Showing posts with label white House. Show all posts
Showing posts with label white House. Show all posts

February 15, 2018

The Trump Stain Gets Over All in The White House..Anything but White Anymore

Winston Churchill is supposed to have said: “With integrity, nothing else counts. Without integrity, nothing else counts.”

In fact, that seems to be one of those Churchillian epigrams that Churchill never actually got around to saying. But it captures an important truth about politics, that dishonor is like cancer that spreads inexorably as it feeds upon ambition, protects itself with lies and doubles down with cover-ups.

Looking at the chaos in the White House these days, I worry about inexperience, incompetence, and lack of judgment. But maybe I worry most about an utter lack of integrity — and the way it is proving infectious.

The contagion of dishonor has spread irresistibly through the White House staff, turning aides into con artists. Indifference to ethics has spread through the cabinet and agencies, resulting in endless scandals. And the epidemic has rippled through much of the G.O.P. (with some heroic exceptions), turning lawmakers into enablers and hypocrites. 

The Rob Porter affair, for example, isn’t just about Porter anymore but about what seems to be a cover-up and a dismissiveness toward domestic violence. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, claimed that he had removed Porter within 40 minutes of learning of credible allegations of Porter’s domestic abuse; to listen to F.B.I. testimony, it now seems it may have been seven months.

President Trump said on Wednesday that he is against domestic violence. But when you have to say that, something is wrong. 

We have a president who has himself been accused of domestic violence (an allegation of rape by his first wife that she later retracted), who has lost two aides to accusations of domestic violence, whose chief of staff (a retired four-star Marine general) in 2016 praised a colonel as a “superb Marine officer” after he had been accused of sexually harassing two women. More broadly, while I understand the sorrow people feel for a colleague who is self-immolating, the White House’s initial comments came across as discounting one of the most common kinds of violence in America today.

Some 28,000 Americans are sent to emergency rooms each year because of domestic violence. Almost 20 people are victimized each minute. This isn’t a fringe issue: It claims far more American lives than terrorism. The White House would never be caught with a bank robbery suspect on its staff, so why tolerate someone alleged to be a wife beater?

The answer has to do, I think, with a lack of integrity, an absence of a moral compass, a narcissism in which the all-consuming need becomes to protect oneself and one’s boss.

Lack of integrity may also be the best way to capture the morphing scandal of the pre-election $130,000 payoff to a porn star to apparently keep quiet about an affair with Trump. It’s bad enough that Trump appears to have been cheating on Melania right after she had their baby (“Oh, don’t worry about her,” he is said to have told the actress). But with the payoff and reported cover-up, Trump is betraying all of us.

When The Wall Street Journal first reported the porn-star payout by Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer, Cohen denounced the report as a “false narrative” of “outlandish allegations.”

Oops. Take two. This week, Cohen confirmed the payment in a statement saying that he “facilitated” the transfer with his own cash. It doesn’t seem quite true, as some news organizations reported, that Cohen precisely denied that he had been reimbursed. Cohen’s statement was artful. He denied that he had been reimbursed by either the Trump Organization or the Trump presidential campaign, but not that he had been reimbursed by someone else — say, by Trump himself. (The White House did not respond to my inquiry about whether Trump had personally paid the $130,000.) 

Sometimes politicians, liberals, and conservatives alike are unprincipled in pursuit of principles they are passionate about. But Trump aides don’t seem to believe in any cause larger than themselves or their leader.

That’s alarming because of the risks that even worse might lie ahead. When self-absorbed people are caught in a growing scandal, they overreach. In this case, that might mean the firing of Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein or some military clash that changes the subject. To be clear, I don’t think officials would deliberately turn to war as a solution to political problems, but we all have a remarkable ability to persuade ourselves that what is good for us is also good for the country.

Every administration suffers embarrassments. But when there is a basic lack of integrity at the top, these do not easily self-correct; rather, they build upon themselves because of an impulse to cover up and layer new deceptions on top of old deceit. That seems to be what is happening in both the Rob Porter and porn-payoff scandals.

The risk is that this stain continues to spread, metastasizing and bringing down everything around it. And to me, it looks as if the Trump administration is now metastasizing.

ImageNicholas Kristof

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August 26, 2017

White House Tries to Reassure the Nation, Do You feel Reassured?


The White House on Friday sought to assure the nation that it is prepared to deal with Hurricane Harvey, which is expected to hammer the Gulf Coast region with hundred-mile-an-hour winds and torrential rainfall on Friday night.
The Trump administration faces a major test in organizing the government response to Hurricane Harvey, which is expected to make conditions dangerous for the nearly 5 million people in its path for the next several days.
At a press briefing on Friday, homeland security adviser Tom Bossert assured the country that Trump is prepared to offer the full resources of the White House to the affected states and warned that “now is not the time to lose faith in your government institutions.”
One question needs to be asked. On a FEMA that suffered cuts it's head similar to the equestrian not an expert on anything to do with FEMA but as a thank you job assignment. Who knew nothing about Katrina. The particular man Trump has put in place as a thank you for backing him is not experience in weather, evacuations or how to safely rescue and support people caught on the worse parts of the storm.
To be able to survive relatively well on a hurricane is to prepare long before it gets to you. As far as the government is a concern it needs a year or more to get ready. If Trump would have kept the same amount of money, know how and disaster preparedness as the Previous President had, then it just left to nature and not neglect of man. Now in the next 24-48  hours after the storm, it will tell you what has been done right and what has been done wrong and whether the mistakes of the past have been ignored or not.

