Category Archives: Uncategorized

President tweets American farmers ‘starting to do great again’ — except they’re not:from Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis

Before the trade war even began, farmers and ranchers struggled with falling farm income and commodity prices, rising debt, floods and rain that reduced spring planting.

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‘We’re like Thelma and Louise’: Republicans shrug at deficits under Trump:from Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis

Robert Costa

National political reporter covering the White House, Congress and campaigns

Mike DeBonis

Congressional reporter covering the House of Representatives

July 23 at 6:47 PM

In 2011, with the nation still climbing back from the Great Recession, Republicans threatened global markets by refusing to raise the federal debt limit unless President Obama and the Democrats agreed to steep, across-the-board spending cuts for years to come.

Eight years later — and $7.7 trillion more in debt — President Trump and GOP lawmakers have agreed this week to lift the debt cap again without a fuss, and with hundreds of billions in new spending on top of it.

The deal marks a dramatic capitulation to Trump after years of brinkmanship from Republicans claiming the mantle of fiscal responsibility, underscoring the president’s far-reaching hold over his party and a disregard for the budget-cutting and debt reduction that conservatives long claimed as priorities.

The move has sparked cries of hypocrisy from many Democrats, who endured routine GOP lecturing over spending and the federal deficit throughout Obama’s two terms in office.

With the agreement, Trump has effectively shelved a debate about the nation’s ballooning deficits as he turns his attention to pursuing protectionist trade policies, job growth, and hard-line immigration measures, along with his searing grievances with rivals and Democrats.

And few Democratic leaders or presidential candidates are calling for fiscal austerity as Republicans shift away from a message of fiscal conservatism. Most 2020 Democratic contenders are instead calling for new tax hikes on wealthy Americans and for expanding long-term spending programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who made fiscal responsibility a cornerstone of his 2012 presidential bid against Obama, declined to comment Tuesday on the pact or on the GOP’s drift. “I really don’t have anything for you today on that,” he said.

“There are a lot of things in it I don’t like, but it’s a compromise deal,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), a Senate Budget Committee member and Trump loyalist.

Under Trump, federal debt has surged to $22 trillion and the annual deficit is expected to reach $1 trillion this fiscal year. Trump claimed during the 2016 campaign that he could eliminate the debt in eight years; instead, it has grown $3 trillion during his tenure.

Yet the current agreement, which would raise spending limits by $320 billion and suspend the federal debt ceiling until 2021, has only generated scattered grousing among some Republicans and few signs of revolt.

Inside the White House, there is a firm belief that the state of the economy is the paramount issue for Trump’s reelection, driving many strategic decision on policy and politics, from calling on the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates to avoiding a debt-limit standoff that could rattle markets, according to three Trump advisers who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) bemoaned what he considered to be runaway government spending: “You don’t have to be Euclid to understand the math here. We’re like Thelma and Louise in that car headed toward the cliff,” he said. But, he added, he is open to supporting the agreement.

Several lawmakers who described themselves as fiscal conservatives have retired during Trump’s presidency, such as former House speaker Paul D. Ryan and former Tennessee senator Bob Corker, leaving a smaller bloc on Capitol Hill to make a case for overhauling federal spending.

“Bad just got worse,” former South Carolina GOP congressman Mark Sanford, who is considering a presidential primary bid against Trump, said in an interview. “No one is challenging this president or this thinking. The deal is the codification of a death knell for a Republican Party that once put these issues at the epicenter of what we believed — and there is so little outrage.”

Sen. James Lankford (D-Okla.), who entered Congress in 2011 as a House member elected in the tea-party wave, said Tuesday he was not planning to support the deal based on his initial review and said it “ejects” any serious deliberation on the debt and deficits for “this whole session of Congress.”

Still, Lankford acknowledged that after nearly a decade of retreat on fiscal matters, the GOP might not have much standing to push future presidents of either party for discipline.

“That credibility’s long gone,” he said.

Veteran Republicans said the GOP’s current position is a reminder that Ryan’s emphasis on putting fiscal conservatism at the fore of the party’s agenda was likely an aberration. Republicans, these people said, have always been more comfortable with boosting defense spending and concentrating on spurring economic growth, rather than enacting budget cuts, going back to Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

“It was never the party of Paul Ryan,” said former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally who promised to balance budgets when he ran for president in 2012. “He’s a brilliant guy, but he filled a policy gap. The reality here is that Republicans were never going to get spending cuts with Speaker Pelosi running the House and they didn’t want an economic meltdown or shutdown this summer.”

