Saturday, September 30, 2023


I'm back. Thank you, Yas and Tom, for some great posts while I was away from the blog (and the end-of-days New York rain).

I'm amused by this news:
2024 presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. plans to announce he will run as an independent on October 9 in Pennsylvania, Mediaite has learned.
Kennedy, whose admirers include Steve Bannon, Alex Jones, and Roger Stone, was in the race to damage President Biden, but Biden has led him by 50 points or more for months. The right-wing ratfuckers who thought he could hurt Biden appear to believe that Democrats are just as skeptical of vaccines as Republicans, because they think everybody is just like Republicans. They live in a bubble where vaccine skepticism is normal and trust in science is something only weirdos and freaks have. But Democrats aren't like Republicans:
As the National Review’s Jim Geraghty pointed out in July, when a survey asked New Hampshire Democrats to describe Kennedy in one word, the top responses were “crazy,” “dangerous,” “insane,” “conspiracy,” and “unknown.”
On the vaccines, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds:
Seven in ten Democrats say they will get the latest COVID-19 vaccine compared to about a quarter of Republicans. Confidence in safety of the new vaccine is also largely partisan. More than eight in ten Democrats (84%) say they are confident in the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to one in three (36%) Republicans.
And as a result:

Some liberals worry that a minor-party run by Kennedy could help Donald Trump, but on the right there's some recognition that Republican voters are more likely to vote for Kennedy than Democrats:

The new strategy is to try to turn Kennedy into Bernie Sanders, in the hope that he can appeal to Democratic voters:
Kennedy’s campaign ... plans to launch “attack ads” against the Democrat National Committee (DNC) to “pave the way” for his announcement.

A Kennedy campaign insider told [Mediaite] that Kennedy “feels that the DNC is changing the rules to exclude his candidacy, so an independent run is the only way to go.”

The insider’s comments align with remarks Kennedy made publicly earlier this month. Kennedy claimed the DNC is “trying to make sure that I can’t participate at all in the political process, and so I’m going to keep all my options open,” when a South Carolina voter questioned him about the possibility of a third-party run as an independent.
But if you want to play the Bernie card, you first have to be popular with a large segment of the Democratic coalition. Kennedy isn't. No actual Democrat or Democrat-leaner thinks he's being denied the opportunity to participate in the political process -- he's in the media every day, which is all there is to the Democratic race so far. He hasn't landed a debate with Biden, but neither has anyone else. No one's voted yet, so there's no voting process to critique.

Cornel West's likiely Green Party run makes it impossible for Kennedy to claim that he's the genuine progressive who's being marginalized -- and if West runs as a Green while Kennedy runs as a Libertarian, which appears quite possible, Kennedy will have even less appeal to Bernie voters.

So I don't see why he continues to run. It's a failing ratfuck, and it looks as if it will continue to fail -- and maybe help Biden.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Literary Corner: Perfect


The Worthless Clause

by Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States

I have a clause in there
that says, don't believe the statement,
go out and do your own work:
this statement is worthless.
It means nothing. Well,
they call it a "disclaimer"--
they call it "worthless clause" too,
because it makes the statement worthless.

I hate to be boring and tell you this.
When you have the worthless clause
on a piece of paper and the first--
literally the first page
you're reading about how
this is a worthless statement
from the standpoint of your using it
as a bank or whatever--
whoever may be using it, you tend
not to get overly excited about it.
I think it had very little impact,
if any impact on the banks.

Arranged from the text of Trump's sworn deposition in the case of People of New York State vs. Donald Trump et al., as quoted in Judge Arthur F. Engoron's response to motions on both sides for summary judgment, released, I guess, on Tuesday (granting it in part, as you probably know by now, to the people, and denying it to the Trump, who is now in the first phase of losing the right to do business in New York State, which will mean he and his children and his 500 LLCs and the Trump Organization also have to give up a lot of properties run from New York, including Mar-a-Lago, the Aberdeenshire golf club, and golf courses in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and I don't know how many more, unless he manages to absorb them into a reconstituted Trump Organization in Delaware, which Attorney General James has been trying to stop him from doing), on Trump's poetic theory of the "worthless clause", actually a whole bunch of clauses, of boilerplate that the organization prefixes to its annual Statement of Financial Conditions, which is used by financial organizations to figure out how risky it is to work with them:

Assets are stated at their estimated current values and liabilities at their estimated current amounts using various valuation methods. Such valuation methods include, but are not limited to, the use of appraisals, capitalization of anticipated earnings, recent sales and offers, and estimates of current values as determined by Mr. Trump in conjunction with his associates and, in some instances, outside professionals. Considerable judgment is necessary to interpret market data and develop the related estimates of current value. Accordingly, the estimates presented herein are not necessarily indicative of the amount that could be realized upon the disposition of the assets or payment of the related liabilities. The use of different market assumptions and/or estimation methodologies may have a material effect on the estimated current value amounts.

Which sounds pretty sensible to me—you don't want people suing your ass because your million-dollar investment realized $900,549—but methods that "include, but are not limited to" normal methods should not extend to whatever number Donald imagines, as with his Briarcliff golf course in Westchester County, assessed in 2014 at a value of $16,500,000 and valued in that year's Trump Org SFC at $73,430,217, a difference of over 300%; or his 30% interest in office buildings at 1290 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan and 550 California Street in San Francisco in partnership with Vornado Real Estate which the SFCs in 2013 to 2021 said gave him access to between $14,221,800 and $93,126,589 in cash when the partnership didn't give him access to any cash at all.

And so on, culminating maybe in his own triplex apartment in Trump Tower, which the SFC listed as worth $114–207 million dollars (the most expensive apartment ever sold in Manhattan at that point went for $88 million), based on a floor area of 30,000 square feet, which might have been reasonable, except the appartment is actually 10,996 square feet, or a little over a third that size; or his Palm Beach business/home at the old Marjorie Merriweather Post estate of Mar-a-Lago, valued by the Palm Beach County Assessor at $18 million to $27.6 million after Trump promised not to develop it for anything other than the social club it is today, but claimed in the SFCs (on the basis of what he might make if he did turn it into a condo development) as worth between $426,529,614 and $612,110,496, an inflation of at least 2,300%. I particularly like that example because it's so evident that the low value was getting him a sweet tax rate on the place:

(It should probably have been valued at $75 million, according to the Miami Herald. This is one of the rarely spotted cases of his lowballing a property value for tax fraud, which I hope will be getting some federal attention after Attorney General James gave the feds her data.)

Anyway there you are. It's a lot like the "perfection" of Trump's phone calls to President Zelenskyy or Secretary Raffensberger, as I described them—where Trump thinks he's come up with the perfect hedge for denying his criminality: it's OK for him to lie his head off in his Statement of Financial Condition because he's prefaced them with a "worthless clause". It's never occurred to him that the people he makes deals with have a right to honest information.