November 17, 2016

Nepotism Laws Did Not Barred Trump to Ask Security Clearance for Son in Law

In answer to a request to have Trump’s son in law be given security clearance in-spite nepotism laws 
Rep. Elijah Cummings a Senior House Democrat demanded Donald Trump’s transition team explain what role Jared Kushner — the president-elect’s son-in-law — has been playing in their effort, including whether a request had been made for him join top secret classified briefings.

In a letter to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) specifically questioned whether Kushner will be participating in the daily defense, intelligence and national security updates. Cummings also noted that Trump’s son-in-law is legally barred from joining the new administration in an official capacity because of anti-nepotism laws.

Kushner wasn’t with Trump in his first national security briefing on Tuesday, but the Maryland Democrat insisted that the president-elect’s reported interests in such a move “demonstrate a breathtaking lapse in judgment and astonishingly cavalier attitude towards our nation’s most sensitive secrets.”

Trump on Wednesday morning took to Twitter to dispute news accounts from CBS News and others that he has been requesting security clearances “for my children,” calling it a “typically false news story.”

But the president-elect’s post didn’t address the role of Kushner, a real estate investor and close adviser to Trump who is believed to be in the running for a White House job or informal outside role.

Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has already taken issue with Trump’s ethics once before. On Monday, he wrote to the Republican chair of the House panel urging an investigation into the president-elect’s private financial arrangements.

With his latest missive, Cummings isn’t waiting for Trump to publicly ask for Kushner to get clearance. But he did urge Pence to explain exactly what role Kushner will play in the administration while noting Trump “is specifically prohibited from employing or appointing” Kushner to any federal positions under anti-nepotism laws.

Cummings also asked who Trump and his transition team have requested for security clearances, as well as who on the transition team doesn’t have such approval but who is under consideration for the briefings.

Time: "TransitionTeam Right out of the Swamp”

Americans who voted for Donald Trump were clearly fed up with inside-the-Beltway business as usual. They want the president-elect to deliver on his promise to replace “a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you the American people.”

Which raises a question: As Trump builds his administration, how long will it take for Trump voters to notice that what he is preparing to deliver is an agenda none of them asked for — more Washington insiders, more corporate lobbyists and more pollution?
Donald Trump named Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus his White House chief of staff, elevating one of his loyal GOP advisers with a deep expertise of the Washington establishment Trump has vowed to shake up.

Most of the media attention so far has gone to Trump’s appalling choice of‘s Stephen Bannon as chief strategist, and he’s an anti-Washington outsider to be sure. And the voters who applauded or shrugged off Trump’s racially charged campaign rhetoric will applaud or shrug off Bannon. But he is the outlier — the head fake meant to mask the real play — because the people running Trump’s transition team and, soon, staffing his administration are precisely the sort of old-school insiders Trump railed against on the campaign trail. And their agenda, if left unchecked, will deliver dirtier air and water and more climate chaos.

This org chart of the President-elect’s transition team tells the tale: the oil lobbyist who has been trying to block sensible rules to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas production; the coal lobbyist who has been trying to kill the first-ever rules to reduce climate pollution from power plants; and the poster boy for Trump’s betrayal of his outsider promise, Myron Ebell, the former tobacco apologist and Big Oil PR man now running Trump’s environmental transition team.

Ebell spent his early career taking money from Big Tobacco to create doubt about the dangers of smoking. He parlayed that into a gig working for the oil industry to spread doubt and confusion about climate change. He’s an architect of the decades-long disinformation campaign designed to kill federal climate action.

The Environmental Protection Agency is no place for a climate denier like Ebell. It’s like putting an anti-vaxxer in charge of the Centers for Disease Control.

Public records show that Ebell’s group, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, took more than $1 million from ExxonMobil between 2000-2003 alone. In those days, Exxon staff scientists were briefing company executives about the dangers of climate change while the company was paying people like Ebell to claim that climate change was “nothing to worry about.” The world’s biggest oil company is now the subject of state and federal probes over these practices. And to its credit, it is supporting the international climate agreement Trump and Ebell oppose.

If we turn our back on the world by being the only country not involved in the major climate agreements, it will hobble us in a global race for clean energy jobs. Renouncing the Paris Climate Agreement, as Trump has vowed to do, will put the brakes on U.S. investment in renewables, and thus on jobs. And by the way, most utility-scale wind and solar generation plants are in Republican congressional districts, in states like North Carolina and Texas. Breaking our promises to other countries will diminish our standing in the world. And it could trigger a retaliatory trade war, which would do more damage to American workers.

