1. A. In a week with much news—in fact in a year with much news—one story stands out as perhaps the most significant yet, both as a piece of journalism and as a new revelation about the Mueller investigation. Our readers no doubt know that on Monday The New York Times broke the story that the prosecutors’ questions for Trump had been leaked to them. These questions, dozens of them, give us our first look into what the prosecutors are investigating and what charges they may bring. It now appears that the questions themselves were written by Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, who worked from the prosecutors’ topics and subtopics.
For the first New York Times report, see: “Mueller Has Dozens of Inquiries for Trump in Broad Quest on Russia Ties and Obstruction,” for Apr. 30. The paper reports, “The open-ended queries appear to be an attempt to penetrate the president’s thinking, to get at the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his family and his closest advisers. They deal chiefly with the president’s high-profile firings of the F.B.I. director and his first national security adviser, his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
“But they also touch on the president’s businesses; any discussions with his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, about a Moscow real estate deal; whether the president knew of any attempt by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to set up a back channel to Russia during the transition; any contacts he had with Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser who claimed to have inside information about Democratic email hackings; and what happened during Mr. Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
B. The Times prints the questions under four heads: “1) Questions related to Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser; 2)Questions related to James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director; 3) Questions related to Attorney General Jeff Sessions; 4) Campaign Coordination With Russia.” [emphasis in original] These questions go to the heart of the investigation: what did Trump know and when did he know it about the Campaign’s coordination with Russia; and why he fired Comey – to take pressure off himself or Flynn? Read the questions themselves here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
C. Of course, Trump blew up on Twitter, saying, “So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were ‘leaked’ to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see…you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!” As The Washington Post pointed out, this is not actually true. There are plenty of questions on “collusion,” and the information that went to the FISA court was not illegally obtained. He later tweeted, “It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!” In fact, this is also incorrect: obstruction of an FBI investigation is a crime whether or not it is determined that a crime took place. https://www.washingtonpost.
D. The story continued to develop during the week. We are clearly at a turning point, though where we are going is hard to say. But the above tweets are indicative of hardening stances. This is also true of the Justice Department, as The Washington Post reported on Tuesday. The paper reports, “In a tense meeting in early March with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, President Trump’s lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
But Mueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter. [emphasis added]
Mueller’s warning — the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump’s legal team — spurred a sharp retort from John Dowd, then the president’s lead lawyer.
“’This isn’t some game,’ Dowd said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments. ‘You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.’” Dowd does not believe the president can be called to testify. He has since resigned. https://www.washingtonpost.
E. On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported on another shake-up in Trump’s legal team, reflecting a more aggressive stance toward the prosecutors. “[T]he White House [is now] on war footing with federal prosecutors examining Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. White House lawyer Ty Cobb, who repeatedly urged cooperation with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and assured the president such a strategy could shorten the investigation, announced he would leave his post at the end of the month. In his place, Trump tapped Republican defense attorney Emmet Flood, who brings experience wrangling with investigators when he represented President Bill Clinton during House proceedings to impeach him.” [emphasis added]
Moreover, as Cobb leaves, Trump is threating to use executive authority to intervene (somehow) in the Justice Department investigation. “Cobb’s exit capped off a 48-hour period during which Trump dramatically ratcheted up his criticism of the Mueller probe and the Justice Department as running a ‘rigged system.’ ‘There was no Collusion (it is a Hoax) and there is no Obstruction of Justice (that is a setup & trap),’ the president tweeted Wednesday.
“He later waded into an escalating standoff between Justice Department officials and GOP lawmakers demanding the release of a sensitive document outlining the scope of Mueller’s investigation. ‘At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!’ Trump tweeted.” [emphasis added] https://www.washingtonpost.
Legal experts disagree about what Trump may be planning, but of course he may simply be contemplating firing Mueller or even Sessions. For a legal discussion, see The Washington Post for May 2: https://www.washingtonpost.
