissented, writing that the other judges were afraid to tackle the hot-button issue. “Some tenuous connection to a politically fraught issue does not justify abdicating our judicial duty,” Thomas said. “If anything, neutrally applying the law is all the more important when political issues are in the background.”

The decision not to grant certiorari is a hard hit for pro-life groups. “If Kavanaugh was going to deal a major blow to health care rights during his first session on the court, this would have been the case to do it,” Tim Jost, an emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, said in Politico.

During the 2016 election, Donald Trump’s pro-life platform and promise to appoint judges who would overturn Roe was a major reason that many Republicans held their noses and voted for him over Hillary. Given Mr. Trump’s long pro-choice history and the ready availability of more firmly pro-life, constitutionalist judges such as Amy Coney Barrett, many of those voters must wonder today if Justice Kavanaugh has gone rogue or if he is doing exactly what President Trump and other pro-choice Republicans wanted him to.

Trump Administration Throws Out School Lunch Rules Left Over From Obama Era

Complaining about school lunches is a time-honored tradition. From Adam Sandler’s ode to the lunch lady to ponderings about the odd rectangular slices of cafeteria pizza from my youth, lunchroom food has been a source of both grumbling and laughter. During the Obama Administration, the problem got worse, however.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 codified into law standards that were championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. The law set new standards for school lunches as well as vending machines that mandated higher nutrition as well as smaller portion sizes. The resulting bland, half-empty trays led my son to complain, “The food at school is bad and there isn’t enough of it.”

One area where the Trump Administration has been reliable is in rolling back onerous Obama era bureaucratic rulemaking. Easing federal oversight of local school lunches is no exception. Last year, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced an interim rule that relaxed the Obama guidelines. Now Perdue has unveiled the new permanent rules.

The Obama rules are a good example of well-intentioned federal rulemaking run amok. No one is against healthy food for students, but the federal one-size-fits-all approach can cause as many problems as it resolves. In a case of the Law of Unintended Consequences, school lunches became more nutritious, but they also wasted food because kids weren’t eating them. The federal guidelines didn’t recognize regional and cultural differences across the country. The law’s requirement for whole grains was difficult to meet while cooking foods such as pasta, tortillas, biscuits, and grits in a way that was palatable to children. Likewise, the Obama law permitted only nonfat flavored milk or 1 percent white milk and required every student to buy at least one serving of a fruit or vegetable “even if they toss the produce into the garbage” noted the New Haven Register at the time.

When I ate lunch at school with my children, I would see many parents bringing outside pizzas, sub sandwiches or chicken nuggets to their children. My kids and many other packed lunches from home that were not subject to the requirements of the federal nanny state. When I purchased school food and ate it with my kids, I found it very bland and unexciting. The staff told me that their cooking options were very limited because the federal mandate which also required reductions in sodium and other ingredients.

Now some sanity and local control are being restored to school lunches. Secretary Perdue said in a statement, “If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted.”

Under the new rules, only half of the grains served must be whole grain, allowing schools to use more appetizing flours when necessary. Students will also be able to drink low-fat chocolate milk instead of the fat-free milk that the government had required.

The fundamental problem with the situation is the fallacy that only the federal government can ensure that schoolchildren get healthy lunches. Contrary to the belief of some Americans, it isn’t necessary for the feds to micromanage what every child in America eats for lunch. State and local education and nutrition officials also have working brains and the best interests of the children at heart. School cafeterias were not dishing out poison to schoolchildren before Michelle Obama intervened.

The world won’t end with the Trump Administration’s new school lunch guidelines. Schoolchildren won’t starve and they won’t suddenly become morbidly obese. There is the chance that they might enjoy their lunch more, get a full belly and go back to class satiated and ready to learn, rather than still hungry because most of their lunch went straight from the tray to the trash can.

USA Today and Scott Gleeson Need to Apologize For What They Did to Kyler Murray

When Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray was 14 years old, he had a Twitter account. He is now 21 years old and named the Heisman trophy winner. That gave Scott Gleeson, a sportswriter at USA Today, the excuse to engage in character assassination of Murray for tweets made as a 14 and 15-year-old.

Murray had, as a young teenager, called someone “queer” and other things that provided ammunition for Gleeson to call him homophobic. Gleeson, a writer whose resume notes he has written viral content and who considers his work on the intersection of gay rights and sports to be portfolio worthy, took to USA Today with his salacious exposé on Murray’s underage content from six and seven years ago.

This has become a recurring theme with the press lately. When anyone scores any accomplishment, the media does its best to drag them down with old things. Gleeson could have written about Murray any time in the past few years as Murray’s star was rising, but he waited until the Heisman came along.

