Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump: I Believe Putin
      •  Moore Remains on the Hot Seat
      •  Let the Departures Resume
      •  GOP No Longer the Party of Environmentalism
      •  "America First" Means "America Alone"
      •  New Twitter Limit May Be Bad News for Trump
      •  How to Fix the Electoral College

Trump: I Believe Putin

President Donald Trump had a nice chat with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Saturday (Asian time). And afterward, The Donald told reporters that he really believes the Russians didn't meddle in the election, and that he's tired of asking Putin about it:

He said he didn't meddle. He said he didn't meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. Every time he sees me, he says, "I didn't do that." And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.

For any president, this would be a troubling thing to say. First, because a president who takes the leader of (possibly) America's biggest enemy at their word is being naive. Especially when that leader happens to be a former spy, and therefore—quite literally—a professional liar. The three presidents who had the most success in dealing with the Russians—JFK, Nixon, and Reagan—always made sure to negotiate while keeping their counterpart at arm's length. Beyond that, by coming out on the side of Putin, Trump is necessarily, and very publicly, taking sides against America's intelligence agencies, who unanimously say the Russians did interfere with the election. Not a good look for any chief executive.

There are also several ways in which this is specifically problematic when coming from Trump. He's certainly not doing a very good job of convincing the American people that he and the Russians were not collaborating during the election or, at very least, that his staff did not pick up a Russia-friendly vibe from him and decide to do a little freelancing. Further, Trump's Asia trip had been relatively successful (admittedly, by the fairly low standards that he's managed to set in his first year). Now, anything he accomplished is going to be washed away by this latest misstep. Finally, Trump ran for the presidency as the world's greatest negotiator, but every time he does battle with the pros—Putin, Xi Jinping, Angela Merkel, Shinzo Abe—he gets wrapped around their finger. At some point, one starts to wonder how he ever got the upper hand in any of his business dealings, since he appears to be so easily manipulated, and so unable to detect duplicity.

For all of these reasons, Trump was lambasted on Saturday for his remarks. Frequent Trump critic Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) remarks were particularly sharp:

President Trump today stated that he believed Vladimir Putin is being sincere when he denies Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and reiterated that he hopes to cooperate with Russia in Syria. There's nothing "America First" about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community. There's no "principled realism" in cooperating with Russia to prop up the murderous Assad regime, which remains the greatest obstacle to a political solution that would bring an end to the bloodshed in Syria. Vladimir Putin does not have America's interests at heart. To believe otherwise is not only naive but also places our national security at risk.

The Senator should probably not expect a White House Christmas card this year.

Trump, of course, does not like to be criticized, so he lashed out on Twitter, while attempting to shift the blame to all-purpose bugaboos Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the fake news:

Trump is undoubtedly the first U.S. president ever to smear his opponents as "haters," an insult generally reserved for the middle school playground.

Apparently, someone eventually persuaded the President that he'd really stepped in it, because he changed his mind late Saturday, and declared that, "I believe in our intel agencies." Which means that he has gone on the record twice in the span of 12 hours, asserting that Russia both did and did not interfere with the 2016 election. And they called John Kerry a flip-flopper. (Z)

Moore Remains on the Hot Seat

Ever since the Washington Post published allegations that Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore made unwanted sexual advances to an underage girl 40 years ago, he has dominated the news. That includes Saturday, when a former colleague told CNN that:

It was common knowledge that Roy Moore dated high school girls, everyone we knew thought it was weird. We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall...but you really wouldn't say anything to someone like that.

If this is a conspiracy, then there are certainly a large number of people involved in it. Still, conspiracy is about all Moore's got to work with, and so that's the drum that the former judge continues to beat. "My opponent is 11 points behind...This article is a prime example of fake news," he declared on Saturday. He also said that "investigations" into the accusers were underway, and that "revelations" would be provided in the next few days. Uh, huh. Sounds a lot like the "revelations" that Bill O'Reilly promised many months ago, but that still haven't seen the light of day.

As bad as the continued drip, drip, drip of new details is for Moore, though, he got considerably worse news on Saturday, namely that Alabama governor Kay Ivey is giving serious consideration to postponing the Senate election, something that the state constitution allows her to do. Officially, this is to give more time to "resolve the situation," but its real purpose would be to extend the time to the election to more than 76 days, which would reopen the window for Moore to drop out. Then, Ivey would ask Donald Trump (whose staff she has already contacted) to put the screws to Moore, figuring that Moore's supporters will not rebel if Trump "orchestrates" the move.

However, if Ivey changes the date, Moore could go to court arguing that some people have already cast absentee ballots and the state can't change the rules of the election while it is in progress. Just on legal grounds, he might win that one.

But even if the date is changed to March, the plan could still backfire. Suppose Trump sent out tweets asking Moore to drop out for the good of the Republican Party? Moore would shoot back with: "What has the Republican Party ever done for me?" It's a valid response, given that the Party spent millions of dollars opposing him in the primary. Then Trump could tweet that Moore needs to step aside to get a tax-cut bill though the Senate. Moore could respond that he, too, supports tax cuts.

In the end, Trump would have to bring out the big guns and make it clear that he thinks Moore is a scummy pervert. Moore could either say: "It takes one to know one" or just deny all the allegations. The net result might be that Moore stays in the race but is damaged enough by Trump that college-educated Republicans who work for NASA in Huntsville decide that just once they will vote for the Democrat (or write in someone or not vote). Ultimately, it comes down to convincing Moore to give up, but why should he?

Trump has one last option: appoint Moore to some other job. For example, he could fire Rex Tillerson and appoint Moore secretary of state. Or maybe a lifetime job as a federal judge (with permission to post the Ten Commandments in his courtroom). Would any of this work? Pretty hard to tell since everything depends on convincing one very stubborn man to change his mind.

These are intricate scenarios, but Alabama politics are pretty swampy, and would require Moore, Trump, and Ivey to all play their assigned roles. If the "reschedule and then get Moore to drop out" plan came to pass, it would actually be the second time this particular election has been rescheduled; the first time was occasioned by former governor Robert Bentley's own sex scandal. There must be something in the water in Alabama. (Z & V)

Let the Departures Resume

It's been more than a month since the White House celebrated "Firing Fridays," and lopped off the head of some high-ranking staffer. After the president returns from Asia, however, the "tradition" looks likely to make its return. It is widely expected that Deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn, who was brought to the White House by AG Jeff Sessions, will be transferred to the Commerce Department. This is widely understood to be the work of Chief of Staff John Kelly, who does not care for Dearborn or for Sessions.

The only real surprise here is that this is happening right now. The holidays are coming up, and it should be relatively easy to soldier on until the new year. Once we get to January, however, that is when the turnover will really speed up. On January 20, Trump's presidency will reach the one-year mark. Quite a few members of the administration have been treating that day as a "just hold on until then" goal; once we get there, it would not be surprising to see half a dozen key officials jump ship. (Z)

GOP No Longer the Party of Environmentalism

The environmental movement was created by a Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, and remained an aspect of the party's agenda for nearly 100 years, up through Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush. Not anymore, though. For example, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) is not a fan of the Endangered Species Act, and has said he "would love to invalidate" it. From his position as chair of the Natural Resources Committee, he's managed to send five bills to the floor of Congress that, if passed, would do just that.

On a similar note, there are four U.S. satellites monitoring the polar ice caps; one fairly new one, and three very old ones. Or, at least there were, until the fairly new one broke down. NASA did have a backup plan, a sea-ice probe that was being kept in storage in case of this particular eventuality. However, Congressional Republicans—who have been willing to take on $1.5 trillion in additional debt to fund their tax plan—suddenly re-discovered their inner cheapskate, and ordered the probe to be disassembled, so as to avoid paying the storage costs. Next time a Republican says "the jury is out" on climate change, it is worth keeping in mind that the party of Roosevelt is doing everything within its power to make sure the jury stays out. (Z)

"America First" Means "America Alone"

This week, right under President Donald Trump's nose as he toured Asia, the 11 non-U.S. signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership brought it back to life. The new deal is called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it does pretty much the same thing as the TPP, except without the United States' involvement

This development reflects three significant flaws with Trump's "America First" philosophy, namely:

  • It's a small world these days; isolationism ceased to be viable right around 1914.
  • No country will agree to a trade deal where only the U.S. benefits.
  • Economists overwhelmingly agree that trade deals like TPP provide a net benefit to all parties.

As with so many other issues, the President has painted himself into something of a corner. He can either bow to reality, which means backing off his oft-repeated campaign rhetoric about the TPP, NAFTA, and other trade deals. Or he can stick with the "America First" philosophy, and watch as the U.S. is increasingly frozen out of international discussions and agreements, more and more becoming "America Alone." (Z)

New Twitter Limit May Be Bad News for Trump

This week, Twitter doubled its 140-character limit for all users (except Chinese, Korean, and Japanese). Donald Trump has taken full advantage of the new limit, turning what would once have been two- or three-tweet missives into single messages. To take one recent example:

Now, compare that to a pre-280 tweet:

See the difference? Certainly, a number of people have noticed it, from psephologist Nate Silver to typography expert Brendan Griffiths: The double-length tweets are considerably less readable. It's still only a few days into the new limit, but the positive responses to Trump's tweets have dropped very noticeably, in some cases as much as 50%. It would certainly be ironic if, by doubling the President's character count, Twitter has actually halved his impact. (Z)

How to Fix the Electoral College

Edward B. Foley, who directs the election law program at the Ohio State University, makes a very interesting observation. It is well-known that Donald Trump did not win the popular vote, but considerably less attention has been paid to the fact that he claimed 101 electoral votes in states where more people voted against Trump than voted for him. Ergo, we have the double-whammy where the minority overruled the majority on the state level, then again on the national level. To the extent possible in a short article, Foley makes the case that this subverts the intention of the Founding Parents.

There are solutions available to this dilemma, but they face long odds. Amending the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College entirely would fix it, but is also never going to happen. The National Popular Vote Compact, wherein states would agree to give their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote, is more viable, but still has only 165 EVs worth of signatories. Foley advocates a third solution, one that is used in Ireland, India, Australia, and Maine, namely that states implement instant-runoff voting. Voters would rank the candidates, and once their first choice was eliminated, then their ballot would count on behalf of their second choice, so on and so forth, until one candidate claimed a majority. This idea has been around for a long time, and has gained little traction, so it seems unlikely to be adopted anytime soon. That said, it's probably still more viable than the other two options. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov11 Republicans End Joint Fundraising with Moore
Nov11 Moore Fundraises Off Controversy
Nov11 Excuses for Moore Are Pretty Flimsy
Nov11 New Poll Shows Moore and Jones Tied
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Nov11 If the Tax Bill Fails, Republican Donors Will Flee
Nov11 Senate Judiciary Committee Approves a Judge the ABA Says Is Not Qualified
Nov10 Senate Releases Its Tax Bill
Nov10 Roy Moore Is Accused of Sexually Assaulting a 14-Year-Old Girl When He Was 32
Nov10 Miller Meets Mueller
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Nov09 Cohn: Democrats Shouldn't Be Counting Their Chickens Quite Yet
Nov09 Election Day Brought Numerous Firsts to Many States
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