What Chuck Todd gets about Trump

Chuck Todd has interviewed Donald Trump many times, and he’s noticed something somewhat disquieting about the unquiet president-elect.

The man doesn’t laugh — not in a normal, spontaneous, regular-human kind of way.

“[It] drives me crazy. Do you know what? I’ve never seen him laugh,” the “Meet the Press” host told me during an interview for POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast earlier this month. “I challenge somebody to find him laughing, and that person has yet to find an example, in my opinion. He’ll smile, but he smiles appropriately. Watch him at the Al Smith dinner [the roast in New York City in October] … He doesn’t really laugh. He looks for others to laugh. It is just weird.”

And there’s one other thing that Todd thinks is odd: After several of his Sunday appearances as a candidate, Trump would lean back in his chair and request that the control room Continue reading “What Chuck Todd gets about Trump”

Keith Ellison’s one-man march

Keith Ellison is chair-slumped in a nondescript union office a few hundred yards north of the Capitol, surrounded by boxes of flyers for his campaign to chair the Democratic National Committee, nursing a nasty cold and eye-rolling at another question about his one-time admiration for Louis Farrakhan.

The Minnesota congressman – a powerful speaker and canny political organizer – was on the cusp of an easy victory in the race for DNC chairman until the last few weeks, when his decade-old writings on the Nation of Islam leader (he called him a “role model for Black Youth” in a 1995 student editorial) resurfaced and ignited.

Soon after, reporters unearthed 2010 comments about how Israel, “a country of seven million,” dominates U.S. policy in the Mideast — prompting a denunciation from the head of the Anti-Defamation League and Democratic mega-donor Haim Saban, casting his coronation into sudden and serious doubt.

Continue reading “Keith Ellison’s one-man march”

‘Everything Feels Existential Now’

After a campaign season spent obsessing over divided allegiances within the Republican Party, it is now the Democrats who find themselves in an existential crisis. They lost the presidency and the Senate and trail Republicans in the House, as well as in state legislatures and governorships across the country. Worse, in the 2018 midterms, Democrats are defending 25 Senate seats, 10 of them in states that went for Donald Trump. After that, if the Dems can’t gain ground in state legislatures, the 2020 redistricting process is likely to hurt them even more.

Where did Democrats go wrong, and how can they rebuild? At this point, can they?

Roughly a month after the election, Glenn Thrush, Politico’s chief political correspondent and a senior staff writer for Politico Magazine, convened four smart observers of Democratic politics for a conversation about the future of the party. Two participants had close ties to the Continue reading “‘Everything Feels Existential Now’”

David Brock blasts Brooklyn, ‘animals’ in press

There aren’t many people on the planet who hate Donald Trump – and love Hillary Clinton – with the Savonarola intensity of a David Brock.

But the Democratic dark-arts impresario has come to believe, in the harsh light of last month’s bitter loss, that Clinton’s biggest problem was simply not being more like Trump, at least when it came to dealing with the press. But in an extended clear-the-decks session on POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast, he aired a long list of grievances against Clinton’s Brooklyn-based campaign for not defending her forcefully enough.

And he thinks Democrats should adopt another GOP strategy: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s declaration that Republicans should rebuild their party by fighting everything Barack Obama proposed to make him a one-term president.

“We’re in a bad situation, the Democratic Party,” he said. “Hillary Clinton’s loss has exposed the lack of Democratic power in this country at all Continue reading “David Brock blasts Brooklyn, ‘animals’ in press”

10 Crucial Decisions That Reshaped America

Brand is the be-all-end-all of Donald Trump. And the core of Trump’s brand is that squinty, jut-jowled, unreflective scowl, the Dirty Harry stare he insists on plastering everywhere—book covers, posters, his website—because it advertises his most marketable selling point: toughness.

But the people around the next president of the United States know he’s a lot more insecure than his blustery façade would suggest. And he had a moment of serious apprehension as he toed the diving board before his big leap into the presidential pool on June 16, 2015.

Trump was an uncharacteristic jumble of nerves that whole month, several friends and advisers told me, and he repeatedly asked if he really should go ahead with it. On calls from a summertime vacation in Scotland to buddies back in New York, he would often answer his own question with a reference to his 11th-hour decision to skip the 2012 presidential Continue reading “10 Crucial Decisions That Reshaped America”

How to cover a Page Six president

A lawyer who represents himself may have a fool for a client — but a PR man who represents himself just became president of the United States, and he’s nobody’s fool.

You can’t understand Donald Trump without comprehending just how much of his shtick – all those self-promoting, make-up-your-own-facts, confrontational go-to moves – emanated from the froth of 1980s and 1990s tabloid New York City. Trump may have added to his family’s already considerable fortune through real estate, reality TV and branding. But his basic job all these years – especially 2016 – has been selling himself, and selling himself hardest to the city’s daily newspapers, especially the New York Post, which is basically a dead-tree Trump.

It’s no coincidence that one the best reporters covering the president-elect this cycle happens to be the one who best understands the tabloid-Trump nexus: Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, who spent Continue reading “How to cover a Page Six president”

5 takeaways on Trump’s first 5 days

This is what winging it looks like, America.

Donald Trump is compulsively improvisational, and ran the most successful back-of-the-napkin operation in American political history, but the challenge confronting him is, by his own admission, nothing like anything anybody has ever faced. Like practically everybody else in the country, Trump (despite his statements to the contrary) really didn’t think he’d be spending this weekend trying to staff the upper management of the world’s sole remaining superpower.

His transition process was practically non-existent — and was thrown into chaos by the ouster of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie by allies of Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Trump Tower staffers, who feared that Christie’s Bridgegate scandal would overshadow their efforts.

It’s been five days since the reality TV star became the reality president and judging from his public pronouncements and a slightly dizzy 60 Minutes appearance, he still seems to be grappling with Continue reading “5 takeaways on Trump’s first 5 days”