• Trump Knows He Went Too Far
• How to Defeat Trump?
• Christie Says He Will Run
• Warren's In, Khanna's Out
• Supreme Court Allows Kansas Gerrymander to Stand
• Netanyahu Backs Down, for Now
• Greatest Blunders: Imagery, Round 1, Part I
Most readers are probably aware by now, but there was yet another school shooting yesterday. This one was at a small Christian school in Nashville, TN, and left six people—three adults and three students—dead.
We don't often write up these shootings anymore, because they are so common there's very little to say. This was the 132nd mass shooting in the United States this year, for an average of about 1½ per day. The Nashville shooting only spent a few hours as "the most recent" mass shooting; there's already been another, this one in Maryland.
The shooter in Nashville was 28 years old, and had apparently been a student at the school at some point in the past. He was killed at the scene, and in his possession were two assault rifles and a detailed map of the school, including routes of egress. The shooter's life ended at 10:27 a.m., and within less than 2 hours, his (dead?) name found its way into news reports, as did the fact that he identified as trans.
So, that's 12:30 p.m. ET, give or take a couple of minutes, that the shooter's trans identity was made public. Who was the first Republican to seize on that fact to score political points? And how long did it take? Shouldn't be too hard to guess. The correct answers are: 1 hour, 23 minutes and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). She tweeted: "The female Nashville shooter identifies as a man. So shouldn't we just blame white men again?"
Quite a few right-wing outlets seized upon the trans angle, starting with that font of anti-trans sentiment, The Daily Wire. Other right-wing politicians and media figures went in a different direction, observing that if only there had been armed security on campus, this could have been avoided. For example, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted: "The Covenant School shooting was horrific. For everyone who says 'thoughts & prayers aren't enough,' I AGREE. Ask why EVERY SINGLE SENATE DEM voted against my bill doubling police officers in school. One armed officer could have stopped this lunatic, BEFORE a child was killed." Of course, that didn't work out in Uvalde. Cruz is also willfully misrepresenting what people mean when they say "thoughts and prayers aren't enough."
Joe Biden, for his part, called on Congress to take action and to take up the assault weapons ban he has proposed. Actually, before that, he engaged in some light banter about chocolate chip ice cream:
This was done because the audience for his remarks included several children, and he was trying to ease into the heavy stuff. Perhaps this was OK, perhaps it was not; you can watch the linked clip and decide for yourself. But it's certainly engendered much clutching of pearls among those on the right.
Naturally, Biden doesn't have any more power than Barack Obama did to compel Congress to pass gun control legislation. And the votes for such legislation just aren't there. Not only would the Republicans stand unified against Biden's bill (so, no passage by the House, filibuster in the Senate), but some Democrats would, too. Meanwhile, there is no way that Democrats go for Republican plans that involve, in one way or another, getting more guns into schools (armed teachers, armed security guards, etc.). So, the status quo will hold yet again. (Z)
Yesterday, we had an item about the temper tantrum that Donald Trump threw this weekend on his boutique social media platform. In short, he's on the cusp of being indicted, possibly two or three times in the short timespan, and he's angry, and embarrassed, and scared. So, he sent a bunch of ill-advised "truths" in which he not-so-subtly threatened his prosecutorial persecutors. That is all kinds of illegal, such that even Trump's TV lawyer Joe Tacopina couldn't wave if off, conceding that the messages were "ill-advised."
Almost certainly the worst part of the messages was Trump's threat that if he is indicted, there will be "death and destruction." However, not far behind was the photographic montage that showed an image of Trump with a bat next to an image of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg. The obvious implication was that Trump would like to bash Bragg's head in with the bat, and that his (Trump's) followers should consider doing just that. Trump, for his part, might have the bat for it, but he doesn't have the balls.
In any event, someone has apparently persuaded Trump that threatening a prosecutor who is about to indict you is not a smart play. And so, Trump appeared on the program of Fox entertainer Sean Hannity yesterday to insist that "his people" had nothing to do with posting the photograph. His explanation is that the photograph was part of a linked article, and the linked publication changed the photograph after the Truth Social posting was made.
