• Let the Trade Wars Begin
• Supreme Court Dodges the Gerrymandering Issue
• North Carolina Moves Forward, Kansas Backward, on Voter ID Laws
• Trump Signs "Space Force" Directive
• Claw Back Looks Unlikely
• It Takes a Village--to Elect Rick Scott
While many Americans—including many Republicans in Congress—are appalled by the administration's new policy of ripping children from their parents at the border, Donald Trump has refused to back down and continues to blame the Democrats for the problem. Actually, the fault lies with Hernán Cortés. If he hadn't conquered Mexico in 1521, there wouldn't be any Spanish-speaking refugees trying to cross into the U.S. now.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Sec. of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen supported Trump yesterday. In a speech in New Orleans, Nielsen said there was an increase in undocumented immigrants fraudulently using alien children posing as a family in order to enter the U.S. Not only did she offer no proof of this, but she also did not explain why these children are so upset when taken from their alleged non-parents. As someone who has no children, she is apparently unmoved by the thought that when a two-year-old is taken from her so-called mother by force and led away by a strange person in a strange place, the child might be terrified.
Sessions' response to the situation was to ask whether Americans want to be "a country of laws, or whether we want to be a country without borders." He also said that the people comparing him to the Nazis, because both used Romans 13 to justify obeisance to government policy, are completely off the mark. Why? Because the Nazis were trying to keep Jews in the country, while he is trying to keep immigrants out. Straw men around the world were embarrassed that the Attorney General of the United States should make such a flimsy argument.
While Trump has few core principles, opposing immigration (except for immigrant workers on his hotel construction projects) is one of them. So, he is not budging, despite the torrent of criticism. In addition to being something he actually believes in, Trump is, as usual, focused like a laser on what his base wants. As far as they are concerned, anything that makes potential future immigrants hesitate about coming is a big plus for them. In short, don't expect a change of heart any time soon, unless the courts or the Congress step(s) in and tell(s) him to stop it. If the policy continues into the summer, the administration might be holding 30,000 children by September, according to a calculation by the Washington Examiner.
In defense of his policy, Trump also invoked Germany in a tweet:
The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2018
Actually, despite the fact that Germany has taken in thousands of immigrants, crime there is at its lowest point in 25 years. The President also added that the United States will not be a migrant camp or a refugee holding facility.
A Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday shows that while Americans as a whole oppose Trump's family separation 66% to 27%, Republicans support the policy by a margin of 55% to 35%. That's all he cares about, since the 91% of Democrats who oppose the policy aren't going to vote for Republicans in 2018 or for him in 2020. He doesn't even care what his allies, like Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, have to say, in the Post's case: "It's not just that this looks terrible in the eyes of the world. It is terrible: at least 2,000 children ripped from their parents' arms, sometimes literally, in just the first six weeks." The Post was one of the few newspapers to endorse Trump in 2016. On the other hand, columnist Ann Coulter, who wrote a pro-Trump book and then turned against the Donald, is apparently back on board. As another person with no children who nonetheless "knows" that two-year-olds do not normally cry and scream when separated from their parents, she supported Nielsen in declaring that, "I would also say one other thing, these child actors weeping and crying on all the other networks 24/7 right now—do not fall for it, Mr. President."
Speaker Paul Ryan also has problems with the policy, because he knows if this goes on too long it will turn the midterms into a referendum on the question: "Do you think it is a good idea to rip children from their parents' arms?" and he would prefer to have it be: "Do you like your tax cut?" His solution is to offer two bills to the House this week. One can be described as punitive and the other can be described as more punitive. Most likely few, if any, Democrats will vote for them, and it is far from sure either one can clear the House. If either one does, it will almost certainly die in the Senate. The Speaker knows this, but if he were to allow a bipartisan bill to come to the floor for a vote, it would almost certainly be followed by a motion to vacate the chair (i.e., fire him as speaker), which he would probably lose.
Some Republicans have voiced some objection to the family-separation policy. Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), whose district runs for 800 miles along the Mexican border, objected to Nielsen's statement that separating families is not Trump's doing, and that it's a product of laws/policies enacted by the Democrats. Hurd said: "Kids are being separated ... In the last two months, there's been about 2,000. In the previous year it was almost 700. And 100 of those kids were under the age of 4." Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) called the policy "ugly and inhumane." Other Republicans have made similar comments. However, the chance that Congress passes a law prohibiting separating families is very low, as that would upset Trump and much of the Republican base (see poll above). On the other hand, Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon said of Trump: "I couldn't be prouder of the guy."
