Putin Warns Again About Nuclear War
Large Explosion Rocks Kharkiv
U.S. Positioned to Withstand Economic Shock
Biden to Give His First State of the Union Address
Putin Plans ‘Medieval Siege’ of Kyiv
Putin Growing Frustrated Over Struggles In Ukraine
• Germany Will Rearm
• State of the Union Speech Will Make Biden a Wartime President
• Primary Season Is Upon Us
• Some Issues That Are Sure to Come Up During Jackson's Confirmation Hearing
• Yet Another Poll Shows Biden in Trouble
• At CPAC, It Is All Culture War, All the Time
• Barr: Prospect of Trump Running again is Dismaying
• Charlie Cook Shifts Two Senate Races Toward Republicans
• Trump Values "Wins" More Than Worship
Joe Biden has announced sanctions on some Russian banks and some of Vladimir Putin's cronies, but by no means all of either. Paul Krugman observed that they could be much stronger. David Leonhardt also noted that they could be much tougher. But making them tougher raises a number of issues that Biden doesn't want to raise, at least for now.
One thing that Biden cares about a lot is unity among the allies. He does not want to impose any sanctions unless the entire European Union goes along with them. Getting agreement isn't so easy. Some of the objections are frivolous, but some are serious. For example, Italy objects to banning the export of luxury goods to Russia since it, well, exports luxury goods to Russia. Wealthy Russian ladies love Gucci handbags, and a half-way decent bag runs $3,000 or so. Germany gets most of its natural gas from Russia and is afraid that hitting the Russians too hard will cause them to turn off the gas spigot, which would be a disaster for the 20 years or so it would take to build a new nuclear plant and get it running.
The biggest sanction of all would be to kick all Russian banks off the SWIFT banking network. At first, Biden was against this move, but on Saturday evening, he sort of changed his mind, at least a little. Then he announced that some (but not all) Russian banks would be expelled from the SWIFT network. It is not clear how much effect this will have though, since Russian companies that want to buy or sell something internationally can then just open an account with one of the banks that is still on SWIFT. This decision is a weak compromise because some allies, especially Germany, don't want that since then they couldn't pay Russia for the gas it exports to Germany. If Germany couldn't pay, Russia would cut off the gas supply for nonpayment, ideology and war aside. This is not to say kicking all the Russian banks off SWIFT will never happen, but it would take a bigger provocation than merely invading Ukraine to get there.
Krugman makes the point that Putin and his cronies have hid trillions of dollars worth of stolen money in bank accounts and assets in the West. Some of these are hard to move, such as huge homes and land holdings. The problem with seizing them isn't a legal issue. A recent law gives the U.S. government the power to seize the assets. The Russians would sue and in 10 years the Supreme Court would announce whether the law was constitutional. But meanwhile, the assets would be frozen.
The real problem, as we pointed out over the weekend, is that many rich and powerful Americans are deeply involved with Russian kleptocrats and going after the Russians would of necessity also catch their American enablers. For example, Donald Trump Jr. once said: "In terms of high-end product influx into the U.S., Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets." Going after the Russian kleptocrats would invariably mean going their partners, like the Trumps. And it is not only in the U.S. A Trump skyscraper in Toronto was also built with Russian money. And it is not only the Trumps. Many high-end real estate projects are full of laundered Russian money and going after them would expose American, Canadian, British and other enablers, none of whom will cooperate with any investigation. In the U.K. the money laundering is probably even worse than in the U.S. Boris Johnson might be hesitant to turn that stone over for fear what he might find. It would include many of his friends and top supporters.
Another problem is that some of the laundered money might be in off-shore tax havens like the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas. The U.S. could easily bully them into cooperating by banning all flights to and from them and kicking them off the SWIFT network. However, going after tax havens would also require tackling domestic corruption, which would be a long and difficult process since all of the folks affected can afford top-notch legal help.
