MARK RANDALL MEADOWS, the new White House chief of staff, has a knack for hatching plans to solve problems. The catch is, his time in Congress has seen problems at least partially of his own making: government shutdowns he egged on, health care bills he scuttled and leadership brawls that he, at least tacitly, encouraged. YOU MIGHT SAY he has sometimes played both the arsonist and the fire brigade.
NOW, MEADOWS is entering a job where his problem-solving mettle will be put to the absolute test. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP faces a nasty trio of problems: a virus outbreak spiraling out of control, an economy that’s flagging and, all on top of that, a re-election campaign that’s getting into full swing.
WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF for TRUMP is a job that is perfectly suited for how MEADOWS sees himself. It’s made for a savvy strategist who can operate behind the scenes, manage a Game of Thrones-like environment and occasionally burst into the limelight to defend the president and blast his enemies. It’s long overdue that TRUMP made this move, since he’s been listening to MEADOWS over PAUL RYAN and other party stalwarts for years.
MEADOWS’ DETRACTORS — and, yes, there are some, mostly in the GOP — see this job as the ultimate moment that will finally reveal the North Carolina Republican as a top-notch fraud who couldn’t find his way out of a wet paper bag. And, to be fair, he has never managed a crisis like this, so he’s starting with quite the challenge staring him down.
MEADOWS DOES HAVE considerable talents he can deploy here. Even people who don’t like him acknowledge his deep relationships in Washington, and his uncanny understanding of how the levers of power work. He understands the small tokens that can be distributed to win lawmakers’ support and loyalty — and can find his way to temporarily trading or loaning his ideology to achieve a larger end.
PERHAPS MOST NOTABLY FOR TRUMP, he has relationships with Democrats. People make a lot of MEADOWS’ relationship with the widely respected ELIJAH CUMMINGS. That relationship is instructive of his across-the-aisle bonds. CUMMINGS didn’t see MEADOWS as a saint. But the late Baltimore Democrat saw MEADOWS for what he was: an operator who was open for business. MEADOWS has a relationship with STENY HOYER, which will be useful for him. His relationship with KEVIN MCCARTHY is, well, how to put this lightly? It’s complicated, but at this point it’s functional.
MEADOWS, more than anything, understands Washington’s power games, how to play them to maximum impact and what they actually mean. For example, MEADOWS was quite public with us for our book about the fight for the border wall: In his mind, it was the opening clash between NANCY PELOSI and TRUMP that would set the stage for the rest of his first term. He was right on that front.
THERE ARE BIG QUESTIONS that need to be answered before understanding whether this is the right fit for MEADOWS. TRUMP viewed MEADOWS as the keeper of his creed on Capitol Hill — a man who controlled two dozen votes in the GOP majority, and thereby had veto power over almost anything TRUMP didn’t like. Will TRUMP view him as an aide in the White House who is there to serve him, or as a quasi-principal who still has independent power of his own?
MUCH INK HAS BEEN SPILLED about the revolving door at the White House, and how it’s impossible to keep power in TRUMP’S White House. This is his fourth chief of staff in a little more three years. But think of MEADOWS much more like MIKE POMPEO than MICK MULVANEY or JOHN KELLY: He’s not going to lecture TRUMP, but he’ll work to try to channel his impulses into some version of reality. IF HE SURVIVES the next 60 days, that could help the country as it grapples with a real, and to many alarming, crisis of governance. AND it could put MEADOWS in TRUMP’S good graces and finally give the president the chief of staff he has wanted. More from John Bresnahan, Jake and Nancy Cook
NYT’S PETER BAKER notes, from West Palm Beach: “[Meadows’] arrival almost surely signals more changes to follow, as most of Mr. Mulvaney’s deputies and others on his team are expected to leave, too, possibly including Emma Doyle, his top lieutenant, and Joe Grogan, the domestic policy adviser.”
— IT WILL BE INTERESTING to see who Meadows pushes for in those slots. The Freedom Caucus has had some policy advisers, but MEADOWS and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — the leaders of that group — have always been limited in who they could hire because of the stigma or working for the burn-it-down caucus.
— MORE FROM BAKER: “At a closed-door fund-raiser on Friday evening, he told donors that Mr. Meadows would be ‘my James Baker,’ according to a person in the room, referring to the chief of staff to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Mr. Baker is generally considered the gold standard in the post.”
NEWS … THE WHITE HOUSE is considering a host of loan-forgiveness measures as a response to the economic downturn due to the coronavirus. The discussions are in an early stage, but the administration is considering suspending late fees, instituting low-interest loans for some businesses and pushing loan modifications. They would likely need legislation to get this done.
Good Saturday morning.
PRIMARY SATE READS … Detroit Free Press: “Hopefuls woo Mich. voters … Klobuchar reaches out to women, labor for Biden … Sanders hits Biden hard on trade at Detroit rally” … Detroit News: “Biden sees advantage with Mich. black voters” … Clarion Ledger (Miss.): “Deval Patrick to join Biden in Miss.”
BIG PICTURE … JOHN HARRIS: “2020 becomes the dementia campaign”: “The two people most likely to control the U.S nuclear arsenal, and with it the capacity to blow up civilization, through January 2025 are both well into their seventies and facing pervasive public speculation that they are becoming senile.
“That is some funny stuff, no? Just listen to Tucker Carlson on Wednesday night, the day after Joe Biden’s big Super Tuesday victory and the victory speech in which he was momentarily confused over which side of the podium his wife and sister were standing. ‘As a smart friend said last night, Joe Biden has spent his entire life trying to succeed in presidential politics,’ the Fox News host chortled, ‘and now he has: Too bad he’s not there to enjoy it. Pretty funny.’
“2020 is suddenly becoming the Dementia Campaign. President Donald Trump’s own public blunders—saying that his father was born in Germany when it was really his grandfather, or referring to Apple CEO Tim Cook as ‘Tim Apple’— have prompted recurrent commentary throughout his term questioning whether his cognitive faculties are deteriorating. Now that the 77-year-old Biden is the Democratic frontrunner over the 78-year-old Bernie Sanders to take on the 73-year-old Trump, questions about age-related infirmity are taking on a new volume and centrality.”
DAVID SIDERS: “‘It sounds insane, actually’: Democrats relive 2016 primary all over again”: One top contender is struggling to make inroads with African Americans. The other, establishment frontrunner is struggling to put him away. Michigan could bury a campaign — or revive it. A messy national convention looms in the distance.
“The 2020 Democratic primary is back where it was in 2016. Joe Biden is Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders is playing himself. The dramatic differences between the early stages of the two primaries have now faded, and as this year’s contest moves past Super Tuesday, it is taking on a familiar feel.”
CASH DASH … “Cash-flush Biden closes ad gap with Sanders,” by Maya King: “Biden’s campaign has poured nearly $7 million into TV ads into a majority of the remaining March voting states, opening a spending advantage over Sanders in Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Florida, according to TV spending data from Advertising Analytics.
“Sanders, who has been the Democratic field’s highest non-billionaire spender thanks to his prolific small-donor army, was on TV in many of these states weeks before Biden purchased ads there. He’s spent over $8 million in the March states that vote after Super Tuesday, including states where Biden has not yet advertised.”
KAPOW!, via NYT’s Trip Gabriel in Detroit and Matt Stevens in New York: “Asked about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s endorsement of Mr. Biden on Thursday, Mr. Sanders sounded miffed. ‘Well, that wasn’t her thoughts when I came here to help her get elected, as a matter of fact,’ he said.”
— ALSO NOTABLE: “Separately, Mr. Sanders acknowledged that his team had communicated with the federal authorities about the possibility of Secret Service protection for him. Some Democratic lawmakers have called for added security after Mr. Biden’s Super Tuesday address was disrupted by protesters who were able to gain access to the stage.” NYT
FUN READ … NYT’S SHANE GOLDMACHER: “The Hidden Venmo Economy of Campaign Staffers When Their Boss Quits”
WHAT CHUCK SCHUMER SHOULD BE READING … JAMES ARKIN and MARIANNE LEVINE: “Biden, Bullock boost Dems’ Senate hopes”: “Democrats’ bid to recapture the Senate got a major boost this week.
“Joe Biden surged to the top of the presidential primary, temporarily calming widespread fear about running with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at the top of their ticket. Candidates handpicked by the national party advanced in Senate primaries in North Carolina and Texas. And their long, uphill quest to get Montana Gov. Steve Bullock to run for Senate is looking increasingly likely to pay off ahead of Monday’s filing deadline.
“It’s still a significant challenge for Democrats to recapture the chamber, and they have to run the table in a series of competitive races, many in red-leaning states President Donald Trump won in 2016. But with Montana potentially expanding the target list, party officials are growing more upbeat about their chances.
“‘We have a better chance of winning now than we did just a few weeks ago,’ said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), an early Biden endorser. ‘I’m optimistic. I think we have some good candidates, and I think Joe Biden at the top of the ticket is going to be wonderful,’ added Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)”
WHERE THEY ARE … BIDEN is in Missouri, with events in St. Louis and Kansas City. … SANDERS is in Dearborn, Mich., for a GOTV rally. Tonight, he has a town hall in Flint, Mich., on “racial and economic justice.”
JARED’S GUY MBS THE REFORMER … WSJ: “Top Saudi Royal Family Members Detained,” by Summer Said in Dubai, Justin Scheck in New York and Warren Strobel in Washington: “Saudi Arabian authorities detained two of the kingdom’s most prominent figures for an alleged coup attempt, further consolidating the power of the king’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and clearing away once-formidable rivals to the throne, according to people familiar with the matter.
“The detentions occurred early Friday morning when guards from the royal court wearing masks and dressed in black arrived at the homes of the two men, took them into custody and searched their homes, according to people familiar with the matter.
“Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al Saud, a brother of Saudi King Salman, and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the king’s nephew known as MBN, were both accused of treason, the people said. The guards also arrested one of MBN’s brothers. The Saudi royal court accused the two men of plotting a coup to unseat the king and crown prince, according to people familiar with the situation.”
VIRUS NEWS … LAT: “Stanford University will move classes online due to coronavirus” … PALM BEACH POST: “NEW: Coronavirus: 2 Florida patients die; 2 new cases in Broward County”
THE PRESIDENT’S SATURDAY: TRUMP is in Palm Beach. He will have dinner with Jair Bolsanaro.
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 16 keepers
MEDIAWATCH — “Washington Examiner’s top editor orders staff not to write negative stories about Fox News,” by CNN’s Oliver Darcy: “The people who spoke to CNN Business said that they believed the Examiner’s editor in chief, Hugo Gurdon, handed down the order because he was afraid such stories would lead to the network blacklisting Examiner staffers. Prior to January 1, the Examiner had published some stories critical of Fox News. But since then, the stories have been almost uniformly positive for the network, including several articles touting Fox News’ ratings success. …
“To stay in Fox News’ good graces, the Examiner went so far as to have a story about the network’s history of sexual harassment removed from its website, [Jon] Nicosia said.” CNN
— “Trump campaign sues CNN for libel over opinion article,” by Axios’ Fadel Allassan: “It’s the latest of a series of libel suits by the campaign aimed at media outlets’ opinion articles on issues linked to Russia. Over the last few weeks, the campaign has also sued the New York Times and the Washington Post, alleging similar motives. …
“The article named in the suit, written by CNN contributor Larry Noble and published in June, states that ‘the Trump campaign assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table.’” Axios
— Sarah Karlin-Smith is joining Pink Sheet. She is currently a pharma/health care reporter for POLITICO.
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Margy Slattery and the staff of POLITICO Magazine:
— “I Helped Fact-Check the 1619 Project. The Times Ignored Me,” by Leslie M. Harris in POLITICO Magazine: “The paper’s series on slavery made avoidable mistakes. But the attacks from its critics are much more dangerous.” POLITICO Magazine
— “The College President Who Simply Won’t Raise Tuition,” by Andrew Ferguson in The Atlantic’s April issue: “Mitch Daniels has frozen Purdue’s tuition—at less than $10,000—for seven straight years.” Atlantic
— “The Tyranny of Terrazzo,” by Molly Fischer in New York’s The Cut: “Will the millennial aesthetic ever end?” NY Mag
— “How a Dating App Helped a Generation of Chinese Come Out of the Closet,” by Yi-Ling Liu in The NYT Magazine: “Blued, one of the biggest gay dating apps in the world, has succeeded because it plays by the ever-shifting rules for L.G.B.T.Q. China — bringing together a minority community without activism.” NYT Magazine
— “No Ghost in the Machine,” by Mark Halpern on the cover of The American Scholar’s spring issue: “The computer can’t think, and its value lies precisely in that disability: it lets us think and preserves our thoughts in executable form.” American Scholar
— “How South Korea Is Composting Its Way to Sustainability,” by Rivka Galchen in The New Yorker: “Automated bins, rooftop farms, and underground mushroom-growing help clean up the mess.” New Yorker
— “Waiting for the End of the World,” by Lauren Groff in the March issue of Harper’s: “I had come to this place just outside the town of Saluda, forty miles south of Asheville, for Prepper Camp, a three-day weekend gathering that would draw twelve hundred people to learn how to survive what they call TEOTWAWKI, or The End of the World as We Know It.” Harper’s
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at email@example.com.
SPOTTED: Alan Simpson at the 21 Club on Friday. Pic
TRANSITIONS — “White House hires another college senior for sensitive administration post,” by Daniel Lippman: “Anthony Labruna, who starts on Monday, is not slated to graduate from Iowa State University until early May. In the meantime, he’ll be deputy White House liaison at the Department of Commerce.” POLITICO
— Cally Perkins is now press secretary for Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.). She previously was staff assistant for Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.).
BIRTHWEEK (was Friday): David Urban (h/t Chris Israel)
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Guy Benson, Townhall.com political editor, Fox News contributor and host of “The Guy Benson Show,” is 35. What he’s been reading: “My husband and I recently returned from our honeymoon, during which I read two thriller novels — one by C.J. Box, the other by Daniel Silva — and he read Ronan Farrow’s ‘Catch and Kill,’ which I’d read previously. Sometimes reality truly is stranger and more infuriating than fiction.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) is 59 … Kristan King Nevins, assistant to the president and Cabinet secretary, is 41 … James Gleeson, comms director at SpaceX … Willard Scott is 86 … Jason Altmire is 52 … Michael Eisner is 78 … WaPo food critic Tom Sietsema … Anne Farris Rosen, journalist and adjunct professor at Philip Merrill College of Journalism at University of Maryland … Josh Holly … Kirk Adams (h/ts Jon Haber) … Katie McCormick Lelyveld … Elizabeth Williams … Tori Hatada … Breanna Deutsch, communications manager at the Heritage Foundation … John Goodrum … Adam Kaiser … Cindy Andrade … Rachel Zuckerman … Emerge America’s Diane Le … Siobhan Dingwall … Lyndon Olson, former U.S. ambassador to Sweden and the pride of Waco, Texas (h/t Paul Equale) … Mary Tydings Smith … DOE’s Mike Watson … Noreen Nielsen of Climate Nexus … Savannah Behrmann …
… David Bohigian … Carol Danko, senior adviser in the office of communications at Interior (h/t Melissa Brown) … Sammie Yeager of ROKK Solutions (h/ts Jeff Grappone and Lindsay Singleton) … Stand Up America’s Ryan Thomas and Maz Do … Mary Stanley … David Baltimore is 82 … Katherine Lewis … Cheddar’s Alan Neuhauser … Nate Evans … Eliza VanZoeren … Matt Handverger is 31 … former Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) is 64 … Chase Untermeyer, former U.S. ambassador to Qatar, is 74 … Elad Strohmayer … Matt Glassman … Nicole Lapin … Tanya Hayre … Kate Michael … Sally Barth … Stephen Saunders … Mark Schuermann … Medium’s Matt Higginson … Anthony Bellotti is 42 … Myron Belkind … Michael Tobman … WNYC’s Jennifer Hsu … Hallie Williams … Jolene Plautz … Becky Carroll … Barnes & Thornburg’s Craig Burkhardt is 62 … Bloomberg’s Lydia Mulvany
THE SHOWS, by Matt Mackowiak, filing from Austin, Texas:
— NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci … Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Panel: Matt Bai, Al Cardenas, Helene Cooper and Hallie Jackson.
— ABC’s “This Week”: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … HUD Secretary Ben Carson. Panel: Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, MaryAlice Parks and Alexi McCammond.
— CBS’ “Face the Nation”: Surgeon General Jerome Adams … Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) … Scott Gottlieb. Panel: Dan Balz, Joel Payne, Leslie Sanchez and Amy Walter
— CNN’s “State of the Union”: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … Surgeon General Jerome Adams. Panel: David Urban, Alexandra Rojas, Linda Chavez and Bakari Sellers.
— “Fox News Sunday”: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci … New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Panel: Ben Domenech, Donna Edwards, Jason Riley and Juan Williams. … Power Player of the Week: Girl Scouts USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo.
— Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures”: Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) … House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy … HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
— Fox News’ “MediaBuzz”: Gillian Turner … Mollie Hemingway … Capri Cafaro … Frank Luntz … Kat Timpf.
— CNN’s “Inside Politics”: Panel: Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Toluse Olorunnipa, Jonathan Martin and Laura Barrón-López.
— Sinclair TV’s “America This Week with Eric Bolling”: President Donald Trump … Lara Trump … Corey Lewandowski … Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) … Jose Aristamuño … Julia Manchester. Panel: Ameshia Cross and Sebastian Gorka.
— Gray TV’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren”: Surgeon General Jerome Adams … Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) … Lavora Barnes … Daniela Hurtado.
— CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS”: Hillary Clinton.
— CNN’s “Reliable Sources”: Kathleen Sebelius, Elisabeth Rosenthal and Seema Yasmin … TJ Ducklo … David Sirota … Panel: Errin Haines, Sara Fischer and Joe Lockhart.
— Univision’s “Al Punto”: Aileen Marty … Henry Cisneros … Marisa Franco … Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) … Javier “Chicharito” Hernández … Flora Martinez.
— C-SPAN: “The Communicators”: Susan Ness … “Newsmakers”: Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) … “Q&A”: Peggy Wallace Kennedy.
— MSNBC’s “Kasie DC”: Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) … Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) … Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) … Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) … Jon Meacham … Maya Rupert and Lily Adams … Philip Rucker … Robert Costa … Kimberly Atkins … Shawna Thomas … Jonathan Lemire … Andrew Desiderio … Brandy Zadrozny.
— “Mack on Politics” weekly politics podcast with Matt Mackowiak (download on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or Stitcher): Steve Kornacki.
Cabinet slashes budgets to pay for 6 new ministries, including ‘alternate PM’ – The Times of Israel
The cabinet on Sunday approved widespread fiscal reforms that will cut the budgets of most ministries in order to fund the establishment of six new ministries, including the office of the “alternate prime minister,” in a series of controversial decisions.
A unity coalition deal between Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz ended over a year of political deadlock when the most minister-rich government in Israel’s history was sworn in earlier this month. New ministerial positions were created to accommodate the cabinet’s 33 ministers, who number over a quarter of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers.
The price tag for the overhead costs of the new government has been estimated as high as a billion shekels ($285 million) over its three-year span. There have been widespread accusations that the government is overlarge and costly at a time when the economy is being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the new offices created Sunday was the Alternate Prime Minister’s Office, which will be held by Defense Minister Gantz for 18 months and then be transferred to Netanyahu as part of a power-sharing deal designed to allow him to keep the prime ministerial title even after vacating the post. Unlike other ministers, a prime minister can remain in his post even after he is indicted on criminal charges.
Other offices are Ze’ev Elkin’s Water Resources and Higher Education ministries; Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Ministry of Community Empowerment; David Amsalem’s Cyber Ministry; and Tzipi Hotovely and Tzachi Hanegbi’s Settlements Ministry.
Gantz — who is currently defense minister, in addition to the new post of alternate premier — is set to take over as prime minister in 18 months under the coalition deal, at which point Netanyahu will become alternate prime minister.
As the Alternate Prime Minister’s Office was approved, Netanyahu on Sunday denied reports that the alternate prime minister would also be granted an alternate prime minister’s residence. “It’s not true. It didn’t come up and it won’t,” he said.
In order to create the new posts, ministers approved a government decision that will see a 1.5% cut to the budgets of all government offices, specifically at the upper personnel level. The move will slash 300 posts from the various offices to free up some NIS 100 million ($28.5 million).
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi opposed the budget cuts to foreign service, whereupon the cuts to his ministry were reduced from NIS 11.5 million ($3.2 million) to NIS 4.8 million ($1.3 million), the Walla news site reported.
On the 22-item agenda, the cabinet was also voting on filling the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, led by Blue and White’s Avi Nissenkorn, and other ministerial panels; appointing directors general of the defense and economy ministries; and giving the green light to new Finance Minister Israel Katz’s program to encourage employment amid the pandemic.
In a Saturday night address, Katz presented his new Finance Ministry plan aimed at encouraging employers to take back employees placed on unpaid leave during the height of the pandemic in March. For every employee called back, places of business will receive a grant of NIS 7,500 ($2,141) starting on June 1, according to the plan. An additional grant of some NIS 3,500 ($1,000) will be handed out to employers for employees called back in May. Katz said some NIS 500 million ($142 million) have been allocated for businesses that would put employees back to work.
Economy Minister Amir Peretz opposed the treasury proposal during the meeting, arguing that it rewards employers who dropped their workers while harming those who kept their employees on the payroll even at a loss, according to the Globes business daily.
Katz retorted: “There is an alternate prime minister. There is no alternate finance minister. I am the finance minister and I will lead the implementation of the government decisions, which I proposed, and which were accepted by an overwhelming majority,” the Ynet news site reported.
Sunday’s cabinet meeting also saw Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri receive building and planning powers that were previously under the treasury’s purview, while the Health Ministry was granted additional powers to combat the coronavirus.
The meeting on Sunday was held in the Foreign Ministry’s auditorium as the regular cabinet meeting rooms were not large enough to accommodate all the ministers while maintaining social distancing, according to reports.
Opposition chairman Yair Lapid issued a statement blasting the government after ministers approved funding for the newly formed offices created by the Gantz-Netanyahu coalition deal.
“The government handed half a billion shekels to itself today. Not for the self-employed, not for the unemployed, not for small businesses, but for itself,” said Lapid.
“For redundant offices like the Water Resources Ministry, the nonexistent Community Empowerment Ministry and for deputy ministers that no one needs. Detached lawmakers, we’ve had enough of you.”
Separately, last Wednesday, a bill allowing ministers to give up their positions as Knesset members in order to enable a different member of their party slate to take their spot in parliament passed its preliminary Knesset plenary reading. The so-called Norwegian Law — which still requires three more votes to become law — would allow any MK who is appointed to a cabinet post to resign temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s list to enter parliament in his or her stead.
The opposition has blasted the bill, and the coalition’s rush to pass it, as a way of pushing more people into sweetheart jobs on the taxpayers’ dime.
Tapper: Some of Trump’s allies think he’s not up to the task – CNN
In Days of Discord, President Trump Fans the Flames – The New York Times
WASHINGTON — With a nation on edge, ravaged by disease, hammered by economic collapse, divided over lockdowns and even face masks and now convulsed once again by race, President Trump’s first instinct has been to look for someone to fight.
Over the last week, America reeled from 100,000 pandemic deaths, 40 million people out of work and cities in flames over a brutal police killing of a subdued black man. But Mr. Trump was on the attack against China, the World Health Organization, Big Tech, former President Barack Obama, a cable television host and the mayor of a riot-torn city.
While other presidents seek to cool the situation in tinderbox moments like this, Mr. Trump plays with matches. He roars into any melee he finds, encouraging street uprisings against public health measures advanced by his own government, hurling made-up murder charges against a critic, accusing his predecessor of unspecified crimes, vowing to crack down on a social media company that angered him and then seemingly threatening to meet violence with violence in Minneapolis.
As several cities erupted in street protests after the killing of George Floyd, some of them resulting in clashes with the police, Mr. Trump made no appeal for calm. Instead in a series of tweets and comments to reporters on Saturday, he blamed the unrest on Democrats, called on “Liberal Governors and Mayors” to get “MUCH tougher” on the crowds, threatened to intervene with “the unlimited power of our Military” and even suggested his own supporters mount a counterdemonstration.
The turmoil came right to Mr. Trump’s doorstep for the second night in a row on Saturday as hundreds of people protesting Mr. Floyd’s death and the president’s response surged in streets near the White House. While most were peaceful, chanting “black lives matter” and “no peace, no justice,” some spray painted scatological advice for Mr. Trump, ignited small fires, set off firecrackers and threw bricks, bottles and fruit at Secret Service and United States Park Police officers, who responded with pepper spray.
The police cordoned off several blocks around the Executive Mansion as a phalanx of camouflage-wearing National Guard troops marched across nearby Lafayette Square. A man strode through the streets yelling, “Time for a revolution!” The image of the White House surrounded by police in helmets and riot gear behind plastic shields fueled the sense of a nation torn apart.
Mr. Trump praised the Secret Service for being “very cool” and “very professional” but assailed the Democratic mayor of Washington for not providing city police officers to help on Friday night, which she denied. While governors and mayors have urged restraint, Mr. Trump seemed more intent on taunting the protesters, bragging about the violence that would have met them had they tried to get onto White House grounds.
“Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence,” the president wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. “If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least. Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action.”
His suggestion that his own supporters should come to the White House on Saturday foreshadowed the possibility of a clash outside his own doors. “Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???” he wrote on Twitter, using the acronym for his first campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Asked about the tweet later, he denied encouraging violence by his supporters. “They love African-American people,” he said. “They love black people. MAGA loves the black people.” By evening, however, Mr. Trump’s supporters were not in evidence among the crowds at the White House.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington responded sharply on Saturday morning, saying her police department will protect anyone in Washington, including the president, and by Saturday evening her officers were out in force around the White House.
But she called the president a source of division. “While he hides behind his fence afraid/alone, I stand w/ people peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder of #GeorgeFloyd & hundreds of years of institutional racism,” she wrote. “There are no vicious dogs & ominous weapons. There is just a scared man. Afraid/alone …”
After his morning barrage, Mr. Trump tried to recalibrate later in the day, devoting the opening of a speech at the Kennedy Space Center following the SpaceX rocket launch to the unrest in the streets and clearly trying to temper his bellicose tone.
“I understand the pain that people are feeling,” he said. “We support the right of peaceful protesters and we hear their pleas. But what we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with justice or peace. The memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters and anarchists.”
The days of discord have put the president’s leadership style on vivid display. From the start of his ascension to power, Mr. Trump has presented himself as someone who seeks conflict, not conciliation, a fighter, not a peacemaker. That appeals to a substantial portion of the public that sees in him a president willing to take on an entrenched and entitled establishment.
