• Trump Taps Unknown to Lead Consumer Bureau
• Pruitt Might Finally Be in Real Trouble
• Giuliani Bloviates Some More
• Breitbart is Flailing
• Sanders Won't Endorse His Son
• There Aren't Going to Be Three Californias
Donald Trump can't seem to make up his mind about his administration's immigration policy. He said that he was willing to sign a bill protecting the dreamers, but that Congress just wouldn't give him one. Then, this week, as the federal government engineered a brutal crackdown, and at the same time it looked like a bill might actually reach his desk, Trump declared it wasn't good enough and blamed the Democrats. On Saturday morning, his story changed once again:
Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change! This is why we need more Republicans elected in November. Democrats are good at only three things, High Taxes, High Crime and Obstruction. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2018
Yes, he is still pointing the finger at Democrats, but at least he's also admitting the truth: That his administration's goal in breaking up families, and in creating all of this attention, was to gain leverage for the GOP. Trump probably didn't mean to show quite as much of his hand as he did, but there it is in black and white. And, truth be told, this is what Trump-style negotiation has always looked like. Although most negotiation experts suggest making your adversary into a partner, and looking for ways to achieve mutual satisfaction, Trump has invariably preferred to flex his muscles and to use whatever resources were at his disposal to beat his opponents into submission. He has a long history of having no concern about behaving in a manner that is not only selfish, but unethical and/or immoral. His current crackdown on undocumented immigrants is not especially different, from where he sits, from the shenanigans he pulled in building and bankrupting his Atlantic City casinos, or seizing land from little old ladies to build a parking lot, or screwing the vendors who supplied him out of payment. All of it is "the strong" using "the weak" in whatever way they wish, because the ends always justify the means.
Trump's problem is that when he engaged in shady behavior as a businessman, he didn't generally have to worry much about scrutiny. And in those cases where he ruffled the wrong feathers, a well-timed lawsuit, or a well-placed political donation would generally solve the problem. With government, on the other hand, there is a lot more daylight than he is used to. And so, he apparently did not foresee how very badly the whole immigration crackdown would look. On Saturday alone, a Vietnamese man died in ICE custody, a legal U.S. resident was arrested outside his home by ICE because of his Mexican heritage, a tent city (the same thing used to make prisoners extra-uncomfortable) for the children of detained immigrants opened for business, and this photo of a child crying as she is separated from her mother spread widely on social media:
All of this follows a week chock-full of bad optics for Trump.
It is clear that Trump cares little for human suffering, at least among non-whites. He's shown that with not only his immigration policy, but also his nonchalance about Puerto Rico, his disdain for the United Nations and its relief missions, and so forth. But he does care about maintaining his hold on power, and the backlash has not been good for him on that front. Religious leaders are blasting him, GOP pooh-bahs are scared witless this could cost them big-time at the ballot box, and even Fox News is wondering if Trump has chosen the right course.
Consequently, Trump appears to have adopted a new approach. He says he's now open to discussing the compromise bill or bills that Congress might pass, and that he's potentially willing to sign them. The President has scheduled a meeting with Congressional leaders for Tuesday morning. That's still plenty of time for him to change positions six more times. However, it certainly seems that Trump realizes he blew this one, and now he's just trying to cut his losses. (Z)
In theory, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney's six-month interim appointment as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is supposed to end this week. That means that Donald Trump needs to find someone to fill the post on a permanent basis, and quickly. However, the supply of qualified folks willing to be a part of this administration has grown very tiny, indeed. So, it's not much of a surprise that Trump is promoting from within, tapping Kathy Kraninger—a policial unknown who currently serves as one of Mulvaney's lieutenants in the OMB.