Here, for the record, is a screen capture of the original posting:
It is at least possible that Trump is telling the truth, though that is not usually what happens on Truth. There are three problems with his story, however. The first is that the point of posting was clearly to showcase a photo of some sort. The second is that if it was some other photo, Trump offered no explanation as to what the original photo was. The third is that the original "truth" has been deleted, so it's not possible to look into his claim in any meaningful way.
We don't know exactly why Trump is trying to clean up his photographic misdeeds and not his written misdeeds. Maybe it's because he's more a visual guy than he is a word guy, and he doesn't appreciate that his words, in aggregate, are more damning than the photo is. Or maybe it's because the photo is the only thing he can even semi-plausibly explain away. In the end, the lesson here is that Trump stepped in it badly, something that he himself has just confirmed. (Z)
Politico's Jack Shafer usually has interesting things to say. And his latest is a piece headlined "Stormy Daniels and Karl Rove Know How to Beat Trump: A Real Strategy for Ron DeSantis." There are basically three arguments that Shafer makes:
- Attacking Trump's Character/Bad Behavior Is Useless: In essence, the voters willing to
consider Trump have already accepted that he engages in all sorts of bad behavior, from petty personal
squabbles to dodging taxes to cheating on his wife to lying constantly. They don't care. Or, at very least, they have
decided that they are willing to accept his "cons" in exchange for his "pros." Thus far, DeSantis has focused most of his
(limited) criticisms of Trump on the former president's personal shortcomings. Shafer thinks this is a big mistake.
- Attacking Trump on Policy Works: This is the lesson that Karl Rove brings to the
discussion. Rove has apparently advised anti-Trump candidates in various races (not necessarily people facing Trump
directly) to focus on the lack of substantive policy accomplishments. The wall was not built. The swamp was not drained.
The dance with Kim Jong-Un produced no meaningful results. The COVID policy was flip-floppy, sometimes too mainstream
(get your vaccinations!), sometimes too whackadoodle (inject bleach!). Shafer believes that DeSantis has begun to
internalize this lesson, as indicated by his choice to run to the right of Trump on COVID and vaccinations.
- Make Trump the Punchline: This is the lesson that Stormy Daniels brings to the discussion. She has done a pretty good job of firing off bon mots at Trump's expense. Particularly at the expense of... Little Donald, shall we say. For example, she is on the record saying that having sex with Trump was the worst 90 seconds of her life. Trump does not deal well with this, as being insulted infuriates him, and he's not especially capable of responding in kind. That is to say, he can and will punch below the belt, but he doesn't really do snark very well.
We don't disagree with any of this advice, per se, though we will point out two things. The first is that following this playbook might allow DeSantis to wrest the Republican nomination away from Trump, particularly if Trump is indicted, but it's going to leave the Governor in a perilous place for the general election. The second is that DeSantis is even worse at snark than Trump is. Every time DeSantis tries to jab someone, the line lands with a thud. Maybe it's something about today's Republican politicians, because Ted Cruz is also just awful at this, as is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). We're a long ways away from the time when Ronald Reagan was king of the zingers and Walter Mondale wouldn't know a joke line if it bit him.
Undoubtedly, DeSantis is getting a lot of this sort of advice, not only from the media but also from people in his inner circle. We shall see what he does with it, probably sooner rather than later, as he's currently ceding ground to Trump in the polls. (Z)
OK, maybe there are some Republicans today who know their snark. For example, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Of course, he really had no choice. If you live in Jersey and you don't master the art of sarcasm, they kick you out of the state and make you go live in Connecticut.
Anyhow, Christie was in New Hampshire on Monday for a town hall. That would be exactly the state, and exactly the sort of event, that one associates with would-be presidential candidates. And what Christie told the adoring crowd (yes, apparently there are still Christie fans) is that someone needs to be able to hit Donald Trump below the belt, and he (Christie) can be that guy. The former New Jersey governor pointed to his 2016 takedown of Marco Rubio as proof of concept.
