Sunday, April 30, 2023


It's widely believed that Republican have a serious abortion problem going into 2024. Their strong opposition to reproductive rights is highly unpopular with voters. But what if they're in the process of solving this problem, or at least papering it over? What would that do to Democratic turnout next year?

The Atlantic's Elaine Godfrey tells us that Republicans need to find a position closer to where the public stands, and they're struggling to do that. See, for instance, Nikki Haley:
Republicans have had 10 months to hammer out a coherent post-Roe message on abortion. You would think they’d have nailed it by now.

Yet on Tuesday, Nikki Haley set out to declare her position on the issue—and proceeded to be about as clear as concrete.

She began with plausible precision. “I want to save as many lives and help as many moms as possible,” the former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations told reporters gathered at the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America headquarters, in Northern Virginia—a press event billed as a “major policy speech.” But her statements quickly got squishier. It’s good that some states have passed anti-abortion laws in the past year, she said. And as for the states that have reacted by enshrining abortion-rights protections? Well, she wishes “that weren’t the case.”

And then she seemed to channel Veep’s Selina Meyer. “Different people in different places are taking different paths,” Haley said, with a self-assurance that belied the indeterminacy of her words.
Haley didn't take a position on a national abortion ban except to say that even if Republicans completely control the federal government in 2024, they won't pass one, because they'll need 60 votes in the Senate to overcome an inevitable Democratic filibuster. But she didn't seem to take any other firm position, either -- this at a time when national anti-abortion groups are calling for at least a national 15-week ban on abortion.

Haley's avoidance of anti-abortion absolutism ticked off hard-liners. ("'Disappointing speech by @NikkiHaley today. Leads with compromise & defeatism, not vision & courage,' Lila Rose, who heads the group Live Action, tweeted.") But the ambiguity might be just what it takes to bamboozle infrequent voters who were galvanized by the Dobbs decision. After Dobbs, and after moves in many states to severely restrict abortion and punish providers and abortion seekers, the party seems to have shifted strategy. Most Republicans still proudly support draconian abortion laws -- but, all of a sudden, state bans seem to be running into roadblocks:
In South Carolina, six state Senate Republicans — three of them women — voted against a near-total ban on abortion, handing the effort its third defeat. The bill languishes despite Republicans’ almost 2-to-1 majority in the chamber....

In Nebraska, a bill to restrict the abortion window from 20 weeks to about six weeks failed when an 80-year-old male lawmaker, state Sen. Merv Riepe (R), who had previously supported the change, abstained from the vote. This deprived it of a crucial 33rd vote to overcome a filibuster in the 49-member chamber.
Someone who supported this restriction suddenly turned against it? And he's 80 years old, which means he's probably ready to retire soon, so he can afford to take one for the party? I assume that national Republicans want these bills to fail now. They couldn't stop Ron DeSantis and the Florida legislature from passing a six-week abortion ban, but they're happy when someone from their party blocks a ban because they think an apparent abortion pullback by state Republicans will diminish Democratic turnout next year.

Also see Eleanor Clift's story about the Supreme Court at the Daily Beast:
Kudos to Chief Justice John Roberts for corralling the three Trump-nominated pro-life justices to leave the abortion pill alone for now, saving the GOP from another Roe-like disaster....

When the 7-2 SCOTUS decision was handed down—protecting access and availability in states where it is legal to take the two-dose pill that ends a pregnancy up to 10 weeks—many Republican lawmakers quietly breathed a sigh of relief. Any other decision would have further inflamed an electorate still furious over losing Roe.

It is welcome news that Roberts managed to regain some control over the Court’s far-right faction, marginalizing Clarence Thomas and an angry Samuel Alito.... Roberts was able to cordon off the extremists....
Yup. I assume that the GOP donor class has gotten word to Roberts that all this abortion extremism is making a Republican trifecta in 2024 much less likely. The plutocracy need more tax cuts, dammit! (See, for instance, Florida megadonor Thomas Peterffy, who's cut DeSantis off because of the governor's stances on abortion and book banning.)

I'd like to believe that this won't fool any liberal or moderate voters. However, we're going to watch a few months of Republican debates in which DeSantis and probably a few other candidates defend hard-line abortion positions while Donald Trump, who opposes a national abortion ban and supports exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother, comes off as the moderate, even though he's the guy who made the Dobbs decision possible.

Trump is likely to coast to the nomination, and he might run with Haley or someone whose abortion stance is similarly murky. If that happens, if there aren't any new state bans, and if the Supreme Court's final ruling keeps mifepristone on the market, what does that do to the pro-abortion-rights urgency we saw in 2022?

Maybe Republicans will just keep cracking down on abortion because they can't help themselves. But if they've earned their lesson, it might help them in 2024. Which doesn't mean they won't go right back to banning abortion in 2025 if they can.

Saturday, April 29, 2023


I didn't set out to do two consecutive posts about Robert Kennedy Jr., but it's starting worry me that a non-trivial number of past-their-prime but still fairly well-known pundits seem to want him to be the new politcal black swan -- a candidate who upends the expected course of the presidential race, the way Donald Trump did in 2016. I worry that this is a contagion that might spread, especially because the expected course of the race -- Trump and Joe Biden cruise to the nominations -- is just so boring. Political pundits want to avoid tedium at their jobs (they should try getting a real job sometime if they think what they're doing now is tedious), and as a result they don't care that Kennedy's anti-vaccine mania literally kills people. Let the peasants die! Just spare me ennui!

First, we have Peggy Noonan:
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who announced last week, this week hit 19% support among Democratic voters. That’s a lot! Especially for a guy who’s been labeled a bit of a nut. (He has been a leader of the idea that childhood vaccines are connected to autism.) But his larger general message would appeal to the edges of left and right, and blends into the general populist mood: Corporations and the government are lying to you, playing you for a fool.

And in an odd way his past nuttiness bolsters his believability: He has worn the scorn of establishments as a medal. His own family isn’t for him. It doesn’t seem to mess with his swing.

He has what Mr. Trump has: star power. And there is the name. I recently was with a physical therapist—early middle age, suburban, not especially interested in politics—who, while working my back, asked if I knew Mr. Kennedy. No, I said. Is he drawing your interest?

She spoke admiringly of his family—of JFK, of RFK the father. She liked them and thought their politics were similar to hers. I asked if she had any living memory of JFK or RFK. No, she said, she was born after they were killed. And yet she spoke of them as if she remembered them.

I say watch him. He is going to be a force this year.
But Kennedy doesn't have a "larger message" -- or, rather, his "larger message" is in the service of his smaller message. Corporations are bad! For instance, they ... peddle vaccines! Which are bad! The government is lying to you ... about vaccines! And so on.

Instead of recoiling at Kennedy's dangerous nuttery, Noonan relegates it to parentheses. And her wording minimizes the harmfulness: "the idea that childhood vaccines are connected to autism" is actually the lie that childhood vaccines are connected to autism. But she doesn't care. She wants the race stirred up. If it's by a scientifically illiterate demagogue, who cares?

Then we have Andrew Sullivan:
Kennedy sees clearly how the Dems have become the party of big corporations, HR authoritarians, and the mega-wealthy.... Kennedy also feels in his bones the spiritual desolation out there, and grasps our duty to balance prosperity with care for the planet....

