A real cornucopia for you in this week’s round-up. So much of the attention this week was focused on the incredible, growing Russia story that most of the other news got pushed to the back burner. So here’s just a small sampling of what else happened this week:
1. Pew was out with a new poll on Thursday that has Trump’s job approval at 39% approve vs 56% disapprove, for a net approval of -17. 39% approval sounds bad, but it gets even worse when you consider that most presidents are still enjoying something of a honeymoon period at this point in their presidency.
At this same stage of their first terms, Obama had a 64% approval rating, G.W. Bush 53%, Clinton 56%, and G.H.W. Bush 68%. The poll also asked about Trump’s “travel ban” and found that 38% approve while 59% disapprove, essentially matching his overall approval rating. Trump’s best score was on the question of whether he keeps his promises, to which 60% said yes. Check out the rest of the results here.
2. Though Trump would surely never acknowledge that these terrible poll numbers exist (“fake news!”), perhaps somewhere in his dark soul he can feel it, because this weekend he’s going out on the road seeking the familiar comfort of his adoring crowds. On Saturday, he’ll hold a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida. And the word “campaign” there is not snark or sarcasm – this is literally an official event of Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign. Try not to cry.
3. Trump’s press conference on Thursday was full of the usual nonsense (bragging about his “huge” election win, angry complaints about the dishonest media, rambling answers to questions that weren’t asked), but one moment stood out out even by Trump standards. Journalist April Ryan, who is African-American, asked Trump if he would be including the Congressional Black Caucus in his conversations about an “inner city” agenda. Trump responded by asking her – angrily, for some reason – if she wants to set up the meeting. Because apparently in Trump’s mind, all African-Americans know each other, and never mind that Ms. Ryan already has her own job to do as an impartial reporter, surely she has loads of free time to play secretary for Trump. You really have to watch this short video clip to get the full effect:
4. Now here’s some genuinely good news. Florida has had a law on the books since 2011 that barred doctors and other health care providers from asking patients if they own guns or talking to them about gun safety. On Thursday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the law in a 10-1 decision on the grounds that it was a violation of free speech. One interesting note: Judge William Pryor, who wrote a separate concurring opinion in the case, was a finalist in Trump’s Supreme Court nominee search.
5. If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, you’ll know that one of my pet issues is the fact that aside from losing the Presidency in 2016, Democrats have been decimated at the state and local level for years now. Republicans gained control of state governments in a large majority of states around the country during the Obama years, and they gained even more in 2016. Now the NY Times explains that, unlike D.C. Republicans, those state level Republicans are not wasting any time getting their agendas passed:
When Republicans in Kentucky seized total control of the state government last year, Damon Thayer, the majority leader in the State Senate, began asking around for advice from counterparts in other capitals where the party already dominated both the legislative and executive branches.
How should we handle all this power? he wanted to know.
One answer impressed him, Mr. Thayer said, from a senior Republican lawmaker in Wisconsin: “Move quickly.”
Kentucky Republicans have done just that, swiftly passing laws to roll back the powers of labor unions and restrict access to abortion. But they are only getting started, Mr. Thayer said in an interview . . .
In states from New England to the Midwest and across the South, conservative lawmakers have introduced or enacted legislation to erode union powers and abortion rights, loosen gun regulations, expand school-choice programs and slash taxes and spending . . .
Acting fastest at the moment, though, are four states where Republicans won total control of the government only in November. In addition to Kentucky, Missouri and New Hampshire became one-party states with the election of Republican governors, and Republicans in Iowa snatched away the State Senate, where Democrats had held their last grip on power.
6. And another interesting one from the NY Times: Japan got strict on immigration – both legal and illegal – and now it doesn’t have enough workers to do low wage, low skill jobs. (There’s talk that Trump has plans to limit legal immigration in addition to his crackdown on illegal immigration):
Just like the United States and other developed countries, Japan has a hard time finding people to pick vegetables, collect nursing-home bedpans and wash restaurant dishes. In America, many of these low-skilled, low-paying jobs are filled by illegal immigrants, an arrangement attacked by President Trump during his campaign.
Japan, on the other hand, long ago achieved what Mr. Trump has promised: It has very little illegal immigration and is officially closed to people seeking blue-collar work.
Now, though, its tough stance on immigration — legal and illegal — is causing problems. Many Japanese industries are suffering from severe labor shortages, which has helped put a brake on economic growth.
7. In other immigration news, universities say they’re seeing a sharp drop in foreign applications to graduate programs in engineering due – they think – to fear & uncertainty over Trump’s new immigration policies. University administrators say this could threaten the U.S.’s leadership in science and engineering as well as our ability to innovate, because foreign born students who come here for their education often stay for work after graduating. Obviously now the pool of those students will be much smaller.
8. Oh, and remember back when Trump first took office – seemingly years ago – when we were worried about his potential business conflicts? Well, Trump has been trying for more than a decade to win a certain trademark for the Trump Organization in China, with no success. This week, China awarded him the trademark rights, just days after he agreed to honor the “One China” policy that he’d been denying since winning the election. It’s possible the awarding of the trademark at this time is just a coincidence and has nothing to do with Trump becoming President or any attempt by China to influence U.S. policy.
But this is the reason why Presidents shouldn’t retain their business interests while they’re in office, particularly foreign business interests. Questions of conflict like this shouldn’t be something we even have to wonder about.
9. Republicans finally found their unicorn: the illegal voter they’re always telling us about! Maria Ortega in Fort Worth, Texas was just sentenced to eight years in prison for voting illegally in 2012 and 2014 and will likely be deported after she serves her sentence. But she wasn’t an illegal immigrant, she was a legal resident here on a green card. Green card holders have most of the same rights as U.S. citizens but they don’t have the right to vote or serve on a jury. And here’s the real kicker: Maria Ortega was registered as a Republican. She voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and for the Republican attorney general of Texas Ken Paxton in 2014. It was Ken Paxton who prosecuted her for voter fraud.
10. Trump made Chris Christie eat meatloaf when they had lunch together at the White House. Listen to Christie tell the tale (it’s only a minute long):
11. And finally, a champion debater and speech coach breaks down why Kellyanne Conway’s interviews are so darn frustrating to watch.