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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Given Rope by House Republicans, Hanged by House Democrats

Normally, we'd put the "news" part of a news item first, but in this case we're going to need to do a fair bit of background before that. In polls of the Democratic presidential race, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. consistently polls in second place, with around 15% support. This has caused much commentary across the political spectrum.

A fair bit of the commentary comes from Republicans, who are very excited by the notion that there might just be a giant-slayer out there, one who is more a Republican than a Democrat. The Junior Kennedy's praises have been sung by the likes of Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Laura Ingraham, and Jordan Peterson, among others. In addition, a very sizable chunk of RFK Jr.'s donations are from people who previously donated to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and/or to Donald Trump.

This is hardly the first time Republicans have tried to prop up the presidential campaign of a pseudo-Democrat (see Gabbard, Tulsi and Lieberman, Joe, among others). However, RFK Jr. is also being taken seriously by a meaningful segment of the non-right-wing punditry. For example, writing for The Guardian, Naomi Klein declares: "Given the undeniable strengths that Kennedy possesses as a candidate, we should expect him to continue to build momentum, and continue to find new audiences. Ignoring him is not an option." CNN's Julian Zelizer agrees; his op-ed raises concern in particular about the first Democratic primary:

The biggest problem, however, has to do with the primary calendar. At the end of last year, Biden switched the Democratic primary schedule to put South Carolina first. But New Hampshire is refusing to cede its historic spot, pointing to a state law that stipulates the Granite State must hold its primary one week before all the others.

As a result, Biden might not even appear on the New Hampshire ballot, effectively ceding the state to Kennedy and author and speaker Marianne Williamson.

With a straight face, Zelizer goes so far as to suggest that it might just turn into a Lyndon B. Johnson '68 situation, where a strong showing by a challenger in New Hampshire presaged the collapse of LBJ's reelection bid. To Zelizer's credit, he concedes this is unlikely, but he does think that if Biden doesn't address the RFK Jr. situation, it could erode the President's support.

For our part, we don't for one minute buy the notion that RFK Jr. represents a substantive threat to Biden. We'll start by noting the results of a poll from Gallup. According to their numbers, just 52% said they wanted to see the President run for reelection, whereas 37% said they would strongly favor a different candidate. Given those very grim results, you might be surprised you haven't seen any coverage of that poll. That is because it was from 2010, and the president was Barack Obama. You know, the fellow who is now the most popular Democrat in the country.

We doubt that Joe Biden will ever be as popular as Obama. However, the poll illustrates something that is true in every single election with an incumbent on the ticket: There is always, always, always a sizable number of "the grass is greener" voters. It doesn't just happen with candidates who are "too old" (Biden and Ronald Reagan), it also happens with candidates who "failed to live up to their promises" (Obama), and to candidates who "have too many scandals" (George W. Bush and Bill Clinton), and to candidates who "never won a presidential election on their own" (LBJ, Harry S. Truman). There's always a reason to worry and/or be skeptical. We have no doubt that most of Kennedy's appeal is that he's this cycle's leading "grass is greener" candidate. He's also surely getting some support because he's got a magic name, and because he's anti-vaxx (remember, there's a left-wing anti-vaxx movement, too), and because he's an environmentalist.

Nature, as we have written many times, abhors a vacuum. There was no way that Biden was going to get the Democratic nomination without an opponent of some sort. That the only two "name" challengers, RFK Jr. and Marianne Williamson, are so weak is actually great news for the President. Williamson is not only whackadoodle in numerous ways, but her campaign is a train wreck that is out of money. And as more people get to know RFK Jr., they're going to learn that he's not only a crank on science-related matters, he's also a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist. Oh, and he sometimes even manages to combine the two, along with more than a dash of antisemitism. Such was the case this weekend, when he shared his opinion that COVID-19 was genetically engineered so that it did not infect Chinese people or Jews.

