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Sanders Raises $6 Million in One Day

Anyone who thought Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was over the hill might want to rethink that. In the first 24 hours after making his campaign announcement, Sanders raised an eye-popping $6 million from 220,000 small donors. That's more than four times what Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) raised in her first 24 hours and far more than anyone else. The donations averaged $27, which means the donors can be hit up for more money over and over during the campaign. The money itself isn't so critical. If Michael Bloomberg enters the race, he will raise $100 million on day 1—all from himself. But the fact that so many people pitched in for Sanders shows that he is still a huge force.

That said, money isn't everything, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire, where many voters don't make up their minds until they have personally met all the candidates three times. The voters there take their responsibilities for winnowing the field extremely seriously. In these states, having several solid pairs of snow boots tends to matter more than a million-dollar TV budget. Then, once a candidate passes the initial tests in the four small states that go first, $6 million won't even make a dent on Super Tuesday, when California, Texas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Virginia, and a bunch of other states go to the polls. Something like $60 million would be a much better amount to make an impression on the voters. But if Sanders does well in the early states, he might well be able to raise tens of millions before nearly a dozen states go to the polls on March 3, 2020.

Another sign of Sanders' strength is that his announcement video was watched 5.4 million times on Twitter in the first day, more than Harris' 4.3 million views since her Jan. 21 launch and more than Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who has gotten 4 million views since his Feb. 1 launch. It is also more than that of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and 30x more than that of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN).

What Sanders has, and so far no one else has, is enormous support among young voters. It is more than a little surprising that a 77-year old white guy is the big hero to the kids, but he is. His enormous fundraising success is going to have a big impact on some of the marginal candidates and maybe on some of the big ones as well. If Sanders ends up with, say, $10 or $20 million at the end of this quarter and another candidate notices that he or she is at 1 or 2 percent of that, there is probably a message there and it is not a good one for the other candidate.

The New York Times' David Leonhardt spells out the case for Sanders and the case against him in detail:

For Sanders:
  • His economic ideas are far more popular with Americans than the elites realize
  • Sanders is a natural politician, with authenticity and clear, bold ideas explained well
  • He has prepared for this moment since 2016 and honed his message carefully
  • He is ahead of every potential Democrat except Joe Biden in the polls
Against Sanders:
  • His proposals will get more scrutiny than in 2016 and the math doesn't add up
  • He never talks about how he will get his ideas turned into laws against furious GOP opposition
  • He doesn't have Hillary Clinton as a foil this time
  • He is a bit long in tooth for today's Democratic Party, and has problems with minority voters

A point Leonhardt doesn't make but is worth considering is that Sanders' combination of economic populism and authenticity is likely to convince many working-class voters in the Midwest that, unlike Donald Trump, Sanders is the real McCoy and would fight ferociously for their economic interests.

So far there hasn't been a lot of talk about a Sanders-Trump race in the general election, but that would set grandparents against their grandchildren in an epic confrontation all over the country. It would be the mother of all generation gaps, given Trump's support among the old and Sanders' support among the young. Furthermore, it would be an especially nasty fight, as Sanders is the angriest guy around since Howard Beale, and would pull no punches in hitting Trump as hard as Trump hits him. But remember, the Iowa caucuses are still almost a year ahead of us and a lot can happen between now and then. Still, this is an auspicious start for a candidate nobody took seriously at the start of the 2016 cycle. (V)

CNN: Mueller May Wrap It Up Soon

Once again we have a report that special counsel Robert Mueller is almost done with his work and will drop it in the lap of newly confirmed AG William Barr as soon as next week. The newest report is from CNN. Of course, we have had a report a week for a year that Mueller is almost done, and Mueller isn't saying anything, so only Mueller and his staff really know for sure.

If the CNN report is true, then Barr will have to do something with the hot potato once he catches it. In theory, he could run to the nearest secure paper shredder (or USB stick shredder) and deposit the report there, then thank Mueller for his work and just forget the whole thing. However, there might be a wee bit of blowback in that case. Most likely, he will edit it as he sees fit and then hand it to Congress, where it will leak in an estimated time of 50-100 milliseconds.

The big question, of course, is how much Barr edits it before releasing it. Mueller is not likely to formally indict Trump, since that runs counter to Justice Dept. policy. And it is also Justice Dept. policy not to say negative things about people who are not being indicted (although James Comey violated that policy big time in July 2016 when he announced that although Hillary Clinton didn't commit any crimes, boy is she a Bad Person). Still, hiding the gist of the report won't be easy, as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) can subpoena Mueller and ask him under oath: "Did Barr leave out anything important in his report to Congress?"

If the story is true, the timing is a bit odd. Barr takes office as AG and a couple of days later, Mueller is suddenly finished, despite the Roger Stone story barely getting started. Could Barr have told his old friend Mueller: "Bob, time to wrap it up. How about next week?" Neither one is likely to admit that, even if it is true. But if Schiff digs for a while, he might find out. But again, we don't even know if it is true that Mueller's completion date is imminent. (V)

Trump Creates a Corporate-style Campaign Structure for 2020

Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants effort. Next time it will be different. Or might be different; We'll let you know in 2021. In any event, Trump is trying to create a more standard campaign effort and it is being run by grown-ups who know what they are doing. Of course, the ultimate boss is the candidate, who is not known for discipline, so the best laid plans of rodentia and homo sapiens can go awry if the candidate ignores all the structure and just shoots from the hip all day long.

Trump's new campaign manager is Brad Parscale, a seasoned professional with a lot of knowledge of data, polling, and running a digital operation. The campaign has also hired 30 paid staffers and begun to plan its media campaign. Trump cares about that a lot more than he cares about the digital operation, so the campaign will put a lot of effort into trying to get media outlets to portray him in a favorable light.

One possible consequence of starting up so big and so early is that the campaign could run out of money. Trump, who is a notorious piker, is never going to match the $500 million to $1 billion that Michael Bloomberg has promised to spend to defeat Trump, and the Koch brothers aren't going to put a penny in his coffers (although they might use all their saved pennies to save the Senate for the GOP).

One of the things that Trump is not repeating from last time is a vague structure in which no one knew who was running the campaign. For a while, Paul Manafort was campaign manager and Steve Bannon was chief executive, with each of them thinking he was the boss. This time Parscale is unambiguously the head of the campaign, with 10 department heads who report to him. Of course, even with the best organization, if the candidate ignores what the campaign wants and just does what feels good at the moment, there could still be chaos. Further, Trump tends to burn through underlings (and campaign managers) like there's no tomorrow, so just because Parscale is running the show today doesn't mean he will be doing so at this time next year. Or this time next month, for that matter. (V)

Will Democrats Nominate the Next Guy in Line?

There is a bit of a pattern of what the opposition parties do when opposing a president's reelection: They generally nominate the next guy in line rather than a fresh new face, and they generally lose when doing so. It's an interesting point.

Consider the challengers to incumbent elected presidents running for a second term in the past 40 years:

Year Incumbent Challenger
1984 Ronald Reagan Walter Mondale
1992 George H.W. Bush Bill Clinton
1996 Bill Clinton Bob Dole
2004 George W. Bush John Kerry
2012 Barack Obama Mitt Romney

Pretty much all of the challengers except Clinton in 1992 were old party war horses and all of them except Clinton lost. Mondale was a former two-term senator and one-term vice president in 1984, and Reagan crushed him. In 1996, the Republicans nominated Bob Dole, who had been around pretty much since Methuselah was in short pants, and he was easily dispatched by Clinton. In 2004, the Democrats picked another old war horse, John Kerry, and he lost. Finally, in 2012, the Republicans picked yet another insider, Mitt Romney. Although Romney personally had been only a one-term governor, his father was a two-term governor of Michigan and presidential candidate, so he was definitely an insider. Besides, he was the last man standing in 2008 after John McCain clinched the GOP nomination in 2008, so it was his turn. Although there aren't a lot of data points, they do suggest that coming up with a fresh candidate against an incumbent president (like Clinton in 1992), might be a good idea.

Translating this information to 2020 suggests that Joe Biden is the wrong guy, even if it's his turn. To some extent that also applies to Bernie Sanders, because he was the runner-up in the 2016 Democratic primaries. In contrast, someone like barely legal Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) or Mayor Pete Buttigieg would be a breath of fresh air. Of course, you can't always count on history repeating itself and there has never been such an unpopular incumbent running for a second full term, so maybe all bets are off here. (V)

Are Coats' Days Numbered?

