Conor Lamb’s narrow, declared victory in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district special election may or may not ultimately hold up. Regardless, there are some take-aways from Tuesday’s results.
For the first time since Donald Trump was elected president, Democrats appear to have won a congressional special election. In each of their previous attempts, Democrats ran progressive candidates, promising that the “resistance” to Trump would carry them to victory. They lost every race.
This time they tried a different approach. Democrats nominated a young, Marine and former federal prosecutor with matinee idol good looks. He came from a long line of Pittsburgh area pols and had strong ties to organized labor.
Conor began his campaign by running as far away from the far left of his party as he could. He immediately went so far as to say he wouldn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi if he got elected. His campaign material pictured him firing an AR-15. He positioned himself as not only pro-gun but also pro-life (at least “personally” so) He was defined as a prettier version of Joe Manchin, the U.S. Senator from West Virginia which borders the 18th both to the south and west, closer to Trump than to Pelosi and Schumer.
Lamb’s strategy worked. This election should never have been close. While it is true that it is still registered Democratic, it’s been voting Republican for decades. President Trump won there by 20 points just 16 months ago. It was no aberration. Mitt Romney carried the district by 17 points. In the previous two congressional races the democrats didn’t even field a candidate. The last time they did, he lost by nearly 30 points.
On the other side of Lamb was Rick Saccone, a stalwart conservative state legislator. He wrested the Republican nomination in a rough-and-tumble “conferee” process. He won the nomination on a second ballot. With it went some dashed ambitions, bruised egos and hard feelings. Unfortunately for him his campaign wasn’t able to heal those wounds as quickly and extensively as they hoped.
There was a spoiler in the race. A Republican turned Libertarian managed to get enough votes to make the difference as the race now stands.
Early in the campaign, Lamb focused like a laser on raising the money necessary to paint the picture of himself he wanted voters to see. He outraised Saccone by a wide margin.
As a result, Lamb was able to deliver his own message. He used well-crafted ads to portray himself tied to the Trump voters in the district he sought to attract.
Meanwhile Saccone was forced to rely on outside forces to deliver his message. That meant that, because of federal laws prohibiting “coordination” of such efforts, he didn’t control his own message.
Millions of dollars poured in to boost him, but his story wasn’t being told. Instead, ads like the “Nancy had a little lamb” fell flat and even backfired.
By the time Saccone was able to get his own ads on the air, the story had already been written.
Regardless of how this special election turns out, it wasn’t a banner day for Republicans. But it wasn’t exactly cause for ecstasy on the part of the Democrats.
First, whoever won Tuesday’s contest took a Pyrrhic victory. The district they will represent vanished on the new map drawn by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Neither Lamb nor Saccone live in the newly configured district.
Second, mid-terms are never kind to the party that holds the White House. With a thin margin in the House, Republicans have a lot to defend.
To be successful, they will need to provide a unifying theme for their candidates based on economic growth and prosperity. They’ll also need to localize each race, tying their candidates to the voters and particular interests of each little sliver of America.
In the campaign for the 18th, Rick Saccone didn’t run away from Donald Trump. Conor Lamb ran away from Nancy Pelosi.
Look for other Democrats, especially across the “rust belt” that delivered the presidency to Donald Trump, to emulate Conor Lamb. That can’t be good news for Nancy Pelosi and the San Francisco progressives.
For the first time in memory there’s a glimmer of hope for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Meanwhile the potential for a different kind of war looms larger.
President Trump signed decrees this week placing punitive new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Last week he made a surprise pre-signing announcement that sent shock waves through the markets, caused consternation amongst our allies and alienated many of his conservative base in Washington.
Concerns over an expanding trade war were heard across the political spectrum. President Trump had earlier tweeted that “trade wars are good and easy to win,” but few were buying it.
The president fulfilled a veiled campaign promise in imposing the new tariffs. The new tariffs are clearly part of his deeply held belief that we’ve been taken advantage of by foreign competitions and that it’s time to put “America First” again. But they bring with them some very negative consequences, both foreseeable and unforeseen.
While the president’s new tariffs won’t undo all of the good that his economic policy is doing—especially through de-regulation and tax reform—but they are an unnecessary and dangerous threat to economic growth and job expansion.
The protectionists who promote high tariffs claim that it preserves American jobs and national security.
