Month: November 2017

The end of shame

The end of shame

The Washington Post
By Ruth Marcus
Image courtesy of Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

“I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed,” Jonathan Swift observed. That was three centuries ago, so our current, degraded condition has deep historical roots. Yet it feels, more and more, that we are experiencing the end of shame.

Our sad national trajectory has been on display recently with two oddly connected stories: Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore and the tax bill. They share a common thread in President Trump, but their significance goes beyond the president. Trump surely helped fuel the end of shame, but just as surely we were already on that degraded path.

No one who has watched Moore expected that reports of how he allegedly preyed on young girls would provoke shame from the egocentric, already discredited judge. Moore has long proved — with his flagrant disregard for constitutional values, his homophobia and racism — that he is impervious to such feelings.

The open question involved Moore’s true-believing supporters and political allies of convenience: At long last, had they any decency? For some, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and most of his colleagues, the answer has been a welcome yes. Others, most prominently Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) and, inevitably, Trump, have failed what should have been an easy test. To conclude that electing an accused child molester to the Senate is preferable to seating a Democrat is the epitome of shamelessness.

If hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, what does it say, exactly, when our most senior public officials feel no such compunction? What does it mean if we lose Swift’s capacity to wonder at the absence of shame?

 

Mueller might be the one who’s ‘draining the swamp’

The Washington Post
By Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger

President Trump famously promised that, if elected president, he would “drain the swamp” — upending the culture in Washington that favors the well-connected.

It is special counsel Robert S. Mueller III whose work seems to be sending shock waves through the capital, by exposing the lucrative work lobbyists from both parties engage in on behalf of foreign interests.

The Mueller probe has already claimed its first K Street casualty: Tony Podesta. His lobbying firm, the Podesta Group, a Washington icon of power and political influence, notified its employees recently that the enterprise is shutting its doors.

Since Mueller was appointed, more people and firms have either filed or amended registrations that make public their work on behalf of foreign interests than had done so over the same time period in each of at least the past 20 years. Lobbyists, lawyers and public relations professionals who work for foreign companies and governments say Mueller’s probe has spooked K Street, and firms are likely to be more careful in their compliance with public disclosure standards.

The Podesta Group was famous for providing access to Washington power, hosting events for a roster of high-profile domestic and international clients who helped make it one of the city’s most successful lobbying firms. Revenue declined after the 2016 election, but the firm remained a powerhouse.

Tony Podesta, 74, the brother of longtime Democratic adviser and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, resigned on the day Mueller announced charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates.

Republicans turn their irresponsible tax bill into monumentally unwise social policy

Republicans turn their irresponsible tax bill into monumentally unwise social policy

The Washington Post
By Editorial Board
Image courtesy of Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Republican Senators remade their tax bill into an Obamacare repeal bill, announcing Tuesday that they inserted an Obamacare sabotage device into the text. In a stroke, they turned a fiscally irresponsible tax plan into a monumentally unwise piece of social policy that would do much more than widen the deficit. If passed, it would be the most significant health-care shift since the 2010 Affordable Care Act — and in a decidedly negative direction.

The Senate GOP’s new bill would eliminate Obamacare’s “individual mandate,” which requires all Americans to get health coverage if they can afford it. Independent health-care analysts and the Congressional Budget Office, Congress’s official scorekeeper, agree that this move would deeply undercut the Obamacare system. The CBO estimated last week that ending the mandate would lead to 13 million more Americans lacking health-care coverage.

Yet, for Republicans, the coverage loss is not a regrettable side effect of an otherwise sensible policy. It is the point. Fewer people covered means that the federal government would save money that the treasury would have otherwise spent on their health care, such as by helping them buy health insurance or offering them Medicaid — $338 billion over a decade. Republicans want to use that cash to help finance the rest of their tax bill. They could have removed some of the bill’s expensive and unnecessary giveaways to the wealthy, such as its rollback of the estate tax. But they opted instead to raise money by ballooning the ranks of uninsured.

 

Gadsden locals say Moore’s predatory behavior at mall, restaurants not a secret

Gadsden locals say Moore’s predatory behavior at mall, restaurants not a secret

AL.com
By Anna Claire Vollers
Image courtesy of AP Photo/Gadsden Times, Steve Latham

Roy Moore’s penchant for flirting with teen girls was “common knowledge” and “not a big secret” around Gadsden, according to some area residents.

