The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Looks Like Harvey Is Daring to Mess with Texas

Everybody on the Texas coast, be careful.

Forecasters said they expect Hurricane Harvey to make landfall on the middle Texas coast, between Corpus Christi and Matagorda, on Friday night or early Saturday, and then stall along the coast through the weekend.

As of 11 p.m., Thursday, Hurricane Harvey was about 180 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The hurricane was moving northwest, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Harvey is currently a Category 2 hurricane, but is expected to make landfall as a Category 3 hurricane, with winds upwards of 110 mph.

The wind-field of the hurricane has expanded, so a higher storm surge is projected for the upper Texas coastline. Coastal flooding is also predicted to be an issue over the weekend and possibly into next week because of strong onshore winds that will keep water piled up along the coastline.

Residents of Calhoun and parts of Matagorda counties were ordered to evacuate their homes as Harvey neared. The threat prompted the city of Galveston to issue a voluntary evacuation call for the West End Island, and for Galveston County to extend the same to Bolivar Peninsula.

The Houston region could be seeing rainfall and feeling the storm’s winds by late Friday morning.

The Weather Channel is forecasting some eye-popping numbers: Between North Padre Island and Galveston, a storm surge of 6 to 12 feet; then throw another foot or more of rain on top of that:

Earlier this morning, Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, declared, “If you have been asked by local officials to evacuate in TX, your window to do so is closing.”

Kasich-Hickenlooper. Try to Contain Your Enthusiasm.

Axios has an intriguing scoop this morning, although I have my doubts that it will come to fruition:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) – ”the Johns,” as insiders are calling them – have been making a flurry of joint appearances to talk about state-driven improvements to health care.

But Axios has learned that their duet is part of an alliance that’s gaining momentum toward a possible joint independent bid for president in 2020, likely with Kasich at the top of the ticket.

Insert all appropriate caveats: It’s August 2017, and we have no idea what the state of the Trump presidency, the country, the economy, the world stage, etcetera, will be in 2020.

If you’re a vehement Trump foe, you want the anti-Trump vote split in as few ways as possible. Whether or not the Green Party re-nominates Jill Stein, there will be a Green Party nominee, and that nominee will almost certainly be insisting that the Democratic nominee is a sellout corporatist squish who will not bring about real change. The Libertarians will nominate someone touting limited government in the abstract, and some anti-Trump Republicans might drift in that direction. (Again, why would anti-Trump Republicans reward Kasich, one of the guys who played a key role in ensuring Trump won the nomination in 2016?)

So imagine a 2020 ballot that looks something like this:

GOP: Trump-Pence

Independent: Kasich-Hickenlooper.

Democrat: Kamala Harris-Sherrod Brown

Green: Winona LaDuke-William Kreml

Libertarian: Austin Peterson-John McAfee

It’s a lot easier for even a hobbled president with the advantages of incumbency to hold onto a plurality than a majority. Presume the Green and Libertarians amount to their usual 2 to 6 percent of the vote in most states. With Kasich and Hickenlooper running as an independent ticket, Trump and Pence just need to hold on to the largest slice of the remaining 95 percent or so, instead of needing close to half. The threshold of a win becomes the high 30s instead of close to 50 percent.

How confident should Democrats or the Kasich-Hickenlooper team be that they wouldn’t lose a bunch of 37-34-33 splits in key states? President Trump has had a really lousy run for a while, and his approval rating remains in the mid-to-upper 30s or low 40s. Assuming that’s his floor of support, that doesn’t look so bad in a three-way race.

Let’s not forget: Donald Trump was wildly outspent, went through three campaign managers, had a lot of his party stay away from the national convention in Cleveland, outsourced his ground game to the Republican National Committee, kept having disastrous news cycle after another, and faced the raging enmity of the national political press throughout the race. And he managed to win 304 electoral votes (with two faithless electors). Now give him the advantage of incumbency (a Rose Garden campaign, etcetera) and recall we’ve reelected four of the last five presidents.

The mission for the Democratic nominee in 2020 is to win the states Hillary won and find another 38 electoral votes. For the sake of argument, assume the independent ticket headed by Kasich wins his home state of Ohio; this leaves Trump with 288 electoral votes, assuming he keeps all the rest of his 2016 states red. But Kasich winning Ohio would keep those 18 electoral votes out of the Democratic nominee’s pile as well. If Hickenlooper helps the independent ticket carry Colorado, that’s 9 electoral votes that the Democrat will have to make up elsewhere.

Axios reports, “Some establishment Dems are apoplectic about the idea of Hickenlooper teaming up with a Republican.” They probably should be.

Time to Push Back Against the Cuban Regime’s Brutal Attacks on Americans

Credit the editorial board of the Washington Post for publicly discussing two facts that most people aligned with the board’s general philosophy would prefer to ignore. First, despite President Obama’s outreach, the Cuban regime is every bit the ruthless brutes they always were. Second, most liberals and the left-of-center foreign policy establishment prefer to avert their eyes from shameless, violent acts of provocation by regimes like this . . .  and it’s not clear that our own State Department is ready to respond appropriately.

President Barack Obama’s much-hyped restoration of relations with Cuba was a bet that diplomatic and economic engagement would, over time, accomplish what 50 years of boycott did not: a rebirth of political freedom on the island. So far, the results have been dismal. In the two years since the U.S. Embassy in Havana reopened, repression of Cubans — measured in detentions, beatings and political prisoners — has significantly increased, while the private sector has remained stagnant. U.S. exports to Cuba have actually decreased, even as the cash-starved regime of Raúl Castro pockets millions of dollars paid by Americans in visa fees and charges at state-run hotels.

Now there’s another sinister cost to tally — the serious injuries inflicted on the U.S. diplomats dispatched to Havana.

News organizations have since provided shocking details: At least 16 American diplomats and family members received medical treatment resulting from sonic attacks directed at the residences where they were required to live by the Cuban government. A number of Canadian diplomats were also affected.

CBS News reported that a doctor who evaluated the American and Canadian victims found conditions including mild traumatic brain injury, “with likely damage to the central nervous system.”

That is an illegal assault on our people that differs only in scale to the attack on our embassy in Tehran back in 1979. Just what are we willing to do about it?

ADDENDA: Thanks to John Micek for his kind words about the Morning Jolt over at PennLive.

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