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

Now the National Anthem Divides the Country; Motherhood and Apple Pie Are Next

One one hand, maybe Donald Trump has very good timing. He's likely to suffer some pretty big defeats this week—Obamacare repeal, the Alabama election (see below), etc. And he's also going to be introducing some controversial new initiatives—Muslim Travel Ban v3.0 (see below), a Dooh Nibor tax plan that robs from the poor to give to the rich. But what everyone is going to be talking about, at least for the next couple of days, is the NFL.

On the other hand, maybe Trump's timing isn't so good. He chose to take on America's most popular sports league, right in the midst of its season, and right as it was gearing up for the week's games. And, even more precisely, he chose one of the four weeks in which the NFL is playing a game in London. And so, the protests started early (9:30 a.m. EDT) and continued throughout the day (the last game kicked off at 8:30 p.m. EDT).

At that first game, which featured the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens, both teams got in on the act. More than a dozen current Ravens kneeled; they were joined by a few former players, notably former linebacker Ray Lewis. On the other sideline, the Jaguars linked arms during the national anthem, with team owner Shad Khan and several other non-athlete personnel joining them. The arm-linking was for those who wished to send a message of unity in opposition to Trump's attacks, without necessarily embracing the political message of the kneelers. Meanwhile, because the game was in England, the U.S. national anthem was followed by "God Save the Queen." Every player made a point of standing at attention, hand over heart, for that one—just in case anyone missed that they were trying to make a point with their actions during the U.S. anthem.

Needless to say, this did not please the President, and he was on Twitter very early to rant and rave about the situation:

All of this was before most Americans had sat down to breakfast.

That was not the end of it, though, as the protests continued throughout the day. By one count, over 200 players kneeled during the 14 games played on Sunday, about the same number sat. A considerably larger number linked arms; those demonstrations also frequently included owners, coaches and other support personnel. Three teams (the Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Tennessee Titans), along with a few scattered players from the other 12 games, chose to forego the national anthem altogether and to remain in their locker rooms until kickoff. CNN has a nice collection of photos that document the story.

Once their games were over, the players weren't shy about sharing their feelings about the President, either. "A lot of guys felt all over the place by the comments by the president Friday night. As a leader on this team a lot of guys came to me. They didn't know what to do. They were just kind of angry," said safety Devin McCourty of the Patriots. "Non-violent protest is as American as it gets. We knelt with them today and let them know we are a unified front. There is no dividing us. I guess we're all sons of b------," declared linebacker Terrell Suggs of the Ravens. "You're the leader of the free world, that's what you're talking about? As a man, as a father, as an African-American man, as somebody in the NFL who's one of those sons of b------, you know, yeah, I took it personally," explained safety Michael Thomas of the Dolphins. "I disagree with what the President said and how he said it. I think it's very unbecoming of the office of the President of the United States to talk like that, to degrade people like that," opined quarterback Drew Brees of the Saints. It's pretty clear that, like Hillary Clinton's "deplorables," Donald Trump's "sons of bitches" was a pretty poor word choice.

Now, Trump presumably doesn't much care what a bunch of wealthy, mostly black, athletes think. However, there were some responses on Sunday that surely must have given him pause. Tom Brady, whom Trump counts as a personal friend, surprised everyone by linking arms with his Patriots teammates. Former coach Rex Ryan, now a television analyst, launched into an extended rant against The Donald on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown":

I'm pissed off. I'll be honest with you. Because I supported Donald Trump. When he asked me to introduce him at a rally in Buffalo, I did that. But I'm reading these comments and it's appalling to me and I'm sure it's appalling to almost any citizen in our country. It should be. You know, calling our players SOBs and all that kind of stuff, that's not the men that I know. The men that I know in the locker room I'm proud of. I'm proud to be associated with those people. I apologize for being pissed off but guess what? That's it, because right away I'm associated with what Donald Trump stands for and all that because I introduced him. I never signed up for that, I never wanted that.

Even more worrisome for the President was the response of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration. Kraft put out a statement late Sunday morning:

I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday. I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger. There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics. I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.

This was issued in Kraft's name, not the name of the team, which is quite unusual for releases of this sort, and suggests that the owner wanted to communicate a particularly clear message to Trump.

Eventually, Trump appeared to sense that he'd bitten off a bit more than he could chew, and he started to go into damage control mode. He insisted to reporters that this whole issue has, "nothing to do with race," a statement that is either very dishonest, very naive, very dumb, or some combination of the above. He also issued forth with this tweet:

Of course, it is remarkably arrogant for anybody, even the President of the United States, to presume to pass judgment on what is and what is not an acceptable form of demonstration. But this is also Jedi-master-level spin, something we might expect to see from a 30-year political veteran like Harry Reid or John Boehner, not from a relative novice like Trump. What the president is doing, of course, is decreeing that a gesture clearly meant to send a message in opposition to him is in fact a demonstration of patriotism, and thus implicitly a show of support for him. If the base buys it, and presumably they will, then Operation Damage Control was successful.

