Pink Politics: Below the Radar*

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month: This year’s National Sexual Violence Resource Center campaign theme is “Engaging New Voices.” We definitely need more voices to fight President Trump’s budget.  Trump proposes eliminating the Justice Department’s Office on Violence against Women.  In the U.S.an estimated 1 in 4 women will suffer severe physical abuse in their life-time. About 3 women a day are murdered by someone they date or are married to. The highly publicized killing of a teacher and student yesterday (April 10, 2017) was by an estranged husband. The President’s proposed cuts would reduce services to at least 260,000 victims of sexual assault and violence annually (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-budget-domestic-abuse-victims_us_58cc2184e4b0ec9d29dbd9f7)

Trump Properties Serve as Second White House: President Trump has spent nine of his 11 weekends as president visiting at least one of his properties. While a number of these weekends have been recreational, the world was treated to Trump Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan responding to news of a ballistic missile test by North Korea. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/05/us/politics/tracking-trumps-visits-to-his-branded-properties.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news  This week Trump was at Mar-a-lago when he announced firing 50 cruise missiles on Syria.  Problems with using Trump properties for White House business include increased security costs, conflict of interest (the properties and Trump brand get continuous advertising at no cost), and informal unscheduled meetings with members to the club.  Media and general public do not have access to who is in attendance as required by public meeting laws.

Melania Trump Thwarts Her Husband’s “Made in America” Campaign: Mrs. Trump’s official portrait was released last Monday (April 2, 2017). Rather than showcasing an American designer, Mrs. Trump chose a tuxedo jacket from Italian luxury house Dolce & Gabbana. Mrs. Trump’s choice of European designers for a majority of her appearances seems in direct conflict President’s Trump’s emphasis on American manufacturing and inflammatory rhetoric on imposing limits on global trade. Mrs. Trump looked stunning in a blue outfit by American designer Ralph Lauren for Trump’s Inauguration. Obviously, if she chose to highlight American designers, she could be very influential in selling American haut couture around the world. http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/03/politics/melania-trump-white-house-portrait/

Trump’s Tweet Wars Continue: Syria may have provided President Trump with the opportunity to demonstrate his willingness to take dramatic military action.  His tweet action continues unabated.  Since being elected he has waged tweet wars on the Australian Prime Minister, an acting Attorney General, seven predominately Muslim countries, a “so called” federal judge, Sweden, “Fake Tears”, Chuck Schumer, Saturday Night Live, the FBI, the un-American leakers in the intelligence community, the City of Paris, Mark Cuban, John McCain, millions of protestors, Lindsey Graham, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Cuomo, the University of California at Berkeley, ratings “disaster”, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nancy Pelosi, the “Traitor” Chelsea Manning,  Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Barack Obama, the City of Chicago, Susan Rice, among many, many others. While Trump pounds out alarming negative tweets about most people, he was call Bill O’Reilly a “good man”. This was at the very time Fox News is hemorrhaging from paying off sexual harassment law suits and loosing advertisers for O’Reilly’s inappropriate treatment of women. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/taibbi-on-trump-the-destroyer-w473144

Ivanka Trump, A Goddess in China and Featured as Complicit on SNL in America: Ms. Trump’s daughter entertained Chinese President XI anad his wife when they visited Mar-a-lago April 6 and 7. Ivanka was called a “Goddess” on Chinese social media. This post was one of the most read, shared and discussed posts from NYTIMES.COM last week. Ms. Trump recently became a federal employee and top advisor to the President, without pay, formalizing a role she had been undertaking as a volunteer.  Here in America, Saturday Night Live has spoofed Ms. Trump for her failure to defend women’s issues by naming a perfume “Complicit” for her. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7o4oMKbStE

Confusion Reigns in Trump White House while Trump Poll Numbers are Lowest in History: Trump is still in his first 100 days of office, a honeymoon period for most presidents. But Trump’s approval rating of 40%  (Real Clear Politics) are the lowest of any President in history at this stage in their Presidency.  Karl Rove in a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal argues that White House staff needs more structure (https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-presidential-honeymoon-from-hell-1491434155) Recent leaks about infighting in the White House suggest that President Trump is unable to assemble a team with a coherent strategy. This weekend was particularly alarming when Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations stated on national TV that the U.S. was committed to removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria while Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, argued that defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) is the Trump priority. Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, explained the two differing statements as essentially the same thing.  Trump is committed to developing a national strategy which protects Americans. Spicer has to have the worst job in American, trying to make sense out of chaos. http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/10/politics/syria-russia-iran-missile-strikes/

