Jul. 19

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Trump, GOP Respond to "Send Her Back!"

It has been almost a week since Donald Trump fired off the racist tweets heard 'round the world. And the news has been dominated by them, and the response to them, ever since. Maybe that was by design; Jeffrey Epstein, his history of sexual predation, and his friendship with Trump have largely been pushed off the front pages (at least for now). In any case, the racist tweets story continued to dominate on Thursday, as anyone and everyone responded to the "Send her back!" chants at the President's Wednesday rally in North Carolina.

Trump, for his part, "disavowed" the chant. We put that in quotations because he used weasel words, much as he did after Charlottesville, to have it both ways, and to make clear to followers that he didn't really disapprove of what happened. For example:

It was quite a chant, and I felt a little bit badly about it. [But] I say there is far more energy on the right than there is on the left. I think we have far more support than they do and I think we have far more energy than they do. And we're going to have a very interesting election. But I was not happy when I heard that chant.

This is not a persuasive disavowal on its face. And then, add in that the chant was based on Trump's own tweets (which he most certainly hasn't disavowed) and that his reaction in the moment most certainly did not communicate disapproval. The response of former senator and GOP presidential candidate John McCain, when dealing with a questioner who claimed that Barack Obama is "an Arab," is a model for how Trump should have responded, so much so that the video was circulating widely on Twitter yesterday:

Of course, Trump won his election, while McCain lost his and was blasted as a RINO, so perhaps that helps explain why the President responds as he does in situations like this.

While Trump was peddling his flimflammery, the usual enablers were lining up behind him. At least four Fox News hosts came to his defense, including Laura Ingraham (a.k.a. Kellyanne Conway's doppelgänger). Meanwhile, the Chief Enabler, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said that he thinks Trump is "on to something" with his attacks on the four congresswomen, because Americans don't want socialism. McConnell also noted—really—that he couldn't possibly be facilitating racism, because he was present for Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. Presumably, the Majority Leader also has a black friend.

Even those Republicans who condemned the rally chant still hedged their bets, refusing to blame Trump and/or implying that Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN) brought some of this on herself. Some examples:

Though it was brief, I struggled with the “send her back” chant tonight referencing Rep. Omar. Her history, words & actions reveal her great disdain for both America & Israel. That should be our focus and not phrasing that’s painful to our friends in the minority communities.

— Rep. Mark Walker (@RepMarkWalker) July 18, 2019

I deeply disagree with the extreme left & have been disgusted by their tone. I woke up today equally disgusted - chants like “send her back” are ugly, wrong, & would send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers. This ugliness must end, or we risk our great union.

— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) July 18, 2019

But despite the near-universal public show of support from the GOP, many of them were not happy behind closed doors. In a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, a number of them conveyed their discomfort with the new direction that Trump has taken, and asked Pence to tell him to knock it off. The President will pay this no heed, of course, if he thinks that sticking with the "Send her back!" stuff will win him re-election. He is more than willing to sacrifice as many members of the Republican Party as it takes for him to win.

As to the Democrats, Omar herself held an impromptu, traffic-blocking press conference outside the Capitol and said, "I am not [scared for my safety]. What I'm scared for is the safety for people who share my identity." Other Democrats don't necessarily agree that her personal safety is a non-issue, and many of them are now calling for Omar and the other three members of "the Squad" to be assigned a security detail. Meanwhile, pretty much every Democrat you can think of spoke out against the rally chants. For example, here are the tweets on the subject sent by the five Democratic presidential frontrunners:

It’s vile.
It’s cowardly.
It’s xenophobic.
It’s racist.
It defiles the office of the President.
And I won't share it here.

It’s time to get Trump out of office and unite the country.

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) July 18, 2019

Trump knows that when we stand together and fight for racial, social, economic and environmental justice, we have the power to defeat him.

So the demagogue is doing what he knows best: Divide and conquer through hate.

His attacks only make us stronger. #IStandWithIlhan

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 18, 2019

These members of Congress—children of immigrants, just like so many of us—are an example of exactly what makes America great.

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) July 18, 2019

This president is desperate. Calling out his racism, xenophobia, and misogyny is imperative. But he’s trying to divide us and distract from his own crimes, and from his deeply unpopular agenda of letting the wealthy and well-connected rip off the country. We must do more.

— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) July 18, 2019

We can do many things at once. This morning that means standing with @IlhanMN and her colleagues in the face of racist attacks—AND standing with her and @HouseDemocrats to #RaiseTheWage today.

— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) July 18, 2019

We are heading into the weekend, of course, which is prime presidential tweet time. The Democratic debates are not far away, and undoubtedly "Send her back!" will come up. And then, Trump's next rally is Aug. 1 in Ohio, the day after the second debate. So, this story will certainly be back in the headlines, sooner or later. (Z)

U.S. Downs Iranian Drone

Early Thursday, an Iranian drone came within 1,000 yards of the U.S.S. Boxer, and when the Iranians neglected to alter its course, the Navy jammed its signals, thus leading to its destruction.

This story illustrates two distinct ways in which Donald Trump cannot win when it comes to this sort of news. The first is that such announcements are treated with great caution, in case they're not really true, or he just hasn't understood the details correctly. Consider, for example the CNN headline:

US Navy ship 'destroyed' an Iranian drone, Trump says

Under any other president, that headline would have been "US Navy Ship Destroys Iranian Drone." But CNN's version presents the news not as a fact, but as something that Trump claims as a fact. That's a big difference. They hedge even further by putting "destroyed" in quotes, just in case it wasn't really destroyed. And CNN wasn't the only one; nearly all outlets had similarly cautious headlines, especially earlier in the day on Thursday.

The second way that Trump can't win is that just about everyone had an analysis like this one, that said, in essence, "How can Trump hope to negotiate with the Iranians if he acts so aggressively toward them?" If the President had done nothing, then it would be "Iranians keep pushing Trump because they know he won't stand up to them."

This is not to say that the President is being treated unfairly. No, he brought this on himself by telling lies up, down, left, right, and sideways, and also by pursuing an Iran policy that seems to have no particular rhyme or reason beyond "Obama's approach was bad." In other words, Trump made his bed, and now he's being forced to lie in it. (Z)

Daniels Payment Was All Cohen and Trump...and Hope Hicks

At 11:00 a.m. ET on Thursday, the documents relating to the feds' investigation of the hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels, et al., were made public. We already knew that Michael Cohen was the central figure in the whole scheme, but the new information makes clear that Donald Trump was intimately involved (meaning his statements to the contrary were, to nobody's surprise, baldfaced lies) and that former Trump assistant Hope Hicks was also party to the arrangements.

Trump, of course, is not going to be prosecuted while he is still in the White House, while Cohen is already in the hoosegow. Hicks, on the other hand, could be in some trouble, especially since she reportedly misled the House Judiciary Committee on this subject when she talked to them last month. They want to talk with her again, so she can explain herself, and if she doesn't come voluntarily, she'll be hit with a subpoena. After the release of the documents, Trump laywer Jay Sekulow declared "Case closed!" Not so much, if Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has his way. (Z)

Trump Nominates Scalia to Lead Labor Department

No, not that Scalia. He's been dead for a little over three years. It's his son, Eugene, who is 55, an experienced lawyer, and is now Donald Trump's surprise pick to be the next Secretary of Labor. He would succeed Alex Acosta, who had to resign due to the sweetheart plea deal he made with Jeffrey Epstein while serving as U.S. Attorney a decade ago.

Like most (or all) Trump cabinet nominees these days, Scalia may be underqualified for the job. It's true that he specializes in labor law, currently heading the Labor and Employment Practice Group at the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. And he did work in the Department of Labor, serving as its solicitor for about a year from 2002-03. He also served as a special assistant to then-and-current AG Bill Barr for roughly a year from 1992-93. But that is a résumé quite similar to failed VA nominee Ronny Jackson. Like Jackson, Scalia's government service is not extensive, and he has limited experience running a large bureaucracy.

That said, the counselor's magical last name may please the base, and his record will definitely please GOP power-brokers within the Senate and without. He helped his firm with their representation of George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore, allowing W to claim (or steal) the presidency in 2000. His best-known case as lead counsel was Wal-Mart v. Maryland, which killed a state law that required large companies (10,000 employees or more) to spend at least 8% of their payroll on employee healthcare. In other words, as one might expect of a son of Antonin, Scalia is not exactly a friend of the working man. Presumably he will sail through his Senate confirmation with ease. (Z)

House Votes to Raise the Minimum Wage

Eugene Scalia may be on the side of the corporations, but that does not mean that everyone in Washington is hostile to labor. Indeed, after six months of wrangling, House Democrats managed to come together on Thursday to pass a bill that would establish a $15/hour minimum wage. The final count was 231-199, with all but four Democrats voting "yea," and the other four Democrats and all of the Republicans (and the one Independent) voting "nay."

The bill will now head to the Senate, where it will wither and die. That chamber is like the Alamo when it comes to Democratic bills—no quarter. Still, this is a pretty important victory for the blue team. Despite all the talk about tension between the factions within the party, this is the third time that pretty much everyone has managed to get on the same page just this week (the bill banning arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and the resolution condemning Donald Trump's tweets, were the others). Anybody who says that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) doesn't know how to herd cats doesn't know what they are talking about; it was a master feat of vote whipping to get virtually her whole caucus behind a law progressives have been pushing for since 2016.

Beyond that, a $15/hour minimum wage gives the Democrats something pretty juicy to run on in 2020, something that could even cause the ears of some of Donald Trump's blue-collar base to perk up. As we have noted many times, including yesterday, pocketbook issues have a salience that many other Democratic issues do not. (Z)

Lineups Set for Next Round of Democratic Debates

The lottery has been held, and the New Orleans Pelicans have won the opportunity to draft Duke forward Zion Williamson! Needless to say, basketball fans in the Big Easy are thrilled. Oops, wait, wrong lottery. Our mistake. The one last night divided the 20 qualifiers for the Democratic debates into two groups. Here they are:

July 30 July 31
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Joe Biden
John Delaney Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
John Hickenlooper Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City)
Marianne Williamson Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Beto O'Rourke Andrew Yang
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) Julián Castro

As noted previously, Mayor Wayne Messam (D-Miramar), Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Mike Gravel, Tom Steyer, and Joe Sestak did not qualify for round 2.

Initial impressions, based on these groupings:

Anyway, T-minus-11 days and counting. (Z)

Democratic Presidential Candidate Update: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN)

We had hoped to revisit each of the candidates at least one time before they bid farewell. Given the shrinkage that's likely to follow the Q2 fundraising and the next round of debates, that's probably not going to happen. As we wait to see who keeps on keepin' on, and who decides to exit stage left, we chose to do this week's update about a candidate whose range of outcomes is particularly broad. She could be done by mid-August, or she could hang on until deep into primary season.

Here is our original profile of Klobuchar.

Amy Klobuchar

You can access the list of candidate profiles by clicking on the 2020 Dem candidates link in the menu to the left of the map. (Z)

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