Late Friday, a court filing by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 coup attempt showed that multiple Republican House members "helped" (the legal term here is "conspired with") Donald Trump try to hang onto power. Among them were Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Jody Hice (R-GA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), and Scott Perry (R-PA). Why isn't Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) on the list? Was she asleep on the job? Off skiing in Aspen? Or Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC)? Maybe he was "busy" (see below).
These individuals were involved in meetings and calls with Trump that were about plotting strategy. They also talked to people in the White House Counsel's Office about the boundaries of the law. Some talked with Mike Pence's staff, in an effort to push him into stopping the counting of the electoral votes. Others discussed sending the votes back to the states for a mulligan.
The filing came in response to a lawsuit from Mark Meadows, who turned over some documents the Committee subpoenaed, but held back over 1,000 other ones. The Committee wants all of them. One of the messages the Committee got was from Meadows to Jordan reading: "I have pushed for this. Not sure it is going to happen." It referred to Meadows' efforts to convince Pence to reject some of the electoral votes and his worry that Pence wasn't going to help out.
The panel also presented text messages between Meadows and Perry about replacing top Dept. of Justice officials with new ones more favorable to overturning the election results. It also revealed that it had interviewed Steven Engel, the head of the Dept. of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, with respect to a request that it offer an opinion on the legality of Pence's rejecting electoral votes.
Much of the filing was about Meadows' central position in all the events around the Jan. 6 riot, from planning to execution and his role in trying to stop the count. Consequently, the argument is that all the documentation he has should be turned over to the Committee. Meadows has downplayed his role and also claimed executive privilege. Unfortunately for Meadows, one of his executive assistants, Cassidy Hutchinson, testified in court about all the meetings and calls. This is how it often works. Someone low down on the totem pole fully cooperates with the investigators and tells them all she knows, which in this case is a lot. She also told the court that Meadows was forewarned that there could be violence on Jan. 6, so his claims that he didn't know will be rebutted by a first-hand witness when the time comes. The Committee asked the judge to simply throw out Meadows' suit as baseless and force him to turn over all the subpoenaed documents. (V)
Friday was a busy day in the courts. Marjorie Taylor Greene had to answer some questions before a judge in Atlanta, also related to Jan. 6 but not directly related to what the Select Committee is doing. But she couldn't remember anything. Poor woman. She is only 47 but has lost all her memory. It's sad to see such a promising young woman with Alzheimer's but she clearly has it. Watch:
Greene is in a very different situation from Meadows. The 1/6 Committee wants some documents from Meadows but it can only get them if he cooperates and gives them to the Committee. If he stonewalls forever, the Committee simply won't get what it wants. He might go to prison for refusing, but ultimately it is his decision. Tarring and feathering people or putting them on the rack to urge their cooperation has gone out of style.
The reason Greene showed up at all is that a group of Georgia citizens has asserted that she took part in an insurrection against the United States and is thereby disqualified from running for public office by the 14th Amendment. If the judge determines that she indeed took part in an insurrection, he will inform the Georgia secretary of state and her name must be struck from the ballot. Her cooperation isn't actually required. But not showing up would have certainly insulted the judge and made it more likely that he ruled against her.
Greene cooperated by answering every question. The questions were about her activities on Jan. 6 and her numerous social media posts before then, some of which threatened violence against Democrats. Among other things, she had written that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is a traitor and should be executed for treason. Greene was on the witness stand for over 3 hours. She seemed very uncomfortable.
The Representative's answers varied from "I'm not sure" to "I don't remember" to "I don't recall" to "I have no knowledge of that" to "I have no idea." In some cases the plaintiffs' lawyer played a video of her saying something like how she opposed the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden. But when asked about it, the poor woman couldn't remember having said it, even after having watched a video of her saying so just seconds before. Alzheimer's is a truly terrible disease.
Greene's lawyer is James Bopp, a right-winger who often takes on (nut) cases like this. Unlike Greene, he has an excellent memory and knows the law well. She made a good choice in selecting him.
Early voting in the Georgia primary will begin on May 2, so there is no time to see if Greene's condition can be treated in some way. The judge is aware of the timeline and has said he will try to make a decision in a week or so. The legal standard in this case is "more likely than not," not "beyond all reasonable doubt," so the judge has a fair amount of latitude. If he rules against Greene, Bopp will certainly appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court and, if needed, to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court will probably take the case because there is clearly a constitutional issue here as it hinges on the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.
