Friday, May 31, 2024


Dana Milbank writes about the statement Donald Trump made after he was found guilty on all 34 counts yesterday:
He didn’t offer much ... in his 98-second statement, other than a thoroughly debunked non sequitur about “millions and millions of people pouring into our country right now from prisons and from mental institutions, terrorists.”
But that's not a non sequitur for Republicans. Here was Tucker Carlson yesterday:

"Import the Third World, become the Third World" is a reference to judge Juan Merchan, who has lived in America for more than half a century but spent the first six years of his life in Colombia. Or maybe it's an attempt by Carlson to bamboozle his followers into believing that the jury in the Manhattan courtroom was full of disreputable foreigners from inferior countries -- in fact, the only foreign-born jurors appear to be a salesman originally from Ireland and a Lebanon-born retired wealth manager.

It's not clear who's going to kill Trump before the election, according to Carlson -- maybe troops from the mythical Chinese migrant army Trump believes is surreptiously crossing the Mexican border? Or am I wrong that this is about immigration -- does Carlson believe instead that President Biden will punch Trump to death, possibly by ganging up on him in a dark alley along with that other young tough, Maxine Waters? Note that we hear Waters and Biden at the outset of the following video, and watch Biden clench his fist at the end of the clip. In between are other members of Biden's alleged gang, including pro-Palestinian demonstrators (who actually hate Biden):

Trump might die, and "you and your family" might die, and the blame falls on people from less developed countries, or evil Democrats/liberals/leftists who want America to be just like those countries:

I know everything I'm writing seems ridiculous, but your Fox-obsessed uncle believes it 100%.

I suspect the verdict won't matter much in the presidential race, but I wonder if I'll be wrong about that because of the apparent Trump strategy, which is to pitch the post-verdict message only to MAGA loyalists. Trump can't win solely with cult voters -- he needs the swing voters who are gravitating toward him because there seems to be more war these days and groceries cost more. A few of them might be alienated by this verdict, unless he keeps them on his side. Or maybe he doesn't need to try -- they just want change, and they'll vote for him anyway. But if there's a chance they're wavering, he's not doing much to try to win them back. It's an all-base strategy. I hope that's a huge mistake.

Thursday, May 30, 2024


I'm back. Thank you again, Yas and Tom, for great posts while I was away.

While I was traveling, I read a New York Times Magazine story that's being promoted in an odd way, or at least it seems odd to me:

The story's authors, Elizabeth Dias and Lisa Lerer, write:
The story of how an elite strike force of Christian lawyers, activists and politicians methodically and secretly led the country down a path that defied the will of a majority of Americans, who wanted abortion to remain legal, has been hidden until now.
But why has this story been "hidden until now"? Why is it "untold"? The Times Magazine presents this as a scoop, but shouldn't the Times be embarrassed that the story wasn't being reported in real time? Isn't that what readers expect from the Times -- that it will keep tabs on powerful organizations with big plans to change the way we live? Isn't the job of reporters to ensure that sneaky groups like this one can't operate in absolute secrecy?

One reason this happened, of course, is that Dias and Lerer were saving what they knew for a book:

But it also appears that the Times hasn't been particularly interested in pursuing the work of "Christian lawyers, activists and politicians" operating "methodically and secretly" to overturn Roe. In the current story, we're told about the importance of Leonard Leo:
It happened almost by accident, over cocktails. Exactly the kind of accident that Leonard Leo intended to happen at his Federalist Society’s annual conference — a three-day gathering of the conservative tribe and a strategy session for right-wing lawyers, officials and judges....

For more than 40 years, a passionate band of conservative and mostly Christian activists tried to find ways to undermine the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion and revolutionized America. But they had been losing.... The anti-abortion movement lacked the critical mass needed in Washington and the control of courts to end federal abortion rights. But now, with Trump, who promised to name “pro-life judges,” in the White House, there was a new vista before them.

Leo, the force behind this network, arrived at the Mayflower after spending the day at Trump Tower in New York. He met with the president-elect and his top aides about turning the list of Supreme Court justice candidates that Leo curated into legal reality. Republicans in the Senate had taken a risk by refusing to hold hearings to fill the seat left open by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia toward the end of Barack Obama’s presidency. Now, with Trump positioned to nominate one of its own, Leo’s movement stood on the verge of an enormous triumph, with a court that would once again be dominated by Republican-appointed justices — and those who were firmly on the side of restricting abortion.
Everyone knew that Trump had one vacancy to fill, that he would likely have another because Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an octogenarian cancer survivor who'd chosen not to retire during President Obama's term, and that he might have a third if Anthony Kennedy could be persuaded to leave the Court. They knew what Leo and the rest of the anti-abortion movement wanted. Why weren't they watching and reporting on this network's every move?

Tom Carter, a retired Washington Times reporter who's become obsessed with Leo's outsize power, has written about his unsuccessful efforts to persuade journalists at the Times to write about Leo:
Starting in 2010, I pitched more than 40 prominent, award-winning mainstream journalists, including seven from the New York Times....

[Robert] Draper was perfectly placed at the NYT magazine, an elegant writer who had the best contacts in DC. In 2014, I sent Draper a long email detailing why an important, big shot NYT reporter needed to look at Leo.

He responded.

“RE: Leo et al., Kirsten [Powers, Draper’s fiancée] knows him personally, and we’re close to a certain GOP donor who is very tied into the reshaping of the courts. It’s a very good story, but this is one of the small handful of very good stories out there that’s a little too close to home for me to feel comfortable doing.”

In other words. “Leo et al” are friends and while this was a “very good story,” I can’t out my friends.

... Kirsten Powers, Draper’s fiancée, now wife, is another high profile DC reporter (CNN, Fox, USA Today). She went through a highly publicized conversion to Catholicism in 2015, with help from extreme right spiritual guides Eric Metaxas and Ann Corkery — Leonard Leo’s dark money handler....

Corkery, like Leo, is an extreme far right Catholic, and once on the board of the Becket Fund, where Leo is a board member. Open members of Opus Dei, Corkery and husband Neil ran Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network dark-money laundering operation, first opposing Obama court nominees and then supporting, with millions, Leo nominees — first Roberts and Alito, then Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — during the Trump years....

“Ann Corkery is my fiancee’s godmother,” Draper said in an email dated 3/22/2017....
And on it goes.

I've done a search at the Times site and it appears that even though Leo might now be the most powerful political figure in America, his name did not appear in the Times from November 2008 until November 2016. After Trump's election, his name appeared in stories about judicial appointments, but nobody seemed to notice any of the work being done to get Roe overturned.

