World’s Richest Got Even Richer In 2019
Biden Would Not Comply with Senate Subpoena
Biden Discloses His Bundlers
Trump Tariffs Backfired
What We Already Know About the 2020 Election
Schumer Said In 1999 Senate Couldn’t Be Like Jury
• Trump-only Ballot Triggers Lawsuit in Minnesota
• Democrats Getting Ready to Run on Healthcare
• What Does a Promising Presidential Résumé Look Like?, Part I
• The Not-so-Young and Restless
• Who Are the Snowflakes, Again?
• Netanyahu Will Keep on Keepin' On
A few weeks ago, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un promised a "Christmas gift" for the United States. Christmas has now come and gone, of course, with no "gift." What gives?
There are a few possibilities that suggest themselves. They are:
- Houston, We Have a Problem: The general assumption is that Kim was either referring to a
new hard-line policy on negotiating with the United States, or that he was planning a missile test. Nothing would really
stop him from making a policy announcement, except maybe a serious case of laryngitis, but some sort of technical issue
could certainly have made a Dec. 25 missile launch impracticable.
- All the World's a Stage, v1.0: Kim, like most strongmen, loves theatrics. Maybe this whole
thing was a put-on. Or, maybe it wasn't a put-on, but Kim is enjoying watching the world sweat as it waits for the other
shoe to drop.
- All the World's a Stage, v2.0: Donald Trump also loves theatrics. Maybe his team has reached some sort of breakthrough behind the scenes, and is just waiting for the most opportune moment to announce it. This seems very unlikely, because: (1) nobody makes breakthroughs with Kim, and (2) Trump rarely manages to keep his mouth 100% shut when some triumph is on the horizon. However, we mention it because it is at least possible.
In any case, everyone's watching and waiting (and worrying). The Japanese, who have more reason to be nervous than anyone besides the South Koreans, even announced that a missile had been launched, before correcting themselves 23 minutes later. The general assumption is that if Kim doesn't make a move by January 1, he was just bluffing. You never really know with him, though. (Z)
In some states, like South Carolina, political parties are not required to hold primaries if they don't want to. And so, many state-level GOP organizations have decided to cancel theirs and to award their delegates to Donald Trump automatically. Minnesota doesn't allow that, at least not since the law was changed 3 years ago. What Minnesota does allow, however, is for the state parties to decide what name or names appear on the ballot. And the state GOP has decided that a ballot with one name will be fine and dandy, thank you very much. At least one citizen of the Gopher State does not want to be deprived of non-Donald-Trump choices, and so he has filed suit in an effort to force the state party to add more names to the ballot.
The lawsuit does not have a great chance of succeeding, as states and parties both have a lot of latitude in terms of how primaries are run. However, this could nonetheless affect the primaries. The Democratic primaries, that is. If the lawsuit is not resolved relatively quickly (mid-January or so) the state says it may not have time to print and distribute ballots by the date their primary is scheduled for (Super Tuesday, on March 3). If Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) remains viable after the first four primaries/caucuses, it would be a real setback for her if her home state does not end up voting on Super Tuesday, especially since no other Midwestern states are going that day.
It's very interesting how hard the various state-level Republican organizations are working to create the appearance that Trump has the complete support of his party. It's true that the appearance of unity is useful. However, is there really a difference between Trump getting 95% of the vote versus him getting 100%? Meanwhile, bending over backwards to stifle any opposition runs the risk of aggravating some voters, while also sending the message that Trump is thin-skinned and/or that he doesn't actually have as much GOP support as it seems. (Z)
In 2018, "The Republicans want to take away your healthcare" was a big winner for the Democrats, and probably did more than anything (well, except for the general unpopularity of Donald Trump) in terms of putting the Speaker's gavel back in Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) hands. This issue also played a role in some of the surprise Democratic wins in recent statewide elections, most obviously the upset of former governor Matt Bevin in Kentucky.
These things being the case, one would think the GOP would work hard to avoid handing this issue to the Democrats on a silver platter in 2020. And yet, one would be wrong. The AGs of all the red states have been pushing an anti-Obamacare lawsuit through the very conservative Fifth Circuit, and thus far have gotten favorable rulings from conservative judges at multiple levels of the judiciary. The law is not dead yet, and the lawsuits are not going to be resolved until 2021, most likely. However, it's clear that the ACA is in danger, and it's similarly clear that is exactly how the Republican Party likes it.
Thus far, the various Democratic candidates for president have largely avoided discussing the anti-ACA lawsuit and decisions, and instead have spent much of their time bickering about Medicare for All. However, large numbers of Democratic candidates for other offices are eagerly grabbing the low-hanging fruit that the Republican Party is handing to them. For example, this ad is already running in states where vulnerable GOP senators, like Susan Collins (R-ME) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), are running for reelection:
The drumbeat is going to get louder next year, and it's likely the Democratic presidential nominee, whoever he or she is, will get on board, too, as they tack to the center during the general election.
Meanwhile, as we said, the Republicans' thought process is a real head-scratcher. Their anti-Obamacare stance is a long-term play; they want to please 80% or 90% of voters with cheaper (but often worthless) health insurance, and are willing to kiss off the other 10% or 20% to do it. It's questionable whether that can work but, in any case, pretty much everything else the GOP does these days, like hugging old, white evangelicals closer and closer, is an extreme short-term play. It is really incongruent to be walking both sides of the street at once like this. (Z)
44 people have served as President of the United States; some very successfully, others less so. And each of those 44 have come to the office with different backgrounds, of course. Knowing what we know about which presidents did well, and which did not, is there anything we can learn about what best prepares someone for that office?
Back in 2008, (V), who has a lot of math and statistics in his background, looked at this and came up with this analysis (which can be found on the data galore page). Now, (Z), who is a professional historian, has decided to look at the situation again, but from a somewhat different angle. He also included this year's Democratic candidates in the list.
In an effort to answer the question of what the best C.V. for a president is, we've put together a data set that we will use to look at the question in three different ways. Today, we will consider the amount of political experience that each president brought to the table.
Before we begin, we should note that putting together this data set required a fair number of judgment calls. Among the most important:
- We only counted jobs that were elective, or that would have occupied at least 30% of the person's time.
In the nineteenth century, it was fairly common for people to wear multiple hats at once.
- Any service whatsoever counted for at least 1 year, even if the person
only held the job for a month or two (for example, John Tyler as vice president). Beyond one year, we rounded
to the nearest year.
- Nearly every president was a behind-the-scenes political operator, at least to an extent. We did not count this (which would be difficult to quantify) unless the person held a specific post within their party's hierarchy.
And now, here is the data; we had to make everything double-digits so that sorting would work properly. We included the 44 presidents, plus the five highest-polling Democratic contenders from this year. The key to the table is below.
|Franklin D. Roosevelt|
|Harry S. Truman|
|Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|John F. Kennedy|
|James K. Polk|
|Lyndon B. Johnson|
|John Quincy Adams|
|George H. W. Bush|
|William Howard Taft|
|Martin Van Buren|
|Rutherford B. Hayes|
|Chester A. Arthur|
|James A. Garfield|
|George W. Bush|
|Ulysses S. Grant|
|William Henry Harrison|
|Warren G. Harding|
- Rank: Ranking, according to average result in the 20 major scholars' polls conducted since 1948.
- LL: Years served in local legislative posts (city council, alderman, etc.)
- LE: Years served in local executive posts (mayor, etc.)
- LJ: Years served in local judicial posts (judge, sheriff, etc.)
- LT: Total years in local offices
- SL: Years served in state legislative posts (assembly, state senate, etc.)
- SE: Years served in state executive posts (governor, etc.)
- SJ: Years served in state judicial posts (judge, etc.)
- ST: Total years in state office
- HR: Years served in the House of Representatives
- SN: Years served in the U.S. Senate
- CB: Years served as a cabinet or assistant cabinet secretary
- DP: Years served in the diplomatic corps
- JD: Years served in the federal judiciary
- VP: Years served as vice president
- FT: Total years in federal office
- OT: Years served in other political posts (party functionary, CIA director, tax collector, etc.)
- Total: Total years in political office
Click here to see a list of political offices held by these folks over and above the half-dozen most common ones. Since we are considering the posts that may (or may not) have prepared someone for the presidency, post-presidential posts are not included in the data set.
In any event, this data set certainly does not suggest much in the way of clues as to what a promising presidential candidate looks like. One might guess, for example, that having many overall years of service in politics would be a good thing. And indeed, the man who came to the White House with more years in politics than any but one of his fellows—Thomas Jefferson, with 31 years under his belt—turned out pretty good (ranked #5). On the other hand, the guy who outranks TJ is Andrew Johnson, with 34 years in political office, and he was one of the worst presidents ever (#41). James Buchanan, with his 30 years in politics, was even worse (#43). That means that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), with 37 years in politics, and Joe Biden, with 47 years, can't exactly use the fact that they would be the most politically experienced presidents ever as strong evidence that they will be great if elected.
On the other hand, it is clear that limited political experience is generally a bad thing. The 10 least experienced presidents were all below average or worse, with the exception of #8 Dwight D. Eisenhower and #17 Ronald Reagan. And in each of those cases, there was a pretty clear qualifier; Eisenhower had commanded the mightiest army in human history, while Reagan had extensive experience as a labor leader, and had spent close to a decade running the U.S.'s most populous state. This does not bode well for Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend), who is the least experienced candidate this year, and who did not command a mighty army or govern a massive state.
How about high-level federal office? Well, former vice-presidents are a mixed bag, as that office has given us some winners, like Jefferson and #4 Theodore Roosevelt, but also some real stinkers, like #34 Richard Nixon, #37 John Tyler, #38 Millard Fillmore, and Andrew Johnson. So, Joe Biden's 8 years as Barack Obama's sidekick are not all that useful an indicator. Similarly, Biden, Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar, if elected, would enter the White House with more U.S. Senate experience under their belts than any previous president (with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, not far behind). However, former senators are another mixed bag. The #6 president, Harry S. Truman, and the #10 president, John F. Kennedy, had substantial tenures in the upper house. On the other hand, so did Buchanan and Tyler.
To the extent that there's a political post that presages presidential success...well, it's not the one you would expect. However, if you look at the five fellows who had the most experience serving in their state legislatures, you get—in order of length of service—#3 George Washington, Jefferson, #12 Barack Obama, #16 James Monroe, and #1 Abraham Lincoln. That's a pretty impressive list. It's also probably just a coincidence, as it's hard to fashion an explanation for why that job would be more predictive of presidential success than any other. And even if it is predictive, that's no help this year, as none of the major candidates on either side of the aisle has any experience in state-level office of any sort.
Anyhow, you can click on the column headers to sort the table by whichever category you wish, and to see if you notice any patterns that we missed. We'll look at two more data sets next week. (Z)
As we note above, the leading Democrats running for president this year mostly have a lot of political experience, even when compared to the other (often very impressive) folks who have run for that office. Heck, just Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders combine for 84 years of experience in political office (see above); that's longer than the lifespan of the average American male. There is, of course, a reason why the Democratic field is unusually experienced. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it's because they are unusually...well, old.
In order to capture the situation visually, artist Jeffrey Shaffer put together this infographic:
If you care to examine the infographic more closely, it can be found here.
In any case, healthcare is obviously much better today than it was when the 70-year-old Andrew Jackson or the 70-year-old Dwight D. Eisenhower left office. Heck, it's better than when the 78-year-old Ronald Reagan left office. Is that enough to allow for someone in their mid-to-high 70s to sign up for a four-year or eight-year hitch in the most difficult job in the world? Odds are good that we are about to find out. (Z)
The Republican Party, which these days is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Donald Trump, is fond of mocking what they see as the extreme over-sensitivity of liberal "snowflakes." As we noted yesterday, Team Trump even put together a website with advice for how the President's supporters can attack, embarrass, and defeat their "snowflake" relatives at Christmas gatherings.
All of that makes this bit of news a tad bit...ironic. As readers learned from one of the questions in our Christmas quiz, Donald Trump has a very brief cameo in the movie Home Alone 2. Inasmuch as that is a Christmas movie, it aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Channel (CBC) this week...without the Trump cameo. And the folks at Fox News noticed and pitched a fit. That, in turn, triggered angry tweets from the Donalds Trump, both Jr. and Sr.:
‘Pathetic’: Canada’s CBC under fire when Trump’s cameo in ‘Home Alone 2’ disappears from Christmas broadcast https://t.co/zJUij9qrLe— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) December 26, 2019
I guess Justin T doesn’t much like my making him pay up on NATO or Trade! https://t.co/sndS7YvIGR— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 27, 2019
Getting so upset when a foreign country excises a three-second scene from a movie seems a little...snowflake-like.
Further, it also turns out to be entirely unjustified. Although the Trumps and Fox News either implicitly or explicitly blamed Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, the truth is that he had nothing to do with it. That scene, along with 20 other brief moments inconsequential to the plot, was cut in order to fit the movie into the broadcast slot available for it. The CBC has already proven that they've been running this cut of the movie since 2014, before Trump became president or Trudeau became PM. The President would have known this if he had just read the entirety of the message that he retweeted. That said, even if he had read the whole thing, that probably wouldn't have stopped him from seizing on an opportunity to help fuel the outrage machine. (Z)
There are currently two rather large strikes against Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. The first is that he's facing trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The second is that, for two elections in a row, he has been unable to command enough support to form a government. Between these two things, it is entirely possible that his long political career will soon be ended by Israeli voters.
If that is to be the case, however, it will not be the members of Netanyahu's Likud Party who send him into retirement. On Thursday, the results of that party's leadership election were announced, and Netanyahu trounced his competition, claiming 75% of the vote. Clearly, Likud is almost as loyal to the PM as the Republican Party is to Donald Trump. One wonders if Netanyahu could shoot someone on Ben Yehuda Street and get away with it. In any event, it's possible that the people of Israel will send Netanyahu packing when they head to the polls (yet again) on March 2 of next year. For now, however, one of Trump's closest allies among the leaders of the world lives to fight another day. (Z)
If you have a question about politics, civics, history, etc. you would like us to answer on the site, please send it to email@example.com, and include your initials and city of residence. If you have a comment about the site or one of the items therein, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your initials and city of residence in case we decide to publish it. If you spot any typos or other errors on the site that we should fix, please let us know at email@example.com.
Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec26 DNC Tightens the Screws Again
Dec26 Billionaires Have Spent $200 Million on the Primaries So Far
Dec26 Murkowski Is "Disturbed" by McConnell's View of the Impeachment Trial
Dec26 It's Christian against Christian
Dec26 Trump Now Wants to Rip American Families Apart
Dec26 McConnell Lards on the Pork
Dec26 Liz Cheney Still Undecided on Senate Run
Dec25 "Christmas Gift" from North Korea Arrives Today
Dec25 Trott Says Trump "Unfit for Office"
Dec25 The Paradox of Choice
Dec25 "Tío Bernie" Leads Among Latino Voters
Dec25 Is Amy Klobuchar Surging?
Dec25 Christmas in Washington
Dec25 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part IX
Dec24 Who Would Jesus Vote For?
Dec24 Impeachment Never Sleeps
Dec24 Money for Trump That Isn't Actually for Trump
Dec24 Khashoggi's "Killers" Sentenced
Dec24 Does Obama Have His Candidate?
Dec24 Republicans Have Always Engaged in Voter Suppression
Dec24 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part VIII
Dec23 Poll: Small Majority Still Wants Trump Removed from Office
Dec23 Graham: There Are No Republican Votes to Compel Witnesses
Dec23 The RNC Has Vastly More Money than the DNC
Dec23 Roberts Is on the Hot Seat
Dec23 Jeff Flake Says Republican Senators Are on Trial
Dec23 Doug Jones May Put Country Above Party
Dec23 Trump Is Filling the Liberal Ninth Circuit with Conservatives
Dec23 A Christmas Gift List
Dec22 Sunday Mailbag
Dec21 Saturday Q&A
Dec20 Democrats Debate in Los Angeles
Dec20 Senate Doesn't Have a Deal on Impeachment Rules
Dec20 Mulvaney Looks to Be a Short-Timer
Dec20 To Avoid Conviction, Trump Needs Only 15% of the Country
Dec20 Senate Republicans Are Praying that Trump Won't Tweet During the Trial
Dec20 Christianity Today Calls for Trump's Removal
Dec20 House Passes USMCA
Dec20 Mark Meadows Will Not Run for Reelection
Dec19 House Impeaches Trump
Dec19 Trump Wanted to See George W. Bush Impeached
Dec19 Giuliani Pal Lev Parnas Received $1 Million from Ukrainian Oligarch
Dec19 Things to Watch in the Democratic Debate
Dec19 Trump Will Use Transgender Rights as a Weapon in 2020...
Dec19 ...And Democrats Will Counter with Healthcare
Dec19 Good News and Bad News for Paul Manafort
Dec19 Collins Will Run for Reelection
Dec18 Tuesday's Impeachment Maneuvering
Dec18 What Senators Are Most Likely to Buck Their Parties?