New Rule: No Repeat Debate Questions

[ Posted Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 – 16:29 UTC ]

I have a proposal for a new rule for the Democratic presidential debate moderators, going forward: no repeat questions should be allowed. It's a pretty simple idea, really. The moderators would be barred from asking the candidates questions that have already been asked in previous debates. After all, there are plenty of other subjects that have yet to be talked about, so why should voters be subjected to these re-run debate segments, over and over again?

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My Snap Reactions To The Fourth Debate

[ Posted Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 – 00:37 UTC ]

As usual, what follows are my snap reactions to the fourth Democratic presidential debate, held earlier on CNN. But this time I'm opting for a somewhat simpler format. I'm only giving personal reactions to five of the 12 candidates (which does include the three frontrunners). Then I'm going to give some reactions grouped loosely together, under categories such as "good argument / good delivery" or "amusing moments." We'll have to see whether this is a time-saver or not, in the end.

As always, the quotes below were hastily-jotted down and may not be word-for-word accurate, but I think I've accurately captured what was intended. And also as always, I'm writing this before I watch or read anyone else's reactions to tonight's debate. That's enough of a technical intro, so let's just get on with it, shall we?

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What To Look For In The Fourth Democratic Debate

[ Posted Monday, October 14th, 2019 – 16:40 UTC ]

Tomorrow night the top Democratic candidates will debate each other, for the fourth time in the 2020 primary race. The number of candidates on the stage has grown from the third debate (up from 10 last time around to tomorrow night's even dozen) as a result of the Democratic National Committee laying down exactly the same entry criteria for both events. Since there was more time to qualify, more people managed to make it onto the stage for the fourth debate than the third. From this point on, though, the D.N.C. seems likely to reset the criteria individually for each debate, so this is probably the last time the field will expand rather than shrink. Also, the decision was made to put all 12 on stage together tomorrow night rather than breaking them up into two debates of six candidates each, held on two successive nights. What this means is that each candidate will not have very much time to speak tomorrow night.

This is also the last time we'll likely see a number of these candidates in a debate, as the entry criteria continues to tighten. What this means is that there will be a number of very desperate candidates who know full well that this may be their last chance at making their mark and breaking through the crowded field. The full list of candidates who will appear tomorrow night is: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke, Andrew Yang, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, Julián Castro, and Tulsi Gabbard. Steyer and Gabbard are the two who didn't appear in the third debate, but eventually squeaked out high enough polling numbers to qualify for tomorrow night.

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Friday Talking Points -- As The Clown Car Empties

[ Posted Friday, October 11th, 2019 – 17:22 UTC ]

The amusing thing about a circus clown car is, of course, that just when you think that itty-bitty car couldn't possibly vomit forth any more clowns... a few more climb out. That's what this week's news of the arrest of two "clients" of Rudy Giuliani (Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman) as they were attempting to flee the country certainly felt like.

As for the label "clowns," it is not actually one we can claim original credit for. Now, we know it's way too soon for our annual awards, but if we had a "Best Prediction Of 2019" award to hand out, we'd have to give it to Ukrainian business tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky, described as "a figure close to [Ukrainian] President Volodymyr Zelensky." Back in May, Kolomoisky was interviewed on Ukrainian television, where he talked about the two clients of Rudy Giuliani who just got arrested fleeing the country. And he absolutely nailed it:

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Should Pelosi Hold Impeachment Inquiry Vote?

[ Posted Thursday, October 10th, 2019 – 17:20 UTC ]

The biggest question Nancy Pelosi will face next week, when the House of Representatives gets back from yet another multiweek vacation, will be whether or not to hold a full floor vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry that has already begun in various House committees. There are arguments to be made both pro and con on the issue, and so far Pelosi has been resisting the pressure to hold such a vote. President Donald Trump upped the stakes on this decision by claiming in a White House letter that he's not going to comply with any subpoena or request for interviews or documents until the House holds such a vote. But it's still an open question whether he would do so even with a floor vote for the impeachment inquiry, because if he stays true to form then he'll just manufacture another specious argument for why he is continuing to stonewall Congress.

Pelosi, up until now, has declared that an impeachment inquiry is already underway and that the Constitution has no requirement for a floor vote, therefore one is simply not necessary. She's right about the Constitution, which leaves the entire process an open question. Here are the relevant passages. The first is from Article II, Section 4 (Article II deals with the powers and duties of the president):

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Pelosi Should Force Republicans To Vote On Presidential Ethics Bills

[ Posted Wednesday, October 9th, 2019 – 16:57 UTC ]

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is sure getting a lot of advice from the punditocracy right now. Mostly, over the last few days, this has focused on the question of whether she should or should not hold an impeachment inquiry vote on the House floor. I'm going to ignore that issue today (perhaps to be revisited in a later column) because I feel there are other strategy ideas worth exploring, as the Democrats chart their course through the choppy waters of impeachment.

