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Polman: Remember when Matt Lauer was Trump's chump?

Matt Lauer will be remembered as a fallen sexual harasser, but in my mind, he’s forever immortalized as a Donald Trump toady.

Return with me to the 2016 campaign, to the so-called “Commander-in-Chief Forum,” when NBC inexplicably entrusted a session with Trump to a guy whose brain had apparently been fried by too many decades of morning happy talk. The alpha male of the NBC office met his match and knuckled under—thus normalizing the unfit candidate’s lies and ignorance. It was a disgraceful performance that will live in infamy.

Trump was preceded on stage by Hillary Clinton, and given what we now know about the private Lauer—his aggressive behavior toward women, his crass use of gender power, his obsession with women’s looks and bodies—it was clearly in character that he repeatedly badgered and interrupted her over a span of 30 minutes. Indeed, the first 10 minutes was a sustained interrogation about her emails, and by the time she got a chance to tackle the various foreign policy issues on which she knew far more than Trump could ever process (China, nuclear deterrence, climate change, terrorism, take your pick), she had to rush her answers—with Lauer interrupting, urging her to finish.

She left, replaced by the dominant male. And presto, Lauer underwent a metamorphosis. Suddenly he was servile. Suddenly he was not interrupting. He was supine as Trump walked all over him.

Lauer: “Will you be prepared on day one?”

Trump: “One hundred percent.”

Lauer, with a hardball follow-up: “But you are prepared?”

Trump: “And I have to tell you, totally prepared.”

Well, that settled that! What more could a swing voter possibly want to know? A lot of things, actually. But over a span of 30 minutes, Lauer whiffed every time.

At one point, Trump said he was qualified to command the military and control the nuclear football because “I’ve built a great company.... I’ve had great experience dealing on international basis.... I have great judgment.” Lauer let it go. He didn’t think to ask: What experience? How does building hotels qualify you to make decisions on war and peace?

At another point, Trump told Lauer, “I was totally against the war in Iraq,” a lie long exposed (he’d said on tape years earlier that he was OK with Bush’s invasion), but Lauer let it go. Trump also said that in Iraq, we should’ve “taken the oil,” but Lauer didn’t think to ask Trump how a purported Iraq dove could support pillaging Iraq’s natural resources.

At another point, Trump recycled one of his favorite 2016 lies, that President Obama was responsible for ISIS, but Lauer didn’t think (or know) to point out that ISIS was formed in 2004 when Obama was a state senator in Illinois.

At another point, Trump addressed the issue of sexual assaults in the military and said “the best thing we can do it set up a court system within the military.” Lauer didn’t think to point out that we already have a court system within the military—and that it hasn’t worked. Assault allegations go up the chain of command, and the male officers protect their own. Which is why reformers have argued for years that these allegations be removed from the chain of command. If Lauer knew this, he chose not to follow up.

This question was more in Lauer’s comfort zone: “What kind of homework are you doing? What kind of things are you doing as you prepare” to be a president?

Trump: “I’m doing a lot of different things. We’re doing very well. I’m also partially running a business. We’re doing very well.”

That worked for Lauer. Nor did he have a problem with Trump’s predictable ode to Vladimir Putin: “Well, he does have an 82 percent approval rating.... He is really very much of a leader.... In that system, he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”

Lauer didn’t think (or know) to point out that Putin owes his boffo rating to the fact that he suppresses dissent and that, as one study has warned, Russians tell pollsters they love Putin because they’re afraid to say they don’t. Nor did Lauer think to ask Trump whether it was appropriate for a candidate to publicly invite Russia to hack the contents of Hillary’s private server—which Trump had done just six weeks earlier.

But by the time Trump was busy lauding Putin, I’d long given up hearing any pushback from a morning show softie who was arguably best known for demonstrating deftness with a studio cooking skillet.

Now he can’t even wield a skillet—except at home.

Your Views: Writer's rant on women comes from dark place

I am responding to the Wednesday letter by Don Hilbig. I respect your individual opinion, but do you hate women?

God did not make the male sex dominion over anything and certainly not women. Even if as a Christian conservative evangelical, any man has the responsibility of respecting his mate or anyone he works with. There is no place in a culture where there is not a give-and-take, and looking for that “old time religion” just isn’t the path.

My friend, you are in a dark place and need to sit down with your pastor or if none, then yourself and think about where you are at in today’s world. You need to find a place where you do not hate who you are and find blame in the “women’s movement.” This is just not for you my friend, but for every male person who reads this letter. Women are equal in every way; we need to say it out loud, with no exceptions and then go out and live that life without regret or distain for doing so.



Guest Views: Wells Fargo shows why CFPB is needed

Open a bank account using a stolen identity and you might find yourself behind bars.

Open millions of accounts using stolen identities, and you might be the world’s second-largest bank.

Between 2009 and 2016, Wells Fargo created an estimated 3.5 million sham deposit and credit card accounts created under customers’ names.

