Dem 48
image description
GOP 52
image description
New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Trump Once Again Blames Both Sides for the Charlottesville Violence

Reporters talked to President Donald Trump about the Charlottesville violence again late yesterday afternoon, and once more he reiterated his view that both sides were to blame. To recap the situation, here is the sequence so far:

  • Saturday: Trump spontaneously said that many sides were to blame
  • Sunday: An unsigned White House email said that the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists were also to blame
  • Monday: Trump read a short speech (written by an aide) in which he condemned the KKK and neo-Nazis
  • Tuesday: Trump said that both sides (rather than many sides) were to blame

The pattern couldn't be clearer. In unscripted moments, both sides get the blame for the deaths and injuries in Charlottesville, but under extreme pressure from both outside and inside the White House, he is willing to read a short speech from a teleprompter specifically condemning the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. But as soon as he can get rid of the damn teleprompter and speak from the heart, he is back to blaming both sides.

Did Steve Bannon get to him? Is this what he really believes? Where other people see white supremacists, does he see "his base"? At this point it is hard to tell. What is noteworthy though is that he can't let go of this. Every time he blames both sides, it just prolongs the media attention. Of course, there could be a secret method to his apparent madness. Maybe he is much smarter than anyone else in town. Note that nobody has said a word about Russia for days now.

Of course, while deflecting attention from Russia might be a good thing for Trump, it's not so helpful if he becomes a pariah. Needless to say, Democrats are apoplectic about all of this. Republicans, from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on down, are none too happy either. Even Fox News was critical, at least until Sean Hannity got on the air. So, if Trump really does have a plan here, he might want to rethink it.

Trump also created another problem on Tuesday that could come back to haunt him. Asked about James Fields, the white supremacist who drove his car into a crowd of protesters and killed one of them, Trump said:

I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country. And that is—you can call it terrorism, you can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. That's what I'd call it. And there is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? Then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer, and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.

Presidents #1 through #44 almost invariably refrained from commenting on ongoing criminal cases, and when the occasional lapse happened, such as Richard Nixon blasting Charles Manson, they quickly walked it back. What #45 doesn't seem to realize (or care about) is that the president stands always in the "bully pulpit" when he speaks, and his words are heard and repeated widely. The problem when Trump judges Fields to be a murderer and/or a terrorist while speaking to a national audience is that it may become nearly impossible to get an impartial jury. If Heather Heyer's death somehow goes unpunished because Trump flapped his gums, there will undoubtedly be hell to pay for the President. (V & Z)

Companies Are Distancing Themselves from the Charlottesville Marchers

Unlike Donald Trump, who initially condemned the neo-Nazis and also the people fighting them, a number of companies have taken unambiguous stances against the people who marched in Charlottesville. To start with, four CEOs who were on Trump's Manufacturing Advisory Council have resigned in protest of Trump's wishy-washy response to the events in Charlottesville. These are the heads of Merck, Under Armour, Intel, and the Alliance of American Manufacturing. Richard Trumka and Thea Lee, both of the AFL-CIO, also jumped ship. The Merck CEO, Kenneth Frazier, who is black, slammed Trump for not calling out white supremacists by name. It took Trump less than an hour to attack Frazier by tweet, thus demonstrating once more that Trump is capable of rapid response when he is interested in it. He demonstrated his ability to hit quickly again yesterday when he went after all four CEOs who resigned, calling them grandstanders.

But these four weren't the only companies to distance themselves from the hate groups. Tiki brand, which makes the torches the marchers used at the University of Virginia, issued a statement in reference to the marchers that said: "We do not support their message or the use of our products in this way."

Yet another company that reacted strongly was GoDaddy, which had hosted the white supremacist Website the Daily Stormer. It announced that the Website was going to be shut down in 24 hours. It didn't even wish them luck in finding a new home. The owners of the site tried to register with Google, which immediately rejected them. They are probably going to have a tough time finding a new home since it is doubtful that any major provider will have anything to do with them. (V)

What Would Trumpism Be Like without Bannon?

For weeks now, there have been rumors that Senior Adviser Steve Bannon is on the way out. For the moment, though, he is still around, and Trump's reaction to Charlottesville looks like Trump is still talking to Bannon. It is hard to imagine Chief of Staff John Kelly telling Trump to go easy on neo-Nazis.

