Patterico's Pontifications


Sean Spicer’s Rant About Inauguration Crowds Is Packed With Falsehoods

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:00 pm

I’ll grant you: it feels kind of silly to be writing a post about the size of an inaugural crowd. (Remember: I think inaugurations are stupid to begin with.) But it’s even sillier to hold a whole press conference about the size of an inaugural crowd. And the silliest thing of all is to tell easily provable falsehoods about the size of an inaugural crowd from the White House podium.

And writing a post about White House falsehoods . . . why, that doesn’t feel silly at all.

So. As noted by Susan Wright earlier, Sean Spicer came marching out today and loudly and angrily made several claims about the size of the crowds yesterday. He made accurate complaints about tweets such as one about the bust of MLK being gone from the Oval Office.

Then he started complaining about the media’s coverage of the crowd size.

Now, I’m going to stay away from the side-by-side comparison photos of Obama 2013 and Trump 2017 I have seen floating around. They appear to show a lot more people at Obama’s inauguration. But the media could have compared different times of day. So let’s just stick with facts.

Spicer said this was the first time floor coverings were ever used on the Mall:

This was the first time in our nation’s history that floor coverings had been used to protect the grass on the Mall. That had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing, while in years past, the grass eliminated this visual.

This was false.

Spicer also said magnetometers prevented access to the Mall:

This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the wall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.

This may be false. A Secret Service person denied it to CNN’s Jim Acosta.

I’d like to see more conclusive proof before I declare this one to be a clear falsehood. But I’m leaning that way, since this assertion is sandwiched in between other clearly false ones.

Spicer said Metro numbers showed higher ridership for Trump’s inaugural than Obama’s last inaugural:

We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for president Obama’s last inaugural.

That is flatly false. I can’t find any direct numbers for the entire day from the Metro Web site, but the Washington Post reports:

Metro said 570,557 people took trips in the system between its early 4 a .m. Friday opening through midnight closing.

The figures are significantly lower than those from the 2009 and 2013 Inaugurations of President Barack Obama; 1.1 million trips in 2009 and 782,000 in 2013, according to Metro.

CNN reports:

Spicer’s number for ridership on Friday was actually low — the correct number, according to Metro itself, was 570,557. But there were actually 782,000 trips taken for Obama’s second inaugural in 2013.

And tweets from Metro itself from 11 a.m. on Inauguration Day 2013 vs. 2017:

These numbers are consistent with the final figures reported by CNN and the Washington Post, showing higher numbers in 2013 than 2017.

Spicer sure told some whoppers there. I understand the right’s desire for pushback against the media, believe me. But to me, “pushback” that is dishonest is not praiseworthy. At all. I agree with Charles C.W. Cooke:

But whether it’s good politics is, of course, a different matter. Who am I to say that repeating falsehoods in an angry tone doesn’t work?

After all: Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and the presidency doing exactly that.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Trump’s Order On ObamaCare: Is It Executive Overreach?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 4:00 pm

Yesterday Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on ObamaCare titled MINIMIZING THE ECONOMIC BURDEN OF THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PENDING REPEAL. There has been some talk about whether the order guts ObamaCare, and/or amounts to the repeal of the mandate.

Does it? And does Trump’s order amount to executive overreach? The text of the order is here, and these appear to be the most potentially relevant provisions:

Sec. 2. To the maximum extent permitted by law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies (agencies) with authorities and responsibilities under the Act shall exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.

Is that executive overreach? I don’t think we can know yet. I think we have to see what Trump’s administration does with it.

The order states that it is intended to operate “[t]o the maximum extent permitted by law,” which Trump supporters will argue (perhaps with justification) shows that Trump does not intend to overstep his authority and infringe upon Congress’s sphere of power. Charles C.W. Cooke argued on Twitter last night that Obama always claimed that what he was doing was within the law.

Is that true? I spent some time last night trying to track down the actual text of Obama’s orders on various topics. They tended to be contained in things like letters from a bureaucrat, or announcements on a particular department’s Web site. I wasn’t able to verify or disprove Cooke’s assertion, but it stands to reason that Obama always claimed that what he was doing was legal, even if it wasn’t. Presidents always do.

Here is what is beyond dispute: Obama did engage in overreach. The Affordable Care Act gives the President wide discretion in certain areas, but in other areas it sets specific deadlines, such as with the employer mandate. When Obama claimed the authority to change that deadline for political reasons, he was engaged in clear overreach. We all said so at the time. And if Trump tries the same thing, he will be too.

But shouldn’t Trump get to do whatever Obama did? Over at Hot Air, my favorite blogger Allahpundit articulates what is likely to be a common reaction from the right:

Remember when King Barack decreed in 2013 that he would delay enforcement of the employer mandate even though the law itself required the mandate to take effect on a specific date? Conservatives like me howled that the president has no constitutional power to delay implementation when a federal statute requires it, but O got away with it. And now turnabout is fair play. If King Barack enjoyed a particular type of authority, King Donald enjoys it too. Good work, liberals.

