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Political Wire logo Defense Secretary Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq
Xi Jinping Takes Rare Direct Aim at U.S.
DeSantis to Argue U.S. Should Be Like Florida
Kidnapped Americans Sought Health Care in Mexico
Trump Considers Female Running Mate
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How Trump Will Deal with DeSantis

Axios got a scoop about Donald Trump's campaign plans. Trump thinks that his only opponent with any staying power is Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). The others will fall by the wayside without his having to take them down. His approach to Ron DeSanctimonious, as Trump calls him, (Meatball Ron is apparently out), will have five parts, as follows.

  • Social Security: Trump understands that his working-class base does not want for Social Security (and Medicare) to be scaled back or for the retirement age raised. This separates him from nearly the entire Republican establishment, which wants to gut the programs in order to do the bidding of big donors (who either don't like paying FICA taxes, or who don't want to get stuck with the bill when the Social Security trust fund runs dry). Trump doesn't give a hoot what the big donors want. When he was a congressman, DeSantis voted with the establishment to actively change the programs, including raising the age of eligibility. DeSantis can hop up and down and yell all he wants now that he won't change the programs, but Trump will hit back with "When he had the actual power in Congress to try to gut the programs, that's what he did. He's lying now."

  • Disloyalty: Trump maintains that without his help, DeSantis would still be an unknown congressman. Trump will pound him for being an ingrate and mounting a challenge when Trump did so much to make him governor. Trump will also focus on how DeSantis fails the likability test badly. He won't call it the "beer test" because Trump himself does not drink alcohol, so no one could have a beer with him. He could substitute the "Big Mac test" though. That would actually be a twofer since it covers likability but is also a dig at DeSantis being an elite on account of degrees from Yale and Harvard Law School. In contrast, Trump has a degree from only one Ivy League school (Penn).

  • Lackey for Paul Ryan: When DeSantis was a junior congressman, he took his marching orders from then-Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump hates Ryan and has said Fox News should fire him from its board. Ryan is the kind of establishment Republican Trump's base hates, and so Trump will do his best to convince the voters that DeSantis was (and is) Ryan's lackey.

  • COVID-19: Although DeSantis resisted mask mandates, Trump is going to attack him for following the science at least a little early on in the pandemic. What the base believes is that Joe in the diner knows more about epidemics than Anthony Fauci, who is an M.D. and who has studied them for 50 years. Trump will go after DeSantis for not respecting Joe in the diner enough on health issues.

  • Ukraine: DeSantis has been trying to avoid taking a stand on the war in Ukraine. Trump's position is simple: Russia good, Ukraine bad. He is going to attack DeSantis over and over on this. However, this is an area where that could backfire. DeSantis could say: "Unlike you, I hate godless Communism and don't want it spreading." He could attack Russia because it frowns on freedom of religion. That might resonate with the evangelicals.

So far, DeSantis is not taking the bait and not going after Trump. When the time comes, he can try to parry these attacks but more likely will go on the offense, rather than on the defense (see below). (V)

DeSantis Attacks Potted Plants

Ron DeSantis is not in full campaign mode yet, but he is also not sitting still, either. He decided not to go to CPAC and attack Trump like Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo did (see below). Instead he went to an event for big donors in Florida hosted by the Club for Growth (CfG), a group that doesn't like Trump much. CPAC is run by Matt Schlapp (rhymes with "crap"), CfG is run by Charles Koch (rhymes with "smoke"); probably not terribly surprising that a guy from Florida preferred Koch.

At the CfG meeting, DeSantis said: "Some of these Republicans, they just sit back like potted plants, and they let the media define the terms of the debate. They let the left define the terms of debate. They take all this incoming, because they're not making anything happen. And I said, 'That's not what we're doing.'" He was not more specific about which Republicans are like potted plants. We'll probably find out later. The key argument here is that Trump was an ineffective president and didn't deliver, unlike DeSantis, who is delivering more red meat every day than Kroger's butcher.

