• Differences between Trump and the Republican Establishment Are Already Clear
• Takeaways from the First Five Days
• Trump Expected He Would Drop Out and Endorse Christie
• Democrats Warming to Comey, Fast
• Facebook Faces More Scrutiny
• Ryan Wants to Kill Medicare
• Head of the SEC Steps Down
• Fight Brewing for DNC Chairman
• Do Celebrity Endorsements Help?
President-elect Donald Trump is batting .500 so far in his personnel choices. There was near-universal approval of his choice of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus as his chief of staff. Priebus is well liked within the Republican Party, and is a good friend of fellow Wisconsinite Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is not enthusiastic about Trump, so the new president will need all the help he can get dealing with Congress. On the other hand, his choice of Steve Bannon as senior strategist was widely condemned by Democrats, civil rights groups, and some Republicans who do not like the idea of putting a white nationalist with racist views anywhere inside the White House, and certainly not as a senior adviser to the president.
Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, whose role in the new administration (if any) is not yet clear, defended Bannon, saying that he has a Harvard business degree, is a naval officer, and had a successful career in entertainment. However, John Weaver, who ran the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), said: "The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office." Democrats in D.C. are all attacking Bannon as a racist and antisemite, and pressuring media outlets to call him a "white supremacist." Nancy Pelosi put it this way: "There must be no sugarcoating the reality that a white nationalist has been named chief strategist for the Trump administration."
Many observers have noted that Trump's management style is to have rival power centers, so Bannon and Priebus may form the core of two competing, rather than cooperating, groups. Veterans of the White House say that real power derives less from titles than from the distance, in feet, from the Oval Office. This could be especially true with Trump, who often seems most influenced by the person he has most recently spoken to. For what it is worth, as official chief of staff, Priebus' office will be closer to the Oval Office than Bannon's. (V)
The Republican leadership in Congress never cared much for Donald Trump and still doesn't. They don't like him as a person, and they don't like many of his ideas and campaign promises. Friction and disagreements are already starting to show up, even before Trump has been inaugurated. Some of the areas of conflict are as follows:
- Deportation. Trump originally said he wanted to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants. More recently he said that it would be 2-3 million
initially. Trump wants a deportation force to carry out the deportations. Paul Ryan has said there will be no deportation force.
Newt Gingrich pointed out that 2 million people would be a lot of people to deport.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) thinks such a project would be difficult to do. In short, Trump wants to deport millions of
people but Congress and other Republicans are not interested in the project.
- The border wall. Trump wants to build a physical wall on the border with Mexico, although he has already backed down a bit and said that in some
areas fencing will do. McCarthy said the wall could be virtual, with drones patrolling it.
One of us (V) has examined and published a
on the idea of a sensor-based "virtual wall." Short answer: it doesn't work. A "drone wall" will have some of the same problems.
Flying drones over the border or dropping sensors along it and calling it a wall is also not going to satisfy Trump or his supporters.
- Trade.Trump has said he wants to rip up trade deals and impose tariffs in his first 100 days in office. Ryan said:
"We think there are better ways of dealing with making American products and workers more competitive, and really, it's fixing our tax code."
So Ryan has little interest in tearing up trade agreements (which Trump can largely do on his own) or imposing tariffs (which requires an act
- Term Limits for Members of Congress. Trump wants to impose term limits on Congress. Doing so would require a constitutional amendment,
something Congress would have to approve and then submit to the states for ratification.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said very bluntly: "It will not be on the agenda in the Senate."
Thus the idea is already dead and buried. Trump may or may not fully understand how government works. Many of the things he wants require
an act of Congress, and the leaders of Congress have their own agendas, which may not be the same as his. He will learn soon enough.
- Infrastructure spending. Trump wants to rebuild America's crumbling infrastructure by spending $500 billion over 10 years, putting millions of people to work. Ryan has already said that is too expensive and besides, Congress just passed a highway bill (English translation: I'm not interested in big government spending projects). McCarthy said he didn't see how Trump's plan differed from President Obama's 2009 stimulus plan, which Republicans hate.
