• Trump Is Rallying Again
• Dockets Are Filling Up Quickly
• Keep a Wary Eye on Mike Pompeo
• Sasse Wants To Get Rid of the 17th Amendment
• Collins Is Not Threading the Needle Well
• McConnell Again Warns Democrats Not to Kill the Filibuster
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
Bob Woodward's new book, Rage is out today. It's going to dominate a news cycle or two.
Last week's big news from the book, of course, was that Donald Trump admitted, on tape, that he downplayed the threat posed by COVID-19. This was, if you believe the President, to keep people from panicking. Of course, few people believe the President. The biggest news on Monday, the eve of the book's publication, was that in Trump's final phone call to Woodward, the President expressed concern that "the virus totally supersedes the economy." Woodward opined that yes, the virus does supersede the economy.
Taken together with last week's news, this just underscores that Trump sees COVID-19 entirely in terms of how it affects him and his reelection chances. Abraham Lincoln, who Trump is fond of comparing himself to, once said: "If I could save the union without freeing any slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that." That quote might be adapted to Trump: "If I could get reelected with nobody dying from COVID-19 I would do it; and if I could get reelected with millions dying I would do it; and if I could get reelected with more than zero but less than millions dying I would also do that."
Here are some of the other revelations from the book:
- Former DNI Dan Coats is absolutely convinced the Russians have kompromat on Trump.
- Coats and James Mattis considered going public with how "dangerous" they think Trump is (though neither did).
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) acknowledges that Trump always wants the credit, but never any culpability.
- The President constantly bragged to Woodward about how smart he is, how nice his houses are, etc.
- Speaking of Lincoln, Trump is angry that he's not getting more praise from Black people.
- Jared Kushner admits that Trump lies a lot, but says "controversy elevates message."
- Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson found Kushner's kowtowing to Benjamin Netanyahu "nauseating."
- Anthony Fauci disdains Trump, and says his attention span "is like a minus number."
- Consistent with the article in The Atlantic, Trump regularly denigrates the military, especially top brass.
- Trump admits an affinity for strongmen: "The tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them."
- Trump says he took an instant liking to Kim Jong-Un, comparing it to when "you meet a woman, in one second you know whether or not it's all going to happen."
The general consensus is that Trump comes off very badly in the book, especially since it is his own words that are being used most of the time. Further, in all of his past books (including All the President's Men), Woodward has contented himself to be a chronicler. He himself admits that he's not much of an analyst, so he collects information, lays it out in a readable fashion, and leaves it to the readers (or to other writers) to draw conclusions. That is not the case here, however. Breaking with past precedent, Woodward's own opinions find their way into the book with some frequency, including his final conclusion that "the President is the wrong man for the job."
And now, it is time to sit back and see if Rage pierces Trump's seemingly invulnerable armor. We doubt that the book will do the trick, since none of the other books about Trump have moved the needle, and it's likely this one will only find its way into the hands of people who are already voting for Joe Biden. However, the audio clips that Woodward has been happy to share, incorporated into a commercial or ten airing in heavy rotation in October? That might just have an impact. (Z)
The Trump campaign is not making a big deal of announcing it, either because they don't want blowback, or they don't want the embarrassment of Tulsa again. However, the President is back on the rally trail, and held multiple events this weekend, including two in Nevada. All attracted roughly 5,000 attendees, which seems to be the ceiling for Trump rallies these days.
Presumably because the President has been cooped up in the White House, he uncorked a number of unusually wild and crazy claims for the entertainment of his adoring fans. Among the wildest was his assertion that Joe Biden is looking to dismantle Obamacare, and to take away coverage for preexisting conditions. That is true of one of this year's presidential candidates, but that candidate is not Biden. Also pretty wild was Trump's prediction that he would be able to "negotiate" a third term for himself. Since that is forbidden by the Constitution, it is not clear who would be on the other side of that negotiation. The ghost of James Madison?
Of course, the storyline that got all the attention (outside of Fox News and OANN) was the reckless masklessness (or the maskless recklessness, your choice). CNN's Jim Acosta asked attendees at the first rally of the weekend (in Michigan) why they weren't masked. He got just about every answer you might anticipate from that particular crowd. To paraphrase:
- People can't hear me when I talk through a mask.
- The pandemic is fake news.
- I had my temperature taken and I am not sick.
- COVID-19 is not an issue for young people.
- COVID-19 isn't really very deadly.
- Masks don't actually protect you.
- Heart disease kills a lot of people, yet we haven't stopped eating cheeseburgers.
- Jesus will protect me.
The U.S. is likely to surpass 200,000 dead today; guess those folks weren't worth Jesus' time. In any case, will it matter if Michigan, Nevada #1, and/or Nevada #2 become superspreader events, as Tulsa did? Apparently not. After all, it couldn't be much clearer that, in particular, Herman Cain paid with his life for going maskless. And yet, the rallies are still happening and the base is still showing up.
And finally, let us note that Team Trump really needs to find someone else to select music. As Trump arrived for his Michigan rally, someone played just about the worst musical selection we can imagine, given the background of this particular candidate. The song was..."Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. This is a song about rich people who bought their way out of the Vietnam War draft, so it's more than a wee bit on point, and not in a good way for the President. Either someone did not bother to listen to the lyrics, or else a rogue seized control of the sound system, Dick Tuck-style. Maybe for the next rally, they can switch to The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun." That's got a good beat, too, and as a bonus, the lyrics are a bit more opaque than "Fortunate Son," so most people probably wouldn't realize that it's also on point, as it's about a bordello. (Z)
Yesterday, we had an item about some of the lawsuits involving felons' voting rights that are currently making their way through the justice system. We're going to have a lot of items like that for the next month or so, because everyone is filing lawsuits in anticipation of November's election. A rundown of the latest:
- In Colorado, Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D)
against the USPS on Saturday, arguing that the one-size-fits-all postcard that the postal service sends to voters about voting
by mail does not align with Colorado law, and could cause mass confusion.
- Also on the USPS front, the union that represents postal police and inspectors has
the USPS and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in federal court, arguing that new policies limiting their authority to combat mail theft
are a violation of the union's collective bargaining agreement.
- In Ohio, Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R)
to put ballot drop boxes in libraries, declaring there will be no change in policy until numerous lawsuits
currently in process are resolved.
- Pennsylvania also has numerous lawsuits in progress, and until they are worked out, the state
start mailing out absentee ballots, something that was supposed to start yesterday.
- In New Jersey, the Trump campaign is
dragging its feet
in its lawsuit that seeks to limit voting by mail in the Garden State. The judge in the case is getting cranky,
and the deadline for a resolution is drawing close, as state law requires that all voters be mailed ballots by
- In Wisconsin, the Green Party screwed up its ballot eligibility paperwork, and petitioned for relief, allowing the Republican-controlled state Supreme Court to make mischief, demanding vast amounts of information from the Wisconsin Elections Commission on a ridiculously short timeline (just four hours).
As of Monday night, two of these matters have been resolved (at least temporarily). The Wisconsin Supreme Court decided the Green Party has no leg to stand on, and denied its petition. So, ballots in the Badger State will go out on time, starting this week. Meanwhile, a federal judge has granted a temporary stay in the Colorado case, declaring that inaccurate postcards may not be mailed by the USPS.
It is clear that the courts—most of them, at least—are doing their best to handle all of these election-related lawsuits in an expedited manner. That said, it is also clear that the Trump campaign/Republican strategy of doing everything possible to gum up the works, so as to interfere with voting by mail as much as possible, is having at least some success. As the election grows closer, and as more and more state deadlines for mailing out ballots arrive, things could get very hairy. (Z)
Donald Trump isn't the only one behaving as if COVID-19 doesn't exist. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has decided he will resume his schedule of "Madison Dinners," so named because they often take place in the State Department's Madison Reception Room (though the Blair House is frequently used, as well). At the dinners, Pompeo, his wife, and selected invitees partake of gourmet cuisine on the taxpayer's dime.
The resumption of the dinners has caused more than a little grumbling at the State Department. This is in part because, though the list of invitees is fairly short (a dozen or so people), the staffing needs are significant, thus increasing the chance of a COVID-19 outbreak. They're also grumbling because the guest list rarely seems to include many diplomatic personnel, either American or foreign. Generally, the invitees are GOP donors, or prominent figures in the media (particularly the right-wing media).
In other words, not only has the 2024 presidential race begun, but Pompeo is busy networking while Uncle Sam foots the bill. There is also a 2020 concern here, as well. These dinners are just the latest reminder that Pompeo's ethical compass is not exactly pointed at true North. His presumption in addressing the RNC while on the job in the Middle East is another reminder, so too is the news that Pompeo and his wife used State Dept. personnel to run personal errands.
The problem here is that when he's not wining and dining GOP bigwigs, Pompeo is working hard (along with Jared Kushner) to score "wins" in the Middle East, so Donald Trump can brag some more about Nobel Prizes (or is it Noble Prizes?) and about how he's done more to bring peace to the Middle East than anyone since King David. Team Trump has already announced normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (a couple of weeks ago) and Israel and Bahrain (this weekend). And Kushner has casually noted that, in exchange for their cooperation, UAE will likely get an F-35 jet or two from the United States.
Presumably you can see where this is headed. Kushner and Pompeo are desperate to get Trump reelected. Pompeo is also desperate to set himself up as the favored son in 2024 (assuming the actual son isn't running). Given the Machiavellian "the ends justify the means" philosophy that all of these men seem to embrace, what might they do, and what might they give, to persuade a larger and/or more dangerous power to make nice with the Israelis? It could be an October Surprise with a very bitter aftertaste. (Z)
Speaking of the 2024 election, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) sees a future president when he looks in the mirror every morning. And so, in an apparent effort to differentiate himself and give himself a "brand," he announced that he is in favor of a radical overhaul of the Senate. More specifically, he wants to repeal the 17th Amendment (thus giving the task of picking senators back to state legislatures), get rid of all Senate committees, impose term limits of 12 years, and force senators to live in dorms together and to attend all Senate debates.
As a matter of policy, this is just silly. The 17th Amendment was passed because the process of selecting senators was rife with corruption, giving the country some of the most venal senators it's ever had (ahem, James G. Blaine, the Continental Liar from the State of Maine). Term limits would just empower the bureaucracy and the lobbyists, while getting rid of committees would make it much harder for the upper chamber to get anything done. As to the dorms and the compulsory debate attendance, we can only imagine that Sasse's 99 colleagues would be just thrilled to re-live their college years.
As a matter of politics, this is even worse. People on the left hate the proposal (see here for an example). People on the right hate the proposal (see here for an example). There is much to be said for having a signature issue, but if a politician acquires a reputation for being kooky and out in left field, well, ask Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) how well his presidential campaigns have gone. There hasn't been a presidential nominee from Nebraska since 1908 and, at the moment, that does not seem likely to change anytime soon. (Z)
And since we just mentioned Maine (albeit in passing), let's talk now about Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). As regular readers know, she's not doing well in her reelection bid, having trailed in every poll of her matchup with Democrat Sara Gideon (albeit sometimes by statistically insignificant margins). Slate has a very good piece breaking down what's gone wrong for the Senator. In short, Maine has a lot of independents and centrists, and a history of electing independent-minded senators. For a long time, Collins was a match for what they were looking for, but now many voters feel that her centrism was mostly just for show (for example, the bills she co-sponsors with Democrats never seem to go anywhere), and that she's a MINO (Moderate in Name Only).
On Friday, Collins and Gideon debated for the first time. The Senator's challenge was laid bare, and she didn't manage it very well. In 2016, roughly 45% of Mainers voted for Donald Trump. Collins needs those votes, so she can't poke The Donald in the eye too hard. On the other hand, the other 55% don't much care for the President and, as noted, have grown skeptical about Collins. So, the Senator tried to walk a fine line, which ended up being a Collins-trademarked expression of "concern" over things like the President's handling of COVID-19. She also refused to say for whom she will vote in November, which is going to aggravate the Trump lovers who think Collins is not Trumpy enough and also the moderates/independents who think Collins is weaselly and a flip-flopper.
We've said before that the needle that the Senator is trying to thread may be un-threadable. Certainly, she hasn't found the secret sauce yet. The good news for Collins is that she's going to get additional chances; Maine may have as many as six more senatorial debates in the next 50 days. (Z)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is very nervous that he's about to get a demotion. He's also worried that if the Democrats take over the upper chamber, they will scotch the filibuster, thus rendering the Senate's minority party just about as powerless as the House's minority party. So, on Monday, the Majority Leader issued yet another warning, declaring that if the Democrats kill the filibuster, it will be a case of "shameless hypocrisy" that will "permanently disfigure the Senate."
It hardly even needs to be said that McConnell does not exactly occupy the moral high ground here. Both he and his predecessor, Harry Reid, took turns chipping away at the filibuster, between them eliminating it for nearly all appointments. McConnell has additionally run roughshod over other Senate traditions meant to protect the minority, most obviously getting rid of blue slips (giving senators a veto over judges that will serve in their home state). He's also bent and twisted the rules to his own ends, until those rules were scarcely recognizable, whether to ram through a giant tax cut so fast that the senators did not have time to read the bill before they had to vote on it, or to claim a seat on the Supreme Court.
The most significant thing that McConnell has done when it comes to destroying the filibuster, however, is embrace his identity as Mr. Obstruction. He vowed to make Barack Obama a one-term president (didn't happen, obviously) and has bragged over and over again that his chamber is a "firewall" where Democratic bills go to die. The whole concept behind the filibuster is that it forces the majority party to get at least some support from the minority party. But if votes from the minority party are not available, under any circumstances, then that really leaves the majority party with only two choices: kill the filibuster, or get nothing done.
Should the Democrats regain control of the Senate, the temptation to invoke the nuclear option, and then spend two years passing lots of bills to cement their majority (like Washington, D.C. statehood) will be great. That said, perhaps the threat of being rendered irrelevant will cause some Republicans to rediscover an interest in compromise. Alternatively, some Democrats don't really want to kill the filibuster, because they know that one day they will be in the minority again. A reset, where senators actually have to physically filibuster (i.e., stand up in front of the chamber and read from the phone book) is possible. In any event, this will be one of the big storylines of the first few weeks of the new Congress, should the Republicans lose their majority in the Senate. (Z)
Another day, another bad poll of Arizona for Donald Trump. Since his campaign is running low on funds anyhow, one wonders if it is getting to the point of doing some triage, and deciding that the Grand Canyon State is beyond salvage. (Z)
|Arizona||47%||40%||Sep 08||Sep 10||OH Predictive Insights|
Another day, another bad poll for Thom Tillis, as well. A few more like this and the NRSC will cut him loose and wish him good luck. (V)
|North Carolina||Cal Cunningham||47%||Thom Tillis*||40%||Sep 10||Sep 13||SurveyUSA|
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep14 Almost Two-Thirds of Americans Disapprove of Trump's Handling of the Pandemic
Sep14 Both Campaigns Are Targeting White Women
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Sep13 Sunday Mailbag
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Sep12 Appeals Court Rules Ex-Felons Must Pay to Vote
Sep12 Saturday Q&A
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Sep11 Trump Reaps the Woodward Wind
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