Anonymous Op-Ed Sets off Furious Guessing Game

Mike Pence Once Made Moral Case For Removing A President | Morning Joe | MSNBC

The Story:

One of the latest uproars in social media involves the question, “who wrote the op ed?” — meaning, of course, the anonymous op ed piece in The New York Times on Thursday, September 6 that describes a “quiet resistance” to President Donald Trump within his own administration.

The Suspects: 

Intense speculation has focused on Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The Times has described the author as “a senior official whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure.” If one accepts that language as factual, then one has to rule out Vice President Pence. The language suggests someone whom  Trump could fire. Mike Pence is a constitutional official himself, not an appointee.

The Thing to Know:

Regardless of who specifically wrote it, such a document from any such senior official is an extraordinary one, asserting that the president is amoral, and defining his amorality as the absence in him of “any discernible first principles that guide … decision making.” Its impact if any on the upcoming midterm elections is unpredictable.

Capuano Unseated in Mass Dem Primary

Ayanna Pressley: ICE Cannot Be Reformed, Must Be Abolished | Kasie DC | MSNBC

The Story:

On Tuesday, September 4, the Democratic Party’s primary voters nominated Ayanna Pressley to represent Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives. This means the departure from Congress of a veteran, Michael Capuano, a progressive lawmaker long thought to have a safe seat.

Background:

As upsets go, this was a stunner. Capuano has been in Congress for ten terms and is the senior member of his party on the housing and insurance subcommittee of the financial services committee in the House. Had he won re-election this year, and had the Democrats won the House majority, he would have been the likely next chair of that important subcommittee.

There was never a lot of distance between Pressley and Capuano on issues. But Pressley, the first woman of color ever to serve on the Boston City Council, has benefited from the anti-incumbent mood of the day, and from some high profile endorsements.

The Thing to Know:

Having won the primary Ms Pressley is nearly certain to become a Congresswoman. The 7th is a very heavily Democratic district and the Republican Party has not even nominated a candidate for it.

Abuse Allegations Aimed at DNC Deputy Chair

The Story: 

Keith Ellison, the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, has become a target of accusations of abuse in this age of #MeToo. A former girlfriend, Karen Monahan, has accused Ellison of what she calls “narcissist abuse” during their relationship. Monahan’s son has claimed that a videotape exists of Ellison dragging Monahan off a bed while shouting obscenities, though as of this writing he and his mother have not shared that tape.

Background:

Separate from his DNC position, Ellison — who has represented Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District since 2007 — is now running for the post of Attorney-General of that state. He won his party’s primary for that nomination, easily, on August 14.

The Thing to Know:

An editorial by the Minnesota Star-Tribune illustrates how a claim of the existence of a videotape can become all-consuming in such a matter. The editors wrote: “There either is a video or there is not. If there is, Ellison will have been caught in a serious lie that could bring his rise to an abrupt halt. If there is no video, Monahan will have been found in a lie.”

Trump’s anti-Amazon Crusade Delayed

The Story:

The US Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has postponed a hearing that had been scheduled for tomorrow, September 5, concerning the reform of the postal system, because the White House has not yet released its promised report on the subject.

Background:

President Donald Trump has firmly stated his view that Amazon and other bulk mailers get an overly generous deal, allowing them to treat the US Postal Service as a “delivery boy.” In April, Trump created a task force to study the question with the expectation that it would release a report in time to provide grist for the mill of Senate hearings. It now appears that either the report is not complete or it is complete but doesn’t reach the conclusions the President wanted, because it has not been released.

The Thing to Know:

Trump’s theory that Amazon ought to be paying higher postal rates may have something to do with his animosity toward the Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who is also the founder and CEO of … Amazon.

Florida Primary: Graham Dynasty Falters

Gillum wins big upset in Florida Democratic primary

The Story:

In Florida on Tuesday, August 28, the Democratic Party gave an unexpected primary win in the Governor’s race to Andrew Gillum, who had run to the left of former Rep. Gwen Graham. Gillum will now compete with the Republican nominee, Ron DeSantis, in the general election.

The Background:

Ms Graham is the daughter of Bob Graham, who was the state’s Governor (1979-1987) and Senator (1987-2005). She is the granddaughter of Cap Graham, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Party’s nomination for Governor back in 1944.

The Graham family is generally considered politically moderate. For three of the eight years when Bob Graham was Governor, accounting giant Grant Thornton labelled Florida as the one state in the nation with the best business climate.

Gillum, on the other hand, has the support of Senator Bernie Sanders (I – Vt) and is running on a platform that includes a $15 an hour minimum wage and a single payer health care system. Gillum’s defeat of Graham was a stunner, unanticipated by the polls.

The Thing to Know:

Florida is a perpetual ‘swing state’ in US politics. Trump defeated Clinton there two years ago but by a very slim margin (49.0% to 47.2% with the remainder going to third party candidates). The match-up of Gillum and DeSantis will be closely watched.

