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Political Wire logo Quote of the Day
Failed Bank Faced Criminal Probe
GOP Hints at ‘New’ Biden Family Member Who Got Payoff
Matt Gaetz Won’t Challenge Rick Scott
GOP Fears Mastriano Redux
Murdoch Newspaper Questions DeSantis on Ukraine

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Who Broke the Bank?
      •  Trump Officially Declines Bragg's Invitation
      •  Nikki Haley Is a Pretty Mediocre Politician
      •  Pennsylvania Republicans: More of the Same, Please!
      •  Neo-Nazis' Newest Target? Trans People and Drag Queens
      •  Why the Trans Hate?, Part V: Trans Analogies
      •  The Votes Are In

Oops! Due to a technical issue that neither of us realized at the time, today's posting did not go live until 10:30 a.m. PT, more than 6 hours after it was complete and we THOUGHT it was posted. Sorry about that.

Who Broke the Bank?

As most readers have heard by now, the United States' 16th largest bank, Silicon Valley Bank, collapsed late last week. While it had over $200 billion in assets, the bank's management engaged in a number of unwise investment decisions. When the news came out that the balance sheet was in terrible shape, there was a run on the bank, and it was effectively dead within 48 hours.

In circumstances like these, the federal government has two options:

  • Bail the Bank Out: Allowing a major bank to collapse has two very serious downsides. The first is that it means that uninsured depositors take a beating. That, in turn, has a ripple effect across many sectors of the economy. The second downside is that collapses of big banks, in particular, tend to frighten Wall Street and other financial centers. And with the economy, perception is often reality. More than one U.S. panic/recession has started with a bank collapse, most notably the Panic of 1873, which was triggered by the failure of Jay Cooke & Co., then the country's largest bank. If the federal government steps in when a bank fails, then these potentially severe consequences can possibly be avoided.

  • Let it Burn: The other option is to allow an irresponsible bank, its irresponsible leadership, and irresponsible depositors whose holdings exceeded the FDIC insured limit to reap the whirlwind that they have sowed. This saves the government a lot of money, and it also sends a message that banks that engage in bad behavior should not expect to be saved by the feds.

Over the weekend, both Joe Biden and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen said there would be no bailout this time. One wonders why they bothered wasting that oxygen. No presidential administration, Democratic or Republican, wants to deal with the consequences of a major bank failure. So, the government always ends up bailing the bank out. And that's exactly what happened here. The money is going to come from the FDIC's reserves, and is going to be replenished by increasing the assessment on banks that didn't, you know, run themselves into the ground. So, the responsible banks will pay the toll for the irresponsible banks (in addition to Silicon Valley Bank, the feds have already stepped in and shut down the smaller Signature Bank).

And now it's time for the finger pointing. Biden blamed the Trump administration, saying that the rollback of Dodd-Frank allowed this to happen. The Frank in that is former representative Barney Frank, and he said he disagrees with Biden, and that the real cause was the crypto panic. Of course, since Frank left Congress, he found work serving on the boards of banks, and was on the board of the now-shuttered Signature Bank. So, he might not be a totally dispassionate observer.

Meanwhile, Republicans are finding all sorts of scapegoats here. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), among others, blamed the collapse on the Biden administration's management of the economy. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said it happened due to the administration's willingness to hand out money to anyone who wants it. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) took a long and careful look at the whole mess, and decided the problem was... wokeness. That really is an all-purpose bugaboo, isn't it?

All of this posturing is really kind of silly. Again, whatever party is in the White House is going to bail out any major bank that fails. And the other party is going to complain about it. That's how the script goes. And that is why the person who has impressed the most with his response is House Financial Services Chair Patrick McHenry (R-NC), who said he understands and supports the choice to bail the bank's depositors out. As a reminder, he also gave far and away the best speech by a Republican during the speaker election soap opera earlier this year. He's someone worth keeping an eye on.

This story is likely to dominate a few more news cycles. But there probably isn't too much mileage for either side to squeeze out of this. Biden doesn't want to do too much bragging about handing $200 billion to (mostly) corporate depositors and Republicans don't want to talk too loudly about how they really don't like helping corporate America. That may send the wrong message to their generous supporters in corporate America. (Z)

Trump Officially Declines Bragg's Invitation

As we noted last week, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg sent Donald Trump an engraved invitation to join him and 20 or so of his empaneled friends to chat about Trump's allegedly illegal hush payments to former lover Stormy Daniels. We also observed that Trump was certain to decline Bragg's generous offer.

