Oprah Could Be Great for the Democrats. In 2018.

The frenzy about an Oprah run for president was as predictable as it is misplaced—not because it concerns the estimable Ms. Winfrey but because it reminds us once again that our collective obsession with the presidency ignores where the really consequential power lies. If we grasp that basic fact about American political life, we can find where Oprah can make a huge difference—this year.

Given President Donald Trump’s capacity to capture 99.8 percent of media attention at any given moment, it makes superficial sense to see Trump’s election as the key to hugely significant political change, and to see a possible Oprah run in 2020 as the next one. But when you look at what has changed in the Year of Trump, it becomes clear that the really significant election was what happened in the United States Senate. Had Democrats managed to capture the chamber in 2016, much, indeed Continue reading “Oprah Could Be Great for the Democrats. In 2018.”

John B. Anderson: The Great Independent Hope

If there were a Hall of Fame for Memorable Political Moments, you’d find Ronald Reagan’s 1964 “A Time for Choosing” speech in a prominent place. In the next wing, you’d find Barack Obama’s keynote speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

You’d have to wander into the Hall’s more obscure corners to find a nod to the night of January 5, 1980. But for one brief shining moment—OK, make it six months or so—it looked something wondrous had happened in American politics: the birth of a credible independent candidate for president.

It was on that night, in the first primary debate among Republican presidential contenders, that a 57-year-old U.S. representative from Illinois with prematurely white hair, horn-rimmed glasses and a stern demeanor giving him the look of a no-nonsense college professor (or maybe a Puritan preacher from colonial days) threw a series of rhetorical hand grenades into the campaign.

Continue reading “John B. Anderson: The Great Independent Hope”

Republican Control of the Senate Hangs by a Thread

Only one Republican senator ultimately didn’t vote for the tax bill—and it wasn’t because of concerns about the debt, or the tilt of the bill toward the wealthiest Americans. It was because John McCain was back home in Arizona, battling life-threatening brain cancer.

Mississippi’s Thad Cochran did make the vote, after missing votes throughout the fall, due to a persistent urinary tract infection. The health of the 79-year old Cochran has raised questions about whether he will be able to serve out his term, which has three more years to run.

Should the health of these two senators force them to step down, the political consequences could be hugely consequential. Arizona would have two Senate seats in play in 2018. Democrats have already targeted the seat of retiring Republican Jeff Flake, finding encouragement in the narrow results of Arizona’s presidential contest (Trump won with a 3.5 percent plurality, contrasted Continue reading “Republican Control of the Senate Hangs by a Thread”

Why the Russia Scandal Is Nothing Like Watergate

It’s been framing the national conversation for months. The day after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last May, the New York Times headlined its front-page analysis: “In Trump’s Firing of Comey, echoes of Watergate.” And with each guilty plea, with each new speculation about what Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating, the echoes grow louder. Can a president obstruct justice? Or, is it true that, as Richard Nixon once famously said, “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal”? If Trump’s actions don’t rise to a criminal offense, might they meet the highly vague standard of an “impeachable” offense? If Trump fires Mueller, would that be the second coming of the Saturday Night Massacre, when Nixon’s dismissal of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox set the nation on an inexorable path toward impeachment, averted only because Nixon resigned? To watch CNN most days, as its convoy of Continue reading “Why the Russia Scandal Is Nothing Like Watergate”

Has Trump Made Approval Polls Meaningless?

It’s been just another 24 hours or so in the alternate political universe where we dwell. The president of the United States has retweeted incendiary—and some inauthentic—videos of supposed Muslim depredations that brought angry words from America’s oldest ally, and even from INFOWARS—home of Alex Jones’ conspiracy theories. His press secretary says it really doesn’t matter whether the videos are true or false. In another tweet, Trump implied that Joe Scarborough may have killed someone in his office—a death investigators have unequivocally ruled a tragic accident stemming from a heart condition—and hints at something sinister about a top NBC News executive. We are told by the New York Times that the president now says the voice on that infamous “Access Hollywood” tape—for which he publicly apologized in October 2016, and for which Billy Bush was fired—may not be his at all, and he has been reanimating the baseless, racist smear Continue reading “Has Trump Made Approval Polls Meaningless?”

How Roy Moore’s Misdeeds Are Forcing an Awakening on the Left

Are liberals having a moral awakening? Watching the political contortions of Republicans to defend a candidate accused of sexually molesting teenage girls, Democrats and liberal pundits are reckoning publicly with their own history of fervid rationalizations on behalf of a recent president. But this should be just the beginning of a painful re-examination.

This new consciousness was glimpsed first in a tweet from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, a commentator of stoutly progressive persuasion. “As gross and cynical and hypocritical as the right’s ‘what about Bill Clinton’ stuff is,” he wrote, “it’s also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.”

It was glimpsed in passing in a New York Times editorial, Ground Zero of conventional liberalism. “Remember former President Bill Clinton, whose popularity endures despite a long string of allegations of sexual misconduct and, in one case, rape—all of which Continue reading “How Roy Moore’s Misdeeds Are Forcing an Awakening on the Left”

Trump’s GOP Firewall

“Political Science” may be an oxymoron, but there is one rule in politics that approaches scientific certainty: A president, no matter how beleaguered, can survive if he retains significant support within his party.

Lyndon Johnson abandoned re-election when some 40 percent of the voters chose Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 New Hampshire primary, triggering Robert Kennedy’s entry into the race. Richard Nixon was doomed when his congressional base eroded; six GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee voted for at least one article of impeachment. Bill Clinton survived when only five of 211 House Democrats voted to impeach him, and not a single Democratic senator voted to convict.

Now, with indictments unsealed and Washington churning with feverish speculation about where Special Counsel Robert Mueller might strike next, and as GOP insiders tell reporters that “the walls are closing in,” President Trump can find at last temporary comfort in this enduring Continue reading “Trump’s GOP Firewall”