Bernie Sanders foregoes a concession speech for a rather morose campaign rally in Minnesota.

The Sanders campaign was en route to Rochester in Super Tuesday state Minnesota when the networks all called tonight’s South Carolina primary for Hillary Clinton. CNN reported that Sanders called Clinton to congratulate her even before the polls closed, and long after Clinton delivered her rousing victory speech, Sanders took the stage, not to deliver a concession, but hold a campaign rally.

The size of Clinton’s victory may have unsettled Team Sanders, because instead of his usually fiery demeanor, Sanders appeared rather downtrodden while railing against corporate creed and Wall Street corruption. He unloaded his usual arsenal of attacks against Clinton—paid speeches, Wall Street dollars, etc.—with little enthusiasm, and CNN cut away before he could finish his remarks. Fox News and MSNBC also both stuck with their original schedules instead of airing Sanders’ speech. 

Minnesota is a crucial state for Sanders on Super Tuesday. Clinton is expected to do well in states with significant minority populations, so states like Minnesota, where the electorate is disproportionately white, represent the best bet for Sanders to pick up crucial delegates. 

April 28, 2017

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The comment that will come back to haunt Paul Ryan if Trumpcare becomes law.

It is so perfectly calibrated to define the broken promises of the GOP health care push—“people will be better off, with pre-existing conditions, under our plan”—it’s tempting to interpret it as an admission that the bill is truly dead, so promises are cheap.

To be clear, people with pre-existing conditions would not actually be better off under a plan that lets insurers charge them as much as they want for health care coverage, or that kicks them into an underfunded high-risk pool.

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Why won’t the DCCC release its autopsy report?

Good news: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has prepared a thorough autopsy report about its flaws. Bad news: You can’t read it. According to Politico, the report is the long-awaited result of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s investigation into the DCCC’s weaknesses, which were evident in the disaster that was the 2016 election. Those weaknesses allegedly revolve around the ways the DCCC raises and spends money but, again, who really knows:

Only about two-dozen lawmakers showed up for the presentation, which sources described as “dense but thorough.” But members were not allowed to have copies of the report and may view it only under the watchful eyes of DCCC staff.

We are talking about a report on the status of the party’s congressional campaign arm, not The Book of Kells. Unless it’s written on precious vellum using ink squeezed directly from the hearts of elderly scribes, there’s no good reason for the secrecy. The DCCC’s official explanation—that the report is meant as internal analysis not intended for “public consumption”—is simply not persuasive.

This latest incident is another data point in a troubling pattern. At any hint it may be asked to account publicly for its failures, the Democratic Party pulls up its drawbridge and retreats deep into itself. It does not seem to grasp that, as a political party, it has an obligation to be transparent to its supporters. It owes those supporters something. At the moment, it specifically owes them explanations about its weak and miserable state. That’s especially important now, with the 2018 midterms looming: The party only added six House seats last November, a showing it must improve next year.

Donald Trump’s presidency is almost 100 days old, and he is not having fun.

Trump’s 100th day in office is on Saturday and the president has spent the last two weeks trying to look busy so voters could be fooled into thinking that his young presidency has not been an outright failure so far. This is the presidential equivalent of shuffling papers around your desk so your boss things that you’re doing something, the only difference being that Trump is the boss. In the last week, the administration has picked a government shutdown fight, released a “tax reform plan” that isn’t a plan at all, restarted health care talks once again only to seem them collapse once again, and threatened to start a war in North Korea. Trump has now also done an interview with Reuters, ostensibly to highlight his achievements. But the most damning thing you can do to Trump is publish a transcript of his own words.

Trump says and does a lot of silly things in this interview. He reportedly handed out maps that highlighted his victory in November, proving once again that he’s the only person who still cares about the election. He praised Kim Jong-un for being a savvy operator: “He’s 27. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age.” And he acted as if his threat to leave NAFTA—an obvious bluff—was really a masterstroke of negotiation: “I get a call from Mexico yesterday, ‘We hear you’re going to terminate NAFTA.’ I said that’s right. They said, ‘Is there any way we can do something without you—without termination?’ I said, ‘What do you want to do?’ He said, ‘Well, we’d like to negotiate.’ I said we’ll think about it.”

But the thing that’s gotten the most attention are Trump’s comments about the presidency itself (emphasis added).

