Friday, June 02, 2023


Chris Christie plans to launch his doomed presidential campaign on Tuesday -- but even though he's at 1% in the polls, we continue to be told that he'll beat up Donald Trump in the debates the way he beat up Marco Rubio in 2016. I've questioned that narrative -- in our memory, Christie felled Rubio with one punch, whereas in reality Rubio sunk himself by robotically repeating his "Barack Obama knows exactly what he's doing" talking point even after Christie called him on it. But even if you believe Christie has the skills to hurt Trump in a debate, it's now looking as if there might not be any debates:
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ rage against CNN and MSNBC — along with former President Trump’s polling lead and distrust of Fox News — has created a deadlock over who will host the rest of the 2024 GOP presidential debates, and uncertainty over whether they'll happen at all....

Trump's campaign believes his opponents need the primary debates more than he does because they're behind him in polls. And Trump — feeling slighted by Fox News' coverage of DeSantis, has indicated that he's wary of the network hosting debates, two sources told Axios.

DeSantis, running second in GOP polling, has been pushing back against the Republican National Committee sanctioning a debate with CNN or NBC News, which are both salivating over the chance to host a 2024 primary debate, sources told Axios.
If Christie could sink Trump, DeSantis would be the principal beneficiary. It would be hilarious if DeSantis's "never step out of the right-wing bubble" campaign strategy helped lead to a primary campaign with no debates, and Trump sailed to the nomination unchallenged.

As for Christie, even if there are debates, he might not be allowed to participate:
... a showdown may not come to pass because of a proposed requirement that candidates must have at least 40,000 unique donors to make the first scheduled debate in August ― a threshold Christie, who had difficulty raising small-dollar donations when he ran in 2016, may not be able to meet in just two months.

... And a failure to hit the 40,000-donor mark in time to make the August debate stage in Milwaukee could, in turn, thwart Christie’s ability to raise his profile, resulting in a failure to make the proposed 50,000-donor threshold for the September debate in California or the 60,000 threshold for the October one in Alabama.
Christie really doesn't appeal to ordinary donors:
Raising money from lots of people in small increments ... would be a dramatic change in approach for Christie. Of the $8.7 million he raised in 2016, less than $500,000 came from small-dollar donors giving $200 or less, according to Federal Election Commission filings. In an October 2015 analysis by Common Cause, Christie ranked fifth from the bottom among the two dozen 2016 candidates for small-dollar fundraising.
Yes, because the only people who actually like Christie, apart from "liberal media" journalists, are Wall Street Masters of the Universe, many of whom live in his state.

Christie and his media admirers have been telling us for months that he's the only Republican with the courage to attack Trump. But that's no longer true. DeSantis is on the attack now. Sadly for him, it's not working -- according to a new Yahoo News poll, DeSantis's numbers have been dropping since he launched his campaign.

You can't beat Trump by attacking him. You can only beat him by making a persuasive case that you can own more libs than he can. DeSantis was the best positioned to make that case, but even he's falling short. If DeSantis's brutality as governor isn't enough to unseat Trump, frontal attacks won't help, either.

Thursday, June 01, 2023


What's sad and embarrassing about this Fox News story is that the principal figures really seem to believe that this time they'll finally persuade the non-wingnut majority of America to care:
A trove of photos from Hunter Biden's laptop has been made available to the public through a new website that launched Thursday.

The website — — will house almost 10,000 photos spanning from 2008 to 2019 and took months to complete, Garrett Ziegler, the founder of nonprofit Marco Polo, told Fox News Digital....

"The number one thing we're about... is truth and transparency," he said. "If the American people want to know what their first family is like, they're going to get it. And we're not going to be taking out photos that paint the Bidens in a good light." ...

Ziegler ... made clear that it is not a "hit job" against the Biden family.

"There's a picture of a letter that Hunter's daughter, Finnegan, wrote to, I assume, troops stationed overseas, like in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "It's an adorable letter. Finnegan's around 9 years old at the time, and it definitely paints the Bidens in a good light."
Yeah, it's just a database of newsworthy items that every civic-minded American should care about:
Of the many photos found on the laptop, Ziegler provided Fox News Digital with two never-before-seen photos from the laptop. One photo showed Hunter Biden cozied up to his then-lover Zoe Kestan in 2018. The other image — featuring an array of drugs and a condom wrapper sitting on a table — was from a text message conversation Hunter had with Hallie Biden — the widow of Beau Biden and former lover of Hunter Biden — the same year.
There's no partisanship involved!
"We're not Republican activists. None of us are registered Republicans," [Ziegler] continued.
Ziegler, of course, is a former aide to Peter Navarro, a top adviser to then-President Trump. On December 18, he escorted Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell into the White House, where they discussed the possibility of declaring martial law and using the military to seize voting machines. Ziegler was subsequently asked to testify before the House January 6 committee, and did not take the experience well:
A former Trump White House aide who met with the January 6 committee earlier this week went on a profane and sexist rant on a livestream after his testimony, where he railed against the lawmakers and attacked other witnesses, according to audio posted to his Telegram....

