President Obama delivered a brief speech Monday night at an Iftar dinner, the evening meal for Muslims during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, and reiterated the administration's call for a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip.
Our goal has been and continues to be peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. And I will say very clearly, no country can accept rocket fired indiscriminately at citizens. And so, we've been very clear that Israel has the right to defend itself against what I consider to be inexcusable attacks from Hamas.
At the same time, on top of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza that we've worked long and hard to alleviate, the death and injury of Palestinian civilians is a tragedy, which is why we've emphasized the need to protect civilians, regardless of who they are or where they live. [Obama]
Watch the full video of Obama's speech, posted below. The section about Israel and Gaza begins at roughly the 6:30 mark. --Eric Kleefeld
As of Monday, only Paulding County, Ohio, does not have at least one insurance plan in place for individuals shopping for health insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplace for 2018, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports. That affects 334 ACA enrollees out of more than 12.2 million nationwide. The insurance plan options won't be finalized until the fall, so it's possible that at least one insurer will step in to offer coverage or Paulding County, or insurers could pull out of other counties in the U.S.
— Kaiser Family Found (@KaiserFamFound) August 21, 2017
As late as Aug. 2, 20 U.S. counties had no ObamaCare exchange coverage. Ohio became the last state without any options after Wisconsin found an insurer for Menominee County. People in counties with no exchange options aren't able to get federal subsides to help pay for their health insurance, the Kaiser Family Foundation explains. In 2017, 84 percent of marketplace enrollees, or 8.7 million people, received tax credits, while 57 percent (5.9 million people) got cost-sharing reductions. Peter Weber
If Trump plans to pardon Joe Arpaio today, he apparently hasn't told the Justice Department about it yet
President Trump is holding a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday night, and he mentioned on Fox News last week that he's "seriously considering" a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff recently convicted of criminal contempt for disregarding a federal judge's racial-profiling order before Arizona voters declined to re-elect him last year. If Trump plans to announce the pardon at the Phoenix rally, as widely believed plausible, he won't have gone through the normal channel for presidential pardons, CNN reports, citing a source familiar with that process.
Usually, a petitioner for a presidential pardon, serving time for a federal offense, submits a request to the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney, who reviews the application and gives a recommendation to the deputy attorney general, who makes his or her own recommendation to the president. Trump does not have to follow this process, and there is some precedent for a president pardoning a controversial ally without going through the Justice Department, as former President George W. Bush did when he commuted Scooter Libby's sentence in 2007.
Arpaio told The New York Times last weekend that he has not spoken with Trump since November, was "honored by the potential pardon," and would accept it if offered. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton asked Trump last week to postpone the rally, especially if he plans to pardon Arpaio, saying such an announcement at a raucous rally would just "enflame emotions and further divide our nation" after Charlottesville. On Monday, Stanton and other Phoenix officials said they will do their best to balance the risks of clashes against public safety and everyone's First Amendment rights. You can watch their comments and footage of early protests below. Peter Weber
Paul Ryan said Trump 'messed up' in his post-Charlottesville comments, wishes he wouldn't tweet so much
At a CNN town hall forum in Racine, Wisconsin, on Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed President Trump's various comments in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the previous week. He told one constituent that he believes Trump was "pitch perfect" in his remarks on white supremacists and neo-Nazis a week ago Monday, but added, "I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday, when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity." He added that he doesn't support a motion to censure Trump because he doesn't want condemning white supremacy to turn into a "partisan food fight."
Speaker Paul Ryan on President Trump’s remarks regarding Charlottesville on Tuesday: “He messed up” https://t.co/ZVwenTvTyo
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 22, 2017
If he appeared a little hesitant to criticize Trump, Ryan was happy to scold the Senate for not passing a health-care reform bill — part of the audience cheered when he mentioned the bill's failure, which he took in stride — and he encouraged the upper chamber to revisit the legislation. He optimistically predicted that "it's going to be far easier for us to do tax reform than it was for, say, health-care reform," because of Senate rules that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) invoked so no Democratic votes would be needed.
Ryan also said he wished Trump would tweet less, and there are "some of those tweets that I'd prefer not to have seen," but he is only responsible for his actions and Trump probably isn't going to change his Twitter habits. Which seems fair — White House Chief of Staff John Kelly can't tame Trump's tweeting habits, and the House speaker has enough other things on his plate. In September, for example, Ryan actually needs to shepherd through a budget, fund the government, and pass legislation to raise the debt ceiling. He did not address those must-pass bills at the CNN town hall. Peter Weber
At a CNN town hall forum on Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan faced some pointed questions from the home-district audience in Racine, Wisconsin. The town hall directly followed President Trump's speech on the Afghanistan War, and Ryan praised the address, saying he thinks he heard a new Trump doctrine, "principled realism," and appreciated that Trump did not set any deadlines for ending the war, arguing that the U.S. "shouldn't telegraph our timetable for when we're leaving," because the Taliban would just "wait us out."
Speaker Ryan on an “end date” in Afghanistan: It’s important not to “telegraph our timetable" in Afghanistan https://t.co/aJkQF1kYJ9
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 22, 2017
In another notable exchange, a Dominican nun, Sister Erica Jordan, asked Paul how he squares his Catholic faith with his and his party's laissez-faire policies of cutting taxes, social services, and health care support. Ryan said he wants to help the poor, and he thinks the best way to do that is by promoting "upward mobility and economic growth." The "war on poverty" has largely failed, he said. Jordan did not look terribly impressed.
Nun: As a Catholic, how do you uphold the church’s teachings on the poor?
Ryan: Focusing on “upward mobility and economic growth.” pic.twitter.com/mltyQoicSY
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) August 22, 2017
Ryan's answers drew some questions and comments from people who weren't in the room, like Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who pushed back on Ryan's timetable quote, tweeting: "If your view is that any declaration of a war's end will precipitate victory for some undefined enemy, then the war can never end." The Week's Ryan Cooper added that the Taliban doesn't "have to know the exact moment we're going to give up to be 100 percent certain we will eventually." The Huffington Post's Matt Fuller cut deep:
Paul Ryan on war in Afghanistan: No timelines. Spend until we win.
War on poverty: This has gone on too long. Can't sustain this spending.
— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) August 22, 2017
And even Ryan's likely Democratic challenger, Randy Bryce, had some questions he posed in an ad, since he wasn't invited to the town hall, Ryan's first in his district in two years.
— Randy Bryce (@IronStache) August 21, 2017
No one understands the struggles of self-sacrifice like Louise Linton, the #hermesscarf-wearing, high tax-paying wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
— Margarita Noriega (@margarita) August 22, 2017
Linton, an actress, posted a photo to her Instagram feed on Monday showing her and Mnuchin disembarking from a government plane in Kentucky. Mnuchin was there to try to drum up support for the effort to overhaul the tax code; Linton apparently joined him so she could take a picture that resembled something that might appear in a fashion magazine profile, if you first stared at the eclipse then crossed your eyes.
One Instagram user took umbrage at the use of a government plane (typically, the treasury secretary takes domestic flights when traveling inside the U.S.), commenting, "Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable." Linton's sarcastic reply came quickly. "Cute!" she wrote. "Aw!!! Did you think this was a personal trip?! Adorable! Do you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol." It only got worse from there. "Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country? I'm pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day 'trip' than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you'd be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours." Then came the kicker: "You're adorably out of touch."
A spokesman for the Treasury Department told The Washington Post that Linton's travel costs were paid for by the couple, and that she was not compensated by any of the designers she tagged, not even #valentino (#rockstudheels) or #tomford (#sunglasses). Linton ended up deleting the post and making her account private, just the latest sacrifice she's had to make. Catherine Garcia
On Monday's Daily Show, Trevor Noah took a quick look at what white supremacists actually believe, on the idea that many people have been using the term without understanding its meaning after the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville a week ago. It turns out, it's pretty self-evident: They believe white people are inherently smarter and better. "Don't get me wrong, white people have been doing very well for themselves for the past few hundred years," Noah said, citing the light bulb, air travel, and Macklemore wining the best rap Grammy. "It's been a solid run for white people, I cannot lie, but this stuff goes in cycles."
He poked fun at some of the actual white supremacists who participated in the Charlottesville melee, then brought out Roy Wood Jr. for some further analysis. Wood took things in an interesting direction. "Watching what happened in Charlottesville, it only made me wonder: How are you the master race, but you're so dumb?" he asked. "These dudes, they got a great thing going, and they're messing it up. Donald Trump's already given white supremacists pretty much everything they want. He's building the wall, he's banning Muslims, he's taking away black people's voting rights, he blocked Tyler Perry from dropping any new Madea movies."
That last part isn't true, probably, but Wood compared what the white nationalists are doing now to a mistake he made when a friend used to work at Wendy's, back in the day. "They've got a man on the inside, but all the stupid s--t they're doing is just bringing heat on them," he said. "Trump's trying to give them the hookup; this is not how you treat a hookup." He gave some more dubious examples, then brought it home: "Let me give you some advice, you, the genius master race. Comes courtesy of the Dr. Martin Luther King." Or West Side Story? Watch below. Peter Weber
In President Trump's new Afghanistan War policy, laid out in a speech on Monday night, he pledged a deliberately unspecified troop surge, probably of about 4,000 extra troops, and declined to set a timetable for withdrawing the U.S. military from the country. Trump sided with the former generals in his administration rather than those advocating winding down the 16-year-old war as a lost cause, prominently his recently ejected chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, so perhaps it is no surprise that the foreign policy hawks in the Republican Party were very enthusiastic about Trump's speech...
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) August 22, 2017
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 22, 2017
Between Afghanistan and Syria @realDonaldTrump is showing the WILL to stand up to Radical Islam...
....unlike President Obama.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) August 22, 2017
...while Bannon's Breitbart News vehemently disagreed with Trump's decision. Specifically, the writers and editors at Breitbart took issue with Graham and other conservatives that the policy was significantly different that former President Barack Obama's.
Trump's #Afghanistan speech was Obama's speech minus the deadline & details. Like the bit about Pakistan, not convinced we can deliver India
— Joel B. Pollak (@joelpollak) August 22, 2017
Obama 2009: “The days of providing a blank check are over.”
Trump 2017: “Our support is not a blank check."
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) August 22, 2017
How it's playing on Breitbart pic.twitter.com/xN4lvTviof
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) August 22, 2017
Democrats criticized Trump's lack of details or vision. And while the reaction at Fox News was much more positive, not all Fox News regulars were on board. Laura Ingraham, a conservative radio host once considered for White House press secretary and reportedly in talks for her own Fox News TV show, sounded almost like the Democrats.
Who's going to pay for it? What is our measure of success? We didn't win with 100K troops. How will we win with 4,000 more? https://t.co/XHj9GpJzaZ
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) August 22, 2017
So, 2017, strange bedfellows, etc. Peter Weber