• ...Meanwhile, Is the DoJ Gearing Up?
• Cheney Is in Trouble...
• ...But How about Malinowski?
• Biden Looks Set to Answer the $10,000 Question
• Total Ban on Handguns Proposed
• Memorial Day Quiz: The Answers
It's never been perfectly clear what the exact purpose of the 1/6 Committee actually is. Is it to facilitate and encourage a Department of Justice prosecution of the perpetrators? Is it to politically damage Donald Trump and the Republican Party? Both of these things? Something else? Again, it's just not clear.
Whatever the goal might be, however, that goal is well served by attracting lots of publicity. And the members of the committee were chosen, in part, for their legal and prosecutorial acumen, but also in part for their PR skills. They demonstrated their abilities in this area at the very outset of the investigation, when they called several Capitol police officers to testify in open session. The stories those men told were gripping, made clear that there was something worth looking into here, and so got the Committee off to a strong start.
We are now approaching a rather critical period for the Committee. During the summer, they can reasonably hope to command the attention of the news media and of the general public. Network TV is in reruns, many people are off school or off work, and soon the only major sport in season will be baseball. Once we get to the end of August, by contrast, school/work, the fall TV schedule, the NFL, and the general election campaign will all be getting underway. And once the actual election happens, well, the 1/6 Committee's days could be numbered. So, now is the time for the Committee to do whatever it's going to do.
In view of what's going on with the calendar, and in view of the PR savvy of Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) & Co., it is thus entirely unsurprising that public hearings will soon commence once again. The announced start date is June 9, which is a Thursday. That seems an odd choice, although the plan on that day (and, we would guess, Friday) is to present an overview of what the Committee has already learned. The general expectation is that they'll be reviewing testimony from the 1,000+ witnesses they've already talked to, playing some video clips, and otherwise laying out the case that something very bad happened here.
It could be that the committee is thinking of Thursday and Friday as a preview or a teaser, and that the "real" hearings, with testimony from actual witnesses, will begin on Monday, June 13. The list of people who will appear is a work in progress, and is going to require some negotiation, apparently. However, the plan is to put some of the testimony in prime time (remember: network TV is in reruns), and it seems probable that June 13 would be a "prime time" day.
So, should Donald Trump be worried? Certainly, he thinks so. The Committee is not expected to ask him to testify, since they don't believe he'd cooperate, and since there isn't time to compel his participation. However, he has engaged in numerous preemptive strikes against the Committee in the past week or so, describing its work as "fake news" and referring to the whole thing as the "insurrection hoax." Anyone who has followed politics for the last 5 years knows that this is exactly what Trump does when he gets worried, lashing out like a cornered animal. And despite his dismissive tone, you know full well he's going to be watching every minute of it on TV. In a manner of speaking, it will actually be a return to his glory days, as he'll be the star of a reality TV show once again. (Z)
Way back in January, AG Merrick Garland made promises that were simultaneously firm and vague when it came to investigating the 1/6 insurrection. "The justice department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law—whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy," he declared. "We will follow the facts wherever they lead."
What, exactly, did that mean? Did it mean the DoJ is going to find and punish as many of the people who breached the Capitol as is possible? Maybe, although the government was already doing that, so Garland hardly needed to make an announcement. Did it mean that the AG and his staff were going to take a close look at everyone who might have broken the law that day, including the fellow who was sitting in the Oval Office? Maybe, although things were so quiet on that (potential) front that there have been a steady stream of "What is the DoJ doing?" pieces in the last month or two, like this one, headlined "Will Justice get to Trump?", or this one, headlined "Why Hasn't DOJ Appointed a Special Prosecutor for Jan. 6th?", or even this one, headlined "Is Merrick Garland working for Donald Trump?"
Of course, Justice likes to do things quietly and under the radar, as much as possible. And Garland seems to have a particular affinity for that approach. However, there have been two small but potentially significant signs that the DoJ is getting ready to put the pedal to the metal. The first is that DoJ attorneys just asked the 1/6 Committee for transcripts of the interviews the Committee has conducted. Interestingly, Bennie Thompson refused. Undoubtedly, the Committee will eventually turn a moving van full of stuff over to the DoJ, but presumably the Chair does not want any of his thunder to be stolen before June's public hearings (see above).
The second indication—and take this with a few grains of salt, for now—is that yesterday, former Trump adviser Peter Navarro announced that he has been subpoenaed by a grand jury that is looking into the events of 1/6. Assuming that Navarro is telling the truth, then that would be a pretty big deal, since convening a grand jury and subpoenaing people close to Trump are both pretty assertive moves. Especially if the person being subpoenaed refused to talk to the 1/6 Committee, as Navarro did.
Now, as we said, you have to treat this news with some skepticism until it's confirmed. On one hand, it would be a strange thing to lie about. On the other hand, Navarro is a known liar, and is also something of a kook. He has refused to show the subpoena to anyone. And he's put together a lawsuit in which he is suing anyone and everyone, and is trying to get a judge to declare the 1/6 Committee's activities to be unconstitutional. He's representing himself in this case, and you know what they say about a person who represents himself at trial (hint: They have a fool for a client).
The Navarro mystery won't remain a mystery for long, presumably. He says that he's been ordered to show up and testify on June 2, which is Thursday. So, the cat will be out of the bag, one way or another, by the end of the week. (Z)
The deadline for filing for the August 16 Wyoming primary arrived on Friday, and so the field for the state's congressional seat is set. And, at least at the moment, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) is in deep doo-doo. The Representative has five GOP challengers, with Donald Trump-backed lawyer (and former Cheney adviser) Harriet Hageman foremost among them. And the latest poll of the race puts Hageman at 56% compared to just 26% for Cheney among Republican voters. It is true that the poll was conducted by the Club for Growth, which is anti-Cheney, but those numbers are in line with other polls of the race. And you don't need to be an expert in polling to know that a 30-point hole is a bad place to start from, particularly with just 10 weeks to the election.
So, does Cheney have any hope at all? Maybe. Wyoming has a partially open primary, which means that you have to be a member of a party to vote in that party's primary, but you are allowed to change parties on Election Day. Unless the office of the Wyoming Secretary of State is very slow on the uptake, it does not appear that any Democrat has filed to run. So, it is probable that a big chunk of the state's Democrats will become Republicans for a day and will vote for Cheney. If we imagine, hypothetically, that Cheney gets 80% of the Democratic presidential vote from 2020 and 26% of the Republican presidential vote, that's 109,118 votes. If Hageman gets 56% of the Republican presidential vote from 2020, that's 108,393 votes. So, a Democratic + NeverTrump Republican coalition could get it done, if the Democrats turn out in large numbers and cast Republican ballots.
Cheney has a couple of other aces in the hole, as well. The first is that she has vastly more money on hand than Hageman does, roughly $7 million to $1 million. In Wyoming, $7 million is enough to pretty much buy every single TV, radio, and newspaper ad in the state for the next 10 weeks. So, Cheney can make sure that every Democrat in the state knows what the scheme is, and can remind them that a vote for her is a vote against the hated Trump. Also, the Representative is going to be front and center in the televised 1/6 hearings (see above). That could win her some brownie points, or it could hurt Trump and, by extension, Hageman.
In short, while Cheney is certainly in danger, this could get very interesting. And if she does pull it out, that would be another huge blow to Trump's "kingmaker" power. (Z)
When the time came for Democrats to draw the maps in New Jersey—one of the very few blue states left where the blue team can get away with blatant gerrymandering—they really wanted to shore up most of their incumbents in order to protect them against a red wave. To do so, however, would likely mean sacrificing one incumbent to save the others. So, who to leave without a place to sit in this little game of musical chairs? How about a guy in an already swingy district who has ethics problems due to questionable stock transactions? Done! So, sorry Rep. Tom Malinowski (D), your already shaky D+3 district—NJ-07—is now R+1. Nice knowin' ya.
Since then, however, it's become clear that although he was left for dead, Malinowski was only mostly dead. He managed to flip a historically Republican district when the suburbs broke strongly in his favor. Under the new maps, NJ-07 still has plenty of suburbs. And you know who lives in suburbs? Suburban women. And you know what suburban women dislike? Supreme Court rulings that outlaw abortion. And so, Malinowski has been leaning into that issue for all it's worth, warning that while abortion would remain legal in New Jersey, it might only stay that way in the short-term. "The same people who have been pressing for the Supreme Court to do this," he said at a press conference shortly after the draft opinion leaked, "are also at the same time pushing for the United States Congress, trying to elect a majority to the United States Congress that will enact a nationwide abortion ban."
Also working in Malinowski's favor is that his likely Republican opponent is Tom Kean Jr., son of the popular former governor of the state. Junior is pro-choice, which is not uncommon among northeastern Republicans. However, there are also plenty of New Jersey Republican voters who are anti-abortion. And so, Kean would prefer not to address the subject at all, if he can avoid it. Of course, Malinowski is not going to let him avoid it, in hopes of driving a wedge into Kean's base of support. And this will work even if Kean is not the Republican nominee, since any position on abortion is out of step with some sizable chunk of the GOP base.
In short, though he was cast aside by his fellow Democrats, the Representative might just dodge a bullet here. Of course, if you live in Jersey, being able to dodge bullets is a good skill to have. (Z)
At this point, Joe Biden has held out the promise of student loan forgiveness for long enough that he has almost no choice but to go through with it. But he's a Democrat, not to mention a long-time politician, not to mention Joe Biden, and so there is no option but for the process to be slow and tortured. He's wrestling with whether he should even try it, how much it should be, whether it's even legal for him to do so, how he'll sell it to the corporate types (he is from Delaware, after all), etc.
Reportedly, the administration has settled on a number—$10,000—and has even prepared a draft order for Biden to sign. There was some thought he might make an announcement this weekend, at one of the graduation ceremonies he attended, but he wants more time to turn it over in his head. More probable is an announcement at the end of August. That is when the current (and probably final) moratorium on payments will expire, and that also conveniently happens to be just a couple of months before the midterm elections.
From the perspective of political strategy, there are two ways to think about this, assuming the final number really is $10,000. The more positive spin is "The President did something for those in debt without being too unfair to those who didn't go to college or who paid their loans." The more negative spin is "The President did enough to give the Republicans a weapon to use against him but not enough to actually be a game-changer for people drowning in student loan debt." We leave it to readers to decide for themselves which assessment they think fits best.
Prompted by the mass shootings in Uvalde, a prominent politician has drafted legislation that would make it illegal to "buy, sell, transfer or import handguns" anywhere in the country. Inasmuch as this politician has a fair amount of power—not to mention name recognition—the proposal has made people sit up and take notice.
That said, there is zero chance the proposal will become law in the United States. In this case, the problem is not the pro-gun forces that are so deeply entrenched in Congress and the Supreme Court. No, the problem is that the politician is Canadian P.M. Justin Trudeau. So, his laws don't count in the U.S. At least, not until the invasion and annexation.
Trudeau has two things going for him that make this proposal infinitely more viable in Canada than it would be if Joe Biden tried the same thing in the U.S. The first is that gun culture is nowhere near as embedded up north as it is down south. The U.S. has about 8.5 times the population of Canada, but has about 65 times as many handguns (72 million to 1.1 million). The second is that Canada's parliamentary system is more nimble when it comes to implementing big changes. This is why that nation has already banned assault rifles, why the Aussies were able to do the same, why the Brits have nationalized healthcare, etc. Undoubtedly, there are ways in which the American system is superior to a parliamentary system... though we're struggling to think of what those might be at the moment.
We do still have one more long piece on the politics of guns in America planned, but we had some technical difficulties on Monday, so watch for that tomorrow. (Z)
On Monday, we offered up a little Memorial Day quiz we tossed together. Here are the answers, with a few comments:
1. By what name was Memorial Day originally known?
- Armistice Day
- Remembrance Day
- Decoration Day
- National Day of Prayer
- Patriot Day
Presumably this is obvious, but it's because graves were "decorated" with flowers, flags, and other objects.
2. The holiday was inspired by what notable historical figure?
- Pericles (ancient Greece)
- Charlemagne (medieval Holy Roman Empire)
- Pope Gregory VII (renaissance Vatican City)
- Cardinal Richelieu (early modern France)
- Florence Nightingale (19th century Italy/England)
Pericles is famous for his funeral oration, which begins: "Most of those who have spoken here before me have commended the lawgiver who added this oration to our other funeral customs. It seemed to them a worthy thing that such an honor should be given at their burial to the dead who have fallen on the field of battle."
3. The first national celebration of Memorial Day in the U.S. took place in 1868. Who was responsible for proclaiming the holiday?
- A president (Andrew Johnson)
- A governor (John A. Andrew of Massachusetts)
- A mayor (Fernando Wood of New York City)
- A general (John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic)
- A newspaper editor (Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune)
The Grand Army of the Republic was the preeminent organization for Union veterans of the Civil War, and when its leader said "celebrate," the members took notice. That said, the actual order may have been written by one of Logan's assistants.
4. Many cities claim to have been the very first to celebrate Memorial Day. In 1966, Lyndon Johnson declared that the "birthplace" of the holiday is the small New York town of Waterloo. That remains Waterloo's claim to fame to this day. Waterloo has something in common with another municipality in New York State. Which is it?
- Like New York City, its nickname includes the word "apple" (The Big Apple/The Apple of Your Eye).
- Like Erie, it was once the terminus for a major east-west canal.
- Like Albany, it is among the oldest townships in the state, having been founded in the 1600s.
- Like Cooperstown (birthplace of baseball), its claim to fame is based on bogus historical evidence.
- Like Buffalo, a former president died there (William McKinley in Buffalo, Martin Van Buren in Waterloo)
Cooperstown was decreed the "birthplace of baseball" because Abner Doubleday allegedly organized the first baseball game there in 1839. However, Doubleday was at West Point in 1839, and there's no evidence that he even knew what baseball was. Similarly, there are many cities and towns that claimed to be the site of the first Decoration Day/Memorial Day celebration. When the federal government got involved in "settling" the matter, Waterloo's civic leaders submitted evidence that they first celebrated in 1866, which is about as early as possible, since the Civil War ended in 1865. However, the authors of The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday demonstrated that the evidence was fake, and that Waterloo first commemorated the holiday in 1868, not 1866.
5. What is true of Memorial Day celebrations in Mississippi, Alabama, the Carolinas, Louisiana, Texas and Virginia?
- The holiday is not celebrated.
- The holiday was not celebrated until the 1980s.
- The holiday is celebrated, but not in May.
- The holiday is always celebrated on May 31, not on the Monday closest to May 31.
- Those states have two Memorial Day holidays, one general and one for Confederates.
We have an item planned for later this week about the new names for military bases that currently honor Confederates. Now you know which states are going to be angry when the names change over.
6. What poem is traditionally associated with Memorial Day?
- "In Flanders Fields"
- "Dulce Et Decorum Est"
- "O Captain! My Captain!"
- "I Measure Every Grief I Meet"
- "Because I Could Not Stop for Death"
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae—a Canadian—wrote the poem shortly after the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. It achieved wide popularity very quickly, and since it is about soldiers' graves, it quickly became associated with the dead soldiers of World War I and other wars.
7. And because of that poem, what flower is traditionally associated with Memorial Day?
- White rose
- Red poppy
- Yellow sunflower
- Orange blossom
The opening line of the poem is: "In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row." A Georgia activist and professor named Moina Michael, who was inspired by the poem, decided in 1918 that she would henceforth always wear a red poppy in memory of the soldiers killed in World War I. Later, while teaching a class full of disabled veterans, she organized an effort to sell red silk poppies as a way of raising funds for disabled veterans. With that, the custom was established.
8. Which of these historical events, in sadly appropriate fashion, took place on Memorial Day?
- The Tet Offensive
- The Johnstown Flood
- The New York City Draft Riots
- The 1906 San Francisco earthquake
- The D-Day Invasion
The events of the Johnstown Flood unfolded over several days, and the first of those days was Monday, May 27, which was Memorial Day that year (the dam actually broke on Friday, May 31). The Tet Offensive commenced in January, the NYC Draft Riots were in July, the SF earthquake was in April, and the D-Day invasion commenced on June 6.
9. The bloodiest war in American history, and the impetus for the Memorial Day holiday, was the Civil War. That war not only killed nearly 1 million soliders, it also left many more addicted to painkillers (as many as one in four Civil War vets by 1890). What well-known product was first introduced to try to help them overcome their addiction?
- Ghirardelli chocolate
- Wheaties cereal
- Life Savers candies
- Kraft macaroni and cheese
The drink originally contained a fair amount of cocaine (and was green). At that time (the 1880s and 1890s), it was believed that while morphine was addictive and often lethal, cocaine was harmless and could be used as a substitute without ill effects. Oops.
10. What time today are Americans asked to observe a moment of silence?
- 5:24 a.m. (sunrise in Washington, D.C.)
- 11:11 a.m. (the time when World War I came to an end)
- Noon (the middle of the day)
- 3:00 p.m. (a convenient time when everyone is theoretically up and about)
- 6:46 p.m. (sunset in Washington D.C.)
World War I really did come to an end at 11:11 (on 11/11), but the moment of silence is supposed to be at 3:00 p.m.
11. Memorial Day weekend is when studios release their biggest films of the year, money-wise. Adjusted for inflation, what film holds the record for highest Memorial Day weekend domestic gross?
- Gone With the Wind (1939)
- Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
- Black Panther (2018)
- Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
Three of these films premiered over Memorial Day weekend. Star Wars is the biggest moneymaker on that list, but it opened fairly slowly and eventually caught fire. Top Gun: Maverick is now the biggest Memorial Day moneymaker, but only if you don't adjust for inflation. It's at around $156 million domestically, while Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End took in an inflation-adjusted $185 million. Gone With the Wind premiered in December, and Black Panther debuted during President's Day weekend.
12. (Z) will be thinking of his maternal grandmother today; she is the one who got him interested in politics in the first place. What did she do during World War II? (It's been mentioned a couple of times in past blog entries.)
- Worked as a barber, shaving men's heads when they arrived for boot camp
- Served in the Women's Auxiliary Corps (WACs)
- Worked as a riveter, building airplanes
- Served as a civilian lookout for possible Japanese warplanes in Los Angeles
- Worked as a translator, as she grew up in Pennsylvania and was fluent in German
She was indeed trained as a barber/hairdresser, and she did indeed grow up in Pennsylvania (and could speak some German). However, she spent the war as a literal Rosie the Riveter (well, a literal Jean the Riveter), building airplanes in Connecticut.
We hope this provided a little respite. We have another quiz coming up soon that we've been sitting on for a number of months, working to get the programming right. (Z)
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