Trump's lawyers argued that it shouldn't be punished since no harm has been done, the organization has continued to pay its debts on time, but that's certainly not legally true, as Judge Engoron is anxious to point out: laws against fraud are meant to keep the community honest. not just to deal with particular outrages, and must be enforced even when they haven't done any special damage. It's also not clear that people won't suffer as the enormity of these financial crimes becomes clear and Trump begins to go out of business. They certainly should, because the business isn't sound. If the theory of capitalism is worth anything, Trump ought to be drummed out of it, and accomplices like Deutsche Bank with him. That's all I can say. It could turn out that the banks should have paid more attention—they definitely did a shitty job.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Please Stop


I'm really bent out of shape over this cover, partly no doubt because I've been using one of these devices myself (a wheeled model like the one assigned to the Speaker Emerita here), though I'm younger than any of them, having broken my leg in a physical exploit only one of them, Biden, could possibly have attempted—in the process of being liberated from it now, I'm pleased to report, but my PT advises me I should hold on to it for the purpose of cutting the line at Trader Joe's.

But I'd note that Speaker Pelosi has already left the leadership in favor of an extremely dynamic and skillful young successor, 53-year-old Hakeem Jeffries, while McConnell, in what's clearly a last act (he has real physical issues, as we all know, and a 61-year-old successor apparent in John Thune) is doing everything he can to save us from the fecklessness and incompetence of the House's 58-year-old Kevin McCarthy. And don't tell me it's not age-bashing:

Also, the magazine's editor, David Remnick, was defending the cover on the radio this morning, and didn't try to hide the fact that the cartoon really has only one target, President Joe Biden, and the "age issue" that somehow attaches to him alone, though he's clearly the healthiest of the pictured persons, and the most effective president since Harry Truman at least, in every department, including some I could wish he wasn't so good at (does he have to work so hard at creating a Middle East condominium between Saudi Arabia and Israel?). It's "out there, it's our job to cover it," Remnick said, or words to that effect, like a latter-day Cokie Roberts, citing the polls that show it's a "concern" even when they don't (every poll that shows Biden at around 46% is now interpreted as a comment on Biden's age, even though that's not one of the questions addressed). When the interviewer mentioned that Barack Obama had the same kind of poll numbers at this point in the 2012 campaign, he hemmed and hawed and said that was influenced by different factors, which is no doubt true. So what does that prove?

Remnick also talked a lot about the gerontocracy of the dying Soviet Union, which he witnessed up close as a reporter, without drawing the obvious inferences from the fact that those leaders much more sick than old (Brezhnev, the king of stagnation, was broken in health when he died in office at 75; Andropov was just 70; Chernenko left office at 72 and died the following year, while 54-year-old Mikhail Gorbachev began overseeing the country's dissolution brought on by their mistakes; Boris Yeltsin was 60 and already suffering from heart disease and alcoholism when he became president of Russia). Why not mention West Germany's Konrad Adenauer, proudly known as "der Alte" (the old one), who spearheaded his country's Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) and the invention of the European Union, and stayed on as Chancellor until he was 86, sufficiently on his toes to continue as party leader, watching over his successors, for another four years after that?

Just stop it, OK? 

Josh Marshall blames it on Trump terror—the fear that he might win makes people crazy

This is the moment we live in in the history of the American republic, a man who talks like a character out of a dystopian novel about the end of America is the choice of about half of Americans to be the next President.


The prospect is so horrible and terrifying that virtually everyone looks for someone else to lash out at or blame. It’s Joe Biden’s age; it’s Democrats’ ineffectiveness; it’s this or that other thing.

and maybe it is that, but it keeps looking to me like an effort to make Democrats lose, by saddling us with an unneeded candidate, Gavin Newsom or Gretchen Whitmer, or maybe replace Vice President Harris with some candidate more appealing to the Times op-ed page, thus breaking up the 2020 coalition. Not that that's going to happen (Newsom in particular has made it clear), but it keeps making the party's situation look more and more discouraging, and it's starting to drive the polls into self-fulfilling prophecy mode.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Menendez Talking Points, Plan B

When Senator Menendez was indicted last week, the wingnuts were ready with their talking points: Those awful hypocrites in the Democrat party, amirite? Except for...y'know...Eric Holder. And Andy Kim. And Gov. Phil Murphy. And assorted NJ legislators and county party chairs. All on the day the news broke.

True, Democratic Senators were slower to get on the bus, and Schumer came out with a particularly tone deaf statement that seemed to foreclose any real movement. Fetterman was the first to call for Menendez to resign, but for a day or so he was the only one. So where it mattered, too few Democrats were on board--and they were criticized for it by other Democrats.

In related news, the two parties are not the same.

As of today the Senate landscape is very different:
Here are all 17 senators who've publicly called on Menendez to resign:

Democratic Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Peter Welch of Vermont Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York Democratic Sen. Mazio Hirono of Hawaii Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire
So much for that right-wing talking point.

Today we saw Tom Cotton trying out some replacement talking points: If you had "Democrats are railroading Menendez" on your right-wing bingo card, congratulations! I didn't. But maybe I should have; turning it against the DOJ (and for Trump) seems obvious in retrospect.

Anyway, what we have here is a classic heads-I-win, tails-you-lose ploy from the right. There is, as always, literally nothing Democrats can do in any situation that they won't find a way to attack.

Senator Menendez is corrupt as fuck. Resigning would be the right thing. Calling for his resignation is the right thing. Running against him in the primary is the right thing. And these things may also be good optics, for those who aren't committed right-wingers.

But last I checked Kurt Schlichter's tweet was still up, with no update, and a lot of blue-check types were still liking or RTing it. That's the GOP for you.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Identity Politics

 New Substack Post

Got too long for a blogpost--go read it over there.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Cheap Shots: Schadenfreude

 This Inflation Is Enough to Drive a Man to Drink

As I wrote at Bluesky,

We wanted to understand why so many are beset by economic anxiety in spite of ample evidence that the economy is just fine. So we spoke to some professional Republican business travelers quietly stewing themselves at a barbecue joint at Newark Liberty.

I love the fact that Oates herself did this almost as much as the fact that it got done. Readers adding context confirm her estimates are about right.


Block That Chain

So it seems that the market in non-fungible tokens or NFTs, digital objects whose uniqueness was guaranteed by their position in a blockchain, which reached a trading volume of $2.8 billion in Augut 2021, is now effectively dead, some 95% of the things being now literally worthless. Including those "produced" by former First Lady Melania Trump, culminating in this most recent example (illegal, as it happens, since it appropriates NASA imagery, which cannot be used in NFTs):

Having been on the market for nearly two months, Trump’s USA Memorabilia operation has swindled fewer than 70 people into buying the “limited-edition collectible” of a public domain image. How this NFT will ever be worth its $75 asking price, let alone increase in value, is beyond all reason.


