Susan Estrich - Comey gone but worst is still ahead of us

The news that President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey is not cause for celebration.

Of course Comey deserved to be replaced. Not only did he make a horribly bad decision when, 11 days before the election, he threw the contest to Trump when he announced that the investigation that went nowhere (twice) into Hillary Clinton's emails had been reopened.

Then, to add extreme insult to unimaginable injury, he lied to Congress last week on just how many emails were involved — not tens or hundreds of thousands as he claimed — and how many of them had any classified information that they hadn't already seen.

He cheapened the integrity and the independence of the agency he led in his never-ending occupation with himself. In preparation for testifying before the Senate, he spent more time trying to clear himself than he did investigating the facts. He wrote his own pink slip.

If there is one person in government for whom it is impossible to feel any kind of sympathy, it is the fatally flawed and narcissistic former director of the FBI.

But his departure is no cause for celebration. Because of only one thing can we be absolutely certain: Whoever replaces him will be worse.

What do I mean by worse? I mean that he or she will have even less respect for the mandate that the FBI stay out of politics.

He or she will have even less respect for the notion that the good of the country is more important than the personal reputation of the director of the FBI.

He or she will care even less about such niceties as the separation of powers; the freedom of the press; respect for the truth; civil liberties; the absolute necessity of restraint; the absolute evil of untruthful grandstanding. It means that, given any opportunity, he or she will do far more to ingratiate himself with the man who appoints him and the party that confirms him.

Should we expect shades of J. Edgar Hoover? From Donald Trump, himself no friend of the Constitution, what else?

I keep saying to myself: Today, I will write about something other than Donald Trump. I'll write about local politics, about throwing your hat in, about getting involved in your neighborhood and community. I'll write about missing my mother, and wishing I had understood when I was younger how hard it is when your children leave and you are alone. I'll write about trying to find gratitude in a difficult world, trying to feel secure in a dangerous world, trying to believe in the essential goodness of people when it is often so hard to see.

I used to despair that no one cared about politics. Now, I worry sometimes that we talk of little else, and that all we do is talk, or write.

And then we find out that Comey overstated his own defense — overstated the number and nature of the emails involved — in justifying his throwing the election to Trump.

I know; Comey wasn't the only reason. When you lose by a little, as Clinton did, anything that goes wrong is enough to make the difference. So people can debate all day whether it was Comey or sexism or Clinton's own tactics that cost her the election, and the answer will always be the same: It was all of them. It was any one of them.

Comey is gone. He is paying his price. But what about the rest of us? We just keep paying and paying. And with his replacement, we will pay yet more.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

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Michelle Malkin - A thinking mom's message for Jimmy Kimmel

I feel your pain. But please use your brain.

Last week, late-night TV comedian Jimmy Kimmel delivered an emotional monologue about his newborn son. His baby was born with a congenital heart defect that required emergency open-heart surgery.

Millions of American parents, myself included, have walked in Kimmel's shoes. We've experienced the terrifying roller coaster of emotions — panic, helplessness, anger, anxiety, relief, grief and unconditional love — that comes with raising chronically ill kids.

But Kimmel didn't use his high-profile platform to educate the public about coping with rare diseases. Or to champion the nation's best and brightest pediatric specialists and medical innovators. The Tinseltown celebrity turned his personal plight into a political weapon, which his liberal friends were all too happy to wield. Top Democrats tweeted their praise for Kimmel's advocacy of expanded government health care regulations:

"Well said, Jimmy," Barack Obama gushed.

"Thanks @jimmykimmel for sharing your story & reminding us what's at stake w/health care," Hillary Clinton effused.

The Huffington Post piled on: "Jimmy Kimmel's Humanity Underscores Heartlessness Of GOP's Approach To The Poor."

I don't need lectures from Huffington Post and Hollywood elites about having a heart. Neither do the rest of America's parents, whatever their political affiliations, who know what it's like to stay up night after endless night with suffering children, wondering whether they would ever be able to breathe normally again or see the light of the next day.

