There's always a certain level of hypocrisy in politics. When you're in the majority, the filibuster is an obstructive, anti-democratic abomination. When you're in the minority, it's an important bulwark against mob rule.

But have we ever seen anything like the recent lovefest among conservatives for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange? "Julian, I apologize," cooed Sarah Palin. Sean Hannity poses the question of the day: "Who do you believe? Julian Assange or President Obama and Hillary Clinton." Donald Trump approvingly passed along Assange's contention that "a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta"1 and then asked, "why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!"

So far, this sudden outpouring of affection for Assange hasn't gone beyond the inner circle of Trump sycophants. But it might not be long before it does. If a third of Republicans can decide they think Vladimir Putin is a great guy as long as he's anti-Clinton, why not Julian Assange too?

1Just for the record: yes, a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta. But in fact, a 14-year-old didn't hack Podesta. Here's the story.

Ben Stevens/i-Images via ZUMA

Aside from whatever Donald Trump happens to be tweeting about, the biggest topic in DC right now is this:

Republicans finally have the power to repeal Obamacare, but they're still not sure how

That's Noam Levey at the Los Angeles Times:

In Washington, Republicans are also struggling to figure out what to do with Obamacare insurance marketplaces that Republicans worked for years to dismantle. In a reversal, GOP leaders now are trying to figure out how to prevent their collapse, which would jeopardize coverage for millions more Americans.

Insurance experts, including leading industry officials, have repeatedly warned Republicans over the past several months that repealing the health law without a replacement risks destabilizing insurance markets and will push many insurers to simply stop selling health plans.

J.B. Silvers, a former health insurance CEO, explains the danger of "repeal and delay" in more detail:

Some in Congress seem to think that passing the “repeal” part immediately but delaying its implementation for two or three years will somehow leave everything as it is now. But this naive notion misses the fact that the riskiness of the Obamacare individual insurance exchange markets will have been ramped up to such a level that continuing makes no sense.

Even if a company reaches break-even in the “delay” years, it will lose when the repeal is effective. If the premium subsidies now available to lower-income enrollees go away immediately and the mandate to sign up for an insurance plan disappears, then the number of people purchasing individual policies on the exchanges will drop like a rock. In fact, it is clear that even debating this scenario is likely to be self-fulfilling, since insurers must decide on their participation for 2018 by the late spring of 2017. Look for many to leave then.

Insurers are participating in the exchanges because they hope to make steady profits once the early problems are worked out. But if there's no future for the exchanges, why bother? They're taking losses for nothing. They might as well jump ship now.

Donald Trump is obviously worried about this, tweeting that Republicans need to make sure they don't get any of the blame if Obamacare collapses. "Be careful!" he tweets. Newt Gingrich said much the same, and Greg Sargent decodes what this means:

Note that Gingrich’s primary concern is that Republicans will be put in the optical position of taking the blame for millions losing coverage — which, of course, would actually happen if Republicans do repeal the law without replacing it. So Republicans must create a way to make those who would lose coverage believe they won’t lose it later, with some sort of “bridge” that will keep them covered until that long-promised GOP replacement finally materializes.

The truth is that the Obamacare exchanges are in pretty good shape. There are problems here and there, and some people really have gotten hit with big premium increases. Overall, though, more than 10 million people are getting affordable health coverage from the exchanges and millions more are getting it from the Medicaid expansion. Premiums are now about where they should have been all along, and will probably increase at normal rates in the future. Obamacare isn't perfect, but it's in pretty good shape.

If it collapses, it will be due solely to appalling recklessness from the Republican caucus, which is afraid to put forward a plan of its own. That fear is well founded: It would take no more than a few days for everyone to figure out just how stingy it is and how many people would lose coverage under it.

If Republicans insist on hiding their plan from the American public, there's only one possible reason for that: it's terrible and they know it. Right now we have a working program that helps millions of low-income afford health insurance. If it collapses, that's on Republicans. And they know it.

I had no idea this happened, but apparently there was a last-minute scandal that made the rounds of right-wing circles at the end of the election:

The only U.S. newspaper that reported the story was the New York Post, which ran this print-edition headline: “Bridal $weet for Chelsea; Foundation cash for nups.”...The story also was picked up by British tabloids, Fox News, Russian news agencies and various right-leaning websites....But otherwise the story did not get mentioned on other networks or newspapers, except for reference to it by conservative columnist Hugh Hewitt on MSNBC.

For the record, the scandal was that the Clinton Foundation paid for Chelsea Clinton's wedding. There's no evidence for this, of course, though there is an email chain that confirms the fact that Doug Band is a moron. I wonder how much more of this crap was making the rounds completely invisible to the rest of us?

Housekeeping Note

Blogging will be a little slow today.

