The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jul 12, 2019

The Fix's Aaron Blake discusses the latest in politics and campaigns live with readers.

So much going on:

-Census

-Acosta

-Mueller delay?

-2020

-Ryan vs. Trump (and Tim Alberta's book)

-Anything else you want to ask

Who, if anyone, does this hurt politically? Thanks -- enjoy the chats.

Good question. To the extent that it continues to drive a wedge between Pelosi and the the progressive side of her caucus, it's not helpful. To the extent they feel slighted and continue to fight back -- and try to pull the party toward them using public pressure -- it could hurt the party with moderate voters. I think there is real, valid concern by Pelosi here. I don't think this is just petty, personal politics.

I guess his "News Conference for One (Trump)" didn't impress the one!

Apparently Trump thought it went well initially, but then some cable talkers he likes started bashing Acosta. I think it's important to note that Acosta didn't have a ton of allies in Trump's orbit.

I just witnessed the press conference. Why don't reporters follow up if President Trump says something obviously untrue. I know it's chaotic but they are nothing more than stenographers. Your thoughts please?

I think that's unfair. I'd like to see more pushback too, but it's not always feasible -- especially with the helicopter in the background. And being stenographers means they don't report the things Trump says critically, which lots of them do.

Fastest recorded flip-flop ever? I see her raising lots of outside money but not being able to get across the finish line, sort of like Beto against Ted Cruz. What do you think of her chances?

It was incredible. How is she not ready for the Kavanaugh question? That's a bad omen.

I see the parallels to O'Rourke took -- Democrats probably donating lots of money to a very, very uphill battle where it will likely be wasted. But I'd argue this is even tougher, because it's a presidential year.

Hi Aaron --- thanks for taking questions today. I know it's early, but something tells me that Trump is in pretty decent shape for 2020, at least as of today. What do you think? if you had to assess his chances right now, what odds would you give him?

I'm right around 40 percent. I think the early polls probably undersold his chances, but I keep wondering how he can win without improving his image. The WaPo-ABC poll had his approval the highest ever -- 47% -- now we see if other polls match that.

Isn't Trump stating that citizenship data can be drawn from other sources tantamount to him admitting that the Census question was proposed for other (possibly nefarious) purposes?

That's one way to read it. Another way is that the entire 18-month effort was a waste of everybody's time and an unnecessary embarrassment for Trump, Wilbur Ross and the Justice Department. Imagine being one of those lawyers and hearing him say that.

Hi Aaron, I know AOC, Omar, Tlaib, and the other lady all come from very safe Dem districts, but has there been any polling on satisfaction with them within their districts? Do their constituents approve of their antics, or might we see them primaried in 2020?

Omar is the one that people think could possibly have some trouble in a primary. There is concern about the way she's conducting herself, especially in the Jewish community. But is she likely to lose? I don't think so -- at least not based on her comments thus far.

But I bet this makes no difference to his 42%

DING DING DING.

Paul Ryan's game? Why talk now?

For the life of me, I can't understand it. But sometimes people are willing to say things in books that they wouldn't say otherwise -- or perhaps that the reporters who write those books spend more time and are more successful in getting people to spill.

"valid concern by Pelosi" I mean, she's not innocent here. She has absolutely contributed to the situation.

No question. But I think she's doing that because she thinks this is a fight they need to have -- that she needs to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

When was the last chat that you started without thinking these words? 2015?

Earlier this year actually! March and April got kind of slow, in my opinion. 

But this is all relative.

Is this seriously how we're staffing the cabinet now--based on whether some talking heads on Fox News like someone?

It's how many other jobs have apparently been staffed -- and decisions have been made -- for a while now.

Acosta wasn't the only one to mishandle the Epstein case. Cyrus Vance (Manhattan District Attorney) argued that Epstein should not be registered as a Top Level 3 sex offender, but a Low Level 1 (despite the state's assessment deeming Epstein to be highly dangerous and likely to keep molesting girls). New York Supreme Court Judge Ruth Pickholz said "I've never seen the prosecutor's office do anything like this. I have never seen it." Do you think the Epstein case was mishandled all around?

A lot of the talk about this suggests Acosta did something nefarious. It's also possible that a very high-powered legal team Epstein hired is just very good at manipulating law enforcement and applying pressure. In journalism, you try not to let people who are good at "working the refs" affect you, but everyone is human.

That doesn't make it okay to let a child predator off easy; but it could explain why this might have happened in more than one circumstance.

His approval was 44%

44% among all adults.

