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File photo taken in November 2017 shows U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Trump: China can pay for pre-existing-condition protections

10/08/18 02:50PM

At a campaign rally late last week, Donald Trump peddled a familiar line on health care, but he added a new twist to his pitch.

"We will always protect Americans with pre-existing conditions. We're going to take care of them. Some of the Democrats have been talking about ending pre-existing conditions.

"And some people have -- you know what I say? We'll get a little more money from China. It'll be just fine. It'll be just fine. We'll be just fine.

"We're going to take care of pre-existing conditions, folks. Remember that."

Right off the bat, it's important to note that the president is just straight-up lying about his -- and his party's -- position on protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions. Trump may expect voters to believe that "we" will always extend these safeguards, but he and his administration have taken aggressive steps in the opposite direction.

What's more, the idea that some Democrats "have been talking about ending pre-existing conditions" is plainly ridiculous, even by Trump standards. He just made this up out of whole cloth. It's brazen nonsense.

But it's that other part of the president's pitch that stood out as especially odd: he apparently expects to finance consumer health care protections by getting "a little more money from China."

So let me get this straight: Trump thinks he'll get Mexico to pay for a border wall, and he'll get China to pay for protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions?

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Trump & Co. are eager to tell you what American women are thinking

10/08/18 12:46PM

Kellyanne Conway was on ABC News' "This Week" yesterday and she took some time to point to all of the women who sided with Brett Kavanaugh.

"A lot of women, including me, in America, looked up and saw a man who was [facing] political character assassination," the White House official argued. "And, also, we looked up and saw in him possibly our husbands, our sons, our cousins, our co-workers, our brothers."

As it turns out, Donald Trump read from the same script:

Asked aboard Air Force One about women voters angry about Kavanaugh's confirmation, the president responded, "I don't think they are," he said. Women are "extremely happy," he said, "because they're thinking of their sons, they're thinking of their husbands and their brothers, their uncles, and others."

The president apparently considers himself something of an expert in the field of women's attitudes. Two weeks ago, Trump was equally eager to insist that when it came to the fight over Kavanaugh, women were "very angry," not with Republicans, but with Democrats for mistreating the judge. Trump added., "Women are so angry."

Now, however, they're "extremely happy" -- evidently because women were so eager to see Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court.

And yet, for some pesky reason, Trump's assurances appear to be at odds with every shred of independent evidence available to us.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.8.18

10/08/18 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* A new Washington Post-Schar School survey found voters in 69 battleground House districts prefer Democrats to Republicans, 50% to 46%. While that may not sound like much of an advantage, this same poll found Republicans with a 15-point lead in these districts two years ago.

* On a related note, the same poll found fresh evidence of the importance of the education gap between the parties: "White women with college degrees back the Democratic candidate in their districts by 62 percent to 35 percent. White women without college degrees tilt toward the Republicans running in their districts by 49 percent to 45 percent."

* Former White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice indicated yesterday that she wasn't kidding about possibly taking on Sen. Susan Collins (R) in Maine in two years. Rice, who also served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will apparently make a decision about the race after the midterms.

* On a related note, as of this morning, Collins' critics have raised $3.5 million to be used in the campaign against her, though donors do not yet have any idea who her opponent will be.

* Tom Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and a former Capitol Hill staffer, wrote a new piece for The Atlantic yesterday, explaining why he's leaving the Republican Party and the role the fight over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination played in his decision.

* In Kansas, where Republican congressional hopeful Steve Watkins has been caught inflating his resume in almost comical ways, even local GOP officials are struggling to defend him. One county chair told the Kansas City Star, "We're just talking two years. If we come to find out that stuff's true and he's really not what he says he is, we'll replace him in two years, I guess."

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The Republican National Committee headquarters, Sept. 9, 2014. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Faced with public opposition, Republicans choose indifference

10/08/18 11:20AM

During last year's fight over health care, there was a spirited public debate over Republican plans, and when it came time for lawmakers to vote, it was clear that the GOP had lost the argument. In fact, it wasn't especially close: the public was strongly against the Republican measures, as were insurers, doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and patient advocates. Stakeholders who agreed on little else agreed that GOP officials were peddling a bad idea.

At which point, Republicans said they simply didn't care. They ignored Americans' wishes and very nearly passed their plan.

Months later, there was another vigorous debate, this time over the regressive GOP tax plan. And once again, Republicans' opponents won the argument: the GOP proposal was the least popular major piece of legislation in recent memory. A wide variety of economists and budget experts heartily agreed with the American mainstream and denounced the legislation.

Republican officials couldn't have cared less.

As fall 2018 got underway, Brett Kavanaugh became the least popular Supreme Court nominee in a generation. Democrats set out to persuade anyone who'd listen that he didn't deserve to be confirmed, and they largely succeeded: law professors, newspaper editorial boards, and others joined the public at large in denouncing Kavanaugh and calling for his defeat.

