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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  New York Mayoral Candidates Debate
      •  Kevin McCarthy's Headaches, Part I: Chip Roy
      •  Kevin McCarthy's Headaches, Part II: Matt Gaetz
      •  Kevin McCarthy's Headaches, Part III: Marjorie Taylor Greene
      •  Things Have Gotten Ugly in Israel
      •  FL-28 Battle Lines Are Forming
      •  Ohio Offers Citizens a Vaxxpot

New York Mayoral Candidates Debate

We're not entirely sure that this is really a national news story. On one hand, New York City is America's largest metropolis, and is a financial and cultural powerhouse. On the other hand, the mayor of that city has relatively little authority beyond city limits. On the third hand, the last three New York mayors went on to be U.S. presidential candidates of varying degrees of seriousness, and one of them also became a comically inept presidential fixer. That's two "yea" and one "nay," so we are going to err on the side of assuming that it is national news.

With that decision out of the way, eight would-be mayors were invited to debate via Zoom last night. We're not exactly dialed into the issues that are of concern to New Yorkers, the debate was not televised in either of our places of residence, and the streaming version was spotty. So, we're not able to provide our own take. What we are able to do, however, is read other, better-informed, commentators' takeaways. So, here's a rundown of a selection of those:

The New York Times:
  • Crime and policing became the dividing line
  • (Andrew) Yang acted, and was attacked, like a front-runner
  • Maya Wiley came out swinging
  • The virtual format made for some awkward moments
  • They talked a lot, but here's what they didn't discuss (public transit, Israel, climate change)
  • Public safety arguments are met by social justice concerns
  • Wiley goes for the jugular
  • As expected, opponents pile on Yang
  • (Scott) Stringer gets asked once about sexual assault allegations
  • A variety of answers for tackling school segregation
  • Not every candidate was ready to name their number two—yet
  • Yang keeps his cool, shows off debate experience
  • Gun violence takes center stage
  • Wiley and (Dianne) Morales make a strong introduction
  • Stringer invites probe into sexual misconduct accusations
  • Zoom doom: "We would hate to use the mute function on anyone"
The City:
  • (Eric) Adams fights back hard
  • Yang plays mellow defense
  • Everyone's against de Blasio
  • Small businesses key to recovery
  • Stringer stands firm
  • (Shaun) Donovan's daddy issues (his wealthy father is funding his campaign)
  • Still few alliances (despite the fact that newly implemented ranked-choice voting would seem to encourage coalition formation)

A few themes stick out: Andrew Yang played the role of frontrunner while progressive Maya Wiley was the participant who was most on the offensive. Crime, policing, and guns are the dominant issues at the moment, and Scott Stringer ought to drop out now because he's not going to escape the sexual assault cloud hovering over him.

If you're interested in which candidates "won" or "lost," the Times had ten staff writers rate each of the candidates on a scale of 1-10 and provide a brief critique of each. You can follow the link if you want details, but the aggregate winner was Wiley, who averaged 7.3/10, and the aggregate loser was Shaun Donovan, who averaged 4.8/10. The rest of the field was in the mushy middle, hovering at or near 6.5/10.

Still, the most important news of the week might not be the debate, but that the Times editorial board announced its endorsement in the race. Newspaper endorsements don't generally move the needle much these days, but when it's New York City and when it's The New York Times, maybe they still do. Their pick is...Kathryn Garcia. She's a moderate whose platform includes turning Rikers Island into a hub for renewable energy after it ends its career as a jail, as well as free child care for families earning less than $70,000. She also has one key skill needed for a politician: as New York City's former sanitation commissioner, she knows how to deal with vast amounts of...well, you know. Anyhow, the primary is June 22, a little over a month away. (Z)

Kevin McCarthy's Headaches, Part I: Chip Roy

There are few more thankless jobs in the world than being the leader of the House Republican Conference. If you doubt it, ask Paul Ryan or John Boehner.

Current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would be thrilled if the newly deposed Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) would just go gentle into that good night. That will not be happening, however. As a consolation prize, McCarthy would really like the transition from Cheney to his handpicked successor, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), to be smooth. As it turns out, that will not be happening, either, as right-wing firebrand Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) announced Thursday that he'll be throwing his hat into the ring.

Roy has little chance of winning the election, since Stefanik has the support of everyone who matters, including the fellow who apparently matters the most. "Can't imagine Republican House Members would go with Chip Roy—he has not done a great job, and will probably be successfully primaried in his own district," Donald Trump opined. "I support Elise, by far, over Chip!" One wonders if that review of Roy has some vague foundation, or if Trump is just making it up. The truth of the matter is that he's one of the Trumpier members of the House (far more so than Stefanik), and loves headline-making stunts. That actually puts Roy a bit out of step with his R+5 district, and he's come slightly closer to losing in the general election (both in 2018 and 2020) than in the primary.

