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On the roster: The Moore things change… - House, Senate get to nitty gritty on taxes - Menendez jury approaches deadlock on all counts - Trump Jr. tried to coordinate with WikiLeaks - That fine line between value hunting and vagrancy
THE MOORE THINGS CHANGE…
Who knew that it would be more difficult to get elected to the United States Senate facing allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls?
Try as we might to convince ourselves that all of the old rules of politics were voided by the outcome of the 2016 election, the world is not as much changed as we are tempted to believe.
One of the laziest tropes in political journalism these days – one to which this note has sometimes succumbed – is that in 2017 we’re operating in a “Beyond Thunderdome” environment. #nothingmatters #yolo #dumpsterfire
But what we have seen in the past week are some very normal manifestations of the political cycle.
On Tuesday, the party that lost the White House had a jim-dandy Election Day, with surging voter intensity carrying its nominees to victory in Virginia, New Jersey and beyond.
That’s pretty much what one would expect, especially considering that almost exactly the same thing happened eight years ago for the other side.
Republicans want to believe that there is some sort of a new political coalition that will insulate them from the normal depredations of the political cycle. They have not. And they won’t in 2018 either. It will be challenging for the GOP to keep the House and to take advantage of a favorable Senate map. That’s the way it always is, especially when a president of your own party is broadly unpopular.
Conversely, Democrats want to believe that victories in Virginia and elsewhere are harbingers of a massive political backlash against Republicans that will cure what ails the Blue Team with key voter blocs with which its members have struggled.
That’s just exactly what Republicans thought in 2009 and 2010 when it seemed like they couldn’t lose. Imagine their surprise when Barack Obama waltzed into a second term.
But if you really want to see a disconnection from political reality, look no farther than the discussion about the Senate candidacy of Roy Moore.
It has been disheartening to hear the way commentators and analysts on both sides of Moore’s Senate bid have responded to the growing, worsening allegations against him for misconduct toward teenage girls, some as young as 14, when he was a prosecuting attorney in his 30s.
Some of Moore’s supporters have argued somehow that it shouldn’t matter to voters that Moore, an officer of the court who carried a badge, would be trolling for teenagers, let alone allegations that now include something closer to attempted sexual assault.
But maybe even more disheartening were those who seemed to think it wouldn’t matter to voters in Alabama.
Many billions of pixels have been slaughtered in service of explaining how coastal elites have a sneering attitude towards the residents of the interior of the nation. But what could be more sneering than assuming that voters wouldn’t care if their senator had been a creep?
The trap of the Trump era is the ready assumption that because someone who almost everyone thought couldn’t win won, that no rules apply anymore.
Anyone who, from the time of the first allegations on Thursday, assumed that Alabamians are of such meager character that they would still rather have Moore than a Democrat not only underestimates Alabamians, but also the power of political norms.
This is not complicated, people. If your nominee is credibly accused of serious improprieties, especially with children, your candidate probably loses.
Republicans have been scrambling to come up with some alternative scenario. Moore, whose solemn vow is to torch the Republican leadership, has steadfastly refused to step aside for the good of the party. There has been talk of a write-in campaign, suggestions that somehow Moore wouldn’t be seated in the Senate and even calls to move the election date.
But the most likely scenario is quite simple. The Republicans chose a bad nominee in a difficult political climate and, accordingly, lose the seat.
That’s made even more likely by the fact that Democrats have chosen a nominee well suited in temperament and biography to his perspective constituents. That’s the reason the major parties always try to make sure that they have somebody running in every Senate race. You never know when an opportunity will arise.
While the charges against Moore are themselves shocking, the political outcome of Republicans losing such a safe seat would be no more shocking than, say, a little-known Republican state senator winning the race to replace Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts eight years ago.
W flatter ourselves to think that our moment of history is utterly different than everything that came before, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we realize change is always incremental and that the old verities die hardest.
Fifth accuser steps forward, says Moore tried to force her into sexual act - Fox News: “Another woman in Alabama stepped forward Monday claiming that U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore groped her and attempted to push her head toward his ‘crotch’ when she was 16… [Beverly Young Nelson] alleged that Moore, under the premise of giving her a ride home from her shift at the Old Hickory House in Gadsden, parked his car behind the restaurant, and allegedly started to put ‘his hands on my breasts’ when she was a teenager. Nelson said she tried to escape from Moore’s car, but he locked the doors and allegedly put his hands on her neck and tried to force her head ‘on his crotch.’ … Nelson added that before she got out of the car, Moore gave up his sexual advances, and told her, ‘You’re just a child. I am the district attorney of Etowah County, and if you tell anyone about this — no one will ever believe you.’”
McConnell, Gardner want to expel Moore if elected - Politico: “Senate Republicans escalated their calls for embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to leave the race — with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he believes the women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct and the chair of the GOP’s campaign arm endorsing an effort to expel Moore should he be elected next month. ‘I believe the individuals speaking out against Roy Moore spoke with courage and truth, proving he is unfit to serve in the United States Senate and he should not run for office,’ said Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.”
THE RULEBOOK: TOUR OF DUTY
“The continual necessity for their services enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionably degrades the condition of the citizen.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 8
TIME OUT: REALISM
Paris Review: “Sixteen years ago, Marina Picasso, one of Pablo Picasso’s granddaughters, became the first family member to go public about how much her family had suffered under the artist’s narcissism. ‘No one in my family ever managed to escape from the stranglehold of this genius,’ she wrote in her memoir, Picasso: My Grandfather. ’He needed blood to sign each of his paintings: my father’s blood, my brother’s, my mother’s, my grandmother’s, and mine. He needed the blood of those who loved him.’ AfterJacqueline Roque, Picasso’s second wife, barred much of the family from the artist’s funeral, the family fell fully to pieces: Pablito, Picasso’s grandson, drank a bottle of bleach and died; Paulo, Picasso’s son, died of deadly alcoholism born of depression. Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s young lover between his first wife, Olga Khokhlova, and his next mistress, Dora Maar, later hanged herself; even Roque eventually fatally shot herself. … Marina saw her grandfather’s treatment of women as an even darker phenomenon, a vital part of his creative process…”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -19.2 points
Change from one week ago: unchanged
[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]
HOUSE, SENATE GET TO NITTY GRITTY ON TAXES
Fox News: “[The] Senate on Monday begins a critical step in the effort to pass its tax bill, the so-called ‘mark-up’ session in the chamber’s Finance Committee -- where members will dissect the bill line by line to get a version that can pass by a simple, 51-vote majority.… However, a few major differences have emerged -- particularly whether the Senate version will delay a corporate tax cut for one year. Otherwise, the chamber’s version will likely increase the federal deficit beyond 10 years, which would force Senate Republicans to get 60 votes for passage with just 52 members. … The other major issue: The Senate bill appears to eliminate all state and local tax deductions. The House version keeps some of the deductions, essentially for voters in high-tax states like California, New Jersey and New York. All of the Congress members in those states face re-election next year.”
GOP donors turning up the heat on tax hike holdouts - Bloomberg: “A nonprofit group that spent more than $18 million to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016 is turning its sights to Republican House members in high-tax states, including New York and New Jersey, saying it will be ‘counting on’ them to support GOP tax legislation. House leaders plan to hold a vote on their bill -- which includes new limits on tax breaks for people in such states -- as early as Thursday. Some members from New York, New Jersey and California have expressed concerns. The 45Committee, which has links to big Republican donors, is spending $2 million on its advertising effort, which will be aimed at 30 House members, according to Brian Baker, the group’s president. The spend includes television, radio and digital ads.”
Hatch amendments target investments - Fox News: “FOX Business has learned Senator Orrin Hatch, Chairman of the Senate Finance committee, will introduce amendments during the mark up of the Senate’s TAX reform bill that will propose changing 401(k) contributions, IRA classifications and allow businesses to deduct a portion of their dividend payments to shareholders. The amendments to the chairman’s mark of the Senate’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bill include a provision that will allow publicly traded companies to deduct from their income up to 12.5% of the dividends they pay shareholders, thus lowering the company’s tax bill. Hatch Amendment #25, as it is called, would allow the dividend deduction for five years.”
McConnell ‘misspoke’ on reality of tax increases - NYT: “Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, acknowledged on Friday that the Republican tax plan might result in a tax hike for some working Americans, saying he ‘misspoke’ days earlier when he said that ‘nobody in the middle class is going to get a tax increase’ under the Senate bill. ‘I misspoke on that,’ Mr. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in an interview on Friday with The New York Times. ‘You can’t guarantee that absolutely no one sees a tax increase, but what we are doing is targeting levels of income and looking at the average in those levels and the average will be tax relief for the average taxpayer in each of those segments.’”
MENENDEZ JURY APPROACHES DEADLOCK ON ALL COUNTS
Fox News: “Jurors in Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption and bribery case told the judge Monday that they ‘can’t reach a unanimous verdict on any of the charges.’ The judge sent the jury home for the day and told them to return on Tuesday to continue deliberations. The decision came after the judge had to speak with individual jurors about comments a dismissed juror made to the media over the weekend. The New Jersey Democrat is accused of accepting a plethora of donations and gifts from a wealthy friend in exchange for political influence. Both Menendez and the doctor, Salomon Melgen, have maintained their innocence. It’s the first time in nine years that a sitting U.S. senator is facing a federal bribery charge. … If Menendez is convicted and goes to prison, Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., would pick a replacement. That prospect is troublesome for Democrats who fear that Christie would pick a Republican to fill the Senate seat – giving the GOP an additional edge for legislative fights.”
TRUMP JR. TRIED TO COORDINATE WITH WIKILEAKS
Atlantic: “On October 3, 2016, WikiLeaks wrote again. ‘Hiya, it’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story,’ WikiLeaks suggested, attaching a quote from then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton about wanting to ‘just drone’ WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. ‘Already did that earlier today,’ [Donald Trump Jr.] responded an hour-and-a-half later. ‘It’s amazing what she can get away with.’ Two minutes later, Trump Jr. wrote again, asking, ‘What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?’ The day before, Roger Stone, an informal advisor to Donald Trump, had tweeted, ‘Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done. #WikiLeaks.’”
Sen. Warner stills wants hearing for Trump Jr. - The Hill: “Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there were still questions that needed to be answered by Donald Trump Jr. and other figures in the Trump administration concerning the ongoing probe into Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election. ‘There are still a number of individuals. I mean, Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, we want to bring him back. We want to bring Donald Trump Jr. in. He’s not testified yet,’ Warner told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt on Sunday.”
Mueller’s team shows his probe strategy - Politico: “[Robert Mueller’s] most experienced attorneys have discrete targets, such as former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and current White House aides. Mueller’s longtime chief of staff is coordinating all the lawyers, including some who cover multiple topics. Select FBI special agents have been tapped to question witnesses. Spearheading the criminal case against Manafort and his longtime deputy Rick Gates are three prosecutors schooled in money laundering, fraud, foreign bribery and organized crime: Andrew Weissmann, Greg Andres and Kyle Freeny. And at the center of the investigation into Flynn is Jeannie Rhee, a former Obama-era deputy assistant attorney general who most recently worked with Mueller at the WilmerHale law firm…”
How Flynn ended up in the White House - Politico: “Michael Flynn wasn’t even on the shortlist of potential national security advisers. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the early transition chief for a newly elected Donald Trump, and his team had deep reservations about Flynn. … Flynn was not on the invitation list but somehow found out about the meeting and crashed it, said two people familiar with the transition. Ivanka Trump asked Flynn what he would like to do in the administration at the beginning of the session and indicated how grateful she was for Flynn’s help and loyalty to her father. (An administration official clarified that Ivanka Trump wasn’t being serious in asking Flynn which job he would prefer since that was not her role.) Flynn told the group that he wanted to be secretary of state, secretary of defense, or national security adviser. By mid-November, the NSA job was officially his.”
GOP lawmakers to Sessions: Prosecute Hillary or resign - WashEx: “Two House Republicans delivered an ultimatum Monday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, telling him either to name a special counsel to investigate FBI Director James Comey’s handling of last year’s election, or else resign to clear the way for someone who will. Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Matt Gaetz of Florida said questions are piling up over the way Mr. Comey conducted the investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s secret emails and the FBI’s treatment of an anti-Trump dossier. ‘It’s time for Jeff Sessions to name a Special Counsel and get answers for the American people. If not, he should step down,’ the congressmen said in a piece for FoxNews.com.”
Trump nominates Alex Azar as Health and Human Services secretary - Fox News
Trump teases trade announcement to happen this week - Politico
Gillian Turner: Foreign leaders should take Trump literally and seriously on ‘America first’ - The Hill
In bilateral meeting with Trump, Duterte calls reporters spies - Newsweek
Sen. Rand Paul returns to Senate after injuries from neighbor - Reuters
Gerrymandering might break a Democratic wave in 2018 - NYT
AUDIBLE: 2020, AHOY!
“We gotta turn this ship around. And I’d much prefer to be helping someone turn it around than being the guy trying to turn it around.” – Former Vice President Joe Biden talking about the potential of a 2020 run.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“In the ever growing Greek Tragedy which American Politics has become, we now see charges of years-old sexual impropriety leveled at the Republican candidate for Jeff Session’s Senate seat. Whether true or not whether provable or not there may be an opportunity here for Senate Leadership to regain it’s (you’ll pardon the expression) manhood if Moore wins. … What a great day of rejoicing it would be if McConnell and the other Republicans would stand up to Moore’s ridiculous, hurtful, divisive opinions (even if he didn’t do anything to/with those girls) … Even though it would lower their majority to 1 (you think Schumer & the Democrats just might go along with this??) it would show for all the world to see that they (and we) are still the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan, that we still care about good government and leadership and problem solving despite that man in the White House. And, oh yeah, take that Steve Bannon.” – Rick Gilbert, Viera, Fla.
[Ed. note: It’s an interesting thought, Mr. Gilbert, but not a practical one. While you rightly pointed in your note to the relevant passage of the Constitution, courts have consistently held that what the Senate and House can decide is whether a duly elected member meets the constitutional criteria for service, they cannot add new requirements. Whoever the secretary of state of Alabama declares the winner of the contest on December 12 only needs to be 30 years of age, a resident of Alabama and a U.S. citizen for at least nine years. And it’s probably a good thing that our legislative houses can’t refuse to seat members other than those. Talk about the tyranny of the majority! If you can get 51 members of the Senate to agree to not seat members of a certain political party or certain political views, things could get crazy quickly. Now, the Constitution is equally clear that you can expel a member for basically any cause with 67 votes. But, as for keeping him out in the first place, that just won’t fly.]
“Wow Chris. Wow. Way to join the Distrusted Media Club with a flair. Someone of your political acumen should have the ability to see and expose an obvious hit job. The Moore accusations come out 32 years later, a month before the election and too late to change the ballot and you suck in the lure like a true blue mainstream media marlin. Throw in a little Christian blackening and your Trump filleting is complete. Since you work for FOX maybe someone will pay somebody to make an unprovable charge of sexual impropriety against you. Maybe then your seat on the media bullying bandwagon won’t be quite as comfortable. Expected better of you but I guess the siren call of the journalistic in-crowd is just too hard to resist. Fair and balanced? I think not.” – Bob Hoerr, East Peoria, Ill.
[Ed. note: Do you think the allegations against Roy Moore are true? Do you think that as a prosecuting attorney in his 30s, he regularly sought the affection of 16-year-old girls? Whatever the motivations of the reporters who found this story, even if they were interested in what you described as a “hit job,” matter less than the facts of the case. The allegations of dishonorable conduct against John Kerry leveled in 2004 over his service in Vietnam were most definitely politically motivated and used by Republicans to stop Kerry. Did that make the charges untrue? Politics, especially in Alabama, is a rough business, which helps us understand why so few people want to get into it. I don’t see any evidence that the accusers here want anything more than to stop Moore from getting elected, which would be understandable if their claims are true. We care about the motivations of accusers only if those motivations cast doubt on their claims. In this case, despite several days of effort by Moore and his supporters, their claims seem to be consistent and credible. And there is no evidence that anyone was paid to tell a lie. It is up to Alabama voters whether or not they think this sufficiently besmirches Moore to give the job to a Democrat, who would be the first one elected in the Yellowhammer State in 31 years. This isn’t a legal question. This is a question for voters.]
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THAT FINE LINE BETWEEN VALUE HUNTING AND VAGRANCY
KGNS: “Although Black Friday is 15 days away it has not stopped one man from doing all he can do to be the first in line at Best Buy. If you have been near the [Laredo, Texas] store these past few days you may have noticed the tent set up right outside the store. One man has already claimed his spot as the first person to be in line for those Black Friday deals. When the day finally arrives, he’ll have been waiting in line for 17 days. While he was a little camera shy, we went to speak to him. The man says he’s been coming up to wait in line for six years now and he’s usually the first or second person in line. When we asked him what he’s going to do over the next 15 days he says, watch TV, listen to the news and watch people pass by.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.