Dem 48
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GOP 52
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump to "Decertify" Iran Deal
      •  Republicans Scrambling on Gun Control
      •  GOP's Money Spigot Is Drying Up
      •  Trump May Kill DACA Deal
      •  Trump Wants Senate to Investigate "Fake News"
      •  Trump Is Shaping the National Conversation
      •  Nobel Peace Prize Will Be Announced Today

Trump to "Decertify" Iran Deal

The manner in which Donald Trump campaigned was successful, inasmuch as it netted him the White House (albeit by the barest of margins). However, he was willing to do what Hillary Clinton wasn't, and to write checks with his mouth that he could not cash. Now that he's in power, he's dealing with all sorts of corners that he painted himself into with his campaign rhetoric. The latest one to come to the fore is the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump's problem, as regards this particular pact, is that he slammed it up, down, and sideways on the campaign trail, regularly using verbiage like "worst deal ever." He knew little about the subject at the time; this was just a convenient way to attack Barack Obama and to mix in a little Islamophobia at the same time. Now that he sits at the desk where the buck supposedly stops, however, Trump has developed an awareness of the other side of the question. Since the United States has already fulfilled its part of the deal (cash considerations, mostly), pulling out would just be throwing that money down the drain. Further, whatever the weaknesses of the deal might be, at least it's something. The last thing Trump needs is another hostile nation threatening to build and maybe launch nuclear devices.

The President, then, is in a lose-lose situation. Harry S. Truman declared that if you can't stand the heat, you should get out of the kitchen, but Trump prefers a different approach. As he has done on so many other issues, like Obamacare and DACA, he will pass the buck to Congress. On Tuesday, he is expected to "decertify" the treaty. This effectively sends the pact to Congress, so they can decide what to do.

Presumably, Trump thinks he's successfully threading the needle here; giving a "thumbs down" of sorts (so he can claim he "killed" the pact), but not actually killing it. However, it's kind of a cowardly approach, and one that pretty clearly abrogates his Constitutional responsibilities to take the lead in diplomacy (and specifically treaty negotiation). Further, the members of Congress don't want this hot potato any more than the president does; they know what a lose-lose situation looks like when they see it. So, this is going to aggravate them, and is going to introduce great uncertainty into the matter, since the dueling factions in Congress could produce any outcome. For all of these reasons, several members of Trump's inner circle, particularly NSA H.R. McMaster, are reportedly opposed to his approach. But this kind of thing is part of their job, at least in this White House. Perhaps the President should take a cue from Truman and get a sign for his desk that says, "The buck stops here, but only briefly." (Z)

Republicans Scrambling on Gun Control

The shootings in Las Vegas have put the GOP in a little bit of a bind. Since the Party controls the federal government right now, there is quite a bit of pressure on them to do something to prevent another tragedy. Making things particularly touchy is that the shooter used "bump stocks" to turn semi-automatic weapons into weapons that were, in effect, fully automatic. Given that fully automatic guns are very strictly regulated, the bump stocks are, quite obviously, a means of doing an end run around the rules. And even if they were not, no compelling argument has been put forward as to why private citizens would ever need to fire hundreds of rounds per minute.

In view of all of this, bump stocks have become a bit of a headache for the GOP. Despite the fact that Democrat Dianne Feinstein first proposed banning this particular piece of equipment in 2013, some members of the GOP—like Kellyanne Conway—are actually trying to make the argument that it is the fault of Democrats in general, and Barack Obama in particular, that the sale of bump stocks is still legal. Thanks, Obama. Other Republicans have cautiously suggested they might be open to a ban on the accessory. This includes Speaker Paul Ryan (WI) and Sens. John Cornyn (TX), Chuck Grassley (IA), Lindsey Graham (SC), Orrin G. Hatch (UT), and Marco Rubio (FL) among others.

