Wednesday, September 30, 2020

No debate about it - it was a real sh!t-show Trump-style

We in the Scriber home thought that Chris Wallace, the one legitimate newsman at Fox, would keep the debate honest and on track. Not so. We knew the train wreck was coming right from the start. The format, agreed to by all parties, called for each combatant to have 2 minutes to respond to one of Wallace’s questions. Then would follow an open discussion. Oops - I meant free for all. In the horror show that ensued, Trump talked over Biden and basically ignored Wallace’s admonitions. I started keeping track of how long it would take for Trump to interrupt Biden. My data range from 6 seconds to 18 seconds. And when not verbally interrupting, Trump was making faces, shaking his head, scowling, in short being Trump-like.

It was a real shit-show.

Following are some references (with thanks to Editor-at-Large Sherry).

Chris Wallace faces criticism for letting candidates run wild in first debate reports politico.com. Much of the event was plagued with crosstalk as President Donald Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden and the moderator talked over one another. But much of that was from Trump.

Politico.com reports on Why Trump resorted to torching the debate. Unlike in 2016, he lacks a clear message or line of attack against his opponent. What remained was bullying, interruptions and ad hominem provocations.

Yes, that debate was everything everyone has already said it was: “a disgrace,” (Jake Tapper), “a s—show” (Dana Bash), “a train wreck” (Ari Fleischer), “The clusterf— in Cleveland” (a POLITICO colleague).

But why? Why did Trump, down by six points in the polls and facing his last chance to turn things around, come into the first debate against Joe Biden with a strategy — if that’s what it can be called — of blowing up the event with 90 minutes of bullying, interruptions, and ad hominem provocations?

Tuesday [from 2016] was different for three reasons.

First, Trump, the king of powerfully simplistic political branding, no longer seems to have a message. …

In 2016, Trump had a clear and concise line of attack against Hillary Clinton … Those supporters in 2020 can’t seem to muster the same amount of antipathy for the former vice president.

Finally, and most important, Trump in 2020 is burdened with a record, one that has sunk him into chronic unpopularity for several years now …

Tom Friedman, at the NY Times, tells us that Trump Sent a Warning. Let’s Take It Seriously. Our democracy is in terrible danger — more than since the Civil War, more than after Pearl Harbor, more than during the Cuban missile crisis.

Admittedly, Biden did not particularly shine in tonight’s debate. Alas, I have never seen him shine in any debate. But I have no doubt that the people, values and integrity he would bring into government would be of a quality that the nation deserves.

If Trump’s monstrous performance left you feeling that you want four more years of his presidency — that he will respect the outcome of the election if it goes against him, that he will reunite the country, that he will do the presidency proud and surround himself with people of the quality that the country deserves — then you and I were watching different debates.

To get back a semblance of unity and sanity, Biden has to win. And that is why I have only one answer to every question now: Vote for Biden — do it by mail early if you must, but if you can, please, put on a mask and do it in person. If enough of us do that, Biden can win outright with the votes cast on Election Day, instead of waiting for all the mail-in ballots to be counted, thereby giving time for Trump and Fox News to muddy the outcome.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

WH pressures CDC on school openings

Behind the White House Effort to Pressure the C.D.C. on School Openings reports the NY Times. Documents and interviews show how senior officials sought to play down the risks of sending children back to the classroom, alarming public health experts.

As part of their behind-the-scenes effort, White House officials also tried to circumvent the C.D.C. in a search for alternate data showing that the pandemic was weakening and posed little danger to children.

The documents and interviews show how the White House spent weeks trying to press public health professionals to fall in line with President Trump’s election-year agenda of pushing to reopen schools and the economy as quickly as possible. The president and his team have remained defiant in their demand for schools to get back to normal, even as coronavirus cases have once again ticked up, in some cases linked to school and college reopenings.

The effort included Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, …

Oh, man! To paraphrase Rick Wilson, everything Trump touches is corrupted.

More recently, data compiled by the [American Academy of Pediatrics] from recent months shows that hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus have increased at a faster rate in children and teenagers than among the general public.

The[Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] had helped prepare a five-page document supportive of reopening schools, the document that Dr. Birx sent to Dr. Redfield on July 19. It repeatedly described children as being at low risk for being infected by or transmitting the virus, even though the science on both aspects was far from settled.

A large study from South Korea published in July showed that children between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as much as adults do. More data from researchers called into question who was infecting whom.

On July 23, with hours to go before the new guidance was to be published, the White House staff secretary further stunned C.D.C. officials by emailing the guidance to a long list of top White House officials, asking for any “critical edits” by 1 p.m. The list included Mark Meadows, the chief of staff; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council; and Stephen Miller, a White House policy adviser.

WTF?!?! What do these people have to contribute?

By the time it was published, it contained information that C.D.C. officials had objected to earlier in the week, suggesting in particular that the coronavirus was less deadly to children than the seasonal flu.

Thanks to our Editor-at-Large Sherry.

Biden must act on our climate change challenge

Given the probabilistic place the nation is at regarding the election, I’ve avoided speculating about what candidates will actually do given a win. Now, however, things are beginng to clarify.

A FiveThirtyEight email
Morning Distribution Monday, September 28, 2020
Your daily briefing from FiveThirtyEight
Biden is favored 78 to 22.

Good odds, those.

So let’s take a look at what Biden/Harris must do about climate change.

Biden Can Rise to the Challenge of Our Climate Emergency This year’s devastating wildfires illustrate how high the costs of failing to deal with climate change will be. By Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker Science Writer.

It is no exaggeration to say that what the next President does—or doesn’t do—on climate change will affect the world for millennia to come. Joe Biden has said that, on Day One of his Administration, he will rejoin the Paris climate accord. That’s an important first step. It would signal that the United States intends to become, once again, a responsible member of the global community. At the same time, it would commit the White House to delivering a plan to substantially reduce America’s emissions. (Donald Trump shredded the plan that the Obama Administration submitted in the lead-up to Paris, in 2015.)

The new Administration should immediately issue an executive order rescinding a stack of Trump’s executive orders. These include one that directed federal agencies to review any rules that “potentially burden” oil, natural-gas, and coal companies, and another that opened millions of acres of U.S. waters to potential oil and gas drilling. (A few weeks ago, in a naked bid for votes, the President declared a moratorium on drilling off the coast of three Republican-led states: Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.) Another executive order should direct the Secretary of the Interior to halt the sale of leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands.

A Biden Administration should also move to restore key Obama-era regulations that the Trump Administration has been scrapping. Among other things, these regulations were aimed at limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, cars and light trucks, and leaky oil and gas wells. The process of rewriting the regulations, as the Times noted recently, will “take patience and discipline.” That’s in part because, even as the Trump Administration was gutting the rules, it was gutting the agencies responsible for formulating them. The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg may make the task even more difficult, as a more right-leaning Supreme Court could overturn the key decision, Massachusetts v. E.P.A., from 2007, on which the regulations are based.

In July, Biden offered a plan for tackling climate change and promoting environmental justice. As many commentators pointed out at the time, the plan was a good deal more aggressive than the one he offered during the primary campaign, and credit for this goes to the young activists who pushed him to be bolder. (The Washington Post called it the “most ambitious blueprint released by a major party nominee.”) Several of its key elements can be accomplished by executive action. These include: directing agencies to promote clean energy through their purchases of vehicles and equipment; establishing more rigorous efficiency standards for household appliances; creating a new Environmental and Climate Justice Division in the Justice Department; and convening a climate summit of world leaders. Biden should take all these steps expeditiously.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Cornered! Trump is losing degrees of freedom

Jonathon V. Last in The Bulwark poses a question: “When is the last time the sitting president of the United States accused his opponent of using performance-enhancing drugs and demanded that he take a drug test following a debate?”

Obviously, the answer is: Never. Because prior to this moment our country has never had a president who was both psychologically and cognitively unbalanced.

But Trump’s bizarre drug-test demand isn’t just a symptom. It’s an indicator of how desperate he is.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) has more on this.

As Trump demands pre-debate drug tests, Team Biden fires back What does it say about a president’s level of pre-election panic that he’s fixated on a weird theory about performance-enhancing drugs?

