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Blue in the Heart of Texas

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Listen to a handful of Donald Trump speeches, and you’ll start to notice a curious pattern. He often says something like this:

“No one knows [INSERT SUBJECT HERE] better than me.”

It’s like a nervous tic. It’s something he can’t help but say. In my opinion, it’s something he can’t help but say when he doesn’t know what else to say.

The good people at NowThis News noticed the same tic. They went through many of his speeches and television appearances and found Donald Trump referencing himself as an expert on the following things:

  • Taxes
  • Income
  • Construction
  • Campaign finance
  • Drones
  • Technology
  • Infrastructure
  • H-1B
  • H-2B
  • ISIS
  • Environmental impact
  • Facebook
  • Renewables
  • Polls
  • Courts
  • Steel workers
  • Golf
  • Banks
  • Trade
  • Nuclear weapons
  • Tax laws
  • Lawsuits
  • Offense
  • Defense
  • Devaluation
  • Money
  • The “system”
  • The “game”
  • Debt
  • Contributions
  • The word “apprentice”
  • Politicians
  • The “other side”
  • Being the “fair-haired boy”

They even spliced these moments together in a video. Check it out:

I’m not so bothered by these outrageous claims. I’m bothered that there are people out there who nod along with him and buy into it.

Let’s be honest: We all know that Donald Trump lies multiple times each day. The Washington Post found that he had lied 6,420 times in his first 649 days as president. That’s a heck of a clip.

And we also know that the people around Donald Trump lie, often in an effort to create a false reality around Trump’s initial lies.

What’s actually surprising is this: Chris Wallace used his Fox News Sunday show to fact-check in real-time Sarah Sanders, the president’s press secretary and chief mouthpiece.

Here’s how it went down.

Sarah Sanders is trying to paint a picture of the southern border as a sieve, one through which terrorists are coming each and every day. She says: “We know that roughly, nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists are coming into our country illegally.”

Chris Wallace stops her cold. He says: “Do you know where those 4,000 people are captured? Airports.”

He goes on to say the State Department has found no evidence of terrorists entering via the southern border. Sarah Sanders pivots and tries to suggest (without evidence) that terrorists are coming “by land and sea,” that they are saying the same thing, etc. Here’s a partial transcript of the conversation:

It’s all a lie. The Trump Administration doesn’t want to beef up security at airport checkpoints. It wants to build a wall and shut down the southern border, and it has shut down the government (and halted paychecks for 200,000 Texans) in an effort to do just that.

Here’s the video:

The lies have been coming full throttle since Trump first announced his campaign. I wish it was refreshing to see Chris Wallace fact-check them on Fox News. But it’s not. It’s exhausting. I’m so tired of the lies, and I’m so ready for the 2020 election.

We’ve written about the lack of a Texas Medicaid expansion in the past, and we’ve noted how Governors Rick Perry and Greg Abbott have refused the expansion (as paid for by Obamacare) to bolster their conservative bonafides.

Yes, as cynical as it sounds, it’s likely that Perry and Abbott have refused the expansion so that they could crow about it in Iowa and New Hampshire as part of future presidential campaigns.

Here’s the thing, though: Perry had the power, and Abbott still has the power, to deliver affordable health care to 1.8 million Texans who desperately need it.

New Maine Governor Janet Mills just expanded Medicaid in her state in the first few days after replacing Paul LePage — a truly sinister character in American political history:

And, in 2019 alone, several other states will follow suit:

  • Idaho
  • Nebraska
  • Utah
  • Virginia

The first three states on that list are rock-ribbed conservative bastions where even the most hardcore of right-wing voters recognizes the benefits of Medicaid expansion. Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Dakota and West Virginia are other conservative states that have embraced Medicaid expansion — because it provides tremendous benefits.

The longer the state of Texas refuses this expansion, the more glaring and indefensible the stances of Perry and Abbott will become. Imagine refusing money that would directly benefit a huge portion of your constituents? That’s what we’re dealing with.

Publications around the state are starting to preview the upcoming legislative session. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram wasted no time in getting right to the point: We need our representatives and senators to find a way to lower Texas property taxes.

Why are they so high in the first place? A few reasons:

  1. By law, our legislators must come up with a balanced budget each session.
  2. To balance the budget in past years, they have chosen to spend less and less on education.
  3. Children still need public schools, so property taxes skyrocket to make up the difference.

We’ve written previously about why Texas contributes to little toward education, especially when compared to other states. The question is: Is anyone willing to do something about it?

Here in Texas, we love to flaunt our lack of a state income tax and our rainy day fund. But what good are those things doing for everyday Texans if we’re paying as much in property taxes as we are in mortgage and interest? And what good are those things if our local governments are swimming in debt?

I’m looking forward to what education-focused legislators like John Bucy and James Talarico can contribute during this year’s session. We need real and innovative ideas, and I have much more faith in progressive members of the state legislature to come up with them than conservative members.

In case you haven’t heard, we’re in the midst of a government shutdown. Here’s how it happened:

  1. The Republican-controlled Senate passed a continuing resolution (to keep the government funded at current levels) by a margin of 100–0.
  2. Donald Trump listened to Sean Hannity and others on Fox News complain that a CR wouldn’t fund a border wall — and said he would veto a CR.
  3. Paul Ryan (just before leaving politics with a 12% approval rating) refused to bring the Senate’s CR to the House floor, instead passing a funding bill with $5 billion for a border wall.
  4. The House bill and its border wall funding failed in the Senate.

So the government closed, and now trash is piling up in national parks, Native Americans are going without food and medicine, and, ironically enough, border patrol and immigration officers are showing up to work without getting paid and the E-Verify system (that ensures immigrants are eligible for jobs) is down.

All this due to a Donald Trump tantrum ignited by an episode of Hannity’s show.

And let’s not forget: The border wall is a massive waste of money on something that won’t help secure the border. Oh, and I can still remember a time when Donald Trump assured us Mexico would pay for the wall.

Awesome.

And now Donald Trump suggests this government shutdown will be the longest in history, lasting months or even a year:

No matter what you think about government spending, federal employees are real people who make modest wages that they cannot go without for weeks (much less months).

Almost 200,000 of those federal employees work right here in Texas.

So, just to recap: Real people are being hurt because Donald Trump refuses to sign a continuing resolution that the new Democratic majority in the House has passed and that the Senate passed unanimously just one month ago.

Chew on that.

Trading of Apple shares halted late Wednesday, and rumors started flying. Turns out the tech giant lowered its Q1 revenue estimates by a shocking 7.6%, from as high as $93 billion to just $84 billion.

Hey, $84 billion still sounds like a lot of money, but the news sent the Dow Jones spiraling today. Markets are still open as of this writing, but the index had dropped more than 600 points by mid-afternoon.

But here’s the question: Why did Apple miss its projections by so much?

According to Apple CEO Tim Cook: Donald Trump’s trade war.

Here’s what Cook told CNBC late Wednesday:

“And what I believe to be the case is the trade tensions between the United States and China put additional pressure on their economy. So we saw as the quarter went on things like traffic in our retail stores, traffic in our channel partner stores, the reports of the smartphone industry contracting, particularly bad in November. I haven’t seen a December number yet, but I’d bet it would not be good either.”

He added in a letter to shareholders:

“We believe the economic environment in China has been further impacted by rising trade tensions with the United States.”

Of course, our ears are still ringing from Donald Trump’s March 2018 declaration that “trade wars are good and easy to win.”

Hmm, not if you’re a lifetime member of the working class staring down retirement as the market tanks.

Can someone remind us all what the point of the trade war is again?

Martin O’Malley is not running for president. Feel free to take a moment to compose yourself.

Who is Martin O’Malley? Well, he was the mayor of Baltimore (1999 to 2007) and then the governor of Maryland (2007 to 2015), and he ran for president in 2016. He was the other candidate — not Bernie Sanders and not Hillary Clinton.

And, what’s really funny is this: Martin O’Malley would have been the kind of generic Democrat who could have beaten Donald Trump. His candidacy couldn’t overcome Hillary Clinton’s coronation, though, and he dropped out after the Iowa caucuses.

Many thought O’Malley would be back in 2020.

He campaigned for Democratic candidates across the country in 2018.

And he did build some modest support and infrastructure in 2016 in important caucus/primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

But O’Malley writes in today’s Des Moines Register that he is OUT for 2020.

He did encourage another candidate to jump into the race, though:

Beto O’Rourke.

Here’s what O’Malley had to say about the outgoing congressman and the oh-so-close Senate candidate from El Paso:

“In his courageous run for U.S. Senate in Texas, O’Rourke ran a disciplined and principled campaign that also managed to be raw, authentic, and real. He spoke to the American values of honesty, compassion for one another, and courage in the face of a rapidly changing future. These are the American values alive and well in the hearts of our young people. These are the values which tell us where America is headed. And with these values, O’Rourke very nearly defeated the incumbent senator and Republican runner-up for president — in Texas.”

There’s also a report that O’Malley and O’Rourke huddled back in December:

A lot goes into a successful bid for the presidency. One of those things is developing a deep bench of surrogates who go on television and give stump speeches in support of the campaign.

If O’Malley is sold on O’Rourke, and if O’Rourke does jump into the race, he’ll start with a solid surrogate and supporter in his corner.

The 2019 Texas legislative session is bearing down on us, but our representatives at the federal level start the 116th Congress today, Jan. 3. There’s been a lot of buzz about the start of this two-year session, mostly for the following three reasons:

  1. Women: Nearly 1 in 4 members of the 116th Congress will be women, including much-talked-about freshmen on the Democratic side like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (pictured above at left).
  2. Pelosi: Nancy Pelosi made history in 2007 when she became the first-ever female speaker of the House. It’s also highly unusual for a speaker to lose the majority and then return to it years later — as Pelosi will do today. Texan Sam Rayburn served three separate stints as speaker in the mid-20th century, but no speaker since then has lost power and then returned to it.
  3. Divided Government: Perhaps most interesting is that this will be the first time Donald Trump has experienced divided government. For the past two years, he’s enjoyed a Republican House, a Republican Senate and a right-leaning Supreme Court — which should (in theory) make governing easy. It will no longer be so easy with a Democratic majority in the House.

