Friday Talking Points -- Trump's Immigration Hypocrisy

[ Posted Friday, May 17th, 2019 – 17:23 UTC ]

It's been yet another week of life so bizarre it'd be hard to even imagine it as satirical art. Who would best be able to capture the lunacy and doublethink emanating from Trump's White House? Joseph Heller? George Orwell? Douglas Adams? Or perhaps Dr. Seuss? In other words, just another glorious week in Trumpland, folks.

The highlights (or lowlights, really) of this lunacy came during Trump's rollout of his brand-new immigration policy proposal. In the future, Trump announced, the United States should give much greater weight to skilled immigrants and much less weight to family ties in deciding who will be allowed in. Under a normal president -- even a normal Republican president -- this would be par for the course. With Trump, however, we have to consider not the par but the course itself.

Donald Trump owns a bunch of golf courses here in America. He runs these golf courses using various forms of labor. Up until very recently, he relied on workers who were undocumented (or, as Republicans so charmingly call them, "illegals"). When this practice came to light in the media, all of these folks were hastily fired. But even beyond the illegal labor force, Trump also relies heavily on a visa used specifically for seasonal workers to hire foreigners as maids and other low-skilled labor to run his hotels and golf courses. His organization snaps up as many of these visas as they can each year, so that they can hire temporary summer help from other countries, rather than hire Americans to do the same jobs -- even though these are not high-skilled jobs. So much for all his talk about hiring Americans, eh?

That's a whole lot of hypocrisy, right there. But things got really surreal when he sent out (you can't make this stuff up, folks) his own son-in-law to make the case that people should be rated not on their family connections but rather on their actual skills. Seriously. His own son-in-law made the case that family connections should not be a consideration.

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Debate Draw Will Be Crucial

[ Posted Thursday, May 16th, 2019 – 16:59 UTC ]

So it finally looks like the Democratic 2020 presidential field is set -- at a whopping 24 candidates -- with the addition (today) of Bill de Blasio and (a few days ago) Steve Bullock. Well, I should say that the field is hopefully set at least up until September, when Stacey Abrams has said she'll make up her mind about a presidential bid. But it's probably not going to change any further before the first round of debates happens. Which all means who gets on which debate stage is going to become pretty crucial.

The Democratic National Committee is running the debates, so they get to set the rules. They have been bending over backward to avoid the appearance of favoritism (after what happened last time), so they have set the entry criteria for the first two debates awfully low. This means that almost everyone running may qualify on at least one of the two main criteria -- raising a certain number of donations from a wide variety of states and donors, or hitting at least one percent support in three accepted national polls. This is lax enough that almost everyone will clear at least one of those hurdles, with the possible exception of those candidates who are either running vanity campaigns or those who jumped in too late to raise enough donations or register in the polls in time to qualify. Still, there's a good chance that at least a few candidates will have to be cut, since the D.N.C. has limited participation to the top 20 candidates.

Each of the first two debates will take place over two nights, with 10 candidates on the stage at once. To avoid the mistake made last time by the Republicans, Democrats will not separate the two debates by who is leading at the polls (leading to a secondary "undercard" or "kiddie-table debate," which few people watched), but rather by random selection. These draws are going to be pretty important, to both the minor candidates hoping to make a name for themselves and for the major candidates as well.

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What Will Happen If Trump Ignores The Courts?

[ Posted Wednesday, May 15th, 2019 – 17:03 UTC ]

What does "co-equal" really mean? That is a basic constitutional question that has never adequately been answered. We are supposed to have three co-equal branches of government in the United States, the legislative (Congress), the executive (the president and all executive branches), and the judicial (the Supreme Court and all other federal courts). Theoretically, none are supposed to be held above the other, hence the co-equal designation. But what does that really mean?

Traditionally, it has loosely meant that each branch is supposed to remain largely within its own sphere of influence. The legislative branch passes laws. The executive either signs them or vetoes them, and also implements and administers both new and existing laws. The judicial decides the correct interpretation of laws. That's the elementary-school level of the definition, but the eternal unanswered question is what happens when things aren't quite so cut and dried? What happens when one branch interprets one of those "checks and balances" that are supposed to rein in the other two branches in a way in which one (or both) of the other branches disagrees? When this happens, the usual term is that we all face a "constitutional crisis." But there are often no precedents in such crises, meaning all three branches tend to just wing it in their response.

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Inslee Ups The Ante With Public Option Law

[ Posted Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 – 17:02 UTC ]

Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, just signed into law the first-ever statewide experiment with a "public option" in heath insurance. This is a momentous event, but so far it hasn't been getting that much attention in the media. Inslee is also a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, so it will now be incumbent upon him to become the champion spokesman for instituting a public option nationwide.

Enacting a public option is a big deal, for a number of reasons. Many Democrats (myself included) still have strong feelings against those Democrats in Congress who directly fought against including a public option in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare). Two senators in particular -- Max Baucus of Montana and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut -- successfully stripped the public option from what was being considered when the Obamacare bill was being written. Since that time, the issue has faded into the background of the healthcare debate, but it is now experiencing a renaissance of sorts.

