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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Body Slam

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

Julia Carrie Wong and Sam Levin report at The Guardian:
The Republican candidate for Montana’s congressional seat has been charged with misdemeanor assault after he is alleged to have slammed a Guardian reporter to the floor on the eve of the state’s special election, breaking his glasses and shouting: “Get the hell out of here.”
Ben Jacobs, a Guardian political reporter, was asking Greg Gianforte, a tech millionaire endorsed by Donald Trump, about the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate allegedly “body-slammed” the reporter.

From DCCC:


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"People Who Go Along a Treasonous Path"

First he blurts classified information to the  Russians...

Voice of America reports:
Israel says it has changed its intelligence-sharing protocols with the United States after President Donald Trump disclosed classified information to Russian diplomats earlier this month that had come from Israel, even though Tel Aviv had not assented to his handing it to another country.

Israeli defense chief Avigdor Liberman told Army Radio on Wednesday, “I can confirm that we did a spot repair and that there’s unprecedented intelligence cooperation with the United States."

He added, "What we had to clarify with our friends in the United States, we did. We did our checks.”
It’s rare for a single quote to tell you something genuinely new and important about a story as big as the Trump-Russia scandal. There are exceptions — and former CIA Director John Brennan just gave us one for the ages.

Testifying in front of the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday, Brennan said that Russia “brazenly interfered” in the 2016 elections and had been in active contact with members of the Trump campaign. Brennan was careful to avoid explicitly saying that the two sides colluded, and said the Trump aides may not have even known the Russians were spies. Then he dropped the hammer.
"Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late,” he said.

An Egregious Error in the Budget

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the political impact of economic policy.

At Axios, Dan Primack reports:
The White House budget released on Tuesday appears to have double-counted more than $2 trillion in estimated tax revenue. As such, the budget would not balance over 10 years (as promised), even if the U.S. economy were to hit sustained 3% growth (as projected by the White House, but by very few others).
Bottom line: Budget projections are a specious business by their nature, as no one can accurately predict the nation's next decade of economic fortunes. Let alone all of the legislative assumptions required, such as the future of healthcare, the specifics of tax reform, etc. Moreover, White House budget requests have a habit of being ignored by Congress (see: last month). But this double-count is a big unforced error.

The problem: Trump's budget anticipates around $2.06 trillion in extra federal revenue over the next decade, based on the aforementioned increase in economic growth. That new money then would be used to offset Trump's proposed tax cuts, as the Administration previously said that the tax cuts would be revenue-neutral. Unfortunately, that same $2 trillion also is earmarked for closing budget gap. I tried to come up with a household analogy here, but they were all just too ridiculous. Only in D.C. can someone present this sort of math with a straight face.
Straight face: Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney was asked about the double-count today during a press briefing, and didn't directly address the issue. First he blamed the Obama Administration for its own faulty economic projections ― namely because former Obama economic advisor Larry Summers raised the double-count in the Washington Post ― and then said that the budget numbers also did not assume any shrinkage the so-called "tax gap," or the number of people who should pay taxes but don't (something he expects personal tax simplification to help achieve).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Democrats to the Left

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the Democratic Party's leftward movement in 2016.
Donald Trump has already changed the Democratic Party more than his own Republican Party.
While the president has merely reduced his own party into a panicked mess, the Democrats’ trajectory seems to have moved subtly and decisively away from the center-left Clinton liberalism toward a politics whose planks make Barack Obama look like Al Gore.

I know, it’s been a distracting month. So you’re forgiven if you missed the big development on the Democratic Party policy front: the call for “a large-scale, permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment.” That plan, titled “A Marshall Plan for America,” came not from Bernie Sanders but from the Center for American Progress, the Clintonite Washington think tank John Podesta led. The proposal breaks in tone and substance with the Clinton–Obama focus on an economy led and dominated by the private sector.
 The jobs plan is the bluntest sign of this shift, but the party appears to be inching its way toward another pillar of social democracy: government-funded health care.
“What happened in the presidential campaign is that Bernie ran explicitly in support of a Medicare-for-all approach” — a simple framework for single-payer — “and what the politicians saw is that voters were fine with that,” said Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, a longtime advocate of single payer.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Trump's Trip and Bad Optics

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Dear California Democrats: This Is Not a Good Look on You

In Defying the Odds, we discuss problems facing the Democratic Party.  The just-concluded state convention in California is a good example.

Dan Walters at The Sacramento Bee:
One might think that a political party wielding virtually total control of the nation’s most populous state – i.e. Democrats in California – would be satisfied.

