• Five More States Vote
• Sanders Defends Endorsement Record
• Team Obama Announces Midterm Targets
• House Republicans Possibly Avoid Ugly Fight over Immigration
• Sessions Cracks Down on Refugees
• AT&T-Time Warner Merger Goes Forward
Tuesday was primarily a day for everyone to process exactly what happened between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un on Monday. That said, a couple of important new pieces of information came out that weren't available Monday night. The first is that the amount of actual negotiating between Trump and Kim was even shorter than anyone thought. They talked to each other for less than 45 minutes which, when the time needed for translation is factored in, equates to about 20 minutes of actual interaction. So, certainly not enough time for anything truly substantive to get done.
The second piece of information is that while 20 minutes of negotiating may not be much, Kim did manage to extract one major concession from Trump: An end to joint military exercises with South Korea. The President says that this concession was no big deal, and that it will save money. The South Koreans were not advised of this news before it became public, and were not too happy. The Pentagon was taken by surprise as well.
In any event, it's now been long enough that everyone's got a list of takeaways, most of them reflecting an awareness of Tuesday's new information. Here is a selection:The Hill
- The summit couldn't have gone better for Kim
- Trump sticks it to the foreign policy establishment
- Trump's concession on war games shocks
- China is happy
- Peace lives to see another day
- The handshake proves both sides are willing to readjust the trajectory of the U.S.-North Korea relationship
- We've never seen a North Korean leader submit himself to the press
- That Kim got a meeting without advance denuclearization gives legitimacy to North Korea's nuclear status
- Even if this is considered a success, we won't know how far the North Koreans will go for a long time
- But the risks are also high that the situation could deteriorate as quickly as it has improved
- The best one can hope for is "talks for the sake of talks, and further rounds of follow-up negotiations"
- The body language in the room while the two of them spoke was not effusive, but certainly cordial
- It is amazing that Kim has gone from years of being one of the most hated, vilified world leaders to political superstar in less than six months
- The two sides didn't agree on what "denuclearization" meant—but maybe that allowed them to talk
- There's no substitute for a good national security process
- Trump moved the goal posts to proclaim his own victory—and gave one to Kim
- Kim was very happy just to be there
- Trump was suppressing his natural Trump-ness
- The one-on-one meeting was more show than work
- Both men really want this to work out
- Armed conflict is far less likely. That's a big deal
- The joint statement signed by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim contains polite platitudes but is otherwise largely empty
- Mr. Trump's concession on military exercises is real but easy to overstate
- Mr. Trump may have made the concession on South Korea's behalf without their consent or advance knowledge
- Mr. Kim got symbolic but meaningful concessions
- It costs the United States little to make those concessions. Still, they can be given away only once
- The meeting sends important messages to other adversarial states
- If the point was to bring the world demonstrably closer to resolving the North Korea crisis, it didn't happen
- Mr. Trump's foreign policy actions elsewhere may limit what he can accomplish with North Korea
- Almost any talks, even if they elevate Mr. Kim and grant him concessions for little return, significantly reduce the risk of war. But the effect applies only as long as talks continue
Again, it would be good to include a list from, say, Fox News, in order to get a view from that end of the spectrum. However, the major right-leaning outlets don't seem to approach things in this way. It is clear that they approve of what Trump did, and that there is much irritation at any media outlet that dares say anything other than "this was a great triumph." That's a bit of a change in course from 10 years ago, when Fox led the charge in declaring that meeting with dictators like Kim, particularly without securing concessions beforehand, was tantamount to treason.
