It was a week of extremes for President Trump. First he raised his arms in victory after his attorney general laid out his summary of the Mueller report Sunday – then he promptly sent his team to court to try to throw out the Affordable Care Act.
Even though cries of Republicans-gutting-your-health-care were instrumental to Democrats winning the House in last year’s midterm elections, there was the President touting “no collusion” in one breath and in the next handing the Democrats more fresh, hot ammunition.
On Monday evening, the Trump Justice Department notified the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals of its support for a complete invalidation of the Affordable Care Act. “What is especially galling about the move is that it was apparently ordered by the White House over the objections of Attorney General William Barr, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone,” marveled Stephen Vladeck. “If Barr cares at all about the long-term institutional credibility of the Justice Department, he should resign in protest.”
President Trump made an egregious political miscalculation, wrote senior CNN political commentator David Axelrod. “Every American knows someone, and perhaps loves someone, with a chronic illness,” Axelrod emphasized. “Now Trump has ensured that the threat to people with pre-existing conditions will be front and center in yet another campaign.” This certainly isn’t what most Trump voters were signing up for in 2016, asserted Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times.
Jill Filipovic saw an immoral decision that put ego and Trump’s desire to erase Barack Obama’s legacy first, and Americans’ lives second. “Make America Great Again? This administration wants to make us sick again,” observed Filipovic, “and it’s no exaggeration to say that if they succeed, a great many Americans will go bankrupt; some will die.”
The most important arbiter of the ACA’s fate – should it end up back in the Supreme Court, as is likely – won’t be Donald Trump at all. In his analysis of Joan Biskupic’s recent biography of Chief Justice John Roberts, Bloomberg Opinion’s Ramesh Ponnuru noted that Roberts’ vote to save Obamacare seven years ago suggests that he “is reluctant to move against Obamacare even when considering a case he thinks has real merit.”
A divided nation unites behind the Special Olympics
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos drew enormous public backlash after her appearance before the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, where she faced sharp questions over a proposed $18 million cut to the Special Olympics – part of a broader 12% overall decrease in the education budget.
DeVos’ comments to Congress showed “an obvious misunderstanding of the societal benefits of programs that support individuals with special needs,” wrote Steve Cammarota, whose teenage son, Sam, has intellectual disabilities and whose family has participated in the Special Olympics.
Two days later, “hearing a loud and bipartisan outcry,” President Trump announced the planned cuts would be scrapped, exulted Maria Shriver (whose mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics) and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Singling out Special Olympics programs that fortify inclusion for all students in public schools as a “cause that unites us all,” Shriver and Kasich also noted that Trump’s “swift response is a lesson for all Americans about what can be achieved when we come together (and) rise above our partisan concerns.”
Not everyone found such consensus with the President this week. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who said he was frustrated by his inability to get a meeting with Trump about ongoing recovery issues after 2017’s Hurricane Maria, had some tough talk for the President: “If the bully gets close, I’ll punch him in the mouth. … It would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage.” The sentiment is “completely understandable,” empathized Raul Reyes. “But just as it is a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage, it is a mistake to confuse anger with strength … sinking to (Trump’s) vulgar level will likely not benefit Rosselló or his constituents.” He urged Rossello to keep making his case for aid, instead.
One medium-sized misstep for man, one giant missed opportunity for women
Women know all about unfair fashion issues (if you’re not a woman, just ask one about how she feels about the lack of pockets in her clothes). But for astronaut Anne McClain, things got ridiculous when NASA announced that she would not be part of the planned first all-women spacewalk with fellow astronaut Christina Koch – because there was only one flight-ready space suit available in their size. NASA insists the history-making walk will happen eventually, but “it’s another disappointing reminder of how gender bias shapes our world,” wrote astrophysicist Meg Urry. “It’s 2019, folks, and women are everywhere – in science, in politics, in business, in operating suites, in coal mines, in the military, in the Space Station. … We can’t afford not to utilize the talent that comes in non-male-standard sizes.”
The Mueller fallout continues
What was Mueller thinking? That was the question asked by multiple CNN Opinion contributors – including Shan Wu, Alice Stewart, Laura Coates and Asha Rangappa – who took their best guesses at the answer.
On Sunday, Attorney General William Barr submitted his brief summary of the Mueller report to congressional leaders (a 300-page report, noted Zachary Wolf, of which the public has seen exactly 101 words).
Barr wrote that Mueller’s investigation did not establish that Trump or his campaign associates conspired with Russia to win the presidential election. But “without more context, Mueller’s assessment (noted by Barr) that the report neither condemns nor exonerates him on the issue of obstruction appears to border on dereliction of duty precisely because it was tasked, in part, with investigating that very question,” wrote Coates.
Stewart, a Republican, wrote that for Trump’s base, “This is the ‘I told you so’ they have been looking for. They view this exactly how Trump presented it – as ‘an illegal takedown that failed.’”
