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Trump, GOP Respond to "Send Her Back!"

It has been almost a week since Donald Trump fired off the racist tweets heard 'round the world. And the news has been dominated by them, and the response to them, ever since. Maybe that was by design; Jeffrey Epstein, his history of sexual predation, and his friendship with Trump have largely been pushed off the front pages (at least for now). In any case, the racist tweets story continued to dominate on Thursday, as anyone and everyone responded to the "Send her back!" chants at the President's Wednesday rally in North Carolina.

Trump, for his part, "disavowed" the chant. We put that in quotations because he used weasel words, much as he did after Charlottesville, to have it both ways, and to make clear to followers that he didn't really disapprove of what happened. For example:

It was quite a chant, and I felt a little bit badly about it. [But] I say there is far more energy on the right than there is on the left. I think we have far more support than they do and I think we have far more energy than they do. And we're going to have a very interesting election. But I was not happy when I heard that chant.

This is not a persuasive disavowal on its face. And then, add in that the chant was based on Trump's own tweets (which he most certainly hasn't disavowed) and that his reaction in the moment most certainly did not communicate disapproval. The response of former senator and GOP presidential candidate John McCain, when dealing with a questioner who claimed that Barack Obama is "an Arab," is a model for how Trump should have responded, so much so that the video was circulating widely on Twitter yesterday:

Of course, Trump won his election, while McCain lost his and was blasted as a RINO, so perhaps that helps explain why the President responds as he does in situations like this.

While Trump was peddling his flimflammery, the usual enablers were lining up behind him. At least four Fox News hosts came to his defense, including Laura Ingraham (a.k.a. Kellyanne Conway's doppelgänger). Meanwhile, the Chief Enabler, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said that he thinks Trump is "on to something" with his attacks on the four congresswomen, because Americans don't want socialism. McConnell also noted—really—that he couldn't possibly be facilitating racism, because he was present for Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. Presumably, the Majority Leader also has a black friend.

Even those Republicans who condemned the rally chant still hedged their bets, refusing to blame Trump and/or implying that Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN) brought some of this on herself. Some examples:

But despite the near-universal public show of support from the GOP, many of them were not happy behind closed doors. In a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, a number of them conveyed their discomfort with the new direction that Trump has taken, and asked Pence to tell him to knock it off. The President will pay this no heed, of course, if he thinks that sticking with the "Send her back!" stuff will win him re-election. He is more than willing to sacrifice as many members of the Republican Party as it takes for him to win.

As to the Democrats, Omar herself held an impromptu, traffic-blocking press conference outside the Capitol and said, "I am not [scared for my safety]. What I'm scared for is the safety for people who share my identity." Other Democrats don't necessarily agree that her personal safety is a non-issue, and many of them are now calling for Omar and the other three members of "the Squad" to be assigned a security detail. Meanwhile, pretty much every Democrat you can think of spoke out against the rally chants. For example, here are the tweets on the subject sent by the five Democratic presidential frontrunners:

We are heading into the weekend, of course, which is prime presidential tweet time. The Democratic debates are not far away, and undoubtedly "Send her back!" will come up. And then, Trump's next rally is Aug. 1 in Ohio, the day after the second debate. So, this story will certainly be back in the headlines, sooner or later. (Z)

U.S. Downs Iranian Drone

Early Thursday, an Iranian drone came within 1,000 yards of the U.S.S. Boxer, and when the Iranians neglected to alter its course, the Navy jammed its signals, thus leading to its destruction.

This story illustrates two distinct ways in which Donald Trump cannot win when it comes to this sort of news. The first is that such announcements are treated with great caution, in case they're not really true, or he just hasn't understood the details correctly. Consider, for example the CNN headline:

US Navy ship 'destroyed' an Iranian drone, Trump says

Under any other president, that headline would have been "US Navy Ship Destroys Iranian Drone." But CNN's version presents the news not as a fact, but as something that Trump claims as a fact. That's a big difference. They hedge even further by putting "destroyed" in quotes, just in case it wasn't really destroyed. And CNN wasn't the only one; nearly all outlets had similarly cautious headlines, especially earlier in the day on Thursday.

