Saturday, July 31, 2021

I'M JUST THE PIANO PLAYER. I'M NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT GOES ON UPSTAIRS.

By the standards of mainstream journalism, this New York Times story by Lisa Lerer and Nicholas Fandos about the Republican Party in the aftermath of the January 6 Capitol riot is surprisingly forthright.
Already Distorting Jan. 6, G.O.P. Now Concocts Entire Counternarrative

... This past week, amid the emotional testimony of police officers at the first hearing of a House select committee, Republicans completed their journey through the looking-glass, spinning a new counternarrative of that deadly day. No longer content to absolve Mr. Trump, they concocted a version of events in which accused rioters were patriotic political prisoners and Speaker Nancy Pelosi was to blame for the violence.

Their new claims, some voiced from the highest levels of House Republican leadership, amount to a disinformation campaign being promulgated from the steps of the Capitol....

This rendering of events ... pointed to what some democracy experts see as a dangerous new sign in American politics: Even with Mr. Trump gone from the White House, many Republicans have little intention of abandoning the prevarication that was a hallmark of his presidency.
If I wanted to be churlish, I could point out that I told you in early February that the GOP was blaming Pelosi for the riot. Still, I'm pleased that Times readers understand this now.

We're told that the disinformation is coming from Trump himself and from "leading House Republicans" such as Kevin McCarthy and Elise Stefanik. But then we're given the impression that there's a large segment of the party that's not on board with the disinformation campaign, although they lack the courage to do anything about it
Some senior Republicans insist that warnings of a whitewash are overwrought.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to be successful erasing what happened,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. “Everybody saw it with their own eyes and the nation saw it on television.”

For Mr. Cornyn and other lawmakers, continuing to talk about the attack is clearly an electoral loser at a time when they are trying to retake majorities in Congress and avoid Mr. Trump’s ire.

Most Republican lawmakers instead simply try to say nothing at all, declining even to recount the day’s events, let alone rebuke members of their party for spreading falsehoods or muddying the waters.

Asked how he would describe the riot, in which a hostile crowd demanded the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, his brother, Representative Greg Pence of Indiana, responded curtly, “I don’t describe it.”

Yet the silence of party stalwarts, including nearly all of the House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump for his role in the attack and the Republican senators who voted to convict him, has created an information void that hard-right allies of Mr. Trump have readily filled.
Do you buy this? Do you believe that this is merely reticence or cowardice that's created "a void" the extremist fringe takes advantage of?

I don't. John Cornyn and Greg Pence know that they're benefiting from what the extremists are saying. It fires up the base and keeps the contributions flowing, and will likely lead to high turnout in 2022.

They also know that it's important to keep persuading the mainstream media -- and, with it, swing voters -- that the GOP isn't completely crazy. They know they need to preserve the myth, for centrist voters and the MSM, that the "real" GOP is people like Cornyn and Pence (and Pence's brother).

They're sending two messages into two different media environments. And as long as the worst than can be said of Republicans like Cornyn and Pence is that they're not doing enough to stop the crazies, they can still insist that the whole party isn't crazy even if it is clearly dominated by crazies.

Meanwhile, they let the crazies thwart any effort to hold those responsible for January 6 accountable, and they reap the benefits while keeping their own hands clean. What's not to like?

Friday, July 30, 2021

MATT TAIBBI HATES YOU, YOU DISGUSTING ELITIST

I briefly mentioned Matt Taibbi's New York Post op-ed in my previous post, but I didn't really convey what a vile piece of work it is. The headline is:
From ‘Yes we can’ to ‘No, you moron’: Dems have selves to blame for vaccine hesitancy
The piece begins with a passage from Joseph Heller's Catch-22 that I assume was underlined in a dog-eared paperback by a weeded-out Matt Taibbi at age fifteen:
“Then there was the educated Texan from Texas who looked like someone in Technicolor and felt, patriotically, that people of means — decent folk — should be given more votes than drifters, whores, criminals, degenerates, atheists and indecent folk — people without means.”

— Joseph Heller, “Catch-22”
The problem with using this quote to bash Democrats is that the Texan doesn't sound like a Democrat at all. He sounds like this guy:


Taibbi goes on to cite a Sunday talk show panel discussion:
On “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” this past Sunday, a bafflegab of Washington pooh-bahs, including Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, Margaret Hoover and Donna Brazile ... discussed vaccine holdouts.
This got up Taibbi's nose because the panelists support vaccine mandates. To Taibbi, this is Democrats' fault because ... (checks notes) ... two Republican panelists and two GOP-friendly Democratic panelists agree on this course of action.

So who's the next Democrat at fault, according to Taibbi?
This bipartisan love-in took place a few days after David Frum, famed Bush speechwriter and creator of the “Axis of Evil” slogan, wrote a column in The Atlantic titled “Vaccinated America Has Had Enough.”
Frum is ... um, also not a Democrat. So you can see why the Democrats are at fault here.

What is Democrats' crime exactly? Let Taibbi explain.
I’m vaccinated. I think people should be vaccinated. But this latest moral mania — and make no mistake about it, the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” p.r. campaign is the latest in a ceaseless series of such manias, dating back to late 2016 — lays bare everything that’s abhorrent and nonsensical in modern American politics, beginning with the no-longer-disguised aristocratic mien of the Washington consensus.

If you want to convince people to get a vaccine, pretty much the worst way to go about it is a massive blame campaign, delivered by sneering bluenoses who have a richly deserved credibility problem with large chunks of the population, and now insist they’re owed financially besides.
Really? I would argue that the worst way to go about it is to ask them politely, which is what the Biden administration and the public health establishment has been doing all year, with no success. Open exasperation only kicked in recently, and not on Biden's part -- he's praising Donald Trump, for crissakes. (Then again, he did that in December and none of the refuseniks cared.)

Now, please pay attention when Taibbi talks about folks "who have a richly deserved credibility problem with large chunks of the population" -- this is his clever way of trying to link his Murdoch-friendly present-day material to his former work attacking genuine elitists. Taibbi still says he hates the financial elites -- but now he equates them with economically comfortable suburbanites, who, in his view, are indistinguishable from genuine plutocrats making a hundred or a thousand times what they make:
There’s always been a contingent in American society that believes people who pay more taxes should get more say, or “more votes,” as Joseph Heller’s hilarious Texan put it.

It’s a conceit that cuts across parties. You hear it from the bank CEO who thinks America should thank him for the pleasure of kissing his ass with a bailout, but just as quickly from the suburban wine mom who can’t believe the ingratitude of the nanny who asks for a day off. Doesn’t she know who’s paying the bills?
Bank CEOs invariably believe they're entitled to more than the rest of us. Does every "suburban wine mom"? Group slander much, Matt?

