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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  America First Couldn't Last
      •  Greene's New Deal
      •  Trump Refuses to Testify
      •  The Day AFTRA
      •  Double Trouble for Fox News
      •  Pence Makes His Move
      •  Judy, Judy, Judy...

America First Couldn't Last

Joe Biden visited the State Department on Thursday, and while there he delivered his first address on foreign policy. The President will rely on America's diplomatic corps and traditional alliances, will take strong steps against nations that misbehave, and will seek to reassert the United States' leading role in world affairs. In short, the "America First" foreign policy of the Trump years is kaput.

Biden outlined several steps he plans to take in the near future, to wit:

  • Sanctions on Myanmar, where the military has just executed a coup against Aung San Suu Kyi
  • No more American support for the ongoing war in Yemen being waged (primarily) by the Saudis
  • Reestablishing the program by which the U.S. admits refugees
  • Turning the screws, in some fashion, on Vladimir Putin
  • Working to protect the rights of LGBTQ people around the world

What Biden didn't say was almost as important as what he did say. He did not mention Trump's name, as you might imagine. And when the President listed the nations he's been chatting with, there were some rather notable absences: "Over the past two weeks, I've spoken with the leaders of many of our closest friends—Canada, Mexico, the U.K., Germany, France, NATO, Japan, South Korea and Australia—to begin reforming the habits of cooperation and rebuilding the muscles of democratic alliances that have atrophied over the past few years of neglect and, I would argue, abuse." None of the nations currently being run by strongmen—Turkey, India, North Korea—on that list. No Israel, either.

There was also one other bit of news on the foreign affairs front, and it also involves Trump. The White House announced that if The Donald requests intelligence briefings, the decision about whether to accommodate him would be left to the intelligence establishment. This is usually how it's done anyhow, though there is sometimes presidential input. In any event, this allows Biden to avoid the appearance of being partisan and petty, while still achieving his ends. He knows that Trump cares little for intelligence, and is highly unlikely to request any information. If he does ask for anything, the pros will almost certainly turn him down. (Z)

Greene's New Deal

On Wednesday, House Republicans refused to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) of her committee memberships. And so, on Thursday, the Democrats stepped in and did the job. The vote was 230-199, with 11 Republicans joining all the Democrats who were present for business yesterday.

Naturally, everyone wants to know who the 11 were, so here's a list, along with the partisan lean of their district, and their impeachment vote:

Member District Partisan Lean Impeachment Vote
Mario Diaz-Balart FL-25 R+4 No
Brian Fitzpatrick PA-01 R+1 No
Carlos Gimenez FL-26 D+6 No
Chris Jacobs NY-27 R+11 No
John Katko NY-24 D+3 Yes
Young Kim CA-39 EVEN No
Adam Kinzinger IL-16 R+8 Yes
Nicole Malliotakis NY-11 R+3 No
Maria E. Salazar FL-27 D+5 No
Chris Smith NJ-04 R+8 No
Fred Upton MI-06 R+4 Yes

As you can see, nobody stuck their neck out here quite as far as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) did on the impeachment vote, since she represents a district that is R+25. In any event, there were three Republicans who voted for both impeachment and for punishment for Greene, seven who voted for impeachment but not punishment, and eight who voted for punishment but not impeachment. The latter group is the one we have the hardest time wrapping our minds around. As odious as Greene's statements have sometimes been, are nutty declarations about QAnon and Jewish space lasers really worse than egging a crowd on shortly before they stormed the Capitol? Put another way, nobody has died due to Greene's irresponsible verbiage.

Greene will now have quite a bit of spare time. She could, of course, spend it on constituent services. Or, she could work to make amends for her past statements, and maybe eventually get her committee assignments back. Don't bet on either of these, though. No, she will work full time on her martyr complex, going on Twitter, Facebook, Fox News, OAN, Newsmax etc. as a walking, breathing example of "cancel culture." We shall see how long it takes before that song and dance gets tiresome, even for the hardcore right-wingers. (Z)

Trump Refuses to Testify

The Democrats who will prosecute Donald Trump next week, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), would sure like to hear from Trump himself during the trial. The blue team knows full well that Trump is not the most nimble fellow when it comes to choosing his words, and that even if he's well coached, he can be goaded into saying stupid things when he's angry, like Col. Jessup in "A Few Good Men."