It is possible that RFK Jr. will indeed win New Hampshire, if Joe Biden stays off the ballot. But it will mean nothing. In 1968, LBJ's problem was not that Eugene McCarthy won the Granite State. In fact, LBJ won (as a write-in candidate). The real problem was that LBJ only won by 7 points over an unknown, which in turn caused RFK Sr. to jump into the race. Unlike the son, the father was a heavyweight and a legitimate contender.

This sequence of events is not going to replicate itself in 2024. Whereas LBJ made clear he was interested in write-in votes, Biden is sure to choose an all-or-none approach. If the President sticks with the "punish New Hampshire" plan, and says he doesn't want any votes in the Granite State, then everyone will know the results are meaningless. Alternatively, he could have an outside group encourage write-in votes, which are still allowed in New Hampshire primaries. More likely, Biden will announce that New Hampshire is now on notice, but that he doesn't want to deny the state's residents the chance to weigh in just because the state's leadership is being intransigent, and so he will join the ballot. And if Biden is a candidate in New Hampshire, either officially or as a write-in candidate, he will crush Kennedy. The latest poll from the University of New Hampshire has the President up 60 points (70% to 10%).

If Kennedy was a reasonable person with a normal political program—like, say, a Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)—then his shouting from the cheap seats might just do Biden some harm, as (some) Democrats would say "Wait. Why isn't Biden pursuing [policy X]?" But nearly everything that comes out of RFK Jr.'s mouth is lunacy. Very few Democrats are going to say "Why isn't Biden looking into the chemtrails? How come Biden isn't asking about the connections between COVID-19 and the Trilateral Commission?" Indeed, RFK Jr. could end up having an impact not unlike that of Strom Thurmond in 1948, showing the country what whackadoodlery looks like, and making the sitting president appear to be moderate and statesmanlike.

So, we disagree with the Naomi Kleins and Julian Zelizers of the world, and we think that RFK Jr. is not worth engaging with. As it turns out, the people who actually make tactical decisions for the Biden campaign and the Democratic Party are having this same argument. Some party strategists say that everyone should ignore Kennedy, to avoid giving him more visibility and traction. They are afraid that arguing with him only legitimizes him as a genuine candidate. Another faction is afraid that he could hurt Biden and has to be squashed like a bug. Bakari Sellers, a former Democratic state representative in South Carolina, said: "You can't let cancers metastasize."

If the Democrats decide to go after him, there is plenty of ammunition available. Not only is he a fervent anti-vaxxer and an antisemite, but he has claimed that chemicals in the water are feminizing boys and causing sexual dysphoria. In addition, he has also appeared on right-wing podcasts and is in a widely-shared photo of him with Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, suggesting that he is either an ally or a tool of right wingers. He's also one of these guys who feel the need to show off how fit they are, and so he recently appeared in a rather creepy video in which he is shirtless and showing off his abs while he performs push-ups.

Some Democrats want outside groups—not Joe Biden or the DNC—to go after RFK Jr. and take him down. One approach that has been suggested is ads that show who his friends are, rather than what his views are, since there are more than enough left-wing conspiracy theorists who will willingly buy into his ideas, just not his being buddy-buddy with Donald Trump's close allies.

If we were advising the Democrats' commercial makers—we aren't—we'd suggest another possibility. There is some question as to why Kennedy is running, since he's not going to win the presidency. And, given his career to this point, the answer is obvious: It's all about the grift. He's made millions from hawking his anti-vaxx books and videos and his natural cures, and he's going to make millions more. A few commercials that speak to RFK's profit motive would surely turn off mainstream Democratic voters, and might even reach the conspiratorial crowd.

And now, with nearly 1,900 words of background, we get to the actual news from yesterday. Again, the primary supporters of RFK Jr.'s candidacy are Republicans. After all, you can't spell ratf**king without "R-F-K," now can you? So, the Republicans who run the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government invited the candidate to speak about censorship on social media. The purpose here was to complain about how the social media (the same segment of the tech world that includes the Elon Musk-owned Twitter) is unfairly biased against conservatives, to talk about how vaccines and vaccine mandates are B.S., and to give Kennedy some exposure.

Again, Democrats are not so sure whether they should pay any attention to Kennedy. However, when he shows up to talk to Congress, they have no real choice but to engage with him. And so, they previewed what the Democrats' anti-RFK campaign might look like, should they choose to wage one. Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) highlighted the buddy-buddy relationship between the candidate and prominent Republicans. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) had pointed questions about Kennedy's antisemitic comments. Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) wondered about his sinophobia. Note that there is nothing on this list of questions/complaints that might alienate the anti-vaxx liberals.

We don't write about RFK Jr. too often, given our view that he's an unserious candidate. But the occasion of his House testimony seemed a good time to give our assessment of him, and of the response to him. And now you have that. (V & Z)

A Very Interesting Poll from Monmouth

Let's start this item with the usual caveats: (1) It's only one poll, (2) It's a long time until people actually start casting ballots, and (3) The presidency is not awarded on the basis of the popular vote. With all of that out of the way, Monmouth released a poll yesterday that is going to warm the hearts of Joe Biden and his campaign staff.

To start with, Monmouth has Biden with a comfortable lead in the popular vote. Among voters who say their preference is definite, Biden leads by 10 points, 36% to 26%. When you add in the voters who say their preference is probable, Biden's lead is still 7 points, 47% to 40%. On the other end, 50% say they won't vote for Trump under any circumstance and 46% say they won't vote for Biden under any circumstance. These numbers are of slightly greater interest than most because the Monmouth poll is the first to be conducted since it became clear Trump is on the cusp of a third indictment. And if these numbers were to hold into next year, it would mean that a Biden blowout is not likely, but neither is a Trump victory. The Electoral College allows a person to win the White House with less than half of the popular vote, yes, but it's way harder once the gap in the popular vote gets above a couple of points.

This is particularly true for Trump, who needs to win a disproportionate share of the swing states (either 3 of 4, or 5 of 8, depending on how loose your definition of "swing state" is). And the swing-state vote tends to track pretty closely with national preference polls. Put another way, it would be very, very unusual for a candidate to be down 6/7/8 points in a national poll but to win Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

There's one other interesting thing about the Monmouth poll, and that is that they also ran their survey with two third-party conditions. The first of those was generic third-party bid, and the second of those was if the third-party ticket (in other words, the No Labels ticket) is Sen. Joe Manchin (D?-WV) and Jon Huntsman. In the case of a generic third-party bid, support is fairly anemic (only 5% would definitely vote third-party), and the votes would come out of Biden's and Trump's hides equally. In the case of a Manchin/Huntsman bid, support is even more anemic (only 2% would definitely vote Manchin/Huntsman), and while the impact would be greater on Biden than on Trump, the difference is minimal, well less than 1% of the overall vote.

Remember, people who say they are going to vote third-party usually choose not to do so when it comes time to actually vote. Most Americans understand their civics well enough to know that a third-party vote is effectively a gift to the candidate they like the least, as it deprives their preferred major candidate of a vote. And guess what, Monmouth also attempted to gauge the impact of the "spoiler effect." Their numbers say that if the spoiler looks likely to put Biden at risk, then more respondents would be "scared straight" into voting Democratic, as opposed to if the spoiler looks likely to put Trump at risk. The numbers are a little complicated, but in essence, "Biden at risk" causes 5% of the voters to migrate to the Democrats (44%) as compared to "Trump at risk" (39%).

There aren't too many polls right now, and in particular, there are very few worth writing about. This, obviously, is one of the exceptions. We will be watching closely if and when Trump is indicted a third, and possibly a fourth, time. Perhaps, when one reaches some critical number of indictments, it becomes implausible to sell the "It's all a left-wing conspiracy!" shtick. (Z)

U.K. Update: One and One and One Is Three

When John Lennon wrote that lyric 55 years ago, it is not likely he intended to predict the results of the special by-elections on July 20, 2023, but... you never know. In any event, Britons in three parliamentary constituencies headed to the polls yesterday to fill seats left vacant by resignations and chose MPs from three different parties.

