2016 was a red letter year for xenophobia and misinformation. From smears about Muslims to hostility over LGBT rights, media have had to push back against a torrent of lies and distortion. Here are 12 times the media rebuffed right-wing lies and deceit.
Anderson Cooper Confronted Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi Over Her Hostility To LGBT Rights. CNN host Anderson Cooper challenged Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s self-proclaimed support for the LGBT community after she spent “years” saying in court “that gay people simply by fighting for marriage equality were trying to do harm to the people of Florida.” Cooper pointed out he has never seen her “talk about gays and lesbians … in a positive way until now,” after a mass shooting targeted LGBT Floridians in Orlando. From the June 14 edition of CNN’s CNN Newsroom:
Katy Tur Shut Down A Congressman’s Attempt To Explain Away Racist Birther Attacks On President Obama. During the September 9 edition of MSNBC’s Hardball, Trump campaign reporter Katy Tur corrected Rep. Jack Kingston’s (R-GA) claim Trump was not accusing President Obama of being an “illegitimate” president. Tur explained that despite Kingston’s claim that Trump has moved on from birtherism, he has “not backed away from this”:
Reza Aslan Schooled A Trump Surrogate On The Bigoted Nature Of Trump's Proposed Muslim Ban. CNN host and University of California, Riverside professor Reza Aslan challenged Trump supporter and CNN commentator Kayleigh McEnany’s assertions that Islam is a “political ideology” because there are legal verses in the Koran.” Aslan also corrected McEnany’s whitewashing of Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims as “temporary,” pointing out that “the ban on Muslims is still on his website, it's still part of his platform … anti-Muslim bigotry as been the hallmark of Donald Trump’s campaign throughout.” The Muslim ban, to this day, remains on Trump’s website. From the November 18 edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360:
Ana Navarro Called Out Trump’s Lawyer For Claiming Trump Never Called Mexican’s Rapists. Michael Caputo, Trump’s personal lawyer, appeared on the October 6 edition of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon to spar with CNN Republican commentator Ana Navarro about what she called Trump’s “attack[s on] Hispanics.” Caputo said her claim was “outrageous,” and that Trump did not call Mexicans rapists. Navarro corrected him, saying that “for you to go on TV and say what everybody has seen for the last 16 months [is] not true makes you seem insane. … The transcript is there, we know he said Mexicans are rapists.” Caputo complained that Navarro was unfairly calling Trump “a flat-out racist,” and Navarro said she’d “do it again … and do it in two languages. Es un racista. He is a flat-out racist.” From the October 6 edition of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon:
Jake Tapper Repeatedly Pressed Trump To Explain His Racist Attacks On Judge Gonzalo Curiel. In a sit-down interview with the then-Republican presidential nominee, Jake Tapper on the June 3 edition of CNN’s The Lead repeatedly asked Trump about his racist attacks against federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whom Trump claimed could not be a fair judge in a Trump University case because “I’m building a wall” and “he’s a Mexican.” Tapper pressed Trump on the issue at least 12 times over the course of seven minutes, despite Trump’s multiple attempts to switch the conversation to Trump University or speeches by Hillary Clinton.
George Takei Warned That Trump’s Muslim Registry Is “A Prelude To Internment.” Star Trek’s George Takei, who spent several years of his childhood in a Japanese internment camp, sounded the alarm on Trump supporter Carl Higbie’s invocation of “the imprisonment of innocent Japanese-Americans as a precedent” for Trump’s discriminatory policies against Muslims. Takei recalled the “moral bankruptcy” of the internment, in which he and his family were “treated like the enemy, and imprisoned” simply because “we looked like the enemy.” Takei warned that “this is what's going to happen with a Muslim registry,” because “Registration of any group of people, and certainly registration of Muslims, is a prelude to internment.” From the November 17 edition of MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell:
[MSNBC, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, 11/17/16]
Shepard Smith Fact-Checked Trump’s Attempt To “Erase” His Iraq War Support “From The History Books.” Responding to one of Trump’s claims that he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said Trump “told Howard Stern he was in support of the war … very early in the [military] campaign.” Smith called out Trump for wanting the media to “erase that from the history books,” defiantly stating, “I’m not doing that. That’s insanity, and career suicide” for a respectable journalist.
Chuck Todd Dismantled The Bigoted Claim That Immigrants Are Rapists Bringing In Crime. Chuck Todd, on the July 19 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, “separate[d] fact from some of the fiction” about immigration spread by Trump and his campaign. Todd noted that “there is no evidence” to back up “Trump’s claim that immigrants are rapists and bringing crime to the United States,” and he noted that “the number of illegal immigrants is down” despite Trump’s claim that we have “no protection” at the border. Todd also noted that Trump’s plan to seal literally the entire border would not only be unnecessary, but also cost “$28 billion a year, roughly the entire budget of the Justice Department”:
Brian Stelter Called On Media To Push Back On “Donald Trump’s Biggest Lie” That Election Is Rigged. During the October 16 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter rebutted the notion that the election system is “rigged,” reminding viewers that voter fraud is “rare” and investigated when it occurs. Stelter highlighted the dangers of Trump’s “biggest lie,” calling it a “propaganda technique” that “some of his supporters believe,” but noted some mainstream media journalists pushing back against the baseless claim:
Wolf Blitzer Fact-Checked GOP Congressman’s Conspiracy Claims Of Widespread Voting Machine Errors Flipping Votes From Trump To Hillary Clinton. During the August 20 edition of CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) alleged that “we know dead people across America are still voting” and that “one of George Soros’ companies have provided some of the [voting] machines … obviously Mr. Soros leans left.” Blitzer countered that this was an “unconfirmed rumor … that sounds conspiratorial”:
[CNN, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, 8/20/16]
D.L. Hughley Called Out Megyn Kelly, Mark Fuhrman, And Fox News’ “Insulting” Comments On Racism And Policing. During the July 13 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File, actor and radio host D.L. Hughley confronted host Megyn Kelly and the Fox News Channel for racism, noting that they were "insulting people." Hughley accused them of giving police officers who shot people a “benefit of the doubt” and “presumption of innocence” that they never gave to victims. Hughley concluded by pointing out “the only place racism doesn’t exist is Fox News and the police department.” From the July 13 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File:
Christiane Amanpour Criticized The Media’s Double Standard On Covering A Qualified Woman. When Hillary Clinton fell ill at a 9/11 memorial event at Ground Zero, CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour criticized the resulting media "field day," noting that it featured “typical Clinton conspirac[ies]” about Hillary’s health. Amanpour sarcastically asked, “Can’t a girl get a sick day or two,” and lamented this latest example of “overqualified women having to try a hundred times harder than unqualified men to get a break or even a level playing field.” From the September 12 edition of CNN International’s Amanpour:
Well, this makes more than a few things makes much more sense. Via David Corn at Mother Jones.
In June, the former Western intelligence officer—who spent almost two decades on Russian intelligence matters and who now works with a US firm that gathers information on Russia for corporate clients—was assigned the task of researching Trump's dealings in Russia and elsewhere, according to the former spy and his associates in this American firm. This was for an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client critical of the celebrity mogul. (Before the former spy was retained, the project's financing switched to a client allied with Democrats.) "It started off as a fairly general inquiry," says the former spook, who asks not to be identified. But when he dug into Trump, he notes, he came across troubling information indicating connections between Trump and the Russian government. According to his sources, he says, "there was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit."
Mother Jones has reviewed that report and other memos this former spy wrote. The first memo, based on the former intelligence officer's conversations with Russian sources, noted, "Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance." It maintained that Trump "and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals." It claimed that Russian intelligence had "compromised" Trump during his visits to Moscow and could "blackmail him." It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on "bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls."
The former intelligence officer says the response from the FBI was "shock and horror." The FBI, after receiving the first memo, did not immediately request additional material, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates. Yet in August, they say, the FBI asked him for all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos—some of which referred to members of Trump's inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI. "It's quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on," he says.
"This is something of huge significance, way above party politics," the former intelligence officer comments. "I think [Trump's] own party should be aware of this stuff as well."
And this isn’t the only big problem that Trump now has.
During Trump's stay in Moscow, US intelligence experts note, he would have been a natural and obvious target for Russian intelligence. At the time, Trump was a prominent American, an international businessman, and a celebrity. He was also deeply involved in US politics. He had almost run for president in 2000 and nearly did so again in 2012, and he had been a leading foe of President Barack Obama, having pushed the conspiracy theory that Obama had been born in Kenya.
