Bishop Wins Re-Do Election In North Carolina
Issa Will Run for Congress If Not Confirmed
Trump’s Trade War Has Killed 300K Jobs
Special Election Results
Adviser Telegraphs Biden’s Debate Strategy
Big Majority Say Trump Doesn’t Deserve Re-Election
• Trump Scandal Update, Part II: The Alabama Hurricane
• Trump Scandal Update, Part III: The Taliban Talks
• Trump Won't Debate Primary Opponents
• Ossoff Launches Senate Bid
• It's Showtime in NC-09
• Republicans Turn On Their Own
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It could be that there's absolutely nothing untoward going on when it comes to Trump underlings choosing to stay at properties owned by the President. However, that's certainly not how it looks at the moment, as more and more information comes to light about both the Mike Pence visit to Doonbeg in Ireland and the visit(s) of U.S. military personnel to Trump Turnberry in Scotland.
Starting with Pence and Ireland, Trump insisted on Monday that he knew nothing about the Veep's travel arrangements, and that he did not encourage Pence to stay at Doonbeg. Pence has backed Trump 100% on this. On the other hand, Pence's chief of staff Marc Short said last week (before this became a headline-generating issue) that it was entirely Trump's idea. That would seem to leave us with three options: (1) Trump and Pence forgot their conversation from one week ago, (2) Short completely misunderstood what he heard, or (3) someone here is lying. Maybe multiple someones, including one who may want to consult his allegedly beloved Bible, and confirm that the 8th commandment (9th in some versions) makes it a sin to bear false witness. In any case, House Democrats have added the matter to their "to investigate" list.
Moving on to the military and Scotland, things are developing rapidly, and in a direction that is not favorable to Donald Trump. As everyone expected, this was not a one-time occurrence, and the total number of known visits by active-duty troops to Turnberry now stands at four. Expect that number to climb. As with the Pence visit to Ireland, Trump is claiming ignorance here. The problem, according to the New York Times, is that Trump personally set up the arrangement back in 2014, when he was just a private businessman trying to hustle up business at one of his less successful properties. So, he may just be lying here; we're waiting to hear back from our staff researchers to learn if he's ever told any falsehoods in the past. Democrats are investigating this one, too, as is the Air Force.
Nobody knows where this will all end up, of course. However, many pro-impeachment Democrats believe that this may be where they will eventually nail Trump. Their theory is that self-dealing will be more easily provable than something like obstruction of justice, and more understandable to the average voter. Perhaps they are right, or perhaps this is just wishful thinking, and the members of the blue team are grasping at straws. We shall see, though the more military visits to Turnberry that are discovered, the more problematic it becomes for the President. (Z)
When (Z) lectures on Gilded Age politics, as he did yesterday, he uses the example of Boss William Magear Tweed and the New York City Courthouse. That building was originally supposed to cost $100,000 to construct, with a timeline of 6 months to completion. By the time that Tweed and his corrupt cronies had wet their beaks, over and over and over again, the building's cost had climbed to more than $12 million (roughly $300 million today), while the time to completion checked in at just under 20 years.
Maybe Tweed was not the most corrupt politician of the Gilded Age. Heck, George Washington Plunkitt was so brazen about his thievery that he even gave a speech about it entitled "Honest Graft." And maybe the New York City Courthouse was not the single greatest scam of the age. However, Tweed and his courthouse are such perfect examples of the tenor of the times, and the gall of the era's politicians, that everyone uses them as their exemplars.
We wonder if, one day, Donald Trump's Alabama-hurricane-that-wasn't will serve the same purpose. It may not be the most damaging scandal of his presidency, or the most reprehensible, but it is probably the Trumpiest, for lack of a better description. Only he, among the 44 occupants of the White House, could take such a minor misstatement and turn it into a colossal saga of lies, venality, and corruption, now stretching well into its second week. And while the whole fiasco is not nearly as bad as locking children in cages, or leaving the people of Puerto Rico to fend for themselves after a hurricane, or (potentially) being in hock to the Russians, there may be no incident that more clearly illustrates his total inability to admit to making a mistake (no matter how small), his willingness to do whatever is necessary to try to bend reality to his will, and his prioritization of his own needs above all else.
Over the weekend, the Washington Post confirmed that it was Trump himself who used a Sharpie to alter a map so that it included Alabama in Dorian's path. The good news is that it gave rise to a lot of really good memes; this one is our favorite:
Trump releases photo to show he’s taller than Obama. pic.twitter.com/U4K7C4MzQI— Schooley (@Rschooley) September 4, 2019
The bad news is that Trump almost certainly broke the law with that stunt (not that he'll be punished). Since 1894, it's been a federal crime to falsify weather reports, as it is important that the public be able to trust in the integrity of the reports, and potentially dangerous if they are unable to do so. To illustrate, taking a simple example, what happens if Trump sends out a tweet next year warning of a hurricane bearing down on Alabama? Will 100% of Alabamians believe he's being truthful and accurate? Probably not, and if some of those folks do not prepare properly, it could be disastrous.
On Monday, meanwhile, the big news was all about who lined up to help enable the President's lies/delusions, and who pushed back against him. In the former category was Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its sub-bureaucracy, the National Weather Service (NWS), are under his auspices. He threatened to fire top employees of both agencies if they did not immediately repudiate the tweet from the Birmingham office of the NWS that corrected Trump and said that Alabama was not in danger. The head of NOAA, Neil Jacobs, and the agency's communications director, Julie Kay Roberts, fell in line, and drafted a statement declaring that Trump was right and their agency was wrong. That statement was issued, though Jacobs and Roberts apparently did not have courage enough of their convictions to actually, you know, sign it. In the media, meanwhile, Trump's biggest defenders here are...wait for it...Sean Hannity and Geraldo Rivera.
Pushing back against Trump, on the other hand, are most of the scientists who work for NOAA and NWS. You know how scientists are, insisting on pesky things like facts and evidence. The director of the NWS, Louis Uccellini, delivered an address before the National Weather Association yesterday, and defended his agency forcefully. "Let me be clear: The Birmingham office did this to stop public panic, to ensure public safety, the same goal as all the National Weather Service offices were working toward at that time," he declared. He got a standing ovation for that. Meanwhile, NOAA's chief scientist, Craig McLean, sent an e-mail to employees that not only slammed the Jacobs/Roberts statement, but also said they probably broke the law. Former high-ranking NOAA/NWS staffers, along with the American Meteorological Society, echoed these sentiments. And NOAA Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson is concerned enough that she's launching an investigation.
Maybe this whole hurricane fiasco will soon blow over. However, it seems that Trump finally realizes he has stepped in it here, and maybe it's time to stop the bleeding. He's suggested that the whole thing was just a joke, which is one of his standard fallback defenses, even if it's not remotely credible in this case. He also declined to conduct a previously planned tour of hurricane damage during his Monday visit to North Carolina, officially because it was "too dangerous" but in reality because he didn't want any more news stories with "Trump" and "hurricane" in them. We shall see if he gets his wish today. (Z)
We're not sure this quite qualifies as a scandal at this point. But we're also not sure it doesn't, so we're going to stick with the theme. Anyhow, many more details have come out about the Camp David meeting with the Taliban that was allegedly scheduled for this weekend and then canceled at the last minute. The New York Times has a good accounting of what really happened. In short, Trump certainly aspired to bring Taliban leadership and representatives of the Afghan government to the U.S. for a meeting. So, he wasn't entirely lying about cancelling the meeting, but he wasn't being entirely truthful, since he gave a strong impression that it was much closer to coming together than was actually the case.
More concerning is Trump's behind-the-scenes handling of the matter before it all fell apart. His advisors, including Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said that the timeline for leaving Afghanistan that the President was proposing was problematic, that meeting with Taliban leaders was a bad idea, and that holding the meetings at Camp David was a really, really bad idea. Trump overruled everyone, because he found the photo-op possibilities of a confab at Camp David to be irresistible, and because he still has an open spot on his mantel for that Nobel Peace Prize he expects to win. Someone might just look at this and conclude that Trump's first and only concern is...Donald Trump.
Although Mike Pence counseled against the Trump plan, he apparently had a dramatic change of heart, if his Twitter account is to be believed:
That’s Absolutely Right Mr. President. More Fake News! The Dishonest Media never contacted our office before running with this story and if they had, we would have told them I FULLY support your decision. https://t.co/zjzro1fzSg— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) September 9, 2019
Taking note of the verbiage, not to mention the arbitrary capitalization, there is more than a little bit of suspicion that the President somehow gained access to the Veep's account ("Hey, gimme your phone!," maybe?) and posted a tweet on his behalf. The alternative is that not only did Pence completely change his tune on this issue, but he's also learned to mimic Trump with a level of skill that puts Alec Baldwin to shame. (Z)
Donald Trump now has three legitimate primary opponents in the form of Bill Weld, Mark Sanford, and Joe Walsh. They may have a hard time picking up many delegates, however (outside of California), as the Nevada, South Carolina and Kansas state Republican parties canceled their primaries this weekend, and Arizona did the same on Monday. The challengers will also be denied the opportunity to debate Donald Trump, who said that he will not participate in any such event.
Anyone surprised by Trump's refusal has not been paying attention for the last three years, as this was the least surprising development since Trump: The Cologne failed to catch on. To start, Trump would be a fool to give his opponents legitimacy and free advertising by appearing on the same stage with them. Beyond that, debates demand (1) careful preparation and (2) detailed knowledge of the issues, two things that are not exactly the President's strong points. And finally, all three challengers would basically be debate kamikazes, doing anything and everything they could to bring Trump down at all costs. He could easily make a bad mistake, or get trapped into saying something very unwise. It is possible that Trump will change his mind, but only if his polls take a huge dive, and even then it's not very likely. (Z)
When it comes to the two 2020 Senate races in Georgia, the candidate the Democrats would most like to recruit is Stacey Abrams, who very nearly won the governor's mansion last year. She has declined, however, very possibly to remain available for a vice presidential run. In her absence, the blue team got a pretty good consolation prize on Monday, when Jon Ossoff threw his hat into the ring. Ossoff is well known from his run in the 2017 special election for GA-06, in which he set a record for fundraising for a House seat, and came very close to flipping the R+14 district.
Ossoff has decided that he will run for Sen. David Perdue's (R-GA) seat, as opposed to the one being vacated by Johnny Isakson (R-GA). That's an interesting decision. On one hand, whoever replaces Perdue will get a full term, while Isakson's term will be up in 2022. So, that's six years versus two. On the other hand, Isakson is going to be replaced at the end of this year, and running against an elected incumbent (90% re-election rate) is harder than running against an appointed incumbent (50% re-election rate). Further, the race to challenge Perdue is already crowded; with former Columbus, Ga., mayor Teresa Tomlinson probably the strongest non-Ossoff candidate. Undoubtedly, Ossoff considered his options carefully, and he'll certainly run a strong campaign, tapping into the fundraising network he built in 2017. Republicans certainly can't be happy that he's running; they'll be even less happy if the blue team also gets one of its dream candidates (e.g., Jason Carter or Michelle Nunn) to run for the other seat. (Z)
Today is the day that voters in NC-09 will finally get to choose their Congressional representative, since the last time they did so, the election was so badly tainted by Republican fraud that the results were thrown out. The Republican in the race is Dan Bishop, a member of the North Carolina house known for his militantly anti-LGBT positions, particularly his sponsorship of the state's infamous "bathroom bill." The Democrat is Dan McCready, a Marine Corps veteran and entrepreneur who has never held political office. There have been seven polls of the race; three gave the nod to McCready, two to Bishop, and two had it as a tie. None of the polls gave a candidate a lead outside the margin of error, so the race is definitely a toss-up.
Inasmuch as NC-09 is R+8, it really shouldn't be a toss up, and Republican muckety mucks are scared witless of what will happen if McCready wins. So, they have been pulling out all the stops, with just about every GOP rock star making a stop in the Tar Heel State. The grand finale came last night, when Donald Trump staged one of his rallies in Fayetteville, NC. He spent most of the time dwelling on the evils of Democrats, including describing them as "not big believers in religion." Pot, meet kettle.
From a predictive standpoint, unless the polls are completely wrong, the actual result today is not terribly meaningful. Either way, the basic lesson will be the same: The GOP is losing its hold on the suburbs, and any seat in a district that is R+10 or less is plausibly "in play" in 2020. Speaking of Jon Ossoff (see above), he lost his 2017 race in the R+14 GA-06 by a couple of points, causing many sighs of relief from GOP operatives. However, a blue wave followed a year later, including a flip of GA-06 to the blue team (by Rep. Lucy McBath, D-GA).
From a PR standpoint, on the other hand, today's result will be very important, indeed. If Bishop wins, then Republicans will breathe the same sigh of relief they sighed in Georgia in 2017, Trump will convince himself that he single-handedly saved the seat, and House Republicans who are wavering about retirement may waver a little less. On the other hand, if McCready wins, Democrats will be delighted, donations will pour into the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Trump will go on a Twitter tantrum, and many House Republicans may decide the end is nigh. Perhaps we will know tonight, though if it's as close as it was last time, and as close as the polls suggest it will be this time, maybe we won't know until later in the week. (Z)
The House GOP caucus has an unusually high number of deeply flawed candidates. Maybe that's a testament to the power of incumbency and/or gerrymandering. Or perhaps it's a reflection of a party that has adopted something of an "ends justifies the means" mentality in recent decades. Alternatively, hyper-polarization might be the issue: Many voters believe that the very worst candidate their party puts up is still better than the very best the other party puts up. Or it could just be random chance. In any event, the rubber is now meeting the road, and many GOP pooh bahs have concluded that if they don't throw their flawed colleagues under the bus, the seats could be lost, possibly for a long time. So they are doing everything they can to encourage serious primary challengers for, at the very least, these four fellows:
- Rep. Steve King (R-IA), because he is a racist
- Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS), who is accused of sexual misconduct and lying about his résumé
- Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who is accused of insider trading, and will go on trial next year
- Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who is accused of embezzling campaign funds, and will also go on trial next year
It looks like the GOP will eventually come up with viable challengers in all four districts, so maybe the Party will get its wish, and will be able to get rid of four giant anchors. On the other hand, with the exception of Watkins, these men's liabilities were well known in 2018, and they all won their elections. So, they may just weather yet another storm. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep09 Trump Might Get Kilt by House Oversight Committee
Sep09 National Poll: It's Still Biden, Sanders, and Warren
Sep09 New Hampshire Activists Favor Warren
Sep09 The Early States Are a Mixed Bag
Sep09 Steyer Qualifies for the Fourth Debate
Sep09 Sun Belt vs. Rust Belt Dilemma Affects the Senate, Too
Sep09 Mark Sanford Is In
Sep09 Republicans Want to Scrap Primaries and Caucuses
Sep09 Howard Schultz is Out
Sep09 The Mooch Is Loose
Sep09 Sanders Is Struggling with Older Voters
Sep09 Maine Will Allow for Ranked-Choice Voting in the Presidential Election
Sep06 The Curious Case of the Alabama Hurricane
Sep06 China, U.S. To Talk Trade in October
Sep06 Mike Pence, Diplomat
Sep06 House Judiciary Committee Wants to Know More About Trump's Pardon Offer
Sep06 Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is Writing a Book
Sep06 A House Democrat Retires
Sep05 Democrats Release Climate Plans
Sep05 Biden Is Doing Well in Wisconsin
Sep05 Sanders Has the Best Ground Game in California
Sep05 Trump Tries to Rescue Old Light Bulbs
Sep05 The Ten Counties That Will Decide the Presidential Election
Sep05 Republicans Are Worried about State Legislature Races
Sep05 De Blasio May Drop Out
Sep05 New Use for Thoughts and Prayers Discovered
Sep05 Two More Republican Congressmen Bite the Dust
Sep04 Administration Officially Robs Peter to Pay Paul
Sep04 Pence Visits Ireland
Sep04 Biden Campaign: Iowa Primary Is Not a "Must Win" for Us
Sep04 No Mansion for Manchin
Sep04 The Buck Is Passed
Sep04 McConnell Maligns "Moscow Mitch" Moniker
Sep04 North Carolina Court Strikes Down District Maps
Sep04 Democrats Are Clearing the Decks for Hickenlooper
Sep04 Boris Johnson's Life Just Got a Lot Harder
Sep04 Wednesday Q&A
Sep03 Trump Runs the George W. Bush Hurricane Katrina Playbook
Sep03 Trump May Have Broken the Law Twice Over the Weekend
Sep03 James Mattis Keeps Popping Off
Sep03 Bad Numbers for Trump, Part I: Voter Preferences
Sep03 Bad Numbers for Trump, Part II: Approval Rating
Sep03 Trump vs. Fox News Is Fake News
Sep03 Madeleine Westerhout Mystery Is Solved
Sep03 More Dirty Tricks from Georgia Republicans
Sep02 New Tariffs Kicked in Yesterday
Sep02 Trump Backs Off Background Checks
Sep02 Independents Think Trump Has a Better Economic Plan Than the Democrats
Sep02 DNC Opposes the Iowa and Nevada Virtual Caucuses