Rep. Elijah Cummings, Turkey’s Invasion, Impeachment, Presidential Contest, Growing Senate GOP Opposition to Trump?

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This week’s show starts with a short tribute to U. S. Congressman Elijah Cummings, who died this week. Both Mike and Jay have positive things to say about Cummings, who was a great fighter for important causes.

Next, they turn to Turkey’s invasion of Syria and the cease fire deal in which Turkey got more or less everything they hoped for in exchange for token concessions. Mike believes this showed horrible judgement on the part of President Trump and that it makes the United States look weak and untrustworthy. Jay mostly agrees, but advances an argument that, if not supporting Trump’s actions, tries to put them in a different and more nuanced context- something he feels has been lacking in many media reports.

After that it’s an update on the impeachment inquiry. Mike defends the process and argues that Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney flat out admitted a political quid pro quo with Ukraine (just not the Biden / Burisma quid pro quo). Jay contends that while corrupt things may have happened, what Mulvaney admitted wasn’t technically a quid pro quo. He also argues that even if House investigators have good reason for closed-door hearings, this makes the investigation appear less legitimate to the public. 

Then it’s a look at the state of the Democratic presidential contest after the recent Ohio debate. Mike & Jay agree that Warren looks like a frontrunner right now (despite Biden still leading her in most polls), with Mike arguing that Pete Buttigieg is well positioned to break out of the pack and move into the top tier currently occupied by Biden, Warren, and Sanders.

The show closes with discussion of the Senate’s failure to override President Trump’s veto of legislation that would have nullified the president’s national emergency at the border with Mexico. This is the second time the Senate has failed to override the president’s veto of this measure, but this time there were 11 Republicans (19 percent of all Senate Republicans) who joined with Democrats in voting against President Trump. Jay thinks that there may be growing GOP congressional opposition to Trump, which comes at the worst possible time, given the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

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Tom LoBianco on Mike Pence

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Will talks with Tom LoBianco, author of Piety & Power: Mike Pence and the Taking of the White House.

Topics Will and Mr. LoBianco discuss include:

    • The role of Mike Pence’s faith in his politics
    • The process that led to Pence landing the Vice Presidency
    • The impact of Pence’s wife Karen on his political career
    • The difficulties in transitioning from a news reporter to writing a biography

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Syria, Impeachment, China-NBA, and the Supreme Court Term

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Will and Brian begin by discussing President Trump’s decision to pull troops for Northern Syria and its potential impact on the Middle East and America’s battle with ISIS. Will points out that even Trump’s typical allies are openly questioning this decision—including Graham, McConnell, Netanyahu, and Saudi Arabia. Brian is concerned with the impact this could have on the Kurds—even projecting that ethnic cleansing could be the ultimate result of this decision. Will and Brian both posit that this could have electoral impacts—possibly even swaying some on their feelings toward the impeachment inquiry.

Next, the Guys turn to examining the current state of the impeachment inquiry. Will notes that there still doesn’t seem to be a smoking gun that makes it likely to him that Trump is removed from office. Brian agrees, noting that while he finds plenty of things Trump has done to be impeachable they read like an anthology. Will continues to question why if the Russia investigation was such a smoking gun for Democrats that they have completely abandoned that narrative in exchange for the Ukraine. He further wonders why Democrats aren’t focusing their energies more toward the 2020 election. Brian also argues that awakening the Trump base and relying on polls today is problematic for Democrats.

Brian and Will then turn to discussing the free speech and trade implications of the current National Basketball Association-China feud. Both believe the Rockets General Manager was well within his rights to tweet support for Hong Kong but should have realized it could lead to significant backlash. Given the current NBA revenue coming from Chinese partnerships, Will wonders how league owners will ultimately respond. Both Guys believe the NBA was wrong to not unequivocally back the right of the individual to send the tweet in the first place and wonder how the timing of this event will impact ongoing U.S.-China trade talks.

Lastly, the Guys talk about the upcoming Supreme Court term. They focus on the Louisiana abortion case in this episode. Brian is concerned about diminishing rights for women. Will argues that regardless of what one feels about the issue of abortion, using assumptions of risk to justify limiting abortion is not a data-informed argument to make today.

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Nick Tomboulides on Term Limits

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Trey talks with Nick Tomboulides, an Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits. Under his leadership, USTL launched the Term Limits Convention, a campaign to obtain a congressional term limits amendment via the state-directed convention. Nick also serves as a policy advisor with a national think tank and is on the board of directors for a local political caucus in Florida.

Topics Trey and Mr. Tomboulisdes discuss include:

  • Why should Americans want term limits?
  • Why should citizens want a national convention as opposed to more traditional Constitutional amendment processes?
  • Should we be worried about a runaway convention?
  • Why not bypass state legislatures?
  • State term limits and their shortcomings

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Ukraine, Hunter & Joe Biden, Impeachment, Bernie’s Heart, Warren’s Rise

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This week, Mike and Kristin unpack the current hot topic of Ukraine/Trump/Biden and impeachment inquiries. Mike kicks things off with a detailed list of the facts. Both note that it’s far too easy to tread into conjecture and opinion, which is why the conversation gets muddled. 

Mike and Kristin then dive into each of the points, discussing recent subpoenas and text messages, whether Trump’s actions were politically motivated and/or definitively corrupt, Trump calling on Chinese government officials to investigate Biden’s alleged corruption, America’s long history of putting pressure on Ukrainian officials to investigate and end corruption, Rudy Giuliani’s role in the matter, and how Hunter and Joe Biden play into all of this. Mike and Kristin each try to see things from the other’s perspective, and both admit that bias is causing significant divide. 

Mike says that he has a hard time not seeing clear corruption, while Kristin says that she has difficulty seeing this as different from anything else Democrats have done. Both agree that investigating facts is important, and Kristin mentions that she felt the same way during the Mueller Investigation and will keep an open mind, but she will need evidence of quid pro quo in order to render a decision. They both predict that impeachment will move through the House and stall in the Senate with a successful Motion to Dismiss. 

Next, Mike and Kristin tackle Democratic campaign updates. From Bernie Sanders’s heart attack, timing, and 3rd quarter fundraising reports, some candidates are emerging as winners or losers. Mike and Kristin discuss Biden’s dip in popularity and fundraising issues. Mike says that he feels Biden is the candidate who has the experience and approach necessary to be a successful President. Kristin mentions that energy and personality need to be considered, and that the Democrats may be sacrificing Biden for impeachment headlines. 

Mike also notes that things may start to “thin out” after the next Democratic debate on October 15th – both will wait to see what happens in the aftermath.

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Bruce Ackerman on Revolutionary Constitutions

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Mike talks with Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale. Dr. Ackerman is one of the world’s preeminent scholars in the area of comparative constitutional law, with his ideas having been the basis for constitutional reforms in multiple countries. He’s the author of 19 books, the most recent of which is Revolutionary Constitutions: Charismatic Leadership and the Rule of Law.

Topics Mike and Dr. Ackerman discuss include:

  • how regime change happens
  • charismatic leaders and movements
  • if the US Supreme Court should look to other high courts for guidance
  • major constitutional revolutions in American history
  • FDR and the constitutional revolution that wasn’t
  • Ronald Reagan and the strategy of transformative appointment
  • the anti-constitutionalism of Donald Trump
  • why the 2020 election is so critical

Bruce Ackerman on Twitter

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Ukraine, Impeachment, Weed, Inequality

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Trey and Ken are joined this week, in a Politics Guys first, by Mike! The three begin the episode discussing President Donald Trump’s potential pressure on the Ukraine and the fallout of impeachment. Mike thinks the process must move forward as far as investigation is concerned otherwise presidents will simply assume they get a pass later in a term. He is hesitate, however, to remove a president who was selected by the people. Ken has less concern about deferring to the people, he argues the people also elected vice-president Pence and that the process must move forward. Trey takes a moment to explain this investigation is precisely why he, and other never-Trump individuals, were right from the beginning.

After this story Mike bids farewell and Trey and Ken continue to the second story: the House passing a bill making it possible for banks to do business with companies dealing in weed. The fundamental problem, in which both agree, is that there is a split between states simply ignoring federal law and the untenable position these companies find themselves in as a result. The real difference is that Trey hopes for a more widespread legalization while Ken worries about the social ramifications of legalization.

They then turn to the U.S. Census Bureau’s report on income and equality. The major takeaways both hosts agree on: people are doing better on average, but income inequality is at its highest ever in the United States over the last 50 years. Where Trey and Ken deeply disagree is over whether this is bad or not. Trey argues that the tide of long standing economic developments is how much better off the average American is. If income inequality exists in such a circumstance so be it. Ken argues that it is wrong for individuals to have extreme wealth. He points to wealth taxes as a possible solution to this issue, primarily because those with extreme wealth will have an outsized impact on the political system. Trey counters that the political system can be rectified without resorting to depriving people of their property and that, at a moral level, to do so is wrong. Both respectfully disagree.

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Mike & Jay on Judicial Confirmation, Reforming the Court, and the Upcoming Term

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On September 20, Mike and Jay recorded a live show before a room full of attorneys at a Federal Bar Association Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Given the audience, this episode focuses on judicial issues, including judicial filibusters, the demise of ‘Blue Slips’ in the Senate, President Trump’s historic rate of judicial confirmations, Mike’s Big Ideas for changing the Supreme Court, and highlights from the Court’s upcoming term.

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Iran, O’Brien, Kavanaugh, and Congressional Hearings

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Will and Brian begin this week’s episode discussing the drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil sites. Both argue that they would like to see definitive evidence of Iran’s involvement. Brian believes we should take more diplomatic measures to attempt to improve relations while Will argues that it’s time to launch concentrated, strategic air strikes if Iran truly is to blame. The conversation turned to potential electoral impacts of any action in the region and possible impacts on the American economy and consumer.

They then turn to a related topic—the appointment of Robert O’Brien as National Security Advisor. Will and Brian both argue that the person in the role is largely irrelevant in the Trump Administration. However, thy do find the O’Brien appointment interesting given his views and approach compared to John Bolton, who on face value appeared to align well with Trump. Neither believes that this appointment will have any noticeable impact on American foreign policy.

They then turn to The New York Times publication of additional allegations against Kavanaugh. Neither Will nor Brian believe Kavanaugh should be immune to continued scrutiny given what emerged from his confirmation hearing. Will though wonders about the idea of impeaching when he was just confirmed with much of this already being known. Brian, on the other hand, believes for the sake of morality and the Court that the scrutiny needs to continue. Both believe The Times will walk away relatively unscathed, although Will does question the credibility of reporting from the outlet.

Lastly, the Guys discuss the Lewandowski testimony. Will finds Jerry Nadler’s behavior as Chair appalling and questions why the hearing even occurred. With an Election coming up, he continues to argue that the better move for Democrats would be to focus on the party versus continuing to attempt to make something out of what is already widely known. Brian, on the other hand, believes Lewandowski was obstructing the hearing with his requests and wonders what the rationale behind the decision was. Both suggest the hearing is an encapsulation of everything Americans hate about politics today.

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Jen Schradie on How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives

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Mike talks with sociologist, author, and documentary filmmaker Jen Schradie. Dr. Schradie is an Assistant Professor at the Observatoire sociologique du changement at Sciences Po in Paris. Her research focuses on the empirical study of digital democracy, digital activism, and the digital divide. Her latest book is The Revolution That Wasn’t: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatism.

Topics Mike & Dr. Schradie discuss include:

  • technological optimism, especially on the left
  • the activism gap between conservatives and liberals
  • the structural factors that help conservative activists
  • differences in conservative and liberal messaging
  • the importance of money, motivation, and message
  • narrowing the activism gap

Jen Schradie on Twitter

Listener support helps make The Politics Guys possible. If you’re interested in supporting the show, go to patreon.com/politicsguys or politicsguys.com/support.