Elizabeth Warren Not Afraid To Be Bold

[ Posted Tuesday, March 19th, 2019 – 18:03 UTC ]

As I wrote about yesterday, the Democratic 2020 presidential field is getting bigger all the time. With so many viable candidates running, it's getting tougher and tougher for each one of them to stand out in any appreciable way. Most of the attention in the media so far has focused on rather superficial traits about the candidates (this is nothing new, I should mention), but that doesn't mean that substantive policy proposals aren't being put forward. So today I'd like to zero in one on particular candidate who seems to be proposing some of the boldest ideas in the field (at least for now). Because whatever else you may think of her, Elizabeth Warren has certainly staked out a few cutting-edge positions.

[I should mention before I begin that I am in no way offering an early endorsement of Warren over any other candidate in the mix, rather you should see this as the first of hopefully many articles which take a deeper dive into the policy prescriptions of the Democratic candidates in the race. Because while I do enjoy a good horserace column (again, see yesterday's offering), there's far too much of that sort of thing around and not nearly enough examination of what each particular candidate is offering to the voters. So please see this as merely the first in a series of such columns, and not my own personal endorsement of any one candidate at this early stage in the race.]

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Brown Out, Beto In -- Another Look At The 2020 Democratic Race

[ Posted Monday, March 18th, 2019 – 16:46 UTC ]

It's time once again to cast our eyes over the ever-expanding Democratic 2020 presidential field, and as has been the case so far, we've got new commitments from a few more notable names to add into the mix. Oh, and one meta-addition, as the Democratic National Committee has now announced that Milwaukee, Wisconsin will be where the 2020 convention will be held -- which means that no matter who is nominated, we won't be able to say "if they'd only gone to Wisconsin..." this time around. So there's that, at least.

Of course, the biggest news (fittingly) came from Texas, as Beto O'Rourke formally jumped into the race, surprising absolutely no one. More on him in a moment, but his launch has so far been one of the biggest three in the field (the other two who made serious splashes so far were Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris). But again, we'll get to Beto in a bit.

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Friday Talking Points -- Trump Humiliated By His Own Party

[ Posted Friday, March 15th, 2019 – 18:03 UTC ]

President Donald Trump just got humiliated three times in the same week. By his own party. Could this be a trend? One would certainly like to think so, but that may be premature (or overly optimistic).

Of course, it's debatable whether Trump can even be humiliated, because it's tough to humiliate someone who does not know the meaning of the word humility. You can call Trump many things (and we often do), but "humble" certainly isn't one of them.

But whether he realizes it or not, Trump was badly humiliated three times this week by Republicans in Congress. The first was a 54-46 vote in the Senate (with seven Republicans voting with the Democrats) to end America's involvement in Saudi Arabia's devastating war in Yemen. The second came the next day, when the Senate voted 59-41 (with an even dozen Republicans crossing the aisle to specifically rebuke Trump) to un-declare Trump's southern border "national emergency." This is the same bill that 13 Republicans voted to support in the House, a while back. But the third humiliation Trump suffered was optically the worst for him, as the House unanimously voted 420-0 to urge the attorney general to release Robert Mueller's report publicly after it gets delivered. So much for Trump's "witch hunt" theory... it's hard to call something a witch hunt when every member of your party wants to see what it uncovers, after all.

The common thread through all of these votes was that Trump has overreached (or will overreach), and must be constrained by Congress. Also, the humiliation for Trump -- that was a big component as well, of course.

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Trump Losing His Grip On GOP?

[ Posted Thursday, March 14th, 2019 – 16:49 UTC ]

It has been a rather astonishing 24 hours in Congress. Last night, the Senate passed a bill which would force President Donald Trump to end American involvement in the war Saudi Arabia is fighting in Yemen, by a healthy margin of 54-46. Today, they followed this rebuke by passing the House bill to rescind Trump's "national emergency" declaration of a non-emergency on the southern border by an even-more-astonishing margin of 59-41. The House, not to be outdone, then unanimously passed (420-0) a resolution demanding that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's eventual report to the attorney general be made public. That's a whole lot of presidential rebuke for one single day, you've got to admit. And a whole lot of Republicans voting against a president of their own party.

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And Then There Were Five

[ Posted Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 – 16:26 UTC ]

If I had been in a more pedantic mood, that headline would have more-properly read: "And Then There Were Fifty-Two," but that doesn't really have the same ring to it. Whichever math you prefer, there is now a solid majority in the Senate to pass the House's measure rescinding President Trump's "national emergency" declaration at the southern border. A fifth Republican senator, Mike Lee, just announced he'll be voting for the measure, which means there are already 52 votes for it in advance of tomorrow's floor vote. This should assure its passage, and will likely lead to the first presidential veto of Trump's tenure in office.

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Pelosi Trolls The Media On Their Impeachment Obsession

[ Posted Tuesday, March 12th, 2019 – 16:28 UTC ]

I try to not write about the same (or similar) subjects two days running as a general rule, but every so often I must break this rule to address late-breaking developments which happen after the first article is put to bed and published. This is one of those times, because after writing yesterday about the House Democrats' impressive unity (no matter what the pundits tell you), another kerfluffle erupted when the Washington Post released an interview with Speaker Nancy Pelosi which it had conducted last week. And the inside-the-Beltway crowd immediately went hog wild, because one of their very own pundits had successfully won the game entitled: "Get a Democrat to use the word 'impeachment'."

Sigh. So here we are again, as I feel the need to absolutely and positively debunk all the hoopla over the non-story of Nancy Pelosi saying she isn't currently a fan of impeaching the president. In fact, I think she's gotten so tired of getting the question that she's now just outright trolling the media on their own obsession over the issue.

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Don't Believe The Pundits -- Democrats Are Indeed United

[ Posted Monday, March 11th, 2019 – 17:22 UTC ]

This week, the political party in control of the White House and the Senate is going to have a vicious intraparty fight over a broad constitutional issue. Last week, Democrats in the House unanimously passed a resolution condemning hate, and 23 Republicans astonishingly voted against it. Democrats stayed absolutely united in their fight against Trump's border wall funding during the longest shutdown in U.S. history, and they've remained united in the House to pass the first gun control measure in decades and the strongest elections and governmental ethics reform package since Watergate. Democrats have only held power in the House for a little over two months, and yet they've stayed absolutely unified to accomplish these major achievements. In the presidential race, it's actually pretty hard to differentiate between the announced Democratic candidates, because their platforms are all so similar that they defy attempts to find much daylight between them.

Sigh. You'll forgive me for being snarky, but at times the groupthink of the punditocracy really bugs me. Obviously, this is one of those times.

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Friday Talking Points -- Trump Begins Building Stone Wall

[ Posted Friday, March 8th, 2019 – 19:06 UTC ]

President Donald Trump, as we all know, is a big fan of walls. Big, beautiful walls, according to him. But although he's never gotten Mexico to pony up a single peso for his border wall, and is still having trouble convincing Congress that it's the right thing to do, when future historians look back on this week, they might mark it as when Trump began constructing a metaphorical wall between his administration and Congress. Because the first big block of stone was just deposited on the White House lawn -- with 81 more big stone blocks waiting in the wings.

For those too young to understand the political use of the metaphor, the verb "to stonewall" reached its heyday in the administration of a former crooked president, Richard M. Nixon. Throughout the Watergate scandal, the Nixon White House took the position of answering no questions and revealing nothing about what had taken place behind the scenes. It wasn't until Congress, backed with a few court rulings, pried this information out of the White House that he was forced to resign in disgrace.

The stonewall tactic didn't work out so well for Nixon, in other words.

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It's High Time For A $15 Minimum Wage Bill

[ Posted Thursday, March 7th, 2019 – 17:26 UTC ]

Even though they haven't gotten nearly enough credit in the mainstream media so far, House Democrats are doing a pretty good job of "walking and chewing gum at the same time." They are investigating Donald Trump and everyone around him, as they were elected to do; but they are also producing some pretty impressive and forward-thinking legislative efforts as well. Their problem, though, is achieving much success in getting this message out in the media. What with Donald Trump's incessant tweeting and the presidential race beginning to take shape, the political media -- not the Democrats -- are the ones who seemingly can't manage to masticate and perambulate simultaneously.

Democrats in the House are moving legislation forward on several fronts. So far, they've passed a universal background check bill -- the first gun safety measure in almost a generation. They are scheduled to vote tomorrow on one of the most sweeping voting rights and governmental ethics reform efforts since the post-Watergate backlash (the "H. R. 1" bill). They've also separately moved forward on reinvigorating the Voting Rights Act that was gutted by the Supreme Court. They've held hearings on the problem of tackling the high cost of prescription drugs, as well as many other important subjects, with legislation soon to follow. All of these efforts have taken place within a few months of regaining control of the House, even though the first month was entirely consumed by Trump's government shutdown tantrum over his lack of border wall funding. So, all in all, House Democrats are doing precisely what they promised they'd do while campaigning -- pushing an ambitious Democratic agenda that is staking out the party's position in advance of the 2020 presidential contest, while also simultaneously holding Trump's feet to the fire of proper congressional oversight (for the first time since he took office).

But what has so far been missing in this flurry of legislative action is any one bill that cuts directly to the problem of income inequality. They are reportedly now considering a big boost (and a revamping of the method of disbursement) in the child tax credit, which is a welcome step in the right direction, but still falls short of being the sort of universal action that might just break through the media's indifference. Which is why I think it is now high time to move forward on a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage.

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Bad News For Trump On Trade Deficit

[ Posted Wednesday, March 6th, 2019 – 17:52 UTC ]

For the past few decades in American politics, the idea that a successful businessman would make a good president has been in vogue, most notably on the right. George W. Bush was supposed to be our first "C.E.O. president," and Donald Trump ran a goodly portion of his campaign on the idea that "only he" could fix all of America's problems, because he was such a wildly successful businessman.

Neither premise turned out to be true, of course. Bush was soon tested in a way no businessman ever has been -- by a massive terrorist attack and the question of how America should respond to it. Trump was never all that successful a businessman in the first place (see: his multiple bankruptcies), and continues to show a rather profound ignorance of the way macroeconomics actually works. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the subject of international trade.

After two years of Trumponomics, his own Commerce Department just released some bad news for Trump, in the form of the largest trade deficit in American history:

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