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Counterintelligence

When I was in the military, many years ago, I was in military intelligence. I was trained as a battlefield interrogator, which meant that between 1991 and 1995 I did nothing remotely related to my training. In my military intelligence unit, in addition to the “human intelligence” operatives (the interrogators), we also had soldiers trained as counterintelligence specialists, as well as signals interception and...

Meals-on-Wheels and Political Symbolism

Ending Meals-on-Wheels is a great talking point… when there is no chance of it ever happening. It signals tough budgetary discipline and rugged individualism – values people respond well to, making it a great campaign strategy for a minority party. But when you find yourself controlling government and actually doing it, it goes from being abstract signaling to actually affecting people’s lives. And suddenly...

Power and the House of Representatives

It’s not just your impression. It really is harder to lead the US government today. Trump is in the news bashing the Freedom Caucus. But the inability of the House Speaker to pass bills is not just personality or talent. It is structural. In the “old days” before Nixon, the Speaker of the House had significant power over the rest of the legislature. He (it was always a he back then) could make or break the...

The Obstruction of the House Freedom Caucus

The House Freedom Caucus will sink Trump. These are hardcore, fundamentalist Republicans. They refuse to “compromise” on anything. If they get anything less than 100% of what they want, they vote against. This is the kind of obstruction that made it impossible for Boehner to do anything with Obama (remember the Grand Bargain from 2011, when Obama was going to trade entitlement reforms for higher taxes/balanced...

The Republican dilemma

The biggest problem for Republicans is that the policies they stand for are not actually very popular, even among their base. I’m not talking about the identity stuff, which is quite popular. I mean economic policy: massive tax cuts for the rich, ending the estate tax (which only kicks in above $5 million), removing health care, reducing or eliminating social security and medicare. None of this stuff is popular –...