It seems much more important to get the details on men behaving badly if you are: A. a Democrat B. Weathly. Being a Republican, say Trump, should apparently, just be overlooked
as Trump being Trump. Not that there is any excuse for sexual harassment or unhealthy workplace behavior. It’s just that if the Democrats hold their aides to higher standards it will increase the chances of reelection of Trump. But perhaps ethical purity is most important. It is a really complex problem reflecting fast changing/improving social standards. It may boil down in this One Case to accepting apologies with the idea that we all learn something and the “look the other way”
The vice presidency—likened to a “warm bucket of piss” by John Nance Garner, who suffered eight years in the office under FDR, and called a political dead end by others—has miraculously become Washington’s second most desirable job.
It’s not that the job has changed. What’s given the vice presidency a new sheen is the advanced age of four leading contenders for the presidency—Donald Trump, 73; Bernie Sanders, 78; Mike Bloomberg, 78; and Joe Biden, 77. None of the four amigos are likely to croak tomorrow, but the actuarial odds are bending against them. One scholar on aging reports that Trump has an 84.8 percent chance of surviving a 2020 term, while Sanders, Bloomberg and Biden rate several percentage points worse.
Lest you think I’m being ageist for harping on the candidates’, um, advanced maturity and general health, let me point out that they’re currently slicing each other up on the topic. On Wednesday, a Sanders spokesman fended off questions about her candidate’s health cast aspersion on Bloomberg health. She claimed he had had multiple heart attacks in the past. Not so, the Bloomberg campaign responded, explaining the Mike has never had a heart attack but he does have three heart stents. This language in this column may strike you as morbid but it’s no more morbid than what the campaigns are saying about one another.
If the Democratic Party is paying attention to this actuarial action—and I think it is—their next veep nominee won’t be another no-name ticket balancer picked to satisfy the geographic, gender, and ethnicity needs of the ticket. Rather, he (or she) will be selected based on the understanding that he stands a higher statistical chance completing the term of the presidential nominee than veeps before him. Instead of nominating one prospective president, the Democrats especially will effectively be nominating two. In the absence of a crystal ball, there’s no way to determine whether the winning candidate will survive his term. But it shouldn’t take a crystal ball to see that the advanced ages of these candidate should be a major campaign issue.
Of course, any president, no matter his age, could drop dead tomorrow. In 1961, writer Clare Booth Luce asked Lyndon Baines Johnson why he had surrendered his powerful position as Senate majority leader to become John F. Kennedy’s veep. “Clare, I looked it up: one out of every four presidents has died in office. I’m a gamblin’ man, darlin’, and this is the only chance I got,” he answered. Johnson was a little off—at the time, one in five presidents had died in office (four from natural causes and three from assassination). But he was also operating on the forbidden knowledge that Kennedy was a sick man who required heavy medication.
Consider the shaky grip the current frontrunners have on life. Sanders had an onstage heart attack last fall and has failed on his promise to release all of his medical records. Trump, the oldest president ever elected to a first term, is clinically obese, walks with a heavy gait, reportedly sleeps only 4-5 hours per night, looks terrible and plays similar games with his medical records. And then there’s that suspicious unplanned visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center he took in November. If Trump were to expire tomorrow in his golf cart, who would be astonished? Joe Biden projects more physical vigor than either Sanders or Trump, but his brain was marbled by two life-threatening aneurysms in 1988, requiring a microsurgical craniotomy. Only Bloomberg exhibits both physically and mentally vital, but at his age—and even with his billions—how long can he hold that pose?
The best historical parallel to 2020 might be 1944, when a frail Franklin Roosevelt prepared to run for his fourth term. Roosevelt had come to doubt that his existing vice president, Henry Wallace, would make a good successor in the likely event that he died. So he dumped Wallace for Harry S Truman. One day, Truman was drowning in the warm bucket of piss. The next, he was floating in a presidential sea of ambrosia. The 2008 election provided another example when the veep slot was more prize than consolation. At age 72, John McCain was older than any newly elected president, and was not a healthy man. Mindful that his war-time injuries and history of melanoma might conspire to prevent him from completing his first term, McCain reached down a full generation to select the youthful Sarah Palin, then 44, as his running mate. If Democrats follow that template, you can expect somebody like Stacy Abrams, a relative youngster at 46, to fill the ticket this year.
