Editor’s Blog

Don’t Miss This

Don’t miss Matt and Josh’s report on Trump’s big speech/fundraiser/military spectacle and personal fireworks display at the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow evening. It turns out Trump will have his own personal fireworks display put on just behind and over the Lincoln Memorial. (Remember this mini-event within an event is “hosted by the President of the United States.”) It finishes just before the regular America fireworks start. All of it, unsurprisingly, seems very last minute. There’s even trash talk between the fireworks vendors about whose will be the biggest. ““I’m not putting [the main fireworks display] show down — it’s one or two shells at a time. Ours are going to be dozens and dozens at a time,” Phantom Fireworks CEO Bruce Zoldan told TPM. Finally, the White House didn’t just hook up the RNC as a ticket distributor for big donors. According to the Maryland GOP, “our friends at the White House” hooked them up as a ticket distributor too.

A Very Important Request

A couple weeks ago I told you about an offer we’re going to be making to existing Prime subscribers later this month and also a request, one that is very important to the future of TPM. If you didn’t get a chance to read my note then I would greatly appreciate if you could take a few moments read what we’re doing and why it’s very important to the future of TPM.

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Harris Gets Big Boost

A new Quinnipiac poll is out this morning which shows that Sen. Kamala Harris got a dramatic boost after last week’s Democratic debate and Joe Biden’s support has fallen precipitously.

The toplines are Biden 22%, Harris 20%, Warren 14%, Sanders 13%. After that you go way down to Buttigieg at 4 and Booker at 3.

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So Here’s How Trump’s Doing This

Below I flagged this big fact about Thursday’s Trumpified 4th of July festivities in DC: the RNC has been put in charge of distributing at least some number of the tickets for the event. Consider the following tentative. But I think we’ve gotten at least a sense of how exactly they’re doing this. It’s fascinating and in some ways an entirely different kind of outrageousness.

Let’s start with the fact that it is customary and certainly a matter of longstanding practice that a different set of rules apply to events which this and any other President holds at the White House. The President holds political events there. They even get into de facto fundraising events, sometimes to some controversy. You’ll note that in the Huffington Post article I flagged earlier, an unnamed RNC official actually flagged this as a precedent. “For context, we receive an allotment for other events like White House Christmas Open Houses, Garden Tours in spring and fall, etc.”

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Big Deal

We’ve seen all the stories about tanks in DC and the Trumpified Fourth of July celebration later this week. These things are wrong. They’re grotesque. But last night I saw something quite different. According to HuffPost, the RNC has been given tickets to distribute for the event. It’s already clear that this is in substance going to be another Trump political rally. But it’s on US government property. It’s paid for by the US government and in significant part by the US military. It not includes display of heavy weaponry. Trump will apparently have the heads of each uniformed service on stage with him as he speaks. Tickets distributed by the RNC are by definition used for fundraising purposes even if they are not directly sold to donors for a certain contribution price. They’re used to leverage political contributions.

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Reader Emails #2 Prime Badge
Reader Emails #1 Prime Badge
Everything is Written in Stone

From the beginning of the primary season I thought that Kamala Harris was the logical nominee, at least by a process of elimination. I don’t mean that I thought she would necessarily be the nominee or the was the best candidate. But if I listed out half a dozen boxes to check, she was the one candidate who seemed to check all of them. She had a lot of strong qualifiers and lacked the borderline disqualifiers that many of the others had.

I still think that. But one thing that worries me is she seems to have a penchant for making categorical statements that don’t seem core to her campaign but which could be major problems for her if she’s the nominee.

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A Bit of Honesty to the Debate

Today Kamala Harris told reporters in San Francisco today that she supports busing today as a way to desegregate schools. “I support busing. Listen, the schools of America are as segregated, if not more segregated, today than when I was in elementary school… we need to put every effort, including busing, into play to de-segregate the schools… The federal government has a role & a responsibility to step up.” I’m glad she said this because I think it puts the entire debate on a more honest footing.

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Cass Sunstein on Impeachment

The red hot intra-Democratic debate over impeachment appears to have subsided a bit over the last week as the debates and the presidential contest took center stage. One notable but little-noted feature of the debates is how little the subject of impeachment came up. I’m not certain the word came up once in the debates. On one level this makes sense: the question is who to nominate for President to succeed Donald Trump, at which point the whole question is moot. Still, it’s odd, given how all-consuming the discussion has been.

Yesterday I talked to Cass Sunstein who has a new book out about what exactly impeachment is, what it’s for, why it’s in the constitution at all. It’s called Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide. It was a very interesting conversation and made me reconsider part of my own thinking on the matter, even though I have a pretty settled take and a decent familiarity with the historical sources of the period. Definitely give it a listen. If you’re not a regular listener to the podcast I hope you’ll subscribe. But if podcasts aren’t your thing, you can just listen to it right here on the site by pushing play. Check it out right here. I hope you enjoy it.

Site Status/Sign-In

We’ve had and are still having problems with our sign-in system this morning. We are aware of the issues and our team is working to get everything resolved as soon as possible.

Update: This should now be resolved. But you will have to log in fresh if you’re a member. What caused the bumpiness this morning was a long delayed upgrade of the software that runs the commenting system, The Hive and is a major component of the log-in infrastructure. So some bumpiness this morning. But this should help resolve a number of longstanding, chronic problems with comments, The Hive and some other issues. So a little bumpiness today to get a much more stable and functional system going forward.

Trump and Putin Joke About the US Problem with “Fake News”

I had missed this moment. It got overwhelmed by Trump’s joking references to election interference. But apparently while there was no US press in the room Trump joked about “fake news” and how it was a problem Russia doesn’t have but the US does.

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Power

Because we are humans we tend to think, confront the past and the future, in terms of symbols and moments. I’ve been reading through all your emails that I asked for last night and I was struck that one moment came up again and again: the Trump/Clinton debates, specifically the town hall style debate on October 9th, in which Trump seemed to stalk Clinton around the stage, getting into her space, looming over her. Reader after reader invoked that moment and said Harris clearly wouldn’t let that happen.

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Quick Take on a More Jagged Debate

As political observers we often focus on text at the expense of subtext, the libretto at the expense of the score, where the real story is told. The big winner tonight was Kamala Harris. She was consistently strong in her answers. Her dramatic confrontation with Joe Biden is clearly the story of the evening. But again, score over libretto. Somewhat like Booker last night but much more so, she took possession of the room and turned it to her advantage. She repeatedly kept talking until she was done talking and did it without sounding rude or grating. She could do that because she embodied command. She made the moderators sound annoying. She continually showed through actions rather than words that she’s powerful, that she shapes the moment rather than being shaped by it. This sort of demonstration of command is always important. It’s especially important when the ultimate opponent is Donald Trump. She was far and away the big winner.

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What Did You Think?

Hit me with emails. Tell me what you saw.

Main Event Blog #3

10:56 PM: Good close by Sanders. Clear encapsulation of his agenda, message.

10:20 PM: Harris’s refusal to stop talking until she’s done talking sends at least as strong a message as the specific things she’s saying.

10:08 PM: That was a remarkable exchange between Harris and Biden. Harris grabbed hold of the debate, pivoted it toward her own personal history, and took it right to Biden in a remarkably aggressive way. She put him on the spot. But he managed to hold his own. He went right back at her, invoked support for the ERA, shepherding the renewal of the Voting Rights Act. She pressed the point that he was essentially making a local control argument about busing, which certainly has a problematic history. I’ll need to go back and listen again to that exchange. And I’m not sure precisely how it will play for either candidate. But it captured both of them, their substance, their strategy. I think they both managed to do just what they’d want for their own strategies, own campaigns. Curious your take.

Main Event Blog #2

9:56 PM: I don’t know if it will matter politically. But that was a really good answer on China. Video in a moment.

9:52 PM: Sen. Harris just does not care about your clock. And she pulls it off and comes off well doing it. She knows how to hold the stage.

9:46 PM: Biden is speaking mainly in consensus bromides, things that most Democrats generally agree on. But so far at least he’s managing to hold his own, underline his campaign themes and really prevent anyone from landing a punch on him or really even taking a swing at him.

Main Event Blog #1

9:35 PM: Harris just bulldozed right over whoever else that was trying to talk and bulldozed through the question itself.

9:29 PM: So I think Williamson just said we need to dig beneath the superficialities of public policy and get down to the substance of slogans. She then said some stuff about the environment causing chronic diseases. (Video on this in a moment.)

Here we are …

9:24 PM: Biden’s was a good answer. Whether or not you agree with it in policy terms, he connected on a number of very resonant points.

9:18 PM: Biden is managing so far to not really engage in any of the policy nitty-gritty, not really say anything. Which is the definition of an incumbent/frontrunner campaign.

9:15 PM: I’m struck by how little engagement between the candidates there is so far. Aggressive but all off into the distance.

9:08 PM: That’s a good question, focusing the socialism question on ‘what policies are you talking about.’

8:59 PM: Placeholder for wisdom.

Tonight’s Different Dynamic

One thought about how tonight’s debate may go.

Last night’s debate was fairly positive and policy substantive. I actually found it refreshing – maybe because Donald Trump came up surprisingly little. But it’s important to note a key dynamic at play. Elizabeth Warren was the only one on the stage with any significant public support. All the rest are either truly flatlined or pretty close to it. That meant there was little reason to attack anyone or ‘draw contrasts’. These people all desperately need to find any people to support them. Showing they’re better than someone else or that someone else sucks is a luxury or irrelevancy until they can get some group of people to think they should even be in the race.

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‘Hasta La Victoria Siempre’

Your amusing political gaffe of the day.

Bill de Blasio tossed out a Che Guevara line at a union rally down in Miami today. In Miami. Did I mention Miami?

He’s now apologizing:

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‘Religious Liberty’ – Not Just for Gay Cakes Anymore

Here’s a pretty important wake-up call for those who may need waking up about the growth of support for ‘religious liberty’ exemptions as a tool to provide legal sanctuary for affirmative discrimination. A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows the percentages of public support for certain kinds of discrimination under ‘religious liberty’ exemptions and how they’ve grown in recent years – and substantial numbers support exemptions to discriminate against Muslims and Jews.

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Trumpism Before Trump
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 25: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with reporters outside the Senate chamber about a continuing resolution to re-open the government on Friday, January 25, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Much to discuss and process with today’s SCOTUS 5-4 decisions. But it focuses my attention on something different. The Trump Era really began not in November 2016 or January 2017 but rather in February 2016. That’s when Justice Antonin Scalia died and Mitch McConnell, within hours, announced that he would not allow the Senate to consider any nominee from President Barack Obama, then just beginning fourth year of his second term.

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