Lets get this thread started with this one, from Huffington, just because it looks like it will set the tone for the rest of this administration:
Trump Blames Obamacare Defeat On Democrats Whom He Never Asked For Help
The president believes the opposition party should have given him votes to dismantle their legacy.
By Sam Stein
In the moments after it was announced that his health care bill was dead and pulled from consideration, President Donald Trump had pinpointed the culprit. Democrats, he explained, were to blame for the failure because they refused to provide him with any of their votes.
"We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats," Trump explained. "With no Democrats on board, we couldn?t quite get there.?
"When you get no votes from the other side ― meaning the Democrats ― it is a very difficult situation," he said elsewhere.
Trump is right in noting that there was no bipartisan appetite for his health care proposal. And certainly, when you start without any support from the other side of the aisle, it is hard to pass much of anything.
But if the lack of Democratic support was to blame for this governing debacle, Trump has no one to blame but himself.
During the course of putting together the repeal-and-replace process for Obamacare, Trump never once reached out to a member of the Democratic leadership to discuss policy matters or vote counts. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi?s office confirmed as much. So too did Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer?s office.
Ben Marter, a spokesman for Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), noted that Trump had "called the Post and the Times today" to discuss health care reform defeats, ?but not us.?
Even the likely targets of bipartisan outreach said that during the course of the entire process they never heard from Trump. A spokesman for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said a call never came.
Why Trump would expect to get Democratic votes when he was gunning to gut their primary domestic policy achievement and refusing to talk to them about doing so is not clear. But he clearly felt that it was in their self-interest to have worked with him even though he never asked. Speaking to reporters, the president said he expected Democrats to now be supportive of reform because they?d have no one else to blame when or if Obamacare collapsed.
"The losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer because now they own Obamacare," he explained. "This is not our bill. This is their bill."
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:28 AM March 29, 2017
Donald Trump?s health care debacle is a political train wreck that could not have been avoided, in large part because a clueless, couldn?t-care-less engineer was at the controls: Trump himself. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the main cause of the extraordinary defeat was Trump?s own leadership, or lack of it. His humiliation is an object lesson in what happens to lying, blustering, post-factual presidents: They lose the credibility they need to get things done.
To be sure, the entire attempt to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, as the landmark program known as the Affordable Care Act was better known, was a foolhardy undertaking from the start; once 20 million more Americans had enjoyed the benefits of the hard-fought law, it was politically difficult to reverse course. The repeal part was driven mainly by the politics of resentment?the same politics which fueled Trump?s unlikely presidential run. In previous terms, even when they did not have the right conditions for a repeal, Republicans sought repeatedly to undo one of Barack Obama's chief legacies. They kept voting symbolically to repeal it.
What makes the decision to pull the American Health Care Act, as Trumpcare was formally known, from consideration on the floor of the House of Representatives last Friday even more striking, then, was that all the political branches of the US federal government were in Republican hands. But many Republican senators went on record to say they could not support the measure, and both conservative and moderate Republican wings in the House opposed it. The new president of the United States, of course, is Republican.
It is true that the seven-year-long Republican dream to undo Obamacare proved to be an intraparty nightmare in real life. The House Freedom Caucus did not support the bill because it was not conservative enough and did not do enough damage to the Affordable Care Act. The moderates heeded the Congressional Budget Office?s warnings about leaving millions of people without insurance. The job was thus cut out for Trump: Balance his party's competing interests. Like never before, the spotlight focused on Trump's leadership style?and he wilted.
The self-proclaimed artful negotiator could not bring his own party to the table. Again, the internal divisions were serious and real. But Trump's approach to negotiation all but assured that the divisions remained in place. In lieu of detail, he offered bluster. Instead of compromise, he set take-it-or-leave-it deadlines. The candidate who promised that Americans would be "so tired of winning" under his presidency did not know how to win.
In the end, his own party failed to come together because Trump was a divisive figure rather an uniting one. His two attempts to impose a discriminatory anti-Muslim travel ban were stopped by the courts. His entirely unnecessary alienation of his country?s traditional allies has continued and now includes Germany. His campaign's unusual closeness to the Russian government is under investigation. He continues to tweet unpresidential tweets at odd hours. And his ratings keep plumbing historic new lows.
When political careers are at stake, who would rely on someone unreliable in the clutch like Trump? The lies, bluster, and post-factual assertions of the new president finally caught up with him.
Even after the stinging defeat, Trump could not manage to find his way to speak the truth. "The best thing that could happen is exactly what happened?watch," he said. His presidency invested a massive amount of political goodwill and government resources in the last few weeks to try to kill Obamacare; now he expects his country and the rest of the world to forget all of that happened. Trump needs some serious health care of his own.
Trump's poll numbers are low. But the people who put him in office say it's not time to judge him ? yet
It?s been five months since the euphoria of a Donald Trump rally at the local arena brought optimism to this former Democratic stronghold. The snow from a long winter has begun melting into the rocky soil, and the digital sign in a torn-up parking lot blinks hopefully: "Warm days are coming."
President Trump has yet to deliver jobs or the repeal of Obamacare. But here, in an area crucial to his unexpected election victory, many residents are more frustrated with what they see as obstruction and a rush to judgment than they are with Trump.
Give him six months to prove himself, said an information technology supervisor. Give him a year, said a service manager. Give him four years, said a retired print shop owner.
"Give the man a chance," said Crystal Matthews, a 59-year-old hospital employee. "They?re just going to fight him tooth and nail, the whole way."
Public opinion polls show Trump at historic lows. That's largely because, unlike most presidents, he has failed to attract new support since election day. Instead, his actions have energized his opposition and turned off some who had ambivalent feelings.
But while some supporters have abandoned the president amid an FBI investigation, a string of political defeats and diplomatic flare-ups, most of those who voted for Trump have stuck with him.
Wilkes-Barre, in a valley along the Susquehanna River, is emblematic of the mid-sized cities in the rust belt that proved decisive to Trump's winning electoral formula and the tenacity of his support.
The region once drew prosperity from coal and remains dependent on industry including, in recent years, warehouse distribution and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The late 19th century brick factories lend downtown a historic quality that sets it apart from the chain stores atop the hill overlooking town.
Jim Haggerty, a 63-year old resident of nearby Forty Fort, sat in Sweet Treet diner on a recent weekday morning, reading the local newspaper and lamenting that two of his three children left the area after obtaining college degrees. His third may have no choice but to do the same when he graduates.
"This area lacks quality jobs," said Haggerty, who retired from the printing business he owned. "We?ve got blue collar, after blue collar, after blue collar."
Luzerne County, which includes Wilkes-Barre, gave nearly 60% of its vote to Trump, four years after supporting Obama. Among the three Pennsylvania counties that flipped from blue to red in 2016, playing a key role in delivering the state to Trump, Luzerne had the largest Republican uptick ? nearly 12 percentage points.
Trump built loyalty here. He held two rallies in Wilkes-Barre; the second came during the lowest point in his campaign, after a recording emerged in which he bragged about grabbing women against their will.
The crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena chanted "CNN sucks" that day in October, a sign that they were more angry with the news media than with Trump.
Many of those who stood in the same arena this week to watch the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton Penguins face off against the Utica Comets in a minor league hockey game said they remained disgusted with the coverage of Trump. One man acidly rattled off the names of network anchors ? Lester Holt, Wolf Blitzer ? naming them as among the people conspiring to stop Trump from breaking the mold of "bought and paid for" politicians.
"They?re going to do anything they have to do to make sure Trump doesn?t succeed," said Rich Martini, a 51-year-old book printer, sipping a beer in the hallway amid the smell of glazed nuts and mustard.
"There?s a bias," said David Ambrulavage, a 50-year-old IT manager, wearing a white Penguins jersey in the nosebleed seats as the Zamboni cleared the floor and Aerosmith?s ?Dream On? blasted from the sound system.
Are Trump and his family making money off the presidency? He wouldn't be the first, Ambrulavage said.
Did the Trump campaign collaborate with Russians to influence the election? They didn?t invent the emails that embarrassed Clinton, he said. Those were drafted by Democrats.
Ambrulavage was also annoyed by the attention paid to smaller issues, like Kellyanne Conway, the Trump advisor, casually sitting on the president?s couch with her shoes on while snapping a picture of a group of visitors to the Oval Office.
Yet he does not leave Trump blameless. Like many here, Ambrulavage believes some of Trump?s wounds are self-inflicted, the result of tweeting unfounded claims and making provocative statements when he doesn?t have to.
"He would be wise to cool it, stop doing it," he said. "It only adds fuel to the fire."
To Ambrulavage, those problems do not outweigh Trump?s focus on beefing up military spending, approving a crude oil pipeline from Canada and trying to prevent companies from moving their workforces overseas.
Ambrulavage wants to get rid of Obamacare and believes the president hurt his ability to win votes in Congress by creating a "lot of noise" with his tweets and outspoken comments.
Trump and Republicans in Congress pledged to quickly repeal Obamacare, but last week, amid GOP infighting, pulled a bill that would have done so.
