Tuesday, December 31, 2019


I wish I shared Ezra Klein's confidence about the possibility that Joe Biden might pick a Republican running mate:

I can see that saying this might be a shrewd move. But when has Joe Biden ever been shrewd?

If Biden's old friend John McCain were alive and well, don't you think Biden would at least weigh the possibility of running with him? I assume it wouldn't happen even under those conditions, for several reasons: McCain, even in good health, would be an unacceptably old running mate for the elderly Biden; also, McCain would probably have returned to the fold and become a good, Trump-supporting Republican by now.

It would also be nice to believe that Biden means what he says about his own positions and priorities:
"Whoever I would pick for vice president, and there's a lot of qualified women, there's a lot of qualified African-Americans. There really truly are. There's a plethora of really qualified people. Whomever I would pick were I fortunate enough to be your nominee, I'd pick somebody who was simpatico with me, who knew what I, what my priorities were and knew what I wanted to," Biden said in Exeter on Monday. "We could disagree on tactic, but strategically we'd have to be in the exact same page."
I want to believe he'd rather pick Stacey Abrams or Kamala Harris than John Kasich or Jon Huntsman. But I'm not confident. What are his priorities, beyond the restoration of a pre-Trump order?

I know he's running on a platform that's incrementalist but reasonably liberal. He's imagining a Republican who could get on board with a public option, net-zero emissions by 2050, DACA and comprehensive immigration reform, an assault weapons ban and universal background checks, and so on -- but no such Republican exists. (When asked about running with a Republican, he said, "The answer is I would, but I can't think of one now.")

I think we're saved from this because no Republican, even the ones who position themselves as mavericks, would meet him even partway. But I wish I didn't believe he's considering the idea.

Monday, December 30, 2019


I'm not a fan of America's presidential nominating process, but David Leonhart's assessment of the process is flawed.
It has come to resemble a reality television show, in which a pseudo-scientific process (polls plus donor numbers) winnows the field. The winner is then chosen by a distorted series of primaries and caucuses: The same few states always get outsize influence, and a crude, unranked voting system can produce a nominee whom most people don’t want.

No wonder the current president is a reality-television star, not to mention the most unfit occupant of the office in our country’s history. “The victory of Donald Trump in 2016 is best understood as a failure of the process,” the political scientist Jonathan Bernstein has written, “and a failure of the Republican Party to prevent an outsider from taking its presidential nomination — the most important thing that U.S. political parties have.”
But Trump didn't win the nomination because early states have outsize influence -- he went on to win states in the North, South, East, and West. He won rural states and urban states. And whatever you may think of the system that produced him, he turned out to be a nominee most Republicans, at least, were very glad to have -- he's extraordinarily popular within his party, he won the presidency for the party after two straight losses, and he might win again. It pains me to say it, but this is a democracy, so I'd contend that the system worked. The real crisis is whatever happened to GOP voters over the past couple of decades to make the notion of a Trump presidency so appealing to them.
In other democracies, political parties have more sway in selecting the nominee, and voters then choose among the major nominees....

When voters are given the dominant role in choosing a nominee — as with primaries here — only an unrepresentative subset tends to participate, which skews the process. Party leaders, on the other hand, have a big incentive to choose a broadly liked candidate.
But in the recent British elections, the candidates for prime minister were chosen by the parties -- and the result was the same as in the U.S. in 2016: a broadly disliked candidate from the right defeated a broadly disliked candidate from the left.
The first change should be to the debates. The candidates’ electoral history and qualifications currently count for nothing. The 2020 Democratic field, for example, has included four two-term governors, all of whom have been excluded from debates despite a track record of winning votes and governing successfully. In their place have been candidates, like [Andrew] Yang, who managed to crack 4 percent in a few polls.

It makes more sense for only the true polling leaders to be guaranteed debate slots. Beyond them, the party could set aside at least one spot for a governor and perhaps one for a senator from a large state or swing state.
So there should have been quotas for participation in the debates, all because two uncharismatic moderates (Steve Bullock and John Hickenlooper), an uncharismatic liberal (Jay Inslee), and a late entrant no one seems to want in the race apart from a few plutocrats (Deval Patrick) didn't get enough screen time? (All except Patrick participated in at least one debate.)

It's bad that the last round of debates featured no candidate who was black or Hispanic, but at least the polling and fundraising criteria suggested a popular mandate. How would it have looked if a higher-polling non-white candidate failed to make a debate while a lower-polling white male got in thanks to a quota?

I think this is a good recommendation:
It’s also past time to end the special treatment that Iowa and New Hampshire receive, by always voting first.... The primary calendar should instead rotate every four years, with the first states always including a mix of states: big and small, young and old, urban and rural, coastal and heartland.
And maybe the party should customize the primary schedule based on what it believes it needs to do to win the next election. I'd have no problem with bumping Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to the front of the schedule this year -- Democrats need to win them in 2020, and the first two, at least, are a much better mix of rural and urban, white and non-white, than Iowa and New Hampshire.

But I'd rather see a much shorter primary season -- a year and a half is preposterous, and absurdly expensive. I'd appreciate candidates who can make a sacrifice to help the cause -- maybe either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren should drop out to give the remaining candidate a shot at beating Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg; maybe Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie should have chosen one of their number to fight on against Trump in 2016, while the others withdrew for the greater good.

But ultimately I don't see an ideal primary process. Even giving party leaders a somewhat greater influence would smack of elitism and the "deep state." Would Leonhardt really want Democrats to go into 2020 -- running against Trump and, probably, a Jill Stein-like lefty candidate -- with that burden?


This is how the Texas church shooting looks to a local TV reporter and some local cops -- and to most of Red America:

Two people are dead in that incident in addition to the shooter. To the right, that's a good outcome. I believe much of the right would rather have that outcome in every shooting incident than have fewer shooting incidents -- say, the level of shooting incidents there are in European countries, or Canada, or Japan, or Australia -- because if fewer murders mean fewer guns, they prefer more murders. Plus, the sin/punishment cycle in the church shooting pleases them. They'd rather experience vicarious vengeance against an evildoer than have less evil.

I wonder if they know that in the stabbing incident at the Hanukkah party in Monsey, New York, the attendees also fought back -- though not with guns.
... “I grabbed an old antique coffee table and I threw it at his face,” Mr. Gluck said.

On Sunday, members of the Hasidic community said they took some solace in the way people at the Hanukkah party did whatever they could to repel the attacker, with some throwing furniture at him.

“People inside fought to stop him,” said Rabbi Yisroel Kahan, who is friends with Rabbi Rottenberg and said he had spoken to those who were in the home. “It was very heroic of them. They didn’t just let this happen — they tried to defend themselves.”
The stabbing incident was horrific, but so far, no one has died. If alienated men engaging in rage-induced violence is the national pastime, it's less horrible if it's done with weapons other than guns.