It should go without saying that the vice presidency will return to its low status if the Democrats nominate a young presidential candidate like Pete Buttigieg, 38, this year. Buttigieg has only a minuscule chance of dying in office, which could be career-ender for anybody who might run and win with him. At the end of Buttigieg’s two hypothetical terms, his veep would be stale political bread with little chance of winning the next presidential contest. History is quite consistent on this point: Since passage of the 12th Amendment, only two vice presidents—Martin Van Buren and George H.W. Bush—have been elected president immediately following the completion of their vice presidential terms. (Richard Nixon lost in 1960, but won the office eight years after his vice presidency concluded.)
The four elderly amigos can’t take sole credit for making the vice presidency potentially great again. You’ve got to tip the hat to Trump, whose erratic behavior nearly activated the 25th Amendment in May 2017. In pre-Trumpian times, the amendment—which allows the vice president to become the acting president should the president be ruled unable to “discharge the powers and duties of his office”—was used sparingly. It was invoked during Ronald Reagan’s colon surgery and George W. Bush’s colonoscopies. But nobody contemplated using it on a sitting president until Trump started acting nutty and fired FBI Director James Comey. Although nothing came of it, administration aides reportedly worked behind his back to activate the amendment and replace him with Mike Pence as acting president.
Should we elect a geezer president in 2020—something that looks more likely with every passing day—we can expect his aides to interpret the victor’s every behavior for signs of physical disability or mental breakdown. Meanwhile, in a separate room, we can expect the once lowly veep to patiently await his promotion by death.
As an aged candidate and incumbent, Trump could have easily shopped for a “better” veep than Mike Pence for 2020. By better I mean younger and more accomplished. Instead, Trump again bestowed the slot upon the slavishly loyal 60-year-old Pence. This indicates Trump has no intention of dying. Neither do I. Send longevity hints via mail to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts and my Twitter feed would make a great ticket. My RSS feed remains in exile.
WASHINGTON — In an email a few days ago to the 270 lawyers he oversees, Nicola T. Hanna, the United States attorney in Los Angeles, offered a message of reassurance: I am proud of the work you do, he wrote.
Other U.S. attorneys in the Justice Department’s far-flung 93 field offices relayed similar messages of encouragement after President Trump’s efforts to influence a politically fraught case provoked the kind of consternation the department has rarely seen since the Watergate era. “All I have to say,” another United States attorney wrote to his staff, “is keep doing the right things for the right reasons.”
But the fact that the department’s 10,000-odd lawyers needed reassurances seemed like cause for worry all by itself.
In more than three dozen interviews in recent days, lawyers across the federal government’s legal establishment wondered aloud whether Mr. Trump was undermining the Justice Department’s treasured reputation for upholding the law without favor or political bias — and whether Attorney General William P. Barr was able or willing to protect it.
Mr. Trump elicited those fears by denouncing federal prosecutors who had recommended a prison sentence of up to nine years for his longtime friend and political adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. Mr. Barr fanned them by scrapping the recommendation in favor of a far more lenient one, leading the prosecutors to quit the case in protest.
Mr. Barr then took to national television to complain that Mr. Trump’s angry tweets were undermining him and his department’s credibility — a sign to some current and former lawyers that the department’s freedom from political influence is in imminent danger. Their worries are compounded by the fact that people in Mr. Trump’s circle have been mired in so many criminal or ethical scandals that practically any legal action on those cases could be seen through a political lens.
As many of the department lawyers and some recently departed colleagues see it, Mr. Barr has devoted much of his authority and stature to bolster the president since he took office a year ago.
In ever stronger terms, he has attacked the F.B.I.’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. He has said it was mounted on “the thinnest of suspicions” and advanced despite a lack of evidence. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, ultimately found insufficient evidence that the president or his advisers engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia but documented their openness to Moscow’s sabotage effort.
While he has pledged that the department will not pursue politically motivated investigations, Mr. Barr said this month that he had created an “intake process” for the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to forward supposed proof of misconduct in Ukraine. Mr. Giuliani has claimed to have evidence damaging to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son.
Meanwhile, Mr. Barr’s expansive view of presidential authority has helped Mr. Trump fight off congressional oversight. It was the Justice Department, for instance, that decided it was unnecessary to give Congress the whistle-blower complaint that ultimately led to the president’s impeachment.
Mr. Barr’s critics say those and other moves have all but invited increasingly aggressive demands from the White House. His supporters in the Justice Department counter that he has used his political capital to protect the department and national security interests. But they sound increasingly worried about whether he will be able to manage the expectations of an ever more volatile president.
Mr. Barr’s effort this week to scale back those expectations, officials said, was born of necessity. He is said to have told the president privately that he will not open politically inspired inquiries on Mr. Trump’s behalf and that the president’s public comments about specific criminal cases are damaging the department’s work.
When the president’s public outburst over the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Mr. Stone made it clear that Mr. Barr’s message had not sunk in, Mr. Barr and a few trusted advisers elected to deliver it again in a way that has repeatedly proved effective in grabbing the president’s attention: on television, this time in a nationally broadcast interview with ABC News.
By the end of the week, many at the Justice Department’s headquarters were uncertain whether that interview would resolve what some called an increasingly untenable situation. Some steeled themselves for a stream of presidential invective or even Mr. Barr’s departure in response.
In the legal trenches where the department’s lawyers handle controversial cases on a daily basis, some expressed relief that Mr. Barr had defended the department and tried to set boundaries for a president seemingly intent on erasing the red line between political motivations and individual criminal cases that has prevailed since Watergate.
“Thank God,” one lawyer said. “I was beginning to be really upset over the sentencing, but I really admire that he told Trump to shut up,” said another. A third wrote in a memo: “Barr was EXACTLY right.”
But others questioned Mr. Barr’s sincerity, saying he was already too closely aligned with Mr. Trump’s political priorities to accept his words at face value.
One described Mr. Barr’s timing as self-serving, saying that the president had attacked the department before but Mr. Barr spoke up only when he felt his own credibility was on the line. Another suggested that the best way for Mr. Barr to demonstrate his integrity would be to resign.
All spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists, or for fear of job repercussions. A spokeswoman for Mr. Barr declined to comment.
The supervisor of one team of prosecutors questioned whether the Stone case portended a presidential crusade to use the department’s legal powers to damage his political enemies and help his friends. Is it “a one-off or a trend?” another supervisor in a different office asked.
Some former senior officials predicted that government lawyers, especially those with politically sensitive cases, would face new skepticism in court about the department’s motivations.
“I’m sure that some D.O.J. attorneys feel that judges are not going to look at them in the same way,” said Mary McCord, a former assistant attorney general for the department’s national security division. “And I’m sure there are judges who are going to wonder, ‘Can we credit what you say, or is D.O.J. going to come back tomorrow and say something different?’”
Generally, lawyers across the department’s vast legal apparatus said they were simply trying to ignore the political drama unfolding in Washington and concentrate on their own work.
In the capital, the Justice Department has been grappling with Mr. Trump’s tweets almost since he took office. Amazon is suing the government over its loss of a $10 billion defense contract, saying Mr. Trump’s tweets prove his animosity toward its owner, Jeff Bezos. A team of Justice Department lawyers moved to withdraw from a case over the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census after Mr. Trump blindsided them by declaring on Twitter that their assertions in court were “fake.”
Until last spring, the impact of Mr. Trump’s outbursts about criminal prosecutions were blunted somewhat by the fact that he largely aimed them at Mr. Mueller, whose stature with Congress and the public made it unlikely he would be fired.
Even then, Mr. Trump or his legal team hinted broadly at the prospect of pardons for some associates who faced criminal charges brought by the Mueller team. And Mr. Trump publicly praised one defendant, his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, even as a federal jury deliberated whether to convict him on financial fraud charges.
But United States attorneys lack the political buffer that Mr. Mueller enjoyed. So Mr. Trump’s attacks on the career prosecutors in Mr. Stone’s case carry different weight.
In his interview with ABC News, Mr. Barr seemed concerned about the possibility of more mass defections. Three prosecutors withdrew from the Stone case while the fourth resigned from the department entirely the week before Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Federal District Court in the District of Columbia was scheduled to sentence Mr. Stone.
“I hope there are no more resignations,” Mr. Barr said. “We, we like our prosecutors and hope they stay.”
As Mr. Trump has pointed out on Twitter, two of those prosecutors — Aaron Zelinsky and Adam C. Jed — helped carry out the special counsel’s investigation, which Mr. Trump detested. Their supervisors reassured them this week that they would suffer no retaliation for withdrawing from the Stone case.
Timothy J. Shea, a close ally of Mr. Barr’s who took over this month as interim U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, sent his staff an email of support this week. “While there are times where reasonable minds may disagree, I respect the work that each of you do, and I will do my best to support our work,” he wrote.
Mr. Shea’s role is especially fraught because the Washington office, the largest in the country with 300 lawyers, often handles politically sensitive cases and inherited several prosecutions begun under Mr. Mueller. At least some in that office privately complained that Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr both treated Mr. Shea’s predecessor, Jessie K. Liu, shabbily.
Ms. Liu, a Trump appointee, was viewed in the office as a leader who helped protect prosecutors from political meddling. But her relationship with other department officials grew strained, especially after she decided there was insufficient evidence to seek an indictment of Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy director of the F.B.I. and a frequent target of the president, according to two people familiar with the situation.
She was nominated for a top job at the Treasury Department and transferred there this month to await her confirmation. Then this week, the president decided to rescind her nomination, even over Mr. Barr’s objections, according to three people familiar with the discussions.
The House of Representatives voted Thursday morning in a 232-196 vote to proceed with the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. In her remarks on the House floor, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was sober and reflective. “I doubt anybody in this place, or anybody that you know, comes to Congress to take the oath of office to impeach the President of the United States unless his actions are jeopardizing honoring our oath of office.”
The chairmen leading the inquiry were equally reflective. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said, “The task before us is a solemn one.” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler was resolute, saying, “I support the resolution because we have no choice.” In concluding the debate, House Rules Chair Jim McGovern said, “History is testing us and I worry, based on what we have heard from the other side, that some may be failing that test.”
Halloween — when the doors open to spirits. Perhaps the ghosts of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Franklin, and Lincoln will pay a visit to the orange guy tonight, ala Ebenezer Scrooge. Maybe they can “teach” him something about democracy, honesty and integrity where everyone else has failed.ReplyRecommend28Recommended
I wonder if the boos and “lock him ups” of Game 5 called up those ghosts of United States Past, allowing the Nats could head back to Houston and beat the ‘Stros twice more to win the WS :)ReplyRecommend9Recommended
Kevin McCarthy also got illegal campaign money from Rudy Guiliani’s 2 Kremlin linked thugs Lev and Igor. The entire GOP, like Trump are up to their eyeballs in Russian mob money and they are shitting themselves that if Agent Orange gets taken down, he will take all of them with him. Its also why they refuse to defend the country from the traitor in the white house because they are complicit in the treason.ReplyRecommend47Recommended
Actually later is better. Let the investigations continue on well into next year (there’s plenty to investigate!), with a steady stream of incriminating revelations along the way.
Once the impeachment gets to the Senate, Moscow McCocaine will acquit the Putin-Pleasin’ Treason-Weasel Tangerine Rage-Baby in 10 minutes. They will claim Total Exoneration: Partisan Witch Hunt! And sweep all of it under the rug.
Better we keep the atrocities front and center all the way to the elections next year (or close to), to keep these criminals fresh in the voter’s minds. No on is going to be removed via the impeachment process. We are going to have to vote the rat-fuckers out.ReplyRecommend6Recommended
I used to agree with you 100%. I am wavering from that position now. This wavering is due to two related factors. First I have allowed hope that the senate might actually convict if the public opinion turns enough to seep in. The second is because he whom to be compared to is always an insult to that which he is compared (rat, piece of shit, crotch rot, ….whatever) is a cornered animal at this point and is only going to behave worse as the impeachment process goes on. There is nothing this malignant narcissist / sociopath will not do if he thinks it will distract or deflect. He will keep committing more damage to the country and the world as long as he is in office. We need to get him out ASAP and then follow up with endless stream of criminal prosecutions for the innumerable crimesReplyRecommend1Recommended
It is kind of appropriate for Hallow’s Eve — the gate to Hell is more open than usual, and the ancestors are closer — I hope Nixon and crew are coming back to drag the Rethugs down. The Dems recognize the solemnity and the Rethugs cry “not fair!” as if they were on the school grounds and had gotten caught bullying… ReplyRecommend26Recommended
It’s utterly pathetic the GOP cannot even CONCEIVE of this as being anything more than naked partisanship. They see everything through the lens of corruption and crime.
They know damn well that their impeachment of Clinton was nothing but a hatchet job to get the Democrat and they are so blinded by their corruption they cannot see the obvious crimes of Trump. Rather, they see the crimes but don’t care. They think the law should apply only to Democrats.
They are a disgrace to their oaths and a disgrace to America.ReplyRecommend49Recommended
Indeed. I just saw a scary Halloween monster when I turned on C-SPAN and Gym “See No Evil” Jordan was speaking. I immediately turned it off. That’s too scary even for Halloween.ReplyRecommend3Recommended
Peterson absolutely gets a pass on absolutely everything. Trump carried his district by 31 points. Anyone who calls for a primary against him is acting against our interests.
