The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Sep 13, 2019

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

And welcome to (our brief foray into) fall! It's the day after the big debate. What's on your mind?

Was anyone else offended by her continually stating "I am the Midwest" and her constant implying that she, like the blue collar workers who voted for Trump, are somehow superior to those on the Coasts.

It is well known that people from the Midwest ARE superior. We're not supposed to tell you that, though, which is her true failing.

You predicted a Warren-Castro ticket (which is fine, but honestly no sweat off my back if you turn out to be right or wrong), but wondering if behind the scenes there is any chatter that Julián Castro actually wants to be Elizabeth Warren's running mate? I've read the speculation (be the attack dog, play up winning your home state/region as well as ethnic group are very "VP" things, right?), but it is just pure speculation?

I honestly think anybody running right now isn't thinking in those terms. If Castro wanted to be VP, I'm not sure he NEEDS to be anybody's attack dog. He's get many very attractive qualities in that regard, and attacking people just means alienating potential people that might pick you.

I think ABC was a loser because they went to THREE HOURS!!! I turned to Football Game after two!

Few things make me feel bad for politicians, but a 3-hour debate is one of them. It's too much. (Thankfully, though, ABC kept it to like 2:40 or 2:45.)

Do you think Tom Perez and the DNC will change the requirements again to cut it done to about 5 candidates in a later debate? What if they just raised the required polls to 4% (one in 25). Or will there be too many complaints by the folks who hav no chance?

I think you only cut if you have WAY too many candidates. At some point, the candidates themselves will ween down the field more. I don't think you superficially keep the debate stage to 5, 6 or even 8.

I know the Castro moment got most of the play in the media, but the most disturbing moment for me was the Biden answer that referred to "sending social workers to their homes to teach them how to raise their children." All I have heard about from that exchange was about the "record player". I just think the remark itself was racist. To imply African-Americans don't know how to raise their children is insulting.

Philip Bump has a good piece sorting through what Biden might have meant. I thought this was interesting:

"Perhaps it was more troublesome: Biden subconsciously deciding that talking about improving parenting skills was a good answer to a question about 'repairing the legacy of slavery in our country' — that there was a central link between black parenting and the inequalities of our educational system. There was a public debate early in Barack Obama’s second term in office (and Biden’s second as vice president) in which Obama criticized black culture as a barrier to success. If Biden internalized that argument without recognizing why he might not be the best messenger for it, that’s a problem.

"This would be the second time that Biden problematically conflated poverty and race in the context of education. At an event in Iowa last month, Biden said that students needed to be challenged. After all, 'poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.' He soon caught himself, but the line understandably attracted attention."

Rep. Nadler's timeline for completing investigations and House vote is by year's end. If timeline not met, how long into 2020 can House continue to investigate before running into election campaign cycle?

I think once the calendar turns, that's pretty much it -- unless the country is on-board, which is isn't yet.

And I'd wager that year's end is the timeline he's been allowed by Pelosi, though that's pure speculation.

Aaron, can we make it, "Yang _was_ a serious candidate . . . ." Between his gimmicky proposal and his deer-in-headlights answer to a question about the trade war with China, can we mark him off now and, more generally, will we ever get away from wasting time on rich guys who want to be President but have never governed anything.

I'm reasonably impressed with Yang, and I think making this debate stage means you're a serious candidate. Is he a good debater? Of course not. But that's not the only part of this race. I'm intrigued to see whether his AI message gets picked up by other candidates; I expect it will, in some fashion or another.

So how likely is that a year from now, during a Presidential debate, the Democratic nominee asks Trump why he lied about the path of Hurricane Dorian, and if it is indicative of his pattern of lying to the American people?

I doubt it. There are many more things to bring up that are less likely to come off as frivolous. Don't get me wrong: I don't think "SharpieGate" was frivolous, but in the scheme of things I wonder how high it ranks on people's lists of reservations about Trump.

I am worried. As more and more people who are willing to push back against President Trump depart, the likelihood of him doing something rash with no possible recovery increases. Do you think there is a point at which key loyalists like McConnell say "No, Mr. President, that's too far. I can't support that."?

Of course there is. It's a much higher bar than Trump opponents would like, but the bar exists.

I also think Republicans would toss Trump aside in a heartbeat the moment they didn't think doing so would tear the party apart. They have no true love or devotion to him.

Who are the next high-ranking Trump administration members most likely to be fired or to resign under pressure?

I've long felt McAleenan was in a tough spot, for a number of reasons. Wilbur Ross might be my favorite, though.

I read your follow up to the debate so I wouldn't have to watch. Thank you for only saying "gay" when it came to Mayor Pete. It was in context, but you didn't say "openly gay" which many of us openly gays find offensive for just about anyone who happens to be gay.

It's an important debate on journalistic style there that I think is evolving. I would add, though, that in context it was unnecessary for me to say "openly," since I was talking about him coming out. It would be implied.

Is it really a smart strategy for Julián Castro or anything really seeking higher office to knock old folks? Old folks do or don't vote? I forget.

