Thursday, February 29, 2024


On February 6, after some delay, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that Donald Trump doesn't have legal immunity from prosecution for crimes committed during his presidency. When Trump appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court, very smart legal analysts said that Trump didn't have any real grounds for appeal, which was true, and that the Supreme Court, based on law and precedent, would have to reject this blatant effort to evade accountability, which was obviously nonsense.
“I think there’s a strong chance the Supreme Court will unanimously uphold this [D.C. Circuit ruling],” Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's law school, told USA TODAY. "The question to me is not how the court will rule, but when."
Predictably -- I know because I predicted it -- the Supreme Court is playing stall ball on Trump's behalf. Slate's Mark Joseph Stern reports:
The Supreme Court has all but guaranteed that Donald Trump will not face trial for his efforts to subvert the 2020 election before this November’s presidential election. On Wednesday, after more than two weeks’ delay, the court issued an order refusing to lift the stay that’s preventing the Jan. 6 trial, prosecuted by Special Counsel Jack Smith, from moving forward. Instead, the court took up the case, scheduling oral arguments for the week of April 22—nearly two months from now. On this timeline, the justices will probably issue a decision near the end of June. That punt gives Trump exactly what he wanted: an extended pause that will make it impossible for Judge Tanya Chutkan to hold a trial in time for the upcoming election.

... even if a majority rules against Trump, and finishes its work quickly, a single dissenter like [Samuel] Alito can hold up the opinion until the end of June. It will take several more months to prepare for trial, and the Justice Department has a policy of avoiding any action that could affect the outcome of a race within 60 days of Election Day. So here’s how that all boils down: In the absolute best case scenario, both parties might be ready for trial by the fall. At that point, though, Jack Smith will bump straight into the Justice Department’s 60-day rule, and presumably postpone the trial until after November. Moreover, the trial itself will likely take a few months. It is now basically impossible to conceive of the trial concluding, and the jury rendering a verdict, before the election.
I think this is happening for three reasons -- one obvious, one somewhat less obvious, and possibly a third one that isn't obvious at all.

Obviously, a supermajority of the Court wants Trump, or at least the Republican Party, to win the presidential election. (I imagine some of the Republican justices would prefer a corporatist lickspittle like Nikki Haley or Tim Scott, but Trump will do.)

Less obviously, I think they're afraid for their lives:

In December, before the oral arguments, took place, I said this about the Supreme Court's likely response to the Colorado ballot case:
... they don't want to die. Colorado Supreme Court justices are now receiving death threats, and the members of the U.S. Supreme Court don't want to go through the same experience. They have better protection, so you'd think they'd be less worried, but I think fear will be a major reason they'll rule in Trump's favor.
After oral arguments, it became clear that the Court will, in fact, rule in Trump's favor.

Now, here's a possible third reason that the Court is helping Trump. Consider this:

Early to mid-seventies is actually fairly young for a modern Supreme Court justice to retire. But there might be a couple of strategic retirements in a second Trump presidency -- if one knotty problem can be solved. Remember this November story from The New York Times?
... in a striking shift, Trump allies are building new recruiting pipelines separate from the Federalist Society.

... “The Federalist Society doesn’t know what time it is,” said Russell T. Vought, a former senior Trump administration official who runs a think tank with close ties to the former president. He argued that many elite conservative lawyers had proved to be too timid when, in his view, the survival of the nation is at stake.

... Hard-right allies of Mr. Trump increasingly speak of typical Federalist Society members as “squishes” too worried about maintaining their standing in polite society and their employment prospects at big law firms to advance their movement’s most contentious tactics and goals.
I think at least some of the Federalist Society SCOTUS justices might be concerned that Trump won't populate the federal bench -- including the Supreme Court -- with jurists who are members of their little secret society, which is part of the real Deep State in America. (I think if you described Leonard Leo to most Americans and said that this man hardly any of them have ever heard of has the degree of power over Republican judicial appointments that he actually has -- or has had until now -- they'd think you were peddling a conspiracy theory.)

The Republican Supreme Court justices might be trying to get back into Trump's good graces, so he'll reliably appoint Kochite judges from their group in the future. I could be wrong, but I think that's part of the explanation for what the Supreme Court is up to in this case.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024


I keep thinking about this. It's challenging some of my assumptions.

Filipkowski is right about FiveThirtyEight, which said Donald Trump was leading Nikki Haley in Michigan by 56.9 points. Right now, with 96% of the actual vote counted, Trump is leading Haley by 41.6 points.

There was a time when we talked about "shy Trump voters." It was believed that pollsters missed many of Trump's voters in 2016 (although the polls did show a late shift to Trump -- he was supposed to lose the popular vote by 3.2, according to the Real Clear Politics average, and he lost it by 2.1). If there were shy Trump voters, pollsters really seemed to miss them in 2020 -- Joe Biden was expected to beat Trump by 7.2, but he won the popular vote by only 4.5. It was theorized that some Trump voters have low "social trust," and thus were afraid to tell mainstream-media pollsters that they planned to vote for Trump, presumably because they feared that George Soros and the Deep State keep a list of Trump voters, or something like that.

But maybe the Trump voters aren't shy enough these days. Maybe they're now overrepresented in polls, either because pollsters are overcorrecting to include a disproportionate share of them, or because they're now more eager than other voters to tell pollsters how they plan to vote.

Obviously, Trump is cruising to victory in the Republican primaries. But there are pockets of resistance, as The Wall Street Journal notes:
Early results showed Haley did better than her statewide numbers with voters in places with large numbers of college-educated voters, including Washtenaw and Ingham counties, the homes of the University of Michigan and Michigan State. She also outperformed her state percentage in Oakland and Kent—big suburban counties with a higher percentage of college degrees than the state as a whole.

In previous contests in New Hampshire and South Carolina, Haley showed strength versus Trump with independents and moderates—the kinds of potential swing voters who could help decide the November contest against Biden.
I've been assuming that Haley's slight overperformance is the result of crossover voting by people who usually vote Democratic. But the fact that the polling average in Michigan was off by 15 points suggests that maybe there's more to it than that.

Trump leads Biden in the RCP polling average by 2 right now. Could it be that Trumpers are overrepresented in general-election polling, too? Could it be that high-school-educated MAGA voters are eagerly agreeing to be polled while college-educated right-centrist Trump skeptics aren't?