Scandals like this one are why we have the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which fined Wells Fargo $100 million for its scam. Now more than ever, the nation needs a strong CFPB to help keep big banks in line.

You’d think that a president who once accused hedge funds of “getting away with murder” would find common cause with this regulatory agency. Instead, Donald Trump wants the watchdog to go belly up for the wolves of Wall Street.

The CFPB director, Richard Cordray, resigned this month, and Trump is trying to find a temporary replacement in Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney (For those checking, that’s the same OMB director who has failed to deliver on a once-promised Hurricane Harvey recovery package).

Consider this just another example of Trump’s compulsion to stand on the side of the rich and powerful against the American middle class. He might as well put an arsonist in charge of a fire department. Mulvaney has a record of trying to eliminate the CFPB, including cosponsoring a bill to do just that when he was in Congress. His appointment would also open the bureau to potential back-door dealing—a longtime Mulvaney aide now works as a key lobbyist for a major bank, Santander, which faces a $10 million fine for illegal overdraft fees.

A bureaucratic battle has Mulvaney fighting with Leandra English, the CFPB’s deputy director, for legal control over the agency. All this wrangling for power should be unnecessary. Trump needs to pick a formal appointee and submit that person to Senate approval.

Corporate profits are sky high and the stock market continues its eight-year-long surge, but paychecks remain stubbornly stagnant. The middle class deserves a qualified director to head up the only federal agency solely dedicated to balancing the playing field between Main Street and Wall Street. When debt collectors illegally threaten veterans, or payday lenders trick working families into a pit of debt, or mortgage companies charge more on the basis of a customer’s skin color, the CFPB must be fully empowered to set things right.

Less than a decade has passed since reckless financial institutions brought the global economy to the brink of collapse. The American people may have forgiven banks for their sins, but the CFPB exists to ensure that we don’t forget.

—Houston Chronicle

Other Views: Rock County and the US poised to get sicker

Rock County—the home county of House Speaker Paul Ryan—is poised to get a lot sicker. This is because the House and Senate proposed tax bills would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s (aka, Obamacare’s) individual mandate.

In turn, this will increase the number of uninsured adults nationally—including Wisconsin and all its counties.

I am both a family physician and a public health researcher. Wearing my research hat, I evaluate county and state disease rates nationwide.

Using publicly available data from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and from state health departments, I carry out regression modeling to predict populations’ ill-health. This technique accounts for county demographic differences while weeding out non-significant factors. This leaves only variables statistically tied to increased disease and death.

Since Speaker Ryan holds dramatic sway in Obamacare’s success or failure, I recently scrutinized death rates in his county and state.

In brief, my analysis predicts that death from heart disease, congenital malformations, colon cancer and breast cancer will increase as counties’ uninsured rates increase.

Specifically, for each 1-percent increase in Wisconsin counties’ uninsured adult rates, deaths from heart disease, malformations, breast cancer and colon cancer would increase respectively by 3.6, 0.15, 0.66 and 0.44 per 100,000 people of each Wisconsin county.

Applying this to Rock County’s 2015 population (160,727) that would be about 8 more deaths for each 1 percent increase; for the state’s 5.8 million people, about 280 more deaths.

Under Obamacare, Wisconsin’s uninsured rate dropped 3.7 percent between 2010 and 2015, from 9.4 percent to 5.7 percent. Let’s say Obamacare’s reversal would increase the uninsured rate by the same amount.

This 3.7 percent increase would annually yield about 30 more Rock County and 1,036 more statewide deaths from just these four causes—without even counting all other disease deaths.

That’s about the size of a typical classroom and a typical high school. If a tornado suddenly killed 1,036 people in a community, it would be a catastrophe. Sadly, this many deaths would occur—silently, covertly—every year.

As a family physician, I work to prevent such deaths daily. This involves counseling patients on healthy eating, providing them regular cancer screening, controlling patients’ blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and helping them quit smoking, manage their weight and moderate their alcohol intake.

But prevention requires regular doctor visits, and regular visits are unaffordable for most people without health insurance.

How can uninsured people get health insurance? Through Obamacare.

Since 2010, about 211,000 Wisconsinites have signed up for this program’s insurance plans, and uninsured rates dropped.

Regrettably, even more is at stake than illness and death related to worsening uninsured rates.

Doctor visits would be more expensive even with health insurance because Obamacare’s individual mandate puts more healthy people into the risk pool.

Obamacare would likely collapse.

Thus, free preventive services would disappear. About 2.5 million Wisconsinites would again face pre-existing condition labeling, preventing coverage.

Wisconsin Medicare beneficiaries could lose the $1,000 donut-hole support. And 75 percent of Medicare beneficiaries could lose free preventive services.

Many in our counties, states and nation are already sick. With collapse of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, we could all become a lot sicker.

I hope that’s not what Speaker Ryan wants for Rock County.