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Political Wire logo Trump’s Years of Wealth Inflation
How Kathy Hochul Became the Clear Front-Runner
Trump Spams His Donor List
Russia Added Troops to Ukraine Border
Beijing Weighs How Far to Go in Backing Putin
Biden Seeks to Expand Defense Budget

Democrats Have Seen the Enemy, and He Is... Tough to Beat

Maybe someone at the DCCC is reading this site. Last week, in a piece about Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), we wrote:

In short, we don't see that running away from these policy positions really helps the Democrats all that much. In our view, the correct thing to do is to own them, and to come up with good answers as to why "Defund the police," "Critical Race Theory," and Build Back Better are not what Republicans/right-wing media say they are, and instead are attempts to address issues X, Y, and Z. Even Bush acknowledges that she and other Democrats need to get much better at explaining themselves.

And yesterday, Politico had this report about the goings-on at the DCCC:

And the [Democratic] Party's House campaign arm had a stark warning for Democrats: Unless they more forcefully confront the GOP's "alarmingly potent" culture war attacks, from critical race theory to defunding the police, they risk losing significant ground to Republicans in the midterms.

Sound familiar? Thought so...

Ok, we don't really believe the DCCC needed our help to figure this out. It's quite obvious that right-wing politicians and their friends in the media have their talking points about Democratic policies (or imagined Democratic policies). Those talking points are clearly doing damage to the blue team's brand. And since those lines of attack aren't going away anytime soon, the only option left is to confront them as best as possible.

Indeed, while we were just theorizing, the DCCC has hard data in support of this conclusion. The PAC has been conducting focus groups, and has learned that when Republican attacks against Democrats go unchallenged, the GOP ends up +14 on the generic House ballot. However, if the attacks are met with a Democratic response, the GOP lead shrinks to +4. Inasmuch as we are veteran politics-watchers, we can tell you that a 10-point swing is a lot.

In fact, it turns out that the focus group participants don't actually care that much about the Democrats' party proposals, since they tend to agree with them. What these folks—the voters who are gettable, but not locks, for the blue team—want to hear is that the politicians understand the challenges in their lives and care about helping. Shades of Bill Clinton and "I feel your pain." It's worth noting, perhaps, that Bill Clinton is the only Democrat in the last half-century to clear 370 EVs, and he did it twice.

All of this said, culture wars issues tend to burn fiercely and brightly during their lifespans, and even the most effective counter-arguments are not likely to blunt them entirely. One thinks of the kneeling football players, which were an obsession for Trumpublicans for the better part of two years. No amount of explanation would move those folks off the belief that Colin Kaepernick and others were deliberately showing disrespect for the American flag, and thus for veterans, and Jesus, and mom, and apple pie, and so forth. There was many a declaration from right-wing types that they were done with the NFL and would never be back. And the ratings did take a hit, but eventually the issue ran its course. This week's Super Bowl attracted 112.3 million people, making it the highest-rated television program in 5 years (i.e., since Donald Trump took office). Clearly, a lot of the lifetime boycotters decided that a year or two is close enough. If that were not enough, the rapper Eminem made a point of kneeling during the halftime show, and... nobody cared. (Although Charlie Kirk did denounce the entire show as "sexual anarchy." Hard to know what that means, exactly, though it would be a great name for an R&B band, or maybe a podcast.)

Anyhow, point is, DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) and his team have a tough row to hoe when it comes to selling members on their approach, and then teaching them how to implement it. But it looks to be the correct approach. And it's a reminder that when it comes to messaging, the Democratic Party isn't always as clueless as it might seem. (Z)

Sandy Hook Families Reach $73 Million Settlement with Remington

A total of 26 people—20 students and 6 teachers—were killed by Adam Lanza during the mass shooting he inflicted on Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. It's taken almost 10 years, but the families of nine of the victims have agreed to a $73 million settlement with Remington, the company that made the gun used by Lanza. Actually, Remington went under, in part due to this suit, a couple of years ago. So, it's really the company's insurance carriers that reached a settlement.

Folks on both sides of the gun-rights debate have been watching this one. The Constitution ain't gonna be changed anytime soon, and the Supreme Court's rulings on the Second Amendment appear to be nearly as set in stone. So, if there is to be any movement on the gun restrictions front, it's going to come in the form of laws or legal precedents that make gun manufacturers, sellers, and/or owners liable for bad acts committed with firearms they made, sold, or owned. Anti-gun activists cheered yesterday's news, which could help to set a new precedent.

That said, we wonder how generalizable this result is. It wasn't really the gun itself—the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle—that got Remington in hot water. It was their marketing campaign; they targeted folks like Lanza by paying for placement in shoot-em'-up video games, and running ads that declared "Consider Your Man Card Reissued." It would seem the lesson here for gun companies is "be more circumspect in your advertising" and not "make less dangerous guns" or "be more careful about who buys your guns." (Z)

Palin Completes the Sweep

Yesterday, we noted that Sarah Palin had lost her defamation suit against The New York Times before the jury could even render its verdict, because Judge Jed Rakoff ruled that she did not make the elements of her claim. The jury was nonetheless allowed to keep deliberating—unaware of the judge's decision—and on Tuesday they reached the exact same conclusion that Rakoff did: Palin did not prove the Times acted with malice.

Palin—who, as we've noted, is mostly looking for attention here, and for the clock on her 15 minutes of fame to be dialed back a little bit—is expected to appeal the decision. If she does, the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is next in line. What the former Alaska governor really wants, though, is to get the case before the Supreme Court. Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch have indicated that they think the bar for libeling public figures is too high, and they could see their way to making it easier for the Sarah Palins of the world to win defamation suits. If they get the case, and they can find three like-minded colleagues among the four other conservatives on the Court, New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) could go the way of the dodo. Or the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Then, Palin would be a triumphant hero for those on the right; the person who took a sledgehammer to the liberal media establishment.

At least, that is the theory—and certainly, lots of people on the right are cheering her on. But one has to wonder if they've actually thought this through. If the bar for libeling public figures is lowered, then there still aren't going to be that many lawsuits against the Times or The Washington Post or CNN. On the other hand, Fox and Newsmax might buy themselves 2-3 lawsuits a night. To take last night as an example, Tucker Carlson reiterated claims that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats spied on Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani repeated the same thing and added that he has proof (and that he keeps it... in his bedroom), and Jeanine Pirro decreed that Joe Biden was personally responsible for the damage done during riots in 2020—apparently forgetting he did not take office until 2021.

On a similar note, it's almost always right-wing types who want Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act repealed. There's plenty of garbage from both sides of the aisle on social media, but there's considerably more right-wing garbage. Republicans who are rooting for Palin and/or against Section 231 might want to keep in mind that you should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. (Z)

Biden Administration Will Restore California's Vehicular Emissions Waiver

The Obama Administration allowed California to set its own, more-strict-than-federal requirements for vehicle emissions. The Trump Administration put the kibosh on that. This may not have been legal, but the Golden State isn't going to have to test the matter in court, because the Biden Administration is in the process of restoring the waiver.

This is a pretty clever bit of politics, at least from where we're sitting. Auto manufacturers can't keep engineering and re-engineering based on which way the political winds (and, possibly, the court cases) blow; they've gotta pick a target to aim at and stick with it. Yes, it is theoretically possible, in some limited cases, to make vehicles for a small group of environmentally strict states. For example, the Fiat 500e was only sold in California and Oregon. However, California has already said it will follow federal guidelines for light-duty vehicles. It's heavy trucks where Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) is going to bring the hammer, and it's not so plausible to make different trucks for different markets. That means the makers of heavy-duty vehicles are going to have to comport with California's standards.

So, the Biden administration thus ends up with a de facto very strict heavy-duty (read: high-pollution) vehicle policy that will be pretty much impervious to Congress and to federal lobbyists, and where the buck stops in Sacramento, and not in Washington, D.C. If anyone is unhappy, Biden can tell them to complain to Newsom. And Newsom won't listen, because he'll be eating at the French Laundry. Er, no, wait. He won't listen because California is a blue state where most voters like strict environmental rules. So, it's a win-win for the President and the Governor. (Z)

Another Long Island Iced (D)

The part of Long Island that people generally mean when they say "Long Island" is the portion covered by Nassau and Suffolk Counties. And that area is represented, in effect, by four members of Congress: Kathleen Rice (D), Thomas Suozzi (D), Lee Zeldin (R) and Andrew Garbarino (R). As of yesterday, three-quarters of them have announced their retirement, with Rice just having called it a career.

Both Suozzi and Zeldin are departing the House because they think they have a shot to be governor. They are wrong about this, but that's what they think. Rice, by contrast, does not appear to have her eye on some bigger prize. She also had said nothing about retiring, including to people in her close orbit, so her retirement came out of the blue. She's been in public service for 30 years at this point, with stints as a prosecutor and DA before her four terms in the House. Undoubtedly that kind of career wears a person down.

Rice is leaving a district that was swingy (D+4) but will be considerably less so under New York's new map. In fact, the three open districts all went for Joe Biden by 11 points or more. This swing was accomplished by making Garbarino's moderately red district into a deep red district. The Republicans will likely try to run a three-headed campaign, finding three similar sorts of candidates who will run on similar platforms in order to boost each other. But barring a very large red wave, it's considerably more likely that the Democrats end up +1 on Long Island (Zeldin's seat) than the Republicans do. (Z)

P.J. O'Rourke, 1947-2022

As a general rule, liberals are not great at politically themed talk radio. And similarly, as a general rule, conservatives are not great at comedy. There are exceptions, of course. The guys who made the movie Airplane! The guys who make South Park. Tim Allen, on occasion. And very possibly the funniest conservative of the last half-century, P.J. O'Rourke, who succumbed to cancer yesterday at the age of 74.

O'Rourke was born and raised in Ohio, and spent the bulk of the 1960s as a liberal hippie. However, his political compass rebooted itself in the 1970s or so, and he spent the rest of his life as a conservative libertarian. That did not stop him from landing a gig at The National Lampoon and quickly rising to become its editor-in-chief. These are unusual accomplishments for someone of his political views, not to mention someone who did not graduate from an Ivy League school (O'Rourke was an alumnus of Miami University and Johns Hopkins). Still, he had a very successful run at the Lampoon, leading it to its peak circulation, helping to launch the careers of Chevy Chase and John Belushi, and playing a role in pitching the movie Animal House. O'Rourke was also responsible for the most famous cover in the magazine's history:

The cover has a dog, a hand holding
a gun to the dog's head, and the headline 'buy this magazine or we'll kill this dog

A bit dark for some people's tastes, but it's been replicated and also parodied countless times.

For all his success at The National Lampoon, O'Rourke achieved his greatest notoriety after leaving the publication; he produced a gaggle of bestselling books, a veritable avalanche of essays and other short pieces, and was also a popular guest on talk shows and other such programs. A few samples of his wit:

  • The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it.

  • A hat should be taken off when you greet a lady and left off for the rest of your life. Nothing looks more stupid than a hat.

  • Wherever there's injustice, oppression, and suffering... America will show up six months late.

  • It's better to spend money like there's no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there's no money.

  • It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.

  • A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them.

  • We had a choice between Democrats who couldn't learn from the past and Republicans who couldn't stop living in it.

As you can see, though he was willing to skewer on both sides of the aisle, O'Rourke was clearly right-leaning. Indeed, he was a favorite of Ronald Reagan, who borrowed more than one of the quotes on this list. That said, the comedian was not welcome in many right-wing circles in the last 5-10 years. There is his ribaldry; his most famous book was Parliament of Whores, and his most famous essay was the Hunter S. Thompson gonzo-journalism piece "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink." On top of that, O'Rourke had absolutely no use for Trumpism. In 2016, he endorsed Hillary Clinton, observing "She's wrong about absolutely everything, but she's wrong within normal parameters."

If you wanted to do an interesting experiment, you might read one of O'Rourke's books—say, Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut—and then follow it immediately with one of Dave Barry's books—say, Dave Barry Turns 50. Both men are satirists, both were born in 1947, both spent the 1960s as hippies, and then Barry took one path (newspaper commentary and a Pulitzer, while remaining a lefty) while O'Rourke took another. Certainly, this exercise would give some useful insights into how comedy works, and how the same basic joke can be framed in different ways depending on the author's perspective.

These days, the best that conservative comedy has to offer is someone like Fox's Greg Gutfeld. And if that's how far things have sunk, then it could be a while before we see the likes of a P.J. O'Rourke again. (Z)

Looking Backward: How Did The Readers Do?, Part IX: The Economy

We're still tinkering with this feature, and we'll tinker some more in the future. For now, we think it works best if we run two times a week instead of four. Too much of a good thing, and all that, you know. There aren't too many entries left, either way, and then we'll move on to "movies everyone should see." Here are the entries we've run so far:

And now, last year's predictions about the economy, with up to 5 points awarded for accuracy, and up to 5 points rewarded for how bold the accurate parts of the prediction were, for a potential total of 10 points:

  • T.B. in Bay Shore, NY: The net effects of lockdowns, mask mandates, vaccines and relief bills will begin to usher in a new Roaring '20s beginning in the late spring/early summer.

    Comments: Well, the stock market is booming, but so is inflation. And there are lots of people who aren't sharing in the prosperity as a result. That's probably not what you were going for, but it's actually a pretty apt description of the 1920s. Accuracy: 5/5, Boldness: 2.5/5, Total: 7.5/10

  • A.M. in Toronto, ON, Canada: Oil will hit $70 a barrel.

    Comments: It finished the year at $76.56 after starting at $48.52. So, very accurate, and reasonably bold. A: 5/5, B: 3/5, T: 8/10

  • K.K. in Salt Lake City, UT: Oil will be over $100 a barrel by the end of the year.

    Comments: Nope. It's headed there right now, but it didn't get there in 2021. In fact, the last time it broke $100 was July 30, 2014. A: 0/5, B: 0/5, T: 0/10

  • D.C. in Delray Beach, FL: The Nasdaq will finish 2021 at 15,547.

    Comments: It finished the year at 15,644.97 after starting the year at 12,888.28. Not bad! A: 4.5/5, B: 4/5, T: 8.5/10

  • J.B. in Findlay, OH: The Dow will top 35,000 sometime this year and will end the year in the 33,500-34,500 range and the NASDAQ will top 14,500 (ending above 14,000). The U.S. unemployment rate will improve to 5% by the end of the year

    Comments: The Dow did top 35,000 several times late in the year, and it closed the year at 36,398.08. Pretty good so far, though not a bullseye. The NASDAQ did top 14,500, and did end above 14,000, but it was pretty far above 14,000 (see above). The unemployment rate was 3.9% by year's end. So, the broader predictions were correct even if the more specific ones went a little awry. A: 3/5, B: 3/5, T: 6/10

  • R.O. in Peaks Island, ME: The stock market will reach 40,000 points as a vaccine for HIV/AIDS is announced. An epidemic of debauchery will ensue, driving the Dow to 45,000 a week later.

    Comments: Nope. A: 0/5, B: 0/5, T: 0/10

  • B.H. in Seattle, WA: Commercial property mortgages will create a significant financial drag, a bailout discussion in Congress will begin, and the Dow will end at 26,000.

    Comments: Ibid. A: 0/5, B: 0/5, T: 0/10

  • B.H. in Westborough, MA: Despite the enthusiasm over the end of COVID, the stock market will drop by at least 25% from Jan. 1 levels at some point in the year.

    Comments: It was at 30,606.48 at the start of the year, so a 25% decline would mean 22,954.86 or lower. That did not happen; the last time the Dow got that low was early 2020. A: 0/5, B: 0/5, T: 0/10

  • I.K. in Olympia, WA: The current housing bubble will burst, or at least housing prices will go down significantly.

    Comments: This is a bit vague, but there's no standard by which it can be deemed correct. The housing market continues to be on fire. A: 0/5, B: 0/5, T: 0/10

  • C.M.L. in Washington, DC: No Republican in the House will vote to extend the debt ceiling in the run up to its expiration in mid-July, but default will be narrowly averted by the Senate.

    Comments: Almost correct (excepting Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-IL), though not especially bold given how many times we've seen this song and dance. A: 4/5, B: 2/5, T: 6/10

  • E.H. in Stevens Point, WI: Major overhauls of the tech industry are coming, though they won't be voted on until 2022.

    Comments: We've seen no movement in this direction. A: 0/5, B: 0/5, T: 0/10

  • K.K. in Salt Lake City, UT: Congress will pass legislation attempting to regulate, or imposing monetary liability on, social media companies, based on the content they allow to be on their sites or their moderation policies. A lawsuit challenging it under the First Amendment will be filed.

    Comments: Ibid. A: 0/5, B: 0/5, T: 0/10

  • J.A. in Redwood City, CA: Consumer spending will pick up again once the pandemic wanes, but unemployment will remain stubbornly high. Many people who are currently unemployed will never return to full-time work again.

    Comments: The first and last parts are correct, but the middle part... not so much. A: 3/5, B: 2/5, T: 5/10

That's 41/130, which is a .315 average. The running total is 298.5/1050, which works out to .284. That puts the readers equal with the careers of Fred "The Crime Dog" McGriff, Ken Griffey Jr., Johnny Damon, and Casey Stengel. In other words, two Hall of Famers, one should-be Hall of Famer, and Johnny Damon. On Friday, we'll have this year's economic predictions. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb15 What McConnell Is Up To
Feb15 Rats Desert Sinking Ship
Feb15 Eastman Has Many Secrets (or So He Claims)
Feb15 Palin Loses Once--Do We Hear Twice?
Feb15 Manchin Would Definitely Probably Maybe Possibly Support a Second Supreme Court Nominee
Feb15 But Her E-mails, Vol. CCXLV
Feb15 Abbott Is a Beto Blocker
Feb14 Tensions over Ukraine Are Running High
Feb14 Giuliani Is Negotiating with the Jan. 6 House Select Committee
Feb14 Trump Proactively Tried to Cover His Tracks on Jan. 6
Feb14 Democrats Are Beginning to Campaign on Supporting Democracy
Feb14 Voters Are Split on Who They Want in 2024
Feb14 Trump Is Now Battling People Who Used to Support Him
Feb14 Florida Is a Breeding Ground for Far-Right Groups
Feb14 Val Demings Pushes for More Police Funding
Feb13 Sunday Mailbag
Feb12 Saturday Q&A
Feb11 Papersgate Becomes Toilet Papersgate
Feb11 Ukraine Might Soon "Go Crazy" (or Not)
Feb11 Iran Nuclear Deal En Route to Being Resurrected
Feb11 All the Way with the ERA?
Feb11 Susan Collins May Have Some Trouble on Her Hands...
Feb11 ...While J.D. Vance May Have a Different Kind of Trouble on His
Feb11 This Week in Schadenfreude
Feb11 Someone's Gonna Get Killed
Feb10 What Is McConnell Up to?
Feb10 Democrats Are Divided Over Stephen Breyer's Replacement
Feb10 Select Committee Subpoenas Peter Navarro
Feb10 McCarthy Tries to Diversify the GOP
Feb10 What Could Biden Do If Putin Invades Ukraine?
Feb10 National Archives Wants the DoJ to Investigate Trump
Feb10 Could Cawthorn Be Disqualified?
Feb10 Republicans Block a Bill to Name a Post Office
Feb09 Fulton County DA: Presidential Immunity Won't Save Trump
Feb09 Abrams Apologizes
Feb09 Cori Bush Won't Back Down
Feb09 Thar's Money in Them Thar Propaganda
Feb09 Thar's Money in Them Thar Rubes
Feb09 Thar's Money in Them Thar Coal
Feb09 Looking Forward: The Readers Predict 2022, Part VIII: The Pandemic
Feb08 Biden Administration Has a Mini-Scandal
Feb08 Democrats Also Have a Scandal
Feb08 National Archives and Records Administration Visits Mar-a-Lago
Feb08 Alabama District Map Stands--for Now...
Feb08 ...But the Ohio District Map Is Headed Back to the Drawing Board
Feb08 Looking Backward: How Did The Readers Do?, Part VIII: The Pandemic
Feb07 RNC Cowers before Trump; Pence, Not So Much
Feb07 What Does Manchin Really Want?
Feb07 Manchin Endorses Murkowski
Feb07 Workers at Democratic Firm Rebel at Working for Sinema