The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Dec 08, 2017

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

THIS WEEK: Al Franken resigned. Trent Franks resigned. John Conyers resigned. The president and RNC got behind Roy Moore. And the White House tried some ... novel legal strategies.

What's on your mind?

Any chance the democrats can find a candidate to challenge the R in his district?

Very, very unlikely. I doubt they'll even try very hard. Of course, weird things can happen in special elections.

Hi Aaron -- thanks for taking questions today. A summary from your front page this morning: "The forced resignation of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was the Democrats’ strongest declaration yet that they — unlike the Republicans — are willing to sacrifice their own in the interest of staking out the high ground. But some say that may not be enough to overcome the deeper dynamics that drive the electorate, and could make voters even more disillusioned." By way of full disclosure, I'm a constituent of Sen. Franken's and deeply disappointed on a number of levels with this turn of events. The argument seems to be this is only going to work if the Republicans can be sufficiently shamed, but since Trump and Moore have largely been given a pass on similar and worse accusations leveled against them, the Democrats gave up a lot for not much in return. Your take?

I think, politically speaking, Democrats are playing the long game. They hope, even if this doesn't stop Roy Moore or Trump, it will cast the GOP as the party that puts up with this stuff, while they don't. We'll only find out if it works in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

But this was also partially a response to their own base demanding zero tolerance.

Assuming Moore wins next week...Trump won, the RNC is supporting Moore. As long as they win elections, what is the incentive for members of Congress to do anything about sexual harrassment or sexual abuse? My hope is that Alabama would be a turning point, but it doesn't seem like it will be.

Two points:

1) Alabama is one of the rare states where I think a candidate like Roy Moore still would have won. It's just THAT red.

2) The payoff for Democrats would be more national -- the idea that swing voters will be turned off to how the GOP handled this and Trump. I don't know if that'll happen, but I don't think Tuesday settles this by any means.

Our allies hate it. Muslims around the world hate it. Other than evangelical christians, who likes Trump's Jerusalem policy? Putin? Who else thinks this is a good idea?

Trump's base likes it. And that's generally what he cares about -- first, foremost and maybe even only.

Just finished reading the editorials by both the Post and the Times on the Franken, do the editorial boards have access to the prominent social media platforms? Kirsten Gillibrand is right now struggling under a wave of tweets on her feed, virulently opposed to her role in forcing Franken out. The editorials both speak about the "bright line" the Democrats have drawn between themselves and the GOP, by taking this action against Franken. What they have done is to appear disloyal, calculating, inauthentic and holier-than-thou...a Dem stereotype trifecta plus one. They just. don't. get. it. And I'm a Democrat.

There was certainly opposition among the most vocal partisans (who tend to dominate social media). But a Q poll this week showed 77 percent of Democrats say a member facing multiple sexual harassment accusations should resign.

Also, I don't think the editorial boards are worried about their opinions being reflective of a majority of the Democratic Party. That's not their goal.

How many more members of Congress will end up resigning over these cases? The whole system seems almost tailor made for abuse - powerful men with little oversight and usually reluctant victims. Glad to see that is changing. We obviously need a lot more women serving as members.

I have no specific knowledge of anything, but the fact that this is happening so quickly suggests we're not done. And also, vetting these accusations takes weeks sometimes, so there could be plenty of stories in the pipeline that only the journalists are aware of.

Or could it be some staffer that is so depressed over what she's gone through, and has decided to keep quiet about, that she can barely leave her apartment?

I think you've got the wrong chat! :)

So, after one year of the Trump Era, what have you learned about the way to do your job now? Do you do anything differently than you did under prior Administrations? If not, why not?

It's certainly true that a larger portion of my job is spent on accountability, but that's also part of the beat I got when went from being an editor to a reporter. There is just such a need -- and a volume of material -- when it comes to parsing what politicians say and fact-checking things in real time. I think we need that more than ever, given how innuendo is being exploited and facts are being disregarded with reckless abandon.

I think the earlier questioner raised a good point about who likes Trump's new policy. There's a good chance Putin is a fan based simply on the fact it creates a wedge between the U.S. and other nations, elevating Russia by proxy.

This was supposed to be Putin's initial motive for interfering in the 2016 election, and I think it still might be his ultimate motive. Supporting Trump in a lot of ways is merely a means to that end -- even as Putin clearly had reason not to like Clinton.

What sis a logical reason for GOP groups and commentators to spend time attacking Robert Mueller; a Republican selected by a Republican appointe who got rid of a lawyer on his staff who sent an anti- Trump email last summer? Do they need this stuff if they think Trump is innocent?

It never hurts to create an insurance policy, and attacking Mueller's credibility is the best play for keeping the GOP base on-board if he finds something adverse about Trump. Politically speaking, it's a no-brainer.

I know that she does get mentioned among the list of potential 2020 Democratic candidates, but not always in the same tier (whatever that means) as Warren, Biden, others. If she runs, after the primary electorate learns more about her, I think she'd be the front runner, for a variety of reasons - youth, "newness" to the nat'l scene, etc. At this extremely early stage, what do you think are her greatest advantages and disadvantages? Thanks.

There are some questions about how much liberals love her. She also didn't fundraise as well as she probably should have in 2016. And I have yet to see her really test her voice on the national stage, apart from coming out for single-payer.

