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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

This is an uncomfortable topic. But when I came into the office this morning, CNN was interviewing the parents of Army Specialist Etienne Murphy about their son. It was a shattering interview. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder whether it isn’t exploitative for networks to put these families on camera at all. It seemed important to Etienne’s mother to read a statement she’d written about her experience. And if you’re going to do such interviews, the CNN host handled the interview with great sympathy and tact. The Murphys, like other families, had never received a call or any contact from the President.

But it also occurred to me: a lot of the relatives who received calls seem to be white and a number of ones who didn’t or had bad experiences seem to be black.

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While the storm and anguish of President Trump’s latest controversy rolls over the news, we’ve learned a lot more about the Russian influence operation supporting Donald Trump’s candidacy last year. Over recent weeks we had already found out about those few hundreds of accounts on Facebook and something in the range of $100,000 in paid advertising on the Facebook platform. Then there was a comparable series of findings on Twitter. More is in the process of emerging from Google and the various platforms it controls. But over recent days, as the information keeps coming, the very repetitiveness of the new findings or the constancy of the flow has perhaps obscured its newness and how much it expands the story.

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Another simply bizarre new thread in the Trump bereavement call story. The Post called the families of service members who’ve died in the line of duty since Trump became President. There were some good stories, some bad; some had never heard from the President. There were a lot of what you might call Trumpian moments. But the really bizarre story was his conversation with Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, killed in Afghanistan.

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We’re now getting all the accounts of just what President Trump said last night to the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, how she interpreted it, how her Congresswoman did, how her family did. These are harrowing situations under the best circumstances. Even for a normal person, a normal President, it’s hard to know just what to say. But why are we here? Why is this whole thing happening? It’s happening because, for whatever reason, Trump went silent on this, not only with the families but even with the public.

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Here’s the President’s comment on the Alexander-Murray Obamacare stabilization proposal from his speech this evening at the Heritage Foundation.

“And I’m pleased the Democrats have finally responded to my call for them to take responsibility for their Obamacare disaster and work with Republicans to provide much-needed relief to the American people. While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray — and I do commend it — I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.”

… per the White House pool report.

Here’s my backgrounder (sub req) on the likely fall out of this Obamacare stabilization bill which has been tentatively agreed to in the Senate. It puts Republicans in an awful bind.

There’s an important backdrop to President Trump’s decision on CSR payments last week and the just announced deal in the Senate to stabilize Obamacare marketplaces. It’s one to follow closely. It’s one we’ll be following closely in our reporting.

If this bill becomes law, that’s a good thing in policy terms. That’s a big if. But the need for this bill was in significant measure created by President Trump’s decision to cut off CSR payments. In other words, President Trump created this necessity.

It is a very uncomfortable necessity for Republicans, particularly in the House. (Alice Ollstein takes a first look at that here.) The compromise makes some significant concessions to Republicans. But at least from my initial look they are not concessions that undermine the core law. That means that now every Republican who votes for it can be pilloried as “voting for Obamacare” or “voting to make Obamacare permanent.”

Of course, there’s some upside for Republicans too. Passing this bill may avoid some of the more dire rate hike outcomes in the midst of the 2018 midterms. But again, President Trump didn’t have to create this mess in the first place.

Every Republican who votes for this is at the mercy at the most aggressive GOP primary opponents. They will all be hanging there terribly exposed. I just heard a talking head on MSNBC arguing that Trump’s – apparent – support for this compromise will give those people cover. Hardly. President Trump is too hostile to CSR payments, too hostile to Obamacare and simply too mercurial and erratic to place any trust on.

If McConnell and Ryan pass this bill with mainly Democratic votes, that puts them in a terrible bind. They let Democrats pass Obamacare again. Remember, Bannon already wants to oust McConnell as the arch-RINO with a storm of primary challengers.

President Trump created this problem. It puts Republicans in an awful bind. Keep an eye on reactions from Republicans, particularly in the House but in the Senate too. We will too.

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