Friday Talking Points [476] -- "Everybody Fears The Perp Walk"

[ Posted Friday, March 16th, 2018 – 17:06 PDT ]

If it seems like keeping up with Donald Trump's White House antics is akin to following a soap opera, well, that's because at this point it is impossible to tell the difference.

This week's episode of As The White House Turns opened with a shock -- the handsome Rex was ousted by a tweet! How embarrassing! Then his buddy backed up his story, and he was immediately fired, too. Out West, an official administration spokesman quit in disgust over being asked to blatantly lie to the media. Then Trump's body man was frogmarched off White House grounds, over reports he was a gambler fond of making five-figure bets. By week's end, H. R. was teetering on the brink of extinction as well. Will he be pushed over the edge this weekend? Who will be the next to go? Will it be sleepy-eyed Ben? Or General John? Will Andy be fired mere hours before he can retire with a full pension? Tune in next week to find out! The answers will astound you!

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Bungle In The Jungle?

[ Posted Thursday, March 15th, 2018 – 16:39 PDT ]

There are times when a prognostication I've made turns out to be true, much to my horror. This might just be one of them, and if it turns out to be, I certainly won't be the only California voter to feel that way. Because regaining control of the House of Representatives this November might just wind up being out of reach for Democrats due to California's wacky "top-two jungle primary" system. The only thing I didn't foresee was that Republicans might actually try to actively game the system to their advantage.

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Aftershocks From The Lambquake

[ Posted Wednesday, March 14th, 2018 – 17:04 PDT ]

In practical terms, the election of Democrat Conor Lamb to Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district isn't all that big a deal. Control of the House will not switch, so Paul Ryan will remain as speaker (with one less vote he can count on). Lamb will hold the seat only until November, when the district itself will disappear in the new redistricting map imposed by the state supreme court (to counteract the egregious Republican gerrymandering). So, practically, nothing much will change. In both political and psychological terms, however, the effect of Lamb's victory has to be measured on the Richter scale, because it certainly shook up Washington in a very big way. Congress felt the earth move last night, as the political tectonic plates realigned.

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Nail-Biter In Pennsylvania

[ Posted Tuesday, March 13th, 2018 – 20:00 PDT ]

As I sit down to write, final election results are not currently known from the 18th House district in Pennsylvania, where Democrat Conor Lamb is making a surprisingly strong showing against Republican Rick Saccone. From listening to experts tonight, I drew one astounding takeaway -- there are 115 other House districts that are more competitive than this one. Think about that -- a Democrat is within reach of victory in a district that is only 116th-most competitive. That will have repercussions in November, obviously.

As I write, with 98 percent of the votes counted (all but 12 of almost 600 precincts), Lamb is up by exactly 700 votes, out of over 215,000 cast.

Absentee ballots have not been counted yet. A recount is likely, since the two are within a half a percentage point of each other. So we likely won't know until at least tomorrow who will win the district.

While we're waiting for any further results, we are going to share something we prepared earlier. We had fully intended to write a full column tonight on what the election meant, but it's now looking like that won't be possible until tomorrow. So, for the time being, let's all enjoy a bit of history that ends with an etymological twist.


Historical interlude

This entire section was written before the election results came in. It consists merely of interesting historical background information on southwestern Pennsylvania for your edification.

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Trump Owes Pat Toomey An Apology

[ Posted Monday, March 12th, 2018 – 17:05 PDT ]

President Donald Trump really owes Republican Senator Pat Toomey an apology. Trump also owes the same apology to all the other Republicans he recently taunted by telling them directly that they were "afraid of" the National Rifle Association. This apology is owed because Trump just showed his own cravenness when it comes to crossing the N.R.A. -- on precisely the same issue that Trump castigated Toomey about.

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Friday Talking Points [475] -- Stormy Weather

[ Posted Friday, March 9th, 2018 – 19:00 PST ]

This week, porn star Stormy Daniels sued the president, to nullify the hush agreement between them which resulted in her getting paid $130,000 hush money mere weeks before the 2016 election.

We will now take a pause for everyone to consider exactly what would be happening right now in Washington if this story was exactly the same except for the name "President Barack Obama." Just imagine what the response would have been from congressional Republicans! Especially if the porn star were white.

Of course, since Trump nominally has an "R" after his name, the silence emanating from Republicans was deafening. Nothin' to see here, folks, move along...

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Porn Star Sues President

[ Posted Thursday, March 8th, 2018 – 18:01 PST ]

When you sit back and think about it, that is a rather extraordinary headline. Or, at the very least, it should be. These days, though, not so much. In fact, the story of Donald Trump allegedly paying $130,000 hush money -- to a porn star weeks before the election so she would keep quiet about their alleged affair, which took place either while Trump's third wife was pregnant or just after the birth of the baby (or both) -- was largely ignored for the past few months, due to so many other chaotic crises taking place simultaneously within the White House. It will be hard for future historians to grasp, but the story of hush money paid off to a porn star actually struggled to gain traction in the national news. And that is even more extraordinary than the story itself. But then that's life in the Trump era, folks.

The facts as we know them, at this point in time: Trump's lawyer paid off Stormy Daniels (as she is known in the adult film industry) to the tune of $130,000, mere days before America voted Trump in as president. Could such bombshell news have swayed anyone's vote, if it had been widely known right before the election? Maybe, maybe not. Trump supporters seem to have an inexhaustible well of forgiveness for him, so perhaps it wouldn't have changed the outcome (the Billy Bush "grab 'em by the pussy" tape certainly didn't, after all). But getting back to the facts, both sides agree that the payoff did actually take place, so there is no dispute about the core of the story. It is not merely "alleged," it did happen, in other words.

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Checking In With Trump's Polling

[ Posted Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 – 18:19 PST ]

Since it's been more than a few months, I thought today would be a good time to check in to see how President Donald Trump's job approval polling has been doing. There has been a lot of activity since the last time we looked, including two bumps and a slide. As always, the numbers discussed come from the Real Clear Politics "poll of polls" rolling average tracking page.

Right after I wrote about Trump's polls in mid-December, his numbers bottomed out at yet another low point for him -- 37.0 percent average job approval, and a whopping 58.1 percent average job disapproval. Since that time, Trump recovered to the point where he was seeing numbers he hasn't seen since the beginning of May, 2017. Of course, as with all things Trump, this is relative, because it only meant his job approval squeaking above 42 percent, rather than hovering in the 38-40 percent range. In other words, those are still pretty dismal approval numbers for a president entering his second year.

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Texas Dreams

[ Posted Tuesday, March 6th, 2018 – 17:57 PST ]

Texas is perpetually, for Democrats, the one that got away. It's the pretty girl that wouldn't go out on a date with you in high school. It's the dream car of your youth you could never afford. It's the perfect job you applied for but didn't get. Democratic dreams of winning Texas are like a fourth-place Olympian's dreams of being on the podium -- so close, and yet so far. It's the impossible dream, but Democrats keep right on dreaming it anyway.

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Connecting The Dots On Trump's Tariffs

[ Posted Monday, March 5th, 2018 – 18:24 PST ]

There are two dots that are pretty easy (in retrospect) to connect, when looking for a reason for the hasty timing of President Trump's recent announcement of new steel and aluminum tariffs. In fact, the connection is so jaw-droppingly obvious (again -- after it is pointed out) that it's a mystery why more people inside the Beltway are seemingly not yet aware of it.

Last week, Trump announced a new 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. Neither has been finalized yet, but the news certainly did make a splash in the financial world. But the dot that needs connecting to Trump's announcement is a political one, not an economic one. Because next Tuesday, voters in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district will be heading to the polls in a closely-watched special House election. The district's old boundaries (which will be valid for next week's election, but which will then change for the midterm elections in November) contain all the suburbs of Pittsburgh to the south of the city, as well as some rural areas outside the metropolitan area. Pittsburgh, of course, is the city that named their professional football team "The Steelers."

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