Steve Benen writes about Trump’s comments today on his reaction to Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
Six weeks after Trump declared, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” I half-expected him to say today, “Nobody knew that Assad could be so monstrous.”
The president wants everyone to now know that his “attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.” OK, but what was his attitude before based on? Why did it take this week’s violence and bloodshed to change Trump’s mind about something he should’ve known before?
If it seems like this keeps happening with Trump, it’s not your imagination. Trump thought overhauling the nation’s health care system would be easy, right up until he discovered that it’s “complicated.” He “didn’t realize” the nuances of how Congress works. He thought private-sector deal-making was effectively the same as reaching governmental agreements, and was surprised to discover otherwise.
He apparently didn’t realize that Assad is responsible for a series of deadly atrocities, which is why we’re only now seeing the president’s attitude toward Assad “change very much.”
Steve Bannon has been booted from the National Security Council:
President Donald Trump reorganized his National Security Council on Wednesday, removing his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, and downgrading the role of his Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert, according to a person familiar with the decision and a regulatory filing.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was given responsibility for setting the agenda for meetings of the NSC or the Homeland Security Council, and was authorized to delegate that authority to Bossert, at his discretion,according to the filing.
Under the move, the national intelligence director, Dan Coats, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, are again “regular attendees” of the NSC’s principals committee.
Nate Cohn writes, “Democrats Are Bad at Midterm Turnout. That Seems Ready to Change.” I’ll let you read what he has to say for yourself. But I get really tired of the meme that, when it comes to midterms, we should limit the construction of our narrative to the last two in 2010 and 2014. The truth is that turnout is abysmal overall for midterm elections. But when Democrats got mad about George W. Bush in 2006 – turnout improved significantly.
Jonathan Chait: “Imagine what the political world would look like for Republicans had Hillary Clinton won the election. Clinton had dragged her dispirited base to the polls by promising a far more liberal domestic agenda than Barack Obama had delivered, but she would have had no means to enact it. As the first president in 28 years to take office without the benefit of a Congress in her own party’s hands, she’d have been staring at a dead-on-arrival legislative agenda, all the low-hanging executive orders having already been picked by her predecessor, and years of scandalmongering hearings already teed up.”
“The morale of the Democratic base, which had barely tolerated the compromises of the Obama era and already fallen into mutual recriminations by 2016, would have disintegrated altogether. The 2018 midterms would be a Republican bloodbath, with a Senate map promising enormous gains to the Republican Party, which would go into the 2020 elections having learned the lessons of Trump’s defeat and staring at full control of government with, potentially, a filibuster-proof Senate majority.”
“Instead, Republicans under Trump are on the verge of catastrophe. Yes, they are about to gain a Supreme Court justice, no small thing, a host of federal judges, and a wide array of deregulation. Yet they are saddled with not only the most unpopular president at this point in time in the history of polling, but the potential for a partywide collapse the contours of which they have not yet imagined.”
“Republicans are discussing making an additional change to the Senate’s rules to more quickly confirm President Trump’s nominees,” The Hill reports.
“The change is separate from an expected vote Thursday that would prevent Democrats from using a filibuster to block Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch.”
“The additional change under consideration would affect hundreds of Trump nominations. The floated change would reduce debate time after a nominee clears an initial procedural hurdle from 30 hours to eight hours, greatly reducing the amount of time the Senate would need to confirm Trump nominees.”
“I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
— President Trump, quoted by the New York Times, on Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and sexual harassment allegations.
President Trump told the New York Times “that he thought that the former national security adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime by seeking the identities of Trump associates who were mentioned on intercepted communications and that other Obama administration officials may also have been involved.”
Said Trump: “I think it’s going to be the biggest story. It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.”
Monkey Cage: “The House has hundreds of caucuses and a rich history of organized legislative blocs — but the Freedom Caucus is a particularly strong institution. It has an elected hierarchy of faction leaders and, thanks to a tiered dues system, several full-time staffers coordinate their legislative actions. Strict bylaws also help unify the group. New caucus candidates must be vetted, and the caucus can boot members from the group. If 80 percent of the bloc agrees on a policy position, the whole group is required to stand as a united front. These features make it much harder to pick off individual faction members.”
“If Joe Biden would have run against Donald Trump, Biden would have won in a landslide.”
— Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), quoted by the New York Times.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) told CNN that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) should recuse himself from the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
Said Castro: “Most of all we’ve said that we’re not going to let this investigation go. Whatever form it takes. We’re going to make sure we’re there to get to the bottom of whether any Americans conspired with the Russians who interfered with our 2016 election.”
He added: “My impression is that I wouldn’t be surprised if some people end up in jail. I wish I could elaborate but I cannot at this time.”
Stanley McChrystal: “I like to say that leadership is a choice. As our leaders in Washington confront tough decisions about our budget priorities, I urge them to continue federal funding for public broadcasting. Public broadcasting makes our nation smarter, stronger and, yes, safer. It’s a small public investment that pays huge dividends for Americans. And it shouldn’t be pitted against spending more on improving our military. That’s a false choice.”
“This might seem like an unlikely position for me, a 34-year combat veteran. But it’s a view that has been shaped by my career leading brave men and women who thrive and win when they are both strong and smart. My experience has taught me that education, trusted institutions and civil discourse are the lifeblood of a great nation.”
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch “copied the structure and language used by several authors and failed to cite source material in his book and an academic article,” Politico reports.
“The documents show that several passages from the tenth chapter of his 2006 book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, read nearly verbatim to a 1984 article in the Indiana Law Journal. In several other instances in that book and an academic article published in 2000, Gorsuch borrowed from the ideas, quotes and structures of scholarly and legal works without citing them.”
A White House statement: “There is only one explanation for this baseless, last-second smear of Judge Gorsuch: those desperate to justify the unprecedented filibuster of a well-qualified and mainstream nominee to the Supreme Court.”
“The O’Reilly Factor” is facing a growing advertiser revolt, as 21 companies have pulled their commercials from the show after a report about five settlements with women who alleged sexual harassment or verbal abuse by host Bill O’Reilly, CNN reports.
Sara Fischer: Advertisers are the new media watchdog.
David Nather: “The sticking points are the same now as they’ve been all week: Conservatives want to get rid of more Obamacare insurance regulations, including the ones dealing with pre-existing conditions, and other Republicans really don’t want to do that.”
“This has been largely a White House-driven show, and House Republican leaders started to realize early yesterday that the emerging compromise probably would have lost more votes than it gained.”