THE PRESIDENCY: Draining The Swamp? — Hardly! — Now “it looks like we’ve got the Creature from the Black Lagoon in the White House.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-no-populist-hes-a-swamp-monster/2017/04/17/7029a4e0-23a2-11e7-b503-9d616bd5a305_story.html

Dana Milbank writes in an op-ed in today’s WashPost:

“Last year, Mark Meckler, one of the founders of the tea party movement, had concerns about Donald Trump but gave the Republican nominee the benefit of the doubt, because Trump “at least says he’s going to attack” the crony-capitalist system.

Now the conservative activist has revised his opinion. Trump “said he was going to D.C. to drain the swamp,” Meckler said in a recent Fox Business interview, but “now it looks like we’ve got the Creature from the Black Lagoon in the White House.”

For everybody else who believed Trump’s populist talk about tackling a rigged system, it’s time to recognize you’ve been had. The president of the United States is a swamp monster.

The billionaire has embraced a level of corporate control of the government that makes previous controversies involving corporate influence — Vice President Dick Cheney’s attempt in 2001 to keep secret the names of industry officials who participated in his energy task force, for example — seem quaint by comparison.

. . . .

Steven Aftergood, who runs the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, said Trump’s actions are testing “the character of the U.S. government” and raise the possibility of the government “devolving into some kind of corporate mutation where the wealthy and well-connected rule.”

Trump has made a series of policy reversals in recent days from his populist campaign positions — on Chinese currency, trade, the Export-Import Bank and more — as the nationalist influence of Steve Bannon fades. This isn’t solely because Trump has stocked his administration at the highest levels with fellow billionaires, corporate types such as son-in-law Jared Kushner and veterans of Goldman Sachs.

ProPublica and the New York Times reported over the weekend that the Trump administration is being populated with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who are making policy for the industries that had been paying them. The arrangement has violated Trump’s (already weakened) ethics rules, and the administration is secretly issuing waivers exempting the former lobbyists from rules blocking them from working on issues that would benefit their former clients. Trump White House officials had more than 300 recent corporate clients and employers, the Times reported, and more than 40 former lobbyists are now in the White House and federal government. The director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics says even he has “no idea how many waivers have been issued.”

And these corporations are set to get what they paid for.

My Post colleague Juliet Eilperin reported Sunday on some of the 168 requests corporate interests have made, and are likely to be given, for regulatory relief, many of them seeking reduced environmental protections and worker rights. BP wants to make it easier to drill in the Gulf of Mexico. The pavement industry wants a halt to research on the environmental impact of coal tar. And my favorite: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s request that employers no longer be required to report their injury and illness records electronically to the Labor Department.

This should give the lie to Trump’s claims that deregulation is about creating jobs. The Chamber is upset that the government “intends to post the injury and illness records on the internet for anyone to see,” because this “will provide unions and trial attorneys with information that can be taken out of context.” As The Post’s James Hohmann noted, Trump already signed legislation removing a rule requiring businesses seeking large federal contracts to disclose serious safety and labor-law violations.

Trump has a simple answer to those who question his attempts to conceal the corporate influence in his administration. As he tweeted Sunday in response to protests about his failure to release his tax returns: “The election is over!”

Can Trump marginalize those who question his plutocracy? Eric Liu, an expert on mobilization and author of the new book “You’re More Powerful Than You Think,” sees Trump’s abandonment of the little guy as an opening for a “nascent progressive populism.”

But be careful: You don’t have to have seen “Creature from the Black Lagoon” to know that, in the swamp-monster genre, the beast seldom goes quietly.”

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When the most “popular” things our President has done since taking office are to shoot missiles, drop a big bomb, and threaten a “rogue nation” with an unstable leader and lots of weapons, without the semblance of an achievable “end game,” you know our country is in big trouble. Big time!

PWS

04-18-17

POLITICS: WASHPOST OPINION: DANA MILBANK: Party Of Putin? — GOP Seems Remarkably Unconcerned About Russian Meddling In Our Election!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/republicans-more-concerned-with-partisanship-than-russian-meddling/2017/03/20/040d66d2-0dba-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.5ff6291b591

Milbank writes:

“This would be a good time to do something about the red menace of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Instead, we’re talking about the Red Raiders of Texas Tech.

FBI Director James B. Comey, testifying Monday about his agency’s investigation into Russia’s attempt to tilt the 2016 election to Donald Trump, explained why it was “a fairly easy judgment” that Trump was Putin’s favored candidate: “Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flip side of that coin was he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.”

But Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, was having none of it. “Yeah, that logic might work on Saturday afternoon when my wife’s Red Raiders are playing the Texas Longhorns.” Conaway doubted such reasoning “all the rest of the time.”
So, Putin wanted Hillary Clinton to lose but didn’t want Trump? Maybe he was for Gary Johnson?

Comey tried to be patient. “Whoever the Red Raiders are playing, you want the Red Raiders to win,” he explained. “By definition, you want their opponent to lose.”
Conaway was fourth and long. He scrambled to formulate another question, then punted: “Well, let me finish up then.”

Comey’s testimony confirmed what was widely suspected: The FBI is investigating whether the president’s campaign colluded with a powerful American adversary in an attempt to swing the election. But instead of being shaken from complacency and uniting to make sure this never happens again, the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee mounted a reflexive defense of Trump.

The partisan response made it plain that there will be no serious congressional investigation of the Russia election outrage, nor any major repercussions for Russia. We were attacked by Russia — about this there is no doubt — and we’re too paralyzed by politics to respond.

Trump, whose claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower was dismissed by Comey on Monday, continued to fire his weapons of mass distraction Monday morning, tweeting about ties between Clinton and Russia and claiming “the real story” is who leaked classified information.
This is to be expected from Trump. The disheartening part was that most Republicans on the panel, which is supposed to investigate Trump, instead slavishly echoed his excuses.”

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The transformation of the GOP is an interesting experience for baby boomers like me who grew up in the 1950s when the GOP saw a “Red under every bed.”

But, times have changed. Although Putin is a KGB vet and seems to remain wedded to their brutal methods of eliminating opposition, suppressing dissent, and “messing with the heads of the West,” some folks seem to be too busy fretting about the imagined threat to our national security from Syrian refugee children to want any serious inquiry or accounting for what Putin and the Russians are up to in the U.S.

PWS

03/21/17