Leonhardt sees several other issues related to tougher sanctions. First, some of them will hurt Western companies and economies. Western companies that do a lot of business with Russia would feel the pinch and companies that already delivered products to Russia and are waiting for payment would feel it extra hard. Second, by not cracking down too hard on Putin personally and his cronies, some lines of communication are still open. Rounding up all the children of the oligarchs studying at U.S. universities and putting them on the next flight to Moscow would definitely get the oligarchs' attention, but might make communication more difficult. Third, by keeping some options in reserve (e.g., a complete SWIFT ban), there is a way to respond if Putin turns up the heat. In addition, if the sanctions become unbearable, Putin could start cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure, which would force Biden to reply in kind and pretty soon the nukes could be flying.
Some private businesses are doing their own version of sanctions. For example, Delta Airlines has suspended its alliance with Aeroflot, the Russian national airline. Bars all over the U.S. are pouring their Russian vodka down the drain and encouraging customers to order Ukrainian vodka in its place. The Ontario Liquor Board is not only pulling all the Russian liquor from the shelves of its 679 stores, but is offering refunds to customers who have already purchased Russian liquor and don't want it anymore. Even Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), who is only Trumpy in some ways, has asked Texas restaurants and restaurants to stop selling Russian products. The trouble with this approach is that Russia has so few export products that anyone wants (except oil and gas) that there isn't much to boycott.
There are also a few business that are getting involved the other way: helping Ukraine. For example, Elon Musk has activated his Starlink network of satellites to provide satellite Internet service to Ukraine to replace the terrestrial Internet service Russia has knocked out. However, Starlink requires special terminals, but Musk is shipping them to Ukraine as fast as he can. All these are small actions, but together they could make Putin's life more complicated. (V)
One thing Vladimir Putin probably didn't count on when he decided to invade Ukraine is yesterday's decision by newly installed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to rearm the country. Russia has had some experience in the past with a heavily armed Germany. During World War II, some 24 million Russians died as a result of it. And this was before nuclear weapons. And no one has the slightest doubt that German engineers are more than capable of building highly effective nuclear weapons if the political leadership decides it wants them.
Specifically, Scholtz said yesterday that Germany will now spend €100 billion ($111 billion) on defense spending to upgrade its armed forces this year and then spend 2% of its GDP on defense going forward. During his speech to the parliament, Scholz described the Russian invasion of Ukraine as "a turning point in the history of our continent." The parliamentarians gave his speech a loud applause. Scholz also said that Germany needs to change course and become less dependent on Russian energy. To do that, he plans to build two large ports to be able to import liquefied natural gas from other sources, including the Middle East and possibly America, which has become a major exporter of LNG.
Scholz also said that he wants to build the next generation of tanks and military aircraft. In the meantime, he is considering the procurement of American F-35 jets, which have the capability to carry nuclear weapons. He is also interested in buying some high-end specialized Israeli military equipment. The German parliament will have to decide if that's kosher.
In addition, Scholz said that Germany will immediately send 1,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine along with 500 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. These will be much more appreciated by the Ukrainians than the 5,000 helmets Germany has already delivered. Putin may just have awakened a sleeping giant. Other European countries are also delivering weapons to Ukraine. For example, Sweden will send 5,000 antitank weapons and Belgium will send 3,000 machine guns. On top of that, the European Union will purchase and deliver weapons to Ukraine, something it has never done for any country before. Depending on how fast the equipment arrives, Putin's dream of a quick and painless conquest might take a bit longer than planned and also not be as painless as he was expecting.
No doubt Putin and his inner circle worked out many plans before the invasion. We suspect that having to confront a highly armed (possibly nuclear) Germany with the newest military equipment in the world was not in his game plan. Russia has more people and more soldiers than Germany (although fewer than Germany, France, and the U.K. combined) but in modern warfare, advanced weapons systems count for more than boots on the ground. And Russia's weapons are far from state-of-the-art. But now that the wheels have been set in motion, there is probably no going back.
Will Joe Biden get any credit for these developments? He should. He spent many hours patiently talking to U.S. allies and getting them on the same page to provide a unified response to the invasion of Ukraine. Biden definitely has bragging rights. Will he use them? We may find out tomorrow. (V)
Joe Biden will get a chance to reset his image tomorrow when he gives his State of the Union speech to Congress. Up until a week ago, it was expected that he would focus on some small achievements during his administration, such as passing the infrastructure bill, getting unemployment down to 4%, and largely beating back the coronavirus. Now, all of a sudden, he is a wartime president and he will be delivering a speech not only to Congress and the American people, but also to everyone in the Kremlin who can understand English. Vladimir Putin speaks a little English, but his aides will probably have a Russian translation of Biden's speech for him within minutes of Biden's closing words.
Biden will probably start out trying to convince all Americans that having a brutal dictator invade and take over a peaceful U.S. ally is not in America's interests He will certainly talk about how he has rallied all of America's allies to help punish Russia. That shows his foreign policy skills and will be generally popular. He will probably praise Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a true profile in courage for risking his life and staying in Kyiv and possibly contrast that with some Republicans who hide under their desks whenever Donald Trump breathes in their direction. Biden will probably urge Congress to quickly pass the $6.4-billion dollar bill to provide aid to Ukraine. Biden might also talk about shoring up NATO in Eastern Europe just in case Putin decides that Ukraine was merely the appetizer, with Poland the main course and the Baltic states as dessert.
The speech won't be entirely about Ukraine and war, though. One topic likely to come up his Biden's nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. He might even pull a surprise and welcome her on stage to introduce her to the country. It would be a clever move since most people know little about her.
But one topic he won't be able to avoid is inflation, as everyone is aware of it and it hits some people especially hard. He might try to blame the Republicans for not confirming his three choices for the Federal Reserve Board, the government agency with the most actual power to tame inflation. But blaming Republicans is not his style, even when something is clearly and unambiguously their fault (as in this case). Maybe he will encourage them to be bipartisan for a change and put country first. Fat chance on that actually happening these days.
Biden's main problems are: (1) the country is so divided almost nothing can change that and (2) he is not a forceful and dynamic speaker. Sometimes one speech can change the tone. After the botched Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba, John Kennedy went on television and promised to put a man on the moon within 10 years. That changed everything, putting the focus on the future, not the failures of the past. But JFK was a charismatic speaker and Biden is not, so it won't be easy for him. But he has to give it all he's got tomorrow. (V)
The primaries are almost here. The first one is tomorrow, in Texas. The campaigns have been in full force for months, with a total of $72 million spent on ads so far. The most important races are governor and attorney general, but the Democratic primary in TX-28 is also a biggie.
Greg Abbott is running for reelection, but he is not the only Republican running. Allen West, former chairman of the Texas Republican Party, is challenging him, as is Don Huffines, a former member of the Texas Senate. Both of the challengers think Abbott is some kind of pinko Commie. That gives you some idea of where they are coming from. Abbott is expected to win, but if his margin is unexpectedly small, it could force him to the right in the general election. On the Democratic side, Beto O'Rourke has no serious competition for the Democratic nomination.
Texas AG Ken Paxton (R) is under indictment for securities fraud. In Texas, being under indictment for cattle rustling might be a plus, but being under indictment for securities fraud isn't. Consequently, Paxton has drawn several high-profile Republican challengers, namely Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Rep. Louis Gohmert, and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman. Gohmert is full of hot air and Guzman is barely known, but the Bush name carries a lot of weight in Texas. While incumbents are tough to beat, the combination of a weakened incumbent and a very high-profile challenger could spell the end of the road for Paxton. Many people are wondering if the Republican Party will ever shake Trumpism. One conceivable scenario is that after one or two terms as AG, George P. is elected governor of Texas and then follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, George H.W. Bush, and runs for president. George P. is Jeb's son, not W's.
If Paxton manages to hang on, he will enter the general election as a weak and bruised candidate, giving the Democrats a real shot at winning. There are three serious Democrats running for AG. Joe Jaworski is the former mayor of Galveston. Rochelle Garza is a former ACLU attorney. Lee Merritt is a civil rights lawyer. In all statewide races in Texas, if no candidate clears 50% in round one, there will be a top-two runoff on May 24.
The most interesting House race is the Democratic primary in TX-28. It pits the conservative Democrat Henry Cuellar against a progressive challenger, Jessica Cisneros. This is a rematch of the 2020 primary, which Cuellar won by a mere 3.5 points. The district contains Laredo, the suburbs of San Antonio, and some rural areas along the Rio Grande. Like Paxton, Cuellar has legal problems. The FBI raided his home and office in January but hasn't disclosed what it found. If a young progressive Latina like Cisneros can't beat an old conservative guy with a cloud over his head, it could foreshadow bad news for young progressive Democrats all over the country this cycle.
Here is the primary calendar for the coming months:
|Texas||Mar 1||May 24|
|West Virginia||May 10|
|North Carolina||May 17||Jul 26|
|Georgia||May 24||Jun 21|
|Arkansas||May 24||Jun 21|
|Alabama||May 24||Jun 21|
|Mississippi||Jun 7||Jun 28|
|New Jersey||Jun 7|
|New Mexico||Jun 7|
|South Dakota||Jun 7||Aug 16|
|North Dakota||Jun 14|
|South Carolina||Jun 14||Jun 28|
|New York||Jun 28|
|Oklahoma||Jun 28||Aug 23|
|New Hampshire||Sep 13|
|Rhode Island||Sep 13|
|Louisiana||Nov 8||Dec 10|
After Texas, there is a big gap until May 3, when Indiana and Ohio hold primaries. The Ohio Republican Senate primary is going to be a humdinger, especially if Donald Trump endorses someone in that race. The main Republicans running for the Senate in Ohio are Jane Timken, J.D. Vance, and Josh Mandel. After May 3, the primaries start coming fairly regularly.
Pennsylvania, on May 17, is another big one, with contested Senate primaries in both parties. Progressive Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) is battling moderate Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) for the Democratic nomination. Connecticut resident David McCormick is facing New Jersey resident Mehmet Oz for the Republican nod. Again, in Pennsylvania.
Also on May 17 is the North Carolina primary. Democrat Cheri Beasley is a shoo-in for the nomination, but the Republicans are having a big battle between Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC), who is Trump's horse in that race and Pat "Bathroom bill" McCrory, who is Mitch McConnell's. Former U.S. representative Mark Walker (R) is unlikely to win but could be a factor nevertheless.
May 24 is also a key primary. Donald Trump has endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) for the Senate, but Brooks is not doing well and Trump may try to hedge his bet here (see below). If Trump sticks with Brooks and Brooks goes down in flames in a state as red as Alabama, every Republican in the country is going to start wondering if the Trump magic is past its use-by date. The same holds for Georgia, where Trump has endorsed in both the governor's race and the Senate race. His Senate endorsee, Herschel Walker, will probably win the primary, but Trump has endorsed former senator David Perdue for governor against Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA). If Kemp wins, Trump will have enough egg on his face to provide the entire Georgia state legislature with omelets. So circle May 17 and May 24 on your calendar. Those are key dates.
June 7 is the busiest primary day, with seven states holding them, including California. Finally, on Aug. 2, Arizona Republicans will pick an opponent for Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ). Due to the late date of the primary, the candidate won't have a lot of time to pull the party together, though. The same holds for Missouri, where multiple Republicans are battling for the right to take over for retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). Trump hasn't endorsed there yet, but he still could.
The primaries may well indicate whither the Republican Party. Republicans used to argue about who hated abortion more and who had the most guns. Now it is all about who is the Trumpiest of them all. By mid-September, we will have a better idea of which way the GOP is going. If Trumpy candidates win everywhere, with or without the support of their namesake, that gives one message, but if they don't, it gives a different one. And if conservative-but-not-so-Trumpy incumbents go down in flames, that really sends a message. Two states to watch are Arkansas, where billionaire Richard Uihlein has put $1 million in a campaign to defeat Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) and Oklahoma, where Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) angered Trump by saying that Biden won the 2020 election.
The situation in Oklahoma is muddy. The other James (Inhofe) has said he will resign from the Senate on Jan. 3, 2023. The governor and others would like to hold the primary for Inhofe's replacement on June 28. However, state law calls for a special election for the Senate "when vacancies happen." If Inhofe doesn't formally resign until Jan. 3, 2023, there will be no vacancy on June 28 and so a special election is probably not valid. The state Supreme Court may have to sort this one out. (V)
When the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson comes before the Senate, there are some issues that Republicans are certain to raise. Here is a brief rundown of some of the hot-button ones.
- Terrorism: Jackson was a public defender. One case she was assigned (i.e., she
didn't choose it) is that of Guantánamo Bay detainee Khi Ali Gul. You know those crime show Miranda statements:
"If you can't afford a lawyer, the government will provide one for you for free"? Well, in this case, Jackson was the
free lawyer. Lawyers all know that even the most heinous criminals are entitled to counsel who will vigorously try to
defend them, even if the lawyer believes the accused to be guilty. Jackson certainly knows this and took the case as ordered to do. Republicans are going to yell at her for
that and she is going to calmly explain that in the U.S. legal system, every defendant is entitled to a lawyer. She is
also going to say that the briefs she wrote in the case reflected her client's interests, not her personal views. That's
the way the system works. If they ask her what she now thinks of her client, she will politely inform them that legal
ethics forbid every lawyer from speaking ill of any past, current, or future client.
- Trump: As a district judge she ruled on several cases involving Donald Trump. In one of
her rulings, she wrote: "Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is
that Presidents are not kings." Some senators aren't going to like that. If she wants to get snarky, she could ask the
senators if they think presidents are kings. On a more recent case, she was on a three-judge panel that ruled Congress
could see documents related to the coup attempt—documents that Trump wanted to keep secret. That should be an easy
one, though. She could say: "I have the greatest respect for the Senate and House and if one of its committees needs to
see some documents in order to perform its work, there has to be an exceedingly compelling reason to tell the committee
it can't have the documents, especially when the sitting president has already said that there are no national security
issues at stake."
- Race: The senators are going to ask her how race might inform her decisions. That's an
easy one. She can just say that it won't play a role and that only the Constitution, the laws, and precedent will play a
role. The senators may not believe that, but there is no good rebuttal to that reply.
- Court Packing: A group called Demand Justice, which wants to pack the Supreme Court, has
been pitching her for a Supreme Court seat for a year. She is going to say that she is not responsible for other groups
and has never said that the Supreme Court is broken. If the senators press her, she will say it is up to the senators
and representatives to decide how big the Court should be. Justices play no role in that decision. That is an
unquestionably true statement.
All the Trump nominees to the Supreme Court were exceedingly evasive. It shouldn't be hard to find videos of those hearings. Jackson will no doubt study them to see how the game is played. In the end, the hearings don't matter so much because the Democrats have the votes. The only real issue is whether one or two Republicans vote for her. (V)
A new Washington PostABC poll shows Joe Biden's rating at an all-time low for this poll. Only 37% of American adults approve of the job he is doing while 55% disapprove. And 44% strongly disapprove. Naturally Republicans strongly disapprove, but 61% of independents disapprove of Biden as well. Even among Democrats, Biden is only at 77% approval. He has been underwater since the summer, but has gotten worse, as shown below. When he speaks to the country tomorrow (see above) he better have a good story to tell:
On the generic congressional poll, the news for the Democrats is just as bad. There, 49% will vote for a Republican and 42% will vote for a Democrat. Of course, on the ballot there are real Republicans and real Democrats, so the generic poll is just a broad indicator, but it is not a good one for the Democrats right now. Also remember that, historically, when there is a foreign crisis, people rally round the president. Of course, historically, the Republicans supported the president over a brutal foreign dictator who just invaded a democratic country because he could. That's not how things are anymore, though. But a lot depends how things play out in Ukraine. If the Ukrainians wage a valiant battle for their country and inflict a lot of pain on the Russians, public opinion in the U.S. may come to see them as victims of a madman and support for Biden could grow.
While foreign policy is up in the air, on the economy, 75% rate the economy as negative, despite plenty of jobs for anyone looking for a job and stock market that is way up compared to last year [which means 401(k) plans are doing well]. The problem is inflation, of course. People blame the president when the economy is bad, even though he has done what he can, namely nominate people to the Fed, while Republicans are blocking their confirmation. About one-third of Americans say they are worse off financially than they were when Biden took office and 40% say he is at fault. Harry Truman long ago pointed out where the buck stops and it's still true.
On the economy, 54% trust the Republicans to do a better job than the Democrats (35%), even though the only thing Republicans ever do on the economy when they get the chance is to cut taxes for the rich. On the pandemic, the Democrats lead 43% to 37%. On education, the Democrats have a tiny lead, 44% to 41%. Historically, Democrats have had a huge lead on education, so all the Republicans' talk about Critical Race Theory and keeping masks out of schools is working. Schools are going to be a huge issue in November and the Democrats need to get their act together on this and fast. (V)
At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando this weekend, one Republican after another spoke about culture war issues. The U.S.-Mexican border dominated over the Russian-Ukrainian border. Critical Race Theory beat bombs exploding in Kyiv. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) spoke for 20 minutes about immigration, CRT, mob violence, and the biomedical security state, but didn't bother to mention that there is a war going on in Europe right now that might just engulf the entire world. Stopping CRT—which isn't taught in any public elementary school or high school in America—is the big problem, according to DeSantis. It wasn't always like this. Ronald Reagan was once in Berlin and told Mikhail Gorbachev "tear down this wall." Nowadays, domestic politics, especially the culture war, is all that matters to Republicans.
The one major exception to "culture war all the time" was Donald Trump, who spoke at CPAC on Saturday. He talked about how the 2020 election was rigged and how he won. He also said that he would have been able to complete the wall on the Mexican border in three weeks. Actually, he had 4 years and all he built was 50 miles of new fencing in areas that were previously unfenced. He did repair and improve some old fencing, though. In his speech, he also teased a run in 2024 without committing to anything. He also attacked Mark Zuckerberg for giving states hundreds of millions of dollars to help run the 2020 election because Congress and the states didn't pony up. And as usual, he also attacked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the Democrats. One thing he didn't talk about is how he tried to blackmail Volodymyr Zelensky by refusing to deliver weapons that Congress had appropriated until Zelensky made an announcement that he was investigating Hunter Biden. Zelensky, showing some of the steel that has been on display in the last week, did not yield, of course.
Whit Ayres, a longtime Republican pollster, said: "Foreign policy rarely resonates with voters unless Americans are dying." He meant that when it comes to voting, domestic issues dominate and when foreign policy issues do come up, it tends to be due to their impact on domestic issues. Some opportunistic Republican is bound to soon say: "If we just let Russia capture Ukraine, gas prices would be 25¢/gal cheaper and most Republicans would be happy to sacrifice Ukraine for 25¢.
CPAC held a straw poll about whom the attendees want to see as the GOP presidential nominee in 2024. Trump got 59%, DeSantis got 28%, and everyone else was down in the weeds. That was a slight improvement for Trump (+2 points) over the straw poll conducted at CPAC in summer of last year. However, the poll was not anonymous. To vote, attendees had to log in with their name and registration number. That could have affected the result as some attendees might have voted for Trump out of fear of retribution if they didn't.
While DeSantis does fairly well in polling, some of his former staffers wonder if he has the charisma and retail campaigning skills needed to run a national campaign. He struggles to connect with donors and sometimes doesn't even make eye contact at parties. One called him "incredibly aloof." Another said he is "painfully awkward." Still another said he is "about as un-charming as it gets one-on-one." Yet another said he has "no ability or seeming desire to relate." In a national campaign, these characteristics will surely come out. Whether they will matter in a world where negative ads on television and the Internet drive campaigns is another matter. But they could. Many people believe that George W. Bush beat Al Gore in 2000 because many voters felt that Bush was likable and Gore was not. In a national campaign, DeSantis would be in a far more powerful spotlight than he is in Florida. If he acquires a reputation as aloof, uncaring, and uninterested in people's problems, that could be a millstone around his neck. (V)
Former AG William Barr, who was Donald Trump's toady for most of his time running the Dept. of Justice, is trying to rehabilitate his public image. In a new book to be published on March 8, Barr says that the prospect of Donald Trump running for president again is dismaying. He also urges the Republican party to look for other candidates. In the book, Barr takes one potshot after another at his former boss. Among other things, Barr wrote: "Trump cared only about one thing: himself. Country and principle took second place." We think "second place" might be a tad generous.
It isn't that Barr has become a liberal. Far from it. The book has blistering attacks on liberals and the news media. He hates them, but that doesn't reduce his disdain for Trump. He calls Trump an "incorrigible narcissist" who blew the 2020 election due to lack of self-control and then did a disservice to the nation by not admitting defeat. Barr minces no words here. He wrote: "The election was not stolen. Trump lost it."
Barr probably means what he has written, but keep in mind that many people expected more of someone who had served in the administration of George H.W. Bush and then became toady-in-chief for Trump, By dumping all over Trump, he hopes to polish his public image. The book goes on and on about all the ignorant, stupid, and self-serving things Trump did, but Barr would have been more convincing if he had quit when he discovered how bad Trump really was and gone public about it immediately thereafter. Now, it's more like closing the door of the henhouse after the fox has had his breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. (V)
Veteran election guru Charlie Cook has shifted two of his predictions in Senate races to favor the Republicans. The North Carolina U.S. Senate race had been a toss-up. Now it is "likely Republican." That's a big shift, skipping over "leans Republican." The Democratic nominee is virtually certain to be former state Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley, a Black woman. The Republicans are engaged in a big mudslinging contest, but all of the slingers are white men. One, Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC), has Trump's endorsement, but D.C. Republicans want Pat "Bathroom Bill" McCrory, the former governor. Cook's argument is simply that the whole national environment has gotten worse for Democrats.
The other change is in Colorado, of all places. There, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) went from "safe Democratic" to "likely Democratic." There is no obvious reason for this and the Republicans don't even have a candidate yet. We think Charlie is too nervous. Colorado is a fairly blue state, Bennet hasn't done anything wrong or been involved in any scandals, so we don't see why he should be in any danger. (V)
Donald Trump gives endorsements for two reasons. First, to help elect Trumpy candidates, especially candidates who are willing to lie in public and say that he won in 2020, even if they don't actually believe that. Second, he likes to endorse winners, to improve his batting average.
But sometimes these two criteria are in conflict. Such is the case in the Alabama Senate race. There, Trump has endorsed the super Trumpy right-wing firebrand Mo Brooks. The only problem is that Brooks isn't doing well and his main opponent, Katie Britt, has the full backing and financial support of her current boss, the retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). Not only that, but she is greatly outraising Brooks. If Trump sticks with Brooks and Britt beats him, which is entirely possibly, he not only gets a less Trumpy senator, but his batting average also goes down. So it looks like he might now be trying to hedge his bets.
Trump invited Britt to come talk to him at Mar-a-Lago and she complied. He said he might be open to helping her campaign. Huh? Helping the campaign of someone running against your chosen candidate? Even for Trump that is strange logic. Of course, if he endorses her as well, his batting average would probably go up since one of the two is likely to get the nomination. Following that to its logical conclusion, if he were to endorse every Republican in every primary, he would be batting 1.000, but his influence would be .000.
An insider has said that even though Trump has endorsed Brooks, he is now sufficiently disdainful of him that he is not going to go to Alabama to help the congressman. However, he might be willing to allow Brooks to hold a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, especially if Trump got a cut of the take.
This is actually a fairly unusual development. Trump doesn't usually switch horses in midstream and certainly not to a less Trumpy horse than his original pick. This seems to show that his batting average may actually be more important than electing candidates he likes. If Trump thinks that his power will be increased by having a high batting average, he is deluding himself. Republican politicians will quickly detect if Trump's new strategy is to wait a bit and then pick the candidate who appears to be winning. Then they will realize that his endorsement doesn't have any power at all. (V)
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Feb26 Saturday Q&A
Feb25 Biden Makes His (Opening) Move
Feb25 Signs Point to Jackson Nomination, Probably Today
Feb25 Abbott Targets Trans Youth
Feb25 Inhofe May Be Done...
Feb25 ...And Lee May Be in Trouble
Feb25 This Week in Schadenfreude
Feb24 The Empire Strikes Back
Feb24 Republicans Are Unified on Banning Abortion after 15 Weeks
Feb24 Democrats Want to Be United
Feb24 Democrats Are Bored with the News
Feb24 While Congress Is Deadlocked, the States Are Moving--Backward
Feb24 Trump Finally Gets Some Good News on the Legal Front
Feb24 CPAC Begins Today
Feb24 Online Race for the Presidency Is in Full Swing
Feb24 Missouri Republicans Hightail It to Mar-a-Lago
Feb24 Pennsylvania Supreme Court Draws a New Congressional Map
Feb24 Biden Has Interviewed All the Short-Listed Supreme Court Candidates
Feb23 Houston, We Have an Invasion
Feb23 Trump Continues His Losing Streak
Feb23 Rick Scott Fires a Shot Across Mitch McConnell's Bow
Feb23 There Goes That Democratic Flip Opportunity
Feb23 Ethics? What Ethics?
Feb22 The Other Valenki Drops?
Feb22 Californians Are Bearish on Biden
Feb22 Now This Is What Malice Looks Like
Feb22 CPAC Is This Weekend
Feb22 TRUTH Launch Goes about as Expected
Feb22 Madison Cawthorn Is in Trouble, According to... Madison Cawthorn
Feb22 Jim Hagedorn Has Died
Feb21 Biden: Russia Will Invade Ukraine
Feb21 Can Biden Recover by 2024?
Feb21 The Wisconsin Republican Party Is Fighting the Wisconsin Republican Party
Feb21 Trump's Congressional Targets Aren't Dead Meat Yet
Feb21 Democratic House Retirements Hit 30-Year High
Feb21 North Carolina Has a New Congressional Map
Feb21 We Don't Know the SCOTUS Nominee, But We Already Know the Senators' Questions
Feb21 Truth to Appear Today
Feb20 Sunday Mailbag
Feb19 Saturday Q&A
Feb18 From Deposed to Deposed
Feb18 McCarthy Turns Traitor
Feb18 Government Shutdown Averted
Feb18 Oregon's Next Governor's Ain't Nick
Feb18 Facebook's Feed Frenzy
Feb18 This Week in Schadenfreude
Feb18 Looking Forward: The Readers Predict 2022, Part IX: The Economy
Feb17 Biden Orders Trump Visitor Logs Turned over to House Select Committee
Feb17 Lots of Legal Action Coming Up This Year