[Note: The Washington Post, like many newspapers, asks that you subscribe if you read more than a fixed number of articles a month. If you set your browser to block cookies, they may not ask. Sometimes restarting the browser helps, or using another device. But we encourage our readers to subscribe.]
F. In another development, some Republican House members have prepared articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein fired back, declaring that the Justice Department “’is not going to be extorted,’” according to a report in The New York Times for May 2.
“His comment came the day after revelations that several of those Republicans, led by Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina and other loyalists of President Trump, had drafted articles of impeachment to use against Mr. Rosenstein in case the long-simmering dispute with the deputy attorney general boiled over. Though their conflict is ostensibly over the Justice Department’s production of sensitive documents to Congress, Democrats believe that the bureaucratic disagreement belies a more fundamental concern for the lawmakers: protecting Mr. Trump from the special counsel investigation, which Mr. Rosenstein oversees. Mr. Rosenstein said he had been threatened, though he did not name the Republicans.” Though some House members have been calling for months for Rosenstein to resign, the House leadership is unlikely to take up any articles of impeachment against him, and they are also unlikely to make it out of the Judiciary Committee. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
G. Former federal prosecutor and local Chicago attorney Renato Mariotti has published a nice summary of Trump’s legal jeopardy in The New York Times on May 2. “Mr. Trump’s team plans to use the questions to attack the special counsel as ‘overreaching’ and going ‘beyond his mandate,’ but the questions themselves suggest that Mr. Mueller has carefully stayed within his bounds,” says Mariotti. “They contain nothing about obscure business deals or real estate transactions; the questions focus on coordination with Russia, obstruction of justice and topics that have been covered at length in the news media. None of the topics should have come as a surprise to Mr. Trump’s team, aside from an explosive question about efforts by the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to seek aid from the Kremlin, which is squarely about coordination with Russia.
“What should concern Mr. Trump’s team is how the questions zero in on Mr. Trump’s criminal liability. They leave little doubt that Mr. Trump is in serious jeopardy, particularly regarding obstruction of justice…. The queries ask about Mr. Trump’s state of mind when he fired James Comey, when he erupted in anger at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself, and when he considered firing the special counsel. The questions are intended to prove the case against Mr. Trump through his own words.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
2. The other big story this week was the shocking announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu that Israeli intelligence had seized a cache of documents in Iran proving that before 2003, Iran had detailed plans to develop nuclear weapons. This would prove that Iran lied about its intentions, going into the negotiations for the current nuclear treaty.
A. But, as The New York Times reported on Monday, “Mr. Netanyahu did not provide any evidence that Iran had violated the nuclear agreement since it took effect in early 2016. That suggests that the Israeli prime minister — who has opposed the deal since its inception, and even went to the American Congress to try to block it — was hoping that the disclosures would bolster Mr. Trump’s resolve to scuttle the agreement on May 12. Doing so could be one of the most momentous foreign policy decisions of Mr. Trump’s time in office.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
B. The Guardian quotes Alexandra Bell, a former state department expert, now senior policy director at the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, as saying, “’There was nothing there. There was nothing that the IAEA did not know, and all the theatrics and circa-2004 PowerPoint were a bit silly.’” The paper goes on to say, “At least some of the unanswered questions may yet be resolved when Israel shares the trove with other governments and the IAEA, but by then Netanyahu’s multimedia show-and-tell is likely to have had its intended effect: to provide political cover for US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Donald Trump is threatening to stop issuing presidential waivers on nuclear-related sanctions when the next tranche is due on 12 May, which would mark an abrogation of the agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), even if Trump does not formally announce withdrawal.” [emphasis added] https://www.theguardian.com/
C. The implications of the US pulling out of the deal are momentous, and could imply some kind of Israeli attack on any new nuclear program in Iran. Netanyahu has implicitly threatened as much, in February at the annual Munich security conference. As The Guardian reported on Feb. 14, “Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel will act directly against Iran if necessary, not just its allies in the Middle East…. [As] Donald Trump pushes for a more confrontational approach toward Tehran, Israel is seeking wider support for efforts to contain its regional arch-enemy. Holding a battered and charred fragment of what he claimed was an Iranian drone brought down in Israeli airspace this month, the Israeli prime minister told the Munich security conference on Sunday: ‘Israel will not allow the regime to put a noose of terror around our neck.
