Wednesday, September 30, 2020


In a debate postmortem for Politico, John Harris writes:
For the most part, ... even policy discussions descended into guttural sentence fragments that didn’t add up to anything coherent....

Pulling Biden, Wallace, the sponsoring Commission on Presidential Debates, and everyone watching to the level of disruptive chaos where Trump has thrived in the past likely was the point.
We know that this didn't work for Trump -- he sabotaged himself by coming off as a sociopath.

But in addition, Trump might have done Biden a favor by preventing him from making coherent points. The media doesn't like it when Democrats make coherent points in presidential debates. Let's go back to the Politico piece Ryan Lizza published yesterday on what he regards as Trump's underestimated debate skills. Notice how Lizza describes the dynamic between Trump and Hillary Clinton when the two of them debated four years ago:
In the early moments of the first debate, which was the most-watched period of the three matchups, the two candidates outline their economic visions. Clinton was cogent and talked about a series of specific policies like raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, affordable child care and debt-free college. There was a dash of populism when she talked about “having the wealthy pay their fair share” and closing corporate loopholes.

It all seems so clear now, but it’s like watching a horror movie where you can’t believe another victim is going to fall prey to the same mistakes that Rubio and Jeb made when they were drowned in the lake by Trump.

When it’s Trump’s turn to talk about the economy, he launches into a simplistic riff about the world taking advantage of Americans. “Our jobs are fleeing the country,” Trump begins. He blames it all on Mexico and China and the other foreign countries using America as a piggy bank to rebuild their own countries. The Obama administration’s refusal “to fight them” is the problem. On the issues that he did have details about, they were skeletal, like his promise to cut corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 15 percent, which he said would be an explosive “job creator” would “be a beautiful thing to watch.”

Clinton was cerebral and hemmed in by only proposing things she genuinely believed were possible to pass into law as president.

Trump was visceral and unencumbered by any sense of what might work or what was possible to get through Congress.
Omigod -- Hillary "was cerebral"! She was "hemmed in by only proposing things she genuinely believed were possible to pass into law as president"! She was "cogent"! Eeuuuuuw! Icky brainiac liberals with their icky wonkishness and realism!

If Biden had managed to get a word in edgewise last night, his performance might be getting reviews like this today. Instead, we're talking about the Trump-driven shitshow.

So Trump really did Biden a favor last night.


As I watched the beginning of last night's debate, my reaction was similar to Margaret Sullivan's:
Chris Wallace wanted to be “invisible” as the moderator of the first presidential debate. “If I’ve done my job right,” he said on his Fox News show Sunday, “at the end of the night, people will say, ‘That was a great debate. Who was the moderator?’ ”

It’s an absurd understatement to say that things didn’t play out that way Tuesday night.

Wallace was far from invisible. Instead, he was ineffective. Profoundly so.

And although some media observers were quick to trash the veteran broadcaster, that may have been unfair. It’s hard to know what he — or anyone — could have done, given President Trump’s refusal to abide by the rules or observe even a modicum of decorum....

Wallace needed, at the very least, a mute button. Maybe something stronger. A penalty box? A stun gun?
I thought Joe Biden seemed tired and haggard. He'd disciplined himself to do little more than smile a tight smile and try to return to the points he was attempting to make as he was being verbally assaulted. The column Jonathan Capehart published on Monday seemed relevant:
If bed-wetting were an Olympic sport, Democrats would have a lock on the gold, silver and bronze medals. The latest example of this annoying affliction surfaced in a story in The Post with the anxiety-inducing headline “Trump readies a debate onslaught — and Biden allies worry.”

The TL;DR version of the story is that because President Trump is a hissing feral cat who will say anything to get under Joe Biden’s skin, some argue that the Democratic presidential nominee must keep his anger in check at their Tuesday debate in Cleveland. The key quote came from John Morgan, a Florida trial lawyer and major Biden donor: “When you go at [Biden’s] family, he becomes hotter than hell, which is part of the thing I worry about,” Morgan said. “I think what Biden has to be careful about is not letting his Irish temper blow when that happens.”

Biden should ignore this guy....

... Biden should let that “Irish temper blow.” But he should do it with purpose.
Trump was "a hissing feral cat," and Biden rarely gave vent to his temper. (I know: At one point Biden said, "Will you shut up, man?" But he said it with weary exasperation, and it didn't deter Trump at all.)

At first, I thought the debate was a disaster for Biden. But by the time it was over, it was clear that no one would remember Trump's attacks because all we'll remember is the crazed assault itself. We watched Trump do to Joe Biden for a concentrated ninety minutes what he's been doing to an exhausted America since the summer of 2015. The message: There's nothing else. This is all there is to a Trump presidency, and this is all there'll be if he wins another four years.

In a CBS insta-poll, 48% of respondents said Biden won the debate, 41% said Trump. The numbers were more lopsided in a CNN poll: 60% Biden, 28% Trump. Nine of the 15 undecided voters in a Frank Luntz focus group were still undecided after the debate, but four switched to Biden and only two to Trump. At the betting market PredictIt, Biden's numbers are up.

I realize that Hillary Clinton was seen as the winner of her debates with Trump, and that didn't get her elected. But in 2016 some voters wanted to take a chance on a pot-stirring outsider. Most of them are still happy with the choice, but a majority of Americans want to stop being pummeled the way Biden was last night.

I'm seeing this a lot right now: I disagree. Canceling the debates would send a signal that Trump won by debating the way he did. Trump's base believes that every individual and institution in America that isn't explicitly pro-Trump is part of an organized partisan conspiracy against him, so canceling the debates would be treated as a Democratic subterfuge meant to shield Biden from harm.

Change the rules if necessary -- or maybe the rules just need to be enforced. But let the debates continue. Let Trump remind America again how miserable he can make the next four years if he's given a chance.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020


Joe Biden and Donald Trump will debate tonight -- which is odd, because half of my Twitter feed has been telling me for months that Trump is an Adderall addict in an advanced state of dementia who intended to find some excuse not to debate. Of course, Republicans have been saying for months that Biden is in an advanced state of dementia and won't debate. The difference is that this talk is being spread by the highest-profile Republicans, frequently on America's highest-rated cable news channel, as The American Independent's Emily Singer noted in August.
In an appearance Tuesday on Fox Business, [Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney] McDaniel claimed Biden "doesn't want to debate," adding that Biden's supporters are "afraid to put him on a debate stage."

[Donald] Trump Jr. falsely said in a Tuesday interview on an Iowa talk radio station that "there's an active push to get Joe Biden not to debate my father because, honestly, no one can look at Joe Biden and say this guy's all there."

Trump himself has accused Biden of supposedly refusing to debate him, claiming back in April, "We have a sleepy guy in a basement of a house that the press is giving a free pass to who doesn't want to do debates because of COVID."
In my Twitter feed, it's commonly argued that Trump's drug use was definitively proven when something apparently flew out of his nose during a Labor Day press conference -- something that must have been a chunk of Adderall. When Biden is accused of using drugs -- or, today, of being coached in public appearances via an earpiece -- that also comes from high-profile Republicans and gets massive amounts of attention on Fox. A week ago, Tucker Carlson and Dr. Marc Siegel batted around the idea that Biden is on drugs, after the president repeatedly made the insinuation; today, Fox News and the New York Post have gone wall to wall with the notion that Biden uses an earpiece. This despite the fact that it would be a bad idea even if Biden thought he could get away with it: So I have two thoughts going into tonight's debate:

1. While I'm not a "both sides" sort of guy, partisans on each side have greatly exaggerated the effects of age on the other side's candidate. They were never going to withdraw from the debates.

2. Republicans -- as usual -- have an advantage in spreading the notion that there's something not right about the other guy's mental state. Their message machine is much more robust, and they have no fear of going low.

Trump supporters' readymade explanation for a strong Biden performance has gone mainstream in a way Biden supporters' Adderall talk hasn't. I suspect it won't matter -- most voters have made up their minds, and the debates will speak for themselves. But if there's value in putting out messages like this, it's clear that Republicans do it much more effectively.


So this happened:
Eminent law professor David Flint is among four Australian law professors who are nominating US President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize on the basis of the “Trump Doctrine”....

President Trump recently brokered an historic peace deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, which aimed to normalise diplomatic relations.

This unprecedented deal was closely followed by a similar peace agreement between Bahrain and Israel....

Professor Flint told Sky News host Alan Jones the Trump Doctrine is “something extraordinary” and is emblematic of the two things which guide the president....

"He is really producing peace in the world in a way in a which none of his predecessors did, and he fully deserves the Nobel Peace Prize."
Flint is an octogenarian who once headed the Australian Broadcasting Authority and now leads Australians for Constitutional Monarchy ("No Republic!"). He also writes commentaries that are regularly published in The Epoch Times, which is part of a media organization that's opposed to the Chinese government, besotted with President Trump, and given to publishing anti-vaccination and pro-QAnon propaganda. Flint's commentary is paywalled, but here's a hint of what he's writing:
His work at the Australian version of The Spectator is also paywalled, but here's some of what he's written:
A right-wing site called The Good Sauce has made some of Flint's writing available. Here's a sample:
When the Wuhan virus struck, Australia’s leaders ignored world’s best practice, guided instead notoriously failed modelling as well as the panic ignited by that propaganda arm of the Democrats, America’s mainstream media.

For them the Wuhan virus has replaced Russian collusion as their principal weapon to stop Trump from draining their swamp.

Our politicians’ solution to the virus was blunt and crude. It was to accelerate their wanton destruction of Australia’s economy.

They long ago begun this by calling a halt to water harvesting and transferring manufacturing to Communist China while increasing immigration but only into congested cities, making it next to impossible for the young to fulfil the Australian dream and buy a house.

They followed this with their quasi-religious conversion to global warming, which teaches the delusion that they can and they must change the climate.
I think you get the drift. Here's an excerpt from another piece, titled "Why Biden Should Lose the Election":
From November, news about the Wuhan virus will no doubt move from the front page. Our power-drunk politicians will have to calm down and think about how to repair the massive and unnecessary damage they have done to the Australian economy, including the $6 billion they admit to pouring down the drain to incentivise idleness. (Unsurprisingly, AOC ―Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez— is a fan of Modern Monetary Theory which claims all this madness doesn’t really matter.)

This change in the news will be because most Australian media slavishly follow the American mainstream, except when they are acting as Beijing’s preferred media outlet, as the ABC recently did in its denunciation of the principal victims of the communists’ monstrous human organ trade on demand. The fact is the US mainstream media no longer report the news. Instead, they are the propaganda arm of the Democratic party, once pro-slavery then pro-segregation and now so far left, they endorse the rioting anarcho-communist BLM.

Trump’s opponents are so determined he be defeated, they prefer to keep seriously damaging and unnecessary lock downs in Democrat-controlled states to avoid any recovery before November. Similarly, Democrat governors and mayors are defunding police and allowing violent BLM riots to continue, with the compliant media not reporting or playing them down, even claiming they are peaceful.

Fortunately, a Biden victory remains most unlikely. This is despite the fact that, as Washington-based strategist Gregory Copley confirms in an important new book, The New Total war of the 21st Century, Beijing’s overriding priority is to ensure President Trump, the most effective opponent they have ever encountered, will be defeated by Biden whose family, has done so very well from them.

His victory is also unlikely despite the polls. Most insisted Mrs. Clinton would win in 2016; their mission is not so much to measure opinion. It is to shape it.
So this "eminent law professor," whatever his past accomplishments might have been, is now just the right-wing drunk at the end of the bar, full of Murdochian talking points. Seems like the ideal person to recommend Trump for a Nobel.

Monday, September 28, 2020


This isn't particularly surprising:
As Donald Trump’s top campaign aides began a discussion in June 2016 about who the presumptive Republican presidential nominee should select as his running mate, the candidate piped up with an idea.

“I think it should be Ivanka. What about Ivanka as my VP?” Trump asked the assembled group, according to a new book by his former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates set to be published Oct. 13....

In Gates’s telling, Trump’s suggestion of naming to the ticket his then-34-year-old daughter ... was no passing fancy.

Instead, he brought up the idea repeatedly over the following weeks...

Trump was so taken with the concept of his eldest daughter as his vice president — and so cool to other options, including his eventual selection, then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence — that his team polled the idea twice, according to Gates.

It was Ivanka Trump who finally ended the conversation, Gates writes, going to her father to tell him it wasn’t a good idea.
I don't suppose anyone told Donald that it was an unconstitutional idea -- Article II of the Constitution says that the president must be at least 35 years old, and the 12th Amendment says that "no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States."

(UPDATE: This was simple math, and I got it wrong. Ivanka turned 35 in October 2016. She would have been eligible.)

