Program Note

[ Posted Tuesday, November 20th, 2018 – 14:15 PST ]

This was already going to be a sparse week for columns, what with the holiday and all, but I regret to inform you that it's about to get even sparser. There will be no column today, because I have to deal with the auto repair shop (fuel pump is getting replaced), and some desperately-needed site maintenance. There will also be no new columns on Thursday or Friday this week, although I may find the energy to post a re-run (no promises). So tomorrow, look for a new column, but then there won't be another new column until next Monday. I apologize in advance for the bumpy service this week, and wish everyone safe travels and a happy Thanksgiving!

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Why I'm Not Overly Concerned About Matthew Whitaker

[ Posted Monday, November 19th, 2018 – 17:23 PST ]

It is rare that I leave myself open to being accused of being too Pollyannaish or otherwise sticking my head in the sand, but today I feel there's definitely a risk of this. Because I am not all that concerned about our new Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker -- although I do realize there are plenty of others who are. But I think that while the pushback against his appointment is necessary and should be pursued by Democrats as vigorously as possible, in the end the real fight is going to be over the next actual attorney general, not the acting one we have now.

If the Whitaker appointment had not been controversial -- if it hadn't followed the forced resignation of Jeff Sessions, in other words -- then perhaps I would be more worried about him. If Washington as a whole had taken a ho-hum attitude towards his appointment, then there would probably be lots to worry about. To put this another way: Who knows what he would have gotten up to if he hadn't felt the heat of public opinion?

But so far the pushback has been so strong and so relentless that this is simply no longer an option. For every minute that Whitaker sits in the big chair at the Department of Justice, he is going to be living life under a very powerful microscope. Every single thing he does is going to be critically examined either now or in a very short time, when Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives in January. Whitaker now knows this. He is fully aware that his every move will be critically examined by Democrats, whether in real time or in retrospect, before House investigative committees. This should serve to put severe limits on the amount of mischief he even attempts to get up to.

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Friday Talking Points -- Trump's Temper Tantrum

[ Posted Friday, November 16th, 2018 – 18:43 PST ]

Most Americans, not being political wonks, have largely moved on from the midterm election results. The mainstream media has also largely been ignoring the still-developing story, for two reasons: (1) they really kind of blew it on Election Night, uniformly coming to the wrong conclusion very early in the evening ("the blue wave is not appearing") and so they're now avoiding having to correct their misinterpretation; and (2) there's a recount in Florida again! Woo hoo! Break out the video clips of that poor myopic cross-eyed guy with the magnifying glass -- that's always fun to run, right?


However, one notable person hasn't exactly been ignoring the still-increasing blue wave. From an extraordinary article (titled: "Five Days Of Fury: Inside Trump's Paris Temper, Election Woes And Staff Upheaval") comes the following behind-the-scenes news from President Trump last weekend:

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Ranked-Choice Voting Put To The Test In Maine

[ Posted Thursday, November 15th, 2018 – 18:00 PST ]

You'll have to forgive me for writing yet another column on the midterm elections, but Maine has just made a bit of electoral history, and judging from conversations I've had recently with friends, their new voting system is not yet fully understood by all. Which is a shame, because it certainly is an innovation in the way people cast their votes. The jury's still really out on whether it is a good innovation or not, but it certainly is a different way of doing the business of counting votes.

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Looking Past Florida And Georgia

[ Posted Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 – 18:02 PST ]

We're over a week from Election Day, and the vote-counting still ongoing. Currently, three races are commanding the media's attention, but there are plenty of other interesting things happening out there if you look beyond just Florida and Georgia. Because while the Election Day news for Democrats was good, it has only grown better and better since then -- even if few in the media are still paying attention. Today I thought it'd be worth it to take a look at all the other late election returns, which might be classified not so much as a blue tsunami (crashing ashore quickly) but rather as a sort of blue high tide -- a slow rise over time that eventually hits a high-water mark. Because that's exactly what is happening out there.

