The Open Thread for October 20, 2017

President Trump “was expected to spend the fall pushing his ambitious tax reform agenda and helping devastated regions in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico recover from hurricanes,” Politico reports.  “Instead, over a period of three weeks, Trump has hammered the NFL into submission over the national anthem protests, repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media and now reopened a fight over his — and his predecessor’s — handling of Gold Star families.”

“But these seeming distractions are the president’s substance — and the legislative agenda his predecessors have approached with a singular focus is, for him, largely a diversion.”

Today in our latest chapter of diversion, Trump sent General Kelly out to attack the wife and mother of the slain veteran, LaDavid Johnson, as well as Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.  Josh Marshall called his remarks “volcanic:”

“[T]he entirety of his comments seemed exploitative, an effort to turn people’s certainly reasonable (and I believe accurate) sense of being appalled at the President into an attack on military service and military sacrifice. That’s not right. That’s not true. It’s a more emotion-packed version of Trump’s effort to turn the anthem/police brutality protests into dishonoring military sacrifice. He ended up by refusing to take questions from reporters who couldn’t say they personally knew a Gold Star Family.

Freedom of speech and the press is also sacred. It is one of the values American military personnel strive to defend. I understand that he said this in a moment of peaked emotion. But we individuals or reporters don’t earn our spurs of civic freedom by being proximate to military service. That’s ugly and wrong. I am going to leave aside Kelly’s motives. But this spectacle seemed ugly and exploitative, ignoring much of what has happened over the last three days, falsifying other things. President Trump is a blowhard and a phony and a liar. Kelly isn’t. He brings prestige and a lifetime of military service to every remark. But at the end of the day this seemed like putting that wrapper of dignity around the most Trumpian of traits: never apologize, always attack, let the truth defend itself.”

I will question Kelly’s motives.  He dishonored himself today, and tarnished his credibility and career.  He is now a full fledged Trumpist, more Bannon than Bannon could ever be.  He is not there to contain Trump, he is there to give Trump military cover.  So he can go fuck himself.


“Former President George W. Bush never mentioned his name but delivered what sounded like a sustained rebuke to President Trump, decrying nationalism, protectionism and the coarsening of public debate while calling for a robust response to Russian interference in American democracy,” the New York Times reports.

Said Bush: “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade, forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. We’ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places.”


Wall Street Journal: “Steve Bannon, the failed presidential adviser and alt-right sympathizer, has declared war on incumbent Republicans, particularly Sen. Mitch McConnell. From his perch at Breitbart, Mr. Bannon is vowing to defeat officeholders who back Mr. McConnell as majority leader or who won’t sign onto Mr. Bannon’s populist agenda. So what kind of challengers is Mr. Bannon marshaling for the midterms?”

“One is fresh out of prison. Another held a town hall to discuss ‘chemtrail’ theories… In open seats or races with Democratic incumbents, Mr. Bannon is backing consensus mainstream candidates.”

Time: “Moore is not only a culture warrior. He is a populist Christian and a soldier in the larger Republican revolution that is rooted in frustration with Washington and prizes anti-establishment anger over all else. The same uprising that carried President Donald Trump into the White House looks poised to deliver an even more disruptive figure, one the party cannot control…. And the revolution is about to spread well beyond Dixie. Its field general, former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon, says he is recruiting a slate of insurgent outsiders who will vow to topple the Republican ruling class.”

“Bannon’s strategy is to knit together a disparate coalition, from evangelical populists to small-government libertarians, to take on the proverbial swamp. Already Bannon is jetting around the U.S., meeting with major Republican donors in a bid to convince them to defect from McConnell’s team…. If Moore loses in December, it would shave the party’s cushion in the upper chamber to a single vote—which means there is an outside chance that Moore’s rise and Bannon’s crusade could cost the party control of the Senate, giving Democrats the numbers, and the subpoena power, to thwart every aspect of Trump’s agenda. And in the much more likely event that Moore wins, the Senate is about to become harder to govern—if that’s possible.”



New York Times: “In a sign of mounting frustration among Republicans in Washington, Representative Pat Tiberi of Ohio, a senior lawmaker with close ties to his party’s leaders, is expected to resign and take up an executive post with a business group in his home state.”

“Mr. Tiberi, 54, could announce his plan to leave Congress as soon as this week, Republican officials said, though it is unclear when he intends to vacate his seat. Two Republicans who were briefed on Mr. Tiberi’s decision said he had indicated that he plans to join the Ohio Business Roundtable.”

Playbook: “It would be stunning — and quite the statement — if he leaves before tax reform is done.”



IS THE BIPARTISAN HEALTHCARE COMPROMISE DEAD OR NOT? Sam Baker: “Yes, the Senate’s bipartisan Affordable Care Act bill ran into some political roadblocks yesterday. The White House said President Trump, who had taken several positions over the course of the day, is against it. House Speaker Paul Ryan is also against it. And conservatives are against it.”

“The story of the Alexander-Murray bill likely won’t be over until December, when Congress has to take care of several must-pass bills, in negotiations where Democrats have a lot of leverage. The December agenda already includes funding the government and raising the debt ceiling — must-pass items that can only pass with a lot of Democratic votes, just like Alexander-Murray.”

“Key Senate Republicans are urgently trying to get President Trump to reconsider his apparent opposition to a bipartisan deal shoring up health insurance markets,” Politico reports.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who negotiated the deal with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), both spoke to the president about it on Wednesday evening.  Said Graham: “You can’t save Obamacare but you can keep the markets from collapsing until we get a replacement, which will be Graham-Cassidy … I just don’t see a transition to Obamacare to a block grant that doesn’t require at least a couple years to implement.”



First Read lists five reasons why Democrats have a big edge in Virginia’s gubernatorial race:

  1. Trump: The current president’s job-approval rating in the state is in the 30s, and remember that Trump lost this state to Hillary Clinton by 5 points on his best day of the general election.
  2. History: With just one exception (in 2013 when Terry McAuliffe defeated Ken Cuccinelli), the party that controls the White House has lost every gubernatorial election in Virginia going back to the 1970s.
  3. GOP’s poor performance in Virginia: Since 2005, Democrats are 9-1 in major statewide elections in Virginia (for president, Senate, governor).
  4. Cash: Northam is outraising Republican opponent Ed Gillespie, which is stunning given Gillespie’s background as a former RNC chair and lobbyist.
  5. The advertising war: And Northam is also outspending Gillespie on the TV airwaves, while party spending is about even (see below for more on that).

But they note Gillespie does have one important advantage in this race: Democrats in Virginia don’t turn out as well in non-presidential years.



Edward Luce: “How many poison pills does it take to kill a trade deal? Three, according to Donald Trump. Mexico and Canada are bending over backwards to preserve the North American Free Trade Agreement. But their tolerance for Mr Trump’s demands is wearing thin. It seems a matter of time before he declares America’s exit from ‘the worst trade deal ever.’ The temptation to withdraw from the World Trade Organization will grow as Mr Trump’s term wears on. Anyone who thinks he has dropped his vow to rip up the global trading system has not been paying attention.”

“Such tactics are the opposite of the art-of-the-deal image Mr Trump has spun. According to that playbook, Mr Trump opens with extravagant demands that force his counterparties to improve their offers. The final deal is far better than had he begun with a realistic gambit. Yet when Mr Trump refuses to dilute his outrageous opening offer, the suspicion arises that he never wanted a deal. That, indeed, has been his approach to almost every negotiation.”

Axios: The industries at risk if Trump quits NAFTA



Charles Blow: “It is a commonly accepted rule among those who are in the business of argument, especially online, that he or she who invokes Adolf Hitler, either in oratory or essays, automatically forfeits the argument.”

“That said, there are strategies that Hitler used to secure power and rise — things that allowed his murderous reign — that can teach us about political theory and practice. And very reasonable and sage comparisons can be drawn between Hitler’s strategies and those of others.”

“Trump is no Hitler, but the way he has manipulated the American people with outrageous lies, stacked one on top of the other, has an eerie historical resonance. Demagogy has a fixed design.”



Matt Bai: “Whatever his impact may be on the country or the world, Donald Trump’s presidency imperils the future of his party, and there isn’t a serious-minded Republican in Washington who would tell you otherwise, privately.”

“Trump doesn’t care what happens to Republicans after he’s gone. The party was always like an Uber to him — a way to get from point A to point B without having to find some other route or expend any cash.”

“Which leads to the question I hear all the time these days. Why aren’t more Republicans separating themselves from Trump? And why aren’t they doing more with the power they have to get in his way?”

Key takeaway: “The real fear for most elected officials in Washington isn’t that they may say something to offend persuadable voters… No, the fear now, if you’re sitting on either end of the Capitol, is that some no-name activist will decide to primary you, because you’ve somehow run afoul of extremists with followings on Twitter and Facebook, and you’ll have to spend all your time and money holding onto a job that you might very well lose, since it takes only one fringe group or millionaire and a few thousand angry voters to tip the balance in your average congressional primary.”