New Spin on Oldest Love Story of All Time, Adam and Eve: Tired of women being the “bad guys” in Genesis, try Bruce Feiler’s The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us (Penguin Press, 320 pp.), Feiler writes that rather than Eve being a secondary creation, Adam and Eve were made to be equal partners. They represent a profound example of true love and companionship.  https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2017/03/20/the-first-love-story-adam-eve-and-us-bruce-feiler-book-review/99183416/

* Dr. Julia Robinson’s blog “My Private Idaho” will be going dark  on May 1, 2017 for six months.  Dr. Robinson has been asked to write for Pink Politics LLC . P squared was created to provide a social media platform for progressive women living in red states. Primary activities include a weekly blog synthesizing national news  with links for people who don’t have time to keep abreast of changing stories or don’t have access to informational resources.  Below the Radar is a second weekly blog on topical information that is not headline news.  Commentary and inspirational blogs will also be published by various authors on the Pink Politics page along with a podcast. Starting May 1, 2017 look for Pink Politics on facebook and twitter @Pinkpoliticsusa.  Pink Politics logo is P2 pink x politics = power

Trump’s Terminating Political Appointees is Routine News

Political appointees serve at the pleasure of the elected official, period. End of story.   In my early years in government, I was one of these exotic creatures who can do as they please as long as their elected official is willing to support them and remains satisfied with their work.  I even had three possibly four Department heads over me who wished me gone. I served at the pleasure of a Democratic Governor for ten-years in upper management.  The Governor respected my work and knew my family (personal connections are essential to success in political jobs). This Governor even nominated me for a national award for my work with troubled youth.  I was subsequently selected as the national winner by the National Council of Women of the United States from all the nominees throughout the nation and flown to New York, put up in a hotel on Park Avenue viewing Central Park and featured as the main speaker at their national lunch; a heady experience indeed for a young naïve, highly-educated professional woman from Wyoming.  This Governor never promoted me to head of the Department, my dearest desire because I had the administrative credentials but he knew (though I didn’t understand it at the time) I didn’t have the political connections.

I accepted a position as Cabin Secretary of a similar Department in Montana working for a newly elected Republican Governor. I was brought in from another state because there were major complaints of sexual harassment by male Department executives. A thorough housekeeping was in order.  The Governor and his personal staff didn’t know me well but respected my administrative acumen.  I did manage to reorganize and clean up the mess I inherited but at great personal cost to me.  It is hard to work in an environment where those around you are untrustworthy and you can find your name in the paper any morning.

After 4 years, a new Governor was elected. The existing cabinet was all asked to submit our resignations the day after the election, effective at the end of my Governor’s term. We all did so. I subsequently met with the new Governor and he told me that I had done a good job, “but these positions are like hair spray, and there was a shelf life.” I had apparently outlived my shelf-life because I was terminated.  Out of a job, I was recruited by head hunters for several other political jobs. There are always places where someone’s friend appointed to a high position has made a huge mess and the politician needs an independent executive to help clean up.  However, without the correct political connections, it was clear to my husband and me that taking any of these positions would lead to a life dependent on the vagaries of politics and whims of politicians.  The political appointee is not judged by their skills or aptitudes at their job but rather by their ability to please their boss, be on the right side of news stories and not upset the politician’s base.

I have been surprised by the brouhaha around the recent request by President Trump that 46 Obama-era prosecutors resign. While many things in the Trump administration have upset me, this request is actually standard when political parties change power.   The political appointee has two choices either carry out the wishes of the politician who selected them to the best of their ability or resign.  Acting Attorney General Sally Yates’s refusal to implement the Trump Travel Ban didn’t surprise me.  I wouldn’t have supported it and neither have the courts.  However, what did surprise me was that she didn’t immediately resign.  Rather she said she wouldn’t implement it and waited to be fired.  She had to know that she would be terminated.  She was not appointed by Trump, she didn’t embrace his politics and she didn’t want to help him implement his campaign promises.  The high ground in this scenario would have been to resign and clearly state to the President, the press and the American people the problems that she saw with the immigration executive order.  Taking such a tack, she could have explained her inability to maintain her integrity if she continued to serve in the role of Acting Attorney General. Understanding and maintaining integrity  in political roles is essential to sustaining Democracy.  Instead, Yates opened the door for President Trump to attack her and seize the high moral ground with incendiary language such as “betrayed” and “weak on immigration” when the moment was hers to win.  Instead, I fear Trump followers ended up feeling the federal bureaucracy was once again out of control.

I am not a Trump fan but when the press makes headlines out of routine politics as if it is some horrendous scandal, the media is contributing the charge of “fake news.” All of us need to focus on the issues that make the Trump administration different and outrageous and not pretend that routine political patronage is something out of the ordinary.

