• Vermont Utility Hit By Same Hackers as DNC
• Trump Pooh-poohs Russian Hacking, Says Computers Can't Be Trusted
• Trump Just Can't Help Himself
• The Larger Meaning of the Inaugural Snubs
• Which Senators Will Throw in the Towel in 2018?
• How Will Democrats Handle Supreme Court Vacancy?
Happy New Year, everyone!
Two years ago, the House Republicans sued the administration over the Affordable Care Act. Their argument was that the administration was spending billions of dollars to subsidize health care for poor people and that Congress never specifically appropriated those funds. The administration's retort was that Congress approved the ACA, which included the subsidies. In 2015, Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled that the Republicans had standing to sue and the case could go forward. If the House Republicans win the case, all the subsidies will stop instantly and the ACA (and much of the health insurance market) will collapse. Of course, Congress could explicitly appropriate billions of dollars for the subsidies, but given that the House has voted over 60 times to repeal the ACA, voting to prop it up seems unlikely.
House Republicans could drop the suit, but that is also unlikely because one of its other goals is to have a court formally determine that Congress, not the executive, has the power of the purse. In addition, House Republicans want to definitively determine that Congress can sue the president. Withdrawing the suit means battles between the executive and legislative branches won't be settled any time soon. What happens next is anyone's guess. (V)
Recently, a laptop belonging to the Burlington Electric Company was infected with malware. Noting that the symptoms were identical to those listed in a report issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, Burlington turned the machine over to the federal government. And, on Sunday, DHS spokesman Todd Breasseale confirmed that the malware's "fingerprint" is identical to that of the malware used against the DNC.
Needless to say, this is potentially worrisome. If the Russians were behind the DNC hack, then that would mean they're responsible for this incident as well. Which, in turn, could mean that they are targeting more than just the electoral process. They could be after the nation's infrastructure, including its financial networks, its communications networks, its electrical grid, and who knows what else. Vermont governor Peter Shumlin (D) was none too pleased, declaring via statement that:
Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world's leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety.
Shumlin may be putting the cart before the horse here; DHS has yet to determine that the Russians were actually trying to target the electrical grid (and if they were, why would they choose a utility that serves only 19,600 customers?) Still, every incident like this will make it that much harder for President-elect Donald Trump to sweep Russian misdeeds under the rug. (Z)
Thus far, mounting evidence of Russian cyberwarfare in the U.S. has not impressed Donald Trump. After news of the Vermont hack broke, he was asked yet again about the subject, and yet again he insisted that he is uncertain about the whole situation. He also offered a rather novel philosophy of cybersecurity:
It's very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old fashioned way because I'll tell you what, no computer is safe. I don't care what they say, no computer is safe. I have a boy who's 10 years old, he can do anything with a computer. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.
Trump is right that no computer is 100% secure (though, as the FBI agents who wanted to break into Syed Rizwan Farook's phone found out, many of them are 99.999% secure). But the notion that a courier is more secure, particularly given the long distances that are often involved in modern communication, is, to be charitable, not quite as correct. The President-elect might want to read, for example, about The Babington Plot, or Nathan Hale, or Robert E. Lee's lost order, or the activities of Mata Hari. The upshot is that, whether due to incompetence, or bad luck, or shrewd opponents, there is no such thing as a failure-proof way to keep information secure. (Z)
Donald Trump sent out his New Year's greetings via Twitter on Saturday and, as we've come to expect, it wasn't your garden-variety presidential sentiments:
Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!
At this point, more than enough has been written about how petty messages like this one reflect badly on Trump and cheapen the presidency. So, instead, let's consider another angle. Undoubtedly, The Donald (like most of his cabinet) has spent his adult life surrounded by sycophants, and has rarely had to endure much criticism. That, plus an outsized ego, have conspired to make him particularly thin-skinned. Now, he's about to take over a job that comes with mountains and mountains of criticism. A job where, under the best of circumstances, 40% of the voters are going to hate you and everything you do.