President Trump delivered a conspiracy theory via a remarkable tweet in which he suggested Russian officials, the FBI and the Democratic Party worked together to create a dossier of potentially incriminating information about him during the 2016 presidential election.  “Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?”  CNN: “Even by Trump standards, this morning’s tweet is somewhat remarkable.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

28 comments on “The Open Thread for October 20, 2017

  1. Josh Marshall has been on fire about General Kelly’s speech.

    Kelly’s words …

    It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred. You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life — the dignity of life — is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well.

    Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. But I just thought — the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred.

    There’s sooo much wrong with this. First, he acts like the Congresswoman was eavesdropping on a private conversation and not an invited guest in the car. Second, in what fantasy world does Kelly live. Women were sacred back in the good old days? First of all, women are people. Objects can be sacred. And I have no idea where he pulled this fairy tale vision of women’s lives back in the day.

    And how does he say with a straight face that religion is gone?

    And, oh look!, there he is calling out the Kahn’s – another Gold Star Family, who apparently are doing it wrong.

    And not once did he mention Myeshia Johnson. Seriously, how could he not mention her. Geez, even if he thinks Trump did nothing wrong in his call, she was horribly upset. How do these people not even acknowledge her?

    All this talk about Gen. Kelly being the grown-up in the administration is nonsense. He might have used bigger words than his boss, but he’s all Trumpian.

  2. “All this talk about Gen. Kelly being the grown-up in the administration is nonsense. ”

    Remember, they’re grading on the curve of “in the administration.” He’s a shit-heel in any other context, but in this one he’s the grown-up — like a 5-year-old in the 3-year-old classroom is a grown-up.

  3. Shorter Kelly: How dare the Congresswoman listen in on the sacred phone call that I (and several others) listened in on.

  4. It probably took him quite a while to come up with a defense of his boss, especially considering his boss is the one who dragged Kelly’s son into this in the first place.

    Assuming Kelly is telling the truth, and there’s little reason to believe he’s not, Trump’s insensitivity went public again because Kelly gave him a short, rough script, and the only part Trump could remember was “he knew what he signed up for.”

    As I suspected, the reason Trump hadn’t called the families before this was it made him uncomfortable and he didn’t want to do it. Perhaps they should threaten to send him to bed without his supper.

  5. I’ve got some ideas as to why no one in the administration seems to give a shit about the feelings of the widow, the soldier’s mother, why it took so long (12 days, I believe; and one buried press release) for TrumpCo to respond in some fashion…

  6. RE Vanella

    Although I run the risk of being smeared as a “purity tester”, can one of you party people tell me why it’s a good idea for the DNC to name as deputy finance chair one Dan Halperin? The guy was the former chairman of the Georgia Restaurant Association and is an anti minimum wage lobbyist.

    This, on top of the purging briefly noted in the Vox bit above, are a harbinger for another failure.

    • Perhaps you should ask a party person. You don’t get to slap a label on me and then ask me to defend the position you assigned to me.

  7. Interesting that Rep.Tiberi is jumping ship, usually they wait until their facing defeat or their party has lost power, word is more to retirements to come. Bannon remains a troublemaker for the Republicans , Breitbart principality or not believe he will be outspent and out maneuvered by the Republican elite. NAFTA, expect every CEO of every company that has a plant in Mexico to be on the phone screaming, it was America’s Corporations that made out like bandits, not the Mexicans or Canadians. Healthcare we hardly knew ye, Trumpcare and a slew of pathetic political band aids are coming. I’ll probably lose my insurance but for those that do not please enjoy the 20-30% rate hike. Finally word is the senate has passed a budget bill that’s similar to the one in the house, loaded with love for the rich and pennies for the rest it’s time for reconciliation. I’m predicting lies by the bucket coupled with exploding deficits in the grand tradition of Reagan. As for Kelly I view generals as completely political, how do you think they got the gig in the first place? Kelly is both taking one for the team and playing defense for a failed presidency that’s prone to lashing out in fury.

  8. RE Vanella

    Why so defensive? It’s was an open question not directed towards one individual (hence the usage of the plural “people”).

    As far as “assigning labels” are you or are you not a member of the Democratic party? How about the rest of the Blue D crew? I believe you’ve assigned yourself.

