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Guest Views: Sen. Rand Paul calls his colleagues out for hypocrisy. And he’s right.

Sen. Rand Paul was right to put his foot down and call hypocrisy by its name. The Kentucky Republican briefly forced a government shutdown early Friday by delaying a Senate vote required to advance the government’s spending authority. Paul was making a point that needed to be made.

“I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits,” Paul stated. “Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits. I can’t in all honesty look the other way.”

He added: “I didn’t come up here to be part of somebody’s club. I didn’t come up here to be liked. … The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty.”

The hypocrisy he referred to was mainly on the Republican side of the aisle, but the label applies equally to any Democrats who believe the government’s deficit is out of control and that the time is long overdue to impose fiscal discipline. Paul’s party spent eight years complaining and moaning about Democrat deficits, Democrat social spending and Democrat economic-rescue measures. The GOP largely owes its 2016 election victories to the party’s demonization of Democrats as spendthrifts.

Now that Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, the party finally has an opportunity to impose the kinds of fiscal discipline that the Republican platform calls for. Instead, on Friday, they emerged with a 600-page plan that winds up outspending the Democrats at every turn and pushing the federal deficit to levels not seen since the height of the recession.

Arguably the deficits run up during President Barack Obama’s administration were necessary to counteract the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression. Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package was derided daily by Republicans, but it launched the nation on the positive economic trajectory that President Donald Trump now falsely claims as his own.

If ever there were a time for fiscal discipline, it’s now, when the nation stands at full employment and the economy needs no artificial stimulus measures. But the nation already faces a cash crunch because the GOP in December forced through a $1.5 trillion tax cut (which Paul supported).

The two-year, $300 billion package approved on Friday and signed by Trump will force the annual deficit beyond the $1 trillion mark by fiscal year 2019. The plan busts the spending caps that Congress imposed in 2013 specifically to avoid adding to the deficit.

Republicans rationalize increasing deficits if it means tax cuts for rich people and bolstering Pentagon spending. Democrats justify it to ensure social welfare programs are adequately funded. “I love bipartisanship, as you know,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. “But the problem is the only time we discover bipartisanship is when we spend more money.”

—St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Columns
Parker: Why might the White House have kept Rob Porter? Everyone else was incompetent.

WASHINGTON

When White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned Wednesday amid allegations that he abused his two ex-wives and a former girlfriend, he parted the curtains on a Trumpian-scale personnel and security disaster.

Bottom line: You don’t keep people in the White House who’ve been credibly accused of domestic abuse. I’d be the first to argue that an allegation doesn’t necessarily constitute guilt, and there’s been no adjudication of these charges. But there are sound reasons for security checks and, based on what the FBI discovered, Porter didn’t qualify.

Indeed, he never did receive full clearance and remained in the White House as the president’s right-hand man on a temporary permit dating back to his first day on the job. That he remained onboard for more than a year is surprising to all but the White House staff, who, given their cumulative inexperience, may not have realized that people usually are denied employment in far-less significant jobs if they can’t pass security checks.

Exceptions can be made, of course. And the president has the authority to waive a security clearance. But what possible reason could there be to keep someone inside the classified world of the White House under such circumstances? Not only is there reason to question his character, but the overarching message here is that this White House isn’t much concerned about domestic violence.

The simple answer may be that Porter is one of only a few people over on Pennsylvania Avenue who knew how to do anything. For one, he’s well-connected in Republican circles. His father, Roger Porter, worked in three administrations and was, I’m told, top-drawer. The younger Porter, now 40, is a Rhodes scholar who worked for Republican Sens. Mike Lee, Rob Portman and Orrin Hatch, for whom he was chief of staff.

Moreover, at Harvard, he was a classmate of Jared Kushner, who took a class from the senior Porter, who was teaching a class on the American presidency.

Washington, if you haven’t heard, is a small town.

Most likely, Porter was deemed too valuable to the White House given that he, and virtually no one else, including the president and chief of staff John Kelly, understood how the legislative branch of government works. Whatever his military achievements, Kelly may be the least-qualified chief of staff in recent history, including his lackluster predecessor, Reince Priebus, who is Jim Baker by comparison.

It is unclear how events related to Porter unfolded—or didn’t unfold—or who knew what and when. If these questions sound familiar, they shouldn’t be dismissed as unimportant. Republicans who were offended by the lack of governing experience of Barack Obama should be equally outraged by this administration’s.

Kelly has pleaded ignorance about Porter’s alleged abusive background, saying he only recently found out about it. But it appears that Kelly was informed last fall and that White House Counsel Don McGahn knew a year ago. The Washington Post reported Thursday: “When McGahn informed Kelly this fall about the reason for the security clearance holdup, he agreed that Porter should remain.”

