• GOP May Go Budgetless in 2018
• Trump Won't Go to London: Thanks, Obama
• How Are Trump's Lawyers Preparing Him for an Interview with Mueller?
• Trump Answers the Call of Duty
• It's Going to Get a Little Easier for the U.S. to Nuke Someone
• Republicans Are Starting to Fear Loss of the House
• Trump Is Slowly Losing Blue-Collar Whites
• Trump Wins Among the Robots
• Kevin Cramer Won't Challenge Heitkamp in North Dakota
• New Quinnipiac University Poll is Bad News for Republicans
• A Rising Star Falls
Yesterday President Donald Trump balked at an immigration deal and put reporters and editors all over the country on the spot. The problem was not that they were surprised he doesn't like immigrants. They knew that. The problem was whether what he actually said was printable. So, here we go. What he actually asked rhetorically was whether the U.S. should accept people from "shithole countries" rather than from places like Norway. Some publications quoted him directly, without euphemisms, including the New York Times the Washington Post, and CNN. But more classy outfits, like The Hill, referred to them as "s---hole countries." Perhaps The Hill has more children reading it than the others, although any child reading about the inside baseball of national politics is probably fairly precocious. CBS News went for the more elegant "sh*thole countries." Other outlets, like Bloomberg News avoided a direct quote altogether.
The White House is not denying the President's words and, on some level, is kind of bragging about them. Implicit here is that despite the wording, Trump was actually using euphemisms. What he clearly meant was: "We should take in more white people, not brown or black people." But even Trump realizes that dog whistles are better here. One spokesperson told CNN that, "The President's 'shithole' remark is being received much differently inside of the White House than it is outside of it. Though this might enrage Washington, staffers predict the comment will resonate with his base, much like his attacks on NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem did not alienate it." In other words, another bigly win for The Donald.
The comment came in a meeting with a bipartisan gang of senators led by Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), in which they proposed a deal on the dreamers. The nature of the deal was that the dreamers would not be deported and would get work permits. After 10-12 years they could apply for citizenship. In return for accepting these conditions, Trump would get almost $3 billion for border security and a permanent prohibition on the dreamers' sponsoring their parents for green cards. Trump made it clear that he was not buying the deal at all. If Democrats insist on a deal for dreamers as a condition for their votes on the budget and Trump says no, the government could shut down on Jan. 19. (V)
As the fight over the budget continues, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is seriously pondering an option that many in the GOP think should be un-ponderable: Not adopting a budget for 2018 at all. Faced with the need for at least nine Democratic votes, and an unruly GOP caucus, McConnell thinks he may not have the votes for...well, any budget. So Congress could set spending levels for the year, without decreeing where the money should go, and then leave it at that.
The reason that may Republicans are howling is that such a plan has some pretty clear downsides. First, it would be hugely embarrassing for the Party if they control both chambers, and yet can't do something so simple as pass a budget. Beyond that, no budget means no imposition of GOP priorities in 2018—no slashing entitlements, for example—and therefore another year in which little of the Party's agenda gets accomplished. And finally, without a budget passed by both chambers of Congress, reconciliation is off the table. That option is available once a year, at most, and would theoretically come available again in October, potentially allowing Republicans one more opportunity to ram something through with just 51 votes in the Senate, as they did with the tax bill. With no budget, there can be no reconciliation, which could very well kill the GOP's last chance to do something big before they lose control of the House (and/or Senate). Such a possibility was described by one member of Congress as "legislative malpractice," but unless McConnell is just posturing to send a message to his caucus, then the fact that he's seriously considering it shows just how divided and unmanageable the Senate has become. (Z)
Late Thursday night, Donald Trump took to Twitter to advise that he will not be traveling to London as planned. The fault, of course, is Barack Obama's:
Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for “peanuts,” only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
This clearly does not pass the smell test. The status of the embassy has not changed since Trump first made travel plans, so this is not some sort of "new" reason to cancel. Further, it's not going to change in the future, so if he ever travels to the city, he's going to face the same "problem." And once a few more details are added to the picture, it becomes clear that Trump is—brace yourself—making things up that have no basis in reality. In fact, the process of transitioning into a new, more secure embassy was made in 2008, while George W. Bush was president. And the costs of the new building were covered entirely by the sale of several U.S. assets in the city; the net cost to the government is zero. Perhaps Trump would grasp that more clearly if the U.S. government had begun construction, then promptly declared bankruptcy.