Over the weekend, Trump put this in writing for the first time, publishing this missive to Twitter:

“I will be strongly demanding a Drug Test of Sleepy Joe Biden prior to, or after, the Debate on Tuesday night. Naturally, I will agree to take one also. His Debate performances have been record setting UNEVEN, to put it mildly. Only drugs could have caused this discrepancy???”

Asked at a press briefing yesterday whether this line of attack was an attempt at humor, the president replied, “No, I’m not joking.” He added, “People say he was on performance-enhancing drugs. A lot of people have said that. A lot of people have written that…. Take a look. Why don’t you just check it? You can check out the Internet. You’ll see.”

That line, “a lot of people”, is standard Trump fare. He makes these claims based on nothing other than “a lot of people.”

Soon after, the Biden campaign issued a statement that read, “Vice President Biden intends to deliver his debate answers in words. If the president thinks his best case is made in urine, he can have at it. We’d expect nothing less from Donald Trump, who pissed away the chance to protect the lives of 200K Americans when he didn’t make a plan to stop COVID–19.”

Cornered!

Jonathon Last continues.

Here are the baseline facts as we sit a little more than one month away from Election Day:

  • Biden currently leads Trump by > +7 percent in the national polling average.
  • Trump has never been closer than –3 at any point in the race, and even that margin was brief—just two days in April.
  • Trump’s net approve/disapprove is currently –9. He has been net-negative on this measure since February 3, 2017.
  • Taken together, Trump’s net negative approval rating and trailing of Biden are historic. In the advent of modern polling, no sitting president has ever been this unpopular and this far behind, this consistently, ever.

Trump’s pathway to victory—already very narrow—has continued to shrink.

Consider the shifting theories of victory Team Trump has put forward over the last four years:

  • First, they insisted that they would remake the Republican party and broaden its appeal creating a new, Reagan-like realignment and political majority.
  • At some point following the midterm elections, they abandoned even the pretense of trying to win a majority of the vote in 2020, and placed their faith in the hope of winning an Electoral College majority while holding Biden’s popular vote victory to +3 points.
  • Over the summer the idea of holding Biden to only +3 gave way to the hope that they might get to 270 Electoral Votes even if Biden finished +5.
  • Within the last month, the idea of winning in the Electoral College on election night has, itself, disappeared. The campaign now hopes to be able to use litigation and the courts to manufacture an Electoral College victory after the fact.

This progression of victory scenarios is not what you see from winning campaigns.

As of this weekend it is public that (1) Trump’s tax returns are (at least) politically problematic and (2) He is about to have $300 million in debt mature.

And finally, tomorrow night’s debate with Joe Biden is Trump’s last chance to change the dynamics of the race.

What you have here is a powerful man who is cornered. Who knows that he is cornered. And who knows that we know it, too.

I mention all of this because it suggests to me that the danger for America is increasing, rather than decreasing. The eyewall of this storm has is still out to sea. And it’s bearing down on us.

The Drums of October - Trump's taxes on display for each day remaining until the election

In Letters from an American Heather Cox Richardson reports on Trump’s taxes.

Late [September 27] afternoon, the New York Times published the story we have been waiting for since 2016: the story of Donald Trump’s taxes. There was never any doubt that whatever was in those taxes was bad or he never would have worked so hard to hide them. But the picture the New York Times story revealed was worse than expected.

Moreover:

The Times says it will not release the actual documents in order to protect its source(s). It also says it will continue to drop more news from this trove over the coming weeks.

Trump is a national security risk

… The Times notes that “within the next four years, more than $300 million in loans—obligations for which he is personally responsible—will come due.”

This, of course, means that Trump is a huge national security risk. He owes money—to whom we don’t know—and he does not have it to pay his debts. It is no wonder that a bipartisan group of nearly 500 national security officials, past and present, last week endorsed Biden for president. According to Defense News, the list included “five former secretaries of the Navy, two former Army secretaries, four former Air Force secretaries, two retired governors, and 106 ambassadors.” Retired General Paul Selva, who served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the first two and a half years of Trump’s term, signed the letter.

The tax returns also suggest that Trump’s desperation to stay in office is sparked by the 1973 Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel memo saying a sitting president cannot be indicted. Former inspector general of the Department of Justice Michael Bromwich tweeted “Trump knew something we didn’t when he started balking at the peaceful transfer of power. If he loses the election, he faces federal and state prosecution for bank fraud, tax fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud, as does his entire family. No OLC memo will spare him.”

Fake news? Come on, Trump

Trump had a press conference scheduled for shortly after the New York Times story broke. When asked about it, Trump claimed the story was “totally fake news,” although a lawyer for the Trump Organization could only try to refute the story with misleading information. After the conference, CNN’s Ana Cabrera pointed out that Trump could stop the New York Times story if it were wrong by “releasing his tax returns, by making them public.”

Biden ad shows how little Trump paid in taxes relative to typical taxes paid by teachers, firefighter, and nurses. It ain't fake news, folks!

If you paid more than $750 in taxes, the Biden campaign has a sticker you might want writes Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos Staff.

Donald Trump has lost so much money in business that he paid no federal income tax for 10 of 15 years, and paid just $750 in 2016 and again in 2017, The New York Times revealed Sunday night. Chances are, you’ve paid more than $750 in income taxes in a year—and if you want an “I paid more in taxes than Donald Trump” sticker, the Biden campaign has you covered.

That wasn’t the Biden campaign’s only response to the revelations about Trump’s taxes. It’s a safe assumption that the new information is being hastily included in the former vice president’s debate prep, perhaps including a vigorous debate on whether to focus most on Trump’s business failures, the lack of taxes he’s paid, or the hundreds of millions of dollars in debt about to come due for him personally. But in addition to stickers, the campaign released a video driving home the point that you, yes you, probably paid more in taxes than Mr. “I’m a billionaire.”

The video simply shows a series of faces overlaid with text revealing typical income tax for a range of jobs. And, at the end, Trump’s $750. Simple, but devastating, as Trump returns to a weak “fake news” response.

Here are the numbers from the Biden ad.

Typical income tax: Elementary school teacher $7,239
Typical income tax: Firefighter $5,283
Typical income tax: Construction manager $16,447
Typical income tax: Registered nurse $10,216
Federal income taxes paid: Donald Trump $750

Breaking - NYTimes reports Trump's tax info

The NY Times obtained Trump’s tax information and reports 18 Revelations From a Trove of Trump Tax Records. Times reporters have obtained decades of tax information the president has hidden from public view. Here are some of the key findings reported by David Leonhardt.

The New York Times has obtained tax-return data for President Trump and his companies that covers more than two decades. Mr. Trump has long refused to release this information, making him the first president in decades to hide basic details about his finances. His refusal has made his tax returns among the most sought-after documents in recent memory.

Among the key findings of The Times’s investigation:

  • Mr. Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years that The Times examined. In 2017, after he became president, his tax bill was only $750.
  • He has reduced his tax bill with questionable measures, including a $72.9 million tax refund that is the subject of an audit by the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Many of his signature businesses, including his golf courses, report losing large amounts of money — losses that have helped him to lower his taxes.
  • The financial pressure on him is increasing as hundreds of millions of dollars in loans he personally guaranteed are soon coming due.
  • Even while declaring losses, he has managed to enjoy a lavish lifestyle by taking tax deductions on what most people would consider personal expenses, including residences, aircraft and $70,000 in hairstyling for television.
  • Ivanka Trump, while working as an employee of the Trump Organization, appears to have received “consulting fees” that also helped reduce the family’s tax bill.
  • As president, he has received more money from foreign sources and U.S. interest groups than previously known. The records do not reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.

It is important to remember that the returns are not an unvarnished look at Mr. Trump’s business activity. They are instead his own portrayal of his companies, compiled for the I.R.S. But they do offer the most detailed picture yet available.

Below is a deeper look at the takeaways. The main article based on the investigation contains much more information, as does a timeline of the president’s finances. Dean Baquet, the executive editor, has written a note explaining why The Times is publishing these findings.

In some teasers I give you details on just a few of the above mentioned takeaways.

His tax avoidance also sets him apart from past presidents.
Mr. Trump may be the wealthiest U.S. president in history. Yet he has often paid less in taxes than other recent presidents. Barack Obama and George W. Bush each regularly paid more than $100,000 a year — and sometimes much more — in federal income taxes while in office.