We had a preview of these elections on Wednesday, and regular British correspondent S.T. in Worcestershire, England, UK was kind enough to send in some remarks despite the short turnaround time:

As Jane Austen never quite got round to writing, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a voter in a U.K. by-election will give the governing party a good kicking". Actually that's not entirely true. Occasionally—usually about every 30 years and in exceptional circumstances—a U.K. governing party does achieve a by-election gain; the last time was in Hartlepool in May 2021. And yesterday it appears the Conservative government avoided total humiliation by the margin of 495 votes, courtesy of the good people of Uxbridge, in three by-elections where the bigger you were, the harder you fell.

The actual results were:

  • Uxbridge and South Ruislip: Conservative hold. Majority fell from 7,210 votes to 495, a 6.7% swing, with Labour just failing to take the seat.

  • Selby and Ainsty: Labour Gain. Their candidate Keir Mather will become the youngest MP in parliament at the age of 25 (he looks about 17!), after demolishing a 20,137 Conservative majority and replacing it with a one of 4,161. Swing 23.7%.

  • Somerton and Frome: Liberal Democrat gain with a massive 29% swing. A Conservative majority of 19,213 evaporated to be replaced by one of 11,008, six times greater than the Lib Dems have ever achieved in what used to be a perennial marginal.

Turnout in all three seats (as is traditional in by-elections) fell sharply compared to the 2019 General Election—by over 31% in Somerton and Frome. Clearly a lot of previous Conservative voters just did not vote at all.

So where does this leave the main U.K. parties? The Liberal Democrats have yet again pulled off a spectacular by-election gain, their fourth this parliament. They must now be giving serious thought to diverting resources to the southwest of England, a previous area of strength where they were wiped out in 2015. Labour will be delighted by their result in Selby, clearly their best since the mid 1990's, prior to their landslide general election result in 1997. They will be greatly disappointed by the Uxbridge result, underperforming both the national and London opinion polls. And Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will be breathing a sigh of relief at having dodged the bullet of three losses in one night.

What saved the Conservatives in Uxbridge? Possibly three factors. Their candidate was an established local councillor who was able to portray his Labour opponent—not altogether accurately—as an outsider. As G.S. commented on Wednesday, the extension of the ULEZ charge on the most polluting motor vehicles to Outer London became a major issue during the campaign (though in truth very few cars are likely to have been caught by the charge). And lastly, Uxbridge does seem to be a seat where Labour underperforms historically. Labour must be ruing the 893 votes secured by the Greens and the 2,071 by other parties (for the record, Count Binface increased his vote from 69 to 190 votes).

The Conservative party spokesmen (it's usually men!) and their supporters in the U.K. press will doubtless be concentrating their coverage on the successful defense rather than the two losses. It will be interesting to see if the fractious members of Sunak's party are equally willing to overlook their thumping outside of London. Particularly in the absence of any viable alternative, the results probably mean Sunak remains safe as leader, but the party must still be dreading the approach of the next General Election, due sometime in the next 18 months.

One final thought. Neither Keir Mather or Sarah Dyke, the Lib Dem victor, can rest easy. Both their seats will be comprehensively dismembered in the boundary changes due to come into effect in the next few months. So they have to start all over again: It's a hard life being a politician.

A.B. In Lichfield, England, UK, also had time to weigh in:

I only have a few quick thoughts to add to that comprehensive analysis, though S.T. did omit that Count Binface triumphantly managed to finish ahead of Official Monster Raving Loony Party leader Howling Laud Hope in Uxbridge. A mighty victory for the Binface tendency over official loonyism there.