Van Drew’s district isn’t quite so bad in terms of statistical margins — Trump only carried it by 5 points — but the Republicans there are so rabid that even though their nominee against Van Drew was so horrible that the Republican Party disowned the guy Van Drew only won by 6 points. He is a prime target for the Republicans.
I suspect Nancy told both of them to do what they needed to do. ReplyRecommend29Recommended
Sorry, not sorry. If Peterson can’t muster up enough courage to do the right thing for his country on this, he doesn’t deserve to be there. This isn’t, and shouldn’t be about party, or keeping his job. This is about his primary responsibility – putting the country above all else. Obviously, he is not up to the task or his oath of office. He needs to go.ReplyRecommend3Recommended
Katie was staying for this vote, as the smartest, hardest-working and more effective member of the freshman class, bound for stardom which apparently some vindictive men didn’t like. She’s supposed to be making her farewell speech today. Am I pissed that instead of defending the bullying and harassment that drove her out of Congress, a lot of progressives are blaming her, usually pointing to the one part of the story that is unproven? You bet!ReplyRecommend10Recommended
Per Politics1, the four absentees were Donald McEachin (D-VA) (serious health issues), Jody Hice (R-GA) (father died), William Timmons (R-SC) (reservist on active duty), and John Rose (R-TN) (unknown).ReplyRecommend3Recommended
Gabbard missed all three votes on Turkey although she has recently been blistering in her attacks on Erdogan. That puts her barely ahead of Omar, who seems to have become a Turkish asset. :(ReplyRecommend2Recommended
By Salvador Rizzo Email President Trump has a soft spot for Saudi Arabia, notwithstanding the CIA’s conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.In 2017, he falsely claimed the Saudis agreed to $350 billion in arms purchases and private sector investments in the United States. In 2018, he falsely claimed that $110 billion had been agreed to when looking only at arms sales.Now, after the administration announced Oct. 11 that it was sending to Saudi Arabia an additional 3,000 troops and nearly four dozen Air Force fighters and Patriot antimissile batteries, Trump claims: “Saudi Arabia is paying for 100 percent of the cost, including the cost of our soldiers. And that negotiation took a very short time — like, maybe, about 35 seconds.”We were naturally skeptical, given the president’s track record of exaggerating deals with the Saudis. Lo and behold, Trump’s secretary of defense and the State Department both said that the agreement between the two countries encourages “burden-sharing.” When you share a burden, you’re shouldering some of it yourself. That’s not compatible with saying one side is paying 100 percent of the cost.We gave Three Pinocchios to Trump.
The New Yorker’s big new profile of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is getting buzz for two reasons: 1) the newly discovered video above, in which a 2016 Pompeo warns that President Trump would be “an authoritarian President who ignored our Constitution,” and 2) an anonymous quote that describes the modern-day Pompeo as “like a heat-seeking missile for Trump’s ass.”
But focusing on those two quotes does the piece and its author, Susan Glasser, a disservice. Around those two narrative-building elements is a nuanced, thoughtful piece about the game Pompeo is playing with Trump. And as someone who has regularly spotlighted Pompeo’s sycophancy and willingness to pretend for Trump that up is down, I think it raises important questions.
Throughout the piece, Pompeo is described not as a hapless yes-man but, instead, as one of the smartest members of the president’s inner circle. He’s painted as a man so adept at playing “the Game” that he has navigated his own past comments about Trump and a worldview that departs from Trump’s in significant ways to become the president’s longest-lasting and perhaps most influential national security aide.How to provoke the ire of Mike PompeoWhen asked about something President Trump said, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is prone to belittle the questioner rather than answer the original question. (Video: JM Rieger/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Even critics praise his remarkable political skills.
“Pompeo’s singular ability is in navigating power,” says Raj Goyle, the Democrat he beat for his Kansas U.S. House seat in 2010 — and against whom Pompeo ran a nasty race. “On that I give him massive respect: the way he mapped Wichita power, the way he mapped D.C. power, the way he mapped Trump.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) calls Pompeo “very bright, very politically shrewd,” “with a certain pugnacious quality to his persona.” Foreign policy analyst Ian Bremmer says Pompeo has “in a sense become the real adult in the room. It is less the case than he would like, but vastly more the case than anyone else.”