Yesterday, a lawyer for the former president confirmed that Trump would not show up. "He won't be participating in that proceeding—a proceeding that we and most election law experts believe is with absolutely no legal merit," said attorney Joseph Tacopina. Obviously, Tacopina has a responsibility to defend his client as vigorously as possible. However, we're not sure it's helpful when he spouts utter nonsense. The election law experts we read, like Rick Hasen, say this case has teeth. And if a grand jury and a DA concur, well, that seems like pretty good evidence to us that there's merit to the government's argument.

According to people far more expert than we, the offer to the defendant to testify usually comes at the very end of the process. And now the defendant has declined the offer, which means there's no need to wait for him anymore. So, maybe there will be an indictment within a week or two? Seems possible. (Z)

Nikki Haley Is a Pretty Mediocre Politician

Nikki Haley clearly knew what she needed to do and to say in order to be elected governor of South Carolina. But now she is running a national campaign, and is doing so as a decided underdog. And nearly every time she adopts a new policy position in order to separate herself from the crowd, she demonstrates that she is now out of her league.

Haley's latest policy proposal involves Social Security, and keeping the program solvent. What she wants to do is raise the retirement age, but only for people who are just now beginning to pay into the system. "What you would do is, for those in their 20s coming into the system," she explained, "we would change the retirement age so that it matches life expectancy." When asked what specific, new retirement age she has in mind, Haley said: "It's the new ones coming in. It's those in their 20s that are coming in. You're coming to them and you're saying, the game has changed. We're going to do this completely differently." The careful reader will note that there is nothing close to an answer to the question in her response.

We can scarcely imagine what Haley is thinking here. To start, the Social Security Trust Fund is going to run into trouble in 10-15 years. Making changes that will save money in—what, 50 years?—is not much help when it comes to the immediate crisis. Meanwhile, young voters are not especially reliable when it comes to turnout. But if you want to light a fire under them, and to get them to show up and to vote for your opponent, this is a pretty good way to do it. Finally, for her to make the proposal but then dance around the specific answer to the most basic question (what age?) makes her look shady. The whole proposal was clumsy enough that even Fox called Haley out on it. Admittedly, it was Neil Cavuto, who is probably the least-Tucker-Carlson-like person left on the Fox payroll. But it's still Fox, nonetheless.

Ultimately, Haley's flailing around, as she tries to get a foothold, doesn't matter very much. We did not believe she was a viable candidate for president when she announced, and we still don't. She might be a VP candidate, but if that somehow comes to pass, her policy positions won't matter.

The bigger story here, really, is that Social Security is rapidly becoming the 800-pound gorilla in the room. It's the most popular federal program, it's in some trouble, and politicians can't avoid it. And Republican politicians have the additional problem that they can't come up with any fixes that are: (1) better than what the Democrats are proposing, and (2) acceptable to the GOP base. In this way, Social Security is exactly like Obamacare. No wonder Joe Biden is maneuvering to make it the focal point of his reelection pitch. (Z)

Pennsylvania Republicans: More of the Same, Please!

Political parties' worst nightmares are candidates who can command a majority or near-majority of the primary vote, but have virtually no chance of expanding on that in the general. This is how a William Jennings Bryan, to take the most famous example, gets nominated for president three times and then gets trounced three times.

The Republican pooh-bahs would very much like to move on from Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania. He's so far-right that he turns off a lot of moderate Republicans, not to mention virtually all independents and Democrats. And the proof is definitely in the pudding; during his failed gubernatorial bid last year, he got absolutely shellacked by Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-PA), 56% to 41%. Do you know how bad a candidate you have to be to lose by 15 points to a (then) non-incumbent in a purple state? And not only did Mastriano lose his own race in spectacular fashion, he almost certainly helped drag down the entire Republican ticket in the Keystone State.

In view of this, Republican officials would prefer that their candidate in next year's U.S. Senate race be a nice, safe, bland, moderate Republican like David McCormick. Of course, McCormick is no great shakes, either, having been defeated by Mehmet Oz in the Republican U.S. Senate primary last year. Still, he'd have a puncher's chance if he ran against Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), whereas Mastriano might well lose by 25 points.