Nevertheless, there are also areas where the leaders of Congress agree with Trump. One of them is repealing the Affordable Care Act. A second one is securing the border. A third one is tax reform. These are likely to be tackled first. (V)
Politico's Glenn Thrush has a list of takeaways from Donald Trump's first days as president-elect:
- All of his key proposals have been drastically downsized
- Priebus and Bannon are going to be in conflict; Priebus will win because he controls what Trump sees and hears
- Priebus and Bannon have completely different views of the world and government, and that may be unsustainable
- Another point strongly in Priebus' favor is that Ryan likes him and hates Bannon—and Ryan has a lot of power
- Trump is nervous; this "running for president" thing was just a lark, after all
A key theme here is that by installing Priebus and Bannon in the White House, Trump is setting the stage for internal battles, competing leaks to the media, and a lot of infighting. Since Priebus is going to control the flow of information to Trump, his view will be the one Trump sees most of the time. Couple that with Priebus' close relationship with Ryan, and Bannon could be left out in the cold. Bannon is not used to that and isn't going to like it. Add to that constant attacks from the Democrats, and there is no telling how Bannon might lash out. (V)
The first major book on the roller coaster of an election we just had is due on December 6. Authored by CNN's Thomas Lake, Unprecedented: The Election that Changed Everything contains at least one bombshell: Donald Trump did not expect his campaign to last beyond October of 2015, and had already promised Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) his endorsement.
Things have changed a lot since then, of course. As soon as the presidential electors meet on Dec. 19, Trump will be president-elect, while Christie will be unemployed as of Jan. 2018. Still, the story—if true—gives considerable credence to the notion that Trump's original game plan was to grab some free publicity and to improve his hand in negotiations with the producers of "The Apprentice." Meanwhile, it also gives the punditry some cover: They have a pretty good excuse for not taking Trump's campaign seriously if he himself was not doing so. (Z)
Prominent Democrats, from Hillary Clinton on down, blame FBI director James Comey for the blue team's loss in the presidential election. As irritated as they are, however, they are also beginning to see the Director as their salvation, a bulwark against Donald Trump's baser instincts.
Comey has seven years left in his 10-year term, an arrangement designed to insulate the FBI from political considerations. While Donald Trump could theoretically fire him for cause, the optics of such a move may be politically untenable. Meanwhile, surveillance of mosques, databases of Muslims, use of torture, and a potential prosecution of Hillary Clinton are all things Trump has proposed that would likely be counterproductive, and may be illegal. Comey would have an important voice in those discussions, and could (and probably would) use his influence to kill such impulses.
In a sense, we have come full circle. While Democrats used to love Comey, they haven't been too keen on him ever since his July announcement that while Hillary Clinton's email server didn't technically violate the law, but she is a terrible, unworthy, careless person. Back on March 10, 2004, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was in the intensive-care unit in a hospital. Comey, then deputy attorney general, got an emergency call informing him that White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales was on his way to Ashcroft's bedside to get Ashcroft to approve a program of domestic surveillance and torture that Comey believed was illegal. Sirens blaring, Comey got to the hospital a few minutes before Gonzales and told the very seriously ill Ashcroft not to sign anything. When Gonzales arrived, Ashcroft refused to sign, so Gonzales stormed out. When this all came out, Comey was a hero to the Democrats.
So, once again, politics makes strange bedfellows, in much the same way that Paul Ryan is palling around with Trump just one week after being unwilling to utter The Donald's name. (Z)
Recently, we noted that scholars had begun to ask some uncomfortable questions about Facebook, and the job it is doing (or, more accurately, not doing) when it comes to killing fake news stories. In that piece, we observed that Facebook has little motivation to weed out the lies, since outrageous items attract eyeballs, regardless of those items' veracity. On Monday, news leaked that our guess was on target. According to inside sources, the social network has the tools needed to wipe out falsehoods, but during tests they discovered that on right-wing sites, stories reporting false news were detected much more frequently than on centrist or left-wing sites. Truly, a shocking result. Fearing charges of bias, and a loss of red-state users, they decided not to implement the new filters.