“’We will act if necessary, not just against Iran’s proxies but against Iran itself,’ he said.” https://www.theguardian.com/
D. Since the apparently inevitable abrogation of the JCPOA comes on May 12, the world is wondering if a new middle eastern war is imminent. Axios reported on Mar. 20 that “German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a decision by President Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal might lead to the collapse of the agreement and, as a result, could lead to a regional war. German officials told me [Barak David of Israel’s Channel 10 news] Merkel made this position clear when she met Netanyahu at the world economic forum in Davos Switzerland on January 24th.” [emphasis added] https://www.axios.com/merkel-
And on Apr. 28, The Times of Israel [an independent online paper founded by British-born David Horowitz, former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post] reported that “If the US pulls out of the Iranian nuclear deal, Tehran will likely do the same, increasing the chance of war, said French Ambassador to Israel Hélène Le Gal, speaking to Hebrew media as French President Emmanuel Macron wrapped up his visit to Washington this week.” https://www.timesofisrael.com/
This view is supported by a Christiane Amanpour interview with Iran’s ambassador to the UK, as reported by CNN on May 2. “In the first major interview by a representative of the Iranian government since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s broadside on the Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s Ambassador to the UK told CNN that if the United States pulls out of the agreement, ‘it means that there is no deal left…. The consequence would be that Iran would in fact be ready to go back to the previous situation,’ Hamid Baeidinejad told Christiane Amanpour in London on Wednesday.” https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/
E. On May 1, Barak David reported in Axios that “Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefed President Trump two months ago on the capture of the Iranian ‘nuclear archive,’ and decided to publicly expose the documents yesterday due to Trump’s May 12thdeadline on possible U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal…. An Israeli official tells me Israel wanted to publicly release the new intelligence after White House visits from French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel, both of whom tried to convince Trump not to withdraw. ‘We are facing a major decision by President Trump regarding the nuclear deal. Last week was for the Europeans, and this week is our week,’ the official said.” [emphasis added] David also reports on how the documents were seized, with the knowledge of the CIA. https://www.axios.com/
F. On Tuesday, Netanyahu denied he sought a war with Iran. As the UK Telegraph reported, “Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said Tuesday that he was not seeking a military confrontation with Iran even as he continued his public campaign to convince Donald Trump to strengthen the 2015 nuclear deal or pull the US out of it. A day after Mr Netanyahu dramatically unveiled Israeli intelligencewhich he said proved that Iran had lied to the world about its nuclear research, the Israeli leader talked down European fears that scrapping the deal could lead to war.” https://www.telegraph.co.uk/
And a Hezbollah official opined to Toronto’s Globe and Mail on Wednesday that an Israeli attack on Iran is unlikely. “’I don’t think Israel is so reckless to go to war with Iran, because no one knows where a war would take us,’ said Mr. [Nawar] Sahili, 51, a criminal lawyer by trade who could emerge as a Hezbollah cabinet minister after the coming election. ‘It could spread fast. Israel will not go into a war unless it is 100-per-cent certain it can win and it would not be a war against Iran only. … Iran would have support from Syria, Hezbollah and their allies.’” But Hezbollah, which is defined as a terrorist organization by the US, Canada, Israel, and the Gulf states, is prepared to fight in Lebanon if Israel does attack Iran. This is considered unlikely, though, by at least one Lebanese analyst quoted in the paper. https://www.theglobeandmail.
American news sources have not followed the full implications of the story, so readers are encouraged to follow foreign sources.
