• Trump to Rally for Cruz
• Obama Gets Ready to Hit the Road
• New York to Sue Trump
• Mollie Tibbetts' Father: Stop Politicizing Her Death
• Nunes, Denham Can Call Themselves Farmers, Says Judge
• John McCain Laid to Rest
Today, of course, is Labor Day. It is customary for presidents to issue a proclamation in honor of the occasion, and it is customary for Donald Trump to take any chance he gets to trumpet his accomplishments. So, a presidential proclamation declaring exactly how much the Donald has done for workers was a near-certainty. And so it came to pass on Sunday afternoon, with the statement specifically declaring (among other claims) that, "my Administration has taken historic action to advance prosperity for the American worker".
Spin, of course, is all good and well, but that particular assertion is, at best, arguable. It's true that unemployment has ticked down (a bit) in the last two years, and it's also true that some companies took their big tax breaks and gave their employees bonuses (usually very modest ones, though). At the same time, Trump has taken specific steps to undermine unions, the federal minimum wage remains exactly where it was 10 years ago, workers' purchasing power is going down, the gap between rich and poor is reaching Gilded Age levels, and the effects of Trump's tariffs could prove devastating. And all of this was before he chose the occasion of Labor Day weekend to potentially deny 1.8 million federal employees their annual 2.1% raise.
For all of these reasons, labor leaders were none too impressed with Trump's proclamation. Probably the most famous labor leader in America is AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and he appeared on "Fox News Sunday" to opine that Trump has not done enough for America's workers, and that, "the reality is Democrats support working people more than Republicans." The other fellow who might claim the title of "most famous labor leader in America" is Teamsters president James Hoffa, and while he didn't respond to Sunday's proclamation, he did go on Fox Business Channel a month ago to express his view that the tax cut is all about the rich. "This is the richest country in the world right now and giving it to the rich people is not the answer to save America right now," he added.
Sunday also witnessed a slew of editorials pooh-poohing Trump's record on labor. Among them:
- Robert L. Borosage, The Nation: Donald Trump Has Betrayed American Workers—Again and Again
- Katie Johnston, Boston Globe: Under Trump, labor protections stripped away
- Nancy Altman, Common Dreams: This Labor Day, Gear Up to Stop Trump and GOP War on Workers
- Editorial Board, Berkshire Eagle: Trump is failing the American worker
- Emily Q. Hazzard, ThinkProgress: Trump trolls American workers with his Labor Day message
- Joseph Geevarghese, The Hill: Trump is failing to bring back American jobs
- Daniel Moritz-Rabson, Newsweek: Is Trump a Champion of Workers? His Anti-Union Policies Indicate Otherwise
Undoubtedly, there will be more pieces like these in today's editorial pages.
In the end, and Trump surely knows this, blue collar votes were absolutely key to his victory, and will be again to his re-election chances. In 2016 he got a lot of blue-collar support by talking about some economic issues that resonated with those voters (e.g., the TPP and other trade deals), and also by appealing to cultural issues (e.g., undocumented immigrants). Can he do it again, once he has an actual record to run on, and (likely) with labor leaders leading the charge against him? That will be the $64,000 question in 2020. (Z)
Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) hate each other, and everyone knows it. It's not so much a policy thing, since the two men support the same basic things (at least, they have since Trump became a Republican five years ago). No, their enmity is almost entirely personal, which is actually somewhat interesting, since they have very similar personalities: ambitious, opportunistic, outspoken, unconcerned about stepping on others' toes, etc. They seem to be the classic example of "there's only room for one of us in the Republican Party."
But despite the fact that Trump and Cruz have a strong mutual loathing, politics makes strange bedfellows, as they say. Cruz needs help in his flagging reelection campaign, and Trump wants the Senate to remain in GOP hands. And so, Trump is going to Texas soon to have one of his signature rallies:
I will be doing a major rally for Senator Ted Cruz in October. I’m picking the biggest stadium in Texas we can find. As you know, Ted has my complete and total Endorsement. His opponent is a disaster for Texas - weak on Second Amendment, Crime, Borders, Military, and Vets!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2018
Trump may want to cool it with that "biggest stadium in Texas" talk. It's easy enough to figure out which venue fits that description; it's Kyle Field in College Station (the home stadium for Texas A&M). However, College Station's population is barely larger than the stadium's capacity (118,064 vs. 102,995), and the city has been ranked as the "most educated" in Texas, which does not exactly scream "Donald Trump's base". It's also at least a two-hour drive from Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. Trump could choose a big (but not the "biggest") stadium that makes more sense logistically, like AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys; 100,000 seats) or the Cotton Bowl in Dallas (92,100 seats), or NRG Stadium in Houston (home of the Houston Texans; 71,500 seats). However, he generally has some difficulty filling much smaller venues, and photographs of a stadium with 10,000 or 25,000 empty seats would not be a good look for him.
In any event, eventually a venue will be chosen and a date will be set. However, even if the venue is packed and the crowd is rockin', the event may not do Cruz a whole lot of good. First of all, we are generally skeptical that these rallies—which, pretty much by definition, attract the true believers—do much to affect voters' behavior. Beyond that, however, the event is going to get a lot of publicity, and much of that publicity will highlight one of the most unappealing aspects of Cruz and Trump, namely that they are ham-fisted opportunists, as indicated by their nasty, and then suddenly "friendly", relationship. Just in case anyone might have forgotten, in fact, a group of activists has raised almost $10,000 (as of Sunday night) to put up billboards in Texas featuring this tweet:
Why would the people of Texas support Ted Cruz when he has accomplished absolutely nothing for them. He is another all talk, no action pol!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2016
Remember, Twitter never forgets. Meanwhile, Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti, himself a ham-fisted opportunist of the first order, has already announced that he will stage a counter-rally the same night that Trump is in Texas. So, there is a very decent chance that this kumbayah theater from the President and the Senator could blow up in their faces. (Z)
America's current president, and her most recent ex-president, are both itching to get on the road and to use their influence to try and shape the composition of the next Congress. With Donald Trump, nobody seems to know exactly how tactical he will be about his appearances. Does he really believe that an appearance in California is a good idea (it isn't), and that it will help vulnerable Republicans, for example in Orange County (it won't)? Time will tell, as we see if he goes to the Golden State, or he doesn't. Obama, by contrast, has considerably more tactical skill and considerably less ego than Trump does, and so there is no question that he will only visit places where he's likely to be a net positive.
For example, Obama will hold public events in California, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The latter three, at very least, are chock-full of so-called Obama-Trump voters; mostly white, working-class folks whose midterm votes may be up for grabs, especially with a bit of encouragement from #44. Depending on where Obama goes in California (say, Riverside or Fresno counties), he can also reach the same sorts of voters there. On the other hand, he's staying away from North Dakota and Montana, where vulnerable senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Jon Tester (D-MT) have told the former president, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Obama's message will also be carefully crafted. Recognizing that Trump will try to weaponize his words, #44 will focus on the importance of getting out to vote, and of not being apathetic. Not only is that a message that should benefit the blue team (who have a much greater problem with midterm turnout than the GOP), it's also going to be very hard for Trump and other Republicans to pick up on it and wield it like a sword. They may prefer that people not vote (hence voter ID laws, etc.) but they are presumably not willing to declare that a call to get out and vote is evil, un-American, etc. Anyhow, the Obama campaign tour begins on Friday with a speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Z)
The state of New York, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) taking the lead, announced on Sunday that it is going to sue Donald Trump. That, in and of itself, is not such a surprise. It's a blue state, and it's also Trump's residence (and thus a place that he may have committed crimes). What is surprising, however, is the cause of action (at least, for the suit announced this weekend): They are going to sue him for failing to help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
It is very hard to see how this could possibly go anywhere. First of all, it is not going to be easy to find a judge who will buy that a state somehow has standing to sue on behalf of a territory. Beyond that, it's unclear exactly what law was broken, or what remedy might be sought. No, this is pretty clearly a politics-driven lawsuit, designed to curry favor with the Latino voters of New York. Exactly why Cuomo feels the need for such a stunt, given that he is going to cruise to victory in his reelection bid, is anyone's guess. Maybe he's setting himself up for his rumored 2020 presidential run. Whatever the motivation is, this carries the risk of making future lawsuits/charges against Trump, which are likely to have more merit, also look like political stunts. (Z)
This situation bears a striking resemblance to the Khizr and Ghazala Khan situation. In that case, as part of a general campaign of Muslim-smearing, the GOP ended up on the opposite side of an issue from the very sympathy-engendering parents of a dead child. In this case, as part of a general campaign of Latino-smearing, the GOP has again ended up on the opposite side of an issue from the very sympathy-engendering parents of a dead child. Led by Donald Trump, the Party has tried to make political hay out of the death of Mollie Tibbetts. Her murder was allegedly at the hands of an undocumented Mexican immigrant, and ipso facto, in Trump's telling, most or all undocumented Mexican immigrants are potential murderers.
Not so fast, says Tibbetts' father Rob, who is (justifiably) angry that his deceased daughter is being used as a political pawn. On Sunday, he penned an editorial on the matter for the Des Moines Register (his local paper), telling Republicans in no uncertain terms to put a lid on it. It's rather impressively-crafted; but the killer passage is the middle portion:
Throughout this ordeal I've asked myself, "What would Mollie do?" As I write this, I am watching Sen. John McCain lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda and know that evil will succeed only if good people do nothing. Both Mollie and Senator McCain were good people. I know that both would stand up now and do something.
The person who is accused of taking Mollie's life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community as white supremacists are of all white people. To suggest otherwise is a lie. Justice in my America is blind. This person will receive a fair trial, as it should be. If convicted, he will face the consequences society has set. Beyond that, he deserves no more attention.
To the Hispanic community, my family stands with you and offers its heartfelt apology. That you've been beset by the circumstances of Mollie's death is wrong. We treasure the contribution you bring to the American tapestry in all its color and melody. And yes, we love your food.
My stepdaughter, whom Mollie loved so dearly, is Latina. Her sons—Mollie's cherished nephews and my grandchildren—are Latino. That means I am Hispanic. I am African. I am Asian. I am European. My blood runs from every corner of the Earth because I am American. As an American, I have one tenet: to respect every citizen of the world and actively engage in the ongoing pursuit to form a more perfect union.
On one hand, the wise course of action for Trump & Co. would be to drop this, because it's a losing battle for them. On the other hand, they still haven't completely let go of the Khans or of Seth Rich or of David Lindsey-Hogg. So, Rob Tibbetts could well be the next Democratic superstar activist, appearing at rallies and conventions and on MSNBC and the like. (Z)
In most states, and in most elections, ballots contain three pieces of information about candidates: their names, their party affiliation, and their "occupation." We put "occupation" in quotation marks, because it is definitely very loosely defined. Quite often, particularly in local elections, politicians who are trying to steal a few extra votes put things like "gang prosecutor" or "hard-working mom" or "activist for freedom." The nouns there are all jobs, certainly, but the adjectives are a tad gratuitous.
There is a long history of candidates bumping up against the rules for what can or cannot appear on the ballot. The most famous is probably Jimmy Carter, who was on the ballot in 1976 in several states where legal names were legally required (i.e., James Carter). Knowing that "Jimmy" was the name by which he was known, and was also central to his folksy, Southern good ol' boy image, his campaign sued and won. That may just have helped the peanut farmer in some of those states (most obviously Mississippi, where his win was pretty narrow). It didn't help him too much in 1980, though.
In California, another such suit was just decided in favor of the politicians. Reps. Devin Nunes and Jeff Denham (both R-CA) are running in the state's agriculture-heavy Central Valley. Denham's family used to operate a dairy farm, and Nunes once drove past a farm, and so they both decided they would like to be listed on the ballot as "U.S. Representative/Farmer". A coalition of anti-GOP PACs found that to be absurd, and sued, but a judge decided that the courts do not have any authority here, and that if the Secretary of State says it's ok for them to list themselves in this way, then it's ok.
We will likely never know if the "I'm a farmer" maneuver had any impact on the race. However, one wonders if fence-sitting California agricultural workers, who know full well that the two men are not actually farmers, and who may be voting right before or right after a long, hard day of working the fields (or the ranch, or the pastures), might not find this a little off-putting. There are certainly some professions—professor, soldier, artist, small business owner—that don't really have an accrediting body as doctors or lawyers do, and so have members who can get a tad bit territorial about who is and who is not in the club. Farmer may well be one of those professions. (Z)
John McCain was laid to rest on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy on Sunday, following one last memorial service. He will spend eternity next to his Annapolis classmate and friend, Adm. Chuck Larson, who predeceased McCain in 2014, as well as the two men's wives (who are still living).
Undoubtedly, Donald Trump heaved a sigh of relief once his nemesis (well, one of them) was in the ground, and not just because he can now return the White House flags to full staff. The whole week has been a disaster for the President, in terms of both his own (often petulant) actions and also the snubs he received. On Sunday, for example, Trump was excoriated for tweeting and playing golf while the funeral was underway. There was zero chance he was going to skip his Sunday golf game for anyone, but staying off of Twitter would have been so easy. It's remarkable that someone who so clearly needs praise and admiration has never learned that a gracious gesture is often the path to both of those things. Think of how much better off the President would have been if he'd tweeted on Sunday morning, "No more tweets today. I may have disagreed with Sen. McCain on many things, but today is his day."
Trump's followers have also failed to grasp the lesson that sometimes the high road is the best one, and many of them spent Sunday expressing various gripes, including that Jared and Ivanka Trump (who were invited) weren't seated in the front row, that members of Trump's administration really should have boycotted, and that the eulogies were critical of the President. Since Trump was not mentioned by name, his acolytes do not seem to realize that they are making a rather significant admission when they assume that undoubtedly the references—to "phony controversies and manufactured outrage" and "bigots and swaggering despots" and "cheap rhetoric" from men who made no sacrifices for their country—were about the President.
Incidentally, the Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts raises a question that we thought about mentioning yesterday, and then decided might be a little tacky. But since the Rubicon has now been crossed: What exactly is Trump's funeral going to be like once he breathes his last? Normally, all living ex-presidents and first ladies attend such services, but would Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton really go to Trump's funeral if they survive him? Would they even be welcome? It could be very much like what happened when John Tyler died 156 years ago—because he joined the Confederate government, the U.S. government entirely ignored his funeral. Meanwhile, who will deliver Trump's eulogies, and what will they say? Mike Pence seems to be able to sing the Donald's praises without batting an eye, but beyond him, it will be very interesting. A lot of the things that would generally be said at a former president's funeral would be somewhat ill-fitting for Trump. Fortunately, Kid Rock and Sarah Palin probably have a few more years to think about the matter. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
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