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Trump Goes on Meet the Press

Chuck Todd retired from Meet the Press last week. Yesterday his replacement, Kristen Welker, made her debut and it was a dilly. She interviewed Donald Trump for an hour last Thursday and it was aired yesterday. Here are brief summaries of some of the things he said:

The page linked to above has multiple video clips of interview fragments on it.

During the interview, Trump frequently lied or made misleading claims. Here are some of the biggest whoppers:

None of these are even close to the truth. But in Trumpworld, truth is irrelevant. What matters is what Trump says. One thing he said that may or may not be true is that Melania will soon be back on the campaign trail with him. So far this year, she hasn't appeared with him a single time. We can only speculate about what he is going to have to offer her to get her to show up with him. Maybe a shiny new pre-nup in case she decides to divorce him after Barron has graduated from college, has a job, and no longer needs Trump's funding? She kind of has him over a barrel on this. (V)

Unions Are Unhappy with Biden about Lack of Support for UAW

Joe Biden claims to be the most pro-union president in U.S. history. Unfortunately for him, the unions aren't impressed. This is extremely important because unions are a huge source of support for Democrats, not only contributing money to the Party, but also putting boots on the ground going door-to-door talking to voters. Losing that support would be disastrous for the Democrats, especially since they are losing support among blue-collar workers overall. The one bright spot is among union members, so they can't afford to lose that.

Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers, which has gone out on strike against the big three car companies, is frustrated with Biden. Fain said that he disagrees with Biden's remark that negotiations have broken down. He said that they are ongoing. Of course, the fact that a strike was called on Friday means that they are not going well.

The unions have a lot at stake here, but so does Biden. A long strike can have severe negative effects on the economy, just when Biden needs to convince Americans that the economy is in good shape. And angering union members for his lack of full-throated support is certainly not a good thing.

Biden has been involved behind the scenes trying to broker a deal. He has been talking to both sides and trying to get them to agree. In particular, the car companies have been making record profits and the unions think they should be sharing that with their workers. Biden did say: "Record corporate profits, which they have, should be shared by record contracts for the UAW." But the union members want more than a sound bite from him.

For example, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) marched in the Labor Day parade in Detroit. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) joined a picket line. So did Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Biden hasn't even been to Michigan. Of course, the security logistics are tougher for him, but he could have flown to Detroit and had a photo-op with Fain privately. Also, some union members feel Biden is trying to be an honest broker between the opposing sides, but they want him to be 100% on the union side and come out and state in public that the unions are right and the companies are wrong. He isn't doing that. His thinking is undoubtedly that by trying to act neutral, he can broker a deal and avert a strike, but it doesn't seem to have worked. Union members are thinking, as the song goes, "Which Side Are You On?"

Republicans are trying to exploit the strike as a wedge issue to further drive blue-collar workers away from the Democrats. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) said he supports higher wages for workers, "But there is a 6,000-pound elephant in the room: the premature transition to electric vehicles." In theory, it shouldn't matter if General Motors makes gasoline-powered cars or electric cars in its Michigan factories, but that is not how it is playing out. Many of the electric cars are being made in non-union factories in the U.S. and abroad, largely due to the stupidity of the automobile companies' management. When electric cars first appeared on the scene, they could have said: "We are going to be industry leaders in this new technology." Instead they said: "This fad will soon pass." This allowed Elon Musk to become the new industry leader. If General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis had jumped in initially with both feet and poured billions into retooling factories to make electric vehicles, Musk would never have gotten off the ground (except with his rockets).

As a consequence of this history, more electric cars means more jobs moving from unionized plants at the Big Three to nonunionized plants in the South and elsewhere. But Biden can't suddenly oppose electric cars, because environmentalists would have a conniption. They want him to be 1000% behind electric cars. They really don't care who makes them, as long as they get made. This puts Biden in a vise, with unions on one side and environmentalists on the other.

The unions aren't stupid, though. Last week, the House passed a bill that would prevent California and other states from passing laws that ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars after some date in the 2030s. The UAW opposed the bill.

Naturally, Donald Trump has gotten into the act. He said that Biden's push for electric cars amounted to a "transition to hell." He also said: "If that disastrous Biden policy is allowed to stand, the U.S. auto industry will cease to exist, and all your jobs will be sent to China. That's why there's no such thing as a fair transition to all electric cars." (V)

Jack Smith Wants Judge Tanya Chutkan to Issue a Gag Order to Shut Trump Up

On Friday, Judge Tanya Chutkan unsealed a week-old filing asking her to order Donald Trump to shut up. The request, from Special Counsel Jack Smith, states that Trump's past conduct is aimed at intimidating witnesses, some of whom have received various threats already. Smith wants Chutkan to tell Trump to cut it out. So far, she hasn't done that.

If she issues an order, Trump will immediately appeal on the grounds that the First Amendment allows him to say anything he wants about anyone. In effect, he will be arguing that laws about intimidating witnesses by threatening them verbally (as opposed to using a gun, knife, or baseball bat) are unconstitutional. At the very least, the appeal could take a year or more to get to the Supreme Court, with uncertain results.

In the request, Smith points out that past verbal attacks on people have led to serious consequences. For example, after Trump attacked Ruby Freeman, some of his supporters got the message and went after her. Prosecutors are arguing that Trump is uniquely dangerous in a way most other defendants are not because he has the power to rile up millions of supporters to threaten or even attack people who might be called to testify against him and thus make them unwilling to do so. Witness intimidation is a federal crime.

Trump has also attacked the judge herself, but she has a security detail that other people he attacks do not. She has probably been through this before, albeit not on the scale it is now. She is clearly not intimidated by him. She once told Trump's lawyer, John Lauro: "The fact that he's running a political campaign has to yield to the orderly administration of justice."

Lauro also demanded that she recuse herself from the case. Ain't gonna happen.

Other than the issue of the all-but-certain appeal, Chutkan also has to factor in what she would do if she issues the gag order and Trump puts it in his bathroom, on top of the roll of toilet paper. Then what? In a normal case, she would issue an order to federal marshals to arrest him, read him the riot act in her courtroom, and throw him in the clink for some period of time to cool down. But she knows that could trigger violence and might be hesitant to do that, even though it would be perfectly legal. Also, trying to arrest him when he has Secret Service protection might lead to a jurisdictional dispute between federal marshals and the U.S.S.S. However, if she ordered the U.S.S.S. to bring him to her courtroom, they might simply agree. How imprisonment for a U.S.S.S. protectee would work is uncharted territory, but could serve as a dress rehearsal for a potential future imprisonment of a protectee.

A conceivable less-controversial way to get his attention if she issued a gag order and he violated it would be to fine him $1 million and tell him on the next violation it will be $2 million, then $4 million, then $8 million, and so on. Exponential growth adds up pretty fast. Soon you are talking about real money. He wouldn't pay up, of course, but she could issue subpoenas to every bank in New York and Florida asking whether he has an account there, and if so, how much money is in it. Then she could try to seize (or at least freeze) his assets. What might also be possible would be to order one or more county recorders to seize his property and transfer ownership to the federal government to be auctioned off to pay the fines. Everything she did would be appealed, but generally the courts tend to agree that when someone violates a court order, the judge can punish him or her. If an appeals court were to rule that a judge can't punish people for violating court orders, that is pretty much the end of the courts. Punishing Trump with a fine would probably not incite his base as much as imprisoning him. (V)

Gerrymandering Is Hot

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that racial gerrymandering is banned by what is left of the Voting Rights Act, but partisan gerrymandering does not violate any federal law, so it is for the states to decide, not the Supremes. That said, there is quite a bit of action on that front now, as follows:

In addition to all these cases, cases are percolating in New Mexico, Tennessee, and Texas. The 2024 maps could look quite different from the 2022 maps. (V)

Could Virginia Be the Bellwether?

There are scattered elections in Nov. 2023, including three for governor, but the most interesting ones may be in Virginia. The state Senate is currently 22D, 18R. Every seat is up in November. The Democrats are guaranteed to win six of the seats because no Republican filed. Similarly, the Republicans are guaranteed to win two of the seats. The other 32 are contested. For more on the state Senate, see Ballotpedia.

The House of Delegates is currently 46D, 50R. An astounding 32 incumbents decided not to run in 2023. Typically about nine members retire, not 32. All the seats are up this year. Democrats are sure to win 33 districts because they are uncontested. Republicans are sure to win 13 because they are uncontested. For more details, again see Ballotpedia.

The Virginia elections are being seen as a bellwether for the whole country next year. Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) is spending all his time campaigning for Republican candidates instead of governing or running for president. He is currently stymied by Democratic control of the state Senate. If Republicans can win both chambers, they will get the trifecta and he can ram all his plans through. If Democrats win one or both of them, he won't be able to budge.

Abortion is playing a big role in the elections because Democrats are talking about it a lot. The results will give a good idea how that issue plays in strongly Democratic, swing, and strongly Republican districts. If Democrats win big, it will encourage them to go all out on abortion in 2024. If it fizzles, they will need to find something else. If Democrats do well, Republicans are up a tree. They can't suddenly decide that they are fine with abortions since their base would revolt. But if it is a losing issue, then what? So a lot is riding on the Virginia elections.

Also important is the future of Youngkin. If he gets the trifecta and enacts his whole program in January or February, he could possibly jump into the presidential race later in the spring if Donald Trump is a convicted felon before the convention. Even if that doesn't happen, if he gets the trifecta and rams everything he wants through, he could be a force in 2028. On the other hand, if the Democrats win both chambers despite his giving everything he's got to prevent this, he will suddenly be a muddy object, not a bright shiny one. (V)

Will Warsaw, Alabama, Become Like Warsaw, Poland?

Yes, there is a Warsaw, AL. Also Warsaws in 16 other states. Curious? Good. This is important. Back in the Good Old Days of the Soviet Union and its very-low-orbit satellites, abortion was legal in Poland and most of Eastern Europe. It was seen as just another form of contraception, like going to a drugstore and buying a packet of condoms. No big deal. But the extreme right-wing Law and Justice Party, which now governs Poland, is wildly against abortion. And it means it.

To start with, doctors are required to register all pregnancies in a national database. The outcome—live birth, stillbirth, miscarriage, or abortion—is going to be recorded as well. Logging each pregnancy and how it ends is going to make it much easier to enforce the antiabortion laws. After all, if there is no birth recorded 9 months after conception, that is going to trigger an investigation about what happened.

And that is not all. A scientific paper published last year in the Journal Molecules describes a method for determining if a person has taken misoprostol by examining a biological specimen for misoprostolic acid, which is a byproduct of using misoprostol. It requires using a gas chromatography tandem mass spectrograph, a complex machine that can determine what molecules are present in a specimen bombarded with an electron beam. You can't pick up one of these things at your local Home Depot, but there are labs that have one. Labs attached to coroners' offices usually have one to determine what chemicals, if any, are present in the bodies of the deceased. Coroners need this information sometimes to see if someone was poisoned.

Now here's the connection between the journal paper and Poland. In an attempt to determine if a woman who didn't give birth when she was expected to had an abortion, a biological sample taken from her (possibly by court order) can be sent to a lab to see if she used misoprostol. There are labs in Poland running these tests now. Most likely there is no one in Warsaw, AL, who reads Molecules, but there might be some staffer to an Alabama state legislator who reads The New York Times or other publications that are carrying this story and then tells their boss about it. Boss then has a "Eureka!" moment and decides that what is good for Warsaw, Poland, is good for Warsaw, AL, and writes a bill mandating a lab test for misoprostol for all women once a month. After all, the Fourth Amendment (unreasonable searches and seizures) doesn't apply to misoprostol, which didn't exist when the Fourth Amendment was ratified.

We are not predicting that lab tests for misoprostol are the next big thing, but history shows that when a technology is developed that some folks really want, it is going to get used. One thing that is not known yet is how long misoprostolic acid remains detectable after it is taken. If it is metabolized or excreted within a few days, the window for getting the sample is quite small. If it lasts for weeks, the window is bigger. If you had asked us a year ago if the metabolism of misoprostolic acid was going to be a big deal, we would probably have said: "Nah." Silly us.

Right now, there is no lab test for mifepristone, but now that the cat is out of the bag, surely some red state can find the money to fund researchers at the local state university to see if they can find one and then publish a paper on how to do it, like the one cited above. Once it is technically possible, the law will surely take advantage of it. After all, in all states, police are allowed to ask drivers to take blood or breath tests for alcohol if they are suspected of drunken driving, so why not have a law allowing the police to take a blood sample to send to a lab if someone is suspected of violating the state's abortion law? If you refuse, there are severe penalties.

Just when technology (the development of RU-486, which became mifepristone) made it easy for women to get abortions, technology is making it easier to detect them. The next step in the abortion arms race is a new drug that masks the presence of misoprostolic acid, to foil the test. Of course getting it approved may be tricky if the only legitimate use is blocking the test, but if other medical uses can be found, then it could be approved. Let's just stop here. You probably get the idea by now.

This is not the only area where technology meets abortion. How could it be? Now AI is joining the mix. A pro-choice group called Plan C has created an AI-driven abortion bot that allows a woman seeking an abortion to fill in information about where she lives, how long she has been pregnant, and what kind of abortion she is seeking and presents her with a list of possible options. The bot is called Charley. This gives a whole new meaning to Travels with Charley. How long will it be before anti-choice organizations create bots that direct a woman to religious groups that try to talk her out of the abortion and if that fails, report her to the police. The next step will be a website that rates bots, telling which ones are run by pro-choice groups and which ones by anti-choice groups. Then there will be fake websites that lie about the bots. The battle continues. (V)

McAfee Wants 900 People to Show Up for the Chesbro/Powell Voir Dire

The trial of Sidney Powell and Ken "The Cheese" Chesebro will begin Oct. 23. Empaneling a jury could be difficult since the trial could possibly last for weeks, maybe even months. Not many people will be willing or able to sit still so long. So, Judge McAfee is anticipating that finding 12 jurors and a few alternates could be problematic. Consequently, he is starting early and has subpoenaed 900 people to start the process of voir dire. Is this a lot? Yes, it is exponentially more than normal, but McAfee knows that many potential jurors will be disqualified, so he needs a really big pool to start with.

The attorneys have been asked to submit their questions for the voir dire but have not done so yet. Then each candidate juror will get a questionnaire to fill out. Based on that, the jury pool will be thinned. Clearly, anybody who wants out can get out easily by answering some question by exhibiting bias. For example, on the question "Can you be impartial and make a decision based solely on the law and the facts?" an answer of "The defendants tried to destroy democracy. They should rot in jail. I know enough already and I am eager to tell the other jurors that" should do the job.

Once the lawyers have whittled down the pool to a more manageable number, the actual questioning can begin. The lawyers have a certain number of peremptory challenges in which they can strike a potential juror for any reason or for no reason. Once they are used up, one of the lawyers can ask the judge to strike a potential juror for cause, but the judge gets the call. (V)

And Then There Were Six

The first Republican debate had eight candidates on stage. Donald Trump qualified, but didn't show up. The second Republican debate will be on Sept. 27 at the Ronald Reagan Library in California. The requirements are tougher this time. A candidate must have hit 3% in two national polls OR 3% in one national poll and 3% in polls in two of the early states. They also need 50,000 donors, up from 40,000 last time. And again, they have to sign a pledge saying they will support the GOP nominee.

So far, only six candidates have qualified. It looks like Asa Hutchinson and Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) are going to bite the dust. Of course, Burgum, who is a billionaire, could try a Hail Mary and offer a $100 gift card for a $1 donation. That would get him past the donor requirement, but you can't buy polls like that. Of course, with unlimited money, you can buy a lot of television ads and that could help. Still, it is not looking good for him now. Hutchinson isn't a billionaire, so he's dead meat.

Whether Donald Trump will show up is a mystery. He hasn't said, but the same factors are at play as last time. Why should he? If he doesn't, the second debate will probably be a repeat of the first one, with Vivek Ramaswamy trying to out-Trump everyone else on stage, and Ron DeSantis and the other candidates just playing it safe. Nikki Haley did well last time, so expect the knives to be out for her this time.

It is a complete rerun of 2016 when all the non-Trump candidates beat up on each other instead of on Trump. It looks like that is the playbook for this year as well. Each of the candidates is hoping to knock all the others out and then face Trump alone, but all they are doing is ruining each others' chances, which helps Trump.

None of the candidates who failed to get to 1% last time are close to 3% this time. They are all toast.

The third debate will be in November in Miami. The RNC is hoping that by making it a home game instead of an away game, they can lure Trump to drive the 70 miles from Palm Beach and get on the stage. (V)

Paxton Is Home Free--So Far

Texas AG Ken Paxton (R) faced 16 articles of impeachment, including multiple kinds of corruption, particularly doing favors for a millionaire friend who renovated his home and helped him cover up an extramarital affair. After weeks of witnesses and testimony making clear that Paxton was guilty on most or all of them, he was acquitted by the Texas Senate. What is somewhat unusual here is that he was impeached with 70% of the House Republicans voting for it. This was not some kind of power grab by Democrats. But when push came to shove, Paxton got away with it, even though the evidence was overwhelming.

When the vote was taken, Paxton's wife was there—because she is a Texas state senator. But the rules adopted for the trial prevented her from voting (not that her vote was needed; there was not a single article on which more than two Republicans voted to convict). During the trial, she sat there stone-faced as witness after witness testified about Paxton's infidelities and how he covered his tracks with the help of his friend.

Well, it's Texas. What did you expect? You can be sure that if the accused had been a Democrat, there would have been a conviction by a huge margin.

Does this whole sordid story have application elsewhere? It might. The message might well be: All the evidence in the world doesn't make any difference if the jurors made up their minds long before the trial started. Could that happen again in a different context? We don't know but we certainly can't rule it out.

Paxton is not out of the woods yet. He is under investigation by the FBI on crimes that mirror the impeachment charges. That case has higher stakes: Fighting to keep out of jail is a different order of magnitude than fighting to keep your job. Also, the jury in the federal case won't be made up primarily of Republican state senators. (V)

Boebert's New Boyfriend Owns a Gay-Friendly Bar That Hosts Drag Shows

Last week, we ran a couple of items about Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO). The first one was about how she is a hypocrite, saying one thing in D.C. and something quite different in Colorado. It's not honorable, but she's not the first politician to do this. The second one was about her disruptive behavior at a performance of Beetlejuice in Denver that she attended with her new boyfriend. The story that she was booted from the theater is all over the Colorado papers.

But it turns out there is more that is only now leaking out. First, her new squeeze is indeed into squeezing. He had his hand on her right breast during the show and she had her hand in his crotch. It also turns out that he owns a gay-friendly bar that hosts drag shows. Here is a screenshot of the homepage from the Rupert-Murdoch-owned New York Post yesterday.

New York Post on Sept. 17

The Post said that Boebert and her date were engaged in a heavy petting session. The front page linked to above has a video of her performance at the theater (not the actors' performance), in case you are interested. Among other things, she called a pregnant woman behind her who asked her to please stop vaping (which is not allowed in the theater) "a miserable person." So Boebert is dating a Democrat who owns a gay-friendly bar in tony Aspen. As they say, politics makes for strange bedfellows. Boebert's 20-year marriage ended recently. She has four sons, one of whom is a parent at 18, just as she was. She also opposes sex education in schools.

All of this takes place, of course, against the backdrop of Boebert's razor-thin victory in 2022, by 554 votes out of 327,110 cast. With the same opponent this time, and potential presidential coattails, the Representative needs to hold on to every vote. Behavior of the sort that is now all over the front pages in Colorado will not help. It is doubtful that many Boebert voters will flip to Democrat Adam Frisch, but they could certainly vote third-party, or leave that line on the ballot blank, or stay home. (V)

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