For both parties, the deal is the culmination of years of slipping fiscal discipline in Washington.

Under government-wide spending cuts agreed to by Congress during the Obama years under the 2011 Budget Control Act, $822 billion was set to be cut from federal spending between fiscal 2013 and 2021. Republican leaders have long pointed to this legislation as proof of their commitment to fiscal conservatism.

But if this week’s deal passes and is signed into law, Congress will have added $810 billion of those agreed upon cuts back into the budget. And that spending adjustment does not include the additional hundreds of billions in spending that has been approved in recent years for disaster relief and other projects.

Top Trump aides, such as economic adviser Larry Kudlow, have urged him to concentrate on economic growth rather than the deficit during the latest negotiations, according to GOP lawmakers and officials involved in the talks.

Those in the White House who have sought restraints, such as acting budget director Russell T. Vought have seen their demands discarded in the agreement that was announced on Monday by Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

When a Fox News host expressed concern Tuesday about the deal being a “spend-a-palooza,” Kudlow said, “We never get the spending restraints that we’d like to get,” and argued that most Americans are “happy campers” about the economy. Vought also was on Fox News on Tuesday defending the deal.

Trump nevertheless insists that he will eventually move in a more fiscally conservative direction. He has instructed aides to prepare for sweeping budget cuts if he wins a second term in the White House, five people briefed on the discussions said. But he has not told aides whether he will be open to major cuts to Medicare, one of the government’s costliest programs, the people said.

Democrats, more than ever, see the GOP’s claims of fiscal discipline as a sham — a cudgel to be used against Democrats when they are in power and to be set aside when they are not. The ultimate proof, in their view, was the 2017 Republican-authored tax law, which was estimated by congressional scorekeepers to add more than $1.5 trillion to the budget deficit over a decade. Republicans ignored warnings from the Congressional Budget Office and other reputable economists that the tax cuts would not offset the deficit.

“I think it will be almost impossible for them to reverse course after these years of fiscal irresponsibility,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Tuesday, noting that the last budget surplus occurred under Democrat Bill Clinton..”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a businessman elected in 2010 as a fiscal fix-it man, said he is worried the GOP is losing credibility on fiscal matters.

“We’re whistling past the graveyard in terms what’s going to happen in terms of the debt and deficit at some point in time,” he said.

Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.

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Republican leaders are shilling for a bigot:from Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis

American politics is now caught in an odd and dangerous form of escalation.

The cycle begins with President Trump engaging in some form of divisive prejudice, either out of calculation or compulsion. (A group of elected, progressive women of color, say, should “go back” to their hellhole countries of origin.) There is a public outcry, including from some morally offended members of the media. Elected Republicans then blame the media for ideological bias and not focusing on “real” issues. Then Trump, either out of political calculation or personal compulsion, doubles down on bigotry. (“I don’t believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country.”) Another outcry ensues . . .

What is the damage? Well, if you believe that constructive leadership can elevate, it follows that irresponsible leadership can debase. Particularly in a democracy, political rhetoric has high stakes. A politician can either side with the angels or unleash the beast.

Trump’s reelection strategy is clearly beast liberation. And this has implications for his political followers, who must abandon morality or rationality or both.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) is a case in point. Based on her considerable political skills, Cheney, a daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, has risen rapidly to the third-highest leadership position in the House Republican caucus. It is her great misfortune, however, to have become a GOP leader during the Trump era.

Being in the leadership of a caucus brings complications even in normal political times. It generally requires public fidelity to the party’s official line. And this can involve a venial type of political deception: feigning enthusiasm for policies and arguments a leader would not normally embrace. It is a requirement of being part of the team.

But Cheney’s recent performance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” illustrates how difficult that membership on Trump’s team has become. Under close questioning, she admitted that the chants of “send her back” at a Trump political rally were “absolutely wrong” and “should not have happened.” But since the chant is a variant of Trump’s own words, Cheney could not admit why this was wrong without indicting the original author. She was left to insist that Trump’s words were ideologically rather than racially motivated — a case of bad manners rather than evidence of a corrupt heart. But Trump did not tell the congresswomen to go to hell; he told them to “go home” to a foreign country (though three members of the group were born in the United States). Then the president added that the four lawmakers are not “capable” of loving America. These elements are what turns an ideological attack into a nativist and racist attack by any reasonable standard.

Having abandoned both logic and principle, Cheney fell back to a last redoubt of denial. “We are focused on policy,” she said, “and we will continue to do that no matter what the mainstream media attempts to do.” But when has the president shown the slightest interest in policy? And why, exactly, would the political world be focused on racist tweets if Trump had not repeatedly tweeted them?

These justifications are no longer the typical, venial deceptions required by party loyalty. In this case, loyalty requires mortal lies that effectively excuse racial prejudice. In this case, Republican leaders are shilling for a bigot.

Trump sorts other politicians into two categories: enemies or servants. And he defines service as a willingness to defend his most offensive actions and attributes — with enthusiasm and on television. One by one, Republican leaders have faced a choice between keeping the president’s favor and maintaining their own integrity. Only a few — a very few — have chosen the better and more difficult path.

Former House speaker Paul D. Ryan’s reputation, for example, was deeply damaged by his service under Trump. Ryan — whatever his intentions — sent a message that the wealth of the country is a “real” issue, while the character of the country is a sideshow. But what brand of conservatism would elevate wealth above rectitude, decency and concern for the common good? Ryan’s accommodation of Trump’s worst instincts eventually became a form of ideological surrender — replacing the gospel of equal opportunity with an angry creed of white identity.

In the Trump era, Republican leaders generally suffer from a kind of moral stunting. By defending the malicious impulses of a petty and prejudiced mind, they lose their credibility and their dignity. They become inured to things that should shock and offend them. And they forget something foundational: There is no definition of honorable public service that includes dishonoring the deepest values of the nation.

Read more from Michael Gerson’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook .

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Amazon’s ‘Homecoming’ casts Janelle Monáe as its new lead:from Engadget

When Amazon Prime Video series Homecoming returns for its second season, it’ll have a new star. Actor and musician Janelle Monáe is taking over the lead role from Julia Roberts. She’ll play a woman who wakes up a canoe with no idea how she got there or who she is.

It’s Monáe’s first major role in a TV series. Along with her successful music career, she’s putting together an impressive screen résumé. She starred in the excellent NASA drama Hidden Figures and Oscar winner Moonlight. Later this year, Monáe will appear in the Harriet Tubman biopic Harriett and a live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp, which’ll be a Disney+ exclusive. Homecoming is her second Prime Video project after an episode of the anthology Electric Dreams.

Homecoming will forge a separate path from its namesake Gimlet Media podcast for its second run, Deadline reports, with a bevy of new characters onboard. It remains to be seen how many of the original cast will return to the psychological thriller.

Source: Deadline

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A black man was trying to propose to his girlfriend. A security guard kept accusing him of shoplifting.:from Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis

A woman says security at an Angry Orchard property interrupted three times as her fiance tried to propose, to search for a T-shirt staff said the fiance had stolen.

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How do you beat Trump in 2020? The same way we beat David Duke in 1991.:from Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis

Tim Wise is an antiracism educator. He is the author of several books, including “White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son.”

July 23 at 3:00 PM

A white male president, Donald Trump, telling four members of Congress, all women of color, they should “go back” where they came from may be something new, but the sentiment isn’t. Stoking white racial resentment is one of the oldest plays in the American political playbook, and antiracists have often fallen short in their efforts to counteract it. Democrats face that challenge now, and they risk falling into the trap of side-stepping Trump’s race-baiting out of fear that they’ll play into his hands. But downplaying racism isn’t how you handle someone like him.

Democrats should take on Trump — and his racist rhetoric — the same way antiracism activists took on David Duke when he ran for Louisiana governor: head-on.

In the early 1990s, I worked for the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism, an organization founded for the purpose of defeating Duke, a white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader, in his bids for the U.S. Senate and governor’s mansion. During those two campaigns, we learned that if you want to deflate a movement whose yeast is racism, you can’t do it with a raft of policy proposals, because racist movements don’t rise in the first place based on policy ideas. And if a racist’s political opponent avoids the subject of race, and tries instead to appeal to voters with proposals on health coverage and tax reform, that normalizes the racist, whether it’s Duke, Trump or someone else, by treating them like any other candidate, and treating the election at hand as if it’s merely a debate between two legitimate, contrasting public policy visions.

To win an election where the issue of race is front-and-center, antiracists must make it clear to voters that when they cast their ballots, they are making a moral choice about the kind of people they want to be, and the kind of nation in which they want to live.

During the 1990 Louisiana Senate election, many thought Duke had no chance to win. Though he agitated explicitly for what he termed white rights and used coded racial language about the “rising welfare class,” late in the race, the national GOP had repudiated Duke’s candidacy and polls showed Democratic incumbent Sen. J. Bennett Johnston with a comfortable lead in that year’s open primary. Because Duke seemed no threat, the conventional wisdom at the time held that challenging Duke too clearly on his racist appeals would merely give him attention and let him control the narrative. Johnston ran a lackluster campaign as a result, focusing on his own record and experience more than Duke’s extremism. Even the media was reluctant to speak clearly about the way Duke was deliberately crafting his specific racial appeal. Fear of encouraging white backlash seemed to animate their thinking at the time.

[The long, ugly history of insisting minority groups can’t criticize America]

Our organization, which worked independently of Johnston’s campaign, saw Duke’s racism as the issue. But we had consultants telling us, similarly, not to focus on it too much: Point out his Klan past and affiliations with white supremacist groups, we were told, but don’t try to underscore or challenge his contemporary racial messaging. That would “play into his hands,” they said. They encouraged us, instead, to talk about reports of his delinquent taxes and avoiding military service.

So, we played that game, and the results weren’t pretty. We ran an expensive tv ad, in which we mixed the messages, mentioning Duke’s white supremacist ties alongside his tax history and failure to serve in Vietnam, as if those issues were of equal importance. Highly stylized, the ad seemed crafted more to win awards than to drive voters. The result? Duke got 44 percent of the vote, with about 60 percent of the white vote. He lost, but Duke-ism had proved itself potent. As my boss at the Coalition, Lance Hill, put it, it was “a referendum on hate, and hate won,” in part because hate hadn’t been clearly and unambiguously confronted.

When Duke ran for governor in 1991, we focused on his racism and the threat it posed to the state and nation. One radio ad, that made its way into a tv spot later on, featured an interview in which a neo-Nazi said, “You know, Hitler started with seven men,” with Duke replying, “Don’t you think it can happen right now, if we put the right package together?” We took out full-page newspaper ads across the state calling on voters to stand up for tolerance and democracy. We got evangelical Christians to come out and condemn Duke, pointing out that his own claims of religiosity were phony and belied by his racial hatred. GOP President George H.W. Bush chimed in to disavow Duke, saying, “When someone has so recently endorsed Nazism, it is inconceivable that someone can reasonably aspire to a leadership role in a free society.”

[Joe Walsh: Trump’s racist tweeting should be the GOP’s last straw. It won’t be.]

Unlike 1990, the message in 1991 was all about the fundamental danger posed by hate to Louisiana and America. Even the message that businesses and tourists would boycott the state if Duke won was ultimately rooted in a moral imperative. After all, it was his extremism that would drive companies and tourists away, and rightly so. Our bumper stickers, which read, “Vote for the crook, it’s important” operated on the premise that whatever one might think of Duke’s opponent, then-former Democratic governor Edwin Edwards’s ethically challenged past, Duke’s racism was worse.

In that election, hope won, not hate, even though Duke still won the white vote in the eventual, decisive runoff. He got more total votes in ’91 than in ‘90; but his share fell to 39 percent overall and around 55 percent among whites, in part because racially progressive whites showed up in larger numbers, inspired by the moral message. And black turnout surged. In 1990, white turnout had been roughly 70 percent versus 64 percent for black voters in the primary. In the 1991 runoff, white turnout had risen to approximately 79 percent, but black turnout shot up to a comparable 78 percent.

The lesson, now, for Democrats is that they must make this election about the threat of Trumpism, which is racist at its core. That doesn’t mean that policy ideas aren’t important, but first and foremost, it’s about making it clear to voters what the stakes are. No issue — climate, jobs, health coverage — overrides the importance of getting a bigot with authoritarian tendencies out of office. Focusing on look-how-much-I’ve-thought about-this stuff might make for good primary debate theater, but it’s not going to move the needle in 2020.

If beating Trump requires progressive base voters, independents-slash-undecideds and reasonable, moral Republicans reaching agreement on a policy platform that will drive them all to the polls for one specific Democrat, that will be quite a challenge. But crafting a message about the existential threat Trump poses to America’s core values can work. That’s what halted Duke-ism as a political force, and it’s the only path forward today.

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