Lazy Caturday Reads

By Marguerite H. Mahood 1901-89, Australian

Good Morning!!

For the first time in ages, we are actually having a somewhat slow news day. The biggest news where I am is the coming snowstorm that could drop as much as a foot of white stuff in Massachusetts. What a shock to the system!

In Democratic primary news, Elizabeth Warren is finally getting the Kamala Harris treatment, although it’s not quite as bad as Harris gets. After all, Warren is white. But the media wants a center right nominee and they will work hard to get one.

A few days ago, Warren dropped 14 points (50%) in the Quinnipiac poll and Phillip Bump somewhat sheepishly asked: What happened to Elizabeth Warren?

This is one of those headlines that, in a few months, staffers for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) may screenshot and embed in fundraising emails: Remember when they wrote us off? It’s an admittedly loaded question, asking what happened to one candidate in a remarkably fluid Democratic primary field. We reiterate this point over and over that the field is fluid and voters aren’t set in their preferences, so, of course, candidates will rise and fall as a result.

That defensive hand-wringing aside, it’s still the case that something happened to Warren. In early October, she was surging in the polls, rising in RealClearPolitics’ average of polls to match (and even briefly surpass) former vice president Joe Biden. At the time, we noted a recent history of people surging into ties — and then fading away. (Ben Carson in the 2016 Republican contest, for example.) That’s exactly what happened to Warren: a peak and then a fade.

Polling from Quinnipiac University released Tuesday allows us to look a little more closely at how Warren’s fortunes have fared. In that poll, Warren slipped from a clear first at the end of October to a tie for third with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Biden regained his lead, but South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg climbed into second. (Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, who surged after the first Democratic debate, continues to poll in the single digits.)

Bouquet And A Cat, by Marie Clementine Valadon

Bump looks at the “demographic shifts” in the poll.

Two things stand out pretty clearly in many of those charts: Warren’s drop and Buttigieg’s increase. Among “very liberal” respondents, both Biden and Buttigieg appear to have gained at Warren’s expense. Her support among moderates, once respectable, collapsed entirely. It’s worth noting that the shift against Warren came after significant focus on her approach to Medicare-for-all — which Quinnipiac suggests has relatively low support among Democratic moderates.

Oddly, Warren has dropped in both over-65 and younger voter support; the older voters shifted to Buttigieg and younger voters to Biden. Weird.

Today’s WaPo has a policy-oriented analysis: How a fight over health care entangled Elizabeth Warren — and reshaped the Democratic presidential race.

In mid-November, a few dozen of the country’s most influential advocates of Medicare-for-all were reviewing details of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan to finance the proposed government-run program when they learned that she had unexpectedly changed her position.

Warren (D-Mass.), who had excited liberals when she initially embraced a Medicare-for-all idea first proposed by rival presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), was suggesting a more centrist idea: to delay enactment of the single-payer system and, in the interim, give consumers the choice to opt in. The change might have seemed insignificant to most Americans, but to many in the suburban Washington conference room, Warren’s new stance marked an abrupt retreat, according to several people in attendance.

That moment highlighted the political turbulence that Warren has experienced in recent weeks as she has attempted to extricate herself from a policy dilemma that has blunted her steady rise to the top ranks of the Democratic nominating contest….

By Tetsuhiro Wakabayashi

“As [Medicare-for-all] got more attention, more and more people began to say, ‘Yeah, that’s a mistake [that] she showed flexibility,’ ” said former congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts. “But I guess she felt she couldn’t make herself totally vulnerable to the Sanders people by abandoning [Medicare-for-all] altogether.”

“It would have been better to do it earlier,” Frank said of her shift, adding that he had privately told her that backing the Sanders plan was “a terrible mistake.”

I’ve wondered all along if Warren’s political inexperience would come back to haunt her. Unlike other Democratic candidates, she has little history with the Democratic Party, having been a registered Republican until 1997. Unlike Hillary Clinton, she has no long-term history of support for civil rights issues. She was apparently torn between her need to win over Sanders voters and her dawning recognition that “Medicare for all” would ultimately be a loser among moderate and swing voters.