“I loved my previous life, I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. I actually, this is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier. ... I do miss my old life. This—I like to work. But this is actually more work. And, while I had very little privacy, in my old life because, you know, I’ve been famous for a long time. I really—this is much less privacy than I’ve seen before. This is, you know, something that’s really amazing. At the same time, you’re really into your own cocoon because there’s such massive protection, that you really can’t go anywhere.”

Donald Trump, a man who loved campaigning because it fed his bottomless need for affirmation, is not having very much fun as president. And the “I thought it would be easier” jibes with the larger narrative of Trump’s presidency—that he is ill-suited for the job and is an incompetent leader.

But this idea—that the presidency is harder than it seems—is shared by pretty much every president. After leading a successful campaign, many imagine that the same wave that swept them to power will carry them to victories in Washington, which is not true at all. In 2009, Barack Obama, who is fond of talking about how hard being president is, said, “When you’re in this job, I think—every president who’s had it is constantly humbled by the degree to which there are a lot of issues out there, and the notion that one person alone can solve all these problems—I think you’re cured of that illusion very quickly.”

Trump seems to have been cured of that illusion. The one difference is that Trump does seem more naive than most—it’s hard to imagine anything easier than Trump’s old life, at least post-bankruptcy. But this is as close to pathos as Trump gets, even if it’s not exactly reflective.

April 27, 2017

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Ann Coulter’s Berkeley controversy isn’t really about free speech.

This morning, Jesse Singal implored liberals to “fight for free speech” on college campuses in New York’s Daily Intelligencer. In the wake of Ann Coulter deciding not to give a speech at Berkeley, he argues, “Just because the most high-profile recent examples of campus speech getting shut down have affected the right doesn’t mean that would be the norm were free-speech norms and rules to crumble more completely.”

It is true that the recent discussion of free speech and censorship on college campuses has centered around high-profile, inflammatory conservatives, meaning many liberals might not be moved to their defense. It is also true that the left is not immune to censorship in the university. The example Singal uses to demonstrate this is Fordham University’s refusal to approve the club Students for Justice in Palestine, the founders of which filed a lawsuit against the university yesterday. Fordham’s Dean of Students rejected the club on the grounds that

the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ... is a topic that often leads to polarization rather than dialogue. The purpose of the organization as stated in the proposed club constitution points toward that polarization. Specifically, the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel presents a barrier to open dialogue and mutual learning and understanding.

Singal makes a nuanced argument about the subjectivity of what kind of speech should be protected or “what sort of speech is considered so harmful it should be suppressed.” He also notes that, in a university system, students are entirely at the political whims of administrators. But what is so interesting about the example of SJP at Fordham is that, by comparison, it shows the problems of claiming that Ann Coulter’s speech is being suppressed.

As Aaron Hanlon argued in the New Republic earlier this week, choosing not to host Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos on campus is not a suppression of their free speech. Academia certainly has an important place in selecting and elevating certain voices to relevance in a broader culture, but let’s not forget that a college isn’t a town hall: it’s a particular community of people engaged in intersecting missions of education. Coulter is not a member of that community and she has no claims upon it. Campus life is curated, and none of us outside of it are guaranteed access to that platform. Aside from safety concerns, that doesn’t mean trying to cancel her appearance was necessarily the right decision—it very well may be true that students should challenge her views face-to-face—but doing so is still not a violation of her rights.

That cannot be said, however, of the Fordham case. As Singal notes, Fordham is a private university, and as such the question of free speech in this case relates not to the Constitution but the university’s own policies. But unlike Coulter, who has a regular platform on television and in publishing, the students of Fordham are truly limited by what their university will and will not allow as protected speech. Those students have been denied the opportunity to engage in the political action they find meaningful. They have been punished for peacefully protesting that decision. At Berkeley, the College Republicans who invited Ann Coulter to speak presumably retain their official club status and likely their budget.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Dems to House GOP: try to mug us with Trumpcare and we won’t help you fund the government.

House Republicans may or may not ultimately pass a regressive health care bill, but either way, they seem resigned to the fact that the only way they can succeed is to commit a mugging—rush a vote on a bill negotiated in private, before the Congressional Budget Office has issued an analysis of its effects on costs and coverage. To that end, they’ve passed a rule that will allow them to put a final bill directly on the floor anytime between now and Saturday.

Democrats can’t stop this directly, but they can make Republicans feel pain for tossing regular order out the window. To that end, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer announced Thursday that Republicans will risk shutting down their own government unless they run the health care bill through a more above-board process.

If Republicans announce their intention to bring their harmful TrumpCare bill to the House Floor tomorrow or Saturday, I will oppose a one-week Continuing Resolution and will advise House Democrats to oppose it as well. Republicans continue to struggle to find the votes to pass a bill that will kick 24 million Americans off their health coverage, allow discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, and impose an age tax on older Americans. That’s why they are trying to jam it through the House before their Members can hear from the American people this weekend about their opposition to this horrible legislation.

If Republicans pursue this partisan path of forcing Americans to pay more for less and destabilizing our county’s health care system – without even knowing how much their bill will cost – Republicans should be prepared to pass a one-week Continuing Resolution on their own.

A sizable rump of House conservatives will sometimes vote against these stopgap bills, too, and if that were to happen this time, Republicans would be precipitating a government shutdown by announcing a rushed health care vote. But, of course, House conservatives might make an exception in this case, to counteract Hoyer’s threat. What would really give this squeeze play full force is if Senate Democrats backed up Hoyer’s threat with one of their own.

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White House staffers are mad that no one praised them for pulling off the Easter Egg Roll.

Today, Politico published a wide-ranging report on Trump’s first 100 days, based on interviews with senior officials and with Donald Trump himself. The piece is full of interesting tidbits that reveal the inner dynamics of the administration, which haven’t changed much over the last 100 days—i.e., they are completely insane. 

On a whim, Trump insisted on talking to Politico reporters himself, to convince them that everything was fine, absolutely fine, with his administration. To prove this point, he forced Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner to walk into the room like debutantes to show how just how well everyone is getting along. (They aren’t.

Apparently, Trump has also been meeting with media goblin Matt Drudge for advice. And a White House official complained about how hard it is to govern, and how they have learned that having “the experience stuff” is actually helpful. 

But the best bit comes when we learn that senior staffers are angry that they didn’t get enough credit for the Easter Egg Roll:

West Wing staffers have even fumed about news coverage of the Easter Egg Roll. First, it was that Trump’s White House wouldn’t be smart enough to pull it off. Then, it was that no one would be there. And after the Easter Egg Roll went off without a hitch, “no one wanted to give us any credit,” said one senior administration official.

For once, they are right. So you heard it here from me first: Congratulations Trump staffers for pulling off the Easter Egg Roll! You are all definitely qualified to run our country.  


Donald Trump has been bullsh*tting all week.

Wednesday was one of those days in the White House. The administration released a barrage of plans, figures, and tweets on every conceivable issue, suggesting that it’s just about ready to fight a war on eleven different fronts at the same time—and maybe start a real war too. This tweet, from HuffPo’s Sam Stein, sums up the day that was nicely:

By the end of the day, the White House had backed off its threat to leave NAFTA. It is still beating the drum of war on North Korea, but it seems to be doing so because it thinks it will help its negotiating position—war is not imminent. The pledge to cripple Obamacare has been around for a month, and still faces the same obstacles that have prevented Trump from making good on that pledge. The tax reform plan released by the administration doesn’t deserve to be called a “reform” or “plan”—it’s unlikely to pass because it explodes the deficit, is heavily tilted toward the rich, and, again, is so skeletal that the word “plan” is really too generous. Trump’s desire to break up the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has consistently ruled against his executive orders, is destructive but not realistic. It is the kind of bombastic, headline-grabbing, and ultimately not-at-all-serious statement that Trump believes will get him out of jams and, if he is lucky, project an image of a guy who is in charge.

It’s worth taking a moment to examine what would happen if the Trump administration did try to follow through with any of these plans. Pulling out of NAFTA without introducing a substitute would be an economic disaster and would likely result in a trade war with Mexico. War in North Korea would not only be unpopular, but also a global catastrophe that could very well result in hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. If the White House were to pull the rug out from under Obamacare, it would face severe political consequences. Americans generally don’t like the few tangible things in Trump’s tax plan, but it’s not even remotely close to being a piece of legislation—and we all saw what happened the last time Republicans tried to pass an actual piece of legislation. The court-busting scheme would result in a constitutional crisis and months of bad press, all of which would cement the image of Donald Trump as a wannabe dictator.

The Trump administration’s midweek sprint left news organizations with whiplash. They had to report with straight faces all the new “developments” coming out of the White House. But there’s no indication that this is anything other than a load of bullshit. Trump’s bombast is self-evidently about narrative. His 100th day in office will be Saturday and this flurry of activity seems designed to simultaneously distract from negative assessments of his first 100 days and to show that the White House is a hive of activity. The Trump White House has insisted again and again that this is the most active first 100 days in presidential history (it isn’t), and this week’s veneer of frenetic activity proved that there’s just nothing there.

April 26, 2017

Getty/Drew Angerer

Trump’s new crime victims hotline has one goal: criminalizing immigrants.

Today the Department of Homeland Security officially launched the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office, thus fulfilling one of the more alarming clauses of an executive order that promised to track crimes committed by immigrants. VOICE appears to offer just two services: a hotline for victims of crimes committed by suspected immigrants, and automated updates about the status of an immigrant in custody. ICE tweeted that this was part of a “measured” approach to immigration enforcement, and that “it intends to expand the services VOICE offers in the future.” But what additional services would be required of an office that is hardly justified in the first place? 

When Trump announced the establishment of VOICE in his first joint address to Congress in early March, it brought the most pernicious aspect of his anti-immigrant rhetoric from the campaign trail to government office, one that equated undocumented immigrants with “bad hombres,” rapists, and murderers. It doesn’t seem to matter that immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes or engage in domestic terrorist acts than U.S. citizens. To add further insult to injury, DHS Secretary John Kelly ordered that any department resources that might go to supporting undocumented immigrants should be re-routed to this office. 

In an administration dogged by bungled and thwarted bills, with hundreds of vacancies yet to be filled and pet projects, like the border wall, indefinitely stalled, Trump desperately needs to show that his young presidency hasn’t been a total wash. Naturally, according to a DHS spokesperson, this is one of the top accomplishments of Trump’s first 100 days.  

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Oh cool, Ivanka Trump is setting up a bribery fund in the White House.

Axios’s Mike Allen rather nonchalantly passes along what should be a red-flags-everywhere disclosure from first daughter/business woman/conflict-of-interest-ridden White House adviser Ivanka Trump that she’s setting up a “massive fund” to “invest in women and girls.”

That this story pokes its head up as the political press scrutinizes the verb tense of every squirrelly Chelsea Clinton utterance about her future political ambitions, and debates the ethics of President Obama’s (admittedly poor) decision to accept a $400,000 Wall Street speaking fee, recalls the summer of 2016, when the media dynamic that ultimately allowed Donald Trump to become president took hold.

During the post-convention lull, the press strained hard to create the impression that Hillary Clinton had used (and would use) the Clinton Foundation as a vehicle for pay-to-play corruption, while Trump ran the most deviant and corrosive campaign in modern history and his far more well-documented corruption received relatively scant attention.

At the moment, Trump needs Congress to fund the government, which gives Democrats some leverage, at least in theory, to demand that Ivanka Trump’s fund be dismantled, or custody of it transferred to an outside charity with no White House or Trump family connections. The fact that Donald Trump, with media complicity, used the specter of pay-to-play corruption to abnormalize and disqualify Hillary Clinton should make the fact that Trump is now bringing the specter to life in his own White House a paralyzing scandal.

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Trump is cementing his 100 days of failure.

Trump is set to release his tax reform plan on Wednesday, a last-ditch effort to demonstrate momentum ahead of his 100th day in office this Saturday. But Politico reported on Wednesday that “the hastily written plan could wind up alienating critical Hill Republicans while offering little or nothing to entice Democrats.” Trump looks likely to offer his plan without a border tax or other means of actually funding his tax cuts, and sources close to House Speaker Paul Ryan are calling this a “magic unicorn” approach that won’t pass the House.

Trump keeps doing this. As former Mitt Romney adviser Lanhee Chen told Politico, the tax reform fight is shaping up to resemble the recent healthcare debacle, which was marked by Republican infighting and poor planning by the White House. (The latest on that, by the way, is a new GOP proposal that would gut Obamacare protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions but allow members of Congress to keep those protections.) Yet Trump’s rushed tax plan also looks a bit like his impulsive attempt to jam funding for a Mexico border wall into congressional budget negotiations this week. That swiftly backfired, resulted in a Trump retreat, and allowed Democrats to claim a minor victory.

More than a dozen of Trump’s top advisers and cabinet secretaries will launch a regional TV and radio tour on Wednesday, giving more than a hundred interviews to put a positive spin on the administration’s lack of accomplishment. Ultimately, though, they don’t have much to work with. Trump’s desperation to prove he’s had a productive 100 days is causing only further failures, a vicious cycle of insecurity and ignorance that likely won’t end well for America or the world.