Mark his words

President Donald Trump was elected to “drain the swamp”, a phrase that characterizes for many a federal government gridlocked by entrenched career politicians across the ideological spectrum. His supporters, the so-called base, continue to demand drainage but Trump encounters resistance at every turn. Swamp creatures are defiantly protective of their turf (or muck, to be more precise).

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Mark Meadows 

The Swamp overwhelmed the quest for Obamacare repeal early on. It was taken to its knees, finally, when Congress passed and Trump signed major tax cuts and reforms in late 2017. Other minor dredging has been accomplished here and there on Capitol Hill, yet along came the $1.3 trillion Omnibus spending bill. Even Trump was wearing waders at the signing ceremony for that spending fiasco.

Hours beforehand, Trump tweeted that he was tempted to veto the bill. The first entity to step forward in full support of a proposed veto was the House Freedom Caucus, a widely derided group of Republican lawmakers led by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11). Going back to the age of Obama, Meadows and the Caucus have stood shoulder to shoulder since 2015 as Swamp-busting contrarians, committed to “giving a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them” and “open, accountable and limited government.”

Understandably, Democrats and, less vocally, many Republicans dismiss the Caucus as a band of obstructionists on matters of spending and ideological flash points such as immigration control. “Very destructive,” writes Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein. True conservatives applaud the refusal of Meadows & Co. to waiver, which typically is the signature of movements with staying power and, ultimately, real power.

As the Omnibus train was veering off the rails, Meadows and 24 others voted against bringing the bill to the floor, furious “that Republican leadership were only able to get (Trump) just over one-twenty-fifth of what he wanted for the construction of his long-promised border wall,” reported The Daily Caller. Said Meadows:

“Members of the Freedom Caucus chose to vote no, because this omnibus doesn’t just forget the promises we made to voters — it flatly rejects them.”

Meadows, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) penned an opinion piece in mid-March decrying yet another inclination by Republicans to accept business as usual. Despite the important elimination of the Obamacare mandate in the tax reform bill, policies remain under consideration that “would expand this healthcare disaster beyond even President Obama’s ambitions,” they wrote.

While still pending, Meadows et al are sounding the alarm — using a now well worn alarm button:

“One (proposal) would direct the Obama-created bailout known as cost-sharing-reduction (CSR) payments to go to ObamaCare insurance companies. Another would create an entirely new reinsurance program to funnel billions of taxpayer dollars directly to insurers in order to convince them to stick with ObamaCare.”

Who are the “destructive” ones in this scenario?

If there is a fray to enter, Meadows typically leads the charge into it. As a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he’s become a go-to for Fox News programmers but is often seen on the Sunday show circuit as well. Most recently, he and Ohio’s Jordan were guests on FNC’s The Ingraham Angle to walk deeper into the fray surrounding calls for a new Special Counsel to investigate improprieties, and perhaps illegalities, committed by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation leading to and after Trump’s election.

Meadows and Jordan recently reviewed a heavily redacted report by the DOJ, which is a first step toward assembling the puzzle that will confirm shady activity and communication by figures such as fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, demoted FBI official Peter Strzok, and former CIA Director John Brennan.

“On seven pages, there were 12 material facts — material facts, not just names — material facts that were omitted by the Department of Justice. It’s time they come clean and give us what we need. … This Department of Justice is not complying with the subpoena. … For the Attorney General (Jeff Sessions) to suggest that there is not enough ‘there’ there is extremely disappointing.”

The frequent refrain echoed by frustrated Republican voters is a simple request, “Do your jobs.” The entrenched Swampers argue the better measure of their performance is how often they “get things done”. Meadows consistently does his job, unapologetically. Which is good news for his North Carolina district and for those who want to see President Trump succeed. Fellow NC lawmakers in Washington would be wise to adopt Meadows’ tenacity.

In a profile written for Vox.com last August, Tara Golshan described Meadows’ sphere of influence in Washington:

“The reality of today’s Congress is that in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus is in control of the Republican agenda — with Meadows at the helm. He leads a body that made its mark as an opposition force from within. But tasked with governing, Meadows has to decide whether his conservative principles supersede getting things done. He may have paved the way for (Paul) Ryan’s speakership, but it’s Meadows who stands in the way of every major Republican policy push.”

Conservatives stand with him.

 

 

Deep concerns

Is it possible that escalating erosion of trust in our federal government is causing Democrats and Republicans, joined by independents, to find common ground in a nation seen as deeply divided? Perhaps even irreparably divided.

A new Monmouth University Polling Institute poll indicates that the entrenchment of a shadowy, post-Obama era “deep state” bothers those who embrace President Donald Trump as much as those who would cheer for a President Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

The poll, as reported by left-leaning The Hill, found that “74 percent of respondents believe in a ‘deep state’ when it is described as a collection of unelected officials running policy.”

“We usually expect opinions on the operation of government to shift depending on which party is in charge,” Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said in a statement. “But there’s an ominous feeling by Democrats and Republicans alike that a ‘Deep State’ of unelected operatives are pulling the levers of power.”

Who are these operatives? They are everywhere. Former Congressional senior analyst Mike Lofgren, who toiled a total of 28 years on Capitol Hill, is author of The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, which lays out chilling insights.

Most significantly, “the Deep State does not consist only of government agencies,” Lofgren writes.

“In a special series in The Washington Post called ‘Top Secret America,’ Dana Priest and William K. Arkin described the scope of the privatized Deep State and the degree to which it has metastasized after the September 11 attacks. There are now 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances — a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government.

“Seventy percent of the intelligence community’s budget goes to paying contracts. And the membrane between government and industry is highly permeable: The (former) Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, is a former executive of Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the government’s largest intelligence contractors. His predecessor as director, Admiral Mike McConnell, is the current vice chairman of the same company; Booz Allen is 99 percent dependent on government business. These contractors now set the political and social tone of Washington, just as they are increasingly setting the direction of the country, but they are doing it quietly, their doings unrecorded in the Congressional Record or the Federal Register, and are rarely subject to congressional hearings.”

A vast majority of the American media is complicit in concealing the machinations of the Deep State. In fact, the media is, in reality, a Deep State appendage. This explains why it is so diligent in its efforts to make villains and “threats to national security” out of benign characters in the Trump orbit such as Carter Page, Jared Kushner and George Papadopoulos.

Deep staters surely must chuckle at all of this from the shadows.

 

Doer-in-Chief

While corrupt media outlets such as CNN promote their “White House in crisis” narratives 24/7, basking in the Mueller “investigation”, cheering Jared Kushner’s reduced security clearance status and Hope Hicks’ resignation, and staging town halls to exploit grieving and angry high school students from Parkland, Fla., Heritage Foundation staffers have been following an undeniable trend.

Working with Congress when possible (on tax cuts, principally), or through regulatory guidance, the Trump administration “had an extraordinarily successful first year.” That is the assessment of the Foundation’s Thomas Binion, director of congressional and executive branch relations.

The Heritage Foundation, a public policy think tank with a well-deserved reputation for holding politicians accountable, sets a high bar for incoming Presidents. It is known as the “Mandate for Leadership”, and it debuted in 1981 when Ronald Reagan launched his two-term presidency.

The Trump mandate is comprised of 334 unique policy recommendations, nearly two-thirds of which (64%) already have been adopted by Trump and his administration. Reports The Washington Examiner:

At this stage of his presidency, Reagan had completed 49 percent of the Heritage policy recommendations. “We’re blown away,” Binion said in an interview. Trump, he said, “is very active, very conservative, and very effective.”

