Time To Repeal And Replace The White House Press Corps

After delivering his remarks on GDP growth topping 4% in the second quarter, Donald Trump did not take any questions from the White House press corps gathered on the South Lawn. It was the right decision both politically and for the country. Allowing questions would not have resulted in the American public learning more about the economic policies driving the economy. Actually, the opposite would have happened. It would have degenerated into another confrontation between the media and the president over matters that have zero impact on the well being of the nation. And, indeed, as the president and his team of economic advisers were walking back into the White House a couple of reporters could be heard shouting questions about Russia (their favorite obsession) and Michael Cohen.

In retrospect, it would have been better for the country if the Trump administration had followed through with its proposal to evict the media from the White House grounds. When the idea was floated, the White House press pushed back saying that removing them from the West Wing would be a disservice to the American people. Democracy dies in darkness, they said. However, after the performance they have turned in since inauguration day no fair minded observer would say that they have brought enlightenment to the masses. The same press that could barely stop themselves from applauding after every Obama press conference now cannot contain its disdain for Donald Trump. Their partisanship is so transparent that one could replace them with officials from the Democratic National Committee and no one would able to tell the difference.

The country, our democracy needs a skeptical, ideologically diverse White House press dedicated to informing the public. Behaving as the president’s fan club is just as harmful as behaving as the president’s mortal enemies. The never ending antics by Jim Acosta, the constant hostility from April Ryan, the countless hours spent on asking the same questions about the latest manufactured outrage or pointless “scandals” like Stormy Daniels (everyone knew Trump was a womanizer) is toxic for our democracy. When abroad, the open warfare between the Trump and the traveling White House press has created visible discomfort for the foreign officials sharing a press conference with the president. It is damaging to our country and it must end.

Trump’s frustration with the mainstream media is perfectly understandable. Disproportionate coverage has been given to the Mueller investigation while any news that reflect well on the administration has been given short shrift. It should be clear by now that tweeting “fake news” and “witch hunt” is not going to address the problem. Sarah Sanders reading touching letters from American children to the president or baking pies for the press will not make any difference. The Trump administration needs to accept that his election represents a personal defeat for mainstream media. They truly believe the Trump administration represents a triumph for white supremacy and feel a moral obligation to do everything in their power to destroy it. It’s not rational. It's not fact based. No amount of evidence that the Trump policies are benefiting minority communities more than his predecessor will change their minds. Banning individual reporters will only intensify the visceral anger the mainstream media has for the president. The only solution is to replace the current White House press with reporters from around the country to cover the administration. Create a new, rotating White House press that will reflect the country at large instead of the New York-Washington bubble. It is what our democracy needs.

Maxine Waters Must Be Censured

Will Republican leaders finally hold Democrats accountable for their reckless rhetoric this time? After Maxine Waters delivered her latest incendiary comment calling for the harassment of Trump officials, Representative Andy Biggs introduced a bill calling for her censure. Even Paul Ryan, whose instinct is to always steer clear of any controversy, called for her to apologize. That may not seem like much, but given the Republican reluctance to confront Democrats – especially when the Democrat in question happens to be a woman and a minority – it is an improvement. Nevertheless, if history is any guide, the GOP will back down and once again will let the Democrats off the hook.

A year ago, the Republicans allowed the Democrats to hide behind a call of unity and civility, and escape responsibility for their rhetoric.James Hodgkinson, the man who opened fire on Republican lawmakers as they were practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, left a long and detailed record of his political leanings and the motivation behind the attack, including a political assassination list the FBI recovered on his body. He even went so far as to ask a couple of lawmakers leaving early to avoid traffic whether the individuals on the field were "Democrats or Republicans". Once he had the answer he was looking for, he calmly proceeded to carry out his heinous task. As soon as his name was announced, within minutes social media was filled with his rantings against Trump and Republicans  along with his support for Bernie Sanders. Unlike the Portland incident a few weeks earlier -- when another Bernie Sanders supporter murdered two individuals trying to protect a Muslim woman from his bigoted rantings -- this time the Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media were not able to characterize the attacker as a "white supremacist”. They were not able to generate false headlines and then quickly move on to the next story and, thus keep the public in the dark as to the real source of the violence. The Democrats were cornered -- and then the usual Republican eunuchs came along.