In fact, rather than back down, Trump is planning more immigration crackdowns before the midterms so Trump-allied Republicans will have something to run on. Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller has been working on this plan for months. Among Miller's plans are tightening rules on student visas and exchange programs, limiting visas for temporary agricultural workers, making it harder for legal immigrants who have applied for welfare to obtain residency, and more. The details are almost irrelevant. All that matters is that Trump can boast: "I am blocking immigrants" at rallies during the fall in support of Republican candidates. The only danger here is that while this will definitely gin up enthusiasm among his base, it will also gin up enthusiasm among Democrats, and it is not clear if it is a net win for him. However, there are signs he and the GOP should be very, very worried. For example, one California couple is raising money to try and help these children, and the donations have rolled in at the rate of $4,000 per...minute. If people are putting that much money where their mouths are, it means that Trump's policy is not only disagreeable, but is rousing people to action. That points to trouble at the polls for the GOP in November, especially since this issue divides that party, while it doesn't divide the Democrats at all. (V & Z)
Donald Trump and China's Xi Jinping are engaged in a trans-Pacific game of chicken right now, and nobody appears to be backing down. Trump slapped China with tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese exports, and the Chinese are about to retaliate with their own tariffs on $50 billion worth of American goods. On Monday, the President fired his latest salvo, telling the Chinese that his countermove, if they follow through on their threat, would be tariffs on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods. That's double the $100 billion figure he has previously threatened. It did not take long for the Chinese to respond angrily, accusing Trump of launching a trade war, and warning that, "We will immediately launch tariff measures that will match the scale and intensity of those launched by the United States."
It is truly remarkable that Trump does not seem to realize that he has the weaker hand here, for at least three reasons. The first is that he has to worry about being re-elected, while Xi does not. So, Xi can tailor his tariffs to impose maximal political pain on Trump by targeting products made in red states (pork, soy, corn, automobiles, etc.). Trump cannot do the same. The second is that Chinese exports are often only fractionally Chinese—say, an iPhone made with American design, Korean parts, and Chinese labor. American exports are more likely to be 100% American (or close to it), which means that tariffs on $50 billion of American goods hit the U.S. harder than tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods hit China. Finally, China has more options for its goods than the U.S. does, at least these days. If American farmers can't sell their pork or their soy at good prices to the Chinese, where are they going to send them? Canada? Mexico? Germany? Ha—good luck with that, given that the trade wars with those countries are not far behind the one with China. The Chinese, by contrast, will have no problem getting those countries' leaders to take their calls. Even if it's on a ZTE phone.
In any case, the market does not like what it is seeing. The Dow Jones has dropped for five days in a row, capped by a 103-point drop on Monday. During that run, it has lost 1.5% of its total value, effectively wiping out all of the gains it has made in 2018. As we have seen on many occasions this year, it could easily bounce back today or tomorrow, but this kind of volatility is not good long term. And if the economy goes in the tank, it could be the one thing that actually hurts Trump with the base. So, if the President follows through on his plans, he is playing with fire. (Z)
The Supreme Court had two cases in front of it that came down to the same thing: Is extreme partisan gerrymandering constitutional? Rather than coming up with a clear answer, it copped out on procedural grounds, ruling that the plaintiffs in the two cases, one in Wisconsin and one in Maryland, didn't have standing to sue. The decision left the Wisconsin and Maryland district boundaries in place and was a big disappointment to voting-rights advocates who had hoped the Court would rule that partisan gerrymandering violated the Constitution.
The Court sent the cases back to the lower courts, but sooner or later they will come back, this time with plaintiffs with a better claim to having been damaged by a gerrymander. In fact, Justice Anthony Kennedy did not rule out the possibility of a ruling on the merits of the issue at some time in the future.
University of California Prof. Richard Hasen, one of the country's foremost authorities on election law, believes that the decision is really a battle being waged by Justices Elena Kagan and John Roberts for the soul of Anthony Kennedy. Roberts didn't disclose his true feelings in the matter, and if a future case comes back in which the plaintiffs have standing, he could thank them for bringing the case but rule they were not injured. Kagan argued that the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of association could be at stake here, something Kennedy might buy next time.
