Fulton County DA Fani Willis had a chat with CNN yesterday, and gave a bit of an update on her investigation into Donald Trump. She said, first of all, that she's hard at work on the case, and won't stop until the truth is known. She also said that she's made sure to research the issue, and that if the former president's lawyers try to argue that he can't be prosecuted for acts committed while president, that's not going to fly. "I don't think that that protection will prevent a prosecution if that becomes necessary in this state case," were Willis' exact words.
We pass this along for two reasons. First, barring his death or a miracle (which, in the minds of some people, would be the same thing), Trump's going to face charges in Georgia. Willis wouldn't spend a year investigating, and wouldn't empanel a grand jury, and wouldn't say the things she said if she wasn't all-but-certain that she's going to indict. "This is a criminal investigation. We're not here playing a game," she told CNN.
The other thing worth noting is the reminder that the wheels of justice turn slowly. That's true of nearly any prosecution, and it's doubly true of this one. You don't go after a defendant as high profile as Donald Trump without dotting all the i's, and crossing all the t's, and then dotting and crossing them all again. Further, there are extra i's and t's for him that wouldn't exist for other defendants, like the possible argument of presidential immunity. Or as the third century philosopher Sextus Empiricus put it: "The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceeding fine."
The upshot is that the phone call that has Trump in hot water was made over a year ago, and yet the investigation is not close to being complete. The grand jury that Willis is empaneling isn't even going to be selected until early May, and then it will take time to do its work. Their term could last as much as a year, though Willis suggested yesterday that the second half of 2022 is more probable for the grand jury to finish, and for final prosecutorial decisions to be made. And this appears to be a relatively straightforward case; can you imagine all the loose ends that have to be tied up when it's complicated financial misdeeds, or somewhat amorphous crimes like obstruction or sedition? (Z)
If you are a Democratic politician, and you get caught going maskless in a state/city/venue with a mask mandate, and thus looking like a giant hypocrite, there are definitely bad ways to respond. For example, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) was photographed without a mask at the Rams' latest playoff game, and he explained that he was masked up most of the time, and that when he took it off—say, for photos with admirers—he made certain to hold his breath. This may be true, though it strains credulity. And, in any case, it sounds like an excuse conjured up by an 8-year-old. Just not a good look.
There are also good ways to respond. For example, a politician can own their error, apologize, and promise that it won't happen again. Anyone who has been watching politics for any length of time—say, more than three days—knows that politicians rarely do this. And yet, that is precisely what Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D) did yesterday, after having been photographed maskless with a bunch of children on Monday. She explained that she'd been reading a book to the children in honor of Black History Month, and that she removed the mask so she could be heard properly. Then, "In the excitement after I finished, because it was so much fun working with those kids, I took a picture. And that was a mistake. Protocols matter, and protecting our kids is the most important thing. And anything perceived as undermining that is a mistake, and I apologize."
Abrams may not be able to undo all the damage done by that photo, but our guess is that she undid a lot of it. Of course, some of her opponents are going to try to make hay out of this until the cows come home. For example, former senator and would-be Georgia governor David Perdue (R), who has promised to end all mask mandates and who often goes maskless, declared that "Abrams' hypocrisy knows no bounds." However, now that Abrams has owned it, there's really no more story for the media to dwell on—it's reached its conclusion. And if she gets asked about the incident, she can say, "It was a mistake, as I've admitted, and I've apologized for it." People do make mistakes, and this is likely to pass muster with just about anyone who might plausibly consider voting for her. (Z)
Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) is among the most progressive, and most outspoken, members of Congress. She is also one of the most enthusiastic users of the slogan "Defund the Police." Many of her Democratic colleagues would really appreciate it if Bush would forget she'd ever heard that phrase. However, sitting for an interview with several Black reporters yesterday, the Representative said that's not going to happen. "I always tell [fellow Democrats], 'If you all had fixed this before I got here, I wouldn't have to say these things,'" she noted, while asserting that the party will rise and fall on its legislative accomplishments (or lack thereof).
We've pounded this drum before (including, at great length, in this piece from last week), but as a matter of political strategy and analysis, we agree entirely with Bush, and disagree with folks like James Carville who keep complaining about how "wokeness" is wrecking the Democratic Party and needs to stop.
To start, Bush represents a district that is just shy of 50% Black, and includes Ferguson, MO, which was the site of the Michael Brown shooting and the resulting protests. It would not be wrong to describe Bush's district as the birthplace of Black Lives Matter. And she knocked off a long-serving incumbent by running on the critique that he was not serious enough about police reform. "Defund the police" is the absolute core of Bush's brand, and she's got to get reelected, just like her peers. Asking her to reinvent herself is like asking members from Florida to quiet down about their support for Social Security, or members from Iowa never to talk about corn subsidies. It's just not realistic or reasonable.
