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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Problem Solved--For Now
      •  Biden Wants to Know How Much Climate Change Costs
      •  Trump in Trouble
      •  And About that Reelection Bid...
      •  Gillibrand Will Be Back
      •  Newsom Collects $3 Million Check for Recall Effort

Problem Solved--For Now

After 11 bloody days, there is now a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Neither the Israeli government nor Hamas "won" this round, but the 200 people who are dead most definitely lost.

Although Fox News thinks it is outrageous for Joe Biden to get any credit here, the fact is that his administration engaged in extensive, under-the-radar diplomacy for days with an eye toward this result. Once the cease-fire had been agreed to, Biden himself directed the credit in the direction of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, while also promising to help Israel rebuild its "Iron Dome" missile defense system.

So, the immediate crisis appears to have been resolved, but this particular Biden headache does not figure to fade for long. The first problem is that Israel and Hamas are already bickering over the terms of the cease-fire, and exactly what was, and was not, agreed to. For example, did Israel promise to stop evicting Palestinians from East Jerusalem or didn't they? So, if Hamas concludes they've been snookered, the cease-fire might not hold for long.

That leads us to a second problem. There is a pretty broad consensus that Netanyahu instigated the current crisis for political gain, as he tries to build a viable governing coalition and stave off yet another general election. Whether that is true or not, there is much pressure on the Israeli PM from must-have right-wing groups to resume the conflict, as they believe that Netanyahu did not do enough damage to Hamas and/or did not extract enough in the way of concessions. So, the Israeli government could find a pretext to abandon the cease-fire.

And finally, Netanyahu seems to have lost the PR battle here, and so is getting much of the blame internationally for all of this. He's certainly getting the blame in the minds of many Democrats, particularly (though not exclusively) those from the progressive wing of the Party. And so, as Biden tries to conduct his Israeli diplomacy in the future, he's going to deal with pushback from within his own ranks. For example, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is trying to scuttle a planned $735 million arms sale to Israel. The Vermonter likely won't succeed because it's too late in the game for this particular transaction, but all bets are off when it comes to future transactions.

In short, Biden pulled a rabbit out of his hat, but Republicans aren't impressed by the trick, and Democrats are going to make it hard to pull the same trick again. Why does anyone ever want to be president? (Z)

Biden Wants to Know How Much Climate Change Costs

In case one ultra-hot-button issue per day is not enough, Joe Biden decided to tackle another one on Thursday, and issued an executive order on climate-related financial risk. In short, it orders all federal agencies to "identify and disclose climate-related financial risk to government programs, assets, and liabilities" within 120 days, and also to figure out what kind of financing would be needed to achieve zero emissions by 2050.

Getting any sort of Green New Deal Lite through the Senate is not in the cards right now, given that no Republican would vote for it, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) comes from a state whose economy is built on coal. In the interim, an executive order at least allows the Biden administration to do...something. Further, anyone who is going to be won over by scientific arguments already has been. New converts will likely have to come through gloom and doom warnings of the economic consequences of climate change. So, Biden's approach makes sense from that angle as well. Time will tell if anything comes of Thursday's EO, of course. (Z)

Trump in Trouble

When news broke that New York AG Letitia James' (D) investigation into the Trump Organization had morphed from "civil" to "civil and criminal," we supposed that was a very bad sign for the Trump family. There has now been time for other folks to weigh in, and they agree.

First up is Renato Mariotti, who is a former federal prosecutor. He doesn't have any inside information, but he concurs with our guess that James would not have traveled this path if she didn't already have pretty compelling evidence to work with. He also points out that James and Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance (D) are not running parallel investigations, but instead have basically combined forces into one big investigation. That somewhat suggests that they were finding similar things. Mariotti also shares our view that Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg is about to learn what life in a pressure cooker feels like. For 40 years, the Donald has called Weisselberg "My Guy." But the CFO may be well on his way to joining the persona non Trumpa club.

Of course, the most famous member of that club may be former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, who also has opinions on the new, criminal bent of James' investigation. Given how sour the Trump-Cohen relationship has turned, you should of course take the lawyer-turned-felon's words with at least a few grains of salt. Still, Cohen knows The Donald, so it's at least worth hearing what he has to say. And Cohen's view is that Trump is not only in big trouble but that, to save himself, he will throw his children under the bus and flip on them. If so, then it would instantly become the greatest reality TV show of all time. And here you thought "Dallas"—a show about the family of a sleazy, double-crossing tycoon—was unrealistic and improbable. Maybe "Who shot J.R.?" was really supposed to be "Who shot Jr.?"

And the most damning news of all on the Trump front may be courtesy of...QAnon, which has already adapted to accommodate the possibility that The Donald is headed Downtown. "Do you think they realize how much MOAR powerful Trump will be after being falsely arrested?," the QAnoners are writing. Apparently, he is Obi-Wan Trumpnobi: "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

That's a 1960s, a 1970s, and a 1980s pop culture reference in the span of just two paragraphs. Don't say you're not getting your money's worth. And speaking of money's worth, it sure looks like the Trumps are going to need the best legal representation money can buy. That means no Lin Wood or Rudy Giuliani, but instead people who are smart enough to insist on a very large retainer in advance. We wonder if the former president has the money. (Z)

And About that Reelection Bid...

It may only be May, but these days, it's never too early to think about the next election. And we don't mean the next national election, incidentally, we mean the next presidential election. After all, Election Day 2024 is only 1,265 days away.

There are many reasons that 2024 may not end up as a rematch of 2020—like the possibility that Donald Trump will, by then, be spending his days with Bubba and Nails. However, at the moment, it's the likeliest pairing. And so, Yahoo/YouGov thought it would be interesting to see where things stand, polling-wise. The short answer: Not so good, Trump-wise.

To be more specific, 48% of respondents said they would vote for Joe Biden if the election was held right now, while only 36% said they would vote for Trump. If so, it means that the President is holding his 2020 support fairly well (he got 51% of the vote) while the former president is not (he got 47% of the vote). The poll also found that voters are twice as likely to flip from Trump to Biden than they are to flip from Biden to Trump. Given that Trump, if he were to run again, would be counting on putting together a narrow Electoral College victory on the strength of a bunch of razor-thin swing-state wins, he simply cannot afford to lose more voters to Biden than he gains.

It shouldn't even be necessary to point out that in politics, a week is a long time, and so 2024 is eons away. Still, this is the state of the race...four months into Biden's first term. (Z)

Gillibrand Will Be Back

As long as we are looking way ahead, let's look even further ahead. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) attempted a presidential run in 2020 and got no traction. However, she still sees a future president in the mirror when she gets up each morning. And so, she said yesterday that she definitely sees another presidential run in her future.

Since Joe Biden is likely to run for reelection in 2024 or, failing that, he will hand off the baton to Kamala Harris, the next plausible window for Gillibrand is 2028. It's not easy to handicap things that far out, but we wouldn't be investing in Kirsten Gillibrand futures (or, for that matter cryptocurrency), if we were you. The Senator has two liabilities that will be difficult to overcome:

  • She's not exciting: Last year, many Democrats were casting around for anyone they could get enthusiastic about as an alternative to old, boring Uncle Joe. And even in that situation, few voters embraced Gillibrand. Further, Democratic primary (and general election) voters tend to like their presidential candidates young and exciting. If we exclude vice presidents who succeeded to the presidency upon the death of the president (in other words, Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson), then there's Franklin D. Roosevelt (50 on his first Election Day), John F. Kennedy (43), Jimmy Carter (52), Bill Clinton (46), Barack Obama (47), and Biden (78). One of these things is not like the others, obviously, but outside of him we have an average age of 47.6. Gillibrand will be 62 in 2028.

  • Black voters are not impressed: You don't make it through the primaries as a Democrat, and you don't win the general election either, without significant support from Black voters. Gillibrand simply does not have that support: She attracted only a fraction of a percent of the Black vote in 2020.

We are, of course, assuming that another 8 years will be time for voters to forget some of the Senator's current liabilities, such as lingering resentment over her clash with former colleague Al Franken. But even then, it's just hard to see how she can put together a winning presidential bid. (Z)

Newsom Collects $3 Million Check for Recall Effort

As Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) gears up to defend his governorship, and to defeat the recall effort, he just got a helping hand from Netflix founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings, in the form of a $3 million check. That's the biggest donation Newsom has collected so far, though other big chunks of cash are reportedly coming down the pike soon. Well, it's California, so they're coming down the freeway soon.

We bring this up primarily because it speaks to an interesting advantage that Newsom has in comparison to his would-be successors, like Caitlyn Jenner (R) or Kevin Faulconer (R). Those folks, as candidates for office, can only accept $32,400 in donations from individuals. That's a lot, but it's not $3 million. By contrast, Newsom is not considered a candidate for office under the terms of California law. Instead, he is, in effect, a ballot proposition. And so, he can accept unlimited donations from anyone. The Golden State is the most expensive one in the nation to campaign in, but Newsom should have no issue paying whatever bills he needs to pay in order to put his best foot forward. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May20 McConnell Now Opposes the Jan. 6 Commission Bill
May20 Trump Lashes Out at Letitia James
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May19 ...And So Is Demings...
May19 ...And McCloskey, Too
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May18 Ruh, Roe
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May18 Gaetz' Alleged Partner in Crime Makes it Official
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May17 Cheney and Stefanik Take Potshots at Each Other
May17 Poll: Cheney Had to Go
May17 Republican Voters Are Highly Engaged
May17 Republicans Want to Punish Poll Workers
May17 Neera Tanden Gets a Job
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May16 Sunday Mailbag
May15 Saturday Q&A
May14 New York Mayoral Candidates Debate
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May14 Kevin McCarthy's Headaches, Part II: Matt Gaetz
May14 Kevin McCarthy's Headaches, Part III: Marjorie Taylor Greene
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