Now, this is the kind of thing that Facebook's board of directors might weigh in on. After all, there is an argument to be made that if Facebook gains a reputation as place where lies, propaganda, and misinformation are spread, it hurts the overall brand. On the other hand, given that the Facebook BoD includes newly minted Trump transition team member Peter Thiel, maybe they will just hold their tongues. (Z)
Actually, that's not news. Paul Ryan has been an opponent of Medicare for a very long time. The news is that he's now licking his chops, thinking he might actually be able to make a go of it. He sat for an interview with Fox News last week, where he began laying the groundwork. The Speaker's assault began, of course, with Obamacare. He said:
What people don't realize is that Medicare is going broke, that Medicare is going to have price controls. ... So you have to deal with those issues if you're going to repeal and replace Obamacare. Medicare has got some serious problems because of Obamacare. Those things are part of our plan to replace Obamacare.
This is not remotely true. In fact, Obamacare cut the costs of Medicare, guaranteeing the program's solvency for another decade. So either Ryan is stupid (which he most certainly is not) or he is lying through his teeth. His plan, which he has detailed time and again, is to replace the program with subsidies that would help elderly people defray the costs of their insurance premiums. The first problem with this is that Medicare is remarkably efficient (especially for a government program), with very low administrative costs. Private insurers are less so, which means that seniors would be getting less bang for their buck. The second problem is that premiums would certainly rise more quickly than the subsidies would, so seniors would slowly but surely have fewer bucks with which to purchase their bang.
If Ryan gets his way, it would not be very long before seniors of modest means would find themselves unable to pay for their prescriptions, or for their hospitalizations, or for other medical needs. Surely, they would know whom to point the finger at. And if they were unable to figure it out, the nation's single largest lobbying group—AARP—would undoubtedly steer them in the right direction. So, this certainly seems like political madness, since elderly people most certainly do vote. On the other hand, given what has already come to pass this election season, maybe there is no such thing as political madness any more. (Z)
Mary Jo White, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, yesterday announced that she will resign her post 3 years before her term runs out. This vacancy will allow Donald Trump to name someone to the SEC who will be much more friendly to Wall Street. Trump has already said that he wants to dismantle the 2010 financial reform legislation known as Dodd-Frank in order to give the big banks more freedom from government regulation. When Trump's appointee is confirmed by the Senate, government regulation can be weakened even before the law is formally repealed. Trump will certainly appoint someone who is a strong believer in free markets, without government regulation. (V)
The Democratic Party doesn't have a leader. The closest thing it might have to a leader in January is the chair of the DNC. Already three people are considering running for the job: former presidential candidate/former DNC chair/former governor of Vermont Howard Dean, very brief former presidential candidate and former governor of Maryland Martin O'Malley, and Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN). Ellison is black and one of the few Muslims in Congress. He was a strong supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). In 2004, Dean was Sanders long before Sanders was Sanders. O'Malley is the most moderate of the three. Whoever is chosen will be the face of the Democratic Party for the next two years, at least. (V)
- Which celebrity's endorsement helps a politician the most?
- Which Republican celebrity's endorsement hurts a politician the most?
- Which Democratic celebrity's endorsement hurts a politician the most?
The answers, courtesy of Bowling Green political science professor David J. Jackson, appear at the end of this item. Jackson's research focuses particularly on the impact of endorsements, so he sat for an interview with Atlantic magazine on the subject. What he has learned is that no celebrity is an unequivocal asset. In fact, the net effect of every single celebrity Jackson studied is negative. Consider, for example, well known Democrat Bruce Springsteen. Democrats who like him may listen to what he has to say, while Republicans who like him will tend to just focus on the music. Meanwhile, Republicans who dislike him (or who have no opinion on his music) may well see him as a symbol of media bias, or Hollywood elitist arrogance or the like, and grow firmer in their opposition. The latter (negative) effect tends to be stronger than the former (positive) effect, and so unleashing Springsteen on the American public as a whole does more harm than good.
So, does that mean that celebrities are worthless? No, it just means that their role should be to rally the troops and to get the base excited. A free Springsteen concert in Detroit or Philadelphia may well help the blue team, while the same event in Montgomery is counterproductive. Now if a celebrity absolutely must speak to a nationwide audience, which one has the smallest overall negative impact? George Clooney, whose net negative impact is only 0.9%. Congratulations, George, your endorsement is most helpful by virtue of it being least hurtful. Meanwhile, the Republican who should stay away from any and all blue states, since he will do more harm than any other? Ted Nugent, whose unpopularity presumably stems from his far right rhetoric, his love of guns, and his repeated threats against President Obama. And which Democrat should steer clear of any and all red states? Beyoncé, whose unpopularity stems from...well, we will let you reach your own conclusions. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov14 Trump Is Disgusted with Christie
Nov14 Trump the President-Elect Versus Trump the Candidate
Nov14 What Does History Tell us About Trump? (Part II)
Nov14 2016 Was Not the Year of the Split Ticket
Nov14 Class Trumps Gender
Nov14 Is Trump Sui Generis?
Nov14 It's Not Over 'til It's Over
Nov14 Trump's Lawyers Ask for Trial Delay
Nov14 What About the Freedom Caucus?
Nov13 What Clinton Did Wrong
Nov13 Clinton Blames Defeat on Comey
Nov13 Infighting within Trump's Inner Circle is Back
Nov13 Roger Stone Warns Trump Not to Pick Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff
Nov13 Trump Will Lay Off Twitter
Nov13 Trump to Work with Granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen
Nov13 What Does History Tell us About Trump? (Part I)
Nov13 Five Reasons Hillary Clinton Will Not Be Prosecuted
Nov13 Trump Might Be Impeached
Nov12 Another Take on Why Trump Won
Nov12 Trump Won White Women
Nov12 Breaking Out of the Bubble
Nov12 Whither the Electoral College?
Nov12 Christie Out, Pence In as Transition Chief
Nov12 The Map that Should Have the GOP Nervous
Nov12 Trump Open to Keeping Parts of the Affordable Care Act
Nov12 Facebook Under Scrutiny
Nov11 Democrats Lost Because Democrats Didn't Vote
Nov11 Was the Trump Voter Motivated by Economics or by Racism
Nov11 Other Key Findings from the Exit Polls
Nov11 Things Are Turning Ugly
Nov11 Classes, Exams Canceled on Wednesday
Nov11 Did Hillary Clinton Have a 98% Chance of Winning?
Nov11 President Ryan?
Nov10 Exit Polls Reveal a Deeply Divided Nation
Nov10 Third Parties Had a Huge Effect on the Election
Nov10 What Went Wrong?
Nov10 Trump's Business Conflicts Present Some Serious Issues
Nov10 Preliminary List of Trump Cabinet Officials Leaks
Nov10 Maggie Hassan Defeats Kelly Ayotte
Nov10 Democrats Have No Leader and No Direction
Nov10 Jihadists Happy About Trump's Win
Nov10 U.S. Elects LGBT Governor for the First Time
Nov09 Possible Electoral Vote: Trump 310, Clinton 228
Nov09 Popular Vote Is Very Close
Nov09 What Happens Next?
Nov09 How Did This Happen?
Nov09 How Does This Result Affect 2018?
Nov09 Election Postmortem, Take One
Nov08 Live Blogging Will Begin this Evening around 6:30 PM EST