Open Thread: Some Candidates Can Walk *and* Chew Gum..

In a letter to Barrack, the lawmaker highlighted deals the financier’s Colony Capital Inc. arranged after he met with Saudi officials including Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman while serving as head of Trump’s inaugural committee and as an adviser to the presidential transition team. The transactions were the subject of a recent Bloomberg article…

Bloomberg reported on Aug. 1 that a vehicle co-managed by Colony focusing on digital infrastructure investments had received backing from the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, and that Barrack’s firm was in talks regarding a media venture that would make PIF a co-investor in a Hollywood studio. Such a stake would fulfill the Saudis’ longtime goal of getting a foothold in the entertainment business…

Warren, a contender for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump in next year’s election, has been pushing for legislation to enhance ethics requirements for presidential transition teams. Her letter asks Barrack to respond by Aug. 23 with a description of his Los Angeles-based firm’s involvement with the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, including a timeline of their talks and information on whether administration officials were aware of them.

Among other questions, she asked Barrack:

– why he didn’t register as an agent of a foreign government;

– whether he is advising the president on policies including a potential nuclear cooperation agreement with the Saudi government;

– whether Barrack or Colony employees are in talks with the president or his administration over digital infrastructure; and

– whether Barrack has used any non-public information gleaned from administration sources for business purposes…

And yet…

Some of these Democrats prefer Mr. Biden, viewing him as an acceptable option to a cross-section of voters, but others are eager to find a middle ground between the consensus-oriented former vice president and progressive firebrands like Ms. Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders.

“If it were completely up to me, I’d vote for her,” said Jessie Sagona, who also came to see Ms. Warren last month in New Hampshire. “But I kind of feel like, do we need somebody in the middle like Kamala or Pete,” referring to Ms. Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Ms. Sagona said she had not fully made up her mind but was weighing the importance of “thinking strategically.”…

I’ve said before that I doubt Warren would consider serving with Kamala or Pete (or Cory or Beto) as the worst possible fate. And as yet, most voters aren’t really paying attention, although… Charlie Pierce, for Esquire:

She draws enormous crowds and enormous ovations from those crowds. People see her and holler, unbidden, “Big Structural Change!”—the tagline for all her now-famous syllabus of plans. They chant, “Two cents!”, the amount of each dollar over $50 million she proposes to tax to finance the implementation of those plans. (This is reminiscent of the night at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, when the crowd chanted, “Consumer Finance Protection Bureau,” at her, which was not an easy thing to chant.) And, in the polls, she can’t be said to have had a “moment” yet, but her rise has been steady, easing fears that she might be peaking too soon. She is now a solid second to Joe Biden, and it is still only August of 2019.

But the thing that’s sold Elizabeth Warren to Iowa is primarily Elizabeth Warren. None of the candidates seems to be having as much fun as she is. The endless selfies after speeches. The pinky-swears with young girls about how what girls do is run for president. Her willingness to hold town halls anywhere. That loose-limbed, almost goofy wave with which she steps onto every stage. In a gloomy political time, with a humorless sociopathic bully in the White House, and with all the worst impulses of the national Id come out to play, Senator Professor Warren is the campaign’s happy warrior, the teacher everybody hopes they get when school starts up again in the fall. People respond to the good feeling around her campaign as much as they respond to the blizzard of policy proposals that campaign has loosed upon the electorate…

And the people who come expecting a Dukakis or a Kerry come away happily surprised. And the people who come away expecting an ivory-tower Harvard lecturer leave feeling smarter, and experiencing the conquest of learning in a way they haven’t felt it since elementary school. None of this is to say what may happen when the guns really open up on her, but it is to say, for now, that Elizabeth Warren is running a campaign of hope and optimism and enthusiasm as surely as did Ronald Reagan, that ol’ Iowa radio guy, in 1980, and as surely as Barack Obama did in 2008…








Saturday Morning Open Thread


 
And now for something completely different…








Cold Grey Pre-Dawn Open Thread: Trump and His ‘Base’ Rally Each Other

Dave Roth, at Deadspin:

Donald Trump believes that everything he says is made true by virtue of him having said it, and once he begins believing something he is incapable of not believing it. This is why he says things more than once. The challenge is figuring out how he says things for the first time.

