POTUS fact check; rattled Repubs; Coats wince; road bill advance
Friday, February 17, 2017 11:12 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis
1. Politifact and the President
Thursday’s extraordinary and bizarre 77-minute press conference by President Trump, with Vice President Mike Pence and most of the West Wing in attendance, unloaded an amazing amount of information. Politifact, the Pulitizer-Prize-winning truth-seeking website, sorted through what the president said and what was true/false and where he flip-flopped.
False: His Electoral College victory was the biggest since Reagan; 9th Circuit not most overturned court.
Mostly false: Media has "a lower approval rate than Congress”; Hillary Clinton gave Russia 20 percent of the United States’ uranium. Picking a positive poll: Trump touted results from a recent Rasmussen poll, saying "it has our approval rating at 55 percent and going up." The 55 percent approval rating figure is accurate, according to the Rasmussen poll, as reported by Real Clear Politics. However, 10 other polls have Trump’s approval rating falling between 39 percent and 48 percent.
Mostly True: Trump says stock market record high shows optimism; Russia didn’t hack the Republicans.
True: On Hillary Clinton’s access to debate questions.
Unverifiable: "I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia." Trump has not released his tax returns, so we don’t know.
Flip-flop: Trump’s intel leaks; on his relationship with Putin.
2. Capitol Hill Republicans ‘terrified’
MSNBC’s Morning Joe characterizes his post-presser talks with Capitol Hill Republicans by using words like “alarming” and “terrifying.” Mike Allen writes in Axios this morning: “Top Republicans tell us they're as rattled as ever by President Trump and his White House – and want an intervention. Their gravest long-term concern (beyond the Russia scandal): Trump's devil-may-care effort to run the free world in the same improvisational, family-focused style that worked so well with for his campaign and business. To Trump, this will feel laughably familiar to the Republican establishment whining when he announced, when he won the nomination, when he stumbled in debates, when he surely couldn't win the presidency. He truly believes this has been the best start to a presidency in history, and no one around would ever disagree to his face.
Howey Politics has reached out to the Indiana delegation this morning to gauge perceptions and we’ll sum it up over the weekend. Silence, for instance, is a reaction. We’ve had one member relate similar alarm off the record this week.
3. Gas tax hike passes House
The House Republican gasoline tax hike passed out of the Indiana House 61-36 on HB1002, with seven Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. A number of Republicans who signed Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge are on board, with the rationale that the extra money will end up pouring back into their districts pock-marked with pot holes and deficient bridges in the form of cement, asphalt and steel. On the perception front, unlike past controversial issues like HJR-3 and the Major Moves toll road lease, we’re just not detecting any groundswell of opposition among the peeps.
Speaker Brian Bosma makes another point: “Most of the members of this chamber have voted to cut taxes numerous times. In fact, the cuts that have been voted on in just the last two years have far outweighed any increase in the tax gas here.”
4. Gov. Holcomb in East Chicago
Gov. Eric Holcomb will be meeting with East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland and Hoosier residents and will tour the Super Fund site. For a crisis that emerged last summer, this visit is long overdue and a glaring shortcoming of the Pence administration. It will give Holcomb a chance to display one of his greatest attributes, one as emphathizer-in-chief, as well as gauge and roundup necessary resources to assist hundreds of displaced Hoosier families. Holcomb has a firm grasp that he is governor to all Hoosiers.
5. Wincing with Coats; Pence heads to Europe
Back to Washington, we wince that former senator Dan Coats could be ending his career on the end of a Trumpian yo-yo. His director of national intelligence position was eliminated from the National Security Council’s principals committee. And now Trump is taking his dangerous war against the U.S. intelligence services by threatening to have a billionaire buddy review the process. Both the New York Times and Washington Post are reporting that Coats “is especially angry in what he sees as a move by [Stephen] Bannon and [Jared] Kushner to sideline him before he is even confirmed.”
Then we watch talented Vice Admiral Robert Harward reject Trump’s offer to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser, a cherry job in that realm. Perhaps Harward watched Thursday’s press conference and knew better. We viewed Coats’ nomination as a good thing, “adult supervision” in a sophomoric administration. Now we wonder if he, or any respectable public servant, has the wherewithall to deal with Trump’s “fine-tuned machine.”
On a related security note, Vice President Pence heads to Europe this weekend to reassure rattled allies from Germany to the Baltics, along with the leaders from Afghanistan and Iraq. “These are pretty blunt-spoken people and they are very nervous. Pence is looking like an adult,” James Jeffrey, a U.S. ambassador to Iraq during the Obama administration, told AP. “The question is will Trump listen to him?”
Have a great weekend, folks. It’s The Atomic!