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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Legal News: The Washington Post March
      •  The GOP Debate, Part I: Dead Kitten Bounce for Ramaswamy?
      •  The GOP Debate, Part II: Of Course DeSantis Was Full of Sh**
      •  The GOP Debate, Part III: Reader Assessments
      •  Is the Pope Catholic?

Trump Legal News: The Washington Post March

The staff of the nation's capital's paper of record is going to be working overtime in March 2024. Most readers probably know why by now, but if not, here's a rundown of the major Trump-related legal news from yesterday:

  1. Et tu, Brute?: It would seem that March is not a great month for wannabe dictators. Everyone knows what happened to Julius Caesar, of course. And next March, roughly 2,060 years later, Donald Trump will go on trial for his alleged crimes related to the 1/6 insurrection. As expected, Judge Tanya Chutkan issued an order yesterday laying out a timeline for the trial, and it's consistent with her "rocket docket" reputation. Pre-trial motions are due by Oct. 9, and the responses and counter-responses have to be in by Nov. 6. Expert witnesses have to be submitted by Dec. 11, exhibit lists will be wrapped up by Jan. 9 of next year and complete witness lists have to be in by Feb. 19. And the trial itself will commence on (or possibly near) March 4, 2024. In case you don't have your calendar handy, Super Tuesday is on... March 5, 2024.

  2. Appeal!, Part I: Donald Trump was furious with the announced schedule and immediately vowed to appeal. Needless to say, "sue!" or "appeal!" are his knee-jerk reactions to most setbacks, even if those things make zero sense in view of the facts on the ground. And in this particular circumstance, he's got no leg to stand on. The calendaring of a criminal case is not one of the (few) things that is subject to interlocutory appeal. Lawyers sometimes throw Hail Mary passes, of course, and if they try it here (while busy with 800 other aspects of the trial), they would have to show that: (1) normal procedure for these questions should be set aside, and then (2) that Chutkan's decisions are so problematic that they are worthy of being rewritten from above. These are both nearly impossible arguments to make, and to pull them both off? Well, 1/impossible x 1/impossible = 1/impossible2. So, very long odds, indeed.

  3. Appeal!, Part II: If Chutkan's scheduling is problematic for some reason, then the correct time to address that is in the post-trial appeal. Trump's hopes of prevailing at that time, while better than 1/impossible2, are still pretty dim. Reading her order, not to mention the discussions that took place in court yesterday, it's clear that she's mindful of the issues in play here. On top of that, and as Chutkan noted, Jack Smith and his team have bent over backwards, organizing, digitizing and annotating the evidence, so as to make it easily digestible for Team Trump. Meanwhile, as we've noted multiple times, Trump and his lawyers really shot themselves in the feet with their ridiculous proposal for starting the trial in 2026. That basically left Jack Smith's proposal of January 2, 2024, as the only serious one, and the only one Chutkan really had a duty to factor into her thinking. Finally, if Trump's lawyers do try an interlocutory appeal of the trial date (and lose), then trying again after the trial would be taking two bites at the apple. Judges don't look kindly at that.

  4. Tiiiiiiiime, Is Not on Trump's Side (No, It's Not): With apologies to Kai Winding, then Irma Thomas, then The Rolling Stones, Trump may be taking some amount of solace in the notion that he can waste a bunch of time, and drag this thing out, thus sticking it to Chutkan and the deep state. He shouldn't be thinking like that, however. The mountain's worth of motions that are coming from his legal team are going to be dealt with very quickly, and that includes any attempts at appeals. Judges, from Chutkan on up the ladder, do not look kindly on foot-dragging longshot legal filings. Also, in federal trials, voir dire is conducted by the judges, not the attorneys, which means juries are seated much faster. Add it all up, and the Trump trial is going to start in March, probably on the 4th (or maybe a few days later), and it will be complete sometime that month (or maybe in early April).