“They’re Bolsheviks,” Ziegler said in the stream, ... “so, they probably do hate the American founders and most White people in general. This is a Bolshevistic anti-White campaign. If you can’t see that, your eyes are freaking closed. And so, they see me as a young Christian who they can try to basically scare, right?”
Ziegler also [took] aim at Cassidy Hutchinson and Alyssa Farah — two female former White House aides who’ve openly spoken out against the Trump administration and its actions.... “The other young people in the White House are total hoes and thots like Cassidy Hutchinson and this Alyssa Farah hoebag, who are just terrible. I mean, they have no clue what they’re saying.”
Ziegler is a horrible political hack -- but why does he bother with the we're-just-disinterested-truth-tellers nonsense? Do he and allies still not realize that everyone outside their bubble concedes Hunter Biden's moral flaws but doesn't ascribe them to his father? Hunter is a screwup. Everyone knows that. No one cares, apart from right-wing rage monsters.


And then there's this story, which broke yesterday:
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) gleefully announced that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will be giving several pro-Trump pundits access to the January 6 footage previously made available to Tucker Carlson.

“I’m excited to share the good news that just as I promised the J6 tapes are being released!” Greene posted on Twitter. “Speaker McCarthy has given John Solomon, Julie Kelly, and a third outlet unfettered access to the J6 tapes, and their reporting on it starts tomorrow. This is the transparency the American people deserve and I look forward to their reporting!”
The transparency the American people deserve is, of course, equal access to these tapes by every news organization. But it's probably moot at this point -- investigators have mined the tapes for relevant information, and the right isn't finding much in the tapes that's new. Tucker Carlson certainly didn't.

John Solomon -- who fed Ukraine disinformation to Trump in collaboration with pals of Rudy Giuliani -- has published his first report on the January 6 tapes, and it's a huge nothingburger:
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has described having to evacuate a riotous Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 as traumatic. But Capitol Police security footage obtained by Just the News shows the long-time Democrat leader exited Hollywood-style from the home of Congress that fateful day with her daughter filming her as security officers tried to guide her through a secret safe passage corridor.
"Exited Hollywood-style"? What -- she left in a limo wearing haute couture and fuck-me pumps? No. She was wearing what you'd expect Nancy Pelosi to wear on the floor of Congress, and if her documentarian daughter was filming her, so what?
The video shows then-Speaker Pelosi was not in jeopardy after fleeing the breached Capitol chamber, because the footage shows no protesters or rioters penetrated the evacuation route.
Which would be a scoop if anyone had ever said that rioters penetrated Pelosi's specific evacuation route, but no one has ever said that. They were in the building, however, yelling for blood. It was in all the papers.

I think what's upsetting these folks is that Pelosi wasn't running like Josh Hawley.

What do these people think they're going to accomplish by mining pointless stories from this footage? Whose mind will be changed?

But someone thought it was a good idea to do this again, despite the failure of the Tucker Carlson tape handoff. The other named recipient is Julie Kelly, author of January 6: How Democrats Used the Capitol Protest to Launch a War on Terror Against the Political Right. She's a writer for American Greatness, where her columns have included "January 6 Was the Worst Incident of Police Brutality Since Civil Rights Era."

The third recipient of the tapes wasn't named yesterday. My guess is that the tapes were meant to go to someone connected to Twitter, but the right hack couldn't be lined up in time. None of these people will find anything new. They keep imagining that they'll change minds somehow, but it'll never happen.


As the United States government approached the debt limit, it appeared as if Republicans in Congress might be willing to burn the global economy to the ground so the GOP could rule over America's ashes. As it turned out, many of the best-known people identified with the radical right were easily bought off, and were more interested in their own careers than in burning anything down:
Jim Jordan and other key conservative firebrands have caused a fair share of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy‘s biggest headaches. But instead of leading the rebellion this time, they helped him quash it.

As the House Freedom Caucus was preparing to discuss whether to officially oppose the speaker’s bipartisan debt deal — a move that would potentially galvanize conservative opposition — Jordan (R-Ohio) phoned several fellow members with a request, according to a person familiar with the calls. The former chair of the group urged them to hold back, effectively giving conservatives who wanted to vote with McCarthy license to do so.

Jordan, a longtime McCarthy antagonist turned ally, almost got his wish. The group took no official position until hours before the vote, when most members had already made up their minds.

... The Ohio lawmaker spoke up in favor of the deal in private calls and meetings, including taking the mic at a closed-door huddle on Tuesday night, just hours after many of his fellow conservatives had spent the day trashing the deal.

... The backing from Jordan, along with other once unlikely conservative allies with virtually no record of supporting past budget deals like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), has proven to be a lifeline for McCarthy. He’s spent months, and in some cases years, taking steps to win them over, with a plum committee assignment here, a desired debt provision there.
They play at radicalism, but they're careerists more than they are radicals. (Their radicalism now looks like mostly a career move.) I'm not saying that they won't hurt people with their radicalism, but there are limits. They stopped short of upending the economic order that their party's plutocrat donors rely on.


This relates to one of the myths Donald Trump's supporters believe: that he really wanted to burn it all down when he was president (and should have!), but he was thwarted by appointees who weren't on board with his burn-everything-down program. And that wasn't his fault! He was an innocent outsider in Washington and didn't know who would be genuine MAGA and who would be a saboteur or a sellout! If he's returned to power, he'll appoint only true believers.

I think this might be true to some extent, but it also might be hard for Trump to find true believers, especially when he's not a true believer -- he mostly follows the ideological lead of Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and the right-wing media. While he seems like a standard-issue right-wing lout, he doesn't seem viscerally radical himself, exept about breaking rules to protect or aggrandize himself.

During his presidency he also listened to old-school Republicans and to Jared and Ivanka. I assume Javanka will keep their distance if he's president again, but he's likely to go back to taking the advice of people who are less-than-absolute extremists. So who knows how many norms he'll toss in the trash? I don't think he knows.

By contrast, Ron DeSantis knows exactly how many norms he wants to discard, and he has an eye for subordinates (Joseph Ladapo, Christina Pushaw) who are as radical as he is. There are probably limits to how many norms he can discard if he's president -- he'd probably make some mainstream appointments, too -- but I think he's more likely to leave America a constitutional smoking ruin than Trump.

We can disgree on that. But in any case, the ambition of Jordan, Greene, Massie, and others meant that the start of the revolution has been postponed, at least for a while.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023


Do you have any idea what Ron DeSantis likes to do for fun? We know he was a high school baseball player. Does he still enjoy playing the sport? Does he play softball, like a lot of other people in their mid-forties? Does he follow Major League Baseball? What's his favorite team? And we know he met his wife at a driving range. Does he still play golf? Do he and his wife ever golf together? If not, what do they do for fun?

Having said that, I'll quote Frank Wilhoit's well-known words about conservatism:
Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.
As I watch DeSantis battling Trump, I keep thinking about the word "bind" in a sense that has nothing to do with the law. I know that Republican voters like DeSantis's war on liberalism, which is why he's well ahead of Trump's other challengers in the polls, but there's something binding -- constricting -- about his version of conservatism. He uses the word "freedom" a lot in reference to Florida under his rule -- to Desantis, the state is “a citadel of freedom,” “freedom’s linchpin” and “freedom’s vanguard” -- but it never seems to be the kind of freedom that anyone would actually enjoy.

Trump rallies are parties. Trump dances to a mixtape of his favorite tunes. (Does DeSantis have any favorite tunes?) Attendees are encouraged to laugh at (and imagine hurting) liberals, journalists, and any Republicans who questions Trump's brilliance. When Trump fans weren't rallying in 2020, they were organizing boat parades and highway caravans (including one that dangerously harassed a Biden bus). There are Trump memes and merchandise items that aren't funny to the rest of us but are hilarious to his fans.

There's nothing like this in DeSantis World. Votes outside Florida must be thinking, on an unconscious level, If Florida is so free, why doesn't that freedom include ample opportunities to have fun at our enemies' expense?

Even a new Trump proposal that sounds like Stephen Miller channeling Joseph Goebbels seems as if it would be somewhat fun, on a kitschy level:
Donald Trump’s latest idea to enshrine American greatness is to throw the country “the most spectacular” birthday bash — one that will last all year.

In 2026, the U.S. will celebrate the semiquincentennial: the quarter millennial since its declaration of independence. To commemorate the anniversary, Trump is proposing a blowout, 12-month-long “Salute to America 250” celebration. In a new policy video, Trump calls for a “Great American State Fair,” featuring pavilions from all 50 states, nationwide high school sporting contests, and the building of Trump’s “National Garden of American Heroes” with statues of important figures in American history like Frederick Douglass and Amelia Earhart.

... Trump is proposing the creation of a task force on Day One of his presidency to work with state and local governments “to ensure not just one day of celebration, but an entire year of festivities across the nation starting on Memorial Day 2025 and continuing through July 4th, 2026.”
Shamelessly, Trump proposes that the national state fair be held in ... Iowa.
Trump suggests the event “could be” held at the Iowa state fairgrounds, a conspicuous suggestion that seems designed to appeal to voters in the first caucus state....

“My hope is that the amazing people of Iowa will work with my administration to open up the legendary Iowa state fairgrounds to host the Great American State Fair and welcome millions and millions of visitors from around the world to the heartland of America for this special one-time festival,” Trump said. “Together we will build it, and they will come.”
Will this actually happen if Trump is elected? Probably not. In all likelihood, he'll forget all about it. But even if this does sound more than a little fashy, it would at least be someone's idea of fun. (And I'm not rulung out that it could actually be enjoyable -- I've been to the Minnesota state fair and I had a pretty good time admiring butter sculptures and eating bizarre fried foods.) DeSantis doesn't embrace any kind of fun -- not even gun fun or country-music fun or Florida Man fun. No wonder he's losing.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Chris Christie's wealthy benefactors can do this, or they can just light piles of money fire -- the electoral consequences will be the same:
Allies of former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey have formed a super PAC to support him in the nascent Republican primary, as he makes preparations for a likely campaign kickoff in the next two weeks....

... Mr. Christie has become a full-throated critic of Mr. Trump, talking as a former federal prosecutor about the former president’s legal travails and describing him as a loser who can no longer command the crowds he once did. Mr. Christie’s candidacy is being watched by donors who either like what he’s saying or see him as the best opportunity to damage Mr. Trump, particularly from a debate stage.
Damage Trump in whose eyes? Republican voters' eyes? Maybe Christie could if he had any credibility with those voters. The problem is, they hate him. They hate him in a way they don't hate any other well-known Trump challenger, as a new Monmouth poll notes:
Republicans have overwhelmingly positive opinions of both Trump (77% favorable and 17% unfavorable) and DeSantis (73% favorable and 12% unfavorable). Among other announced candidates, two South Carolinians – Haley (47% favorable and 16% unfavorable) and Sen. Tim Scott (44% favorable and 8% unfavorable) – garner largely net positive reviews....

Opinion of [Mike Pence] is mixed, but he emerges with a net positive review (46% favorable and 35% unfavorable). Christie, on the other hand, receives a decidedly negative rating (21% favorable and 47% unfavorable), and is the only contender ... tested in this poll who gets a net negative score from the Republican electorate.
Maybe I'm missing something, but if a guy who's regarded positively by only 21% of the electorate attacks someone who's admired by 77% of the electorate, I'm pretty sure Mr. 77% will come out the winner, no matter how well-crafted Mr. 21%'s insults might be.

Stay out of the race, Chris. Preserve the last few shreds of dignity you have left.


We have a debt ceiling deal that didn't give angry right-wingers everything they want, yet Politico's Playbook tells us that Kevin McCarthy's job appears safe, at least at the moment:
... while many conservatives are hopping mad about the deal, they have not yet publicly threatened McCarthy — even as they rail against what they’re calling a “surrender” of the GOP majority.

Case in point: In an interview with Playbook yesterday, conservative Rep. BOB GOOD (R-Va.) blasted the agreement as being not “much different than what we could have gotten with a Democrat majority in the House.” Yet when asked about booting McCarthy, he held his fire: “I don’t know of anyone that’s talking about that. Honestly, I only hear about it when reporters ask me about it,” he said.

We heard something similar a few days ago, before the deal was unveiled, from Rep. ANDY BIGGS (R-Ariz.), a former Freedom Caucus chair: “Nobody is going to bring a motion to vacate the chair. I just can’t see that happening.”
But why isn't it happening? One reason, we're told is that "the GOP base simply isn’t up in arms opposing" McCarthy.
[John] Boehner and his successor, PAUL RYAN, saw GOP voters turn against them, which in turn put pressure on rank-and-file GOP members. That, however, isn’t happening right now.

In fact, McCarthy’s approval rating has jumped by 10 points among Republicans since he took the gavel, hovering at 66%, according to a recent YouGov/Economist poll.
Yes, but that poll was conducted in mid-May, before this base-betraying deal. So why isn't the base upset?

I'm looking at right-wing media sites right now, and there's no effort being made to stir up the base's anger because of this deal. The base is being riled up about other subjects -- on the Fox News site, two of the lead stories are about the shooting in Hollywood, Florida, and other top stories involve pronoun usage at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a furry convention in Florida that's gone adults-only in response to recently passed laws. At Breitbart, the lead headline is "Pride Month Preview: Queer Activists on Defense, Scrambling to Quash Grassroots Boycotts." (Yesterday, a story that briefly led Breitbart said the deal was very bad for Democrats.) Even Gateway Pundit is mostly ignoring the deal -- lead stories focus on Ashli Babbitt's mom (Babbitt is a holy figure at GP) and conspiracy theories about the guy who recently rammed a White House security barrier with a Nazi flag in his truck.

I assume that the Murdoch family and the billionaires who keep the other sites financially viable don't want McCarthy deposed or the deal seriously challenged, and the word has gone out that the right-wing media should keep quiet, focus on the culture war, and let the deal slide. So the rubes aren't angry about the deal because they haven't been told to be angry about it.

Maybe this moment would be different if Tucker Carlson were still on the air. In any case, what's going on seems like enforced quiet.

It seems obvious that right-wing billionaires think the rabble-rousing of the right-wing media is still a net plus for them: Ordinary people who have no economic reason to vote for pro-plutocrat Republicans just keep voting for them anyway because those Republicans agree with them on guns and trans people and CRT. As the billionaires undoubtedly see it, a few trans kids might be killed, a few red-state women with difficult pregnancies might be pushed to the brink of death before they can get medical treatment, and a few unwitting ex-cons in Florida might be sent back to prison because they were told they were entitled to vote and really weren't, but the messaging of conservative media won't cause anything really badto happen, like a serious disruption of corporate profits. If the debt deal goes through while the culture war distracts the GOP base, the plutes can say that everything is still working for them -- no matter what happens to the rest of us.

Monday, May 29, 2023


Pity the poor Masters of the Universe. According to The Wall Street Journal, in 2024 they might not have a presidential candidate crafted to their precise specifications:
With less than a year until the primaries, politicians’ wealthiest benefactors are sizing up the presidential hopefuls soliciting their donations. But many on Wall Street find the prospect of a Biden-Trump rematch unappetizing.

Wall Street likes Biden’s steady hand and cabinet picks like Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, but his aggressive stance on antitrust enforcement has turned off potential backers whose profits depend on a healthy supply of corporate deals. And while another Trump term could deliver the traditional Republican goodies of lower taxes and less regulation, financiers are worried that the former president’s unpredictability could wreak havoc on global markets.

“Everybody is hoping for a miracle,” said one senior deal-maker, one of more than 20 people that The Wall Street Journal spoke with to gauge Wall Street’s mood around the election. “Nobody wants Biden, and nobody wants Trump.”
Who would be a better candidate, according to these Wall Streeters? Well, since you asked, they think they would be:
Billionaire money manager Mario Gabelli and banker Ralph Schlosstein were among the guests at former Honeywell Chief Executive David Cote’s Carnivore’s Ball—a celebration of all things meat—that featured lively discussions of potential business-friendly candidates who could shake up the 2024 race. A few meat-lovers spent the evening urging Ray McGuire, the Lazard president and former New York City mayoral candidate, to run.
(McGuire ran for mayor of New York in 2021 and finished sevent with a whopping 2.7% of the vote.)
Jamie Dimon, whose name has swirled as a potential candidate for years, recently got an earful from a fellow billionaire who wishes the JPMorgan Chase CEO would run, according to people familiar with the matter.

(Though Dimon did say in a 2018 appearance that he could beat Trump, he acknowledged he would be a tough sell with liberal Democrats. He apologized for the remarks soon after. Last week, he told shareholders that he will remain at JPMorgan for the foreseeable future.)
Let's see: Dimon profited handsomely from a financial crisis his company helped create, a company that also did business with Jeffrey Epstein for fifteen years. Sounds like a dream candidate! It's a pity he won't run!

They can't understand why we won't acknowledge that they're the obvious choice to lead America. But don't feel sorry for them -- as I noted in the previous post, they have a proxy who's likely to run on their behalf:
No Labels, a group focused on supporting centrist lawmakers, has been steadily adding Wall Street supporters. Founded in 2010, the group took off in 2016 when it launched a coalition of super PACs with the help of a quartet of billionaires including investor Nelson Peltz and hedge-fund manager Louis Bacon....

No Labels is considering running a moderate like West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin as an independent candidate. And Manchin appears to be entertaining the idea....