3. That always entertaining mischief-maker Rudy Giuliani contradicted the president’s account of the Stormy Daniels hush money payment. Giuliani says that Trump did repay the $130,000 to Cohen, his “lawyer,” to prevent the embarrassment to his family. So no campaign funds were used, says Rudy, and there is therefore nothing to see here. “Mr. Giuliani indicated that the goal was to conclusively demonstrate that there was no campaign finance violation involved.
‘That removes the campaign finance violation, and we have all the documentary proof for it,’ he said. Mr. Giuliani added that when the initial payment was made, Mr. Cohen did it “on his own authority.’” So reports The New York Times, on Wednesday night. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
It is no big news that Trump lied when he said that he did not pay the money. But does it really let the president off the hook from having made a campaign contribution? Another piece in The Times Thursday reports that “Late Wednesday night, Common Cause, a government watchdog group, said Mr. Giuliani’s remarks bolstered its lawsuit accusing the president and his campaign of breaking the law by failing to disclose a contribution to his campaign. ‘Giuliani seemingly thought he was doing President Trump a favor — but instead made Trump’s legal problems much, much worse,’ said Paul S. Ryan, the group’s vice president for policy and litigation.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
But doing some damage control on Thursday, Rudy claimed that Trump did not know about the actual payments until recently. They came from a fund of which Trump did not know the details.
But then, predictably, perhaps, he put his foot in it, admitting that the campaign was on everyone’s mind: “Remember when this came up ― October 2016 … I don’t want to demean anyone, but $135,000 seems like a lot of money. It’s not when you’re putting $100 million into your campaign. It isn’t pocket change, but it’s pretty close to it.” [emphasis added] So reports The Huffington Post on Rudy’s “damage control” on Thursday morning’s Fox and Friends. Note the word “campaign” here. https://www.huffingtonpost.
4. There was perhaps worse news for the president in that Giuliani interview. He let slip yet another legal blooper, as pointed out by The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin on Thursday: “Arguably even worse for Trump, Giuliani’s statement that Trump fired Comey over refusing to exonerate him contradicts both the phony cover story in the memo put out to the public (claiming that morale at the FBI was poor and that Comey mishandled the Hillary Clinton email matter) and Trump’s own confession to NBC News’s Lester Holt that he had Russia in mind when he fired Comey. The obstruction-of-justice case that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III may be constructing could rest in part on the president’s ‘corrupt intent’ to stop or deflect the investigation away from himself.
“Given Trump’s tweets, it is likely that Trump and Giuliani believe the raid of Cohen’s office, home and hotel room turned up evidence of the repayment. They therefore decided to get out ‘ahead’ of the disastrous news, even if it revealed the president had lied about knowledge of the payment.” https://www.washingtonpost.
5. Still running his mouth, Giuliani also gave an indication of how Trump will fight a Mueller subpoena. Fred Barash of The Washington Post reports that, “Rudolph W. Giuliani, a new lawyer on President Trump’s team, claimed a broad constitutional immunity for his client from being subpoenaed in a criminal proceeding, a predictable claim but one unsupported by any Supreme Court decision. He cited the ‘Founding Fathers’ for his assertion, saying they ‘created this immunity,’ something the Supreme Court has never said.”
Moreover, “Giuliani said that he would advise the president to resist any questioning by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that went beyond two and a half hours. ‘Two and a half hours. We end. Walk out. Give us your questions in advance.’” And Rudy gave a hint of how they will attack the entire Mueller investigation. “He said the Mueller team has ‘lost’ the power to subpoena the president by conducting ‘a completely tainted investigation.’”
So now we have a sense of the full strategy from team Trump. One wonders how the rest of the defense team sees the irrepressible Giuliani. Or was this all part of the plan? Or is Hannity, on whose show Rudy appeared, the secret brains behind the legal team itself? With the news above about apocalyptic middle east war to think about, perhaps this appears like small news. But it may not be immaterial to the future of this presidency.
