Rick Scott’s make-or-break moment

TALLAHASSEE — As Hurricane Irma churned towards Florida last week, it left Gov. Rick Scott facing the kind of potentially catastrophic natural disaster that helps make or break any governor’s legacy.

While millions of Floridians are now dealing with flooding and power outages, Scott’s preparation and response to the storm — a logistical nightmare that affected nearly every inch of the nation’s third largest state — have so far won praise.

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He’s had a nearly ubiquitous television presence, providing constant storm updates while overseeing one of the largest regional evacuations in U.S. history — and he’s leaned heavily on his close relationship with President Donald Trump, whom he vocally supported in 2016. The two spoke daily as the storm approached, and the Trump administration quickly approved Scott’s request for a disaster declaration, which made available additional federal funds for the storm.

“[President Donald] Trump’s given me everything I’ve asked for,” Scott told POLITICO in a Sunday interview.

Scott’s role in the Irma drama comes as he considers whether to heed Trump’s pleas and challenge Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat up for re-election next year — and a successful Irma response could bolster a potential Scott 2018 campaign.

But neither Florida nor Scott, three years into his second term as governor, is out of the woods yet. The coming days will bring a fuller accounting of the damage wrought by Irma as swaths of the state face a long, costly road to recovery.

With the damage comes opportunity. In 2004 and 2005, then-Gov. Jeb Bush saw his approval ratings skyrocket in Florida after eight hurricanes swiped the state. Bush, like the hurricanes, was seemingly everywhere, handing out supplies in disaster zones, assuring Floridians in press briefings and making sure emergency responders moved in as soon as possible.

“Jeb Bush certainly benefitted politically from public perception that he looked out for Floridians during the spate of eight hurricanes in two years,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant polling director for Quinnipiac University, which found that Bush’s approval ratings jumped by a net 31 percentage points in 2004 after hurricanes Charley and Frances hit the state. “Whether or not that helps Gov. Scott in his expected 2018 run for U.S. Senate, time will tell.”

In an earlier interview, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio pointed out that Irma had a unique projected path through Florida, taking it through nine of its 10 media markets. “We’ve never had that before,” Rubio said.

“They won’t admit it publicly, but I can tell you Scott’s team is thrilled by the free-media exposure. You can’t pay for that type of coverage, even if you’re as rich as Rick,” said one Republican consultant who has ties to the governor’s advisers.

And partisan politics aren’t far beneath the surface; indeed, Scott gave ammunition to his critics this morning by taking a not-so-subtle shot at a top Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s past storm response.

For now, however, Scott’s methodical, focused approach — a hallmark of his two terms in office, say supporters – seems to have paid off with Irma, which had been downgraded to a Category 1 storm Monday even as it pounded the state capital of Tallahassee with rain and seeped into northern Georgia.

Scott’s talking-point heavy style has sometimes served as a punchline among Florida politicos, but it seemed to fit the occasion as Irma bore down, and Scott did at least 30 media appearances, donning the Navy baseball cap that was a mainstay of his 2014 campaign, along with a blue button-downed shirt.

Take his response when the first wave of evacuating South Floridians left those who remained with little gas for their cars, and a fuel crisis emerged.

“We know fuel is very important. And we’re absolutely devoting every state resource to addressing this,” he said in an appearance near Miami.

“We know fuel is very important. And we’re absolutely devoting every state resource to addressing this,” Scott said in a CNN interview later that day.

And during a West Palm Beach update the same day: “We know fuel is very important. And we’re absolutely devoting every state resource to addressing this.”

Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant who worked as a senior adviser to now-Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who ran against Scott in 2014, said the Crist campaign often poked fun at Scott’s “robotic press conferences,” but came to realize their effectiveness.

“He would do like 13 news stations and always say the same thing, but that’s 13 stations covering him saying the same thing,” Schale said of Scott’s message discipline.

“His style really shines in situations like these. He’s not a guy who will give the greatest ‘rah, rah’ speech, but he’s very good at just ticking down all the different things you need to be aware of,” said Brian Burgess, a GOP consultant who was Scott’s first press secretary. “Those bullet-points come across as very effective in short sound bites.”

The lone hint of criticism came in the days leading up to the storm from state Sen. Jack Latvala. After a Thursday fundraiser for his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, the Tampa-area Republican questioned whether Scott started shutting down much of the state too early.

“I have lived in Florida for 50 years. We have hurricane season every year. We try to use good judgment,” Latvala told the Times-Herald after the event. “I’m not sure that we haven’t overdone it a bit. … Do you have to close down the state four days before the storm gets here?”

Scott’s early efforts also drew praise from Democrats.

State Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat from West Park, tweeted “no time for politics, all truth – @FlGovScott did a great job!.”

That bipartisan sentiment faded somewhat, however, after Scott took a clear shot at Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat running for governor. The two feuded last year over Gillum’s response to Hurricane Hermine, a fact Scott injected into his interview with POLITICO.

“I couldn’t get them to take resources or anything. Let me tell you, everyone wants my help now,” Scott said.

Gillum responded by saying “we need to stay focused on how we keep Florida safe and help the state recover,” according to the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper. Gillum political adviser Kevin Cate, however, took a more direct shot. Cate had earlier praised the governor’s storm preparations, but his tone changed after the governor’s comments.

“There are many things that Rick Scott did right during the storm – and he deserves credit, whoever, its’ very unfortunate that he used this platform to take a misguided, partisan shot while millions are still in danger without power,” Cate said.

Scott’s relationship with Trump may be key in coming weeks as Florida looks to Washington for more4 assistance.

“The real problem will be after the storm,” said Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican. He added that the $15 billion disaster relief package approved by Congress last week is only a down payment. “We are going to need more,” he said.

And the storm will keep Scott firmly in the headlines.

In an earlier interview, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio pointed out that Irma had a unique projected path through Florida, taking it through nine of its 10 media markets. “We’ve never had that before,” Rubio said.

“They won’t admit it publicly, but I can tell you Scott’s team is thrilled by the free-media exposure,” said one Republican consultant who has ties to the governor’s advisers. “You can’t pay for that type of coverage, even if you’re as rich as Rick.”

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Clinton Blames Herself, and Many Others

It’s not really her fault.

That’s the underlying theme of Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, in which the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state blames a long list of characters for her defeat at the hands of Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election. While admitting that she failed to connect with American voters on some level, Clinton also points a finger at her primary opponent Bernie Sanders, Wikileaks chief Julian Assange, the media and the “deplorables”—yes, she doubles down on them.

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And ultimately, the 464-page text—more theory of the case than memoir—concludes that then-FBI Director James Comey and Russian President Vladimir Putin snatched the presidency from her hands in the campaign’s closing weeks.

“What happened in the homestretch that caused so many voters to turn away from me?” she writes. “First, and most importantly, there was the unprecedented intervention by then FBI Director Jim Comey.” And, she continues, “the second big factor that caused the bottom to fall out at the end of the race was the Russian plot to sabotage my campaign and help elect Trump.”

If you’re hoping to learn precisely what happened from What Happened, you won’t get a comprehensive explanation. The book, which is published by Simon & Schuster and will be released on Tuesday (Politico purchased a copy at a bookstore on Sunday), is written in an accessible style that sometimes eluded Clinton on the campaign trail, but it lacks a narrative arc, dancing in and out of topics at will. And it glosses over some of the biggest decisions of her campaign, for example, her choice of a vice presidential running mate.

More than anything, What Happened reads like a compendium of things that Clinton wanted to get off her chest: She was robbed on Election Day, the electorate is comfortable with sexism, she did plenty of things right—and she’s keeping track of who did her wrong.

***

Clinton doesn’t let herself off the hook completely. Writing with the assistance of aides Dan Schwerin, Megan Rooney and Tony Carrk, she broadly acknowledges her flaws as a candidate in several passages in the book. “I go back over my own shortcomings and the mistakes we made. I take responsibility for all of them,” she writes. “You can blame the data, blame the message, blame anything you want—but I was the candidate. It was my campaign. Those were my decisions.”

But when it comes to how these flaws contributed to the outcome, Clinton is torn. In consecutive sentences about her popular-vote victory and electoral-college defeat, she writes, “It’s hard to see how that happens if I’m hopelessly out of step with the American people. Still, as I’ve discussed throughout this book, I do think it’s fair to say there was a fundamental mismatch between how I approach politics and what a lot of the country wanted to hear in 2016.”

What Happened devotes many more pages to casting blame in other directions.

She reserves much of her ire for Trump. It’s no surprise Clinton believes the president is unfit for the presidency; she said it enough on the campaign trail to convince even a significant slice of his own voters that was true. And What Happened is full of jabs at his qualifications, competence and motives. “Trump doesn’t think in terms of morality or human rights,” she charges,” he thinks only in terms of power and dominance.” And, of his “bromance” with Putin, she says, Trump “dreams of Moscow on the Potomac.”

Clinton even goes after Trump’s voters again—some of them, anyway. In September 2016, she’d taken a lot of heat for referring to half of Trump backers as a “basket of deplorables.” She issued a half-apology on the campaign trail, saying she shouldn’t have put a number on the percentage of Trump voters who fit in that basket.

In the book, she moves back toward the original comment, perhaps further insulting all Trump voters by portraying them as either deplorable or incapable of understanding her. “I regret handing Trump a political gift with my ‘deplorables’ comment,” Clinton writes. “I know that a lot of well-intentioned people were insulted because they misunderstood me to be criticizing all Trump voters. I’m sorry about that. But too many of Trump’s core supporters do hold views that I find—there’s no other word for it—deplorable.”

Clinton also targets a series of Washington figures in a way that suggests that, as she writes in the book, she isn’t ever running for public office again.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, gets hit for “playing defense” for Trump on Russia. “I can’t think of a more shameful example of a national leader so blatantly putting partisanship over national security,” Clinton writes of the Kentucky Republican. “McConnell knew better, but he did it anyway.”

She rakes Comey over the coals for re-opening the investigation into her emails in late October—less than two weeks before Election Day. Siding with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Clinton writes that Comey had a responsibility to sit on information—emails found on a device belonging to Anthony Weiner, the scandal-prone husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin—until he could determine whether it was actually new or relevant. As it turned out, the FBI didn’t learn anything from the duplicates of Clinton emails.

“When you’re the head of an agency as important as the FBI, you have to care a lot more about how things really are than how they look, and you have to be willing to take the heat that goes along with the big job,” she writes.

And she delights in the legal predicament that Michael Flynn, the former National Security Adviser, finds himself in after he led chants of “lock her up” during the campaign. “There’s a certain poetic justice now in remembering how enthusiastic Michael Flynn was about sending me to jail,” she writes.

She doesn’t spare her primary rival at all. She paints Sanders as a quixotic candidate who damaged her but had no hope of becoming president himself. She says he promised to run an issues-based campaign, but “as time went on, Bernie routinely portrayed me as a corrupt corporatist who couldn’t be trusted.” And she plainly opposes the idea, favored by some liberals, that the Democratic Party needs to move further left to be competitive.

***

While Clinton seeks to exonerate herself and takes rhetorical shots at others in What Happened, she’s also more introspective than usual, opening a window into her thinking and her emotions at pivotal moments on the campaign trail. In a refreshingly earnest passage, she explains why she made a second bid for the presidency in 2016. “I ran for president because I thought I’d be good at the job,” she writes. “I thought that of all the people who might run, I had the most relevant experience, meaningful accomplishments, and ambitious but achievable proposals, as well as the temperament to get things done in Washington. … In short, I thought I’d be a damn good president.”

It’s an honest admission from a candidate that, fairly or not, was criticized for failing to be “authentic.” All serious candidates run because they think they’d be great at the job, but few state it so plainly as their reason.
The most dramatic moment in the book—and on Clinton’s side of the campaign—comes on Election Night, as she realizes she’s not going to be president.

“I felt shell-shocked. I hadn’t prepared mentally for this at all,” she writes. “There had been no doomsday scenarios playing out in my head in the final days, no imagining what I might say if I lost. I just didn’t think about it. But now it was as real as could be. … It was like all the air in the room had been sucked away, and I could barely breathe.”

And, though she writes that no one’s entitled to it, Clinton delivers an explanation of her relationship with her husband: “There were times I was deeply unsure about whether our marriage could or should survive,” she writes. “But on those days, I asked myself the questions that mattered most to me: Do I love him? And can I still be in this marriage without becoming unrecognizable to myself—twisted by anger, resentment, or remoteness? The answers were always yes. So I kept going.”

But it seems likely that the public debate over Clinton’s analysis of the race might obscure these more personal details—as well as the book’s most valuable contributions to the public record and Clinton’s own legacy.

One is a 50-page, point-by-point chronology of Russia’s involvement in the election and the Trump operation’s efforts to capitalize on it. That chapter—called “Trolls, Bots, Fake News and Real Russians”—puts it all in once place for the first time.

The second is a three-chapter run on women in politics, familial relationships between women, and her experience with the activism of the “mothers of the movement”—women whose children had died either in police custody or at the hands of law enforcement officers—who supported her. This is the section in which Clinton confronts the glass ceiling—the unique challenges women candidates face, her own role in the women’s movement and her hope that another woman will be elected president in her lifetime. It still haunts her supporters that so many women opted for Trump, particularly among late-deciding voters

Little of the post-election analysis revolved around gender issues in politics and society, and Clinton seeks to remedy that by focusing so much of her attention on their meaning—even going so far as to define the difference between misogyny and sexism in her mind.

Sexism is all the big and little ways that society draws a box around women and says, “you stay there,” she writes. “Misogyny is something darker. It’s rage. Disgust. Hatred. It’s what happens when a woman turns down a guy at a bar and he switches from charming to scary.”
Misogyny was very present in this last campaign, Clinton writes. “Exhibit A is that the flagrantly sexist candidate won. … A whole lot of people listened to the tape of him bragging about sexually assaulting women, shrugged, and said, ‘He still gets my vote.’”

“I know that for a lot of people, including a lot of women, the movement for women’s equality exists largely in the past,” Clinton writes. “They’re wrong about that. … It was and is the story of my life—mine and millions of other women’s. We share it. We wrote it together. We’re still writing it.” But, Clinton laments, “I never figured out how to tell this story right.”

She was unable to place herself—a pioneer among a path-breaking generation of women—in that historical context or to turn it to her advantage on the campaign trail. But, she writes, she didn’t really try because “storytelling requires a receptive audience, and I’ve never felt like the American electorate was responsive to this one.”

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The Man the Presidency Changed

Eight months in, it’s hard to argue that the presidency has changed Donald Trump.

The bombastic former reality television star hasn’t been sobered by daily intelligence briefings, or by North Korean nukes. In Houston, confronted with human suffering on an unimaginable scale, he mostly talked about himself. He continues to boast about his crowd sizes, his gilded Manhattan apartment and his golf courses. Other presidents were awed by the history of the house they inhabited—Trump called it “a real dump.”

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On the eve of the election, Barack Obama warned voters that the presidency doesn’t change a person. “Who you are, what you are, it doesn’t change after you occupy the Oval Office,” he said. “It magnifies who you are. It shines a spotlight on who you are.”

But a virtually forgotten American president was an exception to Obama’s rule. Like Trump, he was a wealthy New Yorker, disparaged by big-city intellectuals as unqualified, unfit and corrupt. Fellow Republicans were shocked when he landed on the threshold of the highest office in the land—but no more shocked than he was.

The majority of Americans viewed his ascension with dread, and leading newspapers feared for the future of the Republic. The Chicago Tribune lamented “a pending calamity of the utmost magnitude.” The New York Times called him “about the last man who would be considered eligible” for the presidency. Newspapers in Charleston and Louisville said he was a criminal who belonged in jail—or worse.

Chester Alan Arthur, the nation’s 21st president, surprised them all.

***

Arthur didn’t start out as a corrupt machine politician. As a young lawyer, he won the case that desegregated New York City’s streetcars. During the Civil War, when many were enriching themselves on government contracts, he was an honest and efficient quartermaster for the Union army.

But in the years following the war, Arthur’s quest for power and wealth led him down a darker path. He attached himself to U.S. Senator Roscoe Conkling, the all-powerful boss of the New York Republican machine. At Conkling’s urging, in 1871 President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Arthur collector of the New York Custom House, the largest single federal office in the nation and a valuable font of jobs and favors that was rotten with corruption.

When the Custom House fined merchants for violations, “Chet” Arthur took a cut. He lived in a world of Tiffany silver, fine carriages and grand balls, and had his Prince Albert coats and high hats imported from London. When an old college classmate told him his Custom House deputy was corrupt, Chet waved him away. “You are one of those goody-goody fellows who set up a high standard of morality that other people cannot reach,” he said.

Arthur held on to his lucrative post until 1878, when reform-minded President Rutherford B. Hayes, a fellow Republican, fired him.

But in June 1880, GOP leaders resurrected Arthur’s political career. When Republicans gathered in Chicago to pick their presidential nominee, James Garfield, a long-time congressman, upset former president Grant and emerged as the surprise choice. Party elders were desperate to appease Conkling, a Grant supporter, in order to secure his help in winning New York. The second place on the ticket seemed to be a safe spot for one of Conkling’s flunkeys. They chose Arthur, and the Republicans triumphed in November.

But on the morning of July 2, 1881, a deranged office-seeker shot Garfield in a Washington railroad station. Garfield survived the shooting, but he was mortally wounded. For months, as he lay dying in the White House, Americans prayed for their fallen leader and trembled at the thought of Conkling’s stooge leading the nation. Prominent diplomat and historian Andrew Dickson White later wrote, “It was a common saying of that time among those who knew him best, ‘Chet Arthur President of the United States! Good God!’”

Arthur had never coveted the presidency, and could not conceive of leading the country. When newspapers accused him of conspiring to kill Garfield, he avoided appearing in public, fearing his own life might be in danger. His friends worried he was on the verge of an emotional collapse.

Under siege, Arthur leaned on Conkling and his cronies from the New York machine. The New York Times acknowledged that Arthur’s loyalty to his friends was understandable, and had carried him far. But it warned that qualities praiseworthy in a private citizen or local pol could destroy a presidency. “If he is to prove equal to the great position he occupies he must know principles rather than individuals.” The Chicago Tribune suggested that Arthur could earn “the loyal and powerful allegiance of those true hearts now mourning for the death of Garfield,” but only “on one simple condition—that he be President of the Nation and not the chief of a faction.”

At the end of August 1881, as Garfield’s condition deteriorated, Arthur received a letter from a fellow New Yorker, a bedridden 31-year-old woman named Julia Sand. That letter, the first of nearly two dozen letters Sand wrote to Arthur, helped awaken the conscience of the man destined to become president.

“The hours of Garfield’s life are numbered—before this meets your eye, you may be President,” Sand wrote. “The people are bowed in grief; but—do you realize it?—not so much because he is dying, as because you are his successor.”

“But making a man President can change him!” Sand continued boldly. “Great emergencies awaken generous traits which have lain dormant half a life. If there is a spark of true nobility in you, now is the occasion to let it shine…Reform!”

***

As Arthur was poised to take over the presidency, America stood at a critical juncture, in the midst of what Mark Twain famously dubbed “The Gilded Age.” Rapid industrialization was creating vast fortunes—but also rampant waste, fraud and corruption. As the gap between rich and poor yawned ever wider, the Protestant ethic that had guided the nation since its birth was shunted aside in an orgy of speculation and consumerism. Financial titans such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jim Fisk and Jay Gould bribed legislators and siphoned government loans, land and subsidies even as they preached the values of self-reliance and a laissez-faire economy.

The Grand Old Party, the party that had saved the Union, was being corroded by greed and cronyism, dominated by political machines and bosses who enriched themselves at the public’s expense. Under the so-called “spoils system,” politicians doled out government jobs to loyal party hacks, regardless of their qualifications. “Where did the public good enter into all this maze of personal intrigue, this wilderness of stunted natures where no straight road is to be found, but only the tortuous and aimless travels of beasts and things that crawl?” the heroine muses in Democracy: An American Novel, Henry Adams’s 1880 book set in Washington.

The nation’s intellectual elite believed that without civil service reform, American democracy was doomed. They wanted to root out patronage and award federal jobs based on competitive examinations, not political connections or contributions. Now, after more than a decade of struggle, they watched in horror as Roscoe Conkling’s puppet prepared to bring the worst features of New York machine politics into the White House. It seemed unlikely, if not impossible, that Arthur would disavow the spoils system that had been the whole basis of his political career.

And yet, that is exactly what he did.

Vice President Arthur had not hesitated to use his position to help his New York cronies, and Conkling and his associates looked forward to reaping the benefits of his elevation. But they underestimated the impact of Garfield’s suffering and death on their old friend. President Arthur was determined to show the country he was no mere ward heeler.

In his first Annual Message to Congress—now known as the State of the Union address—the erstwhile party hack shocked the nation by proclaiming his support for civil service reform and asking for money to revive the moribund Civil Service Commission, which would craft rules for hiring, promoting and firing federal workers and oversee the exams given to aspiring employees. Congressmen from both parties rejected Arthur’s plea.

It took huge Republican losses in the 1882 elections, interpreted by many as a rebuke to machine politics, to change the mood on Capitol Hill. After the elections, Arthur acknowledged that party leaders often coerced government employees into making “voluntary” political contributions—the “assessments” he had enthusiastically collected as Custom House chief. He called on Congress to ban such contributions, and urged passage of the reformers’ civil service overhaul, which had been languishing in legislative purgatory for several years.

“One hears it said on the streets and in the hotels that the President has heard the verdict of the people and been guided by it,” one New York reporter wrote. Prodded by Arthur, Congress finally approved the reform bill. Arthur signed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act in January 1883 and faithfully implemented it.

Julia Sand continued to write to Arthur throughout 1882 and 1883. The president heeded much of her advice—and even paid her a surprise visit at her home at 46 East 74th Street to thank her for believing in him. Ashamed of his pre-White House political career, Arthur ordered most of his papers burned upon his death—but he spared Sand’s letters, which reside at the Library of Congress.

Arthur would not serve a second term. He had earned the enmity of his old machine buddies without winning reformers’ trust, so he had no natural base of support. He also secretly suffered from Bright’s disease, a debilitating kidney ailment that may have dampened his enthusiasm for serving another four years. In any case, the GOP did not nominate him in 1884.

By the time Arthur left the White House in March 1885, however, the public’s perception of him had been transformed. “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired from the highest civil trust of the world more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe,” newspaper editor Alexander K. McClure wrote.

In 1899, many of Arthur’s surviving friends gathered in Madison Square in Manhattan to dedicate a statute to the late president. The featured speaker was Elihu Root, Arthur’s personal lawyer, whom the president had tapped to be U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and who went on to serve in the administrations of William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.

Root began by recalling the summer of 1881—Garfield lingering on his deathbed, the strife within the Republican Party, the horror and rage many Americans felt when an assassin’s bullet put Arthur on the threshold of the presidency. “Dark suspicions and angry threatenings filled the public mind, and for the moment there was doubt—grave doubt—and imminent peril that the orderly succession of power under the Constitution might not take its peaceful course,” Root said.

But in Arthur, Root continued, “our ever fortunate Republic had again found the man for the hour.” Arthur recognized that the moment Garfield died, he was “no longer a leader of a faction, but the president of the whole people, conscious of all his obligations and determined to execute the people’s will.”

Some hold out hope that Trump will come to a similar realization. Last month, fellow liberals blasted U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California when she counseled patience and suggested that Trump could be a good president if he learned and changed.

So far, Trump’s reaction to criticism or crisis has been to return to his base, to draw sustenance from the hard core of supporters who propelled him to the presidency. Campaign-style rallies may make him feel better in the short term, but if he wants his presidency to be judged a success in the long term, he’d be wise to heed the lessons of Chester A. Arthur.

“For the vice presidency I was indebted to Mr. Conkling,” Arthur said to one New York crony who complained about his transformation in office. “But for the presidency of the United States, my debt is to the Almighty.”

Scott S. Greenberger’s biography of Chester A. Arthur, The Unexpected President, will be published by Da Capo Press on September 12.

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Legal group moves to challenge Trump’s Arpaio pardon

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio (right) is pictured with President Donald Trump. | Getty Images

The pardon of Joe Arpaio (right) by President Donald Trump, MacArthur Justice Center lawyers argue, “eviscerates this Court’s enforcement power…by endorsing Arpaio’s refusal to comply with federal court orders.” | Mary Altaffer/AP Photo

An advocacy group moved on Monday to challenge Donald Trump’s pardon of controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, alleging that the president’s move was unconstitutional because it undermined the power of the federal judiciary.

A public interest law firm, the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, sought to file an amicus brief in an Arizona district court, where Arpaio is seeking to vacate a conviction after Trump granted him a pardon last month. The brief was initially turned down by a judge on procedural grounds.

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Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, has been repeatedly accused of employing racist law enforcement tactics and mistreating inmates. A Justice Department civil rights investigation concluded that his department racially profiled Latinos, and Arpaio in 2016 lost a bid for re-election. In July, he was convicted of criminal contempt of court because he had continued to detain immigrants without sufficient reason after a federal court order told him to stop. Trump pardoned Arpaio in August, pointing to his “selfless public service.”

The MacArthur Justice Center moved to file in the case on Monday but was warned by Judge Susan Bolton that the motion would be denied in three days if it is not edited to adhere to court procedure.

The brief contends that Trump’s pardon of Arpaio violated the Constitution because “it has the purpose and effect of eviscerating the judicial power to enforce constitutional rights.” The MacArthur Justice Center lawyers argue that, while broad, presidential pardon power can not be used to undermine the judiciary’s ability to enforce the Bill of Rights or the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Arpaio pardon, the lawyers argue, “eviscerates this Court’s enforcement power…by endorsing Arpaio’s refusal to comply with federal court orders.”

The brief also takes issue with the breadth of Trump’s pardon, noting that the “text of the pardon is so broad that it purports to allow Arpaio to run for Sheriff again…and escape criminal liability for future contempt.”

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Hatch to decide on reelection by the end of the year

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Monday that he will make a decision by the end of the year on whether he will run for an eighth term in 2018.

“Right now, I tend to run again. But who knows?” Hatch said in a brief interview on Monday. “By the end of the year, I’ll make that determination.”

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Questions about Hatch’s political future flared again Monday following a report from UtahPolicy.com that said former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is preparing a run for Hatch’s seat should the senator retire.

Such speculation has been floating for months, though Hatch said in May that he had spoken to Romney and the former Massachusetts governor would not run for the Senate.

Hatch, 83, said Monday that he is considering “just about everything” in deciding whether to run for another six-year term next year. Despite the recent spate of retirements in the House, no senator has announced this year that he or she will forgo a reelection run next November.

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