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Democratic Politicians Are Listening to Their Furious Base

The Democratic base is absolutely stark-raving-mad furious with Donald Trump and Democratic politicians seem to have gotten the message. This is especially true of those politicians contemplating a 2020 run. One can already imagine the first primary debate, in which the candidates are asked what they think of President Donald Trump. The first one says: "I think he is a #@%$#." The second one says: "I think he is a #@%$#@!#%%"." The third one says: "I think he is a "$#@!^%$#%&**%^%$#@#@!!." And it gets worse from there. The politicians see that whoever offered the most resistance the earliest is going to have a head start.

A sign of the times is that DNC members at a meeting in Houston last weekend attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for voting for the confirmation of Ben Carson as secretary of HUD. Warren had previously been an untouchable icon in the party and had never, ever been attacked from the left before. She was the left. Even long-time liberal Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has gotten a rough ride from the base after he voted for Trump's pick for CIA director, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS). He got the message, though. A few days later he was asked if he would support Rex Tillerson for secretary of state and he said: "I checked with the parliamentarian, and they don't allow 'Hell, no!' so I'll be voting 'No.'

Nothing like this has ever happened before. Democrats did not begin viciously attacking George W. Bush within 2 weeks of his inauguration, even though his victory was weaker than Trump's, since the Supreme Court stopped the vote counting in Florida. Republicans obstructed most of Barack Obama's agenda, but the anger wasn't white hot as it is now, and even then, it didn't start until the tea party revolt of 2010, and the politicians didn't get the message for quite a while. Republicans didn't like Obama's policies, but there wasn't nearly the kind of visceral hatred toward Obama that there is toward Trump. (V)

Democrats Talked All Night To Stop DeVos

As an example of their fury, Senate Democrats talked all night last night in an attempt to stop the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. This wasn't technically a filibuster and a vote will be taken today. All 48 democrats plus Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will vote against her. The Democrats are hoping one more Republican will vote against her, defeating her. Given the unprecedented anger the Democrats feel, we can expect more talkathons and filibusters in the weeks and months ahead. (V)

All Protests, All The Time

As noted above, Donald Trump is unpopular in a way that no president has been before. There have been presidents with lower approval ratings—Harry S. Truman during the Korean War, for example, or Richard Nixon at the height of Watergate—but their critics did not have nearly so much vitriol, particularly so early in their presidential terms. Further, it is hard to think of a president who worked so hard on their public image, while at the same time being so hamfisted about it. Certainly, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were very mindful of the image they projected, but they managed their public persona in a manner that was much more sophisticated and much more subtle than Trump.

These circumstances have conspired to give rise to an effort that has no precedent in American political history. Anti-Trump forces are striving to make sure that every single time Trump goes out in public, he will be greeted with a large protest. Their goal is to get under his skin, and try to prick as big a hole as possible in his ego. As one organizer explains, "He likes to think that everybody loves him. We're showing him that we don't."

The question, of course, is whether or not this kind of maneuvering has any effect, beyond making the protesters feel better about themselves. Trump has a very well-honed ability to ignore negative information about himself, and even if the protests do have an impact, then what? It seems reasonable to guess that if he feels insulted, he's more likely to lash out through some unfriendly policy decision or proclamation, not less so. And while the protests may send an important message to Congressional Democrats, there's an argument to be made that participants' time would be better spent volunteering for organizations like Planned Parenthood, or working to register voters in advance of the 2018 election, or otherwise focusing on more concrete means of resisting Trump. (Z)

Price Could Eviscerate the ACA as Early as This Week

If Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is confirmed as secretary of HHS this week—almost certainly by a 52-48 party-line vote—he will begin dismantling the Affordable Care Act almost immediately, long before the Republicans in Congress have agreed on an alternative. His power comes from a decision the Obama Administration made early on: to have a lot of the details be set by the secretary of HHS, rather than writing them into the law. For example, precisely what things insurance policies must cover is simply an HHS regulation, which Price can change with a stroke of his pen. If he decides that as long as a policy covers bandaids up to 4 inches long it's ok, the policy is allowed. This would be in line with his free-market view of the insurance market: Companies should be free to offer any policy they want to and if it is bad deal, people won't buy it and the company will go under. He doesn't see any role for government in the health-insurance market. If he is really bold, he might go further and not enforce any of the ACA mandates, including the one requiring individuals to buy insurance. However, if he does that, he will be sued, because these are actually written into the statute. (V)

Puzder Employed Undocumented Worker

If he is confirmed as Donald Trump's secretary of labor, Andrew Puzder will surely be asked to look into the hiring of undocumented workers, and what might be done about that practice. And as it turns out, he has special expertise in that subject, having employed an undocumented immigrant in his own house for many years. Puzder acknowledged this in a written statement issued Monday, in which he also insisted that he was, "unaware that she was not legally permitted to work in the U.S."

It will be very interesting to see what Senate Republicans do with this information. Such revelations have derailed Cabinet nominations before, most notably that of Bill Clinton's would-be attorney general Zoe Baird, and George W. Bush's would-be labor secretary Linda Chavez. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the committee responsible for assessing Puzder's nomination, said, "Based upon what I've learned, since Mr. Puzder reported his mistake and voluntarily corrected it, I do not believe that this should disqualify him from being a Cabinet secretary." That's good spin, but Puzder only reported the problem after he was outed by the Huffington Post. Further, every politician caught in this situation claims they just didn't know, so his excuse is not terribly compelling. With that said, the fellow in the White House hired hundreds of undocumented workers over the course of several decades, which he conveniently also didn't know about. This being the case, maybe one stray undocumented maid is no big deal. (Z)

Author of "Torture is OK" Memos Thinks Trump Has Exceeded His Authority

John Yoo was the deputy assistant attorney general in the administration of George W. Bush who wrote the memo declaring that torturing terror suspects was legal. It would be hard to call him a delicate snowflake. Yet now he was come out and said that Donald Trump does not understand how the three branches of government work and is not restrained by the Constitution. In particular, Yoo believes that building a border wall and taxing imports are not powers that the president has. They belong to Congress. He also believes that the president cannot withdraw from NAFTA on his own, because Congress entered into the agreement by law and only Congress can repeal the law. (V)

Conway Did Not Misspeak

Kellyanne Conway made quite a few headlines of the wrong type when she went on MSNBC last week and spoke at length about the "Bowling Green Massacre"—an incident that never actually happened. After being called out on the fabrication, she took to Twitter and said that she had just misspoken, and meant "Bowling Green terrorists."

This explanation was not very believable at the time, and now we have confirmation that it was not a mere misstatement. In fact, shortly before the MSNBC appearance, Conway sat for an interview with Cosmopolitan, and she said precisely the same things to them that she said to Chris Matthews, including several references to the so-called massacre. The magazine chose not to publish the quotes because they did not want to help spread misinformation.

Incidents like this have given rise to a debate in the journalistic community: Should mainstream media outlets simply refuse to give a platform to Conway, Sean Spicer, and others who have shown a willingness to peddle outright falsehoods? That was the choice made by CNN this week, when the network outright refused an interview offer from Conway. The alternative is to find a different approach to interviews—more direct challenges and more on-the-fly fact checking, among other things. Journalist Errol Lewis is among the advocates of the latter approach, declaring, "If this is the source of information that you're going to get, even if it's fake or false, or it's spin, you've got to adapt to that." Either way, it's a difficult time to be in the news business (though a great time to be in the fake news business). (Z)

Politics Will Only Get Worse

Jim VandeHei, co-founder of Politico and also co-founder of Axios wrote an interesting piece this morning about how politics is not only bad, but why it will get worse. He examines three areas:

  • There is no market for normal politics and certainly not for compromise
  • Centrism is dead at the national level; centrist Republicans are long extinct and post election, ditto the Democrats
  • The parties are shells of their former selves: Who needs the DNC or RNC when you can tweet?
  • Donald Trump is never going to pivot and his rhetoric (and the response) will only get more heated
  • With people looking for news they like, fake news will proliferate and be believed
  • People don't even trust real news any more; no new Walter Cronkite is about to emerge
  • Companies are being pulled into politics, for example, 97 tech companies are joining a lawsuit against Trump
  • Political money from corporations doesn't matter so much any more so business is no longer a stabilizing force

VandeHei puts a lot of the blame on social media. Hotheads of all stripes can now rouse the rabble with no countervailing forces to stop them. Until recently, people had different opinions but at least the same facts. That is simply not true any more. If you can make up your own facts to suit yourself, that will just further inflame your base and the vicious circle continues unabated with no end in sight. (V)

Taxpayers Pay Nearly $100,000 for Eric Trump's Business Trip

In early January, Eric Trump headed to Uruguay for a trip meant to promote the Trump Organization's business interests. And during that trip, he utilized U.S. government transportation, security, and diplomatic officers, resulting in a price tag of $97,830 for John Q. Taxpayer. It's a clear cut example of the Trumps using government resources to promote their own business interests.

There are three ways that this particular situation could have been avoided. The first would be for the Trumps to divest themselves of their business interests. They have promised to (sort of) do so, creating a clear boundary between their business and government activities. However, they either do not realize, or do not care, that this is an all-or-none proposition—either they get rid of all of their businesses, or they don't, in which case there will be conflicts of interest. The other way this situation could have been avoided would be for Eric Trump to decline all Secret Service protection. While his father cannot legally do so, he can. Apparently, though, that option does not hold his interest, either. The third (and simplest) way is for Eric to send the government a check for $97,830 for services rendered. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb06 The Senate Is Completely Broken
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Feb02 Senate Finance Committee Changes Rules to Thwart Democrats
Feb02 Tillerson Confirmed as Secretary of State
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Feb02 Collins and Murkowski Will Vote against Confirming Betsy DeVos
Feb02 House Republicans Kill Two Obama-era Regulations
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Feb02 Trump Celebrates Black History Month
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