But the confluence of perilous health, economic and now racial crises has tested his approach and left him struggling to find his footing just months before an election in which polls currently show him behind.
“The president seems more out-of-touch and detached from the difficult reality the country is living than ever before,” said Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican congressman from Florida who has been critical of Mr. Trump. “At a moment when America desperately needs healing, the president is focused on petty personal battles with his perceived adversaries.”
Such a moment would challenge any president, of course. It has been a year of national trauma that started out feeling like another 1998 with impeachment, then another 1918 with a killer pandemic combined with another 1929 given the shattering economic fallout. Now add to that another 1968, a year of deep social unrest.
It is fair to say that 2020 has turned out to be a year that has frayed the fabric of American society with an accumulation of anguish that has whipsawed the country and its people. But in some ways, Mr. Trump has become a totem for the nation’s polarization rather than a mender of it.
“I am daily thinking about why and how a society unravels and what we can do to stop the process,” said Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University. “The calamity these days is about more than Trump. He is just the malicious con man who lives to exploit our vulnerabilities.”
As the nation has confronted a coronavirus pandemic at the same time as the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, whatever unified resolve that existed at the beginning of the twin crises quickly evaporated into yet another cultural clash. And the president has made everything into just another partisan dispute rather than a source of consensus, from when and how to reopen to whether to wear a mask in public.
Mr. Trump led no national mourning as the death toll from the coronavirus passed 100,000 beyond lowering the flags at the White House, posting a single tweet and offering a passing comment on camera only when asked about it. Rather than seek agreement on the best and safest way to restore daily life, he threatened to “override” governors who prevented places of worship from resuming crowded services.
“Crisis leadership demands much more from the White House than irresponsible threats on social media,” said Meena Bose, director of the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University.
Mr. Trump’s initial response to the rioting in Minneapolis, where a police officer has been charged with murder after kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he cried out that he could not breathe, underscored the president’s most instinctive response to national challenges. Threatening to send in troops, he wrote early Friday morning that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Only after a cascade of criticism did he try to walk it back, posting a new tweet 13 hours later, suggesting that all he had meant was that “looting leads to shooting” by people in the street.
“I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means,” he said, a reformulation that convinced few if any of his critics.
Even some of Mr. Trump’s usual allies were distressed at the original shooting tweet. Geraldo Rivera, the television and radio host who often spends time with Mr. Trump at the president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, decried “the recklessness” of that message and called on the president “to self-censor himself.”
“Come on, what is this, sixth grade?” Mr. Rivera said on Fox News. “You don’t put gasoline on the fire. That’s not calming anybody.” He added: “All he does is diminish himself.”
But many of the president’s defenders rejected the idea that he had mishandled the crises, pressing the argument that Democrats and the news media were to blame for the turmoil in the streets, which spread from Minneapolis to New York, Atlanta, Washington, Louisville, Portland and other cities.
“Keep track of cities where hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and serious injuries and death will take place,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor who has served as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, wrote on Twitter on Friday night. “All Democrat dominated cities with criminal friendly policies. This is the future if you elect Democrats.”
Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who was pardoned by Mr. Trump for tax fraud earlier this year, amplified the point on Twitter. “It should be no surprise that every one of these cities that the anarchist have taken over, are the same cities run by leftist Democrats with the highest violence, murder and poverty rates,” he wrote on Twitter. “They can’t handle their cities normally, so how are they going to deal with this?”
Mr. Trump, who this past week retweeted a video of a supporter saying that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat” (though the supporter insisted he meant that in a political sense), picked up the theme on Saturday.
With crowds visible from his upstairs windows, Mr. Trump reached for his phone and again assailed the “Democrat Mayor” of Minneapolis for not responding more vigorously and called on New York to unleash its police against crowds. “Let New York’s Finest be New York’s Finest,” he wrote. “There is nobody better, but they must be allowed to do their job!”
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