It’s been an entire workweek since the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was made public and the media still can’t stop talking about the subject and how it may impact the now four week-old presidency of Donald Trump.
Details regarding what Flynn might have said to whom are still coming in and there’s no doubt more to learn in the days and weeks ahead. But that’s not stopping some people from worrying about where all of this could be headed.
Byron York of the Washington Examiner reports, “I spent much of Wednesday talking and corresponding with Republicans in various states of anxiety about the latest revelations concerning the Trump campaign and Russia. Some put more credence in the allegations than others. All thought the leaks of national security intercepts behind the news stories were outrageous, and that the leakers should be punished. But even for those most inclined to support President Trump, there was still a nagging fear that the stories might be true.”
By “true” York is referencing the news media’s fantastic tales of Trump and his campaign staff colluding with the Russians to try and fix last year’s election. Several of the people interviewed for York’s article indicated there is apparently some record of communications between the two entities (Trump denies it) but thus far nothing even close to a smoking gun has turned up.
Trump has insisted for months that there isn’t anything there to uncover, so it boils down to a choice on who to believe – some anonymous likely Obama supporting intelligence insiders leaking bits and pieces of intrigue to the press to discredit the new president or the on-the-record but sometimes incomplete puzzle picture coming out of the White House.
All along, I’ve found it curious the only allegations that have actually stuck to Trump involve matters having nothing to do with him. The rest is all insinuation and conjecture.
Like gee, Trump says nice things about Vladimir Putin and goes out of his way to avoid calling the Russian president a “war criminal” like Marco Rubio and John McCain do all the time. Therefore, Trump must have some sort of deeply buried business ties to Russia that he’s trying to keep under wraps, right?
Or, Wikileaks mysteriously got access to John Podesta’s and the DNC’s emails and released them during the heat of the fall campaign, so naturally Trump’s operation was behind the hacking and timing of the leaks, right?
It’s a tortured connection at best. And the thing is, all of the best leftwing snoopers have been diligently working for months to dig up anything they could find that would make Trump look dirty and the best they can offer is a phone call from Michael Flynn three weeks before inauguration day?
Weren’t they going to introduce an “October surprise” that demonstrated the Trump/Russia link? Why would they wait until now to let it out when even if they manage to take down Trump the Republicans still hold all the political cards regardless?
Some conservatives are suggesting the best way to get past the Flynn matter is to simply release the transcript of the infamous December 29 phone call.
Andrew C. McCarthy of National Review sees it as a win-win for Trump. “What have you got to lose? If it corroborates Flynn’s version of events, the public will understand that nothing of consequence happened in the conversation. If Flynn is misreporting it, it will support the White House story that the general is an unreliable source of information who was unsuited to a top advisory post. But the contents of the conversation are going to be public at some point anyway, so now is the time to be transparent rather than guilty-looking.”
McCarthy makes a good argument. And one of York’s interviewees suggested basically the same thing, namely that if the Flynn conversation is certain to be made public somewhere down the road, there’s no use in holding it back now.
The only real dangers of releasing it are one, that it will further the media’s narrative that the Trump White House is already full of nefarious secrets and two, it would potentially enrage the international community that the Americans are playing fast and loose with what are supposed to be confidential phone calls.
Whatever the president decides on releasing the transcript, the question then becomes…where to go from here?
How about Florida? “On Wednesday afternoon, word got out that he [Trump] will hold a rally in Melbourne, Fla., Saturday — his first such event as president,” York added. “What will he do? Will he use the opportunity to replay, for the nth time, his election victory? Or will he focus on the things he has already done by executive order — strengthen immigration enforcement, pull out of TPP, freeze federal hiring, reduce regulations, and more — and then also work to build support for the things he wants to do, like replacing Obamacare and reforming the tax code?”
If I were advising the president, I would advocate for a refocus on the issues that won him the election. In speeches he might touch on the need to continue rooting out the leakers and then talk about something else like building the border wall or renegotiating trade deals.
Focus on the positive; and there’s a lot to speak to.
For example, Trump spent last weekend with the Japanese Prime Minister and by all accounts, they got along swimmingly. The media reported it briefly but then jumped to the Flynn controversy.
The press and Trump’s Democrat enemies are never going to cut him any slack. At this point it is probably best just to ignore them as Trump and press secretary Sean Spicer have already been doing, giving questions to conservative news outlets instead of the so-called mainstream media.
And while Trump’s at it, he should probably cut back on Twitter, for his own sake. Fred Barnes of the The Weekly Standard reports, “Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says President Trump's approval rating would be ‘10 to 15 points higher if he allowed himself to stay on message.’ In an interview yesterday, McConnell said he likes ‘what the president is doing,’ citing deregulation efforts, his Supreme Court nominee, and Cabinet picks. But ‘what he's saying makes everything harder.’ His tweets and comments often make it ‘harder to achieve what you want to achieve.’”
Normally I wouldn’t give much credence to any advice from Mitch McConnell, but in this case I think the Majority Leader is right. Trump can’t possibly win the battle against the press one tweet at a time, but he can defeat them and all liberals everywhere by simply doing what he promised to do during the campaign.
The president has already made remarkable progress towards the goal of “Making America Great Again” in his first month, but his aims will only be accomplished through sound policy and effective messaging – not petty bickering with the media.
If the Flynn affair turns out to be the “deep state” witch hunt that it appears to be, the truth will come out in time. In the interim, Trump should stick to the country’s business.
