Thursday, January 20, 2022

IF IT WEREN'T FOR FOX NEWS TALKING POINTS, WE'D HAVE NO TALKING POINTS AT ALL

The New York Times has just published the transcript of another focus group, this one consisting of fourteen independent voters who say they voted for Barack Obama in at least one election, then subsequently voted for Donald Trump. There's a lot that's disheartening about this group (six of the fourteen would vote for Joe Manchin as president!), but what I find most dispiriting is the fact that Democrats' take on the GOP barely penetrates these voters' consciousness, while the GOP/Fox News take on Democrats has clearly colonized their minds.

Case in point: Here's the one participant who describes a crisis of democracy in America. Guess which party is responsible, in his opinion.
Mark: Democracy is more concerning. You see how the Democrats in power, they seem to be wanting — changing the rules, you know. Voting rights, we can’t win free and fair elections, so let’s change some rules there.
Democrats, of course, haven't "changed the rules," though they're trying, for legitimate reasons. No one chimes in to say that Republicans actually are changing the rules, in state after state. It's as if they have no idea that voting laws are being changed in Republican-run states.

Then we come to the one-word characterizations of the parties:
Frank Luntz: We’re going to do a word and phrase for the Democrats and word or phrase for the Republicans. Scott, give me a word or phrase to describe the Democrats.

Scott: Cohesiveness. The anti-hate. Calmness, I would think.

Don: Revolution. Revolutionary.

Dickie: Fair.

Jim: Sometimes too liberal, but together.

Alice: They’re more, like, people-oriented.

Travis: Sneaky.

Janet: He stole mine.

Tenae: Crazy.

Azariah: Sweet talkers.

Kristine: Chaotic.

Mark: Radical.

Julia: Going toward socialism.

Nick: Smooth talkers.

Jules: Currently intolerant.
There are a couple of positive words, and "Chaotic" at least seems like an accurate negative assessment. But then there's the GOP/Fox narrative: "Revolutionary," "Radical," "Going toward socialism," "Currently intolerant." Also: "Sneaky"? "Sweet talkers"? "Smooth talkers"? I find this as baffling as I found "Slick Willie" during the Clinton years. People who are slick and smooth get away with things and dodge accountability for their deeds. Democrats today, like the Democratic president a quarter century ago, are forever being accused. They're the opposite of slick and smooth.

Quite a few of the characterizations of Republicans are negative, but no one seems to think they're radical.
Frank Luntz: OK, now give me a word or phrase to describe the Republicans.

Jules: Very loud.

Nick: They don’t represent everybody.

Julia: Have to regroup.

Kristine: Wrong direction. I can’t think of one word.

Mark: Weak.

Azariah: Ruthless.

Tenae: Inconsistent.

Janet: Uncivil.

Jim: Dishonest and cowardly.

Alice: More business-oriented.

Travis: Arrogant.

Dickie: Capitalistic.

Don: Unnecessarily divisive.

Scott: Chaotic.
Yes, the characterizations include "Weak" and "Inconsistent." That's a right-wing message, too. (If you pay attention to right-wing media, you'll see that one reaction to the defeat of the Democrats' voting rights legislation was that Republicans fought back -- for once.)

I'm glad some of these people see Republicans as "Ruthless," "Uncivil," "Arrogant," and "Unnecessarily divisive," but no one sees Republicans as ideologically extreme. Only dyed-in-the-wool liberals and progressives see that. That's a messaging failure.

GAME RECOGNIZES GAME

So what's Kyrsten Sinema's plan? She's up for reelection in 2024, but there's already talk of a primary challenge, and it seems unlikely that Democratic voters in Arizona will forgive her for what she's done in the past year, especially after last night. A couple of months ago I speculated that Sinema might run for reelection as an independent, and that Republicans might take a dive and let her win, the way they did in 2006 when Joe Lieberman ran as an independent. But that seems unlikely -- Republicans know they can win in Arizona much more easily than they could in Connecticut in 2006. This morning I've checked Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, Free Republic, National Review, Gettr -- Sinema and Joe Manchin aren't really being hailed as heroes for joining with Republicans to block voting rights legislation. Breitbart, for instance, wants to make it clear that Republicans killed the legislation.


Sinema and Manchin aren't getting star treatment on the right the way Lieberman did in the Bush years, and they aren't being hailed as heroes anywhere else, which suggests that if there's any truth in a Twitter thread that appeared last week, then Sinema is even more delusional than we thought.


Sinema's most likely career move after 2024 would seem to be lobbying, although some are skeptical:


I think we got our answer last night:


Why are Sinema and Manchin blocking Build Back Better? Because their corporate donors don't want an expansion of domestic spending programs paid for by taxes on wealthy people and corporations. Why are they blocking the voting bills? Because Republican election laws ensure that the pro-plutocrat GOP wins more elections. For the GOP, blocking election reform isn't primarily about racism -- it's about money, specifically rich people's money. Republican House and Senate members know what they want, which is whatever their donors want. They see Sinema as a partner in this. And if Joe Biden goes down to defeat in 2024, they'll see her as one of the main instruments of his defeat.

The senators who eagerly shook her hand know what she's doing, and for whom. They'll be delighted to take her calls when she's a lobbyist.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

THAT POLL DOESN'T SAY WHAT MATT YGLESIAS THINKS IT SAYS

Telling Democrats that their ideas are crap seems more popular than Wordle these days among liberals with major media platforms. Today we have Matt Yglesias, in a post for Grid, telling liberals that nobody really likes what they advocate and that they're too stupid to realize this because they're doing polling all wrong.
In recent years, progressives have invested heavily in crafting a narrative which holds that all or almost all of their main policy ideas are overwhelmingly popular with the public.

Planned Parenthood routinely claims that “79% of Americans don’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said that “paid leave is overwhelmingly popular — even with Republicans.” And Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said “the American people want action, not never-ending ‘negotiations’ and obstructionism.” This is naturally an enticing line of thought for progressives — all their ideas are popular, and they are held back in life only by the timidity of the Democratic Party’s elected leaders.

But is it really true? After all, if Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of liberal policies, how are Republicans winning elections roughly half the time?

... it’s not that hard to generate favorable issue polls. In general, studies show that respondents have a bias toward answering yes to pretty much anything you ask them — a phenomenon known as acquiescence bias. Combine that with a favorable description of the proposal you have in mind, and it’s easy to create a poll showing your idea is popular.
Really? Any idea? Defunding the police? Reducing Social Security benefits?
... Americans don’t go into a voting booth and vote for or against issues. They vote for candidates. This makes a less-common approach to issue polling enlightening — rather than asking whether people favor this or that idea, pollsters sometimes ask respondents which party they prefer on a given issue. The results are more telling than a preference poll alone.

Grid ... asked several detailed issue questions. Then we asked about party preferences.... Some progressive ideas really do poll well. But so do some conservative ideas. And even in a polarized world, the public does have some clear preferences about which party they’d like to see put in charge of which issues — with both parties having clear areas of strength and weakness.
I don't know anyone who pays attention to polls who claims that all polls strictly on issues overwhelmingly favor Democrats, or that polls of party preference on issues do.

