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Darrell Issa Eyes Return to Congress
Democrats See Hicks Testimony as Gift
Trump Approves Strikes on Iran But Pulls Back
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Confirmation Bias

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Hicks Refuses to Answer Questions
      •  Sanders Takes a Potshot at Warren
      •  New National Poll: Biden First, Warren Second, Sanders Third
      •  Trump Raises $25 Million in 24 Hours
      •  Judge May Reopen Census Case
      •  Fed Believes Trump Cannot Remove Powell
      •  The Past is Never Dead. It's Not Even Past
      •  Senate Bipartisanship Is Coming Up Roses
      •  Thursday Q&A

Hicks Refuses to Answer Questions

Hope Hicks, one of Donald Trump's closest confidants, testified before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. Well, she "testified" in the sense that she showed up at her scheduled time, sat in her assigned seat, and spoke when she was spoken to. However, she politely refused to answer any questions about anything she saw or heard while in the White House on the grounds that White House counsel Pat Cipollone has granted her "immunity" from discussing anything. There is no such thing as "immunity" with respect to congressional testimony; it applies only to criminal cases.

After the session, Democratic members of the Committee were absolutely livid. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-FL) said: "We're watching obstruction of justice in action," adding that White House lawyers were "making crap up" to block Hicks from saying anything. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) called the testimony "a farce." Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) noted: "She made clear she wouldn't answer a single question about her time unless the White House counsel told her it was okay." Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) observed that Hicks expressed no regrets, and did not admit that some of her public statements during the campaign were lies, despite her having previously admitted this to the House Intelligence Committee.

Despite these comments, she did answer a few questions. She said that Trump's hostility to the whole Russia probe is due to personal insecurity about whether his election was legitimate. She also said that she saw Trump scold then-attorney general Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from investigating Russia's role in the election.

The transcript of the session will be released in a couple of days, but is not likely to reveal anything at all except that Hicks is still completely loyal to Trump and will not say anything he might not like unless threatened with prison time (and maybe not even then). Whether Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) will issue a subpoena for her to testify in public, alone, remains to be seen. He may have no real choice; if he allows Hicks to send the message that stonewalling works, then everyone will do it. (V)

Sanders Takes a Potshot at Warren

It had to happen sooner or later. Make that sooner. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are competing for the same group of progressive voters, and every voter Warren gets is one fewer for Sanders and vice versa. In Congress, they could be allies, working for the same legislation, but since each one wants to be in the Oval Office, they are currently rivals. Yesterday, Sanders said that the Democrats' "corporate wing" is intent on electing anyone but him:

Sanders' tweet was in response to a Politico story that centrists were beginning to see Warren as an acceptable compromise candidate, so he now has come to regard Warren as a "corporate Democrat." Anyone who has followed what she has been saying since she was elected to the Senate knows that is very far from the truth. She is one of the most anti-corporate politicians in the country.

Politico isn't the only media outlet touting Warren's growing acceptability to moderates. McClatchy also has an article saying the same thing. Interviews with moderate Democratic leaders told McClatchy why Warren is so much more acceptable than Sanders. First, she has clearly said over and over that she believes in capitalism. Sanders is a Democratic socialist. The party leaders believe that a pitch along the lines of "Like FDR, I want to save capitalism from itself," is far more acceptable to most voters than "I want a revolution." Also, she talks a lot about what she can do for ordinary voters. Sanders talks a lot about breaking up the big banks. For many voters, it is hard to see how reinstating Glass-Steagall or replacing Wells Fargo with 50 MiniFargoes, one per state, helps them. Also, Sanders comes across as scary to some people, while Warren comes across as more determined, rather than scary.

What is clearly happening—and this is what has upset Sanders—is that many progressives are switching horses and now backing Warren. She is rising in the polls and Sanders is dropping. Some of these may be women who simply prefer a progressive woman to a progressive man. Others may be attracted to the multitude of very specific proposals she has on how to rein in the political and economic power of the wealthy, how to provide benefits for middle-class people, and how to pay for them (with a 2-3% wealth tax on assets over $50 million).

