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Report: Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg to Be Charged Today

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg, will be charged with tax fraud and bank fraud as soon as today. Donald Trump is not expected to be charged this week. Neither the District Attorney nor the Trump Organization was willing to comment on the matter when asked.

The charges have been long expected after 2 years of investigation. It is likely they will include the organization's self-appraising Trump buildings at a high value when using them for collateral for loans, and then at a low value when negotiating with city property-tax officials. If multiple inconsistent values are documented in the paper trail, the defense will be tricky, especially if Weisselberg's signature is on them. The lawyers could claim that the tax documents are correct, in which case the defendants are guilty of bank fraud, or they could claim the values given to the banks are correct, in which case they are guilty of tax fraud. If the true value is in the middle, they are guilty of both. Also expected are charges relating to bonuses and benefits given to employees and whether proper taxes were paid on them.

The big question here is whether Weisselberg will flip and rat on Trump. So far he has refused to cooperate with prosecutors, but once he has been indicted for bank fraud and/or tax fraud, he could change his mind. A complicating factor is whether charges will be brought against Weisselberg's son, Barry, who lived in a rent-free apartment in one of Trump's buildings. If he didn't declare the market value of the rent on his New York State tax returns, that would be tax fraud. He might try to lie his way out of it, but it probably won't work. He had a very bitter and high-profile divorce from his former wife, Jennifer. In the divorce, Barry got the couple's kids. She wants them back and knows that if Barry moves up the river to Ossining, NY (where Sing Sing prison is located), she is likely to get custody. So she has brought boxes and boxes of financial documents to the D.A.'s office, in an attempt to help the D.A. nail Barry. When they make a soap opera out of this, keeping track of all the plots and subplots will be tricky. (V)

Trumpers Want More Arizona-style "Audits"

Supporters of Donald Trump are excited by the "audit" circus in Arizona, run by a company that knows nothing about elections and which is owned by an outspoken Trump supporter and believer in conspiracy theories. The company's techniques include inspecting the ballots for scraps of bamboo to prove the ballots originated in Asia. The Trump supporters are so thrilled with this that they want to export the process to other states. Election administrators in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, among others, have said that the whole charade will inflame public opinion and erode faith in future elections. God help America if bogus audits in other states "show" that Trump won 270 electoral votes. While the Army would never arrest Joe Biden and install Trump as president, king, or dictator for life, if even 30% of the country comes to believe that there is solid evidence that Trump is the rightful president, there will be rough sailing ahead.

These audits could lead to a brain drain of experienced election officials who don't want to put up with pressure or harassment from Trump supporters. If enough of them resign or retire, those slots could be filled by Trump supporters who not only know nothing about running elections, but don't care either. They know that their side is right and the other side is wrong and that is enough. In one survey, 40% of election officials are concerned or feeling unsafe on the job. One of the three members of the Philadelphia board of elections, Republican Al Schmidt, said: "What is normally a fairly obscure administrative job is now one where lunatics are threatening to murder your children." That's not what he signed up for and he will not seek reelection.

A handful of election officials are speaking out against the madness, but they are few in number and mostly Democrats. One of them is Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), who is running for governor in 2022. She said: "Arizona happened to be the place that they could. And we know that they're looking for ways to do it in other states." Nevertheless, here and there elected Republican officials are pushing back on Trump's false claim that he won. Last week, a Republican-led state Senate committee in Michigan issued a report that said: "Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan." At least one Michigan state senator, Edward McBroom (R), said that a further audit is not justifiable. After he said that, Trump immediately attacked him.

However, in other states, state senators see supporting Trump's lies as the path to fame and glory. In Pennsylvania, state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) has raised his profile by supporting Trump. He thinks the publicity may be enough to make an otherwise unknown state senator a good candidate for governor in 2022. One can only wonder whether people like Mastriano even believe what they are saying or just see it as a way to get lots of PR and then run for higher office. The ironic thing, of course, is that if he runs and wins, probably half the state won't believe that he won legitimately.

