By Mark Sumner
Friday Jun 23, 2017
Donald Trump asks the question frequently, and always with a sneer: If President Barack Obama knew that Vladimir Putin had intervened in the United States’ election with the direct intention of helping Trump, why did Obama wait so long to say anything? The answer detailed in a new story from the Washington Post turns out to be simple: First, Obama was trying to do the right things. Second, Republicans stopped that from happening.
As former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified earlier this week, the Russian activity in the election went beyond just hacking into emails, beyond distributing those emails through Wikileaks, and beyond creating a stream of fake-news stories that were eagerly shared by alt-right websites and social media. Russia took unprecedented “active measures,” attempting to penetrate state databases and alter or delete voter roles.
It was tantamount a secret declaration of war by Russia, and the Obama administration treated it the security and care that it deserved.
Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides. …
The material was so sensitive that CIA Director John Brennan kept it out of the President’s Daily Brief, concerned that even that restricted report’s distribution was too broad. The CIA package came with instructions that it be returned immediately after it was read. To guard against leaks, subsequent meetings in the Situation Room followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid.
At that early stage, they couldn’t tell the full extent of the Russian operations. They didn’t know the scale of the attack. They couldn’t tell who in the United States might be cooperating with the Russians. They could only be certain about one thing.
The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.
Quietly, the intelligence community went to work as resources were dedicated to the issue and other agencies attempted to confirm or deny the information gathered by the CIA. If Obama had revealed the information, and the intelligence turned out to be false, he would certainly have been guilty of interfering with the election himself. Considering the import of the information, it was possible that simply talking about it openly could move the conflict from cyberspace to the battlefield. So Obama proceeded with caution, working to confirm the CIA’s intelligence and searching for ways to respond to Russian action. He needed to build a case that would hold up in front of both Republican leaders in Congress and the public.
It took time for other parts of the intelligence community to endorse the CIA’s view. Only in the administration’s final weeks in office did it tell the public, in a declassified report, what officials had learned from Brennan in August — that Putin was working to elect Trump.
Donald Trump throws that delay out there as not just a taunt, but proof that he is somehow “innocent.” Because if Trump had even a hint of information, he would have fired it straight out of his Twitter gun. Trump demonstrated this many times during the election and since, as repeated even the most tenuous and ludicrous rumor as if it were accepted fact.
Obama wasn’t going to do that. It wasn’t a matter of “staying classy.” It was a matter of following the law, protecting the nation, and reaching a result that was more than a revenge tweet. Obama was concerned that going public with the information in the early days invited both criticism and speculation. On the most basic leave, President Obama was simply trying to ensure that his actions didn’t make the situation worse.
But as carefully and thoroughly as the intelligence community assembled a case, there was one point they couldn’t get past.
Obama instructed aides to ... seek bipartisan support from congressional leaders for a statement condemning Moscow and urging states to accept federal help.
None of that happened. Some Republican leaders in Congress put off even meeting with intelligence officials, delaying the process by weeks. Meanwhile, Jeh Johnson attempted to designate election infrastructure as “critical,” in order to give them the same protection provided to defense contractors.
Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.
In short: Republicans were—and are—more concerned with hurting Obama than they were in stopping Russia. In a sense, Republicans as a group colluded with Russia, in that they refused to take action to protect the nation against intrusion. And it wasn’t just random state level officials. When Congressional leadership finally met with the intelligence community for a briefing ...
“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting.
The answer to why Barack Obama didn’t speak out more strongly and more early about Russian interference for Trump, is because Republicans blazed the trail Trump is still following: They refused to cooperate, placing party above country.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III cooking up a storm.
(Tom Toles/The Washington Post)
“Exceeded my expectations!” yelped Paul Ryan, at the news that the Congressional Budget Office had scored the Republican Obamacare Plan a disaster.
The review forecast that the GOP plan would result in 24 million people losing their insurance. If you compare that number to the number who got insurance under Obamacare, it’s pretty close to all of them! How could the GOP improve on that?
Repeal and replace! Everybody wondered what that would mean, once the scalpels actually started slicing. The ever-reliable Donald Trump told us it would mean health-care coverage for everyone! Great coverage, at great prices! If you believed that, I have a Trump University degree to sell you. But, in the event, as so often happens with Trump statements, what he promised bore no relation to what was possible, or desirable. But, too late, smart Trump voters! You are on the operating table now, and the scalpels are glinting in the overhead work lights. And when the slicing is done, you will discover that in “repeal and replace,” “replace” is just more “repeal.”
So okay, millions will lose their coverage. What they will gain is some excellent word descriptors, the best. Ryan has called the GOP plan “freedom.” He has also called it “an act of mercy.” Yes, of course. That’s also what they call it when they put your dog down. But that’s not all! It also means tax cuts! And you know what that means. When the Republicans say tax cuts, that means tax cuts for the rich. The rich most definitely think of this as “freedom” and “an act of mercy.” Feel their former pain as you feel your current pain.
Politically, the GOP was in a bind. They’d been promising the impossible, and promising and promising it. They had to choose between their promises and the possible. They chose ideology, and now they are not sure which will be worse, the damage resulting from passing their bill or not passing it. The rubber is now meeting the road, and the road turns out to be up the front and down the back of many of their voters.
Will their voters notice this? The Republicans have grown accustomed to their voters not noticing anything. The current hope is telling them that Obama is still secretly president, and from his cave in the deep state he stole their health coverage and gave it to the terrorists.
Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon
Response to State of the State – as Delivered
March 7, 2017
· Good afternoon. I’m Oscar Braynon, and I’m the leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
· On behalf of the Senate Democratic members, I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes about Governor Scott’s State of the State address today.
· Not just about what he said, but about what he didn’t, about the promises he’s broken, and why that matters.
· For the past seven years, Governor Scott has talked a lot about the economy. “It’s all about jobs,” he says.
· Well, he’s right. We couldn’t agree more. Everyone needs work; everyone needs a job.
· The problem is the kind of jobs he’s been bringing home to Florida.
· Because the majority of his jobs are great for teenagers, or someone just starting out, but not for someone with skills, with training, with a strong work history, or a family to support.
· They’re not the kind of jobs that let you save for that new car, that down payment on a new house, or your kid’s future education.
· They’re not the kind of jobs that invest in the people.
· And it’s that commitment to investing in the people that’s been missing from too many areas in the seven years since Governor Scott first took office.
· In states like Michigan, Arizona, and even Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, the governors didn’t stand in the way of the people getting affordable health care.
· They realized that bankrupting residents because of a medical emergency isn’t the way to prosperity.
· They realized that the national health care law not only brought more medical coverage for people, but more good paying jobs in the health care field.
· They knew that you can’t work if you’re sick, you can’t give 100 percent if your body is operating at half power, and you can’t take care of others if you can’t take care of yourself.
· Time and time again, Governor Scott had the chance to do the right thing, to invest in the people by expanding healthcare coverage in Florida.
· But he didn’t. He gave the public’s money away in big tax breaks to big companies instead.
· It was a fool’s errand.
· From conservative think tanks to top economists, there’s widespread agreement that the way to lure the top companies with the top paying jobs isn’t just dangling tax dollars in front of them.
· Florida is and has been one of the lowest tax states for business in the country.
· Business executives want what the rest of us do, and it all comes down to quality of life: good schools and top-notch universities, quality, affordable healthcare, efficient transportation, and clean water and air.
· They want more than just a state that sells itself as “cheap.”
· So as Governor Scott continues his sales pitch for more of your dollars for more of his corporate tax cuts, ask him about that big shortfall the state is facing because of these very same policies, and his broken promises to turn Florida around.
· Ask him about the green sludge fouling Florida’s waters because money was never committed for prevention.
· Ask him why we’re stuck near the bottom in high school graduation rates and educating our pre-school kids.
· Ask him why 9,000 more people with developmental disabilities age 21 or older are waitlisted for services, or why we’re at the bottom of the national pack in our commitment to services for the mentally ill, or access to basic health care.
· And ask him why investments in the people just aren’t as important as the people’s money for his tax incentives.
· If you had the chance, what would you choose?
· More jobs paying minimum wage, or jobs you could brag about, jobs you were proud of, jobs that were taking you somewhere?
· If you had the chance, would you check the box for fewer doctors, less medical services, and higher costs?
· Or would you check the box for a family doctor, preventative services, and treatment you can afford?
· As Democrats, we believe in the right choices, the ones that deliver the good jobs we need, and the affordable healthcare we’re missing.
· We believe in a future that aims higher, that wraps the hopes and dreams of every man and every woman struggling to hold on, into one unified march for better opportunities now – not some faraway date in the future.
· And we believe that the way that you do this is by investing in the people.
· Start with education, the great equalizer, and start young. Commit the money our public schools desperately need to shore up crumbling buildings, pay better salaries to our teachers entrusted with educating our children, and provide the tools students need to succeed and stand second to none.
· Embrace health care coverage for all Floridians, and the financial sense it makes not just in eliminating expensive back-end treatments, but a boon in new high paying jobs.
· And rethink opportunity and second chances by eliminating criminal records for minor drug and non-violent offenses so that job offers don’t vanish with the application form.
· All of this was missing from Governor Scott’s State of the State speech today. It’s been missing for the past seven years.
· For all his campaigning as an “outsider” his politics have been focused on the well-being of the insiders, his promised tax cuts mostly tailored for the well-off while the tax bills went to everyone else.
· In his first campaign for president, former President Obama said: “Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work. That’s the promise of America.”
· That’s the promise of Florida, too. And that’s the promise Democrats intend to keep.
· Thank you.
Florida Senate Democratic Office
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399
By Philip Bump December 21 at 9:59 AM
At the core of the debate about the role of the electoral college is whose needs should be at the center of American politics. In an unexpected monologue Tuesday night, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly made that point clearly, although probably not in the way he intended.
One moment from O'Reilly's argument gained traction on social media after the show aired.
“Summing up,” he said, “left wants power taken away from the white establishment. They want a profound change in the way America is run.”
The phrase “white establishment” is what has drawn most of the attention, suggesting that O'Reilly's argument for the electoral college is an explicit defense of the political power of white people. Which, in the broader context of the segment, it was.
O'Reilly points out that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's margin of victory in the popular vote was a function of how heavily she won California. He suggests that Democrats want to abolish the electoral college so that candidates would then be forced to campaign in densely populated areas — areas that are more heavily nonwhite.
“Very few commentators will tell you that the heart of liberalism in America today is based on race,” O'Reilly said. “It permeates almost every issue. That white men have set up a system of oppression. ... So-called white privilege bad. Diversity good.”
The irony is that O'Reilly's entire argument is an explicit defense of white privilege. Clinton's margin of victory does vanish if you remove California's votes — but California is home to nearly one out of every eight Americans. (Similarly, Republican Donald Trump's margin of victory in the electoral college vanishes if you flip Texas.) Voters in that state are underrepresented by the electoral college relative to other states, with each electoral college member representing about 258,000 ballots cast. In Wyoming, each elector represents 85,000 voters. That's one argument for the popular vote: that it treats every vote equally, regardless of where it originates.
California plays a special role in the nation's political imagination — a majority-minority state that's home to hippie-dippy San Francisco and Berkeley. O'Reilly's dismissal of its votes is not unique; it has been a common refrain in the wake of the election. Often, race and ethnicity overlap with that argument, with any number of people suggesting that Clinton's big win in the state was a function of ballots cast by hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants (that is, Mexicans). This isn't the case, of course. Trump's rhetoric simply didn't fly in the state. Along with the lefty Bay Area there's the more conservative southern part of the state — and Trump even lost conservative Orange County, making him the first Republican to do so since 1936.
In Tuesday's broadcast, O'Reilly was specifically arguing that places in which fewer people live should have disproportionate political power so that presidential candidates are forced to campaign in those places in order to win. In other words, he's suggesting that the power of the popular vote should be muted to give more power to the minority of Americans who live outside of cities. Eighty percent of the country lives in an urban area and those who live in rural areas are disproportionately white. O'Reilly is suggesting that those rural voters deserve a special privilege — more weighted electoral votes — and he's reinforcing that argument by pointing out that it will benefit whites. Privilege for whites. White privilege.
There is a “white establishment,” of course. Congress is overwhelmingly white — more heavily white than the population as a whole. The Senate is even whiter than the House; nearly as many Kennedys have been elected to the Senate as have black people. Not coincidentally, the Senate also gives disproportionate power to less-populated and often whiter states. (You've heard it before: Wyoming and California get the same number of senators.)
Moreover, there's a direct overlap between race and partisanship, as we noted in July. The Republican Party is a mostly white party; the Democratic Party is more diverse. (The overwhelming majority of the nonwhite members of the House are Democrats.) O'Reilly notes that white men have gravitated to the GOP, which is accurate and which makes the racial split more stark.
Race and party are tightly intertwined. The priorities of the parties reflect their membership, and therefore talking about partisan opposition often overlaps with talking about racial tension. That also means that defenses of the power of Republican voters overlap with defenses of the power of white voters.
Another way to frame O'Reilly's central premise is this: In the face of a diversifying American population, should protections be maintained that continue to support the political dominance of white people? A lot of white people, including O'Reilly, would say yes. A lot of nonwhite people would presumably say no.
On Jan. 20, the power structure of the federal government will be dominated by the Republican Party. The new establishment will be more white, will be acting on behalf of a heavily white party and will be less inclined to answer the preceding question in the negative. Nonwhite voters preferred Clinton and white voters preferred Trump (generally, though not universally).
It's the preference of the latter group that carried the day — and O'Reilly's entire argument is that it deserved to.