The Senate candidate has denied any wrongdoing in the wake of a report from The Washington Post in which four women accused Moore of inappropriate advances – and in one instance, a sexual encounter – toward them when they were teens and he was in his early 30s.

One of the four women claims she was 14 at the time, making her the only one whose claim would represent a legal violation. Moore has said he never met her. A fifth woman came forward this afternoon.

Moore and other Republican leaders have questioned why it took so long for his accusers, now in their 50s, to come forward publicly.

And yet people who lived in Etowah County during that time have said Moore’s flirting with and dating much younger women and girls was no secret.

Why now.

Why now.

The Washington Post
By Philip Bump
Image courtesy of Cameron Carnes/The Washington Post

There’s been a consistent refrain from those seeking to discredit The Washington Post’s reporting that uncovered a 1979 incident in which Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore allegedly fondled a 14-year-old girl: Why now? Why is it only a month before the election that this story came to light, after being unmentioned for the past 40 years?

Here, for example, is Moore himself making the argument:

“To think grown women would wait 40 years before a general election to bring charges is unbelievable,” he said at an event in Alabama over the weekend. He later added, “Isn’t it strange after 40 years of constant investigation, that people have waited four weeks before a general election to bring their complaint? That’s not a coincidence.”

Of course it’s not a coincidence that the women came forward just as Moore is seeking election to the Senate — but not in the way Moore means.

Moore has been a controversial figure in American politics for some time but mostly at the edges. His fight to preserve a monument to the Ten Commandments in a state building 15 years ago gained him national attention — but not necessarily national importance. Now, he’s seeking election to the Senate, one of 100 people who make up one half of the legislative branch of government. It’s a much more important fight nationally, and, as a result, has attracted much more attention.

There’s a reason that people with skeletons in their closets are loathe to seek elected office: Once they do, the scrutiny that is a natural part of the campaign process threatens to expose those skeletons. This is less true for lower-level elected positions, where there is less media attention and fewer resources. For something like the Senate or the presidency, though, that scrutiny is both intense — and should be expected.

Why now? Because that’s when an important story about a man who is right now seeking election to the Senate was unearthed, researched and vetted. It’s no more complicated than that.

Trump’s real constituency isn’t the white working class at all

Trump’s real constituency isn’t the white working class at all

The Washington Post
By E.J. Dionne Jr.

The focus on President Trump’s political strength among white working-class voters distracts from a truth that may be more important: His rise depended on support from rich conservatives, and his program serves the interests of those who have accumulated enormous wealth.

This explains why so few congressional Republicans denounce him, no matter how close he edges toward autocracy, how much bigotry he spreads — or how often he panders to Vladimir Putin and denounces our own intelligence officials, as he did again this weekend.

The GOP leadership knows Trump is tilting our economy toward people just like him, the objective they care about most.

To borrow from the president, he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and still not lose House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) as long as they have a reactionary tax bill to push into law.

Trump’s willingness to help Republican leaders pay off their largest contributors is the clearest explanation for why they debase themselves through their complicity with him. If you think this is harsh, consider the words of Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.): “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get this done or don’t ever call me again.’ ”

I bet they are.

McConnell calls on Roy Moore to end Senate campaign following accusations of sexual misconduct

McConnell calls on Roy Moore to end Senate campaign following accusations of sexual misconduct

The Washington Post
By Sean Sullivan and Elise Viebeck

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that Republican nominee Roy Moore should end his Senate campaign in Alabama, following allegations that he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32.

“I think he should step aside,” McConnell said. His comments marked the most definitive position he has taken on Moore’s candidacy since The Washington Post reported the allegations on Thursday.

Asked by a reporter whether he believed the allegations, McConnell responded: “I believe the women, yes.”

Although it is too late to remove Moore’s name from the ballot before the Dec. 12 special election, McConnell said he is exploring the option of a write-in campaign by Sen. Luther Strange, whom Moore defeated in the primary, or another Republican.

The Post reported Thursday that Leigh Corfman alleged that Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 and Moore was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. Moore has denied the allegations and has vowed to continue his campaign.