• Sanders Campaign Prepping List of Executive Orders
• Today in Metaphors
• Time to Get Creative
• ERA, Now?
• Super Bowl Sunday Will Offer No Respite from Politics
• Abrams Has Her Senate Candidate
The Senate had its second, and presumably final, day of impeachment questioning on Thursday. It was another dog and pony show, and the only real movement on the day was in the direction of not calling witnesses, and thus acquittal.
To the extent that there was anything interesting about Thursday's questions and answers, it was stuff that was entirely predictable based on Wednesday's questions and answers. For example, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tried to sneak the name of the alleged whistleblower into the record once again. And he got shot down by Chief Justice John Roberts once again. Alan Dershowitz took another shot at explaining his...innovative legal theories about the exercise of executive power. Because, of course, you may think you understand what you thought you heard Dershowitz say, but what you don't realize is that what you heard is not what he meant. Incidentally, Harvard Law Professor Nikolas Bowie, whom Dershowitz cited in support of his argument (whatever it is at this point), went on TV to share his view that Dershowitz is off his rocker.
In any case, the impeachment managers will have two hours on Friday to present their closing arguments and then the defense will have two hours to present theirs. Then, the Senate will move on to votes on the questions of witnesses and new evidence and, if those come up negative, a vote on acquittal. Needless to say, nothing new or interesting is going to come up in the closing arguments, and we all know how the acquittal vote will turn out. So, the one remaining issue of interest is the one about calling witnesses.
On that front, the Democrats got one piece of good news on Thursday, and one piece of bad news. The good news is that Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said she will vote to allow witnesses. The bad news is that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who was seen as a key swing vote, said he will vote against allowing witnesses. That means that if former NSA John Bolton, or anyone else, is going to appear, then at least two of these three things need to happen: (1) Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK and Mitt Romney, R-UT need to vote to hear from witnesses; (2) another, currently unknown GOP senator needs to vote to hear from witnesses; and/or (3) John Roberts has to be willing to assert himself and to break a tie vote in favor of hearing from witnesses.
Given what is publicly known, it seems a longshot that at least two of these three things will come to pass. The Democrats are doing their best to improve their odds; impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) offered a deal that would limit witness testimony to just one week, and some Democratic senators even appeared on Fox News to plead their case. The blue team also got support from some unexpected quarters; for example, former GOP senator John Warner, who participated in Bill Clinton's impeachment, issued a statement declaring that it is essential that witnesses be heard.
Whatever happens, we will have our answer in considerably less than 24 hours. But the smart money is that Trump is acquitted before the clock strikes midnight, prompting the mother of all Twitter storms. (Z)
Beyond the whole "socialist" thing (more on that next week), one of Bernie Sanders' biggest weaknesses is the perception, fair or not, that he's a prickly, uncompromising idealist who has no idea how to get things done. He and his team know that is a problem area, and so they have begun work on a long list of executive orders that a President Sanders would issue upon taking office.
Among the options being bandied about: allowing the import of prescription drugs from Canada, re-categorizing marijuana on the federal drug schedule (effectively legalizing it at the national level), declaring climate change a national emergency, banning the exportation of crude oil, canceling federal contracts for firms paying workers less than $15 an hour and reversing federal rules imposed by the Trump administration that block federal funding for organizations that provide abortion counseling. Some of these, like the prescription drugs, are a slam dunk. Others are still being debated.
This is obviously a shrewd move by the Vermont Senator, effectively addressing an area of weakness as it does. It's also an idea that other Democrats should borrow. In 2016, Hillary Clinton sometimes referred obliquely to XOs that she might issue, but she didn't hit people over the head with it. Now, we are truly in an era of executive-governance-via-executive-order, with the options on that front greatly expanded courtesy of one Donald J. Trump (note, in particular, the bit about declaring climate change a "national emergency"). Anyhow, if bypassing Congress and ruling by fiat is now part of the game, then a candidate might as well take advantage of that as part of his or her pitch to voters. (Z)
Speaking of "national emergencies," on Tuesday, as he is wont to do, Donald Trump bragged to a rally crowd about his "big, beautiful wall" (despite the fact that it's actually a medium-sized fence of questionable aesthetic value). And on Wednesday, buffeted by high-speed winds, a portion of the wall collapsed. This is the second time this has happened in as many months.
Naturally, if you rush a construction project like this, using materials unsuited to the task and taking too little time to do the necessary engineering, this is the sort of thing that will happen. By way of comparison, we're pretty certain that no portion of the Great Wall of China ever fell victim to wind. In any case, if footage of the collapsing wall does not find its way into a few Democratic campaign ads, then someone is guilty of malpractice. Such footage not only makes Trump look bad, it also provides striking visual evidence that his signature policy/accomplishment is basically a sham. Meanwhile, any reader who would like to interpret this as a metaphor for the long-term efficacy of Trump's political program is hereby given permission to do so. (Z)
By the end of the day today, the four Democrats who are both senators and presidential candidates may well be free to return to the campaign trail full time. For the last two weeks, however, they were required to be in Washington to do their day jobs, and to participate in the impeachment trial. With just days left before the Iowa caucuses, that has forced the campaigns to get creative.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) is far and away the least viable of the quartet, and his adaptations to the demands placed on his time have been far and away the least interesting. Maybe the lack of campaign success and the lack of creativity are related. Anyhow, what he has been doing is teleconferencing into events, so he can be there "in person."
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, like the other two leading candidates, has been sending relatives and celebrities as surrogates to campaign in his place. He also commands a large and loyal army of volunteers, of course, and the general plan was to amp up the phone-banking and the door-knocking. However, his volunteer force is large enough, and the number of Iowans is small enough, that they basically managed to call everyone. The campaign decided that further calls were counterproductive, as they risked aggravating folks by imposing on their time too frequently. So, Team Bernie is now pivoting to door-knocking, and to use of a special app they cooked up last year that allows volunteers to figure out which of their friends and family might be Sanders supporters, and to lean on those folks.
Then there is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who has previously earned rave reviews for her habit of posing for selfies with anyone who wants one. Those not only give folks a personal connection to the candidate, they also become mini-advertisements when posted to Facebook, Twitter, etc. Warren has many supporters campaigning on her behalf, including one that she correctly guessed would be an excellent selfie surrogate. It's her dog, Bailey, who has now posed for photos with thousands of people (and is probably going to have to go on a diet after all the treats he's gotten from admirers).
And finally, the gold medal for the cleverest idea goes to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN). Like Bennet, she wants to be present for campaign events "in person," in some way. Unlike Bennet, she realizes that FaceTime is still pretty cold and impersonal. So instead, to serve as a Klobuchar avatar, her campaign has been sending batches of Klobuchar's Taconite Tater Tot Hot Dish, her version of a popular regional specialty. It's personal, it emphasizes the Senator's Midwestern, blue-collar roots, and it's way cheaper than a television commercial.
We shall see which of these gambits, if any, moves the needle when Iowans caucus next week. However, in a world where people have gotten very good at ignoring advertising of all sorts (because it's so damn ubiquitous), a successful campaign needs to be constantly looking for angles like these, impeachment trial or not. (Z)
As we have noted a few times, Virginia ratified the Equal Rights Amendment two weeks ago. That makes 38, which is theoretically enough for ratification. There are two flies in the ointment, though. First, the original legislation contained an expiration date that passed long ago. Second, five states passed the amendment, and then later rescinded their ratifications. Nobody knows if either of these things—expiration dates and rescinding ratification—are actually legal. Heck, if James Madison himself were to be brought back to life and asked, even he probably wouldn't know.
It was at least possible that this matter might remain on the back burner for a while, but that won't be happening, as three lawsuits have been filed, asking the courts to resolve the matter. One of those was filed in Alabama by the AGs of three red states—Alabama, Louisiana, and South Dakota—and seeks confirmation that the ERA is not the law of the land. A second was filed in Massachusetts by Equal Means Equal, the Yellow Roses, and Katherine Weitbrecht, while a third was filed in Washington, D.C. by the AGs of three blue states—Virginia, Illinois, and Nevada. The latter two suits, of course, seek confirmation that the ERA is indeed the law of the land.
It's possible that any lawsuit could be kicked for lack of standing, of course. However, it's hard to imagine that state AGs don't have standing to ask what is or is not part of the Constitution, nor that women and women's groups don't have standing to ask whether they are or are not afforded the special protections of the ERA. So, we have to assume these suits will move forward. And given that the ERA has now become a red-state/blue-state issue, the Trump administration will presumably get involved in the effort to kill the amendment. That will presumably please the base, but it may not be a great look for the suburban women whose fealty to the GOP is on life support. Oh, and it will also draw everyone's attention (yet again) to the influence of the Supreme Court, and the likelihood that whoever wins the 2020 election will likely pick one justice, and maybe even two or three. (Z)
There are some folks, mostly on the right side of the political spectrum, who insist that sports are meant as an escape from daily life, and that politics should not intrude. This argument was made frequently during the time that Colin Kaepernick and others were kneeling for the national anthem. The folks who believe that the world of sports and the world of politics never overlap have apparently never heard of Joe Louis. Or Jesse Owens. Or Paul Robeson. Or Jackie Robinson. Or Muhammad Ali. Or Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Not to mention all the sportspeople who were elected to political office, from Bill Bradley to Jim Bunning to J.C. Watts to Jack Kemp.
Anyhow, Super Bowl LIV is this weekend and, once again, politics will be a part of the story, as two of the candidates who have $6 million to burn have booked an ad spot. That would be Michael Bloomberg and Donald Trump, each in command of rather vast financial resources. Bloomberg hasn't unveiled his ad yet, but here is Trump's:
The President has been advertising liberally (no pun intended) on Fox News, but those ads are red, red meat for the base, of course, that focus on the deep state, the evils of the Democratic Party, the wrongfulness of impeachment, and so forth. A Super Bowl ad, on the other hand, has to speak to a national audience. And so, the spot gives us a pretty good sense of Trump's pitch for the general election campaign. The title, "Stronger, Safer, More Prosperous," pretty much tells you what you need to know (even if each of those assertions is questionable). The particular focus is on how well the economy is doing, and while a Trump ad would never directly admit to any shortcomings, there is a subtext of "The President may bluster and send nasty tweets sometimes, but that's a feature and not a bug, because it's shaking up the status quo." Anyhow, we're still a few days from the first primary/caucus ballots being cast, and yet the general election is already coming into focus. (Z)
The changing demographics of Georgia, and an emerging showdown between establishment candidate Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Trump-loving insurgent Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) mean that the U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by Johnny Isakson is a real pickup opportunity for the Democrats. However, you can't beat somebody with nobody, and after rising star Stacey Abrams decided not to run for the seat, pickings have been slim for Team Blue. The most prominent candidate to throw his hat in the ring was Matt Lieberman, whose qualifications are...he's Joe Lieberman's son. Perennial candidate Richard Dien Winfield and former U.S. Attorney and Georgia State Senator Ed Tarver also declared.
Given the way the special election works—it is, in effect, a jungle primary—it behooves the Democrats to settle on a single candidate, in hopes that person can claim 50.01% of the vote and avoid a runoff against whoever survives between Loeffler and Collins. And on Thursday, the DSCC may have gotten the person they're looking for. No, Abrams did not change her mind, but she did promptly give her endorsement to Rev. Raphael Warnock upon his entry into the race on Thursday.
Warnock is the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which is probably the most famous black church in America, by virtue of Martin Luther King Jr.'s having been a lifelong congregant and a pastor there. Warnock has no political experience, but undoubtedly the skill sets involved in leading a large church and in being a politician overlap a fair bit. It would be unwise for the Democratic establishment to oppose the preferred candidate of the state's most prominent Democrat, and indeed, they are falling in line: Warnock already had half a dozen endorsements from Democratic senators by the end of the day on Thursday. Perhaps the other candidates who had entered the race can be persuaded that this is not their year, and that they should bow out for the good of the party. On the other hand, the Liebermans are not exactly known as team players, so maybe not. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan30 John Bolton's World Is Upside Down
Jan30 White House Wants to Block Publication of Bolton's Book
Jan30 Poll: Majority Opposes Use of Executive Privilege to Muzzle Witnesses
Jan30 Poll: Biden and Sanders Are in a Statistical Tie in Iowa
Jan30 Biden Gets 200 Endorsements in South Carolina
Jan30 Trump Appointees Will Flood Iowa on Caucus Day
Jan30 Team Trump Hands Out $25,000 to Black Voters
Jan30 Trump May Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
Jan29 Trump Defense Wraps Up
Jan29 Trump Unveils Middle East Peace Plan
Jan29 Casualty Figures for Iran Strike Revised Upward
Jan29 Deficit Officially Reaches $1 Trillion
Jan29 Democratic Senate PAC Raised $61M in 2019
Jan29 GOP Braces for Collins Run
Jan29 Republicans Nervous about House Fundraising
Jan28 Trump Defense Hit with a Lightning Bolton
Jan28 Democratic Muckety Mucks Are Scared Witless of Sanders
Jan28 Which Democratic Candidate Is Being Hurt Most by Having to Be in Washington?
Jan28 Supreme Court Gives Trump a Victory on Immigration
Jan28 Pompeo Situation Is Turning Ugly
Jan28 Collins Expected to Run for Senate
Jan27 John Bolton Is Complicating Things for Trump....
Jan27 ...And So Is Lev Parnas
Jan27 Nadler Will Miss Part of the Impeachment Trial Due to Wife's Cancer
Jan27 Pompeo Melts Down
Jan27 Sanders Is on a Roll
Jan27 Des Moines Register Endorses Warren
Jan27 Buttigieg Appears on Fox News
Jan26 Trump Team Begins to Lay Out Its Case
Jan26 Sunday Mailbag
Jan25 Democrats Conclude their Case
Jan25 Saturday Q&A
Jan24 And the Beat Goes On
Jan24 Next Week, Trump Will Try to Change the Narrative...
Jan24 ...This Week, on the Other Hand
Jan24 Who Are the Vulnerable GOP Senators?
Jan23 Democrats Begin to Lay out Their Case
Jan23 Democrats Nix Witness Trade
Jan23 Poll: Slight Majority Wants to See Trump Removed from Office
Jan23 Poll: Sanders Moves into the Lead Nationally
Jan23 Clinton Walks Back Comment about Sanders
Jan23 Gabbard Sues Clinton
Jan23 Time to End Newspaper Endorsements?
Jan22 You Win Some, You Lose Some
Jan22 Clinton Slams Sanders
Jan22 SCOTUS Won't Hear Obamacare Case Until Next Year
Jan22 Under the Radar, Part I: A New Travel Ban
Jan22 Under the Radar, Part II: Andrew Peek
Jan22 Boy, Trump Really Is Unpopular