6. So, is a man who eats mostly fast-food burgers and steaks at age 71 in absolutely perfect excellent health? Again, perhaps not a question that bears on world peace or the health of the republic at large. But, as summarized by The Washington Post on May 2, “The latest health brouhaha began Tuesday, when NBC News published an interview with Bornstein in which the president’s former doctor described a morning ‘raid’ in February 2017 in which three men arrived at his office and seized all of Trump’s medical records. The men included Keith Schiller, Trump’s longtime bodyguard who at the time worked in the White House, and Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s top lawyer, Bornstein said, adding that the roughly 30-minute incident left him feeling ‘raped, frightened and sad.’” It is clear that the seizure was a strong-arm attempt to control the health records. https://www.washingtonpost.
And so too was the famous statement from Bornstein describing “Trump’s blood pressure and laboratory results as ‘astonishingly excellent,’ his physical strength and stamina as ‘extraordinary,’ and concluding that he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.’” Few physicians would put out such a report, many noted at the time. But as many have already guessed, “’He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter,’ Bornstein told CNN on Tuesday. ‘I just made it up as I went along.’” [emphasis added] See the story on CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/
7. Of course, with all this main-stream media attention to the depredations of Trump the man and the president, it makes perfect sense in our Through-the-Looking-Glass world that Trump’s supporters want him to get the Nobel Peace Prize for the (not-yet-happened) Korean peace deal. (Take that, Obama!)
So, what is really the source of Trump’s continued strong support among Republicans, and what really is the motivating idea of his base? During the campaign, it was said by media that the story was about the economic frustration of “working class” Americans, mostly prime-wage-earner men, about their income security.
Probably not so. Charles Blow, opinion columnist for The New York Times, reports on a new study (which complements others) that leads him to conclude, “The idea that the primary motivator for Trump supporters was economic anxiety was a false narrative swallowed and regurgitated by a gullible media too afraid to call a thing a thing: racial resentment.” [emphasis added]
Blow is reacting to a “new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [that] found what other studies have found: Support for Trump was largely motivated by white fear of displacement from dominance. As the study put it: ‘White Americans’ declining numerical dominance in the United States together with the rising status of African Americans and American insecurity about whether the United States is still the dominant global economic superpower combined to prompt a classic defensive reaction among members of dominant groups.’”
Moreover, as others in the press have reported, “This new study dovetails with an analysis of millennial Trump voters published last year in The Washington Post: ‘First, white millennial Trump voters were likely to believe in something we call ‘white vulnerability’ — the perception that whites, through no fault of their own, are losing ground to other groups. Second, racial resentment was the primary driver of white vulnerability — even when accounting for income, education level or employment.’” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
And the Trump support comes from many who have no income insecurity at all, as many other studies have found. See the study by Michael Tesler, associate professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine, as reported in The Washington Post on Aug. 22, 2016: https://www.washingtonpost.
8. If it is true that Trumpism reflects racial rather than economic anxiety, it is of interest that more white-supremacist candidates are running unashamedly for Republican House seats than ever before. Here in Illinois, for example, we have an outright neo-Nazi, Alex Jones, running for the 3rd Congressional district seat, having won the Republican nomination with over 26,000 votes (though the state party has disowned him). In February, The Atlantic published a story about his strange win here: “Jones, a health-insurance agent living in Lyons, Illinois, spent eight years as a member of the National Socialist White People’s Party—previously known as the American Nazi Party—and has been active with the America First Committee since the 1980s. Illinois’s third congressional district, which encompasses part of Cook County, has been represented by Democrat Dan Lipinski since 2005 (and by his father, Bill Lipinski, before that). Jones has run unsuccessfully in the primary for the district six times since 1998.” https://www.theatlantic.com/
So Jones is unlikely to win. But his candidacy is not unique nationally. An essay in The Nation on Apr. 18 details the frightening national trend. As Donna Minkowitz reports, “a rash of white nationalists are running for office. Depending on your definition, anywhere from nine and 17 white supremacists and far-right militia leaders are currently running for House and Senate seats, governorships, and state legislatures.”
One of these is close to home, in Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin district. Minkowitz quotes him saying, “’Jews…commit a disproportionate number of mass shootings,’ Wisconsin Republican congressional candidate Paul Nehlen lied on Facebook recently. Earlier, he had tweeted: ‘Poop, incest, and pedophilia. Why are those common themes repeated so often with Jews?’ Another GOP House hopeful, Pennsylvania’s Sean Donahue, recently told me, “The United States was intended to be white…. I don’t see why we had to have the Fair Housing Act.’
“Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, pointed to an August 2017 Washington Post/ABC News poll indicating that 9 percent of Americans now find it acceptable to hold neo-Nazi views. (Among strong Trump supporters, 17 percent say they accept neo-Nazi views, and 13 percent say they have no opinion one way or the other.)”
More disturbing, Minkowitz notes, these alt-right groups or “so-called alt-lite media organs and activists have become enormously influential. Sites like The Daily Caller, The Gateway Pundit, The Rebel Media, Infowars, GotNews, and other ‘mini-Breitbarts’ have championed the alt-right, employed white nationalists as editors and writers, and expressed views similar to white nationalism. And through their popularity and their ties to Trump staffers, they’ve been able to influence the White House and demonstrate that there is room for the advocacy of openly racist policies in the US political system. President Trump has read and reacted to at least one article from GotNews, which is run by the racist Internet troll Chuck Johnson.” [emphasis added]
Minkowitz details instances of Trump or White House staffers connections to such media. “Alt-lite solo media man Mike Cernovich—who has said ‘diversity is code for white genocide’ and ‘I like choking a woman until her eyes almost go lifeless’—has demonstrated access to the White House through his scoops on personnel matters and Trump’s strike on Syria last April. Both Donald Trump Jr. and Kellyanne Conway have publicly praised Cernovich, with the president’s son saying he deserves ‘a Pulitzer.’ Cernovich has announced he’s considering running for Congress in California this year.” Read the disturbing report in The Nation here: https://www.thenation.com/
9. So, how’s that tax cut workin’ for ya? Ask an economist, like Paul Krugman. He analyzes the essential fraudulence of the claims that cutting corporate taxes would somehow create jobs or raise incomes.
“It never made sense to believe that corporations would immediately share their tax-cut bounty with workers, and they haven’t. Any news organizations that let themselves be bamboozled by cherry-picked stories of firms announcing worker bonuses after the tax bill passed should be ashamed of their credulity….
“As Greg Leiserson of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth points out, ‘every month in which wage rates are not sharply higher than they would have been absent the legislation, and investment returns are not sharply lower, is a month in which the benefits of those corporate tax cuts accrue primarily to shareholders.’ A tax cut that might significantly raise wages during, say, Cynthia Nixon’s second term in the White House, but yields big windfalls for stock owners with only trivial wage gains for the next five or 10 years, is not what we were promised….according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. A vast majority of businesses say either that the tax law has had no effect on their investment plans, or that they are planning only a modest increase.” [emphasis added] As in states like Kansas, all the tax cut has done is swell deficts. Which means cutting government programs that help those in need. Even Trump voters in need. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
Remarkably, Sen. Marco Rubio has admitted just this, according to The Huffington Post. “Marco Rubio may have committed the ultimate heresy for a Republican: The senator from Florida admitted that recent corporate tax cuts are doing little to help American workers and that increased public spending might be in order.
“In an interview with the Economist, Rubio said he doubts that the tax cuts or Trump’s ‘America first’ protectionism will stop people from losing their jobs to automation. ‘There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers,’ he said. ‘In fact, they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.’” https://www.huffingtonpost.
