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Dewey Defeats Truman at Academy Awards

At the outset of Sunday night's Academy Awards ceremony, there were two near certainties. The first was that Donald Trump's administration would come in for some withering fire. And that certainly did happen, although generally in a more subtle fashion than we saw at the Golden Globes or the Independent Spirit Awards. Many people in attendance were wearing blue ribbons, to show support for the ACLU. There were a dozen or so jokes at the President's expense, starting with host Jimmy Kimmel's line that the ceremony was being watched in the U.S. as well as, "more than 225 countries that now hate us." There were also a small handful of full-frontal assaults; actor-director Gael Garcia Bernal took time to slam, "any kind of wall that wants to separate us," while Iran's Asghar Farhadi—who won the Oscar for foreign film—boycotted the ceremony and had a statement read on his behalf in which he attacked Trump's travel ban. Still, scattered over three and a half hours, the anti-Trump commentary might well be described as "judicious," and was probably more effective than a constant parade of anti-Trump rhetoric.

With that said, Monday's Oscar conversations aren't going to have anything to do with politics. Why not? Well, that brings us to the second near-certainty. "La La Land" was the overwhelming favorite to win Best Picture. It won nearly all the other big awards, including the Directors' Guild, the Producers' Guild, the Golden Globe, and the BAFTA. It's a musical, set in Los Angeles, that celebrates actors and acting, and so it's right in the Academy's wheelhouse. The sports books had it as a 1-to-12 shot, which is an implied probability of about 93%. So when the award was finally announced by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, nobody was surprised at "La La Land's" victory. The cast and crew filed on stage and speeches of thanks were made. But then, chaos began to ensue, as the Academy's accountants tried to make clear that Thomas Dewey—er, "La La Land"—didn't win at all. As it turns out, Beatty and Dunaway had the wrong envelope, and the real winner was "Moonlight."

This, of course, is an epic screw-up, unprecedented in the history of the Oscars. While there have been conspiracy theories in the past about wrong names being read, it's never actually happened before Sunday night. No doubt, those individuals who have a low opinion of Hollywood—Trump, Sean Spicer, the Breitbart staff—are going to have a field day with this. Of course, so are the comedians; jokes about Russian hacking and undocumented voters are already abounding on Twitter. (Z)

Governors Don't Agree on ACA Replacement

At the National Governors' Association meeting in Washington, D.C., this past weekend, the Democratic and Republican governors were not on the same page about the ACA or its possible replacements. No surprise there. But all 33 Republican governors weren't on the same page either. Technically, the governors have no say over whether the ACA is replaced or if so, with what, but Republican senators had better pay attention to them, lest they be saddled with a few dozen angry Republican governors complaining about their handiwork.

The big problem from the governors' point of view is that the ACA allowed states to opt into an expansion of Medicaid, which the federal government largely funded. Some states opted in and others opted out. The trick now is to find a replacement that doesn't benefit one group over the other. One difficult issue is that some of the states that expanded Medicaid have set up an extensive and expensive program for providing health care to poor people. If the new system provides much less money than the old one, the governors who opted for the expansion will be left holding the bag.

Many Republican senators are leaning toward a scheme in which each state would get a block grant to help poor people. The governor would have a great deal of flexibility determining how to use the money. The old system provided a certain amount of money for each Medicaid enrollee, so the formula for distributing money was simple. In a block grant system, presumably state population would figure in, but some states have more older people than others, some states have more poor people than others, and some states have more sick people than others. If the distribution is simply in proportion to the states' population, the governors with a lot of old, poor, sick people will not be happy. If there is less money coming in under the new system than under the old one, governors will be forced to either find more money to cover the shortfall (unlikely), reduce everyone's health care (not popular), or remove some people from the Medicaid rolls altogether (not popular). In short, the governors had plenty to talk about at dinner last night. (V)

Leaked Report Says Millions Will Lose Health Care under GOP Plan

Part of the reason the governors were more than a tad nervous about health care is that a detailed analysis of some of the possible plans to replace the ACA has already leaked out. The analysis includes charts that show that in one scenario, 30% of the ACA enrollees would be left uninsured. In states that did not expand Medicaid, the number of insured people might be cut in half. However, McKinsey & Co., which did the analysis, noted that the plan is not cast in stone yet and could change, which would require recalculating the numbers. What all the governors' fear, however, is that the whole point of going to a system of block grants is not really to give the governors more flexibility, but to allow Congress to spend less money on health care for the poor and then let the governors take the blame when they decide how to ration the care. (V)

