Sunday, October 13, 2019


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HOPES AND FEARS

Donald Trump

Biggest hope: The Democrats make some major mistake on impeachment that puts him back on offense.

Biggest fear: The Democrats run the public impeachment hearings with the meticulousness of Henry Waxman, the toughness of John Dingell, and the showbiz flair of….Donald Trump.

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Nancy Pelosi

Biggest hope: She holds her caucus together, the Ukraine story is as understandable and clear-cut to the public as it is to Adam Schiff, and she gets an impeachment floor vote (with meaningful Republican support) before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Biggest fear: Donald Trump is reelected, in part because of the effort to impeach him.

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Rudy Giuliani

Biggest hope: He starts doing three things he is not accustomed to lately: (1) surround himself with brilliant, sophisticated, savvy advisers; (2) talks less, smiles more; (3) develops a winning strategy and sticks with it.

Biggest fear: He learns what it feels like to be in the crosshairs of an aggressive prosecutor with an unlimited budget and a desire for a big-game trophy.

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Elizabeth Warren

Biggest hope: There are overlapping coalitions that power her to both the Democratic nomination and a general election victory.

Biggest fear: She currently doesn’t have one (which is potentially her biggest vulnerability).

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Joe Biden

Biggest hope: Through the twists and turns and game of political musical chairs, he lands back on “most electable” in time for Iowa and New Hampshire.

Biggest fear: It turns out he never actually had a chance (see “Bush, Jeb, 2016 campaign”).

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Jerry Nadler

Biggest hope: He is ready when the time comes.

Biggest fear: The Speaker never lets the time come (and figures out a way to largely bypass him).

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Mick Mulvaney

Biggest hope: He can keep doing the parts of the job that interest him, without unpleasantness taking over his life.

Biggest fear: History.

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Brad Parscale

Biggest hope: The Democrats’ presidential nominee never catches up on general election planning.

Biggest fear: Suburban women are so fed up that they are unpersuadable.

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Pete Buttigieg

Biggest hope: One shining moment right before the Iowa caucuses.

Biggest fear: Voters decide the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

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Bernie Sanders

Biggest hope: His floor of support is much higher than polling suggests.

Biggest fear: He never solves the Warren Rubik’s Cube.

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ESSENTIAL READING

I’ve read a lot of newspaper stories in my life (including this morning…), but I’ve rarely seen one as bizarre and potentially consequential as this Washington Post newsbreak in which someone familiar with the testimony Gordon Sondland is expected to deliver to House impeachment investigators this week suggests that Sondland is going to give up the president to save himself.  

The person speaking for Sondland says he will frame his famous text suggesting that there was no quid pro quo situation with Ukraine as something of which he was actually blissfully ignorant.

“Sondland plans to tell lawmakers he has no knowledge of whether the president was telling him the truth at that moment. ‘It’s only true that the president said it, not that it was the truth,’ said the person familiar with Sondland’s planned testimony.”

My take: Sondland has been cast up until now as a Trump loyalist who was playing outside his lane to serve as the president’s point person on Ukraine, with a leading role in the events that have formed the basis for the impeachment inquiry.  Every major player in the impeachment drama – including and especially Donald Trump – will read this story to try to figure out what is up with Sondland and what it means for the probe.  The story begs lots of questions, while making the president’s political position either a little or a lot weaker. But the biggest implication is that apparently the president cannot count on the loyalty of at least one person he surely was counting on. That will annoy Trump and freak out congressional Republicans.

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The New York Times chronicles Saturday’s many efforts by the president to show he still HEARTS Rudy: the two had lunch together, there were supportive presidential tweets, and Trump called into Fox in the evening to praise his friend and lawyer.

My take: The Times beat me to the punch with its closing two paragraphs:

“What concerns some of Mr. Trump’s advisers more than a possible FARA prosecution related to his Ukraine work is that Mr. Giuliani, who has been representing the president pro bono, is facing a contentious and potentially costly divorce from his third wife, Judith Nathan, and that he may have taken on clients overseas who could be problematic for him with prosecutors.

