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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mooch's Day

In Defying the Odds, we discuss some of the people around Trump.

The 1937 report that laid out designs for the modern White House staff said that aides should have "a passion for anonymity."

Jennifer Rubin writes:
Since Anthony Scaramucci came on board as White House communications director, he has created such tumult that one might pine for the calm, cool, collected days of Sean Spicer.
He has repeatedly attacked Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, accusing him of leaking or creating an atmosphere of leaks. (The fish stinks from the head down, as he said.)
He suggested that his financial disclosure form was leaked and threatened to call in the FBI and the Justice Department. In fact, that form became public automatically, hence the term “disclosure.”

He told Politico himself that he would fire assistant White House press secretary Michael Short. The process dragged on for hours until the aide quit. Scaramucci then blamed the press for a leak.
To cap it off, he spoke to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza on the record, disparaging chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon in obscene terms; browbeating Lizza to get the name of the person who mentioned a dinner that he, President Trump, former Fox News executive Bill Shine and Fox News host Sean Hannity attended; threatening to fire everyone on the communications staff; and impugning Lizza’s patriotism. And he predicted Priebus soon would be fired.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

GOP v. Media

In Defying the Odds, we discuss polarization and GOP attitudes toward the media.

Almost half of Republicans say they are in favor of courts shutting down media outlets that publish inaccurate or biased information, according to a new survey.
Forty-five percent of Republicans in the Economist-YouGov poll said courts should be able to shut down media outlets, while 20 percent of Republicans are opposed the idea.
Just 18 percent of Democrats said they would favor the notion, while 39 percent of them are opposed to it.
A majority of Republicans also said they support fines for media outlets that put out biased or inaccurate news reports.



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Democratic House Challengers


At Brookings, Michael Malbin looks at 6-month fundraising numbers for House candidates.
As of the end of June, 209 Democratic challengers had registered with the FEC and raised at least $5,000. That more than doubled the previous high mark since 2003. In 2009, the Republicans had 78 challengers with at least $5,000. The early GOP challengers in 2009 foreshadowed the party’s regaining majority control. The question is whether the same will hold true for the Democrats in 2018. 
Chart showing number of House challengers with greater than $5,000 as of June 30th, by party, from 2003-present. Democrats in 2017 have 209, more than twice the second-largest group, which were 78 Republicans in 2009.
The number of challengers at six months is truly remarkable. And the candidates are not simply bunching up in a few primaries. Yes, there is some doubling up: six Democrats have filed so far against John Faso in New York’s 19th congressional district. But there is also a good spread. So far, 105 different Republican incumbents have Democratic challengers with $5,000. At this same time in 2009, only 50 of the Democratic incumbents were up against challengers with $5,000.
So the Democrats are putting themselves in a strong position to take advantage of a national tide in their direction, if there is one. This is important. No matter how strong a tide may be nationally, congressional elections are decided in districts. The party riding a wave cannot win in a district unless it puts up a credible candidate. You cannot beat somebody with nobody. Finding a credible candidate has to come first

Monday, July 24, 2017

Spicey's Deal with the Devil

After Sean Spicer humiliated himself to work for Trump, he found himself  "layered" by someone ever more obsequious.  He left his job.  He will never get back his good name.

Jennifer Rubin:
For young, ambitious men and women in Washington and elsewhere, Spicer is an object lesson. Ambition and yearning to be in the “know,” in the center of power (what C.S. Lewis called the “inner ring“), can lead one to cast aside principle, values and simple decency. Lewis described the impulse to be an insider:
And you will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world. It would be so terrible to see the other man’s face—that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face—turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner Ring and rejected. And then, if you are drawn in, next week it will be something a little further from the rules, and next year something further still, but all in the jolliest, friendliest spirit. It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude; it may end in millions, a peerage and giving the prizes at your old school. But you will be a scoundrel. … Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.
Ultimately, bargains with devils never work out. Spicer didn’t last — and now look at him. The brief months in the West Wing, the ultimate inner ring, leave him pitied, mocked, disgraced. No, it was not worth it. It is never worth it. “To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of ‘insides,’ full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them,” Lewis warned. “But if he follows that desire he will reach no ‘inside’ that is worth reaching.” If nothing else, perhaps Spicer’s ruinous journey will serve as a warning to others.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Gingrich and Pardons

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Face the Nation, October 13, 1996:
SCHIEFFER: Should--should President Clinton say flatly that he will not pardon anyone involved in Whitewater?
Rep. GINGRICH: You know, I--the notion that we're sitting here talking about whether or not a president of the United States would pardon people directly implicated in his potential breaking the law--I mean, it's so bizarre that I don't have a good answer for you. The Constitution provides for a very clear right of the president to pardon. Now it also provides for the Congress a very clear right to investigate a president. So I would guess that Clinton, in the end, will not pardon anybody because I don't think the country would tolerate it. I mean, I don't think he can buy Susan McDougal silence or Webb Hubbell silence with a pardon, because I think you'd then have just an outrage from the whole country. So...

Pardon? Indictment?

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

President Trump has consulted his legal advisers about the possibility of pre-emptively pardoning his associates — and possibly even himself — to undermine the Justice Department’s Russia investigation, The Washington Post reported Thursday night. But on Friday, John Dowd, Mr. Trump’s new personal lawyer, denied to BuzzFeed that any such discussions had taken place.
... 
The only limitation explicitly stated in the Constitution is a ban on using a pardon to stop an impeachment proceeding in Congress, and the only obvious implicit limitation is that he cannot pardon offenses under state law.
But some legal scholars think a president cannot pardon himself, either, because it would be a conflict of interest.

In August 1974, four days before Mr. Nixon resigned, Mary C. Lawton, then the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, issued a terse legal opinion stating that “it would seem” that Mr. Nixon could not pardon himself “under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.”

But she did not explain what transformed that principle into an unwritten legal limit on the power the Constitution bestows on presidents.

Other legal specialists have come out the other way. In a 1998 House Judiciary Committee hearing about the proposed impeachment of Mr. Clinton, for example, Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican who is now the chairman of that panel, stated, “The prevailing opinion is that the president can pardon himself.”

There is no definitive answer because no president has ever tried to pardon himself and then been prosecuted, which would give courts a chance to weigh in. If Mr. Trump did purport to pardon himself, and was later indicted anyway, it could create an opportunity for the Supreme Court to resolve the question.
Charlie Savage reports at The New York Times:
A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?
The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.
“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Trump Abuses Commissioning Ceremony to Play Politics

In Defying the Odds, we explain that the 2016 campaign was a race to the bottom.  Trump is lowering the bottom.

Ashley Parker and David Nakamura report at the WP:
Speaking aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, Trump extolled the virtues of the “wonderful, beautiful but very, very powerful” nuclear-powered warship — “We will win, win, win,” he said, “we will never lose” — but also decried the budget compromise known as sequestration, which requires mandatory and corresponding military and domestic cuts.
Trump promised to try to restore higher levels of military funding but also urged the crowd of about 6,500 — many in uniform — to help him push this year’s budget, in which he said he will seek an additional $54 billion in defense spending, through Congress.
“I don’t mind getting a little hand, so call that congressman and call that senator and make sure you get it,” he said, to applause. “And by the way, you can also call those senators to make sure you get health care.”
But Trump’s brief appeal created a potentially awkward tableau at a commissioning event intended to be ceremonial — a commander in chief offering political remarks, and what could even be construed as an order, to the naval officers he commands.