With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA:
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) got heckled, booed and yelled at last night during a contentious town hall meeting in his district. The loudest jeers related to the GOP’s promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Many of the 150 attendees carried red cards to signal their discontent. A registered nurse who lives outside Brat’s district held up a sheet of paper that said “LIE” for the duration of the hour-long event. “The problem is Obamacare has just collapsed,” said Brat. The crowd began shouting: “No, it has not!” (Jenna Portnory has more.)
Many Republicans are facing this kind of hostile reception as they return home for a week-long recess. Offices have been flooded with calls for weeks, and some liberal constituents are now looking for face-to-face confrontations with their lawmakers that can lead the nightly news.
Brat, who toppled House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 primary, is one of 21 House Republicans about to get some air cover from a conservative outside group aligned with Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and his leadership team. The American Action Network, founded by veteran GOP fundraisers to support the speaker’s agenda, will spend $2.2 million on TV and digital buys over the next two weeks to promote GOP efforts related to overhauling the law across two dozen media markets. That’s in addition to $5.2 million already spent on Obamacare-related advertising since the start of the year.
“This is a critical time,” Corry Bliss, the executive director of the group, said in an interview. “A lot of the action for health care moving though the House will happen in the next two weeks. We want to be very engaged in reminding people what’s at stake.”
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said this week that he expects a new health-care plan to emerge in "the first few days of March." President Trump’s top advisers held a three-hour meeting about health care at Mar-a-Lago on Sunday, per the AP, their third lengthy discussion on the topic in four days. The confirmation of Tom Price as health and human services secretary has sped up negotiations with the Hill.
The spot that the group is running stars Elizabeth Jacinto, a married mother of three children with a fourth on the way. She says that she lost her health coverage and her doctor — despite promises to the contrary. She says she was kicked off her plan after giving birth, leaving her family uninsured for four months. As a result, she laments, her baby missed immunizations and her husband had to delay a previously scheduled surgery.
“When Obamacare was first coming out, I was hopeful that it was going to work out for our family, and what ended up happening was an absolute nightmare,” Jacinto says to camera. “We need to have an option that allows all Americans a better plan and better health insurance, to have deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums be reasonable, and for people to get the coverage they want and need. That’s why we need to move forward with a new plan that Republicans are putting forward. I support the Republicans’ effort to fix health care for the American people.”
Watch the commercial here:
The new effort, previewed exclusively for the 202, comes amid ongoing struggles by congressional Republicans to figure out both the politics and policy of repealing the ACA.
Politically, lawmakers are trying to soothe fears among voters that they are going to scrap the law without a clear roadmap for what comes next. While some of the opposition efforts at town hall meetings are being organized by progressive outside groups, there is also organic anxiousness. Our reporters who have fanned out across the country report back that many people they’re interviewing have never before attended these sorts of meetings.
Sensing the potential potency of this raw energy, two key Republican committee chairmen have softened their rhetoric around “repeal and replace” with talk about "repairing" the 2010 law. That messaging shift has inflamed conservative activists, who already think Congress is moving too slowly and now fear that they are being double-crossed by the establishment.
GOP leaders respond that they’re moving cautiously because they don’t want to botch the specifics. Democrats deliberated for more than a year over what health reform should look like eight years ago, and the rollout was still a mess. That’s inevitable when you’re playing around with one-fifth of the economy. Wise Republicans know that they’re going to wind up owning the mess that gets made by whatever, if anything, emerges from this process. This is the burden of governing.
It’s still not obvious what exactly the replacement plan will look like, which is why the new commercial only states a few general goals of reform. There remains significant intra-party disagreement about what to maintain from the old law and how it will be paid for. Republicans leaders are trying to coalesce around core tenets of a replacement plan before fleshing out language.
So when will that happen? "When we agree on what we're going to do," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told The Post in an interview last week. This comment reflects the degree to which GOP leaders on the Hill are much more reticent to set expectations that they may not be able to live up to than White House officials like Priebus, who have never worked in government.
House Republicans exited a health-care meeting late last week with some new details on the options that their leaders are considering to replace the law. But they still don't have anything close to a complete plan. Some rank-and-file members worry about taking insurance away from millions of people, while others from redder districts fear that only cosmetic changes will be made to a law that they believe is ruining the country. Members of the Freedom Caucus fear that they’ll wind up with some kind of Obamacare Lite that will simply be rebranded as Trumpcare with a few Band-Aids on it.
Trump himself told The Post last month that a goal of any replacement plan should be “insurance for everybody,” which is very expensive and requires significant government intervention in the marketplace.
Every day that goes by without a clear GOP replacement plan is a day that lawmakers will need to reassure not only their own base that they’re not going wobbly, but also their constituents who have grown increasingly dependent on a new entitlement that they’re not going to leave them holding the bag.
Democrats are trying to capitalize on GOP infighting and believe that the looming threat of repeal is allowing them to sell the public on the law in a way they have not been able to for seven years. Recent public polling suggest that support for Obamacare continues to rise as the debate drags on. (I wrote about this strategy from the House Democratic retreat in Baltimore the week before last.)
