Trump Has A Stinking Rich White House–So Far Removed From Angry White Trump Voters

The White House is stacked with advisers who raked in millions of dollars last year, including the Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, whose assets combined with her husband’s could exceed $700 million.  Ivanka Trump and her husband, senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner, collected about $195 million in income, according to a new financial snapshot of about 180 of the men and women serving in Donald Trump’s White House.

Other Trump aides with lucrative histories include Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn, the former president of banking giant Goldman Sachs, who netted up to around $75 million in the previous year. White House chief strategist Steve Bannon made up to $2.5 million.

The financial background of Trump aides such as Kushner, Bannon and Cohn are detailed in new forms that disclose the assets that those aides held when they walked in the doors of the White House — before administration counsel advised them to resign from various postings, divest certain holdings or recuse themselves from future decisions. But the documents will nevertheless offer a portrait into the lives of several key White House aides, especially those who came from Wall Street or have other ties to the financial industry.

Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) Saw Me Coming

While shopping tonight in Madison James and I stumbled onto an item I was not aware was even marketed.  But there it was on the shelves beckoning to be picked up.  Always looking at coffee and thinking what might be fun to explore in a mug made the item mighty easy to place in the cart.

I had a genuine laugh when I saw the TCB–Taking Care Of Business— logo on one package renamed Taking Care Of Breakfast.   Meanwhile James is snickering about me being easy picking for marketing. (James said I should feel like a Trump supporter!) We will see what he says in the morning when I am buzzing about the house cleaning, doing laundry, dishes, and  my hand shakes unsteadily as I try and pour the last drops from the carafe while saying, “I think I can paint the house today, too”.

I do want to say in my defense, however, I did not buy the peanut butter and banana flavored package of coffee.    That all might be fine to combine between bread in a fry skillet but there are limits to good taste with coffee.   I think E would agree.

Life is good.  And it is even better with coffee!


The Sand Trap That Is The Trump Presidency

It is tempting to feel relief that the Trump presidency is a mess. For those who doubt much of his agenda and worry about his lack of respect for institutions, perhaps the best hope is that he accomplishes little. That logic is beguiling, but wrong. After years of gridlock, Washington has work to do. The forthcoming summit with Xi Jinping, China’s president, shows how America is still the indispensable nation. A weak president can be dangerous—picture a trade war, a crisis in the Baltics or conflict on the Korean peninsula.

The Americans who voted for Mr Trump either overlooked his bombast, or they saw in him a tycoon with the self-belief to transform Washington. Although this presidency is still young, that already seems an error of judgment. His policies, from health-care reform to immigration, have been poor—they do not even pass the narrow test that they benefit Trump voters. Most worrying for America and the world is how fast the businessman in the Oval Office is proving unfit for the job.


Understand Trump Supporters

Since the election, as I have mentioned many times on this blog, I have been trying to understand the reasoning many of my fellow citizens took when casting a ballot for Donald Trump.  This has left me with more questions than answers.  One thing I have come away with is a much more deep and keen awareness of how deeply divided this nation is–there is a far deeper and wider chasm than I thought possible.   The two halves are far more removed from each other than I suspect they each were aware of prior to the last 18 months.

One of the best written and thought provoking articles in my reading–which I am continuing to do on this topic–was called The Little Man’s Big Friends–and one I hope others will also take a few minutes to read this piece.  The cultural and political currents run deep–and as this story reminds us–makes for a history that can in ways wrap around and greet one again.

The ongoing need points up two consistent features of life and politics in the hill country. The first is its isolation, cultural as well as geographical, which endures despite the patina of sameness conferred by fast-food chains and motels. The other is a conflicted attitude to government among its warily hospitable residents. They still think it’s a racket, and, as ever, take pride in self-sufficiency. Here, says Ronald Jackson, whose family has lived in Winston County since before the civil war, “you don’t depend on the government, you take care of your own.” At the same time, unblinkingly and understandably, they want a bigger chunk of its largesse.

“I don’t answer to no professional politicians,” Folsom said in 1944. “I answer only to the people.” He had never held office before, and like Mr Trump’s his shoestring campaign was staffed by inexperienced relatives and friends. Hardly any newspapers endorsed him; as George Sims notes in “The Little Man’s Big Friend”, he was written off as a lightweight showman. Demotic, entertaining, tirelessly peripatetic, the show worked. Rather like Mr Trump’s baseball cap, the army boots he wore on the stump marked him as a regular guy. He toured with the Strawberry Pickers, a hillbilly band, plus a corn-husk mop and suds bucket (for contributions), with which he promised to clean up Montgomery, the state capital, just as Mr Trump said he would “drain the swamp”.

But then on the other hand we need to be reminded of the nation as a whole and how the national demographics are swinging away from the backwoods to the urban diversity that moves and shapes society.  One could argue 2016 was a freakish anomaly and the voting demos in the years to come will move America out of its current embarrassment.