Recent polling suggests Warren has sustained political damage from her health-care policy. After climbing to the top of the field by focusing on a message of overhauling Washington and Wall Street, Warren plateaued as her campaign became consumed with health care.

Now, she is falling.

Nationally, Warren has dropped from a high of about 27 percent in October’s RealClearPolitics’ average of polls to near 16 percent at the end of November. In Iowa, she has dropped about five points in that same period, and in New Hampshire, her support has been cut in half, according to the calculation. Warren’s decline has coincided with the rise of a new entrant into the top tier: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has backed a more moderate health-care agenda and accused Warren of failing to make clear how she would pay for her plan.

There’s much more analysis at the link. I think Warren is still in a strong position, but some of the bloom is definitely off the rose. It’s still early, of course.

By Ruskin Spear (1911-1990, British)

Meanwhile, New Hampshire voters, who have to deal with endless political ads and phone calls during primary season are sick and tired of Tom Steyer. Politico: New Hampshire voters to Steyer: Make it stop!

Some Granite staters said they’re seeing Steyer’s ads dozens of times a day — and it’s become more grating than ingratiating. A POLITICO reporter who watched YouTube music videos this week by Pentatonix, a popular a capella group, endured 17 Steyer ads in just over an hour.

Even some of Steyer’s local staff privately acknowledge the volume of ads has gone overboard.

Steyer has massively outspent other Democratic candidates on social media in an effort to gain traction in polls and ensure he makes the debate stage. But the recoiling of some New Hampshire voters suggests there are limits to the strategy — Michael Bloomberg beware. Indeed, some residents feel like they can’t touch a piece of technology without seeing his face.

“There is a point of no return in terms of visibility,” said Scott Spradling, a New Hampshire media analyst. “At some point, you become the uninvited guest. He uniquely is becoming dangerously close.”

Read on to see the mind-boggling amounts of money Steyer has been dropping on ads in NH and nationally. He has even outspent Trump! And for what? Imagine what he could be doing to help a serious candidate but he’d rather waste his millions on his own vanity campaign.

Kazuaki Horitomo By Kitamura (Contemporary, Japanese-American)

Trump went to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving and falsely claimed a cease-fire was imminent: Trump’s talk of Afghanistan cease-fire appears to surprise the Taliban, Afghan government.

Declaring that the U.S.-Taliban talks he abruptly canceled in September are back in motion, Trump said during a Thanksgiving Day visit to troops in Afghanistan that the Taliban “wants to make a deal. And we’re meeting with them, and we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire.”

“They didn’t want to do a cease-fire, but now they do want to do a cease-fire,” Trump said of the militants. “It will probably work out that way. . . . We’ve made tremendous progress,” he added.

But on Friday neither the Taliban nor the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani indicated that a cease-fire was near, or even being discussed in resumed U.S. negotiations.

At the time the U.S.-Taliban talks ended, the two sides were preparing to sign a draft agreement that called for a reduction in violence. But it specifically declared that any discussion of a cease-fire was to be left to follow-on negotiations between the militants and the government in Kabul.

In a statement, the Taliban said that remains its understanding. “We are ready to talk, but we have the same stance to resume the talks from where it was suspended,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Post.

Read more at the WaPo link.

At The Atlantic, Peter Nichols has an interesting and disturbing piece on Trump’s obsession with conspiracy theories: Trump Needs Conspiracy Theories.

By Norbertine Bresslern-Roth

A product of tabloid culture, Trump has long trafficked in conspiracy theories. But as chief executive, he’s used the machinery of government to give the ones especially useful to him the stamp of official validation. (That’s the main reason he now faces impeachment in the House.) These baseless theories are a way for Trump to explain away his problems and undercut opponents. Beyond that, though, they seem to serve distinct emotional needs, feeding a narcissistic ego that cold reality won’t satisfy. His efforts to persuade the public to go along with these self-protective myths have already corroded democratic institutions. The wreckage from that destructive legacy won’t be easily repaired after he leaves the stage.

“We’ve never had a president who trades in conspiracy theories, who prefers lies instead of fact,” Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University and a presidential historian, told me….

The Ukraine debacle is the most extreme case, illustrating just what can happen when the president takes hold of a bad idea and won’t let it go. Repellent to Trump is the notion that he would have lost to Hillary Clinton had it not been for Russia’s electoral interference. The self-image he’s constructed rests on the idea that he’s rich and successful—not a “loser,” the epithet he routinely hurls at opponents. Trump has worried that if people believe Russia’s interference spelled the difference in the election, it could undermine his legitimacy, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report showed.

All of which explains why, for the president, the Ukraine fiction is so alluring. It’s a twofer. If Ukraine covertly interfered in the election for Clinton’s benefit, as Trump has suggested, that would both exonerate Russia and cement his 2016 victory. Trump apparently finds that theory so compelling that he risked his presidency to see if he could give it traction. Loyal appointees are now pushing his message: In a news conference on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Ukraine merited investigation. The United States has “not only a right, but a duty” to look into any “information that any country has messed with American elections,” Pompeo said.

Trouble is, none of this has a basis in reality. Members of Trump’s own staff and intelligence-community officials have all debunked the idea that the culprit was Ukraine, not Russia.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

I’ll end there. What stories have you been following on this long holiday weekend?

14 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    From the NYT, a comparison of Trump with Andrew Johnson.

    Much more than impeachment connects the presidencies of Andrew Johnson and Donald Trump. No one expected either man to enter the White House. Both presidencies began with a whiff of illegitimacy hanging over them: Johnson’s because he became president when Lincoln was assassinated, Mr. Trump’s because he won the Electoral College despite having nearly three million fewer popular votes than his opponent, the largest losing margin of any president who actually won the election. The size of the gap did not bode well for American democracy.

    Historical parallelism rarely works in a simplistic manner. But it does work when historians discern broad similarities and patterns that link our present moment to the past. Many fallible men have inhabited the office of the presidency. Only a handful have been so oblivious to the oath they took that they have met the constitutional standard for impeachment.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Joy Reid had a guest on this morning who wrote about this – not sure if it’s the author of this article. Very interesting.

      Hope you stay warm and cozy this weekend BB!

      Happy holidays to everyone!

  2. dakinikat says:

    White House calls claim in British conservative news magazine’s gossip column that Jared Kushner green-lighted Jamal Khashoggi’s arrest

    Article claims more whistleblowers have come forward to Democrat-led House of Representatives with claims of wrongdoing by Trump officials
    Report says one whistleblower is alleging that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, approved Saudi plans to arrest Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi
    According to Spectator, Turkey intercepted call between Kushner and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and then used it to gain leverage over Trump
    Trump agreed to remove American troops from northern Syria after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
    White House official calls report ‘false nonsense” Spectator acknowledged of its own report ‘whether any of this is true is another matter’

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. Pat Johnson says:

    I am one of those “old fogies” who still has a landline. I have a cell phone but I use my landline for just about everything which may explain the skewed polls.

    Most people depend on their cell phones these days. Those telephone numbers are not listed in a directory like landlines. My impression is that those supervising these polls rely on directory pretty much which these days reduces the number of calls owing to cells.

    We are still several months away from actual primary voting which also may be why these poll numbers rise and drop each month. People, probably because of the colder weather, are starting to pay more attention.

    And yes, another day that Trump still sits in office as he flies around the world lying his fat ass off!

    I will walk barefoot over ground glass to get to the polls just to be rid of that useless crook and his godawful families of f*ckups!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Many pollsters do call cell phones now. I don’t know how they get the numbers, but the scammers don’t seem to have any trouble getting them. I get multiple robocalls every damn day on my cell phone.

      • NW Luna says:

        My voice-mail box is full, so that greets the robocallers. If it’s someone I know, I’ll try to answer or call them back. I do have a land line which I use for anything I don’t want going to my cell, which is most things. I still don’t care for cell phones (too many nights on call with patients coughing over the phone wanting opioid cough syrup, or earnest residents at Children’s calling to update me in great detail on a young patient of mine at 2 a.m. To the former I say “No opioids over the phone” and to the latter I’d say: “I’m sure the kid is in good hands with you and your attending. Just fax me the admission note.” And I still don’t keep the cell by me at all times. I may not check it for a couple of days.

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. dakinikat says: