Christie: Is America losing its standing in the world under Trump?

President Donald Trump’s “America First” strategy is seen as a sign of strength by some and making the U.S. weaker on the world stage by others. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Depending on your “point of view” the United States has either re-asserted its dominance on the world stage or confirmed its conspicuous exit.

To be sure, conservatives would argue the former saying that President Donald J. Trump’s tough talk and “America First” strategy leaves no doubt that American interests are what matters most when it comes to foreign policy. But liberals argue that such a self-centered mindset in an increasingly inter-connected world leaves us not only vulnerable, but looking kind of foolish.

At least, the latter was the gist of the reader Point of View in today’s Palm Beach Post:

Do we realize or care that as the world becomes increasingly one global interdependent economy, America’s marginalization will not only threaten our safety but our partnerships? Americans will feel more isolated and more paranoid, but continue to create more detachment and segmentation amongst us that will harm and change these United States irreparably?” ask Burton and Barbara Halpert of West Palm Beach.

Well, that’s a pretty hard line. It’s also indicative of a philosophical split within the Republican Party, according to an October Pew Research poll. (BTW, the same polled also revealed a similar split within the Democratic Party.)

“On questions of the U.S. role in the world, the country-first group is obvious. Three-quarters consider immigrants to be a burden to society; only 4 in 10 think that involvement in the global economy is good. About two-thirds think that openness to the rest of the world puts America’s identity at risk and believe that we should focus more on America’s problems.”

President Trump obviously plays to this crowd as America will no longer allow other nations to dis us while they are taking our money… Take that United Nations! Take that Pakistan! Take that Palestinians!

But does this present an image to the world of a divided America that is closing itself off?

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks in favor of a resolution at United Nations headquarters. The U.S. government last month negotiated a significant cut in the United Nations budget. Haley said that the “inefficiency and overspending” of the organization is well-known, and she would not let “the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of.” (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

POINT OF VIEW: U.S. is losing its standing in the world

In 2017, America saw the loss of nearly everything we have gained since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. That is, how we and the rest of the world view how America approaches democracy, inclusion, humanity, and a place where morality, principals and ethics are not only embraced but openly debated.

Our current “leadership” has encouraged divisiveness not seen in this country in many decades. There is so much friction and hatred that friends who do not see eye-to-eye politically may not be able to salvage relationships. Families are urged not to discuss politics at gatherings so as not to create irreparable upheavals.

In the old days, contentious ideas were encouraged to nourish and build upon the foundations of which our country was established — morality, respect for those who are different from us and celebration for how a united country could contain such disparities with grace, dignity. There was an insistence that our elected officials try to promulgate these ideals.

Donald Trump was elected because he was seen as a political outlier and, indeed, he has proven to be so. His attraction for many who voted for him is that he will shake up Washington, and that he is like the common man. Well, he has shaken up Washington and the common man (and woman) will be paying for it for many years to come in terms of loss of health care options, short-term financial gains which after 2025 drastically cost the middle class, and making the wealthiest companies and individual much more so. Is Trump really like the common man who voted for him?

Our country has lost the respect of the world as we lose credibility with allies and foes alike. We are becoming increasingly destabilized in a global world because our leadership has no education of history, and therefore cannot utilize critical strategies to make our country safer without insulting other cultures. The bravado our president spouts about our country being stronger than ever before is “fake news.” Foreign news reporters say their jobs put them more in peril now then ever before because other countries are so hostile towards the United States. Is this what we sought when we elected Trump? Do we realize or care that as the world becomes increasingly one global interdependent economy, America’s marginalization will not only threaten our safety but our partnerships? Americans will feel more isolated and more paranoid, but continue to create more detachment and segmentation amongst us that will harm and change these United States irreparably?

Our leadership uses masterful manipulation to claim that we are victims. Trump models how not to be a victim by shouting, insulting, bullying and keeping a stable of lawyers employed to fight the multitudes of lawsuits that have been waged against him. And all the while doing so with billions of dollars in the bank. Is this really a role model that we can all identify with?

America needs to wake up and realize that gross mistakes have been made; and that it is OK to admit to mistakes because only then can we try and rectify them. Our country is the laughingstock of the world. And if you feel this is what is making America great again, then we can sink only further into the abyss.

May God bless and save the United States of America.

BURTON AND BARBARA HALPERT, WEST PALM BEACH

Christie: Where are the #MeToo kudos for the good guy non-harassers?

CARTOON VIEW SCOTT STANTIS

The way the #MeToo movement has taken off has men in pretty much every industry quaking in their boots these days as they search their memories for any incident that could have been construed as sexual harassment by a colleague.

“Well I certainly didn’t grope anyone, but was that flirtatious comment or hug over the line?” they might ask themselves.

In truth, it’s probably a good idea. Every man has arguably been guilty of borderline boorish behavior at some point in his life. Much of it — depending on the perceived infraction, of course — attributable to being young and stupid.

However, this excuse tends to fall to the wayside the older and more mature a man is, right? Yes. Definitely.

