Donald Trump continues to test the tenets of Politics 101. The rule he's breaking this time: Don't get in a scrap with someone who has less to lose than you do.
When the real estate mogul and former TV star vaulted to the top of Republican presidential primary polls, his rivals for the nomination tried to handle him with kid gloves. No one wanted to kindle his already ignited base or risk the optics of getting in a public fight with a character they hoped would buckle under the weight of his own inexperience. That didn't work so well — at least not at first. The Donald kept rising in the polls and is now the leader.
But he's been baited into a fight with 2008 Republican nominee John McCain, and many political analysts — particularly GOP strategists who hope it's true — think this is the beginning of the end of the Trump phenomenon.
McCain, an Arizona senator playing the role of elder statesman, has taken umbrage at Trump's hard-line rhetoric and positioning on unauthorized immigrants, specifically at a recent rally in Phoenix. Trump "fired up the crazies," McCain told the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza last week. He also noted that Hillary Clinton had attended a Trump wedding — "I don’t know which wedding it was," he said, pointing to the fact that Trump has been married repeatedly.
When Trump responded, he touched an electrified political third rail of politics by challenging McCain's war record. "He’s not a war hero," Trump said in Iowa Saturday. "He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured."
That set off a backlash among Republicans, many of whom were looking for a reason to go after Trump. "America’s POWs deserve much better than to have their service questioned by the offensive rantings of Donald Trump," Marco Rubio tweeted.
Trump fell into a traditional political trap by getting in a fight with McCain, overstepping what some considered a line of decency in attacking a war veteran and letting his rivals come to McCain's defense while he refused to apologize. But traditional political rules don't always seem to apply to Trump.
Kevin Madden, a top adviser to 2008 and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said Trump's not playing at a strategic level.
"We're overthinking it," he told Vox. "Trump doesn't have any strategy other than to be the ringleader of his own media circus. So when we try to assess his moves tactically, we're overlooking the fact that he's only interested in one thing, which is putting Donald Trump in the middle of the conversation."
But given that Trump's anti-immigration base hates McCain, it's not clear how much he loses by going after the Arizona senator. It will be interesting to see whether this is the tipping point at which Trump starts to fade or another data point in the case that the basic rules of politics don't apply to him.
Beyond Trump, here are nine other things to know to start your day:
1) Congress is not happy about playing second fiddle to UN on Iran deal
Approval of the Iran nuclear deal was the first order of business for the UN Security Council Monday. Secretary of State John Kerry said he tried and failed to get the Security Council to wait until after Congress has a chance to review the pact, but it was in his interests not to fight too hard. Now the deal will come to Washington with the momentum of the Security Council's blessing. And that's not sitting well with US lawmakers — including some Democrats — who wanted the first crack at it. Per the New York Times:
On Sunday, as the Obama administration submitted the Iran nuclear agreement to Congress for what promises to be a raucous 60-day debate, Mr. Kerry and President Obama began grappling with the fallout of that decision, which has complicated their efforts to secure much needed support within their own party.
At least two senior Democrats have joined the Republican leadership in complaining that the Security Council action, expected Monday morning, would pre-empt the congressional debate. Their concern is that it would signal the international community’s intention to dismantle the sanctions — if Iran meets the nuclear terms of the accord — before American lawmakers have had time to vote on it.
Why do members of Congress matter at all in this? They passed a law earlier this year giving them a vote on the deal. If, as expected, that's framed as a resolution disapproving of the agreement, the Republican-led House and Senate would likely vote to kill the pact. President Obama would then veto the disapproval measure, and he would need one-third of either chamber to sustain his veto. That means most Democrats in either the House or the Senate would have to vote for the deal.
I still think there's a small chance that Republican leaders will bring up an approval resolution — which the law also allows for — so that it fails by a wide margin and embarrasses the president. If Obama has the votes to sustain his veto of a disapproval resolution, he would essentially end on what would be reported as a high note — Congress backing him up (even if only by a minority sustaining him).
The UN going first isn't going to be the deciding factor for anyone, but it adds to the friction between Congress and the White House on the Iran deal.
Get smart fast:
- Andrew Prokop of Vox has an easy-to-read explainer on the math in Congress.
- The Times also has a handy graphic on which side won on major points in the negotiations.
2) Congress could give Obama a window to shut Gitmo
It's a narrow path, but there might be daylight for President Obama to close the Guantanamo Bay prison — which has been a goal of his since before he won the White House. Here's why he's got a shot at it: The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have competing plans for how to deal with a closure plan, as Politico reports.
One, pushed by Obama’s 2008 Republican presidential rival, Sen. John McCain, would give the Obama administration a path that would force congressional review of a closure plan.
The other, backed by House Republicans stung by the president’s decision last year to swap five Guantánamo detainees for captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl without providing Congress the required 30-day notice, would strengthen restrictions on transferring detainees, making the closure of the facility more difficult in the waning months of Obama’s presidency.
The competing prescriptions are now being reconciled in backroom talks between congressional leaders and the chairmen of the Armed Services committees.
3) Hillary Clinton, Wall Street cop? Plan would raise capital gains taxes
The favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination will unveil a plan this week that would create a new system for taxing capital gains, according to the Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler and John D. McKinnon, who cite a campaign official as their source.
The Democratic presidential candidate’s plan would create a sliding scale with at least three new rates that change depending on how long an investment is held, the official said.
Investments held for less than a year would continue to be taxed at regular income-tax rates, which can top out at 39.6% or more for the highest earners. For those held just a little longer—likely two or three years—the current capital-gains tax rate of 23.8% for top earners would rise. The Clinton rate, which hasn’t been finalized, would be higher than the 28% President Barack Obama proposed earlier this year for the highest earners. The Clinton campaign hasn’t ruled out taxing such investments at the regular income-tax rate.
The plan would include additional rates tied to the length that an investment is held, with the lowest rates for investments held the longest.
The capital gains rate for investments held for more than a year is 15 percent.
Like all good trial balloons, the details of this proposal aren't yet fleshed out. If there's a major backlash, it will happen before the candidate herself has announced the policy in public — and give her time to recalibrate it. But it is a sign that Clinton plans to make good on her promises to push the wealthy to pay more in taxes and to encourage long-term investment.
4) Speaking of Wall Street cops, Dodd-Frank turns 5 today
The Wall Street Journal has a great graphic on which reforms have been implemented and which have been tossed in the circular file, as well as ratings from experts on how successful each component of the law has been.
5) Clinton's clever outreach to Latinos and millennials
In a profile of Clinton political director Amanda Renteria, the LA Times reveals a key aspect of the campaign's outreach effort both to Latinos and to millennials that's a good general approach to politics: Talk to voters about what they care about, not what you care about. The smart modern campaign identifies people who are likely to vote for the candidate and then courts them in a variety of ways that often have little to do with politics. To wit:
Under Renteria's direction, Clinton organizers are showing up in Latino and other minority communities in a variety of ways. Often it's not even to talk much politics. Renteria, 40, recalls a recent networking event at a bar in Philadelphia where the millennials who showed up wanted to discuss career strategies, how to go about paying off student loans and what her family thinks of what she is doing with her life. So they did.
6) The Reddit candidate: Bernie Sanders
The Vermont senator is counting on Reddit to help him organize his big rallies because his campaign operation doesn't yet have the tools to do it, according to a profile by the Boston Globe's Annie Linskey.
Putting this many supporters in a room takes work. The campaign e-mails supporters who live near events, and they ask an enthusiastic Reddit community to spread the word.
There’s a practical reason for holding these events. Sanders hasn’t spent much time building the relationships within the Democratic Party leaders at the state level that can help propel a national candidacy.
"We need to build organization, particularly in relatively early states," [Sanders adviser Tad] Devine said.
The story notes that Sanders traveled the country last year and has built a fundraising base outside of New England and the Democrats who had pined for Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run. But he's still pretty dependent on the Warren crowd. His biggest fundraising state so far: Massachusetts, at $2.7 million.
During the 2008 campaign, Clinton got booed at Netroots Nation for making the case that lobbyists have a place in our republic. This time, she skipped the liberal confab. That may have been the smart move, as Sanders and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley were interrupted by "Black Lives Matter" activists. Per Politico:
O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, was up first, and his forum was hijacked by protesters who said they were from the "Black Lives Matter" movement. They moved toward the stage, chanting, "What side are you on? Black people! What side are you on?"
Sanders was heckled throughout his appearance.
At one point, Sanders’ frustration showed. "Black lives of course matter, but I have spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and if you don’t want me to be here that’s OK," he said.
That touched off a firestorm on Twitter, centered on the hashtag #BernieSoBlack — which Tweeters used to mock Sanders for continuously pointing to his civil rights record. His supporters have since used the hashtag to point to specifics in that record. But the fight isn't good for a candidate who hasn't shown he can appeal to minority voters.
8) Michigan Republicans want to stop "sanctuary" cities
Look for this to become a trend around the country after an unauthorized immigrant who had been deported several times was charged with murder earlier this month in the shooting death of a San Francisco woman. Republicans in the Wolverine State want to force cities to enforce immigration laws, according to the Detroit News.
They are working on legislation that would bar state funding to communities that adopt so-called "sanctuary city" policies. More than 200 cities nationwide have adopted policies that shelter people in the U.S. without papers, but only two are in Michigan — Detroit and Ann Arbor.
'These policies protect criminals who have entered our country illegally,' said Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township. 'People entering our country illegally have no business being here. I, for one, have no time or patience for criminals, and I have even less tolerance for anyone who protects them.'
9) Senators take up fight for part-time workers
Part-time workers — and policy experts — say unpredictable work schedules are making life a lot harder for them. They've been trying for some time to put in place state-level laws to require notice for shift assignments with some success. Now Democratic members of Congress, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are renewing their push to put the issue on the map, as the Boston Globe reports.
Unpredictable scheduling is on the rise across the country as the part-time and around-the-clock labor force expands, and there is a growing movement to give employees, most of them low-wage, more control over when they work. ...
About 17 percent of the workforce has an unstable work schedule, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group for low-income workers.
These schedules — often generated by software that calculates how many workers are needed at certain times, alerting managers when business is slow and they can send people home — are sometimes referred to as 'just-in-time' schedules.