    • cassandram

      But not a member of the DNC. None of us are and none of us are anywhere near these decisions. Still — the 4 that were cut from Executive Committee and/or At-Large positions still have other positions, I think. And the 4 that were cut were there damn near forever. I am just fine with a shakeup that resulted in the inclusion of more millennials and union people. Zogby and Buckley have been on the Executive Committee since 2001. Germond since the 80’s. No one gets to have these positions for life and if there is one thing the DNC needs it is new blood. Zogby in particular has been plumping for the DNC to call for caucus-style rather than primary-style elections (contra the instructions of the URC). An expansion of caucuses is an effort to join in the voter suppression efforts of the GOP, IMO. I don’t think that the caucuses is why he is gone but I don’t think he has done himself any favors recently.

      • Total fan of new blood, the DNC is as calcified as the senate at this point. After suffering the loss of 1,000 seats in state and local governments their reaction is “Who? Me?” Yeah you! They need to go and many more besides, the goal is to win, not to make nice with comfortably lodged dead wood.

  9. RE Vanella

    Thank you for your thoughts. I do realize registered party members are necessarily in the DNC & nobody here makes these decisions. I was wondering what you views were and you told me. I would have hoped the main consideration was what a committee member thinks rather than longevity. Plus I’m very skeptical of this Halperin character… But that’s party business. I’m out of that.

    • cassandram

      I don’t know much about Halperin other than he was on the Obama Finance Team and was a co-chair for Kasim Reed’s first mayoral campaign. This is the list of the new DNC at-large delegates. And frankly, I don’t know much about most of these names.

    • cassandram

      I would have hoped the main consideration was what a committee member thinks rather than longevity.

      The longevity hasn’t been of much use recently, yes? People are always talking about how calcified the DNC is, how it needs to modernize, get younger, get more active, get different ideas. The people who are gone may be perfect for all I know, but it is tough to have to live with expectations of renewal while asking for the old ones we think have the right markings to stay.

  10. RE Vanella

    *aren’t necessarily. Apologies.

  11. Re: DNC. As long as the party keeps chasing corporate money, it will lose. Until people understand that money was only necessary to buy TV ads, and that TV ads don’t move the needle anymore while the much cheaper micro-targeted online advertising does, Democrats will continue to lose.

    I know lots of people who consider themselves centrists, and their one unifying characteristic is that they don’t pay nearly so much attention to this stuff as we do. Briefly put, they don’t give a crap how the policy gets made or even what it is as long as the boat doesn’t rock. Once upon a time TV ads put the candidate’s name out there enough to make a dent. Doesn’t work that way anymore.

    You don’t have to be old to be a dinosaur.

    Also, too, Zogby apparently got the boot in large part because the Dems don’t want to piss off big Jewish donors by talking about Palestinian rights.

    • cassandram

      The GOP is openly owned by its donors while they grin and talk about The American People. One of the signature threads of recent reporting is just how unhappy the GOP donor base is with the current party. The media I hear has shifted from chasing down Trump voters to get their opinion on how their man is doing to speaking directly to those who have bought a share in the GOP. It isn’t even a surprise that the people the media now wants to speak to are the people who are not getting their money’s worth.

      The money is a problem, but you will not bypass the power of Citizens United by closing off donations from corporations or from wealthier donors. A modern campaign is expensive and no matter what people say about TV ads, a candidate without them (where you have to have them) is seen to have abandoned the field. Even in Delaware’s largely tiny media market, the fact that Lisa Blunt Rochester could get herself a battery of ads on TV is widely thought to have helped her name recognition and lifted her profile. There is simply no point in unilaterally disarming on money. No point.

      That said, there have been a number of small donor funded groups that have been remarkably effective like Flippable.

      Zogby has been on the DNC Executive Committee for 17 years. It isn’t as though the Dems just noticed his Palestinian activism.

    • Correct, Zogby is a non stop Palestinian cheering section and total agreement about corporate cash.

      • You mean Zogby, a Palestinian, goes on about his people more than Jewish Democrats go on about Israelis? Do tell.

        The difference is that American policy is heavily tilted against the Palestinians. God forbid they should have a champion in a position of any power.

  12. It might be widely thought, but there’s no data whatever to back it up. A far better determinant was that in a race of three unknowns, she was the only woman, and Blunt, at least, carries a tiny bit of name recognition, a significant factor considering how many of the voters came from upstate. Had her name been Charlie Rochester, the TV ads wouldn’t have made any difference.

    I don’t have data to back that up, either, but there are basic rules of politics that lots of people would like to pretend aren’t true but are. One is that name recognition is crucial, so of course in a situation in which your name is unknown broadcasting is a smart expenditure.

    While money might be crucial (I am not convinced it is), the source of that money is more so. In his first run for the presidency Barack Obama got about half his money from small donors. That’s a lot of money — more than Donald Trump used. He could have taken that opportunity to turn the Democratic Party toward populism, but instead he cozied up to Wall Street, and we can see the results worked for him. He’s not hanging in Grant Park, he’s hanging with Richard Branson. The lure of wealth is strong indeed, but money is power, and power corrupts.

    Trump went from joke to serious candidate not because of money, but because he attracted tens of thousands to his rallies, just as Obama had in 2008. Same with Bernie. You need some money, but if you sell yourself to rich people or corporations, you’ll serve rich people or corporations.

    It’s that simple, and making excuses for it is not changing it.

  13. cassandram

    That’s alot of word salad there to say that you have no idea how the money really works. Obama still raised a great deal of money from small dollar donors in 2011, beating his 2008 haul, too. In many ways, OFA was about maintaining and expanding that donor list. He may also not be in Grant Park, but he is working at developing next generation leadership. And I imagine Richard Branson does not qualify to attend.

    Trump was never a serious candidate. He was the candidate with the most FREE MEDIA. If he had to pay for all of that coverage, where would he be? And the difference between Obama and Bernie is that Obama got more people to actually vote for him AND show up at the rallys. That is pretty important and is the difference between a campaign that raises the money it needs to actually execute its plan.

    You still can’t make a case for unilaterally disarming here. And there is no reason to while a modern campaign needs sophisticated outreach and data management that also costs money.

  14. Really? I have no idea? Are you now going to claim that half the money isn’t spent on highly inefficient TV advertising? I thought the idea was to mobilize your base to vote. You don’t do that with TV ads — you do it by using the same micro-targeted ads the Russians used. Obama’s 2008 method is outdated.

    Am I reading correctly that you think Sanders lost to Hillary but Obama won because Obama had more money? I disagree, strongly. Obama had name recognition going into his race, and started his race much earlier. Sanders also had the drawbacks of his age, his lack of connection to the party and its honchos, and the anti-misogyny backlash (the claims that people who preferred his positions were really motivated by hatred of Hillary and, by extension, women). Do you really want to reduce that to “if only he had taken corporate money he might have won”? How would that work, given that all his support was about his refusal to take that money?

    That not-serious candidate beat our serious one. And our candidate contributed quite a bit of his “free media” — most Clinton ads I saw replayed things Trump said and added “tut-tut” at the end. That was tens of millions well-spent, eh?

    Also: To claim that failure to take corporate money is “unilateral disarmament” is the same old straw-man bullshit we’re so accustomed to. The alternatives aren’t all or nothing, as is obvious to anyone not in the throes of argument. But it’s easier to defend if you pretend the alternative is no money at all, right? It’s a cheap trick and unworthy of you.

    You can fix the party or pretend it’s not broken. HIllary’s fund-raising was prodigious. Money without message is wasted. And if you’re going to take corporate money, you can’t credibly claim to be working for the people.

    Yes, Republicans lie when they say they work for the people. But so do Democrats, and their base is more gullible than ours.

    • Soros, George
      Soros Fund Management
      New York, NY $21,135,246

    • cassandram

      Awesome, you’re an expert on social media now. HRC also paid for a massive GOTV action that Trump did not. He used his own plane, his own resorts and hotels for events. If she had not been on TV you would have complained that she had wrongly abandoned this venue. The HRC ads that I saw were not Trump focused, and there were plenty in social media (which is about the only place I see ads). But you can make pretend that raising a ton of money for a normal Presidential election isn’t necessary and see how far that gets you. The bottom line is that it cost money to reach voters. And there was a message — it got swamped in the toxic identity politics that Trump got all of his free media for. You can continue to pretend that all of the racism and misogyny that this fool ran on wasn’t his biggest draw — for those who voted for him and for the media who came to a bloody halt every time the man was ready to speak someplace.

      “Fixing the party” is not going to get done by strangling it of resources. And let’s not pretend that Bernie didn’t take corporate money too. And wouldn’t have if that is what the DNC had to offer. Just like taxes, you get it from the people who have the money.

      • This was a “Normal” presidential election. WE should be embarrassed of the election that just took place.

  15. RE Vanella

    I just read that Perez nominated Donna Brazile as like some sort of at-large member. That’s fucking hilarious. I would love to hear her fresh ideas.

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