For Jeff Yang, the next step was clear: Let the American public see the whole Mueller report (something that Barr now says will happen, at least in redacted form, by mid-April).
Up on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, Democrats struck a defensive posture, while Republicans tried for political payback. “The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is imploding,” assessed Carrie Cordero. Facing calls from the committee’s nine Republican members to resign, chairman Adam Schiff “was having none of it,” she said. In a response that The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart deemed “blistering” (and which brought anaphora to new heights, while launching a hashtag, with its multiple repetition of “you might think it’s okay”), Schiff rejected both that Trump was absolved and that Democrats had anything to apologize for. Schiff’s speech also highlighted a big problem, Cordero wrote: the “committee’s descent into the basement of partisan politics” and the “potentially lasting damage to its credibility.”
Another smart take:
– Joe Lockhart: Trump is repeating Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ boondoggle
Jussie Smollett isn’t the problem. We are
Speaking of whiplash, the Jussie Smollett case took yet another series of turns this week. After claiming that he was attacked by two men yelling racist and homophobic slurs while striking him and hanging a noose around his neck in January, Smollett was charged for making a false report in February, and was indicted on 16 related counts at the beginning of March. Last week – bewilderingly – all charges were dropped, and President Trump then tweeted that the FBI and Justice Department would be looking into what happened.
Yet none of this is the point, insisted Issac Bailey: “The real story is less what this bizarre series of confounding events says about Smollett and more about what it says about us.” His underlying question: Why do we – or our elected officials – care more about a case like this than the racist or sexist assaults endured by everyday Americans?
A(nother) new Brexit precipice
People seem to be running out of ways to describe how bad the Brexit mess is getting. “The only thing that’s clear right now is that no one is in charge, and worse, no one is in a position to be in charge,” wrote Luke McGee. He described Friday’s House of Commons rejection – for the third time – of Prime Minister Theresa May’s separation agreement between the UK and the EU, as perhaps “the most absurd spectacle in the history of British politics.”
Democrats are seeking a more flattering spotlight for 2020
After the Barr summary, “Democrats lost control of the political narrative” to Trump and the GOP, diagnosed Julian Zelizer, and “they will have to work quickly if they want to get it back.” David Love and Peniel Joseph saw potential for winning approaches in the recent campaign trail performances of Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, respectively.
Love praised Harris’ proposed program to boost teachers’ pay over the next decade as a “timely and sensible policy for a nation that must commit more resources to public school teachers and address inequality in US education” and “an astute political strategy for the presidential contender,” that speaks to core Democratic constituents. In Joseph’s estimation, Booker’s appealing blend of the personal and the political at a recent CNN town hall could also catch fire among the party’s base.
The costs of speaking truth to power
Neha Madhira, who fought back after her school tried to censor her student newspaper, says more states need laws that protect the rights of student journalists. Right now, only 14 states have them; Madhira argued that her home state of Texas should be the next.
On the other side of the world, the voices of women and whistleblowers are being silenced in Pakistan, lamented Rafia Zakaria after the recent shooting of Afzal Kohistani, who died after seeking to expose a series of honor killings. It’s clear that a 2016 law passed to try to curb the practice isn’t working, wrote Zakaria, who called for more support and resources for the idea of “councils of women in the community as checks on the power of tribal councils” under whose leadership honor killings have continued.
What the Iliad tells us about 21st-century tragedy
When Achilles saw his friend and comrade Patroclos killed in Homer’s epic poem, he had to be restrained from self-harm – which David Morris, author of a history of post-traumatic stress disorder, identified as a kind of through-line for how suicide has haunted societies throughout history. “Suicide is so many things – an act of desperation, a way of ending one’s pain, a kind of mass murder and a kind of mirror held up to our world, a world that many such as Jeremy Richman found unbearable,” reflected Morris after three recent apparent suicides connected to school shootings – Parkland survivors Sydney Aiello and Calvin Desir, along with Richman, the father of a child killed in the Sandy Hook massacre. It’s time “to stop repeating the platitudes and start having a more honest and blunt conversation about suicide,” he wrote.
Another smart take:
– Rachel Thompson: We’re not equipping reality stars for internet fame. That must change
If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, here’s how to get help.
We need you, Lilly Singh
With too few exceptions, late-night comedy shows have been a white boys club for too long, said Melissa Blake. That’s one reason Blake cheered the news that YouTube phenomenon Lilly Singh, an Indian-Canadian bisexual millennial, would be getting a late-night show on NBC.
America needs Singh’s voice now more than ever, wrote Blake: “Just as she used to call out racism and homophobia on her YouTube channel, Singh can do so on late-night television. And perhaps that kind of candor – on that kind of scale – can help bring positive changes to our culture.”
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– Justin Green: How the FAA must step up to protect Americans
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