Town Hall Winners and Losers So Far
If lawmakers can’t meet with constituents, why do they have a job?

We’re halfway through the Presidents Day recess, the first during President Donald Trump’s first term in office. Coming after early stumbles from Trump, and with major legislative changes looming for health care and immigration, and the ascendance of a national effort to protest the president’s agenda, it’s no surprise that town halls would become a focal point for the anger swirling on the left. 

[It’s Not “AstroTurf” if the anger is real]

It’s not ‘Astroturf’ if the Anger is real
Politicians should pay attention to protesters

To town hall or not to town hall? That is the question Republicans are struggling with this week as they’re putting their recess schedules together. 

If they hold town hall meetings, they could risk a “Chaffetz,” like the moment last week when an angry crowd shouted Rep. Jason Chaffetz down in his Utah district with news cameras on hand. But refusing to hold town hall meetings could make a member look out of touch or scared to meet with their own voters. A “tele-town hall” feels like a happy medium, right? Members can say they’ve met with constituents, without actually having to meet with constituents.

The Rules That Stopped Elizabeth Warren Are Waiting for Donald Trump, Too
Senate norms have never been more important in our democracy

Rule 19 had its close-up this week, didn’t it? To be specific, Section 3 of Rule 19, did, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell informed Sen. Elizabeth Warren that she had “impugned the motives and conduct” of her fellow senator, Jeff Sessions, when she read a letter that Coretta Scott King had written about him many years ago.

When Warren was told, “The senator shall take her seat,” she took the Coretta Scott King letter, marched a few feet off the Senate floor, and took a different seat in front of a Facebook Live feed that went out to millions. The standoff launched a battle cry for any woman who has ever felt marginalized, belittled or silenced — which, by the way, is nearly all of us. A thousand hashtags bloomed. #SheWasWarned #ShePersisted #LetLizSpeak. You get the picture.

Who’s in Charge in Trump’s Washington?
All three branches of government are answerable to the Constitution

Did you know that the organizational chart for the federal government is the only one you’ll ever see that doesn’t have a person or group of people in the top box? Instead, the three branches of government, including President Donald Trump’s executive branch, sit equidistant from each other on a horizontal row below the top box. And inside the top box is the Constitution.

When a federal employee sent me the org chart during the 2016 campaign, I thought of it mostly as a piece of quirky trivia — hey, look, nobody’s in charge! But I’ve thought about that chart again and again in the last week as people in the federal government have either joined forces with the White House or acted out against it in ways we’ve never seen before.

Is There a ‘Red Line’ for Congressional Republicans With Trump?
Little evidence of standing up to Trump so far

I’ve tried to imagine the moment this week when President Donald Trump told House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a group of invited congressional leadership that the only reason he lost the popular vote was because three to five million undocumented immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton.

Or when he said golfer Berhnard Langer, whom Trump described as a friend, had been turned away from voting in Florida, while people who appeared to be Latin American were allowed to vote. (Langer later said he never tried to vote, never told Trump that story, and is not a friend of Trump’s.)

The Final Dignity of Hillary Clinton
An example for the nation: Time to move forward

I can’t remember how many times in the last three months I have typed “the final indignity of Hillary Clinton.” Even for a woman who has been in the spotlight for decades, she seems to have had more than her fair share.

Had she not run for the Senate as first lady, it’s possible that Clinton’s final indignity would have been her husband’s betrayals, literally in the Oval Office, after she had supported him for years. But after a failed impeachment against him and a New York listening tour for her, “Mrs. Clinton” became “Sen. Clinton” and she was on her way to a political career of her own.

No Sophomore Slump for Marco Rubio
Senator appears to be carving out his own role in Trump’s Washington

For a guy who didn’t want to be in the Senate anymore last year, Florida’s Marco Rubio is certainly making a tall glass of lemonade out of the lemons he got running for president in 2016. With a single hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, Rubio went from being the Republican Most Likely to Miss a Vote, a distinction he earned on his way to losing the GOP nomination, to being the Republican Most Likely to Hold Donald Trump’s Feet to the Fire. It’s a role that holds both risks and immense power. That, for Rubio, could be more important than anything.

The hearing, of course, was to consider the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be Trump’s secretary of State. Although Sen. Jeff Sessions’ hearing to be attorney general was expected to have the most fireworks of the week, the Tillerson hearing went off-track as soon as Rubio began grilling the former Exxon Mobil CEO about the reams of accusations against Russian President Vladimir Putin of widespread corruption and human rights abuses. 

There’s Danger for Democrats, Too, in Obamacare Repeal
Blame for not replacing health care law may end up on everyone’s hands

“So the dog finally caught the car.” That seemed to be the consensus in Washington Wednesday after Vice President-elect Mike Pence and congressional Republicans declared with confidence that they will begin to repeal Obamacare immediately, but struggled to say what Americans could expect as a replacement for the president’s signature health care law, or when.

“It will literally begin on Day One,” Pence promised in a press conference about President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for dismantling Obamacare. But when asked what exactly will happen on Day One, or what the House will eventually vote on, Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan declined to go into detail.  

Too Many Trumps at the Table
An uncomfortable closeness to the trappings of a monarchy

When Bill and Hillary Clinton moved into the White House in 1993, the newly installed first couple was nearly destroyed for making an offer they thought America could not refuse — a two-for-one special on Yale-trained lawyers interested in national public policy. Not only would Bill Clinton become the president, but Hillary Clinton would set up shop in the West Wing and go about the business of trying to overhaul the nation’s health care system. The arrangement wasn’t technically illegal, but it made many uncomfortable and played a big part in health care reform being declared DOA in Congress at the time.

More than 20 years later, President-elect Donald Trump has an even bigger, better deal for the American people. Instead of two for one, like the Clintons, how about five for one? That’s right, America, for a limited time only, you can will get Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, to run your government, all for the low, low price of Donald Trump. Just one of them was elected, and none of them have experience, but you’re going to love them once you try them. All of them.

Could Jaime Harrison Be the DNC’s Plan B?
Clyburn protege says national Democrats have ignored state parties

Members of the Democratic National Committee will meet in Denver this weekend for the first time since Election Day. They’ll certainly talk about what went wrong in 2016, but they’ll also begin the process of finding a new committee chairman.

Rep. Keith Ellison has generated the most buzz so far, but Ellison’s part-time availability for the job has left some DNC members looking for a Plan B.

New Ground Rules for the Press and the President
Managing Trump and the media’s unhealthy marriage

It’s been a couple of on-again, off-again weeks for Donald Trump and the media, which his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway has likened to two feuding parents trying to figure out what to do about the kids.

“For me it’s very simple,” she said last week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “President Trump and the media have to share joint custody of the nation and its people for the next four or eight years, so it’s highly productive and in everyone’s interest to find a way to do that.”

Bring Back the Earmarks — Really
Congress hasn't worked right since the earmark ban kicked in

It’s become fashionable in the Trump era to say whatever’s on your mind, no matter how politically incorrect it might be. So here’s my contribution to the dialogue — Congress, you need to bring back earmarks. There, I said it, and you’re welcome, because I know you’re thinking the same thing.

Yes, it’s political suicide to say the words. An Economist/YouGov poll from earlier this year showed 63 percent of Americans still oppose earmarks, even though they’ve been prohibited in Congress for the last five years. House Republicans must understand the toxicity of the idea, because in their push to reinstitute some form of earmarking earlier this week, they tried to do it in a closed-door caucus meeting with a secret-ballot vote. That’s not a very hearty defense of the idea, so I’m going to make the case for them right here, in black and white.

I Believed the Polls, and I Hate Myself for It
Can Trump now maintain broad support?

We blew it, fellow members of the media. I won’t assign blame equally or to anyone individually, but let me admit for myself that on Tuesday morning, I did not think that Donald Trump would win the White House.

I could blame the pre-election polls for my assumption that Hillary Clinton would win and that the Democrats would probably take back the Senate as well. If 538, the Upshot and the RealClearPolitics averages agreed, it must be true, right? Um, no.

