Editors’ Blog

A Brief for Bernie

TPM Reader NS states his case …

You said it yourself the other day (paraphrasing)—you are having a hard time believing what objective analysis of the evidence tells you: Sanders is truly viable all the way to the presidency.
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A Contrary View on Party Unity

TPM Reader NZ has a contrary take on the party unity question …

I am a loyal reader (and member) and generally find your analysis compelling, even if I don’t entirely agree. I’m prompted to write by your “post-primary unity” piece. I thought it was balanced and insightful until the last paragraph. But then I think you went off the rails in a way that replicates some of the frustrating asymmetry in how people often discuss the pro/anti- Bernie camps.
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Responses to TPM Reader MRK

TPM Reader CGM responds to TPM Reader MRK

I’ve been thinking about some version of this since the first debate. But MRK’s take on Warren made me want to write in and respond.

Some defensive posturing: I am a feminist. I went to an all-girls high school where I was taught women can do anything men can do, backwards and in heels etc. I would love nothing more than to see a woman elected president. But I am terrified about nominating a woman against Trump.

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DOJ Sets Up New Best Practices for Targeting Trump Foes

On Face the Nation this morning Sen. Lindsey Graham said he spoke to Attorney General Barr this morning and he has established a new “process” by which Rudy Giuliani will send his Biden “dirt” directly to the Attorney General.

Thoughts Before Canvassing

TPM Reader MRK shares some thoughts before heading off to canvass in New Hampshire …

I’ve been trying to figure out why (other than systemic sexism) the media reaction to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign has been muted, especially since she finished ahead of Biden in Iowa. She didn’t over-perform and she didn’t underperform there, really. She should have been able to lay claim to the proverbial third ticket out of Iowa. Biden clearly did underperform, and if it weren’t for his consistently strong polling elsewhere, there would be real pressure on him to quit. But he’s a former VP with strong support from African Americans in the polls, et cetera.
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Are We Trapped in Trumpian DNA?

I have a long list of quibbles what with TPM Reader PJ shares here — mainly on conflating two very different meanings of “liberalism” and I think giving too little significance to the coalitional nature of the Democratic Party. But I wanted to share it with you because it’s a good contribution to the conversation …

I appreciate what you’re saying about the far left and liberalism. let me offer a bit of a counterpoint. I think there are some people who read Trump as an expression of something highly American. Maybe not intrinsically American, per se, but something that’s mixed in the DNA and which often takes over: white supremacy, masculinist fantasies of domination, an erotic fascination with violence. Moreover, we know where the roots of liberalism are: John Locke, contract theory, a social imagination that puts the individual at the center of the social world and struggles to understand that personhood is constantly being constructed, rather than etched in stone by a Maker.

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Klobuchar’s Night?

TPM Reader RW thought it was Klobuchar’s night …

I’m an undecided New Hampshire democrat–at least I was until tonight. I attended the MSNBC watch party and thought Klobuchar hit it out of the park (and so did most of the crowd). I’ve seen most of the candidates during their swings through the state, many in intimate settings. For weeks my wife and I have been agonizing about whom to support.
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An Upgrade

In post-acquittal campaign emails President Trump has upgraded himself from the “perfect phone call” to the “perfect president”.

From one just this morning. “Like I’ve been saying all along, I DID NOTHING WRONG. If they had just read the TRANSCRIPT, they would’ve seen that I’ve been a PERFECT PRESIDENT.”

A Party Switch

An update from the New York suburbs from TPM Reader FB

Tonight, a Republican County Legislator in Westchester County New York, David Tubiolo from Yonkers, switched parties and became a Democrat. This left the 17-member Westchester County Board of Legislators, which as recently as 3 years ago had a Republican coalition majority and arch-conservative County Executive, with NO REPUBLICANS. The sole remaining member of the minority caucus is a registered Conservative from the town of Mt. Pleasant.
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Debate Blog #2

10:38 PM: Given that some really big things are going to be decided Tuesday and in the week or two just after I didn’t come out of this debate having any more sense of what is going to happen.

