Roundtable – State of the Admin

The Roundtable is a conversation about the news among Torchlight’s writers and editors. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity, and some citations and links were added after the fact. The conversation happened July 22.

Josh Kyu Saiewitz
Welcome to the Roundtable, Torchlight’s discussion of news and events. With us this week are Junior Managing Editor David Schmitz, Politics Editor Christopher Dahlin, Researcher Sam Dieffenwierth, Contributor David Spitzley, and myself, Senior Managing Editor Josh Kyu Saiewitz. After the insane deluge of this week’s news, we’re trying something a little different for this week’s Roundtable: combining a number of different topics into a holistic look at how the Trump Presidency is doing overall and after six months in office.

We’ll start with the state of Trump’s signature legislative effort, ACA repeal. What do we think of how the Senate process is going, and what chance do we think they have of actually passing something?

Christopher Dahlin
Supposedly, they are voting on a motion to pass next week, but they don’t know which bill they are actually going to try. This has some Senators relatively angry, and so no one knows quite what’s going on. That said, all of these plans already died, and with McCain recuperating, their margin is even tighter now. That said, McConnell knows exactly what he is doing, so he is going to use every trick in the book to not be left holding the bag. So who actually knows what happens next week! Yay!

David Schmitz
Took the words right out of my mouth. The margins are slim, the public is vocal on all sides, the Democrats are unified, and the Republicans are varying levels of desperate. I suspect that because the numbers just aren’t looking good from a budget and insurance coverage angle, they won’t be able to get over 50.

 

Sam Dieffenwierth
It’s a tire fire as usual, it’s not going to pass, and yet again Ryan and McConnell are going to be pointing fingers when it fails. It’s astounding- Obamacare is not a great plan to begin with, so there’s plenty to improve upon. The establishment Republicans have had the better part of a decade to come up with a better bill and when the time finally comes their big plan is actually worse than the original!

And it’s not as though this is something the President actually cares about, something that they can work with him on. Obama worked his ass off to get the ACA through, Trump shrugs and says “I suppose”. They’ve got a legislative majority, they’ve got a Republican President, but Congressional leadership has decided to waste all their time trying to pass something no one wants.

David Schmitz
It was supposed to be so easy!

Christo
The basic problem is that Obama cared about the end result. The end result all of these people want range from tax cuts for the rich (for Ryan and McConnell) to being praised for winning (for Trump). They don’t care about the minutiae, and so won’t and can’t work for it. Unfortunately, that’s the actually important part.

This coupled with their absolute refusal to work with Dems, again because they don’t actually care about healthcare as an end result, but ensuring they please their donors, completely hamstrings them from being at all effective

David Schmitz
Well, we’ll get to see what happens next week. Also next week? The investigations into the many aspects of Russia’s meddling continues. What are we most looking forward to? Dreading?

 

Christo
Well, we are getting a bunch of hearings next week, probably with a bunch of stupidity. Don Jr and Manafort are testifying on Wednesday, and I thought that had been changed to a closed meeting, but the judiciary website does not indicate that. There will also be Senate Intelligence hearings with Kushner, and those are closed. Basically, we are going to get even more ridiculousness next week.

David Schmitz
It’s one of those things where there is that proverbial “drip drip drip”. With, as an example, Kushner having to amend his security clearance filings repeatedly, I find it difficult to believe anything that comes out from them.

And why is Trump inquiring about his pardon power? It’s just crazy and at some point either everyone quits and runs away to hide the truth or the truth comes barreling out and everyone quits and runs away, right?

Christo
So we learned that Sean Spicer resigned after Anthony Scaramucci was named Communications Director for the White House.

He gave a televised press conference (the first from the White House in over a month), and prognosticated on exactly what his job consisted of. Any thoughts on performance or political consequences?? (edited)

Sam Dieffenwierth
I didn’t watch it but I think this is definitely a step in the right direction for the Trump team. Spicer was a laughingstock even before the pictures of him as the White House Easter Bunny came out.

David Schmitz
Scaramucci clearly loves the camera, loves Trump (now), and I’m wary of whether he’ll allow Sarah Huckabee-Sanders the space to do her job which she had been doing for Spicer recently anyways.

Christo
I listened to a little bit of it myself, and he is definitely more collected at the job. A reminder that as communications director, he will be more in charge of policy, as I understand. The New Press Secretary , Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has been giving the briefings for awhile now, and will continue to do so (edited)

 

[dem efforts transition]

Christo
The Democrats at this point have to stay united, and concentrated on the issues. They can’t get bogged down in specifics, because they aren’t the ones making policy. I do think that managing to make the message about the healthcare bills success riding on the number of insured was a victory, because those numbers are always going to be horrible for the Republican bills. However, they can’t get complacent, and it would be utterly disastrous if the got smug. They need to stay pissed, and they need to talk about why America should be pissed as well.

David Schmitz
I agree with that assessment and, for me, I think the Democrats can and should provide input legislatively. Say, “If you want to improve the ACA, here’s how we would do it.” Not expecting the Republicans to accept or acknowledge it, but letting the public know that the Democrats are ready to get work done as soon as possible.

Christo
Right, but they should stay out of nitty gritty specifics, because that gives the Republicans a cudgel. Say “Well, we could do a public option” or “Hey, let’s close the medicaid loophole!” Not put out their own bill.

Josh
The Dems have totally put out bills and proposals. It’s just that it doesn’t get media coverage, because everybody knows they don’t have the power to actually implement those ideas.