Challenging the Notion of a Traditional Campaign
Trump's operation is hardly an operation at all

The question we’ll know the answer to on Election Day, other than who wins, is whether campaigns matter anymore. Above and beyond the drama of 2016, Hillary Clinton has run a traditional, and by all accounts, solid campaign. For starters, she actually has a campaign, with staffers working in a giant office in Brooklyn, who are also now fanned out in hundreds of field offices across the country.

The Clinton campaign has opened 489 of those offices. They have raised $497 million dollars. She is on track to spend 53 times Trump’s total in Florida ads alone.

Chuck Schumer Is on the Line
Presumed future Democratic leader has a preference for action over ideology

No matter what happens on Election Day, a New Yorker will become the most powerful person in Washington, and it may not be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Either Clinton or Trump will live in the White House, but when it comes to getting an agenda passed into law, they’ll need Senate Democrats’ votes to do it.  And to get those votes, they’re going to need Sen. Chuck Schumer, the rising Senate Democratic leader and the man poised to be a Clinton consiglieri or Trump’s not-so-loyal opposition.

Gingrich, Gephardt and the Day They Exchanged Power
Making sure the dance of democracy continued

It takes a lot for Donald Trump to shock a political audience at this point, but that’s what happened during last week’s debate when he said he’d let us all know whether he’d accept the election results once Election Day gets here. That followed weeks of claiming that the election is rigged against him and of warnings to his followers that the whole thing might be stolen at the ballot box.

The display was enough to make a person hate politics. But I have a surprising cure for you if you’re looking for a more inspiring example of American statesmanship — the moment in 1995 when House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt gave the speaker’s gavel to Newt Gingrich after the GOP won control of the chamber for the first time in 40 years.

Chris Wallace, for the Win
Moderator posed direct questions on heavy policy topics at final debate

He wasn’t the flashiest debate moderator this cycle or the most aggressive. But Fox News’ Chris Wallace showed the rest of us how it’s done Wednesday night when he hosted the third and final debate of the 2016 presidential campaign cycle. As Wallace served one direct question after another, he gave voters more insights by the end of the night than they began with and achieved the ultimate measure of success for any political journalist.

Wallace began the night approaching Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump with unfailing politeness, referring to them as “Mr. Trump” and “Secretary Clinton” in his questions and thanking them for their answers when they provided them. But it would have been wrong for anyone to mistake Wallace’s civility for a lack of seriousness.

Time for Democrats to Build a Bigger Tent
2016 election presents a rare opportunity to broaden the party's appeal

It feels good, doesn’t it, Democrats? Donald Trump is imploding. Republicans are in an open, bloody revolt. And the polls look so good for Hillary Clinton, you’re starting to believe that this might really happen.

It’s probably tempting right now to start to wonder what you’ll push through first when you’re in charge — climate change or immigration reform? Card check or the public option? With the White House and maybe even the House and Senate in Democratic control, you just might have the numbers to do it all.

Trump's 5 Most Offensive Debate Moments for Women
GOP nominee did himself few favors with voters he really needed to reach

The cable news consensus Sunday night seemed to be that Donald Trump won the debate. He was strong, he knew his stuff. He didn’t physically light himself on fire or reach over and scratch Hillary Clinton’s face off. He was so much better than expected! Clinton, on the other hand, was defensive. She wasn’t animated. She was too wonkish and distant from the crowd.

But every debate has multiple audiences, and the audience Trump really needed to reach Sunday night were the voters who are not yet supporting him, especially college-educated female voters who voted by a 6-point margin for Mitt Romney in 2012, but are now supporting Clinton over Trump by 25 points.

Time for Mike Pence to Take a Stand
Trump's running mate is being used to endorse the indefensible

It’s a good thing Mike Pence has a conscience because he’s going to need it as he struggles with what to do next as Donald Trump’s running mate, including whether he should stay on as Trump’s running mate at all.

If Republicans succeed in convincing Trump to drop out of the race, Pence is the obvious choice to replace him and, according to at least one poll, could defeat Hillary Clinton. But if Trump refuses to get out, the Indiana governor should save himself and his reputation and let Trump clean up the mess he's made.