• Trump's Lawyers Are Reportedly Preparing to Write Answers to Mueller's Questions
• Administration Casts Around for Haley, Sessions Replacements
• Haley 2020?
• Melania Trump May Soon Be as Unpopular as Her Husband
• Market Takes Another Beating
• Bredesen Tried to Have it Both Ways, Couldn't
• Today's Senate Polls
It seems fitting that when Donald Trump's reality-star presidency is not reminding us of one reality show of days past (namely, "The Apprentice"), it's reminding us of another (like, say, "The Surreal Life"). The President certainly does and says some very odd things, but even by his well-established baseline for weirdness, Thursday was a pretty wild day.
The festivities began early, as Trump called into "Fox and Friends." The purpose of the call was ostensibly to discuss Hurricane Michael; on that subject, he promised (without yet knowing how bad the damage actually is, since the hurricane is still underway) that the recovery is "going to go fast." With that out of the way, Trump then segued into a 45-minute impromptu "interview," which was more like a stream of consciousness monologue. Among the "highlights":
- Trump lied about the attendance at his Wednesday night rally in Pennsylvania, claiming 12,000 in
attendance inside and another 25,000 watching on screens outside. In fact, police estimate there
were 9,000 inside and 3,000 outside. That is, about 1/3 of Trump's number.
- Previewing the meeting he had scheduled later in the day with football legend Jim Brown, Trump
declared that he has "a tremendous amount of support with African-American great athletes." That's a
pretty vague statement, but given that Trump is at war with the NFL and the NBA, and that the NHL is
not known for its vast number of black superstars, it's a bit hard to swallow that boast. Maybe he's
much loved by baseball stars Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Frank Robinson, and those fellows just
haven't gotten around to telling anyone, because they were too busy sending their donations to the
- The President claimed that Hollywood is chock-full of secret Trump voters. If so, they are certainly
doing a good job of hiding it, particularly during the Academy Awards.
- Trump directly threatened former AG Eric Holder and vaguely threatened current AG Jeff
- He said that U.S.-Saudi relations are currently "excellent," despite mounting evidence that the
Saudis lured an American resident into a trap last week and murdered him.
- Trump said that he was "worried" that folks like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie
Sanders (I-VT) might be too old to run for president in 2020, and that their health might not hold
up much longer. Pot, meet kettle.
- He claimed to get along very well with Rod Rosenstein, and then immediately launched into a
tirade against the ongoing "witch hunt," the same one being overseen by...Rod Rosenstein.
- Trump thinks Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) should be given the Congressional Medal of Honor. Inasmuch
as Nunes has never served in the military, this would presumably be for the work he's done resisting
the Russiagate investigation. That is a very unusual conception of "conspicuous gallantry and
intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty."
- Trump claimed he saved the economy from crashing, which he says was just about to happen when he
- He suggested that the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times was written by...the New York Times.
The whole performance was a pretty transparent attempt to grab some extra Fox airwaves, given that they are no longer broadcasting his rallies. In other words, it was sort of a back-door rally. Even the hosts of "Fox and Friends" seemed to realize this, because the interview ended when they cut him off and told him "Go run the country."
After a few hours of running the country, or doing whatever it is he does during his "executive time," Trump had his much-ballyhooed sitdown with Brown and musician Kanye West, to discuss the challenges facing the black community. At that meeting, it was 'Ye (as he prefers to be called now, per his announcement last week) who took on the responsibility of saying lots of strange stuff, with no apparent narrative thread. Among his "contributions":
- 'Ye said that "time doesn't exist" and that it is a "myth."
- He said that his MAGA hat gives him superpowers, and that if Trump wants to sell more of them,
he should get Colin Kaepernick to wear one. This would be the same Kaepernick that has been blackballed from the
NFL because of Trump's criticism of him.
- 'Ye believes that the secret to driving the U.S. economy to new heights is to make the "dopest"
cars. Or, even better yet, the "flyest" cars.
- 'Ye said the problem with the education system is that "school is boring."
- Meanwhile, in order to revitalize Chicago, 'Ye thinks Trump should build some "Yeezy ideation
centers." Nobody is clear what those are.
- 'Ye promised that he would not run for president while Trump was still in office. Because if there's one person who might steal the President's base from him, it's a black rapper.
Once the confab was over, Trump bragged about what a great success it was. And while it's easy to poke fun at how silly it all was, the unfortunate thing is this: Instead of actually trying to understand the problems facing America and/or the black community, Trump talked to two men who have no policy expertise, and whose only qualifications beyond their race are: (1) they are celebrities, and (2) they like the President. Presumably he'll be chatting with Kid Rock and Scott Baio next month about how to bring peace to the Middle East. Unless Jared Kushner beats him to the punch and brings peace there this month. (Z)
CNN broke some pretty big news on Thursday, reporting that Donald Trump's attorneys and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are nearing agreement on a list of questions that will be submitted to the President for "his" answers. It's unclear exactly how close the negotiations are to being concluded, though, since neither side is talking.
Obviously, Trump will have little to do with writing the actual answers, which will be carefully crafted by his counselors. Still, the exercise may provide something of value for the Special Counsel. Team Trump cannot know, with any certainty, what Mueller already knows. And if their answers contain falsehoods, the President would be on the hook, whether he wrote the actual words or not. So, they may have to indulge in a certain amount of truth-telling, as out of practice with that as they may be.
This story, assuming it is true, has two obvious implications. The first is that Mueller has presumably decided that it's not worth the time and hassle of trying to haul the President before a grand jury. The second, and more important, is that if the Special Counsel has reached the point that the spider at the very center of the web is being interviewed, then the investigation is likely in the home stretch. Maybe it really will be done by the end of the year (and so, just in time for the new Congress). (Z)
Regardless of what they may say publicly, the Trump administration knows that they have a problem with women voters, who approve of the President at a less-than-brisk 30% clip. Team Trump has decided that the best available solution is to announce the new U.N. ambassador as soon as possible, and to make sure that it's a woman. To that end, the list of candidates under consideration are former Trump adviser Dina Powell, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation founder Nancy Brinker, former senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Knight Craft. "The political shop thinks it's very important to announce a woman before Election Day because of the president's approval rating and the Kavanaugh stuff," said one White House insider, off the record. They are probably right that appointing a woman is the right move, given how white and male most of the Cabinet is, but it is improbable that a little bit of tokenism is going to erase the "Kavanaugh stuff" from the minds of women voters.
At the same time, the administration is also working on a shortlist of possible replacements for AG Jeff Sessions. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan are at the top of the list, while Transportation Department general counsel Steven Bradbury, retired Judge Janice Rogers Brown and former Attorney General Bill Barr are also under consideration. White House officials say they have no plans to replace Sessions anytime soon, which means that either they are lying, or they just prepare lists of possible replacements for funsies. Readers can decide for themselves which it may be. (Z)
Speaking of Nikki Haley, it might not be long before Donald Trump has a very different kind of woman problem involving her. Defend Democracy Together is an anti-Trump PAC made up of traditional Republicans who would like their party back. They have commissioned a poll gauging GOP voters' feelings about changing horses in 2020. Take the results with a grain of salt, given the group's reason for existing. Still, they found that a little more than half of the folks they spoke to were willing to consider Haley as an alternative to Trump in the next presidential election. That was far better than any other GOP contender the group asked about.
Barring a disaster for Trump (which is not out of the question), there is little chance that Haley would actually run in 2020. She has very clearly set herself up so that she can appeal to Trump's base, and also to more traditional Republicans. If she made a play for the throne while Trump was still sitting on it, the base would be lost in 2020 and in all future elections. Haley is young enough (46) right now that she's in no rush to take her shot, and can bide her time. Further, if her financial situation really is part of the reason she quit the U.N., well, a viable presidential run would have to begin in summer of next year, at the latest. Unless she manages to land LeBron James' salary when she jumps to the private sector, nine months of paychecks are not going to make much of a dent in her bottom line. (Z)
Among the various high-profile members of a presidential administration, the person who generally has the easiest path to popularity is the first lady. She can remain above the political fray, engage in charitable endeavors, maybe set some fashion trends, and just generally generate warm, fuzzy feelings. Outside of Hillary Clinton, who got deeply involved in West Wing matters, the last dozen first ladies were able to maintain approval ratings in the 60s (or higher) without breaking a sweat. That even includes Pat Nixon, who managed to keep smelling like roses even amidst the stench emanating from the Watergate scandal. Betty Ford, too, even though she was on the sauce for pretty much her entire time as first lady.
