John McCain: Attacking The Free Press Is ‘How Dictators Get Started’
- Created on 19 February 2017
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) gave a staunch defense of the free press Saturday, noting that attacks on the media are “how dictators get started.” Speaking on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” to be aired Sunday, McCain took a swipe at President Donald Trump’s volleys against the Fourth Estate, particularly a Friday tweet in which the press was called the “enemy of the American people.”
“We need a free press,” said the 2008 Republican presidential candidate. “We must have it. It’s vital.”
“If you want to preserve ― I’m very serious now ― if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press,” he added.
McCain said that without a free press, “we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time.”
“That’s how dictators get started,” he added, noting that attacks on journalists questioning those in power are a tactic used by autocratic governments.
“When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press,” he said. “I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”
“A fundamental part of that new world order was a free press,” he added. “I hate the press; I hate you especially,” McCain quipped. “But the fact is we need you.”
Trump has ratcheted up his assaults against media organizations in recent weeks, culminating in a belligerent press conference Thursday in which he excoriated the members of the press as “fake news.”
McCain, in Germany for the Munich Security conference, has unleashed a series of thinly veiled attacks on the White House.
In a speech before the conference, he slammed a “hardening resentment” toward “immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims” and asked world leaders not to give up on America despite the country’s current politics.
During a question-and-answer, the senator said the resignation of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, showed the administration was “in disarray.”
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Trump Vineyard Requests Visas For Still More Foreign Workers
- Created on 18 February 2017
While Donald Trump rails against immigrants and foreign workers taking away American jobs, the Trump Vineyard Estates has filed yet another request for visas for foreign farm workers at its Virginia winery.
The application filed last week asks for H-2 worker visa for 23 laborers at $11.27 an hour from April through October this year.
In December Trump Vineyard Estates also filed an application with the Department of Labor seeking six visas that would allow the company to hire foreign workers for seasonal jobs. That paperwork was submitted just days after Trump leaned on an Indiana company not to ship American jobs to Mexico.
The workers will be employed by the Trump Winery, according to Buzzfeed, which is owned by Donald Trump’s son, Eric. The winery’s website says it is a registered trade name of Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC and is “not owned, managed or affiliated with Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their affiliates.”
But the winery is located on and the visa request was filed by Trump Vineyard Estates LLC, which is listed as part of the real estate portfolio of the Trump Organization, according to its website. When Trump became president he said he would switch management of his companies to his sons but would maintain ownership. Donald Trump revealed in a 2015 campaign financial disclosure filing that Trump Vineyard Estates had earned him $150,000 to $1.1 million, Politico reported at the time.
Trump also boasted at a campaign event last year featuring bottles from the Trump Winery — which was reportedly transferred to Eric in 2012 — that “I own it 100 percent — no mortgage, no debt.”
Trump won approval in December to also hire 77 foreign workers at his Mar-a-Lago resort and Jupiter golf course through the H-2B visa program, according to a review of data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows conducted by Vocativ.
CNN reported last summer that Trump companies have employed at least 1,256 foreign workers — most from Romania and South Africa — in the past 15 years. The companies applied to hire 263 foreign workers even after Trump launched his campaign in which he railed against the loss of U.S. jobs to foreign workers.
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Fox News anchor Shep Smith blasts Trump: 'It's absolutely crazy'
- Created on 17 February 2017
The President took on the media. Now, some at Fox News are responding.
President Trump held a press conference on Thursday that was rather combative toward the media. He repeatedly called out the press for covering what he called "fake news."
Shortly after the press conference, FOX News anchor Shepard Smith hit back hard. "It's crazy what we're watching every day, it's absolutely crazy. He keeps repeating ridiculous throw away lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we're some kind of fools for asking the question," said Smith.
It's worth pointing out that the president did praise Fox News during the press conference.
"Your opposition was hacked and the Russians were responsible for it, and your people were on the phone with Russia on the same day it's happening, and we're fools for asking the questions? No, sir, we're not fools for asking the questions, and we demand to know the answer to this question. You owe this to the American people," Smith said.
"You call us fake news and put us down like children for asking these questions on behalf of the American people," Smith said. "The people deserve that answer, at very least," he added.
