The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Senate Judiciary Chairman: Sorry, We Don’t Have Time to Replace Sessions

Washington continues to spin off its axis: Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa is more or less telling President Trump that he and his committee doesn’t have time to replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General if Trump fires him: “Everybody in D.C. [should be] warned that the agenda for the Judiciary Committee is set for rest of 2017. Judges first, subcabinet second / AG no way.”

It sounds like everyone around the president is telling him to stop publicly antagonizing his own attorney general, but the president won’t listen. In today’s Wall Street Journal: “Privately, friends and White House aides have urged Mr. Trump to back off, but he has shown no sign of letting up, and he and Mr. Sessions haven’t yet met to see if they can resolve differences.”

The chaos of this White House is increasingly predictable and boring:

Does the president walk around the White House, wondering why all these bad things keep happening to him through no fault of his own? Does he see himself as a lone, tortured strategic genius constantly held back by the incompetent staff around him? Or can he realize that some of the problems of his White House stem from his own behavior and decision-making?

If President Trump wants the rest of his presidency to be better and more productive than the first six months, he will have to make some changes — not to his staff, and not to his policies, but to himself.

It’s the sort of thing that everyone from therapists to friends to addiction counselors encounter all the time. “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” If you want different results, you have to change yourself, your decisions, and your actions. But is the president capable of change? And if he is, is he willing to try a more disciplined approach to the presidency?

Early Polling Strong for Bawitdaba Da Bang a Dang Diggy Diggy Diggy

No, the headline writer has not had a stroke; that is a lyric to Kid Rock’s 1998 hit, “Bawitdaba.”

Robert Ritchie, a.k.a. Kid Rock, offered a public update on his potential plans for running for office. The short version is he’s thinking about it and will probably announce in the next six weeks; until then, he’s setting up a nonprofit to promote voter registration.

During this time while exploring my candidacy for US Senate, I am creating a 501(c)(4) – a non-profit organization for the promotion of voter registration. Not only can I raise money for this critical cause, but I can help get people registered to vote at my shows. Since the announcement, the media has speculated this was a ploy to sell shirts or promote something. I can tell you, I have no problem selling Kid Rock shirts and yes, I absolutely will use this media circus to sell/promote whatever I damn well please (many other politicians are doing the same thing, they just feed you a bunch of b******* about it). But either way, money raised at this time through the sale of merchandise associated with this very possible campaign will go towards our ‘register to vote’ efforts.

One thing is for sure though . . .  The democrats are ’s******’ in their pantaloons’ right now . . .  and rightfully so!

We will be scheduling a press conference in the next 6 weeks or so to address this issue amongst others, and if I decide to throw my hat in the ring for US Senate, believe me . . .  it’s game on m*******s.

The really interesting thing is that despite all the other profanity, he didn’t spell out the mother-you-know-what term. It’s good to see Rock’s appreciation for manners and decorum; I knew Mitt Romney would rub off on him eventually.

I would turn your attention to the one poll we have so far that asked voters about this still-hypothetical matchup between Kid Rock and incumbent Democratic Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow. (Other pollsters have said they will ask about this matchup in the near future.) Delphi Analytica found:

Of respondents who stated a preference between Debbie Stabenow and Robert Ritchie, 54% stated they would vote for Ritchie while 46% said they would vote for Debbie Stabenow. These results could indicate that Ritchie is a popular figure in Michigan, Debbie Stabenow is unpopular, or some combination of concurrent trends. The relatively large, 44%, number of undecided respondents may be due to the early stages of the campaign.

Yes, the poll surveyed “Michigan residents,” not registered voters or likely voters. Break that down, and it comes out Ritchie at 30 percent, Stabenow at 26 percent, and 44 percent undecided. Democrats should not be freaking out about the celebrity candidate enjoying a narrow lead. They should be freaking out that Stabenow is at 26 percent in a sample with the broadest definition of potential voters possible.

As mentioned on the Three Martini Lunch Tuesday, Debbie Stabenow has been in elected office of one kind or another for about as long as I’ve been alive; she was first elected as a county commissioner in 1975. She’s seeking her fourth six-year term in the U.S. Senate. Her name recognition in the state should be close to 100 percent and everyone in Michigan should have a pretty clear idea of what they think of her by now.

Back in April, the Morning Consult poll found Stabenow at 47 percent job approval and 38 percent disapproval — numbers that at first glace appear to be not great, but not catastrophic, either. Then again, that ranked Stabenow the 83rd most popular senator out of the 99 the firm surveyed. (Alabama’s Luther Strange had just been sworn into office, so they didn’t ask about him.)

In this light, Democrats really should be in a panic about a potential Stabenow-Rock matchup. As my co-host Greg Corombus put it, the debate stage would look like the high school assistant principal up against the guy who keeps getting sent to the office of the high school assistant principal.


Veterans Choice Saved? Or Just Premature Celebration?

The good news is it looks like there’s a deal to save the Veterans Choice program, at least for a while. But the big question is whether that deal will hold together long enough for the revised version of the funding bill can pass the House and Senate before the August recess.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Wednesday that House and Senate lawmakers came to a compromise to keep the Veterans Choice Program funded, while authorizing leases for new VA clinics and research locations.

The legislation announced by the VA would include $2.1 billion for the Choice program, which allows veterans to receive health care from private medical facilities, according to a VA statement. It would also invest in 28 leases for VA facilities, some of which have been held up by Congress for two years.

Notice some careful wording in that coverage: the VA is announcing a deal is done but the relevant lawmakers haven’t issued their own “we did it!” press releases yet . . .  which is odd. You can’t help but wonder if the VA is attempting to force a tentative agreement into reality by 

Secretary David Shulkin’s statement:

The Committees included measures that will improve VA’s most valuable asset – its employees. The legislation will make it easier to hire the most sought after medical specialists, as well as establish innovative human resources programs to strengthen workforce management.

I urge the House of Representatives to act swiftly, so this legislation can be considered in the Senate before the August recess begins.

Pass the deal . . .  assuming they actually have a deal!

ADDENDA: News beyond the beltway: “A 926-pound Mako shark caught off the New Jersey coast won’t be recognized as a state record because more than one angler helped catch it.” It’s as if the universe is conspiring to make Chris Christie jokes.

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