• Canada Puts Tariffs on U.S. Products
• Surprise! North Korea Is Not Denuclearizing
• About that Extra Gas from Saudi Arabia...
• Democrats Are Deeply Divided
• Florida Puerto Ricans Like Scott Better than They Like Nelson
• AMLO Wins
Republicans have a 51-49 majority in the Senate, so the defection of even two Republicans would mean a Supreme Court nominee would go down. And if the ailing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) can't make it to D.C. to vote, a single Republican defection would sink any nomination, although McCain might resign if he is truly unable to get to the Senate, so that his successor can vote. Yesterday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said she would not vote for a nominee who doesn't regard Roe v. Wade as settled law. However, she also said that she wouldn't ask the nominee how he would vote on the Court if an attempt to repeal Roe came before the Court. So her statement by itself doesn't mean a lot.
Collins' decision not to ask the nominee the key question on which her vote depends shows very clearly that confirmation hearings are Kabuki theater: highly scripted and completely predictable in advance. The nominee says that he will come to all cases with an open mind, look at the facts, the law, and Constitution, and make a reasoned judgment with no hint of personal bias. Once confirmed, all of this is forgotten and the nominee does whatever he likes. Collins knows this, of course, as do all the senators, but she feels it makes her look good to pretend she can somehow tell what a nominee will do on the bench by refraining from actually asking. Of course, even if she asked, no nominee would ever give an answer that might endanger any Senate votes. And even if a nominee says point blank that he will never vote to repeal Roe, that doesn't say anything about how he will vote if some state passes a law saying that while abortions are legal, to get one you have to get permission from the state by applying in triplicate three months in advance and wait for a permit.
Given the current system, there is no way to solve the problem. What would be needed is a law (or more likely, a Constitutional amendment) saying that judges are initially approved for, say, 5 years, after which they must go through a second confirmation vote. By then, the senators would know what kind of fish they have caught and whether they want to keep it or throw it back. (V)
Canada has officially responded to U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum by slapping tariffs on U.S. products worth about $13 billion. Steel and aluminum are hit, but also other products, including toffee, maple syrup, coffee beans, and strawberry jam. The tariffs Donald Trump imposed on imported steel hit Canada especially hard, since more imported U.S. steel comes from Canada than from any other country.
Canada is the latest country to put tariffs on U.S. products, but it was not the first. The European Union already put tariffs on orange juice, bourbon, peanut butter, cigarettes, and denim, each one carefully calibrated to inflict pain on some Republican constituents. Mexico has also imposed tariffs on U.S. products. The Canadian (and Mexican) tariffs have a special significance because Trump is trying to renegotiate NAFTA with those countries and doing so in the middle of a trade war isn't going to make it any easier. Nor is Sunday's election result (see below).
Trump may not care so much about the future of NAFTA, though, as he is clearly moving very aggressively toward a policy of trade unilateralism. According to reporting from Axios, the President is privately telling friends and allies that the time has come for the United States to withdraw from the World Trade Organization. The administration is also putting the finishing touches on a proposal that would allow the United States to ignore some of the WTO's key rules, essentially giving him greater latitude to impose tariffs as he sees fit. This would appear to be setting up an ultimatum for the WTO: "Either you let the U.S. play by its own set of rules, or the U.S. is taking its ball and going home." Sounds great—until some countries decide that all of a sudden they don't have to respect U.S. patents, copyrights, and trademarks, and begin freely cloning Microsoft software and Pfizer drugs—complete with exact replicas of the respective companies' (trademarked) logos.
Trump also claimed in an interview this weekend that, "[E]very country is calling every day saying, 'Let's make a deal, let's make a deal.' So it's going to all work out." If that is so, then presumably it should not be difficult for the President to consummate at least a handful of trade deals prior to the midterms. And if he cannot do so, then it would seem to suggest that he was not being truthful in his interview.
Trump also reiterated, once again, that it is easy to win a trade war. Most economists think that no one ever wins a trade war. Well, maybe there could be a winner: Russian President Vladimir Putin, who would love to shred the Western alliance and now has Trump doing it for him, for free. (V & Z)
This weekend, working from off-the-record reports given to them by members of the intelligence community, the Washington Post reported that North Korea has no intention of getting rid of its nuclear weapons, and that it is currently working on ways to hide both its nukes and its production facilities. The news has something of a "dog bites man" feel to it, since anyone who was not born yesterday already knew all of this. Claiming that they intend to denuclearize in exchange for concessions, and then failing to actually do so, is page one of the Kim family playbook. This is at least the fourth or fifth time this has happened in the last 25 years.
However, given that Donald Trump has already declared the nuclear threat to be over, the administration has backed itself into a corner. And on Sunday, courtesy of NSA John Bolton, they doubled down, declaring that there is a plan in place for North Korea to be denuclearized within a year. This raises two questions. The first is: When, exactly, was this plan negotiated? And the second is: Are there really people in the White House who think that within the next 12 months, such a plan can be ironed out, officially agreed to and implemented, and then that the U.S. can be confident that (a) the nukes are all gone, and (b) they are never coming back? Because if there really are White House staffers who believe that, we have a lovely art deco bridge in San Francisco they might like to purchase.
Experts—a group that does not include John Bolton—agree on two things: (1) North Korea is very, very, very unlikely to denuclearize, and (2) If they somehow do agree to do so, and actually follow through, it will take at least a decade for that process to unfold and for it to be declared a success. It is likely that most folks in the White House, with the possible exception of the fellow in the Oval Office, know this. Which means that this weekend's drama tells us exactly how this is going to play out over the next several years. The administration, its hands tied by Trump's bragging, will make fantastic claims about how close they are to bringing Kim to his knees, and then will wonder aloud when the President's Nobel Prize is arriving. The intelligence community will counter this by leaking information that undercuts the administration's claims and tries to get at the truth of the matter. Thus we have, once again, the highly unusual situation that the White House and the intelligence pros are actively working against one another, something that is not supposed to happen. And 40% of Americans are going to believe one side's story, while the other 60% believe the other side's. (Z)
Speaking of fantastic claims, on Saturday Donald Trump said that he had called up his buddy, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and persuaded him to dramatically increase oil production. Here, for reference, is the tweet:
Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil & disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference...Prices to high! He has agreed!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2018
The tweet did not particularly pass the smell test, but you never know.
Actually, now we do know. Mere hours after the original tweet was sent, the White House was compelled to change course, and to admit that Trump didn't quite have it right. What actually happened is that the King said it was possible for Saudi Arabia to produce another 2 million barrels of oil a day, but that it would only use that extra capacity "prudently...if and when necessary to ensure market balance and stability, and in coordination with its producer partners, to respond to any eventuality." Translation: "We are a member of OPEC, and we're not going to produce more oil unless there's big money in it for the whole cartel."
Here, incidentally, is what has happened with gas prices since Donald Trump took office:
Trump is really hoping that either the trendline quickly turns in the other direction (unlikely), or else that voters don't notice how expensive gas has gotten (we will see). (Z)
Donald Trump's policies, especially those concerning tearing families apart, are also tearing the Democratic Party apart. Activists want to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service, adopt a single-payer health insurance system, push for a $15/hour minimum wage, and block Trump's expected conservative Supreme Court nominee. Party leaders know that none of that is remotely possible unless the Democrats capture the House, Senate, and White House, and that doing that means protecting their more moderate members, some of whom have cooperated with Trump (probably more to save their own necks than out of some ideological commitment). Most of the activists don't realize how little power the Democrats have and how little effect marches and protests have on the administration.
What they also don't realize is how calls to abolish ICE will play in November. Republicans will show clips of people holding "Abolish ICE" signs and say Democrats want an open border, in which anyone who wants to can enter the country. Ads like that could be just enough to keep suburban Republicans in the GOP fold one more time, even though they dislike Trump a lot. And, of course, ICE isn't the problem. It is simply doing what its superiors, AG Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump, are ordering it to do. During the Obama administration, it wasn't intentionally tearing families part because that is not what the President and AG wanted.
Many activists also want to wean the Democrats off ties to corporate America and take dramatic action now. They point to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' victory last week. The leadership knows that what works in a D+29 district will not work in an R+11 district and accuses the activists of having unrealistic expectations. The leaders know that they can win in R+11 districts, but it takes a Conor Lamb to do that, and that is not the kind of candidate the activists want. They also know that moderate Democrats, like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have been able to win the White House while progressive candidates like George McGovern and Walter Mondale have gotten crushed. In response, the activists are saying that the current Democratic strategy of gradual, incremental change isn't working, so it is time for a whole new course. So the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party will continue for a while unabated. The midterm elections may give some clarity. Or not. (V)
A new poll of 1,000 Puerto Ricans in Florida commissioned by Florida International University shows that 75% of them have a good opinion of Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) while only 18% dislike him. As to his election opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), 62% favor him while 26% don't. What is noteworthy here is that 57% of the respondents are registered Democrats while only 12% are registered Republicans.
