Open Thread

The Open Thread for October 18, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Reuters that Republicans could try again to repeal Obamacare if they win enough seats in U.S. elections next month, calling a failed 2017 push to repeal the healthcare law a “disappointment.”  Said McConnell: “If we had the votes to completely start over, we’d do it. But that depends on what happens in a couple weeks… We’re not satisfied with the way Obamacare is working.”

Thank you Mitch.  Those quotes will feature nicely in our stump speeches and television ads.  But then Mitch went further.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, McConnell pegged Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as the key drivers of a skyrocketing deficit, which in reality spiked following the massive GOP tax cuts.   Asked about the ballooning deficit and national debt, which is expected to reach fully $1 trillion next year, McConnell responded, on camera: “It’s very disturbing and it’s driven by the three big entitlement programs that are very popular—Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid— that’s 70 percent of what we spend every year.”  The truth is that all three are funded off budget through separate taxes.  They do not add to the deficit or the debt.   What drives our debt and deficits are the Bush and Trump tax cuts and the 18 year War on Terror that we put on the credit card.

Thanks Mitchy Poo.

President Trump told the AP that he won’t accept the blame if Republicans lose the House in November.  Trump said he believes he is “helping” Republican candidates as he campaigns ahead of crucial midterm elections next month. With Republicans facing headwinds, Trump said he thinks the GOP is “going to do well,” arguing that “it feels to me very much like” 2016.  Of his efforts on the campaign trail, Trump said: “I don’t believe anybody has ever had this kind of impact.”

New York Times: “His killers were waiting when Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. They severed his fingers during an interrogation and later beheaded and dismembered him, according to details from audio recordings published in the Turkish news media on Wednesday.”

“It was all over within a few minutes, the recordings suggested.”

Key takeaway: “Such information would not have been disclosed in Turkey without the consent of the government. Turkish media outlets and newspapers are closely controlled: They are either government-controlled or owned by pro-government business executives.”

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is starting to float a trial-balloon explanation for its apparent slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Daily Beast has learned, in hopes of escaping the consequences of an episode that has shaken whatever geopolitical confidence existed in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

“According to two sources familiar with the version of events circulating throughout diplomatic circles in Washington, the Saudis will place blame for Khashoggi’s murder on a Saudi two-star general new to intelligence work.”

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has cast himself as a tough, straight-talking former Army tank commander with the moral clarity necessary to confront the world’s bad guys. But on his quick trip to Saudi Arabia, where he sat smiling with royal leaders suspected of involvement in the disappearance of a dissident Saudi journalist, he hardly seemed the image of principled diplomacy,” the New York Times reports.

“As he was leaving Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on Wednesday, Mr. Pompeo was asked if Saudi officials had told him whether the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was alive or dead.”

Said Pompeo: “I don’t want to talk about any of the facts. They didn’t want to either.”

Politico: “Pompeo’s performance can be chalked up to any number of factors, including the inevitable trade-offs most U.S. administrations find they must make in dealing with unsavory allies who happen to be key to American interests. But it was also an example of Pompeo — a former Army tank commander who loves tough talk — toeing the Trump line, even if it risks tarnishing his image.”

“Michael Cohen and his attorney met Wednesday with a group of state and federal law enforcement officials investigating various aspects of President Trump’s family business and charitable organization,” CNN reports.

“The group, which included the federal prosecutors from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York who charged Cohen in August and officials from the New York Attorney General’s office, met at the Midtown New York City office of Cohen’s attorney, Guy Petrillo.”

Peter Hamby: “Elizabeth Warren’s maneuver stands as a warning sign for other Democrats on the path to challenging Trump in 2020. Getting into the mud pit with Trump—who doesn’t care about political decorum, rules, sexism, racism, name-calling, facts, or reason—has revealed itself as a sucker’s game for politicians and peacocking White House correspondents who try to joust with him. Talk to anyone in politics, and they’ll tell you the same thing: tangling with Trump is just really hard, and there’s no clear alternative playbook. Like a scientist trying to argue with a climate-change denier, you’ll just end up drowning in a tide of bad faith.”

“Even so, Warren has been punching at Trump ever since he took office. Rarely does she let one of Trump’s personal attacks go unchallenged, something that sets her apart from most every Democrat who might run in 2020, aside from Orange County attorney Michael Avenatti.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) defended the timing of her decision to release the results of a DNA test just ahead of the midterm elections, telling the Boston Globe that she went public as soon as possible to begin deflecting the constant taunting from the president and her Senate challengers.

Said Warren: “I have an election. Donald Trump goes in front of crowds multiple times a week to attack me. Both of my opponents have made the same attack. I got this analysis back, and I made it public.

New York Times: “To shield himself from future conflict charges, Mr. Scott, who is now running to unseat the incumbent senator Bill Nelson, created a $73.8 million investment account that he called a blind trust.”

“But an examination of Mr. Scott’s finances shows that his trust has been blind in name only. There have been numerous ways for him to have knowledge about his holdings: Among other things, he transferred many assets to his wife and neither “blinded” nor disclosed them. And their investments have included corporations, partnerships and funds that stood to benefit from his administration’s actions.”

“Only in late July, when compelled by ethics rules for Senate candidates, did Mr. Scott disclose his wife’s holdings. That report revealed that his wife, Ann Scott, an interior decorator by trade, controlled accounts that might exceed the value of her husband’s. Their equity investments largely mirrored each other, meaning that Mr. Scott could, if he wanted, track his own holdings by following his wife’s.”

“Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections as he faces intensifying pressure to produce more indictments or shut down his investigation,” Bloomberg reports.

“Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgement on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice.”

“That doesn’t necessarily mean Mueller’s findings would be made public if he doesn’t secure unsealed indictments. The regulations governing Mueller’s probe stipulate that he can present his findings only to his boss, who is currently Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The regulations give a special counsel’s supervisor some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released.”

CNN: “September and October at first glance appear to be quiet periods for the investigation, under the Justice Department’s guidelines to avoid public political acts before the midterm elections. But the quiet period has seen a persistent murmur of activity, based on near-daily sightings of Mueller’s prosecutors and sources involved in the investigation.”

“In addition to Manafort, Mueller’s team has kept interviewing witnesses, gathered a grand jury weekly to meet in Washington on most Fridays, and kicked up other still-secret court action. Plus, the discussions between the President’s legal team and the special counsel’s office have intensified in recent weeks, including after the special counsel sent questions about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. The President’s attorneys are expected to reply to the questions in writing.”

“People around Trump and other witnesses believe more criminal indictments will come from Mueller.”

ABC News reports Mueller’s team has been asking cooperating witness Paul Manafort many questions about former Trump adviser Roger Stone.

“Since Donald Trump’s fortunes came surging back with the success of The Apprentice 14 years ago, his deals have often been scrutinized for the large number of his partners who have ventured to the very edges of the law, and sometimes beyond. Those associates have included accused money launderers, alleged funders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and a felon who slashed someone in the face with a broken margarita glass,” ProPublica reports.

“Trump and his company have typically countered by saying they were merely licensing his name on these real estate projects in exchange for a fee. They weren’t the developers or in any way responsible.”

“But an eight-month investigation by ProPublica and WNYC reveals that the post-millennium Trump business model is different from what has been previously reported. The Trumps were typically way more than mere licensors or bystanders in their often-troubled deals. They were deeply involved in these projects. They helped mislead investors and buyers — and they profited handsomely from it.”

“Patterns of deceptive practices occurred in a dozen deals across the globe, as the business expanded into international projects, and the Trumps often participated. One common pattern, visible in more than half of those transactions, was a tendency to misstate key sales numbers.”

“House Democrats aren’t just beating Republicans at the fundraising game—they’re annihilating them,” the National Journal reports.

“Ninety-two Republican incumbents were outraised by a challenger in the third quarter of 2018, a sharp increase from the 56 outraised in the second quarter. And that topline doesn’t even fully capture the scope of Democrats’ cash advantage. More than 50 of those members were outraised at least 2-to-1 and 31 were outraised 3-to-1 or more.”

Said GOP strategist Mike DuHaimes: “That is a startling number of incumbents being outraised by dramatic margins. It’s one thing to be outraised, it’s another thing to be outraised in multiples.”

“And these statistics have no recent precedent. According to a National Journal analysis of FEC data, 48 Democrats were outraised by a Republican challenger in the third quarter of 2010, a cycle that saw Republicans net 63 seats on their way to taking back the House. In the third quarter of 2016, just 16 GOP incumbents were outraised. This cycle, Democrats’ advantage is evident in nearly every top House battleground.”

Elect Project is tracking early voting in the 2018 midterm elections.

Michael McDonald: “The levels of engagement are just bonkers in some some states. If this keeps up, we’ll have turnout higher than the 2016 presidential election. That can’t happen, can it? You’d think this has to level off at some point, but there are no signs yet.”

“Usually early voting increases as Election Day nears. Maybe there is a rush to vote right now among the most politically interested, and early voting levels will stagnate. Whatever is happening it is most unusual compared to recent midterm elections.”

Politico: “As tens of thousands of voters in Florida’s storm-tossed Panhandle try to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Michael, their communities are grappling with yet another problem — an election season thrown into disarray. With power out in many areas and phone lines down, it’s still not clear how many voters across the state have been affected. Nor is it clear which voter precincts were damaged, or what exactly the state should do to make voting easier for survivors and the displaced.”

“Then there are the more crass political considerations. The state’s Senate and gubernatorial races are virtually tied at the moment — and 8 of the 11 counties without power, an area affecting 135,000 customers, are Republican-performing counties.”

BuzzFeed News: “Once reliably Republican-voting, college-educated white women — who make up a large portion of women voters in the suburbs — flipped from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a narrow 6-point margin. That gap is now a chasm. In a poll of 59 battleground House races nationwide, college-educated white women now favor Democrats over Republicans by nearly 30 points.”

Washington Post: “The 2018 elections differ from previous midterms in so many ways. And one, at least, is a good sign for democracy: Many more people are running for office this time around.”

“Elections are the linchpin of representative government — but only if there’s actual competition among candidates. This year’s midterms are being more vigorously contested than those in the past, mostly because more Democratic women are running for office, particularly in the South.”

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

2 comments on “The Open Thread for October 18, 2018

  1. Im kinda surprised that trmp’s price for going along with assassinating a journalist is so high. I doubt this fucker has ever actually seem 100m.

  2. McConnell: “It’s very disturbing and it’s driven by the three big entitlement programs that are very popular—Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid— that’s 70 percent of what we spend every year.”
    He’s lying and he knows it.
    Those three programs — plus ACA health exchange subsidies, plus CHIP — made up 49.3% of federal budget outlays in 2017.
    The second page of this exhibit is a table with numbers from 1965 through 2017.

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