As with nearly all Trump nominees these days, Kraninger is going to face a tough confirmation fight. The first problem is that she's a Mulvaney acolyte, which means—to most Democrats—that the OMB director will still have major influence on the CFPB. The blue team doesn't like that, and even some Republicans are a little leery. The second problem is that she has little relevant experience, something that could rub many senators from both parties the wrong way. Already, Kraninger is being compared to Harriet Miers, the underqualified George W. Bush nominee for the Supreme Court. Keeping in mind that the GOP majority is just 50-49 as long as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is home recuperating, just one Republican defection could be fatal. (Z)
Those who have read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle know that, in true muckraking style, it is wildly over the top in terms of melodrama. In every single chapter, some new and devastating tragedy befalls poor Jurgis and Ona Rudkus. If one did not already know that the book is a work of fiction, that fact would be clear upon reading, because there is no way that the same couple could get caught up in that many shocking and horrifying situations.
One of these days, someone will write a book about the tenure of Scott Pruitt at the head of the Environmental "Protection" Agency. And if folks read that book 100 years from now, they are going to have a hard time believing it's true, because surely no one politician could find so many different ways to be venal. And yet, in contrast to that of Jurgis and Ona, the tale of Scott Pruitt is 100% true.
This week's chapter centers on Pruitt's wife, Marlyn. She was apparently looking for a way to make money, perhaps so the Administrator can afford a better brand of used Trump mattresses. Although Scott has been more than happy to set his cronies up with plum gigs at the EPA, he apparently couldn't swing that for Marlyn, presumably because of federal anti-nepotism rules. So, as we learned this week, he assigned an aide to find out if ultra-conservative Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy would be interested in selling Marlyn a franchise at a well-below-market price. Cathy apparently was not interested, because the Administrator's wife eventually found work at a right-wing lobbying group, one that just so happens to have business before the EPA.
After months and months of such revelations, Pruitt might actually be in hot water now. As we have noted, much of the right-wing commentariat has turned against him, thinking (rightly) that anything he does as administrator will be tainted by his reputation. However, the fatal blow may not be due to ethics, but to ethanol, as Pruitt has been using his influence to reduce the amount of ethanol that is being purchased. In brief, federal law requires that the gasoline sold in the U.S. contain a certain percentage of ethanol derived from corn. However, EPA regulations allow the Administrator to grant waivers to the requirement, and since Pruitt likes Big Oil more than he likes Big Corn, he's been handing them out by the bushel.
The result is that states who depend on ethanol sales—Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Nebraska, primarily—have turned aggressively against Pruitt. He's been met by more than one angry crowd when appearing in those places, and pro-ethanol groups are running commercials calling for the Administrator to be fired. "I think that Mr. Pruitt probably is a dead man walking," said Dane Hicks, the GOP chairman in Anderson County, Kansas. "I can't imagine he rebounds from this in any way to salvage his position. I would expect his resignation soon." Not helping things for Pruitt is that the Senators who represent those states, particularly Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) are carping about the administrator, and those folks have a lot of ways to make his life hard. So, he could definitely beat Chief of Staff John Kelly in the race to be the next high-ranking member of the Trump administration to go. (Z)
After about a decade when he was largely out of the spotlight, Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani is very much enjoying his last hurrah, and is willing to appear anywhere and say just about anything to get some more headlines. For example, he declared on Saturday that it's time to bring an end to the "possibility of a ridiculous impeachment" of Donald Trump. Giuliani was advocating for the election of Republicans to Congress, but the clear implication is that nothing Trump does, or is revealed to have done, could ever possibly justify taking action against him. This despite the fact that Giuliani has little knowledge of exactly what evidence special counsel Robert Mueller has collected.
Similarly, Giuliani has also made a bunch of other silly declarations this week, and last. Despite not having spoken to the First Lady, he said that she believes the President did not cheat on her. While not directly contradicting the former mayor, the First Lady's office also said he does not speak for Melania Trump, and that he should zip it. Giuliani also expressed "confusion" this week about why it was necessary to send Paul Manafort to jail for something as minor as witness tampering. We put 'confusion' in quotes, because as a long time prosecutor, he's not confused at all—he knows why that's a one-way ticket to having one's bail revoked. Giuliani also presumed to speak on behalf of former Trump lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen, announcing that Cohen is not going to cooperate with any investigation and that he's not going to flip on the President. Since Cohen himself does not know these things for a certainty, Giuliani certainly doesn't. Indeed, Giuliani likely isn't even in contact with Cohen, and if he is, that might be—ironically enough—witness tampering.