9:05 PM: This David Muir guy really typifies the worst of how the big news organizations approach foreign affairs. Most of his questions have centered on goading people into saying they’d start more wars, kill more people. There’s more to our role in the world than macho test questions about whether you would have killed this person or attacked that country. And it’s not like I’m a big pacifist. But that’s a really skewed, warped way of looking at our role in the world.

9:03 PM: Biden started the debate distant and vague. He’s at least showing energy here and focus. Not the highest standard of course.

Debate Blog

8:52 PM: Good on Buttigieg for not getting goaded into saying he would have ordered the assassination of Soleimani. The ABC guy definitely tried.

8:48 PM: Bernie is 100% right. Reliving, relitigating 2016 is a disaster.

8:27 PM: Biden: “The politics of the past I think was not all that bad. … I don’t know what about the past of Barack Obama and Joe Biden was so bad.”

8:21 PM: One thing I keep thinking about in these health care debates is, can someone make the point that President Trump is trying to get rid of the ACA and eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions? I’m not saying that’s all that matters. We need to build on the ACA. But politically speaking, you just can’t never mention that.

8:16 PM: I respect Sanders for saying unprompted that everyone on the stage is going to support the nominee. I don’t doubt he means it. But that’s not what’s happening with his supporters. Not most of them, but many of the most vocal. That’s a big problem for all Democrats.

8:10 PM: Good follow-ups by Stephanopoulos. Bernie constantly talks about game-changing turnout, reshaping the electorate. But his own campaigns show little evidence of that.

8:08 PM: This is a rough display. I think Biden is right that both of the current frontrunners – Sanders and Buttigieg – are big big risks as the Democratic nominee. But Sanders is just more dynamic and coherent making his case than Biden is, in this specific exchange.

Friday Night Massacre

President Trump appears to be in the midst of firing some or all of the government appointees and career officials who appeared before Congress under subpoena. Lt. Col. Vindman and his brother Eugene, who works as a lawyer at the White House, were both escorted out of the White House today without notice. And just a short time ago EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland announced that he has been notified that he has been fired effective immediately.

We Only Know A Sliver of the Drive to Extort Ukraine to Intervene in the 2020 Election

Through the Ukraine scandal, there’s been a persistent question about the rush to get Zelensky to play ball and whether similar efforts occurred before Zelensky took office. Josh Kovensky has unearthed new evidence that confirms just that.

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Is There a Path to Post-Primary Unity?

I had thought the intra-Democratic divisions this year couldn’t help but be less than 2016. Divisions usually come more to the surface when a party has had a decent run in power. They’re not as hungry for the presidency. The risks of its loss are less palpable. There’s more focus on reordering who the dominant party faction is. The crisis of President Trump you would think would concentrate people’s minds. And indeed poll after poll shows just that: overwhelmingly Democrats want whoever can beat Trump.

But that’s not how it’s looking.

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Where Things Stand: The Retribution Begins
This is your TPM mid-morning briefing.

President Trump was never going to just roll over and take solace in his acquittal.

And after yesterday’s dark and blatantly bonkers speech from the White House celebrating his acquittal, it’s no surprise that he and his allies are already retaliating against those who wronged the President. As an image-obsessed leader who demands nothing short of cult-like loyalty from all who have access to him, it’s easy to believe new reports from Bloomberg News and the Washington Post that the White House is planning to reassign Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman back to the Department of Defense.

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Will Trump’s Operatives Now Biden Bernie?

We’re in a pretty dramatically different situation in the Democratic primaries than we were a week ago. Everything could change on Tuesday. But for now it looks much more likely that Bernie Sanders will be the nominee than it did a week ago or certainly a month or two ago. With that in mind, I wanted to flag a set of facts that tie back to what I discussed earlier this afternoon about Trump’s even more blatant post-impeachment abuses of power.

