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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Hates Ukraine
      •  Trump Also Hates California
      •  Whistleblower Willing to Answer Questions in Writing
      •  Warren Unveils Medicare for All Funding Plan
      •  All in All, It's Just a Hole in the Wall
      •  Sports and Trump Just Don't Mix
      •  Today's Polls, Part I: The State of the Democratic Race
      •  Today's Polls, Part II: Impeachment

Trump Hates Ukraine

Ok, you already knew (or suspected) that Donald Trump has no love for Ukraine, given that it may ultimately be responsible for destroying his presidency. However, we don't mean that he hates it now. We mean that he's hated it for years. This we learn due to new reporting from CNN and from The Washington Post.

It is not entirely clear, even to the members of Trump's inner circle, why he has such a visceral loathing for the Ukrainians. However, it appears to be some combination of the following five things:

  1. He is convinced that Ukraine may have fed information to the Clinton campaign about the Trump campaign's interactions with the Russians.

  2. He is convinced that the Ukrainians, not the Russians, are behind the DNC e-mail hacks. Consequently, he blames Ukraine for making his election victory appear to be less-than-legitimate.

  3. He blames Ukraine for the decline and fall of former campaign manager Paul Manafort (who, incidentally, was a major advocate of the theory that Ukraine, rather than Russia, hacked the DNC).

  4. He sees Ukraine as weak, inferior, and corrupt, and not worthy of help or attention from the United States.

  5. Vlad Putin has filled Trump's head with one or more anti-Ukraine notions.

"We could never quite understand it," one former White House official told the Post. "There were accusations that they had somehow worked with the Clinton campaign. There were accusations they'd hurt him. He just hated Ukraine."

Keeping in mind that we still have no idea what was said during the various conversations Trump has had with Putin, this serves as a reminder of the extent to which the President could be a Russian asset, knowingly or not. What this news really does, however, is flesh out the Ukraine picture even further. If Trump hates Ukraine and feels they have nothing to offer him or the U.S., then it makes sense that he would turn his nose up until Volodymyr Zelensky made it worthwhile for Trump to deal with him and his country. Say, by providing proof of the President's Clinton-related conspiracy theories, or else delivering something that could be useful in the 2020 election, like dirt on the Biden family. (Z)

Trump Also Hates California

At first glance, California and Ukraine would not appear to have much in common. But they are very much linked in the head of Donald Trump, because they both kept his presidential victory from being "legitimate." In the case of Ukraine, he thinks they somehow helped the Clinton campaign, or else made Trump and the Russians look shady (see above). In the case of California, he has convinced himself that, by allowing millions of undocumented immigrants to vote, the Golden State denied him a victory in the popular vote.

Anyhow, just as Trump hates Ukraine, so too does he hate California. And just as he tries to punish Ukraine by withholding federal aid, so too does he try to punish California. The state has been ablaze for much of the last 10 days, as climate change, dry air, Santa Ana winds, and bad luck conspired to create at least half a dozen major fires, many of them forcing people to evacuate their homes. The other 43 presidents would have looked at this and noted that some of the affected folks are their supporters, all are their countrymen, and that, in any case, the aftermath of a disaster is not the time to settle scores or to play politics. Trump, by contrast, reacted thusly:

In another commonality with Ukraine, Trump is relying here on strange conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact (in this case, the alleged dumping of water into the Pacific Ocean). In any event, this is not the first time Trump has threatened to cut federal funds to California, but he's never followed through. Is he willing to do so in an election year? Punishing California won't cost him any electoral votes, but it could motivate Californians to donate more money to the Democrats. We'll soon see.

Beyond that, however, his California temper tantrum gives even more credence to the narrative that has emerged around Ukraine. When Trump is angry or hostile toward an entity, he tries to do them as much harm as is possible. And, as someone who values money above all else, that means hitting them in the wallet. He's threatened to (or actually has) withheld funds from Ukraine, California, Puerto Rico, NATO, and others; he's also slapped tariffs on Canada, China, Iran, and Turkey, among others. In every way, Ukraineyola is just more of what we've already seen from the President over the last three years. (Z)

Whistleblower Willing to Answer Questions in Writing

At this point in the Ukraine inquiry, the whistleblower's identity is entirely irrelevant. That person could be a convicted felon, a communist, a member of the Clinton family, a bad driver, a fan of the band Nickelback, a sloppy dresser, a person who chews with an open mouth, and the president of the "I Hate Donald Trump" society, and it does not change the fact that whoever it was drew attention to a legitimate area of concern, and that the complaint given to the IG has now been confirmed by numerous eyewitnesses (not to mention by the partial summary of the now-infamous July 25th phone call released by the President).

Nonetheless, Trump is obsessed with uncovering this person's identity. So too are House Republicans. Their agenda here could not be clearer. If they can find out who this person is, they hope they can find some dirt to hold against them, and then use that to discredit the entire investigation. It's the same playbook that Trump & Co. ran in their effort to discredit the Mueller investigation. Never mind that, if this person is involuntarily outed, it could put that person in danger while also discouraging future whistleblowers. Neither Trump nor his supporters are concerned about such consequences. They no doubt see that as a feature, not a bug.

In response to this pressure, the whistleblower's attorney has said his client will be happy to answer GOP questions in writing. He also tweeted that offer:

This is quite clearly an attempt to blunt this line of attack. If House Republicans take the deal, they're not going to get anything incriminating to use against the whistleblower. And if they don't take it, then it's going to make their complaints about not being able to cross-examine the whistleblower much more hollow. At the moment, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is claiming he hasn't heard about the offer, but that excuse isn't going to work for long. After all, the Minority Leader need only check Twitter. (Z)

Warren Unveils Medicare for All Funding Plan

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) unveiled her plan for paying for Medicare for All on Friday. She very badly wanted to be able to say that her plan would not raise taxes on the middle class, and now she can say that. In order to cover the costs of the plan, she would hit businesses and the wealthy with $15 trillion in new taxes, while also paying less to doctors, hospitals, etc. What this means is that we now have a more detailed plan for universal healthcare than any politician has ever provided. Even Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who got the Medicare for All ball rolling, never did all that much in the way of explaining of how he planned to pay for things.

Very briefly, large corporations are currently required by law to pay for their employees' health insurance. On the average, this comes to about $15,000 per employee per year, of which $7,500 comes from the employer. In Warren's plan, they wouldn't have to do this anymore. Instead they would have to pay that $7,500 to the federal government, so it would be revenue neutral to them. This money, along with the elimination of Medicaid and new taxes on the rich, would fund universal health care. Economically, it is probably doable. Politically, well, that is a horse of a different color.

The fact that the Senator has provided specifics means that there is now plenty for people to complain about. Rich people, businesses, doctors, insurance companies, and others are going to be unhappy and, as you may have noticed, these are folks who have an awful lot of influence (translation: a lot of lobbyists at their beck and call). It could be that the promise of insurance with no additional costs to the middle and working class will get Warren votes, but it will do so on terms that make it impossible for the plan to get through the Senate. Although there is much in common between Warren and Hillary Clinton, one thing Clinton did not do was write checks with her campaign promises that she knew she could not cash if she got into the Oval Office.

On the other hand, If Warren wins and her opening gambit is Medicare for All and a lot of folks start screaming, she could eventually offer a public option as a fall-back plan and it wouldn't seem so scary. If she started with a public option, there would still be screaming, and the fall-back plan would then be to do nothing. Asking for more than you expect to get and then "falling back" to something more realistic is hardly a new negotiating tactic.

However, many Democrats—including alumni of the Obama administration, who know a little something about getting health care plans passed—believe that Warren's plan not only is un-passable, but it could also spell her doom, by allowing the opposition to paint her as an unrealistic, wild-eyed leftist who hates businesses and the rich and wants to tear them down. In fact, there is concern that, if she is the nominee, she might do harm to other Democrats down-ballot. Of course, Democrats tend to be nervous nellies and worrywarts, and there's still a year (well, 364 days) for Warren to make her case, but this is undoubtedly not the response that she was hoping for from her own party. (Z)

All in All, It's Just a Hole in the Wall

The Trump administration has built, at most, just a few miles of new wall along the Mexican border. That's something, but it's not much. In fact, "not much" may be overselling it. According to reporting from the Washington Post, border smugglers are having no trouble subverting the barrier. Most commonly, they cut through the steel bollards with power tools that can be had for less than $100, and that take just a few minutes to do the job. Border patrol officials admit that it's true that the walls are pretty easily compromised, but say that the good news is that repairs are pretty easy once the breach is discovered. That's like saying: "Sure, it's easy to rob the bank, but it's very easy to fix the lock on the vault afterward." When Donald Trump was asked about it, he said, "We have a very powerful wall. But no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness." That means that the President has now figured out what everyone else knew three years ago.

In short, it would be hard to think of a way in which Donald Trump's signature initiative could be a more colossal failure. Mexico did not pay for anything, very little wall has been built, and what little has been built is completely ineffectual. There is no great way for Democrats to use this against the President, outside of a little snark, as they cannot claim they would have done better without aggravating much of their base. However, anti-Trump Republicans will be making liberal use of this information (no pun intended). (Z)

Sports and Trump Just Don't Mix

Last week, Donald Trump got booed at the World Series. Today, the victorious Washington Nationals will visit the White House, which should eliminate the booing problem. However, pitcher Sean Doolittle will not be there, explaining that:

There's a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country. My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we've done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the "shithole countries." At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be there with my teammates and share that experience with my teammates, I can't do it.

It's not yet known if there will be any other boycotters, but given that the Nationals' roster is heavy on Latino players, the odds are good that Doolittle won't be the only one. And either way, an event that has generally been a feel-good photo-op for past presidents is going to serve as another reminder of Trump's unpopularity and divisiveness.

Similarly, the President attended a UFC event this weekend. Inasmuch as the mixed martial arts promotion is run by a Trump fanatic (Dana White), and appeals strongly to a white and blue-collar demographic, Trump undoubtedly thought he would get a better reception than he got at the World Series. Not so much. There were a few cheers when he arrived, but the boos were louder and more noticeable. Here is the video:

Trump appears to have dealt with the negative response better this time than at the World Series, where many folks thought they saw tears in his eyes.

And as long as we're at it, we'll note that Trump sometimes gets poked in the eye at a major sporting event when he's not even there. For example, the Breeders' Cup—which is the richest weekend in horse racing—was this weekend. And the winner of the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint was...Covfefe. "[Trump] just doesn't stand for the things that I believe in," explained the horse's owner. "But I believe in Covfefe."

The point here is this: During a presidential campaign, candidates benefit enormously from the free publicity that comes from being seen at high-profile public events, whether the World Series, or the presidential debates, or a county fair. Trump basically cannot appear in public without taking significant damage to his public image; he's limited only to carefully selected, adoring crowds (like at his rallies). Can he really run for president while never exposing himself to the 60% or so of Americans who are not his base?

For what it's worth, the last fellow to consider a run for reelection while being this unpopular was Lyndon B. Johnson, and the fact that the only place he could hold campaign events without getting booed was military bases was a part of what convinced him to drop out in 1968. Trump has an even bigger ego than LBJ (which is saying something), and is unlikely to drop out regardless of how grim things look for him. However, the fact that one of the shrewdest political strategists of the last century decided that this was an untenable situation certainly tells us something. (Z)

Today's Polls, Part I: The State of the Democratic Race

As of today, it is officially less than one year until the 2020 election. Conveniently, there were four national polls of the Democratic field this weekend, from NBC News/WSJ, ABC News/WaPo, Fox News, and Harvard-Harris. Here's everyone who polled above 1% in any of the four:

Candidate NBCN ABCN FoxN HarH Avg.
Joe Biden 27% 28% 31% 33% 29.8%
Elizabeth Warren 23% 23% 21% 15% 20.5%
Bernie Sanders 19% 17% 19% 18% 18.3%
Pete Buttigieg 6% 9% 7% 4% 6.5%
Kamala Harris 4% 2% 3% 3% 3.0%
Amy Klobuchar 5% 2% 2% 3% 3.0%
Andrew Yang 3% 2% 3% 2% 2.5%
Cory Booker 2% 2% 2% 3% 2.3%
Tulsi Gabbard 2% 2% 2% 0% 1.5%
Beto O'Rourke 1% 1% 2% 2% 1.5%

So the state of the field, one year out, looks something like this:

  • Joe Biden, who has come out on top in the last 10 national polls in a row, and 14 of 15, appears to have re-asserted himself as the sole frontrunner. Or, it may be that he's stayed steady, and Elizabeth Warren has gained support from, then lost support to, Bernie Sanders due to his heart attack (and recovery).

  • Also in the first tier of candidates are Warren and Sanders, in that order.

  • Now in the second tier, all by himself, is Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend). He is the only candidate outside of the top three that has a plausible path to the nomination, barring some sort of disaster for one of the three frontrunners.

  • The third tier is everyone else. That includes Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who is sinking fast (although she did qualify for the December Democratic debate, thanks to that NBC News result).

  • The fact that Beto O'Rourke has seen the writing on the wall and dropped out ought to be a sign to folks like Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and Andrew Yang, whose numbers are statistically indistinguishable from his. And it really ought to be a sign to folks who are doing even worse than O'Rourke, like Tom Steyer. Steyer has blown $40 million on TV ads promoting his campaign; how much more good money can he throw after bad?

