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Political Wire logo Cuomo Backs Effort to Get Trump’s State Tax Returns
Grassley Warns White House Not To Oust Any More
Trump Told Border Agents to Break the Law
Trump Put Stephen Miller In Charge of Immigration
Lou Dobbs Urged Shakeup At Homeland Security
Judge Blocks Trump’s ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy

Nielsen Meeting with Trump Becomes Nielsen Resignation

When Harry S. Truman was president, the buck stopped with him. Now that Donald Trump is president, the buck stops with anyone but him. He is very unhappy about the situation at the southern border, apparently has no idea what to do about it, and is looking for someone to blame. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen arrived at the White House on Sunday for a meeting that she thought was to discuss what to do, but that turned into the final straw for her, leading to her resignation.

Naturally, Trump announced the Secretary's departure via Twitter:

By all accounts, Nielsen did not realize Sunday would be her last day on the job. It's true that she's been on the brink of termination several times, and that her mentor and protector John Kelly no longer works in the White House. So, her long-term prospects were not good. The surprise is how quickly it fell apart. Reportedly, she did not choose to resign, but she did not fight for her job, either. Late in the day on Sunday, a senior White House source explained that Nielsen "believed the situation was becoming untenable with the President becoming increasingly unhinged about the border crisis and making unreasonable and even impossible requests."

The new acting secretary, Kevin McAleenan, might actually be more qualified than Nielsen was. He was Deputy Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection under Barack Obama, and was elevated to Commissioner under Trump. The natural assumption is that McAleenan is more of a hardliner on immigration than Nielsen is, hence his being picked to replace her, but that does not appear to be the case. He's been broadly supportive of the administration's policies, and he certainly supports the mission of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but he is known for his management and logistical expertise, and not for his outspokenness. In other words, he's kind of the yin to the yang of Stephen Miller, who has no expertise on anything related to immigration, and is outspoken about everything.

Meanwhile, Nielsen is definitely on to something with that "increasingly unhinged" bit, as it is very clear that Donald Trump has got immigration on the brain, yet again. It was about a month ago that he declared a national emergency and said he would start building a wall whether Congress likes it or not. And then, in just the last week or so, he has:

  • Ranted about immigration on a near-daily basis on Twitter
  • Threatened to shut down the Mexican border
  • Threatened to cut aid to several Central American countries
  • Toyed with the idea of creating an "immigration czar"
  • Declared the U.S. cannot accept any more immigrants because it is "full"
  • Unexpectedly yanked the nomination of Ron Vitiello for Immigration and Customs Enforcement director
  • Caused Nielsen to resign

The last time Trump was this laser focused on this particular issue was about three months ago, when the alleged immigrant caravan from Central America was making its way northward.

So, what is behind his current obsession? There's no election coming up any time soon, so it's presumably not that. It could be the Fox News pundits putting thoughts into his head, except that they're always going on about undocumented immigration, so it's not entirely clear why it would sink in so thoroughly right now. Maybe Miller has really been bending his ear, egged on by "interim" chief of staff Mick Mulvaney..

All of this is just spitballing. Our best thesis, actually, is that Trump has a compulsion to always be angry and ranting about something. And now that Robert Mueller is done, the "witch hunt" is not a great target for that ranting anymore. So, perhaps Trump has simply returned to his first, and favorite, target. This is just a guess, though. Whatever it is, clearly undocumented immigration is occupying vastly more of the President's time and psychic energy than it was a month ago. (Z)

Mulvaney Says Democrats Will Never See Trump's Tax Returns

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on Fox News yesterday that the Democrats are not going to get Donald Trump's tax returns. Period. He also said the Democrats are using Trump's tax returns as a distraction because they don't want to talk about policy issues. He said the letter that Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) wrote to the IRS commissioner asking for them was a "political stunt."

Actually, it doesn't matter what Mulvaney (or Trump) thinks. What is going to matter in the end is what Chief Justice John Roberts thinks. The law is clear and states that when the chairman of Ways and Means asks for anyone's tax returns, the Treasury Dept. "shall" comply. There are no exceptions in the law. When the case hits the Supreme Court, there is a pretty good chance Roberts will go read the 1924 law carefully and see that there are no exceptions for audits, presidents, or anything else. There was no exception, for example, when House Republicans asked for (and got) the tax returns of Obama for America.

