We got a lot of messages in the mailbag this week—over 200 song suggestions for Rudy Giuliani, to take just one example. Anyhow, we have that, plus additional rounds of podcast recommendations and letters about why international readers follow American politics, and, of course, a bunch of stuff prompted by the events of the week.
R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: In reply to S.P. in Harrisburg: Yes, it does matter if Russia takes Ukraine, for many reasons. I am a Ukrainian-American from my mother's side of the family, and Ukrainians have suffered from a long history of abuse committed by Russia. One of the worst examples is the Holodomor, which was a man-made famine created after World War I when Soviet Russians confiscated private Ukrainian farmlands and made them public property. The harvested food was redistributed by the Bolsheviks throughout Russia without consideration of how Ukrainians would be fed. The Ukrainians had relied on those farms for centuries to feed their country, and they no longer had access to their harvests, so at least 3.5 million Ukrainians starved to death. I might not be alive today had my mother's ancestors not immigrated to the U.S. in the 1870s, a few decades before the Soviet Revolution.
Vladimir Putin, a former Soviet intelligence officer, has a well-documented history of homicidal behavior. There have been many killings of political dissidents, reporters, and even foreign civilians under his leadership. In 2006, reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who had been documenting Russia's turn toward fascism under Putin's leadership, was shot in her apartment building in Moscow. More recently, in 2017, two Russian dissidents, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, were victims of a chemical weapon attack in broad daylight in Salisbury, England. In 2014, two armories in Vrbětice, Czech Republic exploded, killing 2 Czech civilians. In 2021, the Czech police concluded with near certainty that Russian intelligence operatives were behind the explosions.
Homicidal people have no reason to stop if they face little consequence for killing. Russia is not a democracy, but Ukraine is. It would send a terrible signal to the rest of the world if NATO stood by while an undemocratic state conquered a democracy. I'm sure there will be a bloodbath in Ukraine if Russia invades, considering Putin's intolerance of dissent. President Xi Jinping of China, who is even more authoritarian than Putin, has his sights set on Taiwan. China wants to spread its totalitarian ideology there. He is certainly paying attention to how the U.S. and NATO respond to Putin's actions in Ukraine. I agree with (Z) that the Olympics would be the perfect distraction for one or both of these countries to launch an attack.
Foreign dictators like to test Democratic presidential administrations to see how strong of a response they will give. It's clear Putin and Xi are testing the Biden Administration to see how much chicanery it will tolerate. It will be an absolute nightmare for President Biden if Russia and China launch simultaneous invasions. But compared with Trump, Biden is a fundamentally humane person and I think he would have much more sympathy for Ukraine and Taiwan than Trump would.
B.N. in Canton, MI, writes: Your item "Ukraine Crisis May Be Nearing its Denouement" reminded me of what Talleyrand said when asked about maintaining a large standing army: "You can do anything you like with bayonets, except sit on them."
Vladimir Putin is now learning that lesson. Given that the United States has been at peace only fifteen years since 1789, we, also, seem doomed to repeatedly prove this aphorism.
J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: Looking at a map, one observes that Crimea/the Donbas region are not far from the border of Moldova. More specifically, they're not far from Transnistria, a breakaway state within Moldova with strong ties to Russia, and a place where some major politicians have expressed a desire to join Russia. It would be a pretty convenient land grab, since Russia already maintains a substantial "peacekeeping" force in Transnistria, to NATO's chagrin.
Folks often discuss the Baltic states, Finland, and Poland as potential targets, but Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Most folks probably can't point it out on a map, but it has a long term goal of joining the EU, and is rife with opportunities for Putin to manufacture casus belli. If Putin captures the Donbas, my prediction is that his next land grab will be in Moldova. I wouldn't put it down for 2022, but maybe you can file it away for 2023?
A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: You wrote: "The Russians are working on a fake video that is staged to make it look as if Ukraine attacked Russia."
Sounds like Vlad is taking a page out of the Hitler playbook from 1939: Gleiwitz incident.
P.B in Lille, France, writes: As with E.K in Brignoles (you are not alone, pal), I am a French citizen who has been passionate about American politics since forever.
I identify a lot with the explanations of E.K.; for example, I also think that movies played a great role in my interest. But not only that. When I was young, I always had an interest in history and in politics, and not only those of my country. I surveyed the beaches of Normandy at a very young age, and I had a lot of respect for the country that had sent tens of thousands of its citizens to die on our shores to liberate my country from Nazi oppression. I wanted to learn more about that country, and I had the chance to visit your beautiful country several times (Florida, D.C., and California, essentially). In college, I had the chance to study some constitutional law, and I was fascinated by the text written by your Founding Fathers, and the longevity of the text (in France, we change the constitution more easily). So, my interest in American politics grown from there, and I find your electoral system very interesting (even if a bit exotic and surprising sometimes).
I also identify a lot with E.K. when it comes to elections in America: I truly live in a U.S. time zone those nights. I have to admit that for about 10 years now, I look at american politics with a lot of disbelief and a bit of fear (I think that it started with Sarah Palin), but it is because I love your country, too.
And for your readers who would like to follow French politics, I can suggest this site, which is not a blog but a forum. You can find some useful information, but you have to speak French; it's only in the language of Molière.
R.B. in Calgary, AL, Canada, writes: Imagine that you rent the top floor of a three story house. It's a nice, very spacious place, though the attic is pretty cold and drafty. The large immigrant family in the half-basement are pretty nice too, they have a much warmer apartment and make great food, and you drop by for visits a lot in the winter.
However, the family on the main floor are something else. They have a big entertainment system that is on all the time. It's a bit of a party house, there seem to be lots of drugs, too, and a lot of fighting. The wife is kinda nice, but a little ignorant. The husband is meat-head who has guns, lots and lots of guns, and keeps getting into fights with neighbors up and down the street.
Wouldn't you pay alot of attention to whats going on down there? Could you actually avoid paying attention?
(Also, to quote a former Canadian prime minister on sharing a continent with the U.S.: "It's like a mouse sharing a bed with an elephant. The mouse hopes the elephant is going to be friendly, but not too friendly." You certainly want to keep an eye on the beast.)
M.O. in Elsinore (home of Hamlet), Denmark, writes: I follow E-V.com because I love politics. I stay up on election night here in Denmark, watch Skynews/BBC when there are elections in Great Britain, and follow the elections in the U.S. until they called, usually in the early morning here in Denmark.
With U.S. politics, I care because what happens in the United States affects me in Denmark. I supported the war in Afghanistan, like most Danes and we ended up with the most casualties on a per capita basis because Danish troops were stationed in Helmand province. So what happens in the U.S. affects us here in Denmark.
Denmark is a NATO member and a good ally of America, so I affects me very much if your president is The Orange or a Democrat and on a human basis, I am still flabbergasted that you don't have free healthcare.
I read E-V.com every day over lunch because it gives me a quick overview on what is happening in U.S. politics. I also follow Politico.com for their Playbook newsletter and Politico.eu for their Brussels and London Playbooks.
A.P. in Kitchener, ON, Canada, writes: I am a Canadian and long-time reader of E-V.com. Aside from a general personal interest in politics, I use the site as my daily update on U.S. politics. I teach public policy at Conestoga College, which is essentially the Canadian equivalent of a community college. I have a large number of international students in my classes. Using American stories in my classes provides examples that are easily understood by both my domestic and international students. Canadian political news is not followed to the same degree by either my international or domestic students.
S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: Why are foreigners interested in American politics? Thought-provoking, but maybe the wrong question. Why aren't Americans more interested in foreign politics? That's the question that tells us the sad truth about most Americans. Despite having a public school education and private college degree, I'm almost embarrassed to admit how little I knew about politics/elections/governments in other countries before seeing discussions about them here at E-V.com. Those lesson plans must have gotten lost with the ones about America's historical and current racial inequalities.
I believe we'd be a better country if we learned more about other countries, as well as the history and experiences of those who aren't white, straight and male. (Who am I kidding? Most Americans don't even know how politics/elections/governments work in America. Long, sad "sigh.")
Now somebody please explain to me what the hell Timbiebs Timbits are?!?
V & Z respond: We think you have to be Canadian to understand Timbiebs Timbits. Not unlike 75% of the jokes on The Kids in the Hall.
M.S. in Las Vegas, NV, writes: Honestly I think you're being much too kind when you listed three possibilities for why Republicans make ridiculous statements that are completely untethered from fact and reality. I am virtually convinced that the vast majority of Republicans say things they know are BS (Paging that My Cousin Vinny 9 second clip....); as you wrote, "They know how absurd their statements are, but think their voters are too dumb to realize it." I'm truly surprised there haven't been more instances of leaked audio where GOP politicians laugh about taking advantage of rubes, and how the elitist Ivy League liberals lose their mind over it.
When exactly have Republican voters seemed to care one bit about being sold BS? Not when Trump sold them a wall Mexico would pay for, not when then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared 8 months was too fast to replace a Supreme Court justice in an election year and then did it in what? About 6 weeks? They certainly don't seem to care when their main news sources lie to them. I mean, every time I see Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), or McConnell posturing (translation: baldfaced lying) about anything, I know exactly why they're doing it: because their voters not only allow it, they encourage it. Lie to them about Covid? Mass applause. Tell them you got the booster? They boo, even if you are his majesty, King Orange. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) knows this and currently takes advantage of it even better than Donald Trump (DeSantis still won't say if he's received the booster, right?). I have very, very little doubt DeSantis will be the Republican nominee in 2024. In fact, I'm more sure he will be the GOP nominee than I am Biden will be the Democrats' nominee. I'm also sure he's had the booster; if he hadn't, he'd just say so.
D.K. in Iowa City, IA, writes: I have been reading about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. It sounds like Lincoln would not have tried to abolish slavery in the South if there had been no Civil War. The Southern states made a miscalculation that cost them dearly by seceding. I wonder if Donald Trump made a similar mistake by not conceding the election and preparing for 2024 instead of doing what he did and possibly ending up being prosecuted and ending up in prison.
A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Thanks for the link to the story of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) courting the oil tycoons. It seems clear that Sinema knows her time as playmaker is short and she's milking it for all it's worth. She must believe that by selling her vote to the highest bidders, of both parties, she can build up a big enough war chest to make her untouchable. Come 2022, when it's probable she'll no longer have this power to unilaterally kill legislation, watch how her tune changes. Maybe in addition to predictions about Congress, you should have predictions just for Sinema and perhaps Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). When her vote no longer makes or breaks anything, I think she will suddenly remember, for example, that climate change is a big deal and we should really do something about it. Meanwhile, her new, rich donors will already have gotten their money's worth and will continue to support her. As E-V.com readers know, a week is a long time in politics and 2 years is a lifetime. I'm certain she's betting people will have forgotten her apostasy by then and that she can win back those pesky voters with the correct empty rhetoric. I guess only time will tell...
P.R. in Arvada, CO, writes: You wrote about the political aspects of the Beijing Winter Olympics, and one section was about the conflict between NBC Sports and NBC News. I started watching the coverage on Thursday evening, but turned it off due to the political coverage between races. I hope this is short-lived, as I don't watch sports for political commentary. It almost seems as though NBC goes out of their way to give people reasons to complain about their coverage.
We don't live under a rock and know just how awful China is. We also don't care enough to stop giving them our money, so we can have either a cheap MAGA hat or cheap iPhone. If we care about how awful China is, we should put our money where our mouths are; otherwise let's just accept the fact that a cheap plastic toy is worth the suffering of some foreigners and enjoy some people sliding down a hill on a tea tray.
R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: To S.Y. in Skokie: If you value the opinions of (V) and (Z) and think they don't have enough influence , or that the Democrats or specific Democratic candidates would benefit from their counsel, please don't hesitate to forward links to your favorite members of the Party. I would hope that they are communicating directly with the people who represent them, but even if they are not, nothing is stopping us from sharing the things we think are valuable. Heck, I tell my Republican representatives what I think they should do, even though I'm fairly certain it does no good. I do that because that's my job as a member of a democracy. Maybe you think, as I do, that it would do no good, and maybe you're right, but it definitely does no good if you don't even try. And it's certainly going to mean more coming from a person who says, "I am one of the people you represent and this website has advice I think you should follow, advice that if you did follow it would influence my voting decisions" than it would if (V) and (Z) sent it directly or perhaps even if your candidate/representative stumbled across it on their own.