The truth is that while there may be some marginal job security and even minimal job creation as a result of imposing punitive tariffs, they are grossly outweighed by job losses in other sectors of the economy and a stifling of economic growth.
Tariffs are a tax. The taxpayers are every consumer who will pay more for products as a result of the new tariffs and workers in industries that use aluminum and steel.
There are about 200,000 workers employed in the production of aluminum and steel in the U.S. Meanwhile there are 5.5 million in businesses that use aluminum and steel to produce other products. One study noted that while the new tariffs arguably would help create some 33,464 jobs, they would erase more than 146,000. That’s not a good deal by any reckoning.
Especially with the administration’s far-sighted vision for repairing and improving our infrastructure, the added tariffs are not helpful. The steel and aluminum needed to build bridges and pipelines and upgrade ports can’t be made exponentially more expensive if we’re going to be successful.
National security has likewise been put forward as a justification for tariff barriers to trade. But look at where we get our aluminum and steel. The Number one importer of both steel and aluminum is Canada, our neighbor to the north. Hardly an adversary, they’ve been tied to us by mutual defense treaties for decades.
Following Canada are Brasil and South Korea, both allies. China, for all the bluster about them, doesn’t even crack the top ten and accounts for only about 2% of our steel and aluminum imports.
The nostalgic view of steel manufacturing, especially for Pennsylvanians and others across the “Rust Belt” is easily understood. But we didn’t lose our steel manufacturing industry because we didn’t make the best steel. It was the cost of doing so, from labor to environmental regulations, that curtailed our manufacturing.
Automation and technology took over. Today steel manufacturing facilities require a tiny fraction of the human workforce necessary a few decades ago.
Technology killed more steel manufacturing jobs than trade. Imposing high tariffs in an attempt to revive a by-gone era misses the mark.
Some speculated that the president chose to announce the imposition of tariffs when he did to boost Republican Rick Saccone’s candidacy in the congressional special election in southwest Pennsylvania this coming week.
But the 18th Congressional District illustrates the opposite. You’d be hard-pressed to find a steel mill in the District. The region’s economy has evolved to “Meds and Eds” over the past couple of decades. UPMC is the largest employer in the area, not US Steel. The middle class is supported by jobs in hospitals and universities these days. The big creator of new jobs there is the energy sector and natural gas in particular. Pipelines to transport that gas are vital, and they’ll cost more with high tariffs on steel.
The middle class will bear the brunt of both higher prices for goods and retaliation from other nations which has already begun.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently held up a soup can and noted that the increase in its cost would “…not be a noticeable thing.” Of course he didn’t hoist up a car or a washing machine. Nor did he hold up millions of anything, because it is across the economy that the pain will be felt, both in increased consumer costs and job losses.
Yes, there have been foreign governments that have cheated. They’ve “dumped” steel. They’ve used government subsidies we thankfully don’t offer. They’ve stolen our intellectual property.
Sadly, imposing high tariffs, while punitive, may not put a stop to any or all of that. High tariffs will, however, hurt American consumers and workers.
Free and fair trade is a much better option.
What’s the toughest job in DC? Other than the leadership of the Free World, some would say the Speaker of the House who has to hold together an often fractious caucus to get legislation passed. Others would say the Chief of Staff who’s required to make the trains run on time. Some would say the White House Communications Director.
Every job inside the Executive Office of the President of the United States is tough and demanding. Work days begin before dawn and run long into the night—every day. Few are tougher or more demanding than the Communications Director, especially in this Administration.
Since Herb Klein first set up the office back in the infancy of Richard Nixon’s administration, roughly three dozen people have held the post, few of them household names. Although David Gergen, Pat Buchanan, George Stephanopoulos, Karen Hughes and a few others were well-known, Ken Clawson, Jack Koehler, Mari Maseng and Loretta Ucelli and a lot of others toiled in more obscurity.
This week the latest communications director, Hope Hicks, announced her resignation.
Her resignation marks the departure of one of the president’s most loyal and trusted advisors.
Hicks was with Trump from the git-go of his presidential run. She tells how he approached her, in the earliest days of 2015 saying, “I’m thinking about running for president, and you’re going to be my press secretary.”
At the time Hicks was 26-years old and hadn’t ever worked on a political campaign, much less at the highest levels of a presidential one. Yet, at the time of her resignation from the White House staff she was Trump’s longest-serving political aide.
From zero political experience to the highest levels of the White House is a meteoric rise by any definition. Hope Hicks ascendancy always tracked the fortunes of her boss, Donald J. Trump.
Hicks had served as press secretary during the grueling days on the campaign trail, then in the same role with the presidential transition before taking a newly-created spot, White House Director of Strategic Communications, in the early days of the Trump Administration. She became Communications Director after the swift departure of Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted only ten days in the post, a shorter tenure than any other who held the job.
Heather Hicks came from a loving line of high-level public relations professionals. Both of her grandfathers were PR guys at major firms. Her father was the communications director for the National Football League at one time and still holds a senior position at one of Washington, D.C.’s premier PR firms.
But Heather Hicks took the path of less visibility than the few Communications Directors that were constant faces in the media. She rarely chatted up reporters or appeared on television. Instead she was the advisor to the president who helped to shape the messages of the administration, including in some very sensitive situations.
Being the communications director in this administration is especially difficult because Donald J. Trump often fills the role himself. He establishes the message and the delivery, sets the tone and creates the themes. His tweets are legion and his impromptu remarks are legend.
On the campaign trail, Hicks reportedly took dictation from candidate Trump for the stream of tweets than came from him. More recently many have reported that it was Hope Hicks that worked to control the flow of tweets.
Hicks tenure was not without a couple of wrinkles. She reportedly was the one who with the president crafted the response to Donald J. Trump, Jr.’s secret meeting with Russians during the 2016 campaign. She was also involved with the poorly developed response to domestic abuse allegations against former Trump aide, Rob Porter.
Last week she testified behind closed doors before a congressional panel. It was leaked that she said she’d told “white lies.” That, of course spun through the media at warp speed. What she meant by that remains a significant question, but one definition was: “Remember when I greeted you by saying how nice it was to see you? THAT was a ‘white lie’”
Virtually all usual cadre of anonymous sources agree that Hope Hicks departure had been planned for some time and had nothing to do with her testimony last week.
Hope Hicks will quickly find other roles in which to start. She’s not yet 30-years old and her resume already looks like a veteran PR maven. Sh earned a reputation for being exceptionally well-organized, decisive, steadfast, and steady under fire.
Most importantly, she was always loyal, a character trait far less common than it should be.
America lost an revered icon this week. The passing of The Reverend Billy Graham and the end of his earthly life concluded a chapter of American history.
Billy Graham was on our planet for nearly a century. He was beloved by millions and was referred to both as “America’s Pastor” and “The Protestant Pope.” He turned up more times in various Gallup “Most Admired”lists than any other American.
His ministry touched the lives of millions, not only here but throughout the world. He preached to more than 200 million souls, delivering the message of the Gospel to more people than any other human being.
Tributes to the life and work of the Rev. Graham have poured in from around the world. So revered was he among his countrymen that he will lie in honor in the Untied States Capitol, the first private citizen to do so since Rosa Parks and the first religious leader to be so honored. He had already received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honors bestowed upon American citizens.
In an interesting twist, Billy Graham’s likeness will grace the Capitol for generations to come. Several years ago North Carolina decided to replace the statue of their former governor, a segregationist, in Statuary Hall where each state is permitted to erect two monuments. Rules require that it be done posthumously, so the time has now arrived.
He rarely ventured directly into the realm of politics, but was unabashed in voicing what he believed was the correct path to take in solving the issues of his day. He personally ministered to every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.
Rev. Graham was first and foremost a Christian. He was unapologetic about his understanding of the scriptures in a world and at a time when many of his colleagues in the cloth were much more reticent.
He wasn’t perfect, but sought to live by the values he espoused. When he failed he was humble in acknowledging his shortcomings and sincere in his apology and request for forgiveness.
He was a truly great man.
His message transcended today’s partisan political divide. For in the message of Jesus Christ, through his humble servant, there is a bond that unites.
At a time when some would like to see religion removed from the public square, Graham was ever present.
Sadly, those whose central focus is on faith, cannot escape the often harsh criticisms of those whose main focus is political.
It’s been that way throughout our history. Yet, the faith community has led by example and moral suasion since the earliest days of our Republic.
Clergy were among the leaders in the fight for American independence. Their division with England was largely their revulsion against British moral corruption and their fear for threats to religious freedom.