The lobbyist-run transition team has also signaled plans to strip away air pollution limits. They’ll call it “reducing regulation” and claim they just want to return EPA to its core missions. But these same people have spent years lobbying against health protections that get in the way of their donors’ profits. They opposed rules on toxic mercury that damages children’s brains and a host of other protections.

Trump’s team will no doubt try to use the real economic pain in coal country as an excuse to lift clean air protections. The reality is that — as even coal executives have conceded — he can’t revive the jobs that have been lost due to market pressure. But he could hamper one of the fastest growing industries in America, clean energy. Solar jobs have grown more than 20% in each of the last three years.

At the moment, voters who supported Mr. Trump will, of course, give him a chance to prove his policies. But he’s quickly going to have to produce results — that’s what every president learns. If his energy policies bring more pollution, don’t expect parents in Michigan or Wisconsin to stay on board. If the plants that makes wind turbines or LED light bulbs lose orders, those workers there will not stay in his coalition for long.

As is often the case, it may not be Trump who pays the price. The next backlash will come in the midterm elections, when voters send the message that they really did want to retake Washington, not sell it to polluter lobbyists like Myron Ebell.

 Pooley, a former managing editor of Fortune, is a senior Vice President at Environmental Defense Fund. 

November 16, 2016

Purge at Trump White House

The bloodletting in President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team that began with last week’s ouster of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie escalated Tuesday with new departures, particularly in the area of national security, as power consolidated within an ever-smaller group of top Trump loyalists.

Former congressman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) announced that he had left his position as the transition’s senior national security adviser. Rogers, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the leading candidate for CIA director, was among at least four transition officials purged this week, apparently because of perceived ties to Christie.

As turbulence within the team grew, some key members of Trump’s party began to question his views and the remaining candidates for top positions. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) said Trump’s efforts to work more closely with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin amounted to “complicity in [the] butchery of the Syrian people” and “an unacceptable price for a great nation.”

Trump met Tuesday with incoming vice president Mike Pence, who replaced Christie at the head of the transition Friday, to discuss Cabinet and White House personnel choices. Little to no information was released by the transition office, leaving a clutch of reporters gathered in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York to hustle after team members passing between the front doors and the elevators.

Trump posted a message on Twitter Tuesday night, saying a “very organized process [is] taking place” as he decides on Cabinet and other positions. “I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!”
As he had during the campaign, Trump appeared to be increasingly uncomfortable with outsiders and suspicious of those considered part of what one insider called the “bicoastal elite,” who are perceived as trying to “insinuate” themselves into positions of power.

Those in the inner circle reportedly were winnowed to loyalists who had stuck with Trump throughout the campaign and helped devise his winning strategy. They include Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), former Breitbart News head Stephen K. Bannon, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and members of Trump’s family, including son-in-law Jared Kushner.

“This is a very insular, pretty closely held circle of people,” said Philip D. Zelikow, a former director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia and a senior figure in the George W. Bush transition. “Confusion is the norm” for transitions, he said, “but there are some unusual features here, because they’re trying to make some statements.”

“They feel like their election was a lot of the American people wanting to throw a brick through a window,” Zelikow said. “They want to make appointments that make it sound like glass is being broken.”
Increasingly, among the shards are more mainline Republicans in the national security field. In an angry Twitter post Tuesday, Eliot Cohen, a leading voice of opposition to Trump during the campaign who had advised those interested in administration jobs to take them, abruptly changed his mind, saying the transition “will be ugly.”

After responding to a transition insider seeking names of possible appointees, Cohen said, he received what he described as an “unhinged” email from the same person saying “YOU LOST” and accusing Trump critics of trying to infiltrate the administration’s ranks.

“It became clear to me that they view jobs as lollipops, things you give out to good boys and girls, instead of the sense that actually what you’re trying to do is recruit the best possible talent to fill the most important, demanding, lowest-paying executive jobs in the world,” Cohen said.

Rogers’s departure coincided with word from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose possible selection as secretary of state comforted more mainline Republicans, that he was unlikely to be chosen. “Has my name been in the mix? I’m pretty sure, yeah. Have I been having intimate conversations? No,” Corker said in an interview. “Do I understand that it’s likely that people who’ve been involved in the center of this for some time, and have been surrogating on television, are likely front-runners? I would say that’s likely, yes.”

The two names most prominently mentioned for the diplomatic job — former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and John R. Bolton, an undersecretary of state and one-year ambassador to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration — are both Trump loyalists. But both could be problematic, even among Republicans who would have to confirm them.

Giuliani, thought to be an early choice for attorney general, was said by a person close to the transition team to have personally appealed to Trump for the diplomatic job. He has virtually no diplomatic experience or knowledge of the State Department bureaucracy.

Bolton, a national security hawk who got his U.N. job through a recess appointment after the Senate refused to confirm him, was a leading advocate for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, contradicting Trump’s campaign position opposing it.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that Bolton would be a “disaster” and that he would actively oppose his nomination.

Others were more supportive. “If he picks John Bolton, then I’ll support John Bolton. If he picks Rudy, I’ll support Rudy,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said.