RELATED: Commentary: From ‘Me Too’ to ‘Not One More’

RELATED: Commentary: #MeToo isn’t the right answer to sexual misconduct

That all said, a legitimate question has arisen about those men who managed to keep their boorish behavior — and hands — in check because they were “raised right”. Those male colleagues who actually encouraged their female counterparts in their careers.

With so much bad boy behavior being brought forth, are these good guys getting lost in the din?

The following op-ed from Post reader Karen Coody Cooper raises that point. Do you agree?

POINT OF VIEW: A long time coming

There is a long history bringing us to this moment where society is finally listening to women speaking out about sexual assaults from men in the workplace. Whether this movement can accomplish change hangs in the balance. Those who think women should just get over it seemingly want to give men a free pass. Admittedly, there are degrees of harassment, and this new movement will succeed only if we are collecting evidence and analyzing degrees of egregiousness.

After finishing my undergraduate work in anthropology, the dean of my department gave me a night class to teach. I felt he was demonstrating extraordinary confidence in my abilities. Instead he just wanted an excuse to see me during evening hours and invite me to a hotel room. My dilemma was that if I declined, he would probably not hire me again, nor provide stellar recommendations, or mentor me when hurdles arose. He should have been the one who could advise me on what to do in this situation. Was my career going to end before it began?

Too many young women, initially aspiring to build careers, have deserted workplaces when a male, assigned to mentor, instead moved to conquer. We need to make sure that women report any improper behaviors directed at them. Exit interviews should include asking departing employees if they experienced sexual harassment. I regret not reporting two different occurrences. Looking back, I believe in both instances, the perpetrators were repeat offenders. Our silence serves only to abet those who will harm others. Too often, we move on with our lives. Now, this movement compels us to speak, and to encourage others to speak.

Most men and women from time immemorial partnered their attributes and bonded with respect for each other. Some men, however, never develop empathy or respect for women. Some men continue to see women as conquests.

We need to thank those good men who won’t be patting our butts, the men who are supportive colleagues in the workplace, the men a married woman can have lunch with and know there won’t be come-ons, and male department heads who understand discrimination and will listen when we report the guy who keeps leaving suggestive notes on our desk. We can’t do this alone, but we can transform the world if we, men and women, work together toward the goal of ridding the workplace of sexual harassment.

KAREN COODY COOPER, LAKE WORTH

Goodman: In Boynton, tempers flare as the Trump Effect takes hold

Boynton Beach Commissioner Christina Romelus. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

The Trump Effect is playing out in Boynton Beach, and it’s not pretty.

With fears of deportation on the rise in immigrant communities, first-term city commissioner, Christina Romelus, suggested that Boynton declare itself a sanctuary city. The idea was quickly shot down by the City Commission.

But some residents were so incensed at Romelus for suggesting the idea, they demanded that she resign, be voted out or be impeached.

Romelus, who was born in Haiti, has a better grasp of what being an American means than the self-proclaimed patriots demanding her ouster.

“Having differing opinions and working through those to reach a common goal is how this country was founded,” Romelus told The Post’s Alexandra Seltzer. “Asking for my resignation simply because I had the audacity to bring up a controversial issue is testament to this day and age in which we live. I think it is sad.”

She added that the “grotesque behavior” of those who have been “spewing blind hatred at me for wanting to have a discussion about this issue is alarming and merits attention.”

Romelus said she has no intention of resigning.

Good. She offers a point of view that needs to be heard.

And yes, this subject does merit attention. Let’s put the attention where it belongs: on President Donald J. Trump and the animosities and vitriol he has unleashed with his appeals to racism and xenophobia, ugly currents of American life that are usually held in check by a general sense of restraint, respect and decency.

Take sanctuary cities. This is a concept that’s been around since the 1980s, most famously when San Francisco declared itself a “City of Refuge,” claiming the moral high ground with the argument that asylum-seekers should be shielded from shortsighted federal law enforcement. Some 300 cities, states and counties now consider themselves sanctuary cities, largely on practical grounds: they don’t want immigrants and their families to be scared of relying on local police. And so they limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The republic has seemed to get along well enough with this state of affairs, despite efforts in the 2008 primaries by Republican candidates Rep. Tom Tancredo, of Colorado, and Mitt Romney to crank it into a campaign issue.

But these politicians didn’t have Trump’s gifts for drawing attention, slinging invective, devising phrases that stick in the brain, and using a single horrifying fatal shooting in San Francisco by an undocumented Mexican to represent the whole of cities’ tolerance for illegal immigration.

Take a look at how the phrase “sanctuary city” spiked in Google searches after Trump made it a campaign issue. The chart’s timeline starts in 2004. Curiosity about the subject was minimal until June 2015. That’s the month when the billionaire real estate developer/showman declared for the presidency, telling us about the Mexican “rapists” sneaking over the border.

Since winning the White House, Trump and his attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, have placed a crackdown on sanctuary cities high on their agenda. And now it’s a boiling issue, the very mention of which is seen as grounds for impeaching a city commissioner.

