That Christmas When the Trumps Saw Red

Here in New York we have a desperate, critical need to get a new train tunnel under the Hudson River. The existing ones are in terrible shape and if either ever has to be closed down, it’ll be a major blow to the economy of the city, the region and the country. So far Trump just hasn’t gotten on board. Reliable sources tell me it’s because he doesn’t want to pay a lot of money for something people can’t see.

.. Gail: I’ve always suspected that many conservatives hate mass transit because it just fundamentally offends their sense of individualism. That you can’t be the heroic American Man Who Rides Alone if you’re sitting in a car with 40 other people making multiple stops in New Jersey. But go on.

.. As for immigration, I liked our colleague Tom Friedman’s formulation from his column the other day: “A high wall with a big gate.” Not because I think the wall is such a great idea — the money would be better spent on personnel and technology, not concrete — but because I think it is a price worth paying for a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, an expanded H1-B program for high-skilled immigrants and their spouses, and other steps to make immigration to the United States fairer, safer and easier for every law-abiding person who wants to come and make this a better country.

.. if we want to resolve the border issues, there’s also going to have to be a very big effort to fuel economic development in Central America. This really isn’t a problem about Mexicans anymore so much as impoverished refugees from the violence and hunger of countries like Honduras.

.. We need some version of a “Plan Colombia” for Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, modeled on the military and financial assistance the United States gave to Bogotá that successfully helped Colombians get the upper hand against insurgents and drug cartels. And that’s another one for the “good luck getting it past the president” file.

.. I do not dispute the science that climate change is happening and that much of it is man-made. And Trump and his administration should simply acknowledge the fact.

I’m less clear, say, that we should attribute events like the devastating forest fires to climate change alone as opposed to a host of additional causes, including too many people living in fire-prone areas (and often causing the fires), as well as poor forest-management practices.

.. I was reminded of this the other while reading a fascinating piece in The Times Magazine about the ecological devastation wrought by biofuels — which were seen as part of the climate-change cure just a few years ago. The riots in France sparked by the government’s climate-related hike to diesel fuel taxes are also a reminder that the term “climate sensitivity” should be a political term as well as an ecological one.
.. It’s true that overdevelopment is one of the causes of the California fires — as well as all the terrible flooding in places like Florida and Texas. Interesting that the president never mentions that.
.. We could do a lot to discourage people from living in places they shouldn’t be in the first place, for instance by ending or reforming the National Flood Insurance Program.
.. The ethanol subsidies have been a fiasco. Cap-and-trade systems are prone to corruption. A carbon tax probably makes the most sense but tends to be regressive. My own view is that reinvesting in nuclear plants makes the most sense from an environmental and technological point of view, so long as you can reform the regulatory picture to make them economical.
.. One of the reasons I’m in the “Do something” camp is because there are plenty of strategies that would be helpful even if they didn’t turn out to do much over the long run for the global warming. We already mentioned mass transit, controlling overdevelopment of beaches and other fragile areas. Reducing car emissions makes the air better. Encouraging the solar heating industry and wind power gives us an economic boost.
..  I’m mildly cheered that he has almost prevented a disaster he needlessly caused.
.. Melania. And Melania’s taste.  For reasons I don’t quite get, liberals and conservatives seem to have made some kind of tacit pact not to criticize her or her choices as first lady. They weren’t so kind to Hillary Clinton.

Trump Weighs Replacing Chief of Staff John Kelly in White House Shake-Up

The first to go is expected to be the deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel, who has clashed with First Lady Melania Trump. Mr. Trump is also leaning toward the ouster of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who is a close ally of Mr. Kelly, White House officials said. The president has decided to replace Ms. Nielsen, but hasn’t finalized the timing, White House officials said, in part because there isn’t an obvious candidate to replace her.

.. The president often games out multiple staffing scenarios with advisers, including months of talking about whether to replace Mr. Kelly. While those discussions often signal impending changes, that is not always the case.This is how the president works,” one White House official said. “He’s doused a bunch of people in gasoline and he’s waiting for someone to light a match.”

.. A rift emerged after Mrs. Trump staff’s battled with Ms. Ricardel during the first lady’s trip to Africa last month over seating on the plane and requests to use National Security Council resources, according to people familiar with the matter. The first lady’s team also told Mr. Trump that they suspect Ms. Ricardel is behind some negative stories about Mrs. Trump and her staff.

The first lady’s office issued a statement on Tuesday calling for Ms. Ricardel to be dismissed. “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” said Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump.

.. Late Tuesday, one White House official pushed back against the criticism but offered no assurances about Ms. Ricardel’s job security.

“Mira Ricardel is one of the highest ranking women in the Trump administration,” the official said. And she “has never met the first lady.”

Ms. Ricardel also repeatedly clashed with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Pentagon team over staffing decisions and policy differences, according to people familiar with the feud.

.. Ms. Ricardel has served as a vital ally for Mr. Bolton since he took the national security job in April. He resisted efforts by Mr. Kelly to force her out, including when the chief of staff cited Mrs. Trump’s concerns two weeks ago, the officials said. Mrs. Trump and her staff then discussed the issue with the president during the trip to Paris, White House officials said. Mr. Trump told his wife that he would have Ms. Ricardel removed, the officials said.Mr. Bolton, meanwhile, has been among those pushing for Ms. Nielsen’s ouster, officials said. The Washington Post reported Mr. Trump’s decision to remove Ms. Nielsen on Monday.

.. One reason: The White House has no one ready to nominate, and there are succession questions at Homeland Security. The administration has yet to replace Elaine Duke, who resigned as the deputy secretary in February.
.. Mr. Trump also has soured on Kevin McAleenan, who is commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection
 .. One source of tension between Mr. Bolton and Ms. Nielsen stemmed from a plan she raised to deal with the migrant caravan heading to the U.S.-Mexico border. Ms. Nielsen raised the possibility of asking the United Nations refugee agency to set up camps on the Mexico side of the border to house the migrants, said to people familiar with the talks.Mr. Bolton pointedly dismissed the idea as unworkable and misguided, a response that irked Ms. Nielsen and triggered a forceful defense from Mr. Kelly, these people said. Mr. Kelly asked Mr. Bolton what he thought would be a better approach, and Mr. Bolton said he would discuss it directly with the president, one of these people said.

.. In a meeting in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump further aggravated Mr. Kelly by suggesting that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and top adviser, use his contacts in the Mexican government to try to resolve the caravan issue. “Let’s get Jared involved; he’s our best guy on this,” Mr. Trump said.

.. In recent days, Mr. Trump referred to Mr. Ayers in the present tense as his chief of staff, one White House official said. Mr. Trump has told officials he expects to offer Mr. Ayers the job when Mr. Kelly leaves

 

Melania Trump issues statement in support of LeBron James after president insults him

The president took to his favorite medium and attacked James’s intelligence Friday night after CNN aired an interview in which the NBA star told anchor Don Lemon that he thought Trump was trying to divide the country by using sports as a wedge.

.. “What I’ve noticed over the past few months,” James told Lemon, “is [Trump has] kinda used sports to kinda divide us, and that’s something that I can’t relate to.”

While James has not commented on Trump’s tweet, others have responded both directly and indirectly — like the first lady.

“It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation,” said Melania Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham. “And just as she always has, the First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today.”

.. During the interview, James told Lemon his first interaction with the white community was on the basketball court, where divisions melted away. “Sports has never been something that divides people,” James said.

In the modern era, the East Wing has developed into an intensely strategic and media-conscious operation that serves to garner positive press coverage for the president and his policy agenda. But Melania Trump’s East Wing has not yet hit its stride in this regard, despite its abundant potential to do so.

Anyone who closely followed the first lady’s border visit Thursday would have noticed that Trump does appear to care about the fate of the children she was visiting. It was not a strictly congratulatory trip. The questions Trump asked indicated genuine concern, not indifference, such as how often the children were permitted to call their parents

.. Like past first ladies, she is more popular than the president, and she seems to have a greater ability to influence public opinion of her husband among political independents and members of the opposite party, even when compared with key surrogates such as Ivanka Trump and Vice President Pence.

Those advantages come from the flexibility first ladies are afforded by their role, which allows them to stay out of partisan debates and restrict their public appearances, all the while benefiting from unfettered access to presidents and perceived closeness to them.

.. For someone who has been involved in the fashion industry and the public eye for decades, Trump, like her husband, can be surprisingly careless about her public image at times. This would be surprising in any presidential spouse, and it’s no less so coming from one who’s a former model. If anything, the words on her jacket seem to speak to a lack of interest in the role she fills.

.. In the modern era, the East Wing has developed into an intensely strategic and media-conscious operation that serves to garner positive press coverage for the president and his policy agenda. But Melania Trump’s East Wing has not yet hit its stride in this regard, despite its abundant potential to do so.