Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Barcelona Attacked; Trump Tweets

There was a terrorist attack in Barcelona on Thursday, in which a van was driven into a crowd, killing 13 people. Later on, a second attack of the same sort happened in Cambrils, about 75 miles from Barcelona. None of the victims in that one died, but seven were injured, two of them seriously.

A terrorist attack in Spain does not necessarily need to become a political issue in the United States. But with Donald Trump in the White House, it's pretty much guaranteed that it will. His first tweet was perfectly apropos:

But instead of put down the phone, he had to keep going, and to try to score some political points. Thus:

What Trump is referring to is the well-known story about General John J. Pershing, which ostensibly took place in 1911, while he was in the Philippines trying to end the Moro Rebellion. As Trump himself explained it while speaking to supporters in February:

He took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs' blood—you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs' blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: "You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years, there wasn't a problem. Okay? Twenty-five years, there wasn't a problem."

It's not a surprise that this solution appeals to Trump and his followers, as it seems to provide a simple solution to a difficult problem. And, as a "bonus," it even involves a lot of Muslims being both killed and defiled. It short, it plays to the same base instincts that the travel ban does.

Whatever Trump was trying to achieve, however, it is hard to imagine how one could fit more "wrong" into 140 characters than he managed to do. Let's start with what's wrong about it from a historical perspective. First, and foremost, this incident almost certainly never happened. The only source for it is a single letter, which contains only a vague reference, and was written 50 years after the event. Not what historians would call a reliable source. Further, this is entirely out of character with Pershing, who was not a bloodthirsty tyrant. In fact, he preferred what would later be called a "hearts and minds" approach over a violent approach. Further, even if the story is true, the Moro Rebellion lasted until 1913, so the tactic—if used—clearly did not work. There's also the fact that the Moros' commitment to Islam is in question, and that they would likely have been unaffected by the use of pig's blood as a weapon. Oh, and there's the question of exactly what act it was 25 years later—or was it 35?—that "resumed" the age of terrorism. Add it all up, and literally every word Trump wrote is wildly inaccurate. The story is so historically wrong that The Donald was awarded a "Pants on Fire" by Politifact when he first told it.

But the greater wrong, of course, is a moral one. Trump has just endorsed mass, summary executions as an appropriate instrument of policy. This is not only reprehensible, it would be a war crime. The Geneva Convention, particularly Articles 50 and 51, make quite clear that this kind of "willful killing" is a gross violation. And even if Trump is just performing for the crowd, and does not actually desire mass killings, there are some places that a decent person and leader simply should not go. So, the fact that Trump went there certainly says something about him. (Z)

Trump Defends "Beautiful" Confederate Statues

President Donald Trump doubled down on his earlier remarks that "both sides" were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, despite enormous criticism from almost everyone, including many Republicans. He also said that Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, who committed treason by waging war against the United States, could be equated with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson because they all owned slaves.

Trump's remarks were not really surprising. Many times in the past when he is under fierce attack, he doubles down on his controversial remarks, be they about gold-star families, Mexican-American judges, or sexual assault. His whole brand is about dominance, and apologizing and backing down are things he thinks only weaklings do.

Very likely Trump is taking his cues from Senior Adviser Steve Bannon, who believes that talking about racism will hurt the Democrats. In effect, Bannon is laying a trap for the Democrats by getting them focused on racism while he focuses on the economy. He may have a point. A Marist poll released this week asked whether Confederate statues should stay or be removed because they are offensive to some people. The results: 62% of registered voters want to keep the statues while only 27% want them removed. So, at least for the moment, Bannon knows what he is doing.

Statues are only part of the problem, though. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified:

  • 718 monuments and statues throughout the South to Confederate leaders
  • 109 public schools named after Confederate leaders
  • 80 counties named for Confederates
  • 9 public holidays in six states celebrating Confederates
  • 10 U.S. military bases named for Confederates

Clearly, pulling down a few statues isn't not going to make much of a difference. Symbols and icons of the Confederacy are everywhere in the South and are not going away any time soon, and if the Marist poll is correct, people don't want them to go away.

With all of this said, it is worth noting that this debate isn't quite as simple as racism vs. anti-racism. It's true that nearly everyone who wants the statues to go feels that way because the subjects of the statues fought to maintain white supremacy, or because the erectors of the statues did. Undoubtedly, some of the 62% of people who want to keep the statues are racists, but others feel the statues are a monument to their family members who served with Lee or Jackson, and still others just don't like being told what to do. Most historians, including Z, would also prefer that the statues be retained, and used as a teachable moment. Little good comes from whitewashing the past (no pun intended). The issue has even divided House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Pelosi is pushing to get rid of the 10 Confederate statues displayed in the Capitol, while Schumer believes this issue is a distraction, and not worth pursuing. (V & Z)

The Senators are Restless

The first GOP Senator to turn against Donald Trump in a big way was Jeff Flake (R-AZ; see below). However, others are joining the party, or at least are getting closer to doing so. There's Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the only black Republican in the Senate, who is disgusted by the Charlottesville fiasco. Sitting for an interview on Thursday, Scott was asked about Trump's non-condemnation of white supremacists. He said he would not "defend the indefensible," and also declared that the President's "moral authority is compromised."

Then there is Scott's counterpart, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Graham is a bit of a maverick, sort of a McCain-lite, and has consistently held Trump at arm's length. On Thursday, he delivered a fairly gentle rebuke to the President, telling him (through reporters) that, "because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy, you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country." Not too incendiary, and certainly less harsh than what some other politicians have been saying. Nonetheless, Trump was incensed, and slammed the Senator on Twitter, accusing him of telling "a disgusting lie," and mocking him for the fact that he lost the 2016 presidential primary and Trump won.

Worst of all for The Donald, however, is the ire of Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). Corker does not dislike the President, and has been more than willing to work with him and to tote his water on the Hill. On Thursday, however, Corker said that there need to be "radical changes" in the White House, and offered a fairly scathing assessment of the Trump presidency so far: "The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful."

It is highly irregular, of course, for a president to feud publicly with the senators from his own party, particularly when he's only halfway through the first year of his first term. And senators are like elephants—they have long memories. The Donald says he admires Abraham Lincoln; perhaps he should read one of the thousands of biographies of the 16th president that are available. Then he might finally learn that the truly successful presidents work the Senate with honey, and not vinegar. (Z)

Trump Appears to Support Kelli Ward against Flake

Donald Trump has no use for Jeff Flake, whose whole reelection campaign seems to be entirely about attacking Trump. Yesterday, he took a potshot at Flake with this tweet:

Many establishment Republicans and some of Trump's own advisers are dismayed by the idea of a president trying to defeat a sitting senator of his own party. Most of them believe that if Ward were to win the primary, she would be a far weaker candidate than Flake. She ran against Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in 2016 and was crushed. That's not a good sign, especially since McCain has acquired many more enemies during his long tenure in the Senate than Flake has in his short one.

Other Republicans were considering entering the race, including state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, but with Trump effectively endorsing Ward, they may decide not to. If Trump has effectively cleared her path, in a one-on-one primary she could possibly beat Flake, or at least cause him to spend all his money on the primary. On the other hand, there are four Democratic representatives in Arizona, so the Democrats might well have a hell of a primary as well. (V)

Another Council Bites the Dust

On Tuesday and Wednesday, several members of Donald Trump's Manufacturing Council, which was supposed to advise him on manufacturing, quit. This compelled him to disband the council before the rest of the members could follow suit. Then, the members of Trump's Strategy & Policy Forum all quit together, thus putting a second council in the graveyard. On Thursday, a third one, on infrastructure, got the ax.

The infrastructure council, which theoretically was supposed to help with one of Trump's key legislative priorities (and the one where he might actually have a real chance of success), had not even been fully formed. A pair of co-chairs, Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth, had been chosen, but the project got no further. The President's explanation for the shutdown of the various councils is that he wanted to, "avoid putting pressure on the businesspeople." Translation: "I am having trouble finding people to serve, since I'm becoming pretty toxic, and I wanted to avoid further embarrassments." Now that all of these advisory groups are gone, Trump will presumably just have to add the work they would have done to Jared Kushner's to-do list. Surely, he can squeeze "revitalize American manufacturing" in between "reinvent the federal government" and "bring peace to the Middle East." (Z)

Be Careful What You Wish For--Domain Registrar Edition

When domain registrar GoDaddy took down the Daily Stormer, many people on the left cheered. In the future, they may be sorry. GoDaddy didn't host the Daily Stormer. What it did was maintain a little known, but critical, piece of the Internet's internal architecture. When you type "" in a browser's address bar, the browser has to go look up what the website's internal name (IP address) is. Armed with that, the browser can get the website's content. What GoDaddy did was to stop responding to queries of "Where is" with its IP address and to start responding with "I don't know," making the site unreachable. This gave GoDaddy the power to kill off a hateful site.

The problem is, suppose there is an event held by some progressive organization, say Black Lives Matter, and somehow someone gets killed. Suppose GoDaddy decides that BLM is a terrorist organization and removes its entry, making it unfindable. BLM could sue GoDaddy, but it would lose because GoDaddy is a private company and is not bound by the First Amendment. It can do business, or refuse to do business, with anyone it wants to, unless there is a specific law that is applicable. In effect, private companies, such as domain registrars like GoDaddy and the others, can be the judge, jury, and executioner for Websites using whatever criteria they want. Having a small number of tech companies decide what is acceptable content and what is not is probably not a good way to run a democratic country. (V)

Alt-Right Groups Are Building Their Own Internet

In principle, The Daily Stormer can look for another domain registrar (there are many of them), but it is so toxic that probably few, if any, with take the site's $15 and register it. But the registrar is just one link in the chain. A website also needs a hosting company, and possibly some way to process donations, and more. Some of the tech companies are starting to get serious about stopping hate groups. For example, PayPal said that it would stop processing donations to Websites that espouse racist views.

The trouble here is the Internet—like nature—abhors a vacuum. If certain groups can't find domain registrars, hosting companies, and payment processors, it is likely that they will start to construct their own infrastructure with registrars, hosting companies, and payment processors that take all paying customers with no questions asked. In effect, they would be constructing their own somewhat-private Internet, like the dark Web is now, but with more facilities. It would be very hard to stop or sue a company whose business model was to accept any customer, no matter who they were or what ideas they have. They certainly couldn't be accused of discrimination, and being sued for failing to discriminate would break new ground. Also, given the international nature of the Internet, these companies could be located in Panama or the Cayman Islands or some other place that doesn't take direction from the Western World. (V)

Trump's Coauthor Says Trump Will Resign This Year

Tony Schwartz, who coauthored The Art of the Deal with Donald Trump, is predicting that The Donald will leave office voluntarily when the walls start closing in on him, rather than face defeat. Schwartz says that for Trump, every action is either a win or a loss, and rather than face certain impeachment and conviction, he would claim victory and just resign.

Of course, although Schwartz may know Trump well, the current situation is something Trump has never faced before. So, it is very hard to predict what he might do if, say, special counsel Robert Mueller issued a report saying the President had committed crimes. If Trump were to resign, he could be prosecuted. Art. 1, Sec. 3, Clause 7 of the Constitution states that if someone is impeached, "the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment, according to law." It seems very unlikely that Trump would voluntarily open himself up to indictment unless he made the ultimate deal of his life with Mike Pence: "You can be president if you give me a pardon." Pence, of course, knows what happened to Jerry Ford when he pardoned Richard Nixon, but Trump says he is the greatest negotiator in history, so Pence would be on the spot. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug17 More Businessmen Distance Themselves from Trump
Aug17 Pence: I Stand with the President
Aug17 Three Democrats Want to Censure Trump
Aug17 John Kelly Already Growing Weary
Aug17 Trump's Air Traffic Overhaul Would Add $100 Billion to the Deficit
Aug17 Trump Will Visit Phoenix Next Week
Aug17 Lobbyists Are Pessimistic about Tax Reform
Aug17 Russian Hackers May Have Used Software Written by a Ukrainian Freelancer
Aug17 Mueller's Team Takes a Hit
Aug17 Marist Poll: Trump's Approval is 35%
Aug16 Trump Once Again Blames Both Sides for the Charlottesville Violence
Aug16 Companies Are Distancing Themselves from the Charlottesville Marchers
Aug16 What Would Trumpism Be Like without Bannon?
Aug16 Elaine Chao Stands by Her Man
Aug16 Democrats Will Test Out Two Different Strategies in 2018
Aug16 Donald Trump Lies--A Lot
Aug16 White House Communications Director #4? Looks Like it's Hope Hicks
Aug16 No Surprises in Alabama, Utah
Aug15 Three Days Too Late and Under Pressure, Trump Denounces White Supremacists
Aug15 Trump Attacks Business Leader He Praised Last Month
Aug15 Trump May Pardon Arpaio
Aug15 Trump's Approval Falls to Lowest Level Ever
Aug15 Strange Election in Alabama Today
Aug15 Utah Also Has an Election Today
Aug15 "Kid Rock" May be Ineligible to Appear on the Michigan Senate Ballot
Aug15 Mooch Chats with Colbert, Bannon Death Watch Underway
Aug14 Trump's Advisers Try to Stem Fallout from Trump's Remarks about Charlottesville
Aug14 Trump Has Other Defenders, Too
Aug14 Tax Reform Will Probably Be Tougher than Health Care
Aug14 Senate May End Blue-Slip Courtesy
Aug14 CNN's "Jeffrey Lord Problem"
Aug14 Donald Trump Is Making People Sick
Aug14 Trump To Roll Back Obamacare Protections for Transgender Individuals
Aug13 Trump Condemns Violence in Charlottesville but Doesn't Mention Who Started It
Aug13 Bannon on Thin Ice
Aug13 Republican Representative Is Holding a Ticket Lottery for His Town Hall
Aug13 The 86 Million Reasons Trump Can't Win a Battle with McConnell
Aug13 RNC Has Adopted Bernie Sanders' Fundraising Approach; the DNC Hasn't
Aug13 Trump Hotel Turns a $2M Profit
Aug12 Report: China Would Not Help North Korea If It Attacks the U.S.
Aug12 Trump Threatens Venezuela
Aug12 Republicans Come under Pressure at Town Halls
Aug12 Manafort Changes Lawyers as Mueller Turns the Screws on Him
Aug12 Wall Street Growing Bearish
Aug12 Kyrsten Sinema Is Considering a Run Against Flake
Aug12 Secretary of Energy...Joe Manchin?
Aug12 McConnell Is Backing Kid Rock in Michigan Senate Race
Aug11 McConnell and Trump Are Taking Potshots at Each Other
Aug11 Kim and Trump Are Also Taking Potshots at Each Other
Aug11 Trump Thanks Putin for Expelling Diplomats