Of course, maybe what Mulvaney was hinting at was one step further. It is possible that the Supreme Court might order the Treasury Dept. to give Trump's tax returns to Neal and Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin could simply refuse. What happens then? (V)

Nadler: Congress Has a Right to See Mueller's Report

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) was on "Face the Nation" yesterday and said that Congress has a right to the unredacted Mueller report. Actually, he is wrong, just like Mulvaney, but for the reverse reason. Richard Neal has a statutory right to see Donald Trump's tax returns, but Nadler does not have a statutory right to see Mueller's report. Furthermore, by law, grand jury testimony contained in the report may not be distributed to anyone outside the Justice Dept. unless a judge so orders it.

Nevertheless, Nadler might be able to get a court to at least order AG William Barr to release the report with only the grand jury testimony redacted. His case is based on two Justice Dept. policies. First, a president cannot be indicted. Second, investigation reports may not say anything bad about a person who is not indicted. The combination effectively means the president can break the law and the Justice Dept. can't even talk about it, let alone do something about it. A judge might not like that situation and order Barr to turn over most or all of the report. After all, the two Justice Dept. policies are just that: policies. They are not laws. (V)

Nunes to Send Eight Criminal Referrals to Barr

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) is no longer chair of the House Intelligence Committee, which means he has very little power to investigate matters on his own. And so, on Sunday, he announced that he plans to send eight criminal referrals to AG William Barr this week. The Congressman did not say who his targets were, merely that the referrals relate to lying to Congress, misleading Congress and leaking classified information.

Under normal circumstances, and working with such an incomplete set of information, a sitting member of Congress would be entitled to the benefit of the doubt. However, these are not normal circumstances. During the time that Nunes was chair of the Intelligence committee, he burned through tens of millions of taxpayer dollars pursuing investigations that were fruitless at best, and politically motivated at worst. So, until presented with evidence to the contrary, we have to operate under the assumption that Nunes is not acting in good faith here. Meanwhile, Barr is already under the microscope for his handling of the Mueller report. It seems unlikely that he will be interested in handling this particular hot potato, and more likely that he'll dump it back in Nunes' lap. (Z)

Polls: Voters Support Democrats on the Issues

A new Gallup poll shows that on many hot issues, the public sides with the Democrats, not the Republicans. For example, two-thirds of Americans (including 80% of Democrats and 71% of independents) prioritize protecting the environment over economic growth. This is the largest margin since 2000. A Pew poll shows that on taxes, 62% say that corporations don't pay their fair share and 60% say that rich people don't pay their fair share. Clearly the Democrats are going to push these issues for all they are worth in 2020.

A Quinnipiac poll shows that 60% of voters want stricter gun laws. A CNN poll shows that 56% of voters don't want to build a wall along the Mexican border. As to Medicare-for-all, a Kaiser Family Foundation discovered that 56% have a favorable view of the idea.

Other recent polls have shown that 67% of Americans think same-sex marriages should be legal and 83% of Americans want to allow the dreamers to stay in the U.S.

There are very few issues on which the majority of Americans side with the Republicans. One of those is the death penalty, but beyond that, they are few and far between. For this reason, Republicans are going to try to find ways to avoid talking about the actual issues in 2020. In 2016, they campaigned on Hillary Clinton's e-mails. In 2020, it could be about whether Joe Biden has gotten too close to some women. Anything but the issues, please.

This brings to mind the first truly issue-free election in U.S. history (well, outside of the occasions where George Washington ran unopposed). In 1840, the Whigs nominated Maj. Gen. William Henry Harrison, who was something of a blank slate. Knowing that they were a minority party, made up of not-so-harmonious interests, banker and Whig operative Nicholas Biddle declared:

Let him say not one single word about his principles, or his creed. Let him say nothing, promise nothing. Let no committee, no convention, no town meeting ever extract from him a single word about what he thinks now, or what he will do hereafter.

Harrison was happy to play along, and it worked, of course. In fact, that remarkably substance-free election gave us three memorable bits of American culture: (1) "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too!," which was the Harrison ticket's slogan; (2) O.K., which was a shortened version of "Old Kinderhook," the nickname of President Martin Van Buren, who was running for reelection; and (3) "Get the ball rolling," which referred to a steel and canvas ball with platitudes written on it that the Whigs made for use in parades. The problem the GOP has in 2020 is that their candidate is unlikely to keep his mouth shut, as Harrison did. Of course, Old Tippecanoe had it a little easier—there was no Twitter back then to tempt him. (V & Z)

Democratic Candidates Are Struggling to Win Their Home States

When a politician fails to win his or her state in a primary, that's a pretty big black eye. When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) suffered a humiliating defeat in Florida in April 2016, that was the end of him. The same thing could play out multiple times for the Democratic field in 2020. For example, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is hoping to win a boatload of delegates in California's primary on March 3, 2020, yet a recent poll shows that just 38% of the voters in the Golden State think she should be running for president. And many of the ones who don't mind her trying may well prefer someone else.

Similarly, only 37% of the constituents of Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) think he would make a good president. In Massachusetts, two-thirds of the likely voters don't think Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) should be running for president.

The unlucky candidates are the ones with an early primary. If Harris' home state voters give her a thumbs down on March 3, the other Democrats are going to say: "California voters know her best, and they don't want her, so why should you?" Massachusetts also votes that day, and a bad performance would be curtains for Warren. Similarly, when Texans go to the polls that day, it could be the end of the line for Beto O'Rourke or Julián Castro or both. Vermont also votes on March 3, but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is popular in his home state and very likely to win the primary with ease. Hawaii caucuses a week later, and that could be goodbye to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), in the unlikely event she even gets that far.

Many states have not yet chosen their primary date, so candidates from those states are in suspense. For most of them, the later the better. Winning your own state doesn't give you any momentum, but losing it could be a showstopper. (V)

Top Democratic Senate Candidates Aren't Running

It's well known in politics that you can't beat somebody with nobody. Democrats may discover that the hard way next year. In state after state, the Democrats have an excellent candidate to take on an incumbent Republican senator—and the excellent candidate is not interested or, at best, barely interested. Here is a partial list by state (and senator).

  • Colorado (Cory Gardner): Former governor John Hickenlooper is a strong candidate but he is running for president
  • Georgia (David Perdue): Stacey Abrams can't make up her mind what office to run for
  • Iowa (Joni Ernst): Former governor Tom Vilsack, an extremely strong candidate, has ruled out a run
  • North Carolina (Thom Tillis): Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) and NC AG Josh Stein (D) both took a pass
  • Texas (John Cornyn): Beto O'Rourke almost knocked off Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), but is running for president instead of against Cornyn

The lure of the Oval Office has such power that candidates like Hickenlooper, Abrams, and O'Rourke are willing to pass up even odds or maybe better than even odds, for presidential runs that are very unlikely to succeed. It must be the Trump effect: People who have no business running for president sometimes get in and win, so you can too.

Republicans have explained this situation differently, of course. They say that the incumbents are so strong and likely to win that nobody dares take them on.

Of course another view is that the Senate is so broken that nobody in his or her right mind would want a job there. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), who used to be governor of Delaware, has said that his worst day as a governor was still better than his best day as a senator. (V)

Booker Raises $5 Million

The fundraising reports keep trickling in. Cory Booker has now announced his first quarter fundraising haul. It is $5 million. This is one of the smallest amounts of any candidate who has announced his or her totals so far. The leaders are Bernie Sanders ($18 million), Kamala Harris ($12 million), Beto O'Rourke ($9 million), and Pete Buttigieg ($7 million). At least Booker is ahead of Andrew Yang ($2 million). (V)

Manchin May Run for Governor in 2020

Progressive Democrats don't care much for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and would be happy to be rid of him. They may get their wish. Manchin is openly contemplating a run for governor of West Virginia in 2020. He knows what it is like to govern the Mountain State—he did so from 2005 to 2010. If he runs, he will face Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV), who ran and won as a Democrat and then switched to the GOP.

The Democrats who want to be rid of Manchin should now be thinking carefully about the consequences of their wish. If Manchin ran and lost, he would continue as a senator, so nothing would change. But if he won, he would have to resign his Senate seat upon taking office as governor. Once he did that, he could appoint his successor, presumably a Democrat. But the successor would have to stand for election in 2022, in a state that Donald Trump won by more than 40 points. There probably aren't any West Virginia Democrats not named Joe Manchin who could win that. So if Manchin runs for governor, the Democrats will probably lose the seat permanently starting in 2022. They hold it now only because Manchin is very well known in his state and is a perfect mix of populist on economic policy (and strongly pro-union) and conservative on cultural issues. There aren't a lot of others who could fill his shoes.

Nevertheless, it's not a done deal. Manchin is currently the ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee, and if the Democrats somehow manage to win the Senate, he would become chairman. He would surely use that position to bolster the use of coal. This would surely alarm Democrats who don't think coal is the beginning, the middle, and the end of U.S. energy policy, but if Manchin leaves the Senate for Charleston, WV, and the Democrats lose their majority in 2022 as a result, he will be sorely missed. (V)

Gardner Wants to Legalize Pot to Help His Reelection Chances

Sen. Cory Gardner is one of the most endangered Republican senators up in 2020 and he is thrashing around trying to find some way to improve his chances. In Colorado, using marijuana does not violate state law, but it does violate federal law. So, Gardner is cosponsoring a bill that would amend federal law to make marijuana legal in states that have eliminated their own laws prohibiting the evil weed. He has cosponsors from both parties and both chambers of Congress. Gardner said that if it comes to a vote in either chamber, it will pass there. If Gardner can pull that off, he could win the pothead vote in Colorado and maybe hang onto his seat.

Getting the bill through the House may not be impossible since many Democrats will vote for it, but the Senate is a tougher nut to crack. First, Gardner has to convince Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to mark the bill up and hold a vote on it. Graham has said he is "not excited" about the bill. If the Judiciary Committee passes it, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would have to bring it up for a vote. While McConnell is not a known pot enthusiast, he might just do that, but for his own reasons. Kentucky's tobacco farmers are hurting since smoking cigarettes gets less popular with each passing year, and there isn't such a thing as a vape farm. Legalizing marijuana could give struggling tobacco farmers something else to grow.

A parallel bill, introduced into the House Financial Services Committee by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), would allow banks to do business with cannabis-related companies, something they are currently forbidden from doing. Gardner says his bill is better. Whether either bill could make it all the way through the process remains to be seen since many in Congress oppose marijuana on moral grounds, so economic arguments don't carry a lot of weight with them. (V)

Monday Q&A

"Shady behavior" was a recurring theme in most of the questions we got this week. Wonder why?

My question is regarding the perhaps most egregious Republican power grab: packing the federal courts with the appointments of conservative judges. What's to prevent a newly empowered, and perhaps veto-proof, Democratic-controlled majority from simply rewriting the rule of lifetime appointments for federal (but non-Supreme Court) judges? L.K., Los Angeles, CA

It's not impossible, but the Democrats would be fighting an uphill battle if they tried to do this. One of the most important truths about the Constitution is that the fellows who wrote it knew they were already pushing their luck in terms of the specific provisions about the legislature and the executive branch that they had already laid out. They also knew that the courts were a particularly sensitive issue, and that anything too specific could kill support for the new government. And so, while Article I (the legislature) has 2,323 words, and Article II (the executive) has 1,034 words, Article III (the judiciary) has just 380 words, with most of that devoted to spelling out the rules for specific scenarios (interstate crimes, treason, etc.). There is very little about the structure of the judicial branch, or qualifications for service. Things were deliberately left ambiguous so as to avoid undue controversy.

What this means is that we're left to infer rules from the precious few instructions that the framers actually laid out. And literally the only thing they said that speaks to qualifications for office is that judges "shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour." This has consistently been interpreted to mean that a judge can leave the bench in only three ways: (1) impeachment and removal due to bad behavior (or behaviour), (2) voluntary resignation/retirement, or (3) death.

So, any attempt to establish term limits for judges would run up against more than two centuries of custom and jurisprudence. That is not to say that it's impossible, although the easier (but still difficult) path would be to decree a mandatory retirement age. In other words, judges would be able to serve 5 or 15 or 35 years, depending on how young they were at time of appointment, but they would be compelled to step down upon reaching the age of, say, 65. This would be consistent with policies that Congress has established for other federal employees (like FBI agents) and, it could be argued, would be consistent with Congress' right to establish qualifications for judges.