His daughter appears to have received some of these consulting fees, despite having been a top Trump Organization executive.
The Times investigation discovered a striking match: Mr. Trump’s private records show that his company once paid $747,622 in fees to an unnamed consultant for hotel projects in Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia. Ivanka Trump’s public disclosure forms — which she filed when joining the White House staff in 2017 — show that she had received an identical amount through a consulting company she co-owned.

Seven Springs, his estate in Westchester County, N.Y., typifies his aggressive definition of business expenses.
Mr. Trump bought the estate, which stretches over more than 200 acres in Bedford, N.Y., in 1996. His sons Eric and Donald Jr. spent summers living there when they were younger. “This is really our compound,” Eric told Forbes in 2014. “Today,” the Trump Organization website continues to report, “Seven Springs is used as a retreat for the Trump family.”
Nonetheless, the elder Mr. Trump has classified the estate as an investment property, distinct from a personal residence. As a result, he has been able to write off $2.2 million in property taxes since 2014 — even as his 2017 tax law has limited individuals to writing off only $10,000 in property taxes a year.

Thanks to Scriber’s Editor-at-Large Sherry.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

No repeal, no replace. Trump settles for rebranding Obamacare

“repeal and replace” has been a staple on the GOP shelf ever since President Obama signed the ACA into law. Any sentient being could figure out why the GOPlins’ mantra did/does not work. Repeal, in the absence of a working alternative would just cancel health care for millions. The GOPlins never did answer the question "replace with what?

After having promised, repeatedly, to do both, Trump has apparently caved and is now just rebranding the ACA for a political aim - to “become the health-care party.” Lipstick on a pig … you know.

Here’s some of the reporting on that by the Washington Post.

After years of promising his own health care plan, Trump settles for rebranding rather than repealing Obamacare.

President Trump capped his fruitless four-year journey to abolish and replace the Affordable Care Act by signing an executive order Thursday that aims to enshrine the law’s most popular feature while pivoting away from a broader effort to overhaul the nation’s health insurance system.

The order declares it is the policy of the United States for people with preexisting health conditions to be protected, avoiding the thorny details of how to ensure such protections without either leaving the ACA, or Obamacare, in place or crafting new comprehensive legislation.President Trump capped his fruitless four-year journey to abolish and replace the Affordable Care Act by signing an executive order Thursday that aims to enshrine the law’s most popular feature while pivoting away from a broader effort to overhaul the nation’s health insurance system.

The order declares it is the policy of the United States for people with preexisting health conditions to be protected, avoiding the thorny details of how to ensure such protections without either leaving the ACA, or Obamacare, in place or crafting new comprehensive legislation.

Democrats have been talking about health care constantly, while Republicans have largely steered clear of the issue, a phenomenon that tracks with public polling showing Americans trust the party responsible for passing the last major health-care legislation over the party that has tried to repeal it without offering an alternative.

But the vision Trump laid out Thursday was a far cry from the “full and complete” plan he has promised repeatedly in recent months — each time failing to meet his self-imposed deadlines.

In addition to the executive action on preexisting conditions, Trump also promised millions of older Americans would receive $200 toward the cost of prescription drugs and signed executive orders he said would somehow prevent unexpected medical bills and protect insurance coverage for preexisting medical problems. The White House released no details of how the $200 program would work, how it would be funded and whether this was a long-term plan or one-time payment to seniors ahead of the election.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Military officers counter suggestion of a role in the election. Trmp does not have that power

Of high concern is Trump’s hints that he might call out the military in response to an electoral loss. In the latest version of Letters from an American Heather Cox Richardson discusses that and more.

Trump’s refusal Wednesday to commit to accepting a loss in the November election with a peaceful transfer of power continues to make waves. Today the New York Times reported that military officers are worried that Trump will try to drag them into a contested election. But while people are rightly frightened about Trump’s increasing authoritarianism, it’s important to understand that he is deploying these particular threats about the election to create an impression that he has the option to control the outcome in November. He does not have that option.

Trump and his cronies are trying to create their own reality. They are trying to make people believe that the coronavirus is not real, that it has not killed more than 200,000 of our neighbors, that the economy is fine, that our cities are in flames, that Black Lives Matter protesters are anarchists, and that putting Democrats in office will usher in radical socialism. None of these things is true. Similarly, Trump is trying to convince people that he can deploy the power of the government to remain in power even if we want him to leave, creating uncertainly and fear. By talking about it, he is willing that situation into existence. It is a lie, and we do not have to accept it.

For his part, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden recognizes that Trump’s repeated threats not to leave office are both letting him convince us that leaving is his choice, rather than ours, and keeping the media focused on him when we should, in fact, be talking about real issues. Biden is refusing to give the idea oxygen, reminding reporters that it is a “typical Trump distraction.” “I just think the people in the country are going to be heard on November 3,” he told them. “Every vote in this country is going to be heard and they will not be stopped. I’m confident that all of the irresponsible, outrageous attacks on voting, we’ll have an election in this country as we always have had, and he’ll leave.” He said: “I don’t think he’s going to get the FBI to follow him or get anybody else to enforce something that’s not real.”

While the Senate voted unanimously yesterday to commit to the peaceful transfer of power in January, it was actually Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, who gave Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power the dripping disdain it deserved. Speaking to reporters, Baker defended the mail-in ballots that Trump is saying will invalidate the election, and called Trump’s suggestion that he wouldn’t leave office peacefully “appalling and outrageous.” Baker said he would to do everything in his power to defend the results of the election.

“A huge part of this nation’s glory, to the extent it exists as a beacon to others, is the peaceful transfer of power based on the vote of the people of this country,” he said.

Trump responded with an insulting tweet, but one that suggested he was deliberately stoking the story to try to get free media coverage.

Here are other topics covered in this latest letter.

  • Trump campaign hurting for cash
  • Trump trots out version of ACA (“Obamacare”) claiming it for his own
  • Trump is running an advertising blitz about the coronavirus pandemic paid for by your tax money

Also well worth your reading is the latest report from the Arizona Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona: Pentagon Officials Concerned Trump Will Pull The Military Into The Election. The Blue Meanie reports on the push-back by current and former military in response to the fears that Trump will try to commandeer our military to enforce his intent to remain in power even with a large loss on November 3rd.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Poof! Trump's magic acts

Scriber’s Usually Unreliable Sources report on Trumpian magic acts.

We know that Trump hates coronavirus tests. They make him look bad. He argues that reducing the number of tests will bring down the infections due to the virus.

Trump says that ‘if we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases’ of the coronavirus reported the Business Insider.

Now, more recently, he is waging war on our ballots. He thinks that ballots are the cause of his low popularity in national polls. Thus he argues for getting rid of balllots.

Trump’s “Transfer of Power” Quote Will Grab the Headlines. But His Full Statement Is Way Scarier.. Abigail Weinberg at Mother Jones reports.

At President Trump’s Wednesday evening news conference, a reporter asked the president, “Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferral of power after the election?”

In normal times, the answer would be obvious. But under Trump, such questions are seemingly designed to elicit an authoritarian response.

“Well, we’re gonna have to see what happens,” Trump replied, echoing his previous unwillingness to state definitively that he would accept the results of the 2020 election. This reply immediately got attention online.

But Trump’s refusal to answer the question wasn’t nearly as scary as what came after.

“Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly,” Trump continued. “There’ll be a continuation.”

Hmmm. Let’s think this through to expose the logic. If we get rid of all coronavirus testing there would be no more cases and Trump would look better. If we get rid of all ballots Trump’s ratings would improve.

See? Magic.

Trump's claim that COVID-19 affects nobody skewered by the Lincoln Project

The Latest Ad from the Lincoln Project: “Nobody”. David Gordon reports: The Lincoln Project has released a new ad targeting the failures of Donald Trump and his Administration.

Called “Nobody” echoes a Biden/Harris Campaign one from earlier in the week.

The ad mocks Trump for saying that COVID 19 “affects virtually nobody” by reminding the viewers that:

“80 percent of COVID 19 deaths are over age 65” equalling “over 160,000 dead Americans.”

The short 30-second ad concludes with:

“If you’re over 65, Donald Trump doesn’t care if you die. Do You?”

The ad also concludes with Trump, on a loop, saying “Nobody.”

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Required reading - Letters from an American - How Trump plans to steal the election

Heather Cox Richardson provides a comprehensive narrative of Trump’s scheme to remain in office no matter what. Below I reprint her letter verbatim and suppress block quotes. (Emphases are mine. The post is public and I am a subscriber.)

