• What Happens If Moore Wins?
• Judge Orders Alabama Voting Records Preserved
• Booker Will Also Be Tested Today
• Gillibrand Calls for Trump to Resign
• Missing from the Russiagate Probe So Far: Steve Bannon
• Trump Wants to Go Back to the Moon
• Transgender Soldiers Can Enlist
• Spicer Writing a Book
In what is surely the most closely watched, contested, and bitter election of 2017, Alabama voters will today decide who they want to represent them in the Senate. The polls of the race between alleged child molester Roy Moore (R) and Doug Jones (D) have been all over the map. Two new ones came in yesterday. The Fox News poll has Jones ahead by an astounding 10 points, 50% to 40%. This is Jones' best performance in any poll of the race all year. In contrast, a poll from Emerson College has Moore ahead 53% to 44%. In summary, it is either massive blowout for Jones or a massive blowout for Moore. Take your pick. With a 19-point difference between the two polls taken at the same time, somebody is clearly way, way, off.
Polling a special election in December would be difficult under any conditions, but this one is much worse than usual because turnout is everything. Pollsters must make a model of what the actual electorate will look like. In particular, will black voters make up 20% of the electorate? Or 25%? Or maybe even 30%? Depending on the model the pollster uses, the same data can give wildly different results. In short, no one has a real clue what is going to happen.
Monmouth University's pollster, Patrick Murray, has written up a nice description of the pollsters' dilemma here. He points out that small changes in the turnout have big consequences for the results. According to his data, if turnout is the same as in 2016, Jones is ahead 48% to 45%. But if he uses a turnout model that matches previous midterms, Moore wins 48% to 44%. Other models of the electorate give other results.
Murray also acknowledges that some respondents are hesitant to tell the pollster that they intend to vote for the child molester but in the secrecy of the voting booth, will do so. Lying to a pollster to seem politically correct is known as the Bradley effect.
Another wrinkle here is that there are boxes on the ballot for "Straight Republican ticket" and "Straight Democratic ticket," even though the Senate race is the only one listed. Voters who intend to choose the former can then honestly tell pollsters that they are not going to vote for Moore, even though the effect is the same as if they did.
Both candidates know that turnout is everything and are doing what they can to boost their supporters' enthusiasm. Moore is flooding the state with a robocall of Donald Trump urging voters to show up for Moore. Jones has signed up Barack Obama and Joe Biden to record a robocall for him. Starting tomorrow, the people of Alabama can turn their phones back on without getting 10 calls an hour.
Robocalls aside, the candidates have very different closing strategies. Jones is blanketing the state with rallies, holding dozens of them in the last few days, often together with leading black politicians such as Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. In contrast, Moore is holed up in Philadelphia and trying to hide until it is all over. It is, shall we say, an unusual strategy, but Moore is so controversial that maybe the idea is to just hope people mark the line with the (R) and ignore who the candidate is. Alabama being what it is, that approach might just work. (V)
Robert Walker, former chief counsel to the Senate Ethics Committee, has written a piece describing what might happen if Roy Moore wins today's election. First, the Senate will have to seat him. The Supreme Court ruled in the 1969 Powell v. McCormack case that Congress can refuse to seat someone only if that person does not meet the constitutional requirements for the office. For example, if it turns out that Moore isn't 35 yet, hasn't been a citizen for 9 years, or doesn't live in Alabama, the Senate could refuse to seat him. If he passes the tests they must seat him.
But the Senate is also free to begin expulsion proceedings immediately. That would require the Senate Ethics Committee, consisting of Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), to hold a preliminary inquiry, in private, in which it could subpoena witnesses to testify under oath and listen to what they have to say. If it determined that there was inappropriate behavior but not sufficient for expulsion, it could issue a letter of admonition. If it determined that there was a strong case against Moore for a serious offense, it would hold a public adjudicatory hearing—basically, a public trial—in which witnesses under oath would be questioned by the senators and committee counsel and cross examined by Moore's attorneys. Once the hearing was completed, the committee would vote to either put the case before the full Senate or not. In the former case, it would take a 2/3 majority to expel Moore, creating a vacancy and forcing a new special election. Moore could run again if he wanted to. (V)
Given how significant and hotly-contested today's election in Alabama is, there is good reason to be worried about shenanigans. And, perhaps even more significantly, there is good reason to be worried that someone might claim shenanigans if they lose, particularly if the loser's name happens to rhyme with "Moy Roore." Consequently, four Alabama voters filed a lawsuit targeting Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) and State Administrator of Elections Ed Packard (D). The suit points out that Alabama law requires all ballots to be kept for six months after an election is over, and argues that digital ballots are included in that mandate.