“While Mr. Trump has been reluctant to separate from Mr. Giuliani, some of his advisers hope he will. They remain concerned about Mr. Giuliani’s public commentary about the president and the Ukraine issue.”

So, despite Saturday’s show of support, only time will tell.

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The Washington Post’s Dan Balz reconstructs the president’s tweets since the whistleblower came forward, as a metaphor for Everything Trump, along with these twin quotes that are filled with wisdom;

Newt Gingrich: “I think Trump’s a pretty good fighter who sort of thought in his mind we’d get to the end of this cycle. And what he’s discovered is, he can’t move on. . . . I think there will come a point where he will shift gears and go into more of an endurance mode.”

Democratic pollster Peter Hart: “Trump as ill-suited by temperament for the impeachment test. Impeachment is a lengthy process, but Trump ‘looks at every day as a fire sale. How many things can I do to control or dominate the day. . . . Every day is a new day and a new war.’”

My take: Until and unless Trump can shake the image this piece illustrates – the president of the United States in a frenzied, defensive panic – his own actions will only dig his hole deeper.  Up until now, Twitter and photo op zingers have been Trump’s friends. To tweak the famous line, the president is now doing the same thing over and over and getting a different (read: worse) result.

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This New York Times story about how Trump’s recent statements and actions regarding Turkey and the Kurds have unsettled America’s allies around the world contains these two remarkable moments:

1. “’It is chaos,’ said Michael Stephens, a scholar of the region at the Royal United Services Institute in London. ‘The region is in chaos because the hegemonic power does not seem to know what it wants to do, and so nobody else does.’”

2. “But few American leaders have ever made and disclosed major foreign policy decisions with the speed and seeming improvisation that Mr. Trump does.” (written by the three reporters with bylines and the winner of the Wide World of News Understatement of the Year Award ®.)

My take: Res ipsa loquitur.

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Elizabeth Warren is in a war with Facebook that is at once cheeky and deadly serious.

My take: Warren is taking a page from the Trump playbook by helping define herself by picking fights with the enemies of her choosing, a tactic I write about in “How to Beat Trump.” Saturday’s back-and-forth, in which Facebook responded multiple times (including on Twitter!), suggests the Bay Stater is in a fight she can’t lose, and the social media giant knows it. This is one of the clearest indications yet that Warren is moving at such high speed that it is possible that no Democrat will be able to slow her down, let alone catch her.

But, I say again, let’s wait until she faces a politically existential threat before we start speculating on if she will pick Senator Tammy Baldwin as her running mate.

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ALMOST ESSENTIAL READING

The Associated Press has a neat roundup of where the Democratic nomination fight stands:

“The uncertainty is heightening anxieties among Democrats desperate to defeat Trump in 2020. Although impeachment could imperil Trump’s presidency, the process has also highlighted Trump’s skill at discrediting his opponents, sometimes with baseless conspiracy theories. And Democrats appear no closer to sorting out what tactics, what ideology and what person is best-suited to overcome that.”

My take: Worried and smart Democrats continue to privately fret that the impeachment process will end with Trump not removed and/but stronger.

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You will probably want to read about the version of his stump speech the president gave Saturday night at the Values Voter Summit. Politico’s version is good.

My take: Note in particular his focus on Speaker Pelosi (instead of the leading Democratic presidential candidates) and his defense of his Turkey-Kurds policy.

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“The Russian Air Force has repeatedly bombed hospitals in Syria in order to crush the last pockets of resistance to President Bashar al-Assad, according to an investigation by The New York Times.”

My take: Despite the crippling sanctions the U.S. has imposed, the lack of U.S. leverage over Putin remains the biggest international problem facing America (as has been true for at least the last decade).

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Top sports story: Max Scherzer gives Nationals their second straight gem, and a 2-0 series lead over Cardinals

Washington Post

Top business story: Wall Street has doubts after partial trade deal: ‘I don’t think this gets us to Christmas’

CNBC

Top entertainment story: Billy Porter Makes Cameo in ‘SNL’ Cold Open Tackling LGBTQ Presidential Town Hall

Hollywood Reporter

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