DNC Votes to Change its “Superdelegates” System

The Story:

On Saturday, August 25, the Democratic National Committee voted on a rule change for its presidential nominating process, so that if the 2020 nomination is contested going in to the convention, the superdelegates may be required to refrain from voting on the first ballot.

The Background:

The superdelegates are high profile party members, including Governors, members of Congress, and Mayors. They constitute 15% of the overall number of delegates, and their weight is generally seen as a self-protective measure by the party establishment.

In the 2016 primary season, most superdelegates supported Secretary Hillary Clinton as against the anti-establishment challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt). This caused a good deal of resentment on the Sanders side, and even after the campaign this recent history contributed to a sense that the nominating process should be more open.

The Thing to Know: 

That Clinton/Sanders animosity is an ongoing struggle. Saturday’s DNC vote was but one battle. At least one prominent Clinton supporter, Bob Mulholland, has denounced the rule change as foolish, asking rhetorically, “Three months before the midterms, and this is what Bernie Sanders and [DNC chair] Tom Perez have us discussing?”

The Legacy of John McCain

The Story:

Senator McCain leaves a complicated, imperfect, but memorable legacy as a ‘maverick’ legislator on the Republican side. One of the subtexts of the talk of his life and passing as he is mourned involves the question of who else might fill an analogous role in his party’s development, who else might be an in-house critic willing to display a “thumbs down” even at the expense of a key program of a sitting and popular Republican President.

One Year Ago:

On July 25, 2017 — only a week after the brain surgery that discovered the fatal tumor — McCain returned to the Senate for final debate and votes on proposals to repeal Obama era legislation on health care insurance.

The administration and the Republican leadership in the Senate did not have the votes to pass any of these proposals, and most of the complicated ‘Obamacare’ package remains the law of the land today. On the third effort at repeal, the so-called ‘skinny repeal’ bill, McCain’s vote proved the decisive one, and in the well of the Senate he signaled to the gallery what that vote was: with a dramatic thumbs down gesture. Skinny repeal failed 51 to 49.

The Thing to Know:

There are a handful of Republicans in the US Senate who have both the stature and the inclination to challenge the President within the party caucus. Susan Collins of Maine is one of them, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is another and (if he wins election in November) Mitt Romney of Utah may be yet a third. What role any of these individuals may play in the way events unfold for the remainder of this Presidency is now in the lap of the gods.

GOP Selects Charlotte for 2020 Convention

I-95 in urgent need of repairs in North Carolina

The Story:

The Republican Party has decided that it will hold its 2020 national convention — the convention that, if matters go as expected, will likely nominate Donald Trump for a second term as President of the United States — in Charlotte, North Carolina. That is the same city in which the Democratic Party nominated Barack Obama for his second term, in 2012.

Background: 

Charlotte has a number of obvious attractions as a convention city. It has a lot of hotel rooms and a major airport. It also has attractive green space, notably the 120-acre Park Road Park.

The Democratic Party has yet to select the site of its 2020 convention. The sites the DNC has under consideration at present include Houston, Miami Beach, and Milwaukee.

The Thing to Know:

Concerning the Republican selection, what may be very important, in terms of the message the RNC wants to send in such a matter, is that Charlotte has very balanced racial demographics. White/Caucasian is the largest group, but a minority at 45% of the population. Blacks are 35% and Hispanics are 13%.

 

Sex and the City (Politics and the State)

The Story: 

On September 13, Democrats in New York State will choose their candidate for Governor. Polls show that the party’s incumbent Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has a 36 point advantage over his intra-party challenger, actress Cynthia Nixon.

Background:

Ms Nixon is a gay rights activist who recently received the Visibility Award from the Human Rights Campaign.

She is best known, though, as the actress who played Miranda, one of the four central characters in the television drama Sex and the City, which aired on HBO, 1998 to 2004.

Nixon has run to Cuomo’s left on a range of issues. Her campaign may end up making the point that there isn’t a lot of room for political viability to Cuomo’s left.

The Thing to Know: 

Cuomo is the son of Mario Cuomo, who was the Governor of New York State from 1983 to 1994. Mario was widely considered a potential Democratic candidate for President during his tenure as Governor, and his son has inherited the burden of presidential expectation.

Uncertainty about the Vote over Splitting California

The Story:

The California Supreme Court has removed from this November’s ballot an initiative to divide California into three states. The removal is tentative, though: the Court wants further arguments on whether the initiative question, known as Cal-3, should be struck down completely or restored to the ballot.

Background:

The initiative is the brainchild of a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Tim Draper, who believes California is too large to be governable. Three distinct governments would be vastly more efficient, he maintains.

On Draper’s proposed map, the new “California” would be a coastal state from Monterrey to Ventura County, including Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. “Southern California” would include inland counties as well as the more southern stretch of coastline down to the Mexican border. “Northern California” would include everything from Santa Cruz to the Oregon border, include San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento.

The Thing to Know:

Splitting a state is nearly unprecedented in US history (although unionist West Virginia did split from secessionist Virginia in the extraordinary context of Civil War.) Any split would be an exceedingly complicated matter, given issues such as water rights and the management of infrastructure projects that do not split neatly along the proposed lines.