Such are the heightened animosities in the United States under a president who speaks of “fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville, Virginia, confrontation between neo-Nazis and people protesting neo-Nazis. Now, reprehensible views are free to roam — such as those of Cindy Falco-DiCorrado, one of the Boynton Beachers who called for Romelus to resign.

Cindy Falco-DiCorrado at the Dec. 5 Boynton Beach City Commission meeting. (Photo handout: Adam Wasserman)

According to resident Mathi Mulligan, Falco-DiCorrado told him at a meeting this month to speak “better English,” and allegedly told black residents “you’re lucky we brought you over as slaves or else you’d be deported, too.”

Falco-DiCorrado says she was misconstrued, explaining that she always tells her son and husband, who speak with accents, to improve their English. And whatever anyone heard her say about black people, she meant that “out of hardships you can rebuild again and there are blessings.”

Her denials would be more convincing if she didn’t have a Facebook page that, according to Post columnist Frank Cerabino, is filled with tripe, including a post that reads: “If you agree that racism is no longer an actual threat in this country, but a strategy that the Democrats and Liberals use to secure black votes = SHARE!!”

And her attitudes would be less significant if she weren’t a member of Boynton’s Community Redevelopment Agency advisory board.

Now it’s being asked why someone with her views should advise an agency that aims to improve neighborhoods with large minority populations. Vice Mayor Justin Katz asked her this week to resign. She returned his email with a no.

The City Commission seems sure to take up the question at its meeting next Tuesday. Mulligan says, “We will keep pressing on until the City Commission fires this white supremacist from a job that gives her direct power over the lives of people of color.”

Falco-DiCorrado insists she’s no racist but is now, herself, the victim of a “lynch mob” that’s harassing her with emails.

And so, welcome to Boynton Beach, where nerves are frayed, tensions are rising, and in no way can it be said that Boynton Beach is winning. Or being made great again.

What we need is a way to talk about these differences with a whole lot less anger. But we’re not going to have that with a president who sets a tone of disparagement toward minorities and pushes the buttons of white resentment every time he talks to his “base.”

The bully pulpit has become a pulpit that bolsters bullies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christie: Tracy-vs-FAU more about arrogance than free speech, insubordination

Fired FAU professor James Tracy arrives at federal court in West Palm Beach Tuesday morning for his wrongful termination lawsuit against the university. Tracy claims university administrators didn’t like his theories that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting never happened and instead was a charade perpetuated by the government to promote gun control. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Fired Florida Atlantic University Communications professor James Tracy wants his job back. And, according to his lawsuit, he also wants back pay and an unspecified amount in damages.

Whether that happens will be up to a federal  jury that is currently hearing Tracy’s case against the university for allegedly violating his free speech rights when officials terminated him in January 2016. For FAU’s part, university officials argue that the 11-year tenured prof was fired because he was insubordinate. They claim that he violated rules that govern university faculty when he didn’t disclose outside income from his blog — Memory Hole.

RELATED LINK: FAU boss denies Tracy claim that his firing linked to conspiracy blog

The rules violation seems relatively minor in the scheme of things. And probably could have been hashed out with union officials — if it was most other professors. But Tracy was not most other professors.

Tracy, through his blog, put forth and supported conspiracy theories about the role of the federal government in mass killings like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Boston Marathon bombing; calling them hoaxes. It was his comments about Sandy Hook that pushed the moral line on his free speech rights; but even then, FAU officials were careful not to deny Tracy his right to speak his mind outside of his job.

This, despite the fact that the university was still reeling from its share of negative publicity stemming from a couple of their own brain cramps — naming a new stadium after a prison company, and a former FAU president nearly running over students in a school parking lot.

But when the university decided to send Tracy a termination letter in December 2015, The Post Editorial Board commended them for doing so.

Veronique Pozner, the mother of one of the victims of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary, attends the funeral of her son Noah in Fairfield, Conn., Dec. 17, 2012. James Tracy, a Florida Atlantic University professor who has repeatedly promoted false theories about the massacre and harassed the Pozners, is facing termination from the school where he is tenured. (Richard Perry/The New York Times)

Why? Because, as we said then, Tracy went too far in directly attacking the still grieving parents of 6-year-old Noah Pozner — one of the school kids shot to death by a crazed gunman at Sandy Hook — even questioning whether the child ever existed.

RELATED LINK: Editorial: FAU right to say enough to professor

“The Pozners, alas, are as phony as the (Sandy Hook) drill itself and profiting handsomely from the fake death of their son,” Tracy wrote in a December 2015 response to a letter by the Pozners.

FILE — Alex Jones, conservative conspiracy theorist and operator of Infowars.com, in the control room for his right-wing radio show, in Austin, Texas. (Ilana Panich-Linsman/The New York Times)

At that point, Tracy decided to replace free speech debate with arrogance. He decided to discard the mantle of intelligent Communications professor and go all in with carnival barkers and entertainers like Rush Limbaugh, and Alex Jones of InfoWars. Jones, if you recall, was forced to issue an apology for promoting and helping to spread the theory that top Democratic officials were involved with a satanic child pornography ring at a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C.

