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Trump 306
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GOP 52
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270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: (None)
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: FL IA MI OH PA WI

Senate Committee Approves Waiver for Mattis

Longstanding U.S. law states that former military officers are ineligible to be secretary of defense for 7 years after they leave the armed forces. Secretary of Defense-designate Gen. James Mattis (ret.) has been out of uniform only 3 years, so he needs Congress to give him a waiver. Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to grant the waiver, with only three senators dissenting: Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Approval by the full Senate and the House is expected shortly, with nearly all Democrats voting for him.

Although Democrats won't say it in public, many of them are desperately hoping that Mattis, a Marine Corps general with 44 years of active-duty service, will prevent President Trump from doing anything foolish in the way of foreign or military policy. In particular, Mattis is likely to push back on adventures that might endanger the lives of large numbers of service men and women. Some Democrats are probably aware that when the Watergate story was breaking, then-President Nixon was drinking heavily and then-Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff not to use nuclear weapons without his explicit orders—even if Nixon ordered them to do so. No one knows what Mattis would do if Trump ordered him to use nuclear weapons, but some people are hoping he would refuse. (V)

FBI, DOJ to Be Investigated

The Justice Department's internal ethics watchdog has announced that it will conduct an investigation of the department, particularly the FBI's handling of Hillary Clinton's private email server.

It is theoretically possible that Donald Trump's new AG (presumably Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL) could quash the investigation. However, the move was expected, and has drawn support from across the political spectrum. For example, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he "wholeheartedly" supports the decision. So, the odds are good that it will move forward, and that the ghosts of the 2016 election will be haunting Donald Trump well into 2017. (Z)

Russia Could Now Focus on Hacking Members of Congress

Now that the election is over, what are the Russian hackers who broke into the DNC computers going to do? File for unemployment benefits? Not likely. A very plausible scenario is they (on orders from Vladimir Putin) target members of Congress whom Putin has a problem with. Reading their emails to look for incriminating tidbits is only the start. The next step is to plant child pornography or evidence of illegal campaign contributions or money laundering on their computers and then tip off the FBI. Is this all wild speculation? Unfortunately not. The Government Accountability Office reported 77,000 security "incidents" on federal computers last year.

Former secret service chief cybersecurity officer Ed Cabrera said that concerns that the Kremlin could target individual politicians are very realistic. And Russia might not be the only state actor targeting politicians; China and other countries could also try (V).

Trump Gets Pushback on Plan to Move Israel Embassy

Like several presidents-elect before him (most recently Bill Clinton), Donald Trump has announced plans to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And like several presidents-elect before him, there is now a chorus of voices warning him not to do it.

The Israelis, particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would be delighted by the move, since it would help affirm their position that Jerusalem is theirs. Palestinians, by contrast, would be very upset by the move, since it would undermine their position that Jerusalem is theirs, too. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has written a letter to Trump imploring him to reconsider; a number of European diplomats have seconded the sentiment. Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry has warned against the move, declaring that, "you'd have an explosion—an absolute explosion in the region, not just in the West Bank and perhaps even in Israel itself, but throughout the region." State department officials have also expressed significant concern that the move will cause security problems for the U.S. throughout the region.

In the end, the various presidents-elect who considered this move all thought better of it once they were in the Oval Office. The political calculus is really pretty clear—moving the embassy is a symbolic maneuver that will have a fairly small, fairly short-term political benefit. Long after that benefit has dissipated, the potential for the move to backfire will remain. All it takes is one terrorist attack described as "payback for Jerusalem," and people are talking about how the president apparently values symbolism over safety. We will soon see if Trump's calculations produce the same answer that Bill Clinton's, George W. Bush's, and Jimmy Carter's did. (Z)

Obama Ends Automatic Residency for Cuban Refugees

For half a century, any Cuban who managed to reach American soil was granted residency automatically. The so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy was part of the United States' Cold War strategy, since every defector was a loss of manpower for the enemy and a small propaganda victory for America. But now, the policy is no more, having been killed by a stroke of Barack Obama's pen.

