Presidential politics is always personal.
It’s not to say the issues don’t matter. Health care, civil rights, the economy, and war are always at the top of the agenda in debates and interviews. But increasingly, the candidates themselves have become issues as contentious as any other.
This was never truer than in the 2016 Presidential race, where Donald Trump dominated media coverage with his exaggerations and unfiltered rhetoric. This has lead some on both sides of the political aisle to wonder just what’s going on inside his head.
Trump isn’t the first candidate to face accusations of being unfit to lead. When John McCain ran in 2008, commentators pointed to his advanced age as a liability (especially since it put Sarah Palin a “heartbeat away” from the office). Obama was accused of being born on foreign soil. Critics said Mitt Romney was too wrapped up in business dealings.
But President Trump is the first candidate in a long time to face questions regarding his mental health.
In the 1972 election, democrat George McGovern chose Thomas Eagleton as his running mate. McGovern was unaware that Eagleton had previous been hospitalized for depression. When he found out, he initially promised to back Eagleton “1,000 percent”, but later consulted with psychiatrists and doctors regarding his would-be vice president. He asked Eagleton to resign, and Eagleton abided.
Further back, in 1964, the press turned its guns on Republican Barry Goldwater. The poorly-named Fact magazine published an article claiming that 1,189 psychiatrists stated Goldwater was unfit to be president due to his mental state. In truth, the claim was misleading at best; the magazine had polled 10,000 psychiatrists, only 2,417 of whom applied, and the majority did not see Goldwater as unfit.
Goldwater lost the election, but he also filed a libel lawsuit against the magazine. Following this incident, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) put in place the “Goldwater Rule”, which reads as follows in the Principles of Medical Ethics:
On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”
In brief, it meant members of the association cannot offer opinions on someone they have not personally evaluated.
In March of 2017, the Washington D.C. branch of the APA debated the rule. Some argued the rule infringed on freedom of expression. One psychiatrist, John Zinner, argued psychiatrists have an obligation to speak out on the issue, just as doctors swear an oath to protect their patients. But not all agreed the rule was obsolete. Mark Komrad worried overturning the rule would turn the public against their profession, which is “already seen as peddlers of a liberal world view.”
Recently, the American Psychoanalytical Association announced it would allow its 3,000 members to comment on Donald Trump’s mental state as they pleased. Many commentators are touting this as a huge change, but the Psychoanalytical group is miniscule compared to the American Psychiatric Association, which boasts over 36,000 professionals in its ranks.
The latter group reaffirmed its commitment to the Goldwater Rule in March.
For the past seven years, the Republican Party has promised voters it would repeal and replace Obamacare. This week, President Donald Trump has his sights set on fulfilling that promise.
The huge, big league American Health Care Act is the fabled Obamacare replacement. The bill is currently before the U.S. House of Representatives. If the House passes the bill, it will go next to the Senate. And only when it passes Senate scrutiny will the bill land on the President’s (presumably gold-plated) desk to be signed.
So what does Trump’s Obamacare replacement actually do? Is it as bad as the Democratic Party feared?
While the merits of the bill are obviously subject to debate (even many Republicans are against it), the American Health Care Act does not fully dismantle Obamacare and smash it up into tiny pieces. But it does bring sweeping changes to the current system.
Here’s a quick summary of the American Health Care Act as it stands today.
1. Eliminates Penalties for the Uninsured
Obamacare levies a fine on people who do not have health coverage. It also impacted employers, requiring those with 50 more employees to offer health insurance to 95% of the workforce. These measures were designed to encourage people to purchase insurance.
The American Healthcare Act would end these requirements, instead levying a 30% surcharge on insurance premiums for new healthcare plans if the purchaser had no insurance for 63 days the previous year.
2. Increases Age-Based Premium Caps
Under Obamacare, insurance providers cannot charge their oldest customers more than three times the premiums charged to their youngest customer. The Act plans to increase this cap to five times the youngest customer’s premium.
3. Limits Federal Funding for Medicaid
The American Health Care Act would bring forth three major changes to the way the federal government awards states funding for Medicaid. All would likely result in fewer people enrolled in Medicaid and fewer federal funds in state pockets.
First, Trump’s Obamacare replacement would remove the option for states to expand Medicaid to individuals making up to 138% of the federal poverty line using federal funding.
Second, it would limit Medicaid reimbursements based on the number of patients enrolled and the average medical care costs per state.
The Act would also give states the option of requiring Medicaid recipients to pursue a job or job training in order to continue receiving Medicaid. This would not apply to people who are pregnant, on disability, or working as a caretaker for a family member.
4. Ends Federal Funding of Planned Parenthood
The American Health Care Act would end all federal funding of Planned Parenthood for one year and prohibit federal subsidies for plans covering abortion.
5. Establishes New State Grants
Perhaps surprising given the slew of funding cuts, the Obamacare replacement also introduces a $100 billion fund to help states stabilize their healthcare markets and insure low-income individuals.
6. Repeal Taxes on Insurers, Pharmacies, and Others
What are the insurance companies getting out of the bill? A massive tax cut, for starters.
Obamacare levied taxes on health insurance providers, pharmacies, companies that produce medical devices, over-the-counter medications, and tanning salons. The new bill would sweep all those taxes away, to the tune of $200 billion in lost tax revenue.
7. Cut Taxes for Individuals
Well, the bill sounds great for insurance companies, but what about the common man? Scratch that – what about his boss?
Fear not – the American Health Care Act also ends Obamacare taxes on payroll and investment income tax for wealthy individuals.
It was just over one year ago that Jeff Sessions first rose in defense of Donald Trump.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was among the President’s earliest and most stalwart allies. This was a surprisingly bold move for once-Senator, who was not known for being a gambling man. But the risk paid off in spades. Jeff Sessions now sits at the office of the highest law enforcement official in the country.
At 70-years-old, Jeff Sessions is deceptively mild.
He hails for a tiny town north of Mobile, Alabama, tucked away in the Southern hills. He is sweet-mannered and short-statured. He comes off as the proprietor of some wholesome establishment on a straight spot in the road, who gratefully chats up the visitors who stop by on the way to a better place.
How did this southern charm worm its way into the heart of the Trump administration? Despite their superficial differences, President Trump and Senator Sessions have much in common. Jeff Sessions is a debt hawk and military hawk, tough on crime and skeptical of the changing climate. His blood runs redder than his President’s, and has for far longer.
Sessions did not celebrate the anniversary of his pledge with much enthusiasm.
February brought a never-ending storm of controversies month for the fledgling administration, drowning out any potentially positive notes. President Trump typically thrives under heavy rain, but even the man himself is looking weathered these days.
Of course, the Attorney General did not waver in his support. He was glad to defend the wide-scale immigration ban that generated cries of racism and fascism from much of the American public. Jeff Sessions proudly wears the title of amnesty’s worst enemy, which he earned from his long history of fighting nearly every immigration bill that has come before the Senate since the 1990’s. The forces of assimilation, as he calls them, have a fearsome foe in Jefferson Sessions.
But the idea of march brought misfortune for the Attorney General. At first glance, there is nothing wrong with a senator sitting down to talk with the Russian ambassador. But denying that meeting under oath is a grave political sin.
Now, there is a mark on Jeff Sessions.
Whether the Southern gentleman can redeem himself is yet to be seen. Lying to the public is one thing – lying to the president is a whole other beast. We know what happens to loyal allies who are alleged to have betrayed to their President.
His long history with Trumpland should tilt the odds in his favor. But Jefferson Sessions is no gambler.