Many of my Twitter friends thought the president might dump Pence this year and put Ivanka on the ticket instead. I'm sure he didn't do that because he's terrified of offending the religious right. But I wonder if he'd try to replace Pence with Ivanka if he were reelected, knowing he couldn't serve a third term. I'm skeptical because I'm certain he believes he could get around the two-term limit in the Constitution. I'm sure he'd like to find a way to elevate Ivanka. I can imagine him deciding to fire Pence (even though the president doesn't actually have the power to do that). Maybe he'd try to do one of his ridiculous personnel shuffles and ask Pence to serve in another position while Ivanka became VP. Maybe he'd try to make her acting VP, even though that's not really a thing.

Of course, there's bigger Ivanka news in that New York Times story about Trump's taxes:
Examining the Trump Organization’s tax records, a curious pattern emerges: Between 2010 and 2018, Mr. Trump wrote off some $26 million in unexplained “consulting fees” as a business expense across nearly all of his projects.

In most cases the fees were roughly one-fifth of his income....

... there appears to be a closer-to-home explanation for at least some of the fees:... Mr. Trump reduced his taxable income by treating a family member as a consultant, and then deducting the fee as a cost of doing business.

The “consultants” are not identified in the tax records. But evidence of this arrangement was gleaned by comparing the confidential tax records to the financial disclosures Ivanka Trump filed when she joined the White House staff in 2017. Ms. Trump reported receiving payments from a consulting company she co-owned, totaling $747,622, that exactly matched consulting fees claimed as tax deductions by the Trump Organization for hotel projects in Vancouver and Hawaii.

Ms. Trump had been an executive officer of the Trump companies that received profits from and paid the consulting fees for both projects — meaning she appears to have been treated as a consultant on the same hotel deals that she helped manage as part of her job at her father’s business.
So Ivanka is a tax cheat -- or at least the beneficiary of tax fraud by her father?

Writer James Surowiecki finds the Ivanka story a bit puzzling.

Surowiecki ultimately finds what he believes is a plausible explanation:

But when has Daddy ever tried to conceal the fact that he likes Ivanka more than he likes his sons?

It seems quite possible that he used the same mechanism to funnel money to the boys -- but the Times couldn't determine that because they never joined the government, therefore they never had to fill out the disclosure form Ivanka completed. Remember, there's about $25 million in consultant's fees unaccounted for.

Meanwhile, this looks bad for Ivanka -- or does it?

I continue to believe that none of the Trumps will ever spend even a single day in a cell. Daddy will probably lose the election, perhaps badly, and members of the family might be prosecuted, but high-dollar white-collar criminals tend to beat the rap in this country.

And that might actually be good for Ivanka's potential political career. Right now, she's much less popular with her father's base than her brother Don Junior -- but if she's prosecuted for tax fraud (you know, by the Deep State), I bet the crazy GOP base will grow to like her. So if she wants to run for office as a Republican someday, she should be hoping to face charges.


I don't want to be the tiresome person who says that the big New York Times story about Donald Trump's tax returns will have no effect on the outcome of the presidential election, but ... it will have no effect on the outcome of the presidential election. It's about ten thousand words. It took me ... what, fifteen minutes to read? Trump fans know he's a great businessman. They know the way they know everything: because they saw it on television. There were 192 episodes of The Apprentice broadcast between 2004 and 2017. Subtract the 13 episodes in the final season that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, and remember that the show, originally an hour long, was two hours for several of its seasons, and you have fifteen minutes of reading compared with more than two hundred hours of television. All that TV would have been hard to compete with four years ago, never mind now, when 43% of Americans, and a majority of white male Americans, believe not only that Trump is a business genius but that he's a good president, perhaps the best president we've ever had.

The Times story suggests two possibilities: that Trump is much less wealthy (and more in debt) than he claims to be and that he pays far less in taxes than he should. Both appear to be true, but Trump's base simply can't process the first notion, so they're responding only to the second one. The responses, as seen in this Breitbart comment thread, are exactly what you'd expect: What about Soros? What about Hunter? What about other Democrats? And of course everyone should pay very little in taxes, because freedom! (Except Hunter and Soros and Democrats in Congress, presumably.)
I'm also seeing responses like this: I believe the meaning of this is: Liberal Democrats run the government, so they're responsible for the tax provisions Trump took advantage of. But Republicans have held the White House for 24 of the past 40 years, have controlled the Senate for 22 of those 40 years, have controlled the House for 20 of those years, and have dominated the Supreme Court for all 40 years.

But you'll never get a right-winger to believe that. To the right, government is liberal, and cheating the government is patriotic (unless you're a liberal). This story might make Trumpers like him even more than they already do. But since they can only vote for him once each, it doesn't matter.

Sunday, September 27, 2020


Jeffrey Toobin is right about why Republican presidents want to put judges like Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court. The primary reason isn't abortion.
... a year before Barrett’s birth, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., then a prominent lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, and later a Supreme Court Justice himself, wrote a now famous memorandum to the United States Chamber of Commerce, arguing that businesses needed to take a more aggressive hand in shaping public policy. “The American economic system is under broad attack,” he wrote, from, specifically, the consumer, environmental, and labor movements. He added that “the campus is the single most dynamic source” of that attack. To counter it, Powell suggested that business interests should make a major financial commitment to shaping universities, so that the “bright young men” of tomorrow would hear messages of support for the free-enterprise system. A little less than a decade later, a pair of law professors named Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia signed on as the first faculty advisers to a fledgling organization for conservative law students called the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. The efforts of the Federalist Society were lavishly funded by the business interests invoked by Powell, and it has trained a generation or two of future leaders....

Barrett is a product of this movement, and not just because she clerked for Scalia. Her writings and early rulings reflect it. Her financial-disclosure form shows that, in recent years, she has received about seven thousand dollars in honoraria from the Federalist Society and went on ten trips funded by it. But it’s not as if Barrett was bought; she was already sold. The judge has described herself as a “textualist” and an “originalist”—the same words of legal jargon that were associated with Scalia.... But these words are abstractions. In the real world, they operate as an agenda to crush labor unions, curtail environmental regulation, constrain the voting rights of minorities, limit government support for health care, and free the wealthy to buy political influence.
And lo and behold:
The political advocacy group backed by billionaire Charles Koch is officially launching their campaign in support of President Donald Trump’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court.

The Koch linked group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), moved ahead with what will likely be an expansive and expensive campaign for the organization to help push Trump’s nominee through the Senate....

This will be the latest Supreme Court fight AFP will be involved with since Trump has become president. They ran campaigns backing Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. During the Kavanaugh hearings, they committed seven figures to the cause.
And why would that be? Because of issues that are boring to most voters and vitally important to right-wing billionaires:
One potential target in a Supreme Court unfettered by its own past precedents is the 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA that found the Clean Air Act gave the agency the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Only one of the justices in the majority in that 5-4 case, Stephen Breyer, remains on the court today, while three of the four dissenters still hold their seats.

At least two current justices have signaled interest in revisiting the climate ruling. In 2011, a unanimous court led by Ginsburg reiterated the findings of the Massachusetts ruling — but in a brief concurrence, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas said they only voted that way because no one in the second case had challenged the underlying Massachusetts ruling, hinting at their interest in revisiting it.

They doubled down on their opposition in another side note to a 2014 ruling that again largely upheld EPA’s greenhouse gas regulatory authority. The Clean Air Act “was developed for use in regulating the emission of conventional pollutants and is simply not suited for use with respect to greenhouse gases,” they wrote....

Barrett’s penchant for originalism could also drive interest on the Supreme Court of revisiting, limiting or even doing away with a controversial legal doctrine that critics contend unconstitutionally empowers regulators and federal bureaucrats — a concept known as Chevron deference.

Chevron deference seems unlikely to prompt street protests anytime soon, but demolishing the concept has become a cri de coeur for legal conservatives in recent years. Named after the court’s 1984 ruling in a case called Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, the doctrine holds that when a statute about an agency’s power is ambiguous, judges should defer to the agency’s reasonable interpretation of the law.

Opponents of the doctrine argue that it ceded the authority to interpret laws from the judicial branch to the executive, including on key environmental regulations. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch have both criticized the doctrine, as did Anthony Kennedy before retiring in 2018. Kavanaugh is also thought to be open to limiting it as well.
That's the point of all these court picks. The rulings on abortion and guns are meant to keep Republican voters and one-issue interest groups engaged, but they're a distraction from the real work, which is making the rich richer.

Saturday, September 26, 2020


Many people don't seem to understand what's about to happen after Election Day. Ken Olin, the actor, gets it wrong: But the president isn't planning to say, "Sure, I lost, but I'm not leaving." What he's planning to say is: "I won. It's obvious that I won." One of the president's sons said as much:
Eric Trump told a crowd of his father's supporters at an event in Las Vegas that President Donald Trump would concede the election “if he got blown out of the water” by Democratic nominee Joe Biden after the president had cast doubts on a peaceful transfer of power once the race is decided.

“I think my father’s just saying listen, if he got blown out of the water, of course, he’d concede,” Eric Trump said at the Thursday event, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “If he thought there was massive fraud, then he’d go and try and address that.”
Those are the only two possible outcomes, according to Eric Trump. Anything short of a blowout will be evidence of voter fraud. His father doesn't even acknowledge the possibility of being blown out: He said last month, "the only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” And even if Eric is right and Trump will accept a decisive loss, what constitutes being "blown out of the water"? No one's won the popular vote in a presidential election by double digits since 1984. Barack Obama's two victories came with Electoral College margins of more than 100, but the other three elections since 2000 were won by much smaller margins.

The president has defined mail votes as illegitimate. Do you think Joe Biden can win 270 electoral votes based solely on ballots cast in person, or votes counted by sunrise the morning after Election Day? If Biden can't manage that -- and it's unlikely that he can -- Trump can challenge the election results even if the final tally shows that he's lost decisively.

Which will be fine if his party breaks from him and acknowledges Biden's win. That's what one unnamed Republican insider predicts in this aricle from The Hill:
“No doubt the Trump base will stick with him, and will forever believe that Pelosi, Schumer, Shifty Schiff and Hunter Biden conspired with China and Russia to flood the American electoral system with phony ballots that swung the election to Biden,” said one Republican elections lawyer who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “But everyone in official Washington will abandon him. Pence, the entire cabinet, the RNC, every GOP senator, all but maybe a handful of GOP representatives, all of his political appointees. ... Most lawyers will refuse to represent him — including government lawyers who will resign before advancing his positions in court. The other two branches of government will put an end to this. ... The judicial system in particular will have zero patience for this and its destabilizing effect on public order. And Trump himself does not want to be frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs — like a dog — so he'll eventually go, too. With a huge stink, but not an ounce of fight.”
Sounds like an Aaron Sorkin fantasy -- and in fact, Sorkin told a film festival audience this week that that's more or less how he'd write the ending of the Trump presidency, though in a more melodramatic form:
Sorkin, whose films often deal with the ethics of power, ended the conversation by revealing how he would write election night, 2020. “Trump does what we all assume he will do, which is not concede defeat, claiming the election’s rigged and the Democrats cheated. For the first time, his Republican enablers march up to the White House and say Donald it’s time to go. I would write the ending where everyone does the right thing...."
That certainly won't happen. But will the Republican election lawyer's prediction come true?

We're assuming that the likely outcome is a Biden win that's obvious to all objective observers. But in a Trump/Fox/QAnon world, objective reality has no meaning to roughly 40% of the population. It's also likely that Biden will win (if he does win) by less than the current 7-point margin the polls are showing for him, because of Republican vote suppression, incorrectly submitted mail ballots, and the usual problem Democrats have persuading many people who don't like Republicans that they need to vote Democratic to keep Republicans out of office.

So I'm expecting a Biden win by about 4 points nationwide, with the states that put him over the top being very close. And that's where Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Kevin McCarthy, and the rest of the GOP "establishment" come in. They've accepted -- or openly endorsed -- nearly everything Trump has done to degrade our country. "Establishment" Republicans were yelling "Voter fraud!" long before Trump was, back in the Bush years. Why should we assume that they'll abandon Trump when he's making the same claim after the election?

After the election, Trump won't be saying he lost but won't leave -- he'll be saying he won, and in all likelihood McConnell, Graham, and others will be saying the same thing. Fox News and the New York Post and The Federalist and The Washington Post's Marc Thiessen and Hugh Hewitt will be saying the same thing. Trump will find lawyers who will file court briefs saying the same thing. And some judges will agree -- maybe even Supreme Court justices.

In other words, Trump won't try to reject the election outcome. He'll attempt to change it. And we'll have to fight more than just Trump if we don't want this effort to succeed.

Friday, September 25, 2020


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.