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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump and the Border: Richard Nixon Back Again
      •  Current State of the Republican Party: Psycho
      •  Trump Legal News: Rock Around the Clock
      •  Trump's New Role Model: Joseph Stalin
      •  I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Wheel of Fortune
      •  This Week in Schadenfreude: Goodbye
      •  This Week in Freudenfreude: Ole Miss

Trump and the Border: Richard Nixon Back Again

We presume that most readers know that, in 1968, Richard Nixon believed that "I'm the guy who can end the Vietnam War" was his ticket to the White House. That line of attack would have been rendered moot if the war, you know, ended. So, he pulled some shenanigans behind the scenes so as to derail the peace talks that were, by all accounts, close to a successful conclusion. The American public was none the wiser, at least not when they cast their ballots, and so the former VP was sent to the White House, where he found other, more inventive ways to destroy his career.

Donald Trump is, at the moment, running the same playbook. The former president believes that "I'm the guy who can fix the southern border" is his ticket back to the White House. If there is a bipartisan deal on the matter right now, or anytime before the election, then it takes a lot of the wind out of Trump's xenophobic sails. So, he is now putting on the full-court press in an effort to stop the U.S. Senate from reaching a deal. He realizes that if a bill makes it out of the Senate, there's an excellent chance it gets through the House, since it wouldn't need very many Republican votes. Put another way, he has a better chance of imposing his will on 100% of 49 Senate Republicans than he does of imposing his will on 100% of 219 House Republicans.

Trump's arm-twisting is aggressive enough that it appears to even have gotten to... Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). It has now come out that, at the testy Senate lunch we mentioned yesterday, the Kentuckian told his conference that "The politics on [the border bill] have changed," noted that Trump wants to run on immigration, and said "We don't want to do anything to undermine him." We suppose this leaves open the possibility that McConnell will not interfere with negotiations, but he does not seem likely to do anything to encourage a resolution, nor to whip votes.

Trump's problem here is that, in contrast to Nixon, the cat is already out of the bag. First of all, McConnell's closed-door comments are no longer closed-door, and Democrats can use them against Trump to show that the former president isn't really serious about the border, he's only serious about using the border to drive up his own vote totals. And let us pause here to note that it's at least possible that McConnell's comments leaked out because... McConnell (or an ally) leaked them. News that makes the Minority Leader look like a good soldier, but that undermines Trump sounds just like the sort of 3-D chess that the Kentuckian sometimes plays.

On top of the fact that McConnell's remarks are now public, there are also Republican senators who are carping loudly about Trump's interference (carping that, again, could be at McConnell's instigation). The loudest of the angry red teamers is Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who decreed:

I think the border is a very important issue for Donald Trump. And the fact that he would communicate to Republican senators and congresspeople that he doesn't want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is really appalling. But the reality is that we have a crisis at the border. The American people are suffering as a result of what's happening at the border. And someone running for president ought to try and get the, you know, the problem solved, as opposed to saying, "Hey, save that problem. Don't solve it. Let me take credit for solving it later."

Emphasis is ours; we highlight that portion because that's the soundbite that's showing up in all the headlines. The Senator's comments are already on the record, and on video, but if he keeps hammering on this, then it's all the worse for Trump. And we hardly need to remind readers that Romney not only hates The Donald, he's also not running for reelection. So, he's got nothing to lose.

Truth be told, nobody should need the comments from McConnell, Romney and the other angry Republican senators to know that Trump has no interest in securing the border, or else no ability to secure the border, or both. After all, if he had that interest and/or that ability, we wouldn't have a border crisis right now, since Trump would have solved it when he had 4 years to do so between 2017 and 2021. However, that logic seems to elude many people, so it's helpful that the McConnell/Romney stuff really lays bare Trump's real agenda here.