At this point, we've had about six months of campaigning and debating and discussing and the like, and the state of the field on Nov. 4 is not especially different than it was on Apr. 4. Warren has moved up a little, Harris has moved down a little, and several folks have figured out this is not their year. But it's pretty clear that we're going to gain very little clarity until Democrats actually start casting ballots in February and March. (Z)

Today's Polls, Part II: Impeachment

Three of the four polls listed above also included questions about whether or not Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Among NBC News' respondents, 49% said "yes," and 46% said "no." ABC News had it 51%/46%, and Fox News had it 49%/45%. In the 10 days before those three polls were released, we also had results from The Economist/YouGov (49%/43%), Politico/Morning Consult (48%/43%), USAToday/Suffolk (46%/47%), Quinnipiac (48%/46%), and CNN (51%/44%).

The first poll that said half of the American people want Trump booted out of office, which was produced by Fox about a month ago, seemed like an outlier. But this is not an especially difficult question to poll, and every polling house is getting the same basic result. It is clear that about half of the American people (or a shade less than half; the average of the polls listed here is 48.9% for removal) really do want the President impeached and convicted. Needless to say, this is not a good place for the President to be, especially since there have been no public hearings yet, much less a trial. But Trump has an answer to this: All of these numbers are "fake," and he has the "real polls" that make clear that the American people are still behind him. He refused to say more about the nature of these "real polls."

There would appear to be two possibilities here. The first is that Trump is just lying through his teeth for the benefit of himself and the base. That's not out of character for him, of course; he's been creating alternate realities since the day he was inaugurated (see inauguration photos, Obama's vs. Trump's). The second is that Trump's people are feeding him favorable polls in order to keep him pacified. If so, that is a dangerous game to play. We all know how Trump responds when he's angry or cornered. If he becomes invested in one version of the impeachment narrative, and then all of a sudden is confronted with irrefutable evidence that narrative is false, his response could be...really, really bad. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov03 Sunday Mailbag
Nov02 Beto Says "No Más"
Nov02 Saturday Q&A
Nov01 House Formalizes Impeachment Inquiry
Nov01 About That Offer to the Republican Senators...
Nov01 Trump Unveils 2020 Strategy
Nov01 The Nine Lives of Obamacare
Nov01 Funding Medicare for All May Just Be Viable
Nov01 Democratic Deluge in Virginia
Nov01 Trump Is Now a Floridian
Oct31 Democrats Get Serious About Impeachment Inquiry
Oct31 Senators Start to Squirm
Oct31 Trump Begins Planning His Defense
Oct31 More on Alexander Vindman
Oct31 Mr. Bolton, Please Report for Your Deposition
Oct31 What's a Trump Staffer to Do?
Oct31 Twitter to Reject All Political Ads
Oct31 Harris Campaign Begins Death Spiral
Oct30 Vindman Speaks, Trump & Co. Counterattack
Oct30 Two Amigos May Have Some Explaining to Do
Oct30 Early State Polls Suggest Rocky Start for Joe Biden
Oct30 Democratic Candidates Don't Care About California
Oct30 What Do Evangelicals Believe These Days?
Oct30 Bet You Didn't Know that Lindsey Graham Is a Big Supporter of the Green New Deal
Oct30 Good News for House GOP?
Oct29 House Democrats to "Formalize" Impeachment Proceedings
Oct29 This Week's Witness List
Oct29 A Tale of Two Photographs
Oct29 Mike Pompeo May Be Interested in A New Job
Oct29 Sessions May Want His Old Job Back
Oct29 North Carolina Republicans Suffer Another Gerrymander Defeat
Oct29 Florida Republicans Forced to Postpone Annual Event
Oct29 Rep. Greg Walden Will Retire
Oct28 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Is Dead
Oct28 Trump Organization May Sell Washington Hotel
Oct28 This Is Why Trump Doesn't Go Out in Public
Oct28 We Now Have a Trump Tweet Baseline
Oct28 Show Me the Money
Oct28 Rep. Katie Hill to Resign
Oct28 Details for Sixth Democratic Debate Announced
Oct27 Sunday Mailbag
Oct26 Saturday Q&A
Oct25 Trump Administration Did More than Withhold Aid
Oct25 Democrats Strategize on Impeachment...
Oct25 ...And So Do Republicans
Oct25 Barr Is Paying Dividends for Trump
Oct25 Warren Grapples with Funding Medicare for All
Oct25 Biden Will Accept Super PAC Money
Oct25 Sanders Unveils a Weedy Proposal
Oct25 Klobuchar Makes November Cut