U.S. Government & governance 2017 –

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Eight Political Scientists Who Will Make Sense of 2017
Presidential memoranda vs. executive orders. What’s the difference?
What Trump Can and Can’t Do to Dismantle Obama’s Climate Rules
A Definitive Guide to the G.O.P. Insiders Enabling Donald Trump
From Paul Ryan to John McCain, Sarah Ellison takes a look at the men—
and the motives—that are propping up a Donald Trump presidency.
U.S. Government & governance 2017 – the first six months

 

14 August
Bannon in Limbo as Trump Faces Growing Calls for the Strategist’s Ouster
(NYT) For months, Mr. Trump has considered ousting Stephen K. Bannon, the White House chief strategist and relentless nationalist who ran the Breitbart website and called it a “platform for the alt-right.” Mr. Trump has sent Mr. Bannon to a kind of internal exile, and has not met face-to-face for more than a week with a man who was once a fixture in the Oval Office, according to aides and friends of the president. So far, Mr. Trump has not been able to follow through — a product of his dislike of confrontation, the bonds of a foxhole friendship forged during the 2016 presidential campaign and concerns about what mischief Mr. Bannon might do once he leaves the protective custody of the West Wing.
Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?
(The New Yorker) America’s stability is increasingly an undercurrent in political discourse. Earlier this year, I began a conversation with Keith Mines about America’s turmoil. Mines has spent his career—in the U.S. Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and now the State Department—navigating civil wars in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. He returned to Washington after sixteen years to find conditions that he had seen nurture conflict abroad now visible at home.
Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction: entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.
Trump, Bowing to Pressure, Rebukes White Supremacists
New Outcry as Trump Rebukes Charlottesville Racists 2 Days Later
Even Mr. Trump’s allies worried that his measured remarks, delivered two days after dozens of public figures issued more forceful denunciations of the violence in Virginia, came too late to reverse the self-inflicted damage on his moral standing as president.
Frank Bruni of the NYT sums up the reaction in many media to Trump’s late condemnation of the white supremacists, KKK and others President Trump Cannot Redeem Himself

13 August
Trump aides predicting ‘brutal’ September
Aides hope to use meetings in New York this week to figure out their plans for the debt ceiling, 2018 budget, tax reform, infrastructure spending and perhaps another stab at repealing Obamacare.
(Politico) Their goal is to partially temper Trump’s expectations, hammer out some compromises and get a competing band of aides on the same page. The month has taken on outsize importance among some top aides and outside advisers, who view it as key to getting the presidency on a better track.

12 August
Car Hits Crowd After White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville Ends in Violence
(NYT) The city of Charlottesville was engulfed by violence on Saturday as white nationalists and counterprotesters clashed in one of the bloodiest fights to date over the removal of Confederate monuments across the South.
White nationalists had long planned a demonstration over the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. But the rally quickly exploded into racial taunting, shoving and outright brawling, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency and the National Guard to join the police in clearing the area.
After the rally was dispersed, its organizer, Jason Kessler, who calls himself a “white advocate,” complained in an interview that his group had been “forced into a very chaotic situation.” He added, “The police were supposed to be there protecting us and they stood down.”
Both Mr. Kessler and Richard Spencer, a prominent white nationalist who was to speak on Saturday, are graduates of the University of Virginia. In an online video, titled “a message to Charlottesville,’’ Mr. Spencer vowed to return to the college town.
The violence in Charlottesville was the latest development in a series of tense dramas unfolding across the United States over plans to remove statues and other historical markers of the Confederacy. The battles have been intensified by the election of Mr. Trump, who enjoys fervent support from white nationalists.
Trump’s Remarks on Charlottesville Violence Are Criticized as Insufficient

11 August
The Madman and the Bomb
(Politico) At every step of the way, there’s a hard-and-fast “two-man” rule, to ensure that no one is ever in a situation of having to deciding to detonate a nuclear bomb alone. In the missile silos buried beneath the Great Plains, two missileers must simultaneously turn their keys to launch the missiles—and the keys must be turned in at least two different silos to launch the ICBMs from a missile field. Aboard the submarines, the commanding officer and the executive officer must both concur about a valid launch order, a scenario made famous by the Denzel Washington movie Crimson Tide. In fact, all of our nuclear systems are considered “No Lone Zones,” staffed by two qualified and certified personnel, to guard against accidental or malicious nuclear launches.All of them, except, of course, the president himself.

10 August
In a new poll, half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 election if Trump proposed it
Roughly half of Republicans believe Trump won the popular vote — and would support postponing the 2020 election.

