Saturday, April 1, 2017

A conservative tells fellow Republicans where to go on health care

David Frum, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, is a neoconservative political commentator and senior editor for The Atlantic monthly magazine.  He was an early dissenter from the Republicans' rhetoric against Obamacare and warned against their obstructionism -- and he met with disapproval, even ostracism, from the party faithful for his "lack of message discipline."  That was seven years ago.

Now that Republicans control both houses of Congress, as well as the Presidency -- and still couldn't manage to carry out their promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Frum has written a new piece for the Atlantic, called "The Republicans' Waterloo."  In it, he refrains from saying "I told you so," to his fellow free-market conservatives.   But he does get around to talking honestly about where the American people have come to on the question of health care, and he has advice for the Republicans about what to do now.   Below are excerpts from that part of Frum's article.

". . . . In that third week in March in 2010 [when the ACA was passed], America committed itself for the first time to the principle of universal (or near universal) health-care coverage.   That principle has had seven years to work its way into American life and into public sense of right and wrong.  It's not yet unanimously accepted.   But it's accepted by enough voters -- and especially by enough Republican voters -- to render impossible the seven-year Republican vision of removing that coverage from those who have gained it under the Affordable Care Act.

"Paul Ryan still upholds the right of Americans to "choose" to go uninsured if they cannot afford to pay the cost of their insurance on their own.  His country no longer agrees.  What happens now? . . .  [Here follows a discussion of the questions that will have to be settled, like how much coverage?   who pays? etc.  Then Frum writes:]

". . . . Conservatives have a crucial role to play in shaping the future American health-care system to enhance and support enterprise, innovation, individual responsibility -- to resist open-ended spending, state planning, and the risk that social insurance will penalize effort and success.  It's past time to accept reality, quit promising the impossible, and do the work that a democracy that seeks both equality and efficiency should expect from its more conservative-minded thinkers and politicians.

"Whatever else the 2016 election has done, it has emancipated Republicans from one of their worst self-inflicted blind spots.  Health care may not be a human right, but the lack of universal health coverage in a wealthy democracy is a severe, unjustifiable, and unnecessary human wrong. . . .

". . . .What I would urge is that those conservatives and Republicans who were wrong about the evolution of this debate please consider why they were wrong:   Consider the destructive effect of ideological conformity, of ignorance of the experience of comparable countries, and of a conservative political culture that incentivizes intransigence, radicalism, and anger over prudence, moderation, and compassion."

That is the kind of conservative voice that has been drowned out by the "intransigence, radicalism, and anger" that has taken over the Republican party.  No one, save possibly John McCain or Lindsey Graham, dares speak with such a voice.   But maybe this humiliating defeat for current leaders will allow more who agree to stand up and speak --- and work with Democrats to improve and advance the Affordable Care Act.


Friday, March 31, 2017

The Nunes soap opera: The "what" become clearer; the "why" is still murky

Today's reveal in the ongoing Nunes soap opera is this:   we now know the identity of the two White House officials who showed Nunes the information they had found.

With several sources identifying them, the two men are:   Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council;  and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Council's Office.  Ellis formerly worked with Nunes on the House Intelligence Committee, of which Nunes is now chair.

So far, there is no indication that the White House is unhappy that their names have been revealed, which adds to the impression that this all was done by and for the administration, rather than a disloyal leak.  It appears to me that Trump wanted to get this out so he could spin it as validation for his claim that Obama had "wire-tapped" him.

But, if that is the case, why the cloak and dagger drama?   Why not just release it?  Say your people have been looking through the records and found it.   Why make a mystery where there doesn't need to be one?

My guess is that they wanted it to appear to have been "discovered" by the committee investigation rather than dug up by the Trump administration, which might raise suspicions of it being a plant.  (or maybe it was a plant?)

When are they going to learn that, under such intense scrutiny as this, any deception will come out -- and then you look guilty even when there's nothing to be guilty about.


Later Thursday breaking news on the Nunes/Trump/Russian soap opera

Later Thursday News:   It's breaking fast.   One thread is in the National Security Office.   The Director of National Security, Gen. McMasterdid not know his staffer Cohen-Watnick had been searching through their files for anything that would benefit Trump.

