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‘The Emperor Has No Clothes’: President Trump Is a Return to Reagan-Era Politics and Public Policy

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Trump Will Be as Detached and Disaffected as Reagan, Leaving Policy to His Anti-LGBT, Anti-Women, Anti-Immigrant White Nationalist Team

The election of New York City businessman and reality television personality Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States last week has sent shock waves crashing through the American body politic, as well as globally in the governments of both U.S. allies and opponents. 

While pundits, political experts, commentators and lay persons assess and discuss the implications of Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency, many communities within American society – including women, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, and LGBT people – are in deep grief and despair. These often-minority communities share a state of fear brought about by Trump’s own words in speeches and social media posts during the course of his campaign that appeared to paint targets on them. In fact, his election has seen massive protests in numerous cities across the United States.

There are very concrete concerns that the incoming Trump Administration will declare war on these communities, principally by undoing the last eight years of work by the outgoing Obama administration as telegraphed in statements made by campaign officials and even the President-elect himself.

But one factor needs to be stated clearly given this current atmosphere regarding the President-elect: “The Emperor has no clothes.” Following this line of thought, one may reasonably draw the conclusion that there are direct parallels to the election and later the administration of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980.

Perhaps the main difference between the two men is the fact that while Reagan had served as Governor of California, and had a basic understanding of the machinations of government and its functions as an institution, Trump on the other hand has virtually no experience in governmental affairs or operations. Both men however share the singularly unique trait of detached engagement, preferring to “staff it out,” letting key issues be decided by their underlings and signing off on work product that they have oft times have not been active participants in. During campaigning, they both laid out a broad agenda, heavy on rhetoric, but with little real substance in terms of the direct actions they would take instead leaving those to others – read: staffers & appointees. 

As to almost highlight Trump and his team’s ignorance of governmental operations, The Wall Street Journal noted in a piece Monday that President Barack Obama indicated he will most likely spend more time with the President-elect than has been previously the norm, owing to the latter’s lack of knowledge as to the reality of presidential duties. 

“During their private White House meeting on Thursday, Mr. Obama walked his successor through the duties of running the country, and Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope, said people familiar with the meeting,” the WSJ reported. “Trump aides were described by those people as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term.”

“After meeting with Mr. Trump, the only person to be elected president without having held a government or military position, Mr. Obama realized the Republican needs more guidance. He plans to spend more time with his successor than presidents typically do, people familiar with the matter said.”

The Reagan White House chiefly operated on the principal of delegated or designated authority with minimal presidential influence, interference, or direction, primarily filtered through his two Chiefs of Staff, Jim Baker who was succeeded by Donald Regan. Analysis of the Reagan presidency by political experts and historians over the past 28 years reveals that the Reagan Inner Circle, comprised of close aides, staffers, and what has been termed by historians, his “Kitchen Cabinet,” in many instances were instrumental in establishing the parameters for public policy that President Reagan himself simply signed off on. This was particularly true of domestic policies.

Now, thirty-six years later, Trump has already placed himself in a nearly identical “Reaganesque” scenario, surrounding himself with longtime Republican operatives and Washington insiders – contrary to his oft repeated campaign promises to “Drain the Swamp” of corrupt Washington lobbyist malaise and special interest influences, as his campaign transitions into an incoming presidential administration. Comparatively, as was the case with Reagan before him, Trump initially appears to be more of a figurehead chief executive as opposed to hands on and fully engaged president.

For the critical White House position of Chief of Staff, Trump has selected long time consummate Washington insider, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. This selection of Priebus, recommended by GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan, is seen as widely acceptable to large segments of the Republican Party and its base. Priebus will act as the primary conduit between the White House and the Republican-led Congress, as well as the liaison between Trump and his presidential Cabinet and the independent Federal Agency heads. 

While Trump’s selection of Priebus seems to telegraph a certain acceptance of Washington conventions, his next decision, naming Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, as “chief strategist and senior counselor” to the president, has set off alarms in both the liberal and some of the moderate conservative camps. Bannon’s new position not only makes him one of Trump’s closest advisers with unfettered access to the Oval Office, but indeed one may argue makes him one of the most powerful people in America. 