The second way that Trump can't win is that just about everyone had an analysis like this one, that said, in essence, "How can Trump hope to negotiate with the Iranians if he acts so aggressively toward them?" If the President had done nothing, then it would be "Iranians keep pushing Trump because they know he won't stand up to them."

This is not to say that the President is being treated unfairly. No, he brought this on himself by telling lies up, down, left, right, and sideways, and also by pursuing an Iran policy that seems to have no particular rhyme or reason beyond "Obama's approach was bad." In other words, Trump made his bed, and now he's being forced to lie in it. (Z)

Daniels Payment Was All Cohen and Trump...and Hope Hicks

At 11:00 a.m. ET on Thursday, the documents relating to the feds' investigation of the hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels, et al., were made public. We already knew that Michael Cohen was the central figure in the whole scheme, but the new information makes clear that Donald Trump was intimately involved (meaning his statements to the contrary were, to nobody's surprise, baldfaced lies) and that former Trump assistant Hope Hicks was also party to the arrangements.

Trump, of course, is not going to be prosecuted while he is still in the White House, while Cohen is already in the hoosegow. Hicks, on the other hand, could be in some trouble, especially since she reportedly misled the House Judiciary Committee on this subject when she talked to them last month. They want to talk with her again, so she can explain herself, and if she doesn't come voluntarily, she'll be hit with a subpoena. After the release of the documents, Trump laywer Jay Sekulow declared "Case closed!" Not so much, if Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has his way. (Z)

Trump Nominates Scalia to Lead Labor Department

No, not that Scalia. He's been dead for a little over three years. It's his son, Eugene, who is 55, an experienced lawyer, and is now Donald Trump's surprise pick to be the next Secretary of Labor. He would succeed Alex Acosta, who had to resign due to the sweetheart plea deal he made with Jeffrey Epstein while serving as U.S. Attorney a decade ago.

Like most (or all) Trump cabinet nominees these days, Scalia may be underqualified for the job. It's true that he specializes in labor law, currently heading the Labor and Employment Practice Group at the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. And he did work in the Department of Labor, serving as its solicitor for about a year from 2002-03. He also served as a special assistant to then-and-current AG Bill Barr for roughly a year from 1992-93. But that is a résumé quite similar to failed VA nominee Ronny Jackson. Like Jackson, Scalia's government service is not extensive, and he has limited experience running a large bureaucracy.

That said, the counselor's magical last name may please the base, and his record will definitely please GOP power-brokers within the Senate and without. He helped his firm with their representation of George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore, allowing W to claim (or steal) the presidency in 2000. His best-known case as lead counsel was Wal-Mart v. Maryland, which killed a state law that required large companies (10,000 employees or more) to spend at least 8% of their payroll on employee healthcare. In other words, as one might expect of a son of Antonin, Scalia is not exactly a friend of the working man. Presumably he will sail through his Senate confirmation with ease. (Z)

House Votes to Raise the Minimum Wage

Eugene Scalia may be on the side of the corporations, but that does not mean that everyone in Washington is hostile to labor. Indeed, after six months of wrangling, House Democrats managed to come together on Thursday to pass a bill that would establish a $15/hour minimum wage. The final count was 231-199, with all but four Democrats voting "yea," and the other four Democrats and all of the Republicans (and the one Independent) voting "nay."

The bill will now head to the Senate, where it will wither and die. That chamber is like the Alamo when it comes to Democratic bills—no quarter. Still, this is a pretty important victory for the blue team. Despite all the talk about tension between the factions within the party, this is the third time that pretty much everyone has managed to get on the same page just this week (the bill banning arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and the resolution condemning Donald Trump's tweets, were the others). Anybody who says that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) doesn't know how to herd cats doesn't know what they are talking about; it was a master feat of vote whipping to get virtually her whole caucus behind a law progressives have been pushing for since 2016.