Fortunately for Trump, he's clever enough not to fall for it. Or, more likely, his lawyers are clever enough not to fall for it. Either way, it took only a few hours for the defense to tell Raskin that the former president would not appear voluntarily. Now, Raskin & Co. get to decide if they would like to try to subpoena Trump (not likely), or if they would like to try to spin his refusal to testify into "evidence" of his guilt (very likely).

Regardless of what happens, Trump is still on course to escape the rap, once again. A new poll affirms what several past polls have shown, namely that about 50% of Americans support conviction (45% oppose, and 5% don't have an opinion). There is zero chance that 50% of the voters are enough to persuade 67% of senators that they have no choice but to convict, especially since those 50% are disproportionately in states represented by Democratic senators. So, any Trump testimony would be solely for show purposes, unless he really, really screwed up (as Jessup did). (Z)


Just about everyone is cutting ties with Donald Trump these days. For example, his long-time bank (Deutsche Bank) said they were no longer willing to deal with him. It's not easy to become too hot a potato for Deutsche Bank, but The Donald did it. And now, Deutsche Bank is profitable for the first time in years. For them, at least, ceasing business with Trump was good for business.

SAG-AFTRA, which is the primary union for most of the nation's professional actors, would also like to be out of the Trump business. Not because he affects their bottom line, but because the union's membership is overwhelmingly liberal and anti-Trump, and wants him out of the club. They were prepping the machinations to expel the former president, but before they could pull the trigger, Trump resigned his membership. He said that he was tired of paying dues to them. It's certainly possible that the $222.96 per year is too steep for him. After all, who knows how bad his bottom line is these days? However, it's rather more probable he was sparing himself the embarrassment of being tossed out on his ear. Or his rear, if you prefer.

Trump's departure from SAG-AFTRA is not an especially significant development, but it does have one particular implication. Without a union card, it would be very tough for Trump to resume production of a network television program like, say, an "Apprentice" reboot. So, it would appear the door is officially closed on that part of his career. (Z)

Double Trouble for Fox News

Fox News has been the king of the cable news hill for many years now. And when Donald Trump became a viable political candidate, they pretty quickly went all-in on him (with those who were not so enthusiastic, like Megyn Kelly, leaving the network). Once he won the White House, things were good for Fox, since their prime-time lineup (and most of their weekend lineup) was made up of unapologetic Trump worshippers. Now, however, the channel is paying a price for its Trump addiction.

Problem #1 is the ratings, which look to be in decline. We've previously noted some of the reasons for this, but let's try to list all the big ones in one place:

  1. Demographics: The average age of Fox viewers, now around 70 years, has been going up every year. That means that the network isn't attracting new viewers. And 70+ viewers are not advertisers' dream demographic except maybe for drug companies and funeral insurance sellers.

  2. Trump Alienation: The former president, and his base, love to blame everyone but themselves for their problems. And so they built a narrative that Fox helped cost Trump re-election by calling Arizona prematurely. Never mind that the projection was right, or that flipping Arizona wouldn't have changed the outcome. The Donald has been waging war against his former state-run-media operation despite the fact that with Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, et al. still in the network's employ, it remains squarely in the bag for Trump.

  3. Competition: For a long time, Fox was the only right-wing game in town. Not so, any longer, with OAN and Newsmax on the dial. And given that they are even Trumpier than Fox is, they have The Donald's support these days, and they are attracting some sizable percentage of the base.

  4. No News Is Good News?: For years, Fox did a very good job of peddling the notion that they were a "fair and balanced" news organization that took a "just the facts, ma'am" approach. This was never true (see the documentary "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," made nearly 20 years ago), but the network's marketing was effective enough that many people interested in actual news bought it. The last year, in particular, has made clear that Fox is an opinion outlet that has fairly little interest in journalism as anything more than window dressing. They've skipped or downplayed stories that could alienate their audience, including the pandemic, the insurrection, and the impeachment. Some people who actually want to follow the news are going elsewhere.