That’s where the new American Action Network ad comes in. It makes the argument that the status quo is not acceptable, and that Republicans can offer better solutions, in a softer and more family-oriented way than we saw from right-leaning outside groups during the Obama years. It also reflects the desire to frame what Republicans are doing as a positive step forward, not a move to ax a government program.
The messaging is driven by a large national poll that the group commissioned early last month. The GS Strategy Group found that the most popular messages for what a replacement plan should have in it are coverage that provides ownership and portability, centers on what is best for the patient and lowers health coverage costs. The survey also found that people continue to like the idea of buying insurance across state lines and tax credits, instead of subsidies. (See a PowerPoint deck on their findings here.)
“If the ACA worked and people liked it, we wouldn’t be talking about health care,” said Bliss, who managed Rob Portman’s reelection campaign last year. “I think it’s our most powerful ad we’ve released because it’s a testimonial that puts a human face on bad policy. … This message is a winning message. Period. Full stop.”
Ryan’s office has been work-shopping some talking points in a similar vein. Take these two tweets from yesterday:
Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need. Obamacare is Washington telling you what to buy regardless of your needs.— Paul Ryan (@PRyan) February 21, 2017
Repealing and replacing Obamacare means Washington bureaucrats will give up control and let you and your doctor make the decisions. pic.twitter.com/pKIgjdCIV2— Paul Ryan (@PRyan) February 21, 2017
AAN spent tens of millions of dollars on behalf of GOP congressional candidates last year. Set up under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, the group is not required to disclose the names of its contributors. AAN was founded by veteran GOP fundraiser Fred Malek and former senator Norm Coleman.
Most of the members who will benefit from the new buy are expected to have competitive races in next year’s midterm elections. The woman featured in the commercial lives in the district represented by one of them: Rep. Darrell Issa, who won reelection by only about 2,000 votes. Other front-line House members include Jeff Denham and David Valadao, also in California, along with Mike Coffman in Colorado, Carlos Curbelo in Florida, Rob Blum and David Young in Iowa, Will Hurd in Texas and Barbara Comstock in Virginia.
Others are noteworthy for how safe they are. The ad will run in the districts of Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, the top two Republicans in leadership. Others whose reelection is secure but are playing important roles in the fight are also getting backup, including Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden.
Also on the list are members of the very conservative Freedom Caucus, such as Jim Jordan, Raul Labrador and Mark Meadows. Their votes could decide whether a replacement plan makes it through the lower chamber.
Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Two more North Koreans are wanted in connection with the killing of Kim Jong Un’s half brother, adding another layer of suspense to the murderous plot. From our Anna Fifield in Seoul: “Malaysian police are searching for a diplomat and an airline employee, taking to eight the number of North Koreans suspected of involvement in the brazen, public assassination of the half brother of the reclusive nation’s leader. In the latest twist in a plot straight out of a movie, an attempted break-in was reported at the hospital morgue where Kim Jong Nam’s body is being held — against North Korea’s wishes. Photos from the scene showed heavy security around the hospital, with armed men in SWAT-like gear. Speculation over the killing of Kim Jong Nam had centered on his estranged half [brother] … and evidence is mounting that North Korea may have been behind the attack at Kuala Lumpur airport Feb. 13. A North Korean man, a scientist who had been living in Kuala Lumpur for the past year, is already in custody, and Malaysian police have named four other North Koreans who they want to talk to in relation to the killing.” All four left Kuala Lumpur on the day of the attack and took a “circuitous route” back to Pyongyang.
-- The Trump administration is gearing up to roll back protections for transgender students, moving to reverse federal guidance that required the nation’s public schools to allow students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender identities. In a letter, slated to be issued today, Trump administration officials plan to say they are “withdrawing guidance issued by the Obama administration” that found that denying transgender students the right to use the bathroom of their choice violates federal prohibitions against sex discrimination.” (Sandhya Somashekhar, Moriah Balingit and Emma Brown)
-- Howard Dean endorsed Pete Buttigieg to be chairman of the DNC on “Morning Joe” this morning. The former Vermont governor is the fifth former DNC chairman to back the mayor of South Bend, Ind., even though the top two contenders are considered Tom Perez and Keith Ellison. Suggesting very strongly that he’s watching “Morning Joe,” the president tweeted about the DNC race just minutes after Dean’s appearance:
One thing I will say about Rep. Keith Ellison, in his fight to lead the DNC, is that he was the one who predicted early that I would win!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2017
-- Happening Friday: The 202 Live with Scott Walker. At 10 a.m. Friday, I’ll sit down with the governor of Wisconsin at The Post’s headquarters. We'll talk about how he thinks Trump can help GOP governors, including areas such as health care and welfare reform, and lessons that the president can learn from his experiences, including the Act 10 fight with public employee unions. Walker is part of a Badger State triumvirate that includes Ryan and Priebus. He's also chairman of the Republican Governors Association, so we'll discuss the upcoming gubernatorial contests. RSVP to attend here.