Glenn Reynolds has weighed in -- yes, Instapundit still exists -- and I'm sure it won't surprise you that his reaction is the opposite of mine.
BUY A GUN: Jews Are Going Underground: A month of terrible anti-Semitic attacks culminated with a stabbing yesterday of multiple people at a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York.

Wait, did I say buy a gun? Buy several. Query: At what point can President Trump invoke his power under the Civil Rights statutes and the Insurrection Act to declare that New York authorities are incapable of controlling their streets, and send National Guard troops to do so? And is his authority broad enough to suspend New York gun laws so that citizens can arm themselves? (Spoiler: Probably).
I assume Reynolds is referring to New York State, not New York City -- the Monsey attack happened well outside the city limits -- so I'll remind him that in 2018 our gun control state had a murder rate per 100,000 population of 2.9, while the rate in Tennessee, his home state, was 7.4. (The rate in New York City is approximately 3.6.)

The gunners' fantasy is that you can greatly expand access to guns while arming only good people. Maybe that's an oversimplification. Perhaps they merely believe that if you make guns more available, the increase in the rate at which good people acquire them will exceed the increase in the rate at which bad people acquire them. I have no idea why that would be the case, but I can't see any other explanation for the gunners' faith in gun proliferation. If it's not that, they must prefer the vigilante killing of murderers to a decrease in murder.

Sunday, December 29, 2019


I don't want Mike Bloomberg to be the Democratic presidential nominee, but I'm glad that he's out there spending boatloads of money on advertising that's specifically anti-Trump:
On Facebook and Google alone, where Mr. Bloomberg is most focused on attacking the president, he has spent $18 million on ads over the last month, according to Acronym, a digital messaging firm that works with Democrats.

That is on top of the $128 million the Bloomberg campaign has spent on television ads, according to Advertising Analytics, an independent firm, which projects that Mr. Bloomberg is likely to spend a combined $300 million to $400 million on advertising across all media before the Super Tuesday primaries in early March.

... Mr. Bloomberg is also already spending more than the Trump campaign each week to reach voters online.

... In swing states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that are likely to decide whether Mr. Trump gets re-elected, ads from the president’s campaign and friendly outside groups have been, for the most part, the only paid messages that voters have seen about him. Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign is focusing its efforts there, hoping to erode Mr. Trump’s standing.

“I’ve been telling anyone who will listen, Trump is winning,” said Kevin Sheekey, the campaign manager for Mr. Bloomberg, who argued that the lack of anti-Trump advertising essentially means “he is running unopposed in swing states.”
The ad below seems a bit too meta -- to some extent, it seems to speak the language of Democratic insiders rather than ordinary voters. On the other hand, it features a lot of ordinary voters, who express concern about Trump winning again. That's a motivator. It works less well as a Bloomberg ad -- only at the end is the candidate mentioned. But that's fine with me. What the ad does best, if not perfectly, is to focus viewers' attention on the possibility of a second Trump win. That's good.

We're told:
In interviews, Mr. Bloomberg’s top strategists described how they believe they can undermine Mr. Trump’s standing with voters who are open to reconsidering their support for him. According to the campaign’s data, this is somewhere between 10 percent to 15 percent of the people who voted for him in 2016.
I don't think the numbers are that high, but hey, Bloomberg's a data guy, so his operation might have this right. And even if that's double the real number, remember that Trump won by 0.23% in Michigan, 0.72% in Pennsylvania, and 0.77% in Wisconsin. If you flip one percent of his voters in each state, you win them all.

I've said before that I fear Democrats learned the wrong lesson from 2018. The winning candidates in the midterms downplayed Trump and focused on issues like healthcare, but that made sense because Trump wasn't on the ballot. When he's on the ballot, you need to focus on him -- you need to talk about issues, but you can't allow him and his advertising to define him. You need to remind voters that he's a blight on their lives.
“Say no to chaos,” says one [Bloomberg ad] that appeared on Facebook in North Carolina.

“Another tweet. Another lie. Trump has tweeted thousands of false statements — causing chaos and embarrassing our country,” reads another, depicting a picture of a man covering his face in evident despair as he stands in what appears to be a soybean field. (Soybean farmers have been among the most affected by Mr. Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods.)

Others are more issue-specific and play to a notion that Bloomberg strategists say has tested well in their research: The president is looking out for the interests of big corporations and the wealthy despite promises to improve the lives of working-class Americans.
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Saturday, December 28, 2019


Yesterday, Joe Biden said he wouldn't comply with a subpoena to testify in the Senate impeachment trial:
In a meeting with the editorial board of The Des Moines Register, whose endorsement in the Iowa caucuses is coveted by presidential hopefuls, Mr. Biden argued that complying with a subpoena and testifying would essentially allow Mr. Trump to succeed in shifting attention onto Mr. Biden and away from the president’s own actions.

“The reason I wouldn’t is because it’s all designed to deal with Trump doing what he’s done his whole life: trying to take the focus off him,” Mr. Biden told the newspaper. “The issue is not what I did.”

“This is all about a diversion,” Mr. Biden added. “And we play his game all the time. He’s done it his whole career.”
Charitable critics accused Biden of tactical incompetence. Angrier critics said he was showing contempt for the rule of law.

Alterman is correct on the question of respect for the Constitution and the rule of law. Mair and Kleefeld are shrewder than Biden.

I can't offer a responsible defense of what Biden said.

And yet for a moment -- until he walked back his remarks today -- Biden actually seemed to be taking the battle to Trump in a Trumpian way. He was effectively saying, "You've unilaterally declared congressional subpoenas optional, Mr. President? Fine -- then if I get a subpoena, I'll treat it that way, too. If you've made the rule of law null and void to benefit yourself, I'll take advantage of that, too. How do you like that?"

For a moment, the candidate who seems to underestimate the danger of Trump the most appeared to understand Trump best -- or at least to be the most attuned to what certain voters find appealing about Trumpism. I don't want a candidate who encourages Trumpian lawlessness, but I get the appeal of it. Voters who are on the fence about Trump and the Democrats -- which means that they don't consider Trump's contempt for the rule of law a dealbreaker -- wouldn't give Biden any credit for dutifully and meekly responding to a politically motivated but lawful subpoena. Biden's remarks could have been read as an acknowledgment that we're in a back-alley brawl rather than a legitimate fight with mutually agreed-upon rules. I don't want two Trumps in this election, but a we might need a Democrat with a little Trump in him in order to win.

As it happens, Biden doesn't appear to have thought this out:
... speaking with reporters on Saturday, Mr. Biden stopped short of vowing to fight a subpoena if one were ultimately issued. “I would honor whatever the Congress in fact legitimately asked me to do,” Mr. Biden said after a town-hall-style event in Tipton, Iowa.