9 August
[The insufferable] Conrad Black: Choose Sides in This Civil War
Trump opponents need to understand what the alternative is.
(National Review) This is a civil war and the apostate conservatives should realize that, if Trump loses, they don’t get a new Reaganism in the Republican party and renewed importance and self-importance for themselves; they get the semi-permanent return of those responsible for the decline of America, the sleazy transformation of America into an ineffectual force in the world and into an inert, economically stagnant welfare state. The choice, for sane conservatives, is Trump or national disaster, and it’s time for my learned friends on the highbrow right to come back to (the troubled American part of) this planet — though I see no sign of its happening.

3 August

Newly sworn-in White House Chief of Staff John Kelly look on during a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 31, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

John Kelly Quickly Moves to Impose Military Discipline on White House
Mr. Trump has never been known to follow anybody’s direction, in Trump Tower or the White House. But Mr. Trump has never encountered anyone quite like Mr. Kelly, a combat veteran whose forceful management style and volatile temper are a match for the president’s.
(NYT) Mr. Kelly cuts off rambling advisers midsentence. He listens in on conversations between cabinet secretaries and the president. He has booted lingering staff members out of high-level meetings, and ordered the doors of the Oval Office closed to discourage strays. He fired Anthony Scaramucci and has demanded that even Mr. Trump’s family, including his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, check with him if they want face time with the president.
He has privately acknowledged that he cannot control the president and that his authority would be undermined if he tried and failed. Instead, he is intent on cosseting Mr. Trump with bureaucratic competence and forcing staff members to keep to their lanes, a challenge in an administration defined by tribal loyalties to power players like Mr. Kushner and Mr. Bannon.
The LA Times reminds us that “Kelly’s history as a Marine commander in the Iraq war is well known. But two other parts of his resume may be more relevant to his new job. He’s spent years as the Marine Corps liaison to Capitol Hill, including a stint as the top legislative assistant to the commandant of the Corps. He also served as senior military assistant to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who, as White House chief of staff two decades ago, brought order to the chaotic first term of President Clinton.”

31 July
Matthew Fisher’s profile is based on his experience of being embedded with General Kelly’s troops
Matthew Fisher: Who is John Kelly, and is he the man for Trump’s impossible mission?
Almost everyone with an opinion on Trump regarded Kelly’s appointment as the president’s right-hand man as a poisoned chalice
Leading ferociously disciplined marines, who famously do what they are told, is a lot different than trying to herd belled cats. We should all wish General Kelly godspeed on his latest journey.

28 July

Priebus forced out as White House chief of staff

(The Hill) President Trump has dismissed Reince Priebus as chief of staff, announcing Friday that he picked Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly as his new top aide.
Priebus is Trump’s embattled top aide who is embroiled in a feud with new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.

(LATimes) The week the wheels fell off in Trump’s Washington

(The Atlantic) Obamacare Survives: The “no” votes of three Republican senators—John McCain, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski—brought down Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan for a “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. The proposal failed by a margin of just one vote, and McCain’s was the biggest surprise: Critics had denounced him for putting partisanship first in a vote to proceed in debate on the legislation yet his final rejection of the measure suggests his loyalties are in fact to process and civility. Now, some Democrats say they’re ready to work on a bipartisan plan for health-care reform. And as Republicans try to move forward from a drawn-out failure, David Frum outlines 10 challenges they’ll face.

(WSJ) House Republicans built their tax plan around a new system for taxing companies, an assumption that hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases in the 2010 Affordable Care Act would be gone already and confidence that the GOP could muscle important legislation through Congress on party-line votes. All three of those pillars collapsed in 12 hours overnight Thursday. The developments bring new urgency to Republicans’ efforts to revamp the U.S. tax system, now the party’s best chance to deliver a major legislative victory before the 2018 midterm election. There are reasons to think a tax overhaul could be easier than health care. But the effort faces tough realities. Richard Rubin reports.

27 July
Paul Waldman: Incredibly, the White House is spiraling even further into chaos
(WaPost) Most of Trump’s agenda is stalled, half the key jobs are vacant, senior officials can’t wait to get out of town, and everybody’s leaking to the press about what a mess it all is. This is one fine-tuned machine all right.
Let’s begin with the Trump administration’s new media superstar, communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Despite having no experience in politics or press relations, Scaramucci was hired because President Trump saw him on cable TV, and he is indeed a perfect creature of that medium: not well-informed, but absolutely confident in everything he says

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