The purpose of the event is to help CfG decide which candidate it wants to back in 2024. It is very unlikely to be Trump, but it could be DeSantis, Mike Pompeo, or maybe one of the long shots. While DeSantis' speech was well received and got multiple rounds of applause, DeSantis did something else that is characteristic of him and he had better change fast or it will be a millstone around his neck. He arrived late, gave his speech, and left immediately afterwards. He didn't schmooze with the wealthy donors and didn't allow any selfies with them. He will soon discover that even though the donors may like his platform, if they think he is a stuck-up little d**k, they are going to look elsewhere. He isn't any more conservative than Mike Pompeo, but a whole bunch less user-friendly.

DeSantis is going to travel around the country for the next week touting his new book and getting to see how people react to him. If he arrives late, gives a speech, and then leaves immediately everywhere, he will discover that they don't like him so much. His personality and squeaky voice could ultimately be what takes him down. People won't vote for a person they don't like, even if they like what he is selling. Especially when half a dozen other people are selling the same stuff. It is a strange time we live in; can you imagine someone saying 100 years ago, "I like Mussolini's ideas, but he's just not warm and fuzzy enough... and that voice!"? (V)

Trump's Opponents Take Swipes at Him at CPAC

Donald Trump showed up at CPAC over the weekend. So did many of his supporters. Steve Bannon and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) were his biggest cheerleaders there. But some of Trump's current and likely future primary opponents also showed up and were not so friendly. Nikki Haley, who is a declared candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, was one of the featured speakers. Her pitch was simple: "Vote for me if you're tired of losing." She railed against Joe Biden, weak-on-China Democrats, out-of-control federal spending, and the whole nine yards. She repeated her call that politicians over 75 should be subjected to a mental competency test as a condition for running for president. Take that, Trump (and Joe Biden)! She didn't explain who would administer the test and what a passing grade would be. Pity. We'd like to know. Of course, this would create a new requirement for the presidency, other than the ones in the Constitution. The Supreme Court tends to frown on new requirements.

Haley helpfully pointed out that Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. She didn't explain why, though, and certainly didn't bring up the possibility that Americans don't like what they are offering. She also didn't explain how someone polling around 1% was going to turn that around.

The reaction to Haley's speech was mixed, at best. There was hardly any applause. When she finished speaking and exited the stage, she faced a crowd chanting: "Trump, Trump, Trump." It doesn't seem that she won many hearts or changed many minds. Since she is a former governor and cabinet member, and a declared candidate, custom calls for us to pretend she is serious candidate. Consequently, we will pretend that she is a serious candidate. But only for vice president on a ticket headed by Ron DeSantis, or maybe Mike Pompeo or Mike Pence.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a potential presidential candidate, also spoke at CPAC and also took pot shots at Trump, but aimed them differently from Haley. He noted that the federal debt grew by $8 trillion during Trump's administration. Here is the debt from 2005 to 2021 as a graph:

Federal debt 2005 to 2021; it
was around $8 trillion in 2005 and it was around $27 trillion when Trump left office. There was a noticeable spike in his last couple
of years.

Thus although the Republicans rant about the debt all the time and say it will destroy America, when they had the trifecta from Jan. 2017 to Jan 2019, they did nothing to reduce the debt. In fact, they passed a large unfunded tax cut, which made the debt much bigger. If they had brought revenue and spending both down in a way that produced a budget surplus (as Bill Clinton did), then they would have made a start at reducing the debt. But, as usual, it was all hat and no cowboy.

Pompeo showed how much he worried about the debt by telling the audience he warned his son to work hard and save money because Social Security wouldn't be there for him. Pompeo was secretary of state, so he is perhaps not aware of what goes on at the Treasury Dept., but Social Security has its own dedicated revenue stream from the FICA tax. There are problems there, too, but they can be solved easily by raising the threshold above which there is no FICA tax from $160,200 to some higher value. A minor issue there is that Joe Biden promised not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000. However, Congress could pass a law levying the tax on income up to $160,200 and also from $400,000 to, say, $1 million. That would create a "donut hole," but computer software that calculates payroll taxes can manage donut holes just fine. There's nothing to it.

If Pompeo's main platform is going to be about the federal debt, we suspect he will have trouble catching on. We haven't seen any polling suggesting that the federal debt is even in the top 10 of voters' concerns.

DeSantis didn't show up at CPAC because he was busy attacking potted plants in Florida (see above). He really should be careful with that kind of talk. Hasn't he seen Little Shop of Horrors?

