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Fri Feb 15, 2019, 10:30 PM

Friday Talking Points -- Trump Throws His Biggest Hissy Fit Yet

Emergency! Ahh! Everybody run!

Sigh. Well, here we are. Not only has Donald Trump become the first president to order the military to do essentially nothing just to make a political point (see: midterms 2018, border deployment), he has now become the first president to declare a national emergency because he made a political promise he just couldn't keep. He couldn't keep it because -- counter to his own self-portrayal as a dealmaking genius -- Donald Trump is such a terrible dealmaker that he couldn't even get a Republican Congress to give him what he wanted, for two whole years. And if that isn't a national emergency, then what is?

Let's just take a moment to quickly review how we got here. Donald Trump began his presidential campaign warning about the flood of evil brown people who were coming to rape and murder us all in our own beds. He boiled this down into one call-and-response phrase to use at his rallies:

"Build the wall!"

"Who is going to pay for it?"


Once sworn into office, he immediately signed an executive order calling for his wall to be built. This was meaningless, of course, and the wall didn't get built. Trump also, in his first call to Mexico's leader, tried to strongarm him into giving him a bunch of money so he could claim he made good on his campaign promise to make Mexico pay for his wall. The Mexican president essentially laughed at Trump's suggestion. This was about when all talk of having Mexico foot the bill ended, for Trump, who conveniently threw that notion down the memory hole.

Congress passed a budget in early 2017, which had no wall money. Trump grumbled about it, but signed it. This would be only the first of many such instances, as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell played a stalling game -- they told Trump: "We can't do it in this bill, but please sign it and don't shut the government down, we'll get to it in the next bill, we promise!" Trump becomes increasingly more petulant as wall funding in each "next time" also becomes impossible. But Ryan and McConnell manage to stretch this out for two full years, denying Trump his wall money for the entire time that Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress.

In early 2018, a deal was struck that would have given the DACA/Dreamer kids an eventual path to citizenship, in exchange for all $25 billion for Trump's wall. Trump initially agreed to this, but then his more xenophobic aides successfully torpedoed the bill by including a bunch of other immigration limitations the Democrats could not accept.

Then the 2018 midterms happened, and Trump personally hijacked the GOP's planned campaign theme and declared the election was all about the wall and the caravans of evil brown people who were streaming north to rape and murder us all in our own beds. This didn't work out so well for the Republicans, as they lost the House of Representatives in the worst midterm defeat for the GOP since Watergate. Then, and only then, Trump decided he was going to have his shutdown fight over the wall. While Paul Ryan was still in his final days as speaker, Trump torpedoed a deal at the last minute and shut the government down. This deal would have given him $1.6 billion for border security.

The government then experienced its longest shutdown ever, lasting over a month. Trump eventually capitulated and signed a three-week extension. After hard bargaining, the offer on the table was less than the offer Trump could have gotten in December -- less than $1.4 billion for border security. Time after time, Trump turned down a good deal for him, only to be forced to accept a worse deal later on. Which is the very definition of a bad dealmaker, really.

So now he's decided that we're in a "national emergency." Over two years after taking office, even though not much has changed at the border. Over a year after he could have gotten $25 billion for his wall. Almost two months since he could have gotten $1.6 billion. After a month of stiffing government workers and forcing them to work for no pay. And after three weeks of negotiations. In other words, this has taken so long to unfold and is such a longterm fight that it is impossible to squeeze it into any rational definition of "emergency" -- which always includes an indication of immediacy. Trump even undermined his own case in his rambling news conference today. While announcing his national emergency declaration, Trump also said: "I didn't need to do this. I just want to get it done faster, that's all." That doesn't sound like much of an "emergency," does it?

The best response we've heard so far came from CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, who labelled Trump's so-called emergency "a barrel of bunkum and balderdash served with generous helpings of hogwash." That's a hard mixed metaphor to top, we have to admit!

After making the announcement, Trump will be flying down to Florida for the weekend to play golf. Because, you know, there's a national emergency that needs attending to, and this is the best way for the president to do so.

So what happens next (after Trump's golfing outing, of course)? Well, the National Emergency Act that Trump is using to circumvent Congress does have a provision in it for overturning a national emergency declaration. Congress can fight back, in other words, but it'll have to have a veto-proof majority to win this battle.

Nancy Pelosi is already indicating that House Democrats will be moving quickly on a joint resolution which states that Trump's national emergency is no such thing. This will undoubtedly pass the House, but what is in doubt is by what margin. To achieve a veto-proof majority means getting 290 votes, which means getting over 50 Republicans to vote against Trump. That probably won't happen.

What will happen, though, after Pelosi gets the resolution passed, is that the Senate will be forced to hold a vote on it within 36 days. This is where things are really going to get embarrassing for Republicans, because a whole bunch of GOP senators are already on the record opposing the emergency declaration. Now they will be forced to actually vote on it -- by either voting for something that they have for their entire lives deemed unacceptable executive overreach, or by voting against Trump.

With the thin margin Republicans have in the Senate, it's not going to take very many defections for the bill to pass (it'll only require a majority vote to pass). All it will need is four GOP defections, if the Democrats hold together. And there are already more than four Republican senators on the record as being against the national emergency declaration.

So one very likely outcome is that both the House and the Senate pass a bill stating that there is no emergency, Trump will veto it, and then Congress will not be able to overturn his veto. This will be embarrassing as all get-out for Trump, since his own party will be at least partially rebuking him personally. It'll also be embarrassing for all those Republicans who used to whine incessantly about Democratic presidents grabbing power, but who will now be voting for one of their own to grab more power than any Democratic president ever dared to do. The precedent this sets may come back to haunt Republicans in a big way.

Which many Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, are already pointing out. "Just think of what the next Democratic president will decide is a 'national emergency,' after Trump has set this precedent" they warn their Republican colleagues. From Pelosi's joint statement with Chuck Schumer:

The President's actions clearly violate the Congress's exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution. The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available. The President is not above the law. The Congress cannot let the President shred the Constitution.

Of course, this wasn't the only reaction from Democrats. Here is but a sampling of what they've been saying today, staring with Bernie Sanders:

Donald Trump may not like it, but we are not an authoritarian country. We have a constitution and separation of powers. There is no "national emergency," and Trump cannot build his wall without congressional approval.

Sherrod Brown was even more blunt, calling Trump "a child who again has failed to get his way," and also pointing out the initial reaction of many Democrats: "Donald Trump is the real national emergency."

Patrick Leahy reminded everyone of who was supposed to pay for the wall:

There is no national emergency. No one who subscribes to reality can claim otherwise. President Trump simply failed to get a deal to build his wasteful vanity wall. He failed to get a deal with Mexico, despite promising his supporters more than 200 times that Mexico would pay for it. He failed to get a deal with his own party, even during the two years when Republicans controlled all levers of government. And he failed to get a deal now.

Amy Klobuchar chimed in:

Not getting what you want to fulfill a campaign promise/chant is not a national emergency. Taking money from real needs and emergencies is what will create an actual emergency.

House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith zeroed in on the fact that Trump wants to raid money from the Pentagon to build his wall:

This appalling decision by the Trump administration is an egregious example of the President putting his political agenda ahead of the interest of the United States. As the President begins to steal money from military needs to build his wall, Congress must conduct oversight to identify exactly which projects supporting servicemembers and their families the President has chosen to value less than this political stunt.

Another member of the Armed Services Committee, Ruben Gallego, was even more blunt:

As a member of the Armed Services Committee we authorize billions of dollars to improve our bases every year. That money is to build facilities to recruit, train and retain the worlds best military. A fake national emergency takes money from that mission.

California Governor Gavin Newsom reacted to Trump raiding money used to fight drugs in California to pay for his wall, and ended with a warning:

This "emergency" is a national disgrace, and the blame lays solely at the feet of the President. He plans to shut down and shift funds used by California law enforcement that run counter-narcotics operations and fight drug cartels to build his wall. Our message back to the White House is simple and clear: California will see you in court.

