Non-Hamiltonian News.

I don’t want to diminish the importance of the Hamilton cast’s words, and I’d actually love to explore this a bit further. My remedial understanding of theater is that it is historically a place reserved for such critique, and it’s a really big event where you have a sophisticated cast of people directly impacted by an administration’s proposed policies eloquently reaching out.

I say “reaching out” because this was not some juvenile indictment a la Kanye West; rather, it was a deliberately contemplated and well-crafted gesture. The fact that Hamilton has its own unique take on the role of minorities during the establishment of the Republic only adds to what layers could be peeled away.

One hurdle of the Trump administration, as I’ve written in the past, is how to cover a candidate and his surrogates when they have so effectively used the media to saturate coverage and effectively blot out and blur meaningful transgressions. They do this by throwing them into water muddied by petty scandals and slow-news-week controversies.

Therefore, while I think the Hamilton speak out is important and worth talking about, I think front page news would be better served by discussing the following, and weaving the social/cultural/political critique in as opposed to putting it in the forefront. At the very least, I want to personally draw attention to the following since they will have more long-term impact if successful:

  1. Donald Trump wants Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general. The Atlantic has covered what this signals, if history is a fair indicator. The Washington Post has itemized ten things we should know about Sessions. The bad news is that racism accusations have dogged his entire careers. He also has, frankly, deplorable positions on sexual assault (editorializing on my part.) The good news is he has a history of working with Democrats. Finally, the Justice Department under Obama has made criminal justice reform its driving force. That’s unlikely to continue under Sessions, who is more likely to take the hard “law and order” view espoused by Trump throughout his campaign. The Economist’s Democracy in America also has some thoughts to chew on.
  2. Trump has come under fire for several conflicts of interest concerns. There’s a lot to highlight here so I’m going to simply defer to several links. The gist is: Trump still has a not inconsiderable amount of business interests throughout the globe and there is a concern that this could influence his decisions as president (i.e,. he could make decisions for business benefits rather than what’s best for the country.) While the President and Vice President are not subject to traditional conflict of interest laws applicable to other federal government officials, most presidents have acted as though they apply. Trump has promised to put all of the above into a “blind trust” operated by his children, but the logistics of this are, practically speaking, difficult (editorial), and there is the additional wrinkle of the influence/deference his children are being given within his administration.
  3. Mitt Romney is being considered as a possible Secretary of State. Romney has been a staunch critic of Trump since his candidacy began. While I doubt this signals genuine reconciliation, I do think it would signal a broader willingness for Trump to have some moderating forces in his administration (at least in the beginning – who knows how tumultuous turnover will be in four years.) Similarly, a big question for long time and moderate Republicans has been whether or not to play ball and work for the Trump administration (editorial), the general idea being that a well-stocked Trump administration would be less dangerous to the country and the future of the Republican Party. It would also be less fractured and therefore less vulnerable to Democratic opposition. A Romney addition might make similarly situated Republicans more comfortable doing this.
  4. The Affordable Care Act is probably the first policy on the chopping block. The question (podcast transcript) then turns to what will follow. Three possibilities (PDF) have been suggested, none of which are concrete at this juncture: repeal and replace; repeal and delay, or; simply repeal. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, has reached out by requesting Americans let him know if and in what ways they rely on the ACA.
  5. The media and politicians alike are grappling with the proper framing of the Alt-Right and/or White Nationalist groups. I say “and/or” because that’s where the debate lies. Some advocate that the term “alt right” captures exactly the kind of rebranding that has allowed self-proclaimed ethnonationalists to remain under the radar until this past election. Others argue that these are plain old white nationalists and we shouldn’t allow them to rebrand in the first place, and that calling them the “alt right” ratifies and mainstreams that rebranding. This is germane because the alt right has historically found a home at Breitbart news and Steve Bannon, Breitbart CEO, is officially Chief Strategist of the Trump administration. It’s clear that the Chief Strategist position will have a meaningful impact on Trump’s governance, working co-equally with the Chief of Staff position, currently occupied by Reince Priebus. Thus the concern is whether Bannon will become a window to national policy for these ethnonationalists, or at least embolden them.
  6. Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, is a member of Trump’s transition team and currently being floated as a possible cabinet member. Kobach is probably  most well known at this point for being staunchly anti-immigration (link is a video) and a very early Trump supporter. His cabinet appointment would signal a commitment to the anti-immigration promises by Trump in his campaign.
  7. Finally, two names have surfaced for Department of Homeland security secretary: retired Marine General John F. Kelly and a former Bush administration and counterterrorism official Frances Townsend. Kelly has a reputation for opposing the Obama administration with respect to closing Guantanamo Bay and opening combat positions to women. Kelly “served as assistant to Bush for homeland security and counterterrorism, also held senior positions during 13 years at the Justice Department, including counsel to the attorney general for intelligence policy.” Both are widely respected but, as you can see from this rough overview, represent different approaches to national security. Kelly could signal either a more traditionally militarized avenue. I don’t know enough about Townsend – and there doesn’t seem to be much out there – except that she appears to be somewhat more academic in her approach but has a history of being willing to take equally aggressive stances that civil liberties advocates have criticized.

Those are the primary highlights for now. I’m still perusing Monday’s news because, as I said in my previous post, I’m on something of a vacation myself, and decided to spend this morning running.

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