The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Aug 25, 2017

The Fix's senior reporter Aaron Blake chats with readers in his weekly politics chat series.

Hi everyone and welcome back after one week on hiatus. I've been looking forward to this for 14 days now!

Let's do it.

I ask this in all seriousness: Why are the TV and print press covering these campaign style events, like the one in Phoenix. Trump always inserts comments about the press that all but incite violence from the crowd. Just stop going. No news clips. No reports. No think pieces. Knowing that the man believes in the old maxim, "The only bad publicity is your obit," I think it might get him to reconsider his attacks. Note, I said "might."

This hearkens back to what I wrote a while ago, about why we have to cover Trump's tweets. He's the president, and everything he says matters. Also, if we ignore things and don't scrutinize them, we won't be doing our jobs, and he'll still get his message out via friendly outlets, with no fact-checking, etc.

I just think it's an overly simple solution to think he would change anything if we didn't cover it. And even that aside, he is the president.

Aaron, for some reason journalist groupthink right now insists that DT must do this or that to "get anything done." Why do journalists ignore the fact there IS no Trump agenda, only a ledger recording "W" and "L". Trump has impulses, and he wants to tweet about "W's", but with a couple of exceptions he doesn't care about their substance. Congressional republicans and business leaders have agendas, but not Trump. How would journalists' coverage change if they started with the assumption that there IS no Trump agenda and he doesn't care if nothing gets done (so long as he can tweet a W). I am tired of hearing all of them say he "can't achieve his agenda without x or y" when there is every evidence that he has no agenda.

I think "Trump's agenda" is generally understood to be passing things, whatever the actual substance. So maybe it's an imprecise way of phrasing it, but that's what we're getting at. Totally fair points.

Why do I feel like John Boehner and Barack Obama had a better relationship than McConnell and Trump?

Because they did, at certain points. And they at least respected one another.

Moore or Strange? What's the smart money saying?

The polls are certainly in Moore's favor at this point. I haven't studied it closely, but I wonder how Strange would ever out-conservative him.

That said, having Moore in the Senate will be really interesting to watch. He's been attacking McConnell and is a hugely divisive figure.

You didn't miss a thing in DC while you were gone. (Hope the baby is sleeping on a more adult-friendly schedule.)

We've had a breakthrough recently! Thanks for your encouragement!

When pollsters ask voters whether they would vote for a generic Democrat or a generic Republican in the next election, what is it that we are actually learning from that question? Is it primarily a referendum on the president? The congressional majority? When voters are asked to think of a generic Democrat, do you think they are thinking of a Clinton Democrat? A Bernie Democrat? Or a local Democrat official? When the parties do their own private polling, do they delve deeper into this question to help determine which direction or emphasis the party should take? News reports always highlight this question when reporting on polling, but I really don't know what it tells us.

I'm not sure they think of a specific kind of Democrat, but rather think about which party they want in control of Congress -- which is often a referendum on the president. It's often been a pretty good indicator of looming waves, as I've written.

As with all polling questions, there are limitations, but this one does a good job of seeing how people would vote if you set aside specific candidates (which a lot of people do).

How does this end?

Honestly, I would have a difficult time turning down 138 million. I don't think he's worth that, and if they can replace him by the end of the transfer window for half htat price, I'm all for it.

That group stage draw is juicy and would seem to open the door to a good Champions League run with Coutinho, but I think selling is the right call, as painful as it might be to do.

So I guess I will be sitting home beginning of October?

More likely than not, says Amber!

Any validity at all to the rumors Kasich and Hickenlooper are considering running as an independent ticket in 2020? Wouldn't that substantially increase the chances of Trump being re-elected, provided he is still in office? 2020 would seem to a year when a third party or independent candidacy would be viewed with more hostility than usual.

I do think it would help Trump. I have no idea if it'll happen.

Assuming Trump doesn't get impeached/resign in the next three years and things stay on the current path, how many GOPers will run against Trump? 2nd part, what are the odds he loses the nomination, even though he's losing support amongst Republicans, I say he has about an 85% of being the nominee should he run again.

I think any more than 1 or 2 serious Republicans running against him would make it a fool's errand for all of them. They would split the vote so much, as we saw with Cruz and Kasich.

Are you going to come back to Minnesota for the State Fair?

I would love to, and I've been a couple times in recent years. Alas, it's not in the cards this time.

