Our Empathy Deficit


In the Pearls, we discussed President Trump's proposed budget. The big winners under this budget were the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, as well as Veteran's Affairs. The biggest loser was the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as nineteen other agencies that Trump proposed elimination. Beth argued that this budget shows diplomacy is not a priority for President Trump as it also includes cuts to the State Department and reductions in foreign aid. 

Inexplicably, healthcare companies such as drug makers and device makers will pay more than twice as much in 2018 to have their medical products reviewed for approval by the Food and Drug Administration under the proposed budget. The proposal budgets over $2 billion in fees to be collected from industry, twice as much in 2017. This doesn't seem to fit the increasingly loud narrative of reducing health care costs. 

We then moved on to compliment the other side. Sarah had big praise two Texas Congressmen who hit the road for a bipartisan road trip. Beth praised Representative Rodney Moore for his eloquent advocacy for charter schools.

In the Suit, we discussed the fiery response on social media to Sarah's photo of a local church bulletin board featuring the viral photo of Omran Daqneesh, a 5-year-old Syrian child. The caption seems to imply all the little boy needs is Christianity in his life and this position left many of you angry and seemed to reflect a growing disenchantment with religion itself. 

Found this in a local church. I'd like to talk about it. I'll start... 😫😫😫😫 -s

A post shared by Sarah & Beth (@pantsuitpolitics) on

We discussed our own frustrations and history with organized religion and what those ideas can (and cannot) mean when it comes to politics. Do Americans suffer from an empathy deficit? What does it mean to be empathetic?

Sarah had high praise for Krista Tippet's expanded audio edition of Becoming Wise, which addresses the interplay between spirituality, religion, and politics incredibly well. 

Beth discussed a wonderful Washington Post article that illustrated the difference in approach between empathy and entitlement in immigrants versus natural-born citizens. She also shared Anne Lamott's recent Facebook reflection.

As well as one of her favorite lines from The Invitation by Oriah Mountain dreamer which states simply, "I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it." 

We ended the show in The Heels by lightening things up a bit with talk of real estate and Designated Survivor.

The Briefcase: Someone Else's Babies

This week, Americans are squarely confronting the rights and responsibilities of our government, our citizens, and our fellow humans. With the travel ban, news from the intelligence community, and the AHCA, we’re asking what we exactly we do and do not owe to someone else’s babies. 

The Travel Ban

A federal district judge in Hawaii enjoined enforcement of President Trump's revised executive order on immigration. We recap the decision

The plaintiffs were seeking a nationwide temporary restraining order. They had to establish

  1. Standing (similar to state of Washington in 9th Circuit decision + tourism; the Court also held that an individual plaintiff had standing to challenge the order)
  2. Strong likelihood of success on the merits of the Establishment Clause claims

The Court extensively quoted statements from then-candidate Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Stephen Miller regarding the intention of the executive order. "The Government has established a disfavored religion." The Court also found that the executive order does not achieve its stated national security objectives because citizenship, according to the DHS, is an "unlikely indicator" of terrorism threats. 

Under the Lemon test, the Court held that the government could not show that the order has a primarily secular purpose. The Court also rejected the Government's claim that the executive order does not discriminate against Muslims because it does not apply to all countries with majority-Muslim populations, saying, “The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed. The court declines to relegate its Establishment Clause analysis to a purely mathematical exercise."

The Court held that the plaintiffs would likely suffer irreparable harm without a temporary restraining order. Sarah fully agrees with the Court's analysis. Beth, while taking serious issue with the executive order, thinks the Court's analysis, particularly on standing, is very thin and problematic. 

Other News

We discuss the Justice Department's indictment of two Russian spies and two criminal hackers in connection with the breach of 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014, and we wonder how the administration will respond. 

Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner announced this week that there is no indication that the government surveilled Trump Tower before the election. Sean Spicer then told the press that a British intelligence agency, GCHQ, actually did the spying. GCHQ responded by saying that Spicer's allegations are "utterly ridiculous." 