I rarely disagree with Allahpundit, but I will here. I may be a lonely voice here, but if the President doesn’t have authority to do something, he doesn’t have it whether he is a Democrat or a Republican. He doesn’t have unconstitutional authority even if a previous President claimed that authority. If one President declares war without obtaining a declaration from Congress, that is unconstitutional no matter how many previous presidents did the same. Responding to other conservatives’ “turnabout is fair play” arguments in November 2014, Charles C.W. Cooke wrote:

Sean Trende, who is among the most interesting and level-headed writers within the firmament, today proposed on Twitter that the Republican party’s “smart play on executive immigration is to shrug, then have a field day when they next get the presidency.” When I asked him for clarification, Trende told me that the system runs on “norms” and that, once broken, those norms are difficult to reinstate, and he therefore contended that Republicans should acknowledge the power grab and wait patiently until they can utilize it. “I think it is a horrifying precedent being set here,” Trende conceded, “but the die seems to be cast.” Ace of Spades’s Gabriel Malor, another man I hold in high regard, holds a similar view, often expressing excitement at the possibility that Republicans will eventually be able to take advantage of what he terms, cheerfully, “The Obama Rule.”

I am afraid that I consider this approach to be little short of suicidal, and I can under no circumstances look forward to a system in which the executive may pick and choose which laws he is prepared to enforce. On the contrary: I consider the idea to be a grave and a disastrous one, and I would propose that any such change is likely to usher in chaos at first and then to incite a slow, tragic descent into the monarchy and caprice that our ancestors spent so long trying to escape. During the last 500 years or so, the primary question that has faced the Anglo-American polities has been whether the executive or the legislature is to be the key proprietor of domestic power. In one form or another, this query informed both the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution that followed it, and it was at the root of the Revolution in America. Cast your eyes across the Declaration of Independence and you will notice that the majority of the “long train of abuses and usurpations” have to do with the violation of the rights of assemblies by individuals who believe themselves to be the dominant arbiter of the state’s affairs.

Once, Barack Obama sided with the abused and the usurped. Reaffirming his “appropriate role as president” in 2011, Obama pushed back against those who wished him to “bypass Congress” and “change the laws” on his own, reminding his audience that “that’s not how our system works; that’s not how our democracy functions; that’s not how our Constitution is written.” Last year, he insisted vehemently that the United States was a “nation of laws” and that his critics should refuse to “pretend like [he] can do something by violating our laws.” Today, he takes the opposite view, putting his preferences above the “appropriate role” of the president — above the “system,” “democracy,” and the “Constitution” — and indeed promising to “bypass Congress and change the laws” on his own. In the meantime, suffice it to say, we have not added a “gridlock clause” to our charter. If conservatives sit idly by as the executive branch abdicates its responsibility to faithfully execute the laws, they will be complicit in the devastation of our political system.

Will Donald Trump’s executive order be used to engage in the type of overreach Barack Obama routinely employed? I’m not sure yet. But if it is, conservatives need to lay down a marker now: this will not be acceptable.

Even if Barack Obama did it.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Ken White on Punching Nazis

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:59 am

So Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, was giving someone an interview yesterday when someone came up and sucker-punched him. Here is the video:

I was in an online discussion yesterday with people who were debating whether this is awesome or bad. The general consensus seemed to be that it was awesome. I said it was bad.

Ken White has written a post about it which you should read in its entirety. He makes several sensible points. Ten in all. Let me quote the first five as a springboard for discussion.

1. Nazis are scum.

2. Principles are in a constant struggle with viscera. I want punching Nazis to be acceptable, and find the spectacle of Nazis getting punched to be viscerally satisfying. Jesus Christ and John Donne aside, Nazi suffering does not move me.

3. We have social and legal norms, including “don’t punch people because their speech is evil, and don’t punish them legally.” Applying those norms is not a judgment that the speech in question is valuable, or decent, or morally acceptable. We apply the norms out of a recognition of human frailty — because the humanity that will be deciding whom to punch and whom to prosecute is the same humanity that produced the Nazis in the first place, and has a well-established record of making really terrible decisions. You — the bien-pensant reader, confident that sensible punchers and prosecutors can sort out Nazis from the not-Nazis — will likely not be doing the punching or prosecuting. The punching and prosecuting will be done by a rogue’s gallery of vicious idiots, including people who think that Black Lives Matter should be indicted under RICO and that it’s funny to send women death threats if they write a column you don’t like.

4. In embracing a norm that sucker-punching Nazis is acceptable, remember that you live in a nation of imbeciles that loves calling people Nazis. Also bear in mind that certain aspects of our culture — modern academic culture, for instance — encourages people to think that you’re a Nazi if you eat veal or disagree with them about the minimum wage.

5. By the way, right now there are tons of people right now who would welcome an emerging social norm that it’s acceptable to punch, say, Black Lives Matter protesters. I know Nazis aren’t remotely comparable. You do too. They disagree. And you’ve handed them the rhetorical tools to defend themselves, and handed the broader populace an excuse to look away. Well done.

Now. I recognize that the comment thread is likely to devolve into a discussion about whether Richard Spencer is a Nazi. Ken White sets forth his points with the assumption that Spencer is one. I don’t really disagree — but if it makes you happier, everywhere he says “Nazi” you can substitute “white nationalist and racial separatist who claims he is not a Nazi but favorably quotes Nazi propaganda and wants to have an all-white state in North America.”

I don’t believe in sucker-punching those guys. What about you?

Media Shows Renewed Promise To Be On Top Of Their Game Next Four Years…

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:34 am

[guest post by Dana]

Grasping for metaphor, indeed:

And as any event involving the combination of garbage, fire, and a large crowd—coupled with its convenient location right outside the office of a major news organization—does, the small blaze caught the attention of seemingly every reporter within sprinting distance.




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