• Trump Is Contemptible
• Oz, Rest of Republican Field, All-In on Trumpism During Debate
• House Republicans Are Working on Their Impeachment Strategy
• Meadows Texts Made Public
• Hold the Presses: White House Is Running Short on Crystal
• March... Sadness, Part XVIII (This One's For All the Marbles)
That may sound like a type of licorice, but no, Monday's big news wasn't about candy. It was about Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and his acquisition of Twitter for the princely sum of $44 billion.
Note that it's not a done deal quite yet. There are still lots of details to be worked out, and money to be transferred, and paperwork to be signed. Also, Uncle Sam is going to take a long look at the transaction and make sure it passes the smell test. Nonetheless, the day will likely come—and probably pretty soon—when Twitter is entirely under the control of Musk, at which point he plans to take the company entirely private.
What, exactly, is Musk doing here? Nobody quite knows. It could be that he really and truly sees this as an excellent investment opportunity. Maybe he's right about that; after all, he's rolled the dice and won big-time several times in the past, most obviously with Tesla and SpaceX. That said, Twitter isn't raking in the money right now (it had gross revenue of $5.08 billion in 2021, and net revenue of... negative $493 million). And, what generally happens with these entrepreneurs who challenge the conventional wisdom is that they are right... right up until they're wrong. So, this could certainly prove to be Musk's Waterloo.
Alternatively, maybe Musk is bored, wants a new challenge, and $44 billion is no big deal to him because, either way, he'll always have more money than he can possibly spend. Certainly, his past statements about Twitter suggest that this is about more than just business. Most famously, he declared:
Well, I think it's very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech. Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square, so it's just really important that people have both the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.
Musk also claimed that "I don't care about the economics at all," although that could be a lie. If so, he wouldn't be the first rich guy to say "it's not about the money" when, in fact, it's about the money.
If Musk does indeed intend to inaugurate the Wild West era of Twitter history, and to allow content to go mostly or completely unmoderated, it could end up working contrary to whatever his goals might be. If Twitter turns into a cesspool—more than it already is—then advertisers aren't going to want to have anything to do with the site. Imagine a tweet sequence like this:
- Black Lives Matter? How about "BlacKKK Lives Don't Matter"?
- F*** the Jews.
- Free XXX! Go to www.kinkystuff.com.
- It's a good time for the great taste of McDonald's. Free french fries with any order today.
- MAGA. MAGA. MAGA. MAGA. Trump 2024.
That's not a great look for McDonald's. And other than that hypothetical tweet, the other four are pretty much what the unmoderated 8kun and 4chan already look like. Well, except that our spelling and punctuation are correct. On top of that, if Twitter turns into the backwater of the Internet, it's also going to drive users away. Those folks not only become unavailable for targeting with ads, they also become unavailable for collecting (and selling) marketing data. So, there are some pretty serious downsides to adopting a radical new approach to moderation.
On the other hand, if Musk makes no changes, then it won't exactly match with his "maverick" image, and it will also disappoint his adoring fans, particularly the free-speech-at-all-costs crowd, and the conservatives who believe the platform will now be "fair" to them and their perspective. Indeed, right-wingers Tucker Carlson and Mark Levin both announced on Monday that they are ending their self-imposed boycotts of Twitter and will return to the service. So, our long national nightmare is over.
And speaking of right-wingers, the other big question of the day, other than "What is Musk doing?" is "Will Donald Trump be back on Twitter?" Thus far, Musk has said nothing on the subject, though restoring The Donald is a very Musky kind of move. It would certainly get a lot of attention, and would make a pretty clear assertion about Musk's commitment to free speech as he understands it.
In contrast to Musk, TrumpWorld had all kinds of things to say about the possible resurrection of @realdonaldtrump. The former president already said he's not interested. Devin Nunes, former member of Congress, and current CEO of TRUTH Social, said he also does not expect Trump to return, and also claimed that TRUTH Social actually has more engagement than Twitter does. Who knew a cow could produce that much bulls**t?
In any case, you may not have heard about this, but not everything Trump says is truthful. Or TRUTHful, for that matter. His ego is such that he cannot ask for his account back; he needs to be asked back. Ideally, begged. And claiming he's not interested is consistent with playing hard to get. Further, he loves Twitter so much, it's hard to imagine he could turn it down if offered another chance to get his fix. Oh, and there's also the fact that he doesn't actually use TRUTH Social, and that the stock price for the special purpose acquisition company that owns TRUTH is dropping like a rock.