It would seem the defendants had a case, because on Monday afternoon Judge Roman Ashley Shaul granted an emergency injunction ordering Merrill and Packard to keep everything for at least six months. If Roy Moore does lose, he's going to have a much harder time claiming voter fraud. Of course, a total lack of evidence hasn't stopped Kris Kobach and his voter integrity commission. (Z)
Cory Booker is down in Alabama working his heart out for Doug Jones—and for Cory Booker. His nominal goal the past few days has been energizing black voters and millennial white Democrats for Jones, but he is clearly aware of the politics of 2020 while doing so. In Alabama and most of the South, about half of all Democrats are black. In a potential 2020 primary with a dozen or more white candidates and Booker, the New Jersey senator could sweep the South and amass a huge number of delegates. He knows that getting name recognition in Alabama now is valuable for 2020. He also knows that in 2020 he can say to Alabama Democrats: "I was there when you needed me." Booker has also noted that his ancestors were coal miners from Alabama, giving him a personal connection to the state. For him, campaigning for Jones is a win-win proposition. If Jones wins, he can (rightfully) claim he helped. If Jones loses, he can say it was mission impossible in such a red state, but he is not one to shirk challenges and tried his best anyway. (V)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was one of the first senators to call for Al Franken to resign, and she got her wish. Now she is after bigger fish. Yesterday she called for Donald Trump to resign, saying there have been numerous, credible allegations of sexual misconduct and criminal activity by over a dozen women. She added that if he does not resign, Congress should begin to investigate him and hold him accountable.
No doubt Gillibrand was motivated in part by the live interviews Megyn Kelly did on her show yesterday. She talked to three women who claim to have been sexually assaulted by Trump. Jessica Leeds said that in the 1980s, Trump was sitting next to her in first class on a commercial flight when he grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt. Rachel Crooks said that when she worked for the Bayrock Group, a company Trump did business with, one time he kissed her directly on the mouth without her consent. Samantha Holvey was a 2006 Miss USA contestant and said that Trump personally inspected each woman from head to toe, as if they were all sex objects, not people.
It is important to read between the lines on a lot of news involving Democrats from here to 2020. As noted above, Cory Booker is already campaigning for president by testing how good his appeal is to black voters in Alabama. Kirsten Gillibrand wants to make sexual misconduct her rallying cry for 2020 and hopes to do well among women. Booker's foray into Alabama politics and Gillibrand's visibility in matters of sexual misconduct are not accidents. These are experienced politicians who understand the 2020 field will be enormous, and they need to start establishing their brands already in order to stand out. Also note that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has realized that with California's 2020 primary in March, he could scoop up lots of delegates early on. Other Democratic hopefuls are surely noticing all this activity and will begin trying to find their niche before it is too late. (V)
Numerous people have been caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the election, including two members of the President's family (Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr.) but one surprising name is missing: Steve Bannon. He also hasn't been called to testify before either the House or Senate committees looking into the matter. This is surprising because although there is no (public) evidence that he had any contacts with Russians, he was a witness to some important events, such as the firing of former NSA Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey. People close to Bannon are saying he isn't worried and doesn't even have a lawyer.
Of course, as Yogi Berra once noted, it ain't over 'til its over. Mueller could yet call Bannon in for testimony. William Jeffress, who represented Scooter Libby during the Valerie Plame leak investigation, said that Mueller is undoubtedly starting at the bottom of the food chain and working his way up. And Bannon is near the very top, so his time will yet come. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are also starting to ask about some of Bannon's meetings.
Bannon's value to investigators is that he was present at many high-level meetings involving key figures in the administration. For example, he was in the Oval Office during a heated exchange about Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigations. Bannon also had contact with George Papadopoulos, who is now working with Mueller after pleading guilty to one count of lying to the FBI. (V)
On Monday, Donald Trump signed an order directing NASA to make another trip to the moon, and to also begin preparing for a trip to Mars. The order offers few specifics beyond that, and no actual deadlines, excepting that it suggests the space agency work with private businesses like SpaceX and Blue Origin. Nobody better tell Trump that the latter is owned by Jeff Bezos. who also owns the Washington Post, not one of the more Trump-friendly news outlets.
Clearly, it is possible for men to get to the moon, though the costs would be enormous, and the benefits—given that there is no longer a Cold War propaganda imperative—would be hard to justify. Mars is theoretically possible; it would take about half a year each way, which means even greater costs for even less clear benefits. This basic problem is why several presidents prior to Trump—Obama, both Bushes, Reagan—have talked loudly about a moon or a Mars trip, but none of them has followed through.
Trump, of course, is not going to follow through either. Indeed, Monday's announcement was textbook Trump policy-making. He had a nice photo-op, complete with LEGO spacemen for the President to play with. He will get some nice headlines on Tuesday. But the actual executive order offers no particular plan for how to move forward, no ideas about funding, and—as noted—no deadlines. In fact, like so many Trump policies, it's basically a rehashed Obama policy. In fact, the net result of Monday's announcement is to change a grand total of one paragraph in Obama's standing instructions to NASA. However, if SpaceX or Blue Origin or one of the others does manage to send a lunar expedition in the next three years (unlikely), then you can bet The Donald will take all the credit. (Z)
Speaking of Trump policies that were announced (via Twitter, in this case), got some headlines, and then faded into the ether, we learned on Monday that the President won't be allowed to stop transgender folks from enlisting in the military, after all. In her ruling, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote, "In sum, having carefully considered all of the evidence before it, the Court is not persuaded that Defendants will be irreparably injured by allowing the accession of transgender individuals into the military beginning on January 1, 2018." Kollar-Kotelly, incidentally, was first appointed to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan (to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia), and then was promoted to her current position (Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia) by Bill Clinton. In other words, she rose through the ranks when the focus was on qualifications rather than party loyalty.