In fact, he may get his chance soon. After North Carolina's map was struck down as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, the legislature came up with a map with 10 Republican seats and 3 Democratic seats in a 50-50 state. One of the legislators involved made it clear that it was a 10-3 map instead of an 11-2 map because it was intended as a partisan gerrymander, not a racial gerrymander. That case will also go back to the lower courts for a plaintiff transplant, but it will come right back up again once new plaintiffs have been found. Sooner or later, Kennedy is going to have to stop pretending he is Hamlet and make a decision. (V)
Speaking of North Carolina, Republican legislators there are not only enthusiastic users of the gerrymander, they are also "innovators" when it comes to the use of Voter ID laws to reduce turnout (read: Democratic turnout, especially black Democratic turnout). Their first attempt was struck down by the courts, which said that it disenfranchised black voters with "almost surgical precision." Now, the Tar Heel State's legislators are back at it, with a new law that (once again) would require voters to show ID, and would also reduce the number of early-voting days.
The maneuvering on display here is very calculated. The previous voter ID law was struck down by the courts because it was adopted by the legislature. So, the North Carolina GOP is going to try to ram this one through as a ballot proposition. As there is fairly little on the NC ballot in November besides judgeships and Congressional representatives (no Senate seats, or legislative seats, or statewide offices), they are expecting primary-type turnout (in other words, limited and skewed Republican). Time will tell if this prediction comes to pass, and if it does, if the courts will be OK with the same result achieved in a different fashion. Meanwhile, the reduction in voting days would kill the Saturday before the election—which features heavy black turnout—and distribute those hours across other early voting days. The North Carolina GOP is pointing to the fact that it's the same number of hours, in total, and so it's no big deal. What they are not mentioning is that it's very hard to find enough volunteers to staff polling places on weekdays, and that state law allows an unstaffed polling place to be closed down. So, it will be a de facto reduction of voting hours, even if the "official" number of hours remains unchanged. The ACLU, of course, is already preparing its court challenge.
Meanwhile, Kansas, and specifically Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, suffered a setback on the voter ID front on Monday. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, issued a 118-page ruling in which she forcefully struck down the state's requirement that citizens show proof of citizenship when registering to vote, declaring that the rule illegally disenfranchised "tens of thousands of eligible citizens." Not only did Kobach support the law, he personally argued the case in court. Robinson was so aggravated by his apparent contempt for citizens' rights and for the legal process that she further ordered that he undergo a six-hour refresher course on "federal or Kansas civil rules of procedure or evidence." So, when it comes to political parties who would deny citizens their right to vote, it was one step forward on Monday (in North Carolina) and two steps back (in Kansas). (Z)
Perhaps Donald Trump is a visionary who forsees a day when space will be the final frontier in the struggle between the United States and its enemies. Or maybe he's just been watching too many "Star Wars" movies. Whichever it is, he signed Space Policy Directive -- 3 on Monday, which instructs the Pentagon to begin planning for the formation of a Space Force along the lines of the U.S. Air Force. Announcing the news, Trump explained:
We must have American dominance in space. Very importantly, I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That's a big step.
While the Pentagon paid some lip service to the announcement, it's clear they don't really understand the point of all this. Even the Executive Secretary of the National Space Council, Scott Pace, acknowledged that the only real space problem we have right now is managing all the debris that's up there, so we don't have collisions. That's pretty far removed from the Millennium Falcon doing battle with the Death Star.
In the end, only Trump knows what Trump's thinking is. He does have a fascination with certain things, and space is one of them, so maybe he's doing this to indulge his own imagination. He's also obsessed with sharks, which he hates, so if the next directive involves sending sharks to space, then we'll know we're on to something. Alternatively, maybe this is the first step in justifying the expansion of the already-massive defense budget, since spaceships cost lots of money. Trump's base likes military spending. Or maybe it's just an opportunity to squeeze in a racist dog whistle. "Huh?" you say—how is the space race racist? Well, Trump explained the relationship between the U.S. Air Force and the hypothetical U.S. Space Force as "separate, but equal," deploying racially-encoded language that everyone thought was dead as of 1964. The base likes racist dog whistles, too. In any event, there's a very good chance that the muckety-mucks at the Pentagon nod politely at the President's instructions, and then put Space Policy Directive -- 3 in File 13. (Z)
Donald Trump would like to "claw back" $15 billion in spending that was already approved (the technical term is 'rescission'). The move would actually only save the government about $1.3 billion, a tiny drop in the bucket, since most of the $15 billion was earmarked for programs that don't exist any more. Nonetheless, the President has pushed forward with the plan, and the House passed a bill accommodating him. Maybe he wants the $1.3 billion so he can get started on the first Space Force spaceship.
