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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, June 23, 2017

In August, They Knew Putin Backed Trump

Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous report at The Washington Post:
Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

The White House debated various options to punish Russia, but facing obstacles and potential risks, it ultimately failed to exact a heavy toll on the Kremlin for its election interference.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Trump Voters

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.

  • This analysis finds five unique clusters of Trump voters: American Preservationists (20%), Staunch Conservatives (31%), Anti-Elites (19%), Free Marketeers (25%), and the Disengaged (5%)
  • There is no such thing as “one kind of Trump voter” who voted for him for one single reason. Many voted with enthusiasm for Trump while others held their noses and voted against Hillary Clinton.
  • Trump voters hold very different views on a wide variety of issues including immigration, race, American identity, moral traditionalism, trade, and economics.
  • Four issues distinguish Trump voters from non-Trump voters: attitudes toward Hillary Clinton, evaluations of the economy, views about illegal immigration, and views about Muslim immigration.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Special House Elections

Republicans won a high-profile special House election in Georgia, as well as a lower-profile race in South Carolina.  The latter was surprisingly close. David Wasserman writes:
The divergent results in GA-06 and SC-05 prove saturation-level campaigns can backfire on the party with a baseline enthusiasm advantage—in this case, Democrats. The GA-06 election drew over 259,000 voters—an all-time turnout record for a stand-alone special election and an amazing 49,000 more than participated in the 2014 midterm in GA-06. The crush of attention motivated GOP voters who might have otherwise stayed home, helping Handel to victory.

Credit must be given to the NRCC and the House GOP leadership-allied Congressional Leadership Fund, who did more with less and ran straightforward, but effective ads to buttress Handel's imperfect campaign and neutralize Ossoff's enormous advantage on the airwaves. Trump's approval rating in GA-06 was still mired in the low 40s by this week, but the GOP was still able to compound and capitalize on serious Ossoff fatigue.

By contrast, SC-05 drew fewer than 88,000 voters despite its similar population. Norman, the Republican nominee, had just emerged from a tight runoff with critical backing from the Club for Growth, but had alienated some of the district's chamber of commerce types. Meanwhile, Parnell benefited from a base of highly motivated Democrats, including a modest and low-profile DCCC effort to turn out African-American voters.
Although it's true Democrats have agonizingly yet to capture a red district, they have outperformed their "generic" share of the vote significantly in every contest. Measured against the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index (PVI), Democrats have outperformed the partisan lean of their districts by an average of eight points in the past five elections...
If Democrats were to outperform their "generic" share by eight points across the board in November 2018, they would pick up 80 seats. Of course, that won't happen because Republican incumbents will be tougher to dislodge than special election nominees. But these results fit a pattern that should still worry GOP incumbents everywhere, regardless of Trump's national approval rating and the outcome of the healthcare debate in Congress.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What Divides the Parties

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.

Lee Drutman analyzes survey data at the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group:
  • The primary conflict structuring the two parties involves questions of national identity, race, and morality, while the traditional conflict over economics, though still important, is less divisive now than it used to be. This has the potential to reshape the party coalitions.
  • By making questions of national identity more salient, Donald Trump succeeded in winning over “populists” (socially conservative, economically liberal voters) who had previously voted for Democrats.
  • Among populists who voted for Obama, Clinton did terribly. She held onto only 6 in 10 of these voters (59 percent). Trump picked up 27 percent of these voters, and the remaining 14 percent didn’t vote for either major party candidate.
  • To the extent that the Democratic Party is divided, these divisions are more about faith in the political system and general disaffection than they are about issue positions.
  • By contrast, Republican voters are more clearly split. For the most part, Trump and Cruz supporters look fairly similar, though Cruz supporters are considerably more conservative on moral issues, and notably less concerned about inequality and the social safety net, and more pro- free trade. Kasich supporters are the true moderates, caught in between the two parties on almost every issue, both economic and social.
  • In both parties, the donor class is both more conservative on economic issues and more liberal on social issues, as compared to the rest of the party
  • Democrats may be pressured to move further left on identity issues, given that both younger voters and the party’s donor class are quite far to the left on identity issues. If so, American politics would become further polarized along questions of culture and identity.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Rural-Urban Divide

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.

