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Political Wire logo Trump Pushes Again for $2,000 Checks
Pence Under Pressure When He’ll Formalize Biden’s Win
Biden and Trump Issue Different Christmas Messages
Biden Says He’ll Be Able to Work with Republicans
Authorities Probe Possible Terrorist Attack In Nashville
Merry Christmas!

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Creating Chaos in Washington...
      •  ...But He's Having Zero Luck with Overturning the Election Results
      •  Georgia Senate Candidates Are Awash in Cash
      •  "Trickle Down" Tax Cuts...Don't
      •  U.K., E.U. Have a Brexit Deal
      •  Holiday Quiz: The Sequel
      •  Fox News Is Now in the Christmas Movie Business
      •  Today's Senate Polls

To those who celebrate the occasion, Merry Christmas! Let us also take this opportunity to wish readers a belated "Hanukkah sameach!," a Happy Kwanzaa, a pleasant Winter Solstice, and an early and blessed Zartosht No-Diso.

Trump Creating Chaos in Washington...

Donald Trump is finding plenty of time these days for certain activities; issuing pardons, for example, or playing golf. Both of those have found a prominent place on the President's to-do list ever since he decamped from Washington to Mar-a-Lago.

What he is not finding time to do is govern in any meaningful way. Trump's declaration that he won't sign the COVID-19 relief bill, or the military spending bill, have thrown a giant wrench into the works, and have left the members of Congress scrambling. The President has the nation teetering on the brink of its fourth shutdown of his presidency (our staff mathematicians tell us that averages out to one shutdown per year that he has been in office). He's also leaving tens of millions of Americans in the lurch, many of them depending on the various aid packages Congress has already passed (and some of them set to vote in the Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs, where they may express their pique with Trump and his party).

Largely, the pressure here is on Congressional Republicans, since they are the ones who will pay the biggest political price if part or all of the government shuts down, and they are the ones who (unlike Trump) care about those U.S. Senate races, and they are the ones who (unlike Trump and the Democrats) don't want to dump even more money into COVID relief. On Thursday, they underscored the latter point, with House Republicans killing a bill that would have increased the stimulus checks to $2,000, and key Republican members of the Senate warning that even if such a bill reaches them, it's dead on arrival.

Trump may be a lame duck, but he still retains a fair bit of power here, given the need for his signature and the impracticality of waiting for Jan. 20 to take care of these items of business. If he would enunciate exactly what he wants, and if he would negotiate with the members of Congress, then revised bills might just get done. But the President and his underlings have largely been silent, and they certainly haven't engaged in any horse trading or arm twisting. So, the ship of state lurches forward, effectively without captain or rudder. (Z)

...But He's Having Zero Luck with Overturning the Election Results

If Donald Trump was hoping he might get a Christmas gift from the federal courts, he was disappointed on Thursday. One of his last remaining lawsuits was dismissed on Thursday by a panel made up of three federal judges, all of them Republican appointees and one of them a Trump appointee. In their ruling, the judges rejected the President's demand for all Wisconsin ballots to be thrown out, and even rebuked him for waiting until after the election to raise his (alleged) concerns.

The President largely appears to have given up hope that lawsuits will save him, however, and has turned his focus to stealing the election on January 6, when Congress will count the electoral votes. Apparently, Trump has persuaded himself that the weak spot in the process—and thus his area of opportunity—is the vice-president's reading and announcing of the final results. On Thursday, it was reported that Trump recently met with VP Mike Pence in an effort to persuade Pence to declare Trump president by fiat on the 6th. Pence explained that was not possible, which apparently left the Donald "confused" as to why.

Either Trump is lying about being "confused," or else he's a nitwit. There is zero chance that the fellows who wrote the Constitution would have created a loophole that allowed a single person—a person who, by the way, might well have been on the ballot themselves—to choose a president. And there is zero chance that if they had left that loophole, it would have gone unexploited until 2020. There has been plenty of partisanship, and there have been plenty of hotly contested elections, in U.S. history, and if—to take just one example—VP John C. Breckinridge could have awarded the presidency to someone other than Abraham Lincoln in 1861 (like, say, second-place EV finisher John C. Breckinridge), you can bet your bottom dollar he would have done it.