As it turns out, most of Grid's pure issue polls do favor Democratic positions, some by fairly big margins.


A few go the right's way:


Yglesias also adds that while support for legal abortion in the first trimester is strong, it drops dramatically when poll respondents are asked about the second and third trimesters. (He fails to note that, with a handful of exceptions, every national Republican supports a ban on abortion in all three trimesters.)

Yglesias's point appears to be that when you ask voters about party preferences on issues, the Democratic advantage essentially vanishes. Is that right? Let's take a look at the numbers:


Republicans aren't at 40% favorable on any issue; Democrats are above 40% on three of eight issues. The only issue on which Republicans have an advantage outside the +/-4% margin of error is government spending. Democrats have an advantage outside the margin of error on guns, abortion, climate change, and -- I hope you're sitting down for this one -- education. Yes, after every left-centrist pundit has spent the last three months telling us that America hates Democrats for (as the pundits see it) compulsively closing schools at the slightest sign of COVID and defending critical race theory to the death, it turns out the Dems have a ten-point advantage on the issue of education.

So the question remains: Why are our elections 50-50? The Democratic advantage on issues may not be massive, but it's clear, and it's clear whichever way you measure it. I'd argue that the explanation is that Republicans are much better at thumping their own chests and telling voters that they're the best (and Democrats are abhorrent); they're also much better at mobilizing their voters on issues even when those voters are in the minority (as they clearly are, for instance, on gun background checks). A Democratic president presided over a huge wave of job creation in 2021, but Democrats never seem to talk about that; Republicans saw potential Democratic weakness on education issues in 2021, and they talked about little else. Democrats may not have a massive issue advantage, but Republicans have a massive messaging advantage.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

THIS IS HOW MUCH RIGHT-WINGERS HATE YOU

I thought the vilest take on the Neil Gorsuch-Sonia Sotomayor story would be at Gateway Pundit or some other den of iniquity, but it's actually at the semi-respectable Washington Free Beacon:

Not all heroes wear capes, but some of them regularly don robes (but certainly not masks) while fighting to make the world a better place—heroes like Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch, an early frontrunner for Washington Free Beacon Man of the Year.

When the Supreme Court justices returned from the holiday break earlier this month, all of them were wearing masks on the bench. Well, all of them except Gorsuch, who refused to cover his handsome face. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who typically sits next to Gorsuch, wasn't there. The Obama appointee took part in the proceedings via remote microphone set up in her chambers.

NPR reports that Chief Justice John Roberts had asked his colleagues to wear masks to placate Sotomayor, who did not feel safe around people who were unmasked. Gorsuch, a pro-freedom legal scholar appointed by former president Donald Trump in 2017, was the only one who declined to coddle his colleague.

Sotomayor, a diabetic, has consistently worn a mask to work since the Supreme Court resumed in-person arguments in October 2021. The Food and Drug Administration considers diabetes to be one of the "highest-risk comorbidities" involving COVID-19 patients.
Sootomayor, who's 67, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 7 years old. To Andrew Stiles (whose age I haven't been able determine, but who got his B.A. from the University of North Carolina in 2009), it's hilarious that a frumpy old crone whose diabetes diagnosis came decades before he was born worries about her health in the midst of a pandemic that's killed 800,000 Americans. Justice Roberts wants to "placate" her, but "hero" Neil Gorsuch won't "coddle" her.

This isn't just aimed at Sonia Sotomayor. It's aimed at you -- if, like the majority of Americans, you're still concerned about the pandemic and believe people should wear masks when congregating indoors. It's aimed at you if -- laughably, contemptibly -- you're of advanced age or have a chronic health problem. How dare you! Why don't you just die, and decrease the surplus population! Your endless fretting over your pathetic infirmities is messing with other people's "freedom"!

This is how the right feels about people it considers inferior -- and that's nearly all of us.

GALLUP: AMERICA IS MORE REPUBLICAN, BUT IT'S ALSO MORE LIBERAL

I told you yesterday that over the course of 2021 Gallup found a big decline in the percentage of Americans who identify as Democrats, and a big increase in self-identified Republicans. But these changes aren't accompanied by a noticeable shift toward conservatism. If anything, it's the opposite:
The way Americans identify themselves ideologically was unchanged in 2021.... On average last year, 37% of Americans described their political views as moderate, 36% as conservative and 25% as liberal.

Unlike party ID, which varied considerably from one quarter to the next in 2021, Americans' description of their political views on the conservative-to-liberal spectrum showed no meaningful movement throughout the year.
Here are the numbers over the past thirty years (click to enlarge):


It's true that moderates and conservatives are neck-and-neck, while liberals are a distant third, but that's been true for as long as Gallup has measured ideology this way. In fact, the percentage of Americans who call themselves liberals has risen eight points since the early '90s, while the percentage of moderates is down six points.

Our elections have been more or less 50-50 in all this time, which means that most moderate voters vote Democratic. This is tough if you're a liberal or progressive Democrat, because the party has to please moderates in order to win. (Though I've read enough stories about support for President Biden's agenda among swing-district left-centrist Democrats -- here's a recent example -- to believe that the problem isn't primarily moderates vs. liberals but, rather, corrupt crypto-Republicans Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema vs. the rest of the party.

Gallup measures a significant increase in the number of Democrats who call themselves liberal (25% in 1994, 50% in 2021), but Republicans have also become an increasingly ideological party over that period. In 1994, 58% of Republicans called themselves conservative, and now the number is 74%. So the GOP was more ideologically homogeneous in the mid-'90s than the Democratic Party is today, and it's much more ideological now. And yet the Democratic Party is seen by many as the more extremist party, largely because Republican messaging is so much better than Democratic messaging.

If fewer people identified as Democrats as 2021 wore on, but that wasn't accompanied by a decline in the percentage of Americans who identify as liberal or moderate, then the Democratic slippage was a response to how the party functions, not what it stands for -- and it was also a response, as I said yesterday, to valorization of Republicans by Democrats as well as Republicans themselves.

America is not right-wing -- it's not even more right-wing than it was a year ago, or ten years ago. Democrats are still competitive in this environment, or they would be if saboteurs within their party would relent and allow them to pass a few bills.

Monday, January 17, 2022

I'D SAY, "LET THEM FIGHT," BUT THEY WON'T

Axios and The New York Times are rooting for a big, gossip-worthy slugfest between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. From the Axios story:
Donald Trump is trashing Ron DeSantis in private as an ingrate with a "dull personality" and no realistic chance of beating him in a potential 2024 showdown, according to sources who've recently talked to the former president about the Florida governor....

The governor also hasn't been beyond tweaking his fellow Floridian.

DeSantis said on the "Ruthless" podcast, recorded Thursday, one of his biggest regrets in office was not speaking out "much louder" in March 2020, when Trump advised the American public to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Also:


I'd be delighted if these two guys bloodied each other. There's one problem, though: Their shared fan base isn't interested in a fight between them. In the comments to a Breitbart summary of the Axios and Times reporting, readers refused to join the fight. For one thing, they don't believe that Trump is trashing DeSantis, even though it's what anyone who knows anything about Trump would expect him to do when faced with a serious dominance challenge.
The source for Trump comments is the New York Times, yup that is completely believable.

HINT:
Attempting to DIVIDE CONSERVATIVES

****

Cant talk about what Biden has "accomplished," but jump all over a made up story with no facts. Typical NYT.

****

U BELIEVE THE N.Y. SLIMES ??
They love both of these guys:
Trump and DeSantis should be working together for the America First cause. DeSantis should acknowledge Trump as the leader of America First, and Trump should acknowledge DeSantis as the greatest America First Governor. They should be cooperating to find America First Republican replacements for Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. Tim Tebow should try out for Rino Rubio's position on the Florida Senate team!

****

Nobody even Trump can deny that DeSantis has been the standout, best performing Governor in this country.

****

President Trump has not denied it

****

We’ve got both and we need both. Don’t sow division.

****

It’ll never be a choice between the two. That’s what the media wants.

****

Deciding between Trump and DeSantis is like having a football team with two good quarterbacks and only one can start. There'll be some drama between them, but it's a good problem for the team (us) to have. It's only really a problem if you don't know who to start because all of the QBs on the team are awful, which is the problem the Dems are facing for 2024.
They don't want a fight -- but if they're forced to make a choice, they'll choose Trump. I was planning to write a post explaining why, by Jonathan Last of The Bulwark has said everything I would have said and more:
You can’t beat Trump on “conservative” policy.

Remember back when Cruz, Rubio, Walker, and the rest were going to box Trump in because he didn’t hold the line on conservative policy orthodoxies? How’d that work out?

... Trump ran right over the GOP field in 2016 on matters of policy by beating them with attitude and affect. And he’ll do the same to DeSantis....

If you’re a Republican and you get crosswise with Trump, one of two things happens: You get pushed out of the party, or you eventually bend the knee in order to stay in the party....

What DeSantis should understand is that this choice is a trap. Because even the people who surrender after challenging Trump are politically maimed. They become damaged goods in the minds of Republican voters.

Marco Rubio. Ted Cruz. Lindsey Graham. Nikki Haley. Chris Christie. Kevin McCarthy. Mitch McConnell. Once you’ve bent the knee to Trump, you have to fight like hell just to keep your station. Moving up in the world? Forget about it.

Why is this? Because no one who has submitted to Trump after getting clobbered by him is capable of selling the dominance politics that Republican voters want.

The next leader of the Republican party won’t be a politician who challenges Trump and unseats him. The Republican party is a totalitarian state and in autocracies, you ascend to the throne by being loyal to the boss and positioning yourself to take over when he passes on.
Last is right: Trump will humiliate DeSantis if that's what he needs to do to be the nominee. I think, for the moment, DeSantis believes the mainstream media's delusions about a fading Trump who'll be beatable in the 2024 primaries -- but I also think he can read a poll. When it's time to announce, he'll realize that he can't win, so he'll defer. And MAGA Nation will tell itself that all that talk about a feud was just lies from the lie-beral media.

WE'RE WELL ON OUR WAY TO "A BIG, STRONG REPUBLICAN PARTY," NANCY

This is a scary chart (click to enlarge):


Gallup reports:
On average, Americans' political party preferences in 2021 looked similar to prior years, with slightly more U.S. adults identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic (46%) than identified as Republicans or leaned Republican (43%).

However, the general stability for the full-year average obscures a dramatic shift over the course of 2021, from a nine-percentage-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter to a rare five-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter.

... The Republicans last held a five-point advantage in party identification and leaning in early 1995, after winning control of the House of Representatives for the first time since the 1950s. Republicans had a larger advantage only in the first quarter of 1991, after the U.S. victory in the Persian Gulf War led by then-President George H.W. Bush.
Americans are unhappy about inflation, supply-chain problems, and the persistence of COVID -- but they don't see Democrats defending themselves, or criticizing Republicans apart from Trump (and occasionally Marjorie Taylor Greene). They see Democrats defending Republicans. Yes, Nancy Pelosi is arguing in this clip that the GOP has been hijacked, but she's also implying that good, decent Republicans could take the party back if they had the will, because they're really the majority of the party:


(Nancy, how is Republican climate change denial part of a "cult of personality"? Who's the person? Charles Koch? It certainly isn't Donald Trump, because this denialism predates Trump's time in politics.)

When every story about the January 6 committee focuses on Brave Republican Liz Cheney, rather than on the Democrats who make up the committee's majority, it sends the message that Democratic beliefs are invalid unless they're validated by a member of the GOP. Keep sending that messageand people will believe it. (I'd love to know how many Americans can name the chair of the committee, Demoocrat Bennie Thompson.)

Democrats don't assert that Democrats have better ideas. Republicans assert that Democrats are maniacal freedom-hating extremists. Democrats root for Republicans. Republicans root for themselves.

This would be a tough moment for Democrats no matter what -- high gas prices, Omicron -- but they're not helping themselves. They're helping the other guys.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

WHY AREN'T ETHAN SCHMIDT-CROCKETT AND KARI LAKE NATIONAL POSTER CHILDREN FOR GOP EXTREMISM?

Among the people spotted at Donald Trump's rally in Arizona last night was one particularly bad individual:


The one who said that wasn't just trying to offend the libs. He's describing a real incident in his past. As CNN reported in November, "Ethan Schmidt-Crockett, the founder of the AntiMaskersClub, ... harassed a store specializing in wigs for cancer patients this summer because it required customers to wear masks." He videotaped it, too:


And when he's not doing that, he's burning rainbow flags.


And harassing people who are getting vaccinated against COVID.


As noted in the previous tweet, Schmidt-Crockett has expressed support for Kari Lake, a former TV journalist who's running for governor of Arizona as a Republican. She's been endorsed by Donald Trump. She spoke at his rally last night.


Schmidt-Crockett appeared in a video with Lake:


She hasn't rejected his support. This didn't bother her:


Lake is leading by double digits in early Republican primary polling. She's trailing by only 4 among likely voters in a head-to-head matchup against the likely Democratic candidate, Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs, whom Lake has vowed to imprison for her role in certifying accurate 2020 election results.

Ethan Schmidt-Crockett isn't a politician or a candidate -- but if a left-leaning non-politician had done even one thing that was as offensive to right-wingers as what Crockett-Schmidt has done is to everyone else, that person would be a household name on the right. There would have been hundreds of Fox News segments about this person. But hardly anyone on our side knows who Schmidt-Crockett is.

And Kari Lake is a politician. She really could be Arizona's next governor. And yet most Americans have never heard of her. It's not clear that she'll become more widely known nationwide even if she wins the nomination.

Why does our side make so little effort to point out what Republicans are really like?

TERSE TWEET-GHAZI!

All the hostages at a Texas synagogue have been freed unharmed, and the suspect is dead:
The FBI and local police said at a news conference Saturday night that three hostages who were held in a Colleyville synagogue for nearly 11 hours are unharmed and the hostage-taker is dead after a hostage rescue team breached the building.

Authorities said the hostage-taker was killed in a shooting....

The man, who police say they have identified but have not named, released one hostage about 5 p.m.
The suspect was making a demand:
... multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News he was demanding the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui....

Siddiqui is incarcerated at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, according to the source. She had alleged ties to al-Qaida and was convicted of assault and attempted murder of a U.S. soldier in 2010 and sentenced to 86 years in prison.
It's great news that none of the victims were harmed, but some right-wingers are upset -- because of a tweet. The tweet was sent by White House press secretary Jen Psaki as the incident was unfolding:


Seems unobjectionable, doesn't it? But to Matt Margolis of PJMedia, it was extremely objectionable:
Did you notice anything interesting about the tweet? It’s a little generic, don’t you think? Something missing, perchance?

“In the Dallas area” ... Really, Jen? Really?

It’s curious that Psaki failed to mention that the hostage situation was in a synagogue, wouldn’t you agree? While details are slim right now, it’s very clear that the hostage-taker is Muslim, and he’s targeted Jewish people in their place of worship. Biden and members of his administration are never at a loss for words when it comes to hate crimes or even gun violence that fits a certain narrative.

Perhaps the tweet wouldn’t have seemed suspiciously devoid of information about who the victims and the perpetrator are if Biden and the Democrats didn’t have a habit of turning a blind eye to the violence that doesn’t fit their preferred narrative. Had it been a white supremacist taking hostages at a black church, I doubt those details would have gone unmentioned.
I suppose Margolis has a point. Here's the text of another tweet Psaki sent, one that also didn't mention the fact that the hostages were Jews in a synagogue and the hostage taker was a Muslim:
The Texas Dept. of Public Safety is on the scene of the tense hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas.

They are working with local and federal teams to achieve the best and safest outcome.

I continue to monitor the situation through DPS.
Oh, wait -- that wasn't a tweet from Jen Psaki. It was from Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas.


Here's more outrage, compiled by Townhall's Rebecca Downs:


Downs also quotes a tweet sent by the local police just before the situation was resolved:


Shouldn't that have been "We are currently conducting SWAT operations around the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Rd, where Jews in a synagogue are being held hostage by an evil satanic Muslim"? Why does the Colleyville Police Department hate the Jewish people and all lovers of freedom?

Folks, Psaki's message was a tweet. Tweets are terse. That's the nature of tweets.

The White House subsequently issued the following statement:
Statement by President Biden on the Hostage Situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas

Thanks to the courageous work of state, local and federal law enforcement, four Americans who were held hostage at a Texas synagogue will soon be home with their families. I am grateful to the tireless work of law enforcement at all levels who acted cooperatively and fearlessly to rescue the hostages. We are sending love and strength to the members of Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, and the Jewish community.

There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker. But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate—we will stand against antisemitism and against the rise of extremism in this country. That is who we are, and tonight, the men and women of law enforcement made us all proud.
Calm down, right-wingers. Take a long walk. Pet a dog. Everything isn't a deliberate affront to your sensibilities.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

MATT BAI: FEEL FREE TO DESTROY THE COUNTRY, TUCKER, BUT DON'T YOU DARE INSULT MY FRIEND

Writing in The Washington Post, Matt Bai tells us that he doesn't trouble his beautiful mind about Fox News.
Normally, I don’t spend much time thinking about the nonsense on cable television, because it’s like paying attention to the guy on the street corner who shouts about Armageddon through a bullhorn. Some words are just noise.
This would be a brilliant analogy if the guy on the street corner who shouts about Armageddon were the main transmitter of propaganda for a major political party that wants to ban abortion, flood America with guns, suspend all pandemic mitigation measures, block every effort to reduce global warming, and continue shifting America's tax burden from the haves to the have-nots, all while working to eliminate the possibility that America's other major political party can successfully challenge it at the ballot box.

Bai doesn't pay any attention to Fox as it does all that. But if someone at Fox messes with a guy Bai used to work with, then he'll sit up and take notice.
Last week, though, Tucker Carlson acidly attacked a former colleague of mine....

Here’s what happened: Jon Ward, a top political reporter at Yahoo News, was about to post a critical story about Carlson’s Fox News series looking at the 2020 election and the insurrection at the Capitol. (Shocker: Carlson says it was all a leftist conspiracy.)
The fact that Carlson says this to millions of viewers on a regular basis doesn't seem to bother Bai much. What's really important is that Carlson insulted a fellow journalist.
In a preemptive attack on the piece, Carlson launched into a tirade on his nightly Fox News show, accusing Ward of doctoring a transcript of Carlson’s on-air comments.

(He hadn’t. In fact, Ward had sent the transcript to Carlson to check its accuracy, which is what reporters are supposed to do.)

Even by the standards of prime-time cable, Carlson’s rant was remarkably personal. While posting a picture of Ward on screen, he noted that Ward had once worked for him at the Daily Caller and that the Ward family had even visited his home.

“He’s a very nice person, he’s a sincere family man,” Carlson said. “He’s also weak. And at a moment like this, weak people get crushed by the forces above them. Weak people conform.”

Ward is a friend of mine; we worked together at Yahoo. He doesn’t need my defense here, but I’ll just say I don’t know many journalists who have more spine or integrity. His only fealty is to what’s true.
We now pause briefly to discuss Tucker Carlson, even though he's just a guy on a street coorner shouting about Armageddon.
I’ve also met Carlson many times over the years. I remember him as a very talented, unfailingly amiable magazine writer in the years when we were both starting out, and then as an unusually thoughtful daytime host on MSNBC.
Yes, Carlson was so "unusually thoughtful" in his MSNBC years that he said of Hillary Clinton on the air, "when she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.” He also boasted that he once smashed a man's head into a restroom stall because the man made a sexual advance. Boasted thoughtfully, I suppose.
There are a lot less intellectually gifted people than Carlson succeeding in media right now — I promise you that — but probably none who are more fraudulent. It seems to me that Carlson is just suiting up to play a character every night — the vitriolic blowhard he created in middle age when it became apparent that the market would reward it.

More than anyone in prime-time cable, Carlson seems to have conceded that the venue is pure entertainment, fueled by a self-righteousness that is, in most cases, no realer than “WandaVision.”

I wish he’d decided to use his considerable talent for less cynical ends, but you know, everybody’s got to look in their own mirror at the end of the day.
I'm not sure how Carlson can be both an insignificant crazy guy on a street corner and a guy who's built a lucrative career spreading disinformation, but Bai is a highly respected journalist and I'm not, so I guess there's no contradiction there. I suppose it doesn't matter because it's "pure entertainment," even though millions of people actually believe what Carlson says, and vote accordingly.

Now we move on to Bai's main point, which is: both sides!
The point I really want to make, though, has to do with Carlson’s shot about weakness, which is a recurring theme these days.

There’s a narrative in the modern media and political world — not just on the right — that real courage can only be expressed through uncompromising partisanship.

If you’re always standing up for something like “America First” or the Green New Deal, then you’re speaking truth to power. But if you resist a tribal mentality and try to sift through the nuance of the issue, then you must be a quivering toady who just wants to please The Man, whether he’s a greedy CEO or a leftist revolutionary.
That's right: If you go on MSNBC and speak favorably of the Green New Deal, that's exactly like Tucker Carlson going on Fox and saying,
The point of mandatory vaccination [in the military] is to identify the sincere Christians in the ranks, the freethinkers, the men with high testosterone levels, and anyone else who does not love Joe Biden and make them leave immediately. It’s a takeover of the U.S. military.
or claiming,
Jan. 6 is being used as a pretext to strip millions of Americans — disfavored Americans — of their core constitutional rights, and to defame them as domestic terrorists.
No difference!

Bai continues:
In reality, the easiest thing to do right now is what Carlson does — to seek out the ardent applause of one side or the other, because the more strident and predictable you are, the more eyeballs you attract and the more appreciation you’ll garner.
There's nothing wrong with "seek[ing] out the ardent applause of one side or the other." There's nothing wtrong with being a passionate advocate. What's wrong is lying. It's wrong to use a major media platform to deceive people every night because (a) it sells and (b) a right-wing billionaire and his right-wing billionaire son pay you handsomely to do it, as much out of political interest as economic interest.
The harder thing is to stand against either onrushing current, pounded on all sides because you won’t just bend to the seductive idea that the answers to the country’s problems are obvious and comforting.
Actually, it's very easy to use your media megaphone to say that both sides do it and the truth is smack dab in the middle. Hundreds of elite media figures say this every day.

But maybe we should worry less about the relatve manliness of Ward and Carlson (and, implicitly, Bai) and worry more about what happens to a country when a segment of its population is fed a steady diet of inflammatory lies designed to make it hate people on the other side. But Matt Bai can't be bothered to notice any of that, even glancingly, unless you're attacking his friend.

Friday, January 14, 2022

THE LUNATIC FRINGE IS THE REPUBLICAN MAINSTREAM

This week, the Supreme Court struck down President Biden's vaccine mandate for employers. In The Atlantic, Adam Serwer quotes Republican justices who sounded as ignorant as Joe Rogan during oral arguments.
[Clarence] Thomas questioned whether “vaccinations are efficacious in preventing some degree of infection to others,” and asked, “Is a vaccine the only way to treat COVID?” ...

[Neil] Gorsuch compared COVID to the flu, and asked why OSHA had not mandated flu vaccines, even though the flu is nowhere near as lethal as COVID.

[Samuel] Alito prefaced a question suggesting that the vaccines were unsafe by insisting that he was not suggesting the vaccines were unsafe. “I don’t want to be misunderstood in making this point, because I’m not saying the vaccines are unsafe,” Alito said to Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar. “Has OSHA ever imposed any other safety regulation that imposes some extra risk, some different risk, on the employee, so that if you have to wear a hard hat on the job, wearing a hard hat has some adverse health consequences? Can you think of anything else that’s like this?”
But this is what the entire Republican Party has become. Here's a story from Ohio:
For most the pandemic, Dr. Elizabeth Laffay, a licensed doctor of osteopathic medicine, worked from the outside in.

She told state lawmakers that vaccines kill; she touted dubious COVID-19 treatments like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine on talk radio; she stormed a Big Lots with a small and barefaced crowd to protest its mask requirement; and she pushed her local school board to rescind its mask requirement.
But now she's been elected to a seat on the Huron City School District Board of Education -- with a contribution from a PAC run by Jane Timken, a former chair of the Ohio Republican Party who's apparently only the third-craziest candidate in the state's U.S. Senate race, after Josh Mandel and J.D. Vance.

These are the view Timken considers worth backing:
“We have been largely kept from seeing the consequences that these injections have been clearly though quietly associated with, including neurologic damage, convulsions, illness, death, continued spread and continued contraction of the disease,” Laffay said to lawmakers this spring, testifying in support of legislation to ban any (not just COVID-19) vaccine mandates....

Besides attacking vaccines, Laffay has regularly downplayed the severity of the infections they prevent. At a March 9 [2021] state legislative hearing, Laffay declared that the “medical pandemic is over.”

Since then, 11,181 Ohioans have died from COVID-19, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health. Sixty-five came from Erie County, where Laffay now holds public office.

In an interview with Tom Roten, a conservative talk radio host, she said she has been prescribing ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.... She also recommended using mouthwash to “decrease any viral loads” that might be accumulating.

“If this virus is following the pattern that all viruses follow, maybe we don’t even need a vaccine,” Laffay said at a private event hosted by Ohio Stands Up, which has filed a number of unsuccessful lawsuits challenging COVID-19 response measures.
And also:
As evidence for why agencies like the CDC or FDA aren’t to be trusted, Laffay alleged the agencies have done nothing about aborted fetal cells in junk food.

“There are hydrolite fetal cells in foods like Gatorade and Hot Pockets,” she said, airing a debunked claim that has dogged PepsiCo products including Gatorade. “And we don’t know about them. They’re not on the label. They’re used as a flavor additive. This is from aborted fetuses.”
Laffay is affiliated with a prominent COVID-conspiratorialist group.
... Laffay identified herself as a member of “America’s Frontline Doctors,” a network of health care providers who claim vaccines are unsafe and ineffective who have made millions selling consultations and alternative medications like ivermectin, which many pharmacies have refused to dispense. The network was founded by Dr. Simone Gold, who awaits trial on charges related to her allegedly joining an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
America's Frontline Doctors was a project of the mainstream right. AP reported in May 2020:
Republican political operatives are recruiting “extremely pro-Trump” doctors to go on television to prescribe reviving the U.S. economy as quickly as possible, without waiting to meet safety benchmarks proposed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The plan was discussed in a May 11 conference call with a senior staffer for the Trump reelection campaign organized by CNP Action, an affiliate of the GOP-aligned Council for National Policy....

CNP Action is part of the Save Our Country Coalition, an alliance of conservative think tanks and political committees formed in late April to end state lockdowns implemented in response to the pandemic. Other members of the coalition include the FreedomWorks Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council and Tea Party Patriots.

... after the AP contacted the Trump campaign seeking comment for this story, a Washington public relations firm that frequently works for conservative groups distributed an open letter to Trump signed by more than 400 doctors calling the state coronavirus lockdowns a “mass casualty event” causing “millions of casualties” from alcoholism, homelessness, suicide and other causes....

The first signature on the letter was Dr. Simone Gold....
One of the other physicians who spoke at a public gathering in Washington organized by America's Frontline Doctors was Stella Immanuel. Immanuel claims that
real-life ailments such as fibroid tumors and cysts stem from the demonic sperm after demon dream sex, an activity she claims affects “many women.”

“They turn into a woman and then they sleep with the man and collect his sperm,” Immanuel said in her sermon. “Then they turn into the man and they sleep with a man and deposit the sperm and reproduce more of themselves.”
This is the Republican mainstream. This is what one of our two major parties endorses and bankrolls.