If so, maybe Biden isn't struggling as much as I've been imagining. I still think he needs to win the popular vote by 4 or 5 in order to win the Electoral College. But maybe that's not as much of a reach as I've been thinking it is.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024


Mark Penn is the chairman of the Harris Poll and the husband of No Labels CEO Nancy Jacobson. He's regarded as a Democratic pollster largely because he's worked with both Bill and Hillary Clinton, though he later became a Fox News contributor and Trump apologist. His latest survey has Trump leading Joe Biden by 6 in a two-candidate race, by 7 with Robert Kennedy Jr. in the race, and by 9 with a filed that includes Biden, Trump, Kennedy, Cornel West, and Jill Stein.

The survey also includes quite a bit of pro-Trump push-polling.

Here's an example: The impeachment case against President Biden effectively collapsed on February 15, when it was revealed that a key source for Biden allegations, Alexander Smirnov, had been charged with lying about the Biden family's activities involving Ukraine. On February 20, we learned that Russian intelligence officials were Smirnov's principal source for these lies.

Undeterred, Penn's team decided it was still okay to include this survey question:

This is one of many questions about alleged Biden misdeeds -- mishandling of classified documents by Joe Biden, as well as unsavory dealings by Joe, James, and Hunter Biden. There are no questions suggesting that the figures pursuing the Bidens might be acting in bad faith. However, when we get to the section about Trump's legal problems, the first question is this, asked one of two ways:

Questions about Trump's criminal cases are stripped of all detail. Here, for instance, is the only question about Trump's handling of classified documents:

Now here's one of several questions about Biden's handling of classified documents:

When the subject turns to Trump's bank fraud case, Penn's survey argues Trump's case for him:

And there's yet another question arguing that the pursuit of Trump is in bad faith:

Eventually the survey turns to the subject of immigration. Here's one of several questions:

"The bill would allow up to 5000 migrants to come in each day before [the] new measure kicked in" is a Republican lie that has been debunked by many fact checkers. As a Poynter Institute fact-check notes (emphasis added), the bill "compels the Homeland Security secretary to use an emergency authority to bar people from requesting asylum if officials record 5,000 encounters a day over seven consecutive days. But that’s not the same as accepting 5,000 people into the U.S. daily."

I've been telling you about the push-polling of Mr. No Labels for years. He's still at it.

Monday, February 26, 2024


I'm usually wary of news stories that read like press releases, but this Daily Beast story about former Florida congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who's running to defeat Senator Rick Scott this year, has me eager to smoke some hopium.

As the story points out, Scott seems beatable:
A November 2023 survey from right-leaning polling firm Cygnal showed only 35 percent of Floridians have a favorable view of Scott—less than both Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
And he's not an inherently appealing person:
During Scott’s eight years as Florida governor and five years in the Senate, he’s cultivated a reputation as a staunch conservative who has trouble making friends on Capitol Hill—an advocate for the rich and an enemy of the poor. Basically, he’s the perfect Republican boogeyman for Democrats to bash on the campaign trail.

Influential Florida Democratic donor John Morgan—founder of the Morgan & Morgan law firm—put his assessment of Scott bluntly.

“He looks bad. He looks like an alien that has just landed here with ET. He’s not a prototypical candidate. He’s very awkward,” Morgan said.
Mucarsel-Powell intends to run against him on issues:
To start, she’s hitting Scott for his hardline stances on abortion. Scott said if he were still governor, he would have enshrined a six-week abortion ban. He has also signaled openness to “reasonable” federal abortion restrictions....

The very first line in Mucarsel-Powell’s campaign launch video was a shot at Scott and his abortion stance: “He would strip away women’s rights with a national abortion ban.”

...Mucarsel-Powell herself called the housing affordability crisis “the biggest issue.” She blamed a 2011 property insurance policy that Scott signed into law as the culprit of the crisis.

And then there’s Scott’s infamous 12-point plan to “Rescue America.” The unpopular proposal touched the well-understood third rail of politics—targeting Social Security and Medicare....

... Mucarsel-Powell hopes running against the guy who wrote the plan on sunsetting Social Security and Medicare will give her an edge—particularly in Florida.
In one summer poll of this matchup -- admittedly from a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee pollster -- Mucarsel-Powell led Scott 44%-43%. Party polls usually skew a few points in favor of the party's own candidate, but even if you tweak this a bit, it suggests that Mucarsel-Powell could give Scott a run for his money.

But money is the problem. Scott has boatloads of his own, and the Democratic Party and its donors might not want to spend any on this race:
Morgan, for example, told The Daily Beast his involvement in the Florida Senate race will be “zero.” He doesn’t have plans—at least at this point—to donate to Mucarsel-Powell.

“I might write a check, but I don’t see myself raising big money. I would have to see a lot more as we get closer,” Morgan told The Daily Beast....

“We’ll see if she can raise the money,” he added, noting he would also be taking cues from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer....

As skeptical donors see it, every dollar spent on booting Scott from the Senate is a dollar that Democrats aren’t spending on other competitions.
And she's running under the aegis of the hapless Florida Democratic Party (although the party is under new leadership as of last February).

Mucarsel-Powell probably won't win, or even come close. But it will be painful if she loses because of a lack of investment from the national party, especially if the race is very close. It's still painful to think about the Wisconsin Senate race in 2022, in which Democrat Mandela Barnes lost to the loathsome Republican incumbent Ron Johnson by 1 point, largely because the national Democratic Party wrote the race off. It's possible that Florida is now irreversibly red -- but it's also possible that it can be turned back into a purple state again with a little effort.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

DOES TRUMP IN 2024 = BUSH IN 1992?

Here's the new pundit hotness:

So is Trump effectively an incumbent who's running a weak race? Is he Jimmy Carter in 1980 or George Bush in 1992? Does that mean he'll lose in November?

Maybe -- but those earlier incumbents aren't exactly comparable. It's not just the fact that they were literally incumbents. It's also the fact that their primary challengers did well despite the fact that few if any voters were crossing party lines to vote for them. There was a real Republican contest in 1980 and a real Democratic contest in 1992. This year, Biden's nomination is inevitable, so there's no real Democratic contest, and so there's significant Democratic and independent crossover voting in the Republican contests.