We applaud the Netherlands for Geert Wilders' defeat, and we lament remarks from Congressman Steve King

Friday Feedback

We briefly discuss the CBO report on the American Health Care Act and consider feedback from listeners Lauren and Susan. 

From Lauren: speaking as someone who has had fibromyalgia for nine years those ads have actually brought a new awareness to the disease. 9 years ago when I was 15 and diagnosed and would people I that I had been diagnosed they would say "wait what is that I don't know what that is." Or even "well that sounds fake you must just want special treatment and the attention."  But now they say "oh yeah the one with the drug ad on TV" and it gives them a point of reference to understand what the disease is better than they did before. 

I would like to know who is actually thinking about the young and sick because there are a lot of us? I feel like I and people like me have been completely forgotten in this discussion and it is one that will greatly affect my life in far more ways than it will affect my peers as they are young and healthy. 

From Susan: As a physician I have been regularly confronted with all the ways the current insurance structure (with or without the ACA) fails patients (and makes their doctors crazy talking to insurance companies to get coverage for standard of care items).  I have always been anti-single-payer but have started to feel like maybe it's the only way to get the people who need help, well, helped.  And then I listened to today's podcast!

I think that so often the idea of single payer can be seen as the ONLY way we actually help those in need, while those who promote a market based strategy are seen as elitist or not wanting to help those in poverty.  Your approach of "absolutely, we are have to help people, but let's do it in a way that keeps as much control as possible in their own hands" was so refreshing, and a voice I think is sorely missing from the more public conversation.  I am so with you on separating insurance from employers... I would be really interested to hear if you have amy thoughts on how to make that opinion heard - many of my colleagues (and most medical associations who make statements on policy) are pro-single-payer, so that avenue of advocacy as not as useful as it can be at times.

Repeal and Replace: The American Health Care Act

Republicans have been saying "repeal and replace" for seven years. Today, we're talking about their proposal, the American Health Care Act, to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. 

The Pearls (our quick discussions at important  stories of the week) 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions requested the resignation of 46 United States Attorneys this week. Though it is not unprecedented for new administrations to transition personnel in the Department of Justice, the Trump administration's approach seemed unnecessarily graceless. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, was especially taken aback by the Trump administration's move, refused to resign, and was ultimately fired.

We also discussed two thought-provoking pieces on how we take in information. A recent study concluded that Breitbart dominated right-wing media during the 2016 election, creating an ecosystem of thought that altered the broader media agenda. We discuss our thoughts on Breitbart as a nationalist and populist outlet, rather than a conservative one, and on what we see as asymmetric polarization. In connection with exiting the echo chamber, Sarah recommended PolitEcho and Escape Your Bubble

The second piece is a fascinating experiment in gender roles. An NYU professor recreated parts of the debates between Trump and Clinton using a woman actor to play Trump and a male actor to play Clinton. Aside from the gender swap, the language, gestures, and tones of voice exactly mimicked Trump and Clinton during the debates. The results surprised the NYU audiences, and we were surprised by our reactions.

As always, we took a moment to compliment the other party. Beth complimented Congresswoman Debbie Dingell for her measured comments on health care reform. Sarah complimented Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner for his willingness to hold town halls and address constituent concerns. 

The Suit (our closer look at a single topic): 

Following the November 2016 elections, Beth said that Republicans would have to step up and actually govern now because having an undivided government means there are no excuses. The American Health Care Act is Republicans' first real shot at actually governing, and we're not impressed. 

First, we discuss the strategy of beginning the legislative agenda with health care when immigration or tax reform seem like more logical choices that would set the stage for health care reform. We also discuss the rushed, secretive process to create the bill and the hypocrisy in pushing the bill through the committee process without a CBO score. Republicans are also failing to build bipartisan consensus and instead trying to push the bill through with a simple majority in the Senate through the budget reconciliation process. As a result, House Speaker Paul Ryan says the bill is the first of three phases, and the bill can deal only with matters related to the budget under the Byrd Rule. 

The ACHA replaces the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act with a 30% penalty for failing to maintain continuous coverage. We think the effectiveness of this provision is dubious at best. 

