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Afternoon Briefing: While the World Goes To Hell, Trump Is Still Trumpin'

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | August 8, 2017 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | August 8, 2017 |

We haven’t had a political briefing in a few days now, what with Donald Trump and Congress on vacation and little in the way of big, breathless breaking stories. It’s been nice.

The last couple of days can be summarized thusly:

Here’s a cursory look at what else is going on in the world of politics:

— Lots of polls have come out in the last couple of days. None of them are good for Trump, whose approval rating continues to hover at around 35-38 percent, and his disapproval rating right at 59-60 percent. Worse news for Trump is that his base is softening — the number of people who “strongly” approve of Trump has fallen by double digits. Trust is at historic lows, too: I think the CNN poll said that only 24 percent of respondents trust everything they hear from the White House.

The erosion in his poll numbers is why Republican Senators like Mitch McConnell feel much freer about criticizing their President now.

— Trump is not the only Republican politician hurting right now. It’s even worse for those Republicans in purple states, like Nevada and Arizona. Right now, Dean Heller and Jeff Flake — both up for reelection next year — are seeing 22 and 18 percent approval ratings, respectively. While this is good for Democrats, it unfortunately also reveals the danger of going against the President. Senators who had little to no support among Democrats also see support among their own base dropping by going against Trump, which leaves them in a no-man’s land where the only support they can curry is that of independents, although there are exceptions in Senators like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who were voted in because of their independent streaks.

— There are a lot of intricacies involved in the debate over raising the debt ceiling — an issue that’s likely to plague Congress over much of September — but again, it looks as though the issue is going to divide Republicans. Paul Ryan may ultimately have to resort to passing a clean debt ceiling raise with all the Democrats and a few moderate Republicans, which will likely piss off the hard-line conservatives in the Freedom Caucus. It could get ugly, but here is where Democrats hold a lot of cards: If Paul Ryan and the Republicans play hardball and let the government default, it’s going to cause a huge rift in the stock market, and the rising stock market is basically the only achievement Donald Trump can point to right now (never mind that the rise in the stock market can be mostly attributed to President Obama’s policies). Trump’s approval ratings are at 37-38 percent under a strong economy — imagine what they’d look like under a weaker one?

— Also, Trump still hasn’t faced a major test during his Presidency. North Korea is now apparently making missile-ready nuclear weapons. That’s bad. That poses a major test to Trump. But, you know, Trump is still Trumpin’:

— Hopefully, Trump will not attack North Korea, because North Korea says that if he does, they will retaliate with nuclear bombs. “Should the US pounce upon the DPRK with military force at last, the DPRK is ready to teach the US a severe lesson with its strategic nuclear force,” North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said on Monday.

In other words, if Trump goes in hot-headed, we could lose a major city.

— Speaking of major tests, Donald Trump still hasn’t approved a military plan in Afghanistan after lashing out at generals a few weeks ago and threatening to fire the general in charge of the Afghanistan operation. Now? He’s reportedly mulling turning the war effort over to 5,500 private contractors. The National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and the Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, do not like this plan, which is being floated by Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and the brother of Betsy DeVos. Unsurprisingly, Stephen Bannon is a big fan.

Header image: I just finished season 3 of Casual, which I really liked. I also really like Judy Greer, who had a terrific arc this season.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.