E.A. in Okemos, MI, writes: In response to the question that G.W. in Oxnard posed about getting a survey request from a firm called "caopinions.org," I received what must be something from the same firm but with the web address of "miopinions.org." There is the same offer of a $2 gift card if I sign up to take future surveys. Mine was through the USPS mail and gave some additional information on who is running the surveys. There is the Community News Center with an address in Jackson, MI, and Washington, D.C., and it also states "A project of Sequoia Research, LCC."
A quick Google search lists a "Sequoia Research Corporation" which does "engineering services in aerospace applications and satellite navigation" but no other Sequoia Research listings. But there was a link to ScamPulse with 60+ reviews. Most are just complaints that this is a scam but there were a few details (of course, I don't know if they are true or not). One was that the major donor for Sequoia Research LCC is the Center for Voter Information, which is supposedly non-partisan but has heavy Democratic backing. The one thing that the comments do reveal is that these letters are being sent to people from across the country. People from Georgia, Florida, Nevada and Arizona had all left comments.
M.O. in Metamora, MI, writes: In the item "The Biden Trajectory, Part III: He's Out of Touch," you cited an incident where Pete Buttigieg's interaction with a pro-life Democrat was described. You wrote:What, exactly, does [pro-life Democrat] Day want? First of all, declining to answer a question is not "intolerance for dissent." Second, abortion is one of the third rails of Democratic politics; a person can't be "soft" on that issue and hope to land the Party's nomination. Third, what is "moderate platform language" for pro-life Democrats? Either the platform is pro-choice or it's pro-life; it can't be both."
I'm somewhat shocked at the low bar we are expecting top politicians to clear. Really? The most we can expect is evasive non-interaction in that scenario? I'm just an average non-politician but how about something like:I understand that abortion raises a lot of complex philosophical issues, but I come down firmly on the side of a woman's right to choose. I know this isn't your position, but the Democratic party supports things like expanded access to contraception, comprehensive sex education, and economic support for parents, all of which do more to reduce abortions than a Republican ban could ever hope to. Pilot programs in states like Colorado prove this, but Republicans still oppose them tooth and nail. I'll see what I can do to make sure those issues are on the platform and I hope to work with you on advancing them, as well as the many other important issues of the day that I'm sure we agree on.
Would something like that be too hard or too much to expect? Instead of alienating someone and driving them away from the Party, it engages them and offers them a place to productively work within it.
J.B. in Hutto, TX, writes: While it would be a cold day in hell before the Democratic Party adopted a pro-life plank in their party platform, there are actually a number of ways the relevant portions of the platform might be crafted to better appeal to pro-life voters. For starters, why can't the platform contain language simply acknowledging that abortion is an issue on which many sincere and well-meaning Americans (and many Democrats) can have honest and sincere disagreements? After all, a Pew Research poll showed that nearly a third of Democrats disagree with their own party's position on abortion and a Gallup poll shows that 26% of Democrats self-identify as "pro-life." These are not inconsiderable numbers. Merely to acknowledge the existence of those millions of Democratic voters would be a sign of respect to a significant chunk of the Party, if nothing else. And would be really be so hard to tack the words, "Recognizing that abortion is a controversial issue on which sincere and well-meaning Americans can respectfully disagree..." onto the front of the Democratic party platform's section on abortion?
In 2016, the Democratic platform contained the following language: "We recognize that quality, affordable comprehensive health care, evidence-based sex education and a full range of family planning services help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions." In other words, it upheld the long-standing position that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare," with which most of the country agrees. But this language was dropped in the 2020 platform. Why? Surely the Democratic Party agrees that reducing unintended pregnancies and therefore reducing the need for abortions would be a good thing, yes? Putting this language back into the 2024 Democratic platform should be a no-brainer.
Abortion is a multi-layered issue with many different manifestations in policy. A person can be pro-choice and still support parental notification and consent laws. A person can be pro-choice and still oppose federal funding of abortions. Rather than insist on a repeal of the Hyde Amendment (a position that didn't appear in the Democratic platform until 2016), why not leave that question to be answered by individual Democratic candidates, based on the dynamics of their particular electorate and their own moral consciences? To me, this is common sense. The polling data speaks for itself. Speaking anecdotally, I know many, many people (including several evangelical Christian women) who held their noses and voted for Trump only because of their pro-life beliefs. If the Democrats showed even the slightest amount of wiggle room on the issue, I think they would gain many more votes from the center than they would lose from the left. If you ask me, it probably would have won them the North Carolina Senate seat and kept them from losing a couple of House seats, and that would have changed everything.
D.H. in Pueblo, CO, writes: You discussed the problem of Biden and other Democratic office holders being seen as out of touch, and getting "wokeness" hung around their necks. And you observed how difficult it is for them to deal with the issue since they aren't the ones saying the various "too woke" things. While this may be unfair, I think they could deal with it—but only at the cost of upsetting some portion of the progressive wing of the party. They can either make it clear that they do not support the so-called woke agenda, or they will be seen as supporting it for condoning the same. They can't have it both ways.
While I do not have good answers, the Democrats need to start by taking the fears of non-Democrats seriously. It doesn't matter if those fears are drummed up by Trump's sickening lies. Those fears are real enough to the people that have them. Would you try handling somebody's fear of flying by casually dismissing them as meaningless because it is so much safer than driving, and implying that anybody that is afraid of flying simply has no clue what they are talking about? Or would you try to show them some respect, understand why they are afraid, and listen to them? When it comes to the overblown and outright fabricated fears drummed up by Trump the left comes across as taking the 2nd approach - which drives people away from them and right into the hands of Trump.
