Trump’s ratings slightly down after Ukraine scandal as Warren surges to tie Biden in Democratic polls



While there has only been a modest drop in Trump’s ratings, support for impeachment has risen sharply.
AAP/EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

About two weeks since a transcript of Donald Trump’s phone conversation with the Ukrainian president was revealed, his approval with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate is 41.6% and his disapproval is 54.0%. Trump’s net approval is -12.4%, down 2.5% since last fortnight’s article.




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Warren placed second after Biden, as Trump’s ratings rise. But could the impeachment scandal make a difference?


With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s approval is 42.2% and his disapproval is 53.9%, for a net approval of -11.7%, down 3.4% since last fortnight. The Ukraine scandal has had a small but discernible impact on Trump’s ratings.

As I wrote previously, I did not expect this scandal to have a serious or lasting impact, as better-educated voters already detest Trump, while lower-educated voters are far more focused on the economy. Indeed, after an initial drop, Trump’s ratings have stabilised recently.

While there has only been a modest drop in Trump’s ratings, support for impeachment has risen sharply. Before the Ukraine scandal, 51.0% opposed impeachment and 40.1% supported it, according to the FiveThirtyEight tracker. Currently, 49.2% support impeachment while 43.3% are opposed. Support has risen strongly among Democrats and non-aligned voters, but only modestly with Republicans.

The vast majority of Trump disapprovers now support impeachment, but the Ukraine scandal has not converted many Trump approvers into disapprovers.

Despite the increased public support for impeachment, there is very little chance that the Senate, which Republicans control 53-47, will reach the two-thirds majority required to remove Trump from office before the November 2020 election. In the RealClearPolitics average, Trump has well over 80% support for the Republican presidential nomination, with the other three candidates at about 2% each. Republican senators are very unlikely to go against their party’s base.

In head-to-head polling against the three leading Democrats in RealClearPolitics averages, Trump trails Joe Biden by 7.4 points (7.7 points last fortnight). He trails Elizabeth Warren by 4.5 points (4.0) and Bernie Sanders by 5.2 (4.8).

US jobs situation still good

Last week, there were worse than expected September industry surveys for the services sector in both the US and Europe. However, the US added 136,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% – the lowest since 1969. The one negative aspect of this jobs report was that hourly pay dropped 1c after increasing 11c in August.

The low US unemployment rate is not just because of low participation. The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans who are employed – increased 0.1% to 61.0% in September, its highest since December 2008, near the beginning of the global financial crisis.

My view is that, bad as Trump’s ratings are, they would be worse without the strong US economy; this explains why Trump’s ratings improved during September as the recession talk from August faded. If the US jobs reports continue to have good news until November 2020, Trump will have a reasonable chance of re-election.

There are two economic policies being pursued by the right that could undermine the global economy. One is the US/China trade war, where talks this week are unlikely to make progress. The other is Brexit, particularly a no-deal Brexit. A no-deal Brexit may occur on October 31, but is more likely after an election that current polling indicates the UK Conservatives would win.

Warren surges to tie with Biden in Democratic polls

In the RealClearPolitics average of Democratic national polls, Warren and Biden are virtually tied, with Warren at 26.6% and Biden 26.4%. It is the first lead for anyone other than Biden. Sanders is at 14.6%, Pete Buttigieg at 5.6%, Kamala Harris at 4.4% and nobody else has more than 3%.

Since the September 12 Democratic debate, Warren’s support has increased at the expense of Biden, Harris and Sanders. Some of Sanders’ recent drop is probably due to his October 1 heart attack.

In early state polls, there have been no new polls since last fortnight in Iowa, with Warren leading Biden by 23.0% to 20.3%. In New Hampshire, the two polls taken since the September 12 debate have Warren leading Biden by one to two points.




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US Democratic presidential primaries: Biden leading, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris; and will Trump be beaten?


The big exception to Warren’s rise is South Carolina, which is the last of the four early states to vote on February 29. Owing to strong black support for Biden, he has a lead over Warren exceeding 20 points in three post-debate polls in that state.

The next Democratic debate will be held on October 15. Contrary to my previous expectations, the 12 qualifying candidates will not be split over two nights, but instead appear all on one night. The threshold has been increased for November and future debates, and so far eight candidates have qualified for the November 20 debate.

Brexit, Austrian, Portuguese and Canadian elections

I wrote for The Poll Bludger about Brexit and the September 29 Austrian election results, in which the conservatives won, but need an ally to reach a majority. My latest Poll Bludger article is about Brexit and the October 6 Portuguese election, a rare triumph for the left in a democratic world that is trending to the right.

The Canadian election will be held on October 21. The CBC Poll Tracker has the Conservatives and Liberals virtually tied in voting intentions, with the Liberals ahead on seats, but short of a majority.

Australian Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

The latest Australian Newspoll, conducted September 26-29 from a sample of 1,660, gave the Coalition a 51-49 lead, unchanged since early September. Primary votes were 42% Coalition (down one), 33% Labor (down two), 13% Greens (up one, and their best Newspoll since 2015) and 6% One Nation (up one).

Scott Morrison’s net approval was +4, down six points. Anthony Albanese’s net approval was -1, up four points. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 50-31 (48-28 previously).

Voters favoured prioritising the US relationship over China by 56% to 25%. All figures from The Poll Bludger.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Trump decision to withdraw troops from Syria opens way for dangerous Middle East power play



Turkish and US troops on patrol in northern Syria. President Donald Trump has announced he plans to withdraw US troops from the region, paving the way for great destabilisation.
AAP/EPA/Sedat Suna

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

US President Donald Trump’s precipitate announcement he was withdrawing American forces from northeast Syria to enable Turkey to assert its authority along the border risks wider regional bloodshed – and further destabilisation of one of the world’s most volatile corners.

If implemented against a furious pushback from his own side of politics, the Trump decision threatens a region-wide conflagration. These are the stakes.

Trump has given contradictory signals before on the same issue. It remains to be seen whether he gives ground again after what appears to have been a hasty, certainly ill-considered, decision following a phone conversation with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Now under enormous stress from his own side, Trump is resorting to bombast. He tweeted:

Leading the charge against the Trump decision is his close ally, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. He has threatened to introduce a Senate resolution opposing the administration’s decision, describing the move as a “stain on America’s honour”.

Like plucking a thread from a finely woven Turkish rug, the administration’s announcement effectively to abandon a Kurdish militia could lead to a complete unravelling of that part of the Middle East in which various forces have collided since the Syrian civil war broke out in March 2011.




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America’s Kurdish allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia arm (known as the YPG), would be at the mercy of a Turkish thrust across the Syrian border into territory the Kurds now control.

Turkey has made no secret of its intention to create what it is calling “safe zones” up to 30 kilometres inside the border in northeast Syria. This would enable it to relocate tens of thousands of Syrian refugees among the 3.6 million on Turkish soil.

In the face of such a Turkish move, the YPG would be hard put to hold sway against both Turkey’s military and Islamic State fighters seeking to take advantage of militia weakness in the absence of US support on the ground and in the air.

The ABC reports that something like 70,000 members of Islamic State or their supporters are being held in camps in SDF-controlled territory. Around 60 people of Australian origin, including children, are in this situation.

Thousands of IS militants are being held in prison camps in SDF-controlled territory. These fighters have already sought to stage mass breakouts from prison facilities.

Turkey views the YPG militia as cross-border allies of Kurdish separatists – and it regards the Kurdish separatists as terrorists.

The situation along the Turkish-Syria border is, by any standards, an explosive mix.

At the same time, Syrian forces of Bashar al-Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, would inevitably be poised to take advantage of chaos and regain territory lost in the civil war. This is a highly destabilising scenario.

In other words, Trump’s announcement could hardly portend a more worrisome outcome in a part of the world riven by years of conflict.

The US announcement also sends a disturbing signal to the wider Middle East that the Trump administration is intent on pulling back from its commitments in an unstable region.

Confidence in American steadfastness is already precarious due to Trump’s repeated statement that America wants to remove itself from “endless” wars in the Middle East.

In a Twitter message early this week that amplified a White House announcement, Trump said it was time for the US to withdraw from “these ridiculous Endless Wars”.

Trump also attacked European allies over their failure to take back their nationals among IS fighters held in SDF-run detention centres in northeast Syria. Some 10,000 prisoners are being detained.

This is a situation ripe for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The latter is seeking to reassert itself in a region it regards as its own sphere of influence. Moscow’s support for Damascus is part of this regional power play.




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These are telling moments. Signs of an apparent American lack of commitment might well encourage Iran and Russia, as well as Islamic militants such as IS and al-Qaeda. These groups have been biding their time.

None of America’s regional friends, including Gulf states and Israel, will draw any comfort at all from the Trump decision – if implemented – to head for the exit.

By any standards, this is a mess of Trump’s own making.The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Trump’s bad Nixon imitation may cost him the presidency


President Richard Nixon, left, and President Donald Trump, right.
AP//Frank C. Curtin; REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Ken Hughes, University of Virginia

Whatever Donald Trump does, Richard Nixon usually did it first and better.

Nixon got a foreign government’s help to win a presidential election over 50 years ago. Trump’s imitation of the master has proven far from perfect, and that may cost him the presidency.

Trump’s first mistake was soliciting foreign interference personally. As a result, he cannot deny that he urged Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden. The proof is in his own White House’s record of their telephone call.

Nixon was a more cautious international conspirator, as I detailed in “Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate.”

When Nixon solicited foreign interference on behalf of his presidential campaign, he was careful to use a cutout, a go-between whose clandestine activities could, if exposed, be plausibly denied. Anna Chennault, a conservative activist and Republican fundraiser, acted as Nixon’s secret back channel to the government of South Vietnam.

Nixon’s illegal interference with Vietnam peace talks helped win him the election. Here, he meets with President Lyndon Johnson in July 1968.
LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto

Playing politics with war

The Vietnam War was the biggest issue of the 1968 presidential campaign.

Nixon’s great hope was to hang Vietnam like an albatross on Democratic presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey, the sitting vice president. Nixon’s great fear was that President Lyndon Johnson would start peace talks before Election Day, boosting Humphrey’s campaign along with hopes for an end to the war.

Nixon’s fear was realized when Johnson announced peace talks in the campaign’s final week. Nixon watched his lead over Humphrey dwindle to nothingness.

So he turned to Chennault. She conveyed a secret message from Nixon to South Vietnam, urging it to boycott the peace talks. The South did just that only three days before the election, thereby destroying any hope for an imminent peace.

President Johnson learned of Chennault’s activities from the FBI and other sources, but he had no proof Nixon himself was involved. Nixon’s use of a cutout worked. She was burned, but he was not.

On the eve of the 1968 presidential election, President Johnson asked his three top advisers on the Vietnam War – Secretary of State Dean Rusk, National Security Adviser Walt Rostow and Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford – if he should expose Republican interference with his efforts to start begin peace talks.
AP/Bob Schutz

President Johnson discusses with three top advisers whether to expose Republican interference in the Vietnam peace process. They all advised the president not to do so.

False counter-accusations

It’s too late for Trump to use a cutout with Ukraine, but in other ways his actions mirror Nixon’s.

One recurring Nixonian tactic was to falsely claim the Democrats did things that were just as bad as the things he actually did. For example, Republicans charged that Johnson played politics with the war by announcing peace talks right before Election Day.

The diplomatic record proves otherwise. Johnson set three conditions for the peace talks months earlier. He offered to halt the bombing of North Vietnam if Hanoi: (1) respected the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Vietnam, (2) accepted South Vietnamese participation in peace talks, and (3) stopped shelling Southern cities.

Hanoi, however, insisted on an unconditional bombing halt. Johnson refused to budge. So did the North Vietnamese – until October 1968, when they accepted all three of Johnson’s conditions. The timing of the peace talks was their choice, not his. The partisan accusation was false.

Likewise, Republicans’ oftenrepeated, never-substantiated conspiracy theory that one or more Bidens did something corrupt involving Ukraine is the opposite of true. But it does shift the spotlight off Republicans and onto Democrats. And it fosters the false sense that “both sides do it” when only one side did.

Another of Nixon’s favorite tactics was to suggest there was something shady about detecting his crimes. Just as Trump baselessly claims that the Ukraine whistleblower got information about him “illegally,” Republicans like William Safire baselessly claimed that LBJ “abused the power of our intelligence agencies” to get dirt on Nixon.

Rudy Giuliani, left, was President Trump’s unofficial emissary to Ukrainian leaders, whom he wanted to dig up dirt on the Biden family.
AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The records of the CIA, NSA and FBI prove otherwise. Like presidents before and since, Johnson used the CIA and NSA to collect diplomatic intelligence. To provide him with Saigon’s true, private position on the peace talks, the CIA bugged the office of South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu and the NSA intercepted cables to Thieu from the South Vietnamese embassy in Washington, D.C.

Johnson did learn something about Chennault’s activities from this surveillance, but only because diplomatic intelligence is supposed to uncover attempts to thwart presidential diplomacy.

Based on what he learned, Johnson ordered the FBI to tail Chennault and tap the South Vietnamese embassy’s phone. Mere days later, the FBI wiretap overheard Chennault telling the South Vietnamese on behalf of “her boss (not further identified)” to “hold on, we are gonna win.”

Here was evidence that the Nixon campaign was violating the Logan Act – which forbids private U.S. citizens from conducting “any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government” – by undermining the president’s diplomatic efforts to end a war that was killing hundreds of Americans every week.

In other words, Johnson used the FBI to uncover a crime that was also a threat to national security.

That’s not an abuse of the FBI. It’s why the FBI exists.

Clearly, there’s one thing that can overcome Nixonian tactics: evidence. For this reason, House impeachment investigators will likely subpoena as much as they can, and President Trump will likely withhold as much as he can.

Withholding evidence is yet another Nixonian tactic, one called “stonewalling.” It was the basis of the final article of impeachment against him.

[ Insight, in your inbox each day. You can get it with The Conversation’s email newsletter. ]The Conversation

Ken Hughes, Research Specialist, the Miller Center, University of Virginia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Myth busted: China’s status as a developing country gives it few benefits in the World Trade Organisation



President Trump and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison insist it matters whether China is classified as “developed” or “developing” in the World Trade Organisation matters. It may not.
Shutterstock

Henry Gao, Singapore Management University and Weihuan Zhou, UNSW

Whether China is a “developing” or a “developed” country for the purposes of the World Trade Organisation matters a lot to the US president.

President Donald Trump ignited a new front in the US-China trade war in July by tweeting that the world’s richest nations were masquerading as developing countries to get special treatment.

They were “cheating”, according to Trump.

He directed the US Trade Representative to “use all available means to secure changes” at the WTO.

Then Australia joined in. While in the United States, Prime Minister Scott Morrison referred to China as a “newly developed economy”, and backed Trump, saying that “obviously, as nations progress and develop then the obligations and how the rules apply to them also shift”.

China is digging in. It hasn’t resiled from a statement by its commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng in April:

China’s position on WTO reform has been very clear. China is the largest developing country in the world.

But what’s at stake? In practical terms, almost nothing. Trump and Morrison are demanding something that would give them little.

What does “developing” even mean?

In the WTO, developing countries are entitled to “special and differential treatment” set out in 155 rules.

However, none of those rules define what a “developing country” is.

Instead, each member is able to “self-designate”, subject to challenges from other members.

Being recognised as a developing country was one of the three key principles China insisted on when negotiating to join the WTO in 2001.

It faced resistance. Several members cited “the significant size, rapid growth and transitional nature of the Chinese economy”.

In response the WTO took what it called a “pragmatic approach,” meaning that China got hardly any of the special treatment that would normally be accorded to a developing country.




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For example, under the Uruguay Round of tariff reductions that applied to developing countries already in the WTO, China would have only needed to cut its average industrial tariff from 42.7% to 31.4%. Instead, it agreed to cut it to 9.5%.

Similarly, it agreed to cut its agricultural tariff from 54% to 15.1%, instead of the 37.9% that would have been required had it already been in the WTO. These put its commitments on par with those of developed rather than developing countries.

On some issues, China’s commitments far exceeded those of even developed countries. For example, it agreed to eliminate all export subsidies on agricultural products, an obligation that developed countries were only able to accept 14 years later.

It also undertook to eliminate all export taxes, which are still allowed under WTO rules and still widely used by many governments.

Many of China’s WTO commitments were imposed only on it or modified the general rules to either impose heavier obligations on it or confer less rights on it.

Contrary to popular belief, China has received hardly any of the benefits that accrue to developing countries when it became a WTO Member, other than the ability to use the title “developing country”.

It’s more about identity than benefits

After its accession, China acted as a member of the developing country group and pushed hard for its interests. In 2003 it joined India and Brazil in pushing developed countries to reform their agricultural trade policies while retaining flexibility for developing countries, a push that has yet to achieve success.

In the meantime, it enjoys little preferential treatment for itself, partly because it has eschewed special benefits, partly because most of the transition benefits that were available to it have expired, partly because some of the provisions available to it are essentially voluntary on the part of the country offering them, and partly because many of the benefits available to developing countries are not available to developing countries with large export shares.




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At times it has actively forgone important benefits, such as by not invoking its right to receive technical assistance under WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.

However, on some other issues, the sheer size of China has made it difficult to accommodate China’s claim for developing country treatment. One example is the negotiation on fisheries subsides, which would not be able to move without substantial commitments from China, which operates one of the largest subsidies in the world.

Identity matters to China

In its position paper on WTO Reform, China says it “will never agree to be deprived of its entitlement to special and differential treatment as a developing member”.

At the same time, it says it “is willing to take up commitments commensurate with its level of development and economic capability”.

It remains far less developed than traditionally developed countries. In purchasing power terms, its standard of living is about one-third of that in the United States.

Although not practically important in terms of its obligations under the WTO, its developing country status is useful to it in other ways, giving it the opportunity to gain meaningful advantages in other international organisations such as the Universal Postal Union.

It costs the rest of the world little to accommodate China’s wish to be described as a developing country. If Trump and Morrison got what they wanted, they would find little had changed.The Conversation

Henry Gao, Associate Professor of Law, Singapore Management University and Weihuan Zhou, Senior Lecturer and member of Herbert Smith Freehills CIBEL Centre, Faculty of Law, UNSW Sydney, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Morrison needs to avoid ‘the conveyor belt of Trumpism’



Prime Minister Scott Morrison needs to inject a little more subtlety into his pronouncements – and keep a lid on the frustrations.
AAP/Sarah Rhodes

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison’s Lowy lecture on foreign policy, titled “In our interest” and delivered on Thursday, was peevish in its tone and lacked nuance in its content.

While Morrison canvassed the positive side of globalism, the take-out was his forthright criticisms of what he sees as its negatives.

He warned against globalism “that coercively seeks to impose a mandate from an often ill-defined borderless global community. And worse still, an unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy”.

He went on, “We can never answer to a higher authority than the people of Australia”.

Morrison’s visit to New York last week seems to have left him particularly liverish about international institutions.

Not that he even attended the United Nations leaders summit on climate. His office explained his absence by the fact Australia wouldn’t get a speaking spot, which only went to countries with new initiatives to announce. So Morrison devoted his address to the UN General Assembly to defending his government’s climate policy.

The prime minister is clearly frustrated at the pot shots that are fired at Australia over climate change, although they come from well beyond the UN (remember the Pacific Islands Forum). Successive conservative governments have also been riled by the long running criticism from UN bodies over Australia’s treatment of refugees.

When on Friday he was pressed for an example of where an unaccountable international bureaucracy had sought to coerce Australia, Morrison started talking about commentary on border protection, while stressing Australia determines its own policy.

In general, Morrison believes that activists on various issues are too entrenched and powerful in UN institutions.

His angst about internationalism also stretches to the European Union and its failure to facilitate Brexit.

He deploys stark lines of defiance.

On climate, he told the general assembly Australia was “doing our bit” and “we reject any suggestion to the contrary”.

On Australia’s international engagement, he adapted a Howardism to say in the Lowy lecture: “We will decide our interests and the circumstances in which we seek to pursue them”.

With only a year’s experience as a prime minister on the international stage, Morrison is becoming assertive. He has told the foreign affairs department “to come back to me with a comprehensive audit of global institutions and rule-making processes where we have the greatest stake”.

He wants Australia to have a bigger role in setting “the standards that will shape our global economy”. The speech didn’t spell this out fully, but it includes industry standards.

Morrison appears to be tracking to the right. He always has an eye to the immediate politics and his attack on “negative globalism” will play well with the conservatives in the ranks of the Liberal party and the more strident commentariat.

But there is a rather startling lack of thought in the stance he adopted in the Lowy address.

Yes, the government is sensitive to UN pressures over climate and asylum policy.

But we are signed up – of our own choosing – to a range of international institutions, from the UN to the World Trade Organisation, because they are part of a rules based international order that serves our long term interests.

The government might be narky about the UN on some issues, but it was only a few years ago that it was highlighting Australia’s role on the Security Council after the MH17 downing.

And it’s one thing saying institutions like the WTO need to reform – which is correct – and another having a general spray about international bureaucracy.

Australia is urging both the US and China to a greater commitment to the rules based system. If it wants its arguments to be taken seriously, it’s best to talk up global co-operation, not talk it down.

It was unfortunate that Morrison’s words had an echo of Donald Trump’s speech last week, in which he elevated patriots over globalists.

Given Trump’s rants over the past few days, one can’t help feeling Morrison was lucky he came out of the US trip as well (and as unscathed) as he did.

Now is no time to appear to be, in the words of one observer, “sitting on the conveyor belt of Trumpism”.

All in all, the text of the Lowy speech needed a good deal more subtlety, as well as having the white-out applied to the frustrations.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How the impeachment inquiry might affect Trump’s 2020 re-election chances



As the impeachment inquiry gathers pace in the US, Donald Trump is likely to keep doubling down on his opponents.
AAP/EPA/Chris Kleponis

Dennis Altman, La Trobe University

The next 13 months will see American politics completely dominated by the fate of Donald Trump. As the House of Representatives moves towards impeaching him, leading to a hearing which then moves to the Senate, the Democrats will be engaged in an increasingly bitter contest for the nomination to run against Trump in the November 2020 elections.

At this stage, it appears there are the numbers in the house for impeachment, which entails formally charging the president with “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Their indictment then moves to the Senate, which can remove the president by a two-thirds majority, in a hearing chaired by the chief justice.

Because 2020 is an election year, both sides will manage proceedings with an eye to the November poll. It is possible the house will vote before the end of the year: the decision to impeach Bill Clinton for lying under oath was made in the last three months of 1998.




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Clinton was cleared by the Senate by the following February, so it is also possible the Senate will hold its own proceedings before most of the presidential primaries commence. It takes two-thirds of the Senate to remove a president from office, which has never happened.

While several Republican house representatives have expressed concern about the president’s behaviour, the overwhelming majority of Republican politicians are either supporting him or remaining silent.

Rather as Boris Johnston seems to have captured the British Conservative Party, so Trump has imposed himself on the Republicans. Those who three years ago assailed his unfitness for the presidency, such as Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, are now his loudest defenders. Meanwhile, several of his opponents are withdrawing from political office.

However, Senator Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for president in 2012, has indicated his disquiet, which is almost certainly shared by others. If the house uncovers more apparently illegal activity on Trump, and if public opinion seems to be turning against the president, there are several other senators who may follow, if only to preserve their own positions. Republican senators are facing re-election in states such as Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina, where they are increasingly vulnerable.

There is an odd historical parallel with the history of Senator Joe McCarthy, who led increasingly virulent anti-Communist crusades in the early 1950s and whose protégé, Roy Cohn, in turn influenced Trump.

Eventually, Republican senators turned on McCarthy, and censured but did not expel him. But this happened only once it was clear that public support for McCarthy was collapsing, which is so far not evident for Trump.

Faced with possible impeachment and loss of support, Richard Nixon resigned. It is difficult to see Trump doing this – it is more likely he will become even more irrational and vengeful as the process winds on. Right-wing media will echo the president’s claim that the impeachment hearings represent treason, with real danger of violent clashes between supporters and opponents of Trump.

For the Democrats, the best outcome would be a split within Republican ranks, which leaves Trump in office but weakened and vulnerable to a challenge for re-nomination. Removing Trump would place Vice President Mike Pence in office, and presumably ensured of nomination in 2020.

The dilemma for the Democrats is that the impeachment process will dominate the news cycle as they jockey for position going into next year’s long battle for the presidential nomination. Trump will use the allegations to focus attention on former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son’s business dealings in Ukraine triggered the impeachment inquiry.

Biden may hope this will allow him to emerge as the injured defender of political propriety, but he will be tarnished through guilt by association, and is likely to slip further in the polls. Biden represents some of the traditional working class and African American base of the Democratic Party, and how they react could determine the ultimate Democrat candidate.

At the moment, Elizabeth Warren challenges Biden’s lead in the polls, with Bernie Sanders the only other candidate consistently supported by more than 10% of Democrats. None of the others in a crowded field — 12 have qualified to take part in the next televised Democratic debate — have much support, and they will start to drop out once the primary season begins in February 2020.




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In the Democrats’ bitter race to find a candidate to beat Trump, might Elizabeth Warren hold the key?


If Biden continues to lose support, there is room for someone to emerge as the moderate front-runner, given that both Warren and Sanders represent the more radical instincts of the party. This is presumably why so many candidates are determined to continue campaigning, even when some of them rarely muster 2% in the polls.

Were Sanders’ current health problems to lead to his withdrawal most of his support would presumably switch to Warren. Predictions are risky, and my record is poor. But it is increasingly likely that the Democrats will nominate someone other than an old white man in 2020, betting on a figure like Barack Obama who can galvanise a bitterly divided nation and persuade people to turn out and vote.The Conversation

Dennis Altman, Professorial Fellow in Human Security, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Another Australian PM finds a phone call with Trump can land you on the sticky paper


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The dramatic revelation by the New York Times that Donald Trump pressed Scott Morrison in an early September phone call for help in an exercise of overt presidential politicking does not indicate any Australian government wrongdoing.

But it shows how Morrison’s bromance with the president brings its political embarrassments along with all that glitz and warmth.

Last week the PM got himself caught up in a Trump-created political rally. Now he’s on the spot over this (typical) Trump call, which was about US Attorney-General William Barr’s seeking information for the justice department inquiry that the president hopes will discredit the Mueller probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Australia, inadvertently, was central in the train of events leading to the Mueller inquiry, which has now reported (and found Russian activity).

In May 2016, Alexander Downer, then Australian High Commissioner in London, had drinks with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.

Papadopoulos said Russia had told the Trump campaign it had damaging information on Hillary Clinton and was prepared to release it close to the election.

Downer reported that back to the foreign affairs department, which shared it with the intelligence community. Subsequently, the Americans were alerted to it, and it got to the FBI, becoming a catalyst for the Mueller inquiry.

Downer acted properly. A diplomat’s job is to gather information and inform their government.

(Papadopoulos, who sees Downer as an agent of entrapment, has tweeted in the wake of the NYT article: “I have been right about Downer from the beginning. A wannabe spy and Clinton errand boy who is about to get exposed on the world stage”.)

The issue for the Australian government became more complicated when Trump, who paints himself as the victim of a conspiracy, launched the current investigation into the origins of the FBI’s inquiry. The president said at the time he hoped Barr “looks at the UK, and I hope he looks at Australia, and I hope he looks at Ukraine. I hope he looks at everything because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country”.

Australia immediately promised cooperation.

Did it have much alternative? On the downside, this was a highly charged Trumpian exercise. But the inquiry was under the auspices of a US government department. And wouldn’t refusal to co-operate suggest Australia had something to hide, when there is no reason to suppose it did?

Joe Hockey, Australia’s ambassador in Washington, wrote to Barr on May 28 saying: “The Australian government will use its best endeavours to support your efforts in this matter”. He said while Downer was no longer employed by the government, “we stand ready to provide you with all relevant information to support your inquiries.”

Presumably, the government has little to give beyond an account of the Downer discussion and the subsequently passing on of the contents of that conversation.

But Simon Jackman, CEO of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, poses the pertinent question: “If Hockey says, we’re here to help, what was the point of the September phone call?” He suggest it might have had to do with the declassification of documents.

The affair is now politically messy for Morrison on two levels.

The leak of the previously undisclosed telephone call comes immediately after the revelations about the president’s call to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he urged him to investigate Democrat presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son. That has led to the impeachment inquiry.

There is no parallel between the conversations, but inevitably there will be a conflation.

Further, in the absence of a transcript, there will be questions (already being asked by the opposition) about the content and tone of the Trump-Morrison conversation, which came shortly before the PM’s US trip, on which he was so effusive about the president. Bill Shorten said:“Mr Morrison needs to clean up the perception that perhaps the special reception was returned for special favours done”.

It’s understood that Morrison and Trump didn’t discuss the specifics of the matter. The request was reportedly “polite”, asking for cooperation with Barr and for a point of contact. Trump was aware that the matter was before Morrison’s time, and didn’t expect him to know about the details.

The government insists it has nothing to fear if the transcript of the call becomes public through another leak. If that’s accurate, it should be hoping that leak will occur.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Warren placed second after Biden, as Trump’s ratings rise. But could the impeachment scandal make a difference?


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Two weeks after the September 12 Democratic presidential debate, Joe Biden continues to lead with 29.0% in the RealClearPolitics Democratic national average, followed by Elizabeth Warren at 21.4%, Bernie Sanders at 17.3%, Pete Buttigieg at 5.8% and Kamala Harris at 5.0%.

No other Democrat candidates have more than 3% support. And the last three polls average to a tie between Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

Since the debate, there have been gains for Biden, Warren and Buttigieg, and a continued slump for Harris. After the first debate on June 26 to 27, Harris surged from about 7% to 15%. Now, she has lost all that support and can no longer be considered a top-tier candidate.




Read more:
US Democratic presidential primaries: Biden leading, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris; and will Trump be beaten?


The contests that will select the Democratic presidential candidate will be held between February and June 2020, with four states permitted to hold contests in February.

Iowa (February 3) and New Hampshire (February 11) are the first two states, so doing well in one of them is important. To win any delegates, candidates need at least 15% in a particular state or congressional district.

There have been three Iowa polls conducted since the debate, including one by the highly regarded Selzer poll. The RealClearPolitics average shows Warren surging into the Iowa lead with 23.0%, followed by Biden at 20.3%, Sanders 12.0%, Buttigieg 11.3% and Harris 5.3%. The one post-debate poll in New Hampshire also has Warren leading with 27%, followed by Biden at 25%, Sanders 12% and Buttigieg 10%.

Biden is disadvantaged in Iowa and New Hampshire because these states’ populations are almost all white. CNN analyst Harry Enten says Biden’s strongest support comes from black voters.




Read more:
In the Democrats’ bitter race to find a candidate to beat Trump, might Elizabeth Warren hold the key?


In South Carolina, where black voters made up 61% of the 2016 Democratic primary electorate according to exit polls, Biden leads by over 20 points, though none of those polls were taken since the debate. South Carolina votes on February 29.

The next Democratic debate will be on October 14, with the same rules for participation as in the September debate. At least two more candidates will qualify, and this will mean a two-night debate with the 12 candidates split over these nights. The participation threshold has been increased for November and further debates.

Trump’s ratings rise, likely due to the economy

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings are currently 42.9% approve, 52.8% disapprove (that equates to a net -9.9%) with all polls.




Read more:
Trump trails leading Democrats by record margins, plus Brexit latest and the LNP leads in Queensland


With polls of registered or likely voters, his ratings are 43.8% approve, 52.1% disapprove (net -8.3%). Trump’s approval has not been higher since November 2018. But since my September 5 article on the polls, Trump’s net approval has risen about three points.

In August, there were prominent predictions of a recession, and the Dow Jones tanked. In September, there has been far less recession talk, and the Dow recovered its August losses. The economy likely explains the recovery in Trump’s ratings.

Will Trump’s ratings take damage from the impeachment controversy?

On September 24, Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry over allegations Trump attempted to get incriminating material on Biden from the Ukraine, including by threatening to withhold funds.

The next day, a White House memo of Trump’s phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy showed Trump asked for “a favour”, and for Zelenskiy to “look into” Biden.

I do not believe this affair will do lasting or serious damage to Trump’s ratings: the better-educated voters already detest him, and the lower-educated will be far more concerned with the economy.

Removing a president from office requires a majority in the House and a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Democrats control the House, but Republicans have a 53-47 Senate majority. So there is very little chance of Trump being removed before the November 2020 election.

In RealClearPolitics averages, Trump trails Biden by 7.7 points (9.9 points in my September 5 article). He trails Warren by 4.0 (4.1 previously) and Sanders by 4.8 (6.0).

Biden’s electability argument is enhanced by these figures. The pro-Trump Rasmussen polling company showed Trump leading Biden by four, but did not poll other match-ups. Without this Rasmussen poll, Biden would be placed 10.0 points ahead.

Why is Biden doing much better against Trump than other Democrats?

I think a key reason is he sometimes says things that are not politically correct, which the media construe as gaffes.

But those with a lower level of education are very dubious about the values of the “inner city elites”. Saying things the elite disagree with probably makes some Trump 2016 voters more comfortable supporting Biden than Warren.

There have been four major upsets in the US, UK and Australia in the last three years: the June 2016 Brexit referendum, Trump’s November 2016 victory, the UK Labour surge that produced the current hung parliament in June 2017, and the Australian Coalition’s triumph in May 2019.

My theory is the Remain campaign, Hillary Clinton and Australian Labor performed worse than expected because they were all seen as too close to the “inner city elites”.

In contrast, UK Labour adopted a pro-Brexit position before the 2017 election, and this assisted them as they were not seen as serving elite opinion.

To win elections, perhaps the left needs to break free of elite opinion in ways that do not compromise its core agenda.

UK Supreme Court rules prorogation unlawful

On September 24, the UK Supreme Court – the highest UK court – ruled the prorogation of parliament was illegal. The House of Commons resumed sitting the next day. Had parliament still been prorogued, the Commons would not have sat until October 14.

With both parliament and the courts hostile to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it is unlikely he can deliver Brexit by October 31 as he has promised.

As I wrote for The Poll Bludger in mid-September, parliament bears a large portion of responsibility for the Brexit shambles as it can only agree to procrastinate. It cannot agree to any method to resolve Brexit.

Israel, Austria, Portugal, Poland and Canada elections

I recently wrote for The Poll Bludger about the September 17 Israeli election results and said it is unlikely anyone can form a government. I also wrote about upcoming elections in Austria (September 29), Portugal (October 6), Poland (October 13) and Canada (October 21).
All these countries except Canada use proportional representation, while Canada uses first-past-the-post after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wimped on electoral reform after winning the October 2015 election.

Australian Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

In the last Newspoll, conducted September 5-8 from a sample of 1,660, the Coalition led by 51-49, unchanged since mid-August.

Primary votes were 43% Coalition (up one), 35% Labor (up one), 12% Greens (up one and their best in Newspoll since March 2016) and 5% One Nation (up one).

Scott Morrison’s net approval was +10, up four points, while Anthony Albanese slumped into negative net approval at -5, down 12 points. Morrison led as better PM by 48-28 (48-30 previously). Figures from The Poll Bludger.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.