Archive for 2019

Why It’s Way Too Soon to Celebrate Kamala Harris

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

kamalajoeAmid the Kamala Harris triumph- alism now reverb- erating through the Beltway echo chamber, Calbuzz interrupts this program to bring Democrats this public service reminder:

The 2020 presidential election is about three states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

And for every lefty hipster lighting up the Twitterverse with joyful, if thoroughly ageist, denunciations of Joe Biden, it’s worth remembering yet again that the campaign is not a national popular vote but 50 state elections – and asking a crucial question raised by NBC’s First Read:

“Can a private-insurance-eliminating, decriminalizing-border-crossings Democrat win outside of California and New York?”

williehortonTruancy and death penalty To which, we also wonder, how would Harris fare if Donald Trump attacks her (accurately) for proposing to punish parents of truant school children while opposing the death penalty for a cop killer?

If you thought Willie Horton was hard for Michael Dukakis to handle, wait until you see how Trump reminds voters of Harris’s actual position on sentencing for David Hill, who gunned down San Francisco Police Officer Isaac Espinoza with an AK-47 in 2004.

And at some point, her handling of sexual abuses cases by Catholic priests will also become fodder because it is so well documented by first-rate reporters like Mike Rezendes. She says she knows how to go after sexual predators (like Trump) except she didn’t when she was San Francisco DA and California AG.

Her refusal, when running for Attorney General, to support ordering the FBI to break into a terrorist’s I-Phone (or to oppose it on privacy or free speech grounds) is just another area where she has yet to be attacked because she’s never faced a slash-and-burn candidate from the law-and-order right,

Donald-Trump-as-Julius-CaesarFor what people? And as for “prosecuting” the case against Trump – which seems such a fashionable concept – what makes anyone believe that Trump would agree to debate anyone? There’s nothing that can force him into a debate and if he doesn’t think it’s to his advantage, why would he?

For Harris, going forward, the key will be whether she makes inroads with blacks (especially black women), whose votes are critical in winning the Democratic nomination and bolstering the base vote in the general. Beyond that measure, however, it’s not necessarily the third deck home run it looks like at first glance because:

— Older voters may be uncomfortable with her personal attack – and ambivalent about how they felt about busing 50 years ago too.

— Twitter Democrats are different than mainstream Democrats.

— Kamala still can’t get her story straight about health care.

gertrudesteinIs there there there? That she can perform well in a debate now is quite clear. But after watching Harris in action for more than a decade, as we’ve said before, we still can’t say she has a clear set of principles and convictions. And we wonder about the wisdom of her attacking Biden on the issue of school busing which was never popular among whites or blacks.

In fact, re-litigating school busing from the 1960s and ‘70s is a dangerous game for Democrats. Forcing candidates to support open borders and gun confiscation is madness. None of the pie-in-the-sky proposals Democrats would like to accomplish will be possible unless they first defeat Trump and take the US Senate.

As our old friend Steve Twomey put it on Facebook the other day: “After hearing from 20 Democrats, who somehow think this election is about ending private health insurance, more liberal borders, registering guns and school busing, I’d say the 45th president is closer than ever to a second term.”

We don’t know if Joe Biden can run a vigorous and smart campaign. We know Barack Obama chose him, vetted him and kept him on for two full terms. That’s not chopped liver. But Biden is certainly capable of rendering it so.

A Viewer’s Guide to the Democratic Debates

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

bingoBy Jerry Roberts

From Bernie and Biden to Warren and Williamson, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination begins for real on Wednesday evening — the first of two consecutive nights of nationally televised, speed dating debates featuring 20 contenders among the vast field of wannabes.

Both events will be broadcast and live streamed by NBC and by Telemundo from 6-8 p.m. PDT.

Plenty of free parking.

For two hours tonight and tomorrow, two panels of ten candidates each will woo voters by answering questions from celebrity news personalities, each hoping to be the one who will emerge a year from now as their party’s challenger to the cruelty, greed, misogyny, narcissism, racism, sociopathology and xenophobia of Donald Trump’s presidency of toxic nationalism.

Let us pray.

A few key questions. At post time, there were an even two dozen entries in the Democratic pack, at least a handful of who might actually win.

As our old friends Mark Barabak and Michael Finnegan over at the Los Angeles Times explained:

There are several reasons for the exceedingly large field: Changes to the nominating process — which all but eliminated the gate-keeping role of the major political parties — and the advent of social media have made it much easier to wage at least a semiserious run for president.

