Friday, June 11, 2021

NO, TRUMP'S SPYGATE ISN'T A GAME CHANGER

People I respect are discussing this story as if it has the potential to Change Everything. I don't see it. I think most of America will just yawn:
As the Justice Department investigated who was behind leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, it took a highly unusual step: Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides and family members. One was a minor.

All told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman, according to committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry. Representative Eric Swalwell of California said in an interview Thursday night that he had also been notified that his data had been subpoenaed....

The zeal in the Trump administration’s efforts to hunt leakers led to the extraordinary step of subpoenaing communications metadata from members of Congress — a nearly unheard-of move outside of corruption investigations. While Justice Department leak investigations are routine, current and former congressional officials familiar with the inquiry said they could not recall an instance in which the records of lawmakers had been seized as part of one.
To politically engaged Trump critics, this is a big deal, of course. But to everyone else? Most of the public tuned out the Russia investigation a long time ago, and paid little attention to the Ukraine story. (Over the course of the latter story and the resulting impeachment, Trump's poll numbers actually rose somewhat.) The spying was in response to stories that were embarrassing to Trump, but the stories did involve leaks of classified information. To many Americans, it undoubtedly makes sense that Trump's Justice Department would want to investigate such leaks vigorously. And the people spied on are primarily members of Congress, at a time when 58% of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing (although that's down from 73% just before Election Day).

This won't cause the scales to fall from anyone's eyes. To many Americans, pursuing it will seem like a distraction from the government's real work. And the pursuit -- by Democrats who lack the GOP's personal viciousness and thirst for vengeance -- probably won't draw blood in any case.

As usual, I hope I'm wrong. But I'm convinced that this will mean nothing to most of America.

A FOX NEWS GOVERNOR IN MICHIGAN?

It's a GOP poll, so take it with a grain of salt, but...
If the election were held today, former Detroit Police Chief James E. Craig would defeat Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer – 45 percent to 38 percent – according [to] polling data ... released Wednesday by the Michigan Republican Party.

In that same poll, Detroit businessman John James trails Whitmer in a hypothetical match up -- 50 percent to 45 percent.

The poll [was] commissioned by the Michigan GOP and conducted by Competitive Edge Research and Communication Inc. ...
I'm sure this poll has a partisan skew, but even if James Craig isn't solidly ahead of Whitmer, it's striking that he does much better against her than John James, another Black Republican, who came within two points of beating incumbent Democrat Gary Peters for a U.S. Senate seat last year, and came within six points of beating Michigan's other senator, Democrat Debbie Stabenow, in 2018.

But John James isn't a Fox News regular. James Craig is.


Craig knows all the buzzwords, as he demonstrated in September:
His latest pop-in to "Fox & Friends" was to react to videos currently inflaming right-side media, of a mid-size U-Haul truck in Louisville unloading signs and "riot gear" to anti-police protesters in yesterday's reaction to the Breonna Taylor grand jury action.

Conservatives have siezed on the clips as evidence that organized forces are behind BLM and other protests in American cities.

Craig was on hand to agree, and called the scene evidence of outsiders stirring up trouble and a "Marxist ideology" at work.


This Fox News hit occurred a day after a widely shared Facebook post appeared claiming that the U-Haul was distributing weapons, and was paid for by an activist paid by George Soros's Open Society Foundations. PolitiFact quickly debunked those claims. Craig never mentioned Soros on Fox. However, he did say of the protest, "But it's coordinated. It's planned. And, not to mention, it's financed. The question is, who's financing it?"

Donald Trump is a Craig fan, as he told a Michigan interviewer in September:
“You have a great police chief,” Trump said. “I watch him. I really like him a lot. Say hello to him. I think he’s terrific. I think he’s just an incredible representative; he speaks so well about a very important subject, which is crime, and rioting, and all the things you see in certain cities.”
Can this get Craig elected? I don't know, but it's a problem for 2024 if Whitmer loses. Michigan's legislature is under GOP control. If a Democrat wins the popular vote in Michigan in 2024, it's an open question whether an all-Republican state government will award the state's electors to that Democrat.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

RUBBING OUR FACES IN IT

We know that Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch has made clear that he won't rein in Tucker Carlson's racist talk. Last night, Carlson rubbed our faces in the fact that he can be an on-air racist with impunity by bringing on an old-school racist from Fox's past:
Glenn Beck has ramped up attacks on former president Barack Obama in recent days, capping the whole thing off by retracting an apology he once made for calling Obama “racist.”