Christie was not clear as to the exact meaning of his threat. Is he going to run for president in the never Trump lane? Or is he going to be a self-appointed Trump-critic-in-chief, available at the drop of the hat to go on [fill in name of media platform] to take the Donald down a few pegs? Christie did say that, if he's going to mount a run, he will make it official in the next 45 to 60 days.
If you asked us to guess, we would guess that, as of this moment, Christie is planning to run. If the GOP field includes a bunch of Trumper-nutters, and one non-nutter, then the former group could split the nutter vote and the latter candidate could monopolize the non-nutter vote. Given the Republican Party's preference for winner-take-all (or near-winner-take-all) primaries, the non-nutter candidate could do some real damage, and might even steal the nomination.
That said, we are not persuaded Christie is the right candidate for the non-nutter lane. He's pretty unpopular with Republicans, given his on-again/off-again Trumpism, his scandals in New Jersey (e.g., Bridgegate), his sometime embrace of Barack Obama, and several other liabilities. Further, we may be wrong that a non-nutter lane actually exists. Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT), Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) and former Maryland governor Larry Hogan have taken a long look, and all of them seem to have concluded that a run is not worth their while.
We suspect, then, that Christie will do a bunch of polling (or will look at the polling that Scott, Sununu, and Hogan have already done) and will conclude that the votes just aren't there, either in the Republican primary or in the general election. That said, he's been looking in the mirror and seeing a future president for 20 years, so you never know. After all, at 60 years old, he's only got, what, six or seven more cycles until he ages out of the presidency? Or maybe he is just trying to beat Harold Stassen and make it into the Guiness Book of Records. (Z)
Speaking of aging out, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) isn't particularly close to doing so, at least not by the standards of the U.S. Senate. Yesterday, in a development that is surprising to approximately no one, the 73-year-old Senator announced that she will run for a third term next year.
Warren is popular in Massachusetts, and the state is very blue, so she's a shoo-in to be reelected. The Republicans will try to find a sacrificial lamb who can self-fund, but that person will lose big time. The only GOP candidate who has a chance to keep the race respectable is former governor Charlie Baker, but he's busy making big bucks running the NCAA, he appears to be done with politics, and he would lose, too (just by a smaller margin). One can scarcely imagine what Warren would have to do to lose the race. Maybe if she was caught having an extramarital affair with Donald Trump. She'll be 81 at the end of a third term, which is younger than three current members of the Senate (Chuck Grassley, R-IA; Dianne Feinstein, D-CA; and Bernie Sanders, I-VT). There are also another dozen senators within a couple years of 81 right now. So, she won't be an outlier.
Meanwhile, speaking of Feinstein, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) announced yesterday that he's not going to throw his hat into the ring, and that he will leave Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee (all D-CA) to duke it out. He also gave his endorsement to Lee. Khanna's problem is that he would be angling for the progressive vote, which is the same segment that Porter and Lee are angling for. California may be very blue, but there just aren't enough progressive voters to go around. Indeed, California Democrats actually skew pretty moderate, which is why the open seat was occupied by Feinstein—who is very, very moderate—for so many years.
The general presumption is that Khanna, in foregoing a Senate run, is positioning himself for a presidential run in the Bernie lane. After all, if Joe Biden runs again in 2024, as seems likely, then the next opportunity for a serious progressive challenger will come in 2028, by which time Sanders will be pushing 90. It's not yet been shown that a person can actually win the White House from the Bernie lane, but clearly Khanna would like to try it.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is undoubtedly thrilled that the number of serious Democrats in the U.S. Senate race is likely to be capped at three. Republicans tend to get about 40% of the vote in statewide races, and if there were four serious Democrats running, it was at least possible that the voting would end up something like this: Republican 1 (20%), Republican 2 (20%), Schiff (15%), Porter (15%), Lee (15%), Khanna (15%). In that case, thanks to California's jungle-style primary, the two Republicans would advance to the general. This was not likely, mind you, but it was at least possible. However, with just three serious Democrats, the slim chance of this happening is now effectively down to zero. Especially since the Republicans don't even have one candidate yet, much less two. We seriously doubt that Lee could win statewide since the other two are (1) much better known statewide and are (2) fundraising powerhouses. So most likely, the general election will be Porter vs. rich unknown Republican or Schiff vs. rich unknown Republican. (Z)
As a general rule, Supreme Court jurisprudence in the last three-plus decades has been hostile to "affirmative racial gerrymandering." This is when districts are drawn with an eye toward creating majority-minority constituencies, so that minority voters have some level of representation in Congress. On the other hand, SCOTUS has generally been OK with "negative racial gerrymandering," when districts are drawn in a way so as to dilute the power of minority voters. In view of this context, Monday's decision not to review the most recent Kansas gerrymander is entirely consistent with other recent rulings.
As you might guess, even if you are not especially familiar with Kansas, most of the non-white citizens of the state live in the area in and around Kansas City. And what the legislature did in the most recent re-draw of state Congressional district maps is split the KC area across two districts. A bunch of Kansas voters, backed by the ACLU, filed suit. The Kansas Supreme Court said the new map is OK with them, and in yesterday's unsigned decision, SCOTUS declined to take up the case.
At the moment, the map likely isn't affecting the makeup of Kansas' congressional delegation. In the absence of the gerrymander, the state would have three deep-red districts and one fairly blue district. As it is, the state has two deep-red districts (R+18, R+14), one fairly red district (R+11), and one light-red district (R+1). And the light-red district, KS-03, is currently represented by a Democrat, namely Sharice Davids. The Democrats would really like that seat to be safer than it is, but as long as Davids keeps running for reelection, the Party will probably hold onto it. And that's really the blue team's upper limit in Kansas, regardless of how the map is drawn. (Z)
There are a lot of messy things going on around the world right now. We don't want to devote too much of any single day's posting to non-U.S. stuff, so we'll address them throughout the week. Up today is Israel, which is helping to remind everyone that the U.S. Supreme Court isn't the only supreme court that's become highly politicized.
Note that, unlike the U.S., it's not that the members of the Israeli Supreme Court are toting the water for their political parties. The fact that they are not doing so is actually the root cause of the current crisis. Right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu does not particularly like it when his legislative initiatives are struck down. His right-wing allies in the current governing coalition feel the same way. It just might also have occurred to the Prime Minister that, if he had more power over the courts, he might just be able to make his personal legal troubles go away (he's supposed to go on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust).
Consequently, Netanyahu and his allies have put forward a bill that would allow the Knesset to overrule decisions made by Israeli courts, including the supreme court. This is pretty concerning stuff. To start, a politician should not be able to wave away his personal legal problems just because he happens to be in power (see: Report, Mueller). Beyond that, it would be bad if the U.S. Congress was empowered to unilaterally set aside court decisions. In Israel, it's even worse, because the parliamentary system means that the legislature and the executive are one and the same. There would be no check whatsoever on a majority party in the Knesset imposing whatever it wanted to impose on anyone it wanted to impose upon.
Joe Biden was alarmed enough by this plan that he and members of the State Department have tried to persuade Netanyahu that it's a bad idea. However, respect for Israeli sovereignty means that Team Biden has to tread lightly. Further, Bibi really doesn't care that much what Joe thinks, especially given that the PM is desperate for a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.
Netanyahu does listen to Israeli voters, however. And many of them are very, very unhappy about the plan. In addition to not wanting Netanyahu to escape justice for any crimes he may have committed, they suspect that the right-wing coalition that controls the Knesset will crack down on secular Jews, ethnic minorities (e.g., the Palestinians), or all of the above. So, there have been protests and riots and labor strikes in Israel for many days, to an extent that the nation has apparently never before seen.
Yesterday, Netanyahu backed down, at least for now. He said that the judiciary bill would be postponed until the next session of the Knesset. That's actually only a few weeks away, so it's hard to say what his plan is, or what will happen next. The protests may or may not abate. Netanyahu may or may not try to bring the bill up again. Netanyahu's governing coalition, which has a paper-thin margin of error, may or may not survive. Your guesses on these questions are probably just about as good as Bibi's. (Z)
We spent a great deal of time putting together this year's bracket competition, and trying to correct for some of the things from last year's inaugural bracket competition that could have been better. We then spent a great deal of time writing up the first entry in the series.