Kimmel doesn't need more maudlin Twitter suck-uppery. He needs a healthy fact-check.

"Before 2014," he claimed, "if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you'd never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition, you were born with a pre-existing condition."

This is false. If parents had health insurance, the child would have been covered under the parents' policy whether or not the child had a health problem.

Kimmel continued: "And if your parents didn't have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition."

The term "pre-existing condition" is used to describe uninsured chronically ill people who apply for insurance coverage, not for a child in need of immediate care. Moreover, in the U.S., virtually all hospitals are legally obligated to provide emergency treatment to every patient who urgently requires emergency medical care regardless of the patient's insurance status. This would include a newborn with an urgent heart condition. This requirement does not apply only to patients who enter an emergency room. It applies to all patients who set foot on a hospital's property.

Kimmel then dramatically asserted: "If your baby is going to die, and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make."

I repeat: It does not matter if you are rich are poor or if you are uninsured. If your baby is in the hospital, he or she will receive emergency care no matter what.

"This isn't football," Kimmel implored. "There are no teams. We are the team, it's the United States. Don't let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants."

Kimmel implies that opposition to Obamacare-style insurance mandates is both un-American and indecent. Had he been less hysterical, he would have acknowledged that different health care systems have pros and cons — and decent Americans can have legitimate differences of opinion on such matters.

In the land of make-believe, it would be wonderful if everyone had free access to the same high-quality care Kimmel and his family did at Cedars-Sinai and Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

In the real world, Obamacare plans have severely curtailed the number of doctors and hospitals that customers can use. Command-and-control regulations on guaranteed issue, community rating and pre-existing conditions favored by Kimmel and company are driving up costs for everyone. Limited access to specialists and long waits have become the increasing norm — just like that other model of government-run health care, the Veterans Affairs system, where the despicable practice of "death by queuing" spiked under Obama.

Moving toward a nationalized health system might play well with an emotion-driven late-night comedy audience. But sober observers know it would mean undermining America's superior access to cutting-edge diagnosis, innovative treatment, top specialists and surgeons, technology, and drugs.

Compassion without clear thinking is just a waste of Kleenex.

(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)

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Do feeders create dependency?

By STEVE WHITE, Columnist

Feeding wild birds, especially during the winter months, generally is assumed to be beneficial. But could there be a downside to this enjoyable hobby that over 63 million people participate in? If birds become overly dependent on humans and their feeders, would they fail to develop, or lose, the ability to forage efficiently on naturally occurring foods?

Our loyal costumers and listeners to our radio show have many questions regarding this topic. We will be using an actual scientific study to help you understand this ongoing debate about serving food to wild birds and then you decide. This will be a two-part series. Today's article will describe, in detail, the actual process used in the study. Next article, we will report the findings and conclusions of this exhaustive study.

From 1984-1988, Professor Margaret Brittingham of the University of Wisconsin conducted scientific studies involving black-capped chickadees. Chickadees are one of the smallest birds that remain in the north during winter. They are also one of the most common resident birds found in most regions of the northern range of the USA. The small body size and high metabolic rate create a large need for energy. They spend much of the daylight hours foraging for food. At night, they roost in protected areas and become hypothermic. Even with this process, chickadees can lose 10 percent of their body weight overnight. They must find food to survive each and every day during the winter months.

Professor Brittingham decided to compare two very distinct groups of chickadees in the Wisconsin regions. She banded both groups with the help of volunteers and monitored their food intake. The first group of chickadees, about 35, had never seen bird feeders. We know that chickadees have a limited feeding range, approximately one mile. She chose an area of woods miles away from any human habitat. The second group of chickadees was located in the same region, but near human feeders that had been in existence for over 20 years. These potentially dependent birds were about 49 in total. The color-coded bands allowed researchers to monitor the number of visits to feeders filled with sunflower seeds that each bird used prior to the start of the study.

