Sunday, June 17, 2018

BTRTN: How Can a Heartless Bastard Govern With Heart?

Tom on the moral crisis of the Trump Administration's "family separation" policy.

Lost in the breaking news of the North Korea machinations, the G-7 flap, the Mueller investigation, the Department of Justice report on James Comey and New York State's pursuit of the Trump Foundation is something truly horrific, a decision that might be the most heinous undertaking ever made by Donald Trump and his administration, which is saying something.

Image result for children crying separated from families at borderSix weeks ago the Trump Administration decided to separate immigrant children from their families if the families were caught entering the country illegally. The Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations had all determined that such separations were lawful but essentially unenforceable on moral grounds.   They believed such separations were heartless, morally reprehensible and presumably politically indefensible.

The Trump administration is now enforcing that policy, and approximately 2,000 children, some under four years of age, have been separated from their parents accordingly. Their lives are being ripped apart, possibly permanently, to serve as some sort of sick deterrent to future fleeing families.  It is an astonishing decision, one justified biblically by the hapless Jeff Sessions by citing the oft-used -- by tyrants and slaveholders, to name a few -- Romans 13 (“The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”).

Trump is also blaming the action on Democrats, referring to the separation policy as “their law.”  This is an outright lie.  There is simply no law requiring such separation, period. 

Melania Trump has weighed in: "Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart."

But, of course, you can only govern with heart if the head of the government happens to have one, and that clearly is not the case in America.  Happy Father's Day, Donald Trump.  To celebrate, let's take 46 more children away from their fathers, in line with the daily average.

The Trump Administration believes there is a “special place in hell” for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau because he happens to oppose Donald Trump on various trade issues.  Where then do those who would rip children from their families reside for eternity?  Is there a special place within that special place?

More to the point, how long will the American people tolerate such a barbaric and heartless policy, and an administration that is so consistently embarrassing?  We should be flooding the White House and our Congressional representatives with telephone calls and emails.

Let’s get started on that, right now.

Here is how to contact the White House:

And here is how to contact your Congressional representatives:

And here is a petition to sign:

Sunday, June 3, 2018

BTRTN: The Conscience of Our King

Tom with the BTRTN May 2018 Month in Review.

THE MONTH

Donald Trump has kept the news wires humming this month of May with all sorts of truly astonishing and unexpected madness, the latest being his presidential pardon power play.  Trump first pardoned a conservative author and commentator, and then floated trial balloons on similar treatment for Rod Blagojevich and Martha Stewart.  While it is easy to make fun of Trump potentially pardoning the two former “Celebrity Apprentice” guests and dismiss this as yet another sideshow aimed at distraction, there are serious issues at play.  Specifically, the pardon talk is a clear signal to Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and Michael Cohen that they need not fear the arm of the law.  And more broadly, Trump is thumbing his nose at what he considers “unfair” prosecutions by the “deep state,” further delegitimizing his own presumed guilt and thereby softening whatever it is that Mueller concludes.
Image result for trump blagojevich 
The two main stories of the month reflect the full unleashing of Trump.  Those two stories are, of course, the on again/off again/on again North Korea summit (and the related trade negotiations with China), and the full frontal attack on the Mueller investigation being led by Rudy Giuliani (of which the pardon pitch is a subset).

Was it only this same month that the genial (and cooperative) Ty Cobb bid farewell, opening the door for Giuliani?  And faster than you can say “Scaramucci,” the camera-friendly, erstwhile “America’s Mayor” almost talked his way out of his new gig, managing to (among other miscues) upend Trump’s Stormy Daniels storyline by outing his own client, revealing Trump’s direct involvement in the nefarious $130,000 payment to Trump’s porn star paramour.

But Giuliani (unlike Scaramucci) survived his early string of gaffes, and now, with a full month under his belt, has learned his lines (that is, he’s learned to repeat Trump’s lines, word for word) and hit his stride.  Giuliani is not, of course, making legal arguments on his sweeping tour of conservative media outlets – his is purely and simply a PR offensive to discredit the Mueller investigation.  Giuliani is going straight to the end game – as he freely admits in commenting on his strategy:  “It is for public opinion.  Because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. And so our jury – and it should be – is the American people.

With the affable, if-you-are-innocent-then-cooperate Cobb tossed aside, Trump is now free to follow his instincts, with his own hired henchman (Giuliani) in place to lay waste to American institutions, doing whatever it takes to protect him.  Perhaps we should not be surprised if, soon, Trump names Roseanne Barr to replace Hope Hicks as White House Communications Director.  (At the very least, Barr may go the route of becoming a Fox regular and join the motley crew of Trump nighttime phone call confidents.)

As emboldened as Trump has become with respect to his own defense, his attempts to reshape the world have been, depending on your perspective, even bolder or more reckless.  Trump exited the Iran deal, moved our Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, and carried on a trade war with China – all in this month.  In the wake of the Iran deal, Israel and Iran exchanged bombs on positions held by the other; as Javanka opened the doors of the new embassy, 58 Palestinians were being gunned down in Gaza;  whatever flicker of a chance Middle East peace prospects might have had was extinguished; and talks to avoid the trade war with China fizzled as the Chinese played their hand beautifully, promising nothing painful for them, a performance so weak that Trump was forced to take Steve Mnuchin off the case and replace him with the previously-sidelined Wilbur Ross. 

These are the ongoing aftershocks of policies born on the fly to score cheap political points, rather than real geo-political gains, guided by neither informed, expert inputs nor proper six-moves-ahead-chess-playing about how it all might play out.  The potential for unintended consequences of Trump’s “instincts” in the coming decade is utterly terrifying.

Which, of course, brings us to North Korea.  Kim Jong-un, motivated by success in the development of his nuclear program and his thirst for the recognition of North Korea as a major power (it ranks 47th in the world in population, right behind Mozambique), works on a peace offering with the new South Korean President Moon, who is equally motivated by peace on the peninsula.  This is a gift to Trump, who can claim that his tough talk and unconventional style has resulted in unexpected progress on issues that have vexed the world diplomatic community (and his predecessors) for nearly seven decades.

Far from showing the kind of restraint expected in such a situation, or flexing U.S. muscles properly, Trump rushes into a summit without a strategic goal in mind nor the necessary pre-summit dialogue to achieve one, a process that typically takes many months of quiet, difficult negotiations by seasoned professionals to pull off.  On cue, the predictably unpredictable Kim Jong-un stuck a stick in the spinning bicycle wheel and it sent the summit prospects flying.  Trump then canceled the summit because he was afraid Kim would cancel it first, then he almost immediately sought to restore it because he senses that he can spin any meeting into a “win” for him.  And so the summit must go on, on June 12, come hell or high water.  As if postponing it a month or two to recalibrate somehow betrays “weakness.”

On this one, the date’s the thing, and it certainly uncovers the conscience of our king.


THE NUMBERS

Trump’s approval rating for the month of May blipped upward by three points to 45%, clearly driven by the apparent progress in Korean peninsula peace prospects.  This represents the highest level of the Trump presidency since his first weeks in office, though it remains the lowest of any president at this stage of his presidency; Trump has held that distinction for every single month since taking office.  He has yet to crack the 50% mark, and, despite the uptick, Trump (and the GOP) remain poorly positioned for the mid-terms.

TRUMP MONTHLY APPROVAL RATING

2017
2018

Jan
Jul - 6 mo
Jan - 1 yr.
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Approve
48
40
42
43
42
42
45
Disapprove
46
56
55
54
54
54
52
Net
2
-16
-13
-11
-13
-12
-7

The generic ballot for March has the Democratic lead narrowing to +4 points, also the closest it has been since the early days of the Trump administration.  While this would normally be considered a solid edge for the Democrats, it has been halved since its peak last fall.   Using our proprietary BTRTN regression model, this lead would suggest a 36-seat pick-up for the Dems in November (if it held).  This is too close for comfort for the Dems, given the vagaries of gerrymandering.  We consider the Dems modest favorites at this point to retake control of the House.


GENERIC BALLOT:  MONTHLY FOR LAST 12 MONTHS

2017
2018
Jun
Jul
A
S
O
N
D
J
F
Mar
A
May
Dem
40
39
40
40
39
40
41
40
40
41
43
41
GOP
36
34
34
34
32
32
32
34
34
34
36
37
Diff
4
5
6
6
7
8
8
6
6
7
7
4


The “Trumpometer” remained at +7 in the last month. There is a dynamic going on that will be interesting to watch – the unemployment rate continues to drop, while household income growth (not a Trumpometer data point but important nonetheless) remains tepid.  The stock market had flattened off, while gas prices are soaring.  The average American certainly feels the pain of the latter more than the gain of the former.  Consumer confidence, however, remains high; yet GDP growth at 2.2% is well short of Trump promises and in line with the average of Obama’s years in office excluding 2009.  The +7 Trumpometer reading means that, on average, our five economic measures are 7% higher than they were at the time of Trump’s Inauguration.



TRUMPOMETER
End Clinton  1/20/2001
End Bush 1/20/2009
End Obama 1/20/2017 (Base = 0)
Trump 4/30/2018
Trump 5/31/2018
% Chg. Vs. Inaug. (+ = Better)

25
-53
0
7
7
7%
  Unemployment Rate
4.2
7.8
4.7
4.1
3.8
19%
  Consumer Confidence
129
38
114
129
128
13%
  Price of Gas
1.27
1.84
2.44
2.96
3.04
-25%
  Dow Jones
10,588
8,281
19,732
24,163
24,416
24%
  GDP
4.5
-6.2
2.1
2.3
2.2
5%

Notes on methodology:

BTRTN calculates our monthly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise trending.

For the generic ballot, we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.

The Trumpometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Trump Inaugural on January 20, 2017, on an average percentage change basis... The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump took office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline, and the GDP.