Beyond that, a $15/hour minimum wage gives the Democrats something pretty juicy to run on in 2020, something that could even cause the ears of some of Donald Trump's blue-collar base to perk up. As we have noted many times, including yesterday, pocketbook issues have a salience that many other Democratic issues do not. (Z)

Lineups Set for Next Round of Democratic Debates

The lottery has been held, and the New Orleans Pelicans have won the opportunity to draft Duke forward Zion Williamson! Needless to say, basketball fans in the Big Easy are thrilled. Oops, wait, wrong lottery. Our mistake. The one last night divided the 20 qualifiers for the Democratic debates into two groups. Here they are:

July 30 July 31
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Joe Biden
John Delaney Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
John Hickenlooper Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City)
Marianne Williamson Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Beto O'Rourke Andrew Yang
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) Julián Castro

As noted previously, Mayor Wayne Messam (D-Miramar), Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Mike Gravel, Tom Steyer, and Joe Sestak did not qualify for round 2.

Initial impressions, based on these groupings:

  • The first night is not going to have much of a political center, as it features the two most prominent progressives in the field, as well as at least five centrists.

  • That night will, however, feature declarations that love is the solution to all our problems. Enjoy the rest of your 15 minutes, Marianne.

  • The first night's lineup is made up of 10 white candidates. Though this is the most diverse Democratic field ever, all of the minority candidates ended up on the second night (we told you to expect wonky "draft" results). Given that Donald Trump's racist tweets are sure to come up on both nights, that may not make for a great discussion on July 30.

  • Harris and Biden are going to get a rematch, which will surely be the story of the second night. Expect Booker to jump in on that, too, as he searches for some momentum. Also note that the positioning in the stage could matter. Biden will be standing between two people of color, with Harris on one side and Booker on the other.

  • The biggest winner here is probably Harris. Everything is set up for her to build on her strong performance in the first debate, and yet again on the night that (apparently) gets the higher ratings. The heavyweights on stage that night will be Biden (and we know she can go head-to-head with him), and Booker and Castro (who are likely to agree with her on most things).

  • The biggest loser here is probably Klobuchar. Her campaign really needs a shot in the arm, and she got stuck on the night that is probably a little heavier on talent (Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg), is likely to get lower ratings, and where she will have a hard time distinguishing herself from all the other moderates on the stage.

Anyway, T-minus-11 days and counting. (Z)

Democratic Presidential Candidate Update: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN)

We had hoped to revisit each of the candidates at least one time before they bid farewell. Given the shrinkage that's likely to follow the Q2 fundraising and the next round of debates, that's probably not going to happen. As we wait to see who keeps on keepin' on, and who decides to exit stage left, we chose to do this week's update about a candidate whose range of outcomes is particularly broad. She could be done by mid-August, or she could hang on until deep into primary season.

Here is our original profile of Klobuchar.

Amy Klobuchar
  • Where Has She Been Recently?: This weekend, she will be in New Hampshire. In the two months prior, she's divided her time pretty evenly between the Granite State and Iowa. By all indications, she's never even heard of any states west of the Central Time Zone, or south of the Ohio River.

  • Recent News: In an effort to get some buzz for her flagging campaign, Klobuchar just unveiled a list of the 100 things she'll do in her first 100 days in office. It's mostly rolling back Donald Trump's executive orders, along with things like "appoint good judges." Of course, one should always take those "first 100 days" promises with a fistful of salt.

  • Offbeat News: One of Klobuchar's most outspoken enemies is...pop singer Justin Bieber. She has tried to get piracy of songs and movies classified as a felony, and although Bieber might theoretically benefit from such legislation, he thinks charging people with a felony is far too harsh. So, they've traded barbs back and forth for almost a decade. You're never going to get the youth vote that way, Senator.

  • Finances: Klobuchar collected just shy of $4 million in Q2, and also transferred some money over from her Senate account. With a burn rate of 107%, she's nowhere near the financial crisis that looms for some of her colleagues, like Kirsten Gillibrand or John Delaney, so she can remain in the race if that is what she wants to do.

  • Polls: The Senator generally pulls a 1% in polls, which is also her average across all major polls of the Democratic field. She's gotten to 2% a handful of times, and got 3% exactly once, in a Monmouth poll in May.

  • What Did We Guess Her Signature Issue(s) Would Be?: Infrastructure and jobs

  • What Appears to Be Her Signature Issue Now?: Probably healthcare, though she's now spending so much time talking about her "100 things," that it's the real focus.

