What Happened? (to my blog)

When I started this blog in January of 2016, politics was still fun. The Democrats were in the process of anointing Kween Hillary and the Republican situation resembled the closing scene from Reservoir Dogs. I bought this domain, named it after my neighborhood, and used it as a creative outlet on Sunday afternoons to write whatever came to mind, whether it was amateur punditry or long form dad jokes

But then, it all came crashing down.

On election night, as I walked home from a viewing party at a polling firm (note: never watch election returns with pollsters again) I thought about this blog. What direction would I take it? Would I write my own Democratic Autopsy? Would I wallow in gallows humor and write faux Onion headlines every time Trump did something un-presidential? (Little did I know they’d write themselves).

In the end, I would do none of the above. Over the next 12 months I started and abandoned more posts than your cousin Anthony who is always telling you that this project is the one that will make him millions. I would stare at this cursed blinking cursor and think, “What is the point?”

See, during the election, even though everything that occurred was borderline insane, the general rules of politics still somewhat applied. I could write about what Bernie’s attacks meant for Hillary and it was possible I could be right. I could muse about the future of the Republican party or vent about their absent dissent and it was possible things could turn around.

Now though, with Trump in the Oval Office taking a metaphorical dump on every custom, rite, and moral obligation of the office, I find myself with a chronic case of terminal writer’s block.

Why even bother writing about the insanity of something as banal as the president having not held a solo press conference in over a year when it’s been less than two weeks since we found out his lawyer paid a porn star $130,000 weeks before the election to cover up an affair he had while his wife was with his newborn son and yet the story has disappeared like an untethered umbrella in a hurricane.

I mean holy jumping jacks. Obama’s tan suit garnered more outrage from couches at Fox News than that story did on all three networks combined!

Why even bother writing about how the rollout of the “infrastructure package” has become an inside-the-beltway running joke when during the same week Trump used a school shooting where 17 students were murdered in their classrooms to blast the FBI over their Russia investigation and then proceeded to not only only spend less than 15 minutes with victims at a hospital, but made a picture of himself smiling with them and giving a thumbs up his Twitter banner and no-one batted an eye.

Each of those first stories are something I would have whisked up 700 words in a heartbeat on were it about President Clinton or President (–insert generic Republican–). “What are the merits of shielding your boss from the press?” “Does a nationwide tour with landmark speeches in ‘real America’ really help sell a spending package to Congress?” Discuss.

But hush money to porn stars? Using dead school children as a political axe against the FBI? I need a drink,  not a keyboard.

The English language only has so many words. Unprecedented. Insane. Arrogant. Unqualified. Embarrassing. Disgusting. Shocking. Dangerous.

When those words are peppered throughout every op-ed, every editorial page, every Congressional tweet, even every non-biased news article, they lose their meaning.

How many more times can I open the Outlook Section of the Sunday Washington Post and suffer through another thousand words about how the previous week was the craziest week ever recorded?

I can barely muster a halfhearted “Yeah, crazy, huh?” to my co-workers in response to the daily push notifications revealing the latest episode of Veep  White House scandal, much less sit down and try and process what it means.

I sincerely hope this Trump thing is nothing more than a two century old nation having a teenage rebellion crisis. That maybe we’ll stop at dyeing our hair pink and wise up before going for the neck tattoo.

I know while reading this that a handful of you in The Resistance will be thinking that silence and acceptance will further normalize it all and that in fact continually calling it like it is will someday make a difference.  In a way, I agree with you. To ignore it all would be to cede that “politics” is lost and “Trumpism” is a new normal. But when porn star hush money can’t crack the news cycle, what can?

Trump is exhausting.

As The Intercept’s James Risen recently put it, the problem with Trump is that he is too transparent. He is so obviously in over his head. He is so obviously a scumbag, a blowhard, a closet-racist, and a lifetime con-artist, that when you take the time to make the case people look at you like, “Did you really need 2,000 words to tell me that water is wet?”

There is no nuance to him, no second layer of the onion.  There will never be any thought pieces about what in his life motivated his passion for criminal justice reform. No interviews with careful analysis on how to balance civil liberties with national security.  No speech he will ever give will leave anyone in tears. Nothing.

As an amateur writer and weekend blogger, I’m not getting paid for my thoughts. My motivation is purely driven by the events of the week and my passion for what I’m writing about. I don’t have a desk and a research team and ten hours a day of dedicated writing time. I don’t have a morning production meeting to formulate ideas and flesh out new angles.

I just have this laptop with an increasingly shorter battery life, a fantastic chair (shout out to West Elm), and whatever time on Sundays I think is better spent in that chair with that laptop than on a golf course.

How do you continue to play a game when a garbage truck just ran over your ball? How do you make yourself heard when every sentence feels like whispering into a jet engine? How do you make sense of three different 1,000 piece puzzles all titled “Blue Sky” handed to you in the same box?

If anyone has any sage advice, I’m all ears.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

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The Never-Ending Primary

I haven’t written anything in a while, so quick shout out to Donna Brazile for making words flow my keyboard and steam stream from my ears.

Early today I was at my desk having a perfectly fine Thursday during Infrastructure Week, err, excuse me, Tax Reform Day, and I start seeing all this chatter about Donna Brazile “smashing” and “taking down” Hillary Clinton.

What in good name of Joe Biden just happened.

Well, here is what happened. For some unknown – actually we do know – reason, Donna Brazile, a lifelong Democrat and former interim DNC chair decided that today would be an excellent day to publish a portion of her book on Politico about how the DNC and the Clinton campaign shared finances well before Hillary became the nominee.

She wrote about how the whole system was rigged and it wasn’t fair to poor Bernie “Not a Democrat” Sanders and how she cried when telling Bernie Sanders that the DNC and Hillary for America shared finances.

Give me a f*cking break.  Donna Brazile cried because Hillary had an unfair advantage during the primary? Is this same Donna Brazile who gave Hillary’s campaign debate questions ahead of debates against Bernie Sanders during the primary?

As the kids would say, I’m woke to your bullshit, Donna.

So how did this turn out? Wonderfully, as you can surely imagine.

Instead of talking about how the Republican’s are attempting to add $1.5 trillion to the national deficit, or how not one, not two, but three of Trump’s campaign advisors are facing federal charges, or how Jeff Sessions appears to have lied in front of Congress again, or ho… oh you get the point.

Instead of doing any of those things, we instead are talking about Elizabeth Warren going on Jake Tapper and flatly saying that the Democratic primary was rigged. We have Trump tweeting about money laundering (yes, he’s an idiot and that’s wrong, but what whatever) and Democratic collusion.  We have an event that ended nearly a year and half ago as the top story in the news.

Meanwhile, this welcome distraction will help Republican’s whip votes for a bill that asks college students to fork over nearly $50 billion in lost tax credits while corporations get a $1.4 trillion break.

All because Donna Brazile decided today was a good day to make up for hurting Bernie’s feelings nearly two year ago.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Picture credit: ABC News

Single Payer, Multiple Problems.

Gillibrand. Booker. Harris. Warren. Sanders. What do those names have in common?

Well, two things actually.  First, they are all of the Democratic senators with presidential aspirations. Second, they are all cosponsors of a recently proposed bill to create Medicare for all single-payer healthcare.

That list alone should tell you about the realistic possibilities of this proposal. If there were a bill on the other side of the aisle on a Republican pet issue sponsored by Cruz, Rubio, Paul, Graham, and Cotton, do you think Democrats would be willing to work with them to pass it?

The Sander’s bill operates under the assumption that healthcare is a right not a privilege, which is the absolute correct opinion – in my opinion.  Because this bill views it as a right, it eliminates the for profit insurance industry in favor of a government system that sets premiums based on health care costs, not health care costs, + overhead + profit + risk + shareholder concerns.  People wouldn’t have to worry about doctors being in network or preexisting conditions or anything. You get sick, you get taken care of.

Sounds wonderful, right?  But the bill has no chance of passing, so why is Sanders forcing the issue right now?

The Democrats just fought a seven year battle over the Affordable Care Act. When it passed in 2010, it was the biggest shake-up of the American healthcare system since the 1960’s and the politics of it cost Democrats the House in the following election.  They then spent the next six years listening to Republicans promise to repeal and replace it if they were to gain power.

Then Republicans caught the car.

With both houses of Congress and the White House under the Republican flag, push came to shove and the Republicans choked.  After promising their ideal version of healthcare to the American people for the better part of a decade, the Republicans couldn’t agree as a caucus on the path forward and had to throw in the towel and let the ACA stand.

While it is too early to judge if this will cost them House seats – remember, nothing matters anymore – it is hugely embarrassing and an enormous hit to their credibility.

So why then, in the minority, are the Democrats setting foot down the same path?  They just narrowly defended the ACA and by proposing a new bill are not only moving the goal posts, but conceding that the ACA isn’t the healthcare system they’d prefer.

I know that some out there – hi @PodSaveAmerica – would argue that even if the bill doesn’t pass that providing healthcare for all should be the Democratic position and this bill should be the conversation starter moving forward.

No, wrong, false, dumb.

By introducing this bill in this political climate, it is automatically polarized to the extreme. Not only is the idea toxic to Republicans, but Sanders is forcing Democratic senators to publicly comment and stake out a position on something that is divisive and  unrealistic.

In an effort to take back the Senate – and maybe the House? – why are you forcing Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp to talk about single payer when their constituencies barely even tolerate their support of the ACA?

I don’t think that the two caucuses need to operate as cohesive blocs at all times or that every vote needs to be a party line decision, but in today’s nationalized political environment elected officials live and die as a team much more than they used to.

If he were a true team player, Sanders would have never introduced this into the conversation under these circumstances.  Then again, he’s only ever paid attention to a constituency of one.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Picture credit: Getty Images

The American Legion of Liars

Donald Trump got what he wanted. Thanks to a media that covers politics with the same objective analysis as the sports section during a playoff run, everyone across the country heard the narrative that the most important thing that happened in Washington this week was that the Republicans “got a win.”

No, that mass of mental midgets did not get a “win.”  What they did was display horrifying neglect of duty in rushing to pass a bill that would do irreparable harm to millions and millions of people across the country.

What the stampede of simpletons in the lower chamber did this week flies in the face of everything I have ever believed about what elected leaders are supposed to do. Beyond just the merits of the legislation, the callousness and recklessness with which they rushed through legislation would up-end 1/6 of our economy was outrageous, egregious and preposterous.

And the best – I shouldn’t say “best” because there is nothing good here – part is that the people who will be hurt worst by this abomination are the very people who elected this cohort of clowns. The bill allows states to seek waivers to no longer protect those with pre-existing conditions. You know who won’t seek those waivers? Democratic governors who don’t want to see their people suffer. You know who will? Republican governors like Scott Walker who already said he’d probably use it (Hey Paul Ryan, guess what state that is).

Call me a smug liberal if you want, but I’m smart enough not to vote for someone who campaigns on taking away a benefit that I rely on.

As the horde of hee-haws were pushing yay at their desks, staff were carting palates of Bud Light covered in black tarps through the Capitol. But they couldn’t even do that right as the genius they tasked with this mission left one corner uncovered for all the world to spy the signature blue and white box of “Up for Whatever.” Symbolism.

Though let’s be fair. The beer, I’m sure, was to celebrate granting insurance to millions for the first time. Or maybe it was that those born with ailments could finally get coverage. Or maybe it was their provision to ban life-time limits and out of pocket expenses for people that suffer catastrophic injuries. Or maybe it was confirming their belief that the character of this country is defined by the fact that no one should go bankrupt because of an illness or injury.

