On the road again as I attempt to get back into a routine and with it gain some level of normalcy had me returning to the White House and attending the daily White House press briefings after a bit of a respite due to personal reasons. Well, if normalcy equates to frustration then watching Sean Spicer do his best impression of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly rolled into one as he tap dances his way to responding to questions hurled at him, no matter how soft the softball question is, then normal it is.
Wonder if Mr. Spicer ever considered simply replying to a question with a direct response. As an example, when asked about why Senior White House Chief Son-in-Law Jared Kushner was going to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee, instead of the rambling response Spicer gave which is too rambling for me to even attempt to paraphrase here he might have simply replied “because he has nothing to hide” as unlikely as that response may be.
The day I returned was the day Jeff Sessions made a guest appearance at the briefing to talk about sanctuary cities and the threat of these cities losing federal funds if they do not cooperate with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) efforts to round up undocumented immigrants. All the Attorney General succeeded in was demonstrating how little he knows about the process and policies that have been in place for some time now.
First, the policy has consistently been to round up undocumented immigrants committing serious and violent crimes and sanctuary cities consistently cooperate with Federal law enforcement agencies, specifically I.C.E., when it comes to their efforts to round up these individuals. To make it sound as if there is no cooperation by sanctuary cities when it comes to serious crimes completely misrepresents reality, but what else is new? Second, the intention of the sanctuary cities is to prevent families from being broken up in the name of illegal immigration when no violent crimes are involved.
When asked about any involvement by the Justice Department in the investigation of the recent rape occurring at Rockville H.S., the Attorney General chose to ignore the question. A horrific crime of this magnitude needs to be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent from every angle and not be relegated to a political talking point.
As for Sean Spicer, his tap dancing dealt mostly with evading questions hurled at him regarding the recently failed American Health Care Act, or “Trumpcare”. The issue that caused him to do his best dancing involved working with Democrats on who the administration has placed the bulk of the blame for the failure to pass the act.
Anyone who has ever attended these briefings is aware of the difficulty for anyone not already in the press pool to get a question in. When I didn't wait to be “chosen” and tried to squeeze my question in without formally being called on, I found myself being reminded by Mr. Spicer that “this isn't a free for all”. Well, maybe not, but my point is still worth considering so here it is: If the administration really was serious about gaining bi-partisan support for a health care bill, wouldn't it be wise to focus on “fixing” the current law and dropping the demand to “scrap” the current law? Well, the answer to that is yes if the goal is to provide affordable health care to all; it is no if the goal is to eliminate the previous administration's accomplishment for purely political reasons.
The primary issue that must be addressed regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. Obamacare, is rising premiums. There are ways to deal with that issue without repealing the entire law since to do that would result in eliminating health insurance for upwards of 24 million Americans as well as eliminating the so many elements of the law which voters want such as not being denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition. If the goal is to make health insurance more affordable for the bulk of citizens, then this is a good place to start in a bi-partisan manner. President Obama attempted to do just this as he, as well as Hillary Clinton, recognized from the outset that there was ample room for improvement of the ACA just not ample bi-partisan cooperation.
If the goal really is to make health insurance more affordable I strongly suggest that Health Insurance Industry profits and CEO bonuses take a back seat to lowering premiums by requiring health insurance companies to participate in the health insurance exchanges. You are either in the health insurance business or you are not. Participating in the exchanges by health insurance companies should be a requirement for insurance providers since it is a key market place for health insurance purchasers. Requiring participation increases competition which lowers prices. It's simple math.
Back on the topic of Sean Spicer's dance routine, at a subsequent briefing the primary topics turned to the investigations into Russia's involvement in our presidential election and also a recently signed executive order regarding trade issues.
Well, on the topic of trade, Spicer confused anti-dumping and countervailing duties. For my readers who are not familiar with these terms, as Spicer clearly is not as he failed to do his homework, countervailing duties deal with a foreign government providing subsidies to its manufacturers to give them an advantage in the foreign market. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) applies a countervailing duty to the imported merchandise to offset that subsidy and bring the dutiable price to a fair market value. Similarly, an anti-dumping duty is applied to imported merchandise when a foreign country/manufacturers “dumps” merchandise, like steel from China, on the U.S. market by selling that steel at a less than fair market price that is considerably lower than the price of the same steel when sold in China. CBP applies an anti-dumping duty to offset the difference in the prices and bring the imported steel to a fair market value for tariff purposes. Countervailing duties and antidumping duties are similar but slightly different AND both are not new issues discovered by the new administration. These programs have been in place for decades and just because El Trump just became aware of them does not mean they didn't already exist.
Regarding the investigations into Russia's involvement in our elections, Mr. Spicer chose to address those questions by pointing out that Hillary Clinton had closer ties to Russia than did Donald J. Trump. One can only surmise from this dance that Mr. Spicer would have us believe that the Russians favored Hillary Clinton as president and somehow botched up their interference in our election. The favored press, a.k.a. the White House press pool, failed to pin him down as to the relevance of Hillary's Russian connections to Russia's attempt to influence the election since she did not win. Oh, if only he had called on me!