During a Wednesday night appearance on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Beck said, “I take my apology back. I was exactly right and I even stated it right. You are a racist if you believe in critical race theory. If you think that what Dr. Martin Luther King said — that he envisions a country that is seeing people for the content of their character and not their color — if you think that’s wrong, then yes, you are a racist.”




In July 2009, Beck called Obama a racist and said he had "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." Companies that removed their ads from Beck's show included ConAgra, Geico, Procter & Gamble, and Progressive insurance. Beck was defended by Rupert Murdoch, and he remained on Fox for two more years. But this was seen at the time as an embarrassment for Fox, and while Beck's show remained on the air he was never again quite as blatant in his race-baiting of Obama. In 2016, The New Yorker's Nicholas Schmidle interviewed Beck and wrote:
[Beck] once ... accused Obama of being a racist with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.”

That was the old Beck, he insists: “I did a lot of freaking out about Barack Obama.” But, he said, “Obama made me a better man.” He regrets calling the President a racist and counts himself a Black Lives Matter supporter. “There are things unique to the African-American experience that I cannot relate to,” he said. “I had to listen to them.”
So much for that.

The Murdochs know that we liberal elitist scum believe that the 2009 Beck pronouncement was possibly the most offensive moment in Fox history -- so Beck has now been brought back to reprise it. That's a big fuck-you to all of us. In 2009, for all its denials, Fox might have cared what we thought. Fox doesn't care anymore. The Murdochs and Carlson don't believe they have any reason to care, and they want to make sure we know that.

STOKING THE STAR-MAKER MACHINERY, GOP STYLE

To hear right-wingers tell it, the Black Republican lieutenant governor of North Carolina just had a breakout moment. RedState reports:
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson Gave a Must-Hear Speech That Will Set Your American Soul on Fire

Americans are a country of people that should be proud of who they are and what they’ve accomplished and despite what the left may say about you or this country, it’s one that not only needs defending, it deserves defending.

That was the message from North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson during the North Carolina Republican Party State Convention. It was a speech that went overlooked due to the appearance of former President Donald Trump and his speech, but it’s one that deserves to be seen and heard by any Republican, and indeed any American who has pride in their country.
So what did Robinson say?
“The greatest example that I saw, and witnessed it firsthand on television, was during 9/11. People running away from those burning buildings, running away in horror. We saw a policeman and fireman running to those buildings, basically running to their deaths to go help others because they saw trouble and they knew that they would need it.,” said Robinson.

“That’s got to be us this day right here,” he continued. “And what is the trouble? The trouble is the Biden administration that is seeking the turn this country into a socialist hellhole. The trouble is Antifa, who wants to roam the streets and beat you into submission. The trouble is Black Lives Matter that claims to care about the lives of black people but it’s turned a blind eye while violence in black communities are taking lives at a genocidalal of rate. They turn a blind eye!”

“That’s where the trouble is and that’s where we’ve got to run to,” he added....

“At Bunker Hill that was Americans. And at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg that was Americans. And at Iwo Jima, raising that flag on Suribachi, it was Americans. And at Pork Chop Hill, that was Americans. Khe Sanh, that was Americans. And on 9/11 there was America who ran towards those burning buildings,” he continued.

“That is who you share your heritage with. You do not share your heritage with a weak and ineffective people who cower at the sign of trouble!” he added.
Robinson went on to say:
It's time to put on our packs. It's time to fix those bayonets. It's time to get ready. We got a fight on our hands.
When I put all of that together, it sounds as if he's talking about using bayonets against the Biden administration, which would seem to be a ... problematic thing to say. But he doesn't appear to be in any trouble for saying it. Instead, he's being lavished with praise -- from Dinesh D'Souza, Dan Bongino, and Gateway Pundit, among others.

This tweet seems to have generated much of the excitement:


The tweeter is a GOP operative who's not the first person you'd expect to be praising a Black man.
Caleb Hull, a digital communications strategist popular with pro-Trump Republicans, made racist and inflammatory comments, including the use of the n-word, on a Twitter account he used as a video gamer in 2014....

Hull worked as director of content at Targeted Victory, an influential Republican marketing and advertising firm. According to FEC filings, Targeted Victory’s clients include campaigns for high-ranking Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, and powerful Republican entities like the National Republican Senatorial Committee....

In 2014, Hull made anti-Black, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBTQ remarks on a Twitter account ... with the handle @FlwTV...

Hull casually deployed the n-word on his @FlwTV Twitter account on several occasions and shared jokes in which the slur was the punchline. In one instance, he remarked that he was banned from a streamer’s chat room after he “spammed” the n-word “17 times.” Hull promoted racist tropes about Black people, specifically those involving watermelon and fried chicken, Black children without fathers, and slaves picking cotton....

Hull shared an image multiple times that depicts a piece of fried chicken hanging from a noose....

Other targets of Hull’s mockery included Muslims, special needs children, and Latinos.
On the other hand, Hull and Mark Robinson seem, in some ways, like brothers from different mothers.
On his Facebook page ... Robinson has lashed out at others and posted various insults; his posts disparaging transgender people, Muslims, former President Barack Obama, and African-Americans who support Democrats, among others, have drawn criticism.

Robinson accused people "who support this mass delusion called transgenderism" of seeking "to glorify Satan"; claimed that the movie Black Panther was "created by an agnostic Jew and put to film by satanic Marxist" that was "only created to pull the shekels out of your Schvartze pockets" (using a Yiddish slur for Black); called former President Obama a "a worthless, anti-American atheist" and posted "birther" memes; accused American Muslims of being "INVADERS" who “refuse to assimilate to our ways while demanding respect they have not earned.”; called Michelle Obama a man; and disparaged Joy Behar and Maxine Waters in crude terms. After the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, Robinson wrote that "Homosexuality is STILL an abominable sin and I WILL NOT join in 'celebrating gay pride.'" In 2020, Robinson asserted that the coronavirus was a "globalist" conspiracy to defeat Donald Trump, and dismissed the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, writing, "The looming pandemic I’m most worried about is SOCIALISM."
And yet Hull's commenters think Robinson has a very bright future. The only thing they can't agree on is how bright:


Even I'm not pessimistic enough to believe that a guy like this can win national office. Then again, who knows?

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

I WISH I BELIEVED

I'm generally in agreement with Yastreblyansky, but I don't share his optimism about the next few election cycles, or what comes after that.

Yas has high hopes for 2022, citing, among other things,
the end of Covid and, if it works out, the extraordinary job market and visible physical progress of the Biden double infrastructure program, which voters are going to be really aware of early on as it affects life in every community in the country, at least if Democrats manage to get the news out.
Republicans, of course, are portraying the current economic comeback as both tepid and problematic. Workers won't work for the wages offered because they'd rather sit on their asses and collect unemployment! Small business owners are struggling to fill jobs! Inflation is imminent! All of this framing is retransmitted by the mainstream media, which is as offended as the right by the notion that labor might win a few victories at capital's expense.

As for infrastructure, I've seen how bureaucratic permitting struggles can delay the start of big projects. I also saw how Republicans successfully attacked President Obama when signs were posted at infrastructure projects linking them to his stimulus plan.

Maybe the economy will be going at full speed by 2022 -- but Democrats could well agree to far less infrastructure than they want, and will probably be terrible at selling themselves as the party responsible for prosperity and jobs, while Republicans will do their usual first-rate job of creating clouds of suspicion around everything Democrats do.
This ought to be a midterm like 1934 (Democratic gains of 9 Senate and 9 House seats)! I'm really not kidding.
I've also seen others make comparisons to 2002, when Republicans gained seats in Congress. But both 1934 and 2002 were years when a crisis being managed by the party in the White House was ongoing. Voters rewarded FDR's party in 1934 because they thought he was dealing well with the ongoing Depression. In 2002, we still seemed to be under attack from terrorists, and voters thought George W. Bush's GOP was handling that crisis well. If by 2022 the pandemic appears to be well in the past, I think President Biden will get less political benefit than, say, the governors who seemed to be successfully managing the crisis in 2020. (Trump got no benefit in 2020 because few people thought he was managing COVID well.)
The places where they'll have passed the grotesque anti-voting legislation are going to be places that would inevitably have gone Republican anyway.
Um ... Georgia? We're hoping for a Stacey Abrams governorship and the reelection of Senator Raphael Warnock. Can all that happen under the new law?