“I’m not taking anything off the table...And I’m not putting anything on the table,” Manchin told CBS News in March when asked about a presidential run.
To what extent should Manchin be described as Wall Street's bitch? To this extent:
At this year’s Milken Institute Global Conference, a gathering the titans of finance pay a minimum of $25,000 apiece to attend, one attendee said Manchin seemed to share his cellphone number with anyone who would take it.
He's running. He'll be beaten like a rented mule. And Wall Street won't understand why.


I've been worried about the possibility that a No Labels presidential campaign could throw the election to Donald Trump, but Echelon Insights recently polled the presidential race with and without the likely No Labels candidate -- Joe Manchin -- and his impact appears to be minimal:

Without Manchin:
If the 2024 presidential election were being held today, would you vote for...

With Manchin:
If the 2024 presidential election were being held today, would you vote for...

1. Donald Trump, the Republican candidate 42%
2. Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate 41%
3. Joe Manchin, Independent candidate 9%
4. Unsure 8%
Manchin takes a few more votes from Biden than from Trump, but the race is a tossup either way.

It's just one poll, but it's very different from last summer's YouGov poll, in which a 4-point Biden lead (Biden 46%, Trump 42%) turned into an 8-point Trump advantage when Liz Cheney was added as a candidate (Trump 40%, Biden 32%, Cheney 11%).

Again, that was just one poll -- but I think it suggested to many Democrats that any third-party campaign would disproportionately hurt Biden. But Cheney, even though she's a very conservative Republican, became a hero to some liberals because of her anti-Trump advocacy. No liberal thinks Joe Manchin is a hero. If he's a hero to anyone, it's to billionaires, lobbyists, and people who who work closely with billionaires and lobbyists (like the folks at No Labels).

A Manchin presidential run could be somewhat dangerous for Biden. You need to remember that we're a 50/50 country -- Democrats nearly always win the presidential popular vote, while the two parties alternate victories in the overall House vote, despite the fact that far more Americans identify as conservative than liberal. Here are the numbers, based on Gallup's annual survey:

The simple explanation is that the majority of moderates vote Democratic -- which means that a third-party candidate perceived as a moderate will inevitably appeal to more Democratic voters than Republican voters.

But Manchin may not appeal to anyone.

The 9% figure is probably inflated -- polls tend to exaggerate the appeal of third-party candidates. (In the spring of 1980, John Anderson was polling at 19% to 25%; in November he won 6.6% of the vote. In a Washington Post/ABC poll conducted in June 1992, Ross Perot led the field with 36% of the vote; he finished third, with 18.9%.)

We don't know what will happen if Manchin (or some other No Labels candidate) actually enters the race. We don't know who the running mate will be, how many state ballots the ticket will be on, or how much campaign money will be behind the effort. But Manchin might be no one's idea of a president. His impact on the race could be insignificant. And in states where even a small Manchin vote could tip the balance, maybe Democrats will run negative ads in which they can finally portray Manchin as the corporate lackey he's always been. The only people who actually like unabashed corporate lackeys are old-school Republican voters, and Democrats would be happy to have them vote for Manchin.

So go ahead, No Labels -- run this guy.

Sunday, May 28, 2023


There's a debt ceiling deal, and the angiest right-wingers seem very unhappy.
Rep. Dan Bishop (R) tweeted a vomiting emoji to express his thoughts on the proposed deal, noting that RINOS, or Republicans in Name Only, were “congratulating [Speaker Kevin] McCarthy [(R-Calif.)] for getting almost zippo in exchange for $4T debt ceiling hike.”

... Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), meanwhile, said that he is “appalled by the debt ceiling surrender” McCarthy outlined Saturday evening.

“The bottom line is that the U.S. will have $35 trillion of debt in January, 2025. That is completely unacceptable,” Buck tweeted.
Congressman Chip Roy calls the deal "a turd-sandwich." Fellow House Republican Ralph Norman calls it "insanity." But we're being told that this is meaningless noise:
Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SC), who was a key participant in negotiations, hailed the agreement....

"Listen, there will be Freedom Caucus people who vote for this package. So when you're saying that conservatives have concerns, it is really the most colorful conservatives. Some of those guys you mentioned didn't vote for the thing when it was kind of a Republican wishlist — Limit, Save Grow. Those votes were never really in play," Johnson told CNN's State of the Union.
It's good to know that there's still a "governing wing" of the Republican Party -- or at least there is when right-wing extremism directly threatens the interests of financial firms, corporations, and billionaires. But I don't think this will go over well with the radicalized GOP rank-and-file.

This is an era when threats by the angry right have become routine. Several Target stores in Utah and Ohio have been the object of bomb threats because the chain sells trans-friendly swimwear for adults (not children, despite what the rage monsters believe). A Princeton study informs us that elected officials at all levels of government are facing increased threats, primarily from right-wingers. In the report, one "right-leaning" local official says:
“I thought [harassment] would be ultra-left, but it [turned out to] be ultra-right.”
If there are threats against McCarthy, or against his local offices in California, or against his top negotiators and their local offices, or (in the case of a close vote) against Republicans who vote for the bill, I won't be at all surprised. This is who we are now. And no, I don't expect that anything comparable will be directed at pro-deal Democrats by America's tiny far left. Lefties will be disgruntled. Righties will be enraged. That's how it works when the two groups don't get their way.
My last post was bad. I've taken it down.

Friday, May 26, 2023


Either Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis will win the Republican primaries next year, but Tim Scott might be winning the media primary. In The Wall Street Journal, Lance Morrow praises Scott while denouncing both Donald Trump and Joe Biden in GOP establishmentarian terms:
America is stuck—deadlocked, frozen, like the armies on the Western Front in 1917. One side is headquartered at Mar-a-Lago and has no ideas at all beyond revenge and gaudy vindication. The other side bivouacs at the White House and has far too many notions—not a few of them absurd, in a leftish way. Both armies are angry, full of sullen grievance. Fox and MSNBC lob ritual shells to and fro. Donald Trump and Joe Biden glare at each other across the cratered American landscape.
(Imagine looking at happy warrior Joe Biden and thinking "angry" and "full of sullen grievance" are the appropriate descriptors.)

Morrow thinks Scott could be the way forward, because Scott, Morrow tells us, is just so forgiving.
The key to Tim Scott’s presidential venture ... is in his temperament—his manifest goodwill. His policies are less important at this point than the miracle of his temperament. His conciliatory charm isn’t superficial but rather the product of spirit and character.

The only exits from rage are exhaustion and forgiveness. But sometimes a miraculous change of mood will do. Almost uniquely among American politicians today, Mr. Scott embraces a theology of forgiveness—that great mood-changer. Forgiveness requires humility, a virtue in short supply....

Forgiveness—a profound political transaction, if properly managed—seems to me the idea at the heart of Mr. Scott’s purposes.

Forgiveness breaks the deadlock. It enables escape from the past and opens the gate to the future. Forgiveness may bring with it a blessing of forgetting. The liberation from grievance is a gift of grace all around.

It would be fatuous to think that Tim Scott might turn American public life into the Peaceable Kingdom. It’s putting a lot on the man. On the other hand, he might. One can dream.
I know why Morrow believes this. In his campaign kickoff speech, Scott said:
We need a president who persuades not just our friends and our base. We need a president that persuades. We have to do that with common sense, conservative principles, but we have to have a compassion for people. We have to have a compassion for people who don’t agree with us.
But in the rest of the speech, Scott expressed neither compassion nor forgiveness for his politcal opponents. He thinks we're everything that's wrong with America. He said:
... today the far left has us retreating away from excellence in schools. Extreme liberals are letting big labor bosses trap millions of kids in failing schools. They’re replacing education with indoctrination. They spent COVID locking kids out of the classroom and now they’re locking kids out of their futures.

In Biden’s America, crime is on the rise and law enforcement is in retreat. The far left is ending cash bails. They’re demonizing, demoralizing, and defunding the police....

We cannot have innocent people at risk, police officers getting ambushed and attacked and seniors locked in their homes from the time the sun goes down, until the sun comes up. Joe Biden and the radical left are attacking every single rung of the ladder that helped me climb....

Our nation, our values, and our people are strong, but our president is weak....

America cannot be safe or secure if we sink into a cultural quicksand here at home....

I will be the president who destroys the liberal lie that America is an evil country.... I will be the president who stops the far left’s assault on our religious liberty.

... I’m the candidate the far left fears the most. You see, when I cut your taxes, they called me a prop. When I refunded the police, they called me a token. When I pushed back on President Biden, they even called me the N word. I disrupt their narrative. I threaten their control. The truth of my life disrupts their lies.
Where's the forgiveness? Where's the compassion?

I don't like the word "forgiveness" because it suggests that we're the villains and the right is blameless. I don't like the word "compassion" because it suggests that liberalism is an infirmity. (Poor dears -- they can't help themselves. They're liberals!) But I see nothing benign or conciliatory in this speech, or in any of Scott's utterances. All I see is the pledge that he'll try to talk people who aren't already believers into becoming fellow right-wing ideologues. That's what he's interested in, not compromise, not reaching across the aisle.

The decency bar for Republicans is set so low that even a culture-war speech like this can clear it.


We've all had a good laugh about Ron DeSantis's Twitter launch, but last night CNN examined what he said on Twitter and what he's been saying in subsequent interviews. Among his messages is a promise to accrue power quickly and use it maximally:
Doing so will require pushing the limits of the executive branch like never before, DeSantis has suggested in multiple interviews in the past 24 hours. He told conservative radio host Mark Levin that he had studied the US Constitution’s “leverage points” and would use his knowledge to exercise the “true scope” of presidential power.

“You’ve got to know how to use your leverage to advance what you’re trying to accomplish,” DeSantis told Twitter CEO Elon Musk during their conversation.
This, of course, is exactly what he did in Florida, starting in the transition:
He directed his general counsel to figure out just how far a governor could push his authority. He pored over a binder enumerating his varied powers: appointing Florida Supreme Court justices, removing local elected officials and wielding line-item vetoes against state lawmakers.

Then he systematically deployed each one.

... Mr. DeSantis’s willingness to exert that power in extraordinary ways has led him to barrel through norms, challenge the legal limits of his office and threaten political retribution against those who cross him.
You know the specifics:
He seized control of the state’s environmental protection agency, deployed the state’s police force in novel ways, created a law enforcement team to monitor voting, removed a democratically elected local prosecutor and orchestrated a takeover of a small liberal arts college.

DeSantis has treated state bureaucracies that previously operated independently as extensions of his executive offices. He has stocked state regulatory boards with like-minded political appointees, who have followed his lead in banning gender affirming care for minors and extending restrictions on school lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity. He has punished Disney ... for challenging him over those restrictions, and forced state lawmakers to pass a new congressional map drawn by his office.
When Donald Trump complained as president that he couldn't compel the attorney general of the United States to be his Oval Office Roy Cohn, we assumed it was because he's a criminal and an ignoramus who has no idea how the American government is expected to work. DeSantis knows precisely how the American government is expected to work, and he assures us that the Justice Department won't work the way it's meant to if he's elected:
He would dispel with the longstanding tradition that government institutions like the US Department of Justice operate independently from the president – embracing a philosophy that Trump often governed by but never articulated so succinctly.

“Republican presidents have accepted the canard that the DOJ and FBI are quote, independent,” DeSantis said. “They are not independent agencies. They are part of the executive branch. They answer to the elected President of the United States.”
We know that Trump has promised to fire thousands of career government employees who now have civil service protection, replacing them with loyalist hacks. We assume that this is a Steve Bannon/Stephen Miller pipe dream, and that in a second term Trump might not get around to it. DeSantis? He'll absolutely get it done:
Among his top priorities, DeSantis said, would be to “re-constitutionalize” the federal government, which he described as a plan to “discipline the bureaucracy” and agencies that he saic are “detached from constitutional accountability.”
DeSantis plans to fire the FBI director on "day one." He's vague about pardons for the January 6 insurrectionists, but he says he'll start using his pardon power almost immediately, particularly in cases of “disfavored treatment based on politics or weaponization.” If DeSantis is elected, he'll be Jim Jordan with presidential power.

And if there are constitutional questions about DeSantis's use of power, we know the Republican Supreme Court will back him nearly every time. That's why I believe that a DeSantis presidency would pose a greater danger to American democracy than a second Trump term.

One reason DeSantis might never be president is that he seems not to realize that he's supposed to portray his agenda as what he wants to do for the people. David Frum quotes previous presidential campaign launches:
Barack Obama expressed such a vision in 2007:
This campaign can’t only be about me. It must be about us. It must be about what we can do together. This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle, of your hopes, and your dreams. It will take your time, your energy, and your advice to push us forward when we’re doing right, and let us know when we’re not. This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.
George W. Bush hit the same notes in 1999:
We will also tell every American, “The dream is for you.” Tell forgotten children in failed schools, “The dream is for you.” Tell families, from the barrios of L.A. to the Rio Grande Valley: “El sueno americano es para ti.” Tell men and women in our decaying cities, “The dream is for you.” Tell confused young people, starved of ideals, “The dream is for you.” This is the kind of campaign we must run.
Even Trump says he's doing what he's doing on behalf of the people, or at least the MAGA people. Trump's message is that he wants to make America great; DeSantis's message is that he wants to make himself great.

I hope that's enough to keep him out of the White House, even if the Republican alternative is approximately as dangerous.