It Might Not Quite Be A Tipping Point…But…

A Turbulent, Damning Day For The President As Another “Pragmatic” Republican Resigns, Declaring Trump Is “Dangerous To Our Democracy”

Arizona Republican Jeff Flake took to the Senate floor to reveal he won’t run for reelection next year. He then delivered the most thoughtful, eloquent, and (to borrow a superlative Trump likes to use) elegant condemnation of Trump to date. And with that, he became the third in a trio of lame duck Senators to remove their muzzles. (The other two: Tennessee’s Bob Corker, and fellow Arizonan John McCain, were the only Republicans on the Senate floor during Flake’s speech.)

Flake repeatedly returned to the theme that what’s happening now is not normal: “none of this is normal”. And that liberty, which is under threat, is “far more important than politics”. Here’s a complete transcript of his speech. Here’s a brief video clip that’s really worth watching:

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker also revved up his feud with Trump, including one astounding new revelation: he told reporters the White House called him on “multiple occasions where the staff has asked me to please intervene. He was getting ready to do something that was really off the tracks”. (Remember, Corker was an early and seemingly firm Trump supporter: He even played golf with Trump!) That video is here:

Trump earlier Tweeted Corker couldn’t even get elected dog catcher.


If “Ambition Counteracts Ambition” Then Why Are You Quitting?

Flake quoted James Madison in the Federalist Papers, describing the value of separating the Executive and Legislative branches of government (that is, the Powers of the President vs. the Powers of Congress) so they could counteract each other if necessary.

That sort of happened with the failure of Obamacare repeal. And there are a few in Congress who regularly speak out against Trump, like Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, but he does then mostly vote the way Trump wants.

But for the most part, Republicans only seem capable of really speaking their minds if they’ve given up their “ambition”.

Why? Simple. This week they want tax cuts. Next week they’ll want something else. Trump is the “pen in hand” President. All he cares about is “wins”. And possibly also “standing ovations”…? (Which he Tweeted about last night and again this morning):

It’s no coincidence Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed Wyoming Senator John Barrasso to “host” Trump on Capitol Hill. Barrasso, like Flake, has been in Steve Bannon’s cross-hairs from the day Trump took office. Unlike Flake, he’s decided not to “counteract”. His strategy involves something Madison didn’t discuss: kissing up.

McConnell added this dramatic black-and-white photo to his own Twitter feed:

L to R: McConnell, Kelly, Barrasso with Trump

We wrote this before we saw Jonathan Chait’s piece in New York Magazine. He has a great anecdote that illustrates exactly what we’re talking about:

“[Reporters asked] John Cornyn, the Senate majority whip…where he stands on an incipient bipartisan agreement to shore up the Obamacare exchanges. ‘I’m with the president,’ Cornyn said. Asked where Trump was on it – the president has vacillated repeatedly – Cornyn threw up his hands”.

Flake can still do a lot of counteracting during his remaining days in office, and it’s damn hard to raise money for a campaign, especially when everybody’s pretty sure you’re going to lose. At the same time, we wish he’d stood up for his principles and gone down fighting. As Charles Pierce in Esquire puts it: “Republicans need a better response besides quitting“.

And another thing: by not running you’re saving Robert Mercer a lot of money and Steve Bannon a lot of effort. At least make them pay and work for it! No wonder Breitbart’s main headline this morning gloats: “Establishment Republicans Fall Like Dominoes”.

And you know what? You never know. Wasn’t that long ago Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski won an election as a write-in after losing to a Tea Partier in the primary.

Tougher than Jeff Flake


Editorial: This Is A Huge Opportunity For Democrats, Or The Brightest Of All Red Flags

We’ve talked about this at length before, so we’ll keep it brief this morning.

Democrats need to get their sh*t together in time for the Mid-term elections. Because they have to achieve absolute victory. Which due to the high number of seats they have to defend in 2018 compared to Republicans is going to be difficult.