When McMaster replaced Gen. Flynn as Director of National Security, he wanted to get rid of Cohen-Watnick, who had been brought into his job by Flynn and who, some say, had no more expertise for being in the NSA than does Bannon.   But now it's reported that Bannon and Jared Kushner told McMaster to keep him;  McMaster still said no.   Bannon and Kushner appealed to Trump, who sided with them and told McMaster to let him stay.

Which raises a question:  was Cohen-Watnick, and maybe Ellis too, Trump's inside source at his own NSA?   We know that Trump places loyal people in agencies to keep watch and report to him on people.  Were Cohen-Watnick and Ellis operating a side channel of highly sensitive material directly to the Trump inside group?   And who else?    Russia???

Very unsettling questions -- and we need answers.

Thread #2 is that the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Gen. Flynn has offered to testify to the Intelligence Committees and to the FBI on Trump's ties with Russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution.  It's a way of getting someone to talk and implicate higher ups, where they might otherwise take the 5th amendment against self-incrimination.   So far, none of the three groups has taken him up on it.   But he has a lot to say that could be very damaging to the Trump team.

Thread #3.   The chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees (Nunes and Schiff, Burr and Warner) have been invited to the White House to view classified documents.   The invitation was in response to a letter they had sent requesting information about any surveillance material involving any of the Trump team.   Will it be the same they showed Nunes?

The invitation came from the White House top lawyer, McGahn, rather than from the intelligence team, as it usually would.   Why?   And the timing was peculiar.   Though they had sent the written request five days ago, the invitation was delivered at the same time that a delayed press conference began, at which Sean Spicer announced that they had been invited.   Sounds like this whole thing is  unfolding like an attempt to salvage a botched cover-up plan -- and all arranged right there in the White House, maybe even the Oval Office.

There are so many parallels to Nixon and Watergate;  and they are expanding so rapidly that it's time to ask:  "What did the president know, and when did he know it?"   I want to add:   "What did the Vice President know, and when did he know it?"   Surely by now he's figured out what's going on, so let's add:   "And what did he do when he figured it out?"


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Nunes' story gets curioser and curioser; Testimony of Sally Yates (Acting AG) and John Brennan (former CIA Director) abruptly cancelled. Suppression of testimony??

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes' story about where he got the information about Trump and/or his associates being caught on a surveillance wiretap just become less and less believable.

Remember that several weeks ago, Trump made the incredible claim that Obama had ordered his phones to be wiretapped before he left office.  There was nothing to support this, but Trump kept saying that some evidence would emerge in a couple of weeks.

Then last week, Nunes claims he went to a secure location on the White House grounds, to view the information that was said to show one or more Trump associate (or Trump himself) being part of, or mentioned in, a conversation that was picked up inadvertently through a legal VISA warrant tap.   This most likely would mean that some Trump person was talking to a foreign national who was being surveilled -- although, when that happens, the name is supposed to be blocked to protect a citizen's privacy.

Nunes rushed to the White House to share this information with Trump, who said he felt somewhat vindicated in his earlier claim.

To my thinking, this follows the pattern of all the other Trump "cover-up" behavior.   Everything is just so coincidental as to be unbelievable in the aggregate.  The only way this story makes sense is that the information is something either found, or created, by the Trump team itself and then shown by them to Nunes.   It has the sloppy, haphazard, cover-up earmarks.

Here are the salient facts that support this.   Thanks to Sam Stein and Jessica Schulberg of Huffington Post for their reporting on this explanation.

1.   The visit to the White House grounds.   His claim he had gone alone and that nobody saw him is flatly unbelievable.  Even a congressman does not have free access to roam about the White House grounds, and particularly to visit the sensitive information facility, unescorted or cleared by the White House.

Former communications staffer for the National Security Council, Ned Price, says none of this could have been done without a White House staffer involved in every step:   walking into the White House "compound," getting into the secure information facility, being given computer access.   "Did he just show up and say, 'Let me in'?  It defies credulity."

2.   Stein and Schulberg report that "Nunes' office has confirmed that [his] allegations are based on reports that came from the White House.  The documents were 'executive branch documents that have not been provided to Congress.'"   I assume the "documents" referred to are the mysterious "information" Nunes claims to have been shown.   This would then suggest that someone under Trump's control is the mystery person who supposedly showed Nunes the information.

3.  Why would Nunes still, one week later, not share the identity of this person with ranking member Adam Schiff?   He is fully cleared to received any secret briefings.     An unnamed Republican congressman told the reporters that Nunes' behavior makes it look like "somebody who's in essence working for the administration."

Until proven otherwise, my bets are on collusion -- between Russia and Trump  and between Trump and Nunes.

There is another related matter involving Nunes.   Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who decided that the DoJ would not defend Trump's first travel ban, was scheduled to testify at Nunes' open committee hearing on Tuesday, two days ago.   She had written to the White House to inform them that her testimony would likely contradict statements made by some White House officials.  Her testimony would have dealt with the investigative facts she had supplied the White House counsel that led to NSA Director Michael Flynn's firing three weeks later over having lied about the extent of his connections with Russia.  She was informed, in writing, that this could involve violation of presidential communications privilege, although the White House did not tell her not to testify.

The White House insisted that they in no way tried to interfere with her testimony; rather, according to Sean Spicer, they were "looking forward to it."  No need to interfere, of course.   Just pull some puppet strings.  Sally Yates sent her letter last Thursday.   On Friday, Rep. Nunes abruptly cancelled the hearing.

Go figure.   Connect the dots.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Why Obamacare bill passed and then the Ryan-Trump bill was a disaster

Let's start by acknowledging the vast difference in what the two bills do in terms of offering real help to the American people.   Then add that the times are different and that Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi did not have anything comparable to the Republican Freedom Caucus (aka Tea Party) to try to wrestle into the voting corral.

But put all that on the table, and there still is a world of difference in the process that led to the Democrats' success and the Republicans' failure.   Jonathan Cohn, political writer for Huffington Post, wrote an interesting piece on this last weekend.   I'll be quoting liberally from that article.   Cohn writes:

"Somehow, despite the intense political forces arrayed against it, and the mind-boggling policy problems it tries to solve, the 2010 health care law keeps defying efforts to wipe it out.  That says something about the people who wrote it -- and what they have achieved . . . .

"Trump and the Republicans in Congress had spent all of 63 days trying to pass their Obamacare repeal -- less than three weeks of which were spent actually debating the text . . .  They held votes before Congressional Budget Office evaluations were ready, and were about to ask the full House to decide on the proposal just hours after making major changes to it. . . ."

In contrast, President Obama and the Democrats spent more than a year crafting their bill, including ongoing consultations with all stake-holders:  hospitals, insurance companies, unions, and patient advocacy groups.  They repeatedly made adjustments as analyses from the Congressional Budget Office came in.   As Coen points out, they were doing what the party had been trying to accomplish since Franklin Roosevelt was in the White House;   and they gave it the seriousness that it demanded.

Various attempts had been made through the years, both for a universal coverage policy, as well as more limited plans.    The failure of the Clinton attempt in 1994, as well as a plan that Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus had been working on, served as a solid basis this plan.

With all of this experience in planning, as Cohn puts it, "it meant that when the actual legislating started, the channels of communication were already open and the groundwork for a common vision was already in place. . . .

"And still it was a nearly impossible task.  Like the Republicans this year, Democrats found consensus difficult to achieve -- among the outside groups and within their own ranks as well.   Liberals wanted a more generous program and a public option.  Moderates wanted to avoid too much government spending and too much meddling with the way independent businesses operate.

"But unlike the Republicans, the Democrats' reaction was to work with the different groups and slowly bring them along. . . .  [Efforts to woo moderate Republicans] helped secure moderate Democrats who needed to tell their constituents that, yes, they had tried to be bipartisan. . . .

"[And Democratic leaders] understood, at all times, where they were trying to go -- and were fluent enough in the policy to handle direct negotiations on their own.  One of the enduring images of Obama during the Affordable Care Act fight was his visit to a Republican Party policy retreat . . . where he fielded questions and parried criticisms from the assembled members for roughly 90 minutes.

"Trump, by contrast, seemed to lack anything beyond a superficial understanding of the bill, to the point where allies worried about letting him negotiate details. . . ."

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), one of the more conservative senators, appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation" following the Republican's withdrawal of the House bill, conceded that "maybe the Democrats knew what they were doing. . . .  I am not saying we needed 14 months to do this," he added, "but I think a careful and deliberate approach . . . would have gotten us further down the path to a solution."

Cohn also includes a point that I think is crucial to understand:   "[T]he Republican failure wasn't just about process.  It was also about policy -- and a failure to realize just how profoundly the Affordable Care Act has changed public expectations for how the U.S. health care system operates."

The anti-Obamacare rhetoric of the Republicans began to crack as more and more people experienced -- and publicly shared -- their stories of having their lives saved by medical care they wouldn't have had without Obamacare.   People now began to think differently about what it meant and the new expectation that everyone could be covered.

Surveys began to show increasing support for the ACA, because more and more people were deeply grateful for it.  By the time of the vote-counting, support for the Ryan-Trump had dropped to 17%.

But Paul Ryan and his team didn't change their policy or their rhetoric.   Instead, their true motives behind the Ryan-Trump bill became clear.  It really was not about the needs of the people.   It was a tax cut in disguise for the wealthy.   So, instead of adapting to the needs, they tried to ram the bill through before even their own caucus knew how bad it was -- for their constituents and, thus, for their re-election chances.  Then President Trump came in for the last-ditch push -- and all he knew how to do was to bully and threaten.   It didn't work.

Cohn sums up with this:  "This, in the end, is what Obama, Pelosi and their allies achieved with the Affordable Care Act . . . .  The true legacy of Obamacare is the principle that everybody should have health insurance."

The effect was that human stories -- of how Obamacare changed people's lives -- changed people's minds and hearts about this, as it usually does in big societal changes.   More and more people now consider health care as a basic human right.   That is a major change;  and, if Republicans do not accept that and adapt their policies, they will continue to fail.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Updates on the White House and Russia

More breaking news concerning Russia and our government.

1.  Rep. Nunes has cancelled both committee meetings for this week.   One for today was to have been a hearing with former national security chiefs, who were going to testify that there had been no FISA waivers for the Trump phones during their terms.

2.  Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, including ranking member Adam Schiff, are calling for Chairman Nunes to recuse himself from chairing the investigation.   He was a member of the Trump Transition Team, and probably should have done so from the beginning.   But now, with his latest stunt that seems patently to have been a favor for (or an order by) Trump himself -- it seems imperative that he do so.   He has compromised himself beyond the point that any result of the investigation will be suspect of covert influence from the White House itself.

3.  A new wrinkle has emerged.   It was also announced by the Senate Intelligence Committee that they want to interview Jared Kushner;  and in response he said he would voluntarily talk with them.   I hope they insist that it be under oath, even if he goes voluntarily.

4.  But there's more.  As Rachel Maddow reported last night, Jared not only met with the Russian ambassador during the transition period, which was known.  He also had a previously undisclosed meeting in New York, also during the transition period, with the head of a Russian bank.   Not just any Russian bank.  It is one that Vladimir Putin controls and uses to reward oligarch friends and to finance his various projects carried out in other countries, such as Ukraine.

5.   But there is even more.  This bank is one of the ones sanctioned by the United States as retaliation for Russia's antics in Ukraine.

6.  Even more.   Rachel's research dug up the fact that the man who is head of the bank, with whom Jared met, is a former Russian spy who has risen in this bank to the position of chairman, very likely with the "approval" of Putin.

7.  And more:  conflicting stories about the meeting.  Jared said that this was "just a courtesy meeting."   The Russian bank gave a different reason, saying that it concerned Jared as a representative of the Kushner family business.

Stay tuned.  It gets more and more interesting.   A guy presumably loyal to Putin, who is also a spy by training (like Putin himself) -- and head of a bank that they can do whatever they want with the money.   The possibilities are many:   money to bail out Trump's businesses;  political influence;  whatever deal they worked out to influence the election;   money laundering.   And for the Russians, influence the election, change geopolitical balances, regain superpower status.

Kushner's behavior seems to spell "guilt" and "cover-up."   Surely Trump wouldn't be setting his son-in-law up as the fall guy, would he?


Nunes' explanation gets weirder, leading to suspicion of White House cover-up.

CNN is reporting that Rep. Devin Nunes' was "on the White House grounds" the day before he made his startling announcement about surveillance that picked up some Trump associate on a phone line with, supposedly, some foreign national who was being tapped legally with a FISA warrant.

"White House grounds" includes other buildings, like the Executive Office Building;  so it does not necessarily mean he was in the White House itself.  Nunes said he does not believe that the president or any of his West Wing team were aware of his presence.

Nunes' explanation is that he needed a secure area to view the information.  He didn't say why he went to the White House grounds, rather than using a secure room he has access to on Capital Hill.   He repeated his earlier statement that the information he obtained had nothing to do with Russia.

Add this to the cloak-and-dagger flavor of this story.  CNN says that:
"Two congressional sources said Nunes was with a staff member Tuesday night when he got a message, got out of the car and got into an Uber.  Staff did not hear from him again that night."

Nunes is extremely inept in his bungling of the messaging of this, even if the underlying content is all above board.   Why does he say anything to the press at all in the first place?  Why didn't he just keep the whole thing secret?   That's what investigators do.  That question begs for an answer.

The only plausible explanation, with the information available thus far, is that President Trump wants it out -- with emphasis on "and Russia was not involved."  Otherwise, you can bet we would have heard denunciations of Nunes from Trump on Twitter and FoxNews.   I would go further and suggest that the Trump team itself, with his approval, is behind this all the way, meaning that they "found" this themselves and released it to Nunes.

In short, the whole thing is an inside job -- for the purpose of (1)  throwing the whole investigation off the track of other recordings that do show incriminating evidence of someone on Team Trump actually colluding with Russia;  or (2) just creating a muddled distraction and helping to make any committee findings so confused as to be useless.

Whatever it is, I have no doubt that this is not just Nunes' inept stupidity.  It is a White House cover-up of something.   As John Dean said last week (see ShrinkRap, March 22, #8), they're behaving exactly the way guilty people do when they're covering up something.   John Dean knows.   He was there as Nixon's legal counsel, until he got wise and quit.


Originally published March 27 in afternoon;  updated March 28, 12:01am

Monday, March 27, 2017

Intelligence committee chair derails any credibility of the investigation

Demand for an independent commission to investigate the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials expanded to a tentative roar after the House Intelligence Committee chair, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) scurried to the White House to share the latest finding with the ultimate object of the investigation.

Oh, and by the way, he spoke to the press about it even before going to the White House, and then again on the way out.   And all of this before he even mentioned this bombshell to the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff.

It was a stupid thing to do on so many counts, not least of which are that:  (1) he may have revealed classified information to the media;  (2) he proved this is not a non-partisan investigation and thus turned Schiff from an ally to, at a minimum, a wary observer;  (3)  he violated basic rules of investigation by sneaking results to the one you're investigating;  and (4) he lost control of his investigation by destroying his credibility and thus the credibility of whatever outcome the committee reaches.

Here's the story -- which really isn't anything very much in and of itself.  An unnamed person has showed Nunes some transcripts of legally obtained surveillance that includes conversations with some Trump campaign or transition associates, or else those people are talked about in the conversations.

That's it.   He says there is no connection to Russia;  hence, Nunes said it had nothing to do with the committee's investigation, and that's why he didn't need to tell Schiff about it.   Why did he need to tell the president?

Because Trump has (my hunch) been hounding Nunes to find something --  anything!! -- to vindicate his huge mistake in claiming that Obama "tapped my wires."    This apparently is the closest they've come up with to show Trump people caught on surveillance.

What's clear, however, is that this does not show Trump people being tapped.   In fact, Nunes himself says it came from a legal FISA warrant of a foreign national under surveillance.

He has some information he claims was given to him by an unnamed person that shows that some unnamed members of the Trump transition team were heard on a wire tap or were spoken about by people being surveilled.   What that means apparently is that a legally obtained FISA warrant had allowed a tap on someone's phone and that a member of the Trump team had been talking with the person under surveillance -- or else someone on the Trump team was mentioned by others in conversation on that phone.

What Nunes then did was to rush to the White House to brief President Trump.   Supposedly because it's the kind of thing Trump was desperate to find that he could then spin into saying:   "Look, I was right.   My wires were tapped."

I have my own speculation that the Trump White House was the source of what the "unnamed person" sent to Nunes -- but that's just icing on the cake.

It's not working.   At least the liberal media and Schiff are exposing this for what it is:   an utter shattering of any sense of impartiality with which Chairman Nunes can conduct this investigation.   It raises the outcry for an independent, non-partisan special investigative committee.

It also makes Nunes look stupid as well as partisan.  This just is not done.   Long-experienced observers of Congress say they have never seen anything like this.   Here's my guess.   Trump was pulling a Dick Cheney -- as when Cheney kept hounding the CIA to come up with the "evidence" he wanted to justify invading Iraq.   I'm suggesting that Trump has been hounding Nunes to find something he can use to prove he or his team have been under surveillance -- just anything to prove Trump was right and help him get out of the corner he painted himself into.

Trump is such an amateur trying to play in this high level of politics.   This may be the best evidence that Manafort is not still advising him.   He would have done a much better job than that.

Of course, all this got completely swamped Friday, when the Republican's disasterously had to pull their ill-fated repeal/replace health care bill.   But we'll hear about this again.   Everything is going to get greater scrutiny now that the Republicans have had such a monumental loss that questions their competence in governing.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Some absurdities to lighten the weekend.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).  photo by

Regular ShrinkRap readers know this is one of my favorite aphorisms:  If you want the truthlisten to the clowns.   Shakespeare said it throughout his plays 500 years ago.  Late night TV hosts, who speak through satire (like Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers) are our current truth-tellers.  And then there is the occasional Washington politician.

1.  Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) doesn't usually prove this aphorism.  He's very definitely the clown of the Republican House, but usually he is just a nutty kind of clown, given to wild, "Islamic terrorism" and "terror babies" conspiracy theories;  not the purveyor of truth and wisdom.

But now, this week, here's what our Clown-in-Chief had to say about why he opposed the American Health Care Plan:

"Because it makes more political sense to keep the current law than to start rewriting it. . . .  A no vote means we save Donald Trump from a Democratic majority in 2019.  If this passes, then Obamacare stays."

Actually, he's basing this purely on political calculation, and I think he is dead right -- even though we come at it from opposite sides on Obamacare.  From his perspective, if they passed the Ryan/Trump bill, Republicans would be blamed for taking away their health insurance.   Passing their bill would be worse, politically, than letting Obamacare stay.

 Beyond that, however, what does it say about the judgment of Ryan and Trump, and all the other Republican leaders, who pushed this terrible bill?   It became a bit absurd in itself when they were trying to accommodate the Freedom Caucus demands.

2.  And then there's Rick Perry who, just incidentally, I discovered once appointed this same Louie Gohmert as Chief Justice for the 12th District Texas Appeals Court.   But that's not why Perry's on my list of absurdities.   He brings his own.

He is now known as Secretary Perry, head of the Department of Energy and a member of the Donald J. Trump presidential cabinet.  Think for an absurd moment who his predecessors in this position were.   President Obama had two terms and a different Energy Secretary each term.   Both were esteemed nuclear physicists, one with research and academic credentials and a Nobel Prize;  the other was a nuclear scientist with vast experience running government nuclear weapons laboratories and was a key negotiator of the Iran nuclear agreement.

Now we have Rick Perry, with an undergrad degree from Texas A and M University in animal science (formerly called "animal husbandry," because it has to do with breeding and care of farm animals).  Then he was Governor of Texas for 12 years.   He is perhaps most widely known for his "Oopsdebate moment, when he failed to remember the third department he had said he would eliminate if elected president.  (Hint:  they all began with "E" -- EPA, Education, and . . . wait for it . . . Energy!!!)

To his credit, as governor, he had a lot of experience dealing with oil and gas production.   Texas has a lot of oil and gas.  And that's energy, isn't it?  It also has a lot of wide open spaces that are good for wind turbines.   So he did encourage the development of wind power.   But, alas, it turns out (little did he, or the one who appointed him, know) that the Energy Department deals mainly with the maintenance and safety of our nuclear arsenal and negotiating non-proliferation treaties, etc.

Perry qualifies as a clown because of that "oops" moment and, frankly, for his too too obvious lack of qualification for the job.   His last gig before becoming the Energy Secretary was as a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars."  He didn't do too well.   Sadly, he got eliminated pretty early in the contest.

But what brings him to this absurdities list this week was a story in Friday's New York Times.   It seems Secretary Perry took time out, from studying to master his current job, to write an op-ed piece for the Houston Chronicle in which he expressed his consternation at the "mockery of due process and transparency" that "allowed an election to be stolen outright."

WOW!   Has our Energy Secretary discovered some new evidence that shows Hillary Clinton really won?   Or, more likely, is he referring to his boss's claim that he-Trump really won the popular vote as well?

Actually, neither.   He's referring to the election for President of the Student Government Association at Texas A and M, his old alma mater.    It turns out, according to the Times article, that Perry probably isn't correct in what he says about that student election;  but, hey, the guy who lost the SGA race was the son of a big Texas Republican donor.   We all have our loyalties, I guess.

I'm impressed that Secretary Perry could manage all that boning up on nuclear energy and world peace treaties and keeping all our nuclear warhead silos safe from terrorist threats, and stuff like that -- and still find time to pay attention to what's happening at the old college campus student government election.

Damn, what a loyal alumnus.  I'll bet that guy who lost the election was a fraternity brother, come to think of it.  And wasn't Perry a cheer-leader back in the day?   Or was that Dubya?  I b'lieve they both wuz, tell you the truth.  Only Dubya went to SMU instead.

I think the Alumni folks ought to give Secretary Perry an award, with a plaque and all.  That would sure look good right up there on the wall, next to the proclamation that came with that other feller's Nobel Prize.   It sure would.

Wonder if Mr. Trump knows what a Nobel Prize is?   Here, you want a choclate?   My Mama always says life is like a box of choclates;  you never know whacha gonna get.   Oops.   Just naturally slipped into Forrest Gump-speak.

3.  But I digress.   Here's the prize absurdity of the week.   As the Ryan/Trump American Health Care Act debacle was collapsing around him, and Trump announced that he and Ryan had agreed to withdraw the bill from consideration, Trump had a ready answer for whom to blame:  the Democrats.   Of course.

Yes, "We got no votes from Democrats."   That's why the bill died.   Note:  Republicans have a 41 vote advantage, with one of the biggest majorities in modern times.  They could afford to lose 20 of their own members and still pass this bill without a single Democratic vote.   So Trump's blame-game is absurd on the face of it, and he merely looks childish:  "No, it was Susie's fault.   She did it."

Well, you know what?   It doesn't matter what he thinks.   It's his loss, along with Ryan, and all the Republicans.   It's a win for the Democrats.  But mostly it's a win for the American people, because they're so much better off keeping what we have now --- and working from there to improve health care.   And it's a win for all those activists who went to rallies and town hall meetings and demanded that their reps not take away their health care.

4.   Now the week's list of absurds wouldn't be complete without this little snippet from my cell phone.   On Saturday morning, as I was reading on my phone a Washington Post news story about Trump's failure to close the deal on the health care bill, right there in the middle of the article about Trump's failure to get the vote count up, there was a pop-up ad for . . . you guessed it !!!    Viagra.   I swear I did not make this up.