Additionally, the ACHA creates a tax credit system based on age for purchasing insurance, and it takes dramatic steps to change the Medicaid system.  We think the bill largely helps the upper middle class and the wealthy through expanding the use of health savings accounts and repealing a number of taxes, such as the net investment tax, that the ACA imposed. 

Fundamentally, the ACHA does not tackle the hardest questions about health insurance -- namely, how to lower the cost of health care, how to provide coverage for working adults who cannot afford health insurance, and how to provide affordable care to the sickest Americans. Beth feels strongly that employer-sponsored health care contributes to these problems and that Republicans should work to transition health care away from employer-sponsored plans to make lasting and sustainable progress. She references the work of Avik Roy on health care. Sarah also favors getting employers out of health care because of her views on reproductive rights. We discuss competition, market-driven options, and a single payer system as alternatives. Because the ACHA fundamentally doesn't address the hardest questions to promote lasting change in health care, we give it a C-/D, which mirrors comments from David Brooks and John Kasich

The Heels (what we're thinking about outside of politics) 

Sarah is stoked about Paducah's new float center -- Revive Paducah. Beth can't stop thinking about her visit to Glenn O. Swing Elementary School in Covington, Kentucky, which is using innovation in teaching and supporting students to shatter the myth that poor kids can't learn.


The Briefcase: Transparency, Wikileaks, and Listener Feedback

Photo Credit: UKNGroup Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: UKNGroup Flickr via Compfight cc

We discuss Noah Dyer - candidate for governor in Arizona - who posted a VERY transparent statement on his sex life on his website.

Is total transparency something we want? Wikileaks certainly does. We discuss the trove of documents allegedly showing the CIA's cyber hacking capacity and technologies. We also discuss Assange's belief that total transparency is the goal. 

We follow up on some feedback from our Book Club discussion with Brynn who shared: I have tried SO.  HARD.  since the election to "reach across the aisle" and talk to people like this.  But now, 120 days later, I am done.  Do I condone physical or verbal aggression towards these people?  Of course not.  But if they are not willing to see that their views are truly HATEFUL then I don't know what else I can do.  At this point I say we just press on without them if they aren't willing to abandon Radical Christian Extremism, embrace public education and accept facts as truth.  Because there HAS to be some kind of line in the sand.  We cannot keep making excuses for them or analyzing them like we're anthropologists forever.  WE (all rational people of any political leaning) have to take a collective stand and tell them NO.  

We also discussed our listener Chiara's argument that maybe we do want the President to fail. Chiara wrote us, " I was thinking about how, on the latest episode, you said that you aren't rooting for Trump to fail because you have respect for the office of the president. That's actually something I've been thinking about a lot too...but for me, I'm starting to think that I AM rooting for him to fail...but for the same reason: because I respect the office of the presidency. The truth is, if Trump succeeds, it will inevitably send the message that it is entirely okay for the American people to elect a president who is racist, sexist, bigoted, possibly engaged in illegal activities, and not at all knowledgeable about government or world affairs. If Trump succeeds, people will see that if such a person is elected, everything will be fine. And I don't think that's okay. So I don't want that message to be sent, lest he get re-elected (or we end up with a similar president in the future). It's the same as with President Obama, at least if we're going entirely on identity. Even though I didn't agree with all of his policies, his successful presidency demonstrated that a black, feminist community organizer/constitutional lawyer could do the job relatively well. And I believe that is a great thing, and fundamental to his legacy."

We also shared Amanda's thoughts on educated v. expert. "I wonder whether, when we're talking about the value of ideas, we shouldn't put a premium on expertise rather than education alone. They very often come hand in hand, but this leaves the door open for more people, allows more of us into the conversation. It allows both the economics professor and the lifelong welfare recipient to be heard because in different ways, they're both experts. When it comes to crafting policy, things get more complicated (this way of looking at expertise won't be of much use when it come, to dealing with global warming, for example), but I think it provides an okay framework for dealing with certain types of emotional arguments. 