The question is: Will he be able to adapt? If he cannot learn to ignore at least 99.9% of criticism, it's going to be very exhausting and very stressful for him. Then we consider that he'll be the oldest person ever to assume the office, that he's not in particularly excellent physical condition, and that even for very levelheaded men, every year in the White House tends to extract three or four or five years' worth of wear and tear. In other words, if Trump doesn't learn to let things go, he could literally end up killing himself. It is not his style, but he would do very well to consider counseling, or yoga classes, or something that will allow him to cope better with the countless slings and arrows that are headed his way after January 20. (Z)
Speaking of situations that are causing Donald Trump needless stress, Joy-Ann Reid has a very pointed op-ed about his failure to enlist A-list talent for his inaugural. She starts by observing that of course Trump is bothered by the situation, no matter what he might claim, particularly given how warmly the cultural elite embraced President Obama. She also argues that the refusal of musicians, actors, poets, and writers to give their imprimatur sends a very loud message to the whole country about standing up to Trump and what he represents:
Ultimately, denying Trump and Trumpism the cultural cosign they crave is an important statement. It does what so far, the collective media have been unable or unwilling to do: rejecting the normalization of the utterly abnormal. It tells not just the country, but the world, that Trumpism may have a hold on our politics, but it doesn't have a hold on us. America's ascendant majority will not so easily slink off into that good night, and will not quietly ingest what Trump has foisted on the electorate.
Whether or not one agrees with what Reid has to say, the piece is certainly an object lesson in how to write a forceful, provocative, and well-crafted op-ed. (Z)
Thus far, all of the 33 senators who are up for reelection in 2018 are planning to defend their seats. However, two more years of fundraising and arm-twisting and speechmaking and aging has a way of making someone see the merits of retirement, or of trying something new. That could be particularly true if the Trump presidency takes an ugly turn. In any event, here's an early attempt to read the tea leaves, and to guess the 10 senators most likely to call it a career, ranked from most likely to least. Republicans are colored red, Democrats blue, and Independents purple:
|1||Orrin Hatch||Utah||Trump||Will be 85 on Election Day; another term would take him into his 90s|
|2||Dianne Feinstein||California||Clinton||Will be 84 on Election Day; another term would take her into her 90s|
|3||Heidi Heitkamp||North Dakota||Trump||Only if she's taking a job in Trump's cabinet; she claims that's not her plan|
|4||Robert Menendez||New Jersey||Clinton||Wants to run again; jury in his upcoming corruption trial may think differently|
|5||Tom Carper||Delaware||Clinton||At 69 years of age, and after three terms, may be ready to be done with Washington|
|6||Bill Nelson||Florida||Trump||He's 74, and could face a bruising election challenge from Gov. Rick Scott|
|7||Tim Scott||South Carolina||Trump||May want to take a shot at the vacant governor's mansion|
|8||Bernie Sanders||Vermont||Clinton||Could decide there are better ways to be the face of progressivism (or better ways to prep for another White House run)|
|9||Angus King||Maine||Clinton/Trump||Has less than $200,000 in the bank; could face a serious challenge from Gov. Paul LePage (R)|
|10||Dean Heller||Nevada||Clinton||Says he's not running for governor, but politicians have been known to change their minds|
The majority of these people will certainly stay put, but it's very likely that at least a couple of them will reach the end of the road in 2018. Given how long and expensive a Senate campaign is, particularly for a rookie, there will be pressure from the parties to make a decision no later than November of 2017. So, we should have a pretty good sense of things by this time next year. (Z)
Donald Trump's chief-of-staff, Reince Priebus, promises that a nominee for the Supreme Court is forthcoming, sometime around Inauguration Day. This is going to be a very interesting, very high-stakes game of political chess, with The Donald making the first move.
Trump has promised a conservative in the mold of Antonin Scalia, and has floated the names of several justices that fit the mold. Living up to this promise might well satiate his base for a good, long time, even if he fails to deliver on other promises (what wall?). The downside is that Senate Democrats could filibuster the nomination ad infinitum, potentially rallying their base, and also giving Trump an early black eye. Senate Republicans could kill the filibuster, but many of them—including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY—will be hesitant to do so, knowing that it's not coming back once it goes, and that it therefore won't be there on the day that they are in the minority.
