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Can Trump defund Planned Parenthood through executive action?

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Despite continuous promises to the pro-life cause, Republican budgets still fund Planned Parenthood to the tune of over $500 million each year. Efforts to decertify the nation’s largest abortion-mill chain ran into stiff opposition during the ObamaCare repeal effort from Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, and Democrats torpedoed an attempt to include it in the budget agreement. The legislative path seems all but dead unless Republicans can win enough Senate seats to overcome a filibuster as well as hold onto the House in November — an outcome with odds on the order of having the Cleveland Browns win the next Super Bowl.

But does another path exist without congressional approval? The Hill says … maaaaybeeeeDonald Trump may take a page out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook:

Opponents of abortion have launched an all-out campaign urging the administration to bring back Reagan-era abortion restrictions on federal family planning dollars that would target Planned Parenthood.

The regulations would ban organizations that receive family planning dollars under the Title X Family Planning Program, which funds organizations providing services like birth control to low-income women and men, from promoting abortion or referring patients for abortions.

Former President Reagan first issued the regulations, which Democrats describe as a “domestic gag rule,” in 1988. They also require a physical and financial separation of Title X funding recipients from abortion providers.

The Supreme Court upheld Reagan’s action in Rust v Sullivan in 1991, but by that time it was moot. Reagan’s term had ended, and subsequent administrations have either not wanted to press the issue (the Bushes) or were openly hostile to the policy (Clinton and Obama). With legislative options exhausted — at least for now — pro-life activists are now pressing Trump to use his executive authority to shut down the funding stream to Planned Parenthood.

One argument in favor of this is sheer electoral politics:

Republicans see the action as a way to motivate the GOP base ahead of the midterm elections, where the party’s majorities in the House and Senate are in play.

“The life issue is a huge motivator for the right. Getting a win on the pro-life side, even if it’s regulatory rather than legislative, would be huge, and encourage people to come out and vote for the members who pushed for action on this,” said Kelly Marcum, a legislative assistant for the conservative Family Research Council, which has been pushing for the changes.

I’m in favor of the policy, but am skeptical of this argument for it. Using executive power to resolve this issue actually removes it from concern for at least the next couple of years. It might make for an effective strategy for 2020 — If you don’t vote for Trump, you’re voting to give Planned Parenthood $500 million a year! — but an EO or regulatory change puts this completely outside the context of legislative elections. It might work better as it is now to hammer Democrats for continuing to fund abortion mills with taxpayer dollars.

If Trump decides to go forward with this strategy, it’ll be a long time before the dollars get cut off. The Supreme Court may have finally blessed Reagan’s action in 1991, but that won’t keep Planned Parenthood and its defenders from filing lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions to force it back into the courts. It might be three or more years again before courts stop imposing temporary injunctions on the Trump administration to suspend any new “gag rule.”

That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile choice, but it does demonstrate that it’s still best to work though the legislature where possible to enact changes in policy. Failing that, though, it may be the only option to deal with the issue. As Yuval Levin and Ben Domenech wrote three years ago, Planned Parenthood and its supporters engage in a bit of a bait-and-switch when it comes to that funding:

“The instinct to respond to the tapes by forcing a shutdown over the federal funds that Planned Parenthood clinics can get through Title X and Medicaid is understandable and appropriate. Title X is not supposed to make funds available to abortion providers, but Planned Parenthood gets around the legal prohibition by formally separating its abortion clinics and its other family planning services, even when those are located in the same facility and essentially funded jointly. When states have tried to limit Planned Parenthood’s access to Medicaid funds, meanwhile, the Obama administration has told them they can’t, even though federal law prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from funding abortion. In both cases, federal dollars are being spent in ways that contravene the intent and spirit of the legal prohibitions on federal funding of abortion provision, and the biggest beneficiary by far is Planned Parenthood (which has been for many years, for instance, the largest single recipient of Title X money).”

The point is that by drawing an artificial line between its abortion practices and its abortion promoting practices, Planned Parenthood has been circumventing the intent of the legal funding prohibitions for decades in order to access Title X funds. They have an arm funded by the taxpayers which is in the business of promoting abortion, and then another arm that profits from those abortions (in ways, we are finding, that are much more macabre than we assumed). But the Supreme Court has already vindicated Ronald Reagan’s rule on the matter, meaning that the next president could lawfully adopt the same approach to determining how these funds are distributed and in one act dramatically undercut Planned Parenthood.

In other words, it might be worth trying just for all the clarity such an action would provide.

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Lesley Stahl: Trump told me he attacks the media so that people won’t believe us when we report bad news about him

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I mean, obviously. A scandalized shiver runs through the room in the clip after Stahl says this but nothing about Trump is as transparent as his strategic goal in gaslighting people about “fake news.” Here’s something I’ve linked before, written two days after his inauguration and attempting to explain why Sean Spicer held that embarrassing “these were the biggest inauguration crowds ever!” press conference. Among the suggested reasons:

The point of carping about “fake news” isn’t to discredit the stories that are false, it’s to discredit the stories that are true. It’s the same as the “witch hunt” rhetoric about Russiagate, which has already produced five guilty pleas and 17 indictments. Any politician pinned to the wall by damaging news would kill to have a reservoir of suspicion about the media among their base that they can call on in a pinch to defuse that news. The goal isn’t necessarily to get people to disbelieve a story but to stoke enough doubt about the reliability of its narrators that the public will conclude there’s no way to know what’s truth and what isn’t. That’s the art of the gaslight. And the author I quoted above also anticipated that:

If ever there was a “tell” about Trump’s strategy, it was this tweet posted 17 days after he was sworn in. It’s one thing to claim that reporters are slanting their coverage to disfavor him, as that obviously does happen. It’s another to suggest that pollsters are engaged in willful fraud, en masse, to make him look bad by manipulating their data and willing to risk their professional reputations in doing so:

Everything that’s bad for him is “fake” and you shouldn’t believe it, and if you do you’re siding with Them over him. He’s not coy or in any way subtle about this. This is a guy, remember, who back in the day used to dial up reporters posing as his own PR flack to tout his wealth or his womanizing or whatever. Subtlety’s not his thing, certainly when dealing with the media. The reason there are murmurs in the room after Stahl tells her story, I think, is just because he’s willing to cop to the gaslighting openly, even to a member of the media itself. It’s all just a game, played to a strategic end. Why pretend otherwise?

In lieu of an exit question, something unrelated but fun. Apparently Trump’s inimitable Twitter style is, in fact, imitable:

“West Wing employees who draft proposed tweets intentionally employ suspect grammar and staccato syntax in order to mimic the president’s style, according to two people familiar with the process,” the Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey reports.

The details: “They overuse the exclamation point! They Capitalize random words for emphasis. Fragments. Loosely connected ideas. All part of a process that is not as spontaneous as Trump’s Twitter feed often appears.”

That’s GOP-style populism in microcosm. You’ve got one guy, the populist-in-chief, whose grammar and spelling are not the best but whose style is “authentic” and “relatable.” And then you’ve got a coterie of well-educated phonies and cronies mimicking him, pretending to be stupid in the same way because that’s what he wants and they’re convinced that that’s what the people want. No one has any incentive, political or financial, to be better. Sad!

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Trump Goes Scorched Earth on FBI Spy Campaign: ‘Follow the Money, the Spy Was Only There to Help Crooked Hillary Win’

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President Trump unleashed on the FBI’s infiltration of his campaign Tuesday evening in a pair of tweets.

The President said, “Follow the money!” the spy wasn’t there to find ‘Russian collusion,’ he was there to help Crooked Hillary win the election!

President Trump, please never stop tweeting!

President Trump lit up Twitter Tuesday evening after he tweeted what we are all thinking–the spies infiltrated his campaign for political purposes to help Hillary Clinton win the election.

Trump tweeted: If the person placed very early into my campaign wasn’t a SPY put there by the previous Administration for political purposes, how come such a seemingly massive amount of money was paid for services rendered – many times higher than normal…

Trump then slams Crooked Hillary: …Follow the money! The spy was there early in the campaign and yet never reported Collusion with Russia, because there was no Collusion. He was only there to spy for political reasons and to help Crooked Hillary win – just like they did to Bernie Sanders, who got duped!

The informant, Stefan Halper, was paid a total of $411,575 in 2016 and 2017 for work with the US government that included spying on the Trump campaign.

It was a lucrative business for Stefan Halper.

Now the Democrats are in spin mode.

They went from ‘there was no spy inside of Trump’s camp’ to ‘the informant was there to help protect Trump against the Russians.’

Former DNI Chief James Clapper is claiming embedding spies is “a standard investigative practice.”

Hillary Clinton wanted to spy on her political opponent and she accomplished her goal with help from Obama’s weaponized intel agencies.

President Trump is right; Spygate is worse than Watergate.

Earlier Tuesday, President Trump told reporters, “If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country.”

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Shouldn’t Publix be forced to bake the Latin cake?

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Palette cleansers don’t usually come this sweet … if we’re still permitted to use that phraseology. A family celebrating the graduation of their son with high honors had ordered a cake made from the local Publix supermarket, using their online system to proudly display Jacob Kosinski’s status as a summa cum laude student. Just one problem, the online system responded — they don’t allow obscenities on their cake designs.

Shouldn’t they be forced to bake the Latin cake?

Cara Koscinski organized a graduation party for her 18-year-old son. For the occasion, she ordered a cake online from her nearest grocery store, Publix, which lets customers build their own cakes complete with a customized inscription, which they enter into a message box marked “cake message option.”

Carefully, she typed in the words she wanted on the cake: “Congrats Jacob! Summa Cum Laude class of 2018.”

Publix’s online system was unhappy with the word “cum.”

Good Lord. This is less about mandatory cake-baking than it is about cultural ignorance and classical illiteracy. We stopped teaching Latin as a compulsory subject in most schools decades ago, but this Latin phrasing in particular remains very common — used in all college and university graduations, and many high school degrees, too. Magna cum laude is understood by most people not to be a reference to a particular prophylactic, for Pete’s sake.

Publix apologized and returned the family’s money, which is as much as they can do for this particular error. It should remind them to pay attention to the special instructions in their own flippin’ system, however, especially when the customer calls to explain it to them in plain English. If Publix doesn’t want to make cakes for a particular special occasion or to proclaim a particular message, they shouldn’t be forced to do, and neither should anyone else. But is it too much to ask that they check out requests to ensure that they really object to it?

At least Jacob has a pretty clear understanding about the nonsensical levels of political correctness and ignorance he’ll encounter in the wider world. It might keep him more grounded than most other high school graduates entering colleges and universities this fall. In the meantime, let’s offer a Latin lesson for bakeries around the country, just in case they need to conjugate. In the language sense, that is.

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