Melania Trump seems to be doing everything she can do to buck the trend, getting herself enmeshed in three different scandals, of varying degrees of seriousness, in just the last week. The first involved her sartorial choices during her recent trip to Kenya:
The pith helmet, of course, was the favorite headwear of the white folks who colonized Africa, and so came across to some observers as a tad bit insensitive for a white person traveling through Africa. Trump is supposedly very, very aware of fashion, and so presumably ought to know this. On the other hand, she grew up in Eastern Europe and dropped out of college, so maybe she really didn't know. If she had gracefully acknowledged the poor optics when pointed out, the whole thing would have blown over, most likely. But instead, she blamed everything on her critics, and ordered people to "focus on what I do, not what I wear."
The pith helmet was strike one. Strike two, and considerably more worrisome, was her remarks about Christine Blasey Ford. Speaking to ABC News, the First Lady said that anyone who accuses a man of sexual assault "needs to have really hard evidence" before making the accusation. She continued:
I do stand with women, but we need to show the evidence. You cannot just say to somebody, 'I was sexually assaulted' or 'you did that to me' because sometimes the media goes too far.
This is a remarkably tone deaf response, and is not the answer of someone who "stand[s] with women." All it really shows, to be blunt, is that Trump has no idea what she is talking about. For example, she does not seem to appreciate that a verbal testimony is hard evidence, and has sent many a person to prison. What the First Lady presumably means is physical evidence, but not all sexual assaults produce that, and even when there is physical evidence, a frightened and/or injured victim might not feel like playing detective at that particular moment. As we have literally just learned with Ford, victims sometimes don't feel up to dealing with the situation for months or years, if they ever do.
If that were not enough, Trump moved on to strike three in the same interview. She was asked about the motivation behind her anti-bullying campaign, and said, "I could say I'm the most bullied person on the world." ABC's Tom Llamas, taken aback, asked, "You're really the most bullied person in the world?" Trump replied: "One of them, if you really see what people are saying about me." It would seem that the First Lady, in addition to not understanding sexual violence (or what pith helmets are) is also unclear on what bullying is, despite its being her signature issue. Needless to say, criticism and bullying are not the same thing, especially when you are a high-profile public figure. It's also worth pointing out that whatever invective is directed in Melania's direction does not particularly compare to what was done to Michelle Obama, whose face was photoshopped onto gorillas, and who was accused of secretly being a man, among other smears.
Who knows what is going on here? It could be cultural, or the aforementioned lack of education, except that people have been making those excuses for Trump at least as far back as her plagiarized convention speech. At a certain point, she could choose not to give interviews or to make trips to Kenya if she's not up to the job. In any case, this week was so bad that even the President was trying to clean up the mess, during his "Fox and Friends" interview (see above). Whatever the issue is, the first lady is almost always a source of good PR for a presidential administration, and in particular, usually serves as an excellent conduit to female voters. For an administration that is badly in need of good PR and any connection with female voters it can come up with, it is not good news that Melania Trump seems to be so determined to shoot herself in the foot. (Z)
Following Wednesday's 832-point dive, the Dow Jones had another bad day on Thursday, sinking another 546 points. That's actually a sizable uptick from the day's lowest point, when the Dow was down 699 points. Other indices, most notably the NASDAQ, have also had two lousy days in a row.
What happens next is, of course, anyone's guess. On one hand, experts warn that bad days for the market tend to come in threes, like dying celebrities, apparently. On the other hand, Dow futures on Thursday night and Friday morning suggested that today will begin with a 400-point surge. On the third hand, the market tends to fluctuate wildly these days, so the Dow could jump 400 in the morning, and still end up down on the day. If it does somehow drop 400 or 500 more points by the time of this afternoon's closing bell, then investors will have all weekend to think about what they want to do, and whether or not they are about to lose their shirts. Which could make for a very interesting Monday. (Z)
Democrats running for the Senate in red states undoubtedly have it tough. On one hand, they need all the Democratic and independent votes they can muster. On the other hand, they also need to steal some GOP crossover votes. And so, they walk a fine line, trying to be all things to all voters. The problem is that while there are some issues on which a politician's base may be flexible, there are others that are deal-breakers. A Republican who announces he is pro-choice is likely to be defeated in nearly every state in the country, as that is unacceptable to the base. The same goes for a Democrat who, for example, campaigns on the idea that global warming is a myth.
Phil Bredesen (D) is learning the hard way that the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is one of those kinds of issues. Doing his best to cozy up to the GOP voters in Tennessee who twice helped send him to the governor's mansion, the aspiring senator announced that he would have voted for confirmation, if only given the chance. The first problem is that he's running against someone else, namely Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who also says she would have voted for confirmation. So, that position isn't going to gain him any votes. The second problem is that Tennessee Democrats are furious. Not only is he plummeting in the polls, but dozens of campaign volunteers have quit. "I felt torpedoed by that statement," explained one of them.
In fairness to Bredesen, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) made the opposite choice, and she's sinking as well, as her crossover support evaporates. This suggests that either fork in the road may have been the wrong one for Democratic senate candidates in deep red states. In any event, those are two seats the blue team very much needed if they hoped to retake the upper chamber. So, when the story on November 7 is "Kavanaugh saved the Senate for the GOP," stories like this will help us understand exactly how. (Z)
That election is Missouri is going to be a real barnburner. The other two, maybe not so much. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has gotten enough good polling news recently that he can start breathing a little easier. (Z)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Missouri||Claire McCaskill*||42%||Josh Hawley||44%||Oct 05||Oct 06||1st Tuesday Campaigns|
|Texas||Beto O`Rourke||45%||Ted Cruz*||54%||Oct 03||Oct 09||Quinnipiac U.|
|Wisconsin||Tammy Baldwin*||54%||Leah Vukmir||40%||Sep 30||Oct 03||Marist Coll.|
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct11 Stock Market Takes a Dive
Oct11 Ford Announces Layoffs
Oct11 Trump Slams Medicare-for-all in Op-ed
Oct11 Is the Donald Trump Show Getting Old?
Oct11 Kavanaugh Story Lingers On
Oct11 Politico: 209 House Seats Leaning or Firmly Democratic
Oct11 Today's Senate Polls
Oct10 Nikki Haley Resigns
Oct10 House Republican Ads Are Nasty and Misleading
Oct10 Majority of Americans Oppose Kavanaugh
Oct10 Beware the Narrative
Oct10 An Embarrassing Tweet, Even by Trump's Standards
Oct10 Category 4 Hurricane Hits Election
Oct10 Missouri Judge Blocks Part of Voter-ID Law
Oct10 Today's Senate Polls
Oct09 Trump Is Not Planning to Fire Rosenstein Right Now
Oct09 Trump Apologizes to Kavanaugh on Behalf of the Nation
Oct09 Trump Spars with Taylor Swift
Oct09 Has the GOP Lost Women Forever?
Oct09 Watch Out for the Mob
Oct09 Donnelly and Braun Debate Each Other
Oct09 States Switching from Insecure Voting Machines to Other Insecure Voting Machines
Oct09 Debating the Debates
Oct09 Today's Senate Polls
Oct08 Winners and Losers from the Fight over Kavanaugh
Oct08 Trump Will Reportedly Meet with Kim Again
Oct08 Times' Reporting on Trump's Taxes Isn't Finished
Oct08 Candidates for Whom Trump Has Held Rallies
Oct08 Charlie Cook's House Ratings
Oct08 Republicans Rule
Oct08 As Maine Goes, So Goes the Nation
Oct08 Booker Launches His Presidential Campaign
Oct08 Today's Senate Polls
Oct07 Kavanaugh Is Confirmed
Oct07 Brett Kavanaugh in Historical Perspective, Part II
Oct07 About Those Unemployment Numbers
Oct07 Trump Administration Pulls Out of Iran Treaty
Oct07 This Week's Senate News
Oct07 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Michael Avenatti
Oct06 Kavanaugh Nomination Advances to a Vote
Oct06 Trump Jr. Slams Manchin
Oct06 Brett Kavanaugh in Historical Perspective, Part I
Oct06 No Nobel for Trump
Oct06 Charlie Cook Changes Gubernatorial Ratings in Four Races
Oct05 Senators Begin Processing the FBI Report
Oct05 Kavanaugh Critics Mount Final Push
Oct05 Heitkamp Will Vote against Kavanaugh
Oct05 Kavanaugh Is Closing the Enthusiasm Gap
Oct05 Democrats Will Use Republican Tactics If They Win the House