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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump to Request $8.6 Billion for Wall Construction
      •  It's Biden and Bernie in Iowa
      •  Republicans Are Going after O'Rourke
      •  Castro Goes after Sanders on Reparations
      •  Did Perez Make the Wrong Call on the Debates?
      •  House Democrats Have More Bills Coming Up Soon
      •  Cheney Lashes Out at Trump
      •  Roy Moore May Run Again
      •  Monday Q&A

Trump to Request $8.6 Billion for Wall Construction

While some of his core beliefs can change on a dime, one thing that Donald Trump really and truly believes is that he cannot win reelection unless he builds a wall on the Mexican border. To that end, he is going to request $8.6 billion to do so. Of that, $5 billion will be a request for additional funding for the Dept. of Homeland Security, and $3.6 billion will come from the Pentagon's budget. To avoid having the deficit balloon again, he is also proposing slashing 5% from the budgets of the nonmilitary departments, especially those involving welfare assistance, environmental protection, and foreign aid. Over a 10-year period, he wants to cut $2.7 trillion from government programs excluding the military.

Trump's plan hasn't even been formally released yet, but top Democrats have already announced that it is dead on arrival. Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called it a "non-starter." They said the money could be better spent on education and workforce development programs.

Not even conservative Republicans in Congress are taking Trump seriously. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) helpfully pointed out that there is no consensus on cutting non-defense programs by 5%. He also mentioned that passing a budget requires the House to go along with it. Which, of course, Nancy Pelosi has already ruled out.

If Trump sticks to his guns, we are headed to another government shutdown in 7 months. Congress might be able to cobble together a budget (basically by just cutting and pasting the current budget into next year's plan), but if Trump vetoes it, the government will shut down in October. That, in turn, could freak out the stock market and cause the economy to go into a recession. Having a recession in an election year is not something incumbent presidents are fond of, so something has to give.

So what is Trump's game plan here, if any? Most likely he realizes that he is not going to get his wall as long as the Democrats control one chamber of Congress. Probably the best he can do is make a big public pitch for wall money and then when it fails, blame the Democrats. Then, in 2020, he could campaign telling the voters: "If you want a wall, vote a straight Republican ticket." The only flaw with this approach is that poll after poll has shown that large majorities of the voters do not want a wall, so it could backfire. (V)

It's Biden and Bernie in Iowa

A new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers released this weekend put Joe Biden at 27% and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at 25%. Not exactly nipping at their heels in third place was "Not sure," at 10%. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), and former representative Beto O'Rourke rounded out the top five actual candidates at 9%, 7%, and 5%, respectively.

The pollster also asked a few special questions about Biden and Sanders. For Biden, 31% think his time has come and gone so he should not run. However, 64% said he has the governing experience needed, so he should run. For Sanders, 43% think his time has come and gone, but 54% think he pushed the party in a good direction, so he should stay in.

Another question asked about the type of campaign desired. On that, 83% want a candidate who will harness the Democrats' positive energy to unite the country and only 13% who want a candidate who will harness the Democrats' anger to defeat Trump.

The poll shows that large majorities support taxing the assets of people with over $50 million (67%) and the Green New Deal (65%). So what Iowa Democrats want is a candidate who can unite the country while carrying out two of the most divisive ideas to come along in years. Good luck with finding one.

The poll was run by Ann Selzer, who is as good as they get in Iowa polling, but it is an awfully long time until next February, and a lot will happen between now and then, so this is just a quick snapshot. (V)

Republicans Are Going after O'Rourke

At least one Republican group, the anti-tax Club for Growth, is worried about Beto O'Rourke, so it is starting to run ads against him already. One party mucking around in the other's primary is a well established tradition and even has a name that's not too printable on a family-friendly website. This is an especially early attack given that O'Rourke isn't even an announced candidate. He has said he has made a decision but won't tell anyone what it is. Donald Trump isn't the only man in politics who understands the value of drama.

The ad praises Barack Obama—something the group never did when he was president—and attacks O'Rourke for his white male privilege. The mere fact that their first negative ad is against O'Rourke suggests the Club is worried that he could bring out large numbers of young people and on the strength of their votes, defeat Donald Trump.

Expect many, many more Republican-funded negative ads against Democrats during the primary season as GOP-oriented groups want to make sure the Democrats nominate the weakest possible candidate. Their only problem is that they don't know who that is, and by taking down candidates they think are strong, they could be accidentally helping a much stronger candidate who wasn't on their radar. It's a tricky business meddling in a 20-candidate field this early. (V)

Castro Goes after Sanders on Reparations

Republicans aren't the only ones attacking Democrats, of course. Democrats are pretty good at it, too. Case in point: Julián Castro, who is courting the black vote by calling for reparations for the descendants of slaves, has called out Bernie Sanders for opposing the idea. Castro's own approach to the problem was crystal clear, however: If elected president, he would form a commission to look into the problem.

Castro's argument is: "So, if, under the Constitution, we compensate people because we take their property, why wouldn't you compensate people who actually were property?" Actually, there are a couple of good reasons. First, a close reading of the Constitution is that the people who get compensation are the people whose property was taken. The people whose property was taken by the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment were the slaveholders. Surely Castro doesn't want to compensate them for the loss of their property. Second, if anyone should be compensated, it should be the slaves themselves. But they are all dead. As a general rule, people don't get rewarded or punished for things their ancestors did or had done to them. If a bank robber gets away with it and is never captured, the government can't put his grandson in jail. There may be support for reparations within the Democratic Party, but Castro had better come up with a better reason for it if he wants to be taken seriously.

As the campaign heats up, keep an eye on who is capable of leading. Elizabeth Warren wants to have a 2% tax on the assets of people with more than $50 million and 3% above $1 billion. Sanders wants a 77% estate tax. Castro wants to form a committee. Warren's idea and Sanders' idea may be good or bad, depending or your point of view, but at least you know what they want. Not so much for Castro. If he can't do better than this, he's not going to win over the millennials and others who want real change, and also won't win over the moderate Democrats, who have several options in John Hickenlooper, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN), and probably Joe Biden. (V)

Did Perez Make the Wrong Call on the Debates?

Last week DNC Chairman Tom Perez announced that although the Democrats are going to hold 12 primary debates this cycle, none of them will be hosted by Fox News. Democrats cheered. Take that Fox News! But in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Republican consultant Evan Siegfried argues that if the Democrats' #1 goal is defeating Donald Trump, that decision was, basically, stupid.

Siegfried's point is that if Democrats are to win, they are going to have to win back some of the millions of Obama-to-Trump voters, and many of these people watch only Fox News. If Democrats refuse to show up where voters they badly need are, how are they ever going to convince them that not all 235 Democrats in the House are clones of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)?

A valid point that Siegfried makes is that Fox has both a news team and an opinion team and they are not the same. He is not proposing that Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham serve as moderators. Neither one is a journalist. But Fox actually does have some real journalists. Chris Wallace hosted the third and final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in October 2016, and was widely praised on both the left and right for doing a fine job. Other Fox News personalities who would probably be acceptable to the Democrats are Shepard Smith and Bret Baier. But even if they won't be as friendly as Rachel Maddow, if Democrats want to reach the voters they need, they have to find a way to get their attention. (V)

House Democrats Have More Bills Coming Up Soon

One of the powers of the House speaker is to decide which bills get the numbers HR 1 through HR 10. Nancy Pelosi got her top priority, HR 1 (which overhauls voting procedures, campaign finances, and ethics rules), through the House on Friday. Her next priorities are as follows:

  • HR 2: Creating jobs by rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure
  • HR 3: Lowering the cost of prescription drugs
  • HR 4: Updating the Voting Rights Act
  • HR 5: LGBTQ equality
  • HR 6: Providing a path to citizenship for the dreamers
  • HR 7: Requiring women to be paid the same as men when they do the same job as men
  • HR 8: Background checks for gun purchases
  • HR 9: Address climate change, but not as sweeping as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-NY) Green New Deal
  • HR 10: Something special, but Pelosi won't say what it is

We hate to go out on a limb here, but it is our feeling that zero of these bills will be enacted into law prior to Jan. 20, 2021. In fact, although all of them will probably pass the House, it is doubtful that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will bring any of them up for a vote in the Senate. Still Pelosi's exercise is far from pointless. She is making it clear to the voters what they can expect if they hand the keys to the kingdom to the Democrats in 2020. In effect, she has just written the Democrats' 2020 platform and will get it passed by one chamber of Congress, probably this year. (V)

Cheney Lashes Out at Trump

Nope. Not that Cheney. Dick's daughter, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). On NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday, Cheney attacked Donald Trump's "cost plus 50" plan to force allies to pay for the full cost and then 50% more for stationing U.S. troops on their soil. She said: "It would be absolutely devastating." For some countries, the total amount they pay the U.S. for American Forces would rise by a factor of five or more. Cheney also said that the U.S. benefits tremendously by having American troops stationed in South Korea, Japan, Germany, and other countries. She vowed to oppose Trump's plan in the House, where she is sure to get support from most Democrats.

Cheney isn't just a random backbencher. She's chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, making her the #3 Republican in the House, after Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). The other two Republican leaders didn't comment on her remarks, but no matter what they think, Cheney's remarks could be a problem. If they agree with her, it will pit the House leadership against Trump. If they disagree with her and say she can have her own personal opinion but it is not the view of the Republican leadership, then there could be a rift within the House Republican caucus. Either way, it can't benefit the GOP very much. (V)

Roy Moore May Run Again

Democrats are in a bind. Undoubtedly most of them do not like the idea of supporting child molesters who are running for high public office, and under normal conditions would never dream of making a contribution to the campaign of one. But 2020 may be the exception that proves the rule. Former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is considering another Senate run in 2020. In the 2017 special election, he defeated two conservative Republicans for the nomination to run for Jeff Sessions' old seat, and then narrowly lost the general election to now-senator Doug Jones. If he runs again and also gets the nomination, Jones has a chance to save his seat. If Moore doesn't run, it is hard to see how Jones could survive against any other Republican.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) is the only Republican formally pledged to run in the Republican primary. If he remains the only one in the race besides Moore, he has a shot at winning the nomination, but if there are many candidates, Moore will likely be in the top two and thus make it to the runoff, giving him a good shot at being the Republican nominee again, thus greatly increasing the chances of Jones' getting a full term. Consequently, awkward as it may be, Democrats are probably (secretly) hoping that Moore, a person they largely despise for so many reasons, runs and wins the Republican primary. (V)

Monday Q&A

We continue to work on follow-ups to some questions of past weeks; luckily we keep getting lots of good questions in the interim.

I was an American history major in college. I cannot think of any other president that even comes close to Donald Trump in terms of comporting himself as a demagogue. Can you? Andrew Jackson was big on executive power. Who do you think is Trump's closest parallel? R.C., Boulder, CO

Let's start with the Merriam-Webster definition of "demagogue," just so we're all on the same page:

A leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.

In short, demagoguery is not defined by an expansive view of executive power, but instead by appeal to emotion (generally, negative emotion) rather than to reason.

As to past presidents who employed this style, you're right in thinking that Andrew Jackson is far and away the best example. When he ran for the presidency (three times in total), his candidacy was based on the fears and resentments that working-class white people had about the rich (especially banks) and about people of color (especially Native Americans). Much of what Jackson had to say was utterly at odds with the evidence, particularly his views on currency and the national economy. And when he shut down the federal government to get money for his border, sorry, when he shut down the Second Bank of the U.S., he set the stage for one of the most devastating recessions in U.S. history. Of course, by the time it hit, Martin Van Buren was in office, so he got left holding the bag.

The most demagogic president besides Jackson was, quite probably, the other Andrew, namely Andrew Johnson. He saw himself as Jackson, Jr., since they came from the same state (Tennessee) and since they held very similar views on the rich and powerful and on people of color (though Johnson was less focused on the natives, and more focused on black folks). Johnson's demagoguery was never on display in the way Jackson's was, however, since he never actually ran for president. For all of the high-profile offices he achieved, there was no real need for him to campaign (i.e., the Tennessee legislature chose him as U.S. senator, Abraham Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee, he became president when Lincoln chose him as his running mate and then was assassinated).

Most of the most notable demagogues in U.S. history achieved only limited success, either as a state-level politician, or a third-party candidate, or both. That list includes U.S. senator and Dixiecrat presidential candidate Strom Thurmond, former Louisiana governor Huey Long, Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy, and, more recently, Ross Perot. People forget that much of Perot's pitch laid the groundwork for Trump, in that a central plank of Perot's campaign was that Mexico was screwing white people out of jobs, and someone needed to put a stop to it.

The Democrats barely lost three states that swung the last presidential election (PA, MI, WI), while they cruised to victory by wide margins in other big states (CA, NY, IL, MA, etc.). While Democrats can't change the Electoral College (for now), why don't they change the electoral demographics? Could the DNC, or a big private donor, pay people to move to states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin to set up residency and vote for the blue team? California has more than enough Democrats to spare. Why not set up a community in the relatively cheap lands of middle Pennsylvania full of thousands of like-minded liberals who will vote Democratic each November and work to get other state residents to vote Democrat? Really, the possibilities are endless. The Democrats could probably easily swing the election in small, rural, red states such as Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, etc. Along with helping the Democrats get the White House, they could swing Senate and House elections too. The party could sell it to loyalists as patriotic duty to move from the expensive coasts to the relatively affordable middle America and more evenly spread out the votes of the nation's plurality party. How complicated and legal would this be? And has anyone ever tried something like this? J.F., Toledo, OH

The easiest part of your question to answer is, "is this legal?" The answer is yes, it certainly would be. Generally speaking, Americans can live where they want to, for whatever reason they want to, and Congress has little power to interfere with that. If Congress tried to interfere, the courts would step in. And if push really came to shove, it would not be hard for, say, Tom Steyer to announce that he was opening a new location of Farallon Capital in, say, Montana, and that he would subsidize the relocation of any Californians willing to accept a transfer to the tune of $100,000.

The much trickier question is, "Would it work?" We foresee some significant problems. The first is that just because someone is a loyal adherent of one party today doesn't mean they will remain so in 5 or 10 or 20 years. After all, Orange County suburbanites were rock-solid Republicans a decade ago, and blue-collar white union laborers in the Midwest were rock-sold Democrats. Now look what's happened. A second problem is that people choose to live in, say, California because they want to live in California (they like the weather, or they have family nearby, or they want to live somewhere cosmopolitan, or whatever). It may be hard to get people to move and, in particular, it may be hard to stop them from taking advantage of the subsidy and then moving back home again very quickly. If Tom Steyer were to say, "I'll give you $100,000 if you move to Montana," that would be legally ok. But if he were to say, "I'll only give it to you if you remain there for 10 years," that would be close to indentured servitude, and would be legally problematic. A third major problem with a scheme like this is that it encourages a tit-for-tat, where the other side feels empowered to start bending and breaking the rules in order to keep up.

In fact, the latter problem is exactly the one that emerged in the most notable historical example of relocating people in order to manipulate political outcomes. That example would be Kansas in the 1850s. Recognizing that the state would become the flashpoint for the emerging conflict between free and slave states, a number of organizations—most notably the New England Emigrant Aid Company—got involved with resettling folks who were poor and strongly anti-slavery from the cities of the East to the plains of Kansas. While this had the desired result of turning the state into a staunch bastion of anti-slave sentiment, it also caused pro-slavery Southerners to engage in all sorts of extralegal countermeasures, most obviously manipulating the outcome of elections, and committing overt acts of coercion and violence. This, in turn, encouraged anti-slavery folks, some of whom weren't even Kansas residents (ahem, John Brown), to seek vengeance at the end of a gun (or, in Brown's case, a longsword, because it was more Biblical). It wasn't long before the newspapers were describing the situation as "Bleeding Kansas." The net result of all of this is that when it came time for statehood in 1857, Kansas submitted two state constitutions to Congress, one that legalized slavery and one that outlawed it. The president at the time (James Buchanan) and the Congress could not agree on how to proceed, and so Kansas twisted in the wind for several years, until the Civil War allowed for admission as a free state.

To sum up, then: The idea you propose has been bandied about by Democrats today, and by partisans of various stripes in the past, and it might even have the desired effect, if executed properly. But, we wouldn't bet on it.

I am wondering if anybody has tried to look at YouTube comments on candidate videos as predictors of supporter enthusiasm.

I looked at a sample today, and the impression I get is entirely different from what one would hear on your site or on the news. The "frontrunners" don't appear to be front running all that well. Bernie Sanders, naturally, still gets plenty of support, though perhaps not as enthusiastic as last time. The comments for all the other major candidates are overwhelmingly negative.

The ones that do get enthusiasm are the ones you hardly mention. Andrew Yang, for instance, has an incredible amount of support on YouTube. His videos have almost no negative comments at all, and "Yang 2020" shows up often on the videos of the major candidates above, even Bernie. Given Yang's far left policy positions (UBI, etc.), I assume this enthusiasm comes from Bernie's crowd.

But that is nothing compared to the heartfelt adoration found on videos of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). Curiously, the majority of her supporters (including me) are Republicans and former Trump voters. Many comments mention how Trump betrayed his campaign promises and that Tulsi will save us all. The only negative comments on her videos are from Trump supporters who talk about him. I certainly got the, perhaps mistaken, impression that if Tulsi ever got to the general election, she'd win in a landslide with half the Republican vote.
M.S., Menlo Park, CA

Forgive us for being blunt, but we cannot think of a worse way to assess the 2020 election than reading YouTube comments.

Internet comments, in general, are not useful because they are a self-selected, non-representative group. Demographically, they are going to grossly overweight men, white people, people with money, college graduates, and people under 40. Further, as with all forms of voluntary feedback, they favor extreme emotions. In this case, that means people who really love a candidate and people who really hate a candidate. There is not much of a mushy middle, or anything resembling thoughtful discourse, in Internet comments sections.

Even by the (low) standards of Internet comments, however, YouTube comments are pretty much the worst of the worst. Different sites handle their comments very differently, and the three men who created YouTube made some very...distinctive choices. First of all, the site ranks comments by the amount of engagement, in terms of how many replies the comment got. So, a comment with 100 replies will appear above one with 90 which will appear above one with 80. Second, unlike most sites, a "thumbs down" does not negatively impact a comment's ranking—it's just more "engagement." Third, there is very little moderation on YouTube; getting an offensive comment removed takes something close to an act of God. And fourth, while users have to create a login name based on their Facebook (or other social media) account, YouTube—unlike most other sites—does not link the username back to that original account. In other words, when someone comments on, say, a Disqus site, it is possible to trace that comment back to their Facebook page or their Twitter account. Not so on YouTube, which effectively makes the comments anonymous. Take all of these things together, and it means that YouTube effectively (and knowingly) privileges comments that are at the extreme ends of the spectrum, either very fawning or very nasty. It is so bad that one of the top 50 plug-ins for Google Chrome is an extension that turns all YouTube comments into "herp" and "derp." As in, "Trump is GOD! MAGA 2020!" becomes "Herp derp derp! Derp herp!"

And on top of all this, there is (perhaps) the biggest problem of them all, namely that Internet comments are extremely prone to manipulation, whether by bots, or Russian trolls, or devoted fanbases, or all of the above. Your examples serve to illustrate this, we would say. We cannot explain exactly what is going on with Gabbard, but since her national name recognition is well below 10%, we have a hard time accepting that she is the Democrats' Trump-killer. She could be at some point in the future, but there simply isn't good evidence that she is right now. Our guess is that a person (Andrew Sullivan?) or a site (The Bulwark?) that appeals to anti-Trump Republicans wrote a positive piece about her, linked to one of her videos, and drove a bunch of traffic to it.

As to Andrew Yang, we have a somewhat clearer idea about what's going on with him, and we don't think it's Bernie Sanders supporters. Every day, we get one or two e-mails asking us why we haven't profiled him yet, or when we are going to profile him, or the like. That does not happen with any other candidate, major or minor, declared or undeclared. We are thus left to conclude that, consistent with someone who got his start working in Silcon Valley, and who does not have much access to traditional media outlets, Yang (or his campaign staff) have made a concerted effort to rally whatever Internet publicity they can. Posting a lot of positive comments to his YouTube channel would be consistent with that strategy.

Can D.C. and Puerto Rico become states with a simple majority in Congress? Or does it require a constitutional amendment, as conservatives are arguing? V.F., Orlando, FL

Anyone who claims that a Constitutional amendment is needed is either ill-informed, engaging in wishful thinking, or both.

To start, the Constitution already grants Congress the privilege of adding new states in Article IV, Section 3:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

Note that the question of how new states will be admitted is left open. And answering that question was literally among the first items of business for Congress when it first convened 229 years ago; they affirmed the Northwest Ordinance, which is a process for adding new states to the union. In more recent cases, the Congress has also supplemented that with specific statehood bills, such as the Alaska Statehood Act of 1958 and the Hawaii Admission Act of 1959.

Quite clearly, Congress already has the authority to admit any states it wants, subject only to the limitations laid out in Article IV. Those limitations would not apply to Puerto Rico at all, since it was never a part of another state, and would probably no longer apply to Washington, D.C., as the Maryland legislature ceded control over the District of Columbia 200 years ago. The main obstacle, though it's a big one, is that the admission of a new state would be subject to filibuster, and so would need 60 votes in the Senate, and not 50. If the blue team ever regains a filibuster-proof majority, it wouldn't be a surprise if adding two or three new states was among their first items of business.

I just watched Advise and Consent, with Charles Laughton portraying Seab Cooley, an almost 7-term senator from South Carolina. This left me wondering if my perception that the South had a tradition of high-profile and/or long-serving senators (John C. Calhoun, Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, Robert Byrd, and of course the bulletproof Mitch McConnell, among many others) was correct. Is it? If the answer is positive, what is your opinion on the origins of this trend and are there, in contrast, states with an opposite tradition of important senatorial turnover? Or I am wrong and is there no relationship between geography and senatorial longevity? E.K., Brignoles, France

There is certainly some truth to your observation. The list of the longest-serving U.S. senators is made up, as we would expect, of folks from states known for, in essence, one-party rule. While that includes some states that are deep blue (Hawaii, Vermont, Massachusetts), it is the case that the Southern states were one-party Democratic for 120 years or so, and then one-party Republican since. Historically, that has meant that once someone got elected to the Senate from a Southern state, it was a lifetime job, if they wanted it to be. Hence the fact that about half of the 25 longest-serving senators were Southerners, including three each from South Carolina (Thurmond, Ernest Hollings, Ellison Smith) and Mississippi (John Stennis, Thad Cochran, James Eastland).

That said, we would suggest that there is another phenomenon going on here that plays into your perception. For much of U.S. history, the presidency was effectively not available to Southerners, particularly to those from the Deep South. So while presidents from California, or Illinois, or New York dwarfed their state's U.S. senators in prominence, it has often been the case that the U.S. senator from South Carolina, or Kentucky, or Mississippi, or Georgia was his state's (and maybe his region's) most prominent national spokesman. Such was the case with Calhoun, Thurmond, John J. Crittenden, and J. William Fulbright, among others.

And our answer, thus far, implies an answer to your question about states that have high senatorial turnover. We would expect to see, and do see, a lot of turnover in states that are purple or purplish (Ohio, Florida, and more recently Arizona and North Carolina). We would also expect to see it in states where there's a bigger, juicier job above that of U.S. senator. In other words, states with a powerful governorship (New Mexico, Alaska), or an inside track on the presidency (Illinois, Texas since 1960), or both (California, New York).

Regarding your piece from Friday, where you covered the House Democratic resolution about anti-Semitism and other hate speech, I would be remiss as a reader if I did not point out to you that your attempt at being balanced that you defended a few weeks ago seems to be lacking. Specifically, your pointing out Donald Trump's numerous anti-Semitic remarks. That's fine to mention, but why not also include the fact that Jared Kushner is Jewish? And also that his beloved Ivanka converted to Orthodox Judaism? It bothers me when I see a media outlet pointing out how Trump has been anti-Semitic in such a way, but also ignores the very close-to-him connection he has to those who are Jewish. P.M., Currituck, NC

There are two reasons we did not make that point, one stylistic, and one factual. The stylistic reason is that digressions where both sides of something are presented ("on one hand, he said X, but on the other hand, he also said Y") interfere with the narrative thrust of an item, and have to be used sparingly. In a formal academic text, this problem is often solved with footnotes, but we don't have those here.

That said, we will absolutely sacrifice an artful narrative in the name of accuracy, when we feel it is important and correct to do so. But that brings us to the second, and much larger, problem in this case: We don't feel that it would be accurate to suggest that the cultural and religious background of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump somehow balances out Trump's history of anti-Semitic statements. First of all, this is not unlike the "I have a black friend" argument for why a person is not racist. To offer a couple of specific examples, Adolf Hitler personally intervened to allow the Jewish physician who had treated his mother to leave the country safely, and (for a while) accepted the homosexuality of his top general, Ernst Röhm. Strom Thurmond had an affair with his black maid, one that produced a child. They were still an anti-Semite and a homophobe (in Hitler's case) and a racist (in Thurmond's case); these exceptions exist because the world is rarely black and white, and even the most venal people are not venal 100% of the time.

In Trump's case, he had limited influence over the person his daughter chose to marry, and even less influence over what religion she chose to follow. Nonetheless, if the President had said anti-Semitic things before Kushner was his son-in-law, and then such things disappeared from his vocabulary, we might have noted both sides of the story. But Trump's anti-Semitic remarks have continued unabated in the years since Kushner came into his life (and since Ivanka converted), so we see no basis for presenting both sides of the story, as if the evidence is mixed or ambiguous. Further, we took the specific position in that piece that it was not (Z)'s place to judge who is and is not an anti-Semite, which is why the timeline of Trump's anti-Semitic behavior we linked in that passage was from the Times of Israel, a publication that is in a position to judge.

Why are we (you) paying so much attention to Howard Schultz and his possible presidential campaign? Before he started floating the idea of a candidacy, almost nobody had ever heard of him, and if they had it had to do with coffee not public policy. Is there really a "billionaire candidate lane"? His decision 20 months before the general election not to run as a Democrat seems to argue there isn't in that party. And, given the example of 2016, how great is the danger that any potential Democratic voter risks Trump's re-election by voting for a third party candidate? B.N., San Rafael, CA

Even if there is not a "billionaire candidate lane," per se, a person with billions to spend has an ability to carve out a lane for themselves. See, for example, Donald Trump.

And the answer to your last question also contains the answer to your first question. At the moment, nobody knows how many votes Schultz might siphon off (if he runs), and which side of the aisle he might siphon them from. In 2000, if 1% of the 92,000 votes Ralph Nader got in Florida had gone to Al Gore instead, Al Gore would have won the presidency. So, that is a clear example of a third-party candidate costing the Democrat a presidential election. Thereafter, the punditry said, "Well, Democratic voters won't be making that mistake again, now that they've had a lesson in the practical impact of spending your vote on a third-party candidate." And yet, in 2016, if most of the Jill Stein votes had gone for Hillary Clinton, Clinton would have won. So, that's two presidential elections in recent memory where the result was affected by a third-party candidate, including one (2016) where the lesson of the other (2000) should still have been fresh in voters' minds. Until we have evidence of Schultz's irrelevance in 2020, it would be irresponsible not to cover his candidacy. Indeed, he's probably more important to the story right now than anyone besides Donald Trump and maybe a half dozen of the leading Democrats.

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