• Senate Channels Its Inner Roosevelt
• McConnell to Bring "Green New Deal" Up for a Vote
• Barr Is in the Clear
• Mark Kelly Is In
• Will Another Amy Run?
• Today in Terrible Analysis
• Booker Wants a Woman
By all accounts, the compromise bill on border security and federal spending is humming along, and will clear both houses of Congress in the next 24 hours or so. There are a few members who are carping about the terms of the deal, but whips on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers say there are not enough naysayers to derail the legislation. So, the buck is presumably going to stop on Donald Trump's desk sometime Thursday or Friday. And the big question at that point: What will he do?
Early in the day on Tuesday—critically, immediately after Trump's daily TV watching and phone call with Sean Hannity—the President was very critical of the deal, declaring that, "I'm not happy about it. It's not doing the trick." Even then, however, he was hedging his bets, adding that, "I don't think you are going to see a shutdown. I wouldn't want to go to it. If you did have it, it's the Democrats' fault."
Thereafter, a few key folks began to twist Trump's arm, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). Maybe they just told him that this would be a bad time for another shutdown. Or, maybe they warned him that if he doesn't sign, the votes are there to override his veto. Whatever it was, Trump sent these tweets out on Tuesday afternoon:
Was just presented the concept and parameters of the Border Security Deal by hard working Senator Richard Shelby. Looking over all aspects knowing that this will be hooked up with lots of money from other sources....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2019
....Will be getting almost $23 BILLION for Border Security. Regardless of Wall money, it is being built as we speak!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2019
I want to thank all Republicans for the work you have done in dealing with the Radical Left on Border Security. Not an easy task, but the Wall is being built and will be a great achievement and contributor toward life and safety within our Country!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 13, 2019
In other words, the bill's not already written yet, and he's declaring victory. In fact, Trump allies told Politico that he's slipped into reality TV star mode, and that he's dragging things out to heighten the drama, and so that he can claim that he fought tooth and nail until the very last minute for every last concession. Of course, nothing in the bill came from him, last minute or otherwise, but the base doesn't need to know that.
In fact, this bill could be the template to resolve future contentious issues. Step 1 is for Congress to give Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) whatever she wants. Step 2 would be for Trump to tell Fox News that the Democrats caved and he won a major victory, thus ensuring that his base stays with him. Ann Coulter would whine for a few days and get the PR she craves, but within a week, everyone would move on to the next topic. It seems like a win-win situation for everyone. (Z)
One of us (Z) lectures regularly to students on the subject of American politics. And in those lectures, the students are always asked, "If someone runs for president on a platform of reining in corporations, saving our environment, protections for consumers, and making sure the civil rights of black folks are protected, what party would they be a member of?" The students, denizens of the 21st century as they are, invariably answer "The Democrats." Since the question is a blow-by-blow summation of the 1904 platform of Republican Theodore Roosevelt, it's a quick and easy way to illustrate that just because they have the same name, the Republican and Democratic Parties of 50, or 100, or 150 years ago are not the same as the modern versions.
The point is that it is easy to forget today, in view of the GOP's stance that global warming is fake news, that pro-environment and pro-conservation policies are not necessarily at odds with key Republican principles, and that many prominent members of the Party (TR, Barry Goldwater, William Ruckelshaus, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, etc.) have been very environmentally conscious. So it is both a surprise, and yet not entirely surprising, that the Senate managed to pass a massive conservation package on Tuesday, and with a huge majority (92-8). The measure protects 1.3 million acres of federal land, bans mining on 370,000 acres more, creates five new national monuments, and expands five existing national parks. The bill also permanently authorizes a program that funnels the money the government collects from offshore drilling leases toward conservation projects, as well as a program that protects the migratory patterns of over 300 endangered bird species.
And it's not just the contents of the bill that harken back to a different century, it's also the manner in which it was constructed. To get as many senators as was possible on board, lead negotiator Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) put pet projects of nearly every one of her colleagues into the measure. Various other stakeholders were also consulted, and were given boons in exchange for their support. For example, some folks who may not be too happy about hippy-dippy pinko commie tree huggers, and their desire to protect the Golden-cheeked warbler, will be pleased that more acreage is now open for fishing, and that it will become legal to transport guns while passing through national parks.
