No Warren Did Not Abandon Medicare for All

This post is a follow up to one I wrote a couple of weeks ago, on Liz Warren’s Health Care Hurdles. Warren has been pressured from Left and Right more than any other candidate to take a firm stand on health care and how she might pay for a Medicare for All plan without raising taxes on the middle class.

So just over two weeks ago she brought out a proposal for paying for Medicare for All without a middle class tax hike. In spite of a few serious people (like Paul Krugman) saying that it was a reasonable effort, the plan has mostly gotten beaten up, rather brutally, in news media.

Further, since mid-October or so her poll numbers have sagged as the “centrist” candidates, especially Biden and Buttigieg, have gone on the attack against Medicare for All. According to Monmouth, Pete Buttigieg just took the lead in Iowa away from Warren. Polls have warned that Medicare for All is massively unpopular in the “swing” states that will determine which candidate wins the Electoral College.

So now, Warren has moved to supporting a transition period before full implementation of Medicare for All.

Warren on Friday proposed a series of steps she said would gradually move the country towards “Medicare for All” over the course of three years….

…While the final version of Medicare for All will eliminate private insurance coverage, the first stage will preserve it, while still giving people the option of joining an expanded Medicare-type plan.

After three years, Warren argued, people will be able to see the full benefits of her Medicare for All system.

“By this point, the American people will have experienced the full benefits of a true Medicare for All option, and they can see for themselves how that experience stacks up against high-priced care that requires them to fight tooth-and-nail against their insurance company,” Warren wrote.

This seems to me to be a good idea. Naturally, today a large part of the Left on social media is throwing fits and sliming Warren with everything they’ve got, calling her a liar and a sellout and nothing but Hillary Clinton 2.0.

So lefties will destroy the best chance we’ve had in years to elect a genuinely progressive president, just as the plutocrats planned it, and assuming Trump isn’t re-elected we’ll end up with Biden or a facsimile thereof.There’s still Bernie Sanders, of course, but I think he’s got a steeper hill to climb for the nomination.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Update: See also Dylan Scott, Elizabeth Warren’s new Medicare-for-all plan starts out with a public option.

As Warren competes with not only Sanders on the left but Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg toward the center for the Democratic nomination, the plan seems like a bit of triangulation on her part. She isn’t backing off her commitment to Medicare-for-all single-payer. But she is putting out a plan that she will argue is more likely to actually pass 18 months from now.

Either bill in Warren’s two-step plan would face serious challenges: The first requires 50 or so Senate Democrats to agree on a health care plan in early 2021 and then the second even more audaciously needs a Senate supermajority to approve single-payer health care (or an end to the Senate filibuster).

This won’t win over many Sanders supporters, who see an unnecessary focus on tactics over strategy. The moderates will still assail her plan as unrealistic and politically toxic. Warren, meanwhile, will make the case she has a plan to both pay for and pass Medicare-for-all.

Holy Bleep

The problem with being in the central time zone is that the east coast can go to hell before I’ve had coffee. While Marie Yovanovitch has been testifying this morning, Trump was tweeting insults at her in real time. For example,

Then this happened during the hearing:

Minutes later, Schiff interrupted questions from Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman to ask Yovanovitch about the tweets.

“Would you like to respond to the president’s attack that everywhere you went turned bad?” Schiff asked after reading parts of the tweets to her.

“I don’t think I have such powers,” Yovanovitch responded. “I actually think that where I served over the years, I and others, have demonstrably made things better.”

Schiff then turned Trump’s motivation in sending the tweets. “What effect do you think that has on other witnesses willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?”

“It’s very intimidating,” Yovanovitch said.

Schiff added, “Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”

Some of you probably saw this; let’s just say I’m not a morning person. MAGA-ites won’t care, but Normals who might be on the fence about impeaching Trump (how can anyone still be on the fence?) are probably not thinking warm, fuzzy thoughts about Trump right now.