As talked about as Ocasio-Cortez and others have been in the past few months, newcomers to Congress enjoy little in the way of power. Upon arrival, they take a seat as back-benchers who will spend years waiting to chair committees and enjoy other positions of influence.

So, in practical terms, what can we expect from the 116th Congress and its new Democratic majority? Look for three things to happen almost immediately:

  1. A Bill to Reopen the Government: Before the government shutdown, the Senate passed a continuing resolution by a margin of 100–0. That’s right: Every single senator voted for it. Paul Ryan refused to bring that continuing resolution to the House floor, instead opting for a bill with funding for a border wall. That bill failed, shutting down the government. Pelosi and the Democrats will now pass their own continuing resolution — but expect Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to now refuse to bring to the floor this same bill that passed his chamber unanimously just a few weeks ago.
  2. Symbolic Bills: There’s not a ton the House majority can do in a divided government. That said, expect them to pass a series of symbolic bills (protection for Dreamers, requirements that presidential candidates share tax returns, environmental protections) that will die either in the Senate or on the president’s desk.
  3. Oversight: For the past two years, Republicans in the House have abdicated their oversight responsibility. Now that Democrats are in power, expect them to begin investigations into: the failed hurricane response in Puerto Rico, Trump’s corrupt business dealings, family separations, ethics violations in Trump’s cabinet, etc.

The next couple of years are going to be absolutely fascinating. We’ll see real oversight of this president as Democratic candidates gear up to challenge him in 2020. It will be frustrating at times, but this is going to be a huge improvement over what we’ve experienced the past two years.

On New Year’s Eve, Beto O’Rourke posted a powerful video that outlines the many reasons why building a border wall would be a massive waste of money. Check it out.

It’s a crime to waste more than $5 billion on something that won’t achieve its objectives and that will actually make a negative impact on many Americans. It’s even more criminal when you think about the good things we could do with $5 billion.

CNN’s Bill Weir offers up a good idea:

What’s funny is: Housing homeless vets would help Trump win reelection, while using a government shutdown to force funds for a border wall will get him nowhere.

But this is the hill that Trump has shamefully chosen to lose upon, and lose he will if we all put in the hard work to elect Democrats in 2020.

Mitt Romney is not the hero we’ve been waiting for, despite his New Year’s Day op-ed slagging Donald Trump for his lack of character.

For those of you who completely forget about Romney after November 2012, he will be sworn in this month as the junior senator from Utah.

Trump, as you can imagine, took issue with Romney’s op-ed. And, as you can also imagine, he fired back using his favorite social media platform.

We all know that the president lives in an alternate reality and that he can’t touch a keyboard or open his mouth without lies spilling out. Which is why it’s important to remember: Despite Trump asserting that “I won big, and he didn’t,” Romney actually did better in the 2012 election than Trump did in 2016.

  • 2012: Obama (51%), Romney (47%)
  • 2016: Clinton (48.5%), Trump (46.4%)

Of course, we have in place an electoral college system created only to entice slave states to sign the Constitution. That electoral college threw the election to Trump.

But Trump is perhaps the luckiest presidential winner in history, right up there with Woodrow Wilson’s win in 1912. You would think he might change his tone or offer up some bi-partisan policies to increase his odds at reelection.

But he’s not.

We have two years of tantrums and lies and shameful behavior left to endure. Then, if we put in the hard work to create change, we’ll see a Democrat taking the oath of office in January 2021.

Do you think Elizabeth Warren would lose to Donald Trump? Do you think Julian Castro has no business jumping into the 2020 race for president? Have you never heard of Jay Inslee?

Congratulations! You are one of many who are dissatisfied with the early candidates for the Democratic nomination to face Donald Trump (or whomever becomes the Republican candidate)!

But there are two important things to keep in mind:

  1. Expect 25-plus candidates to declare. You won’t like them all, but you’ll surely like some. Plus, remember that each and every one of them will be better than the current president.
  2. Many candidates don’t stand a chance, but they will move the debate/conversation/discussion in important directions.

Let me explain No. 2 …

During the 2008 election, I never got the sense that Barack Obama cared that much about health care. His health care proposal appeared to emerge more out of political necessity than out of real belief or passion.

But, within the first two years of his first term, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act had become the law of the land, providing a series of benefits to all Americans and providing access to affordable health care to many who had never had it before.

Candidates who really believed in universal health care (like Hillary Clinton) moved the debate, conversation and discussion in a way that forced Obama to jump on board.

And the three candidates listed above (whether you like them or not) can and will move the conversation in important directions for the eventual nominee.

I wouldn’t bet on any of these three to win the nomination, and only Julian Castro stands out as a possible vice presidential candidate. That said, these candidates could help fill out a cabinet (Inslee to head the EPA, for example). And don’t forget that each can play an important role in moving the debate in key ways that nearly all Democrats will appreciate.

So let’s be patient with this field of candidates as it grows. Only one will eventually secure the nomination, but all will help build the platform that she or he takes into the general election.