Healthcare is no longer at the top of Trump?s agenda, but several Trump supporters here remain adamant that the Affordable Care Act has to go, suggesting they may punish Trump and Republican lawmakers if they fail to live up to their promise.
Yet the definition of repeal, or what comes after it, demonstrates why the topic is so thorny for Republicans.
And then there?s Mike Stewart, who voted for Trump but celebrated the president?s failure to repeal Obamacare.
"The only thing I have from the government is Obamacare," said Stewart, a retired insurance salesman and construction worker.
Stewart said he only learned after the election that he qualified for an Obamacare insurance subsidy, which he says saves him more than $700 a month. He added that he still would have cast a vote for Trump, who he believes will improve education and care for the homeless.
Stewart?s approval for Trump is not unlimited. He just wants to give him time to prove he can learn politics. But he said he dared not raise any complaints about Trump with his friends, who uniformly defend the president.
"It?s an absolute joke. He has no idea what he?s doing," said Jeanne Laktash, a 34-year-old Internet copywriter from Dickson City, a small city northeast of Wilkes-Barre. She reeled off a list of grievances against Trump, including a budget that proposed slashing Meals on Wheels.
"It seems like he could do anything, and they wouldn?t care," she said ruefully. "I haven?t seen a lot of buyers? remorse."
Spy fiction? Russia tale of election interference grips US
01:04 AM March 30, 2017
WASHINGTON, DC ? Secret meetings, phone taps, Russian oil money and mysterious intelligence dossiers: the swirling scandal over US President Donald Trump's ties to Moscow has all the makings of a classic spy novel?whose ending has yet to be written.
But the maelstrom engulfing Washington over Russia?s interference in the US election last year is very real, and the political stakes have never been higher: Trump's presidency itself.
Increasingly the story is turning to one of deliberate misinformation, leaks to the media, and worries of a high-level cover-up.
The plot appears simple: Moscow, aiming to damage the presidential prospects of Democrat Hillary Clinton, deployed hacked documents and misinformation to boost the campaign of rival Trump.
But underlying that is the explosive question: Did Trump's campaign collude with Moscow?
That's where the wiretaps, a former British spy's dossier on contacts between Trump's campaign and Russian intelligence, Trump's business dealings with Russian tycoons, and cryptic statements by US spy chiefs, take hold of the plot.
The Director of National Intelligence and the heads of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency announced on Jan. 6 that they were convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin had masterminded the effort to manipulate the November election.
But they held back their evidence. Nor did they comment on the report by Christopher Steele, a former British MI6 agent, that details numerous alleged communications between Trump advisers and Russian officials during 2016.
The Steele report, which has not been substantiated and has been rejected by the White House as "fake news," lies at the heart of suspicions of collusion. It also, provocatively, suggests Putin has possession of a sex video secretly filmed in 2013 while Trump was in Moscow.
Cast of characters
Like any good political yarn, the story has unfolded with a kaleidoscopic cast of characters.
A key mystery man throughout is Russia's chummy ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, who appears to have met Trump and everyone around him during the campaign.
There is Michael Flynn, a former US military intelligence chief who was generously paid to attend a gala of Russia's RT television in December 2015, where he sat together with Putin.
It was Flynn's half-truths about his calls with Kislyak that forced him out of his new job as White House national security adviser in February.
Another key person is Paul Manafort, who spent years working for Moscow-backed Ukraine leader Viktor Yanukovych before becoming Trump's campaign chief. Did he also have contact with Russian intelligence, as the New York Times suggests?
Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, met with Russia?s ambassador and a top Russian banker in December.
Jeff Sessions, Trump's attorney general, first said he never met Kislyak during the campaign and then admitted to doing so. Carter Page, a Trump adviser and former Moscow-based banker, also met the omnipresent Moscow envoy and other Russian officials.
The question now is whether various investigations will go ahead, without interference.
The FBI is conducting a counterintelligence probe, under the lead of a director already under a cloud for his own alleged interference in the election, which hurt Clinton.
The House and Senate intelligence committees, which are privy to classified intelligence, are also investigating.
But the House committee probe appears under threat.
Its chief, Republican Devin Nunes, canceled a planned open hearing this week after he "discovered" secret surveillance documents that he said showed Trump and associates were picked up in "incidental collections" by US intelligence agencies.
Nunes later admitted having received the documents during a surreptitious visit to a White House "safe" room last week.
Rather than share the information with his committee, Nunes made a very visible trip to present it to Trump, who said it "somewhat" vindicated his unproven charge that then President Barack Obama had ordered the intelligence agencies to wiretap Trump Tower during the campaign.
Since then Nunes has revealed nothing about the information he received, drawing sharp criticism and calls to step down.
