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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Schumer, Jeffries to Fox: Knock off the Propaganda
      •  CPAC Is Underway
      •  RNC To Require Loyalty Pledge
      •  Florida Gone Wild
      •  Feinstein Has Shingles
      •  This Week in Schadenfreude: You Could Make an Omelet with all the Egg on Gaetz' Face
      •  This Week in Freudenfreude: A Smalls Change Is a Big Deal

Schumer, Jeffries to Fox: Knock off the Propaganda

The right-wing argument—pioneered by Rush Limbaugh in particular—that "the media" is in the bag for the Democrats has afforded Fox quite a bit of armor. Members of the blue team have been a little skittish about attacking the channel directly, or even about refusing to appear on its programming. Thanks to the Dominion case, however, those days may be over.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) sent a sharply worded letter to Fox's four grand sachems: Fox Corporation Chairman Rupert and CEO Lachlan Murdoch, and Fox Media CEO Suzanne Scott and president and executive editor Jay Wallace. You can read the complete letter here, but it's the last three paragraphs where all the juice is:

We demand that you direct Tucker Carlson and other hosts on your network to stop spreading false election narratives and admit on the air that they were wrong to engage in such negligent behavior.

As evidenced by the January 6 insurrection, spreading this false propaganda could not only embolden supporters of the Big Lie to engage in further acts of political violence, but also deeply and broadly weakens faith in our democracy and hurts our country in countless other ways.

Fox News executives and all other hosts on your network have a clear choice. You can continue a pattern of lying to your viewers and risking democracy or move beyond this damaging chapter in your company's history by siding with the truth and reporting the facts. We ask that you make sure Fox News ceases disseminating the Big Lie and other election conspiracy theories on your network.

It is not a secret that Fox is a propaganda organization. That was the central point of the documentary Outfoxed, and that film came out nearly two decades ago. What is new is Democratic leadership being willing to use the p-word openly.

The Foxers have no great options here. If they admit to their misdeeds and apologize, Democrats will say, "See? Even Fox's top brass admits they lie about major news stories." And if they don't apologize, Democrats will say "See? Even when they are caught red-handed, they won't tell the truth or make it right. What other stories are they lying about that we don't know because there's no major court case?"

In any case, many politicians and mainstream media sources have been cowed by claims of left-wing bias and/or being in "the woke bubble." These things do exist, but their extent has been grossly overstated. More importantly, these alleged problems have led many prominent people, both in politics and media, to bend over backwards in service of bothsidesism, the notion that there are two (or more) valid perspectives on any story. Sometimes that is just not true. Further, hiring a gaggle of token conservatives to write op-eds (as the Washington Post) just did about a month ago, does not necessarily mean that your publication is being fairer, or more balanced, or is broadening readers' prospectives. There aren't many Charles Krauthammers and William Safires left anymore. The Hugh Hewitts and Marc Thiessens of the world are propagandizing just as much when they write for the Post as they are when they (frequently) appear on Fox.

Anyhow, if the Fox scandal causes Democratic politicians to think twice about giving Fox more oxygen, and it causes media outlets to commit to covering reasonable and/or well-supported perspectives (which might well be conservative) as opposed to just "right-wing perspectives," our view is that will be a step in the right direction. And that might just happen, now that Fox has been caught with its hands in the cookie jar, and has laid bare for all to see that claims of being "fair and balanced" were not made in good faith.

And on that note, today's post happens to have quite a bit of criticism of Republican politicians. We think it's fair criticism, and that we've justified the points we've made. Nonetheless, if that's not your bag, you might want to stop reading here. Alternatively, if you think we've been unfair or are misguided, you know how to reach us. (Z)

CPAC Is Underway

There was a time when the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was worthy of significant attention from journalists and other politics observers. As the Republican version of a trade show, it was where prominent and upwardly mobile members of the Party went to test their messaging in front of the party faithful. It was thus a preview of which candidates might make some noise in the next round of elections (midterm or presidential), and what planks they might be running on.

That time is no more, however. To start, CPAC is run by Trump loyalists. Beyond that, the organization that hosts CPAC (also known as the Conservative Political Action Conference) is a for-profit concern, and its main focus is making sure to sell as many tickets as is possible (at a price tag ranging from $50 for students to $295 for adults to $30,000 for a "Platinum Plus" admission). And what the attendees want is so much red meat that a statin IV is necessary. Most importantly, the Republican Party (at least, the Trumpy wing) doesn't have all that much of a platform anymore. And so, the job of conference speakers is not to wangle over which policy positions the Party will run on, it's to convince audience members (who are generally influential Republicans) that they are the Trumpiest one of all.

The proof is in the pudding, and the list of speakers makes clear this is little more than a better-organized Trump rally. The former president will speak, as will Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL), J.D. Vance (R-OH), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX); Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Marjorie Taylor

Greene (R-GA), Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Jim Jordan (R-OH); and civilians like Mike Lindell, Stephen Miller, Sean Spicer, Sebastian Gorka, Mollie Hemingway and Candace Owens. The guest of honor at the Ronald Reagan dinner, which is the major social event of CPAC, and is VIP-only, is... Kari Lake. Meanwhile, not in attendance: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who will instead spend the weekend kissing the rear end of the remaining Koch brother and his friends, Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), among others.

CPAC runs from Wednesday through Saturday, which means it's already halfway over. Attendees have already heard from all of the senators listed above, as well as many of the representatives. CPAC really CPACks 'em in, so there have been more than 50 speeches so far. And here is a rundown of everything said during the first 2 days that wasn't about combating wokeness, and fighting the deep state, and owning the libs:

Empty box

Greene, Gorka, Gaetz and Spicer are among those who are up today, while Trump is up tomorrow. So, things could change! Or not. (Z)

RNC To Require Loyalty Pledge

RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel (who is also skipping CPAC this weekend, by the way) said she was thinking about this. And now she's decided: Any Republican presidential candidate who wants to participate in primary debates must agree to sign a pledge that says that they will promise to support the Party's eventual nominee, whoever that might be.

Readers hardly need us to point out how stupid this is, at least on its face. The first problem is that some Republican contenders, most obviously Donald Trump, might well be happy to have an excuse to skip debating. The second problem is that the pledge is utterly unenforceable. The RNC can't exactly go to court and say "[Candidate X] crossed his heart, hope to die, that he/she wouldn't be a meanie if they lost. No takesies-backsies!" Heck, because there is no requirement for membership in the Republican Party (in contrast to many European political parties), the RNC can't even drum a pledge violator out of the GOP.

Since McDaniel is not stupid, we've been trying to figure out what is going on here. We've go three theories:

  1. She is delusional: The obvious risk for the Republicans in 2024 is that Trump loses the nomination and then turns into a petulant brat, like he did in 2020 (very possibly costing the party one or two Senate seats in Georgia). It could be that McDaniel really thinks that Trump wants to debate, and that he will abide by any promises he makes in order to get onto the debate stage. To think that would be pretty wild, but McDaniel went on CNN and tried to sell it with a straight face. So... maybe.

  2. She is in CYA mode: McDaniel can quite clearly see that the RMS DeSantis and the iceberg named Trump are headed for a massive collision, and that the aftermath is not going to be pretty. Something like this will at least allow her to say: "Hey! I did everything I could!"

  3. This is aimed at Ron DeSantis: Trump has no shame, nor does he need to worry about RNC support in 2028. By virtue of his age and this being his third straight attempt at the White House, this is surely his last rodeo. But DeSantis is much younger and could well be a contender in the presidential cycle after this one. McDaniel might suspect that Trump is going to be the nominee, and might want to make sure the Governor screws a smile on his face and stays on board with Team GOP. This is probably not necessary, because the Governor's not a fool and is not likely to shoot himself in the foot, "be nice" pledge or not. But "I need to proactively rein DeSantis in" is a much more realistic agenda item than "I can totally rein Trump in."

That's what we've got; if readers have alternative theories, we are interested to hear them. (Z)

Florida Gone Wild

If Ron DeSantis becomes President of the United States, he is likely to do some very frightening and undemocratic things. His record thus far makes that clear. Further, he's likely to inspire other people in positions of power to follow his lead. Two bills introduced in the Florida legislature this week speak to this point.

First up, courtesy of state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R), is a bill he calls "The Ultimate Cancel Act." And if it becomes law, then the Florida Division of Elections would be required to "immediately cancel the filings of a political party, to include its registration and approved status as a political party, if the party's platform has previously advocated for, or been in support of, slavery or involuntary servitude." In other words, the Democrats would be outlawed in Florida. Outlawing the opposition party? That's not fascist at all. No, sirre!

Obviously, the bill has zero chance of becoming law. It's political theater so that Ingoglia can tell constituents that he "owns the libs," and so he can highlight the right-wing talking point that the Democrats are the party of slavery. This is intellectually dishonest to the extreme, and anyone who knows anything about U.S. political history, and the fact that the parties just might have changed a little in the last 150 years, knows it. But well-informed people are not Ingoglia's target audience.

The other bill comes from state Sen. Jason Brodeur (R). This one is a bit more complicated, but it would require any blogger who writes about high-ranking Florida politicians, and who does not work for a newspaper, and who collects any money in exchange for their content to register with Florida authorities and to submit monthly reports summarizing said coverage.

Requiring private citizens to report certain kinds of speech to the government for monitoring? Again, not fascist at all. Not one bit. Brodeur is trying to make this about regulation of commerce, but of course the bill would run into massive First Amendment issues if it ever become law. And note that it does not limit things to residents of the state of Florida. Since we write about Ron DeSantis, and since we are not a newspaper, and since we collect money, we would theoretically be required to submit monthly reports. You'll know we've prepared and submitted the first one the moment you look out the window and see a winged pig fluttering by.

These proposals are not serious attempts to legislate, any more than are Majorie Taylor Greene's constant filings of articles of impeachment. The problem is that the utterly whackadoodle stuff makes the sorta whackadoodle stuff seem much more reasonable. And if DeSantis becomes president, there's going to be plenty of utterly whackadoodle and sorta whackadoodle stuff on the agenda. And some of the latter is actually going to become policy, or law. (Z)

Feinstein Has Shingles

Yesterday, after many reporters noticed that she has not been present in Washington recently, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) issued a statement advising that she has been hospitalized for shingles. "I have been hospitalized and am receiving treatment in San Francisco," she explained, "and expect to make a full recovery. I hope to return to the Senate later this month." Shingles is, in effect, the adult version of chickenpox. It is very, very unpleasant, and while most cases resolve in a matter of a few weeks, sometimes the disease lingers on for months.

We note this news for two reasons. First, it is at least possible that this is the straw that breaks the camel's back and causes Feinstein to throw in the towel and resign her seat. A particularly serious or long-lasting outbreak might have that effect. Alternatively, if she's been looking for an "out," she could use the shingles to justify resigning, as opposed to the undoubtedly difficult-to-make admission that her mental faculties have deteriorated.

Second, Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) is still hospitalized right now, so it's currently 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and Kamala Harris (who just tied John Adams for second place on the tie-breaking vote list) in Washington right now. That means that as long as both ailing Democratic senators are out, Chuck Schumer has no margin of error, and any individual defection is fatal. This could prove germane, in particular, in the case of Secretary of Labor-designate Julie Su, who is facing a tough confirmation battle. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: You Could Make an Omelet with all the Egg on Gaetz' Face

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) regularly reveals himself to be both a scumbag and a moron. Does that make him a scumron? A mormbag? We don't know. In any event, because he shows his true colors so often, he's eligible for this feature on a very regular basis. In fact, it would be pretty easy to just change it from "This Week in Schadenfreude" to "The Gaetz-Greene Report." Of course, that would get old quickly, so we have to be judicious in how often we make one of those two the subject.

This week, however, the Florida Representative definitely cleared the bar. The House Judiciary Committee had its first meeting since the Republican takeover, which means this was the first time Gaetz attended a meeting of the Committee as a member of the majority. And boy, did he make a mess of it. See, the Republicans have decided that Judiciary Committee meetings must commence with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance (this was not the case under the Democrats). And, at Gaetz' instigation, the first performance of the pledge was led by Corey Beekman, a U.S. combat veteran.

Announcing Beekman, Gaetz said: "It is my pleasure and distinct honor to introduce to the committee Staff Sergeant Corey Ryan Beekman, an American hero and a constituent of mine residing in Pensacola, Florida." The Representative then presented Beekman's résumé: 16 years' military service, Purple Heart winner, loyal Republican, member of the local gun club, etc. Gaetz neglected do his homework, though. It would seem that Beekman definitely is a fan of guns, so much so that he allegedly used one of them to kill a man named Billy Buchanan. Beekman has been indicted for murder, although the case has moved at the speed of molasses. Buchanan's family was hurt and outraged that Beekman was being honored on Capitol Hill, and Gaetz was forced to call them and apologize for the mistake. Oops!

