The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jan 19, 2018

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

And welcome to Ask Aaron. LOTS of questions already in. Let's get right to it...

I can't imagine it really happening, well it might shutdown but I think it will be reopened by Monday morning, I think both sides are to blame. Democrats are trying to get everything they want, not willing to compromise on a deal. And republicans aren't bringing enough to the table. Although I do believe everyone will rush to blame Republicans because they are in charge and Trump makes it pretty easy. CHIP is good policy and should be renewed regardless, its not enough and Republicans need to offer more to help strike a deal. Its too late in the game to add in DACA as it needs to be well thought out and constructed piece of legislation and not rushed at the last minute. Oh well the times we live in, wait until everything is crisis mode!

There is certainly going to be enough there for partisans to plausibly point to the other side and feel confident about it.

Trump's oscillations on what he wanted ruined any chance of a bipartisan deal. Without that, there almost definitely is no shutdown. But Democrats I think risk overplaying their hand right now. The fact is that they will be providing the votes that mean the government shuts down, even as the bill as it exists is noncontroversial.

I wonder how many people will pay close enough attention to understand that it was Trump who first blew up this whole thing.

Hi Aaron -- thanks for taking questions today. It might just be me, but it seems like these stories have largely been met with a big yawn. Is that because they've been overshadowed by the Russia investigations, the looming shutdown, etc? Or are stories about Trump's behavior with women and such largely "baked in" -- as in, we're back to the same old saw that voters knew what they were getting with him, and if the Access Hollywood scandal wasn't enough to topple him, nothing will, at least when it comes to these types of stories? Or is it possible there's more to come that might actually make a difference?

I think we're all just trying to figure out what this means. The fact that there were payments to Ms. Daniels, according to the Wall Street Journal's reporting, I think pushes this into the realm of real stories. If it were only a porn star talking to a tabloid, it wouldn't have that credibility.

Politico reported that the DNC is on the verge of collapsing due to the split caused by the Sanders/Clinton primary. How do you think they can fix it?

I think the only thing that can fix it is the passage of time and strong leadership. Without that, people won't feel the need to invest in or pay attention to the DNC.

In particular, lutefisk. If it does, do we all resign ourselves to muttering uff da?

This is above my pay grade. But points for the Minnesota references.

How 'bout those Vikings?

I'm already girding for the inevitable missed field goal to make the Super Bowl!

In a year will the Dreamers still be worried about their future or will Congress pass something that lets them stay indefinitely?

I feel like the answer is yes, but the fact that we have election-year politics makes it less likely. And Trump pulling the rug out from beneath this bipartisan deal should caution anybody against such assumptions.

Obviously the GOP controls the White House and both houses of Congress. But if there is a shutdown, it will likely be because the democrats chose to protect illegal immigrants over keeping the government operating. The GOP didn't suffer due to the Obama shutdown, why would it suffer now?

I doubt either side pays much of a price, as long as it's not more than a couple weeks long like 2013. Polls back then showed more people blamed Republicans, and then Republicans won big in 2014.

My guess is other factors will matter much more.

It appears yours is the only live chat today at WaPo. Will you be giving out relationship and/or car-buying advice to fill the void?

I have a longstanding offer to dispense any type of advice people might want. It may not be good advice, but hell I'll try.

Whether the senate agrees to a plan to keep the gov open for a few days or votes on a more comprehensive bill, don't those have to go back to the House? And will the House pass that?

Yes. If it's different, the House needs to re-vote. And we just found out House Democrats have been told to stay in town. So it sounds like that's on the table.

Assuming the gov does shut down, or the Senate agrees to work through the weekend to try to come up with something...Trump is still going down to Mar O Lago??

White House is now saying he'll stay. That wasn't really practical. Would have been shocked if he had still gone.

Aaron- as I write this, shutdown looks extremely likely. How quickly do you think there will be a public consensus on who is to blame? I'm assuming that as soon as one party is clearly held responsible, that party will likely cave and negotiate a solution of sorts.

We just came out with a poll showing people blame Republicans and Trump by 20 points. I expect that will change as people process what just happened though. I think that's more reflective of the fact that Republicans are in charge.

Blake- Where were you when it happened? Skol! -Anschutz

Mr. Rabbi! I was in my basement watching with my wife, who never watches football and just happened to watch this game. So she's got a pretty good batting average. They say Millie is the good luck charm, but I think my wife has a decent claim on it.

Any ideas on what we should expect to hear?

It will be about 90% about how great his first year in office has been, I'd imagine.

Is it possible Trump really doesn't want to allow the dreamers to stay in the US, and therefore no bi-partisan bill will be good enough for him?

I don't think he cares that much about the dreamer issue, per se, but found that it was a nonstarter for some of the immigration hawks he finds himself surrounded by. Someone convinced him that it was much more useful leverage than perhaps it is.

Will Trump cave so that he can go on his vacation? Or is he pretty much out of the picture now? I could see him getting bored and/or ground down to the point to conceding on policy points- he doesn't really care about policy anyway...

He's apparently making phone calls. But he spoke with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows yesterday and apparently was giving him the go-ahead to oppose the CR. And given that and his tweet on Thursday, I'm not sure how much he's actually going to help get something done.

He seems to want to be the Senate voice against immigration. Is this a winning strategy for possible future Presidential run as the young Trump?

It was arguably Trump's signature issue, so I'm not sure we can say that it doesn't work strategically.

Doesn't this imply Trump believes the other Fake News around him is really true?

I was mostly struck by how that was basically a list I could have assembled in about 10 minutes. No creativity or thought appeared to go into it.

Are you glad to have not earned a Fakie for one consecutive year?

I believe it's spelled "Fakey."

So let me see if I got this right. Democrats plan to rage a battle of principle against a man who clearly has no principles -- and to lead this battle, they'll lean on a 77 year old woman from San Francisco who rarely does live TV interviews, can't clearly articulate a sound byte to save her life, and whose idea of great messaging to win over the masses is stuttering to declare the current legislation "a bowl of doggie doo with a cherry on top" -- and promising voters a "Better Deal" months ago --whatever that means. I mean, what could go wrong? Nothing quite like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is there....

On a messaging front, the GOP has been superior over the last 24 hours.

hi Aaron, thanks for chatting. why does the media keep repeating the myth that the GOP "controls all branches of government" and thus deserves blame if the gov't shuts down? it takes SIXTY votes in the senate, and there are only 51 republican senators. thus in no real sense does McConnell "control" the senate...

I don't think neutral journalists are or should be saying that Republicans DESERVE the blame. It's completely true that Democrats can stop anything they want, just like Republicans could for most of the Obama presidency. 

Trump seems to have everyone around him sign non-disclosure agreements - Ivana, porn stars, staffers, etc. Could someone step forward to foot any ensuing legal bills for a person who had signed a Trump NDA? Would they face any other legal jeopardy? Do you think this could happen?

Interesting, kind of like how Chrissy Teigen offered to pay for McKayla Maroney to violate her agreement not to speak out? That's a great question for a lawyer. I wonder if NDAs have prohibitions on rich people swooping in and picking up the tab. That would seem to me to be a smart clause to have.

I was in a mostly empty pub in northern England watching the game against the Falcons. I managed to find the one pub with a Falcons fan. And then they cut away from the game before it ended. Good times.

That sounds like a better ending than the one I saw.

Pretty sure that statement isn't true, or Trump wouldn't be able to get anyone confirmed to the bench.

* With the exceptions of nominees and measures done through reconciliation like the tax bill

Last week's "compromise" debacle highighted the folly of trusting Trump and his cronies on anything? When you have Cotton & Co. attacking even their own, why should the Dems trust the GOP that water is wet? If the choices are trench warfare or capitulation, I'd pick trench warfare.

I think that's the calculation now. They tried to play nice, and they got punked. But that doesn't mean trench warfare is the better strategy politically. As I've said, they're in GREAT position for the 2018 midterms right now. Why do anything to mess with that?

If they shut it down, we're in it for the long haul, right? A week at least? I don't see them shutting down the government at midnight and then cutting a deal and reopening 12 or 24 or 48 hours later, do you? Does the House being out of session next week have any bearing on it? Like, if it shuts down, the House won't be involved in negotiations until the next week? The only worse optics would be if Trump goes to Mar a Lago this weekend.

If it shuts down, I think they focus on trying to reopen on Monday rather than right away. Then after that it probably becomes a waiting game with both sides looking for the other to blink for a while.

Say HRC had been elected President. Then it was found that she had an affair during the campaign with a male pornstar, and her attorney had paid $100,000 to him, to keep quiet. How would the Post's coverage differ from what we saw this week?

If these things were proven, I imagine the coverage would be quite extensive. The Stormy Daniels affair thing is still just an allegation, and I don't know that we've confirmed WSJ's reporting on the payment. I don't think this is going away, but it's always worth being judicious about stuff like this.

Hold on. McConnell of course doesn't control how 99 other senators vote, but he has absolute, 100% control over which bills do or don't get a vote on the floor. We are facing a shutdown because he (and Paul Ryan) refuse to put a bill on the floor with a DACA fix - this same, bipartisan bill has everything else Trump wants, and would get a solid, bipartisay majority in both houses if brought to a vote.

Fair point. It does seem that the bill would have passed. But that doesn't change the fact that Democrats can stop anything Republicans put on the floor here if they decide to. Even in 2009, we recognized that Democrats' power wasn't absolute until they won the Franken seat and had Seat No. 60.

Hasn't that been shown time and again? So how is anything to be accomplished if it's just a matter of who can be the latest shiny object who grabs the man-child's attention?

I think this is true in a lot of cases, because Trump doesn't pay attention to the details. It's pretty clear that he was going to go along with Durbin-Graham till Stephen Miller and Tom Cotton gave their case on it.

I'd say the downside to "playing nice" is even further infuriating Dem voters who had to sit through six years of GOP obstructing Obama and giving another rightwing extremist a lifetime Supreme Court seat. If they can't demonstrate an ability to fight they're not gonna inspire many angry voters to support them in 2018.

This is the counterpoint. I think there is clearly an argument for Democrats playing more hardball than they have in the past; I think the question is whether they'll prosecute that strategy as effectively. 

Also keep in mind that Republicans only need to win red-leaning districts and states to hold majorities. Democrats can't just win blue districts because of how our country is distributed. So there is a better argument for Republicans winning by obstructing.

The rich person could set up a shell corporation and bank account and pay the victim through that. It's working for Trump

The downside is what happens if it comes out in the news a year later ... kind of like this did. 

Reminds me of the classic "Garfield" cartoon, where the cat declares that he's not overweight, he's under-tall.

That's genius. Senifeldian even.

If the government runs smoothly, government is boring. Trump needs chaos to feel important. So next time you think you have a deal with him, think again.

I think there's a lot of truth to this. He's almost conditioned himself to require attention, and chaos is the easiest way to make that happen. Apparently he's okay with that even if it means a 39% approval rating.

I just want to say I really dislike the count down clock on the front page of the post website. It's unnecessarily stress inducing, particularly in bold red.

Sorry! I'll alert the authorities.

You really think Trump won't go to his big one-year $250,000 per ticket party? I have to disagree. He'll go and say "I'll come back if they pass something."

I suppose it's possible. I think it would anger some Republicans who are clearly already pretty pissed off.

Why do anything to mess with that?" Because it's the right thing to do?

That's fine. But you're making a moral argument; I'm talking about political considerations. Those two things don't often coordinate.

He had a fairly easy go of it last time, as it turned out, though I know there was some thought that he might have a competitive race rollout. Do you hear anything suggesting he won't run again? My understanding is that he's deeply unpopular in Kentucky right now, though.

He's like 2-to-1 unpopular and might even fact a tough primary, given how much antipathy there is to him within the base. If GOP loses the majority this year, I don't see why he'd stick around.

Aaron - Unless you have an alternative explanation for the bizarre and disheartening depths of fear and loathing coming out of this obviously incompetent and unfit administration, his book is as good as it gets. It is Trump's razor. Whenever there is more than one explanation for what is coming out of the White House, the stupidest explanation is probably the correct one?

I just have a difficult time believing that I should take to the bank everything (or anything) that's in a book with so many sloppy mistakes. Why would I believe he's not just universally sloppy?

I’m down in Florida visiting relatives for a 90th birthday party (not mine, a relative). The noise over a shutdown is about zero down here. Retirees down here know that they’ll still get their Social Security depsoits and their Medicare cards are still valid. It’s kinda refreshing to see people outside of Washington, DC take a more measured view of life than those inside the Beltway.

I can tell you based upon readership numbers that people don't seem to be terribly freaked out about this.

Thank you for the candor. I needed to a jump-start to seriously consider leaving D.C.

I'm honestly sorry to disappoint you. It's just that moral judgments are inherently infused with ideology, partisanship and personal feelings. As journalists covering this stuff, it's not a great idea to start judging which side is morally right, because it's a matter of one's own values. What's great about our country is that lots of people have strong convictions. We also need people to set aside their own convictions and write about this stuff dispassionately so that others can make those judgments with clear minds.

That is perhaps a better enunciation of what I was trying to say. It's not that people shouldn't be moral; it's just that people's definitions of morality will vary widely based upon who they are.

Thanks everyone for coming out. A note: The Ask Aaron chat is considered an essential service, so we'll be back here next Friday at noon even if the government won't be.

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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