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

The Trump Lexicon keeps evolving as a our President moves forward on his agenda.  To see the latest Trump lexicon go to: pinkpoliticsllc.com   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”.

The Day After

Late last night as the election results calcified, I received a text from a very good friend of mine in Wyoming reminding me that I had correctly called the election this summer.  I told my disbelieving liberal friends in June that Trump had a very strong chance of winning.  When FBI Director Comey announced 11 days ago that the Clinton email fiasco re-emerged, I knew in my heart that Hillary’s chances of winning were minimal.

What led me to have such a strong sense of Trump success even though I vote Democratic? First, Hillary never could shake, even among highly educated white women, the tinge of dishonesty or more correctly, covertness.  Everyone says Hillary is a private person but I believe in transparency in government. Hillary began her national career at Bill’s side as First Lady leading the failed health care reform effort behind closed doors.  I totally disagreed with her policy approach at the time though not the recommendations for a national health card.  This sense that  Hilary is not being completely candid has haunted her for years.  I wanted to love her but I couldn’t.  I  respect her years of tenacious advocacy for women and children, her policy knowledge, her ability to be knocked down and get back up again but I never got chills when I thought about voting for her. I would love to live to see the first woman elected President of the United States.  I would have been fine if that woman was Hillary but personally I was never captivated by her. Today, I could feel Hillary’s pain when she conceded.  She has given it her all to lead this country  on two different occasions and I think we all realize now that this is a dream that will elude her.

I am not sure Hillary could have done anything differently during this campaign. Her failure is one of charisma which I’m not sure one can learn.  The Obamas both have it in spades. I cried with joy when Obama won the Presidency the first time.  When he and his family walked on stage after winning, I felt the world had moved.  I had goose bumps when Michelle Obama spoke at the 2016 Democrat Convention about how “When they go low, we go high!” Having watched The Apprentice for many years with my daughter when she was younger, I know that Donald Trump is capable of captivating an audience.  In a world of social media, the personal image is political reality.  Trump correctly assumed as the polls and pundits did not that the large crowds he was drawing would result in a swell of passionate, dedicated Trump voters. These folks were what I call shadow supporters, not readily available to traditional pollsters. Can you see a big think tank reaching out to someone who goes to a rally wrapped in fake green turf to show their “grass roots support.” My guess is Trump supporters got chills voting for him and cried when they saw the swing states predicted blue  turning to bright red right before our eyes.

Winning a national election requires great outpourings of emotion (Of course, it can be argued Trump didn’t win the election since Clinton got more votes but given our electoral college approach, he put together the strategic states to run the board). In our electronic world, the charismatic individual whether we like their ideas or not has an advantage from the starting line.  Trump is nothing if not charismatic; even his greatest detracters followed his every move providing tons of free publicity for him through tweets, late night comedy shows, news stories.  I admit to some dark part of me daily checking what new strange tweet he had sent out.  Silencing his tweeting near the end of the campaign and keeping Trump on message further strengthened my sense that he could win this thing.  Throughout the campaign, he had been his own worst enemy.  Once someone wrapped up his spontaneous outbursts and put him on an airplane crisscrossing rural America,  Trump’s personal image solidified as a political outsider, pro-life business man who could build our economy,  relished a fight, told it like it was and was focused on protectionism.  HIs consistent mantra that America needed change struck a cord in America’s heartland.  His other failings such as sexual predator, misogynist, inconsistent statements from day-to-day, no clear policy positions on many issues, and a protectionist approach based on racism never stuck. Hillary’s image on the other hand, as  a policy wonk, part of the power elite establishment and probably dishonest to boot was with her from day one and stayed with her throughout the long arduous campaign, the dishonesty piece finally solidified for undecided voters with the Comey announcement of more emails for the FBI to check (so much smoke there must be fire).

The Republicans now control the Presidency, Congress, and with Trump’s nomination in January the Supreme Court. Our nation will no longer have divided government though we remain poltically and socially divided as a country.

It will be interesting to see what a Republican health care approach looks like.  My bet is thousands of individuals will once again be thrown off insurance.  But a step backward may be the only way to leap forward.  I agree with Bernie Sanders that  the only viable long-term health care solution for the U.S. is a national health care plan. Radical right regression may be what will unite progressives where nothing else has.

Democrats have every reason to be discouraged. They are without any recognizable leaders, they won the national vote, lost the election, failed to gain  control of the Senate, lost the opportunity to transform the Supreme Court and will need to reorganize and re-energize.  But as another friend of mine says, America made it through the Civil War and we will make it through this.

I was in McCall, Idaho last weekend when the Christmas Tree for the nation came into town.  It was cut down at the little ski hill outside of McCall.  There were crowds of people mulling around,  an announcer shouting  repeatedly the tree was coming, , the giant Idaho Potato came into sight, the McCall High School Band came by on a truck, a hundred or so disorganized children paraded by and then this big shining red semi-truck turned the corner dragging a gaily wrapped something which turned out to be the tree, covered for its journey East.  I thought at that moment this is America at its best, small town America coming together and celebrating something as simple as a giant pine tree on the move across our great country.

My husband and I were probably the only two Democrats in the entire crowd given how the voting across  Idaho went.  Idaho Democrats lost five legislative races on Tuesday bringing the Republican Legislative Super Majority to 84%. Idaho is the redest state in the Union.  I have a friend who chides me that Idaho Democrats can meet in a phone booth there are so few of us if we can find a phone booth anymore.  I still hope to see a woman elected president (Preferably a Democrat though I open to any strong, thoughtful female leader) in my life time. But for  now I am glad to be an American.  I celebrate we can have a contentious, nasty, close election and get up the next morning  knowing  we will be free to walk out the door,  talk about how crazy the voting was yesterday over a cup of coffee, express our opinions openly on Facebook or a blog and not worry about our safety.

God Bless America!