While there may have been some logic to "wet foot, dry foot" decades ago, it's now a counterproductive anachronism. It aggravates the Cuban government, first of all, while also encouraging risky behavior on the behalf of would-be refugees. Further, there's a certain disconnect between welcoming Cubans, but turning Haitians, Guatemalans, and Salvadoreans away. Even Sen. Marco Rubio, an anti-Castro hawk, has said the policy is now hard to justify. The program could still come roaring back to life if Donald Trump decides that reinstating the policy will somehow tighten his relationship with Cuban voters, or he perceives some other benefit. Of course, that would be a shade bit incongruous with his generally anti-immigration stance. (Z)

Both Parties Have Unstable Coalitions

The nature of the American two-party system is that by definition, each party has to put together a coalition of incompatible voters. Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report has a nice piece detailing the internal contradictions that both parties are currently stuck with and how they could easily come unglued. Let's start with the Democrats. They are going all in on demographics and identity politics. Barack Obama assembled a coalition of blacks, Latinos, youngsters, and urban professionals. They all voted for Obama in large numbers and it carried the day twice. Trouble is, it doesn't transfer so well to other candidates, as Hillary Clinton discovered. Despite James Comey, hacking, and other problems, in the end she lost because Republicans voted in normal numbers and a lot of Democrats stayed home, especially in the swing states. Part of the problem is that some of the supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) really don't like Hillary Clinton, and weren't willing to settle for the lesser of two evils. New voter suppression laws enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures probably also contributed to the low Democratic turnout.

Another problem Democrats have is that demography is not geography. Democrats are clustered in a small number of large cities. Winning Los Angeles and San Francisco by millions of votes doesn't help if you lose Michigan by 10,000 votes. In the Senate, many rural, sparsely populated states are very red, but each one still has two senators. As the country becomes more and more polarized, these states are increasingly beyond the Democrats' reach. The House is so gerrymandered that in 2016 with 51% of the popular vote for the House, the Republicans won 55% of the seats. None of these problems can be blamed on Donald Trump (or Hillary Clinton) and none are going away any time soon.

The Republicans have a different problem. Their coalition contains people from small and large businesses, traditional conservatives, evangelicals, and starting in 2016, angry white working-class men who want to burn the place down. Their priorities are very different and now that the Republicans control everything, they can't tell their supporters: "We couldn't carry out our program because Obama vetoed it." Now they have to deliver. But a sizable chunk of Trump supporters are union members and would be happy to raise taxes on rich people. That's not on Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-WI) agenda. Many of them would be willing to spend $20 billion to build The Wall, but many traditional conservatives don't want to raise taxes and don't want to increase the deficit. And Mexico is not going to pay. Maybe the Wall Fairy can somehow solve the problem because more conventional approaches won't work.

Another example: Big business and conservatives love free markets and free trade. Most Trump supporters hate them. Keeping both groups happy won't be easy and this time around, there are no excuses since Republicans run the whole show. (V)

Why Trump Can't Let Go

Politico has a fascinating background piece on why Donald Trump behaves as he does and why it is not going to change. In short, to him, his businesses and his brand are the essence of who he is. He can't give them up. Multiple biographers who have studied him carefully all say that. One biographer, Tim O'Brien, said: "He's like a boy with his marbles. He just can't let go of a single marble in his collection." Another biographer, Wayne Barrett, said: "He can't let go of his assets because that's his life." A third biographer, Gwenda Blair, said: "He's like a pig hunting for truffles."

Bruce Nobles, the former president of Trump's short-lived, ill-fated, airline, Trump Shuttle, said: "More than any person I've ever met, he's focused on how things impact him." He doesn't care what happens to other people. He regards his failed casinos in Atlantic City as great successes because he got a lot of money out of them even though they all went bankrupt, leaving his investors with nothing. Conflicts between what is good for America and what is good for Donald Trump are no doubt going to start happening quite regularly, and all the people who know him are saying that he will always choose the option that is best for him personally. No other president has ever been like this. Look at recent Republican presidents: George W. Bush ran for the job to prove to his father that he was actually better than Jeb, "the smart Bush." Ronald Reagan ran because so many of his admirers wanted him to. Ike was a national hero and couldn't even decide until late in the game which party he belonged to. None of them were in it for greater glory for themselves or to make more money. There is stormy weather ahead. (V)

Majority of Americans Want Trump to Quit Twitter

It's possible that Donald Trump's use of Twitter is a refreshing new departure in American politics, a means of communicating directly with the people while rattling the chains of the too-set-in-their-ways establishment. Or, it could be that it's a tawdry exercise in ego massage, one that cheapens Trump and undermines the dignity of the office he is soon to assume. According to a recent poll, the majority of Americans appear to take the latter view, as 64% say he should shut his personal account down.

