The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Sep 22, 2017

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

Let's do it!

Does the President refuse to certify Iran's compliance next month? What will Congress do? Thanks.

Nothing would totally surprise me, but after calling the deal an "embarrassment" at the UN and arguing that Iran is flouting the deal, I'm not sure how he doesn't do something.

Why would Chuck Schumer allow Bernie Sanders to represent the Democratic Party in a debate about health care, just a week after he rolled out his single-payer plan? Do Democrats really want to have a Graham/Cassidy vs. single-payer debate?

I'm not sure that Schumer is in charge of Bernie Sanders. And I think if he did try to stop him, it would probably just backfire.

But it's certainly an interesting twist -- and you're right that it could turn the debate into something Democratic leaders don't love. Pelosi and Schumer have already tried to pump the breaks on single-payer.

Trump "Threat" Mr. Blake: To refer to you as an idiot is a huge insult to run of the mill idiots - such as Obama and Pelosi.

I have no idea what this means.

As it's also your job to "connect with real American people" -- the WaPo lets you charter jets all the time, right? Side note -- you'd think this administration would be nicer to the "fake Americans" (err... Russian online bots) that got it elected in the first place -- but i digress.

Some AMAZING spin from Tom Price's spokesperson, via The Post's Drew Harwell:

"This is Secretary Price, getting outside of D.C., making sure he is connected with the real American people,” said Charmaine Yoest, his assistant secretary for public affairs. “Wasting four hours in an airport and having the secretary cancel his event is not a good use of taxpayer money.”

By this logic, every Cabinet official should fly private at all times, I suppose.

Does he actually have a chance to pull off the upset in Alabama? An Emerson College poll conducted in the beginning of September has him down only 4 to Moore, and 3 to Strange

Crazy things can happen in a special election. My guess is he'd have a better shot against Moore, but I would expect the general to be closer than a lot of people assume.

Helping or hurting? I really don't understand how a bill could pass to change Obama care and leave so many people uninsured. Regardless of party, how do leave sick people hanging - or people that don't yet know they are sick?

If Kimmel did one thing, it's push this into the headlines again, when it had been pretty quiet. And that leads to pressure from constituents to oppose it.

I do think it's interesting that Obamacare doesn't even meet the so-called "Cassidy Test." I think any replacement that is more conservative was just going to be so hard to argue for, because it inherently means less government funding -- which allows opponents to say "You're taking away health care." That's a really tough argument to win.

Any bold predictions on where we will be with Health care at midnight September 30? (I realize that 8 days is a lifetime in politics but isn't that why you're paid the HUUUGE salary?)

I've given up predicting things. But if you are a GOP senator, your choice is between passing this or doing something with Democrats that will be less conservative. I think the one thin that prevents you from voting for this is if you truly believe it might be a disaster. If that's what McCain, Murkowski, etc., believe, they won't want to attach their names to it. If they think it's a passable alternative, they probably go for it.

I read the Graham-Cassidy bill would reward red states and punish blue states. Is that even legal? Have Republicans abandoned any pretense of governing that treats us all as equally American, regardless of party affiliation, or does this latest iteration of repeal and replace Obamacare double-down on divisiveness?

A big reason for that is it hurts states that took the Medicaid expansion, which are disproportionately blue states.

I'm no expert on this, but I believe it has more to do with that than just "Let's give more to red states." Indeed, some of the hardest-hit states, like Alaska, are red states. But you're right that Democrats can credibly argue that this is Republicans giving their own states more money.

Trump's approval numbers are up and pundits are saying that he has a chance to become an effective president. Your thoughts?

He has always had a chance to do that. And, yes, they are up by a few points -- in many cases within the margin of error. I think he has done himself some real good with competent federal responses to the recent hurricanes and also with some bipartisan deal-making that he was able to sell to the base.

We'll see if that trend continues.

Is there a Constitutional basis for the US Senate refusing to seat Mr. Moore if he's elected by Alabamians? Mr. Moore seems to give the Bible more weight than the US Constitution in his legal reasoning.

I really don't think so. Perhaps that would come up in a hearing if he were judicial nominee, but senators can vote however they want, and there isn't much of a way to stop them.

Following John McCain's dramatic vote, I had read that the Senate could only have one actual floor vote using the process of reconciliation per term. Was that incorrect?

I believe it's limited to one bill -- i.e. general issue area -- and not one vote.

It is a shame some of your writers call themselves "reporters", diatribe scribblers like Aaron Blake. Instead of trying so hard to put a negative spin on everything the President says and does, try something original like, reporting the truth, and not your biased observations

I am more than happy to talk about specific things I have written that people take issue with. That's part of being a journalist, and if there is something you believe is wrong or slanted, please make your case!

