Quick Takes: Make China Great Again

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* Who couldn’t see this coming?

The U.S. trade deficit jumped 8.6 percent in October as imports from China and other suppliers hit a record high ahead of the holiday shopping season, a Commerce Department report released Tuesday showed.

The monthly trade gap totaled $48.7 billion, the highest level for a full month since President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20.

Ahead of the election, a Trump campaign adviser asserted they could eliminate the deficit in one or two years. Instead, the 2017 deficit is on track to exceed the 2016 level of $505 billion.

Imports of goods and services hit a record high of $244.6 billion as the U.S. economy continued to strengthen and suck in more goods from abroad. Imports totaled $48.2 billion from China, $39.4 billion from the EU and $28.7 billion from Mexico — all record highs.

* McKay Coppins has an in-depth look at the Vice President.

It’s easy to see how Pence could put so much faith in the possibilities of divine intervention. The very fact that he is standing behind a lectern bearing the vice-presidential seal is, one could argue, a loaves-and-fishes-level miracle. Just a year earlier, he was an embattled small-state governor with underwater approval ratings, dismal reelection prospects, and a national reputation in tatters. In many ways, Pence was on the same doomed trajectory as the conservative-Christian movement he’d long championed—once a political force to be reckoned with, now a battered relic of the culture wars.

Because God works in mysterious ways (or, at the very least, has a postmodern sense of humor), it was Donald J. Trump—gracer of Playboy covers, delighter of shock jocks, collector of mistresses—who descended from the mountaintop in the summer of 2016, GOP presidential nomination in hand, offering salvation to both Pence and the religious right. The question of whether they should wed themselves to such a man was not without its theological considerations. But after eight years of Barack Obama and a string of disorienting political defeats, conservative Christians were in retreat and out of options. So they placed their faith in Trump—and then, incredibly, he won.

In Pence, Trump has found an obedient deputy whose willingness to suffer indignity and humiliation at the pleasure of the president appears boundless. When Trump comes under fire for describing white nationalists as “very fine people,” Pence is there to assure the world that he is actually a man of great decency. When Trump needs someone to fly across the country to an NFL game so he can walk out in protest of national-anthem kneelers, Pence heads for Air Force Two.

* What could possibly go wrong?

President Donald Trump will travel to Jackson, Mississippi, Saturday for the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

* Kevin Drum has an important look at what’s going on in Afghanistan since the Trump administration decided to stop being concerned about civilian casualties.

The evidence all points in the same direction: US air forces are no longer very concerned about being precise. If they see something, they unload lots of bombs and the result is a big increase in civilian deaths…

We’ve been fighting the Taliban to a tenuous stalemate for more than a decade. If we stay, the stalemate will continue indefinitely. If we leave, the Taliban is likely to eventually regain control of the entire country. These are not great choices, but if we’re going to stay the very least we could do is drop the notion that loosening the rules of engagement and killing more civilians somehow shows that “the gloves have been taken off.” It’s not true, and it doesn’t make victory any more likely. It just means we have more dead civilians.

* If they vote next November, this could be huge.

A majority of millennial voters hope to see Democrats take control of both congressional chambers in next year’s midterm elections, according to a Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics poll.

The survey, released Tuesday, found that 65 percent of likely voters between the ages of 18 and 29 said they would rather see Democrats control the House and the Senate. Thirty-three percent said they would rather see Republicans control the two chambers.

* As the RNC re-engages on behalf of Roy Moore in Alabama, here’s an interesting twist:

* John Nichols reports that the Sanders organization “Our Revolution” is on the ground in Texas.

Our Revolution has made a notable decision: It’s betting big on Texas. As soon as the Sanders campaign gave way to the organization—with its slogan “Campaigns End, Revolutions Endure” and its promise to “transform American politics”—Hightower and a new generation of Lone Star populists vowed that they would make Texas Our Revolution’s most engaged, active, and, they hope, politically successful state branch. And after a shaky start, Our Revolution is developing into a muscular grassroots organization with nearly 500 chapters in 49 states and a burgeoning capacity to organize on behalf of issues and to help win elections.

What he didn’t mention is whether or not Our Revolution has reached out to coordinate with groups that have long been on the ground working to turn Texas blue, like Battleground Texas and Texas Organizing Project.

* Finally, we’re heading into the time of lists. Twitter is the first out of the gates with a list of the 9 most retweeted tweets of 2017. Our current Tweeter-in-Chief didn’t make the list (shhhh…don’t tell him, he’s liable to go off the rails). But #44 weighed in with 3 of the nine.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.