October 15, 2019


Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

THIS IS A BIG NEWS DAY

Turkey/Syria

Essential reading: David Sanger’s masterful New York Times overview of what has been lost, what is at risk, and what can be done about the calamity.

His most important point: American enemies ISIS, Syria, Iran, and Russia are winning right now.

Two opinion pieces are also important

David Ignatius on what we have heard for days: how angry and upset U.S. military and intelligence officials are.

And Walter Russell Mead, writing in the Wall Street Journal (whose editorial board’s lead piece is as strong in its condemnation of President Trump as those of the New York Times and Washington Post), says this:

“The only man in Washington under more pressure than Mr. Pompeo is Mr. Trump. This president is a unique historical figure whose unconventional approach to politics has reshaped American political life. But at the moment Mr. Trump has lost control of the international agenda and faces some of the greatest risks of his presidency. His survival in office and his place in history both depend on putting American foreign policy on a more solid footing, and the clock is against him. The coming episodes of ‘The Trump Show’ look to be the most compelling, and the most consequential, yet.”

This Washington Post reporting reveals a bit of classic Donald Trump – shocking but not surprising:

“Trump was told on Monday afternoon by advisers that it would be costly not to do anything, that the absence of the United States from the region could strengthen Iran, and that the deteriorating situation could hurt him politically, according to people familiar with the discussion.

“It ‘has been a days-long effort to get him in a better place,’ one official said of Trump, adding that Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been key in that effort.”

Vice president Pence is headed soon to Turkey to try to fix what’s been broken, with great human and geopolitical costs, and with Congress, including Mitch McConnell, nearly unanimous in its upset and determination to do something.

The president is scheduled to lunch with Pence, with his only public event at this writing at 3:10PM, when he does the sports photo op with the Stanley Cup Champions, the St. Louis Blues.

My take: It is challenging to keep up with facts on the ground. The near-silence from other NATO countries is bizarre and a reflection of one of the factors that bother the president and many of his grassroots supporters – why is this America’s problem to solve?  When Trump talked to Erdoğan, his attitude seemed to be that the rest of the world should deal with Syria. Now, with Pence soon off to the region, the president has belatedly realized that this IS now America’s problem to solve, regardless of any campaign pledges.

****

The Debate

The 12-person Democratic presidential debate runs from 8pm to 11pm ET on CNN.

I’ve read all the debate previews (Warren with the frontrunner’s target on her back, Biden/Ukraine, Sanders’ heart attack, others trying to break through, blah blah blah), and I can save you the time and say you can safely skip them.

My take: Watch the debate, of course. However, logic dictates that between impeachment and Syria, this is more likely to be a night where the candidates spend more time auditioning to be the Trump Slayer than putting the contrasts between them on other measures in sharper relief.  That will make for a less interesting and less clarifying event.  But it is still very important.

****

Impeachment

House Democrats are scheduled to have an early evening meeting to update the caucus on the investigation.

The New York Times explodes this little, uhm, hand grenade regarding Monday’s closed-door testimony of former White House Russia policy adviser Fiona Hill:

“The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday.

“The aide, Fiona Hill, testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff…

“It was not the first time Mr. Bolton expressed grave concerns to Ms. Hill about the campaign being run by Mr. Giuliani. ‘Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,’ Ms. Hill quoted Mr. Bolton as saying during an earlier conversation.”

(Republican sources continue to say that Giuliani is the weak link that Almost All the President’s People are worried about. The Wall Street Journal has new details on the federal probe into Rudy.)

My take: Note well the mention of the acting White House chief of staff in this narrative. Note well the likelihood that the Democrats and the media (never before big fans of John Bolton) will now elevate the wisdom and judgment of the recently-departed national security adviser to the highest of heights. Note well the Democrats keeping the momentum going.

****

Co-equal branch

Congress returns to deal with impeachment, Syria, a spending deal, a new North America trade pact, prescription drug prices, and gun control. (Wall Street Journal)

My take: Expect to spend the next 48 hours+, along with everything else, processing the output of Capitol Hill reporters, with quotes and video galore of members from both sides of the aisle and both chambers, opining on all of these pressing topics.  There will be seriousness, surprises, humor, red lines, bright lines, and a lot of sound and fury, at least some of which will signify a lot.

****

LeBron James

The King weighs in on Hong Kong, creates a social media ruckus, semi-backs off, and the story isn’t over.

My take: Free speech in the United States is apparently almost as complicated as it is in China.

****

Top sports story: Aaron Rodgers works magic, lifts Packers without two top receivers

Packers 23, Lions 22

ESPN

Top business story: CBO says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drug pricing plan saves Medicare $345 billion over decade

CNBC

Top entertainment story: ‘Fortnite’ Goes Dark: A Masterful Marketing Stroke by Epic Games

Variety

Monday, October 14, 2019


Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

NEED-TO-KNOW BASIS

The latest news on the fast-developing story in Syria and Turkey is here.

My take:  The inverse of the famous Pottery Barn Rule is in effect here. By withdrawing U.S. forces, unleashing the Turks, endangering the Kurds, potentially reviving ISIS, raising ire and concern in Congress and among American allies, and failing to have or explain a clear plan, Donald Trump owns the outcome of whatever happens in the region, both politically and for history.

