Tuesday, April 30, 2024


This happened overnight at Columbia University:
Dozens of protesters seized Hamilton Hall in the early hours of Tuesday morning, moving metal gates to barricade the doors, blocking entrances with wooden tables and chairs, and zip-tying doors shut.

Protestors carrying barricades entered Hamilton through the leftmost door of the building at approximately 12:30 a.m. Shortly after, a protester broke the window of the rightmost door of Hamilton as dozens more formed a human barricade directly outside the Hamilton doors. Within minutes, protesters sealed Hamilton while hundreds more flooded in front of the building.
News consumers will see broken windows a lot in the next day or two -- and possibly for much longer than that:

Does this remind you of anything?

The story of January 6 is contested. Republicans want you to see it the way Tucker Carlson did:

Only Republican zealots think January 6 was peaceful. But it will be harder to make the case that January 6 was intolerably violent when pro-Gaza demonstrators are doing things we associate with January 6 insurrectionists.

Republicans have been doing this kind of compare-and-contrast for years, of course. They've argued that the protests held in the wake of George Floyd's murder were riots led by Black Lives Matter and Antifa terrorists. In their own media, they cherry-pick the worst visuals, and contrast them with the most placid clips of January 6.

Obviously, that's persuasive to Republican voters and less persuasive to everyone else. But bad footage of the Floyd protests exists, and it undoubtedly has some impact on how middle-of-the-road voters see that time period, and January 6 in particular.

An argument that isn't made often enough is this: On some level it doesn't matter whether other protests were more violent than January 6, because January 6 was about overturning the results of a democratic election. As bad as the violence may have become in the worst of the George Floyd protests, those protesters seized temporary control of the streets -- they didn't attempt to seize ongoing control of the government in defiance of the will of voters. It may be bad to smash store windows or overturn police cars, but elections are fundamental to our system of government. The correct way to measure the seriousness of what happened is not the degree of violence, but the danger inherent in the potential outcome.

But we rarely hear that, so the protests are judged based on how unruly they look. And the campus protests are looking worse.

Monday, April 29, 2024


Kat Abughazaleh catches Jesse Watters of Fox News telling fellow panelists on The Five that the Gaza protests on campus are happening because female students don't have boyfriends:

JESSE WATTERS: Females -- I think I can speak for the women at the table -- are generally nurturing people. And when their professors are giving them better grades for their social activism, they're trying to appeal to their teachers, and they've been told they're oppressed as women, and they identify with the Palestinians, and they're trying to hug them and nurture them.

Because they're single, they're not nurturing their boyfriends. Their boyfriends have been described as toxic. So they're trying to nurture other people.
This is the language of the manosphere (demeaningly referring to women as "females," accusing them of misandry), with a slightly varied message (young women aren't having massive amounts of indiscriminate sex with tall, handsome "Chads," they're channeling that energy into activism instead). This is directed not at sexually frustrated young men, like most manosphere media content, but rather at the older men who are a large part of Fox's audience. Presumably some of these men are also sexually frustrated, but even the ones who aren't are likely to envy the protesters' youth and presumed sexual vigor -- and they're likely to be the kind of men who expect every woman to be flirty and smiley, especially toward men like themselves, rather than serious about a cause.

If you think this is just one isolated sexist riff, I refer you to NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway's weekend appearance on Bill Maher's show, which was lovingly written up in the New York Post:
NYU professor Scott Galloway said that college campuses were increasingly becoming reminiscent of Nazi Germany — and attributed the reason partly to young people not having enough sex.

“We need to enjoy sex,” Galloway offered to some initial confusion during an appearance on “Real Time” with Bill Maher Friday.

“I think part of the problem is young people aren’t having enough sex so they go on the hunt for fake threats and the most popular threat through history is [antisemitism].”
Galloway loves this argument. Here he is on CNN:
One reason for the rampant campus Israel protests, says NYU Professor Scott Galloway, is that "Protesting is the new sex....You get a dopa hit from gathering together in fighting off a perceived enemy [and] I think they're on the hunt for what I'd call a fake mortal enemy."
How sexually obsessed is Professor Galloway? Very sexaully obsessed:

If you think that sounds bad, trust me, the reality is worse:

This professor's obsession with young people's sex lives reminds me of T Bone Burnett's 1983 spoken-word song "The Sixties," particularly the second verse, about a frustrated man:

... after a while, he started hearing about free love
And he felt left out
And he tortured his imagination dreaming of pot parties
With those suntanned girls in halter tops with their cutoffs slit up to their belt loops
Then he saw a picture in Playboy of Ursula Andress on the arm of some hippie and that did it
He began his rebellion late
And now he's got a designer camper
And one time he even got to sleep in it with one of those girls in the cutoffs
But it made me feel awful
'Cause he had to pay her fifty dollars
And it was twenty for anybody else
I'll close with this guy, a troll who was posting briefly at Bluesky until he was banned:

In the master narrative of the manosphere, college-age women have indiscriminate sex with alpha males until time catches up with them at the advanced age of 30, or even 25, at which point they're shriveled-up old crones no man would be interested in -- childless, unattached, alone with their cats, full of antidepressants, and miserable. That's the narrative this troll seems to be invoking. Watters and Galloway rewrite the narraative, but this is it in its pure form. None of these guys seem capable of imagining that anyone could engage in protest because they believe in the cause.

Sunday, April 28, 2024


On Friday, The Guardian's Martin Pengelly reported that South Dakota governor Kristi Noem -- a top contender for the job of Donald Trump's running mate -- confesses to murdering a dog and a goat in her forthcoming memoir, No Turning Back. Noem says she shot the 14-month-old dog to death after it attacked a neighbor's chickens, and also killed a goat owned by her family that was, in her telling "nasty and mean" as well as foul-smelling.

According to the media, reaction to the story was swift -- and bipartisan. Politico's headline is "Dems, GOP Bash Kristi Noem for Shooting Her Dog." The headline at Salon is "'Cruel and Insane': Republicans Condemn Kristi Noem's Dog-Killing Revelation." The Daily Beast headline is "Republicans Pile On as Kristi Noem Cripples Her Shot at Being Trump’s VP."

Obviously, this story isn't about a major issue facing the country. But we're being told that the Republican response has bee similar to the Democratic response when, in fact, most of Noem's GOP critics are actually anti-Trump Republicans (or former Republicans), as the Daily Beast story makes clear:
Alyssa Farrah Griffith, the Trump administration’s former director of strategic communications, wrote that she was “horrified” by the story, in a post on X. “A 14-month old dog is still a puppy & can be trained. A large part of bad behavior in dogs is not having proper training from the humans responsible for them.”

... Sarah Matthews, a former Trump aide posted on X, saying she was shocked that Noem had told on herself in such an outrageous way.
Griffith and Matthews broke with Trump years ago, cooperated with the House January 6 committee, and continue to be Trump critics.
Meghan McCain also jumped on the South Dakota governor’s atrocious anecdote. “You can recover from a lot of things in politics, change the narrative etc.—but not from killing a dog,” McCain wrote.
McCain has been a Trump critic since Trump verbally attacked her father in 2015.

