July 27, 2017: Transgenders and Sessions | Dark Money on Campus | Pyrrhic Health Care Victory
Happy Thursday. Remember when summer was sleepy? So this newsletter will tackle the big issues of the day, but before we get started we want to mention that one author of the newsletter is the mother of an Eagle Scout and the other a wife of an Eagle Scout. We would like to say that neither blame the Boy Scouts for President Trump’s injection of politics into his address at the Jamboree in West Virginia this week and that both remain as proud as ever of their family members' accomplishment.
1. Sessions, Rush and the Transgender Defense
A funny thing happened after Trump attacked his attorney general, Jeff Sessions: His most loyal allies in the conservative media became ticked off. Then Trump threw them the ban on transgender people in the military as a kind of appeasement. It seems to have worked somewhat as some are buying into a new narrative the White House is testing about how the president never wanted to fire Sessions, just light a fire under him.
The all-important Rush Limbaugh started leading the backlash on Sessions on Monday by saying, “It’s also a little bit discomforting, unseemly, for Trump to go after such a loyal supporter this way.”
Then Breitbart steamed at Trump for a tweet attacking Sessions for not prosecuting Hillary Clinton on her emails and connections to Ukraine. “Trump’s Attack on Sessions over Clinton Prosecution Highlights His Own ‘Weak’ Stance,” ran Breitbart’s headline. The article went on to say:
President Trump’s decision Tuesday to attack Attorney General Jeff Sessions over Sessions’ “position” on Hillary Clinton’s various scandals only serves to highlight Trump’s own hypocrisy on the issue — and is likely to fuel concerns from his base who see Sessions at the best hope to fulfill Trump’s immigration policies.
By yesterday, Rush was backing off a bit, perhaps because, as he said on his show, the Mainstream Media is “using me as the barometer to indicate how much trouble Trump is in on this Sessions stuff.”
His comments came after the president tweeted his announcement on the transgender ban. The Blue Twittersphere saw a clear connection between the backlash over the Sessions attacks and the transgender move. So did the CNNpolitical correspondent Nia-Malika Henderson, who said on air Wednesday that Trump knew he needed to soothe his base, especially Rush.
Rush denied this directly but nevertheless ruminated further on the Trump attack on Sessions, saying the president must have some secret, brilliant reason to be torturing his attorney general:
None of this makes sense, unless something is happening here that we don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure out what it might be. I’ve had a couple ideas percolate in there in the cranial cavity of my head, and I’ve come up with a couple of possibilities. I don’t think it is coincidental that we had today an announcement that Sessions is going to start pursuing criminally all of these leaks.
What We’re Watching:
As long as we are talking about the Trump cabinet eating its own, what about the brewing feud between the White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus? The Daily Caller carried an item, as did many others, about Scaramucci possibly asking the F.B.I. to investigate Priebus:
White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci mysteriously tagged chief of staff Reince Preibus in a tweet about the leaking of Scaramucci’s financial disclosure information.
“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting FBI and the Justice Department,” Scaramucci wrote Wednesday night with the hashtag “swamp.” At the end of the tweet, he tagged Priebus, possibly accusing him of being behind the leaks.
The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza claims he can “confirm” that Scaramucci is targeting Priebus in the tweet and wants the FBI to go after him.
2. On Political Correctness, Dark Money
One cannot underscore enough how much attention the Right gives to political correctness on college campuses and the perceived clamp-down on free speech today. Almost every publication seems to have at least one item a day covering the latest outrage -- often citing websites devoted solely to conservative college students writing about liberal bias on campus.
For example, this week, Hot Air, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, and Legal Insurrection all picked up on a Campus Reform story concerning Bret Weinstein, the self-professed “deeply progressive” Evergreen State College professor who was driven from campus by angry students after he objected to an event in which organizers asked white students to leave the campus in Olympia, Wash., for a day as part of a social experiment on segregation. According to Campus Reform, Weinstein is preparing a $3.8 million claim against the university. (If you haven’t been following the story, which has outraged the Right and some on the Left, it is worth taking a look at this Vice video. )
So, what’s the 411 on Campus Reform? The publication is run by The Leadership Institute, which, according to Media Matters, is a decades-old nonprofit financed by the Charles Koch Foundation and the anonymous conservative twin donor funds DonorsTrust & Donors Capital Fund.
Another website that the Right also follows for university stories is The College Fix, which is operated by the Student Free Press Association, a nonprofit organization run by veteran conservative journalists to help beginning journalists. As has happened with Campus Reform, suspicions have been raised about The College Fix’s funding. For example, Inside Higher Ed noted that at least one family foundation connected to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos gave a substantial amount of money to the affiliated fund of two of the site's biggest financial supporters. While this is not necessarily uncommon, it is uncommon for publications not to disclose this information.
What We’re Watching:
And yet, while these publications’ funding may raise some suspicions, there’s no denying that violence on campus has reached a fever pitch. This week, the Right celebrated the move by the liberal arts college Claremont McKenna to suspend the five students who led the efforts to shut down a college-sponsored lecture by Heather Mac Donald, the pro-police conservative commentator, back in April.
Also of Note:
The Washington Examiner’s Cliff Maloney wrote an op-ed piece on university violence addressed to his fellow millennials that (gasp) reminded us why our very own publication exists:
With the power of technology, we can retreat into our echo chambers on social media platforms. We can delete, block, and report dissent away. It becomes easier and easier to control what messages and ideas we hear behind our screens. This encourages the idea that tolerance is optional. That you can cut off relationships because you disagree with the other person; furthermore, you can segregate people in groups based on said opinions.
Intolerance of differing ideas is not the way to achieve positive social change. Intolerance only begets negative outcomes.
Where Right meets Left: a controversial keynote address on “Cultural Appropriation” last year by the libertarian Lionel Shriver is worth a quick reread. Her fears about political correctness now seem all too prescient:
The left’s embrace of gotcha hypersensitivity inevitably invites backlash. Donald Trump appeals to people who have had it up to their eyeballs with being told what they can and cannot say. Pushing back against a mainstream culture of speak-no-evil suppression, they lash out in defiance, and then what they say is pretty appalling.
3. Poll Watch: Courts Should Punish the Media
Well, considering all the insults that the president and his allies have thrown at the Mainstream Media and the deliberate confusion being fostered about “fake” news, it seems inevitable that conservatives in particular might favor scary punishments.
A new poll by The Economist and YouGov, a UK-based internet market research firm, found that 55 percent of GOP voters said they favored permitting the courts to fine news media outlets for publishing or broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate. (23 percent of Democrats agreed.) And 45 percent of Republicans favored permitting the courts to shut down news media outlets for publishing or broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate – as opposed to 18 percent of Democrats.
More alternate-reality news: Roughly half of the people who voted for Trump in November believe he won the popular vote, reported a Politico/Morning Consult poll. Trump trumpeted this line loudly after the election. (Clinton got nearly 2.9 million more votes.)
4. The Health Care Muddle
So, the GOP gave new life to its push to uproot Obamacare, voting to reopen debate on various bills. It was a victory but some in the Red Media feared a brutal cost. Fox’s Halftime Report newsletter lamented the Republican efforts: “Whatever the final conclusion, Trump and his party are managing to convince Americans anxious about their coverage and their care that this is a fly-by-night operation.”
And then added:
“That’s not to say there aren’t Republicans with big ideas about how to re-regulate or how to de-regulate the insurance industry or provide better care or coverage for more people, but none of that was on display today.
Today was just about beating Democrats. That’s fine for elections, but when you are asking senators to make decisions about something that touches the lives of every American in an intimate way, ideas should come first.
It is possible that the process now underway will yield big ideas as it lurches forward – if it really does – but these months of confusion and contradiction have not gone very far in building the consent of the governed.”
Meanwhile, as successive efforts to repeal large portions of Obamacare failed in the Senate, and “Skinny Repeal” became the only real option, the conservatives began publicly punishing those who voted no. LifeZette ran this headline this morning: “Conservatives Blast ‘Obamacare Repeal Frauds’ in GOP Caucus. Several Republicans pretend to support health care reform while jealously guarding Medicaid expansion.”
What We’re Watching:
Trump may have taken to Twitter to disparage Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski for voting against the procedural measure to open the health care debate Tuesday afternoon. But it was the only other Republican senator to vote no, Susan Collins of Maine, who took the worst pounding from the Red Twittersphere this week -- especially after a hot mic caught a conversation between her and the Democratic senator Jack Reed. They were discussing concerns over the Federal budget, Trump’s governance and Rep. Blake Farenthold’s weight.
Here’s an example of what we saw on Twitter:
Chuck Woolery @chuckwoolery with 258k followers wrote:
Susan Collins caught on hot mic saying how unattractive a fellow republican is. This is the same woman upset about Trumps woman comments.
Right after that POS Susan Collins voted NO, she could be seen hobnobbing with turncoat Bernie Sanders on the senate floor.
5. Boy Scout Defense
We were not surprised that the Blue Twittersphere rightly blew up in disgust at Donald Trump’s overtly political, slightly lewd, self-promoting speech to the Boy Scouts. But what did the Right make of it? While there were some exceptions, most who noted it in the conservative media saw it as another example of the hypersensitivity and hypocrisy of the Left.
FOX’s Todd Starnes had a sarcastic take that was typical of what we saw:
And faster than you could tie a slip knot, liberals compared Trump’s Boy Scout speech to a Hitler Nazi Youth speech…
Critics accused the president of turning the Boy Scout event into a political rally – and they were especially upset over one particular comment.
“As the Scout Law says, a scout is trustworthy, loyal. We could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that,” the president said.
That comment triggered microaggressions from coast to coast.
The Alt-Right Infowars conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson@PrisonPlanet also predictably supported the president:
Leftists got really TRIGGERED by the Boy Scouts chanting "we love Trump".
If it was Obama, they'd be creaming their pants.
Jonah Goldberg @JonahNRO from National Review, however, was less sympathetic:
Just gonna throw it out there. If Obama had done anything like what Trump did at the Boy Scout Jamboree, everyone defending it would go nuts
6. Senator Kid Rock of Michigan
As the success of candidates from Ronald Reagan to Jesse Ventura and even Donald Trump show, Americans have a history of electing entertainers. Still, the scraggly-haired singer/rapper Kid Rock seems easy to dismiss as he explores a run for a Senate seat in Michigan. This writer in The Federalist warns: Don't sell him short.:
It’s hard to overstate the place Kid Rock holds in the consciousness of a certain segment of blue-collar Michigan voters. He is Detroit. He has made his quite lucrative career out of celebrating Michigan in general and Detroit in particular. He embodies the “Detroit vs. Everybody” mentality that defines southeastern Michigan. His “American Bad Ass” brand is tailor-made to appeal to a state and city that resent the contempt they feel from elitists around the country, while celebrating the overlooked virtues of the city and state. That’s an easy message to sell in a campaign.