The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Sep 15, 2017

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

Happy Friday. Let's do it!

I read that Kelly's control of info to Trump is affecting policy decisions now. Bannon is outside the Administration trying to influence policy via Breitbart. What about the Mercers? I read that they are close to Bannon, have some radically right-wing ideas, and subscribe to conspiracy theories. Do they have access to Trump to influence policy decisions?

It's remarkable how much can change based on the information Trump consumes, and Kelly's efforts to control that flow seem to be impacting things. But Trump doesn't like being controlled; I wonder if all these reports about it are going to make him wary of what Kelly is doing.

Now that Trump has set his sights on upsetting the last 35% of the country that still supports him, will he even get the Republican nomination in 2020?

After 8 months (really two years) if inflaming everyone but the base, the idea that he's suddenly going to be wooing moderates is far-fetched. That said, he can actually possibly get some things done. I just don't know what the end game is if he wants to seek reelection.

Will Alabamians really elect a twice removed former Chief Justice of their Supreme Court justice for their next Senator? Bannon's a fan, but where does POTUS stand?

Trump has endorsed Luther Strange, so some interesting dynamics in that runoff later this month.

That said, I would never discount Roy Moore's chanced of winning. The GOP base still wants to give the middle finger to the establishment, and he's providing that option -- attacking McConnell, etc.

I don't follow Jemele Hill or ESPN on twitter. Had ESPN management not issued a statement that turned into an article on the Washington Post, I would have never known anything about it. But what kind of an idiot wastes White House press briefing time asking about it? He's the one who should be fired. And maybe stop wasting time in the daily press briefing while we're at it.

To play devil's advocate: This is an opinion that lots and lots of people in this country hold right now, and this is a debate that has been bubbling beneath the surface for a while. I don't think this is about Jemele Hill, specifically, but rather that appropriateness of throwing the white-supremacist charge at a president.

There are clips of Schumer saying that Medicare For All will bankrupt the country. What does this mean for Bernie?

And Hillary Clinton, not in so many words. I think Democratic leaders are wishing they didn't have to have this conversation, but Bernie and the base are forcing it.

Everyone: I apologize for doing this, but I have a little family emergency that I need to tend to. I'll need to cut this chat short, but I will be answering your questions later today! So keep sending them!

Thanks for the kind words. The wife needed an emergency root canal, so fun times over here.

Going to charge through some more of your questions.

So, down the road, do the Republicans impeach the President out of self-defense?

I have a REALLY difficult team seeing this ever come to pass. I think if anything you'd see Democrats lead the charge and possible a handful of Republicans go along.

Why do you think your family is little?

Half of it is!

Why does he go there? If Obama or Bush or Clinton commented everytime a TV commentator said something bad, it would take them 24x7.

This is 100% Sarah Huckabee Sanders going to bat on something the president himself wants her to. It creates controversy, and he thinks it riles up the base, thus he likes it.

DACA -- where are we now? Those poor kids must feel like they are one of those awful thrill park rides.

Huckabee Sanders now says Trump supports the policy. Given that, if you're a Democrat, I'm not sure why you feel the need to give up a ton on border security.

What are democrats winning politically by making deals with Trump? They are siding with a guy who is radioactive for their base! I don't think they're going to get more votes from the independent or the republicans by making deals with Trump....

From a political standpoint, it may not be smart. From a policy standpoint, he's giving them things that they want.

Maybe they are just that confident about defeating him that they think they can play ball? Or maybe they realize they may be in the minority for a while and might as well get things done.

Multiple choice Q: A. Perez problem B. Deflated base C. Gobbled up by third-party orgs D. Operational problem (lists, small-dollar fundraising, etc.) E. THERE IS NO ALL OF THE ABOVE DON'T DO THE REPORTER THING AND COP OUT

The DNC has been in decline for year. I think the donors are happy to go around the official party apparatus. But that's also because it's been kind of a mess for years. Perez pledged to turn it around, but I don't think the fundraising bears that out.

Which Republications do think are/would seriously consider challenging Trump in the 2020 primaries? Kasich seems obvious, but does it appear that Cruz or others may run?

Cruz got battered pretty badly in his home state for what he did with Trump around the GOP convention. If Trump continues to tack to the middle, that may tempt Cruz to challenge him from the right. But I think Kasich is the most obvious answer -- apart from someone pretty small-time.

Did Trump really say that the rich would not get a break???

It's extremely difficult to square this claim with everything we know about were this is headed.

Is chocolate cream pie a fitting followup to a dinner of General Tso's chicken and Hunan beef? Bonus question: Did President Trump get two fortune cookies while everyone else got one?