After the Iowa caucuses, much was made of entrance poll results indicating that 43% of Haley's voters intend to vote for Joe Biden in November, but as I told you at the time, 39% of Haley voters chose Biden in the last election. In New Hampshire, according to exit polling, Trump won 74% of registered Republicans, while Haley won 88% of registered Democrats and 60% of independents. And here are the South Carolina numbers:
Mr. Trump was crushing Ms. Haley with 73 percent support among Republicans to her 26 percent. She was still winning 54 percent of independents, but they made up only 21 percent of the electorate, while roughly seven in 10 voters were Republican.
The other reason Trump might not be Jimmy Carter in 1980 or George Bush in 1992 is that a certain percentage of voters don't vote for a candidate, they vote for change. In 1980, voting for change meant voting against Carter; in 1992, it meant voting against Bush. In 2024, it means voting for Trump. According to the Real Clear Polling average, only 24% of Americans think the country is heading in the right direction; 65.9% think it's heading in the wrong direction. So this really could be a change election.

In order for Biden to win under those conditions, either the direction-of-the-country numbers need to improve or Biden has to persuade voters that the particular change on offer would be very, very bad. I don't think Biden has much control over the former, but for the latter, he has quite a bit to work with.

Saturday, February 24, 2024


This week we learned that Alexander Smirnov, a one-time informant who's been arrested for lying to the FBI about Hunter Biden, obtained his phony dirt on the president's son from Russian intelligence officials. The number of pieces mentioning Smirnov that have appeared in The New York Times this week? Six.

We also learned about Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teenager who was assaulted by fellow students in a high school bathroom in Oklahoma, and who died the next day. The number of Times pieces mentioning Benedict this week? Four.

And we saw an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that defined embryos and blastocysts as children for the purposes of state law, a decision that threatens to make in vitro fertilization unavailable in the state. Times pieces referring to the IVF ruling and its ramifications this week? Twenty-four.

All three of these stories matter. Dan Froomkin correctly argues that the press needs to see the House GOP's presidential impeachment effort as corrupt and the party's most prominent politicians as witting or unwitting agents of Russia:
The story is no longer whether Joe Biden committed high crimes and misdemeanors by maintaining relations with his ne’er-do-well son. In fact, there has never been any credible evidence to support that conclusion.

The real story is that the ludicrous Republican impeachment investigation has now been exposed as a Russian intelligence op. This, even as Republicans do Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding by blocking support for Ukraine and only a few short years after Trump aides welcomed Russian moves to help the Trump campaign in 2016.

But the political reporters at our most esteemed newsrooms who went to great lengths to portray the Biden impeachment investigation as a serious inquiry seem unable to change gears.

I’m not surprised. It would require them to admit they were wrong. They don’t do that.
In the Oklahoma story, we know that the Twitter account Libs of TikTok, one of Elon Musk's favorites, targeted a pro-LGBTQ teacher at Nex Benedict's school a couple of years ago, and we know that the account's founder, Chaya Raichik, was appointed to the Oklahoma Department of Education’s Library Media Advisory Committee. We know that Benedict's family has strong doubts about early reports stating that Benedict's death appeared unrelated to the assault. All of this deserves more mainstream media coverage.

But it's the IVF story that's getting the most attention at The New York Times. Why? Because it's more relatable to the rich and upper-middle-class folks who decide what goes into the Times, and it's presumed to be more relatable to the paper's upmarket readers.

IVF is expensive, so it's mostly for an upscale clientele. Often, IVF clients are two-career couples who want children but didn't have them when they were young. Stories about the possible disappearance of IVF are worrisome to this demographic.

For some reason, the same people aren't worried that they could have a gay, trans, or nonbinary kid who's bullied and brutalized in school. Maybe they think such violence would never take place in their liberal suburban schools. Maybe they think they'd push back if one of their kids said they were trans or nonbinary. Maybe they just flat-out hate trans and nonbinary people, even if they've gotten used to the idea of gay people over the past couple of decades, and consider themselves liberal and open-minded. Or maybe that's just the writers and editors of the Times. Maybe the readers would be more sympathetic.

The Russia story doesn't seem to matter very much to the writers and editors. Hey, we had a president who was a Russian agent and life was okay. Gas was under $3 a gallon and the stock market was doing pretty well. So who cares?

IVF matters at the Times because it matters to the people who write and edit the Times, and presumably to the people who read it. Republicans can't get away with consequence-free IVF bans, even in a deep red state. But they can get away with many other outrages because the people who write and read the Times and other mainstream news sources don't believe those things will ever affect them personally.

Friday, February 23, 2024


A 2023 Heritage Society video clip on the subject of contraception was recirculating on social media in the wake of the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling on in vitro fertilization. Then Christopher Rufo entered the chat:

When Rufo publishes a fatwa, it usually means that whatever he's targeting will also be targeted by the entirety of the right. It's happened in the case of critical race theory, diversity programs at corporations and universities, and trans youth. So there's reason to worry.

But while Democratic politicians are usually too frightened to defend whatever (or whomever) Rufo and his allies are attacking, sex is an area where the public doesn't need to hear from Democratic politicans in order to recognize the threat. And it's not just young left-leaning people who think recreational sex is a good idea -- sex for pleasure has been enjoyed enthusiastically by their parents and grandparents, including many of the Republican ones. And remember, this is heterosexual sex we're talking about. Rufo and Heritage can't tap into homophobia and transphobia in this crusade.

Republicans don't have a good track record when they've tried to attack normie sexual behavior. In 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle delivered a speech in which he denounced a fictional TV character, Murphy Brown, for having a child out of wedlock. He'd said and done quite a few embarrassing things, but his laughingstock status was irreversible after that. A few years later, around the time Republicans were impeaching Bill Clinton, there was a drive to establish "covenant marriages" in the states; these marriages would be hard to terminate. The campaign foundered aftrer only three states made covenant marriages optional.

Some of the Heritage folks might be sincere about banning contraception, but I think Rufo is a cynic who doesn't really care about any of the issues on which he holds forth. If he's weighing in, I suspect he's trying to lay the groundwork for a future in which the right uses the Comstock Act to prevent the shipment of abortion pills. If they've got us talking about birth control bans, Rufo and his allies might hope that merely banning abortion pills will seem like a moderate position.

I also imagine they're planning to start blaming the real or imagined effects of abortion pills for social problems they don't want the government to address, the way right-wingers now routinely blame anti-depressants for school shootings. If there's a rise in poverty or teen pregnancy after an all-GOP government zeroes out federal funds for family planning, blame the Pill! It makes young women crazy!

And they might be trying to link this sex-should-have-consequences message to the "tradwife" movement, which denounces feminism and embraces women who stay at home and have lots of babies. This messaging also has links to the culture of incels, many of whom denounce the casual sex they're not getting to enjoy and dream of marrying virgins.

And, of course, Heritage and Rufo may see this as a long march: Maybe they'll be able to ban birth control someday, but it will take decades. (That means, of course, that it's a goal they can use in fundraising for decades.)

I think Republicans could very well manage to ban emergency contraception and IUDs, based on the argument that life begins at conception rather than implantation. But I don't see them successfully banning other forms of birth control right away -- it would be political suicide.

For the true believers, I suppose the argument that the chemicals in the Pill make women crazy can be used to attack implantable contraception, or the contraceptive foam used with diaphragms, but I don't see how it can be used to ban condoms. (We handed condoms out to GIs in World War II!)

But these folks are gearing up for a long battle. I don't think they'll win soon, but maybe they don't want to.

Thursday, February 22, 2024


Joe Biden leads the presidential race by 4, according to a new Quinnipiac poll:
In a hypothetical 2024 general election presidential matchup, President Joe Biden holds a small lead over former President Donald Trump with 49 percent of registered voters supporting Biden and 45 percent supporting Trump, according to a Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pea-ack) University national poll of registered voters released today.
Quinnipiac has been Biden's best poll recently -- he led by 6 in a survey the firm released last month.

Biden has a 1-point lead in a multi-candidate race:
When the hypothetical matchup is expanded to include independent and Green Party candidates, Biden receives 38 percent support, Trump receives 37 percent support, independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. receives 15 percent support, independent candidate Cornel West receives 3 percent support, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein receives 3 percent support.
Quinnipiac is an outlier -- apart from the firm's two 2024 surveys, every other poll released this year has Trump in the lead, is a tie, or has Biden up by 1. In most of these polls, Trump is in the lead. But Quinnipiac might be right! Polls have been underestimating the Democrats' strength in most elections since 2020.

But there are some unsettling numbers here. Yes, this is just one poll, but if it's accurate, it's more evidence that the Democrats' grip on younger voters is slipping. The two-candidate race is effectively even in every under-65 age group, though Biden has a small lead in every non-senior age category. Biden leads by 4 because of a double-digit lead among seniors:

Now look at the five-candidate race:

Trump has a tiny lead in the under-50 age categories -- and the minor-party vote explodes: 36% of 18-to-34-year-olds say they're going to vote for Kennedy, West, or Stein, more than the percentage who say they'll vote for Biden or Trump. The minor-party vote is 25% in the 35-to-49 group, 19% in the 50-to-64 group, and only 13% in the senior group.

If this is correct, the youngest voters hate the two-party system, or at least the two major-party candidates they've been offered. And although polling tends to overestimate minor-party voting, there'll be a double-digit minor-party vote among the young even if this number is three times the actual minor-party number in November.

I don't believe Cornel West will be on any ballots in November -- as Forbes reported in December, West is effectively broke and running an underfunded, understaffed campaign. I have my doubts about Kennedy, too, after reading Mediaite's report on wasteful spending in his campaign. So if neither of these candidates is on most state ballots (and if No Labels doesn't run a candidate, which appears more and more likely), will disgruntled young people vote in surprising numbers for Jill Stein? Will they refuse to vote? Will they conclude that Trump isn't the staus quo and Biden is, so voting for Trump is kinda-sorta like voting for Bernie? Or will they come home to Biden? It'll be some combination of those, but I don't know the proportions.

Here's another weird result: Biden loses to Nikki Haley 46%-43% -- but if the minor-party candidates are included, Biden beats Haley in a blowout, 35%-27%. How does that happen? Here are the numbers by party:

Haley gets only 56% of the Republican vote! Kennedy gets 30%! I keep telling you that her fight with Trump has made Haley quite unpopular among Republicans -- right now, her favorable rating among GOP respondents is only 43.3%, with a 37.8% unfavorable rating, according to FiveThirtyEight's average. In the Quinnipiac poll, her favorable and unfavorable numbers among Republicans are 42%/32%. Kennedy's numbers among Republicans are 40%/17%. His net favorable rating among Republicans is much higher than hers. (For comparison, Biden's favorable/unfavorable numbers among Democrats are 83%/16%. Among Republicans, Trump's numbers are 87%/13%.)

That five-candidate race is highly unlikely -- but if it happened, Haley and Kennedy would split the anti-Biden vote, and Biden would cruise to victory. (Another fun fact: Kennedy wins among independents by double digits.)

Again, this is just one poll. But there are some strange numbers in it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024


Amanda Marcotte thinks Donald Trump is an atheist.
If there were only some way to prove it, I would happily bet everything I own that Donald Trump does not believe in God. Not because he's carefully engaged the many philosophical proofs for atheism that are out there, of course. He's simply too much of a sociopathic narcissist to believe in anything higher than himself.
I disagree. Marcotte is a Texan. In her part of the country, religion generally means zealotry. I'm from the urban Northeast, like Trump. Also, I'm much older than Marcotte, though not quite as old as Trump.

Trump and I grew up in an era before the Religious Right existed. We grew up in environments where there were no angry white Evangelicals. There was certainly religious conservatism, but we grew up with what I think of as Bing Crosby religion, where there might be guilt about sin, but much of the God talk referred to him as "the Man Upstairs," or with some similar epithet that suggested he was a kindly old bearded paterfamilias who wasn't much of a day-to-day presence, and who just wanted to keep everyone on the straight and narrow, more or less. I don't imagine Trump ever gives it much thought, but I think he still believes in that God -- with some adjustments, because he's Trump.
He also, as recent court verdicts regarding sexual assault and massive fraud demonstrate, has no moral compass.
Where Trump and I come from, it's very common for Mob bosses to be big patrons of the Catholic Church. I think few if any of those Mob bosses have been cynical atheists. I think they've been believers -- and they think the God they believe in regards them as good people. (Look at that beautiful new altar! I paid for that!) I think Trump feels this way, too. I think he believes in a God who admires him and will gladly let him into Heaven.
When he play-acts belief in public, he struggles to hide his scorn, failing to acknowledge basic precepts of Christianity that even most non-believers understand.
I went to Marcotte's link for the phrase "failing to acknowledge basic precepts of Christianity." It's a Washington Post story from the 2016 campaign, and it illustrates what I'm talking about:
For at least the third time since he became a candidate for president, Donald Trump was asked whether he seeks God’s forgiveness. The first two times he said no, but in an interview published Wednesday his answer was a bit vaguer.