Bobby is now 69 years old, but seems much younger. Fun disclosure: I’ve known him personally through my old friend and his brother, Max, and always found him straightforward and disarming — if deeply troubled. This week, as I watched his campaign speech, and absorbed a long but riveting interview by David Samuels in Tablet, I was rustled out of my assumption that he’d simply gone nuts (as others in his family believe). Here is how Samuels frames the candidacy of “one of the most effective environmental activists in the country”:
[T]he case Kennedy made in his [2005 anti-vax article “Deadly Immunity”] was no more or less plausible and empirically grounded than the cases that he and dozens of other environmental advocates had been making for decades against large chemical companies for spewing toxins into America’s air, water, and soil, and then lying about it. [...] Now that conspiracy theories have gone mainstream, who better than RFK Jr. to authentically understand and communicate with a public that is rightly suspicious of the poisons in its water and air, the dishonesty of the public health bureaucracy, and the toxic nature of official discourse.
Kennedy is coherent, has an insane grasp of detail, and can speak extemporaneously with a skill not seen since Obama. He’s also broken — by tragedy, addiction, loss, and failure. (You can almost hear it in his cracked voice, caused by a rare disorder.) His father and uncle were murdered, his brother died of an overdose, he spent time hooked on heroin, and his ex-wife, Mary, hanged herself. But brokenness has its strengths in a leader, especially if you want to revive Americans’ faith in themselves and in their future. Imagine a president able to truly get the opioid crisis — because he remains in recovery. We are in some ways a broken country. And we will not heal by repeating the 2016 and 2020 presidential cycles.
Translation: Please please please persuade me he's not a whackjob! I desperately need another Obama to exalt as a secular demigod, because I am emotionally fourteen years old! (Kennedy's 2005 anti-vax article was not "empirically grounded." It was based on junk science, which is why it was withdrawn from circulation, as was the scientific paper it was based on, the principal author of which lost his medical license.)

And then there's Mark Halperin. I know he has no ongoing influence, but I suspect he's not alone in believing that Kennedy could have a major impact on the race if they weren't trying to silence him:
Kennedy’s chances of catching on are more challenging because he appears to be virtually blacklisted by the media....

The gatekeepers at the Dominant Media largely do not want to elevate Bobby, since they are all anti-anti-vax and they don’t want to do anything that might weaken Biden (and thus help to elect Trump).

But you need to pay attention to Kennedy’s message, a beautiful mosaic of passion, combining notes and themes from Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, and some of the blue collar/fighting for you of it all of Scranton Joe.
(Yes, the Kennedy family is "blue collar" now.)
I’m not over predicting here, but if Kennedy can get his message out I think he could cause much bigger problems for the incumbent than currently thought in most quarters. If he becomes the protest candidate repository for the giant pool of Democratic primary voters who are unenthused about Biden-Harris, watch out.
Who'll be the next pundit to say, Yeah, Kennedy has some nutball ideas, but when he proclaims [insert boilerplate anti-corporate pronouncement that would elicit pundit groans if uttered by Elizabeth Warren], you gotta hand it to him -- Matt Bai? Frank Bruni? David Brooks? Chuck Todd? I hope I'm wrong about this, but I think more good Kennedy coverage is coming.

Friday, April 28, 2023


I know I shouldn't be taking Robert Kennedy Jr. seriously, although he recently polled at 19% in a USA Today survey of Democrats and 21% in an Emerson College survey -- more than 40 points behind President Biden in both cases, but with greater strength than a challenger to an incumbent ought to be showing. Also, because the Democratic Party has rearranged its schedule in an effort to prevent the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary from being the first contests in the nomination campaign, Biden probably won't campaign in those states, which will probably conduct the contests when they please in defiance of the party; Kennedy, along with Marianne Williamson, will likely campaign to win the two contests -- and he might beat Biden as a result. Biden doesn't need that embarrassment, especially if Donald Trump, as now seems likely, is coasting to victory in every state.

I don't believe that most Democratic poll respondents who are choosing Kennedy agree with his vaccine denialism. I think they like the Kennedy family and assume he's politically indistinguishable from his father and uncles. I wonder how many of them would feel the same way about him if they knew he's pondered the appropriateness of arresting Dr. Anthony Fauci, as well as other people who've worked in public health for the federal government. In a recent Twitter thread, he wrote:
It is dawning on mainstream figures like Anthony Fauci that their Covid policies were a public health disaster. Lots of us are angry about the mandates, the lockdowns, the censorship, the insanity. But we need to avoid the toxic quagmire of retribution and blame and focus on ensuring this never happens again. Clean up the regulatory agencies, get corporate money out of public health, and guarantee free, open, uncensored public and scientific discourse.

Of course, officials who betrayed the public trust must not be allowed to hold power. I will remove them from their positions and, if laws were broken, my attorney general will prosecute.

Just to be clear, I will prosecute any official who engaged in criminal wrongdoing during the pandemic.....

As President, I will direct my attorney general to investigate and prosecute every person who knowingly defrauded or deceived the American public about the safety and efficacy of medical products and I will obtain justice and compensation for every American who was injured or suffered the death of family members from those actions.
And Kennedy's anti-vaxx hysteria isn't limited to COVID vaccines. Here he says that he'd like to bring criminal charges against editors of medical journals for not blaming virtually every known health problem on vaccines:

KENNEDY: Right now, all the databases that you can actually check the efficacy and the safety of vaccines, like the vaccine safety databases that the top -- all the vaccine records and the medical claims for ten million Americans from the top ten HMOs -- you can look in there, and overnight you can say, "Oh, this vaccine's associated with diabetes, this one is associated with peanut allergies, this one is associated with ASD [autistic spectrum disorder], neurological tics, whatever" -- that database, CDC keeps it in a lockbox, like Fort Knox, and makes sure no scientist is allowed in there. Well, I'll open up that database on day one. And, also, I'll bring all the medical journals -- The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, JAMA -- into the Justice Department, as soon as I appoint an AG, and I'll say to them, "You guys are part of a racketeering syndicate. You're collaborating with this pharmaceutical industry, lie to the American public about the efficacy and safety of these products, and you're causing enormous harm, and we are going to sue you both civilly, for damages, and we're going to sue you criminally, unless you come up with a plan right now for how you're going to stop doing that."
I'm not worried that Kennedy will somehow be elected president and begin prosecuting everyone who's ever said a vaccine was safe and effective. I'm worried that the Biden campaign's strategy will be to ignore Kennedy on the assumption that he can't even win enough votes to be an embarrassment to the president -- and then he will win enough votes to do just that, largely from people who don't know the depths of his lunacy and would be horrified if they did know, and the media will decide that liberal advocates of vaccine mandates and other public health measures really did go too far and really did oversell the vaccines because of elitist arrogance.

I'm not saying that a lot of resources should be devoted to rebutting this -- just enough to discredit Kennedy, and to remind people that Steve Bannon loves him, Roger Stone loves him, and he and Tucker Carlson are a mutual admiration society.

Biden can show some strength by punching this guy in the nose -- and he deeply deserves it.


I've given up on trying to persuade any of you that Donald Trump is the favorite to win the 2024 presidential election, even though I truly believe he is. However, I hope some of you at least recognize that it's possible he'll win.

If he does, some horseshoe lefties will regard it as a hopeful sign for the cause of anti-interventionism. I'm thinking of people like Lee Harris and Luke Goldstein, who wrote this in a misbegotten American Prospect opinion piece that was full of praise for Tucker Carlson:
Carlson repeatedly invited on independent journalists and commentators critical of American military adventurism. Political commentator Jimmy Dore told Fox News viewers, “Your enemy is not China. Your enemy is not Russia. Your enemy is the military-industrial complex.”
Is that really what Trump and Carlson fans believe? We know that many of them don't think Russia is the enemy. However, they despise China, which they think is responsible for nearly all the evil in the world that isn't the fault of the Democratic Party. It doesn't appear as if they actually want to go to war with China, however. Or do they?

