The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Feb 23, 2018

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

And Happy Friday. Lots going on:

-Trump leaning in on guns, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott just announced he'll support raising the age limit for gun purchases to 21.

-Rick Gates has flipped.

-The White House still isn't talking about Stormy Daniels

-More Democratic special-election momentum

-The Kushner-Kelly feud

-Apparent "chain migration" in Trump's own family

Should Trump be worried? How much?

For the first time, it's someone who was regularly on the plane. And unlike Manafort, Gates was there till the end. There were also tons of charges against him. We haven't seen the plead deal yet, but if it's really lenient, you have to think he's offered something of real value.

I imagine Manafort is in a pool of his own sweat right now.

Evidently the President needs to remind himself to say "I hear you" to show empathy. If you were President, what would you need to constantly remind yourself to do?

Not to slouch.

In all seriousness, I've seen plenty of pushback on this. Everyone needs notes! they say. It's just a reminder! they say.

But Trump has a clear history of failing to provide the requisite empathy. Whether you think he's a good president or a bad one, that's clearly just not his thing. It's fascinating that they decided to address it in this manner. It also suggests they are acknowledging the problem.

When did the GOP become so all or nothing on guns?

80 percent of the public supported the assault weapons ban in 1994. I think it really started in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Seems this is why nothing will get done.

Wrote about this this morning: If Trump goes strong, I could see them backing down. That's the one thing that could really test them. Taking on Trump would mean they could lose.

Blake, You're an idiot!! How many politicians don't use notes? Pathetic!!!! You are the hypocrisy poster child. How many police stations get attacked? None. They all have guns.

Wait, is this about me being an idiot or about guns?

Wisconsin Trump 1,409,467 Clinton 1,382,210 (differential from Trump: -27,257) Stein 30,980 Michigan Trump 2,279,805 Clinton 2,268,193 (differential from Trump: -11,612) Stein 50,700 Pennsylvania Trump 2,970,733 Clinton 2,926,441 (differential from Trump: -44,292) Stein 49,941 National Electoral Vote Trump 304 Clinton 227 Total electoral vote of above states: 46 National Electoral Vote if WI, MI, PA go to Clinton Clinton 273 Trump 258 #AmericaFirst #Russia

I've addressed this before. It's just not true:

"Exit polls showed 60 percent of Stein backers said they would have stayed home if she weren't on the ballot. Among the rest, Clinton led by about a 2-to-1 margin — 27-13, to be specific — but Trump took a fair amount of voters.

"Applying those numbers to the totals above means Clinton would have gained about 4,300 votes in Wisconsin and about 6,400 in Pennsylvania — not nearly enough to change the results.

"And even if you are very charitable to Clinton and allow that those 60 percent of folks who said they would have stayed home would actually have voted for Clinton, she still doesn't win the presidency. Even then, with Clinton winning Stein supporters 87-13 in Pennsylvania instead of 27-13, Clinton would still lose the state by about 800 votes. And without any of the three states above, she still loses the presidential race.

"In order for Stein to truly have spoiled the election for Clinton, it would have required basically all of her voters to instead vote for Clinton. There is very little reason to believe that this would have happened — even if many who say they would have stayed home would actually have been Clinton voters."

More likely to be seen stumping for red state Democrats -- former President Obama, a potentially still motivating force get out the vote for GOP voters, or former President Clinton, in a post #MeToo world?


On a scale of -infinity to +infinity, where would you rank today's CPAC speech?

It was a return to the 2016 campaign. Utterly unsurprising and still remarkable.

CPAC seems to be a pretty stretched version of "conservatism" we all used to know... any thoughts on third party bids (new Politico report on some governors planning to run in 2020, etc)

CPAC has never been an accurate reflection of the GOP. It used to be disproportionately Ron Paul supporters. Then it was disproportionately conservative. Now it's very Trump-y and nationalistic, apparently.

Considering he's running for Senate, is this a serious flip, or just a tactical retreat?

This is a serious flip -- though of course not everything gun-control advocates want. The NRA needs to figure out whether it's going to fight this, given Trump has talked about doing this at the federal level. Pat Roberts and Rubio have talked about the same thing.

If nothing else, this makes the debate very real.

What can the press do to go back to previous front page stories (like the security clearance issues) that have fallen out of the top 10 issues of the day to get the WH to address them? We're all on overload but these types of issues are not being addressed. Other candidates are tax returns, emoluments, etc.

On some level, it's simply about people acting upon the news they see. So many controversies have gone by the wayside because there's just so many other controversies. Lawmakers don't act until they fear for their jobs.

Of course, we are such a polarized country that most lawmakers will probably never fear for their jobs.

I was listening to an analyst yesterday saying that the NRA is actually less relevant today in setting people's feelings. Rather, it's become the left's Planned Parenthood--convenient to blame, but people would hold the same views regardless. How much do you think that the NRA actually matters, today, rather than a generation ago?

