• Senate Democrats Say They Have a Deal on Reconciliation
• Two More Trump Books Dropped Yesterday
• Flake Tapped for Turkey
• Cheney's Huge Fundraising Haul Suggests That She's in Trouble
• Kemp, Georgia Republicans Lost Their Balls, Blame Democrats
• Can You Say EGOT?
• Today's Schadenfreude Report
We cut the first part of that line from Macbeth, because we don't believe Joe Biden is an idiot. Beyond that, however, the shoe fits when it comes to the speech on voting rights that he delivered in Philadelphia yesterday.
It was, without question, the feistiest speech that Biden has delivered since launching his presidential campaign two years ago. And it's probably the feistiest speech he's ever delivered (though we hardly claim to have seen every speech he gave between, say, 1977 and 1982). He slammed Donald Trump and the Republicans for refusing to accept the election results, for fomenting the 1/6 insurrection, and for passing restrictive new voting laws. Here's the key passage:
So hear me clearly: There is an unfolding assault taking place in America today—an attempt to suppress and subvert the right to vote in fair and free elections, an assault on democracy, an assault on liberty, an assault on who we are—who we are as Americans.
For, make no mistake, bullies and merchants of fear and peddlers of lies are threatening the very foundation of our country.
It gives me no pleasure to say this. I never thought in my entire career I'd ever have to say it. But I swore an oath to you, to God—to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. And that's an oath that forms a sacred trust to defend America against all threats both foreign and domestic. (Applause.)
The assault on free and fair elections is just such a threat, literally. I've said it before: We're are facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That's not hyperbole. Since the Civil War. The Confederates back then never breached the Capitol as insurrectionists did on January the 6th.
The most notable part, however, is what is missing. The word "filibuster" does not appear in the address, and his remarks on the legislation that is pending before Congress were limited to just a couple of brief paragraphs, and a declaration that passing these bills is "imperative." Consequently, Biden may have been forceful, and he may have been emotional, and he may have even been eloquent. However, nothing actually changed. We do not know anything about his views on the issues that we did not already know before the speech. And he has continued to resist investing any political capital in ending, carving out, or adjusting the filibuster.
There's already been time enough for some reviews of the speech to come in, and the non-right-wing outlets have it largely as we do. For example:
- Charles P. Pierce, Esquire:
"It was an excellent speech that the president gave Tuesday in Philadelphia. It hit almost all the right notes and it
hit them hard. There was a sense of crisis to his delivery, and more than a little indication that he understands how
perilous this moment is for the experiment that began not far from the spot where he was talking. It had the tone of a
speech you give after the country has been attacked, which it has been. He even broke out a new line, talking not only
about "voter suppression," but about "voter subversion," which is certainly equally dangerous to the franchise. (For
example, in Texas, the provision that cuts down on drive-through voting is "voter suppression." In Georgia, the
provision that allows the state election commission to overrule local election officials is "voter subversion.") And his
closing was a rouser. I just wish it mattered. I wish I could see it changing minds, if only the minds of Senators Joe
Manchin and Kirsten Sinema and their stubborn devotion to the filibuster—a word, I should note, that did not pass the
president's lips on Tuesday."
- Robin Givhan, The Washington Post:
"Biden's voice rose and fell as he warmed to his subject; he whispered and he shouted for emphasis. He preached a
little. He pointed out his favored politicians in the room. He acknowledged Al Sharpton—a very public gesture to a man
many see as impolitic. At a time when some argue that the only way to quash the flames licking at democracy is by
dynamiting Senate rules that require 60 votes to pass legislation rather than a simple majority, Biden held to
diplomacy. He did not discuss the filibuster. But he didn't hold his tongue."
- Sam Levine, The Guardian (UK): "Joe Biden gave his most muscular defense of the right to vote yet on Tuesday, but offered few specifics on how Democrats could overcome Republican efforts to stymie federal voting reform ... But the most significant part of the speech lay in what he did not say. Biden did not mention the filibuster, the Senate rule under which 60 votes are required to proceed on legislation."
In case you are interested, here are a couple of takes from right-wing outlets:
- Bonchie, RedState.com:
"I've heard a lot of Joe Biden speeches over the years and certainly gotten more than my fill the last six months. Yet,
Biden delivered a speech today on "voter suppression" that is probably his most dishonest, most vitriolic rant to date,
and that's saying something.
"Unlike many of his past speeches, the story wasn't Biden's brain breaking down as he attempted to read the teleprompter. Sure, there were moments where he looked as if he were going to pass out, but it was the substance that was far more disturbing."
- Greg Gutfeld, Fox: "He is a pathological, shameless liar. He ran on being a unifier, and all he does is bank on racial discontent. He is comparing this bill to the KKK [and] Jim Crow. All he does is foment racial conflict."
Clearly, the right wingers are foaming at the mouth. For some, that may be a win for Biden in and of itself. But again, the calculus on voting rights is the same today as it was yesterday. Until one president or two Democratic senators change their approach to the filibuster, or a whole bunch of Senate Republicans have a "come to Jesus" moment, the matter remains in stalemate. (Z)
Note that "deal" is the word being used by Senate Democrats, but is not the word that we would use. Continuing a recent Senate tradition of treating partially complete legislation as if it's a finished bill, what Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is crowing about actually appears to be a broad spending outline, with most details yet to be announced (and/or yet to be worked out).
The only specific piece of information that the Democrats revealed is the total price tag: $3.5 trillion. This is considerably less than the $6 trillion the progressive wing of the Party was hoping for. However, it is the highest total the moderates were willing to accept. June was the United States' most inflationary month since August 2008, and many senators, most notably Mark Warner (D-VA), are leery of making that worse. Beyond the total outlay, Schumer revealed only that (1) all of the things Joe Biden wants to spend money on will get some amount of money, and (2) the plan will be funded without raising taxes on people who make less than $400,000 a year, thus allowing the President (and his party) to keep a key campaign promise.
It's hard to say much when things remain so vague, but surely the road ahead is still fraught with potential peril. If whatever details remain to be worked out were easy to resolve, they would already have been worked out. So, clearly there are still some tough negotiations ahead, and if any single Democrat gets cold feet, it could be back to square one. Disappointed progressives are another potential problem. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said he is thrilled with the plan, calling it "the most significant piece of legislation passed since the Great Depression." That makes an interesting statement about the GI Bill, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Medicare and Medicaid Acts, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In any event, he may be thrilled, but the progressives in the House reportedly are not, and that could become an issue for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) if they stick together in their opposition.
Perhaps most importantly, it is dubious that Senate Republicans will agree to a bipartisan infrastructure bill if they know the Democrats are going to turn around and pass a second bill that is more than three times as large. If the reconciliation bill goes through but the bipartisan bill crumbles, then we could end up with a situation where things like childcare and community college tuition are being paid for, but bridges and roads are continuing to crumble. That may or may not be a justifiable choice, priority-wise. However, we doubt it is going to be easy to sell, politically, if the Democrats end up running on their "infrastructure success" in 2022.
Of course, if the bipartisan bill collapses, the Democrats could just scoop up the pieces and put them in the unipartisan reconciliation bill. However, it looks like Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough is not going to allow unlimited reconciliations. So, they would have to pass/not pass the bipartisan bill first.
In any event, the members of Congress have about 10 workdays left until everyone leaves town for 5 weeks. So, they are either going to make very rapid progress in hammering this out, or else this is going to linger for a long time, giving everyone involved plenty of time to get cold feet. (Z)
It has been 175 days since Donald Trump left (snuck out of?) the White House. That's just enough time to finish, revise, proof, and print tell-all books that include his final days in office. And so, the bestseller lists are about to be populated with lots of "Trump is horrible" porn. Released yesterday were Michael Wolff's Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency, which presumably completes his Trump trilogy, and Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, by Michael Bender.
Truth be told, we'd rather not write about these books at all. First of all, Trump is no longer president. Second, everyone already knows he's a hothead who appears to be unraveling mentally, who treats subordinates like crap, and who has zero regard for laws or ethics. Do we really need more evidence? Third, these muckraking volumes change nothing, and barely even leave an impression. Does anyone remember specifically what was in the first two Wolff books? Or the Bob Woodward books? Or the Anonymous (Miles Taylor) book? Or any of the others?
The only reason we're mentioning the two new volumes is that everyone else is writing about them, so we feel like we have to say something. Fortunately, the extensive coverage puts us in a position to present a selection of headlines from other outlets. About the Wolff book:
- The Guardian (UK): "Michael Wolff's third Trump book is his best—and most alarming"
- Axios: "Trump unloads on Kavanaugh in new Michael Wolff book"
- JewishInsider: "Michael Wolff claims Trump impeachment attorney begged off the case"
- The Guardian (UK): "New Michael Wolff book reports Trump's confusion during Capitol attack"
- Daily Beast: "New Michael Wolff Book Says Murdoch Told Fox to Call Arizona Against Trump: 'F**k Him'"
- Business Insider: "Trump's associates believe he's 'off his rocker,' Michael Wolff says"
- The Evening Standard (UK): "Wow. Just wow."
And about the Bender book:
- People: "New Book Alleges Donald Trump Worried Ghislaine Maxwell Would Tie Him to Jeffrey Epstein Case"
- CNN: "Trump said whoever 'leaked' info on his White House bunker stay should be 'executed,' new book claims"
- USA Today: "'Anarchy and chaos': Michael Bender book describes turmoil in Trump White House"
- The Guardian (UK): "Trump told chief of staff Hitler 'did a lot of good things,' book says"
- Business Insider: "Trump threw a crumpled newspaper article at Pence and accused him of being 'so disloyal,' and Pence threw it back at him, book says"
- CNN: "Top US general rejected Trump suggestions military should 'crack skulls' during protests last year, new book claims"
- Business Insider: "Trump frequently mocked Rudy Giuliani, called him 'pathetic,' and said he 'sucked,' new book says"
This pretty much tells you what you need to know, right? And if you want to read more, you can pick the provocative link of your choice. (Z)
Former senator Jeff Flake was a major Biden surrogate during last year's election. For this service, he was hoping for a high profile ambassadorial posting. And on Tuesday, he got one, as Joe Biden has nominated Flake to serve as ambassador to Turkey. The conjecture was that Flake would get South Africa, since he did Mormon missionary work there and he speaks Afrikaans fluently. However, Turkey is one of the handful of hotspot ambassadorial posts where a president really needs someone reliable. So, it's a compliment to Flake that Biden chose him.
The relationship between Turkey and the U.S. is rather frosty right now, thanks in particular to Biden's acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide, the Turks' purchase of an S-400 missile system from Russia, and a possibly-too-cozy relationship between Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Hamas leadership. So, Flake will certainly keep busy. Meanwhile, this is the highest profile job Biden has given to a Republican. It doesn't quite fulfill his campaign promise to put a Republican in his cabinet, but it probably does make him more bipartisan in his appointments than Donald Trump. A low bar to clear, to be sure. (Z)
Wait, what? How can successful fundraising be a bad thing for a politician? Read on, and we will explain how Rep. Liz Cheney's (R-WY) $2 million haul in Q2 looks like bad news for her.
First, let's talk about why this isn't "good" news. Having money is nice, but there is an upper limit to how much of it a candidate can utilize before they suffer seriously diminishing returns (or possibly, as in the case of Sara Gideon in Maine last year, negative returns). The general rule of thumb for TV advertising is that it costs about $5 for every 1,000 viewers reached. Wyoming, which is the least populous state in the nation, has 578,759 residents. That means that, roughly speaking, Cheney can reach every person in the state for $3,000. So, just this quarter's haul is enough to reach every single Wyomingite about 667 times. And we're talking about a situation where everyone already knows who the candidate is and what she stands for.
Cheney can also spend the money on campaign workers, get-out-the-vote operations, and things like that. However, this is a state that only has two cities larger than 35,000 people, and only five larger than 20,000. Further, there is no great way for her to separate "Cheney Republicans" from "anti-Cheney Republicans," such that GOTV operations that target Republican voters are likely to be a wash. So, as with advertising, she will also struggle to realize much benefit from these sorts of investments.
And now we'll address why this is probably "bad" news. Money raised, even if a candidate can't spend it efficiently, is sometimes a useful proxy for voter enthusiasm. However, while Cheney was happy to announce how much she had raked in, she is not revealing how much of that money came from Wyoming voters. This strongly suggests that most of it came from outside the state (and much of it, very probably, came from anti-Trump Democrats). In other words, the money is coming primarily from people who can't actually cast ballots for Cheney. From a PR standpoint, she would benefit much more from announcing "I collected $900,000 from Wyoming voters" than announcing "I collected $2 million, and I'm not saying where it came from." That she did not do so implies that the Wyoming take was not just the minority portion, but was only a small fraction of the overall total. If so, that would mean that Wyoming's voters are not buying what she's selling.
And so, that is how a giant fundraising haul can actually suggest big trouble for a candidate. (Z)
Baseballs, that is. The Major League All-Star Game was last night, and the American League won 5-2, benefiting from both the hitting and the pitching of phenom Shohei Ohtani, a member of the league's most beloved franchise.
The game was held in Denver, having been moved there from Atlanta after the Georgia legislature adopted a bevy of new and transparently discriminatory voting laws. This is an issue that potentially brings together a lot of the bread-and-butter issues of the modern Republican Party: the righteousness of voter ID and other restrictive laws, cancel culture/white grievance, the nefariousness of the Democratic Party, etc. So, it is no surprise that the Republicans see this as an excellent "culture wars" battle to fight, and that they ran an ad during the game last night laying out their case:
The speaker is Black, and, as we know, any one Black person always speaks for all Black people. Specifically, he is Rev. Melvin Everson, a Republican who served in the Georgia Assembly from 2005-11. During the commercial, he presents the following propositions:
- The All-Star Game was "stolen" from Georgia by Democrats.
- This cost Atlanta $100 million in revenue, with most of that coming out of the pockets of Black people.
- That all of this was over Voter ID laws, which 69% of Black people support.
And now, let's fact-check those:
- Major League Baseball is a private business concern, and it made the decision in response to pressure from its business
partners and (possibly) from players and managers who might otherwise have boycotted the game. The Democrats had nothing to
do with it.
- This is the most dishonest of the three statements. First of all, the alleged huge economic benefits of hosting a major event
like an All-Star Game, Super Bowl, or political convention are an illusion. This has been demonstrated again and again. The economic
activity they generate serves primarily to drive other economic activity away, resulting in something of a wash. Further, because
many visitors are out-of-towners, and are attending the event in order to "party," the city's security and cleaning costs go way
up, wiping out whatever benefit does accrue from the (generally slight) boost to local business.
Meanwhile, even if you reject all of the above as B.S., there's this: The Atlanta Braves used to play at Turner Field, which is located in downtown Atlanta. The city of Atlanta is indeed majority-Black (51%). However, the Braves relocated to Truist Field in 2017. Truist is located in Cobb County, north of Atlanta proper, and is 62.2% white against 25.0% Black. So, the notion that this hit Black Georgians particularly hard is a fiction.
- This one is the most truthful of the three propositions. The commercial cites this article from The Washington Examiner which is, in turn, based on a poll conducted by Rasmussen. Those are two facts that do not inspire confidence, but the 69% figure tracks with what other pollsters have found. However, vaguely supporting Voter ID laws is not the same thing as supporting the whole suite of laws that Georgia passed, like the one about giving water to people waiting in line to vote, or the one that tries to make "souls to the polls" operations more difficult.
We find it hard to believe that the All-Star Game will continue to be an issue as it recedes further and further in the rearview mirror. That said, in addition to the commercial that aired during the game, Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) has his own commercial for his reelection campaign that makes much the same points. So, he may think this is the way to go.
On the other hand, Kemp specifically attacks Stacey Abrams, who is expected to be his 2022 opponent, in the ad. This means that if Kemp, and whomever the Republicans nominate to face Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), stick with this, they would basically be in the position of arguing that these two Black politicians hate Black people. That doesn't seem to be a winner, and is another reason we would expect this issue to fade away. But you never know, and if this does turn into the new flag kneeling, it is helpful to know what is true, and what is not. (Z)
Speaking of Stacey Abrams, she has just crossed over into popular culture in a way that fairly few politicians do. Thanks to her voice work on the "Black-ish" Election Special, she is now an Emmy nominee in the category of Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance. If she wins, she'll be in even more rarified company, as the only politicians we can find who have an actual Emmy on their mantle Gov. Andrew Cuomo, (D-NY), Al Franken and Al Gore. There may be one or two others, but it's not many. It turns out that playing Cooter on "The Dukes of Hazzard" (Ben Jones), or Gopher on "The Love Boat" (Fred Grandy), or Arthur Branch on "Law & Order" (Fred Dalton Thompson), or hosting "Death Valley Days" (Ronald Reagan) does not persuade one's colleagues they are in the presence of a great artiste.
If Abrams does take the hardware home, then she's gotta start thinking EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony), right? That would certainly get her lots of publicity and lots of street cred, though it won't be easy. She can surely nab a Grammy; both Obamas, both Clintons, Jimmy Carter, Gore, Franken, and Everett Dirksen, among other political figures, all have at least one (Barack Obama, in fact, has two, and Jimmy Carter three). The Oscar is much harder; the only politicians to land one of those are Gore, former senator George Murphy and former mayor of Carmel Clint Eastwood. And the Tony, requiring time-sucking nightly performances as it does, is harder still. As far as we can tell, no American politician has one of those (though Labour MP Glenda Jackson does). But an Emmy nominee can dream, can't she? After all, Al Gore is three-quarters of the way home.
Ultimately, this story probably doesn't have much significance, though it never hurts for a politician to be hep to pop culture (think Bill Clinton on "Arsenio," or Barack Obama on "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," or Donald Trump hosting "Saturday Night Live"). Still, it's a fun item to pass along, given that much of the rest of the day's news was kinda heavy. (Z)
Former Alabama judge, failed U.S. Senate candidate, and credibly accused pedophile Roy Moore claims that he prays every night. We're never sure if that's true with these politicians who feel the need to perform their religion for everyone, but if it is, he should be thanking God every night that statutes of limitations exist. Otherwise, he would almost certainly be behind bars right now.
Meanwhile, the English comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has made a career of skewering less-than-admirable folks; he particularly likes to target racists, antisemites, sexists, homophobes, hypocrites, and—on occasion—credibly accused pedophiles like Roy Moore. For those unfamiliar with his work, Baron Cohen has several alter egos that he adopts and uses to conduct outlandish interviews that end up making their targets look foolish.
In the case of Moore, the credibly accused pedophile, Baron Cohen took on the persona of "Erran Morad," an Israeli military officer, Mossad operative, and anti-terrorism expert. Moore, then in the midst of his 2018 U.S. Senate campaign, was given to understand that he and "Morad" were going to chat about Israel, and that nation's efforts to combat Muslim terrorists. Here's the clip, should you be interested:
If you don't know the clip, and you don't want to watch, what happens is that "Morad" maneuvers the conversation into a discussion of Israeli technical innovation, and then gets out an "invention" that he and his government are very proud of, namely a metal-detector-like wand that beeps whenever it is waved in the vicinity of a pedophile. Naturally, when it is used on the credibly accused pedophile Moore, it beeps loudly, while "Morad" expresses confusion about why it's generating a positive response. Eventually, Moore gets up and storms out.
It would seem that the would-be senator does not know when to leave well enough alone, and is yet another person unfamiliar with the Streisand effect (to wit, if you try to fight back against information you don't want out there by filing a lawsuit or otherwise making a big deal about it, you are likely to produce the opposite result of what you desire, and to actually give that information more exposure). And so, because the credibly accused pedophile Moore was angered by the implication that he's a pedophile, he filed a $95 million lawsuit against Baron Cohen.
It is hard to fathom what Moore was trying to accomplish with his suit. There was no way he was going to get any actual money, since (1) he signed a waiver, (2) the performance is clearly satirical, and (3) truth is an affirmative defense against defamation. Meanwhile, in a post-Trump America, we doubt that there are many people left who interpret the filing of a lawsuit as evidence that the plaintiff must be innocent.
Yesterday, Judge John P. Cronan (a Trump appointee) tossed the suit, declaring that Moore has no case. And so, the net result was that just about every outlet in the land, including us, wrote an item about the decision, not only reminding everyone that Moore is a credibly accused pedophile, but that a federal judge thinks he has no basis for complaint when someone implies that he's a pedophile.
Moore has finally made his point, or at least learned his lesson, right? Nope. Just minutes after Cronan announced his decision, the credibly accused pedophile and his lawyer promised that they would be filing an appeal. And so, sometime in the next year, we'll get another wave of stories reminding everyone that Moore, the credibly accused pedophile, is angry that someone dared imply that he's a pedophile. You just can't buy this kind of publicity. Nor should you want to, particularly if you are a credibly accused pedophile, as Moore is. (Z)
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Jul13 Infrastructure Reconciliation Bill Picks Up Speed
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Jul10 Saturday Q&A
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Jul09 Texas Is at It Again
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Jul09 The Republican Party Stands for Nothing
Jul09 Trump Says He Welcomes Deposition
Jul09 An Artful Solution?
Jul09 A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Part II
Jul08 House Group Approves Senate's Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
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Jul08 Biden Can Reshape the Fed
Jul08 Do Republicans Really Believe the Lies They Are Telling?
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Jul06 Gang Warfare
Jul06 What's the Plan for the 1/6 Commission?
Jul06 How Not to Respond to Being Prosecuted
Jul06 Breyer Clerks Up for Next Term
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Jul05 DeSantis Is Preparing for 2024--Very Carefully
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