The first bit of advice I'd give to both her and all other Democrats being interviewed on television is to push back -- with scornful laughter, for full effect -- on all of Trump's current bugaboos. Here's how I would go about doing so:

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Program Note -- Warning: Power Cut May Happen Today!

[ Posted Wednesday, October 9th, 2019 – 10:16 UTC ]


It isn't entirely clear at this point, but this site may go down later today. Pacific Gas & Electric may be shutting off the power grid right where my ISP lives. Again, I'm not positive this is going to happen, but there is a chance it will. If power goes down and the site goes cold, we have been informed it may take 3 to 5 days (!) before it is restored again.

Thankfully, I don't think the power at my own house will be cut, but I just wanted to warn everyone in advance that the site may indeed be affected. They've said the cut will likely happen around 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time, so if it does happen that's when things will go dark.

My apologies, in advance, if there is an interruption in service.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Xi, Who Pays The Piper, Calls The Tune

[ Posted Tuesday, October 8th, 2019 – 17:10 UTC ]

I don't think I've ever used this column to comment on the world of basketball, but there's always a first time for everything. The National Basketball Association is currently struggling with a conflict between free speech and making piles of money in China. It is a struggle that many American corporations have faced before, and it boils down to one basic fact: if you want China's money, then you have to play by their rules, period. Chairman Xi is paying the piper, so he gets to call the tune. The concept is clear, and nobody's forcing any company to do business with China, but if any American company does want to tap into their billion-person market, then they've got to follow the Chinese rules for doing business there. And most of those rules are antithetical to democratic norms, which makes perfect sense because China is an authoritarian state.

What set all of this off was a tweet from the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey. The image read: "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong." That's really not all that bad, at least to American sensibilities. To the Chinese, however, it was completely unacceptable, as spelled out in a message from the state television company, Chinese Central Television (CCTV), which read, in part: "We're strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver's claim to support Morey's right to freedom of expression. We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech." Got that? Free speech is fine and good as long as the Chinese government approves of what you are saying. If it doesn't agree with what you are saying, then it is nothing short of a "challenge to sovereignty and social stability." This, it shouldn't even need pointing out, is the exact opposite of freedom of speech.

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Trump Betrays The Kurds

[ Posted Monday, October 7th, 2019 – 17:06 UTC ]

All of a sudden, "letting Trump be Trump" isn't looking like such a good idea any more to many congressional Republicans. Ditto the concept of Trump conducting foreign policy on a whim, often one heavily interrelated with his own re-election prospects. Abandoning the Kurds in Syria may, in fact, turn out to be Trump's very own "red line" with the Republicans who, up until now, have given him nothing but a green light to do what he wishes on the world stage. Perhaps that's too chromatically-mixed, as metaphors go, but it has indeed been astonishing to see the swift and forceful pushback from previously-supine GOP senators and congressmen. Some of them are even talking about using veto-proof majorities to do things like slap sanctions on Turkey or even kick them out of NATO. That's quite a change from last week, you have to admit.

The heart of the issue is whether the United States military is going to abandon the Kurdish fighters in Syria who did the lion's share of the work in eradicating the Islamic State. We armed them, we helped them, but they did most of the actual fighting (and dying) that was required. We simply couldn't have done it without them, in fact, with the forces that we committed to the fight. And now President Donald Trump is stabbing them in the back by allowing Turkey to invade the territory the Kurds now control in Syria. It is nothing short of a massive betrayal, and it won't even be the first time the United States has betrayed the Kurds over the last half-century. One wonders why anyone in the Middle East would ever trust the United States again, since this betrayal cuts so deep.

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Friday Talking Points -- Quid, Meet Quo

[ Posted Friday, October 4th, 2019 – 16:30 UTC ]

The impeachment whirlwind shows no signs of slowing down, and in fact each day brings more and more evidence that President Donald Trump is using American foreign policy as his own personal opposition research to undermine his Democratic political opponents. Which, of course, is an eminently impeachable offense.

This week alone, we've learned: that Trump's attorney general has been pressuring Italy and Australia (and, most likely, other countries as well) to help out with the investigation into the conspiracy theory that the Mueller investigation was improperly begun; that Trump begged the leader of China for some dirt on both Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren during a phone call; that Rudy Giuliani sent a document dump to the State Department outlining his version of various conspiracy theories -- including one against the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (who was later removed from her post); that Trump held out both the military aid to Ukraine and a personal White House meeting in what can only be called a quid pro quo arrangement; that Trump thinks there is nothing wrong with any of this as evidenced by his begging China for dirt on Biden while the television cameras were rolling; that there is a second whistleblower accusing a Trump political appointee with attempting to influence the I.R.S. in their audits of Trump's tax returns; and that Trump wanted to shoot people crossing the southern border in the legs or possibly build a moat on the border and fill it with alligators and snakes. Trump later denied this in a tweet about a "Moot stuffed with alligators," because of course he did.

And all of that was before the text message dump. Just another fun week in Trumpland!

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