The Crisis of Western Civilization

David Brooks: “In America, the basic fabric of civic self-government seems to be eroding following the loss of faith in democratic ideals. According to a study published in The Journal of Democracy, the share of young Americans who say it is absolutely important to live in a democratic country has dropped from 91 percent in the 1930s to 57 percent today.”

“While running for office, Donald Trump violated every norm of statesmanship built up over these many centuries, and it turned out many people didn’t notice or didn’t care.”

“The faith in the West collapsed from within. It’s amazing how slow people have been to rise to defend it.”

Obama Returns to Public Life Next Week

New York Times: “Barack Obama’s extended post-presidential vacation is about to end. After spending weeks in French Polynesia — including time on the yacht of the movie mogul David Geffen along with Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey — Mr. Obama will return to Chicago on Monday for his first public event as a former president.”

“His self-imposed silence since Inauguration Day will end with a series of events over the next four weeks. A Monday town hall-style meeting with students at the University of Chicago will be followed by an awards ceremony in Boston; a series of public remarks as well as private paid speeches in the United States and Europe; and an appearance at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel.”

Trump Condos Worth $250 Million Pose Conflict

USA Today spent four months cataloging every property Trump’s companies own across the country. Reporters found that Trump’s companies are sitting on at least $250 million of individual properties in the USA alone. Property records show Trump’s trust and his companies own at least 422 luxury condos and penthouses from New York City to Las Vegas, 12 mansion lots on bluffs overlooking his golf course on the Pacific Ocean and dozens more smaller pieces of real estate. The properties range in value from about $200,000 to $35 million each.”

“The volume of real estate creates an extraordinary and unprecedented potential for people, corporations or foreign interests to try to influence a president. Anyone who wanted to court favor with the president could snap up multiple properties or purposefully overpay. They could buy in the name of a shell company, making it impossible for the public to know who was behind the sales.”

Mattis Privately Tells Lawmakers Budget Not Enough

“Defense Secretary James Mattis has privately told Congress the Trump administration’s Pentagon budget request isn’t sufficient to cover the cost of rebuilding the military as President Trump has vowed to do,” CNN reports.

“Mattis is not publicly raising concerns about the $603 billion Pentagon budget plan, aligning himself with the White House’s decision, though it’s a stance that’s sparking frustration from some Republican defense hawks in Congress.”

U.S. Moves Towards Imposing Steel Tariffs

“The U.S. has set the stage for a global showdown over steel, launching a national security investigation that could lead to sweeping tariffs on steel imports in what would be the first significant act of economic protectionism by President Trump,” the Financial Times reports.

“The decision to use a 1962 law allowing the US government to limit imports that threaten its security readiness is intended to deliver on Mr Trump’s campaign promises to bolster heavy industry and ‘put new American steel into the spine of this country’… But it risks setting off trade tensions with China just days after Mr Trump avoided another conflict by backing down on a promise to label Beijing a currency manipulator, citing in part its help in dealing with North Korea.”

New York Times: “From Mr. Trump’s ‘buy American, hire American’ rallying cry in Wisconsin this week to Vice President Mike Pence’s warnings to Japan and South Korea about the need to rewrite trade deals, the Trump administration is moving against free trade on multiple fronts.”

Be Skeptical of a Health Care Deal

Playbook: “The following things are true: leaders of the House Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group have been talking and have produced a series of changes to the GOP health-care bill — (the one pager) … No one — especially the White House — has any idea if this will pass. The new legislation hasn’t been whipped by GOP leaders. And there isn’t a single person in the senior leadership of the White House who has passed a bill in Congress.”

“The GOP leadership in the House is skeptical of a vote next week. So are we. … Many members of the House Freedom Caucus are skeptical about this compromise. Some have advocated for a complete scrapping of Obamacare and have said they are a hard no for any bill that stops short of that.”

“But the urgency on health care is a White House-driven effort — and it’s annoying many senior House Republicans. Don’t expect Speaker Paul Ryan to put a health care bill on the floor unless he knows it will pass.”

The New York Times reports that Reince Priebus is feeling the pressure because he took the blame for the bill’s initial failure.

White House Demands Disrupt Shutdown Negotiations

“Congressional leaders’ efforts to hatch a massive spending deal have been thrown off course by the Trump administration’s 11th-hour intervention, leaving the bipartisan bill teetering on the brink of collapse just a week before a government shutdown deadline,” Politico reports.

“The hard line taken by White House officials, particularly OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, has strained an emerging deal between House and Senate leaders that would skirt hot-button issues that could shut down the government. In particular, administration officials’ hopes of giving President Trump a win during his first 100 days, such as border wall funding or a crackdown on sanctuary cities, have complicated what had been a relatively smooth, bicameral, bipartisan negotiation.”

The AP quotes Mulvaney: “We want wall funding. We want (immigration) agents. Those are our priorities… We know there are a lot of people on the Hill, especially in the Democratic Party, who don’t like the wall, but they lost the election.”

Trump Stays Quiet on French Election

“As a candidate, Donald Trump wasn’t shy about predicting the success of Brexit, the 2016 referendum that triggered Britain’s departure from the European Union and rocked the Continent’s politics,” Politico reports.

“But with Europe on the verge of another possible earthquake, President Trump has held his tongue about France’s upcoming presidential vote, surprising some who worried that he or his senior strategist, Steve Bannon, might somehow work to boost the controversial nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen.”

Update: Trump tweets: “Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!”

Trump Will Not Pay for Proposed Tax Cuts

“The Trump Administration has no plans to pay for its proposed tax cuts, according to revealing comments made Thursday by top White House officials Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin at an Institute of International Finance conference. There will be no border adjustment tax — the trillion-dollar hike on imports raised in Paul Ryan’s plan — nor any other big new revenue generators,” Axios reports.

“Both Cohn and Mnuchin said economic growth would be the primary way to pay for corporate and individual tax cuts, while fewer deductions and tax simplification would also play roles. It is not an opinion that is widely shared by on Capitol Hill, including among Republicans.”