The public backlash being what it was, where was the incentive for FAU officials to continue to ignore Tracy’s rules violations in favor of him pushing the moral envelope on his free speech rights? True, $2,500 may be construed as a “paltry sum,” as Tracy testified on Friday, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t insubordinate for refusing to report it properly.

But this case isn’t really about insubordination. Nor is it really about the First Amendment. It is really about Tracy’s arrogance.

And he knows it. That’s why he tried to walk back his attack on the Pozners. “I was distraught,” he told the jury on Friday.

But when asked if it was true that the Pozner’s son, Noah, had been shot at Sandy Hook, he stuck by his conspiracy theory. “Reportedly, yes,” he said.

Arrogance.

Christie: Moore sex controversy throws moral test for political candidates out the window

NEW YORK — Beverly Young Nelson (L) speaks to the media with her lawyer Gloria Allred, at a news conference where she has accused Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexually abusing her when she was 16 on Monday. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

There is no more moral test for political candidates. There is only hypocrisy.

That’s about the only conclusion you can come to in the wake of the sexual assault allegations against former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, the Republican candidate to fill an Alabama seat in the U.S. Senate.

For those of you who’ve been too busy binge-watching “Stranger Things 2” on Netflix or traveling overseas like President Donald J. Trump, The Washington Post published an explosive report last week in which four women say Moore pursued them sexually or romantically when they were in their teens — allegations corroborated by more than two dozens witnesses. The youngest accuser, Leigh Corfman, said she was 14 and Moore was 32 when he sexually touched her.

Former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Roy Moore.

Moore has repeatedly denied the allegations made by Corfman, and is staying in the race.

But as expected, this news touched off an avalanche of condemnation from Democrats. And more importantly, dozens of Republicans — including Marco Rubio of Florida — have also offered more tepid calls for Moore to drop out of the Senate race, “If the allegations turn out to be true.”

Well, at least in Corfman’s case, her stepfather has corroborated her story. And Mike Ortiz, an ex-boyfriend of Corfman told CNN she relayed the story to him when they dated for about two years around 2009. Corfman’s description to the Post fits what she told him to a tee, he said.

“But I believed her when she told me and I still believe her,” he said on CNN. “She wouldn’t lie about something like that.”

What’s been eye-opening for many observers is hearing Bible-thumping, morality preaching evangelicals in Alabama imply just the opposite. Yep… these same evangelicals who castigate liberals and progressives for the slightest moral failing are willing to set aside the word of four women accusing the former judge of sexual assault. A fifth woman, Beverly Young Nelson, came forward on Monday with a detailed and particularly creepy encounter with Moore when she was 16 years old.

Conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity asked Moore Friday on his show whether Moore would have dated teenagers when he was in his 30s.

“No, not generally,” said Moore, who also said he always asked the permission of a girl’s mother before dating her.

Uh… “not generally”?

Small wonder Republicans are scrambling ahead of the Dec. 12 special Senate election between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, with the deadline for replacing a candidate on the ballot well past. The polls now have them virtually tied at about 46 percent; putting the GOP’s already tenuous 52-48 Senate majority in further jeopardy on big votes like tax reform.

Dozens of Republicans — including Marco Rubio of Florida — have offered tepid calls for Moore to drop out of the Senate race, “If the allegations turn out to be true.” (Editorial cartoon by Ken Siers)

On Monday, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell had enough. The Kentucky conservative  came around to calling for Moore to drop out of the race, after saying “I “believe the women.” Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Steve Daines of M0ntana publicly rescinded their endorsements after the Hannity interview. And the Republican’s senatorial campaign committee has pulled its funding.

Even those recriminations, however, smack more of political calculus than moral turpitude.

Over the weekend, a former prosecutor who once worked alongside Moore in the early 1980s told CNN it was “common knowledge” at the time that Moore dated high school girls.

“It was common knowledge that Roy dated high school girls, everyone we knew thought it was weird,” former deputy district attorney Teresa Jones told CNN in comments aired Saturday. “We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall … but you really wouldn’t say anything to someone like that.”

Still, Moore remains defiant.

“To think grown women would wait 40 years before a general election to bring charges is unbelievable,” he said at an event in Alabama over the weekend. He later added, “Isn’t it strange after 40 years of constant investigation, that people have waited four weeks before a general election to bring their complaint? That’s not a coincidence.”

I agree. This is the kind of stuff that doesn’t usually come out unless someone is running for office. The bigger the office, the more stuff that will typically come out.

The Rev. Tom Brown, pastor at First Baptist Church of Gallant, speaks to the media before the church service Sunday, Nov. 12, in Gallant, Ala. The First Baptist Church of Gallant is the church the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore attends. “He’s always been a man of character, of integrity, of honor, and there’s nothing in those 25 years that I’ve seen that would challenge that,” Brown said. “That’s all I can go by.” (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Again, that hasn’t much weakened Moore’s support among the evangelical Christian voters of Alabama who write the whole thing off as a Washington establishment plot.

