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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

The big news from the Supreme Court and from the 1/6 Committee filled the mailbag to bursting, so there is some less-pressing pending content that we'll push to future weeks.

The Insurrection Will Be Televised

R.R.E. in Chicago, IL, writes: TrumpWorld's fixation on who was steering the SUV on January 6, while blithely ignoring the substance of Cassidy Hutchinson's damning testimony, brings to mind an observation reportedly first made about Richard Nixon: If you accused him of murdering 12 children and a dog, he would produce a living dog and call you a liar.

P.V. in Kailua, HI, writes: Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to the U.S. President's Chief of Staff, picked up a dishcloth to help clean ketchup off the wall after Donald Trump's tantrum. She is every young professional woman everywhere.

M.D. in The Poconos, PA, writes: You wrote: "[Donald Trump] also declared: 'I hardly know who this person, Cassidy Hutchinson, is.' Does anyone find that the slightest bit credible? Don't forget she worked 30 feet from him for 2 years, and regularly traveled with him in the presidential limousine and in Air Force One."

You left out that she was a young, white and attractive woman. You know he either hit on her or certainly thought about it.

R.C. in Newport News VA, writes: You wrote "John Eastman's phone was seized by the feds." The iPhone was then unlocked using Eastman's face.

Eastman is either overly stupid or arrogant not to have learned how to deep lock his cellphone. He should have known his iPhone was vulnerable. He asked for a pardon, after all. One can deep lock an iPhone (that is, require a pass code) by holding the lock button and either volume button for two seconds. That is really easy to do while taking the phone out of one's pocket and no one would know. The natural way to hold the iPhone makes this a sure method. One can also deep lock the iPhone by pressing the lock button five times quickly.

Judges have allowed cell phones to be opened by using the owner's biometrics. Judges have also said that the owner cannot be required to produce a pass code. I wonder if a lawyer should know this.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: Something I have not seen stressed by many people is the extraordinary reach of conspiracy charges. All it takes to establish a conspiracy is an agreement by two or more people to perform an illegal act—like, say, lying to the Georgia legislature, to use a hypothetical example—in furtherance of a common goal, plus one physical step toward that goal.

Once that is established, every person who acts in furtherance of that goal is equally responsible for every act of every other person in that conspiracy.

Say someone, let's call him "DT," wants to overthrow a national election by fraud. Let's say that he and another person, let's call him "RG," agree to do some criming in order to reach that goal. The minute RG buys a ticket to travel to another place, let's call it "GA," that fulfills all three requirements for a conspiracy charge.

If, while he's in GA, RG commits crimes, DT and everyone else in the conspiracy are also guilty of those crimes.

So RG is in a world of hurt in GA, as are DT and everyone else who agreed to help DT do some criming to overthrow the election.

D.S. in Palo Alto, CA, writes: I'm thinking that indicting and, especially, convicting a former president for crimes committed in office might be a bridge too far for many citizens. Even in the present circumstance, where such prosecution is clearly justified, there could be significant negative reaction. I wonder if we could be satisfied going the unindicted co-conspirator route, forgoing prosecution in exchange for either (preferred) an agreement from TFG that he would never run for office again, or (if necessary) a proclamation from the Justice Department that he was ineligible to serve under provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment? It has already been speculated that some states may try to make this case on their own, certainly taking the popular vote and potentially narrowing his Electoral College chances. If put into practice, this approach is admittedly horribly unfair, but might be best for the country. I would think, though, that the civil or even criminal cases against him and his company in New York and elsewhere would be unaffected.

S.S-L. in Norman, OK, writes: You wrote: "[N]o one asks for a pardon unless he or she believes they may have committed a crime." I'm not so sure about that. If Trumpworld folks genuinely believed those dirty, rotten no-good radical leftists would prosecute them for a crime they didn't commit, doesn't requesting a pardon make sense? Let's turn it around: If the ultra-conservative Handmaid's Tale/V for Vendetta governments are coming after me, but the person at the top is on my side, I might preemptively ask for a pardon just so it doesn't matter if the whackadoos try to pin something on me for attempting to help the person at the top in some way.

The Supreme Court: Legal (Il)logic

M.T. in Ann Arbor, MI, writes: If the Supreme Court is going to say that laws only apply to conditions that existed when the law was passed, can we say that the Second Amendment only applies to weapons that were in use when the amendment took effect?

A.S. in Black Mountain, NC, writes: The SCOTUS majority decision saying that the only rights proffered on Americans are the ones noted in the Bill of Rights is like saying a Christian society can survive by only using the Ten Commandments.

