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100 Days of Trump: Crooked Hillary’s nutty Twilight Zone plot to replace Trump as president

Hillary Clinton now supports Mike Pence for president.

If you believe tweets by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, that is.

Daniel Chaitin of the Washington Examiner reports, “WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange said Twilight Zoneon Tuesday, without offering any proof, that Hillary Clinton and intelligence officials ‘close to’ Vice President Mike Pence are working to undermine Donald Trump's presidency in an effort to replace him with his vice president.

“In the first of a pair of tweets from an account WikiLeaks said was activated by its founder, Assange claimed that Trump's 2016 presidential election opponent Hillary Clinton stated privately this month that she is ‘pushing for a Pence takeover.’ He claimed Clinton views Pence as ‘predictable hence defeatable.’”

Assange later asserted that the “takeover” would be accomplished through impeachment, which staves off the need for the Secret Service to get involved with this one.

Nevertheless, this whole plot is really something straight out of the Twilight Zone. I half expect Rod Serling to come walking out of a fog bank at any moment.

While I would never put anything past the Clintons – or some people in the intelligence community -- this crazy scheme does seem a little far-fetched. Some sources have indicated Hillary has been doing a lot of drinking since losing the election – maybe she blurted out some sort of weird fantasy after pounding down her last drink of the evening.

For the sake of argument I’ll address Hillary’s “predictable” and “defeatable” claims against Pence, just in case all of this is on the level.

Mike Pence is only “predictable” in one sense. As a principled conservative with a long history of fighting for both fiscal and social causes, the only thing that can be said for sure about Pence is he’ll come down on the right side of the issue almost every time.

He is a predictable thorn in the Democrats’ side, but I don’t think that’s what Hillary is truly talking about.

As far as “defeatable,” time will tell how viable the vice president will be when it’s his turn to run for the top job (if that’s what he intends to do). If Trump’s presidency is viewed as a success by the Republican base Pence will have as good a shot as any at getting the party nomination when it’s his time.

And if Pence is the Republican nominee he would be a formidable opponent no matter who the Democrat turns out to be. He’ll likely have the Trump coalition on his side together with an endorsement from the president. The Democrats will probably have a candidate whose name isn’t Clinton or Obama at that point. Predicting the next election is hard enough; who knows what’s going to happen eight years down the road.

Beyond the crazy notion of the Hillary plot, if true – and if Pence is “beatable” -- does that mean Clinton now sees Trump as “un-beatable?”

Pence himself would have nothing of the rumors.

Again, Chaitin reports at the Washington Examiner, “Speaking in a radio interview with Laura Ingraham on Tuesday, Pence said Assange's tweets are ‘absurd’ and ‘frankly offensive.’

“’I would find all of that dialogue to be absurd and frankly offensive,’ Pence said. ‘It is the greatest honor of my life to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with the 45th president of the United States. To see his leadership every day, to see the compassion that he has for the American people every day. I would dismiss that out of hand…’”

The coming days will reveal how much attention the press pays to this kooky nonsense. But it does give everyone a chance to talk about something other than healthcare and the media’s ongoing unfair assault against Kellyanne Conway…so we should be thankful.

Trump the negotiator searches for the best “deal” for all sides on healthcare

Donald Trump likes to negotiate; some people would even say he thrives on it.

Everyone should remember this whenever the president tweets or makes a public statement that suggests he’s made up his mind on an issue. The fact Trump’s positions seem constantly in flux may bother the most ideologically pure among us, but there’s another more positive way to look at his philosophical flexibility: since the lifelong businessman is so used to saying one thing while possibly meaning another, he’s always open to persuasion.

And at least in terms of the Ryancare bill, Trump’s elasticity is a good thing. There are signs Trump is being persuaded by conservatives to demand major changes to the Ryan-created disaster.

Josh Dawsey, Rachael Bade and Tara Palmeri of Politico report, “President Donald Trump's White House is increasingly likely to support some conservative-backed changes to the House Obamacare alternative, two administration officials said Monday — a move that comes after a nonpartisan budgetary analysis showed 24 million people could lose insurance under the bill.

“One senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions, said the White House is weighing ideas for a ‘significant’ manager's amendment to the bill before it hits the House floor next week. Officials would like the changes — which would likely be offered in the House Rules Committee — to appease some conservatives.”

Oh my. Assuming this report is true you can just imagine the hand wringing that’s going on in the Speaker’s office right now. Just when Paul Ryan and his establishment cohorts thought he’d won over the most popular populist Republican in America things are starting to move against him. His sleazy deal meticulously hammered out behind closed doors could be falling to pieces.

All the pharmaceutical lobbyists must be pulling their hair out. Maybe money can’t buy everything – least of all Trump who doesn’t appear to give a hoot about the financial health of GOP congressional campaign committees (they’re already raising record amounts, not to worry).

The changes Trump will apparently be asking for involve phasing out Medicaid two years ahead of Ryan’s plan (to the beginning of 2018 instead of the end of 2019) and quickening the pace of improvements in the insurance provisions to incorporate more free market principles, including offering the ability to purchase insurance across state lines.

As would be expected, establishment supporters of the bill in its current form caution that such changes are not allowed under reconciliation rules (because they’re not budget related, supposedly) but that should prove to be a minor procedural hurdle if it comes down to it.

What Ryan and the establishment are really concerned about is the effect improving the bill will have on the party “moderates” in both the House and the Senate. The “moderates” see the media scaring people about losing their health insurance and run like crazy for the door because they think they’ll lose their seats – literally and figuratively.

For the moderates, it’s never about doing what’s best for the country; it’s about saving their own political skins. And it's not like they’re not getting their own little nuggets in the process. The Politico article indicates the White House isn’t moving off its demand to keep the bill’s tax credit provision which essentially creates another federal entitlement to make the “moderates” happy. Blue state Republican senators could also object to the accelerated phase-out of the Medicaid money.

Can’t we all just get along?

I’m not always wild about the concept of compromise where principles are involved but if members of the House Freedom Caucus are willing to go along with the changes then it might be the best deal we’ll get. Now it’s time the “moderates” got onboard including Senators who only seem interested in how much federal pork they can secure for their states.

While it’s not immediately apparent what’s moving the White House closer to the conservatives’ position, some suggest it’s because they’re making Paul Ryan into a scapegoat.

David M. Drucker of the Washington Examiner writes, “Instead of rebuking Trump, conservative groups are dissing the AHCA as ‘Ryancare’ and training all of their fire at the speaker, in a bid to curry favor with the president and protect their relationships with him in future negotiations...

“The groups' policy objections to the bill and demands for changes are consistent with how they have behaved over the years in opposing Republican leadership-driven proposals in Congress. What is unusual is their conciliatory approach at the outset. Some of these groups seem more interested in getting to ‘yes’ with Trump than they have been over the years with Republican congressional leaders.”

There’s an easy explanation for this. First, Trump isn’t beholden to the same swampy establishment special interests that manipulate the GOP congressional leaders like remote controlled robots. Second, as a negotiator Trump is primarily interested in finding the most practical solution that will satisfy all sides. And lastly, unlike the Republican leadership, Trump is popular with the grassroots.

Plus, the president aims to keep his promises. As has been proven time and again over the years the Republican leadership couldn’t care less about keeping their word to the voters. Trump does; so do the members of the Freedom Caucus.

So however the negotiations ultimately turn out, Trump will make sure it’s the best “deal” that can be struck. Isn’t that what he ran on in the first place?

Upcoming Trump budget sets parameters for deconstructing the administrative state

During the 2016 presidential primaries and general election campaign many conservatives expressed serious concerns about whether Donald Trump, if implausibly elected, would actually govern as a conservative.

In other words, was he a true believer in limited government or was he just another manager of the welfare state?

Trump hardly declared his allegiance to Ronald Reagan’s “government is the enemy” principles, only hinting at various times that government spends way too much and doesn’t get good value for its money because the people who negotiated the “deals” didn’t know what they were doing.

In practice, however, Trump is governing like a believer in limited government, including his budget that will be introduced later this week.

Stephen Collinson of CNN reports, “All presidential budgets are aspirational documents -- and few emerge from Congress in the same shape as they arrived on Capitol Hill.

“But Trump's first budget will make more of a statement than most debut spending blueprints by other new presidents. The White House has made clear it intends to use the document to usher in the radical political changes that powered Trump's upstart, anti-establishment campaign last year.”

In his article Collinson talks about those “radical changes” Trump has already made in his two-month old presidency and mentions the firing of 46 U.S. Attorneys last week as an example of his willingness to go big or go home. Stephen Bannon called Trump’s actions the “deconstruction of the administrative state” during his speech to CPAC,

When considered in the scheme of things and put into historical context, Trump’s changes really aren’t all that radical; he’s merely undoing some of the damage done through years of unchecked government growth under the two Bush presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Of course Collinson’s CNN article implies the world is coming to an end because Trump proposes to dramatically cut funding for federal behemoths like the EPA, but his budget is most likely just a sign he intends to keep the opposition perpetually off balance in the course of negotiations.

The concept is simple: ask for a 90% cut and maybe you’ll end up with 40%. At the same time, Trump promised to leave entitlements alone, but might be persuaded to make slight alterations that will maintain the solvency of the programs for the long-term.

Negotiation, negotiation, negotiation.

It’s quite a contrast to Barack Obama’s reign where annual baseline budgeting meant every program would not only be automatically renewed, it would be increased by percentage. Add in the fact Congress can’t seem to do anything but pass continuing resolutions these days and Trump’s “deconstruction” position starts to sound pretty good, doesn’t it?

Trump’s budget will apparently draw ire from both parties.

Alexander Bolton of The Hill reports, “President Trump will send his budget to Capitol Hill Thursday, setting off a brawl with Democrats as well as fellow Republicans who are alarmed over a range of proposed deep cuts to federal programs.

“Trump’s ambitious fiscal blueprint will break the de facto truce that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) negotiated in 2013 — and leaders renewed with the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act — that ended years of bitter fighting over defense and discretionary spending.

“But it’s Congress, not the White House, that has the power of the purse, and many on Capitol Hill believe Trump’s budget plan isn’t politically feasible.”

There are even rumors Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer may shut down the government rather than agree to fund Trump’s border wall. That would be fascinating to watch…and shutting down the government? I thought Democrats were against that?

Nobody ever said changing government would be easy and Trump certainly faces significant opposition in Congress. But if he had never been elected, we wouldn’t be talking about cutting government or anything else of import right now. Trump gives us a chance to try and fix the problems…or as more aptly put by Bannon, deconstruct the administrative state.

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