The Trump regime
Today, February 15th, is the 27th day of the Trump regime. Why does it seem like an eternity already?
All new administrations have a honeymoon period; a break-in period; and a denouement period. The first two usually stretch one hundred days or more; the latter, if lucky does not happen until years three, four, or five of an administration. For the Trump team the honeymoon period was over almost before it began. The break-in period will probably last four years, assuming the administration lasts that long. The denouement has started already.
Rush Limbaugh is telling his listeners to “remain calm” and “get a grip” following Michael Flynn’s forced resignation as National Security Advisor. He is describing Michael Flynn as a Democrat previously appointed to a Defense Department position by President Obama – trying to offload a Republican hot potato. Yes, this is the same Michael Flynn who led the “lock her up” chants at the Republican National Convention last summer.
Limbaugh also criticizes the “mainstream media” for planning to spend the next four years trying to tear apart Donald Trump. Limbaugh knows a little something about such a strategy, having spent two thirds of the last 25 years doing the same thing to Democratic presidents.
It is incredible to read, see and listen to report after report about the chaos of the Trump administration. Consider, for example, the state of the White House staff.
- Hundreds of administration-appointed positions remain unfilled, not for purposes of economy, but for reasons of incompetent management.
- The first thing to come together in a normal new administration is the core White House staff. Ignore for the moment the vacant positions. Just concentrate on the main appointments:
- National Security Director Michael Flynn is out of office but not necessarily out of trouble. He reportedly is under FBI investigation for his transition period meddling in Russian affairs. There is a law against that, plus the Constitution provides that we only have one president at a time. Even congressional Republicans are talking about investigations now.
- Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is already under fire for, in the words of a Trump confidant, being “way over his head” in the position. Gee, why are they picking on poor Reince like that? Well, okay, he’s about as much a chief of staff as Rob Ryan was a Bills assistant head coach.
- Press Secretary and acting Communication Director Sean Spicer is drawing yuge audiences to his daily press briefings – better ratings than the afternoon soap operas. His caricature is a favorite feature of Saturday Night Live. His Pinocchio nose will soon not fit in the press briefing room.
- Counselor Kellyanne Conway has been “counseled” for violating the federal law that prohibits a federal employee from promoting a private business. Her scoop Monday afternoon about Trump having full confidence in Flynn, followed by Spicer’s almost immediate contradiction of her statement, may have set a new White House record for a presidential staffer being thrown under a bus. Why do the networks continue to give her airtime? Actually, the answer is simple: they enjoy watching her twist in the wind when her lies are exposed.
Notice that one of the key players in the White House, strategic advisor Steve (“Just shut up and listen”) Bannon is not under scrutiny at the moment. Might that be because he is working on some “strategy” to weaken or eliminate the three remaining staffers listed above?
- Consider also Bannon’s “mini-me,” Steve Miller. Miller was trotted out this past Sunday for a series of news show appearances. High school debate teams are better prepared than he was. While his spouting off about rampant voter fraud got attention, some might have missed this Miller line on CBS: “our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.” Sieg…
- The members of the president’s cabinet are not fully assembled yet, even though Republicans control the process. The first two to be confirmed, James Mattis and John Kelly, as Defense and Homeland Security Secretaries respectively, are supposed to be the bright lights in the group. Neither one, however, was involved in drafting the immigration ban. (Mattis did get the ceremonial signing pen, however, when fearless leader signed the executive order at the Pentagon.)
- The cabinet officers who have been confirmed seem to be trying to figure out where they begin. Others, like Energy Secretary-designate Rick Perry and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos probably will never have a clue about their jobs.
I have been thinking that the day would come when it would be appropriate to bring out a sports analogy, the over-under bet. That is where you might place a bet on whether the two teams in a football game will score a certain amount of total points. Like in the Super Bowl, where the over-under was 58.5 and the total final score was 62. So if you took the under, you would lose because the teams scored more than 58.5 points. The time for the White House over-under is now.
Here’s my over-under for the White House staff: three months. Which of the following staffers will have a term of more than three months in their White House jobs?
- Reince Priebus
- Sean Spicer
- Kellyanne Conway
- Steve Miller
- Steve Bannon
Here’s my over-under for the Trump cabinet: one year. Which of the following Trump cabinet members will have a term of more than one year in their cabinet positions?