Salon's story surfaces the same names, as well as this one:
Lincoln Project cofounder Rick Wilson kept it simple, tweeting “Good morning to all you who didn’t shoot your puppy in the face.”
The only Noem critic named in these stories who isn't a professional anti-Trumper is Laura Loomer:
Even top Trump ally Laura Loomer was disgusted by this level of cruelty, tweeting, "She can't be VP now."
(People close to Trump have urged him to keep his distance from Loomer, so she's undoubtedly envious of Noem's status as a potential VP candidate.)

The only Republican in relatively good standing who addressed this did so obliquely, as Politico reports:
Florida governor and former Trump rival for the Republican presidential nomination Ron DeSantis pitched in with a call to action — and a dig at the southern border crisis.

“Essentia is a lab/shepherd mix who was rescued from the southern border, where the border crisis affects everyone — even our canine friends,” DeSantis tweeted. “Please consider giving Essentia a great home by adopting her from Big Dog Ranch Rescue.”
Contrast this with the responses by Democrats:
“Post a picture with your dog that doesn’t involve shooting them and throwing them in a gravel pit,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz wrote on X.... Alongside it was a picture of Walz feeding his dog a treat.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy also responded with pictures of their beloved pets....

“ACT NOW!” Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) wrote on X alongside an infomercial-style video in memoriam for Cricket. ”For just $.10 a day you can help us save a puppy from Kristi Noem.”
And, as Salon notes, Noem had aat least one high-profile defender on the right:
“The Daily Wire” commentator Michael Knowles took to Twitter to share his unpopular opinion.

“This story makes me like and respect her more,” the CPAC speaker said.
This is a trivial story, but once again the press is giving the GOP credit for beliefs its core membership doesn't really share.


So why did Noem put the animal-murder stories in her book? New York magazine's Margaret Hartmann has theories:
Theory No. 1: Kristi Noem is an incredibly bad politician.

This is actually the reason Noem provides in the book. “I guess if I were a better politician I wouldn’t tell the story here,” she writes....

Theory No. 2: Kristi Noem is trying to impress Trump, and he hates dogs.

... Julie Alderman Boudreau, presidential-research director for American Bridge 21st Century, offered this explanation:

Theory No. 3: Kristi Noem wants off Trump’s VP shortlist.

Is Noem’s tale an intentional act of self-sabotage? That’s the theory put forth by Semafor’s Benjy Sarlin:

Theory No. 2 has some merit -- if Trump likes an inner-circle aspirant, he's fond of saying that the person is "a killer" -- but beyond that, I think the answer is simple. Noem was trying to send a favorite Republican message: I'm from a rural red state, and I've done things no soy-eating big-city liberal would ever do. This works if you're a Republican woman. Remember how we were told in 2008 that Sarah Palin knew how to field-dress a moose?

But a dog is not a moose. People love dogs. Noem miscalculated.

I expected Noem to say that she wishes the libs would get as upset about killing "the babies" as they do about killing dogs. But she knows Trump wants to downplay his party's abortion absolutism, at least until November, so she can't even play that card. She's cooked.

Saturday, April 27, 2024


The Republican-controlled Supreme Court is about to give U.S. presidents, or at least Republican U.S. presidents, a massive amount of leeway to commit crimes while in office. In The New Republic, Brynn Tannehill says that the Republican justices will someday regret what they're doing:
The conservatives on the Supreme Court have ... exposed their hubris, willful ignorance, and foolishness to the entire world in stark terms, and it will cost them and the nation dearly in the long run. They somehow presume that if Trump is elected and goes full dictator, that the power of the court, and their reputation, will save them. The truth is, Trump’s relationships with everyone he meets are completely transactional. If the court ever stops being useful to him, he will terminate it with prejudice if he thinks he can get away with it, and this court is doing everything it can to make him think he can get away with it.

... When Trump is president again, he is likely to believe that he has the option of “removing” any member of the Supreme Court who defies him. As long as the court doesn’t rule against him, they’re fine. From the justices’ perspective, they either end up neutered lap dogs of a despot, who do whatever they’re told out of fear, or they defy him and end up somewhere ... unpleasant (at best). Taking a dirt nap at worst. After all, if Trump can rub out a political opponent, can’t he do the same to an uncooperative jurist?
Or, alternately, the Court will be neutered by Democrats, according to Tannehill:
If Democrats nearly universally see the court as a corrupt rubber stamp for an autocrat, what happens if Republicans push too far on an issue? Like, say, an effective 50-state ban on abortion from the moment of conception with no real exceptions, which is almost certainly coming despite Republican claims to the contrary. Well, when the court upholds this, or implements it, it becomes highly likely that blue state governments tell the court, and the administration, to go f--- yourself.
But the bet being made by the Court's Republicans, and Republicans in general, is exactly the opposite of this. They're assuming that they'll never be at cross purposes with Trump or any other Republican president, at least not in a way that's serious enough to expose them to risk. And they assume -- probably correctly -- that Democrats are too institutionalist to defy the federal government in a way that threatens the Court's power.

Right-wingers routinely use power in ways that seem reckless, and likely to cause profound damage to America. Whenever they do, they seem to ask themselves a simple question: Is this likely to cause harm to anyone we care about? When they conclude that the answer is no, they just go ahead and do what they please.

A tax system that's significantly less progressive than the one we had in the pre-Reagan era, resulting in the kind of economic inequality not seen since the Gilded Age? Conservatives made a bet that there wouldn't be riots in the streets, and that even if inequality revived the labor movement, the workers wouldn't be at the capitalists' homes and factories with brickbats and torches, ready to kill, or burn it all down. So far, that's been a good bet.

A massive campaign to prevent a transition from fossil fuels, even as the planet burns? Elite conservatives gambled that the planet wouldn't become too unlivable, and that they'd always be able to retreat to the spots on the globe that remained pleasant. That's still working out for them.

A ban on abortions? Right-wing elitists know that the women and girls in their families will always be able to jet off to places where they can receive reproductive health services discreetly. A firearm free-for-all? The elite schools right-wingers' children attend don't seem to have a lot of mass shooters. Handing over the GOP's messaging to conspiracy-mongering propagandists? Right-wing elitists didn't suffer much harm as a result of rumors that Bill Clinton was a murderer and a drug dealer, or rumors that Barack Obama was a Kenyan-born gay communist, so how much of a problem could it be for them if the voters of their party believe the crazy talk of QAnon, Alex Jones, and Donald Trump?

You might argue that Republicans bet wrong on handing the Supreme Court over to abortion-banners. But the Dobbs decision merely put a limit on the number of House seats the GOP was able to win in 2022 -- the party still took control of the House from Democrats. Republicans still control most of the purple-state legislatures they carefully gerrymandered over the last decade or so. And the former president who made Dobbs possible still has an excellent chance of becoming president again.

So the bets are paying off. The bet that Trump wouldn't disturb right-wing elitists' comfort and leisure, and would in fact make life even cushier for them, paid off from 2017 to 2021. Elitists on the right are once again betting that while Trump might destroy democracy and the rule of law, the suffering will fall on other people, and they'll be fine.

I suppose someday they'll bet wrong, but Republican elitists are assuming that day hasn't arrived. And you can't blame them.

Friday, April 26, 2024


News reports suggest that the Supreme Court is about to grant Donald Trump a massive amount of immunity from prosecution for acts committed while in office, but probably not absolute immunity. After opening arguments, The Atlantic's Ronald Brownstein wrote:
The arguments showed that although the Court’s conservative majority seems likely to reject Trump’s claim of absolute immunity from criminal prosecution, four of the justices appear predominantly focused on limiting the possibility that future presidents could face such charges for their actions in office, with Chief Justice John Roberts expressing more qualified sympathy with those arguments. Among the GOP-appointed justices, only Amy Coney Barrett appeared concerned about the Court potentially providing a president too much protection from criminal proceedings.
Even the (understandably) alarmist Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern at Slate believe that Trump probably won't get everything he's asking for:
The prospect of a criminal trial for a criminal president shocked and appalled five men: Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch suggested that Smith’s entire prosecution is unconstitutional; meanwhile, Roberts sounded eager at times to handle the case just a hair more gracefully: by cutting out its heart by preventing the jury from hearing about “official acts” (which lie at the center of the alleged conspiracy).
I called it in early March:
I think the Court will grant Trump, and all future presidents, "limited" immunity from prosecution for acts committed while in office....

I think the Court will grant partial immunity while greatly reducing Trump's legal jeopardy. The Court doesn't want to give presidents blanket immunity because, obviously, that would also apply to Democratic presidents, and we can't have that. The Court will toss out some of the charges because it can, and because fuck you, liberals, that's why.
And obviously, if a future Republican president's Justice Department wants to prosecute a former Democratic president, the scope of "official acts" will magically narrow, again because fuck you, liberals.

Trump won't get absolute immunity but, as I've been saying on social media today, he'll tell us he did:

If the Supreme Court gives Trump partial immunity, which seems very likely, he'll say he was given "absolute immunity." He'll say this over and over again, often in all caps, the way he used to repeat "no collusion," and at least 45% of the country will believe it's true.

— Steve M. (@stevemnomoremister.bsky.social) Apr 26, 2024 at 7:03 AM


Remember this charming story from last year?
In 2018, after a teenage gunman murdered 14 students and three faculty members at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Jennifer Birch, fearing for the safety of her own children, decided to join the fight against gun violence.... Birch’s mission, as part of a volunteer force for the gun safety group Moms Demand Action, has been to identify Santa Ana, California, firearm regulations from the 1800s and earlier—all part of an effort to satisfy the Supreme Court’s increasingly preposterous whims about what’s necessary to prove a firearm regulation is constitutional....

In 2022’s Bruen decision, the Supreme Court struck down bans on concealed carry and expanded upon the previous standard for determining the constitutionality of gun regulations, declaring that authorities had to find analogous gun laws that existed prior to 1900. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, found that before that date, concealed carry bans were not part of America’s history and traditions, and they were thus unconstitutional....

Birch is one of about 20 volunteers with Moms Demand Action, part of the gun safety group Everytown, who are scouring archives across the United States for historical firearm regulations.
(The researchers have found many pre-1900 gun laws that greatly resemble modern gun restrictions. Of course, the Supreme Court doesn't care.)

If you were extraordinarily naive, you'd think the Court might apply this "historical tradition" standard to every case. But as Jamelle Bouie notes, presidents were historically understood not to be above the law, but the Republican justices (apart from Amy Coney Barrett) don't want to know that:
In a detailed amicus brief submitted in support of the government in Trump v. United States, 15 leading historians of the early American republic show the extent to which the framers and ratifiers of the Constitution rejected the idea of presidential immunity for crimes committed in office....

“In America the law is king,” Thomas Paine wrote in his landmark pamphlet, “Common Sense.” “For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.” ...

Years later, speaking on the Senate floor, Charles Pinckney of South Carolina — a delegate to the Constitutional convention in Philadelphia — said outright that he and his colleagues did not intend for the president to have any privileges or immunities: “No privilege of this kind was intended for your Executive, nor any except that which I have mentioned for your Legislature.”

What’s more, as the brief explains, ratification of the Constitution rested on the “express” promise that “the new president would be subject to criminal conviction.”

“His person is not so much protected as that of a member of the House of Representatives,” Tench Coxe wrote in one of the first published essays urging ratification of the Constitution, “for he may be proceeded against like any other man in the ordinary course of law.”

James Iredell, one of the first justices of the Supreme Court, told the North Carolina ratifying convention that if the president “commits any misdemeanor in office, he is impeachable, removable from office, and incapacitated to hold any office of honor, trust or profit.” And if he commits any crime, “he is punishable by the laws of his country, and in capital cases may be deprived of his life.”

Yes, you read that correctly. In his argument for the Constitution, one of the earliest appointees to the Supreme Court specified that in a capital case, the president could be tried, convicted and put to death.
Originalism? Textualism? Not this time.


Bouie is cautious about predicting how all this will affect the timing of Trump's election interference case:
... the Supreme Court has directly intervened in the 2024 presidential election in a way that deprives the electorate of critical information or gives it less time to grapple with what might happen in a federal courtroom. And if the trial occurs after an election in which Trump wins a second term and he is convicted, then the court will have teed the nation up for an acute constitutional crisis. A president, for the first time in the nation’s history, might try to pardon himself for his own criminal behavior.
The Republicans on the Court didn't come this far only to allow the possibility of a trial after the election. They want this over and done with. The zealots will take their sweet time writing up their ruling, or, if Roberts writes the ruling, they'll dawdle on their much more zealous partial concurrence. They'll get the case sent back down to the lower courts, and they'll force Jack Smith and his team to pull their case apart and put it back together with the few pieces left to them. The trial won't happen this year, and if it ever happens, it will be a pale echo of what it should have been. The Republicans on the Court want nothing to stand in the way of victory for their party's presidential standard-bearer, obviously, but they also want to minimize any embarrassment to their party even if he loses.

Thursday, April 25, 2024


Adam Serwer thinks Tom Cotton and other Republicans seek bloodshed.
Tom Cotton has never seen a left-wing protest he didn’t want crushed at gunpoint.

On Monday, the Arkansas senator demanded that President Joe Biden send in the National Guard to clear out the student protests at Columbia University against the Israel-Hamas war, which he described as “the nascent pogroms at Columbia.” Last week, Cotton posted on X, “I encourage people who get stuck behind the pro-Hamas mobs blocking traffic: take matters into your own hands. It’s time to put an end to this nonsense.” He later deleted the post and reworded it so that it did not sound quite so explicitly like a demand for aspiring vigilantes to lynch protesters.

This is a long-standing pattern for Cotton.... During the George Floyd protests of 2020, Cotton demanded that the U.S. military be sent in with orders to give “no quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters,” insisting unconvincingly in a later New York Times op-ed that he was not conflating peaceful protesters with rioters.
On social media this morning, Atrios posted this garbled take on Republican responses to the current campus unrest:

He's right -- the police can shoot protesters. So why would Cotton and his allies want the National Guard brought in to do something cops could do just as easily?