What would it take for him to turn it around? *For the record, I don't see it ever happening, and don't want it to happen, but I am curious about what, if anything, COULD make it happen.

I honestly think if he just toned down all the drama and rode the strengthening economy, he'd be well above 40 percent right now. History shows presidents are strong when the economy is strong.

I haven't seen anything written about this in the MSM but has it occurred to political reporters that Trump faces liabilities in the Russian investigation that are far greater than simply being impeached and losing the presidency? What if Mueller uncovers money laundering through Trump's real estate deals that puts his entire financial empire in jeopardy and he and his family in legal peril? Could Trump be fighting not to hold on to the presidency but his life's work and financial legacy?

I think it's premature to talk about what crimes might result. We can talk about what Mueller is examining, but that's really getting ahead of ourselves.

What has been notable is that they are looking at finances and not just campaign contacts, etc. Exactly what that means, who knows?

It's the morning of Wednesday November 7th, 2018, the Senate looks like? The house looks like?

The Senate is about what it looks like right now, with Dems gaining a seat or two in Nevada and/or Arizona but Republicans gaining 2-3 elsewhere in those deep-red states. The GOP's House majority is intact but significantly smaller.

Democrats, yet again, are complaining that they didn't do better.

You're Paul Ryan, in the unlikely event Democrats take back the house in 2018, do you stick around as minority leader, or do you retire from congress asap?

Too young to throw in the towel. And he's been in politics for a long time.

Don't go into the media pen. Go in as participants and just take notes. No big TV cameras, no start to finish coverage on the cable nets (well, except Fox, of course). If he doesn't know you're there, he can't point you out, although obviously he'd recognize the big names if they attended. It's not news, it's propaganda. Cover it that way.

All rallies are propaganda, to one degree or another. So is lots of political speech. You cover it critically, always.

I don't won't the press to stop covering his rallies. I want to know what he is doing, what he says and how his supporters react to him. Ignorance is not bliss, and as much as he complains about the media, ignoring him might only make him more outrageous in order to attract attention. He reminds me of a children who want attention so much they will do anything to get it, including (if not especially) misbehaving.

This behavior, much like his tweets, isn't helping him succeed as president. Maybe the coverage of it is having an impact?

When Lindsey Graham says negative things about Trump the media is all over it. When Graham said positive things re Trump's speech on Monday night the media didn't mention it. Doesn't this indicate bias?

No. Not at all. It indicates that he's a Republican who would be expected to say nice things about Trump. Democrats bashing Trump and Republicans praising him = totally unsurprising. Democrats praising him and Republicans bashing him = news.

They should be running mates, with the slogan "This is the only way things could get Moore Strange."

Pay the man, Shirley.

He craves your attention yet he regularly insults you and your fellow journalists, claims you don't love America, etc. How does that affect the way you cover him?

It shouldn't, and I think plenty of journalists are good about setting that aside. We get criticized a lot. The volume is unprecedented, but it's not new.

What is the President's strategy in attacking people like Corker who regardless of what they, sup,port the Republican agenda with their votes? Even Flake votes the straight GOP line.

Either 1) He's just lashing out at anybody who runs afoul of him, 2) He's trying to motivate them, or 3) He's decided he's going to attack the GOP, just like every other institution in American politics.

Did you check with Trump supporters after his speeches? They like the way he's speaking, saying they voted for a fighter and that's what they got.

There has been no shortage of stories about Trump supporters being happy with him. And that's true of the majority of them. There are cracks in the base, though.

I am assuming that the GOP will be unable to escape blame. People generally hate the government until they see what it does. When things don't happen, it gets ugly. The 1996 shutdown really lead to clinton's reelection. 2013 might have helped the Dem's if the Obamacare rollout was not so FUBAR'd.

As 2013 showed, 15 months is a long time for the shutdown to still be a consideration in voting. And I tend to think that if it's just a couple weeks, people don't factor it in much.

The danger is that it reinforces the narrative that the GOP can't govern and get things done, even with majorities. In 2013, it was about the minority party holding things up.

Is it true that a lot of the Trumpers filed out before the end of the Rally? Perhaps the media should turn the camera around.

Jenna Johnson covered this extensively in a great piece. Though candidly, I'm not sure we need to be documenting the size of his crowd in real time on TV.

Marie Antoinette, Part Deux?

I am going to start appending hashtags about what I'm wearing to my tweets. #tyrrwhitshirt #brooksbrotherstie #kennethcoleshoes

Democrats have supported border fence/wall do you think they're against it now just to try to keep Trump from that achievement?

