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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2020: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2020 : (None)
Political Wire logo U.S. Pipeline Agency Pulls Back Plan to Assess Climate Impact
US and EU Announce Plan to Undercut Russian Energy
Fortenberry Found Guilty In Campaign Probe
Manchin Launches New Push for Spending Bill
GOP Frets Over How Hard to Fight Jackson
McCarthy Predicts Big Republican Majority

"I Think It's Bullshit"

We don't normally talk dirty on this family-friendly blog, but when it is a direct quote from a United States senator on national television, we'll make an exception. Republicans have been pummeling Ketanji Brown Jackson as soft on crime, especially child pornography, for two days. Now the Democrats are firing back. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) yesterday said: "I think it's bullshit. Look at the source [Sen. Josh Hawley, R-MO]. Coming from someone else, it may have more credibility. The guy's running for president and he says outlandish things."

What is noteworthy is that Tester is from a very red state, but he's not afraid to call out Hawley for making up stuff. If you were looking for Democrats who might waver about confirming Jackson, Tester would be among the top three, but he is clearly a vote to confirm her. If all 50 Democrats can hold together, then President of the Senate Kamala Harris could finally say: "Cactus Jack Garner was wrong. This job is at least worth a bucket of the finest champagne."

Tester isn't up until 2024, a presidential year, which tends to be better for Democrats, but some of the more vulnerable Democrats who are up this year are not buying Hawley's garbage. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) said he was impressed with Jackson's testimony. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) said the "soft-on-crime" narrative has been "discredited." Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) said: "I think it's unfortunate that some of my colleagues are apparently willing to abdicate their responsibility to advise and consent for the sake of short-term political gain."

Hawley's insinuation that Jackson was soft on child porn is completely disingenuous and he knows it very well. There is a huge difference between someone who produces child porn and someone who simply finds it on the Internet and downloads it for personal use. Federal law doesn't distinguish between producers and consumer of porn, but judges do and they give lighter sentences to consumers while throwing the book at producers. Jackson's sentences, like those of Republican-appointed judges, take that difference into account. Hawley has a J.D. from Yale and is said to be fairly smart. He knows the difference perfectly well and is just trying to score political points at Jackson's expense, possibly sullying the Supreme Court in the process.

Even if Jackson's confirmation is a done deal, the Democrats would love for it to be bipartisan, meaning that at least one Republican voted for her. If Diogenes were alive now and wandering around the Senate looking for an honest Republican, he'd have a lot of trouble finding one. All of them know that Jackson is at least as qualified as Brett Kavanaugh and unlike him, has never been credibly accused of a serious crime. But, they don't have the guts to say so. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) put it succinctly: "A lot of the jack-assery we see around here is people mugging for the cameras." Some of the Republicans are hinting that they are at least trying. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said: "Her uncle was the police chief of Miami; her brother was an undercover guy in Baltimore. Doesn't sound like a soft-on-crime person." Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said: "There is no there, there." But he said he hadn't made a decision yet.

Then there is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). He is special. There have been numerous (anonymous) reports that one thing all 99 of the other senators agree on is that Ted Cruz is a jackass. They all despise him. It is truly bipartisan. Yesterday, he again demonstrated why they can't stand him. When Jackson was trying to explain why Cruz was cherrypicking the cases he wanted her to respond to, Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL), who all of the other 99 senators like and respect, interjected: "I'd just say to the judge, there is no point in responding—he's going to interrupt you." She said "Thank you" to Durbin. Cruz then got on his high horse (and in Texas they are very high indeed) and said "Look I appreciate the chairman trying to filibuster, and if you don't like your witness's answers you're welcome to provide your own." Durbin shot back: "I'm asking you to give her a chance to answer." Here is the exchange; just watch it (it's only 2 minutes) and you'll understand why the other 99 senators can't stand Cruz:

Despite all the jack-assery (thank you Sen. Sasse), there was actually one bit of news from the hearing today. Jackson agreed to recuse herself from the upcoming case on Harvard's use of affirmative action in admissions because she is a current member of Harvard's Board of Overseers. Probably her vote won't matter because it is very likely that five or six justices will rule that taking race into consideration in admissions violates the Constitution. That decision, if it happens, would overturn Bakke v. U.C. Regents, in which the Court ruled that race could be taken into consideration as one factor among many. If Bakke is overturned, then precedent and stare decisis clearly mean little to this Court and Roe is probably next on the chopping block. (V)

Biden Is in Europe Today

The Ketanji Brown Jackson hearing is dominating the news right now, but there is still a war going on in Ukraine and there is plenty of news about it as well. A major item is that Joe Biden will attend a G-7 meeting, a NATO Emergency Summit, and visit Poland, starting today. At the G-7 meeting in Brussels, he will discuss further sanctions on Russia with the European leaders present. He will also discuss cracking down on people evading the sanctions. Also on the agenda will be how to wean Europe from its dependence on Russian oil and gas. The U.S. can up production, but there aren't enough tankers available to transport it to Europe and building more tankers will take a couple of years at best. All trans-Atlantic flights used to go from Gander, Newfoundland to Shannon, Ireland. A Gander-to-Shannon pipeline ain't gonna happen. Ever. Nuclear power plants take decades to build. Going green will obviously be on the agenda, but that also takes time to make a dent.

At the NATO meeting, the hot topic will be: "What do we do if Russian President Vladimir Putin goes nuclear?" And: Do mini-nukes count? What about poison gas attacks? The goal is to cause Russia pain, but not start World War III. With a cold-blooded tyrant like Putin, that will be a fine line to walk. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the meeting by video. He seems to have a lot of video gigs these days. But good PR in key countries is hugely important for Ukraine.

NSA Jake Sullivan said yesterday that he hadn't seen any evidence that China is supplying Russia with arms. From China's point of view, staying neutral and on good terms with its biggest trading partner, the U.S., is probably more important than selling some weapons, even though Russia has currency reserves in yuan and is able to pay for them. Maybe China really is shipping baby formula to Russia. Sullivan also said that more sanctions on top Russians would be announced at the meetings today. Interestingly enough, Zelenskyy doesn't want oligarch Roman Abramovich sanctioned because he has connections very high up in Russia and could act as a go-between in cease-fire negotiations.

Biden isn't the only one working on the Ukraine issue. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz talked to Putin yesterday and said he would like a cease fire. Good luck with that one. On the other hand, Sweden is sending Ukraine another batch of 5,000 anti-tank weapons. Also field rations, body armor, and helmets.

One interesting note is that Putin is now asking for payment for oil and gas shipments in rubles. This is clearly an attempt to prop up the ruble because it will force customers of Russian gas and oil to go out and buy rubles, thus driving the price up. Back in the 1970s, one ruble was nominally worth more than one dollar, at least officially, although the black market valued it at about 20¢. Here is a graph showing how many rubles were needed to buy $1 since 1997. In 1997, you needed 10 rubles to buy $1; right now it is 90 rubles.

Rubles to dollars 1997 to 2022. In the late 1990s it jumped
from about 10 rubles to the dollar up to 30 rubles. Then it stayed pretty level until 2014, when it spiked to about 70 rubles. The price moved around between 
60 and 80 for the next 8 years, and then jumped to 100 recently.

After finishing talking to everyone in Brussels, Biden will go to Poland to talk to Polish leaders. One hot-button topic is whether Poland should supply Ukraine with MiG-29 fighter jets and how will the U.S. compensate Poland for loss of much of its air force. Also, millions of refugees are streaming into Poland. While the Polish government is not turning anyone away, it can't handle the situation and certainly needs help. There will certainly be discussions about what form that help would take. Transferring a billion dollars to the account of Polish central bank won't actually help the refugees (or the Polish government) much, but shipments of food, medicine, clothes, sleeping bags, and other items could help a lot. Biden will probably ask for and get a shopping list detailing items the refugees can use right now. (V)

U.S. Says Russians Are Committing War Crimes in Ukraine

In a speech a week ago, Joe Biden called Vladimir Putin a war criminal. Now the other shoe has dropped. Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday accused the Russian troops in Ukraine of committing war crimes. It makes sense. If a war is being run by a war criminal, then there will be war crimes committed. Blinken said he was pursuing every avenue possible to hold the criminals accountable. Easier said than done.

Among other war crimes he said the Russians have committed are destroying apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, shopping centers, and critical infrastructure. Many of them were clearly identified as civilian, not military, structures. In addition, Russians have killed at least 2,400 civilians in Mariupol. According to the laws of war, invading armies are supposed to aim at military targets and not intentionally go after civilians.

Prosecuting war crimes is notoriously difficult. First, the criminals have to be caught and brought before some kind of court. Often the criminals try to avoid this happening. Second, proving that an attack was intended to kill civilians is often difficult. If there is any military or quasi-military target (e.g., a power substation) nearby, a defense could be: "We were aiming at the military target but we missed. It wasn't intentional." Third, it is hard to figure out who committed the crime. Was it the low-level grunt who pushed the button that actually fired the missile that blew up the school? Or was it the sergeant who ordered him to do so? Or maybe the commissioned officer who picked the target that day? Or still higher up? Perhaps at the very top? But all of this is completely moot unless the alleged criminals can be captured alive and forced to stand trial. (V)

Democrats Are Their Own Worst Enemy

The past two Democratic presidents didn't do so well in their first midterms. The numbers don't lie. Here are the number of seats that flipped in those elections.

    House Senate
Midterm President Dem GOP Dem GOP
1994 Bill Clinton -54 +54 -8 +8
2010 Barack Obama -63 +63 -6 +6

So even if the Democrats had pulled off a hugely successful first year in 2021-22, getting most of their agenda passed—which they haven't—it would be a struggle for them in November. But history is only part of the problem. Thomas Edsall has an essay in The New York Times that shows that the problem is deeper than just history of the midterms. It is worth reading.

Fundamentally, Democrats are geographically concentrated, with most of them living in cities. Most city dwellers are fairly progressive, so progressive urban Democrats have a very large say in the Democratic Party's positions. The problem is that they do not represent a majority of the country or a majority of the (gerrymandered) House districts and many of the things they want are anathema to the rest of the country. On top of that, many of them want JRB to be the new FDR or LBJ and he wasn't elected for that purpose, and the votes aren't there in the Senate for a transformative presidency in any event. In fact, were it not for Donald Trump's help in Georgia telling Republicans not to bother voting in the runoffs because they were rigged, Republicans would have been in the majority and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would be de facto running the country. All in all, this is not a huge mandate for massive change.

So to avoid losing the House and maybe the Senate, Democrats have to pay more attention to how to win swing districts, and even pinkish R+3 districts. Edsall has written about this before. Now he has talked to more political scientists and looked at more studies and the conclusion is the same: To avoid a wipeout in November, Democrats have to listen to the voters, find out what they care about, and get on board with that, even when the voter's priorities aren't what the Democrats think they should be. Recent polls show that voters believe Republicans will do a better job on the top issues they care about, namely rebuilding the economy, inflation, crime, and securing the border. Democrats would prefer that the voters cared most about universal pre-K, free college, and a $15 minimum wage, but they don't. Those issues all poll well, but they are not top priority and talking about them at all just makes people think the Democrats don't care about their lives and issues. When you come down to it, a lot of voters live hand-to-mouth and care most about issues that will come up in the next 24 hours (like buying gas this afternoon) and less about improving the mean educational level of the country in 10 years. They also see the Democrats as elitist for failing to understand this.

Edsall cites Jonathan Rodden's book Why Cities Lose which makes the point that ideas that get cheers in Berkeley, Seattle, and Minneapolis often don't play well in Peoria.

He also cites Sarah Anzia, a professor at Berkeley, who notes that during the pandemic, the teachers' unions fought to keep schools closed for a long time and the Democrats were much more sensitive to the union pressure than to the desires of parents who couldn't go to work to pay the rent as long as their kids were at home. This is another example of where the long-term good was probably on the Democrats' side, but the voters were with the Republicans. When given a choice between "do what's right" and "do what the voters want," the Democrats generally choose the former—and pay the price at the ballot box. This is a clear example.

Isabel Sawhill of the (left-wing) Brookings Institution ran a study of the white working class wants. To her horror, they have a negative view of government, believe in personal responsibility, and see family and religion as the main aspects of their lives. That's the Republicans' platform (or was, back when they had a platform).

Sean Westwood, a professor of political science at Dartmouth, said that misguided social policies are driving voters away from the Democrats and toward the Republicans. He noted that crippling the police and injecting social justice into math classes are not the way to win elections.

Will Bunch, a liberal columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, isn't buying this and says "full-speed ahead, damn the torpedoes." What he didn't mention is that Democrats who want to go full-bore progressive had the chance in 2016 and 2020. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was an authentic, well-funded, progressive who ran excellent campaigns buoyed by devoted supporters. And he couldn't even win among Democrats.

Matt Bennet, executive vice president of Third Way, pointed out that these are no ordinary midterms. If Republicans flip 50-60 seats in the House and 6-8 in the Senate this year (as they did in 1994 and 2010), the Democrats may not be able to undo the damage in the 2024 congressional election. If Republicans control both chambers on Jan. 6, 2025, they could discard the electoral votes of states that voted for the Democratic presidential candidate and potentially put Donald Trump back in the White House, even after a fairly decisive loss in the electoral college. Of course, the entire House is up in 2024, so, in theory, even a huge loss in 2022 could be made good in 2024, but the 2024 Senate map looks awful for the Democrats as many vulnerable Democrats are up then and few, if any, vulnerable Republicans will be on the ballot then. So if Democrats lose the Senate this year, they are not going to get it back in 2024. Here is the 2024 Senate map.

2024 Senate map

John Lawrence, who was a House aide for 38 years including 8 years as chief of staff for Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), knows politics better than just about anyone, wrote this to Edsall:

I think a lot of voters will use 2022 to remind Biden (and Democrats, since they can't vote against him) that their vote in 2020 was a vote to return to normalcy, not a blank check to build on the New Deal and Great Society. Once in office —albeit with ridiculously narrow margins—Democrats used the crisis to swing for the stands, ignoring the historical lesson of the Senate's moderating role. So they have created the worst of all worlds: a failure to enact what the base demanded (but they did not have the votes to deliver) and the appearance of having overreached and invited an electoral haircut by many 2020 supporters who never embraced such a sweeping agenda.

Another essay in the Times yesterday is from Mike Madrid, cofounder of the Lincoln Project, which attacked Trump brilliantly and mercilessly in 2020. The headline sums it up pretty well: "While Democrats Debate 'Latinx,' Latinos Head to the GOP." Latinos can't stand the term (which is not Spanish) and they resent the Democrats' "We know what is good for you better than you do" attitude. It is exactly the same problem Democrats have with the white working class. There could be a pattern in there somewhere. (V)

Is Tucker Carlson the New Leader of the Republican Party?

On Monday, we had an item about how Donald Trump's power may be waning. Yesterday, we noted that Trump has abandoned his endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) because it didn't do the trick and Brooks is flailing, even with Trump's endorsement. Other signs are all around. But nature abhors a vacuum and so does politics. Maybe the new leader will be Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) some day, but for the moment, it seems that Tucker Carlson is calling the shots.

His mission is to make the GOP "better." By this, he means Trumpism without Trump. He supports a kind of inward- and backward-looking right-wing populism. Although Carlson will not be on the ballot in 2022, two Senate candidates he is strongly supporting are already there: Blake Masters in Arizona and J.D. Vance in Ohio. They are parroting the bile he emits five nights a week: that the people running the country (Joe Biden and Kamala Harris) are a senile man and an imbecile and the top soldier, Gen. Mark Milley, "is not just a pig, he's stupid." If they win their respective primaries, it will largely be due to Carlson, since the Republican establishment is strongly opposed to both of them.

Carlson is representative of a new breed of Republican, the "national conservatives" or NatCons, who represent the remains of the right-wing intellectuals. They are hard right on cultural issues, denouncing Critical Race Theory and drag-queen story hours, but they support some economic ideas from the left, including child subsidies and industrial policy. Masters and Vance are following him wherever he (and their sugar daddy, billionaire Peter Thiel) are going, including opposing vaccine mandates to supporting the geopolitical views of Vladimir Putin. They especially love to troll the libs. Masters recently tweeted a video of a truck hauling logs with the message "I guarantee the guy driving this truck is conservative. Imagine a progressive dude driving a logging truck. You can't."

Carlson once said: "Does anyone still believe that cheaper iPhones or more Amazon deliveries of plastic garbage from China are going to make us happy?" Masters said: "Amazon will send you some useless Chinese junk at the press of a button. But the things people actually need —housing, health care, education—this stuff just keeps getting more and more expensive every year." Notice any similarity here? Also note who the two villains are in both cases. Both candidates are vigorously campaigning on drastically reducing all immigration, de-globalization, state promotion of families, and breaking up Big Tech, all of which are on Carlson's agenda.

Where Carlson, the New Right, and the NatCons break with traditional plutocratic Republican politics is not having so much faith in free markets. They want to use the full force of government to get better social outcomes—for example, keeping jobs in America and rebuilding devastated rural economies. But cultural issues are also critical. They oppose immigration, not on economic grounds (as immigrants tend to take jobs nobody else wants), but because they are threatening the dominant culture. And face it, there is also a nontrivial amount of racism in there.

When the Ohio and Arizona primaries are done, we'll have a better idea of whether Carlson's ideology and Thiel's money can determine the future of the Republican Party. (V)

Cawthorn and Greene Agree: Zelenskyy Is a Thug

It looks like "thug" is the word of the week for two weeks running now. Last week, Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators were calling Vladimir Putin a "thug." Now Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) are calling the democratically elected Volodymyr Zelenskyy a thug.

Greene was asked about her assessment in a town hall in Paulding County, about 20 miles northwest of Atlanta, and she said that it was an easy call. She also largely echoed Russian talking points and defended the war in Ukraine. She also was worried that the $14 billion of U.S. aid to Ukraine would fall in the hands of Nazis. If the audience had been more on the ball, somebody could have asked her: "What's wrong with giving money to Nazis?" It would have been interesting to get her response to that.

While she was at it, Greene said she felt threatened by trans women, whom she calls biological men. She said they were "aggressively replacing" cisgender women in some spaces, although she didn't name any such spaces.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) managed to get up enough nerve to rebuke Greene and Cawthorn. That must have been a tough call for him. He rarely criticizes Republicans, not because he subscribes to Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment, but due to personal cowardice. Greene's office didn't respond to McCarthy.

One person we expected to side with Cawthorn and Greene—former representative Tulsi Gabbard—is indeed doing so, but she is no longer in Congress, so she doesn't attract much attention. But she can always be counted on to spout Republican talking points, so Jesse Watters had her on his Fox show. There she attacked Joe Biden for—along with the "power elite"—trying to be president of the world and spreading democracy when he should be focusing on domestic issues like securing the border. She also said that Biden was just working on a bigger version of the Arab Spring, in which Barack Obama was trying to encourage democracy in the Middle East. It is not entirely clear if Gabbard is actively against democracy or is just an isolationist who doesn't care about anything and anyone outside the U.S. (and also quite a few people inside the U.S.). The problem with that view is that if various dictators conquer most of the world, eventually they will come for the U.S. as well, initially economically and later perhaps in other ways. Isolationism worked fine in the 18th century, but things are a lot more connected now. (V)

First Female Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, Has Died

Madeleine Albright, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and then secretary of state in the Clinton administration, has died. She was the second woman to hold the U.N. job (after Jeane Kirkpatrick during the Reagan administration) but the first woman to lead the State Department. She was 84 and succumbed to cancer.

Albright was born as Marie Jana Korbelová in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1937. Her family moved to the U.K. in 1939. Her parents were Jewish, but converted to Catholicism in 1941 and never told her or her siblings about this. Her father was a diplomat and was assigned to Yugoslavia after World War II. She was sent to a school in Switzerland, where she learned to speak French and changed her name to Madeleine. Her family emigrated to the U.S. in 1948, when Marie/Madeleine was 11, after the Communists took over.

Albright later said that she was always conscious of being a refugee and never forgot that the United States welcomed her. She said that the most important event in her life was becoming an American citizen.

Her role in steering U.S. foreign policy after the collapse of the Soviet Union was enormous. Unlike his predecessors Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton was never really interested in foreign policy, so Albright had a lot of leeway. She championed the expansion of NATO and pushed to stop the genocide going on in the Balkans. She also tried to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons and supported new democracies everywhere.

Last month, on Feb. 23, Albright wrote an op-ed for the New York Times about Ukraine entitled "Putin is Making a Historic Mistake." She notes that she was the first senior U.S. official to meet with Vladimir Putin when he became acting president of Russia in 2000. She recorded in her notes: "Putin is small and pale, so cold as to be almost reptilian." She got that right. She also noted that he was embarrassed by the collapse of the Soviet Union and determined to restore its greatness. She certainly nailed that one as well.

In the op-ed she also said that an invasion—which started the next day—would drive NATO to shore up its eastern flank, something Putin is deathly afraid of. She also said there would be massive resistance from the Ukrainians, very different from Russia's annexation of the Crimea in 2014. She definitely knew her stuff right until the very end. We'll miss her. (V)

March... Sadness, Part IV (Judges and Governors, Round 2)

No time to put this together yesterday, but the brackets are back today. Here the results for the first round of voting on judges and governors, with our comments, along with some comments from readers:

  • #1 Former governor Sarah Palin (R-AK, 82.7%) defeats #16 D.C. Court of Appeals Judge Neomi Rao (17.3%)

    Our Take: Rao is most certainly in a position to do more damage going forward; we assume that readers gave much weight to the damage Palin has already done, however, playing a rather sizable role in paving the way for folks like Donald Trump, Madison Cawthorn, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

    R.K. in Chicago, IL: A woman who likes to shoot animals from helicopters versus a woman who publicly opposed bans on dwarf tossing. Sarah Palin may be the one I think of when I think of terrible female governors, but she's a spent commodity; Rao could very well be one who will greatly affect things for the worse in the future.

    M.L. in Flagstaff, AZ: Sarah Palin is/was actually a bit of an idiot and, even from the Republican perspective, probably did them more harm than good. I think she's the reason John McCain lost so, from my perspective, she did a lot of good (though not as she'd define it). On the other hand... she was one of the early signs and windows into what later has been shown to be the extreme right, gun-totin', by God patriots! Donald Trump's election let them loose full bore, driven by the election of a (gasp!) Black man as president.

  • #15 Associate Justice Samuel Alito (86.0%) defeats #2 Chief Justice John Roberts (14.0%)

    Our Take: We thought this one might be even more lopsided than it ended up.

    D.B. in Keedysville, MD: Samuel Alito. No mitigation for the reputation of the court from Mr. "Stare Decisis" (my a**)!

  • #14 Former governor Paul LePage (R-ME, 92.0%) defeats #3 Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA, 8.0%)

    Our Take: Eating at the French Laundry in the middle of a pandemic might be gauche, but it would appear that is not as bad as thinly veiled racism, abuse of the pardon power, and efforts to stop people from voting.

    M.M. in La Crosse, WI: I have no idea who Paul LePage is, but I like Gavin Newsom, so I still voted for LePage.

    J.G. in Chantilly, VA: WTF? That is not even a contest in terms of worseness. That's like USC and UCLA going head to head in "It's Academic." Or UCLA vs. Whittier College in football. Newsom is presidential material (French Laundry notwithstanding) while LePage is a miserable, racist s**t. I suppose a future bracket will pit Canada vs. Russia?

  • #13 Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA, 60.4%) defeats #4 Former governor Andrew Cuomo (39.6%)

    Our Take: We thought Cuomo might actually win this one; we certainly didn't see a blowout coming. That said, Youngkin remains in power, while Cuomo does not. And the Virginian's appeals to white angst certainly could do serious damage, long-term.

    D.E. in Lancaster, PA: While Cuomo is making a valiant effort to win this one with his obtuse blindness to the fact his political career is deader than dead, this one has to go to Youngkin, who puts a respectable face on evilness and nastiness. I predict a rise in his ranks next year, despite going down in the next contest against His Satanic Majesty, Ron DeSantis. After all, Youngkin had risen from obscurity to a 13th seed in less than a year. That says something, something not good, but something nonetheless.

    R.G.N. in Seattle, WA: Youngkin wins by failing to be the moderate he campaigned as. Although arrogant, Cuomo was generally an effective governor who you wouldn't want anywhere near your daughter. Politically, with Cuomo, what you saw was what you got.

  • #5 Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL, 98.2%) defeats #12 Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ, 1.8%)

    Our Take: The biggest blowout in this quadrant. That DeSantis kid has potential; he may be a 5 seed but he could go far.

    M.L. in Flagstaff, AZ: This is a tough one, particularly since I live in Arizona. I hear a lot about DeSantis. though, as my brother is heavily involved in his teacher's union in Florida...

    D.B. in Keedysville, MD: Ron DeSantis. With the highest COVID death-rate in the country, he's still on a roll... of death!

  • #6 Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX, 86.5%) defeats #11 Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD, 13.5%)

    Our Take: Like Stephen Miller, Noem might have gone far, if not for running into a juggernaut in the first round.

    M.M. in La Crosse, WI: The Abbott vs Noem pairing was tough to decide. They are both idiots, but in the end I decided that Abbott is the bigger idiot.

    R.K. in Chicago, IL: Noem and Abbott are both likely winners in November. Noem's a lame duck after that, Abbott's not. He gets the edge for that reason.

  • #7 Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (94.2%) defeats #10 Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA, 5.8%)

    Our Take: Thomas is going to be hard to beat, though it's not impossible that Samuel Alito could play giant-killer in the next round.

    D.F. in Norcross, GA: As someone who has observed the actual NCAA Tournament for many years, one pattern that the selection committee seems to have used (though never acknowledged) is that they look for compelling storylines to create certain first-round (and sometimes second-round) matchups. I don't know if that was on your minds when you came up with this one, but having two Georgia natives with blatant conflict of interest issues (Thomas not recusing himself from cases involving his wife, including a biggie related to Jan. 6, and Kemp overseeing his own election for Governor while Secretary of State in 2018, and conducting massive voter purges and other suppression tactics just prior to it) seems to fit the pattern.

  • #9 Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh (75.6%) defeats #8 Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch (24.4%)

    Our Take: This was another surprise to us. Gorsuch's jurisprudence is further right than Kavanaugh's; we assume Kavanaugh's personal behavior is what carried him to the "win." That Palin-Kavanaugh matchup is going to be very interesting.

    M.W. in Linköping, Sweden: Humpty vs Dumpty? Could go either way. Good thing neither will make it to the end. Alito has them both by the non-justiciable gonads.

    D.E. in Lancaster, PA: Now this one is a real squeaker! But I'm going with Gorsuch on the simple technical basis that at least with recent rulings Kavanaugh is trying to pretend he will uphold legal precedent while Gorsuch has pretty much said "Oh screw it, I'm going to destroy democracy as quickly as I can!"

The Governors and Judges bracket now looks like this:

#1 Former governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) vs. #9 Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh;
#5 Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) vs. #13 Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA);
#6 Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) vs. #14 Former governor Paul LePage (R-ME);
#7 Associate Justice Clarence Thomas vs. #15 Associate Justice Samuel Alito

The voting for the next round is here, and we continue to welcome comments on the matchups. (Z & V).

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar23 The Race to the Bottom
Mar23 Braun Takes Things to Extremes
Mar23 No Profile in Courage Here
Mar23 Trump's Candidate No Mo
Mar23 Well, He Is an Actor, After All
Mar23 Hey, Trump Won One!
Mar22 And So It Begins...
Mar22 Of Course Ted Cruz Is an A**hole (Exhibit 321)
Mar22 Of Course Eric Greitens Is an A**hole (Exhibit 119)
Mar22 Trump Endorsements: Not Worth the Paper They're Written On
Mar22 "News" on the Hunter Biden Front
Mar22 March... Sadness, Part III (Executive Branch, Round 2)
Mar21 Five Questions Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Probably Be Asked
Mar21 Marie Yovanovitch Gives Her Take on Ukraine
Mar21 Cheney: Chemical Weapons Would Be a Red Line for NATO
Mar21 Chinese Ambassador Says China Is Providing Baby Formula to Russia
Mar21 Putin [sic] Dumps on the Oligarchs
Mar21 War in the Ukraine Could Be Headed toward a Stalemate
Mar21 Has the Post-Trump Era Already Begun?
Mar21 Chaos in Ohio
Mar21 Dean of the House Dies
Mar20 Sunday Mailbag
Mar19 Saturday Q&A
Mar18 Iran Nuclear Deal Is In Trouble
Mar18 Nobody Saw It Coming
Mar18 Hawley Has His Line of Attack
Mar18 Ohio Republicans Fail, Fail Again
Mar18 Stacey Abrams Becomes President
Mar18 You Can't Keep a Sleazy Man Down
Mar18 This Week in Schadenfreude
Mar18 March... Sadness? (Round of 64, Part II)
Mar17 Zelenskyy Asks Congress for More Aid
Mar17 Seizing Oligarchs' Property Is Not So Simple
Mar17 Two Can Play the Sanctions Game
Mar17 Are Black Voters Becoming Republicans?
Mar17 Warren Splits with Progressives on Crypto
Mar17 Fed Raises Interest Rates and Larry Summers Is Worried
Mar17 Shalanda Young Confirmed as Director of OMB
Mar16 Time for the Full-Court Press
Mar16 Raskin Is Fed Up, and So Is Fed Out
Mar16 It's Just a Matter of Time
Mar16 Special Oklahoma Senate Election Is Sorting Itself Out...
Mar16 ...So Is the Regular Georgia Senate Election, in a Manner of Speaking
Mar16 March... Sadness? (Round of 64, Part I)
Mar15 Zelensky to Address Congress Tomorrow
Mar15 Manchin Is a Flake
Mar15 Senate Republicans Have a Jackson Problem
Mar15 Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better
Mar15 So Much for the 11th Commandment
Mar15 This Is Why Bill Maher's a Jerk (Exhibit 39)