Thursday, February 15, 2017
629 Days until Election Day 2018
1,357 Days until Election Day 2020
Good morning! Reporting from WUTP world HQ (in my bedroom), I'm Gabe Fleisher: this is your wake up call.
SPECIAL REPORT: Vice President Mike Pence in St. Louis
- Vice President Mike Pence launched his “Made in America” tour on Wednesday with a visit to the headquarters of Fabick Cat in Fenton, Missouri. Flanked by Cat construction equipment, Pence made an impassioned defense of the Trump Administration’s agenda and actions thus far and made a plea for the help of those in the audience.
- “You're the strength of the American economy and you're going to lead an American comeback,” Pence said to the audience of invited guests, mostly Fabick employees and local small business leaders, many of whom donned Trump buttons and hats. The audience stood the entire time, often offering “Amens” and screaming out “Trump!” or “We love you!” to Pence.
- Informing the crowd that he brought “greetings on behalf of” President Donald Trump, the Vice President referenced a number of Trump’s favorite talking points, declaring that “the forgotten men and women who carry our economy on their shoulders every day are forgotten no more” and that the Administration would “hire American and buy American.”
- While the speech was an official address, not a campaign rally like President Trump held last week, Pence seemed to slip into a campaign stump speech at times, clearly aiming his talk at exciting supporters of the Administration. Indeed, he opened by referencing a campaign rally in St. Louis and by thanking the state for voting for the GOP ticket. “The Show-Me State showed America what it was made of when you helped make Donald Trump the 45th President of the United States of America,” he said.
- Pence called small business owners “some of our biggest supporters,” and referred to President Trump as “your biggest fan...the best friend America’s small businesses will ever have.” Pence also referenced the upbringings into family businesses shared by him and the President, and discussed infrastructure after saying “we all elected a builder as the 45th President of the United States.”
- The Vice President used the economy as a backdrop to mention many of the actions the Administration has taken in its first month, including executive orders that “roll back reams of red tape and regulations issued under the Obama Administration” and “end illegal immigration, strengthen our borders, and uphold the immigration laws of America,” praising the former as a mode of relief to small businesses and the latter as reinforcing “the rule of law [as] the heart of a growing free-market economy.”
- However, Pence’s speech also included a more somber note, as he spoke against the desecration of a Jewish cemetery that occured on Sunday in another suburb of St. Louis. “We condemn this vile act of vandalism and those who perpetrated it in the strongest possible terms,” he said. “It's been inspiring to people all across this country to see the people of Missouri rally around the jewish community with compassion and support. You have inspired this nation with your kindness.” Pence linked the actions at the cemetery, as well as the threats to Jewish Community Centers, to his family’s visit Sunday to the former Nazi concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. “We saw firsthand what happens when hatred runs rampant in a society,” he said, using language to condemn anti-Semitic acts viewed as stronger than President Trump.
- After the event in Fenton, Pence and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens traveled to the Jewish cemetery to help clean up graves that were toppled.
- At the Fabick headquarters, Pence focused on two actions that the Administration has promised are upcoming: repeal of the Affordable Care Act and reform of the tax code, issues that congressional Republicans have been publicly divided on in recent weks. Despite signals from Capitol Hill that the GOP may stop short of a full “repeal and replace” of former President Barack Obama's signature health care law, Pence declared: “The nightmare of Obamacare is about to end,” calling the legislation a “failed law crippling the American economy and crushing the American worker.” To cheers in the audience, he pledging that “at the same time we repeal Obamacare, it is going to be replaced with something that actually works,” promising that he and Trump want “every American to have access to quality and affordable health insurance” and that the new law would allow people with pre-existing conditions to keep their insurance.
- Additionally, for the first time, Pence set a timeline for tax reform, promising that “before we get to this summertime, we're going to cut taxes across the board for working families, small business, and family farms to get this economy working again.”
- “I’ll guarantee there isn’t anyone here who can make sense of America’s tax code - including me,” he said, citing a joke that the “tax code’s about 10 times the size of the Bible but with none of the good news.”
- In speaking about the Obamacare repeal, the Vice President also mentioned protests that have engulfed town halls held by members of Congress across the country in recent days, referring to “efforts of liberal activists” and “scare tactics from the liberal left.” Pence closed his 20-minute remarks with a rallying cry for assistance from the members of the audience against those he classified as “opposing tax cuts, opposing slashing outdated regulations, opposing repealing Obamacare…[and opposing] the President’s effort to give power back to the American people.”
- “All I ask from the people here in Missouri is, let America hear from you,” Vice President Pence concluded, adding: “America needs to hear from small business and from hardworking Americans who work in small business.”
- “Talk to a neighbor over a backyard fence. Stop somebody at the grocery store. Get online, on Facebook, send an email to a friend,” he urged. “Just send them a note and tell them, ‘I ran into Mike the other day. They're doing exactly what they said they were going to do and I believe it works and we need to support this President.”
- And then, employing Trump’s campaign slogan and favorite phrase, Pence walked off the stage, declaring: “With your help and with God’s help and with this great new President, we will make America great again. Let’s go get it done.”
White House Watch
- Trump Administration Ends Protections for Transgender Students The Trump Administration on Wednesday rolled back federal guidelines giving transgender public school students the right to use restrooms matching their gender identity.
- Justice and Education Department officials penned letters to the Supreme Court and to public schools, notifying them that the Obama Administration protections of transgender students — which "said that prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws," according to the Washington Post —would no longer be enforced.
- The letter to Supreme Court justices, from Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler, comes one month before oral arguments are scheduled in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., in which an appeals court relied on the Obama Administration guidance to allow a transgender boy to use the boy's bathroom, also interpreting the Title IX anti-discrimination law as giving rights to transgender students. Kneedler informed the justices that the Education Department and the Justice Department's Office for Civil Rights were withdrawing the 2015 guidance and are planning "instead to consider further and more completely the legal issues involved."
- It remains unclear how the government's new position will change the future of the Supreme Court case, which will likely still be argued.
- Meanwhile, the "Dear Colleague" letter to public schools came from Acting Assistant Education Secretary for Civil Rights Sandra Battle and Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights T.E. Wheeler said the guidance was being withdrawn because they do not "contain extensive legal analysis or explain how the position is consistent with the express language of Title IX, not did they undergo any formal public process."
- The letter also cited contrasting federal court opinions uncertain over what the term "sex" means in Title X, with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that it could also mean gender identity while a Texas federal district court held that it refers to biological sex. Since August 2016, parts of the rule have not been enforced due to an injuction issued by a federal court.
- However, the letter also maintained: "this withdrawal of these guidance documents does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying, or harassment," adding that: "All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment."
- The Administration's scrapping the guidance is a victory for conservative opponents of the rule and a crushing loss for LGBT-rights activists. The move also shifts the influence in this area back to the states, representing a change from the Obama Administration's attempts to federalize the protections. “In addition,” the letter says, “the departments believe that, in this context, there must be due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”
- A leading Republican criticism of former President Barack Obama, who threatened to pull federal funding from states that did not comply with the guidance, was that he used governmental regulation to legislate and overreach into decisions that should be made on the state level.
- Multiple news outlets, including CNN, Politico, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, reported that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was hesitant to sign off on overturning the guidance. "I have dedicated my career to advocating for and fighting on behalf of students, and as Secretary of Education, I consider protecting all students, including LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America," DeVos said in a public statement on Wednesday.
- She also wrote: "We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment," but said that "this is an issue best solved at the state and local level."
- Reportedly, DeVos told President Donald Trump of her discomfort with reversing the guidance, but Attorney General Sessions persuaded Trump to insist that she go along.
- State Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-TX), who sued the Obama Administration over the guidance along with counterparts in other states, was among those who praised the decision as "encouraging." Paxton added that the guidance amounted to an "attempt to bypass Congress and rewrite the laws to fit [former President Obama's] political agenda for radical social change."
- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended the guidance, saying: "This is not a state issue. This is an issue of equality for all." She added: "This move shows that President Trump cannot be trusted to defend the rights of LGBT Americans....The administration's wanton disregard of protecting the civil rights of the LGBT community is harmful to our communities and our schools."
- Coming Up: Travel Ban 2.0 White House officials told reporters on Wednesday that the revised version of President Trump's prohibition on travel from seven majority-Muslim countries is coming next week, not this week as previously expected.
- The President's Schedule President Donald Trump holds a number of "listening sessions" today.
- At 10am, the President will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.
- At 10:30am, he will hold a listening session with manufacturing CEOs in the State Dining Room. According to Axios, 24 CEOs will participate in the meeting, including the leaders of Dell Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, Campbell Soup, and US Steel, among others.
- At 12:15pm, Trump will speak over the phone with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
- At 2:30pm, President Trump will hold a listening session on domestic and international human trafficking in the Roosevelt Room.
- Finally, at 8:30pm, he will attend a dinner with The Business Concil at the Ritz Carlton in Washington.
- Vice President's Schedule At 7:30pm, Vice President Mike Pence will address the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual gathering of right-leaning activists and officials hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU) in National Harbor, Maryland.
- Other speakers addressing the three-day conference, which opened on Wednesday, include: Govs. Scott Walker (WI), Matt Bevin (KY), Sam Brownback (KS), Doug Ducey (AZ), Pete Ricketts (NE), and Paul LePage (ME); Sen. Ted Cruz (TX); former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina; former Sens. Rick Santorum (PA) and Jim DeMint (SC); and NRA vice president Wayne LaPierre.
- President Trump speaks on Friday, an address that will be closely-watched by the conservative attendees, many of whom did not support him in the 2016 primaries. CPAC has very publicly faced the issue of adapting to the age of Trump, inviting speakers from Breitbart and other Trump surrogates such as British politician and "Brexit" advocate Nigel Farage and combative Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. One of those speakers, Milo Yiannopouos, was later disinvited after his past comments on pedophilia surfaced, forcing him to resign as an editor at Breitbart.
- A large number of Trump White House officials will also speak at CPAC this year, in addition to Trump and Pence. Today, chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon will speak alongside each other in a panel; senior counselor Kellyanne Conway and the controversial Trump national security aide Sebastian Gorka will also speak at the conference. Both Bannon and Gorka are alumni of Breitbart News.
- Quinnipiac Polls Trump A steady stream of polls are released daily showing President Trump's job approval rating at around 44%, lower than most presidents at this point in their Administrations.
- A Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday, which found Trump's job approval rating to stand at 38%, delved deeper. Here are some of the job approval crosstabs:
- Women 36% approve, 59% disapprove
- Men 41% approve, 50% disapprove
- Republicans 83% approve, 10% disapprove
- Democrats 5% approve, 91% disapprove
- The university also surveyed opinions on Trump's personal qualities. They found that most of them divided along similar lines:
- 55% say he is not honest (40% say he is)
- 55% say he does not have good leadership skills (42% say he does)
- 53% say he does not care about average Americans (44% say he does)
- In two, there was a small change, one where the numbers move more in Trump's favor and one where they move against him:
- 58% say he is intelligent (38% say he is not)
- 60% say he does not share their values (37% say he does)
- And in two more, there were more substantial shifts of opinion, showing the two qualities that the largest majorities of Americans agree on, despite how they may have answered the other questions:
- 63% say he is not level-headed (33% say he is)
- 64% say he is a strong person (32% say he is not)
- Today's Question Continuing with the Mike Pence theme...Indiana is the birthplace of three Vice Presidents in U.S. history (tying it for 3rd place among states for VP births). One is Mike Pence. Name at least one of the other two Vice Presidents born in the Hoosier State.
- Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your answer; correct respondents get their name in tomorrow's newsletter!
- Yesterday's Answer On Wednesday — George Washington's birthday — the WUTP trivia question was: "Washington holds the highest rank in U.S. military history. What is it?"
- The answer is: "General of the Armies of the united States," the highest possible rank in the U.S. Armed Forces, equivalent to a six-star general. The rank was created, and then awarded to John J. Pershing, in 1919. George Washington was posthumously awarded General of the Armies in 1978, with the citation that no officer in any military branch would ever outrank him.
- During the Revolutionary War, Washington served as General and Commander-in-Chief of the Army. After the ratification of the Constitution, he became a three-star Lieutenant General, meaning he was outranked by those holding four stars as a Major General (a post created in 1783) or as a four-star General of the Army (created in 1866 for Ulysses S. Grant).
- To place the Father of his Country above all other military officers, he was re-designated as General of the Armies nearly two centuries after his death. General of the Army remains the second-highest rank in the Army; no officer has been elevated to the rank since Omar Bradley in 1950.
- GREAT JOB...Joan Zucker, William Howlett, Steve Gitnik, Marlee Millman, Rick Isserman, Matt Neufeld, Reine Campbell, Sean Louth, and Sarah M-M!
- I also begrudgingly give credit to my classmate Dylan Fox, who answered "Commander-in-Chief," correctly pointing out that the military is civilian-controlled, and the President does have command over all officers in the Armed Forces.
- I was really looking for the specific "General of the Armies" rank, but I do want to give a shout-out to one of the people who submitted a different answer: Erik Soell, whose birthday was also yesterday! Happy belated birthday to Erik and to President Washington.
*All Times Eastern
For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", St. Louis Public Radio, the Political Junkie podcast, and on StoryCorps; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki"; and read about Gabe in Politico, the Washington Post, Independent Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Salon, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light.