Blow and Krugman

In “The Kook, ‘the Mooch’ and the Loot” Mr. Blow says the communications problem in this administration is that no one cares about the truth.  Prof. Krugman tells us “Health Care Is Still in Danger” and that the cruelty remains, and the lies just keep coming.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

On Friday, a “president” with no political experience brought on a communications director with no communications experience.

Trump tapped Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street snake investment huckster, to be the new communications director, a move that caused Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who The New York Times reported“vehemently disagreed with the appointment,” to resign.

So, let me get this straight: Spicer was just fine with regularly walking out to that podium to spew and spin Trump’s lies, but hiring “the Mooch,” as Scaramucci is known, was the back-breaker? O.K., whatever, Sean.

This illustrates best what is wrong with this communications shop, and by extension, this administration: No one is concerned with the truth; they are only concerned with their own trajectories.

Nothing about this White House communications department was ever about communicating. On the contrary, it has always been about deception, concealment and equivocation. Informing the public was never the mission. Flattering Trump was the mission. But in the end, Trump will never be satisfied, because successful communications for him is to get people to buy his pack of lies, and that isn’t really working the way it once did.

Nothing will change with jthe arrival of the Mooch Communications Office because nothing has changed about the kook in the Oval Office. (Some may find that descriptor harsh, but I find no appellation too coarse to express my outrage over Trump’s character, behavior and agenda. If anything, no word feels grave enough to properly express it.)

Trump is suffering horrendous approval ratings, an impotent legislative agenda and his irrepressible impulse to shove his foot in his mouth. There is no real way to better package this disaster.

For that reason, I found this shake-up far less interesting than the developments last week about the inexorably advancing Russia investigation.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not interested in palace intrigue; I’m interested in the increasing possibility of prison and maybe even impeachment.

Think about all that happened last week: Donald Trump Jr. and the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were invited to testify in open session before the Senate Judiciary Committee about that shady meeting they had in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer. And Trump gave an astoundingly bizarre interview to The New York Times in which he publicly slammed his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the Russia investigation and drew a “red line,” warning that Mueller should not investigate the Trump family’s business dealings.

Reuters reported: “The Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr. after his father won the Republican nomination for the 2016 U.S. presidential election counted Russia’s F.S.B. security service among her clients for years, Russian court documents seen by Reuters show.”

The Times also reported: “Banking regulators are reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit, which caters to an ultrarich clientele, according to three people briefed on the review who were not authorized to speak publicly.”

The Times report continued: “Separately, Deutsche Bank has been in contact with federal investigators about the Trump accounts, according to two people briefed on the matter. And the bank is expecting to eventually have to provide information to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.”

Not only did NBC report that “Marc Kasowitz is no longer leading the president’s group of private lawyers,” Politico reported that Mark Corallo, spokesman for the Trump legal team, resigned because he “was concerned about whether he was being told the truth about various matters.”

If people on Trump’s legal payroll are worried that they aren’t being told the truth, how worried should the rest of us be? Very, I would venture.

Then there was the Washington Post report: “Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut” Mueller’s Russia investigation, “building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.”

The Post continued: “Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people.”

I understand the press giving a lot of attention to the drama of changing press people, but that doesn’t even register against the import of what’s happening on the Russia investigation front.

All those things that have never made sense — Trump’s warm-and-fuzzies for Vladimir Putin, the mass amnesia about meetings with Russians by people connected to the Trump campaign, Trump’s prickly protectiveness about releasing financial details and documents, including his tax returns — must be made to make sense.

Mueller will not be threatened, the investigation will not be closed or constricted and the truth will be known. Incriminating personal communications are often hard to find, but financial records are often also kept by third parties and tell their own story.

As they say, follow the money.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Will Senate Republicans try to destroy health care under cover of a constitutional crisis? That’s a serious question, based in part on what happened in the House earlier this year.

As you may remember, back in March attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act seemed dead after the Congressional Budget Office released a devastating assessment, concluding that the House Republican bill would lead to 23 million more uninsured Americans. Faced with intense media scrutiny and an outpouring of public opposition, House leaders pulled their bill, and the debate seemed over.

But then media attention moved on to presidential tweets and other outrages — and with the spotlight off, House leaders bullied and bribed enough holdouts to narrowly pass a bill after all.

Could something similar happen in the Senate? A few days ago the Senate’s equally awful version of repeal and replace — which the C.B.O. says would leave an extra 22 million people uninsured — seemed dead. And media attention has visibly shifted off the subject, focusing on juicier topics like the Russia-Trump story.

This shift in focus is understandable. After all, there is growing evidence that members of the Trump inner circle did indeed collude with Russia during the election; meanwhile, Trump’s statements and tweets strongly suggest that he’s willing both to abuse his pardon power and to fire Robert Mueller, provoking a constitutional crisis, rather than allow investigation into this scandal to proceed.

But while these developments dominate the news, neither Mitch McConnell nor the White House have given up on their efforts to deprive millions of health care. In fact, on Saturday the tweeter-in-chief, once again breaking long-established rules of decorum, called on the audience at a military ceremony, the commissioning of a new aircraft carrier, to pressure the Senate to pass that bill.

This has many people I know worried that we may see a repeat of what happened in the spring: with the media spotlight shining elsewhere, the usual suspects may ram a horrible bill through. And the House would quickly pass whatever the Senate comes up with. So this is actually a moment of great risk.

One particular concern is that the latest round of falsehoods about health care, combined with the defamation of the C.B.O., may be gaining some political traction.

At this point the more or less official G.O.P. line is that the budget office — whose director, by the way, was picked by the Republicans themselves — can’t be trusted. (This attack provoked an open letter of protest signed by every former C.B.O. director, Republicans and Democrats alike.) In particular, the claim is that its prediction of huge losses in coverage is outlandish, and that to the extent that fewer people would be covered, it would be due to their voluntary choices.

In reality, those C.B.O. predictions of coverage losses are totally reasonable, given the Senate bill’s drastic cuts to Medicaid — 26 percent by 2026, and even deeper in the next decade. You have to wonder how someone like Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia could even consider supporting this bill, when 34 percent of her nonelderly constituents are on Medicaid. The same goes for Jeff Flake of Arizona, where the corresponding number is 29 percent.

And on those claims that it’s O.K. if people drop coverage, because that would be their own choice: It’s crucial to realize that the Senate bill would degrade the quality of subsidized private insurance, leading to a huge rise in deductibles.

Current law provides enough in subsidies that an individual with an income of $26,500 can afford a plan covering 70 percent of medical expenses, which, the C.B.O. estimates, implies an $800 deductible. The Senate bill reduces that standard of coverage to 58 percent, which would raise the implied deductible to $13,000, making the insurance effectively useless. Would deciding not to buy that useless insurance really be a “choice”?

By the way, remember when Republicans like Paul Ryan used to denounce Obamacare because the insurance policies it offered had high deductibles? It’s hypocrisy all the way down.

In short, the Senate bill is every bit as cruel and grotesque as its critics say. But we need to keep reminding wavering senators and their constituents of that fact, lest they be snowed by a blizzard of lies.

I’m not saying that everyone should ignore Trump-Putin-treason and all its ramifications: Clearly, the fate of our democracy is on the line. But we mustn’t let this mother of all scandals take up all our mental bandwidth: Health care for millions is also on the line.

And while ordinary citizens can’t yet do much about the looming constitutional crisis, their calls, letters, and protests can still make all the difference on health care. Don’t let the bad guys in the Senate do terrible things because you weren’t paying attention!

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