"An attack on one is an attack on all of us" declared Speaker Paul Ryan before the House of Representatives. He received a rapturous standing ovation. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi followed him by saying that she "identified with the Speaker's comments". More rapturous applause. The president, too, delivered vanilla unity remarks that won the praise of his relentless nemesis Stephen Colbert. But the applause and praise did not usher in a new kind of politics or a more civil discourse. As soon as the Alexandria shooting fell from headlines, the Democrats were back to their old habits and, after every shooting or act of violence, rushed to put a MAGA hat on the perpetrator, the latest example being the shooting at the Capital Gazette.

The same Republican eunuchs stood by and allowed the Democrats to promote the false narrative of a racist cop killing an innocent –- a gentle giant, we were told -- Michael Brown. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus took to the floor of the House, raising their hands while saying “Hands up. Don’t shoot!" As public unrest ravaged Ferguson, Missouri, Democratic elected officials casually asserted that “Michael Brown could have been my son” while on Sunday talk show panels. Sitting next to them, Republican politicos simply nodded in agreement. Not one of them had the courage to ask them, “You teach your son to rob a convenience store? You teach your son to steal a weapon from a police officer?” No demands for an apology from the Congressional Black Caucus after the Brown-driven “Hands Up” narrative was shown to be false. The fear of being labeled racist, which happens regardless of what Republicans say or do, simply paralyzes them.

GOP reluctance to hold Democrats accountable for their reckless rhetoric has only emboldened the far left. It is no wonder that Waters had no hesitation in calling for the harassment of Trump officials. Now that she is cornered, Republicans must hold her responsible and censure her. Unless Democrats are held accountable, their rhetoric will continue to escalate, the social tension will continue to grow, and and it will yield tragic results.

America's Isolation: Inevitable But Necessary

Barack Obama famously wanted to lead from behind. Donald Trump wants to lead front and center but is having a hard time getting other countries to follow him. As much as Mike Pence and the pundits of Conservatism, Inc. like to boast that “America is Back” on the world stage, the reality is that our country has become increasingly isolated, as demonstrated by recent events. Only a handful of Latin American countries have followed our lead to move their respective embassies in Israel to Jerusalem. Despite Trump threatening that he would take “personally” a vote in favor of a UN Resolution condemning his decision to declare Jerusalem Israel’s capital, the best our NATO allies could manage was to abstain, while the rest voted against us, including the UK with which we supposedly have a ‘special relationship’. America’s isolation was also obvious when "our allies" did not follow our lead in supporting the Iranian protests -- except for Israel (which has its own reason to oppose the mullahs). America may be back, but our allies don’t seem to be paying attention.

There are two prevailing views regarding the foundation of American leadership in the world. On the right, a view prevails that spending trillions in military equipment and talking tough earns the respect and obedience of our allies. On the left, the prevailing view is that America leads by virtue of moral authority. Both are views are mistaken. American leadership in the world has been built on two pillars: first, providing military protection; second, allowing our allies to run trade deficits to enrich them. It is not a coincidence that now that America has a president who insists that our allies pay for their share of the military tab and refuses to incur trade deficits, suddenly America finds itself alone.

It would also be mistaken to blame Trump for America's current isolation, as the pundit class has done ever since the acrimonious conclusion of the recent G-7 meeting. The president is simply carrying out what Americans have voted for for the last two decades. In 2000, George W. Bush promised a more "humble" foreign policy, and ran on ending America's role as the world's policeman. The terrorist attack on 9/11 caused Americans to back a more interventionist foreign policy, but it was a temporary reprieve. In 2008, Barack Obama was able to defeat the Clinton machine and war hero John McCain by promising to bring the troops home and renegotiate NAFTA. Eight years later, and again the candidate who pledged to end free trade and military interventions prevailed over candidates who defended the status quo. If not Trump, someone else with the same foreign policy and trade views would have come along eventually. Washington cannot ignore the will of voters for eternity.

As Trump pushes to redefine the terms of America’s alliances, the reactions will vary. For some allies, the temptation will be to hope that the next president will return to the old arrangements, and in the meantime issue threats  – as Macron did when he tweeted that a G-6 could be formed, leaving the United States out. Others have already taken steps to adjust to the new reality. South Korea, when faced with the prospect of having to pay for American military presence, has opted to pursue peace with its northern neighbor. Italy - sensing that a new world order is on the horizon - immediately backed Trump’s call to bring Russia back to the G-7 table . Of course, it would have been preferable if America could transition to a new role and redefine relationships in a less abrupt manner, but that’s not realistic. A world order that has been in place for 70 years cannot be upended without periods of uncertainty, isolation, and wailing from those who benefit from the status quo.