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

Allies Try to Warn Trump About Impeachment Risk

When it comes to being removed from office, who knows what is in Donald Trump's head? Maybe it would be a relief, since he could give up a job he does not seem to like, and could go out with guns (and tweets) blazing. Or, maybe he has convinced himself that he's bulletproof. After all, he did say that he could murder someone on Fifth Avenue and likely get away with it. On the other hand, perhaps he truly doesn't grasp the possibilities of what might happen. Reportedly, when Steve Bannon told Trump that the greatest threat to his presidency is the 25th Amendment, the President asked, "What's that?"

In any event, Trump's allies are apparently worried that options two and/or three might be the case, because they are trying to impress upon him how much of a threat a Democratic-controlled House would be. In such a scenario, the Democrats could launch investigations, issue subpoenas, torpedo legislation (not that Trump needs help with that), give Robert Mueller anything and everything he wants (limousine service with Beluga and champagne so you don't have to drive yourself to work—no problem!), and, yes, vote for articles of impeachment. It's also the case that the same allies are using these concerns to shake the Republican donor money tree, so we cannot be certain exactly how much of this is serious, and how much of it is to scare the money men.

The most useful thing Trump can theoretically do to save his party, given that his endorsements don't seem to help much, is to try and calm Steve Bannon down. If the Breitbart publisher goes through with his "war on the GOP establishment," that will divide the Republicans and play right into the Democrats' hands. The President appears to have grasped this, because on Monday he made a point of announcing how much he supports Bannon, but also how much he supports Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a.k.a. the most establishment Republican currently in office. Normally, one does not take both sides in a civil war, but Donald Trump rarely does what is normal.

It is very unlikely that The Donald will be able to smooth over this divide in the GOP. Bannon's power, reputation, and income all come from his being a bomb thrower; no person in the land is going to change that. Beyond that, a situation like this is completely beyond Trump's skill set. Even if we assume he's a brilliant businessman and negotiator (which seems more and more like a big assumption), there's no parallel in his career for something like this. If the VP of Trump Holdings and the VP of Trump Manufacturing loathed each other, Trump told them to work it out pronto, and then fired one or both if they did not do so. Or had someone else fire them, more probably. He's never had to be a diplomat or arbitrator, and there's no reason to think he will be able to perform those tasks now. (Z)

Trump Breaks Silence on Green Berets, Slams Obama

For reasons that remain unclear, President Trump has been noticeably silent—including on Twitter—about the four U.S. soldiers who perished in Niger a week ago. On Monday, however, he presented himself for questioning before the White House press corps, and was quickly interrogated about the matter. Apparently (and unwisely) failing to see that this was coming, Trump sputtered a little, and then said that he had written letters to the families of the fallen men, but hadn't yet sent them, and that he would be placing phone calls later this week.

Of course, Trump never does anything wrong. Clearly aware of the optics here, namely that he doesn't seem to care much about the four men, and that he's dragging his feet in doing anything, Trump promptly fell back on one of his favorite tactics: pointing the finger at his predecessor. "Other presidents did not call," he declared, "they would write letters, and some presidents didn't do anything." Translation "Even if I'm taking my time, I'm still doing way better than the heartless jerk before me." In view of his obvious implication, a reporter asked the President if he was saying that Barack Obama did nothing when soldiers died on his watch. "I don't know if he did," said The Donald. "I was told that he didn't often, and a lot of presidents don't. They write letters. I do, I do a combination of both."

Needless to say, this is not correct, and Obama staffers quickly came out of the woodwork to say so. Alyssa Mastromonaco, who served in the Obama White House, took to Twitter to declare, "That's a fu**ing lie. To say president obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA—he's a deranged animal." More measured, and more weighty, was the response from Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, who tweeted, "POTUS 43 & 44 and first ladies cared deeply, worked tirelessly for the serving, the fallen, and their families. Not politics. Sacred Trust."

Also of interest was the angry response from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. An outspoken liberal, and among the most respected men in the NBA, Popovich ripped the President, declaring that, "This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others." The response is interesting not because of the vitriol, but because it reminds us of a potentially interesting dynamic. When the administration tilts at the NFL, a fair number of league owners and players are sympathetic to Trump's views, and a large number of fans are. This is far less true with the NBA; the overlap between "Trump's base" and "NBA fans" is actually pretty small, and the overlap between "Trump's base" and "NBA players" is even smaller. So, if the President decides to engage with the league, he might find himself with opponents who are much more difficult to intimidate and browbeat. The basketball season gets underway soon; it could be interesting for reasons having nothing to do with The Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy. (Z)

Trump Campaign Subpoenaed By Sexual Harassment Accuser

With Harvey Weinstein's bad behavior all over the news, and his life left in ruins (he lost his job, wife, friends, company, and Academy membership, in that order), any other prominent man who has left himself exposed to harassment charges should be very nervous right now. That includes Donald Trump, whose list of accusers is strikingly similar to Weinstein's in terms of number of women involved and in terms of the complaints being made. In case the President had forgotten, Summer Zervos—the woman who is suing him for a sexual assault committed on the set of "The Apprentice"—has just subpoenaed the Trump campaign for any documents related to any accusations of sexual misconduct made against the President.

Since we know for certain that Trump has committed acts of sexual assault—he himself admitted it, in his infamous conversation with Billy Bush—the only actual question here is whether Zervos was one of his victims. But, of course, Trump never does anything wrong (see above), and never met a woman who did not desire to bed him immediately. So, at his confab with the press on Monday, he dismissed the claims being made against him:

All I can say is it's totally fake news. It's just fake. It's fake. It's made-up stuff, and it's disgraceful, what happens, but that happens in the—that happens in the world of politics

The old joke says that you can tell when a lawyer is lying because he's moving his lips. The Trump Corollary might be that you can tell when the president is lying because he uses 'fake' three times in the span of seven words. In any event, between sexual assault, and Trump University, and emoluments, and Russiagate, Trump is going to have to become the Baryshnikov of politics if he's going to dance his way out of all the lawsuits he's facing. (Z)

It's High Time to Get to Work on Opioids

It would seem that First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner has failed to solve America's opioid crisis, because Donald Trump is now preparing to issue a proclamation declaring opioid addiction to be a "national emergency." Why this comes more than a month after Trump promised such a statement was imminent, and exactly how this will help even one addict, are both excellent questions.

Of course, such a maneuver might be useful as a mandate for Trump's drug czar to roll up his sleeves and get to work. There are two problems, though. First, the President doesn't have a drug czar yet. Second, the man he's nominated for the post—Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA)—played a critical role in the passage of a law stripping the DEA's powers to keep opiates off the street. In other words, you might say that Marino is kind of the father of America's opioid crisis, though he probably won't be putting that on his resume. Trump says he will "look into" the matter; given the revelations about Marino, it's hard to see how his nomination survives. So, it looks like it's back to the drawing board for both the drugs and the drug czar.

Update:The pixels weren't even dry on this story and sure enough, Marino withdrew from consideration. (Z)

We're Moving Close to Open Season on Trump in the Senate

There is none so free as one who has nothing to lose. Given that John McCain (R-AZ) will not be standing for reelection again, in view of his age and his health problems, he doesn't particularly need to care what anyone thinks. So, in a speech on Monday night, he let loose with both barrels:

To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems, is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

There is no name mentioned in McCain's speech, so it's hard to know which scapegoating nationalist he might be thinking about. Maybe if we pull a Da Vinci code on the quote, we might be able to figure it out.

To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of inteRnational leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spUrious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve probleMs, is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the Past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

We might just have something here.

Meanwhile, McCain's partner in crime Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was asked about his pointed remarks from last week, and he said, "My thoughts were well thought out. Look, I didn't just blurt them out. My comments—my comments, I stand by them—yes." Corker seems to be implying that there are other politicians whose remarks are not well thought out, and who do blurt things; perhaps someone should follow up to ask if he was referring to anyone in particular.

In any event, Corker and McCain are the only two Republican senators who appear to have gone full rogue. But there's still a lot of time between now and November of 2018. Other GOP senators who decide to throw in the towel could certainly join them—Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is a distinct possibility. Even senators who are not retiring could simply decide they have no further need to hold their tongues, and could open fire. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who doesn't have to worry about re-election for five more years, and Susan Collins (R-ME) are possibilities. And of course, everyone knows that McCain plus Corker plus one more Senator is enough to derail almost anything they want to derail. So, if there's another rebel, things in the upper chamber could get very interesting. (Z)

North Korea Situation Appears Headed in the Wrong Direction

With the caveat that you can never be sure what Kim Jong-un is up to, developments on the North Korea front appear to have taken an unhappy turn. According to numerous sources, the North Koreans are no longer interested in talking, and will not be prepared to return to the bargaining table until they have developed a missile capable of reaching "all the way to the East coast of the mainland U.S."

Again, inasmuch as Kim is pretty inscrutable, nobody really knows what his game is. However, we will toss out three possibilities. First, Kim may have realized that this recent pissing contest was headed in a bad direction, and that he needed to cool things down and buy some time. If this is true, then yes, it would mean that the "cooler head" proved to be Kim Jong-un. Yikes. A second possibility is that Kim wants to negotiate from a position of strength, and that he thinks having the missile in question will allow him to do that. A third possibility that is being bandied about is that the Kim regime is buying time to see what happens with the Iran nuclear pact. Depending on the outcome there, it would theoretically provide useful information about how useful—or useless—it is to bargain with the Trump administration on nuclear weapons. Of the three, this is probably the best theory, but time will tell. (Z)

Today in Ill-Conceived Jokes

After a slow weekend, Donald Trump managed to stir up enough hornets' nests on Monday to bring himself back to par for the month. Besides the Obama slam, and the blithe dismissal of sexual assault allegations, and so forth, The New Yorker published a piece entitled, "The Danger of President Pence." It's not too flattering, as you might imagine. The portion that's dominating headlines, however, comes fairly near the end of the story. Making the point that Trump likes to needle Pence on occasion, so as to remind the Veep who's boss, the author describes a meeting including the two men and a prominent legal scholar who was writing about gay rights. "Don't ask that guy," Trump joked, pointing to Pence, "He wants to hang them all!"