And yet we knew the right's legal M.O. at the time. We knew that (as Dias and Lerer's article makes clear) right-wing groups linked to Leo regularly craft laws that are passed in right-wing states in the hope that they'll trigger legal challenges. Lawyers connected to the Federalist Society write the laws, FedSoc-connected legal officials in red states defend the laws, and FedSoc lawyers argue cases based on the laws before FedSoc federal judges and Supreme Court justices.

We knew all that at the time of Trump's election. We knew these folks were gunning for Roe. Why were they able to hide the nature of their final assault on Roe from top reporters until they'd accomplished what they set out to do?

Literary Corner: Mother Teresa


Mother Teresa

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

It’s a disgrace. Mother Teresa
could not beat those charges.
These charges are rigged.
The whole thing is rigged.
The country's a mess
between the borders
and fake elections and
you have a trial like this,
where the judge is so
conflicted he can’t breathe.
He’s got to do his job.
It's not for me,
that I can tell you.
It's a disgrace. And I
mean that. Mother Teresa
could not beat these charges.
But we'll see. We'll see how we do.
It’s a very disgraceful situation.

Actually, I've been trying to give some thought to this—to the idea of Mother Teresa, learning that adult film star Randy Jackhammer has been pitching a story to the National Enquirer, "My One-Night Stand With Mother Teresa", recounting their years-ago tryst, with some vivid detail, even anatomical. Which did not happen, as far as I know, but if it did. 

That's not a crime, but you can imagine her not wanting folks to know about it, given her public standing as a holy mother and administrator of a large-scale Roman Catholic charitable operation in India, and you can imagine her offering Randy $130,000 or so to sign a non-disclosure agreement and keep the story to himself, especially if the story was true, and that's not a crime either.

Now suppose Mother Teresa wants to hide the traces of this transaction from inquiring eyes, and gets her lawyer to front the money and send it to Randy's lawyer, and then she'll pay the lawyer back some months later, when the inquiring eyes are busy with something else, and there's nothing illegal about that, but what if the lawyer registers a new company as a "real estate consulting company to collect fees for investment consulting work he does for real estate deals", but instead of using it to collect fees for investment consulting work, work that he isn't actually doing, he uses it as a way of laundering the money before getting it to Randy? And what if, instead of writing her lawyer a $130,000 check, she gets him to send her a series of invoices for legal work that he actually hasn't done, and pays them in a series of $35,000 checks adding up to more like $260,000, to cover the income tax he would have owed if he had done the imaginary work, along with some other money with which we need not concern ourselves?

Now we're talking about actually illegality, though it's still only misdemeanors under New York State law, for making false financial statements, for the lawyer and Mother Teresa and her lawyer alike. 

But to get to a felony, and the possibility of jail time, you need more. Specifically, under New York State law, a prosecutor has to be able to show that the false financial statements were filed in the furtherance of some other crime. And who would accuse Mother Teresa of a crime?

As for the “miracle” that had to be attested, what can one say? Surely any respectable Catholic cringes with shame at the obviousness of the fakery. A Bengali woman named Monica Besra claims that a beam of light emerged from a picture of MT, which she happened to have in her home, and relieved her of a cancerous tumor. Her physician, Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, says that she didn’t have a cancerous tumor in the first place and that the tubercular cyst she did have was cured by a course of prescription medicine. Was he interviewed by the Vatican’s investigators? No. (As it happens, I myself was interviewed by them but only in the most perfunctory way. The procedure still does demand a show of consultation with doubters, and a show of consultation was what, in this case, it got.)

OK, Hitch, you can sit down.

What I mean to say is, Mother Teresa never led a presidential campaign in the United States. She couldn't run for the office herself, as a native of Albania, and she showed no interest in supporting somebody else's run. She never even considered, for instance, violating

N.Y. Elec. Law § 17-152: Conspiracy to promote or prevent election. Under that statute, “Any two or more persons who conspire to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means and which conspiracy is acted upon by one or more of the parties thereto, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

(Yes, if you commit a misdemeanor in furtherance of a misdemeanor, that can be a felony.)

This is something Trump indubitably did, first in his 2015 agreement with publisher David Pecker, as established in Pecker's testimony in the ongoing trial—

In testimony this week during Trump’s trial in New York City, the former CEO of the National Enquirer’s former parent company explained in stunning detail how he agreed to act as “eyes and ears” for Trump’s campaign, purchasing the rights to stories in order to suppress them, and even outright fabricating negative stories about Trump’s opponents.

—and later in the catch-'n'-kill discussion over the article proposed by Playmate Karen McDougal.

The connection in these events between Crime 1 (conspiracy) and Crime 2 (falsification) is just too obvious to ignore. The felony was created by the two crimes interacting.

Mother Teresa, problematic as she might be, has nothing whatever to do with it. She is invoked simply as an example of virtue whose existence, somehow, demonstrated that Trump shouldn’t be tried for his crimes. and there’s really no reason to think that.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Morning in America: Not Good Enough

The other day Brad DeLong posted an excellent takedown of an editorial in Financial Times--and, by extension, of much of the reporting on the economy under Biden:
They tell us: “America’s economy is booming” but somehow only “on the surface”.

To paraphrase:
  1. Polls say Americans are not happy with Biden’s attempts to manage the economy. 
  2. This is because Americans’ are struggling against a badly-performing economy every day.
  3. And Americans’ everyday economic struggles and suffering are obscured by strong national data.
How could anyone ever say all of these three things together with a straight face?
And of course it isn't just FT. Think about all of those NYT headlines about positive economic developments that frame them as a negative for Biden.

The whole thing is worth reading, but this bit in particular leapt out at me:
This seems to be tactical messaging advice to Biden’s political and media teams: Biden should focus on how many Americans are finding themselves in economic and budgetary trouble, even though very nice aggregate, average, and median statistics have been very gratifying proof of the effectiveness of Bidenomics. Biden should, it says, soft-pedal his good policy and good luck in improving the American economy as a whole, and thus improving the real on-the-ground life circumstances of Americans.

Biden should focus, the Financial Times Editorial Board says, on how many people still need the government to make their slice of the economy better, because some have been hurt and a lot have been unsettled by the relative and absolute individual price and price-level changes...
And my first thought was: would anyone have given this advice to Reagan?