Most of these facts have been rattling around my head for the last six months but a reader from the Bernie world flagged an article to mention this evening which renewed my attention.

Back in 2016 and then again into 2017 a series of press reports raised questions about Sanders’ wife Jane Sanders and her time as President of Burlington College. The college underwent a dramatic expansion under Sanders’ leadership and then closed in 2016 under a mountain of debt. Press reports and political critics suggested that Jane Sanders and Senator Sanders’ Senate office had pressured People’s United Bank to make a $6.7 million loan to the bank which underwrote the expansion.

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Trump Unbound

President Trump has made clear repeatedly over the last week that he is not only vindicated but wants payback meted out against his political opponents. Susan Collins lamely claimed Trump had learned his lesson by being impeached. Even she had to take that back and say she hoped he had. Numerous press reports from news organizations with strong sourcing inside the White House say that Trump not only feels vindicated and wants payback but feels something like invincible. All the ‘adults in the room’ told him not to do this and not to do that. He did all of it and more and what happened? He’s still President. He’s even reasonably well positioned for reelection. So, he reasons, he was right all along and he can in fact do anything he wants.

Along those lines I want to point out just two things we’ve learned in the last forty-eight hours.

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Post-Acquittal, Clinton Apologized For ‘What I Said And Did.’ Trump Just Did Whatever The Opposite Of That is.
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20:  President Donald Trump greets former President Bill Clinton at the Inaugural Luncheon in the US Capitol January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump will attend the luncheon along with other dignitaries. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Exactly 21 years and six days ago, former President Bill Clinton took to the podium in the White House Rose Garden and delivered a stone-faced apology to the American people for “what I said and did.”

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Elizabeth Warren Before She Was a Pol

Starting in December of 2004 and into the early months of 2005 TPM turned itself almost exclusively over to a focus on President Bush’s eventually failed effort to partially phase out Social Security and replace it with a system of private investment accounts. This got the attention of a Harvard Law Professor named Elizabeth Warren and her students and alerted them to the potential of online advocacy about key public policy issues affecting ordinary Americans’ lives. Warren and her students reached out to me and this led to our setting up a short-run blog exclusively focused on the federal bankruptcy bill then moving through Congress. Around the time that legislative battle had run its course we were launching TPMCafe. We decided to make that short-term effort permanent with Warren Reports, one of five sections of the original TPMCafe.

In 2005 Warren was far from an unknown figure. She had published widely read books on middle class squeeze and consumer debt issues and her public profile was growing. But she wasn’t an elected politician and I suspect (though obviously I can’t know) had little expectation of becoming one. Certainly she was far less well known than she is today and has been for going on a decade.

So today we’re republishing the posts she wrote for the TPM Bankruptcy Bill Blog (read them here) and Warren Reports (read them here) from mid-2005 through 2008, after which she went into the Obama administration.

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Sulk and Vengeance

If the President’s press secretary is to be believed the President’s post-impeachment ‘victory’ speech today will be a sort of weaponized Festivus, a mix of grievances, complaints and calls for vengeance against his political foes.

Where Things Stand: Nothing Is Sacred To The Freshly-Acquitted Trump
This is your TPM mid-morning briefing.

It’s hardly surprising, but President Trump just used the National Prayer Breakfast to drag his impeachment foes, pointedly mocking Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) for his declaration of faith from the Senate floor and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

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Absolute Must Reads

As we listen to the Senate vote to acquit President Trump, absolutely read these two big exclusives from Josh Kovensky, just published here at TPM. The first on how Trump and crew thought they had a collusion deal with the guy President Zelensky beat, former President Petro Poroshenko. Second, how Trump and Hannity’s plan to knock out impeachment with an exclusive interview was torpedoed by the FBI’s arrest of Parnas and Fruman.

Romney’s Vote is More Than Symbolic

I admit that Mitt Romney surprised me on this. Didn’t expect it. It’s easy to say that this is just a personal decision and it doesn’t matter. I don’t think that’s quite true. Obviously Trump will be acquitted. Almost certainly Romney will be the only Republican who votes to convict the President. But a couple days ago I noted how much Republicans gain by their unanimity. That has a profound, opinion-shaping, normalizing effect.

There’s one line that jumped out at me. Romney said about how history will record his vote that “they will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the president did was wrong, grievously wrong.”

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We Need to Pay Attention to Mike Bloomberg’s Campaign
ANNAPOLIS, MD – JANUARY 22: Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg visits Maryland Lawmakers in Annapolis on January 22, 2019. Bloomberg talked with the media inside the State House.(Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

A couple months ago I said that I was not surprised that Michael Bloomberg’s blanket television air war had ginned him up low single digit support. It’s sort of sad that a year of campaigning for an accomplished rising star Senator like Cory Booker couldn’t get that traction. But life isn’t fair. Running a lot of ads makes the first few points easy. There’s a decent number of floating voters. But once you get past 3% or 4% and try getting closer to 10% you need to start peeling away people with more fixed views and people who support other candidates. That’s much, much harder.

Well, I was wrong. It hasn’t been that hard.

The RCP average now has Bloomberg at 10.6% support nationally. That’s just a few percentage points behind Elizabeth Warren and rising rapidly.

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You Know Nothing Something Of My Work

Political scientist and statistician Andrew Gelman has more on the ‘differential response’ issue we discussed yesterday and whether it accounts for some of President Trump’s recent slope up in the polls.

Where Things Stand: Inevitable Acquittal Doesn’t Mean Bolton’s Off The Hook
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

President Trump will be acquitted today. We can’t talk around that fact.

But that doesn’t mean that the conduct that put him in this pinch in the first place will be swept under the rug. House Judiciary Committee Chair and impeachment manager Jerry Nadler (D-NY) reassured reporters this morning that it is “likely” his committee will issue that subpoena that former National Security Adviser John Bolton has been begging for for weeks.

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Rip Rip Rip

Republicans, unsurprisingly, are whipping up an outrage and grievance fest over Nancy Pelosi’s ripping up her copy of his speech. I’m actually curious whether she didn’t do this before and it simply went unnoticed. Regardless, Democrats need to lean into this. The economy may have underlying problems. But on the headline items people see, the economy is strong. It was strong in 2018 when the Democrats made a massive showing and took over the House. The election is about Trump and whether he is fit to be President. Anything short of consistently making clear that he is unfit and you’re lost.

Not Complicated

That was not an easy speech to watch. But as political strategy it was clear cut. It was likely effective for that strategy. The White House sees 2020 as a base election and seems relatively unconcerned with expanding its political coalition. The plan is to electrify his existing coalition and perhaps grab some undecideds with an image of a proud, traditionalist nation surrounded by foes. Guns, Rush Limbaugh, ending the horror of abortion, immigrant murderers – all the touchstones of Trumpism.

What did you think?

We’re Tracking The Acquittal Excuses GOP Senators Toss At The Wall Ahead Of Vote
on March 21, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Tierney Sneed and I (but, mostly Tierney) have been keeping close tabs on the main excuses Republican senators are offering President Trump to justify their ultimate acquittal votes, which will become concrete at 4:00 p.m. ET Wednesday.

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Was Turnout a Problem in Iowa?

As I noted below, President Trump’s rising poll numbers have my attention. They are worrisome. But there’s been another critique floating around since last night and that is that it’s a bad sign for Democrats that turnout at the Iowa caucuses was just on par with 2016 rather than the high numbers from 2008. (The Post’s Karen Tumulty makes the argument here.) I don’t have to remind you 2008 turned out better than 2016. But I’m pretty confident that this conventional wisdom is wrong. Normal turnout in Iowa is just fine in terms of what it might say about November. Here’s why.

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