There is one other alternative. Congress absolutely has the right to determine how many federal judges there are. So, a Democratic-controlled Congress could vote to authorize, say, 200 new federal judgeships. In other words, court packing, except on a judiciary-wide basis. That would be expensive, but would also be completely legal. The argument could be that cases can take years to work their way through the courts and justice delayed is justice denied. With more judges, cases would be taken up quicker and justice would be delivered faster.

If Donald Trump cannot authorize military involvement in Yemen, that being the right of Congress, how can he veto a statement by Congress to stop something he was not allowed to do in the first place? J.V., San Jose, CA

This is another fly in the ointment resulting from the circumstances under which the Constitution was authored. First, the framers wanted it to be a "living" document that was adaptable to change, and so they often kept things pretty broad and unspecific. Second, as noted above, they did not want to create too many "rules," for fear of losing support for the new government. And third, they hated political parties and hoped (somewhat naively) that they would not develop in the United States.

All of this is to say that the gentlemen who wrote the Constitution managed to create something of a loophole where it takes only half the Congress to tell the president "no," but it takes two-thirds of them to tell him "no" if he doesn't accept the original "no." They might have fixed this by specifying that it takes only a simple majority to veto presidential actions that run afoul of any powers granted to Congress by Article I, but they didn't. They assumed Congress would always put Constitution and country before anything else, and that a member of Congress would never value their political party above those two things. Like we said, kind of naive.

What this means is that if the Congress actually wants to make the anti-Yemen resolution stick, they will probably need to go to the Supreme Court and ask them to rule that Trump has overstepped his authority.

I was wondering if Congress has any authority to impeach a Cabinet Secretary? Are they held to the same "high crimes and misdemeanors" standard that the president is held to? Has anything like that happened in the past? M.N., Ithaca, NY

All elected and appointed officials in the federal government are subject to impeachment (and conviction) for the commission of high crimes and misdemeanors. That theoretically includes members of Congress, though it's only been tried once (Sen. William Blount, in 1797), and the Senate resolved the matter by expelling the Senator rather than taking up the articles of impeachment the House had adopted. It also includes cabinet secretaries, something that has also happened exactly one time. In 1876, Secretary of War William W. Belknap was responsible for approving trade deals with Indian nations, and was accused (credibly) of taking kickbacks. He was impeached, put on trial by the Senate, resigned his office, and then acquitted. Of the 25 senators who voted for acquittal, 23 said they did so because they did not feel it was legal to continue the trial once the Secretary was no longer in office. In other words, like Richard Nixon, Belknap's goose would have been cooked if he hadn't resigned.

We assume your question was asked with a particular cabinet secretary in mind. And there would certainly be some irony if, in his efforts to protect the President from being impeached for obstruction of justice, AG William Barr managed to get himself impeached...for obstruction of justice.

How is it viable that Trump can claim his returns are untouchable because he is "under audit?" He's played that same card since the start of his campaign—for nearly 5 years! How is that still viable, if it ever was? And what exactly does it really mean to be "under audit"—can that "status" be proven? Sounds like a canard of pure but weak BS. C.L.N., Seattle, WA

Let's start with the stuff that's true. In his career as a private businessman, Trump probably did get audited on an annual or near-annual basis, due to his great wealth and his propensity for using tax avoidance strategies (like pass-through entities). That means he probably was under audit for some portion of the 2016 campaign season. Now that he is president, by law he is automatically audited each year (as is Vice President Mike Pence). Only the IRS knows for certain how many times he was audited pre-presidency, as well as how long those audits took, and they are not allowed to reveal that information to the general public.

Now, on to the stuff that's BS. Audits, even of someone with such complex finances, do not take a full year. Further, as we and others have pointed out many times, there is nothing that stops someone who is under audit from releasing their returns. Richard Nixon, to take one example, released his returns while under audit. Given the legal requirements for presidents, it's likely that other presidents released their returns while under audit, as well, even if they didn't make a point of noting it. In short, then, Trump's excuse doesn't hold water. The audit is irrelevant, and even if it was not irrelevant, there is no way the President has been under audit every single day since mid-2015.