Both groups were observed in their natural surroundings for two years. After that, she had the volunteers immediately remove all bird feeders from the second group before the next winter season approached. Both banded groups of chickadees would experience the same weather during the upcoming October-April study period. Average low temperatures were below freezing with many days during this time frame below zero. No attempts were made to offer any human foods sources.

After generations of human feeding, would the second group of chickadees know how or where to search for natural foods sources? Could these feeder-dependent birds survive a typical winter without succumbing to the elements?

In our next article, we will answer these and many more questions regarding wild bird dependency on backyard bird feeders. In the meantime, enjoy the extraordinary sights that birders are experiencing this winter season. It is probably the best in over a decade.

* * *

Wild Bird Depot is located on Route 11 in Gilford. Steve White is a contributing author in major publications, a guest lecturer at major conventions in Atlanta and St. Louis as well as the host of WEZS 1350AM radio show "Bird Calls" with Lakes Region Newsday at 8:30 a.m. Wild Bird Depot has donated over $5,000 to local rehabilitators and local nature centers since 1996. See Like us on Facebook for great contests and prizes.

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Froma Harrop - Health insurance chaos

Social desperation tends to land on the doorsteps of the governments closest to the people. Happily for states and cities, the Affordable Care Act turned their challenging populations of sick, low-income residents into customers for local health care businesses. Unhappily, President Trump and congressional Republicans are in full sabotage mode and threatening to bus these unfortunates back to their doorsteps.

Obamacare has created an estimated 240,000 jobs in health services. These are high-paying jobs and a godsend for cities reeling from factory layoffs.

Conservative fans of federalism like to say that the government closest to the people governs best. But for all the lip service many pay to moving power from the federal to the state level, they routinely dump their messes on local authorities while depriving them of revenues.

Local governments cannot survive without money, but the Republican Congress banned them from requiring that internet merchants collect the same sales taxes that traditional stores do. Its latest tax "reforms" include ending the ability to deduct state and local taxes from federal taxable income.

But the chaos unleashed by this monkeying with Obamacare is in a class by itself. During the campaign, when states were trying to budget for the future, candidate Donald Trump offered almost no details on what his health care plan might look like. After he was elected president, he set about prying the law apart while sharing no intelligence on what might replace it.

The House has just started its own demolition project without the courtesy of a Congressional Budget Office score. Thus, state and city planners have little idea how many newly uninsured people they might have to deal with.

Regardless of whether the Senate ditches the House bill, Trump is busy behind the scenes, removing screws and pressing chewing gum on Obamacare's gears. This is the mob approach to murder: Make it appear that the victim killed himself.

Or, to quote the president in April: "Obamacare is dead next month if it doesn't get (the) money. I haven't made my viewpoint clear yet. I don't want people to get hurt."

How does Obamacare not get the money? For starters, Trump pulled advertising for, the federal insurance marketplace, toward the end of the open enrollment period. Healthier people are likelier to sign up at the last minute.

Republicans threw a monkey wrench into the risk corridor program, designed to cushion insurers whose enrollees turn out to be sicker than anticipated. This is a big reason insurers had to sharply raise some premiums for this year. And of course, higher premiums don't deter the medically needy from signing on.

Trump recently sowed further chaos by threatening to cut off the cost-sharing subsidies that help low-income people cover copayments and deductibles on the market exchanges.

The goal of these attacks is to discourage healthy people from joining the exchanges, leaving insurers burdened by too many sick enrollees. For this reason, Iowa's program is on the verge of collapse and other state exchanges are in dire straits. Iowa was a national model before Trump took over.

If you ran a hospital, would you expand knowing that you would soon have fewer patients able to pay? After the election, Denver Health Medical Center put off almost $74 million in construction projects. The plan was to serve more low-income residents, many of them newly insured under Obamacare.

And what happens when local people who previously had coverage start showing up in emergency rooms?