In a statement released Monday by his office, Oregon Democratic U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley took serious exception regarding Steve Bannon serving in the Trump White House: 

“There should be no sugarcoating the truth here: Donald Trump just invited a white nationalist into the highest reaches of the government. Bannon has boasted that he made Breitbart News ‘the platform for the alt-right,’ which is the politically correct term for the resurrection of white nationalism.

“Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News created news sections such as ‘Black Crime’ and compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. Under his leadership, Breitbart News ran this headline following the massacre of nine church-goers at an African American church in Charleston: ‘Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage.’ He called conservative commentator Bill Kristol a ‘renegade Jew.’ Steve Bannon bears substantial responsibility for the open and disgusting acts of hatred that are sweeping across our nation. 

“After running a campaign built on inciting divisions and hate, Donald Trump has claimed he wants to unite America. Yet he has done nothing meaningful to stop the wave of hate crimes and hate speech he has unleashed, and now has brought that strategy right into the Oval Office. 

“Donald Trump needs to forcefully denounce the hateful actions and efforts to intimidate people that some of his supporters are undertaking and rescind the appointment of Steve Bannon.” 

Judd Legum, the Editor-In-Chief of ThinkProgress, the online publication of Washington D.C. based progressive policy think-tank Center for American Progress, noted that Breitbart “regularly traffics in racially charged accusations about President Obama, provocative comparisons between abortion providers and Holocaust killers, and contempt for feminism.” 

More damning was an observation from former Breitbart Editor-In-Chief Ben Shapiro, who described Bannon as “a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies.”

Jody May-Chang, a progressive journalist and LGBTQI equality rights activist based in Idaho called out the President-elect’s choice, saying:

“’Alt-Right’ is a Politically Correct term they call themselves who are also known for being what we all call White Supremacists, Nazi’s and the Ku Kluz Klan! The people who voted for Trump say they were rejecting political correctness. Well then we should too, in this case particularly.”

Yet the most powerful Republican in the capital, House Speaker Ryan said Sunday evening he had “no concerns” about Bannon taking a prominent role in the White House. 

Trump has already angered social conservatives, Christian family groups, and LGBTQI equality rights opponents and also, according to one source inside his transition team, members of his inner circle with his statement Sunday night given to CBS News’ “60 Minutes” correspondent Leslie Stahl on the subject of same-sex marriage. The President-elect told her regarding the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, “it’s the law of the land.”

“It’s irrelevant because it was already settled. It’s law,” he said. “It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done … these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And – I think – I’m – I’m fine with that.” 

As the protests continue and minority groups debate the full impact of a Trump presidency that includes a divisive figure like Bannon, for the LGBTQI community, the incoming  administration could mean rolling back all of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, which gave measures of protection for the transgender community, required health care providers and hospitals to allow unfettered access to partners and spouses in same-sex relationships, and gave spouses of LGBTQI U.S. military personnel equal treatment with the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.

Also possibly targeted would be the Veteran’s Administration policies in regards to same-sex married couples. Even recent actions by the U.S. Defense Department, in regard to allowing transgender personnel to serve, could come under intense scrutiny and siege.

Major advances for the LGBTQI community would take congressional action to undo and most experts agree are highly unlikely- although not outside the realm of the possibility of the anti-LGBTQI  groups attempting to push the incoming Congress into taking action. The Vice-President-elect, former Indiana Republican Governor Michael Pence, is an outspoken opponent of LGBTQI rights and is seen by some progressive leaders to be the person most likely in the new administration to lead a campaign to undo eight years of progress made by the Obama Administration in support of the LGBTQI community.

One LGBTQI rights activist noted” “If there is any one person who poses the biggest threat to our way of life it is Mike Pence, who wants to erode the separation between church and state, tell women what to do with their bodies, use electroshock on teens to rid them of their gayness, and discourage the use of condoms.”

The other Trump appointment that has riled up LGBTQI people and their allies was the Presidential Transition-Team appointment of former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, currently a visiting Fellow at the Washington D.C. based anti-LGBTQI rights group, Family Research Center. That group has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an active hate group for its blatant disregard for the truth about the LGBTQI community and its penchant for spreading misinformation about LGBTQI persons.