Mulvaney’s confirmation to head the OMB only the beginning of budget battles to come
One item of business certain to be on President Trump’s agenda in the coming weeks is the budget, made slightly less cumbersome by the Senate finally confirming Trump nominee Mick Mulvaney to head the OMB on Thursday.
But just because there’s now someone in charge of the White House’s budget doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for national leaders to agree on how and where to spend trillions of the taxpayers’ dollars.
Sarah Westwood of the Washington Examiner reports, “Republican doubts about Rep. Mick Mulvaney, President Trump's choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget, could foreshadow an internal administration struggle over priorities in the federal budget…
“[T]heir (a few Republican senators) initial reluctance to back Mulvaney demonstrates the challenges he will face when it comes to writing the president's first budget.”
That’s no joke. Mulvaney barely squeaked by in his confirmation vote 51-49, with the always queasy neoconservative John McCain voting “no” on the new budget man because of fears the administration might start cutting defense outlays.
In the end, wishy-washy Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins did end up voting yes for Mulvaney but had previously expressed concern that the South Carolinian had never voted for a budget or a debt increase while in Congress.
In my book that’s a positive.
Apparently there were other Republicans worried about possible defense cuts as well (like ultra-establishment Senator Thad Cochran), though I didn’t see any news blurbs on Marco Rubio potentially wavering on Mulvaney’s nomination. But then again, if anyone who’s considering running for president again someday voted no on a budget director because of fears of budget cuts, I doubt he would get very far with conservative Republican primary voters.
All of these concerns underscore the desperate need to size-up the enormous federal budget and hopefully begin the process of gradually downsizing the government. By all appearances Mulvaney favors an across-the-board approach to cutting the budget which made Sen. Rand Paul happy. Paul ran for president last year touting the “penny plan,” which would essentially begin reducing federal agency budgets by 1 percent a year until the whole thing is balanced.
I doubt such a proposal would fly with the Republican neocon contingent (McCain, Lindsey Graham, Rubio, Cochran etc.) that already thinks we’re not spending enough on the military. I used to think so myself until I moved to the Washington DC area and discovered how bloated the military bureaucracy happens to be. There’s plenty of fat that can be cut from the defense budget.
If nothing else, money can be saved from requiring our NATO and east Asian allies to contribute more for their own defense. Why should Uncle Sam go broke when well-to-do foreign countries are living large under America’s protection umbrella?
Clearly Mulvaney has held a similar view in the past and hopefully will be able to convince some people that changes need to be made in all areas of the budget – including the military and entitlements.
With the national debt rapidly approaching $20 trillion, there’s no other way to assess the situation. If the president wants more money for certain priorities, others must be cut. As a businessman, Trump understands this.
But we should all brace for the battles ahead. It’s going to get rough out there.
Trump announces new nominee for Labor Secretary, media notices he’s brown
One of the big stories of the week that’s received precious little media attention was the withdrawn nomination of Andrew Puzder for Labor Secretary. Puzder personally took himself out of Senate consideration on Wednesday afternoon.
Yesterday, President Trump named a replacement during his impromptu press conference.
Lydia Wheeler of The Hill reports, “President Trump on Thursday announced he was nominating Alexander Acosta to be his Labor secretary, less than 24 hours after his first nominee for the position withdrew amid criticism from Republican senators…
“Acosta is a former member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and is currently the dean of Florida International University’s law school.
“A Republican, Acosta served on the NLRB from December 2002 to August 2003 and authored more than 125 opinions, according to his bio on FIU’s website.”
As would be expected the media immediately concentrated on Acosta’s Hispanic heritage and noted he would be the first of his ethnicity to be nominated for Trump’s cabinet.
I guess the affirmative action police really are keeping score. But we knew that.
Judging by the maturity level the Democrats displayed in all of the other cabinet confirmation hearings I’m guessing the color of Acosta’s skin or ethnic origin won’t buy him much love from them. They’ll just see he’s a Republican and worked in the George W. Bush administration and that will be all they’ll need to string him up…rhetorically, at least.
The fact business groups are praising Acosta’s nomination probably signals Republican establishment approval, so I’m guessing he’ll have a fairly easy time in confirmation unless there’s some sort of personal bogeyman in his background that would disqualify him.
Some ugly aspects of Puzder’s divorce leaked out during the confirmation process and I speculate that’s really what ultimately sank him instead of allegations of having hired an illegal alien to clean his house.
Puzder’s situation is a reminder that everything tends to come out when you’re a nominee for high office. All of these folks are making a huge sacrifice to serve – and are putting their personal reputations on the line at the same time.
During yesterday’s press conference President Trump also touched on what first lady Melania will be doing when she moves to the White House full-time in a few months.
Judy Kurtz of The Hill reports, “President Trump said Thursday his wife ‘gets so unfairly maligned’ in the press, while revealing Melania Trump will work on ‘women’s issues’ and ‘difficulties’ facing women as first lady.
“‘I think that Melania’s going to be outstanding,’ Trump said Thursday during a lengthy, at times combative news conference at the White House.
“’She — like others that she’s working with — feel very, very strongly about women’s issues, women’s difficulties,’ Trump told an East Room packed with journalists. ‘She’s a very, very strong advocate. I think she’s a great representative for this country.’”
I’ve said it before – Melania brings back a touch of elegance and style to the White House. I have no doubt she’ll be successful in anything she takes on.
And most importantly, she’ll leave the policy decisions to the marital partner who was elected.