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Today’s edition of quick hits:
A noticeable omission: Rex Tillerson “thanked his colleagues in the State Department. He thanked Defense Secretary James Mattis. He thanked the ‘300 million plus’ Americans. He thanked just about everyone. government had a $215 billion budget shortfall in February as revenues into the government’s coffers fell and outlays increased, the Treasury Department said on Monday. That compared with a budget deficit of $192 billion in the same month last year, according to Treasury’s monthly budget statement.”
A little more than a year ago, the New York Times published a no nonsense lede about a key personnel decision that Donald Trump had just announced.
As a clandestine officer at the Central Intelligence Agency in 2002, Gina Haspel oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects and later took part in an order to destroy videotapes documenting their brutal interrogations at a secret prison in Thailand.
On Thursday, Ms.
The elevation of Ms. Haspel, a veteran widely respected among her colleagues, to the No. was a rare public signal of how, under the Trump administration, the agency is being led by officials who appear to take a far kinder view of one of its darker chapters than their immediate predecessors.
A year later, Donald Trump has gone a step further, moving CIA Director Mike Pompeo to the State Department and elevating Haspel to the intelligence agency’s top job.
In the Obama era, there was a reluctance on the part of the Democratic White House to dwell on Bush era scandals. The then president spoke frequently in 2009 about “turning the page” on the previous administration’s alleged crimes, including its embrace of torture.
But as the Trump era got underway, a New Yorker piece noted, “[T]he past, as Obama well knows, never goes away. With the prospect of American torture looming again, I wonder if Obama regrets his decision. After all, people like Haspel, quite plausibly, could have gone to prison.”
And now Haspel is the president’s choice to be the director of the CIA.
Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, south of Pittsburgh in the Keystone State’s southwest corner,
can safely be described as a Republican stronghold. John McCain won here by 11 points in his presidential campaign in 2008; Mitt Romney fared even better four years later, winning by 17 points; and Donald Trump carried the district by a 20 point margin.
The area’s former congressman, Republican Tim Murphy, ran unopposed in the last two election cycles because no local Democrats saw any point in going up against him.
With this recent history in mind, it was a bit jarring to see this Politico piece yesterday.
The chairman of Pennsylvania’s Republican Party said Monday the special election in which Democrat Conor Lamb is running neck and neck with Republican Rick Saccone is in a “Democrat district,” even though it was represented by a Republican for more than a decade and President Donald Trump won it handily in 2016.
“The other reason it’s so tight is, you have to remember, this is a Democrat district, notwithstanding the fact that the president won this by 20 points,” Pennsylvania GOP chairman Val DiGiorgio told Fox News on Monday.
Putting aside grammatical concerns I’ll assume the state GOP chairman meant “Democratic” district it’s a tough sell.
That said, there’s no great mystery as to why Republicans are saying things like this. When Tim Murphy resigned in the wake of a sex scandal, GOP officials assumed the seat would remain in Republican hands. But the more Conor Lamb (D) proved to be an excellent candidate, and the more Rick Saccone proved to be an inept candidate, the more competitive the race became, to an extent few expected.
In fact, a Monmouth University poll released yesterday showed Lamb with a modest lead.
The result has been an awkward dynamic: Republican officials are pulling out all the stops, investing an enormous amount of resources in this decidedly “red” district, while simultaneously trying to lower expectations, trashing Saccone’s skills as a candidate, and preparing for the possibility of defeat.
Indeed, the pressure seems to be getting to Saccone: at his final pre election rally last night,
the Republican told supporters that “the other side” hates the United States and God. Confident candidates don’t usually fly off the handle like this.