The dilemma raised by Pompeo is a familiar one in Trumpworld, but it’s perhaps most pronounced — and consequential — in his case: What is the balance between serving Trump, managing him and enabling him?
It’s a balance we dealt with after that New York Times op-ed by a still-unnamed senior administration official, whom some critics said should have resigned rather than trying to, in the author’s estimation, salvage a bad situation from the inside. It’s one that’s even more important today, as internal critics are pushed out and the pool of replacements inevitably veers toward yes-men and -women (because, after all, who else would want to put up with all that?).
And perhaps the defining moment in that evolution, as Glasser notes, was Trump’s hastily announced Syria withdrawal. That was the moment at which Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — perhaps the most respected man in the administration — finally cut bait. It was also a highly symbolic moment for Pompeo, who in contrast with Mattis defended a decision he disagreed with.
Glasser puts it well in the piece’s penultimate paragraph:
This behavior is the reason that Pompeo has succeeded in becoming the lone survivor of Trump’s original national-security team. At the start of his Administration, the President had bragged about “my generals.” But, now that he has pushed out the actual generals who served as his chief of staff, his national-security adviser, and his Defense Secretary, it seems clear that Trump was uncomfortable with such leaders, and rejected their habits of command and independent thinking.
Then Glasser adds, “He wanted a Mike Pompeo, not a Jim Mattis, a captain trained to follow orders, not a general used to giving them.”
Beautifully put. But as with everyone in politics, we shouldn’t just admire someone because they’re good at playing a difficult game; we should ask what they get out of it. If Pompeo is doing this because of raw ambition — because he wants to be president or something like that — he’s playing a dangerous game as the nation’s top diplomat. If he’s doing it because he feels he can keep righting what has become an increasingly rickety foreign policy ship, then that could be seen as even admirable — especially given that he’s often lighting his own credibility on fire.
The Syria withdrawal is perhaps an example of when that approach can and does work. Despite Mattis resigning over it, Trump later backed off his initial decision to withdraw completely. Pompeo got something he wanted — albeit long after all eyes were trained on the internal drama of it all — by using the kid-gloves approach.
On the flip side, though, Trump is rewriting the rules of the presidency in precisely some of the ways Pompeo warned about. Trump has warmed to authoritarians and authoritarianism, similar to Pompeo’s warnings. Shortly before becoming Trump’s pick for CIA director, Pompeo tweeted that Trump should “make the undemocratic practice of executive orders a thing of the past;” Trump has instead taken it to new heights. The secretary of state who once assured that soldiers “don’t swear an allegiance to President Trump or any other President; they take an oath to defend our Constitution” has shown an almost-unmatched allegiance to Trump.
Some in the foreign policy establishment apparently want to believe it could all be for the best — that Pompeo can, on balance, be a force for good. But we’ve seen their hopes dashed when it comes to another man in whom they invested some wishful thinking, Attorney General William P. Barr.
Pompeo might be the other most consequential man in Trump’s Cabinet. And the narrative of his tenure is very much up in the air — and dependent upon the man he once derided as a dangerous commander in chief.ADVERTISING 57 Comments
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Aaron BlakeAaron Blake is senior political reporter, writing for The Fix. A Minnesota native, he has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Hill newspaper. Follow
Tom Steyer (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)In the
month since Tom Steyer jumped
into the Democratic presidential field with a promise to spend $100 million
on his own campaign,
the billionaire activist and former hedge fund manager has made his name known
across early primary states with millions in ad buys.
But it remains to be
seen whether Steyer, a major Democratic
donor who made headlines in recent years for his calls to
impeach President Donald Trump,
can convert name recognition into a spot on the Democratic debate stage in
September and a viable campaign in the long run.
The Steyer campaign
has spent more than $7 million on TV and digital ads during its first month,
according to data provided by social media companies and an analysis of Federal
Communications Commission filings available in the OpenSecrets political ad database.
identified more than $3.7
million in TV ad buys on more than 12,000 spots across the
first four primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Steyer began running ads on July 10, the day after his campaign launched.
A Flourish data visualisation
The TV spots touch on
Steyer’s business acumen, philanthropic work and activism on climate change, as
well as his efforts to oust Trump.
“Donald Trump failed
as a businessman,” Steyer says in one ad,
citing a New York Times
investigationinto the president’s business losses during the late
1980s. “I started a tiny investment business and over 27 years grew it
successfully to $36 billion.”
