• Trump Changes Course on Classified Document Dump
• This Week in Commercials
• Professor Who Unmasked Anonymous: It Was Mattis
• This Week's Senate News
• Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Michael Bloomberg
After nearly a week of demand and counter-demand, threat and counter-threat, it appears that Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh of trying to rape her at a party nearly four decades ago, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Beyond that, little is known, even by the principals, because the circumstances of her testimony are still being ironed out. Among the questions that are going to be negotiated on Sunday (and maybe Monday, and Tuesday, and so on): When Ford will testify, who will do the questioning, and whether she will appear before or after Kavanaugh. Supporters of the Judge insist that Ford's commitment does not actually mean she will testify, because she and her attorneys never actually used that word on Saturday. Who knows how that kind of linguistic sophistry helps his case, but it is fair to say that "details are still being worked out" does leave open the possibility that the details will not be worked out, and that everything falls through.
Not surprisingly, supporters of Kavanaugh and opponents of Ford (which are often one and the same, but not always) suggest that Ford's waffling is evidence that she is just a partisan shill. Actually, if anything, it's evidence that the exact opposite is true. If she was really a partisan shill, she would have accepted any opportunity to testify as soon as it was proffered. Her reluctance, on the other hand, is characteristic of someone who is leery of what it will be like to have unhappy memories dredged up and her integrity questioned while the entire nation looks on. There are some pro-Kavanaugh partisans who answer this by arguing that she's not really leery, and that her foot-dragging is designed to stretch this process out, and to eat up as much of the time before the midterms as is possible. That is a weak thesis, at best—no matter how much hemming and hawing goes on, it's not going to add more than a week or two to the process. That's not enough to make a difference one way or another. If Kavanaugh is approved, he's going to be approved well before the midterms, regardless of how long it takes Ford and her attorneys to work out the details of her testimony. And if he's rejected, there won't be time for a new nominee to be approved before November 6, regardless of how quickly he's turned down.
Meanwhile, as the main drama plays out, there are reporters and partisans looking everywhere for "evidence," one way or another, of Ford's veracity. For example, one friend of Ford's, whose name is Leland Ingham Keyser, was contacted by Senate Judiciary Committee officials, as she was reportedly in attendance at the infamous party in question. Keyser says she has no recollection of such a party, or of ever meeting Kavanaugh. That seems somewhat damning for Ford's narrative, except that anyone who knows anything about memory knows that nearly 40 years is a long time to remember anything, unless there was a particular reason for that memory to be retained. Since Keyser was not party to the incident in question, and was not told about it afterward by Ford, it is to be expected that she has no recollection.
On the other side of the ledger, another Ford friend, Jim Gensheimer, says that Ford told him she must have two exits from any bedroom, or else she cannot sleep, for fear of being "trapped." Similarly, CNN laid hands on a copy of the out-of-print alcohol-fueled memoir by Kavanaugh friend Mark Judge, and reports that the two men (then teenagers) and their friends set a goal during their senior year to consume at least 100 kegs of beer. That is quite a lot given that a school year lasts only 240 days or so. In any event, both of these stories appear to be pretty damning for Kavanaugh, except that they are currently unconfirmed hearsay. If Ford reiterates the two-door bedroom story before the committee, on the other hand, and if it's corroborated by someone (like her therapist), then it would be considerably more damaging for Kavanaugh.
In the end, the Judge really needs to hope that the details for Ford's testimony fall through, and that she does not appear. Republicans up for re-election this year are well aware that this could burn them badly in November, and the percentage of voters who would like to see Kavanaugh on the Court is already lower than it was for Robert Bork, Harriet Miers, or Clarence Thomas. In other words, he's gotten pretty radioactive. If Ford's testimony is at all credible, and if she comes off as at all sympathetic (and both things are likely), Kavanaugh has a big problem. (Z)
Donald Trump would like very badly to release a bunch of classified documents related to the Russiagate probe, and announced that the publication of a bunch of texts and the Carter Page FISA application (which essentially started the Russiagate investigation) was imminent. Now, however, the President has changed his mind, and won't order the documents released, after all.
In his tweets on the matter, Trump was somewhat vague in explaining his change of course:
I met with the DOJ concerning the declassification of various UNREDACTED documents. They agreed to release them but stated that so doing may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe. Also, key Allies’ called to ask not to release. Therefore, the Inspector General.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
....has been asked to review these documents on an expedited basis. I believe he will move quickly on this (and hopefully other things which he is looking at). In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary. Speed is very important to me - and everyone!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
It's hard to believe that this is 100% truthful, or even close to it. Trump has not previously had any problems with negatively impacting the Russia probe, so it's hard to see why he would have issues now. He may have been persuaded, aided by a lot of arm-twisting, that declassifying the materials would expose American assets, although he knew of that issue when he made the original announcement.
The odds are pretty good that someone (or several someones) convinced him that the political calculus just didn't add up. The only people who would be impressed by the new documents would be the base, who are already persuaded Trump is the target of a witch hunt, even without evidence. Meanwhile, the move would have served to highlight Trump's placing more importance on his own needs as opposed to the needs of the country, which might have hurt some of the GOP candidates running for re-election this year. In any event, if Trump is going to pull the trigger before the midterms, now is the time, so this is presumably the last we will hear of this until after the election. Once the Mueller investigation heats back up, however, all bets are off. (Z)
Inasmuch as the midterms are in full swing, the campaign commercials are coming fast and furious, with some of them getting a particularly large amount of attention. In the category of "really clever ads," for example, is a spot for Dean Phillips, who is running in MN-03 against Rep. Erik Paulsen (R). The basic notion is that Bigfoot is looking for the only guy harder to find than he is—Paulsen, who never seems to show up for work, is never available for constituent services, etc. He does find the Congressman, but you'll have to watch the ad to find out where:
The D+1 district is already favored to change hands; certainly this ad is not going to hurt the blue team's chances.
Meanwhile, in the "really brutal ads" category is this one in which half a dozen Arizonans share their views that Rep. Paul Gosar (R) of AZ-04 does not care a whit about his constituents, and that voters should pull the lever for his Democratic opponent, Dr. David Brill. It would be a fairly standard political ad, except for the "reveal" at the end, which you'll have to watch for yourself to see:
There are actually three ads in the series and they are all very effective, although AZ-04 is R+21, so it's unlikely they will have any impact other than to make Thanksgiving very awkward this year for the Gosars. (Z)
The infamous anonymous New York Times op-ed has faded from visibility a bit, despite the fact that the White House said over a week ago that they were close to fingering the perpetrator. Don Foster, who correctly identified Joe Klein as the author of the anonymous Clinton campaign roman à clef Primary Colors, and who often deploys his documentary forensic skills in criminal cases, was asked by Salon to take a crack at the op-ed. His conclusion: The author is Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Foster's analysis has several elements to it, and is worth reading in full. However, here are the key points he raises:
- The manner in which the author presents himself is very similar to the way Mattis is portrayed
(by name) in several pieces about the administration penned by Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, and others.
For example, as "the only adult in the room" and a "senior administration official" who regularly
puts the kibosh on Donald Trump's worst impulses.
- Foster feels the "lodestar" clue, which ostensibly points to VP Mike Pence, is a red herring,
and that the word is not particularly unique to the VP. However, the professor does feel there are
some very distinctive word choices that are not red herrings. For example, the phrase "malign
behavior" is rarely used by politicians (only 20 recorded instances since Trump became president,
across all news/government sources). Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are the only folks
who have used it repeatedly. To take another example, the author claims that John McCain used the
term "tribalism trap" in his farewell letter. McCain did not; the only place that phrase has
appeared in the last 167 years is in a pair of obscure articles by experts in...national security.
Presumably, only someone well-read in that area would know the phrase.
- The timing of the Bob Woodward book (in which it is claimed that Mattis said a lot of nasty things about Trump) and then the op-ed were such that the Secretary was on a plane (when the Woodward book quotes were made public), and in a foreign country (when the op-ed dropped). This timing not only screened him from probing questions, it also meant his "denials" were issued by Pentagon employees on his behalf and were unsigned. In other words, he is technically on the record as having denied everything, and yet he also can say that he never actually denied anything at all, if and when he is outed.
Of course, even if Mattis firms up his denials, that's hardly definitive. Joe Klein denied being Anonymous, until he admitted it. In 1974, Mark Felt said, "I am not now, nor have I ever been, Deep Throat," and then in 2007 he admitted he was. It's also worth noting that Mattis is among those who are rumored to be on the chopping block once the midterms are over, so maybe the White House has fingered the perpetrator (or at least has strong suspicions). Whoever it is, they won't remain anonymous forever. The only question is how quickly their cover is blown. (Z)
The Senate races are heating up, which means lots of news. Here is this week's roundup:
- State Sen. Kevin de León (D) has slammed his opponent, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), for
dragging her feet with the Christine Blasey Ford letter. Turns out, he didn't
do too well,
either, when various sexual abuse scandals rocked the California senate while he was
running the show.
- Matthew Corey (R), who is trying to knock off Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), is desperately trying to
gain some traction. This week, Corey
the Senator to spend a day washing windows with him, so as to understand how hard it is
to earn a day's wages.
- In the early 1980s, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) admitted that he once slapped his wife and
gave her a black eye. In response to the Christine Blasey Ford allegations, Donald Trump Jr. has
that story, apparently on the theory that two wrongs do indeed make one right.
- Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) promised to donate to charity all the money he had ever gotten from the PAC
of former senator Al Franken. The problem? The campaign only
half of it. Nothing like a story that combines both dishonesty and stiffing a charity out of tens of thousands
- Folks who know Florida politics
that Gov. Rick Scott's (R) claims that he led the state into a new era of prosperity, and so he will
be a better senator than Nelson, could be undermined by the fact that home ownership in the Sunshine
State just reached a record low. It's as if the tax cuts and the stock market boom are
benefiting only the wealthy, as opposed to the whole populace.
- People in Indiana really dislike Mexican immigrants, despite the fact that the state is more than
1,000 miles from the border. So, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) and his opponent Mike Braun (R) are both
staunch supporters of Donald Trump's border wall. What they
is the dreamers, with Donnelly wanting them to stay, and Braun wanting them to go.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
in Oklahoma this week to encourage teachers to vote. Oklahomans, incidentally, do not get to vote for whom Massachusetts sends to the Senate.
They do get to vote for president, however.
- Fire-breathing right-wing activist John Philip Sousa IV, who is pretty much living on the
reputation of a famous great-grandfather who died 86 years ago, admitted he is
an ad in Missouri that claims that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) wants to force kids to learn about
Islam, and that she falsely believes that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same god. The
first part is untrue, and as to the second part, we are not certain exactly what the Senator's
thoughts on the matter are, but Sousa might want to investigate why those three faiths are known as
(Hint: Because they all worship the god of Abraham).
- Right-wing media outlets are making hay of the fact that Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) claims to be a
hunter, but his license
hasn't been renewed
- When the votes are counted, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who has plenty of baggage, is probably
going to thank his lucky stars that challenger Bob Hugin has lots of baggage of his own. This week,
talk of the town
is Hugin's efforts to keep LGBT discrimination legal while he was in college, and his leading the
charge to keep an all-male eating club (aka, a literal sausage party) from becoming co-ed in the 1990s.
- The GOP welcomed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson's late entry into the New Mexico Senate race
when they thought he would hurt Sen. Martin Heinrich (D). Now that it's clear he's actually cutting
into Mick Rich's (R) support, the Party is
to get Johnson to drop out.
- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and her challenger Kevin Cramer (R) are
over which of them loves fossil fuels the most. It's a reminder that, as Tip O'Neill observed, "all
politics is local," since they are fighting about things—like CRA nullifications—that are
barely comprehensible to voters in most states.
- Meanwhile, Cramer seems to have figured out that women voters may not be too happy that he
dismissed Christine Blasey Ford as "absurd". Now, he is
explaining that when he said "absurd," he didn't really mean "absurd".
- Jim Renacci (R) is taking a beating in the polls, and so is getting desperate as he tries to knock
off Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). This week, he
to get some mileage out of the fact that Brown divorced his wife...30 years ago. Someone might want
to point out to Renacci that: (1) It's 2018, not 1918, and (2) The leader of his party does not
exactly have the best record on that front, himself.
- Robert Flanders (R), who is running a near-hopeless campaign to defeat Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
(D-RI), did not help himself this week when he
that Christine Blasey Ford doesn't count as a #MeToo moment, because she's only one accuser, and not
a whole crowd. One wonders if male politicians will ever figure out that if they don't plan to say
something supportive, or at least something neutral and non-committal, they should probably just
keep their mouths shut.
- Corey Stewart (R), who is trailing Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) by double digits, seems to have
recognized that running a far-right campaign might be ok in, say, red, red Idaho, but it won't work
in fairly blue Virginia. So, he's
the advisor that encouraged him to cozy up to white nationalists, make frequent use of dog whistles,
and embrace conspiracy theories.
- Speaking of all politics being local, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is
to walk a fine line on a proposed industrial development called Rockwool, which will bring jobs to
West Virginia, but also plenty of pollution.
- The NRA has thought very carefully about its options in Nebraska, and
to endorse the Republican, Sen. Deb Fischer. In Tennessee, they also
the Republican, Rep. Marsha Blackburn. In other news, the sky is blue, water is wet, and the sun
sets in the west.
- People are mystified as to why Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) decided to
a video clip in which opponent Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) responds to the shooting of an unarmed
black man by a Dallas police officer. Specifically, they are trying to figure out which part
Cruz found to be objectionable (particularly to the point of reflecting badly on O'Rourke):
Ted, which of those words do you find objectionable? That an unarmed, unsuspected man should not be killed in his own home? That justice should be served? That they be spoken to a black community? These words are good and true and they unite, not divide as you seem to hope. https://t.co/DCvTEDT8wM— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) September 22, 2018
- The transformation of Darth Vader...er, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) is complete. He once said he was "99% against Donald Trump," but after the presidential rally this week, Heller declared that Trump is a "great leader."
And there you have it. Good night, and good news. (Z)
This week, it's a candidate whose name has been bandied about, but who only recently hinted that he might be running.
- Full Name: Michael Rubens Bloomberg
- Age on January 20, 2021: 78 (though he will turn 79 three weeks later)
- Background: The grandson of Jewish immigrants, Bloomberg was a
Bostonian until his college years. After graduating Johns Hopkins and then returning to Boston for
Harvard Business School, he moved to New York and worked for more than a decade for the now-defunct
investment bank Salomon Brothers. After being downsized out of a job in the early 1980s, he founded
Innovative Market Systems, which took advantage of the PC revolution to provide real-time market
data to clients. The company was renamed Bloomberg LP in 1987, and eventually broadened into other
areas, most notably an Associated Press-like news syndicate called Bloomberg News. By the time the
80s came to a close, Bloomberg was a billionaire, and now he's among the 10 richest people in the
world, with a net worth of more than $50 billion. Depending on whom you believe, that is anywhere
from 5 to 125 Donald Trumps.
- Political Experience: Bloomberg served three terms as mayor of New
York, from 2002 to 2013. He was elected, and then re-elected as a Republican, but then declared
himself to be an independent as the GOP moved far to the right on social issues. His approval rating
oscillated wildly during that time, but after he left office, a poll found that 64% of New Yorkers
judged his administration to be a success.
- Signature Issue(s): Technology. By virtue of being a self-made
multi-billionaire, Bloomberg would necessarily have some credibility on political matters related to
the budget, Wall Street, regulation, and so forth. However, the key to his career, and the
centerpiece of his mayoralty, was the application of technology to solving problems. For example,
one of his most successful initiatives while in office, was creating the phone number '311,' so that
instead of there being thousands of different phone numbers for city agencies, the public could
reach any municipal employee via a single number. The number has received more than a quarter-billion calls since
being instituted in 2003.
- Instructive Quote: "Taxes are not good things, but if you want
services, somebody's got to pay for them so they're a necessary evil."
- Completely Trivial Fact: Besides Bloomberg, only two Republicans have
ever been elected to two terms as mayor of New York City: Fiorello LaGuardia and Rudy Giuliani. One
of those is among the greatest mayors in American history, while the other one...isn't.
- Recent News: It was just this week that Bloomberg
that he's thinking about running. However, he's apparently already given
to his hypothetical Cabinet, like possible Secretaries of Commerce Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates.
- Three Biggest Pros: (1) As a former Republican, he might attract votes
from moderate Republicans who are disgusted with Donald Trump; (2) Many Americans seem to want a
businessman-president, his pitch could be something like "A successful businessman who didn't need a
loan from daddy, didn't need to cheat people, and doesn't need to hide his true net worth"; and (3)
A modern presidential campaign is very, very expensive. Except to Bloomberg, for whom the $1.5
billion cost (give or take) is literally a rounding error.
- Three Biggest Cons: (1) If there is anything that will reduce voter
enthusiasm, it's being given a choice between two New York billionaires in their 70s whose party
loyalty is dubious. Low voter enthusiasm is a necessity for Trump if he's going to be re-elected;
(2) Who, exactly, is Bloomberg's constituency?; and (3) 12 years in office, particularly as a
somewhat conservative older man, produced a lot of things that will make rank-and-file Democrats
unhappy. For example, he's been somewhat critical of #MeToo, which is not a winning position in the
modern Democratic Party.
- Is He Actually Running?: Bloomberg's flirted with presidential runs
before, and nothing came of it. On the other hand, if he's going to do it, now's the time, given his
age. So, anything is possible. Because of his ability to self-fund literally an entire campaign, he
does not need to start networking and fundraising early the way everyone else does. He could
plausibly declare in January of 2020 (the Iowa caucuses are on February 3), and he'd still be
- Betting Odds: He's getting 33-to-1 at the books, which implies a 3%
chance of landing the nomination.
- The Bottom Line: As Dwight D. Eisenhower can attest (if you have a Ouija board), there was a time when a centrist politician with no strong loyalty to either party could win election to the White House. We no longer live in that time. There are too many Republicans who will not look past the (D) next to Bloomberg's name, regardless of his actual policies, and too many Democrats who will not look past the fact that Bloomberg is really just a socially-liberal Republican (in fact, there isn't a lot that separates his worldview from that of Barry Goldwater). Given that the former mayor is all about data, and has more money than Croesus, he would presumably do some serious polling before formally throwing his hat into the ring. And that polling would almost certainly tell him not to run.
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
Sep22 We Should Know Sometime Today if Ford Will Testify...Maybe
Sep22 With Tax Cuts Fizzling, Republicans Return to Culture-War Ads
Sep22 Moore Film Opens
Sep22 Ratings Changes from Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball
Sep22 Ratings Changes from Politico
Sep22 Ratings Changes from the Cook Political Report
Sep22 Cruz and O'Rourke Debate
Sep22 Today's Senate Polls
Sep21 Cohen Has Been Talking to Mueller for Weeks
Sep21 Christine Blasey Ford Wants to Testify, but Not on Monday
Sep21 Kavanaugh Preferred Clerks That "Looked Like Models"
Sep21 Kavanaugh Battle Could Affect the Supreme Court Itself
Sep21 Heller Eats Crow, Embraces Trump
Sep21 Trump Rallies, Can Barely Contain Himself on Kavanaugh Situation
Sep21 Another Day, Another Racist Incident for De Santis
Sep21 Today's Senate Polls
Sep20 GOP Is Increasingly Confident Kavanaugh Will Be Confirmed
Sep20 GOP May Get Kavanaugh, But May Not Get Its Wish
Sep20 Trump: I Don't Have an Attorney General
Sep20 College Students Don't Vote Because They Don't Know How to Buy a Stamp
Sep20 Indicted Congressman Will Actively Campaign for Reelection
Sep20 You'll Probably Be Disappointed on Election Night
Sep20 A Tale of Two Polls
Sep20 Today's Senate Polls
Sep19 Judge Won't Testify before the Senate on Monday
Sep19 How to Tell the Strength of the Blue Wave
Sep19 Why Are the Russians Visiting Mariia Butina in Prison So Much?
Sep19 National Debt Reaches post-WWII levels
Sep19 Polish President Proposes "Fort Trump"
Sep19 Stormy Daniels Hits Trump Where It Hurts
Sep19 Ronan Farrow May Have the N-Word Tapes
Sep19 Democrat Tony Evers Is Leading Scott Walker in Wisconsin
Sep19 Today's Senate Polls
Sep18 Both Kavanaugh and His Accuser Are Going to Testify in the Senate
Sep18 Pro-Kavanaugh Forces Settle on Their Strategy
Sep18 $200 Billion in Tariffs Are a Go
Sep18 Trump to Declassify Text Messages, Other Documents Related to Russiagate
Sep18 Senate Passes Opioid Bill
Sep18 Flynn to Be Sentenced in November
Sep18 DeVos Says Universities Have "Abandoned Truth"
Sep18 Today's Senate Polls
Sep17 Brett Kavanaugh's Accuser Goes Public
Sep17 What Happens Next?
Sep17 Gubernatorial Map Is the Reverse of the Senate Map
Sep17 Decision Is Expected Today on Whether Georgia Can Use Electronic Voting Machines
Sep17 Democrats Focusing on Black Voters in Ohio
Sep17 Newsom Focusing on Republican Voters in California
Sep17 Cruz Is Getting Desperate
Sep17 Today's Senate Polls