That's not the only Stefanik-related headache that McCarthy has, either. Once Cheney was on her way out, GOP leadership concluded—surely correctly—that it would be a bad look to replace her with yet another white guy, and so settled on rising-star (and woman) Stefanik very quickly. Quite a few conservatives, both inside the House and out, have taken notice that this seems to be the same sort of identity politics move that Republicans criticize Democrats for. So, in addition to Stefanik not being right-wing enough, she's also aggravated people by being able to jump the line on account of gender. No wonder she's not going to try to stay on past this term. (Z)

Kevin McCarthy's Headaches, Part II: Matt Gaetz

There are a number of House Republicans that are pretty radioactive these days, but none more so than Rep. Matt "Chernobyl" Gaetz (R-FL). Given how much hot water he appears to be in, and how little tolerance voters have for the sort of sexual misdeeds he's accused of, he would make a point of lying low if he were a team player. But, of course, he's not a team player, so he's been touring the country with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA; more on her below) on some sort of anti-cancel-culture tour, making sure to maintain his place as one of the House's dozen or so most high-profile Republicans.

Anyhow, Gaetz, and by extension Kevin McCarthy, got some more bad news on Thursday. The Florida Representative's alleged partner in sexual crime, Joel Greenberg, has reportedly agreed to a plea deal. Take these specifics with a grain of salt, since they only broke late, late Thursday night, but apparently he will plead guilty to six felony counts, including sex trafficking and wire fraud, and will cooperate with the authorities in any way they see fit. As a reminder, Greenberg is the person most likely to be able to confirm that Gaetz transported an underage girl across state lines for sexual purposes.

The feds are also talking to dozens of other witnesses who might have information on Gaetz. In particular, they are in negotiations with a former girlfriend who apparently has dirt to dish, but wants immunity before she'll dish it. It would be rather unusual for the FBI to go this far down the rabbit hole unless they were pretty confident they had the Representative dead to rights, so Gaetz should definitely be worried. As in, "Hey, Donald, can I borrow your jet for a 'vacation' to a non-extradition country?" worried. (Z)

Kevin McCarthy's Headaches, Part III: Marjorie Taylor Greene

This one may not technically be a headache for Kevin McCarthy, as he has a certain amount of fondness for MAGA theater. Still, Marjorie Taylor Greene is becoming unhinged (if she was ever hinged in the first place). There was, of course, the antisemitic and other hateful rhetoric that got her stripped of her committee positions. Then there was the confrontation with Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) over masks, which caused Bush to move her office far away from Greene's. There was also the transphobic sign posted in the office hallway, in an effort to goad Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL), whose daughter is transgender.

The latest involves one of the MAGA crowd's favorite targets, namely Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). As AOC exited the House chamber on Wednesday, Greene ran up from behind to accost her, accusing the New Yorker of supporting Antifa and other "terrorist" groups. Greene also insisted that AOC agree to a debate about her "radical socialist" beliefs. The Georgian went on Twitter afterward to characterize the interaction as collegial, and to blast AOC for being a "chicken." Witnesses said Greene is lying; that she instigated the whole thing, that she was screaming at Ocasio-Cortez, and that Ocasio-Cortez was a model of restraint. When the "screaming" charge was brought to Greene's attention, she responded: "Do you know what screaming is? That's what people do when rockets are fired at them like Hamas terrorists are firing into Israel." Perfectly normal...perfectly healthy. One would think that if someone hates both Arabs and Jews, they would lie low on what is going on in the Middle East, but lying low isn't Greene's specialty (although just plain lying is).

Greene has no interest in a real debate; AOC knows that if she were to agree, Greene would just bulldoze her with Gish galloping. Similarly, Greene has absolutely no interest in governance. As the ultimate Trump disciple, all she cares about is getting attention, raising money, and building her brand. These things are all accomplished through stunts like the one on Wednesday. And the one before that. And the one before that. Rinse and repeat.

In an interesting piece for the conservative-but-anti-Trump site The Bulwark, Jonathan V. Last connects Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the company that makes Red Bull Energy Drink as masters of the 21st century "Attention Economy," where—in a world with material plenty, but also vast quantities of information and misinformation—the most desirable and difficult commodity to acquire is the attention of human beings. Last sees this as the key to the modern GOP:

Republican voters—a group distinct from Conservatism Inc.—no longer have any concrete outcomes that they want from government.

What they have, instead, is a lifestyle brand.

And if you want to move up the ladder within a brand network, you don't do it by governing or making policy.

You do it by getting attention.

Donald Trump was the first figure to understand that this was where Republican voters had moved. Once you view Republican politics as an attention economy, everything about Trump's rise and domination makes sense.

Matt Gaetz is the House member that Last particularly focuses on, though there's nothing here that does not also apply to his cancel-culture-touring partner Greene.

In the end, Greene might just be an obnoxious jerk who has no sense of boundaries, and who feels she's entitled to treat her colleagues however she sees fit. There are few workplaces in America where that is viable long-term, and if this is what is going on, either Kevin McCarthy or Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is going to have to take steps stronger than just the loss of committee memberships. Alternatively, Greene is mentally ill, and needs help. Either way, things have gotta change. (Z)

Things Have Gotten Ugly in Israel

Not metaphorically ugly, but real-world ugly, as in people are suffering and dying. Tensions have boiled over in Gaza, with Hamas firing hundreds of rockets and Israel responding with massive assault by a collection of artillery, tanks and airplanes. There's also lots of "unrest" in the streets, along with reports of vigilantism.

Of course, what happens in Israel doesn't stay in Israel, and so this has become a political issue in the United States. Joe Biden spoke to acting PM Benjamin Netanyahu, telling him that Israel has the United States' support, and affirming that they certainly have the right to defend themselves, but expressing hope that peace can be restored. That seems rather pro forma for this situation, maybe half a notch above "thoughts and prayers."

Meanwhile, there is also plenty of finger-pointing going on between TrumpWorld and BidenWorld. The former folks say that the current president is to blame for all of this because he took too long to respond to Hamas' provocations, and hasn't taken a proactive enough stance in terms of bringing about a resolution. The latter folks say that the former president is to blame because his haphazard Israel policies created a powder keg that was sure to ignite, sooner or later. (Z)

FL-28 Battle Lines Are Forming

Florida's brand-spanking-new congressional district doesn't even exist yet, and yet partisans on both sides are already gearing up for a fight to the death. Leading one side is a former Trump Administration official, Carlos Trujillo, whose PAC Democracy Now aims to make sure that seat ends up in the Republican column. Leading the other side is a former Obama Administration official, Eric Holder, whose PAC the National Democratic Redistricting Committee intends to land that seat for the Democrats. Lobbying is already underway, and legal briefs are already being filed.

Truth be told, this isn't especially interesting yet, but for one thing: Florida law makes this whole process pretty easy to drag out. During the last round of redistricting, it took Florida nearly five years before it was able to implement a new map that passed muster with the courts. The judicial deck is a little more stacked in the Republicans' favor this time, but it is also the case that 2021 redistricting is getting underway much later than 2011 redistricting did.

It is hard to imagine that Holder really thinks the Democrats have a shot in a state with a Republican-dominated legislature, a Republican governor, and an all-Republican-appointee Supreme Court. However, if he can drag this thing out long enough (mid-2022 or so?), then that could well force Florida to stick with its current map for one more cycle, likely depriving the GOP of a House seat, and giving the Democrats a slightly better chance to hold their House majority. Repeat that in a few more red states, and it could make a real difference for the blue team in 2022. (Z)

Ohio Offers Citizens a Vaxxpot

This is certainly an interesting approach to getting reluctant people vaccinated. West Virginia has decided that a $100 savings bond ($50 face value) is enough to get people to roll up their sleeves and present their arms. It would seem that Ohioans prefer their incentives to be a little meatier, because Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH) is going to pool the money that might otherwise be paid in the form of smaller cash rewards into a big pot, with five lucky adults winning a $1 million cash prize, and five lucky 12-to-17-year-olds winning four-year college scholarships.

There is a certain logic to this, as Americans do have a penchant for competitions and sweepstakes. Moreover, and we'll try to tread delicately here, the folks who are avoiding a vaccine because of extremely rare side effects and complications, and who are more comfortable taking their chances with a disease that has killed millions and incapacitated millions more, may not have the strongest grasp of probabilities. This is the exact same deficiency that lotteries exploit. So, "lottery ticket in exchange for getting vaccinated" may make for some pretty compelling cognitive synergy. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May13 Republicans Boot Cheney on a Voice Vote
May13 The Republicans Are Not Going to Have a Civil War
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May12 Crunching the Numbers: 2020 Turnout
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May11 Whither the Republicans?
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May11 Cybersecurity Is on the Front Burner Again
May11 Gubernatorial News, Part I: Virginia GOP Has Its Candidate
May11 Gubernatorial News, Part II: Newsom Has an Ace in the Hole
May11 Republican Messaging Is Horses**t
May10 Republicans Are about to Replace a Conservative Leader with a Moderate
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May10 Greene and Gaetz Begin "America First" Tour
May10 Texas House Passes Bill That Restricts Voting
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May09 Sunday Mailbag
May08 Saturday Q&A
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May07 Trump Who?
May07 Be Careful What You Grift For
May07 FEC Lets Trump Off the Hook(ers)
May07 Democrats Are Unwilling to Light a Fire Under Breyer
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May07 Keisha Lance Bottoms Is Out
May07 Stacey Abrams Has a Book
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May06 Trump Endorses Elise Stefanik to Replace Cheney in House Leadership
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May06 Republicans Dump on Big Business
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