Open Thread

The Open Thread for March 14, 2018

Democrat Conor Lamb has defeated Republican Rick Saccone in the special election in the 18th Congressional District in Western Pennsylvania by some 600 votes, with all of the absentee ballots counted. MSNBC has declared him the apparent winner, because while there are some dozens to a couple hundred military ballots an provisional ballots left to count, even if Saccone wins all of them, he will not make up his deficit.      But either way, a close 50/50 result in this district that voted for Trump by 20% is monstrously bad news for Republicans nationwide.  There are 114 Republican held seats in the House right now that are less Republican leaning than PA18 was before tonight.

Mike Allen: “Regardless of the ultimate winner, it was a humiliating and sobering night for the GOP. This a district President Trump won by 20 points. The Democratic energy and Republican depression signal a brutal midterm season and the increasingly likely return of Speaker Pelosi.”

Rick Klein: “As Republicans pick up the pieces – and ponder the prospect of spending more money on Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District if Rick Saccone wants a recount – they will know well that there are easily 100 House districts that are likely to be more competitive than Pennsylvania’s special election had any right to be.”

“President Trump has ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, orchestrating a major change to his national security team amid delicate negotiations with North Korea,” the Washington Post reports.  “Pompeo will replace him at the State Department, and Gina Hapsel — the deputy director at the CIA — will succeed him at the CIA, becoming the first woman to run the spy agency, if confirmed.”

New York Times: “Mr. Tillerson has been out of favor with Mr. Trump for months but had resisted being pushed out and vowed to remain on the job. But his distance from Mr. Trump’s inner circle was clear last week when the president accepted an invitation to meet with Mr. Kim, to the surprise of Mr. Tillerson, who was traveling in Africa at the time.”

His sudden firing this morning seemed awfully suspicious because of the above story.   So the White House tried to lie about the timing of the firing, saying that Tillerson was informed on Friday.  But the State Department said that Rex Tillerson only learned of his termination when he read President Trump’s tweet on Tuesday morning, the AP reports.  “Two senior department officials said Tillerson received a call from John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, on Friday, but was only told that there might be a presidential tweet that would concern him. Kelly didn’t tell Tillerson what the tweet might say or when it might actually publish.”  Washington Post: “In the end, no one was more surprised that Tillerson was fired than Tillerson himself.”

The State Department spokesman making these statements about when Tillerson was actually informed, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein, was immediately fired for telling the truth.  Seriously.

The Tillerson firing may trigger the resignations of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, because BuzzFeed reported last year that all 3 cabinet secretaries had a “suicide pact” that if one of them was fired they would all leave.   This alleged suicide pact was cited as why Tillerson did not leave his post after Trump gave a controversial speech to the Boy Scouts last  year. It was referenced again as a reason Tillerson didn’t quit after he had openly disparaged Trump, referring to him as a “moron.”  We may now find out that the pact was bullshit or that Mnuchin and Mattis are not men of their word if their resignations are not pending.

“The strategy shift has been dramatic. For the weeks of Feb. 4 and Feb. 11, roughly two-thirds of the broadcast television ads from Saccone’s campaign, the super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund and the NRCC mentioned taxes, according to a Politico analysis of data from Advertising Analytics. For the week of Feb. 18, that dropped to 36 percent, and to 14 percent the week after.”

“Since the beginning of March, tax ads have been essentially non-existent. Only two are on the air now — one from the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action which briefly mentions the tax law, and a radio ad from a progressive group attacking Saccone for supporting the law.”

Meanwhile, “publicly, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did little to help Conor Lamb (D). Behind the scenes was a different story,” McClatchy reports.

“The Democratic nominee in Pennsylvania’s special House election — whom polls suggest is poised to pull off a shock upset in Tuesday’s race over Rick Saccone (R) — benefited from a quiet but determined DCCC effort to boost his candidacy.”

“The group’s multi-pronged effort totaled more than $1 million and included significant investments in field staff, NFL-themed digital ads, and a last-minute get-out-the-vote effort to pull Lamb across the finish line. It also included a nearly $450,000 infusion into the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, money used to fund voter outreach.”

“In the spring of 2016, longtime political operative Roger Stone had a phone conversation that would later seem prophetic, according to the person on the other end of the line,” the Washington Post reports.

“Stone, an informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, said he had learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that his organization had obtained emails that would torment senior Democrats such as John Podesta, then campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”

“The conversation occurred before it was publicly known that hackers had obtained the emails of Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee, documents which WikiLeaks released in late July and October. The U.S. intelligence community later concluded the hackers were working for Russia.”

President Trump’s longtime personal aide John McEntee was fired because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes, CNN reports.  Indeed, he was escorted out of the White House on Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal, “without being allowed to collect his belongings… He left without his jacket.”

But here’s the kicker: “Minutes after news of his departure broke, the Trump campaign announced McEntee would be joining the reelection effort as a senior adviser for campaign operations.”