And here's Yas's most provocative assertion:
... the Republican party that staged a failed coup attempt in 2021 is a dinosaur that has been dying since 1876.... Their 40% national approval isn't getting any bigger, and hasn't over the past four years. Democrats are growing, and ought to be growing more....

The fact that [Republicans] chose Trump as their representative in 2016—dumber than Reagan, less involved than Bush—was a sign of how far they've fallen. I understand that doesn't make them harmless, zombies are dead but they're still a problem. They can do a lot of damage on their way out, but they can't win. They don't have ideas and they don't have people.
Is "They don't have ideas" meant to be a conscious echo of Lionel Trilling? Seven decades ago, he wrote:
... the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.
Those "irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas" were enough to give us Reagan, Limbaugh, Gingrich, Grover Norquist, Fox News, George W. Bush, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, the Roberts Court ... in short, a movement that's had a stranglehold on American politics for forty years. Simple-mindedness is a feature, not a bug -- it was for Reagan, it was for first-term George W., and it got Donald Trump 74 million votes.

(And yes, I know that Joe Biden got 81 million. I just wish I could believe that another Democrat would have done as well -- say, Kamala Harris, who could well be the 2024 nominee, and who is becoming the latest in a long series of Democrats said to be widely disliked, the kind of conventional wisdom that feeds on itself, as it did for Mike Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton.)

Maybe I'm wrong about all this. Maybe Biden's popularity will sustain itself and spread to the rest of his party. Maybe heartland America will finally see the Republican Party as conspiratorial, maniacal, and extreme.

I just think it's unlikely. We're going to have to fight for every win in 2022 and 2024, and it will be a much tougher fight than 2020. But I hope I'm wrong and Yas is right.

DEMOCRATIC OFFICEHOLDERS ARE FECKLESS BECAUSE DEMOCRATIC VOTERS ARE NAIVE

Democrats in D.C. appear paralyzed right now -- they're engaged in futile attempts to negotiate a bipartisan infrastructure bill while they're unable to pass election reforms because of Joe Manchin's opposition to their main reform bill and because of his insistence, along with Kyrsten Sinema, on preserving the filibuster. What's wrong with Democrats? Why don't they fight harder? Why do they always try to appease obstructionists?

They do it because many of their voters insist. A commenter directs me to this story from NBC's Sahil Kapur:
New focus groups conducted by a prominent Democratic pollster warn that many voters "have trouble describing a clear positive vision of what the Democratic Party stands for."

The study ... led by Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners and requested by the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, indicated that the party needs to achieve more legislative victories or it could lose key voters in the midterm elections next year.
Lake's focus groups included "swing voters, who oscillate between parties, and Democratic surge voters, who need some extra motivation to turn out." A Democratic congressman, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, observed some of the groups.
Pocan ... said voters wanted the two parties to get along and find common ground — with a caveat.

"They did say they want us to work together, but they instantly moved on to, 'But you got to get things done,'" he said. "They're not going to give us a lot of latitude to say we couldn't get it done because of the Republicans, especially when Democrats are officially in charge of everything."
But this is an impossible demand. Republicans don't want Democrats to get anything done. Democrats can either negotiate or act -- negotiation with Republicans never leads to action, because it's meant to lead to either gridlock or capitulation. The only reason for Democrats to negotiate is so they can say -- particularly to voters like the ones in Lake's focus groups -- that they really, really tried.

Lake's memo on the focus group has more:
Swing voters ... expect Democrats to be using their power to get things done but want to see more cooperation across party lines....

Swing voters are looking for candidates who are less partisan, independently-minded, and can work across the aisle to get things done. They don't want to see anything they perceive as too partisan or extreme - words that these voters largely associate with politicians using divisive language, rather than with progressive policies....