Jose A. DelReal and Scott Clement report at The Washington Post:
The political divide between rural and urban America is more cultural than it is economic, rooted in rural residents’ deep misgivings about the nation’s rapidly changing demographics, their sense that Christianity is under siege and their perception that the federal government caters most to the needs of people in big cities, according to a wide-ranging poll that examines cultural attitudes across the United States.
The Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey of nearly 1,700 Americans — including more than 1,000 adults living in rural areas and small towns — finds deep-seated kinship in rural America, coupled with a stark sense of estrangement from people who live in urban areas. Nearly 7 in 10 rural residents say their values differ from people who live in big cities, including about 4 in 10 who say their values are “very different.”
That divide is felt more extensively in rural America than in cities: About half of urban residents say their values differ from rural people, with about 20 percent of urbanites saying rural values are “very different.”

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Trump Weakened His Own Standing on Human Rights

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's curious lack of devotion to American principles.  His rhetoric is more Putin than Reagan.

Havana has blasted US President Donald Trump’s decision Friday to roll back much of Barack Obama’s policy of rapprochement and imposing new restrictions on Cuba using the pretext of human rights concerns, calling it a case of double standards.
The United States is not in a position to give us lessons. We have serious concerns about the respect and guarantees of human rights in that country, where there are numerous cases of murders, brutality and police abuses, particularly against the African American population,” the Cuban government said in a statement, published by the Communist Party's official Granma newspaper
Trump invited this comeback.  It echoes what he himself has said, which in turn echoes Putin.

On September 11, 2013, Putin wrote in The New York Times:
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. 
The next day, Trump told Greta Van Susteren that he agreed with Putin:
And when he criticizes the president for using the term "American exceptionalism," if you're in Russia, you don't want to hear that America is exceptional. And if you're in many other countries, whether it's Germany or other places, you don't want to hear about American exceptionalism because you think you're exceptional. So I can see that being very insulting to the world.
And that's basically what Putin was saying is that, you know, you use a term like "American exceptionalism," and frankly, the way our country is being treated right now by Russia and Syria and lots of other places and with all the mistakes we've made over the years, like Iraq and so many others, it's sort of a hard term to use.
But other nations and other countries don't want hear about American exceptionalism. They're insulted by it. And that's what Putin was saying.  
On September 27, 2015, Putin told Charlie Rose:
How long did it take the democratic process to develop in the United States? Do you believe that everything is perfect now from the point of view of democracy in the United States? If everything was perfect there wouldn't be the problem of Ferguson. There would be no abuse by the police. 
On July 21 of last year, Trump told The New York Times:
I think right now when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see straight in our own country. We have tremendous problems when you have policemen being shot in the streets, when you have riots, when you have Ferguson. When you have Baltimore. When you have all of the things that are happening in this country — we have other problems, and I think we have to focus on those problems. When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.
And on February 7 of this year, Trump had this exchange with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: He is a killer though. Put is a killer.
TRUMP: There are a lot of killers. Do you think our country is so innocent? Do you think our country is so innocent?
O'REILLY: I don't know of any government leaders that are killers in America.
TRUMP: Take a look at what we have done too. We've made a lot of mistakes. I've been against the war in Iraq from the beginning.
O'REILLY: Yes. Mistakes are different then --
TRUMP: A lot of mistakes, okay? But a lot of people were killed. So, a lot of killers around, believe me.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Never Heard of...

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.

Steven Shepard reports at Politico:
President Donald Trump’s poor poll numbers have dozens of Democrats reportedly considering challenging him in 2020. But voters haven’t heard of the vast majority of them.
According to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that tested voters’ views of 19 potential Democratic presidential candidates — a list that includes eight senators, five governors, one congressman, a big-city mayor and a failed Senate candidate — most of the prospects are unknown among at least half the electorate.

The poll was conducted June 8-12, surveying 1,990 registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Here are the "never heard of" percentages

Jason Kander
Kirsten Gillibrand
Chris Murphy
Al Franken
John Hickenlooper
Robert Iger
Seth Moulton

Tony Soprano's Legal Team Had More Class

Mary Papenfuss reports at The Huffington Post:
Complaints have been lodged with the District of Columbia and New York City Bar Associations against President Donald Trump’s personal defense attorney Marc Kasowitz, calling for an investigation to determine if he has breached rules of professional conduct.

Separate complaints were filed over the week against Kasowitz by the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit government watchdog organization, and by attorney Neil Goldfarb, a former board member of the American Civil Liberties Union. They both allege that Kasowitz may have inappropriately counseled other White House staffers while representing the president, raising conflict-of-interest concerns.

In addition, the CfA complaint alleges that Kasowitz is not currently authorized to practice law in Washington, D.C.



Trump does not respect democratic norms or institutions.  An AP-NORC poll shows that people are catching on:

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gingrich, Trump, Obstruction, History

So, the fantasy that didn't occur is now being replaced by -- by the way, technically, the president of the United States cannot obstruct justice. The President is the chief executive officer of the United States, if he wants to fire the FBI director, he can just fire him.
In 1998, Gingrich took a very different position when he attacked the Clinton scandals.  Juliet Eilperin reported at The Washington Post:
"The American people have the right to expect that the rule of law will prevail, that no one is above the law," Gingrich said on the floor.
In venues ranging from his filing for reelection at the Georgia state Capitol to a speech before his former political committee GOPAC, the speaker asserted that Americans will respond to the message that the White House must tell the truth. He encouraged fellow Republican leaders to hammer on this theme.
"We have never seen the level of complex, interlocking lawbreaking that we have stumbled upon the more we look into it," he elaborated to reporters on Capitol Hill.

In his GOPAC speech, Gingrich berated the president for allowing his staff to attack Starr. "If he doesn't want to fire Ken Starr, he should tell his staff to shut up," Gingrich said. "I am sickened by how unpatriotically they undermine the Constitution of the United States on behalf of their client."
After questioning Clinton's use of executive privilege as well, Gingrich then delivered a similarly harsh address before his former political committee, GOPAC. "What you have lived through for 2 1/2 years is the most systematic, deliberate obstruction of justice, coverup and effort to avoid the truth we have ever seen in American history, and the time has come to say to the president, Quit undermining the law in the United States. Turn over the evidence,' " he said.
He also said:
There is something profoundly demeaning and destructive to have the White House systematically undermine an officer of the Department of Justice

He had been at it for some time.  From ABC World News Tonight, January 2, 1994:
[VO] The question is whether Mr Clinton used his influence, while governor of Arkansas, to keep a savings and loan from falling into bankruptcy. ...House minority whip Newt Gingrich said the current investigation is inadequate because it's controlled by the Clinton administration.
[This Week With David Brinkley] If they're innocent, why don't they go ahead and agree to an independent counsel to clear their name?

On October 14, 1996, Eric Schmitt reported at The New York Times:
Speaking on the CBS News program ''Face the Nation,'' Mr. Gingrich cited recent news reports of the $425,000 that the Democratic Party had received this year from Arief Wiriandinata, an Indonesian who lived briefly in northern Virginia as a legal immigrant and whose father-in-law was a senior adviser to the billionaire Riady family of Indonesia. The Riadys are longtime friends of Mr. Clinton. 

''It's unavoidable that there will be Congressional investigations; it is unavoidable that there will be a special counsel,'' Mr. Gingrich said. ''This makes Watergate look tiny. I mean, this is a potential abuse of the American system on behalf of an Indonesian billionaire in a way that we have never seen in American history.''

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Obstruction of Justice

Mike Allen at Axios:
With the Washington Post bombshell report that the obstruction probe is in full swing ("Trump's actions now a focus of Mueller inquiry"), the reality has White House officials and Republicans sweating profusely for several reasons:
  • They know Trump talked to countless people about ending the Flynn probe, so they assume Comey's version of events is true.
  • They assume he did, indeed, ask Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, if they could help derail the Flynn probe, as the WashPost reported. They also assume he said similar things to other officials.
  • Nobody has privately mounted a straight-faced argument to us that Trump didn't say this stuff to Comey or to Coats/Rogers. That's telling in itself. The fact that the Trump public position — that Comey is a perjurer — isn't being argued in private.
  • Any obstruction probe requires context, which means investigators digging into the finances of Flynn, Trump and Jared Kushner. This is the phase of the probe many Republicans have always feared most.
  • The obstruction probe is simply a new layer to the bigger underlying matters: Did Flynn have illegal or improper contacts, and did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians to influence the 2016 campaign? So the investigation is metastasizing.
  • Trump's wife and Chief of Staff had to dissuade him from firing Mueller this week, the N.Y. Times reported. Why fire someone if you have nothing to hide?
  • Text to Jonathan Swan from a GOP operative close to the White House: "Leak was probably a response to stories about POTUS firing Mueller. Can't fire him now."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Steve King: "Let's Beat That Other Side to a Pulp!"

A Bernie Sanders supporter shot several people -- including House Republican Whip Steve Scalise -- at a GOP practice for the congressional baseball game, Mark Berman and Amber Phillips report at The Washington Post:
Lawmakers reacting to the shooting Wednesday assailed the anger simmering in the country, and one Republican congressman tied the shooting to what he said was anger from the political left.
“America has been divided,” said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who, in suit and tie, stopped by the crime scene to pray and was viscerally angry about his colleagues being attacked. “And the center of America is disappearing, and the violence is appearing in the streets, and it’s coming from the left.”
On March 21, 2010. King told protesters on Capitol Hill:
If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they’d be the folks who were standing with us the last few days. Let’s hope we don’t have to do that! Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down. There’s going to be a reckoning!

King's comments are at 2:25 in this video compilation:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Trump Threatens the GOP Future

At The Daily Beast, Matt Lewis writes:
A recent Quinnipiac poll contained an under-examined finding: A scant 19 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 approve of Donald Trump’s presidency, while 67 percent disapprove. Even among self-described Republicans of this age range, a mere 35 percent approve.
Obviously, this is a problem.
William Kristol writes:
Now we are not knee-jerk respecters of youth. We give no greater weight to the opinions of the young than to those of the old. In fact, we're inclined to give them less, as the young lack experience, and experience is a great teacher. We would even go so far as to say that the overvaluation of the sentiments of the young may be one of the curses of our age.
On the other hand, one would have to be blind not to see the political risk for Republicans and conservatives in these numbers. First impressions matter. Most people don't change their political views radically from the ones they first hold. For young Americans today, Donald Trump is the face of Republicanism and conservatism.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Party of Bernie?

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the Sanders candidacy and the liberal drift of the Democratic Party.

At The New York Times, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin write of the tension between the Democratic Party's hard left and its more pragmatic liberal wing:
Party strategists say they have taken steps to build a relationship with Mr. Sanders and his organization, and a top Sanders lieutenant, Jeff Weaver, attended a recent briefing hosted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, along with representatives from Planned Parenthood, the liberal group Swing Left and the centrist think tank Third Way, according to a person involved in planning the meeting.
But Mr. Sanders and his supporters have continued to seek out victory on their own terms — so far with little success — by venturing into party leadership races, primaries and long-shot special elections that establishment Democrats have avoided. The biggest test so far of Mr. Sanders’s clout may come on Tuesday in Virginia, where he has backed Tom Perriello, a liberal former congressman, in a contested primary for governor.
Still, even some Democrats competing in difficult elections have taken up ideas once associated with the hard left. Doug Applegate, a retired Marine colonel who narrowly lost a race last year to Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, said he would endorse single-payer health care in a new bid for Mr. Issa’s affluent coastal district.
“Single payer has become a moral issue,” Mr. Applegate said, adding he would be delighted to campaign with Mr. Sanders.

Others are warier: Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the party should give “some leeway” to candidates to match the politics of their districts. Mr. Cleaver said he recently ran into former Representative John Barrow of Georgia, one of the last moderate white Democrats elected from the South, and recalled telling him, “We’ll know that we’re on the winning track when you can get back to Congress.”
“We are going to lose every possible winnable seat, in a year where there are many winnable seats, if we come across as inflexible left-wingers,” Mr. Cleaver said. “I respect Bernie — I just don’t think we can become the party of Bernie.”

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Alt-Right Fake News Conveyor Belt

Jeremy W. Peters reports at The New York Times on right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, who tweeted in May that James Comey had denied under oath that Trump had asked him to stop the Kremlingate investigation. The claim was false:  Comey had answered a question about DOJ, not Trump.
Once Mr. Posobiec pushed the send button on Twitter, the conservative media machinery kicked into gear. Later that day, Breitbart News published an account of Mr. Comey’s May 3 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee under the headline “Comey Under Oath: ‘Have Not Experienced Any Requests to Stop FBI Investigations.’”, a website that often misrepresents media accounts of the Russia investigation to cast Mr. Trump in a more favorable light, repeated the claim but also raised the possibility of a more serious offense. Mr. Comey, the site said, might have perjured himself if he had claimed in a memo — as outlets including The New York Times have reported — that Mr. Trump pressured him to call off an investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.
The next day, the perjury question was the subject of an article on InfoWars, the home of Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who has called the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks an inside job and questioned whether the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., really happened. InfoWars had almost five million visitors in the last month.
That afternoon, Mr. Limbaugh was also onto the story, telling his audience, “Comey said, under Senate oath, he had never been pressured to halt any investigation.” As evidence, Mr. Limbaugh read straight from the article. The whole Russia investigation, he declared, is “a political witch hunt.”
That account of the Comey testimony has lived on in the weeks since, with Sean Hannity of Fox News citing it as recently as Tuesday night. “And by the way,” he insisted on his program, “James Comey also said it never happened.”