Up until now, the two have left each other alone, but now that Sanders has called Warren a "corporate Democrat," they are more-or-less in open warfare. As it turns out, they won't trade blows at the first Democratic debate because she is on the first night and he is on the second. It is very, very unlikely that she will shoot at him next week when he's not there to absorb her buckshot. Much more likely, she will showcase her plans to help middle-class citizens and her plans to tax the rich to pay for them. However, with 12 debates scheduled, eventually they will be on stage together and the sparks may fly. (V)

New National Poll: Biden First, Warren Second, Sanders Third

As mentioned above, Bernie Sanders is getting nervous because Elizabeth Warren is breathing down his neck. A new Monmouth University poll of Democrats nationwide now makes it official: Warren is in second place, albeit by a hair. Here are the results for the June poll as well as earlier Monmouth University polls:

Candidate June May April March January
Joe Biden 32% 33% 27% 28% 29%
Elizabeth Warren 15% 10% 6% 8% 8%
Bernie Sanders 14% 15% 20% 25% 16%
Kamala Harris 8% 11% 8% 10% 11%
Pete Buttigieg 5% 6% 8% <1% 0%
Beto O'Rourke 3% 4% 4% 6% 7%
Cory Booker 2% 1% 2% 5% 4%
Andrew Yang 2% 1% <1% 1% 1%
Bill de Blasio 1% 1% 1% 1% n/a
Tulsi Gabbard 1% 1% 0% <1% 1%
Jay Inslee 1% <1% <1% <1% <1%
Amy Klobuchar 1% 3% 1% 3% 2%
Marianne Williamson 1% 1% <1% <1% n/a

Note that in April, Sanders plus Warren were at 26%, with Sanders ahead by 14 points. Now they are at 29% together and she is ahead. You do the math.

An important takeaway from this poll is this: In politics, a week is a long time. We've mentioned this more than a few times before, but here is an example. When Warren took a DNA test after Donald Trump offered to donate $1 million to her favorite charity if she did so, the media proclaimed that she was dead meat because several tribes pointed out that having Native American ancestry is not the same as being a member of a tribe (something Warren never claimed). A few months later, that is all forgotten. So the next time some "scandal" appears and everyone yells that so-and-so's goose is cooked, take that with a grain of salt. You can't tell until some time has passed. And by the way, Trump has yet to pony up the million to Warren's favorite charity.

Monmouth also asked the Democrats about next week's debates. Only 13% are excited about them, but 36% are very interested, 34% have some interest, and 17% have no interest at all. Liberals are the most interested. Only 20% have heard about the DNC qualification rules, something we have discussed repeatedly. If you know any of these folks, please tell them to read this website to become a more informed voter and citizen. (V)

Trump Raises $25 Million in 24 Hours

Donald Trump raised $25 million in the first 24 hours after he formally launched his reelection campaign. This amount is far more than what Joe Biden, Beto O'Rourke, and Bernie Sanders raised combined ($18 million). And Trump's announcement in Orlando on Tuesday was hardly a surprise. He filed for reelection on Jan. 21, 2017—the day he was inaugurated.

However, unlike the above-mentioned Democrats, a large chunk ($11 million) of Trump's money came from big contributors, some of whom donated through the RNC, which can accept donations up to $355,000. Most of the Democrats have raised most of their money from small donors. Some have even said they will refuse large donations. And despite the eye-popping number for Trump, Republicans aren't outraising the Democrats. The blue team actually raised more money than the red team in Q1, but the cash was split over more than two dozen candidates, so it doesn't have the impact that the Republican money does.

The RNC is already spending the money. It is in the process of training 4,400 neighborhood organizers at 250 events. These people will focus on getting out the vote in the general election. The DNC has plans to train 1,000 organizers this summer. (V)

Judge May Reopen Census Case

Earlier this month, documents from the computer of the late Thomas Hofeller, a Republican strategist whose brainchild was adding a citizenship question to the census, came out. Hofeller was clearly motivated to reduce the Democrats' power in Congress by adding the citizenship question in the expectation that many immigrants would refuse to complete the census on account of it, and thus not be counted. Yesterday the judge in one of the census cases, George Hazel of Maryland, said that he is considering reopening the case, based on the new evidence.

The timing here is crucial and complicated, as the Supreme Court has already heard related cases and is expected to issue a ruling any day now. The plaintiffs in the Maryland case believe that even if the Supreme Court rules on the other two cases, their case can go forward based on the new evidence. If it does and that case gets to the Supreme Court, it would put the justices in an awkward position. No court likes to overrule itself, certainly not on a ruling it made just months earlier, but if new evidence has come to light since the first case was heard, it could possibly do so. (V)

Fed Believes Trump Cannot Remove Powell

A divided Federal Reserve just voted to hold interest rates steady for the moment. However, looking at the future, eight members want to cut interest rates later this year, eight members want to keep it steady at the current level all year, and one wants to raise them. That could change the next time the Federal Open Market Committee meets, of course, depending on the economy.

The decision not to cut rates now sets the Fed on a collision course with Donald Trump, who wants lower interest rates now to stimulate the economy going into an election year. He has threatened to fire his hand-picked Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, for not obeying him. Of course, the Fed was intentionally set up to make sure presidents could not dictate monetary policy to the Fed, which is precisely what Trump wants to do. By law, the chairman can only be removed "for cause," which most lawyers interpret as breaking the law or serious malfeasance. Not doing what the president wants doesn't count.

The Fed itself clearly believes that Trump has no authority to replace the chairman, simply because he doesn't like the Fed's policies. A spokeswoman for the Fed, Michelle Smith made that clear yesterday when she said the chair can "only be removed for cause." If Trump were to try to remove or demote Powell, Powell has said he would not go. That means the case would end up in the Supreme Court, but it could take months or years, possibly wrecking the economy in the meantime. Also, Trump might not get the support he wants from Senate Republicans. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who is on the Senate Banking Committee, said yesterday that the Fed should do "what's best for the economy and what's best for the long-term stability of our currency, too." (V)

The Past is Never Dead. It's Not Even Past

That quote from William Faulkner is alive and well today. When announcing the start of his reelection campaign on Tuesday, Donald Trump made sure to attack Hillary Clinton for her e-mails and led the audience in chants of "lock her up." Not to be outdone, yesterday House Democrats discussed...slavery, and specifically reparations for it, despite the fact that the last surviving slave died over 40 years ago.

Specifically, the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing yesterday about legislation that would establish a committee to study slavery and whether reparations are due, and if so, to whom. The bill, HR-40, was first introduced by former representative John Conyers decades ago. The current one was introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) was one of the speakers at the hearing. He told the Subcommittee that America has still not grappled with the legacy of racism and white supremacy. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and actor Danny Glover also addressed the Subcommittee.

The issue could become part of the 2020 campaign, but HR-40 will not become a law as long as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is Senate majority leader. McConnell has already stated his view on the matter: "I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea." Some Republican members of the Subcommittee agreed with McConnell, noting that reparations are typically only given to the victims of injustice, not their descendants.

That said, the U.S. government has paid out reparations for injustices in the past. In 1948, the Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act compensated Japanese Americans for their property that had been seized. In 1988, Congress updated that, and paid out $20,000 to each of the 82,219 eligible survivors of an internment camp. On 2013, North Carolina passed a law providing compensation to people who had been involuntarily sterilized under a state-run eugenics program. But these reparations were all to the actual victims, not to their descendants.

Even if Congress wanted to pass a reparations bill, the mechanics of figuring out who was entitled to reparations would be very challenging. Would anyone with an enslaved ancestor get money? Does someone with an enslaved grandfather get more (or less?) than someone with an enslaved great-great-grandfather? Does having two slaves in your family tree get you double payments? What about black folks who descend from the black freemen and freewomen who lived in the North during the Civil War? They may have suffered as much discrimination as descendants of slaves, but their ancestors weren't direct victims of the peculiar institution.

If the federal government ever does try to make good on this matter—and that's a big if—it is likely the payment will not be made directly to individuals, and instead will take the form of some kind of significant investment in the black community. Think college scholarships, or something like Booker's "baby bonds" program. Of course, that simply raises the issue of who is eligible for the college scholarships, etc. Does a recent black immigrant from Haiti qualify? Do the children of Rachel Dolezal (who identifies as black even though she is entirely European) qualify? What about white students who want the scholarship and enroll at an HBC such as Howard University? But for now, these questions are only hypothetical because as long as Mitch McConnell is running the show, there aren't going to be reparations in any way, shape, or form. (V & Z)

Senate Bipartisanship Is Coming Up Roses

Maybe there is hope for the Senate, after all. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) is technically an independent, but he caucuses with the Democrats and votes with them nearly all the time, so de facto, despite the label, he is a Democrat. On Tuesday, he presented a member of the other party, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), with a red rose for her 7,000th vote on the Senate floor. She hasn't missed a single vote since joining the Senate 22 years ago. King also paid tribute to the first woman to represent Maine in the Senate, Margaret Chase Smith (R), who often wore a red rose.