  5. Busy Calendar, 2024: If Trump is going to be on trial in Washington in March, it creates some problems for the other legal cases in which he's involved. Recall that Fulton County DA Fani Willis has also requested a March 4 start date. She's not going to get it now, presumably, and she may even update her request. Still, she could very well get an April start date. Well, maybe May or June. See, even before Trump's legal calendar included the March 4 trial, it already had the New York case filed by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and overseen by Judge Juan Merchan scheduled for March 25. No official announcement has been made, as yet, but Chutkan has already had a telephone chat with Merchan, and they are going to coordinate. There's also the Florida trial, currently scheduled for May 20. So we could end up with a trial schedule along the lines of Washington in March, New York in April, Florida in May and Georgia in June. However it shakes out, Trump is likely to spend much of primary season on trial. Oh, and he could plausibly be in prison for much of that, too.

  6. Busy Calendar, 2023: Trump's 2023 legal calendar is likely to be pretty busy, as well. Yesterday, it was announced that he and his co-defendants will be arraigned in Georgia on Sept. 6. Then, it will be a busy time for motions in most or all of the various criminal cases. Also, he and his team have to prepare for the second E. Jean Carroll suit, which commences shortly after the new year begins, on Jan. 15. Folks who have tried to make a rough estimate propose that by the time 2024 arrives, Trump's attorneys could bill something in the ballpark of 100,000 hours. At $500/hour, which is cheap for serious legal representation, that would be $50 million. And we haven't even covered things like filing fees and paying various non-lawyer workers (like paralegals), 2024 expenditures, whatever judgment Carroll is likely to get, paying for co-defendants' representation to keep them quiet, etc. This is going to get very, very expensive.

  7. The Co-Defendants, Part I: On the subject of Trump's co-defendants, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows made a surprise decision to take the stand yesterday, as part of the hearing to determine if his case will be moved to federal court. He did that because he felt, probably rightly, that he has a better chance of convincing Judge Steve C. Jones than would a lawyer. However, this also meant that Meadows was subject to cross examination, testimony that could be used in a future trial against him. This is a big risk, for a relatively low chance of success, which indicates how very badly Meadows wants the trial to be moved to federal court. That, in turn, tells you something about how screwed he and his team think that he (and, presumably, the other defendants) are if they try to fight this in Georgia state court.

  8. The Co-Defendants, Part II: Meanwhile, as reader C.R. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, brings to our attention, the disbarment hearing of (former) Trump lawyer John Eastman is underway, and is a potential preview of the arguments that we may see in Georgia. Or, perhaps it's more accurate to say, the lack of arguments. Thus far, the main thing that has happened is that Eastman's claim there was historical precedent for the election-overturning shenanigans was shot down. Think about what the Red Baron did to Snoopy, and you begin to get the picture. After seeing that go down in flames, Eastman tried for a postponement, and got shot down again. He's not gonna have a law license much longer.

  9. The Co-Defendants, Part III: MSNBC Legal Analyst Jill Wine-Banks has an expert answer to why some of Trump's co-defendants are demanding a quick trial. Her opinion is that the only thing that really makes sense is that they fear getting thrown under the bus by Trump, and by severing their trial, they can avoid that. Of course, that also puts them in a position to turn the tables and throw him under the bus first. Wine-Banks has no inside information, of course, but she knows a little something about prosecuting politicians, having been one of the folks who prosecuted the Watergate evildoers.

  10. With Friends Like These...: Alina Habba, the former Trump lawyer who was told her services were no longer needed, continues to appear on TV to "defend" the former president. And this weekend, during an appearance on Fox, Habba was asked if Trump would be able to prevail in Washington, given the likely short timeline to prepare (this was before Chutkan had officially set the trial calendar). Habba's response:
    [I]f this was a normal person... I could understand the concern [but Trump is] incredibly intelligent and he knows the ropes. What is he going to have to be prepped for? The truth? You don't have to prep much when you've done nothing wrong.
    That's some Trump-level braggadocio there, but it also completely undercuts his argument that he isn't being given enough time to prepare. And this is not the first time Habba has gone on TV to say something rather adverse to her former client. Presumably, she's just some combination of "enthusiastic" and "not so sharp." That said, given that she was unceremoniously shown the door, one is tempted to speculate that these "missteps" are not so accidental.

And there you have it. Every day, we think "there's not going to be THAT much more Trump legal news right now," and every day we're wrong. Maybe tomorrow? (Z)

The GOP Debate, Part I: Dead Kitten Bounce for Ramaswamy?

In theory, according to Nate Silver and others, Vivek Ramaswamy was in line to be the primary beneficiary of last week's Republican candidates' debate. His positions are not exactly mainstream, but the Trumpy voters he's trying to appeal to aren't mainstream, either. He behaved like an a**hole that night, and Trumpy voters like that, so, he certainly did what he needed to do.

So, did it happen? The post debate polls are rolling in, so we can take a preliminary look. At the moment the debate started, Ramaswamy's average number, according to FiveThirtyEight, was 9.7% (and his ostensible rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-FL, was at 15.2%, while Donald Trump was at 52.1%). There have been seven polls of the GOP field since then; here are the numbers for all three men:

Pollster Trump DeSantis Ramaswamy
InsiderAdvantage 45% 18% 7%
Kaplan Strategies 45% 10% 13%
Morning Consult 58% 14% 11%
Patriot Polling 41% 21% 5%
Ipsos 52% 13% 6%
Cygnal 42% 12% 15%
Emerson College 50% 12% 9%
Average 47.5% 14.2% 9.4%

As you can see, everyone's dropped a little bit. To the extent there is "progress" for Ramaswamy it's that he dropped a bit less than the others did. That's kind of a bounce, we guess... maybe. But if so, the effect is very small, and the bounce is not likely to last, since his best poll in this sample (the Cygnal poll) was commissioned by... the Vivek Ramaswamy campaign. A very small dead cat bounce? As you can see from the headline, seems like it's best described as a dead kitten bounce. Though since the bounce is actually a less serious drop, maybe we should call it a dead kitten ecnuob.

In short, if Ramaswamy was expecting big returns from the debate, it doesn't look like they are going to materialize. He tried to capitalize on his "momentum" this weekend, appearing on every weekend show that would have him, and offering up some whackadoodlery on each one. He also published a position paper on the Ukraine war, one that proposes that the U.S. give Russia everything it wants, in exchange for a promise from Vladimir Putin to end the Russian alliance with China. What a great plan, one that relies on Vlad the Impaler keeping his word. We bet Yevgeny Prigozhin can confirm that Putin is 100% trustworthy, and would never double cross anyone. Hmmmmm, Prigozhin doesn't seem to be answering his phone. Oh well, we'll certainly catch him sometime tomorrow, right?

Anyhow, it's not easy to capitalize on momentum if... you really don't have any. Presuming Ramaswamy is really just auditioning for a slot in a hypothetical Trump administration, then the numbers don't matter too much, excepting the fact that The Donald likes winners, not people who can't even overtake Ron DeSanctimonious. On the other hand, if Ramaswamy has even the faintest hope he'll be the Republican nominee, well, it's clear that nothing is going to change about that horse race until Trump dies or is convicted of a crime. And even then, it's 50/50 at best that a non-Trump candidate can give him an actual run for his money. (Z)

The GOP Debate, Part II: Of Course DeSantis Was Full of Sh**

Sticking with the debate, in our initial write-up, we were extremely skeptical of the story told by Ron DeSantis about an alleged "abortion survivor" named Penny. Here was our comment on that subject:

Another common kind of politician lie is the "personal anecdote." Anecdotes seem like proof of concept, and they can be very difficult to either confirm or disprove. That's not to say that all personal anecdotes are false or misleading, mind you, but they have to be taken with multiple spoonfuls of salt when they come from a politician. The one that, in particular, did not pass the smell test for us last night came from DeSantis. He claimed that he met a woman named Penny who, as an infant, survived "several" unsuccessful abortions, and even then only because her grandmother recovered her from a biohazard waste bin and took her to a hospital to be resuscitated. Maybe it's true, but it's very hard to swallow, and we can find no trace of this person, despite the fact that she should be all over the place, courtesy of the anti-abortion crowd.

It did not help that DeSantis has already shown himself to be an inveterate bender of the truth.

Not long thereafter, we got a message from reader J.M. in Portland, ME, who confirmed what we presumed to be true, namely that it's not plausible to survive an abortion, much less several:

As a surgical medical professional, I am always amused and/or angered at Republican abortion lies. As a person who is a career surgical nurse, I can assure you that there is no such thing as an unsuccessful abortion. And I can assure you that no person survived an abortion, mostly because abortions are performed before the fetus is viable. There is no chance that a fully formed, functional being "survives." If "Penny" exists, which I doubt, she was not aborted. She was born and abandoned.

Thanks for sharing the benefit of your experience, J.M.!

As it turns out, however, "Penny" apparently does exist. Reader M.D.K. in Portland, OR, gave us the heads up that The Miami Herald quickly got on the story, and managed to get to the bottom of the matter. The name of the person in question is Miriam "Penny" Hopper, and she was born in 1955. That year tells you nearly everything you need to know, since Roe v. Wade was decided close to two decades later, in 1973. And so, Hopper was not the victim of an abortion conducted by a professional, one with the proper training, and one constrained by the ethical standards of their profession. No, her father attempted and failed to abort her using a coat hanger. And that means that while she actually was rescued by her grandmother, it was from a private residence, and not from a discard pan in a hospital or clinic.

In short, DeSantis mangled, presumably deliberately, nearly every detail of the story. There was a Penny and there was an abortion, but everything else was different from what he said (or implied). More importantly, the true story arguably makes the opposite point of the one the Governor presumed to make. Instead of illustrating the evils of legalized abortion, it shows what happens when abortions undertaken by medical professionals are not easily available.

There is absolutely no surprise here whatsoever that DeSantis reality and actual reality are so far apart from each other. Is he traveling down the Trump road, and losing the ability to distinguish (or care about) the difference between truth and lies? Or is he perfectly cognizant of the falsehoods he's spinning, and operating under the assumption that he'll be able to sell his B.S. without anybody calling him on it? We would guess it's the latter, but we really don't know. (Z)

The GOP Debate, Part III: Reader Assessments

We wanted to share some reader takes on the GOP debates before the story is too far in the rear-view mirror. So, without further delay:

Vivek Ramaswamy

M.C. in Reno, NV: Vivek Ramaswamy 2/20? What are you guys smoking?

Vivek absolutely won the debate, according to nearly all metrics. Remember that the purpose of the debate is to endear oneself to Republican primary voters. Not to the rest of the country. 0/5 for likeability? Maybe to you and me, but to Republican primary voters—who, let's not forget, support Trump overwhelmingly, Vivek's lambasting of candidates that Republican voters do not like is a badge of honor for him. Vivek made them look like empty PAC-controlled puppets. Republican primary voters like that. 4/5 for likeability.

And as for message, remember: Ramaswamy's message is the same as Trump's message: "Things are terrible. America keeps losing because everyone in Washington is so stupid. It's simple to fix all of our problems. I alone can save us."

Trump's message is overwhelmingly supported by Republican primary voters. 15/15 for message.

Total score: 19/20. Vivek is the winner here among actual Republican primary voters, even though all he's really likely to win is a VP nomination.

E.J. in Jacksonville, OR: I thought your assessment of Vivek Ramaswamy's performance was a bit harsh, but I understand where you were coming from. You viewed the debate from a very civic-oriented lens, and posed the question: "What is your case for being president?" This is a very important question we all will be asking... in fall of 2024.

In contrast, I tried to view the debate as what might be appealing for Republicans, as this is their time to figure out who best represents them. (Full disclosure: I'm not a registered Republican, and probably never will be.) At this moment, there are really only two lanes out of the debates, and I think most Republicans know that members will need to coalesce around one or two "not Trump" options in short order. If you are a NeverAgain Trumper, you have a number of candidates to choose from, but I would agree that Nikki Haley stole the show. Interestingly, she did it without really going after Trump directly, which should have been right up Chris Christie's alley. She certainly tries to have most issues both ways, but she was assertive and in command of her responses, and will make a lot of hawks and fiscal conservatives comfortable that she can represent their values, and potentially win in November. Just based on this debate performance in isolation, Biden should be concerned if she actually gets the nomination.

The other lane out of the debates is to be the heir apparent to Trump. The Donald still commands popularity and loyalty, and I don't think anything will shake his followers from following him. However, if Dear Leader is not on the ballot or not able to run, for one reason or another, there are only two people jockeying to be in that lane: DeSantis and Ramaswamy. If you like Trump's brand of crazy, then I think Vivek had a much better night than Ron did. While Trump says vicious things on a regular basis, he's usually pretty jovial about it. Ron comes across as mad most of the time, whereas Vivek was generally in good spirits while welcoming the fighting. Even though his attitude may be contrived, he seems much more likeable than Ron. DeSantis, being true to form, bolted off stage immediately after the debate, whereas Vivek stayed around to shake hands and smile with everyone for the cameras. Vivek is definitely the preferable guy to go have a beer with. [Also, Trump is not known for his policy chops, so his supporters probably don't care about Vivek's inexperience either.]

C.S. in Cincinnati, OH: Could not bring myself to watch much of the Republican debate, but every time I tuned in, Vivek Ramaswamy was making an ass of himself, saying the brashest possible things to get a rise out of the adults. I am embarrassed that such a snot was raised and schooled in my city, which is generally not known for such antics. The prestigious high school from which he graduated (here, as in other places, it matters a great deal where you go to high school) yearly turns out bright, well-educated young men who go on to highly successful careers in this city and elsewhere. I doubt he learned there the reactionary views he puts on display.

M.A.N. in Falls Church, VA: Honestly, I agree with you guys 99.999% of the time.

Until now....

You think Doug Burgum was the most handsome guy on stage? As a gay man, I do have to differ here. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we all know that. But in terms of being aesthetically pleasing, there can be only one: Vivek Ramaswamy is ridiculously handsome. And you know who else thinks that? Vivek Ramaswamy, that's who!

Is he repellent? Yes. Is he obnoxious? Yes! Is he generally an awful choice for president? Oh, you know it, sister! But the dude is a fox. So he will have a great career with his own show in Jesse Watters' time slot in '24 or '25.

Other Candidates

Z.Z. in Coarsegold, CA: Nikki Haley is trying to carve out the After Trump Lane. I say this because she won the debate, no matter what the corporate-controlled media says.

A.B. in Wendell, NC: Asa Hutchinson missed his chance to break out. He did not raise his hand to indicate he'd support Trump for President if he was convicted, while the other seven did raise their hands (surprised Chris Christie did, but I digress...).

Asa had a chance to land a body blow on Trump and everyone else on the stage... but didn't take it. Were it me, I would have hammered them: "If you would support for President... a candidate who was found guilty of the things Trump is alleged to have done, then you are not fit for the office either. It tells me that your view is that the ends justify the means, and I question what means you would use!"

Of course he would have alienated the die-hard MAGAs, but he would have set himself apart as a true alternative to Trump. I am not convinced that the MAGAs so dominate the Party that a bold alternative would have no chance. It would be difficult to win in a general without them, as a Republican, but it could be done, especially if the Trump attacks stopped once Asa secured the nomination. Long shot, to be sure, but conceivable, and Asa missed his chance to do that and to stand out and set himself apart.

M.B. in Melrose, MA: I think one of the most telling moments of the debate, one that went against Ron DeSantis, was when the candidates were asked to raise their hands if they would still support Trump should he be convicted. This was an obvious question everyone on the stage should have been prepared for. Yet, Ron had to look to his left and then his right to see how everyone else responded, before raising his hand. This went against the image he is trying to portray as a strong and decisive leader and instead reinforced his lack of sincerity and willingness to cater to whatever is politically opportunistic at the time. To me, it came off as pretty pathetic.

S.S. in Ithaca, NY: As far as DeSantis, I feel you have rated him too high. His head looked like Alfred E. Neuman standing behind the podium, and he seemed so fake and plastic. When he was asked to start his closing statement, he stood there for several awkward moments just staring blankly into the camera. The moderators had to prod him again to start speaking. He should have been lower on the list.

The 800-pound Gorilla

T.R. in Vancouver, BC, Canada: I think the most bizarre aspect of the Republican debate was missing from your analysis: The fact that you could have watched the whole thing and never known that Donald Trump is running for president, let alone being the Republican frontrunner by a mile.

It had the appearance of a conventional debate where the people on stage are fighting to be the nominee, but none of the candidates, moderators, or Fox commentators acknowledged what everyone knew, namely that they're fighting to be the understudy in case the nominee has to drop out. The obvious question to all of them—"Why should primary voters prefer you to a former president running for re-election who's way ahead in the polls?"—was never raised. The Republican establishment seems to have decided their best strategy is to just pretend Trump doesn't exist. It's truly surreal.

M.E. in Roanoke, VA: How the heck did it take almost an hour to get to anything about Trump? This clearly should have been no later than question 2.

S.S. in Elliott Lake, ON, Canada: I offer this for anyone who'd like to learn a bit about the Trump/Carlson "chat" without having to actually watch or listen to it, as it has a lovely level of snark: "Trump's Tucker Carlson segment was bizarre and boring at the same time."


D.M. in Burnsville, MN: My wife and I played Bingo. Nobody won.

B.C. in Phoenix, AZ: You can't reach my age without being very familiar with having to perform an unpleasant task in order to get a pleasant reward. I admire the fortitude of the contestants who suffered through two hours of obnoxious, meaningless Republican drivel to play a bingo game.

For me, that sort of endeavor is simply too much to attempt because it comes perilously close to the old Bill Cosby standup routine of "Getting all the ice cream you want... but first you have to get your tonsils taken out!"

R.S. in San Mateo, CA: I noticed that the Trump bingo card misspelled "plagiarizes." I guess they didn't copy it correctly!

Other Observations

J.T. in San Bernardino, CA: On the subject of abolishing cash bail, as a supporter of cash bail abolition I was actually somewhat heartened to hear it mentioned (if in passing) during the debate, even if it was only to condemn the liberals for abolishing it. Early in the debate Mike Pence remarked: "And yet Democrats and liberal prosecutors in major metropolitan areas continue to... to work out their fanciful agendas, to... to do bail reform and... and go easy. What we need is... is strong commitment to law enforcement."

If its opponents are mentioning it in such high-profile arenas that must mean that the effort is making progress somewhere.

B.C. in Walpole, ME: Hatred is not the primary driving force in the GOP. Anger and fear are more important. Loathing is third; hatred fourth.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA: So were you guys hungry when composing the post-debate post? The reason I ask is that there was a smorgasbord of foods in the post titles: sugar, cream, steak and a bear claw. Most notable was steak, which was misspelled in place of "stake." If only that Simple Minded Trump hadn't gotten in the way, you would have had a grand slam! Maybe you should have gone with Cherry Bomb, Flaming Pie or I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunches) instead.

Just a few weeks until the next debate; get your bingo cards ready! (Z)

Is the Pope Catholic?

In general, one would presume that if the Pope says that [X] is the doctrinal position of the Catholic Church, then that means that [X] is the doctrinal position of the Catholic Church. After all, he IS the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the servants of God. Somewhere in there is something that means "the boss," right?

Maybe not so much. The Pope is infallible in certain circumstances, but holders of the office are generally reluctant to invoke that authority. And when the current holder of the office, Pope Francis, does not pull rank like that, then he's basically just one bishop among many. Consequently, at the moment, he's in something of a war of words with many prominent American Catholic bishops, slamming them for their "backwardness," and asserting that they have replaced faith with ideology.

The areas of disagreement between Francis and the Americans are numerous. They do not like his efforts to liberalize some elements of Church doctrine, like letting adherents who get a divorce (as opposed to an annulment) and then get civilly remarried to receive the sacraments. In addition, the bishops are not understanding exactly how Francis read the Bible and came away with an understanding that one of Jesus' core concerns was social justice issues, like helping the poor and downtrodden. Blasphemer!

Speaking at a gathering of Jesuits (of which Francis is one, despite his name suggesting he would be a Franciscan), the Pope emphasized that religious doctrine is a constantly evolving thing, and that the leaders of the Church have a duty to think critically about their ideas and practices as opposed to retreating into the safety of orthodoxy. This is exactly the sort of thing Jesuits like to hear, since they are the educators/intellectuals of the Catholic Church.

We pass this news along for several reasons. First, because it adds to the general, ongoing discussion around here about whether or not the Catholic Church has a serious intellectual component. Clearly, the Pope thinks it does, while the American bishops aren't so sure. Second, because it illustrates that the American versions of various religions tend to be pretty far to the right of their world counterparts. It's not just the evangelicals, it's the Catholics, too (and possibly the Hindus, if Vivek Ramaswamy is any indication). And finally, we will note that Francis is 86 years old. One way or another, it won't be too long until he's too pooped to Pope. When it comes time to choose his replacement, it's a good bet the Americans and some of their like-minded brethren elsewhere are going to form a large enough faction to choose a replacement pope who is so far right he'll make Tomás de Torquemada look like a Unitarian Universalist. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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Aug18 This Week in Freudenfreude: Hot Fun in the Summertime
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