In any case, what is the real reason for Trump's change of plans? He doesn't like to travel, of course, which probably plays a small role, but the main issue must be that he doesn't want to deal with the massive protests that would be sure to greet him in London. A lot of Brits don't like him in general, and his slams on the city and on mayor Sadiq Khan after the London Bridge attacks in September have heightened their disdain. Khan has already come out and offered his opinion that this is exactly why Trump is staying away and that he is glad the President isn't coming.
Of course, if Trump's future travel itinerary is going to be dictated by the fear of angry crowds, then he's not going to be traveling to many places besides Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago. Which, in truth, he's probably OK with. (Z)
Although Donald Trump's allies are urging him not to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller, his lawyers realize that Mueller can force the issue by issuing a subpoena for him to appear before a grand jury—alone. They are surely working on plans to prepare him for the inevitable. Politico has a piece on what his lawyers are likely to do to prepare him. To start with, they have to admit he is not Hillary Clinton. She testified for 11 hours before a House Committee investigating Benghazi and was on top of her game, citing facts, events, and documents, hour after hour from memory. Trump's lawyers know it would be foolish to try to train Trump do that, especially in front of a dream team of prosecutors, the likes of which he has never seen before.
They can try to refresh his memory about subjects that are certain to come up, such as the Trump Tower meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016, but getting him to memorize endless details as Clinton did is out of the question. He is not capable of it. What Trump often does is get sidetracked and start talking about tangential issues. It is likely that Mueller will let him go on talking about whatever he wants to see where it leads. Often it is down the rabbit hole, which would be fine with Mueller.
Most likely, Mueller is not interested in getting new facts—he probably already has all the facts he needs. What he needs to read is Trump's demeanor. Mueller knows that Trump fired former FBI director James Comey for not dropping the Russia investigation. What Mueller wants to know is if Trump had corrupt intent—if he thinks "if the president does it, then it is not illegal." Trump's lawyers might try to set up mock interviews in which they pepper him with the questions they expect Mueller to ask, but it is doubtful if Trump would be willing to put up with this. If he is ultimately interviewed, goes in unprepared, and then starts ranting that he is president and can do anything he damn well pleases, it is not likely to work out well for him. (V)
Just in case we needed a reminder of the point made above that Donald Trump is simply not good with details, the President gave it to us on Thursday afternoon. The United States is selling some fighter jets to Norway (which is apparently one of the privileges that comes with not being a shithole). When Trump joined Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the White House to crow about the sale, he told the assembled crowd that, "In November we started delivering the first F-52s and F-35 fighter jets."
There is only one small problem with this statement: F-52 jets do not exist. At least they do not exist in reality; the only place they can be found is in the video game "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare." Perhaps the President is a fan of that franchise, or maybe the Norwegians are. Or maybe Trump stumbles even when the information is written on a teleprompter right in front of him, and his lawyers are cringing at the thought of what he might say when under pressure from Robert Mueller, and speaking without the benefit of a teleprompter. (Z)
An early draft of the Trump administration's nuclear posture review (NPR) has leaked out, and it includes a couple of very big changes. The first is that the U.S. military is going to begin work on a modified version of the Trident D5 submarine-launched missiles with a reduced nuclear payload. The notion is that a smaller bomb may be more "usable" without risking retaliation. The second is that the list of "appropriate" circumstances for launching a nuke will be expanded, to include—for example—responding to a conventional (non-nuclear) attack that causes mass casualties.
Taken together, these changes make for a much more hawkish NPR, which has experts worried. Already, the U.S. is uncomfortably close to a nuclear war, and presumably does not need to move any closer. Beyond that, however, is a question that nobody seems to be asking, but that they probably should be: Where is this coming from? As we know (and as the F-52 item above illustrates), Donald Trump does not read policy documents or position papers, and has no knowledge of the details of America's military capacity. When it comes to nuclear weapons, he knows that they go boom, and that's about it. Which means that this change in policy, even if it has Trump's approval, is certainly being instigated by someone else within the administration. Sec. of Defense James Mattis? NSA Herbert McMaster? Chief of Staff John Kelly? Whatever the case may be, it's evident that someone from the military (or someone recently retired) is calling the shots here, and that it's presumably one of the folks who was assumed to be an "insurance policy" against a half-cocked nuclear response. If there's a secret nuclear hawk in the White House who has the President's ear, that is concerning indeed. (Z)
House Republicans are starting to get flashbacks of 2006, a year when they lost 30 seats and the Democrats won control of the House. The retirement of two California Republicans earlier this week is being viewed by some in the GOP as two dead canaries on the floor of the coal mine. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) has won eight House terms and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has won nine. Both are in their mid sixties and both are extremely wealthy and can self fund their campaigns. Neither has been involved in any scandal. When people like these leave it is because they are convinced they can't win in November, and this makes other Republicans extremely nervous.