But part of being a journalist is also being a check on those in power.

"....but after calling the deal an "embarrassment" at the UN and arguing that Iran is flouting the deal, I'm not sure how he doesn't do something." Come on. This is Pres. Trump. You expect him to be consistent in policy? The usual rules don't apply.

Hence the qualifier: "Nothing would totally surprise me..."

Hi Aaron -- Trump's tweets the other day included a GIF (not sure if that's the right term, but you know what I mean) of him hitting Hillary Clinton with a golf ball. The outrage from Dems has been something less than deafening. Normalization of this president at work?

Part of this is that this has happened before -- with the train image and the wrestling gif of him body-slamming CNN. Maybe Democrats are picking other battles at this point.

Don't understand? How do you expect to cover the Trump administration if you don't speak gibberish?

Oh trust me I speak gibberish. The 2-year-old is teaching me daily!

Perhaps we should all move there? Do they have good relations with North Korea, as in no back-and-forth threats of annihilation?

I'm guessing that they don't (and they are probably outside the range of ICBMs). But there may be other drawbacks to moving there.

So the POTUS starts the week retweeting a video of his golf swing hitting his 2016 election opponent (a former FLOTUS and SOS) and concludes with calling the leader of another nation a "madman." Makes my head hurt.

I feel like Kim Jong Un has been called a "madman" by ... lots of people?

"This is Secretary Price, getting outside of D.C., making sure he is connected with the real American people,” said Charmaine Yoest, his assistant secretary for public affairs. “Wasting four hours in an airport and having the secretary cancel his event is not a good use of taxpayer money.” Excuse me, Ms. Yoest, but I've been in airports and it would be a perfect spot for Secretary Price to connect with the America people. And they're a captive audience!


I prefer its next-door neighbor, Pambya

I hear people like to vacation in Angolia.

Sorry, but that's so definitely not Aaron Blake. That's the old guy who is continually sending out embarrassing and dangerous Tweetstorms, fomenting controversy and ill-will far and wide.

That's no way to talk about Piers Morgan.

Ms. Klobuchar sounds like she's going for it. Trump vs. Klobuchar would be quite a contrast in styles.

Klobuchar would be a great running mate for someone. I still don't see a Minnesotan as a top candidate in their own right! (Sorry fellow Minnesotans!)

So...the thing that I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around (and I believe is in desperate need of more coverage) is that the block grants to states under Graham-Cassidy would expire in 2026. What happens then? Are the states on their own?

I don't think we've seen a good answer to that question. I'm wondering the same. This is part of the problem with doing things in a couple weeks and on a deadline, I think -- the law of unintended consequences.

Hi Aaron: Please tell me that Sen Grassley did not say something like this regarding the Graham Cassidy proposed plan: There are 10 reasons not to like it (or something like that) but we have to pass it because we promised to repeal Obamacare. If so please explain. Thanks

He did say that, and I think that just about says it all about this. They want to pass something, and they recognize it's not ideal. The alternative is they get to do nothing except small things that have to go through Democrats.

I think it's universally recognized that this process stinks; the question is whether you think the relative outcome is worth it.

I gather you missed Al Franken's appearance on Jimmy Kimmel's show last night. Franken would potentially make a great President.

Reasonable people can disagree! Our track record speaks for itself.

Couldn't it also be possible that having single payer lurking as the alternative to a Republican plan build support for Obamacare? Because the Republican plan would be a disaster - 50 new and differing state bureaucracies to form, not enough money, mass confusion as secure IT systems are set up - why not hold single payer as a threatening club?

Triangulation, at its finest. I doubt that's what Sanders is doing, but maybe he does wind up making "fixing" Obamacare look like the preferable option by being so far to the left on this debate.

The problem with that theory is that top Dem 2020 candidates are also embracing single-payer. It's not just him.

If you had to guess, how do you think McCain, Murkowski and Paul come down during the final vote if there is one? Assuming Collins is a no of course and people like Heller and Moran are a yes.

Paul is a no, barring something unthinkable.

I think Collins is the next likely no.

From there, they need to keep both McCain and Murkowski.

Not trying to be snarky here but truly, how much affect does a president have, any president, for hurricane response. Isn't that already baked into the cake?

It's mostly something you can mess up, and people remember when it was messed up. Plus I think it goes to core competencies: Is this guy able to keep the government's most important services functional? People want to have that basic level of faith.

I was a teenager when Khrushchev and Kennedy squared off. Even my fairly phlegmatic parents stockpiled food and made other preparations in case the missiles launched. IS it time forme to make similar preparations? At least during the last crisis there was a sense that cooler heads might prevail. Where are the cooler heads today?

You are asking the wrong guy.

