• Trump Vetoes Tillerson's Choice for Deputy
• Steve Miller Is Almost as Powerful as Steve Bannon
• New White House Press Secretary?
• Trump Says He Will Negotiate the Price of the Border Wall Way Down
• The Obamacare Purge Is Underway
Donald Trump is in the midst of his first state visit, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It started off a little rocky, including an odd 19-second handshake that had Abe wincing and the world laughing. Then, things took a definite downward turn when North Korea conducted its latest missile test, firing an intermediate-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan (also known as the East Sea).
The timing here was not coincidental, of course. Any missile test is a shot across the bow of South Korea; a missile fired into the Sea of Japan while the Japanese prime minister is in the United States is also a shot across the bow of those two countries as well. Trump's recent phone call to China's Xi Pinping, where he quickly folded under Chinese pressure, likely also helped steel Kim Jong-un resolve.
Abe promptly held a joint press conference with Trump, making an extended statement in which he declared that, "North Korea's most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable. North Korea must fully comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions." Trump followed that with a single sentence: "I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100%." That sounds good, but is ultimately pretty empty. In any case, Asia is quickly become a big headache for the Trump administration. (Z)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has no background in foreign affairs, but at least he had the good sense to pick a deputy with extensive experience in foreign affairs in Republican administrations. His choice was Elliott Abrams, who worked for both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. However, when President Donald Trump learned of Tillerson's plan, he vetoed Abrams. Abrams' sin was not that he was insufficiently conservative or that he is incompetent, but that he opposed Trump during the campaign. One of his articles published last May in the conservative Weekly Standard began with the sentence: "The party has nominated someone who cannot win and should not be president of the United States."
It is already abundantly clear that the trait Trump values far more than any other is complete and total loyalty to Donald Trump. Experienced hands whose loyalty is questionable are not welcome in his administration. As subcabinet and staff positions are filled in, we are going to see a lot more Kellyanne Conways and Sean Spicers than people like Abrams. (V)
While presidential adviser Steve Bannon has been in the news a lot recently, another Steve who advises the president, Steve Miller, is also extremely powerful. As a teenager growing up in liberal Santa Monica, CA, Miller often called conservative talk radio programs to attack his high school. In college, at Duke, he wrote searing right-wing columns on controversial issues. For the past year, he has been one of Donald Trump's closest advisers on policy issues. He also wrote some of Trump's campaign speeches and often did the warmups at rallies.
Miller's role in the White House has been greeted with great enthusiasm by white nationalists. As far back as high school he has written pieces like: "A Time to Kill," in which he urged a violent response to radical Islamists. He is also an opponent of paying women the same as men. Miller, who is Jewish, once wrote: "Christianity is embedded in the very soul of our nation." For these views and many similar ones, he is something of a celebrity in alt-right circles. Although he gets less attention that Bannon, he is a powerful influence on Trump behind the scenes. Both the New York Times and Washington Post ran background stories on him yesterday. (V)
Sean Spicer has had a rough start in his new job (and yes, Melissa McCarthy was back this week on "Saturday Night Live" for another lampooning). Now, rumors are circulating that the White House has interviewed a possible replacement: Carl Higbie, the Trump family friend who is best known for extolling the benefits of Japanese internment.
At the moment, both Higbie and the Administration are denying that he is under consideration. However, given that the Trump White House leaks like a sieve, and the leaks have often proven correct, that's hardly definitive. It's also not clear what this would mean for Spicer—unemployment, behind the scenes work, sharing press conference duty, or some other arrangement. However, if the goal is to avoid negative headlines and brutal satire on SNL, it would be hard to imagine a less promising choice than Higbie. (Z)
Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump said that the border wall with Mexico would cost $12 billion. Reuters reported on Thursday that the Dept. of Homeland Security believes it will cost $22 billion, which is more in line with other estimates, and possibly even on the low side. Yesterday, Trump tweeted that once he gets involved with the negotiations, the price will come way down. He didn't explain how that could happen.