Senator Brian Schatz of Hawai'i was the most snarky, however:

Apparently this thing is such an emergency that it will immediately be followed by golf.

The most brutal takedown of Trump, however, came from Donald Trump himself. Way back in 2014, when President Obama announced executive actions to crack down at the border while giving temporary legal status to some immigrants, Trump snidely tweeted:

Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress.

Several Democrats are tweeting this back to Trump today, word-for-word, except for changing "Pres Obama" to "Pres Trump."

Of course, other things happened in the political world this week, but once again they were overshadowed by events at the end of the week. Here's a quick rundown of some other stories you might have missed, before we get to the awards.

Former Massachusetts governor and former Libertarian vice-presidential candidate Bill Weld has announced that he will be challenging Donald Trump in the Republican 2020 presidential primary.

On the other side of the presidential primary race, Elizabeth Warren officially announced her presidential run, while Amy Klobuchar also threw her hat in the ring (from, as more than one comedian pointed out, "the ice planet Hoth," due to the snowstorm which happened during her outdoor Minnesota announcement.)

Beto O'Rourke is still playing coy about his plans, but he did hold a rather impressive rally in El Paso this week, on the same night Trump held a rally there.

All told, this means there are nine serious Democrats now officially in the running.

Kamala Harris announced that she's now for recreational legalization of marijuana, which is a shift for her. She jokingly stated: "Half my family is from Jamaica, are you kidding me?" when asked about her stance, adding: "I did inhale" and "it gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy in the world." However, as district attorney in San Francisco, she opposed the first California legalization ballot measure (Proposition 19) in 2010, and still opposed legalized recreational use as late as 2015.

Outside of presidential politics, more farmers are going bankrupt in the Midwest, likely due at least in part to Trump's China tariffs. The Tennessee Valley Authority just voted to close down two coal-fired power plants, even though over half the board members were appointed by Trump himself. So the Trump administration itself is now guilty of waging the "war on coal"? We're confused....

The House passed a historic bill condemning America's involvement in the war in Yemen, under the authority of the 1973 War Powers Act to end American involvement in a non-declared war. The Senate passed a similar act last year, but because it is a new Congress the Senate will have to vote again on this measure. If both houses pass it, it will be the first time in history that Congress will have passed such a measure (which is, obviously, a big embarrassment for the White House).

There was some good news from the state and local level, as Illinois passed a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and the city of Sandusky, Ohio decided to end the Columbus Day holiday and instead make Election Day an official holiday.

What else? The comic strip Non Sequitur by Wiley last Sunday posted a noncontroversial and nonpolitical cartoon (it was about bears), but the artist somehow forgot about one scribbled little line in the background of the image. This outraged a few people, but certainly made us laugh. Although it's hard to make out (it's intentionally written as a scribble), the offending line read: "Go fuck yourself TRUMP." If the comic strip has been pulled from your local newspaper, at least you now know why. If so, please write a letter to the editor demanding its return. After all, it's nothing worse than what the president himself has said, on multiple occasions.

There were several candidates for the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award this week, which is always good news.

The Democratic National Committee announced its rules for the first couple Democratic presidential debates, to be held in the summer. The criteria for being included include polling (but with a very low bar -- hitting only one percent in national polls) and a measure of grassroots funding support. They limited the field to 20 candidates, though, so if more than that qualify then those with the least support wouldn't make it onto the stage. For the first time, since the field is expected to be so big, the debates will be two-night affairs, with the participants for each night selected at random. This guarantees no favoritism or splitting the field into "adult" and "kiddie table" debates, the way Republicans did last time around. This is a good-faith effort to fix the debate problems the Democrats had last time around, and it deserves at least an Honorable Mention.

The D.N.C. also announced that Howard Dean would be leading a new and unified effort to create a better voter data operation for the Democratic Party. This took 18 months of wrangling over the details, but it will allow "the national party, state parties and independent political action groups on the left to share voter data in real time during campaigns." This could be a big leap forward from them all having to create this data separately, so it's worth an Honorable Mention as well.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rolled out her "Green New Deal" this week, and she might have won the MIDOTW award if she hadn't botched the rollout. It can only be called a rookie mistake, since her office distributed a "frequently asked questions" document that was, to be polite, not ready for primetime. We wrote about the Green New Deal yesterday in more detail, if anyone's interested.

Instead, this week we are awarding the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week to astronaut Mark Kelly, who announced this week that he will be running for John McCain's old Senate seat in Arizona.

It's really hard to imagine a better candidate than Kelly, which is why his announcement was so impressive. "Former astronaut" is a pretty impressive thing to be on a candidate's résumé, but Kelly's draw doesn't end there. His wife is, of course, Gabby Giffords, who survived a political assassination attempt and has since been a leading voice on gun control. Her husband has been right there at her side for the entire time, and he's already well-known for this bit of political advocacy. As for his electability on this factor, the measure Giffords and Kelly supported got one very important senator's support -- that of John McCain himself.

The woman appointed to finish out McCain's term is vulnerable. She already lost a Senate race to Kyrsten Sinema, after all. So it certainly wouldn't be impossible for her to lose again in Arizona.

This is a top-notch candidate recruitment for the Democratic Party. Mark Kelly is already well-known and well-respected both within Arizona and nationwide. And, like we said, "former astronaut" is hard to beat, for impressive jobs held before an entry into politics.

Hopefully Kelly will win and turn both Arizona's Senate seats blue. The entire state is already heading in that direction, so it really wouldn't be that big a political shift. But while it's still too early to assess his chances, he is certainly the most impressive candidate recruited yet in the 2020 election cycle. For that alone, he deserves the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

{Mark Kelly is still a private citizen, and we have a standing rule not to link to campaign sites, so you'll have to search his contact information on your own if you'd like to let him know you appreciate his efforts.}

William Barr was confirmed as attorney general by the Senate this week, on a vote of 54 to 45. Rand Paul voted against Barr. But three Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for his confirmation, even though he won't commit to making Bob Mueller's eventual report public.

This is, obviously, pretty disappointing. In fact, it needs no further explanation. This week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards go out to Senator Doug Jones, Joe Manchin, and Kyrsten Sinema. Their votes didn't actually make the difference (without them, Barr would still have had 51 votes), but that doesn't make them any less disappointing.

{Contact Senator Doug Jones on his Senate contact page, Senator Joe Manchin on his Senate contact page, and Senator Kyrsten Sinema on her Senate contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.}

Volume 518 (2/15/19)

For a change, we've created all of this week's talking points laser-focused on a single theme. Supertramp actually already came up with a name for this theme, when they put out an album long ago titled: Crisis? What Crisis?

The idea is to frighten Republicans into imagining what a future Democratic president would call a "crisis" in order to manufacture a national emergency declaration, now that Donald Trump has thrown the doors wide open for anything under the sun to rise to "crisis" level.

The aim here is twofold: first, notify Republicans that their comments this week will be long remembered, and second, to warn them that congressional votes are coming on whether Trump's "crisis" is real or not, so they'll have to actually go on the record as supporting such an obviously frivolous use of the National Emergency Act. In other words, it's a mighty slippery slope, and the first step down it is going to be up to you.

Republican Senator Thom Tillis already is warning his fellow Republicans about this prospect. He said today: "I don't believe a national emergency declaration is the solution. It wouldn't provide enough funding to adequately secure our borders, it would likely get tied up in litigation, and most concerning is that it would create a new precedent that a left-wing President would undoubtedly utilize to implement their radical policy agenda while bypassing the authority of Congress." He then went on to use several examples as warnings, which included: "President Elizabeth Warren declaring a national emergency to shut down banks and take over the nation's financial institutions." That's a pretty good one, as measured by how much fear it is likely to instill in Republicans, but once we started down this road, it was pretty easy to come up with seven others.

So all of our talking points today are imaginary future declarations by Democratic presidents. Preface them with some form of: "What would a future President Bernie Sanders or President Kamala Harris call a crisis? Well, here's just one example...."

Healthcare crisis

This one is pretty obvious.

