Want Melania Trump in the White House? Pay Her


When does women’s work become real work?

When no woman shows up to do it.

It feels like a footnote to the tumult of Month 1 of the Trump presidency, a minor detail easily lost in the toxic stew of news about Russia, executive orders, legal appeals and grammatically challenged Twitter blitzes. But by now, most of America knows that Melania Trump has declared herself the First Lady Who Wouldn’t.

Instead of taking up the mantle of First Hostess and slipping into the role of a landlocked Julie the cruise director without complaint, Melania the Intermittent has chosen to mostly stay in New York City with her young son, at least through the end of the school year, emerging from her gilded penthouse for a White House dinner here or a sightseeing jaunt there.

While a libel lawsuit suggests that Mrs. Trump had an eye on eventually monetizing her role as “one of the most photographed women in the world,” she has seemed uninterested in doing the work of the first lady. She waited until the end of January to name a social secretary and has yet to hire a full staff for her office. During his news conference last week, President Trump gave a progress report, explaining that his wife had “opened up the visitors center” and predicted that she would be a “fantastic” first lady, insofar as she was “always the highest quality that you’ll ever find.”

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Now that Mr. Trump has turned 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into

For decades, we’ve assumed that the wife of the man in the Oval Office would ditch whatever else she had going on — a law career, a lucrative job as a hospital administrator, a quiet life as a stay-at-home mom — to take on the gig. Since Martha Washington, the first lady has been the nation’s hostess; since Eleanor Roosevelt, she’s also championed a cause, usually related to women and children. She welcomes visiting dignitaries, entertains their spouses, hosts holiday parties and mom-dances with Jimmy Fallon, all with the public and the paparazzi ready to pounce on any wardrobe infelicities or bad hair days.

It’s a job few would sign up for. Yet we’ve expected our first ladies to do it all, without benefit of a paycheck, or even a budget for clothing: While the first lady’s office has a budget, her role is considered an “office of honor,” which is fancy for “you’ll get nothing and like it.”

Michelle Obama made it look not just glamorous but effortless, and if she was ever peeved that her work went uncompensated, she never complained.

Now Mrs. Trump’s absence raises an interesting question — if this is labor, shouldn’t we be paying for it? It also exposes the problem feminism has always had with housework, in the White House or elsewhere.

In the 1960s and ’70s, second-wave feminists sought to get women into the workplace. Many insisted that housework was mindless drudgery and that fulfillment could be found only outside of the home. In 1970, Gloria Steinem said that “housewives are dependent creatures who are still children”; Betty Friedan said, “No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.”

And so, instead of on-site day care, flexible schedules, parental leave for men and women and a path to the top that did not punish parents for spending time at home, feminists made their priority the rights of women to get the same education, work the same long hours, earn the same wages and make the same difficult choices between work and family as men.

Some women assimilated, donning shoulder pads and faux-ties, becoming, as Ms. Steinem memorably put it, the men they were once supposed to marry, earning law and medical degrees, becoming corporate executives and Fox News contributors.

But housework is famously intransigent. When Mom and Dad both work, someone still has to buy the groceries and schedule the doctor visits.

Sometimes, in middle-class and upper-middle-class homes, that someone is a nanny or a housekeeper, a woman — frequently a minority woman — who tends to the house and the children so that both parents can hold paying jobs. Because our culture has devalued domestic work, caring for houses and children remains low-paying and unregulated.

In 2012, the National Domestic Workers Alliance found that 23 percent of workers were paid below their state’s minimum wage. Fewer than 9 percent of families in the study paid the Social Security tax on their domestic help’s salary.

Not all working women have made their gains on the backs of an underpaid maid or nanny. Some women never worked outside the house, either because they didn’t want to or because it didn’t make sense financially. Others resigned themselves to putting in the so-called second shift after getting home from the office.

The White House is different — it’s not as if Mrs. Trump will be picking up stray Legos, begging, “Can I please just have five minutes to myself?” while her husband asks if she’s gotten the dry cleaning. But being first lady is, essentially, being the White Housewife, taking on all of the White Housework, which includes so much travel and public speaking that Ronald Reagan once joked that with his wife, Nancy, “the government gets an employee free; they have her just about as busy as they have me.”