Saturday, June 10, 2017

House Republican Admits Trump Is a Problem

At The Tucson Weekly, Jim Nintzel reports on a secretly-recorded talk by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) to the Arizona Bankers Association.
McSally complained that President Donald Trump and his tweets were creating troubling "distractions" and "it's basically being taken out on me. Any Republican member of Congress, you are going down with the ship. And we're going to hand the gavel to Pelosi in 2018, they only need 28 seats and the path to that gavel being handed over is through my seat. And right now, it doesn't matter that it's me, it doesn't matter what I've done. I have an 'R' next to my name and right now, this environment would have me not prevail."
Admittedly, McSally was making these comments as she was asking the bankers to open their checkbooks for her reelection campaign, so it could well be that she was just doing the ol' fear-mongering-for-dollars act.
"The environment has changed and some of it changed on January 20," McSally told the crowd. "There's just an element out there that's just, like, so against the president. Like they just can't see straight. And all of a sudden on January 20, I'm like his twin sister to them. And I'm, like, responsible for everything he does, and tweets and says. And they want me to be spending my time as a pundit. 'I disagree with that. I agree with this.' I have a job in the legislature!"

Friday, June 9, 2017

Trump, Nixon, Perjury, Memory

In Defying the Odds, we describe Trump's penchant for getting in trouble.

President Trump slammed James Comey as a “leaker” and a liar on Friday — and committed “100%” to testify under oath to refute the former FBI director’s allegations that he directed him to drop a probe into a top aide.
Trump has broken many commitments so we cannot assume that he will follow through and testify under oath.   If he does, he could expose himself to a charge of perjury.  Democrats are eager to put him in such a position.

They should curb their enthusiasm. Trump has been under oath before.

A year ago, NBC reported:
Donald Trump claims to have a world-class memory, but it certainly wasn't on display during his deposition for a lawsuit over Trump University.
"I don't remember," Trump told lawyers 35 times during his December testimony, which was released on Wednesday.
The year before that, ABC reported:
Though he touts his outstanding memory, when Donald Trump was asked under oath about his dealings with a twice-convicted Russian émigré who served prison time and had documented mafia connections, the real estate mogul was at a loss.
Even though the man, Felix Sater, had played a role in a number of high-profile Trump-branded projects across the country.
“If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn't know what he looked like,” Trump testified in a video deposition for a civil lawsuit two years ago.
So he ducked hard questions by having convenient memory lapses.  Where did he get such an idea?

 Let's go to the audiotape --  a meeting of President Nixon, John Dean, and H.R. Haldeman, March 21, 1973:

Dean told Nixon that a Watergate figure had committed perjury. Nixon responded: "Perjury is an awful hard rap to prove. He could say that I (pause) hem, well, go-ahead."  Later, they discussed how to behave in front of a grand jury.
DEAN: But you can''re...very high risk in perjury situation.
PRESIDENT: That's right. Just be damned sure you say I don't...
PRESIDENT: remember; I can't recall, I can't give any honest, an answer to that that I can recall. But that's it.

Democrats and Demographics

In Defying the Odds, we explain how economic distress worked against Democrats in 2016.  Thomas Edsall writes:
A consistent theme is that the focus on white defections from the Democratic Party masks an even more threatening trend: declining turnout among key elements of the so-called Rising American Electorate — minority, young and single voters. Turnout among African-Americans, for example, fell by 7 points, from 66.6 percent in 2012 to 59.6 percent in 2016.
Priorities USA, in surveys and focus groups, studied “drop off voters,” those who lean Democratic but failed to vote in either 2014 or 2016. By and large, these voters were members of the coalition that elected and re-elected Barack Obama:
people of color (41% African-American, Hispanic, or Asian), young (22% under the age of 29), female (60%), and unmarried (46% single, separated, widowed, or divorced).
Priorities found that drop off voters were distinctly lukewarm toward Hillary Clinton:
Just 30% describe themselves as very favorable to Clinton, far lower than the 72% who describe themselves as very favorable to Barack Obama.
Priorities also studied Obama-to-Trump voters. Estimates of the number of such voters range from 6.7 to 9.2 million, far more than enough to provide Trump his Electoral College victory. The counties that switched from Obama to Trump were heavily concentrated in the Midwest and other Rust Belt states.
To say that this constituency does not look favorably on the Democratic Party fails to capture the scope of their disenchantment.
The accompanying chart illustrates this discontent. A solid majority, 77 percent, of Obama-to-Trump voters think Trump’s economic policies will either favor “all groups equally” (44) or the middle class (33). 21 percent said Trump would favor the wealthy.