We invested this time because we thought this content would be well-received. And, based on the feedback, we were very, very, very wrong. The amount of mail we got was substantial, and it was overwhelmingly negative. Quite a few of those letters were along the lines of the one we ran on Sunday, decreeing—in various ways—that anything other than straightforward political commentary makes it hard to take the site seriously. Others felt that our write-ups were too voluminous, and did not leave space for readers to consider the matchups for themselves.
We are not going to cancel this feature. We like it, and we think it has merit. The fact that last year's bracket contest produced an average of 3,000+ votes per ballot tells us that many readers agree. We would also note this date: February 15, 1942. That is when The New York Times ran its first crossword puzzle. Crosswords actually became popular in the 1920s, and the Gray Lady was the last major holdout, sniffing that crosswords were "frivolous." But even the Times' editorial staff eventually conceded that people sometimes need a change of pace and a respite from the heaviness and the darkness that is often characteristic of the news. It is probably not a coincidence that this conclusion was reached just a couple of months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, as the U.S. was gearing up to deploy millions of its sons and daughters for the war effort.
What we will do, however, is dial back on how much we write about the individual matchups. We certainly don't need to invest the time and the space for that if it's doing more harm than good. And with that said...
FIRST FOUR RESULT
Malaise (59.5%) defeats Jeb! (40.5%)
Some reader comments on this matchup:
- J.L. in Glastonbury, CT: I went with Jeb! because that was his blunder; taking Jimmy Carter's speech wrong was the American people's blunder. I was pretty young but I remember my parents loved the speech and were befuddled by the negative reaction.
- A.T. in Quincy, IL: Malaise potentially cost Carter re-election to the presidency. Jeb! hadn't even won a first term yet, and from the sound of things, was in no danger of doing so anyway. We might never know what we've lost in a President Jeb! that might have been. We might care even less.
- M.K. in Long Branch, NJ: Malaise wins because Carter, as sitting president, was still a viable contender for a second term. Jeb was facing a huge field and was probably already dead in the water.
- D.L. in Uslar, Germany: After some thought, Jeb! was a clear winner. Like a lot that Carter did in office, the Malaise speech was a victim of tone more than anything else. If he'd pitched it more forcefully as "We can beat this together," it could have been successful. Even as it was, Republican messaging had to associate it with something he didn't say in order to use it against him. Jeb! was just obvious flailing and could never have been helpful. I'm not sure it was a big a blunder as "Please clap," but it was pretty bad.
- B.C. in Walpole, ME: This is only a contest if you think that Jeb ever had a real shot at being President; some of us may think that he was never out of Nikki Haley/Mike Pence territory.
IMAGERY ROUND 1, PART I, MATCHUPS
#1 Hillary Clinton laments the "basket of deplorables": What Clinton was trying to do was to express support and sympathy for the non-bigoted elements of Donald Trump's base. What she actually did was hand Trump's entire base a rallying cry.
#16 Jimmy Carter's "Malaise" speech: It probably didn't cost Carter the presidency all by itself, but the speech certainly got his reelection bid off to a bad start.
#8 Michael Dukakis poses for a picture in a tank: Although Dukakis had actual military service on his résumé, there were questions about how well he really understood the importance of and the needs of the U.S. military. So, his people arranged an photo op, apparently forgetting that tanks are very big, and that their 5'6" candidate is pretty small.
#9 Christine O'Donnell: "I'm not a witch!": Today, Republican U.S. Senate candidates are often both kooky and venal. But 15 years ago, they were often just kooky without being venal. O'Donnell, who was twice the GOP's pick for Delaware's U.S. Senate seat, went on Real Time with Bill Maher, and talked about having dabbled in witchcraft. That did not play well, particularly with the evangelicals, and so O'Donnell cut the infamous "I'm not a witch" ad, which did not make things better.
#5 George W. Bush declares "Mission Accomplished": On May 1, 2003, six weeks after invading, George W. Bush advised Americans that major combat operations in Iraq were over, bringing to mind the very quick war his father had waged against the Iraqis. This declaration proved to be a wee bit premature, as the Iraq War did not actually end until Dec 15, 2011—more than 8 years after the "Mission Accomplished" declaration.