That would be a bit easier to accept if these same good people hadn’t bought, hook line and sinker, the false allegations that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. These same voters, with regard to Moore, now ask: “Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?”

Here’ another couple questions: Whatever happened to their morality test? Does anyone really believe these same Moore supporters would give Democratic rival Jones the benefit of the doubt if such allegations were made?

Moore says he will sue The Washington Post over the story.

No, he won’t.

He says that he will come forward this week with evidence that some of the women have been paid to make the accusations.

No, he won’t.

But will that matter to the moral hypocrites who still support Moore despite these awful allegations?

No, it won’t.

Streeter: Please, don’t blame the women for what Louis C.K. did

Louis C.K. arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

The surprising admission by comedian Louis C.K. to allegations that he exposed himself to fellow female comedians and writers prompted the following post by Palm Beach Post Entertainment writer Leslie Streeter:

On Friday, comedian Louis C.K., the latest in a cavalcade of celebrities accused of sexual harassment and misconduct, confirmed the story of several writers he’d worked with and other comedians that he’d masturbated in front of them. And even though he’d always asked permission before doing so, he admits now that when someone works for you and their livelihood and possibly their future reputation depends on you, it’s not really a request. Twitter’s full of a lot of people who weren’t in those rooms, but are still full of opinions about how the female victims of his workplace grossness should have reacted.

And my response to them is to stop talking about things you don’t know about. I know about it. It happened to me.

I was an eager and naive 22-year-old taking the bus home from my first newspaper job, in Miami, a city I’d only lived in for a few months. I was Mary Tyler Moore. I was Rhoda. I was gonna make it after all. I was…sitting on the bus bench on a rainy day, under the enclosure, when a man maybe in his 20s sat next to me.

Leslie Streeter (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

It was immediately clear there was something wrong, that he was too close, too not casual. I was a nice girl, so even though my Baltimore-bred Spidey Sense told me to get up, he hadn’t really done anything, right? What if my moving made him feel bad? He was of a different race than me. Were my fears racist? I prayed the bus will come faster, and glances over at him. He was staring at me touching himself.

Oh my God!

I let out a yelp and stood up quickly, trying to figure out where another bus stop might be because there weren’t a lot more buses coming and I would be stuck there, pre-cellphone, an hour away from home. And it was raining. So I started to walk to the bench outside of the enclosure and he looked at me — I will never forget this — with this hangdog look inviting pity… Pity!… For him.

And he said, “You’re so pretty. Can’t I just look at you while I do this?” I didn’t say no. I wanted to. I wanted to scream it. But I didn’t want to say anything, I didn’t want to acknowledge him. But this sick bastard took that as permission. I didn’t want to make him mad. He might have been violent, because if he was bold enough to do that in daylight in public, who knows what else he’d do? And I needed the bus. And I was alone here on this stop in this not-nice neighborhood with a man touching himself in front of me.

I know that there are people who would say that this was just a crazy person, a garden-variety creep. That this was just a friendly-neighborhood perv, without the raincoat, and I wasn’t in any danger. But safety isn’t always about being held at knife-point. It’s about someone deciding that they want something from you and that your physical and mental and emotional safety do not matter. It was my fault for being there. For being someone this guy thought was pretty. It was not my fault!

NEW YORK, NY — An exterior view of The Paris Theatre on November 9, 2017 in New York City. The premiere for the movie was canceled after Louis C.K. was accused of sexual misconduct by five women was reported by the New York Times. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

The same goes for those brave women who came forward to tell this story about Louis C.K., a beloved comedian who admits that even though he later called some of them to apologize years later, he knows that his favorable reputation in the business would inoculate him from repercussions. These aren’t even new accusations – they’ve been floating around for years and even I, an entertainment reporter in Florida, had heard them. People are now believing these stories because there are so many of them now, like an ugly avalanche. At least one of these women left comedy because of what was done to her. And all she, and others, did was come to work, and dare to be in the same space as someone who didn’t care about their physical, mental and emotional safety.

Who, for all of his money and influence, turns out to be just another pervert at the bus stop.

Goodman: GOP’s split on Trump forgotten when it comes to coddling financial firms

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., left, and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., right, neither running for reelection, have lashed President Donald Trump with scorching criticism. Here they are in 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

 

Disarray? What disarray?

Yesterday, political reporters and pundits were panting over the bare-knuckled, full-throated criticisms of President Donald J. Trump by two Republican senators: Bob Corker, of Tennessee, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and Jeff Flake, the junior senator from Arizona whose political idol is conservative icon Barry Goldwater.

It was unprecedented to have two Republican stalwarts lambaste a Republican president in such dire terms, especially on the same day.

Corker: Trump has “great difficulty with the truth” and “the debasement of the nation is what he’ll be remembered most for.”

Flake: “Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is, when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.”

This all points, the pundits said, to a great schism between the Trumpists who hold the party regulars in fear, and the liberated few who have been freed to speak against the unclothed emperor because they have opted out of re-election.

And yes, it does speak to a great split between those willing to denounce the danger of Donald Trump’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior,” as Flake called it, and the many toadies who may shudder in private but who shut up in public for the greater cause of passing big tax breaks for the wealthy.

But just hours after Corker and Flake enunciated these noble and necessary statements, they joined with 48 of their fellow Republicans for a nighttime debate and vote to repeal a banking rule that would let consumers band together to sue their bank or credit card company to resolve financial disputes.

Or as it’s also called, GOP business as usual.

A vote from Vice President Mike Pence shortly after 10 p.m. broke a 50-50 tie to strike down the new rule, a major effort by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help consumers fight back against god-awful practices of financial institutions. The bureau is the watchdog created by Congress after the 2008 economic crisis.

One more legacy of the Obama years gets reversed.

The New York Times explains:

The rule, five years in the making, would have dealt a serious blow to financial firms, potentially exposing them to a flood of costly lawsuits over questionable business practices.

For decades, credit card companies and banks have inserted arbitration clauses into the fine print of financial contracts to circumvent the courts and bar people from pooling their resources in class-action lawsuits. By forcing people into private arbitration, the clauses effectively take away one of the few tools that individuals have to fight predatory and deceptive business practices. Arbitration clauses have derailed claims of financial gouging, discrimination in car sales and unfair fees.

The new rule written by the consumer bureau, which was set to take effect in 2019, would have restored the right of individuals to sue in court. It was part of a spate of actions by the bureau, which has cracked down on debt collectors, the student loan industry and payday lenders.

The vote was a big gift to that credit card company that’s hitting you with hidden charges. As the Washington Post put it:

The rules would have cost the industry billions of dollars, according to some estimates. With the Senate’s vote, Wall Street is beginning to reap the benefits of the Trump administration focus on rolling back regulations it says are strangling the economy.

Richard Cordray  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“Tonight’s vote is a giant setback for every consumer in this country,” Richard Cordray, the director of the consumer bureau, said in a statement. “As a result, companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax remain free to break the law without fear of legal blowback from their customers.”

The only two Republicans to join Democrats in voting against the measure were Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Kennedy of Louisiana.

Every other GOP member of the Senate, however they feel about Trump, fell in step when given the chance to coddle Wall Street. That includes Sen. John McCain, who made thinly veiled criticisms of Trump in a speech on Oct. 16 that warned against “half-baked, spurious nationalism.”

John McCain (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

 

You can be sure they’ll do the same thing when it comes to serving up big tax cuts to corporations and rich individuals (unless the so-far-unseen tax legislation contains details unacceptable to some members, as happened with health care).

The Consumers Union and several veterans groups, including the American Legion, lobbied to keep the rule. As well they should have, because class-action lawsuits are a way of putting a spotlight on misdeeds by businesses that would otherwise get little attention. They also allow groups of people to reclaim small amounts of money they otherwise wouldn’t have the time or money to go after.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader in the Senate, is not the most articulate of politicians. But he hit the nail on the head as the Senate neared its vote:

“Once again, we’re helping the powerful against the powerless.”

Goodman: CHIP falls, jeopardizing health for 342,000 kids in Florida

Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy last week, after the collapse of their Graham-Cassidy health care bill, the GOP’s latest attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

So intent were the Republicans in Congress on their latest gasping effort to gut Obamacare that they have threatened the health care of some 9 million children across the U.S., including almost 342,000 kids in Florida.

While all eyes were on the farcical Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the ever-dysfunctional Congress allowed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, to expire. This happened on Saturday (Sept. 30). Unless Congress quickly plays catch-up, states are projected to run out of program funding over the next 12 months. Florida’s funding is foreseen to expire by sometime in January.

CHIP is a noncontroversial program that is routinely renewed. A bipartisan initiative, it was originally co-sponsored, in 1997, by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. The goal: Allow children from low-income families who live above the Medicaid threshold to obtain low-cost health insurance.

Children have no control over their financial circumstances, of course, so they’re especially vulnerable to the high price of health care — as well as to the need for checkups, immunizations, prescriptions and dental and vision care. All these have been covered under CHIP, as well as hospital care, lab work, x-rays and emergency services.

It’s funded primarily through federal funds that states match, $9.7 billion federal and $4 billion state funds in 2015. Florida is one of the states where parents are required to pay monthly premiums of $15 or $20 based on family income.

Just about everybody has been happy with this program for 20 years. But when you have a Congress that’s far more interested in grandstanding than governing, you get a fiasco like this.

All through September, almost every bit of energy on Capitol Hill was spent on the zombie-like moves by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., to bring repeal-and-replace back from the crypt where Sen. John McCain’s no vote had seemed to consign it in July. But this latest bill was even worse than the GOP’s previous versions and even Graham admitted that Republicans didn’t know what they were doing.

Democrats were so focused on defeating Graham-Cassidy that they weren’t paying much attention to the looming expiration of CHIP funding, either.