While not all of the adopted policies received the fanfare of across-the-board tax cuts, or the successful nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States, they are squarely on Heritage Foundation’s radar. These are the major achievements, according to the Foundation:

  • Leaving the Paris Climate Accord: In August 2017, Trump announced the U.S. was ending its funding and membership in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
  • Repealing Net Neutrality: In December 2017, Trump’s Federal Communications Commission chairman proposed ending the 2015 network neutrality rules.
  • Reshaping National Monuments: Heritage’s recommendation to prohibit Land Acquisition (Cap and Reduce the Size of the Federal Estate) was adopted by Trump when he issued two executive orders effectively shrinking the size of national monuments in Utah.
  • Reinstating the Mexico City Policy: This executive order prevents taxpayer money from funding international groups involved in abortion and ending funding to the United Nations Population fund. On Jan. 23, 2017, in his first pro-life action, Trump signed an executive order today reinstating the Mexico City Policy.
  • Increasing Military Spending: Trump’s budget calls for a $54 billion increase in military spending to improve capacity, capability, and readiness of America’s armed forces.
  • Reforming Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF):The Trump administration adopted and is in favor of strengthening existing work requirements in order to receive benefits.
  • Allowing Development of Natural Resources: The Trump administration opened off-shore drilling and on federal lands. Executive Order 13783 directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to commence federal land coal leasing activities.
  • Reforming Government Agencies: Trump tasked each of his Cabinet secretaries to prepare detailed plans on how they propose to reduce the scope and size of their respective departments while streamlining services and ensuring each department runs more efficiently and handles tax dollars appropriately.
  • Withdrawing from UNESCO: In October 2017, Trump announced he was putting an end to U.S. membership in the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

These are but a few examples of what former Trump deputy assistant and strategist Sebastian Gorka characterizes as the Trump “revolution” playing out before our eyes. If Republicans will continue to embrace Trump’s ambitions to steamroll reform through Congress and deliver for his supporters, Gorka forecasts a dismal November 2018 for Democrats in the mid-term elections. Writing for The Hill, Gorka opines:

If Republicans understand just how revolutionary and system-smashing an event like the election of Trump was, and they hitch their future to his brand of anti-establishment leadership, there will be no hope for the Democrats come November.

Donald Trump has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to learn at the wheel. Now the question is, have the professional politicians learned and internalized just how revolutionary the times we are living in actually are?

 

Tired of winning yet?

The Washington Examiner unwrapped an early Christmas present today, publishing a list of 81 major victories by the Trump administration in 12 categories since President Donald Trump was inaugurated last January 20.

Jobs and the economy

  • Passage of the tax reform bill providing $5.5 billion in cuts and repealing the Obamacare mandate.
  • Increase of the GDP above 3 percent.
  • Creation of 1.7 million new jobs, cutting unemployment to 4.1 percent.
  • Saw the Dow Jones reach record highs.
  • A rebound in economic confidence to a 17-year high.
  • A new executive order to boost apprenticeships.
  • A move to boost computer sciences in Education Department programs.
  • Prioritizing women-owned businesses for some $500 million in SBA loans.

Killing job-stifling regulations

  • Signed an Executive Order demanding that two regulations be killed for every new one creates. He beat that big and cut 16 rules and regulations for every one created, saving $8.1 billion.
  • Signed 15 congressional regulatory cuts.
  • Withdrew from the Obama-era Paris Climate Agreement, ending the threat of environmental regulations.
  • Signed an Executive Order cutting the time for infrastructure permit approvals.
  • Eliminated an Obama rule on streams that Trump felt unfairly targeted the coal industry.

Fair trade

  • Made good on his campaign promise to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Opened up the North American Free Trade Agreement for talks to better the deal for the U.S.
  • Worked to bring companies back to the U.S., and companies like Toyota, Mazda, Broadcom Limited, and Foxconn announced plans to open U.S. plants.
  • Worked to promote the sale of U.S products abroad.
  • Made enforcement of U.S. trade laws, especially those that involve national security, a priority.
  • Ended Obama’s deal with Cuba.

Boosting U.S. energy dominance

  • The Department of Interior, which has led the way in cutting regulations, opened plans to lease 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling.
  • Trump traveled the world to promote the sale and use of U.S. energy.
  • Expanded energy infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline snubbed by Obama.
  • Ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
  • EPA is reconsidering Obama rules on methane emissions.