First I get Hax questions. Now Sietsma!

1) I have no idea. I'm not a food-pairing guy.

2) I would expect so.

The Obama campaign complained about Clinton staying in the primary so long in 2008 but later admitted that it helped them in some ways by building a campaign infrastructure and giving their staff experience in important general election states. The Clinton campaign complained the same way about Sanders in 2016 but didn't seem to get the same benefits that Obama did - why is there that?

Clinton seems to think that it's the same things Sanders attacked her for that were seized upon (and worked!) in the general election. I think a lot of this is revisionist history. Obama won so it seems like the primary helped him; Clinton lost so it's easy to blame it (alongside everything else).

Sounds like its on the same fun level as a flat tire on the I-5 at rush hour or perhaps a raccoon attack while moving the lawn.

I've never even had a cavity, so I have no idea! (::pats self on back::)

Why is this? Pence seems not involved in Russiagate or the emoluments clause, the two most likely send-offs for Trump.

I'm not sure I understand that argument. He did vouch for Michael Flynn -- wrongly, it turned out -- but I haven't heard of him being tied to much else in the Russia probe.

Does he run for office? President?

Haha. I don't think that's inside the realm of possibility. I think he runs his media company and tries to impact the GOP.

Do I really care that Jeff Sessions is humiliated? He could/should have resigned a long time ago. Ditto for Cohn. At some point if you serve someone like Trump, you don't get to complain about being treated badly when you know that Trump thinks Nazis have a lot of good people on their side too.

As I've written before, the Trump administration is where your pride goes to die.

I suppose that Trump's chance depends on who he's facing on the democrat side and if the republican establishment decide to present another candidate to counter Trump's nationalist movement. A three-candidates election is way more difficult to assess (look at Teddy Roosevelt election)

I think the GOP only runs a candidate against him if 1) They see the governing situation being completely untenable or 2) They see him having no chance at winning. And given what happened in 2016, they won't trust their instincts on No. 2.

Andy Slavitt and Ben Wikler are reporting on Twitter that the Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal/replace package has a date for floor consideration and potentially sufficient votes to pass. If true, this seems like a huge deal since Graham-Cassidy would be a massive rewrite of this country's health care system (and a poorly thought out one at that) but I don't see much about this on the major news sites or even the Hill-specific industry publications. Is Graham-Cassidy really happening?

Well it has a deadline if they want to pass it using budget reconciliation, so they have to move quickly, pass or fail. I'm not sure the quickness if because of its momentum, per se, as much as a last-ditch effort.

Not enough time for depth but I am not a Clinton fan. In 2018 and 2020 I won't even vote for someone backed by Hillary. Personally I'm hoping for Bernie or someone from the Bernie wing. Fair or not I don't see Hillary being net positive. How are Democratic Party leaders seeing her involvement in politics and do you see her helping or hurting the Democrats?

I don't think the party leaders love it, but none of them have the stature to stop it. They are the Clintons, and this is basically a leaderless party right now. 

In a column on Monday re Bannon/Comey firing, you talked about major political events such as the Iraq War, the Vietnam War, the Affordable Care Act, Iran-contra, Richard Nixon's “Saturday Night Massacre,” etc. But then you also include in the list Mitt Romney's "47 percent” and Hillary Clinton's “basket of deplorables.” The two wars are historical events that cost lives. The ACA was a massive change to the government's role in the health care of all citizens. Iran-contra and Sat. Night Massacre were huge political actions and possibly crimes involving sitting Presidents that could have/did lead to a change in government. Trump firing Comey can arguably be included in that last category. Romney and Clinton, however, simply made unfortunate comments in the course of a campaign that gave them a bad PR cycle. They don't belong in the same list as the others, and including them downplays the importance of those others.

This is a fair argument. And the piece is here

My point was not to equate going to war with a political gaffe, but rather list the things that could logically be compared to what Bannon considered the biggest political mistake in modern history. Some of those were gaffes that may have cost people campaigns; others were weighty decisions made by presidents that had huge implications for the future of the country. All of them involved politics, though, and thus are political decisions.

Is that state visit still on for this fall? Or have things chilled too much for a trip right now? (those terrorist tweets can't be helping the relationship)

I can't imagine Britain loves his Scotland Yard tweet. Seemed like a thinly veiled suggestion that British intelligence and police failed. And perhaps that's why we saw such strong pushback on him getting ahead of the details of their investigation.

Thanks for hanging with me today. I promise I'll give you the full hour -- on time -- next week*.

(* barring another root canal)


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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