Oh shit, sorry, those are all the things in the Affordable Care Act they’re trying to end. Silly me.

As Dan Pfeiffer said on “Pod Save America” his week, if Republicans came out and made a case that they want to return the healthcare industry to the free market and that government has no place directing a private marketplace, then at least they would be making an intellectually honest argument about why they’re doing this.

Instead, this legion of liars are blanketing the talk shows spreading some of the most bald faced “alternative facts” I’ve ever witnessed in politics.

Kevin McCarthy talked of expanding coverage despite a CBO score on a similar bill that says 24 million fewer people would have coverage. Paul Ryan’s communications director said this bill had been scored twice, despite the fact that the previous two scores were for entirely different bills.  This is like saying your car is doesn’t need the state inspection because you had the emissions tested 2 years ago.

And finally, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers wrote an op-ed about how her son’s pre-existing condition led her to vote for this bill. But given that this bill weakens protections for people like him, there must be something she knows that we don’t.

Oh, that’s right, Republicans made sure the law didn’t apply to Members of Congress, their families, or staff.

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Picture credit: Twitter

The Showdown at Amateur Alley

There is a book that Donald Trump has not read. Yes, I know that could be literally any book, but the one I have in mind is called The Showdown at Gucci Gulch.  It is the riveting story of how the last major tax reform was passed in 1986.

The 30 second summary is this: House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, Senators Bill Bradley and Bob Packwood, White House Chief of Staff / Treasury Secretary James Baker worked together for years hammering out every detail of every aspect of tax reform. They debated how and if to keep it revenue neutral, how to simplify it, and how to spread the benefits.

By contrast, the Trump Administration talks about overhauling major aspects of the American economy like they are launching a menu item at McDonalds. “Healthcare reform will happen his week.” “Tax reform will be released on Wednesday.”

That is not how this works. That is not how any of this works.

I almost forgive Trump for this naiveté.  He is new to governing, has surrounded himself with no one of any expertise, and is generally not very bright. But Paul Ryan on the other hand – who used to hold the same title as Rep. Rostenkowski – should know better.

Well, he should know better, but as we saw with how he handled Health Care Crash and Burn Episode 1, he is a pretty shitty Speaker.

He not only crafted a bill that couldn’t crack 20% approval, but secured no outside support, made no efforts to secure votes, and gave the world’s worst PowerPoint infomercial on national television.  He had 7 years (that is over 2500 days for those of you keeping track) to craft a replacement to that evil, sinister, job killing Obamacare and instead he basically put the letters “H.R.” in front of a turd and gave it to the House clerk.

Then as if he didn’t learn his lesson, he was back at it this week saying that the GOP has spent a whole four weeks writing an even worse version of their original dumpster fire. Once again, every major national health organization is opposed, no senators have been briefed, and the president is unable to articulate any provisions beyond “it’s very good and very well liked.”

While all of this is going on, Ryan somehow thought it was also a good idea to allow the White House to release an outline of a major tax reform proposal that differs in key ways from the plan Ryan has been salivating over for his entire life. Not to mention how it will make Republicans want to hide those debt clocks they were so fond of under Obama.

Despite being billed as the most powerful city on earth, Washington actually has very little bandwidth for more than one major undertaking at any given time.  Major legislation takes up a ton of energy. The research, the hearings, the lobbying efforts, the scoring and analysis. It is a dance that has all the kinetic energy of an anthill and the organized chaos of a kayak race in a hurricane.

When the Republicans secured both houses of Congress and the White House, most Democrats began digging graves for all their priorities. The rich were about to get tax cuts, the ACA was on its way to the gallows, and social progress was shifting out of drive.  Thankfully, Republicans have chose to govern like a puppy in a dog park that doesn’t know which tennis ball to chase.  So for now, it looks like most liberal accomplishments are safer than we thought.

Back in 1986, Republicans were able to secure major victories like lower top rates in the final tax package despite Democratic control of the House.  They did this through painstaking negotiating, intense cooperation between the Treasury and Congressional leaders, and careful consideration of major stakeholders concerns.

What they didn’t do was announce that it would happen “on Wednesday.”

 

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Picture credit: Associated Press

Empty Suit Gives Empty Speech

Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric and the reviews. Donald Trump said absolutely nothing in his first speech to Congress last night.  Sure, he spoke 57 minutes worth of words – largely on script – but those words told us basically nothing that we didn’t already know.

Republicans across the board are lauding him for his “presidential” performance. Marc Thiessen of the Washington Post said it was the best speech he has even seen – and he helped write two – but what exactly is he basing that off of? Donald Trump read from a teleprompter for an hour straight without leading a “lock her up” chant and only inserted a few extra superlatives and suddenly he’s the oratorical love child of Reagan and Obama?  

Reading a prepared speech without spontaneously combusting is hardly an indication of presidential perfection. In fact, it was the minimum requirement for getting at least a B in my 5th grade oral presentation project.

Look at what else the Republicans are congratulating him for, like the standing ovation for a Navy SEAL’s widow. That was an incredibly touching and heartbreaking moment. But let’s not pretend that happened in a vacuum. Since Ryan Owen’s death during a raid in Yemen, Trump has blamed Obama, “the generals”, other Navy Seals, bad intelligence, and the Ghost of Christmas Past for his death. Less than 24 hours prior to his speech in an interview he deferred responsibility and said “they lost him” as if the Navy SEALs were responsible.

That is despicable behavior for a Commander in Chief of the military.

The ovation Mrs. Owens received was representative of how everyone in this country should treat families of the fallen, but don’t be mistaken in thinking that Louie Gohmert wasn’t voraciously clapping in part to help drown out Trump’s botching of that entire episode.

Style points aside, was there any substance to praise Trump on? I’m glad you asked. In setting up his agenda, he started by highlighting every Breitbart statistic on the Obama Administration and then proceeded to paint the world’s rosiest pic of his agenda. Are you ready for this?

  • He wants to increase and preserve world peace. He also wants to raise military spending by $54 billion and “start winning wars.”
  • He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  He also wants to keep the ban on preexisting conditions, keep subsidies, improve quality of care, lower costs, improve competition, expand marketplaces, let you keep your doctor, and lower pill costs.
  • He wants to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure package. He also wants massive tax breaks for “the middle class.”
  • He wants to welcome all legal immigrants of all kinds.  He also wants a merit based immigration system where we only admit high wage, high skill folks from countries we like.
  • He wants clean air, safe water, and environmental preservation.  He also says for every new regulation, you must repeal two.

He wants a juicy steak, but it must also be well done.  Certain things in life are just not possible.  

Republicans won’t pass a program that assists blind, wheelchair bound grandmothers get groceries without a pay-for, so does Trump really think they’ll drop $1 trillion AND cut the tax base further? How are you going to improve world peace while “winning wars” at the same time?

My brain is in more knots than a rope at Boy Scout camp trying to figure this one out.

And finally, let’s not forget… Trump boldly claimed that he was going to create “millions of new jobs” and bring dying industries “roaring back.” While I wish him every bit of luck in improving the lives of people in the forgotten regions of this country, that is an outrageously bold claim in a world where there are more solar energy jobs than coal mining jobs and robots (not trade) are permanently ending manufacturing jobs.

All during the campaign, half of the media would scream “Trump turned a corner!” each time he gave a speech without offending another country, and the half would mutter “you idiots, just wait a week.” The latter proved to be correct more times than not.

The Donald as president is no different. So what that he read from a teleprompter and said he supported a strong America. Every policy prescription was vague, if not contradictory, and most were dead on arrival even with Republican majorities in Congress.

This is still the same Trump who signed the Muslim ban, made a moral equivalency argument between the US and Russia, and called a major news network “FAKE NEWS” every chance he got. For those who think Trump became a new man yesterday, please come talk to me next time he tweets a conspiracy theory at 7 am.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Picture credit: Cox Media

Sing it, Mr. President.

Every president has their moment.  For John F. Kennedy it came early, on the steps of the Capitol delivering his inaugural address. For George W. Bush it came through tragedy, finding him atop a smoldering pile of twisted steel in New York City with a bullhorn in his hands.

For Barack Obama, that moment found him in an arena in Charleston, South Carolina, surrounded by a solemn black clergy draped in purple robes when he paused, and we heard it:

“A-a-a-ma-a-a-zing-g-g grace-e-e….”

A preacher behind the president stood up so quickly you’d think he had sat on a tack. A voice from off camera shouted “Sing it, my president!” And this young man a thousand miles away felt a heat wave hit his cheeks as condensation slowly released itself from his eyes. 

As he’ll tell you himself, Barack Obama gave far too many national addresses following mass shootings to the point that he admitted he had run out of ways to describe tragedy.  So in that respect, another eulogy was nothing new. We had even seen the president become emotional before, when tears raced down his cheeks while he read the names of slain six year-olds after Newtown.

But there was something different about this day. Here was our nation’s first black president standing among a black congregation, addressing an audience of thousands of black mourners coping with a crime perpetrated by a young white man who told police he committed the act with malice and hate in the muscle where his heart should have been for those born of a different skin color.

This was a moment only Barack Obama could have embraced.

He spoke with a steady, deliberate conviction, reaching deep to bare his soul to the country as a man of god and thus delivering to us a brother, not a president. His freight train like momentum propelled him to reach poignant peaks and touch stoic valleys. His poise, posture, and buttery baritone demonstrated to all that never in a million years would hate triumph of the power of love, faith, and family.

As a white male born in the shadow of the nations capital, I won’t ever be able to understand what President Obama was feeling that morning as looked himself in the mirror while perfecting the dimple in his soft blue tie.  But each time I have watched that speech – a number I won’t reveal – I have felt my eyes well-up, my throat tighten, and my head slowly bob in approval.

President Obama knows the power of his words and how to harness the energy of his audience. When he leaves the teleprompter behind and starts hitting each line with the cadence of a drumline and John Williams-esque crescendo it’s impossible to look away. During the campaign I so often found myself glued to the screen as he giddily chided Donald Trump that my coworkers came to saying I’d “gone to church” when they’d notice a prolonged pause in the clicking from my keyboard.

Like a Marvel character who wakes up to find they have super-strength, Barack Obama has used his powers for good.

Symbols and moments matter.  It is why we fly flags at half-staff or why police wear a badge and not jeans. No flag will ever bring back a national hero, and no uniform will ever catch a robber, but they serve as public markers for respect, law, and order.  Much in this way, President Obama’s forty minute confessional that fateful day in Charleston served as an instrument of healing.  

Just imagine for a second the aftermath of Charleston without President Obama.

Imagine another mass shooting gone unanswered, but this time with the spectre of our nation’s dark racial history looming large.  Imagine another terse eulogy, one that didn’t end in the most powerful man in the nation opening himself up to mockery by singing off key on national television. Imagine another cookie-cutter press release mourning the loss of “fill in the blank” souls, instead of the symbol of freedom discussing the history of the oppressed.

If you think history would have arced the same, tell that to the audience members whose cheeks could have ended a drought that day, or to the preacher who, sitting with his eyes closed, repeated “preach it, my president” like a metronome throughout the address.

Living across a vast and diverse land we often don’t have the ability to meet our fellow citizen, to worship with them, to laugh or cry with them, or to share with them our inner most fears and dreams. Instead it is moments like this, where sitting at home or at the office we can each identify with the feelings of the only man in our country who speaks from behind that great seal.

That day, standing among mourning members of a shaken community, the president reminded us of the type of man he is.  He chose forgiveness and fortitude over vengeance and vitriol. He showed us the power of humility and grace.

He showed us why we’re going to miss him.

Thanks, Obama.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Picture credit: AP