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Biden Speaks

As expected, Joe Biden spoke to the nation on the subject of COVID yesterday, in an address lasting about 20 minutes. Also as expected, not a whole lot has changed.

Biden does the empathy thing far better than his predecessor, and that remained the case yesterday, as the President acknowledged how long a slog this has been, and how tired everyone is. Biden also has rather more generosity of spirit, as evidenced when he twice acknowledged and thanked Donald Trump, first for getting the booster shot this year and second for taking the initiative in vaccine development last year. As this suggests, and as everyone anticipated, the main theme of the speech was "Get vaccinated! Get boosted!" Biden reiterated, over and over, how important it is to get the shots, how easy it is, and how it doesn't cost anything.

Biden did announce some new initiatives. In an obvious response to criticism that has mounted over the past couple of weeks, the government will purchase 500 million rapid COVID tests that Americans can have mailed to their homes by ordering them on a website. In addition, another 10,000 vaccination sites have been added to the 80,000 that were already in operation, with another 10,000 to follow in January. The President is also deploying 1,000 military health personnel to assist in overburdened hospitals, and will also release funds and supplies from FEMA.

The President made a point of declaring that there will be no nationwide shutdown and there will be no return to distance education. He explained that the availability of vaccines and better knowledge about COVID makes those things unnecessary, at least at this time. Obviously, there is potential for a change in course if the omicron surge gets worse or if there is a new, deadlier variant.

There is still more the administration could do, however, short of shutdowns. Some are calling for the FAA to require proof of vaccination for all flights (currently it's just required for international passengers). Others say that in addition to distributing tests, the government should also distribute high-quality masks. Still others are pushing for the White House to invoke the Defense Production Act in order to increase supplies of Pfizer's COVID-19 pill. And, of course, the pandemic isn't going to end until the majority of the world's citizens are vaccinated, so there is pressure on the administration to look beyond America's borders.

In short, this is just another chapter in the COVID story. We will see what the next chapter brings as the administration considers its options, as the courts have their say, and as omicron rides roughshod across the country and the world. (Z)

Scott Perry, by Contrast, Declines to Speak

On Monday, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) became the first sitting member of Congress to be asked to appear before the 1/6 Committee. And, to nobody's surprise, he answered quickly, and with a "no," posting this statement to Twitter:

I stand with immense respect for our Constitution, the Rule of Law, and the Americans I represent who know that this entity is illegitimate, and not duly constituted under the rules of the US House of Representatives. I decline this entity's request and will continue to fight the failures of the radical Left who desperately seek distraction from their abject failures of crushing inflation, a humiliating surrender in Afghanistan, and the horrendous crisis they created at our border.

It is not surprising that he used Twitter, since if Perry had made his statement to someone in the media, very possibly even someone who works for Fox, they might have said: (1) What, exactly, is illegitimate about the House of Representatives setting up a select House committee?, and/or (2) We notice that among all the red herrings, you never actually get around to denying that you had a role in what happened on January 6.

In response, a spokesperson for the Committee issued a statement that reads, in part:

Representative Perry has information directly relevant to our investigation. While he says that he respects the Constitution and Rule of Law, he fails to note that multiple federal courts, acting pursuant to Article 3 of our Constitution, have already rejected the former President's claims that the committee lacks an appropriate legislative purpose. The Select Committee prefers to gather relevant evidence from members cooperatively, but if members with directly relevant information decline to cooperate and instead endeavor to cover up, the Select Committee will consider seeking such information using other tools.

Obviously, the statement does not use the s-word, but it's hard to imagine what "other tools" they might have in mind other than a subpoena. Well, unless there's a secret iron maiden in the basement of the Capitol. In any event, the odds are 100% that the Committee anticipated this outcome, and 100% that they already decided what their response would be, and so all we have to do is wait for them to let us in on the plan. (Z)

Biden Administration Finally Has Its Ambassadors

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has rarely met a political stunt that he doesn't like. And so, he has personally held up several dozen of the Biden administration's picks for ambassadorial posts, not because he objects to the nominees, but because he was trying to force the White House to try to kill the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany. The Senator's official reason for this position is that he doesn't want Germany to become more reliant on Russia. But the real reason is that he doesn't want Germany to become less reliant on American petroleum, much of which just so happens to come from Cruz's home state of Texas. Cruz doesn't actually expect to force the White House's hand, nor does he actually think the U.S. can stop the pipeline even if it wants to, he just wants to put on a show for the people back home. It's probably just a coincidence that he collects more in campaign contributions from the gas and oil industry than any other senator.

Cruz does tend to lose interest in stunts, however, once maintaining them starts to require meaningful time and effort on his part. He can't actually stop the ambassadorial picks from being approved; all he can do is slow the process down by insisting on the full song and dance for each nominee. And with the Senate's calendar relatively clear these days, what with the Build Back Better discussions on hold, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was prepared to hold a bunch of late-night/weekend sessions in order to jump through all the hoops that Cruz was insisting on. This would have required the Senator to be present on the Senate floor during these sessions, and at a time of year when he prefers warmer environs—like, say, Cancun. So, it's not too surprising that Schumer managed to hammer out a deal with Cruz. In January, a vote will be held on Cruz-sponsored legislation that would impose sanctions on the company that owns the pipeline. In exchange, the Senator lifted his hold on a number of key ambassadorial picks.

Thereafter, in a marathon session, the Senate approved, as ambassadors, Steven C. Bondy (Bahrain), Christopher John Lamora (Cameroon), Mark Gitenstein (EU), Claire Cronin (Ireland), Rahm Emanuel (Japan), Larry Edward André Jr. (Somalia), Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón (Spain and Andorra), and Marc Evans Knapper (Vietnam), among others. Emanuel came with added drama, as progressives do not approve of his track record as mayor of Chicago, but they just withheld their votes and allowed the nomination to proceed.

When Cruz's sanctions bill comes up for a vote, it will require the usual 60 senators for it to clear the upper chamber, plus an affirmative vote from the House, plus a signature from Joe Biden, who has already resisted such measures. So, the odds of the bill becoming law are pretty slim. But again, Cruz will be able to brag to the folks at home, and so he's getting what he really wants. (Z)

Dominion 1, Fox 0

After Donald Trump lost the presidential election of 2020, Fox's opinion-driven primetime shows went all in on the "Big Lie" that he really won the election and that Joe Biden's win was fraudulent. This despite the fact that, as you may recall, Fox itself was the first outlet to call Arizona for Biden, presaging that Trump's hopes of victory were in big trouble. And as Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, et al., dove in headfirst, they did so with a bit too much...pique, saying things that may well be actionable. It is one thing to say that Joe Biden is a no-good, lowdown, dirty crook who had to cheat to win. It's another thing to say that a particular private entity—like, say, Dominion Voting Systems—participated in a conspiracy to commit fraud. That problem gets worse if the private entity in question sends you a cease and desist letter or six and you ignore them.

Indeed, it was not until Dominion filed suit against Fox (and others) that the cable channel finally muzzled its personalities and stopped inviting Rudy Giuliani and the MyPillow guy onto their programs. But by then, the proverbial horse was out of the barn. Dominion feels, quite reasonably, that the damage has been done. And the company just got a favorable ruling from Judge Eric Davis of the Delaware Superior Court. In his ruling, he declared that the facts Dominion alleged, assuming they are true, could constitute a valid libel claim against Fox:

Fox and its news personnel continued to report Dominion's purported connection to the election fraud claims without also reporting on Dominion's emails ... Given that Fox apparently refused to report contrary evidence, including evidence from the Department of Justice, the Complaint's allegations support the reasonable inference that Fox intended to keep Dominion's side of the story out of the narrative.

For this reason, Davis declined to dismiss Dominion's lawsuit, and will allow it to proceed.

This is all kinds of bad news for Fox. First, Davis' decision means that Dominion will be able to proceed to the discovery phase of the process. Who knows what sorts of dirty laundry will be uncovered? Second, Dominion has absolutely no interest in settling this. They want blood, and they want their day in court. (Oh, and if there are a bunch of stories next year about skeletons in the closet of Carlson or Hannity or Ingraham or Lachlan Murdoch based on "anonymous sources," you can hazard a pretty good guess as to where that information might be coming from.) Third, and finally, Dominion could be in line for a nine- or ten-figure judgment and, unlike a Giuliani or a Sidney Powell, Fox has deep enough pockets to be forced to pay a judgment like that. Of course, it won't be the first business to lose that kind of money betting on Donald Trump. (Z)

Trumper vs. Non-Trumper Senate Races Already Getting Ugly

There are going to be a number of states next year where a Donald Trump-backed candidate and an establishment-backed candidate will do battle for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, and possibly for the soul of the party. The complete list is not known yet, as we wait for things to shake out in Missouri, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and possibly Georgia, among others. But the battle lines are already drawn in some states, including North Carolina and Alabama. And already, things have turned nasty in those places.

In the Tar Heel State, the Trumpy candidate is Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC), while the establishment candidate is former governor Pat "bathroom bill" McCrory. And the ultra-conservative, Trump-loving Club for Growth is running a pro-Budd ad right now that is pretty sleazy, even by CfG's usual "anything goes" standards. In it, McCrory is heard saying things like "Donald Trump, get off the stage. Let Joe Biden take over the number-one position." If you watch the ad, you will figure out immediately what is going on, since it's poorly done. But just reading that, doesn't the phrasing seem a little odd? And that's because the ad takes real footage of McCrory and recuts it, putting things into his mouth that he never actually said. Someone at CfG must be a Howard Stern fan, because Stern's been doing that bit for decades (albeit for entertainment purposes, not to smear a political opponent). Note that the link is definitely not safe for work.

Meanwhile, in the Yellowhammer State, the Trumper is Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and the establishment candidate, who also has the backing of outgoing Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), is Katie Britt (R). The two sides aren't running deceptive ads yet, but they are fighting over which of them is the true claimant to the Trump mantle. Brooks, who isn't actually all that skilled a politician, has had issues with fundraising and with staffing, and reportedly the former president is growing disenchanted. Meanwhile, Trump is apparently somewhat impressed with Britt, because—and if there's a Trumpier reason to back a candidate, we don't know what it is—her husband used to play for the New England Patriots. Britt, who appears to have innate political gifts that Brooks does not, has subtly put it out there that Trump likes her best, and has unsubtly laid claim to his political program by using the slogan "Alabama First." A furious Brooks is pushing back against all of that, and has started lopping off the heads of campaign staffers in a desperate attempt to impress the Dear Leader.

The intraparty strife in Alabama serves only to provide a little entertainment for politics-watchers, as the candidate who triumphs is going to be the state's next U.S. senator, regardless of how ugly things get. But the North Carolina squabbling is actually meaningful, since that's going to be a close election, and if the winner is badly damaged, that could be enough to hand the seat to the Democrats. Especially since we would guess that Cheri Beasley (D) has better zipper-management skills than Cal Cunningham does. (Z)

Iowa May Get a Temporary Reprieve

Even if the Iowa caucuses operated like a finely-tuned machine, the extreme whiteness of Iowa makes the state a less-than-optimal choice for going first in the Democratic presidential nomination process. And, of course, the caucuses do not run like a finely-tuned machine; they were an utter train wreck in 2020, such that the actual winner will forever be unclear. New Hampshire tends to do a better job with its primary, but is also a sub-optimal choice to go second due, again, to extreme whiteness.

In view of these concerns—the not-so-diverse nature of the two states, and the Iowa Klown Kollege—there was much momentum in 2020 for a change, with an eye toward putting a more diverse state at the front of the line. South Carolina is the probable choice if the Party wants to strengthen the voices of Black voters, whereas Nevada is the likely call if the Party wants to emphasize Latino voters.

Now, with 2021 reaching its end, enthusiasm for a change has waned, at least temporarily. The Democratic Party has spent much of the year squabbling with itself, and doesn't want to add yet another internecine struggle to the list in advance of the 2022 midterms. So, while a change may still be coming, it probably won't be coming in the next year.

Still, this is just kicking the can down the road. It's easy enough to put Iowa 2024 on the back burner in 2021 or 2022, but as the next presidential cycle heats up, the issue is going to rear its head. Further, Nevada has already taken the initiative and passed a law that says it gets to have the first primary. New Hampshire already has the same law on the books. So, the Party and its president are eventually going to have to step in and figure out which law carries the day. Of course if the loser goes to the Supreme Court, all bets are off.

The general consensus, such as it is, is that it won't matter which state goes first or second or third if Joe Biden runs again. It will matter a whole lot, however, once the top of the Democratic ticket is wide open. And so, if the President does indeed run for reelection, it will probably be status quo, and a change will be made in 2028. If he doesn't run, then the change will come in time for 2024. (Z)

A December to Rhymember (Parts 27-28)

Today, we're going with a couple of rhymes about the site, including one in a form that most readers probably aren't familiar with. Before we begin, here are the previous entries:

And now, a double dactyl, courtesy of P.A. in Redwood City, CA:

Higgledy piggledy,
Zenger and Votemaster
Keep us informed
And amused every morn.

Even though half the news
Oft makes me wish
That I'd never been born.

And back to limerick form is J.L. in Paterson, NJ:

We read E-V dot com for news
And a sampling of reader views.
The blog smites USC
And defends you and me
From every Canadian ruse.

Just doing our sacred duty as Americans, eh. (Z)

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