Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Who's Embarrassed By Devin Nunes?


What does "off the deep end" mean exactly? The Urban dictionary's take: "To degenerate cognitively, to be in the process of having a mental breakdown, the process of going crazy." The Cambridge Dictionary is a little more formal and less emotive: "to get very angry about something or lose control of yourself." And Wikipedia had the best take of all, although, alas, unrelated to my purpose: Off the Deep End is the seventh studio album by 'Weird Al' Yankovic, released in 1992. This album was the first album self-produced by Yankovic, after six albums with Rick Derringer. Recorded between June 1990 and January 1992, the album was a follow-up to the unsuccessful soundtrack to Yankovic's 1989 film UHF. Off the Deep End and its lead single 'Smells Like Nirvana' helped to revitalize Yankovic's career after a lull in the late 80s."

The reason why everyone was buzzing about the phrase yesterday is because Chuck "Chucky Schmucky" Schumer gave a speech on the Senate floor and said the "White House has put extraordinary, unusual and inappropriate pressure on the Department of Justice and the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election... A man like Devin Nunes, who, I hear privately from my Republican colleagues-- they think he's off the deep end."

Is Nunes literally off the deep end? People in his district-- CA-22, a compact Central Valley district that stretches from Clovis and the northern and eastern outskirts of Fresno south through Dinuba and Visalia past Tulare-- tell me they see him as infrequently as everyone else does. He's another absentee Representative. An old friend who I met while I was attending UNLV inherited his parents dairy farm near Visalia. He told me everyone he knows voted for Nunes in 2016 and no one he knows he sure they're going to do so again. "Tulare County," he told me, "is the more Republican party of the district. Trump beat Hillary by double digits here. And Nunes' vote gets up around 70%. It won't be that in November... People think he drank the kool-aid. Everyone I know thinks he's more concerned about Trump than about us. We have problems here-- water is what we're concerned with, not getting Trump off the hook with all that Russia stuff."

Eric Bauman, chairman of the California Democratic party is no fan of Nunes, to put it mildly. This morning he told me that "Nunes has all the time in the world to serve his number one constituent, Donald Trump, but never has even five minutes for his district-based constituents. It’s time we help him spend all of his time with number one." And, it isn't only Democrats like Bauman who are sickened by Nunes' Trump-worship. Jeff Flake is a Republican too, an Arizona senator nothing like Devin Nunes. He's giving the commencement address this year at Harvard Law. Among his assertions: "Our presidency has been debased by a figure who has a seemingly bottomless appetite for destruction and division and only a passing familiarity with how the Constitution works. And our Article I branch of government, the Congress is utterly supine in the face of the moral vandalism that flows from the White House daily." None of that bothers someone with a low sense of ethics and lower sense of integrity like Trump lackey Devin Nunes.

I caught up with Nunes' progressive opponent yesterday, Ricardo Franco, the guy who made that awesome video up top. [If you haven't watched it, please do.] This is what he had to say about this race. If you'd like to help him win his campaign, please click on the ActBlue "Bluer California" thermometer on the right, below.

Nunes' refusal to do anything about immigration shows you he doesn't work for his constituents. His lack of opposition to the President's trade war shows he doesn't care about local farmers and other commodity industries. Now, with his fellow Republicans calling him out on not helping the cause of his own party it's clear that Nunes only works for one person: Trump.

Goal ThermometerOur region has some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the United States. Instead of working to get us access to clean drinking water, clean air or access to healthcare Nunes is hijacking a traditionally non-partisan oversight committee to act as the political bodyguard of the Trump administration. This is exactly what we DO NOT want our tax dollars funding. The investigation should be left to Mueller. Congressman Nunes would do better to work on solving real, local issues that we have instead of spending all of his time out of the district fundraising for his friends like Rohrabacher or making a celebrity of himself on Fox News at our expense.

I am out talking to voters in the district every single day. Most of the Baby Boomers now admit that the country will be worse off for the next generation of millennials and it will take a progressive agenda to fix it. On the international stage our biggest threat is economic: China will surpass us as the world's largest economy and we must find a way to make sure the basic needs of our citizens are attended to. Domestically, our largest threat is Devin Nunes and others that are trying to destroy our democratic institutions. It's frustrating for all of us as we see our tax dollars going to the destruction of America as we know it instead of preparing ourselves for the challenges on the near horizon.

This district and the country at large deserve better. Someone who will passionately fight for Medicare for All, protect our environment while helping small businesses thrive and ending our system of welfare for American's wealthiest corporations. The government should be there to work for all of us, not be the piggy bank for the top 1%. Lastly, we all deserve a representative that will WORK for us, not alienate themselves by name-calling the opposite side of the aisle. More than resistance, what we demand is immediate action. Nunes doesn't have an ounce of it in his body.

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Did We Learn Anything About November From Yesterday's Primaries?


The DCCC found something to run on that probably won't mean much as most voters decide who to pull the lever for-- nor will it get many people out to the polls-- the Republican tax bill. But Dan Sena, executive director of the DCCC, is all over it. He hired the over-priced Democratic polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, to reassure him that more people oppose the GOP tax bill than favor it. That's what the graph up top shows-- 50% oppose it and 41% favor it. I hope that gave Sena district by district breakdown too, because this national polling doesn't mean a hell of a lot.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner certainly know how to wrap this stuff up in shiny, colorful paper and put a bow on it. "The dropping popularity of the tax bill," they sent in their memo, "is no surprise considering that voters do not expect to benefit from much of the trillion-dollar tax bill, which reflects the reality that the vast majority of the bill’s tax cuts flow to the wealthy and large corporations. This drop in support is also consistent with the fact that Republicans have dramatically decreased their promotion and advertising of the tax bill since it was signed into law. Reuters reports that Republicans are not talking about this unpopular piece of legislation in their districts. In the special election in Pennsylvania, Republicans stopped all advertising on the tax bill in the final weeks-- after Congressman Conor Lamb successfully push backed on the realities of the bill. Republicans did not even attempt to sell the bill in a too-close-for comfort special election in Arizona... [T]he DCCC’s latest national polling provides several key metrics on the national environment when comparing Democrats in Congress versus Republicans in Congress.
Asked which group would “stand up for people like me,” Democrats in Congress have a 9-point advantage (54-45%).
Voters believe Republicans in Congress are more likely to “enrich themselves and their friends at the expense of taxpayers,” by a 14-point margin (56-42%).
Voters believe Republicans in Congress are more “out of touch with people like me,” by a 10-point margin (54-44%)
While many voters believe the economy is improving, this does not translate to a Republican advantage: voters divide evenly between the parties (49-50%) on who they trust more to handle jobs and the economy.
So how will this impact Republican incumbents? Let's take a look at two races-- a Senate race in Texas and a House race in Kentucky. JMC Analytics and Polling released their own poll yesterday for Texas Republicans. And while Greg Abbott would be reelected with double digit majorities, not so for Senator Ted Cruz. His lead over Beto O'Rourke is just 7 points-- 47-40%. His unfavorables (42%) are also higher than his favorables (44%). Beto's favorables are much bigger than his unfavorables-- 35% to 20%. He has a lot of ground to make up though. 44% either have no opinion of him or have never heard of him.