It is similar to the Kevin Hart situation. A decade ago, Hart made some rather anti-gay statements, and they sat there for a decade until the Academy Awards organizers asked Hart to host. Then suddenly the media pounced.

Increasingly, the media does seem to want to embrace President Trump’s caricature of them as the enemy of the people.

What Fool Will Work for Trump? Ayers, Mnuchin Out of Running for Chief of Staff

President Trump announced Gen. John Kelly’s departure without telling the man to his face, which seems to be the former star of The Apprentice’s preferred method of saying “you’re fired.”
Now, Kelly’s apparent replacement pulled a turnabout on the president, tweeting “I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause.”
Ayers would have been a very good choice to serve in the White House, but he appears to have come to the same conclusion as many before him. It’s simply not worth the hassle and nightmare of working for Donald Trump.
With Rex Tillerson being called “dumb as a rock” by Trump after serving as Secretary of State, Jeff Sessions enduring eighteen months of humiliation and continual bashing before his dumping, resignations by Scott Pruitt and Tom Price at EPA and HHS respectively under a hail of embarrassing media-led scandals, the departure of Nikki Haley (perhaps the best U.N. Ambassador since Adlai Stevenson), and a regular Ferris Wheel of ups, downs, ins and outs at the White House, who would work for Trump?
It’s been widely reported that the president’s own daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka and Jared Kushner, have worked to discredit Kelly, who was seen as standing between them and Trump. The NYT’s Maggie Haberman has covered this conflict all year. It seems that with Kelly gone, and a power vacuum in the West Wing, Javanka may rise again to be the power brokers in a chaotic and stress-laden administration.
Ayers, who has had the advantage of a loge-level spectator’s seat on this maelstrom, would be a fool to step into the dugout, and be the next guy at the plate to receive Trump’s bean-balls.
This leads to the inevitable conclusion: perhaps only fools, media climbers with soft cushions should they fall out of favor, sycophants, and grifters would make themselves available for such obloquy and discomfiture. Quality people have long disqualified themselves from Trump’s orbit, with more every day falling outside the circle of recruitable candidates.
When Gary Cohn left, it was because of “tariff man,” and the market has reacted accordingly. Tillerson couldn’t stomach a man who was as ignorant of details as Trump is determined to remain. Think about that. The former heads of Goldman Sachs and Exxon-Mobil, a business braintrust worthy of Camelot, could not hang on even for half of Trump’s term.
Steven Mnuchin was being considered as Kelly’s replacement, with Ayers out of the picture. But he, despite hanging on at Treasury, indicated he was quite happy to remain there, out of the West Wing and daily contact with Trump.
Who else would take on the job of containing the uncontainable Trump? Chris Christie was mentioned. Fat chance, as Kushner hates him as much as any man would hate the man who put his father behind bars. Rep. Mark Meadows, David Bossie, Mick Mulvaney and Robert Lighthizer were all run up the flagpole, according to the New York Times.
Bossie is busy after releasing his book titled “Let Trump be Trump.” It would be a helluva metamorphosis to go from that tell-all campaign book to the man who would tame the White House shrew. I cannot imagine that Budget Director Mulvaney and U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer would be interested in leaving their critical positions in the midst of continuing budget fights and tricky negotiations with China.
Trump for his part, played this like he always does, tweeting like he was following a reality show script.
The #MAGA agenda is wonderful, if it wasn’t for the guy in the White House who keeps spoiling his own work. Someone has to step up, though. If Trump were completely unleashed, I fear his worst instincts would cause further market drops, and let China and Russia eat our lunch in global influence.
At home, Trump doesn’t see the danger he faces with a Democrat-led House, Mueller showing a few strong cards up his sleeve, and the conclusions that some believe will lead to articles of impeachment. I don’t think Trump will be convicted if they do move to impeachment, but the spectacle will keep any real work from getting done.
Without a strong bench in the White House (and right now, there’s no bench at all save people in Trump’s own family), Trump’s next two years will be one cave after another to Democrats, with Nancy and Chuck running the show.
All of this was completely predictable, of course. The day Trump made his nomination acceptance speech, I knew he’d win the presidency. I also knew we’d be right here after a few years of his helmsmanship.
And here we are. Someone needs to step up and take one for America. Who will do it?

John Kelly May Be Next Member Of Trump Administration Voted Off Island

If the Trump Administration can be likened to a reality television show, the steady stream of departures can be compared to contestants being voted off the island. As we approach the final installments of season two, there are rumors that the next exit will be none other than John Kelly.

Kelly, in the role of White House Chief of Staff, has long been rumored to want out and there are rumors that Kelly’s relationship with the president has become increasingly unworkable. CNN reports that Trump and Kelly have stopped talking to each other in recent days as the president has complained that Kelly is not politically savvy and is not well-suited to helping Trump handle a House led by Nancy Pelosi.

Shortly after the election, CNN reported that Trump was considering replacements for Kelly, Jeff Sessions, and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Sessions tendered his resignation as attorney general last month.

Axios reported that a likely replacement for Kelly would be Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Pence. White House insiders who favor Ayers argue that his political instincts could help Trump deal with a divided Congress as well as the Russia probe and an economy that is increasingly turbulent, in large part due to President Trump’s protectionist trade policies.

Kelly, a retired Marine four-star general, was originally appointed to be Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security. He became chief of staff in July 2017 in the shakeup that followed President Trump delivering his signature line, “you’re fired,” to Reince Priebus. Kelly helped bring order to the chaos of the Trump White House but has reportedly clashed with the president on numerous issues.

Previous rumors of Kelly’s firing or resignation have been ‘greatly exaggerated,” to use Samuel Clemens’ phrase. Last July, President Trump confirmed to senior staff that Kelly had agreed to stay on until at least 2020. Even at that point, Trump alternated between praising and criticizing Kelly and there were reports that the president had ignored or circumvented many of Kelly’s policies and protocols.

Now the news coming out of the White House indicates that Kelly’s departure may be imminent. With the habit of dumping controversial news on Friday afternoon or over the weekend, it’s possible that Kelly’s departure could be announced as soon as today.

Blue Wave Reaches 40 House Seats With Another Dem Win In California

Although predictions that the Democrat blue wave would founder lasted through the early hours of poll results on Election Day, the extent of the wave has been growing in recent weeks as close races have been decided across the country. With the news that Republican David Valadao has been defeated in California’s 21st congressional district, the Republican losses in the House have reached a total of 40 seats.

The win in CA-21 by Democrat TJ Cox brings the total number of California congressional seats flipped by Democrats to seven. This includes four seats in Orange County, which was a Republican stronghold in the past but became a totally Democrat county in 2018.

As with several other California Republicans, Valadao, who has represented his district since 2013, held a lead on Election night and was initially projected to be the winner. However, absentee ballots arriving after Election Day eroded their lead and eventually flipped the seats to the Democrats. On Nov. 6, Valadao led by 5,000 votes but ultimately lost by 862 votes, less than one percent of the total.

Some Republicans have speculated that fraudulent votes have changed the course of races in California, but so far there is no evidence of wrongdoing. California law requires absentee voters to register seven days before the election and mail ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received within three days of the election. However, vote counting in California can take longer because California accepts ballots that could be rejected in other states. California law requires counties to notify voters of mistakes, such as missing signatures, that would otherwise invalidate a ballot and gives voters time to correct them. Ballots that were sent to the wrong county are also required to be forwarded to correct location.

Some Republicans also blame a new California law that allows “ballot harvesting.” Effective this year, California allows anyone to return signed and sealed absentee ballots to the local election officials. Previously, only relatives could turn in ballots for absentee voters. The law expressly prohibits paying vote collectors for the number of ballots that they turn in but is silent on whether they can receive an hourly wage for their efforts. While the new law may have led to an increase in the number of absentee votes, the law did not favor Democrats over Republicans except in the ability to find volunteers to collect ballots.

The outgoing chairman of the California Republican Party, former state Sen. Jim Brulte, rejected the notion that voting irregularities led to the Republican rout in the Golden State. Brulte told Politico that Republican candidates were warned about changes to California election laws and failed to take appropriate action.

“We personally briefed the candidates, the congressional delegation, the legislators,” Brulte said, but added, “We’ve not been able to find Republicans having a lot of success anywhere related to ballot harvesting.”

Brulte has other concerns about California as well, warning that, “I believe California is the canary in the coal mine — not an outlier.”

In Brulte’s view, the core problem for California Republicans was that “We have not yet been able to figure out how to effectively communicate and get significant numbers of votes from non-whites.”

Brulte pointed out that demographic trends indicate that “the entire country will be majority minority by 2044” and Republicans have failed to appeal to those new voters. Exit polling shows that the Republican base is becoming increasingly white, male, and rural. These changes mean that Republican candidates must “figure out how we get votes from people who don’t look like you,” Brulte says. The problem is pronounced in California but may soon affect such Republican strongholds as Texas, Florida, and Georgia where Republicans won extremely close races this year.

At this point, there is only one undecided House race left. In North Carolina’s 19th district, Republican activists are accused of illegal ballot harvesting that is similar to what is now legal in California. The allegations of electoral fraud in North Carolina could lead to a new election in that district where Republican Mark Harris eked out a 905 vote win over Democrat Dan McCready.