Anyhow, Trump was ready to join Fox, Breitbart, et al., in celebrating this as one of the great accomplishments in memory. His twitter feed was full of chest-thumping on Tuesday. For example:
The World has taken a big step back from potential Nuclear catastrophe! No more rocket launches, nuclear testing or research! The hostages are back home with their families. Thank you to Chairman Kim, our day together was historic!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
Trump even found time to respond to Robert De Niro's "Fu** Trump" from the Tonys, right in the midst of celebrating:
Robert De Niro, a very Low IQ individual, has received too many shots to the head by real boxers in movies. I watched him last night and truly believe he may be “punch-drunk.” I guess he doesn’t...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
...Got along great with Kim Jong-un who wants to see wonderful things for his country. As I said earlier today: Anyone can make war, but only the most courageous can make peace! #SingaporeSummit— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2018
So we are officially at the point where the POTUS has higher regard for a brutal dictator who imprisons and/or executes his citizens without trial or remorse than he does for a prominent U.S. citizen who has killed/imprisoned nobody (though he does have a potty mouth).
Trump's own Republican Party was more restrained in its celebration. On one hand, they recognize that the delicate peace on the Korean peninsula just got a little less shaky, and that war became a little less likely. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), among others, released carefully-worded statements expressing their cautious approval for Trump's diplomacy. On the other hand, veteran Republican officeholders realize that it is necessary not to trust Kim too much, based on both his track record, and the track record of dictators like him (Trump, who knows little of history, might want to arrange a briefing on the Munich Agreement, for example). GOP leadership was also generally unhappy with Trump's concession on the joint military exercises with South Korea, with Sen. Lindsey Graham going so far as to describe Trump's argument that it would save money as "ridiculous." Vice President Mike Pence was dispatched to the Hill to smooth things over, and eventually the White House "clarified" that when Trump said he was going to stop the exercises, he didn't mean he was going to stop all of them. One wonders what Kim thinks about that news.
Democrats (and the media, for that matter), were actually somewhat more restrained than the Republicans in expressing their views. There is near-universal consensus, regardless of politics, that Monday's meetings represent progress. For example, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has been more than happy to criticize Trump when warranted, declared the U.S. is now "in a much better place" vis-a-vis North Korea. However, Clapper expressed the same reservations that nearly everyone on both sides of the aisle has: (1) Trump gave up more than he got, (2) This is only a very small, first step, and (3) Kim might not follow through on his commitments, particularly if he is not carefully managed. "The bottom line for me," said the former DNI, "[is that] the devil is in the details."
Interestingly, Clapper got agreement—to an extent—from none other than one Donald J. Trump. Before boarding Air Force One, and obviously quite tired from the time change (which he never handles well), the President held a celebratory press conference. And during that exchange, after expressing hope that he'll be on the cover of Time for the second week in a row, he said, "I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, 'Hey, I was wrong.' I don't know that I'll ever admit that, but I'll find some kind of an excuse." Presumably, that was a little more honest than the exhausted Trump intended to be, particularly that latter part. In any case, with even the President acknowledging some hard truths, it's now fair to say that everyone (with the possible exception of Fox News) recognizes that wherever this process leads, it's only just beginning. (Z)
Five more states went to the polls on Tuesday; here are the major stories:
- Trump Gets His Man, and His Woman: In Nevada, the
Trump-supported Adam Laxalt will be the GOP nominee for governor, where he will
face off against moderate Steve Sisolak. Laxalt didn't have any serious
competition, so his triumph is not necessarily proof that Trump has coattails.
More significant is the result in SC-01, where GOP frontrunner Mark Sanford
to call the Donald "nothing but trouble." This caused the President to endorse
Sanford's rival, state Rep. Katie Arrington (R), and also caused the pro-Trump
forces to rally to the defense of their hero. Arrington won, with 50.5% of the
vote to Sanford's 46.6%. It's definitely the party of Trump, now. SC-01 has a PVI of R+10,
so it's not likely in play, but given that Arrington is pretty far right, it
will now get a careful look from the DCCC.
- Republicans, Democrats Each Get One Really Lousy
Candidate: In Virginia's Senate race, Corey Stewart—who loves
Confederate statues, and has ties to white nationalist Paul Nehlen—eked
out a win over the more moderate Nick Freitas, 44.9% to 43.1%. That means that
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) is now safe. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, the Democrats
got stuck with admitted spousal abuser Archie Parnell in SC-05. That was a
district the blue team was keeping an eye on, but now they will have to turn
their back on it. If Parnell is going to triumph, a tall order in the R+9
district, he will have to do it on his own.