Collins faces her biggest reelection challenge ever next year, as Maine Democrats are furious with her for voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and have already collected over $3 million for whomever gets the Democratic nomination to oppose her. The real test for Maine bipartisanship will come when King is asked who he favors in the general election. (V)

Thursday Q&A

We got some complaints that the last Q&A was too long, so we'll keep it a little shorter this time.

Am I wrong to think that you keep implying that the Bernie Sanders partisans think that having superdelegates hurt them in 2016? Wouldn't anyone knowledgeable enough to blame Bernie's loss to Hillary in 2016 on superdelegates also realize that Hillary also had a majority of the delegates selected in primaries and caucuses? S.Z., New Haven, CT

Let us start by saying that Clinton did end up needing a small number of superdelegate votes to claim the Democratic nomination. That is not the same thing as saying the superdelegates gave her the nomination. She would have won if the superdelegates were split evenly, or if 2/3 went for Sanders, or if the superdelegates had no free will and were bound to vote as their home states voted, or if the superdelegates never existed at all. The only way the superdelegates "denied" Sanders the nomination was by failing to give him nine times as many of their votes as they gave Clinton.

As to your question, the only way you might be wrong is that we haven't really been implying that some Sanders partisans think the superdelegates cheated them, we've been outright saying it. There is no doubt of this; Here are some examples of pieces written after the math we've outlined above became self-evident, including some of very recent vintage:

This borderline conspiracy theory has been subtly encouraged by Sanders himself, who implied that the superdelegates were responsible for his defeat. It's been openly encouraged by Sanders' wife, Jane, who has described the superdelegates as the Democratic establishment's "insurance policy." Even Donald Trump has parroted this line of argument, largely because it fits in with his "crooked Hillary" theme.

Why do so many Sanders supporters think this way? We would suggest there are two primary reasons. The first is that Sanders' program includes some pretty heavy populist overtones, and so attracted a fair number of populist-type voters. One of the central tenets of populism, maybe the central tenet, is that "the system" is stacked against "us," however "us" may be defined. In other words, some Sanders voters are predisposed to thinking in conspiratorial or semi-conspiratorial ways. The second reason is that the DNC really did stack the deck for Hillary. It is probable that some Sanders supporters have confused the superdelegates (which were not part of the pro-Hillary scheming) with things like limiting the number of debates and scheduling them at odd times (which were a part of the pro-Hillary scheming).

What is going on at The Huffington Post? They have been putting up story after story ripping Joe Biden—who currently leads the pack as Democrats' best shot at unseating Trump. HuffPo is undoubtedly a liberal news source, which has never bothered me much because we need something to counter the scourge (and oxymoron) that is Fox News. But this pattern appears less like reporting news and more like furthering some sort of agenda. Why are they doing this? M.F., Philadelphia, PA

You're not the only one who has noticed this. They have been shredding Biden (and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA) while aggressively promoting Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. At this very moment, in fact, the entire top half of their homepage is taken up by anti-Biden stories (note the black background—nice touch):

HuffPo hates Joe

It's possible, as you note, that this is just a byproduct of the site's editorial slant. Their writers skew young and progressive, and Biden is neither of those things. However, if you look at all the stories the site has done about Bidem recently, the negativity is not nearly as pronounced. This appears to be largely a front page phenomenon. That, in turn, suggests that this development is driven by one of two things: A conscious decision by one or more prominent HuffPost staffers (Arianna Huffington?) to maximize the site's influence by tearing down the frontrunner and promoting his two main rivals, or else the site's readership. It's very possible that the site's front page coverage is dictated, at least in part, by some sort of algorithm, and "No Joe!" stories are what get the clicks.