The shortlist for defense secretary is said to include Sessions, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Flynn. Although Sessions serves on the Armed Services Committee, his main issue there has been immigration. Cotton is a Harvard Law graduate who just seven years ago was a first lieutenant in the Army.

Senate confirmation of Flynn, who has also voiced interest in serving as director of national intelligence, could be difficult, said the person close to the transition team. He was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency after two years over concerns about his leadership, and he has potentially problematic connections to foreign governments.
Flynn has admitted that he accepted money for appearing at a lavish gala with Putin in Moscow last year. He recently criticized the Obama administration’s treatment of Turkey in an opinion column, without disclosing to the Trump campaign that his consulting firm has financial ties to that country, said the person close to the transition, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

 Another possible barrier for Flynn, who retired as a three-star general after leaving the DIA in 2014, is the statutory requirement that the defense secretary be at least seven years removed from active duty.

Flynn has told members of the transition that getting a waiver to this requirement would be “no big deal,” said the person involved with the team. But that assertion has been met with at least some internal skepticism, including from Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who asked at meetings whether such a waiver “has ever been done before.” The Senate waived the provision, part of the 1947 National Security Act, when President Harry Truman appointed retired Gen. George C. Marshall to the post in 1950.

The person with ties to the transition said support for Flynn has waned as it has become evident that “he has some confirmation-type problems.”

But Flynn’s influence in the transition remains high, and several sources inside the transition or with ties to Christie said Flynn and Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, had seized control of the national security posts in the new administration and engineered the purges in what they described as a troubling episode of political score-settling.

Former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean Sr., a longtime mentor to Christie, said in an interview that Kushner was widely seen as unhappy with Christie’s handling of the transition. There was “some shock” within Christie’s circle at their abrupt dismissal from the transition ranks, Kean said.

Tensions between Christie and Kushner date back more than a decade. In 2005, Christie, then the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, led the successful prosecution of Kushner’s father, Charles, a prominent real estate developer and philanthropist, who was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion and witness tampering.

Christie also has been beset by scandal of his own making. After a month-long trial that put his gubernatorial administration in a negative light, two of his former top aides were found guilty Nov. 4 for their roles in disruptive 2013 lane closures on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge.

 In addition, Christie is believed by some Trump intimates to have been insufficiently loyal in the final weeks of the campaign.

Those who have been ousted along with or following Christie include Richard H. Bagger, the former Christie chief of staff who had been executive director of the transition, and William J. Palatucci, a New Jersey Republican who served as the transition’s general counsel. Most recent departures, a transition official said, include Kevin O’Connor, a former Justice Department official who was in charge of that agency in the transition.

The New York Times also reported the exit of Matthew Freedman, a protege of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who headed the National Security Council transition team. Earlier, Freedman privately told associates that the Trump team would be “very punitive” toward Republicans who signed letters opposing him during the campaign and was looking to put “true loyalists” in top jobs.
The person close to the transition said it was made clear to Rogers when he received a call from Trump adviser Rick Dearborn that he was being moved aside because of ties to Christie.

In an interview after announcing his departure from the team, Rogers said: “I still want them to be successful. I want them to be able to get a handle on the national security infrastructure of the United States and get it in the right direction. I still think it can happen.”

Jerry Markon, Philip Rucker, Robert Costa, Missy Ryan, Adam Entous and Julie Tate contributed to this report

October 18, 2016

Press SecretaryRemarks”Drug tests from the candidate snorted His way thru debates”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest had a sharp response when asked about Donald Trump's suggestion the presidential candidates take drug tests ahead of Wednesday's debate.
"You're telling me that the candidate who snorted his way through the first two debates is accusing the other candidate of taking drugs? That's a curious development in the campaign," Earnest said.
    Later Earnest clarified that he was "just trying to have a little fun" and that he wasn't implying Trump himself used an illegal substance ahead of the presidential debates.
    The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Earnest's remarks. 
    Trump suggested Saturday that his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, has been "getting pumped up" with performance-enhancing drugs. He challenged Clinton to take a drug test before the final debate next week. 
    "I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate," Trump said during a rally in New Hampshire. "Because I don't know what's going on with her, but at the beginning of her last debate, she was all pumped up at the beginning, and at the end it was like, huff, take me down. She could barely reach her car."
    Trump continued: "A lot of things are going on, folks. A lot of things. I think she's actually getting pumped, you want to know the truth? She's getting pumped up," Trump said Saturday. "She's getting pumped up for Wednesday."
    The Clinton campaign responded to Trump’s comments by saying the Republican nominee is trying to depress voter turnout by his "shameful attempts to undermine an election weeks before it happens."

    July 13, 2016

    Over 5 Million Private Emails Lost by White House (2007)


    Back in 2007, the White House "lost" more than five million private emails. The story was barely covered

    Eric Boehlert, Media Matters

     This article originally appeared on Media Matters. 
    Even for a Republican White House that was badly stumbling through George W. Bush’s sixth year in office, the revelation on April 12, 2007 was shocking. Responding to congressional demands for emails in connection with its investigation into the partisan firing of eight U.S. attorneys, the White House announced that as many as five million emails, covering a two-year span, had been lost.
    The emails had been run through private accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee and were only supposed to be used for dealing with non-administration political campaign work to avoid violating ethics laws. Yet congressional investigators already had evidence private emails had been used for government business, including to discuss the firing of one of the U.S. attorneys. The RNC accounts were used by 22 White House staffers, including then-Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who reportedly used his RNC email for 95 percent of his communications.
    As the Washington Post reported, “Under federal law, the White House is required to maintain records, including e-mails, involving presidential decision- making and deliberations.” But suddenly millions of the private RNC emails had gone missing; emails that were seen as potentially crucial evidence by Congressional investigators.
    The White House email story broke on a Wednesday. Yet on that Sunday’s Meet The PressFace The Nation, and Fox News Sunday, the topic of millions of missing White House emails did not come up. At all. (The story did get covered on ABC’s This Week.)
    By comparison, not only did every network Sunday news show this week cover the story about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emails, but they were drowning in commentary. Between Meet the PressFace The NationThis Week, and Fox News Sunday, Clinton’s “email” or “emails” were referenced more than 100 times on the programs, according to Nexis transcripts. Talk about saturation coverage.
    Indeed, the commentary for the last week truly has been relentless, with the Beltway press barely pausing to catch its breath before unloading yet another round of “analysis,” most of which provides little insight but does allow journalists to vent about the Clintons.
    What has become clear over the last eight days however is that the Clinton email story isn’t about lawbreaking. “Experts have said it doesn’t appear Clinton violated federal laws,” CNN conceded. “But that hasn’t stemmed the issue that has become more about bad optics and politics than any actual wrongdoing.” The National Law Journal agreed, noting that while the story has created a political furor, “any legal consequences are likely to prove negligible.”
    Still, the scandal machine churns on determined to the treat the story as a political blockbuster, even though early polling indicates the kerfuffle will not damage Clinton’s standing.
    Looking back, it’s curious how the D.C. scandal machine could barely get out of first gear when the Bush email story broke in 2007.  I’m not suggesting the press ignored the Rove email debacle, because the story was clearly covered at the time. But triggering a firestorm (a guttural roar) that raged for days and consumed the Beltway chattering class the way the D.C. media has become obsessed with the Clinton email story?  Absolutely not. Not even close.

    May 10, 2016

    NSecurity Advisor: The Average WH Reporter is 27 and “Knows Nothing"

    Deputy National Security Adviser For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes
    Deputy National Security Adviser For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes CREDIT:AP
    The White House on Monday worked to contain the damage caused by one of President Barack Obama's closest aides, who, gave a candid, behind-the-curtain magazine story.
    In the article, Ben Rhodes ripped the Washington press corps as know-nothings, talked of creating an "echo chamber" of supporters to sell the Iran nuclear deal and dismissed long-time foreign policy hands, including Hillary Clinton, as the blob.
    In a blog post published late on Sunday, deputy national security adviser Mr Rhodes tried to clarify his comments about the public relations campaign he mounted to sell the Iran nuclear deal to Congress and the public. Rhodes, a senior speechwriter and foreign policy adviser, wrote that he didn't try to dupe the press or spin Washington.
    "It wasn't 'spin,' it's what we believed and continue to believe, and the hallmark of the entire campaign was to push out facts," Rhodes wrote on the website "These were complicated issues."
    Rhodes is facing an onslaught of criticism for his comments in a New York Times Magazine article published on Sunday. 
    In the piece, Rhodes said he used advocacy groups to create an echo chamber of supporters. He dismissed Washington's foreign policy establishment. And he described reporters as uninformed about world affairs
    "All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus," Rhodes told the magazine. "Now they don't. They call us to explain to them what's happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. 
    "The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That's a sea change. They literally know nothing."
    In a statement issued on Monday, Sen John McCain said the article exposes how the White House "manipulated and, in some cases, manufactured facts."
    Asked about Rhodes comments on Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest defended the way the White House explained its landmark nuclear agreement as factual. 
    He said he had never heard Rhodes use the word "blob" to describe Mrs Clinton or other top officials. And Mr Earnest said he suspected Mr Rhodes would take back his description of the White House press corps.
    "I assure you that's not how it was intended and based on that reaction I'm confident he would say it differently if given the chance," he said. 

    May 4, 2016

    Pres. Obama to Declare First Gay Rights Monument

    Gay marriage supporters hold a gay rights flag in front of the Supreme Court before a hearing about same-sex marriage in Washington, April 28, 2015. (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

    President Obama is poised to declare the first-ever national monument recognizing the struggle for gay rights, singling out a sliver of green space and part of the surrounding Greenwich Village neighborhood as the birthplace of America’s modern gay liberation movement.

    While most national monuments have highlighted iconic wild landscapes or historic sites from centuries ago, this reflects the country’s diversity of terrain and peoples in a different vein: It would be the first national monument anchored by a dive bar and surrounded by a warren of narrow streets that long has been regarded the historic center of gay cultural life in New York City.