In any event, it's worth asking if there is any reason to pay attention to Giuliani any more. It's clear that he'll say whatever pro-Trump things come into his head, regardless of evidence or reason. As Trump's advocate, that is Giuliani's job, but that doesn't mean he needs to be given oxygen while he does it. It's not unlike Kellyanne Conway, whose pro-Trump pronouncements became so absurd and so predictable, the legitimate media largely stopped bothering with her any more. (Z)
And then, there's the not-so-legitimate media. Breitbart News was doing pro-Trump propaganda before pro-Trump propaganda was hip. However, the site is now having a lot of trouble, as readership has dropped for the seventh straight month. They are now at the same level as in January 2015, aka "right before Donald Trump began his political career."
The obvious explanation here is that the decline has something to do with Steve Bannon, and the loss of his skill at driving readers to the site. There may be something to that, but it's unlikely that is the main problem. No single person can affect an outlet's success that much, particularly when that person is behind the scenes (as opposed to a marquee figure like Bill O'Reilly or Rachel Maddow). An alternative possibility is that Breitbart is being beaten at its own game by sites that are willing to be even more conspiratorial and/or outrageous, like InfoWars. Still another possibility is that the site is experiencing a particularly aggressive version of the ebb and flow that affects all politically-themed sites, as people check out during the "off season."
Our theory, however, is that Breitbart's shtick (and with it, Donald Trump's shtick) is wearing just a little bit thin. Trumpism is about emotion, more than anything else, and it is hard to keep people in an excited emotional state, month after month, year after year. People might be able to get angry about Hillary Clinton's e-mail or Barack Obama's birth certificate 10 times or 20 times or even 100 times, but eventually the effect has to fade. Trump has tried to supply his loyal outlets with new material, hence the immigration crackdowns (see above), but it's not working so well. This would not be the first time that a Trump reality show got a little stale, and had declining ratings, by season two. In any case, while there was a time when Breitbart seemed like it might be the new kingmaker in GOP politics, it has clearly ceded that privilege back to Fox News. (Z)
The son of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT), Levi Sanders, is one of 11 Democrats trying for the chance to succeed Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH). Levi has struggled to gain much traction in the race and on Saturday, he got some more bad news: He won't have the endorsement of his old man.
This seems a bit unduly harsh; one would assume that a candidate would always have their parent's endorsement. The Senator says that he is withholding his endorsement because he doesn't like "dynastic" politics. That may be true, or it may be that he doesn't particularly agree with his son—who isn't nearly as lefty, and isn't well-liked by progressives—and he doesn't want to hitch his wagon to someone who is going to lose. Only Bernie knows for sure. (Z)
California is, and for 170 years has been, a very large state. So large that people have often talked about chopping it up into several, smaller states. Pop quiz: How many times, roughly speaking, has that happened?
The answer is 'e.' And, as many folks know, the latest of these efforts just made it on to the November ballot. Backed by seven figures from venture capitalist Tim Draper, the Golden State would ostensibly be divided up thusly:
The major city in "Northern California" would be San Francisco, in "California" would be Los Angeles, and in "Southern California" would be San Diego.
While it's interesting to speculate about the possibility, there is no chance that this is actually going to happen, for at least three reasons. The first is that the voters of California are very unlikely to approve it. Whatever problems this is supposed to solve—and Draper's been rather vague on that point, mumbling obliquely about the state's "failing schools"—it would create a bunch more. The most obvious might be water. "California" would have the largest number of people, but also has almost none of the state's water. Voters there are not going to set themselves up to suddenly start paying an arm and a leg for H2O to their former fellow citizens to the south and north. There are also all manner of other costs and logistical difficulties, big and small, that will also serve to give voters pause.