Attempting to put last night's results into American political terms, it's as if the opposition parties managed to comprehensively overturn massive Republican majorities in two ruby-red districts in West Virginia and Texas with PVIs north of R+20, but fell tantalizingly short of taking a wealthy suburban New York district with a PVI of R+7 because of a local dispute over the Mayor of New York's environmental policies. There's a lot of attention over the Uxbridge result in U.K. media today, but this shouldn't obscure the scale of the crushing Lib Dem victory in Somerton or the record-setting Labour victory in Selby. Average the decline in the Conservative Party vote across all three seats, and the Tory vote went down by 21%—very close to national opinion polls which currently show an average decline in the party's vote share of 18% since the 2019 general election. The Conservative Party should also be seriously worried about the scale of tactical voting in the by-elections. It's clear that many Labour and LibDem supporters held their noses and voted for the party best-placed to remove the Tories rather than their own; Labour finished fifth in Somerton, while the LibDems finished sixth in Selby. Similar behavior in a national election would represent a significant risk to the Conservatives.

Two quick closing thoughts: I disagree slightly with S.T. over the observation that the Selby seat will be "comprehensively dismembered" at the next election. Instead, it will be returning to something closer to its pre-2010 borders, which likely favor Labour, which held the seat from 1997 to 2010. Finally, the great irony of the Uxbridge result last night is that the ULEZ low-emissions policy, which everyone this morning is arguing helped the Conservative Party save Boris Johnson's former seat, was originally introduced in central London by former mayor... Boris Johnson. But then, political consistency was never a strength of populist movements.

G.S. in Basingstoke, England, UK, was too busy to join the conversation, but did send this along: The only comment I'll make, with reference to my own analysis the other day, is: Don't bet unless you've a copy of Grey's Sports Almanac.

Thanks for the comments, all, and on such a tight deadline, no less! (Z)

One-Trick Pony Ron DeSantis Continues to Perform His One Trick

As the old saying goes, in politics you got to dance with them what brung ya. Ron DeSantis has clearly taken this to heart, because despite all evidence that his crusade against wokeness isn't working, he's definitely sticking with it.

To start, at DeSantis' instigation, the state of Florida rejected AP standards for Black history because they had a faint whiff of Critical Race Theory, and because they risked giving white people the sads. Now, the Florida Board of "Education" has put the finishing touches on an alternate set of standards. There is certainly plenty of stuff in there that belongs, like African-American folklore, the Buffalo Soldiers and Martin Luther King Jr. On the other hand, the standards also require that students learn that:

  • There was an extensive slave trade in Africa before Europeans got there
  • That "slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit."
  • That there were many heroic white people who helped end slavery
  • That sometimes, Black people helped provoke race riots by committing acts of violence

Here's hoping the Board can now get to work on their next project, so they can create a unit covering the physical fitness benefits that Native Americans enjoyed thanks to long-distance walks from Florida to Oklahoma.

Moving along, many readers will be familiar with the current controversy involving country singer Jason Aldean. As a sidebar, Aldean is in the running for the title of World's Biggest Poseur, since he sings about small-town life, and since he wears his costume of cowboy hat/boots/jeans/etc., despite the fact that he grew up in the suburbs and has undoubtedly never done a day's worth of manual labor, much less manual labor on a working ranch. In any case, Aldean has a new song that includes these lyrics:

Cuss out a cop, spit in his face
Stomp on the flag and light it up
Yeah, ya think you're tough
Well, try that in a small town
See how far ya make it down the road
Around here, we take care of our own
You cross that line, it won't take long
For you to find out, I recommend you don't
Try that in a small town

The fake tough guy act is a nice complement to being the World's Biggest Poseur. And if the lyrics aren't enough (and yes, before you ask, he's an outspoken Trumper), the music video for the single features Aldean singing in front of a courthouse that was the site of more than one lynching. The whole thing is problematic enough that CMT (nee Country Music Television) yanked the video from their lineup.

What does this have to do with DeSantis? Well, it would seem he likes songs that broadly encourage violence, and that more subtly encourage lynching. So, he is "outraged" that people are outraged over the Aldean song/video, and that the video has been pulled by CMT. Unfortunately for him, CMT is owned by Paramount, so there's no amusement park subsidiary for him to punish. However, he did go onto Fox and launch into a rant:

We're off the rocker here in the United States with a lot of this stuff, with cancel culture, with big tech censorship, with a lot of stuff that the federal government's doing, policing so-called misinformation. We need to get back on kilter and start having a free society again and embracing truth. So I think it's part and parcel of a lot of the nonsense we've seen over the last many years...

It's a little odd to refer to that song as "truth," but then you look at the new Black history standards, and it all starts to fall into place.

And we're not done. It's all well and good to lash out at Black people, but the Governor just can't feel his day is complete until he's also done battle with LGBTQ wokeness. Now that pride month is over, there aren't a lot of great targets for him, but you don't get to be Governor without having some creativity. So, he's renewed his crusade against Bud Light. Specifically, DeSantis says that by signing up a trans influencer as a spokesperson, AB InBev (producer of Budweiser products) might have "breached legal duties owed to its shareholders." Since Florida's pension fund holds 682,000 shares of AB InBev stock, DeSantis says he wants the state's pension fund manager to file suit. We don't know if the pension fund manager (whose name is Ashbel C. Williams) can be fired by the Governor, but probably not. And if we're right, then the pension fund manager isn't going to spend 2 minutes considering this suggestion, since he'd be laughed out of court if he tried it.

We have made clear that we just don't get DeSantis' thinking. Poll after poll after poll shows that voters, even Republican voters, don't care about anti-wokeness, and largely don't even know what it means. They like someone who "owns the libs," yes, but it's not the same thing. Donald Trump gets it, and he's not even all that smart. At the same time, poll after poll shows that DeSantis is no threat to the former president, and that the gap is growing. It would seem to be time for a course correction, as opposed to time to double down.

That said, one person who likes what he's seeing is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). He's allegedly super-smart, and unlike us, he's won multiple U.S. Senate elections. So maybe his opinion is worth paying attention to? We guess? Certainly, the Senator is building his 2024 campaign around DeSantis-style anti-wokeness. The Governor and the Senator have both targeted some of the same entities, like Disney and Bud Light. However, sometimes they diverge. At the moment, Cruz's particular bugaboo is... Barbie.

Note that we put the name in italics, because Cruz's issue is not with the character, per se, but with the movie about the character that was released in theaters this week. At some point in the movie, after the doll comes to life, she draws a child-like map:

Barbie in front of a map; 
next to a crudely drawn Asia is a dashed line

If you don't already know what the problem is, take a look at Asia on the map. See the dashed line to its right? Well, that nominally mimics Chinese territorial claims. Ipso facto, Barbie is a sleeper agent for the Chinese, communism, etc.

Cruz is not the only Republican kvetching about Barbie right now. However, at this point, the Senator has a particularly long and loud history of railing against fictional children's characters. He slammed Big Bird and Elmo (because they got their COVID vaccines), Mickey Mouse and Pluto (he speculated that Disney would soon produce a film with them "going at it"), and the characters of Toy Story (some of them are apparently lesbians).

We shall see if a strategy that is clearly not working for DeSantis ends up serving Cruz well. All we know for sure is that we'd have a harder time coming up with a way to seem out of touch than to spend a disproportionate amount of one's time talking about children's toys. Meanwhile, Cruz won reelection by a fairly narrow margin in 2018 (2.6%), Texas is trending bluer, and Rep. Collin Allred (D-TX) appears to be a stouter opponent than Beto O'Rourke was. (Z)

Grassley Releases Hunter Biden "Dirt"

We are reluctant to even write this item, since it's been clear for a while that there is no "there," there. Nonetheless, it's pretty big news, and there may be at least one more chapter in the story, so we will note that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) yesterday released a lightly redacted version of the FD-1023 form that supposedly reveals that Hunter Biden, and by extension Joe Biden, are guilty of all manner of corruption. You can read it here, if you wish.

The Senator, and his House sidekick Rep. James Comer (R-KY), said it is important for the American people to be able to read the document for themselves and to reach their own conclusions. Consistent with the purpose of the FD-1023, which is to ingest information in whatever order it's offered up, and to get it all down on paper, the document is not especially easy to read. We doubt that all that many people will be able to get through it, and to parse it all.

That said, we read it and parsed it, and we will note the following:

  • It's just one person's account of events
  • The source, name redacted, was recalling things that were then 4-5 years old, and are now 7-8 years old
  • The source claims that there are recordings, held by Burisma CEO Mykola Zlochevsky, that back up his claims
  • The source did not personally witness corrupt behavior, and merely assumed that such behavior had taken place based on things he heard from the grapevine

In short, there is no way that a federal criminal case would proceed based on this particular evidence. If the FBI could lay hand on the alleged recordings, or if it could otherwise corroborate the claims, then maybe. But the FBI looked into the matter, didn't come up with anything, and so closed the case.

We note that there might be one more chapter in this little drama. U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who has been handling the Hunter Biden investigation, has been unwilling to talk to Congress, because Department of Justice policy prohibits staff from commenting when an investigation is ongoing. Assuming Hunter Biden's plea deal is completed next week, as scheduled, then Weiss will no longer be constrained, and has said he's happy to head to Capitol Hill for a chat. Maybe Comer and/or Grassley will take Weiss up on the offer. On the other hand, given that Weiss is unlikely to say anything other than "there just wasn't that much stuff there, which is why Biden got a relatively minor sentence," maybe Weiss won't get an invitation after all. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: Marjorie Taylor Greene vs. the Bidens

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is no longer a member of the Freedom Caucus, but she's still trying her best to be the #1 thorn in the side of Joe Biden. It's not going very well.

We have two bits of news to relate here, and since we just wrote about Hunter Biden, we'll start with the one that involves him. It seems pretty clear to us that the chance to cash in on the First Son's checkered past is slipping through the fingers of the Republican Party. The Republicans seem to have reached that conclusion, too, as they're getting a little desperate in their maneuvering. Chuck Grassley's promulgation of the FD-1023 has the feel of a Hail Mary pass. And that's nothing compared to what Greene came up with.

Since Greene got her committee assignments back, she's been using them to the Nth degree in order to get attention for her... whatever it is she's trying to do. Yesterday, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee was hearing testimony from two whistleblowers who provided the IRS with dirt on Hunter Biden's unpaid taxes, and Greene felt some visual aids were needed. And so, she got out some poster-sized blow-ups of images allegedly taken from Biden's former laptop, showing him in, well, flagrante delicto. Exactly what this was meant to accomplish, we do not know, but it even aggravated the other Republicans in the room. Meanwhile, Greene also sent an e-mail blast to her mailing list containing the images. Oops! That potentially violates revenge-porn laws in both Washington D.C. and Georgia. Also, since Greene does not screen sign-ups for her mailing list by age, it's also very possible she violated Georgia laws against distributing explicit materials to minors. We doubt that the authorities will pursue this, but they could. Further, Hunter Biden is a private citizen, and would have basis for a lawsuit against Greene. As Donald Trump is now learning, you can get away with sleazy behavior for a long time... but eventually people start to call you on it.

Moving on to the news that actually inspired this item, Joe Biden has a new campaign ad, and Greene is the star. We tried to find a non-Twitter copy, but there doesn't seem to be one, so we're going to have to link to the Kingdom of Musk:

You really should consider watching the ad, since it's only 30 seconds long. We wrote yesterday about the risks posed by AI, but in this case it wasn't necessary. Biden's team took a real speech by Greene in which she intended to expose the evils of Biden's left-wing agenda, and turned it into a celebration of, well, Biden's left-wing agenda. The ad makes the point that Biden has secured money for infrastructure, the environment, etc., that he's continuing the work of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, and that he has plans to do more.

Truth be told, it's really quite brilliant. A friend of Biden, say Barack Obama, couldn't have done a better job of selling the President in 30 seconds. And for Biden's biggest enemy (or one of them) to unwittingly make the case for his reelection? Well, it's not a surprise that in 2 days, the ad has already been viewed more than 40 million times. With enemies like these, who needs friends? (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreude: The Books Are Risque and the Liquor is Gay

We have an item above about Ron DeSantis' various anti-woke crusades. This item is about the response to said crusades.

To start, we've gotten a number of e-mails like this one from D.C. in Brentwood:

You've made mention many times to how Ron DeSantis bans books in schools. The version of this that I've heard from a DeSantis supporter is that he's giving parents, through school boards, the ability to choose which books are, or aren't, stocked in school libraries. The commentator mentioned that there are no books that DeSantis has banned from the state, and all this is all about parental choice, and does not amount to censorship.

If there's any truth to the above, then it makes your commentary sound very biased. What is the impartial truth here?

It is true that the state of Florida has not produced a list of banned books, per se. However, the state has promulgated guidelines about which content is not acceptable in the state's classrooms. At the same time, the state has also empowered parents to object to books they think are not in compliance, and has also set up sanctions for teachers who are found to have unacceptable books in their classroom.

D.C.'s friend describes things in a way that make the choice of books/curriculum sound very democratic and very community-based. However, the real effect of the laws is not to allow collaborative decision-making, nor to allow the majority to decide what books are and are not OK. No, the real effect has been to allow a single squeaky wheel to demand that books be removed, while also compelling teachers to proactively curate the books in their classrooms to remove anything that might have any chance of being deemed offensive. By the end of April, more than 350 books had been removed from Florida schools, nearly all of them engaging with subjects like racism, gender roles, feminism and sexuality. The impartial truth is that what we have here is a system for banning books that is achieving its intended goals, while allowing partisans to innocently claim it's not really book banning.

People who are not bothered by "scary ideas" and who ARE bothered by censorship (particularly highly partisan censorship) are not willing to take this lying down. And so, there are now numerous projects designed to harness the power of the Internet in order to give students access to banned books. Some of those programs are being run by a particular library system, such as the Books Unbanned Project at The Seattle Public Library. That one allows people to sign up for a Seattle library card, and to check out e-versions of banned books. There are also national programs, most notably The Banned Book Club, run by The Palace Project. That one got a nice little publicity boost yesterday; as part of his quarterly tweet about the books he's been reading, Barack Obama also sent this out:

Obama gives a link to The Banned Book Club

Like The Seattle Public Library, The Banned Book Club also provides access to e-books, but in the latter case it's through their app.

We are, of course, no fan of book bans, except in very, very rare circumstances (namely, the book contains information that could be used to do harm against other people). We also don't object to a collective decision by, say, parents to police the books that their children see. But what is happening in Florida is clearly censorship undertaken in search of political goals. So, we approve of anyone who chooses to use the tools at their disposal to fight back against that.

Initially, this item was supposed to be entirely about that, but late in the day, we learned about something that's in the same ballpark, and is pretty funny, so we're including it. Initially, Bud Light hired trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney, which angered conservatives. Then, Bud Light threw Mulvaney under the bus, which angered LGBTQ people and liberals. At the moment, we are not sure what political statement one is making when one buys a Bud Light.

At least one enterprising entrepreneur wanted people to be able to make an unambiguously pro-LGBTQ statement with their choice of mildly alcoholic beverages. And so, we give you... Gay Water:

Cans of Gay Water, which make clear that
it's a vodka seltzer

The name's a bit misleading, as you can see. It definitely is gay, but it's not water, it's a vodka seltzer. The slogan is "Enjoy 6.1 inches Tonight!" We assume that is some sort of double entendre, but we're having a hard time getting a grip on which member of their team came up with baloney like that.

Anyhow, Gay Water just started shipping yesterday. So, if you were wanting to send a six-pack to your favorite anti-woke governor or senator, that's now possible. (Z)

If you wish to contact us, please use one of these addresses. For the first two, please include your initials and city.

To download a poster about the site to hang up, please click here.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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