The point of calls for the deployment of the National Guard or the military, or calls for vigilante jutice against road blockaders, is escalation and intimidation. I'm not saying that these people don't want their enemies harmed. But intimidation all by itself can be immensely satisfying to Republican voters.

Who's the emblematic modern Republican? A guy walking into a 7-11 or a Walmart or a state park open-carrying an AR-15. Some people who do this actually engage in violence, but most don't. They just want to intimidate. They want to show us who's boss.

Years before Cotton (or Donald Trump) held office, they pasted stickers like this one on their pickup trucks and SUVs:

The vast majority of people who've displayed a sticker like this never harm a liberal. But they want you to know that they'd like to, and they could.

Their anthem is "Try That in a Small Town."

Cuss out a cop, spit in his face
Stomp on the flag and light it up
Yeah, ya think you're tough

Well, try that in a small town
See how far ya make it down the road
Around here, we take care of our own
You cross that line, it won't take long
For you to find out, I recommend you don't
Try that in a small town
Why does Jason Aldean sing, "I recommend you don't / Try that in a small town"? Republicans know that acting like a law unto yourself can get messy. Many of the January 6 insurrectionists are in prison. Kyle Rittenhouse and George Zimmerman were acquitted, but the driver who killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville received two life sentences. And excessive force by the police and military can end badly for the perpetrators, as Derek Chauvin and (for a while) Lieutenant William Calley learned. America is still a nation of laws, at least some of the time.

But intimidation can provide many of the satisfactions of actual violence without the legal complications. I suspect Kelly Hayes wouldn't agree with my interpretation of these messages, but I think what she says here is relevant:

They want right-wing speech to be protected on campus and people protesting genocide to be ground under. Some people call this hypocrisy, but it's much more sinister than that. These double standards are about HIERARCHY. They're about how the right wants to order the world.

— Puff the Magic Hater (@mskellymhayes.bsky.social) Apr 24, 2024 at 10:33 PM

It's about who gets to do harm and who harm can be visited upon without consequence. That's what they are outlining when they demand "protection" for some and violence against others. They are outlining the world they want, including who should be victimized at will.

— Puff the Magic Hater (@mskellymhayes.bsky.social) Apr 24, 2024 at 10:34 PM

They know we're not there yet. They're not allowed to hunt liberals and progressives at will. The current campus unrest might end without even a single protester death. But they savor the prospect of putting us in our place.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024


In The New York Times a few days ago, Maggie Haberman told us that Donald Trump is being humbled by his experiences in criminal court:
For the next six weeks, a man who values control and tries to shape environments and outcomes to his will is in control of very little....

The mundanity of the courtroom has all but swallowed Mr. Trump, who for decades has sought to project an image of bigness, one he rode from a reality-television studio set to the White House.

...the shared sense among many of his advisers is that the process may damage him as much as a guilty verdict.
Now that the trial is underway, Jessica Bennett of the Times tells us the same thing:
... as Trump’s lawyers argued in opening statements, Trump is not merely the former president and presumptive Republican nominee. “He is also a man, he is a husband and a father,” one of them said. “He’s a person, just like you and just like me.” It was an attempt to humanize him — and yet all I could think, in that dreary courtroom, with a sour smell and a broken overhead clock, was that this is going to drive Trump mad.

For the next six weeks, four days a week, seven hours a day, including meals and coffee and bathroom breaks, Trump will be treated like an ordinary New Yorker, forced to sit in a drab 17-story municipal building.

Inside the court, the chairs were uncomfortable. It was so cold that reporters were bundled in heavy coats and scarves. (Trump wasn’t wrong when he complained, “It’s freezing.”) The speckled linoleum floors were drab, the fluorescent lighting was harsh, the rumpled shades were drawn. It was hard to see and hear. The monotony made my eyes droop....

Court let out early Monday, after the judge explained that an alternate juror had a dental emergency. You could just imagine Trump seething at the thought of his time dictated by a root canal.
Last week, Marc Caputo, one of the anti-Trumpers at The Bulwark, tweeted this:

Today, Caputo writes:
TRUMP HAS MADE NO SECRET of his annoyance at being stuck in court. Forced to sit quietly and deprived of his steady stream of caffeinated Diet Cokes, which at Mar-a-Lago are served to him with regularity by ever-attendant waitstaff, Trump has been caught micronapping at the defense table.

“I’m catching up on my fucking sleep ’cause I’m bored,” he told one source.
If I despised Trump as much as The Bulwark's writers and editors say they do, I wouldn't have included that "catching up on my fucking sleep" quote, which is Trumpworld spin designed to portray the boss exactly the way he wants to be portrayed: as an angry alpha male who's too important for this kind of treatment. But even without the quote, I'm afraid that all this coverage, far from humiliating Trump, actually exalts him.

To make an obvious point, when an ordinary person is on trial, even in a high-profile case, we don't dwell on how uncomfortable the chairs and the building temperature make the defendant feel. We don't even do much of this for famous defendants -- did anyone ever tell us what O.J. Simpson's favorite mid-morning pick-me-up was, and add how noteworthy it was that he was being deprived of it?

Many people go to court and are forced to comply by courtroom rules. (I could add that many more people go to work and are forced to comply with workplace rules.) When the press tells readers that enforcement of courtroom rules is extraordinary in Trump's case, the message is that Trump is extraordinary.

It's probably unreasonable to expect reporters to avoid this kind of coverage, and obviously their audiences want it. But maybe the press needs to remember that what would really make Trump seem no better than an ordinary citizen would be treating him like an ordinary citizen -- in others words, like a person who just has to suck it up and accept the way things are done in court.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024


Poor Donald Trump -- he wants another January 6 outside the courtroom, but his fans aren't delivering, as The New York Times reports:
Donald J. Trump was evidently not happy with what he saw out the window of his chauffeured S.U.V. as he rode through Lower Manhattan on Monday morning for the beginning of opening arguments in his first criminal trial.

The scene that confronted him as he approached the dingy courthouse at 100 Centre Street was underwhelming. Across the street, at Collect Pond Park, the designated site for protesters during the trial, only a handful of Trump supporters had gathered, and the number would not grow much throughout the morning....

Mr. Trump had tried to gin up something noisier. Shortly after 7 a.m., he posted on his social media website that “America Loving Protesters should be allowed to protest at the front steps of Courthouses” and he followed this lament with a call for his supporters to “GO OUT AND PEACEFULLY PROTEST. RALLY BEHIND MAGA. SAVE OUR COUNTRY!”
Trump has argued that there's a double standard in how pro-Trump protesters are being treated in Downtown Manhattan and how pro-Palestinian protesters are being treated uptown:

I live near Columbia. The area around the campus actually is closed up like a drum, with police all over the place -- and yet there are still demonstrators, on and off campus. The courthouse where Trump is being tried isn't on lockdown, as the Times story tells us:
The area was not, in fact, completely closed down. The courthouse has remained open to the public, including spectators who want to attend the trial, pool cameras in the hallway — and even the sidewalk in front of the courthouse has remained open to pedestrian traffic.
So why isn't Trump getting backup from his fan base?

