• Putin to Democrats: You Lost, Get over It
• Putin Pens Christmas Note to Trump
• UN Votes to Condemns Israel; U.S. Abstains
• Trump Wants the Biggest Inauguration Crowd Ever
• Why Do Working-Class Whites Vote against Their Own Economic Interest?
• Icahn Joins Team Trump, Makes Half a Billion Dollars
• Trump Ally Wants Obama Dead of Mad Cow Disease in 2017
• Trump Supporters May Get Coal in Their Stockings
President-elect Donald Trump says he may abolish press conferences and daily intelligence reports. He is encouraging members of his family to take formal roles in his administration and is planning to keep running his businesses in the White House. He has not released his tax returns and may not file the customary personal financial disclosure form next year. All in all, his motto seems to be: If it is not written down, you can get away with it.
Robert Bauer, who served as President Obama's White House counsel, said: "If you have a president who is going to push hard against standing limits and expectations, are other institutions, like the Congress, going to step into the breach? Are they going to take on a more muscular role than they otherwise would?" For example, all presidential candidates have released their tax returns for decades—until now. Maybe Congress will act and pass a law requiring such disclosure. If he refuses to put his assets into a blind trust, how will the courts react if he is sued for some conflict of interest?
Other players include the states. Generally speaking, the states have a lot of control over elections. If one or more states passed laws requiring all candidates for state or federal office to release the most recent 5 years worth of federal tax returns as a requirement for getting on the ballot, that might well be accepted by the courts. (V)
At his annual televised news conference yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied Russia's interfering in the U.S. election and said the Democrats "are losing on all fronts and looking elsewhere for things to blame." He pointed out that Republicans won the House and Senate and asked rhetorically, "did we do that, too?" Actually, there is evidence that Russia did try to intervene in House races, so maybe the answer to his question is "yes." Putin played down Trump's tweet that he plans to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal. (V)
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are certainly not trying to disabuse anyone of the notion that they are on their way to becoming best pals. On Friday, Trump shared a Christmas letter he received from Putin. The text:
Dear Mr. Trump,
Please accept my warmest Christmas and New Year greetings.
Serious global and regional challenges, which our countries have to face in recent years, show that the relations between Russia and the U.S. remain an important factor in ensuring stability and security of the modern world.
I hope that after you assume the position of the President of the United States of America we will be able—by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner—to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation in different areas as well as bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level.
Please accept my sincere wishes to you and your family of sound health, happiness, wellbeing, success and all the best.
Obviously, it's rather vague. Nonetheless, Trump described it as, "A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin," and declared that, "his thoughts are so correct." Later on Friday, Trump took to Twitter to once again pay homage to his buddy, writing, "Vladimir Putin said today about Hillary and Dems: 'In my opinion, it is humiliating. One must be able to lose with dignity.' So true!" At best, making nice with a man who most certainly does not have America's best interests at heart is...worrisome. At worst, depending on what the CIA discovers, this letter and tweet are going to be exhibits 1A and 1B in the impeachment trial. (Z)
On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council was supposed to vote on a resolution condemning Israeli settlement in disputed territories. The Israelis were not happy about this, and decided to get Donald Trump involved. He managed to get the vote delayed, but only by a day, as it turns out. On Friday, the Security Council proceeded as planned, with 14 members voting in favor of the resolution and the U.S. abstaining.
The United States' abstention, which the Obama administration debated until the last minute, was intended to thread a needle very carefully. On one hand, Israel remains a close ally, and the United States does not want to turn its back, so voting in favor of the resolution was off the table. On the other hand, nearly all analysts and observers (not to mention the other 14 countries on the Security Council, including the very Israel-friendly Great Britain and France) are persuaded that Israeli settlement of the disputed territories represents a step backward and will make peace harder to secure. President Obama ultimately decided that he wanted to take this opportunity to send a message to Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government that they are traveling down a dangerous and counter-productive road. Obama's views on this matter, it should be noted, are entirely consistent with those of presidents, Democratic and Republican, dating back at least as far as Dwight D. Eisenhower. President-elect Donald Trump quickly condemned the vote, taking to Twitter to announce "As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th."
