Thursday, June 29, 2017

Since There Is No There Keep Digging. Bolton, Too Tough, But Always My Preference. If Republicans Cannot Govern Who Needs Them?

The there just is not there so keep on digging and looking until something there is either found or concocted. (See 1 below.)
What comes after ISIS is basically run out of town?

Bolton was always my preference for Sec. of State.  Too tough maybe but these times require what he would have brought to the table. (See 2 below.)
If Republicans cannot and/or refuse to govern neither Trump nor the nation needs them. (See 3 and 3a below.)
Shocking: CNN Caught Admitting Being Fake News 



This time, a senior CNN producer was caught on camera by one of O’Keefe’s investigators admitting that the network’s relentless bashing of President Donald Trump with the Russia scandal lacks proof.
Could be bullshit. I mean, it’s mostly bullshit right now,” the CNN producer, John Bonifield, said in a video O’Keefe’s Project Veritas released on Tuesday, when asked about his thoughts on the Russia investigation. “Like, we don’t have any giant proof. Then they saywell there’s still an investigation going on. And you’re like, yeah, I don’t know. If they were finding something we would know about it.The way these leaks happen, they would leak it. They’d leak. If it was something really good, it would leak…. The leaks keep leaking and there’s so many great leaks, and it’s amazing. I just refuse to believe that if they had something really good like that that wouldn’t leak because we’ve been getting all these other leaks. So, I just feel like they don’t really have it but they want to keep digging. And so I think the president is probably right to say, like, look you are witch hunting me. You have no smoking gun. You have no real proof.”
The video also shows Bonifield admitting that he has not seen evidence that Trump has committed any crimes.
I haven’t seen any good evidence to show the president committed a crime,” Bonifield says in the video.
2)America Needs a Post-ISIS Strategy

The U.S. should recognize Iran and Russia as adversaries—and that Iraq isn’t a friend.

By John Bolton

The headlines out of Syria are eye-catching: There are signs the Assad government may be planning another chemical attack. American pilots have struck forces threatening our allies and shot down a Syrian plane and Iranian-made drones. The probability of direct military confrontation between the U.S. and Russia has risen. Yet the coverage of these incidents and the tactical responses that have been suggested obscure the broader story: The slow-moving campaign against Islamic State is finally nearing its conclusion—yet major, long-range strategic issues remain unresolved.

The real issue isn’t tactical. It is instead the lack of American strategic thinking about the Middle East after Islamic State. Its defeat will leave a regional political vacuum that must be filled somehow. Instead of reflexively repeating President Obama’s errors, the Trump administration should undertake an “agonizing reappraisal,” in the style of John Foster Dulles, to avoid squandering the victory on the ground.
First, the U.S. ought to abandon or substantially reduce its military support for Iraq’s current government. Despite retaining a tripartite veneer of Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs, the capital is dominated by Shiites loyal to Iran. Today Iraq resembles Eastern Europe in the late 1940s, as the Soviet anaconda tightened its hold. Extending Baghdad’s political and military control into areas retaken from ISIS simply advances Tehran’s power. This cannot be in America’s interest.

Iraq’s Kurds have de facto independence and are on the verge of declaring it de jure. They fight ISIS to facilitate the creation of a greater Kurdistan. Nonetheless, the Kurds, especially in Syria and Turkey, are hardly monolithic. Not all see the U.S. favorably. In Syria, Kurdish forces fighting ISIS are linked to the Marxist PKK in Turkey. They pose a real threat to Turkey’s territorial integrity, even if it may seem less troubling now that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans have turned so profoundly contrary to the secular, Western-oriented vision of Kemal Atatürk.

Second, the U.S. should press Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf monarchies for more troops and material assistance in fighting ISIS. America has carried too much of the burden for too long in trying to forge Syria’s opposition into an effective force. Yet even today the opposition could charitably be called “diverse.” It includes undeniably terrorist elements that are often hard to distinguish from the “moderates” the U.S. supports. Getting fresh contributions from Arab allies would rebalance the opposition, which is especially critical if the U.S. turns away, as it should, from reliance on the Iraqi forces dominated by Tehran.

Third, the Trump administration must take a clear-eyed view of Russia’s intervention. The Syrian mixing bowl is where confrontation between American and Russian forces looms. Why is Russia active in this conflict? Because it is aiding its allies: Syria’s President Bashar Assad and Iran’s ayatollahs. Undeniably, Russia is on the wrong side. But Mr. Obama, blind to reality, believed Washington and Moscow shared a common interest in easing the Assad regime out of power. The Trump administration’s new thinking should be oriented toward a clear objective: pushing back these Iranian and Russian gains.
Start with Iran. Tehran is trying to cement an arc of control from its own territory, through Baghdad-controlled Iraq and Mr. Assad’s Syria, to Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon. This would set the stage for the region’s next potential conflict: Iran’s Shiite coalition versus a Saudi-led Sunni alliance.

The U.S.-led coalition, enhanced as suggested above, needs to thwart Iran’s ambitions as ISIS falls. Securing increased forces and financial backing from the regional Arab governments is essential. Their stakes are as high as ours—despite the contretemps between Qatar and Saudi Arabia (and others)—but their participation has lagged. The U.S. has mistakenly filled the gap with Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias.

Washington is kidding itself to think Sunnis will meekly accept rule by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government or Syria’s Alawite regime. Simply restoring today’s governments in Baghdad and Damascus to their post-World War I boundaries would guarantee renewed support for terrorism and future conflict. I have previously suggested creating a new, secular, demographically Sunni state from territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria. There may well be other solutions, but pining for borders demarcated by Europeans nearly a century ago is not one of them.

At the same time, the U.S. must begin rolling back Russia’s renewed presence and influence in the Middle East. Russia has a new air base at Latakia, Syria, is involved in combat operations, and issues diktats about where American warplanes in the region may fly. For all the allegations about Donald Trump and Russia, the president truly in thrall to Moscow seems to have been Mr. Obama.

Russia’s interference, particularly its axis with Mr. Assad and Tehran’s mullahs, critically threatens the interests of the U.S., Israel and our Arab friends. Mr. Assad almost certainly would have fallen by now without Russia’s (and Iran’s) assistance. Further, Moscow’s support for Tehran shatters any claim of its truly being a partner in fighting radical Islamic terrorism, which got its modern start in Iran’s 1979 revolution. Both Iran and the Assad regime remain terror-sponsoring states, only now they are committing their violence under Russia’s protective umbrella. There is no reason for the U.S. to pursue a strategy that enhances Russia’s influence or that of its surrogates.

As incidents in Syria and Iraq increasingly put American forces at risk, Washington should not get lost in deconfliction negotiations or modest changes in rules of engagement. Instead, the Trump administration should recraft the U.S.-led coalition to ensure that America’s interests, rather than Russia’s or Iran’s, predominate once ISIS is defeated.

Mr. Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad” (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
3)The Republicaid Party?

Some GOP Senators are shrinking from entitlement reform.

With the Senate health-care bill delayed for now, the conservative and more centrist GOP wings need to bridge a philosophical gap to succeed. The outcome of this debate will define what the Republican Party stands for—and whether the problems of America’s entitlement state can ever be solved.
The biggest policy divide concerns the future of Medicaid, and here the problem is the moderates who are acting like liberals. Despite their campaign rhetoric, some Senators now want to ratify ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion as an unrepealable and unreformable welfare program.
Most of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance coverage gains have come from opening Medicaid eligibility beyond its original goal of helping the poor and disabled to include prime-age, able-bodied adults. The federal-state program has become the world’s single largest insurer by enrollment, covering more people than Medicare or the British National Health Service. Total spending grew 18% in 2015 and 17% in 2016 in the 29 states that expanded, and the nearby chart shows the growth of overall federal Medicaid spending under current law and without reform.
The Senate bill attempts to arrest this unsustainable surge by moving to per capita spending caps from an open-ended entitlement. When states spend more now, they generate an automatic payment from the feds. The goal is to contain costs and give Governors the incentive and flexibility to manage their programs.

Meanwhile, four long years from now, the bill would start to phase-down the state payment formula for old and new Medicaid beneficiaries to equal rates. Governors ought to prioritize the most urgent needs.

This would be the largest entitlement reform ever while still protecting the most vulnerable. The bill is carefully designed to avoid overreach and would save taxpayers $772 billion compared with what Medicaid would otherwise spend under current law, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This does not “cut” spending; it merely slows the rate of increase.
This has nonetheless made some Senators nervous, like West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito and Ohio’s Rob Portman. The growth rate for the block grants would be set at the rate of medical inflation for most beneficiaries at the start and then fall to the consumer price index in 2026, which is more ambitious than the House bill. Some Senators would like to see more generous growth rates, while others favor waiting six or seven years, rather than four, to start the phase-down of the expansion.
The danger is that both approaches could dilute reform to the point where it’s not worth the political trouble and wouldn’t improve the federal fisc. Postponing change until after 2020 means waiting a political eternity, and a formula that on paper says the government will cut spending in the future is already uncertain enough fiscal discipline. It certainly doesn’t qualify as cruel, barbaric, or any of the other adjectives the bill’s critics are abusing.
More to the political point, Republicans run in every election on cutting federal spending and a smaller, more efficient government. Well, here’s their best chance in a generation, and eventually Republicans will have to follow the money.
Some 65% of the federal budget is mandatory spending, meaning Social Security and the health-care entitlements. Interest on the debt is 6% and more than half of the discretionary budget flows to defense. The GOP can’t meaningfully reform government or increase defense spending without fixing Medicaid and replacing ObamaCare.
The alternative will be much higher levels of taxation across society, reaching deep into the middle class, or a debt crisis. “To avoid fiscal and economic calamity,” as one GOP Senator wrote in a 2014 op-ed on these pages, Washington must “reform Social Security and health entitlements. The CBO estimates that a deal saving $4 trillion over the decade would put the budget on a path to sustainability. . . . The longer we wait to enact reforms, the more abrupt and painful they will be. It is time for everyone to come together and start to erase the red ink.”
That Senator was Mr. Portman, a former White House budget director and member of the “super committee” of 2011 that tried to negotiate entitlement reform with Barack Obama. The Senate bill doesn’t save close to $4 trillion but you’ve got to start somewhere.
Someone should also ask the Governors like John Kasich who are predicting doom a substantive policy question or two. Some 43% of the Ohio all-funds budget goes to Medicaid compared to a mere 14% for K-12 education. The average state all-funds Medicaid share is 28%. Does Mr. Kasich think this is the correct fiscal priority for America’s future—skimp on educating the next generation to finance free health care for able-bodied adults?


If Republicans fail to pass a bill or weaken the Senate bill so much that it won’t make a difference, the result will be a calamity of a different kind. GOP Governors who declined to join ObamaCare’s new Medicaid will conclude that the expansion is permanent and the political pressure will rise to take the federal bribe. Medicaid costs will soar, and national Republicans will show that they’re incapable of doing what voters sent them to Washington to do.
Democrats will conclude that Medicaid is politically untouchable and thus a wedge for single payer. They’ll enlarge eligibility to ever-higher income levels and gradually crowd out private insurance. Republicans won’t have a plausible argument against the idea if they can’t reform Medicaid now

3a)Should Trump Abandon the GOP?

Donald Trump may separate himself from a party disabled by a permanent blocking minority.

