• Steele, Ohr Tried to Flip Deripaska
• White House Denies 100,000 Pages of Kavanaugh Records
• Gillum Targeted by Racist Robocall
• This Week's Senate News
• Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Kamala Harris
John McCain was honored at a number of services and ceremonies this week, but the big one was on Saturday at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. All the big guns were in attendance, including former presidents and first ladies, current senators, cabinet officials, and so on. Well, all the big guns except for one, as Donald Trump was pointedly not invited.
Despite Trump's physical absence, his presence lingered over the event, as all of the eulogists managed to make not-so-subtle references to him. Most notably:
- Barack Obama: So much of our politics, our public life, our public
discourse, can seem small and mean and petty. Trafficking in bombast and insult and phony
controversies and manufactured outrage, it's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in
fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than
- George W. Bush: He was honorable, always recognizing that his
opponents were still patriots and human beings. He loved freedom with the passion of a man who knew
its absence. He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at
borders and cannot be erased by dictators. Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power,
could not abide bigots and swaggering despots.
- Meghan McCain: We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness—the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served...The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.
That the service took this turn was exactly what McCain wanted; one last extension of his middle finger in Trump's direction. In fact, some are calling it "the biggest resistance meeting yet" and "a council of war."
The response on social media was also interesting. The moment in the service that got far and away the most attention was this video clip of George W. Bush sneaking a piece of hard candy to Michelle Obama:
WATCH: Bipartisanship: Laura Bush, via President Bush, hands a piece of candy to Michelle Obama during the memorial service for John McCain. pic.twitter.com/PhKPYCOiUz— MSNBC (@MSNBC) September 1, 2018
This has already been tweeted and retweeted thousands of times. Clearly, many Americans are feeling nostalgic this weekend about a time when politicians may have disagreed on the issues, but embraced basic civility and decency.
Trump's supporters, like their leader, cannot allow any slight to pass, even when it comes at someone's funeral. So, they are furious. Many of them would like to see Trump strike back, as is his usual habit. Perhaps recalling all the blowback from earlier in the week, the President has thus far been restrained. Yes, he fired off a bunch of tweets about Canada and witch hunts and Hillary Clinton and the like, but his only response to the McCain funeral so far has been this retweet of himself:
MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2018
We will see if the Donald is able to continue holding his tongue when he wakes up on Sunday morning (and sees Fox News' coverage of the service).
Of course, as Politico magazine's Gwenda Blair observes, Trump has nobody but himself to blame for this. In part because he's unable to disagree with people without being ultra-disagreeable, and so turns nearly everyone who isn't a loyalist into a bitter enemy. But also, in part, because he struggles so badly with the norms of polite behavior, including at funerals. At his father's funeral, where Trump was among the speakers, he crassly made his remarks entirely about himself and the real estate projects he was working on at the time. At the funeral of one-time mentor Roy Cohn, Trump was not asked to speak, primarily because he dropped Cohn like a hot potato after the lawyer's AIDS diagnosis. Consequently, he stood at the back of the room during the service, pouting and glowering, causing much comment among attendees. In other words, even people who like Trump might think twice about extending an invite.
This is the third high-profile event that Trump has been pointedly excluded from since assuming the presidency. Presidents usually stay away from former first ladies' funerals (e.g., Barbara Bush's), but for any other chief executive, the royal wedding and the McCain funeral would have been automatic. Maybe this particular matter of protocol won't come up again while Trump's in office. On the other hand, the U.S. has two ex-presidents who are in their nineties (one in poor health), and the U.K. has a queen and a prince consort who are also nonagenarians. So, maybe it will come up again. (Z)
This whole Russia situation is going to make an excellent miniseries or soap opera or reality program one of these days. The latest episode, with reporting courtesy of the New York Times, is that British spy Christopher Steele and Justice Dept. official Bruce Ohr, both of whom have been linked with the infamous Fusion GPS dossier, were part of a CIA program aimed at flipping Oleg V. Deripaska and other Russian oligarchs, with hopes of turning them into double-agents who could be used against Vladimir Putin. There is no evidence that the scheme, which was undertaken between 2014 and 2016, was successful in any way.