The ad blitz appears
to have worked on some voters. Steyer, who is visiting Iowa for the first time
on Friday, has already hit at least 2 percent in three qualifying polls, just
one short of the polling requirement for the September debates. That puts him
ahead of several more conventional candidates, including Sens. Kirsten
Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
and Govs. Jay Inslee, Steve Bullock and John
Of the three polls in
which Tom Steyer has achieved at least 2 percent, two were conducted in Iowa
while one was conducted in South Carolina. He has yet to hit 2 percent in any
Still elusive for
Steyer is the requirement of 130,000 unique donors, the Democratic
National Committee’s marker of grassroots support. Campaigns have
until Aug. 28 to reach the threshold. The Steyer campaign has not said how many
donors it has so far.
To attract new donors,
Steyer’s digital ads target voters across the country and ask for contributions
of just $1. During its first month, the campaign spent about $3.5 million on
digital ads: $2.6 million on Facebook,
nearly $700,000 on Google and
more than $200,000 on Twitter. These totals are
unprecedented, even as presidential candidates across the board have increased
digital spending in order to attract small-dollar donors.
campaign presence builds off his activism through political groups he
previously funded out of his own pocket, such as NextGen Climate
Action and Need to Impeach,
a super PAC targeting his now-opponent Donald Trump.
Prior to Steyer’s
official announcement of his candidacy in July, Need to Impeach spent more than
$4.4 million on ads promoting the “Tom Steyer” Facebook page, which is now used
by his campaign. After Steyer threw his hat in the ring, ads on the page
switched from being paid for by Need to Impeach or his personal funds to being
paid for by his 2020 campaign.
Steyer’s 458,000 likes
on Facebook already put him ahead of many better-known candidates including
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
And big spending on digital ads allows the billionaire activist to continue to
grow his audience. His campaign’s digital ad spending totals during its first
month are more than double those of any other Democrat during the same period.
When comparing total
spending on digital advertising, Steyer trails only the three candidates who
are leading most polls: former Vice President Joe Biden and
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Warren and Sanders officially launched their campaigns in February, while Biden
declared in April.
Steyer’s spending on
TV advertising, meanwhile, far outpaces other Democratic candidates, who have
generally focused on building their ground games in early primary states rather
than running TV ads.
Among the top five
candidates in terms of polling, only Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)
has run TV ads so far. Her campaign’s first ad, a 1-minute spot titled
“3 a.m. agenda,” hit the airwaves in Iowa this week.
Gillibrand, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)
and former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.)
have also devoted resources to TV ads. Gabbard has passed the donor threshold
to qualify for September but still needs three more polls. Delaney and
Gillibrand have yet to reach either benchmark.
While some candidates
might be forced to drop out if they do not qualify for the September debate
stage, Tom Steyer has plenty of resources to continue running ads and pick up
new donors. The DNC will host another debate in
El Paso. Dayton. Gilroy. Santa Fe, TX. Parkland. Sutherland Springs. Las Vegas. Sandy Hook. Columbine. Aurora. Virginia Tech.
At the time of this writing, there have been 250 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2019. That’s more than one per day. And gun violence in all its forms collectively takes the lives of more than 100 people per day.
Republican members of Congress respond to gun tragedies while they’re in the news. But, they don’t take responsibility for how their words and actions — and strategic inaction — allow for white supremacist terror and gun violence, nor do they take action to prevent these tragedies from happening again. Instead, they offer up fleeting sentiments or red herring explanations.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun homicide rate in the U.S. is 25 times higher than that of other developed countries. States with more guns have more deaths, and states where it’s harder to get guns have fewer gun-related deaths. Gun safety laws work.
The Democratic-govern House has already passed two pieces of legislation addressing gun violence. Mitch McConnell has refused to bring them up to a vote in the Senate.
Every day Congress refuses to take action, they choose this fate for our children, our communities, and this country. Thoughts and prayers cannot replace action. For this epidemic to end, Congress must intervene.
Join us in demanding Congress, and Trump sign, research-backed gun safety policies including requiring background checks on all gun sales, and supporting a strong Red Flag law that will help prevent gun violence tragedies.
Add your name: Keep your thoughts and prayers. Take action to reduce gun violence.
Look at the Mueller Report as a Detective Story. It Will Blow Your Mind.
It may turn out to be a film noir. The investigators uncovered the plot, but the society is too rotten to do anything about it.
