Open Thread

The Open Thread for September 17, 2018

THE ECONOMY WILL NOT SAVE THEM.  New York Times: “As Democrats enter the fall midterm campaign with palpable confidence about reclaiming the House and perhaps even the Senate, tensions are rising between the White House and congressional Republicans over who is to blame for political difficulties facing the party, with President Trump’s advisers pointing to the high number of G.O.P. retirements and lawmakers placing the blame squarely on the president’s divisive style.”

“Yet Republican leaders do agree on one surprising element in the battle for Congress: They cannot rely on the booming economy to win over undecided voters.”

“To the dismay of party leaders, the healthy economy and Mr. Trump have become countervailing forces. The decline in unemployment and soaring gross domestic product, along with the tax overhaul Republicans argue is fueling the growth, have been obscured by the president’s inflammatory moves on immigration, Vladimir V. Putin, and other fronts, party leaders say.”

Speaking publicly for the first time, Christine Blasey Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk”  — “corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County,” the Washington Post reports.

“While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.”

Also interesting: “She engaged Debra Katz, a Washington lawyer known for her work on sexual harassment cases. On the advice of Katz, who believed Ford would be attacked as a liar if she came forward, Ford took a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent in early August. The results, which Katz provided to The Post, concluded that Ford was being truthful when she said a statement summarizing her allegations was accurate.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) “and a growing number of Senate Democrats are calling for the Senate to postpone a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after a woman accusing him of sexual assault spoke publicly about the allegation,” The Hill reports.

Said Schumer: “Senator Grassley must postpone the vote until, at a very minimum, these serious and credible allegations are thoroughly investigated. For too long, when woman have made serious allegations of abuse, they have been ignored. That cannot happen in this case.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said the nomination “should be put on hold until the FBI conducts an investigation.”

MATTIS DISAGREES WITH TRUMP ON THINGS, SO HE MUST BE A DEMOCRAT.  New York Times: “Interviews with more than a dozen White House, congressional and current and former Defense Department officials over the past six weeks paint a portrait of a president who has soured on his defense secretary, weary of unfavorable comparisons to Mr. Mattis as the adult in the room, and increasingly concerned that he is a Democrat at heart.”

“Nearly all of the officials, as well as confidants of Mr. Mattis, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal tensions — in some cases, out of fear of losing their jobs.”

“In the second year of his presidency, Mr. Trump has largely tuned out his national security aides as he feels more confident as commander in chief, the officials said. Facing what is likely to be a heated re-election fight once the 2018 midterms are over, aides said Mr. Trump was pondering whether he wanted someone running the Pentagon who would be more vocally supportive than Mr. Mattis, who is vehemently protective of the American military against perceptions it could be used for political purposes.”

OHIO GOP MEGADONOR LEAVES PARTY.  Leslie Wexner, the wealthiest Republican donor in Ohio, said that he is fed up and has quit the Republican Party, the Columbus Dispatch reports.  Said Wexner: “I just decided I’m no longer a Republican. I’m an independent. I won’t support this nonsense in the Republican Party.”

TRUMP SHUTDOWN AFTER ALL?    Stan Collender: “[T]he GOP congressional leadership’s decision last week not to give Donald Trump the $5 billion he wants for a wall between the United States and Mexico before the election and then to make it much harder for him to veto the legislation that codifies that decision was the closest House and Senate Republicans have come since Trump was elected to publicly giving him their collective middle finger.”

President Trump accused congressional Republicans of being played “like a fiddle” by Democrats on border security.  Said Trump: “When will Republican leadership learn that they are being played like a fiddle by the Democrats on Border Security and Building the Wall? Without Borders, we don’t have a country. With Open Borders, which the Democrats want, we have nothing but crime! Finish the Wall!”

THE COURT IS ALREADY CONSERVATIVE.  “Chief Justice John Roberts stepped in Saturday to halt a federal judge’s order last month that a conservative political group said threatened to discourage independent expenditures by raising the prospect that anonymous donors could be exposed,” Politico reports.  “It is not clear whether Roberts’ order is a short-term measure intended to allow further consideration of the issue by the justices, or whether it will remain in place through this fall’s midterm elections.”

WHO SAYS MUELLER IS WRITING A REPORT? Marcy Wheeler: “As Paul Manafort’s plea was being unveiled yesterday, a number of legal observers were shocked by how detailed the criminal information was, complete with 38 pages of exhibits. Hopefully, this will stop me from having to bitch incessantly about how many journalists have swallowed Rudy Giuliani’s claims about Mueller writing up a report. As I keep saying (and as Mueller’s boss Rod Rosenstein has said in testimony), there won’t be a report, there will be indictments.”

BUSH DUMPS CRUZ. “Former President George W. Bush is hosting a series of fundraising events for vulnerable Republican candidates, including a couple of House members facing tough re-election bids in his home state of Texas,” the Dallas Morning News reports.  “Noticeably absent from the list is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican who is facing a surprisingly robust challenge from Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX).”   This is probably due to Cruz not wanting the help, since he has already asked for Trump’s help and probably (and correctly) assumes Trump won’t like Bush helping him.

