Monday Open Thread

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

–William Arthur Ward

President George H. W. Bush, 1924-2018

UPDATE: Walker Stapleton, a close family member, reflects on the passing of President George H. W. Bush:

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“I’m conservative, but I’m not a nut about it.”

–George H. W. Bush

Statement from Former President Barack Obama:

Weekend Open Thread

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”

–Virginia Woolf

Get More Smarter on Friday (November 30)

So long, November! It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► We haven’t even finished with 2018, and it’s already clear that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is in for a rough couple of years before his term expires in 2020. A new report showing rising uninsured rates for American children is a significant political problem for Gardner, as his is willingness to support President Trump in declining to take any action against Saudi Arabia over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Gardner is even promoting Trump’s decision to ignore information from American Intelligence agencies in regard to the Khashoggi murder.

 

► As the Washington Post explains, President Trump is absolutely on the top of the list when it comes to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation:

In two major developments this week, President Trump has been labeled in the parlance of criminal investigations as a major subject of interest, complete with an opaque legal code name: “Individual 1.”

New evidence from two separate fronts of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation casts fresh doubts on Trump’s version of key events involving Russia, signaling potential political and legal peril for the president. Investigators have now publicly cast Trump as a central figure of their probe into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign.

Together, the documents show investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks — and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.

Trump has provided conflicting answers on his business ties to Russia. In July 2016, he Tweeted that he had “ZERO investments in Russia.” In January 2017, Trump told a reporter that “I have no deals that could happen in Russia.”

Today, Trump Tweeted this:

We can all see where this is going.

 

► Republican State Sen. “Handsy” Jack Tate announced that he will not seek re-election in 2020.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Friday Open Thread

“Taking offense is, in fact, one of the few things that brings us together.”

–Anand Giridharadas

Rising Rate of Uninsured Kids is Political Disaster for Gardner

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) tries to make himself smaller while attending a 2017 press conference in support of gutting the ACA.

As NBC News explains, the number of uninsured children in the United States is rising for the first time in a decade:

After years of steady decline, the number of U.S. children without health insurance rose by 276,000 in 2017, according to a Georgetown University report released Thursday.

While not a big jump statistically — the share of uninsured kids rose to 5 percent in 2017 from 4.7 percent a year earlier — it is still striking. The uninsured rate typically remains stable or drops during times of economic growth. In September, the U.S. unemployment rate hit its lowest level since 1969…

…Study author Joan Alker and other child health advocates place the blame for this change on the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, saying their policies and actions cast a pall on enrollment.

As Jessica Seaman writes for the Denver Post, health insurance coverage for kids in Colorado is looking equally grim:

The number of children in Colorado with health insurance has increased for almost a decade, but now the decline in the state’s youth uninsured rate is stagnating — and advocates fear more children could lose coverage due to a rule change proposed by the Trump administration.

The number of uninsured children in Colorado remained unchanged in 2017, with about 57,000 individuals under 19 without coverage, according to a new report by Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families.

That stagnation comes after Colorado saw the percentage of children without health insurance drop from 14 percent in 2008 to 4.3 percent in 2016, according to Colorado Children’s Campaign, a nonprofit group advocating for children’s health and education…

…Political events on the national stage attributed to a notion that public coverage was at risk, leading to the jump in uninsured children.

It’s difficult for Republicans to argue that an increase in uninsured children is not their fault, particularly given the fact that the U.S. unemployment rate is lower than it has been in decades. Congressional Republicans spent much of 2017 trying, and trying, and trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While they never managed to wrangle enough votes to support a full repeal, Senate Republicans and President Trump still figured out a way to bleed the ACA by removing the “individual mandate” section of the law and allowing cut-rate and generally worthless insurance programs to be sold. Senate Republicans also let funding lapse for the Children’s Health Insurance Project (CHIP) for several months; the GOP tried to hold the program hostage as a bargaining tool over immigration and federal budget issues but ultimately folded what was an obviously-weak hand.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has supported every recent GOP effort to cripple the ACA, though he’s also very well of the political danger this creates for his own re-election in 2020; in October, Gardner joined other Senate Republicans in pushing for a toothless resolution intended to make it look like they were truly concerned about coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.