The abolitionist movement was driven primarily by faith leaders who viewed slavery not through an economic lens, but saw it as repugnant to God’s will.
A century later, Billy Graham was among the clergy who worked for civil rights and an end to segregation. He formed a close friendship with the Rev. Martin Luther king at a time when other southern white protestants were afraid to be associated.
Graham’s message endures. The basic tenet that God loves us is a prescription for healing a nation.
At a time of divide and discord, there’s little doubt that the world could use a few more Billy Grahams.
It's an election year and the governor is on the ballot. There was no doubt that his annual budget address would reflect that political reality. It certainly did.
The governor's budget address, delivered earlier this week to a joint session of the General Assembly was mercifully short--at less than 20 minutes it was the shortest in memory. It was mild in tone, not even remotely reminiscent of his rant against legislators a couple of years ago.
It was plain vanilla, bland to the point of critics calling it "dull." His biggest applause line came on the heels of his congratulating the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Most important, it didn't contain any of the requests for massive tax hikes that have become Wolf's trademark.
If this had been Wolf's first budget address rather than his last, things might have been a lot different for the past four years.
Although Wolf gave up on his constant quest to raise taxes on every Pennsylvanian this time, he still managed to ask for nearly $1 billion additional state spending.
If passed that would ramp up the increase in state spending under Gov. Wolf to nearly $4 billion.
That far outpaces the ability of Pennsylvania's working families to pay for it. It's a rate that exceeds the growth of the economy and far exceeds the limits of the Taxpayer Protection Act, were it to become law.
The biggest question is: "Why ramp up spending at a time when fiscal restraint is called for?" Having just heard all of the discussion about "structural deficits," shouldn't we be looking for ways to economize instead of simply spending more?
The governor's proposed budget also adds to the bonded indebtedness of the commonwealth which is already nearly $13 billion.
He wants to spend more money on public schools, but there is no talk about increased accountability for education spending which is already at record highs and increasing each year.
Sadly, Wolf's proposal also flatlines the EITC (Education Improvement Tax Credit) and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit. These two items have both saved taxpayers millions of dollars and provided thousands of school children the opportunity to attend better schools.
How the budget is financed is always part of the legislative process that now begins in earnest. Although Wolf isn't seeking big "broad-based" tax increases this time, he's still stuck on trying to double tax the natural gas industry.
It's appropriate that his address immediately followed Groundhog Day. We've heard, over and over, Wolf's attempt to hit the natural gas industry with an additional tax.
His pitch is based on the myth that Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn't tax the extraction of natural gas.
Of course we do, not only with the so-called "impact fee" which has generated nearly $2 billion, but also through one of the nation's highest corporate taxes and other taxes not paid by producers in other states.
All of this raises the question about special taxes applied to a single industry.
The tax proposed by Wolf wouldn't apply to any anything except natural gas (and those who use it in their homes or businesses), an industry that is doing so much for so many, creating thousands of high-paying jobs and boosting the state's economy in ways unforeseen just a decade ago.
The retort that it's fair because gas is a "natural resource" falls flat in light of the fact that there's no such tax on the extraction of coal, timber, water, sand, stone, or gravel. (That's not intended as a "suggestion!")
One tip of the hat to the Guv on taxes: he wants to decrease Pennsylvania's exorbitantly high Corporate Net Income Tax.
He could be more aggressive, both in the scope of the cut and the timeframe in which he wants it done, but for America's most liberal governor to acknowledge that's our business taxes make us less competitive is a step in the right direction.
The governor's proposal isn't the final budget, it's only a starting point. But it's much closer to the finished product than his previous messages.
Wolf has yet to get a budget done on time. Interestingly, he's never even signed one into law.
This year should be an exception. Wolf's election-year budget proposal allows legislators to negotiate some reductions in spending, dispense the notion of a job-killing additional tax on natural gas and get things wrapped up before June 30.
The television images were worth several thousand words.
As President Trump delivered his State of the Union Address, chock full of good news and optimism, there sat Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi looking like she’d bitten into a lemon.
Within camera view were other Democratic leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus with the same dour look minus the pucker.
It was a stunning contrast to the other side of the aisle where hope and optimism were reflected in the expressions and demeanor of Republican Members and leaders.
What made the visual images of the State of the Union Address so compelling were the moments where the Democrats couldn’t seem to put their hands together.
It’s easy to understand that it’s tough to be the minority party at a State of the Union speech. You’re required to watch and listen as your political opponents enjoy the spotlight and tumultuous applause of most of official Washington.
You cant expect the minority party to stand and cheer every word the president utters. But shouldn’t we all be able to witness the unity of our nation over things like references to our great Capitol, “In God We Trust,” standing for the national anthem or even news that our economy is producing millions of new jobs.
It’s hard to imagine why the Congressional Black Caucus couldn’t, at least, “politely applaud” the fact that unemployment, and African American and Hispanic unemployment in particular, are at all time lows.
What more than 45 million Americans witnessed on Tuesday night was a Washington, DC elite group of Democratic “leaders” continuing to project their only message: resistance to Donald J. Trump.
There’s one big problem for those Democrats. It’d disconnected from much of their traditional base. To be sure there are those among them that cheer glum demeanors and dark words. But many rank-and-file Democrats are either put off or simply mystified by such displays.
Across the Rust Belt, where Donald Trump’s “inside straight” won him the presidency, are working Democrats who cheer news that their pay checks are bigger this week. They understand and approve regulatory reforms that eliminate job crushing over-regulation. And they don’t view $50 a week more in take-home pay or a $1,000 bonus as “crumbs.”
These folks were moved to tears and applause by the litany of stories President Trump shared on Tuesday night. They connect with Corey Adams, the Ohio welder who’s going to use his extra money from tax cuts for his two daughters’ education. They feel the pain of the parents of Nina Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, two teenagers murdered by MS-13 gang members. They are moved by the sight of baby “Hope”, adopted by an Albuquerque cop and his wife from a homeless mother with an opioid addiction. They stand and cheer when Si Seong-ho waves the crutches on which he escaped the torture of North Koreans.
Their disconnect with what they saw from their purported leaders in Congress is an emerging story.
Some Democrats have already figured out that the far-left “resistance” of Nancy Pelosi and her allies isn’t working politically. In the special election being held here in Pennsylvania next month, the Democratic candidate is running on a pledge not to vote for Nancy Pelosi should he get to Congress.
Elsewhere Democratic consultants are cringing over the thought of pictures of Nancy Pelosi at the State of the Union being juxtaposed next to their candidates in this Fall’s pivotal mid-term elections.
Before November, 2016 the media chattered incessantly about what the Republican Party would look like if Donald Trump lost. Their sometimes joyful predications about a badly fractured party with no message to put things together can now be applied to the national Democrats.
Their fractures were on full display in the post speech responses. The “official” response featured Joe Kennedy III delivering a somewhat angry lecture on income inequality.
There were several others, ranging from further left to really further left. For the second straight year, Bernie Sanders eschewed the official response to deliver his own message of a new socialism. Then again, Bernie isn’t really a Democrat, or is he?
None of their rhetoric is the stuff which connects with those Democrats and Independents they need to reach.
Working-class folks understand what it takes to create more jobs, produce bigger paychecks and allow them to keep more of what they earn. They instinctively understand that when their budget gets bigger and government’s gets smaller that they're better off. They’re patriotic and optimistic. They’re hopeful and trying hard to create a future for their kids that’s better than the life they’ve enjoyed.
They applaud “In God We Trust,” stand for the national anthem and are delighted to take a few “crumbs” in the form of a bigger paycheck or a better job.
They want to be part of “A New American Moment.” They’re among the 75% who approved of President Trump’s State of the Union Address.
On Tuesday President Trump will appear before a joint session of Congress to deliver his first State of the Union Address.
The run-up to the State of the Union generally exceeds the main event as the media hypes it for days beforehand. There’s more pre-game commentary than on Super Bowl Sunday.
But when the halls of the House of Representatives open and the sergeant-at-arms booms, “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States,” the eyes of the world turn to a single man and all distractions are put aside.
The president will walk a gauntlet of members of Congress, many of whom arrived hours earlier to grab a seat on the aisle in order to catch a second with the commander in chief and provide a glimpse of themselves and their momentary glory to the folks back at home.
He’ll be greeted by the vice president and the speaker of the House and will stand before both House and Senate members, his cabinet (except the one left behind in case of national emergency), the Supreme Court, Joint Chiefs of Staff and a gallery packed with dignitaries. All of the trappings of presidential power are on full display and provide a made-for-television back drop for the president’s speech.