This does not appear to have any direct relevance to Russiagate, per se. It seems like a fairly standard case of the CIA doing one of the primary things that intelligence organizations do: Cultivate assets. The odds are pretty high, however, that this is going to get turned into still more evidence of a vast deep state-Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama-Robert Mueller-CIA conspiracy against Donald Trump. That despite the fact that the whole scheme began well before he was a presidential candidate. (Z)
Democratic senators would like vast amounts of paperwork related to SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh's time working in the office of White House counsel. There are legitimate questions about his involvement with some of the unsavory decisions of the George W. Bush years, particularly as regards torture of detainees. Critics of the senators' demands, however, say that they are either (1) Just fishing around, in hopes of coming up with some dirt; or (2) Trying to delay the vote by throwing up unnecessary tasks to be completed.
Late Friday, the White House, citing executive privilege, advised that the blue team would not receive 100,000 of the pages that they want. This is an unusual justification for denying the request, one that has never been used in this particular circumstance. The Democrats, of course, are crying foul, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) leading the way:
We’re witnessing a Friday night document massacre. President Trump’s decision to step in at the last moment and hide 100k pages of Judge Kavanaugh’s records from the American public is not only unprecedented in the history of SCOTUS noms, it has all the makings of a cover up. https://t.co/TgBAjOBRrW— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) September 1, 2018
Of course, there is fairly little that Schumer & Co. can do, though it would not be surprising if they try to file a lawsuit. One wonders if they are also setting up the possibility of impeaching Kavanaugh if—once a Democratic president takes office—those 100,000 pages of records are found to contain one or more smoking guns. That would be somewhat outside the realm of what the Founding Parents imagined but, then again, so was what happened with Merrick Garland. (Z)
Newly-minted Florida gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, as you may have heard, is black. And for anyone who hasn't heard, his opponents want to make sure the news gets out. GOP nominee Ron DeSantis already got in some hot water for a pretty obvious racist dog whistle uttered the day after the election. And now, a white supremacist group called The Road to Power is running a robocall that involves jungle sound effects and a Gillum "supporter" speaking in a minstrel-style black dialect.
DeSantis, for his part, has denounced the call, telling The Road to Power to stop monkeying around with the election. Wait, that's not what he said. His actual response, delivered through a campaign surrogate, was, "This is absolutely appalling and disgusting—and hopefully whoever is behind this has to answer for this despicable action."
Even if we concede that white supremacists are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, this was a monumentally stupid thing to do. Anyone who was going to vote against Gillum because of his skin color did not need a robocall to tell them what to do. And thanks to DeSantis' impolitic remark and now this, both within a few days of each other, this contest is quickly turning into a referendum on race and racism. And in a state that has a large minority population, that does not work to the GOP's advantage. (Z)
Here is this week's roundup of Senate races in the headlines:
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), facing a challenger to her left, is
going to use
this week's Judiciary Committee hearings, where Brett Kavanaugh will be grilled, to try to score
some brownie points.
- There was zero doubt that Florida's Senate race was going to get nasty. Though the dust from the
primary has barely settled, it's already begun, with Gov. Rick Scott (R)
that Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is a job killer and a puppet of Nancy Pelosi. Apparently, originality is
not Scott's strong suit.
- The Indiana Chamber of Commerce
this week that it will make no endorsement in this year's Senate race. Given that the Chamber almost
always endorses Republicans, that is at least a minor victory for Sen. Joe Donnelly (D).
- Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) has taken a leading role in Trump criticism this week,
the President for his announced (then backtracked) cancellation of federal employees' raises,
his willingness to freeze Canada out of the NAFTA replacement.
- The professors responsible for Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) hiring and promotion at Harvard
that, despite what Donald Trump says, Warren's ethnicity had nothing to do with the process. "I
would be willing to swear on a hundred bibles, if I believed in the Bible, that the idea that she
took advantage of some minority status was ludicrous," said one.
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is
to make elections more secure, and is getting nowhere.
- The death of John McCain reminded
some people of some less-than-tasteful jokes about his Vietnam years that would-be Minnesota senator Karin Housley (R) made back in
- Missouri's Senate race has
more outside money than any other so far, with the current tally at $23 million. Odds are good that the Florida
race will eventually move into the #1 spot, though.
- Republican Bob Hugin is
a pretty good campaign, and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is not, plus his corruption trial is an anchor around
his neck. This one isn't interesting yet, but it could get there.
- In Rhode Island, Republican challenger Robert Flanders
an ad this week attacking Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) for being too concerned about global warming.
There may be states where that approach would be fruitful, say, Kansas, but Rhode Island (aka, among the first to end up
underwater if the oceans rise) is not one of them.
- West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey (R), who would like to knock off Sen. Joe Manchin (D), is
to convince the Supreme Court to allow businesses to fire employees for being gay. Morrisey is doing
poorly in polls, and so is getting a little desperate, but it would seem that his GOP playbook is 10
- Bernie Sanders, whose eye is presumably more on his upcoming presidential run than
his slam-dunk Senate campaign,
to put a special tax on companies whose employees are forced to collect food stamps or other
public assistance due to low wages.
- It's not going to affect anything in deep red Utah, but soon-to-be-Senator Mitt Romney (R) raised a few eyebrows with the revelation that he managed to pile up six speeding tickets on the same road trip. If this was one with the dog on the roof of the car, at least the dog got plenty of fresh air.
There you have it. Also, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. (Z)
Up this week is one of the early favorites to capture the Democratic presidential nomination. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean too much. Rudy Giuliani, Mario Cuomo, and the 2006 version of Hillary Clinton might all share a few insights about what often happens to early frontrunners. Remember, as always, that the "pros" and "cons" refer to things that will increase/decrease the odds of winning the general election, and not the Democratic primaries. Often, a "pro" in the primaries is a "con" for the general, and vice versa.
- Name: Kamala Harris
- Age on January 20, 2021: 56
- Background: Born to immigrant parents, one from India and the other
from Jamaica, Harris grew up in California and Canada. She took her undergraduate degree at Howard
University and her law degree at UC Hastings. She then embarked on a lengthy career in public
service, mostly spent as a prosecutor. A long-term professional and romantic relationship with
well-connected California politician Willie Brown allowed her to start building a political
- Political Experience: Seven years as District Attorney of the City and
County of San Francisco (2004-11), six as Attorney General of California (2011-17), and she is now
in her second year as a U.S. Senator.
- Signature Issue(s): Law enforcement. When Harris was a prosecutor, she
was naturally fairly gung-ho about putting people in jail. Now, as a member of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, and an aspiring presidential candidate, she has grown a bit more moderate, particularly
on drug-related issues. Still, this aspect of her past will be central to her pitch.
- Instructive Quote: "I'm a career prosecutor. I have been trained, and
my experience over decades, is to make decisions after a review of the evidence and the facts. And
not to jump up with grand gestures before I've done that. Some might interpret that as being
cautious. I would tell you that's just responsible."
- Completely Trivial Fact: If elected, Harris would be the first
president without children since James Buchanan left office in 1861. She does have two stepchildren,
though. And, unlike Buchanan, there is no reason to suspect that she is gay.
- Recent News: Harris
plans to publish a memoir, entitled The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,
in early 2019. She will also
South Carolina in September, which is an early primary state, and a key for any Democratic candidate
looking to demonstrate their strength with black voters.
- Three Biggest Pros: (1) Harris is a very skilled user of social media
and of "big data," probably the best in the field; (2) Her "law and order" background should appeal
to many centrist voters; and (3) She will be more able to attract minority voters than an old, white
guy like Joe Biden or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
- Three Biggest Cons: (1) If any Democratic candidate will light a fire
under Donald Trump's base, it's a child of immigrants from California who is also a woman and black;
(2) Her ambition may be just a little too obvious, which is generally a turnoff to voters; and (3)
While Harris will undoubtedly attract minority votes, the effect may not be as strong as one may
think, given her past support for things like "three strikes" laws and her defenses (in a
professional capacity) of death sentences. That is to say, she is somewhat out of step with Black
Lives Matter and many other minority activists.
