Thursday, September 19, 2019


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NOBODY KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT NOTHING
 
Question: What will Donald Trump do to respond to what the U.S. says was an Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia?
 
Answer: Per the New York Times,
 
“Mr. Trump’s team has developed a range of alternatives short of a retaliatory strike with bombs or missiles, including a new round of sanctions to further strangle Iran’s economy, the deployment of more American forces to the region as a deterrent against future provocations and a stepped-up cyber campaign to send a message of resolve to Tehran without bloodshed, officials said.”
 
Per the Wall Street Journal,
 
“If a strike against Iranian interests happens, it is more likely to be measured and come from Saudi Arabia, with U.S. backing, than from the U.S. itself, according to interviews with administration officials and others who have been briefed on White House thinking.”
 
“British U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said responsibility hadn’t been determined. Japan and France have also signaled to the U.S. that they aren’t convinced Iran was behind the attack.”
 
My take: Trump is under pressure to be firm and tough (see the lead Wall Street Journal editorial).  There are a lot of wrinkles here.  Secretary of State Pompeo says Iran committed an act of war, but, if true, it was an act of war against the Saudis.  While the administration is talking like Bush 41 in its determination to build a worldwide coalition of the willing to hold Iran accountable, bilateral action by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia is still more likely than some global response.  It appears Trump would like to act without the risk of any American casualties. That doesn’t preclude a robust military response, but it makes it far less likely.

****
 
Question: What is up with this extraordinary lead in the Washington Post?
 
“The whistleblower complaint that has triggered a tense showdown between the U.S. intelligence community and Congress involves President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader, according to two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
 
“Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a ‘promise’ that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.”
 
Answer: We are likely to know more soon. This is one of the rare Trump Show controversies that might have staying power.
 
My take: There are more questions than answers on this story right now, but the tripwire has been tripped: the media and the Democrats won’t rest until, at a minimum, the “promise” and the foreign leader are identified.
 
****
 
Question: Is Bibi Netanyahu going to hold on to power?
 
Answer: It’s complicated.
 
My take: The new Netanyahu proposal for power sharing is just the latest twist, but this is a classic “nothing is decided until everything is decided” situation, and Israelis can argue about politics with the best of them.  The underground betting parlors in Tel Aviv are not currently taking wagers.
 
****
 
Question: Is Justin Trudeau going to hold on to power, after brown-face photo appears?
 
Answer: It’s complicated.
 
My take: A normal Canadian politician would be grievously wounded by such a revelation.  Trudeau has demonstrated previously that his ability to scramble out of political controversy is more like that of Bill Clinton than of Hillary Clinton.  The underground betting parlours in Quebec are laying odds he makes it.
 
****
 
Question: Is the Trump administration floating a firearm background check plan on Capitol Hill that has Ivanka’s backing but not her father’s?
 
Answer: Yes.
 
My take: Given the sour reaction of the NRA and many congressional Republicans to this float, and that the White House is distancing the president from the proposal, it would appear that a bipartisan deal on gun safety is not in the cards right now.
 
****
 
Question: Why is the media acting like Joe Biden has already lost the nomination fight to Elizabeth Warren?
 
Answer: Yet another new national poll (Fox News) shows the former VP losing ground, fueling the press’ desire to write off a candidate who has not convinced enough press people that his candidacy is exciting.
 
My take: Another day, another article premised on a Warren-Trump general election.  Right now, what keeps Biden’s poll numbers afloat is the belief among voters that he is most likely to beat Trump.  It is obviously tempting for Team Biden to rely on this edge.  On the current trajectory, however, that is seen as a losing hand.  As long as Warren stays on her momentum roll, Biden’s electability argument becomes more and more tenuous.
 
****
 
Question: Will Kamala Harris’ new turn-around plan to go all in on Iowa around work?
 
Answer: While her own pollster finds her current standing in the state flagging, this new focus gives her a better chance to be the Democratic nominee than spending her time at private fundraisers with fat cats in big cities.
 
My take: Warren and Sanders are not reliant on a Biden collapse to get into the finals of the nomination battle. Harris pretty much is.  Team Harris previously argued that she could survive early defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire. Smartly, it now accepts that is not true.  Any candidate can switch up scheduling priorities to spend more time in Iowa, but Harris is not going to be able to win over Hawkeye State Democrats with just time and money (she doesn’t have enough of either); it is going to take message.  So, different venue, same challenge: What is the Harris message that will resonate with voters?
 
****
Top sports story: Cole 18th in MLB history with 300 K’s in season
ESPN
 
Top business story: CBS, WarnerMedia, Viacom drop all e-cigarette advertising, including from market leader Juul
CNBC
 
Top entertainment story: Lisa Simpson Tapped as New Head of Talent Relations at Fox Entertainment
Variety
 
****
 
Iowa
 
Elizabeth Warren nabs 2020 backing of Iowa’s state treasurer.
 
Sanders’ Iowa political director leaves his 2020 campaign.
 
Iowa governor defends surgery law amid California travel ban.
 
New Hampshire
 
Sununu goes 23-1 as House overturns only one veto on ‘grow your own’ bill
 
Senate, House Democrats present budget ‘compromise’ without backing of governor.
 
South Carolina
 
2020 hopeful Pete Buttigieg tackles gun control at USC town hall.
 

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