As with nearly all government contracts, if Congress authorizes building the wall, it will go out for competitive bidding. The president doesn't negotiate with individual companies about contracts. It is common that the low bid is accepted in competitive bidding situations, but the potential problems are (1) the low bid is completely unrealistic and there are huge cost overruns once construction starts and (2) the low bidder planned to do a shoddy and cheap job from the get go, and completes the project on schedule and within budget but builds the wall out of plywood with construction done by undocumented Mexican immigrants. It is very unlikely that Trump's negotiating skills will knock the price down by 50%. (V)
On Inauguration Day, the Trump Administration had an Obama-free version of the White House website ready to go. And now, the various websites run by the Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of newly confirmed HHS Secretary Tom Price, are being made Obamacare-free. For example, healthcare.gov used to say:
The Affordable Care Act put in place comprehensive health insurance reforms that have improved access, affordability, and quality in health care for Americans. Learn about the law, how to get coverage, and how it has helped people across the country.
Now, it says:
Learn more about health insurance coverage.
As we and others have noted many times, neither the administration nor the Republican Party has their Obamacare replacement ready to go. At very least, however, they can limit the number of additional people who get invested in the program. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb10 Price Approved as HHS Secretary
Feb10 Trump Talks to Xi
Feb10 Former Director of National Intelligence Opposes Travel Ban
Feb10 Trump Attacks Blumenthal over Judge's Remarks
Feb10 Conway Violated Ethics Law When Telling People to Buy Ivanka's Stuff
Feb10 Chaffetz Faces Tough Crowd at Town Hall
Feb10 Results of 2018 Election Could Depend on Trump's Approval Rating
Feb10 Judge James Robart Is in the News
Feb09 Trump Attacks Nordstrom for Dropping Ivanka's Clothing Line
Feb09 Gorsuch Says Trump's Attacks on Judiciary Are "Demoralizing"
Feb09 Senate Confirms Sessions
Feb09 Puzder: At One Time, 40% of My Employees Were Undocumented Immigrants
Feb09 An Early Look Inside the Trump White House
Feb09 Is Spicer in Trouble?
Feb09 Evangelical Leaders Slam Travel Ban
Feb09 Bobby Kennedy's Son Will Run for Governor of Illinois
Feb08 Pence Breaks Tie to Confirm DeVos
Feb08 Things Get Snippy in the Senate
Feb08 Judges Hear Travel Ban Injunction Arguments
Feb08 House Committee Votes to Kill Agency that Protects Voting Machines from Hacking
Feb08 Trump Lies About Murder Rates
Feb08 Breitbart News Is More Popular than Many Mainstream News Outlets
Feb08 Congress Has the Power to Demand and Release Trump's Tax Returns
Feb07 Democratic Politicians Are Listening to Their Furious Base
Feb07 Democrats Talked All Night To Stop DeVos
Feb07 All Protests, All The Time
Feb07 Price Could Eviscerate the ACA as Early as This Week
Feb07 Puzder Employed Undocumented Worker
Feb07 Author of "Torture is OK" Memos Thinks Trump Has Exceeded His Authority
Feb07 Conway Did Not Misspeak
Feb07 Politics Will Only Get Worse
Feb07 Taxpayers Pay Nearly $100,000 for Eric Trump's Business Trip
Feb06 The Senate Is Completely Broken
Feb06 Republicans Denounce Trump for Defending Putin
Feb06 McConnell: Congress Won't Get Involved with Trump Travel Ban
Feb06 Tech Companies Attack Travel Ban
Feb06 Trump Looms Large Over Super Bowl
Feb06 Republicans Are Already Undoing Obama's Legacy in Four Areas
Feb06 Bad News, Good News for Obamacare
Feb06 Pence Will Lead the Vote-fraud Commission
Feb06 Could Supreme Court Nominations Be Made Less Contentious?
Feb06 SNL Skewers Spicer
Feb05 Trump Attacks "So-called" Judge
Feb05 Ninth Circuit Court Upholds Robart's Order
Feb05 Trump Using Obama as a Crutch
Feb05 Is Trump More Popular than the Polls Show?
Feb05 CNN to Conway: Thanks, but no Thanks
Feb05 Congress Begins to Feel Left Out
Feb05 French Presidential Candidate Macron Welcomes Americans to France