- Is She Actually Running?: Officially, she says she is "not ruling it
out." Unofficially, of course she is. You don't publish a memoir telling your life story and laying
out your political program in January of the year before a presidential election unless you're
- Betting Odds: She's getting anywhere from 11/2 to 7/2, which implies
roughly an 18% chance of getting the nod. At many books, Harris has the best odds of any candidate,
at others she's trailing only Sanders and/or Biden.
- The Bottom Line: At first glance, Harris looks like Obama 2.0, given her tactical savvy, her charisma, and her mixed-race heritage. However, Obama had a near-monopoly on the progressive end of the political spectrum and on black voters in 2008. Harris is going to be vigorously challenged for those segments—by Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and others for the progressive votes, and by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) for the black votes. Harris has also not been subjected to the scrutiny of the presidential spotlight in any serious way; we don't even know, for example, how good a public speaker or debater she really is. Obama's rise began with his speech to the 2004 DNC, which made him instantly famous. Harris has nothing like that on her resumé. Add it all up, and there is definitely a path for her that leads to the White House, but there are also lots of ways this could go wrong.
The list of candidate profiles can be accessed by clicking on the 2020 Dem candidates link in the menu to the left of the map. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep01 More Polling Trouble for Trump
Sep01 Pat Cipollone May Replace McGahn
Sep01 Canada-NAFTA Negotiations Stall; Trump Makes Situation Worse
Sep01 Trump to "Study" Federal Pay Raise
Sep01 Let the Midterm Triage Begin
Sep01 Trump Administration Wants You to Know that Marihuana is Evil
Aug31 Trump Sticks It to Federal Employees, Again
Aug31 Trump to Cancel UN Funding for Palestinian Refugees
Aug31 Donald Trump's Legal Situation is Getting Grim
Aug31 Sessions Better Not Count on His December Paycheck
Aug31 Making Sense of the Florida Polls
Aug31 Cruz Looks Outgunned by O'Rourke
Aug31 Dirty Tricks Case Study: Abigail Spanberger
Aug30 Takeways from Tuesday's Primaries
Aug30 Florida Governor's Race Has Already Turned Ugly
Aug30 McGahn Will Soon Be McGone
Aug30 Sessions May Well Be Next
Aug30 Puerto Rico Death Toll Soars; Trump Remains Impressed with His Administration's Response
Aug30 Trump Administration Denies or Revokes Thousands of Passports for Mexican-Americans Living on the Border
Aug30 Trump Resumes War on Google
Aug29 Elections Were Held, People Voted
Aug29 Trump Warns of "Violence" if Democrats Win Midterms
Aug29 Appeals Court Rules that North Carolina's Congressional Map Is Unconstitutional
Aug29 More Details Emerge Regarding North Korea
Aug29 Trump Has a New Conspiracy Theory
Aug29 Ellison Could Cost Democrats Four House Seats
Aug29 Poll: Americans Believe Michael Cohen but Don't Want Trump Impeached
Aug28 Doug Ducey Has a Tough Call to Make about McCain's Replacement
Aug28 White House Flag Does Gymnastics: Up, Down, Up, Down
Aug28 U.S. Strikes Deal on Tentative NAFTA Replacement with Mexico
Aug28 WSJ: Manafort Tried to Negotiate Plea Deal
Aug28 Is Giuliani a Plus or a Minus for Trump?
Aug28 Bill Nelson Is an Old-Style Senator in a New-Style World
Aug28 Cruz's Lead over O'Rourke Keeps Dwindling
Aug27 Republicans Are Preparing for Tough Times if Democrats Capture the House
Aug27 Dershowitz: New York Probe Is More Dangerous to Trump than Mueller's
Aug27 Two Big Primaries This Week
Aug27 Kelli Ward Thinks McCain Conspired Against Her
Aug27 Trump Personally Spiked White House Statement on McCain
Aug27 Trade War with China Is about to Heat Up
Aug27 The Problem with the Emperor's Clothes
Aug26 John McCain, 1936-2018
Aug26 DNC Changes Superdelegate Rules
Aug26 Federal Labor Unions 1, Trump 0
Aug26 What Happens After Trump?
Aug26 This Week's Senate News
Aug26 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: William S. McRaven
Aug25 Weisselberg Gets Immunized
Aug25 Could Trump Be Al Caponed?