**************BREAKING: Read this story in The New York Times this morning: “President Trump on Friday morning signed into law a far-reaching budget deal that will boost spending by hundreds of billions of dollars and allow the federal government to reopen after a brief shutdown.” Details are still being reported, but this is the overview as of 9 a.m.: “[The bill] includes about $300 billion in additional funds over two years for military and nonmilitary programs, almost $90 billion in disaster relief in response to last year’s hurricanes and wildfires, and a higher statutory debt ceiling. It should pave the way for a measure of stability through September 2019 after months of lurching from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis. Mr. Trump will get to boast of a huge increase in military spending, long promised, but his desire to more broadly reorder the government with deep cuts to programs like environmental protection, health research and foreign aid are dead for now — as is any semblance of fiscal austerity.” The fate of the Dreamers is still undecided, however, with Paul Ryan only promising to consider a DACA resolution that Trump will sign. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
02/08/us/politics/congress-bud get-deal-vote.html. ********** ****
1. Can you imagine if Obama had responded even mildly critically to Congressman Joe Wilson, who called out during his State of the Union speech, “You Lie!”? Republicans were consistent in calling Obama divisive. Now we have a President who calls for unity in his State of the Union speech while later calling those who did not applaud him “treasonous” (it is not at all uncommon for the party out of power to sit on its hands). Some Republicans, along with Democrats, have rebuked him: “Some U.S. Republican lawmakers joined their Democratic colleagues on Tuesday in criticizing President Donald Trump for labeling them as ‘treasonous’ and ‘un-American’ in response to the cold reception they gave him during his State of the Union address last week.” So reports The New York Times on Tuesday: https://www.nytimes.c
om/reuters/2018/02/06/us/polit ics/06reuters-usa-trump-democr ats.html.
In a sharply-worded op-ed in Tuesday’s Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin responded to the unprecedented accusations of treason by a President against political opponents: “But let’s be clear: Obama never accused political opponents of ‘treason.’ No president in memory has — because that sort of talk is so beyond acceptable discourse that it is fair to call it un-American. Where are the Republicans now — the ones who insisted their motives not be impugned by a Democratic president, who derided Obama’s assumption that their motives were partisan and who warned that a president’s words matter? They’ve become apologists for a president who sounds like a tinpot dictator and who trashes perhaps the cardinal principle of a democracy — namely, the right to oppose and criticize those in power…Whether you think the GOP is salvageable or not, to reelect this crew in the midterms is to complete the capitulation to Trump’s anti-democratic brand of politics. All Americans are compelled to stop this.” [Rubin here cites the essay in our number 3, below.] https://www.washington
post.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/ 2018/02/06/trumps-lapdogs-now- accept-the-labeling-of- opponents-as-treasonous/.
See also the outrage expressed by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, as reported by The Washington Post on Feb. 6th: “Sen. Tammy Duckworth: I swore an oath to the Constitution, not to clap when Trump demands.” https://www.washingt
onpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/ 2018/02/06/sen-tammy- duckworth-i-swore-an-oath-to- the-constitution-not-to-clap- when-trump-demands/.
