The Republicans 2020

Written by  //  July 23, 2020  //  Politics, U.S.  //  No comments

What Is QAnon: Explaining the Internet Conspiracy Theory
The 45th President of the U.S.

Trump Kills Jacksonville Convention Activities, Including His Big Speech
(New York) Of all the wretched jobs in American politics in this pandemic year, the worst has to be Republican National Convention planner. The quadrennial clambake was originally scheduled for Charlotte, North Carolina, in its entirety, until Donald Trump had a temper tantrum over Governor Roy Cooper’s refusal to make an iron-clad pledge that he would be allowed to hold his acceptance speech in a hall packed with unmasked, cheering MAGA fans. POTUS yanked the key segment of the convention from Charlotte and decided to give it to Jacksonville, Florida, mostly because the mayor and governor there were both Republicans who presumably agreed with him that getting his general-election campaign off to a roaring start was more important than public health.
For contractual reasons, some of the boring but necessary business sessions of the convention were left in Charlotte, which was complicated enough. Then rising COVID-19 cases in Jacksonville began forcing the RNC to discuss moving events outdoors to reduce the risk of a super-spreader event. Those familiar with Jax’s weather in late August shuddered or chuckled at the prospect of Trump delivering his big self-congratulatory speech in a half-empty NFL field or minor-league ballpark on a steamy night, with perhaps a torrential downpour or an electrical storm livening up the proceedings.
… And so, in a week when the president is reportedly trying to convey the sense that he’s facing reality rather than some fantasy world where COVID-19 is just a bad cold and the economy is roaring back, he dropped this bomb during his coronavirus briefing, as USA Today reported:

President Donald Trump said Thursday he is canceling the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention that had been planned next month because of the coronavirus pandemic.

22 July
Max Boot: The Lincoln Project understands that Trump’s enablers must pay a price

If we are ever again to have a sane and sober center-right party in America — something we desperately need — then the Trumpified GOP must first be demolished. That is what the Lincoln Project is trying to accomplish, and more power to it. By leading the charge against the Republican Party, its founders have shown greater fealty to conservative principles than 99 percent of elected Republicans.

21 July
Lankford, Inhofe refuse to confront Trump’s authoritarian acts in Portland
(Oklahoma City Free Press) As mayors of major U.S. cities condemn the deployment of unbadged, unnamed goon squads from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to attack and kidnap protesters in Portland, Oregon, and President Donald Trump threatens to send them to other cities, the silence from Oklahoma Senators James Lankford and Jim Inhofe is cacophonous.

20 July
Greg Sargent: Does the Lincoln Project have a secret agenda? The answer is surprising.
The Lincoln Project’s declared mission is “defeating Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box.” That includes a pledge to elect Democrats over Republicans who, like Trump, do not “support the Constitution.
The group will spend tens of millions of dollars in swing states through Election Day, most focused on turning GOP voters against Trump and on Senate races.
That includes a major expenditure on communicating with voters about vote-by-mail.
The group is preparing to vehemently oppose efforts by GOP senators to obstruct and stymie Biden’s agenda, should he win the presidency.
If the Lincoln Project has a broader agenda, then, it appears to be burning down as much of the GOP that helped bring us Trump as possible. Obviously, we should approach all this with a trust-but-verify skepticism, but [John Weaver, a co-founder and leader of the Lincoln Project] has now planted markers for us to judge the group against.

19 July
As Trump Ignores Virus Crisis, Republicans Start to Contradict Him
President Trump continues to press for a quick return to life as usual, but Republicans who fear a rampaging disease and angry voters are increasingly going their own way.
(NYT) In recent days, some of the most prominent figures in the G.O.P. outside the White House have broken with Mr. Trump over issues like the value of wearing a mask in public and heeding the advice of health experts like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, whom the president and other hard-right figures within the administration have subjected to caustic personal criticism.
Once-reticent Republican governors are now issuing orders on mask-wearing and business restrictions that run counter to Mr. Trump’s demands. Some of those governors have been holding late-night phone calls among themselves to trade ideas and grievances; they have sought out partners in the administration other than the president, including Vice President Mike Pence, who, despite echoing Mr. Trump in public, is seen by governors as far more attentive to the continuing disaster.

17 July
The Trump campaign is the grift that keeps on grifting
(WaPo) In two days alone during March, the president’s reelection effort forked over roughly $380,000 of its contributors’ money to his hotels for “facility rental/catering services.”
The Center for Responsive Politics has been keeping track of all of this on its OpenSecrets website. During this election cycle, the center reports, the president’s campaign and its related committees have steered $2.6 million of their donors’ money to Trump’s family-owned properties and businesses. The Republican Party has spent nearly $1 million as well, and GOP candidates, elected officials and their political action committees have spent another $391,000.
Why Jeff Sessions’ Loss Is Cold Comfort
The former attorney general’s defeat in Alabama isn’t a repudiation of his racism and populism. It’s proof they’ve gone mainstream
(RollingStone) … He thought he was at the pinnacle of his powers, a boy scout from Selma now ensconced in the president’s favor, when just 21 days into his tenure as U.S. Attorney General, he recused himself from investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Almost overnight he became persona non grata, banished from the kingdom by the very monster he had helped create. It didn’t matter that right up until the day after the 2018 midterm elections, when Trump finally asked for his resignation, Sessions was probably the Trump acolyte who most delivered what the president purportedly stood for, from separating families at the border and rolling back Obama-era civil rights protections to blocking efforts at police reform. As Trump tweeted his utter disdain for the man, Sessions kept effectively doing his political bidding.

16 July
Trump’s Losing, So When Are Republican Candidates Going to Abandon Him? – Spoiler alert: they aren’t.
By Susan B. Glasser
Most Republicans are not abandoning Trump, partly because he is an unusually vengeful politician who will go after those, such as Jeff Sessions, who he thinks cross him.
(The New Yorker) There are many other factors, of course, ranging from the fight that has already begun for control over the post-Trump Republican Party to the default partisanship that makes Republicans believe that sticking with Trump, no matter how disastrous his decisions may be or how distasteful they find his fulminations, is better than the Democratic alternative.
Another factor to consider is the spectre of 2016. There are many politicians who remain convinced that, with Trump having pulled off a historic upset once before, he can somehow make the improbable happen again, polls be damned.

15 July
Jeff Sessions’s Defeat in Alabama, a Final Insult from Donald Trump

7 July
Could Dumping Pence Be a Last-Minute Game Changer for Trump?
(Forbes) He needs a game changer to reset the race, and a fresh veep is a time-honored way to do that, even if it involves (to quote the words said to John McCain in 2008 about choosing Sarah Palin ) “high risk [and potentially] high reward.” Indeed, if, like Trump, you have no real second-term agenda to tout and no capacity to “pivot to the center” and pursue swing voters via messaging or policies, it’s one of the few cards in the deck.
Second, Trump could perhaps try to blame Pence for his administration’s deadliest and most politically damaging error, its mishandling of COVID-19 from the get-go. The veep is, after all, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, even though he has consistently given up the spotlight to Trump and to public-health advisers like Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx. In an administration with constant personnel changes and little sense of reciprocal loyalty, it wouldn’t be that out of the ordinary for the sycophant-in-chief to be asked to step aside as one last act of service to the warrior-king: taking the fall for a public-health disaster.
… In the FiveThirtyEight discussion, [Nikki] Haley was regarded as the most likely Pence replacement. As a woman of color who took down her state’s Confederate flags, she could obviously help address the perception that the president’s reelection effort is one long exercise in white male reactionary culture-war politics. She is also, to an extent, underappreciated by her many media fans, a stone ideologue out of the Jim DeMint–Mark Sanford wing of the South Carolina GOP, a legendary union-hater who is also as pure as Pence on cultural hot-button issues like abortion. [See Nikki Haley bio]
… A final reason it could actually happen now is the strong possibility that the Republican convention in Charlotte and Jacksonville will turn out to be a logistical and public-health fiasco. The GOP will need some counter-programming to distract media from the mess, and an unexpected ticket is probably the most newsworthy thing Trump can offer. He would, however, have a lot of Trump-Pence posters and merch to liquidate.

6 July
Graham, facing tough reelection, breaks with Trump
(McClatchy) Sen. Lindsey Graham has publicly opposed President Donald Trump five times in the past few weeks — including a new rebuke Monday — an unusual torrent of dissent from one of the president’s top allies in Washington just months before the South Carolina Republican faces a tough reelection challenge.
Since June 20, Graham has blocked a Trump U.S. attorney nominee, criticized Trump’s decision to put a temporary freeze on visas for foreign workers, split with the president about face masks during the coronavirus pandemic and pressed the administration for information about alleged Russian bounties on American soldiers.

4 July
Trump’s push to amplify racism unnerves Republicans who have long enabled him
(WaPo) President Trump’s unyielding push to preserve Confederate symbols and the legacy of white domination, crystallized by his harsh denunciation of the racial justice movement Friday night at Mount Rushmore, has unnerved Republicans who have long enabled him but now fear losing power and forever associating their party with his racial animus.
“The Senate incumbent candidates are not taking the bait and are staying as far away from this as they can,” said Scott Reed, a veteran Republican operative and chief strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has invested heavily in keeping GOP control of the Senate. “The problem is this is no longer just Trump’s Twitter feed. It’s expanded to the podium, and that makes it more and more difficult for these campaigns.”

1 July
Hundreds Of Former Bush Officials Unite To Endorse Joe Biden
(NPR) The group — 43 Alumni for Biden, a reference to Bush, the 43rd president — described its formation as an effort to restore “the principles of unity, tolerance and compassion to the greatest elected office in the world.”
“For four years, we have watched with grave concern as the party we loved has morphed into a cult of personality that little resembles the party of Lincoln and Reagan,” said Karen Kirksey, the group’s director.
“We endorse Joe Biden not necessarily in full support of his political agenda but rather in full agreement with the urgent need to restore the soul of this nation. Once elected, we look forward to working in a bipartisan way through civil, spirited debate on the many important issues facing Americans today and for decades to come.”

30 June
Jeff Sessions Keeps Getting Worse
(New York) Now, with four Senate terms, a stint as U.S. attorney general, and an ignominious fall from President Trump’s good graces under this belt, Sessions is trying to claw his way back into relevance while telegraphing a level of personal depravity that matches — if not exceeds — that of his political agenda. That’s the takeaway from a new profile of Sessions’ post-White House life written by Elaina Plott for the New York Times magazine.
As it turns out, Sessions’ ideological project was what a decisive share of Americans wanted in 2016. Revelations about the personal views underlying and informing them suggest a depraved mind, indifferent to the suffering of those it deems unworthy of basic rights. It’s an approach that’s earned Sessions personal humiliation and a brutal legacy in equal measure. Undocumented immigrants, the over-policed and over-incarcerated — all are casualties of Jeff Sessions’ America. It’s a place all too familiar for many, and predictable in its ravages. To the nation’s continued detriment, it’s also a lesson that rarely gets learned.