- Our Revolution Has a Good Night: Sen. Bernie
Sanders (I-VT) and his group Our Revolution had endorsed a total of six
candidates in Tuesday night's elections. Three of them (Jennifer Lewis, Anthony
Flaccavento, and Mary Smith, all running for the House) advanced to the general
election. A fourth (Mal Hyman, also running for the House) made it to the
runoff, while a fifth (Tick Segerblom, running for Clark County Commissioner)
is in a race that is currently too close to call. Only Amy Vilela, running for the House
from Nevada, went down to defeat. So, why isn't a possible 5-for-6 night a great
one, as opposed to a good one? Because all three winners were unopposed and were
also supported by the establishment. There is no outcome on Tuesday, as yet,
that Team Sanders clearly changed with their endorsement.
- The Democratic Establishment Has a Great Night: In
a story that keeps repeating itself this season, the Democratic pooh-bahs got
their preferred candidates almost across the board, but particularly in House
races in Virginia and Nevada. Each night of primaries make clear that the members
of the blue team still recall the bitter taste of November 2016, and are
favoring the most electable candidates.
- The Year of the Woman: Across all five states, but
particularly in Virginia,
women candidates did very well. In the Old Dominion State, each of the four
House districts the Democrats hope to flip will have a female candidate. In
particular, in VA-10, which has a PVI of D+1 and is located in the well-educated
suburbs of Northern Virginia. There, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) is going to
face state Sen. Jennifer Wexton. VA-10 will probably be the Democrats' #1 target
in the whole country. Meanwhile, across the country, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) crushed her
competition, and got over 110,000 votes in her primary compared to the slightly
less than 100,000 that incumbent (and highly-endangered) Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)
got. He can't feel good about that. If Rosen wins, Nevada will be the fifth
state to have an all-female Senate delegation (along with California,
Washington, Minnesota, and New Hampshire).
- Instant Runoff Proves Not So Instant: Exactly what
will happen in Maine is not clear, because term-limited Gov. Paul LePage (R)
apparently decided he has nothing to lose, and
that he may not certify the results. He was displeased with the first test of
instant runoff voting, calling it "the most horrific thing in the world." This
appears to be mostly a temper tantrum, and not a political calculation, since
there is no candidate he is obviously trying to save or to knock off. In any
case, Maine officials are trying to figure out if there's a legal way to certify
the results without LePage. If not, then it will head to the courts.
- Walker Gets Poked in the Eye: LePage is angry because instant-runoff voting was largely adopted as a rebuke to him, and to the gubernatorial victories he achieved with 40% of the vote. He wasn't the only governor who got rebuked on Tuesday. Wisconsin's Scott Walker (R) bent over backwards to avoid holding elections for two state legislature seats that were vacated by Republicans appointed to his administration. The courts didn't let him get away with it, and it turns out he was right to worry. One of the seats was won by a Democrat, and that was Wisconsin SD-01, which Donald Trump won by 17 points in 2016. Note that these were the only contests on Tuesday in the Badger State, which holds its primary on August 14.
So, there you have it. Next week we have a fairly low-drama Tuesday, as D.C. holds round one of its primaries, while Arkansas has its runoff. Then, on June 26, voters in New York, Colorado, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah will head to the polls for round one, while Mississippians and South Carolinians will hold their runoff elections. (Z)
Bernie Sanders and his group Our Revolution have not had a lot of success with their endorsements this election season. Although Tuesday night was not too bad for them, that was primarily because the progressive candidate was also the establishment candidate. When "the progressive" and "the establishment candidate" are not the same person, things generally don't go well for Team Bernie.
Sanders addressed the matter this week, and defended himself and his organization. His argument boiled down to two things: (1) His primary goal is to drive up engagement with the process, not necessarily to get people elected, and (2) He's playing the long game, and if a progressive can get 45% of the vote in 2018, maybe they can get 51% in 2020. To that, he might have added a third item: Some of his positions, like a much higher minimum wage, have become mainstream enough that they've been embraced by the establishment, which is why "the progressive" and "the establishment candidate" sometimes are the same person.
The Senator's argument is a little self-serving, since he certainly doesn't want to admit that he has no coattails in advance of a possible 2020 run. That said, much of it is pretty fair. Anyone who regularly hitches their wagon to outsider candidates is de facto going to have a low batting average. (Z)
Barack Obama's PAC, Organizing for Action (OFA), may not be quite as visible as Bernie Sanders', but it's likely more impactful when it comes to winning elections. On Tuesday, the group officially announced its list of targets for the midterms.
While OFA will take an interest in a number of ballot initiatives and contests for state legislatures, their biggest targets will be 27 House seats currently held by Republicans in nine different states (eight in California, three each in Pennsylvania and Texas, two each in Minnesota and North Carolina, and one each in Arizona, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin). Significantly, the list is not simply "Republican seats in districts Hillary Clinton won," nor is it "the list of districts being targeted by the DNC or DCCC." Given that OFA is very skilled in the use of data and analytics, the GOP candidates running in those 27 races should be a fair bit more nervous than they were when they went to bed on Monday night. (Z)
Yesterday was the deadline that moderate Republicans set for an agreement to be reached on immigration policy, particularly as regards the Dreamers. In the absence of a deal, they were prepared to use a parliamentary maneuver (a discharge petition) to force a vote on a series of moderate immigration bills, bills that had a real chance of passing with joint Democratic and moderate Republican support. The problem, from the perspective of Paul Ryan, was that the vote would have badly split his coalition for all the world to see. Thanks to some last-minute wheeling and dealing, however, the GOP "crisis" appears to have been averted. Agreement has reportedly been reached on a general plan of action, wherein a pair of bills will be brought before the House for consideration next week.
So, problem solved, right? Maybe, or maybe not. The issue is still contentious enough within the GOP conference that they couldn't actually agree what would be in next week's bills, merely that two of them would be brought up for a vote. They are going to continue discussions today, in hopes that they can figure out that minor detail. Given that the House GOP has already announced "we've worked everything out" once before, only to have that not be true, there is still time for Tuesday's compromise to collapse. Meanwhile, the moderates' June 12 deadline was chosen somewhat arbitrarily; the parliamentary maneuver they planned to use is still available, and requires just two more GOP signatures to proceed. So, we shall see what happens. (Z)
Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a man whose less-than-enlightened views on race cost him a judgeship in the 1980s, is not much a fan of immigrants. His feelings on this matter are strong enough that he's willing to accept just about any abuse from Donald Trump in order to stay in his post and put his ideas into action. He realizes that, when it comes to immigration policy, the attorney general is something of a law unto himself or, as some people put it, a one-man Supreme Court.
On that front, Sessions announced the latest decision on Tuesday: That claims of domestic abuse or of violence at the hands of gangs would no longer qualify an immigrant for refugee status. This was prompted, in particular, by the case of a Salvadoran woman who said she was sexually, emotionally, and physically abused by her husband, and was granted asylum by a federal court. Sessions single-handedly overturned the decision, and said that no other such claims would be considered. The impact of this new policy will be felt primarily among would-be refugees from Central America and Mexico. Coincidentally, folks who live in those countries are almost exclusively non-white.
From a political standpoint, Sessions' actions could backfire against the Republican Party. The more aggressive and outlandish his policy choices, the more likely it will be that the friends and relatives of immigrants—the ones who have citizenship—are likely to head to the polls. Only the AG knows what his thinking is here, but it's possible he believes that anti-immigrant enthusiasm will be even more substantial. Or that voter ID initiatives and other maneuvers will cancel out the increased enthusiasm. Or, he might not care about the effect at the ballot box; he won't be running for office again, and he doesn't particularly care about the fate of Trump and/or his acolytes. (Z)
There aren't too many issues where Bernie Sanders and the progressives are on the same page as the Trump administration, but one of those was the proposed merger of telecom behemoths AT&T and Time Warner. The merger was opposed by both factions; the progressives because they distrust consolidation of corporate power, and the Trump administration for...the same reason, actually. Trump also hates certain elements of the Time-Warner empire, namely CNN. Anyhow, Team Trump and Team Sanders were both disappointed on Tuesday, as federal judge Richard Leon (a George W. Bush appointee) ruled the merger may proceed without restrictions.
Needless to say, this is not going to do much for Trump's dislike of the court system. Meanwhile, this could set the stage for other mega-mergers to go forward, most obviously the $52.4 billion stock offer Disney made for Fox. If the major media conglomerates get consolidated into just two or three or four big players, at a time when the death of Net Neutrality upon us, it could make for an environment where folks have easy access to only one provider's set of content, and no cost-effective way to get the others. That could heighten the echo chamber effect that has already gripped American politics. Meanwhile, it is anyone's guess how voters will respond if they eventually discover that they can only be an "AT&T-Time" consumer or a "Fox-Disney" consumer, or maybe a "Netflix-Verizon" consumer, but not more than one of these. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun12 G-7 Meltdown Continues to Reverberate
Jun12 Supreme Court Upholds Ohio's Right to Purge Voters
Jun12 Top Russians Met with NRA Executives During the 2016 Election Campaign
Jun12 Obama Has Been Advising Democratic Presidential Hopefuls for Months
Jun12 ACLU Is Getting Into Politics
Jun12 Democratic Chances in NJ-02 Just Got Better
Jun11 Trump vs. the Western World
Jun11 Five States Will Hold Primaries This Week
Jun11 Kim and Trump Have Different Ideas of What Denuclearization Means
Jun11 All Hail King Donald
Jun11 Net Neutrality Dies Today
Jun11 It's Almost Always the Best Economy Ever
Jun11 Tonys Become Trumpys
Jun10 Trump Turns G-7 into a Reality Show
Jun10 And on to North Korea...
Jun10 White House Still Leaks Like a Sieve
Jun10 Faith and Freedom Coalition to Spend $20 Million on Midterms
Jun10 Pruitt Gets FOIAsted by His Own Petard
Jun10 The Primaries Are Underway
Jun09 Trump Is the Bull in the G-7 China Shop
Jun09 Mueller Brings New Charges against Manafort and His Associate
Jun09 Pardon Me?
Jun09 Trump Likes Weed
Jun09 Two Words Democrats Must Not Say on the Campaign Trail
Jun09 Judge Rules that Trump Can Be Deposed
Jun09 Romney Predicts "Solid" Victory for Trump in 2020
Jun08 Trump Will Meet With Unhappy Allies Today
Jun08 Trump May Invite Little Rocket Man to the White House
Jun08 House Is Getting Stuff Done--Or Not
Jun08 Trump Administration Doing What it Can to Kill Obamacare
Jun08 Democrats Are Fighting over Superdelegates Again
Jun08 Preet Bharara Registers as a Democrat
Jun08 Another Lawyer Wants to Depose Trump
Jun08 Melania Trump Pushes Back on Giuliani's Comments
Jun07 Takeaways from Tuesday's Primaries
Jun07 Democrats Probably Avoided Disaster in California
Jun07 The November Election Will Be about Racism and Authoritarianism
Jun07 In California, the November Election Will Be about Immigration and Gas Taxes
Jun07 Ryan Distances Himself from Trump
Jun07 Manchin Hugs Trump Close
Jun07 The Public Doesn't Like Giuliani
Jun07 Trump Doesn't Know History, Does Know How to Insult Canadians
Jun06 Voters in Eight States Have Their Say
Jun06 Eaglesgate Enters Second Day
Jun06 Trump Is Obsessed with Pardons
Jun06 The Gender Gap Could Hurt Democratic Hopes to Win the House
Jun06 McConnell Cancels Most of the August Recess
Jun06 Sadler Is out at the White House
Jun06 David Koch Is Seriously Ill