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Explaining Trump’s Anti-Semitism
Trump Wanted to Give Himself Medal of Honor

Trump Ventures into Anti-Semitic Territory

Pretty consistently during his presidency (and before, for that matter), Donald Trump has been overtly Islamophobic, xenophobic, and racist. There wasn't much in the way of anti-Semitism, however, particularly once Steve Bannon left the White House. At least, there wasn't much until Tuesday, when Trump went where no (recent) president had gone before.

It all started, of course, with "The Squad," particularly Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN). The duo was supposed to visit Israel last weekend, until Trump flexed his muscles and got Benjamin Netanyahu's administration to bar their admittance into the country. He also asserted via Twitter that the Representatives "hate Israel & all Jewish people." There is no question that both have been critical of the Israeli government and they support BDS, but to say they hate Israel (as compared to saying they oppose the current government) is a bit of a leap, and to say they hate all Jewish people is simply beyond the pale.

All of this took place last Thursday. At that point, Trump's political strategy—such as it is—was quite transparent. His goal was to make the Representatives the face of the Democratic Party, to use their alleged far-left policies to rile up the conservative elements of his base, and to use their alleged hatred of Israel/Jews to rile up the evangelical elements of his base. On Saturday, he crossed a Rubicon of sorts, however, after Tlaib was granted permission to visit her grandmother (who lives in the Palestinian settlements), and declined. Trump's cheap-shot responses:

It is clear that, by this point, Trump (as he so often does) had moved beyond mere politics and had made things personal. And when the Representatives held a teary press conference to explain their side of things to the press, Trump took it as a personal affront. He responded angrily via Twitter on Tuesday morning:

(Z) has done some acting in his time, and has also witnessed many crocodile-tears performances from students who wanted a higher grade, and so can tell the fake tears from the real ones. Tlaib's were real.

Anyhow, this set the stage for Trump's conversation with reporters Tuesday afternoon. Recall that, by that point, he had 100% convinced himself that these women really are vicious anti-Semites, and even more, that they are enemies of his. So, he hates them with a white hot fury. And having sold himself on his interpretation of events, he took the next logical step in his remarks:

Five years ago, the concept of even talking about this—even three years ago—of cutting off aid to Israel because of two people that hate Israel and hate Jewish people—I can't believe we're even having this conversation. Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they're defending these two people over the State of Israel? I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat—it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.

If you really believe that Tlaib and Omar are anti-Semites, and that their views are widespread among the members of the Democratic Party, then yes, it would be hard to understand why Jewish voters would cast a ballot for the blue team. That would be like black voters casting their votes for a Klansman. However, folks in the real world don't buy that the Democratic Party is full of people who hate Jews, and so Trump's argument is nonsensical. Even worse, the bit about "great disloyalty" invokes a millennia-old, anti-Semitic trope that Jews have dual loyalties (placing their allegiance to their fellow Jews around the world above their allegiance to their countrymen). It is probable that Trump did not consciously decide to stray into anti-Semitic territory, and it is even likely that he did not realize what he'd said when he issued forth with that line. However, those things are not excuses. He should have known better, and it's on him if he did not understand the meaning of his words.

Naturally, there was much anger from Jewish leaders. For example, Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said it was "yet another example of Donald Trump continuing to weaponize and politicize anti-Semitism." Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), one of the two Jews running for president this year, told a rally crowd: "Let me say this to the President. I am a proud Jewish person. And I have no concerns about voting Democratic. And, in fact, I intend to vote for a Jewish man to become the next president of the United States."

It's not clear what the long-term effect of this will be, if any. Because Trump cut off his time with the press after opining on Omar and Tlaib, he wasn't compelled to defend or explain his remarks, and the White House has refused to offer a statement since then. One wonders if the main impact will actually be felt in Israel, where Netanyahu has fully hitched his wagon to Trump, and where an election is just a few weeks away (Sept. 17). Trump's comments are getting lots and lots and lots of coverage in that nation's media. We don't know Israeli politics well enough to guess whether voters there will be angry enough with Trump for it to affect their ballots, but it's possible. It's also possible that even if a Netanyahu-led coalition wins control of the Knesset, the members of the coalition decide that Bibi's relationship with Trump makes him damaged goods, and that they should look elsewhere for a leader. (Z)

Administration's Messaging on the Economy Is All Over the Place

On Tuesday, Donald Trump told reporters the same thing he tells them pretty much every day: "No, it's not a toupee." Oh wait, it wasn't that. No, it was that the economy is doing great, fantastic, spectacular, and terrific. This is also, of course, a recurring theme of Trump’s tweets, Trump supporters' tweets, and Trump’s retweets of Trump supporters' tweets, like this one:

It is worth noting, perhaps, that whatever "manufacturing optimism" actually means, it's been measured for only 20 years. So, "all-time high" actually means "since 2000." Oh, and while the National Association of Manufacturers (which collects that data) declared that such optimism was indeed at an "all-time high" at the end of 2018, they've since said it has dropped significantly. So McDaniel's information is a tad bit out of date.

