It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

[ Posted Thursday, October 29th, 2020 – 16:38 UTC ]

In 1973, baseball legend Yogi Berra uttered the immortal line: "It ain't over 'til it's over." He was speaking about the playoffs, but it's really a universal statement that has particular relevance right now. Because tens of millions of Americans just want the election to be over. Many have wanted this for months. And we've still got five more days to go.

We've all been through the wringer this year. We've been squashed flat by the twin rollers of the worst pandemic in 100 years and the worst economic hit since the Great Depression. We've been wrung out and hung out to dry. It's why everyone has been so exhausted all year long.

Continue Reading »

A Governmental Reform Agenda To Constrain Future Trumps

[ Posted Wednesday, October 28th, 2020 – 16:57 UTC ]

President Donald Trump has gotten away with all kinds of things while in office, blowing apart many traditions, conventions, and presidential precedents. He has gotten away with it, for the most part, because very little of it is actually written into law. They're all just a sort of an unwritten code of conduct that previous presidents have all (mostly) followed. But if Democrats do win the "trifecta" next Tuesday and wind up in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, they will be in a position to do something about this sorry state of affairs, in order to prevent any future presidents from getting away with such egregious behavior.

It may be one of those rare times in American history when an incoming president will willingly sign laws that restrict his own power, because the need for such laws is now so obvious and it fits in so well with Joe Biden's desire for us all to return to some sort of normalcy. So allowing Congress to legally define what these norms are shouldn't be too big a problem for Biden.

Continue Reading »

Fantasy Versus Reality

[ Posted Tuesday, October 27th, 2020 – 16:46 UTC ]

So it has come down to this. Do you want to live in a fantasy world for the next four years, or would you prefer reality? President Donald Trump's White House science office put out a press release today that should really go down in history right next to George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" banner. It lists Trump's accomplishments while in office, and prominently features the statement that Trump is responsible for "ending the COVID-19 pandemic."

Got that? It's over. A thing of the past. Nothing to worry about. The pandemic is finally behind us. We can all relax once again and throw away our masks forever, because our Dear Leader has conquered the virus once and for all. Rejoice!

Meanwhile, out in the real world, 70,000 to 80,000 Americans are getting sick each and every day. Around 1,000 deaths are also happening every day. Due to the coronavirus that has "ended." This is the actual reality, not Trumpian fantasy. And yet the president wants us all to deny it, to the greater glory of him.

Continue Reading »

Electoral Math -- The Final Stretch

[ Posted Monday, October 26th, 2020 – 18:38 UTC ]

Welcome to our penultimate Electoral Math column. Next Monday, I will post my own final picks for the 2020 presidential election, for better or for worse. And I promise, in the final column, there will be no tossup states at all -- I'll make a prediction even for those I've got to flip a coin to decide.

The biggest campaign news of the past week was the second and final presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden. As a measure of how Trump has normalized political chaos, the big takeaway from the debate was that Trump behaved normally. Which was, of course, shocking (for him).

Continue Reading »

Friday Talking Points -- Only One Scaramucci To Go!

[ Posted Friday, October 23rd, 2020 – 17:45 UTC ]

We are now only one Scaramucci away from Election Day. For those unfamiliar with the reference, a "Scaramucci" is a unit of time measurement equal to the time Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci spent as President Donald Trump's press secretary -- 11 days. And we're now only one Scaramucci away from the election.

Also of note, we are now exactly as far away from Election Day as we were four years ago when James Comey essentially threw the election by announcing there were more Hillary Clinton emails under investigation. Trump was saved by this revelation back then, but no matter how hard he's tried to equal this October surprise (by pressuring all those who work for him to create one out of thin air), it just hasn't materialized this time around.

Of course, being just one "Mooch" away from finally seeing the result of this year's long-anticipated election isn't a reason to pop the champagne quite yet. Even if Trump loses to Joe Biden, he'll still have a whopping seven Scaramuccis between then and Inauguration Day to cause all kinds of trouble. So our long national nightmare, sadly, still won't be over, for many Mooches to come.

Continue Reading »

Trump Shockingly Normal In Debate

[ Posted Thursday, October 22nd, 2020 – 21:48 UTC ]

The second (and final) presidential debate tonight was as different from the first as it could possibly be. That will likely be the biggest takeaway for both the press and the public. President Donald Trump -- for the most part -- actually behaved himself and didn't try to dominate every single minute. Joe Biden debated the way he really wanted to in the first debate. It was, in a word, normal. Which is why this will be the big headline tomorrow, because whenever Trump does anything even halfway normal, it is big news.

Heading into the debate, the big story was that the microphones would be muted for the first two-minute answer from each candidate. No interruptions would be possible, in other words. But for the most part, this turned out to be largely unnecessary, due to Trump behaving like an adult (for a change). Now, perhaps it was the threat of being muted that reined him in, or perhaps his advisors sold him on the idea that if Biden were allowed to talk he'd just blither on like an idiot and Trump would win the debate. Either way, Trump did behave himself for at least the first two-thirds of the debate, although he did get a bit interrupt-ey at the end.

This allowed for a free exchange of ideas, or at least a free exchange of prepared talking points. In other words, a fairly normal presidential debate. Tonight was much less exhausting to watch, and much more civilized. So I'd have to say the big winner of the debate was the American voter who had tuned in to watch.