If Greene ultimately loses, at whatever level, all hell will break out as a precedent will have been set that participation in the Jan. 6 coup attempt disqualifies one from public office. This precedent will then also apply to a dozen members of the House, multiple senators and, of course, to Donald Trump.
If the case reaches the Supreme Court, the justices will be keenly aware that kicking Greene (whom they don't care a whit about) off the ballot will have the almost certain downstream consequence of forcing them to decide if Trump is eligible to run in 2024. We imagine that they will not be keen on addressing that question, though there is some precedent for the Supreme Court picking the president (e.g., Bush v. Gore in 2000). So they might not want to take on Greene's case, but they might be essentially forced to, setting the wheels in motion. Of course, they could finesse the whole issue by ruling that the Fourteenth Amendment applies only to insurrections that took place before it was ratified, not subsequent insurrections. That would be the cowardly way out, but it would get them off the hook, even though it would ignore the "plain language" of the amendment, which is most certainly not written in past tense. (V)
Last Thursday, the New York Times' Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns published a story claiming that in the days after Jan. 6, 2021, speaker wannabe Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told members of Congress that he had had it with Donald Trump and wanted him to resign the presidency. McCarthy immediately and vigorously denied the story, calling it "totally false and wrong." That evening, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow played an audio recording in which McCarthy clearly says Trump should resign. He also discussed invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment and wanted to make sure a President Mike Pence wouldn't pardon Trump. Then, 2 weeks later McCarthy kicked Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) out of the leadership for saying essentially the same things. One takeaway here is the hypocrisy of politicians named McCarthy. They say one thing in private, deny it, and say the opposite in public. What's going to happen now? Is McCarthy's chance at becoming speaker now reduced to a pile of ashes?
A lot of people's first reaction was that McCarthy's chances of getting the gavel if the Republicans capture the House are down around zero because: (1) he is now a confirmed liar and (2) Trump will order his puppets in the House to vote for someone else for speaker. As to the first one, in the modern Republican Party, being able to tell baldfaced lies in public is a feature, not a bug. Trump told 30,000+ lies as president and his base loved him all the more for it. Republican politics is largely about cutting taxes for the rich and owning the libs.
The second point is more complicated. Trump has nominally said that his relationship with McCarthy was not damaged by the tape, but Trump always bears a grudge. Politico reporters called a bunch of top Republicans on and off the Hill to get their take on what happens now. A lot depends on what Trump does, not what he says. Will he be angry and try to punish McCarthy by getting, say, two dozen Republicans in safe seats (and thus in the next Congress) to make a deal: Trump endorses them and campaigns for them in return for a promise not to vote for McCarthy for speaker? Remember, the speaker is elected by the entire House, not by the majority caucus. If the Democrats end up with 200 seats, all it would take is 18 Republicans to swear that under no conditions would they support McCarthy. The Republicans would have to find someone else, but Trump wouldn't care who it was as long as it wasn't McCarthy. Well, he might have some problems with Speaker Cheney if she gets reelected and makes a deal with the Democrats to vote for her in return for her allowing them to offer amendments to bills, but otherwise Trump wouldn't get involved. The goal would be to get revenge on McCarthy.
But there is also another possibility. Trump now has McCarthy by the [insert here body part that Lyndon Johnson famously talked about grabbing to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people]. Trump could say to McCarthy: "You wanna win back my support? Here's what you gotta do." Then Trump orders McCarthy to finance and campaign for a long list of very Trumpy House candidates. If McCarthy really does his best to elect a House full of Trump puppets, Trump might forgive him. Or maybe double cross him and endorse firebrand Jim Jordan for speaker. Who knows?
Another complication, separate from Trump, is that there are still some decent, honest Republicans in the House. Not many specimens of that very endangered species, but they do exist. They may be so angry with McCarthy that they won't vote for him for speaker on account of his lying and making Republicans look like a bunch of two-bit con men and women. Again, it probably wouldn't take more than about 20 or so of them, depending on exactly how big a potential House majority is. If the Republicans do win a majority but their margin is fairly small, they might have a tough time getting 218 votes for anyone, given all these factors, especially if there is a RINO "traitor" who is conservative, but honest, and is willing to make a deal with the Democrats and has a couple of dozen Republicans backing him. (V)
Republicans probably hate Thomas Edison. Not only did he reside in a blue state (New Jersey) but he invented a way to record the human voice and play it back later. If only that had never happened, they would be in better shape now. Kevin McCarthy's woes are described above, but he isn't the only one who is under attack due to a secret recording.