President Trump “has been seeking counsel from confidantes on how he should handle the Stormy Daniels situation,” CNN reports.  “The source said Trump is being told by advisers not to fight Daniels’ decision to break a confidentiality agreement because it would make him look guilty. This source said it’s the only reason Trump has stayed quiet on the issue and hasn’t been tweeting about it.”

“The source also believes the controversy potentially poses a bigger threat to Trump’s presidency than Russia. The difference here compared to accusations from other women is that there’s a signed agreement and a payment.”

A great new book, Russian Roulette, reports that George Papadopoulos spent months “trying to set up a back channel between the campaign and the Kremlin, in part to arrange a Trump-Putin meeting before Election Day,” according to Mother Jones.

“According to a later court filing, Papadopoulos, who in October 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, aimed to set up an ‘off the record’ meeting between campaign representatives and Putin’s office. Trump has famously denied there was any relationship between his campaign and Moscow. But Russian Roulette reveals that Papadopoulos has told investigators that at a March 31, 2016, meeting Trump held with his foreign policy team, when Papadopoulos informed Trump he had contacts in the United Kingdom who could set up a meeting between Trump and Putin, Trump said this was an ‘interesting’ idea. Trump, according to Papadopoulos’ account, looked at then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a top Trump adviser at the time, as if he expected him to follow up. Afterward, Papadopoulos, working with Russian cutouts, kept pursuing such a meeting.”

A federal just said that Paul Manafort “runs a significant risk of spending the rest of his life in prison and the evidence against him by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office seems strong,” Politico reports.  Said U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis: “Given the nature of the charges against the defendant and the apparent weight of the evidence against him, defendant faces the very real possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.”

Three sources confirmed to CNN that Stormy Daniels made new claims about Donald Trump in an interview she taped with 60 Minutes. CBS producers are working on verifying these claims. “The interview could air on next Sunday’s 60 Minutes. But CBS won’t confirm the air date. In fact, the network won’t even confirm there was an interview at all.”

A new CBS News poll finds President Trump’s overall job approval rating remains virtually unchanged, 38% to 57%.  “As has been the case since the start of his term, a large majority of Republicans continue to approve of the job he’s doing, while most Democrats disapprove.”

“President Trump, fresh off replacing his secretary of state and C.I.A. director, is considering firing his secretary of veterans affairs and installing Energy Secretary Rick Perry in the post,” the New York Timesreports.

“Mr. Trump did not make a formal offer to Mr. Perry when the two men met on Monday. But the people said the president has grown impatient with the department’s current secretary, David Shulkin, and may want to replace him with someone already in his cabinet.”

CNN: “Trump and his senior aides are frustrated with Shulkin because they believe he has undermined the White House on several occasions and is unwilling to work with other members of his agency who were appointed by the Trump administration.”

“Almost 14 months into Donald Trump’s turbulent White House tenure, loyalists are in, dissenters are out and the president himself is acting on his own instincts more swiftly than ever to make decisions on policies from trade to North Korea,” Reuters reports.

“People close to Trump said his firing on Tuesday of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the latest sign of the Republican president’s growing impatience with his initial set of hand-picked advisers who he viewed as slow-walking his favored policies.”

“Trump will still encourage disagreement within his inner circle, these people said, but once he makes a decision, he wants it carried out swiftly.”

NBC News: Everyone who’s come and gone from Trump’s White House.

A new University of Chicago survey of 43 top economists found not a single one said President Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum will end up being a net positive for Americans.

Overall, 65% of respondents said they “strongly disagreed” when asked if Trump’s move “imposing new US tariffs on steel and aluminum will improve Americans’ welfare,” while 28% simply disagreed. Three economists, or the remaining 7%, did not respond to the survey.

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

12 comments on “The Open Thread for March 14, 2018

  1. Saccone will want a recount, question is who would pay for it as the Republicans want to forget about him almost as much as Roy Moore. Tillerson’s termination was handled badly like everything else Trump does and Pompeo is very much in the pocket of the evil Koch Brothers, nothing is fixed or made right here. As noted by everyone on earth Stormy Daniels would have brought down any other politician, but Trump has endured not one but many “fatal errors”, problem is this one has staying power. That and your not going to hurt a pornstar with Trump’s usual name calling and infantile taunts, dare say she can give it back double. Admit it, if the 60 Minutes piece airs you will watch it intently. Then again so will I.

  2. cassandram

    So here’s what I think we are learning:

    1. Good candidates that won’t be liberal firebrands, but will embrace some basic Dem positions can win. Lamb was pro-union; pro-choice; pro universal health care and against the tax cuts for the wealthy can win in spite of being more conservative on issues like guns or resource extraction.

    2. Good candidates who are speaking to their constituents where they are — talking about the local concerns rather than trying to redo the Presidential seem to do better.

    3. Party support apparatus that focuses on *support* seems to be a solid strategy — support GOTV, organizing efforts and let the candidate be the face of the campaign.