2. Trump’s outrageous remark, though, got too little attention, due to the media’s obsessive focus on the huge drop in the Stock Exchange. But was it so huge? In terms of percentages, the drop, while large and rapid, was not really that alarming or that unexpected. “[We] better get used to this. In a typical year, according to data going back three decades, the market experiences a correction of about 10 percent. What Americans are witnessing now is thus a return to normal market behavior, which has never followed a straight line.” So says Ruchir Sharma, the chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. He points out that with the economy at full employment, and inflation looming, interest rates will likely go up. This will slow the economy, though how much is the critical unknown. https://www.nytimes.c
Economist Paul Krugman echoes Sharma, in his concise explanation of what has happened and what may lie ahead. In his “Has Trumphoria Finally Hit a Wall?” Krugman points out that “market turmoil should make us take a hard look at the economy’s prospects. And what the data say, I’d argue, is that at the very least America is heading for a downshift in its growth rate; the available evidence suggests that growth over the next decade will be something like 1.5 percent a year, not the 3 percent Donald Trump and his minions keep promising. There are also suggestions in the data that risky assets in general — stocks, but also long-term bonds and real estate — may be overpriced.” The cause of the drop was certainly the good unemployment report and the growing fears of inflation. The unemployment figure is good news. But if interest rates rise and inflation becomes a factor, and if consumer spending thus takes a hit: well, we may have a crisis. “We have no idea,” Krugman points out, “how well [the new Federal Reserve head, Jerome Powell] would handle a crisis if one developed. Meanwhile, the current secretary of the Treasury…may be the least distinguished, least informed individual ever to hold that position. So are we heading for trouble? Too soon to tell. But if we are, rest assured that we’ll have the worst possible people on the case.” https://www.nytimes.com
3. A much-discussed article in the March The Atlantic magazine argues that Trump has become such a danger to our democracy that Republican voters, even if they agree with some Republican policies, must abandon the GOP and vote, reflexively and without regard to partisan interest. This is not an unusual position for liberal thinkers; what makes this essay noteworthy is its authors, Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes, generally independent centrists at Brookings who are known to support many Republican policy positions. They argue, “The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him….[people] should vote against Republicans in a spirit that is, if you will, prepartisan and prepolitical. Their attitude should be: The rule of law is a threshold value in American politics, and a party that endangers this value disqualifies itself, period. In other words, under certain peculiar and deeply regrettable circumstances, sophisticated, independent-minded voters need to act as if they were dumb-ass partisans.” [emphasis added] Read their reasoning on the urgency of defeating not just Trump but also Trumpism as enabled by the Republican Party, here: https://www.theatlantic.
com/magazine/archive/2018/03/b oycott-the-gop/550907/. * Highly recommended reading.
In response, Conservative but anti-Trump New York Times columnist Ross Douthat replies that in fact the GOP has “tamed” Trump on a number of important issues, and that many of his wilder aspirations to autocracy have been “tamed,” if not by Congress, then by the courts. Our readers will find this a thought-provoking response, even if they disagree that policies are the issue in the essay above. https://www.nytimes.com
4. As our readers probably know, Trump’s authoritarian tendencies were revealed full-blown in his request of the military that they put on a parade celebrating US power and weaponry. Needless to say, this has been controversial. The military is still unsure how to pay for this. And a date has not been set. For one of the best essays on the dumbness of a parade (which would have shocked the founders, who were even suspicious of standing armies), see the The Washington Post article by Ishaan Tharoor on Thursday. “Such parades, after all, are more the preserve of nations such as North Korea, Russia and China, whose leaders still need these sometimes surreal displays of military strength to buttress their own rule. In many other parts of the world, military parades are quaint anachronisms, cloaked in remembrance of the past with little relevance for the future,” Tharoor writes. In France, the Bastille Day parade that inspired Trump is actually a demonstration not of nationalism but of unity, with foreign troops invited to participate, and the French troops often fly the European Union flag.
“So what’s the point?”, asks Tharoor. He quotes the author perhaps most essential to our political moment, George Orwell: “’A military parade is really a kind of ritual dance, something like a ballet, expressing a certain philosophy of life.'”
Tharoor goes on to say, “Orwell was writing in 1941, at a time when Britons faced the prospect of defeat and conquest by the Nazis. He decried the fascist ‘goose-step’ as ‘one of the most horrible sights in the world,’ and saw in it ‘an affirmation of naked power; contained in it, quite consciously and intentionally, is the vision of a boot crashing down on a face. Its ugliness is part of its essence, for what it is saying is “Yes, I am ugly, and you daren’t laugh at me,” like the bully who makes faces at his victim.’” Read the commentary here: https://www.washingtonpo
st.com/news/worldviews/wp/ 2018/02/08/military-parades- are-about-ego-and-power-of- course-trump-wants-one. * Highly recommended reading.
