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SUNDAY MEET AND THREE
Three News Stories
1. President Trump announced he is backing off holding the G-7 at his Miami resort in Saturday night tweets.
My take: The least surprising moment of the Era of Trump. Republicans of all stripes were dead-set against the original decision, and made that clear quietly and emphatically to the White House over the last few days. The president had two choices – cancel now or cancel later.
2. Bernie Sanders drew the largest Democratic crowd of the nomination season, with 26,000 people in Queens at a rally featuring Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
My take: Sanders hasn’t improved much as a candidate between 2016 and 2019, but he is still the most experienced and successful presidential candidate in this race. And he still has a large donor base, a clear message, and a floor of support. He is not the favorite to be the nominee right now, but he has a decent chance to be a bigger player at the national convention than he was four years ago (when he was a really big player).
3. Speaker Pelosi led a surprise weekend bipartisan House delegation to Jordan amidst the crisis with Turkey and Syria.
My take: CODELs such as this are often derided as boondoggles, but Pelosi and her colleagues are fact-finding and relationship building at a time when the nation needs this co-equal branch to contribute wisdom and judgment to determining and projecting America’s role around the world. Let’s see where else they go.
Three Essential Reads
1. The Washington Post’s Dan Balz writes this in his Sunday column:
“To date, there’s been little that has given Democrats the confidence that their nomination process will produce a challenger strong enough, appealing enough and politically skilled enough to withstand what will be a brutal general election against a weakened and vulnerable president. Trump’s campaign is already running a general election loaded with cash and with months of time to try to shape voters’ perceptions of Democrats negatively before their nominee is even selected.”
My take: I’ve got a whole book about this, coming out in nine days. Balz’s piece reflects the reality I found when reporting for “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists On What It Will Take.” Only four elected incumbents have lost since 1900. Although Trump has serious political problems, none of his rivals are doing much of anything right now to prepare for a general election. That one fact, more than any other, worries Democratic strategists.
2. The New York Times’ Ross Douthat writes this in his Sunday column:
“This American president can be easily hoodwinked and flattered and bullied, and the only repercussions will be Mike Pence showing up at your doorstep looking like a disappointed owl.”
My take: Douthat makes the point that Beltway old hands have fretted about from the start of the Trump presidency: while the Republic can survive domestic gridlock and bedlam, national security is a more fraught realm.
3. The New York Times has the best reporting yet on John Durham’s special Justice Department investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.
My take: This story has a lot of important facts in it, is not written with an agenda or point of view, and will give both pro- and anti-Trump partisans plenty to think about — and plenty to worry about.
Three Near-Essential Reads
1. The Wall Street Journal’s story on the rising meme that Elizabeth Warren lacks some key policy details includes this:
“Ms. Warren’s campaign has declined to say whether it is drafting its own proposal. But her top aides have been calling health care experts in recent weeks as it examines revenue models to fund Medicare for All. A representative for the Warren campaign declined to comment for this article.”
My take: In the context of the nomination battle, Warren doesn’t have a policy problem on health care as much as she has a political problem. If her aides are clever enough to solve her political problem with more policy details on the extremely difficult topic of health care costs, then they are wicked smart indeed.
2. The Washington Post has the best reporting yet on Joe Biden’s relationship with Ukraine as vice president.
My take: No big breaking news in this piece, but it will give you a lot more context and understanding of just how invested Biden was in trying to push the Ukrainians towards dealing with corruption.
3. The Washington Post’s Paul Kane on all the things Congress has to do, and wants to do, while it grapples with impeachment.
My take: After last week’s Trump-Pelosi blowup, the question of whether this president and this Congress can simultaneously deal with impeachment and legislating is a big and open one. The relationship between the president and the Speaker is obviously key in answering that riddle, but watch McConnell-Schumer too. Their ability to navigate through New Year’s Eve is central as well.
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