You might question whether all bank CEOs ands suburban wine moms are Democrats. Rest assured that, according to Taibbi, the GOP used to be an epicenter of this kind of evil, but the party is now in the hands of honest yeoman farmers and sweat-soaked laborers thanks to the heroic efforts of the man Taibbi once called our Insane Clown President:
After 2008, the “We’re pulling the oars, so we should steer the boat” argument dominated the GOP....

Then Trump came along, and the media and political landscapes were reordered. Now there was no philosophical or political split among America’s wealthiest and most educated people. Both strains of snobbism — one looking down on the unschooled, the other looking down on an economically parasitic underclass — fused, putting wealthy America’s pretensions under the same tent for the first time
In other words, according to Taibbi, all the snobbery in America is now Democratic.
The Brookings Institute noted that Hillary Clinton won 472 counties in 2016, which accounted for 64 percent of the country’s GDP. Trump, meanwhile, won 2,584 counties, many in flyover territory, which collectively produced 36 percent of national wealth.

By 2018, it was also true that 41 of the 50 wealthiest congressional districts voted Democratic, with states like California, Virginia, New York, Maryland and New Jersey dominating.
What Taibbi is saying here is that the Democratic Party hates the "parasitic underclass" -- which you can tell from the fact that the Democratic Party gave the have-nots COVID relief checks and a child tax credit and expanded healthcare eligibility. Democrats are also working on two big infrastructure bills, which will create jobs for blue-collar workers.

That's how snobby they are. Why can't they do what true lovers of the hoi polloi would do, like give massive tax cuts to the rich?

But we were talking about vaccines -- and it's odd, because even though Taibbi argues that the elites (who are all Democrats now) "have a richly deserved credibility problem with large chunks of the population," somehow Democrats didn't have a credibility problem when they were expressing wariness about the possibility that President Trump would approve a vaccine prematurely prior to the 2020 election. In fact, the hoi polloi, or at least some of them, clung to these evil Democratic elitists' every word, and internalized a level of skepticism about the vaccines that exceeded even the Democrats' own:
... the messaging from the Biden-Harris campaign last year ... set a precedent of urging the public to distrust the vaccine....

It’s bad enough they went this route last year, which almost certainly resulted in some of the early reported “hesitancy” among communities of color....
But Taibbi told us that non-elitists disdain everything Biden and Harris say! Or is that just white non-elitists? (Elsewhere in the piece, Taibbi describes the notion that Trumpism is about white racial resentment as "propaganda." It's all about class, he insists. So who are these non-white non-elitists who became vaccine-hesitant because they listened to Biden and Harris express anxiety about a premature approval of vaccines?)

To Taibbi, everything is Democrats' fault, and it's Democrats' fault because they embody all the elitism in America. The Trumps? The Kochs? The Mercers? The Murdochs? Nothing elite there.

WE'RE WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING AGAIN

Do you remember when Sean Hannity was urging his viewers to get vaccinated? When Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote a pro-vaccine op-ed? When Mitch McConnell announced a plan to use campaign funds for pro-vaccine radio ads? Cast your mind back to those long-ago days!

Oh, wait -- that was all in the past two weeks. But that brief moment of GOP concern for public health is over now. Here are some highlights from the front page of the Fox News website.



It's possible that the pro-vaccine talk was a feint in the direction of public health because Republicans knew calls for more masking were coming (in response to some legitimately disturbing data about the transmissibility of the Delta variant), and they wanted to establish a minimal level of concern before reverting to their usual oppositional defiant disorder. (I think the explanation for the brief flurry of concern was that some rich donors were watching the post-pandemic economic boom slip away and wanted the Republicans they underwrite to do something about it.)

Whatever was happening for that brief moment, it's over now -- as, apparently, is the critical race theory panic, which barely shows up on the Fox front page.

Also lost to the memory hole: the testimony of the Capitol Police officers who survived the January 6 riot. They had a momentary impact, and some appeared on television the day after their testimony, but that's not enough to implant what they said in the public consciousness.

But, of course, American politics always has to revert to its equilibrium point, which is that the world is full of terrible problems, all of which are the liberals' fault. So we have Matt Taibbi writing a New York Post op-ed that blames right-wing vaccine refusal on "smug" liberals.
If you want to convince people to get a vaccine, pretty much the worst way to go about it is a massive blame campaign, delivered by sneering bluenoses who have a richly deserved credibility problem with large chunks of the population....
Never mind the fact that much of the pro-vaccine campaign has consisted of pleading and begging, and never mind the fact that the right was dug in on vaccine refusal long before most liberals were aware of it, because vaccine refusal was the natural extension of mask refusal and rejection of the earliest lockdowns.

And there's Nate Silver:


There was a brief moment when it was kind of okay to agree with liberals on public health. But we're wrong about everything again.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

UPMARKET EXCUSES FOR JANUARY 6

Last night, when I wrote about Christopher Caldwell's New York Times op-ed, I didn't quite realize that one of Caldwell's assertions -- that the January 6 Capitol riot was unpleasant but not a serious problem because the insurrectionists had no real plan for seizing control of the government -- is the right's new (poll-tested?) talking point, intended to be widely distributed to serious-minded, well-informed citizens who presumably aren't buying talk of bamboo in the ballots and satellite vote switching from Italy.

Caldwell's argument shows up in nearly identical form in a Wall Street Journal editorial today. The editorial attempts to lull well-informed readers by conceding that the 2020 election was fair and the 1/6 unrest was violent:
The House inquiry on the events of Jan. 6 held its opening hearing Tuesday, and it showed why no Republican should try to brush aside the ugliness of the Capitol riot. The perpetrators who assaulted police that day weren’t overenthusiastic tourists, and the mob was not all a “loving crowd,” as Donald Trump characterized the audience for his pre-melee speech.

... President Trump urged his supporters to stop the supposed steal. On Jan. 6 some of them took his words seriously, literally, or both, and Mr. Trump dallied instead of rushing to Congress’s defense. The GOP would be better off ceding weak ground by admitting that the election wasn’t stolen and Mr. Trump was wrong.
But insurrection? Don't be silly!
The falseness in the Democratic story line is the idea that America’s constitutional order was hanging by a lone thread. The chairman of the Jan. 6 committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, claimed in his opening remarks Tuesday that “the rioters came dangerously close to succeeding” in their effort to “upend American democracy.” This is in service of Mrs. Pelosi’s political narrative that Mr. Trump conspired with a mob to stage a coup d’état. She wants to run against Mr. Trump again in 2022.

This gives the mob far too much credit. Rioters believed Mr. Trump’s falsehoods about a stolen election, and some of them apparently thought they might stop Congress’s certification of the electoral votes. But that was an impossible fantasy. The Electoral College had already voted. Vice President Mike Pence had concluded, correctly and bravely, that he had no authority to reject the results. The rioters had no apparent leader and no coherent plan.
If there was no chance that the coup could succeed, why say that Pence "bravely" rejected it? A reader might conclude from that word that Pence and the rule of law were both at risk.
Even if they’d managed to steal or destroy the official Electoral College certificates, do Democrats think some knucklehead in face paint and a fur hat could have simply declared the election void? The public and the courts wouldn’t have stood for a rabble overturning the 2020 result. Mr. Trump didn’t have the military on his side, or even most of his own Administration.
What if the mob had succeeded in hanging Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi? What if, after that, they'd taken hostages? What if this inspired other wingnuts to march on D.C. in support of the hostage-takers?

No biggie! It would be business as usual, wouldn't it? Surely there'd be a peaceful transition of power two weeks later with no hiccups, right? That seems to be what the Journal ed board is telling us.

But does it matter how close the coup came to succeeding? Left-wing radicals in the 1960s and 1970s had dreams of bringing down the government with a few bank robberies and bombings, on the assumption that The People would rise up in response. Right-wing terrorists in subsequent decades have had similar thoughts. Should we have shrugged these people off because their revolutions were unlikely?

Conservatives used to harrumph that America was becoming dangerously lax in its tolerance of bad conduct. We were lowering our standards for what was considered pathological, they said -- in Daniel Patrick Moynihan's phrase, we were "defining deviancy down."

Now right-wingers are urging us to do just that.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

BUT YOU HAVE TO ADMIT THE INSURRECTIONISTS HAD SOME GOOD IDEAS, RIGHT?

A dozen years ago, Christopher Caldwell got respectful attention while endorsing what was essentially a European Great Replacement Theory. Dwight Garner of The New York Times summed up some of the assertions in Caldwell's 2009 book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West.
Through decades of mass immigration to Europe's hospitable cities and because of a strong disinclination to assimilate, Muslims are changing the face of Europe, perhaps decisively. These Muslim immigrants are not so much enhancing European culture as they are supplanting it. The products of an adversarial culture, these immigrants and their religion, Islam, are "patiently conquering Europe's cities, street by street."
Garner was not appalled by this. He wrote:
Mr. Caldwell, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard and a columnist for The Financial Times, compiles his arguments patiently, twig by twig, and mostly with lucidity and intellectual grace and even wit....

Mr. Caldwell's book is well researched, fervently argued and morally serious.
Today, an op-ed by Caldwell appears in the Times, where he's a contributing opinion writer. In it, we're told that it was no big deal for the January 6 insurrectionists to assault the Capitol in the hope of overturning the results of a democratic election, because, heck, it's not as if they were going to succeed or anything.

Caldwell writes:
Were we really that close to a coup? ...

On the one hand, it is hard to think of a more serious assault on democracy than a violent entry into a nation’s capitol to reverse the election of its chief executive. Five people died. Chanting protesters urged the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, who had refused Mr. Trump’s call that he reject certain electoral votes cast for Joe Biden.

On the other hand, Jan. 6 was something familiar: a political protest that got out of control. Contesting the fairness of an election, rightly or wrongly, is not absurd grounds for a public assembly. For a newly defeated president to call an election a “steal” is certainly irresponsible. But for a group of citizens to use the term was merely hyperbolic, perhaps no more so than calling suboptimal employment and health laws a “war on women.” ...

The stability of the republic never truly seemed at risk. As Michael Wolff writes of Mr. Trump in his new book, “Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency,” “Beyond his immediate desires and pronouncements, there was no ability — or structure, or chain of command, or procedures, or expertise, or actual person to call — to make anything happen.”
So the vice president and speaker of the House might have been assassinated -- Caldwell concedes that we got our hair mussed! But that's not like real insurrection!

Besides, the folks with the gallows had a point, according to Caldwell:
Republicans had — and still have — legitimate grievances about how the last election was run. Pandemic conditions produced an electoral system more favorable to Democrats. Without the Covid-era advantage of expanded mail-in voting, Democrats might well have lost more elections at every level, including the presidential.
The changes made in response to the pandemic were available to everybody; they were advantageous to Democrats only because Republicans didn't care about the risks of congregating in a pandemic. If Republicans had taken advantage of expanded mail-in voting, or if they had offered drive-through balloting in red precincts, no Democrat would have objected. More voting is good! One party believes that; the other doesn't.
Nor was it just luck; it was an advantage that, in certain places, Democrats manipulated the system to obtain. The majority-Democratic Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of a Democratic Party lawsuit to extend the date for accepting mail-in ballots beyond Election Day.
Yup, and the majority-Republican U.S. Supreme Court rejected all challenges to the extension of that deadline.

A dozen years ago, Caldwell wrote a "morally serious" book in which he made arguments about immigration in Europe that Tucker Carlson currently makes about immigration in America. Now Caldwell argues that the 2020 pre3sidential election kinda-sorta was rigged. And yet he's still regarded as respectable.

THE RAGE IS WHAT'S MISSING

Is Donald Trump losing his grip on the GOP?
Voters in North Texas delivered an upset Tuesday, picking GOP state Rep. Jake Ellzey to fill a vacant House seat over a candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Ellzey beat fellow Republican Susan Wright, the widow of former Rep. Ron Wright, 53 percent to 47 percent, when the Associated Press called the low-turnout, Republican-vs.-Republican runoff. Though Ellzey was better funded, Wright leaned heavily on her backing from the former president, who often plays kingmaker in Republican primaries.

Trump crashed into the race during the first round of voting in May, tapping Wright out of a crowded all-party primary and turning the contest into an early test of his post-presidency clout. He held two tele-town halls for her and taped a robocall for her, making the loss more painful.
So is it possible that Trump won't be able to take down Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Brian Kemp, and other Republicans who opposed his efforts to steal the 2020 election? Is it possible that Mike Pence could beat Trump in the 2024 primaries?

I wouldn't go that far. Trump endorsed Susan Wright in this race, but he didn't hate Jake Ellzey. He didn't give Ellzey a demeaning nickname. He didn't accuse Ellzey of betraying Our Great Country (i.e., himself). He didn't inspire his followers to hate Ellzey, either.

I don't know why Trump's people encouraged him to issue endorsements in elections that he doesn't care about and that aren't relevant to any of his grievances. I guess the point was to show that he remains politically relevant. But a loss like this just make him look weak.

He isn't weak -- or at least he won't appear to be weak when he's on the campaign trail bashing Cheney and Kinzinger and the others who ratified the real election results in 2020. That recent poll of Republicans that shows Cheney with a disapproval rating 43 points higher than her approval rating is all the proof you need that Republican voters still hate the people Trump hates. So is Fox News's portrayal of the Capitol Police officers who testified at yesterday's January 6 committee hearing as whining crybabies.

When Trump returns to his sweet spot -- rage -- he'll be able decide elections again, or at least he'll be able to determine who loses them. Races like this Texas special election aren't good for his brand.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

THEY LIE ABOUT EVERYTHING

Trumpist America's widespread, deep-seated hostility toward the coronavirus vaccines is undeniable, and it's clear now that it's causing a new surge in infections. Conservative pundits could own this, either arguing that the refuseniks have good reason to put the lives of themselves and others at risk or acknowledging that people on their side have made an extremely unwise choice.

But it's so much easier for them to gaslight us.

The lead article at National Review's website right now is "Fact-Checkers Rewrite the History of Democrats’ Vaccine Skepticism" by David Harsanyi. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the rewriting is actually being done by Harsanyi himself.

He tells us:
Vaccines do not organically appear from the ether. They are made. And both [Joe] Biden and [Kamala] Harris worked to discredit those charged with creating them.
Harsanyi offers no evidence that Biden and Harris tried to discredit vaccine creators because there is no such evidence. He muddles the distinction between scientists working in labs and Donald Trump working the levers of government as president. Harsanyi writes:
Harris claimed, for example, that even public-health experts who vouched for the vaccine shouldn’t be believed, because they “will be muzzled, they will be suppressed, they will be sidelined, because he’s looking at an election coming up in less than 60 days, and he’s grasping for whatever he can get to pretend that he has been a leader on this issue, when he has not.” Or, in other words, any vaccine produced during the Trump presidency should be seen as unreliable.
That's a context-free distortion of what Harris actually said to CNN's Dana Bash on September 6, 2020.
BASH: But do you trust that, in the situation where we're in now, that the public health experts and the scientists will get the last word on the efficacy of a vaccine?

HARRIS: If past is prologue, that they will not, that will be muzzled, they will be suppressed, they will be sidelined, because he's looking at an election coming up in less than 60 days, and he's grasping for whatever he can get to pretend that he has been a leader on this issue, when he has not.
Harris was predicting that government scientists wouldn't be allowed to offer a true assessment of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. The conversation continued.
BASH: So, let's just say there is a vaccine that is approved and even distributed before the election. Would you get it?

HARRIS: Well, I think that's going to be an issue for all of us.

I will say that I would not trust Donald Trump. And it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he's talking about.
Asked whether she'd trust Dr. Anthony Fauci if he said a vaccine was safe and effective, Harris replied:
I think Dr. Fauci has proven, for anyone who's been watching him for years and years, to put the public health of the American people as the highest priority in terms of his work and his reputation and his priority.

Yes, I trust Dr. Fauci.
So she didn't claim that "public-health experts who vouched for the vaccine shouldn’t be believed."

Harsanyi continues:
Biden was no better, ... arguing that [potential vaccines] were “not likely to go through all the tests that need to be done and the trials that are needed to be done.”
Here's a fuller version of that Biden quote, From August 6, 2020:
The way he (Trump) talks about the vaccine is not particularly rational. He’s talking about it being ready, he’s going to talk about moving it quicker than the scientists think it should be moved.... People don’t believe that he’s telling the truth, therefore they’re not at all certain they’re going to take the vaccine. And one more thing: If and when the vaccine comes, it’s not likely to go through all the tests that need to be done, and the trials that are needed to be done.
Harsanyi writes as if this is disinformation totally divorced from reality.
Indeed, neither Harris nor Biden offered a shred of evidence that Moncef Slaoui, who was heading up Operation Warp Speed — or anyone else, for that matter — was being pressured by the administration to deliver an untested vaccine before Election Day....
But they didn't need to offer evidence because the evidence was widely reported on. Here's a New York Times story from October 5, 2020:
Top White House officials are blocking strict new federal guidelines for the emergency release of a coronavirus vaccine, objecting to a provision that would almost certainly guarantee that no vaccine could be authorized before the election on Nov. 3, according to people familiar with the approval process.

Facing a White House blockade, the Food and Drug Administration is seeking other avenues to ensure that vaccines meet the guidelines. That includes sharing the standards — perhaps as soon as this week — with an outside advisory committee of experts that is supposed to meet publicly before any vaccine is authorized for emergency use. The hope is that the committee will enforce the guidelines, regardless of the White House’s reaction....

The vaccine guidelines carry special significance: By refusing to allow the Food and Drug Administration to release them, the White House is undercutting the government’s effort to reassure the public that any vaccine will be safe and effective, health experts fear.
The next day, AP reported:
The Food and Drug Administration released updated safety standards Tuesday for makers of COVID-19 vaccines despite efforts by the White House to block them, clearing the way for requirements that are widely expected to prevent the introduction of a vaccine before Election Day.

In the new guidelines posted on its website, the FDA said vaccine makers should follow trial participants for at least two months to rule out any major side effects before seeking emergency approval. That standard had been a sticking point between the FDA and White House officials....
And it's not as if Trump was making any secret of wanting a vaccine October Surprise. From his Twitter:


And on October 7:
President Donald Trump said in a video posted Wednesday that “no president’s ever pushed” the Food and Drug Administration like he has as concerns mount that the administration is pressuring the agency to quickly authorize a vaccine for the coronavirus....

“We’re going to have a great vaccine very, very shortly. I think we should have it before the election, but frankly the politics gets involved and that’s OK. They want to play their games,” Trump said in a video posted on Twitter. “The FDA has acted as quickly as they’ve ever acted in history. ... No president’s ever pushed them like I’ve pushed them either, to be honest with you.”
Harsanyi writes:
Harris, incidentally, was given numerous opportunities to walk back or temper her claim that the process could be so easily corrupted. She doubled down, promising that: “If Donald Trump tells us to take it, I’m not taking it.”
She said that during the vice presidential debate, which took place on October 7 -- the day Trump, in a Twitter video, boasted about how much he was pressuring the FDA to approve a vaccine before the election. Harsanyi is wrong when he suggests that Biden and Harris's suspicions were unfounded -- and, of course, he truncates the Harris quote to make her seem categorically opposed to a vaccine produced during the Trump presidency. Here's what she said:
“If Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it. Absolutely,” Harris said. “But if Donald Trump tells us to take it, I’m not taking it.”
Harris's meaning is obvious. But because bad-faith arguments are all Republicans have, Harsanyi wants you to believe Harris and Biden rejected vaccines that they went on to get as soon as they were eligible, accepting the jabs with cameras rolling, unlike Trump, whom Harsanyi apparently holds blameless. These people lie about everything.

IF WE DON'T PAY MORE ATTENTION, THIS COULD BE A PREVIEW OF 2022

Yes, Gavin Newsom might be recalled.
Californians who say they expect to vote in the September recall election are almost evenly divided over whether to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom from office, evidence of how pivotal voter turnout will be in deciding the governor’s political fate, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times....

The poll found that 47% of likely California voters supported recalling the Democratic governor, compared with 50% who opposed removing Newsom from office — a difference just shy of the survey’s margin of error.
The recall is failing badly -- 36% to 51% -- among registered voters. But a disproportionate share of likely voters are just who you think they'd be: members of the always-engaged party of permanent grievance, the GOP.
Though Republicans account for only about a quarter of all registered voters in California, the poll found that they account for 33% of those most likely to cast ballots in the recall election. Democrats make up 46% of the state’s 22 million voters and “no party preference” voters 24%, but their share of the likely recall voters drops to 42% and 18% respectively, DiCamillo said.
This poll could be an outlier -- most polls show the recall failing by double digits. However, it's not the only recent poll showing a tight contest -- an Emerson College poll for Inside California Politics has the recall trailing by only 5.

I suspect that Newsom will survive by a single-digit margin. But this shouldn't be close. Newsom won the 2018 ele3ction 62%-38%. Joe Biden won the state last year by 29 points.

But Democrats really might take their eye off the ball, partly because it's an off-cycle election, and partly because, to many non-Republican voters, electoral politics just doesn't seem to be an emergency anymore.

Republicans rarely feel that way. They'll turn out. And they'll turn out in the midterms. I'm not sure Democrats will. Trump's gone, right? So what's the big deal?

For decades, the right-wing media has found a way to keep conservative-leaning voters permanently engaged, by turning every political story in America into a wrestling match with a hero and a heel. Democrats energized their base against Trump and, before that, against George W. Bush. But the engagement lags when there isn't a high-profile villain.

What do we do to reverse this tendency? I'm stumped.

Monday, July 26, 2021

THE NEED TO ELEVATE CHENEY AND KINZINGER IS A MARK OF DEMOCRATIC FAILURE

This is today's news:
Democrats are seeking to elevate the role of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) on the committee examining the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, scheduling her to deliver one of the two opening statements at the panel’s first public hearing Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the decision.

The move is intended to present the committee as a bipartisan effort following Republican leadership’s decision not to participate in the panel after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week rejected two of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the panel.
Yesterday, there was this:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Sunday she has appointed GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger to the House select committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, bolstering the Republican presence on the panel after GOP leadership pulled its appointees last week.
And a few days ago, there was this:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats are considering ... asking a former GOP congressman to serve on committee staff amid a standoff with House GOP leaders over their picks for the panel....

Former Virginia GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman, a former intelligence officer who lost his primary last year, has been a forceful critic of other Republicans over election-related disinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories, and could join the committee staff in an advisory capacity, according to sources briefed on the discussions.
Adding Cheney and Kinzinger might have the intended effect: persuading middle-of-the-road voters that the committee is a bipartisan effort to get to the truth. Or perhaps the endless braying of Republicans will dominate the discussion:
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), recently elevated to the House GOP leadership because of her devotion to Trump and the lie of widespread election fraud, released a statement saying “the Pelosi partisan January 6th commission was never about investigating the facts, it was only ever about Pelosi’s radical politics and the Left’s endless obsession with crushing any discussion or debate.”
Led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republicans are referring to Cheney and Kinzinger as "Pelosi Republicans," as if that's all you need to know about their fitness to serve.

But maybe the Democrats' strategy will work. That will be a good thing -- but it shouldn't be necessary.

If we lived in a country where Democrats in Congress were presumed to be genuine Americans and patriots, and, further, if we lived in a country where the attempt to overturn the results of a legitimate election did the damage to the GOP that it should have done, Pelosi wouldn't have been worried about the possible perception that her party was acting in a partisan way, any more than Republicans worried when they conducted endless flagrantly partisan investigations of Benghazi (which did no harm to Republicans and a great deal of political harm to Hillary Clinton).

There's one treasonous major party in America, and there's one party that white middle American voters believe is a treasonous major party -- and they're not the same party. For decades, Democrats have allowed themselves to be demonized and slandered by GOP politicians and right-wing media figures, and have never mounted an effort to improve their party's image. At the same time, they've never done the work necessary to persuade the American people that the GOP is as extreme and unpatriotic as it actually is.

If the white heartland Americans who decide our elections had an accurate understanding of Republican extremism and contempt for democracy, they wouldn't care whether members of the party were represented on the 1/6 commission. In fact, they'd regard any Republicans on the committee, even the ones who accept the election results, with suspicion, just because they're Republicans.

But because heartland whites regard all Democrats rather than all Republicans as suspect unless proven otherwise, Pelosi needs to include members of the GOP on the committee.

Democrats are doing what they need to do under the circumstances. But what they're doing should be necessary.

BIDEN AND HARRIS SOMEHOW PERSUADED REPUBLICANS TO REFUSE THE VACCINE, BUT NOT DEMOCRATS

I don't care that Arkansas governor-to-be Sarah Huckabee Sanders refers to "the Trump vaccine" in her recent op-ed, in which she urges readers to get inoculated against COVID. And I'm not surprised that she lies in this passage:
When the Trump administration initiated Operation Warp Speed in May 2020, the president stated that a vaccine would become available by December of that year at the very latest. From the moment he made his announcement, the "expert" class tried to undermine those statements with baseless fear-mongering.

The New York Times ran an opinion piece claiming that whatever the Trump administration released would likely be a dangerous political stunt. CNN did the same. But no one did more to undercut public confidence in the vaccine than Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Biden doubted that the vaccine would be "real," while Harris said in a nationally-televised debate that she would not take any vaccine the Trump administration had a hand in creating.
In fact, Biden and Harris merely expressed doubts about a vaccine approved before the election, and said they wouldn't trust a vaccine unless it had the imprimatur of the scientific community. Harris said:
If the public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it. Absolutely. But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it.
Biden said:
And the question of whether it’s real, when it’s there, that requires enormous transparency. You’ve got to make all of it available to other experts across the nation, so they can look and see, so there’s consensus this is a safe vaccine.
The Times op-ed Sanders cites, by Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Dr. Paul A. Offit, made a similar argument:
Given how this president has behaved, this incredibly dangerous scenario is not far-fetched. In a desperate search for a political boost, he could release a coronavirus vaccine before it had been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe and effective.
I haven't found the CNN piece Sanders cites, but I'm sure it makes a similar argument.

Of course Sanders lies. Her intended Republican audience is so used to lies from its politicians that it probably wouldn't respond to rhetoric that's truthful.

What's striking about the Sanders op-ed is her conclusion: that as a result of all these denunciations of the Trump vaccine program by evil liberals, the vaccine is now being widely rejected ... by Trump fans. It's not being rejected by liberals -- people who voted for Biden and Harris, who read The New York Times, and who watch CNN. Biden, Harris, CNN, and the Times persuaded only right-wingers to be wary of the vaccines. In fact, right-wingers are so wary of the vaccines that they won't even listen to the man they believe is still the real president.

According to right-wingers, Biden and Harris didn't persuade enough people to vote for them to legitimately win the election. According to right-wingers, CNN and The New York Times are dying "legacy media" institutions that no one takes seriously. But right-wingers also believe that Biden, Harris, and these media voices are more persuasive on vaccines than The Greatest President Ever -- except in the case of their own backers. Strange how that works.

THANKS

I'm back. Thank you, Tom and Yas, for elevating the level of discourse while I was away. I'm not sure I can maintain the high standards, but I'll try.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

It's Complicated, Ross

 



Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, has a new complaint, or meta-complaint, above and beyond the usual ones that liberals are too permissive about sex (1960s hippie edition) or not permissive enough (2010s feminism)—that we can't make up our minds between the two at all ("Can the Left Regulate Sex?"):

in its retreat from the Polanski era, its concession that sometimes it’s OK to forbid, cultural progressivism entered into a long internal struggle over what its goal ought to be — to maximize permissiveness with some minimalist taboos (no rape, no sex with children) or to devise a broader set of sexual regulations that would reflect egalitarian and feminist values rather than religious ones.

This tension is visible all over recent history. The mood in which liberals defended Bill Clinton’s philandering was an example of the more permissive option. The mood of the #MeToo era, which condemned cads as well as rapists, is an example of the more regulatory approach.

Taken for granted that "we" literally have to "regulate sex", because

I don’t know how long the current period of progressive cultural power can last. But so long as it does, these debates will continue, because the regulation of sex is an inescapable obligation of power.

Calling Professor Foucault! Is this true? What I think Professor Foucault says in the first place is, "Thanks for proving my point, Ross!" 

Since the burden of the book, at least the first volume, was to show that 17th-century absolutists of church and state generally created the concept of "sexuality" as a discrete and separate "discursive object" in order to dominate the sexual behavior of the subjects, beginning with the Roman Catholic church at the time of the Counter-Reformation, with its elaborate confessional routine asking sinners to work out an inordinately detailed and structured account of their sexual sins. They claimed that "obligation" as an excuse for exerting control over the whole population.

Little did Foucault realize, I guess, how badly the Church had been able to police its own enforcers—it was in 1985, just a year after his death, that the clerical sex abuse scandal in the US originally broke out in a big way, with the guilty plea of ex-Father Gilbert Gaulthe on his molestations of hundreds of boys in the course of performing his duties as a priest in New Iberia and Vermilion Parish between 1974 and 1983, the first in a long series of horrible revelations of rape and abuse on the part of (some, obviously very far from all) Catholic parish priests and their bishops' failure to curb the practices, fighting the authority of the state to interfere as it handled abuse complaints too often by transferring the accused priest to a different location where he continued his criminal behavior on fresh victims.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Stupid Economist Tricks: Sex, Lies, and Deficit Terror

Tom Toles did not cite a source for that 97% figure. Then again, unlike Michael Strain, he is paid to be a cartoonist.


Actually, no, no sex, just Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute, warning readers of The New York Times that

Biden Is Asking for $4 Trillion. Congress Shouldn’t Give It to Him.


He seems to like this headline format. Last time I had reason to deal with him, in 2015, it was with reference to a WaPo piece recommending the repeal of the Affordable Care Act:

End Obamacare, and people could die. That's okay.

Spoiler: my commentary concluded that it was not okay. And the GOP Congress, failing to end Obamacare, sort of agreed! I mean not exactly, but we won.

Anyway, the reason Strain would like Congress to refuse Biden the money, or at least the $3.5 trillion of it to be appropriated through the budget reconciliation process without requiring any Republican votes, is ostensibly the raging inflation he (Michael Strain) sees and expects to see continuing through next year even without this extra spending, and which would surely be aggravated by the increased demand for stuff (where "demand" means, as it usually does in this style of economics, "ability to pay for things you really need that you couldn't afford before") that the spending on the expanded child tax credit in particular will bring on by yanking people out of their God-appointed poverty, while the Biden administration makes no plans for increasing the supply of stuff, other than by PROVIDING THE UNIVERSAL FREE PRE-K EDUCATION that recipients of the child tax credit are most likely to be spending it on, but you can't expect Strain to make that connection.

So in the course of his argument he gives a lot of attention to an analysis of the Biden program by Moody's, in which for some reason he doesn't offer a link to it:

The $3.5 trillion plan [as opposed to the half-trillion or so designated for bridges and tunnels and roads] is another story. Though the details of this package are still being debated, Moody’s Analytics calculates that the plan would contain more than $500 billion in tax credits from 2022 to 2026 for low- and middle-income households. Such payments would increase consumer demand for goods and services, pushing up their prices.

For that five-year period, Moody’s also expects more than $400 billion of spending on social programs like nutrition and housing assistance, child care and education. Much of this would add to inflationary pressures.

Overall, even though taxes would go up under the Democrats’ plan, it would add nearly $1 trillion to the deficit over the five years beginning in 2022, according to Moody’s. Given the composition of much of this deficit spending, this would be another big boost to the demand side of the economy.

Again, he fails or refuses to notice that the spending on nutrition (subsidies to agriculture), housing (subsidies to builders and landlords) and child care and education (subsidies to providers) are designed to increase supply. He also fails or refuses to notice the effect $2.5 trillion or so devoted to other things, particularly healthcare and combating global warming, will have on increasing supply of health services and things like renewable energy and electric vehicles, but let that pass. He also pulls a fast one by talking in five-year terms to make "$1 trillion" added to the deficit sound like a lot when it's in fact $200 billion a year and a drop in the bucket by today's standards. But the thing that gets to me most is the way he glosses over the tax increase for personal incomes over $400,000 and corporations as "taxes would go up" with no numbers attached.

And why didn't he link to a source for Moody's analysis? I just happen to have Moody's right here with me, via CNN, and:

In Which Jim Banks Accidentally Has an Almost Good Idea

The other day Kevin Kruse gave Greg Sargent the perfect analogy for appointing Jordan and Banks to the January 6 committee: it was like “appointing Strom Thurmond to the Kerner Commission.” Kruse expanded on this point on Twitter: It seems like an obvious point (too obvious for people like Chris Cillizza, apparently), but it has to be made: you don't appoint people to a project who oppose the project itself.

Banks signaled his opposition to the January 6 investigation with a statement to the effect that the committee should join OJ on a hunt for the real killers:
If Democrats were serious about investigating political violence, this committee would be studying not only the January 6 riot at the Capitol, but also the hundreds of violent political riots last summer when many more innocent Americans and law-enforcement officers were attacked.
This has become a standard talking point for Republicans opposed to any January 6 investigation, and part of a broader campaign to bothsides January 6. (See also today's Washington Examiner, reporting on a Rasmussen poll sponsored by a pro-cop organization.)

The crazy thing about this is that on its own merits, a committee to investigate last year's unrest--entirely separate from the January 6 investigation--isn't a bad idea. In an ideal world, a Kerner Commission style inquiry into the George Floyd protests (with, one hopes, better follow-through) would be a valuable exercise.

Let's look into the underlying causes--not just the precipitating events but the longstanding systemic abuses that got people into the streets.

Let's look at the overall record, and hear testimony from witnesses at the peaceful marches--the overwhelming majority--to provide context for the sensationalized depictions in right-wing media.

Let's look at the violence that did occur, and examine who committed it and why. Provide a full accounting of every single case of bodily harm, regardless of the responsible parties.

Let's look at the police response to these protests. Investigate the instances where police overreaction turned peaceful demonstrations violent, or where police inaction may have abetted the actions of provocateurs.

And let's not stop at the end of the summer. Let's look at how officials reacted. Let's examine legislation that criminalizes the right to peaceable assembly, or encourages violence against people exercising that right.

None of this is going to happen, of course, because this isn't an ideal world. It isn't even the less-than-ideal '60s, for that matter.

But as long as the right insists on its distorted narrative of burning cities and leftist mayhem, it would be worthwhile for our leaders to try to get at the real story--with whatever tools and whatever processes are possible--and push back against the lies.

[Updated to add link I had missed]

Snowflake Syndrome

I don't have the stomach to respond to the latest idiotic be-nice-to-Trump-voters horseshit, but happily Greg Sargent has more intestinal fortitude than I do. Intro:
To hear some pundits and Republicans tell it, millions of people across the country who voted for Donald Trump are suffering from an affliction that you might call “Snowflake Syndrome.”

On numerous fronts in our politics — from voting rights to covid-19 to the legacy of Jan. 6 — we’re being told these voters are afflicted with a deeply fragile belief system that must be carefully ministered to and humored to an extraordinary degree.

We must pass voting restrictions everywhere to assuage these voters’ “belief” that the 2020 election was highly dubious or fraudulent. We must not argue too aggressively for coronavirus vaccines, lest they feel shamed and retreat into their anti-vax epistemological shells.

And we must allow Republicans to appoint some of the most deranged promoters of the stolen election myth to a committee examining the insurrection so they’ll feel like its findings are credible.
Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

For the Record: Debt Ceiling

The original debt ceiling crisis of 2011, as captured by cartoonist Jen Sorensen.

Did you all realize that the US debt ceiling actually doesn't exist, and hasn't existed for the past eight years? Though it will return, like a zombie, at the end of the month if Congress doesn't manage to stop it.

I did know, without realizing I did until our friend Dr. Volts asked:

But I think the coin idea is too gimmicky, and misleading to the public, which will always think it ought to be spent, which is the one thing that absolutely shouldn't be done with it. For raising money, as I've been saying, taxation is the thing, especially when there's $68 trillion out there in the hands of people with so much money that they are literally unable to spend it.

You may wonder how I, a notorious non-economist, found out about all this stuff, so I'll tell you something about it, briefly—it goes back to my crazed crusade against Modern Monetary Theory of last spring, when one particularly astute commenter told me I wasn't doing economics at all, but accounting, and I realized it was true. Accounting is actually better than economics, in my view. It's much more in touch with human social reality, and can't get snaggled by high-class metaphysical witticisms like MMT. Anyway, since then, when I get annoyed by something like the debt ceiling, I read about it in the understanding that it's not economics, merely accounting, and that makes it totally comprehensible.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names

Bipartisanship?

 

James Gillray, 1791, "The Hopes of the Party Before July 14", showing the Whig leader Charles James Fox as ready to chop off the head of George III, while Queen Charlotte and the Tory leader William Pitt the Younger, upper right, have already been executed. That's what I call partisanship! British Museum, via Nynorsk Wikiwand (they had the best resolution). 


Nice piece wondering about the way we fetishize "bipartisanship", by the historian Nicole Hemmer at CNN's website, localizes the moment we're nostalgic for, when bipartisanship was apparently good in its own right:

For much of US history, bipartisanship was not lionized. It was only in the mid-20th century that bipartisan compromise began to confer a golden sheen on legislation. That's in part because it was more attainable, and because at times, the results were profoundly beneficial. The two major parties had become a mishmash of ideologies: there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, and on the major issues of the day, bipartisanship made life-changing legislation possible. The Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights ActMedicare, Medicaid — all bipartisan.
    In the 1940s and 1950s, with the threat of totalitarianism looming large in the American imagination, there was something particularly beneficial to politicians about championing bipartisanship. It showed voters (along with foreign leaders and allies abroad) that American lawmakers followed a standard higher than simple party interests. Compromise elevated them to the ranks of technocratic statesmen (they were nearly all men) who were unencumbered by devotion to party, who were instead dedicated to higher ideals and first principles.

    I think that may be understating how weird that time was historically, and not quite healthy, and how much the very tenuousness of some of those accomplishments is related to the peculiarity of the situation.

    I've written a lot in the past about the evolution of the Democratic party from the end of the Civil War to the New Deal Coalition, which took place on two tracks, basically: on the one hand dominating the South as Jim Crow restricted the electorate to white people, as a conservative party looking back longingly on the power they wielded in the era of Jackson and Calhoun, and yet representing a rural and underdeveloped population in constant need of economic aid; and on the other hand thriving in the urban Northeast among the newer immigrant communities, a party above all of labor, and ready to be radical in alliance with radical intellectuals. 

    The Republicans, as the victors in the war, followed a kind of mirror image evolution into a similar incoherence: in the Northeast, abandoning their radicalism with the end of Reconstruction, leaving the business establishment as the main ideological engine, while in the rural Midwest, homesteading veterans of the war struggling to make a living found themselves susceptible to a different kind of radicalism, the prairie populist type, and for a short time a progressive coalition bringing them together with a certain type of elite represented by Theodore Roosevelt in opposition to business monopolies; but in the far West and Southwest, a different kind of rural existence—a landowner class dominating workers who mostly had no political rights, and fighting to control the water supply, developed a different kind of conservatism, a rejection of the concept of the commons. 

    Wednesday, July 21, 2021

    If Chris Ran the Circus

     

    The Spotted Atrocious.


    The Most Chris Cillizza Thing Ever:

    If you ever held any hope that the House select committee on the January 6 US Capitol riot might produce a report that would help us understand what happened in the lead-up to that day and, in so doing, provide us avenues to keeping it from happening again, you should give up on those hopes now.

    The reason? Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision Wednesday to reject two of the five nominees -- Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana -- put forward by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on the panel.

    Absolutely! How could we possibly come to understand what happened in the lead-up to January 6 without Gym Jordan flapping his arms, barking like a dog, and running back and forth on the tabletops? We completely depend on Gym Jordan and Jim Banks for our ability to understand virtually anything!