So: Trump got it into his head that he had received a Michigan Man Of The Year Award, and despite some complicating factors—he didn’t, for one, and also such an award does not appear to exist—he has continued to bring it up whenever the mood strikes him. There’s a whole story around it, and as is his custom he tends to retell it with more additions of the words “very” and “sir” as the years go by. “I’ve been fighting for the car industry for years,” Trump said the first time he told the story, in Michigan and two days before the 2016 Presidential election. “I was honored five years ago. Man of the Year in Michigan. That was a great honor for me.” As Trump told and has since re-told the story, he was criticized for giving a speech in which he talked about “what Mexico and these other countries are doing to us. And especially what they’re doing to Michigan.” …

What is useful about this, and what would be beautiful about it if everything around it was not so luridly toxic, is how plain it all is. Trump is a being of pure reaction and grievance and avarice, and as such is never really very difficult to parse. When he lies about money it’s because he wants people to think he has more of it than he does; when he lies about golf it’s because he wants people to think he’s a better golfer than he is. Those lies tell you something about how Trump wants to be seen, but they’re incidental to the bigger questions of who and what he is. Stranger lies like the Michigan Man one reveal more about how he sees the world and understands his relationship to the other people in it, which is fundamentally as someone cleaning up at an endless televised awards show.

Most of the idiocies at the core of Trump’s being were created in the same way that pearls are—an irritant lodges itself in the spongy matter of his mind years ago, actively or passively, and then is worried into something bright and very hard. In this case, though, we can watch this accretive work happening in real time—some dumb speech, long forgotten, grows into a great honor bestowed by strangers who admired him, and then into a controversial stand for which he was criticized but for which he boldly refused to apologize. And now it is something he can bring up, whenever he is feeling under-appreciated or anxious or when nothing else will come. He stalls and sputters and his pale eyelids flutter and suddenly then there it is, glistening on the dais in front of him—that time that Charles Woodson called to concede victory in the Michigan Man Of The Year Award, a few years ago or whenever it was. “Sir,” the Heisman Trophy winner said through his tears to Donald Trump, “you deserve this more than anyone.” What a beautiful memory.

Read more








Ding Dong (Open Thread)

Friends, let us savor (even though the fare is provided by Politico):

‘I’m worried’: Allies fear NRA has lost its power in Washington

The National Rifle Association’s internal turmoil is preventing the once-mighty organization from crafting a plan to blunt the latest gun control push, highlighting the group’s weakness at a crucial political moment.

The disarray at the NRA is alarming allies who say President Donald Trump and Congress appear to have a brief opening to pass legislation while the group is so politically feeble it isn’t able to aggressively lobby lawmakers against proposals or hold them accountable for their votes, according to a half-dozen Republicans familiar with the situation…

Multiple Republican Senate offices said they haven’t heard from the NRA, which touts 5 million members. The NRA has been slow to respond to the litany of scandals. And Trump has told aides the NRA is vulnerable and on the verge of being “bankrupt,” according to a Republican close to the White House.

The article says Republicans are worried that meaningful gun safety legislation will be passed in the short term. They needn’t be. Trump has already moved on to blaming mass shootings on the closure of old-timey insane asylums.

It’s perfectly on-brand for Trump to question the death merchant lobbyist’s fiscal health after they gave him $30 million in 2016, but a Venn diagram of gun nuts and Trump supporters would be damned close to a perfect circle, so he’s unlikely to cross the NRA in any significant way.

Still, it’s glorious to see the blood-gargling sociopaths at the NRA engulfed in cascading corruption scandals like common TV preachers. LaPierre seems determined to cling to power, which is great news for people who wish the organization a messy, protracted demise.

An unfavorable election cycle that sweeps NRA toadies out the door might finally wrest political power from the organization’s cold, bloody hands. It wouldn’t solve our gun nut problem, but it sure would make it harder for gun nuts to impose their will on the majority of Americans. A girl can dream, anyway.

Open thread!








Meaningless Poll Open Thread

Fresh poll of likely caucus-goers in Iowa has good news for Senator Warren’s campaign:

So, instead of Warren and Sanders duking it out for the lefty vote, it looks like Biden and Sanders are having the Battle of the Retreads.

Excerpt from an article in Iowa Starting Line:

Elizabeth Warren’s early investment in Iowa is paying off…

The horserace numbers reflect a shake-up that those of us on the ground in Iowa have been seeing for a while…

The other good news for Warren is that her support appears to be very broad in the party. She leads every age demographic (even surpassing Biden in the oldest age bracket, 31% to 28%) except for the youngest. Sanders has a 14-point lead here among the 18-34 range with 34%.

The article also notes that Senator Harris is going all-in on the Iowa caucus now, which seems to be the smart play. That’s a fairly recent development, according to ISL. We’ll see how the numbers shake out down the road.

All absolutely bereft of meaning at this stage, of course! Open thread!