"After Republicans have tried everything in their power to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, we have a healthcare crisis in America. We are the only developed country that doesn't provide a guarantee of healthcare to every citizen in the land. Because of this, I am instructing the Department of Health and Human Services to allow everyone who opts for it to be included in the Medicare system. It will be up to Congress to adjust to this new reality, but we simply cannot wait for them to act. All citizens will be covered by Medicare by the first of next month."

Gun violence crisis

Nancy Pelosi already effectively used this example.

"Gun violence in America is at an all-time high. This is an unacceptable crisis and we need to act immediately. From this point forward, all gun sales and transfers of ownership will be subject to background checks, period. All guns will have to be registered, the same as automobiles and boats. We will be forming a task force to determine which firearm types are suitable only for military use, and the manufacture of military-only weapons to be sold to the public will be banned. Nothing in this emergency declaration impacts the basic Second Amendment rights of all Americans. It's right there in the amendment's text -- 'well-regulated' -- and we intend to write the strictest regulations possible to bring an end to the slaughter."

Climate change crisis

Another obvious one that's already being used by many Democrats.

"The Earth's climate is changing and it's due to mankind's influence. We have a very short window of time to act to reverse this process, which makes it a crisis of global proportions. Therefore we will be phasing out all fossil fuel power plants and make the switch to green renewable energy sources. We will end the production of gasoline and diesel powered cars and trucks. We will put solar panels on every building in the country. We have a very short time to act, so we've simply got to start now to avert the global crisis."

Dreamer crisis

This one hits at the heart of Republican fears.

"The children brought to this country by their parents without documentation are in a crisis, because they have no idea whether they'll be able to live their lives the way they should here in the only country they've ever known. We therefore are announcing an immediate amnesty for all Dreamers, and will be immediately providing them all with green cards. Within three years, they will all be legally entitled to become citizens. This crisis has gone on long enough, and we are ending it today."

Election crisis

Nip this one in the bud, too.

"American elections are increasingly slipping into a crisis situation. Too many eligible voters are having too many meaningless obstacles placed in the path to the ballot box. Because of this, we will be federalizing the entire election process in this country, and from now on every state will have to meet stringent new guidelines for the protection of every citizen's right to vote. Universal voter registration will be one of these guidelines, as well as mandatory early voting days, mandatory same-day registration, guaranteeing everyone's right to use a mail-in ballot for whatever reason they feel like, and mandatory minimum access rules for polling places. Gerrymandering will be ended by establishing a federal process of redistricting a state every decade, and a nonpartisan federal redistricting board will be the ones with the final say on district boundaries. American election standards are a joke, and we are going to drag the entire system into the twenty-first century, whether Congress likes it or not."

Ethical crisis

This one would be wildly popular.

"The practice of pay-to-play in the American government has gotten so out of control that we have reached crisis levels. Because of this, we will be instituting a strict new set of ethical standards for everyone in all branches of government -- executive, legislative, and judicial. We will be banning lobbyist money altogether and banning all political donations by political action committees and so-called 'super PACs.' The unlimited spending of rich persons and companies and special interests is going to come to an end, effective immediately. Politicians can raise all the money they need to get re-elected from individual donations, period. There's a new sheriff in town, and everyone better get used to the idea."

Debt crisis

At first, this sounds like a Republican idea. But only at first.

"Our national debt has reached crisis proportions. So we are using emergency powers to immediately institute new changes. First, the federal minimum wage will be raised immediately to $15 an hour. This will help improve tax receipts, because more people making more money means more taxes are paid to the Treasury. Second, we will be using emergency powers to institute a new wealth tax which will be levied on all individuals and corporations worth over $10 million. The rate for this tax will be set to eliminate the federal debt within ten years. Once the debt is eliminated, then this tax will end. But until we get to that point, we cannot allow the inequality in America to cripple the federal government's finances any more."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Reply Friday Talking Points -- Trump Throws His Biggest Hissy Fit Yet (Original post)
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ChrisWeigant Feb 15 #1

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Fri Feb 15, 2019, 10:32 PM

1. Thanks again!

Just wanted to thank akraven and whomever else donated a Valentine's Day heart to me here at DU.


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