Posted on 13-03-2018
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Democrat Conor Lamb leads Republican Rick Saccone by 0.3 percentage points or 579 votes in a Pennsylvania congressional District Donald Trump won by 20 points and where the Democrats did not even bother fielding a candidate in the last two elections.  Absentee votes remained to be counted, but most commentators do not believe Saccone has enough votes to make up the difference.  Absent a major tabulation error, Conor Lamb has won.  With Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered districts being redrawn, both candidates will run in other districts in November.

Lamb appears to have been an unusually charismatic candidate, but this was a race that should not even have been close.  Rick Saccone had the standard Republican resume that wins these heavily gerrymandered districts easily.  The Republican Party invested 10 million dollars in this race.  Donald Trump visited the district twice.  The Republicans tried playing the Nancy Pelosi bogeywoman and touting their tax cut scam, but both strategies fell flat.  Trump’s recent tariffs should have resonated with steelworkers in this district but did not.  A desperate Saccone was reduced to pathetically alleging his opponents hated Trump, America and even God.

Even had Saccone won, the 20 point swing should have set alarm bells ringing.  It now appears that the Democrats may have finally won a heavily Republican congressional seat. The difference appears to have been voter enthusiasm, the Democrats had more of it and it made a difference.

Do not look for Donald Trump to engage in any introspection.  Behind closed doors, Trump evidently has already cast the blame on Saccone.  However, there are more than a 100 Republican held congressional seats that Trump won with a smaller margin than PA-18 (including the seat held by Paul Ryan).  Tonight many of those incumbents have cause to be nervous and in November Pennsylvania will not have a Congressional map rigged in favor of Republicans.  The Democrats will obviously not win all of those seats.  However, they need only 24 to win back the house.

Tonight that target seems even more attainable.

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Posted on 13-03-2018
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

The President of the United States quoted today:

“As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.”

It could be a sign that an administration which goes out of its way to avoid criticizing Russia and just fired a Secretary of State who had the temerity to do so will not be constrained by facts in it its actions. After all they can always make up alternative facts.

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Posted on 13-03-2018
Filed Under (Foreign Policy, Politics) by Rashtrakut

It was a departure long expected, but the timing still took everyone by surprise.  Donald Trump finally canned his feckless Secretary of State.  In vintage cowardly Donald Trump fashion he could not do it face to face.  Rex Tillerson evidently found out about his departure on Twitter.  In the chaos that defines the Trump administration, they could not even get their story about the timing right.  A Tillerson aide who contradicted the story that he had been told about this on Friday also got the boot.

This of course is a boon for conspiracy theorists.  Just yesterday this blog noted that the administration seemed unwilling to criticize Tsar Vlad.  Tillerson deviated from the script by openly blaming the Russians, and a few hours later he was gone.

This ends the tenure of one of the worst Secretaries of State in living memory, if not American history.  Tillerson clearly did not have influence with Donald Trump leading to other countries ignoring him.  On his watch 60% of the State Department’s top ranking career diplomats resigned and new applications fell by half.  Key positions remained unfilled.  Treating the state department like the corporate bean counter he was his budget cuts slashed morale, staff and eviscerated American soft power.  He will not be missed.

And yet the remedy may be worse than the cure.  He is replaced by Trump sycophant, CIA director and foreign policy hawk Mike Pompeo.  Mike Pompeo will be replaced at the CIA with a career agent tainted by torture.  Increasingly the few people willing to stand up to Donald Trump’s worst impulses are being replaced by people who will encourage them.  Secretary of State Mattis remains one of the few checks on precipitate action, something that The Onion (which is on fire today) noted in its own fashion.

Look for a lot more hawkish stupidity in this administration’s actions against Iran, Syria and North Korea.

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