Don't Shoot Until You See the Yellows of His Eyes

You've heard that Cassidy Hutchinson, star of the House Select January 6 Committee hearing for her testimony on Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and his and Trump's criminal behavior in the 2021 coup attempt (including Meadows's apparent theft of classified documents from thr White House, scooped by me and still not picked up by anybody else), has now written a memoir of her experiences, Enough, coming out next week from Simon and Schuster, featuring an appearance by ancient drunk sex pest Rudolph Giuliani

Hutchinson says the former New York mayor turned Trump lawyer put his hand “under my blazer, then my skirt”.

“I feel his frozen fingers trail up my thigh,” she writes. “He tilts his chin up. The whites of his eyes look jaundiced. My eyes dart to [Trump adviser] John Eastman, who flashes a leering grin.

“I fight against the tension in my muscles and recoil from Rudy’s grip … filled with rage, I storm through the tent, on yet another quest for Mark.”

But she was also, as RSchooley reports, present at the moment when Trump decided to go on his crusade against masks for COVID protection, which would be pretty funny if it hadn't condemned thousands or hundreds of thousands of Americans to death:

Actually, I'm fairly sure some of the press did know it, or suspect it, and said so. Glad to see this corroboration of the story.


Is There a Speaker in the House?

And lastly, the plight of reputed Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who couldn't even assemble the votes to pass the rule resolution for the Defense Department spending authorization. He needs to pass some set of appropriations bills that resembles the deal he made in May with President Biden, holding government spending constant through the next election in November 2024, only his Freedomaniacs wing insist he renege on the deal, threatening to oust him from the speakership if he doesn't, so he's tried to placate them with an "Impeachment Inquiry" directed at Biden, and openly soliciting the evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors on Biden's part that has eluded actual inquiries for the past five years, only he didn't have the votes for that one either, as the 20 or so non-maniacs in his caucus recognize that unjustified impeachments are the second worst mistake a Republican House can make, the first worst being failing to pass appropriations in time to prevent a government shutdown, so he just instituted the inquiry by fiat while the maniacs, unsatisfied, are doing their best to bring a government shutdown about and he basically doesn't have the votes to do anything at all and he's basically just clinging to that gavel as the waves toss him, like Ishmael in the wake of the sinking Pequod.

Still from John Huston's 1956 Moby Dick.

If it was my call, you know, I'd have the non-maniacs offer the speakership to Hakeem Jeffries, heir and vote-counting student of the most accomplished speaker in House history, Nancy Pelosi, for the sake of getting the essential tasks done and preserving their own asses, but I realize that's not how it's going to work. So I'll just have to make do with the Schadenfreude as he sinks. Pity.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023


H folks -- I'm off again. I'll be away until September 30, though this should be the last absence for a few months. Tom and Yas say they'll be posting while I'm away, so stop by.


We all know that Donald Trump is the world's most shameless liar, a man who's in a class by himself, the LeBron James or Shakespeare or Mozart of dishonesty. Here's a lie he told in his Meet the Press interview with Kristen Welker, as debunked by Judd Legum and his team at Popular Information:
... Trump claimed that former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) supports killing babies "after the baby is born." ... But Northam did not support infanticide. He expressed support for an existing Virginia law that allows for third-trimester abortion when three doctors certify that carrying the pregnancy to term would "likely" kill the mother. He also said he would sign legislation to reduce the number of doctors required to make the certification from three to one. During an interview, he said the decision of whether to attempt to resuscitate a non-viable infant after birth would be a discussion between the mother and the doctor. Welker, however, allowed Trump's specific claims about Northam to go unchallenged.
(Emphasis added.)

Trump has lied about this before. After Northam spoke, Trump told the Daily Caller,
“Do you remember when I said Hillary Clinton was willing to rip the baby out of the womb? That’s what it is, that’s what they’re doing, it’s terrible.”
In his 2019 State of the Union address, Trump said,
And then, we had the case of the Governor of Virginia where he basically stated he would execute a baby after birth.
Trump, the world's worst liar, has lied about this for the past four years. But so have many other Republicans.

After Northam spoke, Senator Marco Rubio published an opinion piece in which he wrote,
The definition of infanticide is “the crime of killing a child within a year of birth” ... Allowing a baby, born just moments prior, to die on a table because the mother requested an abortion is nothing short of infanticide. Sadly, Virginia Democrats have a new message for any mother thinking about killing their baby after birth: request an abortion just before the baby is delivered and suffer no consequences.
Senator Ben Sasse told National Review,
“In just a few years pro-abortion zealots went from ‘safe, legal, and rare’ to ‘keep the newborns comfortable while the doctor debates infanticide.’ I don’t care what party you’re from — if you can’t say that it’s wrong to leave babies to die after birth, get the hell out of public office.”
Tennessee congressman Mark Green, a physician, issued a press release in which he "condemned Virginia Governor Ralph Northam for endorsing infanticide."
“Like a scene from a science fiction movie, our elected officials are casually floating infanticide on the airwaves. Are we going to allow this affront to our civilization to happen unchecked? If so, we’ve lost our soul. I am appalled,” said Rep. Mark Green, M.D. “Killing a baby once born is infanticide. Plain and simple.”
A Daily Caller headline read, "VIRGINIA GOVERNOR ASKED ABOUT ABORTION UNTIL BIRTH. HE FLOATS INFANTICIDE." The headline at was "Virginia Gov Ralph Northam Defends Infanticide." Gateway Pundit's headline was ""SHOCK: Democrat Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Endorses the Murder of Babies — AFTER THEY ARE BORN!" The Federalist's headline was "Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Just Called For Legalizing Murder Of Newborn Babies."

Ben Shapiro tweeted:

This became one of the right's greatest hits, a tune many Republicans added to their set list. Here's Senator Ted Cruz in a 2020 speech:
"We’ve seen far too many Democrats embrace extreme positions on abortion: abortion up until the moment of birth and even, horrifically, after that," Cruz said, before highlighting a radio interview Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam gave in 2019 about a bill in the Virginia House of Delegates regulating third-trimester abortions.

"This bill was allowing a mother in labor, in the process of delivering a child, this bill would allow a doctor to kill that child instead of delivering that child in the midst of labor," Cruz said. "The idea of killing a child while the mother is in labor instead of delivering the infant is horrifying beyond words."
Republicans now describe this as the default position of Democrats. Here's Senator Marsha Blackburn earlier this month:
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) made a false and extremist claim on Fox News’ Faulkner Focus, saying the Democrats running for her seat in 2024, “have supported abortion up to the last minute before — and after — birth.”

“And I know that there are three that are running against me. They’re all leftist socialists. They would make Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer look like moderates,” Blackburn said on Friday’s show. “And I know that they have supported abortion up to the last minute before and after birth.”
And here's Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith earlier this year:
Hyde-Smith said that Senate Democrats have “a truly extreme position on abortion — through all nine months, up to the moment of birth and even perhaps after,” adding that she looks forward “to working with my colleagues to build consensus for protections for the unborn, in contrast with the extreme and shameful position embraced by pro-abortion proponents.”
What actually happened in 2019 to set this in motion? That year, Democrats in the Virginia legislature introduced HB 2491, which would make the requirements for physician approval of a late-term abortion less strict. A Democratic legislator, Kathy Tran, inadvertently misstated what was in the bill, as Vox reported at the time:
... in a committee hearing ... [Tran] was questioned about the bill by fellow delegate Todd Gilbert, a Republican.

