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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Trump Monday

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character

CNN's Brian Stelter takes a look at Fox News' coverage of the Russia probe and similarities in Trump's speech on the investigation.



Patrick Radden Keefe at The New Yorker writes about national security briefings.
“By the time I left, we had these cards,” the former staffer said. They are long and narrow, made of heavy stock, and emblazoned with the words “the white house” at the top. Trump receives a thick briefing book every night, but nobody harbors the illusion that he reads it. Current and former officials told me that filling out a card is the best way to raise an issue with him in writing. Everything that needs to be conveyed to the President must be boiled down, the former staffer said, to “two or three points, with the syntactical complexity of ‘See Jane run.’ ”


"Sleepy eyes" is a longstanding anti-Semitic slur.  During the campaign, Trump retweeted anti-Semitic material.




Sunday, April 22, 2018

Buchanan v. Democracy

 In Defying the Odds, we note that Pat Buchanan's 1992 campaign foreshadowed the Trump campaign:
After growing up in Washington, DC, earning degrees at Georgetown and Columbia, working as a White House aide in two Republican administrations, and logging many hours on the television talk-show circuit, Buchanan was yet another insider who took up outsiderism. Specifically, he became a spokesperson for a faction of conservatism that disdained internationalism and free trade, and even flirted with Holocaust denial. Bush’s support for NAFTA and Israel outraged him. “He is yesterday and we are tomorrow,” Buchanan said in his announcement speech. “He is a globalist and we are nationalists. He believes in some Pax Universalis; we believe in the Old Republic. He would put American's wealth and power at the service of some vague New World Order; we will put America first.”
 Pat Buchanan at The American Conservative:
 And if what “our democracy” has delivered here has caused tens of millions of Americans to be repulsed and to secede into social isolation, why would other nations embrace a system that produced so poisoned a politics and so polluted a culture?
“Nationalism and authoritarianism are on the march,” writes the Washington Post: “Democracy as an ideal and in practice seems under siege.” Yes, and there are reasons for this.
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people,” said John Adams. And as we have ceased to be a moral and religious people, the poet T. S. Eliot warned us what would happen:
“The term ‘democracy’ … does not contain enough positive content to stand alone against the forces you dislike—it can be easily be transformed by them. If you will not have God (and he is a jealous God), you should pay your respects to Hitler and Stalin.” Recall: Hitler rose to power through a democratic election.
Democracy lacks content. As a political system, it does not engage the heart. And if Europe’s peoples see their leaders as accommodating a transnational EU, while failing to secure national borders, they will use democracy to replace them with men of action.

DCCC and Primaties

 In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional races as well as the presidential election.

Alex Burns at NYT reports on national Democratic involvement in 2018 House primaries. On Wednesday, the DCCC backed Gil Cisneros in the crowded race to succeed Ed Royce in CA39.
They are moving most aggressively in California, where the state’s nonpartisan primaries present a unique hazard: State law requires all candidates to compete in the same preliminary election, with the top two finishers advancing to November. In a crowded field, if Democrats spread their votes across too many candidates, two Republicans could come out on top and advance together to the general election.

There are at least four races in California where Democrats fear such a lockout, including the 39th Congressional District, where in addition to Mr. Cisneros and Ms. Tran there are two other Democrats running: Sam Jammal, a youthful former congressional aide, and Andy Thorburn, a wealthy health insurance executive who is backed by allies of Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont. The district is among the most coveted for Democrats nationwide — a seat left open by the retirement of Representative Ed Royce, a popular Republican, in an area Hillary Clinton won by about 8 percentage points.

National Democrats may also intervene in the Southern California districts held by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher and Jeff Denham, where multiple Republicans and Democrats are running, and in the seat held by Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican who is retiring. Voters receive mail-in ballots starting in early May, making the next few weeks exceptionally important.

House Majority PAC, a heavily financed Democratic group that spends millions in congressional elections, recently polled all four races and has been conducting digital surveys that simulate the complicated California ballot, according to people briefed on the group’s strategy. The super PAC has run ads in California in the past when Democrats have faced disaster in primary season.

Earth Day News: The Swamp Is Doing Just Fine

  In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal.   An update on his team of grifters.

Theodoric Meyer and Eliana Johnson at Politico:
The prominent lobbyist whose wife rented a condominium to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt lobbied the agency while Pruitt was leading it, contrary to his and Pruitt’s public denials that he had any business before the agency, according to a Friday filing by his firm.

The disclosure from the lobbying firm Williams and Jensen contradicts Pruitt's public statement last month that the lobbyist, J. Steven Hart, had no clients with business before the EPA, and came hours after Hart’s resignation from the firm.
Clare Foran at CNN:
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt held a meeting with lobbyist J. Steven Hart during the time last year that Hart's wife rented him a room, a spokesman for Hart has confirmed to CNN.

The session also included a former executive vice president for Smithfield Foods, who is on the board of a nonprofit that the company describes as its philanthropic arm and is also a member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which works to improve conditions in the bay.

Pruitt has said the lobbyist had no clients with business before the agency, and Hart told E&E News last month that he has not lobbied the agency in the last two years.
Hart and Smithfield maintain that the meeting was personal, not business-related.