The House will take up the measure next month, and since it enjoys wide support there, it is expected to pass. Then it will head to Donald Trump's desk, and he is reportedly going to sign it. Given that a major theme of his presidency has been opening up federal lands to mining and drilling, the bill is rather a poke in his eye. However, someone in the White House must have a calculator app on his phone, and so was able to do the math and figure out that 92 is more than 2/3 of 100. (Z)
Tuesday saw another environmentally themed news story, besides the new conservation bill. Mitch McConnell, apparently based on feedback from his caucus, said he plans to bring the "Green New Deal" bill proposed last week by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) up for a vote. He did not say exactly when that would happen, however.
In view of the bipartisan news on the conservation front, one might be tempted to conclude that McConnell has turned over a new leaf, perhaps in anticipation of his 2020 reelection bid, or maybe because his 33-year tenure is rather short on long-term accomplishments and he's worried about his legacy. However, that is not what is happening here. Although the Majority Leader has said repeatedly that he will not hold "show votes," that is exactly what this is. He wants to get the various Democratic senators on the record, so that those who vote "yea" can be tarred as hippy-dippy pinko commie tree huggers, and those who vote "nay" are put at risk of a primary challenge. House Republicans also want a vote, for the same reason, though Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) surely won't give it to them unless she thinks it does her party more good than harm.
That said, the odds are good that Pelosi actually does get on board with the bill (which is actually more like a statement of principles), either in its current form or in some revised version. And it is entirely possible that McConnell & Co. are playing with fire here. Imagine that the Democrats' pitch in 2020 goes something like this:
Global warming is going to cost America trillions of dollars—that ship has already sailed. Either that money can disappear in the form of higher defense costs, lost work hours, reduced productivity of farms, and the relocation costs of people living in low-lying coastal areas, or it can go to combating the problem by creating the millions of jobs and billions in infrastructure needed to do so.
That won't reach the people who think global warming is a sham, but those individuals aren't voting Democratic anyhow. For folks who are on the fence, however, this could be pretty powerful stuff. Particularly if the blue team manages to come up with a pithy slogan, like "Jobs or deserts?" Ok, that's not all that pithy, but we're not in the business of writing ad copy. Someone who is can presumably do a little better. (Z)
Bill Barr was AG once before, and now he almost certainly will be again. On Tuesday, the Senate voted 55-44 to end debate on his nomination and to advance the process to a final vote. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who doesn't like Barr's ideas about privacy, was the only member of his party to vote "nay." He's always a wildcard, of course. Three Democrats—Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama, and Kyrsten Sinema—joined the rest of the Republicans in voting "yea."
The final vote is expected later this week. It's possible Barr could come up short, but that would almost certainly require an 11th-hour surprise, like a picture of him in blackface turning up. For a while, concerns over how Barr might handle the Mueller investigation threatened to derail his nomination. However, most Democrats are either resigned to the notion that they can't stop him and they'll just have to hope for the best, or else have persuaded themselves that Barr is arriving too late in the process to cut the Special Counsel off at the knees. At very least, they are telling themselves that an actual AG will be more accountable than an acting AG like Matthew Whitaker. (Z)
As a byproduct of Arizona's move from red to purple (and maybe soon to blue) state, the Democratic bench there is surprisingly deep. It may be too deep, even. Party pooh-bahs have made no secret of their preference that Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) be the candidate that takes on Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) in the 2020 special election triggered by the death of John McCain. However, the blue team also has a second very attractive candidate in Mark Kelly, who is a former astronaut and U.S. Navy captain and is also married to former representative and noted mass shooting victim Gabby Giffords.
Uninterested in what the Party establishment wants, and realizing that he had better declare before Gallego does, Kelly officially threw his hat into the ring on Tuesday. Here is his announcement video:
It's really quite effective. About 75% of it is biographical, though during that portion he makes sure to honor his mother (one of the state's first female cops) and his wife. Clearly, he thinks he can win a lot of women voters, even up against a female opponent. The other 25% lays out his policy priorities, particularly wage stagnation, global warming, and funding for science. There is nary a word about Donald Trump and, beyond a brief bit about how "we" have retreated from science and from the use of data, little about the opposition party at all.
Gallego is going to have to make a decision fairly soon, at risk of finding that all the money and campaign talent and endorsements have already been snapped up by Kelly. If the two do end up duking it out, that is not good for the blue team, but it could be worse. In non-presidential years, the Arizona primary is late in the year (usually late August), which leaves little time for the winner to bounce back financially (and otherwise) before the general election. In 2020, however, Democrats will head to the polls on March 17, giving the winner plenty of time to heal his wounds and refill his coffers. (Z)
Things in Arizona have not gone the way that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) hoped. Maybe he will have better luck in Kentucky, though, where he and other blue team muckety-mucks are putting the full court press on in hopes of getting Amy McGrath to run for the seat currently held by Mitch McConnell. McGrath's selling points are that she is a decorated Marine Corps pilot (the first woman to fly combat missions for the Corps, in fact), an expert on defense policy, and she ran a heck of a campaign in 2018 despite being an underdog in the R+9 KY-06. Her main shortcoming is that she lost that election (albeit narrowly, 51-48), despite having a multimillion-dollar war chest at her disposal.
Is McGrath really a threat to McConnell? He certainly believes she could be, and so he has already unleashed his oppo research forces to dig up dirt on her. If she does run, she'll have the benefit of whatever she learned during her first campaign, along with an even larger war chest to spend. McConnell also has some significant weaknesses, including his chronically low approval ratings in his home state (high 20s/low 30s), and the possibility that he may be held to account for the sins of Donald Trump's first term, whatever Kentucky voters might perceive those to be. On the other hand, he's awfully good at winning elections, and Kentucky is quite red. In short, he's the favorite against any Democrat, but he's not quite as heavy a favorite if McGrath is his opponent. (Z)
When Chris Cillizza was at the Washington Post, his work was generally of pretty high quality. Since he jumped ship to CNN, it's gotten considerably more inconsistent. Maybe that is because there was more oversight and editing at the Post, or maybe it is because he is spread thinner at CNN, usually writing multiple pieces per day and also doing TV hits.
In any event, Cillizza came up with a real stinker on Tuesday. Under the headline, "How Democrats are handing Donald Trump a viable path to a second term," he writes:
Trump knows he can't win if the 2020 election is any sort of referendum on him. A majority of Americans simply do not like him or think he is doing a good job. The one path for him to win is by painting his eventual Democratic opponent as not only deeply out of touch with the average American, but also more than willing to install a value system that makes the U.S. look a whole lot like the less savory parts of Europe.
Cillizza argues that the Democrats have just handed Donald Trump two issues "on a golden platter" that will allow him to paint this picture: late-term abortion and the Green New Deal.
Let us now discuss how many ways in which this analysis misses the mark. First of all, Donald Trump is absolutely going to run on his record in 2020. Not his actual record, mind you, but the version of his record that he's been selling to his base all along. One need only peruse the comments section of any Trump-friendly website to learn, for example, that many miles of wall have already been built, that NAFTA has already been replaced by something far better, that everyone is paying less in taxes, that the economy is better than it has been at any time in U.S. history, and that a war with North Korea was narrowly avoided. None of this is remotely true, but it's not going to stop Trump from making the claims, and some portion of the electorate from buying it.
Similarly, it's true that Trump is going to viciously attack the Democrats, because that is what he does. He may pick something real to misrepresent (as he's already doing with the Green New Deal) or to grossly misrepresent (as he's already doing with late-term abortions). Or, he may pick something imaginary. Remember that the main cudgel he wielded against Hillary "Lock Her Up" Clinton was all of the "crimes" she had committed, despite the fact that those crimes, and the deep state, and most of the rest of his lines of attack were pure fantasy. One of Trump's great political gifts (beyond his superhuman ability to have scandals roll off his back) is his ability to push people's buttons, even if doing so requires copious lying. If he's running in 2020, he will continue to exhibit that skill. Nothing that the blue team does (or doesn't do) will change that. Further, until Trump shows that he can expand his appeal beyond the base, then nothing has changed in terms of "viable path" to a second term.
The point here is not to attack Cillizza, per se. It's to observe that this genre of column, in which the Democrats are warned about how risky it is to take a stand on...whatever issue it is, is very common and will become more so in the next 18 months. But the truth is that the blue team's real problem in 2016 was the exact opposite of the one Cillizza identifies. While Hillary Clinton's website was full of position papers and policy declarations, very few people go to websites and read boring documents like that. And whether people read or not, is there anyone who can confidently say what Clinton's top three issues were? Or what her first item of business was going to be on assuming the Oval Office? Say what you will about Donald Trump, he made sure voters had very clear answers to those questions. Clinton, by contrast, stood for so many things it was almost like she stood for nothing.
Admittedly, bold policy pronouncements will aggravate some voters. If they did not, they would not be partisan issues. However, bold stands will also excite young voters, independents, and others who are weary of candidates and parties that appear to be more of the same. In 1980, voters knew that Ronald Reagan was for vigorous prosecution of the Cold War. In 1992, they knew that Bill Clinton was for making the economy work better for the little guy (and the big banker, as it turned out). In 2000, they knew George W. Bush was for tax cuts. And in 2008, they knew Barack Obama was for overhauling the health care system. Those gentlemen, you may recall, all won. Meanwhile, what was the signature issue of Walter Mondale, or Michael Dukakis, or Bob Dole, or John Kerry, or Mitt Romney? Seems like that was never quite clear.
In short, as the old saying goes, "you can't make omelets without breaking a few eggs." That doesn't just apply to breakfast, it also applies to politics. (Z)
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), the only 2020 presidential candidate who has never been married, wants a woman—as his running mate. Booker clearly understands that women powered the Democrats' takeover of the House and that getting them to turn out in large numbers could be crucial in the general election. Historically, Veep candidates were chosen to balance the ticket, often geographically. In 1960, for example, John Kennedy chose Lyndon Johnson, who he regarded as a boorish oaf, because he needed to win Texas. Given who votes for the Democrats, a gender-balanced ticket is probably the new normal for them and Booker was smart to announce it already because that may make women more likely to support him in the primaries.
Booker didn't say who his choice would be, largely because he doesn't know himself. With half a dozen women running for president, by the spring of 2020 we should have a pretty good idea of which ones caught on and which ones didn't. So his choice is likely to be the woman who got the most votes or the second-most votes in the primaries. Booker is young enough (49) that he doesn't have to worry about picking a younger Veep, as would, say Joe Biden. If it turns out that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) got more votes than any of the other women, he could pick her, despite her age (69).
Depending how the race is going, Booker could also try to get some geographical diversity as well as gender diversity by picking a woman from a state far from New Jersey. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is about as far from New Jersey as you can get, but a black presidential candidate and a Veep from American Samoa is probably not the way to win back the angry blue-collar workers in the Midwest. For the same reason, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), is not a likely choice. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) doesn't add a lot of geographical diversity, but if she is the top vote getter among the women, it would make for a youthful ticket. Gillibrand is 52. If Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) does well in the primaries, even if she isn't the top female vote getter, she would be an attractive option due to her Midwest roots. But Booker could suprise people and pick a governor (e.g., Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan) or someone not currently on the radar, as John McCain did in 2008 (although he later regretted it). (V)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb12 GOP Could Get Burned By Tax Cut
Feb12 Trump, Senate Republicans Spar Over Khashoggi
Feb12 Klobuchar's Abusive Treatment of Staff Has Been Going on for Years
Feb12 A 2020 Preview?
Feb12 Cohen Postpones Again
Feb12 John Dingell Bids Farewell
Feb11 Shutdown Talks Have Deadlocked
Feb11 Poll: Virginians Split on Northam
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Feb11 Democrats Are Already Digging for Dirt
Feb11 Klobuchar Is Running
Feb11 Warren Makes It Official
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Feb11 Rep. Walter Jones Dies
Feb11 Monday Q&A
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Feb09 Trump "In Very Good Health"
Feb08 Border Security Deal Appears to Be Near
Feb08 So Much for No Investigations
Feb08 Democrats May or May Not Be in Agreement over Green New Deal
Feb08 There Is a Fly in the Klobuchar Ointment
Feb08 And So It Begins: Rep. Rob Woodall Is Retiring
Feb08 John Dingell Dead at 92
Feb08 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Tim Ryan
Feb07 Takeaways from the State of the Union
Feb07 The Mess in Virginia Gets Worse
Feb07 Team Trump Prepares to Protect His Tax Returns
Feb07 On Sunday, Klobuchar Will Announce--Something
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Feb07 House Intelligence Committee Will Send Transcripts to Mueller
Feb07 Cohen's Testimony Is Delayed Again
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Feb07 Thursday Q&A
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Feb06 Nice Work, If You Can Get It? (Part I): Donald Trump
Feb06 Nice Work, If You Can Get It? (Part II): Duncan Hunter, Chris Collins, and Steve King
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Feb06 Tulsi Gabbard Gets a High-Profile Endorsement--Unfortunately for Her
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Feb05 Democratic Turmoil in Virginia
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