Trump administration seems doomed to repeat its historical talking points

This blog has been on an extended hiatus for maintenance and under-the-hood improvements, but as far as the current administration is concerned it didn’t miss much.

Some of the administration’s newish political uses of the past involve the centrality of human rights in the founding of the UN and seem deliberately focused on that audience; we are unlikely to hear these much now that Pence and Trump have paid their respects to that body, such as they are. Now Trump is committing to historical parallels between Iran and North Korea, with the stark claim that 25 years of diplomatic efforts “have done nothing.” His UN ambassador drew a line from this claim to his threats to abandon the Iran nuclear deal. The lesson of history they are drawing here seems to be that the diplomacy of previous administrations has absolutely no value.

(On the 25-year history of deals with North Korea, the Washington Post Fact Checker has a detailed summary and the Arms Control Association has an exhaustive chronology.)

But most of the recent Trumpland talking points that deploy the past are little changed since midsummer. The proposed tax cut is still the biggest in American history ever, the American education system is still largely unchanged from the model it allegedly adopted from Prussia, Trump is still the king of red-tape cutting according to his vice president, and the attorney general is still sounding the alarm about an allegedly soaring crime rate, which experts have called a blatant case of cherry-picking.

(Betsy DeVos is very fond of painting the school system as still running on the “Prussian model”; this line has been a part of her speeches at least since May. And it’s been part of tech-oriented critiques of classroom learning for years.)

When observers say that Pence often sounds like he’s running for president, they are talking about moments when he touts his record as governor. As Obamacare repeal resurfaced, he claimed the latest bill mirrored Indiana’s Medicaid reform efforts. The particular use of the past here is the claim that Indiana’s efforts amounted to the “most significant” Medicaid reform in history. This sort of talk may be coming more naturally to Pence, who had made a habit of trumpeting his boss’s achievements as historical and unprecedented.

Although it doesn’t address Pence’s claims about Medicaid reform, the Kaiser Family Foundation has an engaging timeline on the history of the program. Pence’s program was a way to preserve his conservative bona fides while accepting Obamacare Medicaid expansion money, something covered during the 2016 election.

Hard to make the case that his was the widest-ranging reform (Clinton’s welfare reform had a massive impact) but it may well be the most conservative revision of the program.

The following are being added to the project’s database for later visualization and exploration.

Pence: “Truth of history” tells us that those who abuse human rights at home “undermine sovereignty and security abroad”

Mike PenceIt’s no coincidence that some of the most dangerous regimes in the world are also some of the worst abusers of human rights. In Iran, North Korea, and other despotic regimes, we see a truth of history borne out once again — those who subvert freedom of their people at home undermine sovereignty and security abroad.

—Vice President Michael Pence, Remarks, UN Security Council, September 20, 2017

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Pence: UN founded on principle that stopping dictators is not enough

History records that the United Nations was forged in the fading embers of the Second World War; the most destructive conflict in the history of the world. The United States of America, with our allies, emerged victorious.

But in that victory, we vowed to come together to prevent dictators and demagogues from ever threatening the peace that we had won through our shared sacrifice. As President Harry Truman told us then, it was not sufficient to, in his words, “merely check madmen who would plan world domination,” but rather to bring together again, and I quote, “a mighty combination of nations founded upon justice and peace.”

And so we founded this great body — the United Nations. That was the rallying cry of the United Nations in the 20th century, and so must it be again in the 21st century.

—Vice President Michael Pence, Remarks, UN Security Council, September 20, 2017

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Trump: US officials who worked on North Korean problem for past 25 years “have done nothing”

For much too long, North Korea has been allowed to abuse the international financial system to facilitate funding for its nuclear weapons and missile programs. The United States has had representatives working on this problem for over 25 years; they have done nothing. That’s why we’re in the problem that we’re in today, in addition to, frankly, other countries not doing what they should have done.

—President Donald Trump, Remarks, with President Moon of the Republic of Korea and Prime Minister Abe of Japan Before Trilateral Meeting, September 21, 2017

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Ambassador Haley: We don't want 25 years of bad deals with Iran like we had with North Korea

Nikki HaleyI had conversations with the President. He was very concerned about Iran. He was very concerned about the deal.

This situation, it’s not an easy situation by any means, because you look at North Korea and you look at the fact that for 25 years we were looking at bad deal after bad deal after bad deal, and broken promise, broken promise, broken promise. So here we are again, and we don’t want to be dealing with the next North Korea.

—Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Press Briefing, September 21, 2017

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Secretary Mattis reminds Portuguese of long diplomatic ties


Portugal and the United States enjoy actually a long history of cooperation and friendship since as far back as 1790, when we opened diplomatic relations. It was our second-ever consular officer that we sent to Portugal in 1790. And a year later, you recognized this upstart young country that had declared its independence. In more recent times, of course, we’ve been together with NATO ever since the beginning, all the way through, in 1949.

—Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Remarks at an Enhanced Honor Cordon Welcoming Portugal Minister of National Defense Azeredo Lopes to the Pentagon, September 12, 2017

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Pence touts his Obamacare Medicaid expansion, without calling it that

Pence: When I was governor, Indiana got “the most expanded waiver...in the history of Medicaid”

Mike PenceAnd Dave, I know what I’m talking about here because before I was the Vice President, I was a governor. And in the state of Indiana, a few years back, we got the most expanded waiver from the last administration in the history of Medicaid. In the state of Indiana today, if you’re on Medicaid, you can have a health savings account. You can choose your own doctor. You get credits in your health savings account for engaging in wellness practices.

—Vice President Michael Pence, Interview, David Stieren, KFQD-Anchorage, September 22, 2017

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Pence: Indiana undertook “most significant” Medicaid reform in 50 years

You all know the story here at home. Two years ago, Indiana adopted the most significant reform to traditional Medicaid in 50 years. Not with mandates and more taxes, but with personal responsibility and innovative care for our most vulnerable.

—Vice President Michael Pence, Remarks on Healthcare and Tax Reform, September 23, 2017

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Today’s dose of Reagan quotes

DeVos has a Reagan quote for students

Betsy DeVos
Have any of you heard of Ronald Reagan? He was our president, and he used to say that status quo is just Latin for “the mess we’re in.”

—Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Prepared Remarks to Students and Faculty at Woods Learning Center, September 12, 2017

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Two Ronald Reagan quotes for new citizens from acting DHS secretary Elaine C. Duke

President Ronald Reagan once received a letter from a man, shortly before Reagan left office. “He wrote that you can go to live in France, but you can’t become a Frenchman. … “He went through Turkey, Greece, Japan, and other countries. But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American.”

There’s another President Reagan quote, one that I think of often. That is, “If we love our country, we should also love our countrymen.”

— Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine C. Duke, Remarks, Constitution Week Naturalization Ceremony, September 15, 2017

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We’ve heard these before, and not very long ago

Jeff Sessions repeats claim of largest crime surge since 1968

After decreasing for over 20 years because of the hard but necessary work our country started in the 1980s, violent crime is back. The murder rate surged nearly 11 percent nationwide in 2015 – the largest increase since 1968.

—Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Remarks to Federal Law Enforcement Authorities About Sanctuary Cities, September 19, 2017

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DeVos repeats claim that US education system still based on “Prussian model”

Yet, education has been stuck in the 1800s using a model courtesy of Prussia. Can anyone point out Prussia—yeah, Prussia, with a “P”—on a map? You can’t, because it no longer exists! The Prussian model served its purpose for a time, but we all instinctively know— and the data show— it’s no longer working.

—Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Prepared remarks to Students and Faculty at Woods Learning Center, September 12, 2017

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Largest/most/biggest/best in history, or at least since Reagan

Trump: Repeats claim that proposed tax cut will be largest in the nation's history

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform our tax code and pave the way to unprecedented prosperity. By doing what we’re doing, we will see results like you’ve never seen before. It will be the largest tax cut in our country’s history.

—President Donald Trump, Weekly Address, September 22, 2017

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Pence: Trump's plan is “largest tax cut in American history”

Now just last month, our President laid out his vision for the largest tax cut in American history.

—Vice President Michael Pence, Remarks on Healthcare and Tax Reform, September 23, 2017

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Pence: As governor signed “largest tax cut in Indiana history”

Back when I was governor, it was my privilege to work with the general assembly to pass what turned out to be the largest state tax cut in Indiana history — and it worked to help prosper Indiana.

—Vice President Michael Pence, Remarks on Healthcare and Tax Reform, September 23, 2017

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Pence: Repeats claim that Trump cut through more “red tape” than any president

This President has already signed more laws to cut through federal red tape than any President in American history.

—Vice President Michael Pence, Remarks on Healthcare and Tax Reform, September 23, 2017

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Pence: “More Americans are working today than ever before in our nation's history”

And more Americans are working today than ever before in our nation’s history.

—Vice President Michael Pence, Remarks on Healthcare and Tax Reform, September 23, 2017

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Pence: Trump defense budget “the largest investment in national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan”

And we’re working with the Congress right now to pass the largest investment in national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan.

—Vice President Michael Pence, Remarks on Healthcare and Tax Reform, September 23, 2017

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