In other words, Democrats don't respond to accusations of being "too woke" by demonstrating that they are not "too woke." They respond by claiming the problem doesn't exist. To shake this problem Biden and other high-profile Democrats need to take the concerns of being "too woke" seriously and tackle them head on. They could, for example, say to the nation:I believe that there is such a thing as too much political correctness and we need to stop making such a big deal about how people talk. I believe that no school or diversity training class in this great nation should ever teach anybody that they are, by virtue of their gender, race, or religion, guilty of acts committed by other members of the same. Some have suggested that whites bear guilt for the crimes of their forebears, and I reject that. I believe that left needs to focus its energy on fixing problems for all Americans. Not only the problems of Black people. Not only the problems of women. Not only the problems of LGBTQ+ people. Sometimes, in our concern for the tremendous challenges faced by other demographics, it seems that the Democrats forget that white men have problems, too. I have not forgotten. Because I stand for an America for everybody, no matter if they are Black, white, brown, man, women, bi, gay, or straight. Nobody, and I mean nobody, should be left behind. [Go on with details on how their policies support this.]
While I would like a more diverse perspective, I will add that the bulk of my political news comes from E-V.com, so I do not sure how many Democratic politicians have made a statement like this. But I think the problem with doing this is obvious. Any Democrat that does it risks offending a non-trivial portion of their base, which they may not be able to afford. I suspect a number of readers will be offended, though that was not my intent. There are far better writers than I, but I don't think they can weasel around the fundamental problem. By staying quiet they give the message that they condone the "stupid wokeness" cited by James Carville. It gives the message that they will not stand up to the extremists in their own party. But if they really take a stand proving that they are not "too woke" they will lose support within their party.
M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Democrats' poor messaging and apparent inability to counter Republican slurs really cries out for a bit of workshopping.
Let's try "woke." When anyone sneeringly uses "woke" as a criticism, might I suggest, "Do you understand that 'woke' means 'just, fair, decent'? What's wrong with that?"
I'm not particularly good at this sort of thing, but I bet a lot of E-V.com readers could readily top my response. Furthermore, I suspect some of the more pithy remarks will make their way back to Democratic politicians and leadership, if they get published here.
V & Z respond: Hope you liked at least one of the three letters above yours.
T.J.R. in Metuchen, NJ, writes: Not meaning/wanting to pander, but I think "The Biden Trajectory, Part III: He's Out of Touch" was a fine articulation of the problems Joe Biden/the Democratic Party are facing. The far left has problems with Biden. Anyone who is Republican at their core has problems with Biden. Establishment Democrats (including me, more or less) understand the problems Biden is facing.
I think a large part of the problem is the mainstream media, which absolutely panders to the masses. Two examples: Every year, the media pontificates how few people watch the World Series. Every year, the media pontificates how few people watch the Academy Awards. The audience is so segmented that these numbers mean practically nothing anymore. (The only exception is the Super Bowl.)
I (for the most part) trust the mainstream media. But they are all chasing money and an audience. For example, the enormous story of money in politics is more or less ignored because the mainstream media is making money off of it.
As for a strategy... my two cents worth (and I may be oversestinating its value) is to ignore the idealists/purists. I think Bill Clinton's diss of Sister Souljah (as much as I might disagree with his assessment) was brilliant politically. I absolutely agree that Biden cursing the Fox reporter was brilliant.
Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
As much as I hate to say so, this is show biz. Republicans know that, Democrats need to swallow that.
C.J. in Lowell, MA, writes: I am writing to strenuously object to your suggestion that more presidential swearing is in order. I have no use for pearl-clutching over an occasional hot mic, though as someone who was pretty firmly raised to avoid such language I can attest it's not that hard to avoid, and I definitely do not want that becoming a regular part of public presidential vocabulary. A president is supposed to be the model of professionalism and good manners and there are still plenty of people who do cringe at such language. He's not supposed to be "one of the guys," though I do believe that Biden has the common touch and empathy in spades. Ideally, the only time a President would "swear" is when he places his hand on the Bible at noon on January 20th.
J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: You told D.R. in Omaha that if the vice president, serving their constitutional role as President of the Senate, tried to take command of the operation of that chamber, then they'd probably just be overruled by a majority vote.
I wanted to point out that this very thing happened in the Pennsylvania state senate just after the 2020 election. The Republican state Senate majority leader refused to seat a newly elected Democratic senator because the loser was still suing to overturn the results based on Trump fraud claims. The Democratic lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, tried to use his ceremonial role as President of the state Senate to overrule the majority leader and seat the new senator. The majority leader took a majority vote and not only sustained his decision, but also ejected Fetterman from the chamber.
A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: Since you ran my prediction today, concerning Pat McCrory (R) winning the North Carolina Senate seat..let me 'splain...
We have Ted Budd (R) and Mark Walker both competing for the Trumper vote in the Primary, so McCrory gets all the never Trumpers. Additionally, independents can vote in North Carolina Primaries. They specify which party's ballot they want when they arrive. Since Cheri Beasley is unopposed on the Democratic side, the left-leaning independents will take the Republican ballot and vote McCrory in order to defeat both Budd and Walker. And the right-leaning independents, who tend Never Trumper, will do the same.
At that point, we would have Beasley up against McCrory... and that one, in my view, is simply too close to call. Of course, I hope my prediction turns out wrong, but I see a very plausible way for it to happen.
E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: I'd like to add to the comments from R.H.D. in Webster about my soon-to-be-former representative in NY-24, John Katko (R). Before becoming a Congressman, Katko was a prosecutor who took on organized crime in Syracuse, so he's emphasized "law and order" issues throughout his career. Thus, his votes for conviction in the second impeachment trial and for the 1/6 commission were consistent with that. He's taken a moderate tack in Congress as part of the Problem Solvers Caucus. Although he's fairly conservative on many issues, he's even done some things I approve of, such as voting against repealing Obamacare and voting for holding Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. However, he also voted for the 2017 Republican tax scam and to defund Planned Parenthood. All in all, he could be worse for a Republican House member from my district, though I'd prefer an actual Democrat.
In the last three elections, Katko has faced off against a weak campaigner. Before Dana Balter, he defeated Colleen Deacon, a politically inexperienced aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). In the 2020 election, we had high hopes for Balter, who had come close to knocking Katki off in 2018 and who was now more experienced. As R.H.D. correctly pointed out, she emphasized Trump and health care in that election. However, she also made a number of campaign finance mistakes. She also totally failed to respond to sleazy outside PAC ads linking her to New York's bail reform law, even though she only supported the law from afar and had no role in passing it. She definitely had less charisma than Katko, and that's saying something because he's got a more nasal voice than Gov. Ron Desantis (R-FL) and a very brusque demeanor.
I voted for Balter's 2020 primary opponent, Francis Conole, who is an Iraq War veteran, a former Defense Department official, and a fourth generation native to the area (people around here seem to care a lot about that). Conole had very similar positions to Balter but seemed like a better fit for the district and more likely to beat Katko. Fortunately, he's trying again.
With Katko gone, I have no idea who else is going to jump in on the Republican side. Currently it's three little-known Trumpers, but things could change a lot if either Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon (R) or independent Syracuse mayor Ben Walsh, both popular centrists and good fits for the district, were to jump in. Of course, a whole lot more depends on the extent of the gerrymandering the New York legislature decides to do to the 24th. Being "way out there" in suburban Skaneateles, we might not even be in the district any more, or we could get lumped in with Utica in Claudia Tenney's NY-22 district. I just hope after all this that we don't somehow end up with a total Trumper-nutter.
D.P. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: I'd recommend: the following political podcasts:2022 Talks: It's a 3-minute weekday podcast about the news is general but with an emphasis on politics. Very non-partisan and a great way to get caught up on the day's events.
The Yonder Report A 3-minute weekly podcast about stories from and about rural America. Non-partisan but focused on the problems faced in red country.
What Roman Mars Can Learn About Con Law: Podcast host Roman Mars, who would have the most soothing presidential voice ever, is the student for his co-host and neighbor Elizabeth Joh, a law professor at UC Davis. Every month or so, when a big law is passed or the Supreme Court makes a ruling, Professor Joh breaks down the nuts and bolts of constitutional law and how it applies to all of us.
This Day in Esoteric Political History: Three hosts—one man, two women (one a woman of color)—discuss the past events that landed on this particular day. It can range from past presidential decisions, to campaign mistakes, to grift at Tammany Hall. It isn't particularly current with present events but it gives a detailed look into the political past.
I hope your readers will enjoy listening.
C.M. in Monroe, WA, writes: The Bulwark Podcast with Charlie Sykes has been a weekday ritual for me since it launched in 2018, after he and Bill Kristol were fired by The Weekly Standard. He interviews an array of mostly center-right to center-left guests. As a former conservative Republican who was always a staunch never-Trumper, he is unmerciful in his takedowns of the GQP-MAGAverse. At this point, he has no hope for the current "batsh** crazy" incarnation of the Republican Party and thinks the only way to save democracy in the U.S. is to vote for Democrats. He is still conservative, but he is certainly not a Republican anymore.
N.O.D. in Chicago, IL, writes:The Bulwark Podcast: Charlie Sykes and his guests offer civil, lively and occasionally snarky opinions from a conservative Never Trump viewpoint on daily political news and gossip.
Hacks on Tap: With years of pragmatic experience running political campaigns on different sides of the aisle, David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs and Michael Murphy mix it up with good humor and sometimes wit.
538 Politics Podcast: Galen Druke and various members of the 538 staff have data driven political discussions. For those of us who enjoy some insight to polling geekiness.
R.S. in San Mateo, CA, writes: My favorite is The Al Franken Podcast. It's a weekly focus on a particular topic, usually political. As a former insider, Al has insightful and knowledgeable guests. And as a comedian, he makes it funny, even if sardonic.
M.M. on Bainbridge Island, WA, writes: The two podcasts I listen to every week are about history, including the politics of the time. I'm kind of surprised they haven't been mentioned. One is Revolutions, by Mike Duncan (of The History of Rome fame). He's on his tenth and final series, the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917. Others consider the French Revolution (of course), the American Revolution, the Mexican Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and 1848.
The other podcast is History of the Twentieth Century, with Mark Painter. It's fascinating, with talk of politics, culture, religion, science, and the arts. However, I don't think I'll live to 2001—he's been doing it since September 2015, is up to Episode 270, and is only at 1933.
R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I've been fascinated by this article (which my friends at Crooked Media included in their daily newsletter last week). It is about a young Mississippi woman who is in law school at Ole Miss. She grew up in a very red part of a very red state. Her parents voted for Trump twice. She voted for him in 2020, has interned for several Republican lawmakers, including a former governor, and was considering a career in Republican politics. She enrolled in the Critical Race Theory class out of sheer curiosity because she wanted to understand why CRT is being so reviled in GOP circles. Her family and friends gave her a lot of crap about it, parroting all the talking points that we know and love about how they'll make her hate herself for being white or how she'll be canceled.
Long story short, she fell in love with the class and ended up e-mailing every state legislator when they began debate on a bill that would ban the teaching of CRT in Mississippi. This likely ended her career in GOP politics before it even started. (Ironically, the bill, if passed, would not cancel the class at Ole Miss—the only actual CRT class taught in the state—because the legislation is so vaguely worded.)
The right's recent obsession with banning books and any truthful teaching about our racial past is really important and should not be ignored. When people learn about experiences that are not their own, their minds are opened and it becomes really hard to remain in the narrow worldview of today's conservative politics. There is a reason why academia deservedly has a reputation of being liberal. The more you learn, the more your mind is opened, the more you care about other people's experiences. The Republicans don't want educated people who are capable of critical thinking because they'll lose their base. Have you ever watched Jordan Klepper from The Daily Show interview people at Trump rallies? Not the sharpest knives in the drawer, to put it nicely. For more on this, check out this George Carlin clip (it's about 5 minutes long and not safe for work).
Consider reports that the Chinese government is taking Uyghur children away from their families, putting them in Chinese schools, indoctrinating them in official Chinese government ideology, and teaching them to speak Mandarin. If this keeps up, within a generation, the Uyghur culture will be gone. And they're doing it with education.
S.K. in Bethesda, MD, writes: The comment from D.A in Brooklyn taking issue with my letter on CRT being taught in Maryland and Virginia schools is a perfect example of the mistake being made by Democrats in responding to the CRT red herring. D.A. essentially starts their argument by asserting that I am wrong—that CRT is not being taught in the school my daughter attends, nor is it being taught by my friend the teacher. So before D.A. has even gotten into making their points, they have already told me I don't know what I'm talking about. I might not be inclined to listen too closely to the rest of what they have to say at this point—both because I might be offended, and because I might actually know more than they do about what is happening in my neighborhood. And if D.A. was running for office, even though I agree with them on most other things, I might not be in a rush to go and vote for them because on this one issue I cared about they were disrespectful of my own lived experience. I might just sit it out. This is what many Biden voters in Northern Virginia (which, for those not familiar with the geography of the area, is less than 3 miles from my home, and is thus the home of the people I work with, who shop where I shop, and who sit on the sidelines at my kids sporting events) did when they felt (unfairly in my view) that Terry McAuliffe (D) was tone deaf on parent involvement in schools.
CRT as a political issue is definitely a red herring. It is not in the curriculum of either Virginia or Maryland. But as anyone who has either been a teacher or has paid close attention to their child's education knows, curriculums are mostly about what is required—not necessarily about everything that is taught, and definitely not about elective classes. And it is definitely taught—the actual theory that racism is embedded into the laws, regulations, rules and procedures that govern American society, is taught in New York, Maryland, and Virginia (and quick outreach to liberal friends living in liberal enclaves in MA, CA and CT confirms it is being taught there as well). Students learn the theory and then apply it to things like the racial implications of the Electoral College, the New Deal, the GI Bill, and zoning laws. It is probably true that most of the parents of students in these districts have no objection to these subjects, and most of the kids have elected to be in the classes teaching them—so it shouldn't be a problem that it is being taught. But every time someone like D.A. starts off an argument by saying CRT is not taught in American schools instead of by focusing on widely shared values about teaching and learning about the negative impacts of racism, they weaken the response to the Republican fearmongering. Just stop doing it.
R.P. in Alexandria, NY, writes: In recognition of Black History Month, it seems to me that the federal government was often an ally in the Civil Rights Movement due to the need to clean up our act and increase our appeal to these newly independent countries in the developing world in the post-World War II period. Harry S. Truman's desegregation of the military, the Sweatt v. Painter and Brown rulings by SCOTUS, Dwight D. Eisenhower's intervention in Little Rock in 1957, and the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson activities in the 1960s had ramifications beyond domestic politics, especially considering that it was in both Democratic and Republican administrations that the federal government challenged state government discrimination, at least until Richard Nixon pioneered a new GOP approach by exploiting the backlash to gains in civil rights with his Southern Strategy in 1968. It would be great if this were enough to balance the scales in the damage caused by our foreign policy, but to not recognize it at all would be to miss the complexity of our history.
S.H. in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, writes: As a Jew, I am in complete agreement with you regarding the over-the-top treatment of Whoopi Goldberg by the media. It's clear from watching the episode that her comment wasn't about minimizing the importance of the Holocaust, and that she was reflecting an understanding of "race" that most Americans have today (i.e. "race is based in skin color"). Venom should be reserved for people whose comments genuinely reflect menace and whose apologies are insincere. For instance, in 1995, the House Majority leader, Dick Armey (R-TX) referred to congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), who was openly gay, as "Barney Fag" during a floor speech. He quickly corrected himself, and later issued an apology, saying it was a mere mispronunciation. Any sane person watching the footage could see that his slip came from using the term repeatedly in private conversations, and that his apology was insincere.
As to the comment from T.T. in Bedford observing that saying the Holocaust was about race is equivalent to embracing those views, the answer is "recognizing that race is a cultural construct does not involve pretending that people in the past considered it a very real thing, and took various actions based on that belief." One can't understand the barbarity of the Nazis without accounting for their views on race, although that does not commit people today to holding the same views—though it is worth noting that many people today still do regard my people as an "inferior race" or "evil race" or other such nonsense.
P.M. from Marlborough, MA, writes: I found your comments on Whoopi Goldberg and the Holocaust really insightful. But you wrote that "the Nazis did target some non-white ethnic groups, most obviously Black people" and that I find more than questionable. The most obvious non-white ethnic group targeted by Nazi Germany was the Romani people of Europe. As the second most targeted group, they deserve to be remembered.
V & Z respond: We only held them out because that was a paraphrase of a classroom answer, and in the classroom (Z) usually doesn't include them because students are unfamiliar with them. However, we decided to go back and put them in.
W.K.D. in Houston, TX, writes: In response to yesterday's comment from (Z) that the holocaust refers only to the persecution of the Jewish people, I would say that most (educated) Jews would be very surprised to hear this, as we all recognize that what the Nazis did to the Jews, they also did to the Roma, the mentally handicapped, homosexuals, general political undesirables and subversives, and, very prominently to Russian prisoners of war, 3 million of whom were executed in the gas chambers. Slightly less than 50% of those executed in the gas chambers were Jewish (5.8 million of 12 million).
It is not antisemitic to note that the Nazis were universally evil and were relatively equal opportunity in their persecution. It's OK for you to say it. I absolve you! It's not even really true to say that the genocidal elements of the Holocaust were limited to the Jewish people as the Nazis were equally hell bent on destruction of the Roma. In general, it's a pretty bad look for one group of historically persecuted people to irrationally elevate their suffering above that of other contemporaneous groups who suffered equally.
V & Z respond: Nobody would suggest that Jews are downplaying the deaths or suffering of other people, it's just that while "Final Solution" or "Nazi atrocities" refer to the full range of harms done, "Holocaust" or "Shoah" are, with few exceptions, used to refer specifically to what happened to the Jewish people. Note that the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry on the Holocaust is "The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the genocide of European Jews during World War II." Wikipedia is not the definitive resource on all questions, but in this case, if that sentence was incorrect, it would have been obliterated by editors instantly.
G.R. in Basel, Switzerland, writes: I have slowed down on my letter writing, for the best of reasons: I have little unique to offer in comparison to the authors you select.
For example, the letters on homelessness from D.C. in Portland and J.L.J. in San Francisco both blew me away. Their personal insights (life in the San Francisco Tenderloin, media exaggeration of events in Portland) were fascinating; their analysis of causes and solutions for homelessness read like the best of Ph.D. theses.
I agreed with their views; not in the "you know that's right" echo response, but in the "they are teaching me things that I didn't know, in a way that's immediately understood, and lets me be confident that my pre-existing agreement is not my own liberal bias or ignorance."
These kinds of letters are why the Sunday mailbag is essential to the site. I love the weekday posts but shifting gears and hearing from real people with their unique perspectives and clearly well-thought-out analysis makes E-V.com even stronger and more illuminating.
Keep up the great work and specific thanks to these two exceptional contributors.
C.A. in Cincinnati, OH, writes: I've really enjoyed last week's letters about homelessness. Great perspectives from readers who live in cities that are facing "rampant crime and homelessness." Living in a city myself (Cincinnati), I have to agree with both J.L.J and D.C.
To me, the biggest driver of homelessness is this: Most jobs in today's economy are located in cities, which have not updated their housing policy nor significantly expanded their housing supply in the last 50 years. Therefore, demand for housing is extremely high. And, if you're like most working people, where wages have not increased at the same rate as the economy, the share of your income that's spent on housing has grown exponentially. As such, more people will not be able to make the ends meet and will be forced into substandard housing or homelessness.
This isn't to say there aren't other issues as well. Cities have more social services than rural areas, attracting folks who need them; depression, mental illness, and drug abuse are real afflictions that can lead to horrifying outcomes; and we've expanded the social safety net once since Lyndon B. Johnson was president. But to me, the answer for homelessness is the same as why America has become such an inequitable place: Capital has grown at a much faster rate than wages.
And wouldn't you know it, The Washington Post had a piece about this very topic today.
A.M. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: The letter from J.L.J. in San Francisco about their neighborhood not being as bad as some people suggest hit on something I have found to be true: No neighborhood is as bad as its reputation.
I have been to many neighborhoods with a bad reputation and never seen any trouble there. The truth is the vast majority of people in such neighborhoods just want to get on with living their lives.
It's human nature to exaggerate danger, and the press plays on this for sensational coverage that will sell.
So no matter what reputation a neighborhood has, check it out before deciding it is bad, and definitely before perpetuating the bad reputation.
R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: You correctly discussed prosecutorial efficiency and deterrence in your response to the question from J.O. in Williamsburg about the reason for federal prosecutions in the Arbery case, but I suspect there's another layer to it.
The McMichaels were convicted after trial in Georgia state court and sentenced to life without parole. However, they are appealing, which although an extreme long-shot, could theoretically result in a vacatur of the convictions and a retrial. The federal plea would have guaranteed they would do 30 years at a minimum (or 26+ years with maximum good-time credit), even if the state appeals were successful and they were acquitted (or convicted of lesser charges) on retrial. Moreover, a federal plea would involve allocutions by the McMichaels under oath, especially involving their criminal intent, that would be introduced as admissions at any retrial, making another murder conviction that much more likely. So that's the incentive for the federal and state prosecutors, and one would think for the Arbery family. (J.O. didn't ask, but the incentive for the McMichaels would have been to serve the first 30 years in a federal prison, which is supposedly less awful than Georgia state prison, at the cost of effectively giving up their long-shot state appeals.)
K.N. in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, writes: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is just batsh** crazy, it continually flaunts mainstream precedent, and is the most overturned court in the United States. The majority of the justices have a lifetime appointment, and impeachment is messy, so lets just redraw the boundaries of this court's jurisdiction:We the people hereto demand that the current Fifth circuit should have whole and exclusive jurisdiction over 1 (one) square mile of swamp in the center of Louisiana, and the offices and official chamber shall consist of no more than 3 (three) mobile homes, supported by no more than 12 (twelve) empty kegs of beer per official building.
J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: In the question from J.C. in Lockport, "Do you think FOX will air the Rudy Giuliani episode of The Masked Singer to avoid humiliating him?," the term "Fox" is the key. Fox Corporation owns the Fox Broadcasting Company (founded 1986), which owns or operates many broadcast stations and provides entertainment content (The Simpsons, The Masked Singer, some sporting events, etc.). Fox Corporation also owns Fox News Channel (founded 1996), the right-wing cable channel that the word "Fox" suggests to us politics junkies. Fox News doesn't carry The Masked Singer. I agree with (V) and (Z) that Fox Broadcasting stations will certainly air the Giuliani episode (cha-ching!). What Fox News would do with a hypothetical show that made money but embarrassed conservatives is a different question.
D.F. in Norcross, GA, writes: I'm not sure what song that I could've suggested to Rudy Giuliani for his ill-fated and chef's kiss bit of schadenfreude-inducing performance on The Masked Singer. What I can suggest, however, is that the backlash is America's way of delivering, well... "A Message To You Rudy."
The only thing is, I think it's a bit too late for him to stop his foolin' around and straighten right out.
V & Z respond: This was the third most common suggestion we got.
R.E. in Birmingham, AL, writes: I firmly believe there is a Bob Dylan song for every situation. In this case, I think America's (Former) Mayor should have sung "I Threw It All Away," from the Nashville Skyline album.
C.S. in Waynesboro, PA, writes: Surely the song Rudy Guiliani sang on The Masked Singer was "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash.
M.G. in Newtown, PA, writes: "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" by AC/DC
B.M. in Chicago, IL, writes: The far and away best choice would be Radiohead's "Creep"!I'm a creep,
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here
V & Z respond: This was the second most common suggestion we got.
Granted, I think Thom Yorke has an amazing an unique voice that No one should attempt to emulate, but the subject matter and the title of songs fit an authoritarian (or wannabe lackey) to a T.
D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: A veritable smorgasbord of song titles by the Pet Shop Boys, including "A Man Could Get Arrested," "At Rock Bottom," "Delusions of Grandeur," "Give Stupidity a Chance," "Nothing Has Been Proved," and "We're All Criminals Now."
Damn, it's like the soundtrack of Rudy's life.
C.A. in Irvine, CA, writes: It hasn't happened yet, but my aspirational song for Guiliani would be "I Fought the Law (and the Law Won)" by the Clash.
V & Z respond: And this was the most common suggestion we got.
P.C. in Yandina Creek, QLD, Australia, writes: "Down on Me" by Oz rockers The Hoodoo Gurus (one of the best ever blues rock songs by an Australian band IMHO):I've been going through hell
And it's starting to tell.
Want to stand up and yell
(I wish I had a soul to sell)
J.W.N. in Walnut Creek, CA, writes: "Dare to Be Stupid," by "Weird Al" Yankovic
P.S. in Davis, CA, writes: "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" by Charlie Daniels
And, of course... "When You're in Prison."
J.W. in Cincinnati, OH, writes: "Old Fart At Play" by Captain Beefheart
E.M. in Milwaukee, WI, writes: I have read E-V.com for so long that I don't know when I started. I want to weigh in on the topic of E-V.com's political slant, since a number of writers have asserted that the site has swung hard left recently, while a few have asserted that it is too critical of progressives.
From my point of view, E-V.com has always been left-leaning. However, this was somewhat masked in early days because (V) started the site with a focus on poll aggregation. There was commentary, but less of it, and the site went pretty quiet when the election cycle was off-peak. The addition of (Z) to the team has increased the capacity for commentary and allowed the site to be active every day, so there is more commentary on display. Also, (Z) seems a bit more snarky to me than (V)—not that (V) is particularly lacking in that department. Anyway, I think the higher volume of commentary makes the site's slant more clear.
But that is not the only change. The environment has also changed.
I wasn't very fond of George W. Bush, but he was and is a traditional Republican. Barack Obama is a pretty conventional Democrat, except that his Blackness brought forth the white supremacist rage that Donald Trump rode to the presidency. It is not that all Trump voters are racists; that is simply not the case. But the burning heart of Trumpism starts in that place. And Trump himself is a very special political animal who lies constantly and says factually ridiculous things, but his tone and attitude resonate deeply with his most aggrieved supporters. And of course there is a whole universe of cable news, talk radio, and web sites that spews the same nonsense. The political polarization we are now seeing is a new context and it makes E-V.com's leftward lean more apparent.
E-V.com has changed somewhat. American politics has traveled to a galaxy far, far away.
A.B. in Lichfield, England, UK, writes: In your answer to D.K. in Iowa City about the characteristics of right-wing dictators, you wrote: "That said, we are unaware of any brutal dictator who wore a bow tie" to potentially disqualify Tucker Carlson.
I give you Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, of Haiti, who frequently wore a bow tie.
However, I'm not entirely convinced that Mr. Carlson will be looking to someone of Afro-Caribbean heritage, and from what the previous president characterized as a "sh**hole country," as a role model, so maybe you're safe after all.
U.G. in Golden, CO, writes: Dictator with bow tie (on his way to listening to Wagner):
D.H. in Waterloo, ON, Canada, writes: It wasn't his regular attire, but Robert Mugabe wore one on occasion.
How about William Walker? Perhaps he only counts as a would-be dictator.
I also stumbled across the Wikipedia page of Ernesto Geisel. Not "brutal", but has anyone made a bow-tie look better?
M.M. in Houston, TX, writes: You are "unaware of any brutal dictator who wore a bow-tie"? I find this hard to believe coming from two people so familiar with university politics.
V & Z respond: Nah, the brutal dictators in academia don't wear bow ties anymore. They wear khakis and Oxford shirts.
G.R. in Tarzana, CA, writes: As someone who actually started out working in politics as a research analyst for Allard Lowenstein, has a minor in American history and a degree in economics (which didn't enable me to get a job, but I better understand why I can't afford do buy anything), and segued in being a political comedy writer, including a stint on HBO's Not Necessarily the News, I've traveled in the same circles as Bill Maher, Dennis Miller (who also lost his sense of humor), and a number of other political comics. It's surprising how many of them have veered off into the political extremes, both directions, to the point where it's become uncomfortable to admit they're friends. That said, your description of Maher not only made me laugh, but is probably the most accurate that I've seen, and I will now be plagiarizing it when engaging in discussions with fellow comedy writers about what the hell happened to of our peers and friends.
S.T. in Copenhagen, Denmark, writes: I have been informed by my resident dogs, a dalmatian and a fox terrier, that (Z) planted evidence pointing to Otto's guilt in the case of the destroyed toy.
Great answer, though: A lot of dogs do seem to have been named in rather unlucky—or even racist—ways. Great Danes have nothing to do with Denmark for instance. Dalmatians have no particular connection to Dalmatia, fox terriers name are an affront to foxes...And so on.
V & Z respond: And while "dachshund" is at least a German word, that's not usually the name used for the breed in that country. There, they are usually called "teckels."
Meanwhile, if you want to talk about manipulating evidence, investigators now suspect that this incident was not the suicide it was staged to look like:
K.H. in Maryville, TN, writes: Just wanted to say I've been completely useless since clicking on your link to The Griddle Cafe.
V & Z respond: If you had a dollar for every calorie on that menu, well, you might be worth more than Facebook... er, Meta at this point.
D.H. in Lisbon Falls, ME, writes: I see your Peanut Butter Captain Crunch-coated French toast ...and raise you a Kit's Burrito at Cafe This Way.
P.J.T. in Raton, NM, writes: I was actually eating breakfast when I read the item "The Filibuster Does Not Facilitate Debate," in which you wrote: "Oh, and our apologies if the thought of a clothes-less Mitch McConnell spoiled anyone's breakfast." Despite the rather painful event of granola spouting out of my nose, you made my day! Thank you.
V & Z respond: That being the case, you may want to make sure you're not eating when you read the next, and last, letter.
S.B. in Los Angeles, CA , writes: When discussing Mitch McConnell waxing philosophical, you made a remark that the Senator has no clothes, and then apologized for suggesting such an image.
Perhaps it might look like this?
V & Z respond: We can't think of a better note to end on than that one.