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Attack The Tax

[ Posted Monday, May 13th, 2019 – 16:46 UTC ]

Donald Trump's trade war with China reached a new level of intensity over the past week, as the trade deal talks all but collapsed -- instead of, as had been promised, leading to an imminent signing ceremony of the best trade deal ever struck in all of history. Trump suddenly announced he was more than doubling the tariff on Chinese goods entering the country, and then for good measure threatened to slap the same 25 percent tariff on everything else China sells in America. This morning, China announced its own retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products, and the stock market sank 600 points. Trump continues in his role as cheerleader for the tariffs, which means Democrats are left to make the case -- once again -- that the emperor's new clothes don't actually exist. So far, they haven't been doing all that great a job in doing so, however.

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Friday Talking Points -- Trump Flails On World Stage

[ Posted Friday, May 10th, 2019 – 17:46 UTC ]

Most Fridays, we tend to focus on President Donald Trump's flailings and failings on domestic issues, but this week his buffoonery on the world stage was really what was front and center. Sure, there's an ongoing constitutional crisis between the White House and the House of Representatives, but this week in particular seemed to be "foreign policy mishap week" for Team Trump.

After absolutely no progress whatsoever in the two months since Trump's failed North Korea summit, Kim Jong Un reminded Trump he was still alive by playfully launching a bunch of missiles into the sea. On two separate occasions over the past week, the North Korean dictator oversaw test launches of short-range missiles. This doesn't end his self-declared moratorium on I.C.B.M. launches, but it is still pretty provocative behavior which is obviously designed to embarrass Trump.

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Bernie And A.O.C. Propose Capping Credit Card Interest Rates

[ Posted Thursday, May 9th, 2019 – 17:24 UTC ]

In what is in all likelihood a political shot across Joe Biden's bow, Senator Bernie Sanders is about to introduce a bill in the Senate which would cap all credit card interest rates at 15 percent. A companion bill will be introduced in the House by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (where it actually has the prospect of being voted on). This will be a welcome addition to the ongoing debate over what the Democratic Party's agenda and 2020 platform should include. It's an idea with the potential for widespread support from the public, and one of those rare issues where normal people would actually see a concrete and beneficial difference in their own lives emerge from the politics in Washington. A further provision of the bill would allow the post office to start offering basic banking services, putting it in direct competition with the banking industry.

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Program Note

[ Posted Wednesday, May 8th, 2019 – 18:50 UTC ]

The end of the saga! My apologies once again for the lack of new column today, but this will be the last time (for this particular reason, at any rate). Spent the day dealing with the car again, but the transmission has now been rebuilt and it's charging around as good as new. That's the good news -- the bad news was the bill, of course. Sigh. But personal finance woes aside, this is good news for everyone else because this will be the last time I have to play hookey to deal with the car. So my apologies once again, and let's hope nothing else needs fixing for a good long while.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Biden Realigns The Field

[ Posted Tuesday, May 7th, 2019 – 17:27 UTC ]

The end is officially in sight. Hopefully.

Yes, we're almost at the point where every Democrat who has ever dreamed of running for president has already announced his or her intentions, and we can finally say that the field is set. Almost. We've still got three holdouts, but two of them seem likely to jump in the race within the next few weeks, and the third has announced she's not going to make up her mind until September, so even if she does join in, it isn't going to happen any time soon.

So, hopefully, in a few weeks we'll have a full slate of 2020 Democratic candidates and the news will move on from: "Who will jump in the race next?" to the inevitable: "Who will drop out first?" Such is the cynical cycle of political reporting.


Campaign News

As we predicted last time around, Joe Biden has now officially joined the race. Also as we predicted, this caused a political earthquake of sorts as the race got shaken up in a major way. More on that in a moment.

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Redefining Electability

[ Posted Monday, May 6th, 2019 – 17:29 UTC ]

The word on the lips of every political journalist who resides within the Washington Beltway this week is "electability." Countless articles have been written on the subject, and it's been raised to almost obsessive levels as the pundits wonder what the voters think about the Democratic field and who will have the best chance of defeating Donald Trump next year. And as with every modern presidential election cycle for at least the past 20 years, the elusive quality of electability is measured and debated using an agreed-upon definition of the term. The only problem is that this definition is now wildly out of date -- if it ever was even correct in the first place.

Literally, electability is "the ability to be elected." Period. No more, no less. Not a word in there about how moderate or extreme any particular candidate must be to qualify. It should be seen as a neutral term, in fact. Whichever candidate is the most electable is the one who will be elected. And that can (and does) mean very different things each and every time around. And it usually means something wildly different than what the pundits think, as well.

Consider the following: Donald Trump was the most electable candidate in the 2016 race. I can say this unequivocally, because he got elected. Trump was more electable than all the other Republicans (including such scions of supposed-electability as Jeb Bush), and he was more electable than Hillary Clinton (in the Electoral College, at least). But would anyone have used the word to describe Trump before he won? It's doubtful, because Trump didn't measure up to what the punditocracy has come to mean when they use the word.

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