Asked if he would challenge a subpoena in court if he believed he had no facts to provide that would be relevant, he responded: “The answer is, I don’t think that’s going to happen to begin with. Let’s cross that bridge when it comes.” He added that he would abide by “whatever was legally required of me.”

... Mr. Biden wrote on Twitter that over the course of his decades-long political career, he had “always complied with a lawful order,” and that in his two terms as vice president, his office had “cooperated with legitimate congressional oversight requests.”
So he's likely to comply if he's subpoenaed. And he should. The rule of law matters.

But I suspect that a little anger about a subpoena might appeal to some voters. I don't think the average heartland voter is a stickler for the rule of law. Some of these voters responded to Trump's frustration with what's proper. They might also respond to Biden's.


I'm back. Thank you again, Yastreblyansky, Tom, and Crank, for very smart blogging while I was away.

I returned to obituaries of a man who's been the subject of many posts here over the years. If you're going to write an obituary of Don Imus, do a better job than AP did:
Disc jockey Don Imus, whose career was made and then undone by his acid tongue during a decades-long rise to radio stardom and an abrupt public plunge after a nationally broadcast racial slur, has died. He was 79....

Imus survived drug and alcohol woes, a raunchy appearance before President Clinton and several firings during his long career behind the microphone. But he was vilified and eventually fired after describing a women's college basketball team as "nappy headed hos."

His April 2007 racist and misogynist crack about the mostly black Rutgers squad, an oft-replayed 10-second snippet, crossed a line that Imus had long straddled as his rants catapulted him to prominence.
No, Imus hadn't previously "straddled" a line that he then, in a weak moment, crossed once. He'd crossed that line habitually. When he said "nappy-headed hos," the public finally responded with an appropriate level of disgust.

On April 4, 2007, the morning after the Rutgers women's basketball team played for the national college championship, Imus and his in-studio crew discussed the game.
“That’s some rough girls from Rutgers,” Mr. Imus said on Wednesday. “Man, they got tattoos ...” The program’s executive producer, Bernard McGuirk, agreed: “Some hardcore ho’s,” he said. Imus continued, “That’s some nappy-headed ho’s there, I’m going to tell you that.”
Apologists tried to blame rap music for Imus's comments. Here was Earl Ofari Hutchinson in The Philadelphia Inquirer:
... gangster rappers, some black filmmakers, and comedians routinely reduce young black women to "stuff," "bitches" and "hoes." Their contempt reinforces the slut image of black women and sends the message that violence, mistreatment and verbal abuse of black women are socially acceptable.

...Now enter shock-jock Don Imus, the latest white guy to be transformed into a racially and gender-incorrect punching bag.... He, of course, has been verbally mugged, battered and abused....

But again, Imus is the softest of soft targets. The same can't be said for the black rap shock-jocks. They made Imus possible. They gave him the rapper's bad-housekeeping seal of approval to bash and trash black women....
Except that -- as I noted at the time -- Imus had been talking like this for years. I wrote about an Imus comedy album released in 1974, more than a decade before the rise of gangsta rap.

A sample joke:
... Newark mayor Kenneth "King Kong" Gibson has announced the nomination of the city's first Hispanic municipal court judge and the first black woman to fill a second vacancy on the court. Judge Guillermo Alfredo Espanata Ortega Ortez Astellego Jijuete Chingao will assume his duties as quickly as he can get his car started and get to court. The other new judge, thirty-year-old Rebecca Golin Johnson Lincoln Jefferson, will assume her duties as soon as she, in her own words, "gets damn good and fuckin' ready, honky!"
... Elsewhere on the album, blacks inevitably drive Cadillac Eldorados and make lots of noise during sex; Jews sell jewelry and cheat people (but Jewish women are good at oral sex); Poles are stupid and inordinately fond of bowling. ("Polish jokes" were a staple of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In a few years earlier, but they fell out of favor; Imus was apparently the last person on the planet doing them.) White people are uptight, and white women in particular don't enjoy sex very much. No, it's not quite as nasty as some of his subsequent work, but it's ethnicity-obsessed.
Frank Rich, who was a frequent guest on Imus's show, said in '07 that Imu wasn't really a racist because -- at least prior to the Rutgers incident -- he'd generally limited his attacks to famous people who could take it:
But as a listener and sometime guest, I didn't judge Imus to be a bigot.... Perhaps I gave Imus a pass because the insults were almost always aimed at people in the public eye, whether politicians, celebrities or journalists -- targets with the forums to defend themselves.

... What Imus said about the Rutgers team landed differently.... The spectacle of a media star verbally assaulting them, and with a creepy, dismissive laugh, as if the whole thing were merely a disposable joke, was ugly.... So while I still don't know whether Imus is a bigot, there was an inhuman contempt in the moment that sounded like hate to me.
I guess Rich was unaware of one of Imus's most notorious bits, "Black Beatles," which wasn't aimed at famous people at all, but included every stereotype of ordinary black people Imus could squeeze into it. I won't link to it -- you can find it on YouTube -- but I posted a partial transcript a few days after the Rutgers incident:
IMUS: Some of you may know, who listen to the Imus in the Morning program on a regular basis, there is a new group being formed called the Black Beatles.

BLACK BEATLES MEMBER (in a stereotypical black accent): That's right, Don. My name is Tyrone McCartney...

IMUS: Uh-huh.

TYRONE McCARTNEY: ... bass player for the fabulous Black Beatles, and me and my friends Leroy Lennon, George Jellybean Darnell Rashad Mustafa Muhammad Harrison, and Bingo Starr, we have a new album out of our very famous #1 hits called Beat the Meatles.
IMUS: What's that?

TYRONE McCARTNEY: Beat the Meatles. We wanted y'all to get it 'cause it's got some of our famous #1 hits, like this one: (singing) "When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary come to me and speak those woids of wisdom, 'What it be.'"

And how 'bout this one? (singing) "I shoulda known better with a bitch like you." "Jo Jo was a man who only had three inches, but he knew it wouldn't last, Jo Jo never had much luck with all the bitches, but I said, 'Hey, Jo, get black. Get black, get black, get black and watch your johnson grow.'" "Lucy in the sky with a lot of jewelry on." "Strawberry-flavored malt liquor." "Here come my son, he play football. Here come my son, and I say, 'He bad.'" "I'm back on the old FDR." "Yesterday, my parole came through just yesterday." "Hey dude, lend me a dollar." "I can play center, I can play forward, I be six foot four."

And, of course, my personal favorite: (singing) "We all live in a yellow Coupe de Ville, a yellow Coupe de Ville, a yellow Coupe de Ville. And my friends is all aboard, many more of them is in the trunk, vinyl tires with wire wheels, in my yellow Coupe de Ville."
Imus didn't think he limited his racist attacks to famous people. In May 2000, he and Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page mocked his racism:
CLARENCE PAGE: Are you raising your hand, right?

DON IMUS: I have it up.

CLARENCE PAGE: Okay. Okay, number one -- I, Don Imus--

DON IMUS: I, Don Imus--

CLARENCE PAGE: -- do solemnly swear--

DON IMUS: Do solemnly swear--

CLARENCE PAGE: -- that I will promise to cease all simian references black athletes--

DON IMUS: That I will promise to cease all simian references to back--black athletes--

CLARENCE PAGE: -- a ban on all references to non-criminal blacks as thugs, pimps, muggers and Colt 45 drinkers--

DON IMUS: I promise to do that.

CLARENCE PAGE: Very good! How about an end to Amos 'n Andy cuts, comparison of New York City to Mogadishu, and all parodies of black voices unless they are done by a black person, cause you're really not very good at it.
Imus knew he was doing this, so it was fine, right?

Politicians and journalists appeared on his show despite all this. Regular guests included Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. They seemed to believe that there was a perceptible wall between his racist remarks and his political talk.

So I'll leave you with something a commenter of mine, PlusDistance, wrote around the time of the Rutgers incident, when I was posting these examples of Imus's racism:
Could we just ask McCain and all the other politicians who go on his show if they'd like to do a few bars of "Jo Jo was a man who only had three inches"? We could give them the lyrics for it, so they get it right.

I mean, politicians go on Letterman and do top tens, don't they? If Imus is such a great, funny guy, they have nothing to be ashamed about, right?

Friday, December 27, 2019

Mess the Press: A Matter of Faith

Jordan writes in the comments:
The Jay Rosen piece keeps getting into his rejection of any possibility of Todd's "naïveté" -- contrasting that idea with Rosen's famous "Church of Savvy" (the brilliant Rosen idea that what's valued amongst Washington journalists isn't insight, or wisdom, or accuracy, or righteousness, but "savvy" -- the ability to speak from a bored, cynical, apolitical, anti-idealistic position that indicates one's membership in the inner sanctum of the Beltway, a vantage point from which one can relate what's "really" going on) -- but I wonder about this; I think it's just semantics.
Because, whether you want to call it naïveté or not, I think it's fairly obvious that Chuck Todd believes in what he's doing; he thinks he's accomplishing something by bringing Republicans and Democrats onto a television show to ask them "fair," "penetrating" questions; he accepts the same symmetrically-balanced paradigm that his audience presumably believes in -- and the built-in favoritism towards conservative ideas and elected officials, vs. the automatic, disdainful suspicion of Democrats and progressives, is just a manifestation of a basic systemic bias that Todd is utterly unaware of -- he can enact it so guilelessly because he can't see it.
I won't disagree with much of that. I was put off by the way Rosen insisted that "it's not naïveté" several times, which seemed awfully facile (and by the strangely self-serving way he suggests Todd ought to be reading Press Think, when he says "Todd did not care to listen" and then quotes himself, as if the blogpost had been addressed to Todd).

One of the things Rosen sees but doesn't understand is wonderfully encapsulated in the term "Church of the Savvy": that it really is a church, with articles of faith, and the members believe in it, but that doesn't exclude guile. A priesthood doesn't doubt the truth of the doctrine but its members jockey for status in cynical ways and blindside those who aren't initiated all the same. When you watch video of Trump's "spiritual adviser" Paula White prancing the stage frenetically during the service, you know she's worked into a genuine trance state and having an absolutely real spiritual experience, which doesn't stop her from being manipulative and corrupt.

Chuck Todd isn't a Holy Roller: his church is much more discreet and dignified, and much more widely recognized and esteemed, so esteemed in the wealthy and powerful circles he travels in that it would be foolish to doubt, and indeed ungrateful. It's showered him with riches, and love!

Savvy isn't the only one of Rosen's concepts at issue, but also the View from Nowhere (the idea that you can see more clearly if you don't have any beliefs at all about the subject matter, as opposed to the sacred beliefs about your own priestly status), and the High Broderism (the assumption that every valid idea stands equidistant between a pair of extremities that are equally wrong). To recognize that one side is lying, regularly, and the other side isn't, is to be forced to see yourself as having chosen a side: what I call recognizing (in Karl Rove's confessional language) that journalists and Democrats alike belong in fact to the reality-based community, and Republicans don't, which means that High Broderist doctrine is false and the View from Nowhere is impossible.

(Incidentally this goes some way toward explaining the imbalance of conservative over non-conservative guests on the shows: the journalists are representing the world of facts and falsifiability along with the liberals, so the paranoid fantasy world needs more representation among the invitees, especially since by common agreement left paranoia can't be represented at all.)

This is to me what the problem is. Chuck Todd living with weekly demonstrations that his religion is a lie, and he has to live with it, and he's been living with it under extreme conditions since Sean Spicer proclaimed the size of the inauguration as the hugest ever seen and Kellyanne Conway explained about the alternative facts, and he's held strong and remained unbroken by the cognitive dissonance until now, as he told the Rolling Stone interviewer:

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Mess the Press

Meet the Press with its original host, Martha Rountree, via Eyes of a Generation.

Happy Boxing Day!

A lot of talk going on about the belated discovery of Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News and current host of Sunday morning's ancient Meet the Press, that the Trump campaign and administration are untruthful sometimes and may be doing it on purpose, as reported the other day in Rolling Stone. Chuck Todd is shocked—shocked!

It looks as if this unexpected insight arose from an earlier incident, also reported in Rolling Stone, when Todd was interviewing Senator Cruz on his show:
On Meet the Press on Sunday, Chuck Todd asked Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, “Do you believe Ukraine meddled in the election in 2016?”
Cruz replied, “I do, and I think there’s considerable evidence.”
Todd’s eyes immediately widened in astonishment while he responded, “You do?” and viewers could hear laughter from the show’s studio.
Todd then went through a historical laundry list of Cruz being smeared by Trump while telling the senator that “it strikes me as odd” that Cruz wouldn’t be suspicious of Trump creating “false narratives” and may be doing the same with the debunked Ukrainian meddling fabrication to help himself politically.
“Senator, this sort of strikes me as odd, because you went through a primary campaign with this president. He launched a birtherism campaign against you. He went after your faith. He threatened to quote ‘spill the beans’ on your wife about something. He pushed a National Enquirer story, which we now know, he had a real relationship with the editors,” Todd said.
It's interesting, in an unpleasant way, to wonder what Chuck means by that, and what is the immediate relevance of the lies Trump spread about Cruz in 2016: was it that Cruz should have known the Ukraine meddling story was bogus? because anybody who reads the papers knows it was bogus or because Trump told bogus stories about Cruz three years ago? or that he must have known and should have been willing to say so? because truth is important, or to pay Trump back? Would Chuck have been less surprised if Trump had told lies only about Hillary Clinton, or only about Democrats, in the 2016 campaign? Where's the line across which lies, for Chuck, start to get "odd"?