GET SMART FAST:
- Riots erupted in a neighborhood of immigrants in Stockholm, two days after Trump provoked international outrage by appearing to imply without evidence that immigrants had perpetrated a recent spate of violence in Sweden. (Max Bearak)
- The Supreme Court declined to hear the case of an Alabama death row inmate who requested to die by firing squad rather than lethal injection, after learning that the deadly cocktail led to several botched executions in recent years. Justice Sonia Sotomayor slammed the decision in her dissent, joining Stephen Breyer as she wrote that lethal injection “may turn out to be our most cruel experiment yet” in the search for a humane death penalty option. (Robert Barnes)
- A federal appeals court upheld Maryland’s ban on certain types of semiautomatic guns, vacating an earlier decision that cast doubt on the constitutionality of the ban. (Ann E. Marimow)
- A military tribunal sentenced an Israeli soldier to 18 months in prison for killing a disarmed, wounded Palestinian attacker. The soldier’s imprisonment comes as a deeply divisive punishment for a man whom many Israelis are hailing as a hero for “neutralizing a terrorist.” (Ruth Eglash and William Booth)
- The former leader of Hong Kong was sentenced to 20 months in jail on misconduct charges – becoming the highest ranking official in the territory to be jailed for corruption. ( AP)
- Lindsay Lohan claimed she was “racially profiled” while going through security at London Heathrow Airport with a head scarf. She told a talk show host that it was a “jarring” experience. “I was racially profiled for the first time in my life,” the former “Parent Trap” star, who is white, explained. Lohan has recently become an outspoken activist on behalf of Syrian refugees, noting that she was returning from Turkey and wearing the head scarf “out of respect.” (Amy B Wang)
- A long-term Danish study found that children of today aren’t getting worse behavior-wise – in fact, they may just be more law-abiding than ever. Why? They’re too busy on their phones to get in any trouble! Sounds like the kids are alright. (Rick Noack)
- A New York bull who cheated death after escaping a local slaughterhouse — evading authorities in Queens as he pranced for hours down crowded city streets — did not fare quite so well after his second capture. An animal sanctuary had agreed to take him in, but he was pronounced dead shortly before he would have been brought to his new home. (New York Times)
-- The administration detailed its plan to enforce a new, wide-ranging directive against undocumented immigrants, ramping up enforcement efforts even as White House officials maintained that such measures are “not intended” to result in mass deportations. The orders are likely to face resistance from a number of states and sanctuary cities. David Nakamura reports: “Federal officials cautioned that many of the changes detailed in a pair of memos from Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly will take time to implement … Yet the official public rollout of Kelly’s directives ... was met with outrage from immigrant rights advocates over concerns the new policies will result in widespread abuses as authorities attempt to fulfill [Trump’s] goals of tightening border control.”
- The new guidelines call for hiring “thousands” of additional enforcement agents and expanding the pool of immigrants prioritized for removal, effectively moving to speed up up deportation hearings and efforts to enlist local law officials in enforcement.
- The policies are poised to “considerably broaden” the pool of undocumented immigrants prioritized for removal, including those charged with crimes but not convicted, those who commit acts that constitute a “chargeable criminal offense,” and those who an immigration officer concludes pose “a risk to public safety or national security.”
- Still, a senior DHS official moved to avert what he called a “sense of panic” among immigrant communities: “We do not have the personnel, time or resources to go into communities and round up people and do all kinds of mass throwing folks on buses. That’s entirely a figment of folks’ imagination,” the official said during a background briefing.
-- “Justices divided on cross-border shooting that left Mexican teenager dead,” by Robert Barnes: “The cross-border shooting of an unarmed Mexican teenager by a U.S. Border Patrol agent left behind a sympathetic victim, but the Supreme Court on Tuesday worried about extending the protections of the Constitution beyond the nation’s boundaries. The court appeared divided on whether the dead boy’s parents have a right to sue their son’s killer in U.S. courts. Conservative justices were particularly concerned that among the unintended consequences could be an extension of rights to victims in foreign countries of drone strikes ordered from the United States. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is likely to hold the deciding vote in the case, wondered if the court should stay out of a matter best handled by the White House and Congress.”
Like on so many other big cases, Neil Goruch could be the deciding vote. It’s a reminder of how high the stakes are in the coming confirmation fight: “A 4-to-4 tie would uphold the opinion of lower courts, which said the parents do not have a remedy in U.S. courts. But if the justices are evenly divided, it is also possible they could decide to rehear the case when the court is fully staffed. ... Gorsuch could be confirmed in April.”
WIDENING THE APERTURE ONE MONTH IN:
-- In the 33 days he has been president, our Fact Checkers have documented 132 false or misleading claims made by the president. See them all here.
-- How Trump spent his first month, by the numbers: From the moment Trump was sworn in until noon Monday, one month passed. That’s a total of 744 hours. Philip Bump tried to breakdown how POTUS has managed his time the best he could. Trump spent a little under three-quarters of his time in and around Washington during his first month in office. A little less than half of that was time during which he was officially working — as measured by the time between when the media was told to show up in the morning (known as “call time”) until the media was dismissed in the evening (known as “the lid”). Based on pool reports, here’s what we know:
CAN McMASTER TELL TRUMP NO?
-- Trump's decision to tap Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser has pleased some allies, but left others quietly asking: How will McMaster, known for his sharp mind and even sharper opinions, get along with Trump -- who clearly dislikes being told he is wrong? Greg Jaffe and Joshua Partlow explore: “In his many successes and his most notable failure … McMaster has displayed the same traits: a fierce intellect, dogged determination and a penchant for conflict that has produced loyal supporters and, in some cases, determined foes." But, but, but: "McMaster comes onboard with some significant disadvantages relative to his predecessors. The most effective national security advisers have close personal relationships with the president. It’s not clear whether McMaster had even met Trump before interviewing. ... Sometimes, McMaster’s passion and intellect worked against him on the battlefield — especially in Afghanistan, where he was chosen in 2010 to lead an anti-corruption task force. His brash style alienated many of his American civilian colleagues. … But even those who hated his management style tended to recognize his brilliance.”
Money quote: “He’s not a bull in a china shop,” said professor Paul Rexton Kan, who joined McMaster’s team for a month in Kabul. “He’s a bull who picks up the china shop and just smashes it.”
-- Scott Pruitt spent his first full day as EPA administrator making clear that he intends to “step back” from what he sees as the agency’s regulatory overreach during the Obama administration. From Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney: “Pruitt, who spent years criticizing and suing the EPA before becoming its newest leader, reiterated an argument he often had made as Oklahoma attorney general. ‘The only authority that any agency has in the executive branch is the authority given to it by Congress,’ he said during a noon address to employees at the agency headquarters. ‘We need to respect that. We need to follow that. Because when we do that, guess what happens? We avoid litigation. We avoid the uncertainty of litigation and we reach better ends and outcomes at the end of the day.’”
IT'S TRUMP'S PARTY NOW:
-- “The conservative movement in America now belongs to President Trump,” Dave Weigel and Robert Costa write in a curtain raiser ahead of CPAC, which begins today. “Thousands of activists will arrive in Washington this week for an annual gathering that will vividly display how Trump has pushed the Republican Party and the conservative movement toward an ‘America first’ nationalism that has long existed on the fringes. This year’s CPAC schedule represents a marked shift toward Trump’s politics and penchant for showmanship. Nigel Farage, the pro-Brexit politician from Britain who spoke to an emptying room in 2015, will speak the same morning as Trump. Reality TV star Dog the Bounty Hunter will appear with a super PAC trying to draft Milwaukee County Sheriff [and Trump cable ally] David Clarke … into Wisconsin’s 2018 Senate race.”
- Matt Schlapp, the president of the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, said the gathering this year will be an acknowledgment of the “realignment going on politically in the country” and of the rising import of “American sovereignty” to conservatives nationally.
- The libertarian flavor of the conference during the Obama years has faded. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who won the conference’s presidential straw poll three years running, is not coming to CPAC. The immigration debate that once roiled Republicans has largely been settled, in Trump’s favor.
- Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus will deliver joint remarks on Thursday, seeking to put to rest rumors that the two do not get along and highlight how both factions of Trump’s administration are working well together inside the White House.
- Panels scheduled for the four-day conference include one on how the left does “not support law enforcement”; why the United States can’t have the same security standards as heaven (“a gate, a wall and extreme vetting”); and a discussion of “fair trade” that will put Breitbart editor Joel Pollak and progressive anchor Ed Schultz, who hosts a show on Russian-owned RT, on the same side.
-- Two telling quotes:
- Veteran GOP operative Mike Murphy, who ran Jeb Bush’s Super PAC: “There used to be Pat Buchanan’s people, the populist revolt-types and the establishment of the anti-establishment, who’d get a third of the vote in the primaries and we’d beat them back. Now they’ve hijacked the Republican Party.”
- White House counselor Kellyanne Conway: “Every movement that gets dusty or sclerotic relies on an infusion of energy from the bottom up. It also takes a transformative individual to bring about change.”
-- Analysis –> “At CPAC, conservatism betrayed,” by Kathleen Parker: “Remember when conservatism meant deep thinkers and big ideas? Get over it. … A variety of false starts and weird moments suggests that American conservatism is reinventing itself along lines that stray far from original intent. RIP, if you can, Bill Buckley. An ad on the CPAC website prominently features nouvelle conservative vamp Dana Loesch, a conservative radio host in Dallas and a protegee of Breitbart News. In the photo, Loesch is doing her best imitation of the ‘Miley’ (as in Cyrus), her tongue super-extended and her hand making the sign of the devil — two middle fingers tucked into the palm, pinkie and pointer extended like two horns. … In another sign of conservative disruption, the speaker lineup is missing many of conservatism’s most interesting voices. Sometimes getting a turn at the lectern depends on one’s willingness to contribute to CPAC’s parent organization (the ACU). Oftentimes, sponsors want to speak and/or direct the agenda. Which doesn’t sound quite like free speech. Also necessary is one’s ringing support of Trump.”