Trump's base doesn't care about any of this, but there are plenty of undecided/gettable voters who care a lot about the border, and who might well take note that one candidate really wants to do something about the issue while the other just wants to score political points. It is also the case that if Trump's politicking leaves only a few Republican votes (e.g., Romney) available on an immigration bill, that could present an opportunity for the Democrats. They could go to the Utahn and any other like-minded senators (e.g., Thom Tillis, R-NC), and say "Let's find a deal that can get your vote(s)." In that scenario, it would be really clear which party was trying to address the problem, even if a Democrats-plus-a-few-Republicans bill died in the House. (Z)

Current State of the Republican Party: Psycho

We are not referring to the entire Republican Party, of course, just Donald Trump, his base and his enablers. Which, OK, is a majority of Republicans these days. Anyhow, those are the ones who are psycho, and they are eating each other alive these days. For the internecine battle over immigration, see the above item. And now we'll add three more items to the ledger.

First, Donald Trump is working to squash Nikki Haley like a bug. And to that end, he is now targeting her supporters with his vitriol. Specifically, he has announced that anyone who gives Haley any money from this point forward is no longer welcome in MAGA world. We get it that the base loves it when Trump takes on his "enemies." And it is probably true that many Haley donors are not future Trump voters. But surely some Haley donors are, or at least might be. A guy who has little margin for error takes a big gamble when he risks alienating those people.

Second, there is Kari Lake's latest nuttery in Arizona. The leader of the Arizona GOP, at least until this week, was a fellow named Jeff DeWit. At some point in the past, he had a conversation with Lake in which he suggested the Party would be better off in 2024 if she did not run, and that there would be "financial benefits" if she played ball (the apparent implication was that some juicy appointments to corporate boards were available as inducements). Somehow, the conversation between DeWit and Lake was recorded, and the Lake campaign released it, while allegedly threatening DeWit that they had even worse stuff if he did not resign. So, he fell on his sword.

And finally, the Michigan GOP is still in chaos. As you can see above, Willard (a.k.a. "Mitt") has the Romney family spine this week. And so, when the RNC was asked to intervene in the struggle between (outgoing?) Michigan GOP Chair Kristina Karamo and (incoming?) Michigan GOP Chair Pete Hoekstra, Ronna Romney McDaniel and the RNC pooh-bahs advised that Karamo "appears" to have been properly removed, while at the same time refusing to recognize Hoekstra. Needless to say, this does nothing to resolve the matter, which is now most certainly going to be dealt with in court.

We put these items together because it is simply not conceivable that a political party can have a successful election cycle (or even an average election cycle) with so much backbiting going on. Recent history makes this clear; the Republicans blew a golden chance in 2022, in significant part because the MAGA and non-MAGA/semi-MAGA members just could not come together. Maybe they'll work things out during the winter and spring, and will present a united front by the summer and fall, although with Trump leading the party, we very much doubt it. And if the squabbling within the ranks continues, then it's going to be another disappointing cycle for the GOP. (Z)

Trump Legal News: Rock Around the Clock

One wonders, these days, where the legitimately enraged Donald Trump ends, and the reality TV star Donald Trump begins. We have absolutely no doubt, as we have written many times, that the rage is real. But there's a performative element to it, too. Nobody can be that angry that much of the time.

We are reflecting on this right now, in particular, because yesterday was the day that Trump testified in the (second) E. Jean Carroll trial. He only lasted for 3 minutes on the stand (a level of endurance that surely came as a surprise to Stormy Daniels). Before being cut off by Judge Lewis Kaplan, Trump did manage to communicate to the jury that he thinks Carroll is a liar (although the statement was then struck from the record). In addition to his temper tantrum testimony, Trump also popped off from the gallery. He spent much of the evening before his appearance, and also much of the day, excoriating Carroll on "Truth" Social. In fact, at one point, he posted 37 different attacks on Carroll in the span of just 20 minutes. He was definitely rocking around the clock.

Again, we can't believe anyone, even Donald Trump, is THAT unhinged. And certainly there is much about his actual courtroom behavior that is both calculated and performative. The very clear message, for his followers, is that he is a strong man, so strong that he does not yield to the law, he does not yield to some judge, and he certainly does not yield to a woman who says mean things about him.