One thing I will say is that I think, politically, that this is a lot of bluster -- which Trump is no stranger to. The problem is what happens when your bluster leads to a real crisis. David Petraeus said this recently about Trump and the so-called "Madman theory":

There is some merit to this. You can argue perhaps there is some merit to it in international relations, although it obviously can go too far. My concern there with the so-called “madman theory” — that actually [Richard] Nixon put forward through Kissinger where he had Kissinger tell the Soviets, “You know, Nixon's under a lot of pressure right now and, you know, he drinks at night sometimes, so you guys ought to be real careful. Don't push this into a crisis.” There may, again, be some merit into the madman theory until you get in a crisis. But you do not want the other side thinking you are irrational in a crisis. You do not want the other side thinking that you might be sufficiently irrational to conduct a first strike or to do something, you know, so-called “unthinkable.”

Ah, good ole Bernie, displaying the fine-tuned political strategy that's made him such a lion of the Senate all these decades. And his bros are whining that HILLARY's the one that needs to fade away?

Devil's advocate here: Maybe it just took him 30 years to get the Democratic Party more in line with his own beliefs!

Do berniecrat primary moderate Dems for giving Trump a signing ceremory, similar to tea party reaction to any government spending?

I don't see any evidence of the organization and coordination that would require -- truly.

If you work for the DSCC or the DCCC and setting aside how peoples lives will be affected, whats the best outcome of GCHJ politically for Ds? It passes and people see how bad it is and blame Republicans? Another close vote that goes 49-51 down that makes Rs look like they can't govern?

If it has the impacts that Democrats believe it would and that estimates suggest, I would say passing it would help the Democrats the most. These bills have been hugely unpopular, and at that point Republicans own whatever happens. That's not a fun position to be in (as Democrats found out).

Even Senator Franken? I would give good money to see a debate between him and the other SNL star.

Franken is certainly intriguing. I still don't think that I quite see him being the commanding presence Dems need or want to oppose Trump.

"...Do Democrats really want to have a Graham/Cassidy vs. single-payer debate?" I don't think this is the disaster that's being suggested. First, Sanders can be pretty darn effective. Second, the country is moving toward seeing health care as a right and while Sanders' bill is problematic, it's sure closer to that than the Graham/Cassidy bill is. Finally, Klobuchar is the other debater and I understand she has not signed onto the Sanders' bill can be a balance to Sanders and the argument that the party is wild-eyed left-wingers.

I am guessing most of the Dem talking points here will be about how Graham-Cassidy is bad. But Sanders will certainly be tempted to play up his own bill.

What is his end game here? What can he do to save himself, since it appears an indictment is likely?

No idea. But the heat is only increasing.

Among others, Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney praised Trump's UN speed. Doesn't the media look petulant when they say it was dark and menacing (to say how we would retaliate in response to an attack)?

I can see the other side here, certainly. I put "menacing" in my headline because Trump delivered pretty serious statements about North Korea and the Iran nuclear deal. he also suggested Russia and China were out of line to deal with North Korea.

I personally think he WANTS to be seen as menacing.

There's talk that the GOP will try to add an amendment to Graham-Cassidy that would forbid states from doing this. I suspect that the Supreme Court would rule this unconstitutional (like they did with coerced Medicaid expansion). But would this be just to please the super-conservative base?

Yeah I'm sure they are worried about their supporters in blue states who might suddenly be in single-payer systems. Again: Law of unintended consequences.

Doesn't Trump realize that tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue could damage the pavement badly enough to force the street to be closed for lengthy repairs, thus cutting off convenient access to his hotel?

Pay the man, Shirley.

How do they vote for this healthcare bill?

I haven't seen any reason to believe they are against. If it's about to fail though, you might see members like this vote "No."

Republican apparatchiks supporting the GOP brand is hardly the shocker of the century.

Both have been highly critical of Trump, though. I don't think they're support on anything is a given.

Doesn't this indicate bias? Doesn't this make the Democrats look bad? Doesn't this make people distrust the media? Aaron, its the same guy submitting these same type of questions week after week to both you and Amber

Everyone is welcome to submit questions, and some people submit a lot of them. I try to answer the good ones that I can lend insights on.

If Catalonia votes for independence from Spain, would that mean that Barça could no longer be in La Liga? Oh, the humanity!

There is no way Catalans would vote for it if that were to happen. I imagine it'd be like Welsh teams playing in the Premier League?

Will our soldiers have to goose step in front of the tanks? I mean, if you're gonna model your country on North Korea, might as well go all the way.

Therein lies the problem. To put on the show Trump wants, it would be a massive amount of prep work. I doubt he will every actually do it.

Have a great weekend, everyone. And see you in 7 short days!

In This Chat
Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake is a senior political reporter, writing 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 family and trusty dog, Mauer, in Northern Virginia.
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