Here is the exchange, which ran on the blog of Cal Thomas, a syndicated columnist and conservative Christian leader:

Thomas: “You have said you never felt the need to ask for God’s forgiveness, and yet repentance for one’s sins is a precondition to salvation. I ask you the question Jesus asked of Peter: Who do you say He is?”

Trump: “I will be asking for forgiveness, but hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness.”

Thomas: “Who do you say Jesus is?”

Trump: “Jesus to me is somebody I can think about for security and confidence. Somebody I can revere in terms of bravery and in terms of courage and, because I consider the Christian religion so important, somebody I can totally rely on in my own mind.”
There it is: Trump, in his first two responses to a question about God's forgiveness, said he didn't need any. God likes me! God thinks I'm a good person! In this interview, he qualified that answer -- presumably because advisers had told him it played poorly with Religious Right voters -- but he didn't imagine he'd need "much forgiveness." As for Jesus, he's a powerful figure, but Trump feels he can rely on using that power for his own ends ("somebody I can think about for security and confidence ... somebody I can totally rely on in my own mind").

What Trump says about Jesus sounds similar to statements he's made about Kim Jong Un or Vladimir Putin -- which leads us to this from Marcotte:
Much of the press continues to treat it like a mystery as to why Trump and Republicans keep making googly eyes at Russian President Vladimir Putin....

Trump's Christian nationalism, however, unlocks why this is not a mystery at all. Putin's Russia is a model of the Christian dictatorship that MAGA Republicans want. Even though he's a murderous authoritarian, Putin frequently portrays himself as a devoted Christian whose violent and oppressive ways are in service of "protecting" his faith. Like his allies in the U.S., however, Putin's Christianity is not about love and compassion. He regularly murders his critics, and of course, is currently inflicting mass death on Ukrainians. Putin's Christianity is defined by who he hates: Feminists, LGBTQ people, Ukrainians, and anyone perceived as liberal or open-minded.
I think Putin's extremely cynical embrace of Christianity -- he's probably an atheist -- helps explain why many other Republicans have warmed to him. But I lean toward the belief that Trump has been working with the Russians since the 1980s. He likes strongmen. He feels stronger when he's associating with thugs.

In Trump's mind, I think Jesus is a strongman: "somebody I can think about for security and confidence. Somebody I can revere in terms of bravery and in terms of courage."

Trump grew up hearing about a God who wasn't particularly demanding. Some of us who grew up with this God worried that we'd be damned to Hell for some of the things we did (and then some of us got older and stopped believing). Trump, I'm guessing, is one of those people who never thought that God would punish him -- he's a good guy! But he can imagine a God who protects him and punishes his enemies -- which is what a real tough guy should do.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024


This worries me, though I'm not sure it will really happen if Trump wins:
An influential think tank close to Donald Trump is developing plans to infuse Christian nationalist ideas in his administration should the former president return to power, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

Spearheading the effort is Russell Vought, who served as Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget during his first term and has remained close to him. Vought, who is frequently cited as a potential chief of staff in a second Trump White House, is president of The Center for Renewing America think tank, a leading group in a conservative consortium preparing for a second Trump term....

The documents obtained by POLITICO do not outline specific Christian nationalist policies. But Vought has promoted a restrictionist immigration agenda, saying a person’s background doesn’t define who can enter the U.S., but rather, citing Biblical teachings, whether that person “accept[ed] Israel’s God, laws and understanding of history.”

Vought has a close affiliation with Christian nationalist William Wolfe, a former Trump administration official who has advocated for overturning same-sex marriage, ending abortion and reducing access to contraceptives....

America should be recognized as a Christian nation “where our rights and duties are understood to come from God,” Vought wrote two years ago in Newsweek.
It's quite possible that Trump will let these people do everything they want to do if he's president again -- but it's also possible that these people are boasting to Politico and other news outlets about how much clout they'll have in a Trump White House, with no proof that they'll actually run the show. The story includes a quote from the Trump campaign about whisperings like this:
The Trump campaign has said repeatedly that it alone is responsible for assembling a policy platform and staffing for a future administration. In response to various news articles about how conservatives are preparing for a second Trump term, campaign advisers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita said in a memo late last year: “Despite our being crystal clear, some ‘allies’ haven’t gotten the hint, and the media, in their anti-Trump zeal, has been all-too-willing to continue using anonymous sourcing and speculation about a second Trump administration in an effort to prevent a second Trump administration.”
Trump doesn't really care about any of these issues. He works with these people because he thinks they can help him get elected. Maybe he'll give them free rein if he's president again. Maybe he won't.

But let's assume the worst. Let's assume that plans being cooked up by the Center for Renewing America and the Heritage Foundation and other evil villains will be the Trump agenda if he wins. What can prevent the erosion of freedom and pluralism in America?

The answer might be: celebrities.

Trump is easily distracted by celebrities, particularly celebrities who say mean things about him. Rolling Stone tells us that in his final days in office in January 2021, Trump allowed himself to be distracted by insults from -- yes, really -- Snoop Dogg.

Snoop was working with the White House to obtain clemency for an imprisoned friend, Michael "Harry-O" Harris. But then a Daily Beast story appeared with an old anti-Trump quote from Snoop, and a reminder of an anti-Trump scene in a Snoop video:
“I don’t give a fuck, I tell ’em straight up, motherfucker: If you like that nigga, you motherfuckin’ racist,” Snoop Dogg said about Trump, his MAGA fans, and the president’s pal Kanye West in 2018. “Fuck you and fuck him. Now what?” In March 2017, Trump had tweeted, “Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!” (Trump was referring to a music video — in which Snoop aims a toy gun at a clown who looks like the 45th U.S. president — that had clearly gotten the leader of the free world worked up.)
Trump reversed course on clemency for Harris, saying of Snoop, "Well, fuck him."

A later clip of Snoop saying nice things about Trump was forwarded to the White House. It came from a documentary film about Harris that was in the works.
Trump was indeed shown the documentary footage, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter, and a handful of senior administration officials who still had Trump’s ear and trust after the Jan. 6 riot personally vouched for Harris and Snoop in the hectic final moments of Trump’s term.