James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, points out, "It's safe to assume that high-profile public figures and billionaires attract the attention of the Russian security services, including bugging any hotel rooms." And Malcolm Nance, a terrorism and intelligence expert and author of The Plot to Hack America, says the Russian version of the National Security Agency, the Spetssvyaz, manages specialized technical teams that would have been all over Trump:
“These communications intercept units are designated for high-importance personages of political and diplomatic standing, such as Donald Trump. These units would've employed the most advanced intelligence collection systems in the nation. Anything short of a highly encrypted communications suite using military-grade technology would be simple for Russian intelligence to exploit. Donald Trump's mobile phone would be among the easiest to exploit. His mobile phone, Bluetooth, and laptops were most likely not shielded and could have been intercepted and exploited any number of ways. This means virtually everything he said, everything he texted, everything he wrote, and every communication he had in the electronic spectrum would be in the possession of Russian intelligence then and now. His guest rooms in Moscow could have had virtually undetectable voice and video communications intercept devices planted in such a way that nothing could be done by Trump in private and would defy detection. The Spetssvyaz would also employ Russian military intelligence subunits as well as Federal Security Service (FSB) surveillance units which could follow him anywhere that he goes with seemingly normal people and detect, document, and provide a record of anything and anyone he met.
Trump could have attempted to take countermeasures to defeat any surveillance. "About the only way to ensure against electronic surveillance," the former CIA official says, "is to use a burner phone—one you're not going to use again—stay off your normal personal email (use a one-time address you will not use again), and keep [communications] on that one to routine, non-sensitive messages…That was my practice in Moscow…during which all I sent were innocuous text messages on a phone I never used again." And Lewis remarks, "If you used a mobile phone with an encrypted app and kept that phone in your possession for the entire trip, you could make it harder for them. A lot of people use Signal or Telegram [for encrypted texting], but the Russians could still have many ways around this when you are in Moscow."
But Trump didn’t use a burner phone, he sent out several tweets from his normal Android phone while in Russia so if he said or did anything compromising — Russian intelligence probably has it.
ln addition to significant ties to the Kremlin and having met with Russian supporters to discuss Syria during the campaign Trump has a brewing problem with various Apprentice tapes which are in the possession of actor/comedian Tom Arnold which also overlap with the Russia issue.
On a Seattle radio program earlier this month, Arnold said that he had access to the footage but decided not to release it because he believed that Trump’s followers would only be emboldened by the offensive remarks.
“I think if the people that like him saw him saying the N-word, matter-of-factly saying this stuff, I think they would have liked him more for being politically incorrect,” Arnold explained at the time.
According to Arnold, he received access to the video via a time-limited password to a system that is designed to share work within the entertainment industry while preventing piracy.
Things became serious, Arnold said, when “Alt Right nuts” began to threaten his family during the election. But Trump’s connection to Russia and Vladimir Putin made Arnold take his case for exposing the GOP nominee to “7 powerful Hollywood people who have everything.”
It appears that those “big shots” refused to release information about Trump.
“They hate me now,” Arnold wrote. “Terrible career move but I believe if Russia has something they can blackmail our president with its worth the risk to me. Plus I’m a 57 year old father of 1 & 3 yr olds. I want to do all I can so there’s a safe America for them.”
On Twitter Wednesday, Arnold claimed to have received a voicemail from someone in Trump’s camp threatening him with a defamation suit over his claims that he has tapes of Trump spewing racial slurs and calling his own son a “retard.”
This is actually a fairly dumb move for Trump because Arnold’s primary defense would be to release the tape which he hadn’t done so far because of a $5 Million NDA that would impact the producers who provided it to him in the first place as reported by the LATimes.
"When the people sent it to me, it was funny," Arnold said, explaining that hundreds of people have seen the footage that was sent around years ago as a Christmas video.
"He wasn't going to be president of the United States. It was him sitting in that chair using the N-word, using the C-word, calling his son [intellectually disabled]," Arnold said.
Arnold then went on to recount the Sunday before the election, allegedly being called by good friend Arnold Schwarzenegger's CAA agent and Hillary Clinton, asking for him to release the tapes.
But at that point, Arnold asserted that the people originally responsible for the distribution of the footage, two editors and an associate producer, were "scared to death."
"They were scared of his people. They're scared they'll never work again," said Arnold. "There's a $5-million confidentiality agreement."
"If that had gotten released, it absolutely would have finished him," Monson told Arnold.
Now apparently Arnold is gung-ho to release the tape and again, part of the reason is the fact that Trump has lied about Russia and Putin.
The new law comes weeks before the New York billionaire assumes the presidency, amid national outrage over the spread of fake news and what many say is foreign interference in the election, both which are accused of enabling Trump’s victory.
In the final hours before the Christmas holiday weekend, U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday quietly signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law—and buried within the $619 billion military budget (pdf) is a controversial provision that establishes a national anti-propaganda center that critics warn could be dangerous for press freedoms.
The Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, introduced by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, establishes the Global Engagement Center under the State Department which coordinates efforts to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United Sates national security interests.”
Further, the law authorizes grants to non-governmental agencies to help “collect and store examples in print, online, and social media, disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda” directed at the U.S. and its allies, as well as “counter efforts by foreign entities to use disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda to influence the policies and social and political stability” of the U.S. and allied nations.
The head of the center will be appointed by the president, which likely means the first director will be chosen by President-elect Donald Trump.
The new law comes weeks before the New York billionaire assumes the presidency, amid national outrage over the spread of fake news and what many say is foreign interference in the election, both which are accused of enabling Trump’s victory.
Those combined forces have already contributed to the overt policing of media critical of U.S. foreign policy, such as the problematic “fake news blacklist” recently disseminated by The Washington Post.
And for those paying attention over the holiday weekend, the creation of the a new information agency under the Propaganda Act appears to be another worrisome development:
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican nominee Donald Trump urged a foreign power, Russia, to interfere in the American election in order to undermine his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Russia complied. The American intelligence community, including the CIA and FBI, has reached a “strong consensus” that the Russians interfered with the presidential election in order to help Donald Trump win.
It has also been reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed this espionage operation. So serious was Russian interference in the American presidential election that the Obama administration warned Putin that it was tantamount to “armed conflict.”
Republican leaders in Congress were briefed on Russia’s interference in the presidential election and how it was targeted at elevating Trump and hurting Clinton. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other congressional Republicans chose to block any public discussion of these findings. In what could be construed as a quid pro quo, McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, has been selected by President-elect Trump for a Cabinet position in his administration.
Donald Trump’s flirtations with Russia and Vladimir Putin are part of a broader pattern of reckless and irresponsible behavior. Trump has numerous conflicts of financial interest that would appear to violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution. His sons, Eric and Donald Jr., were involved in a scheme (since withdrawn) that looked a lot like an attempt to sell access to his administration through million-dollar “charity” donations.
Trump has threatened to violate the First Amendment by suppressing freedom of the press, encouraged violence against Clinton and those he deemed his enemies, suggested he would not respect the outcome of the election if he lost and now promoted people widely regarded as white supremacists or white nationalists to senior positions in his administration. Donald Trump has also selected key advisers and cabinet level officials who have close personal and financial relationships with Russian leaders in banking, finance and government.
The sum total of these facts leads to a very troubling conclusion.
Members of the Republican Party who knew about Russia’s efforts to interfere with the presidential election and chose to suppress or block such information, for fear of hurting their candidate’s chances, are also traitors.
In light of Russia’s interference with the presidential election, Republicans and others who voted for and support Donald Trump are also traitors, at least to the degree that they do not now work against and denounce him.
Reconciling Trump’s traitorous behavior with how Republicans and conservatives view themselves as the party of “patriotism” and “national security” is a puzzle of sorts. How do they resolve this state of cognitive dissonance?
The Republicans’ claim that theirs is the party of national security and that they are better than Democrats at “keeping America safe” is gutted by the legacy of 9/11 and George W. Bush’s imperial misadventures in the Middle East, which taken together constitute one of the greatest foreign policy failures in the history of the country.
Trump voters and other American conservatives have been subjected to a several decades-long disinformation and propaganda campaign, led by Fox News and the broader right-wing news-entertainment media. This has created an alternate reality that exists separate and apart from the empirical, fact-based world. As shown by recent public opinion surveys, Donald Trump supporters hold many false and bizarre beliefs. As Salon’s Bob Cesca summarized in a recent essay, here’s what Trump voters said they think about a series of issues in a December poll:
40 percent of Trump voters insist that he won the national popular vote.
60 percent of Trump voters think that Hillary Clinton received millions of illegal votes.
73 percent of Trump voters believe that George Soros is paying anti-Trump protesters.
29 percent of Trump voters don’t think California votes should be allowed to count in the national popular vote.
67 percent of Trump voters think the unemployment rate went up under President Barack Obama. Only 20 percent accurately believe it went down.
39 percent of Trump voters think the stock market went down under Obama. And 19 percent are unsure.
14 percent of Trump voters think Hillary Clinton is connected to a child sex ring run out of a Washington pizzeria. Another 32 percent aren’t sure one way or another. Only 54 percent are certain that Pizzagate is a myth.
Conservatism is a type of political religion and cult; Trump is now the leader of that cult.
In many regards American voters are not very sophisticated. They also do not have a schema for consistently and logically understanding and processing complex political events and issues. Because of the influence of corporate money and advertising (Trump received the equivalent of $5 billion in free advertising during the presidential campaign, according to news reports), the Fourth Estate has largely failed to fulfill its watchdog function and to educate the American people so that they can make informed and intelligent decisions about their leaders.
Republican-controlled states in the South and the Midwest also host a disproportionate number of military bases. Military officers also tend to identify as Republicans and to be more conservative. These two factors combine to give immediate credibility — however incorrect and superficial it may be — to the claim that Republicans are “stronger” on national defense.
Extreme political polarization, increasing authoritarianism and what is known as “negative partisanship” have also encouraged Republican voters to dramatically shift their attitudes toward Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Writing for the National Review, David French explained:
After weeks of WikiLeaks’ releases and months of Trump apologetics for Russia’s dictator, the Republicans nonetheless view Putin more favorably than their own president. Between 2014 and today, Putin’s approval ratings with Republicans have almost quadrupled, from 10 percent to 37 percent. His net negative rating is a mere ten points. By contrast, the GOP net negative rating for Barack Obama is a whopping 64 points. Across the Web, “conservatives” fill Twitter timelines and comment boards with pro-Putin comments. Some of this is Astroturfed straight from Russia. Much of it is not. “At least WikiLeaks is doing what the mainstream media won’t” (as if it’s the media’s job to hack computers). “Putin disrespects Obama, not the United States.” “Well, at least Putin hates Islamic terrorists” (well, other than his close Iranian allies, the world’s leading state supporter of Islamic terrorism). We are seeing the terrible result of what the Pew Foundation has documented as negative partisanship. Americans dislike the opposing political party more than they like their own tribe. They’re willing to believe the worst possible things about their political opponents.
These are all important explanations for how Republicans and conservatives can rationalize their support of Trump and his traitorous behavior with Russia. But they explicitly exclude another powerful force: the ways that nationalism, sexism and racism influence American politics more generally and conservatives specifically.
Consider the following thought experiment. Imagine if Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or any other Democrat had encouraged Russia to interfere with the election to undermine the process in order to favor their candidacy.
Given how the Republican Party and its news entertainment media flew into a collective conspiratorial frenzy over Hillary Clinton’s “classified emails” and a mysterious computer server, the outcome would have been something close to a literal witch hunt — perhaps an investigation or cries that a Russian-led coup or revolution had taken place. This difference in outcomes is more than a function of mere partisanship but rather a signal to deep divergences in political values and beliefs about belonging, community and citizenship in American society.
Obama or any other person of color would likely have been immediately and irrevocably delegitimized by the charges facing Trump. From before the founding of the republic to the present, and despite their military and other public service, black and brown people in America have found their loyalty is perpetually suspect.
Another factor here is that the American nation-state is gendered. Conservatives and right-wingers are engaged in a masculine, nationalist political project. Hillary Clinton was viewed as “weak” and “too emotional” because she is a woman. Clinton’s hypothetical alliance with Putin would have been seen as proof of those “deficits,” and such a scandal would be used to sexualize and demean her.
Since at least the Cold War, Republicans and their media have savaged Democrats, liberals and progressives as “weak.” The are not “real Americans”; they are “cowards” or “sissies,” “commies” or “traitors.” If Russia and Putin had interfered to aid a Democratic candidate, this would be presented by Republicans as final proof that Democrats are fundamentally disloyal to America.
But because Donald Trump is a white male conservative, his loyalty and patriotism are viewed by many Americans as a given. This is a manifestation of white male privilege in action and an example of how racism can damage the safety and security of the United States.
During the age of Obama, the Republican Party completed its devolution into a radical and revanchist organization that has aimed to overthrow the standing norms and consensus politics that have governed the United States since at least World War II. Trump and the Republicans are now following through on this in ways heretofore unimaginable.
They have chosen partisanship over patriotism in their support of the authoritarian Trump and his apparent foreign sponsor Vladimir Putin. The Russians wanted to undermine and damage one of America’s most sacred democratic institutions. Donald Trump and his party aided and abetted them.
Read about the Trump Putin Ties going back decades from this blog CLICK HERE
Despite Republican hyperbole, President Obama has not had the most executive orders of any recent president. Most of his executive actions were focused on streamlining federal bureaucracy, management of federal agencies and sanctioning countries with repressive regimes.
In some cases, Obama ordered the government to better reflect favorable Supreme Court rulings, such as instituting policies benefiting same-sex marriages by extending the Family Leave Medical Act to eligible employees regardless of the state they live in and treating same-sex couples like married couples when it comes to filing taxes. Similarly, he implemented policies from presidential panels, such as requiring more training for local police that obtain surplus military weapons, a recommendation of his police reform commission.
But Obama has not used his position to grant amnesty or pardon all undocumented people in the country—which scholars like Noam Chomsky suggested he do before leaving office. Instead, he has been a moderate, choosing to protect roughly the same proportion of immigrants as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush did when they were in office. Nonetheless, Obama’s steps will likely soon be imperiled by the incoming Trump administration and radical right-wing Republicans in Congress. President Obama, notably, is not going quietly into the night. Even as Trump called this week for vetoing a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements, the White House abstained on that vote on Friday—implicitly criticizing Israel. A day earlier, the Obama administration announced it was dismantling a federal registry of Muslims visiting from “high-risk” countries that was created after the 9/11 attacks; a registry Trump would have to reinstate. Days before that, the White House banned new oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and mid-Atlantic, citing a 1953 law the administration said could not be undone by Trump.
What follows are a half-dozen focal points for Obama’s executive actions.
1. Immigration. Obama’s 2014 actions suspended the deportation of young people and their parents who came to the country illegally. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program kept young people in public schools, protected recent college graduates or those who served in the military and were honorably discharged. Obama’s DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Arrivals) program shielded the undocumented parents of citizens and others with legal status. After Obama’s first term, when deportations hit a record high, these executive orders protected an estimated 4 million people. However, red-state Republicans, led by Texas, sued, and in June the U.S. Supreme Court issued a split 4-4 decision, leaving the programs blocked following a lower court ruling by a right-wing judge.
2. Reproductive Rights. Obama has stood up for reproductive rights and gender equality throughout his presidency. Soon after taking office, he reversed a George W. Bush administration ban on stem cell research that resulted from religious conservatives who opposed fetal cell science. The Affordable Care Act required employers to offer contraception in their health plans, which was challenged in court by employers seeking a religious exemption. After the Supreme Court sided with them, the administration issued a rule ensuring women could get birth control for free by requiring health insurers to cover it. Obama also ordered federal agencies to make gender equality and women's empowerment a core foreign policy focus.
3. Carbon and Climate Change. Obama has used a mix of executive orders to push the development of non-carbon energy sources and federal regulations to force high-carbon power plants to clean up emissions or close down. On the executive order front, he has issued several orders giving new authority to Native tribes in Alaska and elsewhere to support biodiversity and control energy development on tribal lands and offshore. He has also ordered the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, factor in climate change in domestic and foreign policies, and adopt more energy-efficient technologies. Earlier this year, however, proposed rules forcing power plants to cut carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 30 percent by 2030 were rejected by the Supreme Court after 29 red states and the energy industry sued. Like the court’s immigration ruling, this was a major blow to Obama’s policies. 4. Raising Labor Standards. Obama did many things to improve pay and working conditions for federal contractors. He was unable to get Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, but raised the minimum wage for federal contract workers to that level. He instituted paid sick leave for federal contractors and required federal contractors comply with all federal labor laws, including forbidding those firms barring employees from sharing salary and benefit information. Obama also issued numerous orders to resolve labor disputes between union and passenger railways in the northeast.
5. Expanding Gun Controls. Despite congressional refusal to adopt any substantive gun control laws after a series of mass shootings at schools, theaters and other settings, Obama announced nearly two-dozen actions to combat gun violence. Those include expanding background checks, making information about mental illness available in the background check system, expanding research into the causes of gun violence and telling U.S. attorneys to expand efforts dealing with domestic violence. Obama has called Congress’s inaction on gun control the biggest disappointment of his presidency.
6. Reducing Threat of Nuclear Arms. Astoundingly, Donald Trump last week tweeted that the U.S. needs to increase its nuclear arsenal, a threat by which he would resume the Cold War arms race with Russia and China. President Obama has taken the long view with nuclear arms reduction, such as a 2012 agreement to convert 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium in Russian nuclear weapons into low-grade fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. More recently, Obama's deal with Iran has sidelined that regional power from developing nuclear weapons, even though Republicans have voted to reverse the deal.