 Steve Eder and Hiroko Tabuchi report at NYT about then-state-senator Pruitt's 2003 purchase of a fancy house in Oklahoma City:
A review of real estate and other public records shows that Mr. Pruitt was not the sole owner: The property was held by a shell company registered to a business partner and law school friend, Kenneth Wagner. Mr. Wagner now holds a top political job at the Environmental Protection Agency, where Mr. Pruitt, 49, is the administrator.

The mortgage on the Oklahoma City home, the records show, was issued by a local bank that was led by another business associate of Mr. Pruitt’s, Albert Kelly. Recently barred from working in the finance industry because of a banking violation, Mr. Kelly is now one of Mr. Pruitt’s top aides at the E.P.A. and runs the agency’s Superfund program.

At the E.P.A., Mr. Pruitt is under investigation for allegations of unchecked spending, ethics lapses and other issues, including his interactions with lobbyists. An examination of Mr. Pruitt’s political career in Oklahoma reveals that many of the pitfalls he has encountered in Washington have echoes in his past.
According to real estate records, the 2003 purchase of the house for $375,000 came at a steep discount of about $100,000 from what Ms. Lindsey had paid a year earlier — a shortfall picked up by her employer, the telecom giant SBC Oklahoma.

SBC, previously known as Southwestern Bell and later as AT&T, had been lobbying lawmakers in the early 2000s on a range of matters, including a deregulation bill that would allow it to raise rates and a separate regulatory effort to reopen a bribery case from a decade earlier. Mr. Pruitt sided with the company on both matters, state records show.

In 2005, the shell company — Capitol House L.L.C. — sold the property for $95,000 more than it had paid. While shell companies are legal, they often obscure the people who have an interest in them, and none of Mr. Pruitt’s financial disclosure filings in Oklahoma mentioned the company or the proceeds — a potential violation of the state’s ethics rules.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Donny and Rudy

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal
The choice of servants is of no little importance to a prince, and they are good or not according to the discrimination of the prince. And the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.
-- Machiavelli
Trump has added Giuliani to his legal team.  He has recently aired more truth about Giuliani than he intended.

Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin at AP:
For weeks, President Donald Trump had grown increasingly frustrated with the cable news chatter that he couldn’t hire a big-name attorney for his legal team.
But the president boasted to a confidant this week that he had struck a deal that he believed would silence those critics: He was hiring “America’s F---ing Mayor.”
Trump also had this retweet:

Um, yes, he was America's [expletive deleted] mayor and he certainly knows crime.

In 2007, Jonathan Stein reported at Mother Jones:
This Giuliani scandal keeps getting better and better. First Politico found that when Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York, he billed the costs of his extramarital love trysts with Judith Nathan, his then-girlfriend and now-wife, to obscure city agencies. It was also shown that Giuliani billed his 2000 campaign expenses and his then-wife Donna Hanover’s travel expenses to the same obscure agencies. The Giuliani campaign has had a hell of a time explaining the mayor’s actions.
In 2007, Michael Powell of NYT reported:
If the rise of Bernard B. Kerik under the mentorship of Rudolph W. Giuliani was meteoric, the speed of his fall was breathtaking.
In December 2004, President Bush nominated Mr. Kerik, a former New York police commissioner, to head the federal Department of Homeland Security. Seven days later, Mr. Kerik withdrew as a nominee.
A cascade of questions followed about his judgment as a public official, not least that he had inappropriately lobbied city officials on behalf of Interstate Industrial, a construction firm suspected of links to organized crime. Mr. Giuliani defended Mr. Kerik, a friend and business partner, whom he had recommended to the Bush administration. But he also tried to shield himself from accusations that he had ignored Mr. Kerik’s failings.
“I was not informed of it,” Mr. Giuliani said then, when asked if he had been warned about Mr. Kerik’s relationship with Interstate before appointing him to the police post in 2000.

Mr. Giuliani amended that statement last year in testimony to a state grand jury. He acknowledged that the city investigations commissioner, Edward J. Kuriansky, had told him that he had been briefed at least once. The former mayor said, though, that neither he nor any of his aides could recall being briefed about Mr. Kerik’s involvement with the company.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Half Past Trump: The 2018 Midterm Elections


Midterm Losses:  the president's party usually loses seats in the House, often in the Senate as well.

Approval:  the losses are more severe when the president is unpopular. And Trump is unpopular.


rakich-trump-approval-0213_net


The House  the generic ballot, and seat ratings

Lots of R retirements


Lots of D candidates, with money

This Tuesday, watch a special election in Arizona.

Senate races:  the map constrains Democratic gains

Governorships





Priebus and Comey

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

From the Comey memos, a conversation with Reince Priebus:

David Frum writes that the conservatives have built a closed information system (what Julian Sanchez calls "epistemic closure"). Within their little echo chamber, Republicans actually thought that the release of the memos would help Trump.  Frum explains how they hurt:
But before the crisis arrives, the habit of relying on false information leads to bad decision-making—like the very bad decision to leak the Comey memos. Those memos have enhanced James Comey’s testimony, and left Trump looking guiltier than ever. The big news in the Comey memos is that Comey directly told Reince Priebus that a federal court had issued a FISA warrant against his national-security adviser. The president presumably knew this—and kept Flynn on the job while pressuring Comey to end the investigation of Flynn. The leak of the Comey memos has succeeded only in more deeply implicating Trump in the gravest espionage scandal of recent decades.