David Graham says go ahead, argue about politics with your family today. “There are two primary reasons to just dive in. First, President Trump’s ability to grab the spotlight and inject himself into so many facets of life makes trying to avoid politics practically futile these days. I’m a political journalist and spend all my time talking, reporting, and writing about politics, so I am not especially representative, but I also live far outside the Beltway in North Carolina. I am astonished at how often conversations with “civilians” outside of politics and journalism drift inexorably toward politics, followed by an awkward silence as everyone realizes the discussion has gone there. Besides, what else are you going to talk about? The weather? That’s going to be a climate-change debate in no time at all. The NFL? Don’t even get started. Might as well embrace the inevitable!
Second, the stakes are higher this year. That isn’t to say that politics doesn’t affect our lives deeply all the time—if I felt it didn’t, I wouldn’t waste my time covering it—but the matters that the last year or two have brought into the arena are central to the nation’s identity: the role of racism in American society, the fate of longstanding norms about how the U.S. functions, the appropriate role for our country in global affairs, what rule of law means, and nuclear war, for pete’s sake. These are more important than the details of health-care legislation, marginal tax rates, or any number of the mundane topics that might have caused friction at previous years’ family feasts. If the things I’m talking about here are more likely to cause screaming matches, that’s because they’re so important.
Which isn’t to endorse screaming matches—more on that in a bit. But given the increasing segregation of U.S. society by income, education level, religiosity, and political belief, there are few occasions when most Americans are as likely to be in room with other people who (1) hold different political views from them and (2) are obligated to actually interact and talk with them. Only by talking to relatives can you find out whether they hold dubious political positions (read: ones you disagree with, but also ones that are factually incorrect), and thus try to convince them to adopt your position.”
“Robert Mueller’s investigators are asking questions about Jared Kushner’s interactions with foreign leaders during the presidential transition, including his involvement in a dispute at the United Nations in December, in a sign of the expansive nature of the special counsel’s probe of Russia’s meddling in the election,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The Mueller team’s questions come as investigators scrutinize Mr. Kushner for his initial omission of any foreign contacts from a government form required to obtain a security clearance.
All the times Jared Kushner has failed to tell Congress something important https://t.co/d9nXN8Xj76
— Vox (@voxdotcom) November 20, 2017
A new Strategy Research poll in Alabama finds Roy Moore (R) edging Doug Jones (D) in the U.S. Senate special election, 47% to 45%, with 5% undecided with 3% indicating plans to write-in a candidate. The previous poll, conducted after first round of sexual misconduct allegations, had Moore leading by six points. The poll before that had Moore up by eleven points.
Gabriel Sherman: “It’s perhaps hard to remember now, but it wasn’t long ago when Trump handed Kushner a comically broad portfolio that included plans to reinvent government, reform the V.A., end the opioid epidemic, run point on China, and solve Middle East peace. But since his appointment, according to sources, Kelly has tried to shrink Kushner’s responsibilities to focus primarily on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And even that brief appears to be creating tensions between Kushner and Kelly.”
“According to two Republicans who have spoken with Trump, the president has also been frustrated with Kushner’s political advice, including his encouragement to back losing Alabama G.O.P. candidate Luther Strange and to fire F.B.I. Director James Comey, which Kushner denies. (For what it’s worth, Kushner’s choice of Strange prevented Trump from the embarrassment of inadvertently supporting Roy Moore.) Trump, according to three people who’ve spoken to him, has advocated for Jared and Ivanka to return to New York in part because they are being damaged by negative press.”
Said one source close to Kushner: “He keeps pressuring them to go.”
“The FBI said it is investigating Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA) for an alleged scheme to pay his primary opponent to drop out of a 2012 race against him and for allegedly lying to investigators,” the Daily Beast reports.
“The revelation came from a search warrant application unsealed in a Pennsylvania federal court on Monday… An FBI agent asked a judge to authorize access to Brady’s personal email account on the belief it holds evidence contradicting an anticipated defense about the campaign payments. The judge approved the warrant and the FBI said it got one CD worth of data from the e-mail account.”
Long past time Bob Brady goes away.
Minneapolis Star Tribune: “A pair of Minnesota state lawmakers — one a DFL senator, the other a Republican representative — announced Tuesday that they will resign from office in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. Word of the resignations of Sen. Dan Schoen and Rep. Tony Cornish came within two hours of each other, capping a stunning sequence of events that vividly demonstrated a new awareness of what many insiders say has been a long-standing tolerance of mistreatment of women working at Minnesota’s Capitol. Both men had been under pressure from leaders of their parties to resign.”
Ty Cobb is trying to prime us to put the Russia scandal behind us if Mueller wraps without accusing Trump of wrongdoing. He will have a lot of help. But in truth the Russia scandal already calls Trump’s legitimacy into doubt. https://t.co/zK1rgPcwgO
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) November 21, 2017
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) says she supports GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, Politico reports.
Said Murkowski: “I have always supported the freedom to choose. I believe that the federal government should not force anyone to buy something they do not wish to buy, in order to avoid being taxed.”
“Murkowski’s renewed support for repealing the mandate — after repeatedly opposing her party’s Obamacare repeal bills this year — may be a boon for Senate Republicans’ tax legislation, which includes mandate repeal and is expected to be taken up on the Senate floor next week.”