The administration is theoretically still fighting to exclude transgender soldiers, but their case is weak, and they would now need SCOTUS to weigh in, which would likely take until 2019 at the earliest. Meanwhile, the Defense Dept., from James Mattis on down, has made clear their lack of enthusiasm for the President's policy. So, now that Trump has communicated what he needed to communicate to the homophobic and/or transphobic elements of his base, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Justice Dept. just let this drop. (Z)
It would seem that former White House Press Secretary isn't quite ready to be consigned to the dustbin of history and still has something he wants to say. Or, at very least, he wants to cash in while there's still time. He appeared on Sean Hannity's program on Monday night and announced that he would be penning a book about his year or so of working with Donald Trump. "I looked back at the coverage of the campaign, the transition in the first six, seven months of this White House, I realized the stories that are being told are not an accurate representation of what President Trump went through to get the nomination, to transition to the White House and then his first six months in office," Spicer explained. So, he wants to "set the record straight."
If one is looking for a "straight" version of the record, Spicer is probably not the place to find it. More interesting, though, is the fact that the book isn't coming out until summer of 2018. Normally, these things are rushed into print before people start asking "Sean who?" Presumably, the delay is related to the midterm elections; either Spicer plans to unleash some sort of anti-Trump truth bomb as payback for being fired (like, say, H.R. Haldeman did), or else he is going to try to give the GOP a little propaganda shot in the arm. The latter seems more likely, but we will have to wait a year to find out.
With that said, we can at least speculate as to what the title might be. Some possibilities:
- The Sound and the Fury
- Heart of Darkness
- An American Tragedy
- Pride and Prejudice
- A Confederacy of Dunces
- The Adventure of the Crooked Man
- Les Misérables
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- Infinite Jest
- Things Fall Apart
- The Tempest
- Descent into Madness
- A Season in Hell
- A Clockwork Orange
Some of these may already be taken; our researchers are looking into it. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec11 Moore Does Not Like Amendments 11-27
Dec11 Collins Says Senate Will Have a Tough Decision If Moore Wins
Dec11 Senate Republicans Are Attacking the American Bar Association
Dec11 Trump Accusers to Demand Congressional Investigation
Dec11 What is Haley's Long-Term Plan?
Dec11 Poll Says Americans Aren't Buying what the GOP is Selling on the Tax Plan
Dec11 Will the Exit Poll Survive?
Dec10 Mueller Is Certainly Being Thorough
Dec10 Bad Numbers for the GOP
Dec10 Donald Trump Needs a Brain Test
Dec10 Donald Trump Is a Liar
Dec10 Trump's Life in the White House
Dec10 Arab League Condemns Jerusalem Announcement
Dec10 Jones Desperate to Rally Black Voters
Dec10 Please Pardon Our Dust
Dec09 Tax Bill May Allow Dark Money Political Donations to Become Tax Deductible
Dec09 Yearbook Inscription Partly Not Moore's Writing
Dec09 Trump Rallies in Florida
Dec09 Dina Powell Will Leave White House in January
Dec09 Democrats Looking Under Rocks for Competitive House Races
Dec09 Special Election for Conyers Seat Won't Be Until Nov. 2018
Dec09 Democrats Will Restrict Superdelegates in 2020
Dec09 Trump Asked RNC Chair to Omit 'Romney' from Her Name
Dec08 Looks Like There's More to the Trump Tower Story
Dec08 Tax Bill Hits Rough Waters
Dec08 Franken Will Quit
Dec08 Dayton Might Appoint His Lieutenant Governor as a Placeholder
Dec08 Report: Trent Franks to Resign from Congress Just Ahead of a Scandal
Dec08 Congress Kicks the Can a Short Distance Down the Road
Dec08 Trump's Approval Falls with Every Demographic Group
Dec08 Trump to Get Physical
Dec08 Roy Moore, Historian
Dec08 Arpaio "Seriously" Considering Senate Run
Dec08 Vonn Will Represent the U.S., Not Trump
Dec07 Democrats Call for Franken to Resign
Dec07 Bredesen Will Run for Senate
Dec07 Flynn Told Business Associate that Sanctions Would be Ripped Up Immediately
Dec07 The Sausage Machine Has Been Turned On Again
Dec07 Fallout from Jerusalem Decision Begins
Dec07 Trump Slurred His Speech
Dec07 Time Person of the Year:
Dec07 Democrats Try but Fail to Impeach Trump
Dec07 Conyers III Not Likely to Be Your Next Representative from Michigan
Dec06 Report: Mueller Subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for Trump Financial Records
Dec06 Russiagate Plot Thickens Some More
Dec06 Tax Bill Looks to Be an Albatross around the Republicans' Neck in 2018
Dec06 Conyers Resigns Effectively Immediately
Dec06 God's Plan for Mike Pence
Dec06 Trump Will Move Forward on Jerusalem