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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  No Articles of Impeachment, Yet
      •  Democratic Primary Debate Dates Announced
      •  Beshear Restores Voting Rights to 140,000 Felons
      •  Senate Recognizes Armenian Genocide
      •  About that Trump Family Hypocrisy...
      •  Boris Johnson Wins Big
      •  Is the Third Time the Charm in Israel?

No Articles of Impeachment, Yet

The House Judiciary Committee held a marathon markup session on Thursday, as they tried to figure out the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. After more than 12 hours, the committee finally adjourned without taking a vote on whether or not to advance the articles to the entire House.

The good news is that, for much of that time, the folks in the room behaved like the political leaders they are supposed to be. They respectfully discussed and debated relevant issues, each trying to communicate their point of view. The bad news is that the rest of the time was wasted on silly shenanigans from the GOP. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) alone introduced five different amendments to the articles, like one that tried to add verbiage that would protect Donald Trump from being removed from office. Perhaps the honorable member from Ohio is not familiar with what "impeachment" means. Anyhow, all of Jordan's amendments were, predictably, voted down with a party-line vote.

The general assumption was that the Committee would eventually get around to voting, even if they had to do it at 2:00 in the morning. However, Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) decided that he preferred to hold the vote "in the light of day," and gaveled the proceedings to an unexpected close. The Republicans on the committee blew their tops, with ranking member Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) calling it "the most bush league stunt I've ever seen in my entire life." If that is true, then one wonders what exactly Collins was watching all day, while Jordan was doing his Yakima Canutt impression.

In the end, none of this will especially matter. The Committee will vote today, likely very early, and on a party-line vote will pass the articles of impeachment to the whole House for consideration next week. If there are any voters in the land who are actually being influenced by all of this political theater—given that just about everyone made up their minds on impeachment, one way or another, many weeks ago—we would be interested to learn who they are. (Z)

Democratic Primary Debate Dates Announced

The DNC has announced plans for the first four debates of 2020 (and numbers 7 through 10 overall), scheduling one for the voters of each early primary/caucus state. Here is the schedule:

  1. Jan. 14: Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa (Hosts: CNN and The Des Moines Register)
  2. Feb. 7: St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire (Hosts: ABC News, WMUR-TV, and Apple News)
  3. Feb. 19: Location TBA in Las Vegas, Nevada (Hosts: NBC News, MSNBC, and The Nevada Independent)
  4. Feb. 25: Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina (Hosts: CBS News, Congressional Black Caucus Institute)

That is four debates in just over a month, with the last three taking place over just 18 days. Does anyone really need that? Perhaps the moderators will ask questions of local interest, and we will be entertained as we watch Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pretend to have a strong opinion about corn subsidies and hog futures. Otherwise, it's going to be very, very repetitive.

In any event, significant details remain unresolved, most obviously what the qualifying standards for these debates will be. Presumably those will be announced shortly after the Dec. 19 debate. Also in question is what will happen if the senators with debate invites are required to be in Washington for impeachment proceedings. The DNC says it has a backup plan in place, though one imagines that plan is something like "cross our fingers and pray that there isn't a conflict." (Z)

Beshear Restores Voting Rights to 140,000 Felons

When he was running for the governor's mansion, he promised he would do it. And now, just days after taking office, Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY) has proven to be as good as his word, and has restored voting rights to 140,000 felons in the state, via executive order. Last year, Florida voters approved a nearly identical move, giving back voting rights to non-violent felons, only to see the Republican-dominated legislature gut the measure this year. Both houses of the Kentucky legislature are GOP-dominated (29-9 in the State Senate, 61-39 in the State House), so the same thing could happen here.

If Beshear's order does stand, however, could it have a significant impact in 2020? Never say never, particularly given how close the Kentucky governor's race was this year, but the odds are against it. Given that some of those 140,000 are Republicans and many of them won't bother to vote in 2020 (just like non-felon Americans), Beshear's move probably netted the Democrats around 15,000 votes. Donald Trump won the state in 2016 by almost 575,000 votes, which is just a shade more than 15,000. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has terrible approval ratings and a strong opponent in Amy McGrath, so it's possible that he could be in trouble, and that 15,000 votes could spell his doom in 2020. However, McConnell had terrible approval ratings and a strong opponent in Alison Lundergan Grimes in 2014, and he won by more than 220,000 votes. So, the odds are that Beshear's order—while just and appropriate—does not have an effect on national politics anytime soon. (Z)

Senate Recognizes Armenian Genocide

Earlier this week, we wrote about efforts in Congress to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide, one of the greatest atrocities in human history. One might think that accepting such a thing, and trying to learn from it, would not be controversial. However, the Turkish government has pushed back hard against recognition for more than a century, often with a vigor resembling the Chinese position on Hong Kong, or the Russian position on Ukraine, or the Pakistani position on Kashmir, or everyone's position on the New Coke.

We proposed, on Tuesday, that Turkey is now losing this fight, and that broad international recognition of the Armenian Holocaust is coming. That includes the United States, where most of Congress is on board, but where efforts were being stymied by the Trump administration, which has something of a knack for being on the wrong side of history. As it turns out, it did not take long for us to be proven correct. On Thursday, the Senate ignored the administration's wishes on the matter and passed the resolution. Since it is not a bill, it's not subject to presidential veto. And Since it had already passed the House, that means the U.S. has joined nearly four dozen other nations in condemning the Armenian genocide. Truth will out.

There is every chance that things are going to get pretty tense on this front, as Trump's preference to maintain a nice, cozy relationship with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan bumps up against the fact that the overwhelming majority of the members of Congress are furious with the Turks due to their treatment of Syrian Kurds and their purchase of arms from Russia. The genocide recognition is a starting point, and a bill hitting the Turks with some heavy sanctions is working its way through Congress. How Trump will deal with that is unknown to everyone, probably including him. We could very well be looking at the first override of a Trump veto, though.

Meanwhile, beyond the political considerations, there is much value in getting right with the historical record. One would hope that mankind has moved beyond things like what happened in Turkey. And yet, these sorts of atrocities keep happening. Erasing the historical memory of past incidents just makes future incidents more plausible. It is entirely true, as many readers pointed out on Tuesday, that Adolf Hitler once advised his generals that mass slaughter was entirely permissible, observing that "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" So, Congress is to be commended for taking an action that was more than a century in coming. We can only hope they will soon do more to come to grips with some of the darker deeds in the United States' past. (Z)

About that Trump Family Hypocrisy...

Last weekend, we answered a question about the Trump family's habit of failing to abide by the standards that they set for others. For anyone who was unaware of this tendency, they provided a couple of strikingly clear examples in the last few days.

To start, there was an incident during the House Judiciary Committee hearings where one of the law professors called by the Democrats, Pamela Karlan, tried to make a combined argument/joke: "The president can name his son Barron, but he can't make him a baron." She really needs to get better writers. Anyhow, although the observation is not critical of the First Son, many folks felt that Karlan nonetheless violated the general custom that presidential children are off limits. The professor apologized, but that wasn't enough for First Lady Melania Trump:

Note that last part, about how Karlan should be "ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it." For the record, Barron Trump is 13.

On Thursday, meanwhile, Time magazine named its Person of the Year, and it is global warming activist Greta Thunberg. This aggravated Donald Trump, for two reasons. First, because she is Greta Thunberg. Second, because she is not Donald Trump. So, he took to Twitter to express his irritation:

One could rightly argue that Thunberg has chosen to be a public figure and Barron Trump has not, and so they are different in that way. However, if Trump's tweet—and Thunberg is 16, by the way—is not "very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it," we're not seeing how. It's also at odds with Melania Trump's ostensible commitment to combat online bullying. Asked to make a statement in support of Thunberg, the First Lady declined, leaving the previous First Lady to do it instead.

And now, example number two. We noted that Donald Trump planned to declare Judaism a nationality. This will hypothetically allow the federal government to punish universities and other entities that receive federal funding if they are inappropriately aggressive in their opposition to Israel. The move is supposed to reflect the administration's commitment to combating anti-Semitism.

On Wednesday, Trump signed that order at a ceremony also meant to commemorate Hanukkah. (This despite the fact that Hanukkah does not start for nearly two weeks; on December 22. Maybe he needed to keep that date open for his St. Patrick's Day party). Anyhow, Team Trump decided that it would be apropos to have a religious leader say a few words at the ceremony. Seems fair enough, but wouldn't you think that you'd invite a rabbi to do the honors? There's gotta be a few of them in D.C., right? Instead, the administration invited Trump-loving evangelical Robert Jeffress. Jeffress is not only not a rabbi, he's an anti-Semite (actually, he's more of an all-purpose bigot; anti-Semitism is just one of his bigotries). He once declared:

Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell. You know, Jesus was very clear. Hell is not only going to be populated by murderers and drug dealers and child abusers. Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.

It's not like Jeffress misspoke in what was a prepared sermon, or that this general sentiment is a one-time thing for him.

The Israeli media has noted the incongruity between the administration's stance on anti-Semitism, and its tolerance for the same. They are well aware, as are politics-watchers in the U.S., that when the President takes a strong pro-Israel stance, adherents of Judaism are not the religious voters he's after. (Z)

Boris Johnson Wins Big

Yesterday's election in the United Kingdom bore more than a passing resemblance to the United States' election in 2016. The question of turning inward, or outward, was central in both cases. The vote of traditionally left-center blue-collar voters—rust belters in the U.S., "Workington Man" in the U.K.—was decisive. Heck, both elections even had a liberal "wall" of voters that was not so impregnable as it seemed, the "blue wall" in the U.S. and the "red wall" in the U.K. And perhaps most importantly, in both cases, many voters felt they were left to decide which was the less appealing from two very unappealing options. An op-ed entitled "Britain's Miserable Election," written by Jenni Russell for the New York Times, seems to capture the general tone and tenor of things as voters headed to the polls on Thursday:

This is the dejection election. Not in my lifetime has Britain faced such a miserable choice. Two vain, incompetent, mediocre charlatans are competing to become prime minister. For the Conservatives, we have the blustering, lying, oafish puffball Boris Johnson. In the Labour corner is the querulous, wooden, sanctimonious Jeremy Corbyn.

The two candidates are so alarming that, in an unprecedented intervention, former prime ministers from each of their parties have pleaded with voters to block them. Tony Blair and John Major have urged tactical votes against Mr. Corbyn and Mr. Johnson. Everywhere, exhausted, disillusioned, skeptical voters debate who is worse. British politics has never known anything like it.

Predictably, given the merits of the two candidates (or, more accurately, the lack thereof), it was an exceedingly nasty campaign, with much mud hurled by partisans on both sides. Again, much like the U.S. in 2016.

It would appear that, in the end, Boris Johnson was the less malodorous of the two candidates, as he and his Conservative Party won the election convincingly. With one seat still undecided, the Tories took 364 seats in Parliament (326 needed for a majority). That's a gain of 66 seats. Also having a good night was the Scottish National Party, which finished with 48 seats, a gain of 13. The enormous success of those two parties means that the U.K. might not be a U.K. much longer, as a second Scottish independence initiative is likely, and it's possible Wales and/or Northern Ireland could follow suit.

Getting the short end of the stick was Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party. They'll finish with 203 seats in Parliament, a loss of 43. The Liberal Democrats also took a thrashing, dropping from 21 seats down to 11 (although, in fairness, most of those were Tories who defected from the Conservative Party, and then were unable to hold their seats). Both of those parties will soon have new leadership. Corbyn, having been thoroughly repudiated, says he'll step down before the next general election. Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson was given no choice but to step down, as one of the seats the Party lost was hers.

Ultimately, the secret of Johnson's success may not have been that he was less malodorous, as much as it was that it was clear what he stood for. Like Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" in 2016, Johnson and his party had a simple slogan they were running on—Get Brexit Done —and a simple political program, namely to get Brexit done. Labour's position on Brexit, the key issue of this election, was more fuzzy and kept evolving. American voters will recall that Hillary Clinton was often guilty of the same, whether it was her answers about the e-mail server or her frequently changing position on the minimum wage, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and a number of other issues.

Anyhow, ever since the U.K. voted for Brexit back in June 2016, there's been at least some doubt as to whether or not it would actually happen. Given the mandate and the majority that Johnson has just been handed, there is no doubt anymore. The U.K. is going, likely at the end of next month. Then, Johnson will try to negotiate what comes next, working from what certainly appears to be a position of weakness. In the short term, that will hit the British economy hard, and will likely send it into recession. The shockwaves from that, in turn, could drag the EU and the world economy down. It is not at all impossible that this plays out over a very short time, say six months. And if the U.S. goes into recession just months before the 2020 elections, well, that would be very big news, indeed. (Z)

Is the Third Time the Charm in Israel?

In April, the citizens of Israel held an election to choose their next government. Unlike the election in the U.K. on Thursday, it wasn't decisive, and neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his main challenger Benny Gantz was able to form a government. That necessitated a second election, in September. Election #2 was not decisive, either, and once again, neither leader was able to form a government. So, on Thursday it was announced that the Israelis will try again in March of next year.

The lack of a clear result is starting to have a deleterious impact on Israel. The elections themselves are costly; each one sets the government back about $200 million. Further, election days are national holidays, so having three elections in a single calendar year really hits private businesses in the pocketbook. If that were not enough, the caretaker government that's been running the show for a year now can't legally make a lot of decisions. For example, once the new year starts, Israel won't have a budget, and its expenditures will be governed by a formula, and based on last year's budget. Some infrastructure projects will grind to a halt, and some government programs, like medication subsidies for poor people, may be halted temporarily.

Naturally, Netanyahu and Gantz are trying to make adjustments in their respective pitches, in hopes of breaking through in round three. Netanyahu is working hard to rally the small, right-wing parties to his banner, in hopes they will support him and his Likud Party, just this once. Gantz, for his part, has convinced his second-in-command Yair Lapid to abandon the demand that he (Lapid) be part of a prime minister rotation. That should strengthen Gantz's position. In addition, one of the key reasons Gantz and Netanyahu were unable to reach agreement on a power-sharing arrangement was that Netanyahu refused to waive his right to ask for parliamentary immunity from prosecution for crimes. That means that, in the next wave of campaigning, Gantz will not only be able to hit the PM hard on the fact that he's facing multiple felony indictments, he will also be able to make a plausible argument that one of the major reasons Netanyahu wants to stay in office is to avoid prosecution.

And speaking of fellows who may want to stay in office to avoid prosecution, Donald Trump is undoubtedly watching all of this very closely. He's taken a number of aggressive—some would say rash—actions designed to bolster Netanyahu's election chances. Hard to imagine what Team Trump will come up with in the next three months, but you can bet it will be something. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec12 House Judiciary Committee Debates Impeaching Trump
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Dec12 Bloomberg Donates $10 Million to Vulnerable House Democrats
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Dec12 Horowitz Goes after Barr
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Dec11 Democrats Unveil Two Articles of Impeachment
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Dec11 Trump to Declare Judaism a Nationality
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Dec11 Yang Makes Cut for the Seventh Debate
Dec11 Rep. Ted Yoho Will Retire
Dec11 Brits Head to the Polls Tomorrow
Dec10 Impeachy Keen
Dec10 Horowitz Releases His Report
Dec10 Full Speed Ahead on NAFTA v2.0
Dec10 Buttigieg-Warren Spat Looks to Be Winding Down
Dec10 Another Bush Enters the Fray
Dec10 Top Cop Slams Top Senators
Dec10 The Wrong Side of History
Dec09 Judiciary Committee Issues Report Describing the Impeachment Process
Dec09 How to Fix the Impeachment Process
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Dec09 Booker Rakes in Big Bucks
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Dec09 North Carolina Congressman Won't Run in 2020
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Dec06 Joe Loses His Cool
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Dec06 Kerry Endorses Biden
Dec06 Democrats Try to Sweet Talk Bullock
Dec06 Graves Joins the Crowd Headed for the Exit
Dec05 House Learns What "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" Are, or Maybe It Doesn't
Dec05 Democrats Hint at Three Articles of Impeachment
Dec05 Giuliani Is Still at It
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Dec05 Kemp Defies Trump and Appoints Loeffler to the Senate
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