Today Americans were roiled by an article in The Atlantic, detailing the method by which the Trump campaign is planning to steal the 2020 election. The article was slated for The Atlantic’s November issue, but the editor decided to release it early because of its importance.

The article’s author, Barton Gellman, explains that Trump will not accept losing the 2020 election. If he cannot win it, he plans to steal it. We already know he is trying to suppress voting and his hand-picked Postmaster General is working to hinder the delivery of mail-in ballots. Now Trump’s teams are recruiting 50,000 volunteers in 15 states to challenge voters at polling places; this will, of course, intimidate Democrats and likely keep them from showing up.

But if those plans don’t manage to depress the Democratic vote enough to let him declare victory, he intends to insist on calling a winner in the election on November 3. His legal teams will challenge later mail-in ballots, which tend to swing Democratic, on the grounds that they are fraudulent, and they will try to silence local election officials by attacking them as agents of antifa or George Soros. The president and his team will continue to insist that the Democrats are refusing to honor the results of the election.

Gellman warns that the Trump team is already exploring a way to work around the vote counts in battleground states. Rather than appointing Democratic electors chosen by voters, a state legislature could conclude that the vote was tainted and appoint a Republican slate instead. A Trump legal advisor who spoke to Trump explained they would insist they were protecting the will of the people from those who were trying to rig an election. “The state legislatures will say, ‘All right, we’ve been given this constitutional power. We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state,’ ” the adviser explained. The election would then go to Congress, where there would be two sets of electoral votes to fight over… and things would devolve from there.

They would likely end up at the Supreme Court, to which Trump this morning said he was in a hurry to confirm a new justice so there would be a solid majority to rule in his favor on the election results. “I think this will end up in the Supreme Court and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices, and I think the system’s going to go very quickly,” he said. “Having a 4–4 situation is not a good situation.”

Amidst the flurry of concern over The Atlantic piece, a reporter this afternoon asked Trump if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election. “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster.” He went on to say: “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer frankly, there’ll be a continuation.”

In response to this shocking rejection of the basic principles of our government, Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted, “This is how democracy dies.” He said: “This is a moment that I would say to any republican of good conscience working in the administration, it is time for you to resign.” But only one Republican, Mitt Romney (R-UT), condemned Trump’s comments as “both unthinkable and unacceptable.”

On Facebook, veteran journalist Dan Rather wrote of living through the Depression, World War Two, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, Watergate, and 9–11, then said: “This is a moment of reckoning unlike any I have seen in my lifetime…. What Donald Trump said today are the words of a dictator. To telegraph that he would consider becoming the first president in American history not to accept the peaceful transfer of power is not a throw-away line. It’s not a joke. He doesn’t joke. And it is not prospective. The words are already seeding a threat of violence and illegitimacy into our electoral process.”

There is no doubt that Trump’s statement today was a watershed moment. Another watershed event is the fact that Republicans are not condemning it.

But there are two significant tells in Trump’s statement. First of all, his signature act is to grab headlines away from stories he does not want us to read. Two new polls today put Biden up by ten points nationally. Fifty-eight percent of Americans do not approve of the way Trump is doing his job. Only 38% approve of how he is handling the coronavirus. Voters see Biden as more honest, intelligent, caring, and level-headed than Trump. They think Biden is a better leader.

Trump’s headline grabs keep attention from Biden’s clear and detailed plans, first for combatting coronavirus and rebuilding the economy, and then for reordering the country. The Republicans didn’t bother to write a platform this year, simply saying they supported Trump, but Trump has not been able to articulate why he wants a second term.

In contrast, Biden took his cue from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and has released detailed and clear plans for a Biden presidency. Focusing on four areas, Biden has called for returning critical supply chains to America and rebuilding union jobs in manufacturing and technology; investing in infrastructure and clean energy; and supporting the long-ignored caregiving sector of the economy by increasing training and pay for those workers who care for children, elderly Americans, and people with disabilities. He has a detailed plan for leveling the playing field between Black and Brown people and whites, beginning by focusing on economic opportunity, but also addressing society’s systemic racial biases. Biden’s plans get little attention so long as the media is focused on Trump.

The president’s antics also overshadow the reality that many prominent Republicans are abandoning him. Yesterday, Arizona Senator John McCain’s widow Cindy endorsed Biden. “My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There’s only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is [Biden].” She added “Joe… is a good and honest man. He will lead us with dignity. He will be a commander in chief that the finest fighting force in the history of the world can depend on, because he knows what it is like to send a child off to fight."

McCain is only the latest of many prominent Republicans to endorse Biden, and her endorsement stings. She could help Biden in the crucial state of Arizona, especially with women. “I’m hoping that I can encourage suburban women to take another look, women that are particularly on the fence and are unhappy with what’s going on right now but also are not sure they want to cross the line and vote for Joe. I hope they’ll take a look at what I believe and will move forward and come with me and join team Biden,” McCain said.

That McCain’s endorsement stung showed in Trump’s tweeted response: “I hardly know Cindy McCain other than having put her on a Committee at her husband’s request. Joe Biden was John McCain’s lapdog…. Never a fan of John. Cindy can have Sleepy Joe!”

And, of course, Trump’s declaration has taken the focus off the Republican senators’ abrupt about-face on confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year. The ploy laid bare their determination to cement their power at all costs, and it is not popular. Sixty-two percent of Americans, including 50% of Republicans, think the next president should name Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement.

The second tell in Trump’s statement is that Trump’s lawyers confirmed to Gellman that their strategy is to leverage their power in the system to steal the election. Surely, they would want to keep that plan quiet… unless they are hoping to convince voters that the game is so fully rigged there is no point in showing up to vote.

Trump’s statement is abhorrent, and we must certainly be prepared for chaos surrounding this election. But never forget that Trump’s campaign, which– according to our intelligence agencies– is being helped by Russian disinformation, is keen on convincing Americans that our system doesn’t work, our democracy is over, and there is no point in participating in it. If you believe them, their disinformation is a self-fulfilling prophecy, despite the fact that a strong majority of Americans prefers Biden to Trump.

Trump’s statement is abhorrent, indeed; but the future remains unwritten.

Trump trashes our democracy, goes full authoritarian against ballots

The Associated Press reports: Trump won’t commit to peaceful transfer of power if he loses November election

President Donald Trump has again refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Trump told reporters he would “have to see what happens" when asked about the matter.

"We’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said Wednesday at a news conference, responding to a question about whether he’d commit to a peaceful transfer of power. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”

"You’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer frankly,” Trump said. “There’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control, you know it, and you know, who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.”

Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, responded by asking, “What country are we in?”

It is highly unusual that a sitting U.S. president would express less than complete confidence in the American democracy’s electoral process. But Trump also declined four years ago to commit to honoring the election results if rival Hillary Clinton won, Aamer Madhani and Kevin Freking report.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

COVID-19 - the good, and,, and ugly

The Washington Post has a daily brief on developments concerning our battle against COVID–19. The deaths in the U. S. now number in excess of 201,000.

Here I nominate some reports for the good, bad, and downright ugly.

The Good - scientists do their thing

It’s not the deep state - it’s called science. That’s why your kids don’t get polio or measles. Get it?

Scientists are trying frantically to understand how and why the coronavirus may be airborne. Many experts believe it is, and point to examples such as the outbreak among a Washington church choir as evidence. “It becomes extremely implausible it was anything but aerosol transmission," one researcher said. Here’s latest about the CDC’s website change and why some scientists think indoor ventilation is key to stopping the spread.

The Bad - Trump keeps spreading misinformation

When he loses he 2020 election, give him a gold-plated MAGA hat and a car load of cheeseburgers. But, for god’s sake, crush his phone.

On Monday night, Trump incorrectly claimed at a campaign rally that covid–19 “affects virtually nobody” younger than 18. His rally sentiments contradict his own health experts, and also what Trump himself told Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward in an interview in March. In one of the president’s interviews with Woodward, Trump acknowledged downplaying the severity of covid–19, saying that the virus affected “plenty of young people.”

The Ugly - downward creep of corruption

Only Trump deserves credit for this one - or maybe Little Lindsey should share in that glory. Trump can get away with flipping off Congress. So why not DoD doing the same?