It could be because "the fever is breaking," but I doubt that. Trump's poll numbers vs. Joe Biden have slipped in recent weeks, but the race is still effectively tied (and given the GOP's Electoral College advantage, that would still mean a Trump victory if the election were held today).

One possible reason is that the January 6 prosecutions have persuaded many in MAGA Nation that they'll be arrested and thrown into the "gulag" if they protest on Trump's behalf, even peacefully. When Trump knew his first indictment was imminent and called for protests, quite a few of his supporters said they didn't want to protest, out of fear that they'd fall into a "trap."

In addition, I think many people on the right, especially those who live outside the Northeast, are terrified of New York City, which they've been told is a crime-ridden dystopian hellhole. They wouldn't dare enter the city without their guns, and they know they'd be in legal jeopardy if they packed heat here the way they do when they go to the local 7-11 to pick up some eggs.

But I think there's one more reason for the lack of pro-Trump protesters: They don't think they need to help him because he's so powerful.

This is Trump as right-wingers see him:

While he's in the courtroom, this fake courtroom sketch is wish fulfillment for quite a few people on the right:

And even the idea that Trump might go to prison generates fantasies of his ultimate triumph:

If this is how you see Trump, why would you think he'd ever need your help?

Even the fans who aren't deluded by these "studly Trump" memes are likely to believe that they'll simply vote for him in November and all their troubles will be over. This is a delusion that isn't limited to the right -- in retrospect, it appears that many Barack Obama voters disengaged from politics after he won the 2008 election, on the assumption that he had everything under control. What's odd is that this might be happening on the right while Trump is a private citizen.

You know who doesn't think a studly hero will save them? The pro-Palestinian protesters on college campuses. Politicians in both parties disagree with them, so they're trying to make change happen all by themselves. The Trumpers think they can just kick back and let Don do it.

Monday, April 22, 2024


The New York Times has assigned young reporters to cover the protests around Columbia University right now, so this story is much more nuanced than it would be if the usual middle-aged Times hacks were involved:
Days after Columbia University’s president testified before Congress, the atmosphere on campus remained fraught on Sunday, shaken by pro-Palestinian protests that have drawn the attention of the police and the concern of some Jewish students.

Over the weekend, the student-led demonstrations on campus also attracted separate, more agitated protests by demonstrators who seemed to be unaffiliated with the university just outside Columbia’s gated campus in Upper Manhattan....

Some of those protests took a dark turn on Saturday evening, leading to the harassment of some Jewish students who were targeted with antisemitic vitriol. The verbal attacks left some of the 5,000 Jewish students at Columbia fearful for their safety....

But Jewish students who are supporting the pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campus said they felt solidarity, not a sense of danger, even as they denounced the acts of antisemitism.

“There’s so many young Jewish people who are like a vital part” of the protests, said Grant Miner, a Jewish graduate student at Columbia who is part of a student coalition calling on Columbia to divest from companies connected to Israel.

And in a statement, that group said, “We are frustrated by media distractions focusing on inflammatory individuals who do not represent us” and added that the group’s members “firmly reject any form of hate or bigotry.”
This has become a major story, so I imagine some older Times reporters will bigfoot their way onto the Columbia beat, and the coverage will become more one-sided in its denunciations of Israel's critics.

There does seem to be some nasty and violent rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) on the periphery of campus, as this report from Columbia Spectator notes:
Pro-Israel counterprotesters stood on the Sundial on Saturday evening waving Israeli and U.S. flags and playing Israeli and Jewish music and the U.S. national anthem from a loudspeaker. In front of the Sundial, an individual held a sign reading “Al-Qasam’s Next Targets” with an arrow pointing at the protesters. Al-Qassam is the military wing of Hamas....

On Broadway near the 116th Street subway station, protesters chanted, “We say justice, you say how? Burn Tel Aviv to the ground,” according to a video posted by Students Supporting Israel President Eden Yadegar....

Parker De Dekér, CC ’27, told Spectator that on Wednesday night, when he was walking by Lerner Hall wearing a yarmulke, someone sitting at the tables outside of Lerner shouted, “You keep on testifying, you fucking Jew.” When he exited campus, he removed his yarmulke....

De Dekér continued that as he was helping a friend move his luggage through Lerner Hall on Thursday evening while wearing a yarmulke, one individual said, “We are so happy that you Zionists are finally leaving campus,” and another said, “You wouldn’t have to leave if you weren’t a supporter of genocide.”

On Friday afternoon, De Dekér said that while leaving campus and getting into an Uber, an individual on Amsterdam Avenue shouted an antisemitic slur at him, telling him to “Keep on walking.” De Dekér has since decided to leave campus for the time being and is staying with a friend outside of New York state.
The directly menacing language addressed to people like De Dekér is a clear threat. But some of the fantasy scenarios of violent retribution sound like the sort of thing Republicans get away with all the time in this culture. As Amanda Marcotte notes, here's Marjorie Taylor Greene wishing America would use antiaircraft weapons on unarmed migrants crossing America's Southern border:

And then there's Tom Cotton:
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., appeared to encourage people to murder anti-war protesters. If protesters stop traffic, he tweeted, "take matters into your own hands to get them out of the way." This echoes not just many years of far-right rhetoric applauding vehicular homicide, but the 2017 murder of anti-racism protester Heather Heyer at the hands of a white supremacist. Cotton tried to clean up his statement by later claiming he just meant dragging protesters out of the way, which is still assault.
And Kari Lake:
... failed gubernatorial candidate and current Republican candidate for the Arizona Senate seat Kari Lake recently told a crowd, "We are going to put on the armor of God. And maybe strap on a Glock on the side of us just in case." ...

This is hardly the first time Lake has made joking-but-not-really threats of violence. Last June, she told a crowd she had a "message tonight for Merrick Garland, and Jack Smith, and Joe Biden" and went on to warn: "Most of us are card-carrying members of the NRA. That's not a threat, that's a public service announcement."
The right has been like this for decades, with few consequences. Remember this from 1994?
Just days after [Senator Jesse] Helms, a Republican from North Carolina, created a furor by saying that President Clinton was not up to the job of Commander in Chief, he told The News and Observer, a newspaper in Raleigh: "Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He'd better have a bodyguard."

Mr. Helms said soldiers disliked President Clinton because he had avoided service during the Vietnam War, supported homosexuals in the military and had reduced military spending.
And then there was Ann Coulter, who told an interviewer in 2002, “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.” And, of course, there was Ted Nugent:
In 2007, he said the following during a concert: "Obama, he's a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary [Clinton], you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch."
The people in and around Columbia who are genuinely anti-Semitic and menacing just need to pick their targets better. If they'd learn to direct their threats at Democrats, and at institutions perceived as part of the Great Liberal Conspiracy, they could say whatever they want.

Sunday, April 21, 2024


For the thousandth time, we've begun to think we've really got Trump this time! David Frum writes:
For nine years, Trump has dominated the Republican Party.... Enough of the Republican base supported him. Everybody else either fell in line, retired from politics, or quit the party.

... Trump won almost every fight that mattered....

On aid to Ukraine, Trump got his way for 16 months. When Democrats held the majority in the House of Representatives in 2022, they approved four separate aid requests for Ukraine, totaling $74 billion. As soon as Trump’s party took control of the House, in January 2023, the aid stopped. Every Republican officeholder understood: Those who wished to show loyalty to Trump must side against Ukraine....