Cruz trails in Austin and El Paso and Dallas/Ft Worth is a tie. The worst news for Cruz is that among Independents, he trails O’Rourke 38-45%.

The DCCC would love to win KY-06. The Lexington-centered district has an R+9 PVI and Trump "only" beat Hillary there 54.7% to 39.4%. Obama did better than her both times he ran. She was the wrong candidate for the district, although in Fayette County-- which is the only county in the district with a significant population-- Hillary and Bernie both had way more voters than any-- or even all-- of the Republicans.
Hillary- 20,014
Bernie- 17,048
Cruz- 4,330
Trumpanzee- 3,727
Rubio- 3,320
• Kasich- 3,266
Going into the KY-06 primary, none of the candidates looked any good to me-- which means none of them looked like they would add anything worthwhile to Congress. McGrath looked like a collection of identity politics bullshit looking for a career with an excellent video someone made for her. Jim Gray, mayor of Lexington, looked worse-- a mixed up gay conservative Blue Dog. Two wastes of House seats. By the May 2 FEC reporting deadline she had spent $1,727,325 and Gray had spent $876, 368, including on a terrible negative ad, accusing her of not living in the district while she was in the service. That may have lost him the race. And that whole Blue Dog thing. Party bosses, and especially the DCCC, love those Blue Dogs. When will they ever learn that Democratic voters don't? Amy beat Gray 48,859 (48.7%) to 40,684 (40.5%) in a 6-canddiate race. Andy Barr, the Republican incumbent also had a primary. Amy drew considerably more voters than he did. A National Journal story worth looking at, before the votes were cast:
Mark Nickolas, the campaign manager for Kentucky congressional candidate Amy McGrath, took a late flight on April 25 to have breakfast the next morning on Capitol Hill with a top political strategist at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The contested primary was more than three weeks away, but the conversation centered on general-election strategy: how McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot, could best take on Republican Rep. Andy Barr in November.

It was a meeting that would have been unremarkable, except that it signaled a stunning reversal by the same national Democrats who recruited Lexington Mayor Jim Gray into the primary in December, four months after McGrath launched a credible, well-funded campaign.

“They thought they had a better option,” Nickolas said. “I wanted to show them that they made a mistake, and I think I succeeded at it.”

That behind-the-scenes maneuvering, which incensed McGrath’s team and instantly relegated her to underdog status, led to a multimillion-dollar primary battle. Top Kentucky Democrats watching the race now say McGrath is at least slightly favored in Tuesday’s primary against the well-known and wealthy mayor of the district’s largest city who boasts high name ID from a 2016 Senate run.

Though Gray started as the overwhelming favorite, McGrath has since caught him in internal polling, outpaced him in total TV ad spending, and built a formidable ground game in the district’s rural counties to counter his support in the major cities.

“He’s underestimating me,” McGrath said in a Monday phone interview between campaign events. “I just think the DCCC sometimes is disconnected with real America. It’s sad that they recruited him, but we’re going around them.”

In what is perhaps an acknowledgement of McGrath’s late surge, Gray, after largely ignoring her for much of the nearly six-month primary, released an eleventh-hour attack ad Friday that accused her of being a carpetbagger. The spot drew public criticism from veterans’ groups and Rep. Ted Lieu of California, a DCCC vice chairman.

“At the moment, she’s got the momentum,” said Terry McBrayer, a former Kentucky Democratic Party chairman who is friendly with both candidates. “The big question is whether he can pull it off and stop that. His name recognition is better, but she’s gained name recognition in a big way.”

McGrath’s insurgent campaign stayed largely positive, using her compelling history-- as the first female Marine to fly in an F-18 fighter jet in combat-- to tap into a national donor base and raise her profile. Eventually she won tacit support from a Democratic establishment that initially insisted that her opponent would be the stronger foil against Barr.

McGrath retired from the Marines to run for Congress only after receiving assurances from Gray in the spring of 2017 that he was not interested in running. But the committee repeatedly urged Gray to enter the race, according to multiple sources, hoping to capitalize on his high approval ratings and ability to self-fund-- much to the chagrin of prominent Democrats allied with McGrath who warned the committee that it was creating an unnecessarily costly contest.

At the start of the primary, McGrath and her allies made no secret of their disdain for the DCCC’s meddling and hit Gray as a pawn of the establishment. Her campaign even considered going nuclear on the national party that burned them. It spent $17,000 to film a video on Nickolas’s Woodford County farm where McGrath, direct-to-camera, bashed “party bosses for choosing the same, old, unelectable candidates.” But her campaign team scrapped it.

Initial polling indicated that there was a hunger in the district for someone with her background and message, a political outsider and military veteran. Still, McGrath started out with 44 percent name ID, while Gray had 92 percent.

By February, Nickolas watched with apprehension as the DCCC tore into Texas congressional candidate Laura Moser, whom it deemed unviable in the general. He initiated contact with the committee-- for the first time since Gray entered-- and shared recent internal general-election polling to blunt that argument against his candidate. McGrath trailed the incumbent by 4 points, while Gray was up 2 points, though less than half the electorate was familiar with McGrath.

Nickolas asked the campaign pollster, Fred Yang, to brief the DCCC political team on the full findings, which he did in a mid-March phone call. The committee acknowledged that McGrath would be a credible nominee, according to a source familiar the call.

Tensions continued to thaw; Jason Bresler, the DCCC’s political director, texted frequently with Nickolas during the past couple of months. And in May, McGrath received donations from Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel and from Rep. Cheri Bustos’s leadership PAC. They are the first members to contribute since Gray entered the race, according to McGrath’s campaign.

When reached for comment, DCCC spokesman Jacob Peters said: “It is common and expected for us to be in regular contact with Democratic campaigns running in targeted districts. Rep. Andy Barr is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country.”

Privately, some Kentucky Democrats attribute McGrath’s rise, in part, to a series of missteps by the Gray campaign. Though he has personal wealth, he invested relatively little in his campaign and let McGrath outspend him on the air every week in April. In fundraising emails, Gray trained his focus on Barr, rarely using a primary threat to persuade donors to write checks.

But Jamie Emmons, Gray’s campaign manager, disputed that narrative.

“Of course, we took it seriously, we raised and spent a million-and-a-half dollars. That’s a very serious primary,” Emmons said, adding that the campaign’s recent internal polling showed Gray in the lead.

Multiple internal polls conducted as late as early March showed McGrath trailing Gray by more than 30 points. Then, an April internal poll by McGrath’s campaign surprised even her staunchest allies—she led Gray by 7 points, a swing of more than 50 points from its December primary poll. Her name ID shot up nearly 40 points to 83 percent, and her favorables more than doubled to 64 percent.

It was the results of that poll that precipitated Nickolas’s meeting with the DCCC.