As usual, CPAC took a straw poll. Trump won with 62%. DeSantis was second at 20%. In third place was Perry Johnson (who?) at 5% and then Nikki Haley at 3%. Apparently Haley's speech was a big hit. Last year she scored 2% at CPAC, so she is up 50% from last time. Next year she will aim for 4½%. (V)

Trump and Fox News May Soon Be at War

Also noteworthy at CPAC, Steve Bannon started his speech by ripping into Fox News for calling Arizona for Biden on Election Night. It went downhill from there. A bit later, Bannon said: "Murdoch, you've deemed Trump's not going to be president. But we deem that you're not going to have a network, because we're going to fight you every step of the way." Maybe Murdoch started quaking in his boots when he heard that the mighty Steve Bannon was after him. But maybe not.

Murdoch and Fox News seem to have had it with Trump (and certainly with Bannon). While Murdoch hasn't officially endorsed Ron DeSantis (and probably never will, explicitly), he seems very likely to hop on the DeSantis bandwagon as soon as it gets up some steam. This is going to cause Trump a huge headache. After all, the fawning and attention that Fox gave him in 2016 was enormously valuable to his campaign. If that goes to a challenger, it will be impossible to replace. Like it or not, in the right-o-sphere, Fox is the 800-pound gorilla.

If Tucker Carlson and the other hosts start praising DeSantis every day—and dumping on Trump at the same time—that is bound to anger Trump beyond belief, but there is not a lot he can do about it. NewsMax and OANN might be friendlier to him, but they are far smaller than Fox. Trump sees what is coming down the road and is already attacking Fox. He recently posted this to his boutique social media site: "Too many incompetent RINOS at FoxNews!" He also called Fox executives "a group of MAGA Hating Globalist RINOS."

It's still early and Fox might not go all in for DeSantis, especially if it looks like Trump might get the nomination and have a chance to win the general election. Murdoch knows that Trump is exceedingly vindictive and if he becomes president, would do everything he and Stephen Miller can think of to punish Fox. On the one hand, this could scare the Foxers. On the other hand, it could motivate them to do everything possible to make sure Trump is not the next president. In any event, having Fox working against Trump, either mildly or aggressively, will certainly impact the primaries in a big way. (V)

Republican Field Grows... and Shrinks

This sequence of headlines from The Hill caught our eye:

Headlines from The Hill, the
first is about the growing Republican primary field, the third is about Trump winning the CPAC poll, the fourth and final is about Larry
Hogan saying he won't join the race

The top headline notes the growing GOP primary field. Well, it went from one to two when Nikki Haley signed up. That is a 100% increase this year so far. It's true that a large field might fragment the anti-Trump vote and allow Trump to win a plurality and all the delegates in the winner-take-all primaries. However, the bottom headline has the exact opposite message. One of the potential candidates, former Maryland governor Larry Hogan, is not running. Kind of odd running together, we think. Is the field growing or shrinking (or both?). Maybe it matters who is asking the question, kind of like when the tax man gets a very different answer than the bank manager when they inquire about the value of Trump's real estate holdings.

In any event, the actual news story here is that Hogan, an outspoken critic of Trump, is not going to run for the GOP nomination. He said he talked to various people before making a decision. The result of those discussions harks back to the first headline. He knows that if half a dozen minor candidates divvy up the anti-Trump vote then Trump could get the nomination with 30% of the primary ballots (or maybe even less). He doesn't want that. By staying out, he is making it easier for the serious anti-Trump candidates, like Ron DeSantis and possibly Mike Pompeo, to get enough attention to be able to rise up and overtake Trump. Remember, Hogan is a Republican, just an anti-Trump Republican. He is fine with DeSantis being president and doesn't want to hurt DeSantis' chances. This is as honest a description for not running as we have ever heard from a politician. He also said of the presidency that he "didn't need that job." To us, that sounds like sour grapes since he has no chance of getting it. He should have stuck with reason #1 and left it at that.

As an aside, Hogan didn't technically rule out an independent or third-party run, but the chances of that getting anywhere are pretty close to zero.

While we are on the subject of candidates who have no chance cluttering up the Republican primary field, yesterday, Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH), a possible candidate who also has no chance of grabbing the brass ring, went on NBC's Meet the Press and categorically said: "As far as former President Trump, I think he's going to run—obviously he's in the race. He's not going to be the nominee. That's just not going to happen." How the hell can Sununu be so sure? Does he have access to some secret information nobody else has? Maybe he has seen some poll that isn't public, but even if DeSantis is leading in some proprietary poll right now, that is no guarantee that he will win the nomination. At this point, nobody knows what will happen.

So What is Sununu's game? Our best guess is that he is just taking a gamble here. If DeSantis gets the nomination, he can say: "See, I told you. I am a political genius." If Trump gets it, he hopes everyone has by then forgotten his prediction. (V)

Manchin Won't Decide about Running for Reelection until December

Yesterday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told CBS' Face the Nation that he won't decide whether he will run for reelection until Dec. 2023. In most states, that would be an outrageous and mean thing to do to his party. If he is not going to run for reelection there will not be enough time left for other candidates to put together campaigns. In West Virginia, it doesn't matter, because he is the only Democrat in the state who could win the Senate seat. So if he doesn't run, it doesn't matter that no other Democrat has time to put together a campaign. It's completely pointless.

Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) is term-limited and interested in a Senate run. This means the governor's race in 2024 will not have an incumbent running. Manchin could possibly run for that office, although he said earlier this month that he wouldn't run for governor. Then he walked that back. So maybe he will run for governor. Only he knows what he is planning to do. Or maybe even he doesn't know yet.

There are three incumbent Democratic senators up in very red states up in 2024: Manchin, and Sens. Jon Tester (MT) and Sherrod Brown (OH). Tester and Brown are both personally popular and running. If both of them win and no other seats flip, the Democrats will have 50 seats even if they lose West Virginia. There's not a lot of margin for error there. All the Democrats who have criticized Manchin for 2 years are now begging forgiveness and pleading with him to run. The Senator may just try to leverage their desperation in exchange for some nice, juicy pork. But if he does, it won't work. That ship has sailed. Back when the Democrats had the trifecta, they would have given him all the pork in Iowa for his vote on Biden's Build Back Better Bill (BBBBB). Now House Republicans are not going to help Manchin get reelected. So what is his game here?

If Manchin announces on, say, Dec. 20 that he's not running, then he'll definitely be on the Democrats' naughty list. That includes, we would imagine, the naughty list of the elderly white-haired guy who believes in giving handouts to everyone without worrying about paying for them. No, not Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); the guy who lives in a place even colder than Vermont. Unfortunately, Santa's main punishment for bad boys and girls is to deliver them a Christmas lump of coal. But for Manchin, that's exactly what he wants in his stocking. So, there's nothing that Santa and the Democrats can do but hope for the best. (V)

Minnesota Expands Voting Rights for Ex-Felons

We have had many stories in the past about states trying to make voting more diffciult, but once in a while there is a story about a state trying to expand voting rights in some way. Now is one of those times. On Friday, Gov. Tim Walz (DFL-MN) signed a bill that would allow convicted felons who have completed their sentences to vote. The new law is expected to re-enfranchise 55,000 people. This is the biggest expansion of voting rights in Minnesota in half a century. This law was made possible when the Minnesota DFL captured the trifecta last November by flipping the state Senate.

Re-enfranchising ex-felons is controversial and also partisan. People who get sent to prison tend to be poor and are are disproportionately nonwhite. It is assumed that if they get to vote again, they are not likely to vote for the GOP, which is why Republicans don't want them to vote at all. It is estimated that 4.6 million Americans are not allowed to vote as a result of a felony conviction.

Eleven states still deprive former felons of the right to vote. The worst offender is Florida. Over a million people convicted of felonies are still disenfranchised there. In 2018, a ballot initiative to amend the state Constitution to allow most ex-felons to vote passed by a huge margin. The Republicans in the state legislature didn't like what the people of Florida had to say, so they quickly sprung into action and passed a law saying that ex-felons could only be re-enfranchised after they had paid all fines and court costs, as well as restitution to victims when a court ordered that. Most people just released from prison have no place to live, no job, and no money, so they can rarely pay all these costs. Consequently, only rich ex-felons (e.g., people convicted of crimes like stock manipulation, insider trading, and embezzlement) can vote in Florida. (V)

Democrats Rebut Weaponization Subcommittee

As part of the corrupt bargain Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made in order to obtain the speaker's gavel, he had to create a "weaponization" subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee and install Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) as the subcommittee chair. Jordan has called a number of witness so far (in private), but none of them produced any evidence that the FBI or DoJ have done anything wrong. They mostly just peddled various grievances and conspiracy theories about the coup attempt and claimed the insurrection was planned by Democrats. They also proposed abolishing the FBI. Some of the witness were paid by Kash Patel, a Trump ally.