You've consistently used Warren Harding and Ulysses S. Grant as the gold standard of American corruption. If Elaine Chao sold out to her family's Chinese connections, if Mitch McConnell sold his soul to get a couple of bucks invested by Russians in Kentucky, if the NRA is laundering money for Russians and their board is abusing funds, if the former chair of the GOP's fundraising efforts is currently in jail, and if the various debacles involving Trump, Kushner, etc. don't overtake that, what would? M.A., Washington, DC

First, two clarifications: Richard Nixon is the gold standard of American corruption. And we did not mean to suggest that Grant and Harding were necessarily themselves corrupt (Grant certainly wasn't), nor that their administrations are actually among the most corrupt in U.S. history. It is merely the case that they are the ones (besides Nixon) that are most remembered for being corrupt. And that is because each had one really big, notorious, headline-grabbing scandal (Crédit Mobilier and Teapot Done, respectively).

In any event, even if we leave Donald Trump out of this, there is little question that his administration is the most corrupt and scandal-ridden in American history. Ryan Zinke, David Price, Scott Pruitt, Elaine Chao, Jeff Sessions, Wilbur Ross, Kirstjen Nielsen—the list of cabinet-level misdeeds of various sorts goes on and on and on. And, of course, Donald Trump is hardly above the fray (unlike, say, Grant). The old saying is that a fish rots from the head down, and this fish certainly does.

Outside of Trump's base (and maybe even inside, in some cases), the reputation for corrupt behavior is well established. And, as we argued on Monday, this administration is likely to be remembered (and dinged) long term for being very corrupt. Team Trump's only hope, on a "historical memory" level, is that none of the scandals emerges as the "signature" scandal that textbooks and teachers glom on to, as with Crédit Mobilier, Teapot Dome, and Watergate. However, our guess (and historical memory is actually Z's area of speciality) is that Russia's interference in the 2016 election and the administration's attempts to cover it up will slide right in alongside those in the textbooks of the future.

For the 2016 election, Trump had someone to oppose the entire campaign, first the primary challengers then the Democratic nominee. At least for the time being, there doesn't appear to be a primary challenger to Trump and the only Democratic candidate engaging him is Joe Biden. That would seem to leave Trump with a tough choice: engage Biden and, thus, legitimize him as the single most important candidate (something Trump is loath to do), take pot shots at the other nearly two dozen targets, or ignore them all and campaign against...what? To put it another way, Trump had clearly defined opponents in 2016 but not so much today. Is that likely to mess with his messaging? M.W., St. Paul, MN

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was running for political office throughout his career, and in particular during his reelection bids, he tried not to say his opponent's name, as he recognized that it gave them publicity and legitimacy. Many post-FDR presidents followed his lead, including Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon.

Donald Trump is not FDR (or Johnson, or Nixon). And so, we are afraid we have to disagree with your premise. He is wholly unconcerned with giving his rivals legitimacy and/or free publicity. Heck, he doesn't even shut up when doing so would allow whatever the latest scandal is to blow over more quickly. And the Donald's style is fundamentally rooted in being constantly on the attack, he simply doesn't know any other way.

Consistent with this, he will attack Biden early and often (as he did at his "launch" rally). He will attack any other Democrats who seem to be doing well, or who annoy him, or who just seem stupid to him. He will also attack the usual suspects, over and over: Hillary Clinton, the deep state, Robert Mueller, Barack Obama, the news media, and the rest. All of those came up at the launch rally, and they'll come up again and again and again. Heck, he's still ranting and raving about Clinton's e-mail server. Remember the opening scene of Citizen Kane? We imagine that Donald Trump's final moments on Earth will be much like that, but instead of "Rooooosebuuuuud..." it will be "Eeeee-maaaiiillls..." (scene)

In short, we don't see any reason to think his messaging will miss a single beat.

Why haven't any of our allies, or the U.N., brought attention to what are basically human rights violations at the border? K.C., Los Angeles, CA

To the extent possible, they have. Here, for example, is a story about the U.N. condemning the administration's last immigrant crackdown (and, specifically, the family separations). Here is a story about various world leaders, including Angela Merkel, Theresa May, and Justin Trudeau doing the same.

The problem is that if the U.N. is going to do anything, that action has to be approved by the Security Council, where the U.S. has a veto. Foreign countries have even less ability to compel action on the part of the United States, and would be risking various sorts of blowback (think: tariffs) if they did anything more than issue modest criticisms. So, beyond speaking out, the hands of non-Americans (even very prominent ones) are basically tied.