****

The Washington Post looks at Donald Trump’s impeachment era state of mind, which seems to lack peace of mind.

My take: Is the presidential head in a truly different place than it has ever been? There are increasingly signs that it is, but the full implications of such a thing are not clear yet.  It does make leaking even more likely, for obvious reasons, which will keep the cycle going.

****

The fact that the Associated Press finds some voters are wary and weary of impeachment does not mean House Democrats will change course – but it makes the clock tick even faster.

My take: Measuring sentiment is difficult and/but polls clearly have moved in favor of impeachment, but, make no mistake, the media is still creating a misleading impression of how big the Democrats’ margin of error is on this enterprise, especially when it comes to time.

****

The Wall Street Journal examines Elizabeth Warren’s fuzzy position on health care reform.

My take: “I’ve got a plan for that” is not going to be good enough for Warren’s rivals and some voters if her position on a top issue for the electorate is actually “I’ve got a plan without some key specifics for that.” Everyone knows why Warren isn’t being more specific on health care reform.  What is unknown is what will/could cause her to be more specific, and what the consequences would be if she were.

****

Hunter Biden’s announcement about his present and future business practices is being cast by Democratic strategists as a smart step.

My take: This move definitely helps. It also definitely doesn’t end the scrutiny, the investigative reporting, and the opposition research.

****

If you want to know why Donald Trump remains the favorite for reelection in the eyes of many Democratic and Republican strategists, read this op ed by former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

My take: Two weeks out from the release of my book, “How to Beat Trump,” I begin the process of introducing you to the content by reminding you that many Democratic strategists believe that it takes a lot of different steps for a challenger’s campaign to beat an incumbent president. And none of the Democratic candidates are taking very many of those steps now.

****

My take: It is simple and imperative – even if Team Trump didn’t produce the horrible video depicting the killing of journalists, the campaign and the White House both have an obligation to denounce it. 

****

Top sports story: Astros vs. Yankees score: Carlos Correa evens up ALCS with 11th-inning walk-off homer in Game 2

CBS Sports

Top business story: Wall Street’s Sky-High Expectations Are About to Collide With Reality

New York Times

Top entertainment story: Box Office: ‘Joker’ Goes Crazy With $55M; ‘Addams Family’ Buries ‘Gemini Man’

Hollywood Reporter

Sunday, October 13, 2019


Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

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.

****

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.

****

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.

****

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).

****

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”).

****

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).

****

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.

****

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.

****

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.

****

Bernie Sanders

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

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

****

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.

****

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.

****

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.

****

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.

****

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.

****

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.

****

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.

****

“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).

****

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

Saturday, October 12, 2019


Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

RUDY, RUDY, RUDY

The U.S. and China struck a preliminary, partial trade deal; the U.S. is sending military forces to Saudi Arabia; momentum for congressional action on sanctions against Turkey grew even more; U.S. troops came under Turkish fire in Syria; Donald Trump lost in court on green cards and visas, the border wall, and withholding his financial records from House Democrats; the acting Homeland Security chief is leaving; the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, defied the administration and testified before House investigators; more witnesses are scheduled to testify in the impeachment probe next week; ISIS might revive; Trump mocked Bernie Sanders for playing baseball and attacked Nancy Pelosi at a raucous rally in Louisiana on the eve of the state’s gubernatorial election today; Mitch McConnell plans a Wednesday press conference; Shep Smith is leaving Fox News; Elizabeth Warren is getting more scrutiny; there is a Democratic presidential candidate debate on Tuesday; fires are raging in California; Japan is dealing with a massive typhoon and an earthquake; there was a shooting in Brooklyn in which at least four people died.

So just read these two articles and enjoy your Saturday:

“Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani broke lobbying laws in his dealings in Ukraine.” (New York Times)

“Rudy Giuliani’s longtime business partner and friend, John Huvane, resigned from their security company in recent weeks.” (Wall Street Journal)

My take: Donald Trump famously lets problems fester, wander, wax and wane, and go unresolved and not dealt with.  Under other circumstances, the person in his life who might tell him to address this issue decisively and quickly would be Rudy Giuliani.  Between now and Monday, the question is: Who will tell the president how big a problem he faces? Candidates include: Jared Kushner, Secretary Mnuchin, Melania Trump, and one of the scores of other people the president will talk to on the phone this weekend.  The press is going to be pulling on the Rudy, Lev, and Igor threads for a long time.  As long as Rudy is the president’s lawyer, and as long as Rudy keeps talking to the media, the pulling will be harder, more frequent, and potentially lethal.

****

Top sports story: Nationals beat Cardinals

ESPN

Top business story: Warren Buys Facebook Ads That Claim Zuckerberg Backs Trump

Bloomberg

Top entertainment story: Variety’s Power of Women Celebrates Honorees’ Voices and Activism

Variety

Friday, October 11, 2019


Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

TRADITION FRIDAY WIDE WORLD OF NEWS QUIZ: ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE LEV (& IGOR) EDITION

1. The entity that Donald Trump genuinely thinks is out to get him (as opposed to just a red-meat line) is

a. The media.

b. The Deep State.

c. House Democrats.

d. All of the above.