Jackie Speier, a Democratic member of the committee, said the moves smacked of an effort by the White House and Nunes to shut down the House investigation.
"I don?t think the president wants this investigation to go forward," she told MSNBC on Tuesday.
At the center, of course, is Trump, who has animated the story with his off-the-cuff tweets. But he perpetuates suspicions by criticizing US intelligence bodies, the media and Democrats, while praising the Russians.
His focus has been to defend his election victory as legitimate while changing the subject. ?AFP
PALM BEACH, United States ? Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping arrived in Florida Thursday for a first face-to-face summit, eying a basket full of "tweetable" deals to help avoid a public clash.
Xi touched down at Palm Beach airport, where he received red carpet treatment and a military honor guard that offered no hint of the tensions that permeate this high-stakes superpower pow-wow.
Trump arrived a little later and headed to his Mar-a-Lago resort - dubbed the "Winter White House" - where he will host Xi for what promises to be a masterclass in studied informality.
The agenda for the 24 hour summit has purposely been left open, allowing the leaders to freewheel and build a rapport. Thursday's main event is a joint dinner.
Matt Pottinger, a top White House Asia expert who was tasked with planning the summit, promised a "relaxed interaction" despite a backdrop of tensions over trade and North Korea.
"Spouses will be there" said Pottinger, indicating the leaders will be joined Thursday evening by US first lady and former model Melania Trump and Peng Liyuan - a celebrated folk singer who was once more famous than her husband.
The group will "have an opportunity to have tea together, meet some of their senior cabinet officials, so to speak, on both sides, and have a dinner," Pottinger added.
Talks will continue up to a working lunch on Friday.
Amid concerns about security and public perceptions, officials said Xi and his wife will not be staying at Mar-a-Lago, but at a resort and spa a short drive down the palm-fringed coast that is, for now, watched by snipers, tactical units and a coastguard cutter.
The carefully choreographed dinners and displays of bonhomie mask an almost palpable anxiety about how the meeting will go.
No one - neither diplomats nor aides - can be sure what will happen when the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation meets a mercurial American president who has been in office less than 100 days and is capable of unraveling the most carefully-laid plans with a single 140-character tweet.
For that reason Xi is arriving with a gift-basket of "tweetable deliverables", sources say, peace offerings on Trump's signature issues - trade and jobs - that he hopes will smooth over a relationship that began on shaky ground following disagreements over Taiwan.
Top of the list, according to a source briefed on Xi's plans, will be a package of Chinese investments aimed at creating more than 700,000 American jobs - the number pledged to Trump by China's regional rival Japan, during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's February Mar-a-Lago visit.
There may also be offers to further open China's auto and agricultural markets, insiders say, and even some concessions on Chinese banks' transactions with North Korea, a vital financial lifeline for the country.
In return, Xi hopes to get assurances from Trump on punitive tariffs and that an American arms sale to Taiwan will be delayed, at least until after a major Communist Party meeting later this year.
Trump?s position on the democratically-ruled Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province, has been a major irritant since the billionaire politician accepted a protocol-breaking phone call from the Taiwanese president after his election victory.
All politics is loca
The summit stakes, both domestic and international, are high.
Disagreements over approaches to North Korea or bilateral trade could, if mishandled, destabilize North East Asia or tank the global economy.
On the domestic political front, Xi is heading into a critical year. Ahead of a party congress that could cement his grip on power for years to come, he needs to show that he can deal with the US leader as an equal.
He "cannot afford to lose face while China aspires to be the new center of gravity for the world order," China political analyst Willy Lam told AFP.
Meanwhile, Trump - who is reeling from legislative defeats, low approval ratings and unrelenting scandals - desperately needs a win.
He may not have much room to maneuver, however, with a country he has castigated for "stealing" American jobs and doing "little" to rein in North Korea's nuclear program.
Even though the two leaders "want to project themselves as very forceful, very decisive and also getting the best for the benefit of their own countries, they are also anxious not to get into difficult negotiating positions," according to Lam.
On the US side, however, North Korea will likely top the agenda following a provocative missile launch Wednesday - barely 48 hours before the summit.
The Trump White House worries Pyongyang is just months away from marrying nuclear and long-range missile technology and putting the west coast of the United States within striking distance.
The tough-talking new president has repeatedly and very publicly indicated his openness to military action.
While Beijing has condemned the missile tests, it has hesitated to take dramatic action against Pyongyang, fearing that the country's collapse would generate a flood of refugees across its borders and leave the US military on its doorstep.
But coming to an agreement on the issue will not be easy, according to Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
"I don?t think they?re talking about solutions? at the end of the day, their interests are not really the same as the United States.'" CBB