  5. Biden: Joe Biden is not an especially great target for outrage-based commentary/journalism. He's a benign senior-citizen churchgoing Christian male, so the various longstanding American bigotries that can be wielded so well against other Democrats (Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chuck Schumer, etc.) don't work for him. The right-wing media tried to portray him as hopelessly corrupt, as a serial sexual harasser, and as a doddering old fool who has lost his marbles, and none of those stuck. When you tune into Hannity's or Carlson's programs these days, you can practically see the steam coming from their ears, 1950's-broken-robot-style, as they try to come up with an angle to use against Uncle Joe.

This is not to say that the end is nigh for Fox, at least not yet. After several devastating ratings books, they have bounced back a bit, and are beating CNN again. However, Fox is still trailing MSNBC, is trending in the wrong direction overall, and its identity and target demo are not especially clear anymore. Will they try to out-crazy OAN and Newsmax? Or will they become the "serious" conservative channel, which would mean jettisoning most of their biggest names? It's a tricky enough puzzle that Rupert Murdoch himself has decided to step in and try to set things right.

Unfortunately for Murdoch, ratings are not the only problem he's got to worry about. Yesterday, Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News, Sidney Powell, and Rudy Giuliani, accusing them of defamation. This is in addition to the suits already filed by Dominion Voting Systems.

Fox has serious exposure here, since their on-air staff repeated falsehoods about Smartmatic, Dominion, etc., many times, knew full well (or should have known full well) they were peddling lies, and did significant damage to their targets. Put another way, it's a textbook defamation case. As CNN legal expert Laura Coates observed: "When you are making statements that are knowingly false, and you make them with malice, and you actually tarnish reputations and it has a financial consequence—that's why you have defamation lawsuits in the first place."

Powell and Giuliani don't have that kind of money, so they'll fight it out, and hope for the best. Fox, by contrast, does have that kind of money, so the network is exposed in a way that its co-defendants are not. They might be able to settle, but it's going to take a big chunk of change to compensate for the possibility that the lies Hannity, Carlson, etc. told ruined Smartmatic's business. And maybe the plaintiffs will refuse to settle. Or maybe Fox will choose to fight, in hopes that they can drag this out and/or can make a "political speech"/First Amendment case that they are not in the wrong. If so, Fox will be rolling the dice to the tune of 10 figures. Not an easy time to be the (former?) king of the hill. (Z)

Pence Makes His Move

There aren't too many opportunities open to former vice president Mike Pence these days. He's a little too Trumpy for more traditional conservative organizations and outlets. And, given his inability to singlehandedly overturn the election results, he's on the outs with the Trump faction of the GOP. Pence might think political office—including an oval-shaped one—is in his future. He's probably wrong about that but, in any case, that's at least a couple of years into the future. He needs a job in the interim, and now he's got one. On Thursday, the ex-veep announced that he will be joining the Heritage Foundation as a distinguished visiting fellow.

This is a wee bit surprising, but only a wee bit. On one hand, the Heritage Foundation is very Trumpy, having basically picked half of the former president's cabinet (Betsy DeVos, Scott Pruitt, Wilbur Ross, etc.), and having already hired half a dozen high-ranking former Trump staffers. On the other hand, they collect prominent former Republican officeholders like some people collect thimbles or shot glasses or fancy spoons. Plus, the folks who run Heritage are clever enough to have read the Constitution, and to know Pence's hands were tied. So, they're willing to look past his alleged apostasy so they can add his name to their masthead.

In addition to his new job, Pence also announced that he has hired a staff, that he will be launching his own PAC, and that he will be moving back to Indiana in the next 6 months. Exactly what he'll do once he leaves Heritage is known only to him but, as we said, we don't think he's viable as a presidential candidate, and the people of Indiana weren't too fond of him even before the Trump years. Our guess is that his path will involve service on a bunch of corporate boards, and maybe a TV show on a second- or third-tier cable network. (Z)

Judy, Judy, Judy...

Feel free to read that headline in your best Cary Grant voice, despite the fact that he never actually uttered his most famous movie line in any movie.

