December 20, 2016
Yesterday was a tough day for terrorism. A Russian ambassador was killed in Turkey, and the gunman shouted about Aleppo and Syria afterwards. It’s not hard to draw comparisons to the start of World War One here. So far the news has been muted in the US, but we’ll see what this turns into.
Also, a giant semi truck drove through a Christmas crowd in Germany. It looked like terrorism right away, they called it probable terrorism right away, and now ISIS is saying he acted on their behalf. This is also troubling, of course.
In Syria, many are being evacuated from Aleppo. This is good news for those who are out of harm’s way. This is amazing news for people who love the regime. This is sublime news for Putin. It remains to be seen what it means for the US and the international community. This conflict has always been clouded by an inability to call anyone the “good guys” or the “bad guys,” at least from where I sit. But one thing is for sure: Assad and Putin won, and didn’t have to pay a very steep price for it. There are reports of war crimes, but I’m not sure most people care much about that.
New approval numbers are out for Trump. He’s still as historically unpopular as before, with a 46% disapprove and a 40% approve. Just 50% approve of his transition so far, which is historically low. Almost all of his numbers are under water, other than 57% that are optimistic he will bring change and 56% that think he’ll stop new jobs from going overseas.
I want to state this as clearly as possible: we have never endured as unpopular a president-elect as Donald Trump. Not even close.
More numbers: if you combine the number of optimistic and hopeful people together, you get 45%. But if you combine the number of uncertain and worried people tother, the number is 54%. That’s extraordinary. And there’s more. The more positive the ranking, the fewer people agree with it:
Trump has appointed almost all of his cabinet so far. Let’s get this out of the way: I’m a liberal Democrat who believes in Democratic values, so of course I’m not going to like his cabinet. But his picks really are breath-taking. They’re all old rich white guys, and a good number of them actively disagree with the department they’re being asked to run.
A few weeks ago I echoed an op-ed I had read that argued that Trump’s picks were fairly savvy so far. It said if he combined someone like Romney with someone like Mattis, it would show a bold kind of courage. A way to mix it up. Um, no.
There are reports that Romney was brought to that dinner just as a way for Trump to torture him. I have no idea if that’s accurate but I wouldn’t be surprised. Just like I’m not surprised he went with one of Putin’s friends instead. We pretty much knew the cabinet was going to be but, some of us wondered if maybe he’d change it up a little. Um, no.
But I am fascinated by Heidi Heitkamp. If Trump picks her, he’d get one woman. He’d get a Democrat. And at the same time, he’d pull another Senate seat his way, because she’d be replaced with a Republican. It would be an absolutely brilliant strategic maneuver, one that could have a six year impact, and probably a lot longer. I’ll talk about that in a minute.
In the campaign, Hillary Clinton was fond of repeating the quote “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” And that’s part of what’s tricky about Donald Trump. Is it in his best interest to yank a Senate seat from the Democrats? Absolutely. It’s such a good idea it’s hard to see a counter-argument to it. Well, except that she’s a Democrat. And, amazingly, that might be enough to keep her from being named.
And yet, I can’t help but return to the strategic advantage. When I think of Bannon and I consider if he’d rather be ruthless or vindictive, I’d go with ruthless every time. Ruthless is taking another Senate seat. Vindictive is turning your back on a Democrat, no matter how bad it looks and how much you’re harming your long term strategy at the same time.
But it’s not Bannon making the call. (Or Dick Cheney, the Vice President from the worst polled president in the modern era, who is rumored to be helping out with the transition) It’s Trump. And there’s no question that Trump has a vindictive streak. So every time I try to guess what he’s going to do, he always seems to pick the one based on pure id thinking. So I’m very curious to see how that pans out.
If you were to ask me to list some surprises this year and last year, I’d be able to write for pages and pages. But when I try to think about things that have stayed the same, or have stayed reliable, that list is pretty long too.
- Obama continues to be a rock.
- The GOP continues to bring a gun to a knife fight.
- The Democrats continue to fight less well.
- Terrorism is still a problem.
- Democrats think it’s manageable.
- Republicans are more likely to think it’s a much bigger deal.
- Trump is still deeply unpopular.
- Most GOP policies are deeply unpopular.
- Washington, DC is deeply unpopular.
- Democrats don’t control much.
- People prefer news they already agree with.
- Midterms elections are usually bruising for the party in power.
- The sky is blue.