Monday, January 23, 2017


By Dominique Paul Noth

Tillerson proves far from stoppable
One part of me was hardly surprised that the three GOP senators who expressed severe reservations about Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State – worrying that his coziness with Russia was unsettling and so was ExxonMobil’s record of running its own foreign policy in contravention of US sanctions – wound up agreeing to vote for him, which assures his choice. Lindsay Graham, John McCain --  and even Marco Rubio after aggressive questioning --  caved.

Also worried that the extraordinary turnout of women and men on the Saturday after the inauguration – around the globe as well as in major US cities, probably totaling more than 4 million – may slowly drizzle away as all those temporarily united groups argue about the best way to proceed and as Trump sits in the catbird’s seat grabbing the headlines for (maybe he is) undoing and (maybe he is just) delaying as much of Obama’s policies as he can, whether good for the people or not.

Note how quickly he halted the lower mortgage rates at FHA for poorer middle class home buyers. 

Notice how he threw a monkey wrench into the entire Obamacare system by telling his agencies not to enforce regulations about mandates  and anything that vaguely fits the definition of financial hardship for echelons of the health system. In doing this, he basically threw a scare into the whole system without mandating change, simply allowing his minions to lax required coverage and upset the applecart of the health insurance industry.

Note how, claiming he was saving taxpayers’ money, he froze hiring of new federal workers, which was nonsensical since if these were not good workers he was locking them in place while preventing the hiring of more people

No, what I noticed is how even the media is bowing to the new boss in the White House.

Part  of this is understandable. I, too, want to give the new administration a chance to see if some off-putting policies and exaggerated issues have some merit, whether infrastructure will be built,  manufacturing  jobs will return (or are we simply giving the rest of the world an edge in technology?) or whether we are about to embark on an unneeded but overdue trade war (we are certainly not the biggest and yet have to prove we are the best trading nation in the world). How we signal cooperation should not mean abandoning the basic standards of truth-telling.

When faced with press secretary Scott Spicer’s bald-faced pivot that he was talking Saturday about the world TV and Internet audience for the inaugural (while he was actually detailing  with false remarks and false D.C. transit reports the lower in-person crowd turnout), the media at best mildly criticized. 

Rather than confronting Spicer as a liar, they seemed glad that he stuck mainly to business and a more pleasant tone while still deflecting any suggestion that he was in error.  In reality, his falsifying of transit records was bigger – and not as immediately corrected –as the mistaken MLK bust report from one TIME magazine reporter who quickly retracted (and whose apology Spicer actually accepted before his boss instructed him to get mad).

In arguing that they didn’t want to waste time on trivialities, the media allowed Spicer to ride the trivialities as if they were factual. 

It was much as Kellyanne Conway has been handling the media, making the term Conwaying a synonym for evasive lying. She even mildly threatened that the Trump administration was going to force a new relationship with the press --  an acceptance of whatever crazy  version of “alternative facts”  they come up with (though the term “alternative facts” is likely to disappear in embarrassment).

The GOP willingness to go along has a lot to do with the tradition of giving the president free rein on his cabinet picks, though some of the strangest ever are waiting in the wings (Ben Carson for HUD, Scott Pruitt for EPA, Tom Price for HHS, Andrew Puzder for labor  and my favorite example of unpreparedness, Betsy DeVos for education secretary).  One could argue that except for Jeff Sessions, who is likely to be the most regressive attorney general in history, the other cabinet choices offered little opportunity for meaningful opposition.  But even conservatives must be horrified by some of the exhibits in the wings.

The media tolerance may have a bit to do with retaining access to the seat of power, though frankly the press should be the most aggressive skeptics and clearly was also reacting to the low regard Trump has helped engender in public reaction to the press. Standing up, they think, will not win them friends (I don’t agree). 

But the enthusiastic defiant millions that marched Saturday – and again Monday --  worry me the most.  Will they now go home in satisfaction they’ve done their bit for a better world?  Or will they go to work on changing America back into their vision (both urban and rural) of the values and language that have distinguished our country despite its flaws?

In Wisconsin, I’m already seeing the pressure to organize into new groups despite the abundance of existing progressive groups that have been fighting for a foothold.  There is something inspiring about this new wave of groups and something disturbing as well, as if the existing groups had let them down and no longer deserve support.  

Is Wisconsin Jobs Now passé? Or should it give way to another group. Hasn’t Working Families Party done good – or have they just gotten in the way of the old Democratic Party, which is struggling to revitalize itself? Come to think of it, can the Democrat Party win these marchers over?

Is there wisdom in the call from Citizen Action of Wisconsin (itself a progressive entity) to form new groups under the umbrella Our Revolution?

Some veteran progressives are frankly tired of being asked to join yet another new group every time they turn around. Others are intrigued if this is a new way to harness the energy unleashed in gargantuan terms by reaction to Trump’s inauguration.

Since the GOP is firmly  in charge in D.C., much of that energy centered on the D.C. march is heading home with a vengeance – even in states the Republicans long felt they had a vise on, like Wisconsin.

“Indivisible” is only one of the national groups determined  to make angry citizens focus back on their home states where the conservatives have had something of a free hand. The ACLU also publicly believes it will take a “pincer movement” of enormous action on the ground combined with litigation.

Another developing group based in D.C., though it has been around since 2014, is the State Innovative Exchange (SIX), which is also concentrating on changing the statehouses by helping legislators introduce progressive legislation – sort of an answer to ALEC without the unsavory private-public secrecy that right-wing organization relies on.

“There’s a lot of blue in the red,” noted Stephanie Schriock president of Emily’s List, a long-term progressive group that seeks out women to support. Schriock says it saw  500 women sign up to run for office in the hours after the march.  She was speaking about how,  even if you look on the political map,  there are a lot of liberal pockets and isolated independent thinkers in regions we assume are conservative.

Will this fizzle? Will it take hold? Let’s clear  away the euphoria and put feet firmly on Earth.   If you marched Saturday, or wanted to, the pressure to create more believers is now on you.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for 

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