Wednesday, May 31, 2023


Do you have any idea what Ron DeSantis likes to do for fun? We know he was a high school baseball player. Does he still enjoy playing the sport? Does he play softball, like a lot of other people in their mid-forties? Does he follow Major League Baseball? What's his favorite team? And we know he met his wife at a driving range. Does he still play golf? Do he and his wife ever golf together? If not, what do they do for fun?

Having said that, I'll quote Frank Wilhoit's well-known words about conservatism:
Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.
As I watch DeSantis battling Trump, I keep thinking about the word "bind" in a sense that has nothing to do with the law. I know that Republican voters like DeSantis's war on liberalism, which is why he's well ahead of Trump's other challengers in the polls, but there's something binding -- constricting -- about his version of conservatism. He uses the word "freedom" a lot in reference to Florida under his rule -- to Desantis, the state is “a citadel of freedom,” “freedom’s linchpin” and “freedom’s vanguard” -- but it never seems to be the kind of freedom that anyone would actually enjoy.

Trump rallies are parties. Trump dances to a mixtape of his favorite tunes. (Does DeSantis have any favorite tunes?) Attendees are encouraged to laugh at (and imagine hurting) liberals, journalists, and any Republicans who questions Trump's brilliance. When Trump fans weren't rallying in 2020, they were organizing boat parades and highway caravans (including one that dangerously harassed a Biden bus). There are Trump memes and merchandise items that aren't funny to the rest of us but are hilarious to his fans.

There's nothing like this in DeSantis World. Votes outside Florida must be thinking, on an unconscious level, If Florida is so free, why doesn't that freedom include ample opportunities to have fun at our enemies' expense?

Even a new Trump proposal that sounds like Stephen Miller channeling Joseph Goebbels seems as if it would be somewhat fun, on a kitschy level:
Donald Trump’s latest idea to enshrine American greatness is to throw the country “the most spectacular” birthday bash — one that will last all year.

In 2026, the U.S. will celebrate the semiquincentennial: the quarter millennial since its declaration of independence. To commemorate the anniversary, Trump is proposing a blowout, 12-month-long “Salute to America 250” celebration. In a new policy video, Trump calls for a “Great American State Fair,” featuring pavilions from all 50 states, nationwide high school sporting contests, and the building of Trump’s “National Garden of American Heroes” with statues of important figures in American history like Frederick Douglass and Amelia Earhart.

... Trump is proposing the creation of a task force on Day One of his presidency to work with state and local governments “to ensure not just one day of celebration, but an entire year of festivities across the nation starting on Memorial Day 2025 and continuing through July 4th, 2026.”
Shamelessly, Trump proposes that the national state fair be held in ... Iowa.
Trump suggests the event “could be” held at the Iowa state fairgrounds, a conspicuous suggestion that seems designed to appeal to voters in the first caucus state....

“My hope is that the amazing people of Iowa will work with my administration to open up the legendary Iowa state fairgrounds to host the Great American State Fair and welcome millions and millions of visitors from around the world to the heartland of America for this special one-time festival,” Trump said. “Together we will build it, and they will come.”
Will this actually happen if Trump is elected? Probably not. In all likelihood, he'll forget all about it. But even if this does sound more than a little fashy, it would at least be someone's idea of fun. (And I'm not rulung out that it could actually be enjoyable -- I've been to the Minnesota state fair and I had a pretty good time admiring butter sculptures and eating bizarre fried foods.) DeSantis doesn't embrace any kind of fun -- not even gun fun or country-music fun or Florida Man fun. No wonder he's losing.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Chris Christie's wealthy benefactors can do this, or they can just light piles of money fire -- the electoral consequences will be the same:
Allies of former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey have formed a super PAC to support him in the nascent Republican primary, as he makes preparations for a likely campaign kickoff in the next two weeks....

... Mr. Christie has become a full-throated critic of Mr. Trump, talking as a former federal prosecutor about the former president’s legal travails and describing him as a loser who can no longer command the crowds he once did. Mr. Christie’s candidacy is being watched by donors who either like what he’s saying or see him as the best opportunity to damage Mr. Trump, particularly from a debate stage.
Damage Trump in whose eyes? Republican voters' eyes? Maybe Christie could if he had any credibility with those voters. The problem is, they hate him. They hate him in a way they don't hate any other well-known Trump challenger, as a new Monmouth poll notes:
Republicans have overwhelmingly positive opinions of both Trump (77% favorable and 17% unfavorable) and DeSantis (73% favorable and 12% unfavorable). Among other announced candidates, two South Carolinians – Haley (47% favorable and 16% unfavorable) and Sen. Tim Scott (44% favorable and 8% unfavorable) – garner largely net positive reviews....

Opinion of [Mike Pence] is mixed, but he emerges with a net positive review (46% favorable and 35% unfavorable). Christie, on the other hand, receives a decidedly negative rating (21% favorable and 47% unfavorable), and is the only contender ... tested in this poll who gets a net negative score from the Republican electorate.
Maybe I'm missing something, but if a guy who's regarded positively by only 21% of the electorate attacks someone who's admired by 77% of the electorate, I'm pretty sure Mr. 77% will come out the winner, no matter how well-crafted Mr. 21%'s insults might be.

Stay out of the race, Chris. Preserve the last few shreds of dignity you have left.


We have a debt ceiling deal that didn't give angry right-wingers everything they want, yet Politico's Playbook tells us that Kevin McCarthy's job appears safe, at least at the moment:
... while many conservatives are hopping mad about the deal, they have not yet publicly threatened McCarthy — even as they rail against what they’re calling a “surrender” of the GOP majority.

Case in point: In an interview with Playbook yesterday, conservative Rep. BOB GOOD (R-Va.) blasted the agreement as being not “much different than what we could have gotten with a Democrat majority in the House.” Yet when asked about booting McCarthy, he held his fire: “I don’t know of anyone that’s talking about that. Honestly, I only hear about it when reporters ask me about it,” he said.

We heard something similar a few days ago, before the deal was unveiled, from Rep. ANDY BIGGS (R-Ariz.), a former Freedom Caucus chair: “Nobody is going to bring a motion to vacate the chair. I just can’t see that happening.”
But why isn't it happening? One reason, we're told is that "the GOP base simply isn’t up in arms opposing" McCarthy.
[John] Boehner and his successor, PAUL RYAN, saw GOP voters turn against them, which in turn put pressure on rank-and-file GOP members. That, however, isn’t happening right now.

In fact, McCarthy’s approval rating has jumped by 10 points among Republicans since he took the gavel, hovering at 66%, according to a recent YouGov/Economist poll.
Yes, but that poll was conducted in mid-May, before this base-betraying deal. So why isn't the base upset?

I'm looking at right-wing media sites right now, and there's no effort being made to stir up the base's anger because of this deal. The base is being riled up about other subjects -- on the Fox News site, two of the lead stories are about the shooting in Hollywood, Florida, and other top stories involve pronoun usage at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a furry convention in Florida that's gone adults-only in response to recently passed laws. At Breitbart, the lead headline is "Pride Month Preview: Queer Activists on Defense, Scrambling to Quash Grassroots Boycotts." (Yesterday, a story that briefly led Breitbart said the deal was very bad for Democrats.) Even Gateway Pundit is mostly ignoring the deal -- lead stories focus on Ashli Babbitt's mom (Babbitt is a holy figure at GP) and conspiracy theories about the guy who recently rammed a White House security barrier with a Nazi flag in his truck.

I assume that the Murdoch family and the billionaires who keep the other sites financially viable don't want McCarthy deposed or the deal seriously challenged, and the word has gone out that the right-wing media should keep quiet, focus on the culture war, and let the deal slide. So the rubes aren't angry about the deal because they haven't been told to be angry about it.