So what would happen if Trump finally decides Bannon is more of a nuisance than he is worth? First, Trump wouldn't fire him. He is afraid to personally fire people. He would ask Kelly to fire him. Kelly isn't afraid of anything or anyone. But what would happen once Bannon is gone? To start with, you have to understand that although Bannon hates Democrats, he also hates Republicans. Maybe even more than he hates Democrats. He wants to rebuild the Republican Party from scratch, making it into a populist workers' party. Some of his goals are killing trade deals, worrying less about what other countries think of the U.S., and being more attuned to wages, Social Security, and things blue-collar workers care a lot about. He supports raising taxes on the rich, a giant no-no with the Republican establishment. Bannon argues that this would hit left-wing millionaires in Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

Ryan Lizza makes the case that if Bannon is kicked out, the "America first" nationalism that he supports will be completely gone because none of the other major players support it. There will be no more coddling of alt-right groups because most of the people in the Midwest who voted for Trump are not neo-Nazis and don't support them. But even without Bannon, Trump will remain a tempetuous person who doesn't think things through carefully and who often says things that are very damaging (e.g., admitting that he fired James Comney over the "Russia thing."). So on specific policy issues, Trump will drop some of the populism and become a bit more of a traditional Republican, but in terms of how he behaves, nothing will change if Bannon goes. (V)

Elaine Chao Stands by Her Man

Of the various people caught in the middle of the fight between Donald Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the one in the worst bind is Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. As a cabinet member in an administration whose head demands complete and total loyalty, she must support Trump, of course. On the other hand, she has a foot in the other camp, being that she has been married to McConnell for the past 24 years. When asked by Reuters where she stood, she replied: "I stand by my man—both of them." Chao is a very experienced politician, having served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush, and is unfazed by the controversy. However, if Trump really starts hitting McConnell hard, her situation will become untenable and she would probably resign from the cabinet. (V)

Democrats Will Test Out Two Different Strategies in 2018

There are two directions the Democrats can go in 2018 and 2020. First, they can try to move to the right to recapture working-class white men who defected to the Republicans in 2016. Second, they can move to the left to try to win more college-educated suburban voters who used to be Republicans and may now be up for grabs. In 2018, they are going to have to try both at the same time, mostly due to accidents of geography.

In the Senate, 10 Democrats are up for reelection in states Donald Trump won on the strength of his appeal to working-class whites. In places like Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, they have little choice but to pursue these voters. These are states that are whiter than the national average and have more blue-collar workers than the national average. Donald Trump is still popular in these states, so their campaigns there have to focus on bread-and-butter economic issues, like jobs and higher wages. Pushing the cultural issues is not going to fly there.

On the other hand, in the House, the Democrats need to pick up 24 seats. It so happens that there are Republicans in 23 districts that Hillary Clinton won. If they could win these, they are almost there. Oddly enough—actually, it is not odd at all considering that Clinton won there—these are mostly affluent, well-educated suburban districts. Talking about more construction jobs probably won't do the trick there, but emphasizing issues like the environment and free college might go over well.

So, Democrats have to develop two sets of fairly different plans, one for the Senate and one for the House. It will be more than a bit tricky for them to come up with a unified national campaign when, in fact, under the radar, there are two very different campaigns going on. But an accident of history has created this situation and they have to deal with it. (V)

Donald Trump Lies--A Lot

That headline is hardly a revelation. Like the media, or Jeff Sessions, or a properly-tied necktie, the truth is not something on which Donald Trump places much value. But now, the good people at Politifact have put a particularly fine point on it. Their harshest judgment is "pants on fire," which is reserved for "the most ridiculous falsehoods." At the moment, Trump is on pace to produce 52 times as many pants-on-fire remarks during his presidency as Barack Obama did during his. Put another way, Trump delivers as many total lies in one week as Obama did in an entire year. It's early, of course, and so there's time for The Donald to change the trajectory. On the other hand, his approval ratings are tanking, and he is generally at his worst when he's on the defensive. So, he might just start surpassing Obama's yearly total on a daily basis. (Z)

White House Communications Director #4? Looks Like it's Hope Hicks

The Daily Caller, which is usually pretty dialed in on these things, is reporting that the race to be the next White House Communications Director is over, and the winner is Hope Hicks. She succeeds Anthony Scaramucci, who succeeded Sean Spicer, who succeeded Mike Dubke. Actually, Mooch may not technically belong in the sequence, since he was never actually sworn in. He's the Trump administration version of Stephen, who was elected Pope but died of a stroke three days later, and so was not consecrated. For 1,200 years, the Catholic Church has had trouble deciding if he counts as a Pope or not.

Anyhow, Hicks is 28 years old, and began her career doing PR in New York, eventually becoming a full-time employee of the Trump Organization. Then she was a press secretary for the Trump campaign before becoming a senior advisor in the Trump White House. She's the polar opposite of Mooch, personality-wise—since moving to Washington she has never tweeted, and has yet to sit for an interview. Whether any of this qualifies her for one of the trickiest jobs in Washington is a good question, but the good news for her is that she could hardly do worse than the three men who came before her. (Z)

No Surprises in Alabama, Utah

Two states held elections yesterday, and everything turned out as expected. In Alabama, voters are choosing a permanent replacement for former senator and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Firebrand Roy Moore and the establishment-backed Sen. Luther Strange finished in the top two spots on the Republican side of the contest, with 38.9% and 32.8% of the vote, respectively. Rep. Mo Brooks, with his 19.7% of the vote, is out of the running. Since neither Moore nor Strange cleared 50%, they will face off again on September 26 to be the GOP candidate in the general election. Moore is a divisive character, and just about every voter has an opinion about him. Odds are good that most of those Brooks votes will migrate to Strange, and that he will be the ultimate choice. Whatever happens, the victim—er, the Democrat—will be Doug Jones, whose 65.9% of the vote means he can sit out the September 26 runoff.

In Utah, meanwhile, Provo mayor John Curtis (R)—who is a moderate—got the best of Chris Herrod and Tanner Ainge, who are both ultraconservative. It wasn't too close; with Curtis at 40.5% of the vote, Herrod at 31.1%, and Ainge at 28.3%. Since Utah does not require a primary candidate to collect 50% of the vote, Curtis will face Democrat Kathie Allen in November for the right to replace retired representative Jason Chaffetz. Allen is charismatic and well-funded, but UT-3 is more than 80% Republican. So, her odds are very, very long. (Z)

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug15 Three Days Too Late and Under Pressure, Trump Denounces White Supremacists
Aug15 Trump Attacks Business Leader He Praised Last Month
Aug15 Trump May Pardon Arpaio
Aug15 Trump's Approval Falls to Lowest Level Ever
Aug15 Strange Election in Alabama Today
Aug15 Utah Also Has an Election Today
Aug15 "Kid Rock" May be Ineligible to Appear on the Michigan Senate Ballot
Aug15 Mooch Chats with Colbert, Bannon Death Watch Underway
Aug14 Trump's Advisers Try to Stem Fallout from Trump's Remarks about Charlottesville
Aug14 Trump Has Other Defenders, Too
Aug14 Tax Reform Will Probably Be Tougher than Health Care
Aug14 Senate May End Blue-Slip Courtesy
Aug14 CNN's "Jeffrey Lord Problem"
Aug14 Donald Trump Is Making People Sick
Aug14 Trump To Roll Back Obamacare Protections for Transgender Individuals
Aug13 Trump Condemns Violence in Charlottesville but Doesn't Mention Who Started It
Aug13 Bannon on Thin Ice
Aug13 Republican Representative Is Holding a Ticket Lottery for His Town Hall
Aug13 The 86 Million Reasons Trump Can't Win a Battle with McConnell
Aug13 RNC Has Adopted Bernie Sanders' Fundraising Approach; the DNC Hasn't
Aug13 Trump Hotel Turns a $2M Profit
Aug12 Report: China Would Not Help North Korea If It Attacks the U.S.
Aug12 Trump Threatens Venezuela
Aug12 Republicans Come under Pressure at Town Halls
Aug12 Manafort Changes Lawyers as Mueller Turns the Screws on Him
Aug12 Wall Street Growing Bearish
Aug12 Kyrsten Sinema Is Considering a Run Against Flake
Aug12 Secretary of Energy...Joe Manchin?
Aug12 McConnell Is Backing Kid Rock in Michigan Senate Race
Aug11 McConnell and Trump Are Taking Potshots at Each Other
Aug11 Kim and Trump Are Also Taking Potshots at Each Other
Aug11 Trump Thanks Putin for Expelling Diplomats
Aug11 Trump's Legal Team is Completely Outmatched by Mueller's Team
Aug11 Mercer Donates $300,000 to Take Down Flake
Aug11 Indiana Made it Easier for White Voters, Harder for Black Voters, to Cast Ballots Early
Aug11 Poll: Half of Republicans are OK with Postponing 2020 Election
Aug11 Poll: Trump's Finances Are Fair Game
Aug11 Northam Leads Gillespie in Virginia Gubernatorial Race
Aug11 It's Open Season on the Environment
Aug11 Rohrabacher Steps in It
Aug10 FBI Agents Raided Paul Manafort's Home in July
Aug10 Transgender Soldiers Sue
Aug10 Colbert Scores First Interview with Mooch
Aug10 Obama Donors Think Biden Is Too Old
Aug10 Kelly Believes in Climate Change
Aug10 How Long Can McMaster Last?
Aug10 Johnson Insults McCain
Aug10 Trump Drops in New Poll
Aug10 Who Said It?
Aug09 Trump Threatens North Korea with "Fire and Fury"