Let's end the day with some good news. As you all know, violent crime began falling after leaded gasoline began its phaseout in the mid-70s. And because lead affects the brain development of infants and toddlers, the fall in crime began with the youngest kids. In the mid-80s, only young children were showing signs of reduced violence. By the mid-90s, everyone under 20 started to show effects. By the mid-aughts everyone under 30 was starting to get less violent.

In other words, the first cohort to benefit from reduced lead was juveniles. Kids born in the late-70s showed only small improvements because lead had been only slightly reduced during their childhood. Kids born in the late-80s showed more improvement because ambient lead had decreased quite a bit during their childhood. Kids born in the late-90s showed yet more improvement, etc.

Rick Nevin has sent me a new chart that shows this vividly:

In the early 90s, young people between the age of 18-24 killed an average of 33 police officers per year. By 2015 that was down to 4. For juveniles under the age of 18, the number was zero.

Kids just aren't as dangerous as they used to be, and that's likely to be a permanent change. As time passes, this will affect older and older generations as the cohort born in the late-80s (when most lead was gone) grows up. How much better does news get?

As long as we're on the subject of James Comey and Hillary's emails, here's a chart showing Google searches on the subject:

I know what you're thinking. Are you ever going to give this a rest, Kevin? No, I'm not. There may be periods when I don't happen to blog about it, but I'll never give it a rest. This is the second time in five elections that an arm of the US government, rather than the voters, has appointed a US president. It will never, ever be far from my thoughts, and the least I can do is make this blog a one-stop shop for anyone collecting evidence about the effect of the letter Comey released 12 days before the election.

Here are the most-read stories of 2016 in the New York Times, noted without comment.

(Except for the big red oval, that is.)

It's been a while since I've done one of these. After a flurry of activity Trump slowed down when he got to the tail end of his cabinet, but today he finally decided on a nominee for US Trade Representative. It might seem as if this position is more important than usual, since Trump campaigned heavily on trade, but it's probably not. Trump has already said that his commerce secretary will be more involved than usual in trade deals; Peter Navarro will head up a new National Trade Council; and Jason Greenblatt, Trump's longtime business lawyer, will be his "special representative for international negotiations."

That's a lot of cooks stirring the broth, and it's unclear just how much influence Lighthizer will have on this team. That said, Lighthizer knows the ins and outs of trade law, so he'll be pretty useful in a technical capacity. Aside from that, he's been a DC lawyer and lobbyist for the past two decades, but hasn't served in a government position since the Reagan administration. Does that make him part of the swamp? I'm not sure.

David French:

Remember when the Democrats passed ObamaCare through reconciliation, using procedural gimmickry to pass major social legislation over the unanimous objection of the majority party? So do congressional Republicans, and it looks like payback might be imminent.

I know this is an easy mistake to make, but I'm pretty sure Obamacare was passed over the unanimous objection of the minority party, the Democrats having won a massive, landslide victory in 2008. They figured this gave them a mandate to carry out the promises made during the campaign—silly, I know, since only Republicans have mandates—and they proceeded to do just that.

Less excusable is French's contention that Obamacare was passed via reconciliation. It wasn't. It was passed in the Senate under regular order, by a vote of 60-39 on December 24, 2009. Later, after Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate, the House passed the Senate bill and then passed a second bill that implemented a few modest increases to subsidy levels and taxes. None of them were critical to the overall bill, but the Senate agreed to support these changes. These small, nonessential adjustments are the only part of Obamacare that was passed via reconciliation.

Everything else—the individual mandate, the pre-existing conditions ban, the subsidies, the Medicaid expansion, the medical loss ratios, the donut hole, the cost improvements, the taxes to pay for it all—in other words, everything that mattered, was passed via regular order.

As for the unanimous opposition of Republicans, that's perfectly true. Democrats in the Senate tried mightily to put together a plan that might attract some GOP votes, but Republicans were adamantine. They pretended to negotiate, but by October it was clear they were just playing delaying games and had no intention of ever supporting anything that would expand access to health care. This strategy of blind obstruction, which applied to every part of Obama's agenda, not just Obamacare, is a huge blot not on Democrats, but on the congressional Republicans who decided on it before Obama ever set foot in the Oval Office. It was only in the face of this unconditional obstruction that Democrats went ahead and passed something on their own.

From House Speaker Paul Ryan, on Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare:

There will be a transition and a bridge so that no one is left out in the cold, so that no one is worse off.

This quote is a month old, but I only noticed it today when Nancy LeTourneau brought it to my attention. Democrats need to hold Ryan to this.

That means no change in Medicaid expansion. It means no change in access to health coverage. It means no reduction in federal subsidies. It means making sure that insurers stay in the exchanges. It means no lifetime limits on covered medical care. It means kids can stay on their parents' plan through age 26.

This is also a good yardstick for Ryan's eventual replacement for Obamacare. Technically, he didn't say that the eventual Republican replacement would leave no one worse off, only the transition. But someone should pin him down on that too.