Mitch McConnell still can’t pass a health care bill, so the God-King is bullying Lisa Murkowski. (More)

“The message was pretty clear”

Yesterday the Senate rejected the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act, which would have overturned most of the Affordable Care Act without any replacement, and Politico’s Burgess Everett, Jennifer Haberkorn, and Seung Min Kim report that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may not have 50 votes for his “skinny repeal” of the medical device tax and the individual and business mandates. New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait writes that the “skinny repeal” is a hope to pass something in the Senate, so the final bill can be written in the House-Senate conference committee. My guess is that committee bill would basically reprise the Senate version of the Wealthcare Act, the one 57 senators rejected earlier this week. If so, the Politico story above reports that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will vote “No” again:

“I would [be in] favor if we have a skinny repeal, just sending it over to the House and seeing if they can pass it rather than going to conference,” Paul said. “Conference committee to me means Big Government Republicans are going to start sticking in those spending proposals.”

Among the consistent “No” votes has been Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who voted against opening debate and then against the Senate Wealthcare Act on Tuesday, and voted against the repeal-only bill yesterday. And the God-King is not happy with her:

But his rage isn’t limited to just tweeting insults, Alaska Dispatch News’s Erica Martinson reports:

Early Wednesday, Trump took to Twitter to express displeasure with Murkowski’s vote. By that afternoon, each of Alaska’s two Republican senators had received a phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke letting them know the vote had put Alaska’s future with the administration in jeopardy.
Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said the call from Zinke heralded a “troubling message.”

“I’m not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Sullivan said.

“I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans. … We’re facing some difficult times and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear,” Sullivan said. The Interior secretary also contacted Murkowski, he said.

I’ll pause for a moment while you consider the howls of rage had President Obama threatened to cut off federal programs in states whose senators voted against the ACA….

“We are not the president’s subordinates. We are his equal!”

It seems the God-King still doesn’t understand that the government is not his personal business and members of Congress are not his employees:

Let me draw a metaphor for you. Let’s say you’re the head coach of a football team and in this case you have 50 or 52 people on the team and you are trying to get everybody together, but it’s like corralling cats. And you know if you subordinate your own ego and subordinate your own ego for the country, for the people of the United States, and for the Republican Party, the right thing to do is to stand side by side with the president. When you’re not doing that, and imagine him as a football coach in the locker room, do you think that you’re going to get chewed a little bit if you are not on side running the offensive coordination in the right way?
Now that senator knows how the president feels about her, and why don’t you fix it? He is the President of the United States. He’s the leader of the free world. Come here, and let’s fix it and let’s work together for the agenda and for the goals that we have that are going to better the American people. That’s what we have to do. Stop the nonsense. [Emphasis added]

First, that “leader of the free world” bit isn’t in the U.S. Constitution, the United Nations Charter, the NATO Charter, or any other constitutional document. It’s a decades-old nationalistic boast, not a real position.

Second, as President of the United States he is only the chief of the Executive Branch, and commander-in-chief of the military. He is not the “head coach” of the congressional “football team,” and members of the Senate and House have neither a constitutional nor a moral duty to “stand side by side with the president.”

Put simply: they don’t work for him. They work for the voters who elected them, as Sen. John McCain noted yesterday:

Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president’s subordinates. We are his equal!

Good luck getting the God-King to recognize that.

“His fidelity has to be not to the president but to the Constitution and other laws of the United States”

Then again, Scaramucci thinks the U.S. Attorney General should be a “hockey goalie” for the president. Yes, really.

Even Clinton-persecutor Kenneth Starr is having none of that:

The attorney general is not – and cannot be – the president’s “hockey goalie,” as new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci described Sessions’s job. In fact, the president isn’t even his client. To the contrary, the attorney general’s client is ultimately “We the People,” and his fidelity has to be not to the president but to the Constitution and other laws of the United States. Indeed, the attorney general’s job, at times, is to tell the president “no” because of the supervening demands of the law.

But the God-King thinks he is the law:

Democracy isn’t possible without the rule of law – the idea that consistent principles, rather than a ruler’s whims, govern society.