Congress gave the Pentagon $1 billion via the Cares Act in March to build up the country’s supply of medical equipment. That fund was instead mostly funneled to defense contractors to make things such as jet engine parts, body armor and Army dress uniforms. U.S. health officials say gaps in the pandemic response still remain — including a severe shortage in N95 masks for health-care workers — and this money was supposed to be used to address them.

Cindy McCain endorses Biden

There are some bloggers who regard the upcoming votes as “baked.” Indeed, very little seems to change the results of several polls showing Biden with about an 8-point lead over Trump. But this could be the exception.

Fox news reports that Cindy McCain endorses Biden: ‘We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost’. McCain: ‘There’s only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is Joe Biden’

Cindy McCain, wife of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. announced late Tuesday that she is breaking from her husband’s party to support Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

"My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There’s only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is @JoeBiden,” McCain said in a tweet.

Biden thanked McCain on Twitter, and said that the 2020 presidential election “is bigger than any one political party,” echoing a common theme throughout the democrat’s candidacy.

“Cindy — I’m deeply honored to have your support and your friendship. This election is bigger than any one political party,” Biden said. “It requires all of us to come together as one America to restore the soul of the nation. Together, we’ll get it done.”

Cindy McCain’s endorsement followed the announcement by Biden during a virtual fundraiser Tuesday, that he won her support following The Atlantic report where President Trump was allegedly quoted denigrating veteran soldiers as “losers” and “suckers.”

“Joe and I don’t always agree on the issues, and I know he and John certainly had some passionate arguments, but he is a good and honest man,” Cindy McCain added during a series of tweets Tuesday night. “He will lead us with dignity.”

He will be a commander in chief that the finest fighting force in the history of the world can depend on, because he knows what it is like to send a child off to fight,” Cindy McCain said.

Predictably Trump fired back just extending the trash talk he laid on former Senator (and bonafide hero) John McCain. The Daily Mail reports:

Trump tweeted that Cindy McCain ‘can have Sleepy Joe,’ who he described as the late Senator John McCain’s ‘lapdog.’

‘I hardly know Cindy McCain other than having put her on a Committee at her husband’s request,’ Trump wrote on Wednesday morning. ‘Joe Biden was John McCain’s lapdog. So many BAD decisions on Endless Wars & the V.A., which I brought from a horror show to HIGH APPROVAL.’

Cindy McCain brushed off President Donald Trump slamming her for endorsing his political rival Joe Biden, saying she didn’t have a response to his insults.

Associated Press mocked for calling Cindy McCain’s Biden endorsement ‘stunning rebuke’ of Trump ‘It would be stunning if she endorsed Trump,’ one Twitter user pointed out.

And pouring salt on Trump’s wounded ego:

McCain’s daughter, “The View” co-host Meghan McCain has vowed that she will not vote for Trump, but has declined to say whether she will vote for Biden, vote for a third party or write in someone’s name.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Will the Trump-McConnell push succeed, and what will the Democrats do about it

Can Trump and McConnell Push Through a Successor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg? asks Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker.

In Washington, grief yields quickly to calculation. The announcement of the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court Justice and epic figure in American legal history, came in the early evening on Friday. This led to two simple questions that are now preoccupying the Capitol: Can President Trump win confirmation for Ginsburg’s successor before the end of his term? If so, who will it be?

The broad outlines of the situation are already clear. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, announced within hours of Ginsburg’s death that he will make sure that a Trump nominee gets a vote in the Senate this year. The hypocrisy of his position is breathtaking. Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016, nine months before that year’s Presidential election. On that day, McConnell said that he would not allow a hearing or a vote on a nominee from President Barack Obama, because the next President should be allowed to make the choice. McConnell and his Republican colleagues were as good as his word, and Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee, never received a hearing or a vote. Now, of course, the Presidential election is less than two months away, and McConnell has nevertheless vowed to jam through Trump’s nominee.

Still, McConnell faces a genuine time crunch. Ginsburg died forty-five days before Election Day. It took eighty-nine days for Brett Kavanaugh to be confirmed after he was nominated. (It took sixty-five days for Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed, eighty-seven for Elena Kagan, and sixty-six for Sonia Sotomayor.) Yet Democrats have few procedural tools at their disposal to delay the process. Specifically, under the Senate’s rules, the opposition party has the right to delay a vote in the Judiciary Committee for a week; and it has the right to insist on at least thirty hours of debate on the Senate floor before cloture—that is, a final move to a vote. So it does seem procedurally possible for McConnell to push through a nominee, either before Election Day or during the lame-duck period.

The real question is more political than procedural. McConnell has proved to be a cunning leader of the Senate, but he is not an absolute ruler. Under McConnell, the Republicans changed the Senate rules to abolish the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations, so he only needs a simple majority to confirm a Justice. (He also has the tie-breaking vote of Vice-President Mike Pence.) There are fifty-three Republicans in the current Senate, and they all have their own calculations to make on the issue. Several senators, including Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, as well as Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, have expressed misgivings about or outright opposition to pushing through a confirmation in an election year. Others, such as Mitt Romney and Lamar Alexander, might be expected to feel similarly. But those were theoretical concerns about theoretical nominations. Soon the President will present them with a flesh-and-blood choice for the Ginsburg seat—and Senate Republicans have, almost without exception, fallen into line when Trump (and McConnell) has asked them to do so. Given McConnell’s singular obsession with the courts (and especially the Supreme Court), he can be expected to use every tool at his disposal to close this deal, even if the Republicans lose control of the Senate on November 3rd. (The margin might be even slimmer at that point, if, as expected, the Democrat Mark Kelly defeats the Republican Martha McSally in Arizona. Under Arizona state law, Kelly could take office as early as November.)

In sum, then, it seems that Trump and McConnell could find their way to a vote on a nominee this year. It’s difficult, but not impossible. But who would it be? The leading candidate is clearly Amy Coney Barrett, whom Trump interviewed for the nomination that went to Kavanaugh. She is a dream candidate for the right wing of the Republican Party. She’s just forty-eight years old, a recently confirmed judge on the Seventh Circuit, a former professor at Notre Dame Law School—and believes that life starts at conception and has said that Court precedent is not sacrosanct. And she has a compelling personal story: she and her husband have seven children, five biological children and two who are adopted from Haiti. Trump has also publicly updated his Supreme Court shortlist throughout his Presidency. Other realistic candidates include Barbara Lagoa, who was the first Cuban-American to serve on the Florida Supreme Court, and now is on the Eleventh Circuit. Amul Thapar, a McConnell favorite who is now on the Sixth Circuit, was also interviewed for the Kavanaugh seat and may get another look this time. They all have the formal qualifications that are customary for Supreme Court Justices. The question is whether the Republican Senate will violate its supposed principles from 2016 to push one of them through.

If the answer is yes—if Trump fills the Ginsburg seat—the next question will be how the Democrats respond. If the Democrats fail to retake the majority in the Senate in November, their options are few except to grin and bear it. But, if they win the majority and Joe Biden wins the Presidency, there are four major possibilities for retribution—which all happen to be good policy as well. The first is the abolition of the filibuster, which should have happened decades ago. Even in the minority, McConnell will do everything he can to thwart Biden, and the filibuster will be the tool. This antidemocratic relic should be retired once and for all. Second, statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, with two senators apiece, would be another appropriate rejoinder. Third, Congress should pass a law expanding the number of lower-court federal judges; that number has not increased since Jimmy Carter was President. Finally, the greatest and most appropriate form of retribution involves the Supreme Court itself. The number of Justices is not fixed in the Constitution but, rather, established by statute. If Republicans succeed in stealing two seats—the Scalia and Ginsburg vacancies—the Democrats could simply pass a law that creates two or three more seats on the Supreme Court. To do so would be to play hardball in a way that is foreign to the current Senate Democrats. But maybe, in light of all that’s happened, that’s a game they should learn to play.

Another Mournday Mourning in America

Quote of the Day: What Trump is likely to inflict on America (via @RonCharles).

Amy Coney Barrett, the judge at the top of Trump’s list to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has said we should always remember that a “legal career is but a means to an end … and that end is building the Kingdom of God." https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/09/19/who-is-amy-coney-barrett/

Charlie Sykes observes:

It’s Monday, and the country is waking up with a massive hangover, compounded by a pandemic, an economic downturn, wildfires, an increasingly vicious campaign, and the possibility of a looming constitutional crisis.