Another aspect to the BS, to use your term (again): Trump's underlings have grown fond of claiming that the tax returns are a non-issue because the matter was "litigated" during the election, and Trump won. Kellyanne Conway has been using this line for a while, and Mick Mulvaney has been using it this week. First of all, during the election, Trump's stated position was that he would eventually release his returns, so if people were voting on anything, it was that. Second, as you may recall, he got fewer votes than his opponent, so if there was a message sent, it was: "We want the returns." Third, it is an odd twisting of reality to claim that an election where people have only two viable choices can be interpreted as a clear referendum on any single aspect of a candidate's portfolio. And if that is indeed how it works, then it means that we "litigated" Hillary Clinton's e-mails, and the voters said: "We don't care." (Note that we don't actually believe that; we're merely pointing out that you can't have it both ways.)

In your answer from last week, you listed the ways that Donald Trump is using the Presidency to enrich himself. However, I have also seen articles (such as this one from Forbes) that Trump Organization profits have been declining since he became President, and his Forbes-estimated net worth dropped by over a billion dollars since 2015. Can these two analyses be reconciled? W.F., Los Angeles, CA

Yes, they can be reconciled. We almost mentioned the less-than-rosy overall picture for the Trump Organization in our answer, but decided that the answer was already long enough, and that was not really germane to the original question (which was about Trump lining his pockets on his frequent golf vacations).

Anyhow, we are going to start our answer with a story about Ronald Reagan. Shortly after he left office, his former agent Lew Wasserman, who by then had taken over Universal Studios, called the Gipper with an offer of a film role. "I can't do it; that would be profiting off the presidency," said Reagan. "Well, Mr. President," said Wasserman, "we wouldn't necessarily have to pay you."

The point here is that presidents and ex-presidents all have many opportunities to profit off of their office, and are largely left to their own devices to decide what is and is not apropos. They tend to be pretty careful. While in office, nearly all of them eschew any opportunity to profit, unless that profit comes from something they did before taking office (for example, book royalties from a book written before becoming presidents). Things loosen up a little once a person is no longer in office. These days, ex-presidents are willing to give speeches, write books, and serve on corporate boards for money, and that's pretty much it. Previously, even some of those things were a bridge too far. For example, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman were both ok with writing books, but pointedly declined other paid opportunities.

Trump, by contrast, is doing just about everything he can to monetize the presidency while he is still in office, including many things that would generally be considered gauche, even for an ex-president (like selling White House-branded merchandise). These are decisions that are within his power, and he has made them. There are also things that are outside of his power. For example, he cannot control how people respond to him, and if they choose to stay away from his hotels, golf courses, etc. because they don't like him. He also can't really control the value of his "brand," which is a question of perception. It is in these areas where he's taking a big hit.

Put another way: Trump is unpopular enough that it's hurting his business badly. He's doing what he can to counter the damage, although many of the strategies he's using are in poor taste, or may even be unethical or illegal, and will be less efficacious once he's out of office. For example, the RNC's interest in holding events at Trump properties will magically dwindle once he's no longer president.

How many of the Democratic presidential candidates are actually running for vice president? G.R., Venice, FL

We doubt that any of them are thinking of things in exactly that way. If the #2 slot really is the goal, this is not the best way to get it, since former rivals for the nomination rarely get the nod (the main exceptions in the last half century are John Edwards in 2004 and George H. W. Bush in 1980, and maybe Joe Biden, though he wasn't in the race for very long in 2008).

Getting into politics, and in particular running for president, generally requires a pretty big ego. And so, there's every chance that most or all of the candidates have convinced themselves that they can actually win this thing. Beyond that, however, there are several benefits to a presidential run. Among them: (1) Higher visibility for future attempts at office, whether a VP run, a 2024 presidential run, cabinet consideration, Congress, a gubernatorial run, etc.; (2) Higher visibility for future opportunities in the private sector, whether CNN/MSNBC/Fox News pundit, law firm partner, lobbyist, corporate board member, etc.; (3) More attention for the candidate's pet issue, and (4) Related to number 3, an opportunity to shape the party platform. If there are any candidates who really don't think they can win, then they are probably thinking about all of these benefits to running a presidential campaign, not just one of them.

Now that the 'histrionics' on both sides of the aisle concerning the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court have abated, I wanted to comment on one aspect of the conversation that was prevalent in the media at the time. I continually read about how the Supreme Court is becoming 'solidly conservative for a generation or more.' Considering Clarence Thomas' advanced age and rumored health, unless he vacates his seat in the next 21 months, he will possibly see the election of a Democratic president and eventually a Democratic controlled Senate, leading to the nomination of a liberal justice to succeed Thomas and then the media will bloviate about how the Supreme Court has become 'solidly liberal for a generation or more.' Comments about 'a week in politics is a long time' aside, why don't media outlets, including on-line ones with a history professor on its editorial staff, call out such obvious histrionics? L.V.A., Idaho Falls, ID

We agree that the most likely way for the conservative hold on the Supreme Court to be broken is the unexpected departure of Clarence Thomas (or one of the other conservatives). We also agree that the odds of this happening are higher than people seem to think.

We cannot speak for other outlets, but we have written about this a number of times. For example, the day after Anthony Kennedy retired, we wrote a 2,300-word item entitled "Is the Supreme Court Really Lost for the Democrats?" in which we discussed various ways in which the conservative hold on SCOTUS may not be as strong as it seems. We included a section called "Surprise Attrition" in which we observed that Clarence Thomas is getting up there in age, and several of the other conservative justices aren't too far behind him. And as recently as February 15, we did an item about how Clarence Thomas needs to decide whether he wants to retire quickly, or else potentially be in a position where he's stuck in a job he doesn't like for 4-8 more years.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr05 William Barr Is Losing the Narrative (And So, by Extension, Is Donald Trump)
Apr05 Trump's Staff Appears to Have Won the Border Battle
Apr05 Second Presidential Veto Is On Tap
Apr05 Trump Taps Herman Cain for the Fed
Apr05 Michael Cohen Has More Singing To Do, Apparently
Apr05 New Mexico Votes to Join National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
Apr05 Republicans Are Doing their Best to Help Doug Jones Keep His Seat
Apr05 Tim Ryan Throws His Hat into the 2020 Ring
Apr05 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Seth Moulton
Apr04 House Judiciary Committee Approves a Subpoena for Mueller's Report
Apr04 Trump Changes His Mind on Releasing Mueller's Report
Apr04 Some Mueller Investigators Think Report Was More Damning than Barr Suggested
Apr04 House Democrats Officially Ask for Trump's Taxes
Apr04 Biden: I Won't Do It Anymore
Apr04 Senate Goes Nuclear
Apr04 Ambassadorships Now Cost $350,000
Apr04 War Erupts within the Democratic Party
Apr04 Iowa Will Allow Remote Voting in the Caucuses
Apr04 Conservative Leads in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race
Apr04 First Quarter Fundraising Reports Are Dribbling In
Apr04 Thursday Q&A
Apr03 Trump Flails Around on Border Policy
Apr03 Behind the Healthcare Flip-Flop
Apr03 Too Many Democrats?
Apr03 And Speaking of Too Many Democrats...
Apr03 Life In the Digital Age, Part I: Google Search "Winners"
Apr03 Life In the Digital Age, Part II: New Facebook Algorithms Haven't Had Much Impact
Apr03 Life In the Digital Age, Part III: The 2020 Census is the New Frontier in Hacking
Apr03 Lori Lightfoot Elected Mayor of Chicago
Apr02 White House Tries to Figure Out What Kind of Theater to Perform at the Border
Apr02 Trump Rammed through Dozens of Security Clearances
Apr02 Democrats Preparing to Make Mueller Report Subpoena Official
Apr02 More Trouble for Moore
Apr02 Two Republican AGs Break Ranks on Obamacare
Apr02 Another Accusation Against Biden
Apr02 Buttigieg Is Raking it In
Apr02 Luján Will Run for Senate
Apr01 Trump Threatens to Close the U.S.-Mexico Border
Apr01 Trump Faces Five Court Battles on Health Care
Apr01 Biden Defends Himself against Charge of Unwanted Kissing
Apr01 Senate Poised to Change Rules to Ram Judicial Nominees Through
Apr01 Republicans Change Their Minds
Apr01 Google Helps Democrats
Apr01 CEOs Help Republicans
Apr01 Biden and Sanders Lead in Nevada
Apr01 Trump Will Hurt Ernst
Apr01 Monday Q&A
Mar29 Mueller's Report Is over 300 Pages
Mar29 House Republicans Attack Adam Schiff and Schiff Fights Back
Mar29 Trump Lied on His Financial Statements