“How late in the third trimester could a physician perform an abortion if he indicated it would impair the mental health of the woman?” Gilbert asked.

“Through the third trimester,” Tran responded. “The third trimester goes all the way up to 40 weeks.”

“Where it’s obvious that a woman is about to give birth,” Gilbert then asked, “would that still be a point at which she could request an abortion if she was so certified? She’s dilating.”

“My bill would allow that,” Tran said.

HB 2491 would not actually change the time limit for receiving an abortion in Virginia, Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, told Vox. It would change the number of physicians required for approval, and broaden the health circumstances under which an abortion would be allowed.
Northam was subsequently asked about this on a radio show. He talked about what would happen if a woman delivered a non-viable baby:
... the first thing I would say is this is why decisions such as this should be made by [healthcare] providers, physicians, and the mothers and fathers that are involved. There are -- you know when we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of, obviously, the mother, with the consent of the physicians, more than one physician by the way. And it's done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that's non-viable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.
What Northam was talking about was, in effect, a do-not-resuscitate decision if a baby is certain to die shortly after birth. Most of the Republicans who attacked him for this statement understand that. And they lie anyway, because it wins them votes.

You may believe that the level of Republican dishonesty would decline significantly if Donald Trump were driven from politics. In reality, it wouldn't decline by much.

Monday, September 18, 2023


I don't know much about the formative years of Kristen Welker, who began her tenure as host of Meet the Press with a terrible Donald Trump interview. Wikipedia tells me she attended Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia and was a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard. But a look at the interview transcript makes clear that Welker didn't regard it as her job to respond to Trump's lies and factual distortions in real time. What's maddening is that she seems to have been more focused on ticking off the questions in her binder than on the outrageous things Trump was saying.

I don't blame an interviewer for wanting to maintain control, but when you're dealing with someone like Trump, part of the way you take control is to challenge the interviewee. Trump knows he can fire off half a dozen right-wing talking points before a typical mainstream-media interviewer can get his or her bearings. Welker made that easier for him by conducting this interview on the assumption that she could make Trump behave if she behaved and asked him nicely to do the same. She spent more time focusing on that than on what he was saying.

From the transcript, here's Welker futilely attemting to play by the rules, over and over again:
As you know, let’s — But I do want to keep moving forward.


Let’s stay on track, though, Mr. President. Let’s stay on track with these questions —


I’m not the one who’s being interviewed. Let’s stay on track —


Okay. All right, well, let’s stay on track with this question, though.


But, let me, let me — but Mr. President —


Mr. President, let me just ask this question, please--


Let me just ask these questions, and then we can move on to some other topics.
It doesn't work. It doesn't work to be the grown-up version of a straight-A student when you're dealing with Trump, who's never been that kind of person at all, and who's never seen a traditional process he didn't want to warp for his own benefit. Trump repeatedly responded to Welker with falsehoods, and Welker was too focused on her question list to rebut him. And so he won.

There are fact checks of this interview -- NBC did one, though CNN's was better -- and yet there are so many false statements in the interview that no fact check is likely to be comprehensive.

Here's one exchange I'd like to focus on. Trump alleges that January 6 insurrectionists were treated far worse than those who committed violent acts in the 2020 George Floyd protests:

They put these guys in jail for 17, 18, and 22 years. They didn’t kill anybody. Some of them never even went into the Capitol. Some of them weren’t even in D.C. And they got a 22- or a 17-year sentence. 16, 18, 15, 22.


Well, more than 1,000 people have been charged, Mr. President.


Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Yeah. 1,000 people. How many people — let me ask you this. How many people were charged for destroying Portland? How many people were charged for burning down the police precinct and the courthouse in Minneapolis?
Okay, let's talk about Minneapolis. Wikipedia lists seventeen people who've been convicted of crimes in connection to the George Floyd protests:
Matthew Lee Rupert
...Rupert pleaded guilty to one federal count of arson for the fire at the Sprint store on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis the night of May 28, 2020. He was sentenced in August 2021 to 8.5-year prison sentence and three years of supervised release....

Garret Patrick Ziegler
... He was one of two people charged with firebombing the Dakota County government service center in Apple Valley on May 29, 2020, during the unrest. Ziegler pleaded guilty to one count of adding and abetting arson. He was sentenced to five years in prison and three years of supervised released and ordered to each pay $206,000 in restitution....

Fornandous Cortez
... He was one of two people charged with firebombing the Dakota County government service center in Apple Valley on May 29, 2020, during the unrest. Henderson admitted in court that he chose the facility as he had made court appearances there and because he was because angry over the murder of Floyd. He pleaded guilty to arson and was sentenced to six years in prison in 2021 and ordered to pay $206,000 in restitution....

Branden Michael Wolfe
... A large crowd surrounding the police station building the night of May 28, 2020, when it was overrun and set on fire. Wolf pleaded guilty three-and-a-half year prison sentence for the arson charge and was ordered to pay $12 million in restitution....

Samuel Elliott Frey
... Frey was part of a crowd that broke into the Great Health Nutrition store near University Avenue in Saint Paul on May 28, 2020, and set it on fire. Frey pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson. In January 2022, he was sentenced to 27 months in prison and ordered to pay $33,827 in restitution....

McKenzy Ann DeGidio Dunn
... Dunn was part of a crowd that broke into the Great Health Nutrition store in Saint Paul on May 28, 2020, and set it on fire. Dunn pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson. In July 2021, she was sentenced to 180 days of home confinement and three-years probation and ordered to pay $31,000 in restitution....

Montez Terriel Lee Jr.
... Lee pleaded guilty to an arson charge for the fire at the Max It Pawn store on East Lake Street in Minneapolis on May 28, 2020. Surveillance video that night captured him pouring an accelerate around the shop and lighting it on fire. In early 2022, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Oscar Lee Stewart Jr. was killed in the fire, but authorities believed that Lee was unaware that Stewart was trapped inside....

Dylan Robinson
... A large crowd surrounding the police station building the night of May 28, 2020, when it was overrun and set on fire. Robinson pleaded guilty and received a four-year prison sentence for the arson charge and he was ordered to pay $12 million in restitution....

Bryce Michael Williams
...A large crowd surrounding the police station building the night of May 28, 2020, when it was overrun and set on fire. Williams pleaded guilty and received a three-year prison sentence for the arson charge and he was ordered to pay $12 million in restitution....

Matthew Scott White
... White pleaded guilty to one act of arson for starting a fire at a rental car building on University Avenue in Saint Paul that was entirely destroyed by fire on May 28, 2020. White was sentenced to 72 months in prison in June 2021....