Sam Dieffenwierth
Exactly. But I predict that taking the high road until the next election will be a big sticking point for the Democrats. Running on how bad Trump is isn’t a platform; you’ve got to offer the American public your ideas to improve their quality of life and most importantly you have to make sure the American public -knows- about your ideas.

Christo
I think there is time for that. But we don’t know what the board looks like in a year. Things are moving so fast that a strategy now may be silly in 3 months or even weeks Better to let the Republicans set themselves on fire _then_ explain how to fix it (edited)

Sam Dieffenwierth
That’s precisely the role of an opposition party.

Christo
I think specific constituencies are doing this, but the party as a whole doesn’t necessarily have a grand strategy at this point. Pelosi can talk about how Republicans can work with them and their better ideas, but on the whole we need to be careful of pitfalls (edited)

Josh
Whatever their faults, the GOP opposition worked well under Obama in terms of securing electoral victory. The Dems need to replicate that in a more ethical fashion. Simple, clear messages like “Every American has the right to healthcare.” Simple, clear messages about Trump being unfit and needing a blue Congress to keep him on a leash. Dems have no shortage of details and plans and they’ve proven they can deliver real legislation once in power. For now, oppose united, keep it simple, stump for values not white papers.

David Spitzley
I think the primary obstacle to “stump for values” is the New Democrats vs Progressives split we’ve seen sine the days of the Democratic Leadership Council. There is still an apparent institutional bias against the policies and base that came from Bernie’s wing of the party, and there’s a danger that that will piss away the historic level of mobilization and engagement that the Dems are riding at the moment. It’s easy to champion “the people” when you don’t have to get Wall Street to write you checks.

Josh
Lastly I’d like to turn our discussion to the shifting attitudes in voters on the right. On the one hand, there was a NYT article the other day showing that opposition to ACA is dissolving among voters on the right. On the other hand, polling indicates that Republican voters are less convinced than they were six months ago about Russian collusion or even the existence of the meeting Don Jr admitted to having. What do we think is causing these trends and how do we expect this to develop going forward?

 

Christo
Well, for the former question, a lot of Republicans are actually poor, and so depend on the ACA to survive. When it is literally a matter of life and death, stupid propaganda doesn’t necessarily have as much traction.

I have no idea what the hells is going on with the second question

David Spitzley
Survivor bias? As people split off from the GOP the ones remaining are likely to be more extreme in their views. Not that there’s been an unequivocal rush for the doors yet…

David Schmitz
It’s going to have a lot to do with where each person gets their information. The Breitbart followers might be wavering a bit, the FoxNews consumers might as well, depending on which shows they watch. The ones that actually care to get timely, varied, and accurate news are probably either dropping support pretty quickly or having to ramp up their cognitive dissonance to stay on board.

Sam Dieffenwierth
For the last seven years Republicans have been told that there’s this great plan waiting in the wings that’s better than Obamacare. Now that Congress has to put its money where its mouth is, the base has found out that there -is- no plan and that whatever Ryan’s cooked up is going to make them worse off. As the saying goes, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”

With regards to my fellow conservatives disbelieving the official line on the Russians, the press needs to shut up about it once in a while. This week Trump ended the official support of the Syrian rebels (except for everyone’s favorite heroin smugglers the Kurds). That’s big! That’s probably the most important foreign policy shift in the Middle East in the last two years. But what do I see when I load up the Washington Post’s homepage? Trump, fake news, some journalist died, more Trump, Russians, John Brennan is mad at Trump, Jared Kushner is totes rich and that’s connected to the Russians, the Russian ambassador, etc. etc. Every time there’s some tiny detail the press feels the need to speculate on it for a month.

The press has been hitting Americans with stories about sneaky Russians day after day for the past eight months, and it’s exhausting. What’s to stop conservatives from thinking the whole thing is blown up out of proportion?

 

Christo
To be fair, he colluded with a hostile power to undermine the very foundations of our democracy.

While his attorney general is undermining the very foundations of our democracy in a completely different way.

David Schmitz
All of that stuff is important for a news organization to be reporting on though. And the cycles are faster than ever, so each story gets wiped down by the next. As for the Syrian rebels stuff, doing the thing that Russia wishes for and is dubious whether it will actually help the situation is not any more newsworthy or important to cover than domestic issues like health insurance reform and public confidence in our government to not be influenced by foreign adversaries.

Josh
Final thoughts time. Trump is six months in. Will he be here in another six months? Will our system? Is that future unimaginably far away?

David Schmitz
This week showed me that no matter what or how much is thrown at us, we can continue to weather the storm and push on to the next issue, the next battle, the next day. The earth keeps spinning and we need to remain vigilant so that when the shit does hit the fan, we are ready to clean it all up and start again.

David Spitzley
Historically I won’t even try to predict election outcomes more than a month in advance. This situation? I can’t even see a day ahead…

Christo
Trump is becoming increasingly miserable, and will become increasingly desperate. Predicting what happens in 3 weeks is difficult. 6 months is basically impossible

Sam Dieffenwierth
Yes, he’ll be here, yes, democracy will still be here, and 2018 will be here closer than we think. Time passes slowly only on for kids on Christmas Eve and at 4:50 pm on a workday for the rest of us.

Josh
And on that note, we’ll bring this Roundtable to a close. Thanks everybody for joining us for another excellent discussion.

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