Democrat Wins First Post-Trump Election in a Landslide

Ever since Donald Trump was inaugurated, there have been marches and protests all over the country. Democrats say that shows many people are unhappy with Trump. Republicans say that shows a fraction of one percent of the people are unhappy with Trump. Now a different data point is available. A former member of the Delaware state senate, Bethany Hall-Long, was elected Lt. Governor in November, leaving the state senate split, with 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans. On Saturday a special election was held to replace Hall-Long.

The candidates were Stephanie Hansen (D) and John Marino (R). Marino ran for the seat in 2014 and lost by a mere 2 points to Hall-Long. This time he lost by 16 points. The state senate district has a Democratic lean, but it also has many independents. In any event, the fact that Marino did so much worse against Hansen, an environmental lawyer and grandmother, than he did against Hall-Long, a three-term state senator, has gotten a fair amount of attention. One of the reasons Hansen won is no doubt that she greatly outraised Marino due to many campaign donations from people outside the district. There will be somewhere between four and seven special elections for U.S. House seats in the spring and if Democrats stay energized, they might be able to pick off a Republican House seat or two.

Or, maybe not. There was actually one other election held this year, though that one was not as well publicized as the one in Delaware, and was more of a 2016 runoff than a new election. The seat for Minnesota's state house district 32B was left vacant after November's elections, as the person who won the seat was declared ineligible. There was some thought that a Democrat might swoop in and win the Republican-leaning district, but that didn't happen. It was close, as Anne Neu (R) defeated Laurie Warner (D) by just 462 votes, but no cigar. So, in total, we have one case (Delaware) where a close Democratic win became a blowout Democratic win, and another case (Minnesota) where a comfortable Republican win became a close Republican win. What this presages for future contests is anyone's guess. (V)

More Embarrassments for Spicer

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer suffers black eyes more often than a heavyweight boxer, and this weekend brought two more. First of all, rumors swirled last week that Donald Trump's appointment for Secretary of the Navy, Philip Bilden, was about to withdraw. Spicer took to Twitter to declare that this was nonsense, and that Bilden was, "100% commited [sic] to being the next SECNAV." Well, Bilden withdrew on Sunday. White House leakers 1, Spicer 0.

If that were not enough, news also broke this weekend that Spicer has taken to inspecting the cell phones of his staff, trying to find evidence indicating who is leaking anonymous news from the White House. This is kind of comical on two levels, first in the paranoia and desperation that it reveals, and second in how low-tech and hamfisted the approach is. And obviously, it didn't work, since the story about stopping leakers leaked anyhow. White House leakers 2, Spicer 0. (Z)

Democratic 2020 Candidates Compete To Be Most Anti-Trump

Every Democrat with visions of being inaugurated as president on Jan. 20, 2021 knows that the key to coming out on top of what is sure to be a vast primary field in 2020 is being perceived as more anti-Trump than the other candidates. The ones in the Senate have a way of expressing their contempt for Trump is a public way: voting against his nominees and legislation. The great thing about that approach is that it is easy to keep score. In fact, the The Hill has already started:

Anti-Trump senators

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) leads the pack, having opposed every Trump cabinet nominee except Nikki Haley (UN ambassador) and David Shulkin (VA). Six senators are tied for second. It is widely assumed that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are seriously considering a run. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would be 79 on Inauguration Day in 2021, which effectively eliminates him and he certainly doesn't want to run against Warren, who is 8 years younger than he is. Some of the people further down the list are probably thinking seriously about a run as well, especially Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), both of whom belong to the progressive wing of the party. Brown, in particular, is tight with the unions and probably as progressive as Warren, but unlike her, as a middle-aged white man from the Midwest, he can make a plausible claim of being able to recover some of the blue-collar votes in the Midwest that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. (V)

Navy SEAL's Father Wants an Investigation

Ryan Owens was the first combat death on President Trump's watch. He perished in an operation that some have questioned, both in terms of planning and in terms of necessity. Now, one of those doing the questioning is Owens' father, Bill, himself a military veteran. "Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration?" he asked, when interviewed by the Miami Herald. "I want an investigation...The government owes my son an investigation," he also said.