Mohamed Hussein Abdi
... Abdi aided Jose A. Felan Jr. in setting fires inside Gordon Parks High School on University Avenue in Saint Paul. He also attempted to set fires at the nearby Discount Tire store. Abdi pleaded guilty in March 2021 to conspiracy to commit arson. In February 2022, he was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $34,000 in restitution....

Alexander Steven Heil
... Heil was part of a large crowd that surrounded the Wells Fargo Bank the night of May 28, 2020. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson for helping fuel fires. He was sentenced to two years in prison in mid 2021....

Marc Bell Gonzales
... Gonzales was part of a large crowd that surrounded the Wells Fargo Bank the night of May 28, 2020. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson for helping set the structure on fire. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison in mid 2021....

Davon De-Andre Turner
... A large crowd surrounding the police station building the night of May 28, 2020, when it was overrun and set on fire. Williams pleaded guilty and received a three-year prison sentence for the arson charge and he was ordered to pay $12 million in restitution....

Jose A. Felan Jr.
... Federal authorities alleged that Felan was responsible for several fires on University Avenue in Saint Paul on May 28, 2020. Felan and Mohamed Hussein Abdi set fires inside Gordon Parks High School. Felan was also captured on security cameras entering and existing the nearby Napa Auto Parts and Goodwill stores on University Avenue. Authorities said he also had a role in the fire at 7-Mile Sportswear. Felan pleaded guilty to arson charges. A federal judge on October 18, 2022, sentenced him to 6.5 years in prison and ordered him to pay $40,000 in restitution....

Mena Dyaha Yousif
... Yousif travelled to Saint Paul with Felan on May 28, 2020, and later helped him evade authorities. Felan committed several acts of arson to businesses and a school along the University Avenue corridor in Saint Paul. Yousif pleaded guilty to the charge of being an accessary after the fact to arson and was sentenced to three years of probation....

Ivan Harrison Hunter
... Hunter was a self-described leader of a local Boogaloo Movement group in Texas. Federal authorities charged him with one count of interstate travel to incite a riot for shooting 13 rounds from an AK-47-style machine gun into the Minneapolis third police precinct building while people were inside, looting it, and helping to set it on fire the night of May 28, 2020. Hunter pleaded guilty in September 2021 and was sentenced to four years in prison in April 2022.
Trump doesn't know any of this, obviously -- but I suspect Welker doesn't either. It matters, because millions of right-wingers are obsessed with the notion that January 6 insurrectionists had the book thrown at them while "Antifa" members got off scot-free for violence and property damage in the summer of 2020. It would be nice if someone in the national media would debunk that idea. But this was just one of many real-time debunkings that weren't going to happen on Kristen Welker's Meet the Press.

Sunday, September 17, 2023


It's conventional wisdom that Ron DeSantis's presidential campaign is circling the drain, but while he'll never catch Trump, he's still the GOP's second choice:
Former President Donald Trump beat Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) by more than 35 points in the Pray Vote Stand Summit straw poll released on Saturday.

The straw poll showed Trump with 63.9% and DeSantis with 27.3%, less than a day after both Florida men addressed the summit from the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

... No other candidate received more than 3%. Former Vice President Mike Pence got 2.2%, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) got 1.9%, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy got 1.7%, and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley got 1.5%.
DeSantis is the crowd favorite to be Vice President, with 25% support, well ahead of second place Sen. Tim Scott’s 19%.
(DeSantis says he doesn't want to be a VP candidate, and I suspect Trump wouldn't want to run with someone who's as run-over-his-own-grandmother ambitious as DeSantis, so this ticket probably won't happen.)

The Pray Vote Stand Summit was sponsored by the Family Research Council, so it's a surprise that Mike Pence and Tim Scott, the two most obvious God-botherers in the race, didn't do better. But Evangelical voters no longer seem interested in Christian messages -- even Christian-right messages. They like secular anger and vengeance. DeSantis is no Trump, but he puts more effort into lib-owning than any other candidate in the race, so his strong finish makes sense.

He's still the only candidate apart from Trump who's in double digits in Iowa, according to the Real Clear Politics average. And while he's tied with Vivek Ramaswamy in polls of a Trump-less field (the Harvard/Harris poll has DeSantis at 23% and Ramaswamy at 22% in a Trump-free race, with no one else higher than 12%; a late-August Echelon poll had DeSantis at 34% and Ramaswamy at 32% with Trump out of the field, and no one else reached double digits), it's a surprise, given DeSantis's recent press coverage, that he's still a front-runner.

I bring all this up because some observers still hope Trump won't be the nominee. Maybe the Fourteenth Amendment gambit will survive court challenges. (Unlikely, but theoretically possible.) Maybe Trump's health will give out, or his mental health will show some obvious and unignorable deterioration. (I see a lot of folks pointing to a clip of Trump seemingly forgetting that he didn't run against Barack Obama in 2016, and warning that a reelected President Biden could start "World War II." I can't explain the Obama reference, although Obama clearly lived rent-free in Trump's head for years, especially after the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner; the reference to World War II is probably just a misreading of a roman numeral on Trump's Teleprompter, the likely consequence of Trump's refusal to wear the corrective lenses he clearly needs.) Maybe convictions in Trump's criminal trials will inspire GOP voters or the party establishment to reject him as a candidate. (Highly unlikely, but conceivable.) If this happens, I think DeSantis will beat Ramaswamy for the nomination. (Ramaswamy is the most shameless Trump wannabe, and unlike DeSantis he actually seems as young as he is, but he's not Christian or of European descent, which will seriously hurt his chances, especially in the South.)

I'd like DeSantis to be the nominee, because he appears to be a much weaker general election candidate than Trump. Real Clear Politics now says that Trump has a small lead over Biden in a head-to-head matchup:

But Biden is beating DeSantis:

When I express concern about Trump's fairly strong general election numbers, I'm told it's far too early for the polls to mean anything. But opinions of Trump seem locked in. No matter what happens in his life, his numbers don't seem to change:

DeSantis, on the other hand, has become much less popular with the general public since he entered the race:

Trump's favorability numbers are bad (-14.4), and so are Biden's (-14.1). But DeSantis's numbers are worsening. He's at -13.6, but he's unlikable and he has nothing but extreme positions. I think he'd stick with his "no enemies on the right" platform in a general election campaign, and he obviously can't change his obviously unpleasant personality. By contrast, many voters love Trump's personality, and others dislike it but got used to it during his term in office, and they'd put up with it if they thought he could bring back sub-$3 gas prices.

I think Trump will be the GOP nominee -- but if he isn't, I think DeSantis will take it. I hope he does.

Saturday, September 16, 2023


I'm sure you remember this story from the spring of 2016:
Donald Trump has earned close to $2 billion worth of free media attention during the 2016 campaign, eclipsing the total value of media attention given to all of his Republican competitors combined, a new study finds.

