Friday, September 25, 2020

RON DeSANTIS WILL GET PEOPLE KILLED -- AND PROBABLY WON'T GET TRUMP REELECTED

This is insane:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis not only allowed bars and restaurants to open at full capacity on Friday, he said he’d override local efforts to keep them closed despite the raging coronavirus pandemic.

On the same day Florida surpassed 14,000 coronavirus deaths, DeSantis announced that the state was immediately moving to the third phase of its three-phase reopening plan. Bars, restaurant, gyms, shops, stadiums, and theme parks can operate at 100 percent capacity, with only some room for local limitations, according to the state’s plan.

DeSantis, a Trump acolyte whose lax response to the pandemic has enraged many in his state and across the country, said he’d sign an order Friday to guarantee restaurants operate at a minimum 50 percent capacity “regardless of local rule.” Any city or county that wants to restrict capacity to between 50 and 100 percent will have to provide justification and outline the cost of it, he said.

He even said he’d forgive all fees and penalties handed to people for violating social distancing orders, and prevent local governments from collecting any outstanding fines.
I know that Ron DeSantis is a loyal Trump bootlicker. I know Trump believes that an economy running at full capacity, or as close to full capacity as possible, is his ticket to reelection, even though polls show that voters don't blame Trump for the current economic downtown and still give him strong marks on the economy -- which hasn't helped him close the gap in his race with Joe Biden.

If DeSantis really wants Trump to win Florida's 29 electoral votes, he shouldn't do with Florida's economy what Trump wants him to do. That's because the inevitable sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Florida will not only kill people, it will also turn increasing numbers of Florida voters, especially elderly voters, against Trump once again. Notice when the peak in Florida cases took place:
Now notice when Biden had his biggest lead over Trump in the state:
July was when cases peaked -- and when Biden jumped out to a significant lead. So not only is DeSantis about to engage in mass murder, he's doing it in a way that will do political harm to the president he's trying to help.

DeSantis might be too stupid to understand the science. He might be too in thrall to right-wing pseudo-science and Fox News talking points. He might be trying to appease right-wing business leaders, who are as sociopathic as the president, and therefore as indifferent as the president is to the suffering and death the virus is likely to cause ordinary Florida citizens in the near future.

But this is political incompetence as well as moral monstrousness. It will kill people -- and it might kill Trump's presidential hopes.

ON THE SUPREME COURT, TRUMP IS GETTING HIS MARCHING ORDERS

President Trump has expressed an interest in picking Barbara Lagoa, a Cuban-American from the swing state of Florida, for the Supreme Court. But some of his supporters are ordering not to do that:
Trump has heard from evangelical leaders who argue that his religious supporters might be less enthusiastic about a nominee like Lagoa — who they say doesn't have enough of a paper trail to demonstrate conservative credentials — but who say they'll turn out to vote for the president's choice anyway. Others have told Trump that they'll accept only a nominee like [Amy Coney] Barrett, who they say has a clear conservative and anti-abortion record, and that without such a pick he'll lose critical support.

"Not all on the list are acceptable, and that's being communicated," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who has told the White House that nominating Lagoa wouldn't go over well with him and other evangelicals.
Trump really wants to win Florida. But I predict he'll reject Lagoa and pick Barrett because of this pressure.

Trump likes to say that Joe Biden may not be a radical leftist, but in office he'd just be a puppet, with extremists pulling the strings. But this is pure projection. Look at Trump on judges: First he hands the entire job of judge-picking over to Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society. Then, in all likelihood, he'll defer to evangelicals on this pick. Some aren't even pretending that they want a Supreme Court justice who's broadly acceptable to the American public. Just the opposite, in fact:
While some of the president's allies have pointed to the Senate's bipartisan 80-15 vote last year to confirm Lagoa to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as an advantage, Perkins said that's actually a significant drawback, because it shows she's not hard-line enough.

"In this Senate, in this environment, that itself raises questions," he said. By contrast, Barrett was confirmed to the 4th Circuit Court on a party-line vote of 55-43 in 2017.
Will Trump respond to this pressure? I think so. But remember, Biden is the one who's supposed to be manipulated by radicals.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

DOES BIDEN HAVE A SHOT IN TEXAS?

It doesn't look as if Joe Biden can quite overcome Donald Trump's lead in Texas -- Trump is up by 1.9 according to FiveThirtyEight, and up by 3.6 according to Real Clear Politics. On the other hand, there's this:
A little less than three weeks before early voting is due to begin, Texans are already making election year history, setting new records for voter registration....

Jeremy Wallace covers politics for the Houston Chronicle. He told Texas Standard the state has a bit over 16.6 million registered voters, with 1.5 million added since the 2016 presidential election.

“Even since the pandemic hit, we’ve added 400,000,” Wallace said.
Just for the record, Beto O'Rourke lost to Ted Cruz in 2018 by 214,921 votes (out of 8,371,655 cast).
Of the new voters registered, one-third come from Harris County, Bexar County and Travis County, all home to large cities that tend to vote for Democratic candidates. There have also been higher-than-usual increases in the number of voters registered in suburban counties like Hays and Williamson near Austin, and Montgomery County in southeast Texas. Republicans hope those voters will be more likely to support their candidates.
Harris County (which includes Houston), Bexar County (San Antonio), and Travis County (Austin) all voted for O'Rourke by comfortable margins -- but O'Rourke won Hays and Williamson counties, too, after Trump won both in 2016.

Will Texas surprise us? Maybe it'll just be close, but who knows? Meanwhile, here are a couple of possible surprises: Biden leads Trump in Iowa by 3 in the New York Times/Siena poll that was released this week, and he's ahead of Trump by 5 in Ohio in a just-released Fox poll. Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 9 in Iowa and by 8 in Ohio.

Midwestern appeal? Maybe Biden really was the right candidate for this election.

COULD THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA'S FONDNESS FOR HORSERACE JOURNALISM ACTUALLY HELP DEMOCRATS THIS YEAR?

This confirms what we already knew:
President Trump, during a news conference at the White House Wednesday evening, refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the November election.

Asked by a reporter whether he would “commit here today for a peaceful transfer of all power after the election,” noting the violence that has arisen in some cities, Mr. Trump demurred. “We’re going to have to see what happens,” he said. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”

“We want to get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,” he added. “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 anyone else.”
We don't know everything he's planning to do, but we know it's quite likely that he'll be leading in the popular vote on Election Night and we know he'll declare himself the winner, arguing that votes shouldn't be counted after a certain arbitrary time limit.

Earlier this month, I said that news organizations, particularly TV news outlets, just need to do what they routinely do when votes are being counted: analyze where the uncounted votes are and say that it's too early to make certain calls, just the way they do when key precincts or counties haven't reported their vote totals in an ordinary close race. A recent column by David Ignatius of The Washington Post suggested that the press is planning to take this approach:
Journalists at all the major networks use similar language to describe the challenge of reporting the Nov. 3 outcome. They recognize that because many votes will be cast by mail, the counting will be slow in some states and the final result may be delayed for days. Commendably, all the networks are preparing for a “decision night” that may not yield an immediate decision....

I spoke this week with senior political journalists at Fox News, ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC.
Some of the responses:
“There’s a lot of responsibility for us. We take it very seriously,” Bret Baier of Fox News, who will be co-anchoring that network’s coverage, stressed in an interview. “If the difference in the number of absentee ballots yet to be counted is too large, you can’t make the call.” ...

David Chalian, the political director at CNN, explained: “If someone out there is claiming victory, and we haven’t counted the vote yet and made a call, we have to be clear that the facts don’t back up that claim.... One thing that’s critical is that we be as transparent as possible about what is and isn’t in the vote count, and what we know about the still-outstanding vote.”
And this seems important:
The networks plan to use “exit polls,” which this year will include telephone sampling that captures absentee voters.
At election time, we regularly complain about the media ignoring issues and concentrating on horserace journalism. But this could be a rare time when that tendency works to the Democrats' advantage. Treating the vote count as the multi-day (possibly multi-week) process that it's likely to be extends the horserace. Why would the media want to agree with President Trump that the race is over on Election Night and there's no more horserace news?

So democracy might prevail because the media loves a clffhanger.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

JOHN HARRIS'S THEORY OF MITCH McCONNELL IS SIMPLE, ELEGANT, AND WRONG

Politico's John Harris writes:
There are two possible reasons why it would be rational for [Mitch McConnell] to act on the Supreme Court vacancy in a way that is so damaging to the reputation of the Senate, and so contemptuous of half of his Senate colleagues and of American voters.

One is that he expects his party to hold power a very long time. Who cares what the opposition thinks when they don’t matter now and won’t in the future?

The other is that he expects to hold power a very short time, or at least is keenly attuned to this possibility, and believes that once power is lost it is gone indefinitely. Under this scenario, it would make sense to lock in as many gains, as quickly as possible, for as long as possible. The enduring scorn of the opposition is an acceptable price to pay because the long-term contest is essentially over.

Which possibility more likely reflects the ruthless rationality of the McConnell mind?
Harris goes on to write about the demographic changes in America that are said to doom the Republican Party (how many years have we been hearing this?). Harris's conclusion:
The Republican Party’s sprint to install a justice for a life-time appointment this year, either days before a presidential election or in the lame-duck session afterward, looks a lot like the dying spasms of a political movement that began five decades ago.
But Harris is wrong. McConnell doesn't believe the GOP will be in power forever and he doesn't believe it will lose power soon, never to regain it.

What McConnell believes is that Republicans may well lose power in this election (though he and his allies will use every tool available to them in order to prevent that, including some that are more suited to an authoritarian dictatorship than a democracy). But even if they do lose power, they'll simply make America as ungovernable as they can for the Democrats starting in 2021, just the way they did starting in 1993 and 2009, with the expectation that they'll come roaring back in the next midterms, and (given the advanced age of the Democratic presidential nominee) possibly in the next presidential election.

In the meantime, they want to secure control (or I should say further control) over the federal judiciary, in part because GOP judges will be instrumental in their effort to ensure that the Biden presidency fails. GOP judges will also help ensure that Democratic-leaning voters will find it harder and harder to vote and harder and harder to overcome the hurdles preventing their votes from resulting in effective legislative majorities at the federal and state levels.

Harris's theory rests on the assumption that increasingly unpopular Republican policy will soon begin to fail badly at the ballt box because America will continue to be a genuine democracy. McConnell's strategy assumes that American democracy is expendable.

McConnell does expect his party to hold power a very long time, just as it's held power for the past forty years. He knows, however, that Democrats will nominally hold power at some moments in the future. His goal is to ensure that America remains essentially a one-party (i.e., Republican) state, even if Democrats manage to win the occasional election.

Our long-term goal should be to expose and ultimately thwart McConnell's plans.

A FEW QUESTIONS FOR TRUMP'S SUPREME COURT NOMINEE

Barton Gellman's Atlantic article about the inevitability of a Trump effort to steal the election in the event of Joe Biden victory is frightening, in part because of details like this:
We are accustomed to choosing electors by popular vote, but nothing in the Constitution says it has to be that way. Article II provides that each state shall appoint electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” Since the late 19th century, every state has ceded the decision to its voters. Even so, the Supreme Court affirmed in Bush v. Gore that a state “can take back the power to appoint electors.” How and when a state might do so has not been tested for well over a century.

Trump may test this. According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority. With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly.
We know that Trump intends to challenge mail ballots, which are expected to be disproportionately Democratic. So when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings on the president's Supreme Court nominee -- a nominee Mitch McConnell hopes to seat before the election, so she can vote in the GOP's favor on election-related issues -- Democratic senators, in addition to asking her about healthcare and abortion and the usual issues that come up in such hearings, should ask her a few questions about democracy in America. Question such as:
Do you believe that a mail ballot cast in a manner consistent with state and federal law is a legitimate ballot?

Do you agree with the president of the United States that an election in which there are a large number of mail ballots is inevitably fraudulent?

Do you agree with the president of the United States that sending mail ballots to all voters in a manner consistent with state and federal law and with proper safeguards in place inevitably leads to fraud?

Do you agree with the president of the United States that there is a time limit after which ballots cast in a manner consistent with state and federal law should not be counted?

Do you believe that the president of the United States has the right to impound ballots cast in a manner consistent with state and federal law, and if so, under what circumstances?
And so on. This is not an exhaustive list.

It won't really matter -- when election issues come before the Court, Trump's appointee, if she has been seated by then, will vote however she likes, which in all likelihood will mean however the Republican Party wants her to vote. But it would be useful to put her on the record, on national television, acknowledging the legitimacy of the election we're about to conduct. And if she hesitates, Democrats should make that a national scandal.

Because remember who intends to vote by mail this year: older Americans in particular, many of them white suburbanites, who fear the health consequences of showing up at the polls. Democrats need to start saying now that the president's position is that Grandma's vote is illegitimate by definition. His Supreme Court nominee, who might not be expecting such questions, needs to be asked if she agrees.

DEMOCRATS WOULD SEEM MORE REASONABLE IF THEY STOPPED TRYING TO SEEM SO REASONABLE

Here's a CNN report on Democratic strategy for the upcoming Supremne Court fight and the future of the Court:
increasingly, Democrats are trying to steer clear of talk that they would change the makeup of the Supreme Court by adding seats to it if they take the Senate majority this fall, with some arguing that gives the GOP ammunition in the battle for control of the chamber.

"I'm not for retaliatory moves," said Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, the Democrats' most vulnerable senator this cycle, pushing back on calls to add seats to the court. He wouldn't say if he would oppose a Trump pick no matter what.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who also faces voters in November, said: "No" when asked if she backs adding more seats to the court if Democrats take the majority.

"I think the important thing right now is that people need to make our Republican colleagues and the Trump administration aware ... if they believe, as I do, that they should let the election go forward and the next president, whoever that is, nominate the nominee to the Supreme Court," Shaheen said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and progressive firebrand, sidestepped questions when asked if she favored adding seats to the Supreme Court.

"We need to talk about what's at stake now: What's at stake in the lives of millions and millions of families," Warren said Tuesday.
It doesn't matter. Republicans already have their talking points now that the subject has been raised. Here's Marc Thiessen of The Washington Post:
Even before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the left was never going to be content with simply replacing liberal justices, because that would not change the ideological makeup of the court. They intend to follow through on their threats to “restructure” the court by adding justices to install a liberal majority. But they won’t stop there. They will also pack the federal circuit courts of appeal, neutralizing all of Trump’s judicial appointments and restoring liberal majorities.
So what do we have? We have Republicans describing any effort to add seats to the Supreme Court or lower courts as tyranny. And we have Democratic senators describing it as ... either a bad idea or one they really, really don't want to talk about.

If Republicans say this as a bad idea and Democrats say this is a bad idea, what are voters who haven't really thought about the issue supposed to think?

Republicans don't act this way. They don't acknowledge objections to their hardball tactics, except in a very limited way. Only a handful of Republicans have questioned Mitch McConnell's plan to ram through a Court nominee this year -- everyone else in the party is talking about it as if it's the only reasonable course of action. The same was true four years ago: Republicans didn't tell reporters that stonewalling Merrick Garland was a bad idea. They just did it, and said that was the only reasonable course of action.

Maybe Democrats don't really want to pack the Court. But if they're considering it, they'll appear more reasonable if they describe Court-packing as constitutional (the number of justices on the Court isn't fixed in the Constitution) and as having historical precedent:
The number of Justices on the Supreme Court changed six times before settling at the present total of nine in 1869.
They could also remind voters that four of the nine justices on the Court were named by presidents who reached the White House after losing the popular vote, and Trump's upcoming pick would be number five.

Democrats would be better at playing hardball if they weren't so guilt-ridden about it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

ROMNEY ECHOES ONE OF HIS MOST RIDICULOUS PAST ARGUMENTS

This didn't surprise me:
Sen. Mitt Romney said Tuesday he would support a floor vote to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, essentially clinching consideration of President Donald Trump’s nominee this year despite the impending election.

Just two Republican senators have asked for the party to put the brakes on the confirmation. And with a 53-seat majority, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) now has the votes he needs to move forward with a nominee.
Remember, Romney wasn't a senator in 2016, so he can say truthfully that he didn't refuse to consider Merrick Garland, and thus he can dodge accusations of hypocrisy. Also, let's not forget that the judges Mitch McConnell and Leonard Leo are getting approved with brutal efficiency are exactly the judges who would have been appointed by any other serious 2016 Republican contender for the presidency in -- or by a second-term Republican president who won the 2012 election. These judges would all have been on Romney's list, too. Romney doesn't like Trump, but in this case Romney isn't endorsing an act of Trumpian ruthlessness -- he's endorsing an act of mainstream Republican ruthlessness.

But I see that he's justified the decision by echoing a particulalry absurd assertion he made in a speech many years ago. Here's why he says he supports a vote:
“My liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court, but that's not written in the stars,” the Utah Republican told reporters after this decision. He called it “appropriate for a nation that is ... center-right to have a court which reflects center-right points of view.”
That's right -- Romney says a Supreme Court with Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and John Roberts as five of its (until recently) nine members is liberal.

This reminds me of a preposterous section of Romney's 2008 Republican convention speech on behalf of John McCain:
... let me ask you — what do you think Washington is right now, liberal or conservative? Is a Supreme Court liberal or conservative that awards Guantanamo terrorists with Constitution rights? It's liberal! Is a government liberal or conservative that puts the interests of the teachers union ahead of the needs of our children? — It's liberal!

Is a Congress liberal or conservative that stops nuclear power plants and offshore drilling, making us more and more dependent on Middle East tyrants? — It's liberal!

Is government spending — excluding inflation — liberal or conservative if it doubles since 1980? — It's liberal!

We need change all right — change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington! We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington — throw out the big government liberals and elect John McCain!
Remember: This was in 2008 -- the eighth year of the administration of those notorious liberals George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The Supreme Court at the time included not just Thomas, Roberts, and Alito but also Antonin Scalia -- four of the five most conservative justices since 1937, according to one ranking.

It was ridiculous in 2008, Mitt, and it's ridiculous now.

HERE'S WHY WE'RE IN THIS MESS

A couple of stories from recent days show us why the Democratic Party is so often on the defensive while the Republican Party stays on offense. First, here's our presidential nominee, the leader of the left-centrist wing of the party:
Joe Biden personally appealed to the handful of Republican senators who control the fate of Donald Trump’s upcoming Supreme Court nominee....

In his first extended remarks following the death Friday of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Biden accused Republicans who would "jam this nomination through" of hypocrisy, while seeking to reason with other GOP senators to heed her final wishes — "not as a personal service to her, but as a service to the country at a crossroads."

“Please follow your conscience,” Biden said from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. “Don't vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created. Don't go there. Uphold your constitutional duty, your conscience, let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country. We can't ignore the cherished system of checks and balances.”
And now here's a recent story about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the leaders of the party's progressive wing:
“After we work to command victory in November, I need folks to realize that there’s no going back to brunch,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an Instagram video marking the death of liberal US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday....

“We have a whole new world to build. We cannot accept going back to the way things were, and that includes the Dem Party," AOC said.

“Voting for Joe Biden, it’s not about whether you like him or not, it’s a vote to let democracy live another day” ...
So you have one wing of the party begging Republicans to be decent -- an exercise in futility, as always -- and you have the other wing of the party asserting that the presidential nominee doesn't have much appeal, while arguing that the party as it exists today isn't doing a good job of preserving democracy. (Ocasio-Cortez also said, "Yes, our democracy is at a faint heartbeat - it was broken even before this administration began," meaning when Barack Obama was president.)

These are the two wings of the Democratic Party. One doesn't attack the GOP as a whole because it believes that some decent Republicans will see reason -- some Republican voters will cross over to vote Democratic in elections and some Republican elected officials will cross over in legislative fights. The other wing of the Democratic Party criticizes Democrats almost as much as it criticizes Republicans (when it's not criticizing Democrats more).

There are no prominent Democrats whose message is: Republicans are bad. The principles of the Republican Party are bad. Republicans vote the wrong way on every issue. What Republicans have done to this country is bad. What Republicans want to do to this country is even worse.

That's the Republican message about Democrats -- every Republican says this every day. But Democrats don't talk this way - which is why they'll have to persuade voters that Amy Coney Barrett or Barbara Lagoa is dangerous. Committed, engaged Democratic voters won't need to be persuaded, but much of the electorate has never considered the possibility that the Republican Party is simply bad by definition, and therefore any Supreme Court nominee from the Republicans will be bad. It could be an uphill struggle to make the case that the nice lady will vote to eviscerate voting rights, labor rights, reproductive rights, healthcare protection, and environmental safeguards, because Democrats don't routinely say that Republicans are much worse than Democrats on all these issues all the time.

That has to be the Democrats' message from now on if we want to defeat Republicans in multiple elections, which is what it will take to reduce the GOP's power on a permanent basis. But no Democrat says this.

Monday, September 21, 2020

PADLOCK THE FEDERAL BUILDINGS AND ORDER THE SECRET SERVICE TO VACATE

This is outrageous:
The Justice Department on Monday singled out Portland, New York City and Seattle as "anarchist jurisdictions" – cities that the Trump administration said have allowed violence to persist during months of civil demonstrations over racial injustice and police brutality and could then lose federal funding.

The designation of the three cities – all led by Democrats – was in response to President Donald Trump's Sept. 2 executive order, which threatened to withhold federal funding from cities where the administration said state and local officials have cut police department funding, refused offers for help from the federal government and failed to rein in violence.

The Office of Management and Budget will send guidance on restricting the cities' eligibility for federal dollars.

"We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance. It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens," Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.

Can the administration withhold funds from cities it has decided -- based on temporary unrest in small sections of each city -- are completely lawless? We're told it can't.
The Trump administration was unsuccessful in a similar funding-cut move against New York and other cities over their immigration policies. A federal appeals court ruled that the move violated the separation of powers spelled out in the Constitution.
But that was how many Mitch McConnell judges ago? I no longer trust the federal judiciary to acknowledge basic constitutional realities, such as the fact that a president can't unilaterally overrule Congress on government spending.

This is war. Maybe it's a war that will end on January 20. Maybe it won't end for another four years, or until President-for-Life Trump (you know he'll try to become president-for-life) finally kicks the bucket.

If I were the mayors of these cities, I'd order the police to padlock all the federal buildings -- if the cops won't do it, I'm certain that a call for volunteers in New York City, at least, would find many people willing to help out.

And what about that trailer that serves as a command center for the Secret Service guarding Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan? If I were the mayor, I'd begin dismantling it and order the agents to leave. If it's war, the cities should fight back.

I said this on Twitter today and I mean it -- if Trump wins again, we're going to be using the phrase "breakaway region" in reference to parts of America. You scoffed when I talked about secession, but it will be discussed seriously.

And it should be. Bill Barr is more than willing to make Trump's crudest, most simple-minded revenge fantasies real. In a second term, there'll be no limits. They will effectively make some of us non-citizens, or at least they'll try. I wouldn't assume that they won't succeed.

WHY BARBARA LAGOA WOULD BE DOOMED IF SHE WERE A DEMOCRAT, EVEN WITH A DEMOCRATIC SENATE

We're all assuming that President Trump will pick Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court, but another possible appointee has emerged. Politico reports:
Leading Florida Republican politicians are launching an all-out effort to convince President Donald Trump to nominate federal Judge Barbara Lagoa to the U.S. Supreme Court — a move they say would boost his reelection chances in the must-win swing state.

The biggest names in the Florida GOP are working behind the scenes to advocate for Lagoa: U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have sprung into action, along with Gov. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida campaign director Susie Wiles and the president’s former impeachment defense lawyer, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, according to interviews with a dozen Republicans familiar with the effort.

... it’s Lagoa’s background as a Florida Cuban-American that could have the most salience for Trump.

Lagoa is young enough (52) to serve for at least thirty years. She's Catholic, which means that she'll pass muster with Leonard Leo, the little-known, unelected, long-time Federalist Society operative who oversees the selection of all Republican-appointed federal judges -- in fact, The Washington Post reports,
Lagoa’s husband, Paul C. Huck Jr., is the “godfather of the Federalist Society in Miami,” said José Félix Díaz, a former state legislator and consultant with Ballard Partners, a powerful lobbying firm closely associated with Trump.
(I guess this former state legislator doesn't think the word "godfather" has unsavory connotations in this context. In Miami, maybe it doesn't.)

Lagoa is conservative in all the ways that make Mitch McConnell's heart skip a beat, according to the Post.

Particularly contentious could be her record on voting rights and executive power. Lagoa concurred this month in a federal appeals court ruling that is expected to keep many of the 85,000 felons who have registered to vote in Florida from casting ballots....

On Florida’s high court, and before that, on a state appeals court, she repeatedly sided with businesses, helping to turn back a higher minimum wage in Miami, limiting recourse for homeowners facing foreclosure, and reversing or rejecting cases of employees who sued Caterpillar and Uber.

And Florida Cubans will love this, as will longtime Fox viewers everywhere:
Especially central for her ... was her experience as a member of the pro bono legal team representing the Miami relatives of Elián González, the Cuban boy whose mother drowned while trying to escape with him to the United States and whose subsequent custody case became an international cause celebre.
But in the Post and Politico stories, I'm not seeing any mention of this case:
... she authored the opinion that reversed the conviction of Adonis Losada, a former Univision comic actor who was sentenced to 153 years in prison for collecting child porn. Lagoa ruled that a Miami-Dade judge erred in not allowing Losada to defend himself at trial.
Losada, who appeared regularly on the long-running Spanish-language variety show Sábado Gigante, sent child porn images to an undercover cop he met in an online chat room. The 153-year sentence was reduced to 10 years before Lagoa's ruling, but her ruling overturned the conviction altogether.

I'm not a lawyer. The ruling appears to be purely on due process grounds.

But can you imagine the uproar if a Democratic president nominated someone to the Supreme Court who had overturned a kiddie porn conviction? Even before the QAnon era, there would have been wall-to-wall coverage on Fox News, and there would have been pious, more-in-sorrow-than-anger denunciations of the ruling by one prominent Republican after another. Newt Gingrich would have been on every TV channel telling us this is what you get from the decadent, sex-crazed, morality-destroying Democrats.

It would have worked. It would have forced the nominee to withdraw, even if the Senate had a comfortable Democratic majority.

But if Lagoa is the nominee, it probably won't matter at all. The case won't even be mentioned in most news stories. It's quite possible that no Democrat will mention it.

Democrats don't have a media infrastructure that automatically amplifies every new partisan attack, however specious. Republicans do. That's why this case would be fatal to a Democrat, and won't be if Lagoa is Trump's pick.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

IN THE DEBATES, BIDEN CAN MAKE TRUMP EXPOSE HIMSELF AS A RACIST CRACKPOT

This happened yesterday:
President Trump told supporters at a campaign rally in Minnesota on Saturday that they’re genetically blessed. “You have good genes, you know that, right? You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it, don't you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.” The “racehorse theory” of genetics holds that some human beings are born genetically superior to others....

I'm not sure Trump understands how racist this is. As I've noted in the past, he firmly believes in his own genetic superiority.

Trump invited The New York Times to the White House for an exclusive interview.... His 5-year-old granddaughter Arabella Kushner provided a singular moment of levity throughout the lengthy conversation, showing off her knowledge of the Chinese language while telling the president she loved him in Mandarin.

"She's unbelievable, huh?" Trump said. "Good, smart genes." ...

"I consider my health, stamina and strength one of my greatest assets," Trump tweeted in December 2015. "The world has watched me for many years and can so testify—great genes!"

The president has also fielded several questions via Twitter from users asking about his energy and family, repeatedly pointing to his genes as the basis for his success. "You're up at 5am and you're awake at 1am. How do you have so much energy? Seriously!?"

"Good genes!" Trump replied.

He also seemed to apparently miss a thinly veiled dig in June 2013, when @YoungBasedGod_g wrote to him, "@realDonaldTrump your dad gives good brain?? Damn."

"It's called genes!" Trump tweeted back.

"Dr. John Trump, uncle, for many years at M.I.T.," he also wrote in May 2013. "Good genes, I get it!"

Most people have never seen Trump talk this way. But Joe Biden could expose this racist crackpottery to the world.

During the debates, when -- inevitably -- the subject of race relations in America comes up, Biden can quote this Minnesota rally statement and say it's a very dangerous belief. He can add that Trump has bragged about his own genes in the past.

The reason this is worth doing is that Trump will walk right into the trap. He thinks boasts about his supposedly superior genes are delightful items to drop into conversation. He feels the same way about his insults. So -- thinking Biden has just walked into a trap -- he'll get a big, stupid grin on his face and say,

"My supporters do have good genes. I have good genes. I have the best genes. I'm sorry you have inferior genes, Joe."
Biden's response:
"See, folks, there it is. I was raised to believe that we're all equal in God's eyes, and that if we're given an opportunity, we can all do something special with our lives. But he believes some people, some groups, are genetically superior to others. He think he's genetically superior to others. As you know, that kind of talk has been very, very dangerous in world history. We fought a war against that belief system not that long ago. It scares me that the president of the United States believes that some people are just lesser people than others. I believe that all men -- and all women -- are created equal."
If this happens, it will be the most memorable moment in the debates. Trump and eugenics will be linked in the public's mind permanently.

Obviously, Trump's base will be fine with this, but I think most people will believe that Trump is a racist, a believer in pseudo-science -- or, at the very least, delusional about his own greatness. It's worth doing.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

TRUMPERS ARE TRYING TO PHYSICALLY PREVENT BIDEN SUPPORTERS FROM VOTING

I'll agree that this is free speech:

However, this isn't:

The blockade was lifted:

But think about what you're watching here:

I know that Trumpers believe that you can't trust mail ballots, but these are flesh-and-blood voters showing up to a polling place, where poll workers will verify their credentials for voting. (There are also mail voting safeguards, of course.)

I believe Trumpers will attack the voting process all over the country. I believe they'll intimidate voters at other polling places in Democratic-leaning areas. I think they'll vandalize ballot drop-off boxes. And this is in addition to the inevitable "ballot security" efforts from the Republican Party that will probably involve armed off-duty cops intimidating non-white voters at the polls, a tactic used in 1981 by the successful Roger Stone-led campaign for New Jersey's GOP gubernatorial candidate, Tom Kean, and subsequently declared illegal in a court settlement that expired very recently.

I see no evidence that Trumpers care about democracy -- they care about winning, by any means necessary. They believe that every Democratic vote is illegitimate. They'll do whatever they can get away with.

DEMOCRATS CARE ABOUT THE SUPREME COURT -- HAVE DEMOCRATIC POLITICIANS NOTICED?

A new poll from Marquette University Law School contradicts conventional wisdom.
The vacancy on the Court created by [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg’s death greatly increases the salience of a possible appointment to the Court in the midst of a presidential election campaign. In the survey, 48 percent say that the choice of the next justice is very important to them and 34 percent say it is somewhat important, while 17 percent say it is not too important or not at all important to them.

Among likely voters who support Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, 59 percent say that the next court appointment is very important, while 51 percent of likely voters who support President Donald J. Trump say this.

For years we've heard that Republicans care about the Supreme Court and Democrats don't, but in this survey, Biden voters care more -- and here are the numbers sorted by party affiliation.

Democrats also support court-packing, although independents as well as Republicans oppose it:
(The poll was conducted September 8-15, before Ginsburg's death.)

We see real-world evidence of how important this issue is to Democratic voters:

This is happening despite the fact that Democratic officeholders and candidates never do anything to encourage interest in the Supreme Court. It's completely grassroots and spontaneous.

I wish the party and its presidential nominee had seen this concern increasing and made the Court (and judicial appointments in general) a bigger issue.

In any event, it's not going away. Democratic frustration will increase with every horrible decision made by the soon-to-be-6-to-3 GOP Court. The courts are no longer a Republican-only issue. I hope Democratic politicians understand that.

Friday, September 18, 2020

REPUBLICANS ARE PROBABLY ABOUT TO SEAT A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE -- AND SEAL TRUMP'S DOOM

We've just lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Mitch McConnell has already vowed to try to ram through a replacement.
McConnell announced Friday that he will move forward with trying to confirm President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday evening.

“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said.

We're told that President Trump will nominate a replacement for Ginsburg in the next few days. My guess is that it will be Amy Coney Barrett, a 48-year-old anti-abortion extremist. Barrett is a member of a Catholic group called People of Praise, whose members are each paired with a same-sex moral guide; until a few years ago, the female guides were known, embarrassingly, as "handmaidens." Republicans undoubtedly feel they have the upper hand if they nominate Barrett because Senator Dianne Feinstein was widely criticized for saying to Barrett, when she was being considered for an appeals court position in 2017, "the dogma lives loudly within you." Right-wingers now buy mugs and T-shirts emblazoned with this phrase.
But it's possible that Barrett isn't corporatist enough for the GOP's purposes, and another nominee might be chosen. Or Trump might not like her.

Three Republican senators say they oppose consideration of a justice this year.

But that leaves 50 Republicans who will let Mitch McConnell have his way, including such embattled Republicans as Colorado senator Cory Gardner, North Carolina senator Thom Tillis, and Arizona senator Martha McSally. I'm sure they feel they have to. Their rage-junkie voters won't vote for them if they block this appointment.

So I think Trump and McConnell will win on this. But remember how outraged Democratic voters were after Brett Kavanaugh won his confirmation fight -- what happened immediately afterward was the Democratic wave election of 2018. It's true that Barrett can't possibly seem as reprehensible as Kavanaugh did. But the shameless hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell, who said even holding a hearing on Merrick Garland in early 2016 was a violation of a precedent he invented from whole cloth, will be all the motivation many anti-Trump and anti-GOP voters will need to get them to the polls.

I think this has the potential to doom Trump in November. He'd be much better off telling his voters, "Do you want me to fill this seat, or do you want Biden to do it?" That would give them more reason to turn out. But he and McConnell won't want to wait. McConnell, in particular, wants to seat as many judges as possible before next January because he knows Biden is favored to win.

McConnell should be smart enough to realize that seating another Supreme Court justice will probably ensure his loss of the Senate. It won't stop him, though. He and Trump will win -- and then, in all likelihood, lose.

*****

Also:

Just days before her death, as her strength waned, Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."
I think voters who aren't politically engaged will learn about this, see Trump and McConnell defying her last wishes, and be repulsed by their defiance of her final request. This has been an election about decency vs. cruelty. This will be another reminder of Trump and McConnell's cold-blooded, unfeeling nature. It's not a good look a few weeks before an election.

DEMOCRATS MIGHT WIN THE WHITE HOUSE, TAKE BACK THE SENATE -- AND LOSE SOME HOUSE SEATS

I'm feeling fairly good about the Trump-Biden polls, and about the Senate races -- the New York Times/Siena College polls has more good numbers today from Maine, Arizona, and North Carolina.

But I'm concerned about the House. Right now FiveThirtyEight says Democrats have a 6.4% generic-ballot lead; on September 21, 2018, Democrats had a lead of 8.8%, and their final lead was 8.7%. (I chose September 21 because Election Day was three days later in 2018 than it will be in 2020.) At Real Clear Politics, the Democrats' generic-ballot lead is now 5.7%. On September 21, 2018, it was 8.0%, and the final number was 7.3%.

Because of the way Republican state legislators have gerrymandered many House districts -- packing large numbers of Democrats in some districts and distributing large but non-majority concentrations of Democrats acrossd multiple districts, both of which dilute the Democratic vote -- Democrats usually need far more than a simple majority of the overall House vote to retain the House. In 2018, there were a number of estimates of the margin Democrats need to win the House:

... a report from the Brennan Center for Justice reignited the debate over exactly how much Democrats would need to win by, in order to retake control of the House. “To attain a bare majority,” Brennan’s Laura Royden, Michael Li, and Yurij Rudensky wrote, “Democrats would likely have to win the national popular vote by nearly 11 points.”

... there have been quibbles about the actual numbers. [Alan] Abramowitz [of Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball] thinks the Democrats will need to win by at least 4 points, Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report thinks that Democrats will need to win by 7.

The Federal Election Commission says that Democrats beat Republicans 52.55% to 43.93%, an 8.62% margin. Democrats won 54% of the vote that went to major-party candidates, and they won 54% of the seats (235 out of 435) -- they appear to have overcome the GOP's gerrymandering advantage by winning a lot of close races.

But if their overall advantage is smaller this year, they'll probably lose some seats. They'll still hold the House by a comfortable margin, but there'll be slippage.

Why is this happening? I think the Democratic wave election in 2018 happened because voting for a Democratic House member seemed like a way to stick it to Donald Trump. This year, however, the best way to stick it to Trump is to vote against Trump. There's less focus on the House.

But I also think the Democratic Party isn't selling its brand very well. The Biden campaign continues to direct our attention to Republicans who are defecting to Biden, as if Democrats aren't worthy of a vote unless they have a Republican imprimatur.

In addition, I'm sure that Trump fans are more engaged than they were prior to the 2018 election. Also, Republicans are denouncing the Democratic Party even more vigorously than usual (a high standard).

If Democrats won't praise their own party in the midst of a "Democrats will destroy America!" propaganda onslaught, they probably will lose a few seats in the House. Biden has managed to individualize his race, and Democratic Senate candidates in competitive contests seem to have individualized theirs, but what's shaping up to be a good election overall for the party's candidates might not be nearly as good for the party in the House, or for the party's reputation.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

TRUMP MADE A CULTURE WAR FLASHPOINT OUT OF HIS NEUROSIS

In his town hall on Tuesday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President Trump said:
TRUMP: ... Now there is by the way, a lot of people don’t want to wear masks. There are a lot of people think that masks are not good. And there are a lot of people that as an example you have...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Who are those people?

TRUMP: I’ll tell you who those people are -- waiters. They come over and they serve you, and they have a mask. And I saw it the other day where they were serving me, and they're playing with the mask...I’m not blaming them...I’m just saying what happens. They're playing with the mask, so the mask is over, and they're touching it, and then they're touching the plate. That can’t be good.

Paul Krugman regards Trump's persistent opposition to masks as mere political cynicism:
... why make a partisan issue out of what should be straightforward public health policy? The fairly obvious answer is that we’re looking at the efforts of an amoral politician to rescue his flailing campaign.

The economy’s partial snapback from its plunge early this year hasn’t given Trump the political dividends he hoped for. His attempts to stir up panic with claims that radical activists are going to destroy the suburbs haven’t gained traction, with voters generally seeing Joe Biden as the better candidate to maintain law and order.

And it’s probably too late to change the views of the majority of voters believing that he has given up on fighting the coronavirus.

So his latest ploy is an attempt to convince people that the Covid-19 threat is over. But widespread mask-wearing is a constant reminder that the virus is still out there. Hence Trump’s renewed push against the simplest, most sensible of public health precautions.

But Trump was opposed to masks from the beginning. In fact, he's been squeamish about masks from the beginning. He also fixated on the idea that masks can be virus carriers in an interview in late June, long before it was clear that the economy and Trump's law-and-order push weren't working in his favor:
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender, Trump went so far as to suggest that masks could be counterproductive.

“Masks are a double-edged sword,” he said. “People touch them. And they grab them and I see it all the time. They come in, they take the mask. Now they’re holding it now in their fingers. And they drop it on the desk and then they touch their eye and they touch their nose. No, I think a mask is a — it’s a double-edged sword.”

I don't think Trump is against masks because -- or merely because -- they remind voters of America's continuing struggle with the pandemic. I think the notion that they block the coronavirus creeps him out. It reminds the self-professed germaphobe that viruses exist. It's true, of course, that the virus can cling to a mask. That's why you should wash a non-disposable mask after every wearing. But he can't bear that thought.

So he hates masks for that reason -- probably also because he thinks masks emasculate him, or at least mess up his makeup, but primarily because they seem to him like repositories for germs, an idea he finds unbearable. He's turned this around, however, and made his base believe that his rejection of masks is a macho act rather than the neurotic response of a wimp.

In that ABC town hall, Trump recited another of his coronavirus mantras:

TRUMP: ... And we are going to be OK. We're going to be OK, and it is going away. And it's probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines.

It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it's going to go away a lot faster with it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It would go away without the vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it goes away.

This, of course, is Trump deceiving himself, and trying to deceive the rest of us, with Positive Thinking -- but the more I hear him say "it is going away," the more I hear fear in it. I think he can't bear the thought that the virus is out there, potentially anywhere, all the time. I think it makes his skin crawl. This feels like something he says to himself to quell his anxiety.

I wish the virus would just go away, but it might never do that. There's a good chance we'll develop better and better vaccines and treatments and eventually regard this virus as highly manageable. But scientists say it will still be out there, in all likelihood.

If there are good defenses against it, I can live with that. I don't believe Donald Trump can.

REPUBLICAN LACK OF INTEREST IN A NEW STIMULUS BILL IS NO MYSTERY

The Atlantic's Derek Thompson has a theory about why the president isn't trying harder to pass another coronavirus relief package:
President Donald Trump faces an array of obstacles on his path to reelection. But he could do one thing, right away, that would, in all likelihood, immediately improve his odds with almost no downside risk: Call for Congress to open the cash spigot and buoy the lackluster economy on a wave of stimulus.

All he has to do is announce his intention to sign a second major economic relief bill—a CARES Act II, essentially—and count on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to muddle through. Such a law would almost certainly improve the financial state of countless families at a time of mass desperation, and just weeks before the election.

But, oddly, the White House has expressed practically no interest in supercharging the economic engine that could drive the president to victory....

What in the world is Trump thinking? ...

According to several conversations with Republicans, the answer is that the president is stuck in a Pollyannaish fantasy of his own making.

On the campaign trail and in his television ads, Trump proclaims that a great and historic economic recovery is afoot. The notion that the economy is sick enough to require a trillion-dollar booster shot is in direct tension with the claim that it’s thriving. So, the theory goes, Trump is unwilling to advocate for stimulus, because he doesn’t want to acknowledge that the economy is broken in the first place.
Is that it? I have my doubts. Remember, this is the guy who, early in the year, couldn't decide whether his reelection slogan should be "Make America Great Again" (again) or "Keep America Great." He didn't seem concerned that the former slogan would convey the sense that he hadn't made America great -- he just wanted to use whichever slogan sounded better.

Right now, he's arguing that "The Great American Comeback" (a) will happen next year and (b) is already happening.

So why wouldn't he seek a stimulus now while simultaneously arguing that the economy is already in awesome shape?

The answer is that he's too lazy and incompetent to get involved seriously in working out a stimulus deal. He's the boss. That's work for underlings.

Being the boss also means he never actually has to understand the details of anything being done in his name. Details are complicated! And tedious! For Trump, getting personally involved in negotiating a stimulus package would be like walking to the green when there's a golf cart handy, even if the walk is fifty feet. In both cases, he's entitled to be conveyed where he wants to go, with no effort on his part.

But what about other Republicans? Thompson has a theory about them as well:
... the GOP, as a group, has also convinced itself that more stimulus is unnecessary. Republicans are more dubious about Keynesianism than Democrats.... They don’t believe that states and local governments need a huge bailout. They’re reluctant to top off unemployment-insurance checks with hundreds of dollars in pandemic bonuses.
Makes sense so far. But Thompson continues:
The generous interpretation is that Republicans believe the economy will rebound without federal assistance; the critical one is that, just as Trump is delusional about economic realities, the GOP is delusional about economic policy. The Great Recession demonstrated clearly that without emergency support after sharp recessions, state and local governments lay off workers, whose unemployment delays the overall recovery. But the GOP, refusing to learn from the experience of past economic conflagrations, is clasping anachronistic ideas about economics with both hands.
Actually, the critical interpretation is that Republicans don't care what happens to the economy most of us experience. They already have the result they (and their donors) want: a booming stock market. Mission accomplished. In fact, a K-shaped recovery, in which the rich get richer, everyone else suffers, inequality widens, and state and local governments have to lay off thousands of workers, is, in their estimation, the economy functioning as it should.

They'll win plenty of elections this year the way they always do, by pumping up the culture-war rhetoric (and, these days, by letting QAnon tell their voters that all Democrats are cannibal pedophiles). And if they don't win enough elections this year and there's a Democratic wave, they'll just make America as ungovernable as possible for President Biden and plan for a comeback starting in 2022. Keeping ordinary people poor and desperate is a means to that end, because those people will presumably blame their suffering on the newly elected Democrats by 2022.

So for Republicans, what's the point? They don't think we're in a crisis. And the president is still waiting for the little people to take care of everything for him.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

TRUMP HAD SO FEW CHOICES!

This seems appropriate:
The top spokesman for the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services is taking a leave of absence, the agency announced Wednesday, days after he promoted dangerous conspiracy theories during a Facebook Live video.

In the video, first reported by the New York Times, Michael Caputo, who is HHS' assistant secretary for public affairs, charged that scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "don't want America to get well." He also urged Trump supporters to load up on ammunition in preparation for a violent left-wing rebellion when the president wins re-election.

Caputo also said in the video he's been having health issues and that his "mental health has definitely failed."
Yahoo News deserves credit for obtaining a copy of the video. Here's part of it:



CAPUTO: This is war. Joe Biden's not going to concede. The antifa attacks, the murders, that have happened, the rallies that have turned into violence, this is all practice. We know it. We know it. My friends in law enforcement, in federal law enforcement, tell me that they recognize this as drills. Remember the Trump supporter who was shot and killed? That was a drill. That was a hit squad. And the guy that shot him went down fighting. Why? Because he couldn't say what he had inside him. There are hit squads being trained all over this country....
Crazy stuff. Here's another part of the video:



But in an otherwise unobjectionable story about Caputo and the video, Alexander Nazaryan of Yahoo News pauses to give Trump the benefit of the doubt on his approach to hiring:
Caputo’s plight is emblematic of a challenge that has hounded Trump from the very start of his administration. He promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington by bringing in outsiders from the private sector who would apply their business expertise to the federal government. But sensitive to criticism, many corporate executives kept a distance from the Trump administration. Meanwhile, many senior government officials fled a president bound to regard them as members of a “deep state.”

According to critics, that leaves Trump with little recourse at a time of crisis, leading him to rely on untested backbenchers.
So, you see, Trump had no choice! He had to hire the corrupt, the incompetent, the unqualified, and the clinically paranoid to staff his government! He wanted to staff his administration with "the best people," but the best people were just too darn sensitive! And sure, he alienated long-serving government employees with expertise and experience, but that was a matter of principle!

Trump has hired relatives, an ex-Apprentice contest, his former golf caddie, and lots and lots of people who have worked for Fox News. Caputo came to Trump's attention because he's a friend of convicted felon Roger Stone.

Maybe if Trump would hire from outside the very narrow range of his own experiences, he could find good help. But he thinks these jamokes are doing just fine.

WE'RE GOING TO HAVE THREE GISH GALLOP PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES

I didn't watch the Trump town hall on ABC last night, but I've been watching clips and reading the transcript this morning. It's getting bad press. Deadline called it a "train wreck." CNN's Scott Jennings said it "didn't go well." Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post was unimpressed.



I'm glad the coverage was bad, because if we assume that there are still a few undecided voters who don't pay a lot of attention to the news, what I think they saw was a president trying to seem reasonable and Gish-galloping, with some success, through the questioning. You know what a Gish gallop is, right?
The Gish gallop is a technique used during debating that focuses on overwhelming an opponent with as many arguments as possible, without regard for accuracy or strength of the arguments. The term was coined by Eugenie Scott and named after the creationist Duane Gish, who used the technique frequently against proponents of evolution.
There certainly were a lot of lies.



DANIEL DALE, CNN FACT CHECKER: There was just so much lying, Don. I'm going to go quickly here. He said literally to stop me whenever you need to. He said again, Democrats won't protect people with pre- existing conditions. That is nonsense, as a voter told him, Democrats created those protections.

He insisted he didn't praise China on the virus. He did so repeatedly. We know that. He claimed that nobody knew at the time he was praising China that seniors were especially susceptible to the virus. That's one of the first things we learned out of China, and out of Italy, and the U.S.

He claimed Biden said in March that the pandemic was, quotes, totally over exaggerated. I can find no evidence that Biden ever said that. He said at Winston Churchill was kind of like him playing down stuff because he went on rooftops in London during the Nazi bombing and told people everything is going to be good. Churchill did not speak from the rooftops and did not say everything was going to be good. He warn of suffering and danger.

Trump said that he fired James Mattis, Mattis resigned. He said that protesters took over 20 percent of Seattle, it was a six block area. Nowhere close to 20 percent. He took credit again for sending in the National Guard in Minneapolis saying this happened after a week and a half of violence there.

It was not even close to a week and a half. It was days and the Democratic Governor is the one who activated the guard. He said he essentially repealed Obamacare by getting rid of individual mandate, not even close to true with the Medicaid expansion, pre-existing conditions protections, other stuff remains.

He said the coverage were empty of ventilators. His administration admits he inherited about 16,000 from Obama. He did his usual false boast about so-called bans on travel from China and Europe. They were not complete bans. He said stocks are owned by, quote, everybody. Just about half of Americans own stocks. He repeated his nonsense about testing causing cases, testing merely reveals and helps fight cases. He said that Biden has agreed to a Bernie Sanders style of socialized health care.

He fought Sanders on that issue. He has very much not agreed to a Sanders-style plan. And, Don, this is a preliminary list. I have hours of fact checking tonight to do because there's even more than this. So this was just a firehose of lying, again, from the president.
Moderator George Stephanopoulos pushed back on a few -- but he couldn't push back on all of them. The questioners, who expressed a sense that there's a lot wrong in America but seemed ready to be told that there was a good reason for Trump's response to many of our problems, heard a man insisting that his responses really have been reasonable. That's my concern -- he sounded reasonable, or at least he did a decent imitation of a reasonable man.

Maybe he won't be like that in the debates with Joe Biden. Maybe he'll be the nasty attack dog of the MAGA rallies. I think it's possible that his testosterone will get the better of him (or Biden will goad him) and he'll go on the attack. If so, that will hurt him. What much of America dislikes about him more than anything is his tone.

But if he restrains himself, low-info voters might conclude that he's done what he's done the past four years out of a sense of good judgment. He'll lie and lie and lie, and Biden will be forced to pick his spots in rebutting those lies, which means most of them will get through unchallenged.

I'm not really worried. Polls suggest that there aren't very many undecided voters, and Biden appears to be comfortably ahead in enough states to win. And the press seems fed up with Trump's bullshitting.

But Trump just might sound this way in the last few presidential events most voters will pay attention to, and it might help him some, even if he's telling the same lies he always tells.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

RUSH LIMBAUGH (AND DANIELLE PLETKA): MATH IS HARD!

Here's how Rush Limbaugh was scaring your right-wing relatives on the radio today:
If the Democrats win, ... that’s the end of democracy. It’s the end of the two-party system. We’re gonna have a one-party government that is going to devote itself to eliminating all opposition. That’s what’s at stake. If they win, I think the Republican Party essentially ceases to exist.

One of the first things they will do is grant statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico, and that will give them four Democrat senators. They will never lose control of the Senate.
Okay, let's imagine that Democrats succeed in obtaining statehood for D.C and Puerto Rico. Let's say those new states reliably elect two Democratic senators each. Does that mean that Democrats "will never lose control of the Senate"?

No -- in fact, if you were to add four Democratic senators to the Senate right now, Republicans would still be in control. The current makeup of the Senate is 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two independents (Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine) who caucus with the Democrats. So the Democratic caucus is 47 senators; 47 + 4 = 51.

Which is less than 53.

The Senate after the 2016 elections had 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and the same two independents caucusing with the Democrats. Add four Democratic senators and you would have had a Senate with a 50-member Democratic caucus and ... 54 Republicans.

You were saying, Rush?
They will never lose control of the House. They will pack the Supreme Court with who knows how many new justices, and they’ll all be left-leaning justices. And it won’t be take them long to do any of this. And after they’ve done it, there will be a one-party state.
Okay, let's talk about the House. Let's assume for the sake of argument (even though it's highly unlikely) that Democrats could rapidly win statehood for Puerto Rico and D.C., and that all their subsequent House members were Democrats.

To simplify matters, let's imagine that this change didn't come with a plan to thoroughly overhaul the makeup of the House. Let's assume that we'd just add a few extra House seats for the two new states.

The Census Bureau estimated that Puerto Rico's population in 2019 was 3,193,694. That's a little less than the population of Utah (3,205,958). Utah has four House members.

D.C.'s population in 2019 was 705,749 -- a bit less than the population of Alaska (731,545). Alaska has one House member.

So imagine this change adding a whopping five Democrats to the House. Will Democrats "never lose control of the House"? Let me remind you that the House elected in 2016 had 241 Republicans and 194 Democrats. The House elected in 2014 had 247 Republicans and 188 Democrats. Do I need to do the math for you? Five additional Democrats would not have tipped the balance in those years.

But what about the Supreme Court? It now has five members appointed by Republican presidents and four members appointed by Democrats. A recent proposal by a coalition of progressive groups recommended that the Court be expanded "by at least two seats." Two seats? If a Democratic president could add two seats right now, that would tip the balance from Republican by 1 to ... Democratic by 1.

Or as Danielle Pletka calls it in a much-talked-about Washington Post op-ed, "an increase in the number of Supreme Court seats to ensure a liberal supermajority." A "supermajority"! Of one!

And by the way, Joe Biden doesn't even support the idea of packing the Supreme Court.

Limbaugh continues:
The United States will be a one-party government....

Everybody thought that the election in 2016 was the election of a lifetime. This one is too, maybe even bigger. The Democrat Party has become full-fledged Marxist radical left. They do not believe in opposition. They don’t believe in debate. They don’t believe they should have to win minds and hearts. They don’t believe they should have to persuade anybody. They don’t believe that there is legitimate opposition.

So they’re not going to have debates, they’re not going to have any circumstance where they could lose politically. They believe in a one-party-dominating government. And it’s what they’re going to set up as quickly as they can.
You'll hear this from your right-wing relatives, and probably from quite a few "respectable" pundits, including some moderates. Many people will believe this scaremongering -- because math is hard.

THEY THINK THEY'RE BULLETPROOF

Paul Krugman asks why Republicans, on the verge of an election, aren't trying to solve any of America's problems.
One thing that’s clear ... is that Republicans — not just Donald Trump, but his whole party — are acting as if there’s no tomorrow. Or, more precisely, they’re acting as if there’s no next year.

... consider the large (and illegal) indoor rally Trump held Sunday in Nevada.

Before the release of Bob Woodward’s new book, you might have argued that Trump doesn’t believe the science and didn’t realize that his event might well sicken and kill many people. But we now know that he’s well aware of the risks, and has been all along. He just doesn’t care.

Or consider Trump’s weeks of silence and inaction on the wildfires ravaging Western states.

... those states account for almost 19 percent of the U.S. economy; you might think that he’d care about the damage they’re suffering, which will spill over to the rest of the country. But he clearly doesn’t.

... nothing has been done to alleviate either the suffering of unemployed Americans — who lost much of the benefits that were sustaining them at the end of July — or the looming fiscal crisis of state and local governments.

... it’s as if Republicans don’t expect to win, and they figure that if they do, they’ll deal with the mess somehow.
I'm sure many Republicans don't believe they'll win in November. But Donald Trump clearly believes he can win, or at least remain in office by some means -- in a hundred different ways, he's working to manipulate the outcome of the election so Biden can't become president. And he might win legitimately.

Trump and other Republicans know this, and yet if they do win, they're leaving themselves a flaming wreck of a country to govern. Why?

Well, why not? One of the lessons Republicans -- and the plutocrats they serve -- have learned over the past few decades is that when something terrible happens in America, there are no consequences for them. Maybe some Republicans are voted out of office (at which point they become lobbyists for their wealthy patrons). But they don't go hungry. Their quality of life doesn't suffer. And certainly their plutocrat masters never experience a decline in their quality of life.

Do you blame rich Republican donors for thinking they can always escape the consequences when bad thing happen in America? The Great Recession didn't really hurt them. The coronavirus recession isn't hurting them. They can dodge the coronavirus itself by living full-time at their massive weekend houses. They're white, so they're never going to suffer the fate of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. Urban unrest generally bypasses their mansions.

The last two Republican presidents have been rich scions who were failures for much of their lives and never really suffered as a result. Donald Trump has run many businesses into the ground, and was once nearly a billion dollars in debt -- and yet he's always lived like a prince. George W. Bush never accomplished a thing in the first forty years of his life -- but he never missed a meal. This is moral hazard of the worst kind. This is what leads a person to say, Sure, let's invade Iraq -- what's the worst that can happen? or Yes, there's a dealy virus in America that could kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, but it interferes with my reelection strategy, so I'll just play it down. If even the worst mistakes you've made in your life have never really hurt you, you'll believe that nothing you do to anyone is particularly consequential.

Not every Republican politician is rich -- but they identify with the rich. And the rich don't care about the possible consequences of bad choices because, in the past forty years or so, they haven't had to. So of course they're not worried about what happens to America.

Monday, September 14, 2020

A CONSPIRACY SO VAST THAT ITS MEMBERS CAN'T STAND ONE ANOTHER

I told you this morning that Shadi Hamid's prediction, in The Atlantic, of Portland-style unrest all over America if Joe Biden loses the election was "conflat[ing] Democrats and window-breakers, in the way Fox News does." It's also a common rhetorical trope of Donald Trump and his surrogates. We see it in the paranoid rant of Michael Caputo.
The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that ... left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election....

Mr. Caputo predicted that the president would win re-election in November, but that his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., would refuse to concede, leading to violence. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing.” ...

Over all, his tone was deeply ominous: He warned, again without evidence, that “there are hit squads being trained all over this country” to mount armed opposition to a second term for Mr. Trump. “You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Mr. Caputo added.
The usual shorthand for this on the right is "antifa" -- that's who's to blame for all the violence, we're told, and, of course, antifa works hand in glove with the Democratic Party, in the Trumpers' fevered imagination.

Really?

I wanted to know what antifa groups actually think of Joe Biden. So I searched the Twitter feeds of several of them for Biden-themed tweets. Here's what I found.

From @NYCAntifa:





From @SocialistRA, the Twitter account of the Socialist Rifle Association:



And from @antifa_ne, the Twitter account of the Nebraska Antifascists:



Do you really think these people are going to be upset if Joe Biden loses? They loathe Joe Biden. Joe Biden, for many of them, is no better than Donald Trump.

Obviously, Michael Caputo is crazy.
He said his physical health was in question, and his “mental health has definitely failed.”

“I don’t like being alone in Washington,” Mr. Caputo said, describing “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.”
But nearly everyone on the right believes that antifa and the Democratic Party are part of one big evil, murderous octopus. It's a ridiculous notion believed even by right-wingers who aren't afraid of shadows.