The Hill is reporting that Donald Trump may soon boot Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a former senator who is widely respected in Congress for being loyal to the Constitution, rather than to Trump. He recently spoke the obvious truth that North Korea is not about to give up its nuclear weapons. Trump wasn't pleased with that remark, especially just before he again meets with Kim Jong-Un. Trump confidant Christopher Ruddy raised the possibility this week of Trump firing Coats for lack of loyalty.

Any attempt by Trump to fire Coats would raise a storm of protest in the Senate, since he was a popular and well-regarded colleague and many senators know him well. Senior aides at the White House will no doubt warn Trump that the last thing he needs to do is pick another fight with Senate Republicans, especially on national security. But Trump tends to march to his own drummer and rarely pays attention to what his staff advises him to do.

Given Trump's repeated lies that the deep state is after him and that his gut knows more than the CIA's thousands of spies and analysts, he could follow through and replace Coats with a toady who will do whatever Trump tells him to do. Senate Republicans would rail about such an appointment, but in similar situations in the past, when the railing was completed, they confirmed Trump's choice and moved on. It would probably work like that again, much to the detriment of U.S. national security. (V)

Majority Opposes Emergency Declaration to Build a Wall

A new poll by Morning Consult has 51% of voters opposed to Donald Trump's emergency declaration to build a wall on the Mexican border, while 39% support it. Worse yet for Trump, the percentage of voters who "strongly oppose" the declaration (41%) is greater than the combined "strongly support" and "somewhat support" score (39%).

Republicans support the declaration 77% to 18%, but most Democrats (81%) and independents (52%) aren't on board with the decision. Going into an election with numbers like that, and with 58% saying Trump is abusing his powers, isn't a great way to start a campaign. But remember, a presidential election is not like a midterm (which is a referendum on the president's party). It is a choice election. Trump wasn't popular at all in 2016, but Hillary Clinton was almost equally popular, so Trump eked out a narrow victory with an assist from the Electoral College. If the Democrat is even more unpopular than Trump in 2020, he could win again. If Bernie Sanders keeps up his pace (see above), and 2020 becomes a choice between capitalism and democratic socialism, well, we'll be in uncharted territory. (V)

Polls: Northam Should Stay on as Governor

Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) seems to have weathered Blackfacegate. A new Quinnipiac University poll of Virginia voters shows that 48% want him to continue as governor and 42% want him to resign. In particular, 56% of black voters want him to stay on. An Ipsos poll also out yesterday has 43% who want him to stay and only 31% who want him to quit. With numbers like that, Northam isn't going anywhere.

Unless the state legislature impeaches him, that is. The Republicans control both chambers, but public support for impeachment is weak. In the Q poll, 65% are against impeachment and only 26% are for it. In the Ipsos poll, 56% oppose impeachment and 21% want him removed from office. With those poll numbers, any move by the legislature would be sure to backfire and give the Democrats control of both chambers after the 2019 elections. As we have pointed out several times, the blue team needs to take over only one seat in each chamber for a flip.

It is hard to see how things get worse for Northam unless a new scandal turns up. In a few weeks, this one will basically be forgotten and Northam will have saved his skin. That is especially so if he makes the rest of his term about trying to secure racial justice for black Virginians, thus increasing his support among the one group whose opposition could be fatal. So the bottom line is that Northam escaped the axe. (V)

Are Never Trumpers Like the West African Black Rhino?

Liz Mair is a long-time Republican strategist who has worked for Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Rand Paul, among others. She is a never Trumper who has written a piece in which she compares never Trumpers to the West African black rhino. They are both occasionally spotted, but they are basically on the road to complete extinction and there is nothing anyone can do to save them.

As examples, she points to radio host and former never Trumper Erick Erickson, who used to be disgusted by the President. Now he is praising all the wonderful things Trump has done (judges, tax cut, deregulation, etc.). She also notes that Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) was formerly a ringleader in trying to block Trump's nomination at the 2016 Republican convention. Now he is 100% on the Trump train. The same thing is pretty much true of all the others (except Mair herself).

She also mentions William Weld's exploratory committee and potential run for the 2020 Republican nomination. But she doesn't see him as any more viable than the aforementioned rhino. In short, at least one insider has concluded that the Republican Party is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization, and nothing is going to change that.