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Barack Obama's Enduring Faith in America
- Created on 11 January 2017
In his farewell address, the president warned of threats to the nation’s tradition of democracy—none more than from inside—and rebuked Donald Trump, but sought to rally the country around shared ideals. In his final speech to the nation as the 44th president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama offered a strong defense of American democracy and pluralism, telling the nation that its form of government relies on goodwill and tolerance.
“Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift,” Obama said. “But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power—with our participation, and the choices we make. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.”
Speaking at McCormick Place in Chicago—just a couple miles south of Grant Park, where he first spoke to the nation as president-elect in November 2008—the president outlined his major accomplishments and thanked voters, his family, and his staff. But Obama also outlined what he saw as a three-pronged threat to American democracy, in a speech that could only be heard as a detailed rebuke of Donald Trump, the man who will replace him in the White House in 10 days’ time.
Obama has always enjoyed playing the role of social theorist, and he took one last opportunity to expound his theory from the bully pulpit. The litany of locations and events he mentioned mapped out his vision of a United States where people of color, women, and gay and lesbian Americans are not simply included but are indeed integral to the identity of the nation—from the founding to Western expansion, the Underground Railroad to “immigrants and refugees” who came across the sea and, pointedly, the Rio Grande, suffragettes to labor organizers, activists who fought for the civil rights of African Americans and LGBT Americans alike, and soldiers from Omaha Beach to Afghanistan.
“That’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional,” Obama said, perhaps settling a score with the critics who once claimed he did not believe in the idea, “not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.”
Yet the nation is fraying, he cautioned. The president argued that the start of the 21st century, from 9/11 attacks to the Great Recession, and implicitly in Trump’s election, had threatened to “rupture [the] solidarity” on which the country rests. The threat came from three corners, he said: unequal economic opportunity; racism and discrimination; and the retreat into bubbles of likeminded individuals.
He warned that indulging fear would endanger a society ordered by Enlightenment ideals of reason, tolerance, and justice. “That order is now being challenged—first by violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam; more recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets, open democracies, and civil society itself as a threat to their power,” Obama said. “The peril each poses to our democracy is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile.” He asked the nation to come together in the work of rebuilding American democracy.
“That’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional, not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change.”
But it is not just external threats such as these that pose a danger, he said—so does the temptation to shut out those with different outlooks. “For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions,” Obama said, connecting it to the advent of a media that is not only partisan but riddled with misstatements of fact—and a surfeit of maliciously false news. “We become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.”
Obama’s decision to deliver the farewell address before a crowd of adoring supporters represented a continuation of the style in which he campaigned, and the style he has preferred to govern. While most presidents have delivered their final speeches on camera from the White House, Obama has always disliked the Oval Office address, preferring to speak at a lectern in the East Room when he had to, and speak live before a crowd when he could, feeding from its energy.
Most farewell speeches also do not loom large in history. While outgoing presidents may hope that the addresses offer them a chance to shape and solidify their legacies, few are remembered after the fact—perhaps really only two: George Washington’s in 1796, and Dwight Eisenhower’s in 1961, in which he coined the term “the military-industrial complex.”
Obama’s farewell address was, like many of his major speeches, a finely crafted one; he is one of the finest orators and writers to occupy the office. But despite its emphasis on the ideals of the nation going back to the founding, it seemed inexorably linked to the present moment in American history. The speech seemed like a lecture for Trump on what makes America great and a pep talk for Obama’s supporters on the importance of keeping the faith.
“The work of democracy has always been hard. It’s always been contentious. For every two steps forward, It often feels we take one step back.”
“You were the change. You answered people’s hopes,” Obama said, recalling the two buzzwords of his first run for president. But he added: “Our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard. It’s always been contentious. For every two steps forward, It often feels we take one step back.”
Obama didn’t have to mention Trump’s name for it to be clear to all who he was referring to. Nearly every paragraph in this speech seems to have a line that directly or indirectly answered Trump. He said that American “potential will only be realized if our democracy works. Only if our politics reflects the decency of the our people.” In a quasi-Marxist rejection of race in favor of class, he rejected the nativist claims of the Trump campaign, saying, “If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.” He warned that depriving children of immigrants would only backfire as they came to represent a larger portion of the workforce. The ties of society weaken, he said, “when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.”
In what might have seemed improbable only a few a years ago, one of his biggest applause lines came in a simple restatement of the First Amendment principle of freedom of religion: “That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans.” On climate change, Obama warned Trump and other deniers, “Reality has a way of catching up with you.”
But Obama was not ready to let his own backers off the hook to slip into disconsolation. He called on them to engage with their fellow citizens, saying that while their faith would sometimes be disappointed, it would overall be affirmed. Early in his speech, he hailed the impending peaceful transfer of power to Trump, and scolded members of the crowd who booed or groaned.
As for the president, he was able to keep his composure through most of the speech. It was only in the last minutes of the address, as he thanked the first lady, his daughters, Vice President Joe Biden, and his staff, that the president’s face began to twitch, and he finally had to wipe away a tear. It seemed fitting that the emotional climax of the speech would come at that time—the president’s personal story, his confident and cheerful demeanor, have always been his strongest political asset. Even as his policy legacy teeters on the precipice of destruction, the president remains personally popular, and his decency and family remain widely admired.
And then Obama offered one more callback to his historic 2008 campaign. “Yes we can,” he said. “Yes we did.” And then, once more for the future: “Yes we can.” But will we? At a time when many Americans of all views are more dubious than ever about that proposition, and despite his dire warnings minutes earlier, Obama seemed just as stunningly, serenely confident as he had eight years ago.
“That faith I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change—that faith has been rewarded in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined,” he said. “I hope yours has, too.”
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6 MORE REPUBLICANS SAY SLOW DOWN ON OBAMACARE REPEAL
- Created on 10 January 2017
Anxiety about repealing Obamacare without a replacement got a lot more visible in the U.S. Senate on Monday evening, as a half-dozen Republican senators called publicly for slowing down the process. It’s not clear how strongly these senators feel about it, or whether they are willing to defy party leadership over how and when efforts to repeal Obamacare proceed.
But at least three other GOP senators have now expressed reservations about eliminating the Affordable Care Act without first settling on an alternative. That brings the total to nine ― well more than the three defections it would take to deprive Republicans of the majority they would likely need to get repeal through Congress. And the restlessness isn’t confined to the Senate. Members of the House Freedom Caucus on Monday evening issued their own call for slowing down the repeal process.
At the very least, these developments suggest that taking President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy off the books is unlikely to go as smoothly or as quickly as GOP leaders once hoped.
The change in the political environment has been perceptible, and relatively sudden. Following the election of Donald Trump in November, GOP leaders indicated they intended to move immediately on Obamacare repeal, using expedited procedures reserved for certain fiscal issues.
First, Congress would pass a budget resolution, instructing committees with jurisdiction over health care to write repeal legislation. Once that work was done, the House and Senate each would vote on the legislation, work out their differences, and send a bill to the White House, where Trump would presumably sign it.
The budget resolution is supposed to pass this week, and, as written, it calls for the committees to finish their work by Jan. 27 ― just a little more than two weeks from now.
But as the prospect of repealing Obamacare has suddenly ceased to be hypothetical, Republicans have confronted all sorts of questions ― not least among them what will happen to the roughly 20 million people getting insurance through the program right now.
Initially, GOP leaders responded by promising to let elements of Obamacare remain in place for a short time, setting up a transition period during which people who have Obamacare coverage would theoretically get to keep it. But over the past few days, several GOP senators have said that this “repeal-and-delay” strategy still leaves too much uncertainty about what would follow Obamacare, and have called for settling on a replacement plan ― or at least the outlines of one ― before voting on repeal.
On Monday, five of them put their protests on paper ― by introducing an amendment to the budget resolution that would push back that Jan. 27 date until March 3.
“Repeal and replace should take place simultaneously, and this amendment will give the incoming administration more time to outline its priorities,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said. “By exercising due diligence we can create a stable transition to an open health care marketplace that provides far greater choice and more affordable plans for the American people.”
The four other GOP senators behind the amendment are Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Rob Portman (Ohio), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).
As a legal matter, the amendment wouldn’t mean much. Neither the old nor the new deadline would be binding, Capitol Hill aides said, and it’s entirely possible that Monday’s statement will prove an empty gesture.
Nor is it likely that one extra month would give Republicans enough time to settle on an Obamacare replacement.
But the decision to propose the amendment ― and to attach strong quotes to it ― could also indicate something more, as Jim Manley, longtime aide to former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and before that the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), told The Huffington Post.
“The senators on this letter are smart enough to realize that the train is about to leave to station when it comes to repealing Obamacare without any alternative,” Manley said. “And they want to slow down the process by offering this amendment before the legislative process starts spiraling out of control.
“This letter is yet the latest indication that at least some Republicans realize that just simply repealing Obamacare without any viable alternative in place is completely unworkable and unrealistic and maybe just a little bit crazy,” Manley said.
The other big development on Monday was a statement from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). According to Talking Points Memo, Alexander said, “We have to take each part of it and consider what it would take to create a new and better alternative and then begin to create that alternative, and once it’s available to the American people, then we can finally repeal Obamacare.”
It’s difficult to know how far Alexander or other Republican senators are willing to go on slowing Obamacare repeal, particularly if they face intense pressure from party leaders and conservative activists.
Shortly after the election, for example, Alexander said that Republicans needed to put their replacement together before going forward with repeal. “What we need to focus on first is what we would replace it with and what are the steps we would take to do that,” he told reporters on Nov. 17. “I imagine [it] will take several years to completely make that sort of transition to make sure we do no harm, create a good health care system that everyone has access to and we repeal the parts of Obamacare that need to be repealed.”
But after Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated that repeal would include a transition period, Alexander got in line. “The American people expect us to” repeal, he told reporters in the Capitol on Dec. 1, endorsing the repeal and delay strategy. “I think Senator McConnell wants to make it an early item. And the important thing to emphasize is it’s just a beginning. ... We want to start immediately, but it’ll take a matter of years to fully replace and rebuild the health care system that it has taken six years to damage.”
Alexander’s new statements would appear to suggest he’s still not comfortable with moving quickly. And that’s critical, given the role he would play in any Obamacare repeal effort, as a senior, widely respected member of the caucus ― and, more important, as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has direct jurisdiction over health care legislation.
The reticence about junking Obamacare too hastily reflects certain realities that the GOP hasn’t really confronted until now. Different elements of the party have wildly different perspectives on what a new system should look like. And delivering the kind of financial protection most Americans want without dramatically reducing the number of people with insurance is going to be difficult, if not impossible, without the kind of federal spending most Republicans oppose.
Two senators proposing the budget amendment touched on those concerns. Cassidy, who is a physician, spoke specifically about the needs of people with serious medical problems ― the type of people who, in the years before Obamacare, could sometimes be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or would run up against lifetime limits on benefits.
“As Obamacare is repealed and replaced, we must always keep in mind the mom with a breast lump who cannot afford Obamacare and wants something better but also needs to maintain her coverage,” Cassidy said. “This amendment will ensure adequate time is given to repeal Obamacare AND replace it with a substantive alternative that will work for her.”
Murkowski focused on importance making insurance widely available: “I remain committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act,” she said, “and I am equally committed to ensuring that all Alaskans and Americans, especially the most vulnerable among us and those in rural communities, have access to affordable, quality health care.”
Repealing Obamacare was a top priority for Trump during his campaign, and his call thrilled the millions of voters who say they are angry about the law. But Trump also vowed that “everybody has got to be covered,” which is not a promise that GOP leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) have endorsed.
Although polls have consistently shown pluralities of Americans disapprove of the law, those same polls have shown that most of its elements ― including not just protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but also tax credits for buying insurance ― to be highly popular.
Senate Republicans have seen those polls, just as they have heard from GOP governors in states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility using funding that Obamacare made available. Those governors, among them Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio), have said that it’s important to make sure Republicans have an alternative ready to go before getting rid of Obamacare.
How Trump feels about all of this remains something of a mystery. On Monday evening, he and his advisers huddled with Capitol Hill Republicans over several matters. Afterwards, in response to a reporter’s question about the specifics of repealing and replacing Obamacare, Trump adviser Steve Bannon said they were “still thinking that through.”
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