While surge voters agree with many criticisms of Republicans presented in ... contrast messages, it is still important not to appear too divisve, critical, or negative. These voters want messaging that feels positive and solutions-oriented.
The only way out of this, I think, is for Democrats to continue negotiating with bad-faith actors while harboring no illusions (which I think is what President Biden is doing on infrastructure) while they gradually try to acclimate Democratic voters to more direct attacks on the GOP (something few Democrats are doing now). Republicans weren't always as feral as they are now -- they were trained to be this way by Nixon and Agnew, by Reagan and Limbaugh and Gingrich, by Fox News and Alex Jones. Democrats shouldn't try to turn their voters into GOP-style rage junkies, but they could urge them to be a bit angrier. It may be all the party can manage with only 50 senators.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

REPUBLICANS THINK THEY'RE BULLETPROOF (AND THEY USUALLY ARE)

A couple of days ago, Senator Marsha Blackburn posted this on Twitter:


This isn't true, strictly speaking. A short (80-psge) book by Fauci, titled Expect the Unexpected: Ten Lessons on Truth, Service, and the Way Forward, will be published by National Geographic Books in November, but Fauci didn't write it -- it will be be compiled from interviews Fauci gave in connection with a forthcoming documentary film.

What's infuriating to me about this tweet is that Blackburn -- who is one of a hundred U.S. senators, and thus also had great responsibility for what happened to this country during the pandemic -- wrote a book herself while Americans suffered.



Fauci's book will arrive -- we hope -- as the pandemic is diminishing to irrelevance in America. Blackburn's book was published in the fall of 2020, in the thick of the pandemic.

If you're a Republican, you never have to worry about being called on something like this. Unless you're an attention-seeking monster like Donald Trump or Marjorie Taylor Greene, you get away with pretty much anything you say or do. Democrats will be too timid to attack you. Few voices in the so-called liberal media will bother trying to demonize you the way you'd be demonized on Fox if you were a Democrat.

I give Democrats a hard time for how rarely they go on offense. But it's a lot easier to go on offense when you know you'll never have to be on defense.

THE DEATH OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: WHAT, ME WORRY? (updated)

Ross Douthat thinks a crisis of democracy is possible in America, but not inevitable. He says "it’s worth taking alarmist scenarios seriously," but he sees evidence that democracy isn't doomed.
... at the state level, the Republican-backed bills that purport to fight voter fraud are obviously partially sops to conservative paranoia — but as such, they’re designed to head off cries of fraud, claims of ballots shipped in from China or conjured up in Italy.
Does Douthat seriously believe this? Does he really believe that right-wingers will respond to Democratic wins in, say, Georgia or Texas by saying, "Two years ago, I would have assumed the Democrats won by fraud, but we tightened up all the laws and they beat us anyway, so I guess they won fair and square"? That's preposterous. Right-wing laws are like heroin -- they kill the craving for more of the same only temporarily. Even after a big tax cut under a Republican president, right-wingers will never say that tax rates are fine where they are; it's always necessary for them to go lower. No matter how abortion is restricted, there are always more restrictions that need to be imposed. No matter how much gun laws are loosened up, they can always be made looser.

If Raphael Warnock wins reelection to the Senate, or Stacey Abrams wins the governorship, or if either these candidates merely appears to be competitive as the votes are being counted, that will be all the proof needed that Republicans failed to do enough to prevent fraudulent Democratic votes from being recorded. (To Republicans, "fraudulent Democratic votes" is redundant, of course.)

Douthat writes:
Undoubtedly a lot of Republican primary candidates will run on Trump-was-robbed themes in the next election cycle; undoubtedly a few more Marjorie Taylor Greene-ish and Matt Gaetzian figures will rise in 2022. But the key question is whether Trump and his allies will be able to consistently punish, not just a lightning rod like [Georgia secretary of state Brad] Raffensperger or the scattering of House Republicans who voted for impeachment, but the much larger number of G.O.P. officials who doomed the #StopTheSteal campaign through mere inaction — starting with Republican statehouse leaders in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona and moving outward through the ranks from there.
Douthat's argument is that most Republicans didn't assist Trump in his efforts to steal the election in 2020, and it's quite possible they won't in 2024, because only a few high-profile Republicans are on a MAGA hit list.

But let's look at one of those "Republican statehouse leaders," Michigan's Senate majority leader, Mike Shirkey. He didn't try to help Trump steal the election, even after visiting the White House; a couple of weeks after that visit, he said, "We have not received evidence of fraud on a scale that would change the outcome in Michigan."

He said that in December. By February, he was describing the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as "a hoax" and "staged." Shortly afterward, he told a radio interviewer that “Too many dead people voted" in Michigan in 2020 "and there was too much confusion at absentee counting boards," although he still conceded that Trump Biden won legitimately.

Douthat would argue that Shirkey is making Trumpist noises without doing anything concrete to try to alter the 2020 results or the results of future elections. But in 2022, the pressure will be on these folks in real time, not weeks or months later. The MAGA extremists won't initiate "audits" long after the certification process ends, but well before. They'll proclaim that they see evidence of fraud as soon as early voting starts -- and election officials who want to continue winning GOP votes will have to start responding before Election Day.

And also note that future GOP vote suppression will be like past GOP vote suppression, but on steroids -- even more polling place closures, even more voter roll purges, even more (and more aggressive) challenges by partisan poll watchers. The goal of these efforts will be to ensure that Democrats never develop a lead in any key race. There'll be outrage if Republicans try to reverse what every news organization describes as a Democratic victory, but if enough Democratic votes are never cast, or are deemed fraudulent on or before Election Day, many people won't consider it theft.

Maybe Douthat is right and this isn't inevitable. But it seems crazy to expect the guardrails to hold.

*****

UPDATE: Responding to Douthat's claim that there's a great deal of resistance to "stop the steal" talk among Republican members of Congress, Nate Cohn writes:


He's right, and I think it's quite possible that this will be a problem in several key states. It won't be an isolated event.

Monday, June 07, 2021

BOOB-BAIT FOR THE BUBBAS -- AND FOR TRUMP

One reason I believe reports that Donald Trump thinks he'll be reinstated as president in August is that he's just as credulous as the average consumer of right-wing "news" -- he'll believe whatever he's told by conservative sources, and the more preposterous the pronouncement, the savvier he thinks it must be.

Case in point: this story from a forthcoming book on the 2020 campaign by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender:
... Bender writes that Trump held back on focusing his firepower on [Joe] Biden during the primary stage of the election because he was convinced that the Democratic Party was scheming to switch out now president Biden for a different candidate—such as Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama—over the summer. The source of this conspiracy theory, per Bender, was Dick Morris, a former Clinton White House adviser who was “quietly advising Trump” last year. “Dick Morris told Trump that Biden was too old and too prone to gaffes to be the nominee,” Bender writes, while others in Trumpworld felt Biden would exit the race and be replaced by someone else if Trump began bashing him too hard.
Dick Morris shouldn't get all the blame for this "conspiracy theory." Quite a few other commentators believed it -- or at least they said they did in order to stir up trouble.

In May of 2020, Douglas MacKinnon, a staffer in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses, wrote this for The Hill:
Some Democrats tell me they fear that Biden’s political survival is getting more problematic with each passing day. They cite three main issues. The first is their concern that an allegation of sexual assault leveled against Biden by former staffer Tara Reade won’t go away anytime soon....

Next, they worry that another shoe could drop regarding questions related to Biden’s son Hunter and his business dealings. Lastly, some Democrats are concerned about Biden’s age and possible cognitive issues....

For those reasons, and a few more, might we envision Biden being privately talked into retiring from the race or voluntarily doing so himself? ...

Who might be in consideration to become the new nominee — and who would be selected as the vice presidential running mate? ... one particular, truly out-of-the-box combination stops the discussion in its tracks: Hillary Clinton as the nominee and Barack Obama as her running mate.
No, really, he wrote that.

This ran two days after another Hill opinion writer, Liz Peek, a longtime Fox News contributor, published a column titled "As Biden Struggles, Hillary Waits for the Call."

And then there was Victor Davis Hanson:
A host of Democratic donors and operatives would like Biden to disappear, clearing the way for a replacement such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, failed 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton or former first lady Michelle Obama.