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Democrats Chart Ambitious Path With H.R. 1

[ Posted Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 – 17:55 PST ]

While most of the Washington political press continues an obsession that had little (or nothing) to do with the Democrats' midterm election successes -- merely by changing their stock question: "So, if elected, will you immediately move to impeach Trump?" to: "So, now that you've been elected, will your first act be to impeach Trump?" -- the actual journalists over at NPR took the more obvious step of just asking the incoming House Democratic leadership what they were going to do first (without any preconceived and/or obsessive assumptions). The answer they got back was ambitious, if not downright breathtaking. Their scoop has so far been mostly ignored by the rest of the inside-the-Beltway crowd, but will likely grow in importance over time.

The answer NPR got back was that Democrats are going to begin by directly attacking some of the worst aspects of the way American elections are run, as well as some of the worst ethical lapses that Trump has normalized. Here is what the first bill of the incoming House -- or "H.R. 1" -- will aim to accomplish:

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Lest We Forget

[ Posted Monday, November 12th, 2018 – 18:54 PST ]

Today, I am reprinting an old column about World War I, since yesterday was the centenary of the armistice which ended the war, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Over the years I've been blogging, I have written about "The Great War" twice (both of which were actually written for Memorial Day rather than Armistice Day). In 2009, I wrote of honoring all the war dead, most certainly including the tens of thousands of soldiers who died of the Spanish Influenza after being called up.

But a year earlier I wrote a column to honor the soldiers who fought in this most brutal of wars. In it, I quoted another article about the battle of the Meuse-Argonne which generally pointed out Americans' lack of interest in World War I (compared to World War II and the Civil War). My article ends with a plug for a French organization which is dedicated to laying flowers on American soldiers' graves in Normandy. The level of dedication the French give to the slain of both world wars should impress every American. This is the column I've chosen to run again today.

But I have to add at least a short note of condemnation for President Donald Trump before we get to that. Trump's actions over the weekend were (to use a word he loves throwing around with abandon) nothing short of disgraceful. He only went to the centenary because the Pentagon essentially denied him his own military parade, and his boredom with the entire process was evident to all. And yet, for some reason, prominent ex-military voices are silent here at home. Just imagine what they would have said if a Democrat had put in a similar performance on the world's stage at a solemn event to honor our war dead.

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Friday Talking Points -- Democrats' Biggest Midterm House Win Since Watergate

[ Posted Friday, November 9th, 2018 – 17:33 PST ]

Our subtitle today is (appropriately) nothing short of a talking point. Democrats just won their biggest pickup in the House of Representatives since 1974, the first post-Watergate election. That's not only impressive, it's downright historic. But, for some reason, many Democrats and many pundits are concentrating solely on the downside rather than face the many ballot-box victories the Democrats just chalked up. We have no real reason why this is so, and we wonder why so many seek the dark lining to what is indisputably a very silver cloud. Democrats won, and they won big. They didn't win every race, and some rock-star candidates lost, but why dwell on it? There were so many other wins Tuesday night that more than made up for it, after all.

Once again: House Democrats just had their best midterm since Watergate. They have picked up at least 30 House seats, and probably more. There are still 13 races which have not been officially called yet, and Democrats are up in at least five of them. If they win every one of these races where they are now leading, Democrats will have 230 House seats to Republicans' 205. That is a major turnaround, any way you slice it.

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Setting The Democratic Agenda For The Next Two Years

[ Posted Thursday, November 8th, 2018 – 17:48 PST ]

Democrats are poised to start setting the political agenda in the House of Representatives, beginning in January. This agenda will consist of three different types of actions: investigating the Trump administration, doing legislative deals with Trump where possible, and creating the Democratic Party platform for the 2020 election.

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There's A Lot For Progressives To Celebrate Today

[ Posted Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 – 18:00 PST ]

Was it a blue wave, or (as one television commentator last night waggishly put it) only a "blue ripple"? The one thing everyone can agree upon is that it wasn't actually a tsunami, but I'm still kind of surprised at the bickering this morning over the precise amplitude of the Democratic victories last night (as measured in metaphorical ocean waves), because no matter how you spin it Democrats had a really good night pretty much everywhere but the Senate races. Since the Senate was always going to be tough, this wasn't all that big a deal, really, but some today seem overly dismayed by the fact that Democrats didn't run the table everywhere.

Personally, I am celebrating the numerous victories on the Democratic side. Because when you get beyond all the garment-rending over the Senate (and a few other high-profile losses), there was indeed a lot for progressives to celebrate.

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