When it was Morning in America, inflation was at 4.3% (a point higher than the current rate) and unemployment at 7.2% (three points higher than today). Yes, both had come down from higher levels, but that's still a whole lot of "struggling households" (to use FT's term). Clearly a messaging campaign that focused only on the positives would have been tone deaf and completely ineffective...wait, I'm getting a correction here...oh. Never mind.

There are a number of factors in this asymmetry. The assumption that Republicans are better for the economy is embedded in a lot of news coverage (and in public perception, though which is cause and which is effect I couldn't say), even though real world results say otherwise. So is the Dems in Disarray/Good News for John McCain bias, which can find the cloudy lining in any Democratic silver.

But there's another factor that I think is just as important: Republicans get a pass because they don't give a shit. Republicans can't fail if they aren't really trying in the first place*. Democrats, on the other hand, must be judged against what they want to do, and if they ever achieve 99% of what they set out to do you know that glass will be 1% empty.

Them's the breaks, and it isn't changing anytime soon. But it's still important to be aware of it, and push back when we can. 

*The Republicans' greatest policy success--making it legal again to force women to give birth against their will--also happens to be spectacularly unpopular all over the country. 

Sunday, May 26, 2024

In the Unlikely Event

5/27: Updated version at the Substack

It's something from the Other Nate (Cohn, at The Times) that I'm taking a personal interest in, because I've been asking somebody with the resources to do it for a long time: going in search of the unlikely voter. Except he doesn't know that's what he's doing.

That is, when he was looking into the factors that might be associated with voter preference for Biden, he found that people who were otherwise likely to vote for Biden—self-identified Democrats, people who voted for Biden in 2020, minority members, the relatively young—it was those who didn't vote at all in the 2022 midterms, who were more likely to express a preference for Trump or no preference at all:

Overall, self-identified Democrats who stayed home in the midterms back Mr. Biden by just 67-15, compared with Mr. Biden’s 93-3 edge among those who turned out last November. Similarly, Mr. Biden holds just a 79-6 lead among self-reported Biden ’20 voters who did not vote in the midterms, compared with a 91-3 edge among those who did turn out.
Perhaps surprisingly, the pattern even extends to college graduates. Mr. Biden leads by just 11 points among college graduates who skipped the midterms, compared with a 19-point lead among those who turned out. College-educated Democrats who skipped the midterms back Mr. Biden by just 70-9, while college-educated Democrats who turned out in the midterms back him, 98-0.

Which Cohn interprets—this is The Times, after all—in the Pitchbot paradigm of "bad news for Biden", as a significant place in the cross-tabs where Biden is in trouble; under the assumption, I guess, that the 2024 electorate will consist of the 2022 electorate plus this wavery group for the Democrats and the corresponding group for the Republicans, who are solidly for Trump, and therefore the 2024 electorate will be less Democratic overall than the 2022 one was.

These less engaged voters might just be the single biggest problem facing Mr. Biden in his pursuit of re-election, the Times/Siena data suggests. If there’s any good news for Mr. Biden, it’s that his challenge is concentrated among voters who still consider themselves Democrats — a group that, in theory, ought to be open to returning to the president’s side.

But the assumption is obviously dumb. You might as well assume that the registered voter poll is the same as the likely voter poll. What Cohn has actually done here is a way of approximating the "less engaged", to use his phrase, that is the less likely. They're less likely to be following the news, they're less clear on the differences between Trump and Biden, or between Republicans and Democrats, they're less likely to have made up their minds at all, and will remain so up until the last couple of weeks in October-November, and more likely not to show up in November at all, even though it's a presidential year.

And it hasn't occurred to Cohn to consider those who didn't show up in 2020, but Pew knows that too, and there are interesting partisan differences there:

The plurality of voters who always vote is equally divided between the parties; Republicans dominated the group who didn't vote at all from 2018 to 2022, Democrats the group that only voted in direct reaction to Trump, in 2018-20 or 2020 alone; in 2020 the stay-at-homes were overwhelmingly Republican, and that's a more important number than the Republican stay-at-homes of 2022 (though these defeated the Nates' predictions of the Red Wave).

I'm not saying this is a Good Sign for Biden's chances either, though it might well be, especially in conjunction with the well-known defects of the Times-Siena operation this year, in particular in the representation of Latinos and youth. 

What it is, and this is what has me kind of excited, is an occasion for a testable hypothesis on what gets the unlikely voters going. Is it inflation ("It's teh stupid, economy!"), as the legacy press seems determined it should be? It certainly wasn't in 2022, the year of the missing Red Wave, when inflation was much worse than it is now. Is it Trump fear and anxiety over abortion? That would be the overall lesson from 2018-22 (Democrats doing less brilliantly in 2022, when Trump was personally off the ballot).

I'm saying it's a Good Sign for political science that it should get busy studying unlikely voters, I'm saying, as I was saying in November 2022, that

there's something defective about the pollsters' traditional collection of data for adults, registered voters, and likely voters—they really need to be collecting data for unlikely voters, because they're the ones who make the difference.
This is just another way of putting a claim I've made before. What I normally say is that the normal pollsters' picture, where the electorate is made up of partisan voters who know what they want and swing voters who have trouble making up their minds whom to vote for, is wrong; the unpredictable part is really the people who have trouble making up their minds whether to vote at all.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Moral Equivalence


Larry Thomas and Bret Mendenhall in Uwe Boll's 2008 Postal, via The New York Times.

On the prospect of the International Criminal Court issuing arrest warrants on Yahya Sinwar (the head of Hamas in Gaza), Ismail Haniyeh (head of the Hamas Political Bureau), Mohammed Deif (commander-in-chief of the Qassam Brigades), and the Israeli prime minister and defense minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, there's been a lot of angry talk about the ICC prosecutor practicing "moral equivalence", including from President Biden

The ICC prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders is outrageous. And let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.  We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.  

A truly weird error in this connection from NBC News, which ran an interview with Netanyahu yesterday in which the prime minister complained that he was being given a "bum rap" (Trump's language choices are a bad influence, now Bibi too sounds like a 1950s gangster):

Echoing Biden's comments, Netanyahu said Khan's decision to seek arrest warrants for both Israel's and Hamas' leaders reflected a "false symmetry" that he said was comparable to the arrest warrants that were issued for both President George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Remember when ICC put out a warrant on Bush? I was so startled I looked it up, but of course it didn't happen (the court did open a preliminary investigation of war crimes in Afghanistan after the country ratified the Rome statute in 2003, but after 11 years of that, from 2006 to 2017, it took until 2020 for them to decide to move on to a full investigation, upon which Trump put sanctions on them, which Biden has reversed). And Netanyahu didn't say it did. You can get a more accurate report of what he said on NBC from The Times of Israel:

Netanyahu slammed [prosecutor Karim] Khan, accusing him of being “out to demonize Israel” and adding: “He’s doing a hit job. He’s creating a false symmetry between the democratically elected leaders of Israel and the terrorist chieftains” of Palestinian terror group Hamas, who are also the targets of potential ICC arrest warrants. “That’s like saying after 9/11, well, I’m issuing arrest warrants for George Bush, but also for [Osama] bin Laden.”

It's one of those "imagine the scandal if" analogies, along with the ever-popular "by these standards they should have arrested FDR for fire bombing Dresden," where I always have to note that that wasn't a war crime when it happened, because the Geneva Conventions weren't updated to cover air warfare yet, and the reason they are now is that some of the things done from the air in World War II by Axis and Allied forces alike were so horrible that people decided they must never happen again—including the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and  the fire bombing of Dresden. Speaking of which

The Financial Times [in late December 2023] did a statistical analysis that compared Gaza to the Allied bombing campaign over Germany during the Second World War.

Three cities in Germany were effectively destroyed from the air during that war: Cologne, Hamburg and Dresden. In Hamburg and Dresden, a mix of high explosives and incendiary bombs created the notorious "firestorm" conditions that caused streets to melt.

Data analyzed by [war damage–mapping experts] shows that by Dec. 5, the percentage of Gaza's buildings that had been damaged or destroyed already had surpassed the destruction in Cologne and Dresden, and was approaching the level of Hamburg.

They also found that the bombing destruction in Gaza was worse than what the Russians had done to Mariupol and Bakhmut, and that

Israeli forces have killed approximately twice as many women and children in two months in Gaza as Russian forces have killed in Ukraine in nearly two years.

The Bush–bin Laden bit is a handy window on how Netanyahu sees himself and his situation: naturally, he still thinks W responded correctly to the 9/11 attacks and everybody will understand immediately what an outrage it would be to put him under arrest. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

My "Unified Reich" T-shirt is raising many questions that are answered by my "Unified Reich" T-shirt

Image via FineScale Modeler.

Trump's mind going totally blank, you really have to watch it: 

Update: Philip Bump at WaPo points out that the video was made with stock footage, and links an ad for the company that sells it, which just happens to feature the same footage;

A person who does motion graphics and video editing work emailed with a link to the stock footage used in the video Trump shared. This person noted that they’d used the same template recently, noting that the designer of the Trump video had apparently not swapped out the filler text included by default.

Bump thinks that proves it was an accident, but these accidents, like the Hillary with Star of David on a bed of greenbacks, or the swastika tweet, or the Mussolini quote, do happen an awful lot.  Also, did Scavino or somebody steal the footage from the ad instead of paying for it?


Saturday, May 18, 2024

For the Record

Hi folks, relief crew here, with a Bluesky roundup for the week, addressing some of those awful moments where somebody was wrong on the Internet...

TV lawyers keep fretting about how key witness Michael Cohen is a noted liar—he's even got a felony conviction for it—so juries might have trouble believing him. I don't know, if it's a "he-said-he-said" between him and Trump and he's explaining the deceit Trump was paying him to practice...

Also, the only important Cohen lie in this case is the one COVERING UP FOR TRUMP in his guilty plea, when he claimed he'd made an illegal campaign contribution (the Stormy payment), hiding the fact that Trump had reimbursed him (as Cohen proved in 2019 with the canceled checks).

[image or embed]

— Yastreblyansky (@yastreblyansky.bsky.socialMay 16, 2024 at 9:34 PM

(cite from Politico in August 2018

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— Yastreblyansky (@yastreblyansky.bsky.socialMay 16, 2024 at 9:41 PM


Response to somebody going by "Leftist Renegade" who was complaining about Biden proposing new tariffs after making fun of Trump's tariff mania in 2019:

There's no inconsistency. Trump tariffs were random and basically harmful. Biden's are carefully targeted in support of a huge and vital industrial policy.

[image or embed]

— Yastreblyansky (@yastreblyansky.bsky.socialMay 15, 2024 at 1:38 PM

The most exciting part to me is that Biden has given up the neoliberalism that Democrats have been subscribing to for 50 years. He openly *has* an industrial policy instead of praying to the market gods to take care of everything.

— Yastreblyansky (@yastreblyansky.bsky.socialMay 15, 2024 at 1:41 PM

And that's consistent with his efforts to reduce economic inequality through the tax system, to involve federal government in drug pricing, to revolutionize the national infrastructure on the Eisenhower scale (but with more attention to trains and wifi), and so on.

— Yastreblyansky (@yastreblyansky.bsky.socialMay 15, 2024 at 1:47 PM


Remember how Joe Biden has been kicking back against Israeli mamzer behavior in the West Bank for FORTY-TWO YEARS? Because I certainly didn't:


I gotta travel on ... I'll be out of blog range for a bit, but there'll be guest post here, so stop by. I'll see you on May 30.

Friday, May 17, 2024


Here are three stories sending the same message: If you're a Republican, or at least avoid doing things Republicans don't like, you're an American. If you challenge Republicans, you're not an American, and you have only as many rights as Republicans are willing to grant you.

First story:
The North Carolina Senate voted along party lines Wednesday to ban anyone from wearing masks in public for health reasons, following an emotional debate about the wisdom of the proposal.

Republican supporters of the ban said it would help police crack down on protesters who wear masks....

It passed 30-15, with every Republican in favor and every Democrat opposed.
The bill is likely to be approved in the House, which, like the Senate, is 60% Republican, even though Democrats win or nearly win many statewide races. (The legislature is deeply gerrymandered.) I expect the Democratic governor to veto the bill, but those GOP legislative majorities are supermajorities, so the veto can be overriden.

Here are the consequences:
Sen. Sydney Batch, D-Wake, is a cancer survivor. She spoke about how her husband and children wore masks to protect her while she was undergoing treatment and had a weakened immune system because of it.

"This bill criminalizes their behavior, and mine," she said. "... We talk a lot about freedoms in this chamber. I hear it all the time. I should have the freedom — my children and my husband should have the freedom — to wear masks in order to protect and save my life, without fear of being arrested and charged."
Sorry, Senator Batch -- you and your family only have the freedom to do things that don't annoy Republicans.

Now, here's story #2:
More than a year after a Travis County jury convicted Daniel Perry of murdering a protester in Austin, Gov. Greg Abbott pardoned Perry, 37, on Thursday shortly after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended a full pardon.

A Texas state district court judge sentenced Perry in May 2023 to 25 years in prison for shooting and killing U.S. Air Force veteran Garrett Foster during a 2020 demonstration protesting police brutality against people of color.
Perry, who is white, was working as a ride-share driver when his car approached a demonstration in Austin. Prosecutors said he could have driven away from the confrontation with Foster, a white Air Force veteran who witnesses said never raised his gun.
A gun he was legally entitled to carry because this was in Terxas.
A jury convicted Perry of murder, but Abbott called it a case of self-defense.

“Texas has one of the strongest ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws of self-defense that cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive district attorney,” Abbott said.
Sorry, jurors, you might believe that you were making a decision based on the facts and the law, but you're not allowed to do that in Texas if your decision offends Republicans.

Perry is a bad person:
Shortly after Perry’s conviction, unsealed court documents revealed he had made a slew of racist, threatening comments about protesters in text messages and social media posts. Days after George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer prompted nationwide protests, Perry sent a text message saying, “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters.” ...

Perry, a U.S. Army sergeant, also sent racist and anti-Muslim messages before and after Floyd’s death. In April 2020, he sent a meme, which included a photo of a woman holding her child’s head under water in the bath, with the text, “WHEN YOUR DAUGHTERS FIRST CRUSH IS A LITTLE NEGRO BOY,” according to the state’s filing.

The court documents also revealed that Perry sent inappropriate messages to someone who claimed to be 16 years old through Kik Messenger, a communication platform that has been used to share child pornography.

"Also promise me no nudes until you are old enough to be of age,” Perry wrote, the same month he shot and killed Foster.

Before signing off, Perry wrote, “I am going to bed come up with a reason why I should be your boyfriend before I wake up.”
And the killing was premeditated:
"I might have to kill a few people on my way to work, they are rioting outside my apartment complex," Perry wrote to a friend in June of 2020. "I might go to Dallas to shoot looters," he wrote on another occasion. Perry also encouraged violence in a variety of social media posts.
And deliberate:
According to multiple witnesses, Perry ran a red light, then accelerated directly toward a group of protesters.
Adam Serwer wrote last year,
Put simply, some conservatives believe that Perry’s conviction was unjust because they do not believe that it should be a crime to kill a Black Lives Matter “rioter,” a description that in the right-wing imagination applies to any and all BLM protesters regardless of their actions.
That's the law in Texas now, apparently.

And now Story #3:
After the 2020 presidential election, as some Trump supporters falsely claimed that President Biden had stolen the office, many of them displayed a startling symbol outside their homes, on their cars and in online posts: an upside-down American flag.

One of the homes flying an inverted flag during that time was the residence of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., in Alexandria, Va., according to photographs and interviews with neighbors.

The upside-down flag was aloft on Jan. 17, 2021, the images showed. President Donald J. Trump’s supporters, including some brandishing the same symbol, had rioted at the Capitol a little over a week before. Mr. Biden’s inauguration was three days away....

In coming weeks, the justices will rule on two climactic cases involving the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, including whether Mr. Trump has immunity for his actions. Their decisions will shape how accountable he can be held for trying to overturn the last presidential election and his chances for re-election in the upcoming one....

Judicial experts said in interviews that the flag was a clear violation of ethics rules, which seek to avoid even the appearance of bias, and could sow doubt about Justice Alito’s impartiality in cases related to the election and the Capitol riot.
This isn't state-sanctioned murder or direct endangerment of the lives of immunocompromised people. But it's smoking-gun evidence that Alito is a far-right Republican legislator in a robe and shouldn't be serving on the Supreme Court.

Alito shifts the blame to his wife, even though, presumably, he co-owns the house and lives in it, and is therefore jointly responsible for what takes place there:
“I had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag,” Justice Alito said in an emailed statement to The Times. “It was briefly placed by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor’s use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs.”

... Around the 2020 election, a family on the block displayed an anti-Trump sign with an expletive. It apparently offended Mrs. Alito and led to an escalating clash between her and the family, according to interviews.
According to the U.S. Code, the American flag "should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property." To the Alitos, the "extreme danger" was the impending inauguration of a Democratic president -- because only Republicans are full citizens with the right to run the government.

Alito himself is not biased because, in his view and in the view of millions of Republicans, Republicanism is Americanism. Liberals, progressives, and Democrats simply aren't American, and therefore they're entitled to only as many rights and as much consideration as Republicans feel like giving them. And that increasingly looks like America's future.

Thursday, May 16, 2024


You and I know where Joe Biden and Donald Trump stand on the issues. Most Republican partisans do too. But swing voters, who tend to know less about policy positions, often judge candidates based on how they carry themselves, or how they speak.

This week, The New York Times published a transcript of a focus group consisting of twelve women who voted for Trump in 2020. Some are critical of Trump now, but none of them like Biden. One of the moderators, Kristen Soltis Anderson, asks the women for one word to describe Biden. Anderson focuses on two of the responses:
Moderator, Kristen Soltis Anderson
Gaylin, you said “incompetent.” Tell me a little bit about that.

Gaylin, 31, Georgia, independent, white, stay-at-home mom
When he speaks, he seems so lost and confused. And you don’t feel the power in his speaking the way I felt like I felt when Donald Trump addressed the nation. It’s just not as firm or direct. It’s not even like he’s reading a script. It’s more just like he’s kind of blubbering through.

Moderator, Kristen Soltis Anderson
OK. Teri, I know you said you didn’t want to say anything mean. There’s not really a positive spin on the word “idiot.” Tell me what makes that the word that comes to mind for you.

Teri, 44, Wisconsin, independent, white, systems analyst
Trump was always confident in his speeches, very involved, fighting for his passion or very vocal, which could be good or bad, whereas Biden is very scripted. It’s basically what he’s being told to do, how he’s being told to do it. And he’s just like a little lost wanderer. I just feel that makes him look like an idiot because he’s not thinking on his own. He’s not thinking smartly.
I believe this is why Biden's poll numbers are lower that Bill Clinton's and Barack Obama's at a comparable point in their presidencies. Clinton and Obama were vilified by Republicans, but they were vigorous, eloquent speakers. I'm certain this made a difference for some voters -- they weren't sure what they believed or whose policies would be better for them, but they heard these presidents and believed the country was in good hands.

Biden can be eloquent! He delivered a great State of the Union address. Debating Trump is risky, but it can be very good for Biden.

Mitt Romney thinks he has the advantage of being underestimated:
“I think people have very low expectations as to what President Biden will do. I think they have much higher expectations about President Trump and his competitiveness.”
Politico says Trump World is expecting Biden to fail:
Trump’s team is projecting confidence and gloating that Biden actually fell into their trap. The former president has been a broken record, insisting he’ll debate Biden “anytime, anywhere, anyplace” and pressuring the president to accept.

The [debate] agreement, Trump allies say, gives the former president a chance to try to showcase that the 81-year-old incumbent has lost a step....
It's very good for Biden if the bar is set lower for him than for Trump -- and it sure looks as if the Trump campaign is helping Biden to adjust the bar.

Biden has to avoid unforced errors, obviously. But apart from that, he has to stand his ground and demonstrate that he can make a case for himself. He might not do it, but I think he can, and he's running against a candidate who thinks he can't possibly do it. Agreeing to these debates was a good move.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024


Judd Legum asks whether Donald Trump is committing a crime by directing surrogates to make statements he's preventing from making himnself:
In recent days, several high-profile Republican political figures have traveled to the Manhattan Criminal Court, where Donald Trump is on trial. Outside the courthouse, they addressed the media and attacked key witnesses, the jury, and even the judge's daughter.

The comments by Trump's Republican allies are nearly identical to attacks that Trump has made previously in interviews and social media posts. But Judge Juan Merchan has ruled that, in so doing, Trump violated the gag order he imposed to preserve the integrity of the trial....

Merchan's order prohibits Trump from "directing others to make public statements about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses." The order also prohibits Trump from directing others to attack the jury, the court staff, or family members.

... Attorney Jeff Jacobovitz, in an appearance on MSNBC, suggested that Merchan may hold a hearing over whether Trump has violated the gag order by directing his surrogates to make these attacks on his behalf. Jacobovitz noted that "if Trump is feeding information" to his allies, it would violate the gag order.
I assume Merchan won't hold a hearing, will hold a hearing but conclude that he can't prove that Trump orchestrated the obviously orchestrated statements, or will conclude that Trump did orchestrate the statements -- and will respond by fining Trump again, with yet another really strong warning that he won't let Trump get away with this and really might throw him in jail next time. Rinse and repeat.

But here's the aspect of all this that I find most bizarre:
The red tie brigade

On Monday, Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH), Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), and Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) addressed the media in front of the courthouse. On Tuesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum (R), Congressman Byron Donalds (R-FL), former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy (R), and Congressman Cory Mills (R-FL) did the same. Tuesday's group, in an apparent show of solidarity, wore Trump's signature blue suit and red tie.

Does that remind you of anything? If you're a Boomer, it might remind you of this:
Many of the cultists even carved an “X” into their foreheads after the first day of testimony when [Charles] Manson arrived in court sporting the same. Later, when a guilty verdict was decided and the trial went to penalty phase, Manson shaved his head, proclaiming, “I am the Devil, and the Devil always has a bald head.” Some of his devotees followed suit and could be seen crouched outside in bald-headed solidarity on the days leading up to his April 19, 1971 death sentencing.

I understand that President Biden might want to remain silent about the Trump trial because he doesn't want to be seen as interfering -- but if I were a prominent Democrat who wasn't part of the Executive Branch, I'd tell reporters. "Look at these guys in their red ties. They're like the Manson girls."

Maybe it's offensive to say "Manson girls," the way everyone did at the time of the trial. Some were underage, but many weren't. Also, as Vox's Constance Grady noted a few years ago, the term "Manson girls" was shorthand for "crazed sex-mad hippie chicks who murdered for Charlie." The reality is that most had troubled lives, and sexual assault and other forms of abuse and degradation, by Manson and others, were commonplace in Manson's world.

That's what makes the behavior of the "Trump boys" worse. They're not lost runaways. They aren't being held in check by a cult leader who's using abuse and other tactics to control their minds. They're just careerist lickspittles prostrating themselves before the boss, hoping for a place on the ticket or some other form of career advancement.

But as long as they're out there, I'm wondering why Democrats or liberal activists aren't there too, giving their spin on the trial, in provocative and mediagenic ways. Trump has turned the perimeter of the courthouse into a theater where he's putting on a show and only his followers have any lines. He's still much smarter about the media than the vast majority of Democrats. It's time for Democrats to catch up.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024


Jamelle Bouie is surprised that many voters seem to be giving Donald Trump a pass on his mismanagement of the pandemic.
... one of the most striking findings in a number of recent polls is the extent to which a large portion of the electorate has given Trump a bye for his last year in office. For example, in an April CBS News poll of key battleground states, roughly 62 percent of registered voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin said that when they look back at 2020, their state’s economy was good. In the moment, however, a majority of voters in those states disapproved of Trump’s handling of the economy.

... in June 2020, the unemployment rate had grown to 14.5 percent in Michigan, 8.7 percent in Wisconsin and 11.3 percent in Pennsylvania.

... Trump presided over a recession worsened by his total failure to manage the coronavirus. As Covid deaths mounted, Trump spread misinformation and left states scrambling for needed supplies. It was not until after the March stock market crash that the White House issued its plan to blunt the economic impact of the pandemic. And the most generous provisions found in the CARES Act, including a vast expansion of unemployment benefits, were negotiated into the bill by Democratic lawmakers.

None of this seems to matter to voters. “The economy” under Trump is simply the one that existed from Jan. 20, 2017 to March 13, 2020....
To Bouie, this is unprecedented.
No other president has gotten this kind of excused absence for mismanaging a crisis that happened on his watch. We don’t bracket the secession crisis from our assessment of James Buchanan or the Great Depression from our judgment of Herbert Hoover or the hostage crisis in Iran from our assessment of Jimmy Carter.
Does Bouie remember 9/11? In the first few years after the attacks, George W. Bush's popularity skyrocketed, with approval ratings in the immediate aftermath nearing 90%. By 2004, Bush had failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and had mired America in an unnecessary war in Iraq. That year we learned that Bush had received warnings of the impending attack and downplayed them. We also learned about the torture of prisoners by U.S. troops and intelligence agents. In spite of all this, Bush ran for reelection as the man keeping America safe -- and scored the only popular-vote win by a GOP presidential candidate in the past 36 years.

Now we assess the Bush presidency as a failure, because the Iraq War continued to be a debacle, because Bush never got bin Laden, and because he capped off his presidency with a major financial crisis. But three years after 9/11, America thought he'd done a pretty good job. (Flawed memories of Trump are occurring four years after 2020, a similar span of time.)

In the popular imagination, at least among right-wingers, Ronald Reagan is seen as a magisterial figure. He isn't remembered for the Marine barracks bombings in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. servicemembers and led to a withdrawal of U.S. servicemembers from Lebanon. (Reagan won a 49-state landslide when he ran for reelection a year later.) The admirers of Reagan also shrug off Iran-contra and the massive deficits created by his tax cuts.

Pre-Trump Republicans got mulligans when things went wrong on their watch because many Americans see them as manly defenders of Right and Truth and Good. When bad things happen under a Democratic president, these voters cast blame and see weakness -- but when bad things happen under a Republican president, they see it as a sign that we need a strong, steady, Republican hand on the tiller, even if that was the hand on the tiller when the crisis happened in the first place.

Trump failed during the pandemic, but he always acted as if he was a strong leader getting the job done. Polls consistently say that voters think he's a stronger leader than Biden -- mostly, I think, because he postures like one. So I'm not surprised that he's getting away with godawful crisis management. Republicans often do.

Monday, May 13, 2024


Over the weekend, The New York Times ran an op-ed by Mark Penn -- pollster, frequent Fox News guest, and husband to No Labels CEO Nancy Jacobson -- arguing that President Biden has struggled in the polls because he and his party are too damn liberal.
President Biden appears behind in all the swing states and his campaign appears all-too-focused on firming up his political base on the left with his new shift on Israel, a $7 trillion budget, massive tax increases and failing to connect on the basic issues of inflation, immigration and energy. By pitching too much to the base, he is leaving behind the centrist swing voters who shift between parties from election to election and, I believe, will be the key factor deciding the 2024 race.

I’ve spent decades looking at the behavior of swing voters and how candidates appeal to them, including for Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1996. If Mr. Biden wants to serve another four years, he has to stop being dragged to the left and chart a different course closer to the center that appeals to those voters who favor bipartisan compromises to our core issues, fiscal discipline and a strong America....

Unfortunately, Mr. Biden is not reaching out to moderate voters with policy ideas or a strong campaign message. He is not showing clear evidence of bringing in large numbers of swing voters in the battleground states at this point. Those swing voters look for fiscal restraint without tax increases, climate policies that still give people a choice of cars and fuels and immigration policies that are compassionate to those who are here but close the borders.
I'm struggling to understand how a shift in policy regarding Israel that was reported last week helps explain poor numbers for Biden in polls conducted weeks or even months ago. I'm also not clear on how a budget that's never been front-page news for most Americans, and that will certainly not survive intact in a divided Congress, is a political liability for the president. And "choice of cars"? Does anyone apart from 14-hour-a-day Fox viewers believe that's a burning issue in this campaign?

I think Biden is being hurt badly by inflation, or at least by prices that are persistently high even if they're no longer rising rapidly. I think he's being blamed for international crises he didn't create, for crime that isn't rising anymore, and for border problems that Democrats would like to solve and Republicans would rather run on than address. I think Mark Penn knows that these are the reasons Biden is struggling -- but Penn and the fat cats he and his wife consort with would like to use an apparent crisis in the Democratic Party as an opportunity to push the party rightward. They want the party to be pro-big business, pro-fossil fuel, and unquestionably pro-Israel.

Why did Penn write and publish this now? The op-ed reads like a pre-buttal of the survey The New York Times was about to publish. You'd assume that Penn, as a fellow pollster, would know the survey was coming. It appeared today, under this headline:
Trump Leads in 5 Key States, as Young and Nonwhite Voters Express Discontent With Biden

A new set of Times/Siena polls, including one with The Philadelphia Inquirer, reveal an erosion of support for the president among young and nonwhite voters upset about the economy and Gaza.
There's little or no evidence that voters who have soured on Biden have done so because his budget has too many tax increases on the wealthy or because he's sometimes urged restraint on Israel. It's the economy, stupid:
The economy and the cost of living, however, remain the most important issues for one-quarter of voters — and a significant drag on Mr. Biden’s prospects. More than half of voters still believe that the economy is “poor,” down merely a single percentage point since November despite cooling inflation, an end to rate hikes and significant stock market gains.

Nearly 40 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters said that the economy or the cost of living was the most important issue in the election....

The Biden administration’s insistence that the economy is faring well has fallen flat for many voters, including Jacob Sprague, 32, who works as a systems engineer in Reno, Nev. He says that he voted for Mr. Biden in 2020 but will not be doing so this time.

“It is concerning to me when I keep seeing press come out of the White House where they keep saying the economy is good,” Mr. Sprague said. “That’s really weird because I’m paying more on taxes and more on groceries and more on housing and more on fuel. So that doesn’t feel good.”
And there's one key finding in this survey that definitively rebuts everything Penn argues: The Times survey, like the polling averages I wrote about over the weekend, finds that Democratic Senate candidates are doing much better than Biden.
Democratic candidates for the Senate in Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin lead their Republican rivals and are running well ahead of President Biden in key states where he continues to struggle....

In Pennsylvania, Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat, has the support of 46 percent of voters, against the 41 percent who say they back his Republican challenger, the wealthy finance executive David McCormick, although Mr. Trump holds a slender advantage in a head-to-head race with Mr. Biden, 47 percent to 44 percent.

In Wisconsin, the Democratic incumbent, Senator Tammy Baldwin, holds a wider, 49-percent-to-40 percent lead over the Republican banker Eric Hovde. Mr. Biden is up slightly against Mr. Trump, 47 percent to 45 percent.

In Nevada, where Mr. Biden is struggling the most, Senator Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, narrowly leads her Republican challenger, Sam Brown, a wounded combat veteran, 40 percent to 38 percent, with 23 percent of registered voters undecided.

In Arizona, the one battleground state polled with an open Senate seat, Representative Ruben Gallego, a Phoenix-area Democrat, leads Kari Lake, the Republican former news anchor who is closely allied with Mr. Trump, 45 percent to 41 percent, with 14 percent undecided. Mr. Trump leads Mr. Biden in Arizona, 49 percent to 42 percent.
If Penn is right and the Democratic Party has become too liberal, why are these Democrats winning?

Now, I know that many of you regard polls as disinformation spread by right-leaning media barons to create the false impression that conservatism is triumphant. If that's the case, I'm not sure how these Senate polls are meant to accomplish this task. The GOP candidates in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are right-wing finance guys -- and we're told that they're losing. Why would disinformationists who want to deceive us about Trump's popularity not do the same for David McCormick and Eric Hovde? And if the press wants Trump to win even though he's a lunatic (or perhaps because he's a lunatic and is therefore good copy), why wouldn't the press also want Kari Lake to win?

This polling confirms my belief that Joe Biden just isn't a good candidate. He could be better, but he and his team seem not to think that he needs to be, and very engaged Democratic voters seem to agree. I'd like to think this poll will be a wake-up call, but the mood in the party suggests that engaged Democrats still think a Biden win is inevitable. I don't see that at all, but I'd love to be wrong.

Sunday, May 12, 2024


Donald Trump enjoyed himself at last night's rally on the Jersey shore:
Thousands of MAGA supporters listened as Trump referred to the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, as "fat Alvin" ...

The former president said he had been indicted "more than the great Alphonse Capone… on bullshit, too." It prompted members of the crowd to chant "Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!" in response....

As Trump continued his typical attacks on the Biden administration, he asked the crowd: "Everything they touch turns to what?"

"Shit!" the crowd chanted in response.

"You can't use the word shit," Trump joked back.
He attacked former New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie, winking at the audience, “you cannot call him a fat pig.”
We worry that a second Trump presidency would turn America into an unrecognizable ex-democracy. That's obviously what his most prominent supporters are hoping will happen, and they'll work hard to accomplish that goal. But what if -- apart from making his legal troubles go away, and having new opportunities to shake people down for cash -- this is all Trump himself really wants from the presidency: the opportunity, once again, to be America's unchallenged Insult Comic in Chief, the potty-mouthed toxic-male class clown of his boarding school, a desire he still harbors as he approaches his eightieth birthday?

As I've said before, I believe the awfulness of a second Trump presidency could be limited somewhat because Trump doesn't really care all that much about attaining his advisers' goals. He mostly just wants to be America's most powerful and admired person.

He wants what a Washington Post story says he has at Mar-a-Lago:
At the club ... Donald Trump is seen the way he likes to be seen. In this alternate reality he has built for himself, guests view him as the rightful winner of the 2020 election, still refer to him as “Mr. President” and greet him with standing ovations when he enters the gold-covered rooms....

In the eyes of his adoring fans at Mar-a-Lago, he can do no wrong. The club’s menu has “Mr. President’s Wedge Salad,” the hamburger buns at the nearby golf course come emblazoned with his likeness.... There is often a swarm of well-wishers, suck-ups and freelance advisers....

When Trump became president ... there was a noticeable change at the club, according to one regular guest: before the presidency, they couldn’t recall a time Trump received applause just for entering a room.

“There were those that didn’t like Trump,” [Laurence] Leamer wrote in his book about Mar-a-Lago. “But they only whispered this. Publicly they rose and applauded Trump with the rest of his fans.”

One of the great benefits of Mar-a-Lago is that Trump can usually find a crowd eager to shower him with approval.
As I said in a recent post, ordinary Republicans are generally happy, according to social science research, and it's probably because many of them live in a culturally conservative bubble where nearly everyone shares their beliefs. If they're angry at all, it's because they don't want there to be any part of America where their racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, toxic masculinity, and gun nuttery are considered unacceptable.

I think that's what Trump wants most of all: an America where he can call people fat or ugly and everyone will laugh. An America where he can be an unsocialized adolescent and no one can stop him. He wants this much more than he wants, say, the breakup of the administrative state. So I wonder how hard he'll work to achieve his ideologue advisers' most cherished goals.

Saturday, May 11, 2024


The general election is six months away. A lot can happen in that time. Candidates who are leading right now might not be leading in November. Nevertheless, there's a notable disparity between the poll numbers for President Biden and the numbers for vulnerable Democratic senators.

In the Real Clear Polling average, Biden trails Donald Trump by 1.2 points in a two-candidate race. Trump's lead is small, but Biden hasn't led since October. What's worse, Biden trails in every swing state -- Trump leads by 5 in Arizona, by 3.8 in Georgia, by 1.2 in Michigan, by 4.5 in Nevada, by 5.4 in North Carolina, by 1.8 in Pennsylvania, and by .5 in Wisconsin. If these numbers are accurate and were to hold up in November, Trump would win a popular-vote squeaker, but he'd win the Electoral College easily.

Obviously, that might not happen. But it's where the polls say that the race stands now.

Democrats also face a brutal Senate map, defending seats in a number of red or purple states, as well as fighting to hold on to a seat in Maryland, where a popular Republican ex-governor, Larry Hogan, is running. Democrats are certain to lose the Senate race in West Virginia -- Joe Manchin was the state's last electable Democrat, and he's retiring. A loss there would reduce the Democratic caucus in the Senate from 51 seats to 50, but only if Democrats run the table everywhere else.

If current polls are right, they might just do that. In Arizona, according to Real Clear Polling, Democrat Ruben Gallego leads Republican Kari Lake by 6. In Michigan, Democrat Elissa Slotkin leads her likely Republican challenger, Mike Rogers, by 1.2. In Montana -- Montana! -- Democrat Jon Tester leads Republican Tim Sheehy by 5.5. In Nevada, Democrat Jacky Rosen leads her likely Republican opponent, Sam Brown, by 7. In Ohio, Democrat Sherrod Brown leads Republican Bernie Moreno by 5. In Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey leads Republican Dave McCormick by 5.3. And in Wisconsin, Democrat Tammy Baldwin leads Republican Eric Hovde by 6.7.

In Maryland, according to the RCP average, Larry Hogan leads his potential Democratic challengers, David Trone and Angela Alsobrooks. But in the most recent poll conducted by Emerson College for The Hill, Alsobrooks leads Hogan by 10 and Trone leads Hogan by 11.

I know that many of you don't believe in polls. But this doesn't seem to be a collection of random numbers. Democrats in competitive Senate races are running several points ahead of Biden. Maybe that won't hold up. But if it does, pundits who argued that Biden should drop his reelection bid are likely to feel vindicated.

I hope the optimists are right. I hope skeptical voters come home to Biden. I hope there's a Trump conviction in New York that leads to a decline in his polling. I hope Democrats overperform in this race the way they have in off-year races. But right now, it looks as if Biden is a weaker candidate than the average Democrat, and that's not good.