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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  More Legal Trouble for Trump
      •  Carroll Case Clearly Isn't Helping Joe Biden
      •  Today Is the Day for DeSantis
      •  Court Sets Debt Ceiling Hearing... for May 31
      •  Kari Lake Is a Loser
      •  Year 20: A Quiz
      •  The Greatest Political Movies Ever Made, Part III

Wow! We now have the Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) book, and then some. It did not occur to us to check Barnes & Noble because, quite frankly, we did not realize that site was still in business. In fairness to us, it clearly also did not occur to the person who's working to whitewash DeSantis' record. On top of that, (Z)'s skills when it comes to using not-strictly-legal filesharing sites have clearly grown rusty since he finished his dissertation. Anyhow, thanks to all who reached out, and we'll be reading the book soon to see if a biting critique would be interesting.

More Legal Trouble for Trump

Wasn't this the lead headline yesterday? Why yes, yes it was. That's how it goes for the former president these days.

To start, Judge Juan Merchan has now set a date for Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg's criminal case against Trump. It's March 25, 2024, right in the middle of presidential primary season. It's a serious case that could have serious consequences for the former president. However, we remain skeptical that those consequences will be political in nature. His voters are primed to accept his explanations for things, and we believe he will be successful in persuading them that he's being victimized by Jewish-backed deep-state lawyers because of a "minor" bookkeeping error.

And speaking of pandering to the base, Trump is still working hard to convince them that E. Jean Carroll is out of her mind, and that she's either exaggerating or making things up out of whole cloth. If you want to read the reprehensible message he wrote, you can do so here; we don't feel the need to replicate it. Needless to say, continued defamation of Carroll might be a shrewd political strategy, but it's not a very shrewd legal strategy. It wouldn't be too surprising to see Carroll amend her pending complaint yet again. And if Trump is not careful, a judge or a jury is going to hit him with the sort of judgment that will really make him sit up and take notice.

And finally, there is the potential biggest news of the day, though it's unconfirmed at this point. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Jack Smith's investigation into the Mar-a-Lago documents is nearly complete. Apparently, every Mar-a-Lago employee has been interviewed, and there aren't too many stones left to be turned over. An indictment next week? Or, failing that, sometime in June? Looks very possible.

It would seem that Smith and AG Merrick Garland have gotten Trump's attention. Two of his attorneys wrote a letter to Garland, which the former president then posted to his boutique social media platform. It reads:

We represent Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, in the investigation currently being conducted by the Special Counsel's Office. Unlike President Biden, his son Hunter, and the Biden family, President Trump is being treated unfairly. No President of the United States has ever, in the history of our country, been baselessly investigated in such an outrageous and unlawful fashion. We request a meeting at your earliest convenience to discuss the ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated by your Special Counsel and his prosecutors.

The letter also says it was cc'd to "Representatives of Congress."

We have to assume this is just posturing for the base, meant to goose fundraising and to encourage Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) to launch investigations into Hunter Biden's dental records, exact location when JFK was shot, and preferred brand of bottled water. Alternatively, they actually want a meeting, and this is cover so they can "go in looking tough," but then grovel for mercy. Either way, we doubt that Garland will be slotting them into his appointment calendar. (Z)

Carroll Case Clearly Isn't Helping Joe Biden

Yesterday, we looked at the Donald Trump vs. Ron DeSantis polling before and after the E. Jean Carroll verdict. Now, let's take a look at the Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden polling. First, the five polls of the race completed since the jury's verdict came down on May 10:

Pollster Timespan Trump Biden Net
Morning Consult May 19-21 42% 42% EVEN
HarrisX/Harris Poll May 17-18 47% 40% Trump +7%
Redfield & Wilton Strategies May 17 43% 44% Biden +1%
YouGov May 13-16 44% 42% Trump +2%
Premise May 12-15 44% 41% Trump +3%
Average   44% 41.8% Trump +2.2%

For comparison purposes, here are the last five polls taken before the verdict came down:

Pollster Timespan Trump Biden Net
YouGov May 5-8 43% 45% Biden +2%
Morning Consult May 5-7 42% 44% Biden +2%
ABC News/The Washington Post April 28-May 3 49% 43% Trump +6%
Premise April 27-May 1 45% 42% Trump +3%
Echelon Insights May 5-8 42% 47% Biden +5%
Average   44.2% 44.2% EVEN

As with yesterday's item, we chose registered voters rather than all adults when there was an option.

In the DeSantis comparison, Trump picked up about 5 points after the verdict. Here, he picked up about 2 points. These are similar gains, since the gap between Trump and DeSantis is so much greater than the gap between Trump and Biden. Because these variations are within the margin of error, we are not willing to say yet that the verdict helped Trump. But it clearly didn't hurt him in a meaningful way.

This does not mean it will not hurt him long-term, of course. A lot of people don't follow the news closely, and, we suspect, don't know the full story when it comes to E. Jean Carroll. That will change during the election campaign, especially if Trump loses to Carroll again. On top of that, it could turn out to be the case that the main effect of the Carroll verdict is not to covert Trump voters to Biden voters (or vice versa), but instead to motivate a disproportionate number of Democratic women to make sure to get to the polls in 2024. That wouldn't be captured by registered voter polls, particularly this far out. (Z)

Today Is the Day for DeSantis

Ron DeSantis will announce today that he's officially running for president in 2024. And he's going to do so in the form of a "conversation" with Elon Musk, to be broadcast on Twitter. We'd give you a link, in case you want to tune in, but we can't do so. The event will be hosted on Twitter spaces, and so can only be accessed from Twitter's iOS or Android app. If you have the correct tech, and you want to watch, it's at 6:00 p.m. ET today.

Forgive our judgmental tone, but this seems... kind of pathetic. We understand that by going on Twitter, DeSantis pokes the once-banned-from-Twitter-and-now-self-relegated-to-a-dinky-platform Trump in the eye. Similarly, we understand that Tucker Carlson is setting up shop on Twitter spaces, and this could be the beginning of a beautiful "friendship." But last we checked, the Venn diagram circles of "people who might vote DeSantis" and "people who use Twitter and know how to install and use a somewhat complicated app" don't overlap all that much. Further, for someone who has BIG political ambitions, isn't a platform that reaches something like 6% of the American public on an average day a little SMALL? And finally, is the Governor so frightened of adversity that he needs to be isolated from everyone except Musk (and David Sacks), two people who are 100% in the bag for him?

Predictably, the Trump campaign has already launched its slings and arrows, and they noticed the same thing we did. "Announcing on Twitter is perfect for Ron DeSantis. This way he doesn't have to interact with people and the media can't ask him any questions," said one Trump campaign advisor. "This is one of the most out-of-touch campaign launches in modern history. The only thing less relatable than a niche campaign launch on Twitter, is DeSantis' after party at the uber elite Four Seasons resort in Miami," said another. Even if this is a pretty clear case of people who live in glass Mar-a-Lagos throwing stones, we can't say they're wrong here.

Also predictable is that Nikki Haley has written and circulated a lengthy memo in which she argues that DeSantis is just a "mini-Trump" but "without the charm." Her staff even cherry-picked photographs of the two men to make this point:

Picture of Trump with his hands outstretched,
picture of DeSantis with his hands outstretched, picture of Trump holding up one finger, picture of DeSantis holding up one finger

This seems like a fun game. We'd like to play, too:

Picture of Trump with his hands outstretched,
picture of Haley with her hands outstretched, picture of Trump holding up one finger, picture of Haley holding up one finger

Hm, interesting. In any event, if Haley focuses her withering fire on DeSantis, then she's just playing Trump's game. (Z)

Court Sets Debt Ceiling Hearing... for May 31

This reads like a somewhat badly written Hollywood script. The debt ceiling is scheduled to be breached on June 1, and a court has scheduled the "the debt limit is not legal" case filed by the National Association of Government Employees for May 31. You can practically hear the John Williams music playing as the judge dramatically delivers his decision, just hours or minutes before the end of Western civilization as we know it.

