Monday, February 27, 2017

Donald Trump claims to remake GOP as party of `the American worker'

President Donald Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.

Attempting to put a defining framework on his tumultuous first month in office, President Trump on Friday articulated a new vision for the Republican Party as a populist defender of the working class that will challenge elites at home and abroad.

Trump, speaking to GOP activists at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, made it clear how much the world has changed for rank-and-file Republicans since his insurgent campaign upended the party.

At times, he promoted positions that could have been ripped from the playbook of liberals Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. "The GOP will be from now on the party also of the American worker," Trump declared.

"First, we need to define what this great, great unprecedented movement is and what it actually represents," he added. "The core conviction of our movement is that we are a nation that will put its own citizens first."

In a wide-ranging, campaign-style speech, Trump bashed the media, and reiterated his promises for a massive buildup of the American military, the construction of a wall along the border with Mexico, and the renegotiation of trade deals.

He pointed to his administration's efforts to cut back regulations as a key way to promote job growth and protect workers. After his speech, Trump signed a new executive order requiring agencies to form regulatory reform task forces to assess additional ways to eliminate regulations.

The enthusiastic response to Trump's speech marked a complete turnaround for the nation's premier gathering of conservatives, which had once greeted him with skepticism.

At his first appearance at the conference in 2011, Trump walked out to the song "Money" and drew laughs and boos from the crowd. Last year, Trump declined an invitation to speak at the event. On Friday, he explained that absence by saying he worried his ideas would be "too controversial."

But Friday's remarks represented Trump's attempt to recast the Republican Party - and the conservatives who represent its base - in his own image.

At one point, he said, "Now you finally have a president, finally," and at another point, he said the Middle East is in "much worse shape than it was 15 years ago" - a timeframe that extends back to the presidency of Republican George W. Bush.

The crowd reveled in chants of "lock her up," echoing last year's campaign chants targeting Hillary Clinton, and "USA! USA!" underscoring Trump's appeals to nationalism. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway's joke earlier in the week that CPAC should be renamed "TPAC" in honor of the president seemed more fitting.

Trump's appearance Friday was the first by a sitting president since Bush spoke in 2003 and the first by a president in his inaugural year in office since Ronald Reagan in 1981. In all, Reagan spoke at CPAC 13 times. Trump said he plans to make annual visits to the conference.

Vice President Mike Pence compared Trump to Reagan in his speech Thursday night. "I believe President Trump has given voice to aspirations and frustrations to Americans like no leader since Reagan," he said.

In his own speech, Trump assailed the Affordable Care Act, blamed President Obama for leaving him with "a mess," and promised to halt illegal immigration. But as he gears up to deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, lawmakers are going to be looking for more specifics, including how to fund his proposals.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are still trying to figure out exactly how to replace the federal health care law. They're also dealing with the lingering backlash to Trump's executive order on immigration, which sought to bar immigrants from seven majority-Muslim nations before it was halted by the courts.

Trump did not once mention his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in his speech, a surprising omission given the choice was widely heralded by conservatives.

He did, however, deliver a blistering critique of the media, attacking "fake news" and journalists' use of anonymous sources.

"It doesn't represent the people, it never will represent the people, and we're going to do something about it," Trump said about the media."Many of these groups are part of large media corporations that have their own agenda."

His attack on the media's use of anonymous sources came less than an hour after White House officials held a background briefing -demanding anonymity - with journalists to dispute a CNN story.

CNN had reported that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI to push back against media reports about communications between Trump aides and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The vision Trump outlined Friday was a less extreme version of the worldview expressed by Steve Bannon, the president's chief strategist, who spoke Thursday about the "deconstruction of the administrative state."

Bannon, making a rare public appearance, took the stage with Priebus and the two played down any conflict between them.

But, a day before Trump's speech, attendees at CPAC on Thursday were still coming to grips with his new party and wrestling with questions of whether he is a true conservative.



Champagne Time! It's a "Bloodbath" at the State Department

At least one swamp appears to be being drained.

"It's a bloodbath at the State Department," the New York Post hyperventilated last Friday: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is cleaning house at the State Department, according to a report." In Donald Trump's America, so much has happened so quickly to set the nation on a course decisively different from the one it was on during the regime of his disastrous socialist internationalist predecessor that this particular bit of good news was largely overlooked. But if a housecleaning at the State Department isn't a cause for celebration, nothing is.

"Many of those let go were on the building's seventh floor - top-floor bigs," the Post tells us, and adds that this is "a symbolically important sign to the rest of the diplomatic corps that their new boss has different priorities than the last one."

Pop the champagne!

And not only that, but "this week's round of firings marks the second time State Department personnel have been cleared out since President Trump took office last month. Four top officials were cleared out of the building at the end of January."

Break out the hats and hooters!

We can only hope that with the departure of these failed State Department officials, their failed policies will be swept out along with them. Chief among these is the almost universally held idea that poverty causes terrorism. The United States has wasted uncounted (literally, because a great deal of it was in untraceable bags full of cash) billions of dollars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, and other countries in the wrongheaded assumption that Muslims turn to jihad because they lack economic opportunities and education. American officials built schools and hospitals, thinking that they were winning over the hearts and minds of the locals.

Fifteen years, thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars later, no significant number of hearts and minds have been won. This is partly because the premise is wrong. The New York Times reported in March that "not long after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001...Alan B. Krueger, the Princeton economist, tested the widespread assumption that poverty was a key factor in the making of a terrorist. Mr. Krueger's analysis of economic figures, polls, and data on suicide bombers and hate groups found no link between economic distress and terrorism."

CNS News noted in September 2013 that "according to a Rand Corporation report on counterterrorism, prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2009, `Terrorists are not particularly impoverished, uneducated, or afflicted by mental disease. Demographically, their most important characteristic is normalcy (within their environment). Terrorist leaders actually tend to come from relatively privileged backgrounds.' One of the authors of the RAND report, Darcy Noricks, also found that according to a number of academic studies, `Terrorists turn out to be more rather than less educated than the general population.'"

Yet the analysis that poverty causes terrorism has been applied and reapplied and reapplied again. The swamp is in dire need of draining, and in other ways as well. From 2011 on, it was official Obama administration policy to deny any connection between Islam and terrorism. This came as a result of an October 19, 2011 letter from Farhana Khera of Muslim Advocates to John Brennan, who was then the Assistant to the President on National Security for Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism, and later served in the Obama administration as head of the CIA. The letter was signed not just by Khera, but by the leaders of virtually all the significant Islamic groups in the United States: 57 Muslim, Arab, and South Asian organizations, many with ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Islamic Relief USA; and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

The letter denounced what it characterized as U.S. government agencies' "use of biased, false and highly offensive training materials about Muslims and Islam." Despite the factual accuracy of the material about which they were complaining, the Muslim groups demanded that the task force "purge all federal government training materials of biased materials"; "implement a mandatory re-training program for FBI agents, U.S. Army officers, and all federal, state and local law enforcement who have been subjected to biased training"; and more-to ensure that all that law enforcement officials would learn about Islam and jihad would be what the signatories wanted them to learn.

Numerous books and presentations that gave a perfectly accurate view of Islam and jihad were removed from coounterterror training. Today, even with Trump as President, this entrenched policy of the U.S. government remains, and ensures that all too many jihadists simply cannot be identified as risks, since the officials are bound as a matter of policy to ignore what in saner times would be taken as warning signs. Trump and Tillerson must reverse this. Trump has spoken often about the threat from "radical Islamic terrorism"; he must follow through and remove the prohibitions on allowing agents to study and understand the motivating ideology behind the jihad threat.

The swamp needs draining indeed. The "bloodbath" at the State Department is a good sign that the U.S. is on its way back on dry land.



Ivanka has the last laugh

Who needs Nordstrom? Or Marshall's or T.J. Maxx or Belk, for that matter?  After those stores (and others) bowed to pressure to drop Ivanka Trump's brand from their stores, her products are still selling well elsewhere.

In recent days, the namesake brand of President Donald Trump's oldest daughter have taken over the top two best-selling spots on's beauty section.

Ivanka Trump Eu de Parfum Spray for Women and Ivanka Trump for Women Roller Ball are the No. 1 and No. 2 best sellers in Amazon's "Beauty" department, respectively. They retail between $15 to $46.50 on the website.



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