If there’s one issue that can define the last decade of American politics, it is healthcare. After an historic election victory in 2008, Barack Obama pushed through a massive reorganization of the country’s health insurance system as his top domestic priority, even as the country was still in the depths of the financial crisis. In 2010, Republicans gained an astounding 63 seats in the House of Representatives thanks to the backlash against that law. In 2012, though jobs and the economy were nominally the most important issue, the presidential race was largely framed by Obama’s championing of the ACA and the GOP nominee’s repudiation of his own Romneycare. Four years later, popular confusion about the effects and impact of Obamacare allowed Donald Trump to muddy the waters. Trump promised something no other Republican could (because it was a lie)—better, cheaper healthcare that covered everyone. He also pledged not to cut Social Security or Medicare. Then, after the election, the Trump administration’s primary policy push was an ACA repeal effort which famously came up just one vote short in the Senate.
Now, as we approach the 2018 midterms, healthcare as it at the center of our politics yet again. You wouldn’t know it from listening to the president, his press secretary, or the media who cover them. In that world, the midterms are about whatever emerges from the frayed psyche of our commander in chief after six hours of watching cable news in the presidential residence. But out on the campaign trail, healthcare is dominating the conversation. Democratic congressional candidates are rightly talking about Republicans’ votes for the AHCA, the 2017 bill that if enacted would have eliminated the individual mandate and stripped away protections for people with preexisting conditions. Surprisingly, though, Republicans are talking about healthcare, too. And they sound an awful lot like Democrats in doing so. Continue reading →
It’s not just the man at the top. Self-preservation by any means is now the organizing principle of the entire Republican Party. It’s not limited government. It’s not personal responsibility. It’s certainly not the projection of strength abroad. It’s not even conservative values. No, today’s Republican Party is solely devoted to saying and doing anything to sustain itself and those within its narrow band of protection. If nothing else, the past few months of dizzying contortions by congressional Republicans and conservative media have shown us that. Because the arguments the GOP uses to attack Democrats and defend Donald Trump are now routinely made with the thinnest veneer of truth and in explicit bad faith.
The original sin of the 2016 election, the fundamental rot that allowed a conspiratorial, vulgar ignoramus to ascend to the presidency of the United States of America, was the free-flowing “earned” media pumping life into the primary campaign of Donald J. Trump. A New York Timesreport from March 2016, nearly three months before he had secured enough delegates to be anointed the presumptive GOP nominee, cited an analysis by MediaQuant that Trump had received nearly $2 billion worth of free media coverage by that point in the campaign. By the end of the 2016 election, Trump successfully rode $4.96 billion in earned media all the way to the White House. Earned media, of course, is the sanitized press euphemism for the irresponsible fascination the press had with the Trump campaign. Donald Trump was substance free, but content filled. And the media took the bait.
Trump’s transition from candidate to president-elect prompted some mild recriminations within the industry. That introspection and Trump’s changing role have prompted some positive changes. The media is far more willing to label Trump’s dissembling as the lies that they are, although perhaps not sufficiently so. The tenor of interviews with administration officials has been admirably tough. And thankfully, cable news networks are no longer just airing whole Trump rallies live, as they frequently did in late 2015 and early 2016.
Yet, Trump has maintained his deft touch for manipulating the media and muddying the waters. In doing so, he has solidified his approval rating and given congressional Republicans an increasingly positive, though still challenging, outlook for November. That’s because for all their hard-hitting Trump journalism, the media has not taken a single step in remedying the most pervasive deficiency in their coverage of a fundamentally dishonest and disorganized politician: It’s not whether you cover a story, but how you cover it and for how long. Continue reading →
There are a lot of ways to lie. That was the upshot from Thursday’s dramatic Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, where former FBI Director James Comey spent the better part of three hours recounting the latest chapter in the 1960s political thriller that is our ongoing national nightmare. The hearing uncovered new ground when Comey described President Donald Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Michael Flynn investigation and implied that there was a greater scope to the underlying Russia investigation than previously thought. It also exhibited the many flavors of falsehoods.
The tutorial began the day before the hearing, when the Intelligence Committee prematurely released Director Comey’s written testimony. That seven-page submission detailed presidential intimidation in a dramatic first-person chronology of dinners and telephone calls between a wooing President Trump and a reluctant Comey. The testimony described a series of efforts by Trump as both president-elect and president to pressure the then FBI Director into engaging in deceit in its subtlest form—lying by omission. Continue reading →