- Associated Press - Monday, June 12, 2017

Wisconsin State Journal, June 11

Trump is ‘under siege’ because of Trump

Conservatives have long espoused the need for personal responsibility.

But Republican President Donald Trump prefers to play the victim.

“No politician in history - and I say this with great surety - has been treated worse or more unfairly,” Trump recently complained.

In reality, Trump has enjoyed tremendous advantages throughout his life, having been born into wealth, and having succeeded in business, entertainment and last fall’s presidential election.

But he’s having a hard time in the White House, mostly because he’s unprepared and undisciplined, lashing out at political friends and foes alike - and especially at the media, whose job it is to closely track and question the leader of the free world.

When something goes wrong, the combative Trump always blames others - and never himself.

The controversy over former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to Congress last week is just the latest example of the president’s self-inflicted wounds.

“We’re under siege,” Trump told a group of evangelicals Thursday as Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

If Trump’s presidency is threatened by Comey’s accusations that Trump pressured him to end an investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser, that’s Trump’s own fault.

Trump is the one who cleared his Oval Office of other senior officials in February to meet alone with Comey. The former FBI director testified under oath Thursday that Trump asked for his loyalty and inappropriately pushed him to end an investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn related to possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia’s meddling in last year’s election.

Trump is the one who subsequently fired Comey when the probe continued.

Trump is the one who said Comey’s investigation was on his mind when he fired Comey - only the second time in history a president has removed an FBI director. The firing was reminiscent of Richard Nixon ordering the dismissal of a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal, which led to Nixon’s resignation.

Trump is the one who tweeted as a threat to Comey that tapes of their Oval Office conversation might exist. The possibility of secret White House tapes prompted another Watergate comparison.

So it’s Trump who created this distracting controversy, through his pattern of trying to bully real or perceived adversaries into submission, even if they’re just law enforcement officials trying to do their jobs.

Trump has no one to blame but himself for this latest crisis of leadership.

Trump insisted Friday he didn’t pressure Comey. He also denied he asked Comey for his loyalty, but quickly added: “There would be nothing wrong if I did say it.”

It’s typical Trump doublespeak. And most Americans had an easy time deciphering whom to believe.

The president visits Wisconsin Tuesday to help raise money for Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election campaign. Instead of another Green Bay Packers jersey, the governor should give the president something he truly needs: a sign for his desk that reads, in the words of former President Harry Truman: “The buck stops here.”


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 6

Legislature and governor need to find common ground on the state budget

Despite controlling both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office, Republicans can’t seem to find common ground on the state budget, especially on the questions of funding for transportation and education. There’s no reason to panic - the state will continue to function even if legislators don’t pass a budget by July 1 - but continued delay and disagreement don’t bode well for providing thoughtful strategic solutions to the state’s most serious fiscal challenges.

Transportation is one of those challenges. With roads and bridges deteriorating and traditional transportation revenue (gas tax and registration fees) unlikely to provide the funds needed, Republicans need to come up with a sustainable strategic plan for the long term. So far, they’re not even close.

Some, such as Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) are at least willing to talk about alternative funding such as toll roads. Others are willing to raise the gasoline tax and registration fees.

We think what’s needed is a combination: A moderate increase in the gas tax, toll roads, perhaps sales taxes, as Rep. Dale Kooyenga has suggested, perhaps a vehicle miles traveled system.

The best system would maintain the idea that users should pay for roads while ensuring a steady and sufficient stream of income from those users given the fact that vehicles are becoming ever more efficient and able to use less gasoline, the traditional source of road funding.

Sadly, Republicans can’t look to the governor for help, or even a reasonable long-term plan. He would borrow more and put off some necessary major projects, such as improving the I-94 East-West Corridor through Milwaukee. That simply wastes money and kicks the can down the proverbial road to future generations. It’s unfair to them and it’s unfair to the businesses looking for a reliable transportation network to grow the economy.

Walker needs to take off his blinders and recognize the severity of the problem. And he needs to sit down and come to terms with Vos and Fitzgerald on a solution that can meet long-term needs.

Republicans do have urgent work to do on this budget beyond transportation, including funding for rural schools. They need to show voters that they can do their jobs in a timely manner. Failure will leave the state a lot more than a day late and a dollar short.


The Janesville Gazette, June 11

Democracy drowning in flood of campaign cash

Republican insiders are tickled over Team Ryan raising massive sums for the House speaker and many other GOP candidates, but Team Ryan’s success should alarm anyone concerned about the integrity of our democracy.

Paul Ryan’s status as a fundraising juggernaut has made his district less competitive, discouraging Democrats from running against him. The Gazette has endorsed Ryan’s candidacy many times over the years, but democracy thrives only when voters have choices and candidates debate the issues.

By almost any measure, Ryan has had a tumultuous year. Ryan shepherded through Congress a health care bill that the Congressional Budget Office determined would result in 23 million people becoming uninsured. He reversed course on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, opting to side with President Trump’s populist position to scrap it. And there’s also the looming cloud of Russian meddling in U.S. elections.

Democrats should be eager to run against Ryan given these issues, but the only one to declare his candidacy so far is David Yankovich, a carpetbagger from Ohio. His greatest skill appears to be tweeting to his 92,000 Twitter followers. There’s still time for local contenders to emerge, but if Yankovich ends up being it, his candidacy would be a sad commentary.

Regardless of who wins the Democratic nomination, 1st Congressional District voters deserve to hear Ryan and his opponent debate the issues. Last year, Ryan refused to debate his opponent, Ryan Solen, though Ryan had nothing to fear and defeated Solen by a whopping 35 percentage points.

Ryan skipped the debate because he knew he could.

As reported by Frank Schultz in Monday’s Gazette, Team Ryan raised $65.5 million during last year’s election cycle. Nearly $20 million went to Ryan’s campaign fund and the rest to other candidates and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Solen raised a paltry $23,749.

Put another way, if campaign funds were bodies of water and each dollar represented one gallon, Ryan’s war chest would have filled almost 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Solen’s tiny stash of cash would have topped off a modest-sized backyard pool.

The shocking part about this disparity is it’s perfectly legal, and Republicans aren’t the only ones to partake in hobnobbing for dollars. At a national level, Democrats arguably do it better, as the Hillary Victory Fund showed last year, gobbling up more money - $529.9 million - than Team Ryan and Donald Trump’s committees combined.

Voters realize something is amiss.

Rock County voters overwhelmingly approved a non-binding referendum last fall calling for a constitutional amendment aimed at curbing money’s influence in elections. The referendum seeks to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling that has turned elections into spending free-for-alls.

The referendum is a reasonable ask, but few people expect the Beltway to voluntarily reform its ways. America has a dysfunctional democracy, corrupted by the vast quantities of money sloshing around campaigns. Only privately wealthy candidates or those with ties to the parties’ fundraising apparatuses have any chance of mounting a serious campaign for federal office.

True democracies don’t answer to Team Ryan or any other fundraising group. True democracies answer to one group, the people.

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