5. Read an important article about Democratic chances and strategies in the Feb. 6th Washington Post titled, “Taking back the House will be harder than Democrats think.” This op-ed has some important warnings and insights into the dangers ahead in November’s midterms. Columnist Karen Tumulty reminds us all that, “In crowded primaries, Republicans will be rooting from the sidelines for the liberal base to pull all of the candidates leftward — forcing them to declare allegiance to single-payer health care, impeaching Trump, free college tuition. Those are October attack ads in waiting in many of the scattered pockets where Democrats need to win. Which is why national numbers matter so little. For an electoral wave to rise high enough to wash a majority-making two dozen House seats into the Democratic column, the party will have to take territory that Hillary Clinton could not.”
The upshot: “Finally, perhaps the single biggest miscalculation that Democrats could make right now is to expect Trump to do all their work for them. One thing to remember about waves. Most of them break before they reach the shore.” https://www.washington
post.com/opinions/taking-back- the-house-will-be-harder-than- democrats-think/2018/02/06/ ea027aca-0a93-11e8-8b0d- 891602206fb7_story.html.
6. As if to underscore the point, Politico reports on a key race on March 13, a special election in the Pittsburgh suburbs. This piece gives a preview of Republican tactics going into November. “The national party has deployed its full arsenal in a March 13 special House election. A loss would be a huge blow to its hopes in the midterms,” reports Alex Isenstadt. Here are the key points: 1) “[Republican candidate] Saccone spoke for only about three minutes, vowing to be a loyal Trump ally and promoting the administration’s recently passed tax reform bill, before introducing [Vice-President Mike] Pence. The disparity spoke to the national party’s imprint on the race: Saccone is the candidate, but Washington Republicans are playing an outsize role in his campaign.” 2) “Trump is expected to return to the district before the special election, and Pence may as well. The White House is also considering deploying Cabinet members to campaign for Saccone. The White House political affairs office is also involved. Its director, Bill Stepien, pressed Saccone campaign officials during a recent conference call to step up their fundraising”; 3) Note the involvement of the Republican Party in organizing a ground game: Cory Bliss heads the main super PAC for House Republicans. He “immediately mobilized a field plan after Lamb became the Democratic nominee. He asked the group’s national data director, Ryan Terrill, to move to Pennsylvania full time beginning in January and said he wanted to knock on 250,000 doors by the time of the election — frigid weather or not. Since then, the group has deployed about 50 staffers to the district and opened two offices.” Expect versions of this to happen in many of our districts this fall. https://www.politico.com
/story/2018/02/05/pennsylvania -republicans-special-election- 389964.
7. Two items of local interest, a Jeanne Ives political ad, and the Nazi Republican candidate going up against Democrat Dan Lipinkski, have made national news. So we place these here, rather than in our local section.
In a Feb. 5 Washington Post essay, “Reality is catching up with Trump — everywhere,” Dana Milbank reports on events here, tying them to the atmosphere created by Trump. “In Illinois, reality is catching up with Trump, and Republicans, in a less amusing way. Trump has given rhetorical support to white supremacists — in Charlottesville, for example, and with talk about ‘shithole’ African countries. Such comments have won praise from the likes of Richard Spencer, David Duke and the Daily Stormer. But look where this is Göring. The Chicago Sun-Times just reported that a white-supremacist Holocaust denier is now poised to be the Republican nominee in a Chicago-area congressional district. At the same time, a Republican state representative challenging the state’s Republican governor [Ives] released a vulgar ad portraying a deep-voiced transgender person thanking the governor for the right to use a girls bathroom, a woman in a pink protest hat thanking him for her abortions and a black teacher thanking him for bailing out public schools.” https://www.washingt
onpost.com/opinions/reality- is-catching-up-with-trump– everywhere/2018/02/05/83644532 -0ac0-11e8-8b0d-891602206fb7_ story.html.
The ad is discussed in the national news site, Politico. “A new ad [from Ives] that’s been denounced as anti-immigrant, ‘racist,’ “sexist” and ‘transphobic,’ is causing an uproar in Illinois, with leaders from both parties calling for its removal.” https://www.politico
.com/story/2018/02/04/illinois -ives-rauner-campaign-ad- 389790.
Watch the Ives video here, as well as Eric Zorn’s Chicago Tribune report on Ives’s defense of the ad. “I think it’s edgy, absolutely. I want to know why people are so offended by it. What’s so offensive about the ad? The ad is a policy ad.” http://www.chicagotribune
.com/news/opinion/zorn/ct- jeanne-ives-responds-to- criticisms-of-her-attack-ad- 20180205-story.html.
The Nazi running on the Republican ballot for Lipinski’s seat? “Holocaust denier poised to claim GOP nomination in Illinois race for Congress,” reported The Chicago Sun-Times. He is Arthur Jones, “a former leader of the American Nazi Party [who] now heads a group called the America First Committee. ‘Membership in this organization is open to any white American citizen of European, non-Jewish descent,’ he said.” https://chicago.suntime
s.com/politics/holocaust- denier-arthur-jones-republican -3rd-congressional-district- lipinski-newman/ . The party is doing what it can to kick him off the ballot, but this will be difficult, as reported in Politico’s Illinois Playbook blog: https://www.pol itico.com/newsletters/illinois -playbook/2018/02/06/unpacking -latest-blago-pritzker-tape- ives-defends-ad-did-gop-drop- the-ball-on-nazi-candidate- 244261.
8. Hate groups in Illinois? Yes, and not just Arthur Jones’s group, America First Committee in Lyons (Facebook page here). The Southern Poverty Law Center lists 32 active hate groups in Illinois, including the following in the Chicago area: Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Naperville, Illinois; Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment (H.O.M.E.), Downers Grove, Illinois; and Illinois Family Institute, Carol Stream, Illinois: all are called “anti-LGBT hate groups.” Crew 38, Chicago, Illinois, labeled racist skinhead. ACT for America, Des Plaines, Illinois, called an anti-Muslim hate group. They also count as hate groups several “black separatist” groups based in Chicago. [links are to Wikipedia descriptions. For the whole list and explanation of how SPLC arrives at its designations, see the full SPLC map here: https://www.
splcenter.org/hate-map. They do not list the membership numbers for any groups, and most do not have websites.] The SPLC also reported a Ku Klux Klan group in Gurnee; however, the Gurnee police department investigated the claim in August, found no such activity, and petitioned the SPLC for removal: https://www.dailyhera ld.com/news/20170831/lester- gurnee-says-no-evidence-of- reported-klan-activity.
9. Our readers will be pleased to read that Illinois’s own Renato Mariotti, candidate for Attorney General, has again published nationally on the Mueller investigation, this time in The New York Times, on Feb. 3. Mariotti explores the legal case for obstruction with “corrupt intent” by Trump, and argues that the released Nunes memo actually offers nothing to implicate anyone at the FBI in wrongdoing. “In fact, Mr. Trump’s approval of the release of the memo and his comments that releasing it could make it easier for him to fire Mr. Rosenstein could help Robert Mueller, the special counsel, prove that Mr. Trump fired James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, with a ‘corrupt’ intent — in other words, the intent to wrongfully impede the administration of justice — as the law requires.” https://www.nytimes
.com/2018/02/03/opinion/memo- nunes-trump-obstruction.html. [We referred last week to his previous piece on the obstruction case, in Politico. Click here.]