As we pointed out on Monday, the entire election industry is totally secretive and a disaster waiting to happen (or that maybe is already happening). A complete rethink is needed. Just as a single idea, imagine that all voting machines in the country were just generic PCs running the same open-source software that anyone could download and inspect. Then imagine that after voting, a printer attached to the PC printed out two sheets of paper. The first one was a ballot to be optically scanned and was the actual vote. The computer totals would just be used to give a rough estimate of the results right after the polls closed but would not otherwise be used. The second sheet would consist of one line per race containing four items: the precinct number, name of the race, how the voter voted, and a 12-digit random number, for example:

   Precinct   Race        Choice         Random number
   6231       President   Joe Biden      314159265358
   6231       Senate      Mark Kelly     271828182845

Voters would be expected to take the second sheet home. After the election, the secretary of state would publish all the lines from every voter on the official website, with an option to download the entire file (e.g., in Excel or csv format). That way anyone could search for their random number and thus verify that their vote was counted and that the total was correct. In addition, if the names and addresses of all the people who voted in each precinct were published separately (something many states already do), substantial stuffing of the ballot box would become difficult, especially if multiple poll workers per precinct were required under penalty of perjury to swear in writing that the voter list was correct. Fabricating even 10,000 fake votes statewide would require collusion by many people in dozens, possibly hundreds, of precincts, something almost certain to be detected. Adding 50 dead voters to each of 200 precincts would involve hundreds of poll workers in the plot, all of whom would be subject to prison if they got caught. Publishing photocopies of the sign-in book (with the signatures cropped out) would make adding fake votes close to impossible. This simple scheme is not perfect, but better (and more complicated) schemes also exist. And even this simple one would go a long way to improving public trust in elections. (V)

Maricopa County Will Replace the Tainted Voting Machines

As part of the Arizona audit, the company doing it took possession of all the voting machines in Maricopa County. Security experts howled that the machines are now permanently compromised and have to be junked as they can't be trusted any more. Katie Hobbs agreed with that assertion. Hobbs said that she was going to decertify the machines, forcing the County's hand. Not that much force was needed, as it turns out. Maricopa County officials quickly agreed with her and announced that they will junk the tainted machines and buy new ones, something that will cost millions of dollars. In a statement, the County said: "The voters of Maricopa County can rest assured, the County will never use equipment that could pose a risk to free and fair elections. As a result, the County will not use the subpoenaed equipment in any future elections." So in addition to the cost of the audit itself, the local taxpayers may also have to pay millions for new machines, all in a futile attempt to appease Donald Trump.

Among the most vocal critics of the audit are the Republican leaders of Maricopa County. All seven of the officials—five of whom are Republicans—have written a scathing letter to the state Senate denouncing the audit as a sham. Among other things, the letter said: "Our state has become a laughingstock." The whole shenanigan could backfire on the state Senate. Not only do polls show a (slight) majority against the audit, but it may cost the state Senate some money. When state Senate President Karen Fann (R) started the process, she signed a document saying that the state Senate would pay Maricopa County for the costs. Now the County is going to try to include the new machines as part of the cost. Expect Maricopa County vs. Arizona state Senate lawsuits shortly. (V)

Wisconsin Republicans Cower in Fear of Trump

Wisconsin Republicans left no stone unturned in order to appease Donald Trump. Among other things, they:

  • Ordered a months-long audit of all the votes in the state
  • Visited Arizona to watch the ongoing audit circus there
  • Hired former police officers to investigate the election results

Like some vengeful god not satisfied with all the goats being sacrificed for him, Trump wasn't appeased. He didn't care about the process. He wanted a different outcome. Just before the Wisconsin state convention, he issued a statement accusing Wisconsin Republicans of "working hard to cover up election corruption" and "actively trying to prevent a Forensic Audit of the election results."

State Republican leaders were scared. The (Republican) president of the state Senate issued a fawning two-page letter addressed to Trump that nevertheless pointed out that although the state's Republicans swore allegiance to him, he did lose the state. How about this for language: "The power of your pen to mine is like Thor's hammer to a bobby pin!" Senate President Chris Kapenga also noted that he wears Trump socks. Cue images of a young puppy cringing and whining in the corner while being dressed down by his owner for the mess he just made on the floor. And we are talking about the president of a state Senate here.

Wisconsin Republicans have passed a series of restrictive voting laws, which Trump approves of (unfortunately for them, Gov. Tony Evers, D, is going to veto all of them). But nothing the state Republicans do is enough for Trump.

At the Republican state convention last weekend, reality and Trump collided, as delegates were caught between what they know is true and what Trump demands of them. State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) tried to have it both ways by saying: "I supported 95 percent of what Donald Trump did as president, right, which is as high as anybody could ever ask for because nobody's perfect." But he also said: "I'm not going to say the conservative movement lives or dies on whether or not Donald Trump is in the White House." So he was trying to have it both ways.

At the convention, a recording of Trump stating that he carried the state was played. This split the delegates. Some of them supported a resolution calling for Vos' resignation for not being more Trumpy. However, other delegates dared to oppose Trump. Former assemblyman Adam Jarchow said: "If Trump thinks this is helpful, it's not. It does what he did in—Georgia—which cost us the damn Senate." Some Republicans noticed the split and said the Party does not have a sense of direction. The state legislature could try to start an Arizona-style audit circus, but that would be trickier because that would cost money and the governor would veto any bill that appropriated money for it. (V)

Select Committee to Investigate Insurrection Passes

Wisconsin Republicans aren't the only ones cowering in fear of Donald Trump. Yesterday, the House held a vote on creating a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection and write a report on it. Only two Republicans had the guts to vote for it: Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (IL). The other eight Republicans who voted to impeach Trump the second time got cold feet and voted against creating the committee. Candidates for the next edition of Profiles in Courage, they are not.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), who voted to impeach Trump, said: "If we move forward in a partisan manner, the truth about Jan. 6 will never be fully known—or respected." Of course, the Republicans blocked a bipartisan commission, which is why Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) created a select committee.

Another Republican who voted to impeach Trump, John Katko (R-NY), said: "It would be a turbo-charged partisan exercise, not an honest fact-finding body that the American people and the Capitol Police deserve." He also didn't say what should be done given that Republicans killed the bipartisan commission.

Many House Republicans have tried to downplay the significance of a mob trying to overthrow the government of the United States by calling it a "normal" tourist visit. Cheney and Kinzinger are the only House Republicans to consistently call out Trump for his role in it. Most recently, Cheney said: "Since January 6th, the courage of my party's leaders has faded. But the threat to our Republic has not. On an almost daily basis, Donald Trump repeats the same statements that provoked violence before. His attacks on our Constitution are accelerating. Our responsibility is to confront these threats, not appease and deflect."

Pelosi has said that she will select one Republican among her eight picks. Most likely that will be Cheney. Papa Dick is probably smiling and thinking: "It took 30 years for the Democrats to realize that the Cheneys are real patriots, but better late than never." Pelosi will consult with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on his five picks, but she will make the final call. She could ask him to supply 10 names and then leave out the five most inflammatory ones. (V)

McConnell Now Has a Tough Choice to Make on Infrastructure

Various gangs of senators have come to a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure. Joe Biden almost blew it last week when he announced that he wouldn't sign it unless the Democrats also passed a partisan reconciliation bill with all the goodies the bipartisan bill left out. However, he walked that back 2 days later and several gang members publicly forgave him, so the bipartisan bill is back on track.

The bill, however, poses a dilemma for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). On the one hand, if the bill passes, Biden will crow to high heaven in 2022 that he fixed Washington's dysfunction and now all the senators love each other and it's rainbows and unicorns as far as the eye can see. The bipartisanship fetishists will lap it up like a thirsty kitten in front of a saucer of milk. McConnell knows this and doesn't want to give Biden a victory that could be the core of the Democrats' 2022 campaign message.

On the other hand, now that the gang has announced they have a deal and Biden has said in public that he is so happy about it and will sign it, if McConnell tells the members of his caucus to shoot it down, the Democrats' story in 2022 will be: "We tried to be bipartisan. We had a deal. Joe approved it. But some damn turtle crapped all over it." Whom do you think the bipartisanship fetishists are going to blame? McConnell knows very well whom. So he is caught in a trap now with no way out.

To make it worse, if McConnell kills the deal, it will give the Democrats the cover they need to pass whatever bill they want using the budget reconciliation process, with the excuse: "We tried to be bipartisan. They refused to work with us." That would be the worst of all worlds for McConnell. He gets the blame and the Democrats get some monster bill approved. It's a tough call.