In contrast, a plurality of these voters, 42 percent, said that Congressional Democrats would favor the wealthy, slightly ahead of Congressional Republicans at 40 percent.

Rove and Noonan on Trump

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

Karl Rove:
Increasingly it appears Mr. Trump lacks the focus or self-discipline to do the basic work required of a president. His chronic impulsiveness is apparently unstoppable and clearly self-defeating. Mr. Trump may have mastered the modes of communication, but not the substance, thereby sabotaging his own agenda.

Peggy Noonan:
The worst part of the testimony is when the president pressed Mr. Comey for his personal loyalty. Presidents don’t lean on FBI chiefs in this way. It is at odds with traditional boundaries, understandings and protocols. It was embarrassing to read. It was the move of a naïf who’s a cynic—I know how the big boys play. Actually it’s not how the big boys play, it’s how someone who learns about government by binge-watching “House of Cards” would play. It was bumptious with the special bumptiousness of those who think themselves savvy.
In the end Mr. Comey appears to have done himself little or no harm, but he harmed the president by documenting, again and persuasively, that Mr. Trump does not understand the norms, rules and traditions of his job. As I watched, I wondered how many other appointees, officials and White House staffers are writing themselves memos.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


In Senate testimony, former FBI director James Comey did not directly accuse Trump of crimes and he acknowledged that Trump was not under direct, personal investigation during his tenure with the bureau.

At USA Today, however, Tom Nichols notes that it was a political disaster for Trump.
In short, the American people were treated to the astonishing sight of a former FBI director repeatedly calling the president of the United States a liar, including twice in the very first minutes of his testimony. Comey then went farther, in effect daring the president to contradict him. When the subject of Trump’s tweet about tapes came up, for example, Comey said: “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.” When Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., curtly asked Comey if he would agree to release his personal notes in exchange for the president releasing any tapes, Comey merely said, “Sure.”

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

"Not Even People"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the harsh rhetoric of the 2016 campaign, which sometimes verged on incitement to violence.

Mark Hensch reports at The Hill:
President Trump’s son Eric Trump on Tuesday said Democrats are “not even people” to him after their obstruction of his father’s agenda.
“I’ve never seen hatred like this,” he said on Fox News’s “Hannity” Tuesday night. “To me, they’re not even people. It’s so, so sad. Morality’s just gone, morals have flown out the window and we deserve so much better than this as a country.

“You see the Democratic Party, they’re imploding. They’re imploding. They became obstructionists because they have no message of their own.”

In The Art of Political Warfare (2001), I explain how political figures have borrowed ideas from the military.  I discuss the techniques that armed forces use to break down resistance against killing.
The key is to depict the enemy not as a fully rounded human being but as an evil force who deserves attack, or at least as a mere target whose fate is unimportant. Political figures rarely go that far in "dehumanizing" opponents, and they should not, lest they provoke actual violence.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Trump Takes Money Away from Kids with Cancer

At Forbes, Dan Alexander writes about the Eric Trump Foundation golf invitational:
The best part about all this, according to Eric Trump, is the charity's efficiency: Because he can get his family's golf course for free and have most of the other costs donated, virtually all the money contributed will go toward helping kids with cancer. "We get to use our assets 100% free of charge," Trump tells Forbes.

That's not the case. In reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it's clear that the course wasn't free--that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization. Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament.
Additionally, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which has come under previous scrutiny for self-dealing and advancing the interests of its namesake rather than those of charity, apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization.

And while donors to the Eric Trump Foundation were told their money was going to help sick kids, more than $500,000 was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests, including at least four groups that subsequently paid to hold golf tournaments at Trump courses.
All of this seems to defy federal tax rules and state laws that ban self-dealing and misleading donors. It also raises larger questions about the Trump family dynamics and whether Eric and his brother, Don Jr., can be truly independent of their father.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Trump Tweets His Way Into Legal Trouble

Matt Zapotosky reports at The Washington Post:
The president’s tweets could significantly damage his administration’s effort to restore the ban, which has been put on hold by two federal courts.
Next week, those suing are expected to file arguments on the matter with the Supreme Court, and Trump’s latest remarks will surely be a part of their briefs. The administration appealed to the nation’s highest court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upheld the freeze on the ban last month.
Neal Katyal, the lawyer who argued for the challengers in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, wrote on Twitter, “Its kinda odd to have the defendant in HawaiivTrump acting as our co-counsel. We don’t need the help but will take it!” He also wrote that he was “waiting now for the inevitable cover-my-tweet posts from him that the Solicitor General will no doubt insist upon.”