I should say that I never watch Meet the Press myself, or pretty much any daytime TV, other than the very occasional sporting event, and don't understand why anybody would watch Meet the Press in particular, which is pretty evidently little or nothing more than a big spin room mostly for Republicans (people in my Twitter feed are constantly complaining that only Republicans even get on), other than to fly into a rage, which I get a sufficient amount of from radio and the written word.

Chuck seems to take a different view on its importance:
for good or bad, our show has been at the forefront of this. The first Sunday of the Trump administration is when the phrase, “alternative facts” was debuted. It was on Meet the Press Rudy that Giuliani used the phrase “Truth isn’t truth.” So look, whether we’d liked it or not, our platform has been used, or they’ve attempted to use our platform to essentially disseminate, or to sort of, what I would say, is lay the groundwork for this.
He's shocked that his program is being used this way.

Jay Rosen has an excellent discussion of the whole silly thing, focusing particularly on the key point that Chuck doesn't plan to do anything about this situation, beyond the offer of a one-off "special edition" of MTP featuring experts on disinformation Masha Gessen and Ambassador Michael McFaul, who will note maybe that nothing has been done about the disinformation problem in Russia.
So what will they do now? My answer: they have no earthly idea. This is what I mean by an epistemological crisis. Chuck Todd has essentially said that on the right there is an incentive structure that compels Republican office holders to use their time on Meet the Press for the spread of disinformation. So do you keep inviting them on the air to do just that? If so, then you are breaking faith with the audience and creating a massive problem in real time fact-checking. If not, then you just broke the show in half.
I don't know either, other than to suggest that everybody just stop watching the Sunday shows altogether.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas

To everyone, I hope your holidays--whichever holidays you celebrate--are joyous and filled with love. To those who observe Christmas, have a wonderful day. To those who don't celebrate Christmas, I hope there's an excellent Chinese restaurant near you. (Later today my brothers and I are going to be part of the War on Jewish Christmas.)

I'll just leave you all with these two headlines from this morning's Memeorandum, illustrating the true spirit of the season.

ETA: More Christmas spirit (or perhaps "deeper understanding and respect") from that guy:

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Peace on earth, good will to all? Ho ho ho!

Literary Corner: Bird Graveyard

Wind farm off the Aberdeenshire coastline, visible from the Trump International Golf Links in Balmedie. Photo by Nigel Mowat via BBC.
By somewhat popular demand:

Tremendous Fumes
by Donald J. Trump

We’ll have an economy based on wind. I never
understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much.
I’ve studied it better than anybody I know. It’s very expensive.
They’re made in China and Germany mostly — very few made here,

almost none. But they’ve manufactured tremendous —
if you’re into this — tremendous fumes. Gases
are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have
a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe.

So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything.
You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air.
Right? Spewing. Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going
into the air.  It’s our air, their air, everything — right?

So they make these things and then they put them up.
And if you own a house within vision of some
of these monsters, your house is worth 50 percent
of the price. They’re noisy. They kill the birds.

You want to see a bird graveyard? You just go.
Take a look. A bird graveyard. Go under a windmill someday.
You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen ever in your life.
You know, in California, they were killing the bald eagle.

If you shoot a bald eagle, they want to put you in jail
for 10 years. A windmill will kill many bald eagles.
It’s true. And you know what? After a certain
number, they make you turn the windmill off.

That’s true, by the way. This is — they make you turn it off
after you — and yet, if you killed one they put you in jail.
That’s okay. But why is it okay for these windmills
to destroy the bird population? And that’s what they’re doing.

When Are White Evangelicals Going to Speak Out Against White Evangelical on White Evangelical Crime?


Turns out some evangelicals are, in fact, being persecuted for their beliefs...by other evangelicals:
As the political clamor caused by a top Christian magazine’s call to remove President Donald Trump from office continues to reverberate, more than 100 conservative evangelicals closed ranks further around Trump on Sunday....

The letter to the magazine’s president sent on Sunday also included a veiled warning that Christianity Today could lose readership or advertising revenue as a result of the editorial, which cites Trump’s impeachment last week.

Citing Galli’s past characterization of himself as an “elite” evangelical, the letter’s authors told Dalrymple that “it’s up to your publication to decide whether or not your magazine intends to be a voice of evangelicals like those represented by the signatories below, and it is up to us and those Evangelicals like us to decide if we should subscribe to, advertise in and read your publication online and in print, but historically, we have been your readers.”
Okay, it's not really persecution. But it is clearly an attempt to pressure Christianity Today into repudiating its own editorial. Boy, that campus PC is out of control.

The letter underscores two things: 1) white evangelicals are an authoritarian cult of personality (and the personality ain't Jesus), with 2) no tolerance for any deviation. Which makes it especially interesting to see what isn't considered deviation.

For example, when right-wing nutjob preacher Rick Wiles described impeachment as a Jew coup ("President Trump is surrounded by a rabid pack of seditious, treacherous Jews who are intent on overthrowing the votes of millions of Christians who elected him in 2016”), there wasn't any letter from 100 white evangelical luminaries. True, there were Twitter condemnations from Jerry Falwell, Jr., Franklin Graham, Samuel Rodriguez, and Mike Huckabee...haha, just kidding. I mean, it's hard to prove a negative and all that, but I have done some looking and I haven't seen any condemnation of Wiles' anti-Semitism from any of the top conservative evangelicals.

So. Acceptable deviation: flat-out, no dogwhistle, shouting-the-quiet-part anti-Semitism. Unacceptable deviation: denying the divinity of Trump. Any questions?

Monday, December 23, 2019

Literary Corner: Rodolfo

Extracted from Olivia Nuzzi's remarkable report on brunch with the president's personal attorney, at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurant in The Mark Hotel on Madison at 77th (he ordered an omelet with extra-crispy bacon and a Bloody Mary, which is going to run you something over 50 bucks and not what I'd be ordering at those prices, I'll tell you right now):

Song of George Soros
by Rudolph Giuliani

Don’t tell me
I’m anti-Semitic
if I oppose him.
Soros is hardly a Jew. 
I’m more of a Jew than Soros is.
I probably know more about —
he doesn’t go to church,
he doesn’t go to religion —
synagogue. He doesn’t
belong to a synagogue,
he doesn’t support Israel,
he’s an enemy of Israel. 
He’s elected eight anarchist
DA’s in the United States.
He’s a horrible human being.
It's not anti-Semitic for a Catholic to hate a Jew if he disagrees with the Jew's theology?

I was just telling somebody the other day that atheism is the most Jewish thing there is. Atheism was probably invented by Jews, given that the poet calls it out in Psalm 14 (probably composed in the early 6th century B.C.E., if I'm reading this right), calling atheists "fools", but not takfiring them as non-Jewish. One of the things Rudy knows is that "church" is the wrong word, as you see, but he doesn't know it quite fast enough.