Once Trump makes his move, then it will be up to Senate Democrats to make theirs. If Trump sends a moderate nominee to the Hill, they'll probably accept that person, since that's likely their best possible outcome right now. If he sends an arch-conservative, however, that's when the strategizing will switch into high gear. The obvious response, as noted, is for them to filibuster, long and loud, for months and months. This will send an important message to both Trump and to the Democratic base, that being in the minority does not mean the blue team is going to become pushovers. The downsides here are: (1) They probably can't maintain the filibuster for two or four years, and (2) They would affirm the precedent established by the GOP in 2016, such that a SCOTUS justice might never again get confirmed.
The alternative to filibustering an arch-conservative would be to allow that person to come up for a vote, accompanied by lots of statements about how the Democrats don't resort to dirty tricks to subvert the Constitution. In this scenario, the balance of the court wouldn't actually change from where it was a year ago, since it would just be one conservative being swapped out for another. But then, if another vacancy comes up in a year or two (RBG? Kennedy?), the blue team would pounce. By then, the Democrats might have significant political capital, depending on how the next year or two or three unfolds. They might also, depending on how close to 2020 it is, be able to block the nominee(s) until the next election. Having already allowed an ultra-conservative through, they would have some insulation against charges of playing tit-for-tat with the Republicans. This approach is certainly the riskier one, but it could also be the one that reaps the greatest rewards. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec31 Obama Meeting with Congressional Democrats to Strategize on Obamacare
Dec31 McConnell Will Play a Key Role in 2017
Dec31 Trump Praises Putin
Dec31 Trump Planning to Keep Private Security Force
Dec31 Spend New Year's Eve With the Trumps for Under $600
Dec31 Inauguration Planning Keeps Leaving Egg on Trump's Face
Dec31 North Carolina Judge Temporarily Blocks New Republican Laws
Dec30 America Retaliates against Russia
Dec30 Trump May Be Bad News for Israel
Dec30 Deploraball Highlights Schism within the Alt-right Movement
Dec30 Should the Media Ignore Trump's Tweets?
Dec30 Republicans May Target Medicaid Rather than Medicare
Dec30 Heller to Run for Reelection to the Senate
Dec30 States with the Most, Least Electoral Integrity
Dec30 Electoral College Precedent Has Been Set
Dec29 Retaliation Against Russians Coming Soon
Dec29 Trump Looking Hard for a Secretary of Agriculture
Dec29 Trump Says He Will Write His Own Inaugural Address
Dec29 Trump Claims Credit for 8,000 More Jobs Saved
Dec29 Democrats Are Calling for Nationwide Rallies on Health Care Jan. 15
Dec29 Virginia May Afford Early Assessment of Trump Presidency
Dec29 Trump-Obama Relationship Deteriorates
Dec29 The Worst Predictions of 2016
Dec29 Whither the White Supremacists?
Dec28 Trump Rewards Donors Big Time
Dec28 Trump's Inexperience Is Going to Cause Him Trouble Settling Disputes
Dec28 There Will Also Be Battles in Several States
Dec28 Graham: 99% of Senators Believe Russians Interfered
Dec28 More States Consider Circumventing Electoral College
Dec28 Trump Fires Back on Foundation
Dec28 The Four Most Undersold Stories of the Year
Dec28 Kim Jong-un Sensing Opportunity
Dec27 Trump To Inherit over 100 Judicial Vacancies
Dec27 Stephen Miller to Pen Trump Inaugural
Dec27 Obama: I Could Have Won a Third Term
Dec27 Four Cabinet Nominations that Could Fail
Dec27 Falwell: Tillerson's Social Views Are Not Relevant
Dec27 Israel Remains Front and Center
Dec27 Tom Arnold Also Remains Front and Center
Dec26 Five Races to Watch in 2017
Dec26 Big Questions for 2017
Dec26 Priebus Compares Trump to Jesus
Dec26 Netanyahu Not Happy; Letting Everyone Know
Dec26 Trump, Obama Tweet Christmas Messages
Dec26 Clinton May Have Attacked Trump the Wrong Way
Dec26 Republicans May Hit the Undo Button on Tech Policy
Dec26 Reid Slams DNC
Dec26 Foreign Visitors Will Be Asked for their Social Media Accounts
Dec25 Trump Needs to Name Five Key Ambassadors