It's hard to say what's more concerning here. Is it that the President thinks that is an appropriate joke (what if he made a similar "joke" about AG Jeff Sessions' proclivities)? Or is it that there's just a little too much truth in the line for it to be comfortable? Judging by the Twitter response, it's about 60-40 in favor of the former. In any event, while this will probably blow over for Trump—swept away by the raging river of other controversies in which he's enmeshed—it's another strike against Mike Pence's future presidential hopes. (Z)

Senators Approve Resolution Honoring Las Vegas Shooting Victims

Not long ago, there was a mass shooting in Las Vegas, which you might have heard about. It turns out that Congress has not forgotten about it—no, most certainly not. On Monday they adopted a resolution honoring the victims of the attack. This will, of course, do nothing to heal the injured or bring back the dead. It will have no impact in terms of preventing future tragedies. It's also hard to believe that it will provide solace to the victims or their families. So, we're pretty inclined to put this in the "useless" file.

That's not to say that every politician in America is doing nothing, however. To drum up interest in his campaign, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams is staging a contest where the prize is a bump stock, the same device used by the Las Vegas shooter to turn his semi-automatic weapons into, effectively, automatic weapons. In short, the NRA—quite predictably—appears to have won again. Like Rocky Marciano, they are the champs, and they are undefeated. (Z)

Brown Vetoes Tax Return Bill

Democrats across the nation did a little jig when the California legislature passed a bill requiring presidential candidates to release five years' worth of tax returns. They're not dancing any more, however, because Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed the measure on Monday. Brown's official reason for the veto was his fear of a slippery slope. He wondered:

Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?

It's a pretty good argument, and it may well be genuine. On the other hand, Brown has never released his own tax returns, and may also be motivated—in part or in whole—by a desire to give himself political cover.

It seems likely that another blue state, or maybe even a purple one, will take another stab at this eventually. And if it is Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), or Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), or Gov. Roy Hooper (D-NC), or Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) who is making the call next time, they may well be swayed by Brown's reasoning. On the other hand, they may not, particularly since "I'm the one who got Trump's tax returns" would be an awfully good line for an aspiring presidential candidate. Brown, at 79, is not that, but these other fellows may be. (Z)

Callista Gingrich Approved as Vatican Ambassador

Callista Gingrich has a number of qualifications needed to be ambassador to the Vatican City. Namely:

  • She is Catholic
  • She is married to a supporter of Donald Trump

Given this weighty resume, the Senate considered her nomination on Monday, and voted 70-23 to approve her appointment.

Gingrich, of course, is far from the first person to receive an ambassadorship for less than noble reasons. And the ambassadorship to the Holy See is mostly a ceremonial post; it is not like Pope Francis ever threatens to build nuclear weapons that can reach New York. However, if the Vicar of Christ ever asks Callista how she met her husband, she might want to change the subject. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct16 Guess Who Is Hit Hardest by Trump Ending Subsidies?
Oct16 Japan Losing Patience with Trump's Trade Policies
Oct16 Pence Draws Tiny Crowd
Oct16 Reconciliation Has Been a Disaster
Oct16 Emoluments Case Gets Underway
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Oct15 Bannon Struts
Oct15 Collins to Remain in the Senate
Oct15 Gillespie Keeps Trump at Arm's Length
Oct15 Government Wants to Keep Comey Memos Secret
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Oct14 Soldiers in Niger? What Soldiers in Niger?
Oct14 Team Trump Plotting Path to Re-election
Oct14 Will Democrats Repeat McGovern Debacle in 2020?
Oct14 Democrats Thinking Senate Majority in 2018
Oct13 Trump Starts Gutting Obamacare
Oct13 Trump Threatens to Cut Off Puerto Rico
Oct13 Trump Threatens NBC
Oct13 Gerson Eviscerates Trump
Oct13 Nielsen Nominated for Homeland Security
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Oct12 Skeletons Emerge From Moore's Closet
Oct12 Democrats Worried About Russian Hacking Redux in 2018
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Oct11 Pruitt Makes It Official
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Oct11 Page Will Plead the Fifth
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Oct11 Eminem Blasts Trump
Oct10 New E-mail about Russian Meeting Appears to Exonerate Team Trump
Oct10 Babysitting Donald Trump
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Oct09 Trump Picks Fight with Corker