Take a look at this new Donald Trump campaign ad.

Yes, it attacks "the global elitists" who "send your kids to war." But it also stirs up anger at perceived foreign enemies. Eight seconds in, we see Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, China's Xi Jinping, a Mao poster, and people we're expected to read as jihadists. The narrator says:
Enemies and tyrants on opposite sides of the globe laugh at us.
At 1:16, we see a clip of Trump from his presidency; he's walking with a military escort. At 1:24, we see him saluting against a blue sky while military helicopters hover in formation overhead. A caption reads: DON'T MESS WITH US.

This is not Ron Paul-style isolationism. Trump's ad-makers know that the base doesn't want that.

We've been told that the Republican Party is Trumpist now, and isn't going back to the way it used to be. Part of that transformation, pundits tell us, is a rejection of military adventurism.

I think that's true to some extent -- but I also think that GOP voters were extremely pro-adventurism twenty years ago and are ready to embrace adventurism again, if it's sold by a president they like and if the enemy is someone they hate (or are carefully trained to hate).

I don't know if a reelected Trump would really get us into a war -- but if he does, his "isolationist" fan base will be 100% behind him. Maybe Tucker Carlson will be critical of the war on his podcast. It won't matter. Right-wing voters hate non-white foreigners too much to completely abandon militarism, just the way they did when the Bushes fought wars they unquestioningly supported. They want to believe Trump can give them "peace through strength" -- an America so intimidating that no one challenges us. But if that fails and there's war, they'll be there for it.

Thursday, April 27, 2023


Did you see Tucker Carlson's desperate bid for ongoing relevance yesterday? No, not the video -- I'll get to that later. I mean the transparently phony photo op he staged with the help of some accommodating pals from Britain's Daily Mail:
It's been barely two days since his brutal ouster from Fox News - but Tucker Carlson looks like a man without a care in the world.

The TV firebrand shrugged off the media storm and insisted he was more interested in enjoying a romantic date with his wife Susan as he broke his silence in an exclusive chat with

'Retirement is going great so far,' chuckled Carlson, 53, as he emerged from his $5.5 million beach home in Boca Grande, Florida on Tuesday night.

'I haven’t eaten dinner with my wife on a weeknight in seven years.'

Pressed on his future, the flame-throwing former host of Tucker Carlson Tonight flashed a broad smile and joked: 'Appetizers plus entree.'
This was accompanied by photos and a brief video of Carlson and his wife tooling around in a golf cart, presumably on their way to dinner. (Must be an early-bird special -- the sun looks awfully bright.)

Carlson even gave the Mail photographer one of his patented psychopathic forced laughs, just to show how totally not fazed he is by his Fox defenestration.

We talk about Ron DeSantis's mimicry of Donald Trump, but this seems like Carlson's version of a Trump-in-exile photo op, down to the golf cart, if Trump actually liked his wife and enjoyed leaving his own property once in a while: Look! I am the king of my domain, here in Florida, the sun-drenched oasis of freedom and adult play!

The couldn't-be-happier vibe Carlson tries to project in the Daily Mail story is, of course, completely contradicted by the video he released a few hours later:

Rolling Stone reports:
IN TUCKER CARLSON’S first on-camera appearance since being fired from Fox News, the former host did not mention his ex-employer at all. Carlson, filming in the one corner of his home studio not marred by Fox branding he’s no longer allowed to use, didn’t say anything to shed clarity on his situation — but he did suggest that his career infecting American minds with hateful poison is not over.

At 8:01 PM, the time when just last week he would have been introducing his primetime Fox show, the former host released a two-minute video via his Twitter account.
Carlson can't use Fox branding and he can't directly criticize Fox, probably because of a non-disparagement clause in his contract. Posting the video in his old time slot reeks of desperation -- I'm reminded of a schizophrenic I know who was fired from a job for erratic behavior just before a weekend and who had persuaded himself that he might get his job back if he just ... showed up at the office on Monday. (He didn't get his job back, needless to say.)

But as with Trump, the effort to remain relevant somehow comes off as a power move, even to Rolling Stone's reporter ("his career infecting American minds with hateful poison is not over"). And that's not completely crazy: Sometime next year, Trump could be the president-elect and Carlson could once again be a dangeous rabble-rouser as the host of America's most popular podcast.

Carlson, like Trump, is a sad man who's been forced out of a job he felt was his divine right, but millions of right-wing Americans wallow in grievance, so when their leaders are deposed, it somehow makes them look stronger. (Slate quotes a comment at a popular right-wing site: “Tucker was the closest to unadulterated truth we have ever had on TV. That’s why he was a massive threat that needed to be eliminated.”)

So what looks like failure is actually strength, because the apparent failure is actually the result of a frontal attack by the "deep state" or the "globalists" or the "uniparty." That's a major part of Trump's message, too. And it's plausible to far too many people.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023


Of all the explanations offered for why Fox News might have fired Tucker Carlson, this one, from Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman, seems the least plausible:
According to [a] source, Fox Corp. chair Rupert Murdoch removed Carlson over remarks Carlson made during a speech at the Heritage Foundation’s 50th Anniversary gala on Friday night. Carlson laced his speech with religious overtones that even Murdoch found too extreme, the source, who was briefed on Murdoch’s decision-making, said. Carlson told the Heritage audience that national politics has become a manichean battle between “good” and “evil.” Carlson said that people advocating for transgender rights and DEI programs want to destroy America and they could not be persuaded with facts. “We should say that and stop engaging in these totally fraudulent debates...I’ve tried. That doesn’t work,” he said. The answer, Carlson suggested, was prayer. “I have concluded it might be worth taking just 10 minutes out of your busy schedule to say a prayer for the future, and I hope you will,” he said. “That stuff freaks Rupert out. He doesn’t like all the spiritual talk,” the source said.
Carlson talked about Christianity and prayer, and therefore Rupert Murdoch decided he was unfit to be on Fox? Really? Has Murdoch met any of Fox's other stars?

Here's a book published last November by Harris Faulkner, who hosts two daytime shows on Fox News:

The book was published by ... (checks notes) ... Fox News Books, an imprint of Murdoch's book publishing division, HarperCollins. Fox News Books also publishes several books by Shannon Bream, the host of Fox News Sunday, including The Mothers and Daughters of the Bible Speak and The Love Stories of the Bible Speak. Bream also hosts a show called Women of the Bible Speak on Fox's streaming service, Fox Nation.

One of the co-hosts of Fox & Friends, Ainsley Earhardt, has a Fox Nation show called Ainsley's Bible Study. Her guests have included this guy:

Hannity is now Earhardt's boyfriend, according to Entertainment Weekly and other sources.

Will Murdoch fire all of these people? I don't think so.

Of course, it's unlikely that any of the other Fox hosts chatted about Jesus with Rupert's ex. Sherman reports:
Rupert Murdoch was perhaps unnerved by Carlson’s messianism because it echoed the end-times worldview of Murdoch’s ex-fiancée Ann Lesley Smith, the source said. In my May cover story, I reported that Murdoch and Smith called off their two-week engagement because Smith had told people Carlson was “a messenger from God.” Murdoch had seen Carlson and Smith discuss religion firsthand. In late March, Carlson had dinner at Murdoch’s Bel Air vineyard with Murdoch and Smith, according to the source. During dinner, Smith pulled out a bible and started reading passages from the Book of Exodus, the source said. “Rupert just sat there and stared,” the source said. A few days after the dinner, Murdoch and Smith called off the wedding. By taking Carlson off the air, Murdoch was also taking away his ex’s favorite show.
But according to multiple reports, Fox CEO Suzanne Scott and favored son Lachlan Murdoch agreed to Carlson's termination. Are we supposed to believe they thought it was a good idea to fire their most prominent host just because his performative God-bothering upset the patriarch?

The Wall Street Journal's reporting is much more plausible:
Several weeks ago, as Fox News lawyers prepared for a courtroom showdown with Dominion Voting Systems, they presented Tucker Carlson with what they thought was good news: They had persuaded the court to redact from a legal filing the time he called a senior Fox News executive the c-word, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Carlson, Fox News’s most-watched prime-time host, wasn’t impressed. He told his colleagues that he wanted the world to know what he had said about the executive in a private message, the people said.... his dislike of this executive was deep and enduring....

The private messages in which Mr. Carlson showed disregard for management and colleagues were a major factor in [the firing] decision, according to other people familiar with the matter. Although many portions of the Dominion court documents are redacted, there is concern among Fox Corp. executives that if the redacted material were to become public, it would lead to further embarrassment for the network and parent company....

Mr. Carlson is a defendant in a lawsuit filed last month by Abby Grossberg, a former producer for Mr. Carlson and Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo. The suit, which also names Fox and other individuals, said, “Mr. Carlson’s derogatory comments towards women, and his disdain for those who dare to object to such misogyny, is well known on the set” of his show.
Fox wants to win that lawsuit. This is the most credible explanation for Carlson's firing.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023


News from Sudan:
U.N. officials said Tuesday that one side in the Sudan conflict has seized control of a national health lab in the capital of Khartoum that holds biological material, calling it an “extremely dangerous” development....

Dr. Nima Saeed Abid, the World Health Organization’s representative in Sudan, expressed concerns that “one of the fighting parties” — he did not identify which one — had seized control of the central public health laboratory in Khartoum and “kicked out all of the technicians.”

“That is extremely, extremely dangerous because we have polio isolates in the lab. We have measles isolates in the lab. We have cholera isolates in the lab,” he told a U.N. briefing in Geneva by video call from Port Sudan. “There is a huge biological risk associated with the occupation of the central public health lab in Khartoum by one of the fighting parties.”
This was the lead story on the Fox News website earlier today -- and it probably won't surprise you that the news makes Fox commenters want to round up the usual suspects -- China, the World Economic Forum, George Soros, and the Democratic Party -- even though none of them are responsible for this:
Amazing how all of the risks of lab leaks and need for WHO and CDC all just rapidly appeared in 2020. For my 50 years of life prior to that all was quiet on a global scale. It’s almost as if it’s a manufactured threat.


The WHO is an organization of global elites who are determined to end freedom as it exists. If we don’t voluntarily submit they will kill us through their virus program.


Covid was a cooperative effort between the Democrat-Communist Party and the Chinese Communist Party to assure that Trump would not be re-elected. The temporary destruction of the economy was the means to an end.


Dems: Never let a crisis go to waste.


Covid was all done by "the swamp" to oust trump. Remember, fauci said in '17 that trump would face a pandemic. Obviously he knew, as there is a paper trail with him funding it. For some reason, no investigation of that. Of course, they are very busy worried about some checks trump's accountant wrote several years ago.


U.S. through Fauci was providing some funding to the Wuhan lab - I hope that's not what we're doing all over the world.


That is correct. Off budget funds given to Fauci and his NIH by Obama. Around three million. Not a lot, but enough to get the job done.


That would explain what the old Kenyan Obama was doing visiting Wuhan labs in 2019. Added that Pelosi also visited the same lab 1 month later in November. That was one month before China let loose the virus.
(Nancy Pelosi visited China in 2015, not 2019, and didn't go to Wuhan. Reports that Barack Obama visited a lab in Wuhan are based on a photo taken at a National Institutes of Health lab in Maryland in 2014, contrary to what Ted Nugent posted on Facebook in 2020.)
... as a matter of fact sometime in the mid to late part of May, Biden will be at a global meeting trying to give away American sovereignty to WHO. They tried this last year but a small country, I believe it was Botswana decided at the last minute to pull out of the agreement and therefore the whole thing fell apart. Let's hope in May that America or some other country realizes that giving all the power to ONE man who runs a global organization will literally change the World as We know it.


Biden just announced he running so they need to be sure he gets at least 100 million votes while they shut everything down with a new pandemic and do all mail in or electronic voting for the next election.


Biden was onboard when the globalists were talking about WHO having the power to regulate the entire world for a ‘health crisis’ or anything else they deemed a crisis. This means travel restrictions, mandates for masks for example, possible martial law etc. The US and other countries forced to do whatever ‘they’ deem necessary, and countries would be required to obey. This would lead to complete control and a New World Order which is the goal of Marxists/globalists.


Why would you have a lab like this in a country like that?

Why would you allow a lab like that to be vulnerable to occupation?


Too easy.. To control the leaks, the narrative, power, population (control), global dominance, and so on. Next question?


To Guarantee a 2024 election?


Because there are NO coincidences. This chess game reveals all once checkmate is complete. That win is glogal communism rebranded by the WEF, UN, WHO and the billionaires housed in international corporations. Xi is harnessing it all - just needs America fully brought to heel. Its a shame the comatose lobotomized lefty masses are running over the cliff like lemmings.


Because Biden and the Socialist/China Communist loving Democrats..Who don’t know what a true Democracy is..want to help the Globalist fanatics and Communist China take over the world..Freedom loving Americans and the American US Constitution stand in the way of one party global rule..wake up Americans stand up for our rights as free country..for all the world of freedom seeking countries to stand up not allow Biden’s Socialist Democrat fanatics in our congress to destroy America’s values of freedom..liberty..justice for all to enjoy..stand up for our children’s rights..parents rights.. many traitors ..deceivers..power grabbing socialist democrat corporations control Biden like a puppet..they want to mentally and physically control all Americans into submission..authoritarian is happening now out all socialist democrats..or lose America and Freedom..our Rights..gone...


Imagine that. They’ll be able to release it right before the elections for mail in ballots.


Why do they put these “labs” in countries that are not only unstable, but also unfriendly?


So they can point the finger at someone else when the planned culling happens.


Because that way democrats can acquire these viruses to unleash during election time and continue to steal the elections while everyone is dying and running in fear. Haven’t you been paying attention?


The UN is in the business of global collapse. They make $billions supporting this agenda. Destruction of the world’s nation state structure is their prime goal.


Timing is just about right to correspond with the 2024 presidential election, especially since today Slow Joe announced his intent to run again.
Tucker Carlson is gone, but the Fox audience is still crazy. I'm not sure the damage done by the right-wing media over the past couple of decades can be undone.


Has the firing of Tucker Carlson reduced the toxicity of American politics? Perhaps, at least for the moment, and not just because Carlson himself is silent:

But I think Fox's audience will just get crazier.

Carlson's embrace of the great replacement theory, trans-bashing, and Hungarian-style Christianist illiberalism (not to mention the Putin line on Ukraine) might have been the only thing keeping a lot of right-wingers in the Fox News tent. Previous Fox firings -- Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck -- didn't lead to mass audience defections. But this time might be different. A significant sliver of the Fox audience drifted away after Fox called Arizona for Joe Biden in 2020; these folks came back only because Fox embraced election denialism and then led crusades against critical race theory, trans people, and "wokeness," with Carlson as the principal crusader. We know that the right is so enraged these days that even favorite brands are at risk -- I had doubts about the potency of the Bud Light boycott, but industry data says that sales fell 17% the week of April 15 -- so why couldn't Fox be at risk, too? (If Bud Light wants those customers back, it should probably hire Carlson as a spokesman.)

What I'm detecting these days is a higher-than-usual level of paranoia on the right, which manifests itself in the belief that anyone -- except Donald Trump, for some reason -- could be a hidden agent of the Deep State. It's remarkable, for instance, how many people seem willing to parrot Trumpist arguments that Ron DeSantis -- Ron DeSantis! -- is an agent of The Enemy (in bed, it is believed, with traitors Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, and, yes, Fox News).

And now:

If viewers leave Fox, where will they go? Back to Newsmax and One America News, presumably -- but also to podcasts that can be even more bigoted, conspiratorialist, and eliminationist than Carlson's show. I agree with The Atlantic's David Graham and The New Republic's Michael Tomasky that, in the long run, Fox will get worse, but some of the media alternatives to Fox (Infowars, Steve Bannon's podcast, the Daily Wire universe) are, in many ways, already worse.

An audience that's primed to believe that the Murdoch family is "woke" is ready to believe all sorts of preposterous things. I'm afraid that audience will find what it wants in corners of the media that are even more brain-rotting than Fox.

Monday, April 24, 2023


Tucker Carlson sudden departure from Fox News -- he didn't even get a farewell show -- isn't the first time Fox has cut ties with a host whose show seemed extreme even by the channel's own debased standards, and who therefore became the appalling face of Fox for many non-viewers. The same thing happened with Glenn Beck twelve years ago. Notably, Beck's show, like Carlson's, was a semi-independent operation, taped in his own studios, not at Fox headquarters. Firing Beck was Rupert Murdoch's way of saying that Fox was bigger than he was (which proved to be true -- Fox just soldiered on and Beck has never been as successful since). The dismissal of Carlson seems to be a way of sending the same message.

It's possible that this is part of a family succession drama. It's been reported for years that Murdoch has been playing hias adult children off against one another as the time approaches for him to pass on control of his media empire. Recently it seemed as if the most right-wing Murdoch offspring, Lachlan, had won the battle. According to Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman and others, Lachlan is "particularly close with" Carlson. Maybe Rupert blames Lachlan for the Dominion lawsuit and this is Rupert's way of telling Lachlan he's no longer the favored child.

And yes, there's this from The Washington Post:
But it was Carlson’s comments about Fox management, as revealed in the Dominion case, that played a role in his departure from Fox, a person familiar with the company’s thinking told The Post.
(I'm not sure what Carlson said about Fox management. Those comment are much less widely reported than Carlson's private messages critical of Donald Trump.)

There's also this:

(The Los Angeles Times concurs, saying that "Carlson’s exit is related to the discrimination lawsuit filed by Abby Grossberg" and citing "People familiar with the situation who were not authorized to comment publicly.")

Whatever is happening, it's odd. Fox put election denialism on the air in 2020 because rejecting one of the Fox audience's core beliefs was seen as likely to damage the Fox brand. But in 2023 nothing could damage the Fox brand in the eyes of viewers more than letting Tucker Carlson go. Has Rupert Murdoch stopped caring about the brand? Or does he resent Carlson's demagoguery about "globalism," which he might regard as an indictment of people like himself?

I assume everything will settle down soon. There'll be a Jesse Watters or Greg Gutfeld show in Carlson's slot and the vitriol will be flowing again as if it never stopped.

But Carlson was worse than other Fox hosts, and it will be good to have him gone -- possibly for a while. Does he have a non-compete clause? If so, how long will it silence him? For a long time, I hope.

And no, I don't think he'll jump into the presidential race. Being a trollish pundit is easy. Running for president is hard. Being president is harder. Why would Carlson want to go through what Ron DeSantis is going through now? Why get in the mud with Trump? Carlson will find other outlets for his ego -- probably a well-financed Daily Wire-style media company and podcast -- and he'll make a hell of a lot more money than a president does. But if I'm wrong and he does get in the race, I think DeSantis will sink to third place very soon.


Last week, The New Yorker published Clare Malone's terrible profile of Candace Owens. The piece isn't quite as bad as Kelefa Sanneh's godawful 2009 profile of Michael Savage in the same magazine; that story portrayed Savage not as a spittle-flecked bigot but as "a marvellous storyteller, a quirky thinker, and an incorrigible free-associater" who "sometimes sounds ... like the star of a riveting and unusually vivid one-man play ... or a fugitive character out of a Philip Roth novel." In Malone's depiction, Owens is a conservative but not, somehow, a conservative culture warrior. To Malone, Owens is a thinker and sage.
Broadly, she sees her remit as moral guidance for the Internet age, helping impressionable minds sift through a raft of images and concepts.... She delights in speaking ex cathedra, and her focus on women and the family feels particularly timely in a political moment shaped by the effects of the pandemic and the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “I think moms are starting to pay more attention to what’s happening,” Owens told me. “It’s not necessarily just transgenderism. It’s everything that’s happening in the classroom. And suddenly it feels like we’re in a custody dispute with the state for our children.”
This is textbook right-wing culture-warring -- We're not agenda-driven political operatives, we're just a bunch of moms who think all this stuff doesn't make sense! -- but Malone thinks Owens wants to save souls rather than win votes (and market share). She can't quite believe Owens is a bog-standard ideologue:
Owens picks topics of broad cultural concern, but her answers to big questions are often knee-jerk contrarian. Responding to a study about record levels of sadness among teen girls, she said it was due to our “perverse” hookup and drinking culture which tells people “that aspiring toward family is backwards.” In a video titled “Are Women Ruining the Workplace?” she determines that “things have gotten worse at work since women joined” and that men have to navigate “a bunch of land mines.” When Skims, Kim Kardashian’s shapewear line, used a model in a wheelchair for a line of adaptive underwear for people with disabilities, Owens did a brief segment about it. “I don’t really understand how far we’re going to take this inclusivity thing,” she said.
This isn't "knee-jerk contrarianism." A knee-jerk contrarian would be to the left of conventional wisdom once in a while. Owens never is.

The Candace Owens message is the main message of the 21st-century right: Anything that's not to my taste is abnormal and evil.
... her show, she said, is about “what enrages me,” a list that includes the Black Lives Matter movement, the body-positivity movement, the trans-rights movement, Ozempic, the Kardashians, Madonna’s plastic surgery, Colin Kaepernick, and the Democratic Party. Owens, who was wearing gabardine trousers with sparkly suspenders, also takes issue with women wearing yoga pants in non-workout settings. “This weird culture of telling women to de-beautify themselves and to be more masculine—I mean, it’s just bad,” she said.
(Owens thinks yoga pants make woman look "more masculine"? She really ought to ask a few heterosexual men whether they agree.)

Malone takes Owens's performative traditionalism at face value, never recognizing that Owens is running the same scam Phyllis Schlafly ran years before Owens was born: denouncing women who want to be more than homemakers while being one of those women herself.
Owens embraces the Internet label of “trad wife.” The prototypical trad wife frames her choices around the traditional gender roles of marriage and dresses femininely, with an emphasis on looking good—makeup, kempt hair—for her husband at all times. The term is often used by conservative proponents of homesteading, homeschooling, and large families. On Instagram, where Owens has more than four million followers, she documents her pre-dawn workouts, solicits advice about a teething toddler, and shows off her pantry organization. But there’s often a sharp edge to her posts. In a recent Instagram story, Owens wrote, “I cook dinner for my husband 5-7 days per a week. How’s that for feminism.”
Owens produces a daily podcast and -- this goes unmentioned by Malone -- employs domestic help. There's nothing wrong with that, but if you offload some of the drudgery while maintaining a high-level career, don't call yourself a "trad wife."

It's clear that Malone is no match for Owens, who alternately intimidates her and then pulls back, pretending to be just another suburban mom:
When I asked Owens whether a gentler tone was ever useful in trying to win people over to her side, she told me my question was sexist—her e-mails were at turns sharply organized, argumentative, polite, and lashing—and asked for specific examples of things that she had said that I found unnecessarily harsh. I mentioned her anti-body-positivity commentary and frequent use of the worst anti-trans slurs. “A woman telling the truth is not harsh,” she replied. “Lizzo, is in fact, fat.” Owens continued on, attaching a number of pictures of the singer, then signed off, “Just pulling up to a nursery to purchase some plants! Thank you for the productive conversation!”
We've spent eight years debating the tone of Donald Trump's rhetoric. Is that sexist? Why doesn't Malone acknowledge that this is a dodge? Or press Owens to defend her trans-bashing? Malone is clearly not Isaac Chotiner or Jia Tolentino -- New Yorker colleagues who would have done a much better job with this profile -- but could she at least try?

Owens herself is delighted with the piece:

As is her employer:

Do better, New Yorker.

Sunday, April 23, 2023


People who should know better are asking whether Robert Kennedy Jr.'s presidential campaign could cause problems for Joe Biden. It's not just Ross Douthat...
... there is room for somebody ... to try to run the same play as Eugene McCarthy in 1968 or Pat Buchanan in 1992 or for that matter Bernie Sanders in 2016 — to offer themselves as a protest candidate, to either channel hidden grievances or discover, through their campaign, what those grievances might be.

Right now the only major figure auditioning for that role is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the noted anti-vaccine activist who opened his own campaign in Boston earlier this week. He’s an interesting test case, because while he’s way outside the current liberal mainstream, his name trades on a distinctive kind of older-Democrat nostalgia, while his anti-corporate crankishness speaks to a tendency that used to be powerful on the left, before Trumpism absorbed a lot of paranoid energy and conspiracism.
"Anti-corporate crankishness" is still powerful on the left, of course, but it generally takes the form of wondering why the rich run everything and pay next to nothing in taxes while endeavoring to yoke us to a fossil-fuel economy forever. Most of us don't think vaccines are the fat cats' greatest crime -- we resent drug companies mostly because they make healthcare in America so damn expensive.

And when Douthat talks about "older-Democrat nostalgia" for the Kennedy family, he's talking about blue-collar white Democrats, many of whom have drifted away from the party in the past half century. But the liberals who respond to RFK Jr.-style health crankery -- or used to respond to it before right-wing anti-vaxxers because his main audience -- tend to be economically upmarket. In that social stratum, they've vastly outnumbered by educated Democrats who admire Anthony Fauci and believe in vaccines.

Douthat acknowledges that Kennedy is unlikely to deny Biden the nomination, or even make serious inroads against him. But he takes Kennedy's campaign seriously, as does David Corn at Mother Jones:
... [Kennedy's] name still has cachet. A USA Today/Suffolk University Poll found that 14 percent of voters who backed Biden in 2020 would support RFK Jr. He’s not likely to threaten Biden in the Democratic primaries (assuming Biden runs), but he can be a distraction. And that’s a problem....

[Kennedy and Marianne Williamson] can make things messy. Do Democrats really want a fuss over whether Biden will deign to debate these marginal candidates? The media, though, will eat it up. And Kennedy cannot champion his main cause without indicting Biden as one of the villains in the grand Covid conspiracy he has railed against.
I don't trust that 14% number -- I'd bet that many of those respondents don't know much about Kennedy beyond his name and just want an alternative to Biden. But it should be absurdly easy for Biden to let people know who Kennedy is.

And not just the vaccine crankery, which was publicly rejected by three of his siblings a year before the pandemic started, or the conspiracy theories about 5G.

All Biden needs to do is link Kennedy to MAGA. And that's a simple task.

As Vanity Fair's Caleb Ecarma wrote earlier this month,
According to CBS News correspondent Robert Costa, the fantastical long shot bid was contrived by Trumpworld power broker Steve Bannon, who had reportedly spent months urging Kennedy to run in the hopes that he might sow chaos on the left.... Kennedy also has ties to other shady figures in Donald Trump’s orbit: In July 2021, as the right’s hysteria over COVID-19 vaccines was in full swing, a photo shared on Instagram showed Kennedy posing with Roger Stone, the notorious “dirty trickster” of the Republican Party, and Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser turned QAnon influencer. The picture was reportedly taken at an event hosted by ReAwaken America, a Christian nationalist touring group made for and by QAnon followers, anti-vaxxers, and election deniers....
Here's that picture, with Flynn on the left and Roger Stone on the right. The woman is Charlene Bollenger, described by AP as an "anti-vaccine profiteer." You can read more about her here.)

Stone likes Kennedy so much he's proposed that Trump should pick him as his running mate.

We're told that Bannon is the person behind Kennedy's run, but this reeks of Stone, who likes trolling Democrats with stunt candidacies. (Recall that in 2010 Stone backed a gubernatorial campaign by a convicted madam, Kristin Davis. Davis's clients included former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who'd resigned after some of his other interactions with prostitutes were unearthed.) Stone now says this about Kennedy:
While the odds of RFK wresting the presidential nomination from the Democrat establishment candidate are narrow, the prospects of Kennedy impacting the process are great. I believe that if he can pull together a minimally effective campaign, he could garner as much as a third of the Democrat primary vote....

No incumbent president in modern times who faced but beat back a significant challenge for re-nomination has gone on to be re-elected.
So Stone openly portrays Kennedy's candidacy as a ratfuck. And then he wants Trump to pick Kennedy as his running mate, to form what Stone calls a "dream ticket."

If Kennedy becomes a problem for Biden, all Biden needs to do is talk about Kennedy's ties to Trump World (and to Trump himself, who met with Kennedy and reportedly promised to put him in charge of a commission on vaccine safety, although he never followed through).

(Caption to the photo above: "Robert F. Kennedy Jr. gestures while entering the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Jan. 10, 2017.")

Biden can -- accurately -- call Kennedy a MAGA wolf in Democratic clothing. And that should be the end of that.

Saturday, April 22, 2023


The Washington Post and The Guardian have stories today about moderately conservative American communities that have recently swung to the extreme right. The Post story focuses on Ottawa County, Michigan:
The eight new members of the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners had run for office promising to “thwart tyranny” in their lakeside Michigan community of 300,000 people....

The new commissioners, all Republicans, swore their oaths of office on family Bibles. And then the firings began. Gone was the lawyer who had represented Ottawa County for 40 years. Gone was the county administrator who oversaw a staff of 1,800. To run the health department, they voted to install a service manager from a local HVAC company who had gained prominence as a critic of mask mandates.

... Sylvia Rhodea, the board’s new vice chair, put forward a motion to change the motto that sat atop the county’s website and graced its official stationery. “Whereas the vision statement of ‘Where You Belong’ has been used to promote the divisive Marxist ideology of the race, equity movement,” Rhodea said.

And so began a new era for Ottawa County.
The radicals are led by the new chair of the county Board of Commissioners, Joe Moss, who's 37 years old and only recently became interested in politics.
He ran a small technology business and was focused on raising his children. Then, in the fall of 2020, the Ottawa County health department learned of a coronavirus outbreak at his daughter’s Christian school and ordered the school’s leaders to comply with the governor’s mask mandate. When they refused, state and county officials chained shut the school’s doors for more than a week and warned parents that continued resistance could bring fines and imprisonment.

Suddenly, Moss realized that those dangerous people that his pastor had been talking about on Sundays were not just in Washington and Lansing, the state capital. They were in West Olive, where the county government was headquartered. “In 2020, I became a threatened parent,” Moss said on the campaign trail. “I was threatened specifically ... by Ottawa County.”

... He saw evidence of this leftist campaign in the county health department’s decision in the fall of 2021 to impose a school mask mandate for children who were still too young for the vaccine.
There's more beyond that, of course -- Moss also saw leftism "in the $470,000 that local corporations had donated to jump-start a county office of diversity, equity and inclusion" -- but public health initiatives at the height of the pandemic made people like Moss insane.

You can see the same thing in the Guardian story, which focuses on Doni Chamberlain, an independent journalist in Shasta County, California:
... when people don’t like her pieces, Chamberlain said, they tell her she’s a communist who doesn’t deserve to live. One local conservative radio host said she should be hanged.

Never before in this far northern California outpost has she witnessed such open hostility towards the press....

For 10 years, she wrote a beloved column at the local newspaper, telling the stories of community characters and sharing her personal experiences, like her son’s deployment to Iraq. When she was laid off, a hundred people picketed outside the newspaper’s office.

With help from her son, she started A News Cafe, an online magazine that documents local affairs, and readers came with her. Just before Covid hit, she had considered selling the website....

But then Covid shut down the state, and laid bare the bitter fault lines that divided this community.

Residents angry over pandemic closures began filling county meetings, sometimes forcing their way inside, and directed their ire at elected officials who enforced only the minimum restrictions required by the state. One local resident, Carlos Zapata, warned the board of supervisors at a meeting in August 2020 to reopen the county or things wouldn’t be “peaceful much longer”.

“When the bullet box is gone, there is only the cartridge box. You have made bullets expensive, but luckily for you, ropes are reusable,” another resident said at a board of supervisors meeting in January 2021.

Religious leaders defied state orders and continued holding events. Bethel church, a Redding megachurch with more than 11,000 members and a major footprint in this city of 92,000, reported hundreds of cases at its school of “supernatural ministry”.
When people try to understand why the right is so feral these days, they generally blame Donald Trump, or maybe they reach back and say, We elected a Black president and half the country went crazy. Some of us look back further, to Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh, and Newt Gingrich.

The fires burned for years, but COVID was a real accelerant.

I'm not sure why. I think it's because right-wingers don't like the modern world, but they like living their lives their own way in their own insular communities, where no one tells them what to do. COVID upended that. The rest of us recognized that public health measures were for the good of society -- they were a way to try to keep us alive, and our fellow citizens alive, including our sick and elderly relatives. We didn't like the restrictions, but we cared about other people, so we tried to do what was best for society.

Not the angry right. Like modest gun restrictions, COVID public health measures imposed inconvenience on right-wingers. They couldn't do exactly what they wanted to do! That was unfair! It was un-American! It was communism!

Churches and religious schools were a particular line in the sand for these right-wingers. I have a family member who attends a culturally conservative Christian church in the Northeast, but there the parishioners accepted the idea of Zoom worship while the virus was spreading unchecked. In Ottawa County and Shasta County, however, that was clearly unthinkable. To the angry worshippers there, protecting members of the community from a frequently deadly disease was less important than sticking up for your own right to do whatever you want to do, even when other people's health and welfare is at stake.

That seems to be the core principle of the angry right.

We know they don't want their communities invaded by undocumented immigrants, trans people, or laws that even temporarily impede their enjoyment of firearms. They don't want to be told America has had moral failings or that their cop friends sometimes harm the people they're supposed to serve. They don't like losing elections and can't believe it when it happens, because they don't know anyone who voted for Biden.

But having to change their way of life for the common good made them nuts -- and it's still making them nuts.

Friday, April 21, 2023


Like most other recent polls, the new Wall Street Journal poll shows Donald Trump with a sizable lead over Ron DeSantis. No one else is in double digits.
Mr. DeSantis’s 14-point advantage in December has fallen to a 13-point deficit, and he now trails Mr. Trump 51% to 38% among likely Republican primary voters in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup.

... as of now, Mr. Trump also trounces all competitors in a test of a fuller, potential field of 12 Republican contenders, winning 48% support to 24% for Mr. DeSantis.

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, draws 5% support, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott draws 3% in the survey, which included 600 likely GOP primary voters. All other candidates had 2% support or less.
The survey respondents back Trump even though they think DeSantis would be more likely to defeat President Biden.
Some 41% of GOP primary voters say Mr. DeSantis would have the better chance of beating Mr. Biden, while 31% say Mr. Trump would be the stronger candidate.
In fact, voters overall prefer DeSantis to Biden, but prefer Biden to Trump, according to the poll.
Among the 1,500 registered voters in the survey, Mr. DeSantis leads Mr. Biden 48% to 45% in a hypothetical contest, while Mr. Trump lags behind the Democratic president by 3 points.
(Trump lost the popular vote by 3 points in 2016, so Biden might have to beat him by more than that in order to win the Electoral College.)

Put this together with the poll CNN conducted last month...
Looking ahead to the looming primary campaign, the survey finds that most Republicans and Republican-leaning independents would choose a candidate who agrees with their views on major issues (59%) over one who has a strong chance to beat Biden (41%).
... and it seems clear that the GOP electorate is less interested in winning than having its rage centers stroked. And that's what Ron DeSantis doesn't really understand.

He decided that he wouldn't announce his candidacy until after the Florida legislative session ends. He thinks Republican primary voters want him to present them with a package of bills accomplishing right-wing goals.

What they really want is an appeal to their ugly emotions. DeSantis is certainly trying to give them that, but he's frequently distracted by the desire to accomplish stuff. He thinks passing anti-Disney bills is more important than stirring up anti-Disney rage. GOP voters want more rhetoric, even if it means fewer results.

DeSantis is still running a strong second. Obviously, the vengeful laws being passed in Florida are doing him some good, in addition to his rhetoric. But he doesn't understand that the GOP electorate would rather hear him say he might build a prison next to Disney World than watch him try to impose corporate penalties on Disney. Laws, even laws passed out of a sense of vengeance, don't offer an immediate payoff. Rhetoric is the junk food the base wants every day. DeSantis should talk more, even if it means he does less. An all-vitriol approach to campaigning is working for Trump, at least with Republican voters. DeSantis still doesn't get it.

Thursday, April 20, 2023


In a New York Times op-ed, Matthew Dallek tries to put the messaging and conspiracy-mongering of Fox News in historical perspective -- but please note what Dallek elides:
Fox has both promulgated and become subsumed by an alternative political tradition — perhaps most notoriously embodied by the John Birch Society in the 1960s — in which the far right, over decades, has challenged mainstream conservatism on core issues like isolationism, racism, the value of experts and expertise, violent rhetoric and conspiracism.

... Fox’s viewers found a community of the like-minded in the notion that liberal enemies had stolen the election and destroyed America. They shared a code that adds fuel to far-right conspiracy theories: The nation’s chief enemies come from within, and the plots are hatched by powerful elites.

This strain of paranoia has deep roots on the American right. It was true of McCarthyism, which blamed State Department traitors for the “loss of China” to Communism. And it resonated with many members of the John Birch Society, a group that flourished in the 1960s, devoted to weeding out Communism from American life. Birchers, too, championed ideas that today’s Fox viewers find persuasive: The plot against America was orchestrated by liberals, State Department types, journalists and other elites out to destroy the country.
Dallek says that the paranoia and conspiratorialism of Fox's audience result from "a decades-in-the-making shift in the structure of national politics," but he never discusses what was going on in most of those decades, particularly the period from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama.

In a New Republic roundtable discussion featuring four Never Trumpers who have become disillusioned with the Republican Party, Max Boot does something similar. He says:
... let’s be honest here, the Republican Party didn’t take a wrong turn in 2016. Arguably, you could make the case that it took a wrong turn in 1964, when it really turned its back on the Lincoln legacy. I remember reading about the ’64 convention, held in the Cow Palace outside of San Francisco. And Jackie Robinson, who was a great Republican, was just horrified by what Barry Goldwater was saying. He couldn’t believe that the party of Lincoln was being taken over by the forces of intolerance and bigotry. Of course, that year, Goldwater was almost entirely wiped out.

Aside from Arizona, all the states he won were in the Deep South. That was really the beginning of the Southern strategy, the realignment of American politics. Obviously, things have gotten way crazier in the last few years, because we’ve gone from dog whistles on racism to wolf whistles. It’s become much more blatant. It’s become much more front-and-center in the Republican identity. There are roots to some of the current craziness that go back a long time.
So we get Goldwater, then Nixon's Southern strategy, then ... smash-cut to "the last few years" of Trumpism. Again, the period in between is elided.

Later in the conversation, Boot says:
Well, I do think if you look at the trajectory of the Republican Party since 1964, every single generation has been much more right-wing than the generation before. So you have this phenomenon where some of the original revolutionaries, the Barry Goldwaters and others, by the 1980s and 1990s, they were being seen as these left-wing squishes in the Republican Party. Then you had the Newt Gingrich generation, and then Newt himself was overtaken by the Trumpkins. Every generation is getting more extreme.
But Ronald Reagan gets none of the blame, from Boot or any of his fellow panelists. As for the Bushes, they're praised as models of restraint. Even Poppy Bush's red-meat campaign in 1988 is shrugged off. Boot again:
I think what’s changed is that, in the past, there were Republican leaders who would kind of pander to the grassroots at election time and then kind of ignore them while they were in office. The classic example being George H.W. Bush with his Willie Horton ads, and all this horrible catering to racism, which is not really what George H.W. Bush was about, but it’s what Lee Atwater told him he had to do to win the presidency.

Then he wins the presidency, and he governs in ways that piss off the hard-core right. And he winds up losing his reelection campaign. That was the old Republican Party in a nutshell.... [Trump] never stopped promoting the most rancid impulses in the Republican base. Unfortunately, it’s hard to put that genie back in the bottle. People like George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, and McCain and Romney and all those others, we thought that they were RINOs, because in office they would not cater to our worst instincts. Now voters are basically demanding that they do that.
It never seems to occur to Boot, his fellow panelists, or Michael Tomasky, their moderator, that Republican voters genuinely enjoyed the 1988 Bush campaign, just as they'd enjoyed Ronald Reagan's incessant Democrat- and liberal-bashing, and that even Poppy Bush's insincere hatemongering helped corrode GOP voters' sense of decency. Also not mentioned is the George W. Bush's administration's fixation on nonexistent voter fraud, which inspired vote suppression efforts in Republican states long before Trump, and laid the groundwork for Trump's Big Lie. Torture in Dubya's administration reinforced the notion that GOP voters' enemies aren't deserving of basic human rights, an idea they seem eager to extend to domestic enemies.

You can't understand how we got here without recognizing the fact that even the "nice" Republicans helped pave the way. We need to talk about what they did if we want to understand what's happening now.


Many people were disappointed when Fox settled its lawsuit with Dominion, but even some who felt let down believe that the dollar cost of the settlement will change Fox's behavior. Here's a common reaction:
With another presidential election just one year away, the settlement leaves many observers wondering whether the financial pain is enough to change the way Fox or other news organizations will report on the race.

“There’s a pretty good chance that someone’s going to be claiming problems with the 2024 election, and I can’t imagine that Fox’s lawyers would be happy about the newsroom using the same kind of freewheeling coverage where they let anyone on the air to make wild claims,” [First Amendment scholar Jeff] Kosseff says.
That may be true, but it won't help us between now and late 2024 -- and, as I'll explain below, it might not help us then, either. The 2020 election really might have been a one-off. Fox's response to it wasn't typical of the way it usually operates.

Fox routinely distorts the truth, but mostly in ways that aren't actionable. Look at the way Fox demonizes Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg. Bragg did take money from a group affiliated with George Soros. He did say he wouldn't prosecute certain offenses, such as low-level marijuana misdemeanors. There have been increases in certain categories of crime while he's been DA, although they're a continuation of an uptick that began before he took office, and there have been declines recently.

If you ignore the nuances, you can spin all this into stories about rampant lawlessness caused by a radical-left DA acting as the puppet of an evil globalist billionaire who thinks America ought to let criminals run amok, and it never quite goes over the line into slander or defamation -- certainly not for public figures who need to prove actual malice in order to prevail in court.

In order to inflame its audience, Fox doesn't even need to say that there's something disturbing taking place, at least by our standards. Does it bother you that there are books written for young people that acknowledge the existence of homosexuality, and that they're in some libraries? It enrages the viewers of Fox. Does it bother you that some schoolbooks tell students that slavery was bad and racism persisted in America even after the slaves were freed? Fox viewers don't like that either. On these subjects and many others, Fox doesn't have to lie -- it just has to work the audience into a state of rage about the truth.

So Fox has plenty of tools in the toolbox -- it doesn't have to change its tone in order to avoid another big defamation suit.

But what happens in 2024?

I question the widespread assumption that we'll have a rerun of 2020, with Joe Biden winning the Electoral College as a result of victories in a few close states. No one wants to believe this, but the polls right now suggest a popular-vote win by Donald Trump -- and if you think it's way too early to be polling 2024, consider the fact that voters already have well-formed opinions about the two major-party candidates, and have had those opinions for quite a while. How likely are they to change their minds? We have to hope that Democrats will do a good job between now and Election Day linking Trump and his party to the war on abortion, rampant gun violence, and other GOP-linked pathologies. We have to hope that multiple indictments make swing voters reject a second Trump presidency. We have to hope the polls are undercounting young people. But for now, it's looking like a clean Trump win.

And even if 2020 happens again, and Trump voters are enraged again, remember that it's possible to say the election was fraudulent without saying that voting-machine companies altered the vote. Do you rememember Mollie Hemingway's book Rigged? Hemingway gave Republicans who didn't want to talk about ballot irregularities a fallback argument, one that was just as dishonest but didn't involve serious corporate defamation. Here's her take, as summarized in a favorable right-wing review of the book:
Hemingway provides a very good overview of the forces working against Donald Trump’s presidency and re-election: an unhinged Left, a seemingly interminable Russiagate investigation based largely on cooked information, a coronavirus pandemic, race riots welcomed (if not fomented) by Trump’s adversaries, a mainstream media that acted as an adjunct of the Democratic Party, social media curators who picked favorites and censored conservative opinions, biased debate organizers and moderators, a massive get-out-the-vote drive funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and aimed at Democratic voters, and an unprecedented legal push by Democrats and their allies to revise election rules radically in their own favor. Republicans, Hemingway argues, saw themselves as “victims of an election that was rigged from the day Trump won the presidential election in November 2016.”
They can do the same thing with the events leading up to 2024. They can say the legal actions against Trump constitute election rigging. (They're already saying that.) They can say that inadequate mainstream media coverage of Hunter Biden, or "crime in Democrat cities," or LGBT "grooming," altered the course of the election. Maybe the Wisconsin Supreme Court will throw out the state's gerrymander and new district lines will be in place for 2024. If that happens and Biden wins Wisconsin again, maybe they'll say the new lines were a sneaky way of diminishing GOP turnout statewide, even though that makes no sense. They have a lot of options.

Fox won't stop being Fox, because Fox doesn't need to put itself at legal risk to be Fox.