Even George Conway, a prominent lawyer who recently took himself out of the running to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Division and the husband of top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, posted on Twitter that the remarks might hurt the legal case.
“These tweets may make some ppl feel better, but they certainly won’t help OSG get 5 votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad,” he wrote, using abbeviations for Office of Solicitor General and the Supreme Court.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Single Payer

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the Sanders candidacy and the liberal drift of the Democratic Party.

Democrats continue to gallop leftward.  As Alexander Burns and Jennifer Medina write at The New York Times, the latest example is support for single-payer health care:
At rallies and in town hall meetings, and in a collection of blue-state legislatures, liberal Democrats have pressed lawmakers, with growing impatience, to support the creation of a single-payer system, in which the state or federal government would supplant private health insurance with a program of public coverage. And in California on Thursday, the Democrat-controlled State Senate approved a preliminary plan for enacting single-payer system, the first serious attempt to do so there since then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed legislation in 2006 and 2008.
With Republicans in full control of the federal government, there is no prospect that Democrats can put in place a policy of government-guaranteed medicine on the national level in the near future. And fiscal and logistical obstacles may be insurmountable even in solidly liberal states like California and New York.

A study published in January by the Pew Research Center found that about 40 percent of Democrats favored a single-payer system, including a slight majority of self-described liberal Democrats. Among all Americans, support was markedly lower: Just 28 percent said government should be the sole provider of care.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Trump, Reagan, and Lafayette

With utter ignorance of history and lack of self-awareness, Trump is holding a "Pittsburgh, Not Paris" rally in Lafayette Square, named for a French hero who is buried in Paris.

On November 3, 1984, here is what President Reagan said about the United States, France, and Lafayette:
Q. Can France count on the U.S. if it were attacked, even though the U.S. might be at risk?
The President. Frankly, I find the question puzzling. France is America's oldest ally. You fought by our side in our War of Independence. We fought by yours in this country's two most bloody world conflicts. We owe each other our very national existence. We are each pledged, through the North Atlantic Treaty, to treat an attack upon the other as an attack upon ourselves. I assure you America forgets neither our common history, nor our current commitments.
I know there are those who cast doubt upon the durability of America's commitment to Europe. Yet on my side of the Atlantic there is no doubt that America's security, its prosperity, and its freedom are inextricably linked to those of our European partners. Nearly a million American doughboys arrived in France in World War I with the greeting, "Lafayette, we are here." A quarter of a million American soldiers, sailors, and airmen are in Europe today, as they have been for more than 30 years, the visible evidence of our continuing solidarity. Today America still says to Europe, "We are here, and we will stay as long as we are needed and wanted."
Q. How do you see the French when you think about them?
The President. I think of the French Revolution, the Rights of Man, and our common defense of democratic values for two centuries. Of course, no one who has ever visited France can forget the beauty of the country or the ingenuity and creativity of its people. But for me, France is, above all, the wellspring of Western culture and democratic ideas, and our ally, today as in the past, in their defense.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Turnout and Candidate Dislike

In Defying the Odds, we explain that the 2016 campaign was a race to the bottom.  People noticed.

Pew reports:
Tens of millions of registered voters did not cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election, and the share who cited a “dislike of the candidates or campaign issues” as their main reason for not participating reached a new high of 25%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new Census Bureau data.
In other recent presidential elections, the share of registered voters who said they didn’t participate because they disliked the candidates or campaign issues was considerably lower. In 2012, for example, 13% cited this as their primary reason. In pre-election polling last year, registered voters expressed far lower levels of satisfaction with their choices of candidates than in prior elections over the past several decades.
While a dislike of the candidates or issues was the most frequently cited reason for not voting, other top reasons included a lack of interest or a feeling that their vote wouldn’t make a difference (15%), being too busy or having a conflicting schedule (14%), having an illness or disability (12%) and being out of town or away from home (8%). Another 11% gave other reasons.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

People Dislike Trumpcare and Will Blame the GOP If Obamacare Plotzes

From the Kaiser Family Foundation:
Most (55%) of the public holds an unfavorable view of the Congressional plan that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and the same share (55%) want the Senate either to make major changes to the House-passed bill or not pass it all, finds the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.
Three in 10 (31%) of the public hold favorable views of the American Health Care Act, which narrowly passed the House on May 4 and is now under consideration in the Senate. In comparison, about half (49%) of the public hold a favorable views of the Affordable Care Act.
There are large partisan divisions on these questions, with far more Republicans holding favorable views of the replacement plan (67%) than of the ACA (12%). The opposite is true for Democrats, and among independents, more also hold favorable views of the ACA (48%) than of the replacement bill (30%).