INSIDE MILO'S DOWNFALL:
-- Milo Yiannopoulos, who helped make Breitbart News a leading organ of the alt-right, resigned from the news organization after a video of him endorsing pedophilia resurfaced online over the weekend. Paul Farhi reports: “Yiannopoulos has been a flame-throwing provocateur whose writing has offended women, Muslims, blacks and gay people ever since former Breitbart executive chairman [Steve Bannon] hired him as a senior editor in 2014. Bannon … championed the British-born Yiannopoulos’s inflammatory commentary and promoted him as a conservative truth-teller and champion of free speech. In turn, his popularity helped raise Breitbart’s profile among Trump’s supporters and the alt-right." As recently as last week, a Breitbart editor praised Yiannopoulos as “the No. 1 free speech warrior of his generation” in the United States. Still, his views on pedophilia seem to have gone too far, even far even for Breitbart. The site was under pressure from its own staff to take action against Yiannopoulos, with employees threatening to revolt if he wasn’t fired or disciplined.
-- Until the day before yesterday, Milo was going to be CPAC's keynote speaker. From Abby Ohlheiser: “His Breitbart archives contain a regular stream of articles arguing all sorts of things designed to demean and offend: that feminism makes women ugly, that he would prefer it if teenagers self-harmed rather than discuss trans issues on Tumblr, and that women will be happy only if we ‘un-invent’ the birth control pill and the washing machine. None of these things, including the fact that the writer had already been banned from Twitter for, the platform said, inciting harassment against actress Leslie Jones, stopped Yiannopoulos from becoming a voice that CPAC felt was of value to their movement on free-speech grounds.”
-- New York Times columnist Frank Bruni says Milo is the “mini-Donald” who “couldn’t have had more of Trump’s DNA in him if he were Trump’s clone.” “Both are con men, wrapping themselves in higher causes, though their primary agendas are the advancement of themselves,” he writes. “I heard nothing worthwhile during Yiannopoulos’s news conference Tuesday afternoon, though I heard a whole lot of Trump in him, and I wondered — no, shuddered — at a kind of worldview that may well be in ascendance, thanks to its validation by our president. He’s right that in America of late, there’s too much policing of indelicate and injurious language … But he invokes free speech to exalt cruel behavior and lewd testimonials whose purpose is headlines and booking fees. When he goes on his racist and sexist tears or muses about his appetite for black men, he’s just a brat begging for attention, a showboat looking to fill seats ….Together, he and Trump have exposed what a cynical, corruptible vessel modern conservatism is.”
-- “Milo Yiannopoulos and the Church of Winning,” by The Atlantic's Ben Howe: “Moral failure is human, and a core tenet of understanding the Christian belief of salvation …. [But now], electoral victory, obtained seemingly at any cost, has become more important than all other moral or religious obligations one might assume come with the role of spiritual leadership. Scarcely a month into this brave new version of conservatism, my suspicion is that we have not yet begun to see how far evangelical standards will yield to the Church of Winning.”
-- Trump decried racism and acts of anti-Semitic violence during a trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, after weeks of silence on the issue. Fred Barbash, Ben Guarino and Brian Murphy: "He vowed to take steps to counter extremism in comments that followed criticism that the White House had not clearly denounced vandalism and threats targeting Jewish institutions. ‘The anti-Semitic threats … are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,’ Trump said … Hours before Trump’s remarks, Hillary Clinton called on her former presidential rival to speak out against anti-Semitic acts after more than 170 Jewish graves were found toppled at a cemetery in Missouri. ... The remarks by Trump also appear aimed at easing pressure on his administration, which faces claims from opponents that it has failed to distance itself from extremist ideology and has emboldened right-wing groups through its populist, America-first themes.”
Trump’s statement was “somber and disciplined” — a shift from the flashes of irritation he showed during a White House press conference last week, in which he quickly turned the conversation to his electoral college victory when asked about anti-Semitism.
-- Amnesty International used its extensive annual report this year to harshly speak out against Trump, slamming his “hateful xenophobic pre-election rhetoric,” divisive politics and a rollback of civil rights. The comments were part of a larger Amnesty report which singles out other leaders and politicians for pursuing “a dehumanizing agenda for political expediency.” (Rick Noack)
-- A spate of Washington’s most iconic landmarks and memorial sites were vandalized over the weekend with a series of bizarre messages – including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial. While the messages have not yet risen to the level of a hate crime, police said several appear to mention the 9/11 terror attacks. Another part of the graffiti said that “blood test is a lie” and mentioned leukemia, cancer and HIV, saying “get second opinion.” (Perry Stein and Dana Hedgpeth)
-- The threat of war starting during Trump’s presidency looms large in the minds of many Americans. A new NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll finds that 66 percent of the country is “worried” that the United States will become engaged in a “major war” in the next four years, while just 33 percent are not worried. Reactions to Trump’s “travel ban” remain split, with 50 percent of Americans saying they approve, while 47 percent disapprove.