Earlier this month, the far-right Gateway Pundit published a recording in which Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) said: "I believe strongly that once the states certify ... you know each state, they act independently once they certify, then it's over."
After the recording became public, Boozman immediately thanked Trump for his endorsement and begged Trump to forgive him, in a failed attempt to contain the damage. Maybe Trump will Mo him (sounds better than Brooks him), but it may not matter. Extreme right-wing billionaire Richard Uihlein wants to take Boozman down for this remark. Uihlein's chosen vehicle is Jake Bequette (33), who played football for the Arkansas Razorbacks and was a reserve player for the New England Patriots and who is now challenging Boozman from the right in the GOP primary in Arkansas. Right-wingers and football seem to go together for some reason. And given the modern Republican Party's propensity for bending the rules, who better than a New England Patriot?
Uihlein's first dump of $1 million to a Bequette super PAC is paying for ads calling Boozman "Joe Biden's favorite Republican," "a liberal," and "weak." Uihlein, an heir to the Schlitz brewing fortune who was also CEO of a company that makes cardboard boxes, must be having early memory issues (he is 77) because he forgot to call Boozman a socialist. Fortunately, he did note that Bequette is pro-gun, pro-wall, and pro-life.
Beating a conservative incumbent in a conservative state is never easy, but if Uihlein dumps enough money into the race it could put Bequette over the top. That said, Boozman has some powerful allies, specifically Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is running for governor. Presumably her dad, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, will also help Boozman. It's probably also worth noting that Walmart, which has far more money than even Uihlein (he's at $4 billion, whereas that's how much the Walton family keeps under their couch cushions), tends to prefer sane Republicans over crazy ones.
Uihlein has a long history of funding far-right candidates. In 2014 he backed various tea party candidates. He has spent money to oppose Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and former Republican senators Pat Roberts (KS) and Thad Cochran (MS). In 2018, he also plowed millions into a campaign to defeat the then-sitting governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner (R).
Bequette isn't the only candidate Uihlein is supporting this cycle. He has already spent $2.5 million supporting disgraced former Missouri governor Eric Greitens. In addition, he is also backing Josh Mandel in the Ohio Senate race against Trump-endorsee J.D. Vance and others.
The message here, but hardly unique to Arkansas, is that one right-wing billionaire who decides to go on a spending spree can really disrupt an election contest. Though Uihlein is actually pretty short on, you know, wins, so we'll see. (V)
The McCarthy item above implicitly assumes that the Republicans will capture the House. After all, history, gerrymandering (especially in Florida), voter suppression, inflation, Afghanistan and more are working for the red team. But the votes haven't been cast yet, let alone counted. It's not a done deal yet. While it is only a small bit of data, two guys from a polling company held a focus group with 13 Pennsylvania swing voters to find out in depth what they were thinking. The results were a bit surprising.
The biggest takeaway is that 12 of the 13 swing voters were frustrated with the Democrats, but thought that the "cure" of putting the Republicans back in power might be worse than the "disease" of letting the Democrats keep control.
The one exception, David (40) said: "Biden has done a horrible job. Crime is up everywhere ... It's all the Democrat-run cities. Inflation is at a 40-year high. I don't see any solutions coming out. I think maybe we need to have Republicans controlling the House and the Senate to provide good checks and balances for Biden."
But the other 12 do not see the midterms as a referendum on the Democrats. They were more inclined to look at the actual candidates. One panel member said that if a candidate was preaching that Trump won in 2020, that was a dealbreaker. Another said that both parties have made mistakes but wasn't at all sure that Republicans in Congress would make better choices.
Eight of the 13 were apprehensive about giving the Republicans control of Congress. One said that they are petty and act like babies. Another said they would immediately make decisions that do not benefit minorities or the middle class or the working class. One young woman said that if Republicans gain power the country will move backwards. An older woman said that if they gain power, the first thing the Republicans will do is push hard for voter suppression and try to keep people of color from voting.
Remember, these are swing voters in a swing state, not California Democrats. For Republicans to do well, they either have to allay these concerns or win the turnout war. Of course, if all their voter suppression techniques work, the latter might well be the key. (V)
Much to the Democrats' joy, Donald Trump's pick in the Ohio GOP senatorial primary, hillbilly favorite J.D. Vance, is surging since Trump endorsed him. In case you are curious, Vance actually has given names, not just initials. He was born James Donald Bowman. After his mother got married for the third time, he went as James Hamel for a while, then later picked Vance, the surname of the grandparents who actually raised him. Oh, and the "D" is currently for David, not Donald.
Before Trump's endorsement, Bowman/Hamel/Vance was trailing in the polls and out of money. What a difference a week makes. Over $5 million poured into his campaign coffers since the endorsement. He is now leading in the polls. This complete change explains why so many Republican politicians grovel at Trump's feet.
The primary is on May 3, so Vance doesn't have to hang on long. His main opponent is the former state treasurer, Josh Mandel (R) who, like Vance, puts on an act about how Trumpy he is. But apparently Vance is the better actor. Or maybe Trump is not a connoisseur of acting and is fooled easily. Mandel had been leading in the polls for a year, so the effect of the Trump endorsement is crystal clear. Mandel's goose is not cooked yet, as he has some heavyweights in his corner, including Michael Flynn and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
If Vance wins the primary, he will probably face Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) in November. Back in 2016, Vance was very anti-Trump and very outspoken about it. Ryan probably has miles of tape (well, terabytes of mp4s) and many quotes with Vance dissing Trump. He might just try to run ads on Fox News showing Vance saying nasty things about Trump and calling him names in an attempt to get Republicans to skip the election. For example, in 2016 Vance said he couldn't decide if Trump was a cynical a**hole like Richard Nixon or if he was America's Hitler. He also said: "We are, whether we like it or not, the party of lower-income, lower-education white people ..." Of course, Fox might refuse to run the ads, although the editorial side and business side might get into a fight about that. In any event, Vance is probably the weakest general election candidate currently running for the GOP nomination and if he wins it, Ryan might just have a shot at winning. There would be some irony if a state that is as red these days as Ohio ended up with two Democratic senators. (V)
Utah Democrats realize that they have no chance of electing a Democrat to the Senate in Utah, but they would really, really like to defeat Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). So Plan B is to endorse independent candidate Evan McMullin, which they did on Saturday.
The animosity toward Lee has only grown as more and more evidence comes out that he was actively working in Jan. 2021 to overturn the election and keep Donald Trump in power. By endorsing McMullin, a conservative Mormon who was not part of a conspiracy to pull off a coup, the Democrats hope to get rid of a senator they loathe. If it works, the blue team will still end up with a conservative, but at least a conservative who believes in democracy.
This will be the first time in Utah's history the Democrats have failed to put up a candidate in a statewide race. However, since the blue team hasn't elected a senator in Utah since 1970 (Frank Moss), by not fielding a candidate they are not giving up much.
McMullin ran for president against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016 and got 22% of the vote in Utah. Now he is better known, but Lee isn't as hated in Utah as Trump, so Lee is probably still the favorite. Still, if yet more evidence comes out that Lee was actively trying to subvert the 2020 election, that could convince some Republicans to vote for McMullin. In fact, evidence is now emerging that not only did Lee try to subvert the election results, but in an attempt to cover up his actions, he blatantly lied to officer Michael Fanone—who was beaten during the 1/6 riots and met with Lee to discuss launching an investigation—about what he did. If there is a large Democratic turnout for McMullin, the combination of disaffected Republicans and Democrats might just be enough to give McMullin a chance. (V)
Ambitious Democrats all over California are expecting Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will not run for reelection in 2024—assuming she doesn't resign before then due to ill health. If she ran and won, she would be 97 at the end of the term. Mind you, that wouldn't make her the oldest senator ever. Strom Thurmond made it to 100, although some people think he had died, was stuffed, and propped up in his wheelchair. Still, even by Senate standards, 97 years old is getting up there.
Consequently, the fight for her seat has already begun, albeit under the radar, as no one dares talk about it until Feinstein has confirmed she will not run in 2024. Two of the candidates with the name recognition and campaign war chests for a statewide battle are Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Katie Porter (D-CA). Due to California's top-two primary system, if both of them ran and no other top-tier candidates entered, they could end up facing each other in the general election—with no Republican on the ballot. Not exactly the height of democracy, but that's how it works in California.
Neither of them is willing to discuss 2024 because they don't want to upset Feinstein, who thinks she is still capable of doing her job, even though her staff thinks she isn't. The one valid point she can make about hanging in there until the cows come home is that in the Senate, seniority is everything and only one Democrat (Pat Leahy, D-VT) has more seniority than she does. The other California senator, Alex Padilla (D-CA) ranks # 98 in seniority, above only the two Georgia senators elected in the Jan. 2021 runoff. If Feinstein were to retire now, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) would appoint a new senator who would rank #100, meaning California, with 40 million people, would be represented in the Senate by #97 and #100. Not a lot of power for the most populous state. That said, one of the primary benefits of seniority is getting dibs on plum committee chairs, and Feinstein has already been compelled to give up her main assignment (chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee). So, it's not like California is currently getting full benefit from Feinstein's long term of service.
Schiff currently has $18.1 million in his campaign account. His Los Angeles-based district was D+23 before reapportionment and will probably be similar when Charlie Cook gets around to computing the new PVIs. You don't need $18 million to run for your 12th term in a very blue district after having been the face of Donald Trump's first impeachment. He's clearly been saving his pennies for something bigger than another easy House race.
Porter has $17.8 million cash on hand, not far behind Schiff. On the other hand, her Orange County-based district, which is southeast of Los Angeles, is R+3 and is definitely competitive, so she may need to spend heavily just to be reelected in 2022. As a consequence, come Jan. 2023, Schiff might be sitting on a much bigger war chest than Porter.
Of course, given the possibility of getting a high-profile job one could keep for 30+ years, other Democrats might also give it a shot. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) represents Silicon Valley and could probably raise a lot of money locally in a hurry if he tried. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) would be popular with Black voters, but she would be 78 during a 2024 campaign, a bit elderly to be starting a Senate career. On the other hand, if Feinstein exits stage left before 2024, for one reason or another, Lee is a strong contender to be a place holder until 2024. This would save Newsom from having to pick the new permanent senator—and thus antagonize all the folks he didn't pick. Having Lee finish out Feinstein's term would give a level playing field in 2024 for Schiff, Porter, possibly Khanna, and any Hollywood stars who think they are the next Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Kardashian 2024, anyone? (V)
Devin Nunes is no longer in Congress, but he is not completely out of politics. He has filed 10 lawsuits against media organizations that reported on what he was doing when he was still in politics. One of them was a suit against CNN that reported that he went to Vienna to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. Nunes didn't like that report, so he sued. However a panel of federal judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, based in Manhattan, voted 2-1 to reject his appeal from a lower court decision that went against him in the CNN case.
Earlier this month, a different set of federal appeals court judges voted against Nunes in a case where he had sued The Washington Post. The Post published a story that said Nunes, then the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, had told Trump that the U.S. intelligence community believed Russia was trying to help Trump in 2020. Nunes claimed the Post defamed him. The judges said: "Nope!"
In yet another case, Nunes sued NBC over statements made by Rachel Maddow concerning a package he received from a sanctioned (pro-Russian) Ukrainian lawmaker. That case is pending.
In yet another case, Nunes sued the parent company of Esquire magazine which claimed that the Nunes family employed undocumented immigrants on their Iowa dairy farm. That case is also pending.
Remember the Steele Dossier? Nunes sued the author alleging it defamed him. A federal judge tossed the suit. He refiled and it was tossed again.
In 2019, Nunes sued a group of Californians who claimed that he was not a farmer and shouldn't be allowed to put that as his occupation on the ballot. He later dropped the suit.
Also in 2019, The Fresno Bee ran a story detailing an employee's lawsuit against the Alpha Omega Winery, in which Nunes has a stake. Nunes sued. He also sued Republican strategist Liz Mair. He lost both suits.
Nunes has also lost some lawsuits against the account of the infamous Devin Nunes Cow on Twitter, though at least one of them is still pending. But all in all, nearly all of his suits get thrown out. He has a bachelors and masters in agriculture and we guess ag students are not taught how to win lawsuits against the media. And he doesn't appear to be a quick learner. His surprise retirement from the House to run the sinking TRUMP Social—no scratch that, TRUTH Social—suggests he may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. We hope he doesn't sue us for pointing that out. (V)
Orrin Hatch was the longest-tenured Republican senator in history. He represented Utah for seven full terms, from 1977 to 2019. He died on Saturday at 88.
Hatch's time had come. And gone. He was a good senator, a good colleague, and an honest man. The Senate no longer has much use for people like that, so it is just as well that he called it quits in 2019. To be a good Republican politician now you have to be skilled at lying in public with a straight face and be able to mislead the rubes. These weren't his skills or interests. He didn't change, but the Senate did.
Hatch grew up in poverty in Pennsylvania but overcame many obstacles and went to Brigham Young University and then the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. During law school he lived in a renovated chicken coop behind his parents' house. In 1976, on his first run for public office, Hatch was elected to the Senate from Utah, defeating a three-term Democratic incumbent (the above-mentioned Frank Moss, who somehow managed to show up twice in today's post). Hatch's main platform plank was term limits for senators. Oops. Didn't quite live up to that one. He ran six more times and won all of them.
Hatch was a rock-ribbed conservative, but he wasn't a bomb thrower. He wanted to make the Senate work and pass laws he thought were good for the country. He opposed abortion and thought that it should be up to each state to determine whether it was legal. He also supported a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. He opposed the Affordable Care Act. He was generally opposed to more immigration. He fought hard to get conservative judges confirmed.
On the other hand, he could also work with Democrats when he saw common ground. Surprisingly, when he was the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, he was the one who suggested to then-President Bill Clinton that he nominate Ruth Bader Ginsburg (whom Clinton had never heard of) to the Supreme Court and assured Clinton that Ginsburg would be confirmed easily. He also worked with the very liberal Ted Kennedy on some issues. Together he and Kennedy formed the driving force that led to the Children's Health Insurance Program, which has provided medical care for tens of millions of poor children since 1997. Hatch opposed same-sex marriage but supported laws banning discrimination against gay and transgender people in housing and employment. He also supported programs to assist AIDS patients. He was definitely a conservative, no doubt about that, but he was also a decent human being. R.I.P. Senator Hatch. (V)
The good people of France headed to the polls over the weekend. And they overwhelmingly decided that while President Emmanuel Macron has been no great shakes (in the eyes of most voters), they did not want to hand the reins of power over to Marine Le Pen. The final tally was 58.55% for Macron to 41.45% for Le Pen.
Although Macron won, the real story, according to many outlets, is the growing power of the far right (see items from the The Atlantic, CNN, CNBC, and The Associated Press for examples). Maybe that is correct; it's not like we are experts in French politics. Certainly, it is true that Le Pen did better this time than in 2017, when she got 33.9% of the vote.
That said, Le Pen worked hard to change her image this year, towards a kinder, gentler xenophobic zealot. She was running against an unpopular incumbent, and at a time when her anti-NATO messaging could have real teeth. Polling, which said the election could be close, had her supporters energized. And yet, she lost by 17 points, marking a third presidential defeat for her personally, and an eighth for the Le Pen family overall. Again, we don't have a firm grasp on French politics, but it sure looks like the far-right in France has reached its ceiling, and that while it's capable of producing a great deal of sound and fury, it ultimately signifies nothing. What circumstances, if not the ones in effect this weekend, would allow Le Pen's National Rally to win a presidential election? Or even to keep the margin of defeat to single digits?
In any event, Macron becomes the first French president to win reelection since Jacques Chirac pulled off the trick back in 2002. France is an anchor of the E.U., and also of NATO in general, and of support for Ukraine in particular. So, Americans and others who like those things will be happy to have 5 more years of a French president who does not, you know, hate the E.U. and NATO and who does not love Vladimir Putin. On the other hand, Putin will be very disappointed not to have a near-puppet running the show in France. Much vodka will be consumed this week in whatever bunker he's living in these days. (Z)
Trigger warning: If the sight of a hypermasculine male congressman wearing women's lingerie upsets you, stop reading now and don't look below. That's why we put this item last.
You've been warned. Earlier this month, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) said his congressional colleagues invited him to cocaine-fueled orgies. Many of them were furious with him and told him to put up or shut up. He did neither. But some enterprising reporters at Politico did it for him. They got a scoop that included these photos:
Cawthorn seems to be having a good time with the lovely ladies, at least one of whom is apparently married. Cawthorn was raised in a conservative Baptist community and has made his deep religious beliefs a core part of his persona and campaign. Our staff theologian is off at a party (OK, a cocaine orgy if you want to get technical), so we can't check on what conservative Baptists believe. Thus, we don't know what they think of men wearing women's underwear while hanging out with married women who are all over the poor fellow. In the photos, Cawthorn appears to be in a wheelchair, so they were probably taken after the 2014 car crash that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
After the photos leaked out, Cawthorn said: "I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Since no contemporary images of Jesus exist, we don't know what he wore, so maybe Cawthorn's guess is as good as anyone else's. Cawthorn also recently tweeted: "There's only one God and two genders." He didn't specify which one he identified with, though.
Cawthorn's primary opponents have taken note of the photos and they may soon get a bit more publicity in their campaigns. (V)