“Conventional wisdom tells you Jim Gray should be winning and winning big,” said a national Democratic source based in Kentucky granted anonymity to speak candidly. “David and Goliath is what this is. It should never have been happening.”

McGrath and Gray spent more than $550,000 apiece in April alone. If she wins Tuesday, McGrath admitted she will start with very little in her campaign coffers, but said the fierce primary battle helped hone her skills.

“It’s kind of like you do the minor leagues before you get into the major leagues,” she said.
Time for the DCCC to stop recruiting the damn Blue Dogs already? Past time, way past time.

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Which Democrats Work For Wall Street? Just Look At The Voting Records


Mike Crapo's Senate bill to roll back a huge chunk of Dodd Frank passed the House Tuesday, 258-159. Only one Republican voted against it. 33 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans and give the Republicans-- and airhead media (see video above)-- an opportunity to call it "bipartisan." Before we look at the 33 Democrats, let 's take a quick look at what they voted for.

The bill exempts all but the mega-bucks banks from most rules-- like the ability of banks to use consumer and business deposits for speculative investments, allowing banks to fund risky investments with deposits and, if their bets went bad, turn to federal deposit insurance to make good the losses-- put in place after the financial crisis to keep banks from failing. It was the biggest roll-back of Dodd Frank so far. The New York Times reported that "While the legislation offers little for the very largest banks, the Trump administration has already been working through the regulatory system to make things easier for them."

Currently the rules impact banks with assets of $50 billion and above. After Trump signs the bill that will go up to $250 billion and above. Scrutiny will all but disappear for these "small" banks, just what the lobbyists have been aiming at. Elizabeth Warren: "These banks are back to making record profits, but Washington insists on doing them more favors, even if it means raising the risk of another bailout."

The House Democrats voting with the Republicans on this were primarily from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- the New Dems and Blue Dogs. These are the malefactors Tuesday:
Ami Bera (New Dem-CA)
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)
Lisa Blunt Rochester (New Dem-DE)
Andre Carson (New Dem-IN)
Lou Correa (Blue Dog-CA)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Danny Davis (friend of lobbyists-IL)
John Delaney (New Dem-MD)
Bill Foster (New Dem-IL)
Vicente Gonzalez (Blue Dog-TX)
Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ)
Alcee Hastings (friend of lobbyists-FL)
Jim Himes (New Dem-CT)
Ron Kind (New Dem-WI)
Ann Kuster (New Dem-NH)
Rick Larsen (New Dem-WA)
Al Lawson (New Dem-FL)
Sean Maloney (New Dem-NY)
Stephanie Murphy (Blue Dog-FL)
Rick Nolan (MN)
Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ)
Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)
Colin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Kathleen Rice (New Dem-NY)
Brad Schneider (Blue Dog-IL)
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)
David Scott (Blue Dog-GA)
Terri Sewell (New Dem-AL)
Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)
Tom Suozzi (New Dem-NY)
Marc Veasy (New Dem-TX)
Filemon Vela (Blue Dog-TX)
There were some New Dems who voted against it-- many in tough 2018 election battles, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL), Colleen Hanabusa (HI), Beto O'Rourke (TX), Tony Cardenas (CA), Darren Soto (FL) and Jared Polis (CO).

Tuesday night some people asked me why I was making such a big deal on Twitter of the fact that Amy McGrath beat Jim Gray, a Blue Dog, in Kentucky's 6th congressional district. It's because of votes like this. Jim Gray may not have taken a position on this particular vote but, as a Blue Dog, there can be little doubt how he would have voted on it-- and how he would vote on similar legislation in the future. That's why there were so many tweets like these:

And that's why I was so happy a week earlier when progressive Kara Eastman defeated Blue Dog Brad Ashford in Omaha and why I'm so happy when any Blue Dog or New Dem loses their primary. Despitehelp from the DCCC, many Blue Dogs have been losing their primaries this year. That's a good thing. These are the Blue Dogs who have primaries coming up:
Anthony Brindisi (NY)
Paul Davis (KS)
Gretchen Driskell (MI)
Ben McAdams (UT)
Max Rose (NY)
Jeff Van Drew (NJ)
And these are the New Dems with primaries coming up (As you can see, several have been endorsed by both the Blue Dogs and New Dems. In Congress nearly ever Blue Dog is also a New Dem.)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ)
Greg Stanton (AZ)
Dave Min (CA)
Joshua Harder (CA)
Katie Hill (CA)
Hans Keirstead (CA)
Harley Rouda (CA)
Josh Butner (CA)
Jason Crow (CO)
Nancy Soderberg (FL)
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL)
Lauren Baer (FL)
Paul Davis (KS)
Elissa Slotkin (MI)
Angie Craig (MN)
Dean Phillips (MN)
Mikie Sherrill (NJ)
Jeff Van Drew (NJ)
Tom Malinowski (NJ)
Max Rose (NY)
Anthony Brindisi (NY)
Susie Lee (NV)
Ben McAdams (UT)
Dan Kohl (WI)
Many people say, "well, they're better than the Republican." And, most of the time that's true-- though not on bills like the ones undermining Dodd Frank. And not when they're able to push the House Democrats right-ward (like they did when they killed the public option before it could ever get voted on). And many of them have hands as blood-soaked as Republicans when it comes to backing the NRA, particularly Jeff Van Drew (NJ), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ) , Lauren Baer (FL) and Anthony Brindisi (NY). Anyway if you want to vote for the lesser of two evils in November, think about how awful New Dems and Blue Dogs are when you're voting during primaries. In Orange County, for example, you can vote for a proven progressive like Katie Porter or you can vote for a wretched New Dem like Dave Min. It shouldn't be too hard to figure that one out. Ann Kirkpatrick is running in Tuscon this time and she[s proven how horrible she is when she represented Flagstaff and she has two much better candidates running for the Tucson seat this time, Mary Matiella and Matt Heinz.

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Very Bad News In TX-21


The Intercept was courageous to publish Zaid Jilani's post about TX-21 yesterday, a full day before the Texas runoff about how the DCCC had guessed wrong and backed a former Republican against a grassroots progressive. They must have imagined that Mary Street Wilson was a day away from replicating Kara Eastman's breathtaking victory over DCCC/Blue Dog-backed reactionary Brad Ashford in Omaha last week. But, alas, they miscalculated. Kopser won the primary runoff, looking more like the Lipinski win over progressive challenger Marie Newman:
Kopser- 14,636 (57.9%)
Wilson- 10,622 (42.1%)
Kopser, who serves on the board of the corrupt, anti-worker Texas Association of Businesses, identified himself as "the business candidate" and, although, he tries to brush over the differences between himself and normal Democrats, he's a conservative likely to be a truly horrible member of Congress. As of the May 2 FEC reporting deadline, he has raised $1,155,771. Mary had raised $91,105.
For Wilson and her supporters, Kopser’s insistence on maintaining his ties to the business lobby while it sues to force sick workers to show up or lose their jobs is just another example of why the Democratic Party is betting on the wrong horse in this race. National Democrats have coalesced around Kopser and have largely ignored Wilson, a favorite among progressives, who outperformed Kopser in the first round of voting, despite having significantly less resources than he did. (Derrick Crowe, the most left-wing candidate in the race, was eliminated in the first round and immediately endorsed Wilson.)

In December, Kopser earned the endorsement of Congress’s No. 2 Democrat, Maryland’s Rep. Steny Hoyer. He’s backed by the Democratic-leaning Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, and, having spent over two decades in the U.S. military, he successfully won the backing of Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton’s Serve America PAC. VoteVets is backing him for similar reasons.

Wilson, meanwhile, is supported by a number of national and local progressive organizations, including Justice Democrats, Our Revolution Central Texas, and the Stonewall Democrats of Austin. The Austin Chronicle issued no endorsement in the runoff between the two candidates, with its editorial board split on the issue.

In Kopser’s telling, there is little difference between the candidates on the big issues. “I think in terms of policies, when people look at our websites, you’re going to find out that our policies are very aligned,” he told The Intercept.

But a look at the two candidates’ issues pages elides some significant differences. On health care, Wilson favors a single-payer health care system, under which the government would provide insurance, while Kopser prefers a public option and Medicaid buy-in, where Americans could voluntarily buy into a public insurance program with their own money, rather than automatically being covered by one. (That distinction is also a symbol of how the health care debate has moved. In 2009, during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, the public option was the rallying cry of progressive activists; now progressives prefer a single-payer system and establishment Democrats prefer a public option.)

When it comes to college education, Wilson has endorsed the House tuition-free college bill, which would make four-year public colleges and universities free for families earning up to $125,000 annually. Kopser, on the other hand, supports a more modest approach that would give tuition-free college to students whose families make less than the median income in their state and offer partial subsidies to other students.

The national Democratic support for Kopser, who has expressed his admiration for Ronald Reagan, could be explained by the fact that the district leans heavily Republican. In 2016, GOP Rep. Lamar Smith easily carried the district with 57 percent of the vote; his retirement as a longtime incumbent may weaken the party’s chances in the district, but few would describe it as anything other than conservative. Cook Political Report ranks the district as “likely Republican.”

But Wilson proved to be a formidable opponent in the first round of voting in March. Of five candidates, she led the field with 30.93 percent of the vote, to Kopser’s 28.98 percent. She did this despite having only a fraction of Kopser’s resources. Wilson spent around $39,000 to Kopser’s more than $600,000 prior to the first round of voting. That means she spent nearly two and a half bucks for every vote she earned, while Kopser spent over $40 per vote. The surprising strength of Wilson’s campaign may show that the district is becoming more progressive.

Shannon Proctor, an Indivisible activist in the district, described herself as a “Derrick fan girl” to The Intercept, referring to Crowe, the now-defeated candidate. After Wilson’s surprising performance in round one, she quickly aligned herself with the candidate. “I was guilty of having said that Mary didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell because I honestly didn’t think Texas District 21 was ready for a woman or a gay minister,” she admitted. But Wilson’s first-place finish changed Proctor’s mind, and she now believes Wilson is the strongest candidate in the race.

In an interview with The Intercept, Wilson sought to cast the race as the difference between a grassroots candidate and someone supported by Washington, D.C.-based organizations with substantial resources. She pointed to heavy-handed interventions by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in other Texas districts. The DCCC has not formally gotten involved in the 21st District yet, but did call Wilson to learn about her campaign after her surprising performance in the first round of voting on March 6. Wilson has not heard from the committee since, she said.

“I am more concerned, however, with the DCCC handpicking our candidates. The DCCC has completely misread the mood of the electorate. They continue to recruit and push candidates who do not represent voters’ needs or interests,” she said. “That’s why I came in first place in our primary after being outspent 20 to 1 by my opponent. Voters want to support candidates who will give a voice to working-class people, not multimillionaires. This year, voters are standing up and saying ‘our elections can’t be bought.'”

Like many other first-time Democratic candidates, Wilson was inspired to run for office after Donald Trump’s election to the White House, but her politics are more populist than anti-Trump. She has a track record as a social activist who has used her background as a lesbian member of the clergy to push back against the religious right. In 2005, she testified against Texas’s proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. More recently, she has been involved in activism in support of Planned Parenthood and against so-called bathroom bills that would require people to use public restrooms that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificate.

In early April, Kopser’s campaign dealt with complaints after it field-tested messaging that referred to Wilson’s sexuality. The San Antonio Express-News summarized the poll as so:
Poll respondents were presented with a glittering narrative about Kopser. They were asked if they agreed that it would be important for Democrats to have a candidate who is a 20-year military veteran and has been described by former President Barack Obama as a champion of change.

When it came to Wilson, the poll profiled her as a lesbian minister and asked if Democrats should vote for her in the runoff whether they think she can win in November.
Kopser’s campaign told the paper that it was not seeking to make the poll an attack on Wilson’s campaign. “We have great respect for Mary and wanted to understand the extent to which the electorate finds her profile and message compelling,” the campaign said in a statement.

Prior to the first round of voting, Kopser ran a primary campaign strongly branded around the Democratic Party and progressivism, using mailers and digital ads to tout an award he received from the Obama White House for his private sector work in green energy.

But Wilson’s supporters are skeptical of Kopser’s Democratic credentials, pointing to a 2016 CNN segment in which he is portrayed as a Republican who opposed Trump. “He’s a Republican. I don’t give a shit what anybody says,” Proctor said. “He’s a Republican.”

“At a taco joint in Houston, Kopser shared how the self-described Reagan, Republican, West Point graduate army veteran who served in Iraq turned high-tech entrepreneur sees Trump as a dangerous choice,” CNN correspondent Ed Lavandera narrated.

“If Ronald Reagan and John Lennon had a kid, I’d be their son,” Kopser said in the clip, describing his politics. “Donald Trump is not who he appears to be. Donald Trump is a great entertainer. Donald Trump is a great showman if you will, but Donald Trump doesn’t really represent the views of so many millions of Americans.”

In an interview with The Intercept, Kopser said that the CNN segment misrepresented him. “I wish I had control over how reporters or papers editorialize their summaries,” he said. “He decided for spite or for whatever reason was the purpose of his article that he was going to describe me as a Ronald Reagan Republican. What he failed to do was add that very important prepositional phrase or description: ‘as a kid in the 1980s.'”

Kopser said he comes from a longtime Republican family but that he started to drift away from the party in the late ’80s.

At an event last year, Kopser said he had voted for Democrats in every general election since 1992. For Wilson, Kopser’s political history remains a question mark. “Regarding Joseph Kopser’s voting history, from what I understand, there is no evidence that Joseph has voted in a Democratic primary, and it is unclear to me when he became a Democrat,” she said. State voting records provided by the secretary of state to The Intercept only went back to 2014 and showed Kopser voting in just one primary: his own Democratic race in 2018.

In a November 19, 2016, Medium blog post titled, “On Trump, Reagan was right, ‘Trust but Verify,'” Kopser expressed dismay that Trump had been elected, but rhetorically reached across the aisle to his supporters to ask them to adopt the Gipper’s slogan when it came to the incoming president. He didn’t espouse a strong partisan identity in the post.

“Moderation and conversation will solve this problem as well as people starting to put country over party,” he wrote. “I look forward to working with anyone who wants to work to solve our problems in a moderate, thoughtful way to achieve a compromise we can all live with.”

Kopser cites his military history as the reason for avoiding partisan political activity prior to his announcement that he was running for Congress.

“It has been a tradition in military service going back to the days of George Washington,” not to have strong political affiliations, Kopser said in an interview.

“I made it a point when I was in the military to have never registered with a particular party,” he added. “And so, if given a choice whatever of the nine places I lived in my 20 years in the army, I would either choose nonaffiliated, unregistered, no party-- I forget what the different options were-- or in some cases, if they gave me no option, I put independent just to be my own person, independent not following the current-day independents, whatever the heck that means, that labeling.”

As recently as February, Kopser showcased his sometimes noncommittal approach to partisan political labels. During an event at the Ranchers and Landowners Association of Texas, he explained to the audience that his time in Iraq was part of the reason he wanted to secure the U.S.-Mexican border.

The hawkish remarks took some in the audience by surprise.

A member of the audience called out, “Are you sure you’re on the right ticket?”

He replied, “I’m on the American ticket.”
Now TX-21 voters are stuck with a choice between the lesser of two evils in November. Good luck figuring that out. Nor did any of the other Texas congressional primary runoffs last night have happy endings. The DCCC can congratulate itself for having wrecked Laura Moser's campaign. An anti-union Democrat, Lizzie Fletcher beat her in a very low turnout race, 67.9% to 32.1%. Fletcher will lose miserably to Republican Jon Culberson in November. The DCCC would prefer that than to see Moser take the seat. In the 23rd, Gina Jones beat Rick Trevino 68.1% to 31.9% and in the 32nd, Colin Allred beat Lillian Salerno 69.5% to 30.5%.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

The comparisons between Señor Trumpanzee and Richard Nixon have been coming in pretty steadily these days. For sure, both men are crooks and both will go down on the same list in history as more than a little crazy, more than a little corrupt, and more, much more than a little bigoted. We see that in Nixon's famous tapes just as we see that in Trumpanzee's tweets and at his lunatic rallies. There are differences in the two men, though. Nixon knew and understood the U.S. legal system. He tried to circumvent it on an hourly basis, but, in the end, he accepted the consequences of his actions and left. Hence, the famous photo that tonight's meme parodies. For all his faults, Nixon had an awareness of the rational. Say whatever you want about Nixon, but under it all, he had a streak of patriotism, too. He considered himself an American. The same cannot be said of Trumpanzee.

Nixon had his own treason. It involved his undermining of the Paris Peace Accords and the resulting additional unnecessary deaths of Americans and Vietnamese that followed. He did it to win the 1968 election and it worked. Trump's treason seems to be unfolding daily and it seems to involve his efforts to win the 2016 election.

However, it's hard to imagine someone as far gone and completely devoid of any sense of rationality or patriotism going on national TV and resigning like Nixon did in August of 1974. I never thought that I could hate a president more than I hated Nixon, but then Trump came along. It just goes to show you should never say never.

There is another similarity between the two men and it is this: As I've said before over the years on this blog, I always felt that the job of the special prosecutors looking into Nixon and his Watergate was to just throw us, the public, a few small bones, leave the worst stuff covered up, and make a deal with him to go away to sunny California with a pardon and live out his days on a taxpayer-funded pension. Let's just say that I will be very pleasantly surprised if anything different happens in the case of Trump.

Letting Nixon off with a get out of jail card was a huge mistake in American history. A crook of a new president named Gerald Ford pardoned him, famously saying that no one wanted to see the president go to jail. Utter bullshit of course but that's what the congressmen, courts, and senators of the day gave us and it has us led directly to the situation we are in today. Every politician operates in the dark thinking that, if Nixon got away with what he did, then he or she can too. It's a farce, of course, and it destroys American morale. I'd like to be wrong but I don't see the Chuck Schumers, Mitch McConnells, and prosecutors of our time being any different than those who gave Nixon his sweet deal in 1974. Washington takes care of its own. Even if, by some miracle, those in charge had the honor and morals to drag Trump and his entire crime family, plus his accomplices such as Paul Ryan and his David Nunes-led treason caucus, out of the White House and Congress and hold righteous modern day Nuremberg trials... Oh the hell with it. Why should we expect those in Washington to do the right and patriotic thing? But if they don't, we can kiss this country goodbye.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

When It Comes To Corruption, Is There Really A Lesser Of Two Evils?


Schumer has accepted more in Wall St. bribes ($26.7 million) than McConnell and Ryan combined ($24.7 million)

Michael Tomasky predicted at the Daily Beast Monday that if the Democrats focus exclusively on policy rather than Trump's scandals, failing to hold Trump accountable, it will cost them the midterms. He reminded his readers that on Sunday Trump "tweeted that he is ordering an investigation of the investigation into him. His campaign, okay; but him"... and implored his reader to "Think about that... [T]his president-- who, it is documented, has spent 40 years lying to and defrauding people in business, and who lies nearly every time he speaks-- and his apologists have so corrupted our system that some people are discussing Trump’s move as if it’s legitimate. Just another interesting twist and turn in Donald Trump’s Washington, ha ha.
No. It’s not. It’s a scandal. It’s the biggest sign yet that Trump knows and respects no law and will use every tool he can to thwart an investigation that is obviously legitimate. We learned over the weekend from the Times that Russia may not be the half of it, a Gulf emissary reportedly offered to help Trump win the election. Again, the August 2016 meeting involving Donald Trump Jr., Erik Prince, and people from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel (what a troika!) is not denied by Trump spokespeople; nor, so far, is the fact that Don Jr. “responded approvingly” to their offers of help. Boom. That alone is collusion and is illegal. As even Steve Bannon knows, if you’re part of a presidential campaign, you call the FBI the moment you even receive such an offer.

With each revelation, Trump becomes more unhinged and more accusatory and thinks up new ways to try to discredit the FBI and entire principle of independent investigations of the executive branch. He and his campaign almost certainly cheated, and all he does-- this is the president of the United States-- is lie and turn the tables, trying to delegitimize the entire Department of Justice.

...Lately there’s been some chatter about whether Democrats want to talk about Trump heading into the midterms. My colleagues Sam Stein and Gideon Resnick reported that congressional Democrats were refusing to go on cable shows because they want to talk about prescription drug prices but cable wants to talk about Trump. Then I reported that four leading Democratic presidential hopefuls seemed to go out of their way at a major liberal conference to avoid mentioning the president.

This is a guaranteed losing strategy. Candidates campaigning in districts can talk about prescription drugs and other matters all they want. This will happen well below the radar of cable news shows, but voters will hear them. Meanwhile, the national party has to talk about Trump. If a narrative develops between now and November that the Democrats want to be “careful” about how they speak of Trump, core Democratic voters will be demoralized and disgusted.

I can hear the answer back: We’re letting Mueller take care of that. If and when he issues a report before Election Day, we’ll pounce. That’s too cautious. It depends on the actions of someone else. It’s not enough. I’m sure they’d also say we don’t want to get sucked into the impeachment trap, seem like we’re too eager to impeach Trump. But that’s easily enough avoided. All they need to say is we’ll follow the evidence and see where it leads.

But the point they need to emphasize is that unlike the Republicans, they’ll look for the evidence. They’ll look into the Trump Hotel. They’ll haul Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke and Ben Carson up before Congress to explain things. They’ll focus on what’s been happening at the Veterans’ Administration. They’ll investigate policies and outcomes, from the environment to the tax bill (oversight can be “substantive” too, and thus seen as not just “political”). They’ll investigate this Jakarta thing, which has barely been discussed in the media but which alone would have floored this city in normal times. And yes, you bet they’ll investigate the campaign.

The president is lawless. His lawyer is lawless. Both of his lawyers. All they know is to lie, deny, distort, extort, and bully. The country is being governed by Mafiosi values. If the Democrats are unwilling to say that, they’ll let down millions of Americans who are counting on them to defend the law, and they’ll lose, and deserve to. History sometimes presents moments when caution is called for. This isn’t one of them.
It will be hard for the House Democrats to find anyone in Congress more overtly corrupt that their next party leader, Queens Democratic Machine boss and Wall Street whore, Joe Crowley. And what about Debbie Wasserman Schultz? Last time I looked she was still a Democrat in Congress. But they may need to look for someone more corrupt that those two after releasing another plank in their 2018 platform yesterday: "A Better Deal for Our Democracy."

Writing for the Washington Post Mike DeBonis reported at 5AM that the Democrats’ newest midterm pitch is a crackdown on corruption. Oh God! The Republicans may be are certainly grotesquely corrupt, with Trump in our outside the equation, but is anyone supposed to think the Democrats are a scintilla better? Did they for example move against Tony Cárdenas yet? At least Ryan forced Blake Farenthold to resign-- and his victims weren't even underage!
Democrats are preparing to highlight allegations of corruption surrounding the Trump administration-- and a legislative agenda to prevent future abuses-- as they continue rolling out their party platform ahead of November’s midterm elections.

The first planks of the “A Better Deal” platform, released last year, focused on the party’s economic agenda. Now, with questions about pay-to-play politics swirling around President Trump and his current and former aides, Democrats are set to introduce anti-corruption proposals Monday billed as “A Better Deal for Our Democracy.”

According to a senior Democratic official familiar with the announcement, the new agenda will include proposals that would eliminate loopholes that allow lobbyists and lawmakers to buy and sell influence without the public’s knowledge. The message: Elect Democrats in November to “clean up the chaos and corruption in Washington.”

One proposal-- which would tighten the federal laws governing lobbying disclosures and foreign-agent registration-- responds to the apparent sale of influence by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer. According to recently disclosed financial records, Cohen earned millions of dollars from companies that wanted to secure access to Trump’s inner circle in the early days after his 2016 win.

But Cohen never registered as a lobbyist or otherwise disclosed the payments-- possibly because, under federal law, only those who spend more than 20 percent of their time on lobbying on behalf of a client must register as a lobbyist. Democrats will propose to change the law so any lobbying contact would have to be publicly reported.

Another proposal could rewrite federal statutes that might have allowed lawmakers of both parties to skirt convictions on bribery and pay-to-play allegations-- including former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R), former senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and  Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ.). All were charged with fraud violations but were then acquitted or had their convictions overturned after courts found that their actions were not criminal under the current letter of federal law.

“This administration is failing to police itself, to set moral standards, to clean up its messes, to shun corrupt behavior, and to drain the swamp,” the Democratic official said. “It’s the American people who are getting stuck with a raw deal. That has to change.”

The proposals are set to be rolled out Monday afternoon on Capitol Hill with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and several other congressional Democrats who have been engaged in anti-corruption issues, including Rep. John Sarbanes (MD) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI).

The new Democratic focus on corruption as a campaign message marks a return to a formula that helped put Democrats into the House majority in the 2006 midterm elections-- after numerous scandals including the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham revelations put pay-to-play politics on the public’s political radar in a big way. Polling done after the election showed that the tide of corruption helped swing votes to Democrats, and the party’s official now sees signs of similar concerns among voters.

Democrats, the official said, will make the case that they are best equipped to rein in what they are calling “the most corrupt administration in modern times” and are prepared to connect the corruption allegations to a Republican governing agenda that has delivered outsize tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and dismantled financial and environmental regulations that aimed to protect average taxpayers.

Democrats are also preparing to highlight an apparent atmosphere of rule-bending, if not rule-breaking, in the Trump administration. Several Trump Cabinet members-- including Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, as well as former Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price and former Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin-- have been subject to official investigations of questionable spending on travel and other expenses.

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How Toxic Would Trump Be Campaigning For House Republicans In Swing District?


Read any of that stuff about how most Democratic candidates don't want the Clintons campaigning for them? Reactionary Democrats like Andrew Cuomo (NY) and Dianne Feinstein (CA) are exceptions; they love the idea of Hillary. (New York scold Kirsten Gillibrand-- who had been proud to run racist advertising against Latinos when she was in the House, is telling the media that "Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency after his inappropriate relationship with an intern came to light nearly 20 years ago." Democratic senators in tough campaigns Claire McCaskill (MO) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND) went out of their way to very publicly tell Hillary to stay away.

Democratic candidates would also appreciate Nancy Pelosi to not make any public appearances in their districts. Republicans-- especially Republicans in swing districts-- feel the same way about Paul Ryan. And when Ryan does show up to wrangle big checks out of multimillionaires and billionaires he does it quietly and away from the media. Same with McConnell. McConnell, in fact, is the most unpopular politician in America-- and not just among Democrats. Republican voters have him too.

Democrats want Bernie campaigning for them in their districts. And Elizabeth Warren. And Randy @IronStache Bryce. Others we hear Democrat candidates requesting are Keith Ellison and the members of Congress who are on MSNBC a lot, like Ted Lieu, Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell.

What about Trump? Of course swing district Democrats would do anything to get him campaigning in their districts with their opponents. Yesterday Bryce's sassy campaign manager, David Keith told me that "We welcome the day Trump comes, as it'll greatly help us engage with those working families who have been left behind and are ready to stand up and fight. Bernie came to talk about hope and lift the working people up. Trump will come-- and while he'll argue he's doing the same-- and simply lie on behalf of the big corporations looking to ship jobs oversees. It's a slap in the face to working people on behalf of Ryan's job-exporting driver and/or Paul Nehlen, the Nazi... and the working people will know it."

Sunday, McClatchey ran a piece by Katie Glueck about how House Republicans are refusing to even answer questions about Trump coming to their districts. Of course, in deep red districts, filled with low-IQ Republicans and few normal people-- like districts represented by fascists Mo Brooks (AL), Matt Gaetz (FL), Louie Gohmert (TX), Jim Jordan (OH) and Liz Cheney (WY)-- they'd roll out the red carpet for Señor Trumpanzee-- and any of the cast of characters around him. One Republican in a deep red district that Trump won with nearly 70% told me-- obviously on condition of anonymity that it would make his skin crawl to do a rally with Trump but that his constituents like Trump more than they like him, so he'd do it in a second. "I'd have to take a hot shower afterwards, of course," he said, giggling.

DuWayne Gregory is in a tough Long Island district where Trump beat Hillary 53.0% to 43.9%. But he knows a Trump visit is going to motivate Democrats and independent voters in a way that isn't going to help incumbent Peter King. "The people of the 2nd Congressional District, he told me, "are still recovering from Donald Trump’s last visit when he encouraged police officers to rough up suspects. This community doesn’t need anymore of his division. We are a community united to fight against his bigotry against immigrants and Paul Ryan and Peter King’s lack of leadership in standing up for what is right." Right now DuWayne is putting together a rally with a respected-- even beloved-- Democrat in his district. It's a surprise though, so I can't tell yet. Trump also won in the Oklahoma district Tom Guild is running in. Guild told us he "would enthusiastically welcome Bernie coming to Oklahoma to support our campaign. I’ll leave it up to Mr. Russell to decide if he wants Mr. Trump to appear on his behalf in 2018." Levi Tillemann is the progressive Democrat running in the Denver suburbs against GOP stooge Mike Coffman. "According to the polling we’ve done," he told me, "Trump is actually more popular than Coffman in the district. So I guess Coffman would probably embrace the opportunity. If there’s one thing we learned over the years it’s that Mike Coffman flows like water towards political expediency."
The question of whether endangered GOP candidates want President Donald Trump to campaign with them sparked dodges, lengthy pauses and a cascade of caveats in interviews with about two dozen GOP House members who are facing varying degrees of competition in races this fall.

But the answer several Republicans from tough districts have settled on is, sure-- if Trump will campaign on their terms.

“It depends,” said Fitzpatrick, a Republican from a suburban Philadelphia district that Democrats are targeting. “On what issue is he campaigning for me? If he campaigns on term limits-- I just met with him on that. If he’s able to get public support behind it, absolutely.”

But would a campaign rally be helpful? “We’ll see, we’ll see what our schedule is looking like,” he said, getting into an elevator at the Capitol.

Rep. David Valadao of California, whose district Hillary Clinton won by nearly 16 percentage points, offered a similar calculation: “If it’s a topic like water or something positive on immigration that actually benefits us-- I think if the president of the United States wants to come to the district to highlight something that’s actually helpful to the district, I think it would make sense, but it depends on the topic.”

And Miami-area Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who represents the most Democratic-leaning district in the country held by a Republican running for reelection this year, suggested he would welcome Trump's help-- if he "supports my work."

"I’m not asking nor have I ever asked anyone to come down and campaign, I don’t need it from anyone,” said Curbelo, who is leading an effort to force votes on immigration-related bills, rankling House conservatives. “The conditions for anyone to support me, to campaign for me, is that they support my work and are helping me achieve it for the benefit of the country."

Midterm elections are often challenging for the president’s party, and the question of where polarizing presidents can campaign tends to be a fraught one. It’s a reality that has applied to a range of leaders including Presidents George W. Bush in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2010 and 2014, when beleaguered candidates from their respective parties were loathe to make joint appearances or offer public praise.

...“It might help get out the base who might not be as fervently for a candidate such as myself,” said retiring GOP Rep. Ryan Costello, who currently represents another Philadelphia-area suburban district Clinton won. “I think, though, it would be a reminder, negatively, to swing voters who view him unfavorably but who I would want to have respond to my message of being an independent check-and-balance.”

...Still, the majority of candidates McClatchy interviewed said they would be open to Trump on their trail-- though their enthusiasm in answering that question, and the level of detail they provided in their responses, swung wildly.

“Yeah, I've encouraged every president, every president, to come to my district,” Rep. Jeff Denham of California said after pausing for a few seconds. Like Valadao, who also represents the Central Valley, Denham then turned back to local issues, referencing a water controversy. “To have our president come to take a look at our water being shut off, at our communities being devastated, that is something I would definitely support."
Westside Congressman Ted Lieu, the regional vice chair of the DCCC-- and the only competent person working for the organization-- cut right to the chase when I asked him how he'd feel about Trump coming to Orange County or the Central Valley to campaign for the embattled and vulnerable Republican incumbents in those two areas. This is what he told me: "I sincerely hope Trump shows up in California to campaign for Republican congressional candidates here. The DCCC is going to spend a lot of money tying Trump to these candidates, and this would make the job that much easier. I would gladly pay the permit fee for Trump to show up in California to do one of his toxic rallies. It would be super awesome for Democrats if Californians can see Trump unleashed. It would be even better if Trump brought Scot Pruitt and Ted Nugent with him and went full MAGA. Trump's xenophobic and bigoted rallies will jack up Democratic turnout and horrify independents in California."

...Doug Heye, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee, said it was one thing for candidates in competitive seats to voice enthusiasm for a Trump visit. It’s another thing entirely to actually pursue one.

“They’ve got to take care of their base,” he said. “If you’re telling your base, ‘I don’t want Trump to come,’ you run the risk of being judged by that, and having people unhappy and everything that comes along with that. … I think it’s a different issue when it comes to actual campaigning. I think we’ll see Trump in really red places more than anywhere else.”

But Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who represents a district Clinton won, beamed when asked if he would want Trump to show up in his suburban Dallas district. He answered in the affirmative before a reporter finished asking the question.

"Awesome, I welcome him with open arms," Sessions said. "Can you invite him for me?"
The progressive running for the Dallas-area seat, TX-32, Sessions is occupying, Lillian Salerno, told me yesterday that she "would not be surprised if the President campaigned for one of the most reliable yes men. After all, Congressman Sessions was instrumental in helping the President nearly get away with taking health care coverage from 22 million Americans. That's devotion. The reason I ran was precisely because we need to win this seat in order to help hold Trump accountable. Trump and the rigged  system know that they must remain in power to continue the fraud on the American people. This means control of Congress. I am in this race to make sure the corporate Democrat doesn’t win and I am on the ballot to beat Sessions."

Ron Brownstein, reporting for CNN, noted this morning that as Trump's daily "bombshells detonate, sometimes within hours of each other, congressional Republican leaders then react with little more than a shrug. Even more important, the vast majority of the Republican electoral coalition increasingly responds the same way... The elimination of any distance between Trump and the conventional Republican interests that controlled the party before him has happened so incrementally it can be difficult to discern from day to day. But it remains one of the central political dynamics of 2018. Over the long term, Trump's success at stamping his polarizing brand on the GOP remains a huge electoral gamble for the party because it risks alienating the young, well-educated and diverse groups growing, rather than shrinking, in the electorate. But in the near-term, the GOP's choice to ally so unequivocally with such a unique president may have the paradoxical effect of producing a much more conventional midterm election than seemed possible earlier this year."

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How Will Trumpy The Clown Do In Singapore Against Kim Jong Un?


Is Kim Jong Un smarter that Señor Trumpanzee? Probably. Or at least he knows that Trump is a habitual liar and that nothing he says or agrees to is worth anything at all. Trump very publicly spent his entire life lying to and cheating everything he's negotiated with. Why would this meeting with Kim be any different? When Bolton let the cat out of the bag a couple of weeks ago-- that the U.S. foresees Kim winding up dead in a ditch, his country reduced to anarchy, like Gaddafi and Libya after they were tricked into giving up their nuclear deterrent-- Trump was forced to contradict him with more of his barely coherent, infantile blather: "The Libyan model isn't a model that we have at all when we're thinking of North Korea. The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now that model would take place if we don't make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy," Mr Trump said. He'd be there, he'd be in his country, he'd be running his country, his country would be very rich... Nothing has changed on North Korea that we know of. We have not been told anything. And if it does that's fine and if it doesn't I think we'll probably have a very successful meeting."

The North Koreans might believe it if Trump sent them Bolton's head on a pike. Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan issued a statement about Bolton: "We do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him." The Washington Post noted today that "Trump advisers have expressed alarm at Pyongyang’s hostile rhetoric and actions over the past week, questioning whether Kim is committed to pledges to seriously discuss denuclearization." Maybe Trump should send Bolton's head in return for the whole nuclear arsenal. Nobel Peace Prize, Trumpanzee, Nobel Peace Prize.

On the other hand, as the Aoociated Press reported this morning, "Going into the North Korea meeting, senior administration officials say, the president has been almost singularly focused on the pageantry of the summit--including the suspenseful roll-out of details. He has not been deeply engaged in briefing materials on North Korea’s nuclear program, said three people with knowledge of the White House efforts." He's "staring down a dealmaker’s worst nightmare: overpromising and under-delivering."
As the Singapore meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un draws near, the president and his allies are growing increasingly anxious about how he can score a win on the world stage. While Trump has not suggested he wants to back out, he has struggled to define his objectives for the historic sit-down and last week he drew fresh criticism from his foreign foil.

“I think that Trump imagined he would go into this meeting and be able to have a historic breakthrough with a deal, but it’s clear he’s starting to realize it won’t be as easy as he imagined,” said Jean Lee, director of the North Korea program at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a former Associated Press bureau chief in Pyongyang.

Trump, who has pitched himself as the ultimate negotiator, has focused on ambitious deals as president but has struggled with the fine print. He just hit the pause button on his threatened trade war with China, announcing an agreement to reduce America’s trade deficit with China-- but few details. He recently withdrew the U.S. from the international Iran-nuclear deal-- without outlining a path forward with his allies. And his Middle East peace plan, which he deputized his son-in-law to lead, is months overdue and facing a more skeptical audience than ever.

Supporters stress that sometimes Trump’s ambitious efforts do pay off, as with the massive tax cut bill he signed into law late last year.

Going into the North Korea meeting, senior administration officials say, the president has been almost singularly focused on the pageantry of the summit —including the suspenseful roll-out of details. He has not been deeply engaged in briefing materials on North Korea’s nuclear program, said three people with knowledge of the White House efforts. They were not authorized to speak publicly.

Scott Snyder, director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy at the Council of Foreign Relations, said there’s a risk that “the ceremony and the historic nature of the meeting be allowed to overshadow the deliverables.”

Driven by gut instinct, Trump rarely dives deep as he prepares to meet with foreign counterparts. For the North Korea meeting, insiders say, he is motivated by the idea of scoring a historic deal and is tickled by suggestions he could win a Nobel Peace Prize-- especially since Barack Obama won the honor early in his presidency. Trump has maintained publicly that his goal is to see the Korean Peninsula denuclearized, and the North has agreed to put its nuclear program on the negotiating table as a condition for the talks. But the two sides are still miles apart on defining what might be mutually acceptable.

Trump will huddle Tuesday at the White House with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to prepare for the June 12 summit. It was Moon’s government that delivered the initial invitation from Kim for a meeting, and South Korea has been pushing the U.S. toward a peaceful resolution to the nuclear crisis.

North Korea threw a wrench in the plans last week, threatening to cancel over concerns about the U.S. push to see the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Administration officials viewed the warning as bluster, akin to Trump’s own promise to walk away if Kim isn’t serious about denuclearization. Both sides, they said, have a vested interest in a successful meeting.

Trump attempted to assuage Kim’s concerns last week, promising “protections” should he abandon his nuclear weapons. But Trump also suggested Kim risks being overthrown and possibly death if the arsenal remains.

Two former Trump administration officials said the high degree of uncertainty surrounding the talks benefits Kim, who stands to gain the most in the form of international legitimacy from a sit-down with Trump.

Concrete gains for Trump would be slower to emerge. Denuclearization programs are measured in months, not days, and for North Korea, which has already demonstrated thermonuclear capability, it would likely take years to dismantle and verify that it had abandoned its atomic efforts, should it agree to do so.

One official said the priority of the talks in Singapore would be to reach a topline understanding with Kim, with details to be fleshed out later.

The best-case scenario, experts said, would mirror the Iran-nuclear agreement that Trump withdrew from earlier this month — securing an end to the North’s atomic program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions. Such an agreement could provide Kim more assurances that his leadership would be secure.

While public jockeying last week led to speculation about whether the meeting will happen, people close to Trump say he does want it to take place.

Victor Cha, a professor at Georgetown University and former White House official, said the best outcome would be “good optics, good atmospherics, some broad statements on denuclearization and peace, and some immediate deliverable.” He said the worst-case scenario was canceling the meeting.

“Where are we, if the meeting is canceled? Are we going back to where we were in 2017? Is North Korea going to start testing again?” he asked. “I think from the broader perspective, that would be the worst outcome.”

Laying the political groundwork, Vice President Mike Pence, in an interview with Fox News, said both the Clinton and Bush administrations had been ‘played’ by the North Korean government. “We offered concessions to the North Korean regime in exchange for promises to end their nuclear weapons program, only to see them break those promises and abandon them,” he said. “It would be a great mistake for Kim Jong Un to think he could play Donald Trump.”

Today, during his meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump announced that the summit with Kim Jong-un may not go ahead as planned and that "maybe it will happen later.” Trumpanzee said "there are certain conditions that we want" before the summit, and if they aren't met the summit won't happen. In return for denuclearization Trump farted out of his mouth that "we will guarantee his safety" under the terms of a deal, and that China, South Korea and Japan are all willing to invest big bucks to "make North Korea great." I wonder who he thinks takes his bullshit seriously.

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