Meanwhile, comments from the White House, where Porter’s 29-year-old girlfriend, Hope Hicks, is director of communications, have been all over the lot. First, Porter was fired, then he wasn’t, next he resigned, cleaned out his desk and was leaving, but not yet. Porter denied all allegations and claimed he was the target of a smear campaign. But by whom?

Not by his two ex-wives, one of whom had sought a restraining order against Porter during their marriage. Neither of them sought out the Daily Mail, which broke the story. Rather, reporters pursued them, according to the women. But who tipped off the reporters and why talk to them if not for revenge? Or something. The plot doesn’t so much thicken as gurgle and ooze the way swamps sometimes do.

Rumors abound, needless to say. One goes that former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who author Michael Wolff claimed once dated Hicks, is behind the smear. Another story line in the Daily Mail involves a former girlfriend warning the White House of allegations against Porter. Pending further revelations, I’ll leave you with a quote from the late, great Kate O’Beirne, pundit emeritus, who used to say, “Never cheat on your mistress.”

Ultimately, assuming you’re feeling disgusted by now, this unfolding story isn’t about bad marriages, philandering or romance. The shock and awe emanating from the White House about Porter aren’t so much a commentary on the man, but are testament to the surreal and potentially perilous incompetence surrounding the president. Nearly every day reconfirms the reality that having once been a chief executive (or a reality TV star) is no recommendation for governance.

P.S. Kushner hasn’t cleared security yet, either.


Letters
Letters to the editor for Tuesday, Feb. 13

Trump’s behavior not surprising. Ryan’s silence is.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

This well-known quote should be emblazoned on Rep. Paul Ryan’s office wall. President Trump’s despicable behavior should be of no surprise to anyone if they watched him in action during the campaign. He’s made numbing attacks on the independent judiciary, on law enforcement and against his own staff, even calling those who do not applaud his speeches traitors. His endless need to turn Americans against one another and throw red meat to his most ardent supporters does not surprise me in the least.

What is most surprising and disheartening is that so many responsible and moral Republicans, especially Ryan, who I am certain knows that what this president is doing is wrong, refuse to stand up and speak out against it. If Ryan does not have the political will or moral backbone to speak out against these outrages, then he has no business in political office and should retire.

PHILIP V. SANBORN

Elkhorn

And the winners of this year’s fun/unfun awards are...

These are my awards for issues that interest me: the good and the not-so-good, my unsolicited opinions.

Unfun: One in six (200,000) Wisconsin kids live below the national poverty level.

Fun: A proposed bill that forces congressmen to pay their own sexual harassment settlements. Rep. Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania and Michigan Rep. John Conyers both paid settlements with taxpayer money.

Unfun: President Donald Trump apparently has no sympathy or interest in domestic abuse victims but is concerned about the reputation of the accused. Not one word about the nasty business of domestic abuse or the victims!

Fun: Kidsforward.net looks out for Wisconsin’s greatest resources, our kids and families. They concentrate on education, a child’s first five years and health care.

Unfun: Forty-thousand Wisconsin kiddos do not have access to health care and dental care. Many are children of working parents who live on minimum wage, which means no family leave, no health care and no child care. These parents cannot get ahead or even break even.

Fun: Wisconsin residents give approximately $2.7 billion to charity every year! Charitable foundations and organizations, public and private, account for about 12 percent of the Wisconsin workforce. A few examples include Catholic Charities, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and United Way.

Unfun: Tide pod challenge. With all the resources available to kids, such as Hedberg Public Library, Boys & Girls Club and YMCA, help me understand why they want to eat detergent that is potentially harmful. Totally unfun!

CINDER ROHERTY

Janesville

Burns puts people’s rights ahead of corporate interests

This has been a crazy year no matter which side of the political spectrum you’re on.

But one place we were taught that would always be there to protect us was the court system. The environmental regulations are gone or going. Clean water and clean air has given way to industry deregulation. Property rights are no longer a given; things can be changed with a signature on an executive order in a heartbeat.

Unions are pretty much gone and so, too, are worker’s rights. The court system protected every voice, every single one of us, we were told. But with the millions of dollars at stake and millions of dollars going into judicial elections, that is no longer a given.

We need a way to feel protected from overreach and protected in our communities and businesses. We need to be able to run our businesses and farms and compete on a playing field where massive money and corporations can’t take our rights away.

I am voting for Tim Burns for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Feb. 20. I’ve been looking, watching and reading, and I believe he’s the only person who really has citizens’ rights ahead of corporate rights.

Tim Burns chaired the American Bar Association’s Committee on Fair and Impartial Courts. He serves on the national board of the American Constitution Society, an organization that focuses on constitutional issues.

Voting is imperative to maintain democracy. Vote for Tim Burns on Feb. 20.

JENELL LARSON

Brodhead