CALLING IT NOW: DR. OZ IS GOING TO WIN

I've been thinking that politcal big brains are greatly underestimating Dr. Mehmet Oz's chances of winning the Pennsylvania Senate race, but now I'm all but certain he's going to win. First, of course, he needs to win a competitive Republican primary. This will help him a lot:
GOP Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, more commonly known as "Dr. Oz" from his TV program "The Dr. Oz Show," called infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci a “petty tyrant” and challenged him to a debate on COVID-19.

“It's past time Fauci faces the fact that he got COVID wrong. So, doctor to doctor – let's debate. This Doctor is in, are you?” Oz said in a tweet Thursday while posting a campaign ad attacking Fauci.

“Let’s get the facts straight here. You and me. Let’s have a debate, doctor to doctor, and give the American people the truth about COVID-19. I’m game. Anytime. Anywhere. Dr. Fauci, are you in?” Oz said in the campaign video.

Right-wingers will eat this up. But wait -- don't swing voters love Dr. Fauci? Throughout the pandemic, polls have suggested that Fauci is widely admired, but that could be changing.
[A] NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll of 1,000 registered voters ... revealed this: More than half of the country thinks the pandemic will never end.

... More than 63 percent of respondents trust their doctors and 50 percent trust federal health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Food & Drug Administration.

But when asked who they trusted, only 31 percent chose Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease....
This attack on Fauci shows that Oz can compete for votes in the wingnuttosphere -- and if you don't think decades of TV celebrity give him an edge, let me remind you how the 2016 presidential election turned out.

I know that Oz has frequently embraced junk science -- but this is a country that loves Goop quackery and "one weird trick" nostrums that promise to eliminate your beer gut, build your muscles, and restore your sex drive. The popularity of this nonsense crosses gender and ideological lines.

But the Pennsylvania GOP, we're told, is "baffled" and "rattled" by Oz's decision to run. In the weeks since Sean Parnell, who was endorsed by Donald Trump, dropped out of the race after being credibly accused of domestic abuse, the party has scrambled to find an alternative candidate. The Washington Post reported this week that much of Trumpworld has settled on David McCormick:
Former Trump White House officials Hope Hicks and Cliff Sims are advising McCormick, according to two people close to the campaign. So is Tony Sayegh, who worked in Trump's Treasury Department. Other Trump administration alumni and allies who are in touch with him or have encouraged him to run include former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; longtime Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway; the lobbyist David Urban, who helped Trump win Pennsylvania in 2015; former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who's now running for Arkansas governor; former National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow; former White House lawyer Jim Schultz; and former Labor Department official Bob Bozzuto.
However, McCormick doesn't sound terribly Trumpy: He's "a former hedge fund executive and Treasury Department official in the George W. Bush administration" (hedge fund executive is probably fine, Bush alumnus not so much), and, well...
Oz's super PAC has already launched ads attacking McCormick for his ties to China and past statements criticizing the former president are being dredged up.

“After the attack on the Capitol last January, McCormick said at a Bloomberg summit that Trump bore ‘a lot of responsibility’ for the ‘polarization’ and ‘divisiveness’ of the previous four years,” Politico's Holly Otterbein and Natalie Allison reported. “In the same interview, he complimented President Joe Biden, saying he ‘really appreciated Biden’s tone’ about uniting the country, and called the news of some of Biden’s first appointments 'encouraging.'”
Stick a fork in him. He's done.

After Parnell dropped out and before McCormick entered the race, Trafalgar released a poll showing Oz with an 11-point lead in the primary field (although most of the respondents were undecided), and Oz is running only 2 points behind John Fetterman in a Data for Progress general election survey. Once the political world comes to terms with the notion that Oz is actually a viable candidate, I think his celebrity and the eye for the main chance he's honed over several decades will get him elected. I hope I'm wrong, but this is America, where we like political neophytes, love celebrities, and are totally cool with quacks.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

WHAT DEMOCRATS SHOULD DO ABOUT THE 2024 DEBATES, AND WHAT THEY'LL PROBABLY DO

The Republican Party's years-long effort to persuade Americans that general-election presidential debates are a liberal plot to make GOP candidates look bad has been kicked into high gear.
The Republican National Committee is preparing to change its rules to require presidential candidates seeking the party’s nomination to sign a pledge to not participate in any debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates....

The nonprofit commission, founded by the two parties in 1987 to codify the debates as a permanent part of presidential elections, describes itself as nonpartisan. But Republicans have complained for nearly a decade that its processes favor the Democrats, mirroring increasing rancor from conservatives toward Washington-based institutions....

The change requiring candidates to refuse participation in the commission’s debates is to be voted on at the R.N.C. winter meeting in Salt Lake City in February. If the R.N.C. moves forward with it, it is unclear what that would mean for future debates.
I'm fairly certain I know what this will mean for future debates: It will mean that Republicans plan to work on developing a GOP-friendly alternate debate process, which they will then push as fair and balanced, as opposed to the CPD's process, which they'll say favors "the radical-left Democrats." If there's any Democratic resistance to this process, they'll get the message machine cranked up and push a narrative saying that the Democratic nominee is dodging the debates.

And I expect the Democrat to capitulate, possibly after winning one or two concessions -- maybe one moderator who's never worked at Fox. The Republicans will play hardball, and they'll probably get their way.

If I were the Democrats, I'd start pushing back now. I'd declare that Republicans want to destroy an impartial institution because they're afraid of any dialogue with anyone who might disagree with them. I'd say that Republicans want the debates to be like Donald Trump interviews on Fox News -- "Mr. President, why are you so amazing? Is it hard to be an amazing as you are?"

And if Republicans hold firm, the Democratic nominee should simply go through with the CPD debate s-- with the demand that minor candidates be included. I know that conventional wisdom says that it's a terrible idea for a major-party presidential candidate to share a stage with minor-party candidates -- omigod, you're going to elevate a Green or a Libertarian to your level! That will diminish you! But at the state and local levels, mayoral and gubernatorial candidates do it all the time. In 2010, Andrew Cuomo survived a gubernatorial debate with, among other candidates, the "Rent Is Too Damn High" guy. Joe Biden (or Kamala Harris or Pete Buttigieg or whoever) can survive a debate with a Libertarian and a Green.

The point is to make the Republicans look like the outliers. It will be announced that the Republican nominee was invited to appear, and refused. That more than makes up for the possibility that a minor-party candidate might score a small gotcha or two on the Democrat.

This is a chance to make Republicans look like the angry extremists they are. But I'm afraid Democrats will pass up the opportunity.

IS MIKE PENCE SO DESPERATE TO BE PRESIDENT THAT HE PLANTED A QUESTION IN A POST-SPEECH Q&A?

In 2020, Tom LoBianco published a book about Mike Pence called Piety & Power ("Crisp and engaging" --The New York Times Book Review). LoBianco is still on the Pence beat. Yesterday, Vanity Fair posted a LoBianco story that reads like a Pence '24 press release. It starts with this jaw-dropper:
“You hear it here first, [he’s the] shadow front-runner,” texted one of Mike Pence’s longtime friends after the former vice president’s November appearance at the University of Iowa.
LoBianco takes this assertion very, very seriously. After all:
Pence had just delivered a speech that may come to be seen as a pivotal moment should he cement what already seems obvious: He’s running for president, and doing so regardless of who his opponents might be.

... After delivering the equivalent of a stump speech touting his work in the White House, he moved on to a question-and-answer session with students.... One student accused Pence of certifying Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump merely to further his own presidential ambitions: “My question is, what is the name of the person who told you to buck President Trump’s plan and certify the votes?”

“James Madison,” Pence replied, pausing for effect.
I call bullshit.

I'm not saying that this never happened -- the exchange was also reported at the time by the Des Moines Register and other news outlets. I'm saying that it was a planted question. It had to be. If you were a pro-Trump, stop-the-steal Republican and you wanted to ask Pence why he did what he did on January 6, is this the way you'd word the question? Is this how you'd word it if you approved of what he did, or were on the fence? No. Maybe you'd ask, "What influenced your decision to certify the votes?" or "How did you arrive at the decision to certify the votes?" You wouldn't tee up Pence's answer as precisely as this. You wouldn't ask about a "person," or assume that there must have been only one. So I'm not buying it.

LoBianco calls this "a pivotal moment," even though it happened two and a half months ago and got very little attention. He insists that Trump's clout is in decline while Pence's is rising.
Meanwhile, Pence and others continue to draw attention that otherwise would have gone Trump’s direction. “I’m confident that our party and our movement will choose the right leaders and the right voices to make our country strong and great once again,” Pence said in an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. Not quite a declaration of candidacy, but also not a bow to the king of the GOP.

In response, Trump issued an attack on Pence in early December, saying in a statement that Pence was a “good man,” but that he made a “big mistake” in refusing to overturn the 2020 election results.
Trump making news for reacting to a Pence interview that wasn't really a newsmaker is a sign that Pence is on the rise? Really?

This all reaches its nadir when LoBianco tells us that January 6 was a good thing for Pence, actually.
Pence has tap-danced around the events of January 6 ever since, even while fallout from the insurrection has kept his name consistently in the news—a level of exposure invaluable to any politician looking to win the highest office in the land.
Almost being hanged by supporters of the most popular figure in your own party? Excellent career move! There's no such thing as bad publicity!

In a mid-December YouGov/University of Massachusetts poll, 55% of Republican respondents said that Donald Trump was their preferred 2024 presidential candidate. Mike Pence finished at 6%, tied with Ted Cruz, and trailing Ron DeSantis (20%) and Nikki Haley (7%). Pence is in third place as a second choice, at 13%, behind DeSantis (37%) and Cruz (15%), and tied with Trump. Mike Pence is not going to be the Republican presidential nominee -- ever. But keep dreaming, Tom.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

REPUBLICAN PRACTICE UNPOPULARISM IN VIRGINIA

Virginia Republicans won the governorship and control of the lower house of the legislature in the November elections, and their plan is to do what Republicans always do: pursue policies that matter exclusively to Republican voters, many of which are wildly unpopular with everyone else.

The Washingon Post reports:
After two years in the political wilderness in Richmond, the state’s long-dominant GOP will reclaim control of a House of Delegates it lost two years ago. Come Saturday, Republicans will also retake the executive branch they’ve been locked out of since early 2014, as Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin, Lt. Gov.-elect Winsome E. Sears and Attorney General-elect Jason S. Miyares are sworn in....

Now only the state Senate, which was not on the ballot in November, will remain under Democratic control — and narrowly at that, with a 21-to-19 majority....

With hundreds of bills already filed, Republicans were clearly hoping to roll back much of what Democrats muscled through in the past two years, looking well beyond the “kitchen-table” issues that Youngkin and incoming House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) have called priorities.

Among the GOP bills are those to: prohibit local governments from banning guns from parks and government buildings; cancel a minimum wage hike — from $11 an hour to $12 — that’s scheduled to take effect next year; require women seeking an abortion to sign a written consent; require voters to show photo ID at the polls; cut the early-voting period from 45 days to 14 days; and repeal a state law requiring local school boards to follow the state’s lead on transgender-rights policies.
We all know that David Shor, the politcal consultant, recommends that Democrats practice "popularism."
... this comes down to a simple prescription: Democrats should do a lot of polling to figure out which of their views are popular and which are not popular, and then they should talk about the popular stuff and shut up about the unpopular stuff.... This theory is often short-handed as “popularism.”
At times, the "popularism" advice sounds like advice on how to stay alive in the world of the movie A Quiet Place. In that movie, murderous beasts kill people as soon as they're aware of their presence, which they discover through all but the slighest sounds. Step on a twig or speak above a whisper and you could be instantly killed. That's the way Shor and his admirers talk about Democrats who say anything that isn't wildly popular. Use the word "Latinx" (which hardly any Democrat does)? You could be killing the party!

But Republicans just do whatever the hell they want, and they never worry. Youngkin won the governor's race by less than 2 points, and the Republican majority in the House of Delegates is only 52 to 48. Under those circumstances, Democrats would be regularly admonished not to assume that the general public supports their agenda. But Republicans don't care if the general public supports their agenda. They just pursue it, no matter what. And they never worry that the monsters will get them.

SET A GEEK TO CATCH A GEEK

THe Daily Beast tells me the NPR's Steve Inskeep really got the better of Donald Trump.
Donald Trump abruptly ended an interview with NPR on Tuesday after he was repeatedly called out on his baseless claims of election fraud in the 2020 presidential election. A video of the interview, published Wednesday morning, shows Trump becoming increasingly irritated as NPR’s Steve Inskeep asks him why he’s still pushing debunked conspiracy theories about his 2020 defeat.

... Trump faced a brutal line of questioning on his election conspiracy theories and the transcript shows that he was unable to cope with being asked about the glaring holes in his arguments.
Is that really what the transcript shows? "A brutal line of questioning" and Trump struggling to respond?

No, not quite. The transcript shows that this was the same conversation we've been having about the election for more than a year. Trump throws out allegations. Inskeep rebuts some. Trump throws out more. Inskeep can't keep up.
... If you look at the numbers, if you look at the findings in Arizona, if you look at what's going on in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, by the way — and take a look at Wisconsin — they're finding things that nobody thought possible. This was a corrupt election.

I just have to point out Doug Logan — to name one of the states that you just named — Doug Logan, who ran the audit in Arizona that was set up by your allies, didn't find serious problems. This is a quote. "The ballots that were provided to us to count in the Coliseum very accurately correlate with the official canvass numbers." He raised a bunch of administrative issues, but didn't find a problem that would have changed the result at all.

The ballots may correspond, but look at the ballots themselves. The number of ballots doesn't mean anything. It's who signed the ballots, where did the ballots come from. What you really have to do in that report is look at the findings. And the findings are devastating for Arizona. They're devastating like nobody's seen before --

Why did — why did your —

-- And other states are just as bad.

Why did Republican officials in Arizona accept the results then?

Because they're RINOs, and frankly, a lot of people are questioning that. Why would they? They fought very hard, the Maricopa County people. And people don't understand it, because all you have to do is look at the findings.

And, just so you know, some of those people went before Congress a short while ago, and they were grilled by Congressman Biggs. You ought to take a look at their testimony. They weren't able to answer anything. He made them look like fools. They couldn't answer a thing. They got up and gave a beautiful statement. And then when it came time to ask, why this? Why that? What about these votes? What about those votes? They look like total fools.

Let me read you some short quotes. The first is by one of the judges, one of the 10 judges you appointed, who ruled on this. And there were many judges, but 10 who you appointed. Brett Ludwig, U.S. District Court in Wisconsin, who was nominated by you in 2020. He's on the bench and he says, quote, "This court allowed the plaintiff the chance to make his case, and he has lost on the merits."

Another quote, Kory Langhofer, your own campaign attorney in Arizona, Nov. 12, 2020, quote, "We are not alleging fraud in this lawsuit. We are not alleging anyone stealing the election." And also Rudy Giuliani, your lawyer, Nov. 18, 2020, in Pennsylvania, quote, "This is not a fraud case." Your own lawyers had no evidence of fraud, they said in court they had no evidence of fraud, and the judges ruled against you every time on the merits.


It was too early to ask for fraud and to talk about fraud. Rudy said that, because of the fact it was very early with the — because that was obviously at a very, very — that was a long time ago. The things that have found out have more than bore out what people thought and what people felt and what people found.

When you look at Langhofer, I disagree with him as an attorney. I did not think he was a good attorney to hire. I don't know what his game is, but I will just say this: You look at the findings. You look at the number of votes. Go into Detroit and just ask yourself, is it true that there are more votes than there are voters? Look at Pennsylvania. Look at Philadelphia. Is it true that there were far more votes than there were voters?

It is not true that there were far --

Gee, that's a pretty tough thing to --

It is not true.

That's a pretty tough problem.

It is not true that there were far more votes than voters. There was an early count. I've noticed you've talked about this in rallies and you've said, reportedly, this is true. I think even you know that that was an early report that was corrected later.

Well, you take a look at it. You take a look at Detroit. In fact, they even had a hard time getting people to sign off on it because it was so out of balance. They called it out of balance. So you take a look at it. You know the real truth, Steve, and this election was a rigged election.

...Now, we had a lot of cases where the judges wouldn't hear him. We had a case in Nevada that was so good. You read the papers. It's impossible. The judge refused to even listen to it. We had many cases. In fact, they say, and I can't testify because it's been through a lot of systems, a lot of different systems. But they say, and they say very strongly, the judges just — nobody's really gotten a chance to look. Look at the United States Supreme Court. They refused to hear the case. And you had, I guess, 19 states suing --

They said, there was no standing to give the case. That's correct. Can I just ask --

Well, yeah, no standing, I know, no standing. And the president of the United States supposedly didn't have standing, either. So I wanted to file it myself. They said, "Sir, you don't have standing." I said, wait a minute. I'm the president of the United States. They just rigged an election. Hundreds of thousands of votes in different states. They just rigged an election. We got — we got a number of votes that, I think you'll agree — no sitting president has ever gotten the number of votes that I got. No sitting president has ever gotten --

Lot of votes. That's true. In — lot of — lot of — you --

No sitting president. Do you — I — nobody believes. You think Biden got 80 million votes? Because I don't believe it.
I'm sorry Inskeep didn't say, "Yes, I believe it." Instead he said:
It's true — it's true that you got more than any sitting president in the election you've disputed.

You mean he got them sitting in his basement. He got 80 — how come he couldn't — then how come Biden --

If I can, Mr. President, Mr. President.

Let me ask you this question. How come Biden couldn't attract 20 people for a crowd? How come when he went to speak in different locations, nobody came to watch, but all of a sudden he got 80 million votes? Nobody believes that, Steve. Nobody believes that.
The correct answer there is "Millions of people believe it because it's the truth. It happened."

Inskeep does say this:
If you'll forgive me, maybe because the election was about you.
But then he switches the subject to how Trump's grievances will affect the horserace:
If I can just move on to ask, are you telling Republicans in 2022 that they must press your case on the past election in order to get your endorsement? Is that an absolute?
Trump boasts that his candidate for governor of Arizona, a hardcore election truther named Kari Lake, is "leading by a lot." (In the primary race, yes, she is, but not in the general election.) Shortly afterward, he ends the interview.

What did all this accomplish? Inskeep pushed back on a few points, but Trump threw out a Gish gallop's worth of allegations, all baseless but more than Inskeep was able to rebut. Wisconsin was corrupt! Arizona was corrupt! Detroit was corrupt! Philadelphia was corrupt! No Republican would regard Inskeep as the one who came away with a win, even if Trump did storm off. (Republicans like Trump's petulance.)

I wish Trump had been interviewed by someone ready to get in the weeds with him, someone with a deep knowledge of every conspiracy theory and of the facts that show they're all nonsense. No, there weren't more votes than people in Detroit -- here's the AP fact check. No, nothing fishy happened in Philadelphia -- even the Republican co-chair of the city's elections board acknowledged that. And so on. In the interview, Trump is essentially saying, "I won. Don't believe me? Do your own research." Imagine if Inskeep had geeked out and done his own research, in much greater depth, and brought the receipts.

Trump is used to rattling off the names of these allegedly suspicious locales and getting no pushback. Imagine if an anti-conspiracy election nerd had engaged him on his own terms. Then you really would have seen a walk-off -- and some serious public education.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

IT'S PROBABLY NOT A COINCIDENCE THAT GOP PROPAGANDISTS HAVE DREDGED UP THE HILLARY RUMORS NOW

Democrats are gearing up to take another stab at protecting voting rights. The president wants a filibuster carve-out to allow it to happen.
President Biden endorsed changing Senate rules to pass new voting rights protections during a speech in Atlanta on Tuesday....

“As an institutionalist, I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills,” Mr. Biden said as he delivered remarks at the Atlanta University Center Consortium, which comprises four historically Black colleges and universities. “Let the majority prevail, and if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”
And at the same time, right-wing propagandists are talking about ... another possible run for the presidency by Hillary Clinton. First it was Lloyd Billingsley at David Horowitz's FrontPage, under the headline "Hillary Hints at 2024 Run." (No "hints" are quoted in the article.) Then it was ersatz Democrats Douglas Schoen and Andrew Stein on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, writing under the headline "Hillary Clinton’s 2024 Election Comeback," followed by National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke writing a gloss on the Journal piece. There isn't an ounce of real evidence that Clinton wants to run in 2024, but there sure is a lot of speculation.

So why now? I think it's because Democrats are pushing for election reform. It's not as if Republican need something extra to make Democratic election reform efforts look bad to their voters -- the angry base believes Democrats are alway looking for new ways to cheat, while Republican officeholders and pundits regularly assert that the Democrats' plan is a way to "nationalize" or "federalize" elections. (This is probably the only country in the First World where that would be seen as a bad thing.) So the GOP has plenty of anti-election reform talking points already. But why not throw another one out there? So-called election reform is part of the Democrats' nefarious plan to ... ELECT HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENT! I could be wrong, but I think that's the intended message.