• 1/6 Commission Bill Speeds Up
• Infrastructure Bill Slows Down
• Newsom Looks Very Safe
• Don't Know Much about History, Part II: Marjorie Taylor Greene
• Santorum Just the Latest in the CNN Trump Talking Head Parade
The next domino has fallen. Having joined forces with New York AG Letitia James (D) last week, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. (D) has convened a grand jury to consider evidence in the case, and possibly to issue indictments.
Nobody involved—Vance, James, the members of the grand jury—is talking about what is being done, since that would be illegal. So, we're just left to guess what it all means. For those who would like to see Trump in stripes, here is the good news:
- It's generally a very bad sign when your name appears in the same phrase with "grand jury."
- Similarly, the timeline (Vance + James one week, grand jury the next) is not encouraging for the Trumps.
- Usually, this step comes fairly late in the process.
- Vance would not convene a grand jury if he did not think he's got a case.
- The grand jury will be empaneled for an unusually long time (six months), suggesting a large and complex prosecution involving many defendants.
For those who would prefer to see Trump live out his days at Mar-a-Lago, here is the good news:
- Grand juries work slowly.
- There is no guarantee this grand jury will consider only Trump-related matters.
- There is also no guarantee that the person caught in Vance's net is Trump himself.
- It's very possible that this grand jury will be going after the smaller fish (e.g. Barry Weisselberg) and the next one will go after the bigger, oranger fish.
Anyhow, now we all get to wait patiently to find out what's really going on. (Z)
Whatever is going to happen with the 1/6 Commission, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants an answer. And so, he is going to move forward this week with the process of voting on the bill. He undoubtedly knows how his caucus will vote (presumably all in favor), so the ball is in the Republicans' court.
There are now two members of the GOP conference who say they are "yea" votes: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) committed to a "yea" on Monday, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined him yesterday. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is not officially a "yea" yet, but she's trying to whip support for an adapted version of the bill, so she's likely to be a "yea" eventually. Can seven more Republicans be persuaded? We will soon know. As to Schumer's motivations, one would think he'd pause and give more Republicans time to get to yes. Either he wants the bill to fail, so Democrats can pin it on Republicans, or he thinks he's most likely to get those votes by turning up the temperature and forcing his Republican colleagues to reach a decision. Only he knows which it is. (Z)
Joe Biden set a deadline of Memorial Day (a.k.a. this weekend) for consensus to be reached on the infrastructure bill, declaring that otherwise he and his party would go it alone. It would seem the threat will not be carried out, at least not on the timeline that the President set.
At the moment, Senate Republicans are working on yet another counteroffer, their previous offers having done nothing to move the needle. This is a change of course from Tuesday, when the GOP senators said there wouldn't be another counteroffer. The safe assumption is that they are going to offer basically the same thing as last time. Maybe this time they'll toss in a case of Necco Wafers for the White House staff to enjoy. In any event, they aren't going to jump from "10% of the new spending Biden wants" (their current position) to an actual, realistic counteroffer (at least 50% of the new spending Biden wants). All that the Republicans are looking for here is the ability to say "hey, we made three (or four, or five, or six) offers, and the socialist Democrats weren't interested."
Still, the one audience member who really matters seems to believe the Republicans are still acting in good faith. That, of course, would be Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who decreed on Tuesday that he wants to allow more time for a bipartisan deal to possibly be negotiated. We have given up trying to figure out his (and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's, D-AZ) bipartisanship fetish, since the Senate basically doesn't do reaching across the aisle anymore. Maybe the duo are both Pollyannas, and foresee a day in the near future when rainbows and sunshine will return to the upper chamber. If so, then they really should be planning to ride to work on that day on a unicorn, perhaps accompanied by their good friends Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. Alternatively, maybe Manchin and Sinema are just staging an extended theatrical performance for the folks back home. Whatever it may be, it's instructive that neither has rejected the use of reconciliation; they've only said they want to wait until that option is invoked.