 Of course, this doesn't shed much light on the discussions a lot of us are having right now, where it seems like individuals really want their feelings to have the same value as facts. Balancing knowledge and emotion is difficult for most of us as individuals, let alone as a nation."

Our Tuesday show will be discussing the Republican's Obamacare Replacement Plan so don't miss it!

What the Russia!?!

Show Notes

We start this episode with a mini-primer on Russia: In terms of land mass, Russia is much larger than the US. The reverse is true on population, with the US almost at twice the population of Russia. There is a major difference in nominal GDP (market value of all final goods and services without regard to cost of living)  — Russia at $1.857 trillion; US at $17.419 trillion — major fluctuations annually but the point is, US economy is much, much stronger.  But Russia has less debt as a country than the US. Russian military is well-armed, and Russia has more known nuclear warheads (both active and total) than the US

Vastly oversimplified history is that a Cold War existed between the US and Russia following World War II up until the late 1980s. Constant political and military tension between the two superpowers, which had vastly different political and economic systems. 

Russia as it exists today was established in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. This resulted from the Reagan - Gorbachev relationship, the relaxation of Soviet control in Eastern Europe, and the eventual declaration in 1989, between Boris Yeltsin and George HW Bush, that the Cold War was over. Boris Yeltsin had generally good relationships with GHW Bush and Bill Clinton 

Then came Vladimir Putin, who became President after Yeltsin resigned. Putin is a former KGB officer (KGB roughly translates to Committee for State Security — military service overseeing internal security, intelligence, and acting as secret police).  He’s 64 years old. He was the President of Russia between 2000 and 2008; then he was term-limited from seeking a third consecutive term and was appointed Prime Minister from 2008-2012 by president Dmitri Medvedev and became Russia’s president again in 2012. 

Under Putin, Russia has become more assertive in international affairs (and assassinations - Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko), blamed the US for revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine. Russia and the US clashed over the US building an anti-ballistic missile station in Poland in 2007.

In 2009, President Obama and Putin hit it off at the G20 in London and promised a fresh start to US - Russia relations. That’s when Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart actually pressed a reset button (which fell pretty flat in a lot of ways, especially because the State Dept messed up the spelling so it translated to “overload” instead of “reset”). In 2010, Russia and the US agreed to start reducing nuclear arsenals. But in 2011, there were massive protests in Russia following a legislative election, and Putin accused the US of interfering and inciting unrest. Putin specifically believed that Hillary Clinton had incited unrest in the country. Putin started moving away from democracy and seeking superpower status again. He manipulated trade policy and caused divisions within NATO. 

And it just kept getting worse. The US passed the Magnitsky Act in 2014, imposing financial and travel restrictions because of human rights abuses in Russia. This law is named after a Russian lawyer and auditor who died in a Moscow prison after investigating fraud involving Russian tax officials. The US has accused Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and President Obama called Russia a “regional power” rather than an international player. That didn’t sit well with Putin. 

Now Russia supports the Assad regime in Syria and some have called Syria a proxy war between Russia and the US. In 2016, Putin suspended a plutonium management agreement with the US, saying that the US has violated the agreement. 

With relations at a historic low (at least since the mid 1970s)…Donald Trump comes along. 

Trump’s History With Russia (mad props to Politico)

People to know: 

Carter Page — Trump named him as a foreign policy advisor in March 2016. Page is a banker and lived in Moscow for three years. He resigned in September. 

Paul Manafort — Trump hired him as campaign manager in March 2016. Manafort had recently served as a senior advisor to the pro-Russia Ukrainian President. In August, NYT published an expose showing that the pro-Russia Party of Regions earmarked $12.7 million for Manafort. 

Roger Stone — long-time friend of Trump who has said bizarre things in lots of forums, including on twitter, that suggested he knew what wikileaks had and when it would be released 

2013: Trump holds the Miss Universe pageant in Russia; makes a comment about Putin attending, says he does a lot of business with Russians in tv interviews. After the Miss Universe pageant, he tweets that he learned a lot in Moscow, that the US must be very smart and strategic

2015: - September: the FBI tells a tech-support contractor at the DNC that the DNC might have been hacked. The contractor isn’t sure if the FBI agent is real. 

- November: Trump says he knows Putin well because they were on 60 Minutes together and says he supports Putin “knocking the hell out of ISIS.” 

- Dec: Michael Flynn goes to Russia Today dinner, is paid to speak. 

Dec. 17: Russian President Vladimir Putin praises Trump, then the front-runner in the Republican primary, at his year-end news conference.

“He is a very flamboyant man, very talented, no doubt about that. But it’s not our business to judge his merits, it’s up to the voters of the United States," Putin says. "He is an absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today. He says that he wants to move to another level relations, a deeper level of relations with Russia … How can we not welcome that? Of course, we welcome it.”

Trump responds with praise of his own.

"It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond," Trump says in a statement. "I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect."

Feb. 2016: Trump starts saying that Putin has called him a genius (he repeated it many times throughout the campaign) 

March 19 2016: John Podesta gets an email instructing him to change his password. A Clinton campaign staffer tells him (incorrectly) that the email is legit. He changes his password, which allows Russian hackers access to his mailbox. Same thing happens to Billy Rhinehart, another Clinton staffer, a few days later. 

April 2016: Trump gives a foreign policy speech and calls for better relations with Russia…the Russian ambassador was there in a literal front - row seat. 

“We desire to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia and China. We have serious differences with these two nations, and must regard them with open eyes, but we are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests. Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism. I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia, from a position of strength only, is possible, absolutely possible. Common sense says this cycle, this horrible cycle of hostility must end and ideally will end soon. Good for both countries. Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out. If we can’t make a deal under my administration, a deal that’s great — not good, great — for America, but also good for Russia, then we will quickly walk from the table. It’s as simple as that. We’re going to find out.”

May 2016: James Clapper says there are some indications of cyberattacks aimed at presidential campaigns.

June 2016: A Trump advisor, Carter Page (we’ll talk about him in a second) says Putin is a stronger leader than Obama. Guccifer 2.0 publishes some DNC emails. 

July 2016: Three Trump advisors, including Carter Page meet with the Russian ambassador in Cleveland and say they hope to improve Russia-US relations

Same week — July 18: The Republican National Convention adopts the official Republican Partyplatform, with the following language on Ukraine: “We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine and greater coordination with NATO defense planning. … We will not accept any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force, in Ukraine, Georgia, or elsewhere, and will use all appropriate constitutional measures to bring to justice the practitioners of aggression and assassination.”

The Washington Post reports the same day: “The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.”

Gordon, one of Trump’s national security advisers, would later tell CNN that he opposed efforts to add language that was more aggressively pro-Ukraine because he believed that would have been inconsistent with Trump’s public statements on the matter.

July 20 - Jeff Sessions meets with the Russian ambassador The Wikileaks gets started and DWS resigns More leaks, more warm statements about Russia

August  - Trump gets briefed on direct links between the Russian government and the email hacks. He names Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager, Manafort starts fading and then resigns 

September - President Obama and Clapper make public statements about Russia’s involvement in the hacks; Trump and Pence both say that Putin is more a leader than Obama. Trump tells Russia today that Russia probably isn’t behind the attacks and that the Democrats were likely floating that story

September 8 - Jeff Sessions meets with the Russian ambassador again

More leaks. More Trump skirting the Russia issue in debates. 

Nov 9: Russian parliament applauds when Trump’s election is announced

December 8: Carter Page is in Russia, says he’s there to meet with “business leaders and thought leaders” 

December 26: A former KGB official who is believed to have been assisting in putting together a dossier on Trump’s relationships with Russia is found dead in his car. 

December 29: Obama administration sanctions Russia for election involvement

January & Feb - IC says Russia definitely intended to influence the election. Flynn Resigns 

Sessions recuses himself. Now Trump says Obama wiretapped Trump tower Corey Lewandowski says that President Obama listened in on Jeff Sessions’ office.

After tackling this timeline, we attempt - but mostly worry - about what should and most likely will come next in the intelligence community and in Congress.

In the Heels, Beth adds to our idea about our app that helps you avoid small talk by adding a feature that alerts people to what you DO want to talk about. (PS Sarah wants to talk about Making Oprah). Sarah is thinking about Lent both fun practices and giving up things. Pema Chödrön: Are You Addicted to Distraction?

What Are Democrats to Do?

With Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, we focus on what Democrats can and should do to move forward before the midterms. 

The Pearls

President Trump continued ridiculing the media at CPAC this week, lashing out at "fake news." 

We talk about the long-term ramifications of constantly referring to "fake news." 

This week, the White House excluded the New York Times, CNN, and Politico from a press gaggle. President Trump also announced that he will not attend the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner. We find President Trump's fixation on leaks inconsistent with his proclamations of "fake news" and wonder how the White House can establish a more productive relationship with the press. We also question Sean Spicer's management style -- examining devices is no way to build a culture of trust within the White House communications team. 

Finally, we talk about the tragic hate crimes that took place this week in Olathe, Kansas. We talk about how America is a responsibility, not a possession and discuss the importance of immigration to our nation. Sarah recommends this episode of Hidden Brain.

For our "compliment the other party" segment, Beth compliments Pete Buttigieg for stepping up as a young leader in the Democratic Party. Sarah compliments Kevin Hassett, President Trump's new chief economist.

The Suit

In the Suit, we discuss how the Democratic Party can move forward in the Trump era, following the election of Tom Perez as the party chair. We discuss the "big tent" nature of both parties, noting the split between hard left progressives and more traditional democrats in the Democratic Party and similarities to at least a three-way split in the Republican Party

We talk about the importance of norms and process. Sarah traces the abandonment of norms back to Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America. The truth is that partisanship is nothing new. But the growing influence of media and social media is changing the way we approach civic engagement

We aren't sure what the best path forward is for Democrats (or Republicans for that matter), but we suggest that both parties embrace Zora Neale Hurston's quote: "There are years that ask questions and years that answer."

The Heels

In the Heels, we discuss what's on our minds outside of politics. Beth has been thinking about what loyalty means. Sarah is focused on the #weekinthelife project.





The Briefcase: The Psychology of It All

In today's episode of the Briefcase, we talk about the appointment of H.R. McMaster. It seems that his appointment will lead to reorganization within the foreign policy teams and we discuss reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is being sidelined

Discord in the White House is nothing apparently compared to the discord found at Congressional Town Halls across the country - specifically growing concerns about the repeal of Obamacare. We talk about Senator Tom Cotton's town hall specifically. We discuss Vox's Sarah Kliff's trip to Kentucky to investigate the Affordable Care Act and the political climate surrounding it. Beth is concerned at the lack of replacement plan. Sarah is concerned the replacement plans help the wrong people

Also, we loose our nuance for this. McConnell: 'Winners make policy, losers go home' 

We correct our coverage of the FEC.

We also talk about the Trump administration's decision to revoke the Obama administration's guidance on transgender restrooms in schools, the role of the judiciary and the legislature, and the cultural polarization around these issues. Sarah recommends This Is How It Always Is - a novel that deals with this issues in a beautiful way and analogizes the personal experience with cultural issues that shift our society's position on things, such as gay rights. She cited Ilyse Hogue's speech about abortion at the Democratic National Convention. 

We end with listener feedback on our last episode. We discuss whether or not we are rational animals and how we can design your life (and voting decisions) in the face irrationality.  We also discuss a message from Autumn about Trump's creation of an "in group" and "out group." 

Also, a final plug for our book club on goodreads and the book that they are currently reading Strangers In Their Own Land!

Resistance and Backlash

Today, we talk about a provocative New York Times essay, "Are Liberals Helping Trump?" But first, we continue our efforts to keep up with the chaotic pace of news. 

Show Notes

In the Pearls, we talk about immigration raids taking place across the United States. Some worry that the raids are too aggressive. Others point out that the raids themselves aren't as significant as our overall immigration policy. Sarah recommends this episode of Death Sex & Money. 

We also discuss Ann Ravel's surprising decision to resign from the Federal Election Commission. She says that the partisan gridlock in the FEC is unproductive and that she can be more effective as a private citizen. Customarily, Senate Democrats would help choose a replacement, but the choice belongs to President Trump. 

We talk about the rally President Trump held over the weekend in Florida.  During that rally, Trump's comments about Sweden made waves in the United States and abroad. He later clarified that he learned about crime in Sweden from FOX News. That Fox News report has been challenged

We decide that we're not going to talk about Milo Yiannaopoulos, ever. You can read about him here if you want, but we don't recommend it. 

President Trump called the media the enemy of the American people. Journalists had some strong reactions

President Trump also fired Craige Deare, a senior NSC official--reportedly over critical comments he made during a private speech. 

Sarah's compliment today goes to Shephard Smith. Beth compliments Chris Seelbach

In The Suit, we start with the New York Times essay, "Are Liberals Helping Trump?" and then move into a wide-ranging discussion of Trump, politics, education, and backlash. We talk about Trump's public relations experiences and strategy, and about how we can overcome the current political polarization.

We end with our thoughts outside of politics--including multigenerational caregiving and an idea to revolutionize small talk.  

The Briefcase: S*** keeps happening

We bemoan the chaotic state of the news and try to tackle the highlights from the past few days' headlines. We discuss President Trump's frequent (and expensive) trips to Mar-a-Lago. Beyond the conflicts of interest, watching members of the club post pictures during what seemingly was a security crisis bothered us and many others. 

We also discuss National Security Council Advisor Mike Flynn's resignation and President Trump's inability to take contradictory advice. 

Testing President Trump

We’re taking a deep dive into the 9th Circuit’s opinion on Trump’s executive orders. First, in the Pearls, we’ll discuss ethical issues causing problems in the White House, and, in the Heels, we’re going to talk about what’s on our minds besides politics this week and our big book announcement!

Show Notes

First up, Trump and Kellyanne fight with Nordstrom. Trump earlier this week tweeted that "My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person – always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!" (And it was retweeted by the official @POTUS account) 

Then, Kellyanne stated on Fox & Friends: "Go buy Ivanka's stuff, is what I would tell you," Conway said. "It's a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully -- I'm going to just, I'm going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online."

The comments could run afoul of a federal law that bars public employees from making an "endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity."

James Nuzzo, a legal scholar and founder of the Colchester Group consulting firm, took a closer look at President Trump's tweet and noticed something very important was missing: Specifics. All the tweet accuses Nordstrom of "doing" is being "very unfair," Nuzzo points out. Any lawsuit the company brings against Mr. Trump would have almost no chance of success. Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that only factual misrepresentation, in other words specific lies — not opinion — would be considered libel or slander. And the tweet almost seems to have been crafted very wisely with that precedent in mind. Someone saying another person or company is "unfair" is almost the definition of an opinion as "fairness" cannot really be defined legally or otherwise. In short, don't expect President Trump to get a slap on the wrist or any other kind of slap from the courts over this.

Congress is a different matter. A much stronger argument could be made that Congress could officially censure President Trump for his conduct connected to the tweet against Nordstrom and several others like it that specifically attacked or demeaned businesses and individuals.

Plus, we ask Just how much trouble is Michael Flynn in? and talk about North Korea conducts ballistic missile test.

In the Suit, we talk about Washington v. Trump and do our best to summarize the decision. 

  1. The procedural history of 9th Circuit decision

    A. The state of Washington went to federal district court asking for a temporary restraining order (TRO). When a hearing happens, Washington wants a declaration that the order is illegal and unconstitutional and permanently enjoined from enforcement. (Minnesota jumped in as a plaintiff, too)The District Judge granted that TRO. The President asked the 9th circuit to stay the TRO. So, Washington said, “STOP enforcing this EO until a full hearing can happen.” The district court did. Then the President said to the circuit court “stop the district court’s order stopping my order until a full hearing can happen. And the 9th circuit said, “nope, we’re going with that restraining order.” 
  2. Standing — cases and controversies — you can only bring a lawsuit if you have a particular and specific, non-theoretical injury that a court could actually redress. The states of Washington and Minnesota said that they were harmed because the EO kept people from coming to their public universities and the states are asserting the rights of their students and faculty membersThe Court agreed. 
  3. Judicial Review - The President said that his order was unreviewable. Courts recognize deference to the executive branch, but the President said that there is no judicial review for orders on immigration. — The court isn’t having that at all. The Supreme Court has repeatedly and explicitly rejected the notion that the political branches have unreviewable authority over immigration or are not subject to the Constitution when policymaking in that context. Th federal courts routinely review the constitutionality of—and even invalidate—actions taken by the executive to promote national security, and have done so even in times of conflict.
  4. Likelihood of Success on the Merits: 

          A. The President says people affected by the order have no Due Process rights - court says nope, due process rights apply.

          B. Lawful permanent residents — WH counsel issued a clarifying statement that lawful permanent residents are exempt from the more onerous parts of the order. The Court said: not relying on that. WH counsel isn’t the president -can’t issue an order superseding the executive order. "Moreover, in light of the Government’s shifting interpretations of the Executive Order, we cannot say that the current interpretation by White House counsel, even if authoritative and binding, will persist past the immediate stage of these proceedings.” And BTW, people who aren’t lawful permanent residents (including aliens who are unlawfully in the US) have due process rights, too. 

         C. Court refuses to limit the scope of TRO and affords due process rights to basically everyone. They also won't limit the geographic scope because of the importance of national immigration policy - effectively saying "It is not our role to try and rewrite the EO"

          D. The Court avoids the religious discrimination question but does say the Government has not met its burden of showing a likelihood of success on appeal.

          E. Despite the district court’s and our own repeated invitations to explain the urgent need for the Executive Order to be placed immediately into effect, the Government submitted no evidence to rebut the States’ argument that the district court’s order merely returned the nation temporarily to the position it has occupied for many previous years.

      5. Conclusion: On the one hand, the public has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies. And on the other, the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination. We need not characterize the public interest more definitely than this; when considered alongside the hardships discussed above, these competing public interests do not justify a stay

In the Heels, Sarah just finished This Is How It Always Is and loved it. Also, make sure and check out The Pantsuit Politics book club on Goodreads. For the month of February, they're reading Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.

This post inspired Sarah to read more!

Also, we have our own exciting book news! We've signed with a literary agent and we want to hear your ideas for what YOU would like to see in a Pantsuit Politics book - everything from episodes that connected with you to questions you'd like us to answer. Let us know!

The Briefcase: Elizabeth Warren, Yemen, and Jay Carson from The Politics Guys



"Nevertheless, she persisted." Did Senator McConnell make a rare strategic mistake or was this all political theater? Was the raid on Yemen worth the cost?

We talk about that and more on today's Briefcase, as well as sharing Sarah's talk with Jay Carson - the conservative counterpart on The Politics Guys podcast.

Show Notes

'Nevertheless, She Persisted' and the Age of the Weaponized Meme

Trump’s Yemen Raid That Killed Nine Children: What Went Wrong

The Politics Guys

Updates from the 3 branches

Is Steven Bannon really in charge? Does Congress want to pollute our streams? Does Donald Trump have it out for the judiciary branch? We check in with all three branches and talk to Jason Murray, a former law clerk for Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch.

The Briefcase: Dr. Tamara Tweel on Involuntary Miscarriages and Voluntary Abortions

Sarah talks with Dr. Tamara Tweel, Director of Strategic Development for the Hillel International Office of Innovation, about how her involuntary miscarriage brought her before the Ohio state legislator discussing voluntary abortion. 

Challenging Topics, Challenging News

We call our Friday episodes "The Briefcase." In each episode of the Briefcase, we cover listener feedback and news of the week. This week, we continue to talk about your thoughtful perspectives on the Women's March and reproductive rights. We also discuss the frenzy of news made by the White House this week as President Trump signs executive orders.