The president said he appreciated what he saw as Snoop Dogg’s sincerity and plaudits, the source with direct knowledge and a former Trump official say. About 24 hours before he was to step down from power, Trump instructed his advisers to re-add Harris’ name to the pardon and commutations list.
This tells me that anti-Trump celebrities have a patriotic duty if Trump wins again. They need to get into beefs with Trump on a regular basis. They need to distract him repeatedly. They need to direct so much of his attention to them that he neglects to sign off on fascist policy proposals.

Rosie O'Donnell? Kathy Griffin? Rob Reiner? Jon Legend and Chrissy Teigen? You need to be soldiers in the resistance army. You need to keep Trump focused on you, not Christian nationalism or unitary-executive authoritarianism. It might not work -- but it might be our only hope.

Your country needs you, anti-Trump celebrities. Please do your patriotic duty.

Sunday, February 18, 2024


As I've told you a couple of times, Axios reported in January that Joe Biden's campaign "has internal data indicating that most of the undecided voters Biden is targeting don't think Trump will be the Republican nominee because they haven't tuned into an election that's more than nine months away." I've argued that these voters might not believe Trump will be the nominee because the press, desperate for a horserace, is lying about the possibility that he can be defeated in the primaries. The New York Times is doing it again:
Haley Says She Is Going the Distance Against Trump. Here’s Her Plan.
That's the headline. The subhead acknowledges that Haley can't really pull this off ("The former South Carolina governor is expected to lose big in her home state. Beyond that, it’s an even steeper climb"), but the text of the story conveys the impression that, actually, her plan is well conceived:
The Haley campaign has announced teams of elected officials, business leaders and prominent community members to help lead their efforts in Alaska, California, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Utah and Washington. Her “National Women for Nikki Coalition,” which counts chapters in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, has kicked into full gear, with a mission to court suburban women turned off by Mr. Trump.

On the day after the South Carolina primary, regardless of the outcome, Ms. Haley has said she will head to Michigan, which holds its own contest Feb. 27. From there, she has plans to crisscross the country ahead of Super Tuesday, the largest single day of the primary season, and the last real chance she will have to prove she can change the course of the nomination. The expected stops include Colorado, Minnesota, Utah and Virginia. Ms. Haley is betting her candidacy on courting independents and new Republicans in Michigan and in 11 Super Tuesday states where Republican primaries are not limited to voters affiliated with her own party....
The Times says the plan seems futile, but it's presented to us as if it isn't futile -- and surely there's a chance if billionaires think there is:
In interviews, some of Ms. Haley’s high-dollar donors in Texas and California echoed her focus on Mr. Trump’s and President Biden’s advanced ages, and cited Mr. Trump’s legal cases as signs that anything remains possible in the race. Mr. Trump spent Thursday in a Manhattan courtroom on criminal charges stemming from a hush-money payment to a porn star in 2016. A New York judge on Friday ordered him to pay a penalty of nearly $355 million plus interest after finding him liable for conspiring to manipulate his net worth.

“A lot can happen in politics and in our legal system,” said Timothy Draper, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Haley donor. “And the American people usually come to their senses when they come to the polls.”
(They do? Really?)

A fact that's never mentioned in this story -- because I appear to be the only political commentator in America who's noticed it -- is that Haley isn't very popular among Republicans, undoubtedly because Donald Trump has all but ordered his followers to hate her. I've talked about this before, but her numbers just get worse and worse. Here are the stats, according to FiveThirtyEight:

If she stays in the race through Super Tuesday, her unfavorables among Republicans will be higher than her favorables. She'll be headed to Chris Christie territory. She'll be at risk of becoming this year's Jeb Bush.

And it certainly won't help her with Republicans that The Washington Post is now describing her as a member of "the resistance":
As the former South Carolina governor has sharpened her rhetoric against Trump, she has emerged — partly purposefully, partly unintentionally — as a key voice in the anti-Trump resistance, articulating a forceful case against four more years of the former president....

The heightened anti-Trump tone has prompted comparisons between Haley and Liz Cheney....
This is going to be catnip for Trump. I'm sure his staff has already printed out the Post article for him, with the key passages highlighted. I'm sure he'll be linking her to "the resistance" in campaign appearances. Among Republicans, this will drive his numbers up and hers down.

The Post story tells us:
The Haley campaign and allies ... argue what many Democrats privately concede: that Haley could prove a far more formidable general election candidate against Biden, and that Democrats prefer to run against Trump. Haley is performing slightly better against Biden than Trump is in a Washington Post average of recent polls.
In the Real Clear Polling average, Haley is beating Biden by 3.6 while Trump is beating Biden by 1.1 -- but her advantage in a general election is starting to vanish. In a recent NPR/PBS/Marist poll, Biden leads both Trump and Haley by 1; in a late-January Emerson poll, both Trump and Haley lead by 1. I assume this is because Haley gains moderates but loses Trump voters -- in the NPR poll, Trump gets 93% of the Republican vote, while Haley gets only 78%; Haley gets 12% of the Democratic vote, while Trump gets 6%.

If you're imagining that a beleaguered Trump might look at his court schedule, drop out of the race, and graciously endorse the woman he's been calling "Birdbrain" for several months, you're delusional -- that would be an acknowledgment of weakness, and Trump won't let that happen. We know from the Supreme Courts arguments that Trump won't be removed from ballots judicially. So why is the media continuing to report on Nikki Haley as a viable candidate?

Maybe you think she'll simply seize the nomination if Trump drops dead. I think subsequent nominating contests could look like the Nevada primary, in which Haley lost to "none of these candidates": Voters will pick the dead Trump over Haley wherever possible, in the hope that delegates at the convention will pick a suitably MAGA alternative.

If late-state primary voters can't do that, I think they'll find other ways to send a signal that Haley isn't accaptable to them. The next January 6 might be the Republican convention, and the insurrectionists might win this time. If they lose, the party risks losing many MAGA votes in November. That's why they're likely to be given whatever they want. That might be a good outcome for America -- I think Joe Biden could beat Donald Trump Jr. -- but it won't be a good return on investment for Nikki Haley's billionaire donors, or mainstream-media cheerleaders.

Saturday, February 17, 2024


Donald Trump now owes half a billion dollars after losing several civil trials. That's nice, but I won't be happy until his poll numbers take as big a hit as his bank account. Maybe that will start happening now, but at this moment he leads President Biden head-to-head by 1.1% (after winning the Electoral College in 2016 despite a 2.1% popular vote loss and nearly winning it again in 2020 despite a 4.5% loss). Trump leads in nearly every swing state. Don't these people know what's happening to Trump in courtrooms?

As James Poniewozik of The New York Times points out, none of Trump's recent trials have been televised, and his upcoming federal trials (assuming they ever happen) are unlikely to be televised either. So far, Trump is using the power of the media to spin what's happening to him, and he seems to have no high-profile counterpart doing the same on the other side:
In each case, Mr. Trump has sought out the cameras, or brought in his own, to offer a stream-of-consciousness heave of legal complaints and re-election arguments. In the process, the former reality-TV host and current presidential candidate has turned his many legal cases into one-sided TV productions and campaign ads....

After closing arguments in the fraud case, Mr. Trump took questions and reiterated his complaint in front of a wall of flags at his property 40 Wall Street, wearing a red tie and flag pin, as though he had just walked out of a summit meeting. Before the verdict in the Carroll trial, he appeared in a video on his social media platform Truth Social to declare, “I don’t even know who this woman is,” from a stately, wood-paneled room, flanked by two more American flags....

Mr. Trump’s star-spangled tirades exploit a void in TV imagery, at a time when Americans have become used to seeing everything from police-violence cases to celebrity defamation trials live on TV.

... outside the court, he recasts himself as the defiant fighter. Appearing on camera at his own properties, arrayed in flags, he is in control. He is vested with authority. He is, the set dressing seems to suggest, still the president.

His appearances may be inaccurate or irrelevant or unhelpful to his legal defense. But they are forceful, a perception he always sought.

... the headlines and TV captions are Trump Lashes, Trump Hits, Trump Slams — the kind of verbs of vitality and power (Hulk smash!) that are as valuable to him as currency.
Trump, in effect, has set up a spin room for himself, one in which he's the chief spinner. What he says in the spin room is that his trials are an election story, and he's punching back hard at victory-minded Democrats who are using "lawfare" to punish him. On the other side, there's no prominent Democrat spinning back.

I'd feel better if there were a high-profile Democrat known for snark who could be Trump's chief antagonist. If Democrats operated like Republicans, it might be the president -- or, more likely, the vice president -- who'd take on this task. Republican tickets tend to have a Spiro Agnew, someone whose job it is to bash the opposition. Sometimes it's the president (Ronald Reagan did Democrat-bashing with a wink and a smile). Sometimes it's the VP accusing Democrats of disloyalty to country (Dick Cheney). Republicans who take on this task aren't always effective -- hi, Dan Quayle -- but Democratic tickets never seem to include a person who takes on this job. And Democratic congressional leaders tend to be too earnest and humorless to do the job effectively.

I'm sorry the Trump trials aren't being televised. His behavior in court and the prosecutors' presentation of the facts would probably be all the spin we'd need. But failing that, the trial outcomes aren't sufficiently vivid for non-MAGA voters. (The fraud trial isn't even the lead story at right now.) Trump might end this year a broke-ass felon and the president-elect. Democrats can't rely solely on the law to prevent the latter outcome. They need to talk about why Trump is losing in court. (Short answer: because he really has done things that aren't legal.) They need to seize the narrative.

Friday, February 16, 2024


Putin critic Alexei Navalny has died in prison, and the right has settled on a response:

See also Dinesh D'Souza:

The obvious point of this propaganda is the obvious point of all Republican propaganda: to tell Republican voters that their enemies are unspeakably evil -- much more evil, in this case, than Vladimir Putin.

The less obvious point is to reassure Republican voters that they don't need to trouble their silly little heads over geopolitics, because the actual nature of Putin's reginme is much less important than the fact that DimmoCRAPs suck!

This is exactly how Republicans responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine: by telling GOP voters that their key takeaway should be Why do globalists care so much about Ukraine's border when they don't care what's happening on our border?

When something newsworthy happens in another country, ordinary Americans don't want to bother learning about the relevant issues. That's like honmework! Republican propaganda assures them that they can reduce anything that happens in the world to a metaphor for domestic politics -- and the key thing to understand about domestic politics, of course, is that Democrats are really, really bad. Keep it simple!

Thursday, February 15, 2024


Donald Trump is trying to make the Republican Party into Trump Organization 2.0. New York magazine's Ed Kilgore writes:
The former president’s bulletproof standing in the 2024 presidential-nomination contest has made it exceptionally easy for him to begin remolding his party in his own image. This project achieved an early milestone with his planned replacement of RNC chair Ronna McDaniel with an ultraloyalist North Carolina operative named Michael Whatley, along with Trump’s own daughter-in-law Lara ... as co-chair.

Lara Trump is not simply a political nepo baby, however. She could well represent the final subjugation of any broader goals or purpose of the national party beyond hailing the chief. Her first comment about what she wanted to do with her RNC post, as Fox News reported, was highly illustrative:
“The RNC needs to be the leanest, most lethal political fighting machine we’ve ever seen in American history,” Lara Trump told Newsmax ...

“Every single penny will go to the No. 1 and the only job of the RNC — that is electing Donald J. Trump as president of the United States and saving this country.”
I'm not sure what this tells us about the Republican Party. But it might be telling us something about a possible second Trump administration.

Michael Whatley's chief qualification for the job of RNC chair is, in Trump's eyes, the fact that he's a strong believer in Trump's big election lie. Lara Trump's principal qualification is that she's Trump's daughter-in-law (and also an election denialist).

What do we fear about a second Trump presidency? That he'll follow the path laid out in the Heritage Foundation's Project 2025 and do massive damage to vital parts of America's government and democratic system. But his picks for the RNC aren't totalitarian theorists -- they're people who proclaim that the 2020 election was stolen and will say the same thing in 2024 if Joe Biden wins. If that happens, they'll direct party resources to another attempted Trump election theft. That's Trump's sole criterion for the job of RNC leader.

I'll repeat what I've been saying: While it's quite possible that Trump will fully empower Project 2025's America-destroyers as president, I think it's also possible that he'll focus so much on what matters to him personally -- keeping his ass out of prison and bankruptcy, along with making life miserable for the immigrants he despises -- that the rest might not get done. He might politicize but not dismantle the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. He might never get around to invoking the Insurrection Act in order to sic federal troops on anti-Trump demonstrators. He might not wage legal warfare against the mainstream media. (He won't admit it, but in many ways he likes the mainstream media.) He might not even try to jail Joe Biden. (He never tried to lock up Hillary Clinton.)

Trump is focused on winning. I'm not sure he sees past that. He'll do quite a bit of serious damage to America even in this (somewhat) less bleak scenario, but he won't do as much damage as he could.

Unlike, say, Ron DeSantis, Trump isn't a big-thinking totalitarian. He's just the biggest narcissist who's ever lived. If he wins, that might be what (barely) saves America.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024


Good news for Democrats:
Former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D) has won back his old seat in the House, giving Democrats a critical pickup that will further narrow the GOP House majority....

Suozzi defeated Republican Mazi Pilip in the special election to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. George Santos....
Suozzi won the race by 8 points. Polls showed him leading by 3 or 4 points.

Politico now suggests that a Suozzi win was all but inevitable:
Democrats had a slew of advantages in the race. A recent former incumbent with extremely high name ID in the most expensive media market in the country. A massive fundraising and spending advantage. A short six-week timeline that made it difficult for Republicans to catch up. And GOP groups that largely sat out the race for the first few weeks.
But that wasn't what the press was saying before Election Day. On February 2, Politico published a story headlined "GOP Puts Dems on Defensive Over Border Security in Bellwether Special Election":
... between the surge of migrants to New York City — more than 170,000 since April 2022 — and the infrastructure of the hyper-organized Nassau County Republican Committee, Democrats find themselves on the defensive.

“This is our seat to win,” Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, a Nassau County Republican, said in an interview....

So far, Democrats are showing caution as Republicans are projecting confidence — especially around border politics.

“I will work to stop Joe Biden and Tom Suozzi’s sanctuary city policies and secure our border and invest in our brave ICE agents,” Pilip pledged....

Her campaign’s first three TV ads have featured juxtaposed images of Suozzi, Biden and masses of migrants on the move at the Southern border. An ad push by the House GOP super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund also capitalizes on migrant crisis backlash.

There’s good reason for that: An Emerson College/PIX11 poll found 26 percent of voters in the district listed immigration as their top concern....

Republicans have an easier task.

They must persuade voters concerned enough to head to the polls in a typically low-turnout special election that they have a better handle over the migrant crisis....

Democrats, by contrast, are on the defensive.

They must juggle acknowledging the gravity of the situation while calling out the GOP on leveraging it for political gain — and do both without undermining the president.
Under the headline "In the Land of George Santos, Machine Politics Fuels a G.O.P. Revival," a pre-election New York Times story touted the awesomeness of the local Republican political operation:
After decades of electoral losses and corruption scandals, the organization has roared back to life in the New York City suburbs....

In just the last three years, Republicans have swept every major office in the county, filling high-profile posts and hundreds of patronage jobs with party regulars often obliged to return the favor come campaign season....

One need only drive the streets of Levittown or Glen Cove on Long Island to understand the party’s reach. On any given Saturday, some of the 2,000 local Republican committeemen — many of them taking time off from plum government jobs — have fanned out to pull out the vote door by door....

It is the kind of organized force that has made the group perhaps the most powerful remaining political machine in the country....
CNN's pre-election headline was "New York Democrats Are Worried About Tuesday’s Special Election. They Have Good Reason to Be":
“Long Island is running hot, and when people run hot, they run Republican,” said Alyssa Cass, a Democratic strategist. “George Santos was not an accident. His election was the direct result of years and years of careful Republican recruitment, party building and outreach in Long Island.”

... Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer lost the county while otherwise cruising to reelection in 2022. The year before, Democrat Laura Curran, the top official in Nassau County, was ousted by Republican Bruce Blakeman. GOP gains continued into 2023 – well after the Santos fiasco was in full flight – and Republicans are now close to dominant in local offices.
And a local news site called City and State New York asked, "Can Tom Suozzi Win in an Increasingly Conservative Long Island?"
Nassau County has a Republican executive, Bruce Blakeman, whose spokesperson said he plans to be heavily involved in the race. Nassau County’s other member of Congress, Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, attended Pilip’s launch event and will likely be involved in get-out-the-vote efforts ahead of his own race later this year. Popular and influential Republicans former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato and former Rep. Pete King also came out for Pilip’s first campaign event, a show of force of the strength of the Republican brand on Long Island.

It’s a stark contrast to Suozzi’s own launch event roughly a week earlier. His rally featured no other current or former Democratic officials....

The Democratic brand on Long Island, strongly associated with perceived harmful policies coming out of Albany and Washington, D.C., is considered by some to be practically toxic.
The pre-election stories did acknowledge Suozzi's much higher name recognition and the national Democratic Party's strong commitment to the race, but there was a clear suggestion in those stories that the district is now solidly Republican, with a much stronger Republican political apparatus.

Yet now that the Democrats have won and beaten the polls, the victory seems to be no big deal. Funny how that works.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024


Here's Jamison Foser on Bluesky:

That's certainly how it feels, even though the Times endorsed Al Gore in 2000, endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, and endorsed Joe Biden in 2020. Unless there's a centrist third-party challenger with a serious chance to beat Donald Trump in November -- which is unlikely -- the Times will endorse Biden again this fall.

And yet the Times liked Bush's war, and seems to treat Trump's pathologies as normal political behavior.

I think we're watching a '30s Hollywood romantic comedy. The Times is engaged to the well-meaning, socially appropriate dullard (Gore, Hillary, Biden), but can't stop thinking about the inappropriate bad boy (Trump, Bush). In the Hollywood version of this story, the bad boy isn't really bad -- he's socially inappropriate, but he has magnetism and audacity and self-confidence and swagger. Of course he gets the girl.

In real life, these bad boys are often genuinely bad. Bush (and Dick Cheney and Karl Rove) certainly were, and Trump obviously is. But many people second-guess their negative assessments of these bad boys because the bad boys are so sure of themselves. They don't express self-doubt. They follow the Roy Cohn playbook: never apologize, never explain, always stay on offense. So, some observers conclude, maybe ... they're right?

But it has to be more than that, because Bill Clinton had some of those bad-boy skills, and the Times hated him. Maybe it's because he'd sometimes bite his lip and acknowledge error. Or maybe it's because the Times is only occasionally left of center -- on abortion and maybe, by now, on homosexuality (though obviously not on the subject of trans people). The Times is, perhaps, JFK Democratic, or Scoop Jackson Democratic, which isn't liberal at all. It reflexively endorses Democrats -- but when it turns off the bedroom light, it dreams of Republicans.