But even if Democrats know why Biden must go, they haven’t a clue about when or how.
This idea went global. Here's a segment from a Sky News Australia broadcast in June 2020:


Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is plotting to make a comeback because presumptive nominee Joe Biden is “seriously senile,” according to Sky News contributor John Ruddick.

“With senility, unlike a lot of other afflictions, you only get worse, you don’t get better,” Mr Ruddick told Sky News host Chris Smith....

“Hillary Clinton is the biggest political animal in the last 100 years; she’s four times the political animal than Richard Nixon was”.

“I believe Hillary Clinton is plotting to make a comeback because Joe Biden is seriously senile.”
English-language news sites based in China and Italy also considered the possibility that Clinton or Obama would replace Biden, but rejected it.

And here's the New York Post in April 2020 claiming that Democrats wanted to replace Biden on the ticket with Andrew Cuomo, according to "poll results shared exclusively with The Post." (The poll was conducted by the Club for Growth.)

Some people on the left discussed dumping Biden in the spring of 2020 -- Alex Pareene in The New Republic, Lyz Lenz in The Washington Post. But mostly it was right-leaning pundits making mischief while trying to appear savvy to the gullible.

Donald Trump was one of the gullible. As he might have put it, many people were saying Biden would be replaced. That doesn't mean he should have believed it.

MURDOCH'S COVID EXPERTS

Yesterday, the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed titled "The Science Suggests a Wuhan Lab Leak." The op-ed was cited in an editorial in Rupert Murdoch's New York Post and in a Fox News story ("‘Damning’ Science Shows COVID-19 Likely Engineered in Lab: Experts").

The authors of the piece were Steven Quay and Richard Muller. Who are they?

Neither is a virologist. Quay is a doctor, entrepreneur, and self-promoter who runs a company called Atossa Therapeutics focused on breast cancer treatments. He repositioned himself as a COVID-19 expert and wrote a quickie book called Stay Safe: A Physicians Guide to Survive Coronavirus, later retitled COVID-19 Survival Manual. It does not seem like serious work:


Amazon pulled the book from its Kindle store at one point last summer, before putting it back on sale.

Quay is a firm believer in "one weird trick" medicine:


And here's the home test he recommends for diagnosing COVID:


Sure, that's all you need to do! Who needs lab work?

Richard Muller is a physicist, not a doctor or a virologist. He was once a well-known (and Koch Foundation-funded) climate change denialist. He changed his mind -- but went on to become an advocate for natural gas and fracking.
“Well, I totally don’t support the old kind of fracking, but I think clean fracking — in which you just fine the hell out of the companies if they spill anything or upset the water tables, they can fix it up. Compared to developing really cheap solar, developing really clean fracking, I think, is relatively straightforward.”
Just fine them! Yeah, that'll work.

So there they are: Murdoch's totally trustworthy experts the origins of COVID-19.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

JOE MANCHIN'S ONLY ENDGAME IS JOE MANCHIN'S REELECTION

In the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Joe Manchin writes:
... congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials.

Democrats in Congress have proposed a sweeping election reform bill called the For the People Act. This more than 800-page bill has garnered zero Republican support. Why? ...

The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen....

I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.
If you're concerned that criticizing him for this could inspire him to switch parties and throw full Senate control to the Republicans, don't worry. He'll never do that. If he leaves the Democratic Party, he'll easily lose a primary in 2024 to someone who never deviates from the GOP/Trump party line. (Manchin has voted with the Republicans a lot, but half the time he votes with the Democrats. That would drop to approximately 0% under Manchin's inevitable GOP replacement.) So attack him all you want. It won't hurt his feelings, and he'll wear the attacks as a badge of honor -- the way Susan Collins does in Maine -- when he runs as a centrist on the Democratic line again.

But what's his endgame? What does he want? I think he just likes being seen as The Last Bipartisan Man -- it serves him well electorally, and it makes him feel heroic when he looks in the mirror every morning. And yes, blocking the limits on fat-cash cash in the For the People Act undoubtedly endears him to well-heeled contributors.

As for what happens to his party, or to Joe Biden's presidency: I don't think he cares. Mostly this is narcissism -- he cares primarily about preserving his own career. In part it's because he's believe his actions should reflect the dominant Washington belief system of the past forty years: that Republicans should be the party that controls America, because Democrats (himself excluded) aren't "real" Americans. (Somehow, Jon Tester and Sherrod Brown -- Democratic senators from states that are also solidly Republican -- don't feel the need to do this.)

Manchin, in his op-ed, splits the difference by reminding us that he supports the Democrats' other big election bill:
The Voting Rights Act ... was monumental in the fight to guarantee freer and fairer elections in the United States. Since its original passage, it has been reauthorized with overwhelming bipartisan votes five separate times. In addition, there is bipartisan support to pass the latest iteration of this legislation, the rightfully named John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would update the formula states and localities must use to ensure proposed voting laws do not restrict the rights of any particular group or population. My Republican colleague, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, has joined me in urging Senate leadership to update and pass this bill through regular order. I continue to engage with my Republican and Democratic colleagues about the value of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and I am encouraged by the desire from both sides to transcend partisan politics and strengthen our democracy by protecting voting rights.
So Manchin wants to pass this "through regular order," which means sixty votes will be needed to overcome the automatic GOP filibuster. Ten Republicans are needed, but Manchin cites only one who's on board with passing this bill.

Jamison Foser is right:


Maybe if you asked him in confidence, Manchin would say: Democrats have two big election bills. In a fifty-fifty country with a fifty-fifty Senate, the passage of one of the bills through regular order is the system working as it should -- plus it gives me cred in my Republican state as a bridge-building Democrat. The system works.

But Manchin won't try to make the system work, will he? There won't be more than four of five GOP votes to break the filibuster on the VRA. Put in some effort, senator, or step aside and let the Democrats have the powers the voters gave them.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

DID DONALD TRUMP JR. REALLY THREATEN ANTHONY FAUCI ON INSTAGRAM?

Vox's Aaron Rupar tweeted this last night:


The message in the image reads,
I'M GONNA JUST JUMP OUT AHEAD ON THIS AND SAY I DON'T THINK FAUCI KILLED HIMSELF
Many of Rupar's followers interpreted this as a death threat.


I speak wingnut, and I assure you it's not a death threat. It's a conspiratorial prediction of a violent act by our side: The libs killed Jeffrey Epstein so he wouldn't spill the beans about their evil pedophile network that includes all the powerful liberals in the world and no conservatives, and the libs will do the same thing to Fauci soon to prevent him from spilling the beans about their evil plot to unleash the China virus in order to bring down Donald Trump.

This is what GOP rank-and-file voters believe. They believe we want to destroy America. They think there's no bottom to our depravity.

This is from the newsletter of Richard Viguerie, who pioneered the direct-mail tactics Republicans used starting in the 1960s:
... while the debate over the “lab leak theory” is suddenly new to viewers of CNN, MSNBC and subscribers to the New York Times and Washington Post, from the beginning there has been no debate on this among honest intelligence professionals and Communist China watchers.

The debate there has been, was the “lab leak” an accident or intentional, and once the virus was outside the lab, were the actions of the Chinese Communist government incompetent or intended to spread the virus and maximize the damage to the West?

As we pointed out in our April 3, 2020 article “Left Moving From Proof Of Concept To Execution On Plan To Bring Down America” the COVID pandemic provided a near-perfect proof of concept to the Chinese Communists on how to conduct a stealth bio-warfare attack on the West.

And we don’t need to read the minutes of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee to know the COVID virus was engineered – we now have Dr. Fauci’s email to prove it.

What’s more, it is clear the evidence the virus was engineered was known and discussed on the inside but kept from the public through evasion and outright lies and suppression of the information by the establishment news media and social media platforms.
That's what Donald Trump Jr. believes. That's what they all believe. They think Fauci conspired with the Chinese to destroy America -- to the right, defeating President Trump was the key to destroying America -- and while their brave truth-telling is now bringing the facts of this sinister plot to light, we still have an evil plan to disappear Fauci and cover up the murder, in the desperate hope that we can prevent the full story from being told.

I'll give Oliver Willis the last word.