He denies he was talking about Biden's age! So did Booker, when he talked after the debate about Biden "meandering." It's one big coincidence!

Seriously, though, I think it's plausible that wasn't his meaning, but as I wrote, the practical impact is probably the same.

Is your boy Kirk Cousins elite?

It pains me to say it, but I don't think so. I'll give him this year with Cook healthy (hopefully) before passing final judgement.

Castro said he, not Biden, is the heir to Obama's legacy. Did he and Biden clash during the Obama administration?

Not that I know of. I'm not sure how much a VP and a HUD secretary would ever interact, candidly. Castro is just trying to cut into Biden's advantage as the "Obama guy" because he could make a plausible argument to being next in line for it.

I think these debates are pointless, and conducted more for twitter than actual voters, but if they are going to have them, do 2 nights with 5 candidates on stage. This whole 10 people up there fighting for 30 second sound bites is pointless.

I sympathize, but then you still have a situation in which Biden may not be debating Warren, or you don't have Warren debating Sanders. That's a big problem.

what was that prolonged yelling or whatever that delayed Biden's response about late in the debate?

Reportedly DACA recipients.

I put her among my winners. Are you perhaps being extra hard on her as you're from the same state? I thought her answer on her record as a prosecutor was a good redirect, and liked her mix of smarts and wit.

She's very smart and very popular in Minnesota. I just think some of her lines are a little too corny (trying too hard) and that her message of pragmatism isn't quite where the party is.

I also have a long history of discriminating against Midwestern presidential candidates.

Is Yang's plan (giving the money during the campaign) legal?

It's tough because stuff like this has rarely been tested, but our legal experts suggest there are lots of reason to believe it's not, even as it may not be enforced because the FEC is in stuck in gridlock.

I know it will likely not happen until after Super Tuesday, but if Bernie really wants his ideas to be real, shouldn't he drop out and support Warren? If Warren and Sanders split the "progressive" vote, won't that just lead to Biden winning?

It doesn't break down QUITE so neatly. For instance, the most popular second choice for Warren supporters is Harris, and the most popular second choice for Sanders supporters is "don't know." (Warren is close behind.)

But long term, yes, I think each of them stand to gain by the other one dropping out. Will that be enough for Sanders or Warren to pack it in earlier to help the other one? That I'm not sure.

Do you find it odd that Democrats who have long called Bolton a war monger were singing his praises after his resignation?

I'm not sure they were "singing his praises." It was weird they would raise ANY objections to Bolton being fired, but there were certain influences they had on Trump that they might have liked, including convincing him not to make deals with foreign leaders that they (and Bolton) might have regarded as bad.

But you're right that we're in bizarro world when their reaction is anything but "Good riddance."

Would you agree that the lack of movement in the polls from the debates actually should encourage those Democratic presidential candidates polling very low (Bullock, Bennet, et al) to stay in the race? The debates seem to be almost meaningless in terms of shaping perceptions right now, so might as well wait until people actually get to vote?

Just because there's not movement doesn't mean there are meaningless. Opinions of the candidates can evolve or even harden without people migrating from one candidate to the other.

The challenge for the non-debaters, though, is ever getting enough support or high enough in the polls to qualify. At some point, donors and poll respondents just won't consider them viable enough.

Aaron, I think you may be wrong about Sharpiegate. It's one of the only things that has gotten a rise out of my Trump-supporting relatives. And it's one of the only things that has changed votes (I think). A weather forum that I read, heavily populated by white male hobbyists, who were previously seemingly split in their opinions on Trump, turned decisively against him. And, I could see his Sharpie-altered map as the lead frame in an attack ad that starts out, "We all saw it ... a map meant to save lives altered by hand to shore up Donald Trump's ego. But what it really was was an emblem of his larger war on science ..."

Interesting. I do wonder if frequenters of a weather forum might be a very specific type of person, though, who might be more likely to be alienated by this.

The salad incident.

I don't think that's what's holding people back, honestly.

Do you think they can maintain their detente/alliance once the field thins further?

It always falls apart, at lest to some degree. When you're competing, sometimes you need to actually compete and knock someone else down a peg or two. That said, I don't think either of them love to attack, and I think Warren, in particular, is difficult to attack.

Aaron, you’re missing something critical: the guy with the huge lead is enjoying it on the basis of the most pragmatic of arguments...I can win and I know how to get things done in DC. Amy is running in Joe’s lane, with a better track record, minus 20 years and a Y chromosome.

I wonder how much of Biden's lead is "it's because he's electable" and how much of it is "he's the guy who makes the most sense" and who I know, and because of those things, I also see him as the most electable.

The only way it could go longer is if they adopt the controversial rules allowing instant replay and candidate challenges.

You know, I think you meant for me to deride this. But I'm weirdly ... intrigued? We could have rewound that Castro-Biden moment! We could replay things the candidates said, so they can't talk around them! It would be great!

Have we mentioned Sen. Sanders at all? He's #3 in the polls, you know!

He is! He was steady last night. It's going to be interesting how people feel about all the incoming he got on Medicare for All. I thought there was more criticism of that plan than usual. Biden's critiques were more focused. Buttigieg and O'Rourke and Klobuchar raised concerns about getting rid of private insurance. Etc.

I doubt there was any affection for Bolton but the dread that his replacement would be another one of Jared's moronic frat brothers.

Honestly, I have a difficult time thinking of many people in GOP circles whose views Democrats have hated as much as Bolton. Others might be viewed as incompetent, but Democrats have been calling him a warmonger for years.

OK, I'm, um, not young. I have no objection to raising age as a consideration for a presidential candidate. And I think most my age agree. It's not an absolute, but, there comes a time when the energy level, familiarity with new technology, aches and pains, you name it, have an effect on presidential effectiveness. Why not move on and become a sage? I think Nancy Pelosi's decision was a positive one.

It's a touchy topic, but it's unavoidable. And it does matter. As long as we're not gratuitous about it, it needs to be acknowledged.

Did you watch the debate? He went after Biden like crazy last night.

Yep. Would seem to be a bad idea if he ever wants to be Biden's running mate!

I thought he was trying not to answer the question and pivoted back to speaking about education.

Even when doing that, you need to be careful.

Does she have a real chance? I heard people loved her but I'm not seeing much of anything.

I was expecting more from her candidly. I hardly think she's done, but she has much more potential than she's shown.

Is it my imagination? It seems like the debate questions go to the front runners first and then the others are asked to chime in. I feel like the one-digit-percenters aren't getting a chance to shine - and worse, I feel like Biden/Warren/Sanders are being shoved at us.

Unfortunately, it's always this way -- at least to some degree. But you need to strike the right balance. Yang, in particular, has gotten very little opportunity to speak in previous debates. And he was AGAIN at the bottom this time.

I heard Billionaire Tom Stoyer got himself into the October Debates. What do you think are Tusi Gabbard's chances to qualify? Tim Ryan?

Gabbard has the donors but still needs two polls at 2%. Ryan and Bennet don't have the donors or even one poll (they need four), so their odds look almost insurmountable. 

What do you think of the theory that he was never serious about negotiating with the Taliban because they planned on meeting at Camp David? If he really intended to go through with the meeting, he would have booked one of his own properties, so that he could profit from it.

First I'm hearing of it, and I don't put much stock in it.

Hi Aaron— Thanks for taking questions today. Waiting until it’s too late and then hoping to move on seems to be Speaker Pelosi’s game plan at this point. She seems rather fixed on the argument that impeachment will hurt the Democrats more than it will help. I happen to think that’s a big mistake, but from where you sit, what do you think? Can the pro-impeachment Democrats make her go along? I have a hard time believing anyone can make her do anything.

I wrote about this a while back. I have three main points:

1) The Clinton impeachment isn't analogous, because it was launched right before the 1998 election, Clinton was popular and it was more of a personal matter that people didn't think was their business.

2) The timing suggests it could even be done this year and be an afterthought by Election Day 2020.

2) People still don't want impeachment, so Democrats would have to convinced them that it was the right thing to do, which is difficult. And if you think you are likely to win the election, why throw such a big variable into it?

Does Biden outlast everyone, or do people start to coalesce around one of his opponents? I don't see much growth potential for him, but on the other hand, the longer he hangs in there, the more likely it is that people wil see him as a winner and join the bandwagon.

His biggest obstacle is Warren, I feel pretty strongly. And she could pick up support if the other non-Bidens start stopping out. That poll I referenced before shows she is the top second choice for Sanders supporters (behind "don't know"), Harris supporters and all the other candidates combined.

I disagree re Camp David. Trump loathes Jimmy Carter, and I think he wanted to supplant Carter's ownership of the "Camp David Accord" soubriquet and the attendant Nobel Peace Price for Sadat and Begin by brokering an agreement at Camp David with the Taliban and Afghanistan. Instead, it blew up in Trump's face.

Hmmm. That's certainly a theory.

Is that relevant? Isn't Congress required to seek impeachment when the circumstances call for it? I didn't realize people could get away with a crime as long as the general public can't be bothered.

It is relevant to whether they actually do it. Should it be relevant? Perhaps not. But we can't pretend it's not a factor. Democrats would do it in a heartbeat if they didn't worry about the blowback.

Could they set this up like "the Weakest Link" where the candidate who gives the weakest answers is rejected and taken of the stage. Just be sure to have Ann Robinson there to say "You are the Weakest Link. Goodbye".

This might be the worst idea that I've ever heard. And that show was awful.

I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

I know the question of whether to end the filibuster came up in the debate, and Democrats are discussing it. To me, the problem isn't the filibuster itself, it's the filibuster no longer means standing in the room and talking. The fact that Senators can filibuster from their chairs, practically in secret, and not do anything else, I don't think that was the original idea of the filibuster. Am I wrong? Why not just end the secret filibuster?

VERY good point. And I agree that you should make them talk. I wonder how much it would change, though, since you can just line up friends to ask long-winded questions.

Have a great weekend everyone.


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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