    Wait, who is Jim Banks? He's somebody who's gone from backing the Mueller investigation during his first term

    “I don’t work for the president,” Banks told [Molly Ball/Atlantic in June 2017]. “Where were we, Paul, last week, when I was lambasted on that subject of whether or not I was going to blindly follow the president?”

    to joining Mo Brooks and 18 other democracy haters this year in demanding congressional hearings on election fraud to further the claim that state legislatures are constitutionally allowed to overturn elections

    In a tweet on Friday, Banks said he signed the letter because "the Constitution says state legislatures set the time, place and manner of the elections. There are countless examples of state legislatures being circumvented in the 2020 election."

    At the invitation of Donald Trump, Indiana Rep. Jim Banks recently led a small group of House Republicans to the former president’s New Jersey golf club, where they dined on beef tenderloin, posed for photos and briefed him on strategy for the 2022 midterm elections.

    In four short years, in other words, from humble Indiana conservative to Gym Jordan wannabe, another Spotted Atrocious, with no feigned outrage too foolish to adopt under the fear of being primaried at his back. 

    And an aspiring attack dog who has responded to the rejection by explaining, inadvertently, what a terrible member of the committee he was hoping to be, refusing to deal with the matters the committee is tasked with investigating and badgering witnesses with irrelevant questions about imaginary burning cities and the "real insurrectionists". Unlike that obedient lapdog Rep. Cheney:

    As Cillizza knows perfectly well, and he even says so:

    And it's beyond debate that McCarthy's choices -- especially Banks and Jordan -- were aimed at turning the committee into something of a circus. Both men would have, at every turn, sought to turn the tables on Democrats -- using the platform provided by the committee to push debunked claims about Antifa's involvement in the Capitol riot, questioning Democratic leadership's readiness for just such an attack and trying to broaden the committee's mandate to cover the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020.

    But the other way (Minority Leader McCarthy has responded by withdrawing all of his nominations, and vowing that if he can't have Gym gish-galloping all the witnesses he'd rather have nobody at all) won't be "bipartisan", and that, to Cillizza, means it really won't be anything at all, just a waste of everybody's time, because once upon a time you could get decent members from both parties (let's just forget that leadership could, and did, weed out all the conservative time-wasters then too).

    Honestly, it's going to be a good thing in some respects, as Quinta Jurecic points out at Lawfare:

    the fact that the select committee is a second-best option supported almost entirely by Democrats may actually be a point in its favor. Cheney and the Democratic majority on the committee won’t necessarily need to soft-pedal their investigation or negotiate compromises in order to appeal to pro-Trump Republicans. They can—if they want—aggressively pursue, with far fewer political constraints, the truth of what happened on Jan. 6. 

    And they will have a great deal more time to do so than the independent commission, as outlined in the House-passed bill, would have enjoyed.

    (because the independent commission proposal had an end date, and the House select committee won't). And, dirty little secret, the people who won't learn anything because they're put off by the absence of Gym and Jim weren't going to learn anything anyway.

    Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names. And don't miss Tom's terrific piece posted while I was writing this.

    Active Evil, Passive Press

    So, to recap: yesterday McCarthy named Jim Jordan and Jim Banks to the Select Committee on the January 6 insurrection, along with three less offensive GOP apparatchiks; Jordan and Banks both promptly signaled their intent to sabotage the investigation; this morning Speaker Pelosi accepted the three less offensive guys, and vetoed Jordan and Banks; and McCarthy threw a carefully staged hissy fit in which he withdrew all five and condemned the comittee as a partisan "sham process".

    Cue the shitty beltway journalist takes. Among the first of the worst was, unsurprisingly, someone from Politico: It's "definitely going to look partisan and political". Extraordinary how this perception materializes with no involvement or culpability on the part of the people whose job it is to inform us about politics.

    Also unsurprisingly, along comes Chris Cillizza and asks Rachel Bade to hold his beer, delivering a piece headlined Nancy Pelosi just doomed the already tiny chances of the 1/6 committee actually mattering:
    If you ever held any hope that the House select committee on the January 6 US Capitol riot might produce a report that would help us understand what happened in the lead-up to that day and, in so doing, provide us avenues to keeping it from happening again, you should give up on those hopes now.

    The reason? Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision Wednesday to reject two of the five nominees -- Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana -- put forward by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on the panel.
    The amount of nonsense in these two short passages is staggering, from the bizarre claim that an investigation without Jordan & Banks can't possibly arrive at the truth to the laughable notion that Nancy Pelosi is to blame for it. What's worse is that Cillizza knows this latter is bullshit:
    [I]t's beyond debate that McCarthy's choices -- especially Banks and Jordan -- were aimed at turning the committee into something of a circus. Both men would have, at every turn, sought to turn the tables on Democrats -- using the platform provided by the committee to push debunked claims about Antifa's involvement in the Capitol riot, questioning Democratic leadership's readiness for just such an attack and trying to broaden the committee's mandate to cover the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020....

    You can be sure every Republican will use Pelosi's rejection of their nominees as evidence that she doesn't want the, uh, truth to come out.

    This isn't true, of course. There's zero evidence that suggests Pelosi or Democrats did anything wrong in advance of or during the January 6 riot, which was incited by former President Donald Trump. [emphasis added]
    And yet despite the transparent falsehood of the Republican line,
    Pelosi has handed Republicans a golden issue to rev up their base in advance of the 2022 midterms -- and you can bet they will use it.
    So, to sum up: Jordan and Banks signaled their intent to sabotage the investigation. (Jordan is also a potential witness, which should be disqualifying in itself.) Pelosi's rejection of the two is substantively correct. She accepted 3 of the 5 nominees; it's indisputably McCarthy who decided that, as a result, no Republicans would serve on the committee.

    But whatever the substantive results the committee will come to naught because of some perception of partisanship, which is all Nancy Pelosi's fault. And this perception, once again, simply materializes. It is utterly beyond the power of someone like Chris Cillizza to counter this perception, which he knows to be entirely false.

    There's so much that's maddening in both of these--the obsession with optics and surface narratives, the slavish devotion to a bipartisanship they know cannot exist--but the most maddening may be the self-enforced faux passivity. Passivity in their unquestioning transmission of Republican talking points; faux in the pretense of their inability to do otherwise. In a nation where one party is waging war against democracy, it's the Chris Cillizzas and Rachel Bades who may well doom[] the already tiny chances of the 1/6 committee actually mattering.

    ETA: Rachael Bade's name didn't ring any bells for me. Fortunately there are people out there who know more than I do, or at least different things than I do. A little googling got me to a Townhall story called Gowdy Names Reporters Who Helped Peddle Schiff Leaks During Russia Investigation. Talking about reporters he thinks were unfair, Gowdy says
    “Let’s just start with Politico and anyone not named Rachael Bade,” Gowdy said. “She was the only reporter that I dealt with that was fair.” [emphasis added]
    Well, there you are.