    Federal officials, including Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), will hold a listening session on May 9 to solicit feedback on the proposal. Barring a last-minute complication — city officials are still investigating the history of the land title — Obama is prepared to designate the area part of the National Park Service as soon as next month, which commemorates gay pride.

    Protests at the site, which lasted for several days, began in the early morning of June 28, 1969 after police raided the Stonewall Inn, which was frequented by gay men. While patrons of the bar, which is still in operation today in half of its original space, had complied in the past with these crackdowns, that time it sparked a spontaneous riot by bystanders and those who had been detained.

    Although national monument designations are partly symbolic, backers of the move said it could bolster the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which led to the landmark 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. 

    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced in May 2014 a study to find landmarks important to LGBT history for inclusion in the national parks program. President Obama is expected to declare the site of the Stonewall riots a national monument.  (US Department of the Interior)

    “We must ensure that we never forget the legacy of Stonewall, the history of discrimination against the LGBT community, or the impassioned individuals who have fought to overcome it,” Nadler, who has co-authored legislation that would make it a national park, said in a statement. “The LGBT civil rights movement launched at Stonewall is woven into American history, and it is time our National Park system reflected that reality.”

    The president has described Stonewall as a critical event along the nation’s path to become “a more perfect union,” both in his second inaugural speech and when celebrating the 50th anniversary of the march on Selma, Ala. 

    Interior Department spokeswoman Amanda Degroff said Obama “has made clear that he’s committed to ensuring our national parks, monuments and public lands help Americans better understand the places and stories that make this nation great” — though at the moment the administration has no official announcement on the designation.

    Noting that Jewell and Jarvis are attending next week’s public meeting at the invitation of Nadler and federal, state and local officials, Degroff added, “Insights from meetings like this one play an important role in identifying the best means to protect and manage significant sites like Christopher Park, whether a designation is established by Congress or through executive authority.”

    Nadler and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have asked the president to protect the site under the 1906 Antiquities Act. In a sign of how much has changed since 1969, the three officials who represent the area — City Council member Corey Johnson, state assembly member Deborah Glick and state senator Brad Hoylman — are all openly gay and endorse the idea of making it a monument, as does the local community advisory board.

    The decision to recognize a critical moment in the fight for gay rights, at a time when politicians in several states are moving to strip away legal protections for transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual residents, enjoys considerable support within the administration. But the path to declaring the monument has been a complicated one, largely because the site involves private property and a dense urban area where land-use planning is never simple.

    But late last month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation, backed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and several state lawmakers, that would allow the city to transfer ownership of Christopher Park to the federal government should it become designated as a monument. That patch of green, spanning less than two-tenths of an acre, lies opposite the Stonewall Inn.
    In the same way Chicago’s Pullman National Monument — which Obama declared last year to highlight the struggle for labor and civil rights in the late 1880s — encompasses a federally owned former railroad-car factory and part of the surrounding neighborhood, the proposed monument would include several streets that served as a battlefield between activists and law enforcement.

    “History’s messy,” said David Stacy, government affairs director of the Human Rights Campaign, whose group has pushed for the designation along with others such as the National Parks Conservation Association and Gill Foundation. “This raised the consciousness of people throughout the country. It said to people, you don’t have to be quiet. You don’t have to stay in the closet.”
    The site has become a gathering place following victories in the fight for LGBT equality: Many came there after key court rulings in 2014 and 2015, and Cuomo officiated at a same-sex wedding outside the Stonewall Inn last summer.

     Gill Foundation president and chief executive Courtney Cuff, whose group helped fund a two-year study to identify what LGBT sites might qualify for National Park Service recognition, said a monument designation would mean “interpreters will be talking to visitors about the LGBT community and the contributions of the LGBT movement writ large.”

    Hoylman, who lives in the neighborhood with his husband and 5-year-old daughter Silvia, said he has her there and “tried to explain her how important it is to her daddy and her papa.”

    “The president has mentioned Stonewall along with Selma and Seneca Falls in his second inaugural. So it’s fitting that he would be the president to bring this forward,” he said. “It’s breathtaking how far we’ve come, in so short a time.”


    February 24, 2016

    White House Screens Black Gay Film Celebrating BH Month


    Today, the White House will screen the documentary “Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church,” in what the film’s director calls “the embodiment of the success of the Obama administration.”

    BET entertainment editor Clay Cane, who shot the film in the Atlanta area last spring, does not come from a religious background himself, but as gay black man, “You can’t avoid religion. It’s a constant part of the conversation,” he told MSNBC on Tuesday. Because of the black church’s role as a place of both refuge and a source of revolution during slavery, Jim Crow and civil rights movement, the African-American community enjoy a unique relationship with its houses of worship. But for black LGBT people, according to the film, the church has become “a space of oppression.”

    The one-hour film looks at couples “shunned” by their families, as well as clergy members marginalized and youth abandoned all because of their sexual orientation. The rationale behind all of the intolerance is almost always religion, but in the black community paranoia about perceived threats to traditional masculinity plays a role as well. As one openly gay choir director says in the film, you can be “anything but gay” in the black community.