24 June
Voters in Kentucky, North Carolina nominate two Republicans opposed by Trump to House seats
(AP via Globe & Mail) In western North Carolina, GOP voters picked 24-year-old investor Madison Cawthorn over Trump-backed real estate agent Lynda Bennett. The runoff was for the seat vacated by GOP Rep. Mark Meadows, who resigned to become Trump’s chief of staff and joined his new boss in backing Bennett.
Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, a libertarian-minded maverick who often clashes with GOP leaders, was renominated for a sixth House term. Trump savaged Massie in March as a “disaster for America” who should be ejected from the party after he forced lawmakers to return to Washington during a pandemic to vote on a huge economic relief package.

20 June
Joni Ernst and Donald Trump Could Both Be in Trouble in Iowa
Iowa seemed out of reach for Democrats not too long ago. Now, the presidential race appears to be tightening, and Senator Ernst, a Republican, is facing a strong challenge from a political newcomer.
Although the road to the White House in November will not hinge on Iowa, with its meager six electoral votes, the tightness of the race in the state is an ominous sign for Mr. Trump in other Midwestern battlegrounds like Ohio and Wisconsin, which also have large electorates of older and rural voters, and white voters without college degrees.

18 June
Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s Bolton problem is nothing compared with Senate Republicans’ woes
(WaPo) Bolton’s testimony would have highlighted how deep in the tank Republicans were for Trump and how uninterested they were in defending the Constitution. … It’s true that much has happened since then; many calamities have befallen the country, precisely because they left Trump in place. But voters must not forget their circular reasoning and incoherent explanations for their acquittal votes. … Senate Republicans are not decent — nor loyal or worthy of our trust. They stood by Trump when even the evidence available at the time weighed in favor of impeachment. They turned a blind eye to a witness whose testimony would have been even more persuasive. They were and are enablers of the most destructive president in our history and deserve — every last one of them — to be booted out of office.

17 June
Republican Leaders Condemn a G.O.P. Congressional Candidate’s Racist Facebook Videos
Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican who won a primary on June 9, was criticized for comments she made in videos uncovered by Politico.
(NYT) A Republican candidate who has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory faced criticism on Wednesday from members of her own party for making a series of offensive remarks about blacks, Jews and Muslims in Facebook videos.
… Ms. Greene had already gained attention for promoting QAnon, a conspiracy theory that began in October 2017, when a pseudonymous user of the online message board 4chan started writing cryptic posts under the name Q Clearance Patriot. The person claimed to be a high-ranking official privy to top-secret information from President’s Trump’s inner circle. Over two years and more than 3,500 posts, Q — whose identity has never been determined — has unspooled a sprawling conspiracy involving a global cabal of politicians and celebrities controlling governments, media, banks and a child sex-trafficking ring.
Last month, Republicans in Oregon selected a Senate candidate who promotes the QAnon conspiracy theory, the latest sign that conservatives are increasingly willing to embrace a movement built on a baseless series of plotlines about Mr. Trump battling a shadowy globalist cabal.
QAnon also has surfaced in criminal cases, merchandising and at least one college class. In January, hundreds of QAnon enthusiasts gathered in a Tampa, Fla., park to listen to speakers and pick up literature, and in England, a supporter of President Trump and the Brexit leader Nigel Farage raised a “Q” flag over a Cornish castle.

16 June
Mike Pence’s deceptions unmask Trump’s dangerous reelection strategy
(WaPo) President Trump and his advisers have plainly decided they have no hope of truly defeating the novel coronavirus and getting the nation on track to meaningful, sustained economic recovery in time for his reelection.
So they’re spending far more of their time on the next best thing: creating the illusion that we have already roared most of the way back to victory on both fronts.
A window into the inner workings of this effort has just been thrown wide open by Vice President Pence, who reportedly told governors on a conference call to emphasize the role of increased testing in creating reported spikes in coronavirus cases.
… this deception serves a larger and more pernicious one: The idea that any and all new outbreaks can be dismissed as mere localized outbursts and not as a sign of broader peril. Tellingly, Pence called outbreaks “intermittent” and took care to tell governors that Trump has been using the term “embers.”
Trump Administration Sues to Try to Delay Publication of Bolton’s Book
The request comes a week before the highly anticipated memoir was set to be published.

13 June
Lindsey Graham In New Ad: ‘Joe Biden Is As Good A Man As God Ever Created’
Senator’s old comments come back to haunt latest video by Republican Voters Against Trump

12 June
These are the 9 Senate seats most likely to flip. Things don’t look good for Republicans.
Republicans are playing a lot of defense: They’re defending purple seats in Colorado, Maine, Arizona and North Carolina, and they might end up having trouble in red states such as Iowa, Montana, Georgia or even Texas. Democrats, on the other hand, don’t have many weak spots. Doug Jones will very likely lose the Alabama Senate race, and Republicans could try for a win in swing-y Michigan or red-trending Minnesota. But for the most part, the blue team is playing offense this year.

10 June
Republicans fear Trump’s weakened standing jeopardizes the party in November
(WaPo) President Trump’s incendiary responses to racial injustice protests and the coronavirus pandemic have left him politically isolated and profoundly weakened less than five months from the election, raising alarms among many Republicans about the party’s prospects in November.
A raft of fresh polling nationally and in battleground states shows Trump losing ground to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, a precipitous slide that has triggered deep distress within the GOP about the incumbent’s judgment and instincts, as well as fears that voters could sweep the party out of power completely on Election Day.
Trump’s ability to shape cultural flash points also appears to have ebbed, as some Republican leaders and legions of large corporations are openly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, despite risking retaliation from the White House.
Republicans Belatedly Realize Protests Aren’t Going Away
(New York) In the first two weeks following the police killing of George Floyd, Republican leaders responded by encouraging the shooting of protesters; calling for the military to deploy to American cities to crack down on “nihilist criminals”; and describing violence at demonstrations initiated by police as “provocation that was created deliberately for national television.” But as the country enters its third week of indignation, Republican lawmakers and President Trump have responded with delayed vows of reform — or at least lip service that shows they’ve realized that the mass unrest is a new political reality
Trump campaign demands CNN apologize for poll that shows Biden leading
President Donald Trump’s campaign is demanding CNN retract and apologize for a recent poll that showed him well behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
The demand, coming in the form of a cease and desist letter to CNN President Jeff Zucker, was immediately rejected by the network.

7 June
In warning sign for Trump, Republicans growing pessimistic about country’s direction
(Reuters) – Republicans are more pessimistic about the country’s direction than at almost any other time during Donald Trump’s presidency, as a trio of crises – the coronavirus pandemic, an economic downturn and mass protests over police brutality – buffets his administration.
6-7 June
Only 46% of Americans who identify as Republicans say the country is on the right track, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last week. It is the first time that number has fallen so low since August 2017, when a rally organized by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia led to violent clashes with counter-protesters.
Trump’s approval rating remains resilient at around 40%, with a large majority of Republicans still approving of his overall performance. Thirty-seven percent of Republicans said the country is on the wrong track; 17% of those said they would vote for Biden if the election were held now, while 63% still plan to cast ballots for Trump.
Vote for Trump? These Republican Leaders Aren’t on the Bandwagon
Former President George W. Bush and Senator Mitt Romney won’t support Mr. Trump’s re-election. Colin Powell will vote for Joe Biden, and other G.O.P. officials may do the same

31 May – 1 June
George Will: Trump must be removed. So must his congressional enablers.
(WaPo) The nation’s downward spiral into acrimony and sporadic anarchy has had many causes much larger than the small man who is the great exacerbator of them. Most of the causes predate his presidency, and most will survive its January terminus. The measures necessary for restoration of national equilibrium are many and will be protracted far beyond his removal. One such measure must be the removal of those in Congress who, unlike the sycophantic mediocrities who cosset him in the White House, will not disappear “magically,” as Eric Trump said the coronavirus would. Voters must dispatch his congressional enablers, especially the senators who still gambol around his ankles with a canine hunger for petting.
In life’s unforgiving arithmetic, we are the sum of our choices. Congressional Republicans have made theirs for more than 1,200 days. We cannot know all the measures necessary to restore the nation’s domestic health and international standing, but we know the first step: Senate Republicans must be routed, as condign punishment for their Vichyite collaboration, leaving the Republican remnant to wonder: Was it sensible to sacrifice dignity, such as it ever was, and to shed principles, if convictions so easily jettisoned could be dignified as principles, for . . . what? Praying people should pray, and all others should hope: May I never crave anything as much as these people crave membership in the world’s most risible deliberative body. 
Republican senators, it’s not too late to help save your country
Fred Hiatt
Republican senators, you know he is a danger to the republic.
It is not too late to say so. It is not too late to help save your country, and maybe your self-respect.
And you know it is contemptible when a president, with his nation on edge as civil unrest spreads, can do nothing but threaten, divide and incite.
How do I know you know? Because nothing in your careers, before the age of Donald Trump, hints at a willingness to tolerate such odious behavior.
Yes, I’m talking to you, Lamar Alexander. And you, John Barrasso. And Roy Blunt. Richard Burr. Susan Collins. Mike Crapo. Joni Ernst. Cory Gardner. Chuck Grassley. Mike Lee. Lisa Murkowski. Rob Portman. Jim Risch. Pat Roberts. Marco Rubio. Ben Sasse. Tim Scott. Dan Sullivan. John Thune. Roger Wicker. And others in your caucus, too. Even you, Lindsey Graham. Even for you, it’s not too late.
So why do you stay silent now? Why does your colleague Mitt Romney seem so lonely in maintaining his moral compass?
It’s not hard to guess. You see your former colleagues Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, cast into political irrelevance for raising the most timid of objections. You think, better to stay viable. Keep your head down, don’t provoke the bully, and you can help restore sanity when he is gone.
But if he is reelected, restoring sanity may not be an option. The republic will be forever altered, as you know.
And you know this, too: Joe Biden would be a better choice for the country, at this moment. Of course, you disagree with many of his policies. You dislike some of the people he would bring into government. But he would respect the Constitution, the rule of law, simple human decency and the norms that have kept this experiment alive.

26 May
Trump’s New Campaign Slogan Is a Confession of Failure
“Transition to Greatness” is a corporate-style euphemism that tries to spin a collapse as a success.
David A. Graham
(The Atlantic) …the problem with running on a slogan of “Keep America Great” at the moment is … well, look around. Nearly 100,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. The unemployment rate is nearly 15 percent, headed for 20 or 25 percent by the White House’s own estimates. Regardless of how you allocate responsibility for this crisis, things plainly aren’t great.
Thus was born “Transition to Greatness,” the third entry in Trump’s greatness suite, and by far the weakest. “Make America Great Again” was a promise; “Keep America Great” was a declaration of victory. “Transition to Greatness” is a confession of failure, a corporate-style euphemism that tries to spin a collapse as a success, replacing the ambition of 2016 with the wan incrementalism of 2020.

19 May
Trump Replaces IG Investigating Elaine Chao With Person Mitch McConnell Vetted
President Trump has fired the Inspector General who was investigating Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The replacement was vetted by Chao’s husband, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. The decision to fire the Transportation IG was made on Friday. The IG for the Department of Transportation was investigating Chao for allegedly favoring Mitch McConnell and his political aspirations. …
McConnell was the one to vet Behm’s replacement, Howard Elliott.  Now McConnell is involved in Eric Soskin possibly becoming Transportation IG on a permanent basis. If Soskin is appointed it will essentially put the Trump administration in charge of the investigation into Chao and McConnell.
President Trump also recently fired the State Department IG who was investigating Secretary Pompeo for his handling of an arms deal involving Saudi Arabia. It will be interesting if anyone else gets replaced as we get closer to November.

11 May
How Greenwich Republicans Learned to Love Trump
To understand the President’s path to the 2020 election, look at what he has provided the country’s executive class.
The story of Trump’s rise is often told as a hostile takeover. In truth, it is something closer to a joint venture, in which members of America’s élite accepted the terms of Trumpism as the price of power. Long before anyone imagined that Trump might become President, a generation of unwitting patrons paved the way for him. From Greenwich and places like it, they launched a set of financial, philanthropic, and political projects that have changed American ideas about government, taxes, and the legitimacy of the liberal state.

24 April
Mitch McConnell Is Not as Clever as He Thinks He Is
Leaving states to fend for themselves is a shocking abdication of responsibility that may haunt his party in November.
By Jamelle Bouie

20 April
A devastating exposé of an amoral politician who has damaged the Senate, perhaps irreparably.
How Mitch McConnell Became Trump’s Enabler-in-Chief
The Senate Majority Leader’s refusal to rein in the President is looking riskier than ever.
By Jane Mayer
(New Yorker) McConnell’s predecessor as Majority Leader, the retired Democratic senator Harry Reid, of Nevada, accuses McConnell of destroying norms that fostered comity and consensus, such as the restrained use of filibusters. Although the two leaders had at first managed to be friendly, bonding over their shared support for Washington’s baseball team, the Nationals, they became bitter antagonists during the Obama Administration. “Mitch and the Republicans are doing all they can to make the Senate irrelevant,” Reid told me. “We’ve watched them stand mute no matter what Trump does. They have lost their souls. From a policy perspective, it’s awful. It’s hurt the Senate and damaged the country.” …
Until recently, McConnell’s enabling of Trump has worked well for him, if not for the country. But it has now made him complicit in a crisis whose end is nowhere in sight. As the consequences of the Trump Presidency become lethally clear, his deal looks costlier every day. The trusted Cook Political Report recently downgraded the chances that Republicans would hold their Senate majority to a fifty-fifty tossup, after conservative strategists reported widespread alarm over Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

18 April
Senate battle hinges on four races
(The Hill) With 200 days to go until Election Day, the Democrats’ path to a Senate majority currently hinges on four states: Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina, where Republican incumbents are fighting off challenges from well-funded Democratic opponents.
The Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), booked a combined $43.7 million in fall ad reservations across the four battleground states late last month, along with another $32.6 million in Iowa and Kentucky
And just this week, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, invested some $33 million in advertising across seven states: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Montana and North Carolina.
A Key G.O.P. Strategy: Blame China. But Trump Goes Off Message.
Republicans increasingly believe that elevating China’s culpability for spreading the coronavirus may be the best way to improve their difficult election chances. The president is muddying the message.
The strategy could not be clearer: From the Republican lawmakers blanketing Fox News to new ads from President Trump’s super PAC to the biting criticism on Donald Trump Jr.’s Twitter feed, the G.O.P. is attempting to divert attention from the administration’s heavily criticized response to the coronavirus by pinning the blame on China.
With the death toll from the pandemic already surpassing 34,000 Americans and unemployment soaring to levels not seen since the Great Depression, Republicans increasingly believe that elevating China as an archenemy culpable for the spread of the virus, and harnessing America’s growing animosity toward Beijing, may be the best way to salvage a difficult election.

23 March
Coronavirus Exposes the Virulence of American Conservatism
Congressional Republicans are not only unwilling to support universal paid leave or make an open-ended commitment to covering 80% of workers’ salaries but are also fighting to protect the right of bailed-out corporations to fire as many workers as they see fit.
(New York) On Sunday, the Senate failed to reach an agreement on an already belated economic relief package, a development that’s left small-business owners and laid-off workers reeling and financial markets tumbling. The mainstream press has attributed the Senate’s inaction to “Washington infighting,” or else to Democratic intransigence. But Chuck Schumer’s caucus didn’t vote down the Republican bill over some minor detail, or because it insisted on dictating the left’s preference on an issue that genuinely divides blue and red America. Rather, the key sticking point is that the GOP bill would empower the Trump administration to dole out $500 billion in bailout money to corporations of its own choosing — without forbidding bailed-out firms from laying off their workers. This arrangement would not only allow the hotelier-in-chief to plow public money into his companies and those of his cronies but also enable those firms to spend our government’s dollars on maintaining outsize executive compensation instead of retaining employees.

19 – 21 March
Loeffler stock trades roil Georgia special election
Appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler is facing attacks from both sides after it was revealed she sold stocks following a classified Covid-19 briefing.
Loeffler’s rivals in a special election pounced on revelations that the recently appointed senator dumped millions of dollars in stocks after a classified Covid-19 briefing in January — damaging her bid against a formidable GOP opponent in Rep. Doug Collins, a close ally of President Donald Trump. Collins is seizing on the stock trades by Loeffler, who’s married to the head of the New York Stock Exchange.
Senator Dumped Up to $1.6 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness
Intelligence Chair Richard Burr’s selloff came around the time he was receiving daily briefings on the health threat.
(Pro Publica) Soon after he offered public assurances that the government was ready to battle the coronavirus, the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $582,029 and $1.56 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 29 separate transactions.

5 March
Republicans, rooting for Sanders, see Biden wins as setback
Republican senators conceded Wednesday they would rather face Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, as the opposing nominee, instead of Biden, whom they consider more mainstream and tougher to draw a contrast with.
In the battle for the Senate, Republicans would like to tie Democratic candidates to Sanders and socialism, and generally see Biden as a stronger candidate. Similarly, Democrats were uneasy about Sanders as their standard-bearer, and Biden has made this a point of attack on the campaign trail, arguing he would help Democrats take back the Senate.
“I think Bernie is the easiest to contrast with. Biden would be a little harder to contrast with,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “Truly, I think it’s better for us for Bernie to be the nominee in terms of down-ballot.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last year he wanted to make the 2020 election a “referendum on socialism,” a plan that would be helped immensely if Democrats nominate Sanders, who advocates for “Medicare for All,” free college, student debt forgiveness and a wealth tax.
With Biden re-emerging as the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, GOP lawmakers acknowledge 2020 is likely to be more of a referendum on President Trump.
GOP lawmakers thought they even had a chance of winning the House with Sanders as the Democratic nominee. Now that hope is fast fading, according to a GOP senator who requested anonymity to assess the presidential race.
“Anybody who wants the president to have an easier time with reelection, I think Sanders clearly helps that outcome,” said the Republican senator.
He said the speculation among Republicans on Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning was “if it’s not Sanders, Republicans probably don’t get the House back.”

20 February
Yes, Trump’s Job-Approval Ratings Are Finally Rising
The most commonly cited explanation for why Trump’s approval rating might be spiking, of course, is that Greatest Economy Ever he keeps boasting about. Multiple public-opinion outlets are reporting that optimism about the economy is on the rise, and, along with it, confidence in Trump’s stewardship of the economy (despite the lack of evidence that his policies have much to do with the steady job growth that began when Obama was in office).
Another theory is that Trump’s impeachment and acquittal has revved up his MAGA base to a level of excitement associated with some sort of massive social movement, boosting the likelihood that his fans will show up in November to a near certainty as they seek to consummate the destruction of POTUS’ evil persecutors. And in that explanation lies the possibility of some distortion in the polling, since people excited about their politics are more likely to respond to polls to a degree that doesn’t necessarily correspond to higher voting turnout. There’s even a hint of that in the Gallup data that looks so good for Trump:
… Trump has a habit of stepping on his best reelection messages with destructive behavior, such as his decision to throw a temper tantrum in late 2018 over border-wall money and shut down the federal government, which temporarily tanked his approval ratings. His sense of liberation in surviving impeachment could lead him to do really stupid things; would-be tyrants tend that way. But without question, he’s in better shape from the point of view of basic popularity than he has been for big stretches of his presidency, and if his numbers do improve, he may need to worry about his arrogance breeding complacency and overconfidence, matching Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.

8 February
On Trump’s To-Do List: Take Back The Suburbs. Court Black Voters. Expand the Electoral Map. Win.
With impeachment behind the president, his re-election campaign wants to address political weaknesses exacerbated by his policies and behavior.
By Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni and Jonathan Martin
(NYT) His campaign is aiming to regain these voters in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, after losing many of them to Democrats in the 2018 midterms. Advisers hope to expand the electoral map for November by winning moderate-leaning states like Minnesota and New Hampshire. And the White House is gearing up to help with policy issues directed at swing states, such as the new trade deal with Mexico and Canada and paid family leave for federal workers.

5 February
In Private, Republicans Admit They Acquitted Trump Out of Fear
One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”
By Sherrod Brown, Democratic senator from Ohio.
(NYT) History has indeed taught us that when it comes to the instincts that drive us, fear has no rival. As the lead House impeachment manager, Representative Adam Schiff, has noted, Robert Kennedy spoke of how “moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle.”
Playing on that fear, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, sought a quick impeachment trial for President Trump with as little attention to it as possible. Reporters, who usually roam the Capitol freely, have been cordoned off like cattle in select areas. Mr. McConnell ordered limited camera views in the Senate chamber so only presenters — not absent senators — could be spotted.
And barely a peep from Republican lawmakers.

What Will Finally Defeat Donald Trump?
He can do whatever it takes to win re-election, and the Republican Party will have his back.
(NYT editorial) By the end, many Republicans had conceded that Mr. Trump did the things he was accused of. Some agreed that they were “improper,” “inappropriate” or even “wrong.” Yet rather than try to get to the bottom of his behavior, they joined the White House in covering up as much about it as they could.
Reasonable Americans may have concluded — after a full airing of the documents the White House has bottled up, of the witnesses it has smothered — that removal from office was too extreme a punishment. But the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, turned out to have too little regard for Mr. Trump’s ethics, or for the American people’s sense of justice, or perhaps both, to take that chance.
Under Mr. McConnell’s guidance, the impeachment trial in the Senate was a joke at the Constitution’s expense. Anyone hoping for a demonstration of responsible governance or the vindication of the separation of powers could only be dismayed.
It did illustrate, however, how beholden Republicans are to Mr. Trump and his destructive approach to leadership. In that sense, the trial provided an important service to Americans, clarifying the stakes in the coming election.

2 February
“Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said arguing that a president committing impeachable offenses doesn’t mean they should be removed from office. Rubio also suggested that removing Trump from office would be a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Downfall of the Republican Party
To see men and women who had a positive vision beaten down and broken by Trump is a poignant thing.
By Peter Wehner, Contributing writer at The Atlantic and senior fellow at EPPC
Republicans, from beginning to end, sought not to ensure that justice be done or truth be revealed. Instead, they sought to ensure that Trump not be removed from office under any circumstances, defending him at all costs. The job of Senate Republicans was to make their acquittal of the president as quick and painless for them as possible. In this particular case, facts and evidence—reality—were viewed as grave threats, which is why they had to be buried.
This is simply the latest act in an unfolding political drama, one in which the party of Lincoln and Reagan has now become, in every meaningful sense, the party of Trump.
NBC/WSJ poll: Country remains divided over Trump’s impeachment trial
Majorities of Americans believe the president abused his power and obstructed Congress but split over whether it was enough to remove him.
The survey also finds Trump trailing the major Democratic presidential candidates in hypothetical matchups for the general election, and it shows how stable the president’s standing has been during the entire impeachment episode.
In the poll, 46 percent of registered voters say Trump should be removed from office as a result of the impeachment trial, versus 49 percent who say he should remain — essentially unchanged from the 48 percent-to-48 percent split in December’s NBC/WSJ poll.
Democratic voters overwhelmingly support Trump’s removal from office (84 percent), while Republicans overwhelmingly oppose it (91 percent). Independents are divided, with 45 percent backing removal and 50 percent opposing it.

31 January
Once Skeptical, Senate Republicans Are All In on Trump
Although many Senate Republicans have long expressed serious reservations about Mr. Trump’s character and conduct in office — and some went so far as to say the Democrats had successfully made their case against him — little daylight is visible now. In pressing inexorably toward their preordained vote of acquittal, Senate Republicans made it clear they see their fortunes and futures intertwined with the president’s, and are not willing to rock the 2020 boat.
“Their party is a cult of personality at this point,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut.

29 January
Madison, Hamilton, Dershowitz: One of these men is not like the others, but for the GOP he’s a better quote
(WaPo) On Monday, Dershowitz, the Harvard Law professor emeritus who is part of Trump’s legal team, delivered what quickly became the most favored speech for quoting among GOP senators. It provided them cover, should they need it, for refusing to allow witnesses in the trial of Trump, for voting to acquit him and, in the event damaging evidence emerges after the trial, for slamming it as irrelevant.
Dershowitz argued that to remove a president from office, the Senate must find that he committed an actual crime or “crime-like conduct.” It’s not enough to say, as the current articles of impeachment allege, that a president abused his power or obstructed Congress. “Purely noncriminal conduct including abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are outside the range of impeachable offenses,” Dershowitz said.

15 January
The Fog of Rudy Did he change — or did America?
(NYT Magazine) How did a man who was once — pick your former Rudy: priestly prosecutor, avenging crime-buster, America’s mayor — become this guy, ranting on TV, unapologetically pursuing debunked conspiracy theories, butt-dialing reporters, sharing photos of himself scheming in actual smoke-filled rooms? What happened?

13 January
Top Senate Republicans reject Trump’s renewed call for immediate dismissal of impeachment charges
Most Senate Republicans are eager to stage a trial that ends with Trump’s acquittal and vindication on charges that he abused the power of his office in his dealings with Ukraine and obstructed a subsequent investigation in the House. But over the weekend, Trump urged the Senate simply to dismiss the charges against him — without hearing arguments from House prosecutors or his own legal team.
On Monday, senior Republicans said immediate dismissal could not win approval in the chamber, where Republicans hold a 53-seat majority. And even some staunch Trump allies argued that the president’s legacy would benefit from a robust trial.

9 January
By claiming Democrats support terrorism, Republicans hit a new low
By Fareed Zakaria
Instead of learning from past mistakes, President Trump and his unscrupulous supporters appear intent on repeating them by labeling all critics of his confrontation with Iran as traitors and supporters of terrorism. After Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) complained that he was not given advance notice of the drone strike that killed Soleimani, pardoned felon Dinesh D’Souza wrote, “Neither were the Iranians, and for pretty much the same reason.” Trump then retweeted this vile suggestion that Democrats were equivalent to anti-American terrorists. This week, Trump claimed that “elements” of the Democratic Party are “openly supporting Iran” — another noxious falsehood.
The Republican position seems to be that it’s fine to attack and undermine a Democratic president in his conduct of foreign policy (as 47 Republican senators did in 2015 when they sent a letter telling Iran’s leaders not to make a deal with Obama), but it’s treason to question anything a Republican president does.
George Conway group releases first anti-Trump ad aimed at evangelicals
(The Hill) An anti-President Trump conservative group that includes George Conway, who is the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and a frequent critic of President Trump, has released its first advertisement aimed at evangelicals who back the president.
The Lincoln Project’s first advertisement takes aim at “The MAGA Church” by splicing clips of the president and his supporters speaking about faith with clips of Trump cursing and speaking crudely.

6 – 7 January
Frank Rich: What Will Happen to The Trump Toadies? Look to Nixon’s defenders, and the Vichy collaborators, for clues
(New York) Heedless lapdogs like Kennedy, Devin Nunes, and Lindsey Graham are acting now as if there is no tomorrow, but tomorrow will come eventually, whatever happens in the near future, and Judgment Day could arrive sooner than they think. That judgment will be rendered by an ever-more demographically diverse America unlikely to be magnanimous toward cynical politicians who prioritized pandering to Trump’s dwindling all-white base over the common good.
All cults come to an end, often abruptly, and Trump’s Republican Party is nothing if not a cult. While cult leaders are generally incapable of remorse…their followers almost always pay a human and reputational price once the leader is toppled. We don’t know how and when Donald Trump will exit … Even were he to be gone tomorrow, the legacy of his most powerful and servile collaborators is already indelibly bound to his.
Both Trump and Democrats see political benefits to U.S. killing of Iranian general
Trump’s confidence in himself and Republicans has been bolstered by Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have repeatedly assured the president that congressional Republicans support taking military action, the officials said. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who dined with the president Thursday night, has done the same, they added.

4 January
TENNESSEE GOP REP. PHIL ROE announced he would not seek re-election. He’s the 26th House Republican to pack it in this cycle. Republican officials will tell you that this is not concerning, because Roe’s seat will go to another Republican. But when more than two dozen Republicans retire, that’s very notable.

Trump Thinks Attacking Iran Will Get Him Reelected. He’s Wrong.
It is in part due to public war weariness that Republicans have sworn repeatedly, for years, that they would not go to war with Iran. The possibility of such a military escalation was precisely the central dispute between the parties when the Obama administration struck its nuclear deal. “Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East,” argued President Obama. Republicans furiously insisted this was “absurd.” War has “never been the alternative,” said Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell in 2015, “It’s not this deal versus war … It’s either this deal or a better deal, or more sanctions.” The conservative Heritage Foundation argued that blocking Obama’s deal “makes the likelihood of war or a conventional and regional nuclear arms race less likely.”

20 December
Jeff Flake: The president is on trial. So are my Senate Republican colleagues.
(WaPo) President Trump is on trial. But in a very real sense, so are you. And so is the political party to which we belong.
We are conservatives. The political impulses that compelled us all to enter public life were defined by sturdy pillars anchored deep in the American story. Chief among these is a realistic view of power and of human nature, and a corresponding and healthy mistrust of concentrated and impervious executive power. Mindful of the base human instincts that we all possess, the founders of our constitutional system designed its very architecture to curb excesses of power.
Those curbs are especially important when the power is wielded by a president who denies reality itself and calls his behavior not what it is, but “perfect.”

17 December
We Are Republicans, and We Want Trump Defeated
The president and his enablers have replaced conservatism with an empty faith led by a bogus prophet.
By George T. Conway III, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson
The authors have worked for and supported Republican campaigns.
Trump Is Forever
The four reasons why Republicans won’t turn on Trump, no matter what.
By Jonathan V.Last
(The Bulwark) The level of loyalty Donald Trump commands from elected Republicans seems qualitatively different from that offered to previous Republican presidents.
For instance: Republicans told President Nixon to resign his office. Ronald Reagan ran a vigorous primary challenge to President Ford. President George H.W. Bush was seriously challenged in the 1992 primary. President George W. Bush faced Republican revolts over a Supreme Court nomination, Medicare expansion, and attempted immigration reform.
President Trump’s policy ideas often diverge dramatically from Republican orthodoxy—on trade, executive authority, entitlements, foreign policy—and his almost daily drumbeat of scandals and misadventures have been a millstone around the party’s neck. He won the presidency despite losing the popular vote by a wide margin; lost the House in 2018; has been historically unpopular; and has been trailing his most likely Democratic 2020 rival by double digits for the better part of a year. He is now facing the prospect of impeachment.
If the normal laws of politics applied to Trump, this would be about the time that Republicans decided to cut and run.
But that isn’t happening. … Trump owns the GOP in a way that is unprecedented in the modern era.

17 September
Mitch McConnell: The Man Who Sold America
After 40 years of scorched-earth politics and bowing to special interests, will Mitch McConnell finally pay the price?
(RollingStone) Fittingly enough, it was hot as blazes in Kentucky when Mitch McConnell slunk back home for Congress’ annual summer recess. One week earlier, Robert Mueller had testified that Russia was meddling in the 2020 U.S. elections. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, responded by shooting down Democrats’ efforts to bring two election-security bills to a vote — bills that McConnell, in his familiar fashion, had previously sentenced to quiet deaths after they passed the House. In the hailstorm of opprobrium that followed, McConnell had been tagged by “Morning Joe” Scarborough with the indelible nickname “Moscow Mitch.” The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank called him a “Russian asset.” Twitter couldn’t decide whether he was #putinsbitch or #trumpsbitch. The Kentucky Democratic Party was selling red “Just Say Nyet to Moscow Mitch” T-shirts, emblazoned with an image of the senator’s jowly visage in a Cossack hat, as fast as they could print them up.
… Even before “Moscow Mitch” became a thing, Kentucky Democrats were smelling blood. McConnell has been unpopular in his home state for years, but his approval rating plunged in one poll to a rock-bottom 18 percent — with a re-election campaign looming in 2020. In January, he had raised red flags among Republicans and -Democrats alike when he took a key role in lifting sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a Putin ally under FBI investigation for his involvement in 2016 election-meddling; three months later, Deripaska’s aluminum company, Rusal, announced a $200 million investment in Kentucky. A billboard funded by a -liberal group was subsequently erected on a busy stretch of I-75: “Russian mob money . . . really, Mitch?”
More recently, reports emerged that McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, had set up a pipeline in her department to funnel grants to Kentucky to lift her husband’s political prospects. And as Trump’s trade war with China escalated, uncomfortable old stories began to recirculate about how McConnell “evolved” after he met his future wife in the early Nineties, going from being a fierce China hawk to a potent ally on Capitol Hill. Chao’s father, James — a Chinese American shipping magnate and close friend of former People’s Republic dictator Jiang Zemin — gave McConnell and his wife a huge gift in 2008 that boosted the senator’s net worth from less than $8 million to nearly $20 million. While “Beijing Mitch” doesn’t have quite the same ring as his new moniker, McConnell’s change of heart on Russia was hardly without precedent. (McConnell declined to comment for this story.)

Leave a Comment

comm comm comm