Republican strategist Vin Weber summed it up nicely by saying: "When you get to the grassroots of the Republican Party base, there's very little interest in passing anything that Joe Biden signs into law." In other words, the base wants Biden to fail, simply because he is a Democrat. If this is true, McConnell will have to choose between pleasing the base and pleasing the bipartisanship fetishists, many of whom are the college-educated suburban women the GOP covets. If Donald Trump comes out against the bipartisan bill (and he's already done some griping), that could be its death knell—and the signal for the Democrats to go it alone. (V)

Pelosi Pushes Back against McConnell on Infrastructure

Nancy Pelosi, no stranger to how politics works, has rebuffed the appeal from Mitch McConnell to decouple the bipartisan bill from the reconciliation bill. She boldly stated that the House will not vote on the bipartisan bill until the Senate has passed the reconciliation bill. In effect, Pelosi has said the two bills must pass in tandem. That is what Joe Biden said last week and was forced to walk back, declaring that what happens next is up to Congress. Nobody is going to be able to force Pelosi to walk back her statement. She knows exactly what she said and said it very intentionally in such a way that no one could think it was a slip of the tongue. And she represents half of Congress.

The Republicans can (and did) effectively blackmail Biden by saying: "You promised to be bipartisan and now you aren't. Shame on you." Unlike the speaker of the British House of Commons, Pelosi never promised to be bipartisan and isn't about to start now.

Still, not all representatives are wild about sitting on the bipartisan bill while waiting for the reconciliation bill to pass. They want to pass it as soon as it shows up. But progressives are worried that once they have passed the bipartisan bill, half a dozen centrists could say "that's enough" and kill the reconciliation bill. By holding up the bipartisan bill, the progressives have leverage over the centrists. And the clock is ticking. At the end of July, Congress will recess for 7 weeks, so nothing will be done until the end of September. By then, critical momentum could be lost or something else (COVID-19, hurricanes, etc.) could pop up and be a distraction. Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal (D-MA) said: "We intend to do both bills. And we're going to do them in a pretty rapid manner." But that is not entirely up to Neal. In 4 weeks, we'll know. (V)

New Study Shows How Biden Won

A new study of validated voters from Pew Research Center sheds more light on how Joe Biden won the 2020 election. To start with, 90% of Hillary Clinton voters turned out for Biden and 90% of 2016 Trump voters stuck with him in 2020, showing how deep the polarization is. Nevertheless, there were important shifts as to why Clinton lost and Biden won.

For one thing, turnout was much higher in 2020 than in 2016, and fully a quarter of the 2020 voters did not vote in 2016. That's a huge change in the electorate. Both Biden and Trump brought in new voters. They basically split the 19% of voters whose first ballot was cast in the 2020 election, with Biden taking 49% of those and Trump 47%. However, Biden absolutely trounced Trump among the 6% of voters whose first ballot was cast in 2018 and second was cast in 2020, 62% to 36%. To put that another way, Trump clearly inspired a lot of new voters in 2018—to come out and vote against him (or, at least, his party) in the midterms.

For the voters who joined the rolls after 2016, there was a big difference based on age. Among the new under-30 voters, 59% went for Biden; among the 30-and-older voters, 55% went for Trump. But, thanks to the voters who first signed up in 2018 (as opposed to the ones who waited until 2020), the under-30s were a bigger chunk of the total. In other words, there were a lot of young Democrats who hadn't voted before (in some cases because they weren't old enough) and Trump didn't compensate for this among older voters.

Another difference with 2016 is that the third-party vote dropped from 6% to 2%, in part because in 2016 quite a few voters didn't like either Clinton or Trump. Among the 2016 third-party voters who went for one of the major candidates in 2020, Biden won them 53% to 36%.

Other key findings in the study:

  • Biden did better than Clinton in the suburbs, getting 54% to her 45%
  • Trump improved his standing among Latinos without a college education
  • Biden's coalition looked roughly like Clinton's, with 40% of his votes coming from minorities
  • Biden made gains with men but Trump made gains with women
  • Scranton Joe did better than Clinton among non-college whites
  • Biden did better with religious voters as a whole than Clinton, but Trump did even better in 2020 with evangelicals
  • A startling 46% of all 2020 voters voted by mail and for 40% of them, this was their first absentee ballot
  • Members of the Silent Generation and the Boomers dropped to only 44% of the electorate, down from 52% in 2016

Among the top conclusions of the study is that among all voters, age, religion, and geography played the biggest roles, although educational level was also a factor. The thing that should scare the daylights out of the Republicans is that young voters are not buying what the Republicans are selling. Unless they can reverse that, the Party is going to have trouble down the road. (V)

New Ranking of the Presidents--Trump Beats Pierce, Johnson, and Buchanan

C-SPAN released the most recent version of its "Survey of Presidential Leadership" yesterday. Democrats will be disappointed, and Republicans can breathe a sigh of relief, because Donald Trump is not last. He grabbed 41st place, acing Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, and James Buchanan. Here is the full list:

Rank President Score 2021 2017 2009 2000
1 Abraham Lincoln 897 1 1 1 1
2 George Washington 851 2 2 2 3
3 Franklin D. Roosevelt 841 3 3 3 2
4 Theodore Roosevelt 785 4 4 4 4
5 Dwight D. Eisenhower 734 5 5 8 9
6 Harry S. Truman 713 6 6 5 5
7 Thomas Jefferson 704 7 7 7 7
8 John F. Kennedy 699 8 8 6 8
9 Ronald Reagan 681 9 9 10 11
10 Barack Obama 664 10 12 NA NA
11 Lyndon B. Johnson 654 11 10 11 10
12 James Monroe 643 12 13 15 14
13 Woodrow Wilson 617 13 11 9 6
14 William McKinley 612 14 16 16 15
15 John Adams 609 15 19 17 16
16 James Madison 604 16 17 20 18
17 John Quincy Adams 603 17 21 19 19
18 James K. Polk 599 18 14 12 12
19 William J. Clinton 594 19 15 14 21
20 Ulysses S. Grant 590 20 22 23 33
21 George H. W. Bush 585 21 20 18 20
22 Andrew Jackson 568 22 18 13 13
23 William Howard Taft 543 23 24 24 24
24 Calvin Coolidge 535 24 26 26 27
25 Grover Cleveland 523 25 23 21 17
26t Jimmy Carter 506 26 27 25 22
26t James A. Garfield 506 27 29 28 29
28 Gerald R. Ford 498 28 25 22 23
29 George W. Bush 495 29 33 36 NA
30 Chester A. Arthur 472 30 35 32 32
31 Richard M. Nixon 464 31 28 27 26
32 Benjamin Harrison 462 32 30 30 31
33 Rutherford B. Hayes 456 33 31 33 25
34 Martin Van Buren 455 34 34 31 30
35 Zachary Taylor 449 35 32 29 28
36 Herbert Hoover 396 36 36 34 34
37 Warren G. Harding 388 37 40 38 38
38 Millard Fillmore 378 38 37 37 35
39t John Tyler 354 39 39 35 36
39t William Henry Harrison 354 40 38 39 37
41t Donald J. Trump 312 41 NA NA NA
41t Franklin Pierce 312 42 41 40 39
43 Andrew Johnson 230 43 42 41 40
44 James Buchanan 227 44 43 42 41

The two Federalist or Federalist-leaning presidents (Washington and J. Adams) are in beige; the Whigs are in purple (even if two of them, Tyler and Fillmore, were only nominally members of the Party); the Democrats are in blue and the Republicans are in red. We're counting Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams as Democrats, although they considered themselves Democratic-Republicans (and Adams was, at various times, a Federalist, a National Republican, an Anti-Mason, and a Whig, as well). Finally, the 1864 National Union ticket of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson is treated as the fusion of one Republican (Lincoln) and one Democrat (Johnson) that it was.

The survey was based on the rankings of 142 historians, political scientists, and other experts with a professional knowledge of past presidents. The presidents were graded in 10 areas, as follows:

  • Public Persuasion
  • Crisis Leadership
  • Economic Management
  • Moral Authority
  • International Relations
  • Administrative Skills
  • Relations with Congress
  • Vision/Setting an Agenda
  • Pursued Equal Justice for All
  • Performance Within the Context of the Times

Trump did best in public persuasion (32nd) and economic management (34th). On the other hand, he was last in moral authority and administrative skills, even lower than the much reviled Buchanan, who is often blamed for converting the Civil War from "strong possibility" to "absolute certainty."

With that said, some scholars are reluctant to declare a recent president "the best" or "the worst" at anything, preferring to wait for some time to pass before making such strong judgments. Undoubtedly, at least a few were not quite as extreme in their judgments of Trump as they would be if this was, say, the year 2050. Further, notice that the three bottom-dwellers served on either side of Abraham Lincoln (and thus, either side of the Civil War). It is improbable that a country would randomly happen to draw its three worst presidents, plus its best president, in succession. This suggests that all four men were, to some sizable extent, a product of the difficult circumstances they faced, which three of them botched. Put another way, what really happened is that the country drew its three worst presidents, plus its best president, in secession. For Trump to carve a spot out between three guys who fumbled the lead-up/aftermath of the greatest crisis in American history, and a guy who died a month into his term, is quite the achievement (though not the sort he can brag about).

The list also speaks to some of the influences that operate upon scholars. Ulysses S. Grant, for example, used to be near the bottom of these sorts of rankings, thanks to an extended campaign, mounted mostly by Southern authors after his passing, that denigrated both his military achievements and his presidential term. However, a greater awareness of how former Confederates (and their supporters) managed to rewrite history by promoting the "Lost Cause" interpretation of the Civil War, as well as positive reappraisals written by Ron Chernow, Ronald White, Joan Waugh, and others, has helped rehabilitate Grant. It probably also doesn't hurt USG that both White and Waugh are among the folks voting on the rankings.

Meanwhile, the fellow who is most obviously sinking is Woodrow Wilson. He may be the toughest president in U.S. history to rate, because he has some very big pros and also some very big cons (Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon are also in this category). Among the pros, Wilson implemented an impressive domestic agenda including (eventually) support for women's suffrage, the establishment of the income tax, and the creation of the Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission. And in terms of foreign policy, he led the country to victory in World War I and helped create a new international order as the architect of the League of Nations.

On the other hand, Wilson bitterly opposed suffrage before supporting it (even jailing some suffrage activists), was a racist who segregated the federal government and who famously loved the pro-KKK film "Birth of a Nation," failed to secure Senate approval for the Treaty of Versailles, and allowed serious infringements on American civil liberties (e.g., the Palmer Raids, the arrest and imprisonment of Eugene V. Debs) to happen on his watch. That the cons are now dragging down the pros much more than they once did undoubtedly reflects a certain amount of presentism, specifically a high sensitivity to racism and, since the Bush 43/Trump presidencies, a high sensitivity to government abuse of civil liberties. There have also been reappraisals of Wilson that are more critical, most obviously Patricia O'Toole's The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made.

Truth be told, if you're really looking for evidence of presentism, we would suggest it is more clearly indicated by three other ratings, namely the 8-9-10 run of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. You usually have to be a "senior" scholar to be asked to participate in these polls, which means a lot of the folks who are voting were born in the 1940s and 1950s, and likely still have warm memories of "Camelot" (a term that, it should be pointed out, did not come into use until after Kennedy was dead). C-SPAN's methodology also favors someone like Kennedy, since something like "Pursued Equal Justice for All" was a major concern of the mid-20th century. If the category was changed to "Pursued Economic Opportunity for All," then that would help 19th-century presidents at the expense of 20th-century presidents. Similarly, the U.S. was a fundamentally isolationist country from the 1820s through the 1910s, such that "International Relations" skews the numbers in favor of more recent presidents. If that category was renamed "Kept the Peace," it would shift things in favor of the 19th century fellows.

As to Ronald Reagan, C-SPAN, like every entity that does presidential polls, makes a point of recruiting some number of conservative scholars, in search of "balance." The great political scientist James Q. Wilson, for example, was always on the voter list until he died because he was a "name" and a Republican. And even among scholars, there is a certain amount of hero worship of St. Ronnie. In particular, he has become the model for what many Republican intellectuals wish their party will once again become. Like Wilson, Reagan has some obvious pros (good economy, helped end the Cold War, inspirational) but some obvious cons (enabled the religious right, botched AIDS and the "War on Drugs," laid the groundwork for a vicious recession, Iran-Contra Scandal). Odds are that The Gipper starts to sink once scholars with living memory of his presidency fade away.

And then there is Barack Obama. Of this trio, he may have the best chance of retaining his lofty ranking. If the ACA proves to be a turning point in the evolution of American healthcare, that would be quite the feather in his cap. Similarly, if recent events cause America to take a few leaps forward when it comes to racial equality, his election could come to be seen as a transformative event, the same way Andrew Jackson's election was a transformative event in terms of working-class participation in mass democracy. And the Paris Accord could become a major move in the right direction in the fight against global warming. But at the moment, that's all speculative; the ACA is still becoming established and racism/global warming are still pressing problems. Meanwhile, Obama proves to have been a somewhat ineffective party leader, his program of bombing in the Middle East is concerning, and he was too often overcautious and allowed himself to be outdueled by Mitch McConnell. Anyhow, because the story of #44 is still being written, and the ending is uncertain, one has to think that his Top 10 ranking is based substantially on the fact that he is not George W. Bush and he's not Donald Trump. In other words, the same basic reason he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the end, everyone who participates in these things knows that they're largely comparing apples to oranges, particularly when one of the apples is an 18th century slaveholder like George Washington and one of the oranges is a 21st century Black man like Obama. So, they try as bestthey can to judge people in the context of their times (odd as it may seem, someone like Wilson was actually more out of step with his era on racial matters than the slaveholding presidents were). And, in the end, the purpose is really to give people a few things to think about ("Why is Monroe so high? Maybe I should read about him.") and to argue about/discuss (James K. Polk below William McKinley? Blasphemy!). Indeed, we foresee a question or two about this in this week's Q&A. (Z & V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun30 No News Is Bad News (for RCV)
Jun30 The South Will Fall Again
Jun30 Trump Says Herschel Walker Will Run for Senate in Georgia
Jun30 Whither Lisa Murkowski?
Jun30 A Famous Name Is Not Enough
Jun30 What Happens to Sh** Stirrers When There's No Sh** to Stir?
Jun30 A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Part I
Jun29 RuJoe's Drag Race
Jun29 Pelosi Spells Out Commission Details
Jun29 No Charges for Trump in New York?
Jun29 Maybe Trump Should Be Focused on Some Image Management
Jun29 Political Themes of the Olympics Are Emerging
Jun29 Arizona Audit Is Not Helping Trump
Jun28 Biden: I'll Sign Bipartisan Bill without Reconciliation Bill
Jun28 Donald Trump Wants to Make the 2022 Elections about ... Donald Trump
Jun28 Two States Undercut Secretaries of State for Not "Finding" Votes for Trump
Jun28 Dept. of Justice Sues Georgia over Voting Law
Jun28 Barr Dumps on Trump
Jun28 Axios: J.D. Vance Will Announce a Senate Run in Ohio This Week
Jun28 Democrats Have a Gerontocracy Problem
Jun28 Socialism Is Not a Bugaboo with Young Voters
Jun28 Voting Machines Are Black Boxes--and So is the Entire Voting Industry
Jun28 Former Alaska Democratic Senator Mike Gravel Dies
Jun27 Sunday Mailbag
Jun26 Saturday Q&A
Jun25 As the Infrastructure Turns
Jun25 Pelosi Makes It Official...
Jun25 ...As Does the New York Bar
Jun25 DeSantis Cements His Claim to the Trump Lane
Jun25 This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
Jun25 COVID Diaries: The Origin Story
Jun24 We Have a Deal, Part 29
Jun24 Supreme Court Justices Are Earning Their Paychecks
Jun24 The Day After
Jun24 Another Proposal for Fixing the Filibuster
Jun24 Biden Nominates McCain for U.N. Post
Jun24 We Have Our First Redistricting Map...and Our First Redistricting Map Squabble
Jun24 Newsom to Face Recall Election
Jun23 It Ain't Over Til It's Over
Jun23 Pelosi Reportedly Ready to Move Forward with 1/6 Commission
Jun23 Manchin Plays Ball
Jun23 Democratic Super PAC Will Pour $20 Million into Voting Efforts
Jun23 Some States Are Making Voting Easier
Jun23 Democrats Vow to Reach Out to Minority Voters
Jun23 Senate Committee Takes Up D.C. Statehood
Jun23 Labor and Green Groups Urge Biden to Reject Watered-Down Infrastructure Plan
Jun23 Judge Rules Against Protesters in Lafayette Square Case
Jun23 Will the Free Market Make Bernie Sanders Obsolete?
Jun22 Sinema Lays Out Her Filibuster Views in Black and White
Jun22 Polling News, Part I: Adams Remains the Favorite