In short, then, the United States appears headed for a sea change in its orientation toward Israel and the Middle East. And, at the same time, the battle lines are being clearly drawn. On one side are Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel, along with Donald Trump and the Republican Party, joining together to advocate a one-state solution, with Palestinians permanently subject to Israeli governance. On the other side is the rest of the international community, along with Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, who generally agree that a two-state solution is the only option for a lasting peace. In terms of American electoral politics, there are two important dimensions to note. The first is the question of where Jewish voters in the U.S., typically a loyal Democratic constituency, will fall. Thus far, most appear to be remaining on board with the Obama administration's position, but time will tell. The second is the impact of the more aggressive posture that seems to be in the Israelis' future. If this leads to more instability in the Middle East, and perhaps an uptick in terrorist acts, will Donald Trump be left holding the bag? Again, time will tell. (Z)
A week ago, Donald Trump tweeted that he wanted the biggest inauguration crowd ever. It is unlikely that he will get it. Planners are estimating a crowd of 800,000, far fewer than the 1.8 million who showed up for Barack Obama's inauguration in 2008. The estimates are based on data such as hotel rooms reserved and the number of buses chartered.
Part of the problem is that Trump has had trouble lining up A-list talent to perform. Even high school bands are uninterested, with inquires down by 50% compared to 2009. Not a single high school in the D.C. area applied to participate. The Radio City Rockettes are on board, except that the dancers weren't consulted. In response to complaints from some members, they are being given the option to skip the inauguration. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is confirmed, except that there's pressure on them, including an online petition with 11,000 signatures, to cancel. And, as we noted yesterday, only one former president, Jimmy Carter, has confirmed that he will show up. Trump is spinning this as a good thing, tweeting that he wants "THE PEOPLE" at his inauguration, and not a bunch of A-listers. Which is good for him, because it looks like all the A-listers will be at a Democratic fundraiser scheduled to take place on Inauguration Day in Miami; a little bit of counter-programming from the blue team. (V)
Much has been written about why many working-class whites consistently vote against their own economic interests (e.g., Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?). It's a crucial topic for the Democrats to understand and much is yet to be written on the subject. Catherine Rampell has an interesting take on the question. To summarize her view, Democratic policies would help working-class people, but they don't buy into that. They see Medicaid and subsidies to buy nearly free insurance for lower-income people as government freebies for lazy undeserving (minority) people. In a focus group, one Ohio woman decried women who "pop out babies like Pez dispensers with different baby daddies" and how they get welfare and free housing and food. It is certainly true that poor people benefit from Democratic policies and working-class people resent that. Nevertheless, poor people, especially minorities, are a core Democratic voting bloc, so the Democrats can't very well abandon them.
It is sometimes said and is probably true that when Republicans can frame an election as the rich and the hard-working middle class against the undeserving lazy poor, Republicans win. When the Democrats can frame an election as the poor and the hard-working middle class against the greedy unscrupulous rich, the Democrats win. In this election, the Democrats failed to make their case. In fact, they hardly tried. Taking the Midwest for granted was clearly a symptom of that attitude. If Hillary Clinton had campaigned in Michigan and Wisconsin and constantly explained how her policies would help (white) working people, she would probably have won at least 1% more votes and carried those states.
Election guru Charlie Cook seconded Rampell. He said that Democrats have become the party of urban areas, college towns, minority voters, and the Coasts. The heartland (a.k.a. flyover country) is becoming a no-fly zone for Democrats. The evidence is that Clinton won just 487 of the nation's 3,113 counties (16%).
His advice is for Democrats to take sensitivity-training courses about people who live in small towns and rural areas, even those who cling to their guns and religion. He suggests that they start by reading The Politics of Resentment. It was written by University of Wisconsin political science professor Katherine Cramer, who spent 9 years interviewing people in rural Wisconsin to learn about their anxiety, fears, and resentment of urban America and its elites. Their resentment is so strong that Donald Trump, a thrice-married serial philanderer who never goes to church and may or may not even believe in God won born-again Christians by a 65-point margin. Their resentment of urban elites is so strong that all of The Donald's many, many sins are forgiven because although he is an urban elite, he doesn't talk down to them. It is an important message that Democrats ignore at their peril. (V)
The Trump family has shown signs that they hope to monetize the presidency, maybe now, or maybe once The Donald has left office. Whatever they do, they're going to have to hustle to catch up to dad's new lieutenant Carl Icahn, who has seen his portfolio grow in value by $510 million since becoming a member of the administration on Wednesday.
Icahn's job is "special advisor on regulatory reform," which means he will figure out which rules and regulations should be eliminated, particularly when it comes to Wall Street and to the environment. Much of the money he made in the last two days (on paper, at least), is due to the surging value of oil refiner CVR Energy, a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises. Given that Icahn has spoken regularly of his disdain for alternative fuel sources, and given that Wall Street investors tend to be fairly shrewd at knowing which way the winds are blowing, it would seem that Big Oil is headed for a golden age. Planet Earth, on the other hand, maybe not so much. (Z)
Carl Paladino, an ally of Donald Trump and one-time Republican candidate for governor of New York, was asked what his hopes were for 2017. He said he hopes that, "Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford [sic]." A Hereford is a breed of beef cattle. When asked what he wanted to go away, he said: "Michelle Obama," adding: "I'd like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) called the comments "racist, ugly, and reprehensible." The local county executive called for Paladino to immediately resign his post on the Buffalo school board. In response to criticism from officials and on social media, Paladino said: "Merry Christmas and tough luck if you don't like my answer." (V)
Well, not actual coal. But when Christmas comes tomorrow, more than a few Donald Trump voters will be getting gifts they didn't exactly ask for. Inspired by the thousands of donations made to Planned Parenthood in the name of Vice president-elect Mike Pence, a fair number of Democrats are investing in "revenge" gifts in order to show their disappointment in their Trump-supporting friends and relatives. This generally means donations to left-leaning charities and groups like the DNC, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Immigration Legal Advocacy Project, and the Human Rights Campaign for LGBT equality, among others. Which, in the end, is probably more productive than a lump of coal. Just don't tell that to the people of West Virginia. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec23 Trump Says He Is Still Draining the Swamp
Dec23 Trump Weighs In on U.N. Vote
Dec23 Trump Wants More Nukes
Dec23 Obama Orders Registry System Dismantled
Dec23 Heitkamp Likely to Remain in Senate
Dec23 Governors' Races Are Key to the Democrats' Future
Dec23 Mustache Cost Bolton the Secretary of State Job
Dec23 Carter Only Former President to RSVP for Trump Inauguration
Dec23 Ivanka Trump Flies Cattle Class on Low-Cost Airline
Dec22 More Evidence that Trump Won in the Final Week
Dec22 Trump Not Draining the Swamp Any More
Dec22 Obamacare Enrollments Reach Record High
Dec22 Trump Team Considering Tariff via Executive Order
Dec22 Trump Reveals Jobs Plan
Dec22 Republicans Will Target Red-state Democrats before Confirmation Hearings
Dec22 Corey Lewandowski Starts a Lobbying Firm
Dec22 Poll Shows Democrats Don't Want Clinton to Run Again
Dec22 Ellison Faces More Problems
Dec22 Trump Sons Removed from Nonprofit
Dec22 HB2 Lives On
Dec21 DeVos Has Contributed to 17 Senators Who Will Vote on Her Confirmation
Dec21 Democrats Want Tillerson's Tax Returns
Dec21 Drama Surrounds Trump's Last Few High-Profile Appointments
Dec21 Trump Probably Can't Sell D.C. Hotel Without Losing Money
Dec21 Ross Will Make Trade Policy
Dec21 Republicans' First Defeat Could Be Defunding Planned Parenthood
Dec21 Clinton Beat Trump By 2.864 Million Popular Votes
Dec21 Trump Sons Disclaim Involvement With Fundraiser
Dec21 O'Reilly Shows His True Color
Dec20 Trump Wins the Electoral College
Dec20 North Carolina's HB-2 Bites the Dust
Dec20 Vinnie Viola to be Secretary of the Army
Dec20 More Data on Why Clinton Lost
Dec20 Bill Clinton: Comey and the Russians Did Hillary In
Dec20 An Early Look at the 2020 Democratic Field
Dec20 Why Michelle Obama Won't Run for Office
Dec20 Why Republicans Suddenly Love Putin
Dec20 Are Trump's Sons Already on the Take?
Dec19 It's Election Day Today
Dec19 Trump to China: Keep the Drone
Dec19 Congress Could Demand Sanctions against Russia but Trump Could Refuse
Dec19 Conway Denies that Trump Had Contact with Russia
Dec19 Brazile Contradicts Obama, Says Russia Kept Hacking Until the Very End
Dec19 Fact-Check Trump's Tweets in Real Time
Dec19 Nate Silver: If Comey Had Kept Quiet, Clinton Would Have Won
Dec19 Comedian Says He Has Unreleased Apprentice Footage
Dec19 Trump Taps Mick Mulvaney for Budget Director
Dec19 Ghosts of Administrations Past Coalescing Behind Tillerson
Dec19 Trump May Not Take Action Against Russian Hackers