• Biden Writes another Op-Ed: Rockets for Ukraine
• Sussman Not Guilty
• SCOTUS Blocks Texas Social Media Law
• Walker Snipes at Trump
• Barnes Is Slipping in Wisconsin
• You Gotta Love These New York City Mayors
Traditionally, the party that holds the White House takes a beating in the midterms. And traditionally, the extent of that beating is dictated by how strong or weak the economy is. If there's one thing Joe Biden knows well, it's the traditional thinking. And so, he has quite reasonably persuaded himself that he needs to do something about the economy if the Democrats are to have any hope of holding the Senate and the House. To that end, he published an op-ed on Tuesday laying out his battle plan.
The op-ed appeared in The Wall Street Journal, which is instructive in terms of the audience the President is trying to reach. That said, the paper did not put the op-ed behind its usual firewall. Maybe that was the editors' choice, though we kinda suspect Biden insisted on that as a condition of giving the Journal the scoop. In any case, that means that readers can examine the op-ed for themselves, if they wish, though here is the executive summary:
- Blame Trump: The name of Biden's predecessor does not appear, as you might imagine.
However, the President does remind us that when he took office, COVID was out of control and a recession was underway.
He leaves it to the reader to decide who might have been responsible for those things.
- The Good News: The President also takes time to point out the good news, namely the number
of jobs that have been created under his watch, the resulting low unemployment rate, and a reduction in household debt.
Biden also points out that the U.S. is doing better than any of the other G7 nations, and that its economy may outpace
China's for the first time since 1976.
- The Federal Reserve: Biden writes that it's up to the Fed to manage inflation, that he's
appointed good people to the Fed's Board, and that he's now going to stay out of their way as opposed to
"inappropriately" demeaning them and trying to influence their decision-making. That's the sort of stuff "my
predecessor" did, observes Biden. The President does not specify which predecessor he's referring to, but our money is
on that good-for-nothing bastard Franklin Pierce.
- Reducing Prices: The whole op-ed reads very much like a State of the Union address,
blending "what I've done" and "what I want to do," and there's nowhere that's more true than this section. Biden
observes that gas prices are a real problem, and that he's doing what he can given the impact of the Ukraine war, like
releasing gas from the strategic petroleum reserve. He writes that he wants Congress to pass a bunch of incentives and
tax credits that would, he claims, save the average family $500 in energy costs.
Biden also writes that he wants to work on prices for housing, for consumer goods, for healthcare, and for prescription drugs. He alludes to his proposals in these areas, but does not spell them out, due either to limited space or limited attention spans on the part of readers.
- The Deficit: The President brags that the deficit will drop by $1.7 trillion this year, which is indeed good news (although it's primarily due to the end of the vast COVID outlays). He asserts that he wants to do even better by passing "common-sense reforms to the tax code," like giving the IRS more resources to chase down tax cheats, and increasing the taxes that billionaires pay.
There is precious little here that the President can do by himself. There is much here that involves action by others. Biden is hoping that the Fed comes up with the sort of performance it did during the Alan Greenspan years, and he is begging Congress to pass some version of Build Back Better (even if that it's not the name anymore). Will Wall Street be impressed by Biden's explanation of his plan, and his admission that the ball basically isn't in his court? For what it's worth, the Dow Jones was down 222 points yesterday. (Z)
Joe Biden was a busy beaver yesterday. Or maybe it was the person who writes his op-eds for him; presidents have speechwriters, and we have to assume they have op-ed writers, too. In fact, they are probably the same people. Anyhow, although the U.S. has been providing Ukraine with all sorts of weaponry, like Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger antiaircraft missiles, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been pushing for something with a bit more oomph, namely the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). HIMARS has a range of 50 miles, which is theoretically enough to reach portions of Russia (though not Moscow).
Initially, Biden said that HIMARS was off the table, while Vladimir Putin warned that providing such weaponry would be crossing a "red line." Thereafter, the President was lambasted from both sides of the aisle, and by many prominent people internationally. And so, in his second op-ed of the day yesterday, the President announced that the Ukrainians would get the good stuff after all. Biden did not mention HIMARS by name, but he did write:
As President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has said, ultimately this war "will only definitively end through diplomacy." Every negotiation reflects the facts on the ground. We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.
That's why I've decided that we will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.
There's no question as to what "advanced rocket systems" Biden has in mind.
It is entirely plausible that Donald Trump would change his mind about an important decision like this based on the blowback it produced. After all, he just wants to be loved. It is less plausible, albeit not impossible, that Biden would allow his policy decisions to be made in this way. Our guess is that he always intended to give HIMARS to Zelenskyy, and that doing it this way afforded a little political cover. Either way, it's now up to Putin to make clear what the consequences of crossing a "red line" are, if any. We imagine that the Russian is already doing what he can to hurt the U.S. (e.g., cyberattacks) and that he's not willing to escalate things militarily by, say, launching a few nukes. Certainly Biden, who has way better intel than we do, has decided that Putin is a paper tiger. Or maybe a paper bear. (Z)
You are to be forgiven if you forgot that there's a special prosecutor left over from the Trump-era Department of Justice. John Durham was appointed to look into wrongdoing in the Trump-Russia investigations. There seemed to be little evidence of such wrongdoing at the time Durham was appointed, and given how little he's turned up despite being on the job for 3 years, that assessment would seem to have been on target.
The one big fish that Durham did land, such as it is, is former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussman. Durham ostensibly turned up evidence that Sussman lied to the FBI. So, the special prosecutor indicted Sussman and put him on trial. The jury spent 6 hours over the past 2 days deliberating, and then returned with a verdict of not guilty.
Donald Trump was, as you might expect, furious. Here's how he responded on his social media platform:
Our Legal System is CORRUPT, our Judges (and Justices!) are highly partisan, compromised or just plain scared, our Borders are OPEN, our Elections are Rigged, Inflation is RAMPANT, gas prices and food costs are "through the roof," our Military "Leadership" is Woke, our Country is going to HELL, and Michael Sussmann is not guilty. How's everything else going? Enjoy your day!!!
What a strange man he is.
For Durham to lose in a federal trial is a pretty big deal, since federal prosecutors have a very high success rate in trials (95%+). That adds further credence to the notion that the special prosecutor is grasping at straws. For his 3 years of work, he has one guilty plea, one not guilty verdict, and one more trial (of Russian expatriate Igor Danchenko, also for alleged lying to the FBI) on the docket. AG Merrick Garland has clearly decided to let Durham keep going until the investigation runs out of steam. Is that to make absolutely certain that no stone goes unturned in search of possible wrongdoing? Or is it to avoid criticism about the Department of Justice carrying water for Joe Biden and the Democrats? Our guess is that it is the latter, but readers can reach their own conclusions.
The fact that the Durham probe has been a dud is not going to stop Republicans from launching a bunch more investigations once they are again in power. House Republicans are already salivating over the possibilities for when and if they regain control of the lower chamber, and are speaking openly about their plans. And, as the numerous Benghazi "investigations" and the numerous Clinton e-mail "investigations" showed us, nobody is more skilled at abusing Congress' power to investigate than House Republicans. There is, in the end, no downside for them. Even if they don't come up with anything, the fact is that for many voters, just the existence of an investigation is proof of malfeasance. (Z)
The Texas legislature, which never misses a chance to launch an offensive in the culture wars, passed a law last year that forbade most moderation of content by social media providers. The law, which is of dubious merit on First and Tenth Amendment grounds, among other possible objections, was promptly stayed by Judge Robert Pitman of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. It was then unstayed by everyone's favorite group of judges, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The judges who made that decision explained that... well actually, they didn't explain themselves. There still isn't a written ruling from them. Anyhow, when we wrote this story up, we had no idea what the Supreme Court might do.
Yesterday, there was a preliminary answer to that question, one that makes us feel not too badly that we were unable to predict the outcome. The Supreme Court reimposed the stay by a vote of 5-4. Ok, so that part wasn't so hard to predict. However, wait until you hear how the vote broke down. In the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. In the minority were Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch. Anyone who says they saw that coming is either a liar or else needs to head to Las Vegas right now so that they can place some large wagers.
Tuesday's news doesn't necessarily tell us much about what will happen when this case gets a full hearing at the various levels of the court system. To injunct or not to injunct is basically a quick and dirty judgment call based on a superficial examination of the case. And six of the nine SCOTUS justices offered no explanation for their votes. The three who did were the three conservatives in the minority, who all signed onto a statement by Alito asserting that it is "not at all obvious how our existing precedents, which predate the age of the Internet, should apply to large social media companies." That's an excellent point; someone should get out a Ouija board and ask Tom Jefferson for his views on Facebook. Maybe we can see if that's something the staff psychic is willing to work on. Unfortunately, her time is occupied these days with séances, as she tries desperately to get George Washington's opinion on trans swimmers. (Z)
Looks like there's trouble in paradise. The newly-minted Republican nominee for Georgia's U.S. Senate seat, Herschel Walker, decided to celebrate his triumph by taking a potshot at Donald Trump. Appearing on the show of rapper and TV host Killer Mike, Walker decided the time had come to set the record straight:
One thing that people don't know is President Trump never asked me [to run]. I need to tell him that he never asked. I heard it all on television that, "He's going to ask Herschel," saying Herschel is going to run. President Trump never came out and said "Herschel, will you run for that Senate seat?" So, I'm mad at him, because he never asked, but he's taking credit that he asked.
Walker also explained that he and his wife prayed for some other candidate to step forward, and when one didn't, that was a sign for him to take the plunge. So, the real decider here was God, assuming that you believe that Gary Black, Latham Saddler, Josh Clark, and the other Republican contenders were the candidates of... Satan? Vishnu? Zeus? Druantia? Ataguchu?
At first glance, it might seem that Walker—who has hardly shown himself to be a skilled politician—has made the mistake of biting the hand that feeds him, and very possibly alienating his most important benefactor. Given the timing, however, we are inclined to doubt it. Now that the primaries are over, it's time to pivot to the center. And that's in a state where Donald Trump's support does not appear to count for much, given how badly his other candidates did in the primaries, and given that he himself lost Georgia in 2020. Our guess is that Walker, or more likely someone in his orbit, decided it was time to create some distance between the candidate and the former president. It will be interesting to see how Trump responds, since Walker is the only high-profile candidate left in Georgia who is even moderately Trumpy. (Z)
As long as we're on the subject of Black U.S. Senate candidates, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D-WI) has, thus far, been the wire-to-wire frontrunner for the right to face off against Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). He is the dream candidate of the Bernie wing of the Democratic Party, between his unquestionably progressive politics, his substantial experience in elective office (closing in on 10 years, despite being only 35), his ethnic background (and yes, he is named after Nelson Mandela), and parents who were lifelong union members.
However, the race is now tightening. Given that Johnson appears to be quite vulnerable, Democrats came out of the woodwork for the opportunity to challenge him, and 10 of them, in addition to Barnes, qualified for the primary. Many of those are unserious candidates, but a new poll from Normington Petts suggests that two of Barnes' rivals are gaining some traction. The first of those is Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, a moderate who has a fat bank account and can self-fund. The second is State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who has already won statewide election (like Barnes) but who is pretty moderate (like Lasry). The new poll has Barnes with 34% support, Lasry with 31%, and Godlewski with 18%, with 5% of the vote going to other candidates and 12% of respondents undecided.
The Wisconsin Senate race has gotten relatively little attention, in part because Badger State voters will head to the polls near the end of primary season (Aug. 9). That means there's time for a fair bit of movement, and for a lot more polling (there have only been three polls of the race since February). Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) & Co. want this seat very, very badly. Will they be able to restrain themselves, and to avoid the temptation to try to steer the race toward one of the more moderate candidates? And if they are unable to stay out of the kitchen, as it were, who will benefit? Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) might have some useful thoughts about what happens once everyone knows you are the "establishment" candidate. (Z)
Maybe, instead of "The Big Apple," New York City should be known as "The Big Bubble." Mind you, we bear no ill will toward the mayors of NYC, but we are continually amazed and amused by how out-of-touch they seem to be.
Let's start with the current mayor, Eric Adams. He's been in office for a grand total of 5 months. On taking office, he hitched his wagon to Bitcoin, "taking" his first paycheck in that commodity. The meltdown of crypto is making that look less than prescient. Adams ran on a "tough on crime" platform, only to see a noticeable uptick in criminal activity after he took office (it's up about 40%). In crass fashion, he tried to squeeze some political capital out of the Uvalde shootings, claiming that the police would never have screwed up so badly if the incident had taken place in New York. And while Adams is Black, he's made a point of criticizing Black Lives Matter on a regular basis, with the consequence that many Black voters are leery of him.
In short, for all of these reasons (and others), New York City voters are already suffering from some buyer's remorse when it comes to their nearly new mayor. A recent Marist Poll found that only 40% of New Yorkers think Adams is doing a good job. Since Marist started polling that question back in 1990, that's a worse number than any first-year mayor besides Bill de Blasio (who was at 39%). And a Quinnipiac poll released at the start of May says that just 43% of New Yorkers approve of the job Adams is doing, as compared to 37% who disapprove. Those are pretty poor numbers for what is generally a "honeymoon" period. Especially for a mayor whose predecessor was roundly despised by the time he left office.
Despite all of this, Adams reportedly looks in the mirror each morning and sees... a potential U.S. president. According to people in his inner circle, he is laying the groundwork for a White House run if Joe Biden chooses to step aside in 2024. We predict nothing but good things, as the New York City mayor's office is an excellent launching pad for a successful presidential campaign. Just ask presidents Koch, Giuliani, Bloomberg, and de Blasio.
And speaking of de Blasio, in case he hasn't already come in for enough abuse in this item, he's now made official that he will run for the House, with an eye toward representing the very blue NY-10. Yes, he left the mayor's office with his tail between his legs. And yes, his presidential bid went nowhere, while he had to end his gubernatorial bid before it started. But one of the most progressive-friendly districts in America should be a good fit, right? Not so much, as it turns out. According to a new poll from Emerson/The Hill, only 6% of Democratic voters in that district would definitely support de Blasio with their votes.
Now, we should point out that the result is not quite as bad as it seems. Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY), who's doing some district-jumping from NY-17 (Rockland County, and portions of central and northwestern Westchester County) to NY-10 (Brooklyn, about 30 miles to the south) polled at 7%, while state Rep. Yuh-Line Niou was in third place with 5%. In other words, the vast majority of voters (77%) are undecided. However, for 94% of Democrats, who know full well who de Blasio is, and what is record is, to be uninterested in more of the same? That's pretty poor and does not bode well for his chances as voters get to know Jones and Niou better. If this doesn't work out for the former mayor, maybe there's some small town upstate that needs a new dogcatcher. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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