If California does somehow pass the initiative—it's currently polling at 17%—then the second problem will be all the lawsuits. There is no particular legal or statutory authority for a state's residents to summarily declare themselves to be three states. Californians who oppose the plan would sue on the basis, and the federal government would likely join in as well, fearing the possibility of other states trying to divide themselves. Northwest and Northeast Dakota? West and Even Further West Virginia? New York and Newer York? Florida and Mar-a-Lago? Where would it end?
Perhaps the biggest barrier, however, is the third one. If the initiative passes, and the lawsuits are resolved in favor of the state-splitters, then Congress would have to approve the admission of the new states. Two decades ago, "Northern California" would have been blue, "California" would have been purple, and "Southern California" would have been red. Now, according to calculations by Ballotpedia, the former two would be deep blue, while the latter would be purple. That means that Democrats would likely still control all of the state's electoral votes, while there would be—on average—five Democratic senators and one Republican from the three states. That's a net gain of two for the blue team, and it could easily be a net gain of four, as "Southern California" is trending blue and figures to be solidly Democratic within 10 years. Naturally, Republicans will do everything in their power to stop this from happening. So, Tim Draper shouldn't get his hopes up. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun16 Manafort Goes to Jail
Jun16 Giuliani: Trump Won't Sit for an Interview with Mueller
Jun16 What's Going on with Immigration, for Christ's Sake?
Jun16 Prosecutors Reconstruct 16 Pages of Cohen's Shredded Documents
Jun16 Senate Democrats Look Safe in Four Trump States
Jun16 McConnell Gets Serious about Reelection Bid
Jun15 New York Attorney General Sues Trump
Jun15 Justice Department Report: Comey Had Poor Judgment on Clinton E-mail Case
Jun15 Trump Officially Approves $50 Billion in Tariffs
Jun15 Kim? Check. Next Up? Maybe Putin
Jun15 Trump Probably Lied about Parents of Korean POWs
Jun15 Republicans Embrace the "Cult" of Trump
Jun15 Bill Nelson Has a Latino Problem
Jun14 Michael Cohen and His Lawyers Part Ways
Jun14 Trump Runs More Victory Laps
Jun14 Trump's Claims about the North Korea Deal Don't Align with the Facts
Jun14 Trump Will Play a Big Role in the Dreamer Feud
Jun14 Sanders Looks to Be on Her Way Out
Jun14 Pruitt Could Be On His Way Out, Too
Jun14 Las Vegas and Charlotte Are the Leading Contenders for the 2020 GOP Convention
Jun14 Pence Ruffles Baptists' Feathers
Jun14 McCaskill's Private Plane Has Become a Campaign Issue
Jun13 Takeaways from the North Korea Summit
Jun13 Five More States Vote
Jun13 Sanders Defends Endorsement Record
Jun13 Team Obama Announces Midterm Targets
Jun13 House Republicans Possibly Avoid Ugly Fight over Immigration
Jun13 Sessions Cracks Down on Refugees
Jun13 AT&T-Time Warner Merger Goes Forward
Jun12 Trump and Kim Meet, Reach Agreement
Jun12 G-7 Meltdown Continues to Reverberate
Jun12 Supreme Court Upholds Ohio's Right to Purge Voters
Jun12 Top Russians Met with NRA Executives During the 2016 Election Campaign
Jun12 Obama Has Been Advising Democratic Presidential Hopefuls for Months
Jun12 ACLU Is Getting Into Politics
Jun12 Democratic Chances in NJ-02 Just Got Better
Jun11 Trump vs. the Western World
Jun11 Five States Will Hold Primaries This Week
Jun11 Kim and Trump Have Different Ideas of What Denuclearization Means
Jun11 All Hail King Donald
Jun11 Net Neutrality Dies Today
Jun11 It's Almost Always the Best Economy Ever
Jun11 Tonys Become Trumpys
Jun10 Trump Turns G-7 into a Reality Show
Jun10 And on to North Korea...
Jun10 White House Still Leaks Like a Sieve
Jun10 Faith and Freedom Coalition to Spend $20 Million on Midterms
Jun10 Pruitt Gets FOIAsted by His Own Petard
Jun10 The Primaries Are Underway