January, 2018

Trump Sues Over Golf Course Valuation

“Donald Trump again has sued the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser over the valuation of his Trump National Golf Club,” the Palm Beach Daily News reports.

“The suit marks the fifth year in a row that Trump has disputed the property tax bill for the 131-acre course along Donald Ross Road. Even as he fights the county’s $19.7 million estimate, Trump’s financial disclosures in 2016 and 2017 list the value of Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter as ‘over $50 million.'”

“Trump asserts that the property is worth $15 million, and that the appraiser overvalued the course by more than $5 million.”

Trump’s Speech Exposed GOP’s Lack of Direction

Ramesh Ponnuru: “Trump’s departure from State of the Union norms is partly a function of what we might call, optimistically, his novel governing style. But it also reflects his party’s lack of an agenda. The congressional Republicans don’t have any clearer sense of what they want to do in 2018. There’s nothing they all want to do legislatively that they think they can achieve or, relatedly, make popular.”

“The rap on most State of the Union addresses is that they are ‘laundry lists.’ This time the president, like his administration and party, was listless.”

Senators Say Russia Is Meddling In Mexico Election

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) allege that Russia is using “sophisticated technology” to influence Mexico’s upcoming presidential election, and they’re asking Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to urge Mexico and other countries to rely on help from USAID to safeguard their elections, CBS News reports.

“Violent protests of thousands recently erupted after the Honduras presidential election, a contested race that was marred by accusations of voter fraud. Tear gas had to be used to diffuse the angry streets when the winner was declared weeks after the vote took place. The senators point to those images in calling for the need to support strong electoral processes to sustain a democracy.”

Trump Says He’ll Release Secret Memo

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed yesterday that President Trump “has not seen or been briefed” on the secret memo from the House Intelligence Committee and said there are “no current plans” to release it.

However, New York magazine reports hours later, cameras caught Trump contradicting her while schmoozing his way off the House floor after delivering his State of the Union address.

When urged by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) to “release the memo,” Trump responded: “Oh, don’t worry, 100 percent. Can you imagine that?”

First 2020 Ad to Run In Iowa

“The first ad of the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries will run Sunday in Iowa, more than two years before the state’s voters will head to vote in caucuses. The candidate: Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, who for six months has been the only declared candidate for the party’s nomination,” the Washington Post reports.

“Delaney’s ad, ‘Dirty Word,’ is as jarring as anything else viewers might see during the Super Bowl. In it, Iowans cast wary glances at the camera as a narrator ‘admits’ that ‘John Delaney said a dirty word’ during his campaign stops in the state. That word, revealed 20 seconds in, is ‘bipartisanship’ — an encapsulation of Delaney’s promise, if elected, to spend his first 100 days passing and signing bills supported by both parties.”

Democrats Really Dislike Trump

Playbook :”We were inside the House chamber for the speech last night, with a prime, first-row viewing spot to check out the reaction in the room to Trump’s speech. The opposition party — in this case, Democrats — has rarely, if ever, been as negative on a president as Democrats were last night. Yes, they stood at times. But Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer could barely contain their, well, let’s call it displeasure with the president’s remarks. When Trump said he created 2 million jobs, Pelosi shook her head. Pelosi shook her head when Trump said America is seeing rising wages again. Pelosi and Hoyer shook their heads a lot during Trump’s remarks, looking befuddled for much of the speech.”

First Read: “As for the Democrats, it was noteworthy last night how much they don’t like President Trump – and how they don’t hide it. Sure, there was ‘You lie’ and visible GOP opposition to Barack Obama. But the disdain coming from Democrats was noticeable.”

Trump Gets Least Positive Reaction In 20 Years

A new CNN-SSRS poll finds hat 48% of Americans who watched President Trump’s first State of the Union address say they had a “very positive” impression of the speech, down from 57% of speech-watchers after his first address to match Barack Obama’s rating after his first State of the Union address.

“It’s the lowest net positive rating for a State of the Union address since at least 1998, when CNN first asked the question. There is no equivalent poll for addresses before 1998.”

A USA Today focus group rated the speech “on the plus side of mediocre.”

A CBS News snap poll found viewers approved of the speech 75% to 25%.

Rebranding Obama’s Economy

Jonathan Chait: “After depicting the American economy as a bleak wasteland before his election, Trump has rebranded it as unimaginable prosperity, fueled by the hope inspired by his brilliant reforms. In fact, nothing has yet changed. Economic growth and job gains are running slightly behind the pace of Barack Obama’s second term. (The economy created 214,000 jobs per month in Obama’s second term, and 174,000 in Trump’s first year.) Wages have risen at approximately the same level they did in 2016. It is possible that tighter labor markets will produce faster wage gains, or that the deficit spending Trump has enacted will help short-term growth accelerate. But his rhetoric of economic success is based on absolutely no actual accomplishment.”

New York Times: “Never mind that in some fundamental ways the economy is growing no faster than it did at points during President Barack Obama’s second term. Mr. Trump is at heart a salesman, and he rarely lets details get in the way of a good story. And by some measures, he has managed to convince many Americans, especially corporate leaders, that the economy really is surging in a way it has not for years.”

Trump’s Showmanship on Display

Jonathan Swan: “The speech was packed with made-for-TV moments, including a North Korean defector who hoisted his crutches in the air and young boy who plants flags on veterans’ graves. Trump’s remarks about a police officer who adopted a baby girl from a woman addicted to heroin may have been the most deeply affecting moment in a State of the Union speech in recent memory.”

“At the same time, Democrats will be irate that Trump brought out the parents of two girls murdered by MS-13 gang members; they will likely argue Trump engaged in grief porn to demonize children who flee to the United States seeking asylum.”

Reaction to the State of the Union Address

The White House promised that President Trump’s State of the Union address would include bipartisan themes and stress unity. That wasn’t close to the truth.

Trump’s political strategy since the moment he was sworn in has been simple: Keep the base energized with red meat on immigration and trade and keep 80% to 90% of Republicans unified around more traditional policy goals such as tax cuts and conservative judges.

It’s important to recognize that many more Republicans were watching than Democrats. He was not talking to the entire nation. Democrats who watched were most likely deeply offended by much of the speech.

Trump is betting on a crowded and divisive Democratic primary for the 2020 presidential nomination. He would also benefit from multiple third party candidates to split the vote. His path to a second term may not require more than 40% to 45% of the vote.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Trump got a short term bump in approval ratings from this “presidential” speech on the most presidential of stages. As his advisers know, the more he reads from a TelePrompter instead of tweeting from his bed, the better he looks.

But more than anything else of substance, it’s most interesting that the speech followed the same political strategy Trump has used from the beginning. He may never win the majority of support from voters. But it may never matter either.

First Lady Arrived at State of the Union Separately

“In a break with longstanding tradition, Melania Trump opted to ride with the guests she invited to share her first lady’s box during President Trump’s State of the Union address,” CNN reports.

“The motorcade ride, from the White House south lawn to the Capitol building, is just a handful of minutes, but for a first couple who has not been publicly seen together since New Year’s Eve, the separate cars were another in a string of isolated movements from a very independent first lady.”

Justice Department Tried to Halt Release of Memo

“Top Justice Department officials made a last-ditch plea Monday to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly about the dangers of publicly releasing a memo alleging abuses by the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” the Washington Post reports.

“Shortly before the House Intelligence Committee voted to make the document public, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein warned Kelly that the four-page memo prepared by House Republicans could jeopardize classified information and implored the president to reconsider his support for making it public… Rosenstein was joined in the meeting at the White House by FBI Director Christopher Wray.”