L.J. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: The radical right-wing Justices have hidden behind the name of "originalism" to try to repeal not only the 20th century, but the 19th as well. So let's hoist them on their own petard: Nowhere in the Constitution is there any mention of "judicial review," the power of the courts to overturn acts of Congress. This idea was invented out of thin air in Marbury v. Madison (1803), the brainchild of Chief Justice John Marshall. It was—until 2021—the most audacious power grab in U.S. history.

But who says it must persist when SCOTUS runs amok? The Congress can simply declare that it will no longer honor judicial review, and what could SCOTUS do about that? To think about it...

R.R. in Mesa, AZ, writes: You (or was it the Supreme Court?) wrote: "Global warming was not a thing in 1971," a disprovable statement.

Essays by Isaac Asimov from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction:

"No More Ice Ages?"
Subject: greenhouse effect/causes of ice ages
First Published In: January 1959
Collection(s): Fact and Fancy (1962), Asimov on Chemistry (1974)

This was in a popular magazine and reprinted in a popular science book published before 1972, not scientific journals or texts, and could plausibly be read by lawmakers. So the legislation creating the EPA could very well have granted the EPA authority to combat global warming.

Also, does this logic say that since the founders did not know about automatic weapons, high capacity magazines, silencers etc. the Second Amendment could not possibly apply to them?

V & Z respond: Our words, but in summary of a key element of the Supreme Court's ruling.

J.C. in Columbus, GA, writes: Although I generally agree with your analysis, and I personally believe that Clarence Thomas is a third-rate legal mind and even worse human being, I feel constrained to point out a flaw. At least twice you've pointed out that Thomas may have avoided calling Loving v. Virginia into question because of his marital circumstances. Maybe so. But Loving was decided primarily on the Equal Protection grounds. Although an alternative basis for the decision was substantive due process, it is more widely recognized as an Equal Protection decision striking down race-based discrimination. Therein lies a decided logical difference. (Damn, I can't believe I just defended Clarence effing Thomas.)

P.D. in Charlottesville, VA, writes: (Z) cited several bases for Congress' constitutional authority to codify a national right to abortion. I concur and would like to further rebut the assertion by K.B. in Hartford, CT that "a majority of the [Supreme] Court held that the Commerce Clause did not authorize Congress to pass the Affordable Care Act." That assertion is incorrect, as that aspect of the Court's holding was limited to the individual mandate and did not extend to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at large.

K.B. is presumably referring to National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. In that decision, the Court indeed relied on the Congress' taxing power rather than the Commerce Clause. However, the specific provision at issue was the individual mandate. In short, the Court held that the ACA's requirement that everyone purchase health insurance or pay a tax (i.e., the individual mandate) exceeded Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause but qualified as a tax within Congress' power to levy. The Court did not extend that reasoning to other ACA provisions (e.g., insurance exchanges, preexisting condition coverage, employer mandates, premium subsidies). If it had, Medicare and Medicaid (among other federal programs that do not levy taxes) would by extension exceed Congress' power under the Commerce Clause.

Accordingly, there are numerous ways Congress could exercise its Commerce Clause authority (as well as its taxing powers) to codify nationwide access to abortion. An express codification would be possible, assuming either 60 votes in the Senate or a filibuster exception. In addition, as I previously wrote, Congress could enact a variety of measures via reconciliation that would require only 51 votes in the Senate, such as a nationwide voucher program for patients who seek abortions. Another option would be reproductive care subsidies or tax credits for patients, providers, or clinics. In addition, given that most abortions are pharmaceutically induced, Congress could simply appropriate funds to purchase the requisite drugs, provide them to pharmacies and clinics at little to no cost, and require their prescription consistent with FDA guidelines.

My personal favorite (for purposes of stymieing conservative legal challenges) would be a requirement that providers and clinics provide abortions or pay a tax, with a waiver for clinics and providers whose refusal is based on religious liberty objections. Ultimately, there are numerous legislative solutions within the powers of Congress and even if the solution did not expressly codify a "right" to abortion, federal law would impliedly preempt state abortion restrictions.

Relatedly, the Hyde Amendment (which limits federal funding for abortions) does not necessarily impede the foregoing legislation because the Hyde Amendment is not permanent law. It is a provision within annual appropriations bills, meaning that it must be renewed with each annual federal budget to remain codified. To the extent its inclusion in the current federal budget may impede current legislation, it will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (subject to any continuing resolutions). Moreover, if necessary it could likely be repealed or excepted via reconciliation with a 51-vote threshold in the Senate given that it is itself a budgetary measure.