The problem for the GOP is that imposing any limit on guns, no matter how sensible or how few people will be affected, is a move fraught with peril. The New York Times has put together a series of charts that document the things that divide Americans when they cast their votes: race, religion, education level, union membership, and so forth. Nothing divides the people as cleanly as gun ownership:

Clinton voters and guns; Trump voters and guns

It's really quite staggering; any Republican who looks at a map like that knows that the Party could be punished in every single state if they run afoul of the Second Amendment advocates. The NRA, which is the nation's second largest lobby (behind the AARP) would be none too happy either. The organization is feeling the heat right now, given what happened in Las Vegas, and so has given "support" for banning bump stocks. However, their statement actually says they want the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to "review" the matter. That's not the same thing as calling for a ban, and on top of that, the NRA knows it has ATF wrapped around its little finger. They most certainly do not want Congress to take up the matter. Even clearer on that point is the second-largest gun lobby, the 1.5-million member strong Gun Owners of America:

Also underscoring this point is the fact that gun sellers across America report that sales of bump stocks are way up since the shootings. So, there is no guarantee that Congressional Republicans (or Donald Trump) will find the political will to move forward with a ban. One can already imagine the headlines on Breitbart: "Republicans can't repeal Obamacare or reform taxes, but can gut the Second Amendment." On the other hand, if the GOP doesn't do anything, then there will be blood on their hands the next time a mass shooting occurs, particularly if the shooter takes note of what happened on Sunday and decides to acquire a few bump stocks of his own. Controlling the entire government isn't as easy as it seems. (Z)

GOP's Money Spigot Is Drying Up

The money men (and women) who foot the bills for the Republican Party care little for the various distractions that engross the attention of Donald Trump & Co. They're not paying for tweets about NFL players, or complaints about "fake news," or verbal sparring with Kim Jong-un, or bickering about a border wall. When they write checks, they are looking for concrete policy changes and the passage of specific legislation, particularly in the areas of business regulation and tax rates. Thus far, despite its control of both Congress and the White House, the GOP has not delivered. As a consequence, the checkbooks are being snapped shut.

Thomas Wachtell, a wealthy oil and gas tycoon who has given large amounts of cash to the Party, is representative. He was recently at a donor dinner where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was the headliner. With the Speaker there to vent upon, Wachtell went into a lengthy harangue about the lack of progress. "Anybody who was there knew that I was not happy. And I don't think anybody was happy. How could you be?" he said, noting that he has ceased donating to Senate Republicans as long as nothing is getting done. "You're never going to get a more sympathetic Republican than I am. But I'm sick and tired of nothing happening."

Last year, Donald Trump proved that money isn't everything in politics when you have Twitter at your disposal. But he may well be sui generis in that regard. GOP leadership undoubtedly senses that a Democratic wave is building, and knows that control of the House could well be at risk (and maybe even control of the Senate). If the Party runs short on funds, particularly as Democrats are giving generously, they could have great difficulty defending their position. The question is: What can Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell do? They've already tried desperation techniques, like voting on legislation after days or hours of consideration rather than months. They've deployed parliamentary tricks, like using budget reconciliation. It's getting to the point that they need "wins" almost as badly as Donald Trump does. But if they've already moved on to Plans B, C, D, and E, and failed, what's left? Do they have a plan F and G? It's hard to imagine what other maneuvers the Speaker and the Majority Leader might have up their sleeves. And the clock is ticking; once they get back from the winter recess, midterm election season will be getting underway in earnest. (Z)

Trump May Kill DACA Deal

When DACA was in the headlines a couple of weeks ago, the denouement appeared to be that the Dreamers would be protected, as the Democrats wanted, and in exchange the blue team would agree to stricter border security. All that remained, ostensibly, was to iron out the details. After that news broke, however, Donald Trump was pilloried by his own Party, some of whom felt he had been outmaneuvered by the Democratic leadership, others who felt he was selling out his anti-immigrant base.

The time has come to "iron out the details," and it appears that Trump is having second thoughts. Technically, he has followed through on his agreement, but he has assigned Senior Adviser Stephen Miller to be his representative in negotiations with the Democrats. The ultra-right Miller is as anti-immigrant as anyone in the administration, to the point that some describe him as "fanatical" (and others, less charitably, call him a "white supremacist"). At very least, Miller is likely to demand concessions beyond what Trump already agreed to. More probable is that he is going to pursue his pet project of slashing legal immigration in half. That would be a nonstarter for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Congressional Democrats. So, the whole thing could collapse. Which, at this point, might very well be what Trump wants. (Z)

Trump Wants Senate to Investigate "Fake News"

One wonders which number is lower: The number of Commandments that Donald Trump observes, or the number of Amendments in the Bill of Rights that he actually values. Both totals could probably be counted with the fingers on one hand. In any event, the President renewed his assaults on the First Amendment on Thursday, with particular attention to the part about abridging the freedom of the press:

This was accompanied by a tweet complaining about Wednesday's Rex Tillerson story, which Trump said could not be true because there was, "No verification from me." If the standard for reporting negative news items about the President of the United States is confirmation from POTUS himself, then the Washington Post and New York Times can just close up shop right now. Those without Ph.D. degrees in history or political science may not be aware of this, but the 44 men who have served as president have been known to fudge the truth from time to time.

Trump has never offered any evidence for his claims, because that evidence does not exist. Further, he does not have any expectation that Congress will actually investigate the press. Which leaves us to guess as to what is really going on here. Three possibilities immediately present themselves: (1) He's cranky, and this is how he vents; (2) He's trying to create a distraction, perhaps from unpleasant news about guns, or Iran, or DACA; or (3) He makes a point of reiterating the "fake news" bit about once a week, so his base doesn't forget. It's likely one (or more) of these, though only The Donald knows for sure. (Z)

Trump Is Shaping the National Conversation

According to the annual survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Donald Trump is having an impact on the issues that Americans care most about. In particular, there has been a dramatic upswing in the number of people who think that immigration and trade policy are very important political issues. That is the good news for him.

Now, the bad news. Most of the uptick in interest is coming from people who oppose his ideas about trade and immigration. In the last year, for example, the number of Democrats who see immigration as "a threat" has dropped by 7%, among independents it's 5%, and among Republicans it's a remarkable 6%. This isn't the kind of trendline that will persuade the members of Congress to pay for building a wall. Support for international trade has shifted even more dramatically, by as much as 17% on some issues ("trade leads to job creation"). Every day, then, it's getting harder for Trump to Make America Great Again. At least, the version of great that he envisions. (Z)

Nobel Peace Prize Will Be Announced Today

Early Friday, the name(s) of the newest Nobel laureate(s) in Peace will be announced. Normally, this would not be a story relevant to American politics, but these aren't normal times. Donald Trump is on the minds of just about everyone these days, and that includes the folks who award the Nobels.

One possibility is that Trump himself will be the winner. After all, some unknown person—rumored to be a GOP senator—has nominated him for, "his vigorous peace through strength ideology, used as a threat weapon of deterrence against radical Islam, ISIS, nuclear Iran and Communist China." A Trump win is about as likely, however, as the members of Congress deciding they're just not interested in the NRA's money any more. Considerably more probable is that the Prize is used to rebuke Trump. This could be subtle; a recognition of peace activists in Syria (The White Helmets), or of European leaders who don't see eye-to-eye with the President (Pope Francis, Angela Merkel), or of an organization that stands opposed to Trump's militarism and fondness for more guns and bombs (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, United States Institute of Peace). It could also be considerably more overt; some think the American Civil Liberties Union could be recognized for their anti-Trump activities, others think that Mohammad Javad Zarif and Federica Mogherini might win for brokering the Iran nuclear deal. The latter would be a particularly clear message, given Trump's waffling on the pact, and the expected announcement of his plan to decertify next Tuesday (see above). (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct05 Senate Panel: Russia Meddled in the Election
Oct05 Cabinet Dysfunction Goes Public
Oct05 Trump Is Losing the Senate
Oct05 Trump Speaks, Wall Street Freaks, White House Dekes
Oct05 Report: Mueller Is Looking at the Steele Dossier
Oct05 Arpaio Pardon Sustained
Oct05 Rep. Tim Murphy to Retire
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Oct04 Bannon Fires a Gunshot Across Trump's Bow
Oct04 Pence's Chief of Staff Wants to Purge anti-Trump Republicans
Oct04 Collins to Reveal Future Plans Next Week
Oct04 Murphy Holds Double-Digit Lead over Guadagno in New Jersey
Oct04 Kushner Apparently Likes to Make Bad Situations Worse
Oct03 Las Vegas Attacked; Nothing Will Change
Oct03 Facebook Is Scrambling
Oct03 More Contacts between Trump's Associates and Russians Revealed
Oct03 Ivanka and Jared in More Hot Water
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Oct03 Trump Backs Limit on Abortion after 20 Weeks
Oct02 Trump Cuts Tillerson Off at the Knees
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