-- Trump’s broadsides against the media are resonating with his base: A HuffPost/YouGov poll finds that 51 percent of Trump supporters believe the media is an “enemy” to “people like them.” Other respondents were not much more optimistic, with 36 percent of Trump supporters saying they consider the media “unfriendly.” Just 5 percent of Trump-supporting respondents expressed positive views.
PUNDITS WEIGH IN ON MONTH ONE:
-- “He is an authoritarian by instinct. He displays the classic traits of an authoritarian personality — a man obsessed with domination and humiliation, and unable to tolerate cognitive dissonance,” New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait writes. "The prospect that President Trump will degrade or destroy American democracy is the most important question of the new political era. Scholars of authoritarian regimes (principally Russia) have used their knowledge of authoritarian history to paint a road map by which Trump could Putinize this country … What are the signs of impending authoritarianism? Trump has rhetorically hyped violence, real or imaginary, committed by enemy groups, while downplaying or ignoring violence or threats from friendlier sources … [But] at this point, just a month into Trump’s presidency, this pattern of authoritarian discourse is only that — discourse. To be sure, Trump is attempting, sporadically, to bully the private sector. But the effort has backfired...
“If Trump has a plan to crush his adversaries, he has not yet revealed it," Chait concludes. "His authoritarian rage thus far is mostly impotent, the president as angry Fox-News-watching grandfather screaming threats at his television that he never carries out. The danger to the republic may come later, or never. In the first month of Trump’s presidency, the resistance has the upper hand.”
-- “Use of ‘weaponized’ drones by ISIS spurs terrorism fears,” by Joby Warrick: “Late last month, a pair of Islamic State fighters in desert camouflage climbed to the top of a river bluff in northern Iraq to demonstrate an important new weapon: a small drone, about six feet wide with swept wings and a small bomb tucked in its fuselage. The aircraft glided over the besieged city of Mosul, swooped close to an Iraqi army outpost and dropped its bomb, scattering Iraqi troops with a small blast that left one figure sprawled on the ground, apparently dead or wounded. The incident was among dozens in recent weeks in a rapidly accelerating campaign of armed drone strikes by the Islamic State in northern Iraq. The terrorist group last month formally announced the establishment of a … new fleet of modified drones equipped with bombs, and claimed that its drones had killed or wounded 39 Iraqi soldiers in a single week. While the casualty claim is almost certainly exaggerated … the militants are showing a growing ambition to use the technology to kill enemies. … The threat to troops is serious enough to prompt U.S. and Iraqi commanders to issue warnings to soldiers near the front lines. But a far bigger worry, U.S. officials say, is the potential for future attacks against civilians.”
-- “Amid storms and fears about dam, Oroville residents are unsure who failed them — if anyone,” by Jose DelReal: “The emergency evacuation order last week caught many area residents off guard. Some waited too long to make contingency plans and some waited too long to leave, having been previously reassured by officials … Could, and should, the government have done more to protect the infrastructure [of the Oroville dam]? How long has the community been sitting beneath a powder keg masked by years of drought? ‘You never know. They’ll lie about it anyway,’ Larry Bowen said. ‘You know politicians … We don’t know, and you don’t know, and nobody knows because it’s all politics.’ That sentiment is common among members of this small community of 15,000 about 70 miles north of Sacramento. They are relieved and optimistic that the dam is no longer compromised — if it were to fail, officials have said, it could unleash a 30-foot wall of water — but they do not know who to blame for the infrastructure problems, if anyone at all. The government cannot control the weather, after all. And it is unclear what days of additional rain could do to change the positive outlook."
-- “Beto O’Rourke is a Mexico-loving liberal in Texas. Can he really beat Ted Cruz?” by Ben Terris: “The mere name of this Mexican city conjures images of bloodthirsty cartels or seedy red-light districts — the kind of place, some have argued, against which the United States should seal itself with a big, beautiful wall. [Beto] O’Rourke is strongly opposed to that plan. Among other things, it would make it harder to visit the bar he took his wife to on their first date. … O’Rourke isn’t naive about the violence that plagues parts of the city. Still, he maintains that crime is not the only story about the U.S.-Mexico border, nor even the most important one. He sees Juarez as a place where an open mind and a stomach for risk can lead to meaningful connections and long-term partnerships. [Now] question for the 44-year-old with statewide ambitions is: Can he get the people of Texas to see the same thing?” And can a Democrat really win in this deeply red state — against Cruz, who will be running one of the best-financed campaigns in the country?”
-- “With NAFTA in Trump’s crosshairs, Mexico’s border factories brace for the unknown,” by Tracy Jan in El Paso: “If you sleep on a memory foam mattress, chances are good that its fabric cover was made here in a small factory in this desert border town on the westernmost edge of Texas. Well, here and over there, across the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican city where pieces of fabric cut in El Paso are stitched together and shipped back across the border. The supply of cheap labor in Mexico has fueled the rise of manufacturing plants dotting the border …. The journey of this mattress cover, from El Paso to Ciudad Juarez and back, illustrates the far-reaching tentacles of free trade and its impact on the border economy and across the U.S. It’s a journey now fraught with tension as [Trump] moves to renegotiate — or even unilaterally withdraw the country from — [NAFTA] … [And] altering NAFTA could raise another complexity — the higher prices likely to follow would make U.S. companies less competitive against manufacturers overseas.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Bao Bao, the panda who has been living at Washington's National Zoo, is saying bye bye to the U.S.:
Trump had this to say about the images emerging from Republican lawmakers' town halls while Congress is on recess this week:
The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2017
Notably, he posted it eight minutes after Fox News did a segment on the protests:
Fox News runs segment at 6:15 about protestors organizing against Trump— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) February 22, 2017
Trump tweets at 6:23 pic.twitter.com/IzDcPaVpRM
"lol you're organized," he said to his enemies, owning them forever https://t.co/9FN2MILdIk— Simon Maloy (@SimonMaloy) February 21, 2017
Congratulations to all those exercising their first amendment rights for joining the proud ranks of the "so-called" https://t.co/uZlfiFw8oW— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 22, 2017
The "so-called" fascinates me. Does Trump question that they're actually angry, or that they're crowds, or both? https://t.co/Xp8b8XW2sS— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) February 22, 2017
From the head of the liberal Center for American Progress:
He's feeling the heat. Raise your voices loud and proud. https://t.co/6LT7s6kdIa— Neera Tanden (@neeratanden) February 21, 2017
From Obama's former speechwriter:
There continued to be high turnout at the town halls yesterday, as seen here in freshman GOP Rep. Scott Taylor's Virginia district:
Auditorium seats 974 available here for frosh Rep. Taylor town hall. At least 700, maybe 750 here. Impressive. Thoughtful Qs so far. pic.twitter.com/vh4MyKhcar— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) February 21, 2017
Dave Brat (R-Va.) got his share of fired-up constituents:
Room erupted into shouting when Brat said Obamacare "collapsed." One man stood up and yelled at activists "you're f****** idiots" and left.— Ashley Killough (@KilloughCNN) February 22, 2017
Five minutes into Brat giving his bio at his town hall, people started chanting "Questions! Questions!" He started taking Qs 2 min later.— Ashley Killough (@KilloughCNN) February 22, 2017
Some opposing signs at the Dave Brat town hall pic.twitter.com/QjcM6HPQ2t— Ashley Killough (@KilloughCNN) February 21, 2017
BLACKSTONE, VA - The line outside of a Rep. Dave Brat townhall an hour before it's supposed to start pic.twitter.com/yTXDSGkiJ7— Ashley Killough (@KilloughCNN) February 21, 2017
Buzzfeed has some new office decor:
new office decor pic.twitter.com/KHutSflf8S— Jessica Misener (@jessmisener) February 22, 2017
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley continues staking out a fairly tough position on Russia:
Loving The Americans!— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) February 20, 2017
Trump toured the National Museum of African-American history yesterday:
Guess who is going to CPAC?
CPAC attendees can also attend this panel:
CPAC panel: Is John 3:16 'extreme vetting'? pic.twitter.com/3wK8uycdTy— Tim Mak (@timkmak) February 21, 2017
Mitch McConnell talked to students in Kentucky:
Activists in New York scaled the Statue of Liberty on Tuesday to unfurl a 20-foot “Welcome Refugees” sign, donning the iconic Lady Liberty in a red-and-white message of welcome just hours after the DHS unveiled a sweeping and restrictive immigration plan. The sign was removed by park officials later in the afternoon, but not before photos of the sign and its welcoming sentiment went viral. (USA Today)
A bunch of lawmakers -- including Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn -- are visiting the U.S.-Mexico border this week:
Appreciate Border Patrol’s RGV Sector Chief Padilla and his team for their efforts to keep our nation safe. pic.twitter.com/sZ5KUQMmg7— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) February 21, 2017
Good lessons on RGV border yesterday w fellow Sens & Reps about challenges of balancing legitimate trade & travel w enhanced border security pic.twitter.com/JCqyLf5lor— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) February 21, 2017
PDR also dropped by Dallas:
Tilly, who belongs to Sen. Thom Tillis's digital director and has become the office's "official mascot," jumped on the #PuppiesForGorsuch bandwagon:
The TSA wants you to know that King Cakes for Mardi Gras are generally just fine:
From the AP daybook:
guys I'm worried about AP pic.twitter.com/PvS83mxqsC— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) February 21, 2017
Bryan Eagle with a doozy— Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) February 22, 2017
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- New York Times, “Death on the Night Shift in Duterte’s Manila,” by Miguel Syjuco: “Only five people had turned up dead. It was a slow evening. The journalists on the night shift say Fridays are like that. A predictable rhythm has developed to the killings in this dense metropolis of nearly 13 million. Weekdays are busier, often producing a dozen bodies before morning … They call themselves ‘night crawlers,’ and they shadow the police who are armed with lists of alleged users and the mandate of door-to-door visits. These night crawlers wait for word from radio reports, text messages from funeral homes … and tips from sources … As soon as their van leaves, a convoy of journalists gives chase, lights flashing and horns blaring, on a white-knuckle race through the streets of Manila as calls are made to sources in the area in an effort to find the location and beat investigators to it.
“What was once a dispute about facts surrounding such deaths has turned to public acceptance. It is now a moral question — to which there is no answer, only opinion and conjecture. ‘It’s the new normal,’ a photojournalist told me. ‘It’s easier and cheaper to kill them. We can only document it, for a time when Filipinos have regained their sanity.’ Long after Mr. Duterte has gone and his most vociferous followers are footnotes in history, we will write about this terrible era of avarice, injustice and death.”
-- Bloomberg, “Le Pen Wins Over the Women Voters Who Feel Left Behind in France,” by Helene Fouquet: “French women are starting to picture their next president as a divorced mother of three. The anti-euro, anti-immigrant candidate Marine Le Pen has been playing up her gender as she seeks to convert a likely first-round victory into an overall majority in the run-off ,,, and it’s paying off. The 48-year-old National Front leader has already rallied some 2 million additional female voters to her cause … and she’s betting more will follow. Le Pen’s pitch weaves together concerns about immigration, security, and the economic decline of many white French communities into a potent populist brew …. blaming “the elite” for the problems of ordinary voters” “What she is proposing is really different, just like Trump offered something really new,” said Cindy Blain, a 27-year-old pharmacist in the rural north east of France. “Maybe if we see Trump succeed, then voters will give her a chance.”
-- The New York Times, “I Ignored Trump News for a Week. Here’s What I Learned,” by Farhad Manjoo: “On most days, Mr. Trump is 90 percent of the news on my Twitter and Facebook feeds, and probably yours, too. But he’s not 90 percent of what’s important in the world. During my break from Trump news, I found rich coverage veins that aren’t getting social play. ISIS is retreating across Iraq and Syria. Brazil seems on the verge of chaos. A large ice shelf in Antarctica is close to full break. Scientists may have discovered a new continent ... [And] there’s a reason you aren’t seeing these stories splashed across the news. Unlike old-school media, today’s media works according to social feedback loops. Every story that shows any signs of life on Facebook or Twitter is copied endlessly by every outlet, becoming unavoidable. I suspect we are seeing something like this effect playing out with Trump news. There’s no easy way out of this fix. But as big as Mr. Trump is, he’s not everything — and it’d be nice to find a way for the media ecosystem to recognize that.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Do not make us Jews settle for crumbs of condescension.” -- The director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect reacts to Trump speaking out against anti-Semitism (Sarah Larimer)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Cherry blossoms are coming! Actually, some are already here, thanks to this year’s freakishly warm winter – and the rest of the season could be equally unpredictable as temperatures fall in and out of the 70s. If you’re expecting out-of-towners, check out a tentative schedule here – and stay tuned for the Capital Weather Gang’s official peak bloom forecast later this week.
-- Another b-e-a-u-tiful day outside (at least after a potential morning drizzle.) The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Look out for a possible morning shower. And then it’s back to the mild stuff. In fact, if it weren’t for mostly to partly cloudy skies, we’d probably see highs near or past 70. As it is, we’ll tolerate the mid-60s, still 15-20 degrees above normal, with some increasing afternoon sun and a wind from the south of about 5-10 mph.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Last week, Trump declared the U.S. news media the “enemy of the American people.” And he called out a few names that he considered particularly egregious: the New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CNN and CBS. “You know who I feel bad for? ISIS,” Stephen Colbert said during his monologue last night. “They try so hard. Sorry, ISIS. If you want to get on the list, you’ve got to publish photos of Trump’s inauguration crowd. Then he’ll be really, really angry at you. So sad. Hidden victims.”
Colbert also joked about Trump's Sweden flub and paid his respects to "all the people who didn't suffer":
Outside Baltimore, Southside Tattoo is covering up racist and gang related tattoos for free. The shops owner, Dave Cutlip calls it his Random Acts of Tattoo Project:
A group of teenagers had a terrifying fall through the ice in Central Park on Tuesday:
See police try to capture a runaway bull...in Queens:
More scenes from town hall meetings--
In Arkansas, a constituent asked GOP Rep. Steve Womack to support an investigation into Trump's Russia ties. "You guys just want to investigate everybody," he replied. "What about Benghazi?" someone in the crowd shot back. Click to watch:
Crowd asks Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) to investigate Trump/Russia.— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 22, 2017
Wait for it... pic.twitter.com/4siV7A0cOR
Both of Iowa's senators faced angry crowds yesterday.
Angry constituents confront Chuck Grassley in Iowa: “If it wasn’t for Obamacare, we wouldn’t be able to afford insurance!” pic.twitter.com/vrbhbOiBMM— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 21, 2017
And Joni Ernst:
Finally, on a lighter note, prepare yourself for Kusama’s "Infinity Mirrors" at the Hirshhorn: