TOWOIT #84

April 10, 2017…. Day 81

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Gorsuch became the 113th Supreme Court justice today. It was hard to even see it and hear about it and know about it.

There was a femicide murder-suicide at a grade school in San Bernadino. A couple of kids caught bullets meant for their teacher. Her husband killed her and then killed himself. It’s not really news. It’s just America being America. Men killing women and people shooting up grade schools.

For an hour or two this morning, there was a State Department press briefing listed on the C-Span schedule for the day. It would have been the first since March 23. At around 11:30 am ET, the listing quietly disappeared and did not reappear. No State Department briefing still.

Sean Spicer did his first on-camera press briefing for a week. We’re getting used to the Spicerisms and the way this administration plays house. But hearing him talk about Syria was a whole new level of … astonishing. It’s plain as day for anyone to see. They simply do not know what they’re doing. They just have no idea whatsoever. This bellicosity, and the Navy ships moving toward the Korean peninsula, and different pieces of the administration out of sync with each other, rattling different sabers to different rhythms–well, all this has made me retreat inside a shell more than before. And I am ashamed because I know we need to keep up the resistance on the local front. But I’m reaching a saturation point.

I listened to political podcasts all day. I learned a lot about the health care system, tax reform possibilities, China, Syria, and Gorsuch. I learned a lot, but I’m not sure what for. That podcast S-Town has me thinking about declensionism and obsessiveness. I’m keeping myself at a fever pitch of learning and awareness all day, and then chronicling and scrapbooking a fraction of it here as a self-soothing mechanism before bed. But that all doesn’t add up to helping the situation.

At times like these, i have to remind myself that I am giving monthly donations to various organizations–donations large enough to stretch the bounds of what my budget can handle and supersede my retirement saving efforts. So hopefully I”m helping to pay some lawyers and scientists and journalists to do stuff.

Here are the questions reporters asked Sean Spicer today (recommended):

  • Why is it okay to bomb Syria but not okay to assist the refugees? One. And number two, what is the reaction — this administration’s reaction to Russia saying we are running a danger of a real war within the Middle East?
  • Right. So does that mean we’re going to commit troops? I mean, there’s talking about a war.
  • Are we building a coalition or —
  • Thank you, Sean. President Trump has spoken out extensively about the crimes of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Does the President consider Assad a war criminal? And does he believe Assad should eventually appear before the ICC?
  • Does the President believe Assad has committed a war crime?
  • A lot of people are talking about what the Trump doctrine is on foreign policy, what it may or may not include, and the President even stated that he was very flexible. Do you know what the Trump doctrine is on foreign policy, and can you explain it to us?
  • The action in Syria fits in that doctrine?
  • Sean, thank you. I was just going to follow up on what you were saying about Bashar al-Assad. Are you saying that defeating ISIS and getting Bashar al-Assad out of power through a political process should happen at the same time?
  • And just to be clear, Secretary Tillerson, over the weekend, said we can navigate a political outcome in which the Syrian people will determine Bashar al-Assad’s fate and his legitimacy. Nikki Haley seemed to align more with what you were saying. She said, no way do we see peace in that area with Assad as the head of the Syrian government. So who better reflects the —
  • How so?
  • And can you defeat ISIS with Assad still in power?
  • And just finally, when Secretary Tillerson meets with his Russian counterpart, what is his specific message going to be? Is he going to threaten, potentially, more sanctions if Russia doesn’t get — 
  • So would the President want the Secretary of State to put the threat of sanctions on the table to get Russia’s attention in this matter? Because the Secretary of State said Russia is either complicit or incompetent. What does the President believe Russia actually is in this —
  • What kind of action?
  • Two more, quickly, about the White House itself. What is the President’s perspective on the ability — the current ability of his senior advisors to resolve their ideological differences, resolve their personality differences, and work as a team?
  • Why?
  •  (inaudible) led him to have or order this meeting on Friday where the two principals, Bannon and Jared Kushner, were essentially told by the President, cool this and get along and get on the same page?
  •  Sean, thanks.  If you’re saying one of the priorities is to see a regime change in Syria, how far is the President willing to go to see Bashar al-Assad out of power there?
  • And is the red line — just to clarify — the red line for this White House –chemical warfare — is conventional warfare enough to get the President to go further there than this White House has gone before?
  • — bomb?
  • Thanks a lot, Sean. I wanted to ask you about the reaction that the President took in terms of military involvement last week. You said in your statement that all 59 of those cruise missiles hit their intended target, and yet we’re seeing reports that that military airbase in Syria continues to be used by the Syrian military. Given that, how can you consider that a success?
  • I just want to ask you one other question following up on what Major Garrett asked, sort of about these reports of a shake-up at the White House. There have been various reports that the Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. MacFarland is stepping down from that post. She’ll take on the post of U.S. ambassador to Singapore. Can you confirm that? And what’s behind that particular move if, indeed, that’s the case?
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions. First, the previous administration was in touch with the Assad opposition and gathered conclaves of different groups, including the Free Syrian Army. Is this administration in touch with the same anti-Assad forces, political and military?
  • And on the domestic front, Congressman Ron DeSantis wrote the President just last week to call, in very strong language, for him, by executive order, to end what he calls the OPM rule of 2013. That was an executive order, of course, that undercut the Affordable Care Act’s amendment, saying that members of Congress and their staff could not get healthcare and special subsidies unlike any other American. And he said, as soon as that is eliminated, Congress will move faster because they and their staff will not have special treatment. Is the President going to use his pen and get rid of the OPM order?
  • Thanks, Sean. The list of judges that the President put out last year, saying these are the people I would consider nominating — and you referred to earlier — in the end, Democrats still tried to filibuster Judge Gorsuch. So what difference, from that perspective, did putting out that list make in the end?
  • He’s going to obviously have other federal judges to nominate.
  • What else did this process teach him? Anything?
  • Sean, let me turn your attention to tax reform real quick. And I got a few others. There’s a report out there that says the President has basically gone back to the drawing board as it relates to taxes. Is that accurate?
  • Or does he still — what he put out there on the campaign trail, is that still the backbone of what he wants to see get done?
  • You mentioned Gary Cohn. He said on Friday that there’s been this August deadline that Steve Mnuchin and others have talked about. On Friday, Gary Cohn suggested that August might not be the deadline. Is this timeline getting pushed at this point?
  • Americans are filling out their tax forms right now for 2016. This time, next year, they’re going to fill it out for 2017. Will they have a 2017 tax cut this time next year?
  • Sean, during the campaign —
  • The President, then-candidate Trump, was pretty critical — or, excuse me — was pretty complimentary of President Putin. Now, after seeing how Russia has reacted in Syria, what’s his view of President Putin now?
  • Would he still describe him in the same way that he did several months ago as a leader who he respects more than President Obama?
  • Can I ask you one other question on trade? You mentioned the 100 days that President and President of China agreed on. Did China offer to give U.S. concessions on beef exports and financial investments as part of that?
  • Thank you, Sean. What is the status of the renegotiation of NAFTA? And what is the White House doing to treat NAFTA in U.S. interests? And is there a concern about getting it done before the Mexican elections heat up at the end of the year?
  • I just wonder — when Mr. Trump was a private citizen he had a lot to say about Syria. One of the things he said that the President — then President Obama — needs to seek congressional approval. Some members of Congress believe he should as well. What is his plan to explain his strategy in a broader sense? And why does he not need congressional approval in this deal?
  • In terms of things happening here at the White House behind the scenes with his staff members, obviously there was some ideological and policy differences on this particular military action last week. Does the President believe, or do you believe, that this has been smoothed over in the short term, or there has been a long-term solution to the fighting between Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner and others?
  • Specifically with Syria, there was a disagreement. But is this a short term fix to this problem, or do you believe, does the President believe, that there is a longer-team fix to this infighting that has really plagued the administration?
  • It must have crossed a line if he said to work it out.
  • And on sticking with Steve Bannon —

 

 

 

 

 

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