Many pundits and some Republicans say the God-King has “failed at governing.” But he’s getting what he wants…. (More)

“Why he’s been ineffective during his first nine months as president”

The Washington Post’s James Hohmann captures the Conventional Wisdom:

THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump’s escalating feud with Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, captures in miniature why he’s been ineffective during his first nine months as president.

Hohmann details the God-King’s latest antics, a Twitter tantrum that spurred Sen. Corker to call the White House “an adult daycare center” and suggest the God-King is “on the path to World War III.”

The spat began with Sen. Corker’s comment last week that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis “are those people that help separate our country from chaos,” and the God-King replied with the kind of tirade we’ve come to expect:

That was sandwiched among rants against late-night comedians, demands that the media give him “equal time,” and praise for the Vice-God-King’s walk-out-of-the-game stunt in Indianapolis. (Not a word, you might notice, about torch-wielding Nazis returning to Charlottesville.)

All of that has Hohmann and other pundits Very Concerned:

Trump’s myopic impulse to counter-punch whenever he feels attacked caused him to lose another news cycle and will overshadow an immigration proposal that the White House planned to talk about today. It also underscored several of the factors that have caused the president so much trouble:

(1) Trump is unserious about passing legislation.
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(2) Trump has alienated several Senate Republicans that he needs more than they need him.
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(3) Trump cares more about showmanship than statesmanship.
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(4) Trump still does not understand how government works.

Hohmann makes a reasonable case for each of those points …

“A backdoor way of undermining the Affordable Care Act”

… but he and other pundits are missing the point. While the media are focused the latest Twitter tantrum or failed Republican health care bill, the God-King is getting what he wants, piece by destructive piece. Consider:

With a repeal bill off the table, the Trump administration has drafted an executive order that could blow a huge hole in the Affordable Care Act, according to a source with direct knowledge of the plan.

The order would, in effect, exempt many association health plans, groups of small businesses that pool together to buy health insurance, from core Obamacare requirements like the coverage of certain essential health benefits. It would potentially allow individuals to join these plans too, which would put individual insurance marketplaces in serious peril by drawing younger and healthier people away from them.

The draft order is also said to broaden the definition of short-term insurance, which is also exempt from the law’s regulations. Together, these changes represent a serious threat to Obamacare: President Trump seems ready to open more loopholes for more people to buy insurance outside the health care law’s markets, which experts anticipate would destabilize the market for customers who are left behind with higher premiums and fewer insurers.

“This appears to be a backdoor way of undermining the Affordable Care Act,” Kevin Lucia, who studies the markets at Georgetown University, said of the alleged changes.

You can read the details at that Vox article by Dylan Scott, and that’s just one way the God-King is using executive orders to sabotage Obamacare. He’s also making it harder for people to buy policies at the federal exchange:

The Trump administration has let funding for Obamacare’s $63 million in-person outreach program lapse, leading to layoffs and confusion among nonprofits that enroll vulnerable populations in coverage.

“I have delivered 10 layoff notices to staff members,” says Donna Friedsam, director of Covering Wisconsin. “We don’t have a funding flow anymore.”

The government had previously announced it would cut the budget for Obamacare’s navigator program by 41 percent. But right now, the program has no funding at all. Last year’s grants ran out on September 1, and the administration still has not awarded next year’s money.

And that’s on top of reducing the website’s availability during the open enrollment period:

As the latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act founders in Congress, the Trump administration isn’t slowing down its efforts to undermine Americans from signing up for health insurance.

On Friday, the administration announced that healthcare.gov, the website most Americans use to sign up for insurance through the marketplaces put in place by Obamacare, would be down for maintenance for 12 hours every Sunday in the middle of the upcoming open-enrollment period.

Oh, and if you do manage to get a health insurance policy you can afford … the God-King thinks your boss should decide whether it covers birth control:

The administration issued two rules – one outlining how an employer could claim an exemption for religious beliefs, the other outlining an exemption for sincerely held moral convictions – on the same day Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for sweeping protections for religious freedom in a government-wide memo that could have far-reaching implications.

The new birth control rules hew closely to a draft that leaked in May and drew swift condemnation from Democrats, public health groups and women’s health care advocates.

“Today’s outrageous rules by the Trump Administration show callous disregard for women’s rights, health, and autonomy, said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. “By taking away women’s access to no-cost birth control coverage, the rules give employers a license to discriminate against women. We will take immediate legal steps to block these unfair and discriminatory rules.”

The new rules apply even for huge, publicly-traded corporations, as if thousands or millions of shareholders have a single set of “religious beliefs” or “sincerely held moral convictions.” This will be challenged in court, and I’m sure the God-King will argue that if employees or shareholders disagree with the “religious beliefs” or “moral convictions” imposed by CEOs, they can object by quitting their jobs or selling their stock.

“This is a signal to the rest of these agencies to rethink the protections they have put in place on sexual orientation and gender identity”

The God-King also wants to legalize discrimination … so long as bigots claim a “religious belief”:

In an order that undercuts protections for LGBT people, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a sweeping directive to agencies Friday to do as much as possible to accommodate those who say their religious freedoms are being violated.

The guidance, an attempt to deliver on President Donald Trump’s pledge to his evangelical and other religious supporters, effectively lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove that their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held.

Under the new policy, a claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override concerns for the civil rights of LGBT people and anti-discrimination protections for women and others. The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty are calling them a legal powder-keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.

“This is putting the world on notice: You better take these claims seriously,” said Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “This is a signal to the rest of these agencies to rethink the protections they have put in place on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Professor Wilson is using too narrow a lens. After all, if the God-King says your “religious freedoms” can be violated by hiring or serving LGBTs, why couldn’t your “religious freedoms” also be violated by hiring or serving people of color, women, or Muslims or Jews? If your “religious freedoms” prevent you from issuing or recognizing LGBTs’ marriage licenses, why couldn’t your “religious freedoms” prevent you from issuing or recognizing divorce decrees, or domestic violence restraining orders?

Federal courts have held that religious freedom is not a legal defense to “laws of general application,” and last week’s DOJ memorandum mentions that in passing. But the memo also interprets “substantial interference” with religious beliefs more broadly than courts have, and says that claims of religious freedom invoke an “exceptionally demanding” level of scrutiny and dismisses concerns about harms to third parties. So it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that federal courts will reject big chunks of the DOJ memo.

But those cases will be months or years away. In the meantime, the DOJ is telling the EEOC and other agencies that evaluate discrimination cases to let employers claim “religious freedom” as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

The God-King and Republicans can no more repeal the Civil Rights Act than they can repeal Obamacare. But the God-King and the Klanmaster General can effectively gut the Civil Rights Act … and that’s exactly what they’re doing.

“An extension of the white supremacist agenda”

And then there’s the much-ballyhooed ‘pivot’ and working with Democrats to protect DREAMers. Yeah, not so much:

The Trump administration released a list of hard-line immigration principles late Sunday that threaten to derail a deal in Congress to allow hundreds of thousands of younger undocumented immigrants to remain in the country legally.

The administration’s wish list includes the funding of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a crackdown on the influx of Central American minors and curbs on federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” according to a document distributed to Congress and obtained by the Washington Post.
[…]
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a longtime advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, in an interview called Trump’s proposals “an extension of the white supremacist agenda.” He said it is “fanciful thinking that you can sit down with a man who has based his presidential aspirations and has never wavered from his xenophobic positions. I never understood – I just never got it, how you go from Charlottesville and white supremacists to reaching an agreement with him.”

And lest you think that’s merely a request-the-stars-and-settle-for-the-moon gambit, the God-King says his demands are non-negotiable because We Won Dammit:

“We would expect Congress to include all the reforms in any package that addresses the status of the DACA recipients,” said one White House aide on the conference call who was not authorized to speak on the record. “Other views had their fair day in the democratic process.”

Noting that the Republicans swept the White House and both chambers of Congress in November, the aide added: “The American public voted for the reforms included in this package.”

Never mind that Americans overwhelmingly want to protect DREAMers, just as Americans overwhelmingly want the God-King to make Obamacare work, just as Americans overwhelmingly oppose discrimination against LGBTs. Senate Republicans read those same polls, so the God-King won’t get the legislation he wants on any of those issues.

But he can get the same results through sabotage … if he keeps the media focused on Twitter tantrums.

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Image Credit: FiveThirtyEight.com

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Good day and good nuts