The fact is that vice president's role in the counting and certifying of the electoral votes is entirely ceremonial. If Pence refuses to perform the job the way he's supposed to, then—at worst—the process merely goes uncompleted. That would create enormous political pressure on Republicans, would surely cause the courts to get involved and, if not resolved by Jan. 20, would result in Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) becoming acting president. So, Pence was entirely correct to tell Trump to go bark up some other tree. (Z)

Georgia Senate Candidates Are Awash in Cash

It may not matter, depending on how they spend it, but the two Democrats running in the two U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia are not hurting for money. In fact, Jon Ossoff, who is running against Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), and who has collected $106.8 million since Nov. 3, is now the best-funded U.S. Senate candidate in American history. Second on that list is Raphael Warnock, who is running against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), and who has collected $103.4 million since Nov. 3. Incidentally, Perdue took in $68 million and Loeffler $64 million, which is very good, but isn't $100 million-plus.

The fundraising tallies were not the only good news Democrats got on Thursday. A federal judge also signed off on an agreement between the USPS and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund/Vote Forward that will make certain all mail-in ballots in the runoff elections are delivered in a timely fashion. Take that, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

That said, there was also a small (?) chink in Warnock's armor that presented itself on Thursday, as video footage from a police visit to his house leaked. The police were called due to an argument between Warnock and his now ex-wife Ouleye Ndoye, and in the footage Ndoye claims that Warnock ran over her foot with his car. She was examined by doctors later that day, and they found no evidence of the injury she claimed. So, this might fade away very quickly. On the other hand, voters have a low tolerance for spousal abuse, and if this causes just one Georgian in a hundred to rethink their vote for Warnock, that could very well be enough to sink his candidacy. (Z)

"Trickle Down" Tax Cuts...Don't

The general idea behind trickle down theory, which first found a receptive audience in the Reagan White House, is that if you give hefty tax cuts to rich people, they invest that money in the economy. This, in turn, creates jobs and commerce that benefit the "little people," and so everyone comes out ahead. At least, that is the theory. In practice—and anyone who paid attention to the Reagan years, or the George W. Bush years, or the Donald Trump years, or the Gov. Sam Brownback years in Kansas—is that rich people invest much of that new money in financial instruments (stocks, mutual funds, etc.) and/or move it offshore, meaning that most of it does not, in fact, trickle down to the teeming masses.

A new study confirms this—in spades. David Hope, of the London School of Economics, and Julian Limberg, of King's College London, examined top-heavy tax cuts in 18 different nations (including the U.S.) over a 50-year timespan, and found that such cuts tend only to benefit the rich, and not anyone else. They also suggested that the ultra-wealthy can actually afford to bear a greater tax burden, and suggested a 5% wealth tax would be a very good way to fund pandemic relief. Don't hold your breath waiting for that recommendation to be adopted in the U.S., however. (Z)

U.K., E.U. Have a Brexit Deal

As long as we're talking about the Brits and money, let us also note that the U.K. and the E.U. have hammered out a Brexit deal, with just days to go before the latest (and final?) deadline of Jan. 1. In effect, the Brits gave up some (but not all) access to E.U. markets in exchange for greater control of goods flowing into the U.K., and also a greater responsibility for keeping its domestic economy stable.

From the American perspective, this is basically good news. If the U.K. had exited without an agreement, there would have been serious economic shockwaves that would have reverberated around the world. Americans in general, and the incoming Biden administration in particular, have enough on their plates right now without piling on even more. The downside is that there will be some medium-term (and possibly long-term) pain, as minor-to-moderate trade disputes between the E.U. and U.K. are expected to pop up regularly in the next few years while everyone navigates the new arrangement. Further, a breakup of the U.K. is very possible, with Brexit giving new momentum to Scottish independence in particular. Anything that destabilizes one of the United States' most important allies and trade partners is not desirable, but better that it be spread out over a longer period of time, and that it happen after the pandemic is over rather than during. (Z)

Holiday Quiz: The Sequel

We did a little trivia quiz last year, and we thought we might as well make it into a tradition. Once again, 12 questions, one for each day of Christmas (though we're also going to work a few other holidays in this year). The answers appear at the bottom of the page.

  1. At the top of the page, we wished everyone an early and blessed Zartosht No-Diso. What religious tradition does that come from?

    1. Hinduism/Mithraism; it refers to the birthday of the sun god Mithra
    2. Zoroastrianism; it refers to the death of the prophet Zoroaster
    3. Bahá'í; it refers to the "festival of lights"
    4. Islam; it refers to the commencement of hajj (pilgrimage) season
    5. Festivus (Festivalianism?); it's a made-up term used to commence the "airing of grievances"

  2. What soldier-who-became-president launched a surprise Dec. 26 attack on the enemy, hoping to catch them hungover from their Christmas celebrations?

    1. George Washington, during the Revolutionary War
    2. Andrew Jackson, during the War of 1812
    3. Ulysses S. Grant, during the Civil War
    4. Harry S. Truman, during World War I
    5. Dwight D. Eisenhower, during World War II

  3. And speaking of soldiers-who-became-president, which one of them reportedly took solace from the story of Hanukkah during a particularly difficult winter for the troops under his command?

    1. George Washington, during the Revolutionary War
    2. Andrew Jackson, during the War of 1812
    3. Ulysses S. Grant, during the Civil War
    4. Harry S. Truman, during World War I
    5. Dwight D. Eisenhower, during World War II

  4. This Sears advertisement from the 1950s reportedly provoked what response from the federal government?

    An ad for Sears invites children to call Santa
Claus at ME 2-6681 (that's a 1950's style phone exchange)

    1. Sen. Joseph McCarthy hauled the president of Sears before Congress and accused him of being a communist
    2. The Department of Commerce decided to mandate the use of telephone area codes
    3. NORAD began "tracking" Santa Claus
    4. The Eisenhower administration decided to start holding an annual "candy cane toss" for children, as a companion to the annual Easter egg roll
    5. The Supreme Court, in its landmark decision in Parker v. Sears, decreed that it is not acceptable for a private corporation to claim ownership of a public-domain fictional character (this is why there are no more Coke ads with Santa Claus)

  5. Which pair of movies set during the Christmas season both include a future U.S. Senator among their casts?

    1. "Holiday Inn" (1942) and "The Bishop's Wife" (1948)
    2. "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) and "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947)
    3. "White Christmas" (1954) and "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" (1964)
    4. "A Christmas Story" (1983) and "Home Alone" (1990)
    5. "Trading Places" (1983) and "Die Hard 2" (1990)

  6. The first "official" Christmas message from a president is shown here:

    It's on White House stationery and is
clearly not from the last 50 years

    In case you can't read it, it says: "Christmas is not a time or season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas—If we think these things there will be born in us a Savior and over us all will shine a star—sending is gleam of hope to the world."

    The memo was duplicated and hundreds of thousands of copies were distributed, despite the poor handwriting. What year and signature have we blurred out in the photo?

    1. 1890; Grover Cleveland
    2. 1908; Theodore Roosevelt
    3. 1916; Woodrow Wilson
    4. 1927; Calvin Coolidge
    5. 1944; Franklin D. Roosevelt

  7. The first official White House Christmas Card was sent out by the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration. Whom did they contact for help with the design?

    1. Artist Norman Rockwell
    2. Madison Avenue advertising firm Sterling Cooper
    3. The Hallmark Company
    4. The U.S. Government Printing Office
    5. Walt Disney

  8. The first White House Christmas Card to feature religious imagery (a nativity scene) was never actually mailed out. Why?

    1. It was the 1957 card, and someone noticed that the artist forgot to put Baby Jesus in the picture.
    2. It was the 1963 card, and shortly before the cards would have been mailed, the President was assassinated.
    3. It was the 1973 card, and the interior message had a rather serious typo, telling recipients that "Satan will be here before you know it." Oops.
    4. It was the 1986 card, and Ronald Reagan feared it would offend the atheistic Russians in the midst of tense negotiations over SALT II.
    5. It was the 1993 card, and the ACLU successfully sued to keep it from being sent out, citing separation of church and state.

  9. The Obamas were the first First Family to add what to their White House Christmas Cards?

    1. Braille lettering
    2. A Star of David
    3. The official presidential Twitter handle (@POTUS)
    4. Scent (they went with pine the first time and then later switched to mint)
    5. The paw prints of the family dogs next to the family's signatures

  10. The middle name of Donald Trump's father was very Christmas-appropriate. What was it?

    1. Claus
    2. Angel
    3. Christ
    4. Carol
    5. Noel

  11. Joe Biden sent out a Christmas video yesterday that has already garnered nearly 250,000 likes. Who stars in the video?

    1. Biden's grandchildren
    2. Biden's dogs
    3. Biden himself (in an elf suit) and Barack Obama (in a Santa suit)
    4. The four main cast members from the show "Seinfeld"
    5. Mark Hamill and Samuel L. Jackson, dressed as Jedi knights, and wielding a green (Hamill) and a red (Jackson) lightsaber.

  12. The White House began issuing an official commemorative Christmas ornament during Ronald Reagan's first year in office (which means that this year's ornament was the 40th in the series). Which of these is not one of the official ornaments?

    1. 1981: "Angel in Flight"

      A brass cutout of an angel blowing a horn

    2. 1994: "Imperial Christmas"

      Soldiers that look like the Nutcracker stand in front of the White House

    3. 1999: "Honoring Abraham Lincoln"

      Framed painting of Abe Lincoln

    4. 2017: "Trump 45"

      The ornament has a flag background and a cursive 'TRUMP' in the foreground

    5. 2019: "Honoring Dwight D. Eisenhower"

      A helicopter with Eisenhower's name on it

If you don't like scrolling, you can click here to be taken directly to the answers. (Z)

Fox News Is Now in the Christmas Movie Business

The folks who own/run Fox News know they have a wee demographic problem, in that their average viewer is about 70 years old these days, and keeps getting older. They need to bring in new blood, and soon, or they could get knocked off their throne by CNN or MSNBC or one of the Trump-loving right-wing channels. As part of an effort to keep up with the times, and to appeal to young whippersnappers, Fox launched a streaming service called Fox Nation. And Fox Nation decided that, in addition to the political stuff, it would be nice to offer some lighter fare. So, they commissioned their first-ever Christmas movie this year, entitled "Christmas in the Rockies."

As the title suggests, "Christmas in the Rockies" has the same plot as pretty much every Christmas movie that the Hallmark Channel or Lifetime have ever produced: A woman is compelled to "temporarily" pause her big-city life when a crisis of some sort requires her to return to the small town where she grew up. While dealing with the crisis, she meets a fella and falls in love with both him and the small-town lifestyle, and decides to stay. Fin.

Given the obvious blue state vs. red state undertones of that well-worn plot, it's kind of a surprise that Fox waited so long to jump into the Christmas movie game. And as a bonus, the main character in "Christmas in the Rockies" just so happens to be friends with Fox News hosts Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt, who both make cameos. So, a little not-too-subtle product placement. In any event, who knows what Fox News will look like in 5-10 years, but it's definitely trying to change with the times. (Z)

Quiz Answers

  1. B. Zoroastrianism; it refers to the death of the prophet Zoroaster. There are some historians who believe that the timing of this late-December holiday played a role in the selection of December 25 as the date to commemorate Jesus' birth.

  2. A. George Washington, during the Revolutionary War. He knew that German Hessians (mercenaries) liked to make rather merry on Christmas, and suspected that the detachment assigned to defend Trenton, NJ, during the winter of 1776-77 would be in no condition to fight on Dec. 26. Badly needing a victory to send the message that the rebel army was viable, Washington decided to roll the dice and launch a sneak attack. He guessed right, got his victory, and lost only 2 men in the engagement.

  3. A. George Washington, during the Revolutionary War. As the story goes, Washington encountered a Polish immigrant soldier during the bitterly cold winter of 1777-78 as that soldier was lighting the candles of his menorah. The commander-in-chief asked what the soldier was doing, and he explained that he was a Jew who fled his homeland due to religious persecution, and then told the story of Hanukkah. Washington was pleased by the thought that miracles can happen, and reportedly his spirits were much improved thereafter. As with all uplifting stories about Washington, this one should be taken with a grain of salt, because people like Parson Weems (of cherry tree fame) felt free to make things up out of whole cloth. That said, the Hanukkah story is pretty well sourced, so there's a very good chance it's true.

  4. C. NORAD began "tracking" Santa Claus. There is some disagreement on the details, but either the number in the ad was off by a digit, or else a child misdialed. Either way, Col. Harry Shoup of CONAD (predecessor to NORAD) ended up fielding a call from a kid who expected to talk to Santa Claus. Shoup played along, then saw an opportunity to get some good PR and had one of his staffers issue a press release announcing that CONAD was tracking Santa. From that, a tradition was born.

  5. E. "Trading Places" (1983) and "Die Hard 2" (1990). In the former, the future senator is Al Franken, who plays a clueless baggage handler. In the latter, it is Fred Dalton Thompson, who has a sizable role as the manager of air traffic control at Dulles airport while it is under attack by bad guys on Christmas Eve.

  6. D. 1927; Calvin Coolidge. As you can see in the unblurred version:

    1927 and Calvin Coolidge
are now clearly visible

  7. C. The Hallmark Company. The Eisenhowers were an unpretentious bunch. Sterling Cooper, by the way, is the fictional ad agency in the show "Mad Men."

  8. B. It was the 1963 card, and shortly before the cards would have been mailed, the President was assassinated. Reportedly, John F. Kennedy had signed between 30 and 50 of them before his untimely demise, but all were destroyed.

  9. E. The paw prints of the family dogs next to the family's signatures. Bo and Sunny didn't want to be left out.

  10. C. Christ. This had nothing to do with religiosity, and everything to do with the fact that Frederick Christ Trump was the child of Frederick Trump and Mary Christ.

  11. B. Biden's dogs. It's only brief, so you should consider watching it, but the bit is that Champ is old and celebrates calmly and Major is young and makes a ruckus. Still, they both enjoy Christmas. And that's our second dog question of the quiz.

  12. D. 2017: "Trump 45." While that one is believable, it's fake news. In fact, all four ornaments from the Trump years have honored past presidents, namely FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and JFK. It would seem nobody noticed that three of those men were Democrats.

As with last year, we would say that if you got 4-5, you did pretty well.

Today's Senate Polls

We have two questions: (1) Who releases a poll on Christmas Eve? and (2) How could 15% of voters be undecided, at this point, especially when every other poll has only 2-3% undecided? We would suggest taking these numbers with a grain of salt. Or maybe, given the date, a lump of coal. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Georgia Jon Ossoff 42% David Perdue* 43% Dec 14 Dec 22 Probolsky Research
Georgia-special Raphael Warnock 43% Kelly Loeffler* 42% Dec 14 Dec 22 Probolsky Research

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec24 Trump Vetoes the Defense Bill
Dec24 Trump Unveils More Pardons
Dec24 Trump Repeats Demand for $2,000 Checks instead of $600 Checks
Dec24 Ted Cruz and AOC Agree on the Corona Relief Bill
Dec24 Meanwhile, Republicans Are Already at War--with Other Republicans
Dec24 White House Staff Told to Prepare to Leave and Then Told Not to Prepare to Leave
Dec24 E. Jean Carroll Wants to Personally Depose Trump in 2021
Dec24 Asian Americans Could Make the Difference in Georgia
Dec24 Today's Senate Polls
Dec23 A Tale of Two Pandemic Responses
Dec23 Trump Not Going Gentle into That Good Night
Dec23 Turns Out, Lawsuits Go Both Ways
Dec23 Twitter Has Bad News for #45, #46
Dec23 California Gets Its First Latino U.S. Senator
Dec23 Israel's Government Collapses
Dec23 They Were Trump Before Trump, Part I: Samuel Adams
Dec23 Today's Senate Polls
Dec22 Stimulus Bill Just Needs Trump's Signature
Dec22 Biden Gets Vaccinated
Dec22 Miguel Cardona to Be Tapped for Education
Dec22 Trump's Endgame Comes into Focus
Dec22 Barr Continues His Apostasy on His Way Out the Door
Dec22 The Subpoenas Are Coming
Dec22 Where Have All the Pollsters Gone?
Dec22 Today's Senate Polls
Dec21 Congress Is Getting Close to a COVID-19 Relief Bill
Dec21 Cabinet Nominees Mount a Charm Offensive
Dec21 Six Trump Cabinet Officials Avoided the Ax
Dec21 Trump Won't Announce a 2024 Run before Jan. 20
Dec21 Biden Vows to Punish Russia for Cyber Attack
Dec21 Poll: Trump Is One of the Worst Presidents Ever
Dec21 Early Voting Turnout Is High in Georgia
Dec21 Parties Have Different Strategies in Georgia
Dec20 Sunday Mailbag
Dec19 Saturday Q&A
Dec18 Biden Picks Haaland for Interior, Regan for EPA
Dec18 U.S. Government Hacked
Dec18 Republican Party: All Is Well
Dec18 Georgia on Everyone's Mind
Dec18 It's a Pardon Frenzy
Dec18 Mike Pence: MIA
Dec18 Jill Biden: Ed.D.
Dec18 About the Betting Markets
Dec18 What to Get for the Person Who Has it All?
Dec17 Congress Is Getting Close to a New COVID-19 Relief Bill
Dec17 Pelosi Greenlights Haaland
Dec17 McCarthy Still Silent about Biden's Win
Dec17 Democrats Are Thinking about Reining in the President
Dec17 Ron Johnson Is Betting the Farm on Trump
Dec17 Trump Is Not Welcome in Florida