So, it's our guess—and pretty much everyone's guess—that Trump is more likely than not to resume using Twitter. Again, Musk could still say "no," or Trump could say "no," but they are both probably going to say "yes." And if so, then the question will be: How does this affect the 2022 elections? The obvious answer is that if you let the leader of the Republican Party have his flamethrower back, then that's a win for the GOP. But not so fast. Remember that Trump spends virtually all of his time these days attacking Republicans who are not sufficiently loyal to the notion that the 2020 election was stolen (see below for more), or who otherwise displease him. Maybe that changes when we move into general election season, and there's only one Republican left standing in most races. But maybe not, and a Twitter-enabled Trump stages one or more repeats of what happened in Georgia in January 2021. (Z)
"But I already knew that," you say. That's not the meaning we were going for, however. What we mean is that New York AG Letitia James wants documents from Donald Trump, a judge agreed she could have them, and Trump refused to comply. And so, the judge has now held Trump in civil contempt.
The former president will appeal, of course, and so the contempt finding will have no immediate impact on him. However, he's surely going to lose the appeal, since it would set a rather bad precedent to allow a defendant to escape the authorities by throwing a temper tantrum and refusing to cooperate. And once the contempt finding actually does kick in, Trump will be on the hook for $10,000 per day until he complies with the court order. Of course, given the size of his fortune, he can afford to ride that out for two, maybe three weeks.
And as long as we're on the Trump legal beat, let's mention one other case, from last week. Trump also lost that one, in which he was matched up against his former adviser and protégé Omarosa Manigault Newman, and was ordered to pay $1.3 million in legal fees to her. We almost didn't mention it, because we're not looking to take potshots at Trump just for the sake of taking potshots at him. However, on further review, we observe that a key element of the case was the finding that the nondisclosure agreement Trump forced Newman to sign was invalid. There are many other folks who signed those NDAs, and who might be keeping their lips zipped, in part, because of fear of being sued. Now that Manigault Newman has won, that could certainly influence the thinking of other Trump insiders, particularly those who might have a chat with the 1/6 Committee or the Department of Justice. (Z)
There are five serious (or semi-serious) Republicans running for their party's nomination for the open U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania. And last night, they gathered for a candidates' debate. All five of them were able to agree on one thing: that the other people on stage aren't Trumpy enough. And four of them agreed on a second thing: the election of 2020 was stolen from Donald Trump, and it is not yet time to move on from that issue. The only candidate who was not in agreement was Jeff Bartos. That is not to say he disagreed, merely that he dodged the question. So, the count was 4-0-1 for "the 2020 election is not over."
This story is worthy of notice for one reason: It is not possible for a Republican candidate, even in swingy Pennsylvania, to be viable without buying into "Stop the Steal." While the influence of Trump might be waning, too large a percentage of the base has become invested in the idea that the 2020 election was a fraud. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick know full well the result was legitimate, and it's probably only a matter of time until someone unearths a recording of them saying it in private. But publicly, they have to pretend they believe the conspiracy.
What nobody knows is: How will this play in the general election, when these folks will need votes from independents, Never Trump Republicans, conservative Democrats, etc. who find the conspiracy to be nutty and/or dangerous? Obviously, candidates often pivot toward the center in the general, but can you pivot off of "Donald Trump won the election of 2020"? Especially when you're on video saying it? Seems dubious, and it's going to come up all the time in the general.
The climate is so favorable to the Republicans that they should have no trouble having an excellent night on Nov. 8. However, if their main plank is conspiratorial and antidemocratic? That's a pretty good formula for blowing it. (Z)
Speaking of fealty to Donald Trump, and to Trumpism, House Republicans—from would-be Speaker Kevin McCarthy (D-CA) on down—have a wee problem if they regain control of the lower chamber. That problem, in a word, is impeachment. On one hand, the base wants Joe Biden impeached, ideally twice, as revenge for what happened to Donald Trump. On the other hand, Biden hasn't done anything remotely impeachable, and a phony impeachment could blow up in Republicans' faces, as happened with the Bill Clinton impeachment.
It would appear that House Republicans may have found a solution to this dilemma: Impeach a member of the cabinet. Nobody knows what cabinet members are doing most of the time, and targeting someone who is lower on the totem pole is less politically fraught, perhaps, than targeting a president. The cabinet secretary they have in mind? Truth be told, you should be able to guess without our help. But in case you can't, it's DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Why is he the obvious choice? First of all, he's Latino. Second, he's responsible for border policy. And third, he's from California. That's a trifecta, at least from where McCarthy & Co. stand. If you include the fact that he's Jewish, it may well be a quadrifecta for at least some Republican voters.
There is the small matter of finding some offense committed by Mayorkas that rises to the level of being impeachable, but that's just a minor detail, apparently. Only one cabinet secretary has ever been impeached—Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876. He was acquitted, and obviously Mayorkas would be, too, since there's no way over a dozen Democrats would vote against him. But apparently House Republicans think the spectacle will be enough to please the former president and his minions. (Z)
Hoo, boy—it's kind of a Trumpy day at E-V.com, isn't it? Sometimes, that's just how the ball bounces. Sorry. Anyhow, continuing our apparent wall-to-wall coverage of all things Donald, CNN has laid hands on the 2,319 text messages that Mark Meadows turned over to the 1/6 Committee.
Naturally, CNN did not post all of the messages to its website, since that would be pretty overwhelming. So, it's just the juiciest ones. And those are more than enough to make clear that some of the Trumpiest members of Congress had absolutely no limits if it meant that the former president could remain in power. Of particular... interest (?) is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who encouraged Meadows to persuade Trump to declare "Marshall Law." That's right; taking a cue from the seminal communication theorist Marshall McLuhan, Greene wanted Trump to force everyone to accept that the medium is the message.
No, wait. That may not be it. It could be that Greene's spelling is atrocious, and that what she really wanted was for Trump to declare martial law, and to use the military to keep himself in power. Yeah, that's probably it. And that is pretty much the dictionary definition of fomenting insurrection. So, if Greene is found to not be in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, well, then we might as well strike that portion of the Fourteenth Amendment from the books. Note that there were others who were eager to subvert democracy, including Donald Trump Jr., Rick Perry, Rudy Giuliani, and the MyPillow Guy; it's just that Greene was the least subtle.
Meanwhile, this story does raise two other interesting questions. The first is: Who keeps leaking this stuff to CNN and to other outlets? Presumably, it's someone on the committee, looking to light a fire under the Department of Justice and to encourage AG Merrick Garland to finally indict Meadows for contempt of Congress. But that's not the only possibility, and we look forward to the 2025 (or so) book from Maggie Haberman in which she tells us who it was. The second question, meanwhile, is: What was in the texts Meadows has kept hidden, and who sent those texts? The 2,319 texts that he did turn over are pretty bad, so one can only imagine how bad the ones he withheld are. The only thing we know for sure is that Donald Trump Sr. doesn't do texts, because he can't figure out how it works. So, whoever is incriminated by the missing Meadows messages, it's not him. (Z)
Sometimes, as with the text messages (see above), CNN does a public service with its coverage. Sometimes, not so much. In the latter category, we give you this story, which originally carried the headline "Melania Trump and other first ladies have left the Bidens scrambling for new White House glassware." That headline was rather misleading, and so maybe that's why it eventually was changed to "A crystal-clear issue: The White House is in desperate need of new glassware."
This story is, to be frank, dumb. To start, there is no actual "scrambling" or "desperate need." From those headlines, you might be given the impression that guests have to be turned away for want of enough table settings, or else that Justin Trudeau and Boris Johnson are forced to drink from "collectible" glasses that Bill Clinton got for 99 cents with his Happy Meals back in the 1990s. But what actually happens when there's a need is—and make sure you're near your fainting couch before you keep reading—the White House staff... rents some crystal. Egads!
Meanwhile, to the extent that a ball has been dropped, it is true that Melania Trump dropped it. She knew that there wasn't enough crystal, and did nothing to solve the problem. Of course, the same is true of Michelle Obama. And Hillary Clinton. And the Bushes, Laura and Babs. And Nancy Reagan, Rosalynn Carter, and Betty Ford, too. In fact, the last time the White House acquired new crystal was during the Nixon years, which means it was before (Z) was even born. It's also worth noting that First Lady is a ceremonial office with no statutory basis and no formal authority. And so, the various occupants of that office have no actual duty to deal with stuff like this, whereas the various presidents who have served since Nixon—who actually draw a paycheck—could have gotten off their collective duffs and solved this problem. We don't know why nobody actually dealt with it, though our guess is "White House rents dishes" is not likely to become political ammunition, but "White House spends $100,000 on fancy crystal" is.
In any event, the reason we mention the story is this: Conservatives complain that outlets like CNN tend to create "scandals" out of whole cloth, and that right-wing types in general, and the Trumps in particular, are unfairly targeted. And, at least sometimes, conservatives are right about that. (Z)
We actually (knowingly) let the cat out of the bag as to who advanced to the championship round; you could tell by who was and was not included in the consolation bracket. But let's make it official:
- Executive Branch #1 Former president Donald Trump (53.1%) defeats Legislative Branch #1 Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 46.9%)
Our Take: This one was very, very close for a long time, but the hair eventually pulled away from the turtle.
C.P.S. in San Jose, CA: If you run this contest again every 2 (or 4) years for the next 100 years, Donald Trump will still come out the absolute winner (loser) every time.
D.R.J. in Oberlin, OH: It's hard to vote against Trump as the worst of the worst but his awfulness is the shallow manifestation of a narcissistic sociopath. Inside Trump there is no there there. McConnell's Machiavellian machinations run deeper, quieter and longer and are less obvious.
D.S. in Lakewood, OH: I've got to keep voting against Trump, just to vote against him as often as possible. Trump is just a seat-filler, a puppet, a golem, a Gollum and a useful distraction for all the other bad guys. The turtle's legacy is long and he is meticulous and Machiavellian. The sly smile is the gross cherry on top of the mud pie.
S.S. in West Hollywood, CA: I could write a thesis on all the things I hate about Trump and the damage he's done to democracy and the country. However, at the end of the day it's Mitch McConnell who's the disease killing democracy and the country. Trump is the unfortunate and inevitable symptom of that disease.
J.G. in Chantilly, VA: My initial reaction is to go with the Orange Abomination—I mean, isn't it obvious? But like the story of the Hare and the Tortoise, slow and steady wins. The Tortoise has all the charisma of cold oatmeal, but that is what makes him more dangerous—few people can appreciate how much evil he can accomplish. As D.M. in San Francisco noted, he has damaged all three branches of government, and the impact of his conniving, unprincipled and destructive actions will linger on for years, like an incurable STD. Plus, I can't even bring myself to vote for the Orange Abomination for anything. I'm sure the Tortoise will manipulate the results in O.A.s favor anyway, even after nearly getting killed by him. This is what Hell must look like.
B.A.R. in South Bend, IN: As I cast my vote in this matchup, I thought about what a Canadian friend (yes, I've collaborated with the enemy) wrote after Joe Biden won the election. He said that he didn't realize the profound effect Trump had on the psyches of his American friends until he saw the outpouring of relief and joy after Biden was declared the winner. I told him that I was definitely feeling that. He wrote, "You were the one I was thinking of when I wrote that." Trump damaged not just our democracy and our standing in the world, he damaged many of us and many of our personal relationships. My loathing for him runs very deep and will never be erased.
- Judges and Governors #5 Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL, 55.9%) defeats Others #2 Fox personality Tucker Carlson
Our Take: This one was also close, but never so close as to be in doubt.
S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA: Maybe it's because I actively avoid his content, but to me, Tucker Carlson doesn't really stand out from the crowd. He's just another flapping mouth. Whereas Ron DeSantis is doing actual harm to actual people as I write, and I shudder to consider the damage he'd do were he elected president.
D.E. in Lancaster, PA: In the contest between Ron DeSantis and Tucker Carlson, I feel Tucker is not fighting for the prize, being so enraptured with tanning his testicles of late. If the Tuck keeps that up then soon that insipid befuddled look of his will become a permanent grimace as his wee klackers become huge knackers. While Ron DeSantis has often been described as resembling another dangling male organ, I find him to be more like a trichobezoar—a disgusting object hacked up unexpectedly in front of us that repulses most sane people who wonder where or how such a thing exists at all. "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, throw down your masks for being a part of crisis theater!" The same people who think Trump was the greatest president ever confidently predict that DeSantis will be the second greatest after Trump's next term of 4 to 16 years—their math, like a Florida school book, is a bit fuzzy. What I find delusional on top of deranged is that they think DeSantis will let his overwhelming ambition sit idle for another term or two by Trump. DeSantis would gladly throw their precious leader from a parapet on the tallest tower of Cinderella's castle at the stroke of midnight and then the next day pass a law to "Don't Say Trump." DeSantis is not a team player and will never let his ego be bruised by taking one for the team—he might take one on the team but never do anything that benefits anyone not named Ron DeSantis. "Oh mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most grasping greediest delusional leader of them all? Why it's Ron DeSantis and he's making a coat from a hundred and one dead puppies!"
T.T. in Minden, LA: I have Tuckyo Rose Carlson winning this one, because his reach is wider and will last longer. Gov. DeathSantis is going to lose his bid for re-election, proving there is some justice in this world, while Tucker's going to keep his show and continue to misinform millions, proving there is no God.
R.K. in Chicago, IL: Given the fact that Carlson is merely a media puppet stoking the flames of homegrown, right-wing terrorism from afar while DeSantis has been an active participant in doing the same, I'll pick DeSantis. But I hope the Democratic Party does all it can to make sure he loses this November and derails DeSantis's ambitions for higher office.
P.W. in Springwater, NY: I thought about voting for both DeSantis and Carlson but that would be voter fraud, so, no. But it was a hard choice. On the one hand, DeSantis is scary. As you so often point out, every day he looks in the mirror and sees (in his mind) the perfect president. On the other hand, Tucker, in today's parlance, is truly an influencer—without any moral compass or allegiance to the truth. DeSantis seems like a joke, a caricature of the perfect Trumpist pol. (Seriously, rejecting math textbooks for prohibited content?). So I voted for Tucker because his ability to twist the truth and scare his like-minded audience into thinking autocrats and white supremacists are a good thing is purely dangerous and evil. I'm hoping voters laugh DeSantis into the dustbin of history. Then again, that was my hope when TFG ran for president.
K.H. in Albuquerque, NM: F*cker Carlson vs Ron DeSatan... what to do, what to do? I went with F*cker because he'll be spewing lies until enough of his viewership goes to that big cable network in the sky and he gets canceled. Meanwhile, there's a chance DeSatan may yet be defeated in 2022 or, worst case scenario, in 2024 elections.
That leaves us with this:
Here are the final two ballots:
Consolation bracket responses, if you haven't already submitted them, are due by tonight at 11:59 p.m. PT. Championship round responses are due by Thursday night at 11:59 p.m. PT. And your comments are appreciated. (Z & V).
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr25 Marjorie Taylor Greene Has Alzheimer's Disease
Apr25 Is McCarthy Toast?
Apr25 Right-Wing Billionaire Guns for Conservative Senator
Apr25 Pennsylvania Focus Group Suggests It Is Not All Gloom and Doom for the Democrats
Apr25 Vance Is Surging
Apr25 Democrats Will Back Evan McMullin (I) in Utah
Apr25 The Fight Is On for Feinstein's Senate Seat
Apr25 Judges Keep Shooting Down Nunes' Lawsuits
Apr25 Longest-Serving Republican in Senate History Dies
Apr25 French Voters Decide Not to Change Chevaux in Midstream
Apr25 Unusual Photos of Cawthorn Emerge
Apr24 Sunday Mailbag
Apr23 Saturday Q&A
Apr22 Florida Punishes Disney for WrongThink
Apr22 The (Non-Existent) Walls Are Closing in on Bannon
Apr22 Justice Dept. to Appeal Mask Mandate
Apr22 Today in Second-Class Citizenship
Apr22 Denouement for New York Maps Is Almost Upon Us
Apr22 This Week in Schadenfreude
Apr22 March... Sadness, Part XVII (The Also-Rans)
Apr21 New Moves Isolate Russia Even More
Apr21 Are Asian Americans Also a Problem for the Democrats?
Apr21 Election Handicappers Shift Races Toward the Republicans
Apr21 Democrats Will Run on Scott's Platform
Apr21 Sanders Has Not Ruled Out Another Run
Apr21 Florida State Senate Approves DeSantis' Map
Apr21 Tech Billionaire Enters California Senate Race
Apr21 McCormick Tries to Portray the Trump-Endorsed Oz as Anti-Trump
Apr21 The French Election Could Be a Preview of the Future of American Politics
Apr20 The Buck Stops Where?, Part I: Masking
Apr20 The Buck Stops Where?, Part II: Title 42
Apr20 The Buck Stops Where?, Part III: Student Loans
Apr20 'Tis the Season
Apr20 Donald Trump: Batter Up (Gubernatorial Edition)
Apr20 March... Sadness, Part XVI (Final Four, Part II)
Apr19 Mike Lee the Latest to Be Outed as a Traitor
Apr19 Democrats Are Going Try, Try, Try Again to Buy, Buy, Buy Again
Apr19 Blue Team Learns Its Lesson?
Apr19 Money Don't Get Everything (It's True)
Apr19 Donald Trump: Batter Up (Senate Edition)
Apr19 March... Sadness, Part XV (Final Four, Part I)
Apr18 Trumpism Is Thriving
Apr18 Voters' Worries about Crime Are Upstaging Progressive Priorities in Los Angeles
Apr18 Trump As Boss Tweed
Apr18 Biden Is in Trouble with Latinos...
Apr18 ...and with Young Voters As Well
Apr18 The 2024 GOP Invisible Primary Is Heating Up
Apr18 Candidates Are Raising Big Sums