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Other View: Four changes to save Trump's presidency

Jennifer Rubin

Gallup reports that President Donald Trump, already at a record low for a president’s first year, has hit a new low, 35 percent. As Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., likes to say, Trump’s support is down to paid employees and blood relatives. Gallup includes this historical perspective:

One possibility for Trump, following [Bill] Clinton’s path, is that after bottoming out somewhere in the 30s early on, he learns from the school of hard knocks and improves his performance enough to rebuild public support. His challenge will be expanding beyond his 46% high point — if he does, he could be in a good position for re-election. The alternative is that he sinks into the 20s and follows the path worn by Carter and George H.W. Bush: straight to the first-term exit door.

That’s if he makes it to the end of the first term.

We should not expect that a 70-year-old billionaire who defied all the experts in winning the presidency will readily change his rhetoric, style and agenda. A man who never apologizes sees no reason to change.

But let’s say, for sake of argument, that Trump accomplishes none of his top priorities (build the wall, tax reform, repeal and replace) and the Russia investigation hangs over him, threatening to implicate top campaign aides. He’s in the approval range where it is quite conceivable that the GOP loses the House, and thereby turns over the body responsible for impeachment (but not trial) to Democrats. What does he do?

First, he needs to professionalize the White House. Out go the incompetent ideologues (Stephen K. Bannon, Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka), those who are in over their heads (Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and Don McGahn, who gave poor advice on Ivanka Trump’s employment status and messed up the travel-ban executive order) and, yes, relatives. He cannot run this like a family business. Because that’s all he knows how to do, he’ll need experienced White House aides who are allowed to set up a streamlined decision-making system.

Second, no more tweeting, no more outrageous assertions gleaned from nonsense he watches on Fox News, no more campaign-style rallies where he recites his latest conspiracy theories.

Third, get the Russia stuff behind him. Release tax returns and financial records. (If he cannot do that because he is deathly afraid of what his tax returns reveal, he in essence is deciding it’s more important to keep his financial secrets than hold on to the presidency.) Offer up the names of Russian investors, buyers and lenders. Repudiate anyone on his team who had improper dealings with foreign governments. If appropriate, make certain that prosecutions proceed based on facts uncovered during the investigation. And yes, acknowledge that President Barack Obama did not wiretap him.

Fourth, undo his pattern so far of running as a populist but governing like a pro-business right-wing radical — trying to roll back Medicaid, cut funding for worthwhile programs, hand out tax cuts to the rich and let big telecoms sell our personal data. The last item is a perfect example of letting free-market ideologues win out over policy that protects the little guy. (“Outrage is growing at Republicans following a controversial vote Tuesday to repeal Internet privacy protections that were approved by the Federal Communications Commission in the final days of the Obama administration,” CNN reports. “Privacy advocates, consumer groups and the tech community are all attacking the decision. It was quickly panned by both the editorial board of The New York Times and by commenters on conservative media outlet Breitbart News.”)

When he meets with former opioid addicts and their families promising more resources days after failure of a health-care plan that would have slashed such resources, he has reached a new level of incoherence. If Republicans remain under the thumb of the Freedom Caucus, he should strike deals with Democrats and moderate Republicans on infrastructure, child care and middle-class tax cuts.

Again, such an extreme makeover is unlikely. He has never operated outside the cocoon of family or practiced anything like the sort of transparency we have described. At some point, he will be faced with the prospect of failure and disgrace (maybe even removal from office) unless he dramatically changes his style and agenda. If he keeps going the way he has, he will face a political death by a thousand cuts — investigations, scandals, failed legislation and disastrous midterm elections. At that point, the presidency may become more trouble than it is worth.

Jennifer Rubin

The Associated Press  

In this March 29, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump speaks at a women’s empowerment panel in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

Our View: Why isn’t the prosecutor talking?

Editor’s note: This editorial contains inaccurate information, and as a result we owe an apology to former Jerome County Prosecutor John Horgan. Horgan is no longer handling the case. He was replaced by prosecutor Mike Seib. We deeply regret the error and apologize to him and our readers for presenting inaccurate information.

‘Better to remain silent and be thought a fool,” Abraham Lincoln famously said, “than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

We’re not sure whether Jerome County Prosecutor John Horgan is taking the president’s advice or whether he simply doesn’t understand the responsibilities of public servants.

Either way, Horgan isn’t saying. In fact, he never says.

The prosecutor has a policy of not speaking with the media, which is in essence a policy against speaking to his voters, his bosses.

The most recent example is his decision to drop all charges against the main suspect in the White Pine Elementary case, where several schoolgirls accused a man of trying to kidnap them from the playground at the Burley school. Because of a conflict of interest with the Cassia County prosecutor, Horgan’s office took on the case.

The incident shocked the Magic Valley. Several schools stepped up security protocols in the fallout. Parents worried about the safety of their children. Were there, in fact, predators lurking around the school trying to snatch children?

The public is still no closer to the answer.

Horgan’s office dropped the remaining charges against 51-year-old Vadian Dougal on Wednesday, March 29, without any explanation.

Was there really no case to be had against Dougal? Where the witnesses lying when they said he grabbed them or tried to lure them away? Was there ever really a threat, or is there still one?

Who knows?

And that’s the most troubling part of Horgan’s silence. Parents, teachers and the public at large are simply left to guess.

We’ve been critical of Horgan’s silence in the past, for all the same reasons. When a 2-year-old boy was struck by a car and killed in a Jerome subdivision in 2014, Horgan’s office said nothing about its pursuit of justice, or lack thereof. Even though the driver turned himself in the next day, Horgan’s office eventually dismissed charges against him, leaving the boy’s family and others in the close-knit neighborhood of mostly Latino families wondering why. Some even accused Horgan of failing to pursue the case because of a prejudice against Hispanics.

We doubt that’s why Horgan never prosecuted anyone in the boy’s death, but the accusation goes a long way toward proving our point. When Horgan doesn’t explain his decisions, people are left to wonder.

And that’s simply poor public service.