The fear in the NRCC is so palpable that there is discussion about whether the GOP should abandon those two districts and put their money elsewhere, shoring up vulnerable but not hopeless incumbents. History shows that the president's party averages a loss of 32 House seats in a midterm election, but that is with presidents far more popular than Trump.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) put it this way: "These Orange County seats are majority makers." What he means is that districts like Royce's and Issa's are chock full of affluent suburban voters, precisely the kind of people the Democrats are targeting heavily. If wealthy long-term incumbents see these races as hopeless, similar districts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and elsewhere are going to be just as bad. (V)
A massive new online poll of 605,172 people by SurveyMonkey affords a much more detailed picture of the electorate than the usual 600-person poll and it has some interesting results. We learn, first of all, that Trump's base really is blue-collar white men over 50. They are sticking with him, but millennials, minorities, and college-educated whites are almost a lost cause, especially the women among these groups. The poll puts Trump's overall approval rating at 42%, which is a bit higher than most polls, but still within reason. Over two-thirds of white blue-collar men above 50 support Trump now. This is his core constituency. But he is losing blue-collar women. He won 61% of them in the election, but now only 49% approve of him. Trump's decline is more noticeable among blue-collar middle-aged white women than any other narrow group.
In 2016, 51% of all college-educated white women voted for Trump; now 66% of them disapprove of him. College-educated white men are also turning against Trump gradually, but many Republican operatives hope that if the economy continues to be good, they will come back to the fold. Since the economy has been good throughout the last year, this may be wishful thinking.
Among minorities, gender is more important than age or education. In every subgroup, black men were more than twice as positive about Trump than black women. Among Latino men over 50, Trump's approval is over 40%, but Latino women with or without college degrees strongly disapproved of him.
The midterms are nearly a year away and a lot can change, but the gender gap appears to be alive and well, with women much more supportive of Democrats than men. This also bodes well for female presidential candidates in 2020. (V)
Here is a map produced by researchers at MIT and Boston University. What does it look like?
Do you think it shows the counties where Trump did well? If so, you are right, but that it not what is actually being mapped. It shows the number of robots per 1,000 workers. And indeed where there are many robots, Trump did well, especially in the entire Midwest and parts of the South. The study shows that in places where robots have replaced people (especially men) in manufacturing jobs, the anger of the workers quickly translated into a hatred of the establishment and the status quo, and that hatred was precisely what Donald Trump was selling. Cultural issues also played a role, of course, but to some extent, hatred of the establishment (which the workers see as far too liberal) on cultural issues goes together with hatred of the establishment on economic issues. As noted in the item above, the white blue-collar men over 50 see their economic status and their social status being threatened by many changes taking place in the country, and Trump promised to turn the tide. They saw Hillary Clinton as part of the problem, not part of the solution. (V)
Republicans took a big hit yesterday when Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) announced that he was staying put in the House and would not run for the Senate against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). When either party is looking for Senate candidates, they look in two places: (1) the statewide elected officials, and (2) the House members. When a state has only one representative, as is the case of North Dakota, the two sets intersect, meaning the one representative has experience in Congress and has won statewide, both of which normally help.
By some odd coincidence, both Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell were on the same page here, with both of them urging Cramer to go for a promotion to the Senate, but he declined. Normally, when a Democrat holds a Senate seat in a deep red state (or vice versa), it is easy to find top candidates to challenge them. But this year, the GOP is having a lot of trouble recruiting good candidates, even in states that Trump won in 2016. While Cramer didn't literally say "I'm not going to challenge Heitkamp because I think I would lose," that is what everyone in D.C. is imagining that he is thinking. Heitkamp is not out of the woods, of course, because sooner or later one or more Republicans will enter the fray (actually, an unknown state senator, Tom Campbell, is already in), but losing their #1 prospect has to be a huge disappointment for the Republicans. (V)
A new Quinnipiac University poll has nothing but bad news for Republicans. Here are some of the items.
- Should dreamers be allowed to stay in the U.S.? 86% yes, 11% no
- Should the U.S. build a wall on the Mexican border? 34% yes, 63% no
- Should marijuana be legal? 58% yes, 36% no
- Do you support the new tax law? 32% yes, 52% no
- Do you have confidence in Donald Trump to handle North Korea? 36% yes, 61% no
- Which party do you want to see in control of the House? 52% Democratic, 35% Republican
- Which party do you want to see in control of the Senate? 53% Democratic, 36% Republican
Any way you slice it, it doesn't look good for the Republicans. To make it even worse, the trend line on most issues is moving in the wrong direction for them.