Of course, Trump's audience isn't really "all Americans," since he's made pretty clear that he intends to be a president only for some Americans. If we imagine that his audience is Republicans, since they are his base, then Twitter is basically a wash—49% of Republicans say he should keep it, 45% say he should dump it. If, on the other hand, we imagine that his audience is young people, since they are the ones who dominate Twitter, then he's doing himself no favors—71% want him to shut down the account. Of course, Trump pays no attention to polls unless they portray him in a flattering light, so these results matter not one bit. (Z)

Bush Daughters Write Letter to Obama Daughters

The Bush daughters, Jenna and Barbara, know a little something about both growing up in the White House and leaving that bubble. So, they've penned a charming letter to the Obama daughters in which they offer advice and good wishes as Sasha and Malia begin the next phase of their lives. The Bushes encourage the Obamas to enjoy their time in college, to seek out their own path, and to keep in touch with the White House staffers with whom they grew close. The letter concludes with this sentiment:

You have lived through the unbelievable pressure of the White House. You have listened to harsh criticism of your parents by people who had never even met them. You stood by as your precious parents were reduced to headlines. Your parents, who put you first and who not only showed you but gave you the world. As always, they will be rooting for you as you begin your next chapter. And so will we.

Donald Trump might want to take note that this is what it looks like to be classy. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan12 Trump's Presidency Will Be Like No Other
Jan12 Senate Takes First Step Toward Repealing Obamacare
Jan12 Tillerson Evades Senators' Questions
Jan12 Booker and Lewis Testify Against Sessions
Jan12 Chao Sails Through Easily
Jan12 Mattis Aggravates House Democrats
Jan12 Cubs to Visit Obama on Monday
Jan11 Russia May Have Dirt on Trump
Jan11 Sessions Denies Racism Charges
Jan11 Is McConnell Pulling a Fast One?
Jan11 Clinton's Cabinet Shortlist Leaks
Jan11 Trump Wants the ACA to Be Replaced Quickly
Jan11 Trump Meets With RFK, Jr.
Jan11 Obama Bids Farewell, but Is Not Leaving on Jan. 20
Jan11 Majority of Voters Don't Like Trump's Transition
Jan11 Bad News Just Keeps Coming for Crowley
Jan10 Booker to Testify Against Sessions
Jan10 Jared Kushner to Be Named Senior Adviser to the President
Jan10 Kushner: Trump Didn't Really Believe Conspiracy Theories
Jan10 What Can Trump Do on His First Day in Office?
Jan10 McConnell: Trump's Hopes on Russia "Will Be Dashed Pretty Quickly"
Jan10 Anti-Trump Movement Will Operate in California and New York
Jan10 Trump Fires Back at Streep
Jan09 Cabinet Confirmation Hearings Will Start This Week
Jan09 Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Jan09 Unpaid Trump Advisors May Also Have Conflicts of Interest
Jan09 McConnell: Repeal of the ACA Will Begin This Week
Jan09 Toll Roads Are Coming
Jan09 Golden Globes Turns into the Anti-Trump Show
Jan09 Trump to Inaugural Announcer: You're Fired
Jan08 Trump Insiders Dive into the Swamp
Jan08 Trump: Only Stupid People Oppose a Good Relationship with Russia
Jan08 Sessions Not a Civil Rights Activist, After All
Jan08 Cabinet Nominees May Be Confirmed Before Ethics Reviews Are Finished
Jan08 Kushner Has His Own Conflicts of Interest
Jan08 Monica Crowley Plagiarized Large Parts of Her Book
Jan08 A New Era of Muckraking is Upon Us
Jan08 Get Ready for More Bathroom Bills, Other Anti-LGBT Legislation
Jan07 Putin Ordered Russian Hacking to Help Trump
Jan07 Donald Trump is Elected President
Jan07 Fourth GOP Senator Won't Vote for Repealing the ACA without a Replacement
Jan07 Obamacare Repeal Could Cost 3 Million Jobs
Jan07 Trump Slams Toyota
Jan07 Trump Slams Schwarzenegger
Jan07 "Mad Dog" Mattis is Mad
Jan07 Trump Favorite Is Elected Ohio State GOP Chairwoman
Jan06 Voter Fraud May Have Occurred--in the Electoral College
Jan06 U.S. Intelligence Has Conclusive Evidence that the Russians Hacked the DNC
Jan06 Dan Coats to Be Director of National Intelligence
Jan06 Another Campaign Promise Looks Ready to Bite the Dust