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Sunday Mailbag

As this week's Q&A suggests, Donald Trump's indictment remains the dominant subject of interest.

The United States v. Donald Trump: Why Did He Keep the Documents?

A.T. in Bloomington, IN, writes: You wrote: "What is still unclear is why Trump wanted to keep the documents...It is hard to fathom what Trump was thinking."

My theory is a bit psychological, but in essence, I think he held onto the documents because it was a way of convincing himself that he was the rightful president. Remember, Trump is incapable of admitting that he is a "loser" of any kind, let alone when it comes to the highest office in the world. By taking the documents, he could reassure himself that he was the true winner of the 2020 election. After all, why else would he have personal access to such a treasure trove of the nation's secrets?

R.S. in Manassas, VA, writes: Using Occam's Razor, the answer is obvious. Giving back the documents would be an admission he was wrong, and by now we know that The Donald can never be wrong. This doesn't explain why he took them in the first place, but I think it explains why he never took Chris Kise's advice and try to avoid being indicted.

J.P. in Augsburg, Germany, writes: I don't think that Donald Trump planned to blackmail the U.S. government or to sell the documents to a foreign country, he is just not smart enough for this kind of scheming. The answer is probably much simpler and has more to do with his personality or his personality disorder.

I'm not a psychologist, maybe other readers can explain this kind of irrational behavior better than I, but I've dealt with this kind of person for twenty years now (though my mother-in-law is overall a much nicer person than Trump) and learned the hard way how to get along with her. That said, here are my two cents.

Trump never learned to reflect on himself or to look at a situation objectively. His thinking is delusional, and the only thing he cares about is Trump. Once he created an image of himself, the successful businessman or the mighty president, he is convinced that this is his true self. He has strong opinions of himself and about everything else. Trump knows better than his lawyers, his doctors, his generals or any other experts. Maybe he can't explain his thinking, but he is convinced that he is right. He strongly believes that he is always right and, maybe more importantly, that he can't do anything wrong. Reality ends at the border of his mind.

Unfortunately the world keeps confronting him with the unpleasant reality in form of failures. But in his mind if something went wrong or if a deal fails it just can't be his fault. Nothing can ever be his fault because he never makes mistakes and even if he would admit to himself that he made a mistake, he never ever would say so. Instead, he is lying, he is blaming other people, he comes up with the most absurd reasons, but he just isn't able to admit even the slightest mistake. Remember the covfefe tweet or sharpiegate. You can't argue with him. Trump is not a rational guy, so logic won't apply, he is a completely emotional person, he only trusts his gut feelings.

He probably took the documents because he thinks they are his. Like the fancy gifts from foreign leaders. Maybe his chief of staff or a political adviser could have dissuaded him from taking the documents in the first place but after he took them home the ship had sailed. Trump is convinced that he has every right to keep the documents because they were given to him and he is the president. Chris Kise certainly told him that he broke the law with his actions, but Trump didn't believe him.

Confronted with mistakes or wrongdoings people like Trump or my mother-in-law are always looking for explanations and excuses why this law or rule (and even the law of nature!) in their special situation doesn't apply. Sometimes they come up with bizarre stories like Trump claiming that he can declassify a document by just thinking of it (or, like my mother-in-law, asserting that her body doesn't work like everyone else's). And when they are running out of arguments they believe that the other side is trying to get them. I've been in this situation a million times, believe me: You will never win this fight, you will never convince them.

A more rational guy would have let his lawyer negotiate with the DoJ to get out of this mess. But Trump's incontrovertible truth is that everything he does is one hundred percent correct. He never makes mistakes. To get a deal with AG Merrick Garland he would have had to admit that he did something wrong. He will never ever do this. He just can't.

M.A. in Knoxville, TN, writes: I have a theory about why Trump kept all the classified documents and what he was thinking. In the indictment we learned that he referred to them as his "Beautiful Mind" documents. A Beautiful Mind is the name of both the book and movie about John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. I believe Trump kept the documents because having them made him feel smart. They let him know things that no one else around him knew, because very few people were supposed to know, for national security reasons.

This would also explain why there were so many documents that could have badly damaged national security. He wanted the crème de la crème, the most secretive of secrets, so he could use them to show off his "intellect." This ties in well with the two instances in the indictment where he showed classified documents to others. In both he was showing off his knowledge of things the other parties didn't know.

The United States v. Donald Trump: The Trial

J.A. in Redwood City, CA, writes: While the Justice Department may be willing and ready to have a speedy trial of Donald Trump in federal court, theirs is not the deciding opinion on the matter.

For a moment, let's ignore the fact that Judge Aileen Cannon already has some history with this case. What expectations would we have for any recently appointed judge (and one appointed by the defendant, no less), with few criminal cases under their belt? And what expectations would we have for any other popular ex-president under indictment?

Likely enough, Trump's lawyers have already told him that the charges against him are very strong—more than enough for him to be found guilty. To avoid that verdict, the standard strategy of every criminal defense lawyer is to have as many charges dismissed as possible, and as much evidence suppressed as possible. We can also reasonably assume that both the lawyers and Trump himself will attempt to persuade as many potential jurors as possible of his innocence in the court of public opinion, before the actual trial begins.

All of the above efforts will take time. Lots of time. Time is what Trump needs, both legally and financially. If for no other reason, more time means more opportunities to separate his supporters from their money. And while there's a political argument to be made that getting a "not guilty" verdict before the election will greatly boost his standing, so too would a "guilty" verdict sink whatever slim chance he currently has with the general electorate. Better to push that verdict out beyond the election, if at all possible.

Furthermore, it's entirely reasonable to expect a relatively novice judge to proceed cautiously, across the board. If a defendant asks for time to settle out some of the unique aspects of this case, this or any judge is likely to indulge those requests. No judge wants to be overruled on appeal, especially in a high-profile case. And what could be higher profile than this? So, Judge Cannon, like any other judge in her situation, is likely to give Trump's legal team a lot of leeway—and time—to make their case. No "rush to judgment" here, regardless of what the public wants.

Beyond that, let's consider what will the DoJ might have to do if the trial is still underway in the days leading up to the election. To avoid the appearance of interfering in the presidential race, Jack Smith might be the one asking Judge Cannon for a delay.

Of course, Trump is well-known for his own courtroom delaying tactics, and even Judge Cannon may deny any obviously frivolous requests from his legal team. But in the desire to avoid publicly embarrassing herself with any more flagrantly partisan rulings, I imagine she will approach all of her decisions in a very painstaking, and probably quite time-consuming, manner.

I hope to be wrong about this, but my money is on no verdict happening in Trump's upcoming trial before the votes for our next president are counted.

So now we just have to wait and see, to see how much more we will have to wait.

M.S. in Kansas City, MO, writes: In replying to a Saturday question about why TFG isn't likely to get a public defender, you wrote: "[C]riminal defense attorneys reconcile themselves to the view that everyone is entitled to a vigorous defense, and do not generally discriminate against 'distasteful' clients."

While that's true as far as it goes, it's also true that TFG's serious MAGA habit (in this case the acronym is standing for "Making Attorneys Get Attorneys") would rule out the folks who cannot swallow their distaste for catching charges of their own! I'd venture a guess that a PD would provide a much higher quality service than the clown show Trump's likely to end up with after he and Boris Epshteyn are done vetting any prospective counsel's defense plan. They're only going to hire lawyers who won't significantly challenge his inability to admit any reasonable defense. My sister is an attorney and we daydream about TFG standing up in court and declaring he can best be represented by his own very stable genius self.

B.P. in Pensacola, FL, writes: In "Here Comes the Arraigned Again," you mentioned Judge Cecilia Altonaga, so I thought that perhaps some insight into her might be helpful. While Pensacola is a long way from Miami, we do practice there, and so I've had experience with Judge Altonaga (albeit on the civil side), and also know as much or more about her by reputation.

Most simply put, she's "the real deal." She is universally regarded as a top-notch judge with a prodigious intellect and an ideal judicial temperament. She sets the bar quite high for those who practice before her and does not tolerate, at all, shenanigans by parties or counsel. There's also a fact here that judges routinely tell (even remind) lawyers, but may not be known widely to the general public: judges talk to each other. That sounds simple and unremarkable, but often we have the perception that judges are isolated islands unto themselves. However, in a district as busy as the Southern District of Florida where there a total of 27 district judges (12 of whom are on senior status), you can be sure that they do. Federal District Judges also think broadly and proprietarily about their districts and typically even refer to their district as "our court" and generally want "their court's" reputation to be a model for others.

So, it is quite likely that Judge Altonaga and Judge Cannon have already spoken about the case at some length, with Judge Altonaga likely asking whether Judge Cannon even wants to keep the case at all given the treatment that she received, twice, from the Eleventh Circuit that probably still smarts. Overall, we can be sure that Judge Altonaga will be observing carefully and counseling Judge Cannon as the case proceeds, should Judge Cannon even stay on the case.

The United States v. Donald Trump: After the Trial

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: If accepting a pardon doesn't imply guilt, it certainly waggles its eyebrows suggestively and gestures furtively while mouthing "look over there" (with thanks and apologies to Randall Munroe).

P.M. in Port Angeles, WA, writes: President Biden will most assuredly not pardon Donald Trump unless or until Trump is convicted by a jury of his peers. So an early pardon is clearly off the table. However a much better scenario would be this: If "sleepy' Joe wins re-election and TFG is convicted of some or any federal crime, President Biden could show compassion not by pardoning Trump, but rather by commuting his sentence. The issue of guilt need not have any bearing on a commutation, it is merely an act of compassion. This solves the two-fold problem of Trump admitting guilt, which is not a fully resolved issue and demonstrates a respect for the office of the president which was held by Trump, a desire to re-unite a divided country and exhibits a deference to former holders of the office of the President or at least a leniency towards them. This would be if not the best of all worlds, at least would be a very good outcome for the whole country. Commutation would be explained as deference for Trump's former service and compassion for his advanced years on this earth. I really can't see a downside to such an action.

