Saturday, November 16, 2019

DISTILLATIONS

The perfect distillation of what happened in the impeachment investigation on Friday:

“The former United States ambassador to Ukraine told the House impeachment inquiry on Friday that she felt threatened by President Trump and ‘shocked, appalled, devastated’ that he vilified her in a call with another foreign leader, as Mr. Trump attacked her in real time on Twitter, drawing a stern warning about witness intimidation from Democrats….

“The official, David Holmes — who worked for Ms. Yovanovitch in Kiev — overheard Mr. Sondland telling Mr. Trump that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine ‘loves your ass,’ and would conduct the investigations and do ‘anything you ask him to.’”

My take: IF House Republicans and Fox News ultimately provide the permission structure for Senate Republicans to vote to convict the president, history will record Friday as a big moment in that process. That was a Top Five All-Time Impussive, Self-Destructive, Out-of-Control Trump Tweet.  Make no mistake: congressional Republicans, even most Trump uber loyalists, did not enjoy Friday one bit.

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The perfect distillation of why Friday’s events probably won’t lead House Republicans and Fox News to provide the permission structure for Senate Republicans to vote to convict the president (courtesy of the Wall Street Journal editorial board):

“After the first week of public hearings, we are left more or less where we were before. Democrats are exposing details of Mr. Trump’s Keystone Kops diplomacy that was stymied by internal Administration opposition. Mr. Trump committed another own-goal Friday when he used Twitter to attack former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as she was testifying. He should take Bill Clinton’s advice that the best impeachment defense is to do your job as President.

“Americans should by all means consider all this in their voting calculations next year. But on the public evidence to date, there was no crime, much less bribery, that warrants ousting a President months before Election Day.”

My take: No matter how Donald Trump conducts himself during the impeachment process or what is revealed about his actions regarding Ukraine, the right is going to almost certainly rally around the anti-conviction arguments that are by now all-too- familiar (“dumb and improper but not worth removing him in an election year when Ukraine got its aid”) because public opinion is unlikely to change enought to make impeachment seem truly bipartisan.

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The perfect distillation of why Friday’s events don’t mean a thing to all the president’s women and men:

“Attorney General William Barr said Friday that President Donald Trump’s political opponents have pursued a ‘scorched earth, no-holds-barred resistance; meant to ‘sabotage; his presidency.

“’The pursuit of scores of investigations and an avalanche of subpoenas is meant to incapacitate’ the administration, Barr said in a biting address to the conservative Federalist Society.”

“‘I’m concerned that the deck has become stacked against the executive,’  he said. ‘There’s this knee-jerk tendency to see the legislative and judicial branches as the good guys protecting the people from a rapacious would-be autocrat.’”

My take: It is possible to believe simultaneously that 70% (or more) of what Barr says is true and also that the president committed acts regarding Ukraine that are patently impeachable. In fact, that is likely the secret position of Mitt Romney, Nikki Haley, Mitch McConnell, Tom Cole, Barney Frank, Claire McCaskill, Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, 85% of Bush 43 donors, and 480 out of 500 members of the Gang of 500.

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The perfect distillation of the conviction of Roger Stone on all counts:

“Mr. Stone, 67, was convicted in federal court of seven felonies for obstructing the congressional inquiry, lying to investigators under oath and trying to block the testimony of a witness whose account would have exposed his lies. Jurors deliberated for a little over seven hours before convicting him on all counts. Together, the charges carry a maximum prison term of 50 years.”

“In a last-minute bid for salvation, prosecutors said, Mr. Stone appealed to Mr. Trump for a pardon on Thursday, using a right-wing conspiracy theorist who runs the website Infowars as his proxy. Mr. Trump attacked the guilty verdict against Mr. Stone in a tweet on Friday but made no mention of a pardon.”

My take: Even the closest students in the world of the Trump/Stone relationship don’t really understand what exists between the two men or how often they communicated during the 2016 election cycle.  Stone’s delight in being a larger-than-life fictional character is going to change when he realizes he faces spending a significant portion of the rest of his life in prison. How both Stone and Trump deal with that truth is both unknowable and vital to writing the history of the next six months.

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The perfect distillation of why smart Democrats remain deeply concerned that Donald Trump will win reelection, as told in my book “How to Beat Trump”:

Speaking Friday night to the progressive donor group the Democracy Alliance, Barack Obama waded ankle deep into the concerns shared by all Obamas and all Clintons and the Bloomberg and the Patrick:  

“We also have to be rooted in reality and the fact that voters, including the Democratic voters and certainly persuadable independents or even moderate Republicans are not driven by the same views that are reflected on certain, you know, left-leaning Twitter feeds. Or the activist wing of our party.”

“This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement. They like seeing things improved. But the average American doesn’t think that we have to completely tear down the system and remake it. And I think it’s important for us not to lose sight of that.”

My take: It remains impossible to overstate the quiet and extreme concern about the prospect of losing to Donald Trump of Speaker Pelosi, Senator Schumer, the Democratic donor class, and even many of the liberals who populate the Democracy Alliance. To a person, they believe that Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg probably can’t win a general election, Joe Biden probably can’t win the nomination, and no other electable moderate will be in a position to stop Warren or Sanders after the New Hampshire primary. They also all realize that saying or doing anything more overt than the halting, coded words of Barack Obama will likely backfire and only serve to make it more likely that Warren or Sanders will be the nominee. 

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The perfect distillation of why the Democratic establishment agrees with Team Trump that Warren will be easy to paint as so left she’s left America:

Three (3!) Wall Street Journal headlines in one day (one news story and two op ed page pieces) going after the Bay Stater on her stances:

“Elizabeth Warren’s Tax Plan Would Bring Rates Over 100% for Some”

“Warren Loves ‘Billionaire Tears’”

“Beware Warren’s ‘Madisonian’ Plan for Public Education”

My take: Team Warren continues to wear these attacks as a badge of honor.  That makes Brad Parscale laugh and David Plouffe cry (and Parscale doesn’t laugh much and Plouffe doesn’t cry much).

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The perfect distillation of why Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign has so far not lived up to the promise of her announcement event:

This Politico headline atop a post-mortem obit: 

“‘No discipline. No plan. No strategy.’: Kamala Harris campaign in meltdown”

My take: It is too early to write Harris off — let the votes decide. But the simple explanation of what has happened to her so far is that she failed to leverage one of the three parts of the virtuous cycle (good press coverage) into significant progress in the other two (higher poll numbers and powerhouse fundraising).  Harris’ campaign has been sending out donor solicitation emails suggesting that this failure has occurred because the media is biased against her. The candidate surely knows that that is not the cause of her troubles. But I wonder if she knows in her head the real explanation.

*****

Top sports story: Browns’ Myles Garrett suspended indefinitely; Steelers’ Maurkice Pouncey gets 3-game ban 

ESPN

Top business story: Stocks Breeze to Records as Trade Hopes Cover Up Economic Gloom

Bloomberg

Top entertainment story: Rage Against the Big Machine: What’s Driving the Taylor Swift Showdown

Variety

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