Hatch and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., did announce in September a plan for extending CHIP money for another five years and boosting funding over time. But that quickly got drowned out by all the drama over Graham-Cassidy.

A Senate and a House committee were scheduled to discuss bills today to continue CHIP funding. They’d better work fast. Arizona, Minnesota and North Carolina are projected to run out of funding by December. Funds for Florida’s 342,000 low-income children, infants and pregnant women would dry up soon after that.

Who is being affected? Dorothy R. .Novick, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, recently wrote this in the Washington Post:

Every day I see patients in my practice who stand to lose their health care if Congress does not act to extend CHIP funding. Consider my patient who grew up in foster care, put herself through college and now earns a living as a freelance clothing designer. She is now a mother herself, and I treat her children. Her 1-year-old son has asthma and her 3-year-old daughter has a peanut allergy. They are able to follow up with me every three months and keep a ready supply of lifesaving medications because they qualify for CHIP.

Or consider the dad with a hearing impairment whose wife passed away two years ago. He supports his teenage daughters by working as a line cook during the day and a parking attendant at night. He sends the girls to a parochial school. He lost their Medicaid when he was given extra hours at his restaurant last year. But I still see them because they qualify for CHIP.

Congress, get to work.

 

Christie: Some travel tips for Trump’s Puerto Rico visit

A political party banner waves over a home damaged in the passing of Hurricane Maria, in the community of Ingenio in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on Monday ahead of President Donald Trump’s visit to the U.S. territory on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

President Donald J. Trump is due to arrive in Puerto Rico today to survey and assess the federal government response to damage in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Other than Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who has been resolute as a picture of diplomacy, the president isn’t likely to get the warmest welcome. Certainly, not like he did in Naples when some Hurricane Irma victims there compared Trump’s response to former President Barack Obama’s playing golf in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (By the way, that’s a lie. Obama wasn’t even in office in 2005 when Katrina hit.)

The 3.4 million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, 95 percent of whom still do not have power, will care less about comparisons and more about answers as to why they’ve been made to feel like second-class citizens by their own country.

RELATED: An unlikely Palm Beach County pair bring relief to Puerto Rico

Plush toys, recovered from a flooded home, hang out to dry on a wrought iron gate in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in the community of Ingenio in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Monday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Of course, most of them can be forgiven for asking. So much has happened since Maria — the second major hurricane to hit the island this season — flattened the place. Trump has repeatedly misstated the size of the hurricane. He has repeatedly talked about what a tough state the island was in to begin with — as if to shift blame. He has talked repeatedly about how Puerto Rico is an island “in the middle of the ocean” — as if to temper expectations. He has even talked about how Puerto Rico might be made to repay the cost of its recovery.

And while taking a weekend at his golf club in New Jersey, even as the scope of the problems in Puerto Rico was still growing, he stopped long enough Saturday morning to take some very personal shots at Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, after she once again criticized The federal response.

JERSEY CITY, NJ — U.S. President Donald Trump looks on from the clubhouse during Sunday singles matches of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on Sunday. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.”

– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017

“…Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They….”

– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017

“…want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”

– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017

RELATED: From his N.J. golf resort, Trump continues to attack mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico

Not good. Especially given that while Trump was tweeting about her “poor leadership,” Cruz was wading through waste deep, sewage-tainted water helping to rescue people.

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz deals with an emergency situation where patients at a hospital need to be moved because a generator stopped working in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Saturday. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

With that in mind, here are a few travel tips for the president as he visits hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico today:

  • Don’t bring up Puerto Rico’s crippling debt load — totaling $73 billion — as that has nothing to do with the problem at hand. Yes, Puerto Rico’s debt “must be dealt with,” as the president pointed out in a dispassionate tweet early last week, but keep the focus on preventing as many of its residents from dying right now.
  • Do remember that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, not a foreign country — even if it is an island “in the middle of the ocean.” Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens just like those in Key West and Houston. That means they can vote. Ask Gov. Rick Scott, who on Monday ordered a state of emergency in Florida to prepare for evacuees; and Sen. Marco Rubio, who has called for a bipartisan detente to address Puerto Rico’s humanitarian crisis.
  • Don’t keep pointing out Puerto Rico’s infrastructure issues. (See “debt load” above.) The island was hit by two major hurricanes in the span of three weeks. The second, Hurricane Maria, was a massive Category 5 storm when it swept across the entire island. Any state’s infrastructure — including Florida — would probably have been left paralyzed in that scenario.
  • Do remember the lesson from the first post-Hurricane Harvey visit to Texas, and mix it up with the citizens. Puerto Ricans are truly suffering, nearly two weeks after the storm. Embrace the role of comforter-in-chief, and show some real in-your-face compassion. Shake a hand, and let the first lady hug a child.
  • And please, don’t over-sell the federal response. Things still aren’t going “great” if you’re the one having to sleep on your porch just to remain cool at night. Things aren’t “fantastic” if you haven’t been able to get to elderly parents in a remote location. There’s no “good news” when you can’t do something as basic as feed your child.

