Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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To paraphrase John McCain quoting Mo Udall: “Everything has been said already about the Mueller hearings but not everyone has had a chance to say it.”

Here are the five hard truths:

1. There has never, ever been a congressional hearing with a witness who is by both nature and intent as unexciting as Robert Mueller that has captured the public imagination. 

It isn’t that he isn’t Ollie North or Fawn Hall – he isn’t even Brendan Sullivan.  Mueller is a nice and brilliant man who will purposefully make the Democrats long for testimony from a potted plant.

My take: Democrats who think diners, barber shops, and WeWorks are going to come to a hushed halt, a searching nation’s lonely eyes glued to a lawyer reciting prose in a monotone, are not in Donald Trump’s class as TV producers.

2. The Democrats and the press are rightfully deeply interested in getting to the bottom of efforts by the Russians, including with the cooperation and interest of Team Trump, to interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The Democrats and the press are rightfully deeply interested in getting to the bottom of whether Donald Trump obstructed justice or committed other crimes in conjunction with a federal national security and criminal probe.

The Democrats and the press are rightfully outraged that congressional Republicans and the White House are totally uninterested in getting anywhere near the bottom of either of those questions.

The Republicans are rightfully deeply interested in getting to the bottom of the facts surrounding the origins and conduct of a federal national security and criminal probe of an on-going Republican presidential campaign by a Democratic administration.

The Republicans are rightfully outraged that the Democrats and the press are totally uninterested in getting anywhere near the bottom of that question.  The Republicans (and not just the president and Paul Gigot) think the press’s apparent lack of interest derives from the fact that they are biased against Republicans.

My take: Russian interference, potential obstruction of justice by the man who currently sits in the Oval Office, and the dangerous precedent of the FBI nosing around a presidential campaign during an election are all things about which both parties and the media should be extremely concerned.  It is sadly too late for either political party to honor the oath to the constitution all its members have taken and care about all three topics. It is not too late for the media.

3. Assuming Mueller sticks to his pledge and says nothing in the hearings that wasn’t in his written report, it makes no sense for any Democrat to suddenly come out for impeachment after the hearings.

My take: Unless, of course, they are planning to base their position on whether public opinion changes. Don’t hold your breath for that to happen.

4. There are many principled reasons that some Democrats support impeachment proceedings in the House, even though the results would end up in Mitch McConnell’s Senate graveyard.  But if you are, say, Nancy Pelosi, and you have access to (a) reams of polling data; (b) hours of focus groups; (c) the accounts of the views of swing voters in swing congressional districts from the members who represent them; and (d) a fingertip feel for how politics works, then it is unlikely in the extreme that anything that happens on Wednesday will change your view about whether to proceed with impeachment proceedings or not.

My take: Pelosi has listened to countless hours of pro-impeachment Democrats make their case.  She has heard a lot of passion and smart rationales.  She also believes that there is next to zero chance impeachment makes it more likely that Donald Trump loses re-election.  Quite the opposite.  And after Paul, the kids, the grandkids, her faith, and (again with the) chocolate ice cream, nothing matters to her as much as electing a Democratic president next year.

5.  No amount of war gaming, murder boards, language tweaking, or badgering will get Mueller to say something he doesn’t want to say.

My take: Pity the House members of both parties who don’t go into the hearing accepting this fact as the ultimate reality governing the day’s events.

One more thing: essential reading is this Harry Litman Washington Post op ed on the fatally flawed ways that Mueller was inexplicably timid.  Largely irrelevant for today, but vital to understand for history.

In other news:

The Big Casino budget/debt ceiling deal will get the votes to pass, per the administration and bipartisan, bicameral congressional leaders.

My take:  Newt Gingrich cracks the code in the Washington Post: “The reality here is that Republicans were never going to get spending cuts with Speaker Pelosi running the House, and [the White House] didn’t want an economic meltdown or shutdown this summer.”  There will be defections in both parties in both chambers, but the whip counters are just short of a Mariano Rivera confidence level.

Justice Department launches wide-ranging probe of Silicon Valley’s biggest corporate names.

My take: There is bipartisan concern about the power of Facebook, etc., but the day of reckoning will not occur anytime soon, and not without legal and lobbying bucks galore being spent.  These antitrust issues are not easily solved by sound bite or legal briefs.  The integration of the big platforms into the lives of consumers adds a level of complexity that almost no one in the government can fathom.  This is not Ma Bell.

US-China trade talks are set to resume, with the hot deal-making hand of Secretary Mnuchin as part of the negotiating team, as an American delegation heads to Asia next week.

My take: Substantively and politically, Trump needs a North American or China trade deal before the State of the Union address and the Iowa caucuses.  It is totally unclear which of the two is more in reach.

Democrats’ biggest, baddest Super PAC goes digital against Trump.

My take: Priorities USA starts online ad barrage that is planned to continue straight through the election, based on research that suggests that making the case that the economy isn’t working for everyone is the key to beating the incumbent. Not all Democrats, including the presidential candidates, agree with that emphasis.  The effort focuses on the Big 3 (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin) and Florida.  Targeting that cluster has more consensus support among party strategists. 

It isn’t all about that base (no matter how many times TV people who like puns say it); it’s all about 270.

Top sports story: Inside a tense NBA owners meeting that might change free agency

Top business story: Apple Dominates App Store Search Results, Thwarting Competitors
Wall Street Journal

Top entertainment story: Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift Top MTV VMAs Noms

Big Four


Lightning sparks more than a dozen wildfires in Nevada.

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