May 15

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New Senate: DEM 49             GOP 51

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Dem pickups: (None)
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Four States Hold Primaries Today

Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, and Pennsylvania are holding primary elections today. Of these, Pennsylvania's are getting the most attention. They are even more important than usual because (1) the Pennsylvania Supreme Court drew new districts starting with the November election, and (2) there are a number of open seats. The new map is shown below. A rundown of the races is given here. The more noteworthy races are summarized below. Remember that James Carville once described Pennsylvania as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.

, PA map

One other race is of interest, but it is in Idaho—the fastest-growing state in the country. It is the race to succeed Gov. Butch Otter (R), who decided not to run for a fourth term. The race has three candidates, who span the whole range of the Republican Party. Rep. Raul Labrador is a founding member of the Freedom Caucus. Lt. Gov. Brad Little is an establishment Republican. Tommy Ahlquist is a mini-Trump outsider businessman. (V)

Both Parties Stunned by Trump's Move to Rescue ZTE

The Chinese telecommunications company ZTE sold critical chips to Iran and North Korea and put spying software in the equipment it sold in the U.S. For these acts, it was sanctioned. On Sunday, Donald Trump tried to make nice to the company. On Monday, lawmakers in both parties said they were floored by his statement. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), tweeted: "Problem with ZTE isn't jobs & trade, it's national security & espionage. We are crazy to allow them to operate in the U.S. without tighter restrictions." Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said: "One of the few areas where the president and I agreed, and I was vocally supportive, was his approach towards China. But even here he is backing off, and his policy is now designed to achieve one goal: make China great again." Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a Republican think tank, put it this way: "That's the most insane political thing I have ever seen."

The best Trump's defenders could muster is the hope that he would use ZTE as a bargaining chip to gain concessions from China in other areas—for example, removing the tariffs it imposed in response to Trump's tariffs or maybe even pressuring North Korea. (V)

Trump's Immigration Policies Are Hurting Some of His Supporters

As part of his plan to keep immigrants out of the U.S., Donald Trump has cut the number of H-2B visas. These visas are needed by small businesses that import foreign workers for low-paying jobs involving hard manual labor that Americans don't want to do. Many small businesses need these workers to stay afloat, and the reduction may ruin them. Small business owners who voted for Trump and who depend on the visas are furious. These include landscaping businesses in Kentucky, crab processors in Maryland, shrimp fisherman in Texas, as well as construction companies and farms everywhere.

For example, Eddie Devine, who owns a landscaping company and who voted for Trump said: "I feel like I've been tricked by the devil. I feel so stupid." Of course, he is stupid. Trump promised during his campaign to cut off the flow of foreigners into the country, and sure enough, he kept his promise. Only now does Devine realize that his business—and many like it—depend on those foreigners. Devine is even more angry at Trump now because Trump got 144 H-2B workers for his properties since 2016, but Devine can't get any now. (V)

Trump Calls Leakers "Traitors and Cowards"

Donald Trump continues to care very little that one of his staffers made light of a war hero's grim prognosis, and to care a great deal that the general public found out about it. On Tuesday, he tweeted this:

The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible. With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2018

This means the staffers in question, whoever they might be, have now joined an exclusive club. Here are all the other folks Donald Trump has slammed as "traitors" on Twitter: Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Bowe Bergdahl, the people who run Univision, the people who run Macy's, and Charles Krauthammer. It almost reads like the beginning to a really bad joke: "Edward Snowden, Charles Krauthammer, and the president of Univision walk into a bar..."

Given that Trump has threatened to expose and expunge leakers previously, and has clearly failed to do so, it's a bark with no bite. Still, it never ceases to amaze that the President not only chooses not to apologize for the "joke" about John McCain, but that he continues to give the story oxygen by grousing about it. Nor does he seem to appreciate whose fault it ultimately is if the White House staff is disloyal and untrustworthy.

Failure to apologize to McCain is not just a matter of Trump not liking people who were captured. He never admits wrongdoing or mistakes and never apologizes to anyone. Trump sees that as a sign of weakness, and according to the law of the jungle, which is how Trump views the world, the weak get eaten. So don't expect apologies from Trump on anything, ever. (Z)

How Trump Got Hooked on Fox

Pop Quiz! According to reporting from the Washington Post, what subject does Donald Trump bring up with his staffers as often as "20 times a day," invariably so he can vent about it?

  1. Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama
  2. White House leaks
  3. The Mueller investigation
  4. "Fake news"
  5. The performance of his cabinet
  6. How the White House isn't as nice as Mar-a-Lago

The answer is "c." And a big part of the reason that Trump is obsessed with Mueller is because Fox News in general, and multiple-times-daily Trump phone confidant Sean Hannity in particular, are obsessed with Mueller. Keeping in mind that the President has spent decades convincing himself and others of things that are not actually true, he is more than willing to be persuaded that the whole investigation really is a phony witch hunt cooked up by his enemies. Evidence that there's actual substance here (i.e., indictments and guilty pleas), as well as incriminating things that Trump might know, have no particular relevance.

And how exactly did the President, who once consumed a broader variety of television news fare, get sucked into the Fox News feedback loop? Well, that is among the subjects addressed in a fascinating new piece by New York magazine's Olivia Nuzzi. Essentially, the blame lies with everyone's favorite 2017 scapegoats: Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer. Back in the days when Trump would actually watch CNN and MSNBC, those channels' morning coverage would trigger the Donald's tendency toward fits of rage and Twitter tantrums, and often the whole day would go off the rails. Trump's warning that he just might have recorded his conversations with James Comey and his attacks on Mika Brzezinski, whom he accused of bleeding due to a facelift, were among the mini-scandals that followed this basic pattern.

In view of this challenge, the former Chief of Staff and the former Press Secretary cooked up a plan, feeding Trump all sorts of not-so-subtle signals about how great Fox's coverage is, and how high their ratings are, and how much his base loves the channel, and so forth. The goal was to get him to jump ship on the non-right wing channels, and it worked—in part, because Priebus' and Spicer's subtlety allowed Trump to believe that the idea was all his.

In the end, however, this "solution" is reminiscent of the late-nineteenth century Civil War soldiers whose addiction to morphine was treated...with copious amounts of cocaine. Turns out, those things are both addictive. And it turns out that while MSNBC and CNN tend to trigger Trump's tendency toward defensive rage and indignant fury, Fox tends to feed in to his tendency toward self-righteous rage and paranoia. Not much of a tradeoff, and now that Trump and Hannity are bosom buddies—they are almost always each other's last phone calls of the night—it can't be undone. And thus we have a situation where Fox News is the closest thing to a bureau of propaganda that the U.S. has had since the Office of War Information during World War II. (Z)

Net Neutrality Vote Scheduled for Wednesday

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn't the only expert in parliamentary procedure to be found in the upper chamber of Congress. Some of his Democratic colleagues know a few things, too. To that end, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) & Co. are going to use a fairly rare maneuver called a discharge petition to force a vote on Wednesday on their plan to preserve net neutrality.

There is every reason to think that the measure will pass the Senate, as the Democrats have themselves plus Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). With Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) absent, that's a 50-49 majority. Slim, but still enough. Then it will go to the House, where it will almost certainly be voted down (or not voted on at all). If it somehow makes it through the house, it will go to Donald Trump, who would surely veto the measure.

Why are the Democrats ramming through a bill that has almost no chance of becoming law? The answer is that they are casting about for issues to run on in November, and they think net neutrality is a winner. Given the polls on the subject, it's hard to find fault with that analysis. For example, one of the more meticulous surveys of the matter found that 83 percent of voters favored neutrality, including 75 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of independents. So, this is an issue that appeals to nearly all Democrats and independents. It also matters to younger voters, who might not drag themselves to the polls to express their views on NAFTA or rescission, but who generally care an awful lot about technology issues (well, that and legal pot). Any Democratic leader who does not try to ride this for all it's worth is guilty of political malpractice, and should be immediately stripped of his or her donkey pin. (Z)

Paging Jimmy Carter...

One of the main reasons that Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace prize was his efforts to ensure democracy around the world by safeguarding the integrity of elections. The United States could probably use his services, as the country continues to have issues with the voting process more worthy of a banana republic than the world's mightiest democracy.

For example, there is Virginia, where a tie vote in HD-94 several months back forced the two candidates to draw lots. The Republican, David Yancey, won that contest, and thusly preserved the GOP's tenuous majority in the Virginia House of Delegates. Now, the Washington Post has discovered that 26 voters that should have been assigned to HD-94 cast their ballots in HD-93 instead. It appears to be an honest mistake by the registrar, but those 26 voters happen to come from a predominantly black community, and black voters tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. So, the mistake appears to have handed the GOP an unexpected—and undeserved—win.

Then there is California, generally known for its efforts to preserve voter rights, but in the midst of a mini-scandal over that same issue. The problem is the state law governing vote-by-mail ballots. It says that the signature on an absentee ballot must match the signature on that voter's registration form. That's all good and well—it's an attempt to stop the selling of mail-in ballots—but the judgment is made by poll workers who have no training in handwriting analysis, don't have enough specimens to work with (it takes 10, according to experts, to make an accurate determination), and who don't necessarily advise a person if their ballot has been rejected. As many as 46,000 ballots were tossed in 2016 (disproportionately belonging the Asian voters). The ACLU has sued, and won, only to have Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) and Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) appeal the ruling and ask the judge to put his decision on hold for the upcoming primaries. These are the same folks who have (rightly) accused Donald Trump and the GOP of disenfranchising voters. Apparently, what's good for the goose is not what's good for the gander. (Z)

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