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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Trump and Russia. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.


It’s been two weeks since Michael Flynn, the former general who briefly served as Donald Trump’s White House National Security Advisor, pleaded guilty in federal court to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia. As part of his plea agreement, Flynn is now cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
With this in mind, Donald Trump made some news this morning from the South Lawn of the White House.

REPORTER: About Michael Flynn, would you consider a pardon for Michael Flynn?
TRUMP: I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We’ll see what happens. Let’s see.
That “yet” qualifier sure stands out, doesn’t it? Indeed, I wonder what Flynn himself will think when he hears this. It’s almost as if the president were sending a message to his former aide, effectively saying, “No matter what the special counsel’s office is telling you, I still have pardon power.”

Earlier in the same Q&A, there was also this exchange:

REPORTER: Mr. President, when did you find out that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI? When did you find out?
TRUMP: What else is there? You know the answer. How many times has that question been asked?
Nearly a year into his presidency, Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia waged an assault on a pillar of American democracy and supported his run for the White House.
The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president — and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality — have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government.
Rather than search for ways to deter Kremlin attacks or safeguard U.S. elections, Trump has waged his own campaign to discredit the case that Russia poses any threat and he has resisted or attempted to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account.
His administration has moved to undo at least some of the sanctions the previous administration imposed on Russia for its election interference, exploring the return of two Russian compounds in the United States that President Barack Obama had seized — the measure that had most galled Moscow. Months later, when Congress moved to impose additional penalties on Moscow, Trump opposed the measures fiercely.
Trump has never convened a Cabinet-level meeting on Russian interference or what to do about it, administration officials said. Although the issue has been discussed at lower levels at the National Security Council, one former high-ranking Trump administration official said there is an unspoken understanding within the NSC that to raise the matter is to acknowledge its validity, which the president would see as an affront.
...
 U.S. officials declined to discuss whether the stream of recent intelligence on Russia has been shared with Trump. Current and former officials said that his daily intelligence update — known as the president’s daily brief, or PDB — is often structured to avoid upsetting him.
Russia-related intelligence that might draw Trump’s ire is in some cases included only in the written assessment and not raised orally, said a former senior intelligence official familiar with the matter. In other cases, Trump’s main briefer — a veteran CIA analyst — adjusts the order of his presentation and text, aiming to soften the impact.
“If you talk about Russia, meddling, interference — that takes the PDB off the rails,” said a second former senior U.S. intelligence official

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Epic Takedown of Vote-Fraud Conspriracy Theory

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.   In Alabama, accused child molester Roy Moore ran for the Senate with the support of sexual harasser Donald Trump.





In a Twitter thread, TV and film writer John Rogers executes an epic takedown.

If Soros were going to fix the election, he would have to know in advance how many fake votes he'd need. Jones won by 20k. So if he were really behind by 20k, that means Soros shipped in at least 40,000 votes. It would take at least 800 buses to bring that many people into the state, which would involve dozens of bus companies. Then he would have had to distribute the 40k fake voters to precincts all over the state, and provide them with convincing identification to meet the state's strict requirements -- and do the whole thing without a single person noticing or leaking.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Trump, Bannon, and the GOP After Alabama