47% among registered voters -- which is the one we usually focus on when talking about reelection.

Who do you think might be likely candidates for the next Trump cabinet member to go?

I have a hard time believing Wilbur Ross is a beloved person in the White House right now. Barr basically said the citizenship question could be added legally, but that the legal case doesn't have enough time. 

Translation: Ross screwed up our only chance.

Has the new press secretary held an official briefing for the media yet? (i.e. in the press room, not on the driveway)

Nope! And why would she?

Castro seemed to do well at the debate but he is at 1% in the NBC poll...along with Klobuchar, Booker, Inslee, Williamson, Delaney, Hickenlooper and Bennet. Do you think Castro, Klobuchar and Booker are really that low?

I saw one poll that showed Castro got the second-most people to say he exceeded their expectations. But he's still at 1 percent in almost all the polls. 

I do think they are that low, but it's mostly a function of a very crowded field. In some ways this will be about surviving long enough for other candidates to drop out.

What's the haps? Is he testifying? Will it matter (lol of course it won't)?

1) He will at some point, apparently.

2) I think expectations should be tempered.

3) There are still some important things he might say, even if he is really circumspect.

I like her and am impressed with how savvy she is, especially to be so young. BUT do she and her cohort see no risk at all in what they do? Some of the Dems got in by a whisker and if the GOP loons can paint the party as raving Socialists, kiss the House goodbye. Doesn't seem that hard to figure out.

This assumes that her chief motivation is to keep House Democrats in the majority. What if it's to push the party -- and the broader political debate -- to the left?

Is there anything that a President can't issue an executive order about, and that he can't defy judicial or legislative pushback?

There are clear limits on executive orders. You can't effectively make law, but rather you are supposed to work within existing laws and appropriations.

There was lots of talk about how an executive order on the census would have defied the Supreme Court ruling. I don't think that's necessarily accurate. It would have been trying a different way of putting the question on the census by attempting to use a different authority. The other case might have factored into the legal case, but it's not the same as the court saying "don't do this" and then having the administration do it anyway. The court just said that the justification wasn't real or sufficient.

Democrats seemed to emit a collective groan at the news of Steyer getting in. Do they think he'll be a spoiler?

Not a spoiler. He's just kind of a gadfly -- a rich guy who spends lots of money but doesn't really work well with the party. 

When we will people realize when we say "the 20s" we are not referring to the Jazz Age, but to less than half-a-year from now?

Mind. Blown.

But it's been 19 years since we could easily refer to the decade using widely agreed-upon and -understood shorthand (the aughts? the teens?). I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Any guess as to when he will withdraw from the race? Not that I'm still bitter about 2016 . . .

Well he didn't withdraw in 2016 even when he was mathematically done, so I wouldn't hold my breath. Also, his situation is hardly THAT dire.

Isn't Talib is more danger of losing a primary than Omar?

Good point. She's in a largely black district and won with a 31% plurality last time. If black leaders unite behind an opponent, she could be in real trouble.

You can't push the party or the broader debate if you are in the minority...Pelosi knows this.

And you could also make an argument that if the party loses the presidency/House majority in 2020, the easiest thing to blame will be how it moved too far to the left. It could be counter-productive, even if shifting the Overton window is more important to AOC than power.

Dang, did we ever find out why he bowed out of that NH appearance and was called to the WH a while back? I thought there was an explanation forthcoming?

Nope! We should apparently find out soon though. They said they'd tell us in a few weeks.

Sounds like Trump!

And if Steyer wins the presidency, Democrats will suddenly love him.

Right. Much more convenient to lie from the comfort of your own office.

I mean, this is basically the job description. It's like training all your life to play baseball so that you can be a pinch runner.

Trump doesn't seem to think so.

It's up to the courts to decide.

Can't the same be said of Joe Sestak?

100% 

If she's not concerned about a Democratic majority in at least one branch of government she's an idiot. We'll suffer the consequences of Trump's judicial chicanery - among other things - for more than a generation. If you don't control the levers of power your megaphone gets pretty small no matter how many Twitter followers you have.

It's also possible she thinks going left IS an electoral strategy -- that it will rally the base, etc., etc. I don't know the right answers, but 2020 should provide some good indicators.

What's the one question you would like Mueller to answer?

A question that he would actually answer? Or one that he would have to answer?

If it's the former, I'd ask him why he didn't insist upon interviewing Trump. If it's the latter, I'd ask him what was the more obstruction-y event in his investigation, and why.

Enjoy your weekend, everybody.

-Aaron

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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