What the poll clearly shows is that most Puerto Ricans in Florida are fundamentally Democrats but Scott has done a very good job of reaching out to them. After Hurricane Maria, he set up centers all over the state to help new arrivals from Puerto Rico get settled. Scott has also visited the island multiple times, constantly talks to Spanish-language news outlets, and is just generally making a gigantic effort to woo the Puerto Ricans, old and new. Nelson has done almost nothing to win their affection, although he is beginning to get the message that he needs to do so. His problem is that there isn't much time left. (V)
Former Mexico City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, commonly known as AMLO, was elected as the new president of Mexico on Sunday, as expected. He crushed his opponents, collecting roughly 53% of the vote compared to 24% for his nearest rival, Ricardo Anaya Cortés.
Donald Trump has already tweeted his congratulations to his new colleague from down south:
Congratulations to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on becoming the next President of Mexico. I look very much forward to working with him. There is much to be done that will benefit both the United States and Mexico!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2018
The kumbayah tone of the tweet means very little, of course. Trump has spent much time villainizing Mexico, both as a trade partner that takes advantage of the United States, and as the source of hordes of brown-skinned criminals trying to make their way into the country. Meanwhile, every candidate in this year's Mexican presidential election was anti-Trump, but AMLO was the anti-Trumpiest. The upshot is that neither leader has much interest in, or much motivation for, cooperating with the other. Which suggests, in turn, that NAFTA is either going to be left as-is, or it's going to go the way of the dodo. Probably the latter. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul01 Canada's Trudeau Playing Ketchup
Jul01 Trump Asks Saudis to Produce More Oil
Jul01 Gringa Wins in Little Havana
Jul01 This Week's Swamp Creature: Wilbur Ross
Jul01 Eight Days until Trump Picks Kennedy's Replacement
Jul01 Can the Democrats Do Anything about the New SCOTUS Justice?
Jul01 Democrats Turn to Vets to Turn the House
Jun30 Seventeen States Are Poised to Ban Abortions if Roe v. Wade is Overturned
Jun30 Economic Forecasts Suggest Democrats Will Win the House
Jun30 Who Will Be Number Four?
Jun30 Investigation Shows How Trump Laundered Money for Kazakhstan Oligarch
Jun30 Mueller Asks For Flynn Sentencing to Be Delayed
Jun30 Another Ambassador Throws in the Towel
Jun30 AMLO Expected to Win Landslide Victory in Mexico
Jun30 Michigan Conservatives Oppose "Core Democratic Values"
Jun29 Democratic Senators Will Be under Enormous Pressure
Jun29 Rosenstein Clashes with Jim Jordan in House Hearing
Jun29 Putin-Trump Summit is Set
Jun29 Mueller Subpoenas Another Ally of Roger Stone
Jun29 Kelly Expected to Leave the White House this Summer
Jun29 This Week in Questionable Appointments
Jun29 A Bad Poll for Feinstein
Jun28 Anthony Kennedy Is Retiring
Jun28 Is the Supreme Court Really Lost for the Democrats?
Jun28 Supreme Court: Nonmembers Don't Have to Pay Union Dues
Jun28 Immigration Bill Fails in the House
Jun28 Takeways from Tuesday Elections
Jun28 Democrat Mikie Sherrill Leading in NJ-11
Jun27 Joe Crowley Gets Cantored
Jun27 Supreme Court Upholds Muslim Travel Ban v3.0
Jun27 Judge Decides Not to Dismiss Case against Manafort
Jun27 Tax Bill Will Hit Churches
Jun27 Vulnerable Voting Machines Will Not be Replaced in 2018
Jun27 Members of Congress Are Much Richer than Ordinary Americans
Jun27 Restaurant Kerfuffle May Have Saved Sanders' Job
Jun26 Harley-Davidson Will Move Jobs Out of the U.S. in Response to Tariffs
Jun26 Democratic Turnout in the Primaries Is Way Up Compared to 2014
Jun26 SCOTUS Upholds Gerrymanders in Two States (Sort Of)
Jun26 First Cakes, Now Flowers
Jun26 Trump Slams the Red Hen
Jun26 Democrats Will Go after Mark Sanford's Seat
Jun26 Democrats Also Think They Have a Shot at John Carter's Seat
Jun25 Trump Blows His Top on Immigration
Jun25 Seven States Vote Tomorrow
Jun25 Republicans Have Three Worries for the Midterms
Jun25 Iowa Could Be the Testing Ground Even This Year
Jun25 Could the Magnitsky Act Be Used--against Trump?
Jun25 More Trouble for Pruitt
Jun25 Portrait of Dorian Trump