Which brought us to a familiar point. Vox's Dylan Scott had a good piece on the phenomenon over the weekend:

This is the governing ideology of the Republican Party: We don't care what anybody else thinks. We have the power. We have the will. We have the votes. We'll do what we want.

In politics, there's winning the argument, and there's winning the vote. Republicans lost the argument, but they ultimately had the votes.

Quite right. And they had the votes because GOP officials are largely indifferent toward the wishes of the American mainstream.

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Two men stand on the plaza of the U.S. Capitol Building as storm clouds fill the sky, June 13, 2013 in Washington, DC.

The Supreme Court fight and a 'different level of intensity'

10/08/18 10:40AM

On July 28, about two weeks after Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, the Washington Post published a report on progressive activists' efforts to persuade senators to vote against him. At the time, the lobbying campaign did not appear to be going especially well.

The article specifically focused on Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), not only because of their perceived moderation, but also because both opposed their party's health care crusade last year. If any Senate Republicans were willing to balk at Kavanaugh, it seemed likely these two would be at the top of the list.

But as the Post  reported at the time, the GOP senators said their phones weren't exactly ringing off the hook.

In separate interviews, Collins and Murkowski said constituents view the health-care debate and the Supreme Court very differently.

"The protests are similar, the media campaign is more aggressive this time, but the constituent involvement is less. And I think that's because health care is so personal and affects everybody," Collins said.

"A different level of intensity, a different level of intensity. What I was hearing at home were very personal stories," Murkowski recalled of last summer's interactions with constituents. "Literally people in tears. The level of just emotional outpouring that made it just -- intense is the best word -- is different than it is now."

The article added that the "reduced constituent engagement" made the Supreme Court fight more difficult for the left. Indeed, as of late July, Senate aides said constituent outreach was greater during the confirmation battle for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos than for Kavanaugh's nomination to the high court.

I think it's safe to say that by last week, a little over two months after that article ran, no one was talking about "reduced constituent engagement" on Kavanaugh. I also think it matters that the Kavanaugh fight featured a spirited moment of civic awakening.

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Image: President Trump Holds Make America Great Again Rally In Pennsylvania

To attack Dems, Trump blasts immigration bill that doesn't exist

10/08/18 10:00AM

At his most recent campaign rally, Donald Trump added a new line to his standard message. Unfortunately, it involved the president attacking a pending piece of legislation that exists only in his imagination.

"Every single Democrat in the U.S. Senate has signed up for the open borders -- and it's a bill. And it's called The Open Borders Bill. What's going on? And it's written by -- guess who -- Dianne Feinstein."

Trump's lies come in a variety of types and styles, but the ones that alarm me the most are the lies in which he describes imaginary things as real. The president has an unnerving habit, for example, of telling people detailed information about conversations that simply did not occur in reality, though he seems convinced that they did.

This falls into the same broad category. There is no "Open Borders Bill." Trump made it up. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has a bill to prohibit family separations at the border, and the proposal enjoys broad Democratic support, but no sane person would characterize that as an "open borders" policy. (The White House says it no longer supports family separations, either.)

When the lines between fact and fiction blur for the president, it's unsettling.

But more broadly, Trump has also apparently convinced himself, not only that an imaginary bill is real, but also that he's accurately describing the Democratic position on immigration policy.

To put it mildly, he isn't.

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GOP Senate hopeful sees #MeToo as a 'movement toward victimization'

10/08/18 09:20AM

Rep. Kevin Cramer, a Republican Senate candidate in North Dakota who's ahead in the polls, boasted to the New York Times yesterday that folks in his state appreciate candor. Asked for an example, the GOP congressman shared some thoughts on the #MeToo movement.

"That you're just supposed to believe somebody because they said it happened," Mr. Cramer said, alluding to Christine Blasey Ford -- who has accused Justice Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers -- and, more broadly, women who have come forward to claim that they were sexually abused or assaulted.

Invoking his wife, daughters, mother and mother-in-law, Mr. Cramer said: "They cannot understand this movement toward victimization. They are pioneers of the prairie. These are tough people whose grandparents were tough and great-grandparents were tough."

It's quite a message for a candidate in 2018: as far as Cramer is concerned, women who've been targeted by men engaging in sexual misconduct just aren't as "tough" as his relatives.

To hear the Republican congressman tell it, women speaking out against this societal scourge should just stop complaining. He has no use for a "movement toward victimization."

This Senate campaign is telling voters a great deal about who Kevin Cramer really is, and the emerging portrait isn't at all flattering.

The Times asked his opponent, incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), for her reaction to Cramer's comments. The senator's response is worth your time:

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Senator Charles "Chuck" Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, listens to a question during a Bloomberg Politics interview in Des Moines, Ia., Feb. 1, 2016. (Photo by Bloomberg/Getty)

Grassley tries to explain the lack of women on key Senate panel

10/08/18 08:40AM

As the fight over Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination neared its end, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) did not do his reputation any favors.

On Friday morning, for example, for reasons that weren't at all clear, Fox Business Network Maria Bartiromo asked the Iowa Republican, in reference to progressive activism surrounding Kavanaugh, "Do you believe George Soros is behind all of this, paying these people to get you and your colleagues in elevators or wherever they can get in your face?"

Grassley replied, "I have heard so many people believe that. I tend to believe it."

Later that day, while hailing Kavanaugh as "the most qualified Supreme Court nominee" in the history of the United States -- an assertion that's difficult to take seriously -- Grassley argued, in a matter-of-fact sort of way, "The multitude of allegations against him have proven to be false." That's not even close to being true. One may question Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's assault allegations, for example, but to insist that her claims have been proven false is wrong.

But late Friday, the Wall Street Journal had this report:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) predicted that there would be more Republican women on his panel next year, after suggesting that the panel's workload was a deterrent.

"It's a lot of work -- maybe they don't want to do it," Mr. Grassley told reporters. "My chief of staff of 33 years tells me we've tried to recruit women and we couldn't get the job done."

It's worth emphasizing that in the history of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a total of zero Republican women have ever served on the panel. It's one of the reasons the Committee's GOP members brought in a woman to question Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during her testimony two weeks ago.

There are four women currently on the Judiciary Committee. They're all Democrats. By all appearances, they don't appear to mind doing "a lot of work."

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee walks to a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, for a meeting with UN Ambassador Susan Rice. Rice continued...

What Susan Collins sees as a 'silver lining' of Kavanaugh ordeal

10/08/18 08:00AM

To a significant degree, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's fate was in Sen. Susan Collins' hands. Over the course of many years, the Maine Republican has cultivated a reputation as Congress' most influential moderate, and given the circumstances, and her professed uncertainty, it seemed plausible that she'd balk at the nominee.

We all know, of course, that Collins chose a different path. In a lengthy speech on Friday, which guaranteed Kavanaugh's successful confirmation, the ostensible GOP centrist effectively placed a risky bet: Collins insisted that the Republican jurist, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, would be far more moderate than everyone in both parties expects.

It was wildly unpersuasive. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank dismissed Collins' decision as "a Declaration of Cowardice." Slate's Mark Joseph Stern made a compelling case that her remarks were "an insult to Americans' intelligence."

But as the dust settled on the dramatic developments, one of the things about Collins' position that stood out was the simple fact that the senator did not believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Collins' floor speech on Friday included a lengthy series of thoughts in which the senator tried to poke holes in the professor's version of events. Collins seemed open to the possibility that Ford was assaulted, but was satisfied that Kavanaugh was not responsible.

Reflecting on her decision on some of the Sunday shows yesterday, she echoed the conclusion. "I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant," Collins told CNN's Dana Bash. "I do believe that she was assaulted. I don't know by whom, and I'm not certain when, but I do not believe that he was the assailant."

Ford said she's "100 percent" certain that it was Kavanaugh. Collins didn't, and doesn't, believe her. The senator is evidently content to believe it's all a matter of mistaken identity.

It's against this backdrop that CBS News' John Dickerson reminded Collins yesterday, "Victims of sexual assault have said they would never mistake their attacker. And so by suggesting Dr. Ford is mistaken with her attacker that you and others are making a broader, you're essentially denying their experience more than just the specific facts of this case." Collins responded:

"You know when I hear that it causes me huge pain because I have met with so many survivors of sexual attacks, including close friends. And these women have the right to be heard. They have the right to be treated with respect. And I think one of the tragedies of what we've just gone through is Christine Blasey Ford wanted to have her allegations treated confidentially. She did not seek the limelight. She did not want to testify in public and because someone leaked the letter that she sent, her whole life has been turned upside down. I think that was wrong and despicable.

"The one silver lining that I hope will come from this is that more women will press charges now when they are assaulted."

No, really, that's what Collins said.

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Friday's Mini-Report, 10.5.18

10/05/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Chicago: "The white Chicago police officer who shot a black teenager 16 times in 2014 was convicted of murder Friday in a case that ignited protests throughout the city. A jury took barely 24 hours to find Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder for the fatal October 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, 17."

* I'll follow up on this next week: "President Trump on Friday replaced his federal personnel director, who had been in office only a matter of months, and assigned that role to a senior official of the White House's Office of Management and Budget."

* I can only hope Trump doesn't complain about not receiving the award: "In the midst of a global reckoning over sexual violence, a woman who was forced into sexual slavery by the Islamic State and a Congolese gynecological surgeon were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their campaigns to end the use of mass rape as a weapon of war."

* Typical: "Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has been one of the biggest proponents of President Trump's crackdown on China.... But behind the scenes, Mr. Graham has been working to help chemical and textile companies in his home state avoid the pain of Mr. Trump's trade war."

* The scheduled pay raise the White House opposes: "Congressional Republicans have tentatively agreed to a 1.9 percent pay raise for the nation's 2 million civilian federal workers, overruling President Trump who sought to freeze their pay."

* A story we've been watching: "The Supreme Court is passing up, for now, the Trump administration's request to block Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from having to give testimony in lawsuits challenging the addition of a question on citizenship to the 2020 U.S. Census."

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