1984? Try 10 years earlier
Critics of President Donald Trump’s 26-day tenure liken it to an Orwellian world, where “alternative facts” and “fake news” mean the opposite of what we’ve always believed. But with the breathtaking events of the past 24 to 72 hours, a better comparison than 1984 might be 10 years earlier and the siege of the Nixon administration.
People over the age of 50 recall the all-encompassing focus in 1974 on then-President Richard Nixon, which dominated the far-more limited media outlets that were available at that time. There was no 24-hour cable news outlet, though many television stations turned into all-news outlets during the Watergate hearings in Congress. But the real news came in the morning with delivery of that day’s Washington Post and New York Times, which kept relentless pressure on the White House and Congress and seemed to offer a new revelation with every edition.
Fast forward to 2017 and what we have is Watergate on human growth hormones. Within the blink of an eye, Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign after it was learned he failed to tell – either purposefully or inadvertently – Vice President Mike Pence that he talked about sanctions with the Russian ambassador before the administration took office, a potential serious felony if he lied to the FBI about it when he was being interviewed.
Within hours, the White House was under fire with a flood of stories that Trump was told about Flynn and his potential as a security risk because of blackmail concerns less than a week into office. And it appears he did nothing until his hand was forced by media revelations.
Needless to say, Trump would have none of it. The president began a tweet storm this morning, picking up on talking points from congressional Republicans that the “real scandal” is the leaks from intelligence officials, who Trump accused of being in cahoots with the “fake news” media in an attempt to “cover up” campaign mistakes by Hillary Clinton.
What Trump and his aides overlook and make no mention of, though, is that all the reports so far have been on the money, much like during Watergate, and may never have seen the light of day were it not for real journalists. Trump and his aides had the information for nearly six weeks and had determined it was much ado about nothing. Or, at least, did not plan to make an ado about it. Perhaps that is what “intelligence sources” who went to the media feared.
But while the deflection is shoring up some of Trump’s support, it’s also beginning to annoy some of those who voted for him and are starting to regret their decision.
The noise over the Russia contacts, though, is burying so many other missteps by the novice president. There is a bipartisan call for an ethics investigation into Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway’s promotion of first daughter Ivanka Trump’s apparel line. And that was just this weekend.
“In record time, the 45th president has set off global outrage with a ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries, fired his acting attorney general for refusing to defend the ban and watched as federal courts swiftly moved to block the policy, calling it an unconstitutional use of executive power,” the Times wrote in one overview of the first weeks of Trump’s presidency. “The president angrily provoked the cancellation of a summit meeting with the Mexican president, hung up on Australia’s prime minister, authorized a commando raid that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL member, repeatedly lied about the existence of millions of fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 election and engaged in Twitter wars with senators, a sports team owner, a Hollywood actor and a major department store chain.”
As former Bill Clinton aide Paul Begala, now a CNN talking head, always says, “The problem is never the monkey; it’s the organ grinder.”
A special state commission looking at price variability among health care providers takes interest in establishing a price floor for hospitals at the lower end of the pricing spectrum. The group also seems inclined to give the state the power to disallow contracts between health insurers and providers. (State House News)
The Senate, where everyone is a Very Important Leader, has added yet another top post — a second assistant majority whip — as it loads up on positions in line for the new pay raises lawmakers recently voted themselves. The lucky recipient of this post will get an extra $35,000 for all his or her heavy lifting. (Boston Herald)
Democratic lawmakers on Beacon Hill are pushing back against the Trump agenda through a variety of state initiatives. (Boston Globe)
State Auditor Suzanne Bump says the state’s early voting initiative prior to the presidential election was an unfunded mandate whose cost Beacon Hill should pick up. (Telegram & Gazette)
Amos Hostetter, the billionaire benefactor of the Barr Foundation, is using some of that money to fight what he sees as overdevelopment of Boston’s waterfront. (Boston Globe)
Manchester requires any resident renting out a room in their home for five days or less to obtain a license from the town. (Gloucester Times)
Townsend residents alarmed at an investigation of four of the town’s police officers crowded a meeting of the Board of Selectmen demanding answers. The board eventually canceled the meeting when the crowd couldn’t be accommodated in the hearing room. (Lowell Sun)
Tanisha Sullivan, the head of Boston’s NAACP office, says Boston can “get it right” on race issues. (CommonWealth)
The former Cohasset town manager who was fired by selectmen over his management style and dispute with a department head settled a suit with the town over claims he was terminated in violation of the whistleblower statute. (Patriot Ledger)
A leaked executive order indicates the Trump administration wants to go after legal immigrants who use government benefits, such as food stamps, home heating assistance, or college financial aid. (Governing)
The US Office of Government Ethics calls on the White House to investigate Kellyanne Conway for promoting Ivanka Trump products during a TV interview. (Time)
The whole repeal-Obamacare-thing is proving a lot harder than the law’s outspoken critics thought. (Politico) Jeff Jacoby takes aim at the law’s employer mandate, which he says stifles business growth. (Boston Globe)
Yes, Newton Mayor Setti Warren is interested in running for governor. (Greater Boston)
It’s not clear, on the other hand, who Massachusetts Republicans can get to run against Elizabeth Warren — and Mitch McConnell is not helping matters. (Boston Globe)
A 25-year-old regional planner who says his turbulent life as a juvenile delinquent gives him insight announced his bid for Brockton mayor. (The Enterprise)
About that Seaport helipad we wanted that has caused such a ruckus? Never mind, says GE. (Boston Globe)
And another thing: The Trump travel ban is roiling the travel and tourism industry, with leaders of the sector seeing signs of potential dropoff in visits to the US. (Boston Globe)
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway dumps $900 million in Wal-Mart stock. (Business Insider)
Singapore offers Massachusetts a vision for 21st Century teaching and learning, say Fernando Reimers and Paul Toner. (CommonWealth)
Mashpee selectmen are considering severing ties with Cape Cod Regional Technical High School because they believe the town’s $18 million assessment for 60 students annually is too high. (Cape Cod Times)
The government of Bermuda is suing Burlington-based Lahey Clinic, alleging that the hospital bribed the island’s former premier, a physician, to boost its business there. (Boston Globe)
Dental hygienists are pushing legislation on Beacon Hill that would allow them to perform more services, a change they say will be particularly helpful for low-income patients who often can’t access dental care. Dentists say the move would endanger patients. (Boston Globe)
The number of flu cases around the state are, so far, below last year’s levels, which were also mild compared with previous years. (Standard-Times)
The safety and operational report from the team of inspectors sent to Pilgrim nuclear power plant by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found at least five “more than minor” violations at the Plymouth facility. (Cape Cod Times)
State regulators are eyeing measures to reduce the number of turtle entanglements in conch and lobster pots in Nantucket Sound, which has the highest number of entanglements and deaths of endangered leatherback turtles in the state. (Cape Cod Times)
A former Worcester police officer claims self-defense in the beating of a prisoner. (Telegram & Gazette)
Boston police officers earning thousands of dollars per year for paid details may be jeopardizing their safety and public safety by working so many hours, say experts. (Boston Herald)
Washington Post editor Marty Baron explains why his newspaper labels Trump statements as false rather than lies. (Recode)
White House official Omarosa Manigault tapes a confrontation with April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks. Ryan claims Manigault physically intimidated her, but Manigault says the tape proves Ryan is a “liar, liar pants on fire.” (Washington Post)Mika Brzezinski, the cohost of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, says Kellyanne Conway is no longer welcome on the show. “She’s no longer credible,” says Brzezinski. (Mediaite)
Civics courses in schools around the country are increasingly teaching students at all levels the difference between real and fake news and why it matters. (Associated Press)