What Mair doesn't mention is what is going to happen to the GOP once Trump has exited stage right. There is a lot of evidence that Trumpism without Trump doesn't work so well, as numerous Trump-hugging candidates went down to defeat in 2018. What Trump's voters love is how well he trolls the libs. Very few other candidates have the ability to get liberals' blood boiling in only 280 characters. Whether a more conventional candidate—like, say, Jeb!—can ever restore the party to something like it used to be, remains to be seen. (V)

Thursday Q&A

We had quite a few responses to our first answer on Monday, about the biases of (Z) in particular and/or the site in general. Though we do not generally like to make ourselves the focus, we thought that at least one follow-up answer was in order.

As a long-time reader, I was somewhat surprised today to read your answer to J.F.'s question about bias. It was this paragraph that got my attention:

There is a school of thought, often on display in newspapers, that every side of an issue deserves coverage. Hence, when the Times or the Post does a story about, say, a rally to raise money and save the lives of puppies, they find the one guy there who will go on the record and say that he hates puppies and thinks they deserve to die. We find this way of thinking to be facile and rather dishonest. Regardless of what the postmodernists might say, not all points of view are equally valid and equally worthy of consideration.

This, to me, sounds dangerously close to an indictment of the Fairness Doctrine—the demise of which seems to have led directly to the creation of extremely biased outfits like Fox News. Surely you cannot be saying that we are better off without it? Isn't it better to give time to all viewpoints than to allow unmitigated bias to the point that the facts become optional? Isn't that the bargain we must make, if we are a society that values free speech? R.M., Torrance, CA

Just because we reject one extreme does not mean we embrace the other. In the example we gave, the reporter or outlet isn't actually demonstrating balance. What they are doing is performing "fairness"—loudly proclaiming to the world that, "See! We cover all sides!" A similar phenomenon leads those newspapers, as well as television news outlets, to hire commentators and op-ed writers who are often far outside the mainstream, or else are just peddling the party line, without actually adding much to the discussion. Hiring a climate change denier (as the NYT did last year), or hiring the former spokesperson for Jeff Sessions as an editor (as CNN just did) is a PR move, not a good-faith attempt to represent a wide spectrum of thoughtful viewpoints.

Whenever there is a legitimate alternative viewpoint, or legitimate alternative explanation for something, we do our best to try to detect it and to mention it in our commentary. We may miss things; everyone has their biases and blind spots, and we are not claiming to be an exception. All we were saying on Monday is that we are not going to invent such alternatives when we don't have a good faith belief in them, just so we can show off how "fair" we are. Sometimes, as Freud observed, a cigar is just a cigar (but this was before Bill Clinton met Monica). And sometimes, a politician does something that is dumb, or venal, or selfish, or dishonest, and there it is. In those cases, we will call a cigar a cigar, and leave it at that. That, in our view, is not bias, even if it does produce an analysis that is mostly or wholly critical.

To put this another way, fairness and balance—to the extent that those things are possible—is not measurable by a single item, or a single day's posting. It's demonstrated by an entire corpus of work. Either the site as a whole is generally fair or it is not. That judgment must be made by each reader; we would merely propose that it be made by looking at the whole cherry tree and not by picking individual cherries.

Having made that observation, we will note that we got a number of e-mails after Monday's posting that did veer in the direction of cherry-picking, selecting one or two or three examples to make the case that we are in the bag for or against a particular political party or candidate. In some cases, the criticism focused on the way in which we covered something. In others, it focused on what we chose to write about (or chose not to write about). We are certainly happy to have specific critiques brought to our attention, and we often make changes, or do follow-ups, or both, when we feel that criticisms have merit.

That said, it may be helpful to point out that deciding what to write about, and what not to write about, is more art than science, and involves a lot of moving parts. Broadly speaking, these are among the most important considerations:

  • Is the story related to the main focus of the site (elections and national politics, especially the presidency and Senate)?
  • Is the story important?
  • Do we have something useful to add to the discussion?
  • Is the story interesting?
  • Is the story viable for us, logistically? Some things are complicated enough, or far enough beyond our expertise, or work out timing-wise in such a way that we just have to defer to other outlets to handle them.

