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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump's Budget Remains the Talk of the Town
      •  Pelosi Pooh-poohs Impeachment
      •  Trump Gave a Wild Speech on Friday
      •  Today's Horse Race News
      •  Phony Websites the Hot New Thing in Politics
      •  You Can't Make This Stuff Up
      •  Tucker Carlson Could Be in Hot Water

Trump's Budget Remains the Talk of the Town

Donald Trump dropped his 2020 budget this weekend, and it landed with something of a thud. Republicans and Democrats both were unimpressed by the President's continued insistence on ignoring political reality, namely that the opposition party now controls one house of Congress, and is not going to be a rubber stamp for whatever he wants. Heck, even when that wasn't true, Trump could not get whatever he wanted from a budget standpoint, which is why there is now a wall "national emergency."

Quite a few publications published "takeaway" pieces on Monday; here are three of the better lists:

The Washington Post

  • Big deficits are here to stay
  • Trump predicts no recession—for a decade
  • The biggest winners: military and veterans
  • The biggest losers: everyone else
  • Hot button issues: Trump wants $8.6 billion for border wall and fewer people on "welfare."
  • Cut Medicare by more than $500 billion
  • Vague child care and paid parental leave proposals
  • States would have to take more responsibility (and pick up some costs)
  • Lots of higher fees
  • Major changes to student loans

The Fiscal Times

  • It won't mean much on Capitol Hill
  • Lawmakers are likely to ignore Trump and work out their own budget deal
  • It relies on some problematic economic assumptions
  • And some unrealistic spending cuts
  • So the promised deficit reduction is likely unattainable
  • It's setting up another border battle, and possibly a shutdown fight

The Hill

  • Trump sees wall fight as political winner
  • Debt doesn't matter to Trump
  • It relies on inflated economic expectations
  • The budget is not going anywhere with Congress
  • Trump's base is still his most important audience

The recurring themes here are clear: The budget is a work of fantasy, both in terms of the economic assumptions it makes, and in the presumption that it has any possibility of being adopted. In the end, it's just a big, juicy pile of red meat for the base, with money for veterans, the military, and the wall, while everyone and everything else (including the financial well-being of the U.S. government) be damned.

In the end, however, it is entirely possible that the budget will do Trump much more harm than good. Speaking in terms of 2019, he's set himself up for another showdown over wall funding, which he is going to lose again. And given that the President has convinced himself that his reelection chances hinge on building the wall (or, at least, making a public spectacle about how much he wants to build the wall), it's entirely possible he really will shut down the government again. After all, his polling has bounced back after the shutdown, so he may well believe that there's no real downside for him.

And then, in terms of 2020, it's true that the budget will serve, in effect, as a platform that Trump can use to gin up the base, and that he can point to in speeches, and at rallies, and so forth. However, New York magazine's Sarah Jones argues that the budget actually helps the Democrats even more, by giving them powerful ammunition they can use against both the President and his party. "The GOP wants to slash Medicare and Medicaid, to make student loans harder to pay off, to get rid of food stamps, and to increase the costs of all services used by poor people," they will say, with substantial evidence. Those are the exact sort of pocketbook issues that get people to the polls, so Jones may well have the right of it. (Z)

Pelosi Pooh-poohs Impeachment

Roughly every two minutes, someone asks Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) what her views on impeaching Donald Trump are, just in case they have changed since the last time she answered the question. The Washington Post asked on Monday, and she gave a particularly forceful version of the answer she's already given 100 times:

I'm not for impeachment. This is not news. I'm going to give you some news right now because I haven't said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I've been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he's just not worth it.

This was immediately met by a number of members of Pelosi's caucus, as well as prominent Democrats outside the caucus, who pushed back against her words. Tom "Impeach Him Yesterday" Steyer was furious, of course. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said impeachment is never going to be "100% off the table." Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) declared that Pelosi couldn't be more wrong, and that, in his view, impeachment is "inevitable."

Needless to say, it's not inevitable without Pelosi's say-so. And she, of course, is no dummy. Many Democrats feel that Trump's misdeeds are so much more substantive and problematic than those of Richard Nixon (which is probably true) that the Donald should therefore be just as easy to force out of office. The Speaker knows that the latter part of that is not correct, because of some sizable differences between Trump's circumstances and Nixon's. To wit:

  • It's not likely there will be evidence against Trump that is quite as clear-cut as the Watergate tapes

  • Trump has a willing propaganda apparatus (Fox News, etc.) that will defend him to the end, and denigrate legitimate facts and evidence as "fake news"; Nixon did not have that

  • The GOP, and in particular the GOP senators, are much more in Trump's pocket than they were in Nixon's pocket

  • On a related note, officeholders of both parties were willing to put country before party sometimes back in the 1970s; not so much today

  • Nixon crashed and burned in the early part of his second term, finally leaving about 18 months in; even if Trump were to be impeached and convicted, it wouldn't happen until late in his third year, or sometime in his fourth

So, Pelosi has a point. Even if one despises Trump, it's likely not worth it to impeach him, since—in the absence of some truly stunning revelation or evidence—he's not going to be convicted and removed. And even if he is somehow removed, it will be so late in his term as to have relatively little impact. In fact, if that did come to pass, it would give Mike Pence a chance to show off his presidential chops, and might even put him in a position to win the 2020 election. Remember how much mileage Rudy Giuliani got out of "healing" the nation after a great crisis. Different kind of crisis, of course, but in many ways, "a long national nightmare" is a long national nightmare, regardless of the event that precipitated it.

A traditional impeachment, then, may not be such a great plan. However, in a manner of speaking, House Democrats are going to impeach Trump nonetheless. Knowing that the Senate (a.k.a, the jury) is almost certainly a deaf audience, they are going to investigate the living daylights out of the President, and then make sure the American people are kept well informed as to what turns up. Then, in November of 2020, the voters can serve as jury. Approaching the problem in that way is a considerably more viable path to getting Trump booted from office, will play out almost as quickly as an impeachment trial and conviction would anyhow, and allows the blue team to avoid the criticism that they overturned the results of an election. Of course, if Trump is not formally convicted of anything by the Senate, he could avoid punishment for any misdeeds he might be guilty of. However, Pelosi surely assumes he will end up getting his day in court once he's out of office. Many days in court, most likely. (Z)

Trump Gave a Wild Speech on Friday

There is quite a lot of interest, these days, in the question of which party is the most anti-Semitic. Donald Trump has an answer and it is...brace yourself...the Democrats! In a speech given to Republican pooh-bahs on Friday, he announced that, "The Democrats hate Jewish people." He also said he did not understand how any Jewish person could vote Democratic these days, and that if he moved to Israel and ran for prime minister, he would take 98% of the vote.

This news will undoubtedly come as a great shock to the conspiracy theorists of the GOP, who have been persuaded for years that the Democratic Party is merely the political arm of the George Soroses and Karen Pritzkers of the world. It will also be a surprise to the 32 Jewish members of the House (out of 34 total) who are Democrats. Not to mention the 75% of Jewish voters who said they voted Democratic in 2018.

In any case, there are two things here that are certain. The first is that the administration knows that the President is playing with fire. There was such concern about the original speech that audience members were required to keep their cell phones in special magnetic pouches, so nobody could record it. And when Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about Trump's verbiage on Monday, she refused to confirm or deny it, and tried to steer the conversation in another direction.

The second thing that is certain is this: When Trump gets an idea into his head, particularly one that he thinks will get lots of attention and drive the crowds at rallies wild, he does not tend to let it go. So, while his "pilot test" of this line of attack has been kept under pretty tight wraps, it wouldn't be a surprise for him to say it in a way that can be documented. Heck, it wouldn't be too much a shock if he tweeted it. And when and if that time comes, he may find himself wishing he could put the genie back in the bottle. (Z)

Today's Horse Race News

With such a large Democratic field, at least at the moment, there's likely to be a lot of days where there are dribs and drabs of news that probably don't justify their own items, but are worth giving a mention to. Monday was one of those days.

To start, the biggest news was that the Democrats have settled on the location of their 2020 convention. It's going to be Milwaukee, home of the Brewers, the Fonz, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. "Cream City" won out over Houston and Miami. Historically, the choice of convention venues has not swung all that many votes, but if ever it might matter, it would be in a swing state that the Democrats lost by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. So, the blue team's thinking here is pretty clear.

Meanwhile, some of the non-frontrunner candidates made headlines on Monday. Fresh off a town hall event televised by CNN, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) raised $600,000 in 24 hours. That is quite good for someone who is still largely unknown. On the other hand, all Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) has to do is send an e-mail blast that says "Money. NOW!" and he raises $1 million, so it's not that good.

While Buttigieg was counting his receipts, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) visited California to tour the wildfire damage there, and to make the point that such fires are an inevitable product of global warming, which just so happens to be the centerpiece of the Governor's campaign. Clearly, he has checked his primary calendar, and noted that the Golden State comes early in the process and has lots and lots of delegates for the taking. Many of those are likely to go to a native daughter, like Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), but there may just be a tidy pile leftover for a governor from a nearby state who says the right things.

Not all of the 2020 candidates generated positive headlines on Monday, however. The definite loser of the day's news cycle was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who allegedly looked the other way when one of her male staffers was accused of harassing a younger female staffer, and of making vulgar and misogynist comments within the earshot of many female colleagues. This would be a bad look for any candidate in the #MeToo age, but inasmuch as Gillibrand was the leader of the pitchfork brigade when it came to defrocking Al Franken, it has the added effect of making her look like a hypocrite.

Finally, a couple of folks who aren't technically candidates yet were also in the news, due to hints that they may well become candidates. Beto O'Rourke is on his way to Iowa to campaign for Eric Giddens (D), who is running for the state senate in a special election. You may not know this, but Iowa is actually the first state to cast ballots for presidential candidates in primary season. It is possible that, just maybe, someone brought this to O'Rourke's attention. That may have something to do with his willingness to travel 1,500 miles to campaign in a relatively minor state-level election.

Then there is Stacey Abrams, the near-miss Georgia gubernatorial candidate who previously suggested that any presidential aspirations she may have are centered on 2028. Not anymore they're not, it would seem. On Monday, she said that a 2020 presidential run is "definitely on the table." She undoubtedly realizes that the Democratic field is going to be a tough nut to crack in 2020, but also that if she runs for some other office (like U.S. senator from Georgia) and loses (again), it would be hard to recover from back-to-back losses. In any case, we're going to have to profile her this week, just in case. (Z)

Phony Websites the Hot New Thing in Politics

No, not ones hosted by the Russians. That's soooo 2016 (though it may be soooo 2020, as well, we shall see). Phony websites hosted by supporters of the two major parties. Starting with the red team, it would appear that they have taken "fake news" to heart. And so, GOP operatives have been operating several sites that masquerade as "trusted" local news outlets, but are really just Republican PR operations. Examples include the Tennessee Star, the Ohio Star, and the Minnesota Sun. That means that, from here on out, it is wise to be suspicious of any media outlet whose name is composed of a state and a celestial body.

Meanwhile, a Democratic activist is running a fake website that's a little less nefarious, if only because it is obviously a work of satire. Loren Collins happened to notice that was unclaimed, and so he jumped on it and put up a site that advises folks of the accommodations the President is happy to provide during guests' indefinite stay. For example, here's the Features and Services section of the site:

Children in cages, etc.

It is hard to see how Collins is not running afoul of URL anti-squatting laws, but until such time that he's forced to give the domain name up, one has to admire how much mileage he's gotten out of a few hundred dollars in hosting fees and a few hours' programming time. (Z)

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Or, if you did make it up, nobody would believe it. Imagine that a screenwriter walked into a pitch meeting with a movie or TV script that contained the following plot elements:

  • The NFL team-owning friend of the president frequents "day spas" that offer...bonus services
  • As it turns out, the "day spa" the NFL owner likes best happens to be a front for a sex slave ring
  • The (former?) owner of that NFL owner's "day spa" of choice, who still owns several other "spas," is friends with the president, too
  • That, "spa owner," has donated much money to the president and his campaign, and by virtue of their friendship and her membership at his private club, regularly sells access to him to Chinese nationals

If someone tried to sell that spec script to "Ballers" or to "House of Cards," they would be laughed out of the pitch meeting. It's just too telenovela.

And yet, it is all true, of course. The NFL owner is the Patriots' Robert Kraft, the "spa owner" is Cindy (Li) Yang, a naturalized Chinese citizen, and the president is...well, you know. At the moment, the biggest problem here for Donald Trump is the grifting angle, especially since Yang is hardly the only one who is monetizing Mar-a-Lago access to the President. However, Kraft was busted in an extensive police sting, and ever since that story broke, there have been rumors of a "bigger fish" who was caught visiting the "day spa," and whose identity has not yet been revealed. If it were to be a certain fellow already known for his philandering ways, this could get quite salacious, indeed. (Z)

Tucker Carlson Could Be in Hot Water

Donald Trump's most effective advocate in the media is Sean Hannity, but the next tier down includes Jeanine Pirro, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson. Due to Carlson's ill-chosen words during past media appearances, which are once again seeing the light of day thanks to Media Matters, it's possible he won't have his platform much longer, and could go the way of the O'Reilly.

At issue are a series of appearances that Carlson made on the radio program of shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge. That's not a name that one would expect to see on a politically-oriented site, but there it is. Shock jocks are quite good at getting their guests to say outrageous things, and that is precisely what Carlson did. He referred to the people of Iraq as "semiliterate primitive monkeys," for example, since they "don't use toilet paper or forks." He feels similarly about women in general, describing them as "extremely primitive." Carlson suggested that when a 16-year-old marries a 27-year-old, it's not really statutory rape, regardless of what the law says. He questioned how black Barack Obama "really is," mocked the appearances of Elena Kagan, Arianna Huffington, and Hillary Clinton, and made use of a wide range of slurs, including c**t and fa**ot.

When the news broke on Monday, Carlson was defiant, declaring that he will stay on the air and that, "We will never bow to the mob." Maybe he won't, but advertisers might. In fact (and Media Matters undoubtedly chose their timing carefully), Fox News already had a conference scheduled with a number of key advertisers who were unhappy with things that Carlson said on his show recently, and who are considering pulling their advertising. The Bubba tapes will certainly not help to assuage their concerns. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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