I think it's oversold. Republicans by and large believe gun regulations wouldn't solve the problem. The NRA certainly plays a role in making that argument, but this isn't just about the NRA spending money to reelect or oppose members.

Could only a weakened Trump break the NRA?

Maybe not only, but Trump's decision to focus like a laser on his base (at the expense of everyone else) has made him powerful on stuff like this.

Disagree with you Aaron. Look at all of the "Retirements" in the House and Senate.

The majority of those aren't because those lawmakers are worried about losing. That's not why Trey Gowdy retired, for instance. I don't care how bad things get, 75-80 percent of GOP districts are pretty impenetrable.

I thought if deaths of children in Newtown and many adults in Vegas couldn’t change things—nothing could. That was incorrect. Gun and ammo stocks are down this morning and companies are ending various discount programs.

We may not see wholesale changes, but even these incremental proposals are significant. The NRA has long believed any new measures were a slippery slope, so it fought everything. We'll now see if that's a tenable position.

We've all seen how Trump Jr "favorited" tweets creating conspiracy theories and lies about the Parkland shooting survivors. These are kids. Sure, some of them might be 18, but then we get into the right-wing argument about whether they are kids or "thugs", don't we? I seem to recall people complaining when presumably left-leaning idiots went after Barron Trump. And they should. But then, the right-wing idiots went after Chelsea Clinton as a teenager, and after the Obama girls. It's okay when the right does it, I guess. I'm not really sure the point I'm getting at, but it does burn that the right is apparently shameless and just doesn't care. I hope it's not too much to expect them to finally get their comeuppance in November.

It's not even just attacking kids who were the victims of a tragedy; it's attacking kids using false conspiracy theories. That's the line that I can't believe keeps getting crossed.

You can make an argument that they are entering the political debate and have to accept some criticism. They don't need to accept character assassination based upon lies.

Did she go to see the Women's Olymic Hockey Team win Gold? Tell Amber we miss her!

She'll be back next week! She was on a nice vacation, of which we are all extremely jealous.

Could Kusher be the next to flip?

The big question now is Manafort. If his business partner is singing, he has to think any proof of wrongdoing will come out. But he's resisted a plea deal so far, so maybe there's a good reason for that?

There doesn't seem to be any news or movement on it, and frankly speaking, it appears that Trump's base would actually really love to see them all deported (fewer voters of color down the line).

We're in a holding pattern for now, but as we draw closer to the deadline (which isn't really March 5, because of the court case), we may see one side or the other start to blink. I think this will be hard for Republicans to totally disregard. Once those deportations start happening, that's not a great news story. And polls show people would blame the GOP -- more than 2-to-1.

Our local paper, the St. Petersburg Times (not the fake Tampa Bay Times!), reports that Rick Scott's picture has suddenly vanished without explanation from the NRA's website for its big meeting in Dallas. See If Scott truly has been deemed a suppressive person by the NRA (and a tip of the hat to Scientology) and fails to regain their favor, is Bill Nelson a safe bet for re-election? And if so, what does that mean for the Republicans holding their Senate majority?

It would mostly be a problem for Scott in a GOP primary, but I think he probably feels pretty safe there. If there was one guy who could break new ground on this, it might have been Scott, because of his stature and wealth.

Aaron: I don't care how bad things get, 75-80 percent of GOP districts are pretty impenetrable. You are, of course, right, that it will take a major wave to oust Republicans. But two points: First, I wonder how many Democrats told themselves exactly that in 1994? Or Republicans in 2006? Second, if Democrats take even half of those vacancies and keep their own seats, that would flip the House, right?

Democrats only need 25 seats, which would be about 1 in 10 Republican seats. Even in the biggest wave election years, you generally don't see more than 15-20 percent of a party's seats lost.

So, yes, the GOP could lose the House. But no, most of these members aren't retiring because they are worried about losing.

Trump's ideas on how to end gun violence are so all over the map that I'm even more convinced that he doesn't really understand issues and goes with whatever the last person told him. But does it even matter? It's doubtful that he'll actually DO anything himself to implement these ideas and will sign whatever Congress ends up sending him.

I don't think Congress will send him anything unless he pushes for it, though. Those two things are tied together.

Perhaps someone who's name rhymes with "Bladimir Bootin" threatened to send himand his family for an all-expenses paid trip to Sunny Siberia?

Or perhaps he's not anxious to be the guy who 40% of the country viewed as having tried to take down their president. Being remembered as a felon is one thing; that's quite another.

Or maybe he's just holding out for the best possible deal.

A Facebook post from a schoolteacher friend who doubles as a comedian. (Literally--he gets paid for it and everything!) "Think about yourself in middle school and/or high school. Many of you are alive today because your teachers weren't armed when you wouldn't shut up all year while they were talking. Some of you should be thanking me specifically." The man has a point.