    The White House’s decision to screen this film for Black History Month speaks to the president’s evolution on gay rights. Obama has shifted from a candidate who staunchly opposed same-sex marriage to a sitting president who openly embraced it prior to his re-election in 2012. His decision to back marriage equality has been credited with shifting the needle on public approval. The majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, and while numbers in the black community still lag behind the national average, they did begin to tick up after Obama’s endorsement.

    “I will tell you … that African-Americans thought differently,” said Cane, who also cited first lady Michelle Obama’s DNC speech in 2012 — when she told the audience that her husband wants opportunity for all, no matter ”who we love” — as a crucial moment for LGBT black Americans. “I wouldn’t be there under any other administration,” added Cane about his upcoming White House visit. “This shows the inclusiveness of the Obama administration.”

    Besides his support for anti-hate crime legislation and his role in ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Obama has taken his pro-gay rights message directly to communities of color here and internationally as well. In 2013, he clashed publicly with the president of Senegal over the homophobic policies of his government, and he has also condemned anti-gay Ugandan laws. The president has also made more subtle gestures, like honoring the late, great, openly gay civil rights icon Bayard Rustin that same year and paying homage to the first openly gay NFL athlete, Michael Sam, in 2014.
    He had to undo the sins of the Clinton administration to make some great gains for the LGBT community,” said Cane.

    Still, despite undeniable progress under Obama, “Holler If You Hear Me” powerfully portrays the uphill battle so many black LGBT people face when they are forced to choose between their faith and “living an authentic life.”
    “If you want to meet a whole bunch of black gay folks just go to the black church,” jokes Cane, referring to his belief that many LGBT African-Americans not only stay closeted but sit idly by while their pastors and fellow parishioners denigrate them and refuse to affirm their relationships. Cane said that while making the film he learned to be a lot less judgmental of people who make that choice because for them “walking away from your church is like walking away from [your] family.” And while gay people have been serving in black congregations for years, they simply want the “right to exist” within their communities of faith.

    According to Cane, BET, where he has worked for eight years, has been nothing but supportive in his endeavor. The network backed the project from the beginning both philosophically and financially, and Cane remains “very optimistic” about future projects and the cause of gay rights. Case in point: One of the most stirring moments of the film features an encounter between Cane, who is openly gay, and a devout woman who refuses to approve of her daughter’s marriage to another female. Cane says that although some audiences have recoiled at the woman’s position, the fact that she even spoke to him on camera is a small ray of hope.
    “I’m more concerned about people living on the fringe of society like I was,” said Cane, who promises that his next film project will “shake up and disturb as many people as possible.”


    Would we ever again have both a President and Vice President constantly working for LGBT rights?

    Vice Pres. Biden Joins Gay’s HRC  together with world company leaders in Davos:

    As world leaders congregated in Davos, Switzerland during the World Economic Forum's annual meeting last month, HRC hosted a global equality round table for business leaders and industry influencers with longtime HRC supporter and LGBT ally Vice President Joe Biden.
     "When you speak up, you change the conversation," Biden told the round table participants, which included CEOs from Coca-Cola, Dow, Deloitte and UPS. Hosts of the meeting included HRC President Chad Griffin, President of Microsoft Brad Smith and Anthony Scaramucci, the founder of SkyBridge Capital.
    "LGBT people should have a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families no matter where they live, and leaders of the world's foremost companies can and should provide equal treatment and protections for their LGBT employees," Griffin said. "They are also powerful voices in making the case globally that equality and inclusion in the workplace are both common sense and good business sense."

    September 26, 2014

    Erick Holder Resigns Remembered for his work on LGTB and DOMA (defense of marriage act)