There is little downside to entering and losing the contest (unless you think a lucrative cable-TV gig is slumming it) and plenty of incentive to run in 2020, with polls suggesting President Trump is highly vulnerable.

Here are five key questions to help frame the debate among and between the 20 who made the party’s first cut:

How will Biden withstand scrutiny? Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading every poll to date, running on the very simple message that: a) beyond any and all ideological concerns, the Democrats’ singular mission must be to defeat Trump and b) he is best positioned to get that job done.

As an old, white, establishment male with a long record filled with political baggage, however, his low-profile campaign has been beset by controversy in recent weeks – over abortion rights, environmental policy and race, among other things – that call into question his suitability to lead Democrats at a time when many in the party are moving leftward, so his Thursday night debate appearance provides a crucial first test of his abilities in the political free-fire zone.



Can Bernie recapture the liberal mantle from Warren? As Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont vie to emerge as the chief left-liberal foil to Biden,  she has been the hottest candidate in the field in recent weeks, her climb in the polls fueled by an ever-expanding platform of substantive, progressive policy ideas captured in her “I’ve got a plan for that” campaign slogan.

By luck of the draw, Warren will have top billing on Wednesday night’s debate stage while Sanders will appear alongside Biden on Thursday, giving him an opening to challenge the front-runner directly, in a way that could reignite the enthusiasm he excited among the party’s left wing in 2016, while also blunting her momentum in liberal precincts.



Will Kamala re-emerge? California Senator Kamala Harris had the strongest campaign kickoff of any contender, but the energy quickly dissipated, not only because of progressive attacks on her record as a prosecutor, but also due to her own habitual and irksome attempt to have it both ways on every issue.

If biography and viral moments (viz. her questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh) were all that counted, Harris would be the front-runner, but her twin talents for equivocation and vacillation have fed a narrative that the only core convictions she possesses are in behalf of her own ambition and personal advancement.



Can Beto and/or Mayor Pete regain their mojo? Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, who became famous for narrowly losing a U.S. Senate race to Democratic bogeyman Ted Cruz, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a gay millennial multi-lingual military veteran with splendid presentation skills, both shined for brief periods as bright shiny objects played up by the national political media.

While Mayor Pete has been battered at home in recent days over the shooting of an African-American citizen by a white cop, and Beto (who won the endorsement of SB Representative and former housemate Salud Carbajal this week) has been bashed for lacking substance, the debates give both a fresh chance to reboot with plenty of time left.



Who will be the X factor? From spiritualist Marianne Williamson to half the rest of the Democrats in Congress, state and local government, the remaining single-digit hopefuls in the field will do their best to craft a memorable moment of prime time political performance art that will send them soaring in the polls and top-of-mind for party voters, perhaps even aided by Trump, who’s threatened to live tweet the debates.

A week before Independence Day may seem too early to start paying attention to next year’s presidential race, but it’s barely seven monthsbefore voting starts in Iowa. And, let’s face it, the stakes could not be higher.

Here is Newsmakers’ special Follow-the-Democratic-Campaign Resource Kit:

  1. A useful calendar of key campaign events.
  2. A comprehensive guide to where the Democratic candidates stand on the issues. 
  3. Vox is a great source of clearly written, substantive coverage about every aspect of the race, from a left-of-center perspective.
  4. Five Thirty Eight has all the polling info you could ever want.
  5. The New York Times asked all the candidates the same 18 questions. For some reason, Biden wouldn’t answer.
  6. A fascinating poll of which candidates voters wish would drop out already.
  7. And finally, our favorite campaign tool of all, the NYT’s Debate Bingo Card.


Images: The NYT’s campaign watch party tool; Newsmakers loves horse race coverage; Joe Biden; Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (Vox); Kamala Harris questions Brett Kavanaugh; Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke (New York Magazine); Marianne Williamson (Wiklipedia).

The Numbing of America: The Rape of E Jean Carroll

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

e jean carrollBy Dick Polman

In a normal universe – as opposed to the one we’re forced to inhabit – a vivid allegation of rape, leveled at a serially misogynist president, would be a news story worthy of 24/7 coverage. Heck, it would even be bigger than the recent feeding frenzy about Joe Biden touching some women’s shoulders.

But naturally, the details offered on Friday by New York writer E. Jean Carroll – that Donald Trump, in his previous incarnation as a real estate hustler, banged her head against a wall and forcibly penetrated her in a department store dressing room – sputtered in the weekend news cycle.

It was barely mentioned on the Sunday morning TV shows. It didn’t make the front page of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, or the Chicago Tribune; on Saturday, 164 stories were featured on the New York Times’ online home page, but there were none about Carroll, a well-regarded advice columnist for Elle magazine, who is now the 22nd woman to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct.

donald-trump (1)Dangerous Trump Fatigue That latter fact is crucial. Many Americans – or, more precisely, many in the media – are so benumbed by Trump, so fatigued by the daily evidence of his amorality, that even the freshest, most sickening accusation (“he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway – or completely, I’m not certain – inside me. It turns into a colossal struggle”) is treated as “old” news.

The thinking, such as it is, goes something like this: Everybody knows that Trump is an awful person (he was even captured on tape bragging about grabbing women’s genitalia), but he won the ’16 election anyway. Therefore, further confirmation of his awfulness isn’t deemed to be nearly as newsworthy as, for instance, NASA’s moon rocks (front page of Saturday’s Wall Street Journal), or the decriminalization of psychedelic mushrooms (front page of Saturday’s Los Angeles Times). “News,” in the traditional sense, is about telling people something they don’t already know.

But Carroll’s allegation, featured in a new book (confirmed by two Carroll friends who were told of the incident at the time) – and, most importantly, Trump’s response to her allegation – warrants major coverage, because this story, when placed in its proper context, tells the tragic truth about the numbing of America.

jailLong Chain of Abuses Here’s context: Jill Harth, Kristin Anderson, Lisa Boyne, Temple Taggart, Mariah Billado, Cathy Heller, Karina Virginia, Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Mindy McGillivray, Jennifer Murphy, Jessica Drake, Ninni Laaksonen, Summer Zervos, Cassandra Searles, Alva Johnson, Juliet Huddy, Jessica Leeds. Those are just some of the women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. That list does not include the beauty pageant women who said that Trump barged into their dressing rooms. He has assailed all these women as liars. In 2016, he threatened to retaliate by suing them, but never did. He claimed that some were getting paid to smear him, but never tried to prove it.

This context makes Carroll’s story more important, not less. It’s arguably the most serious accusation of all, because it’s about rape, not groping. Conservative attorney George Conway (husband of Kellyanne) points out: “Carroll’s account is supported by the sheer number of claims that have now surfaced against Trump – claims in which women have accused Trump of engaging in unwelcome or forcible sexual conduct or assault against them.” Indeed, Conway writes, “what Trump described in the (Hollywood Access) video is exactly what Carroll says he did to her.”

Fortunately, Trump has done his best to feed the sputtering news cycle by lying anew. When he denied the rape allegation, he said: “I’ve never met this person in my life…I have no idea who this woman is.” Which was amusing to hear, because Carroll’s article, posted on the New York magazine’s website, includes a photo that shows Trump talking with Carroll at a party.

He also resurrected one of his golden oldies: “There were numerous cases where women were paid money to say bad things about me. You can’t do that. You can’t do that, and those women did wrong things, that women were actually paid money to say bad things about me.” He has never offered a scintilla of evidence that any women were paid to say bad things.

angrytrumpArt of the Steal He also claimed that Carroll concocted a fiction “to sell a new book.” Actually, that’s what he did, via his ghostwriter, when he concocted the fiction that he was a business genius. That’s his sole frame of reference. He thinks that everyone else is just like him – blatantly lying for the sole purpose of hyping themselves.

Will this rape allegation move the public opinion needle? Of course not. Carroll writes: “(Trump’s) admirers can’t get enough of hearing that he’s rich enough, lusty enough, and powerful enough to be sued by and to pay off every splashy porn star or Playboy Playmate who ‘comes forward,’ so I can’t imagine how ecstatic the poor saps will be to hear their favorite Walking Phallus got it on with an old lady in the world’s most prestigious department store.”

But that doesn’t mean this story should slide into the void. It’s too important. It shows how numb we’ve become. It exposes anew the hypocrisy of the Republicans and evangelical leaders who have greeted the story with silence – the same people who once championed “character” and “morality” in our highest office. And it shows, once again, that more than 40 percent of the electorate will reject any and all accusations, not matter how serious, because they perceive that Trump alone is the font of truth.

dickpolmanIf this story, placed in its broader context, is allowed to fade away, this nation will have forfeited another slice of its soul.

Editor’s Note: Trump has also rolled out his standard. disgusting sexist slur: “She’snot my type.”

Dick Polman’s column was originally posted on WHYY.org/News, where he contributes each week. Former political editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, he also writes for The Atlantic online and is a writer-in-residence at the University of Pennsylvania.