House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was in the news a bit last week for vigorously denying that he was planning to tell Donald Trump to resign after the attempted coup, followed by the release of an audio recording in which he made it clear that he was lying and he did indeed want Trump to resign. Many people speculated that being caught red-handed in a blatant lie might hurt his chances to become speaker if the Republicans capture the House in November.
Fear not for poor Kevin. At the House GOP meeting yesterday he addressed the matter and got a standing ovation from his colleagues. Telling lies, denying what he actually said, and then brushing it all off when it came out by blaming it on the Democrats is what real men do. Viva Kevin. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) said: "This is a distraction, folks, come on." Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) said: "Unless you're a member of the press, nobody gives a damn about Jan. 6."
But a few members were critical of McCarthy. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said McCarthy should apologize—for suggesting that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) be removed from social media just because he incited violence against Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). Gaetz wasn't impressed with McCarthy either. He tweeted: "Rep. McCarthy and Rep. Scalise held views about President Trump and me that they shared on sniveling calls with Liz Cheney, not us. This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders."
Fortunately for McCarthy, Tucker Carlson is not a member of the House and won't get to vote on who will become speaker. On Tuesday he said: "Kevin McCarthy of California told his good friend Liz Cheney that he hopes the social media companies would censor more conservative Republicans in Congress. Donald Trump, the sitting president, had already been silenced by those companies. But McCarthy wanted the tech oligarchs to do more." Carlson also warned that unless conservatives get their act together, McCarthy or one of his liberal allies like Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is likely to be Speaker of the House next year. So Carlson sees Stefanik as a liberal. No doubt we will soon see her having fun at lunch with her new buddy, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
Nevertheless, the initial take on McCarthy's lies seems to be that, Greene and Gaetz aside, getting caught in a big lie may not hurt McCarthy's quest for the speakership. His caucus is apparently not at all bothered by his dishonesty and hypocrisy. But a lot hinges on: (1) whether the Republicans get a majority in the House and (2) how big it is. If the majority is quite small, then the Freedom Caucus (or some other group) could vote against McCarthy and yet kill his dream of becoming speaker. (V)
In Republican-controlled states all over the country, the legislature has drawn one gerrymandered map after another. One glaring example is Ohio, in which the state Supreme Court has thrown out the map the legislature drew but the legislature plans to use it anyway. The one state where the Democrats thought they could make up ground lost elsewhere is New York, where the legislature produced a highly gerrymandered map favoring the Democrats.
Now that plan has been all but ruined by a ruling from the state's highest court that the map is an unconstitutional gerrymander and the legislature failed to follow the correct procedures in producing it. To make it worse, the court didn't say: try again. Instead, it will hire a special master to draw the map. This could easily cost the Democrats two or three seats, depending on what the special master comes up with.
Because there probably isn't enough time for the map to be drawn and candidates to file in the new districts, the primary may have to be moved from June until August or September. New York has a long history of September primaries, so that would not be unprecedented.
The Democrats are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to mapmaking because the Republicans get to do whatever they want in the big states and the Democrats don't. The Texas legislature drew a heavily gerrymandered map and got away with it. The Florida legislature drew a heavily gerrymandered map and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) vetoed it because it wasn't gerrymandered enough. He drew a much more gerrymandered map, breaking up majority-minority districts and bullied the legislature into passing it. In California, which is ripe for gerrymandering, the Democrats can't do it because an independent commission draws the maps there. Now in New York, where the Democrats have the trifecta for the first time in years, they drew a favorable map and the state's highest court threw it out and will make its own map. The Democrats can't catch any breaks this year. (V)
It is hardly surprising, but it could lead to major news later on that Donald Trump has appealed the ruling of Judge Arthur Engoron that he is in civil contempt for failing to obey a subpoena from New York Attorney General Letitia James to turn over documents she wants. The judge also fined Trump $10,000 a day for noncompliance and Trump wants that overturned as well. The case will now go to the Appellate Division, which is the next level up. If Trump loses there, he may try to get the case before the New York State Court of Appeals, which is the top rung of the ladder, but there's no guarantee they will take it.
Trump's attorney said that James failed to show that her office was harmed by Trump's conduct. If this argument prevails, no investigation by prosecutors in New York will be able to issue subpoenas until the target of the subpoena has harmed the office doing the investigation. It is hard to imagine that the Court will accept this argument.
If the Court tosses the appeal, Trump will presumably take it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which might take the case, but certainly not until next term, with a decision probably in June 2023. At the very least, it will give Trump some breathing room. Trump's lawyer probably knows that he has no chance of winning, but if he can buy a year of respite by continuing to appeal, that's better than nothing. After all, there is a (slight) chance that James will lose her reelection bid and the new AG will have different priorities.
On the other hand, while the documents James wants would possibly help her case, she already has plenty of other evidence and could possibly proceed without the subpoenaed documents if that takes too long. Kevin Wallace, the senior enforcement counsel for James' office, has said: "The process is near the end." He probably means it because the statute of limitations has long expired, but Trump and James have a tolling agreement, which stops the clock and allows for prosecutions after the nominal expiration. However, it expires on Saturday. This puts some pressure on James to do something fast. Trump and his children are doing everything possible to block James' investigation. Eric Trump was deposed in 2020 and invoked the Fifth Amendment over 500 times. A judge ordered Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. to sit for depositions and they have appealed the orders. (V)
The Democrats are clearly unhappy with having Iowa go first in the presidential nomination process for multiple reasons. First, the caucus system puts a burden on voters who can't spend a cold winter evening talking politics for a few hours in some firehouse or church. Many Democrats want to get rid of caucuses altogether. Second, Iowa is an extremely rural state, with concerns that are not important to many Democrats. Third, Iowa is a very white state, with few minorities. Fourth, Iowa completely botched the 2020 caucuses to the point that even now no one is sure who really won.
Consequently, there is a strong move within the DNC to take away Iowa's "first in the nation" contest and give it to some other state, either permanently or on a rotating basis. It seems increasingly clear that Iowa is not going to be allowed to go first in 2024. A decision is expected from the DNC Rules Committee in July.
The easiest path for the Democrats is to let New Hampshire go first. While it is about as white as Iowa (90% vs. Iowa's 85%), it is not a farm state (southern New Hampshire is almost a suburb of Boston) and it has a normal primary, not a caucus. Also, New Hampshire has the support of all the other New England states, whereas Iowa does not have support from any other Midwestern state.
New Hampshire's main competitor is now thought to be Nevada, which is ethnically much more diverse. Also, despite its large size, Nevada is the fifth most urban state, after New York, New Jersey, California, and Massachusetts. A candidate who campaigns in Las Vegas, Henderson, Reno, North Las Vegas, and a couple of other cities can reach most of the state's Democrats easily.
One thing New Hampshire has going for it, besides tradition, is a law saying that its primary must be the first in the nation, even if it has to be before Thanksgiving or before Labor Day. Of course, Nevada could also pass such a law, in which case the DNC would have to decide. So the battle between New Hampshire and Nevada hasn't been won yet, but it seems increasingly likely that Iowa won't go first in 2024. (V)
Kamala Harris has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now taking Pfizer's anti-COVID-19 drug, Paxlovid. The drug does not cure the disease, but does make it more difficult for the coronavirus to replicate and thus reduces the symptoms of the disease. Harris has not shown symptoms so far and is less likely to do so now that she is on Paxlovid.
Harris is 57 and in good health. She is probably not in any danger of being hospitalized. In contrast, Joe Biden is 79 and would be at much greater risk if he contracted COVID-19. However, Harris is in California, where she has been for the past week (screwing up traffic in the vicinity of Z's residence, thank you very much). She hasn't been in Biden's company since the Easter Egg Roll on April 18. Thus it is very unlikely that she infected him as that would have shown up by now. Most likely Harris was infected in California. She is the highest ranking government official in the current administration to get COVID-19.
Biden is aware of the risks of getting COVID-19 at his age. He will attend the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this weekend, but only for the speech part at the beginning. There is an actual dinner associated with the meeting, but Biden will skip that as too dangerous. Besides, the food at the White House is better. Donald Trump never attended the dinners as president since he has a very thin skin and presidents often get lampooned at the dinner. In 2020 and 2021, the dinner was canceled due to the pandemic.
The announcement that Harris tested positive happened on the same day the administration said that starting immediately, tens of thousands of pharmacies would be able to order Paxlovid. There will also be a large number of locations set up where someone can go, be tested, and if positive, immediately get Paxlovid. Paxlovid is not an alternative to vaccination, but a backup plan for people who get COVID-19, no matter what their vaccination status is. Over half a million people have used Paxlovid so far and the government is going to order another 20 million doses. (V)
According to a report from Microsoft, Russia is actively waging cyberwar in Ukraine. It has detected at least 237 different attacks from six different agencies within the Russian government.
About 40% of the attacks were on critical infrastructure, which could have negative effects on the government, military, economy, and people. Another batch of attacks were attempts to erase files on computers at dozens of organizations all over Ukraine. Some of the cyber attacks were coordinated with military attacks.
With so many attacks on so many organizations run by so many Russian groups, it is obvious that the order to carry them out could have come from only one person: Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is what cyberwar looks like. Microsoft didn't say how many of the attacks it was able to thwart and how many it discovered after the damage was done. Microsoft has a contract with Ukraine to help it detect and mitigate cyber attacks.
What Microsoft also didn't say is whether Russia is also engaged in a cyberwar within the U.S. Clearly Putin is very unhappy with the U.S. supplying weapons and ammunition to Ukraine but doesn't want to launch military action against the U.S. for fear of a military reprisal. One thing Putin could do, and maybe is already doing, is launch cyberweapons against the U.S. under the radar and then deny it if it is detected. The fact that he has ordered a large-scale cyber attack on Ukraine indicates that Russia is capable of it and the groups doing it may just be waiting for orders to attack the U.S. next. (V)
An article over at FiveThirtyEight.com points out that Black voters are in a kind of catch-22 situation. They vote overwhelmingly Democratic because many Republicans disdain them and try to make their lives more difficult whereas Democrats generally try to help them. The help is sporadic and not always what they want (e.g., not fighting barriers to voting hard enough), but at least they are trying and are not adversarial, as the Republicans often are.
Black voters weren't always Democrats. Back around 1865 or so, when they started to get the vote, they keenly remembered which president freed the slaves and which party represented the slaveholders in the South. It was a pretty easy call then. But after Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson did a fair bit for Black people, followed by Richard Nixon's "Southern strategy," which was basically not-very-well-hidden racism in an attempt to get racist Democrats in the South to become Republicans, Black voters started to become Democrats such that around 90% vote now for the blue team consistently.
The Democrats understand this and therein lies the rub. Democrats don't have to go to the mat for issues of vital concern to Black voters because the Democrats know that the Black voters will never vote for Republicans and probably won't even stay home on Election Day because they dislike the Republicans so much. So the Black voters are stuck with the Democrats who say the right things but don't prioritize them much and certainly not issues that might cause problems with white voters. If Democrats start talking too much about "civil rights" (let alone "police reform") that makes some white voters uneasy, so Democratic politicians are hesitant to do it too much.
This problem doesn't hold with most other constituencies. If the Democrats try to win white suburban women or small business owners, that doesn't make some other group perk up their ears and get nervous the way explicitly trying to please Black voters does. So the Democrats don't do it. They can (and do) pursue policies that help Black voters (like being pro-union) but only when that also helps some white group and is not perceived as being racial.
Consequently, for a lot of Black voters, it is a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils and the Democrats are clearly the lesser. For better or worse, Black voters feel "captured" because they are. The one thing that may help in the long run is that the electorate is becoming more diverse and the Democrats are increasingly focused on winning non-white voters and less focused on white voters. That means that supporting policies that make some whites nervous is less of a concern because the Democrats are increasingly less dependent on white votes. Still that is more of a long-term issue rather than one that will matter in 2022 or 2024. (V)
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) was only six on Sept. 11, 2001. Most likely he can't remember that, starting then, the security checks at airports got a lot more serious, especially after George W. Bush signed a law on Nov. 19, 2001, creating the TSA. That law put the agency in charge of airport security, replacing the mish-mash of private contractors who sort of (mis)handled it before then.
Cawthorn probably didn't know that the TSA frowns on people taking loaded guns onto airplanes, because, after all, what does a six-year-old know about transportation security? So Cawthorn merrily took a loaded gun with him as he tried to board a plane in Charlotte on Tuesday. But as it turns out, TSA officers look for things like that and discovered his. Transporting a gun on a plane is legal only if it is unloaded and in checked baggage in a locked hard case. Who knew? The TSA officers were not amused and confiscated the weapon.
Or maybe Cawthorn thinks that obeying the law is just for the little people. He did this in 2021 and was caught then, too. He has also been cited for driving without a license and for speeding (multiple times). For a person whose job involves passing laws, he seems to have very little respect for laws in general.
For trying to take a loaded 9 mm pistol with a 15-round magazine onto a plane, Cawthorn received a misdemeanor citation and will have to pay a fine. Other than that, no problem here. One can only imagine what would happen if a bearded Middle Eastern man named Mohammed were caught trying to smuggle a loaded 15-round gun onto a plane.
And trying to smuggle guns onto planes, driving without a license, and speeding aren't the only problems Cawthorn has had. There is more. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) is calling for the House Ethics Committee to investigate Cawthorn for insider trading. Tillis believes that Cawthorn may have violated federal law while advertising his "Let's go Brandon" cryptocurrency. Cawthorn responded to Tillis by calling him the worst thing he could think of: a RINO. This shows that perhaps Cawthorn's accident might also have affected his mind. After all, there are worse things a Republican senator could be than a RINO. He could be a closet Democrat or a maybe even that all-purpose insult, a socialist. (V)