It will be interesting to see what happens next. Will Trump drop it, or will he spend the next three days blasting the kneelers on Twitter? Will the players continue to demonstrate en masse, or is this a one-week phenomenon? The best guess here is that this fight has legs, and will linger throughout the NFL season. It's also worth noting that the business of football players being expected to take the field for the national anthem dates back only to 2009, and was likely part of a larger initiative by the Bush era Dept. of Defense to use sporting events to promote patriotism in the face of two ongoing wars (a campaign for which the sports leagues were paid handsomely by the DoD). In baseball, the playing of the national anthem goes back further, but that tradition also began as part of an effort to promote American war efforts (in this case, World Wars I and II). So, anyone who says that these pre-game patriotic displays were non-political until that uppity Colin Kaepernick and his friends made them so is not in possession of all the facts. (Z)

Muslim Travel Ban v3.0 Is Announced

Muslim Travel Ban v2.0 largely expired Sunday, and so—as expected—the Trump administration promulgated Travel Ban v3.0 late in the afternoon. It applies to eight different countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. In an effort to avoid the errors made in the first two travel bans, Travel Ban v3.0 does things a little differently:

  • The ban will not be implemented immediately, to give federal departments time to adjust and to ask questions. The "effective date" will be Oct. 18.

  • Travelers from the different countries will be subject to different sets of standards. For example, North Koreans will essentially have no way to enter the United States. For Iranians, it will only be students, and only then with "extra vetting." Venezuelans probably have the easiest path in, on the whole, though if the new ban is fully implemented, travel from all eight countries will be reduced to a trickle.

  • Fully two of the eight countries (25%!) are not majority-Muslim, so the ban couldn't possibly be targeted at Muslims, could it?

  • Anyone with an existing visa or green card will not be subject to the new ban.

The first questions that might be asked are: Why these eight? And a different list from the original one, with Iraq and Sudan dropping off, and Chad, Venezuela, and North Korea joining? There are a few obvious answers to these questions. North Korea and Venezuela are easy—they are there because Trump really hates them, and their presence makes it possible to argue that it's not just Muslim countries that are being targeted. Trump really hates Iran and Syria as well, and both countries actually are hostile to the U.S., so that's why they are on. Meanwhile, Iraq was dropped because they are something of an ally, and their inclusion in the first two bans was protested loudly on both sides of the Atlantic.

The removal of Sudan, by contrast, is rather a mystery. A major justification for the new travel ban is that it's being targeted at countries that do not do a good job of vetting people who depart for trips abroad. With that argument in mind, the inclusion of Chad, Somalia, and Yemen makes some amount of sense, since they have three of the most ineffective governments in the world. But so does Sudan, so why do they skate this time, when other countries at the top (or bottom?) of the list do not? To put a finer point on it, why are visitors from "most fragile" governments #2 (Somalia), #4 (Yemen), #6 (Syria), and #8 (Chad) banned, but those from #1 (South Sudan), #3 (Central African Republic), #5 (Sudan), and #7 (Democratic Republic of the Congo) are not? It's true that there's nasty stuff going on in Somalia (piracy, civil war), Yemen and Syria (civil wars), and Chad (Boko Haram), but if that's the standard, then why not Niger and Cameroon (also Boko Haram), or Nigeria (Boko Haram and civil war), or Afghanistan (Al-Qaeda and civil war), or Central African Republic (civil war)? Of course, if the real goal is to stop terrorists, then why isn't Saudi Arabia—home of the great majority of the 9/11 attackers—on the list?

The Trump administration is going to need to come up with answers to these questions, because the lawsuits are already being prepared. Even if the new ban is somewhat more reasonable than the first two, it doesn't mean that it actually will do what it's supposed to, namely make Americans safer. After all, the number of people (much less terrorists) who have traveled from Chad or Yemen to the U.S. in the last year could be counted on the fingers of Trump's cabinet. Further, while the inclusion of North Korea and Venezuela kind of makes this the semi-Muslim Travel Ban v3.0, the courts are going to know about the first two, and are going to use that information as a clue to the purposes of this one. So, The Donald is still a long way from the win he wants so badly. (Z)

Cruz Doesn't Support the Latest Health-Care Bill

The most recent attempt by the Senate Republicans to repeal the ACA, the Cassidy-Graham-Heller-Johnson (CGHJ) bill, was already pretty much dead, but now it is even more dead. The GOP can afford only two defections and Sens. John McCain (AZ) and Rand Paul (KY) are officially against it. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) didn't support the repeal efforts back when Barack Obama was president and she knew there was no chance that they would become law. Although she is not officially a "no," it is almost inconceivable that she would vote "yes" when it could pass and be signed by the president. Nevertheless, the bill's chances got even worse yesterday when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said the bill didn't have his vote, and probably not that of Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), either. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AZ) is being offered boatloads of goodies for Alaska, but she is probably a "no" vote regardless.

The only chance the bill has at this point is for it to be rewritten very fast, as the deadline is Sept. 30. Oops. Yesterday a new version was released. However, the new version is the same as the old version except that it funnels more money into Maine and Arizona, home to states of some key recalcitrant senators, probably to no avail. It is very unlikely to corral McCain (who objects to the process), Paul and Cruz (who think it is not conservative enough), and Collins and Murkowski (who think it is too punitive). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last week that he would hold a vote before Sept. 30, but if it is clear that the bill will fail, he probably will cancel the vote. At this point it is do or die for the bill. (V)

Bannon Is Still Ahead of Trump

Well, technically neither Steve Bannon nor Donald Trump is on the Alabama Republican primary runoff ballot tomorrow, but they might as well be. Bannon has gone all out to support former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore while Donald Trump (as well as the rest of the Republican establishment) is pouring money and effort into the election of Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL). A new poll just out from Optimus has Moore at 55.4% and Strange at 44.6%. The poll was taken Friday and Saturday, mostly after Trump went to Alabama to campaign for Strange. What is especially alarming for the Trump and Mitch McConnell is that 86% of Republican primary voters know that Trump strongly supports Strange—but support Moore anyway.

A Moore victory, especially a double-digit one, will have profound implications going down the road, including these:

  • Republican senators and representatives will know that Trump is a paper tiger and won't fear his wrath
  • Moore won't take orders from McConnell, making getting laws passed much harder
  • The Democrat, a blue-collar white man, Doug Jones, has a small chance to beat Moore in the December general election

In short, we have the ironic situation of the Democrats quietly hoping for an extreme right-wing candidate to win in a very red state. What Nancy Pelosi ought to do today is come out with a big endorsement of Strange, saying he is the kind of person she and Chuck Schumer can work with. That would seal Moore's victory. (V)

Democrats Will Spend $15 Million to Elect State Attorneys General

One way Democrats are fighting the Trump administration is to have Democratic attorneys general sue the federal government. So far, these suits have targeted the border wall, the travel bans, the rollback of environmental regulations, and Donald Trump's business dealings. For the Democrats, this is one of the few ways they can try to block Trump, so they are going to spend up to $15 million to elect more Democratic attorneys general. Top targets in 2018 are Ohio, Wisconsin, and Nevada. If a Democratic wave starts to build next year, they will also go after tougher states.

In addition to the money, the Democratic Attorneys General Association is looking around the country for strong candidates in states like Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Florida. It is also schooling new candidates in how to run, including aspects like dealing with the media and polling. One of the group's goals is to have 50% of the attorneys general in 2022 be women. (V)

Kushner Used Private Email for Official Government Business

The biggest line of attack Republicans leveled on Hillary Clinton during the campaign was her use of a private email server for official business. She isn't the only one, it would seem. As we pointed out last week, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is vice chairman of Donald Trump's election-fraud commission, has used Gmail for commission work. Now Politico is reporting that First son-in-law Jared Kushner is also using a private email server for official business. From Kushner's point of view, the advantage of using a private email server is that nosy reporters cannot get copies of his email using the Freedom of Information Act.

It is not known why Kushner set up a private account or with whom he might be communicating, but his penchant for secrecy is well known. In Dec. he asked the Russian ambassador to set up a secure hotline to Moscow. He could have asked the CIA for a hotline, of course, but then the CIA would have had access to his emails, but apparently he had things to say to the Russians that he did not want the CIA to know about. Whether his use of a private account is intended to lock out not only nosy reporters, but also the CIA, is not known. Whatever Kushner's up to, it will be rather harder for Trump to go after "Crooked Hillary's" e-mail server any more. (V)

Opinion of the Republican Party Hits All-Time Low

Neither of the major political parties is popular, but the Republicans have hit an all-time low, with only 29% of Americans saying they approve of the party, while 62% have an unfavorable view of it. An astounding 1% have never even heard of it. For the Democrats, 41% hold favorable views and 51% hold unfavorable views. With the Republicans at -33 and the Democrats at -10, that is a 23-point advantage for the Democrats.

Not surprisingly, the congressional leaders aren't wildly popular, either. Here are the results:

Politician Favorable Unfavorable Net approval Never heard of No opinion
Chuck Schumer (D) 28% 35% -7% 22% 14%
Paul Ryan (R) 32% 51% -19% 8% 8%
Nancy Pelosi (D) 29% 50% -21% 11% 9%
Mitch McConnell (R) 20% 49% -29% 17% 13%

What strikes us as more amazing than the horrible numbers for all of them, is that 17% have never even heard of McConnell. Only political junkies know that his real name isn't Mitch or Mitchell, but Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr.. Nevertheless, he has been the Republican leader in the Senate for over a decade and is in the news constantly. Apparently, a lot of people simply don't pay any attention to the news at all. (V)

Merkel Re-elected as German Chancellor

Germans went to the polls on Sunday, and awarded Chancellor Angela Merkel a fourth term (once she puts together a governing coalition). If she finishes it out, she'll tie Helmut Kohl for the honor of being longest-serving leader of that nation since World War II.

That said, not everything was sunshine and rainbows for the Chancellor on Sunday. To start, her party CDU/CSU lost close to 100 seats in the Bundestag. So too did the center-left SPD, which had been part of Merkel's governing coalition, but will be no longer. This is effectively going to compel Merkel to join with the libertarian FDP and left-wing Greens in what people are calling the "Jamaica coalition," because the colors of the three parties are black, yellow, and green, like the Jamaican flag.

For Americans, what are the takeaways here? Well, there are probably two. Merkel is no fan of Donald Trump. The other two members of the Jamaica coalition are also outspokenly anti-Trump, so the odds are pretty high that the already chilly relationship between the U.S. and Germany gets worse. The other takeaway involves the far-right, anti-immigrant AfD party, which picked up 88 seats on Sunday after winning zero in 2013. Clearly, there is a populist, xenophobic revolt afoot in the West, with some countries embracing it (the U.S. and Trump, Britain and the Brexit), others going partway (Germany), and still others turning away from it (The Netherlands and Geert Wilders, France and Marine Le Pen). This is going to be a big story, maybe the big story, in international politics for at least the rest of the decade. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep24 It's Trump vs. the NFL, NBA, and MLB
Sep24 Trump Continues War of Words with Kim
Sep24 What About Puerto Rico?
Sep24 Details of Trump's Tax Plan Leak Out
Sep24 Republicans Still Working on Obamacare Repeal
Sep24 Trump Hedges His Bets With Strange
Sep24 This Could Be Awkward
Sep23 McCain: No
Sep23 Trump Seems to Be Running out of Tricks
Sep23 New Poll Shows Strange Sinking
Sep23 GOP Donors Are Furious at the Lack of Results
Sep23 Muslim Travel Ban v3.0 Is Coming Soon
Sep23 Russians Targeted 21 States in 2016
Sep23 Many White House Staffers Planning to Leave in January
Sep23 Sports and Politics Collide
Sep22 Insurance Industry Strongly Opposes Health-Care Bill
Sep22 Republicans Making Progress on Tax Cuts
Sep22 Trump's Bodyguard Knew about Felix Sater
Sep22 Facebook Will Give Russian Ads to Congress
Sep22 Judge Wants DACA Cases to Move Quickly
Sep22 The Swamp Is Thriving
Sep22 Trump Not So Great With Geography
Sep22 Alabama Senate Candidates Debate
Sep21 Many States Will Lose Federal Funds under the Latest Health-Care Bill
Sep21 Obama Unhappy About Newest Obamacare Replacement
Sep21 RNC Is Paying Trump's Lawyers
Sep21 Trump Is Rising in the Polls
Sep21 Manafort May Have Offered Private Briefings to Russian Oligarch
Sep21 North Korea Responds to Trump's Address
Sep21 Melania Trump Debuts at U.N.
Sep21 Bharara Talks About His Firing
Sep20 Trump Threatens to Totally Destroy North Korea
Sep20 Senate Cancels Private Interview with Trump's Lawyer
Sep20 Ryan Is Opposed to Fixing the ACA
Sep20 Kobach Is Using a Personal Email Account
Sep20 Senate Confirms Trump's Pick for Solicitor General
Sep20 Trump Slams the Emmys
Sep19 Murray and Alexander Are the Key Players in the Obamacare Repeal Bill
Sep19 Manafort Is in Deep Trouble
Sep19 What Is Mueller Really Up to?
Sep19 Trump Wants Military Parade on Fourth of July
Sep19 Clinton Won't Rule Out Challenging the Legitimacy of Trump's Victory
Sep19 Democrats Fear that Relitigating the Primary Will Hurt Them in 2020
Sep19 Did Moore Have a "Macaca" Moment?
Sep19 Menendez Trial Proceeding at a Snail's Pace
Sep18 Trump Voters Want Him to Tell U.N.: America Comes First
Sep18 A New Travel Ban Is Likely Coming
Sep18 So Much for Trump's Twitter Discipline
Sep18 Trump's Lawyers Aren't Getting Along
Sep18 The Customer Base of Trump's Businesses Is Changing