The findings show that Trump earned more than six times as much free coverage as his closest competitor, Ted Cruz, and more than two-and-a-half times as much free coverage as Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side.

The study, which was conducted by The New York Times using mediaQuant and SMG Delta data, offers evidence that the American news media has given vastly more coverage to Trump's campaign.

The report will fuel arguments that media coverage has played an instrumental role in Trump's rise to becoming the Republican presidential frontrunner.
That was before the general-election campaign. In November 2016, mediaQuant announced that Trump had received a total of $4.96 billion in free media -- "more than Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio combined," according to The Street. (Clinton's total was a mere $666 million.)

Will this happen again? Is it already happening? It probably is, but not in the same way.

The mainstream media isn't mesmerized by Trump speeches anymore. CNN and other outlets are unlikely to cover the 2024 Trump campaign's rallies from beginning to end, and certainly won't routinely park a camera in front of Trump's empty podium, in breathless anticipation of his arrival.

But Trump will still get more free media than Joe Biden, for the simple reason that he's on trial all over the country. I acknowledge that justice requires holding Trump to account for his crimes. However, the process of bringing him to justice plays right into his hands as a candidate.

Here he is, making the news again:
Special counsel Jack Smith and his team have requested a federal judge in Washington, D.C., impose a "narrowly tailored" order restricting former President Donald Trump from making public statements that they argue could "present a serious and substantial danger of prejudicing" his 2020 federal election interference case.

In an extraordinary filing released Friday, Smith's office accused Trump of engaging in a sweeping campaign of "disinformation" and harassment intended to intimidate witnesses, prosecutors and others involved in the prosecution he is facing.

"Like his previous public disinformation campaign regarding the 2020 presidential election, the defendant's recent extrajudicial statements are intended to undermine public confidence in an institution -- the judicial system -- and to undermine confidence in and intimidate individuals --the Court, the jury pool, witnesses, and prosecutors," the filing says.
Maybe Trump will eventually be convicted and imprisoned. But for now, he's playing these people for fools. He engages in harassment and intimidation, and that becomes news; the system tries to rein him in, and that becomes news; he whines that he's being censored, and that's news, too -- and then, if there is a limited gag order, he'll really complain about censorship (news again) and then defy the order (also news). And the court probably won't have the courage to do the one thing that might stop the harassment and intimidation, which is to jail him for a few days, but either way he wins: either he beat the system or he's a political prisoner.

And this is just one of his cases. They're all going to be like this as the trials approach (and then there'll be the trials).

Trump shouldn't be allowed to get away with the things he's done, obviously, but I wonder if the legal system has guaranteed his nomination (and possibly smoothed his path to another general-election win) by rallying right-wingers and right-centrists to his cause. Would he have been easier to beat in the primaries if he'd never been indicted? I think he still would have won the nomination, though I'm not sure. It's obvious that he's coasting to a primary victory because he's up on charges. Let's hope he doesn't coast to a general-election victory for the same reason -- because he's rallied more voters to his side than the lackluster Biden.

Friday, September 15, 2023


David Ignatius, Jonathan Chait, and other pundits believe that the Democrats shouldn't simply accept President Biden as the party's 2024 nominee. Ignatius thinks Biden should decline to run again, while Chait thinks a serious primary challenge could actually improve the party's chances:
The biggest assumption ... is that a challenger would obviously lose. I don’t think that’s true at all. I think the polls should be taken seriously, and the fact that most of the party’s voters want somebody else to beat Biden suggests that somebody else could actually beat Biden. And given the president’s alarmingly low approval ratings, that outcome seems like it could increase, not decrease, the party’s chances of defeating Trump.
In the scenario Ignatius envisions, Biden simply doesn't run, and presumably there's a wide-open primary. Chait imagines a single major challenger taking Biden on. But either way, the party would face questions about the durability of its coalition -- questions that will inevitably arise in 2028, but don't need to come up in this cycle.

Here's the problem: When pundits imagine a Biden challenger, which names come to mind? Often it's a set of governors: Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Andy Beshear of Kentucky, Gavin Newsom of California, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania. Some pundits mention Biden Cabinet members: Pete Buttigieg, Gina Raimondo. Sometimes candidates from previous races are invoked: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren.

Notice something about these people? They're all white. This is a party whose most loyal voters are Black, particularly older Black women -- yet no one in the dump-Biden crowd wants his Black female vice president, Kamala Harris, to take him on or replace him as the nominee in this cycle. Why shouldn't we assume that the most loyal Democratic voters will see a challenge to Biden as what it actually is in part -- an attempt to dump Harris as well?

Also, if Biden were to drop out of the race altogether, a wide-open primary could expose tensions between liberals and leftists that weren't really a factor in 2020 as the general election approached and the need to defeat Donald Trump held the party coalition together. This time, I suspect Warren and Sanders wouldn't run again, but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might. The fight between the two wings of the party will be ugly in the 2028 presidential cycle. Do we really want to have it in this cycle? Whichever way it's resolved, Democrats will alienate some voters. I realize a Biden renomination will also alienate some voters, but a defeat of one faction or the other could hurt the Democrats more.

I'd feel a bit better about a challenge to Biden if there were an obvious alternative with broad general appeal. Imagine if there were someone like Barack Obama now, a candidate with cross-racial appeal, and mainstream policies accompanied by progressive vibes. But there's no one like that in the party, so the process of finding a successor to Biden is unlikely to go smoothly. This isn't a fight we want to have now.

Thursday, September 14, 2023


Are House Republicans really trying to impeach President Biden, or do they just want him under a cloud of suspicion? The New York Times reports:
If [the impeachment inquiry] feels more like a political campaign than a serious legal proceeding, that is because at this point it is.... In the first 24 hours of their inquiry, the House Republicans made no new requests for documents, issued no new subpoenas, demanded no new testimony and laid out no potential articles of impeachment.
I'm sure Marjorie Taylor Greene sincerely wants Biden removed from office, but for her, the journey seems to be more important than the destination:
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, who was among those who pushed Mr. McCarthy into opening an inquiry at Mr. Trump’s behest, made clear that the goal was to damage the incumbent president. By her own account, she said she told Mr. Trump during a dinner on Sunday at his private club in Bedminster, N.J., that she hoped to make an impeachment inquiry “long and excruciatingly painful for Joe Biden.”
CNN reports that Jim Jordan is working on subpoenas, but he doesn't seem anxious to get to an impeachment vote:
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who told reporters he signed three new subpoenas on Wednesday, said the launch of the inquiry does not change how he is approaching his investigation. He doesn’t have a specific timeline of how long an inquiry will last, and his plan is simply to “keep going.”
Other Republicans agree:
“What we’re going to do is do it the right way,” GOP Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida told CNN. “We want to make sure that we have every single piece of evidence.”

