Ask Amber from The Fix

Aug 13, 2019

Happy Tuesday. I write about politics for The Fix blog, and I'm chatting live here every Tuesday at noon Eastern about the day's biggest political news. What are you curious about?

Happy Tuesday! Thanks for joining me today for my live chat. 

I was all ready to say it's a slow week in politics here in Washington, but right before this live chat, things got busy. Here's what I'm watching:

Two weeks after threatening it, Trump is not going to put tariffs on nearly everything we buy from China next month. 

"Give me your tired, your poor ... and those who can stand on their own two feet." That's Trump's new immigration rule, which experts say will drastically change legal immigration, summed up in a sentence -- by a Trump official.

It's two years since the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rally. And Trump just shared a video trying to claim he didn't really mean it when he said there were "very fine people on both sides."

Also, the new 2020 battle cry on the right: I'm not a racist.

And finally, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) accused The Washington Post of covering him in, he says, a negative light because Jeff Bezos owns The Post. Which is not different from what Trump regularly says.

That's what I'm watching. Thanks for joining me! What are you curious about?

Sorry for the delay; I thought I was having technical difficulties but looks like I either wasn't (and am tired) or they fixed themselves. Let's chat!

Everybody kind of assumed Julián Castro would qualify for the fall debates yet and deadline is the 28th of this month and I think he will needs at least two public polls where he's at least at 2%. If he doesn't qualify, I think he doesn't go quietly, but makes hell and makes it about a big fuss especially drawing attention that he's the sole Mexican American in the race. What do you think he does if he doesn't qualify?

I think it's standard procedure for anyone who doesn't make the debates to decry DNC's rules about who gets on stage. Remember Montana Gov. Steve Bullock who missed the first debate saying he was the only candidate who won in a Trump state and he deserved to be on the stage?

Right now, Castro is not the only one at risk of not being on the stage in September. A Quinnipiac Poll taken last week shows 14 of the 24 candidates polling at less than 1 percent.

As the list of Biden gaffes grows do you think it will hurt his chances of being the nominee?

Yes. That's not to say it will ruin his chances. But there's not an overwhelming sense among Democratic primary voters that they want him to be the nominee -- he is only getting 30% of the vote, even if he is leading in the polls. So this gaffes/mistakes give voters another chance to pause about whether he can, really, take on Trump. 

Are the Democrats strong favorites to hold onto the House in 2020? No one seems to be saying this outloud, but I assume it's the main reason we're seeing so many Republicans heading for the exits.

Good question. Yes. Well, I wouldn't say "strong" favorites, because anything can happen and President Trump is at the top of the ticket, which is generally supposed to help Republicans. Also, what does a now-official impeachment inquiry against Trump do?

But yes, Democrats are favored to keep control of the House. I haven't done a break down yet of the top 10 races (soon!). But that's the general consensus and, as you accurately divine, why we are seeing so many Republican lawmakers retire. Remember when Paul Ryan left Congress? Democrats won the House a few months later.

The Trump/Sanders comparisons are so lazy. There is room for criticism of coverage without being compared to Trump.

When warranted, it's warranted. Almost word for word, Sanders and Trump have similarly accused The Post of bias and conflated Bezos, who privately owns The Post, with Amazon, another company he owns.

Here's Sanders in New Hampshire, after mentioning that Amazon  didn't pay taxes last year:

"“And then I wonder why The Washington Post — which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon — doesn’t write particularly good articles about me. I don’t know why. But I guess maybe there’s a connection. Maybe we helped raise the minimum wage at Amazon to 15 bucks an hour as well."

What's in the video re 'fine people on both sides'?

Sure. According to The Post's John Wagner and Ashley Parker, the video Trump just shared highlights conservative pro-Trump commentator Steve Cortes saying on CNN that Trump only said there were "fine people" on both sides of a protest to take down a confederate leader statute -- he wasn't talking about the broader protest that consumed the city and a neo-Nazi killed a woman. 

Why? More from Wagner and Parker:
“It is a misrepresentation of what was happening in Charlottesville to say it was a statue protest that went wrong,” Nicole Hemmer, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center who lives in Charlottesville and attended the rally as an observer, told The Washington Post in May. “Anyone who was there that day would have walked into a park of people waving Nazi flags and people who were Klansmen. It was not a secret who put that rally on that day.”

With a homeless problem, millions depending on food stamps, medicare and other needs (sometimes through no fault of their own) why would it behoove the nation to NOT have stronger immigration policies?

That's precisely the argument Trump's administration is making, that this will be less of a burden on taxpayers.

Immigration-rights advocates say that misses the point, that there are plenty of immigrants who come here poor and end up contributing immeasurably to society.

How is the baby?

She is doing great, thanks for asking! Has two teeth, scoots everywhere (no crawling) and at 9.5 months is a super happy chubby adorable baby.

While I think its fair to talk about these, I don't think they are that important. Look at all the odd things Trump has said and then either contradicted or denied later. More important is the general sense of the person, which for Biden is someone with lots of experience, heart, and good intentions.

And voters will decide that, starting in February with the Iowa caucuses. 

If Democrats win the House and Senate in VA, will Trump give up campaigning there?

I was just talking with some people about this yesterday. Democrats are very bullish that they can win the Virginia legislature, for the first time in a long time, and have control of the state legislature and the governor's mansion. They need to net just two seats in each chamber for that to happen.

Trump has said he wants to campaign there, but given Virginia's increasingly blue tint, I imagine his campaign advisers would steer him elsewhere. 

#1 - I'm hoping that Biden will disappear after the first primary (if not before). H's a compromise candidate put forth by the same people who ask democrats not to upset the status quo even though the status quo under Trump is self destructive chaos. He's not looking forward and I'm tired of being asked to overlook everything he says (and has done in the past). #2 Why isn't Hong Kong being covered as a democracy protest? At this point the puppet government and it's allied police department is refusing to recognize the HK citizens right to govern themselves . . .at least until 2046. Hong Kong is it's own place with it's own culture. They don't take to the streets unless something really awful happens. Something awful has happened and we should support them so they don't have to go out each day and put their lives on the line to ask for freedom to live without mainland China interfering.

1) He's still leading in all the polls, with a current average 12% lead over the next candidate, Elizabeth Warren. So, I don't think that's going to happen!
2) It is! 

As much I want to evict the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it's become clear to me that for anything to actually stick, we've gotta kick that racist Yertle the Turtle out. So what's the odds we can flip the Senate?

Low! Democrats can do it, but with a dream election. As I wrote: "even though the GOP is defending seven of the 10 most competitive Senate seats on the ballot this year, most of those are in states President Trump won."

Another option for Democrats: get rid of the filibuster, as former Senate majority leader Harry Reid just suggested. That would  give people opposed to legislation on, say, gun control or climate change or abortion rights, significantly less power to stop it. And yes, Reid is fully aware this cuts both ways.

Why would having President Trump at the top of the ticket help? His approval rating (per 538) is the same as it was on Election Day 2018 -- actually a tiny bit worse. It's hard to see how more attention to an unpopular president helps his party.

Just in that Trump can drive out turnout for Republicans by motivating his base to help reelect him. Though that plays more effectively for Republicans in Senate races than in competitive House races in suburbia, where Trump's base is less likely to live

Hi Amber, What are you hearing (or what do you anticipate) re: debate thresholds after September? It seems like there is an increasing appetite to narrow the stage down to maybe 8 or less from then until the primaries start - after which it will shrink even more, of course. Really important that Biden/Sanders/Warren/Harris are on one stage, with maybe a *small* handful of others who poll decently, like Mayor Pete, and that's it.

Hi! It looks like there is no interest within the DNC for narrowing the field too soon. There could be more than 10 candidates who qualify for September's debate (so, two nights!). And Politico recently reported the DNC is keeping those qualifications for October's debates and even extending the timeline so that more candidates can qualify.

They bother me because of his casual arrogance about them. He'll brook no dissent or approbation: "Don't you know who I am?" I'd take him in a heartbeat over Trump but I'm not sure you fight a lying egomaniac with another fuzzy guy who plays fast and loose with facts.

I'm getting all sorts of answers today from y'all about whether Biden's gaffes hurt his standing with you.

Get rid of the filibuster? How do they do that when they are in the minority in the Senate? If McConnell wants to do it, he will. If not, he won't.

Yes, good point, and I should have made clear it's not an option until they control the Senate. Which throws some cold water on one of Elizabeth Warren's and Jay Inslee's and other's talking points: That they will get their ideas through by getting rid of the filibuster. They have to get rid of Mitch McConnell first, and I'm on record thinking he has a very solid shot at reelection.

Enjoy the no crawling period while you can.....and the no walking, no driving phases too.

She is Never.Driving.

But that might be true -- will driverless cars be here in 16 years?

Not that he doesn't have politically smart people to advise him on this, but how does Beto O'Rourke go back to campaign trail?

I think he simply goes back to campaigning for president when he and his community in El Paso feel they're ready. I don't see any major downside for him pausing his 2020 campaign to help his community heal. In fact, it's earned him national attention -- and tweets from Trump! 

I know he has made gaffes his entire career, but recently these are more of the "senior moment" type of gaffes. And he is auditioning for a job that won't end until for 9 more years. Aren't there any candidates from either party that aren't exhibiting signs of sundowning?

Yeah the way I phrased it in Monday's 5-Minute Fix newsletter is that voters seem to be asking themselves the harsh question of: "Is Biden too old to take on Trump?" I think that's where his gaffes get most damaging to him. 

I saw the Fact Checker post on the lies being spread by Sens. Warren and Harris about Michael Brown. This is an inflammatory sort of lie that could stir anger and resentment in their supporters, similar to the behavior Trump is known for. I can see Harris doing that, as she seemingly doesn't have much to offer, but isn't this a sad surprise coming from the "ideas" candidate?

I don't think that was a question so much as a statement, so I don't really have an answer.

But The Post's Fact Checker team did ding Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris for claiming Michael Brown was "murdered," when the Justice Department found "no credible evidence to support that claim."

Don't you think Democrats will also be more than a little motivated to come out this 2020 election to make Trump lose?

Well, yeah, that's why Republicans need all the turnout motivation they can get!

Sick of this "increasing appetite" type of stuff of what this or that Democrat wishes would happen. The stage is what it is and deal with. It will narrow or it won't, but considering Donald Trump is the President, Democratic wishes don't matter for much.

I think the DNC has a difficult job to try to show how inclusive it is after being criticized for airing primary debates on Saturday nights of holiday weekends in 2016. And they still got a long primary out of it!

What's your take on this --- is it an attempted "do-over" because the president is sensitive about being called racist, or something else? Even if the pretense of the video were correct, didn't the president see what happened in Charlottesville that day? It was, just in my humble opinion, a nightmare. Given the president's comments, people perceived that he was referring to at least some of the neo-nazis as "fine people?" Thank you, I live in Central Virginia and well-remember what some people still fear about "night riders" and torches.

I do think Trump is extra sensitive to the "racist" label attaching to him, irrevocably, ahead of his 2020 reelection. 

Several high-profile Senate Democrats warned the Supreme Court in pointed terms this week that it could face a fundamental restructuring if justices do not take steps to "heal" the court in the near future. The ominous and unusual warning was delivered as part of a brief filed Monday in a case related to a New York City gun law. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., referenced rulings by the court's conservative majority in claiming it is suffering from some sort of affliction which must be remedied. What?!

Well there are a number of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who support the idea of adding more than 9 judges to the court. Which, I learned during reporting of the Merrick Garland hold up of 2016, should be constitutional. There is nothing in the constitution that says there has to be nine justices and nine only. 

Whether that's a politically smart move, I don't know. It definitely appeals to the left, who fear being locked out of the Supreme Court majority on key decisions for a generation. But does it help Trump argue Democrats are radical? Maybe.

Thanks for chatting with me today. Great questions, as always, and there were a number I didn't get to. Talk to you next Tuesday! 

In This Chat
Amber Phillips
Amber Phillips writes about politics for The Fix. She was previously the one-woman D.C. bureau for the Las Vegas Sun and has reported from Boston and Taiwan.
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