The plot to destroy the American dream
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The plot to destroy the American dream
America is at its best when it rejects bigotry, classism, and stereotypes, and embraces the universality of human potential.
My great-grandfather came to America without the ability to read or write but, through hard work and ingenuity, built a successful real estate business. There are millions of stories like his. And millions more in progress.
It's a story that is so fundamentally American that it is inscribed into the base of the Statue of Liberty.
The Trump administration is plotting to end all of that.
In a 447-page proposed rule issued on Friday, the administration proposes sharply limiting legal immigration for those that aren't already wealthy and privileged.
Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free (as long as they already make $62,000 per year)
The proposed rule would favor granting permanent legal status to immigrants who make more than 250% of the federal poverty line. For a family of four, that means an income of $62,750 per year.
This exceeds the median household income in the United States.
Penalizing the sick and the poor for getting help
While advantaging the wealthy, the rule would also penalize any new immigrants who need help, denying them permanent legal status.
The rule is based on an obscure 1892 law which excludes immigrants who are likely to become a "public charge." Up until now, a "public charge" has been narrowly defined as those primarily dependent on "cash assistance or long-term, institutionalized care."
The new rule would dramatically expand the definition of a "public charge" to anyone who receives nutrition assistance, welfare, Medicaid or Medicare prescription drug subsidies.
It effectively penalizes new immigrants who lose their job or get sick. It then presents people with a cruel choice between feeding their family and risking deportation.
The politics of cruelty
The timing of the rule, just weeks before the November election, is no accident. Trump's core political strategy, from the day he announced his campaign in 2015, is to demonize immigrants.
The introduction of the new rule is designed to stoke white resentment and depict immigrants of all kinds as leeches. The effort is spearheaded by White House adviser Stephen Miller, the same person who designed the child separation policy and the Muslim ban. Miller reportedly believes the new rule "will improve congressional Republicans' chances in the midterm elections."
There is no underlying reality to justify the move. A recent study by the libertarian Cato Institute found "immigrants are less likely to consume welfare benefits and, when they do, they generally consume a lower dollar value of benefits than native-born Americans."
Proposal already causing pain
Although the proposal is just in draft form, it's already forcing painful choices among immigrants who now fear that accepting any government assistance could later cause them to be deported.
Politico reports that "[i]mmigrants are turning down government help to buy infant formula and healthy food for their young children because they’re afraid the Trump administration could bar them from getting a green card if they take federal aid."
The change, according to health experts, "could put more babies who are U.S.-born citizens at risk of low birth weight and other problems — undermining public health while also potentially fueling higher health care costs at taxpayer expense."
These are not isolated cases. States report that enrollment in these programs has dropped as much as 20%.
Make America white again
By advantaging those who are already wealthy, the Trump administration will heavily tilt immigration toward richer, whiter countries in Europe and away from Latin America and Africa. This is part of the plan.
President Trump famously questioned why the United States was accepting any immigrants at all from "shithole countries," like Haiti, El Salvador, and African states. He then suggested America accept more immigrants from countries like Norway, which is overwhelmingly white.
All of his proposed and actual immigration policies -- from his "total ban" on Muslim immigration to his draconian limits on refugees -- would make America less diverse.
Making America less diverse has become an explicit goal of popular commentators on Fox News, which is best understood as part of the White House communications arm. Tucker Carlson recently delivered a rant about diversity that would be right at home on white nationalist message boards.
How, precisely, is diversity our strength? Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are?
Do you get along better with your neighbors, your co-workers if you can’t understand each other or share no common values? Please be honest as you answer this question.
Trump's new immigration rule would make Carlson's dream of a less diverse America closer to reality.
The second woman
Christine Ford is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday to detail her allegation that she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when she was in high school.
On Sunday evening, The New Yorker reported that another woman, Deborah Ramirez, says she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh when she was a freshman in college. "I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants. Somebody yelled down the hall, ‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face," Ramirez told The New Yorker.
Yale classmate heard about the assault within 48 hours
While Ford did not share details of her alleged assault until she talked to a therapist in 2012, a male classmate told The New Yorker he heard about Kavanaugh's alleged assault of Ramirez contemporaneously:
A classmate of Ramirez’s, who declined to be identified because of the partisan battle over Kavanaugh’s nomination, said that another student told him about the incident either on the night of the party or in the next day or two. The classmate said that he is “one-hundred-per-cent sure” that he was told at the time that Kavanaugh was the student who exposed himself to Ramirez. He independently recalled many of the same details offered by Ramirez, including that a male student had encouraged Kavanaugh as he exposed himself.
Kavanaugh's roommate at the time, James Roche, did not have information about the specific incident but remembered Kavanaugh being "frequently, incoherently drunk."
White House and Kavanaugh say Ramirez is part of a smear campaign
In response to the New Yorker, the White House dismissed Ramirez's account and alleged she was part of "a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man."
Kavanaugh denied Ramirez's allegations and called it "a smear, plain and simple."
Several friends of Kavanaugh at Yale told The New Yorker "if the incident Debbie alleges ever occurred, we would have seen or heard about it."
As the allegations emerged, Republicans pushed for a quick vote
Republicans have been pressuring Ford to testify as soon as possible, first unilaterally scheduling her testimony for Monday and later threatening to hold the committee vote Monday if Ford did not immediately agree to testify Wednesday.
What was the rush?
The New Yorker reported that "Senior Republican staffers also learned of the [Ramirez] allegation last week and, in conversations with The New Yorker, expressed concern about its potential impact on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Soon after, Senate Republicans issued renewed calls to accelerate the timing of a committee vote."
Following the publication of the New Yorker report, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, called for a postponement of all proceedings related to Kavanaugh so that the FBI can investigate Ford and Ramirez's allegations.
What about Ed
Ed Whelan is the president of a right-wing think tank and a close friend of Kavanaugh who has been deeply involved in the strategy to secure his nomination. On Thursday night, Whelan published an extraordinary thread on Twitter that suggested that Ford was sexually assaulted -- but the culprit was Kavanaugh's doppelganger.
The crackpot theory, which Whelan later deleted, was based on research from Google Maps and Zillow. It is extremely unconvincing. The arguments include the notion that Kavanaugh's doppelganger lived in a house with a bedroom at the top of the stairs.
Based on this ridiculous theory, Whelan identified the name of Kavanaugh's supposed doppelganger, a man who is currently a middle school teacher, implying that he was guilty of sexual assault. (Whelan later apologized for naming the man -- although not for publicizing his theory.)
I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh's Georgetown Prep classmate. I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it. I realize that does not undo the mistake.September 21, 2018
But Kavanaugh doesn't just have a friend with bad judgment. Whelan, who went to high school in California, constructed his theory with the help of someone with inside knowledge of Georgetown Prep in the 1980s. Whelan's theory is similar to one Kavanaugh was making privately to Republican senators.
Thus, the hearing with Christine Ford, tentatively scheduled for Thursday, should be about two topics: 1. Did Kavanaugh sexually assault Ford or Ramirez? 2. What role did Kavanaugh have in implicating an innocent man for the alleged sexual assault of Christine Ford?
Kavanaugh floated a version of the Whelan's crackpot theory to Senator Hatch
According to the Washington Post, days before Whelan made the theory public, Kavanaugh told Senator Hatch that Ford had mistaken him for someone else.
In one key call, Kavanaugh told Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) that Ford had the wrong guy in mind, saying he had not attended a party like the one she described to The Washington Post. He and his allies also privately discussed a defense that would raise doubts that the attacker was Kavanaugh, rather than try to dispute that an incident involving Ford had happened.
Shortly after his call with Kavanaugh, Hatch publicly said that he believed Ford was "mixed up" about the events.
Hatch's spokesperson, Matt Whitlock, said that Kavanaugh "suggested to Sen. Hatch that Dr. Ford may have mistaken someone else for him."
Whitlock later hyped Whelan's "bombshell" before it was made public, suggesting that Hatch's office had been briefed. (He later deleted the tweet.)
The PR machine behind Whelan's tweets
Whelan's theory was not published in a fit of pique. It was meticulously hyped and promoted over a period of several days.
Hours after Kavanaugh's call with Hatch, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which has relentlessly promoted Kavanaugh's candidacy, echoed the doppelganger theory: "Mistaken identity is also possible."
The next day, Columnist Kathleen Parker wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about the theory. "Could there have been another, Kavanaugh-ish-looking teen at the house that night, who might have attacked Ford?" Parker asked.
On Wednesday, Whelan previewed he had something big coming.
A horrific incident similar to the one the accuser alleges may well have occurred. But if so, she's got the wrong guy. Kavanaugh wasn't present, as this and much more will confirm.https://t.co/7Z4pwr7urRSeptember 19, 2018
On Thursday, Politico devoted an entire column to Whelan's coming "proof" that Kavanaugh is innocent, headlined "Kavanaugh saga sets Washington rumor mill on fire."
Behind the scenes, CRC Public Relations, a prominent right-wing P.R. firm, was guiding Whelan's actions. Politico reported that Whelan worked "with CRC and its president, Greg Mueller, to stoke the anticipation."
CRC is not an ordinary firm. They are at the center of the effort to confirm Kavanaugh. They represent the major outside groups financing pro-Kavanaugh efforts -- including the Federalist Society and the Judicial Crisis Network.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee hired a CRC staffer, Garrett Ventry, to run communications around the nomination for Chairman Grassley. Ventry, who was on leave from CRC, resigned after it was alleged he was fired from a previous job for sexual harassment.
Ed Whelan would be a crucial witness to determine what role Kavanaugh and those around him had in the baseless smearing of a middle school teacher for sexual assault.
But despite the existence of numerous witnesses, including one Ford says was in the room during the sexual assault, Republicans are insisting on calling no one except Ford and Kavanaugh. They are holding firm to this position while simultaneously claiming that all outside witnesses support Kavanaugh's denial.
Something doesn't add up.
Republicans are demanding that Kavanaugh be judged by the standard applicable to a criminal trial, "beyond a reasonable doubt." At the same time, they are denying Ford an opportunity to present evidence that, at a real trial, would be used to overcome that burden.
A more reasonable standard would be the one used for civil trials, "preponderance of the evidence." It seems obvious that we wouldn't want a Supreme Court Justice that, more likely than not, committed sexual assault. But even in a civil trial, Ford would be permitted to offer witnesses.
The Anita Hill hearings featured 22 witnesses.
Thanks for reading!
Starting October 1, free subscribers will receive one newsletter per week. If you want to receive all four editions each week -- and I hope you do -- you'll need a paid subscription. As a thank you to my early readers, I'm offering a special price of just $35 for the first year. It's available for the first 500 people who use this special link.
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Photo of Statue of Liberty by Sven Przepiorka.