After Trump slut-shamed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday for having the temerity to call for his resignation over allegations of sexual harassment, early Wednesday morning Trump was busy disassociating himself from the stench of Moore’s humiliating defeat in a haze of deflection. To be precise, at 6:22 a.m. Eastern time, our commander-in-chief tweeted, “The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!”
Numbers went up mightily? Decked stacked him? Trump may as well have said that he was for the Iraq War before he was against it. Apparently, Trump forgot, no one forced him to back Moore. In the run-up to Tuesday, Richard Shelby, Alabama’s senior senator, announced that he would not vote for Moore, while Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former senator, refused to say for whom he cast his ballot. The fact is that in a single cycle in a single state, Trump backed two losing candidates.
...
If Trump is the face of the Republican Party then Bannon is its soul, and therein lies the Republicans’ dilemma. In these polarized and polarizing times, the Republican base grows ever angrier, making the GOP primary playbook ever more likely morph into a roadmap for driving over a cliff come November. Whether the Republicans can do anything about that remains to be seen.
 Jones’s win is a reminder that running statewide is not the same thing as running for Congress but with more money and a louder megaphone. Rather, it is about speaking to a larger population with varied concerns. Nuance still matters, and being normal counts.
During the Obama years, the Democrats forgot these rules and saw their party get hollowed out, losing control of both houses of Congress as well as governorships and state legislatures aplenty. Hopefully, the Republicans will get a grip soon enough. Just don’t bet on it.
Philip Bump at WP:
 Using data from Pew Research and the Census Bureau, we put together this look in 2015 at how the country will change by 2050.
Older — but less white and, importantly, less religious. In other words, it will in significant ways look much less like the voters who supported Roy Moore than those who supported the Democrat, Doug Jones. Two-thirds of Jones’s support was nonwhite. Six-in-10 Jones voters were women. In fact, about a third of Jones’s support came from black women alone.

...
 Many Republican leaders have seen this demographic problem coming for a long time. They probably didn’t expect it to emerge so soon, and in Alabama. It’s not their party’s fault that it happened where and when it did, but it’s a reminder that it may start happening more and in more places.
One more word of warning for the GOP. Moore’s electorate was much less diverse than Trump’s — and even with that slightly-more-diverse electorate, Trump lost the national popular vote by millions of votes.

Child Molester Loses Alabama Race

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.   In Alabama, accused child molester Roy Moore ran for the Senate with the support of sexual harasser Donald Trump.

In becoming the first Democrat to win a statewide federal election in Alabama since 1992, Jones proved that Democratic fears of low turnout among African-American voters — a reliable Democratic constituency in the racially polarized state — were unfounded. According to exit polls conducted by the National Election Pool, blacks made up about 29 percent of the electorate on Tuesday and voted for Jones almost unanimously, 96 percent to 4 percent — results that match turnout patterns showing greater than expected vote counts in many of the Black Belt counties and the state’s urban centers.
Jones also made some inroads among white voters — particularly women and those with college degrees. While Moore still won white voters by a more-than-2-to-1 margin, 68 percent to 30 percent, that is closer than other recent elections in which Republicans won nearly 4 out of 5 white voters.
Moore posted those kinds of margins among whites without a college degree, but he only carried white voters with college degrees by 17 points, 57 percent to 40 percent for Jones. And Jones successfully siphoned away 34 percent of white women, including 45 percent of white women with college degrees.
Among female voters as a whole, Jones won by 16 points, 57 percent to 41 percent, swamping Moore’s 14-point win among male voters.
Washington Post:

 
Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns at NYT:
Voters in Alabama’s cities and most affluent suburbs overwhelmingly rejected Mr. Moore’s candidacy, an ominous sign for Republicans on the ballot next year in upscale districts. In Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham and some of the state’s wealthiest enclaves, Mr. Jones, the Democratic candidate, captured more than 68 percent of the vote. And in Madison County, home to Huntsville and a large NASA facility, Mr. Jones won 57 percent of the vote.
While these Alabamians, many of them women, may have been appalled by the claims of sexual misconduct against Mr. Moore, results like these were not isolated to this race. They mirrored returns in last month’s statewide and legislative races in Virginia, a state filled with well-heeled suburbanites.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Affordable Care Act Is Now Popuar

Defying the Odds goes into some length on the economic and social distress that boosted Trump. Ironically,
Trump backed an unpopular bill that would worsen medical distress.

Hannah Fingerhut at Pew:
While the future of the Affordable Care Act is in question, the public increasingly thinks the law has had a positive impact on the country. Today, more Americans say the 2010 health care overhaul has had a mostly positive than mostly negative effect on the country (44% versus 35%), while 14% say it has not had much effect.
Overall support for the health care law also has grown since last year. Currently, 56% of the public approves of the law while 38% disapproves, according to a new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Nov. 29-Dec. 4. The law drew majority approval for the first time in February, when 54% expressed support for it.
As recently as April 2016, more Americans thought the law had had a negative impact on the country (44%) than said it had a positive effect (39%). Since 2013, the share of Americans saying the law has had a positive effect on the country has increased 20 percentage points, from 24% to 44%.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Bizarro Politics of the Tax Bill

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign.  

Sahil Kapur at Bloomberg:
The 2009 economic-stimulus bill contained a one-year tax break worth $800 for married couples in 95 percent of working households -- a little over $15 a week. A February 2010 poll found that just 12 percent said their taxes had been reduced. More than half, 53 percent, said they saw no change. A remarkable 24 percent thought their taxes had increased.
“Virtually nobody believed they got a tax cut,” said Jared Bernstein, an economist who worked in former President Barack Obama’s White House. He called it a source of frustration at the time.

That 2009 tax cut contains warning signs for President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. Their tax plans would deliver about the same level of initial relief to households with incomes between $40,000 and $100,000 -- roughly $800 on average -- according to data from Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. If those numbers hold, and if history’s any guide, Trump’s working-class voters may not feel the tax cut he has repeatedly promised them.
Alexander Bolton and Naomi Jagoda at The Hill:
Rubio on Friday warned there are “going to be problems” if Senate and House negotiators working on the final legislation reduce the bill’s child tax credit or increase the corporate rate without making the child tax credit refundable to help lower-income families.
“It makes a lot of sense in a tax reform bill to provide some relief to those on the lower end of the income scale as well as the upper end,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who does work for Rubio.
Ayres said Rubio is right that “it will help the overall perception of this bill if it’s perceived of helping everyone who’s working, not just those at the upper end of the income scale.”

Another Republican senator who commented on the condition of anonymity said that “lowering the corporate rate is never popular.”

“Forty-four percent of the country won’t see anything and then they see headlines about a big corporate rate cut,” said the lawmaker, explaining the weak public support for the bill.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Cutting Taxes for Corporations, Putting Middle-Class Entitlements at Risk

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign.  Current tax legislation would greatly expand the deficit, which puts social security and Medicare at risk.

Damian Paletta at WP:
Over several months, tax cuts for families were either stymied or scaled back. And corporate benefits only grew, a development that increasingly made some Republicans nervous as they saw the bill’s true impact.

“Fundamentally, the bill has been mislabeled. From a truth-in-advertising standpoint, it would have been a lot simpler if we just acknowledged reality on this bill, which is it’s fundamentally a corporate tax reduction and restructuring bill, period,” said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.). “I think they were particularly concerned about innuendo and what that might mean, so it was labeled as a middle-class tax cut.”
Susan Page at USA Today:
A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds just 32% support the GOP tax plan; 48% oppose it. That's the lowest level of public support for any major piece of legislation enacted in the past three decades.

Americans are skeptical of the fundamental arguments Republicans have made in selling the bill: A 53% majority of those surveyed predict their own families won't pay lower taxes as a result of the measure, and an equal 53% say it won't help the economy in a major way.
Lloyd Green at Fox:
“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” [Speaker Paul] Ryan said. But a good chunk of the future deficit and debt would be fueled by separate tax-cutting bills approved by the House and Senate. The two houses still need to reach agreement on a single piece of legislation for it to go to President Trump for his signature.

As usual, the numbers tell the story. In 2016, older voters who were the most likely to look to Medicare to pay for their health care in retirement put Donald Trump over the top. According to Election Day exit polls, he garnered an almost 20-point margin among white seniors, a 28 percent lead among whites voters ages 45 to 64, and a historic 37-point victory with white working-class voters.
But now the GOP seeks to punish the very folks who brought them to power. Unlike food stamps and welfare, Medicare and Social Security are benefits that working Americans have earned over a lifetime of steady, reliable, and conscientious work. They paid for these benefit with weekly payroll deductions.