[But now] Trump’s party in Congress has rebelled against him—and not on a personal payoff to some oddball Trump loyalist, but on one of Trump’s most cherished issues, his siding with Russia against Ukraine....

He has deflated to the point where he could no longer thwart Ukraine aid in Congress. Ukraine won, Trump lost. That may be a repeating pattern in the year ahead.
Reading this, you might imagine that the entire House GOP delegation has been afraid to support Ukraine aid until this week, out of an unwillingness to risk Trump's wrath. But in July 2023, a majority of House Republicans voted to reject bills proposed by Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene that would have blocked military aid to Ukraine. Two months later, a majority of House Republicans voted to retain Ukraine aid in a Pentagon appropriations bill. For quite a while, Republicans linked Ukraine aid to the passage of an immigration bill, and so the aid never passed, but it was perfectly acceptable to be a Republican in Congress and express support for Ukraine aid -- it's not like believing that Trump should have been convicted in one of his impeachment trials, which is a red line Republicans have crossed only at their peril. It's a big deal that Speaker Mike Johnson allowed a vote on the Ukraine aid bill, but support was there. Not every Republican is a Putin bootlicker yet.

Trump opponents increasingly seem to believe that President Biden has this election won -- at the betting site PredictIt, Biden leads Trump 54%-44%, after a rapid improvement in his fortunes over the past few months:

And this Maggie Haberman piece in The New York Times conveys the impression that Trump simply can't be Trump anymore now that his New York criminal trial has begun:
For the next six weeks, a man who values control and tries to shape environments and outcomes to his will is in control of very little....

The mundanity of the courtroom has all but swallowed Mr. Trump, who for decades has sought to project an image of bigness, one he rode from a reality-television studio set to the White House.

...the shared sense among many of his advisers is that the process may damage him as much as a guilty verdict. The process, they believe, is its own punishment.
Trump's superfans, of course, think he's Jesus, so a process they regard as persecution will only confirm them in that belief. Will swing voters peel away as Trump is accused of wrongdoing every day, and is trapped in a courtroom rather than out attacking enemies? Maybe, but I'm not sure that's how this works when you're dealing with a criminal who has a big persona. Think of Trump as an organized crime figure -- a Mafia don or a Latin American druglord. Do guys like that really seem diminshed by the process of being on trial? They look diminished when they're convicted and jailed, but until then, they look like people who are important enough to be tried in a courtroom full of reporters. Trump in an orange jumpsuit would seem diminished. Right now, he seems like a dangerous animal in a cage -- restrained, but still a threat.

Sure, this might really be the beginning of the end for Trump. On the other hand, we've been promised the beginning of the end so many times over the past nine years that we ought to be skeptical. I'll start to believe the Trump era is ending when Biden leads in most polls by at least 5 points, enough to overcome the GOP's built-in Electoral College advantage. We're not there yet. We're not really close.

Saturday, April 20, 2024


Benjamin Netanyahu's war strategy is well on its way to achieving its primary goal: preserving the political career of Benjamin Netanyahu. The Jerusalem Post reports:
In two recent surveys, the Likud Party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have received the highest levels of support since the Oct. 7 massacre. In the first [poll], conducted by Maariv, ... Likud now holds 21 seats, a peak since the [war] began on October 7....

The survey also highlights a tightening race for Prime Minister, with Benny Gantz receiving 42% of the support compared to Benjamin Netanyahu's 37%. The gap between the two has significantly narrowed, with Gantz's lead shrinking from 12% to just 5% over the past week.

According to the Maariv survey, the National Union Party leads with 31 seats....

In a separate but mandated survey by Direct Polls published on Channel 14 this week, a shift in public sentiment shows Gantz's National Union declining sharply, from over 40 seats to just 22. Meanwhile, Likud would garner 26 seats if elections were held today.... Additionally, the coalition parties would have 58 seats versus 52 for the opposition, including 10 seats shared between Ra'am and Hadash-Ta'al.
Let me be cynical: Electorally, it's good to be a leader in wartime, and, at least up to a point, it's better to be a leader in a prolonged war than a brief war that can be described as a success. George H.W. Bush drove the Iraqis from Kuwait, declared victory -- and lost his reelection bid. George W. Bush got mired in Afghanistan and Iraq, never captured or killed Osama bin Laden -- and became the only Republican presidential candidate to win the popular vote in the past 36 years.

Years-long quagmires are bad for politicians -- ask LBJ -- but Bibi is probably at or close to the sweet spot right now. He has two main goals -- saving his own ass and getting Donald Trump elected -- and there's a decent chance he'll achieve both. Everything else is secondary for him.

Friday, April 19, 2024


In The New York Times, Nate Cohn writes:
Was Trump Benefiting From Being Out of the News?

Donald J. Trump appears to be a stronger candidate than he was four years ago, polling suggests, and not just because a notable number of voters look back on his presidency as a time of relative peace and prosperity.

It’s also because his political liabilities, like his penchant to offend and his legal woes, don’t dominate the news the way they once did.

In the last New York Times/Siena College poll, only 38 percent of voters said they’d been offended by Mr. Trump “recently,” even as more than 70 percent said they had been offended by him at some point....

Similarly, many voters seem to be tuning out his myriad legal challenges. A majority of voters said they thought he had committed federal crimes, but only 27 percent of registered voters in the last Times/Siena poll said they were paying “a lot of attention” to the news about the legal cases against him....

It seems plausible that the lack of attention paid to Mr. Trump contributed to his early strength in the polling....

The Times/Siena poll offers some evidence to support this idea. Mr. Biden has a 95-3 lead among Biden 2020 voters who say they’ve been offended recently by Mr. Trump, while Mr. Trump wins 19 percent of those who say they’ve been offended by him before, but not recently.

Similarly, Mr. Biden leads, 93-5, among Biden ’20 voters paying attention to Mr. Trump’s legal problems, while he gets 78 percent among those who aren’t paying very close attention or less.
If Cohn is right, then Trump will inevitably be hurt by his first criminal trial, because it will lead to a great deal of media coverage portraying Trump in a bad light, regardless of the outcome. Right?

I'm not sure that's a safe assumption. Trump survived his civil trials with strong poll numbers, largely because those trials were rarely the top story in America, or even the top story locally here in New York. A past and possible future president of the United States was charged with rape, defamation, and financial chicanery, and the media mostly yawned.

The media might get bored with his criminal trial as well -- already I can see it slipping from its prominent spot on news organizations' front pages, in favor of Israel's attack on Iran and probably, soon, the new Taylor Swift album. But maybe Trump will keep our eyes focused on him, even if it's to his detriment. He's already showing signs of being an insolent defendant:

It's likely that insolence will hurt Trump's chances for an acquittal, but he can't not do this -- his father drilled into him the notion that the worst possible sin for a man is to be "weak," and he's still trying to please Dad, who's been dead for decades. There's a real possibility that Trump will be even more insolent and obnoxious than he was in his civil trials.

On some level, you can't blame him. This is what impresses his biggest fans. Apart from the fact that the system is clearly afraid to punish him, even when he's clearly violating direct orders from judges, there's the fact that Trump has probably rallied the entire GOP to himself by being a defiant asshole whining about persecution.

But if his antics are worse than before, he might alienate general-election voters who haven't thought about how much of an asshole he is in the past couple of years. Maybe, instead of being a quiet, polite defendant, he'll hurt his poll numbers with obnoxiousness, just because he's desperate to impress Dad.

On the other hand, the press might decide that Trump's behavior is just dog-bites-man and barely cover it. That's more or less what happened in the civil trials. Trump was quite obnoxious and did things that would have led to jail time for most other people, yet it was never as big a story as, say, university professors testifying in Congress about anti-Israel protests. But if we're lucky, his endless quest to be the toughest guy in the room will be his downfall.

Thursday, April 18, 2024


New York magazine's Ed Kilgore notes that Democrats will hold their convention in Chicago this year, at a time when left-wingers are angry at the party about its involvement in a war. So will 2024 be like 1968? Kilgore says no -- but I think there's somewhat more risk than he's willing to acknowledge. Here are some of the reasons he's not worried:
Gaza isn’t Vietnam.

... There were over a half-million American troops deployed in Vietnam in 1968, and nearly 300,000 young men were drafted into the Army and Marines that year....

Even from a purely humanitarian and altruistic point of view, Vietnamese military and civilian casualties ran into the millions during the period of U.S. involvement.
Yes, but when I watch how people in America talk about crime, or economic conditions, I question whether it's appropriate to use objective measures to compare the past and the present, given the fact that so many Americans base their response on vibes. Crime is down, inflation is cooling, jobs are plentiful, yet Americans talk as if we have murder rates comparable to the crack years and an economic struggles comparable to 1970s double-digit inflation.

Gaza protests clearly aren't as widespread as Vietnam protests in the 1960s. But I bet the issue will draw huge crowds to Chicago. (One way I'm certain that 2024 will be like 1968 is that there's likely to be much more anger at the Democratic convention than at the Republican convention, even though the Republican nominee in both years was more hawkish than the Democrat.)
Brandon Johnson isn’t Richard Daley.

Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley ... was the epitome of the old-school Irish American machine politician and from a different planet culturally than the protesters at the convention.

Current Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson ... is a Black progressive and labor activist.... While he is surely wary of the damage anti-Israel and anti-Biden protests can do to the city’s image if they turn violent, Johnson is not without ties to protesters. He broke a tie in the Chicago City Council to ensure passage of a Gaza cease-fire resolution earlier this year. His negotiating skills will be tested by the maneuvering already underway with protest groups and the Democratic Party, but he’s not going to be the sort of implacable foe the 1968 protesters encountered.
But in 2024, Johnson is more likely to be attacked for failing to be repressive than for being repressive. Footage of any violence or property damage will be endlessly looped on Fox News -- and probably on CNN and the legacy networks.

(On the other hand, the modern police tactic is to bottle up such demonstrations and keep them far from their targets. That's not great for free speech, but it might keep these demos from getting out of hand.)
The whole world (probably) won’t be watching.

The 1968 Democratic convention was from a bygone era of gavel-to-gavel coverage by the three broadcast-television networks.... Today’s media coverage of major-party political conventions is extremely limited and (like coverage of other events) fragmented. If violence breaks out this time in Chicago, it will get a lot of attention, albeit much of it bent to the optics of the various media outlets covering it. But the sense in 1968 that the whole nation was watching in horror as an unprecedented event rolled out in real time will likely never be recovered.
Yes, but what will "the optics of the various media outlets covering" the convention be like? Fox will be looking for chaos instigated by young pro-Palestinian protestors, many of them from elite colleges, whom it will characterize, accurately or not, as anti-Semititic -- but so will The New York Times, if its current news judgment is any indication:

I don't think there'll be as much chaos in the streets of Chicago this year as there were in 1968. I think modern crowd control tactics will limit the chaos. I think many people tune out politics altogether these days and won't notice any news from the convention. But while history probably won't repeat in Chicago, it might rhyme a little.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024


In a New York Times op-ed, Elizabeth Spiers gives us the conventional wisdom about Donald Trump's relationship with New York City, where -- fittingly, as Spiers sees it -- Trump's criminal trial is taking place:
It feels uniquely appropriate that Mr. Trump will have to endure the scrutiny on his old home turf.... He rose to fame here, but was never truly accepted by the old money elites he admired. The rich and powerful sometimes invited him to their parties, but behind his back they laughed at his coarse methods and his tacky aesthetic. His inability to succeed in New York in quite the way he wanted to drove much of the damage he did to the country as a whole, and arguably his entire political career.

... Mr. Trump couldn’t make it here — at least not the way he craved — despite being born here and being one of the few people who could afford it.

So it’s easy to understand why he bashes his hometown as a crime-ridden hellscape, and why the Oval Office appealed. Washington offered him political power but also something he may have wanted even more: the respect New York denied him.
Spiers doesn't have much respect for Trump, and doesn't suggest that Trump deserved more respect than he got from New Yorkers. But the obvious impliction of this argument is that if New York had somehow been nicer to Trump, if the real swells had invited him to more parties and if Spy magazine hadn't called him a "short-fingered vulgarian," he might not have sought the presidency as a fascist-wannabe.

I don't buy it, because I've watched the career of Trump's doppelganger, Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch was also the son of a wealthy, successful man. Keith Murdoch was a major figure in Australian media, just as Fred Trump was a major figure in outer-borough real estate. Donald Trump pursued deals in Manhattan; Rupert Murdoch attended university in England, where, as this sympathetic piece argues, he was mistreated by British snobs:
As a brash Australian arriving in the 1950s at Oxford – the university that was then still the British political elite’s finishing school and a custodian of the English class system – Murdoch was always going to be seen as an arriviste or parvenu.

It must have rankled that despite his intellect, confidence and wealth, there would so often have been a side sneer at this upstart colonial – the “cataclysmic chauffeur from the Outback”, as the Oxford student newspaper called the car-owning undergraduate.

So when he took control of the News of the World, The Sun and later The Times, he turned them into battering rams against the self-satisfied smugness of the English establishment elite.

The day he walked into The Sun’s offices, the paper ran a leader column stating the mission that has defined him for decades: “We are not going to bow to the establishment in any of its privileged enclaves. Ever.”
Murdoch won, in a way that Trump didn't. Murdoch became the dominant figure in the British media, and then became the most politically influential media mogul in America. He had the power to tip elections on three continents. He owned a major movie studio, and on television he gave us The Simpsons and The X-Files. He became staggeringly wealthy.

But he never stopped feeling resentful. Last year, when he resigned as chairman of News Corporation, he wrote this in a memo to employees:
Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.
Trump could win the presidency again, terminate all his legal cases, remake America in his own image, and become a Putin-level kleptocrat and he'd still be angry and resentful.

Spiers thinks the New York trial will diminish Trump in the eyes of his admirers:
There is some relief for New Yorkers who are witnessing the prospect of his comeuppance, though. The rest of the country is seeing a side of Mr. Trump that New York City residents have always been familiar with: the guy who’s angry that he hasn’t been accepted in the elite circles he admires and is outraged that others have.
But that's what his admirers like about him. They find his resentment of "elitists" relatable. They feel mistreated by the people he says are mistreating him. This trial may damage him in the eyes of middle-of-the-road voters who've been supporting him in this election without actually admiring him, but it won't hurt him in the eyes of his superfans. A guilty verdict will be proof of what they already believe: that elitists hate them and hate him, and being hated this way is a mark of virtue.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024


Many commentators and politicians -- mostly but not exclusively on the right -- tell us with great sorrow that the Republican Party has suffered a takeover by forces hostile to its true purpose. What once was the noble "party of Reagan" is now, alas, the "party of Trump," an entity that would repulse the Gipper and his allies.

A story in The Guardian reminds us that that's a lot of malarkey:
Two powerful conservative non-profits have donated millions of dollars to a number of pro-Trump groups led by key far-right allies Stephen Miller, Charlie Kirk and others that have promoted election denialism, extremist anti-immigrant policies and legal challenges to bolster the Maga movement.

Based in Wisconsin, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Bradley Impact Fund in 2022 separately doled out six- and seven-figure checks to groups such as Miller’s America First Legal and Kirk’s Turning Point USA, and other Trump-friendly bastions such as the Heritage Foundation and Michael Flynn’s America’s Future....

The biggest checks in 2022 were written to Trump-allied groups by the dark-money Bradley Impact Fund: America First Legal received about $27.1m, Turning Point USA roped in close to $8m, and the Conservative Partnership Institute pulled in $712,310. America’s Future also received $500,000.

Meanwhile, the Bradley Foundation ponied up $425,000 to the Heritage Foundation, which has worked with many other pro-Trump groups to assemble a 1,000-page plan for a new Trump presidency with an authoritarian agenda to expand executive-branch powers and curb key agencies such as the US justice department.
The Bradley groups seem to combine the worst of both the old and new GOP:
The Bradley foundation’s board includes the well-known rightwinger Art Pope, a North Carolina multi-millionaire who used to chair its board and is also a director of the Bradley Impact Fund. Pope has deep ties to other conservative bastions such as the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, where he has been a board member too.

The board of the Bradley Foundation also boasts the rightwing lawyer and Trump ally Cleta Mitchell, a senior legal fellow at the Conservative Partnership Institute.

Mitchell founded CPI’s self-styled “election integrity network” in 2021 after participating with Trump on his 2 January call to the Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, who Trump beseeched to “find” 11,780 votes to help overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state.
The Bradley Foundation was once known for its ties to foreign-policy neoconservatives such as Irving and Bill Kristol. It has honored Reaganites such as Ed Meese and Ed Feulner. And it was deeply involved in the mainstream right in the post-Reagan era, funding The American Spectator's attacks on the Clintons during Bill Clinton's presidency, bankrolling Charles Murray's work on The Bell Curve, and underwriting union-buster Scott Walker's rise to power in Wisconsin. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted in 2011,
The list of major recipients reads like an all-star roster of conservative think tanks: millions of dollars directed to well-known groups such as the Hudson Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, and the Federalist Society - all trying to put their stamp on three branches of government.

Millions more have gone to just about every major conservative publication, including such magazines as Reason, Crisis, First Things, National Affairs and FrontPage Magazine.
And now Bradley is giving to the likes of Mike Flynn, an Alex Jones fan and Christian nationalist whose ReAwaken America group preaches Holocaust denialism and QAnon theories, as well as Charlie Kirk, Cleta Mitchell, and other right-wingers whose fringe ideas, we're told, would never have been tolerated in Reagan's day.

But one of the biggest money sources is the same. It's all the same party.

Monday, April 15, 2024


The only Donald Trump criminal trial that's likely to take place this year starts today in New York. Trump is charged with falsifying business records in order to cover up an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels. Amanda Marcotte thinks that testimony from Daniels will be "devastating" for Trump, largely because, as Daniels told Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes in 2018, their sexual encounter was not fully consensual and was miserable for her:
Stormy Daniels: And I was like, "Ugh, here we go." (LAUGH) And I just felt like maybe — (LAUGH) it was sort of — I had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone's room alone and I just heard the voice in my head, "well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this."

Anderson Cooper: And you had sex with him.

Stormy Daniels: Yes.

Anderson Cooper: You were 27, he was 60. Were you physically attracted to him?

Stormy Daniels: No.

Anderson Cooper: Not at all?

Stormy Daniels: No.

Anderson Cooper: Did you want to have sex with him?

Stormy Daniels: No. But I didn't — I didn't say no. I'm not a victim.
Marcotte believes that women do more damage to Trump's reputation than men do:
While plenty of men ... have spoken out about their negative experiences with Trump, women have generally been the most compelling witnesses against him. Former journalist E. Jean Carroll testified in two civil trials about how Trump sexually assaulted her and then defamed her. Juries found her persuasive enough to award her nearly $90 million. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson wasn't sexually abused by Trump ... but became the most striking witness in the Jan. 6 hearings during the previous Congress. Her accounts of Trump as a petulant child who throws ketchup and flails impotently at Secret Service agents rang true in a way that was difficult for even the most delusional MAGA heads to deny.
Really? Carroll won both her cases -- I think Trump will lose the Daniels case as well -- but Trump doesn't have a lot of admirers in Manhattan. Hutchinson's allegations were also persuasive to Trump haters. But in the country at large, the proceedings in which these two women participated coincided with strong poll numbers for Trump, and his easy triumph in the Republican primaries followed. Trump still appears to have a slight lead in general election polls. If he's slipping at all now, it's probably because he's more visible than he's been for the past few years. He's the most damaging witness against himself, not his female (or male) critics.

Marcotte thinks the specifics of Daniels's story will make the Trump myth harder to believe:
Trump's conduct with women makes clear that he's both a bully and a coward, who victimizes vulnerable people in situations where they have no real way to fight back. It also undermines his lifelong effort to portray himself as an irresistible Lothario and sexual dynamo. The ladies don't swoon over Donald Trump. They spend every minute wondering when it will be safe to wriggle free from his stubby fingers.
To people who are paying attention and are willing to accept what the evidence says, all this is obvious, and has been obvious for years. To most other people, the legend of Trump's studliness prevails, just as the legend of his business prowess prevails in the minds of many Americans despite overwhelming evidence of his ineptitude as a CEO. Too many people want to believe that charismatic figures are as special as they tell us they are -- think of the Elon Musk cult -- so they deny what's right in front of them. Also, Trump must be special because who among us has ever been in a position to browbeat a porn star into sex in the first place, all while married to a fashion model wife?

Trump will probably lose the case, and maybe the trial and verdict will damage his polling. But many voters will continue to believe that he's a ladies' man who "doesn't need to" be a predator. Or they'll believe that everyone does it, or at least every male in power -- look at how Biden massages people's shoulders! Look at Jeffrey Epstein's guests! Trump might make this trial into a politically damaging event for himself if he continues on his usual course of attacking the process and the participants. But in a society that's still sexist, I don't think an adult film actress's words will bring down a potential president.