As Allegra Kirkland details on our page, President Barack Obama has commuted the prison sentence of Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning, who will now get out of Leavenworth in May of this year rather than in 2045. I want to make two observations about the case. The first is that we are a nation of law, and that is a very good thing, but that we have done very bad -- even evil -- things and it has taken dissenters willing to break the law in order to awaken us to a higher morality. I am thinking of the Abolitionists who died and went to jail to protest slavery and the draft resisters against the Vietnam War. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the infamous Pentagon Papers, might well have gone to jail if not for Richard Nixon's malfeasance.
Whatever the pros and cons of President Obama's decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, we should have more pardons, many more, than fewer. As I wrote back in late 2008, the presidential pardon power has in recent decades shriveled almost to nothing. In recent years, most presidential pardons have been handed out to people who committed relatively minor offenses and had already served their sentences years in the past.
We've seen tons of polls and articles showing that Donald Trump is the most unpopular incoming President in the history of polling and in all likelihood in the history of the country. In a sense that's not terribly surprising since his favorability was extremely low throughout the campaign and he actually lost the popular vote by about 2 percentage points. But there's something more to it than that. He's gotten more unpopular through the course of the transition.
The Congressional Budget Office, Congress's official 'scoring' body, has produced a report on Obamacare repeal and says it will result in 32 million Americans losing their health insurance by 2026. 32 million! Rates would go up 20-25 percent in the first year and then double again by 2026.
Two new polls are out this morning - from ABC/WaPo and CNN/ORC. Both have Donald Trump with an approval rating of 40% on the eve of his inauguration. This is between 20 and 44 points behind other presidents of the last generation.
Last week I watched a conversation on MSNBC in which the anchor asked a guest whether it wasn't a problem that Buzzfeed had published the Trump 'dossier' because this would now give Trump some credibility in dismissing any reporting he didn't like as "fake news". There are plenty of grounds to criticize Buzzfeed's decision on standard journalistic grounds. But the idea seemed to be that because President-Elect Trump was already accusing prestigious journalism organizations of producing "fake news", Buzzfeed's decision might allow him to do it more.
Most people in this country, certainly most members of the political class and especially its expression in Washington, don't realize what Donald Trump is trying to do in Europe and Russia. Back in December I explained that Trump has a plan to break up the European Union. Trump and his key advisor Steve Bannon (former Breitbart chief) believe they can promise an advantageous trade agreement with the United Kingdom, thus strengthening the UK's position in its negotiations over exiting the EU. With such a deal in place with the UK, they believe they can slice apart the EU by offering the same model deal to individual EU states. Steve Bannon discussed all of this at length with Business Week's Josh Green and Josh and I discussed it in great detail in this episode of my podcast from mid-December.
Now we have a rush of new evidence that Trump is moving ahead with these plans.
Let us know if you see news coverage of townhall events or community meetings in your congressional district where Obamacare comes up. Even better if you attended yourself.
[The following is a guest post from political scientist Barnett Rubin, an expert on Afghanistan, Central and South Asia, who served in the Obama administration.]
On December 16, 2016, President Obama, speaking at his last White House press conference, suggested to Donald Trump that, “Since there's only one president at a time,” the president-elect should wait “before he starts having a lot of interactions with foreign governments other than the usual courtesy calls.”
At that time I was in Beijing discussing ideas for U.S.-China cooperation in Afghanistan. Two days earlier, on December 14, 2016, the spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs office warned of the consequences of trying to reopen the One China” policy, three days after Donald Trump had announced in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he would do just that. If so, the spokesman said, “the healthy, stable development of China-US relations is out of the question, and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait will be seriously impacted." In private my Chinese interlocutors parsed that general statement: China could work with the U.S. on areas of common interest such as Afghanistan despite conflicts over the South China Sea, North Korea, or trade, but questioning the unity of China would end such coordination. If Trump carried out such a policy as president, they claimed, China could not rule out taking Taiwan by force.
Years ago I was heavily involved in national security reporting. I learned to be almost infinitely skeptical of what I read in the British press. To some extent, this is just an imperfect familiarity with a foreign country, which affects all foreign reporting to some degree. But let's say also that the standards are just different. With that said, here are some choice nuggets from the latest report from The Independent ...