Protecting the U.S. homeland

  • Laid out new principles for reforming immigration and announced plan to end “chain migration,” which lets one legal immigrant to bring in dozens of family members.
  • Made progress to build the border wall with Mexico.
  • Ended the Obama-era “catch and release” of illegal immigrants.
  • Boosted the arrests of illegals inside the U.S.
  • Doubled the number of counties participating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement charged with deporting illegals.
  • Removed 36 percent more criminal gang members than in fiscal 2016.
  • Started the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program.
  • Ditto for other amnesty programs like Deferred Action for Parents of Americans.
  • Cracking down on some 300 sanctuary cities that defy ICE but still get federal dollars.
  • Added some 100 new immigration judges.

Protecting communities

  • Justice announced grants of $98 million to fund 802 new cops.
  • Justice worked with Central American nations to arrest and charge 4,000 MS-13 members.
  • Homeland rounded up nearly 800 MS-13 members, an 83 percent one-year increase.
  • Signed three executive orders aimed at cracking down on international criminal organizations.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions created new National Public Safety Partnership, a cooperative initiative with cities to reduce violent crimes.

Accountability

  • Trump has nominated 73 federal judges and won his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
  • Ordered ethical standards including a lobbying ban.
  • Called for a comprehensive plan to reorganize the executive branch.
  • Ordered an overhaul to modernize the digital government.
  • Called for a full audit of the Pentagon and its spending.

Combatting opioids

  • First, the president declared a Nationwide Public Health Emergency on opioids.
  • His Council of Economic Advisors played a role in determining that overdoses are underreported by as much as 24 percent.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services laid out a new five-point strategy to fight the crisis.
  • Justice announced it was scheduling fentanyl substances as a drug class under the Controlled Substances Act.
  • Justice started a fraud crackdown, arresting more than 400.
  • The administration added $500 million to fight the crisis.
  • On National Drug Take Back Day, the Drug Enforcement Agency collected 456 tons.

Protecting life

  • In his first week, Trump reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy that blocks some $9 billion in foreign aid being used for abortions.
  • Worked with Congress on a bill overturning an Obama regulation that blocked states from defunding abortion providers.
  • Published guidance to block Obamacare money from supporting abortion.

Helping veterans

  • Signed the Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act to allow senior officials in the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire failing employees and establish safeguards to protect whistleblowers.
  • Signed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act.
  • Signed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, to provide support.
  • Signed the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017 to authorize $2.1 billion in additional funds for the Veterans Choice Program.
  • Created a VA hotline.
  • Had the VA launch an online “Access and Quality Tool,” providing veterans with a way to access wait time and quality of care data.
  • With VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin, announced three initiatives to expand access to healthcare for veterans using telehealth technology.

Promoting peace through strength

  • Directed the rebuilding of the military and ordered a new national strategy and nuclear posture review.
  • Worked to increase defense spending.
  • Empowered military leaders to “seize the initiative and win,” reducing the need for a White House sign off on every mission.
  • Directed the revival of the National Space Council to develop space war strategies.
  • Elevated U.S. Cyber Command into a major warfighting command.
  • Withdrew from the U.N. Global Compact on Migration, which Trump saw as a threat to borders.
  • Imposed a travel ban on nations that lack border and anti-terrorism security.
  • Saw ISIS lose virtually all of its territory.
  • Pushed for strong action against global outlaw North Korea and its development of nuclear weapons.
  • Announced a new Afghanistan strategy that strengthens support for U.S. forces at war with terrorism.
  • NATO increased support for the war in Afghanistan.
  • Approved a new Iran strategy plan focused on neutralizing the country’s influence in the region.
  • Ordered missile strikes against a Syrian airbase used in a chemical weapons attack.
  • Prevented subsequent chemical attacks by announcing a plan to detect them better and warned of future strikes if they were used.
  • Ordered new sanctions on the dictatorship in Venezuela.

Restoring confidence in and respect for America

  • Trump won the release of Americans held abroad, often using his personal relationships with world leaders.
  • Made good on a campaign promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
  • Conducted a historic 12-day trip through Asia, winning new cooperative deals. On the trip, he attended three regional summits to promote American interests.
  • He traveled to the Middle East and Europe to build new relationships with leaders.
  • Traveled to Poland and on to German for the G-20 meeting where he pushed again for funding of women entrepreneurs.