Now that our first lady has just said no, desperate times call for desperate measures. If we want our White House to continue to function as the people’s house, if we want that Christmas tree lit and those Easter eggs rolled, it’s time to pony up.

“Free Melania”? If she’s willing to do the work, let’s pay her instead.

Your Editor Muses: Oh, the changes yet to come. Are you ready?

Liddle Marco. Trump and Tillerson


By Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

Former ExxonMobil chief executive Rex W. Tillerson appears last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

When President-elect Donald Trump first nominated Rex W. Tillerson for secretary of state, several Democratic aides predicted that he would be advanced to the floor without a positive vote from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They might have pegged the committee just right.

Tillerson’s stumbling during his confirmation hearing left Democrats angry (especially over his refusal to own up to past lobbying against sanctions on Russia) and Republicans somewhere between annoyed and unenthusiastic. Tillerson’s lack of directness and depth of understanding has made mustering enthusiasm for him difficult. (One wonders what Robert Gates, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley saw in him that impressed them enough to recommend him for arguably the most important Cabinet position.)

On CNN, chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who did everything but race around to the witness table to answer Tillerson’s questions for him, seemed to confirm that the committee may well lack a majority for Tillerson. He said, “I plan on moving Tillerson to the floor. Without getting into all the machinations, I would expect there to be a vote of Rex Tillerson on the floor and I expect him to be confirmed.” Corker has every right to invoke that rarely deployed procedure.

A 2015 Congressional Research Service paper explained:

A committee considering a nomination has four options. It may report the nomination to the Senate favorably, unfavorably, or without recommendation, or it may choose to take no action at all. It is more common for a committee to take no action on a nomination than to report unfavorably. Particularly for policymaking positions, committees sometimes report a nomination favorably, subject to the commitment of the nominee to testify before a Senate committee. Sometimes, committees choose to report a nomination without recommendation. Even if a majority of Senators on a committee do not agree that a nomination should be reported favorably, a majority might agree to report a nomination without a recommendation in order to permit a vote by the whole Senate. It is rare for the full Senate to consider a nomination if a committee chooses not to report it and the committee is not discharged by unanimous consent.

In the case of John Bolton, the committee in 2005 voted 10-8 to advance his nomination as United Nations ambassador without a positive recommendation. At the time when the filibuster was still in place for executive nominations, he failed to win confirmation on the floor and instead was given a recess appointment.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) remains the key figure on Tillerson. He grilled Tillerson at the hearing, often displaying extreme frustration when Tillerson refused to answer straightforward questions, especially in the human rights realm. (South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, by contrast, crisply answered that yes, Russia and the Philippines had violated human rights, and yes, sanctions on Russia should continue.) Rubio still says he has not decided. Rubio finds himself caught between a desire to show spine in standing up to the president-elect and his need to stay in the good graces of the GOP base. If he knows the nomination will advance either way, he may figure a “no” vote would draw Trump’s ire for nothing. Alternatively, he may figure that if the nomination goes through anyway, he can make a show of principle without dooming the nomination.

If Tillerson advances, all eyes turn to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).”I am very concerned about someone who took a friendship award from Vladimir Putin, who’s a butcher. Actually what Vladimir Putin is, he’s a KGB agent. That’s all,” McCain told CBS on Wednesday evening. “I’ve had concerns and I’ve had several conversations with him.” On Monday, he had said he was leaning in favor of Tillerson. McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) usually, but not invariably, vote in lock step on major foreign policy matters.

In short, Rubio, Graham and McCain could sink Tillerson. Doing so would express a strong preference for a nominee who can clearly articulate American values, has a foreign policy track record and/or does not give the perception that Vladimir Putin got the U.S. secretary of state he wanted. All three must wrestle with the concern that Trump could nominate someone worse, someone who views Russia precisely as Trump does or who expresses no appreciation whatsoever for our alliances or human rights. They must weigh competing concerns about holding up a key appointment, enraging Trump, sending a message to the new administration and seeming to embolden Putin. We should remember that in all of U.S. history, the Senate has turned down only nine executive branch nominations. Chances still favor Tillerson, but only barely.

