The results of the Helsinki summit are in. President Trump couldn’t handle statecraft or, for that matter, double negatives, but he came out of the meeting undefeated and invincible. Like with the Charlottesville hatefest or the “Access Hollywood” tape, it was just another day at the office for Trump. Unlike the mocking balloon that soared over London, Trump never loses air.
The post-summit poll numbers are instructive. While 50 percent of Americans disapproved of the way Trump handled Vladimir Putin, his Republican base stayed both loyal and comatose. In a Post-ABC News poll, 66 percent of Republicans approved of Trump’s performance. An earlier Axios-SurveyMonkey poll put the GOP figure at 79 percent, not only more impressive but also downright eerie.
It is safe to say that these numbers might have surprised even the shaken White House staffers who flew back to Washington with Trump. The commentariat was already on the air, reporting on the summit as if it were a multicar Beltway collision. Even Fox News was critical, and Newt Gingrich, whose wife is Trump’s ambassador to the Holy See, called the meeting “the most serious mistake” of Trump’s presidency — an extremely high bar.
National security adviser John Bolton got to work. On the plane, according to the Wall Street Journal, he went about the painful business of damage control and hammered out talking points advising Trump on how to reclaim reality. One idea was for Trump to assert his support for the U.S. intelligence community, the sort of prosaic statement, like a belief in God, that no president had ever had to make. Trump, of course, did so — and maintained this stance for almost a day.
There is such a thing, we are told, as Trump Derangement Syndrome. It is an ideological version of a speech disoder, which causes certain people to denounce Trump in obscene ways. It has come over the likes of Robert De Niro and, when it came to Ivanka Trump, Samantha Bee. It has prompted others to call Trump a traitor, which is a slanderous accusation too often used for crass political reasons. Sen. Joseph McCarthy called the Roosevelt-Truman administrations “20 years of treason.”
Yet, the more dangerous variant of the syndrome is the willingness of most Republicans to support Trump no matter what. One of the first outbreaks of this occurred in the 2016 South Carolina Republican primary, which Trump won handily. He did so running against fellow Republicans, not the reliably useful Hillary Clinton. He even swept the evangelical Christian vote, beating such staunch conservatives as Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Ben Carson, both of whom have been married only once. The thrice-married Trump, in vivid contrast, had run casinos and exchanged countless smirky remarks with Howard Stern. His piety was in question.
As far as the evangelical community is concerned, nothing has changed. Trump has been accused of adultery and of buying the silence of his alleged paramours. He has referred to impoverished nations as “shithole countries” and — unforgivably — belittled the wartime torture of Sen. John McCain. None of this shook his base. On the contrary, his support within the Republican Party has risen and solidified. It now stands at around 90 percent, which is what tin-pot dictators get in rigged elections.
The upshot is that we now have two political parties — one pro-Trump and one anti-. Some celebrated Republicans — George F. Will, for instance — have already declared their apostasy. Will is now “unaffiliated,” but no one runs for president as that. In this country, if you’re anti-Trump, realism says you’ve got to vote Democratic. (Please, no more of this Libertarian or Green Party nonsense.)
It’s impossible to say at this point whether the pro-Trump/anti-Trump dichotomy is just about the man himself or represents a wider and more permanent political realignment. (Who’s the next Trump?) But it’s clear that something beyond economics — and certainly not foreign policy — motivates Trump’s people. My guess is that it’s a low-boil rage against a vague and threatening liberalism — urbane, educated, affluent, secular, diverse and sexually tolerant. It is, in other words, some of the same sentiment that once fueled European fascism.
Those of us who write newspaper columns know that sheer brilliance, should it happen, gets a silent nod of the head, but affirmation — saying what readers already think — gets loud hurrahs. This is Trump’s appeal as well. He validates the thinking — some of it ugly — of many Americans. To them, Helsinki doesn’t matter and even Putin doesn’t matter. Only Trump does. To them, he hates the right people.
