RealClearPolitics Articles

Florida Recounts Dredge Up 2000 Election Nightmare

Debra J. Saunders - November 18, 2018

Almost two decades after the infamous Florida recount to determine the 2000 presidential election, voters again have reason to look at Broward County's election system with contempt and suspicion.

In 2000, Broward County went so far as to judge indentations in ballots as legitimate votes. This netted Democratic nominee Al Gore an extra 567 votes -- not enough to beat George W. Bush but enough to sow distrust among concerned citizens.

Nearly two decades later, Broward County is back to its old tricks.

Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson is running for re-election, but he trailed his opponent, GOP Gov. Rick Scott, on election night. The margin of some 12,600 ballots was slim enough to warrant a 67-county recount by Florida law -- but not a well-run recount in Broward County.

Trump and Race: Suspicious Minds

Carl M. Cannon - November 18, 2018

Hating on Donald Trump is a full-time endeavor for many in politics and the media, especially the media. His critics condemn him when he screws up, which is often, and when he does good things, too. The most committed Trump-haters excoriate him for actions they’d previously demanded from him – or wanted his predecessors to take.

For decades, liberal activists have hoped, for example, that Jack Johnson, the early 20th century heavyweight champion of the world, would be pardoned for his conviction under the Mann Act, a 1910 law originally aimed at preventing pimps from taking underage girls or women across state lines for prostitution or other “immoral purposes.” Johnson traveled with his girlfriend, the underlying “crime” being that she was white.

Yet when President Trump did what President Obama declined to do, which was pardon Jack Johnson posthumously, this act was denounced as a “con job” that induced “race-baiting whiplash,” whatever that is. Dave Zirin, the writer who coined that phrase, concluded that Jack Johnson would have rejected a presidential pardon. This seems absurd, but Zirin revealed his real objection: “Johnson’s pardon is long overdue,” he wrote. “But it’s a shame it came from this president.”

Actually, it’s fitting it was Trump. A fan of prize fighting, he hosted title bouts at his New Jersey casinos, hung out with boxing promoter Don King and former champ Mike Tyson. It was Sylvester Stallone, portrayer of mythical champ Rocky Balboa, who brought Jack Johnson to Trump’s attention. When Trump announced the pardon in the Oval Office, Stallone was there, along with real fighters Lennox Lewis and Deontay Wilder. After all, who doesn’t like Rocky, right?

Bloomberg Eyes 2020, But Would Dems Warm to Him?

Adele Malpass - November 17, 2018

The new hero of the Democratic Party is Mike Bloomberg. The former three-term New York City mayor, through his Independence USA PAC, put $110 million into 24 suburban House district races with the goal of flipping the chamber’s majority to the Democrats. The investment apparently paid off: 21 out of the 24 candidates he supported won, in most cases by defeating incumbent Republicans, who were outspent by at least 2-to-1.

One of the most effective parts of his strategy was a $45 million “surprise attack” in television ads over the last two weeks of the midterms in expensive media markets such as Atlanta and Miami. He also spent $5 million the weekend before Election Day airing a two-minute ad of himself talking directly into the camera about the importance of voting for Democrats to send Donald Trump a message.

Those efforts were appreciated. Nancy Pelosi, the once and likely next House speaker, made a special visit to New York City to personally thank him and other donors for their efforts in helping Democrats retake the majority. 

What’s Mike Bloomberg’s end game here?  His high-profile role has raised speculation that he’s contemplating a 2020 presidential run. At 76, he’s announced he’ll make a decision about 2020 sometime in January or February.  It’s no secret that he wanted to run in 2016, but took a pass after realizing it would be impossible to win as an independent.

Melania Trump's Moment: First Lady Flexes Muscles in Big Way

Catherine Lucey - November 17, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) — It turns out there is more than one Trump who can employ a few well-chosen words as a poison dart.

With a bombshell public statement this week, it was first lady Melania Trump who revealed her ability to carry out a political hit. Her extraordinary call for the removal of a top administration official forced the president to banish a top aide, exacerbated tensions within the White House and provided fresh insight into the first marriage.

Above all, the moment showed that the enigmatic first lady is increasingly prepared to flex her muscles. While it was President Donald Trump who repeatedly promised to shake up his Cabinet and staff, it was his wife who forced one of the first moves after the midterm elections. And while first ladies have long held unique positions of influence in the White House, Mrs. Trump’s very public power play was an unusual move befitting an unconventional White House.

