Why nothing sticks to Donald Trump or Joe Biden
It was congresswoman Pat Schroeder, Democrat from Colorado, who labeled Ronald Reagan the “Teflon” president in a fit of exasperation in August 1983. What frustrated Schroeder was that nothing “stuck” to Reagan—not the recession, not his misadventures in Lebanon, not his seeming detachment from his own administration. Reagan’s job approval had plunged to a low of 35 percent at the beginning of that year, but his numbers were rising and his personal favorability remained high. “He is just the master of ceremonies at someone else’s dinner,” she said.
Ironically, the one thing that did stick to Reagan was Schroeder’s nickname. The phrase was so catchy that writers applied it to mobsters (“Teflon Don” John Gotti) and to Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Teflon presidents, gangsters, candidates—we have had them all. What we have not experienced until now is a Teflon campaign.
Between March 11, when the coronavirus prompted the NBA to suspend its season, and May 14, some 84,000 Americans died of coronavirus, more than 36 million lost their jobs, and Congress appropriated $3.6 trillion in new spending. It is not foolish to suppose that these world-shaking events would affect the presidential election. On the contrary: One would expect a dramatic swing toward either the incumbent or the challenger. But look at the polls. Not only has there been no big shift. There has been no shift.
On March 11, Joe Biden led Donald Trump by 7 points in the RealClearPolitics average. On May 14, he led Trump by 5 points. “Biden’s advantage,” says Harry Enten of CNN, “is the steadiest in a race with an incumbent running since at least 1944.” He has never been behind. His share of the vote has been impervious to external events.
Neither good nor bad news has an effect. Bernie Sanders ended his campaign on April 8 and endorsed Biden on April 13. Biden received no bump from this display of party unity. Tara Reade accused Biden of sexual assault on March 25, and Biden did not respond directly to the allegation until May 1. His margin over Trump did not shrink. It remained the same.
Why? The incidents of this election cycle are not the reason. Epidemics, depressions, and sex scandals have happened before. What is distinct are the candidates. One in particular.
If this race has been the steadiest in memory, it is because public opinion of the incumbent has been the most consistent in memory. “Trump’s approval rating has the least variation of any post-World War II president,” notes Geoffrey Skelley of FiveThirtyEight. Whatever is in the headlines matters less than one’s view of the president. And he is a subject on which most people’s views are ironclad.
When the crisis began, Trump’s approval rating was 44 percent in the RealClearPoliticsaverage. On May 14, it is 46 percent. A social and economic calamity befell the country, and Trump’s approval ticked up. Not enough for him to win, necessarily. But enough to keep him in contention.
Americans feel more strongly about Trump, either for or against, than about any other candidate since polling began. His supporters give his approval ratings a floor, and his detractors give his ratings a ceiling. There is not a lot of room in between.
For years, Trump voters have said that they are willing to overlook his faults because they believe the stakes in his victory and success are so high. Heard from less often have been Trump’s opponents, who are so desperate to see him gone that they dismiss the failings and vulnerabilities of whoever happens to be challenging him at the moment.
Recently the feminist author Linda Hirshman wrote in the New York Times that she believes Tara Reade’s story but will vote for Joe Biden anyway. “Better to just own up to what you are doing,” she wrote. “Sacrificing Ms. Reade for the good of the many.” Hirshman is the mirror-image of the Trump supporter who, as the president once said, would not be bothered if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue. Intensifying tribalism makes this election a nonstick surface.
What gives Biden the upper hand is that there are more people who feel negatively than positively about Donald Trump. What gives Trump a chance is the uneven distribution of these people across the country. That was the case before coronavirus. It is still the case today.
Watching the numbers hardly budge over these past months, I have sometimes wondered what could move them. War? Spiritual revival? Space aliens?
Don’t think so. Throw anything at it. Nothing adheres to this Teflon campaign.
Column: Why impeachment isn't going away
Trump supporters are right to feel vindication after Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress. At times the special counsel seemed unfamiliar with the contents of his own report. He came across as aloof and confused and often unable to answer both Democratic and Republican questions to the lawmakers’ satisfaction. The same media figures that began the day saying Mueller’s appearance might be the game changer ended up calling it a flop. “Democrats now have one option to end Trump’s presidency,” read the headline of Dan Balz’s analysis in the Washington Post. “The 2020 election.” Trump, as always, put it more memorably: “TRUTH IS A FORCE OF NATURE!”
The real truth is Mueller’s testimony was never going to interrupt preexisting trends. Support for impeachment has been stable for a year at around 40 percent in the Fox News poll of registered voters. Fox asks, “Do you think President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, or not?” In June 2018, 39 percent of respondents answered yes. Last week, 42 percent said the same. Opposition to impeachment has hovered around 50 percent during all this time. When the most recent Fox News poll asked if Mueller’s testimony might cause voters to change how they felt about Trump, only 8 percent said there was a strong chance of that happening. Forty-nine percent said not at all.
Views of President Trump are cast iron. Mueller might have overturned this equilibrium by offering new evidence incriminating Trump or by saying definitively that Trump obstructed justice. He did neither. Nor was he going to. It was clear from his May press conference that Mueller did not want to appear before Congress and that he had said all he was willing to say in his report. The negotiations over his testimony that stretched into midsummer, the sudden delay of his testimony by a week, and the addition of his chief of staff as counsel further indicated his reluctance as well as his lack of assurance before the cameras. The presence on the committee of Republicans hostile to Mueller’s investigation and to his findings meant that the hearing would not be entirely favorable to Democrats. Sure enough, Mueller’s performance was a disappointment.
But President Trump and Republicans would be wrong to assume that the Democrats’ drive to impeachment has ended. The will to overturn the 2016 election never depended on Mueller. He was merely the most likely instrument of Trump’s undoing. Democrats have called for impeachment since Trump’s inaugural. What they have lacked is the means. Maxine Waters raised the idea in February 2017, months before Trump fired James Comey and set in motion the train of events culminating in Mueller’s appointment as special counsel. Tom Steyer launched Need to Impeach in October 2017, a year and a half before Mueller filed his report. Last January, on the first evening of the House Democratic majority, Rashida Tlaib declared her intention to “impeach this m—f—r.”
The impeachment resolution the House voted on last week had nothing to do with Mueller or his report. It found Trump guilty “of high misdemeanors” and “unfit to be president” because of his “racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.” The measure didn’t even pretend to have a relationship with actual criminal or civil law. It received 95 votes nonetheless, all Democrats, including the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The same man who, after Mueller’s belly flop, argued before the Democratic Caucus that he has enough material to begin impeachment right now. Mueller’s testimony might not increase the number of House Democrats for impeachment from less than half (40 percent) to a majority. But it’s not as if that percentage is about to decrease, either.
Democrats overwhelmingly support impeachment. Forty percent of adults in the most recent Economist/YouGov survey say Congress should try to impeach President Trump. That number rises to 70 percent among Democrats. It is no wonder why. Trump is a one-man rebuke of progressivism, of political correctness, of a humanitarianism that does not recognize citizenship or national borders. Since 2016 an entire media-political infrastructure has been built to push the messages that Trump’s election was illegitimate, Trump’s actions in and out of office are criminal, and Trump ought to be excised from the government as quickly as possible. Even if Mueller and his report fade from view—and there is no guarantee they will—the president’s adversaries will continue to search for the annihilating angel who will deliver them from Donald Trump.
Why? Because the impeachment debate is not about what Trump has done, is doing, or might do. It is about whether he and the social forces he represents are entitled to rule.
By Andy Puzder • The Morning Call
Anyone listening to President Donald Trump and to Democratic presidential hopefuls hears an almost Dickensian tale of two very different Americas.
The president takes “the best of times” view and spoke during his State of the Union address about “an unprecedented economic boom” in which “our economy is thriving like never before.”
Democratic presidential hopefuls take the “the worst of times” view and speak of an America that works only for the rich, while working-class paychecks fail even to keep up with the cost of living and people are struggling to get by.
Is either side right?
The American public appears to increasingly share Trump’s sunny view. A Gallup poll released on Monday, under the headline “Americans’ Confidence in Their Finances Keeps Growing,” found that more than two-thirds — 69 percent — of Americans expect to be better off in the coming year. That’s “only two percentage points below the all-time high of 71%” recorded 20 years ago. The poll was based on telephone interviews with 1,017 adults conducted between Jan. 2 and Jan. 10. Continue reading
By David Harsanyi • The Federalist
Pointing out hypocrisy can be more than a political gotcha. In the case of President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration on the southern border, it’s a useful way to highlight the fact that Democrats who are attempting to regain power have not only refused to live by the rules they’ve set for the opposition, they’re also threatening to break those rules in even more expansive ways in the future.
As soon as Trump declared a national emergency to fund the building of a wall on the Mexico-U.S. border—a clear attempt to circumvent the legislative branch and one that I hope leads to the Supreme Court overturning the abused National Emergencies Act (NEA)—the first thing Democrats did was promise to use the law for their own partisan ends, immediately exposing any supposed apprehensions about executive overreach as a fiction.
“Once we beat Donald Trump, we promise the word and spirit of the Constitution will be upheld, because the proper checks and balances are far more important than any fleeting political gain” said not a single Democrat ever. Instead, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bennet, Chris Murphy, and a slew of others senators threatened to use the same emergency powers for “real” crises like climate change and gun violence. Because it’s not the abuse of power they find problematic, but the objectives Trump wants to use that power for that bother them. Continue reading
By Aaron Kliegman • Washington Free Beacon
To Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), American support for Israel is based on Jewish money. Seriously, she actually said that on Twitter. On Sunday, the first-term Democrat accused American politicians of supporting the Jewish state because of the “Benjamins”—that is, money. When a journalist followed up by asking Omar who is paying American leaders to be pro-Israel, the lawmaker simply responded, “AIPAC.”
It’s all about the Benjamins baby ? https://t.co/KatcXJnZLV
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 10, 2019
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
If those tweets seem anti-Semitic, it is because they are. The notion that Jews use their wealth to acquire and wield their nefarious, outsized influence is one of the oldest anti-Semitic canards. Also implicit in Omar’s tweets is the charge of dual loyalty—the idea, in this context, that Jewish Americans put Israel’s interests above America’s. Continue reading
When Trump rattled off a series of economic successes in his State of the Union, he could have added one more. The public’s quality of life has improved sharply in the past two years.
“We have created 5.3 million new jobs and, importantly, added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs,” Trump said at one point in this address. “Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades … . Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in half a century. African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded. Unemployment for Americans with disabilities has also reached an all-time low.”
Unemployment at historic lows? Wages climbing at a fast pace? Who knew? The news media, fixated on Trump scandals, hasn’t exactly been broadcasting that good news. And media fact checkers busied themselves after the speech nitpicking Trump’s economic boasts. Continue reading
by Tom Rogan • Washington Examiner
Economic growth and broadly shared prosperity matter. They matter because they inform whether people can pursue their dreams or whether they suffer unnecessarily. Thus follows a question: Why did Democrats refuse to applaud President Trump’s statement of fact in Tuesday’s State of the Union address that minority unemployment rates are at the lowest levels ever recorded?
As Trump said:
“Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in half a century. African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded. Unemployment for Americans with disabilities has also reached an all-time low.”
That statement speaks to lives being made better in new jobs being found, new skills being learned, and new means of rising up the economic ladder being reached. Continue reading
Jim Geraghty • National Review
For those who gripe that I’m always so negative about Trump . . . last night’s State of the Union address was terrific. A home run.
Every president since Ronald Reagan has saluted extraordinary Americans invited and seated in the gallery — “Lenny Skutnicks” is the Washington slang. Trump’s selection was terrific and he and his team wisely determined that the antidote to the angriest and most partisan environment in Washington in a long time was a celebration of heroes and figures far beyond the realm of politics: astronaut Buzz Aldrin; drug-dealer-turned-sentencing-reform-activist Alice Johnson; drug-dealer-turned-law-clerk Matthew Charles; ICE Special Agent (and legal immigrant) Elvin Hernandez; 10-year-old brain-cancer survivor Grace Eline; Tom Wibberley, whose son, Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley was killed on the U.S.S. Cole; Pittsburgh SWAT officer Timothy Matson; Judah Samet, who survived both the Holocaust and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting; Holocaust survivor Joshua Kaufman; World War Two veteran Herman Zeitchik, who fought at Normandy and liberated Dachau. Their stories made the speech . . . actually interesting to hear. It was a long speech, but it was never boring.
Sure, the guests were used to illustrating various policy proposals or arguments. But that’s just effective communicating. At last month’s Koch network winter meeting, Johnson said, “People won’t remember statistics, but they’ll never forget a face.”
Trump’s last State of the Union was widely praised, as was his first address to a joint session of Congress. When Trump sticks to the teleprompter, lays out his agenda, stops talking about himself and starts talking about what his policies would do for the American people, you get a glimpse of the president he could be with a little more discipline and focus and a little less self-absorption and sensitivity to criticism.
But we’ve learned that the tone of Trump’s State of the Union addresses and the tone of the rest of his presidency are, at most, distant cousins. There are plenty of Trump-friendly Republicans who wish he would stop jumping online to denounce every CNN anchor or pundit who irritates him with criticism, and some variation of “Sad!” “Witch hunt!” “Enemy of the People!” If Trump stayed off Twitter for a week, just as an experiment, it would be fascinating. My suspicion is that he would end up giving more media oxygen to the repellent freakshow that the Democrats are turning into, from Ralph Northam to cheers for socialism to the draconian measures of the Green New Deal. Before you scoff that the media would never cover Democratic infighting and scandals, keep in mind this is the most wonderful time of the presidential cycle for those of us on the Right, as Democratic candidates attempt to shiv each other through leaks of opposition research.
But there’s ample evidence that what’s said in the State of the Union address doesn’t actually mean much in terms of policy change. Ramesh observed Trump ad-libbed a comment that suggested he’s making a dramatic change to his stance on immigration . . . or he just doesn’t pay much attention to what he’s saying at any given moment “Trump said, in a line absent from his prepared remarks, that he wanted legal immigration ‘in the largest numbers ever.’ Never mind that last year he endorsed large cuts to legal immigration, and rejected a Democratic offer of funding for a wall in part because it did not include those cuts . . . ”
If the State of the Union address really articulated the policy stances of the administration, we would be talking about Trump’s triangulation: nationwide paid family leave, a “government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries”, $500 million dollars over the next 10 years for childhood cancer research, “eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years,” “[prescription drug] legislation that finally takes on the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients,” “ legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment” . . . On paper, the Trump administration and Congressional Democrats could find common ground and compromise on any of those policy priorities. But the Democrats have spent the last three years publicly insisting that Trump is Beelzebub. You can’t go to your constituents and say, “Hey, I worked out a great compromise on highway funding with that guy I told you was Evil Personified.”
If you’re a conservative, this speech had sufficient servings of red meat. On illegal immigration and smuggling, “humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry.” A call to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, which isn’t all that different from NAFTA. A full-throated call for “legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children.”
The State of the Union has turned into a game where the president says good things that are happening that he may or may not deserve credit for and dares the opposition to not stand and clap for it. Democrats were slow to rise to applaud fighting sex traffickers, were “meh” on the good jobs and economic news that Trump bragged about, higher wages, lower unemployment for women and minorities, higher energy production . . .
But when he congratulated the new record of women in Congress — boy, did they jump up and applaud themselves.
By George Landrith • Houston Chronicle
The Trump administration is working to slow down the implementation of a major international environmental regulation that’s set to take effect in 2020. The administration hopes that the effort will ease the compliance burden on businesses by phasing in the rules gradually, rather than all at once.
Counterintuitively, phasing in the regulation could raise costs on American consumers, rather than reduce costs as the administration intends. It’s smarter to let the rules go into effect as scheduled.
The regulation was issued years ago by the International Maritime Organization, which regulates global shipping. The rules will require ships to use fuel containing no more than 0.5 percent sulfur — a compound which causes acid rain and exacerbates people’s breathing problems. That’s a steep drop from the current global limit of 3.5 percent sulfur. Continue reading
By John Kass • Chicago Tribune
What exactly triggered that hateful leftist social media mob — shamefully egged on by prominent American journalists — to unjustly attack the students at Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School and denounce them as racists?
The school has been closed. Death threats and bullying continue. Students and family complain they’ve been doxed — their identities revealed so that the hateful mob can harass them some more.
So, what happened? Why were the students vilified?
Was it simply for the sin of being white, Roman Catholic supporters of President Donald Trump, the boys having the gall to wear their “MAGA” hats at the March for Life?
Or was it something else? Continue reading
In the first two months of the new fiscal year, tax revenues are up. But so is the deficit. Why? Because spending continues to outpace revenues. So why do tax cuts keep getting blamed?
The latest monthly budget report from the Congressional Budget Office shows the deficit jumping $102 billion in just the first two months of the new fiscal year.
That sure looks like the deficit is “soaring,” as one news outlet claimed. But as the CBO makes clear, almost all that deficit increase was the result of quirks of the calendar. Depending on where weekends fall, significant sums of spending can get shifted into different months.
A true apples-to-apples comparison, the CBO says, shows that the deficit climbed by just $13 billion. Continue reading
By Elad Hakim • The Federalist
If they charge President Trump for paying women to not publish scandalous claims, would prosecutors then be compelled to pursue members of Congress who have also made such payoffs?
Michael Cohen was sentenced to 36 months in prison on Wednesday for various crimes the Robert Mueller investigation found he had committed. As CNN recently reported, prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office alleged he admitted to paying off two women (hush money) and that he did so in coordination with and at the direction of President Trump, thereby violating one or more campaign finance laws.
On the day of Cohen’s sentencing, the Gateway Pundit reported that prosecutors for the Southern District of New York announced that they had reached a non-prosecution agreement with American Media, Inc., the company that paid $150,000 to one of the women. Continue reading
A week and half after President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met to smooth over trade disputes, China announced it will buy more foreign goods , including U.S. soybeans. At the same time, it vowed to completely retool its “Made In China 2025” program, intended to make China the world’s most powerful economy. Nice gestures, but whether China follows through is a big question.
Reuters reports that Chinese state-owned firms snapped up more than half a million tons of U.S. soybeans on Wednesday to show they mean business. But the Made In China 2025 reversal, if sincere, is even more significant. It would mark a major shift in China’s guiding economic philosophy, a strange melding of top-down communist political control with free-market tenets.
“The revised plan would play down China’s bid to dominate manufacturing and be more open to participation by foreign companies,” The Wall Street Journal reported, citing “people briefed on the matter” as the source. Continue reading
Later this week, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to convene for discussions on a variety of contentious economic matters. While previous talks on tariffs, intellectual property theft, and cyber security have been disappointing, Saturday’s meeting in Buenos Aires presents a clear opportunity for breakthroughs.
Although much of trade negotiations are fraught with roadblocks and challenges, the issues of international shipping through the Universal Postal Union are far more straightforward. As the Trump Administration has pointed out, American enterprises and small businesses have suffered from an obvious one-side imbalance due to the UPU pricing treaty. The majorly reduced rates from the U.S. Postal Service have allowed businesses from China to drastically undercut U.S. companies on shipping costs.
In October, Frontiers of Freedom president George Landrith praised President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the UPU, adding, “Chinese businesses should pay the reasonable price of their shipping. It is not right that the American taxpayer and postal rate payers have been forced to subsidize them.”
The current below-cost international rates have added to the Postal Service’s beleaguered financial position, producing losses of $410 million since 2015. Thankfully, the administration is now poised to adopt pricing changes that are financial sustainable while also creating a level playing field for domestic shippers.