“Pragmatic” Republicans Head For The Exits, Opening The Door To Lunatics

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker The Latest To Not Run In 2018

Corker, who Chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and has criticized Trump (and been the subject of Trump’s Twitter wrath), becomes the latest in a slew of more “moderate” Republicans opting not to run in the midterms. Most cite reasons such as “more time with the family”. But the truth in many cases is they don’t want to get involved in an ugly and expensive primary challenge from the Far Right. Even before Corker’s announcement, Steve Bannon was recruiting a Far-right nationalist challenger into the race for Corker’s seat.

Senator Bob Corker (R) Tennessee

Bannon 1, Trump 0

The Republican primary result in Alabama could add to that retreat. The Breitbart-backed Roy Moore trounced Luther Strange, despite the fact that Strange was backed by Trump, the NRA, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (McConnell’s popularity has diminished so dramatically, in large part due to attacks by Trump, that he was successfully Pelosi’d in this race: meaning Moore ran against McConnell as much as his actual opponent.) 538 asserts in a really good piece: “It could be really bad for McConnell and Senate Republicans if other Republican senators see what happened to Strange and it starts a wave of retirements.”

Roy Moore

We’ve talked about Moore quite a bit recently. In case you missed that, if you think Ted Cruz (or perhaps Trump) is irritating, stubborn, unconventional, or just plain nuts: just wait. [CNN] [The Hill] Example, he tells Vox just this week there are communities under Sharia law “in Illinois, Indiana.”

We are also not sure why the result is being interpreted by some as a repudiation of Trump. Because it isn’t, really. The Washington Post interprets Moore’s victory as a “political lightning strike — setting the stage for a worsening Republican civil war that could…undermine Trump’s clout with his core voters.” Huh? Wouldn’t more folks like Moore around have an equal chance of helping Trump’s agenda in the long run? He’s certainly not getting much support for it now. (Trump BTW, also deleted all his Tweets endorsing Strange, because: he’s no loser!) A different Washington Post story lists “Trump” as a loser, but “Trump’s ethos” as a winner. Also, huh? (Actually it’s a fun piece).

Moore still has to get past a respectable Democratic challenger, former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones. But so far no Democrat has won a special election for federal office. The two are vying for the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (and temporarily filled by Strange). Voting’s on December 12th.

Opportunity Or Threat For Democrats?

Although most reports characterized Moore’s win as a shock to the Republican party, we long ago raised the red flag on the threat Far-right candidates pose to Democrats going forward as well. While Democrats may find themselves with increased opportunities vs. Far-Right Republicans, there’s zero proof so far.

What we are seeing, is Republicans in the next Congress will be more radically Right-wing overall. So unless Democrats can flip the Senate or the House, even if they pick up a bunch of seats and Republicans lose a bunch, they could be up against much more radical foes.

Tax Day

More details leaking out about the tax plan President Trump is set to introduce in a speech later today in Indiana. He’s expected to announce sweeping changes for corporations, individuals and small businesses. With no way of making up for losses in funds. Something Republicans cared very much about when Obama was in office, and all of a sudden, don’t now.

(Remember our drinking game? Do a shot every time someone says “it’ll pay for itself”? Today might be a good day to grab a big bottle of something.)

One thing getting a lot of attention that Bloomberg says is in the bill, is eliminating deductions for state and local taxes. Of course, that’s most valuable in states with high earners and high taxes, like New York, California, and Massachusetts. It’s of no benefit in places like Texas, which does not have a state income tax.

Trump Denies He’s Been Too Preoccupied With NFL To Focus On Puerto Rico, Then Talks About NFL

In an outdoor briefing he explains how he does it: “I’ve got plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work.”

The President saying he’ll go to Puerto Rico next week, and also maybe the U.S. Virgin Islands, insisting that he isn’t ignoring the plight of U.S. citizens there. As proof he continually pointed to the “great reviews” he’s getting from local politicians, and also in Florida and Texas, and NFL players should stand for the national anthem. (Yes, even while denying he’s using NFL as a distraction, he keeps looping back into it.)  Here’s a brief example:

Trump’s Latest North Korea Sanctions Might Have More Bite Than Anything The U.N.’s Done, For One Very Ironic Reason

North Korea relies on U.S. dollars to pay for things like oil and arms. The new unilateral sanctions target banks, and also about 2 dozen North Korean citizens living outside the country, who funnel hard currency back in. Most likely in dollars.

When we visited North Korea, we found the few exorbitantly priced gift shops open only to foreigners exclusively accepted U.S. dollars, not Chinese or Russian currency or anything else. (We didn’t buy anything.)

Gift shop in North Korea (Photo credit: The Chaos Report)

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports North Korean officials have been quietly tapping into Conservative U.S. think-tanks for guidance about Trump, not because they want to negotiate, but because they want to know if he’s for real.

Which actually might be a sign Trump’s strategy is succeeding, if his behavior is indeed reflective of a strategy.

Trump Still Hasn’t Kept His Promise To Start A Bunch Of Trade Wars, But A Skirmish Over Canadian Planes Could Be A Harbinger Of Things To Come

The Commerce Department imposed a 220% duty against Canada’s Bombardier over the sale of its CS100 jets to Delta. U.S. aerospace giant Boeing, charged the Canadian company unfairly benefits from government subsidies, allowing it to sell at bargain prices. (Boeing originally asked for an 80% levy).

Commerce’s move seems right out of Trump’s playbook: since Boeing does not make a jet with similar capacity, it’ll be hard to prove it was harmed. Still, barring a settlement of some kind, the dispute will now be tied up in commissions and courts for years. Sound familiar?

Editorial: Obamacare Made Insurance Companies Cover Pre-Existing Conditions, Then Locked It Down And Threw Away The Key: That’s The Only Reason It’s Still Standing Today

While Medicaid cutbacks may have been a factor, we believe public uproar would’ve been much more muted except for the threat to coverage of pre-existing conditions.

Of course, forcing everybody to buy health insurance is at the top of the “public uproar” list too. So it’s easy to see how Republicans miscalculated when they felt that would carry the day (even though all they really wanted to do–except for Susan Collins–was slash Medicaid.) But as soon as it appeared they were potentially giving insurers the tools to jimmy the lock on pre-existing conditions, they were cooked. Each time.

Vox’s Sarah Kliff comes to the same conclusion. She writes in her newsletter: “Under Obamacare, Americans know that health insurers can’t deny them coverage or charge them higher premiums based on their medical history. No Republican plan could provide such an ironclad guarantee.” And she points out a Kaiser Family Foundation study which finds that more than 1 in 4 Americans “have health conditions that would likely leave them uninsurable if they applied for individual market coverage” before Obamacare. They provide this handy chart, showing even for Republicans, that coverage is now sacrosanct.