Your Editor Confesses: I can’t help it 

Blue State Blues: Why Do Democrats Keep Undermining Latino Leaders?


By Joel B. Pollak, Breitbart News

There is something decidedly odd about the California State Legislature’s decision to hire former Attorney General Eric Holder, now back at the prestigious Covington & Burling law firm, to fight the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

There is something decidedly odd about the California State Legislature’s decision to hire former Attorney General Eric Holder, now back at the prestigious Covington & Burling law firm, to fight the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.
The weirdness goes beyond the fact that it may be

The weirdness goes beyond the fact that it may be unconstitutional for the legislature to have hired Holder, given that the state already has its own attorneys who are certainly capable of doing what the state government requires

One of those attorneys is none other than Gov. Jerry Brown’s nominee for Attorney General, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA). He has a long track record of fighting Republicans on issues like immigration and entitlement reform, and has made clear he intends to fight the Trump administration every step of the way to protect California’s one-party state and its “progressive” policies. He is also, as the local media noted appropriately at his nomination, California’s first Latino Attorney General.

So why does California need Holder? Does the California State Legislature believe somehow that Becerra lacks the ability to do the job? Probably not, since a committee of the State Assembly approved his nomination this week in a 6-3 party-line vote. Does Holder bring something special to the job of representing the state that Becerra does not? They are both Washington creatures and know how to fight on the national stage. Is there some reason to pay both of these men, working separately?

Note that California has some recent, and bad, experience with duplicating government functions. Much of last year’s political energy was spent in a pointless feud over gun control between Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Léon (D-Los Angeles) — the first Latino to serve in that role in more than a century — and Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic favorite for governor in 2018 against formidable challenger Antonio Villaraigosa, who served as the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles.

Newsom wanted to legalize marijuana via referendum. But then he decided to add a gun control referendum, Proposition 63, which bans large-capacity ammunition magazines and requires ammunition purchasers to undergo a background check. Sen. de Léon championed his own gun control efforts through the legislature, triggering a nasty spat.

The potential for clashes between the executive and legislature, even on common policies, is clear. Why would California risk repeating history?

Come to think of it — why did Newsom insist on credit for both the marijuana and the gun control initiatives, without finding any room for de Léon to share the “progressive” accolades?

The Newsom-de Léon fight happened at the same time as the race for U.S. Senate between Becerra’s predecessor, Kamala Harris, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), pitting the state’s first black and Hispanic candidates for the seat against each other. Before she faded down the stretch, Sanchez had carried the hopes of California’s rising Latino constituency. But Harris clinched the biggest endorsements and donors very early in the race.

Over and over again, California’s emerging Latino leadership has offered new leaders to the state. And in each case, the state’s existing Democratic Party establishment has maneuvered to block them.

Eric Holder, who has no roots in California, walked into his new job with no confirmation hearings; Becerra has to jump through the hoops. What is the message there?

One hesitates even to touch the Democratic Party’s identity politics game. Perhaps the real rivalry is between Northern and Southern California: the San Francisco Bay Area has a stranglehold on statewide office, and most of the state’s Latino stars hail from L.A. and Orange County.

Still, it is odd that the California State Legislature decided that as qualified as he is, Rep. Becerra needs a “double” — at a cost of $25,000 per month — from a white-shoe law firm on the other side of the country.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News.

Your Editor Explains: For balanced opinions, we’ll need and use them all.

Obámanos!, Through a Latino Lens


by Suzanne Gamboa

Werner Oyanadel was at his office in Connecticut when a fresh President Barack Obama made a historic move for Latinos: he nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Oyanadel, 45, who works for the state’s assembly, remembers the May 26, 2009 nomination as a moment of joy that united much of the community during an otherwise bleak time.

“It was a celebration and in many ways it felt good in that everything that was happening near us was depressive — the economy was doing bad, the outlook for quality of life for Latinos was not positive,” said Oyanadel. “Later on, I was personally happy to realize this was just the beginning.”

upporters of Obama tout substantial gains for Hispanics under his watch: The return of Latinos to work after a recession that hit them harder than white workers, as well as a drop in Hispanic poverty rates. About 4 million more Latinos obtained health insurance and the administration waged court battles for the preservation of voting rights. Obama used his presidential power so thousands of young Latino immigrants could remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation and have the chance to work. And from his office, he forged a new relationship with Cuba.

To Oyandel’s delight, Sotomayor’s nomination was followed by a total of six Latinos in Cabinet secretary jobs over eight years as well the hiring of other Hispanics in key administration and White House jobs. Obama made Cecilia Muñoz, a daughter of Bolivian immigrants, one of his top advisers on domestic policies.

Discussions of Obama’s legacy for Latinos frequently become mired in what he did not do on immigration — mainly the failure to get Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. His deportation polices have repeatedly come under fire.

But looking at his presidency through a Latino lens also requires seeing it through the varied lives and backgrounds of U.S. Hispanics as well as significant demographic changes driven by Latinos.

“Obama was president with a growing Latino population. It exerted just naturally more political [and] economic power, a greater role in our society,” said Bernard Fraga, associate professor of Indiana University’s politics department. “Latinos are more important in U.S. society than they have ever been.”

Obama is ending his presidency next week with a 71 percent approval rating among Hispanics, recovered from lows of nearly 50 percent in 2013 and 2014.

For Latinos, he will leave a legacy of inspiration, elevation, opportunity and economic lift, with the caveat of disappointment and for some, disillusionment, for what he didn’t get done on immigration.

By the time Obama became president, Latinos had become the largest minority group, edging past African Americans in 2001. But while more than three quarters of whites had private health insurance when Obama entered office, only about 44 percent of Hispanics did. Latinos led all racial and ethnic groups, except Native Americans, in the rate of uninsured.

“We were the target for Obamacare,” said José Dante Parra, CEO of Prospero Latino strategy group.

Felipe Benítez’s mother, a retired doctor who emigrated from Mexico, was one of the people who signed up for Obamacare soon after the president signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

María de Lourdes Rojas was old enough for Medicare, but wasn’t eligible because her working years had preceded her arrival to the U.S. and so she had not contributed from her paycheck to Medicare. Before Obamacare, she was paying steep monthly premiums for private health insurance, said Benítez, a communications strategist in Washington, D.C. Rojas is a U.S. citizen.

Remember when (Obama) signed the bill and the mic was still hot and (Vice President) Joe Biden leaned in and said ‘This is a big f***ing deal’? Well for me and the family, it was a big f***ing deal — BFD,” Benítez said.

Obamacare has drawn strong criticism among Republican Latino opponents, primarily for its requirements on businesses. But supporters point to strong gains: 4 million more Hispanics have gained insurance, young Latinos are covered until they are 26 through their parents’ insurance, no insurance denials for pre-existing conditions and the expansion of community health centers, which have benefited those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

“Obamacare “is one of the things I will always be grateful for and always remember and I will fight to keep it,” Benítez said.

In his last news conference of 2016, Obama said he was proud of the coalition he built in 2008 and 2012. Latinos turned out strong for him in 2008 when he promised to take up immigration reform in his first 100 days and again in 2012 after he used executive action to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation and to grant them work permits.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, has benefited nearly 800,000 young people and indirectly some of their families, because many have been able to attend and graduate from college, work jobs or launch professions and businesses and become homeowners.

DACA recipient Brenda Romero, 22, gives Obama a qualified endorsement.

“There’s two sides of the coin: as much as his presidency has given me an opportunity to pursue my education and be able to work and not be afraid of deportation, some of the highest deportation numbers in history have been under him.”

Obama focused deportations on those who had recently crossed the border, including those who had previously been deported and on those detained on an alleged crime. His office created a priority system for deportations, then tweaked it in his second term amid protests by some of his allies — Latino leaders and immigration activists — who had tagged him “deporter in chief.”

Obama deflated some of that antagonism with another executive action that would have shielded parents of citizens and legal residents from deportation and widened the eligibility pool for DACA. But those programs are stymied in court.

“Immigration does sort of drown out other policy victories, particularly the Affordable Care Act, for other Latinos,” said Gabriel Sanchez, a University of New Mexico political science professor.

While immigration got a lot of the attention during Obama’s presidency, there were Latinos unaffected personally by the debate and the legislative battles over the issue. They look to other areas where Obama’s policies influenced their lives.

In 2014, Roseanne Ortega graduated college with a degree in education.

A single mom, Ortega, 32, said she was able to attend school while working full time and taking care of her then 2-year-old daughter. She credits grants, other financial assistance and job opportunities with helping her graduate without debt.

She now teaches Kindergarten and hopes to one day get a Master’s degree and teach at the university level. Spending on higher education substantially increased under Obama, including greater access to more affordable student loans and an increase in individual Pell grant awards.

Ortega said she’d give Obama an A for his performance as president. “Financially I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” she said.

Among younger Latinos, high school graduation levels are at historic highs and the teen pregnancy rate is at its lowest levels.

Unemployment among Hispanics has dropped more than any other group since the Great Recession, from a high of 13.1 percent in 2009, compared to 9.2 percent for whites. In October, Latino unemployment was at 5.7 percent, compared to 4.2 percent for whites.

Parra, the political strategist, recalled speaking with an Uber driver in Miami before the last presidential debate. They were talking politics and the driver was unenthusiastic about the election and the candidates.

“All of a sudden (the driver) volunteers ‘Obama on the other hand, that guy helped me keep my house — I was about to lose it,'” Parra said. Latinos lost 66 percent of their household wealth in the Great Recession, especially in states like Nevada and Florida.

“One of his legacies is definitely an economic one because, remember, we were disproportionately hit by the foreclosure crisis and all these (recovery) programs were very helpful to many people,” Parra said.

While unemployment has dropped, the wealth gap between Latinos and whites persists and studies show that the economic recovery has been slower for people at middle and lower income levels. But Hispanics are more optimistic now: a June 2016 Pew report found 33 percent of Latinos said their finances were “good,” compared to 19 percent in November of 2008.

Obama’s decision to end the country’s 50-year-old policy toward Cuba is one that has many implications in the Latino community. The thaw has split the Cuban American community, but has improved relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Elizabeth Díaz, who visited Cuba after the thaw, said she considers Obama a great president for opening up travel to her family’s native country, making it possible for her to visit recently and bring back pictures of what her relatives left behind.

“As much as my grandmother fought me going there … when I came back and showed her everything, she was super happy,” Diaz said.

Ric Herrero, who served as executive director of CubaNow, which seeks to improve connections among people in both countries, said Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba “will be remembered for decades.” The policies had been “a stone in our shoe” when it came to relations with the rest of Latin America.

“Now that stone has been removed and I think Latinos here have taken notice of that and have been overwhelmingly supportive of that policy,” he said.

Cuban-American lawmakers have opposed the changes, citing Cuba’s record on human rights and the absence of free elections. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. and a Cuban American, recently sent to President-Elect Trump a plea to stop sharing intelligence with Cuba.

Obama’s campaigns for president energized a number of young Latinos, many who were voting for a president for the first time or who became engaged because of his candidacy. After his election, some of those Latinos joined his administration and others became involved in political and social organizations. While the federal government’s hiring of Hispanics still lags behind their presence in the U.S., the pipeline of Latinos to elected office, politics and social advocacy groups has expanded.

Since Obama became president, there has been a greater shift toward the Democratic Party by Latinos, in part because of Obama’s candidacy and re-election. In an October 2016 Pew Hispanic poll, two-thirds of Hispanics supported or leaned toward the Democratic Party. The way he energized the community, particularly its younger members who make up 44 percent of Latino voters, could have been an even greater force for Democrats had Clinton won, Fraga said.

While different Latinos will debate whether the changes Obama made were indeed transformative, Fraga said he shifted expectations nonetheless.

“The fact that Barack Obama, an African American son of an immigrant, became president of the United States really demonstrated to the Latino community, why not us?” Fraga said.

Your Editor Warns: Lifting the racial barrier is an ongoing process.

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