Maybe this moment would be different if Tucker Carlson were still on the air. In any case, what's going on seems like enforced quiet.

It seems obvious that right-wing billionaires think the rabble-rousing of the right-wing media is still a net plus for them: Ordinary people who have no economic reason to vote for pro-plutocrat Republicans just keep voting for them anyway because those Republicans agree with them on guns and trans people and CRT. As the billionaires undoubtedly see it, a few trans kids might be killed, a few red-state women with difficult pregnancies might be pushed to the brink of death before they can get medical treatment, and a few unwitting ex-cons in Florida might be sent back to prison because they were told they were entitled to vote and really weren't, but the messaging of conservative media won't cause anything really badto happen, like a serious disruption of corporate profits. If the debt deal goes through while the culture war distracts the GOP base, the plutes can say that everything is still working for them -- no matter what happens to the rest of us.

Monday, May 29, 2023


Pity the poor Masters of the Universe. According to The Wall Street Journal, in 2024 they might not have a presidential candidate crafted to their precise specifications:
With less than a year until the primaries, politicians’ wealthiest benefactors are sizing up the presidential hopefuls soliciting their donations. But many on Wall Street find the prospect of a Biden-Trump rematch unappetizing.

Wall Street likes Biden’s steady hand and cabinet picks like Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, but his aggressive stance on antitrust enforcement has turned off potential backers whose profits depend on a healthy supply of corporate deals. And while another Trump term could deliver the traditional Republican goodies of lower taxes and less regulation, financiers are worried that the former president’s unpredictability could wreak havoc on global markets.

“Everybody is hoping for a miracle,” said one senior deal-maker, one of more than 20 people that The Wall Street Journal spoke with to gauge Wall Street’s mood around the election. “Nobody wants Biden, and nobody wants Trump.”
Who would be a better candidate, according to these Wall Streeters? Well, since you asked, they think they would be:
Billionaire money manager Mario Gabelli and banker Ralph Schlosstein were among the guests at former Honeywell Chief Executive David Cote’s Carnivore’s Ball—a celebration of all things meat—that featured lively discussions of potential business-friendly candidates who could shake up the 2024 race. A few meat-lovers spent the evening urging Ray McGuire, the Lazard president and former New York City mayoral candidate, to run.
(McGuire ran for mayor of New York in 2021 and finished sevent with a whopping 2.7% of the vote.)
Jamie Dimon, whose name has swirled as a potential candidate for years, recently got an earful from a fellow billionaire who wishes the JPMorgan Chase CEO would run, according to people familiar with the matter.

(Though Dimon did say in a 2018 appearance that he could beat Trump, he acknowledged he would be a tough sell with liberal Democrats. He apologized for the remarks soon after. Last week, he told shareholders that he will remain at JPMorgan for the foreseeable future.)
Let's see: Dimon profited handsomely from a financial crisis his company helped create, a company that also did business with Jeffrey Epstein for fifteen years. Sounds like a dream candidate! It's a pity he won't run!

They can't understand why we won't acknowledge that they're the obvious choice to lead America. But don't feel sorry for them -- as I noted in the previous post, they have a proxy who's likely to run on their behalf:
No Labels, a group focused on supporting centrist lawmakers, has been steadily adding Wall Street supporters. Founded in 2010, the group took off in 2016 when it launched a coalition of super PACs with the help of a quartet of billionaires including investor Nelson Peltz and hedge-fund manager Louis Bacon....

No Labels is considering running a moderate like West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin as an independent candidate. And Manchin appears to be entertaining the idea....

“I’m not taking anything off the table...And I’m not putting anything on the table,” Manchin told CBS News in March when asked about a presidential run.
To what extent should Manchin be described as Wall Street's bitch? To this extent:
At this year’s Milken Institute Global Conference, a gathering the titans of finance pay a minimum of $25,000 apiece to attend, one attendee said Manchin seemed to share his cellphone number with anyone who would take it.
He's running. He'll be beaten like a rented mule. And Wall Street won't understand why.


I've been worried about the possibility that a No Labels presidential campaign could throw the election to Donald Trump, but Echelon Insights recently polled the presidential race with and without the likely No Labels candidate -- Joe Manchin -- and his impact appears to be minimal:

Without Manchin:
If the 2024 presidential election were being held today, would you vote for...

With Manchin:
If the 2024 presidential election were being held today, would you vote for...

1. Donald Trump, the Republican candidate 42%
2. Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate 41%
3. Joe Manchin, Independent candidate 9%
4. Unsure 8%
Manchin takes a few more votes from Biden than from Trump, but the race is a tossup either way.

It's just one poll, but it's very different from last summer's YouGov poll, in which a 4-point Biden lead (Biden 46%, Trump 42%) turned into an 8-point Trump advantage when Liz Cheney was added as a candidate (Trump 40%, Biden 32%, Cheney 11%).

Again, that was just one poll -- but I think it suggested to many Democrats that any third-party campaign would disproportionately hurt Biden. But Cheney, even though she's a very conservative Republican, became a hero to some liberals because of her anti-Trump advocacy. No liberal thinks Joe Manchin is a hero. If he's a hero to anyone, it's to billionaires, lobbyists, and people who who work closely with billionaires and lobbyists (like the folks at No Labels).

A Manchin presidential run could be somewhat dangerous for Biden. You need to remember that we're a 50/50 country -- Democrats nearly always win the presidential popular vote, while the two parties alternate victories in the overall House vote, despite the fact that far more Americans identify as conservative than liberal. Here are the numbers, based on Gallup's annual survey:

The simple explanation is that the majority of moderates vote Democratic -- which means that a third-party candidate perceived as a moderate will inevitably appeal to more Democratic voters than Republican voters.

But Manchin may not appeal to anyone.

The 9% figure is probably inflated -- polls tend to exaggerate the appeal of third-party candidates. (In the spring of 1980, John Anderson was polling at 19% to 25%; in November he won 6.6% of the vote. In a Washington Post/ABC poll conducted in June 1992, Ross Perot led the field with 36% of the vote; he finished third, with 18.9%.)

We don't know what will happen if Manchin (or some other No Labels candidate) actually enters the race. We don't know who the running mate will be, how many state ballots the ticket will be on, or how much campaign money will be behind the effort. But Manchin might be no one's idea of a president. His impact on the race could be insignificant. And in states where even a small Manchin vote could tip the balance, maybe Democrats will run negative ads in which they can finally portray Manchin as the corporate lackey he's always been. The only people who actually like unabashed corporate lackeys are old-school Republican voters, and Democrats would be happy to have them vote for Manchin.

So go ahead, No Labels -- run this guy.

Sunday, May 28, 2023


There's a debt ceiling deal, and the angiest right-wingers seem very unhappy.
Rep. Dan Bishop (R) tweeted a vomiting emoji to express his thoughts on the proposed deal, noting that RINOS, or Republicans in Name Only, were “congratulating [Speaker Kevin] McCarthy [(R-Calif.)] for getting almost zippo in exchange for $4T debt ceiling hike.”

... Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), meanwhile, said that he is “appalled by the debt ceiling surrender” McCarthy outlined Saturday evening.

“The bottom line is that the U.S. will have $35 trillion of debt in January, 2025. That is completely unacceptable,” Buck tweeted.
Congressman Chip Roy calls the deal "a turd-sandwich." Fellow House Republican Ralph Norman calls it "insanity." But we're being told that this is meaningless noise:
Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SC), who was a key participant in negotiations, hailed the agreement....

"Listen, there will be Freedom Caucus people who vote for this package. So when you're saying that conservatives have concerns, it is really the most colorful conservatives. Some of those guys you mentioned didn't vote for the thing when it was kind of a Republican wishlist — Limit, Save Grow. Those votes were never really in play," Johnson told CNN's State of the Union.
It's good to know that there's still a "governing wing" of the Republican Party -- or at least there is when right-wing extremism directly threatens the interests of financial firms, corporations, and billionaires. But I don't think this will go over well with the radicalized GOP rank-and-file.

This is an era when threats by the angry right have become routine. Several Target stores in Utah and Ohio have been the object of bomb threats because the chain sells trans-friendly swimwear for adults (not children, despite what the rage monsters believe). A Princeton study informs us that elected officials at all levels of government are facing increased threats, primarily from right-wingers. In the report, one "right-leaning" local official says:
“I thought [harassment] would be ultra-left, but it [turned out to] be ultra-right.”
If there are threats against McCarthy, or against his local offices in California, or against his top negotiators and their local offices, or (in the case of a close vote) against Republicans who vote for the bill, I won't be at all surprised. This is who we are now. And no, I don't expect that anything comparable will be directed at pro-deal Democrats by America's tiny far left. Lefties will be disgruntled. Righties will be enraged. That's how it works when the two groups don't get their way.
My last post was bad. I've taken it down.

Friday, May 26, 2023


Either Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis will win the Republican primaries next year, but Tim Scott might be winning the media primary. In The Wall Street Journal, Lance Morrow praises Scott while denouncing both Donald Trump and Joe Biden in GOP establishmentarian terms:
America is stuck—deadlocked, frozen, like the armies on the Western Front in 1917. One side is headquartered at Mar-a-Lago and has no ideas at all beyond revenge and gaudy vindication. The other side bivouacs at the White House and has far too many notions—not a few of them absurd, in a leftish way. Both armies are angry, full of sullen grievance. Fox and MSNBC lob ritual shells to and fro. Donald Trump and Joe Biden glare at each other across the cratered American landscape.
(Imagine looking at happy warrior Joe Biden and thinking "angry" and "full of sullen grievance" are the appropriate descriptors.)

Morrow thinks Scott could be the way forward, because Scott, Morrow tells us, is just so forgiving.
The key to Tim Scott’s presidential venture ... is in his temperament—his manifest goodwill. His policies are less important at this point than the miracle of his temperament. His conciliatory charm isn’t superficial but rather the product of spirit and character.

The only exits from rage are exhaustion and forgiveness. But sometimes a miraculous change of mood will do. Almost uniquely among American politicians today, Mr. Scott embraces a theology of forgiveness—that great mood-changer. Forgiveness requires humility, a virtue in short supply....

Forgiveness—a profound political transaction, if properly managed—seems to me the idea at the heart of Mr. Scott’s purposes.

Forgiveness breaks the deadlock. It enables escape from the past and opens the gate to the future. Forgiveness may bring with it a blessing of forgetting. The liberation from grievance is a gift of grace all around.

It would be fatuous to think that Tim Scott might turn American public life into the Peaceable Kingdom. It’s putting a lot on the man. On the other hand, he might. One can dream.
I know why Morrow believes this. In his campaign kickoff speech, Scott said:
We need a president who persuades not just our friends and our base. We need a president that persuades. We have to do that with common sense, conservative principles, but we have to have a compassion for people. We have to have a compassion for people who don’t agree with us.
But in the rest of the speech, Scott expressed neither compassion nor forgiveness for his politcal opponents. He thinks we're everything that's wrong with America. He said:
... today the far left has us retreating away from excellence in schools. Extreme liberals are letting big labor bosses trap millions of kids in failing schools. They’re replacing education with indoctrination. They spent COVID locking kids out of the classroom and now they’re locking kids out of their futures.

In Biden’s America, crime is on the rise and law enforcement is in retreat. The far left is ending cash bails. They’re demonizing, demoralizing, and defunding the police....

We cannot have innocent people at risk, police officers getting ambushed and attacked and seniors locked in their homes from the time the sun goes down, until the sun comes up. Joe Biden and the radical left are attacking every single rung of the ladder that helped me climb....

Our nation, our values, and our people are strong, but our president is weak....

America cannot be safe or secure if we sink into a cultural quicksand here at home....

I will be the president who destroys the liberal lie that America is an evil country.... I will be the president who stops the far left’s assault on our religious liberty.

... I’m the candidate the far left fears the most. You see, when I cut your taxes, they called me a prop. When I refunded the police, they called me a token. When I pushed back on President Biden, they even called me the N word. I disrupt their narrative. I threaten their control. The truth of my life disrupts their lies.
Where's the forgiveness? Where's the compassion?

I don't like the word "forgiveness" because it suggests that we're the villains and the right is blameless. I don't like the word "compassion" because it suggests that liberalism is an infirmity. (Poor dears -- they can't help themselves. They're liberals!) But I see nothing benign or conciliatory in this speech, or in any of Scott's utterances. All I see is the pledge that he'll try to talk people who aren't already believers into becoming fellow right-wing ideologues. That's what he's interested in, not compromise, not reaching across the aisle.

The decency bar for Republicans is set so low that even a culture-war speech like this can clear it.


We've all had a good laugh about Ron DeSantis's Twitter launch, but last night CNN examined what he said on Twitter and what he's been saying in subsequent interviews. Among his messages is a promise to accrue power quickly and use it maximally:
Doing so will require pushing the limits of the executive branch like never before, DeSantis has suggested in multiple interviews in the past 24 hours. He told conservative radio host Mark Levin that he had studied the US Constitution’s “leverage points” and would use his knowledge to exercise the “true scope” of presidential power.

“You’ve got to know how to use your leverage to advance what you’re trying to accomplish,” DeSantis told Twitter CEO Elon Musk during their conversation.
This, of course, is exactly what he did in Florida, starting in the transition:
He directed his general counsel to figure out just how far a governor could push his authority. He pored over a binder enumerating his varied powers: appointing Florida Supreme Court justices, removing local elected officials and wielding line-item vetoes against state lawmakers.

Then he systematically deployed each one.

... Mr. DeSantis’s willingness to exert that power in extraordinary ways has led him to barrel through norms, challenge the legal limits of his office and threaten political retribution against those who cross him.
You know the specifics:
He seized control of the state’s environmental protection agency, deployed the state’s police force in novel ways, created a law enforcement team to monitor voting, removed a democratically elected local prosecutor and orchestrated a takeover of a small liberal arts college.

DeSantis has treated state bureaucracies that previously operated independently as extensions of his executive offices. He has stocked state regulatory boards with like-minded political appointees, who have followed his lead in banning gender affirming care for minors and extending restrictions on school lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity. He has punished Disney ... for challenging him over those restrictions, and forced state lawmakers to pass a new congressional map drawn by his office.
When Donald Trump complained as president that he couldn't compel the attorney general of the United States to be his Oval Office Roy Cohn, we assumed it was because he's a criminal and an ignoramus who has no idea how the American government is expected to work. DeSantis knows precisely how the American government is expected to work, and he assures us that the Justice Department won't work the way it's meant to if he's elected:
He would dispel with the longstanding tradition that government institutions like the US Department of Justice operate independently from the president – embracing a philosophy that Trump often governed by but never articulated so succinctly.

“Republican presidents have accepted the canard that the DOJ and FBI are quote, independent,” DeSantis said. “They are not independent agencies. They are part of the executive branch. They answer to the elected President of the United States.”
We know that Trump has promised to fire thousands of career government employees who now have civil service protection, replacing them with loyalist hacks. We assume that this is a Steve Bannon/Stephen Miller pipe dream, and that in a second term Trump might not get around to it. DeSantis? He'll absolutely get it done:
Among his top priorities, DeSantis said, would be to “re-constitutionalize” the federal government, which he described as a plan to “discipline the bureaucracy” and agencies that he saic are “detached from constitutional accountability.”
DeSantis plans to fire the FBI director on "day one." He's vague about pardons for the January 6 insurrectionists, but he says he'll start using his pardon power almost immediately, particularly in cases of “disfavored treatment based on politics or weaponization.” If DeSantis is elected, he'll be Jim Jordan with presidential power.

And if there are constitutional questions about DeSantis's use of power, we know the Republican Supreme Court will back him nearly every time. That's why I believe that a DeSantis presidency would pose a greater danger to American democracy than a second Trump term.

One reason DeSantis might never be president is that he seems not to realize that he's supposed to portray his agenda as what he wants to do for the people. David Frum quotes previous presidential campaign launches:
Barack Obama expressed such a vision in 2007:
This campaign can’t only be about me. It must be about us. It must be about what we can do together. This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle, of your hopes, and your dreams. It will take your time, your energy, and your advice to push us forward when we’re doing right, and let us know when we’re not. This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.
George W. Bush hit the same notes in 1999:
We will also tell every American, “The dream is for you.” Tell forgotten children in failed schools, “The dream is for you.” Tell families, from the barrios of L.A. to the Rio Grande Valley: “El sueno americano es para ti.” Tell men and women in our decaying cities, “The dream is for you.” Tell confused young people, starved of ideals, “The dream is for you.” This is the kind of campaign we must run.
Even Trump says he's doing what he's doing on behalf of the people, or at least the MAGA people. Trump's message is that he wants to make America great; DeSantis's message is that he wants to make himself great.

I hope that's enough to keep him out of the White House, even if the Republican alternative is approximately as dangerous.

Thursday, May 25, 2023


National Review's Jim Geraghty assures his readers that Ron DeSantis's campaign launch wasn't that bad:
When you tell the whole country to tune in at 6 p.m., and then lots of people do, and no one can hear anything for 25 minutes or so because of technical issues, that’s bad. It’s not fatal, but it’s bad.

But when the history of the Ron DeSantis 2024 presidential campaign is written, his announcement will be just one chapter....

No one who was contemplating voting for DeSantis is now not going to vote for him because Twitter Spaces took too long to start working last night.
I'm not so sure about that.

Here's why: The single most important criterion for a leader in the Republican Party is the perceived ability to own the libs. Donald Trump has been seen as the Republican who owns us most effectively -- everything he does makes us furious and crazy. Ron DeSantis has been the runner-up in the race for the presidential nomination because his actions as governor infuriate us almost as much as Trump's words and deeds do. No one else in the race comes close.

But consider two previous GOP favorites: Sarah Palin and Chris Christie.

In the immediate aftermath of Palin's 2008 Republican convention speech, she was seen as a lib-owner with charisma to burn; in early September, just after that speech, a number of polls showed Palin and John McCain beating Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Then she gave a series of embarrassing interviews. She began to be mocked on Saturday Night Live. And she and McCain lost the election decisively. Afterward, she tried to maintain political viability, but bad decisions (quitting as governor of Alaska before her term was up) and personal and family embarrassments combined with her previous gaffes to make her a national laughingstock. And so Republican voters stopped looking to her as a potential slayer of the liberal beast, because she'd gone from seemingly owning the libs to being owned.

When Chris Christie was in his first term as governor of New Jersey, he thrilled Republican voters because he routinely insulted reporters, schoolteachers, and anyone else who dared to question him. He passed up a chance to run for president in 2012, but he won reelection as governor in a landslide the following year.

And then the Bridgegate story broke. It's widely assumed that Republican voters cooled on Christie because he vindictively closed those George Washington Bridge access lanes in Fort Lee. But a more likely explanation is that he was now being owned by the hated mainstream media. In his first term, when he was a bully, Republicans loved him. When he was on the defensive, they abandoned him.

That's where Ron DeSantis appears to be headed now. As a governor, he's still horrifying liberals, but as a candidate, he's being mocked by us -- for his personality (or lack thereof), for his alleged eating habits, and now for his sad, pathetic campaign launch.

I suppose he could turn it around -- by arresting and persecuting a few more unwitting illegal voters, by threatening the jobs of a few more teachers, by dehumanizing trans people a few more ways. But right now, he's being owned a lot more than he's owning. (And Trump is owning him too, on a regular basis.) If he can't get back on the positive side of the ownage ledger, he's doomed. His political career is over.


Ron DeSantis's campaign launch on Twitter was so embarrassingly bad that it almost has me rooting for Donald Trump as he kicks the governor while he's down.

I even enjoyed the following video, despite the fact that it includes that awful Lee Greenwood song (if you watch any of these videos, be sure to hit "cancel" after watching to turn off endless autoplay):

But here's a video Trump posted last night on Truth Social that was clearly made before the DeSantis launch disaster happened. It makes no mention of the technical glitches. It's too elaborate to have been put together in a couple of hours.

And it's batshit crazy:

In the video, DeSantis and Elon Musk are joined on Twitter Spaces by the following, who are all meant to be read as conspirators against Trump: George Soros, Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum, Dick Cheney, Adolf Hitler, Satan, and a representative of the FBI (who says, "Okay, so how are we going to take out Trump, you guys?" and then leaves when told it's a public conversation). It's played for laughs, and I don't know how many people take it literally or seriously, but I suspect that quite a few Trump supporters think there's some truth in it. As Stuart Thompson of The New York Times wrote about DeSantis earlier this month:
To some, he is “Ron DeSoros,” a puppet of the Democratic megadonor George Soros. To others, he is “Ron DeSatan,” a vaccine-supporting evildoer. And to still others, he is “Ron DePLANTis,” a “plant” of the so-called Deep State.

As the governor of Florida — real name Ron DeSantis — explores a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, he has made overtures to supporters of former President Donald J. Trump. But he is finding that the conspiracy theories and outlandish attacks that Mr. Trump and his allies have aimed at rivals for years are coming for him as well.
And why not? The Republican Party is full of conspiracy nuts. Here's one:
Last week, Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) announced that he had appointed Laurie Cardoza-Moore to serve on the Tennessee Standards Recommendation Committee to oversee “Social Studies materials being reviewed for use in classrooms statewide.” ...

Sexton appointed Cardoza-Moore to important positions shaping state educational standards despite her repeated embrace of conspiracy theories. Over the years, Cardoza-Moore has promoted claims that 9/11 was an "inside job," that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, and that January 6 insurrectionists were actually “Antifa.” In 2011, Cardoza-Moore claimed that former President Barack Obama was causing "horrific tornadoes" because he made a speech that discussed the plight of Palestinians....

Cardoza-Moore is the founder and president of the nonprofit Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN), a Christian Zionist organization that claims to fight the “global war against antisemitism.”

... when reviewing a textbook passage, PJTN “suggest[ed] removing” a sentence stating that “members of al-Qaeda carried out” the September 11 attacks. PJTN cited a “plethora of evidence” for the suggested removal, stating, “This is a highly contested (per [A]rchitects and [E]ngineers for 9/11 Truth, and demolition experts) argument.” Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth was a group that falsely claimed that 9/11 was an "inside job" because they believed the impact of the planes into the World Trade Center towers could not have resulted in their collapse.
Then there's Daily Salinas, the Miami woman whose complaint about an Amanda Gorman poem got it age-restricted in one Florida school. Salinas has links to Moms Against Liberty and the Proud Boys -- and there's this:
Months before a Miami-area mother persuaded a local school to restrict access to an Amanda Gorman poem, she was posting antisemitic memes on her Facebook page....

“I want to apologize to the Jewish community,” Salinas told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Wednesday. She was saying sorry for a Facebook post she shared in March offering a summary of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” ...

Salinas’ post about the Protocols included a list of steps depicting how “Jewish Zionists” would achieve world domination. The graphic included stages such as “Place our agents and helpers everywhere,” “Replace royal rule with socialist rule, then communism, then despotism,” and “Sacrifice people (including Jews sometimes) when necessary.”

Reached by JTA on Wednesday, Salinas confirmed that the post about the “Protocols” was hers and apologized for it, saying she hadn’t read it beyond the word “communism.”
And we mustn't overlook Kandiss Taylor:
Kandiss Taylor, a recently elected GOP District Chair in Georgia, would like to know why Big Globe won’t stop shoving round-Earth propaganda down our throats.

In an interview with David Weiss (AKA “Flat Earth Dave”) and Matt Long on her “Jesus, Guns, and Babies” podcast, Taylor and her guests discussed biblical “evidence” that the Earth is actually flat as a pancake. “The people that defend the globe don’t know anything about the globe,” said Weiss. “If they knew a tenth of what Matt and I know about the globe they would be Flat Earthers.”

“All the globes, everywhere” Taylor said later in the discussion. “I turn on the TV, there’s globes in the background ... Everywhere there’s globes. You see them all the time, it’s constant. My children will be like ‘Mama, globe, globe, globe, globe’ — they’re everywhere.”

“That’s what they do, to brainwash,” she added. “For me if it’s not a conspiracy. If it is real, why are you pushing so hard everywhere I go? Every store, you buy a globe, there’s globes everywhere. Every movie, every TV show, news media — why? More and more I’m like, it doesn’t make sense.”
I've written about Taylor before. Last year, when she was running in the Republican gubernatorial primary in Georgia, she made a campaign promise to destroy an eccentric monument in the state known as the Georgia Guidestones, a group of engraved slabs whose recommendations, particularly about population ("Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature"), she linked to abortion and COVID vaccination -- and the devil.

Taylor lost the primary badly -- she received 3.7% of the vote, far behind incumbent governor Brian Kemp, who won 73.7% -- but then declined to concede. (The primary was "rigged," she insisted.) A couple of months later, an explosion destroyed one of the monument's slabs, and the rest were subsequently demolished.

The Trump video and the Cardoza-Moore, Salinas, and Taylor stories were all published within the past 36 hours. Stories about Republican conspiracy nuts are almost as common as mass shootings.

Even people who don't follow politics closely associate Republicans with pro-gun activism, tax cuts for the rich, resistance to climate-change mitigation, and opposition to abortion and LGBTQ rights. Why isn't it common knowledge that Republicans are extremely susceptible to insane conspiracy theories? Why, even after the rise of QAnon, isn't the GOP seen as the wackjob party?

The Democratic Party and the media need to do a better job of telling Americans who Republicans really are. They're not traditionalists. They're lunatics.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023



Last night, when I wrote about Ron DeSantis's upcoming Twitter campaign launch with Elon Musk, I overlooked one detail: DeSantis plans to follow the Twitter session with a Fox News interview.

So I guess I was wrong to speculate that DeSantis and Rupert Murdoch have broken up. However, their relationship does seem to be on the rocks. Here are the stories on the front page of that are seen as more important than DeSantis's announcement and interview. First, the top story at the site:

Bud Light. Yes, still.

Next row:

An attack on Congressman Adam Schiff (whom all Fox viewers despise) by a Republican backbencher, a "crime is out of control" story, and a "Chicago is out of control" story. Just another day at Fox -- but where's Ron? In the next row?


Joy Behar (all Fox viewers are trained to loathe The View, especially Behar), guns, and a story with a deceiving headline that's meant to make anti-vaxx nuts think young people are dying en masse from "the jab" (these poor kids actually committed suicide).

Still no Ron. Next row, maybe?

Nope. The Murdaugh family (Rupert Murdoch is still a tabloid guy at heart), an attack on CNN (any attack on CNN will get a Fox feature story, even if it's from Jennifer Rubin), and then poor naive Bernie Sanders, who thinks the way to connect with The People is to reach out to the Fox audience (it won't work, Bernie).

And now, finally...

Ron! At last! Right next to ... um, the weather.

And yes, it's an interview on Fox, but it's not with either of the remaining prime-time stars (Hannity, Ingraham), or with a rising star like Jesse Watters or Greg Gutfeld. It's with the weird-head guy who used to be in Congress!

Gowdy has a Sunday night show on Fox that gets about a million viewers per episode -- which is fine, I guess, but it's about a third of Tucker Carlson's old audience. And pairing DeSantis with a guy who's literally regarded at Fox as not ready for prime time conveys the message that DeSantis isn't either.

This is embarrassing. But I guess DeSantis will take whatever crumbs Murdoch is willing to dish out, just to be seen on his favorite channel.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023


A few thoughts about this news:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will announce he is running for president during a discussion with Twitter CEO Elon Musk....

Musk and DeSantis will host an event on Twitter Spaces, the site’s platform for audio chats, on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET. It will be moderated by David Sacks, a tech entrepreneur who is a Musk confidant and DeSantis supporter.
First, I know we spend all of our waking hours hunched over phones, and I know DeSantis thinks this campaign announcement makes him look like a 21st-century guy (as opposed to his principal rival, who's old enough to be his father) -- but DeSantis is also a candidate who's becoming notorious for hating to be around people. This conveys the impression that DeSantis is flaunting his misanthropy.

Also, this comes after Republicans have spent years attacking Joe Biden for campaigning in 2020, as they like to put it, "from his basement." It was the first year of COVID, so normal people understood why Biden campaigned that way; Biden won't campaign that way next year, because he actually likes people and enjoys human interaction. But DeSantis now looks as if he's campaigning from a protective bunker.

And have DeSantis and Rupert Murdoch broken up? I saw yesterday that a panel on Fox Business was criticizing DeSantis for his attacks on Disney, while echoing a Donald Trump attack line:
“Everything about Florida that you love – Desantis inherited,” [Marc] Simone said. “The no state tax, all that stuff. He’s done a great job of running it. But most of that was inherited....”
Fox was once all in for DeSantis and totally over Trump, but now the only story about DeSantis's announcement on the front page is "Trump Campaign Mocks DeSantis' Expected Twitter Presidential Campaign Announcement," a story in which an unnamed Trump adviser gets it right:
"Announcing on Twitter is perfect for Ron DeSantis," a Trump adviser told Fox News Digital. "This way he doesn’t have to interact with people, and the media can’t ask him any questions."
Finally, DeSantis has voters, but you can imagine that he'd really like to have stans -- worshipful superfans who describe his every move as an act of genius. Musk has that. DeSantis must hope it will rub off.

We'll see if Musk can get through the event without saying something white supremacist, making an infantile sex joke, or smoking weed. Or maybe he'll just conclude that DeSantis is so personally unpleasant that even he, one of the world's biggest assholes, can't stand to be around him.


I often question the conventional wisdom in politics, but I agree with this standard take on the 2024 GOP primaries: A large field works to Donald Trump's advantage. Trump probably can't be beaten, but the only way it could possibly happen is if anti-Trump Republicans rally around one alternate candidate.

The preferred alternate used to be Ron DeSantis, but insiders and donors no longer believe that he can win a general election because of his extreme position on abortion and his repellent personality. Rich donors also seems to be concerned that DeSantis could subject them to the kind of jihadist war he's waging against Disney.

So what are the insiders doing? They're now making the same mistake with regard to DeSantis that they've already made in their attempt to beat Trump. They're welcoming too many candidates into the race - not just Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Asa Hutchinson, as well as (probably) Mike Pence and Chris Christie and Chris Sununu, but possibly this guy:
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is reconsidering a bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, after earlier taking himself out of the race as polls made former President Trump look increasingly formidable, top Republican sources tell Axios....

What we’re hearing: Some powerful GOP donors, who won't support Trump but are beginning to be concerned about DeSantis, are encouraging Youngkin to jump into the 2024 field.

"He's reconsidering," a top source close to Youngkin told Axios. "He'd be in his own lane: He's not never-Trump, and he's not Trump-light."
How is that Youngkin's "own lane"? Isn't it exactly the same lane Haley and Scott are in?

Look, I understand the plutocrats' frustration with DeSantis -- he doesn't seem to have what it takes to beat Trump and he'd be an offputting general election candidate. But in a country where J.D. Vance won a Senate race, Kari Lake nearly won a governor's race, and Herschel Walker forced a runoff against a likable incumbent, what does "offputting" even mean? (In the Real Clear Politics average, DeSantis is tied with Biden while Trump leads Biden by 1.7, so I'm not sure why either of them is considered unelectable.)

I assume that the insiders have read the eighty thousand pundit columns suggesting that DeSantis might be the 2024 equivalent of Scott Walker, who was the Great Right-Wing Hope as governor but didn't even make it to the Iowa caucuses in 2016. They think DeSantis could fade soon, leaving a wide-open contest for top Trump alternative.

But here's the difference: DeSantis is consistently a strong #2 in the polls, well ahead of every candidate except Trump. In 2016, Walker sunk to single digits shortly after Trump entered the race (see the chart here). In surveys that don't include Trump, DeSantis consistently polls in the 40s, and everyone else is in the single digits or teens. If Trump were to die or drop out of the race, DeSantis would become a Trump-like favorite. The only way the Establishment could possibly beat him would be to put all its money and resources behind one DeSantis alternative.

The Establishment wants to find a unicorn: someone genial enough to win swing voters in the general election and appealing enough to win over base voters in the primaries. But approximately 80% of the base will vote only for candidates who channel their rage. If Marjorie Taylor Greene, Mike Flynn, or Tucker Carlson were to enter the race, there might be a shakeup at the top. But that won't happen.

By encouraging so many sure losers to run, the GOP Establishment is simply creating a scramble for third place. No one's going to catch the top two, and every new campaign announcement makes Trump and DeSantis more likely to dominate the primaries.

Monday, May 22, 2023


After ProPublica began reporting on the generous gifts Clarence Thomas has received from billionaire Harlan Crow, we were reminded that Crow collects Nazi memorabilia and other artifacts linked to dictatorship, many of which he displays at his home. When Crow was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, Graeme Wood defended him in The Atlantic; for this service he was invited to interview Crow, and he's now published a follow-up.

Wood describes what he saw at Crow's house:
“There’s so many statues of Lenin,” Crow said, educating me on dictator-statue appreciation the way another rich guy might introduce a friend to the world of fine wine. Having a good story was crucial. “You don’t want a Lenin From Factory 107. You want Politburo.”

The many Lenins joined dozens of other petrified tyrants and world leaders, among them Communist revolutionaries (Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, Che Guevara), a few secular autocrats (Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak), and a few hunched babushkas, in remembrance of communism’s victims. “Most are Communist,” Crow said, but he acknowledged that he hadn’t sorted the statues perfectly according to gradations of evil....

The garden is really a mishmash of 20th-century evil, evil-lite, and a few of Crow’s heroes (in the last category: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Winston Churchill). “I have a number of people who are [just] dictators, like Pinochet and Juan Perón,” Crow said. “You can argue about Juan Perón, whether he was a force for good or a force for bad ... You can argue about Mubarak.” He noted that Yugoslav President Josip Tito was preferable to Stalin, and Zhou Enlai (“one of my favorites”) was a big step up from Chairman Mao. “There are probably a few more guys in storage that I’ll eventually put out,” he said. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: “Probably more for good than bad,” he said. “But it’s complicated.”

... He owns a signed Mein Kampf, paintings by Hitler, and a Third Reich–era tea service. Crow said he hadn’t felt the need to sort the interior collection by level of evil, either. In the garden, he said, “I like these guys”—he motioned to Thatcher and Reagan, then to Che Guevara and Fidel Castro—“and I don’t like those guys. In my world, that’s blindingly obvious ... But one thing I have learned from this is that I must not assume that things are obvious.”
Why does he collect these things? Wood gives us Crow's answer:
“This is my era. I was born in 1949,” Crow said. “Communism was the great threat to the world.” The choice between capitalism and communism, freedom and serfdom, was a “big philosophical argument.” The Greatest Generation, he said, had a dramatic, existential shooting war. The Baby Boomers did not (“thankfully,” he added). “In my lifetime and your parents’ lifetime ... we didn’t have the Battle of the Bulge or the storming of the beaches of Normandy.” But the big argument was worth memorializing. “I want us to remember it. I want us to learn from it,” he said. “And it’s pretty damn important that we remember it.”
But if he wants us -- presumably he means all of American society -- to "learn from it," why doesn't he dip into his vast wealth and establish an institution where it can be put on public display, accompanied by information that puts it all into context? Maybe when Crow says us he means his close personal friends, the ones who -- like Clarence Thomas -- are admitted to the inner sanctum and get to see the collection. But even then he doesn't seem to offer much explanation for what he's collected. It's just there.

I think a clue is in that reference to Crow's generation. He knows that he and his peers didn't fight a big battle for civilization. Crow is rich, but maybe he knows he's not consequential, in a world-historic way.

But what he can do is buy consequentiality. On some level, he probably doesn't distinguish Hitler and Churchill -- they're consequential figures from a prior era, and he owns them.

Wood portray Crow as an antithesis of Donald Trump, who's roughly the same age and who also took over a real estate business started by his father:
Like Trump, Crow is a real-estate developer.... Both men grew up rich, then took over his father’s empire. In almost every other respect, they are total opposites. Trump cratered the empire he inherited, while investing in the sleaziest possible ventures; under Crow’s stewardship, the family fortune increased. Crow is appalled at the accusation that he used a shady real-estate deal to funnel money to a crony—which is, frankly, the kind of thing Trump would do. Trump commands attention and bellows; Crow speaks in a reluctant mumble. Trump inflates his net worth; Crow does not. Trump contemplates pulling out of NATO. Crow says he has no time for any politician who wavers in supporting Ukraine.... Crow begs to be assessed on whether he is a person of “good character.” Not even Trump’s most loyal fans could keep a straight face if their leader asked the same.
I'm sure Crow is more high-minded than Trump, though that's a low bar to clear. But the Garden of Evil seems like his version of Trump's piss-elegant design excesses and self-branding. Trump buys glitz; Crow buys history. Trump shows off for his potential customers (and for the New York swells who've never respected him); Crow shows off for his select friends. In different ways, they both try to purchase and flaunt what they think matters.


Ron DeSantis treats right-wing propaganda outlets very well, while dealing out abuse to other media outlets. But Semafor tells us that that's changing:
DeSantis had taken apparent pride in a combative operation, led by his former press secretary Christina Pushaw, that sparred with reporters on Twitter and often ignored their inquiries.
"Sparred with reporters" is putting it mildly. In 2021, an AP reporter named Brendan Farrington wrote a story DeSantis didn't like, and Pushaw summoned a Twitter mob:
Pushaw denied trying to direct the governor’s followers to target AP’s reporter despite retweeting his article and writing “drag them” in a now-deleted post....

In another tweet, she wrote that if Farrington didn’t change the story, she would “put you on blast.” She also retweeted a message that said “Light. Them. Up.” in reference to the AP.

... Farrington tweeted that he had received online threats and hate messages about the story. “For your sake, I hope government doesn’t threaten your safety. I’ll be fine, I hope. Freedom. Just please don’t kill me.”
Pushaw's Twitter account was briefly suspended. (This was long before Elon Musk, of course.)

However, DeSantis is being nice now, Semafor says:
But after weeks of relentlessly negative coverage of his nascent campaign, his staff have quietly begun the traditional campaign work of providing access for reporters and input for their stories, according to people close to the various DeSantis organizations and half a dozen journalists who have engaged with them.

The new DeSantis Glasnost has been run primarily through the Never Back Down super PAC. Two 2024 national political reporters said the comms team for the campaign-in-waiting has also been informally reaching out to reporters off the record to spin stories, and has begun to invite some down to Florida to meet key staffers.
However, this "Glasnost" doesn't seem to include any significant access to the candidate.
DeSantis still has not sat down with any of the non-Fox networks for a major interview in recent months, and often leaves political events without addressing the media. National reporters who had flown from Washington and Miami to cover the governor’s New Hampshire campaign stop were disappointed when he did not take questions from journalists at a diner or during a meeting with state legislators.
And reporters still feel that they're at risk of being mocked and humiliated by Team DeSantis.
His staff have followed his lead enthusiastically, aggressively publicly admonishing reporters who publish critical coverage of the governor. The hardball tactics of the governor’s office already have pushed some national journalists on the beat to be more careful: Two of the 2024 campaign reporters said they don’t send any emails or texts to the governor’s office they wouldn’t think would end up in an angry or mocking tweet from his press staff.
But Semafor's Max Tani is willing to make excuses for the abuse.
Part of the response can be chalked up to the awkward limbo the governor has been in over the past several months. While Trump and other GOP candidates got into the race early, the Florida governor has waited, meaning the bulk of requests have fallen to his gubernatorial communications staff. That staff has been overwhelmed with a deluge of comment requests, and at times, have steered questions to other employees outside his government office. Now that the campaign is beginning in earnest, DeSantis will have a larger and more official 2024 staff to respond to reporters’ queries.
Yes, I'm sure that's it -- DeSantis and his crew are contemptuous and abusive toward reporters because they're simply overwhelmed. It has nothing to do with the fact that DeSantis is a sadistic little tyrant who thinks he's exempt from all criticism.

I see evidence that DeSantis and his allies are doing a bit more outreach to the mainstream media: Notice, for instance, that Politico, The New York Times, and The Washington Post all published nearly identical stories about a recent DeSantis speech to an antiabortion group. (The headlines: "DeSantis Largely Avoids Abortion at Anti-Abortion Group’s Gala," "DeSantis Skirts Abortion Ban Even When Speaking to His Base," and "DeSantis Keeps Abortion Comments Brief at Antiabortion Group’s Gala.") I'm assuming DeSantis World wants general-election swing voters -- or, more likely, pro-choice billionaire donors -- to believe that while DeSantis may have signed a draconian forced-birth bill, he didn't really mean it, and he's kinda embarrassed by it. So DeSantis's people spun this story for these three news outlets (which base voters don't read), and all three published exactly the story they were fed ... by their abuser.

I'm certain that when DeSantis seeks to go mainstream, he'll get all the concessions he requests from the elite media. (Wait till you see his CNN town hall.) The MSM will give him whatever he wants out of gratitude that he's suddenly being (relatively) nice. All the previous abuse will have paid off.

Sunday, May 21, 2023


Here's a charming story from the Daily Caller:
‘Deepthroating Gretchen Whitmer’s High Heels’: CEO Issues Scathing Response To MI Police After They Ask For Free Ammo

A Michigan small business, refusing to blindly support local law enforcement after the way some departments handled the Covid-19 pandemic, issued a scathing response to a Michigan police group after they asked for an ammo donation.

After the Michigan Tactical Officers Association (MTOA) asked Fenix Ammo for a donation for its upcoming training conference, CEO Justin Nazaroff replied he would be happy to do so, under certain conditions.

Nazaroff said he needed “a face-to-face apology from every Michigan police officer” who enforced Covid-19 restrictions, according to an email reviewed by the Daily Caller. Nazaroff also requested a signed statement from Michigan State Police, the Oakland County Sheriff’s office and the MTOA assuring they would not enforce any “red flag” gun laws or any other restrictive measures instituted by the state of Michigan or the federal government....

Nazaroff told the Daily Caller he always strove to support law enforcement in the past, and claimed he donated ammunition to the MTOA for their previous training conferences. That changed, however, when his business was fined by a local police officer during Covid-19 lockdowns for not complying with mask mandates.

“Respect has to go both ways,” Nazaroff told the Caller, later accusing the MTOA of “whole-hog deepthroating Gretchen Whitmer’s high heels two years ago.”
So much to unpack here. The sexism is repellent, of course. We're reminded once again that the pro-police beliefs of the angry right come with a massive asterisk: Yes, we wave "thin blue line" American flags and denounce anyone who questions police budgets, but we reserve the right to tell the cops to fuck off if they endorse any law we don't like. (A few right-wingers, like Tennessee governor Bill Lee, have made a great show of support for red flag laws recently, but the real gun crazies hate them. And also note that Nazaroff says in his response that local law enforcment should never cooperate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in "firearm enforcement efforts.")

And as for the refusal to help the MTOA out: Did it really happen just now? I ask because Fenix announced in 2021 that it would no longer sell ammo to law enforcement as a result of the mask fine. So why would MTOA be asking Fenix for ammo now? Has Fenix secretly been providing ammo to cops all this time? Did Fenix post an old email exchange to get some new publicity? Note that the emails linked above are undated:

About that fine: It happened at a time when mask mandates were still in effect and COVID vaccines weren't generally available. Fenix openly defied the mandate -- and, in fact, announced a policy banning mask wearers in its store -- claiming that this was necessary was for safety reasons:

The fine was $1000, according to Nazaroff in this appearance on Dana Loesch's show (which undoubtedly resulted in much more than a thousand bucks in additional business):

My response after looking at this video is: Dude, you have guns and ammo behind the counter. Why are you afraid of being robbed?

For quite a while, oppositional defiant disorder has been a good marketing strategy for Fenix. In 2020, it was reported that the company saw an uptick in sales in part because it was marketing to the "boogaloo" movement, and describing that marketing as all in fun:
For months, Nazaroff had been posting memes to his company’s Facebook and Instagram pages referencing the “boogaloo,” slang for the armed uprising that a loose assortment of preppers, Second Amendment activists, and anti-government extremists is getting ready for — and in some cases trying to accelerate.

“I’ll be honest, it drives sales,” Nazaroff said in April of his company’s marketing practices. “People think it’s funny. People click on boogaloo memes. It’s something that gun people enjoy joking about.”
The company sells a T-shirt with the slogan BECOME UNGOVERNABLE: DRILL THE THIRD HOLE, a reference to a legally dubious modification procedure that reportedly turns a semi-automatic weapon into a full automatic weapon.

In 2021, the company began selling LET'S GO BRANDON bullet casings, and also said it wouldn't do business with anyone who voted for Joe Biden.

All this rage-stoking is what right-wingers want. I sincerely believe that if Justin Nazaroff were to enter the 2024 Republican presidential primaries, he'd get more votes than Chris Sununu, Tim Scott, and Nikki Haley combined.

Saturday, May 20, 2023


Two critics of Donald Trump appear eager to join the race for the Republican presidential nomination: New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu and former New Jersey governor (and Trump punching bag) Chris Christie. Both will be out of the race very early. Neither will win a state. It's widely assumed that they're joining the contest in the hope that they can weaken Donald Trump and prevent him from winning the nomination.

It's clear from the many stories about Christie that he intends to launch a frontal attack on Trump when they're on the debate stage. Back in March, I noted that Christie had been telegraphing this particular punch for months; two months later, he's still telegraphing it. Trump knows what Christie plans to do, so he'll be ready with well-rehearsed comeback lines that will be infantile but effective. If the crowd's applause at Trump's recent CNN town hall made you uncomfortable, you really don't want to watch Trump does when Christie finally throws that long-promised punch.

But maybe Christie doesn't care. Maybe he's perfectly happy to get pounded by Trump.

Christie likes being on television. In 2018, after his second gubernatorial term ended in disgrace, he joined ABC as a commentator. Reasonable people might have been appalled by that, but to the insiders, he had the credibility to talk about national politics precisely because he'd been a Trump primary opponent turned lickspittle backer, after which Trump denied him the running-mate slot, kicked him out as transition chief, and denied him the job of attorney general. Being repeatedly humiliated by Trump wasn't a mark of shame for Christie; it was a résumé line.

So while Christie may hope he can surprise everyone and hit Trump with a knockout punch, he might be perfectly happy getting curb-stomped instead. To Washington insiders, a beatdown will make Christie appear newly relevant if Trump is the nominee again, and also, obviously, if Trump wins the general election. Here to talk about the president is the man he beat to a bloody pulp in the primary debates.

Chris Sununu also likes being admired by Washington insiders, as Politico's Michael Schaffer noted a couple of mnonths ago:
The Republican primary season hasn’t even started, and already one contest appears to have a runaway winner: The Permanent-Washington Primary, where New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is absolutely crushing it....

Showing up on schmoozy, talky media platforms? Check: Sununu just hit network Sunday talk shows an impressive three weeks in a row last month. If you don’t count the shows on conservative networks, that’s three more times than fellow Republican not-quite-candidates Ron DeSantis, Mike Pompeo and Tim Scott managed in the entire previous year. For those who like to witness their high-minded gabbing in the flesh, the Atlantic announced yesterday that Sununu will appear ... at a “Future of Democracy” session the venerable publication is organizing at this month’s South by Southwest festival.

... Book the New Hampshire governor on a Beltway interview show or make him the subject of a lengthy profile in an elite publication and you’ll hear him deride Trumpism as an electoral “loser” or denounce the Republican “echo chamber.”
Will he run speculation is the reason Sununu keeps getting these gigs. Then, after he drops out of the race, the mainstream media will welcome him back as someone who bravely got in the ring with Trump and can talk authoritatively about him. That's what Sununu seems to want more than anything, so it might be in his best interest to fail. Call it upward failure.

Friday, May 19, 2023


Politico's Michael Schaffer notes that many of the reforms proposed during Donald Trump's presidency haven't been enacted, even though Trump may return to power:
Two months before the 2020 elections, Jack Goldsmith and Bob Bauer published After Trump, a volume of proposals designed to protect the nation from future rogue chief executives.

The book’s 423 pages are chock full of wonky, granular measures: A reporting requirement for campaign contacts with foreign governments. A ban on presidential participation in a business interest. Mandatory release of candidates’ tax returns. Rules governing revocation of White House press passes. A prohibition against presidential self-pardons. New specificity about what constitutes a forbidden emolument. Laws spelling out how presidents can or can’t sack special counsels and inspectors general. Measures to isolate federal prosecutions from political interference....

And now, as polls suggest that “after Trump” may be turning into “between Trump,” almost none of those reform ideas have become reality....
Trump isn't the only potential 2024 winner we should be worried about. Remember what Ron DeSantis did after he won his first gubernatorial election:
Early in the Tallahassee transition, DeSantis burrowed into some essential reading material: a binder enumerating the powers of the office. “He was soaking that up,” Scott Parkinson, the transition’s deputy executive director, told me. DeSantis’s aim, he has said, was to understand all the “pressure points” within the system: what required legislative cooperation, what he could do unilaterally, which appointments needed which approvals.
If he's elected, DeSantis will push the limit of what a president is allowed to do -- and Republican-dominated federal courts will undoubtedly back him up. There's probably quite a bit overlap between his 2025 agenda and Trump's: Both, for instance, would probably fire thousands of career employees and replace them with loyalist hacks, because gutting "the administrative state" is all the rage on the right.

To some extent, I understand why Democrats didn't do much in President Biden's first two years in office to Trump-proof the federal government (or make it authoritarian-proof in a larger sense): They had a small majority in the House and controlled the Senate only through the vice president. They couldn't eliminate or modify the filibuster because Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and the GOP caucus wouldn't allow it.

But some of the Trump-proofing proposals might have had reasonably broad support. One reason Democrats didn't pursue them is that they had bigger priorities.

Democratic presidents who take office with Democratic-controlled Congresses invariably have bigger priorities. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had healthcare reform. Obama and Biden needed to pass economic recovery packages. Biden had the many proposals of Build Back Better.

Oliver Willis says that Democrats suffer from "West Wing brain" -- they don't realize they're in a no-rules back-alley fight with Republicans, so they believe that lofty principles and common decency will make them popular with voters. I agree, but I also think they have "FDR brain," or possibly "LBJ brain": They also believe that using all their political capital on massive social programs will lead to widespread popularity and the kind of landslide victories Democrats experienced in 1936 and 1964.

If you tell them this doesn't work anymore, they point out that Clinton and Obama won re-election (and, therefore, Biden will too). The problem is, Clinton and Obama won despite their big healthcare efforts -- Clinton failed, and the Affordable Care Act was never popular during Obama's presidency.

Most Democrats seem to assume that the spending in Biden's Inflation Reduction Act will soon be popular even with blue-collar white voters -- it's infrastructure! -- but I have my doubts. I keep thinking about this 2016 New York Times story.
ELKHART, Ind. — Seven years ago President Obama came to this northern Indiana city, where unemployment was heading past 20 percent, for his first trip as president. Ed Neufeldt, the jobless man picked to introduce him, afterward donned three green rubber bracelets, each to be removed in turn as joblessness fell to 5 percent in the county, the state and the nation.

It took years — in 2012, Mr. Neufeldt lamented to a local reporter that he might wear his wristbands “to my casket” — but by last year they had all come off. Elkhart’s unemployment rate, at 3.8 percent, is among the country’s lowest, so low that employers here in the self-described R.V. capital of the world are advertising elsewhere for workers, offering sign-up bonuses, even hiring from a local homeless shelter.

Mr. Obama, whose four trips here during 2008 and 2009 tracked the area’s decline, is expected to return for the first time in coming weeks, both to showcase its recovery and to warn against going back to Republican economic policies. Yet where is Mr. Neufeldt leaning in this presidential election year? ... he is considering Donald J. Trump.

“I like the way he just won’t take nothing off of nobody,” Mr. Neufeldt said....

Few people here are thanking [Obama] for their recovery....
Big Democratic bills haven't been electoral winners in decades, so maybe the next time Democrats have full control of Washington -- assuming we still have elections after the next period of full Republican control -- the Dems should avoid moonshot legislation and do some of the "small" stuff instead. Much of it isn't small at all -- don't you wish Democrats in previous periods of full control had codified Roe v. Wade or made raising the debt ceiling automatic? I know that it would have been almost as hard to pass these bills as to pass big ones, but maybe they wouldn't consume the greater part of two years, and a few of them could get through Congress with enough of a push. It's worth thinking about.