The Supreme Court: Consequences

S.M. in Marshall, MO, writes: I'm a reader in Missouri and as much as I loathe the Dobbs decision, I don't foresee going anywhere anytime soon. Housing costs are relatively low and my kids like their school district and friends. I hate big cities anyway, love our country lifestyle and both my kids are boys. I'm past reproductive age myself so the earliest this would directly affect me would be my boys' girlfriends or potential granddaughters. I'm personally not a big fan of abortion in general but I think it's ludicrous to try to have government officials police women's bodies. Biology is messy and trying to get law enforcement to tell the difference between a miscarriage and an abortion is nuts.

The fact Missouri has basically no exceptions is maddening but I'm hopeful that by the time it becomes an issue for me, at least, solutions will be available. Being able to leave the state is thus far relatively easy for me and really for most Missourians that live in reasonably sized cities that are all border towns (Kansas City and St. Louis). I don't live that close to the border and I have already spent a lot of time traveling great distances for medical care and it's something a lot of people in rural areas do anyway. I feel very badly for those that are stuck and don't have the means to travel but having my family voting with our feet would just mean fewer votes for rational policies.

I am more worried about later decisions and potential unrest. I am in a relatively liberal county in the state of Missouri, which has provided autism services for my two boys and in many ways is another "blueberry in the tomato soup." My hope is once Missourians really see what comes about from these policy changes that they will start voting for less regressive politicians. Plus, the more "sane" Missourians leave, the harder it will be to maintain good policy. There is of course a limit, if we get to the point of putting dissenters in prison or the like, then we may leave the state or the country if necessary.

B.B. in St. Louis, MO, writes: Now that the Supreme Court has done away with bodily autonomy, I suggest that laws be passed making it mandatory that all males undergo a vasectomy at age eighteen. They can spend the previous few years feverishly banking as much sperm as they can, but after the legislation is enacted, any woman who wants to become pregnant will be able to make a conscious choice to do so by making a withdrawal from the sperm bank. While incest and rape will not be eliminated, the number of unwanted pregnancies from same should be significantly reduced.

M.H. in Seattle, WA, writes: I should point out that while banning abortion will certainly have an impact on women, men will also be affected. I had a condom break in grad school and was fortunate that my partner and I had access to "plan B" from the local Planned Parenthood, so nothing came of it. Had things been different, I would have done what I could to support a child, but would be in a very different place today.

B.J.T. in Herndon, VA, writes: Dobbs will make IVF illegal indirectly.

First: I have three children, all conceived as a product of IVF. My wife and I tried for years to have children, and failing that, tried IUI and then ultimately IVF. We only needed to perform IVF once, but when we did, the process resulted in 35 fertilized eggs (embryos).

The IVF process works by destroying embryos that do not form well and weeding down to the healthiest embryos called blastocysts. On the day of our implantation, we had seven blastocysts. Two were implanted and resulted in a twin birth. We froze the other five.

For the next two years, we paid for these five to remain in storage until we decided to have more kids. The fertility clinic thawed three, discarded one that did not do well, and implanted two blastocysts. Those did not take. The clinic then thawed the last two, implanted those, and from that we received our third child.

If the current conservative movement is successful in defining life beginning at conception, then you can see where several parts of the IVF process now qualify as murder in their view. And thus ends the process of IVF. Luckily, my wife and I have our family and we are complete. But what happens to the hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who are not so lucky? What happens to same sex couples—who, by the way, seem like they are especially targetted by this reasoning? Two for one for the conservatives!

This is an unintended consequence of defining life at conception. I firmly believe that the embryos we discarded were not going to develop correctly, if at all. And yet, as crazy as it sounds, my wife and I would have had all 35 of those kids if we could have (or even donated to other, less lucky couples). But if I have someone outside of my family, making choices for me and enforcing upon me their belief, I no longer am in control of my family planning and my wife is no longer in control of her body. IVF will only be available in "blue" states until the Republicans somehow nationally outlaw abortion.

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: The question of whether John Roberts will surpass Roger Taney and be remembered as the "worst chief justice in history" is actually a trick question. Everyone is going to die from climate change and so there won't actually be anyone to remember him or write the history.

That said, "destroyed the union" probably isn't as bad as "destroyed the world."

The Supreme Court: The Future

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: It looks like we are on a trajectory where the Supreme Court has bought into the Republican Cobra Kai principles. The consistent undercurrent in their rulings in recent years is to expand the powers of Congress and the state legislatures by taking power from the executive and judicial branches. Good plan when you own those bodies and can gerrymander, and you know you can't win wider fair elections. The scary part is that we are heading towards a country where the laws in the two groups of states are too different from one another to function as a single nation.

My fear is that as the nation diverges, there will come a point where one side loses interest in being joined to the other. In keeping with the Cobra Kai principles and Republican paranoia, I expect them to act first and to do so when they have a functional trifecta at the federal level. That way they can neuter any military response of the federal government and get a self-dealing negotiated secession settlement.

L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: Back in the 1980s, I came up with a plan I sent to a number of people in both Houses of Congress, basically remodeling the U.S. court system after New York's.

In New York, there are counties with courts, judicial districts of multiple counties with state Supreme Court justices, four departments of multiple districts that hear appeals from the courts therein, and finally the Court of Appeals at the top... while the U,S, has made do with only 3 layers. So, I proposed that the U.S. set up four departments:

  • First Department: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Circuits (Pennsylvania and Delaware and all points north and east)
  • Second Department: 4th, D.C., 11th Circuits (the rest of the East Coast, not going west of West Virginia and Alabama)
  • Third Department: 5th, 6th, 7th Circuits (stretches from Texas to Ohio)
  • Fourth Department: 8th, 9th, 10th Circuits (everything west of the Third Department)

The Federal Circuit, being specialist rather than territorial, would not be affected.

A new seven-judge court would be appointed for each Department, and together they would absorb, and make final disposal of, most of the cases that currently reach the Supreme Court.

While the Supreme Court has (and in my opinion should have) no retirement age, the Circuits bar judges from becoming chief after age 65 or staying chief past 70 (though they can't compel senior status, even at 95, the age lately reached by Judge Pauline Newman of the Federal Circuit). Departmental judges would have it written right into their commissions that on their 75th birthdays they would automatically become senior departmental judges, eligible to sit in any of the U.S. courts in the Department by designation, but no longer counted among the seven seats. (I think changing the rules for an already-appointed judge's tenure might be counted as removal from office in an unconstitutional way, and creating any court that the Supreme Court could not overrule would also be constitutionally dicey.)

P.S. in Gloucester, MA, writes: As if the last week's worth of decisions were not bad enough, Moore vs. Harper scares the hell out of me.

It has the capacity to ensure minority rule that will make all the rest of the mayhem coming out of the Supreme Court permanent and nationwide.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: Ever-mindful of your repeated admonitions that you are not lawyers, I sometimes think your analyses of court opinions are a bit over the top. Not so with (Z)'s discussion of West Virginia v. EPA. The outcome was expected but it is still calamitous. And as (Z) points out, bad as the decision is for the environmental regulation, its ramifications will probably extend much further, especially in the hands of a couple of hundred Federalist-Society-selected-Trump-appointed lower federal judges who will predominate in interpreting and applying the decision. This is the culmination of 40, 50, 80 years of reaction to laws that protect Americans from all sorts of harm imposed in the pursuit of profit. Conservatives couldn't repeal the laws, but they managed to build a court that will neuter the laws—for decades to come.

Then there's the cert grant for Moore v. Harper. The "independent state legislature" theory is nonsense, at least as Americans have understood their Constitution since Marbury v. Madison. If the U.S. Supreme Court can decide that a federal legislative enactment is unconstitutional, how can it make sense that the Framers intended (without saying so) to shield (some) state legislative enactments from the same scrutiny by state courts? But allow me to offer one slim reed of hope: It only takes four votes for the Supreme Court to decide to review a case.

The Midterm Elections

T.V. in Moorpark, CA, writes: For the 2022 midterms, the Democrats need to run against the Supreme Court. They should propose comprehensive court reform and make this central to their campaigns. Remind voters how the Supreme Court has already weakened the Voting Rights act, taken away a woman's right to choose, blocked state gun safety laws and now blocked the EPA from addressing climate change.

Highlight their plans for banning gay marriage, restricting access to contraception and giving state legislators the ability to override the popular vote in presidential elections.

Most importantly, this needs to be personal. Run ads showing Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett lying during their confirmation hearings. Show Ginni Thomas' participation in the January 6th insurrection and Clarence Thomas' refusal to recuse himself.

The Republicans will have no choice but to oppose these reforms and the Democrats can highlight how the Republicans are using the Supreme Court to enact their radical and unpopular agenda.

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: It's not hyperbole to state this year's midterm elections are the most important in our lifetime. The base is more rabid today and are feeling their oats with the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade. If they win control of both the House and Senate this November, the only thing stopping them will be the filibuster and President Joe Biden's veto pen.

One must shudder at what things would look like if this extremism controlled all three branches with no end in sight and nothing to stop them. It would be too late.

F.C. in Sequim, WA, writes: Poll takers keep making a big deal out of Joe Biden's approval. Those that live in glass houses: Biden 40%, Supreme Court 36%, Congress 19% (70% disapprove). According to Emerson, at least...

R.V. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: With the news of Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) breaking his hip and needing surgery, he should retire now. This was his last term in office anyway. If Vermont governor Phil Scott (R) would agree to replace him with Rep. Pete Welch (D-VT), he should step down after the 4th of July holiday.

I'm really not being a "Cold Hearted Snake" to quote a Paula Abdul song, but hip surgery is not having moles removed, it is a very involved /invasive procedure. Leahy has had a long and distinguished career, but there is too much at stake and he should do what's best for the Democratic Party.

The Ron and Don Show

J.A. in Redwood City, CA, writes: In the item about Don vs. Ron in 2024, you speculated over the possibility of Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) being the top two vote-getters for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. Neither has made any statement about sharing the ticket with the other, and I doubt they ever will.

If Trump wins the Republican nomination (and he's still the odds-on favorite, as I see it), and even if DeSantis is a very close second in the race, then Trump will still pick someone else to be his choice for VP. The reasons for this should be self-evident:

  • As noted in the piece, Trump and DeSantis detest each other. Both are also cruel and vindictive, and that kind of graceless temperament does not translate well to political accommodation.

  • More importantly, what Trump values most in other people is their loyalty to him. He wants people whom he can control. Any challenger who comes in second—especially if it's a strong finish—would pose too much of a threat to Trump's ego and self-worth.

  • DeSantis is shrewd. He's well aware that everyone and everything that Trump touches dies. Even if he were offered the VP slot (or any other position in a second Trump administration), DeSantis knows better than to become yet another fall guy in someone else's corrupt administration.

  • DeSantis will be 46 years old on Election Day in 2024. Time is on his side. He doesn't need to run on a Trump ticket (and probably lose) in 2024, with so many other opportunities to run again on his own in the future.

And what about the reverse—What if DeSantis becomes the nominee over Trump? Then most Republicans will finally have decided that it's time to move on, and Trump's perpetual claims of being cheated will be dismissed as yesterday's news. With Trump in decline, DeSantis can safely pick someone else to be VP, with fewer liabilities and more cross-over appeal than Trump ever had.

Of course, if Trump doesn't win the GOP nomination, he could declare his candidacy to run as an independent. I think he'd be tempted, briefly, in order to continue grifting more donations from his supporters. Still, he'll know that he can't win that way, and the public humiliation of a second straight loss will be enough to dissuade him from making the attempt. Besides, there's still a viable income stream to be had from all of the gullible people willing to contribute to the ongoing "legal defense fund" of their favorite former president.

In summary: While the top of the Republican ticket will almost certainly be either Trump or DeSantis, neither will offer the VP slot to the other.

B.M. in Birmingham, AL, writes: I think your assessment of the impending Trump/DeSantis showdown was absolutely spot on. As a Trump supporter in 2016 and 2020, I believe a 2024 Trump candidacy is one of the few ways Joe Biden, with an historically low approval rating, could win. It actually surprises me the liberal media, and for that fact this site, hasn't picked up on this sooner. Republicans certainly have. Biden received over 80 Million votes in 2020, but I doubt anyone believes that could be duplicated unless a stimulus of hatred like a Donald Trump nomination could be injected into the election. So why wouldn't the media and the Democrats downplay the anti-Trump rhetoric until a time (2024) that would allow Republicans to hang themselves with a very damaged and Democrat mobilizing character like Trump?

That said, two things I have experienced in the last 30 days while traveling relating to this topic:

  • In the Tampa airport, shirts worn by white, Latina and Black voters that say "Make America Florida." This of course is an unofficial slogan of the Ron DeSantis support for a DeSantis 2024 Presidential Campaign.

  • Speaking with a Latina lady in San Francisco, CA, who was from Florida, she said she was frightened about what she saw on the streets. She quickly added, "I mean the crime on the streets. Police will just drive right by a crime being committed. What do we do?" My response, "Pray for our leaders and vote." Without any hesitation she said, with a big smile: "DeSantis!"

This means very little in July of 2022, but it does seem like the beginning of movement building.

All Politics Is Local

K.H. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: For the longest time, I wondered why GOP operatives in my state bothered with sending a set of fake electors to the National Archivist after the 2020 election. A little time spent with this map solved the mystery. If Georgia and Pennsylvania (or any other combination of 36 EVs) had been flipped to the Red column, Donald Trump would've still been 2 EVs short. Someplace with a handful of electors would still be needed. New Mexico has 5, just enough to squeak Trump over the finish line.

The bottom line is that no place is too inconsequential to be ignored by the folks who want to diminish electoral integrity and throw elections into chaos. And I see our recent messy primaries as simply a dress rehearsal for the 2022 midterms.

B.K. in Hell's Kitchen, NY, writes: I was horrified when I went to vote in the New York State primary. When I reached the polling place, it was so quiet that it felt like in the cartoons—you could hear crickets. The polls had been open since 6:00 A.M. When I arrived at my precinct at 11:15, I was only the 34th person. Everyone makes a big show of patting themselves on the back when they vote in the presidential election here. But to be honest, that is a foregone conclusion in New Tork. Then, with the other hand, these same people stab themselves in the back and skip the local elections, even though these elected officials will have the most immediate and direct impact on their daily lives.

Also, people like to think voting for lieutenant governor is unimportant. You'd have to be absolutely politically unaware if you live in New York and didn't notice that the last two elected governors resigned, thus elevating the lieutenant governors. (I also think that a lieutenant governor can have a major influence, but I won't go into that here.) Everyone I know is complaining about the threat to Democracy. However the basis and core of a democracy is the right and responsibility to vote. So I believe that every person who chose not to vote (and I'm talking about both political parties) is to be considered a true threat to democracy.

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: Regarding the fruit of Rudy's Loins: Andrew did lose statewide, but you'll notice that he did carry the outer boroughs of New York City. Pretty good, for someone whose main qualification for the job is that he was once kicked off the Duke golf team. I see a mayoral run in his future.

G.K. in Blue Island, IL, writes: Rep. Sean Casten's (D-IL) victory over Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) had a couple of footnotes.

First, Casten's teenage daughter died earlier this month so, if there's such a thing as a "sympathy vote," that probably moved the needle a little.

Second, Marie Newman turned out to be a problematic candidate, as the House Ethics Committee believes there's strong evidence of a quid pro quo that amounted to bribery on her part. The Casten campaign—or someone carrying water for them—aired primetime commercials here calling this out explicitly.

Just saying I'm not sure that district's primary was a referendum on Bernie Sanders or progressivism.

G.G. in Shreveport, LA, writes: Thanks to A.R. in Los Angeles for alerting us to the Aug. 2 vote on a proposed amendment to the constitution of Kansas that would strip Kansas women of the right to control their own bodies. A.R.'s timely info led me to find Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, whose website happily received my small donation to fight this step backward, and they will happily receive yours, too.

Climate Change

B.B. in Columbus, OH, writes: In response to the question from S.W. in Ottawa regarding climate change policy, the strong consensus view among economists is that if Congress is willing to act, the best climate policy is a carbon tax (with border adjustment). This would raise revenue instead of costing money, make polluters pay, allow the free market to find the best ways to reduce emissions (as has been extremely successful with sulfur dioxide cap-and-trade), and (if properly designed) give other countries incentives to lower their emissions. As a (n indirect) consumption tax, it would raise prices and thereby be regressive, but that can be easily solved by using some of the revenue to pay a flat dividend to every American citizen.

M.M. in Southern Pines, NC, writes: I believe in climate change, and I absolutely believe that it's man-made. I see it as a threat to the United States and to our longevity as a nation... and I also believe that there is nothing that we can do about it. A massive climatic realignment will happen in the next 300 years, and it will completely dishevel our way of life on this planet. Some scientists that I have read suggest that Siberia will be like Colorado in 300 years' time.

In my opinion, too many powerful countries with significant land masses in and around the Arctic Circle and elsewhere have too much to gain from climate change, and that this makes it impossible to prevent. We also cannot contend with the problem that rogue dictatorial states with significant fossil energy reserves don't care about anything except preserving their own regimes. Also, we will never convince emerging economies not to raise their populations out of poverty in the name of green.

With that in mind, I believe that the Unites States should invest in social and physical infrastructure to mitigate the threat of rising sea levels, intense storms, extreme temperatures, drought, flooding, and changes in weather patterns, instead of trying to prevent them. There may come some newfangled solution to climate change in the future... but it's not here today and it won't be here tomorrow.

I would much rather see massive investment into seawalls, coastal defense, and the restoration of the Mississippi delta (for example), rather than any policy or law that impedes our economy.

Just like we did with smoking and seatbelts, Americans need to come to the right mindset about pollution... and that right (and Christian) mindset is that it's never OK to pollute. I want to burn all the coal in West Virginia without ever releasing a molecule of CO2 into the atmosphere. To many this sounds crazy, but I think it's closer to what most Americans would be happy with. I am all for safe pipelines and clean fossil energy extraction.

Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, etc. don't care about climate change and won't do anything to change the trajectory of global warming and its consequences, and for this reason we should abandon our efforts to stop climate change at the expense of our economy.

History Matters

D.M. in Burnsville, MN, writes: D.E. in Lancaster asks "Has there been a President in our history who had violent physical temper tantrums? Has there been a President in our history who has physically assaulted one of his staff members? And I know this is more subjective, but has there ever been a President in our history who has acted so morally bankrupt or one who was so clearly mentally unfit to hold office?"

I'm not surprised that you decided to not include this example, so clear in the memories of us older Americans, because it doesn't quite rise to the levels implied by any of the questions:

But it is, I believe, of a similar nature at the alleged "grabbing for the steering wheel" (if that indeed occurred) on Jan 6.

V & Z respond: You could say that Ziegler got Dicked around.

B.B. in Columbus, OH, writes: D.E.'s question made me think of two incidents involving President James Monroe which are described here, though in both cases he was trying to prevent violence rather than start it.

There was also Harry S. Truman's infamous letter to a music critic who criticized his daughter's singing, which contained violent threats directed at its addressee.

D.C. in Delray Beach, FL, writes: In response to your answer about Presidents assaulting their staff members, please consider including JFK taking the virginity of intern Mimi Alford, and continuing the relationship while in office. The story was widely reported in 2012.

T.B. in Leon County, FL, writes: You mentioned on Saturday a few former presidents with alcohol-related or other mental impairments. You did not include Ronald Reagan, who may have been mentis compos when first elected but by the end of his second term was surely weakened by Alzheimer's (which later debilitated him). Woodrow Wilson, after suffering a stroke, was unable to perform presidential duties; was there a mental aspect to his incapacitation? These two presidents were "carried over the line" by supportive family and staff, so their mental challenges didn't particularly mal-affect the country.

V & Z respond: For what it is worth, Reagan's physicians said that his Alzheimer's did not manifest until after he left office.

R.G.N. in Seattle, WA, writes: Concerning the question of how much control the Secret Service has over the president, I suspect it depends on the president. I can recall searching the shelves of a locally famous bookstore in downtown Seattle, when a person behind me asked what local guidebooks I would recommend. Turning to address the question, I was startled to see President Clinton and several very harried looking Secret Service agents. I showed the President several guides and we had a short discussion about how to pronounce local place names. I always have a Buck pocketknife or Swiss Army knife in one of my pockets, so I can see why the agents looked nervous. An old fashioned bookstore with narrow aisles between 10-foot high bookshelves must have been a nightmare for them. I suspect the visit was spur-of-the-moment and that the President enjoyed moments when he had a little control over his life.

Anti-Complaints Department

M.G. in Boulder, CO, writes: We're getting a lot of bad news right now—a former president who has gone from crass to criminal, a Supreme Court that no longer functions as the voice of reason or as the check/balance it was meant to be, mass murders happening so often they're expected, a pandemic that is uncontrolled because people have been encouraged to behave irresponsibly and call their behavior principled. No wonder people are turning off their TVs and avoiding the news. Even is becoming depressing—the situation has gone beyond snark—we can no longer laugh at this mess.

This is our war. It's been our war for some time. Wars are horrible, wasteful, and difficult, but also sometimes necessary. They cannot be fought without intelligence and information. I want to thank (V) and (Z) for wading through the muck to choose what is most significant and then telling us why it's significant and what the news means for the future. Thanks for providing the information we need to make the best choices for ourselves, our country, and our future. Please don't give up.

V & Z respond: We are deeply appreciative of the kind words! We don't normally run laudatory letters, but once in a while it's worth reminding folks that we do get them, and it's not just complaints.


D.K. in Chicago, IL, writes: A.S. in Bedford wrote: "It feels like the Democrats brought a checkers board to a boxing match and it's gruesome to watch."

On a trivial note, to lighten the mood, there actually is a sport called chess boxing that takes place in a boxing ring and alternates between rounds of chess and boxing.

V & Z respond: Yep. We've already got our tickets to the big Magnus Carlsen vs. Mike Tyson showdown. That one's probably going to come down to which activity they do first.

H.B. in State College, PA (by way of Ann Arbor, MI), writes: So (Z) asserts UCLA is easily going to beat Michigan!?

Leading me to ask: Does accept wagers? Put your money where your mouth is!

V & Z respond: Wait... you want to bet whether it will be just a victory, or will be a shutout?

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY (by way of Ann Arbor, MI), writes: Michigan leads UCLA in football all time, 8-3. That's pretty much a thrashing. Go Blue (and I mean real blue, not the wishy-washy, bleached-out hue).

V & Z respond: And yet, as that site notes, it's UCLA that has a win streak going. In fact, UCLA has won every game the teams played since the year 2000.

D.C. in Hofheim, Germany (by way of Palo Alto, CA), writes: For those of us from Stanford, it's common to refer to USC as U$C. I guess now we can start referring to UCLA as u¢la.

V & Z respond: Dunno, do you think Stanford has the credibility to pull that particular line of attack off? This is the same Stanford founded with money from a robber baron who plundered the state and federal governments and exploited Chinese labor, right?

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: With the recent decisions by our reactionary, activist, politicized Supreme Court, decisions without even the pretense of careful legal and judicial thought, that Canadian invasion is looking more and more attractive every day.

V & Z respond: You're not kidding.

M.C. in Aberdeen, Scotland, writes: You continue to surprise me in again resisting mention of how Canada Day coincides with International Joke Day.

V & Z respond: Someone has to be the adult in the room.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul02 Saturday Q&A
Jul01 Supreme Court Gets Out the Sledgehammers Again...
Jul01 ...And They're Teeing Them Up for Next Term
Jul01 Biden Calls for Abortion Carve-Out, Manchin and Sinema Say "Nope!"
Jul01 Biden to Try a Little Saudi Soft Shoe?
Jul01 Move over, Hillary v. Bernie; It's Time for Don vs. Ron
Jul01 This Week in Schadenfreude
Jun30 The Next Battle in the Abortion Wars Is over Mifepristone and Misoprostol
Jun30 Californians Will Vote on Abortion in November
Jun30 Democrats Are Spending Millions to Protect Sens. Murray and Bennet
Jun30 Giuliani's Biggest Legal Exposure May Be in Georgia
Jun30 Meadows and Giuliani Deny Asking for Pardons
Jun30 Justice Breyer Is Hanging Up His Robe Today
Jun30 John Wood Enters the Missouri Senate Race
Jun30 Which States Are the Most Independent?
Jun29 The 1/6 Committee Hearings, Day 6: Baby, You Can't Drive My Car
Jun29 About Those Seized Phones...
Jun29 By the Way, There Were Some Elections Yesterday
Jun29 Supreme Court Restores Louisiana Map
Jun29 Finland and Sweden, Come on Down
Jun28 Surprise Hearing for the 1/6 Committee
Jun28 Johnson Keeps Flopping Around
Jun28 Is Eastman a Criminal?
Jun28 SCOTUS Did It Again
Jun28 What a Bill Protecting Abortion Might Look Like
Jun28 Paging Joe Biden, Part I: Crickets
Jun28 Paging Joe Biden, Part II: Howard Stern for President
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Jun27 Elections in Five States Tomorrow
Jun27 Gun Bill Becomes Gun Law
Jun27 New Polls on Roe and Trump Published
Jun27 What Do Polls Measure?
Jun26 The End of Roe: Reader Comments
Jun26 The End of Roe: Reader Questions
Jun25 The End of Roe
Jun25 The End of Roe: What the Pundits Are Saying
Jun24 The 1/6 Committee Hearings, Day 5: The People vs. Donald Trump
Jun24 DOJ Looks to Be Turning Up the Heat
Jun24 Senate Advances Gun Control By a Couple of Inches...
Jun24 ...And the Supreme Court Promptly Sets It Back By a Couple of Miles
Jun24 News from the Local Politics Desk
Jun24 News from the Foreign Affairs Desk
Jun24 This Week in Schadenfreude
Jun23 Select Committee Has Received New Evidence
Jun23 The Top One-liners from Tuesday Hearing