- Rex Tillerson
- Jeff Sessions
- Steve Mnuchin
- James Mattis
- John Kelly
- Rick Perry
- Ben Carson
- Betsy DeVos
- Tom Price
You can, of course, place actual bets on the duration of the Trump administration. Politico reported on February 12th:
Ladbrokes, the British oddsmaking giant, has Trump’s chances of leaving office via resignation or impeachment and removal at just 11-to-10, or just a little worse than even money. The odds of Trump being impeached this year in the House of Representatives are only 4-to-1, according to the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, despite GOP control of the chamber. You can win $180 on a $100 bet with Bovada, the online gaming site, that Trump won’t make it through a full term — though the bet is off if Trump passes away during the next four years…
Given Republican control of Congress, impeachment seems, at best, a remote possibility in the next two years. Still, Trump’s continued ties to his businesses and his attacks on federal judges have fueled talk that Congress could seek to remove him.
Cuomo coming to an ECDC event
As noted by Bob McCarthy in the Buffalo News, Governor Andrew Cuomo will make his first appearance at an Erie County Democratic Committee fundraiser on February 16th. This is certainly good news for Jeremy Zellner’s organization. One can’t help but wonder, however, about Cuomo’s motives.
It would be fair to say that the governor’s politics have been tacking to the left lately. Some might say that he is looking to 2020 – perhaps. My impression, however, is because things have not all been going smoothly in Albany lately, he is looking for friends where he didn’t need to look before. His focus is on his 2018 re-election so that he can match his father’s term in office. The investigation of Preet Bharara is coming up against some folks who are very close to the governor. It has to be uncomfortable.
So the Erie County visit may be part of the “new friends” program. He is not likely to enjoy what he previously abhorred, but sometimes you just need to do something for an hour. Kudos to Sam Hoyt, Kathy Hochul, Byron Brown and whoever else may have been involved in arranging Cuomo’s visit. It is a start.
Niagara County politics
As a lifelong resident and observer of Erie County politics, the version of the game played in Niagara County often amazes me.
You will recall that former Senator Maziarz retired from the Senate in 2014 as investigators started focusing on the use of his campaign funds. Nothing is officially resolved about that yet, although Maziarz seems to be going on with his life. The word on the street has for some time been that the focus of the investigation is now on Maziarz’s former Senate staff.
Enter new Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek, who was elected with bi-partisan support. Mrs. Wojtaszek is the wife of former Niagara County Republican chairman and Maziarz protégé Henry Wojtaszek; the sister-in-law and former clerk for a Niagara County Judge; the sister-in-law of State Supreme Court Justice Paul Wojtaszek. Another sister-in-law of DA Wojtaszek is secretary to State Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch, whose chambers are in Niagara County. Justice Wojtaszek’s secretary is George Maziarz’s wife. In other words, DA Wojtaszek is politically pretty well connected in the county.
As this blog pointed out last April, “it would seem that a District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek could have potential conflicts in the Niagara County courts.”
So why is it that, as reported in Monday’s Albany Times Union (a day before our local Buffalo News reported the story), DA Wojtaszek claimed she did not know that the investigation of Maziarz’s former staff’s activities with his campaign funds still sat with the Niagara County District Attorney’s office? Heck, even Politics and Other Stuff reported that last May.
So now DA Wojtaszek has determined that her office has a conflict in the matter and the case has been moved to Erie County District Attorney John Flynn’s jurisdiction. DA Wojtaszek’s Niagara County political connections might lead to more conflicts of interest involving her office and the Niagara County judiciary. This should be interesting.
Assemblyman Ray Walter has joined his Assembly Republican colleagues in proposing an alternative to the free tuition plan that Governor Cuomo has offered. Here from Walter’s press release is a brief summary of what the proposal provides:
- Increase the household income cap threshold for Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) eligibility from $80,000 to $125,000 (phased in over three years);
- Provide an additional $500 to every TAP recipient & increase the maximum TAP award to $6,470;
- Make graduate programs eligible for TAP; and
- Reduce taxable income for student loans.
The proposals would reduce the cost of tuition for the nearly 300,000 students who currently receive TAP, will increase eligibility for approximately 36,000 students to receive tuition assistance as a result of increasing the income threshold, and provide more than 7,000 graduate students with TAP benefits. The plan will also help students attending private institutions, and offer a broad tax deduction to all New Yorkers paying student loans.
The Republican plan appears to cost the same as Cuomo’s plan and it is straightforward about how the benefits of the proposal are distributed. In press release summary form it makes sense. It may not go anywhere, but it is worth a look.