The idea that emotions run high and the guns could be discharged in other circumstances is certainly a big part of this. I think it's worth noting that Trump seems to be talking about arming teachers who have been trained. If there is any shot of this happening, I imagine it would be a very limited number of teachers who volunteer and get training.

Will Trump invite them to the White House?

I would hope so. That's a big win!

Who's next? Drew Carey, Steve Harvey...

This guy reads it from a card!

Today is the day Kelly's week is up - supposedly Kushner loses his clearance. I don't see any news about it.

This story isn't gone. Not hardly.

Like John Dean???

John Dean has done alright. Being the John Dean of the Trump presidency wouldn't be fun in the near-term.

Were they in the handwriting of Gen. Kelley, Hope Hicks, or someone else? Because it sure has heck wasn't Trump's!

I believe I have seen that Hicks wrote them.

Will they accept?

Seems more likely that they would. Hockey players tend to rock the boat a little less. But who knows!

Well, there was an armed sheriff's deputy on the Stoneman Douglas High School campus who'd undoubtedly been better trained than most teachers, and he froze when he heard gunshots on February 14. Why would Trump think that amateurs at shooting like teachers could do any better than a professional?

Another valid argument. Would it be a deterrent if the gunman knew there would be possibly 5-10 armed teachers, rather than one security guard?

So an adult between 18-20 can get married, buy a house or car, and can even join the Army and be sent to war, but we don't allow them to buy a gun because of the actions of a handful of mentally ill people? Where's the logic in that?

Devil's advocate: We have decided collectively that they are not mature enough to drink alcohol. You have to be 25 to rent a car. 

The goalie for the Boston Bruins refused to go to the White House when Obama was president. He got a very rude reception here in DC when Boston played the Caps. I do think that Olympic athletes are less likely to rock the boat though.

These ones also tend to come from Minnesota, too.

It seems there is no end to the number of Biden "eying" or "taking steps" or "tiptoeing" or "gauging interest" in a 2020 run. I like our former VP and given the likely alternatives would likely support him in a run. But don't all these stories sound like a final moment in the sun/precursor to a book for an aging politician rather than concrete steps toward another presidential run?

I tend to believe they are a sign of a guy who truly regrets not running last time and is anxious to make up for that -- if he's able.

How's that March 13 special election in PA looking?

Close! I think we've got yet another example of Dems knocking on the door of winning a very close congressional special election.

Part 1: wait, the Post is writing front-page stories that Melania Trump's parents *might* have come over via chain migration, but we don't really know; we might not have; but let's put it on the front page anyway. Part 2: there's a joke here. My in-laws came here because of chain migration. That's all I need to know to kill off chain migration.

1) It seems pretty apparent that they did. We have no confirmation because they won't say definitively, but immigration experts say the fact that they are permanent legal residents means that almost definitely used that method.

2) This joke is too easy.

If a million people come to DC on March 24th, will that make a difference to anyone in power? I'm considering marching but I'm assuming this will all just get spun by the White House Press Secretary into the "smallest audience to march ever, period."

I think the organizers of the women's march would argue that it played a role in the #MeToo movement. 

I like Biden and thought he was a fine VP but COME ON. He was twice a terrible candidate for president, he's too old, and with the rise of #metoo I don't think his disgraceful handling of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill fiasco improves his chances.

I tend to agree with this. People like the idea of Biden a lot more than the execution. Being VP doesn't regularly test you; being a candidate does.

Do the Arenas where the Wild and the Timberwolves keep changing names, or are there two different Arenas in two different places?

How dare you. The Wild play in a totally different city! They are in St. Paul at the Xcel Energy Center. The T-Wolves are in Minneapolis at the Target Center.

I don't think you have to be 25 to rent a car in all states. You have to pay a premium though. I definitely rented a car in college in Virginia and California.

Fair point. Also I don't think it's a law so much as the common practice.

But my point about the drinking age stands!

I don't agree with the characterizations of Americans as equally intransigent and walled off. And I think it's misleading. With this gun debate - Democrats are not in complete opposition to all guns. To have commentators say "they're walled off in their two camps" gives a misleading picture of equally uncompromising groups. One side is uncompromising. The NRA side. Similarly with health care. Democrats aren't demanding nationalized health care. Sure, talking about it, but open to a variety of options. Republicans: destroy "socialized" medicine. Environment (climate change): Democrats - this is happening, and communities are already spending money, let's plan. Republicans: there is no climate change. So, I appreciate the media loves this safe (for them) face off of two equally wrong adversaries. But it's mostly Republicans.

I would say just because a position isn't absolute in allowing or disallowing something doesn't mean it's necessarily less dug-in. And just like Democrats aren't in complete opposition to all guns, the NRA doesn't say there should be absolutely no regulation of guns. On health care, Republicans aren't talking about completely getting rid of Medicare and Medicaid.

I would agree, however, that the GOP tends to be more beholden to its base on these issues. 

Thanks everyone for coming out. Have a great weekend, and we'll see you next week.


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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: