• Ukraine Funding Passes Senate
• Everyone Hates the Freedom Caucus
• Ted Cruz Wins
• This Week in Schadenfreude
• Guest Columnist: The High Price of Education
It's been several days at this point, but Tuesday was such a big day that the drama is still unfolding. Yesterday, there were three stories worthy of notice:
- Lawyer Up!: Currently, the tally in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Pennsylvania is
417,787 votes for Mehmet Oz and 416,660 for David McCormick. With 99% reporting, McCormick has little chance of catching
up in the first count. But, if it gets a little closer, he might have a shot in the recount. So, to make sure every
possible McCormick ballot is counted, he's hired a cadre of lawyers. And Oz, recognizing the need to defend his ballots,
his own legal cohort. They got these lawyers mostly from the Trump campaign. That is not where we would go since, if
memory serves, Trump's legal team went 0-63 in election-related cases. But to each their own.
So, this could linger on longer than expected. Meanwhile, as McCormick and Oz spend their time and money fighting over the primary result, Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has the microphone all to himself as he launches his general election campaign.
- The Dark Side of the Force: Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) may have been defeated in the
primary, but he's mad as hell, and he's not going to take this any more. So, he unleashed an Instagram post yesterday
that included a list Trumpers, from the former president to Charlie Kirk to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor
Greene (R-GA) and that had the following text:
When the establishment turned their guns on me, when the Uni-party coalesced to defeat an America First member very few people had my back. This list includes the lion share of figures that came to my defense when it was not politically profitable. These are honorable men and women who are the type of friends anyone yearns to have. "At the beginning of a change the patriot is a rare and hated man." These are those rare and hated men/women. There are other National figures who I believe are patriots, but I am on a mission now to expose those who say and promise one thing yet legislate and work towards another, self-profiteering, globalist goal. The time for genteel politics as usual has come to an end. It's time for the rise of the new right, it's time for Dark MAGA to truly take command. We have an enemy to defeat, but we will never be able to defeat them until we defeat the cowardly and weak members of our own party. Their days are numbered. We are coming.Profiteering? Globalist? Enemy to defeat? As reader J.G. in San Diego observed, paraphrasing Liz Lemon of 30 Rock: "Just say Jewish, this is taking forever." In an interesting typo, the soon-to-be-former representative originally wrote "gentile politics as usual" instead of "genteel politics as usual." And that's not the only Republican potential Freudian slip we've got for you today.
We don't have the slightest insight into what makes a man like Cawthorn tick, so we have no real idea what's going on here, or what Dark MAGA is. Is this the first chapter in his new career as a right-wing bomb-thrower, perhaps with talk show on The Blaze or whatever network employs Steve Bannon? Or did Cawthorn just skip the first stage of grief (denial) and move right to the second stage (anger)? Dunno, but anyone who thought the Representative might go quietly into that good night has another think coming.
- Skeleton Watch: We had not heard this until yesterday, but a bunch of the stuff that emerged about Cawthorn (like the nude video of him and a male friend), and that helped to derail his reelection bid, was acquired and released to the media by a group called the American Muckrakers PAC. We must commend them on their choice of name. Anyhow, now that Cawthorn's goose is cooked, the leader of the PAC, David B. Wheeler, has announced who their next target will be: Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO). They've even got a website, fireboebert.com, for anyone who has dirt on the Representative. This seems a wise choice of target, as Boebert is surely the type to have some skeletons in the closet, she represents a district that is not overwhelmingly Republican, and there's 7 weeks until her primary. If something damaging about her does come out, you probably know whom to thank. We're guessing they're already checked her high school yearbook for blackface photos and the like.
This is probably the last of the news from Tuesday until the pending contests are resolved. But now we're just days away from primaries in Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia. (Z)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) did everything he could to slow down the $40 billion Ukraine funding bill. This not only aggravated Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the Democrats, it also pissed off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who appeared on Fox yesterday to slam his fellow Kentuckian for being an "isolationist," and to make clear that the isolationists are "a tiny percentage of the Senate Republican Conference."
