The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Dec 15, 2017

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

Great to have everyone back this week. TONS of questions already in, so let's get to it...

Hi Aaron -- what's your take on Dayton's choice to replace Franken in your native state? And what your sense of who might run on the Republican side? Colman (Norm) says no; Pawlenty? Or is he happy making oodles of $ in the private sector?

I think it will be tough to convince someone like Pawlenty to run, given the tough environment that is shaping up and how there will be so many other higher priorities for Republicans on the map. This seems tailor-made for an ambitious House member or someone who isn't getting rich in the private sector.

Trump allies say Tillerson has ‘not learned his lesson’ and cannot continue in job for long

The Pompeo thing is interesting. I wonder how much of it is that Cotton for CIA director seems like a bad idea now that they lost a seat in Alabama. Why risk another open seat like that?

They're fun/

Former Rep. Tim Murphy's (R-Pa.) seat in Pennsylvania is up March 13. Not sure how hard Dems will go after it, given it's pretty tough territory. But they have to feel emboldened now.

First, I'm glad there are no betting windows on statewide elections. In the Virginia governor's race the prognosticators said they expected Northam to win but by about two or three points. The doc won by nine. In Alabama few is any said that Jones would win an yet he did. Was it the women's vote or the black vote and should we expect these surprises to continue in 2018?

This is very much an off-year thing. Turnout is just much more difficult to gauge when you don't have a bunch of congressional races (or a presidential) on the ballot.

Aaron— Putting aside the awesome alliteration in the title—what role, if any, do you think the dog-whistle race antics of the adminstration played in Alabama special election?

It's difficult to say, of course. But it's not a bad question. And at the end, Roy Moore's wife seemed to make a pretty anti-Semitic-sounding joke about how the media were Jewish. There seems to be an attitude among some that this kind of thing is good for riling up the base -- and getting the media to over-react -- but Alabama could very well demonstrate the down side of that.

If Trump pardons Flynn, will that move any republicans in Congress to act?

You have to wonder if, at that point, Republicans might realize that this whole thing won't end well. That said, he's done things that I thought would clearly be the point of no return with them before, and they keep coming back to him.

" You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." - Inigo Montoya

Trump is 0 for 3 in the last three statewide races in which he's gotten involved. And two of those came in races in which he didn't need to get involved and in a state (Alabama) that loved him in 2016.

What can ordinary citizens do to protest? Please don’t say just vote or actually hold a protest sign—I mean real efforts like donating money or somehow getting involved to assure that states can press charges.

It won't be suspended. Even if Trump were to try and fire Mueller, he would be replaced with another special counsel. And the investigation is already far enough along that some sources have said it may not really matter if Mueller remains.

I understand the MSM has to cover everything Trump tweets and says but it is such a distraction and is sucking oxygen from important issues. I think the WAPO, and other print media, should push coverage of his inane and outrageous comments into a separate section called Stuff Trump Says (I actually have a different title in mind but not printable). I suggest this only half in jest. I agree that Trump is playing “one dimensional chess” but do think he has a strategy to bob and weave to distract from real news. And thanks for the great reporting that you and your colleagues do every day.

They're all presidential statements, and the world sees all of them. Choosing to de-emphasize certain things is a tough thing to do. Who draws the line between what is a truly problematic tweet and what is just Trump spouting off? My guess is we'd get criticized for taking it too easy on him. Nobody would be happy with the choice between what is viewed as significant and what isn't.

It looked like hew went through 3 bottles of water giving testimony. Who gave it worse to him, Democrats or Republicans?

I thought it was really interesting how tough some Democrats were too. I'm guessing a guy who is deputy attorney general never thought he'd have an entire oversight hearing of his carried live on CNN.

Any word on Rubio flipping back? What about Susan Collins or Jeff Flake? What's the Line that it passes by Dec. 22?

Sounds like they made the change Rubio wants. And Collins sure seems to want to get to "yes," in a way she didn't with the health-care vote. I think this looks like it's on track again. But things can change. They could lose both Flake and Corker as long as everyone else is on board.

“I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We will see what happens.” “You have a lot of angry people. It’s a very sad thing to watch, I will tell you that. I am going today on behalf of the FBI, their new building, and when everybody — not me, everybody, the level of anger, and what they have been witnessing with respect to the FBI, it’s certainly very sad.”

Glad you asked! I just wrote about this.

I think, if you look at how Trump has talked about firing Comey, Bannon and Flynn -- and ignored questions about pardoning Manafort -- we can read SOMETHING into this. But it's also Trump just being Trump, to some degree.

Is he going to run against Susan Collins? Maine could have two Senator Kings!

I'm going to resist the urge to make a dad joke and a bad pun here.

I will only say that Collins's seat isn't up until 2020. So It will have to wait.

What do you think are the chances now? What if impeachment hearings by the GOP start before Nov. 2018?

Impeachment isn't close right now. I think Democrats have about a 40% chance of taking the House and a 30% chance of taking the Senate.

Who are the two reporters who broke the Roy Moore Pedophilia Story? Do they get a day off or are they already on new assignments?

Beth Reinhard and Stephanie McCrummen. I'm sure they're working on the next project already. Stay tuned...

Odds of a government shutdown next Friday? I'm struggling to think this Congress, not known for accomplishments, can finish tax "reform" and a budget in a week.

Never underestimate the productivity of people who want to spend time with their families. There's a reason they are trying to get it done by then, and it's not just so they can say they did it in 2017.

I'm glad he lost, but for a different reason: when McCain lost, I was glad because -- despite the media painting him as a far-right lunatic -- he wasn't a good representative of conservative thought to be the one around whom people would define conservatism. Moore's brand of extra-Constitutionality (especially the Ten Commandments in the courtroom) isn't the one I want associated with my beliefs.

That really got papered over with the sexual misconduct allegations, but this is a guy who literally refused to obey judges' orders -- twice. Imagine that guy as a senator.

What'd you think of Thiessen's thesis (say that ten times quickly) this morning? I agree that Moore would have been a very handy punching bag and distraction tool for the Dems, had he been seated.

To the point above, there is a real part of me that wonders whether Democrats might have actually wanted Moore to win and Republicans might have actually wanted Jones to win. 

We know Tillerson is leaving State in a Rexit any day now. But Ryan is supposed to be retiring next year. With Rexit already taken, what do we call it?


You can debate which candidate would have made which party happier but you can't doubt Trump's feelings on the matter. Three drubbings in a row had to really sting on that thin skin.

No question he went out on a limb for Moore wanting to save that seat, and it backfired badly.

I don't get it. Please explain.

I believe the phrase is "pay the man, Shirley".

I'm more proud of myself than I usually am. I just tweeted it too.

Has former-Speaker Boehner commented on the Alabama Election yet?

I think we need to have a Periscope on him at all times just to see his reaction to stuff. I imagine he would just take a sip of Merlot and smile.

If Pompeo (sic) doesn't follow Tillerson at Foggy Bottom, who would be the "Plan B" nominee?

Nikki Haley? Though I'm not sure Trump would put her in such a high-profile post, given what she just said about his accused. Also hard for me to believe he'd pick a senator. Maybe another general? Pretty wide-open.

Legit LOL for that.

An oldie but a goodie.

1. Is she (or the GOP) regretting moving the special election date from November 2018 to December 2017. 2. What's to stop Strange resigning with immediate effect and the Gov appointing Jones to the seat that he's going to take anyway.

1) Yes. Very much so.

2) I'm not sure why Strange would resign immediately, given he wants tax reform to pass.

I guess they assume the tax bill passes?

Yep. Nice that it could recover from the depths of Brian Ross's flub.

Following that sip of merlot with a nice drag ala Herman Cain.

Not Herman Cain! His adviser! Mark Block.

why would he retire? And when we say retire, does that mean he is not going to run for another office?

It sounds like this would be his last political act -- apart perhaps, from running for president.

Here's why I think he'd retire.

Tom Emmer?

He certainly has statewide aspirations, having run for governor before. I think his 2010 loss was pretty disappointing, though, given how good a year it was for the GOP nationally. They could probably do worse.

If the Republicans retain the majority in the House following the 2018 election, who are some of their best candidates for Speaker? (Full disclosure: I've always viewed Kevin McCarthy as a lightweight, and a puppet of his mentor in Bakersfield).

Sounds like it would be Scalise versus McCarthy. I feel like Scalise would probably have the inside track, given his relationship with House conservatives.

Roy Moore isn't known for quitting. If he runs for governor or maybe tries to primary an incumbent GOP congressperson, do you think he has any shot in the primary? There's really nothing stopping him from running again, especially if he thinks the race was somehow stolen.

Running for the House doesn't seem like something he'd do. And his last GOV campaign left him finishing 4th in the primary.

Can this happen by Dec. 22? Or is Luther Strange going to be voting on the Robin Hood in Reverse Tax Bill?

There is no way Doug Jones will be in that seat before the tax vote -- unless the deal completely falls apart and they can't pass it by year's end.

Yes, it will probably pass, but that will not make it any more popular (and perhaps less so once people know what's in it) aside from finally notching a win, not helpful in the long run in the midterms?

Certainly not helpful. The question is whether voters will vote against it. I think opposition has been somewhat muted -- at least relative to the Obamacare replacement effort.

Follow me in this scenario: It's early 2019, Dems have retaken full control of Congress. Trump is starting to make noise that he may sign Dem legislation because it makes him look like a winner and it sets him up to try to pull a Bill Clinton triangulation angle. Does the GOP get serious about impeachment then? Would Dems even want to impeach in that scenario if it meant a president Pence?

1) Trump does actually have some convictions, and I don't think he'd every meld with Democratic leaders very well.

2) They'd have to have a real reason to impeach, rather than just being unhappy with the bills he was signing. It wouldn't pass muster with the American people otherwise.

3) Who knows? Again, I don't think it would actually work very well.

Here's a theory: Franken was waiting for Moore to win, so he could change his mind about leaving and say "See? What I did wasn't so bad."

I've heard that. I do wonder if there was a little part of him that was just buying some time and maybe hoping people would regret the decision to force him out. It hasn't happened.

Before the Alabama election, there were many stories warning of the danger of photo ID laws and how they will suppress the votes of minorities. Given this week's results, what is your take on how much suppression these laws actually create?

You never know how things would have turned out without those Voter ID laws. Maybe Jones would have won by more! But the turnout among black voters was as high was it was when Obama was on the ballot, which was huge for Jones's win.

He was just trolling. A win is a win and an extra seat could be gold come 2018. I like the consultant who asked what was necessary for the Senate to flip. The answer was Nevada, Arizona, and an act of God. He commented that they got the hard one.

The map has a way of evolving as the cycle moves along. Don't sleep on Tennessee or even another seat that we're not thinking of coming into play.

Thanks everyone for another great chat. I should be here next Friday for a little pre-Christmas chat. See you then.


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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