Trump's Tailspin

[ Posted Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 – 15:30 PDT ]

So, America, are we tired of all that "winning" yet?

Yes, that was a facetious question, intended to point out that America is not so much tired of "winning" right now as it is increasingly tired of President Donald Trump's antics. Because his presidency just keeps right on hitting new lows, on a weekly basis (sometimes on a daily basis, in fact). Every time you think: "Well, he certainly can never top that one," he roars back to set the bar even lower, oftentimes with jaw-dropping impact.

The past few days has seen this cycle repeat once again. After some nuclear brinksmanship with North Korea and threatening Argentina with military force, Trump turned to heal the racial divide in America. Well, no, he didn't. What he actually did was to pour a few gallons of gasoline on the fire, just to make it burn that much brighter.

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Kelly Exit Contest!

[ Posted Tuesday, August 15th, 2017 – 15:05 PDT ]

While I just finished watching President Donald Trump's rather extraordinary press conference today, it is going to take some time for me to process it before writing about it. So perhaps I'll get to it tomorrow, but for today I thought it was time for some light-hearted political fun. In short: a contest!

We haven't had one of these for awhile, but at this point I think everyone could use a distraction. The contest's rules are simple: pick the day when General John Kelly will exit his job as White House chief of staff. Bonus points are possible if you correctly pick the method of his exit (fired in a Trump rage, got so disgusted he had to go, caught in a compromising position with Russians/prostitutes/Ryan Lizza, etc.).

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Terrorism Is Terrorism

[ Posted Monday, August 14th, 2017 – 16:46 PDT ]

President Donald Trump today finally acknowledged the root cause of the horrific terrorist attack in Charlottesville last week. He specifically called out neo-Nazis and white supremacists for the evil they truly represent. This is all to his credit, although it did take him an unconscionably long time to make such a statement. But there was still one word missing from his statement: terrorism.

Driving a car into a crowd of people with murderous intent solely for what those people believe is indeed terrorism. There simply is no other label that fits. Terrorism is the threat or the use of force or violence to achieve political goals. That's what this was, plain and simple. Nobody has any problem with labelling a car or truck attack terrorism when it happens in Europe by a fanatical Muslim, and nobody should shy away from using the label right here in America -- no matter what the ideology or political goals behind such an attack are.

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Netroots: Energized And Looking Forward

[ Posted Friday, August 11th, 2017 – 14:26 PDT ]

I know I said I wouldn't be doing live-blogging from Netroots Nation, but I have to at least file a general report as a sort of overview of my impressions of the convention. It's either that or just blow off writing anything until next Monday, so you have the choice of either reading what's going on here in Atlanta or instead spending more time stressing out about when the missiles might start flying (which everyone's been doing all week long, it appears). It's your choice, really. Just wanted to give fair warning before I begin.

Netroots is two-thirds over, at this point. Saturday will be the third of three days, but so far the biggest impression I've come away with is that the activist left is incredibly energized this particular year, and is working hard to change things for the better in the run-up to next year's midterm elections.

I believe this is the sixth time I've attended Netroots Nation, although my wife and I did not attend last year's convention. We got to attend the Democratic National Convention in 2016 instead, so it's been a while since I've experienced Netroots.

The most heartening thing I've seen so far is how unified the atmosphere is. I've been to Netroots in years following big election losses before, and some of these had a pervasive atmosphere of disappointment, if not outright depression. This is not the case this year at all, I'm happy to report, even though 2016 was the most dismal election loss Democrats have suffered in a long time. Instead of downcast attitudes, people have responded by energetically rededicating themselves to ushering in political change, and the overall feeling is actually one of optimism.

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Crisis? What Crisis?

[ Posted Wednesday, August 9th, 2017 – 18:30 PDT ]

So I take a few days off to do some tourist stuff, and suddenly we're almost at war with North Korea? I guess with Donald Trump running things you can't afford to ignore the news for even a few days.

Maybe it's just being on vacation, though, but for some reason I don't think the current crisis is really going to live up to the hype in the media. Even hotels in the backwoods still have cable television, so I have seen them going bonkers over the situation -- portraying it as the most serious international standoff since the Cuban missile crisis.

Somehow, I kind of doubt that is true, though. Perhaps it's just having had cable TV as my main news source for the past two days. I tend to pay much more attention at home to print and online news, and only sample broadcast television news just to see how the stories I've already read are being presented. While cable news is much more excitable, millions more Americans regularly get their information about the world and politics through broadcast news, so I have to at least pay attention to their spin, while mostly ignoring cable altogether.

Which is why I reached back to a very old Supertramp album title to headline this article. Crisis? Really? Well, maybe... but then again maybe not. North Korea, after all, issues bellicose statements towards us with regularity, and for the most part the United States (from the president on down) just largely ignores them. Such bellicosity is really intended for for the North Korean people, to keep them whipped into a state of perpetual frenzy over the supposed imminent attack from the U.S. (that never seems to materialize, but whatever). Watching even 30 seconds of the woman who regularly delivers such alarmist statements on North Korean state television (from just about any recent period of time) proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

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How About A Non-Silly Season?

[ Posted Monday, August 7th, 2017 – 00:19 PDT ]

It is now August. The dog days of summer. In politics, this period is traditionally known as the "silly season." It's called that for a reason. With Congress gone from Washington all month, usually coupled with a presidential vacation, there is just not a lot of news for political commentators to comment upon. So they usually latch on to some incredibly silly story and then proceed to beat it into the ground. With nobody else around to make news, this soon turns into a vortex of silliness, with everyone trying to outdo each other pontificating on the seriousness of what, at heart, is pure balderdash.

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Friday Talking Points [448] -- Rogue Elephants!

[ Posted Friday, August 4th, 2017 – 17:39 PDT ]

As time goes by, more and more elephants in Washington seem to be going rogue. By this, we mean that resistance to Donald Trump is growing... within the Republican Party. Just last week, three GOP senators (Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain) denied Trump his sought-after "repeal and replace Obamacare" bill. Senator David Perdue from Georgia summed it up as: "We had three chairmen who went rogue on the Republican caucus and cost us this vote." Since then, other elephants have been going rogue at an increasing rate.

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Congress Unifies... Against Trump

[ Posted Thursday, August 3rd, 2017 – 17:23 PDT ]

President Donald Trump finally got a major piece of legislation to sign. However, he wasn't too thrilled about it and I doubt he'll be bragging much about it in the future. Because while it could be called a rather stunning bipartisan congressional victory, it certainly wasn't any sort of political victory for Trump. Unless you count "unifying Congress... against Trump," which I kind of doubt he would.

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Trump's Base Support Begins To Erode

[ Posted Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017 – 15:47 PDT ]

For the first six months of his presidency, Donald Trump has always been able to count on a "floor" of public support of around 40 percent. Through thick and thin, four-in-ten Americans approved of the job he was doing. That seems to now be changing. For the first time, his own base is starting to become disillusioned with Trump. So far the change is slight, but the trendline doesn't look good for the near future for the president.

Today Trump hit several milestones on the Real Clear Politics poll tracking page. His job approval average is now 38.2 percent, which is the lowest he's ever seen. His job disapproval rate now stands at 56.9 percent, the highest it's ever been. That's a spread of 18.7 points (below water), which is also the largest it has ever been. But when you take a dive into the poll numbers which make up that average, things look even worse for Trump.

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California's Jungle Primary Could Be Problematic For Democrats In 2018

[ Posted Tuesday, August 1st, 2017 – 16:22 PDT ]

If the Democrats are to have a good chance of retaking control of the U.S. House of Representatives next year, the path to victory will almost certainly have to run through California. There are seven House districts in California that Hillary Clinton won that are still represented by Republicans in the House. To successfully retake the House, Democrats will likely have to win most (if not all) of these races. Currently, Darrell Issa seems the most vulnerable of these Republicans, but there are others in some surprising places (like Orange County, once a Republican stronghold). But Democrats might become hamstrung by a change made to California's primary process a few years back -- the "jungle primary" or "top two primary."

I've supported some reforms to the voting process over the years, but I never supported this idea, just to admit my own bias up front. How it works is simple to describe. Instead of primary election day being essentially a number of intraparty contests (a Republican primary, a Democratic primary, a Libertarian primary, etc.; each with a separate party ballot), instead voters enter the "jungle." All candidates for a particular position -- from all parties -- appear on the same ballot. So you usually get a number of Democrats and a number of Republicans running for the same office. But only the top two in the voting move on to the general election -- even if they're from the same party. Minor ("third") parties are thus almost inevitably blocked from the general election, and at times only one major party appears at all (either two Democrats or two Republicans). Whichever candidate then goes on to win on (general) Election Day wins the race.

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