Monday, March 6, 2017
At some points words fail, or they are starting to fail me. We have an Administration in freefall. Have we passed through the circle of chaos? Are we at the circle of havoc?
The real Donald Trump has stood up, once again. Let no one ever be fooled. Let there be no doubt. The man who sends out a twitter tirade accusing a former President of crimes for which he provides no evidence, the man who doubles down when everyone with any sense pushes back, that man is our Commander in Chief. Every one who normalizes Mr. Trump now, or has in the past, will have to answer to future generations for their acquiescence, silence or sophistry—if, indeed, not outright cowardice.
How hollow do all those pundit plaudits (including from many progressives) sound now for an average and disingenuous speech of someone else's words read from a teleprompter to Congress and the nation a week ago? A "presidential" Trump is a punchline to a joke no one wants to have told. Conspiracy theories are corrosive in society at large. When they dictate national policy, they can be lethal.
This is a man who challenged the citizenship of President Obama, with lies, innuendo, and no evidence. This is a man who claimed widespread voter fraud with lies, innuendo, and no evidence. This is a man who has taken a rhetorical blowtorch to our Constitutional principles with lies, innuendo, and no evidence. Those who rose in Congress to applaud his turns of phrase bear responsibility. Those who cynically use his presidency to push forward unpopular giveaways to the rich and well connected bear responsibility. Those in the press who meet insults with explanations bear responsibility.
Even the most grounded of presidents must fight to keep themselves moored to the real world. The Oval Office can be a bubble. Power attracts sycophants and cynics. But I have never seen anything like this. The sheer level of paranoia that is radiating out of the White House is untenable to the workings of a republic. I have a real question if President Trump actually believes what he is saying. Even Richard Nixon, the most paranoid president to date, ruled for years with a relatively calm hand. This Administration has been an off kilter whirlwind since the inauguration, and news reports suggest that seething anger from Mr. Trump is only getting worse. There is a growing consensus that the President may be "unhinged." It's a serious allegation, but even if it is not the case, Mr. Trump only has himself to blame.
To call a drama Shakespearean or operatic is usually an overreach. But I imagine artists of the future, and even the present, will find ample inspiration in our moment in history. Doesn't Steve Bannon strike you as an Iago whispering in the ear of an Othello-like Trump, consumed by jealousy and paranoia?
As the questions mount around Russia, as the circles of defense begin to falter, the determination to create diversions will escalate. But if the President hoped he could create a distraction, I think he misjudged the will of the American people. We have woken. We are paying attention. And we love our country too much to let it falter without a fight.
Friday, February 3, 2017
Give CNN credit for the best political television idea in many months: The debate next Tuesday night between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) over ObamaCare and the future of healthcare.
As every reader knows, including honest Republican readers, the GOP has a huge problem repealing and replacing ObamaCare. Ever since President Trump was elected, as talk of repealing ObamaCare became high voltage, the popularity of ObamaCare has gone up in poll after poll, and the number of new signups for ObamaCare has risen.
When the Trump White House ordered the federal government to stop running TV ads for Obamacare, that was the ultimate surrender in the battle of ideas over healthcare. Republicans are afraid that too many new customers have been signing up for the ObamaCare they want, while many current ObamaCare enrollees are angry at the GOP for trying to take away the ObamaCare they already have.
When Sanders faces off against Cruz, the result will electrify progressives and bring single-payer healthcare, which Sanders champions, to center-stage in the healthcare debate.
Liberals are thrilled at the prospect of running against TrumpCare, whatever it turns out to be. Cruz will have a tough time defending TrumpCare, or whatever he calls it, and Sanders will paint Cruz correctly as the champion of insurance conglomerates and Big Pharma against customers.
Sanders will take the debate to a whole new level by defending ObamaCare, promoting the public option and going the distance in the debate by advocating and explaining single-payer healthcare — which exists in virtually every democratic nation in the world and is long overdue in America.
What thrills progressives, including yours truly, about Sanders is that he is a policy pure player who pulls no punches and takes no prisoners. By the end of the 2016 presidential campaign, President Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, to their credit, had both joined Sanders and progressives in actively supporting the public option, which should have been included in the original ObamaCare.
Sanders takes the healthcare debate to the ultimate level by defending ObamaCare and supporting the public option, but making the full case for the real healthcare reform deal of single-payer healthcare.
It was no coincidence that throughout last year, of the Sanders worldview versus the Trump worldview, Sanders repeatedly won those polls by landslide margins — a fact every Democrat should remember.
In the Sanders-Cruz debate, will Cruz agree with ObamaCare by vowing that he supports maintaining the good and popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act, maintaining coverage to consumers with preexisting conditions and maintaining coverage of children in their parents' insurance policies?
If so, ObamaCare wins and Sanders has the upper hand in the debate.
If not, how will Cruz defend any potential TrumpCare that would do so much harm to so many Americans?
What will make the Sanders case so powerful and appealing to so many progressives and others on CNN next Tuesday is that, first, he offers the real-deal program of single-payer healthcare; and second, he will argue correctly that those who oppose ObamaCare from the right are doing the work of the lobbyists for insurance companies and Big Pharma.
The brutal fact of healthcare in America is that the reason we don't have the single-payer system found in most democratic nations is that in our government, politicians are limited by the power of the big money that infects our system and the influence peddling against reform that big money buys.
When Sanders make these points, and says that drug prices and insurance premiums are too high and the positions of Cruz and Republicans will make them higher, he will be on the high ground of policy and politics.
When Sanders says our country should join democratic nations around the world and enact single-payer healthcare, and the reason we have not yet done so is that the swamp of special interests in Washington is worse than ever with Trump, he will be making the case that will show Democrats how to win elections in 2018 and 2020.
The GOP has a huge problem with the healthcare issue. There are good reasons that Republicans, no matter how much they attack ObamaCare, have failed to propose even one real alternative throughout the last seven years.
When Bernie Sanders debates Ted Cruz, voters will know why.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.