Anyhow, Senate Republicans do not love this idea. There are fewer budget hawks there than in the House, and they realize that effectively welching on a compromise they made with Democrats would have long-term consequences with voters, and with their ability to work across the aisle on the next budget. These things are just not worth such a relatively small amount of money. And so, quite a few GOP Senators—particularly Appropriations Committee members Richard Shelby (AL), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Susan Collins (ME)—are hemming and hawing about their support for the House's bill. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), meanwhile, says that he does not know if he has the votes for passage. The upper chamber would have to vote this week, and all the signs suggest it's not going to happen, since just one GOP defection would likely be fatal. (Z)
A tremendous amount of analysis of Donald Trump's 2016 victory has focused on angry, resentful, white blue-collar workers in the Midwest. They certainly contributed to Trump's win, but they are not the whole story. Trump also won Florida, which has different demographics. In particular, Florida is home to large numbers of retired people, some of them quite affluent, who moved there for the warm weather and lack of a state income tax. The newcomers tend to sort themselves geographically. Liberals from the Northeast go to Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties on the Atlantic coast. Conservatives from the Midwest make a beeline for Sumter, Lake, and Marion Counties, in particular to a massive development called The Villages that sprawls across 32 square miles northeast of Tampa. It houses 115,000 people, is the fastest-growing city in the U.S., and gave 70% of its vote to Donald Trump in 2016. 80% of the residences must have at least one person who is 55 or older, and no one under 19 is allowed to live there, although grandchildren are welcome to visit from time to time. While the influx of Puerto Ricans into Florida is well documented, the future of Florida politics may lie less with the Puerto Ricans than with the Villagers, who (unlike the Puerto Ricans) are reliable voters when they are not playing golf or playing pickleball (tennis with a Wiffle Ball using ping-pong paddles).
Politico Magazine has a long article on The Villages, describing it as a 40-square mile [sic] cruise ship or a college campus with no classes. With a median home price of $250,000, the residents are not hanging on to the middle class by their fingernails. Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 2:1 and dominate public life in the area. The largest American Legion post in the country is there, with a sign reading: "NO NFL GAMES ON POST TELEVISIONS." What attracted them to Trump is his opposition to sanctuary cities, MS-13, and protests by black athletes. To them, Barack Obama stood for transgender activists, welfare freeloaders, and Islamic terrorists. When Trump promised to make America great again, they understood this to mean the 1950s of their youth, when gays were in the closet, women were in the kitchen, blacks knew their place, "wetbacks" were driven into Mexico and dropped in the Sonoran Desert, and propertied, white Christian men ran the country.
Many veterans live in The Villages and a tremendous number of them are 100% behind Trump, even though they don't like all his tweets, his extramarital activities, or even his policies. Politco's reporter captured the spirit of the place by quoting 78-year-old Navy veteran Chet Sturgess: "I love it when he says "Fake News." I only watch Fox, because they're the only media that tells the truth, Hannity especially." The Villagers are 98% white and their attitude toward other races is beyond the politically correct. Guy Knaak, a 64-year-old American Legion officer, put the Obama presidency this way: "A lot of folks around here had a problem with a black president."
The Village is going to be a gold mine of votes for Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), who is going after Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the only Democrat in statewide office in Florida. If Scott wins, the Democrats' chances of capturing the Senate drop to almost zero. Scott, with his $200-million personal fortune, understands that very well, and sees The Villages as prime vote-hunting ground. Ultimately, the contest may come down to whether the Democrats can get enough urban minorities, Puerto Ricans, millennials, and single women to vote to cancel out all the white retirees. If you want to get a better idea of why relatively well-off people voted for Trump, the article linked to above is a good place to start. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun18 Roger Stone Met with a Russian Offering Dirt on Clinton
Jun18 All Hell Will Break Loose When Mueller Issues His Report
Jun18 Trump Encourages WaPo Staff to Strike
Jun18 First Ladies Blast Trump on Border Separations
Jun18 Steve King: Ryan Might Be Removed
Jun18 Trump's Approval Has Dropped in All 50 States
Jun18 Poll: Too Early to Judge if Singapore Summit Was a Winner
Jun17 Trump Makes Immigration Mess Even Messier
Jun17 Trump Taps Unknown to Lead Consumer Bureau
Jun17 Pruitt Might Finally Be in Real Trouble
Jun17 Giuliani Bloviates Some More
Jun17 Breitbart is Flailing
Jun17 Sanders Won't Endorse His Son
Jun17 There Aren't Going to Be Three Californias
Jun16 Trump Imposes Tariffs on China
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