News Sips 2/27: DNC Picks Perez, Trump Out of WHCA Dinner, Spicer and the Leakers, and Hogan’s Still Got It
Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the February 27, 2017 edition:
Democrats Chart a Course
Over the weekend, Democrats picked former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez to be their new chairman. You’ll remember that the last chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was forced to resign in disgrace after it came to light that she had undermined Bernie Sanders’ campaign and worked directly to help Hillary Clinton. She was ousted and Donna Brazile filled in for the few months in which the Democrats blew leads across the country and lost the White House. She was also implicated in giving primary debate questions to Hillary Clinton in advance by using her connections at CNN.
Over the past few months, there were a bunch of hyper-liberal candidates who wanted to be DNC Chair, but the real race came down to establishment-y Perez and Sanders-ite Representative Keith Ellison. The vote was close, but Perez edged our Ellison. Of course, the “progressive” wing of the Party, the folks who think continuous protests and identity politics are going to win them national elections, cried foul but Perez got the job anyhow.
The President was quick to comment on Perez’s election, noting, cheekily, that Perez would be a great champion for Republican victories in the coming years. It’s also an interesting fact that Democrats decided, despite their consternation about Citizens United, to not ban donations from major companies. We suppose that this is because, when push comes to shove, money beats out principles on the left.
Trump and the Correspondents
On Saturday, the President tweeted that he would not be attending a gala in April put on by the White House Correspondents’ Association. The “Nerd Prom” as it has been called by DC insiders has become a major institution in Washington with celebrities, politicians, and media elites all scrambling for tickets. What was once a gathering of only press has ballooned into a whole weekend of parties and gatherings in the nation’s capital.
During the Obama years, the press was living large and in the good graces of the Administration and the incestuous relationship was on full display every year at the Dinner. The “love fest” was so shocking that the New York Times, of all places, decided that it would no longer sponsor attendance at the event (notably, very few other organizations followed suit—who can say no to the kind of access that was being given out?) because of the clear impression that the press was working hand-in-hand with the Administration.
Every President since Richard Nixon has attended the annual event. There is usually a lighthearted roast of the President and then the President gives a short stand-up routine. Two notable exceptions in the past decade was a terrible performance by Stephen Colbert in 2008 who openly mocked President Bush as both the President and his wife were seated on stage. The performance was praised by liberals, but the jokes were both mean-spirited and not very funny. Contrast this “speak truth to power” moment with the fawning and groveling of entertainers booked during the Obama years (the best roasting of Obama was something along the lines of “oh you’re just so smart that no one understands you!”). The one night that stands out, and is important for us today, was the dinner of 2011 where Seth Meyers performed. At this event, both Meyers and the President laid into then-businessman Donald Trump, who was in the audience. Mr. Trump had been making some waves about Obama’s birth certificate and testing the water for a presidential run in 2012, so both Meyers and Obama lit into the New York City billionaire. The attacks were uncomfortable for the viewer and probably horrible for Mr. Trump, who sat, stonily, as thousands of eyes were turned to him during the attacks.
While there’s no evidence to prove that this was the moment that Mr. Trump decided that he would, one day, run for President, it’s been a point of speculation for the press and politics-watchers. It actually makes a lot of sense. The Press and the Elites were making fun of him and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is a clear example of just how out-of-touch with average Americans people in the halls of power really are. Perhaps this is being overly-critical of people having a good time, but, unlike the Oscars where famous people get together and feel important, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (and related events) don’t just feature people who think they’re important, it, rather, features the interplay of powerful politicians, moneyed interests, the press, and opinion-shapers. Sure, it’s people having a good time, but there’s a creeping sense of elitism that’s probably not the healthiest thing for the country. Again, let’s not be hyperbolic here. The White House Correspondents’ Dinner isn’t breaking down the Republic and casting us into the darkness of tyranny. However, it has become a less-than-savory depiction of the current state of affairs in politics and the media.
If it was the 2011 Dinner where Mr. Trump resolved to become President, then it stands to reason that he wouldn’t take part in the event this year. The event really does represent much of what Mr. Trump campaigned against. Certainly, the crowd would not have been welcoming to Mr. Trump (despite the fact that they’re making huge amounts of money off of him in terms of clicks and ratings). It’s probably a good decision for Mr. Trump to skip the event.
Spicer Investigates Leaks
The President was very candid with his disgust over leaks coming out of the West Wing in the first month of his Administration. More than merely being a betrayal of trust (and possibly breaking the law), the leaks, more often than not, were either wholly fake or divulging draft documents that were nowhere near finalized or presentable to the public. The media was all-too-willing to report on anything from anonymous sources from the White House and rush to publish without corroboration. Of course, every journalist pushing these stories thinks he is breaking the next Watergate and the swirl of controversy being generated by “blue checkmark Twitter” creates an echo chamber among the media.
However, regardless of whether what is being leaked is real or not, it fosters the perception that, true or not, the President can’t keep his house in order. Rather than being particularly damaging, the leaks are embarrassing to the new Administration and the President has made it a goal to stop them. There is some discussion about where the leaks are originating with speculation that the intelligence community is leaking because of a myriad of reasons including a lack of trust in the President. There are also rumors that the leakers are career White House staff who were hired by President Obama and have no loyalty to Trump (or have been caught up in the winds of the DC echo chamber and really think that the world is coming to an end with Trump in the White House). The most recent speculation is that leaks are originating out of the White House press office.
Enter Press Secretary Sean Spicer who has moved in recent days to crack down on purported leaks from his office. Overseen by White House lawyers, random checks of phones are being conducted. It remains to be seen if any concrete improvements will be made with the implementation of these new security measures.
Hogan’s Still Got It
According to a poll released by Goucher College, Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan retains broad bipartisan approval despite the State’s more-than-2-to-1 voters disadvantage against Republicans. Hogan, who has governed as a moderate and has focused on fiscal issues, has largely divorced his Administration from national issues. Maryland Democrats, obsessed with beating Governor Hogan in 2018 (and thereby preventing Hogan from unwinding decades of gerrymandered Congressional districts), have attempted to tie Governor Hogan to the national dialogue about President Donald Trump.
Despite Mr. Trump’s strong economic message and push for manufacturing jobs, Maryland remains an outlier where liberals maintain overwhelming control of popular opinion. Democrats have hoped to tie Governor Hogan to Mr. Trump. The President’s popularity in Maryland breaks down along Party lines and is well-below 50%.
The Goucher Poll of Governor Hogan’s approval notes that the Governor has dropped a few percentage points from his all-time high over 70% approval down to 63%. However, of the same sample, 57% of respondents indicate a likelihood of voting for Governor Hogan in 2018. Obviously, if this number holds, Larry Hogan would be the first two-term Republican governor in more-than half a century.
Of course, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.