The Dept. of Defense says that an investigation is already underway, though who knows if their report will see the light of day. Mostly, though, the story illustrates that running for president is much easier than actually being president. Trump was more than happy to trot out parents of dead servicemen during his campaign, but now the shoe is on the other foot. And the President is learning, if he doesn't know already, that there is literally nothing a president does that does not leave some people unhappy. (Z)

"Donald Trump" May Appear at White House Correspondents' Dinner, After All

On Saturday, we learned that President Trump will not be appearing at this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner. This is a break with tradition; the occupant of the Oval Office has been in attendance for 35 straight years, and the streak would be longer than half a century if Ronald Reagan had not been shot. However, The Donald does not like the media, and does not like Trump jokes (even gentle ones), and both commodities will be present in abundance at the event. So, he's out.

As we noted, the downside to opting out is that it could transform a gentle ribbing watched by a moderate number of people into a brutal satire watched by millions. Now, a move is afoot to have Alec Baldwin attend the event as Donald Trump. Baldwin has not committed yet, but he loathes Trump, and surely knows the kind of attention that his appearance would get. The odds are very good, then, that it happens. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb26 DNC Elects Tom Perez Chairman
Feb26 Trump Administration Extremely Understaffed
Feb26 The Retail Backlash Has Generated Its Own Backlash
Feb26 Don't Like It? Bury It
Feb26 Trump Won't Attend the White House Correspondents Dinner
Feb26 Kuwaiti Government to Spend Up to $60,000 for a Party at a Trump Hotel
Feb26 Arizona Senate Wants to Crack Down on Protests
Feb25 Trump Receives a Hero's Welcome at CPAC
Feb25 White House Declares War on the Media
Feb25 Trump Attacks the FBI Again
Feb25 Trump Administration Building a Bubble
Feb25 Key Trump Donors Own Part of Breitbart News
Feb25 ACA Replacement Leaked
Feb25 Obamacare as Popular as It Has Ever Been
Feb25 Obama For President
Feb24 Trump-Russia Plot Thickens, Yet Again
Feb24 White House Raises Concerns Trying to Justify Travel Ban
Feb24 Richard Spencer Ejected from CPAC
Feb24 Bannon Partly Right About the Media
Feb24 Elections Are Closer than You Think
Feb24 Taxpayers Are Confused about the ACA Mandate
Feb24 Feds May Get Back in the Business of Busting Pot Smokers
Feb23 Cabinet Secretaries Are Battling Trump Aides over Appointments
Feb23 Pay-for-Play Remains Alive and Well with Trump Administration
Feb23 Trump Overturns Protections for Transgender Students
Feb23 CPAC Opens with an Identity Crisis
Feb23 Trump Continues to Sink in Polls
Feb23 Kellyanne Conway Benched
Feb23 Perez and Ellison Agree Not to Interfere in Primaries
Feb23 Democrats' Hopes to Retake the House Lie in Suburbia
Feb23 Travel Ban Hurting the Tourist Industry
Feb22 Trump Lays Out Plans for Mass Deportations
Feb22 Trump Denounces Anti-Semitism, Sort Of
Feb22 Trump and McMaster Don't See Eye to Eye on Key Issues
Feb22 McMaster Will Require Senate Confirmation
Feb22 Trump's Streak of Falsehoods Has Lasted 33 Days
Feb22 Town Halls Becoming a Real Hornet's Nest
Feb22 Yiannopoulos Resigns from Breitbart News
Feb22 Protest Trump by Withholding Taxes?
Feb21 Trump Picks Lt. Gen. McMaster as the new National Security Adviser
Feb21 New Travel Ban is Coming
Feb21 Milo Yiannopoulos Disinvited from CPAC Conference
Feb21 More on the Election Results
Feb21 Republicans Lose Some Top-Tier Senate Candidates
Feb21 Kansas State Legislature Rolls Back Income Tax Cuts
Feb21 Britons Don't Want Trump
Feb21 Trump Golfs, Tries to Hide It
Feb20 Trump Administration Plans to Speed Deportations
Feb20 Another Day, Another Non-Existent Terrorist Attack
Feb20 Trump Searching for New National Security Advisor