August 3, 2017: Those Trump Polls | Nationalist Blues | The Asian-American Factor
Happy Thursday. This week, we noticed a curious thing: It was sometimes hard to tell the Left and the Right apart. Was that really an editorial writer in The New York Times expressing concern that Stephen Bannon’s reign may be coming to an end, calling him “at times, a voice for sanity?” (And what about another member of the Times’s editorial staff criticizing the progressive Women’s March leaders for embracing hate?) Then there was National Review publishing one of the few critiques of Trump’s appointment of John Kelly -- yet another former General -- to his core administration. Meanwhile, there were the Democrats again, raising the issue of accepting pro-life candidates into the party -- at the same time that Salena Zito, in The New York Post, advised the Left to embrace a conservative coalition of Democrats to secure a win in 2018. This week, too, Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, got an unlikely endorsement from the Intercept’s Jon Schwarz for his assessment of the situation in North Korea. Then there was Republican Senator Jeff Flake’s takedown of Trump and the GOP. Is this a signal of a major reset or like the “Mooch,” just a brief and passing fad? We’ll be keeping watch.
As always, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any tips. And a heads up: For the rest of August, we'll be moving to once-a-week, every Thursday.
1. How Low Can Those Trump Ratings Go?
You may think you can’t escape negative news about Donald Trump. Chaos in the White House. The Mueller investigation. Almost daily examples of presidential lying and misunderstanding of major issues. No legislative victories, and a major flop on health care.
And yet, you’ve probably looked at poll after poll and wondered why there’s so little deterioration in Trump’s approval ratings. They range from the mid-30’s to low 40’s. Yes, these are historically low numbers for this point in a presidency and, yes, there has been a steady, though slow decline, but why are those numbers so stubborn and why have they not fallen even further? How strong is Trump’s base?
In Real Clear Politics, David Byler explores five views about Trump’s relatively stable ratings, including that the two parties’ base voters are “immovable objects;” that voters aren’t absorbing events nearly as intensely as news junkies; that folks don’t really care that much about the Russia contretemps, and that low presidential approval ratings could be a “new normal” in the highly partisan American political landscape.
A Cautionary Note:
You may also assume that Trump’s standing with his base will shrink if he doesn’t deliver on his promises. It’s not so simple, argues Katherine J. Cramer, who did groundbreaking work on the rural voters of Wisconsin in her book “The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.”
In an interview we highly recommend, she told Slate she is surprised by how little rural voters expect him to do for their communities:
Basically what they’ve said to me is, “Presidential elections don’t affect us. Nothing’s going to change around here, and yet at least he’s going to drain the swamp, or at least he’s going to stop giving all that money to this or that or that group of people.”
2. Cleaning House at the NSC
The nationalist wing of the Right media did not sleep easily last night.
News came that National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster had scored a decisive win in his months-long turf battle at the National Security Council, sweeping aside yet another adherent of his short-lived predecessor, Michael Flynn -- Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director of intelligence.
Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon had reportedly intervened on Cohen-Watnick’s behalf earlier.
Right commentators took note, raising questions about Bannon’s future and complaining that too many Obama appointees remained at the council. “But Obama Holdovers stay!” blared a Breitbart headline.
Even before the Cohen-Watnick sacking, Breitbart gave prominent play to a report yesterday that McMaster had fired a member of the NSC’s strategic planning office -- Rich Higgins, who had written a memo describing threats to the administration by globalists, bankers, “the deep state” and Islamists.
Allahpundit at HotAir wrote about the force-outs:
… Maybe this is a sign that forces are aligning against Bannon that will push him out the door too. He lost a key ally in Reince Priebus last week, leaving him facing powerful opponents on domestic policy in Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn and powerful opponents on foreign policy in McMaster and Kelly. Trump would have to think carefully before ridding himself of the guy who represents the single biggest link to the right’s populist base, but it could be that a higher-profile role for Stephen Miller would soften that blow.
3. Affirmative Action Reversal: It Is All About the Asian-Americans.
This week, General Jeff Sessions made moves to take on affirmative action on college campuses. (Political correctness on campuses is a major issue among conservatives. Publications such as The College Fix cover affirmative action lawsuits and complaints heavily -- and this move by Sessions plays right to Trump’s base.)
Many conservatives took issue with how The New York Times reported its scoop on the issue Tuesday -- that the Justice Department had sent out an internal announcement to its civil rights division, seeking lawyers interested in working on investigations related to affirmative action in college admissions. Damage to white applicants was not the point, they argued.
Wrote The Daily Caller:
The NYT and other media outlets trumped up the idea that this move was geared toward helping white applicants at the expense of minority students, although Asian Americans are likely to be harder hit. Outlets including CNN, The Hill and The New York Daily News ignored this point entirely or barely mentioned how the revision might disproportionately affect Asian American students.
Similarly, on Tuesday, David French of National Review applauded the move (and Jeff Sessions in particular) and criticized The Times initial report for ignoring Asian Americans in its coverage:
There are many reasons that conservatives rallied so strongly around Jeff Sessions in his recent conflict with President Trump. Last night, we gained another reason to be glad that he runs the Department of Justice...
