Background Briefing: January 7, 2019


Trump Escalates His Reality TV Phony Border Crisis

We begin with the White House’s escalating effort to gin up a crisis on the Southern border in order to justify Trump keeping the government shut down until he gets his border wall. John Stoehr, a fellow at the Yale Journalism Initiative and Yale’s Ezra Stiles College and the editor and publisher of The Editorial Board who is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joins us. We will discuss Trump’s call to the major TV networks for an address to the nation at 9 PM ET on Tuesday as well as his announcement he is visiting the border on Thursday for what White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted is a meeting “with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis”. We discuss how Trump’s government shutdown is just the latest if not the biggest Reality TV phony drama he has served up as a distraction in his government by daily stunts to disguise the obvious that Trump can’t govern. We will also discuss the looming danger that he will take his shutdown stunt, and the manufactured crisis to justify it, to the limit and declare a national emergency and assess the unusual danger that having a weak strongman in the Oval Office constantly projecting phony strength to his base poses. And what might happen when Trump’s base tires of his stunts and realizes their tough-guy leader is a weakling.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Call for a 70% Top Tax Rate

Then we speak with Robert Hockett, a Professor of Law at Cornell Law School who recently helped Senator Elizabeth Warren write the Accountable Capitalism Act and is currently meeting with the economic advisors to Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. He joins us to discuss AOC’s appearance Sunday on “60 Minutes” and how she introduced to the nation an uncontroversial plan to raise taxes on incomes about $10 million to 70% which has Republicans fulminating. Since under Eisenhower the top earners paid a 91% marginal rate which was lowered to 70% under Kennedy and Johnson, AOC’s tax plan would take us back to Reagan’s first term before he lowered the top rate to 50% in 1986. It is now at 37%.


A Young Saudi Woman’s Brave Stand Against Being Sent Home to Face Death

Then finally we discuss the fate of an 18 year-old Saudi woman trying to escape from Sharia Law who was grabbed by Saudi officials in Thailand on her way to Australia and was facing what she saw as certain death if returned to her family in Saudi Arabia. Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, joins us to discuss how this brave young woman who barricaded herself in a hotel room in Bangkok is now in the hands of the UNHCR and why she has good reason to fear being deported from Thailand.