Anyhow, it is pretty evident that not even the members of Team Trump believe what they are selling when it comes to all of the unicorns and rainbows on the economy. To start, and as we noted in two separate items yesterday, the President is trying desperately to pass the buck on a future recession to anyone he can, including the media and the Federal Reserve Bank, particularly chair Jerome Powell.

On top of that, it was reported Monday morning that the administration is considering cutting payroll taxes in order to goose the economy. Later in the day, the White House said that was nonsense and fake news, and they couldn't imagine where the media came up with that. Well, it would seem the President didn't get the message, because he said on Tuesday that such a tax cut was indeed under discussion. If Team Trump goes through with the plan, it will be interesting to see what Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) does, but the odds are that her chamber doesn't pass the necessary bill unless some of the cuts from the 2017 tax bill are eliminated.

And finally, "acting" Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner went to a fundraising lunch this weekend with a gaggle of GOP mega-donors, and Mick the Knife shared some unhappy news with the attendees: That a recession is very possible in the next year. He also promised that it would be "moderate and short," although he gave no particular evidence for that assertion.

In short, then, the White House has read the tea leaves and is scared witless about what they revealed. If a recession is indeed coming, there isn't a whole lot the administration can do to stop it, although one thing that might help is ending the trade war with China. In recent weeks, when Trump's longest-held policy notion (tariffs) came into conflict with his most deeply-held political desire (to get reelected), the latter won out, and he agreed to delay (part of) the latest round of tariffs on China. We shall see if that trend continues as the election draws nearer, and if the economy keeps showing troublesome signs. (Z)

Apparently, Trump Was Serious about Greenland

Last week, when news broke that Donald Trump was looking into the possibility of purchasing Greenland, it wasn't entirely clear he was serious about the idea. As it turns out (and as we guessed), he was very serious. So much so, in fact, that after the Danes told him "Nej tak!," he called off his planned meeting with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, saying he would probably reschedule at some later date.

It's still not entirely clear why he wanted Greenland, whether it is for military, economic, or other purposes. Still, if he really thought that buying Greenland was a serious possibility, and he's shocked and angry to be told "no," then wow. Denmark gave no indication that they would be interested in selling, and the residents of Greenland gave no indication that they would be interested in becoming semi-citizens of the United States (presumably, they would have had the same status as Virgin Islanders). On top of that, as we pointed out yesterday, this kind of transaction hasn't been done in over a century.

What we're seeing here, it would appear, is that Trump is still a real estate tycoon at heart, and that he continues to conceive of governance and/or diplomacy as a business. If you have a business partner who won't scratch your back, particularly if they are smaller and poorer than you, you freeze them out in hopes that you'll force them to bow to your wishes. Of course, governance and diplomacy are not a business, so Trump can apply every trick in The Art of the Deal, and he's still not getting Greenland. (Z)

A Candidate's Age Is Just a Number?

There are, as you may have noticed, a sizable number of septuagenarians running for president right now. The list includes Donald Trump (currently 73), Joe Biden (76), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA; 70), Bernie Sanders (77) and, if we're being generous, Bill Weld (74). Some, perhaps many, voters are a little leery of putting someone so long in the tooth in the Oval Office, particularly if they are likely to be an octogenarian by the time they're done. So, Politico decided to talk to some experts in aging, and get to the bottom of the matter. The conclusion, after speaking with half a dozen folks who study human aging, is that these politicians are all "superagers," whose chronological age does not match their physical age. Put another way, they are effectively younger than their birth certificates would suggest. In particular, the folks that Politico consulted emphasized that none of them was likely to keel over and die in the next 4-5 years.

Perhaps those assurances will put some readers' minds at ease, but we're not so certain. Inasmuch as the experts quoted in the article have not personally examined any of these candidates, we're not entirely clear how they can declare them to be outliers when it comes to aging. There's no question that outliers do exist, but awarding that status via an armchair diagnosis seems dubious. Further, the concern that most voters have is not so much that the candidate will die in office, it's that they will end up physically or cognitively impaired in such a way that they cannot do the job properly. And finally, people who serve as president have vastly better healthcare than just about anyone, but they also have vastly more stress upon them than just about anyone. Consequently, it's not entirely clear how well actuarial tables and other insights based on the population of normal people actually apply to them. What is clear, however, is that of the three men who served in the White House in their seventies, one had significant physical problems (Dwight D. Eisenhower), one had significant cognitive problems (Ronald Reagan), and one was Donald Trump.

Our guess is that you're going to see a lot of stories in the next year like the one Politico did, but that they're not going to do much to blunt this issue. On the other hand, given that Trump is a shoo-in for renomination, and that the top three Democrats are all above 70, then the voters may be left with no choice but to vote for a septuagenarian. Now that would definitely blunt the issue. (Z)

Presidential Polls: Great News for Biden, Bad News for Harris

The caucuses, primaries, and presidential election may still be pretty far in the future, but the polls are nonetheless coming fast and furious. In the last few days, there have been three national polls of the Democratic field (from CNN, Morning Consult, and Fox), as well as polls of Colorado (from Emerson) and Nevada (from Gravis). Here's everyone who got above 1% in any of the five polls:

Candidate CNN MC  Fox CO  NV 
Joe Biden 29% 31% 31% 25% 25%
Elizabeth Warren 14% 15% 20% 20% 10%
Bernie Sanders 15% 20% 10% 26% 10%
Kamala Harris 5% 9% 8% 13% 9%
Pete Buttigieg 5% 5% 3% 5% 5%
Beto O'Rourke 3% 3% 2% 1% 0%
Cory Booker 2% 3% 3% 2% 3%
Andrew Yang 1% 3% 3% 4% 2%
Tulsi Gabbard 2% 1% 1% 1% 2%
Julián Castro 2% 1% 1% 0% 1%
Amy Klobuchar 1% 1% 2% 0% 2%
Tom Steyer 1% 1% 1% 0% 6%
Bill de Blasio 0% 0% 0% 1% 2%

Some observations:

  • Joe Biden's campaign has to be thrilled. He's now back to a double-digit lead in all of the national polls, despite some rough patches in the last two months.

  • On the other hand, Sen. Kamala Harris' (D-CA) campaign can't be happy. Whatever momentum she gained from the first debate appears to have evaporated. And that 9% in Nevada, given that the state borders California, is pretty grim.

  • Similarly, whatever momentum Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) had has stalled.

  • Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders consistently flip back and forth between second and third place, depending on the demographics of the electorate (Sanders does better in whiter states, Warren in more diverse states), and (presumably) depending on the pollster's model. We would still guess that the Massachusetts Senator ends up as the progressives' standard-bearer, but either way, that battle is clearly going to go on for a long time.

  • Beto O'Rourke should drop out and run for the Senate yesterday. He says he's not going to, but Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also gave the full Sherman when talking about running for reelection, so you never know.

  • Of the candidates in the weeds, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN), Julián Castro, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have the most interesting profiles, and would have a real chance to be competitive in some other year. However, they are not breaking through this year, and it's hard to see what might change that.

  • As to the other candidates in the weeds, it's even harder to see what they might do to break through, and the clock is ticking, because running for president is an expensive business.

There was a period of time where the field had a top five, and then everyone else. We are getting very close to the point that it will be a top three, and then everyone else. One imagines that the DNC will soon bow to the writing on the wall, and set things up so that all of the candidates with a real shot at this thing end up on stage at the same time. (Z)

Third Debate Lineup Is Nearly Set

As noted above, it's getting close to the time that the DNC will have to stop singing kumbayah, and will have to start nudging "Hail Mary" candidates off the debate stage. However, that time will not come in debate three or four, as the Party pooh-bahs have established fairly liberal guidelines for participation.

Thanks to the CNN poll noted above, Julián Castro has now made the cut for the third and fourth debates. That means that the field for both meetings will number at least 10, with Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang already having qualified for both.

Next up on the list is Tom Steyer, who is just one poll short of making the cut. He's unleashed a torrent of advertising in the early primary/caucus states with an eye toward locking up that last poll, and the odds are that he gets it in the eight days before the cutoff for the third debate. If not, he'll definitely get it before the cutoff for the fourth debate. His qualifying, in turn, will make things too unwieldy for one night, and so the odds are good that Team Blue is going to have to host two more two-night affairs.

After Steyer, the candidate who is closest to qualifying is Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who has crossed the donor threshold, and also needs two more polls. She probably won't get them in the next eight days, but will in the five weeks or so before the cutoff for debate four. Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Marianne Williamson have reached the donor threshold, but have no polls. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is nearing the donor threshold, and has one poll. Everyone else is striking out on both fronts, so the smart money says there will be 11 debaters in September, 12-13 in October, and then the hammer will come down prior to the November matchup. (Z)

Senate Polls: Almost Everything Is Coming Up Roses for the Democrats

There have been several polls of Senate races, or hypothetical Senate races, this week, and the numbers have to leave Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and DSCC Chair Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV) pleased as punch.

To start, the Emerson poll of Colorado noted above also asked voters whom they would vote for in a hypothetical matchup between former governor and presidential candidate John Hickenlooper and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). Despite the fact that Hickenlooper is not actually running, as yet, he leads Gardner by 13 points (53% to 40%). Polls like that are likely to get Hickenlooper in the race, pronto.

Perhaps even better news for the blue team came out of Arizona, where a poll from OH Predictive Insights shows Democratic challenger Mark Kelly leading Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) for the first time. Kelly's five-point lead (46% to 41%) is outside the margin of error, so it's fair to say his lead is real. Meanwhile, his name recognition, and thus his support, still have room to grow. Meanwhile, as we've noted, McSally has some serious weaknesses, not the least of which is that she lost a Senate race last year and had to get to Washington by being appointed to the seat vacated by John McCain when he died.

In short, then, everything is pretty much going according to plan for the Democrats when it comes to the two most vulnerable Republican-held Senate seats. The GOP did get one positive poll this week, on the Senate front, but it comes with some caveats. The poll, from Gravis, is of the Senate race in Maine. The good news for the Republicans is that Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is leading her most likely opponent, Sara Gideon, 44% to 30%. But now the caveats: First, 19% of voters are uncertain as to their preferred choice, which is a very high number for a sitting senator with universal name recognition. Presumably, a lot of that 19% is available for Gideon to win over. Second, 7% of voters list independent candidate Danielle VanHelsing as their first choice. Recall that Maine has ranked-choice voting, and then consider that VanHelsing is trying to become America's first transgender Senator, and you can guess whose column most of that 7% will end up in. So, Collins has her work cut out for her if she wants to keep her job, and Gideon has more than a puncher's chance of knocking off the incumbent. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug20 Trump Takes on Google
Aug20 Trump Takes on the Media
Aug20 Trump Takes on the Fed
Aug20 Trump Takes on Gun Laws...Er, Never Mind
Aug20 Luján Backs Impeachment
Aug20 Warren Apologizes to Native Americans
Aug20 Tuesday Q&A
Aug19 Biden Is Having Trouble Raising Money Online
Aug19 Foreign Diplomats Expect Trump to Be Reelected
Aug19 Stephen Miller Is Trump's Most-Trusted Adviser Other Than His Family
Aug19 How a Recession Could Start
Aug19 Judge Orders Georgia to Switch to Paper Ballots
Aug19 Poll: Americans Support Free Trade
Aug19 Sanders Is the Clear Favorite of Democratic College Students
Aug19 Republicans Want to Beat Ocasio-Cortez
Aug16 No Israel Visit for Omar, Tlaib
Aug16 This Is What Corruption Looks Like
Aug16 Trump's Folly?
Aug16 Trump Made Me Do It!
Aug16 Team Biden Works on Solution to Gaffe Problem
Aug16 Hickenlooper Exits the Presidential Race
Aug16 O'Rourke Does the Full Sherman
Aug16 King Embraces Incest, Rape
Aug16 Democratic Presidential Candidate Update: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Aug15 The Stock Market Is Nervous (Again)
Aug15 Biden Tries to Recover from Another Gaffe
Aug15 Trump Gets a Minor Win in Court
Aug15 Hickenlooper Is Having Second Thoughts about This President Thing
Aug15 Trump's State-by-State Approval Ratings Are Dismal
Aug15 California's New Tax-Return Law Could Hit Republicans Downballot
Aug15 Pelosi Calls McConnell "Moscow Mitch"
Aug15 Political Tourism Starts to Take Off
Aug15 Thursday Q&A
Aug14 Trump Blinks on China
Aug14 Abrams Announces 2020 Plans
Aug14 Epstein Story Isn't Going Away
Aug14 A Tale of Two Terrible Candidates
Aug14 This Week's Polling News, Part I: Trump vs. the Democrats
Aug14 This Week's Polling News, Part II: Trump vs. Himself
Aug14 Gabbard Takes a Two-Week Hiatus
Aug13 Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain, Part I: Immigrants
Aug13 Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain, Part II: Mobility
Aug13 Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain, Part III: Regulation
Aug13 Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain, Part IV: Conservation
Aug13 Reid: Abolish the Filibuster
Aug13 Trump Could Goddamn Well Lose the Evangelicals
Aug13 Could Texas Go Blue in 2020?
Aug12 Epstein Opts for the Expedited Track
Aug12 What Is the Second Amendment Really about?
Aug12 It's Party Time in Iowa