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Microphones stand at the podium after Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta addressed supporters at the election night rally in N.Y. on Nov. 9, 2016. (Photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Anxious Dems ask a familiar question: 'Is there anybody else?'

10/22/19 09:21AM

Ahead of the 2004 presidential election, Democratic voters had a sizable field of White House hopefuls to choose from, but after a few debates, many in the party started asking, "Is there anybody else?" The appetite for a new option led retired Gen. Wesley Clark to jump into the race in September 2003.

Ahead of the 2008 presidential election, Republican voters had a sizable field of White House hopefuls to choose from, but after a few debates, many in the party started asking, "Is there anybody else?" The appetite for a new option led retired Sen. Fred Thompson to jump into the race in September 2007.

Ahead of the 2012 presidential election, Republican voters had another sizable field of White House hopefuls to choose from, but after a few debates, many in the party started asking, "Is there anybody else?" The appetite for a new option led Texas Gov. Rick Perry to jump into the race in August 2011.

And as a New York Times report noted today, "It's that time of the election season for Democrats."

"Since the last debate, just anecdotally, I've had five or six people ask me: 'Is there anybody else?'" said Leah Daughtry, a longtime Democrat who has run two of the party's recent conventions.

With doubts rising about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden's ability to finance a multistate primary campaign, persistent questions about Senator Elizabeth Warren's viability in the general election and skepticism that Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, Ind., can broaden his appeal beyond white voters, Democratic leaders are engaging in a familiar rite: fretting about who is in the race and longing for a white knight to enter the contest at the last minute.

The Times' article referenced a variety of possible contenders who could make 11th-hour bids, including former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Attorney General Eric Holder, the latter of whom was described as "considering a last-minute entry."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said he'd been "nudged by friends to reconsider" his decision not to run, while Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who nearly ran, conceded that "the pressure on him to reconsider from labor leaders, Democratic officials and donors has 'become more frequent.'"

I'm not in a position to say with confidence whether any of these prominent Democrats, or someone else entirely, might yet throw their hat into the ring. Usually, "white knight" candidates have already launched by now, but that doesn't preclude the possibility of someone giving this a shot.

That said, given the circumstances, the fact that this appetite apparently exists in some Democratic circles is ... curious.

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks while meeting with President-elect Donald Trump following a meeting in the Oval Office Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

Trump remains convinced that other countries wouldn't talk to Obama

10/22/19 08:40AM

Donald Trump's preoccupation with Barack Obama was a little creepier than usual yesterday, with the Republican referencing his Democratic predecessor, by name, 10 times during an hour-long cabinet meeting. As is too often the case, the current president's incessant criticisms of Obama were largely detached from reality.

There was, however, one rant that stood out for me.

"...North Korea is -- I like Kim; he likes me. We get along. I respect him; he respects him. You could end up in a war. President Obama told me that. He said, 'The biggest problem -- I don't know how to solve it.' He told me doesn't know how to solve it.

"I said, 'Did you ever call him?' 'No.' Actually, he tried 11 times. But the man on the other side -- the gentleman on the side did not take his call. Okay? Lack of respect. But he takes my call."

For now, let's put aside how strange it is to see and hear Trump obsess over Obama on a nearly daily basis. Let's also look past the fact that Trump, when describing Obama and Kim Jong-un, describes one of the two men as a "gentleman," and he uses the label to reference the murderous dictator, not the former American president.

Let's instead consider the claim itself. In Trump's mind, Barack Obama reached out to Kim 11 times, but the North Korean leader refused to talk to the American. That's ridiculously wrong, of course -- Trump obviously made up this nonsense out of whole cloth -- but it also reflects Trump's underlying confusion about the basic foreign-policy details: North Korean leaders have sought the attention of American presidents for decades. Kim was eager, if not desperate, to accept Obama's call -- except Obama had the good sense not to reach out directly, because giving the nuclear-armed dictator a sought-after reward in exchange for nothing is unwise.

Only Trump was willing to give up major diplomatic concessions in exchange for nothing from the rogue dictatorship.

But stepping back, Trump's confusion isn't limited to North Korea: he's convinced himself that practically no one abroad would take Obama's call, reality be damned.

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Trump pushes congressional GOP to make his problems go away

10/22/19 08:00AM

For many years, whenever Donald Trump gets in a jam, he looks for fixers to help rescue him. As the Republican faces the prospect of presidential impeachment, Trump's attention is now turning to Capitol Hill, where he expects his partisan allies to do what he cannot: make his crisis go away.

On Sunday night, Trump turned to Twitter to ask, "[W]hen do the Republicans finally fight back?" The president didn't specify what, exactly, he wanted his party to do, though as the New York Times noted, Trump remained focused on this point during an odd White House cabinet meeting yesterday.

Mr. Trump, increasingly embittered by the impeachment inquiry, complained on Monday that Republicans were not defending him aggressively enough.

"Republicans have to get tougher and fight," Mr. Trump said during a rambling, hourlong question-and-answer session with reporters at a cabinet meeting. "We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight, because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican Party for the election, which is coming up, where we're doing very well."

As part of the same harangue, Trump added, in reference to his Democratic detractors, "I think they're lousy politicians. But two things they have: They're vicious and they stick together. They don't have Mitt Romney in their midst. They don't have people like that. They stick together. You never see them break off."

For anyone familiar with Democratic politics, the president's description of the party seemed rather bizarre, though Trump's latest complaint about Mitt Romney reflected his ongoing preoccupation with intra-party defections.

It wasn't surprising to see Trump demand greater GOP fealty, but what the president doesn't seem to appreciate is the extent to which he and his White House have made these demands more difficult.

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Trump wields DOJ as Russia, media reprise 2016 roles for 2020

Trump wields DOJ as Russia, media reprise 2016 roles for 2020

10/21/19 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow looks at the curiously quiet treatment of the end of the Hillary Clinton e-mail story that shaped the 2016 election and notes that the media seems no better prepared for Russia's continued online campaigns to help Donald Trump, but for the 2020 election Donald Trump has the power and authority of Attorney General Bill Barr and... watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 10.21.19

10/21/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Israel: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he could not form a new government after President Reuven Rivlin asked him to try in the wake of a deadlocked election. Netanyahu's decision to cut short his efforts leaves the country's political future -- and his own -- uncertain."

* Brexit: "House of Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled Monday that the government could not ask lawmakers to vote again on the Brexit deal, in the latest blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson."

* Facebook unveiled plans today "to fight 2020 election interference. It will clearly label news that comes from state-owned media, and will give greater transparency for the origins of Facebook pages. And it has already found interference coming from authoritarian regimes overseas."

* Nuclear proliferation: "Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wants more than control over a wide swath of Syria along his country's border. He says he wants the Bomb."

* An appropriate honor: "The body of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Baltimore Democrat and committee chairman, will lie in state next week in National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced."

* Jose Segovia Benitez: "Supporters of a Marine combat veteran who served in Iraq are calling on the governor of California to help stop his imminent deportation to El Salvador, a country he left at 3 years old."

* More evidence for the White House to ignore: "Home values could fall significantly. Banks could stop lending to flood-prone communities. Towns could lose the tax money they need to build sea walls and other protections. These are a few of the warnings published on Thursday by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco regarding the financial risks of climate change."

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Image: US President Donald J. Trump signs a presidential proclamation on tariffs

Trump's awkward declaration on 'Character Counts Week'

10/21/19 04:30PM

A standard part of the American presidency is issuing assorted declarations and proclamations, and for the most part, they go largely overlooked. Donald Trump's declarations and proclamations, however, tend to be more problematic than most.

When the Republican recognized Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, for example, we were reminded of the many women who've accused Trump of sexual misconduct. On National POW/MIA Recognition Day, we were reminded of the president's snide mockery of former prisoners of war. On World Autism Day, we're reminded of the ridiculous things Trump has said about autism and vaccines.

And then there's this week, which is apparently "National Character Counts Week." Trump's latest proclamation emphasizes the importance of inspiring future leaders to "lead lives of virtue and integrity," and providing them with a strong "moral compass."

"[C]haracter is developed consciously through exemplary effort and respect for others.

"Throughout this week, and each day of our lives, may we strive to demonstrate good character through our thoughts, discourse, and deeds in our homes, schools, workplaces, and houses of worship. Let us set an example for others of the timeless values of respect, compassion, justice, tolerance, fairness, and integrity. May we never forget that our Nation is only as strong as the virtue and character of our citizenry."

The Washington Post's Michael Gerson had a column a couple of years ago, wondering whether Trump is "morally equipped to be president." The piece highlighted Trump's "vulgarity and smallness, which have been the equivalent of spray-painting graffiti on the Washington Monument."

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Trump rejects inconvenient part of the US Constitution as 'phony'

10/21/19 03:21PM

Donald Trump abandoned his plan to host next year's G7 summit at one of his struggling businesses, but the president still seems pretty annoyed that his scheme fell apart. This morning, for example, the Republican continued tweeting, for no apparent reason, about how great it would've been to hold the international gathering at his Doral, Florida, golf resort.

This afternoon, as Politico reported, Trump continued whining.

President Donald Trump on Monday claimed he's receiving unfair scrutiny because of the "phony emoluments clause," as he defended his prior decision to host next year's G-7 summit at his Doral resort in Miami.

Trump over the weekend reversed himself and canceled plans to hold the meeting of world leaders at his property after numerous critics questioned whether the move would violate a Constitutional clause that forbids a president from profiting from foreign governments or receiving any money from the U.S. government except his or her annual salary.

"You people with this phony emoluments clause," Trump said has he took questions from reporters during a Cabinet meeting.

It's worth emphasizing, whether the president realizes this or not, that his emoluments troubles pre-date his G7 gambit. There have been multiple court cases, for example, challenging Trump's D.C. hotel accepting foreign funds, which indirectly end up in the Republican's pocket.

But more important is the fact that Trump considers the emoluments clause to the Constitution "phony." That's absurd, even by 2019 standards.

Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution -- a document, incidentally, that Trump swore to preserve, protect, and defend -- states, "[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."

The Constitution's framers took very seriously the threat of American officials being beholden to foreign powers, which is why this clause of the Constitution is more than a legal afterthought. Rather, it's a key principle of the document that created our government.

To be sure, it was relatively obscure before the Trump era, but that's largely because we haven't traditionally had many leading American officials who've tried to accept funds from foreign states.

But stepping back, there's a broader concern about the president's occasional hostility for the Constitution he has a responsibility to uphold.

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With a whimper, State Dept ends examination of Clinton emails

10/21/19 12:58PM

When Donald Trump holds campaign rallies, it's common to hear the president's followers chant "lock her up" in unison -- three years removed from the 2016 election, and seven years after Hillary Clinton left public office. It's easy to forget sometimes the ostensible reason so many on the far-right still want to see the former secretary of State incarcerated.

Whether Republicans have thought this through or not, the core allegation against Clinton was that she mishandled classified information -- to a literally criminal degree -- with a private email server. An FBI investigation determined that there was no need to charge the former cabinet secretary with anything, and as the Washington Post reported, a State Department probe reached a similarly underwhelming conclusion.

A multiyear State Department probe of emails that were sent to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's private computer server concluded there was no systemic or deliberate mishandling of classified information by department employees, according to a report submitted to Congress this month.

The report appears to represent a final and anticlimactic chapter in a controversy that overshadowed the 2016 presidential campaign and exposed Clinton to fierce criticism that she later cited as a major factor in her loss to President Trump.

The New York Times, which has a deeply unfortunate record on covering this story, ran its article on the State Department's findings on page A16 of its Saturday print edition. The print headline read, "Quiet Ending For Inquiry Into Emails And Server."

There's some truth to that. It's probably not a coincidence that Donald Trump's State Department, led by an unabashed partisan, released its findings on a Friday afternoon. Had officials uncovered evidence that Clinton systemically and deliberately mishandled classified information, it's a safe bet the Trump administration would've made more of a fuss.

Call it a hunch.

But the Times' use of the word "quiet" struck me as notable, in large part because the adjective reflects an editorial choice. The State Department's findings don't have to be "quiet"; they only go unnoticed if major news organizations -- many of which obsessively told American voters that email server protocols were a pressing national issue of historic importance -- decide that the revelations don't much matter.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.21.19

10/21/19 12:00PM

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

* The U.S. Supreme Court this morning "threw out a challenge" to Michigan's gerrymandered legislative map. As Reuters reported, the high court's action "voided an order in April by a three-judge panel to rework 34 districts in the state legislature and U.S. House of Representatives whose boundaries were crafted purely to advantage Republicans."

* A new Suffolk/USA Today poll of Iowa Democrats shows a competitive presidential nominating contest, with Joe Biden narrowly leading Elizabeth Warren, 18% to 17%, with Pete Buttigieg not far behind with 13%. Bernie Sanders slipped to fourth in this poll, with 9% support.

* Also of interest, Amy Klobuchar was at 3% in the poll -- she's tied for fifth place -- which I think will help move the Minnesota Democrat closer to qualifying for next month's presidential primary debate.

* Speaking of Minnesota, a new Star Tribune poll found Donald Trump trailing each of the top Democratic contenders in 2020 match-ups. Despite the president's recent insistence that he expects to win Minnesota next year, the poll showed him trailing Warren by nine points, Biden by 12 points, and Klobuchar by 17 points.

* On the heels of Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) suggesting he'd consider supporting Trump's impeachment, the Florida Republican announced he'll retire after just two terms in the U.S. House.

* The day after acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said, "Get over it" after acknowledging the White House's quid-pro-quo scheme with Ukraine, Trump's re-election campaign began selling t-shirts with the same phrase.

* Julian Castro's presidential campaign announced this morning that the former House secretary will end his presidential bid without an additional $800,000 in donations over the next 10 days. Of course, even if the Texas Democrat gets the money, he's still not yet close to meeting the polling threshold for next month's primary debate.

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