See also Trump blows Republicans’ entire Yovanovitch hearing strategy with a single tweet. I can imagine Trump’s lawyers pounding on the bathroom door, yelling DROP THAT CELLPHONE!

Also, Roger Stone was just convicted on all counts.

But what I really wanted to blog about is Gordon Sondland. Yesterday I wrote that he has a hard decision to make. Today I read that Trumpers are making that decision easier. Greg Sargent writes,

The plight of Gordon Sondland is an object lesson in the perils awaiting those who get sucked under by the gravitational pull of Trump’s bottomless corruption and narcissism but fall just short of displaying absolute loyalty and subservience to the Trump cause.

Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is now getting accused by at least one Trump loyalist of fabricating his latest round of testimony in league with Democrats — even though Sondland is a top Trump donor. And another leading Trump sycophant is questioning Sondland’s credibility, something Trump himself tried to do at a rally on Thursday night.

This is from the New York Times yesterday:

Republicans pounced on the inconsistencies to try to discredit Mr. Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and Trump campaign donor who had no diplomatic experience before the president installed him as an ambassador.

“I think that if Ambassador Sondland’s credibility is questioned, it makes it really hard for the Democrats to impeach, because everything is based on Ambassador Sondland,” said Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina.

During a rally on Thursday night in Louisiana, Mr. Trump appeared to be trying to do just that. He read aloud from a news article that included new remarks by Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, who said Mr. Sondland had never told him or other officials he knew of a connection between the military aid and the investigations.

So, obviously, they’re throwing Sondland under the bus to discredit his eventual testimony about the phone call. I understand he’s scheduled for Wednesday.

I’m not going to predict what Sondland will do, however. He’s an amateur. I don’t know what motivated him to buy a pass into Trump World, but it probably wasn’t patriotism. But did he notice that Roger Stone was convicted on all counts?

See Besieged on all sides, Gordon Sondland clings to power.

Sondland’s Dilemma

I’ve been reflecting on how how much it must suck to be Gordon Sondland right now. Sondand is a college dropout who made tons of money in real estate and hotels, and eventually he co-founded a bank. He got Trump’s attention by donating $1 million to his inaugural committee. When he was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the European Union, he appeared to have bought his way into the Masters of the Universe Big Leagues. But now he looks more like a poor schmuck who is in over his head.

The story told by Ambassador William B. Taylor in the open hearing yesterday described Sondland making a call to Trump on a cell phone in a restaurant. Trump was either on speakerphone or was yelling loud enough that everyone at the table could hear him. This phone call, if corroborated, would establish a direct link between Trump and the push to have Ukraine President Zelensky investigate the Bidens. This is kind of a big deal.

Republicans did point out that Taylor’s story — which he got from one of his aides — was second-hand. But then there’s this —

Further, it seems to me that if this call were made on an unsecure cell phone in a public restaurant, it might be possible to obtain a record of it without having to go through Bill Barr. Further, the staffer in question, David Holmes, will testify to a closed door hearing tomorrow. One assumes that if his information seems solid, he’ll be invited to a public hearing.

See also: Russian spies likely intercepted ambassador’s cell phone call with Trump

And, sooner or later, Sondland is going to be asked about it. Keep in mind that the federal statute of limitations for perjury is five years, and if convicted a person could serve up to five years in prison. If he has to testify under oath about that phone call, what will he do? He can always claim he doesn’t remember making the phone call, but no one in the world is going to believe that. If the phone call story is true, Sondland can tell the truth about it and go back to his cushy billionaire life, sadder but wiser. If he chooses to lie for Trump, his future will depend on Trump’s re-election.

We’ll see soon enough how smart this guy really is. His using a cellphone in a restaurant to call Trump tells us that maybe he’s not that smart. But while he’s not exactly Brutus struggling with whether to joint the assasins, and Trump sure ain’t Julius Caesar, Sondland might think on these lines:

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

If all you knew about the Ukraine scandal was what was said in yesterday’s hearing, you might think Republicans made some points. One, that Zelensky said he didn’t feel pressured; and two, that the funds were released without Zelensky announcing an investigation of the Bidens. But we know from the released transcripts of the closed hearings that future witnesses will have those points covered.

In Other News

Matt Bevin has conceded in Kentucky. What I expected.

Trump is preparing to take over private land to build his wall. This could get … interesting.

Two are dead, at least four are wounded in California school shooting.

Stuff to Read

How Adam Schiff Avoided a Circus

How America Ends (deep)

The “Sideshow Bob” defense of Trump

Devin Nunes is bravely defending Trump. That’s bad news for the president

FILE – In this July 10, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump is joined by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, second from right, as he arrives at Melsbroek Air Base, in Brussels, Belgium. Sondland, wrapped up in a congressional impeachment inquiry, was a late convert to Trump, initially supporting another candidate in the Republican primary and once refusing to participate in a fundraiser on his behalf. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Republicans Have a Donald Trump Problem

Tomorrow the open hearings begin. Shit will get real, I hope.

The headline of this post was triggered by a Byron York column headlined “ANALYSIS: Democrats have a Colonel Vindman problem” in the Washington Examiner. I’ll let you search for it if you really want to read it, but it’s full of York’s usual misdirections and dissembling. Just be assured that Lt. Col. Vindman is not a problem.

However, Trump is a problem, on several levels. The first and most obvious problem is that he’s a walking cesspool of ignorance and corruption, and by now anyone who still supports him is (a) being paid to do so; (b) dependant on the Republican party for current or future employment; (c) a hard-core partisan wingnut suffering massive cognitive dissonance; and/or (d) dumber than a bag of hammers. There are no other explanations. Byron York probably is several of the above.

But another problem is that Trump is both undisciplined and extremely stupid as well as corrupt. Those traits got him into the mess he’s in, and they are already undermining efforts to save him. Greg Sargent writes,

President Trump’s propagandists have a problem. Some of them badly want to argue there was nothing wrong with Trump’s decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine, because he merely wanted that country to clean up its legacy of corruption.

In this telling, by using the funding as leverage to produce better outcomes in Ukraine, Trump was acting in the national interest.

But Trump himself has other ideas. He is unabashedly arguing that, yes, he absolutely did want Ukraine to investigate one of his leading 2020 campaign rivals — Joe Biden — because, after all, Biden is indeed corrupt. And that undercuts the GOP’s generic-corruption spin.

Sorta like when he openly confessed to Lester Holt that he was going to fire James Comey, anyway, because of “this Russia thing.” He’s too stupid to understand what is or isn’t out of bounds, and he doesn’t have the sense to know when to keep his mouth shut.

Republicans circulated an 18-page memo laying out their strategy for countering arguments for impeachment. A big part of that strategy is to focus on Trump’s state of mind — seriously — which allegedly was overcome with tender concern for generic corruption in Ukraine, not the Bidens specifically. “The [Republican talking points] memo repeatedly casts doubt on whether Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Biden,” Greg Sargent writes, in spite of the fact that in the so-called transcript of the July 25 phone call released by the White House, Trump clearly asked President Zelensky to investigate Hunter and Joe Biden. (See page 4.)

The Republicans also plan to argue that the Ukrainians didn’t know the military aid had been held up, a claim already refuted by testimony in the closed hearings. They also point out that the aid was released to Ukraine without any conditions being met, but we’ve learned recently that the State Department went ahead and released it on John Bolton’s order, apparently without Trump’s permission, before Trump says it was released.

The Republicans’ high-minded talking points — with footnotes, even — are pretty much shredded on arrival. Expect Jordan, Gaetz, et al. to do everything possible to turn the hearings into a circus. Because that’s all they’ve got.

Also: My book The Circle of the Way is now on sale!

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It’s Armistice Day

Today’s news:

Pete King (R-Asshole) is retiring from Congress.

This is a hoot. Junior went to UCLA to promote his new book, Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us. I take it he hired Ann Coulter to write the title, if not the rest of it. Anyway, he was heckled and booed off the stage — by right wing hecklers. The young, right-wing audience that filled the venue grew angry when they were told Junior and his girlfriend (why was she on the stage?) were not taking questions.

At the Sunday event, Trump Jr. appeared to think the first shouts of dissent had come from left-leaning counterprotesters.

“Name a time when conservatives have disrupted even the furthest leftist on a college campus,” he said to the crowd. “It doesn’t happen that way. We’re willing to listen.”

A member of the audience interrupted with a shout: “Then open the Q&A!”

“See what I mean?” Trump Jr. answered. “And that is the problem. And the reason oftentimes it doesn’t make sense to do the Q&A is not because we’re not willing to talk about the questions, ’cause we do. No. It’s because people hijack it with nonsense looking to go for some sort of sound bite. You have people spreading nonsense, spreading hate, trying to take over the room.”

The roar of the crowd shouting “Q&A!” grew louder, threatening to overpower Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle inside Moore Hall on UCLA’s campus.

See also this account of the episode at The Guardian. Junior and girlfriend left the stage after twenty minutes; they were scheduled for two hours.

Yesterday on Meet the Press, the ever-useless Chuck Todd smiled and nodded at inane right-wing talking points from Rand Paul. Paul actually argued that pressuring Ukraine to announce a public investigation of Trump’s political opponent was no different from Joe Biden’s carrying out U.S. foreign policy to get Ukraine to oust a corrupt prosecutor. Then Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) pushed back.

Over the weekend the New York Times published a long story about exactly what Biden was doing in Ukraine, and why. The short answer, “his job.”

Mr. Giuliani has claimed, without evidence, that Mr. Biden’s push to oust Mr. Shokin was an attempt to block scrutiny of his son’s actions. In fact, Mr. Biden was just one of many officials calling for Mr. Shokin to go. Good-government activists were protesting his actions in the streets, as were eurozone power players like Christine Lagarde, then the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, along with Ms. Nuland and Senate Republicans.

“The position regarding getting rid of Shokin was not Vice President Biden’s position; it was the position of the U.S. government, as well as the European Union and international financial institutions,” said Amos J. Hochstein, former coordinator for international energy affairs at the State Department and one of the few administration officials who directly confronted Mr. Biden at the time about his son.

Greg Sargent:

Biden was carrying out U.S. foreign policy by prodding Ukraine — awash in civil unrest and corruption, getting plundered by oligarchs and under Russian assault — to undertake reforms to bring it in line with Western democratic ideals, as a bulwark against Russia.

This is the important subplot lurking beneath the scandal headlines — that in leaving Ukraine vulnerable to Russia in order to strong-arm Ukraine into carrying out his own self-interested corrupt designs, Trump retreated from the United States’ posture of siding with Ukraine in a broader battle between liberal democracy and illiberal authoritarian kleptocracy.

As Franklin Foer has shown, Biden was trying to pull Ukraine into a more democratic orbit, and Trump in effect pulled in the other direction, mingling his own corruption with Russian geopolitical interests.

See also Trump’s Road to Impeachment Paved by All the President’s Yes Men and The Disorienting Defenses of Donald Trump. One more: Republican: You Can’t Impeach Trump for a Crime He Does ‘All the Time’.

Trump to Make Public Appearance in NYC; What Could Go Wrong?

Monday will be the 101st anniversary of the Armistice and the 100th anniversary of the first November 11 parade in New York City, called either the Armistice Day Parade (correctly) or Veterans Day Parade (meh). Anyway, I am just now finding out that Trump has agreed to attend the parade and is expected to address the crowd at the beginning of it, which I find absolutely astonishing. If he didn’t like being booed at Nationals Park, what does he expect a crowd of New Yorkers to do?

The address is supposed to happen in or near the small Madison Square Park in the Flatiron district. I haven’t read any further explanations. I’m betting money that the area will be blocked off for considerable distance, and only pre-approved people, e.g. Trump supporters, will be allowed anywhere near the speaker’s podium. I hope the parade itself goes well.

In other news — the elites of American politics are all excited about Michael Bloomberg’s possible entry into the Democratic nomination contest. The rest of the country is looking on and thinking, WTF?  I agree with George Conway that if Bloomberg really wants to be useful, he should buy Fox News.

See also:

State Department Freed Ukraine Money Before Trump Says He Did

We read all 2,677 pages of impeachment inquiry testimony released to date. Here’s what’s clear.

Kentucky Fried

The latest in the threat by Matt Bevin to steal the Kentucky election:

The Kentucky Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes, declared Andy Beshear the winner of the election late Tuesday night, and when this was reported on CNN Matt Bevin blew a fuse. He accused Grimes of fraud and threw around accusations of voter fraud and “reports” — mysteriously, no one else heard them — of people being turned away from voting.

You might remember that Alison Lundergan Grimes is a Democrat who ran for Mitch McConnell’s Senate seat in 2014. If only. Anyway, one of her functions is to head the state board of elections. The board itself has eight members, four Republicans and four Democrats. As I understand it, once votes are certified by counties those results to go the state board, which then makes the results official. The counties were required to submit their certified forms by this Friday, so it probably is the case that the election hadn’t been officially certified when Grimes declared Beshear the winner.

Bevin requested a recanvass, which will take place November 14. According to CNN,

A recanvass is a reprint of the receipts from voting machines to check for reporting or clerical errors. After ballots are scanned, the machine tabulates those votes and prints out a receipt with the total.
During a recanvass, those receipts will be reprinted and checked again to make sure they were reported properly. It’s not uncommon for some clerical errors to occur during the initial vote tabulation.
All 120 counties would then fill out and submit the same certification forms again with the recanvass results.
No one seriously expects the recanvass to change the result. Assuming it doesn’t — after that the election board has until November 25 to certify the election. If Bevin still wants to challenge the result, he has 30 days after the certification to do so.
Currently one of Bevin’s supporters is robocalling everybody in Kentucky asking them to report on suspicious voting activity before the November 14 recanvass, although what good having such reports before November 14 isn’t clear. If Bevin is seriously going to challenge the election he’ll probably have to wait until after Thanksgiving. And this afternoon SecState Grimes asked Kentuckians to report such calls to her office.

It also appears that Republicans in the legislature have had second thoughts about giving the governor’s seat back to Bevin.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers believes Gov. Matt Bevin should concede his loss to Democrat Andy Beshear if next week’s recanvass doesn’t significantly change the vote totals.

“It’s time to call it quits and go home, say he had a good four years and congratulate Gov.-elect Beshear,” Stivers said in a brief Friday interview at the Capitol.

Voiding an election just because they can probably still looks bad even to Republicans. The process on the books for deciding a contested election hasn’t been used since 1899, and according to precedent involves armed militias and the assasination of one of the candidates. So there’s some understandble reluctance to go that route.

Also: My new book The Circle of the Way goes on sale November 12! That’s, like, Tuesday! You can pre-order from the publisher, from an independent bookseller, or from Amazon.

The Contested Election of 1899

The Hits Keep Coming

So this just happened:

President Donald Trump has been ordered by a New York State judge to pay $2 million to a group of nonprofit organizations as part of a settlement in a civil lawsuit stemming from persistent violations of state charities laws.

The payment is the final resolution to a case brought by the New York attorney general’s office after the Trump Foundation held a fundraiser for military veterans during the 2016 campaign.

More details:

“Our petition detailed a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation — including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more,” then-Attorney General Barbara Underwood alleged in a statement late last year.

In her seven-page ruling, New York Supreme Court Justice Salliann Scarpulla wrote, “Mr. Trump’s fiduciary duty breaches included allowing his campaign to orchestrate the Fundraiser, allowing his campaign, instead of the Foundation, to direct distribution of the Funds, and using the Fundraiser and distribution of the Funds to further Mr. Trump’s political campaign.”

Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka were also named in the lawsuit.

Update: See also Talking Points Memo and Rolling Stone for more details.

Here’s a more recent Trump scam:

The pettiest grift of Trump’s presidency may be a scheme that was recently uncovered by Popular Information’s Judd Legum. As Legum notes, the Trump campaign has held at least 15 online contests in which the winner was promised a meal with Trump. Many of them also promised travel accommodations. All supporters had to do to enter the contests, which were promoted heavily on social media, was donate to the campaign. “I just saw the most recent list of Patriots who have contributed to win a trip to meet me in Chicago on October 28th, and I noticed you STILL haven’t entered,” read one email regarding a contest for a supporter and a guest to have lunch with Trump in Chicago.

This may sound great for Trump supporters, but there’s one problem: despite the untold sums of money raised off the contests, no one appears to have actually sat down for a meal with the president. …

… The campaign certainly hasn’t been able to provide any proof. After Legum’s original piece on the potential scam published, Trump campaign Communications Director Tim Murtaugh tweeted that “[p]eople win the contests each time,” but offered no additional evidence. Nor have any of the “top supporters” and “patriots” who entered any of the 15 contests come forward with pictures or other proof that they sat down for a meal with Trump. It does appear some people have met the president before rallies as a result of winning contests, but the promise of grabbing breakfast, lunch, or dinner with him seems to be a sham.

I swear, he can’t help himself. Grifters gonna grift.

Kentucky: How Beshear (Probably) Pulled It Off

Well, well. Lots of headlines today about how Andy Beshear’s apparent win over incumbent Matt Bevin in Kentucky has unsettled Republicans a tad. Here are some numbers for you:

Trump’s Monday night rally for Bevin was held in Lexington. Beshear won Lexington/Fayette County easily, 65.5 to 33 percent. Note, though, that Lexington/Fayette was one of the two counties in Kentucky that went for Clinton in 2016, 51.2 to 41.7 percent. (The other Clinton county in 2016 was Louisville/Jefferson; the rest of the state was solid Trump.) Still, that shows an improvement for Democrats.

As of early afternoon Wednesday, Bevin is still refusing to concede and is asking for a re-canvass. With 100 percent of the precincts counted, Beshear is ahead by 5,300 votes. The Associated Press is saying the race is too close to call. Some shenanigans may still be pulled to deny Beshear the win. But let’s look at the results we do have.

A lot is being made of the suburban vote, which went for Beshear. But I notice several rural counties in eastern Kentucky went for Beshear also. Just to pick one at random — Magoffin County, population 13,333. 98.6 percent white. Median income $27,745 for men, $18,354 for women. 36.6 percent of residents are below the poverty line. Magoffin is very much in the old coal mining region of the state; whether there are any active mines remaining there I do not know.

Now, here’s the kicker — in 2016, Magoffin went for Trump by 74.7 percent. Yesterday Magoffin voted for Beshear over Bevin, 53.6 percent to 44.3 percent. This was after Bevin practically wrapped himself in Trump and made Trumpism and impeachment the primary focus of his campaign. Did I mention that last week Mike Pence and Matt Bevin did a big bus tour of eastern Kentucky to shore up support?

Republicans dominated down-ballot races in Kentucky, and today the GOP is pretending that this shows people are still with Donald Trump. But if there was ever a sign that Trump has no real coattails, even in places that look like his base, last night was it.

Democrats and Never Trumpers are already yakking that Andy Beshear’s victory shows us that “swing” voters will go for a “moderate” Democrat, wink nudge. But I’m not sure it’s that simple. I think voters, notably those eastern Kentucky rural voters, for once just voted for the guy who would help them rather than hurt them.

Back when the Affordable Care Act was put in place, the state governor was Andy Beshear’s father, Steve Beshear, also a Democrat. Beshear saw to it that Medicaid was expanded and put a state insurance exchange, called Kynect, into place that was one of the few that worked just fine out of the box. Kynect was very popular. Beshear was governor until his term limits were up in 2015.

Matt Bevin was elected to replace Steve Beshear. One of Bevin’s first acts as governor was to end Kynect to force residents deal with the clunky federal exchange. He attempted to reverse Medicaid expansion but was not entirely successful. His plan was to restrict Medicaid to people who could prove they were working, volunteering, or in school to receive Medicaid, but a judge blocked that plan. Bevin was openly in favor of completely ending Obamacare and replacing it with nothing. See How one U.S. state is leading the charge to dismantle Obamacare from May 2017. The “one state” is Kentucky.

One suspects a lot of those eastern Kentuckians who voted for Andy Beshear hoped he would be like his daddy and not take away their Medicaid. And, indeed, Beshear campaigned hard on protecting Medicaid and supporting access to health care in general.

Altough Bevin’s attempt to throw poor Kentuckians off of their health care plans was mostly unsuccessful, he did manage to ram through anti-union “right to work” laws, which probably didn’t help him in the coal region. He also pissed off the state’s public school teachers by cutting their pensions. I understand the teacher’s union worked hard for Beshear, as did the United Mine Workers and other unions.

Under Bevin, Kentucky adopted some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country. Bevin has personally signed ten anti-abortion bills. Beshear supports abortion rights. Bevin attacked Beshear hard on this issue, calling his opponent “abortion Andy.” This is from a couple of days ago:

Beshear was the first Kentucky gubernatorial candidate to earn an endorsement from the prominent abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, which is running digital ads against Bevin through Tuesday’s election. Of the Democratic candidates for governor in three Southern races this fall, which are all seen as competitive, Beshear is the only one supporting abortion rights.

Anti-abortion opponents are closely watching the Kentucky race for hints about 2020, particularly whether voters will care enough about restricting abortion to cancel out their reservations about an unpopular incumbent — be it Bevin or Trump.

The group is behind a $750,000 campaign in the state to attack Beshear and the Democratic candidate for attorney general. Bevin has released at least four ads since mid-September attacking Beshear on abortion and emphasizing his own anti-abortion credentials.

“Kentuckians overwhelmingly support pro-life protections, and Gov. Bevin has been proud to fight vigorously on behalf of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable since day 1 of his Administration,” Bevin campaign manager Davis Paine said in a statement.

I liked this bit:

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, appearing at a campaign event for Bevin last month, said the contrast between Bevin and Beshear on abortion is a “gift” that should seal the election for the Republican incumbent.

“The only way Andy Beshear can win is if people don’t know what his position is,” she said.

So much for abortion as a sure-fire wedge issue. A lot of poor Kentuckians think they have a right to their own life, thank you, and want to have access to medical care when they need it.

Another wedge issue: Gun control. Bevin is agin’ it, period. Beshear was mostly quiet on the issue except for coming out in support of “red flag” gun laws. But do see Beshear’s “issues” page from his campaign website; along with abortion rights he also favors marriage equality, medicinal marijuana, and pledges to support diversity in hiring and protection of voting rights. These are all issues that would have marked him as a flaming “leftie” once upon a time.

My larger point is that maybe we need to drop the labels. Maybe voters care less about whether some candidate calls himself a “centrist” or a “moderate” and more about whether she or he is actually going to do anything to make life more fair and livable.

More implications for 2020: It’s clear to me that if Trump can’t win in cities and suburbs he will lose the popular vote. Can he still win the Electoral College? The pundits are saying his only hope is to pick up every rural and small-town vote he can get in the “battleground” states. And my advice to Dems is to pay attention to what issues voters in those states care about and prepare to campaign hard on those issues. Don’t do what Hillary Clinton did in 2016 and run the same one-size-fits-all campaign in every state.

And see Greg Sargent, What GOP spin about last night’s losses says about Trump’s weakness. Trump and the GOP apparently believe that Trump’s base is a mighty and invincible thing that will deliver victories for them without their having to appeal to moderate voters. Yesterday’s election results, and not just in Kentucky, says they’re wrong.

When the Stories Don’t Get Straight

Somebody decided he’s not willing to do time for Trump. This just happened:

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told House impeachment investigators this week that he now remembers telling a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Ukraine would not receive U.S. military assistance until it committed to investigating the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a person with knowledge of Sondland’s testimony.

Sondland’s latest testimony represents an update to depositions he gave in October to the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. The new testimony was in a three-page declaration to the committees.

According to that sworn declaration, Sondland told Congress this week that his memory has been refreshed after reviewing the opening statements from Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former adviser to Trump on Russian and European affairs.

Yeah, I bet his memory was refreshed. That must be it.

Greg Sargent has a roundup of The Scandal Thus Far, with the catchy headline The scope of Trump’s corruption is mind-boggling. New developments show how. “The broad contours of the Ukraine scandal are well understood,” he writes. But two aspects of the scandal require more scrutiny.

The first is the degree to which this whole scheme is corrupting multiple government agencies and effectively placing them at the disposal of Trump’s reelection effort.

The second is that two of the scheme’s goals — getting Ukraine to validate a conspiracy theory absolving Russia of 2016 sabotage, and to manufacture smears of one of Trump’s leading 2020 rivals — are really part of the same story. At the core of this narrative is Trump’s continuing reliance on foreign help in corrupting our democracy to his advantage, through two presidential elections, and the covering up of all of it.

Do read the whole thing.  Then read Josh Marshall:

A few two-bit, maybe three-bit hustlers have managed to take control of the President of the United States and have him not simply making decisions at their direction but actually operating outside any clear coordination with his own State Department. We need to see this as a proof of concept through which we see current US relations with Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and many other countries. Think what more sophisticated operators are able to do with him.

This may sound like I’m trying to let Trump off too easily, portraying him as a soft touch or a patsy. Not really. I do get the sense here that Rudy’s telling him that Yovanovitch had to go was probably all he needed to hear. Hearing stories that she’d badmouthed him didn’t hurt either. I don’t get the sense that Trump knew or cared just why Parnas or Lutsenko wanted her out. Maybe he didn’t even know it was their ask. The point is it didn’t matter. Rudy was going to get Biden or spring Manafort or prove the Deep State was wrong about the Russians and that was all he needed to know.

There are more layers we haven’t uncovered yet, in particular why Trump is so obsequious to Russia. See also Michelle Goldberg, On Ukraine, Trump Is a Con Man, but He’s Also a Mark.

The heart of the Ukraine scandal, for which Trump will almost certainly be impeached, is simple. Trump used congressionally appropriated aid to Ukraine, as well as the promise of a White House visit, to try to extort Ukraine’s president to announce investigations that would benefit Trump politically.

But there’s a broader story that’s still murky, because in this scandal Trump is both the perpetrator and the mark. Trump used the power of his office to try to force Ukraine to substantiate conspiracy theories. But the president was fed those conspiracy theories by people with their own agendas, who surely understood that he is insecure about Russia’s role in his election, and he will believe whatever serves his ego in the moment. The main reason Trump should be removed from office is that he has subverted American foreign policy for corrupt personal ends. But this scandal is the latest reminder of how easy sinister forces find it to pull his strings.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are reduced to complaining about the process or demanding that the original whistleblower be revealed. Because that’s all they’ve got.

ASK YOURSELF THIS QUESTION: Since the release of the first two transcripts from the impeachment inquiry Monday, have you seen a single stitch of information that helps President DONALD TRUMP? Have you found any information exculpatory for him? Can you name one single fact that’s changed the basic arc of this story?

IN FACT, as WaPo’s RACHAEL BADE and KAROUN DEMIRJIAN point out in today’s paper, “Republicans have used their time to complain that testimony has become public, going after their colleagues who were quoted in media reports commenting on witness appearances, and quizzing witnesses themselves on how their statements had been released.” WaPo story

See also Philip Bump, The desperate search for the Ukraine scandal’s Peter Strzok.