One would be wrong because of a dependable political axiom – by eliminating competition with the rival party, hegemony breeds internal conflict.
That axiom was on display Saturday at a state Democratic convention in Sacramento as the party’s very liberal professional leadership was buffeted by insurgents with even more leftish agendas, such as universal health insurance, free college educations, a ban on fracking, and more aggressive action on climate change.
Also at The Bee, Christopher Cadelago and Angela Hart:
State Democrats’ three-day convention had a raucous start Friday, as liberal activists booed and heckled Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez after marching from the state Capitol to promote a universal heath care program.
The leader of the nurses’ union that opposed Perez’s recent election had just warned California Democrats that they would put up primary election challengers against lawmakers if they don’t support a bill to create public-funded, universal healthcare.
“They cannot be in denial anymore that this is a movement that can primary them,”
RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, told hundreds of nurses and health care advocates gathered for a rally at the Capitol.
As Perez launched into a riff about shared party values, California Democratic Party John Burton told activists he backed universal healthcare before many of them were born, in 1998. He jabbed at a protester: “Put your (expletive) sign down...We’re all for it.”
Cathleen Decker at The Los Angeles Times:
Burton regained his typically cantankerous posture when he closed his farewell by addressing President Trump — bluntly, directly and defiantly.
“Now, all together,” he told the delegates, preparing to hurl an F-bomb. “[Expletive] Donald Trump.”
He raised both middle fingers toward the crowd.
For a moment, protests were forgotten, and the audience roared.

Saturday, May 20, 2017


The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.
The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.
Aaron Blake writes at The Washington Post:
President Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey on May 9. And then he basically spent the next two days doing whatever he could to make it look like he had just committed obstruction of justice.
First came that infamous NBC News interview on May 11. After two days of the White House claiming the Justice Department had initiated Comey's firing and that it was because of the Hillary Clinton investigation, Trump said to hell with it; he blurted out that he was determined to fire Comey all along and that the Russia investigation was on his mind when he decided to do it.
Now the New York Times is reporting that, in a meeting with top Russian officials on the day in-between — you know, the same meeting in which he gave highly classified information to those same Russians — Trump expressed relief at having taken Comey off his tail.
“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting that a U.S. official read to the Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Firing Comey in the first place was a highly suspect move. That's because Comey, as FBI director, was leading the Russia investigation and had recently announced the probe was targeting alleged Russian ties to Trump's campaign. So the White House set about saying this was Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein's decision and issued a memo from him focused solely on the Clinton investigation. Vice President Pence even said repeatedly that Russia was “not what this is about.”

I am often astonished at the President's tweets, and how he calls media in his own country as "fake news." But there's something else /1
I was a Sovietologist back in the day. I was constantly trying to unpack what I thought was happening behind the Kremlin's walls. /2
I would have given anything for Andropov or Gorbachev to give me a running narrative of their mood and inner thoughts in real time. /3
As an analyst, including my time years ago as a CIA consultant doing research in the 80s, I'd have considered that a gold mine. /4
And I wonder if, and or how, anyone is considering the fact that this is basically a raw feed of POTUS thoughts to foreign analysts. /5
Because while none of the matters are classified - at least AFAIK - tweets are pieces of the president's moods and thoughts that day. /6
This only occurred to me today as I realized how easily POTUS tweets were giving me a minute by minute image of his reactions to Yates. /7
Because while none of the matters are classified - at least AFAIK - tweets are pieces of the president's moods and thoughts that day. /6
This only occurred to me today as I realized how easily POTUS tweets were giving me a minute by minute image of his reactions to Yates. /7
This only occurred to me today as I realized how easily POTUS tweets were giving me a minute by minute image of his reactions to Yates. /7
This is the kind of instant leadership portrait that I wouldn't want a foreign nation to have when gaming out a crisis with us. /8
Americans might well appreciate the candor. But I thought Obama did too much thinking out loud in front of cameras. This is far more. /9
It is, from a foreign intel analyst's viewpoint, in some ways probably more valuable than classified memos. It's real and instant. /10
It is, from a foreign intel analyst's viewpoint, in some ways probably more valuable than classified memos. It's real and instant. /10
It shows how the President reacts under stress. It's something you never want the enemy to know. And yet it's all out there, every day. /11
It's also a window into how the President processes information - or how he doesn't process info he doesn't like. Solid gold info. /12

It's also a window into how the President processes information - or how he doesn't process info he doesn't like. Solid gold info. /12
These are all things I would have given anything to know, even just a fraction of this, in an analysis of any Soviet or Russia leader. /13