By Quinta Jurecic
Ms. Jurecic is the managing editor of Lawfare.Aug. 2, 2019
When the Mueller report was released, commentators reviewed it not only as a political and legal work but also as another genre: literature. In The Washington Post, Carlos Lozada described the report as “the best book by far on the workings of the Trump presidency.” Michiko Kakutani wrote in The Columbia Journalism Review that it held “the visceral drama of a detective novel, spy thriller, or legal procedural.” Laura Miller of Slate found it to be a work of “palace intrigues.”
Robert Mueller’s testimony on Capitol Hill was subjected to theater reviews, too: Political reporters speculated on the “optics” of his appearance, while President Trump declared, “This was one of the worst performances in the history of our country.”
The theatrical focus is a little much. But the literary critics are onto something. The report tells what is probably one of the biggest stories of our lifetimes — and understanding that narrative as a narrative can help make sense of the confused political moment.
Exploring the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the writer Don DeLillo described in his novel “Libra” the endless work of sleuthing new information on the president’s death as an effort to draft the “book of America” — the novel “in which nothing is left out.” The same might be said of the Mueller report.
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The first half of the report — on efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election — is a spy thriller, a high-stakes caper with greed, dirty deals and intrigue straight out of a Cold War potboiler. The second half — on President Trump’s efforts to obstruct Mr. Mueller’s investigation — is a Shakespearean drama about deception and power. But at its core, the 448-page volume is a detective story.
Like most good detective stories, the report actually tells two stories at once. First, there is the tale of what happened: The Russian government worked to reach out to Mr. Trump’s circle and, once he began running for president, his campaign; then, when the F.B.I. and later Mr. Mueller began investigating, Mr. Trump repeatedly sought to undercut the probe.
But nestled in the citations and prosecution or declination decisions for each section, there is the second story, which is closer to what most people think of when they think of a detective novel — the drama of how Mr. Mueller and his team came to uncover that first narrative and what they made of it. Examining footnotes, the reader can trace which information came from which witness — and discover, for example, that Don McGahn, then the White House counsel, provided Mr. Mueller’s office with hours of interviews about the conduct of the president.
Detective stories are usually about order and the collapse of order: The world is shattered by an act of violence, and the detective sets about making things right by turning the crime into something that can be explained. As Ms. Kakutani writes, “At the end of detective stories, order is usually restored with the solving of a crime, and with the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators.”
The Mueller report does provide a framework for understanding just what has happened to America in 2016 and the years since.
More than a tale about the restoration of order, though, the Mueller investigation is also about the limits of what can be known. Consider, for example, what the report says about Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s erstwhile campaign chairman. Mr. Manafort, writes Mr. Mueller, shared polling data produced by the campaign with a man known very likely to be connected to Russian military intelligence. The subplot is full of possibility, but it ends up leading nowhere. Mr. Mueller writes that his office “could not reliably determine Manafort’s purpose” in sharing the information, in part because Mr. Manafort and his colleagues used encrypted messaging to communicate with one another.
Or there’s the question of what Mr. Trump knew or didn’t know about his campaign’s communications with individuals linked to the Russian government, and whether he was truthful in his written answers.
In this, the Mueller report fits neatly into a subgenre known as the “metaphysical detective story” — stories that take Sherlock Holmes’s triumphant cracking of the case and turn it upside down, so the detective’s efforts end in the same disorder with which they began. These are mysteries about the impossibility of ever really solving a mystery, or perhaps of knowing anything at all.
The uncertainties that hover around the Mueller report evoke similar themes. How much can be known about what Donald Trump had in mind when he fired James Comey? Was Mr. Trump intent on stopping the Russia investigation, or was his goal to remove an F.B.I. director who irritated him for other reasons? Will the question of what Paul Manafort was up to remain forever unanswered, the information crucial to solving the puzzle lost? And if the full story of the Russia affair remains beyond the reach of explanation, to what extent does this cast doubt on the whole project of restoring order in the first place?
As in the metaphysical detective story, these factual gaps raise broader questions about the detective’s inability to reconstruct the story of the crime. Put crudely, this is the question of what it means that Robert Mueller can’t save the country. It’s how to understand the effect on the stability of American democracy of both the president’s relative impunity at the end of an investigation that strongly implied he may have committed serious crimes and the nation’s inability to come to grips with the fact of interference by a foreign power in an election.
Or to put it another way: Does anything matter?
Mr. Mueller clearly thinks it does. Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, he became most animated when he spoke about election interference: “I hope this is not the new normal,” he said, “but I fear it is.”