REMEMBER THE LAWSUIT OVER TRUMP’S HOTEL.  “The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia want the legal authority to get any communications between President Trump and officials of foreign or U.S. state governments pertaining to his Trump International Hotel near the White House,” NPR reports.  “The proposal is one of several for ‘document discovery’ in the historic civil suit against the president.”

“The suit alleges that Trump has violated two anti-corruption provisions of the Constitution: the Foreign Emoluments Clause, which bars federal officials from accepting gifts or rewards from foreign government officials, and the Domestic Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from accepting benefits from state governments.”

COLLINS AND MURKOWSKI WON’T FOOL THEIR CONSTITUENTS THIS TIME.  Jennifer Rubin:  “So we come back to the dilemma facing the two senators. They are unlikely to convince voters, especially ones in their state particularly tuned into the issue, that Kavanaugh is going to vote to preserve legal abortions in the same manner that Kennedy did. The senators can pretend they believe that, but voters have figured out what’s going on, and likely aren’t going to believe that Collins and Murkowski are that naive. Rather, they’ll rightly conclude that the two senators lacked the nerve to stand up to their party and their Republican colleagues. Abortion-rights voters who supported these two for years will understand that, on the most important vote on this issue, they were left high and dry by two not-really-pro-choice-when-it-mattered senators.

Moreover, history will judge Collins and Murkowski by the results. Should Kavanaugh roll back or eliminate constitutional protections for abortion, their names will be — as was the case with Vidkun Quisling — synonymous with “sellouts,” “collaborators,” or, to use a Trumpism, “phonies.” They can vote however they like, but what they cannot do is escape accountability for their votes.”

DEFICIT HAWKS ARE DEAD UNTIL THERE IS A DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT AGAIN.  Washington Post: “Their demise technically came Tuesday when the Congressional Budget Office calculated the federal deficit at $895 billion for the first 11 months of fiscal 2018 — a stunning gap that was met with a collective shrug on Capitol Hill.”

“But the real death of the deficit hawks came late last year and early this year, as Republicans such as Speaker Paul Ryan who had railed against deficits in the first years of the Obama administration pushed through a massive tax cut despite CBO projections of a surge in federal borrowing.”

CHINA IS WINNING TRUMP’S TRADE WAR.  Washington Post: “Under pressure from President Trump’s tariff war, China has embarked on a charm offensive on the diplomatic circuit, smoothing over old disputes and courting partners who could help Beijing weather the storm with Washington. Germany, which perennially harangued Beijing over market access restrictions, recently let Chinese investors hold bigger shares in joint ventures in a significant concession. South Korea, the target of withering Chinese boycotts last year over its deployment of a U.S. missile defense system, is seeing Chinese tourism revenue and automobile sales return.”

“This week, China’s relations with its heavyweight neighbor, Japan, reached its highest level in years. After meeting at a summit in Russia, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that China will welcome Abe on his first state visit to Beijing next month after he was frozen out for years over territorial disputes and the Japanese leader’s visits to a controversial shrine for wartime dead. The two men smiled for a photo together, a stark turnaround from four years ago, when they could barely face each other for a memorably grim snap.”

Meanwhile, Trump is tripling down, deciding “to impose tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, two people briefed on the decision said, one of the most severe economic restrictions ever imposed by a U.S. president,” the Washington Post reports.  “An announcement is expected to come within days… The new tariffs would apply to more than 1,000 products, including smartphones, televisions and toys. These penalties could drive up the cost of a range of products ahead of the holiday shopping season, though it’s unclear how much.”

RESTORATION V. A LOWDOWN FIGHTER LIKE TRUMP.  “The most telling split among 2020 Democratic hopefuls won’t be over policy, but whether to match President Trump’s scorched-earth tactics,” top Democrats tell Axios.

Said one veteran of Democratic presidential campaigns: “The key question is: How crazy will Trump make us? How far out there will you go to be like Trump?”

“A strategist for one of the 2020 candidate told me this calibration will be tough: Primary voters hunger for ‘someone to descend to Trump’s tactics.’ But general-election voters are more likely to prefer ‘a hopeful message about making government boring again.’”

I reject this framing.  You can be for restoring norms and traditions and be a fighter at the same time.  And you can be fighter that is not like Trump.

TRUMP DOESN’T UNDERSTAND LAWYER-CLIENT PRIVILEGE.  He seems to think it is a permanent gag order that prevents a lawyer from ever uttering a word or a opinion about his client forever.  That’s not what it is.  President Trump “disputed one of his longtime lawyer’s criticisms of his behavior and questioned whether a forthcoming book by Jay Goldberg runs afoul of lawyer-client privilege,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Mr. Goldberg represented Mr. Trump in divorce cases involving two ex-wives, Ivana Trump and Marla Maples. His memoir, The Courtroom Is My Theater, is due to be released in December. Mr. Trump questioned whether it is appropriate for Mr. Goldberg to write about a client.”  Said Trump: “There’s lawyer-client privilege here. You can’t do that.”

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

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