Asked whether their inquiry should be wrapped up before the end of the year, GOP Rep. Brian Mast, also of Florida, told CNN: “Can it be yes? Should there be an artificial timeline placed on wrapping this up by the end of the year? Absolutely not.”
It does seem as if actually impeaching Biden would be bad for Republicans:
The conundrum now for Republicans is that if they don’t convince their colleagues to pursue articles of impeachment and come up short in proving high crimes and misdemeanors, they will essentially be absolving the president leading into an election year. And even if they do succeed in impeaching Biden, making him the fourth US president to ever be impeached, it would be dead on arrival in the Senate – and could seek to have the adverse effect of rallying Democrats around a president who has faced sagging approval ratings.
There are hotheads who want an impeachment right now. (Matt Gaetz: “I think Joe Biden deserves impeachment. No question about that. We may be forcing some votes on it in the coming days and weeks.”) But if House Republicans arrive at a consensus -- which they might not -- it'll be to drag this out as long as possible. It won't surprise me if they never wrap up the inquiry and never vote to impeach. They just want Biden to be under a cloud from now until November 2024, with the option of an actual impeachment (and pending Senate trial) if he's reelected, just to take him down a peg right after that victory.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Dave Weigel has a piece at Semafor titled "In Books, Biden Is an Energetic Leader. Too Bad Nobody Reads Them." Weigel cites The Last Politician, Franklin Foer's new book on the Biden White House:
Foer’s book, the most far-reaching study of the Biden White House so far, presents an aging president who’s nonetheless fully engaged in the job....

... Biden, [Foer] found, “buries himself in details” and “takes technocratic charge” of issues. “The Last Politician” acknowledges that Biden “would occasionally admit that he felt tired,” and that his “advanced age was a hindrance” when he blanked on a name or kept a light schedule. But it’s a bit part in the overall story — and his staff is worried more about his life-long tendency to wander off script than how age has affected his faculties.
The Bulwark's Mona Charen believes that Biden's team needs to stop hiding him:
OUR OCTOGENARIAN PRESIDENT TRAVELED 8,000 miles to meet with India’s premier, Narendra Modi, and to attend the G20 summit in New Delhi. He then flew another 2,000 miles to visit America’s new pal, Vietnam—all over the course of just five days. That’s a demanding trip even for a younger person. After meeting for several hours with the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nguyễn Phú Trọng, Biden held a formal press conference. And he did fine....

There is just no way to watch Biden’s Hanoi press conference and not recognize that his brain is working fine. He responds to questions in appropriate fashion. His words are diplomatically chosen, and his thoughts follow in logical order. He remembers what he just said a few minutes ago and doesn’t repeat himself (or not more than the average politician).
Actually, there is a way to watch Biden's Hanoi press conference and come away thinking Biden has dementia, and it's the way a large number of Americans watched it: in the form of brief clips cherry-picked by partisan Republicans. But overall, Biden does seem sharp and engaged in the press conference. Here's it is in its entiretty. I've cued up a solid (if unexciting) answer to one question:

Charen writes:
Biden’s physical presentation—the slow and careful walk, the slightly pitched posture—suggests age more than his words. He is perfectly capable of thinking on his feet. Whoever has been deciding to keep him under wraps for fear of gaffes is hurting his cause. People have come to believe that he is in sharp mental decline. When you see him in a Q&A, it’s clear that he isn’t, and people need to know that.
Maybe the public needs to see the Biden that his aides see, someone who masters the details and “takes technocratic charge” of them, sometimes even displaying anger when aides aren't as well informed as he is, a tendency we learned about over the summer:
He'll grill aides on topics until it's clear they don’t know the answer to a question — a routine that some see as meticulous and others call "stump the chump" or "stump the dummy."

... Ted Kaufman, Biden's longtime chief of staff when the future president represented Delaware in the Senate, told Axios that Biden's process is policy-driven, and has made him a strong executive.

"If there is something that's not in the brief, he's going to find it," he said. "It's not to embarrass people, it's because he wants to get to the right decision. Most people who have worked for him like the fact that he challenges them and gets them to a better decision."
To me, the meaning of that story wasn't "old man yells at cloud" but, rather, "old man has a real command of the issues." But most of the country never sees Biden's mastery of the facts.

How can that be changed? Can we see clips of Biden in meetings, clips chosen to highlight his acuity? Should Biden welcome a videographer into his meetings, so we can see that he knows what he's doing?

Jonathan Chait writes,
If Biden wanted to dispel concern about his mental acuity, he could submit to challenging interviews. The fact that he hasn’t done so suggests that he or his aides are uncertain he could pass muster.
I don't think he needs to face the toughest interviewers -- he needs a forum in which he can demonstrate competence.

Biden gaffes will happen, so none of this should be live. But if the right cherry-picks bad Biden clips, why shouldn't he and his allies cherry-pick good ones? This seems like the best way to dispel the notion that he can't do the job.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023


Michelle Goldberg tells us that the authors of How Democracies Die were surprised by the January 6 assault on democracy:
One of the most influential books of the Trump years was “How Democracies Die” by the Harvard government professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. Published in 2018, it served as a guide to our unfolding ordeal....

Because that volume was prescient about how Donald Trump would try to rule, I was surprised to learn, in Levitsky and Ziblatt’s new book, “Tyranny of the Minority,” that they were shocked by Jan. 6. Though they’ve studied violent insurrections all over the world, they write in this new book, “we never imagined we’d see them here. Nor did we ever imagine that one of America’s two major parties would turn away from democracy in the 21st century.”
And Isaac Chotiner reminds us that while Ross Douthat may loathe Donald Trump, he predicted there'd be no insurrection:
Several weeks before the 2020 election ... Douthat wrote a column titled “There Will Be No Trump Coup.” According to Douthat, Trump was “a feckless tribune for the discontented rather than an autocratic menace.” A year later, Douthat wrote that he stood by his assessment of Trump but admitted that he had underestimated the mob: “I didn’t quite grasp until after the election how fully Trump’s voter-fraud paranoia had intertwined with deeper conservative anxieties about liberal power.”
But Republicans "turn[ed] away from democracy" long before Donald Trump entered politics. How did Levitsky and Ziblatt not know that? How did they not realize that Republicans have been obsessed with (non-existent) Democratic voter fraud since the George W. Bush years, whewn U.S. attorneys were fired because they wouldn't prosecute Democrats for electoral cheating? How have these scholars and Ross Douthat missed the waves of laws in Republican-controlled states that have been intended to make it more difficult for Democrats to vote, an effort that began well before Trump became a presidential candidate? Republicans have been casting suspicions on our elections for a couple of decades now -- as I regularly point out, Hugh Hewitt's book If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It was published in 2004.

Also, Republican politicians and operatives have inflicted tremendous damage on democracy in purple states for many years, with unwavering support from their voters, as Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria remind us:
Gerrymandering is not unique to Wisconsin. But, for more than a decade, Wisconsin Republicans have gerrymandered the state's legislative maps so aggressively that it is effectively impossible for Democrats to gain control of the state legislature.

In 2018, for example, Democrats swept statewide contests for Governor, Attorney General, U.S. Senate, State Treasurer and Secretary of State. That year, 54% of Wisconsin voters selected a Democrat to represent them in the state assembly, with Democratic candidates collecting 200,000 more votes than Republican candidates. And yet, Republicans won 63 of 99 seats in the state assembly — nearly a two-thirds majority.
The current wave of gerrymandering in Wisconsin began in 2011, under then-governor Scott Walker. The 2011 gerrymander was made possible by a Republican program called REDMAP:
REDMAP targeted 107 local state legislative races in 16 states, including swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.... With the intention of flipping Democratic-majority state legislatures and Democrat-held state governorships for the express purpose of controlling redistricting, REDMAP funded negative ads in lower-profile state legislative races.... This helped to give Republicans control of 10 of the 15 states that would be redrawing their districts in 2010.... They then used sophisticated software ... to devise districts favorable to the Republican party, for example by clustering Democratic voters into a handful of districts and ensuring the rest were drawn to include Republican majorities.
Rank-and-file Republicans have been told for decades that Democrats only win elections when they cheat. They've been told that we routinely allow undocumented immigrants to vote. The advocacy group True the Vote is now best known for providing the "research" behind 2000 Mules, Dinesh D'Souza's fact-challenged documentary about the 2020 election, but I've been blogging about True the Vote since 2012, when The New York Times expressed skepticism about the group's claims:
It might as well be Harry Potter's invisible Knight Bus, because no one can prove it exists.

The bus has been repeatedly cited by True the Vote, a national group focused on voter fraud. Catherine Engelbrecht, the group's leader, told a gathering in July about buses carrying dozens of voters showing up at polling places during the recent Wisconsin recall election.

"Magically, all of them needed to register and vote at the same time," Ms. Engelbrecht said. "Do you think maybe they registered falsely under false pretenses? Probably so."

Weeks later, another True the Vote representative told a meeting of conservative women about a bus seen at a San Diego polling place in 2010 offloading people "who did not appear to be from this country."

Officials in both San Diego and Wisconsin said they had no evidence that the buses were real. "It's so stealthy that no one is ever able to get a picture and no one is able to get a license plate," said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin agency that oversees elections. In some versions the bus is from an Indian reservation; in others it is full of voters from Chicago or Detroit. "Pick your minority group," he said.
Republicans have engaged in legalized electoral cheating for quite a while, even as they've accused Democrats of being the real cheaters. No one should have been surprised on January 6 when a demagogue inspired a Republican mob to act on those long-held beliefs.

Monday, September 11, 2023


I like this strategy:
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has a plan for the next few months: Make sure every voter, no matter their party, knows what is happening in the Republican presidential primary.

... the strategy ... reflects a steadfast Democratic belief: The conversations happening on the Republican side – coupled with some of the policy proposals being discussed on everything from abortion to guns to health care – are widely unpopular with most voters....

The campaign already put this strategy into play around the first Republican debate last month in Milwaukee. Top Democratic surrogates were on the ground holding events and after the 90-minute contest, the Biden campaign released an ad focused on abortion and the kind of policy each candidate supported on stage.

The voiceover in the ad says that as long as Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are in office, they “will never allow a national abortion ban to become law.”
Here's the ad:

Traditionally, Democrats have failed to convey to moderate and moderately liberal voters just how extreme Republicans are. They've expressed fear that if they're forthrightly liberal on abortion or guns, they'll alienate blue-collar whites. Fortunately, that's started to change in recent years. On abortion at least, Democrats have begun to recognize that they need to be proud of their policies and openly contemptuous of the policies supported by Republicans. Throughout most of his career, Biden hasn't been a reproductive rights champion, but he's come around. That's good.

Nate Cohn of The New York Times has been looking at polling and the results of the 2022 midterms, and he has some thoughts about how voters are responsing to Republican extremism in different kinds of states. He believes that moderate voters in solidly blue states might be thinking about GOP extremism less than moderate voters in purple states:
... [In 2022,] Democrats held their ground in the battleground states, allowing them to retain the Senate and nearly hold the House.

... Republicans showed their greatest strengths in noncompetitive states like California and New York as well as across much of the South, including newly noncompetitive Florida. Democratic weakness in these states was just enough to cost them control of the House of Representatives....
In Times polling for 2024, Biden has held his 2020 advantage in swing states, while losing ground in big blue states:
In the sample of 774 respondents in the battleground states, Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump, 47-43, compared with a 46-44 lead among all registered voters nationwide. On the other hand, Mr. Biden leads by 17 points, 50-33, in a sample of 781 respondents in California and New York — the two blue states that primarily cost Democrats the House last November — down from a 27-point margin for Mr. Biden in 2020.
Why would Democrats be losing ground in blue states but not in purple states? Cohn thinks it might be because moderate voters in blue states aren't afraid of the extreme things Republicans want to do:
Moderate voters in a blue state — say around Portland, Ore. — have no need to fear whether their state’s conservatives will enact new restrictions on transgender rights or abortion rights, but they might wonder whether the left has gone too far pursuing equity in public schools. They might increasingly harbor doubts about progressive attitudes on drugs, the homeless and crime, as visible drug use among the homeless in Portland becomes national news.

But moderate voters in a purple state — say those who live around Grand Rapids, Mich. — might have a different set of concerns.
Such as?
... the conduct of their state’s Republican Party, which not only tried to ban abortion last fall but also embraced the stop-the-steal movement. The “threat to democracy” is not an abstraction for Biden voters here: It was their votes that Mr. Trump and his allies tried to toss out.
If you're in Wisconsin or Michigan, GOP extremism is an active threat. You know that the Democrats are the only thing standing between you and Ron DeSantis-style policies. But in New York and California, the extremist Republican threat seems remote, so moderate voters feel less inclined to rally around the Democratic Party.

That strikes me as a plausible theory -- and if it's correct, I think it could matter in the fight for the Electoral College in 2024. There are seemingly blue states that could tip Republican if voters don't fear what the Republicans might do -- Virginia, New Hampshire, Maine, maybe Minnesota. Voters in those states might think they're safe from right-wing extremism because the GOP crazies don't have sufficient local power, so they need to be reminded of the nationwide threat.

The Biden campaign should talk about GOP extremism as much as possible -- on abortion, on guns, on healthcare, on entitlements, and especially on the makeup of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. Moderates can see how extreme (and corrupt) the Supreme Court is. They need to be reminded that four more years of Trump means four more years the right can use to construct the extreme Supreme Court of its dreams. Moderates need to be reminded that a Trump-appointed lower-court extremist, Matthew Kacsmaryk, declared the abortion pill illegal by fiat, and that other extremist judges can do just as much mischief or more.

Our politics would be saner if swing voters truly understood how extreme the GOP is -- and was, even before Trump. Anything that gets that message out is good politics.