The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Narcissist in chief

President Trump met with the 2017 state Teachers of the Year yesterday, and, as usual, made the event all about himself:

Usually, the National Teacher of the Year speaks. This year, that didn’t happen. Usually, the president spends some time talking with the teachers, giving many of them individual attention. That barely happened Wednesday, according to several participants who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because they said they fear Trump addressing them on Twitter or press secretary Sean Spicer bringing them up at a daily briefing. Usually family members join the winners to meet the president. This time few were allowed — and relatives of the teachers, some who had traveled at their own expense for many hours to attend, were left to wait in a building near the White House, with, as one said, “no water in the hot rooms.”

Rather than a ceremony in the East Room or the Rose Garden, as past presidents have done, Trump invited the teachers into the Oval Office, where he asked them all to gather around him, standing, while he sat at his desk. In the crowd were first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Pence, second lady Karen Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. It was the first lady’s birthday, and the teachers sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

In the Oval Office, with the teachers and others standing around him, Trump spoke about the teachers and engaged with a few of them (see video above), and briefly singled out the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee, from Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, Mass. A ninth-grade teacher, she is the first national winner from a charter school in the program’s 65-year history....

How interesting that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has financial stakes in charter schools, oversaw an event where a charter-school teacher won a major honor from her boss? And Trump still couldn't be gracious about it.

Read the rest of the article for how Presidents Obama and G.W. Bush honored the teachers, and ponder how often Trump will, over the next 1,362 days

Don't know much about history (or anything else)

The Washington Post's Daily 202 column yesterday pointed out how difficult President Trump's job is because President Trump doesn't know anything about history:

[T]he fact our president needed an introductory tutorial on Sino-Korean relations to understand how hard it is to contain Pyongyang is just the latest illustration of one of his blind spots: He and his inner-circle have very little sense of history.

It is a cliché, but there is truth to it: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Sean Spicer’s cringe-worthy comments this week that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s actions were worse than Adolf Hitler’s suggested a more endemic problem of historical illiteracy in the White House. The press secretary has since apologized for saying that Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people in the same way that Assad is doing.” He also referred to concentration camps as “the Holocaust centers.”

Because Spicer made his comment on the first day of Passover, the observant staff members at the Anti-Defamation League had their phones and televisions off. So they didn’t find out until Wednesday night what had happened. Leaders of the group reached out to the White House yesterday to offer a training session on the Holocaust.

Josh Marshall thinks it's not just ignorance, but militant ignorance:

What is key though is to understand that this is not just ignorance. Ignorance is just the first stage of Trump’s fairly advanced problem. He is not only ignorant but clearly unaware of his level of ignorance. This is compounded by a seeming inability to understand that everyone else isn’t equally ignorant to him. Those of us who are parents know the wonder of discovery experienced by small children. They find out there were things such as dinosaurs or close primate relatives called lemurs. As loving parents we indulge them, sometimes feigning ignorance of things we actually already knew to support a child’s joy in discovery.

But Donald Trump is a 70 year old man. And not a terribly nice man.

His ignorance is not endearing. We don’t need to lie to him to make him feel good about himself. Still it is good to understand his condition. Ignorance is just lack of information. But there’s something wrong with Trump’s brain – maybe cognitive, perhaps simple entitlement or just broad spectrum derp – which appears to make it genuinely impossible not to project his own ignorance onto everybody else.

Lest you think this problem may abate, Jeet Heer says Trump isn't actually learning, he only cares about winning.

Only 1,376 days left in this awful, awful presidential term.

Betsy DeVos behaving as predicted

When you have someone with the background, education, and beliefs of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, you know you're not going to get any policies that benefit education. Sure enough, yesterday she started rolling back reforms begun under the Obama administration that tried to correct the abuses of the student loan industry:

The former president's administration issued a pair of memorandums last year requiring that the government's Federal Student Aid office, which services $1.1 trillion in government-owned student loans, do more to help borrowers manage, or even discharge, their debt.

But in a memorandum to the department's student aid office, DeVos formally withdrew the two Obama memos. The Obama administration's approach, DeVos said, was inconsistent and full of shortcomings. She didn't detail how the moves fell short, and her spokesmen, Jim Bradshaw and Matthew Frendewey, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeVos' move "will certainly increase the likelihood of default," said David Bergeron, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank with close ties to Democrats, who previously worked under Democratic and Republican administrations during his more than 30 years at the Education Department before retiring as the head of postsecondary education.

It's an absolute scandal that student loans, which are some of the safest investments a bank can make because they can't be discharged in bankruptcy, have high interest rates and a history of predatory collection practices. DeVos has investments in the for-profit education companies that benefit directly from this situation. And people wonder why the Republican Party has a reputation for screwing the disadvantaged in favor of rich businesses.

The man who broke the Senate

When people see their fortunes waning, they get desperate. Enter Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans:

No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership, the triumph of tactics in service of short-term power.

After McConnell justified his filibuster-ending “nuclear option” by saying it would be beneficial for the Senate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said this: “Whoever says that is a stupid idiot.”

After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was confirmed last year, it took McConnell less than an hour to say that the vacancy should be filled by the next president. He called keeping Obama’s nominee off the court “one of my proudest moments.”

Two years ago, when a Democrat was in the White House, McConnell said he would only abolish filibusters of Supreme Court justices if there were 67 votes for such a change. This week, he employed a maneuver to do it with 51 votes. It suited his momentary needs, but the damage will remain long after McConnell’s tombstone is engraved.

Again, the Republican Party doesn't care about governing; they only care about winning. And now the dog has caught the car.

Why try to filibuster Gorsuch?

Josh Marshall says the filibuster is already dead, so it's the right thing to do for Democrats in the Senate to force the Republicans to take the next step:

If Gorsuch will be confirmed one way or another, why go through the nuclear option motions? I would say it's important for this reason. I've heard a number of pundits arguing that the real issue here, or much of the issue, is that Democrats still haven't gotten over the treatment of Judge Garland. That argument is both deeply flawed and entirely correct. This really is mainly about Judge Garland.

As Rep. Adam Schiff put it yesterday on Twitter, Mitch McConnell's historically unprecedented and constitutionally illegitimate decision to block President Obama from nominating anyone a year before he left office was the real nuclear option. The rest is simply fallout. Senate Republicans had the power to do this. But that doesn't make it legitimate. The seat was stolen. Therefore Gorsuch's nomination is itself illegitimate since it is the fruit of the poisoned tree.

Democrats likely have no power to finally prevent this corrupt transaction. It is nonetheless important that they not partake in the corruption. Treating this as a normal nomination would do just that. There are now various good arguments to vote against Gorsuch's nomination on the merits. But to me that's not even the point. Democrats should filibuster the nomination because it is not a legitimate nomination. Filibustering the nomination is the right course of action.

The Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the nomination.

Stuff to read after After Hours

Now that we're four days from Apollo After Hours, of which I'm the committee chair, and given that I still have work to do at work, the articles I need to catch up on keep piling up:

OK, back to the mines...

Governing is hard

Brian Beutler warns that the Republicans in Congress have gone so long without actually thinking about government that they're about to wreck it completely:

Republicans appear unable to meet even basic governing obligations on their own. This will mean, at the very least, shelving campaign promises and long-term ideological objectives; most likely it will mean seeking help from Democrats. But this augurs disaster. Democrats rightly won’t cooperate with attempts to demolish their legacy, while everything we know about Trump—and about the empty promises Republicans made to their voters over the years—suggests the GOP will be loath to empower Democrats. Yet failure to do so will end in ruin for all of us.

There are things Republicans can do without Democratic help, particularly in the regulatory realm. They may even be able to pass a regressive income tax cut on their own, so long as they don’t tinker with the tax code too much in other ways. But we are not at the dawn of a conservative counterrevolution that will command lofty descriptions in history books years from now. If Republicans remain in denial about that, they will court a government shutdown or an even larger crisis.

The Federal government's spending authority lapses on April 28th. Can't wait to see how they pass a spending bill...

Are y'all for real?

No. Just no. Really, no, they're not:

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) admitted as much as he left the meeting Friday. Reporters asked why, after Republicans held dozens of nearly-unanimous votes to repeal Obamacare under President Obama, they were getting cold feet now that they control the levers of power.

“Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” he said. “We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”

Barton, for what it's worth, was one of the loudest proponents of ACA repeal. Until, you know, it was possible.

Why does anyone take the Republican Party seriously? I mean, really?

You don't have the votes, you don't have the votes!

Despite controlling two of three branches of government and most of the third, the Republican Party suffered a humiliating defeat this week when Paul Ryan couldn't muster enough votes to destroy health care in the U.S. We can all breathe a little easier:

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, facing a revolt among conservative and moderate Republicans, rushed to the White House Friday afternoon to inform President Trump he did not have the votes to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to decide whether to pull the bill from consideration.

The president and the speaker faced the humiliating prospect of a major defeat on legislation promised for seven years, since the landmark health legislation was signed into law. President Trump had demanded a vote regardless, which has been scheduled for Friday afternoon. But House leaders were leaning against such a public loss.

[Ryan] said 30 to 40 Republicans planned to vote “no”; House leaders can afford to lose only 22 votes and still pass the bill.

So 24 million Americans get to keep health insurance, and we can actually move a little closer to parity with the rest of the developed world.