Sour and Angry Voters Poised to Punish Democrats
GOP Took Money from Ex-Lawmaker Who Wooed Boys
Russia Deploys Land Mines on a Timer
Quote of the Day
Russian Default Looks All But Inevitable Now
Putin May Cite War to Interfere in U.S. Politics Again
• Even More Contemptible
• Friends of Russia Announce Themselves
• No Better Man than Fetterman?
• Capitol Fox Was Indeed Rabid
• This Week in Schadenfreude
• March... Sadness, Part X (Others, Round 3)
Earlier this week, we predicted that Ketanji Brown Jackson would be confirmed, likely on Thursday, and by a vote of 53-47. And whaddya know? With VP Kamala Harris presiding over the historic occasion, Jackson was confirmed yesterday, 53-47. Don't even try to pretend you're not impressed. That's why readers come to this site: We have the biggest crystal balls in the business.
Jackson—and you might not know this, because it's gotten so little attention—will be the first Black woman to serve on the Court. Waiting for her there, of course, are a Black man and three other women, one of them a Latina. Clearly, this is not your father's Supreme Court. Well, unless we're talking about the four conservative white guys. Then it's certainly your father's Supreme Court. Especially if your father was born in, say, 1880.
As expected, the three Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote for Jackson were Mitt Romney (UT), Susan Collins (ME), and Lisa Murkowski (AK). They also participated in the standing ovation that Jackson got (in absentia, as she was watching from the White House). On the other hand, a number of Republicans made a point of running for the doors of the Senate chamber as soon as the applause began. Perhaps there was a lunchtime cocaine orgy and they didn't want to be late. In addition, three Republicans—Lindsey Graham (SC), Rand Paul (KY), and Jim Inhofe (OK)—were compelled to vote from the Senate cloakroom because they weren't wearing ties, and so were barred from appearing on the Senate floor. Did they accidentally forget their ties at home? Did they misread a memo and think yesterday was casual Thursday? Did they not know that ties are required to appear on the Senate floor? Or was this a passive-aggressive way for the trio to thumb their noses at Jackson and the Democrats? We report; you decide.
Now that Jackson has been approved, she gets to... take a nice vacation. Presumably, she will take time to hire her clerks for next term, but Stephen Breyer's retirement is not official until the end of the current term (in late June or early July). Then, of course, the Court is largely in recess until the new term begins. So, Jackson might get her feet wet voting on a few summer stays of execution, and maybe a few shadow docket matters, but she won't really get going until Monday, October 3 (by statute, SCOTUS terms always begin on the first Monday in October). Readers who are fans of Tina Fey's work may recall that October 3 is Mean Girls Day. Perhaps Jackson will take some inspiration from that. Some of her new colleagues could probably use a bit of the Mean Girl treatment.
Although Jackson will be a part of the badly outnumbered 6-3 liberal minority, she may have an outsized impact on Supreme Court jurisprudence. She can offer perspective as a Black woman, of course, but also as a person whose family is in law enforcement, and, perhaps most importantly, as a former public defender. That's something that doesn't appear on too many Supreme Court résumés. In fact, it didn't appear on any before Thursday, as she's the first PD ever to be seated on the Court.
The Democrats, who have relatively few policy achievements to point to since gaining the trifecta, and even fewer that voters actually seem to care about, are going to milk this for all it's worth. Various Democratic entities are already planning an ad blitz celebrating the confirmation, and emphasizing that it was Joe Biden and Kamala Harris who made it happen. We haven't seen any of the ads, and we're not sure they have actually been cut yet, but we suspect "The Republicans behaved very badly during the confirmation process" and "If we don't hold the Senate, there aren't going to be any more confirmations" will be major subtexts of the commercials.
On that latter point, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was asked yesterday if another Biden nominee would be considered by the Senate, should the Republicans reclaim the majority. "I'm not going to answer your question," McConnell responded. When the question was asked again, he said: "I choose not to answer the question." We all know what that means, though we surely could have guessed what the plan was, even without the Kentuckian's obfuscation.
In other words, even though the seat is filled and no other vacancy is imminent, the Supreme Court is going to be front and center in the midterm elections. That certainly isn't going to help when it comes to the out-of-control politicization of the Court. (Z)
Yesterday, we noted that the House voted to hold Trump White House deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino and Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro in contempt. But the House is just the first link in the chain; the Department of Justice has to be persuaded that contempt charges are warranted, and then the DoJ has to convince a judge. Or possibly, since we're talking criminal contempt, a jury.
When it comes to New York AG Letitia James, the chain has one less link. If she thinks contempt charges are warranted, she goes straight to the judge, and does not pass Go and does not collect $200. And that is exactly what the AG did yesterday, asking State Judge Arthur Engoron to find Donald Trump in civil contempt of court. Basically, he is dragging his feet instead of producing documents that the AG and the court have both demanded from him. "Mr. Trump should now be held in civil contempt and fined in an amount sufficient to coerce his compliance with the Court's order and compensate OAG for its fees and costs associated with this motion," the filing reads.
That does not sound like an investigation that is winding down, or that is about to be abandoned. Similarly, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg Jr. spoke to CNN and said "We are every day following up on new evidence that we've secured. Investigations are not linear so we are following the leads in front of us. That's what we're doing. ... The investigation is very much ongoing." Bragg also said he was unable to put a timeline on when he and his team might finish up, or to say much about the "meat" of the investigation, but promised that the public will be well informed when he finally makes a decision whether or not to move forward. The final chapter may not be in focus yet, but this is clearly a story that is still being written. (Z)
In response to the atrocities taking place in Bucha, Congress finally got its act together, passing two bills yesterday. The first is the Ukraine Invasion War Crimes Deterrence and Accountability Act. It would, under the auspices of the already existing Magnitsky Act, give the White House the authority to investigate war crimes and sanction offenders. It passed the Senate 100-0 and the House 418-7. The second, which doesn't have a pithy name, suspends free trade with Russia and formalizes the ban on importing Russian oil into the United States. That one also passed the Senate unanimously, while clearing the House 422-3.
So, which representatives voted against bills that are apparently so agreeable that they managed to get Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), Mitch McConnell, Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN), and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) all on board? We bet you can guess most of them. The two representatives to give the thumbs down to both bills were Tom Massie (R-KY), and—wait for it—Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Surprise! The third "nay" on the trade bill was Matt Gaetz (R-FL), while the other four nays on the war crimes bill were Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Warren Davidson (R-OH), and Scott Perry (R-PA). Even the staff mathematician can see that's only 6 nays for the war crimes bill; the seventh was from Liz Cheney (R-WY), but she said the vote was accidental and that she will ask the House clerk to correct the record.
Meanwhile, while the House Putin Caucus was doing its work, the United Nations General Assembly was voting on whether to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. Undoubtedly, many people would like to see Russia booted from the considerably more important Security Council, but the rules don't allow that, and besides, the needs of diplomacy are generally poorly served by banishing the bad guys from the room (see Versailles, Treaty of). Anyhow, the vote was successful, but 58 nations abstained, and 24 voted "nay." Here are the "nays":
Central African Republic
Undoubtedly, Greene will be thrilled to learn she's on the same side as Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. Anyhow, we now have excellent lists of the most Vladimir Putin-friendly nations and members of Congress. (Z)
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) is not your typical politician (and that's putting it mildly). Generally speaking, the people who run political parties do not like outside-the-box types. And so, the Democratic Party did little to support Fetterman's burgeoning career when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, or when he ran for lieutenant governor in 2018. In fact, in the former case, the DNC put its thumb on the scale for Katie McGinty, who ran a middling campaign, and lost to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).
This time around, the Democratic machinery is staying out of the Pennsylvania Senate race, and isn't helping Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) or state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D). As a general rule, a military-veteran centrist and a charismatic Black man are the sorts of candidates that party pooh-bahs swoon over. But the pooh-bahs also know how to read polls, and in every poll, Fetterman is leaving his opponents in the dust, generally doubling or tripling their support. For example, in the most recent poll of the race, from The Hill/Emerson, Fetterman was at 33%, Lamb at 10%, and Kenyatta at 8%. Reportedly, internal polls are saying the same thing.
With something like 20% of the vote going to lesser candidates, and something like 30% undecided, it is theoretically possible for Lamb or Kenyatta to turn things around. However, they would need a real game-changer, and one has not been forthcoming. Lamb, for his part, is clearly getting desperate. One of the PACs that supports him cooked up an attack ad that smears Fetterman as "a self-described Democratic Socialist." The DNC does not need its own candidates for office repeating Republican talking points, so it expressed its... pique with that ad, and the ad has been withdrawn.
Lamb and Kenyatta also participated in a candidates' debate, while Fetterman—who clearly knows a few things about how to remain a frontrunner—didn't show up. Lamb was so upset about losing his chance to take the Lieutenant Governor down a few pegs that he sent out a cheap-shot tweet:
We all know why John Fetterman isn't coming to the debate on Sunday.— Conor Lamb (@ConorLambPA) March 31, 2022
He doesn't want to talk about the fact that he chased down an unarmed Black man and held him at gunpoint.
That's the elephant in the room. And we have to talk about it. pic.twitter.com/eiGx1Yoqz8
This campaign had been noted for its civility, but not anymore, it would seem.
Time is running out for Lamb, Kenyatta, or anyone else to change the trajectory of the race. The primary is on May 17, which is a little more than 5 weeks away. It sure looks like it will be Fetterman, and if so, then we'll learn if the Republicans are able to make hay out of his support for legal pot, for LGBTQ rights, for "socialism," and for ending the filibuster. If he is able to fend off these lines of attack, then the Democrats will certainly be taking notes, while he would be on the path to being a Democratic superstar. (Z)
This isn't that important a news story, though it is a little scary, given how dangerous rabies is. Yesterday, we wrote about the fox that attacked and bit several people on the Hill, including Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA). This afforded us the opportunity to make a few biting remarks at the expense of a different Fox, albeit one where rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth behavior is also on regular display.
Anyhow, we don't like to make substantive updates to items after we've made the day's post live. However, we also thought we should note how things turned out. And so we have our second item on the fox in as many days. As the headline notes, she did indeed turn out to have rabies. And so, euthanasia—which was necessary to test for the disease in the first place—turns out to have been the most humane resolution. It does not matter if you are a human, dog, cat, or fox, rabies is an agonizing way to die. Unfortunately, the fox had just birthed a litter, and the kits had to be put down as well, given the risk and the high likelihood that they had contracted the disease.
It is lucky that Bera is a physician, and he knew exactly what to do after being bit, and not to waste any time doing it. Hopefully, he and all the others who were bitten received (or receive) the proper course of treatment and will make a full recovery. (Z)
In their rush to pass bills that are reactionary and often performative, red-state legislatures don't always seem to think through the implications of their legislation (blue-state legislatures make this mistake, too, but recently it's been the red-staters that are more obviously guilty). We've wondered many times if Texas (and its copycats) considered that if they are able to put a bounty on abortions, it's only a matter of time until blue states put a bounty on guns of some sort. Earlier this week, we wondered if Oklahoma has really thought through its ultra-harsh abortion ban. And we've also wondered if Florida has properly thought through its "Don't Say Gay" bill, which forbids K-3 teachers from discussing sexual orientation with their students (and strongly discourages teachers of older grades from doing so).
The glaringly obvious problem—and, we must say, this was apparent to us immediately—is that "straight" is also a sexual orientation. And while banning the discussion of straight, heterosexual relationships is clearly not consistent with the spirit of the bill, it's entirely consistent with the letter. So, a person who wanted to make a point could certainly use that angle to do it.
As readers P.D. in Santa Barbara, CA, and J.A. in Austin, TX, have brought to our attention, some unknown teacher or activist in Florida has had the exact same thought. And so, this "template" is currently circulating on social media:
Dear Florida parent/caretaker:
The Florida house of Representatives has recently ruled that "Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students."
To be in accordance with this policy, I will no longer be referring to your student with gendered pronouns. All students will be referred to as "they" or "them." I will no longer use a gendered title such as "Mr." or "Mrs." or make any references to my husband/wife in the classroom. From now on I will be using the non-gendered title "Mx."
Furthermore, I will be removing all books or instruction which refer to a person being a "mother," "father," "husband" or "wife" as these are gender identities that also may allude to sexual orientation. Needless to say, all books which refer to a character as "he" or "she" will also be removed from the classroom. If you have any concerns about this policy, please feel free to contact your local congressperson.
It's not clear if any teacher has actually used the template, but does it really matter? The point being made couldn't be clearer, and the more that people point out the absurdity in this sort of Orwellian thought policing, the less likely that said policing is likely to work. This letter is just the first act of defiance; there will be others.
It is not a secret that we don't approve of politicians using real people's real lives to score cheap political points, particularly when they do real harm in the process. There may be no person in America today who is more guilty of this particular crime than Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). So, to see that people are already starting to hoist him, and his fellow Florida demagogues, by their own petards... certainly that is schadenfreude time. (Z)
The final portion of the round of 16:
- #9 Fox personality Sean Hannity (50.6%) defeats #16 Megadonor Charles Koch (49.4%)
Our Take: This was the closest matchup of the entire round, in any bracket. It's the one we mentioned on Sunday wherein the lead changed hands at least 20 times. In the end, there was a last-minute break in favor of Hannity, who claimed the win by 20 votes over more than 2,500 cast.
J.D. in Redwood Valley, CA: Without "The Muscle," ain't no "Mouth."
D.E. in Lancaster, PA: We all know Koch will perpetrate any despicable and possibly illegal act just to ensure he gets that last penny, but does anyone really know why Hannity spouts the things he does? I'm not even sure Hannity himself knows. He's the Chaos Maker, which is why he has such an affinity with Donald Trump. Crazy beats out a Purpose Driven Greed. Now if only Michael Cohen will spill the beans on his other client.
R.K. in Chicago, IL: Hannity's a blowhard and certainly one of the absolute worst television "news" personalities around but, for me, nobody's topping a Koch brother. Charles Koch may not make it to the Final Four, but he's certainly deserving of being one of the anything-but-elite eight.
- #5 Trump adviser Roger Stone (56.9%) defeats #4 Infowars personality Alex Jones (43.1%)
Our Take: They both have what might be called "punchable" faces. Stone's is just a little bit more so, it seems.
S.G. in Newark, NJ: One of the hardest choices of the tournament. Jones should suffer eternal torment for what he did to the Sandy Hook families. But Stone has poisoned politics for two generations.
D.E. in Lancaster, PA: Alex Jones vs Roger Stone—wow, that's a tough one. It's like a contest of Beelzebub vs. Adramelech for Worst Demon of Hell. On the one hand, there's Jones and the unspeakable torture he willfully and knowingly put the Sandy Hook parents through, along with his despicable personal life. Then, on the other hand, there's the puffed up prancer Stone, who tattooed his idol Tricky Dick Nixon on his back! Both are deserving of their own personal malebolges but we all know what is said about the mark of the beast! Stone wins, but just by a hair—and to think this is just a preview of the horrifically awful matchups to come! Ghastly.
O.V. in Los Angeles, CA: They're both so bad! I decided that Stone's "fashion sense" would be the tiebreaker; those godawful granny sunglasses and bespoke suits with cutaway collars just grind my gears. It couldn't be more obvious that he thinks that he's the sh*t, and that everyone else is just sh*t.
- #3 Trump adviser Steve Bannon (95.6%) defeats #6 HBO personality Bill Maher (4.4%)
Our Take: With Maher's defeat, there are no non-Republicans left standing.
D.B. in Keedysville, MD: There's no contest between a talk-show host and someone who plots to undermine the Constitution and win by whatever means possible.
S.G. in Newark, NJ: This is easy. Bannon is more venomous. And has Bill Maher ever gotten inside a President's head?
D.E. in Lancaster, PA: Bill Maher is a religious fanatic, except his religion is atheism. Like all religious fanatics, Maher believes that only he is the most enlightened on the planet, only his way is the Right Way and he quickly condemns everyone else to whatever constitutes an atheist's hell (I'm guessing, in Maher's case, it is being banished from his presence!)
That said, Maher might be an insufferable nitwit but he's not dangerous. On the other hand, Bannon is also an insufferable nitwit and he's dangerous, very dangerous. He's like a huge, greasy spider spinning its baleful and deceitful webs in some grim foul smelling cavern—a spider wearing a polo shirt under a dress shirt to show his casual affluence, no less. Seriously, why are so many GOP men so affectatious in their clothing?
- #2 Fox personality Tucker Carlson (82.7%) defeats #10 Fox personality/Former speaker Newt Gingrich (17.3%)
Our Take: The ultimate test of future harm vs. past harm. Clearly, future harm carried the day.
J.G. in Chantilly, VA: Now that's a tough one. Two douchebags, mano-a-mano, but only one is douchier than the other! While TV Dinner Boy Carlson is a proto-fascist and doing enormous damage to our political discourse, I still have to go with Nasty Newt. He's the one who really got the ball rolling, with the ends-justify-the-means politics, destruction of bipartisanship, and horrendous treatment of his previous two wives (maybe the third as well) while sanctimoniously attacking Bill Clinton. Because of Gingrich, younger and nastier douches and douchettes have followed. He also paved the way for Yertle the Bad Turtle by showing how fun it was to snatch food away from hungry children. Hell's Pantheon has a place reserved for Nasty Newt!
S.M. in Eugene, OR: Gingrich's scorched-earth assault on the function and purpose of the U.S. Congress would seem to make him a shoo-in for the Final Four. But Carlson is building for the future, and as a possible president could very well put the final stake in American democracy.
C.P. in Amherst, NH: Carlson asks every night, "Why [X]?" The answer can often be traced back to "...because Newt."
The Others bracket now looks like this:
Here are the ballots for this round of voting:
You've got until Monday, April 11, at noon. Please do send in any comments on the matchups, if you have them. (Z & V).
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr07 Temporary Setback for Arizona Republicans
Apr07 Texas Rejected Almost 25,000 Absentee Ballots
Apr07 Noem Bans Teaching CRT in South Dakota
Apr07 Blue Dogs Fight Back
Apr07 Poll: Clarence Thomas Should Recuse Himself from 2020 Election Cases
Apr07 Ohio House Republican Is Retiring
Apr07 Fox Attacks Democratic Congressman
Apr07 March... Sadness, Part IX (Legislative Branch, Round 3)
Apr06 Ivanka Speaks
Apr06 White House Playing Its Aces in the Hole?
Apr06 Oklahoma Passes Extremely Harsh Abortion Bill
Apr06 Another Republican Politician Is Caught Committing (Potential) Voter Fraud
Apr06 Trump Claims Another Victim
Apr06 California Special Election Headed to a Runoff
Apr06 March... Sadness, Part VIII (Judges and Governors, Round 3)
Apr05 Prediction: Thursday (or Friday), 53 (or 52) to 47
Apr05 Republican AGs Sue over Border Policy
Apr05 A Tale of Two Representatives
Apr05 The Truth about TRUTH Social
Apr05 Maryland Has Its Maps
Apr05 March... Sadness, Part VII (Executive Branch, Round 3)
Apr04 Congress Still Hasn't Passed a Standalone Bill Punishing Russia or Helping Ukraine
Apr04 Ukraine War Is Dividing the Republicans
Apr04 Select Committee Is Studying Gapology
Apr04 A New Way for Trump to Steal the 2024 Election
Apr04 Georgia Republicans Are Panicking about Walker
Apr04 Jen Psaki Will Leave Her Job as Press Secretary
Apr04 Sarah Palin is Running for Congress against Santa Claus
Apr04 Fox News Has Its Presidential Candidate Already
Apr04 Orban Wins in Hungary
Apr03 Sunday Mailbag
Apr02 Saturday Q&A
Apr01 Biden Gives Americans Gas
Apr01 About Those Trump vs. Biden Polls...
Apr01 Judges Smack New York Democrats, Florida Republicans
Apr01 FEC Smacks Hillary Clinton, DNC
Apr01 This Week in Schadenfreude
Apr01 March... Sadness, Part VI (Others, Round 2)
Mar31 Brooks May Change Select Committee's Focus
Mar31 Collins Will Vote to Confirm Jackson
Mar31 Trump Continues to Court Putin
Mar31 State of the State Gerrymanders
Mar31 What Is Pompeo Running for?
Mar31 Will California Voters Bet on Gambling in November?
Mar31 New Missouri Senate Candidate Is in Trouble on Day 1
Mar31 March... Sadness, Part V (The Legislative Branch, Round 2)
Mar30 Haven't We Heard This Story Before? The Case of the Missing Phone Calls
Mar30 So Much for That Billionaires' Tax