In spite of these views, a majority of the public (74%) believe it is” likely” that the president and Congress will repeal and replace the ACA. At the same time, relatively few say the Senate should adapt the American Health Care Act as passed by the House (8%) or with only minor changes (24%). Most want the Senate either to make major changes (26%) or not pass it at all (29%).

The poll also finds the public more pessimistic about the replacement bill now than they were in December after the elections but before Congress put forward specific legislation. Nearly half (45%) of the public now says the replacement bill would result in higher health care costs for their family, compared to about a quarter (28%) who said so in December. In addition, a third now expect their ability to get and keep health insurance and the quality of their health care to get worse under the pending bill, compared to about one in five that said so in December.

Other findings include:
  • A majority of the public (63%) continue to say that President Trump and Republicans in Congress are responsible for any problems with the Affordable Care Act moving forward, more than twice the share who say President Obama and Democrats in Congress are responsible. Those considering Republicans responsible includes most Democrats (77%) and independents (63%), and half (49%) of Republicans.
  • Few (14%) believe that the House-passed bill fulfills all or most of President Trump’s promises on health care, while three quarters (76%) say it fulfills none (35%) or some (40%) of them. Among Republicans, twice as many say it fulfills none or some of the President’s promises (59%) as say it fulfills all or most of them (30%).

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

College America and Congress

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the demographic divides of the 2016 campaign.

Ben Myers and Peter Olsen-Phillips report at The Chronicle of Higher Education:
When Richard M. Nixon ran on the Republican ticket for president in 1960, he was the choice of 61 percent of voters with a college degree, according to Gallup polling. His Democratic opponent, John F. Kennedy, had a narrow edge among voters with only a high-school degree, winning 52 percent of that cohort.
By 2016, those trends had flipped. Hillary Clinton won voters with a college degree by a nine-point margin, while Donald Trump won voters without a degree, 52 percent to 44 percent.
As affluent and highly educated voters compose a growing portion of the Democratic Party, it stands to reason they would also form a larger segment of its congressional delegation, says Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. The scales have tipped the furthest with white voters.
Wealthy white people “are more likely to go to private institutions than less-affluent whites and nonwhites,” says Mr. Skelley.
And that’s what the data show in the House. In the current Congress, 50 percent of Democratic House members hold undergraduate diplomas from private institutions compared with 39 percent of Republicans.
This was not the case 25 years ago in the 103rd Congress. Then, 47 percent of Republican lawmakers had undergraduate degrees from private institutions. Just 44 percent of Democrats did.
What about some of the most elite private institutions, the members of the Ivy League? As of 25 years ago, Republicans and Democrats were nearly dead even in their share of members with Ivy League bachelor’s degrees, at 6.8 and 7.4 percent, respectively. Now, 12.8 percent of Democratic Caucus members hold degrees from Ivy League institutions compared with 4.2 percent of the House GOP.

Civil War: Prager Channels Gingrich

They do not believe that America is engaged in a civil war, with the survival of America as we know it at stake.

While they strongly differ with the left, they do not regard the left-right battle as an existential battle for preserving our nation. On the other hand, I, and other conservative Trump supporters, do.
Some on the right have been talking that way for a long time.

On August 28, 1988, Newt Gingrich gave a talk at the Heritage Foundation titled "Building the Conservative Movement After Ronald Reagan."
[Up] until the Bork nomination, all of us failed to appreciate that the Left in this country has come to understand politics as civil war. The Left at its core understands in a way that Grant understood after Shiloh that this is a civil war, that only one side will prevail, and that the other side will be relegated to history. This war has to be fought with the scale and duration and savagery that is only true of civil wars. While we are lucky in this country that our civil wars are fought at the ballot box, not on the battlefield, nonetheless it is a true civil war. So the deliberate, systematic smearing and destruction of Bork was normal. It was precisely what would happen in a civil war. You can expect from here on that the hard Left, which includes Jim Wright and Tony Coelho and many people who do not look hard Left, will try by chameleon-like actions to destroy our country. In fact, these individuals practice being chameleons: they are who they have to be today in order to be acceptable. But they do not represent American values. The hard Left will systematically root us out and destroy us if they can.