Trumpisms Lexicon Update

Prior to the election, I wrote an update of new words evolving during that campaign. The original lexicon can be found at https://wordpress.com/post/julierobinsonblog.com/5172 .  Since President Trump was sworn in a short couple weeks ago,  many new words are entering my stratosphere.  Here is a list of the most prominent at this time.

Alternative Facts: Terms used by Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway in a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017 to explain White House Press Secretary’s Sean Spicer’s description of the crowds at President Trump’s inauguration as “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period.”the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in-person and around the globe,” Spicer claimed. These remarks were contrary to the numerous photos taken of the National Mall on Friday that appeared to show a smaller audience than the crowd at former President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.  Mr. Spicer later clarified it was the largest audience if streaming; tv etc was taken into account. Urban dictionary defines explains alternative facts as lies invented to protect an individual when the truth is too unfavorable to the presenter.

Alt-right (Alternative Right): Loosely organized group of individuals who reject mainstream Republican conservatism. The term was originally coined in 2010 by individuals who supported white nationalism and white supremacists to refer to themselves and their ideology, emphasizes preserving and protecting the white race in the United States.  Because of it’s fluid structure alt-right groups have been associated also been associated with anti-Semitism, antifeminism, and homophobia.  The generally support President Trump, emphasize preserving and protecting the white race in the United States, oppose multiculturalism and political correctness. The positions of the alt-right exist in a virtual world of web-pages,  twitter,  and internet memes (a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users).

Bannon, Steven: Former head of Breitbart News (see below), CEO of Trump Presidential Campaign and now Mr. Trump’s Chief Political Strategist in the White House . Mr. Bannon is considered the primary ideological officer of the Trump administration. Mr. Bannon was quoted in an interview after the election that “Darkness is good.  Darth Vader. Satan. That’s Power.”  President Trump has given Mr. Bannon a seat at the National Security Council table, a move considered unusual for a political strategist.

Block Grants: While entitlements programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, require that every person receive the same minimum level of service, a federal block grant consolidates a number of programs into one and provides a capped amount of funding to states. Block grants to states during the Reagan administration allowed for significant federal cuts to social programs  from previous  federal expenditure levels.  The argument for block grants is that states should not need as much funding to operate block grants because they can redesign the program, eliminate federal red tape and provide the same services at significantly less cost.  Block grants in operation and have led to significant reduction in services because states have been unable to identify significant cost savings measures. Republicans suggestions for eliminating the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) have all included the provision that the Medicaid program be changed from an entitlement program where states receive funding for eligible individual to a block grant.

Bowling Green Massacre: Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, told Chris Mathews on MSNBC’s Hardball that President Obama had instituted a six month ban on Iraqi refugees after the Bowling Green Massacre. She complained the media had failed to cover the incident. The media didn’t cover the massacre because there never was one. Bowling Green Kentucky was never home to a terrorist attack. Two men were arrested in in Bowling Green in 2011 on federal terrorism charges after one of the men’s fingerprints had been traced to a roadside bomb detonated in Iraq in 2005. Ms. Conway corrected her error through tweeting “Bowling Green terrorists” rather than “Bowling Green massacre.”

Breitbart News: Website featuring right wing views run by Steve Bannon before Mr. Bannon became President Trump’s campaign manager. Mr. Bannon referred to Breitbart News as the “platform of the alt-right”. Known for taking on establishment Republicans such as House Speaker Paul Ryan.  Critiques say the website is a platform for white nationalist sentiments of hate groups. http://www.breitbart.com/

Dreamers:  President Obama implemented through executive order a program called  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program initatited in 2012 offered a two-year, renewable reprieve from deportation to unauthorized immigrants who are under the age of 31; entered the United States before age 16; have lived continuously in the country for at least five years; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.  The 718,000 individuals taking advantage of the program are called Dreamers. There are an estimated  1.8 million potential Dreamers in the United States presently. Seven-tenths of the dreamers are Mexican American and half live in Texas and California though the rest are scattered throughout the United States.  The program is currently accepting applications but the long term status of the program in the Trump administration is in limbo.

Going Nuclear: Nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure allows the U.S. Senate to override a rule or precedent by a simple majority of 51 votes, instead of by a supermajority of 60 votes. The United States Senate has a tradition of requiring a 60 vote threshold for confirmation of Supreme Court nominees.  Going nuclear refers to changing Senate rules so a Supreme Court nominee could be confirmed by a simple majority, which the Republicans hold in the Senate.  the nuclear option would allow Judges to not only be “nominated to the Court by a Republican president, but also be confirmed by only Republican Senators in party-line votes.”

Johnson Amendment: An amendment to the tax code in 1954, introduced by then Senator Lyndon Johnson, providing a legal separation between religion and politics. Under the law, churches and charitable organizations are unable to directly or indirectly participate in political campaigns on behalf or in opposition to a candidate or risk loosing their tax-exempt status. President Trump has vowed to destroyed this amendment to appease conservative religious groups who want to actively engage in politics and maintain their tax-exempt status. Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr. has said it would “create a huge revolution for conservative Christians and for free speech.”  Repeal raises significant questions about the separation of church and state required in the Constitution.

post-truthPost Truth:  Post-truth describes the milieu of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in which appeal to emotions and personal opinions were more impactful than facts.The 2016 Oxford Dictionary word of the year, post-truth, was selected because usage  dramatically rose during the last year becoming a mainstay when describing national politics.

Repeal and Replace (Affordable Care Act or OBAMA Care): The first executive order signed by President Trump was to scale back as many aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)(Obamacare) as possible. The one page order gave broad latitude to federal agencies to change, delay or waive provisions of the law that they deemed overly costly for insurers, drug makers, doctors, patients or states, suggesting that it could have wide-ranging impact, and essentially allowing the dismantling of the law to begin even before Congress could repeal it. Congress voted to repeal the act the following week. The authorization to repeal will only impact budgetary provisions of the act, specifics of this action are still unknown.  The Republican intent is clear to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In 2015, HHS estimated that ACA had provided insurance to 16.8 million Americans who previously did not have insurance and dropped the U.S. uninsured rate by over 5%.  With so many Americans receiving insurance through ACA, the Republicans have vowed to repeal ACA but simultaneously replace it with something better.  The something better is still undefined. There have been suggestions of replacing Medicaid the state/federal entitlement program with block grants to states.  If ACA is eliminated and states are blocked grant  Medicaid, funds will be available for the lowest income, even if less funding is available.  Funding to help higher income individuals and families now receiving incentives to purchase insurance would be gone.  Other popular ACA requirements that would be erased are requirements for insurers to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26. Republicans have found themselves in lala land as far as how to replace ACA.  It is much easier to vote against something than to find creative, cost-effective replacements.

Shock and Awe: These terms come from  the military  and refer to rapid deployment of military strikes to demonstrate dominance, forcing an opponent into  a rapid reactionary response. President Trump’s rapid issuance of executive actions has been referred to as “shock and awe” approach to executive administration. In an effort to impose Trumpian philosophy on the federal government and force Democrats and the world into a reactive position, President Trump has acted aggressively  through executive order causing significant problems for many vulnerable people in the wake of his pen. Whether America is safer as a result of his actions remains to be seen.

Travel Ban: Trump executive order issued January 27, 2017 banning all immigrants and visa holders from seven majority Muslim countires(Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria)  from entering the US for 90 days,  and opening the door to more country-based bans in the future. Also bans all refugee admissions for 120 days—and bans Syrian refuges indefinitely.  The order essentially overhauled US refugee policy—laying the groundwork for a fundamental shift in how the US allows people to enter the country. Signed late Friday afternoon without consultation with Congress or impacted federal agencies, the order caused chaos at airports for individuals traveling from the seven countries listed  and all  refugees in transition who had been granted approval to come to the United States.  By Wednesday, February 1, 2017, the Trump administration said the ban did not include citizens from the 7 countries  who held a valid U.S. green card, a permit allowing a foreign national to work permanently in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security asserted Friday, February 3, 2017, that the order does not apply to dual citizens with passports from countries other than the seven listed. Also on Friday, the Justice Department estimated that the order impacted about 60,000 visa holders.  Tens of thousands of visas for foreigners inside and outside the U.S. have been revoked without notice.  If any of these people are in the U.S. and leave, they have probably lost their ability to return. Judge Brinkema, Federal District Court in Alexandria, described the Trump’s administration lack of planning and notice as causing “chaos.” Judge Brinkema went on to say, “This order touched something in the U.S. I’ve never seen before. People are quite upset.” By Friday evening, a Federal judge in Washington State had temporarily blocked implementation of the order across the nation.  The Department of Justice has appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit located in San Francisco.  On Saturday, the Justice Department said individuals with approved Visas would be allowed to travel.

Women’s March:  Protests for human rights and other civil rights issues  and against President Trump’s positions on these issues held January 21, 2017 in Washington D.C. with sister marches throughout the world.  The largest single day demonstration in U.S. history, drawing at least 500,000 marchers in Washington D.C. and  an estimated 4.8 million world wide.  A theme was “Build Bridges not Walls” in response to President Trump’s inauguration speech the day before the march which focused on “America First”.