In reality, however, there just isn't that much drama here. To start, the judge may very well grant an injunction. In fact, we'd guess that is more likely than not. So that alone may defuse this ticking time bomb for months (or more), depriving Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) of most of his leverage. He would whine and moan about that, at least publicly, but we wonder if McCarthy would not secretly be happy, given the challenges of threading the particularly needle he's been trying to thread.

Beyond the court case, however, is the fact that just about everyone involved is acting like June 1 isn't really that big a deal. Recall that the Biden administration is never, ever going to allow the U.S. to default on its debt. Should it be necessary, the President might choose a dramatic and sexy option, like invoking the 14th Amendment or coining a $1 trillion coin. But it's considerably more likely that, if it comes to it, the administration will continue to service the debt, and will just make some decisions about what things not to pay while waiting for a resolution. Indeed, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and her staff have already been talking to federal agencies to figure out which payments can be delayed, if necessary. In that case, what the country would have, in effect, is a partial government shutdown.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, Republicans are unperturbed. Many of them don't believe that June 1 is really the drop-dead date. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has seen a few of these rodeos in his time, yesterday told reporters to relax, and assured them there will be no default.

In short, June 1 arrives next Thursday. Armageddon, not so much, we think. (Z)

Kari Lake Is a Loser

"Tell me something I don't know," you're saying. Well, you might know that Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is a loser (in both the literal and figurative senses), and we might have known, but she apparently didn't know because she was still fighting in court to take her "rightful" seat in the Arizona governor's mansion. Until yesterday, that is, when the last, desperate case filed by Lake was rejected by Judge Peter A. Thompson. In his ruling, he declared in no uncertain terms that Lake has no legal or other legs to stand on, the matter is now closed, and Gov. Katie Hobbs (D-AZ) is the duly elected chief executive of the state of Arizona. The only question still pending, per the judge, is how much Lake will have to pay to Hobbs and others thanks to these frivolous filings.

Truth be told, we presume that Lake is clever enough to know that she lost the election, and that these lawsuits weren't going to change that fact. If so, then her real goal was to keep her name in the headlines and to virtue-signal to Donald Trump and his base. In turn, that suggests that she's either going to push hard to be Trump's VP candidate, or that she's going to run for the Senate seat that's up next year, or possibly both. So, regrettably, this is probably not the last you'll hear of Kari Lake. (Z)

Year 20: A Quiz

This site went live with its first posting on May 24, 2004. That means that today's posting begins our 20th year. What better way to commemorate that than with a quiz that asks you to climb into your DeLorean and travel back to the year 2004? The quiz is here, and will be available until Sunday night at 11:59 p.m. PT. We'll publish the answers and list the highest scorers next week.

Oh, and as we always tell students: No Googling (or Binging, or use of other Internet resources)! You're on your own. (Z)

The Greatest Political Movies Ever Made, Part III

Last Monday, we ran down 10 political movies that did not make our ballot back in February when we asked people to vote, but that one or more readers thought should have. The next day, we added 13 more films to that list. Today, we're going to cover the 10 films that made our ballot but did most poorly:

Number 25: Primary (1960)

Directed By: Robert Drew

Starring: John F. Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey and Joseph Julian

What's It About?: A documentary about the 1960 Democratic presidential primary, with Julian serving as narrator. Fair warning, it's in the direct cinema style (low-budget, minimal production, handheld cameras), which was developed in... Canada.

Representative Quote: "Well, f**k." (JFK didn't know the microphones were on at the time)

A Bit of Trivia: There were only 15 Democratic primaries that year, which made the film much more manageable. And since Lyndon B. Johnson skipped them, he does not appear, despite being a major contender for the nomination.

Number 24: W. (2008)

Directed By: Oliver Stone

Starring: Josh Brolin, James Cromwell, Elizabeth Banks, Ellen Burstyn and Scott Glenn

What's It About?: A biopic of the life of George W. Bush, from his college years to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It's got comic elements and, because it's an Oliver Stone picture, fidelity to historical fact is not a priority.

Representative Quote: "The only way to win is to leave before the job is done."

A Bit of Trivia: George W. Bush got a DVD of the film as a gift... from Bill Clinton.

Number 23: The Contender (2000)

Directed By: Rod Lurie

Starring: Gary Oldman, Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges, Christian Slater and William Petersen

What's It About?: After the death of the vice president, the late-in-his-term president has to choose a new #2, and decides to break a then-still-existing glass ceiling by tapping a woman for the job. The confirmation hearings take an ugly and sexist turn.

Representative Quote: "Being the vice president is better than being the president, because nobody wants to shoot the vice president."

A Bit of Trivia: Barack Obama said that Jackson Evans (played by Jeff Bridges) is the best movie president he's ever seen.

Number 22: Nixon (1995)

Directed By: Oliver Stone

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen, Powers Boothe, Ed Harris and Bob Hoskins

What's It About?: Another biopic, but without the comic elements that W. has. It covers Nixon's whole life, with the emphasis on his final year in office. As with all Stone films, significant liberties were taken with historical fact.

Representative Quote: "They can't impeach me for bombing Cambodia. The president can bomb anybody he likes."

A Bit of Trivia: The role of Richard Nixon was offered to Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman, among others, but no American actor wanted to touch it. So, they went with a Welshman in Anthony Hopkins.

Number 21: On the Basis of Sex (2018)

Directed By: Mimi Leder

Starring: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Sam Waterston and Kathy Bates

What's It About?: A biopic of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, albeit one that focuses on the young, activist phase of her career. Her appointment to the Supreme Court is the final scene of the film.

Representative Quote: "We're not asking you to change the country. That's already happened without any court's permission. We're asking you to protect the right of the country to change."

A Bit of Trivia: Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended the premiere of the film, and loved it, as did her companion at the premiere, Hillary Clinton.

Number 20: The Fog of War (2003)

Directed By: Errol Morris

Starring: Robert McNamara

What's It About?: An interview with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that serves also as an indictment of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of the Vietnam War.

Representative Quote: "I think the human race needs to think more about killing. How much evil must we do in order to do good?"

A Bit of Trivia: One of two Vietnam documentaries to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. The other is Hearts and Minds.

Number 19: Vice (2018)

Directed By: Adam McKay

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Tyler Perry and Alison Pill

What's It About?: A dark comedy about the George W. Bush presidency, with Dick Cheney as the focal point.

Representative Quote: "I will not apologize for keeping your family safe. And I will not apologize for doing what needed to be done so that your loved ones could sleep peaceably at night. It has been my honor to be your servant. You chose me. And I did what you asked."

A Bit of Trivia: In a bit of irony, 50-year-old director Adam McKay suffered a heart attack while making the film (he recovered).

Number 18: All the King's Men (1949)

Directed By: Robert Rossen

Starring: Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Mercedes McCambridge, Joanne Dru, John Derek

What's It About?: Through the eyes of a reporter named Jack Burden, the audience is shown the rise and fall of a ruthless Southern politician named Willie Stark. Though Stark's home state is never revealed, the movie is clearly a roman à clef based on the life of Huey Long of Louisiana.

Representative Quote: "Now, shut up! Shut up, all of you! Now listen to me, you hicks. Yeah, you're hicks too, and they fooled you a thousand times like they fooled me. But this time, I'm going to fool somebody. I'm going to stay in this race. I'm on my own and I'm out for blood."

A Bit of Trivia: On most film and theater sets, the name "Macbeth" is not to be uttered. On this set, cast and crew were forbidden from saying the name "Huey Long."

Number 17: Milk (2008)

Directed By: Gus Van Sant

Starring: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco

What's It About?: Biopic of LGBTQ trailblazer Harvey Milk, from young adulthood to his assassination in 1978.

Representative Quote: "I ask this... If there should be an assassination, I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out—If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door."

A Bit of Trivia: Sean Penn became the ninth person to have two Best Actor Oscars after winning for this film. Since then, Anthony Hopkins became the tenth.

Number 16: Bulworth (1998)

Directed By: Warren Beatty

Starring: Beatty, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Oliver Platt and Paul Sorvino

What's It About?: A formerly liberal and optimistic U.S. Senator from California has become conservative and corrupt. Deciding that life is no longer worth living, he buys an insurance policy on himself (for his daughter's benefit) and arranges to be assassinated (since suicide would void the policy). With nothing to lose, he starts speaking with brutal honesty to reporters and voters, and his career and life are rejuvenated.

Representative Quote: "I mean—come on! You can have a Billion Man March! If you don't put down that malt liquor and chicken wings, and get behind someone other than a running back who stabs his wife, you're NEVER gonna get rid of somebody like me!"

A Bit of Trivia: In private, the famously buttoned-down Barack Obama would reportedly speak wistfully of "going Bulworth."

In the next installment, it's 10 more! (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May23 More Legal Trouble for Trump
May23 Carroll Case Clearly Isn't Helping Ron DeSantis
May23 Today's Second-Tier Presidential Candidate News
May23 Approval Ratings Are a Mystery, Worldwide
May23 Tom Carper Will Retire
May23 Trump Is Hurting GOP Senate Recruitment
May22 Willis' Actions Suggest There Will Be Charges Filed in August
May22 Biden Says He Thinks He Could Use the Fourteenth Amendment If He Has To
May22 Trump's Legal Team Is Fighting with Itself
May22 Trump's Plans for a Second Term Are Becoming Clearer
May22 Tim Scott Is In
May22 North Carolina Is Probably in Play Now
May22 Republican Senators Are Worried About DeSantis' Attacks on Disney
May22 Five Questions about DeSantis' Campaign
May22 Is Casey DeSantis Lady Macbeth?
May21 Sunday Mailbag
May20 Saturday Q&A
May19 DeSantis To Make It Official Next Week
May19 The Perils of a 51-Vote Majority
May19 Democrats Wrestle with Their (Self-Created) New Hampshire Problem
May19 Talking about Abortion, Part V: Physicians Weigh In
May19 This Week in Schadenfreude: Mortarboarded
May19 This Week in Freudenfreude: Now That's a Civics Lesson
May18 A Court Hearing Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing
May18 Talking about Abortion, Part IV: More Questions and Answers
May18 Abortion Appears to Be Wrecking Republicans at the Polls
May18 Trump Legal Blotter, Part I: His Documents Problem Just Keeps Getting Worse
May18 Trump Legal Blotter, Part II: What About the Stolen Voting Machine?
May18 House Punts on "Santos"
May17 The Results Are In
May17 North Carolina Legislature Overrides Governor's Abortion Veto
May17 EMILY's List... Kingmaker?
May17 Progress in Debt Ceiling Talks?
May17 Feinstein Appears to Have Gone from Bad to Worse
May17 Rep. Robert Garcia Introduces Legislation to Expel Rep. "George Santos"
May17 The Greatest Political Movies Ever Made, Part II
May16 Today in Republican Sham Investigations, Part I: The Durham Probe
May16 Today in Republican Sham Investigations, Part II: The Case of the Vanishing Informant
May16 Whaddya Know? Giuliani Is a Sleazeball (Allegedly)
May16 Why Would Anyone Want to Be in Politics?, Part I: Gas Prices
May16 Why Would Anyone Want to Be in Politics?, Part II: Congressman's Staff Attacked
May16 Governance, DeSantis Style
May16 The Greatest Political Movies Ever Made, Part I
May15 DeSantis Receives, Gives Punch in the Mouth
May15 The Trump Problem Returns, Part I: Pollsters
May15 The Trump Problem Returns, Part II: Republican Politics
May15 Today's Longshot Presidential Candidate News
May15 U.S. Senator Denounced as "Profoundly Ignorant Man" over Remarks on Mexico
May15 There Are Some Elections in the U.S. This Week...
May15 ...And There Was One This Weekend in Turkey