(Trump’s) chief ideological adviser, Stephen Bannon, openly yearns for a more closed, clannish America. In a 2015 radio interview Mr Bannon grumbled about the number of Silicon Valley CEOs from Asia, saying: “A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.” Candidate Trump promised to be “very loyal to the country” and that “American hands will rebuild this nation”. In a post-election speech he laid out his credo: “The relationships that people value in this country are local: family, state, country,” he thundered. Similar language thrills many in ageing, anxious Europe. It resonates in Trump’s America—a world of rural counties and small, bleak towns that, on many measures, is more like Europe. Polling data show that Trump supporters have a median age of 57, almost nine in ten of them are white, and most do not have college degrees. Overall, Americans have a median age of 38 and attend college at steadily rising rates; about a third of them are non-white. Trumpian nationalism is potent stuff. It is also backward-looking and tribal. That’s not the American way.

Where We Are Today With Trump World

Everyday is a whirlwind of news and drama from Washington thanks to the scandal rising nature of Donald Trump’s White House and the congressional brethren that seem willing to do his bidding.  One reporter this morning on television likened the recent developments with Trump akin to listening to President Nixon’s Watergate tapes–only doing so now in real time!

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ made that famous jaunt to the White House–as he first stated– to inform Trump on what he had discovered.  Now we know that it was members of the NSA team at the White House who had first alerted Nunes to the ‘find’.  Clearly the chairman has impeached both his credibility and that of the administration as the congressional probes into Russian interference in the election continue.

The crazy idea that President Obama had ordered wiretaps and surveillance may inspire Nunes to visit the White House and hold press conferences to impress Trump.  But it all seriously undermines his own standing, and more importantly the work of the intelligence committee.  Last week he claimed to have reviewed intelligence that supposedly supported Trump’s claims that he’d been the victim of dastardly acts.  He then announced his findings publicly and briefed Trump before informing his Democratic counterpart.

But here is where his train leaves the track of rationality.  Media reports have identified two senior White House officials who are said to be the source of Nunes’ pronouncement, contradicting the White House’s assertion last week that they had nothing to do with his findings.   Oh the lessons from the Nixon era that are so hard for others to learn from.

Now the White House has taken the unusual step of inviting the heads of both the House and Senate intelligence committees to the White House to review some intelligence—ostensibly what they have already provided to Nunes.   There is no way to make this up.

The Senate committee–with my sincere thanks as there was no way to agree–declined.  There was no way to remain a credible venue for investigation had they not made that decision.

At the same time this all is going on the White House has lambasted the media for focusing on the process of the investigation over the substance.  While Trump may be easily moved from the topic one needs to be engaged with–“look the new mail order catalog for brides came in the mail!”–the media is not.  It’s easy to see why the Trump team is peeved.  It is due to the news reports having been proven to be so damning.

Mainstream Wisconsin vs. Governing Conservatives

It has been quite a week for watching the evolution of ideas in the Wisconsin State Legislature while also following the actual governing practices of elected officials.   If you love politics, as I do, it was a whirlwind of a week.  If you care about policy, (place me in that camp, too) it was a most unsettling turn of events day after day.

Wisconsin has long been touted for our clean air and water along with a driving desire to make sure we do what is possible to pass those foundations to future generations.  But that seemingly took a hard right turn with the news Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel concluded a court settlement with 3M Co, following repeated violations of requirements to capture airborne particles from their northern Wisconsin plant, without any fine.   It was breathtaking–no pun intended–considering that the company did not comply with reporting the breakdown of equipment.   Or that the Justice Department’s environmental unit had pushed for a fine up to $1 million.

The message this sends to the business community is that circumventing pollution controls does not lead to fines which were designed to prevent actions which harms our environment.  For state residents who care about this place we call home it was a shocking reminder of how far adrift some state leaders are from the folks who talk about this issue at the dinner table.

When it came to ideas that were just hard to fathom as to why they ever surfaced none matches what State Representative May Felzkowski and State Senator Dave Craig concocted over new gun legislation.  Hidden handguns could be carried without a license, and licensed concealed carry permit holders could pack heat in places where they are currently exempt, such as schools, unless signs show such an act is prohibited.   The bill would remove the requirement that a person be licensed who wished to carry a concealed weapon.

I talk with a lot of people about politics and issues over the course of a year and I can honestly say there has not been one single conversation where someone has registered the need to have even more lax gun laws in the state.  What I do hear is the growing recognition that over recent years the political tensions in our nation have increased along with more people snapping faster and making rash and at times deadly choices.   Adding ways to allow guns to be more easily mixed into these personal dynamics seems like a very foolish undertaking. 

Our state has a long and rich tradition of clean and open government.  Over the recent past, however, there have been steps taken to undermine the process of governing; a process which is designed to prevent political over-reach and allow for diverse voices to be heard in the policy making process.  One example of a backward step is the naming of the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources by the governor.  My concern on this matter falls on both parties who have allowed this practice to continue.

But this week we witnessed another lapse in judgment over process when Republican State Senator Steve Nass allowed for a paper ballot to be used when his committee approved a bill relating to high-capacity- wells.  Locally I have made my objections known to my neighborhood association over their use of email votes as opposed to the open give-and-take the board should use when casting a ballot.   In both cases the lack of open debate which clarifies a person’s position, and perhaps even an attempt to sway other committee members, is lost when voting as a group is removed.

Wisconsinites may have a wide array of views on the issues of the day but win or lose everyone can agree an outcome was fair if the process of government is not manipulated.   Nass may not like the glare of the media and the concerns of the voters about the well issue.  But when one enters politics those are just the results of being in the arena.  To shut down a part of the process because it gets too intense is not acceptable.

Republicans continually announce they are so in touch with the average taxpayer, and looking out for the best interests of the state.  They want to convince us they know how to handle the levers of power in Madison.  But this week has demonstrated there are major concerns with their judgment and who they are really looking out for at the end of the day.  Carrying water for corporate farms, the cash-rich NRA, and major industries may play well at GOP political fundraisers.  But the average citizen looks at it all and wonders how did we get so far removed from the ideals our state once embraced.

This Is What A Thin-Skinned White House Looks Like–Even Richard Nixon Fared Better

The White House announced this week that Donald Trump will not throw out the first pitch of the season for the Nationals’ opening day. Over the years the track record of those who sit in the Oval Office throwing the first pitch have varied.  But with Trump looking for anyway to show a positive side it seems more than off to dismiss this opportunity.

But on the flip side since Trump has an approval rating well under 40% it was decided with his portly shape and highly controversial problems surrounding the White House he would not throw the pitch.  After all he did not want to be soundly booed–and he would have been heckled like crazy had he dared take the mound.

I took a moment to look back at presidents who were not overly loved and found that we need to go back to 1969 to find one who was tarnished but who still had the sporting fever.  The last president to throw out a first pitch in Washington in his first post-election spring was Richard Nixon — in 1969. That was 48 years ago!

President Richard Nixon throwing out the first pitch at a Washington Senators game

The lack of courage from this White House is amusing.  Even laughable.

Today I heard WH staff will not attend the annual Correspondents’ Dinner.  That is ridiculous! Donald Trump had previously announced that he would be skipping the event, making him the first sitting president to do so since Ronald Reagan missed the dinner–but at least he had a good reason.  He was recovering from an assassination attempt.  Now Trump staffers are even scared to attend.  Good grief!

Even Nixon at the height of Watergate attended in 1973 and was able to laugh with others.

It is a privilege to be here at the White House correspondents dinner. I suppose I should say it is an executive privilege. [Laughter]

But I have followed, as you have, the press briefings by Mr. Ziegler. His job is difficult because he must serve two masters: He must serve the President of the United States, and he must serve the press. He must serve each with equal loyalty and devotion, and I believe that Ron Ziegler, with great poise, with great patience, with great courtesy has met that dual responsibility. He has been loyal to the President and loyal to the press, and I am glad to pay that tribute to him tonight.

I must say you have really worked him over, however. This morning he came into the office a little early, and I said, “What time is it, Ron?”

He said, “Could I put that on background?” [Laughter]

It is most regrettable that Trump and his inner team are acting so wimpy about a proud annual Washington tradition.

The Next Big Election Only Weeks Away

The special election to fill the GOP-leaning Georgia congressional seat vacated by now-Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price is heating up. Boy is it heating up!

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff is leading the 18-person field with 40 percent support, according to a FOX 5/Opinion Savvy poll. He and whatever Republican comes out ahead will face off in a runoff election that is rather tight according to the poll.   There are a number of good solid reporting on this race.

It most likely will go to a June 20 runoff if no one gets more than 50% of the vote on April 18.  Ossoff’s ads have directly targeted Trump. “Donald Trump doesn’t represent our values,” Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) says to the camera in one of these ads. “That’s why I’m supporting Jon Ossoff.” In another ad, Ossoff says, “When President Trump embarrasses our country or acts recklessly, I’ll hold him accountable.” Republicans first targeted Ossoff by resurfacing video of him drinking and acting out as Han Solo during his college days.

Well Dems have a video of Trump saying he likes to grab (you know what.)

Nate Cohn: “Start with the money. Mr. Ossoff, a 30-year-old first-time candidate, has benefited from timing. He was basically the only Democrat seeking federal office at a moment when Democratic energy was surging and when progressives were looking to ‘do something.’”

“Mr. Ossoff probably would not have raised nearly as much money if he’d been competing for attention with 434 other races. His fund-raising tally is better than that of 96 percent of the congressional challengers who raised more than $100,000 in 2016, and there’s still time for him to move up the list.”

“Instead, it’s the Republicans who are struggling to coalesce. They have 11 candidates on the ballot, with none emerging as the obvious favorite, although former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, the businessman Bob Gray and state senator Judson Hill are considered among the strongest contenders. Whoever advances to a runoff (assuming anyone does) will have only two months to coalesce support and raise funds with the benefit of party unity.”

First Read: “It most likely will go to a June 20 runoff if no one gets more than 50% of the vote on April 18, but there is a chance that Ossoff… could get close to that percentage.”