Monday, August 29, 2022

NRSC Chair Rick Scott Vacations on Italian Yacht While GOP Senate Hopes Go Up in Flames

Last week, Florida Senator Rick Scott decided it was a good time to criticize President Joe Biden for "vacationing" at his home in Delaware.  The next day, Axios reported that Scott was spending part of his congressional recess vacationing on an Italian yacht.  

Scott's vacation hypocrisy is the least of his problems.  The GOP's efforts to retake the Senate are crashing and burning.  So Scott, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the arm of the party in charge of helping GOP Senate candidates, thought it was a good time for a European vacation.

Maybe Scott was trying to get out of town because of the heat he had been taking heat over his running of the NRCC.  Newsweek reports:

Critics of Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), resurfaced a past Medicare fraud settlement from his tenure as CEO of a hospital corporation, as his committee reportedly is running short on cash and pulling ads in support of GOP Senate candidates with less than three months until the midterm election.

The NRSC is the primary organization working to raise funds and support Republican candidates in the party's bid to take back the majority in the upper chamber of Congress.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL)

Scott has led the committee since January 2021, 
but The Washington Post reported on Friday that campaign advisers are asking "where all the money went, and to demand an audit of the committee's finances" as the NRSC pulls ads and runs low on funds.

Many on 
Twitter pointed to Scott's past Medicare fraud scandal during his time as CEO of Columbia/HCA. When Scott was deposed in 2000 amid the investigation, he pleaded the Fifth Amendment 75 times.

Columbia/HCA later reached a settlement with the Justice Department of $840 million in 2000, and another settlement of $881 million in 2002, with the combined fines totaling $1.7 billion. At the time, this was the record health care fraud settlement, although it has since been surpassed, according to PolitiFact.

"Rick Scott oversaw the biggest Medicare fraud in history, so the GOP in its genius put him in charge of its national campaign fund and now is wondering where all its money went. Incredible," writer Gary Legum posted to Twitter, commenting on the 
Post's reporting.

"There's clearly been some shift in momentum over the summer. But fundraising collapses like this don't happen in a week or a month. Did Rick Scott defraud the NRSC like he did Medicare? How on earth can they be out of money after a year of GOP surge?" Talking Points Memo founder Josh Marshall tweeted.

"Rick Scott has gotten amazingly far in politics for a guy who perpetrated the largest Medicare fraud in history but I'm not sure why you'd put the guy who perpetrated the largest Medicare fraud in history in charge of a large sum of money," writer and editor Matthew Yglesias tweeted.

Fortunately for Rick Scott, he was able to avoid being indicted in the scandal.  Amazingly though, a majority of Floridians thought that scandal-riddled background qualified Scott to be Governor and later U.S. Senator.  You would have thought that, given his association with fraud, the Senate Majority Leader would have balked at putting the Senator in charge of a big pile of money. But you'd think wrong.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

As Mid-Term Elections Increasingly Become a Referendum on Trump, Republican Fortunes Fade

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made headlines over the weekend when he said that the Senate was less likely to be Republican after the 2022 midterms than the House.  That actually wasn't news.  No one had seriously rated the Republicans' chances as greater in the Senate than the House.  But what made news is what McConnell said next when he said "candidate quality" could keep Republicans from capturing the Senate in November.  McConnell had said the quiet part out loud, and in the process dissed the numerous candidates he was depending on to become Senate Majority Leader again.

McConnell, of course, is right.  Republicans have a slate of really lousy Senate candidates and there is one reason why:  Donald J. Trump.  Trump insisted on endorsing candidates who expressed maximum fealty to him and who are willing to lie about the 2020 election being "stolen" from Trump.  Never mind that many of those candidates didn't have the experiences and political skills to win a general election.  Trump wasn't interested in that.

And the polls are reflecting how bad the Republican Senate nominees are.  Dr. Oz has trailed in every
poll in Pennsylvania.  Republican Senator Ron Johnson is trailing a far left Democratic nominee in Wisconsin.  Shockingly, some polling has Republican Senator Marco Rubio trailing Rep. Val Demings in Florida.  In Ohio, J.D. Vance has only a slight lead over Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan in a general election matchup that wasn't supposed to be close.  Then, the race that is most shocking to me is in North Carolina where Democrat Cheri Beasley is polling as tied with Congressman Ted Budd, yet another Trump hand-picked candidate.

For the record that is seven Republican seats the Democrats now have in their sights  (And let's not write off Iowa too quickly where 89 year old Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is facing off against a Democratic three star admiral, a 36 year Navy veteran who is an impressive candidate.)   Meanwhile the Democratic seats the Republicans have targeted appear to be fizzling.  In the Nevada Senate race, a poll yesterday by the Reno Gazette had Nevada Democratic Senator Cortez Mastro up by 7 points over her Republican challenger former Attorney General Paul Laxalt.  Republican candidates in Georgia and Arizona are running well behind.

FiveThirtyEight has the Democrats' chance of winning the Senate now at 63%.  This is an increase from 40% on June 1st.

The Democrats' improved prospects in the Senate appear to be bleeding over to the House.  On June 1st, FiveThirtyEight gave the Democrats a 14% chance of winning the House.  Now it is at 22%.  Cook Political Report's David Wasserman downgraded the Republicans' expected gain in the 2024 election to be as low as 15 seats.  

In addition to Trump's recruitment of terrible candidates, the ex-President also has successfully pushed the nomination of lackeys who ran to unseat Republican members of Congress who had voted to impeach him.  With those weak candidates now in place, Democrats have additional pick up opportunities.

Other factors have played a role in the great Republican 2022 wave turning into a trickling brook.  Gas prices, the most visible evidence of inflation, have fallen dramatically over the summer.   Post Roe, Republicans have terribly overplayed their hand on abortion, staking out positions that are highly unpopular.  On that score, Democrats across the country owe a debt of gratitude to Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita who, within weeks of the Dobbs decision, focused the issue on a 10 year old rape victim seeking an abortion. 

Trump believes the search of his home at Mar-a-Lago for classified documents is politically beneficial to him. Indeed among Republican voters, Trump received a substantial boost.  But the problem is that independent and unaffiliated voters don't view Trump as a sympathetic victim. They view him as possibly engaged in criminal activity, and it reminds them of how tired they were of Donald Trump.  There is nothing more that the Democrats would like than to have the 2022 midterms be about Donald Trump.

If Donald Trump blows GOP's efforts to win the Senate, and dampens GOP gains in the House, which seems to be the current trajectory of the race, Republicans will need to reevaluate Trump's future in the party.  Under Trump, the Republican Party lost the House, the Senate, and of course, the White House.  Trump might be called a lot of things, but "winner" is not one of them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Andrew Yang, Founder of Forward Party, Sides with Trump and Against The Rule of Law

I guess respecting the rule of law won't be a tenet of Founder Andrew Yang's Forward Party.

After the FBI executed a search warrant on Trump's residence, the Mar-A-Lago resort, businessman and Founder of the "Forward Party" Andrew Yang took to Twitter to defend the former President.  Yang declared that the search was politically-motivated and that the classified documents Trump had squirreled away at the resort were not very important.  Yang didn't wait for the facts to come out before siding with Trump.

Daily Kos takes it from here:  "He then quotes “one legal expert,” who said, “If they raided his home just to find classified documents he took from The White House… he will be re-elected president in 2024, hands down. It will prove to be the greatest law enforcement mistake in history.”

Whose side is this guy on? Well, Yang answers that after what must have been multiple queries about his allegiances:

“I’m no Trump fan. I want him as far away from the White House as possible. But a fundamental part of his appeal has been that it’s him against a corrupt government establishment. This raid strengthens that case for millions of Americans who will see this as unjust persecution.”

According to Yang, we need to ignore Trump's misbehavior, indeed even his possible criminality.  To not do so will antagonize his base causing them to turn out at even higher levels. 

Yeah, that's worked so well over the last six years...I say with the most sarcasm I can muster.

Yang's comments do make one thing clear though.  That whole "nobody is above the law" rhetoric...well that's not something he believes in.  Yang does believe at least one person - Donald Trump -  is above the law.

Finally, many critics of the search are demanding that the Justice Department make public its request for a search warrant, including the evidence upon which it was based.  The Department will, of course, do so shortly.  But you know who could have made that document public immediately?  Donald J. Trump.  Trump doesn't do that because he knows its easier to spin the issue of the search if people aren't provided with the actual search warrant.  It's the same strategy employed by former Attorney General William Barr when he demonized the Mueller Report long before he actually released it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Mar-A-Lago Searched by FBI in Probe Aimed at Former President Trump's Mishandling of Classified Documents

I recall well the chants.  "Lock her up!  Lock her up!   Lock her up!"  The chants took place at Donald Trump rallies and were aimed at former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.  Hillary's offense was using a private computer server that may well have handled classified documents.  

The allegations were not spurious.  Hillary Clinton had indeed acted recklessly and in a manner that could have exposed America's secrets to hacking by our enemies.  Then Donald Trump became President and his handling and mishandling of classified information made Hillary Clinton's offenses look like jaywalking.  Trump directly passed along classified information to his dictator pals.  He and his family regularly communicated using cell phones and outside email accounts that were not secure.  When Trump left the White House, he took with him scores of government documents, many of which were apparently classified.

So what did Trump world do in response?  They yawned.  They didn't care.  If Trump did what Hillary Clinton did times 100, well that's perfectly okay because it was Donald Trump.  The Trump crowd has a superpower and that is that they are unfazed by hypocrisy.  It does not register with them.

Now Republicans in Congress are expressing outrage over the FBI raid.  That outrage is not based on what happened, but who was the target of the search.  If the FBI would have raided Hillary Clinton's house over her possession of classified information, that would have been justified because, well, it's Hillary Clinton.

Those Republicans in Congress should instead be focused on the upcoming mid-term elections.  What was once an inevitable red tidal wave is now starting to look like a trickling brook.  Republicans are acting stupid and the voters are starting to notice.  The GOP slogan shouldn't be "Stop the Steal."  It should be "Stop the Stupidity."

OOP's short takes:

  • Prediction:  Republicans are going to lose control of the Senate thanks to Trump's weak hand-picked Senate candidates.  Trump backed candidates are also going to lose key governorships races in places such as Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
  • Prediction:  Trump announces his bid for re-election in September or early October.  Trump will intend to use his running for office as a bulwark against criminal prosecution (I would also point out that agreeing to not run for office is often a bargaining chip in negotiations with criminal prosecutors).  I still think it's 50-50 that Trump will make it to the Iowa caucuses in January 2024.  However, Trump will keep his candidacy alive for as long as possible to provide protection from criminal prosecution and to continue fleecing his supporters.  Yes, that will hurt the Republicans chances of winning the White House but I'll let readers in on a secret about Donald Trump.  He doesn't care about the Republican Party or doing what is best for the country.  Never did.  Donald Trump cares only about Donald Trump and no one else.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Abortion Rights Activists Win in Kansas as Issue Enters Stage One - Republican Overreach

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column titled "Why We Shouldn't Fear Democracy Deciding the Abortion Issue."   I wrote the article because so many people on the left think unelected federal judges finding unenumerated rights in the Constitution is the only way they can get their policy preferences enacted into law.  But the Constitution is not a ceiling on our's a floor.  Legislative bodies are always free to add to those rights, including the right to an abortion.

The fact that liberals can win the abortion issue through the democratic process, and not have to rely on judges, was proven on Tuesday when Kansas voters overwhelming rejected a proposed constitutional amendment which would allow the legislature to sharply limit or even ban abortion.  Kansas had found a constitutional right to abortion in its own Constitution, hence a need for the amendment.

Let's not forget that the pro-abortion rights side was winning the issue by working through the democratic process when the Supreme Court took the issue away from the states when it handed down Roe v. Wade in 1973.  By then 20 states had already legalized abortion, including states that had a majority of the nation's population.  Reasonable compromises on the abortion issue were being reached when the Supreme Court stepped in with a holding that enforced its own view about what the law should be. That "compromise" drew the line much later in pregnancy than even some supporters of abortion rights were comfortable about.

When I ran for office a number of years ago, I remember savvy pro-life advocates counseling political candidates to concede the exceptions - rape, incest, life of the mother - because the politics of trying to ban abortions in those situations were horrific (that was a lesson that Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita apparently didn't learn).  Plus, those exceptions only amount to 1% of the why throw away the argument over 99% by focusing on the 1%?

Somewhere along the way, that lesson got lost.  Republicans went from being reasonable on the abortion issue to being uncaring absolutists.  This progression (regression?) was aided by the fact Roe took the issue out of the political arena, meaning for many GOP candidates the only debate on abortion was within the Republican base and that debate had no real life consequences.   So GOP candidates began taking more and more extreme positions on the issue.  Now , thanks to Dobbs, the issue has been returned to the democratic process, and Republicans are going to have to return to being reasonable.

Stage one of the post-Dobbs political climate - Republicans pushing an extreme position on abortion and paying the political consequences.  Stage one will end when Republicans realize they need to moderate their position on the issue. 

Stage two will be Democratic overreach on the abortion issue.  Fresh off winning on the issue at the voting booths, pro abortion rights activists will push the issue.  They will demand an unlimited right to abortion for all nine months of pregnancy, and for the taxpayers to pick up the bill for those who can't afford the procedure. They will demand that insurance policies include abortion.  As Democrats grow more extreme on the issue, they will pay a political price for their unpopular positions.  

Stage three will be both sides moderating and compromising on the abortion issue.  My guess is the ultimate compromise reached will be to allow early (first trimester) abortion with the three exceptions, which is where the majority of people are.  That compromise is not Roe.  Although people say they like Roe v. Wade, an overwhelming majority of Americans do not support the second trimester abortions that the justices said were protected by the Constitution.

Here at home, for the first time in over a half century, members of the Indiana General Assembly are having a real, consequential debate over abortion policy.  Extreme positions are being vetted as well as more reasonable and thoughtful compromises.  The legislative process is ugly and contentious, much more so than edicts handed down by federal judges.  But it is also society's pressure valve, it is how we decide public policy disputes in this country.  What we're seeing played out now across the country is a public debate that should have happened years ago were it not for Roe v. Wade.  This is a very good thing.  For the first time in nearly 50 years we are going to be able to reach a public consensus, through the democratic process on the most divisive issue of my lifetime.  This is a very good thing.