Despite the lack of any racial emphasis whatsoever, the Times described the intent [of the internal memo] as “redirecting resources” to protect “white applicants.” I’d describe it differently. I’d say the DOJ is enforcing the law. And if you think white applicants would be the prime beneficiary of fair enforcement, you’re sadly mistaken. The true victims of affirmative action are our Asian-American citizens.
Yesterday, a Justice Department spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, released a clarifying statement, saying that the internal announcement was prompted by a complaint filed in 2015 by a coalition of more than 60 Asian-American associations who requested a civil-rights investigation into Harvard’s alleged discrimination against Asian-American applicants. The Department of Education dismissed the complaint. It is worth noting that The Times did a follow-up story focusing on the lawsuit.
In a Bloomberg opinion piece yesterday, Noah Feldman explained how Trump’s attack on affirmative action has the potential to succeed, with Neil Gorsuch in place on the Supreme Court and Anthony Kennedy possibly considering retirement.
4. Team Miller
Also yesterday, in what was undoubtedly another attempt to rally his base, Trump announced his plans to slash immigration in the U.S. by half within a decade. Twitter had a field day after a senior White House adviser, Stephen Miller, sparred with CNN’s Jim Acosta over how to interpret the famous poem inscribed in the base of the Statue of Liberty. The Right was loving Miller:
The Columbia Bugle @ColumbiaBugle got 20K loves for this tweet:
Make Stephen Miller in charge of communications.
And Ann Coulter @AnnCoulter was also a big fan:
I wonder if it would help if all Trump spokesmen were as smart as Stephen Miller.
What We’re Watching:
If you are interested in a Miller primer, back in February Univision published this damning piece chronicling Stephen Miller’s Santa Monica high school years as a racist.
5. John Kelly, the Adult in the Room
Speaking of communications directors… so what did the Right make of Anthony Scaramucci’s abrupt resignation? As happens with all White House chaos fallout, many outlets were ready to move on as soon as possible, focusing instead on the positive -- in this case, the presence of Trump’s new chief of staff, John Kelly.
Wrote The Washington Examiner in an editorial headlined “Gen. John Kelly, an adult in the West Wing”:
The installation of a new chief of staff and the firing of a communications director on Monday could reflect continuing chaos in a White House run by novices. But we have decided to hold out the hope that the latest moves, the installation of Gen. John Francis Kelly in the West Wing and the firing of Wall Street bomb-thrower Anthony Scaramucci, represent the introduction, at last, of order.
David Harsanyi wrote in The Federalist that Kelly’s mature presence was a good thing, but he was slightly less sunny:
In the end, it’s all on the president. Can Kelly control hi? Take away his phone? Seems inconceivable. But perhaps he can mitigate some of the dysfunction. This president was never going to listen to pointy-headed Washington lifers. Maybe he’ll occasionally listen to a general. Maybe Kelly can push back against the machinations of Jared and Ivanka — whose politics do not comport with the promises of the president and whose strategies help foster chaos — and the other quarreling factions swirling around the president. Maybe Kelly can inject a dose of professionalism into the basic, everyday workings of the presidency. If not, we can look forward to three more years, at least, of chaos.
What We’re Watching:
One rare dissenting voice on Kelly was Elliot Kaufman of National Review. He didn’t object to Kelly’s qualifications, but he did raise concern over the predominance of former military men in Trump’s inner circle and its potential threat to our national security:
We need civilians to have confidence in the military. But what if placing so many generals in positions of political leadership could endanger that trust? And how many generals in the situation room are too many? Answering these questions will reveal why the appointment of General Kelly, even though he may be qualified and seems intent on bringing order to the West Wing, is bad for our national security...
As the Hoover Institution’s Kori Schake, co-author — along with Defense Secretary James Mattis, himself a former general — of a book on civil–military relations, has written, “Part of the reason the U.S. military is venerated by the American public is that they are considered apolitical. The trust on which our system of civil-military relations relies is made much more difficult when veterans engage in blatant partisan politics.” We shouldn’t threaten that confidence by placing so many recently retired generals in political positions.
6. The Chosen One: Deval Patrick
On Tuesday, Politico reported that Barack Obama’s advisers were pushing the former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick to run for president in 2020. The Right was quick to respond.
“Hmm,” wrote Town Hall:
Since Patrick's two terms as governor of Massachusetts ended in 2015, he's largely stayed out of the political spotlight and is now employed at Bain Capital. While there was talk of him being picked as Hillary Clinton's running mate in 2016, that obviously didn't pan out, and he seems to be enjoying life out of the political arena, for now.
Still, the idea is intriguing--although it's probably far too early to start making bets for 2020.
Meanwhile, National Review was more skeptical -- lumping Patrick into just another one of 2020’s “Coming Swarm of Candidates.” Wrote Jim Geraghty:
We’re up to 18 candidates, and that’s not counting the celebrities and media figures who might think Trump demonstrated that political experience is not only no longer required, but a liability: Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah, Mark Cuban, and so on. Quite a few Democrats see Trump’s victory in 2016 as a fluke, a historical accident, a twist of fate that can be explained only by Russian mischief. If President Trump’s job approval remains low, a lot of Democrats will conclude that the 2020 race will be the easiest path to the presidency in their lifetime.