A story need not generate five "yes" answers for us to do it. But if we appear to have skipped something, it almost certainly means that the item produced a hard "no" to at least one of the above questions, in our judgment, and probably more than one. We can absolutely guarantee that if we think the answer to all five of these questions is "yes," the story will get done, even if it runs entirely contrary to our own personal politics.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

I'm surprised that people like billionaire Tom Steyer continue to push for Donald Trump's impeachment by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House. Certainly, they must realize that the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate will be very unlikely to vote for removal from office under current circumstances. What do they hope to gain politically, other than enraging Trump's base and perhaps snarling up the Senate for a few weeks? Is there a 3-D chess move here I'm not seeing? R.N., Redmond, WA

If there is, we're not seeing it either. We start with the assumption that Steyer is an intelligent man. Not all billionaires are, as we all know, but until he gives us proof to the contrary, we will have to give Steyer the benefit of the doubt. We will similarly assume that some sizable percentage of the callers-for-impeachment are also intelligent and well-informed and know their U.S. civics.

Operating with that assumption, then two possible explanations are off the table: (1) That the impeachers don't understand that "impeachment" is not the same thing as removal from office, and (2) That the impeachers don't realize that the GOP-controlled Senate won't vote to convict. They must know these things.

In Steyer's specific case, there was another plausible explanation available, namely that he was trying to carve out an "impeach the bastard" lane for a presidential run. But he's announced that he's not running now, so that's off the table.

That leaves us grasping at straws. Is this just a way of venting emotion, that operates in a realm beyond rational thought? Are they merely softening things up right now, so that the road will already be paved if national sentiment does move toward impeachment? Do they think this is a good way to get young people or progressives or some other group excited about the Democrats in 2020, kind of like legalized pot? Maybe it's one of these things, but none is especially satisfactory. We're open to hearing other theories, if anyone has a viable one.

Have you seen it speculated anywhere in the media that William Barr baited himself onto a hook to be selected by Trump as the next AG, solely so he could ride in and save the institution by putting himself in charge of delivering Mueller's baby? Otherwise, why would such an apparently reasonable man, at this point in his life, head for such an nuthouse and to repeat a job he's already mastered once already? D.P., Oakland, CA

We have not heard this speculation, but it's certainly plausible. It doesn't even have to be conspiratorial, per se, in the sense that Barr was puppetmaster who maneuvered himself into this position. It could be that the job was proffered, and that he took it out of a sense of duty, because he thought it better that he be the one in the "linchpin" position, as opposed to a toady or a rookie. He might also be interested in being a permanent part of history, a la Elliot Richardson.

The one thing we know for sure is that Trump did not thoroughly vet Barr and, in particular, was unaware of the AG's longstanding friendship with Mueller. So, even the President is not 100% certain that Barr is not a mole.

My limited experience in politics taught me that one of the secrets of success for politicians was having excellent staff. I knew some of the staff of Senators and many of the people were extremely smart, competent and hard working. Can you make any judgments or predictions about the current or likely Democratic candidates, based on what you know about the people who are likely to be working for them, or how difficult it may be for them to recruit good people? D.K., Iowa City, IA

We have a number of readers who work in political postings, and would be happy to hear from them if they have anything to add. For our part, however, we can only make our best guess from a distance.

Anyhow, there are undoubtedly two major considerations that would-be staffers apply to all candidates. The first is: Are they someone I would want to work under? The second is: Do they have a chance to win? Undoubtedly, there are other considerations that depend on the specific candidate and on the specific staffer, but these are surely the biggies.

Looked at through those two lenses, the candidates who are most likely to attract the A-list staffers are probably Joe Biden, Beto O'Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker. All have reputations for being personable and easy to work with, and all are at or near the top of the "frontrunners" list. Biden (because he's dialed in), O'Rourke (because he's young and dynamic), and Sanders (because he's beloved by supporters) are probably the three with the biggest advantages here.

Meanwhile, the candidates who are most likely to struggle on the staffing front are probably Tulsi Gabbard and Amy Klobuchar. The former because she's a longshot who is kinda hard to work with, and the latter because she's got a reputation (apparently, well-deserved) for being very, very hard to work with. Both have already had trouble with finding and retaining a campaign manager.

Everyone else, we would assume, is in the mushy middle somewhere. Though again, this is just our best guess from an outside vantage point. This question is ultimately similar to one that comes up a lot in Los Angeles, namely, "Is celebrity X really a nice person/huge jerk"? There's certainly lots of scuttlebutt and reporting to work from, but in the end, only insiders truly know if Tom Hanks is really a mensch or Russell Crowe is really a jerk.

Most of the recent national emergencies seem to involve restrictions on individuals related to foreign conflicts (e.g., "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in..."). Why is declaring a national emergency a popular method of dealing with these situations? Is it to overcome congressional opposition? Does it give the executive branch more powers that legislation would grant? D.B., Rochester, NY

Some may know this story, but when George Washington negotiated his first treaty, he got out his copy of the Constitution and noted that he was instructed to "consult" with the Senate. So, he toddled on over to the meeting of the upper chamber, put the treaty before them, and awaited their feedback. They did not feel particularly comfortable discussing things in front of the great George Washington, however, so they hemmed-and-hawed until he left in a huff. He came back a couple of days later to get their feedback, and then never again consulted the Senate about treaties.

This incident is the starting point for a pretty well-established tradition in American politics: Presidents prefer to conduct foreign policy as they see fit, with as little interference from the Congress as possible. Yes, there are a few exceptions, but nearly all of those are cases where the president was kissing Congressional rear end in anticipation of needing approval for an upcoming treaty. Vastly more common are presidents who got started on the Panama Canal, or arranged to send bombs and ships to Britain so John Bull could fight the Nazis, or ordered an invasion of the Bay of Pigs, or bombed Libya, or oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden, and then let Congress know after the fact. After all, as they say, it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

The point is that the option to declare a national emergency caters to a president's already existing predilection to act unilaterally. It's also much more flexible than a resolution passed by Congress, as an emergency declaration can quickly be withdrawn when necessary. There's also a practical aspect; even with non-dangerous issues like seizing El Chapo's assets, time is of the essence. Any sign that such a seizure is coming, and those assets will be hidden so well that it would be easier to find Jimmy Hoffa's body, the Holy Grail, or someone who has actually read "Ulysses."

As to the part of your question about "more powers," that's sort of the rub right now, isn't it? Because the authority is (quite obviously) defined in a very vague way, an assertive president might well claim powers that go far beyond what Congress would be willing (or legally able) to grant, and it does not matter until someone (i.e., the Supreme Court) says "boo." Even then, it sometimes doesn't matter. Abe Lincoln didn't use the phrase "national emergency," but relying on the reading of the Constitution that gives the president that authority, in 1861, he started tossing people in the slammer without benefit of habeas corpus. SCOTUS told the President to knock it off, in Ex Parte Merryman, and he told them to stick it where the Dred Scott don't shine.

If Joe Biden were to be elected to the presidency in 2020, what are your thoughts on the possibility of him appointing President Obama to a position such as Secretary of State, or a Supreme Court Justice? Given their close relationship and Obama's (relatively) young age, it's a scenario I wouldn't rule out and one that many would dream of. I could see the former option having a potential for 'overshadowing' but perhaps not the latter. What is the precedent for ex-Presidents holding office after their administration? S.E., Nashville, TN

The "precedents" part of your question is easy. One president served in the House after his presidency, namely John Quincy Adams. One served in the Senate, namely Andrew Johnson (actually, he was elected but then died before he could take his seat). One served on the Supreme Court, namely William Howard Taft, who was chief justice for about a decade. And in the interest of thoroughness, one served briefly in the Confederate Congress before dying, namely John Tyler. There has never been a president who went on to become a cabinet secretary after leaving the White House.

Two of these four men died quickly, and the other two had very distinguished tenures, with Adams in particular ranking among the greatest congressmen in history (even though he was a mediocre president). If Obama wants to be Secretary of State, or a Supreme Court justice, Biden and nearly every other Democrat in the country would be delighted to hand the job to him. However, the possibility of Secretary Obama is near zero, and the possibility of Justice Obama is not a lot higher. In general, expectations have changed since Taft's time, such that ex-presidents are expected to remain out of politics and above the fray for the remainder of their lives. Further, in the modern world, an ex-president has nearly unlimited opportunities to do whatever he wants, whether that is make piles of money, or change the world for the better, or paint pretty paintings. Obama is not going to make $100 million, or win a second Nobel Peace Prize, or re-create "Girl with a Pearl Earring" while sitting on the Court, but he can do any or all of the above as a private citizen. To put it another way, a job in politics, even a very high-profile job, is just too limiting for a fellow who already did his duty. So, he's surely not interested.

I know that Congress can overrule the President's national emergency declaration via a joint resolution. I know also that the first step would be to have the House vote on it, and that the House will almost certainly approve the resolution. The next step is for the resolution to go to the Senate. Reportedly, in this case, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) cannot do what he does so well and refuse to bring the bill up for a vote; that he must allow it to be voted on within 18 days. My question is, who enforces this? If McConnell decides no thanks, he doesn't wish to allow a vote, what happens? Who, if anyone, has the authority to make sure the rules are followed? S.C., Poughkeepsie, NY

We will start by noting that this is very unlikely, as McConnell is enough of an institutionalist that he would not defy clearly-defined rules (the Merrick Garland situation was poorly-defined, which is what allowed McConnell to do what he did). On top of that, the Majority Leader wouldn't do it, because he would know it wouldn't work.

Why wouldn't it work? The boring, but probable, answer is that one of the Senators would call a point of order once the 18 days' time was up, would point out that the Majority Leader was in violation of the law, and insist that the resolution must immediately be brought to a vote. Unless 49 members plus the vice president were willing to join McConnell in an ultimately hopeless and possibly criminal act of defiance, then that would be the end of it and the vote would commence.

Even if the entire GOP caucus played along, at potential risk to their freedom and/or their political futures, or even if McConnell adjourned the Senate and told all the Republicans to leave town so there would be no quorum, it still wouldn't work. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would have a chat with Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough about the matter, and ask her to decide what the correct course of action is. He might even specifically ask her who is in a position to declare McConnell to be in contempt of Congress, and to order his arrest by the sergeant of arms of the Senate. That would certainly be interesting and dramatic, and pictures of McConnell being led away in handcuffs would quickly swamp Facebook and Twitter. But, again, it's never going to get to that.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb20 Sanders Is In
Feb20 Trump Behind the Scenes, Part I: The Scales of Justice
Feb20 Trump Behind the Scenes, Part II: The Telephone
Feb20 Adventures in Corruption, Part I: Mr. and Mrs. McConnell
Feb20 Adventures in Corruption, Part II: Paul LePage
Feb20 Amy Berman Jackson Is Not Amused
Feb20 Democrats Release List of 2020 House Targets
Feb19 Well, That Didn't Take Long
Feb19 Sanders May Enter the Race Today
Feb19 Biden's "Strength" in Polls May Be an Illusion
Feb19 Elections Board Hears About Shady Behavior in NC-09
Feb19 John James Reportedly the Favorite to Replace Nauert
Feb19 Trump at Odds with SNL Again
Feb19 Stone Shoots Himself in the Foot
Feb18 Schiff: Evidence of Collusion with Russia Is in Plain Sight
Feb18 Republicans Complain about Trump's Emergency
Feb18 Two Witnesses Told Congress that Rosenstein Considered Recording Trump
Feb18 Putin Gets His Wish
Feb18 Nauert Has Been Bairded
Feb18 Wisconsin Will Get More Attention This Time
Feb18 Could a Vegan Bring Home the Bacon in Iowa?
Feb18 Election Board Will Meet Today to Decide NC-09 Race
Feb18 Monday Q&A
Feb16 Houston, We Have an Emergency
Feb16 Trouble for Two Russiagate Figures
Feb16 Weld Prepares a 2020 Run
Feb15 Trump Will Sign Bill, Then Declare National Emergency
Feb15 Barr Confirmed
Feb15 FBI Officials Discussed Removing Trump
Feb15 The Democratic Frontrunners, According to the Trump Campaign
Feb15 Democratic Candidates Work to Tame the California Tiger
Feb15 The Next Justice to Go?
Feb15 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Michael Bennet
Feb14 Bloomberg Will Spend $500 Million Trying to Defeat Trump in 2020
Feb14 Judge Throws the Book at Manafort
Feb14 Klobuchar Raised $1 Million in First 48 Hours
Feb14 Trump's Approval Is Way Up after Government Reopened
Feb14 Cohen Will Testify before Three Congressional Committees
Feb14 McCarthy Blames Freedom Caucus for Loss of House Majority
Feb14 House Democrats Are Planning a Vast Probe of Trump's Russian Connections
Feb14 Nate Silver Says O'Rourke Has the Best Chance--at the Veep Slot
Feb14 Might Mexico Pay for the Wall after All?
Feb14 Thursday Q&A
Feb13 WWDD: What Will Donald Do?
Feb13 Senate Channels Its Inner Roosevelt
Feb13 McConnell to Bring "Green New Deal" Up for a Vote
Feb13 Barr Is in the Clear
Feb13 Mark Kelly Is In
Feb13 Will Another Amy Run?
Feb13 Today in Terrible Analysis