As we have mentioned before, we understand Manchin's concerns: He is a Democrat in one of the most Republican states in the country. He can't just blow off the Republicans and their offers because his constituents are largely Republicans. He also knows the Democrats can't primary him because no other Democrat in West Virginia has even the slightest chance of winning a statewide general election. Sinema is a different story. Arizona is now a heterogeneous purple state full of Latinos. And it has a Latino representative, Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), who would love to become a senator, and could choose to challenge "Do-nothing Kyrsten" at any time. It is very hard to see what Sinema has to gain by bucking her party. Maybe she just enjoys the spotlight. (Z)
To the extent that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) has a weakness that might facilitate his recall, it was his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. He steered something of a middle course that left folks on both sides of the aisle unhappy, and he also got caught dining at the French Laundry shortly after ordering mass shutdowns of state businesses, which made him look hypocritical as well as elitist (the French Laundry is not cheap).
Now, however, the pandemic is slowly receding, and the state's vaccination program is going well. Restaurants, shopping centers, and sports venues are reopening and most schools will be in-person in fall. So, the Governor's missteps are being forgiven by California voters. The latest poll from the Public Policy Institute of California reveals that 90% of respondents feel the worst of the COVID-19 is past, up 16% from two months ago. 64% of voters approve of his pandemic management, 54% approve of his performance as governor overall and, most importantly, 57% would vote against a recall if the election was held today.
We've consistently taken the view that a recall was improbable, as the circumstances of 2021 largely don't parallel those of 2003, when Gray Davis was recalled. At the most basic level, Newsom is much more popular now than Davis was back then, while the modern-day California GOP does not have a candidate with the appeal or the star power of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Add in the fact that the state is bluer than it was 18 years ago, and it's game, set, and match for Newsom unless some sort of real disaster strikes (and is blamed on him). (Z)
Yesterday, we wrote an item about former senator and CNN commentator Rick Santorum, who opined that Native Americans contributed nearly nothing to American culture, and stuck with that even after receiving blowback. It's not easy to say something dumber and more offensive than what Santorum said. Well, unless you are Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and you specialize in "dumb" and "offensive." Then it's a piece of cake.
Note, before we continue, that we really didn't want to touch this story with a 10-foot pole. The more oxygen that Greene gets, the more she is encouraged. However, her latest "insights" have been major news for three news cycles. Further, with antisemitic incidents spiking in the United States right now, ignoring antisemitic verbiage from a sitting member of Congress is perhaps even worse than giving it oxygen. Anyhow, for those who don't know, here is what Greene tweeted:
Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s forced Jewish people to wear a gold star.— Marjorie Taylor Greene (@mtgreenee) May 25, 2021
Vaccine passports & mask mandates create discrimination against unvaxxed people who trust their immune systems to a virus that is 99% survivable.https://t.co/6X6VNolcA7
In response to the rather fiercely negative response, Greene defended herself by asserting that: (1) She wasn't drawing a parallel to the Holocaust, just to the yellow stars, and (2) House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is a "c**t." She ultimately deleted the latter tweet, which was in direct response to McCarthy's criticism, but once a tweet is out there, it never really goes away.
Anyhow, let's now (briefly) summarize the relevant history here. Antisemitism has been around for millennia. So too has the practice of marking "outsiders" in various ways. And so, it should come as no surprise that compelling Jews to wear some sort of identifying symbol or clothing predates Adolf Hitler and the Nazis by at least a millennium (and maybe more). The first known cases of Jews being forced to wear identifying symbols come from the Muslim caliphates of the 8th century, and the practice had spread to parts of Europe by the late 9th century. Off and on, for the next 1,000 years, European Jews were subjected to various laws and decrees requiring them to wear, most commonly, an identifying patch/badge or, less frequently, a special head covering, ring or armband.
Turning to Nazi Germany, it is necessary to discuss several tendencies that ultimately came together to produce the atrocity that was the Holocaust. The first is that, like all fascist movements, the Nazis were obsessed with identifying their "enemies," ostracizing them, and—ideally—making them pay for their "crimes." The most obvious expression of this was the construction of the concentration camps, a process that commenced in 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler came to power as chancellor. In that time, "concentration camp" meant something like "prison camp where troublemakers can be concentrated in a small place and brought under control." The concept was first developed by the Spanish in the mid-to-late 19th century, who called such camps reconcentrados. The British (Boer War) and the Americans (Philippine-American War) borrowed the idea fairly quickly thereafter. The original purpose of the Nazi concentration camps—with Dachau the first to open, on March 22, 1933—was to isolate political prisoners from the rest of society, and to suppress their activities.
In addition, the fascists of that era—Benito Mussolini and his movement were also like this—tended to fetishize "science," as they understood it, and tried to find systematic approaches to "problems." For the Nazis, it was not enough to identify the people they hated, and to isolate those people. No, they had to have a system for marking people so that everyone who saw them would know the precise source of their "shame." Consequently, there was a wide range of patches for "enemies" of the Reich, particularly for those who were imprisoned in the concentration camps:
- An upside-down triangle indicated a criminal, with their alleged offense indicated by the color of the triangle.
- A double triangle, one upside down and one not, indicated a Jew.
- A letter on the triangle/star indicated the person's nation of origin.
- A bar above the triangle/star either indicated a repeat offender or someone accused of two different crimes.
- A black "target" indicated someone singled out for extra-difficult forced labor.
- A red "target" indicated an escape risk.
So, for example, a black triangle indicated someone who was considered to be "antisocial," a group that included the Roma, the mentally ill, prostitutes, vagrants, alcoholics, drug addicts, and pacifists. A black triangle with a pink bar above it meant "antisocial homosexual." A black triangle with a pink bar and an "F" on it meant "antisocial French homosexual." A black triangle superimposed on a yellow triangle with a pink bar above and an "F" meant "antisocial Jewish French homosexual." A black triangle superimposed on a yellow triangle with a pink bar above, an "F," and a black target below meant "antisocial Jewish French homosexual who should be assigned to the most onerous duty." There were some variances depending on place and time, but this was the basic system.
Finally, the third Nazi tendency that must be discussed is, of course, the antisemitism. The Nazis hated a lot of different groups: Roma (as noted), LGBTQ (as noted), Black people, foreigners, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc., but Jews were at the very top of the list. Hitler's Mein Kampf, published in 1925, was, as everyone knows, overtly antisemitic. The Nazis began to put Hitler's ideas into practice in 1935, with the first set of Nuremberg Laws, which stripped Jewish citizens of various civil rights. The requirement that Jewish people under German control wear special identifying marks (either the yellow star, or a special armband) first emerged around the same time World War II began in Europe (September 1939). Polish Jews were the first to be subjected, followed by Jews in the Baltic states, then in Romania, Germany, the annexed states (Austria, Czechoslovakia, etc.), the Netherlands, Belgium, parts of France and, finally, Hungary.
With all of these various forces set in motion during the 1930s, it did not take long for things to move toward their seemingly inevitable conclusion. It was in January 1942 that Nazi leadership decided to begin rounding up all Jews (and other "enemies" of the state), as opposed to merely rounding up those who were accused/convicted of crimes. The obvious place to send them was to the concentration camps, but the concentration camps didn't have the means to house so many people. The way to resolve that issue was to make certain that inmates died at a brisk clip, either from overwork, or from disease/lack of nutrition/exposure, or via execution. And so the concentration camps became extermination camps (the term "death camps" is also used). When all was said and done, two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe was dead, in addition to millions of other "undesirables."
And now we return to Marjorie Taylor Greene. Her comparison of vaccine passports/mask mandates to yellow stars is like comparing apples to orange...colored Sherman tanks. It is so entirely ridiculous and offensive that readers hardly need us to poke holes in it. That said, we're a full-service hole-poking site, so we'll point out a few of the holes nonetheless:
- Reductio ad Hitlerum: Playing the Hitler card is almost always a cheap shot that
speaks badly of the person who does it. There are times and places where drawing a parallel to Hitler/the Nazis is
appropriate, but if you're going to do it, you better be 100% sure. And even if you're 100% sure, maybe you still
shouldn't do it (see also "invoking slavery").
- Choice: The great majority of people who choose not to vaccinate, and the vast majority of
people who choose not to mask, have a choice. The Jewish people (and the other "enemies" of the Nazi war machine) did
- The Slippery Slope: The yellow stars were pretty bad, but would be a footnote today if
that is where it had stopped, since there are so very many instances of hateful and discriminatory behavior in world
history. However, the real problem is that the stars were one big step on the path to atrocities. Unless Greene thinks
that non-vaccinated non-masked people are approximately 18 months from being rounded up and exterminated en masse, then
there's no comparison here. Of course, even she would not be outlandish enough to make that claim, because she knows
it's not remotely plausible.
- The Goal: Even in these enlightened times, we allow all sorts of discrimination, assuming
that discrimination is in service of some greater good. Smokers cannot smoke wherever they want. Convicted sex offenders
can't live near schools. Men cannot join women-only gyms. People who are in deep debt can't get security clearances. The
vaccine passports and mask mandates exist to compel public-good-serving behavior from folks who neglect to behave
selflessly of their own volition. By contrast, the Nazis' scapegoating of Jews (and others) served no public good, except in
the conspiracy-driven minds of Hitler and his supporters.
- The Milieu: One of the most difficult things to communicate to students—and (Z) has
a whole lecture segment built around Father Junipero Serra and dedicated to this—is that the historian must resist
holding people of the past to the standards of the present. Instead, they must be understood in the context of their own
place and time. And so, if one wants to deem Serra a villain, one must make that case based on the values and worldviews
of the 18th century. In the case of Hitler and the Nazis, they did live in a world that was very antisemitic. France,
the U.S., the U.K., etc. were all participants in that. However, those other countries did not start rounding Jews up
and murdering them. So, we can deem the Nazis to be bad actors without engaging in presentist thinking. By contrast,
mask mandates and vaccine passports have broad national and (in particular) international support today, including in Israel.
If this was a repeat of the 1930s, presumably the folks in Israel would be the first to notice.
- Not the Holocaust?: Finally, as regards Greene's laughable claim that one can mention the yellow stars without invoking the Holocaust, that's like saying you can celebrate the Confederacy without making an implicit statement about slavery, or you can wear an Andrew Jackson shirt without consideration for the Trail of Tears. In all cases, the two things are inseparable.
As noted in yesterday's piece, it is invariably (or, at least, almost invariably) Republican politicians who are guilty of gross offenses against the historical record. Again, we're not just talking strong opinions or moderate-level misstatements, we're talking declarations that are grossly ahistorical and often patently offensive. But why is this? Why do the Rick Santorums and Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world say such things? Here are three theories:
- They Don't Know Better: It is at least possible that some of these folks honestly have no
idea what actually happened in the past. A lot of students in history classes don't pay attention. Not in (Z)'s history
classes, of course, but in others. Further, the teaching of history has been politicized for generations. Sometimes
people who are homeschooled, or who are schooled in red-leaning states, learn a version of the past that is pure fantasy
crafted in service of a modern-day agenda.
- They Chose Not to Know Better: Confirmation bias is a thing, for people on both sides of
the aisle. It's possible that some of these folks have been exposed to a broader historical perspective, but have only
latched on to those things that serve their pre-existing worldview.
- They're Sleazy Opportunists: There are a lot of fake quotes out there supposedly uttered by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, or Winston Churchill (or other historical personages, although these four fellows get the lion's share). That is because an idea has more heft if it "comes" from the mouth of one of the giants. Similarly, a politician could know that they are lying through their teeth, but could move forward anyhow because they think their audience won't know any better or won't care, and the "historical perspective" makes the argument stronger.
In Marjorie Taylor Greene's case, it's clearly an amalgamation of these things. She has yet to demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of any subject, so why would we expect her—the holder of a business degree from the University of Georgia—to have a sophisticated understanding of history? She hasn't even figured out that Hitler led the Nazis, and not the Nazi's. That said, while she may not know exactly what she's talking about, she certainly knows enough not to casually toss around Holocaust references. How can we be sure? Because when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) compared the Trump-era detention facilities to concentration camps, Greene declared: "I think everyone should call her out. She should never ever make that comparison. It's insulting, extremely insulting to the families who have family members that were murdered or survived concentration camps." In other words, there is clearly some sleazy opportunism here on Greene's part.
As to Greene's ultimate fate, we haven't the faintest idea. She's already been condemned by everyone in Washington, including her Republican colleagues, for these remarks, but since she has already been stripped of her committee assignments, there isn't much punishment left unless they want to expel her. Maybe she becomes enough of a pain in the rear that she is indeed expelled, though that seems improbable. Similarly, will the people of GA-14 decide, next year, that they would like more, please? Very plausible; it's not like the kind of person Greene is was a mystery before she ran last year. The most obvious good news, for those who would like to see her star fade, is that she's not even six months into her first term and she's already playing the Hitler card. That suggests that her power to shock and outrage is waning, and she's getting desperate. It could be, like the boy who cried wolf, that she's on her way to being tuned out. Certainly, we don't foresee ever writing another 3,000-word (or even 300-word) piece about some bit of nonsense she's come up with. (Z)
Those who have read the Harry Potter books know that nobody lasts for more than a year after being hired to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. And yet, the Remus Lupins and Gilderoy Lockharts of the world are positively long-lasting compared to the folks who serve as CNN's resident Trump mouthpiece. As Politico's Jack Shafer points out, the turnover in that gig is...brisk.
There are predominantly three reasons that the CNN Trumpers don't last. The first is that, being Trumpers, they tend to say outrageous things—if not on air, then on Twitter or in private gatherings. This is what wrecked Jeffrey Lord (he said "Sieg, heil!" on Twitter) and Rick Santorum. The second is that they are sometimes poached for jobs in politics. This was the case with, for example, Kayleigh McEnany, who went from CNN to the RNC to the Trump White House. And the third is that, being Trumpers, some of them are sleazy and get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Such was the case with Paris Dennard and Jason Miller.
The real question, which CNN should be thinking long and hard about, is whether they should try again with yet another Trumper. It is true that 74 million people voted for Donald Trump, and those 74 million people aren't going to watch CNN if they don't feel the network represents their views. However, we are doubtful that one token Trumper really solves that problem, any more than the occasional token liberal on Fox News causes liberals to flock to that channel.
CNN insists that having a hardcore Trumper provides "balance" and "serves the viewers," but does it really do either of those things? 99.9% of what Rick Santorum (or Kayleigh McEnany or Paris Dennard) said on air was knee-jerk and entirely predictable. They constantly asserted point X about Trump or point Y about the Democrats, but never fully explained or justified themselves. And certainly, they never tried to give insight into why they (or other Trump voters) feel the way they do. Admittedly, the talking-head, rapid-fire style that CNN prefers doesn't allow a lot of room for that. However, some of the liberals (Van Jones, David Axelrod) and some of the center-rightists (Ana Navarro, David Gergen) manage to share some actual insight on occasion.
MSNBC doesn't even bother hiring Trumpers, figuring—again—that everyone knows what they are going to say. We are obviously inclined to agree with that approach, as opposed to putting people on air for purposes of appearance rather than substance. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May25 Liz Cheney Is Still a Staunchly Partisan Republican
May25 DeSantis and Co. Lash Out at Social Media Platforms
May25 The Performance of "Infrastructure" Will Soon Close
May25 Today's 2022 Candidacy News
May25 Don't Know Much about History, Part I: Rick Santorum
May24 Biden Makes Concessions to Republicans
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May24 How Trump's Big Lie Continues to Affect Politics
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May23 Sunday Mailbag
May22 Saturday Q&A
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May20 McConnell Now Opposes the Jan. 6 Commission Bill
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May20 Texas Bans Nearly All Abortions
May20 Florida Opens the Door to Casinos at Trump's Properties
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May20 Ambitious Democrats May Cost Their Party the House
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May19 Giuliani Is In...
May19 ...And So Is Demings...
May19 ...And McCloskey, Too
May19 Peduto, on the Other Hand, Is Out
May18 Ruh, Roe
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