#12 Marjorie Taylor Greene blames Jewish space lasers for the California wildfires: The Representative does not seem the type to regret anything she says, especially something like this, since she's pretty clearly an antisemite. Still, this made her an object of much derision, and crystallized her image as the nuttiest fruitcake in Washington.
#4 Barry Goldwater is very casual about using nuclear weapons: Most of the errors we chose for this competition were effectively one-off mistakes. Goldwater, by contrast, made a series of remarks about how he would certainly use nuclear weapons if he guessed the situation called for it. This laid the groundwork for the famous "Daisy" ad, which only aired once, but which did plenty of damage.
#13 Gerald Ford stumbles while exiting Air Force One: It was a small error, but a foreseeable one, as the stairs leading down from Air Force One are narrow, and are very slippery when wet, especially for someone wearing men's dress shoes. And although the error was small, the impact was huge, thanks in significant part to a new NBC show called Saturday Night Live, which had Chevy Chase portray Ford as a bumbling oaf whose appearances invariably ended with one or more pratfalls.
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar27 There's a Horse Loose in a Hospital
Mar27 Could Trump Run for President If He is a Convicted Felon?
Mar27 Trump Holds His First Mass Rally
Mar27 DeSantis Can't Avoid the 8,000-Pound Elephant in the Room
Mar27 It's the Racism, Stupid
Mar27 Judge: Meadows Must Testify before Jack Smith's Grand Jury
Mar27 House Republicans Pass a "Parents Bill of Rights" Bill
Mar27 Manchin Likely to Face Justice
Mar27 Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidates Debate
Mar27 Jurors in Trump Defamation Case Will Be Anonymous
Mar26 Sunday Mailbag
Mar25 Saturday Q&A
Mar24 Bragg to House Committees: Nope
Mar24 Sinema Lays Her Cards on the Table
Mar24 The Word Cup: We Have a Winner
Mar24 The Word Cup Quiz: Answers
Mar24 Let the Madness Begin
Mar24 This Week in Schadenfreude: The Santos of the South?
Mar24 This Week in Freudenfreude: Don't Worry, Be Happy
Mar23 Donald Trump Will Soon Get Some Good News
Mar23 Wait, There Is Yet Another Case against Trump Pending
Mar23 How Will an Indictment Change Trump's Standing with the Voters?
Mar23 Are Minority Voters Really Becoming Republicans?
Mar23 The NRSC Has a Plan: Find Candidates Who Are Filthy Rich
Mar23 Is Florida's Population Growth Due to DeSantis?
Mar23 A New Battle: Red States vs. Blue Cities
Mar23 Let the Mud Wrestling Begin
Mar22 No Arrest, But...
Mar22 Out of the Frying Panhandle...
Mar22 Trouble in Tuckerland
Mar22 Somehow, It Always Comes Back to the Evangelicals
Mar22 Why the Trans Hate?, Part X: Final Words
Mar22 The Word Cup: Championship Round
Mar22 The Word Cup Quiz
Mar21 No Such Thing as Bad Publicity?
Mar21 Biden Gets Out His Veto Pen
Mar21 Marianne Williamson Is Apparently a Big Meanie
Mar21 Kelly Vetoes Ban on Transgender Athletes... Again
Mar21 Why the Trans Hate?, Part IX: The Sporting Life
Mar21 The Word Cup, Round 4: The End Is Nigh
Mar20 Republicans React to Trump's Imminent Arrest
Mar20 Facebook and YouTube Let Trump Return
Mar20 DeSantis Has Some Foreign Policy Experience
Mar20 The Trumpire Strikes Back?
Mar20 New Chief Judge on D.C. District Court Will Oversee Trump Cases
Mar20 Many State Supreme Court Seats Will Be on the Ballot in 2024
Mar20 Corporations Are Being Dragged into the Culture Wars
Mar20 Wyoming Has Banned the Abortion Pill...
Mar20 ...But Blue States Are Fighting Back