In his Plum Line post, “How Democrats hope to make Trump pay for his awful tax plan,” Greg Sargent observes:
“One looming challenge Democrats face is to close what you might call the “pluto-populist gap” — the vast disconnect between how working-class whites perceive President Trump’s instincts and intentions on the one hand, and his full-on embrace of the congressional GOP’s plutocratic agenda on the other.
Democrats are set to go up on the air with a seven-figure TV ad buy targeting House Republicans in multiple districts with a lot of working-class whites — as well as in districts with more college-educated whites, I’ve learned. The animating idea is that the GOP tax proposals — which will be featured in the ads — are likely to prove toxic among both those constituencies, and particularly among those working-class whites who switched from Barack Obama to Trump. […]
The goal of the ads will be to hit two messages. The first is that the GOP changes to the tax code themselves would be enormously regressive, showering most of their benefits on the wealthy while giving crumbs to working- and middle-class Americans or even raising their taxes. The second is that these tax cuts would necessitate big cuts to the safety net later — the ad references $25 billion in Medicare cuts that could be triggered by the GOP plan’s deficit busting — further compounding the GOP agenda’s regressiveness down the line.”
Can't make it up: The leading pick to run the Census Bureau is the author of a book called "Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.” https://t.co/uERU1pifJD
— Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell) November 21, 2017
NBC: “Obviously, I would never vote for Doug Jones,” the Democratic candidate in the race, Curtiss said in a telephone interview with NBC News. “At this point, I would probably not even go to vote on Dec. 12.” That’s not a position she ever thought she’d find herself in — and it’s not a comfortable one. “I’ve never felt the inner turmoil I feel over this,” she said. “At some point, decency comes before politics.”
It’s not that Rs will vote for Doug Jones, it’s that they stay home. That’s the dynamic to watch for.
Ed Kilgore: “With a Democratic wave election next year appearing more likely every day, and the GOP’s Roy Moore disaster in Alabama making Democrat Doug Jones the front-runner for Jeff Sessions’s Senate seat, there is now, for the first time, a plausible path to a Democratic majority next year. If Democrats win Alabama and the five 2018 Senate races that the Cook Political Report rates as toss-ups — not at all an unlikely scenario in a “wave” election — and don’t lose any of the races in which they are now favored, then they’ll enter the 116th Congress with 51 senators.
What would that mean for Trump’s judicial appointments and the Federalist Society’s agenda? There’s no way to know for sure, but with all 48 Democrats voting against the abolition of SCOTUS filibusters earlier this year, Democrats could bring back that great obstacle to a fifth justice ready to overturn Roe v. Wade — the great prize conservative evangelical leaders hoped for in backing the heathenish Trump for president — right away. The Judiciary Committee, which schedules confirmation hearings and votes, would be back in Democratic hands, which would also probably mean the restoration of “blue slips.” The Trump administration would be forced to negotiate with Democratic senators over lower-court judges. And on non-SCOTUS judicial confirmation votes in the full Senate, Republicans would no longer have the whip hand.
Even if Republicans do hang on to the Senate in 2018, the road ahead would become very quickly rocky for conservatives. The Senate landscape in 2020 is unfavorable: Republicans will be defending 22 of the 33 seats up that year. And in a presidential election year, particularly if Donald Trump is running for reelection, Democratic turnout should be maximized. It would obviously be a mistake to rule out a second term for Trump. But from this distance, his persistently low job approval ratings suggest he’s unlikely to pull off a second huge upset.
All in all, conservative legal beagles should do all the celebrating they can right now. ”
— The Rude Pundit (@rudepundit) November 21, 2017
Eve Fairbanks: “Three weeks ago, numerous women stepped forward to accuse him of extraordinary acts of assault… But I’m not here to talk about that. I want to talk about the deeper, subtler, more insidious effect Mark Halperin had on our politics — one which we’ll be paying for for years to come.”
“The Note purported to reveal Washington’s secrets. In fact, its purpose was the exact opposite: to make the city, and US politics, appear impossible to understand. It replaced normal words with jargon. It coined the phrase ‘Gang of 500,’ the clubby network of lobbyists, aides, pols, and hangers-on who supposedly, like the Vatican’s cardinals, secretly ran DC. That wasn’t true — power is so diffuse. But Halperin claimed he knew so much more than we did, and we began to believe it.”
“Once you believe that, it’s not hard to be convinced that politics is only comprehensible, like nuclear science, to a select few. There were those chosen ones — the people who’d flattered Halperin to get a friendly mention in his newsletter, the ones he declared to be in the know — and the rest of us. Halperin wrote about Washington like it was an intriguing game, the kind that masked aristocrats played to entertain themselves at 19th-century parties: Everyone was both pawn and player, engaged in a set of arcane maneuvers to win an empty jackpot that ultimately meant nothing of true importance.”
Trump has a lot of fake media gripes, but from my vantage point, he’s currently benefitting enormously from widespread media reluctance to center the story of the new sexual misconduct paradigm around him.
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) November 21, 2017
Alabama pastor Flip Benham, who recently appeared with U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore (R) at a campaign rally, told an Alabama radio station that Moore dated “younger ladies” for their “purity.”
Said Benham: “He did that because there is something about a purity of a young woman, there is something that is good, that’s true, that’s straight and he looked for that.”