In 2016, Donald Trump stood on debate stages and ran against a half-dozen Republicans in the party’s presidential primaries. He won. With his presidential victory came Republican control of the House and Senate, in part because of his coattails.
After Senate Republicans this week failed to move a bill to repeal and replace Obama Care, Mr. Trump must be asking himself: Why do I need these people?
Just now, that’s a good question.
If the congressional Republicans can’t do ObamaCare reform after years of chanting they would, what chance is there they’ll pull off the heavier lift of tax reform?
Mr. Trump has to be wondering whether he would be better off with his version of the Obama presidential model: govern by pen-and-phone executive order through the agencies he controls.
Barack Obama rendered Congress moribund with little outcry from voters. The Obama error was his predictable left-wing overreach with extralegal decrees like the Clean Power Plan, which failed a court challenge before the D.C. Circuit.
To succeed as president, Mr. Trump has to show he can govern, and it looks like that may require separating himself from a Republican Party disabled by a permanent blocking minority with no interest in governing.
At the level of domestic politics, successful presidential governing means not much more than enabling and attaching oneself to an improving economy, as the impeached but popular Bill Clinton proved possible.
The economy is already strengthening, and Mr. Trump can direct Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economics chief Gary Cohn to accelerate their deregulation of financial and energy markets.
Before the Republicans lose seats and maybe control of the House in 2018, Mr. Trump can still extract a few things helpful to himself. Desperate incumbents, such as Nevada’s ObamaCare reform opponent Sen. Dean Heller, will be looking for a legislative life raft. Mr. Trump no doubt could get a modest tax-cut bill passed this year. That will support slow but steady upward growth unless he retards even that with a regime of steel tariffs and myriad trade uncertainties.
Real tax reform would liberate the U.S.’s ocean of pent-up capital and produce an economic boom, assuring continued GOP control of Congress. But Republicans like West Virginia’s Sen. Shelley Moore Capito see their reason for being as protecting the Medicaid status quo.
Some may say Mr. Trump and the Republicans will now take political ownership of the steady collapse of the ObamaCare exchanges. But he didn’t create these things; Congress did, and when voters elected a Congress to reform ObamaCare, it failed.
The press will dump full responsibility for this political nonfeasance on congressional Republicans, and voters will take it out on them in 2018. Health and Human Services can tinker with the failing ObamaCare exchanges, as it would have under Hillary Clinton anyway, and Mr. Trump can blame Congress for the residual mess.
As to Mr. Trump’s low approval rating, the danger there was always that it would scare away Republicans from his agenda. That looks moot now. The Republicans’ approval rating is no doubt already plummeting. Mr. Trump’s approval will rise as the economy improves and if he modulates himself by about half, as he’s done recently.
Most intriguing of all is the longer term future of Mr. Trump’s formal relationship with the Republican Party. After voters in 2018 reorder Congress, Mr. Trump can consolidate his base with a big infrastructure bill co-designed by Democrats and likely approved by independent voters. By then, the Republican opposition that tanked ObamaCare reform will be irrelevant.
And please, hold the faux shock when Mr. Trump, a nonideological pragmatist, entertains Chuck Schumer’s Medicare-for-all as the final health-care fix. In Mr. Trump’s world, subcontractors come and go. The GOP shouldn’t bother trying to collect for work done.
This disorder could surface the possibility that dare not speak its name until now: a more centrist Trumpian political party of the sort favored by Ivanka Trump. No one thought Emmanuel Macron’s party bolt in France could go so far.
Look who’s out front undermining Mr. Trump’s health-care reform: Ted Cruz, Rob Portman, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The nominal reasons each has given for opposing the reform don’t add up. What makes sense is compulsively ambitious Republican politicians positioning themselves to emerge from the rubble and run in 2020 against what they think will be a wounded president. They may end up with nothing but the rubble.
Reasons abound for the GOP’s rump opposition to spend the July 4 holiday rethinking what it is doing. But the biggest of all is this: After eight years of rule by progressive presidential decree, they are putting in motion four more years of centralizing power by a Republican president. The opposition may alter American government forever, but this couldn’t be further from what they intended.

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