It's 100 percent true that they supported it before, including Hillary Clinton. But there had been a steady erosion in Dem support, even before Trump. The immigration issue as a whole has shifted to the left on both sides for years.

Even considering how bad much of the Trump news is, I wonder how this is helping the Democrats? There is no one right now who can speak out as the representative of a unified party in countering the flow of bilge.

They still seem to be a party in search of a direction and leaders.

Just how much damage is he capable of doing now that he's outside the tent?

If he really wants to make Trump's base turn against him or even grow disillusioned, I think he can do it -- to a significant degree. If Breitbart starts saying Trump isn't a nationalist and was a fraud, that's going to do real damage to his base.

Jenna Johnson, WaPo Editors and this subscriber feel that you should!

As I noted, Jenna's story was fantastic. I was talking about cable news training cameras on the crowds as the rally progresses and trying to figure out how many people are leaving.

I think that will lead to too much jealousy. #hanes #bathrobe #bloodymary


I'm sure all the readers of the Post are pleased that there's fact-checking of the president's claims (I'm among those who admire your work); but sometimes I feel like we're preaching to the converted. How do we get the 30% in his base to consider that what they're being told often isn't accurate?

I've thought about this often. The best we can do is fact-check fairly and hope to earn their trust back. I honestly think lots of people don't even give us a chance -- just assume those fact-checks are dishonest and won't bother to read them even critically. I'd encourage them to read them critically and take issue with anything they think we get wrong.

The most depressing thing about this job is that 97% of the criticism I get from Trump supporters is "FAKE NEWS" and "HE WON THE ELECTION," without actually arguing against anything I've written. We need to have a dialogue.

Forgot the #furrybunnyslippers

Sound luxurious.

Any chance it would pass in September?

I have a really, really difficult time seeing this.

No casual Fridays at the Washington Post? For the summer at least? #brooksbrotherstie

I am wearing jeans, if that counts! #bananarepublicjeans

Why the sudden turn on Dems fortunes from pundits lately? Dems taking the House was very buzzy a few months ago. Now its all "gerrymandering is too hard to overcome". Are we likely to see 1 or 2 more swings in the pundit sentiment between now and 2018?

These things go in cycles. Also, gerrymandering isn't stopped Democrats from winning the Senate; the way our country is sorted is. And that's happening in the House too.

See here: "Why you should stop blaming gerrymandering so much. Really."


Consider it not done. There's no problem, believe me.

His removal from the Charlottesville basketball game was like something from The Onion. Or a joke from Mad Magazine. These are insane times.

Completely bizarre and foolish to think they were preventing more trouble than they might be creating.

I've seen characterizations of the Arizona speech along these lines and have just one question. Where have you folks been the last two years? I listened to about half an hour of the speech and it was standard fare that he's been saying all along. As the Fix founder has written, there is no Version 2.0.

Some people still hope or think -- against all evidence -- that he can change. He's a 70-year-old former reality TV star who has been the same person in the media for decades.

In the NBC/Marist poll the approval rating among Trump voters in Michigan is 84%, in Pennsylvania 81% and in Wisconsin 77%. Pretty good for him, isn't it?

That's on-par with the rest of the country. Not surprising.

Ugh, just when I thought I was done needing the brain bleach.

Sometimes you forget something like this that he did as a candidate, and then it all comes rushing back. I'm glad I could make that happen for you today.

I agree we need a dialogue, rather than his base parroting the "fake news" insults. SO, how do we create that conversation? Do you or others who fact-check ever get asked to be on Fox News, like on Bret Baier or Shep Smith's programs (they do news, not commentary)? That might be a good place for a discussion to begin.

I do Fox News' midday programs regularly, and I enjoy it. 

Chatter only writes two lines and completely messes up a basic fact. It was a UVA football game, not a basketball game. 4 Pinocchios.


like all statewide elections you can't gerrymander senate elections so of course Dems can win state wide even though house districts have been gerrymandered to give an advangate to the GOP

Democrats also face more than a 2-to-1 disadvantage in governors. That ain't gerrymandering either.

Thanks everyone for coming out. Stay safe, South Texas!

In This Chat
Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes and edits for The Fix. A Minnesota native and graduate of the University of Minnesota, Aaron has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and The Hill newspaper. Aaron lives with his wife, baby son and trusty dog, Mauer, in Northern Virginia.
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