****
2. The best paragraph about Rudy, Lev, and Igor in today’s papers is

a. “Mr. Giuliani said Thursday that he continues to represent Messrs. Parnas and Fruman in their legal complaint against Mr. Kolomoisky. He said he also provides them ‘civil advice on business.’” (Wall Street Journal)

b. “Mr. Fruman is less well-known, according to the people who encountered them in political circles. Mr. Fruman’s export-import company reg­is­tered with New York in 1996, according to state records. An archived webpage for the company, F.D. Ex­port and Import Corp., says it is a major food distributor in Ukraine. Its products include coffee, chocolate, bananas and jewelry.” (Wall Street Journal)

c. “Mr. Galloway recalled that Mr. Parnas worked out of a strip mall in Boca Raton but was chauffeured around in a black SUV.” (Wall Street Journal)

d. “The indictment, along with interviews and other documents, show Mr. Parnas, Mr. Fruman and their associates as somewhat hapless operators, scrambling recklessly to use their new connections to the highest levels of American politics to seek financial gain while guiding Mr. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, into a Ukrainian political culture rife with self-dealing and ever-shifting alliances.” (New York Times)

e. “On Thursday, Mr. Giuliani said he did not regret working with Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman in Ukraine. ‘I have to presume they’re innocent,’ he said, adding: ‘There are a lot of motives going on trying to smear people, so I wouldn’t say that I regret it, no. Who else would I have turned to?’” (New York Times)

f. “Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman were arrested on Wednesday evening at Dulles International Airport as they held one-way tickets on a Lufthansa Airlines flight to Frankfurt. They were walking down a glass-framed jetway, boarding with first-class passengers after indulging in free drinks and food in the lounge, when two plainclothes officers stopped them, according to someone who witnessed the arrest.” (New York Times)

****
 
3. Rudy Giuliani is in the pickle he is in because 

a. The Zarrab case.

b. He was too interested in making too much money for too long.

c. He can’t cure his addiction to talking to the media.

d. He has lost 9 ½ steps.

****
4. The two people who have the most sophisticated three-dimensional- chess sense of where impeachment is going are 

a. Nancy Pelosi and Tom Cole.

b. Mitch McConnell and Mick Mulvaney.

c. Jared Kushner and Steny Hoyer.

d. Chuck Schumer and Roy Blunt.

****
5. The gap between Washington’s and New York’s focus on impeachment and the interest level of the rest of America is 

a. Narrowing fast.

b. Not big at all.

c. Is still vast but will narrow meaningfully by November 1.

d. Impossible to measure but is starting to trouble some of the leading members of Team Trump (but not others).

****
 
6. The third most likely Democratic presidential nominee now is 

a. Bernie Sanders.

b. Pete Buttigieg.

c. Andrew Yang.

d. Someone else.

****
 
7. The best recent news for Joe Biden is 

a. His poll numbers have not dropped as much as they might have.

b. Contributors are rallying around him because of the president’s attacks.

c. The all-mighty expectations game no longer requires him to finish first in Iowa or New Hampshire to have a chance to be the nominee.

d. The media continues to largely lay off Hunter Biden (but watch for looming investigative pieces, some fueled by opposition research from many quarters).

****
 

8. The most likely factor that will keep Donald Trump from being president in February of 2021 is
 

a. A global slump and continuing trade wars that collapse the economy in the Midwest.

b. His widely derided Syria policy.

c. The Democrats nominating someone for president who is super formidable.

d. Impeachment.

****

9. The person who represents the biggest threat to the president is

a. John Bolton (beware the book and the leaks).

b. Rex Tillerson (beware the leaks).

c. Geoffrey Berman.

d. Marie Yovanovitch (who is at this writing still expected on Capitol Hill for Friday closed-door testimony).

****

10.  The most seminal passage from Peggy Noonan’s essential reading column about Donald Trump’s Turkey decision(s) is

a. “The Syria decision contributes to the hardened impression that in foreign policy he’s all impulse, blithely operating out of his depth. It adds to the hardening suspicion that in negotiations he’s not actually tough; he’ll say yes to a lot of things, and some very bad things, to get the deal, the photo-op, the triumphant hand­shake.”

b. “Foreign-policy decisions in this administration look like the ball in a pinball machine in some garish arcade with flashing lights and some frantic guy pushing the levers ping ping ping and thinking he’s winning.”

c. “One thing I think I’ve correctly observed about the U.S. military in the 21st century is that its leaders tend to be the last to want to go to war and the last to want to leave it.”

d. A and C.

****

Answers: 1-b; 2-all of it; 3-b; 4-a; 5-d; 6-b; 7-c; 8-a; 9-c; 10-a.

****

The New York Times reports this about impeachment:

“Democrats are eyeing an accelerated timetable for their impeachment inquiry that could mean the entire process — including a House vote to charge the president and a Senate trial — could be almost over by January.”

My take: “Could”?! “Almost”?!  Congress never does anything on its projected timetable, and Team Trump has only just begun its multi-pronged efforts to stall the process. If this reporting accurately reflects Nancy Pelosi’s expectations and battle plan, this is the single most important paragraph in the Wide World of News today.  It would mean that impeachment is effectively dead.

****

There is optimism for the moment about a decent-sized U.S.-China trade accord.

My take: There are various reasons to believe this time it is for real, but, as always, nothing is decided until everything is decided. And there is a lot that hasn’t been decided yet.

****

Iran claims tanker off Saudi coast hit by rockets. LATEST

****

Top sports story: NBA cancels media availability for rest of China trip

ESPN

Top business story: More than two dozen now dead from vaping lung illness as outbreak spreads, CDC says

CNBC

Top entertainment story: HBO to Add Mental Health Disclaimers in Front of Select Shows

Variety


Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Thursday, October 10, 2019


Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

CAUSE AND EFFECT

CAUSE: “Just over half of voters want President Trump impeached and removed from office, according to a Fox News Poll released Wednesday.
 
“A new high of 51 percent wants Trump impeached and removed from office, another 4 percent want him impeached but not removed, and 40 percent oppose impeachment altogether. In July, 42 percent favored impeachment and removal, while 5 percent said impeach but don’t remove him, and 45 percent opposed impeachment.”
 
EFFECT: The president is acting on the two political imperatives Team Trump knows he has.
 
1. Keeping congressional Republicans, especially Senators, on board.
 
“In the coming weeks, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is planning to help Trump begin a quiet charm offensive with congressional Republicans, hosting private dinners and meetings, gatherings at Camp David and other ways of expressing appreciation for their support, according to three Trump advisers who were not authorized to speak publicly.” (Washington Post)
 
2. Staying on the offense with voters (not just the base) by doing a series of rallies, including an 8pm ET mega MAGA event tonight in Minnesota, a state the New York Times points out in an essential reading piece Trump is trying hard to win – and if he wins it, he will almost certainly be reelected.
 
“There is an acknowledgment inside some quarters of the West Wing that Trump cannot ignore the skittishness of Republicans. Trump is working intently to rouse his political base to his side. Following discussions at the White House last month about the imperative to ‘get Trump out into the country,’ as one White House official put it, the president scheduled campaign rallies for this Thursday in Minnesota and Friday in Louisiana.” (Washington Post)

****
Pre-order my new book:

HOW TO BEAT TRUMP:
America’s Top Political
Strategists on What it
Will Take


Order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

****
CAUSE: “[Lindsey] Graham said he plans to ask his GOP Senate colleagues to co-sign a letter to the House speaker stating that they ‘do not believe the transcript of the phone call’ constitutes an impeachable offense, adding that Pelosi and other Democratic lawmakers are ‘about to destroy the nation for no good reason.’”
 
EFFECT: The Washington Post’s crafty Paul Kane points out that the media is focusing on the wrong Senators in thinking about the prospects of Senate conviction.
 
“Who is least likely to lead a rebellion? Those GOP senators running for reelection next year.
 
“If a rebellion happens among GOP senators, it’s most likely to start with a group of these veterans who do not have any short-term political pain to suffer.”
 
So, ask: Will Lamar Alexander sign Graham’s letter?
 
****
 CAUSE: Some Democrats are worried that they will lose momentum on impeachment.

EFFECT: The New York Times publishes a well-reasoned op ed by law professor Noah Feldman….which reinforces the notion that no one really knows how the current Pelosi-Trump impeachment stalemate will turn out.
 
****
 
CAUSE: Some Democrats are worried that they will lose momentum on impeachment.
 
EFFECT: Sources let the Washington Post know that Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, is still expected to testify on Friday on Capitol Hill.
 
****
 
CAUSE: Rudy Giuliani is not slinking away; to the contrary, he is staying front and center.
 
EFFECT: More investigative reporting on his business interests, which is a bottomless pit, illustrated by this exclusive from Bloomberg detailing an alleged effort by Donald Trump to try to enlist Secretary of State Tillerson in a gambit to help a Giuliani client with a Justice Department problem.
 
****
 
CAUSE: The worldwide chaos and negative reaction that Donald Trump set off with his vague and shifting new Syria policy continues unabated.
 
EFFECT: Too many to list here, but read this two-paragraph blast from the Washington Post’s David Ignatius:
 
“Here’s the appalling scenario that U.S. officials fear could unfold if the Turkish invasion isn’t a quick, limited operation, as Trump apparently hopes: As security collapses in northeastern Syria, hardened Islamic State fighters could escape the prisons, storm the al-Hol camp to reunite with their families and then renew the terrorist assault against the West that they began in 2014.
 
“For Trump, what’s unfolding now in Syria is largely a self-inflicted wound. It will be politically costly for him, but there’s a deeper problem. U.S. successes in the Middle East are too rare and precious to be squandered. But that’s what appears to be happening now in this grotesque coda to the war against the Islamic State.”
 
 
****
 
CAUSE: Elizabeth Warren seen as the clearish frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.
 
EFFECT: More stories about what she would be like as a general election candidate (Warren says she would largely continue her practice of not soliciting or meeting with fat cat donors if she is the nominee – sending worry and panic down the spines of many Democratic strategists who worry about beating the incumbent) and about what the 1% thinks she would be like as president:
 
 “The consensus among business leaders is that few of Ms. Warren’s big initiatives will be enacted, because she will tack toward the center if she secures the nomination or the White House, or because Congress and the courts won’t let her.” (Wall Street Journal)
 
****
 
CAUSE: Smart Democrats know demographics and impeachment do not mean beating Donald Trump will be easy.
 
EFFECT: Tom Edsall keeps his essential reading streak alive with another New York Times column on the promise and challenge for Democrats in winning national elections in 2020 and beyond.
 
 
****
 
CAUSE: U.S.-China trade talks (still the Biggest Casino on the planet now) resume.
 
EFFECT: The setting of the conventional wisdom that Trump is at this point playing a tough hand:
 
“’The America side seems very interested in a deal, and yet is demanding a good, strong deal,’ said the U.S.-China Business Council’s Mr. Allen. ‘The Chinese side seems to be strengthening their position, and they are prepared for a long-term economic disagreement with the United States.’”
 
****
 
Top sports story: Cardinals set postseason record with 10 runs in first inning, reach NLCS
STL 13, ATL 1, STL wins series 3-2 
ESPN
 
Top business story: Acting FDA chief inspects two international mail facilities for illicit vaping and opioid products
CNBC
 
Top entertainment story: Brie Larson Says Marvel Women Have ‘Passionately’ Told Kevin Feige They Want All-Female Movie
Variety
 
****
 
Big Four

New Hampshire
 
For 1st time, Biden declares Trump must be impeached.
 

Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

ONLY TIME WILL TELL
The media is right: the White House is at war with the House over impeachment.
 
The ball is now in Nancy Pelosi’s court to decide how to respond to the declaration by the president’s counsel that the administration is no longer going to cooperate with the inquiry.
 
My take:
 
On Pelosi’s side:
 
* Polling indicates a rising (albeit not decisive) rise in the public’s support for the probe.
 
* The media’s support for impeachment was amped up by the letter from the White House counsel announcing the cessation of cooperation, which was widely described as less a legal argument and more of a political ploy.
 
* The media and the experts they quote largely support Pelosi’s contention that she doesn’t need a vote of the full House to proceed.
 
* The revelations by leak this new cycle about the alarm among some government officials after the president’s July call with his Ukrainian counterpart reinforces the reality that the impeachment story will continue to be fueled by new, damaging facts.
 
* Congressional Democrats remain largely united about pursuing the investigation and how to message their mission.
 
* Congressional Republicans are still not fully on the same page as the White House on tactics (although they are more coordinated on strategy).
 
* Rudy Giuliani and, perhaps, Trey Gowdy.
 
Pre-order my new book:

HOW TO BEAT TRUMP:
America’s Top Political
Strategists on What it
Will Take


Order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Working against Pelosi:
 
* “In submitting his complaint, the whistle-blower identified three facts that could be used to accuse him of potential bias against Mr. Trump, the documents showed. Two were redacted. The third indicated that the whistle-blower is a registered Democrat, a fact first reported by CNN last week that has widely circulated since.” (New York Times)
 
* “Trump’s anti-impeachment offensive — a mix of legal, political and personal attacks, some logical and some simply bombastic — poses a real challenge for Democrats. Nearly three years into Trump’s presidency, lawmakers are still trying to figure out how to respond to a president who knows few, if any, limits on his behavior or rhetoric.” (Politico)
 
* “Congress has a few options to enforce its subpoenas on reluctant witnesses. It could go to court and try to get a federal judge to issue an order for Mr. Sondland to testify. However, Congress is engaged in similar litigation with other current and former Trump administration officials over testimony or documents, and such lawsuits often takes months or years to wind through the courts.” (Wall Street Journal)
 
* MOST OF ALL: All the reasons that Pelosi fought off impeachment for so long – it is largely obscuring Democratic efforts to talk about health care, drug prices, etc; it risks helping Trump be reelected; it doesn’t have significant support from Republicans (yet), including and especially Senate Republicans, leaving Pelosi open to the charge that she is wasting the nation’s time pursuing an impeachment that will end with no trial or acquittal in the Senate; and it will be from hard-to-impossible to keep Donald Trump from running out the clock and pushing the impeachment effort so far into the election season that it has to be aborted.
 
That last point is the most key. As I said, the ball is in Pelosi’s court.  Right now, it is most in her court on this key question: What is her best option currently to balance speed with the reality and perception of completeness and fairness?

That is not at all clear.
 
Forwarded this email by a friend? Get your own subscription HERE.
At this writing, the president’s one public event is a 3:15pm ET photo op at which he “signs Executive Orders on transparency in Federal guidance and enforcement” in the Roosevelt Room.
 
****
 
As for the three leading Democratic presidential candidates:
 
* Bernie Sanders is doing his first post-heart attack TV interview with Harry Smith of NBC News.
 
My take: First impressions will be very important here. Although Sanders talked to the press on Tuesday (saying he will cut back on his campaign schedule), this interview will get a lot of attention. Will Sanders look and sound energetic and ready for the arena?  Jane Sanders will do everything possible to make that so.
 
Sad news: The Sanders’ daughter-in-law passed away.  What a difficult tragedy for the family to deal with. They have the sympathy and concern of the nation.
 
****
 
* Elizabeth Warren is finally enjoying some time in the barrel over questions about her account of losing a teaching job years ago.
 
My take: This is not Reverend Wright; Warren has a toe (or maybe a foot) in the barrel, not her whole self. She seems to be handling it okay so far, the press is not in full hair-on-fire mode, and she is helped by more polling cementing her status as perceived frontrunner.
 
Reality: The press is never going to cast a campaign flap as an existential crisis if the candidate’s poll standing is improving!
 
****
 
Polling and fundraising suggest the Ukraine focus is not hurting Joe Biden’s standing with Democrats, and might be helping in some ways.
 
My take: It is way too soon to draw any definitive conclusions here, but one can imagine a universe in which Biden’s numbers would have already taken a big hit (which many in the Gang of 500 predicted). Team Biden still has a lot of challenges, but they can breathe a bit easier for today.
 
****
 
Eye on the ball: Bloomberg chronicles the very rocky state of U.S.-Chinese relations. As they say down at the pool hall, this one is essential reading.
 
****
 
Top sports story: Rays chase Astros’ Justin Verlander early en route to evening ALDS
4-1 Rays
ESPN
 
Top business story: UAW’s strike against GM sidelines 12,000 auto supplier workers, says trade group
CNBC
 
Top entertainment story: Suspect Enters Plea In 1985 Killing Of TV Director Barry Crane
Deadline
 

Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

DONALD TRUMP’S AMERICA
A partial list of those unhappy with Donald Trump’s on-again-off-again-who-knows-again decision to give Turkish troops the go-ahead to head into Syria: Mitch McConnell; the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the New York Post, and Washington Post editorial boards; Israel; the Kurds; Lindsey Graham; European allies; Trump national security officials; and almost every member of Congress of both parties except Rand Paul.
 
Reuters: “Over the span of just a few hours, U.S. President Donald Trump upended his own policy on Syria with a chaotic series of pronouncements, blindsiding foreign allies, catching senior Republican supporters off guard and sending aides scrambling to control the damage.”
 
“’He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation,’ tweeted Brett McGurk, who served as Trump’s envoy for the international coalition to combat Islamic State and quit after the December Syria policy uproar.”
 
My take: Donald Trump wants to end America’s military presence in wars he believes are unwinnable. He ran on this position as a candidate. There are many Americans who agree with him in the abstract. In this case, Trump and the administration had to do an about-face because the president chose to blurt out his “decision” at the wrong time, in the wrong way, about the wrong conflict.  I hate to sound clichéd, but what would be for a normal presidency a historically bad national security catastrophe is known in the Trump administration as Sunday-into-Monday.  There is plenty of falling action to come, but all the walking back of the original statement by Trump himself and the administration will likely move this storyline out of the lead position shortly.
 
Pre-order my new book:

HOW TO BEAT TRUMP:
America’s Top Political
Strategists on What it
Will Take


Order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
The NBA’s Hong Kong mess is no more popular than the president’s Syria mess.
 
My take: This is about the clearest case in American history of a business putting profits over support for liberty and human rights.  Much of the damage that has been done cannot be undone. And the NBA doesn’t seem interested in undoing it.  This is a grim moment for America, the league, and those who love freedom.
 
****
 
Two impeachment notes for you:
 
1. Gordon Sondland is expected to testify behind closed doors on Capitol Hill today.
 
“Lawmakers want to know what Mr. Sondland knew and said about Mr. Trump’s effort to press Kyiv for investigations, and whether the administration relied in doing so on promises of a White House visit or military assistance.” (Wall Street Journal)
 
My take: There is no way to know if this will be one of the biggest moments to date in the impeachment inquiry or just a step along the way. Only time will tell.
 
2. As most Republicans continue to hide from the public and the press to avoid sharing their views on the president’s Ukraine actions, here are two interesting straws to consider:
 
* “I certainly wouldn’t vote to impeach on the basis of what I’ve seen so far,” says veteran Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a former executive director of the Republican National Committee. “I’m not going to rule it in or out.”
 
* “[John] Kasich told Don Lemon that he ‘did not see a clear quid pro quo’ but expressed his support for an investigation.”
 
My take: The whole world changes when the congressional recess ends. Scores of reporters will be peppering scores of Republican members of Congress about their views of impeachment. Every utterance that sounds more anti-Trump than Representative Jim Jordan is going to raise the stakes.
 
****
 
“The government ran a budget deficit of just under $1 trillion in the just-closed fiscal year, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday. The $984 billion deficit tally for 2019 came in more than $200 billion more than last year’s, despite very low unemployment and continuing economic growth.” (Associated Press)
 
My take: There is no leading Democratic presidential candidate or Republican congressional leader in a position to do anything about the Trump administration’s runaway spending.  There is no discussion of entitlement program changes; no sign of robust enough economic activity to grow our way out of the deficit; no apparent appetite to put together a package of spending cuts and revenue increases to address this matter; and, perhaps most determinatively, no indication that the American public has the slightest interest in dealing with this.  The chances that Donald Trump signs into law any policies to seriously grapple with this problem, even if he is reelected, are about as close to zero as one can imagine.
 