J.R. in Huff's Church, PA, writes: "Today in Dumb Op-Eds: Pardon Me?" nails two fatal flaws in the Marc Thiessen and Rich Lowry op-eds. One is bothsidesism; the other, a failure to address the message that the case can send to future miscreants. A third problem comes to mind. Those op-ed writers believe—or say they believe—a pardon would help "(repair) the nation's frayed political fabric" or "drain some of the poison out of the system." If these aren't dishonest claims, they're childish ones. To the MAGA right and Trump personally, gestures of reconciliation are evidence of weakness. I'd predict that he would start bellowing his innocence, attacking anyone who disagrees, issuing revenge threats, and grubbing for money within minutes of a pardon announcement. And where he goes, his gang follows.

B.C., Walpole, ME (off Pemaquid Point aboard our boat, the Cassidy Hutchinson), writes: We all know that this site has a snarky tone, but you really crossed a line when you wrote that Marc Thiessen's writing is not as interesting or insightful as Henry Olsen's. That's just outright cruel. I mean, as any reader knows, Henry Olsen's writing is not as interesting or insightful as beige paint drying on a wall.

(V) & (Z) respond: "Better than Henry Olsen" is a low bar to clear. And yet...

F.C. in Sequim, WA, writes: You wrote: "This precedent needs to be changed, and pronto. Because if not, then one day, not too far off, the country is going to end up with a president who is both competent and utterly lawless. And that will be very, very bad."

This comment was spot on. I said almost the same thing over and over again during Donald Trump's 4-year term. And the question that spurred this answer is a reply to a question being asked by lots of folks right now, with some thinking we should just let Trump walk out the side door.

We were lucky the Trump administration was so incompetent! They had 2 years of the Republican trifecta and blew it. Spent too much time trying to take down Obamacare. And building the stupid freaking wall... with the exception of getting tax cuts for the super wealthy, they didn't accomplish that much with their trifecta years. It would be a 100% total nightmare if there was to be a Republican trifecta right now.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: I think it is too much to hope that in any useful timeframe, the Republicans accept that their president was immoral and did criminal things to harm our country. The few that do will just keep their mouths shut about it. Only now are we disassembling the monuments to the "Lost Cause," a century after they went up and 16 decades after the war they memorialized. And that is not due to a change of heart by the believers in the myth, it is due to the rest of the country removing the kid gloves and not humoring it anymore. Lets not forget there is a substantial overlap between Lost Causers and MAGA Republicans (cue funereal music here).

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: Another indictment, another circus. But there's likely going to be a couple more in the near future. One in Georgia, the other in Washington. Better get your popcorn ready.

The reason why we continue to see this spectacle is a result of this madness not being checked. Yes, the Democrats have warned us. Yes, independents like me are shocked and disgusted. But for the Republicans, they continue to look the other way.

It used to be whatever Donald Trump did was harmless, no big deal. "He's just different," they said. Now, it's deadly serious. The federal indictment should turn anyone's stomach. We are now talking about our national security being breached and lives placed in jeopardy. For what? When even Donald Trump's own Attorney General, Bill Barr, is raising alarms about this conduct, we should really take notice.

True, the former president is entitled to a presumption of innocence in this case and is also entitled to a fair trial in court. But he is not entitled to any benefit of the doubt. Not with his well documented track record.

This dangerous charade with Trump will only continue and consume our country as long as the Republicans remained entrenched and addicted to him. What has happened to today's GOP?

Today is my birthday and I have this wish: For Trump to finally be checked and held accountable, and for his enablers to be soundly defeated.

D.S. Querétaro, México, writes: I remember, way back when Donald Trump was in the White House, that he had some kind of spat with the FBI. At that time, I read an anonymous quote from an FBI agent that said something along the lines of "He'll end his days in jail." Seems like that long-ago prediction is coming to pass.

The United States v. Donald Trump: Comparisons

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I find myself completely surprised that even after a week in which nothing much happened regarding the top story of the week, Trump's indictment, that no one has brought up the name Sandy Berger. Berger was, of course, Bill Clinton's National Security Advisor from 1997 to 2001. After his tenure, in October 2003, he was allowed to review some classified documents in a National Archives reading room in preparation for testifying in front of the 9/11 Commission. Berger took several breaks and was allowed to leave unescorted out of the building. During those breaks, Berger stuffed copies of classified documents into his socks and shoes. He then hid the documents under a construction trailer outside the Archives (sounds as safe as a cheesy ballroom or bathroom) and later returned to the site to retrieve them. When later Berger was questioned about the missing documents, he flat-out lied to the investigators. Berger was charged with a misdemeanor unlawful removal and retention of classified material, to which he pleaded guilty. As punishment, he was fined $50,000, served two years of probation and 100 hours of community service, and was stripped of his security clearance for 3 years. As a consequence to his actions, the D.C. Bar began disbarment proceedings, but Berger willingly gave his license to practice up and apologized for his crimes to stop disbarment. I remembered hearing about this case and being shocked at Berger's actions and even then thinking his sentence was too light and to this day, I've always wondered what was in those documents that made him do something so foolish.

If you want a close cousin to the current Trump case, then to me, this is it. Berger clearly stole the documents and knew what he was doing was wrong. He initially lied about doing so but, unlike Trump, relatively quickly admitted his guilt. It certainly seems that he could have been charged more forcibly; it especially seems like an obstruction of justice charge could have been leveled. I'm guessing his sentence was a plea deal but couldn't find proof of that. Still, Berger faced consequences, although not too stiff; but more importantly, it ruined his reputation. Of course, Republicans would see that as Democratic favoritism but that would be a weak argument in that most people know, even those who don't know much about the law, that if you plead guilty before a trial you usually receive a lighter sentence. Excluding the president, I would dare say that the National Security Advisor, while not a cabinet member, is one of the top three positions that Americans would trust unconditionally to uphold the safety of national classified documents. Why no one has thrown this case in a Republican's face when they do their whataboutism squawk about "But her e-mails!" is a mystery to me. Berger willingly stole documents, lied about stealing the documents, was given a lot of leeway because of his previous position, but still suffered consequences despite being a Democrat working for the hated Bill Clinton. This occurred in Trump's lifetime, although I don't expect the Orange Mussolini to remember it. There would be additional points for the Democrats if they helped remind his loyal base that Trump was a financial donor and supporter of Bill Clinton. It also is a clear cautionary tale to Trump, that if he had been like Berger and admitted his guilt that more than likely he would have skated scott free; but clearly that boat has sailed a long time ago.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: M.W. in Springfield picked the wrong comparison in Eugene V. Debs. Actually, Trump is a lot closer to Lyndon LaRouche, who ran for President from prison in 1992. I remember it because it was also the first presidential election I could vote in and I was shocked when I saw LaRouche on my New Jersey ballot.

Anyway, LaRouche, like Trump, started out on the left (yes, Trump was once a registered Democrat, folks!) Also, like Trump, LaRouche knew he was breaking the law and expected to get away with it. Also like Trump, LaRouche made it out as a personal and political vendetta against him, rather than his law-breaking.

LaRouche actually ran several times, even gaining delegates in 2000, which the DNC refused to seat and also barred LaRouche from attending the Convention. But in 1992, he was running from behind bars.

Then, too, some of LaRouche's crimes have something of a parallel to Trump, though Trump is not, so far as I am aware, charged with such (though it seems Steve Bannon is charged with fraud for the "We Build The Wall" thing).

Anyway, a better comparison to Trump is in fact Lyndon LaRouche. Not to mention that LaRouche rhymes with something that Trump could accurately be called...

(V) & (Z) respond: Scaramouche (Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango)?

The United States v. Donald Trump: The Right-Wing Response

D.B. in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, writes: On Tuesday, I was curious to see how Trump's indictment was being covered on (I say "news" only because it's needed to find the website, not because it is a true source of news). On the front page, the headline story was about Garth Brooks selling Bud Light at his bar. There were 3 other obviously anti-trans stories. There was not a single mention of Trump's indictment.

How can a legitimate news organization with a straight face publish 4 anti-trans articles simultaneously on their front page, while at the same time completely ignoring the biggest story about a U.S. President since Watergate? There's playing down things, then there is burying your head in the sand, but this is more akin to burying your head in the entire Gobi desert and trying to bury everyone else's with you as well.

R.S. in Tonawanda, NY, writes: I know that is not Comedy Central, but I burst out laughing when I read that Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) said, of the Trump federal indictment: "Congress must act to restore norms." Ha!!! Readers don't need me to explain why that is hilarious.

S.K. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: You wrote: "We seem to recall these same people decreeing that there is zero chance that the law enforcement establishment has systemic issues, and that "defund the police" is a dangerous, commie idea. Hmm, wonder what changed."

I realize this is a rhetorical question about what changed, but the obvious reply is "orange is the new Black."

(V) & (Z) respond: Can't believe we didn't think to make that joke.

The United States v. Donald Trump: But Her E-Mails!

T.Y. in Arlington, VA, writes: I've written before on national security issues as I work for the State Department. I appreciate your coverage as always, but must disagree with your framing of Hillary Clinton's documents. They were not "relatively trivial." Per then-FBI Director James Comey, the documents included, "seven e-mail chains... classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level... any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation."

There is a top secret clearance, then above that SCI, and above that is Special Access Program level. Former First Lady, then Senator, then Secretary Clinton is brilliant; she knew what merits that level of classification, and should have protected it better; she may have lacked "intent" to "deliberately mishandle information," but she should have known.

We who work in national security are less forgiving because we know how carefully we protect this intel and abhor her extreme recklessness. My colleagues and I have long assumed that the Russians and Chinese, and perhaps other hostile intel agencies, were able to hack and get these e-mails; servers are in a way easier to get than paper files as one does not need to be physically where the documents are. My colleagues and I likewise assume that anything Donald Trump illegally retained has likewise fallen into the hands of Russia, China, Iran, etc., to say nothing of the possibility that he made copies, etc. In any event, each time this happens, it makes it harder for us to get good intel from our partners; A Five Eyes colleague directly told me, "Sorry, I can't share this info because I don't trust your government to keep it secret."

Clinton cooperated, but clearly risks were not mitigated in time before, to use your phrase, "people were hurt" by her recklessness. Trump's behavior was much worse and likely more damaging to the United States, but Clinton's was not "relatively trivial," in comparison.

R.C. in Newport News, VA, writes: The multiple claims about the Hillary Clinton e-mail server have been vastly overblown.

First of all, after a years-long FBI investigation, it was determined that Clinton's server did not contain any information or e-mails that were clearly marked classified. Three e-mails had a "C" internally on the margin, and were classified confidential. Over a thousand e-mails not classified when sent were classified after the fact.

Second, the State Department had different e-mail servers for classified (call it "C") and unclassified (call it "U") material. Clinton's server was supposed to replace the official server for unclassified material. One would then think that classified material on her server would have also been on U if she did not have her own server. No one examined U in detail to see how much classified material was on it.

Third, as I expect (V) will agree, a small private server with a very limited number of users and closely monitored would have been less hackable than a sprawling server open to thousands. Indeed, there was no evidence Clinton's server was ever hacked, while it was known at the time that State Department servers were hacked twice.

James Comey is one of the major villains in the potential destruction of the U.S., if it has not been already destroyed. He violated DoJ rules when he spoke at length after DoJ decided not to indict. For such an important moment he put out misinformation about the number of classified e-mails. Then he pontificated about Clinton's unconscionable lack of security without mentioning the known lack of security on State Department servers. I might also add he sent a letter to Congress a week before the election about a new investigation peripherally involving Clinton in total violation of two separate DoJ long-standing policies: not talking about new investigations and not mentioning anything about political figures within two months of an election.

Comey to this day thinks he made the right moves. He is an arrogant prick as delusional as TFG.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: You and many readers of often suggest that Donald Trump has little chance of becoming president again. I don't see any evidence that supports this conclusion. I mean, Donald Trump had so many scandals during his career, he was impeached twice, he lost against E. Jean Carroll, yet he clearly leads in the Republican primary and is running neck and neck with Joe Biden, even after his latest indictment. Furthermore, the setup of the Electoral College favors Trump. After so many scandals that he survived politically, I really don't see any evidence that Donald Trump is doomed, even if he is convicted.

Recently, you wrote "the finding of the poll was that a staggering 53% think that Biden was involved in illegal influence peddling" (for which no evidence exists), and you also wrote about a poll that "showed that 48% of Americans think Trump should have been charged." We really live in a crazy world; perception seems to be the new reality. I guess that many Americans (maybe even a majority) don't share the values of (V) and (Z), therefore your analysis likely would have fit to the U.S. in the 20th century, but apparently not nowadays. So Trump unfortunately has a good chance of winning the presidency again whether you like it or not.

P.S. in Arlington, TN, writes: In response to E.R. in Colorado Springs: Change happens at a snail's pace. From 2002-2016 I was a donating Republican and voted a straight GOP ballot. In 2016, I voted Gary Johnson and otherwise straight Republican. In 2018, I voted Libertarian. In 2020, I voted straight Democratic, recognizing the damage my 2016 vote did to the country. In 2022, I voted for local Republicans and the Democratic congressional candidate since my representative voted to overturn the election.

In 2024, I will donate and volunteer for the Democrats if Trump is the nominee. It doesn't take many of us to swing an election, but Trump slightly improved his numbers with minorities in 2020 and lost. I personally attribute that to the Romney-Johnson-Biden voters, such as myself. Every time Trump chases someone out of the GQP, his approval numbers go up within the party but that voter still counts—even in small numbers. Especially in small numbers. Stay positive.

T.D. in Rogers, AR, writes: You can give him a month or so to see where things land, but I think Chris Christie's strategy is dead on. If he executes, he will be the Trump Dumper.

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: If I were a presidential candidate this cycle faced with the question of pardoning Donald Trump, this would be my response:

We have a process in place for various kinds of clemency in the executive branch, and if Donald Trump wishes to avail himself of that process as any other convicted felon would, he has every right to do so. If his application made its way through that process to my desk, I would give it due consideration as I would any other convicted felon's application.

And to quote Forrest Gump, "That's all I got to say about that."

B.S. in Olmsted Falls, OH, writes: You wrote about aspects of the economy that voters tend to notice, including unemployment and inflation, and that "anyone looking for a job has plenty of jobs to choose from."

But not all jobs are created equal. You noted that, "during Joe Biden's administration, 13 million jobs have been created." That value/metric can be referenced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); however, the bureau does not factor in the number of jobs that pay a living wage into the calculation. One metric from the U.S. Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that of those 13 million jobs created since January 2021, a whopping 70% pay less than a living wage for a full-time worker with two children, i.e. 9+ million of those jobs really suck. And this is based on the EPI's definition of a paltry living wage—the hourly wage needed to support a family of four at the poverty line. For a family of four in the United States, the EPI poverty line is about $26,000 per year or $13 per hour. That leaves roughly 4 million "living wage" jobs to fight over. If you consider an actual/realistic living wage, then that number would decline even further—probably less than 1 million, but estimates vary.

From the ragged stands out here it seems disingenuous to state that "anyone looking for a job has plenty of jobs to choose from." Well, unless one is gearing up to live below the poverty line or frothing at the bit to work 2 or 3 jobs from the plethora available. Fun fact: Even though many state minimum wages are higher, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has not been raised since 2009.

Politics: No Labels

S.C. in Mount Airy, MD, writes: Regarding "No Labels is a Sham," you neglected to mention the mega-donors supporting them, including Harlan Crow (you know, the person who has showered huge amounts of unreported gifts on Clarence Thomas).

It's definitely a sham and designed to re-elect Donald Trump. I can't see Harlan Crow and the others he brought in doing this to truly elect a moderate.

J.N. in Columbus, OH, writes: You wrote: "And this brings us to what is clearly the real goal of No Labels. They want to get their foot in the door of presidential politics, and to use this election as a springboard to bigger and better things they envision in the future. But Trump is the only opponent who is hated enough for them to fundraise off of. This is the only scenario in which it makes sense to run against Trump, but not against DeSantis."

Once again, you are not paranoid enough. Way more people secretly want Donald Trump than let on. You only can envision the one scenario. I envision a much more obvious one: The group is really working for Trump. Just like the "tea party" wasn't really about smaller government, only theocratic hardcore right-wing government, this group is really about getting Trump the win. Them openly admitting they wouldn't do the same for any other candidate just seals the deal. If your scenario was the one, they'd be fine with helping any Republican.

D.S. in Newark, OH, writes: My thoughts on No Labels: They are just Republicans that lack courage.

Politics: In Congress

G.L. in Schenectady, NY, writes: I believe there is a very important point that didn't get mentioned, or at least not made clear, in "Today in Unsubstantiated Nonsense: The Biden Tapes," and that is the purpose of the FD-1023 form.

An FD-1023 is used to catalog information that has been provided by a third party. When the FBI interviews someone, anything that person has asserted, true or not, goes on an FD-1023.

However, the important thing to understand is that the information that is collected on this form is not substantiated. It's an intake form, nothing more. If I were to have a "conversation" with an FBI officer and I were to assert that the sky is purple, the earth is flat, and the moon is a wheel of green cheese (because it, too, is obviously flat), these assertions, preposterous as they all are, would be dutifully recorded on an FD-1023, because that's what an FD-1023 is for.

In short, it is important to understand that the FD-1023 proves nothing. It only documents that a conversation took place, and what that conversation consisted of. Any assertion documented on an FD-1023 should be taken with a grain of salt, and it should be considered suspect unless and until it has been investigated or already understood to be true.

In short, an FD-1023 is evidence of nothing except that a conversation took place.

(V) & (Z) respond: But the moon IS a wheel of green cheese, isn't it?

T.K. in Boston, MA, writes: I have to take issue with your item about Rep. Adam Schiff's (D-CA) censure resolution. The analysis "That this resolution, which is privileged and so will have to be brought to the floor this week, also hurts a leading U.S. Senate candidate is just a bonus" is absurd. You clearly haven't had 3 text solicitations from the Schiff campaign claiming he is being persecuted.

A better analysis would be that censure is fundraising gold for the Schiff campaign.

R.V. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: Most outlets are talking Trump indictment, but a rather big confirmation for a federal judgeship occurred on Wednesday: Dale Ho was confirmed 50-49 for a seat on the SDNY. Ho is a voting-rights advocate and worked for the ACLU. Many progressives would love to see him confirmed to a SCOTUS seat in a Democratic administration. You could argue this is Joe Biden's best overall judicial nominee.

Politics: Book Bans

K.E in Newport, RI, writes: My girlfriend and I read your item about Utah's book ban, which resulted in the Bible being banned from primary schools, and the Book of Mormon being challenged as well. She said God and Brigham Young will need to lead the Mormons further west. Maybe they could go to America's Last Frontier and live among the Palins.

M.W.W. in Port Orchard, WA, writes: Thank you for this week's Schadenfreude item! I laughed my a$$ off when I ran across it earlier this week and shared it with my Facebook friends. I was raised nominally as Mormon, got more involved in the church in my early teens when we lived in Montana, and was unfortunate enough to live in Salt Lake City from my mid-teens to mid-20s. I was ordained into the upper priesthood shortly before the time I was coming to terms and slowly coming out of the closet. Left the church at that point.

I have read both the Bible and the Book Of Mormon cover-to-cover several times, and to answer your implied question, yes—the latter does have a lot of the same stuff as the former, and quotes a lot of the OT's Isaiah. My favorite memory from that period of my life was going to the major gay venue (the Sun Tavern, the only gay place where you could get hard liquor at the time) one Friday night, when Eurythmics' "Missionary Man" started playing, and a bunch of former(?) missionaries came onto the dance floor in their "uniforms," complete with name tags. Rousing applause and laughter ensued.

Thanks for bringing back the memory.

(V) & (Z) respond: Eurythmics make their second appearance of the week.

D.R. in Portland, OR, writes: I had just been joking with my pastor about how the Bible should be on the banned book lists, when the folks in Utah realized the same thing. Two more aspects of this worth mentioning:

  1. The historians of the Old Testament pulled no punches when reporting the flaws and failures of the kings and other powerful folks. That's right, the Bible tells honest history, no matter how uncomfortable it makes people.

  2. Despite all its blood, gore and sexual perversion, my Bible was given to me by an older man when I was about 8 years old, and he encouraged me to begin reading it right away. Was I being groomed? Hmmm...

J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, writes: The pornographic part of the Bible they are referring to in Utah is Song of Songs. The problem is that all of the English translations are really dumbed down to make them acceptable for Victorian 19th century Americans. All except for one. I highly recommend Marvin H. Pope's commentary, a very thick book, with copious source-citing, analyzing every verse. The first 15 pages are his translation of Song of Songs going back to the original Hebrew—when they were willing to accept that YHWH was pro-sex. It is incredibly explicit, and yet beautiful, poetry that appears to follow the wasef tradition still practiced in parts of Lebanon today, where a couple's physical attributes are publicly declared from head to toe and toe to head. But there really is nothing in there to indicate that the archetypal couples of the book are married. Definitely NSFU—Not Safe For Utah.

K.R. in Oconomowoc, WI, writes: The Barbra Streisand effect happens so much you would think people would learn. A great example of it involves one my favorite TV shows, Married... with Children. That show started on Fox in 1987. Since Fox was somewhat of an obscure channel that few people watched at the time, Married... with Children started with dismal ratings. But in the third season, an episode entitled "Her Cups Runneth Over" was aired. Funny enough, in the episode, Al and his neighbor drive up to... Oconomowoc, Wisconsin! (note my city, above). They go to a (sadly) fictional specialty lingerie shop to get some items for their wives. They run into women who are half dressed, gay men, and an old man wearing... less than you might like to see.

Anyhow, anti-obscenity activist Terry Lynn Rakolta saw the episode when it aired and was offended. Rakolta wrote to several advertisers, getting them to drop their support for the show in a boycott, and appeared on several television talk shows to speak about her efforts. In the end it caused Married... with Children's rating to go through the roof and was probably the jumping off point for Fox to become the powerhouse it is today. Her efforts ultimately backfired, as curiosity about the boycott and the show itself led to a dramatic ratings boost; Rakolta herself has since acknowledged her part in increasing the show's popularity. It is also the jumping off point for the Fox broadcast network to become the powerhouse it is today. Ed O'Neill (who played the character Al Bundy on the show) said in an interview that "We used to send Terry Rakolta flowers at the beginning of each season as a gesture of thanks. What she set out to do against the show ultimately gave us a huge boost." Ultimately, the show aired for 11 seasons.

B.B. in Dothan, AL, writes: I think it was Abraham Lincoln who said "The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly."

Politics: Book Giveaways

A.F. in Boston, MA, writes: I was definitely heartened by this week's Freudenfreude item on free books through the GELF Program. For any readers outside Tennessee and either in the Jewish community or interested in a bit of multicultural exposure, I wanted to give a shoutout to PJ Library. Every month of my daughter's life, we've gotten a free, simple cardboard book or activity. They are often themed around Jewish holidays, basic Hebrew, or Israeli culture, but others are just centered around everyday activities like waking up or bath time. Every family should have access to books and this is one way to help build a great little library for your little one.

(V) & (Z) respond: Nobody tell Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

R.C. in Des Moines, IA, writes: Given a lot of the execrable political nonsense emanating from Tennessee, I'm glad to hear the GELF program seems to be working well. Maybe they need a GALF program: Governor's Adult Literacy Foundation to send a few books to grown ups in that state. In fact, all states probably need this program.

All Politics Is Local

N.N. in Murray, KY, writes: In response to "What Is Greg Abbott Up To?", you could have finished the piece with the sentence: "Maybe he's just an a**hole."

J.L. in Vanntown, TN, writes: After Richard Shelby had the influence to have the U.S. Space Command slated for Huntsville, AL, it is probably going to Colorado instead. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is very upset and is on local TV (a lot) blaming Biden/politics/etc. for this snub. Perhaps another reason for his delaying military promotions.

N.K. in Cleveland Heights, OH, writes: Just a small correction to this: "Specifically, the Ohio legislature has put a measure on the August 2023 special election ballot that would make it harder for citizen initiatives to amend the state Constitution because they are afraid one in 2024 will propose changing the state Constitution to enshrine the right to an abortion in it."

The legislature isn't worried about a hypothetical 2024 initiative, they're worried about a very real 2023 initiative that has been gathering signatures for several months now. (I haven't been following its progress since I signed it—it might have gathered enough to be on the November ballot by now.)

And in case you want further evidence of the brazen policital-ness of this, this is the same Republican legislature that just last December passed a law specifically outlawing elections in any month other than November, March or May. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) said at the time that this is because turnout for August special elections is "embarrassingly low." (Clearly this is a feature, not a bug, in this case.) So this special election, as well as being clearly aimed at stopping the abortion referendum, is probably illegal. There's a lawsuit in progress—whether that will actually stop the election remains to be seen.

T.P. in Cleveland, OH, writes: The new 60%+1 requirement to pass Ohio constitutional amendments may not be the toughest thing in the restrictive August measure. That would set the price of defeating an amendment at around 1.61 million votes (40%+1 of the votes cast in 2020). But, it gets worse. The August restriction also ups the county-by-county signature requirement just to get the petition on the ballot, requiring initiative petitions proposing a constitutional amendment to be signed by at least 5% of the voters from the previous gubernatorial election in each of Ohio's 88 counties. All but a handful of those 88 counties are bright red. This is yet another tactic to permit the tiniest, most conservative county to control the lives of 11.78 million people.

Take little Vinton county (pop. 12,565), which cast only 3,895 votes for governor last time (3071 red, 824 blue). The August restriction would require 195 signatures from Vinton County for any new petition, regardless of what the other 11.77 million Ohioans think. If the volunteers do track down those 195 signatures in Vinton (24% of the blue votes there), they get to start over in Putnam County (738 signatures, 49% of blue votes), and on and on and on.

So, not only would petition backers need 403,000 at-large signatures, but they'd also need 5% buy-in from every single county. Just to get on the ballot. The August restriction would give every county a veto to prevent constitutional questions from even being asked.

A total of 88 vetoes, some wielded by just 4,000 voters (or so), in a state where it should take 1.61 million votes to defeat an amendment.


M.P. in Atlanta, GA, writes: In this week's Q&A, you wrote "[Trump] could end up close to broke (think Arrested Development)." I wonder if Mar-a-Lago has a banana stand.

(V) & (Z) respond: For numerous reasons, we would guess an orange stand.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: Per your note about the Data Galore page, and the link there titled "Blank map with EVs for children to color in," you may be interested to know it is NOT just kiddies who are coloring in EV maps.

I am known to be at every Democratic watch party here in Raleigh, walking around with my blue and red pencils and coloring in maps as the states are called.

I literally held out to the bitter end in 2016. We started with over 3,000 at the downtown Marriott. I was one of the last 12 people there. And on the way home, I looped R.E.M.'s "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" on my mp3 player in the car. And don't ask me how I drove the 20 miles home that night, because I was so numb, I was on autopilot. I had no business driving, really. And no, I was not drunk. Just numb.

K.C. in Roseville, CA, writes: Was I the only one who saw "Data Galore" and immediately thought this was Brent Spiner's drag name?

(V) & (Z) respond: We believe it's actually a two-persona act, Data Ga-Lore.

D.M. in San Francisco, CA, writes: In your note regarding a potential workaround for difficulties displaying the site on mobile phones, you guided those affected to a mobile phone icon "just to the right of Florida." Surely I'm not the only reader who reflexively recoiled, merely imagining a place to the right of Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) Sunshine State.

Hopefully, next time your directions will be to safely look "directly above the PayPal icon."

R.C. in Eagleville, PA, writes: Damn you, and damn you, too, Peaches and Herb. I can't get that accursed tune out of my head.

(V) & (Z) respond: Your frustration is understandable. Just keep in mind, it's a world of laughter, a world of tears, it's a world of hopes and a world of fears. There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware, It's a small world after all.

J.E. in San Jose, CA, writes: J.C. in Ulaanbaatar mentioned that Jesus Christ (another J.C.) is Jewish, and I am reminded of one of my favorite Archie Bunker lines: But only on his mother's side.

Final Words

D.E. in San Diego, CA, writes: When François Rabelais lay on his death-bed, he could not help jesting at the very last moment; for having received the extreme unction, a friend coming to see him, said he hoped he was prepared for the next world. "Yes, yes," replied Rabelais, "I am ready for my journey now, they have just greased my boots."

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