Sep. 05

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New Senate: DEM 48             GOP 52

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Dem pickups: (None)
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Situation in Korea Is Already Escalating

On Sunday, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that Kim Jong-un is "begging for war." Meanwhile, President Donald Trump upped the ante for North Korea by giving South Korea permission to increase the payload on its missiles.

Another option Trump has to escalate the conflict without actually starting a war is to reintroduce U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea. In 1991, the two Koreas signed an agreement to keep the peninsula free of nuclear weapons, so the U.S. withdrew its H-bombs from South Korea. Now that North Korea has violated the agreement, the possibility exists that the U.S. could ask South Korea if it could station nuclear weapons in the country. This would, of course, frighten North Korea, and make a nuclear war more likely. Most U.S. military experts are against redeploying nuclear weapons in South Korea for fear that an accident or misunderstanding could start a nuclear war. Of course, such weapons could be placed on U.S. submarines or surface ships close to North Korea, with or without South Korea's assent. Ultimately, it is the commander-in-chief who has to either make the final call or decide to let Defense Secretary James Mattis make the decision. (V)

If Trump Ends DACA, at Least Two States Will Sue Him

Donald Trump is expected to announce today that he will terminate the DACA program, possibly with a 6-month delay to give Congress a chance to act. The program allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to remain. Trump's plan does not sit well in New York or Washington State and both states' attorneys general said yesterday that if he ends the program, they will sue him. In practice this means that unless Congress acts—and getting Congress to do anything is not easy—the hot potato will end up in the Supreme Court. The court surely doesn't want the case, but if both the executive and legislative branches punt on it, it will have to make the call.

Immigration policy is something that logically should be regulated by a law Congress passes. The trouble is that Democrats generally favor letting the DREAMers stay while Republicans see them as criminals who violated immigration laws and should not be given amnesty. Actually, not all Congressional Republicans see it that way, but many of their voters most certainly do. Getting a bill through both chambers will be extremely difficult.

The only compromise that might stand a chance is to let the DREAMers stay but make it impossible for them to become citizens (and thus eligible to vote). It's the voting that Republicans really fear, and if that can be taken off the table, they might agree to some kind of permanent green card for the DREAMers. Whether Democrats will swallow that is another matter. In any case, getting a law passed won't be easy. (V)

Lots of People Will Be Angry if DACA Is Killed

As he works to make America great again, Donald Trump is demonstrating an unusual aptitude for aggravating large segments of the American public. If and when he sorta kills DACA today, as he is expected to do, that may reach an all-new level, which is saying something for the president who fumbled Charlottesville. Here is a partial list of the people who will be upset:

The real lesson here is that saying dramatic things to adoring crowds at rallies, who may be .001% of the U.S. population, and an unrepresentative sample at that, is very, very easy. When you start actually doing things that affect the whole country, where everyone is weighing in, it gets much, much harder. One wonders if Trump has begun to appreciate that in any meaningful way. (Z)

For Trump, the Rubber is About to Meet the Road

There is little question that Donald Trump has spent much of his time in office spinning his wheels. Outside of bills renaming post offices, he's signed virtually nothing into law. His administration is still grossly understaffed. His foreign policy has been haphazard, and the White House is in a constant state of turmoil. And then, of course, there's Russiagate. Add it all up, and Donald Trump is about to enter a critical four-month period. By the end of it, we may very well know if he has any chance of turning things around, or if he's a dead man walking. Specifically:

The smart money says that Trump has dug himself too deep a hole to climb out of, and he ends the year in a position not much better than the one he is in right now (or, in fact, in a worse position). On the other hand, the smart money said that he'd never, ever become president in the first place, so who knows? (Z)

Breitbart Is Putting Trump In a Quandary

Alabama Republicans will pick their Senate candidate on Sept. 26, and Breitbart News is waging full-scale war against Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who was appointed to fill the seat of Jeff Sessions when he left the Senate. Donald Trump endorsed Strange in the first round of the primary and has to decide now whether to continue to support him against former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore. If he sticks with Strange, he will be subject to ongoing attacks from Breitbart and its leader, Steve Bannon, who is now definitely outside the tent pissing in. These attacks are probably going to hurt the President with part of his base. On the other hand, if he changes horses in midstream and suddenly supports Moore, he will earn the everlasting enmity of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who desperately wants Strange to win. So Trump can choose between (1) having Bannon hate him, or (2) having McConnell hate him.

The battle may come to a head this week when Moore visits D.C. to try to collect endorsements from members of the House Freedom Caucus and other conservatives. If he gets them and Trump sticks with Strange, then The Donald makes more enemies in Congress. Another factor Trump has to consider is that if the candidate he ultimately supports loses, other Republicans will take note that his endorsement or lack thereof isn't so important. That will reduce whatever leverage he still has over them. Possibly the best course for him is to stay neutral, but that's not easy for him to do, what with the siren song of Twitter playing in his head 24 hours a day. (V)

Harvey and the Debt Limit

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said that the bill to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey should be packaged together with an otherwise clean bill to raise the debt ceiling and then passed quickly. Yesterday, the chairman of the conservative House Republican Study Committee (HRSC), Mark Walker (R-NC), threw sand in the gears by saying that he opposes that plan. Instead, he wants to use the debt ceiling bill as a Christmas tree on which to hang lovely conservative ornaments that could not be passed on their own. This puts the HRSC on a possible collision course with Mnuchin and the administration.

If Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) decides to do what Mnuchin wants, and writes a bill combining Harvey aid with a new debt ceiling, he is going to need Democratic votes to pass it. It is not impossible that the Democrats might want a few of their priorities in the bill to get their votes. If Ryan works with them, many other Republicans will be angry with him, and he could end up meeting the same fate as former Speaker John Boehner, who was driven from the House for working with the Democrats. Things like this are why only one Speaker has ever gone on to be President of the United States. And that one—James K. Polk—got elected 170 years ago. (V)

Clarke Expected to Take a Job in Trump Administration

Former Milwaukee County sheriff David A. Clarke, who resigned his post without explanation last week, is strongly rumored to be headed for a position in the Trump administration. Clarke is in competition with Joe Arpaio for the title of "least popular former lawman in America," having "earned" this honor with many of the same kinds of behaviors, including outspoken opposition to Planned Parenthood (which he calls "Planned Genocide"), racial profiling, and deplorable jail conditions. Particularly controversial was the death of Terrill Thomas, who died of dehydration in a Milwaukee jail cell when guards turned off his water as punishment for...something. It's actually not entirely clear.

In any event, Clarke will not confirm his move to the White House, nor will the Trump administration. We went through this about six weeks ago, when Clarke was originally set to be appointed to a job with the Department of Homeland Security. After that news broke, everyone involved went scurrying for cover. That incident, and the way in which the hiring is being handled this time, suggests that the administration knows that employing Clarke is troublesome (particularly right after the Arpaio pardon) and is doing everything possible to sneak him in through the back door. (Z)

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