You can read Aristotle, Montesquieu, John Locke or the Declaration of Independence on this point. You can also look at decades of American history. Even amid bitter fights over what the law should say, both Democrats and Republicans have generally accepted the rule of law.

President Trump does not. His rejection of it distinguishes him from any other modern American leader. He has instead flirted with Louis XIV’s notion of “L’état, c’est moi”: The state is me – and I’ll decide which laws to follow.

This attitude returns to the fore this week, with James Comey scheduled to testify on Thursday about Trump’s attempts to stifle an F.B.I. investigation. I realize that many people are exhausted by Trump outrages, some of which resemble mere buffoonery. But I think it’s important to step back and connect the dots among his many rejections of the rule of law.

They are a pattern of his presidency, one that the judicial system, Congress, civic institutions and principled members of Trump’s own administration need to resist. Trump’s view of the law, quite simply, violates American traditions.

But it’s very consistent with other traditions:

While the two phrases may seem like a flip-of-the-coin for dual-language dictionary editors, they actually have very different connotations, scholars say. “Rule of law,” under which the power of political leaders is constrained by laws and regulations, is generally considered a subset of “rule by law,” says Victor Mair, a professor of Chinese language at the University of Pennsylvania.

“‘Rule of law’ implies fairness and predictable application,” he says. “‘Rule by law’ would include, for example, rule under Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws … which were neither fair nor predictably implied.”

It’s an important distinction in China, where courts, police and prosecutors are controlled by the Communist Party and where the constitution – which guarantees freedom of speech and religion, among other liberties – has been shunted aside when it conflicts with party interests.

That’s pretty much the kind of power the God-King believes he should have.

“His government was his business alone”

And it fits the God-King’s (and many other employers’) business practices:

Consider some facts about how American employers control their workers. Amazon prohibits employees from exchanging casual remarks while on duty, calling this “time theft.” Apple inspects the personal belongings of its retail workers, some of whom lose up to a half-hour of unpaid time every day as they wait in line to be searched. Tyson prevents its poultry workers from using the bathroom. Some have been forced to urinate on themselves while their supervisors mock them.

About half of US employees have been subject to suspicionless drug screening by their employers. Millions are pressured by their employers to support particular political causes or candidates. Soon employers will be empowered to withhold contraception coverage from their employees’ health insurance. They already have the right to penalize workers for failure to exercise and diet, by charging them higher health insurance premiums.
When King Louis XIV of France said, “L’etat, c’est moi,” he meant that his government was his business alone, something he kept private from those he governed. They weren’t entitled to know how he operated it, had no standing to insist he take their interests into account in his decisions, and no right to hold him accountable for his actions.

Like Louis XIV’s government, the typical American workplace is kept private from those it governs. Managers often conceal decisions of vital interest to their workers. Often, they don’t even give advance notice of firm closures and layoffs. They are free to sacrifice workers’ dignity in dominating and humiliating their subordinates. Most employer harassment of workers is perfectly legal, as long as bosses mete it out on an equal-opportunity basis. (Walmart and Amazon managers are notorious for berating and belittling their workers.) And workers have virtually no power to hold their bosses accountable for such abuses: They can’t fire their bosses, and can’t sue them for mistreatment except in a very narrow range of cases, mostly having to do with discrimination.

Why are workers subject to private government? The state has set the default terms of the constitution of workplace government through its employment laws. The most important source of employers’ power is the default rule of employment at will. Unless the parties have otherwise agreed, employers are free to fire workers for almost any or no reason. This amounts to an effective grant of power to employers to rule the lives of their employees in almost any respect – not just on the job but off duty as well. And they have exercised that power.

That’s the kind of near-absolute power the God-King is accustomed to wielding, and he won’t accept that “the President of the United States, the leader of the free world” has anything less. And if that means cutting off federal programs to Alaska because Sen. Lisa Murkowski vote the way she tells him to … he’s the “head coach” and she’s “not on side running the offensive coordination in the right way.”

I don’t expect his attitude will change. His overwhelming narcissism won’t allow that. To rein him in, we’ll need Congress and the courts … and Robert Mueller.


Photo Credit: David Becker (Getty Images)


Good day and good nuts