The Progressive Professor observes that "No Wartime President Has Been Defeated For Reelection!" Could Iran be Donald Trump's strategy for reelection? B.H., Westborough, MA

There are few alleged historical "truisms" that aggravate (Z) more than the notion that wartime presidents always win. Here's the list that the Progressive Professor gave, along with comments from (Z):

James Madison, the War of 1812, reelected in 1812
(Z: True, but the war started only a few months before the election)

Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, reelected in 1864
(Z: Barely reelected, though, and he thought he was going to lose just two months earlier, but then Atlanta fell)

Woodrow Wilson, World War I, not at war but nearing it, reelected in 1916
(Z: So, not actually reelected during a war, and ran as a peace candidate—"He kept us out of war.")

Franklin D. Roosevelt, World War II, not at war but nearing it, reelected in 1940, and then at war, reelected in 1944.
(Z: True, and he got the worst numbers of his four runs in 1944, even though the U.S. was clearly winning the war)

Lyndon B. Johnson, using the Vietnam War issue through the Gulf of Tonkin, elected in 1964
(Z: The Gulf of Tonkin incident was just a few months before the election, and Operation Rolling Thunder, which was the real escalation of the war, happened in 1965)

Richard Nixon, Vietnam War, reelected in 1972
(Z: But the war was de facto over by 1971, since Nixon knew he would not win reelection otherwise)

George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, reelected in 2004
(Z: True, but does anyone seriously think this was a huge boon for Bush's reelection chances? And certainly, the two wars doomed the GOP in 2008.)

In short, the Professor's own list actually contains only three examples of presidents reelected at the height of a war—Lincoln, FDR, and Bush—and the respective wars nearly ended the career of the first, hurt the vote totals of the second, and likely hurt the vote totals of the third.

Meanwhile, in order to make their "point," such lists engage in two repeated distortions of historical fact. The first is conveniently ignoring some wars because they aren't famous. For example, John Adams was hurt badly by the Quasi War, while Grover Cleveland was hurt by the ongoing Apache War, and they both got booted out of office (with Cleveland returning to the White House when his successor Benjamin Harrison also botched the Apache War, and himself got booted). The second is excluding presidents who declined to run for reelection because they knew an ongoing war had ruined their presidency. Truman's reelection hopes in 1952 were unquestionably dashed by Korea, and he bowed to reality rather than suffer a humiliating defeat at the polls. Same for LBJ and Vietnam. Note that in both cases, the White House changed hands to the Republican Party.

In short, it is more correct to say that wars have cost presidents and political parties more elections than they have gained for them. Indeed, one struggles to think of a president who was reelected in wartime (or the lead-up to wartime), but who would have lost if there was no war. Maybe FDR in 1940, and that is only because he would have retired after two terms if World War II was not looming. So, if anyone is advising Trump that Iran is his ticket to reelection (which is exactly the kind of thing NSA John Bolton would say), they are giving him bad advice. And we tend to doubt that Trump is thinking his way, because his instincts are isolationist. But you never know.

I've read every single update to your site since 2000. Back then, Votemaster wrote with a very impartial style, like that of a disinterested observer. After many questions about his underlying views, he revealed that he leaned Democratic and would presumably be supporting Al Gore. Today, it is quite clear that neither of you support Donald Trump. In the interest of transparency, is there anything you can tell us about your own personal biases with respect to the 2020 Democratic primary? For example, one gets the impression that both of you are (even) more unimpressed with Beto O'Rourke and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) than the general public, that you have deep concerns about Sanders and/or his base of support, and that you expect and prefer that Biden take the nomination. Are those unfair conclusions? J.C., Reno, NV

We would not say your conclusions are "unfair," but we would say they are incorrect.

Let us start with an analogy that (Z) sometimes uses in class. Consider the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are currently 33-40, and have virtually no shot at making the playoffs. Here are two different assessments of their season:

  • The Pirates are having a bad season because they don't have enough starting pitching, several of their best players are having down seasons, and they're in a tough division, competing against both the Cubs and the Brewers.

  • The Pirates are having a bad season because their manager is dumb, their fans are awful, and Pittsburgh is a city of losers.

The first assessment is that of an analyst, the second is that of a partisan.

Imagine, now, that a baseball writer was covering the Pirates day-in, day-out. Since major league baseball is pretty balanced, even the worst teams win 40 or 45% of their games (the Pirates have won 45.2% thus far). That means that a writer's daily write-ups would be basically positive a little less than half the time, and basically negative a little more than half the time, and that writer would seem pretty balanced.

Imagine, however, that reporter was then assigned to cover the worst baseball team of all time. That would be the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, so a time machine would be needed. Anyhow, the Spiders went 20-134, which means they only won 13% of the time. So our hypothetical writer's game wraps would all of a sudden be basically negative 87% of the time, as compared to 55% of the time when he's covering the Pirates. He didn't change, his subject matter did.

All of this is to say that, to borrow John Roberts' metaphor, we both do our best to call balls and strikes. When the number of balls and the number of strikes is roughly even, as is normally the case, then no pattern emerges and there's no perception of bias. But when there are nine balls for every strike, well, we gotta call 'em as we see 'em. Nobody is perfect at hiding their personal biases, of course, but we do our best. Also, it's part of the style of this site to be a little funny/snarky, and that could be read as bias. But we can assure you that if a good joke is there for the taking, we will take it, regardless of the partisan identification of the target.

As to your speculation about our current candidate preferences, we can say for certain that you're way off. And the reason is that, to keep things as even-handed as we can, neither of us has chosen a candidate, or has even come close to doing so.

If you have a question about politics, civics, history, etc. you would like us to answer, click here for submission instructions and previous Q & A's. If you spot any typos or other errors on the site that we should fix, please let us know at

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun19 Trump "Launches" 2020 Campaign
Jun19 Shanahan Removes His Name from Consideration for Secretary of Defense
Jun19 Hope Hicks on Deck
Jun19 Budget Talks Look Promising, Except for the Fly in the Ointment
Jun19 Everybody Hates Tom
Jun19 Roy Moore to Announce Plans on Thursday
Jun19 A Master Class in Kissing Ass
Jun18 Trump Administration to Launch Another Crackdown on Undocumented Immigrants
Jun18 Mulvaney: Secret Mexico Deal May Remain Secret Forever
Jun18 Iran Situation Is Deteriorating
Jun18 Bad Numbers All Around for Trump
Jun18 Democrats Prepare Ad Blitz
Jun18 SCOTUS Hands Democrats Two Wins
Jun18 Rep. Katie Porter Endorses Impeachment Proceedings
Jun17 The Lineups for the First Democratic Debates Are Set
Jun17 Trump Will Run a Professional Campaign in 2020...Sort Of
Jun17 Fox News Poll Shows Trump Losing to the Leading Democrats
Jun17 Biden Leads in the Early States
Jun17 Biden Leads Trump by 11 Points in Michigan
Jun17 Four Democrats Court Black Voters in South Carolina
Jun17 Wall Street Has Made Its Choices
Jun17 House Democrats Want to Make It Possible to Indict a President
Jun17 McConnell Rejects New Call for Election Security
Jun17 Susan Brooks Won't Run for Reelection to the House
Jun17 Monday Q&A
Jun14 Donald Trump Blames Everyone but Donald Trump for His Controversial Remarks
Jun14 Kellyanne Conway Should Go
Jun14 Sarah Huckabee Sanders Will Go
Jun14 Joe Manchin Might Go
Jun14 Tillis Has to Worry about Being Forced to Go
Jun14 DNC Debate Lineup Is Set
Jun14 Democratic Presidential Candidate Update: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Jun13 House Holds Ross and Barr in Contempt of Congress
Jun13 Trump To Foreign Spies: Gimme a Call!
Jun13 Trump Denies that Internal Poll Shows Biden Beating Him, and Then Attacks Media
Jun13 Biden is Leading the Primary Field in Nevada
Jun13 Report: Hope Hicks Will Testify before the House Judiciary Committee
Jun13 Harris Would Prosecute Trump for Obstruction of Justice
Jun13 Democrats Are Talking Religion on the Campaign Trail
Jun13 Schultz Will Take the Summer Off
Jun13 Trump Plans to Make A Mess of Amash
Jun13 Trump Nominee for the Federal Bench Withdraws
Jun13 The Moment of Truth Is Approaching for John Roberts
Jun13 Thursday Q&A
Jun12 Biden, Trump Trade Shots in Iowa
Jun12 Biden Running a Very General Campaign
Jun12 Democratic Field Appears to Have Many Trump Slayers
Jun12 House Votes to Enforce Subpoenas
Jun12 Trump Jr. Will Talk to Senate Intelligence Committee Today
Jun12 What "America First" Apparently Meant