… All those pledges to avoid an election year vote on a SCOTUS nominee? You’re kidding, right? Even though he was on tape explicitly promising not to move ahead close to the election, Lindsey Graham predictably was Lindsey Graham.

Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins demurred, and Mitt Romney has kept his powder dry, but the prospects that a fourth GOP senator would stand athwart the Trump/McConnell track and shout “Stop,” seemed to fade when retiring veteran Lamar Alexander declared his support for the snap confirmation.

Bill Kristol interprets:

Lamar Alexander’s statement translated: “No one should be surprised that we Republican Senators would ignore our ‘principled’ stance of four years ago. We can do this. So we will do this. We are Republican elected officials in the year 2020. Our faith is that might makes right.”

Amanda Carpenter, also at The Bullwark:

What makes anyone think those Republicans who lost their dignity defending Trump for the last four years will throw away the chance to get a third Supreme Court justice? They will get that judge because, to many Trump voters, this is the only redeeming thing about the Trump presidency. And this is their last, best chance to win another prize before Trump potentially loses to Joe Biden in November.

Why would they throw that away? Please don’t be naive enough to think that digging up old clips and op-eds of Republicans saying something else some other years will persuade them otherwise. There are only two principles at play: politics and power.

And all of that with the passing of RBG just an hour since.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Health experts caution Trump's vaccine timeline not realistic

CNN reports: Trump says every American can get a coronavirus vaccine by April, but health experts say that’s not likely. Following are excerpts.

President Donald Trump claimed Friday there will be enough coronavirus vaccines for every American by April – a claim that doesn’t match any timeline given by the federal government’s health agencies, private researchers or even the companies making the vaccines.

But Trump and one of his top advisers said they were confident that a vaccine would be approved, manufactured and ready for distribution to all by April.

“As soon as a vaccine is approved the administration will deliver it to the American people immediately,” Trump said at a White House news briefing on Friday. “Distribution will begin with 24 hours after notice.”

… Trump’s newest adviser on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Scott Atlas, echoed the April promise at the news briefing.

“By April every single American who wants to be vaccinated will have the ability to be vaccinated,” Atlas said.

Well …

For the sake of Scribers’ travel plans we hope that the timeline is possible. However:

Earlier this week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield told a Senate Appropriations committee hearing that it would likely be the second or third quarter of next year – late spring or summer – before widespread vaccination could be underway in the US.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he agrees with that timeline.

Dr. Peter Hotez, a pediatrician, vaccine expert and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN that Trump’s promise is unrealistic.

“There’s too many unknowns right now for either the President or Dr. Atlas to make those statements,” Hotez said.

“First of all, we don’t even know if any of the three Operation Warp Speed vaccines in clinical trials even work or if they are safe,” he added.

Most groups advising the federal government on a vaccine distribution plan have advised immunizing people in groups, with frontline health care workers and people at high risk of severe illness at the front of the line.

“Can we vaccinate all of the country by April? I don’t see how that’s possible,” Hotez said.

“To have the nation vaccinated by the end of 2021 would still be a world land speed record.”

SCOTUS Scaries - Who's afraid of the big bad hypocrisy

Not Lindsey Graham.

Not Mitch McConnell.

Not Donald Trump.

These people are shameless and simply do not care that we know it.

Check out John Cassidy’s New Yorker essay on how The Republicans Are Planning a Shameless Supreme Court Heist to Fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Seat.

Nobody should be surprised at the shamelessness of this [GOP] maneuvering. Trump doesn’t do shame, of course. Neither does McConnell. In 2016, he denied hearings or a vote to Merrick Garland, whom President Barack Obama nominated to the Court nearly nine months before Election Day, following the death of Antonin Scalia. But with Trump in the White House, McConnell has signalled all along that he would bring a Republican nominee to the Senate floor this year if a vacancy were to open shortly before the election. The fact that Ginsburg’s passing came just forty-five days before Election Day was immaterial to the conscience-free Kentucky partisan.

If there were any ambiguity about Trump’s intentions, he removed it on Saturday morning, when he tweeted at his fellow-Republicans: “@GOP We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!” The battle has already started.

How to win this battle

Mark Sumner (Daily Kos Staff) reports that Hillary Clinton offers 3 steps Democrats can use to keep Trump and McConnell from stealing SCOTUS. Here is some of his post.

“From where I sit, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish was not that McConnell would do the right thing. She knew he wouldn’t. It was that we would FIGHT LIKE HELL to preserve her legacy.” — Elie Mystal, The Nation

Hillary Clinton has offered a three-part plan for fighting against the rapid replacement of Justice Ginsburg:

1) WIN OVER GOP SENATORS ON PRINCIPLE.

There are dozens of Republicans who barely finished articulating why there could not be a nomination for a Justice during an election year. Not only did many of them voice this in 2016, some of them have continued to do so over the last four years in the most adamant terms; terms that having included things like “even if this was a Republican president.” It’s included telling America to “use my words against me” if they didn’t hold true to this claim. It may seem that there are no Republicans left willing to stand up for any principle, especially one they created out of convenience in the last election cycle, but that feeds right into the next point.

2) PRESSURE GOP SENATORS IN TIGHT RE-ELECTION BIDS.

There are definitely Republicans in red states who will feel like falling in line behind Trump and McConnell is the only option. But there are also those—like Susan Collins—who are already finding that standing too close to Trump is leaving them with radiation burns. Push them. Make this an issue. There’s absolutely no doubt that, no matter who Trump nominates, it will be some Federalist Society-approved ultraconservative, ready to tear down everything Justice Ginsburg accomplished and paint the nation in a shade of industrial repression gray. Make it clear that anyone voting for Trump’s nominee—anyone who even supports a vote on Trump’s nominee—is supporting the reversal of every gain made under Ginsburg.

3) USE PROCEDURAL OBSTACLES IN THE SENATE.

There are not nearly as many obstacles here as there used to be, because the idea that the Senate runs on rules has been simply discarded by McConnell—who regularly discards the idea of regular order to simply do as he pleases. Still, there are some shreds remaining. To start with, Democrats must refuse a continuing resolution so long as there is any threat of McConnell forwarding a nominee. Unless there is a binding agreement—an agreement that goes way beyond McConnell’s word—shut it all the #$%@ down. In addition, Democrats must deny the Senate unanimous consent. Not just unanimous consent on the nomination, but on everything. The Senate has less than two weeks of scheduled sessions in the remainder of the year. Democrats need to deploy every possible roadblock to scheduling hearings, holding hearings, bringing a nominee forward, scheduling a vote … these are delaying tactics, and there’s little doubt that McConnell will run over them all. Only, if the polls start to show that Americans aren’t happy about the nominee or the process, McConnell might start to lose some of these procedural votes.

And Americans are already not happy.

In Times/Siena polls of Maine, North Carolina and Arizona released Friday, voters preferred Mr. Biden to select the next Supreme Court justice by 12 percentage points, 53 percent to 41 percent. In each of the three states, Mr. Biden led by just a slightly wider margin on choosing the next justice than he did over all.

According to that poll, the desire to see Biden pick the nominee is actually higher than the base support for Biden. This could very well mean that the importance of this issue gets driven home to Republicans up for reelection in a very visible way.

But if any of the above is going to happen, it’s also going to have to happen in the streets, on the phones, and in every forum where Democrats—and everyone else—can make it clear that the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg must be preserved at all cost. She carried us this far. Now we have to carry her dream.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Lincoln Project ad reports the cost of Trump's herd immunity

Check out this ad.

In the latest Lincoln Project Ad, Trumps Real COVID 19 Plan Kills up to Three Million People reports David Gordon at Blog for Arizona.

RBG has passed but 'This is our fight now'

Last night Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) concluded her memorial on RBG with these observations.

For many, she seemed to be the last defender of an equality they fear is slipping away. Robyn Walsh, a University of Miami religion professor, watched the outpouring of grief after Ginsburg’s death and wrote “It says a lot about us that the loss of one voice leaves women and their allies feeling so helpless. I am grateful for RBG, her advocacy, and her strength. I’m enraged that we find ourselves here.”

That rage, prompted by the prospect of a Trump appointee in Ginsburg’s seat, led donors to pour money into Democratic coffers tonight. Democratic donors gave more than $12.5 million in two hours to the ActBlue donation processing site, a rate of more than $100,000 a minute. The effect of the loss of her voice and vote on the court will become clear quickly. On November 10, just a week after the upcoming presidential election, the court is scheduled to hear a Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. In 2012, the court upheld the law by a 5–4 vote.

Ginsburg often quoted Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous line: “The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people,” and she advised people “to fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” Setting an example for how to advance the principle of equality, she told the directors of the documentary “RBG” that she wanted to be remembered “Just as someone who did whatever she could, with whatever limited talent she had, to move society along in the direction I would like it to be for my children and grandchildren.”

Upon hearing of Ginsburg’s death, former U.S. Attorney and law professor Joyce Vance tweeted, “We should honor the life of RBG, American hero, by refusing to give in, refusing to back down, fighting for the civil rights of all people & demanding our leaders honor the rule of law. This is our fight now."

Stopping McConnell

Quote of the day: give everything we can to stop some of America’s worst men from blotting out the legacy of one of our very best women. – Michelle Goldberg.

Michelle Goldberg (NY Times) asks Can Mitch McConnell Be Stopped? If Republicans give Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat to some Federalist Society fanatic, Democrats should pack the court.

Two years ago at The Atlantic Festival, Senator Lindsey Graham defended the Republican decision to block President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process is started, we’ll wait to the next election,” Graham said.

Now that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died, only a month and a half before the 2020 election, the chance that the senator keeps his word seems infinitesimal. (He has already said that after Brett Kavanaugh, “the rules have changed.”)

Mitch McConnell certainly has no intention of abiding by the so-called McConnell rule, an invention to justify the Senate’s refusal to consider Garland in March 2016. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” McConnell said then. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

But only hours after Ginsburg’s death was announced, McConnell said in a statement, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.” His tortuous excuse is that his made-up rule is meant to apply only when the Senate and the presidency are controlled by different parties.

Replacing a progressive icon on the Supreme Court with a hard-core reactionary — one who will overturn Roe v. Wade, decimate civil rights law and fully unshackle big business — is an existential matter for the right. It is both the culmination of decades of conservative activism and perhaps an insurance policy in case the 2020 election itself ends up being decided by the court, like Bush v. Gore.

The question now is whether Trump and McConnell can be stopped, and what Democrats should do if they aren’t.

Shortly before Ginsburg’s death was announced, Senator Lisa Murkowski told Alaska Public Media that she wouldn’t vote to confirm a new Supreme Court justice this close to the election. The Times’s Jonathan Martin tweeted that another Republican senator, Susan Collins, told him earlier this month that she would oppose seating a new justice in October.

Should Collins hold firm — obviously nothing to count on — two more Republican senators would have to defy their leadership to save an already beaten, suffering, riven country from being torn fully in half.

There’s a potential twist, because of the special election in Arizona to fill John McCain’s old seat. Mark Kelly, a Democrat, is running against Martha McSally, who was appointed to that seat after McCain’s death. If Kelly wins, as he is favored to, he could be seated as early as Nov. 30.

Depending on when the Senate holds confirmation hearings, that could mean only three Republican senators would be required to hold the seat for Joe Biden to fill. It’s doubtful that three Republican senators would show such civic decency, but we should still use every tool at our disposal to demand it of them.

Outraged people should take to the streets en masse. Democrats in the Senate may not be able to stop Republicans from shoving a nominee through before the election or during a lame-duck session, but if it happens they should do all in their power to grind Senate business to a halt.

And if Republicans do give Ginsburg’s seat to some Federalist Society fanatic, Democrats must, if they win back the presidency and the Senate, abolish the filibuster and expand the court, adding two seats to account for both Garland and Ginsburg.

This goes against Joe Biden’s instincts toward bipartisanship and national reconciliation. But if Republicans continue to ruthlessly bend the rules to establish the domination of the minority over the majority, only hardball tactics can restore democratic equilibrium. Republicans will shriek, but their brazen hypocrisy should justify such dramatic moves in the eyes of the public. They’ll be the ones who’ve annihilated whatever legitimacy the court has left.

Graham’s words couldn’t be clearer, nor could those of Senator Chuck Grassley, the former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who blocked Garland. Just last month, Grassley said that he “couldn’t move forward” with a Trump nominee this year because of the 2016 standard. If Republicans force a justice on us, it’s because they believe that standards are for suckers, and people who hold power need not be constrained by any pledge or institutional tradition.

According to Ginsburg’s granddaughter, the justice made a dying wish: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

It doesn’t matter how exhausted we are, or how difficult the odds. In this hell-spawned year, we can either give up, or give everything we can to stop some of America’s worst men from blotting out the legacy of one of our very best women.

Thanks to Editor-at-Large Sherry.

Friday, September 18, 2020

RBG gone

CNN reports that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dead at 87.

The vacancy gives Trump the opportunity to further solidify the conservative majority on the court and fill the seat of a woman who broke through the glass ceiling at a time when few women attended law school with a different justice who could steer the court to the right on social issues.

Republicans, the 'imposters', are STILL not ready to govern.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) has a new book out titled “The Imposters.” He shows how little regard Republicans have for serious governance. They don’t even show up in support for their own priorities. And they just get in the way of those who have serious policies to guide our country and the skills to implement them. They are the party of no know. And you cam parse that however you choose.

The latest in this travesty is their so-called “Commitment to America.” Benen dismantles it.

House GOP’s new policy blueprint shows a party running on empty. Republicans hoped to prove that they’re ready to be an innovative governing party. Their “Commitment to America” does largely the opposite.

In recent decades, House Republicans looking to regain power have had some success unveiling election-year policy blueprints. Ahead of the 1994 midterms, for example, GOP leaders presented voters with the “Contract with America.” Ahead of the 2010 midterms, the party pitched the “Pledge to America.”

Though voters’ familiarity with the plans may have been limited, Republicans went from the minority to the majority in both of these election cycles.

And with this in mind, GOP leaders are giving it another try, hoping for similar results. Roll Call reported yesterday:

Less than two months before the November election, House Republicans on Tuesday revealed their agenda which aims to combat the COVID–19 pandemic, rebuild the economy and increase funding for the police. The House GOP’s “Commitment to America” outlines their legislative priorities if they win the majority this fall.

To a very real extent, this is the first and only attempt the Republican Party has made to tell voters what the GOP would do with power after the 2020 elections. Donald Trump has no policy agenda – indeed, his campaign website doesn’t even have an issues page – and for the first time since 1854, the Republican Party didn’t bother to write a platform.

All of which makes the “Commitment to America” all the more significant: voters who want to know what GOP officials would do if rewarded by the electorate have this, and nothing else, to go on.

The trouble, however, is that the new Republican policy agenda appears to lack an actual policy agenda.

The full blueprint is online here (pdf) and aside from category headings, it includes 17 bulleted goals. That may seem like a lot for a party that’s been indifferent toward governing for more than a decade – you’ve all picked up a copy of my book, right? – but many of the 17 points are commitments to keep doing the same thing both parties are already doing.

The GOP agenda, for example, vows to continue to fund law enforcement, fund the military, “uphold” the First Amendment, and pursue the kind of tax measures the party has long supported. Those aren’t exactly surprising goals, but just as importantly, they’re evidence of Republicans promising voters more of the status quo. “Vote for us and we’ll keep doing what we’re doing” is hardly the stuff of a meaningful policy agenda.

Similarly, the blueprint is filled with anodyne goals such as “slashing drug prices,” “reducing our debt,” and “investing” in education. As is always the case in governing, the details matter, and GOP officials haven’t expressed any real interest in fleshing out how it might implement any of these ideas.

For the most part, the “Commitment to America” is less a policy agenda and more of a list of pleasant-sounding priorities. Republicans want to “defeat” the coronavirus, for example, with uncontroversial goals. They want to “modernize America’s infrastructure,” just like Democrats do. The problem is not with the priorities, but rather, with the party’s capacity for pursuing these priorities in an effective way.

There are plenty of predictable elements – GOP officials promise through the document to “defend the unborn” and subsidize private schools through vouchers – but even here, it’s simply more of the same from the party that’s pushed these same lines for decades.

If House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R) and the rest of the Republican leadership team hoped to prove that they’re ready to be an innovative governing party, their “Commitment to America” does largely the opposite.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Latest polls from Wisconsin and over-65 land are positive for Biden

Charlie Sykes reports via The Bulwark on the latest polls;

Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin.

Why the obsession, you ask? Because I live here and because it will decide the outcome of the election.

Two polls of note: yesterday’s CNN poll has Biden up by a rather stunning 10 points– 52% to 42%. Today’s Washington Post/ ABC poll shows a more modest lead: 52 percent to 46 percent for Trump among likely voters, and 50 percent to 46 percent among all registered voters.

The Post/ABC poll also shows Biden with a much wider: 57 percent to 41 percent lead among Minnesota likely voters

The olds may tip this election.

New numbers from a poll commissioned by AARP confirm the shift of older voters away from Trump.

According to the survey, Biden leads Trump among 65-plus voters in eight states: Colorado (51% to 44%), Iowa (55% to 38%), Maine (62% to 32%), Michigan (57% to 39%), Montana (50% to 45%), North Carolina (52% to 45%), Pennsylvania (53% to 42%), and Wisconsin (56% to 39%). Trump leads Biden in one state: Georgia (54% to 42%). Biden and Trump are statistically tied in two states: Arizona (49% to 47%) and Florida (49% to 48%).

Herd mentality runs amuck among Congressional Republicans

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz reports that Scientists Believe Congressional Republicans Have Developed Herd Mentality.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Researchers at the University of Minnesota believe that Republican members of Congress have obtained “extremely high” levels of herd mentality, a new study shows.

According to the study, the researchers found that, in obtaining herd mentality, the G.O.P. lawmakers have developed “near-total immunity” to damning books, news reports, and audio tapes.

Herd mentality was observed in congressional Republicans from every region of the country, with the exception of one senator from Utah, Mitt Romney, who was deemed an outlier and therefore statistically insignificant.

Davis Logsdon, the scientist who supervised the study, said that Republicans were exhibiting herd mentality to a degree never before observed in humans.

“Herd mentality at these levels historically has appeared only in other mammal species, like lemmings,” the researcher said.

What scares McConnell and the GOPlins in the Senate

Dartagnan at the DailyKos thinks that McConnell and the GOP Senate must be scared about something.

When Republicans are scared, they can always be counted on to gin up the race-baiting. And right now, Mitch McConnell is scared.

As reported by The Hill:

“I think the American people should know what it means if the Senate shifts control and you heard it. Eliminating the filibuster, D.C. statehood, Puerto Rican statehood and packing the courts. That’s what you get if you change the Senate,” McConnell said on Tuesday, asked if Republicans were highlighting these issues because they were worried they could lose the Senate.

Really? Filibuster, court packing, D.C. and Puerto Rican statehood? That’s what the American people should be worried about?

To be sure, the Republicans in the Senate are freaking out about losing the filibuster if—as is looking increasingly possible– they get shellacked in November and find themselves in the minority. In fact, losing the filibuster is their whole menu of talking points for the week. Apparently someone decided that talking about how important it is to preserve the GOP’s right to obstruct the legislative process is better than talking about why they’re not actually helping Americans in need during the worst public health crisis this country has seen in over a century:

GOP senators, during floor speeches and press conferences this week, are pointing to chatter that a Democratic-controlled Senate could nix the 60-vote filibuster to make their case to voters that the party has shifted too far to the left in the run up to the election.

The fact that they’re talking so much about what amounts to a procedural rule change suggests just how concerning their internal polling must look. But since the average American couldn’t explain the difference between the filibuster and a Phillips screwdriver, that one’s pretty much a nonstarter with the public. Nor is McConnell’s vague allusion to Democrats “packing the courts” likely to inspire much concern, since Vice President Biden has already explicitly rejected the idea of “adding seats” to the Supreme Court, for example. In reality, “packing the courts” is just what McConnell and his henchmen have been doing for the last three years, since they’ve controlled the Judiciary Committee by virtue of their majority. In fact, it’s the only thing they’ve been doing, routinely confirming ideologically extreme Judges, many of whom were considered “unqualified” by the ABA. At this point there really aren’t very many courts left to pack. So while that may be a shout-out to their Evangelical base to get out and vote in places like Georgia and North Carolina, there’s nothing particularly new there.

But of all the things Democrats might do with a Senate majority, why ever would McConnell mention D.C. and Puerto Rican statehood? Those are important concerns, to be clear, but it’s not as if those issues are exactly at the top of ordinary Americans’ radar right now. Honestly, the issues foremost in most Americans’ minds are hanging on to their jobs and surviving the COVID–19 plague that Donald Trump has allowed to endlessly metastasize.

But there’s not much that Mitch McConnell can say about either of those things, since his party and its Dear Leader bear responsibility for the current state of the country. Nor can he talk about what the Democrats plan to do to fix either the pandemic or the economy, because he knows those measures—like direct aid to those out of work, child care subsidies, improved health care services, assistance to state and local governments and schools– are going to sound pretty damn good to most voters, come November. And they’re all things that the GOP-controlled Senate under McConnell has blocked from happening during the past six months.

So instead he’s left with conjuring up visions of African-Americans in our nation’s capital, and brown people in Puerto Rico, clamoring for equal representation in the electoral process. Apparently that’s McConnell’s “go-to” nightmare scenario for the average white Republican voter, the number one worry that keeps them tossing and turning every night after they switch off Fox News: “Why can’t you sleep, honey?” “Leave me alone, I’m worried about D.C. statehood!”

I guess if you have no ideas, no plan, and no solutions, that’s all you have to go with.

Flippable Senate seats

The Senate seats most likely to flip in November.

Flip

Republicans have a slim, three-seat majority in the Senate that they’re trying to hold on to in November. And they are in for a battle to do it: There are 13 chances on this list for Democrats to flip Senate seats and just two for Republicans.

But Republican strategists say they’re seeing evidence that Republican-leaning voters turned off by President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus are starting to come home to the party in the final stretch, and they think it might be enough for some of these vulnerable Republican senators to hang on and deny Democrats the majority.

Democrats’ path to the majority is to net at least four Senate seats or net three and win the White House to get the majority, but that requires going through some Republican-leaning states.

Because so many of the races could go either way — while others are more of a stretch — we divided them in three categories: More likely to flip than not, toss-ups, and could flip under the right conditions.

I’ve nominated three that I think have a chance of flipping from R to D.

More likely to flip than not: Alabama, Colorado and Arizona

Colorado (Republican-held): Sen. Cory Gardner (R) is trying to pull away from Trump in this purple-blue state by talking about an outdoors conservation bill he wrote, rather than how he voted to acquit the president on impeachment. His opponent, former governor John Hickenlooper (D), hasn’t seen an ethics scandal hit his polling in a significant way. A new AARP poll of all likely voters shows Hickenlooper leading 51 percent to Gardner’s 46 percent. Gardner will need Trump to perform better than expected here to keep this seat. Said one Republican strategist: “If the president is really struggling in Colorado, that makes the math difficult for Cory.”

Arizona (Republican-held): Former astronaut and gun-control activist Mark Kelly is one of the Democrats’ strongest candidates of 2020. He has outraised Sen. Martha McSally (R) the entire race and is leading in recent major polls. Republicans are hopeful this could become more of a toss-up race, because Arizona is a Republican-leaning state. It hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president in decades, and Kelly would also be just the second Democratic senator from this state in 25 years. (Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema beat McSally in 2018.) A new CBS/YouGov poll in Arizona finds Kelly leading by seven percentage points.

Toss-ups: North Carolina, Maine, Iowa, Georgia, Montana

Maine (Republican-held): One Democratic strategist predicted the battle for the majority could come down to these next two races. Maine and Iowa are going to be down to the wire, but as the home stretch to the election begins, Republicans say they feel good about where they are in both.

In Maine, Sen. Susan Collins (R) is trying to lean on her expertise and history representing the state for more than 20 years to overcome Democratic attacks, led by her opponent, Maine’s House Speaker Sara Gideon (D), that she is no longer independent from Trump. (Maine is not a state Trump is expected to win.) Collins was also a co-author of the small-business loan program when the coronavirus shut down the economy, which Republicans say can help buoy her. A new Quinnipiac University poll that was released after this story published has Gideon leading Collins 54 percent to 42 percent — and Collins more disliked than liked by voters in her state. As another Democratic strategist put it: “It takes a perfect storm to unseat someone like Collins, but that storm is happening.”