That was not Gaetz' only less-than-shining moment this week, however. He also sits on the House Armed Services Committee. And the first item of business for that group was hearings about support for Ukraine. As an ultra-Trumpy fellow, Gaetz wants to make the case that the Biden administration has been reckless in its support for Volodymyr Zelenkskyy. So, he grilled Colin Kahl, the U.S. defense undersecretary for policy, about whether any U.S. money or weapons have gone to the Azov Battalion, a far-right group that is dangerously close to being Nazis. That sort of thing offends Gaetz, apparently, at least when it's foreigners.

Kahl answered the question by saying that he was not aware of any U.S. resources going to the Azov Battalion, and added: "But if you have information I'd be happy to hear it." This was the "gotcha!" moment that the Congressman had been waiting for, and he promptly entered into the record a report from the Global Times about how the U.S. has been supplying the Azov Battalion since 2018. Gaetz then asked: "Any reason to disagree with that assessment?"

If this began in 2018, well, that's the Trump years, of course. However, that was not the flaw in Gaetz' reasoning that Kahl found most significant. Here's the exchange that immediately followed the "gotcha!" moment:

Kahl: I'm sorry, is this the Global Times from China?

Gaetz: No, this is... It might be, yeah.

Kahl: As a general matter, I don't take Beijing's propaganda at face value.

Boom! Mic drop! If you would care to see the exchange for yourself, the video is here (click on "Rep. Gaetz Cites Chinese Newspaper" on the right-hand side). Oops again!

Maybe next week, Gaetz will hire someone for his office to do some actual research so he doesn't embarrass himself like this. But this week, he twice made national headlines for his sloppy work. And that is certainly a schadenfreude moment. (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreude: A Smalls Change Is a Big Deal

As everyone knows at this point, the U.S. military is getting rid of assets whose names honor the Confederacy. Most obviously, the stuff named after Confederate generals has to go. However, that's not the end of the list. There are other things that need renaming as well, like the missile cruiser U.S.S. Chancellorsville.

Most readers will know that Chancellorsville was a Civil War battle. And given the context in which we point this out, it's pretty easy to figure out, if you did not already know, that it was a Confederate victory. A big one, thanks to a bold strategic plan from Robert E. Lee, coupled with timidity by Union commander Joseph Hooker. Although Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was killed in connection with the battle, which was bad news for the Southrons, the victory was big enough that it cost Hooker his command and allowed Lee to commence his second and final invasion of the Northern states.

In short, Chancellorsville looms large in the memory, both immediately after the battle, and in the decades after the war. In fact, there may be no battle in which the Confederates took more pride. So, it's no surprise that Southerners wanted the engagement to be honored by the U.S. Navy. But it will be honored no more, as the Navy announced earlier this week that the vessel will be re-christened the U.S.S. Robert Smalls.

Who is Robert Smalls, you may ask? Well, he's someone who probably ought to be more famous that he actually is. He was born into slavery in the coastal town of Beaufort, SC. In view of the demands of the local economy, he learned how to build, maintain, and pilot ships. Given his knowledge base, he was conscripted into the Confederate Navy in 1862 to help pilot the CSS Planter. This was a small ship whose responsibility was short-distance cargo shipping as well as surveying of coastal territory and rivers. If the Planter had tried to navigate to the open seas, it would have been sunk by the Union's blockade.

The three officers in charge of the Planter were all white men, of course, but the enslaved crew was all Black. And, at night, the white guys tended to decamp for more comfortable quarters ashore, leaving the Black fellows to sleep on the ship. On May 12, 1862, after a fair bit of planning, Smalls asked his commanding officers if the crew's families might visit for the evening. The permission was given, and that night, while the family members were on board and the officers were not, Smalls launched the ship. Thanks to it being a dark night, he was able to get to the Union blockaders without being recaptured or sunk, and he promptly surrendered the ship to the U.S. Navy. Thus did Smalls score a victory for the U.S. forces (the ship, plus the valuable cargo on board), while also securing freedom for himself, his family, and his fellows.

Smalls' story doesn't end there, although that evening alone is enough to qualify him for the next edition of Profiles in Courage. Though the Confederacy placed a $5,000 bounty on his head (approx. $100,000 today), he entered the service of the U.S. Navy and, after a couple of years, became the first Black Navy captain in U.S. history. He eventually assumed command of the Planter, and in that capacity provided support for William T. Sherman's famous March to the Sea.

The Civil War ended not long thereafter, but Smalls wasn't done. In 1864, during a visit to Philadelphia, he was humiliated when he was forced to give up his seat on a public streetcar to a white man. He organized a boycott by the city's Black community and, after the war ended in 1865, returned to the "City of Brotherly Love" to lobby the city council. This was the first transportation boycott in U.S. history, and it was successful—the city's streetcars were integrated in 1867. In case you don't care to do the math yourself, that is fourscore and seven years before Rosa Parks.

Smalls, who clearly did not stay still for very long, launched a business career in the postbellum years while also securing appointment as a major general in the South Carolina militia and commencing a career in politics. His hometown of Beaufort was located in the overwhelmingly Black South Carolina sea islands, and so there remained opportunities for Black politicians there even after white supremacy had been reestablished through most of the rest of the former Confederate states. He ultimately served one term in the South Carolina House of Representatives (1868-70), one term in the South Carolina Senate (1870-75), and five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1875-79; 1882-87). Once his Congressional career ended, he served as Collector of the Port of Beaufort, a tip of the cap from the Republican presidents who made or renewed the appointment (Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft). Shortly before his death in 1913, in what would be the final chapter of his public career, Smalls managed to save two Black men from being lynched by a white mob.

In short, switching from Chancellorsville to Robert Smalls is a big upgrade in our view. This still brings attention to remembering the Civil War, which is supposed to be the point, right? And if this causes Smalls' story, in particular, to "continue to be retold and highlighted," as Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro predicts in the release announcing the change, all the better.

Have a good weekend! (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar02 DeSantis' New Book Gives Away His Platform
Mar02 Primary Polling Is All over the Map
Mar02 Reagan Is Dead, but What about Reaganism?
Mar02 Republicans Take on Wall Street
Mar02 Whither Social Security?
Mar02 Abortions in Space Are a Thing
Mar02 Slotkin's Move Has a Downside for the Democrats
Mar02 Texan Bans Pork
Mar02 Liz Cheney Has a Job
Mar01 A Hotfoot for Lightfoot
Mar01 So Su Me?
Mar01 What Is the Plan, Republicans?
Mar01 What Is the Plan, Ron?
Mar01 Follow the Money
Mar01 Dirty Tricks in Nevada
Mar01 Nigeria Elects Tinubu
Feb28 Slotkin Announces Senate Bid
Feb28 Chicagoans Head to the Polls Today
Feb28 Another Bombshell-filled Dominion Filing
Feb28 A Lesson in Reading Polls
Feb28 Nevada Democratic Party Is in Disarray...
Feb28 ...While the Florida Democratic Party Is Trying to Pull Itself Together
Feb28 Who Needs Gerrymandering When You've Got "George Santos"?
Feb27 Democratic-controlled States Are Protecting Voters
Feb27 Congressional Republicans Oppose Student Loan Relief
Feb27 DeSantis Leads Trump in California Poll
Feb27 Florida Bill Would Give the Governor Near Total Control of the State Universities
Feb27 Trump Is Starting to Run a Conventional Campaign
Feb27 Haley Supported the Right of States to Secede When She Ran for Governor
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Feb26 Sunday Mailbag
Feb25 Saturday Q&A
Feb24 Everybody's Passing the Buck in Ohio
Feb24 Kohrs Is Enjoying Her 15 Minutes of Fame; Others Are Less Enthused
Feb24 Polls Have Interesting News for (Some) Republicans
Feb24 Williamson Is In
Feb24 This Week in Schadenfreude: McCarthy Under Fire
Feb24 This Week in Freudenfreude: They Call Me Mister Mayor
Feb23 To Run Or Not to Run, That Is the Question...
Feb23 ...But Not for Tester
Feb23 Early Presidential Primary Polls Actually Do Matter
Feb23 Biden's New Asylum Policy Is Trump Lite
Feb23 Republicans Are Divided on Ukraine
Feb23 Former Arizona AG Hid Report Debunking Election Fraud Claims
Feb23 Barbara Lee Formally Announces a Senate Run
Feb23 Greene Calls for a National Divorce
Feb22 Wisconsinites Cast Their Ballots