Blackwell, who was appointed Chief Domestic Policy adviser to Trump, said in a 2006 interview with the Columbus Dispatch;

“I think homosexuality is a lifestyle, it’s a choice, and that lifestyle can be changed. The reality is, again … that I think we make choices all the time. And I think you make good choices and bad choices in terms of lifestyle. Our expectation is that one’s genetic makeup might make one more inclined to be an arsonist or might make one more inclined to be a kleptomaniac. Do I think that they can be changed? Yes.” 

Since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell took an Act of Congress, and a reinstatement would require passage of a new law, which almost certainly would be challenged by the LGBTQI community and its allies, but, even the Pentagon itself, thus there is small probability of the anti-LGBTQI forces, including the incoming Vice-President. However, actions taken by Defence Secretary Ash Carter this past June to allow transgender service in the U.S. Military most likely would be reversed.  

The next “safe” advancement for the LGBTQI community was the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Act, passed by Congressional action and signed into law by President Obama. There is little probability that the forces arrayed against the LGBTQI community would attempt repeal, given that the law also covers other minorities.

That said, however, Trump has publicly indicated he would sign the so-called First Amendment Defence Act (FADA), a measure that effectively would allow legalised discrimination against the LGBTQI  community based on religious beliefs. As Governor of Indiana, Pence backed and signed a similar measure and had the backing of virtually every anti-LGBTQI group.

The third issue that has raised the most concern undoubtedly is the ruling in June of 2015 that granted same-sex couples the right to be married. Trump’s statements Sunday have now raised some questions in Washington’s conservative circles as to whether or not he’d support all out efforts to overturn the High Court decision. Legal observers however have pointed out that there are significant obstacles for the right to nullify that ruling.

Backers of a Constitutional Amendment readily agree that it would take years and there is not an iron clad certainty that the necessary 2/3 majority of States to ratify such an amendment would be a reality. The second path, bringing forward another case would be faced with several obstacles, commencing with the current court. Should Trump appoint a social conservative in the same vein as Justice Scalia, it merely would regain the make-up and balance of the SCOTUS as it was at the time of the ruling.

Then too, as current Justices Ginsburg, 83, and Breyer, 79, may leave office and President Trump is able to shift the balance on the court to the right, there are still the logistics of a case making its way up through the lower federal courts. Legal observers say that besides also taking years, given the exhaustive back and forth, the lower courts could likely dismiss challenges, preventing another review by the High Court. 

In short, Obergefell could be overturned, but not immediately.

Other communities are facing adverse actions such as the President-elect’s public statements that he will seek to enforce the mass deportation or incarceration of what he has labeled criminal illegal (undocumented) aliens. House Speaker Ryan was quick to point out that the United States government is not prepared to create a massive federal force to sustain Trump’s deportation agenda although experts are now questioning by which means Trump actually hopes to achieve that goal. On the subject of his campaign promise to build a wall? He now acknowledges that any wall would likely comprise large segments of fencing. 

Overall the focus now by politicos and the media is on his ability to form and run a government, which given his inexperience is looking as though he, like Reagan, will be relying on staff and his appointees who will really run the show. Therein lies the greatest challenge.

 

Brody Levesque is the Chief Political Correspondent for The New Civil Rights Movement.
You may contact Brody at Brody.Levesque@thenewcivilrightsmovement.com

 

 Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

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News

‘Supposed to Be Hard’: Political Experts Explain Their Thinking on Biden and the Election

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Two weeks after the political class’s response to President Joe Biden’s poor debate performance threw the 2024 election into chaos, four political experts share their thinking about where the race actually stands and what Biden’s supporters should do.

“He can’t win right!? They point to the polling right?” wrote political strategist and pollster Cornell Belcher, a frequent NBC News/MSNBC political analyst, linking to a report about the latest polls which show President Biden ahead of Donald Trump. “Well this is the 2nd poll (credible poll) in 2 days showing the Pres race in statistical deadlock two weeks after debate! Using polls to push Biden out feels like red wave 2020 bs all over again.”

Belcher was commenting on the latest Marist College poll produced for NPR/PBS NewsHour. It found Biden beating Trump 50-48 in a one-to-one matchup. When factoring in the four third-party/independent candidates including RFK Jr., Trump came out ahead of Biden, 43-42.

FiveThirtyEight’s regularly updated polling aggregator currently shows Trump up over Biden by 1.9 points, a drop from Thursday where he was more than two points over Biden. FiveThirtyEight also currently shows; “Biden wins 50 times out of 100 in our simulations of the 2024 presidential election. Trump wins 49 times out of 100.”

READ MORE: Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?

Former Republican and former GOP communications director Tara Setmayer, a resident scholar at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, says the Democratic “freak out needs to stop.”

“Enough.”

Pointing to that same Marist poll, she focuses on a different question.

“This poll also shows character matters more than age. That’s to Biden’s advantage.”

NPR’s headline on its article detailing the poll reads: “After Biden’s debate performance, the presidential race is unchanged.”

“Biden actually gained a point since last month’s survey, which was taken before the debate,” NPR reports, adding: “the survey also found that by a 2-to-1 margin, 68% to 32%, people said it’s more concerning to have a president who doesn’t tell the truth than one who might be too old to serve.”

READ MORE: ‘No Change’: Biden Debate Performance Has Had ‘Almost No Impact’ on 2024 Race Report Finds

To Setmayer’s point, NPR also says, “A majority said Biden has the character to be president (52%), while a majority also said Trump does not (56%).”

Mike Madrid, the Latino GOP political consultant and Lincoln Project co-founder, offered advice to Biden supporters on how to think about Democrats and pundits pushing for the President to drop out of the race, and how to deal with the day-to-day emotional toll.

“Getting lots of questions on how to lower the anxiety level people are feeling. Best thing you can do is unfollow the people attacking Biden gratuitously. Don’t engage them. Unfollow them. It’s not an honest discussion. It’s a frenzy that’s doing real damage.”

“You will not get an explanation from the political arsonists fueling this panic,” he added. “Stop looking for one. Unfollow them. Drop your subscription. Quit listening. That’s the best thing you can do in the pro-democracy fight right now. Their gaslighting is now a suppression tactic.”

To someone who said they are “scared,” and the situation is “confusing, maddening and sad,” Madrid advised: “Nothing has changed. Stop watching TV and get off Twitter. Take the weekend off. Please.”

The Lincoln Project’s Stuart Stevens, a political strategist for decades and author of “The Conspiracy To End America,” writes: “I worked in campaigns for 30 years. I am hardwired to respond one way when your guy is in trouble: fight harder. Don’t start looking for exit ramps or magic bullets. Play the next play. Do your job. Ignore the scoreboard. It’s supposed to be hard.”

READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders

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News

RFK Jr. Apology Over Sexual Assault Allegation ‘Disingenuous’ – Unsure if More to Come

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent candidate running for president, has apologized to the woman who accused him of sexual assault, and separately told reporters he does not know if there are more potential accusers.

The 70-year old anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist who has said a worm ate a portion of his brain, has not denied allegations of sexual misconduct. A recent Vanity Fair profile reports that in 1998, Eliza Cooney, 23-years old at the time and working as a part-time baby sitter for RFK Jr. and his wife’s children, felt his “hand moving up and down her leg under the table” during “a meeting in the family kitchen.”

There are other allegations in the Vanity Fair profile that include Kennedy being shirtless in Cooney’s bedroom and asking her to rub lotion on his back, which she said was “totally inappropriate.”

And this: “A few months later, Cooney says, she was rifling through the kitchen pantry for lunch after a yoga class, still in her sports bra and leggings, when Kennedy came up behind her, blocked her inside the room, and began groping her, putting his hands on her hips and sliding them up along her rib cage and breasts. ‘My back was to the door of the pantry, and he came up behind me,’ she says, describing the alleged sexual assault. ‘I was frozen. Shocked.’ ”

RELATED: ‘What in the F’: RFK Jr. in Photo With Alleged ‘Barbecued’ Dog Carcass Disgusts Critics

The Washington Post Friday morning reported RFK Jr. “privately apologized to a woman who accused him of sexual assault, saying he does not remember the alleged incident and that any harm he caused was ‘inadvertent.’ ”

“’I have no memory of this incident but I apologize sincerely for anything I ever did that made you feel uncomfortable or anything I did or said that offended you or hurt your feelings,’ Kennedy wrote in a text message to Cooney sent at 12:33 a.m. on July 4, two days after her accusations became public. ‘I never intended you any harm. If I hurt you, it was inadvertent. I feel badly for doing so.’ ”

Cooney told The Post that Kennedy’s texted message was “disingenuous and arrogant.”

“I’m not sure how somebody has a true apology for something that they don’t admit to recalling. I did not get a sense of remorse.”

READ MORE: Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?

Also on Friday, hidden in the middle of a Boston Globe soft profile of the presidential candidate whose support has reportedly now hit ten percent – possibly enough to change the outcome of the election – is Kennedy’s apparent acknowledgment there could be more allegations of sexual misconduct.

“Asked if other women might come forward with similar allegations he said, ‘I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.’ ”

The Globe notes Kennedy “is currently on the ballot in nine states, and submitted enough signatures to eventually get on the ballot in 15 states. There are five other states where the campaign claims to have enough signatures but hasn’t turned in them in yet, in some cases because the window to do so hasn’t opened.”

FiveThirtyEight reports there is a 58% chance the election “is decided by a smaller margin than the vote share for third-party candidates,” meaning Kennedy, who has the largest portion of third party votes, may have the potential to change the election outcome.

In a parenthetical addition, Vanity Fair updated its report, writing: “After this story was published, Kennedy told the Breaking Points podcast, in response to Cooney’s allegations, that he is ‘not a church boy… I have so many skeletons in my closet.’ When pressed to respond directly to her claims, he told the anchor, ‘I’m not going to comment on it.’ ”

READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders

 

 

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OPINION

Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?

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Following President Joe Biden’s 58-minute long unscripted, solo press conference without a teleprompter, fielding questions from reporters and responding with nuance and depth on a range of issues including foreign and domestic policy, some critics are calling on his opponent, ex-president Donald Trump, to do the same.

It’s been a long time since Trump has held an actual unscripted, lengthy, solo press conference, with questions from reporters, and well-over a year since he did one that wasn’t centered on his legal crises.

“When is last time Trump did an hour long press conference? Anyone know?” asked Bloomberg News’ Steven Dennis Thursday night after the President’s press conference.

“So now the media will demand that Trump hold an hour-long press conference on complex foreign policy issues — right?” snarked attorney and legal commentator Tristan Snell, who headed the successful New York State civil prosecution of Trump University.

READ MORE: ‘Dead Heat’: Biden Ahead or Tied With Trump in Two New Post-Debate Polls

“Trump is getting a free pass just like he did in 2016. No way he could do a press conference for 40 minutes after 3 long days with world leaders. He is incoherent most of time when he’s not spewing bile,” declared CNN Political Commentator Karen Finney Friday morning.

“It’s now time for the corporate media to dissect every word Trump says for the next two weeks, have debates on his mental state, amplify the small number of Republicans who want Trump to drop out and demand he hold a press conference where we can dissect him even more,” remarked attorney and SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah Friday morning.

“Per CSPAN last time Trump held a press conference that approached an hour in length at which he took questions from reporters, he was still president,” observed Aaron Fritschner, Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) Friday morning.

READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders

He adds, “Per the CSPAN archive, the last time Donald Trump took questions from reporters in a press conference was on February 8th. National and campaign reporters made an issue of the lack of press conferences with Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. To date, they have not done so with Trump.”

On November 8, 2022, from Mar-a-Lago, after polls closed, Donald Trump delivered remarks discussing the midterm elections. He spoke for about four minutes to supporters and took no questions from reporters, whom he mocked. (Full C-SPAN video.)

Semafor’s David Weigel argues, “A lot of the ‘whatabout Trump’ stuff is cope, but he really is getting an easy ride with interviewers compared to 2016 or 2020.”

“Most of his interviews are softball-fests. When he did All-In the campaign had to clean up his green card/diploma answer.”

READ MORE: ‘No Change’: Biden Debate Performance Has Had ‘Almost No Impact’ on 2024 Race Report Finds

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