Tuesday, July 16, 2019

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“Nativist, Xeno­pho­bic, Coun­ter­fac­tual and Po­lit­i­cally Stu­pid”

Who called the president’s deplorable words about The Squad those four things?

Nancy Pelosi?

EJ Dionne?

George Conway?

The New York Times ed board?

Doug Heye

None of the above. 

Brit Hume of Fox News did. 

I’m tempted to end this episode of Wide World of News right there. 


My take:

Two things happened in the last 48 hours that are quite unusual in the Age of Trump. 

Well, one of the things definitely happened. The Gang of 500 thinks the other thing happened. But they have thought that before and been wrong. 

The unusual thing that definitely happened: many (not most, not all, but many) elected Republicans denounced Trump’s language in semi-certain terms. There were few of the weasel worded, “That isn’t something I would have said” or “The president will tweet what he will tweet.”

No, these were largely varying degrees of condemnation of the words and the man, although many felt compelled to criticize Democrats as well in their statements. 

So: why?

Why would they risk the wrath of the Republican base, whose inevitable and severe retribution towards any elected official with the temerity to cross Donald J. Trump, billionaire (who has owned a mansion and a yacht) is typically given as the rationale for why silence in the face of Trumpian outrages is the golden rule?

According to my analysis of the data, and by looking into the soul of the Senator sitting next to me, I would say that those who spoke out did so 70% based on actual outrage and 30% based on concern about the Republican brand. 

Because, you see, many of them cling to the now quaint and antiquated notion that there is a Republican brand that survives, that hasn’t been subsumed by the Trump Party brand. 

Someone should really speak to them about that. 

The thing that might have happened is that Donald Trump, tweeting with strategy aforethought (not out of pique or a desire to change the subject from….goodness knows what), might have made a colossal political blunder THAT WILL ACTUALLY HAVE REAL NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES FOR HIM. 

There are too many times to recall in the last four years when the Gang was certain, certain Trump had committed a sin both moral and political for which he would pay a price. 

This time, everyone, even people “close” to Trump (who is actually close to Trump?), thinks this was both wrong and wrong. 

How will we know if this damages the president?

The Washington Post has some White House tea leaves of frustration, rather than moral indignity: “Inside the White House, few aides offered a vigorous defense of Trump’s tweets and statements, even privately. There was some frustration that the president had inserted himself into what was an internal Democratic feud…There was frustration in the White House that by going so far in his tweets, Trump had squandered the moral high ground, impeding the administration and his campaign’s ability to use Omar and Tlaib’s more controversial comments to political advantage.”

There will be a lot of clarifying falling action starting today (to be sure, just the very beginning of the falling action on this, which won’t conclude until November, 2020, at the earliest).

Joe Biden, who Monday said the comments were “racist” and the president “a bully,” will say more Tuesday, including a recorded, promoted appearance on “Morning Joe.”

The House Republican leaders (largely silent so far) are holding a press conference at 10am ET, and if they think they can get away with the usual song and dance routine this time, they are very poorly staffed.   Leader Kevin McCarthy’s limited remarks on Monday will be the starting point for the media’s queries.

Mitch McConnell, who declined to comment on all this on Monday, is holding his weekly leadership press conference too, and he said he would “be happy” to address the issue then.  He will likely address it, but chances are, he isn’t – and won’t be — happy, because he long ago grew tired of dealing with this president’ actions which he does not believe further the interests of Republicans.  And which he finds personally exhausting, which he has started to tell people with increasing frequency and, yes, frustration.

The president has a “closed press” Cabinet meeting at 1130am ET and it is not totally crazy to think that the situation is grave enough that someone might respectfully speak truth to power in that meeting, and that that someone or a different someone might leak the fact that the Emperor-King was ever-so-mildly challenged in front of the court. (But based on how Team Trump reacted/dodged on Monday, that might be a silly thing to have typed.)

Will business leaders, who condemned Trump after Charlottesville, step up now?

And a vote is expected as early as Tuesday on Speaker Pelosi’s resolution of condemnation in the House.  How will Republicans vote? Hard to know right now.

If what the president said wasn’t so disgusting and horrible, this would be very interesting to watch. 

Eventually, someone will poll. 

Politico has this useful history lesson:

“There’s also evidence that moments in Trump’s presidency when he’s been accused of making racist statements have done the most harm to his image. When Trump claimed there were ‘very fine people on both sides’ after white supremacists clashed with counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., killing one woman and leaving others injured, his approval rating dipped to a low of 39 percent. And after word leaked out of the White House that Trump once referred to El Salvador, Haiti and African nations as ‘shithole’ countries, his rating fell to 36 percent.”

Meanwhile, the looming debt ceiling and budget crashes constantly continue to loom, as the Big Casino finances of the world’s great democratic experiment always do. 

The Washington Post story does a brilliant job of summing up the state of play as Tuesday dawn breaks — with the exception of failing to reveal if Nancy Pelosi is bluffing. Although, one could argue, there’s no reason to bluff when you hold the far better hand. 

It would be easy to understand the Speaker’s being confused as to why the Secretary of the Treasury is going from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other acting like a man with four aces when in fact he has a 2, a 3, a 4, a 5, and a 7. 

The administration and the Republicans need a deal to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a government default, and they need a budget deal to avoid a shutdown, since congressional leaders of both parties believe the GOP will be blamed for either of those possibilities.

My take: The fight over the president’s “go back to your countries” remarks is running parallel to the budget and debt talks that are far from completed and which could quickly produce a big crisis of their own.  Pelosi and Mnuchin are expected to talk again on Tuesday.  With tensions running high, what momentum is there for a deal? 

Because Pelosi is a patriot, and because she is likely to extract a lot on her list of demands in return for bailing out a semi-desperate Treasury Secretary, there will likely be an agreement. But it will also likely be a short-term pact that kicks the can towards Halloween, Thanksgiving, or, yes, Christmas.

In other news:

A new New Hampshire Democratic primary poll shows how very wrong I was about the level of Bernie Sanders’ floor of support in the Granite State.  This thing is a jump ball, although Biden still leads numerically.

Bruce Mehlman’slatest slides on 2020 (and beyond) are hot off the e-presses.  Great look at the state of the two parties and the presidential race.

The president’s formidable fundraising, including from fat cats who opposed him four years ago, continues apace, per Politico.  Oh, and also from small-dollar donors, per the New York Times.

My take: Democratic strategists don’t take about this much publicly (except in fundraising pitch emails of their own), but they are worried about the asymmetry going on here.

Biden had a lot of donors max out in the second quarter, putting pressure on him to find more bundled donations and expand his grassroots support in the third quarter, or risk seeing his number fall.

My take: Achieving this will only come with more political and polling success than the former VP currently is enjoying. It will be a bad day for his comms staff if they have to spin a bad fundraising number in the fall.

Big Four

Presidential candidates to focus on older voters’ issues at AARP/Des Moines Register forums.

Joe Biden draws line against progressives on health care.

Booker’s Iowa senior adviser leaves, citing personal reasons.

Nevada committee turns its attention to boosting participation in 2020 census.

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