“There have been similar activities on a less publicized scale, but it came out after the fact. We’ve never seen a first lady have her office make a public statement like that,” said Katherine Jellison, chair of the history department at Ohio University and an expert on first ladies. “It will be interesting to see if this is the new Melania.”

Pence, Xi Trade Barbs in Speeches at Pacific Summit

Stephen Wright - November 17, 2018

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence traded barbs in speeches at a summit of world leaders Saturday, outlining competing visions for global leadership as trade and other tensions between them simmer.

Pence said there would be no letup in President Donald Trump’s policy of combating China’s mercantilist trade policy and intellectual property theft that has erupted into a tit-for-tat tariff war between the two world powers this year.

The U.S. has imposed additional tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods and China has retaliated. Pence reiterated Trump administration threats to more than double the penalties.

“The United States, though, will not change course until China changes its ways,” Pence said, accusing Beijing of intellectual property theft, unprecedented subsidies for state businesses and “tremendous” barriers to foreign companies entering its giant market.

U.S. Official: Intel Says Prince Ordered Khashoggi Killing

Deb Riechmann - November 17, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. official said. The Saudi government has denied the claim.

The conclusion will bolster efforts in Congress to further punish the close U.S. ally for the killing. The Trump administration this past week penalized 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher punitive measures.

The U.S. official familiar with the intelligence agencies’ conclusion was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke only condition of anonymity Friday. The conclusion was first reported by The Washington Post.

Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat has said the crown prince had “absolutely” nothing to do with the killing.

DeVos Proposes Overhaul to Campus Sexual Misconduct Rules

Collin Binkley - November 17, 2018

(AP) -- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday proposed a major overhaul to the way colleges and universities handle sexual misconduct complaints, adding protections for students accused of assault and harassment and narrowing which cases schools would be required to investigate.

Her plan would scale back important Obama administration rules while adding mandates that could reshape the school disciplinary systems that schools have developed over the past decade.

Under the new plan, colleges would have to investigate complaints only if the alleged incident occurred on campus or in other areas overseen by the school, and only if it was reported to certain officials. By contrast, current rules require colleges to review all student complaints, regardless of their location or how they came to the school’s attention.

It adds several provisions supported by groups that represent students accused of sexual misconduct. Chief among them, it says accused students must be able to cross-examine their accusers, although it would be done through a representative to avoid personal confrontations.

Pelosi Claims 'Overwhelming Support' for 2nd Act as Speaker

Matthew Daly - November 16, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers trying to oust Nancy Pelosi started rallying behind a possible contender Thursday, but the House Democratic leader gained key endorsements and said she has “overwhelming support” to become the next speaker.

Pelosi picked up backing from Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the civil rights leader, while a who’s-who of Democrats — including former Vice President Al Gore and former Secretary of State John Kerry — advocated on her behalf.

“Look, I’m supporting Pelosi,” said Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking Democrat and an influential leader of the Congressional Black Caucus. “But I would never tell anybody not to run.”

One member of the Black Caucus, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, indicated a willingness to run against Pelosi for speaker when lawmakers return after Thanksgiving for first-round voting. She’s an ally of Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who mounted an unsuccessful campaign against Pelosi two years ago and is a leader of the current effort to topple her.

So, Was It A Wave?

Sean Trende - November 16, 2018

There’s been an ongoing discussion about whether the 2018 midterms can be properly considered a “wave” election.  While I think they certainly can be considered a wave, that doesn’t get to the question of whether they ought to be considered as such.

At its core, this debate is pretty silly. Whether 2018 qualifies as a wave doesn’t change the fact that Democrats will control the House in the next Congress, and will do so by a healthy margin at that. Nor does it change the fact that Republicans will have a larger Senate majority than they had in the first two years of the Trump presidency.  The consequence of 2010 was not that we labelled it a wave; it was that Democrats lost the ability to enact policy without Republican help.  

At its core, this is really a debate about narrative setting and bragging rights, which makes it susceptible to bias confirmation.  Moreover, we should have some middle ground that allows for “bad Republican year” in our discussions between “a disappointing election for Democrats” and “a blowout.”  Waves should be fairly uncommon events, not something that occurs every third midterm.

In an attempt to prevent that, I tried to set some guidelines. By this metric, at least, 2018 falls short. The reason is fairly straightforward.  Democrats did quite well in the House; if you take their playing field into account, their win was probably as impressive as the Republican victory in 1994.  But elsewhere, Democratic gains were rather muted. 

Fixing Florida; Tech's Dark Shadow; Problem Solvers; Wilson, War and Women

Carl M. Cannon - November 16, 2018

Good morning, it’s Friday, November 16, 2018. On this date 100 years ago, Woodrow Wilson issued a Thanksgiving proclamation to a grateful nation.

“This year we have special and moving cause to be grateful and to rejoice,” the 28th U.S. president told a war-weary nation. “God has in His good pleasure given us peace.”

He continued: “Complete victory has brought us, not peace alone, but the confident promise of a new day as well in which justice shall replace force and jealous intrigue among nations.”

Wilson’s 1918 optimism would prove to be misplaced in all respects. Yes, Armistice Day had brought an end to what was then called the Great War. But its terms were so punitive toward Germany that it set in motion events that would lead to a second worldwide conflagration even more destructive and gruesome than the first. World War I led directly to the rise of Nazism, a totalitarian Communist takeover of Russia, and the exporting of a virulent form of anti-Semitism to the Arab world. 

Wilson, the Great War, and Women's Right to Vote

Carl M. Cannon - November 16, 2018

On this date 100 years ago, Woodrow Wilson issued a Thanksgiving proclamation to a grateful nation.

“This year we have special and moving cause to be grateful and to rejoice,” the 28th U.S. president told a war-weary nation. “God has in His good pleasure given us peace.”

He continued: “Complete victory has brought us, not peace alone, but the confident promise of a new day as well in which justice shall replace force and jealous intrigue among nations.”

Wilson’s 1918 optimism would prove to be misplaced in all respects. Yes, Armistice Day had brought an end to what was then called the Great War. But its terms were so punitive toward Germany that it set in motion events that would lead to a second worldwide conflagration even more destructive and gruesome than the first. World War I led directly to the rise of Nazism, a totalitarian Communist takeover of Russia, and the exporting of a virulent form of anti-Semitism to the Arab world. 

DeSantis Has Two Years to Fix Florida Voting

A.B. Stoddard - November 16, 2018

President Trump has made his 2020 Florida playbook clear: If a close race happens with a tight margin there, he will paralyze the nation with claims of fraud and a stolen election. In short, Republican officials in Florida have two years to clean up this mess.

Ron DeSantis, the governor-elect, has inherited a long-standing problem that was left to fester by the Sunshine State’s next junior senator. Rick Scott, completing two terms as governor, failed to tighten loose screws in the election machinery but has been crying foul in the ongoing recount he is likely to prevail in against current Sen. Bill Nelson. Trump has been all too eager to jump in with the usual falsehoods and baseless accusations that undermine the credibility of the democracy he is supposed to protect.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged," Trump tweeted. "An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!"

He told the Daily Caller on Wednesday that people leave polling places and change their hats and shirts in their cars and go back in and vote again. Yes, he did. Of course, Florida’s recount is triggered by law when the margin is narrow, and overseas ballots from members of the military aren’t due until this Friday. No fraud, despite statements by Scott and Trump, has been identified. Yet Trump has essentially said the count should be stopped. Scott accused Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes of “rampant fraud” and Nelson of “clearly trying to commit fraud,” without proof of either.

The Perils to Democracy Posed by Big Tech

Kalev Leetaru - November 16, 2018

Silicon Valley has changed. The same companies that once held free speech so sacred they refused to ban terrorists and stood idly by as their tools were used for genocide have suddenly decided that censorship is the only way to save the web in the Era of Trump. The platforms that control what more than a quarter of the earth’s population say and see online have pivoted from the “free speech wing of the free speech party” to an Orwellian world in which unpopular speech can simply vanish. What do these changes portend for the future of free expression and democracy itself?

The election of Donald Trump was a watershed moment for the nation’s technology and media companies. Almost overnight, phrases like “fake news” and “filter bubbles” became household terms as the nation’s elite attempted to explain an election they could not understand. Silicon Valley’s response was to embrace censorship, viewing aggressive control over the online world as the best way to tame a changing electorate. The news media responded by claiming ownership over “truth” and hardening its coverage of the president from dismissive to adversarial.

Freedom of expression has long been considered the bedrock of American-style democracy, ensuring the free flow of ideas, no matter how unpopular they may be. Although it was always easier for the wealthy and the intellectual elite to broadcast their views to the masses, this right was considered sacrosanct. Social media has upended the natural order, however, and as elites lost their ability to control the conversation, free speech has been recast from the pillar that supports democracy into the gravest danger that threatens it.

Social platforms helped Black Lives Matter raise awareness and allowed #MeToo activists to tell their stories. Yet, as a rising tide lifts all boats, so too has social media given voice to the toxic fringes of society. The anonymity and global reach of the platforms have helped spread everything from conspiracy theories to almost unimaginable racist, sexist, and dehumanizing speech.

Truth and Its Enemies: Making Acosta a Federal Case

Mona Charen - November 16, 2018

Question: What does CNN's Jim Acosta crave more than anything?

If you said "attention," go to the head of the class. It's a mystery why the White House has given Acosta way more than that. Acosta had his "hard pass" yanked after last week's press conference. (Don't ask who was obnoxious, because they ALL were.) Acosta has literally become a federal case. CNN filed suit claiming that their reporter's First and Fifth amendment rights were violated. More than a dozen news organizations, including Fox, have filed amicus briefs supporting CNN. Even the Trump-friendly Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano has opined that Acosta has a strong case. Mr. Showboat is just where he wants to be -- the center of attention -- but thanks to President Donald Trump's gratuitous swipe, he is also a free-press martyr.

Acosta's technique has been honed for many months -- asking questions not to receive answers but to shame. At the Nov. 7 press conference, Acosta rose to "challenge" the president on what he had said about the caravan during the closing days of the campaign: "As you know, Mr. President, the caravan was not an 'invasion.' It's a group of migrants moving up from Central America towards the border with the U.S."

It's not Acosta's job to joust with the president over interpretations of words. Leave that to commentators or politicians. He could have asked the president where he got his information about Middle Eastern terrorists supposedly infiltrating into the caravan, or what supporting evidence he had to support his claim that there were many criminals in its ranks. Acosta could have asked what purpose U.S. troops would serve at the border in light of the Posse Comitatus Act. He could have asked whether the president thought any of the migrants might have colorable asylum claims. Instead, he demanded, "Do you think you demonized immigrants?"

Trump Raises the Stakes With CNN

Patrick Buchanan - November 16, 2018

Last week, the White House revoked the press pass of CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, and denied him access to the building.

CNN responded by filing suit in federal court against the president.

Acosta's First and Fifth Amendment rights had been violated, said CNN. The demand: Acosta's press pass must be returned immediately and his White House press privileges restored.

"If left unchallenged," CNN warned, "the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials." A dozen news organizations, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, are filing amicus briefs on CNN's behalf.

Ilhan Omar's Election Shows That Democrats Aren't Interested in Confronting Anti-Semitism

David Harsanyi - November 16, 2018

Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress, is a new kind of politician. She's telegenic, ideologically progressive, widely celebrated by a media that's obsessed with identity politics. She's the kind of politician who can openly side with Hamas against Israel or spread "Protocols of the Elders of Zion"-style conspiracies on Twitter, claiming that Jews possess the supernatural ability to hypnotize the world as they unfurl their "evil."

It's not surprising, then, that Omar also supports the "boycott, divestment and sanctions" movement. In a statement to the website Muslim Girl, someone on Omar's staff explained that yes, "Ilhan believes in and supports the BDS movement, and has fought to make sure people's right to support it isn't criminalized. She does however, have reservations on the effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution."

So although Omar contends that BDS will be ineffective in getting the sides to "a lasting solution," she stills "believes in and supports" a movement that smears the Jewish state as a racist endeavor and aims to destroy it economically. Is it a mystery why some Jews might find that positioning offensive?

Omar has supported BDS for a while, even though she will now occasionally slip in some platitudes about the peace process. As Scott Johnson of Power Line points out, Omar misled Jewish voters in her district, obfuscating about her position and, as she still does, conflating her support for BDS with a bill that would have stopped continued taxpayer funding of the movement. No one is attempting to "criminalize" anti-Israel speech, although it's heartening to see that Omar is a free speech absolutist. We'll see whether her position on the "criminalization" of speech will remain consistent moving forward.

Problems Abound for Both Sides

Erick Erickson - November 16, 2018

Both political parties in Washington can look at last week's election results and find encouragement. Democrats who see their victories as a sign that Donald Trump will be a one-term president should ask Mitt Romney how that turned out for him after the Republican wave of 2010. There remain structural issues that Democrats and Republicans have to contend with, and neither group seems very interested in contending with much of anything right now.

Democrats continue to alienate a vast portion of the country. The party has become urban, secular and coastal. One need look no further than the growing distrust in the media to see the Democrats' problems. A large segment of the public views the media as a wing of the Democratic Party. And the media, like the Democrats, is highly secular, coastal and progressive. Neither seems able to relate to Americans outside their demographics anymore.

Both black and Hispanic males increased their votes for the Republicans in 2018 -- an overlooked data point. In fact, Georgia's Republican gubernatorial nominee, Brian Kemp, mustered almost 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, and Rick Scott, the Florida Republican candidate for the Senate, captured about half the Hispanic vote in Florida. Hispanic men, like white men, tended to vote more Republican than Hispanic women, but Democrats are ignoring the trend entirely.

Democrats have also ceded the Senate landscape. In 2020, though more Republicans will be up for election than Democrats, the only really unfavorable ground for the GOP will be Colorado, and even that will be offset with Democratic Sen. Doug Jones most likely losing re-election in Alabama. Even if the Democrats could beat Trump, they will probably have to contend with a Republican Senate. As they continue their efforts to delegitimize any part of government that does not go their way, they will probably find even more independent voters tiring of them.

Will a GOP Candidate Stand up Against Trump in 2020?

Michael Gerson - November 16, 2018

WASHINGTON -- Republicans who are thinking about opposing President Trump in the 2020 primaries are facing the hardest of political choices.

Toppling a sitting president of your own party is a maneuver with the highest degree of difficulty. The most relevant historical model is probably Eugene McCarthy's race against Lyndon Johnson in 1968, which helped convince a politically wounded president to withdraw. But McCarthy had a clear policy handhold -- opposition to an increasingly unpopular war -- and appealed to a discontented element of his party.

What are the handholds for a challenger to Trump? Economic conservatives are generally happy with the 2017 tax cut. Social conservatives are generally satisfied with Trump's judicial nominees (and should be). Foreign policy conservatives are generally not pleased with Trump's sabotage of alliances, his compulsive personal diplomacy and his abdication of leadership in promoting American values. But the Republican foreign policy establishment was almost uniformly opposed to Trump the last time around, and it mattered not at all.

So why undertake this difficult, perhaps thankless political task?

Amid Complaints, a Reason to Give Thanks

Michael Barone - November 16, 2018

"It's the worst of times." The words are Charles Dickens', from the opening paragraph of a novel set in the 1790s, but the sentiment is familiar today. Americans are divided as never before, we are frequently told, angrily at odds with one another, polarized politically, economically, culturally and in our entertainment preferences.

Family elders fret about getting through Thanksgiving and the holidays without violent arguments, and more parents than ever say they'd be upset if their children were to marry across political lines.

But are things really so bad? Last week's ceremonies commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I -- or rather, the armistice that stopped the fighting on the Western Front but not further east -- suggest that things could be a lot worse, and have been within the memory of some people only recently departed.

In many ways, today's troubles look like miniature versions of the woes of the 20th century.

America's Overt Payback for China's Covert Espionage

David Ignatius - November 16, 2018

WASHINGTON -- While the bombastic U.S.-China "trade war" has been getting the headlines, U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies have been waging a quieter battle to combat Chinese theft of trade secrets from American companies -- a practice so widespread that even China trade boosters regard it as egregious.

The Trump administration's much-ballyhooed campaign of tariffs will eventually produce some version of a truce -- economists say that any other result would amount to a mutual suicide pact. But the battle against Beijing's economic espionage is still accelerating, and it may prove more important over time in leveling the playing field between the two countries.

To combat Chinese spying and hacking, U.S. intelligence agencies are increasingly sharing with the Justice Department revelatory information about Chinese operations. That has led to a string of recent indictments, and in one case, the arrest abroad of an alleged Chinese spy and his extradition to America to face trial.

The indictments don't just charge violations of law, they expose details of Chinese spycraft. And there's a hidden threat: The Chinese must consider whether the U.S. has blown the covers, not just of the people and organizations named in the criminal charges, but others with whom they came in contact.