As far as her upside, it's unquestionable. Her profile -- and not just her background but also the things she's worked on -- seem like exactly what Democrats want right now. She will have a chance to catch fire if she runs; it'll be up to her to seize upon that.

Long-suffering Midwest citizen.

Winter? In about 6 months.

I think taking the moral high ground alone will be a disaster for Democrats. How do you shame the shameless? I worry that we'll be overrun not just by creeps, but by creeps with heinous policies to boot.

And this is the counter-argument.

I wonder how loud the chorus calling for Franken's resignation would have been if the governor of MN was a Republican.

It's a fair question. But I would point out that this puts a seat at risk in 2018 when they didn't have to. And this is a state in which Trump lost by less than 2 points.

Gerrymandering gets talked about a lot as a challenge to Dems taking the House but I think another factor is the rural bias of the way seats are distributed. Shouldn’t expanding the size of the House be an item Dems explore if they retake Washington in 2020? California should have 10-15 more seats than it does for example. It would just take overturning a 1929 law, right?

Talking about expanding the size of Congress is probably a pretty difficult thing to do at a time when Americans hate Congress.

Do you think Trump's outsized outsider (relative) success means a family "brand" is now a negative? Or is the political marketplace just being 'disrupted' (and Donald J. Daughter is heir apparent)?

I think as long as lots of Americans don't pay close attention to politics, dynasties will continue. It's an easy shortcut to vote for something you know well enough.

Let's say that Trump is ousted. Does Mike Pence appoint Roy Moore as his VP? What are the odds?

Is there a number that's less than zero?

#MeToo must have caught the attention of anyone considering running for elected office. Women candidates may be deemed a safer bet for the time being. Dana Nessel's ad for MI AG makes this point. Do you think we will see more women, both Dem. and Rep., since so far it most of offenders seem to be men?

We're already seeing an increase in women running, but you hit on something else worth noting: How much might this discourage men who are worried about things they have done coming to light? It certainly seems like plenty of people drawn to power are also drawn to this kind of behavior.

Susan Collins has expressed concerns over the tax bill now...any others starting to have 2nd thoughts?

It sounds like Flake isn't necessarily getting what he wants. If they voted no along with Corker, it'd be done.

Rock bottom is less than zero. But we've reset it so many times this year already.

Subterranean Rock Bottom.

Have you considered running for Senate from Minnesota?

I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.

Something tells me I've got too much D.C. stank on me anyway.

Could he run for Senate in 2018?

Phil Gramm did this in the 1980s when he was thrown off the House Budget Committee. He resigned, became a Republican, and won the special election for his own House seat. And then he won a Senate seat shortly thereafter.

That said, I think national Democrats would STRONGLY caution him against this.

Is THAT what that smell is? : )

Half smokes + coffee = DC stank.

Is it correct that the House and Senate can reconcile their differences over the tax bills they passed and send it the President for signature without any votes on the newly created package? Is this a "done deal"?

Both chambers must pass the bill crafted by the conference committee.

What does it tell that the Republican House no longer has a supermajority in GEORGIA, no less? First time in about 30 years or so. GA has trended bit purple, but might this be big news to come by 2020?

Georgia has been trending in this direction for a while, thanks to the fast-growing Atlanta suburbs. It was only a matter of time before that super-majority was gone. I think this state is in-play at the presidential level by 2024 or 2028.

I hate this phrase. I know it's your job to parse the political advantage/disadvantage of various actions, but isn't there an argument that it was simply the ethical thing to do? Is this really seen as a cynical ploy by Democrats by the electorate at large as opposed to pundits and elites?

I hate to break it to you, but this wasn't a decision that was made in a political vacuum. The ethical righteousness of this is for everyone to judge based upon their own morals and views of the case. For me to assume this was 100 percent them being Good People would be to cast aside a mountain of evidence that suggests they considered the politics of this by waiting as long as they did. That's not to say it was 90% politics and 10% principle, but it wasn't 0%/100% either.

Remembering what she endured when she testified at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Would like to think she would receive a more respectful hearing were she speaking today.

She would. I don't think there's any doubt. It might not have turned out differently in the end, but it would have been prosecuted differently.

When the sun dies, swells into a red giant, and swallows the Earth.

Offered without comment.

And that follows Joe Biden - renewing questions about his decisions on the panel at the time of the hearings?

100% that will be an issue if he does run again.

that is genuinely scared about the prospect of Mueller concluding that the president has broken the law in some way and the GOP controlled govt simply ignores it or claims the investigation was too biased to be believed? i refer to the WP piece from this week from Devlin Barrett and Sean Sullivan

The GOP base stuck by Nixon even when Watergate was blowing up. Do we really think it isn't going to stick by Trump in this much-more-polarized time, and when Trump has been telling them from Day One that the Deep State is out to get him? We've already seen what Republicans aren't willing to do when the base resists.

Norm Coleman says no; Pawlenty?

He's saying "never say never," but he also sounds like he likes making lots of $$$$ in the private sector. He'd be their best candidate. After that, my old state rep/congressman Erik Paulsen would be good, but he might have a tough time in a primary.

Everyone have a great weekend, and I'll see you all next Friday at noon!


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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