Beyond that, it is true that "Defund the police" is a pretty crummy slogan because it implies a rather different policy viewpoint from the one that advocates are actually pushing for. "Refund the police" would be closer, or even more on target would be "Reimagine the police." But the ship has basically sailed at this point. Further, the pundits and outlets who are going to pitch a fit about "Defund the police" (like, say, The Daily Wire; see below) are going to spin any slogan and any policy position into an attack on law enforcement. The clunkiness of "defund the police" just makes it a little easier, is all.
Finally, let us consider the voters. On one hand, you have folks who allegedly find "defund the police" scarier than "let's try to overthrow an election, and dabble in proto-fascism while we're at it." We don't doubt that there are a lot of people who find "defund the police" odious, and are willing to tell that to pollsters. But are there really that many people that would be willing to vote Democratic, but for the wokeness, and so are going to vote for Trumpism instead? We wonder about that.
On the other hand, you have progressives and Black voters, two groups of voters that definitely exist. Many of them want to hear from politicians who support big changes in American society. Lambasting the policy ideas that these voters hold dear is surely not a great way to keep them on board the S.S. Donkey.
In short, we don't see that running away from these policy positions really helps the Democrats all that much. In our view, the correct thing to do is to own them, and to come up with good answers as to why "Defund the police," "Critical Race Theory," and Build Back Better are not what Republicans/right-wing media say they are, and instead are attempts to address issues X, Y, and Z. Even Bush acknowledges that she and other Democrats need to get much better at explaining themselves. Oh, and also, they really do need to get more stuff accomplished while they hold the trifecta. (Z)
The Daily Wire is nothing more than a propaganda mill. Its entire business model is telling readers whom they should love, and whom they should hate, and why. At the moment we write this, the stuff-to-hate du jour includes White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, liberals guilty of "Vilification Of Law Enforcement," China, The New York Times, China again, Alec Baldwin, and Peloton, while the stuff-to-love (there's always less of this) includes Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom, and Alberta, Canada (for ending its mask mandate). The Daily Wire's "reporters" almost invariably misrepresent facts (or, sometimes, make "facts" up out of whole cloth), while painting nearly every issue in terms that are almost cartoonishly simplistic and that bring to mind the subtlety of an early silent film:
In case you were wondering, that still is from Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life (1913), which was directed by Mack Sennett, who was the Judd Apatow or the John Landis of his day.
Unfortunately for those of us who don't love poisonous discourse, there's a lot of money in propaganda these days. Far-right-wing outlets have generally done better at exploiting those opportunities than their far-left-wing counterparts, and The Daily Wire is better at promoting itself and its poison than just about any outlet. Despite claims of anti-right-wing bias on social media platforms, the site gets more engagement on Facebook than any other outlet. For example, it had about 36 million engagements in December 2021, the most recent month for which stats are available, which compares to, for example, 17 million for #5 CNN, or 15 million for #8 Fox. The Daily Wire also has two of the United States' top 10 most downloaded podcasts; the ones hosted by Ben Shapiro and Candace Jones.
The site would actually be a natural home for America's #1 podcast, namely "The Joe Rogan Experience," though it can't afford the $100 million that Spotify gave to Rogan. Or, actually, maybe it can now. The Daily Wire just reported its take for the year 2021 and, guess what? It made $100 million. If Rogan makes the jump, we bet he'd be allowed to keep all of the 70 or so episodes where he used the n-word online (Spotify just took them down).
The secret of the The Daily Wire's success, beyond just being really good at propaganda, is constantly seeking out new avenues for their content. It was just a glorified blog, and then it added podcasts and streaming shows and user forums. And now, to keep pushing the profits onward and upward, the site is moving into scripted programming, including movies and documentaries, as well as book publishing.
We hate to be bearers of bad tidings, but the upshot is that the quantity of divisive, harmful stuff out there is just going to keep growing, and moving into new media niches. There is little question that the new content from The Daily Wire will be exactly that. Their press imprint is specifically meant for books rejected by mainstream presses for being too offensive. This week, their original film "Shut In" will be released; it stars outspoken racist Vincent Gallo.
Further, Daily Wire podcaster Matt Walsh, who might be the biggest bigot in the site's stable (which is saying something), is working on a documentary about trans people in America. Given that Walsh rails against LGBTQ+ people regularly, it's no secret what the message will be. However, in order to secure involvement from some trans participants, and to set them up for some "gotcha" interviews, he's recruiting participants through a website specifically designed to make the project look evenhanded. The site makes no mention of Walsh, and the producer of the film is ostensibly a woman named "Makenna Lynn." There is no Makenna Lynn on IMDB, or any other place that you might expect to find evidence of a documentary producer. On the other hand, the producer of Walsh's podcast is named... Makenna Lynn Waters. There is some irony in the fact that Walsh, who says gender roles are rigid and clear-cut, doesn't have the balls to take ownership of what he's trying to do. If you're going to make "Triumph of the Wiener" then at least be up front about it.
Other right-wing outlets, notably Fox, have dabbled in entertainment and have not had much success because it's a tough nut to crack. So, now that The Daily Wire is moving pretty far afield from its original lane, it might just fall on its face. Clearly, that's what we're rooting for, because if there's one thing the world does not need more of, it's bile, regardless of the politics of who is producing it. (Z)
These days, nearly every president who lives to see the end of their term produces an autobiography once they leave office. In fact, in the 120 years before Donald Trump left office, there have only been two exceptions to the rule. Can you name either? We'll tell you later.
Trump hasn't produced an autobiography yet, but he's still got a post-presidential book out. It's not the coloring book that jokesters predicted, but it's not far off. It's a coffee table book that sells for $75, and that features pictures from the Trump presidency, along with snotty comments written by the former president himself—no ghostwriter. A sample Trump caption (Trumption?), this one from a picture that includes Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): "She was screaming and shaking like a leaf, she's fuc**ng crazy, hence the name 'Crazy Nancy.'" Readers may want to pause for a moment and remember the clutching of pearls that took place when Joe Biden had the temerity to utter the phrase "son of a bi**h."
The book is apparently selling like hotcakes, with revenues allegedly in excess of $20 million. Now, given that the two people who actually know how much the book has brought in, namely author Donald Trump Sr. and publisher Donald Trump Jr., are inveterate liars when it comes to how successful they are in business (and to everything else), you should probably take that figure with several grains of salt. Still, it's clear that the book has had some success, and possibly a lot of success.
We only mention this for one reason: We doubt all that many people bought the book for themselves. The book was released in November, and was clearly meant to be bought as a gift for the Trumper in your life. Christmas shopping is not easy for some people, which is why there's always a new golf gadget every December, and new Garfield merch, and a new "Chicken Soup" book. They're for the golf fan, the Garfield fan, and the cheesy inspiration fan you have to buy for. Now that Trump has gotten on that particular gravy train, he's not going to hop off until he has to. And given that "possible future president" gooses sales, it means he's going to keep that possibility open until the 2023 Christmas season, at the very least. Maybe longer, particularly if he actually runs in 2024, but definitely until then. For our part, we're looking forward to the third volume in the coffee table book series, Pictures from a Georgia Prison, featuring nasty comments about fellow inmates "Bubba" and "Nails."
Oh, and William McKinley, Warren Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy all died before they could write autobiographies, while Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, the Georges Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama all wrote one (in some cases, more than one). That means the only exceptions since 1900, for obvious reasons are William Howard Taft (he was busy with his gig as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) and Woodrow Wilson (he was incapacitated by a stroke). So, if you were looking to buy their autobiographies as a Christmas gift for the Taft fan or the Wilson fan in your life, you're out of luck. (Z)
It's not a secret that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) made most of his money in coal, and that he continues to reap a handsome yearly income from his coal-based business interests. But if you want all the grimy details, covering the last 30 years of Manchin's political career, Politico has you covered.
The general theme is that Manchin is very good at setting it up so he can claim to be pro-environment, but can still continue to make money on coal. And his most effective trick, utilized while he was governor of West Virginia, was to get scrap/waste coal, which is what Manchin's company sells, classified as an "alternative energy" source. And so, several bills meant to make West Virginia's fuel economy greener have allowed for the continued use of coal, as long as it's the sort of coal sold by Manchin. Said one former West Virginia Democratic lawmaker: "Everything that he does, everything that he did when he was governor, everything that he has done while he is a senator, is going to advance his best interest and the interest of the people who put money in his pocket, period. That's all you need to know about Joe Manchin."
In Manchin's defense, he does represent a coal-dependent state, which means that he's arguably representing his constituents' interests even as he's also advancing his own. On the other hand, even if one makes that argument, he is only representing their short-term interests. The day will come when coal just won't be economically viable anymore, even with all kinds of assistance from the Senator and his ilk. The state really should be thinking about the next chapter, but Manchin is keeping them stuck in the current chapter. At 72 years of age, and with millions of dollars in the bank, he can afford that. A lot of his fellow West Virginians, including those who will be around in 40-50 years? Maybe not so much.
In any event, the implication here is obvious: He's gettable on Build Back Better, but there's gotta be something in it for Old Joe. If that's how it has to be, then that is presumably what the Democrats will do. And then they will hope that nobody pitches a fit when the specifics of the pork a la Manchin are discovered. (Z)
We're nearing the home stretch. Here are the previous entries:
And now, predictions about the pandemic, along with decisions about how many boldness points are potentially available if the prediction is proven correct:
The next groups of predictions will be about the economy. (Z)