The trade-off here is that Trump is encouraging the jury to teach him a very expensive lesson. What remains unclear to us is how someone who loves money that much is willing to pay that price. Does he believe that somehow, some way, he'll be reelected as president, and then he can "fix" it? Does he think he can drag things out so long that the money won't come due until after he's dead, and it's the kids who get to take it in the teeth? Or is he at a place that he now loves power and influence even more than he loves money? Could be any of these, we suppose.

As long as we are on the Trump legal beat, we'll also note that Trump crony Peter Navarro was sentenced to 4 months in prison yesterday for defying a 1/6 subpoena. Steve Bannon was convicted on the same thing a year ago, and still hasn't seen the inside of a crowbar hotel, so Navarro may still be a long way from actually serving time, depending on how willing he is to keep fighting. (Z)

Trump's New Role Model: Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin had an excellent strategy for avoiding election defeats: Don't hold elections. Taking a cue from Joe, Trump lackey David Bossie had an idea that the Dear Leader thought was pretty swell: Cancel the rest of the Republican primaries and caucuses this year. The general idea: Trump has already locked up the nomination (probably true), so the RNC should just declare him to be the presumptive nominee, and call it a day.

As a purely strategic matter, this probably wasn't the brightest idea. If Trump is nominated the normal way, it's pretty hard for him to be denied the nomination, barring some disastrous setback (death, conviction, etc.). If everyone arrives for the Republican National Convention as a de facto free agent, by contrast, it opens up a much higher possibility of something... surprising happening.

Despite this, the plan was sailing along, right up until Republican voters heard about it. They pitched an absolute fit, with the result that about 3 hours after news of the resolution became public, Trump announced that he did not support the maneuver after all. In other words, he was for it before he was against it. Shortly thereafter, Bossie withdrew the proposal.

We note this news because it's an illustration of something we have seen many times. Trump can talk like a dictator or strongman or fascist, but he just doesn't have the stones to walk like one. Can you imagine Stalin changing his "election" plans because it might hurt some people's feelings? We can't. And we continue to believe that Trump's fundamental lack of courage and conviction, his unwillingness to do the really unpleasant stuff, is one of the best insurance policies against a potential Trump presidency v2.0 becoming Trump dictatorship v1.0. (Z)

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Wheel of Fortune

This is probably the simplest answer key we've published, but it is extremely appropriate. From J.N. in Zionsville, IN: "We asked 100 people: 'What is the theme to this week's headlines?... survey says: Game Shows!' That's my final answer." Very impressive to squeeze references to two additional shows (Family Feud, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) in there, J.N.! We don't know if this has come up before, but (Z) is something of a connoisseur of old game shows, so this one was pretty easy to put together.

Here are the first 25 readers to get it right:

  1. K.R. in Austin, TX
  2. K.H. in Golden, CO
  3. N.H. in London, England, UK
  4. J.F. in Fayetteville, NC
  5. K.G.W. in Lafayette, IN
  6. D.L. in Uslar, Germany
  7. J.P.M. in Eagle Mills, NY
  8. R.D. in Cheshire, CT
  9. E.W. in Skaneateles, NY
  10. B.M. in Chico, CA
  11. B.H. in Southborough, MA
  12. M.S. in Freeport, IL
  13. J.T. in Philadelphia, PA
  14. S.K. in Drexel Hill, PA
  15. L.W. in Nashville, TN
  16. R.W. in Bensenville, IL
  17. R.O. in Albany, NY
  18. D.W.B. in Waynesville, NC
  19. R.H.O. in Portland, ME
  20. B.R.J. in San Diego, CA
  21. L.L. in Seymour, CT
  22. M.B. in Albany, NY
  23. T.K. in Kirkwood, MO
  24. G.K. in Blue Island, IL
  25. K.M. in Santa Fe, NM

For this week's theme, which we think is on the tough side, we're going to tell you that if this was Trivial Pursuit, it might plausibly fit in Entertainment or in History. We will give you the added hint that while it is sometimes the case that only one or two of the words to the right of the colon are hints, this week every single word to the right of the colon is part of the hint.

If you have a guess, send it to with subject line "January 26 Headlines." (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: Goodbye

We will now bid farewell to "presidential candidate" Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) by poking some fun at... his farewell. We hate to kick a guy while he's down, but... OK, who are we kidding? We are perfectly fine kicking this particular guy while he's down, since he himself has kicked many people who were down, in various ways.

As you may have seen, DeSantis' final tweet before ending his campaign was this:

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

- Winston Churchill

As we have discussed before, there are certain historical figures where you should always be skeptical of their enlightening and/or inspiring "quotes," and Winston Churchill is one of those. There is much that is attributed to him that does not actually appear in any of the 50 million written/spoken words he left to the historical record. So, you want to verify, particularly when the quote is as banal as this one is.

Of course, DeSantis did not verify. And, of course, the words were not Churchill's. And this is not one of those things where some lesser, but still respected, light said the thing, and it just got attributed to Churchill. Nope, the quote actually comes from... a very old Budweiser ad:

An old Budweiser ad that
shows a picture of a kid headed to the fishing hole and says: 'Let the Weather Man talk. Let the experts scoff. Youth
goes fishing for the fun of all kinds of weather... in all kinds of waters. The man who has lost the spirit of
youth is too busy with gloomy forecasts to gather bait, much less go fishing. Men with the spirit of youth pioneered our
America ... men with vision and sturdy confidence. They found contentment in the thrill of action, knowing that success
was never final and failure never fatal. It was courage that counted. Isn't opportunity in America today greater than it
was in the days of our grateful forefathers?

In case you are wondering exactly how old, the ad is from 1938. Which means that if that kid is still alive, he's pushing 100.

One almost cannot put into words how appropriate it is that the fact-challenged, pseudo-historian DeSantis ended his campaign with some pseudo-history that doesn't stand up to a fact check. Making it even more delicious is the fact that it's a Budweiser ad. Not only did the Governor fail to recognize verbiage that is the essence of empty claptrap (i.e., ad copy), but it was an ad for a company that conservatives ostensibly loathe. A Hollywood screenwriter could not write a more poetic ending. (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreude: Ole Miss

No, this isn't about the university in the state governed (poorly) by Tate Reeves (R-MS). We're using "miss" in the sense of "not make." The ole miss, in this case, took place in one of the most-watched non-Super-Bowl football games ever, as over 50 million people watched Buffalo Bills kicker Tyler Bass miss a 44-yard field goal over the weekend, ending his team's playoff run at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs. Making things even more bitter is that, many years ago, the Bills came as close as they've ever come to winning a Super Bowl, only to see it slip away when kicker Scott Norwood missed a very similar field goal in a very similar way. We absolutely guarantee you that at least half of those 50 million were thinking of Norwood as Bass' kick sailed wide right.

We have often made the point that American politics and American sports have an awful lot in common these days. Many people have a loyalty to their team/party these days that is fanatical, or nearly so. For many people, expressing that loyalty has become performative, and a huge part of their identity. And those who harm the team/party, either by being an outside opponent or an insider who doesn't perform up to snuff, are sometimes subjected to terrible vitriol. There was a time when that vitriol took the form of things like throwing snowballs at Santa Claus, but these days, in both politics and sports, it's most commonly expressed on social media.

Consequently, it is not the slightest bit surprising that after the missed kick, Tyler Bass was subjected to mountains of abuse on Ex-Twitter in particular, but also on his other social media accounts. We're talking personal attacks, references to his parentage, attempts at doxxing, calls for violence against his person, and even death threats, in some cases. Pro tip: If you threaten a person's life because they did not perform up to your standards in an athletic contest, you are a loser. In any case, it was bad enough that Bass shut all of his social media down.

But now we get to the place where 21st century sports diverges from 21st century politics. It's not too often that people move past the vitriol in politics anymore, but it does happen in sports, sometimes. And while there are clearly a few bad seeds among the Bills fanbase, it is also the case that, on the whole, the backers of the Bills are known as one of the classiest fanbases in sports.

And so it is that, after Bass got run through the wringer, a group of Bills fans worked to make things right. The Bills kicker is a big-time cat lover, and has worked with a local cat rescue called Ten Lives Club:

Tyler Bass holds a cat

In case you can't read the caption, it says: "No wonder Tyler Bass is so fast on his feet, he's part cat."

Anyhow, observing that Bass' uniform number is 2, a campaign was launched to persuade supportive Bills (and Chiefs) fans to donate $22 to Ten Lives Club. Thus far, they have raised nearly $300,000 to help save cats' lives. "I was crying on the phone today, I just can't believe it, I'm just so happy for the cats," said Bass, when he learned the news.

So, a tip of the helmet to fans of the Bills, Chiefs and anyone else who decided to take a missed field goal and try to make lemonade. Would 'twere that we saw people say "enough is enough" more often in the realm of politics.

Have a good weekend, all! (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan25 Takeaways from New Hampshire
Jan25 New Hampshire Voters Won't All Vote for Trump If He Is Convicted of a Crime
Jan25 Biden and Harris Hold Rally about Reproductive Rights
Jan25 Trump's Jan. 6 Trial Will Likely Be Delayed
Jan25 Key Union Leader Endorses Biden
Jan25 Senate Republicans Are at Each Other's Throats on the Border
Jan25 Susan Collins May Not Endorse Trump
Jan25 Will DeSantis Begin a Campaign of Retribution Against People Who Opposed Him?
Jan25 Liz Cheney Calls Elise Stefanik "a Total Crackpot"
Jan25 Ohio Senate Candidates Debate Each Other
Jan25 Wisconsin Legislature Sends the Governor Newly Gerrymandered Maps
Jan24 Two Losers, One Winner in New Hampshire
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Jan24 OK, This Is a Pretty Good "Understanding MAGA Voters" Piece
Jan24 Another Kind of Article We Can't Stand
Jan24 Kelly Armstrong to Run for Governor in North Dakota
Jan24 Looking Back at 2023, Part VIII: What Did We Write About? (The Answers)
Jan24 Looking Back at 2023, Part IX: Good Jobs
Jan23 Civil War Averted in Texas... for Now
Jan23 What to Do about Trump's (Potential) Mental and/or Physical Decline?
Jan23 Haley Gets Off to a Fast Start in New Hampshire
Jan23 The Wild, Wacky World of California Politics
Jan23 More on Chevron
Jan23 Looking Back at 2023, Part VI: What Did We Write About? (The Questions)
Jan23 Looking Back at 2023, Part VII: Bad Jobs
Jan22 DeSantis Chickens Out
Jan22 Showdown in New Hampshire Tomorrow
Jan22 Katie Porter Is Rooting for Trump
Jan22 It's Almost Veep Time
Jan22 The Impossible Dream
Jan22 Key Willis Ally Wants Her to Fire Her Boyfriend
Jan22 Candidate Quality Matters
Jan22 Louisiana Legislature Approves House Map with a Second Black-Majority District
Jan21 Sunday Mailbag
Jan20 Saturday Q&A
Jan19 Congress and the Budget: Dog Eat Dog
Jan19 A Civil War in Texas?
Jan19 Ron DeSantis: The Biggest Loser
Jan19 Nikki Haley: Balderdash
Jan19 I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Split Second
Jan19 This Week in Schadenfreude: It Pays to Be Ignorant
Jan19 This Week in Freudenfreude: Ladies Be Seated
Jan18 Trump Will Be Tested Much More in New Hampshire
Jan18 Wall Street Journal to DeSantis: Drop Out
Jan18 Trump Is Already Changing the World
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Jan18 Supreme Court Could Neuter Jack Smith's Case
Jan18 Judge Warns Trump He Could Be Booted Out of the Courtroom
Jan18 The Fish That Could Overturn 40 Years of Legal Precedent
Jan18 The Nobodies Are Now Fighting Each Other