To be sure, the president will find some less critical, more supportive voices among the territory’s 70-plus other mayors, as well as Puerto Rico’s Republican Congresswoman, Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon. But such sentiment, even with the ramping up of federal aid in recent days, will be hard to come by among the regular folks.

This is not the time for victory lap, because Maria is quickly shaping up to be Trump’s Katrina. It has not been a heckuva job. But it still can be.

Good luck, Mr. President.

Christie: Trump, fans have lost sight of Kaepernick’s real NFL protest

Most Americans have lost sight of why former San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick (right) decided to kneel during the national anthem before NFL games. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Arguably, the most disappointing thing about the amped-up debate over National Football League players taking a knee during the national anthem is the subject of the debate.

Thousands of American citizens, and not just NFL fans, are taking the time to let it be known that they are offended by players disrespecting the anthem and the nation’s flag by not standing when the anthem is played ahead of a game.

Players and those who support them are being castigated as unpatriotic and disrespectful to our U.S. military that defends the very freedom of speech they are exercising. And, yes, I know the last part sounds hypocritical.

But more importantly, patriotism had nothing to do with the original intent of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s reason for at first sitting on the bench, and later kneeling during the “Star Spangled Banner.”

To be sure, many of the high school, college and NFL players who are taking a knee during the anthem are doing so mainly in support of Kaepernick, not to highlight the issue of race. For NFL players, in particular, last Sunday’s broad defiance had more to do with defending themselves — and the league — from President Donald Trump than calling attention to racial injustice.

RELATED: Trump continues railing against protesting NFL, NBA players

But the president’s comments and tweets fired up the feelings of many Americans who’ve regarded Kaepernick’s protests as an increasingly annoying distraction.

That was reflected in the Post’s Letters to the Editor on Thursday. For example:

Unpatriotic players can count me out

The unpatriotic behavior of football players who have been exposed to brain trauma playing the game is understandable. Condoning this behavior by Miami Dolphins team owner Stephen Ross is not.

This pathetic patronage to players will only accelerate the already declining viewership of NFL fans. I am proud to count myself as a patriotic former fan.

CHARLES LYDAY, BOCA RATON

Lest we forget, however, Kaepernick declined to stand during the anthem last NFL season to draw attention to our nation’s intractable issue of racial injustice. He acted when there seemed to be a rash of shootings (some fatal) of unarmed black men by law enforcement officers around the country.

You may remember that we had one such tragedy right here in Palm Beach County involving former Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja, and a Delray Housing Department employee and part-time drummer named Corey Jones. The 31-year-old Jones is dead after Raja pumped six bullets into him. Raja is now headed to trial on, among other things, attempted first-degree murder charges.

You may remember also, at the time, that a number of law enforcement officers involved in these shootings were either not being prosecuted or not being convicted.

Kaepernick, riding a wave of popularity after taking the 49ers to the Super Bowl, was frustrated by this perceived injustice and the lack of discussion in our communities that could help bring an end to it all.

Sure, many Americans know racism and racial inequality exist in this country, but talking about it is a whole other issue. It’s either not their problem because they’re not racist, or black people need to stop complaining and appreciate the fact they live in a great country.

To bring attention to this lack of will to talk about race, Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem for a country that would allow any of its citizens to be treated this way. He believed, strongly, that we needed to talk about it.

Was it the best venue for a protest? That’s certainly debatable.

But that shouldn’t be the crux of the debate. From Kaepernick’s standpoint, what good would another press conference do? Who would listen? Wouldn’t most folks be tempted to write him off as just another privileged, million-dollar black athlete who lives better than 90 percent of the people in this country? So who would care?

Because he chose this venue and the national anthem, however, rather than seize on the difficult issue of racial inequality, detractors took the opportunity to wrap themselves in the flag and patriotism.

When President Donald Trump went on his rant at an Alabama rally last week saying “get that son of a b—- off the field” if an NFL player kneels during the anthem, Kaepernick’s concern about racial injustice never passed the president’s lips. From Trump, it was all about disrespecting the flag and our troops. (Yes, this coming from a man who sought, and got five waivers to avoid serving during the Vietnam War.)

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast also weighed in on Facebook criticizing NFL players who kneel in a show of solidarity for Kaepernick. Mast, a Stuart Republican, lost both of his legs while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Again, no mention of racial injustice.

RELATED: Rep. Brian Mast: NFL anthem kneelers ‘should already be gone’

I have a sister who is a Marine Corps veteran. I have a brother who is an Army veteran.

I have three uncles who are Army vets; two of them wounded. I also have two uncles who are Navy vets, and a father who is a 20-year Air Force vet. All were poor black kids from the wrong side of the tracks in Stuart, Fla., who served their country honorably during the Vietnam War.

And I have numerous other relatives who have served, or are still serving in different branches of our military.

I don’t know one that agrees with Mast and Trump.

Maybe because they haven’t lost sight of what Kaepernick’s protest was really about.