Mar. 16

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Trump Issues First Veto

Grover Cleveland was quite veto-happy when he served as president, so much so that his opponents wrote children's songs about it:

Oh a fat man once sat in the President's chair,
Singing veto, veto veto!
And his face was unwrinkled by sorrow or care
Singing veto, veto, veto!

"I've no use for these pensioners Daniel", said he
"For nine-tenth of their claims are all fiddle-de-dee
And this is the way I will fix them you see
With a veto, veto veto"

His total, in eight years in office, was 414 vetoes, for an average of almost exactly one per week (.995/week, to be entirely precise). Franklin D. Roosevelt's average was even higher than that (though nobody sang about it); his 635 vetoes in 631 weeks works out to 1.01/week. No other president was quite as enamored of the power as those two, though most of the others managed to produce an average of one to two vetoes per month.

All of this is to say is that the veto did not use to be a particularly rare or unusual thing. Over the last 30 years, however, they have gotten much more scarce. This is undoubtedly a product of the greater polarization in Congress, and the vastly more liberal use of the filibuster in the senate (which used to be a few times a year thing, rather than a part of the daily toolkit). Both of these things mean that it's tough to get substantive legislation through Congress these days, and that a president who does not like what the legislature is about to send him often has ways to cut bills off at the pass. So, while Ronald Reagan issued 78 vetoes in 8 years, and George H. W. Bush slightly outpaced him with 44 in 4 years, Bill Clinton only issued 37 in 8 years, and George W. Bush and Barack Obama each tallied only 12.

On Friday, though he remains in an excellent position to undercut even the low totals of Bush and Obama, Donald Trump pushed his veto total from zero to one. A public veto-issuance ceremony would have been unheard of in decades past, but the President knows what makes for good TV, and so he held one, taking the opportunity to look into the cameras and to describe the resolution he was killing as something that "put countless Americans in danger." Trump's 2020 campaign also used the veto as a fundraising opportunity, asking supporters to make an emergency donation to the "Official Wall Defense Fund." Because, of course, you wouldn't want to give money to an unofficial wall defense fund.

Democrats in Congress are going to do what they can to keep pushing back against Trump's national emergency declaration. After taking next week off, the House will have a veto override vote on March 26. This is just for appearances, though, as the votes aren't there for an actual override. Meanwhile, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX, more on him below) will also bring up a disapproval resolution, which would reverse the national emergency, for a vote. It won't pass the Senate as a standalone bill, but the blue team is prepared to start adding it to funding bills and other key legislation. Assuming that a bill with the disapproval provision makes it through Congress, then Trump will either have to cancel the emergency, or issue another veto (and another, and another). This is a way of keeping the pressure on the President while the Democrats wait the required six months before they can utilize the "cancel emergency" provision of the National Emergencies Act again.

Democrats are also hopeful that one or more of the pending court cases will go against Trump. There are seven of them, including one from a bunch of blue states, one from the county of El Paso in Texas, one from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, and one from the ACLU and the Sierra Club. All of them argue, in various ways, that Trump has violated the Constitution. Most of them also include a complaint specific to that plaintiff, like eminent domain issues in the El Paso suit, or environmental impact issues in the ACLU/Sierra Club suit. The upshot is that Friday's veto may bring one chapter of this saga to an end, but it certainly doesn't conclude the whole story. (Z)

Trump Downplays Significance of Mosque Attacks

Early Friday morning (U.S. time), a gunman in New Zealand attacked two mosques, killing 49 people. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded to this in a manner totally foreign to Americans. Eschewing "thoughts and prayers," she declared that the nation's gun laws, which are already quite strict, will be made even stricter.

The gunman's name is Harrison Tennant, and he is 28 years old, Australian, and a white supremacist. In a truly grotesque move, he apparently livestreamed at least part of the attacks. He also gave police a copy of his 74-page manifesto, in which he outlined his racial philosophy, and listed some of his heroes. That list includes one Donald Trump, whom Tennant described as a "symbol of renewed white identity."

When Trump was asked about the attack, he suggested it was an aberration. When asked if he thinks white supremacism is on the rise, the President said, "I don't really. I think its a small group of people." He wasn't going to answer in any other way, of course, but his conclusion certainly does not square with the evidence. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center says that the number of hate groups in America right now (1,020) is higher than at any point in U.S. history.

Kellyanne Conway was dispatched by the White House to do, for lack of a better term, damage control. She said that Tennant is a "hateful, evil person" who is wrong to view Donald Trump as a symbol of white nationalism. One wonders if Conway (and Trump, for that matter) really think that this is entirely arbitrary, and that Tennant could just as easily have lionized Joe DiMaggio, or John F. Kennedy, or Walt Disney in his manifesto. Most people, if they learned that they were an inspiration to a gun-wielding mass murderer, would spend at least a little time reflecting on how that might have happened, and what they might do to mend their ways. But, of course, this White House does not really do self-reflection or personal growth. (Z)

Castro Likely to Mount Senate Bid

The Democrats got a bit of bad news when Beto O'Rourke announced his presidential bid, because that meant he would not be available to challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in 2020. However, it would appear that sometime very soon, the blue team will officially get a very nice consolation prize, as Joaquin Castro is "all but certain" to announce a run.

Castro is, of course, the twin brother of Julián Castro. Although he's fairly young at 44, he's already served in the House for 14 years, so he's no political novice. He's charismatic, and an excellent fundraiser. And, perhaps most importantly, as a Latino and the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, he's in an excellent position to win over the Latino voters that Beto O'Rourke only had partial success with in 2018. Plus, 2020 is a presidential election year, which tends to favor Democrats. Add it all up, and Cornyn—who won his last Senate race by 27 points—is in for the fight of his life, and is probably about even money to keep his seat. (Z)

NC-09 Primary Will Be a Free-for-All

Now that NC-09 has been officially vacated due to election fraud, the Tar Heel State needs to stage a new primary and a new general election. The Democrats already know that their candidate will be Dan McCready, who nearly won the first time, despite all the shenanigans. As to the GOP candidate, no less than 10 people will duke it out for the right to face McCready.

This is not good news for the Republican Party. Normally, the problem with a big field like this is that the candidates spend a lot of time dragging one another through the mud, and forcing one another to drain their campaign bank accounts. Those issues are less likely to be relevant here, as there is relatively little time for campaigning and mudslinging (the primary is on May 14). In this case, the biggest problem is that turnout will not be great for a primary election, and with 10 candidates splitting the vote, it's possible that a kooky candidate will claim a slim plurality. Undoubtedly, the National Republican Congressional Committee will do its best to steer people toward their preferred candidate, but that is easier said than done. (Z)

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