  • Strengths for the Democratic Primaries: (1) She's very popular in the Midwest, (2) the suburban women who are wavering on the GOP might like her better than an Elizabeth Warren or a Tulsi Gabbard and (3) she's a crack organizer, and can pull together campaign infrastructure like it's magic.

  • Weaknesses for the Democratic Primaries: (1) She's not quite as amusing as she (and NPR) think she is, which could make for some embarrassing moments, (2) the "Klobuchar's a mean person" stories haven't gone away, and (3) she has no presence whatsoever in two-thirds of the country.

  • Klobuchar on Trump: "Trump wants to cut the Education Department's budget. It's all part of Trump's plan to defeat his greatest enemy: spelling." (3/13/19)

  • Trump on Klobuchar: "Well, it happened again. Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for President, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Bad timing. By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowman(woman)!" (Note: apparently the President does not know the difference between a snow man and a snow woman. The answer, of course, is snowballs.) (2/10/19)

  • The Bottom Line: Klobuchar needs two things to happen in the next month: (1) a good debate performance on July 30, and (2) to pick up some support in the polls when other candidates begin to drop out. Absent both of these, her narrow path forward will likely turn into no path.

You can access the list of candidate profiles by clicking on the 2020 Dem candidates link in the menu to the left of the map. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul18 House Has a Busy Day...
Jul18 Trump Rallies in North Carolina
Jul18 Feds Conclude Investigation into Trump Organization's Role in Hush Money Payments
Jul18 Second Round of Democratic Debates Comes into Focus
Jul18 Harris Tops Quinnipiac Poll of California
Jul18 More on Q2 Fundraising
Jul18 Thursday Q&A
Jul17 Racist Tweet Drama Turns into Soap Opera
Jul17 Like Clockwork, ACLU Files Lawsuit
Jul17 What's Taking So Long?
Jul17 The Q2 Fundraising Numbers Are In
Jul17 Trump May Soon Have Another Challenger
Jul17 John Paul Stevens Dies at 99
Jul16 Racist Tweets Remain at the Forefront
Jul16 Trump Announces ICE Raids Were a Success, Announces New Asylum Policy
Jul16 Conway Officially Defies Subpoena
Jul16 Pence Emergency Probably Won't Be Explained
Jul16 Biden Shifts Gears...
Jul16 ...And So Does Buttigieg
Jul16 Presidential Year Turnout May Not Favor Democrats in 2020
Jul15 Trump Goes on Racist Twitter Rant
Jul15 GOP Happy to Run on "We Killed Obamacare" in 2020
Jul15 Daily Mail Releases More Darroch Dirt
Jul15 Democrats to Argue Florida Ballots in Court Today
Jul15 Vulnerable Election Software Will be Used in 2020
Jul15 Sanders, Warren Voters Aren't All That Similar
Jul15 Monday Q&A
Jul13 Secretary of Labor Strikes Out
Jul13 Another Budget Mess Is Looming
Jul13 Mueller Testimony Delayed, Expanded
Jul13 Today's Legal Blotter
Jul13 Pennsylvania GOP Gets Its Act Together
Jul13 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Tom Steyer
Jul12 Trump Caves on Citizenship Census Question
Jul12 House Judiciary Committee Approves Long List of Subpoenas
Jul12 ICE Raids Are Set to Commence this Weekend
Jul12 Trump Holds "Social Media Summit"
Jul12 Warren Is Catching Up to Biden
Jul12 The Big Five Are Pulling Away
Jul12 CNN Announces the Rules for the Second Democratic Debate
Jul12 Trump Doesn't Want Sessions to Run for the Senate
Jul12 McGrath Fumbles on Kavanaugh
Jul12 Lummis Is Running for Enzi's Senate Seat
Jul12 Friday Q&A
Jul11 Trump Goes 1-1 in Court on Wednesday
Jul11 Epstein Story Isn't Going Away
Jul11 What's an Ambassador to Do?
Jul11 Megan Rapinoe Would Beat Trump
Jul11 NeverTrump Republicans Want to Play a Role in the Democratic Primary
Jul11 Steyer Starts Million-Dollar Ad Campaign