Why Flynn matters

You know, if I could only read one person these days, I think it would be David Frum. He’s been so good.  Here is on why Flynn is a big deal:

Nobody would care if an incoming national security adviser had confidential conversations with an ambassador of a hostile foreign government before Inauguration Day, if it were believed that the conversations served a legitimate and disinterested public purpose.

But that is exactly what is doubted in this case.

To put the story in simplest terms:

1) Russian spies hacked Democratic Party communications in order to help elect Donald Trump.

2) Donald Trump welcomed the help, used it, publicly solicited more of it—and was then elected president of the United States.

3) President Obama sanctioned Russia for its pro-Trump espionage.

4) While Russia considered its response, its ambassador spoke with the national security adviser-designate about the sanctions

5) The adviser, Flynn, reportedly asked Russia not to overreact, signaling that the new administration would review the sanctions; Russia did not respond.

6) As president-elect and then president, Donald Trump has indicated that he seeks to lift precisely those sanctions caused by Russia’s espionage work on his behalf.

All of this takes place against the background of Donald Trump’s seeming determination to align U.S. foreign policy ever closer to Russia’s: endorsing the annexation of Crimea, supporting Russia’s war aims in Syria, casting doubt on the U.S. guarantee to NATO allies, cheering on the breakup of the European Union…

The question is whether a senior American official was compromised by his relationship with a foreign government. And, even more troublingly: Are there others? And even more urgently: How high up the chain of command does Russia’s influence go?

Oh, I think we know the answer to that last question.  Just need the smoking gun.

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Is repeal dead?

No, maybe not on life support.  But you could make a good case it’s in intensive care.  The Freedom Caucus seriously just upped the stakes– and the likelihood of total failure on repeal (these are the members of Congress who’s parents never taught them “half a loaf…”).  From HuffPo:

Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus voted among themselves Monday night to band together and support only an Obamacare repeal that is at least as aggressive as a bill the House and Senate passed in 2015, putting GOP leaders in a bind with their conference and perhaps even threatening the possibility of passing a repeal.

The group of roughly 35 to 40 House conservatives voted to take this official position ― meaning it received the support of at least 80 percent of the members and is therefore supposed to be the position of all lawmakers in the group ― amid some GOP consternation that Republicans ought to focus more on repairing the law rather than repealing it, as well as amid heavy voter pressure in many districts to leave the law intact.

“If it’s less than the 2015 [bill], we will oppose it,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told a small group of reporters Monday night…

The 2015 repeal bill removed the Medicaid expansion that is popular in many red states ― including among many Republican governors ― and repealed the individual and employer mandates. The bill also removed the law’s subsidies and the taxes that helped to pay for them. In short, it would disassemble Obamacare.

By insisting that the repeal bill be as forceful as that 2015 measure ― which technically got to President Barack Obama’s desk at the beginning of 2016 ― conservatives have staked out a hard line that some GOP moderates may now have a problem following. [emphasis mine]

Ummmm, yep.  For “moderates” (a misnomer, more like “non-extreme conservatives”) that don’t actually want millions of people stripped of health care and dying in the streets, a full-on repeal with no replacement is a no-go.  I would imagine there’s not close to 50 Senate votes for this in the real world.

Alas, here’s the thing, the Freedom Caucus is not in the real world:

They noted Monday night that Republicans had already voted on the 2015 repeal ― at least the ones who were here last Congress ― and they believe it would be hypocritical for Republicans to balk at the plan they supported a year ago.

“They voted for it already, so, be consistent,” Freedom Caucus member Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said.

WTF??!!  Are these guys in third grade?  They might as well be.  It’s really not a hard concept to separate “symbolism” from “actual legislation.”  With Obama as president, a repeal vote is symbolism, and nothing more.  Stupid symbolism catering to the worst elements of the Republican base, but clearly just sybolism.  And, now, to pretend, heaven forbid legislators should think differently when their votes are actually making policy, as they surely are under a Republican president?  Gimme a break.

Maybe there’s room for some sort of compromise somewhere among Republicans.  But if the Freedom Caucus keeps this up, we’ll be able to thank them for saving Obamacare.

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