• DeSantis Spent Thursday as a Punchline
• CNN Is Going to Double Down
• Mastriano Is Out...
• ...And Maybe Texas AG Ken Paxton Is, Too
• This Week in Schadenfreude: I WILL HAVE ORDER!
• This Week in Freudenfreude: Diplomate-cy
More Legal Trouble for Trump
That's three times this week for this headline in the 1A slot. Reader D.E. in Lancaster wrote in to suggest: "[P]erhaps you could save time and energy by making 'More Legal Trouble For Trump' a permanent feature. Maybe you can have a cute accompanying graphic that shows how big of a piece of doo-doo Trump just stepped in, ranging from mouse pellet to Triceratops pile. Just a thought."
Not a bad thought, though we'd probably be more inclined to follow the lead of the Washington Post and its one-to-five Pinocchios scale. And in that case, we'd say yesterday, from Donald Trump's vantage point, was:
Not only did even more damning information about him come out, but also three of the people he enabled saw their fortunes take a turn for the worse.
Let's start with the kingpin. Recalling that an indictment in the Mar-a-Lago documents case might be coming soon, The Washington Post had some new reporting on the matter yesterday. According to the paper's sources, Trump employees at Mar-a-Lago moved many boxes of documents the day before the FBI arrived to discuss the situation with the former president (the Bureau would return, several weeks later, with a warrant). On top of that, and perhaps more damning, is that Trump and his staff reportedly staged a "dress rehearsal" for what they would do to hide/destroy the documents if and when there was a raid.
The Post is not likely to run with this unless they are pretty darn certain of their sources. And if the Post knows these things, then special counsel Jack Smith and his team certainly know these things. And if these claims are true, it finishes the job of gutting Trump's claim that he thought he was legally in the right, while at the same time strengthening the already solid case that obstruction of justice took place. Assuming Trump did wrong here, and it sure looks like he did, we hope he pays the appropriate price. But we also hope that, one day, we learn what his motivations were here. What exactly made it worthwhile to take these insane risks?
Moving along, there was also bad news yesterday for one of Trump's former(?) henchmen, namely Steve Bannon. He's already due for a nice stay at the crowbar hotel, and he's moving closer and closer to booking a second stay. Judge Juan Merchan, who is also, coincidentally, the judge overseeing Trump's criminal fraud case, set a date for Bannon's trial for defrauding donors to the phony organization "We Build The Wall." According to court documents, Bannon and his accomplices were not interested in building a wall, and instead were using the donations to line their pockets. Bannon's trial date is May 27, 2024, which is a year away, and a couple of months after Trump's trial.
And finally, two people who were enabled by Trump learned their fates yesterday. Richard Barnett, the misogynist insurrectionist who put his feet up on then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) desk and left her a note calling her a "b**tch," was sentenced to 4½ years in the pokey. Meanwhile, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who is a very scary human being indeed, was sentenced to 18 years.
In sum, as they say, "The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine." (Z)
DeSantis Spent Thursday as a Punchline
As we wrote yesterday, Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) campaign launch turned into a fiasco. Twitter spaces wasn't ready for the big time, and the Governor paid the price.
DeSantis' misstep was the talk of the news media on Thursday. We don't even need to give you quotes; the headlines alone are enough:
- Slate: Ron DeSantis' Campaign Announcement on Twitter Crashed Immediately (Metaphor Alert!)
- Politico: Trump Had an Escalator. DeSantis Had a Meltdown.
- The Atlantic: DeSantis's Launch Was Not the Only Thing That Crashed
- The Nation: Failure to Launch: The DeSantis Debacle
- The San Francisco Chronicle: DeSantis' campaign rollout turns into DeSaster
- Time: Awkward Glitches, Long Silences, and Hold Music: Ron DeSantis' Disastrous Twitter Launch
- Fox: Want to actually see and hear Ron DeSantis? Tune into Fox News at 8 p.m. ET
- The New York Times: Awkward Silence: Ron DeSantis's Bold Twitter Gambit That Flopped
- BBC News: The 2024 election campaign launch Ron DeSantis will want to forget
- CNN: 'It's a very bad look': Social media expert breaks down DeSantis tech issues
Some of these are pretty pointed, but The Bulwark's Charlie Sykes might well have had the most cutting response of all. He led his column, headlined "A Spectacular Failure to Launch," with this image:
And it wasn't just the media that read DeSantis the riot act. The Biden campaign sent out a fundraising e-mail noting that "our link actually works." The Trump campaign has been milking this for all it's worth; most notably (and weirdly) circulating a deep-fake video in which DeSantis, Musk, George Soros, World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab, Dick Cheney, Adolf Hitler, Satan and an unnamed FBI agent compete for speaking time on Twitter spaces.
The memes have also been running absolutely wild. "Launch" jokes are probably the most popular, things like "Did the Elon/DeSantis launch experience a rapid unscheduled disassembly?" and "Ron DeSantis learning what happens when you launch things with Elon Musk," the latter accompanied by this image:
Most of the memes were silly and somewhat juvenile, as memes tend to be, although this one was also pretty good. "To prepare for the Ron DeSantis Twitter Spaces this was the only test Elon Musk conducted:"
Which one is Musk and which one is DeSantis, do you think?
In any event, the point here is not to mock the Governor, or to take pleasure in his misfortune. We actually have more than enough material for "This Week in Schadenfreude" (see below) to need to do that. No, it's to remind readers that campaign screw-ups like this can linger for a long time, and can absolutely be fatal. Think "Jeb!," the Dean scream, Michael Dukakis in the tank, etc. And DeSantis is, like Richard Nixon, someone people are already predisposed to dislike. In 6 months, we may look back on this moment and conclude that this is where it all went off the rails.
The good news for the Governor is that his fundraising in the first 24 hours after the Twitter debacle was actually pretty solid; his campaign says it pulled in over $8 million. Also, Politico talked to Republican voters in Iowa, and found that the voters didn't care about the Twitter event, one way or another. So, DeSantis might be able to move past this. Though if he hopes to do so, he simply has to stop making unforced errors, whether it's getting too cutesy with his launch announcement, or taking on Disney, or pooh-poohing Ukraine. (Z)
CNN Is Going to Double Down
CNN did not get good reviews for its town hall with Donald Trump, to say the least. So, what are they going to do about that? They are going to hold another town hall with another Republican "presidential candidate." We put that in quotations, because this time it's going to be former VP Mike Pence, whose chances of becoming president are only slightly better than ours are.
The event will be on June 7, and will be moderated by Dana Bash. The good news for Bash is that Pence is not obnoxious like Trump is, and isn't going to bully her and berate her and so forth. The bad news for Bash is that Pence simply will not have dinner with her afterwards. No, wait, that's not the bad news. The actual bad news is that he's less interesting than the fly that landed on him at the vice-presidential debate, and pretty much nobody cares what he has to say.
In short, CNN will be lucky to pull DeSantis-campaign-launch ratings for this event. Not only because Pence is a bore, but also because it appears that viewers are deserting the cable network in droves right now. In the week after the Trump town hall, CNN had its lowest ratings in 8 years, averaging just 429,000 viewers daily. By way of comparison, MSNBC averaged 976,000 and Fox averaged 1,400,000.
In the end, CNN's new CEO Chris Licht is doing exactly what new CEOs always do—shake things up, because they think they have a mandate to shake things up. He's canned a bunch of CNN's established personalities, and he's attempted to rebrand the channel as some sort of centrist outlet. But he's moving way too fast, it would appear. We also think his vision for CNN's coverage is a fantasy. It's not really "fair and balanced," it's faux "fair and balanced," and besides, if that's what viewers really want, the three broadcast networks still have evening news programs. CNN hasn't been golden for a while now, but if Licht isn't careful, he's going to kill the goose that lays the palladium eggs. (Z)
Mastriano Is Out...
Republicans got a little bit of good news yesterday, as highly divisive election-denier Doug Mastriano (R), who got trounced in last year's gubernatorial election (he lost 56.5% to 41.7%), announced that he's not planning to run for the U.S. Senate this cycle.
Previously Mastriano, who is still a sitting Pennsylvania state senator, strongly intimated that he would run, pending approval from God and his wife. He did not specify which of those two used their veto power. Maybe it was both. Or maybe it was all the Pennsylvania Republicans who practically begged Mastriano not to run. For example, there was this op-ed earlier this week from Mastriano's colleague, state Rep. Russ Diamond (R). It begins: "Today I'm calling on all level-headed Pennsylvania Republicans to join me in requesting that Doug Mastriano abandon any plans he may have to run for U.S. Senate in 2024." The piece does not get friendlier from there.
Mastriano did leave open the door, just a crack; his exact statement was: "At this time, at this moment, the way things currently are, I am not running for the U.S. Senate seat." However, he's running out of time to put together a proper Senate campaign. And, again, he's very unpopular with Republican pooh-bahs. Now, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) & Co. will put the full-court press on as they try to persuade David McCormick (R) to jump in. Of course, McCormick didn't even survive the primary last time, and he'd be up against a popular incumbent in Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). So, even if things continue to break right for the Republicans in the Keystone State, they are still a longshot to retake this seat. (Z)
...And Maybe Texas AG Ken Paxton Is, Too
There's pretty stiff competition for the title of "most corrupt officeholder in America today." However, any shortlist of candidates certainly has to include Texas AG Ken Paxton (R). He's used his ostensibly non-partisan office to advance partisan goals (that's par for the course for most state AGs these days, but Paxton has taken it to extremes). There is also credible evidence that he used his power to assist multiple fat-cat donors who found themselves in legal trouble. Oh, and he's also been under indictment for securities fraud for the last 8 years (the trial is still pending due to his being a sitting officeholder).
Even Texas politics has its limits, though. Paxton's misbehavior grew so problematic that the Republican-dominated Texas state House appointed a committee to look into the matter. Yesterday, that committee voted unanimously to recommend that Paxton be impeached. The matter will go before the entire state House very soon, perhaps even today.
Given that the vote of the select committee was unanimous, and given that the airing of Paxton's dirty laundry this week has embarrassed the entire Texas GOP, the odds are pretty good he's going to lose his job. At that point, he'd be available to face trial for the securities fraud, and possibly for other crimes. Meanwhile, his replacement would be chosen by Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX), who may well pick the guy who lost to Paxton in the last election, namely George P. Bush. The Bushes are like vampires; you can't actually kill them, you can only slow them down. (Z)
This Week in Schadenfreude: I WILL HAVE ORDER!
Fans of the Harry Potter books and films may recognize that line; it's from Dolores Umbridge, the ambitious government-employed witch who cares nothing for principles, and whose sole concern is latching on to anyone who might enable her to achieve power. Mild-mannered Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge? Evilest dark wizard of all time Lord Voldemort? It's all the same to her.
We bring this up as lead-in to an item about Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who shares Umbridge's fascist tendencies, love of publicity, and willingness to hitch her wagon to any train that promises more power. There was an incident this week that, while not terribly consequential, certainly has "schadenfreude" written all over it.
As many readers will know, all members of the House take turns presiding over the chamber. This gives them experience with parliamentary procedure, as well as a photo-op for the folks back home. When something big happens, the actual leadership takes the gavel back, of course, but when the House is dealing with more mundane stuff, the backbenchers get their turn.
This week, Greene got her shot. The Georgian is unquestionably the most disruptive member of the House, in every way that you could possibly interpret that description. She abuses the privilege of being allowed to file legislation, and in particular is constantly trying to impeach Joe Biden and something like a dozen members of his administration. She forces the House to hold roll-call votes on trivial matters, like whether to remain in session. She shouts from the floor, out of turn, including at the State of the Union address. Oh, and she was a part of the 1/6 insurrection.
Anyhow, when the Representative's moment in the sun came, nobody on the floor was paying much attention. This is not uncommon; again, backbenchers only get their turn when nothing of importance is going on. But Greene was not having it, and so she demanded the chamber come to order. And how did the Democrats (and a few Republicans) respond to that? They laughed at her. And though Greene pounded her gavel over and over, the laughter did not cease for at least a minute. If you would care to see it for yourself, here is the video:
Naturally, the presiding officer is not the person who is addressing the House. And so, if you watch the clip, you will see that Greene's inability to maintain order came at the expense of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who was in the midst of bloviating about how heroic he and the Republicans have been during the debt-ceiling mess. So, it was two for the price of one.
And as long as we're on the subject of jokes at the expense of less-than-admirable members of the House, why don't we also mention Rep. "George Santos" (R-NY), who was subject of some derision on Jeopardy!. The show had a clue where "George Santos" was the correct answer. And after a contestant rang in correctly, host Ken Jennings fired off his (obviously pre-planned) bon mot: "I don't get to say this very much, but George Santos is correct." Again, if you would care to see it for yourself, here is the video:
A show like Saturday Night Live, well, satire is their stock in trade. But when Jeopardy! is making you into a target of derision? You done messed up.
And finally, unlike Green, Scalise and "Santos," this person is not in Congress, but we're going to toss them in anyhow. As we note above, the Trump campaign is engaged in a full-fledged anti-DeSantis blitzkrieg. And as part of that, Donald Trump Jr. was doing his podcast/web show, and launched into a rant about the Florida governor. However, he flubbed his lines. We don't love to link to Twitter anymore, for various reasons, but it's the only place we can find that has the video. So:
Junior goes on a rant that is supposed to be about Desantis, but he misreads his script:— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) May 25, 2023
“Trump has the personality of a mortician, and the energy that makes Jeb Bush look an Olympian.” pic.twitter.com/iOdUbTQLyS
Despite what the tweet says, Trump Jr.'s actual misstatement was: "Trump has the CHARISMA of a mortician, and the energy that makes Jeb Bush look an Olympian." Meanwhile, young Trump was flushed, sweating, slurring his words slightly, misreading his script, and strangely twitchy. Wonder why that might be...
In short, it was a week heavy on schadenfreude moments. (Z)
This Week in Freudenfreude: Diplomate-cy
It's still graduation time! Last week, we wrote about three graduation ceremonies that turned sour, due to the choice of commencement speaker. So, how about we balance that out by talking about three graduation ceremonies that were more uplifting?
First up is an account from reader K.C. in St. Augustine, DeSantisWorld*
[* - Protecting residents from the deceptive charm of malevolent mice.]
My family and I had the pleasure of attending the commencement ceremony at American University's George Washington School of Law in D.C. this past Saturday. My son was one of the J.D. graduates. WOO-HOO! We remain grateful that, during my wife's pregnancy, her superior-in-every-way DNA devoured most of mine before too much damage was done.
The Dean of the law school is a decades-long friend of the newest Supreme Court Associate Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, and she delivered the commencement address—her first as a Supreme Court Justice. Many articles have been written about the speech, including this one. I'm showing CNN love because I've heard they've had a rough go of it lately. This picture of the Associate Justice is mine:
- It was a boisterous and supportive crowd which was appropriate for the celebratory occasion.
- There was no shunning, shaming, spooning, mooning, or any behavior that model citizens wouldn't endorse.
- The Associate Justice received a standing ovation when she walked to the stage, loud applause when she received her honorary doctorate, and another standing ovation at the end of her speech.
- Her speech, thankfully, didn't include politics, but instead instructions on how to succeed at being an attorney with lessons she learned as a "superfan" of Survivor. Please see the article.
- A posthumous degree was given to the family of a young woman who would've graduated with this class but she got sick and died within weeks. My son didn't know her but had a couple of classes with her and said she was "really smart." The Dean was emotional and had to stop a couple of times when talking about the student. I won't share more details out of respect for the family, who chose not to walk on stage to accept her degree. As cliché as it sounds, we've thought about them frequently this week.
- There was a brief interruption in the presentation of degrees. Graduates walked from the audience up to the stage and it was progressing efficiently. Then, there was a noticeable gap due to an elderly man with a cane who walked with great effort. From the time when he approached the stage to after shaking the President of the university's hand, the crowd cheered and applauded.
- I didn't know until her speech that Ms. Brown Jackson was the first defense attorney to serve on the Supreme Court. Her points on not giving up despite lacking resources and playing the long game seemed to resonate as I overheard snippets of conversations after the ceremony. No charges were filed or authorities notified regarding my eavesdropping. Let's keep it that way.
- My son's fiancee also received her J.D.—from 0 to 2 lawyers in the family in 1 afternoon; DOUBLE WOO-HOO!—and we met her family. My relieved son says I haven't done anything that causes them concern. Yet.
- It was nice to experience such overwhelming positivity and the spirit of community. It gives me some hope for the future, which I'm certain will be quashed by whatever happens Monday.
Thanks, K.C., and congratulations to your son and his fiancee!
Our second story along these lines concerns a gentleman named Fred Taylor, who earned a degree in music from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, IA. He was unable to attend his graduation ceremony, however, because by the time it happened, he was already very busy in Europe fighting Nazis. As chance would have it, the family that Taylor started upon returning home included daughter Linda, who went on to be a professor at... Cornell College. Once she brought the matter to the attention of the administration, they were happy to have a war hero receive his long-deferred recognition. And so, he walked, and formally received his diploma last week... at the age of 101.
And finally, to complete the trio, let us take notice of Abby Bailiff, who has been completing her Ph.D. in nursing at UNC Greensboro. Needless to say, completing a Ph.D. is none too easy. It gets rather harder if you are simultaneously working full-time as a registered nurse. It's even harder still if, for the last 9 months of your doctoral program, you're pregnant.
Bailiff's due date was a week before her graduation, and so she expected it would not be too hard to manage both events. At least, not too hard for someone who is capable of earning a Ph.D. and working full time while pregnant. However, the universe had different ideas. Her due date came and went, and then, one day before her graduation, the doctors said it was necessary to induce labor. So, Bailiff delivered her son at 3:08 p.m. on May 3 and then, feeling well enough to be on her feet, walked in her doctoral hooding at 3:00 p.m. on May 4. There just can't be that many people who gave birth and graduated in the span of 24 hours. Especially since roughly half of all graduates can't pull off the first half of that.
As K.C. observes above, graduations can be great events, as long as schools avoid toxic commencement speakers. Well that, and also not jamming 20,000 people into a poorly air-conditioned space on a hot June afternoon.
Have a good weekend, all! (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May25 Is DeSantis Typecast Already?
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May25 What Is Life Like Now for Actual Floridians?
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May24 More Legal Trouble for Trump
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May21 Sunday Mailbag
May20 Saturday Q&A
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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
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May17 Progress in Debt Ceiling Talks?
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May17 Rep. Robert Garcia Introduces Legislation to Expel Rep. "George Santos"