10. A new nuclear strategy was unveiled last week. This is somewhat concerning, as the new emphasis on smaller, smarter weapons, and the retention of silo-based nukes, may make nuclear war more, not less, likely. “When retired Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis became defense secretary last year, he arrived at the Pentagon with reservations about the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He had doubts about an air-launched nuclear cruise missile under development at the Pentagon and questioned whether the United States should have intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos at all.” So reports The Washington Post on Feb. 5. The paper continues, “But in the year since then, Mattis has changed his tune. The nuclear weapons policy his team rolled out at the Pentagon last week offered full-throated support for the military’s current and planned nuclear capabilities, including the new cruise missile and the ICBM fleet he once questioned.” For detailed analysis, including the warnings from arms-control experts, see https://www.washingtonpost
.com/world/national-security/ how-mattis-changed-his-mind- on-nuclear-weapons/2018/02/05/ 2e388c64-0aa0-11e8-baf5- e629fc1cd21e_story.html.
And on Feb. 6, The New York Times quotes AP as saying that “The Trump administration’s proposal to add a sea-launched cruise missile to the U.S. nuclear arsenal, criticized by some as overkill, is meant to provide new negotiating leverage to U.S. diplomats trying to persuade Russia to end violations of a key arms control treaty, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday.” Moreover, they report, “Russia was quick to assail what it deemed an ‘anti-Russian’ nuclear strategy. In a statement Monday, its Foreign Ministry called the review’s assertions frightening, ‘utterly hypocritical’ and dangerous. It asserted that Russia would consider using nuclear weapons in only two scenarios: in response to an attack involving nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, and in response to a non-nuclear assault that endangered the survival of the Russian nation. It took aim at the Pentagon’s proposal to develop a nuclear cruise missile that could be launched from a ship or submarine. Such a weapon existed for years but was withdrawn from active service by the administration of President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s and retired by the Obama administration.” Read all the frightening details, including responses from an arms control expert, here: https://www.nytimes.com/
11. The Huffington Post reports on the recent upswing in Trump’s popularity numbers. Most of it seems to be, on close analysis of polls, attributable to Republicans coming back to him after his State of the Union speech. Huff Post, on Thursday, had an aggregate of 43% approval. But with Republicans, his approval had soared to 90%, which may account for the spike: https://www.huffingtonp
ost.com/entry/president-trump- is-less-unpopular-than-hes- been-in-a-while_us_5a7ca9c5e4b 0c6726e10dc95.
12. You will be relieved to hear that “Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has suggested that global warming may be beneficial to humans, in his latest departure from mainstream climate science.” [emphasis added] Read his incisive scientific discovery here, in Wednesday’s The Guardian: https://www.theguard
ian.com/environment/2018/feb/ 07/epa-head-scott-pruitt-says- global-warming-may-help- humans-flourish.
13. The national news site Politico discusses one of Illinois’s congressional races, Marie Newman’s primary challenge to Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski from the left, in a piece titled, “Progressives gang up on Lipinski.” The author, Natasha Korecki, reports that “Major progressive interest groups and organizations — from the powerful Service Employees International Union to EMILY’s List to NARAL — are lining up behind a first-time candidate in the hopes of ousting Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.)…Lipinski, one of the last conservative Democrats in Congress, has been in the left’s cross hairs as never before this cycle.” https://www.politico.c
om/story/2018/02/02/dan-lipins ki-illinois-progressives- 386090.
14. An interesting article in the Feb. 6th Chicago Tribune reports on how race is a factor in the Illinois gubernatorial primary. A recent Bobby Rush rally for Chris Kennedy highlighted “the significance African-Americans play in deciding a statewide Democratic primary, comprising as much as a third of the vote.” And the newly released Pritzker-Blagojevich
recordings have added a new element to the mix, since Pritzker is heard using race in a perhaps-cynical way to advance Blagojevich’s political reputation with the black community. http://www. chicagotribune.com/news/local/ politics/ct-met-illinois- democratic-governor-race- 20180205-story.html. For a fuller discussion of the offense given by Pritzker, and his apology, see Eric Zorn’s Feb. 8 column: http://www.chicagotrib une.com/news/opinion/zorn/ct- perspec-zorn-pritzker- blagojevich-jones-white- 20180208-story.html.