The State of the Union Address is always the president’s night and an unchallenged opportunity to shine.
The Constitution requires two things: a report to Congress on the state of the union and recommendations the president wants to make to congress.
The State of the Union is strong. The economy is soaring, our foreign policy is succeeding and for the first time in years, the “right direction” poll numbers are moving upward.
Trump Administration policies are passing The Reagan Test. The country is better off than it was a year ago.
The stock market is closing at record highs on a daily basis, virtually every sector of the economy is growing dramatically and billions of dollars are pouring back into our economy generating tens of thousands of new jobs. Unemployment is at record lows, especially in the minority community, millions of workers are getting big bonuses and just about every working American is seeing a fatter paycheck thanks to the recent tax cuts.
Despite rising consumer confidence and belief, by better than 2:1 margins, that things are getting better, President Trump isn’t getting the share of the credit most presidents would get in similar circumstances.
There are several reasons for that, including some self-inflicted language choices, tactics and a media that doesn’t want to give him a break. The State of the Union Address is an opportunity to begin to change that.
There are three specific things he can do.
First, he needs to shine the brightest possible light on the accomplishments of his first year in office.
The media hasn’t hailed many of his positive achievements, including his scaling back of regulatory overreaches of the Obama Administration. Those were job-crushing, growth-stifling executive actions, made as an end run of congressional authority. Reversing them helped stimulate the economy and get it growing at rates never seen during the previous eight years.
Donald Trump has never shied from bragging about his successes. The State of the Union is no place to start.
Second, he should build on the successes of the past year by clearly setting forth his legislative priorities and specific proposals to continue fueling economic growth. Look for him to detail his plans to rebuild our roads, bridges and ports and to get comprehensive immigration reform.
He has the opportunity to rally the nation behind his agenda. Using the bully pulpit and appealing directly to the American people in a speech watched by so many is every bit as valuable as daily tweets.
Finally, he can speak to the hopes and aspirations of all Americans and how his vision for our future aligns with theirs. The president is renown for his skills as a pitchman. He needs to put them on full display Tuesday night.
Americans are optimistic even when times are tough. They look for us to be the “shining city on a hill.” They want a future of prosperity and peace. They will rally behind a president who speaks in language that unites us and says that our best days lie ahead.
The specific language of any State of the Union Address is not long remembered. The impressions that it leaves are lasting.
A focus on a thriving economy and what it means to ordinary working Americans to keep more of what they earn, to have stable good-paying jobs and hope for a better tomorrow are the keys.
On the eve of Super Bowl LII, a little Philadelphia Eagles garb might not be a bad idea.
One year ago, we celebrated the peaceful transition of power and the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States.
It’s been a tumultuous year, but as we reflect, who can argue that we aren’t better off today than we were a year ago?
For all of the tweets and ill-advised off-hand comments the Left and the media like to focus upon, most Americans see the policies of this administration working for them. They are more prosperous, more safe and secure, and more hopeful about the future.
Trump’s first year passes the Ronald Reagan test: “Are you better off than you were a year ago?”
President Trump promised several things along the campaign trail. One that caused many conservatives to vote for him, despite some misgivings, was his repeated pledge to appoint judges who would adhere to the Constitution and its original intent, not legislate from the bench.
The successful appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch was Trump’s first major victory. In getting the fastest Supreme Court confirmation, President Trump gave the nation an outstanding jurist, possessed of exceptional qualities of temperament and scholarship, who has the opportunity to make his mark on American jurisprudence for a generation.
But there was more. The president also got a record number of circuit courts of appeal judges confirmed. Those jurists are in marked contrast to the Obama appointments who were “judicial activists,” bent on legislating in robes.
Ditto for the federal district courts where the overwhelming caseload gets resolved. There are now lifetime appointees dedicated to upholding the plain meaning of the Constitution rather than those who want to tinker with it to meet their political agendas.
The president has been criticized by some for not getting all of his ambitious agenda through congress. But look at what he did.
He successfully used executive action to undo many of the troubling over-reaches of his predecessor. His rollback of unnecessary and job-killing overregulation helped boost the burst of economic growth we are witnessing daily. He was able to dramatically stem the flow of illegal immigration even without congressional action.
His major legislative victory, the tax cut package, is already causing the economy to surge. The Dow shot past 26,000 this week. We’ve had the two fastest 1,000-point gains in history within the past month. It took until Ronald Reagan’s administration for the market to get to 1,000. Now we’re talking about a 1,000-point jump in a single week.
No administration would wisely peg itself to stock prices alone. So look at employment, growth in virtually every sector of the economy, consumer confidence and any other measure you’d like.
Look at what Apple did this week and the repatriation of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of new jobs. Look at millions of hard-working Americans who got big bonuses even before the tax cuts kicked in.
Nancy Pelosi said the Tax Cut and Jobs Act was “Armageddon,” the end of the world. That’s not what the vast majority of Americans see. That same over-heated hype, which sadly has come to characterize criticism of this administration, came from Paul Krugman shortly after Trump was elected.
He told us that the economy would crater and the market would tank under a Trump presidency. The exact opposite happened. Our economy is soaring at a rate of better than 3 percent annually and is on track to eclipse that mark for the first time in more than a decade. The stock market is at all-time highs on an almost daily basis.
The president promised to destroy the Islamic State, and he’s successfully done that. Their caliphate has been eliminated. A year ago, they controlled 25,000 square miles. Today they don’t control much of anything geographically. Even their “capital” is gone.
President Trump was harshly criticized by the Left for his remarks about North Korea and their thuggish dictator. They predicated all sorts of calamity.
Today the North Koreans are at the negotiating table and are preparing to send Olympians to South Korea for the winter games. South Korean President Moon Jae-in summed it up, “I give President Trump huge credit for bringing about inter-Korean talks…”
Of course, there’s more to be done. The promised “infrastructure” package, which enjoys bi-partisan support, is yet to move. It’s likely to be next on the agenda. Fixing Obamacare remains an open issue, although getting rid of the individual mandate was a big first step.
Any presidency is judged by the nation’s assurance of peace and prosperity.
For all the mind-numbing chatter about this tweet and that, the fact remains that there’s greater peace and prosperity than there was 365 days ago.
Immigration is one of the most divisive issues facing our nation, but it shouldn’t be. Saying that we are a nation of immigrants is cliché. The greatest nation in the history of civilization is made up of and was built by immigrants.
In full disclosure, I am an immigrant. So was President Trump’s mother. His wife is too. So are millions of other Americans, many of whom you’d never know came from other lands unless they told you.
Today, more than a quarter of all Americans are either immigrants themselves or first generation Americans. That accounts for more than 80 million souls.
The impact of immigration on America’s economy and culture can’t be overstated. If there’s any doubt, ask the local farming or high-tech communities. It’s not just agriculture, the state’s biggest economic sector, that's depends on a steady stream of immigrant workers. There are many highly-skilled professions that depend on H-1B Visas to power their labor forces.
There’s little doubt that our immigration system is broken. Both sides agree on that. Recently there have been glimmers of optimism that both sides might be getting to “yes” on many issues necessary to fix things.
One of the major issues confronting Congress is the fate of the “Dreamers,” those brought here as children, who have remained for more than five years, gotten an education and stayed out of trouble. More than 800,000 of them registered under the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or “DACA.”
Unfortunately Mr. Obama’s executive action creating DACA far exceeded his legal authority. Last fall President Trump refused to extend it. He didn’t rescind it, instead putting the ball back in the court where it belongs—the United States Congress.
Now Congress has an opportunity to move past partisan bickering and forge a compromise that respects the rule of law, secures our borders, and also takes care of the Dreamers and allows a reasonable flow of legal immigration.
Sadly there are those who clamor for the Dreamers to be deported. That’s unrealistic on a number of levels, practically, politically and policy-wise. Then President-Elect Trump said, right after his election, that he would “work something out” for the Dreamers. He wasn’t talking about deportation.
Republicans in Congress will have to reject those cries and move forward with recognition of the legal status of the Dreamers. Providing for the Dreamers is a potential political benefit for Republicans, some of whom fear that Dreamers will simply vote for Democrats if given the franchise.
A lot of credit will come their way from folks who have been here all their lives, are fully assimilated into our culture and life and whose problem hasn't been solved by past administrations.
Democrats will need to agree to increased border security, maybe even some form of a wall, changes in the visa lottery system and ending chain migration.
By putting the matter back before Congress, President Trump created an opportunity. How far back that opportunity has been pushed by statements made by both the president and House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi this week, remains to be seen.
The reaction of congressional leaders to those remarks was telling. The second-ranking Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer, said her “comment is offensive.” House Speaker Paul Ryan characterized President Trump’s remark as “unfortunate and unhelpful.” Diplomacy is still king on Capitol Hill.
Congress needs to act on immigration reform. The best opportunity in years is before them. Without getting to broader issues like guest worker programs they can deal with DACA and border security.
In their deliberations they might well be guided by the words of saintly Father Theodore Hesburgh, the former president of the University of Notre Dame who once advised that we should shut the back door of illegal immigration in order to keep the front door of legal immigration wide open.
I, as one of the 80 million, am eternally grateful for that open door.
The media and the political Left are primed to have a field day with the dustup between President Trump and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
The rift, which is an ever-increasing chasm, between the two was highlighted by comments made by Bannon in Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury,” which hit the shelves this week.
It should be pointed out right away that Michael Wolff, (not to be confused with our own Michael Wolf, the former PA Secretary of Health and a genuinely good guy) doesn’t exactly carry a sterling reputation for journalistic integrity.
He’s often fashioned accurate snippets into broader narratives that were non sequiturs at best. He’s famous for trying to make a lot out of a little.
In his most recent work, he had a media salivating over the Bannon shots at his former boss and his kids. They got what they wanted, even though Maggie Haberman of the New York Times told us that Wolff “gets basic details wrong.”
Bannon hasn’t denied saying any of the things attributed to him. Trump hasn’t retreated one inch from the scathing remarks he made about Bannon when his comments were revealed.
When there are dust-ups of this sort between presidents and former members of their staffs, as there inevitably are, guess who “wins?”
Bannon was, as the President caustically reminded us, a “staffer.” However, he was no low-level hanger-on. He was the chief strategist. He was in the inner circle. He’d been a key player in the campaign.
Many have suggested that the true nature of their scuffle was the question of whether Trump made Bannon or Bannon made Trump.
Regardless of how you want to slice that apple, the fact is that Bannon is damaged by this far more than President Trump.
Even after he left the White House, his relationship to Donald J. Trump was the key to Steve Bannon’s political fortunes.
Bannon had a platform and an audience before his involvement with Donald Trump. There’s no denying the fact that his voice was amplified exponentially by his involvement with the Trump campaign and presidency. He needed to remain one of the keepers of the Trump flame in order to advance his own brand and continue to raise money, both for candidates and his enterprises.
Now some of Bannon’s key financial backers in the private sector, the Mercer family in particular, are moving away from Bannon.
At the same time the Trump base will stick with their leader. Discussions about Steve Bannon are mostly in the realm of political junkies. The core Trump constituency didn’t vote for Steve Bannon. Most don’t even know who he is. Their loyalty and allegiance, largely unwavering, is to the man in the Oval Office.
Trump also got an unexpected political boost from the dustup with Bannon. So-called “Establishment Republicans” rallied to his side. How long that lasts is an open question, but for now it’s a plus for the president.
Unfortunately, once again, palace intrigue stories threatened to obscure some really good news for the Trump Administration.
The economy, about which the 2018 mid-term elections will focus, is continuing to move upward.
The stock market hit 25,000 this week, the fastest 1,000 point acceleration in the market’s history. At the week’s close it was at nearly 25,300, a 2% increase in a single week. The staggering increases in the market are poised to continue as earnings will increase as the result of the recent cuts in corporate tax rebates.
It’s a mistake for the Trump Administration (or any other) to tie its political fortunes to stock prices. But, in addition to the continuing bull market, other economic indicators are also pointing upward.
Unemployment is at recent lows. All sectors of the economy, except retail, are moving dramatically upward. The tide is rising and all boats are going up with it.
Economic growth are the two most important words in the domestic policy lexicon. For eight years we were told to get used to anemic growth. Now we’re able to see a bright future of prosperity for everyone.
Telling that story has infinitely more benefit than publicly washing the dirty laundry of administrative in-fighting. Why Wolff was granted the access he got is a puzzling question.
Unfortunately the early days of the Trump Administration didn’t have the internal disciplines and procedures imposed by now Chief Of Staff General John Kelly.
General Kelly ushered in much more professionalism in the inner working of the West Wing.
It was a lack of that level of professionalism and an equal lack of it on the part the author that gave us “Fire and Fury.”