What's happening to Obamacare is vandalism, plain and simple. It is already killing jobs, and people are next. And who will end up coping with the human wreckage? The governments closest to the people.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

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Pat Buchanan - The Great Divide

Saturday's White House Correspondents Association dinner exposed anew how far from Middle America our elite media reside.

At the dinner, the electricity was gone, the glamor and glitz were gone. Neither the president nor his White House staff came. Even Press Secretary Sean Spicer begged off.

The idea of a convivial evening together of our media and political establishments is probably dead for the duration of the Trump presidency. Until Jan. 20, 2021, it appears, we are an us-vs.-them country.

As for the Washington Hilton's version of Hollywood's red carpet, C-SPAN elected to cover instead Trump's rollicking rally in a distant and different capital, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Before thousands of those Middle Pennsylvanians Barack Obama dismissed as clinging to their Bibles, bigotries and guns, Donald Trump, to cheers, hoots and happy howls, mocked the media he had stiffed: "A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom ... I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington's swamp ... with a much, much larger crowd and much better people."

Back at the Hilton, all pretense at press neutrality was gone. Said WHCA president Jeff Mason in scripted remarks: "We are not fake news. We are not failing news organizations. We are not the enemy of the American people."

A standing ovation followed. The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press was repeatedly invoked and defiantly applauded, as though the president were a clear and present danger to it. For behaving like a Bernie Sanders' rally, the national press confirmed Steve Bannon's insight — they are the real "opposition party."

And so the war between an adversary press and a president it despises and is determined to take down is re-engaged.

As related in my book, "Nixon's White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever," out May 9, that war first broke out in November of 1969.

With the media establishment of that day cheering on the anti-war protests designed to break his presidency, President Nixon sought to rally the nation behind him with his "Silent Majority" speech. His prime-time address was a smashing success — 70 percent of the country backed Nixon. But the post-speech TV analysis trashed him.

Nixon was livid. Two-thirds of the nation depended on the three networks as their primary source of national and world news. ABC, CBS and NBC not only controlled Nixon's access to the American people but were the filter, the lens, through which the country would see him and his presidency for four years. And all three were full of Nixon-haters.

Nixon approved a counterattack on the networks by Vice President Spiro Agnew. And as he finished his edits of the Agnew speech, Nixon muttered, "This'll tear the scab off those bastards!" It certainly did.

Amazingly, the networks had rushed to carry the speech live, giving Agnew an audience of scores of millions for his blistering indictment of the networks' anti-Nixon bias and abuse of their power over U.S. public opinion.

By December 1969, Nixon, the president most reviled by the press before Trump, was at 68 percent approval, and Agnew was the third-most admired man in America, after Nixon and Billy Graham.

Nixon went on to roll up a 49-state landslide three years later.

Before Watergate brought him down, he had shown that the vaunted "adversary press" was not only isolated from Middle America, it could be routed by a resolute White House in the battle for public opinion.

So where is this Trump-media war headed?

As of today, it looks as though it could end like the European wars of the last century, where victorious Brits and French were bled as badly and brought as low as defeated Germans.

Whatever happens to Trump, the respect and regard the mainstream media once enjoyed are gone. Public opinion of the national press puts them down beside the politicians they cover — and for good reason. The people have concluded that the media really belong to the political class and merely masquerade as objective and conscientious observers. Like everyone else, they, too, have ideologies and agendas.

Moreover, unlike in the Nixon era, the adversary press today has its own adversary press: Fox News, talk radio, and media-monitoring websites to challenge their character, veracity, competence, and honor, even as they challenge the truthfulness of politicians.

Trump is being hammered as no other president before him, except perhaps Nixon during Watergate. It is hard to reach any other conclusion than that the mainstream media loathe him and intend to oust him, as they relished in helping to oust Nixon.

If this war ends well for Trump, it ends badly for his enemies in the press. If Trump goes down, the media will feel for a long time the hostility and hatred of those tens of millions who put their faith and placed their hopes in Trump.

For the mainstream media, seeking to recover the lost confidence of its countrymen, this war looks like a lose-lose.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

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