Maybe it's not that tiny a percentage though. Paul's bag of tricks was empty, and so the bill came up for a vote and passed yesterday, 89-11. And joining Paul in voting "nay" were Marsha Blackburn (TN), John Boozman (AR), Mike Braun (IN), Mike Crapo (ID), Bill Hagerty (TN), Josh Hawley (MO), Mike Lee (UT), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Roger Marshall (KS), and Tommy Tuberville (AL). They clearly don't represent the mainstream Republican position, since 39 Republicans voted yea, and the right-wing media was generally supportive of the legislation (see here for an editorial from The National Review, for example). But the isolationist strain has been a part of the Republican Party for 100 years, and is a bit larger than "tiny." Theodore Roosevelt, who never met a war he didn't like, is undoubtedly spinning in his grave.
Now, the bill heads to Joe Biden's desk for a vote. There is one small problem, though: He's not at his desk right now. He's off in Asia, which brings up an interesting constitutional question. The aforementioned TR was the first president to leave the country at all during his presidency, and it wasn't especially common for presidents to do so until the 1960s and 1970s. But once the occupants of the White House started galavanting around the world, it raised potential issues with the constitutional requirement that presidents sign bills within 10 days.
The way this was generally managed during the presidencies from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton was to either make sure the president was not gone for 10 days, or else that Congress waited to formally pass legislation until he had returned. Of course, there's also the Donald Trump approach: Congress passes legislation very rarely, and the president travels even more rarely. That works, too.
For Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, however, "wait until I'm back in town" was not always workable. They sometimes left on lengthy trips. Further, the relationship between the political parties has frayed to the point that the non-presidential party in Congress isn't always willing to work around the president's schedule. So, on a couple of occasions, Bush signed a document authorizing his signature to be applied to a bill in his absence with an autopen. Obama used the same trick at least seven times. Before Bush did it the first time, he asked the Office of General Counsel if it was OK, legally speaking. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Howard C. Nielson Jr. produced a 126-page analysis concluding that it almost certainly is.
Biden will, of course, be back before the 10 days is up. But he doesn't want the money to wait that long. On the other hand, the world of politics is even nastier and more litigious than it was in Bush's time. And so, the President is taking no chances. The bill was put onto an airplane, and will be available for Biden to sign right around the time this post goes live. And then Ukraine will get an amount of money roughly equivalent to 1/4 of their annual GDP.
On a related note, since we've already mentioned George W. Bush and Ukraine, there's a clip from earlier this week that reached insta-meme status, and would be the subject of "This Week in Freudian Slips," if we actually had that feature. Here it is, if you haven't already seen it:
If you don't want to watch, Bush was intending to blast Vladimir Putin, and blamed the current conflict on "the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq." Oops. He did quickly correct himself, of course, to "Afghanistan." Er, we mean Ukraine. (Z)
Let's continue with the theme of "Republicans that even the other Republicans hate." As we noted yesterday, the House passed two bills meant to solve the baby formula crisis, and two more bills meant to address bigotry and hatred. That's a pretty full day's work, and the members were at it until late.
The lateness, however, was not primarily because the House was so busy. In theory, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her colleagues on both sides of the aisle could have passed all four bills and still been done in time for supper. Supper, in many cases, at big-dollar fundraising events, or with important constituents. However, the members who had such plans had to cancel because of foot-dragging by everyone's favorite group of representatives, namely the House Freedom Caucus (HFC).
There is little that Congress does that the HFC agrees with. They don't like spending money, and they tend to be, shall we say, pretty tolerant of bigotry. Most of them have also made their bones by engaging in all sorts of performative politics. They don't have the numbers to actually accomplish any of their legislative goals, such as they are, but they do have the means to gum up the works with parliamentary tricks. And that is what they did Wednesday, repeatedly, mostly calling for numerous unnecessary (and lengthy) roll-call votes.
Just about all of the members of the House are hopping mad at these shenanigans. Rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans don't like to have their time wasted, especially if they have post-session plans (e.g., those fundraisers). Many Republican members are additionally angry because they think the behavior reflects badly on the Party as a whole and gives the Democrats talking points (e.g., "The Republicans even fought back against passing a bill condemning antisemitism!"). Even some HFC members are unhappy because they think these stunts waste the caucus' limited political capital.
There is, of course, some level of performance and posturing on the Democratic side of the aisle. Sometimes it's from the bluest of the Blue Dogs (i.e., the hardcore centrists) and sometimes it's from The Squad and the other progressives. However, in the end, they almost always fall into line when their votes are needed. Maybe that's a testament to Pelosi's skill. Or maybe it's because they ultimately conclude that getting 50% of what they want is better than getting 0%.
The same dynamic is not to be expected when and if the Republicans retake the House in November. Again, for many HFC members, getting nothing done is a good thing. Further, if the Republicans take over, it's going to be because a bunch of new members won in swingy districts. Those new members are not likely to be fire-breathing right-wingers; they're more likely to be Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) types. So, would-be Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) figures to have a relatively slim majority where he needs both centrist votes and HFC votes. Good luck herding those cats, Kevin.
In short, what we saw yesterday is a preview of the all-but-guaranteed gridlock that will prevail if the House changes hands in November. Now, there is a path forward, but it involves reaching across the aisle and working with the Democrats. After all, 42 Democratic members have exactly the same number of votes as the HFC does. But does McCarthy have the stones for bipartisanship? And will his overlords, such as the Mammon of Mar-a-Lago, tolerate it if he tries it? (Z)
And wrapping up this series of items on Republicans who are hated even by their fellow Republicans, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) scored a victory this week. When he was just getting started in politics, he loaned his campaign $1 million, and then was unable to recoup much of that money because of limits imposed by federal law (no more than $500,000 once the election is over). So, during his recent campaign, Cruz deliberately loaned himself $10,000 more than the recoup limit so that he could sue. The current Supreme Court prefers that campaign finance be the Wild West, and so they ruled in favor of Cruz this week, 6-3.
As with Citizens United, another masterpiece of the Roberts Court, this opens up a pretty big loophole in the world of campaign finance, as it makes it rather easier for an "interested party" to funnel money directly to a sitting officeholder. And so, politicians' votes could be bought and sold. This is not merely theoretical, a study of indebted members of the House between 1983 and 2018 showed that those who were trying to recoup the legal $500,000 were far more malleable to the needs of special interests when it came time to cast their votes in the lower chamber.
That said, not all the news was good for Cruz on the legal front. Shortly after his SCOTUS win, a group of lawyers filed a complaint seeking to disbar Cruz as punishment for his participation in the 1/6 insurrection. He's not likely to practice law ever again, but if he loses it would be a big poke in the eye, and would become ammunition for future political opponents. (Z)
Earlier this week, we ran a column from two readers (the MEs) who are staunchly anti-abortion. Some readers were not happy with that decision, and we'll obviously have some of those responses on Sunday. However, our consistent approach is that we will give space to views that may be disagreeable to us or to some readers as long as we believe that the writer honestly believes in what they're putting forward. There can be no doubt that the MEs really believe in what they wrote. And it is good to be exposed to different perspectives.
What we really dislike, on the other hand, and what we do our best to assiduously avoid, is knee-jerk blather that exists solely for the purpose of getting a rise out of people. Nearly all of the major media outlets have people—your Hugh Hewitts and your Bret Stephenses and your Nikole Hannah-Joneses—who specialize in "hot takes" designed to sell newspapers and generate clicks. These folks rarely add much to the conversation, and their work generally just helps heighten the country's political polarization.
One of the worst offenders is Fox's David Marcus, who brings a particularly potent combination of angry and stupid to the table. Here are a few of his recent headlines:
- Yelling 'racism!' only shuts down speech, and threatens U.S. strength
- The COVID debate is over: New York was wrong, Florida was right
- Biden's alarming Ukraine gaffes beg the question: Who is running our country?
- Woke Disney vs. Walt's Disney: Is political corporate model sustainable or just goofy?
See—and you may not know this—Goofy is also a Disney character, so that last headline is extra clever. It works on so many levels.
And that brings us to Marcus' most recent column, which conveniently involves subject matter we know to be of interest to many readers. Searching for a hook for this week's pile of horse dung, here's what Marcus came up with: "Star Trek writers take Starship Enterprise where it's never gone before—woke politics."
Marcus' thesis, such as it is, is built on a grand total of two examples. The first is Stacey Abrams' recent cameo on Star Trek Discovery, and the second is the pilot of the newest entry in the franchise, Strange New Worlds, which portrays a future in which the 1/6 insurrection led to the "Second American Civil War." (Sidebar: Z, as noted yesterday, has spent the week grading students' papers. And if you want to see what a C- looks like, click through and read the column. There's a basic argument and some evidence, which is enough to pass, but it's badly organized, poorly explained, and wanders off on vague, unsupported tangents).
Anyhow, Marcus does observe that the 1960s Star Trek (a.k.a. The Original Series) "delved into cultural and societal issues." But that's like saying that Quentin Tarantino's films occasionally dabble in violence. The original Star Trek was as woke as it gets by 1960s standards. (Z) literally has lectures about it. There is the lecture on Asian Americans in California, for example, which begins with George Takei and the observation that a diverse show cast is no big deal today but was a far-left political statement in 1964, at the height of the Civil Rights movement. There's also the lecture about allegory, which includes this screen capture from the episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield":
Even students who are new to the notion of allegory can grasp pretty quickly that the crew's disapproval of white-black oppression of black-white characters isn't really about white-black vs. black-white, but instead is about white oppression of Black people.
Woke is a dumb term, and a big part of the "things that make it easy to get a rise out of people" toolkit. But if we're going to use that term, well, the point is that Star Trek has always been woke. Nobody tell David Marcus about, say, the episode criticized the Vietnam War, or the one that is nearly Marxist in its critique of class-based oppression, or the movie that was overtly pro-environmentalist. And definitely don't tell him that Captain James T. Kirk's son is named... David Marcus.
Marcus (the author, not the fictional son) received much positive feedback in the comments on his article, given the audience that Fox's website attracts. But across the rest of the Internet, he was absolutely roasted for his dumb take. Pro tip: If you're going to make your living writing online pieces, you probably better not say stupid stuff about Star Trek That fanbase tends to be pretty well represented online. And when a hot-air-filled hot-take artist suffers a public flaying thanks to their foolishness? Certainly that inspires some schadenfreude. (Z)
Our last guest column of the week is courtesy of B.R.D. in Columbus, OH. B.R.D. is retired from a career in academia, and so knows a wee bit about universities and how they have changed over time:
I wanted to give a little more information on the issue of college costs. One yardstick that people have sometimes used to gain some perspective on tuition at colleges and universities is: It's around the price of a new car. When my husband and I attended a small liberal arts college in Ohio in the late 60s/early 70s, tuition was indeed comparable to the price of a new car. And it was about one-third of his father's salary. He paid for college on his own, however, with: (1) scholarships, (2) summer work, and (3) work during the school year. Each covered about a third of the costs.
Two points, then. Students today cannot cobble together those three things to pay tuition, even though they often do their best. Why? Wages for the sort of work my husband did during the summer (construction, steel mill) and during school (driving a small truck to the docks on the lake for a small grocery store in our college town, re-stocking shelves, etc.) have not kept pace or the jobs are not available (steel mills? small grocery stores?) to college students anymore. Hourly wages they can earn do not come close to hitting one-third of their college fees.
And second, something I have never seen discussed anywhere else, middle-class family budgets have changed drastically. This means that college costs that equal one-third of a family's income are no longer something that can be easily or without great effort absorbed even if two parents work. Wages and salaries for such families have not kept up, either. His family had a home, modest in size, one car, one TV, and what we now call a landline phone. He played basketball in high school, so he had a pair of Converse sneakers and a basketball with a hoop in the driveway. Now, pressures on family budgets include more than one car, more than one TV and cable or streaming costs, multiple phones and phone plans, and computers or laptops or tablets and the WiFi necessary to use them. If a youngster or teen is into sports, there may be costs involved for equipment, certain clothes, and fees to join leagues or groups outside the school system, along with additional travel involved in those leagues or groups. Those pressures are real, are simply the reality for many families, and almost impossible to resist even if higher education is valued and desired for their children.
So, if a modestly well-off family today cannot afford one-third of its income for higher education and students cannot cobble it together either, then loans become the way to afford college or university. If families can contribute something, and students can contribute something through scholarships and work, the loans may not be too much of a burden. But often that is not the case and, of course, the struggle and the problem is much, much worse for people with less than middle-class incomes, for families with only one wage-earner, for families with several children to put through school. And I could go on...
At the same time, colleges and universities are under the pressures (V) and (Z) have summarized, including higher costs for a physical plant, the costs associated with computers, their maintenance, and their security (IT departments added a huge chunk to university budgets that was never there in earlier times, and now there are computers in every faculty and administrative office, in every classroom), and now, more staff necessary to support students' physical and mental health. That's along with more costs for security or campus police units charged with literally keeping everyone safe. Plus, pressures that come from families: "We're paying all this money; why can't the university do X or have Y?" That becomes a vicious cycle, of course, because when you add a fancy new physical education building or up-to-date science labs or better dormitory rooms, those things have to be paid for, and at least some of those costs end up in the tuition bill no matter how many donors step forward. Other costs—say, hand sanitizer in every classroom, enough salt for sidewalks and crosswalks, purchase of more electronic databases for the library, more admissions staff and traveling money for student recruitment (to diversify the student population), or maintenance of screens and chairs or desks in every classroom—are not the sorts of things donors get excited about. But they are things colleges and universities have to pay for.
I can speak only for the institution I worked for over the course of 35 years, but it did everything it could to make college affordable and keep costs in line, including not increasing tuition for several years in a row. Faculty and staff took cuts to retirement plans and went without salary increases several times. It has become harder and harder to know where to cut. If you cut programs, you lose the chance to recruit students for those programs. If you cut improvements or upgrades, you lose efficiency, morale, and students. If you cut student programs and assistance, you lose diversity and students.
My institution also works with state and federal officials to try to keep grants and scholarship money high for its students, and it works with families and students to help them find legitimate and reasonable loan programs and to understand their terms. I don't know what the solution is, but like everything else, it is complex and cannot be reduced to easy slogans.
One thing I would like to see, though, is a federal/state program that tied far more loans to the service needed in service-hungry areas of the country. Many students want to make a difference and volunteer or work for service organizations on campus or nearby. If loans were available to students for entering teaching, medical, legal, social service, artistic, science, technology, and governmental fields in exchange for those students pledging to work in those fields for two or three years in parts of the country that needed those services, I think many would sign on. If they knew a lot or most or all of their debt would be erased in exchange for such a commitment, I think many would sign on. Such a program could revitalize rural and urban areas, introduce graduates to different regions, and might lead to additional investment in those declining areas by other donors and entrepreneurs—being able to count on that kind of steady work force would be wonderful. Such programs might even lead to some graduates deciding to stay in their new home and continue contributing to their community once their loans were "paid off."
Thanks, B.R.D! Next week, we'll explain our purpose in running a week of guest columns. (Z)
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May19 Two Days After
May19 Biden Is Eastbound and Down
May19 Democrats Tackle Formulagate
May19 House Also Stages Some Show Votes
May19 Guest Columnist: Biblical Literalism and Abortion
May18 Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye
May18 Guest Columnist: On the Front Lines in Pennsylvania
May17 Five States Will Hold Primaries Today
May17 Pennsylvania GOP Ticket Could Have Insurrectionist Tentpoles
May17 New York Has a New Map and It's a Doozy
May17 Blue Team Hits Red Team over White Replacement Theory
May17 Guest Columnist: Nose-Holding Trump Voter
May16 Mass Shooting Produces the Usual Responses
May16 Three Republican Responses to the Sinking of Roe
May16 Pennsylvania, Idaho and Kentucky Will Head to the Polls Tuesday
May16 Van Hollen Suffers Stroke
May16 Guest Columnist: Update from the Philippines
May15 Sunday Mailbag
May14 Saturday Q&A
May13 Biden Memorializes 1 Million COVID Dead
May13 Powell Will Serve Another Term
May13 The 1/6 Committee Throws Down the Gauntlet
May13 Ukraine Money Delayed By One Senator
May13 What's Going On... in Ukraine, Part V: Military Sources
May13 This Week in Judicial Activism
May13 This Week in Schadenfreude
May12 The United States Senate: A Farce in One Act
May12 Supreme Court Continues to Leak Like A Sieve
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May12 What's Going On... in Ukraine, Part IV: International Sources within Ukraine
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May12 DeSantis' District Map Is Partly Struck Down
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May10 Putin Offers Bluster, But Little Else
May10 What's Going On... in Ukraine, Part II: Aggregators
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May10 Blue State Governors Seize Their Opportunity
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