Editors’ Blog

On Kavanaugh

There was a thread in the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings about a then-girl he and his friends shamed as promiscuous in their school yearbook. Unlike so many other accusations that were raised in the hearing we didn’t need to credit a victim’s account or those of other witnesses. The yearbook itself made what happened crystal clear. Kavanaugh simply lied about it outright. From the point of view of the hearings process this always struck me as a key moment. There was no ambiguity. He was being scrutinized for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and he was perfectly willing to lie under oath. The conduct was less egregious than the assault allegations. But the unambiguous evidence of willful and malicious deception was clarifying.

Here was a key part of that exchange …

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Malevolence and Incompetence

A tranche of emails sheds new light on the chaos surrounding President Trump’s voter fraud commission debacle, the most illuminating and comical parts are real government officials who deal real non-criminal things trying to distance themselves from the commissions work, others not being clear on what it even was or whether it was something intended to look at actual election security issues versus generating propaganda to make it harder for people to vote. Tierney Sneed has the story.

Dear Leader Watch

Pro-Trump media is an increasingly odd place. The personality cult aspect of it is nothing new. But this is the kind of “SMILE BE HAPPY OUR LEADER IS POWERFUL” loudspeaker talk is something worth just taking a few minutes to listen to. It’s wild. Note also that the script is played in real time in the graphics.

Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) looks and listens to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during a debate at McFarlin Auditorium at SMU in Dallas, on  Friday, September 21, 2018. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News/Pool)
90 More Minutes of This, Folks!

10:31 PM: Biden’s answer to the resilience question captured a lot of him, both some incoherence, jumping at several different ways of coming at the question, but coming back to something very core and genuine, compelling.

10:31 PM: Both Biden’s and Warren’s answers on resilience captured a lot about them, both approaches to the question and the substance.

9:45 PM: This is a really good answer from Warren on Afghanistan and more broadly about the militarization of American foreign policy.

9:41 PM: Booker’s the only one making a really good point: if you are going to get into a trade conflict with China, you need all your allies on side. It’s insane to be picking battles with our allies too at the same time.

9:33 PM: Striking to me how incoherent most of the candidates are on the China tariffs issue.

Pretty Good So Far

9:15 PM: It was interesting that Warren was sort of all over the place on guns in her answer. She only really got coherent, got traction when she pulled it into a discussion of corruption and money in politics.

9:12 PM: Biden is wearing a bespoke Obama coat, socks and and cufflinks.

9:08 PM: I’ll say it again: why isn’t Corey Booker polling better?

8:57 PM: Biden’s having a good night. Amazing? No. But solid and no stumbles. And he’s already ahead.

8:54 PM: I continue to be surprised at how little support Corey Booker has been able to generate. I’m not saying he’s the best candidate. But he’s really good and he just hasn’t connected. I don’t get it.

8:51 PM: I don’t know much about the substance of Klobuchar’s record on criminal justice. But the answer was good.

Okay Let’s Do This!

8:39 PM: This debate is being moderated very well. Here’s how you can see that. We’ve now had an almost 40 minute discussion of health care. It’s been pretty substantive. And it’s hard for me to think of much of anything the moderators have aid. Stephanopoulos started with a good framing question. And that was pretty much it.

8:32 PM: Fascinating to see Obama recede into history as a Reagan-like figure for Democrats with all the name-checking. Democrats haven’t had a figure like that in decades.

8:25 PM: Biden is getting the better part of this because Warren and Sanders are having a conversation that is very internal to the Democratic policy conversation about health care. I don’t think they’re making the best case they can for Medicare for All, maybe because they’re reacting to Biden. Biden’s having the better part of it because his points are clearer, simpler. (Again, I say this setting aside the relative merits of the different policies.)

8:22 PM: Purely in political terms, I think Biden has gotten the better part of this engagement on health care.

8:17 PM: Fine for Biden? Okay? Just okay. But fine. (Did better on the first question.)

8:15 PM: Warren’s just a really good politician. And I mean that in the positive sense. Just connects, has a story. She’s a natural.

8:12 PM: Harris’s opener strikes me as the first of the night that probably connected with some voters.

8:11 PM: Buttigieg’s opener seems completely out of sync with where most Democratic voters are right now.

8:10 PM: I find the Yang thing lame. Sort of patronizing and gimmicky. Though probably pretty awesome if you get the money!

Okay let’s do this!!!

Debate Night!

Join us at 8 p.m. for live coverage of tonight’s Democratic debate. Josh Marshall will be writing here in the ed blog, and TPM staff will be on hand with a liveblog for members and coverage of tonight’s notable moments.

Making Sense of the Long-Predicted Trump ‘Pivot’ Abroad

Remember far back in the before-times there was the “pivot,” way back into 2015 and 2016. It’s so far back and so confounded by everything that has come since that it is genuinely hard to remember. But we need to.

The idea was that Donald Trump was acting like a clown — and, what’s worse, a fairly racist and even fascistic clown. But he was also becoming a more credible presidential candidate. Because he had jumped to the head of the GOP primary pack and, contrary to the expectations of many, he wasn’t collapsing. Indeed, he was gaining strength. At the time it was considered obvious and essential that you can’t actually become president that way, not behaving like an erratic and dangerous buffoon. So at some point he had to “pivot” to acting normal. He even got in on explaining that the “pivot” was coming.

Of course, it never came. He won the primaries, which should have been entirely expected. He also won the election, which — well — many of us didn’t see coming. He continued being the same unstable, erratic and predatory person. The pivot never happened.

But something is different now.

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There’s a DS-9 Episode

Aside from the myriad other stories swirling this morning, we have a report that captures not just the sorry but ridiculous state in which the country now finds itself. According to the Post, the White House is considering a plan, which, depending on one’s generosity and willingness to squint, ranges from federalizing homeless policy in California to setting up internment camps for the homeless in the state.

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Going Anti-Trump Would Cost Bolton His Access to the World of Rightwing Grift
The National Security Advisor of the United States, John Bolton talks to Miami Herald on Latin American policy at the National Historic Landmark Miami Freedom Tower on November 1, 2018.

The word is that John Bolton is not going quietly after President Trump’s ostentatious slam-dunking of him on Twitter. Maybe he won’t. But there’s a part of this equation I doubt we’ll see discussed much in the press coverage of this story. Bolton isn’t really a foreign policy guy and hasn’t been for more than a decade. Yes, he still discusses foreign policy and for the last year or so he had what is basically the top foreign policy job in the U.S. government. But since the end of the Bush years Bolton has really been a public politics guy and a consummate player in the GOP buck-raking industrial complex.

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Trump Gives Iran the Soybean Farmer Deal

This is quite astounding. President Trump is considering issuing a $15 billion line of credit to Iran to help them weather the financial chaos created by the sanctions we placed on them after Trump tore up the Iran nuclear deal, according to a new report from the Daily Beast. We would be doing this to get them to come back into compliance with the deal that Obama negotiated, which was working and being complied with until Trump abrogated the deal. That led to sanctions and to Iran eventually “violating” the deal.

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Falwell Claims Criminal Conspiracy

It sounds like Jerry Falwell Jr. may be taking legal advice from lawyers who went to Liberty University.

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Bad Bad Bad Prime Badge
Kim Went Mean Girls on Bolton, Apparently

In discussing firing John Bolton, Trump tells reporters Kim Jong-un “wanted nothing to do with John Bolton.”


We have yet another poll where all of the major Democratic presidential candidates are beating President Trump in a head-to-head match-up. This one from ABC-WAPO — Biden (15), Sanders (9), Warren (7), Harris (7), Buttigieg (4). (I’m a Buttigieg fan but I’m not sure he warrants inclusion in this top group anymore.)

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Fascism Chic

Take a moment to watch this video Rudy Giuliani tweeted this morning to commemorate 9/11. Even in the age of Trump, it’s disturbing. It ties the battle against the perpetrators of 9/11 with battles against Antifa or generic left-seeming protestors. Indeed, it basically says they are one and the same. Watch.

North Carolina GOP’s New Low

Pretty stunning development down in North Carolina. We’ll have more on it shortly. But North Carolina Republicans used the opportunity of a morning session, which was supposed to have no votes, to push through a surprise veto override of the state budget with barely half the legislators there. There are reports that a number of the Dems were at 9/11 commemorations. But that’s less clear. More to come shortly.

LYNCHBURG, VA - MAY 13:  U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Jerry Falwell (R), President of Liberty University, on stage during a commencement at Liberty University May 13, 2017 in Lynchburg, Virginia. President Trump is the first sitting president to speak at LibertyÕs commencement since George H.W. Bush spoke in 1990.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Jerry’s War Prime Badge
Toady Empire

In addition to various other hucksterism and shadery, Trump’s website designer-turned campaign manager Brad Parscale has the boss’s knack for fabulism.

Malefactors Of Great Wealth Endorse Their Candidate

Today in CNBC sponsored content for the Elizabeth Warren campaign …

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Dark and Important

Remarkable development here in the Alabama imbroglio. The headline is that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, one of the most corrupt of President Trump’s Cabinet secretaries, threatened to fire NOAA leadership over the Alabama dispute. (I hesitate even call it a “dispute.”) What struck me more is that administration officials are putting out word that staffers at the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service were simply trying to embarrass the President rather than acting out of concern for public safety. In the Times’ words: “That official suggested the Twitter post by the Birmingham forecasters had been motivated by a desire to embarrass the president more than concern for the safety of people in Alabama.”

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That NOAA Email

Here’s the full text of the email from NOAA Acting Chief Scientist Craig McLean about Trump’s phony forecast and NOAA backing Trump up over its own meteorologists who were trying to set the record straight.

Dear Colleagues,

The fierce storm we know as Hurricane Dorian has concluded its ferocious path through the Bahamas and along the US East Coast. Many of you have contributed to the excellent science that has underpinned the forecasts and current understanding of storms such as this one, which accelerated quite rapidly in intensity. The storm also presented challenges in track which improved with enhanced observations. We know that our collective work, from the scientists in the aircraft penetrating the storm, to the scientists deploying the glider picket line, to the modelers and folks working the physics of the storms, across OAR and in our CI’s, and across all NOAA Lines, we are working the problem in order to give the NWS forecasters the best tools we possibly can to keep America and our neighbors safe. Thank you.

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