Another one of the most Jewish things there are is not supporting Israel, especially the current government at any moment in the country's history, at which at least half the population, Jewish and Arab and Druze alike, is normally violently enraged, but general opposition to the whole Zionist idea is a Jewish thing as well across the political spectrum, from the ultra-conservative Haredim who regard it as blasphemy, since the Messiah hasn't shown up yet, to the socialists and anarchists who see fascism in the concept of a state founded exclusively for one ethnic-religious community, a "Jewish state" as if a country could have a circumcision and bar mitzvah.

Oh right, anarchism is pretty Jewish too, though Americans often think of it as primarily Italian. Soros really did spend $3 million on district attorney races in 2016—seven, not eight, but as you can imagine, they were probably not anarchists, since if you're opposed to a legal system that guarantees property rights you won't be able to do the job at all in the normal way, but
African-American and Hispanic candidates for these powerful local roles, all of whom ran on platforms sharing major goals of Soros’, like reducing racial disparities in sentencing and directing some drug offenders to diversion programs instead of to trial.
according to Politico's excellent piece by Scott Bland on the effort. Ideas that have more recently been adopted by such anarchical figures as the Texas House delegation and—oh, Donald Trump. Who's not an anarchist but a nihilist, and probably not Jewish in any sense, but you get the picture. Happy Hanukkah!

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Farewell, False Equivalence

The Washington Post has a survey that mostly confirms things we already know...but these are things the news media have yet to internalize.

It starts out badly, though, by framing the obviously true and obviously false as if they were legitimate questions:
But do white evangelical Protestants actually believe that Democrats will strip them of their rights? And is it true that Democrats and atheists want to strip evangelicals of their rights? A new survey has some answers.
Is it true? Are you fucking shitting me? I nearly stopped reading right there. But it gets better with the survey results, which pretty definitively answer these non-questions:
Of...white evangelical Protestants, we found that 60 percent believed that atheists would not allow them....to “hold rallies, teach, speak freely, and run for public office.” Similarly, 58 percent believed “Democrats in Congress” would not allow them to exercise these liberties if they were in power....

Would Democrats and atheists strip away conservative Christians’ rights and liberties if they could? To find out, I turned to [a] survey [that] asked respondents about their feelings toward various groups and whether they would extend civil liberties to those groups....

Then respondents were asked whether their selected group should be allowed to give speeches in the community, teach in public schools, run for public office and other liberties....

65 percent of atheists and 53 percent of Democrats who listed Christian fundamentalists as their least-liked group are willing to allow them to engage in three or more of these activities. That’s a much higher proportion with tolerance than the sample overall.

However, we found that a smaller proportion of white evangelicals would behave with tolerance toward atheists than the proportion of atheists who would behave with tolerance toward them. Thirteen percent of white evangelical Protestants selected atheists as their least-liked group. Of those, 32 percent are willing to extend three or more of these rights to atheists.
So, yes, confirming the obvious: conservative evangelicals believe themselves to be persecuted; they are not actually persecuted; and in fact they are inclined to persecute the people they fear. Which leads to the money quote:
Their fear comes from an inverted golden rule: Expect from others what you would do unto them. White evangelical Protestants express low levels of tolerance for atheists, which leads them to expect intolerance from atheists in return.
Every political reporter in the country should be forced to memorize this until they understand that every conservative evangelical claim of persecution is 100% projection, and that there is never any reason to treat such claims with even the tiniest bit of respect.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

What will happen next with “L’Affaire Trump” — an open discussion

Some wiseacre entitled this photograph
"Mitch McConnell and his Merry Band"

I'm really furious with Steve M.

At the head of the holidays, just when I’m feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by the nonstop barrage of Trump outrages, Steve picks up and goes away. 

Along with Yastreblyansky, who usually carries most of the load in this space, and who probably will again (he’d better), and with Tom Hilton, and possibly another hapless soul or two, I’m left to fill the vacuum.

Dang! This happens just when the tank is empty. I’m as dry as a dead steer’s skull on a sandhill in the Sonora Desert. I’m plumb drained of outrage, or anxiety, or indignation, or loathing, or pick your own adjective that reflects life as you see it in the age of Trump. 

So here’s what I’m going to do, people. I’m throwing this post, right here and now, open to you folks in the audience. The question of the day is, what’s the next big thing that’s going to happen relating to the mess that is Donald Trump, not to mention the mess he’s made of America? 

Yes, that young man in the first row?

A premonition? What premonition?

Well, that’s an interesting and entertaining concept, but even assuming that you’re correct that there is a God, I don’t think it’s possible for an actual bolt of lightning to shoot out of the ceiling in the Capitol Building and strike Donald Trump as he delivers the State of the Union Address. Not even if, as you put it, it’s a “divine” lightning bolt. We still have unchallenged laws of physics, even if the laws of the United States are under assault. Any other ideas?

Yes, that angry-looking woman wearing the “Me Too” button and the pink knitted cap? 

Sorry, I can’t agree with you at all. In the first place, I think the whole thing is a misnomer. Even Russian technology must have gotten past videotape by now. If anything, they’d release a pee disc, or even a pee MP3. Or maybe streaming pee from a cloud. But even assuming  they have one, if they release it, what happens to their leverage over Trump? Poof! The leverage is gone. Okay, if you insist, sssssss! It’s gone. So I don’t buy it. Surely somebody out there can do better. Anybody? Yes, you with the T-shirt that says, “And still she persisted.”

Well, I’m afraid the election is still a a very long way away. And then you have to assume that Elizabeth Warren will get the Democratic nomination. And then you have to assume that Trump agrees to debate her. And after that you have to assume that by October of 2020 he’ll be so out of control that he’ll walk up to her podium while she’s speaking and try to grab her by…well, you know. But I agree, if she then hauled off and socked him square in the face he’d go down like a concrete block off a tenement roof and probably start to cry like a baby. 

What? Hmm, I didn’t think of that. You’re quite right. Trump would probably get Bill Barr to arrest her for assault on the President. That would pull her off the campaign trail and do serious damage to her chances of winning, even though at least 48 percent of the nation, and maybe more, would cheer. Anybody have some other ideas? Yes, that boy wearing the hoodie?

No, sorry. Trump’s opponent will most certainly not be chosen by a cabal of Martian space invaders. Well just because the ad says so doesn’t mean it’s true. And I think the Russian ad agency that’s buying space from you to advertise that crap has gone off the rails. You ought to clean up that account, and take down those ads .No, it is not in the spirit of free and open debate. You’re talking about paid-for lies, and you collect the pay. No, just sit down and shut up, Mark. In fact, leave the room. 

All right, I have time for one more contribution. Anybody? Yes, that man waving the big basket full of $500 bills. Come to the front and tell us what you think.

That interesting. I think you might. On the other hand, you very well might not. And if you do win the nomination and the election, what does it say about America? That control of government is a matter of who shells out the most cash for it? That some of the most progressive Democratic ideas are kaput? I mean, like raising taxes sufficiently for the government to provide services every other advanced nation on the planet offers its citizens? 

Well I know you can outspend Trump. But there has to be a better set of criteria than that for becoming President of the United States.

No, I will not shut up! No, I will not! I really mean it, I will not! What? Really? Okay, just wire it to my Swiss bank account. I'll open one in the morning.

Cross-posted (with some modifications) at The New York Crank

Prime Minister Pelosi

Advising Democrats not to cheer too hard over the impeachment votes, via USA Today.

Apparently Trump held Congress and our national security hostage in the National Defense Authorization bill over his right to extort stuff from Ukraine—
Senior Trump administration officials in recent days threatened a presidential veto that could have led to a government shutdown if House Democrats refused to drop language requiring prompt release of  [a $250-million appropriation of] future military aid for Ukraine, according to five administration and congressional officials.
The language was ultimately left out of mammoth year-end spending legislation that passed the House and Senate this week ahead of a Saturday shutdown deadline.
That's just totally normal, right?

Other than that, I really think this is the week Nancy Pelosi became prime minister (as I began expecting a couple years ago), conducting an impeachment of a president, presenting him with three huge bills to sign—the $1.4 trillion appropriations bills and the revised NAFTA treaty—and commemorating the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium (the President, though he had no public events over the weekend other than the Army-Navy football game, sent Defense Secretary Mike Esper to represent him).

I mean it's almost like fulfilling a long dream of mine, that somebody would one day figure out a way to make our system more parliamentary. It's enabled by Trump's emperor-like character of being unable to work for any goal and unable to have any specific goal beyond being adored, and McConnell's overwhelming negativity which makes him unable to initiate anything other than a blocking move, but it takes somebody with a lot of nerve and skill to see the opportunity these obstacles present.

Not that she's now running the country with her Green Lantern powers, because that's very far from being the case, but it's amazing how many Democratic priorities the bills push, from allocating $25 million to Centers for Disease Control for the study of gun violence as a health issue for the first time in 20 years through full funding for the threatened 2020 Census, $425 million for election security, and a big increase in federal education spending including Head Start. Paid parental leave for federal workers and a decent pay raise matching the one for the military are also good news.

Trump's demand for $5 billion in Wall money has been rejected, though the president still has something like $1.4 billion to play with under certain geographical restrictions. His stupid Space Force will exist, but it looks more like a superfluous but harmless umbrella for sensible existing programs on Earth than the militarization of space, or a unit of Space Raiders looking for pirate space stations, or whatever the Boy-in-Chief might have been imagining.

Saturday, December 21, 2019


Well, that's it for me until the end of next week -- I'll be traveling and eating too much and doing the usual things people do around this time of year. There will be posts here, however, from the brilliant folks who regularly sit in while I'm away, so stop by. Hope your holidays are good, and I'll see you next Saturday.


Once again, Andrew Sullivan tries to position himself as an eclectic thinker possessing a rare level of insight that both conventional liberals and conservatives lack. Sullivan tells us that the expressed ideology of the 2016 Donald Trump campaign was compelling, while describing Trump's personal behavior as abhorrent.

First, the campaign ideology:
... reflect for a second on the campaign of 2016. One Republican candidate channeled the actual grievances and anxieties of many Americans, while the others kept up their zombie politics and economics. One candidate was prepared to say that the Iraq War was a catastrophe, that mass immigration needed to be controlled, that globalized free trade was devastating communities and industries, that we needed serious investment in infrastructure, that Reaganomics was way out of date, and that half the country was stagnating and in crisis.

That was Trump. In many ways, he deserves credit for this wake-up call.
Sullivan, needless to say, likes every bit of this agenda, even -- especially? -- the racist bits.
And if [Trump] had built on this platform and crafted a presidential agenda that might have expanded its appeal and broadened its base, he would be basking in high popularity and be a shoo-in for reelection. If, in a resilient period of growth, his first agenda item had been a major infrastructure bill and he’d combined it with tax relief for the middle and working classes, he could have crafted a new conservative coalition that might have endured.
Yes, and I were a foot taller and 35 years younger, with better knees and a lifelong interest in spending hours honing skills the real me has never been interested in attaining, I'd be a superstar professional athlete right now.

Trump never cared about infrastructure -- he knew it was a good fit with his brand, although building the wall, once he'd been reminded to mention it in speeches, turned out to be a better fit. ("I'm a builder," he said in one interview when asked how he would manage to build the 1,900-mile wall he hasn't come close to constructing.) Trump probably couldn't tell you the first thing about Reaganomics, he opposed the Iraq War because he doesn't like the Bush family, he said the country was stagnating and in crisis because he hated the then-president, and he grumbled about globalized free trade because he has a lifelong belief, probably learned from his father, that counterparties always screw you (a belief that's pure projection).

Maybe the people around him, particularly Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, intuited that this could be a winning agenda, but Trump didn't really understand it. Trump didn't have any interest in doing anything for ordinary citizens, so the only bits that really survived were the ones based on resentment -- the immigration crackdown and the trade wars.

But while Republican voters and a certain percentage of non-Republican whites responded enthusiastically to some of this, the key ingredient on this list that helped give Trump a victory after Mitt Romney and John McCain lost wasn't criticism of the Iraq War (which Trump rarely mentioned) or even infrastructure (ditto), it was the racist immigrant-bashing, along with the general bashing of the country that was an attack on Barack Obama and Obama's chosen successor, Hillary Clinton.

While Sullivan likes the stated agenda of 2016 Trump (as he selectively summarizes it), he doesn't approve of Trump's character.
... when you think of what might have been and reflect on what has happened, it is crystal clear that this impeachment is not about the Trump agenda or a more coherent version of it. It is about the character of one man: his decision to forgo any outreach, poison domestic politics, marinate it in deranged invective, betray his followers by enriching the plutocracy, destroy the dignity of the office of president, and turn his position into a means of self-enrichment. It’s about the personal abuse of public office: using the presidency’s powers to blackmail a foreign entity into interfering in a domestic election on his behalf, turning the Department of Justice into an instrument of personal vengeance and political defense, openly obstructing investigations into his own campaign, and treating the grave matter of impeachment as a “hoax” while barring any testimony from his own people.
But Trump won in 2016 largely as a result of this set of character traits. Trump won because he poisons domestic politics, marinates politics in deranged invective, and obsesses over personal vengeance. That's what his voters like about him. They like the fact that Trump is unsocialized and angry. It delights them that when he talks about immigrants he not only says the quiet, racist part out loud, he seems to mean it, because he appears to despise immigrants as much as they do. He clearly loathes Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as anyone who prevents him from doing whatever he wants to do.

Sullivan would like us to believe that Trump won based on a positive agenda to which Attention Must Be Paid, but also that Trump needs to be impeached because he's conducted himself in office in a reprehensible way. But his supporters backed him, and still back him, because of both of these things, and probably because of the pathology more than the agenda. Regardless of what Sullivan believes, there's no way to separate the two.

Friday, December 20, 2019


This happened at last night's Democratic debate:
A disagreement that has been simmering for weeks between [Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg] erupted during the PBS NewsHour/Politico debate, when Warren brought up Buttigieg’s recent high-dollar fundraiser at the Hall Rutherford wine caves in Napa Valley. The vineyard’s billionaire owners, Craig and Kathryn Hall, recently hosted the pooled-press fundraiser for Buttigieg....

Said wine caves recently went viral when Recode reporter Teddy Schleifer tweeted out photos of the Buttigieg event, showcasing the glittering chandelier made out of 1,500 Swarovski crystals.... Hall Rutherford’s wine caves produce bottles of cabernet sauvignon that go for as much as $900.

... when Buttigieg made a jab at Warren after she finished talking about her grassroots-funded campaign, saying, “Can’t help but feel that might have been directed at me,” a fight about wine caves was born.

“Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren responded.
The story of the wine cave's owners is not great:
The cave in question ... has been a gathering place for Democratic politicians long before Warren pointed to it as evidence that Buttigieg is too close with wealthy donors to be able to deny them access, appointments and special favors down the road. Owned by Dallas billionaires Craig and Kathryn Hall, the cave’s fundraisers have benefitted at least a hundred Democrats over the years....

Other politicians who have attended fundraisers, receptions, and meet-and-greets at the Halls’ wine cave include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as current and former Reps. Leon Panetta, Reps. Ami Bera of California, Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, and Patrick Murphy of Florida....

According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, the couple have donated nearly $2 million to Democrats and progressive political action committees, including a $100,000 check to Hillary Clinton’s PAC in 2016 and a $50,000 check to the DCCC last year....

In 1997, one year after donating hundreds of thousands to Democrats seeking reelection, Kathryn Hall was nominated and confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to Austria, a position for which she had been angling for close to a year....

Craig Hall’s real-estate empire—facing massive debt as the Texas oil boom weakened in the late 1980s—was saved when then-House Speaker Jim Wright held up a bill meant to help recapitalize the struggling Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation in an apparent attempt to force federal regulators to let Hall’s company restructure its debt....

The eventual ethics investigation into Wright’s role in the savings-and-loan scandal would force him to resign from Congress. Hall would later pay $102.5 million to settle claims by a taxpayer-funded asset management company, which had paid out $364 million to cover insured deposits in Hall’s insolvent savings-and-loan operation.
I hate this. It's a sleazy system, but most Democratic candidates need to play along in order to be electorally viable in our money-saturated elections. (The Supreme Court has ensured that they're even more money-saturated now than they were in the days of the S&L crisis and Kathryn Hall's ambassadorship.)

It's not as if Republicans are abjuring this kind of thing -- far from it.

And yet if Buttigieg is on the Democratic ticket, Republicans will use this story to suggest that he's a creature of "the swamp," even as they engage in the swampiest of behaviors. It will be shameless hypocrisy, but when have Republicans been above that?

I don't know if this would hurt Buttigieg. Last night it was smart of him to respond that he was the only candidate on stage who isn't a millionaire or a billionaire. If he could say that to Warren, whose family net worth is $12 million, then he can certainly say it to Trump (or Trump's VP), given the fact that Trump has a net worth of $3 billion (and has claimed a net worth of $10 billion). Even if Buttigieg is the Democratic running mate, his net worth is $100,000, while Pence's household is worth $1 million.

But the imagery -- wine cave, crystal chandeliers, California -- will be used and meme-ified by Republicans regardless, and it might stick.


I guess I should be impressed that Mark Galli, the editor in chief of Christianity Today, has written an editorial for the magazine that calls for President Trump's removal from office. But I can't help noting this fact about Galli:
The editorial is also perhaps a final word from Mr. Galli, who announced his retirement in October. His departure is effective Jan. 3, 2020.
It's what we see among Republican officeholders: Many of them are reportedly very uncomfortable with Trump, but while they're in office they don't dare criticize him. Many won't criticize him even after they leave office, because they hope to return to power someday or want to sustain lobbying careers. Quite a few Republicans who left office many years ago and have established lives after electoral politics are willing take Trump on, but not the ones who think their D.C. careers are still viable. Is Galli in a similar situation? Would he have written this editorial if he were in the middle of his career and were staying with the magazine?

We're told that not everyone at Christianity Today agrees with the editorial.
The magazine is not united about Mr. Galli’s call to remove Mr. Trump. A member of Christianity Today’s board of directors, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, released a 17-paragraph statement opposing impeachment after the House vote on Wednesday.
Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, delivered a prayer at Trump's inaugural and became an adviser to Trump. His statement on impeachment, written with Reverend Johnnie Moore, reads in part:
"On Wednesday evening Dec. 18, 2019, the United States House of Representatives embarked upon the only exclusively partisan impeachment effort in American history, and millions of Americans recognize that the House leadership is not actually impeaching the president of the United States but the policies and people that he represents.

"The Democrats in the House impeached millions of God-fearing, family-loving and patriotic Americans from the Democrat and Republican parties.

"They impeached millions of Americans - Democrat and Republican - who believe in one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all, including the president of the United States.

"They impeached millions of Americans - Democrat and Republican - who believe in due process, the rule of law and in the primacy of our free elections in determining our political leadership....

"They impeached millions of Americans - Democrat and Republican - who believe that every life is sacred in and out of the womb....

"They impeached millions of Americans - Democrat and Republican - who recognize that socialism has been one of history's most anti-freedom and most anti-Christian ideologies.

"They impeached millions of Americans - Democrat and Republican - who believe that we have the God-given right to raise our children according to our own beliefs without government interference....

"On Dec. 18, 2019 the Democrats in Congress chose political expediency over our election integrity, and we shall see in 2020 whether or not the party increasingly led by Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be rewarded or rejected by millions of Americans, Democrat and Republican.
Rodriguez disagrees with Trump on some immigration issues. In an interview with NPR's Michel Martin a while back, he was asked how he expects his disagreements with Trump to be resolved.
MARTIN: Before we let you go, what kind of conversation do you think you and I are going to have a year from now?

RODRIGUEZ: I think the conversation will probably be, first of all, DACA passed. These kids are now legalized. They're legal. They're here. They're going to thrive in America. Second, there's a path to comprehensive immigration reform. Hopefully, that will pass. But I think we're going to be surprised with some sort of commission or entity that will address the issue of racial strife and discord, something on racial reconciliation and healing. If it's not through the executive branch, maybe the legislative branch. But something's going to happen nationally to have a conversation on racial healing and reconciliation. It has to take place.
That was two years ago. None of that happened. And yet Rodriguez is still backing Trump and still a member of the Christianity Today board, while Galli is out the door.