The crosstabs fit well with what has now become the conventional wisdom. Republicans are doing better with men, whites, and older voters. Democrats are doing better with women, minorities, and younger voters. Another bit of conventional wisdom is also reinforced: millennials don't pay attention to the news. One question was about the respondent's opinion of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is in the news constantly, most recently for his efforts to enforce federal laws against marijuna, an issue millennials care about. Nevertheless, 49% of them don't know enough to have an opinion of him. (V)
Gov. Eric Greitens (R-MO) was regarded as an up-and-comer within the GOP. He's a Rhodes Scholar, a former SEAL, and a former Democrat (who thus has crossover appeal). He's also young (the second-youngest governor in America, behind New Hampshire's Chris Sununu), good-looking, and charismatic. So, his Party had big plans for him.
Not any more, though. Greitens has been caught having an extramarital affair, which might be enough by itself to kill a political career in the Show Me State. On top of that, however, he's been credibly accused of taking a compromising photo of the woman, and using the threat of releasing it as blackmail to secure her silence. In the current climate, with this sort of abuse the hottest of hot-button issues, that is enough to kill a political career just about everywhere. Maybe even Alabama. So, Greitens could be looking at impeachment and removal, or he may decide to fall on his sword before it comes to that. Whatever it may be, the GOP has lost one of its most promising young stars for the foreseeable future, and probably for good. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan11 Mueller Adds Hacking Expert to His Team
Jan11 Report Says U.S. Must Act Now to Stop Russian Meddling in the Midterms
Jan11 Fusion GPS Co-founder Contradicted Trump Six Times
Jan11 Trump Lawyer Sues Buzzfeed, Fusion GPS
Jan11 ICE Hits 7-Elevens Nationwide
Jan11 Is the Dam about to Break?
Jan11 Report: Renacci to Run for the Senate
Jan11 Nearly Half of All Voters Think Mueller Will Exonerate Trump
Jan10 Joe Arpaio Enters Arizona Senate Race
Jan10 Bannon "Quits"
Jan10 Feinstein Releases Fusion GPS Testimony
Jan10 No Progress on the DACA Deal
Jan10 Judges Want North Carolina Districts Redrawn, Pronto
Jan10 Supreme Court to Hear Voting Case Today
Jan10 No Drilling Off the Florida Coast
Jan10 Help Wanted: Republicans to Run Statewide in New York
Jan10 Help Wanted: People to Work in the West Wing
Jan09 Mueller May Seek an Interview with Trump
Jan09 Oprah for President?
Jan09 Koch Brothers Reach Out to Puerto Ricans in Florida
Jan09 Mexico First
Jan09 Wall Faces Barriers
Jan09 Trump Administration Throwing Wrenches into Immigrants' Lives
Jan09 Trump Has a Rough Night
Jan09 Ginsburg and Kennedy Hire Law Clerks
Jan09 Ed Royce Will Retire from the House
Jan08 Bannon Expresses Regret
Jan08 White House is in Full Damage Control Mode
Jan08 Trump's Day Is Getting Shorter
Jan08 Where Trump Gets His Information From, if it Wasn't Already Clear
Jan08 Trump Is Planning a Trade Crackdown
Jan08 Colorado's Governor's Race is a Microcosm of the Country
Jan08 Ten Governors' Races to Watch
Jan08 More Republicans Are Leaving Congress
Jan07 Trump Pitches Saturday Morning Twitter Tantrum
Jan07 It's War Between Trump and Bannon
Jan07 Revelations in Wolff Book Have Been an "Open Secret"
Jan07 About That Trump Economy...
Jan07 About Those Tax Bonuses...
Jan07 What's Next for Al Franken?
Jan06 Grassley Wants to Shoot the Messenger
Jan06 FBI Opens New Investigation into the Clinton Foundation
Jan06 Wolff Admits He Flattered His Way into the White House
Jan06 How do Jared and Ivanka Feel about Wolff's Book?
Jan06 Tillerson Says He Has Never Questioned Trump's Mental Fitness
Jan06 Pence Aides Jump Ship
Jan06 Trump Declares War on California
Jan06 Trump Wants $33B for Border Security, Including $18B for Wall
Jan06 Vermont to Sessions: Get Baked