When pressed on healthcare policy issues, Gardner just vomits out nonsense talking points hoping that reporters give up on getting a real response. When he thinks he can get away with it, Gardner works hard to both support AND oppose legislation to gut healthcare access for Americans. But when it comes to declining health insurance rates for children specifically, Gardner is completely stuck; the numbers are clear and there is no plausible story he can tell whereby he can cast himself as anything other than completely implicit in keeping sick kids from seeing a doctor. In fact, things would be even worse in this regard had any of Gardner’s preferred policy measures been implemented.

The number of uninsured children in the U.S. and Colorado will almost certainly increase in the next two years. You can expect to see plenty of television ads pointing this out in advance of the 2020 election.

Gardner was already looking at a very difficult re-election in Colorado after Democrats demolished Republicans in 2018. Add this issue to the mix, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see how Gardner can possibly end up with another term in the U.S. Senate.

Cory Gardner Doublespeaks His Way To Backing Saudis

CBS News reports on yesterday’s vote in the U.S. Senate, delivering a rebuke to President Donald Trump over his blind support for Saudi Arabia in the wake of the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by voting to end military support for that nation’s war in neighboring Yemen:

The bill proposed by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., would require President Trump to withdraw U.S. troops in or affecting Yemen within 30 days. The measure would not affect troops fighting al Qaeda in Yemen. The Senate previously voted to table the measure in March by a vote of 55 to 44.

Trump ally Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke in Russell basement following his vote in support of advancing the resolution to the floor. Graham said he did so because he was “pissed” even though he generally supports the war in Yemen.

“The way the administration has handled the Saudi Arabia event is just not acceptable,” Graham told reporters.

To be clear, this resolution will not result in a withdrawal of military support for Saudi Arabia, mostly because it would never be signed by the President if it reached his desk. But it’s very significant that the anger over Khashoggi’s murder motivated a relatively large contingent of Republican Senators to vote for this resolution along with all Senate Democrats. With every investigation including that of America’s own Central Intelligence Agency concluding that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi’s execution, Trump’s refusal to acknowledge this reality is a compounding international embarrassment.

There has been no statement from Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado about this vote as of yet, but he was not among the 14 Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote for the resolution. Politico appears to have gotten Gardner’s last quote before the vote:

“Saudi Arabia continues to remain an important and key ally that has a lot of answers that they have not yet given to the U.S.” [Pols emphasis]

If that’s not the perfect Cory Gardner duplicitous response, we don’t know what is! The vote he cast just after taking both sides of the issue in the course of a single sentence is less ambiguous, but you’ve got to almost admire Gardner’s vacuous wordplay. He could convey more relevant information by saying nothing at all.

That’s just how Cory Gardner rolls, folks. Certain events make it stand out in sharp relief.

Thursday Open Thread

“It is like living in a wilderness of mirrors. No fact goes unchallenged.”

–Bruce Babbitt

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (November 28)

There are still plenty of shopping days left until Christmas. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► House Democrats are meeting today to select their new caucus leaders, and it appears that Rep. Nancy Pelosi is well on her way to retaking the gavel as Speaker of the House. As the Washington Post reports:

The gathering provides a key test of strength for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who is unopposed in her bid to become speaker again but faces opposition from nearly two dozen Democrats who argue the party needs fresh leadership.

The full House, including Republican members, will choose a speaker on Jan. 3. If Democrats win two uncalled races where their candidates are leading, they will have won 235 seats, meaning Pelosi can weather as many as 17 defections.

In their first action Wednesday, House Democrats picked Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) as their new caucus chair.

Opposition to Pelosi from within the Democratic caucus appears to have fizzled over a lack of direction and no specific candidate to challenge the current House Minority Leader. Jefferson County Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Rep-elect Jason Crow are among the Democrats who have publicly called for new leadership.

As Politico reports, the top potential challengers to Pelosi sat down for a meeting with the likely Speaker on Wednesday.

 

► Senate Republicans are doing what they can to protect President Trump as rumors swirl that special investigator Robert Mueller may be getting close to announcing his findings regarding potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016. From Politico:

Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan push to vote on legislation protecting special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday.

After Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) sought to bring the bill to the floor, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) objected to the request and argued the bill was unconstitutional…

…His remarks echo those of Senate GOP leaders, who have consistently rebuffed calls to consider the measure. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill was “a solution in search of a problem.”

Earlier Wednesday, Coons accused McConnell of protecting the president by blockinga vote on the bill.

Meanwhile, CNN is reporting on some apparent Trump answers to key questions about the investigation:

President Donald Trump told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks, nor was he told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

 

Harry Enten of CNN runs down some of the key takeaways from Tuesday’s runoff election in Mississippi for a U.S. Senate seat. As expected, Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated Democrat Mike Espy for the right to finish the final two years of Zombie Thad Cochran’s term. 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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“Overreach”–What Losers Always Say To Winners

With Democrats about to take charge of the governor’s office, the statewide offices of treasurer, attorney general, and secretary of state, and in full control of both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly, the narrative from defeated Republicans has shifted to dire warnings of the “overreach” in store from Democrats without a Republican majority somewhere along the line with veto power to check their aspirations.

The Greeley Tribune recently editorialized:

Five years ago, Democrats in Colorado controlled all the levers of power. They held majorities in the House and Senate. The governor also was a Democrat.

As leaders of political parties in the U.S. often do when they find themselves in this position, the Democrats pressed their advantage — passing gun control legislation and a controversial renewable energy standard. They also pursued tight regulations on the oil and gas industry.

In Weld County, which remained steadfastly red, the consequences of all this were almost unimaginable. A group of activists and elected officials — led by the Board of Weld County Commissioners — began to push a secession movement. The group pointed to a divide between the urban Denver metro area and much of the rest of the state…

As all sides in Colorado politics take stock of this year’s landslide victory for Democrats up and down the ballot, we’re seeing reactions that closely parallel–at least on the surface–the response to the last big Democratic surge in Colorado in the 2012 elections. Hand-wringing about the supposed horrors of life under Democratic control in Colorado leads to talk of certain areas of the state either seceding or (new in 2018) joining Wyoming.

And that’s how it’s spun: Democratic “overreach” prompts a completely unhinged secession movement that is nonetheless taken at least somewhat seriously. And of course, in 2013 Democratic “overreach” led to recalls! Some variation of this faux concern warning  to victorious Democrats has been the conclusion of the majority of post-election opinion from conservatives, as well as the state’s crop of aging white male “centrist” opinionmakers.

But does it have any basis in reality? In a word, no.

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Democrats Add Two More Congressional Seats

It’s not just you; the 2018 election may actually never end.

As CNN reports, Democrats have picked up two more seats in Congress:

Democrat Xochitl Torres Small has defeated Republican Yvette Herrell in one of the nation’s last outstanding House races, New Mexico’s secretary of state certified Tuesday morning.

The official result brings the total number of Democratic gains in the House to 39 seats, with one race outstanding, according to CNN’s count.

Herrell claimed victory in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District race on election night earlier this month, but as ballots continued to be counted, Torres Small took a lead in the vote count in the race to replace outgoing GOP Rep. Steve Pearce.

As of midday Tuesday, CNN had yet to project a result in California’s 21’s Congressional District, where Democrat TJ Cox pulled ahead of Republican Rep. David Valadao on Monday evening.

The final race of 2018 should (theoretically) be decided tonight when Mississippi voters select their choice in a runoff election for U.S. Senate.

Caption This Photo: Walker Stapleton, Happy At Last

Walker Stapleton, the Republican nominee for governor of Colorado who lost this year’s election by over 10 points, was a candidate who never seemed quite comfortable in his own skin on the campaign trail. It was a running gag during the campaign among Democrats to share the worst possible photos of Stapleton, which was easy because there were so few good photos among dozens of new ones every day.

But with the election over and the pressure finally off Colorado’s dynastic son, you can see the difference in this photo from Stapleton’s post-election holiday in Hawaii:

Seriously, that’s the happiest we’ve ever seen Walker Stapleton. Civilian life is going to be just fine for him.

We approve of the beard, too–hopefully it’s not just a no-shave November thing.