Anyhow, Donald Trump tried to pack the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank with folks who would take their cues from him. The problem is that any legitimate candidate would not be open to that, as any legitimate candidate, regardless of their politics, understands that the Fed has to be seen as nonpartisan in order to be viable. That left the former president, particularly after the shock of appointing Chairman Jerome Powell and then finding Powell was uninterested in being a lapdog, regularly nominating not-so-legitimate candidates. People like Judy Shelton, who was a bridge too far for even some Senate Republicans, despite then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) trying twice to ram her through.

On Thursday, the demise of Shelton's candidacy became official, as Joe Biden formally withdrew the nomination. That means, when all is said and done, Trump managed to seat five nominees on the board, and he had five nominees that did not get seated. That is as many failures as all of Trump's predecessors combined (though it should be noted that this is partly a product of increased partisanship, as Barack Obama had three nominees come up short, making him responsible for a majority of the non-Trump failures).

The White House has not said whom Biden will tap for the still-vacant seat on the Fed. It's fair to assume it will be an economist (Shelton's degrees are in business management) and it will be someone who has not called for the end of the Fed and a return to the gold standard (both positions that Shelton has advocated). The President will need to make his pick a good one because, barring early resignations, he'll only get to fill one other vacancy this term (Vice Chair Richard Clarida's term is up in 2022). (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb04 Schumer and McConnell Have a Deal
Feb04 Biden Is Willing to Compromise a Little on the Stimulus Checks
Feb04 The Future of the Republican Party Is Here Now
Feb04 Warren Will Join the Senate Finance Committee
Feb04 Ocasio-Cortez Is Threatening to Primary Schumer
Feb04 Senate Won't Vote on Merrick Garland's Nomination
Feb04 Bills about Voting Are All the Rage in State Legislatures
Feb04 You, Too, Can Gerrymander
Feb04 Could Ivanka Trump Beat Marco Rubio in a Primary?
Feb03 The Case of the Two Impeachment Cases
Feb03 Buttigieg and Mayorkas Confirmed
Feb03 Sanders Takes His Best Shot at $15/Hour
Feb03 Schiff Wants to be California AG
Feb03 Biden Has a Mini-Scandal
Feb03 Newsmax Boots Mike Lindell
Feb03 Lin Wood Under Investigation for Illegal Voting
Feb02 Senate Republicans Unveil COVID-19 Relief Plan, Meet with Biden
Feb02 Graham Refuses to Schedule Garland Hearing
Feb02 The GOP Civil War Is Out in the Open
Feb02 Trump Has a New Defense Team
Feb02 Why Trump Lost, According to His Own Pollster
Feb02 Donald Trump, Russian Asset
Feb02 Jockeying for the 2022 Senate Elections Is Well Underway
Feb01 Biden's First Actions Are Popular
Feb01 Republican Senators Offer Biden a "Compromise" on COVID-19 Relief
Feb01 Trump's Impeachment Lawyers Quit
Feb01 Why Did Democrats Win in Georgia and Lose in North Carolina?
Feb01 Trump Raised $255 Million after the Election
Feb01 Democrats Also Have Some Cash in the Bank
Feb01 Beware of the Gerrymander
Feb01 McDaniel Is in a Bind
Feb01 Town of Palm Beach Is Reviewing the Legality of Trump's Living at Mar-a-Lago
Feb01 Democrats Are More Popular Than Republicans in Georgia
Jan31 Sunday Mailbag
Jan30 Saturday Q&A
Jan29 McCarthy Goes to Florida to Kiss the Ring
Jan29 A House Divided against Itself Cannot Stand
Jan29 Senate News, Part I: Jordan Out
Jan29 Senate News, Part II: Rubio May Be Bulletproof
Jan29 Question Answered: It Was Trump
Jan29 Another Question Answered: It Was a Hacky Decision
Jan29 Bird Isn't the Word
Jan28 Some Democrats Are Working on Plan B
Jan28 Trump's Targets
Jan28 The Pentagon Wants Its Money Back
Jan28 Democrats Need to Move Fast
Jan28 The Art of the Presidency
Jan28 Biden Has Created a Commission to Study the Judiciary
Jan28 Tens of Thousands of Voters Have Ceased to Be Republicans
Jan28 Federal Judges Are Starting to Retire