    4. Don’t take the opponent’s bait to nationalize the campaign.

    5. Focus on people and a fair embrace of your true positions can beat money and can beat gerrymandering. And Dems are fired up AF.

    • I think It will be more of a challenge to not nationalize the races this November, rather than an isolated special election, but no doubt that (obviously not NON involvement) unseen involvement from the national party helped.

      Here is my worry…. that Dems will try to appeal to the whole country as if it is this deep red district. If there is one thing you can trust the DNC to do, it is to learn the wrong lesson.
      They will try to get Obama-turned-Trump voters to vote for them, RATHER than excite and turn out their base. I have this worry, because we’ve seen it from them many times before. I’m happy to be surprised. As I slowly warm to the idea of Cory Booker, I can see how he would run a much more progressive and hopeful campaign than anything Perez and Schumer and Kaine can come up with.

      To make it worse, the likes of Senator Warren are being cast as “rebels’ while spineless traitors like Carper escape criticism (obviously not here, but in the general zeitgeist).
      Lamb has also said he wont support probably-soon-to-be Speaker Pelosi. What happens if that becomes the strategy to put the democrats back in power? Did it have any bearing on his win at all? I dont pretend to know, but it is certainly at least a peice of it. Was he lying to his voters (im also ok with lying to MAGATS to win, so if he did, we’re cool)
      Im certainly not in favor of a more right wing speaker. Honestly, Id rather see her stay and Schumer be shown the door, but he’s barnicaled himself to power.

      A Conner Lamb type dem is fine in PA coal country. He doesnt seem to care too much about the environment, but he can be outvoted on that and at least he isn’t a rabid bigot? It’s also fine, seeing as that district is gone soon anyway.

      45 has given the dems the gift of not really HAVING to run against him per se…. No one needs to be reminded how much of a steaming pile of filth he is. There is no need to “warn about what he might do” close to 60% of the country have a negative opinion of him that more than likely cant be changed.
      I would get quite a kick out of dems not event mentioning his name… just talk about the “chaotic and ineffective republican leadership”.

      • cassandram

        The DNC has been largely fingerprintless in Dem races since the debacle in Omaha. They are focused on what Perez wants the whole party to focus on — organizing, GOTV and support candidates want. They aren’t involved with candidate selection.

        The DCCC, DSCC, DLSC are different animals with different agendas and approaches. These guys can be involved with candidate selection, but in the main candidates can be recruited but they all self-select.

        Doug Jones, Conor Lamb, Virginia and plenty of other closer races than should be tell you that candidates have to fit their districts. Conor Lamb might run in Philly but he wouldn’t win. Dwight Evans couldn’t win in PA18.

        Pelosi is always a red herring in these discussions. It is an attempt to nationalize these races in ways that haven’t worked very well. The GOP rolled out their ads on MS 13 as well as their tax cut propaganda and that wasn’t sellable either. Not in PA18, AL or VA. Lamb did campaign hard on fixing health care and clearly that connected. The key is to find something that you can connect to people that will help *them*. He may not take the right votes on guns, but if we flip enough seats to have a majority that will, then it won’t matter.

        • Bingo.
          He was able to cater to the “all important” (insert eyeroll) blue collar whites without being a bigot.
          That is REALLY bad news for the MAGATs. Personally, I think the 2 central points to the overall Democratic platform for 2018 should be expansion of the ACA (we will need to eliminate Tom Carper and have Kerri Harris representing us) and wage equality.
          They dont even really “need” to frame it as the gender wage gap (which of course, there is). Use terms like “everyone’ and “all wages”… Decry the “wall street elites who run the white house”.. use their own dumbass talking points to win, then enact true, progressive legislation.

    • Hmmm… whatever could it be?

    • Greeting from Rural America! Well…. Smyrna anyway. Met and know a great many of these people, as noted in isolated areas they are the ones that never left, the kids get out in search of a job and a more fulfilling life. They tend to be racists, homophobic and conservative in a very self defeating sort of way. Chances are they know few minorities and if anyone comes out as gay they leave the area. They feel threatened for an excellent reason, their lifestyle is on a steep decline and many of their values are rejected by much of the country. They will never change, any progress can only come from a generational change and the passing of these people.

      • Well…. their values are shit.
        Yes. the racist, toxic masculine culture is 100% under attack. NO argument there. They can be defeated or switch sides, but no one is going to let up on ripping out the national cancer that is their “culture”. I hope they’re afraid.

        • Rest assured they are afraid, but will never admit it. For what it’s worth in this area they are being left behind by nearly everyone and I expect that trend to accelerate. It’s not so much toxic masculinity as their pro ignorance distrust of education and the educated. Agreed there is no fixing them, the solution is generational change.

    • delacrat

      From the Scientific American article

      “We found that white men who have experienced economic setbacks or worry about their economic futures are the group of owners most attached to their guns,”

      It IS about the economy, stupid.


      “Ridicule of working-class white people is not helpful,”

  3. cassandram

    Why Are White Men Stockpiling Guns?

    Just guess.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: