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When America’s Oddest Political Couple Fights, Those Sparks Are Real – The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — George T. Conway III has described the work of his wife, Kellyanne Conway, for President Trump in terms usually reserved for hostage situations: brainwashed by a cult, suffering from Stockholm syndrome, an overwhelmed mother protecting a destructive man-child.

And if you think it’s all shtick, some wink-and-nod act by a couple who fights by day and snuggles by night, planning a payday after Mr. Trump leaves the scene, think again, say some people close to America’s oddest political couple.

“Those who think this is a 14-dimensional chess game are mistaken,” said Rick Wilson, who with Mr. Conway and several other Republicans formed the Lincoln Project, an effort to beat Mr. Trump in the 2020 election.

Mr. Conway “has taken unequivocal and irreversible actions that have established his bona fides as someone who opposes Donald Trump, and she’s going to be for Donald Trump until the last dog dies,” he said, adding a question that many Americans have asked themselves about the Conways: “Who knows the secrets of the human heart?”

In a sense, the passions in the Conway household have come to represent the societal agonies of the Trump era, a couple and a nation deeply divided, unsettled by the storms around the presidency, and asking themselves, when it’s all over, can there be reconciliation?

The Conways bring to mind a previous Washington “It” couple: Mary Matalin, who worked for President George W. Bush, and James Carville, the Democratic strategist who helped engineer President Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory over Mr. Bush. Ms. Matalin and Mr. Carville turned their political dissonance into a lucrative brand, joking about their vast differences.

The Conways agree politically on most things because Mr. Conway, for all his anti-Trump activities, remains deeply conservative. But the couple does not appear to be having much fun.

“Coming of political age in 1992 is significantly different than coming of age in 2017,” Mr. Carville said. “Trump people have much more of a sense of personal assault or grievance, and the Trump opponents have a high, high dose of doing the right thing for the country. You can hardly even tell jokes about it anymore.”

Ms. Conway, 53, Mr. Trump’s senior counselor and 2016 campaign manager, has largely held her tongue about her husband, though she told The Washington Post in 2018 that his sniping “disrespects his wife.”

In recent months, Mr. Conway, 56, a constitutional lawyer by trade and Trump opponent by conversion, has become more embittered, and more public. During the presidential impeachment, he took to CNN and Twitter as a commentator, calling Mr. Trump a “criminal,” “pathological liar” and “Idiot-in-Chief.”

To mark Mr. Trump’s acquittal by the Senate, Mr. Conway wrote a sarcastic, bitter column, concluding, “I believe the president’s call was perfect. I believe he is deeply concerned about corruption in Ukraine.” Mr. Conway live-tweeted his derision as the president celebrated last week in the East Room of the White House. “Let it out, @realDonaldTrump. Let it all out,” he mocked.

For someone who labored in Republican legal vineyards for decades — in the 1990s, he was a lawyer for Paula Jones, who accused Mr. Clinton of sexual misconduct — Mr. Conway did not cut much of a swath in Washington social circles. He rode his wife’s coattails into the nation’s capital.

But of late, he has surpassed her on Washington’s party circuit.

“She was the superstar for two and a half years, and now George is the superstar,” said Sally Quinn, a journalist, author and Washington hostess who has been inviting Mr. Conway, but not Ms. Conway, to her parties in Georgetown.

The Conways met in the summer of 1999, when Mr. Conway was a securities lawyer and partner at the New York firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Ms. Conway was a Republican pollster who appeared frequently on television. Mr. Conway told a mutual friend, the conservative commentator Ann Coulter, that he wanted to meet Ms. Conway, known then by her maiden name, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick. The future Ms. Conway drove out to a Hamptons beach house, rented by Ms. Coulter, and the couple remained planted at the house’s kitchen table, chatting for hours.

They married in 2001 and moved into Trump Tower in Manhattan. Mr. Conway impressed the future president by taking his side in a condo board battle over removing the name “Trump” from the building, and he introduced Ms. Conway to Mr. Trump.

Politics was less bruising then. In 2005, Ms. Conway teamed up with Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, to write a book about how American women were erasing political lines. By reputation, Ms. Conway was smart and empathetic, the type who remembered birthdays and weddings.

The Conways now have four children: the twins, George IV and Claudia, 15; Charlotte, 11; and Vanessa, 10; and a pair of Corgis, Skipper and Bonnie, which Mr. Conway nicknamed Concerned and Troubled after the terms that Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has used to describe her reaction to Mr. Trump’s behavior.

Friends say the Conways are staying together for their children, although the couple is not always in the same city. Mr. Conway spent chunks of time last year in New York before leaving his firm, while Ms. Conway remained in Washington, where the Trump crowd has largely blackballed her husband.

In November, Mr. Conway attended a “Resistance” party at the New York apartment of Molly Jong-Fast, an author and daughter of Erica Jong. The comedian Kathy Griffin posted a photograph on Instagram of Mr. Conway hiding coyly behind the liberal journalist Soledad O’Brien. Nearby were E. Jean Carroll, a writer who has accused Mr. Trump of rape, and the Hillary Clinton stalwart Philippe Reines.

In Washington, Mr. Conway tends to hole up in his home office, writing opinion pieces and firing away on Twitter. In a July piece titled “Trump Is a Racist President,” he wrote about the first time he heard someone tell his mother, who emigrated from the Philippines, “‘Go back to your country.’”

The gulf between the Conways developed slowly before turning into a chasm. After Mr. Trump’s victory, the Conways jumped into Washington with both feet, buying a 15,000-square foot house with eight bedrooms and 11 bathrooms. “Kellyanne Conway Just Bought This $8 Million D.C. Mansion,” blared Town & Country magazine, through Mr. Conway’s legal partnership accounts for most of the couple’s net worth of about $40 million.

Mr. Conway wept for joy on election night and called his wife’s achievement “the best thing that ever happened to her.” He turned down two potential posts in the Justice Department, calling the administration “a dumpster fire,” though he told the president at the time that he supported him.

In those days, Ms. Conway went out alone, or with Adrienne Arsht, a philanthropist and arts patron with homes in Miami and across the street from the Conways. Ms. Arsht, who calls Ms. Conway “a lovely neighbor, a great mother” and “a fabulous cook,” played down their relationship.

“Our garages face each other, so why not go out together to save on emissions?” she asked.

Early on, Mr. Conway tweeted his disapproval of the president’s tweets about the travel ban, then hastened to tweet his support for the president and “my wonderful wife.”

In February 2019, at a British Embassy party for female members of Congress, Ms. Conway approached Ms. Quinn, the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and the NBC News journalist Andrea Mitchell.

“It was like, ‘Oh, I love your shoes and what a great bag, blah blah,’” Ms. Quinn recalled, until she asked Ms. Conway about her husband, and Ms. Conway, she said, grew angry that Ms. Quinn had even brought him up. “She just took off on all three of us,’’ Ms. Quinn said. “She really went crazy.”

“I said, ‘Kellyanne, you’re married, and you’re working for the president, and he’s writing against the president,” Ms. Quinn recalled. “‘Guess what? This is a story.’”

The next month, the Conway marriage appeared to have become an issue in the White House. Mr. Trump had spent the weekend of March 16 retweeting conspiracy theorists and insulting Senator John McCain when Mr. Conway tweeted, “His condition is getting worse.”

The next day, Brad Parscale, who now manages Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, tweeted that Mr. Conway “hurts his wife because he is jealous of her success.” The president piled on, “A total loser!”

Mr. Conway then gave an interview to The Washington Post, saying that he tweets “so I can get it off my chest and move on with my life that day.” He added, referring to his wife, “Frankly, it’s so I don’t end up screaming at her.”

Mr. Trump clapped back: “George Conway, often referred to as Mr. Kellyanne Conway by those who know him, is VERY jealous of his wife’s success & angry that I, with her help, didn’t give him the job he so desperately wanted. I barely know him but just take a look, a stone cold LOSER & husband from hell!”

It fell to Ms. Conway to spin Mr. Trump’s attacks on her spouse.

“He left it alone for months out of respect for me,” Ms. Conway said of the president in an interview with Politico. “But you think he shouldn’t respond when somebody, a nonmedical professional, accuses him of having a mental disorder?”

Mr. Conway has not let up. In October, he used clinical terms in The Atlantic to say Mr. Trump’s narcissism made him unfit for office.

At Ms. Quinn’s home recently, Mr. Conway and William F. Weld, the former Massachusetts governor and Mr. Trump’s long-shot 2020 primary challenger, embraced like lost brothers, then posed for a photo with the former Democratic presidential candidate and self-help author Marianne Williamson.

Mr. Conway “was one of the last to leave,” Ms. Quinn recalled. “He was just glowing, you know?”

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Budget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight | TheHill – The Hill

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Budget watchers are growing increasingly frustrated about the politicization of tackling cost-saving measures in entitlement programs, particularly Medicare.

The growing divide between Democrats and Republicans was on full display this past week, when President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE’s budget proposal for fiscal 2021 called for roughly $2 trillion in cuts to entitlement programs. Anti-poverty advocates said many of those provisions would hurt the poor and deny people health coverage.

Democrats seized on the proposal, characterizing it as Trump slashing Medicare benefits, even though the president largely hewed to his State of the Union promise to leave Medicare untouched. He instead proposed some $500 billion worth of measures that would reduce costs to providers without eating into benefits.

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Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMalaysia says it will choose 5G partners based on own standards, not US recommendations Pelosi warns allies against using Huawei Budget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight MORE (D-Calif.) called the White House spending request a “heartless budget.”

“If you’re sitting at home at your kitchen table and you’re a senior or there is a senior in your family on Medicare, you’re getting cut,” she said.

But experts say the Medicare proposals should be relatively uncontroversial, leaving budget watchers wondering if reforms to any of the nation’s largest deficit drivers is politically possible, or if the issue has simply become a non-starter in Washington.

“There is literally nothing that would cut benefits from Medicare recipients,” said Marc Goldwein, the head of policy for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a fiscal watchdog group. “The policies would actually help them because they’d reduce the amount they’d pay in premiums and out-of-pocket costs.”

Some of the major Medicare proposals, he noted, have a history of bipartisan support and were even included in former President Obama’s budget requests. Democratic presidential candidate Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegJoe Biden lost his fastball — can he get it back before South Carolina? Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Bloomberg hits Sanders supporters in new ad MORE includes three of the policies in his health care proposal, and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJoe Biden lost his fastball — can he get it back before South Carolina? Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Budget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight MORE (D-Mass.), who is also running for president, includes two of them in hers.

Among them is a proposal requiring that the site of a procedure — a doctor’s office or a hospital — doesn’t affect the cost.

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Another would affect the level of payments Medicare pays to providers for what’s called post-acute care, such as physical therapy or rehab.

Both aim to reduce payments to the providers but don’t directly scale back benefits or cut off access for recipients.

But it is possible for such cost-cutting measures to ultimately affect benefits, according to Juliette Cubanski, an associate director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Medicare Program.

“When it comes to Medicare, I don’t think it makes sense to hold up this budget as something that Medicare beneficiaries need to lose any sleep over,” she said. “But if you cut provider payments and they scale back on benefits, there could be a spillover effect there, or a connection between the two.”

House Budget Committee Chairman John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthBudget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight On The Money: Deficit spikes 25 percent through January | Mnuchin declines to say why Trump pulled Treasury nominee who oversaw Roger Stone case | Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts MORE (D-Ky.) argued that absent any broader reforms, such changes could have repercussions for rural hospitals.

But the exact implications aren’t clear, says Goldwein, who said studies of similar cost-cutting measures in the past have found minor changes in benefits.

Those policies are in contrast to the various restrictions Trump proposed for Medicaid, food stamps, welfare and housing assistance, which would deny some beneficiaries access and in some cases scale back the level of benefits.

For those concerned about reducing the deficit, conflating cost-saving measures with cutting benefits muddies the waters, analysts say.

“I think it’s very frustrating to lump them together, because people have a point on Medicaid. But when it comes to Social Security and Medicare, they’re Obama-era policies to increase program integrity and reduce costs,” Goldwein said.

Since Trump took office, the deficit has increased by roughly two-thirds and is expected to reach $1 trillion. Democrats blame the $1.9 trillion GOP tax law from 2017 and a Republican effort to boost defense spending. Republicans, meanwhile, point to the higher domestic spending favored by Democrats.

But analysts argue that an aging population is stretching spending from mandatory programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which are major drivers of the debt.

Russ Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the problem stemmed from politicians using a program’s cost as shorthand for its value.

“Washington, D.C., far too often wants to just say what’s the dollar amount and makes that the sacrosanct value for how you’re doing with regard to your commitment,” he said at a House Budget Committee hearing this past week. He also insisted that the Trump budget would leave programs such as Medicaid untouched.

Democrats, for their part, said they welcomed reforms but needed proof that they worked before slashing budgets.

“I have to be a little bit miffed, I guess is the best word, because you talk about savings and waste and fraud, and that you’re going to be doing different types of approaches, but has the administration offered any legislation in any of these areas?” Yarmuth asked Vought at the hearing. “The administration has not offered legislation to deal with health care.”

Indeed, Goldwein noted, some $750 billion of savings in the president’s budget would come from an unspecified health plan that has yet to be unveiled.

Election year politics is in many ways playing a role in the debate, with experts noting that it’s easier to tout more benefits and lower taxes than the alternative.

“It’s very difficult to talk about cutting Social Security or Medicare benefits. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of people who want to say we need to increase taxes or revenues to pay for these programs,” Cubanski said. “We’re not having a conversation about, ‘How much are we willing to pay for these programs?’ and ‘How much should we pay moving forward?’”

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Women in Politics: Theresa May Recounts 'Sticky Tape' Moment – The New York Times

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Former British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday that early on in her political career, she vowed never to think that being a woman held her back.

“Don’t think that you don’t get something because you’re a woman,” she told an audience of mostly women at the Global Women’s Forum Dubai.

Still, there were times when being a woman head of state was — well, sticky.

May recounted one such moment. She was on a British Air Force flight, heading to a dinner and having to change into evening attire. There were no changing facilities on board but the staff told her not to worry.

“They took up me into the cockpit, there with two pilots, and I’m thinking ‘really?’,” she said.

“A chap comes along with sticky tape and a sheet, and he stuck it up behind the pilots and says: ‘There you go, you can change behind that’,” she said, to laughter and applause from the audience.

May, who became the second female British prime minister in 2016, after Margaret Thatcher, was speaking on stage with the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United Nations, Lana Nusseibeh.

Nusseibeh shared her own “embarrassing” anecdote, saying that once while trying to keep up with the UAE’s foreign minister on the streets of New York, she got her heel stuck in a gutter and it broke off. She did her best to keep up.

“Men, frankly, don’t run in heels,” Nusseibeh said.

May also spoke about a type of boys-club culture that existed when she first entered the House of Commons as a member of parliament in the late 1990s, with “a huge emphasis on the men sort-of drinking together and getting together into groups.”

“Some of the women felt they had to join that, and I didn’t,” May said. “I wanted to do it the way I wanted to do it. So, I did it my way. I was myself and, hey, I was prime minister.”

May stepped down as Conservative leader last year, leaving behind a legacy as a prime minister who for three years faced the difficult process of trying to get Britain out of the European Union with stubborn determination.

She told the audience that she hopes to be looked upon by young girls as an inspirational leader committed to public service. She also urged women in leadership positions to actively support other women and encourage them to share their experiences.

“The men network. They network a lot. They will use contacts in order to help them through in their careers, and we don’t do enough of that and we should be doing that as women,” May said.

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Women in politics: Theresa May recounts 'sticky tape' moment – CityNews Vancouver

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Former British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday that early on in her political career, she vowed never to think that being a woman held her back.

“Don’t think that you don’t get something because you’re a woman,” she told an audience of mostly women at the Global Women’s Forum Dubai.

Still, there were times when being a woman head of state was — well, sticky.

May recounted one such moment. She was on a British Air Force flight, heading to a dinner and having to change into evening attire. There were no changing facilities on board but the staff told her not to worry.

“They took up me into the cockpit, there with two pilots, and I’m thinking ‘really?’,” she said.

“A chap comes along with sticky tape and a sheet, and he stuck it up behind the pilots and says: ‘There you go, you can change behind that’,” she said, to laughter and applause from the audience.

May, who became the second female British prime minister in 2016, after Margaret Thatcher, was speaking on stage with the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United Nations, Lana Nusseibeh.

Nusseibeh shared her own “embarrassing” anecdote, saying that once while trying to keep up with the UAE’s foreign minister on the streets of New York, she got her heel stuck in a gutter and it broke off. She did her best to keep up.

“Men, frankly, don’t run in heels,” Nusseibeh said.

May also spoke about a type of boys-club culture that existed when she first entered the House of Commons as a member of parliament in the late 1990s, with “a huge emphasis on the men sort-of drinking together and getting together into groups.”

“Some of the women felt they had to join that, and I didn’t,” May said. “I wanted to do it the way I wanted to do it. So, I did it my way. I was myself and, hey, I was prime minister.”

May stepped down as Conservative leader last year, leaving behind a legacy as a prime minister who for three years faced the difficult process of trying to get Britain out of the European Union with stubborn determination.

She told the audience that she hopes to be looked upon by young girls as an inspirational leader committed to public service. She also urged women in leadership positions to actively support other women and encourage them to share their experiences.

“The men network. They network a lot. They will use contacts in order to help them through in their careers, and we don’t do enough of that and we should be doing that as women,” May said.

Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press

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