 

The Trump trap

As gridlock rages on in Washington, we are discovering that the shared commitment by Moore County Republicans to pursuing security, opportunity, liberty and victory is not always embraced by lawmakers. This only has become magnified in the age of Trump as Republicans in Congress seem paralyzed by the power they wield as the majority party.

It seems inexplicable that Obamacare has not been dismantled or that meaningful tax cutting is proving to be an excruciating legislative chore (even though Republicans were elected by voters who name these as priorities). As it turns out, there is an obvious explanation. It is proffered by North Carolinian and veteran political analyst John Davis, keeper of The John Davis Report.

Congressional leaders take heed: Every despicable, incompetent, crude, insulting, immature, reckless, irresponsible and insensitive thing that (President) Trump has ever said or done COMBINED, is not as bad in the minds of his supporters as a do-nothing federal government rigged for the privileged few.

President Trump will continue to make fools of U.S. Senate and House leaders who continue to protect the swamp, who put the moral high ground of the way things have always been done ahead of getting things done. Those who value civility over outrage.

The mainstream media, Democrats and even some centrist Republicans remain in a constant state of despair about Trump, his candor and his Tweets. He is not “presidential” enough. Precisely, notes Davis. If we want to see “the swamp” drained, you don’t do it with a Jeb Bush or a John Kasich.

“Donald Trump,” Davis writes, “is what you get when there is no presidential way to drain the swamp.”

He further cites the recent showdown between Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican, and Trump. The President views Corker as just another entrenched swamp creature, even though Washington conventional wisdom would dictate that Trump avoid skirmishing with the chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.

Corker went after Trump in the aftermath of the Charlottesville (Va.) white supremacy march, joining a media chorus of feigned outrage directed at Trump because he did not adequately denounce the incident (though he did in no uncertain terms). Corker questioned Trump’s stability and competence, playing into the long held media narrative. Trump tweeted that he found Corker’s criticism odd in that Corker had begged for Trump’s endorsement before announcing he would not seek another Senate term. Observes Davis:

That’s it for Corker. He is now in the Trump trap. The latest Republican on a long list to fall prey to Trump’s ploy of needling his opponents into the tangled web of reactionary vindictiveness.

At their peril, DC swamp politicians continue to miscalculate the political consequences of demeaning Trump as an individual, or diminishing Trump’s presidency through inaction. Trump’s approval rating is below 40% but he remains a rock star in contrast to tepid Congressional approval numbers. Davis observes that they apparently fail to see what is coming in 2018, a tidal wave of dissatisfaction.

Unfortunately for establishment Republicans, the voter outrage that propelled unpresidential Donald Trump past their hand-picked candidates for president is now being redirected against US Senate and House Republican incumbents in next year’s GOP primaries. In today’s political environment, the establishment is the kiss of death.

 

 

 

 

Unaffiliated voter surge

Newly minted data confirms what many area citizens are experiencing anecdotally. Demographics are shifting across Pinehurst, Southern Pines and surrounding communities. This is evidenced by just released voter registration statistics.

The Raleigh-based Civitas Institute, a self-described nonprofit policy organization, examined State Board of Elections voter registration data, beginning in early February (just after the Trump inauguration) through September 9, and finds surging numbers of “unaffiliated” voters. The trend actually began in 2009, at the outset of the Obama presidency, and coincides with a stark decline in voters registered as Democrats statewide. Continue reading “Unaffiliated voter surge”

The Swamp

By Jim Lexo
President, Moore County Republican Men’s Club

I lived in the Swamp for decades and didn’t know it. Out of college, I moved to Washington, DC, and ended up working in Congress for 12 years in the 1970s and ’80s, and stayed in the area until five years ago.

I watched Congressmen and Senators serve a half century or more on Capitol Hill. Those who lost their elections, or retired, just moved downtown to K Street in DC to join lobbying firms. As former Members, they have access to the floor of the House and Senate and, of course, they have a network they developed over time. Members do other Members favors because they know it might be them asking some day, or they want them to attend various fund raisers. Continue reading “The Swamp”