    Earlier this year, Jeffrey Toobin, the legal correspondent for The New Y(defeese of marriage act)order, profiled Attorney General Eric Holder — and reported that Holder would step down this year. He was right. Today, news broke that Holder will leave the Department of Justice as soon as President Obama finds a replacement.
    Toobin has described Holder as having "two tenures" as attorney general. In a phone conversation today, he described them to me.
    Ezra Klein: What's the single most important thing Eric Holder did as attorney general?
    Jeffrey Toobin: I think throwing the weight of the Justice Department behind the cause of gay rights will be seen as enormously important. Announcing support for the lawsuit against the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] was the biggest specific item in that regard, but in every possible way, the Justice Department has committed itself to the idea that discrimination against gay people is unlawful. That's had enormous implications, and it will continue to reverberate as same sex marriage works its way through the courts.
    EK: Has Holder been effective as attorney general?
    JT: I see a real bifurcation in his tenure. I think during the first term Holder ran an inbox operation. He did what crossed his desk. He tried to close Guantanamo and it was a fiasco. He did a criminal investigation of the financial collapse which went nowhere. He struggled with Fast and Furious which occupied a lot of time if not importance. There were not a lot of accomplishments that first term.
    But once President Obama was reelected and Holder saw the tremendous backlash against civil rights in the states that elected Republicans in 2010, he said, the hell with it. I want to be known for something important even if it gets criticism.
    EK: Earlier this year, when you profiled Holder's struggle on civil rights, it seemed to be an open question whether he would be successful. Is that still true?
    JT: The Shelby County decision, striking down Sections Four and Five of the Voting Rights Act, was a transformational event in the history of voting rights. It opened the door to really major efforts to limit the franchise. Now because they Voting Rights Act itself is effectively gone it's not clear that the Justice Department can do much about this. The Texas and North Carolina lawsuits are legally on questionable ground.
    But I do think Holder deserves a lot of credit for saying if voting rights are going to die, we're going to do whatever we can to try to keep it alive. I think that's a very consequential attempt. Where it succeeds or not is far from clear.
    EK: I want to go back for a second to Guantanamo and the banks. Part of the reason Holder is attorney general today is he impressed Barack Obama with a speech predicting a "reckoning" for the Bush administration's war on terror policies. Obama certainly took office amid widespread fury with the banks. But the Obama administration has been resistant to aggressive prosecution on the major issues that propelled them to office. And particularly on the war on terror, it seems to me that the Obama administration has taken a much more expansive view of the president's authority there than many supporters would have predicted.
    JT: In every single speech Barack Obama gave when running for president he said he would close Guantanamo. Every single one. His failure to do so is one of the great failures of his administration. How and why that's failed is a complicated subject. But I think Holder bears a lot of responsibility for it. His announcement that he would try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a federal criminal trial in New York led to the political backlash in Congress that, through legislation, tied Obama's hands on closing Guantanamo. It was really a wall-to-wall disaster. Not all of it is Holder and Obama's fault. They had very important adversaries in this issue of closing Guantanamo. But he is the president, it was a major campaign promise, and he utterly failed.
    EK: What about the war on terror issues that have emerged on Obama's watch, like Edward Snowden, or the prosecution of journalists like James Risen, or the decision to use drone strikes against American citizens living abroad?
    JT: It is true that the Obama administration has not departed from Bush administration war on terror policies nearly as much as his supporters hoped. But I am inclined to view these issues one by one and I think some positions are more defensible than others. I'm not an Edwards Snowden fan and I think that they're perfectly justified in prosecuting him. The subpoenas to journalists are a different matter.
    I think part of this is the Justice Department as an institution is devoted to aggressive enforcement of criminal laws. That continues from administration to administration. I think the occupants of the top offices get captured by that approach regardless of what attitudes they brought in. I think also that things look different when you are the people who are responsible for protecting the US in a very dangerous world. If you sit there in the briefings and you hear what the dangers are that it is a major challenge to the civil libertarian instincts you brought into office.
    EK: What about the banks? There's been reporting that in 2012, the Obama administration's political team was pressuring Holder to prosecute some top bankers. But it went nowhere.
    JT: The major unanswered question I have is every other major financial collapse in American history has led to major criminal prosecutions. The S&L Crisis of the 1980s, insider trading in the 1990s. And here we have the biggest collapse since the Depression and not one person of consequence is even prosecuted, much less goes to prison. Now, the people in charge say this is because, as Mike Kinsley used to say, "the scandal is what's legal." What went on at Lehman Brothers and AIG and all these places wasn't criminal. It had been vetted by lawyers. I think that is a very debatable proposition. I don't pretend to have the answer but it is a very strange thing that no one went to prison as a result of the 2008 collapse.
    EK: This seems like the sort of thing where an attorney general who wanted to prosecute could have found ways to try to make the case.
    JT: The challenge with white-collar prosecutions is always the issue of criminal intent. Did these actors know and believe they were violating the law in what they did? Otherwise it's not criminal. What Holder and his subordinates have always said is that the CEOs did not believe what they were doing was criminal. They were making bets that failed spectacularly but that's not a crime.
    I am enough of a former prosecutor myself to know these cases are very hard to make against prominent people surrounded by lawyers who can say, "I consulted my lawyers before making any of these deals." But that doesn't explain why they didn't make a single one.
    EK: Let's go back to Holder's work on LGBT rights. Back when Holder decided not to defend DOMA in court, I remember a number of folks who believed DOMA should be overturned, but also believed the DOJ has a responsibility to defend the laws of the federal government.
    JT: Holder didn't just say that DOMA was unconstitutional. He said that no reasonable argument could be made that DOMA is constitutional. That is a very different thing. It is the job of the Justice Department to defend the laws of the United States. That's what the Justice Department does in virtually all circumstances in virtually all administrations. In a very small handful of cases the Justice Department says one of the laws is indefensible. But remember, this was a law passed in the 1990s with an overwhelming congressional majority and signed by Bill Clinton, a Democratic president. It was institutionally risky for Holder and Obama to say that this law was not just unconstitutional but beyond the pale.
    I think history will vindicate them in a dramatic way. We appear to be approaching a moment where any law that draws a distinction between gay and straight people looks like a water fountain that says "colored only". I think Holder saw that and he got the Justice Department on the right side of history faster than others might have.
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