On Wednesday, the 335th day of his presidency, Donald J. Trump did something most extraordinary and uncharacteristic. He told the truth.
The president, celebrating his $1.5 trillion tax cut with fellow Republicans at the South Portico of the White House, was midway through his remarks when he veered sharply off message.
“I shouldn’t say this,” Trump said, “but we essentially repealed Obamacare.”
No, he probably shouldn’t have said it. But it’s true. Republicans, in rushing the tax bill to passage, kept fairly quiet about the fact that they were killing the “individual mandate” and thereby removing the engine that made the Affordable Care Act work. In doing so, they threw the health-care system into chaos without offering any remedy. And Trump just claimed paternity of the destruction.
Trump, in a Cabinet meeting earlier Wednesday, let his fleeting encounter with honesty get the better of him when he read aloud the stage directions that called for Republicans not to advertise that they were killing Obamacare. “Obamacare has been repealed in this bill. We didn’t want to bring it up,” he said. “I told people specifically, ‘Be quiet with the fake-news media because I don’t want them talking too much about it.’ Because I didn’t know how people would —.” Trump didn’t finish that thought, but he said he could admit what had been done “now that it’s approved.”
With those admissions now on tape, Trump has officially claimed full ownership of the health-care system for himself and fellow Republicans. Whatever it is now — or isn’t — is Trumpcare.
The Washington Post
By Eugene Robinson
Image courtesy of Jacquelyn Martin/AP
The presidency was never meant to be a profit center for a nepotistic, money-grubbing family. But that was before the Trumps moved in.
This scandal is lying in plain sight, overlooked because of the constant stream of missteps, outrages and distractions that come and go at an exhausting pace. While everyone watches his Twitter feed, President Trump is using the White House like a marketing agency for his family brand. This is not normal or acceptable — and it surely isn’t what laid-off factory workers and coal miners had in mind when they jumped on the “populist” Trump train.
Last week, Ivanka Trump opened a retail store inside Trump Tower, her father’s New York skyscraper, to sell her eponymous foreign-made handbags and other items. We can now finally dispense with the notion that she is an “unpaid” adviser to the president.
It’s not a very big store — more of a glorified kiosk, really — but the conflict of interest is obvious. She and her husband, Jared Kushner, are in positions where they can influence U.S. policy toward the countries where her products are made, such as China, Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh. The store is located where it can siphon money from Trump-supporting tourists who make pilgrimages to Trump Tower while visiting the sights of Manhattan.
This is just the latest example of how the Trump family is seeking to monetize the presidency. We haven’t seen anything like it since 1977, when Jimmy Carter’s brother started hawking Billy Beer. (President Carter, at least, had the decency to be embarrassed.)
As is the case with other family members, including the president, Ivanka Trump has refused to divest herself of her business interests. Instead, the Trumps and Kushner have put them into trusts — but in a way that provides not even a fig leaf of probity.
Every photo shot during a typical Gen-Xer’s childhood could probably fit in one thick album—a real album, the kind with gold-leaf embossing, “magnetic pages” and misaligned rings.
Now those Gen-Xers are snapping thousands of photos of their (debatably) cute kids on smartphones each year. It’s instant, it’s easy, it’s cheap—no film to buy or develop, no need for space in dusty shoeboxes or drawers.
But the torrent of images flooding devices creates new challenges. How do we manage the data clutter? “It’s a universal problem,” sighed New York-based professional photographer John Dolan. “It’s the unbearable lightness of digital.”
Tech companies have made it simple, and often inexpensive, to shove pics onto cloud servers, turning us all into digital hoarders. But an endless scroll of shame still hides neatly in pockets and purses until we struggle with dwindling smartphone memory or have to flip through countless crummy shots to find the one where everyone is smiling. Wait, no, I was looking for another one. One sec.
Methodically organizing and editing your photo library is a tall task, but it means less scrolling, less used storage and more time enjoying images worthy of attention.
Consider the Hallmark Channel in December.
No, but really.
“I cannot stop watching the Hallmark Channel,” says Mac Cohn, proprietor of a sports website in Ohio. “Usually to unwind I would watch football, but even watching football has become a political thing. The Hallmark Channel has none of that.”
Hallmark, which often seemed to exist just so you had something to fold laundry to, is now deep into its biggest annual event — “Countdown to Christmas,” a series of several dozen fresh-from-the-oven seasonal made-for-TV movies. And it is an event.
“The Christmas Train” — with a plot that is vaguely “Murder on the Orient Express,” if one replaces “murder” with “festive spirit” — reached 4.9 million viewers when it aired the Saturday after Thanksgiving weekend, the most-watched cable program in the country that day. Meanwhile, the actual “Murder on the Orient Express,” a feature film starring two Oscar winners and several nominees, recently made $10.7 million on its opening day in theaters. Impressive — but divide by roughly $10 a movie ticket, and that means there were five times more people watching Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Dermot Mulroney poke around a mystical polar express on Hallmark than multiplex-goers watching Johnny Depp and Dame Judi Dench.
“The Hallmark movie that is my favorite is ‘A Christmas to Remember,’ ” Cohn continues. “It’s a TV personality — I believe she has a cooking show? — and she needed to get away for the holidays, and she ended up wrecking her car in a snowbank, and she got amnesia. Have you seen it?”
The Washington Post
By Jeff Stein
Image courtesy of Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce America’s deficit.
“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show. “… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”
Ryan said that he believes he has begun convincing President Trump in their private conversations about the need to rein in Medicare, the federal health program that primarily insures the elderly. As a candidate, Trump vowed not to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. (Ryan also suggested congressional Republicans were unlikely to try changing Social Security, because the rules of the Senate forbid changes to the program through reconciliation — the procedure the Senate can use to pass legislation with only 50 votes.)
Bloomberg Politics has just published a remarkable interview with the Russian lawyer who famously met with President Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign chairman at Trump Tower in June 2016. There are a number of lingering questions about the account, and healthy skepticism about the messenger and her message is certainly warranted.
However, this is a notable moment, because it would appear to constitute a direct allegation that Donald Trump Jr. actively requested Russian assistance in harming Hillary Clinton, as opposed to having been merely receptive to such assistance.
The Bloomberg reporters interviewed the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in Moscow for 2½ hours. She claims that Donald Trump Jr. — who attended the meeting with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort — said that if Trump won, he’d be open to pushing for changes to a U.S. law that targets Russian officials. That is interesting, because it alleges that Donald Trump Jr. offered to be more friendly with Russia in exchange for potential assistance with the campaign. But there’s also this:
Veselnitskaya also said Trump Jr. requested financial documents showing that money that allegedly evaded U.S. taxes had gone to Clinton’s campaign. She didn’t have any and described the 20-minute meeting as a failure.