Friday Talking Points -- This Is Why Women Don't Report Sexual Assaults

[ Posted Friday, September 21st, 2018 – 18:35 PDT ]

Brett Kavanaugh was supposed to have been confirmed by the Senate to a seat on the Supreme Court by now. That was the original plan, at any rate. But this plan was blown out of the water last Friday when Christine Blasey Ford came forward and publicly accused him of attempting to rape her when the two were in high school. The fallout still continues, and will continue to do so for some time to come.

The overwhelming rush to confirm Kavanaugh, of course, was entirely made-up to begin with. There is absolutely nothing stopping the Senate from taking as much time as it needs to vet Kavanaugh, putting the lie to all of the Republicans' talk of it being "the 11th hour." There is no deadline. None. Republicans argue that they want to allow the Supreme Court to begin its next term (which starts at the beginning of October) with a full bench. But they were fully content to have only eight justices on the court throughout all of 2016, which completely undermines their position now.

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SCOTUS Daydreaming

[ Posted Thursday, September 20th, 2018 – 16:53 PDT ]

[Editor's Note: At least once a year, usually during the silly season in August, I indulge in writing a summer daydream article. I am probably "borrowing" this theme from the comic strip Doonesbury, I fully admit, but when the political news is slow and the weather's hot sometimes it's fun to just indulge your inner "what if..." and spin it in a pleasant direction, just for the heck of it. Today, I choose to do so once again, because it would be so supremely justified. And, yes, "supremely" is the only possible term to use, really.]

The scenario which frightens Republicans the most right now is that the chance to tilt the Supreme Court their direction for a generation to come might just be slipping away from them. This is the sole reason the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh is being rammed through as quickly as they can manage. Which led me to ponder about the worst possible scenario for them, just for fun.

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A Strangely Subdued Trump

[ Posted Wednesday, September 19th, 2018 – 17:00 PDT ]

Donald Trump, in the past week, has seen his former campaign manager Paul Manafort flip on him and agree to a plea deal with Bob Mueller, watched as his Supreme Court nominee's vote had to be postponed because of a sexual assault charge levied against him, and must surely by now have heard that Stormy Daniels is about to release a new book in which she describes both Trump's genitalia and his sexual performance in rather disparaging terms. Throughout it all, though, Trump hasn't tweeted about any of it. In fact, he's been strangely subdued for days.

If Trump were a normal president, the explanation might have been that Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas and caused widespread devastation, and Trump was restraining himself during the emergency. However, Trump is not a normal president by any stretch of the imagination, because if he were the question of why he hasn't unloaded several tweetstorms of his own wouldn't even arise. But he is who he is, which makes his silence on Twitter all the more notable.

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Are GOP Voters Delusionally Overconfident?

[ Posted Tuesday, September 18th, 2018 – 16:38 PDT ]

Just to warn everyone up front, this is not really going to be a proper column. I had actually intended to take the day off for unrelated reasons, but rather than running a re-run column or not running anything at all, the following caught my eye. So I'm running this excerpt to stimulate conversation in the comments, because it certainly is an interesting concept, if true -- especially given the fact that the poll came from the Republican National Committee itself.

According to Bloomberg, Republican congressional candidates might wind up being hoist by a widespread GOP petard -- becoming victims of their own denial of reality. You see, because "the polls were wrong in 2016," that now equates to "all polls are always wrong because they're part of the liberal conspiracy against us." There simply is no impending blue wave, because instead on election night all the pointy-headed weenies are going to be aghast (once again) at the exact opposite -- the red wave that President Donald Trump has been predicting. Therefore, since Republicans are going to win big time anyway, there's no real urgency to get out and actually vote. Here's the full story:

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Anita Hill 2.0 In The Age Of #MeToo

[ Posted Monday, September 17th, 2018 – 16:51 PDT ]

We are all about to see a hypothetical scenario many have wondered about actually become reality. The hypothetical situation can be stated as: "In the age of #MeToo, how would the Anita Hill accusations against Clarence Thomas have played out differently?" Because we've now got another Supreme Court judicial nominee who has been accused of sexual misconduct during his confirmation process. What happens next is (as of this writing) uncertain, but it appears that the Senate committee handling his confirmation hearings is going to be forced to address the controversy in one way or another.

If further hearings happen, many will see parallels to Anita Hill's testimony in front of the same Senate committee. And many will be watching for how the senators on the committee act, because they didn't exactly set a gold standard for sensitivity back in Anita Hill's time. In fact, the Clarence Thomas hearings remain a black mark on Joe Biden's record, since at the time he was the chairman of the committee. He reportedly cut a deal with the Republicans on the committee to limit the testimony to Hill herself, which meant that others who could have corroborated her stories were not heard at all. The questioning was pretty brutal, as well.

Will history repeat itself? That's the question I've been pondering. Supreme Court judicial nominations have been rank partisan affairs for years now, and Thomas was only confirmed on a 52-48 vote. If Brett Kavanaugh is ultimately confirmed, it will likely be by a similar razor-thin margin. But the real question is whether history will repeat itself in the committee hearings or not.

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Friday Talking Points [500] -- Manafort Flips!

[ Posted Friday, September 14th, 2018 – 17:50 PDT ]

A new warning has just been issued, because the hurricane-force bluster emanating from the White House is projected to reach Category 5 this weekend.

Heh. Sorry, but we couldn't resist.

Convicted felon Paul Manafort pleaded guilty today to two additional serious federal felonies, one of which was conspiracy to defraud the United States government. He also had to pony up tens of millions of dollars' worth of real estate, because one of the frauds he perpetrated was avoiding paying $15 million in federal taxes by money laundering. The biggest news, however, wasn't Manafort pleading guilty to his ninth and tenth felonies, but the fact that to get a plea deal he had to agree to cooperate with Bob Mueller's investigation. This is what he's been fighting against doing all along, so it is big news.

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The Punditocracy Is Missing Democrats' Real Campaign Focus

[ Posted Thursday, September 13th, 2018 – 16:46 PDT ]

Pretty much all year long, there has been a popular parlor game played on the cocktail-party circuit inside the Beltway. It might be called: "Democrats Should Run On Bashing Trump And Impeachment." Both subjects were endlessly debated, and a consensus opinion emerged that this was obviously the best way for Democrats to campaign. Bashing Trump at every turn and using "the I-word" as often as possible would surely be the Democrats' best chance of success in the midterms. It became accepted as conventional inside-the-Beltway wisdom, meaning the punditocracy would ask actual Democrats about the subject whenever they got a chance. The fact that the answers didn't match with the perceived reality was barely even noted. Now, finally, some of them are beginning to take note that Democrats are actually running a very different campaign, out there beyond the Beltway.

In actual fact, Democratic candidates have been running their campaign on what the voters truly care about. And at the top of that list is healthcare. For the first time, Obamacare has become a potent political issue for Democrats. Donald Trump did what Barack Obama couldn't -- he made Obamacare popular. The Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a return to the bad old days when pre-existing conditions meant refusal of health insurance has not been forgotten by the public at large. They now understand what "repeal and replace" actually means, and they are against it. This is why Democrats have so heavily leaned on the issue in their campaigns.

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Trump's Polling Turns South

[ Posted Wednesday, September 12th, 2018 – 16:03 PDT ]

One of the best indicators of how midterm elections will turn out is the current president's approval rating. If he's got high job approval ratings from the public, his party can be expected to do well; sometimes even breaking historical norms. If, however, the president's job approval rating is low, then his party usually suffers in the midterms. This tracks closer than many other indicators that numbers wonks watch, such as the state of the economy or the "right track/wrong track" generic polling question. In the past two weeks -- and just two months before the 2018 midterms -- President Donald Trump's polling numbers (which were historically very low to begin with) have taken a pretty steep dive downward. Republican candidates for office are reportedly increasingly worried about this new development -- as they well should be.

Watching Trump's polling over the summer has been pretty boring for the most part, because his polling numbers have remained remarkably consistent. Low but steady, in other words. In fact, the last time I saw fit to write about Trump's polling was way back in March. While I couldn't know it at the time, the day I wrote about Trump's polls was a minor inflection point, because while he had just hit a low of 39.8 percent job approval (all numbers, as always, are from the Real Clear Politics rolling daily average page), he then went on to recover from the mini-dip, and his numbers would rise back to the 41-42 percent range. Trump then got a boost at the end of April, when his average approval ticked up to the 43-44 percent range. His numbers would then largely stay the same all summer long. This is why there hasn't been much to comment upon ever since, because since the beginning of May, his numbers have been remarkably steady. Until a few weeks ago, that is.

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Primary Season's Last Lap

[ Posted Tuesday, September 11th, 2018 – 16:41 PDT ]

The 2018 primary election season draws to a close this week, with the final three states holding their primaries in back-to-back fashion. Today New Hampshire will vote, tomorrow Rhode Island will weigh in, and then on Thursday New Yorkers will get the final say. This seems fairly late in the year to still be holding primaries, considering that general election races have already been going on in other states for months, but I guess somebody's got to go last.

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Could Trump And Pelosi Actually Get Some Things Done?

[ Posted Monday, September 10th, 2018 – 16:37 PDT ]

The 2018 midterm elections are less than 60 days away. Today, though, I am going to speculate not on the outcome in November, but on the possible aftermath. In doing so, I'm going to make a few rather large assumptions, just for the purposes of this speculative column. By doing so, I am in no way predicting this as the most possible future, but I'm going to go ahead and assume that Democrats take back control of the House of Representatives, and furthermore they then go on to elect Nancy Pelosi for her second stint as speaker of the House. As I said, those are both pretty large assumptions because while it is the most probable outcome according to many pundits, as we all know the improbable occasionally surprises everyone. If that weren't true, then we'd all be currently speculating whether President Hillary Clinton was about to lose congressional seats in her first midterm.

Interestingly enough, it doesn't really matter to today's thought experiment whether Democrats take control of the Senate, or whether Republicans keep control of the upper chamber. Since the Senate now requires 60 votes to move any important piece of legislation, the only real difference is whether Democrats have to pick up fewer than 10 GOP votes (if they win control and Chuck Schumer is in command) or slightly more than 10 votes, plus Mitch McConnell's support (since McConnell would control what gets voted on should the Republicans retain control in the Senate). Either way, to get anything passed into law is going to require the cooperation of at least some Republican senators, no matter what the actual number turns out to be.

So, assuming for the sake of argument that Nancy Pelosi does become speaker again and that Donald Trump is still president (there's another rather large assumption), the question that occurred to me was whether the two of them could actually work together to pass some decent new laws. Because that's not as unbelievable (or, if you will, downright laughable) a proposal as it might first sound.

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