Because the Flakes, and the Corkers will not be succeeded by similar candidates. They’re going to be replaced by nightmares from the Far Far Right. So even if Democrats net a few seats, but not control of the House or Senate, it’ll still be a disaster, because the opposition will be that much more Radical and unified and in lock-step with Trump.


At Least Trump Got Some “Good News”

The Washington Post reporting that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee did indeed help finance an infamous (and as yet completely unproven) dossier alleging possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, as well as unsavory bedroom activities involving Trump himself. The Post followed up this morning with an analysis of key points.

The fact that the Clinton campaign chipped in to continue an investigation that was started by a still-unknown Republican primary opponent of Trump’s should not be that surprising. All candidates pay to dig up dirt on their opponents. But the idea that the Clinton paid for it has been so widely poo-poohed of late as “just another one of Trump’s conspiracy theories” by people who should’ve (and in fact did!) know better.

While we won’t go as far as Trump does: Tweeting this morning he’s “the victim”, the Post’s story does partly validate what we thought were typical, looney Trump Tweets. So next time he Tweets some outrageous accusation, even we may think twice, because, well, turned out he was right last time…


There’s A New Health Care Proposal In Town, And It Ain’t Bipartisan

The new plan, pitched by powerful Republicans Orrin Hatch and Kevin Brady, reestablishes cost sharing payments to health insurance companies, but also gives the White House what it’s been asking for of late: an end to mandates requiring people to buy health insurance. (If all that sounds familiar, it’s very close to what Mitch McConnell’s failed “skinny repeal” would’ve done).

Which means Democrats will never support it vs. the bipartisan Alexander/Murray plan which has the votes to pass in the Senate tomorrow.

So what’s the point of the new plan? Since an Obamacare fix, if it happens, is likely to be wrapped into a year-end spending bill, it muddies those waters by putting more options on the table that can be negotiated away.


In A Move Trump Hails As A Win For Consumers, Republicans Make It Virtually Impossible For Consumers To Sue Banks And Credit Card Companies

The rule Republican Senators decided to destroy, expanded the ability of consumers to bring class action lawsuits in the event of a dispute, and limited the ability of financial institutions to force consumers to accept arbitration when they sign up for a bank account or credit card.

The vote was 50-50, with Lindsey Graham the only Republican voting against. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaker.

The action also effectively neuters the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose formation was spearheaded by Elizabeth Warren in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.


House Passes Strongest-Ever North Korea Sanctions, While Trying To Figure Out What To Do About Russia Sanctions The President Is Ignoring

By a near unanimous vote, Congress is forbidding U.S. banks from doing business with any financial institution that has dealings benefiting North Korea. As we’ve mentioned before, these are the sanctions that hurt the most, because North Korea needs hard currency (ironically, mostly in the form of U.S. Dollars) to buy almost everything.

And remember that veto-proof bill that also passed almost unanimously tying Trump’s hands on Russia sanctions? Trump seems to have found a work-around: ignore it. New Russia sanctions were supposed to have been implemented by October 1st, but so far the White House has taken zero action.


That Time The U.S. Started Looking A Lot Like Russia

If you were as puzzled as we were about how a tiny company from Montana, which reportedly only had 2 full-time employees a month ago, beat out utility giants (including Florida Power and Light which is far closer geographically to Puerto Rico and did a great job recovering from Hurricane Irma), for a $300-million federal contract to help rebuild the electrical grid in Puerto Rico, we leave you with one thought: Both the company, Whitefish Energy, and Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, hail from Whitefish, Montana, population 6,000.

Separately, the National Parks Service (which is also part of the Interior Department), just proposed a stunning hike in daily use fees for 17 popular parks to a whopping $70 per vehicle, starting as early as next spring. The parks include Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Joshua Tree. Right now entry fees are in the $25-30 dollar range. The Parks Service is also discussing limiting access to some popular destinations; raising fees would be one way to do that (although highly unfair). But we also wonder: Could this be a prelude to the President suggesting the parks be privatized?

Yellowstone National Park