This article was from The Washington Post
Bernie Sanders, House Progressives Release Bill To Cancel Student Debt
WASHINGTON (AP) — Days before the first Democratic presidential debates, Sen. Bernie Sanders and House progressives rolled out legislation to cancel all student debt, going farther than a signature proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the two jockey for support from the party’s liberal base .
By canceling all student loans, Sanders says the proposal would address an economic burden for 45 million Americans. The key difference is that Warren’s plan considers the income of the borrowers, canceling $50,000 in debt for those earning less than $100,000 per year and affecting an estimated 42 million people in the U.S.
Questions face both candidates about how to pay for all of that plus their proposals for free tuition at public colleges and universities. But the battling ideas highlight the rivalry between senators who have made fighting economic inequality the cornerstones of their 2020 presidential campaigns.
Sanders vowed at a Monday news conference that his plan “completely eliminates student debt in this country and the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation, the millennial generation, to a lifetime of debt for the crime of doing the right thing. And that is going out and getting a higher education.” He appeared alongside the proposal’s House sponsors, Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten also in attendance.
His bill and Warren’s plan are part of their broader appeal to liberal voters on issues such as health care, technology and education.
That appeal is likely to be fleshed out this week during the first Democratic debates. Twenty candidates are set for the showdown, with Warren part of the lineup on Wednesday and Sanders appearing a day later. The events come as Warren appears to be cutting into Sanders’ support from the left.
Sanders’ effort at one-upmanship on student loans, named the College For All Act, would cancel $1.6 trillion of debt and save the average borrower about $3,000 a year, according to materials obtained by The Associated Press. The result would be a stimulus that allows millennials in particular to invest in homes and cars that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. It would cost $2.2 billion and be paid for — and then some — by a series of taxes on such things as stock trades, bonds and derivatives, according to the proposal.
The universal debt relief is designed partly around the idea that it would mostly benefit Americans who can’t afford college tuition without loans, according to a senior Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the legislation wasn’t yet public.
Warren’s plan, which she plans to introduce as legislation alongside Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., would be paid for by imposing a 2% fee on fortunes greater than $50 million. Warren projects the levy would raise $2.75 trillion over 10 years, enough to pay for a universal child-care plan, free tuition at public colleges and universities, and student loan debt forgiveness for an estimated 42 million Americans — with revenue left over. Critics say top earners would find ways around such penalties.
One key difference between Sanders’ and Warren’s plans is their differing treatment of high earners: Warren wrote that her plan would offer “no debt cancellation to people with household income above $250,000,” or the top 5%. Sanders would extend the benefit even to wealthy borrowers.
Asked on Monday about that decision, Sanders told reporters that he believes in “universality” and added: “In other areas we are going to demand that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share in taxes.”
Attorneys: Texas Border Facility Is Neglecting Migrant Kids
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A 2-year-old boy locked in detention wants to be held all the time. A few girls, ages 10 to 15, say they’ve been doing their best to feed and soothe the clingy toddler who was handed to them by a guard days ago. Lawyers warn that kids are taking care of kids, and there’s inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at the Border Patrol station.
The bleak portrait emerged Thursday after a legal team interviewed 60 children at the facility near El Paso that has become the latest place where attorneys say young migrants are describing neglect and mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. government.
Data obtained by The Associated Press showed that on Wednesday there were three infants in the station, all with their teen mothers, along with a 1-year-old, two 2-year-olds and a 3-year-old. There are dozens more under 12. Fifteen have the flu, and 10 more are quarantined.
Three girls told attorneys they were trying to take care of the 2-year-old boy, who had wet his pants and had no diaper and was wearing a mucus-smeared shirt when the legal team encountered him.
“A Border Patrol agent came in our room with a 2-year-old boy and asked us, ‘Who wants to take care of this little boy?’ Another girl said she would take care of him, but she lost interest after a few hours and so I started taking care of him yesterday,” one of the girls said in an interview with attorneys.
Law professor Warren Binford, who is helping interview the children, said she couldn’t learn anything about the toddler, not even where he’s from or who his family is. He is not speaking.
Binford described that during interviews with children in a conference room at the facility, “little kids are so tired they have been falling asleep on chairs and at the conference table.”
She said an 8-year-old taking care of a very small 4-year-old with matted hair couldn’t convince the little one to take a shower.
“In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,” said Holly Cooper, who co-directs University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth.
The lawyers inspected the facilities because they are involved in the Flores settlement, a Clinton-era legal agreement that governs detention conditions for migrant children and families. The lawyers negotiated access to the facility with officials, and say Border Patrol knew the dates of their visit three weeks in advance.
Many children interviewed had arrived alone at the U.S.-Mexico border, but some had been separated from their parents or other adult caregivers including aunts and uncles, the attorneys said.
Government rules call for the children to be held by the Border Patrol for no longer than 72 hours before they are transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services, which houses migrant youth in facilities around the country.
Government facilities are overcrowded and five immigrant children have died since late last year after being detained by Customs and Border Protection. A teenage mother with a premature baby was found last week in a Texas Border Patrol processing center after being held for nine days by the government.
In an interview this week with the AP, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders acknowledged that children need better medical care and a place to recover from their illnesses. He urged Congress to pass a $4.6 billion emergency funding package includes nearly $3 billion to care for unaccompanied migrant children.
He said that the Border Patrol is holding 15,000 people, and the agency considers 4,000 to be at capacity.
“The death of a child is always a terrible thing, but here is a situation where, because there is not enough funding … they can’t move the people out of our custody,” Sanders said.
The arrival of thousands of families and children at the border each month has not only strained resources but thrust Border Patrol agents into the role of caregivers, especially for the many migrant youth who are coming without parents.
But children at the facility in Clint, which sits amid the desert scrubland some 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of El Paso, say they have had to pick up some of the duties in watching over the younger kids.
A 14-year-old girl from Guatemala said she had been holding two little girls in her lap.
“I need comfort, too. I am bigger than they are, but I am a child, too,” she said.
Children told lawyers that they were fed oatmeal, a cookie and a sweetened drink in the morning, instant noodles for lunch and a burrito and cookie for dinner. There are no fruits or vegetables. They said they’d gone weeks without bathing or a clean change of clothes.
A migrant father, speaking on condition of anonymity because of his immigration status, told AP Thursday that authorities separated his daughter from her aunt when they entered the country. The girl would be a second grader in a U.S. school.
He had no idea where she was until Monday, when one of the attorney team members visiting Clint found his phone number written in permanent marker on a bracelet she was wearing. It said “U.S. parent.”
“She’s suffering very much because she’s never been alone. She doesn’t know these other children,” said her father.
Republican Congressman Will Hurd, whose district includes Clint, said “tragic conditions” playing out on the southern border were pushing government agencies, nonprofits and Texas communities to the limit.
“This latest development just further demonstrates the immediate need to reform asylum laws and provide supplemental funding to address the humanitarian crisis at our border,” he said.
Dr. Julie Linton, who co-chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics Immigrant Health Special Interest Group, said CBP stations are not an appropriate place to hold children.
“Those facilities are anything but child friendly,” said Dr. Julie Linton. “That type of environment is not only unhealthy for children but also unsafe.”
The Trump administration has been scrambling to find new space to hold immigrants as it faces criticism that it’s violating the human rights of migrant children by keeping so many of them detained.
San Francisco psychoanalyst Gilbert Kliman, who has evaluated about 50 children and parents seeking asylum, says the trauma is causing lasting damage.
“The care of children by children constitutes a betrayal of adult responsibility, governmental responsibility,” he said.
Train Derails Near Nevada-Utah Line, Closing Interstate
WELLS, Nev. (AP) — A 60-mile stretch (96 kilometers) of U.S. Interstate 80 in northeast Nevada has been closed while emergency crews respond to a train derailment. Authorities were investigating whether any hazardous materials were aboard the train.
There’s been no immediate report of injuries.
Nevada Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meg Ragonese says the interstate was closed along the Utah state line shortly after the derailment was reported at about 11 a.m. Wednesday.
A dispatcher at the Elko County Sheriff’s Office says rail cars containing military munitions are on the train, but not near the site of the actual derailment.
Ragonese says interstate traffic is being rerouted.
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