****
 
Top sports story: New York Yankees’ ALDS sweep shows they don’t have to bash to win
The Yankees win 5-1
ESPN 
 
Top business story: Southwest Airlines pilots sue Boeing over 737 Max grounding
CNBC
 
Top entertainment story: Oscars: Record 93 Countries Submit Entries for Best International Feature Film
Variety

Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Monday, October 7, 2019


Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Pre-order my new book:

HOW TO BEAT TRUMP:
America’s Top Political
Strategists on What it
Will Take


Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

IMPEACHMENT’S TWELVE

Whistleblower #1

My take: He will be an historical figure, to be sure.  His lawyers are still negotiating over private congressional testimony.  National security veterans are demanding his identity be kept secret.  Team Trump had hoped to discredit his account as second-hand and the product of a partisan. They will still try to smudge him, but the existence of additional evidence and testimony makes any PR damage they do less relevant to the proceedings and the outcome.

****

Whistleblower #2:

My take: Being repped by the same lawyers who have Whistleblower #1 as a client, putting more focus on the law firm.  The contours of his or her account are still unknown, but in the short term it is keeping the impeachment story humming in this news cycle, as speculation abounds.  This illustrates one of the biggest dangers for the White House: the media loves process stories + the media loves impeachment = challenging for Trump to change the focus to anything else.

****

Gordon Sondland

My take: Scheduled to testify in private to the House committees on Tuesday. Democrats believe that if Trump’s point man for Ukraine tells the full truth, the case against the president will be made either somewhat stronger or substantially stronger. There is little known about how Sondland is preparing or what he plans to say.  With no indication that he plans to cancel his appearance and the certainty that details from the closed session will leak out, this is shaping up to be one of the biggest moments of the week.

****

Marie Yovanovitch

My take: The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who is slated to speak in closed session on the Hill on Friday, is a hero to the career folks at the State Department.  Her allies say she will wow the congressional Democrats with her presentation and an account that will add more texture to the narrative that the president disregarded standard channels to try to get his way with the Ukrainians.  Probably not as big a danger to Trump as Sondland, since she was kept somewhat out of the loop, but will continue to get extraordinarily sympathetic press coverage, even if/especially if she becomes the target of Trump attacks.

****

Mike Pompeo

My take: Has suggested in statements and a Friday letter to the Democratic investigators that the State Department might cooperate more quickly and fully with the impeachment inquiry than the rest of the administration.  The Secretary’s line (“We’ll obviously do all the things that we’re required to do by law”) does not reflect the same tone that the White House has set.  Too soon to say if he is part of some orchestrated good cop/bad cop routine.  He has been a Trump loyalist since joining the administration, but he remains someone to watch when looking for cracks in the White House’s effort to run out the clock on impeachment (which at this point is probably their best bet).

****

Rick Perry

My take: Trump’s apparent attempt to make him a scapegoat for the July telephone call is for now just a sideshow, since it doesn’t speak to the question of the alleged quid pro quo.  But watch this space, because the former Texas governor is not interested in taking the fall.

****

Rudy Giuliani

My take: It appears he isn’t going anywhere for now and will stay at the center of the strategic and PR efforts on Trump’s behalf.  He is universally cast as having lost two steps, as having a tin ear, and as a symbol of the Keystone Cops-quality of the original Ukraine gambit and the efforts to defend and explain it.  Can he right his own ship and become a clear asset to the president’s efforts? No one reading these words think that he can.

****

Nancy Pelosi

My take: Continues to keep the focus on the president and largely away from any divisions within her own party. Her three primary reasons for spending months fighting off impeachment (it was not bipartisan, it would blot out the Democrats’ agenda, and it would help Trump be reelected) are still very much in play.  Her chief mission now is to balance speed with completeness, in order to get the impeachment hearings and vote done in time to avoid 2020 politics but not done so quickly that it leaves the party vulnerable to accusations that it rushed the process.

****

Adam Schifff

My take: Has the capacity to do a lot of TV hits while still overseeing a complex and sprawling investigation. Not as good at his current role as his fans claim or as bad as his detractors would have you believe, but there is a reason that Pelosi wanted him in charge of this key phase.  If Trump finds a way to derail the impeachment process, it likely won’t be because of Schiff or his team.

****

Jerry Nadler

My take: Eventually, he will take the conch from Schiff. At that point, Pelsosi will hold her breath and Trump will go in for the kill.  If you are anticipating inflection points in this saga, count on this one being a biggy.

****

Richard Burr

My take: The Senate Intelligence chairman is one of the biggest wild cards in the impeachment deck. While the House investigation takes place largely before the cameras on the Hill and in TV studios, Burr’s bipartisan committee probe will proceed stealthily.  If the odds of a Senate trial (or even conviction) are to rise, the efforts of the North Carolinian are as likely to contribute to a darkening of the president’s fortunes as those of any other Republican.

****

Mitt Romney

My take: The press and Democrats are desperate for Romney to become the Howard Baker of this drama. In the past, when the Michigander/Bay Stater/Golden Stater/Utahan has criticized Trump, he has kept at it for a bit, but then backed off, apparently feeling he had done both enough and all he could do.  Will past be prologue or will Romney continue to provide principled color commentary on all the major revelations?  Only time will tell.

****

U.S. backs Turkish military operations in Syria. LATEST

Unrest and protests in Iraq. LATEST

Unrest and protests in Hong Kong. LATEST

RIP, Rip Taylor.

****

Top sports story: Dodgers torch Nationals starter Patrick Corbin in NLDS relief outing, 

Dodgers 10, Nationals 4

ESPN

Top business story: Market Correction May Be About Half Over, JPMorgan Estimates

Bloomberg

Top entertainment story:‘Joker’ has highest October opening weekend of all-time, hauls in $93.5 million in the US

CNBC

****

Big Four

Iowa

Harris says Iowa’s caucuses can prove she’s electable.

New Hampshire

Sununu supportive of Pell Grant reforms, expansion.

New Hampshire to get federal funding to combat opioid crisis.

Nevada

Warren aims to build appeal in Republican strongholds.


Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Sunday, October 6, 2019


Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

WHAT EVERYONE IS COUNTING ON
Donald Trump is counting on the Democrats messing up the impeachment process.
 
****
 
Mitch McConnell is counting on his usual ability to get away with anything.
 
(“The way that impeachment stops is with a Senate majority with me as majority leader,” he said in a new fundraising video.)
 
****
 
Bill Barr is counting on providing the greatest counterprogramming since Comedy Central ran an all-day marathon of the twentieth season of “South Park” on the day of Trump’s inauguration.
 
****
 
Susan Collins is counting on Mainers letting her do her usual on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand act on the path to reelection.
 
(“I thought the president made a big mistake by asking China to get involved in investigating a political opponent. It’s completely inappropriate,” she said in Augusta Saturday.)
 
****
 
Nervous congressional Republicans are counting on Tucker Carlson and Ross Douthat being right.
 
(“’There’s no way to spin” Trump’s request that a foreign leader investigate one of his domestic opponents as proper, but….it did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense,” Carlson wrote recently, echoed by Douthat, who said, “I expect … the defense offered, eventually, by pained Republican senators voting to acquit [will be] that this was bad behavior but happily the president’s diplomats kept things from reaching the level of an impeachable offense.”)
 
****
 
Nancy Pelosi is counting on the media being anti-Trump and pro-impeachment no matter what happens.
 
****
 
Franklin Graham is counting on holding his flock in place for Donald Trump.
 
(“[Impeachment is] a lot over nothing.  It’s going to destroy this country if we let this continue,” he said in North Carolina.)
 
****
 
Jared Kushner is counting on Gordon Sondland staying on script.
 
****
 
Mike Pompeo is counting on there being safety in clinging to the president.
 
(Countries regularly say “If you can help me with X, we’ll help you achieve Y,” he said in Athens on Saturday.)
 
****
 
Stephanie Grisham is counting on not losing more of the Kathleen Parkers of the world.
 
(“By Trump’s abuse of power — and his entreaty to other countries, including China, to join our political fracas — he may have invited criminal prosecution and impeachment,” Parker wrote in her new column.)
 
****
 
Tony Fabrizio is counting on the Democrats nominating someone for president who supports open borders and the elimination of employer-provided health insurance.
 
****
 
Democratic House first-termers from tough districts are counting on Speaker Pelosi to stage manage impeachment in a way that limits their political exposure – and to provide air cover.
 
****
 
Elizabeth Warren is counting on uninterrupted momentum straight through Iowa that expands her support from African American voters.
 
****
 
Joe Biden is counting on the media focusing on the forest, not the trees.
 
(In a new Washington Post op ed, he tries to turn attention to Trump and away from the specifics of Hunter Biden’s work.)
 
****
 
Joe Biden’s bundlers are counting on Elizabeth Warren now, finally, getting her time in the barrel.
 
****
 
Hunter Biden is counting on the narrative of the New Yorker profile to sustain through Christmas.
 
****
 
Bernie Sanders is counting on the media losing interest in speaking with his doctors by the time he reemerges on the campaign trail at full strength.

****
 
Pete Buttigieg is counting on organize, organize, organize, and got hot at the end in Iowa.
 
****
 
Beijing is counting on other countries (especially the United States) being too distracted by domestic concerns to cheer on the freedom fighters in Hong Kong.
 
****
 
Note: All “My takes” embedded above.
 
****
 
Top sports story: Yankees shell Twins rookie and ex-Uber driver Randy Dobnak
ESPN
 
Top business story: Whatever the Future Holds, Stocks Are Not Priced for a Recession
Bloomberg
 
Top entertainment story: Matthew Broderick Appears as Mike Pompeo in ‘Saturday Night Live’ Cold Open
Hollywood Reporter

Sign up for the Wide World of News email

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.