Rubio spoke in that interview of “his plan for a new ‘reform conservative movement’ devoted to addressing the economic disruption and social disaffection that the president vigorously described.” He suggests that some increased spending on social programs will necessary in the future, as will some increased corporate taxes. The Economist interviewer is skeptical Rubio will stick to his plan, given his inconsistency in the past. But it does show some movement in the party away from outright Trumpism (or Ayn Rand Ryanism). Read the interesting interview with The Economist, here: https://www.economist.com/
10. The Democratic Party is expecting a Blue Wave in November, and signs are good in polling and fundraising (the Party is ahead of Republicans in campaign cash at the moment). But, as Washington Post columnist James Homann reports, “[t]here’s nothing it can do about the Intercept. The four-year-old website, which was launched by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar with stories based on Edward Snowden’s NSA document haul, has become a weekly Democratic nightmare.
“The website’s series of scoops on intra-Democratic arguments started with a sprawling and buzzy January story on how the DCCC was ‘throwing its weight behind candidates who are out of step with the national mood’
“The publication’s exposure of the family feud is playing into a narrative that Democrats’ biggest risk to their goal of capturing the House majority in this year’s midterm elections — with President Trump hanging around the GOP’s neck — is themselves. That is, the progressive anti-Trump energy driving the party is leading to a plethora of messy Democratic primaries and some serious differences over how to approach them. [emphasis in original]
“Just last week, the Intercept reported on a secret recording of House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) urging a progressive primary candidate to drop out in Colorado; a voicemail purportedly from a DCCC-backed candidate threatening to go negative against another Democrat in a top-tier California candidate; and Facebook musings about abortion from a candidate the DCCC recruited in a race where a liberal contender had already locked up local support.”
The Intercept’s DC reporting is led by Ryan Grim, former political editor for The Huffington Post. Grim told The Washington Post ‘“that the Bernie/Hillary divide exists on Twitter and in Washington but not in the real world,’ and that the DCCC was barreling into primaries where all of the local party’s factions had already gotten behind a candidate.” https://www.washingtonpost.
However, Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Primary Politics: Everything You Need to Know About How America Nominates Its Presidential Candidates,” strongly disagrees that the Party is out of line. Her May 3 op-ed in The New York Times argues “Actually, National Democrats Should Interfere in Primaries.” [emphasis added] She says, “No other political party in democracies in the world has abdicated its leadership role as much as America’s political parties have, weakening themselves and their ability to govern in the process. Partisan leaders have essentially given away the most important power political parties have — to determine who can run and win under the party’s banner. This power now rests exclusively with those who vote in the primaries.
“This is not to say that there is no role for primaries. But the pendulum between the party’s leaders choosing its candidates and primary voters choosing its candidates has swung so far in the direction of the primary voters that even the smallest, most modest efforts to intervene in nomination races are deemed illegitimate.”
Her argument is that Parties should not leave candidate choice to primary voters in all cases. Referring to the Hoyer tape, she notes that some on the activist left “are unhappy with much of the D.C.C.C.’s interference. Democratic leaders have intervened in, by my count, 14 primary races, suggesting, usually gently, that someone run for another seat or clear the field for the stronger candidate. Is this legitimate?
“My answer is an unqualified yes. That’s what party leadership is all about.
“Are party leaders always right? Of course not. But they are different from the activists who often dominate the party primaries because they are more concerned with electability than with ideological purity. Party leaders have the job of winning nationally; Democrats are painfully aware that not all congressional districts are Berkeley, Calif.” She notes big losses by both parties from activists in primaries who misread their districts. In her analysis, “Left-wing Democrats frequently argue about the need to mobilize the base as a reason to run progressive candidates. But the strongest part of the Democratic base consists of African-Americans, and among the districts the D.C.C.C. has intervened in, only two have African-American populations that are in the double digits, and the average African-American population in these swing districts is only about 7 percent…. In those districts, the name of the game will be to turn out Democrats but also to move some white voters into the Democratic column. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
This debate is central to primary tactics all over the country. In the case of Hoyer suggesting that a “progressive” drop out, Bernie Sanders staffer Melissa Byrne actually agreed, and said that the progressive was not for real and that Hoyer was right after all. Our readers will be stimulated to think about what will be the winning strategies in a range of districts. One size will not fit all, seems to be the message. But which size in which district is the problem.