Continue Reading »

Donald Trump As Shadow President

[ Posted Wednesday, October 21st, 2020 – 17:10 UTC ]

For the purposes of discussion today, we're going to assume that Joe Biden wins the upcoming election. This is in no way guaranteed, of course, but the rest of the article makes no sense unless this happens. Consider it a thought-experiment.

If Joe Biden wins the election, what will President Donald Trump do next? Let's ignore all the expected lame-duckery for the moment (lawsuits against the election results, epic tantrums, Trumpian chaos, self-pardons, refusing to attend the inauguration, etc.) and take the longer view of what Trump will do after Biden is sworn in next January.

Many are assuming that Trump will somehow magically disappear from the political scene. In this fantasy, the Republican Party will wake up from its four-year delusion, shake its head in bewilderment, and then go back to being a normal opposition party in American politics. Biden himself is somewhat of a proponent of this viewpoint.

In more normal times, this might be the case. Ex-presidents are generally known for largely retreating from the public stage and assuming the role of "elder statesman" within their own party. They do not regularly involve themselves in the day-to-day political struggle, but instead take a more gentlemanly approach and for the most part refuse to second-guess the new Oval Office occupant (at least, in public). But these are not normal times, so why would anyone expect Donald Trump to be a normal ex-president? Instead, Trump will likely become what could be called a "shadow president." Now, this requires a digression to explain what I mean by that term, so please bear with me.

Continue Reading »

Biden's Closing Message Has Been There All Along

[ Posted Tuesday, October 20th, 2020 – 15:04 UTC ]

This is the phase of the presidential election when all the pundits start talking about what the candidates' "closing message" either is, will be, or should be. For Joe Biden, the closing message really should be one that has been there all along. In fact, it's the underpinning of pretty much everything Biden has campaigned on, whether explicit or merely implied. It's also easy to state and it is already on the minds and lips of voters everywhere. It is such a simple message that I identified it long before Joe Biden even became the Democratic nominee.

Continue Reading »

Electoral Math -- The Race Tightens A Bit

[ Posted Monday, October 19th, 2020 – 18:14 UTC ]

Once again, it is time for our Monday rundown of the state-level polling in the presidential race. Since last week, Donald Trump has returned to the campaign trail in a big way, after his quick recovery from COVID-19. His rallies are (as usual) packed shoulder-to-shoulder with nary a mask in sight, even though we're on the leading edge of the next big wave of infections across the country (indeed, in many of the states Trump is travelling through).

This is Trump's final message -- ignore the disease, and maybe it'll go away. This is reckless and irresponsible, but it is also classic Trumpian behavior. One does wonder how many independents (especially out in the suburbs) this is going to turn off, but Trump really doesn't seem to care at this point.

Last week, instead of the second scheduled presidential debate, we got duelling townhalls on different television channels. Joe Biden appeared calm and collected and downright presidential. Donald Trump got grilled mercilessly by Savannah Guthrie (of all people), and reacted with his usual bombast and falsehoods and gaslighting. This week, we'll have what was supposed to be the third presidential debate (which is now the second), which will be the last real chance Trump will have to turn his campaign around. This chance has already shrunk considerably, since almost 30 million people have already cast their ballots.

Trump is trying to push an "October surprise" based on dubious emails about Hunter Biden, but at this point nobody (outside of Fox News) really cares. It is not going to have the same impact as Hillary Clinton's email revelations late in the game, but that's not going to stop Trump from trying. Trump is also going to crow about confirming another Supreme Court justice, but again this is not likely to resonate outside of his own base voters.

Instead, the real October surprise isn't all that surprising, because the experts have been predicting it for months now. The pandemic is beginning to rage across the country once again, and we're seeing numbers we haven't seen since the last wave hit at the beginning of the summer. If these numbers keep going up for the next week or so, it will almost certainly be the biggest issue on voters' minds in the election. Trump, astonishingly, is out there ridiculing Joe Biden for listening to the doctors and the experts, ridiculing Anthony Fauci (who is much more trusted by the public than Trump), while continuing to hold "superspreader" events at all his rallies. The disconnect between Trump's "we're turning the corner" gaslighting and Joe Biden taking the crisis very seriously is downright jarring.

Continue Reading »

Friday Talking Points -- Battling Townhalls Show A Clear Choice

[ Posted Friday, October 16th, 2020 – 16:56 UTC ]

The second wave of the pandemic now appears to be upon us. Yesterday, over 60,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in the U.S. That number has been heading upward all week, in fact. And it's higher than it has been since the last wave hit (some call the impending wave the third wave, due to the two previous spikes, we should point out). And we are less than three weeks away from the presidential election.

This, more than any other factor, may become the key reason Donald Trump loses. Sure, we're all tired of hearing about the pandemic (and have been for quite some time). But then Trump caught it, which relaunched it back onto center stage in the political arena. Although he quickly recovered, for once Trump could not manage to change the storyline. And now it looks like the fall/winter wave is here. This will mean COVID-19 will, once again, lead most news coverage. For the next week (at the very least), stories will again appear about overwhelmed doctors and hospitals. It will be on everyone's mind.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is increasingly astonished that everyone else in the country does not actually inhabit the fantasy world he has created inside his own head, where we're "turning the corner" and the pandemic will just magically go away. Trump's been hoping for this magical retreat since the start of the pandemic, but these days it sounds downright delusional. This is far beyond a normal politician sounding "out of touch," in other words. People are dying out there, and Trump doesn't seem to even grasp that. Not exactly a portrait of a strong leader, in other words. Or a sane one, for that matter.

Continue Reading »