Jordan called three of the witnesses who formerly worked for the FBI—George Hill, Garrett O'Boyle, and Stephen Friend—whistleblowers. But none of them meet the definition of "whistleblower," because none of them have presented any evidence of lawbreaking, mismanagement, or abuse of power within the Bureau. O'Boyle complained about the mandate that federal workers had to be vaccinated against COVID-19. That is not evidence of mismanagement. It is simply evidence that he didn't like legal government policy. Similarly, Friend said that the FBI is a "feckless, garbage institution that should be eliminated."

The top Democrats on the subcommittee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), have called on Jordan to have the witnesses testify in public and allow members of the subcommittee to grill them, so Americans can judge for themselves how trustworthy they seem. So far Jordan does not seem inclined to do that, probably because he knows the Democrats would tear them apart in a public hearing.

Nadler and Plaskett are not holding their breath. Instead, they issued a 316-page report about the hearings and witnesses so far. It says Hill's testimony is all secondhand. He didn't see any of the events he described himself, but heard about them from others. Also, his Twitter account is full of hatred for Joe Biden and RINOs. O'Boyle was accused of making unauthorized disclosures to the media and had his security clearance revoked. He also claimed that the vaccination mandate was just like Nazi Germany. Friend was placed on AWOL status in August 2022 after he objected to how members of a domestic extremist group associated with the coup attempt were arrested. A month later, his security clearance was lifted and he made many posts on social media calling for the FBI to be dismantled. None of these folks match up to Cassidy Hutchinson in terms of credibility. If this is the best Jordan can do, the whole investigation is going to fizzle. (V)

House Republicans Introduce "Parents' Bill of Rights"

While we are on the subject of what House Republicans want, there's this: H.R. 5. This is the Republicans' "Parents Bill of Rights." It's more hype and marketing than anything else, but Republicans now think that they can all be Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA), who ran a campaign based on empowering parents and won, albeit against a fairly sleazy retread Democrat.

The bill would create certain rights: for parents, including:

  • The right to know what their children are being taught.
  • The right to be heard.
  • The right to see the school budget.
  • The right to protect their child's privacy.
  • The right to keep their child safe.

In the abstract, these seem reasonable. But the devil is in the details. For example, the first point includes a requirement that every school post a list of all the books in the school library. The second one means that any parent who wanted Heather Has Two Mommies removed from the library would have a legal right to address the school board and demand its removal. The fourth item means that schools would not be allowed to sell student data. It is not clear if any schools do that now, however. It also means that parents would have to consent in advance before any medical test (e.g., a urine test for illegal drugs) could be administered in school. Here is a more complete list from supporters of the bill. The bill was introduced by Rep. Julia Letlow (R-LA) and has 73 cosponsors, all Republicans.

The problem with this bill is what happens when some aggrieved parent goes to the school board meeting and demands that Heather Has Two Mommies be removed from the school library and placed in the paper shredder but another parent wants to make it required reading? Might that get out of hand? In Florida, a million books are currently under review due to recent legislation banning certain race- and LGBTQ-related content.

What do teachers think about this bill? Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, the largest labor union in the country, said of Kevin McCarthy: "McCarthy would rather seek to stoke racial and social division and distract us from what will really help our students thrive: an inspiring, inclusive, and age-appropriate curriculum that prepares each and every one of them for their future." From the Republicans' point of view, having a major union president oppose the bill is a big plus.

Here is the top of the front page of Fox's website this weekend:

The headline is: 'McCarthy says government must butt out
of kids' education, pushes parental bill of rights

Hmm. Interesting thought. Government should stay out of education? Aren't the public schools run by the (local) government? Maybe "government" means the "federal government." In that case, if McCarthy wants the federal government to butt out of education, why is he tolerating a bill that would put the federal government smack in the middle of it? He can't really argue that it was introduced by a rogue congresswoman and acquired 73 cosponsors all against his will when he was actively endorsing the bill:

McCarthy at a meeting advocating for parents rights bill

McCarthy has said a number of times that the government has to stop woke indoctrination in the schools. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced a similar bill in the Senate last year and it didn't even get a vote. (V)

2024 Has a Couple of Anniversaries

The 2024 presidential election will come 200 years after the 1824 election, which was remarkable in two ways. First, it was the first election in which a majority of the states chose their presidential electors by popular vote. Eighteen states did that while the other six states had the state legislature pick the electors. So, in a very real way, 2024 will be the 200th anniversary of democracy.

However, that popular vote thingie didn't work so well that year. In 1824, there were four credible candidates: Andrew Jackson (99 electoral votes), John Quincy Adams (84), William Crawford (41), and Henry Clay (37). Since no one had a majority, the election went to the House, with each state getting one vote. This was the most recent time that happened, so 1824 is also the 200th anniversary of the last time the House picked the president. As you know, it picked Adams, although Jackson, the Donald Trump of his era, got revenge by winning in 1828.

This election brings up the question of whether the House might end up picking the president again, 200 years after the last time it did it. The most likely scenario in which this occurred is that Trump loses the Republican nomination, runs as an independent (or as the candidate of the Trumpist Party), and wins some electoral votes (for example, West Virginia and some of the states in the Interior West). In a close election, that could happen. The map at the top of the page gives Biden 303 EVs. Suppose Ron DeSantis is the Republican nominee and he wins Arizona and Georgia against Joe Biden. That is certainly plausible, given how close they were in 2020. This would reduce Biden's total from 303 to 276. If DeSantis also flipped Wisconsin, another very close state, the total would be Biden 266 and DeSantis 272.

If that were the final result, DeSantis would win. End of story? Well maybe not. Suppose Trump won Wyoming as an independent. Then the result would be Biden 266, DeSantis 269, Trump 3. Or if Trump won only West Virginia, it would be Biden 266, DeSantis 268, Trump 4. You need 270 to win, so in both of these cases, the election would go to the newly elected House seated on Jan. 3, 2025. It has to be the new House, because the electoral votes aren't official until they are counted in a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2025. So who won would depend on which party controlled the most state delegations in the new House.

We don't know which party will control the new House, so all we have to go on is the current one. Here is the current map:

Partisan control of the 118th House

In the current House, Republicans control 26 delegations, Democrats control 22 delegations, and two (Minnesota and North Carolina) are split. If the election ended up in the House, each representative would be free to vote for any of the top three candidates. That could conceivably mean that Trumpy Republicans voted for Trump, not DeSantis, so it is not 100% certain that DeSantis would get the most states. It could get rather messy.

In a blue or red wave in 2024, control of the House delegations could change. Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball has 22 delegations safe for Republicans and 13 safe for Democrats. But again, they are counting on Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-WY), Wyoming's lone representative, as a Republican vote (i.e., for DeSantis). We're not so sure. We think she could vote for Trump. Several other smaller delegations could also go for Trump. It is certainly possible that even though a majority of delegations were nominally Republican, no candidate got to 26. If that stalemate persisted, then the vice president chosen by the Senate from the top two candidates would act as president. If the Senate were split 50-50 and voted strictly along party lines, then the speaker of the House, who is elected by simple majority on the 15th ballot, would become president. We wonder if the bookies are taking bets on Kevin McCarthy or Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) becoming president? It isn't that farfetched. (V)

Walgreens Won't Distribute Abortion Pills in Republican-Controlled States

Abortion pills are all the rage now, especially since the FDA has ruled that retail pharmacies can distribute them to anyone with a valid prescription (after doing some paperwork). That doesn't mean they will, however. Walgreens, the nation's second largest pharmacy chain, has caved to anti-abortion activists and decided not to sell them in states where the attorney general doesn't want them sold, even though they are legal in federal law and states do not have the right to pick and choose which FDA-approved drugs they will allow to be sold. This means that Walgreens won't sell the pills, either in person or by mail, in about 20 states, even in those states where abortion is legal. A profile in courage this is not. It will sell them in states where the AG has no objection, which in practice means the blue states.

The Republican AGs who got Walgreens to drop the pills are actively working on Albertsons, Costco, CVS, Kroger, Rite Aid, and Walmart to get them to stop as well. Some small independent pharmacies are seeking certification to sell the pills, though. Elizabeth Nash, a state policy expert at the Guttmacher Institute, said that Walgreens' decision could especially affect people in rural areas, many of whom are not near multiple pharmacies, giving them little choice of which one to use.

The decision affects only the sale of mifepristone but not misoprostol, which has long been allowed with no restrictions. However, misoprostol is only about 80% effective, whereas mifepristone is almost completely effective.

Walgreens is not out of the woods on this, however. Pro-choice groups are calling for a boycott of Walgreens to protest its decision. In the past, anti-abortion groups picketed pharmacies that sold mifepristone. In the future, pro-choice groups could be doing the picketing. (V)

Biden Had a Basal Cell Carcinoma Removed Last Month

During his annual physical exam last month, Joe Biden's doctor removed a basal cell carcinoma from his chest. If you are going to get cancer, doctors agree, this is the type to get. They can grow, but they rarely spread and can be easily removed. Biden's doctor said he is cured and no further treatment is needed.

Jill Biden also had a basal cell carcinoma removed earlier this year. They are quite common.

So there will be no medical impact, but what about political impact? That could be much worse. If Biden runs for reelection, there will be Republicans saying: "Biden has cancer and when he dies, you're going to get Kamala Harris as president. How do you like Dem apples?" Of course, this is extremely misleading since the entire carcinoma was removed and they don't grow back. Also, basal cell carcinomas are rarely deadly, unlike the much less frequent melanomas. But not everyone understands this and Republicans are sure to try to make hay from it. (V)

The Conways Are Splitting Up

We weren't sure whether to run this as schadenfreude or freudenfreude, so we'll just run it as straight news. Kellyanne Conway and George Conway are getting divorced. Our third reaction (after schadenfreude and freudenfreude) was "it's their own business and it shouldn't be in the news." However, after seeing the front-page stories about the divorce in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The New York Post, CNN, The AP, The Hill, Yahoo! News, The Guardian, and The Hindustan Times, among other media outlets, we thought "at least we are not the source of this sad story." The Conways have been married for 22 years and have four children.

It is interesting that doesn't seem to be covering it. On the other hand, there is bigger news now, including Buster Murdaugh's classmate, Anthony Fauci, conservative counties that want to secede, mothers angry at a teachers' union, Chris Rock, China's military, and the lab leak:

Fox News front page

It is amazing they lasted so long as a couple when Kellyanne spent 4 years buttering up and defending Donald Trump as a top adviser and George spent 4 years viciously attacking Trump (including being one of the founders of the Lincoln Project, which made brilliant ads skewering Trump). Dinner conversation at chez Conway must have been interesting.

Their daughter, Claudia, couldn't take this. In August 2020, when she was 16, Claudia (a TikTok star, so not a very private person herself) announced that unless her parents stopped behaving like total jerks, she was going to court to petition the judge to declare her an emancipated minor. This is the legal process for getting a divorce from your parents. An emancipated minor is functionally an adult and can do almost anything adults can do, including entering into binding legal contracts and keeping all earnings from work. It is most commonly done to get older, responsible teenagers out of abusive homes. The Conways pulled back a bit and Claudia didn't file.

Donald Trump congratulated Kellyanne on her divorce from "her wacko husband." George hit back with: "Looking forward to seeing you in New York at E. Jean's trial next month! Hugs and kisses." This is a reference to the upcoming trial at which E. Jean Carroll is suing Trump for defamation because he says she is lying when she claims he raped her.

Marriages where the couple belongs to different parties are common, although partisanship is so strong now that there are separate dating services for Democrats and Republicans. Interestingly, the Democratic site offers four options: man seeking woman, woman seeking man, man seeking man, and woman seeking woman. The Republican site offers only two options. We don't want to spoil it for you, so we aren't going to tell you which ones here. It used to be that people wanted someone from their own religion. Now the big dividing line is politics.

Sometimes politically mixed marriages work. James Carville, a top Democratic adviser, and Mary Matalin, a top Republican adviser, have been married for 30 years. A reporter once asked Carville how they managed it. He said that they never talked politics at home. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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Mar04 Saturday Q&A
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