A new poll from Public Policy Polling gives insight into how rank-and-file Republicans feel about all of this. In short, they want Mastriano. In a multi-person field, he has the support of 39% of the GOP electorate, which puts him up nearly 20 on any other candidate that PPP asked about. In a head-to-head matchup, Mastriano easy beats McCormick, 42%-28%. You don't normally want to put a lot of stock in polls this far out, but both men are known commodities to Pennsylvania Republicans, and 14 points is a very large lead.

McCormick has never seemed all that enthusiastic about being a senator, and polls like these are likely to make him take a pass on a second run. As to Mastriano, he's presumably still waiting to hear from Jesus and his wife, in some order, as to whether he should take the plunge again. Assuming that Mrs. Mastriano gives the thumbs up, we assume that Mastriano will quickly discover that Jesus has fallen into line. And then Pennsylvania Republican voters will be in position to remind us all of the old aphorism: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result." (Z)

Neo-Nazis' Newest Target? Trans People and Drag Queens

As we pointed out last week, there is no shortage of news related to trans hate. This weekend, for example, NPR published a piece by Jim Urquhart, who embedded himself with a group of Neo-Nazis in Jacksonville, FL, in order to see what they are all about. What they are all about, of course, is hate. And these days, they are focused in particular on trans people and drag shows. Keep in mind that, to the Neo-Nazis, those things are one and the same.

The particular group that Urquhart joined is pretty small, and is also pretty uninterested in getting arrested or getting beaten up. And so, the focus is on PR stunts. In particular, these Neo-Nazis have an impressive collection of lasers, which they use to display Neo-Nazi messaging on public buildings at night. Sometimes it's an image of a swastika intertwined with a cross. Sometimes it's "Kanye is right about the Jews!" Sometimes it's "Why are child friendly drag shows legal? @ Ron DeSantis." The group's leader explains: "What we have seen is certain types of activism definitely gets interest and recruitment up. And that's where like the drag queen sh**—like everybody wants to be a part of the team shutting that down."

There are a couple of takeaways from this report. The first is that trans/drag queen hate is clearly very compelling to those on the far right, and is being used for recruitment purposes. Oh, and these folks think they have an ally in Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). They think that for good reason, of course.

The second takeaway is that if Neo-Nazis respond to drag queens/trans people in the same way that they respond to Jewish people, it certainly suggests that the various hatreds have the same basic sources. Jews were scapegoated for a number of reasons by the original Nazis:

  • Jews were very visible, donning clothing and other signifiers that marked them as part of a different religion
  • Jews were nonetheless a small minority, and so easy to outnumber/gang up upon
  • Few non-Jews were willing to stick up for persecuted Jews
  • The Jews' worldview, specifically their understanding of what religious scholars call "ultimate reality," runs contrary to the Nazis' predominantly Christianity-based world view

Switch the religious views in those lines to "gender roles," and "Jews" to "trans people," and you have a pretty good list of reasons that the Neo-Nazis hate trans people and have refocused their bigotry with such ease. (Z)

Why the Trans Hate?, Part V: Trans Analogies

Last week, as part of the ongoing discussion of trans hate, reader D.V. in Columbus asked about analogies that Democrats might use in their messaging in order to help explain the Party's generally pro-trans stance. Here are some of the suggestions readers sent in:

  • E.B. in Seattle, WA: The following analogy really helped me through emotions as my son came out as nonbinary and then a trans man.

    Imagine you have a nephew. When he was a baby, everyone called him Billy. That kept up through middle school, when he told everyone that he wanted to be called Will in high school. Is Will the same person as the child you knew as Billy? Of course, except that he's grown up and expressing opinions about what he wants to be called. Do you respect his desired name to the best of your ability? Of course, unless you're a jerk. Does it matter if his "new" name is Will or William or Frank or George? Of course not.

    So why would it be different if the new name was Jane or Alexis or Wilhemina? Likewise with pronouns. It is literally no more effort to remember someone's pronouns than their name. If they change, it's going to be an adjustment. But it's really not that difficult unless you're bound and determined to make it so.

  • I.S. in Durango, CO: Ezra Klein's podcast this week happened to be an interview with Gillian Branstetter of the ACLU about the GOP's anti-trans policies, and she gave this very simple but (I think) profound analogy, which she attributes to her friend Emily St. James who she worked with at Vox:
    If you are a cis person, imagine for a moment that all evidence to the contrary, everyone in the world becomes convinced your gender is not what it is. If you're a man, everyone starts using she/her pronouns for you and calling you by a woman's name. One day you start insisting to the world you are who you are, and the world insists otherwise.

    And that sense of, for my trans friends, that sense of unbelievable wrongness between how you are seen and how you feel, that—I don't exactly have a question here, but I just think it's worth stopping for a minute that the intensity of it, from everyone I know who has gone through it, is I just think really hard to grasp if it's not something that you've held yourself.
  • M.H. in Ottawa, ON, Canada: The analogy that always comes to mind for me is that being transgender is rather like having a cleft palate. The person was born like that, their body developing in a way over which they had absolutely no control. They suffer, both developmentally and socially. They cannot just "get over it" or try to not have the issue, and they certainly didn't choose to have it happen. And like with a cleft palate, there exist medical treatments (including surgery) to alleviate the problem for the vast majority of sufferers.

    And here's where the analogy shines for me: Treatments for a cleft palate take place as early as possible in life, to provide the best possible outcomes for people as they develop and mature. Additional therapy (like speech therapy) is both available and, more importantly, expected. Nobody suggests restricting access to treatment until the person is older, and certainly not eliminating access entirely. And nobody is judged for having the surgery and thereby refusing to be the way God made them. ("God doesn't make mistakes? Then why do we surgically correct cleft palates?")

  • B.W. in State College, PA: My youngest daughter is trans and I've used the following example when discussing dead-names and pronouns. When my first child was born, my father asked me that he not be called things like Pop-pop or Pe-paw. He wanted to be called Grandpa. This was not his legal, given-name. That was his choice and our responsibility to honor his choice out of the respect we have for him as a person and someone we care about.

  • W.S. in Austin, TX: Gay marriage, which certainly struck conservatives as unacceptable or unimaginable for centuries, but is, in the current America, widely accepted in both cultural and legal senses.

    The language issues will be much more difficult to solve than the tolerance issues, though.

    For instance, I have a friend who was married to someone who, after their divorce, subsequently went though a gender identity crisis and is now transitioning surgically (becoming a woman).

    However, my friend married a man, and she doesn't want others to believe she is a lesbian when she isn't. Therefore, in referring to her ex at the time of their marriage, she uses the pronoun "he" to reflect her spouse's identity at that point.

    But my friend also wants to support her ex today. Therefore, she calls her ex "she" in any present-tense reference.

    This discrepancy has led to confusion and will continue to do so. English is not well suited for such a scenario; I'm not sure any language is.

    Similarly, in the event we invent time travel, we will struggle with verb tense as we try to describe things we will have done in the future if we travel into the past.

  • J.L. in Albany, NY: In response to D.V. seeking trans analogies, I like to use the left-handedness analogy myself. (Disclaimer: I'm a cis male so any trans information I get isn't personal experience, but obtained from listening to trans people and observing what's going on.)

    I'm left handed and too young to have been around during this time, but for a long while, being a lefty was seen as an abomination. Lefties were forced to write with their right if which hand you wrote with was a choice. Similarly, LGBTQ people have been forced to "act straight" and have been told that their sexuality/gender identity is a choice and they could just choose to be straight/cisgender. In both cases, it's actually not a choice and isn't something that could just be switched. Could I write with my right hand instead of my left? Yes, but it wouldn't feel right and my writing would be messier. (Given how messy my handwriting is to begin with, that's really saying something.)

    To give another point, the right will often point to rising numbers of transgender individuals as "proof that the left is indoctrinating kids." The theory here is that the left is somehow convincing non-transgender boys and girls to "act transgender" and that's behind the rise. Going back to left-handedness, here's a graph (and article) about left-handedness.

    You can see a rapid rise in left-handedness from around 1910 to about 1960. Were the political left at the time convincing young people to be left-handed back then? Of course not. What happened was that people felt free to publicly say that they were left-handed. The graph of actual lefties would have been a straight line, but many of the lefties felt persecuted and so said they were righties instead.

    Similarly, many LGBTQ people have, in the past, "pretended" to be straight/cisgender to avoid persecution. This doesn't mean that they could choose to be straight—just that they went through the motions to avoid persecution. Just like a lefty writing with their right hand in 1910, it was never natural or right for them, but it was what the person did if they didn't want to be beaten.

    If we 100% normalized being transgender, we would see a rise as more transgender people felt comfortable being who they always were. Then, this would level out. The percentage of transgender people would settle at the level that it has always really was instead of being kept artificially low by hatred and persecution.

Thanks, all! Tomorrow will be letters from readers who might be described as "trans-adjacent." (Z)

The Votes Are In

For the upcoming NCAA Bracket-style tournament, we put two dozen reader suggested themes up for a vote. And now, we can announce the winner. First, though, the other possibilities that finished in the Top 10:

  1. Best American city in which to live
  2. "Profiles in Courage" in American history
  3. Most important laws passed by Congress
  4. The most important issues of the 2024 presidential cycle
  5. Best political comedy of all time
  6. Most important women in U.S. history
  7. Historical figures who deserve broader recognition
  8. Most important events in U.S. history
  9. Best solutions to issues facing the United States today

And the runaway winner: Worst political blunders of all time.

It is true that "worst" is a negative word, and we hoped to go positive this year. However, we think that focusing on blunders is basically lighthearted, and so clears the bar.

Now, we need help building the bracket. If you have one or more blunders that should be considered, in your view, please send 'em along! (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar13 DeSantis Visits Iowa
Mar13 Trump's Support in Iowa is Slipping
Mar13 Trump's Legal Problems Mount
Mar13 Freedom Caucus Finally Says What It Wants
Mar13 Pence Enters a Brave New World
Mar13 Manchin Keeps Tweaking Biden
Mar13 Fox Is Still Going Strong
Mar13 Democrats Announce Their List of Frontline Incumbents
Mar13 Colorado GOP Picks an Election Denier to Run the State Party
Mar13 Boebert Will Be a Grandmother Next Month
Mar12 Sunday Mailbag
Mar11 Saturday Q&A
Mar10 Biden Unveils His 2024 Platform... er, His Budget
Mar10 Bragg about to Win Trump Indictment Marathon?
Mar10 Still More Trouble for "George Santos"
Mar10 The Daily Wire Is Trans Hate Headquarters
Mar10 Why the Trans Hate?, Part IV: Trans Readers Weigh In
Mar10 The World Cup, Part XIV: Group C vs. Group G
Mar10 This Week in Schadenfreude: He Who Lives by the Sword...
Mar10 This Week in Freudenfreude: When Life Hands You Lemons, Run a 5K
Mar09 DeSantis Previews His Presidential Campaign in His State of the State Speech
Mar09 Biden Proposes Increasing Medicare Tax for High Earners
Mar09 Trump Is Considering Four Women for Veep
Mar09 Republican States Are Leaving ERIC
Mar09 Supreme Court May Cripple the CFPB
Mar09 Newsom Boycotts Walgreens
Mar09 Poll: Trump Crushing DeSantis in New Hampshire
Mar09 Democrats Are Worried about a "No Labels" Third-Party Ticket
Mar09 Doug Mastriano Is Weighing a Senate Run
Mar09 Why the Trans Hate?, Part III
Mar08 You've Aggravated Everyone and His Mother, Tucker
Mar08 Time to Expand the House?
Mar08 Don't Doubt that DeSantis Is for Sale
Mar08 The Decline and Fall of Twitter?
Mar08 Tennessee Bans Drag Shows
Mar08 Why the Trans Hate?, Part II
Mar08 The Word Cup, Part XIII: Group F vs. Group H (Presidential Candidates, 21st Century)
Mar07 Who Is Winning the Capitol Hill Game of 3-D Chess?
Mar07 Let the Foxlighting Begin
Mar07 The First Rule of the Insurrection...
Mar07 Republicans Are United on Their Views of Transgender People
Mar07 Why the Trans Hate?, Part I
Mar07 Johnson Who?
Mar07 The Word Cup, Part XII: Group F (Presidential Campaigns, from World War II to the End of the 20th Century), Round Two
Mar06 How Trump Will Deal with DeSantis
Mar06 DeSantis Attacks Potted Plants
Mar06 Trump's Opponents Take Swipes at Him at CPAC
Mar06 Trump and Fox News May Soon Be at War
Mar06 Republican Field Grows... and Shrinks
Mar06 Manchin Won't Decide about Running for Reelection until December