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Bonus Quote of the Day

Biden Speaks at Normandy

Yesterday was the 80th anniversary of D-Day, and a major commemoration was held, with both veterans of the invasion and numerous world leaders—among them Joe Biden—in attendance.

Before we proceed to the political angle here, let's pause for a very brief history lesson. By late 1943, Allied forces in Western and Southern Europe (mostly troops from the U.S., U.K. and Canada) were effectively stuck in Italy. Russia's army in Eastern Europe, meanwhile, was making steady progress in reconquering territory that had been seized by the Nazis. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill felt enormous pressure to get their forces "back in the game." Officially, that was because the war was a team effort, and it was too much to ask the Russians to do all the dirty work themselves. Unofficially, but still very much on the minds of Roosevelt and Churchill, was the very real concern that the Russians would convert any nations they "liberated" into puppet states. There was little doubt that would happen in Eastern Europe once the war was over, and the U.S. and U.K. very much wanted to limit the spread of Russian influence as much as was possible.

Under the circumstances, there weren't too many targets available. Any new offensive had to go through Western Europe; not only would an invasion of Eastern Europe be redundant, it would also be an unacceptable threat to the Russians. Going through Spain was a nonstarter. The Francisco Franco regime was an ally of the Adolf Hitler regime in all but name, which meant that the Spanish were not going to allow their territory to be used voluntarily, and that forcible entry would have led them to declare war on the Allies. So, it was either the southern coast of France or somewhere on the northern coast of Europe.

Had the decision been made in 1942, the pick would probably have been the southern coast of France, because the English channel was teeming with U-Boats. But by 1943, the Allies had sonar and were much more able to defend themselves against these underwater menaces. So, the pick was the central coast of northern France, roughly 150 miles (275 km) NNW of Paris. This target was chosen primarily due to its proximity to England (it's roughly 115 miles, or 185 km, from the southern coast of England to the site of the landings). In hopes of tricking the Germans, Allied leadership put out false intelligence suggesting the invasion would be multi-pronged, and would target: (1) Norway, (2) a portion of the French coast closer to Germany than Normandy is and (3) the southern coast of France. There is considerable evidence that this chicanery was at least partly effective.

All of this said, the Nazis knew full well that any portion of the French coast could be attacked at any time, and so all portions of the French coast were heavily fortified. Further, attacking land-based positions from water is always a tricky proposition. It's easy enough, from the vantage point of the present day, to decide that World War II was "The Good War" or that the D-Day invasion was a sound idea, because we know how things turned out. Never forget that, in the moment, the prospects of success were much more hazy. Perhaps the most useful way to illustrate this is to recount the de facto letter of resignation that Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote, to be released in the event that the attack on Normandy failed:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.

Of course, that letter was never released. Although the first wave of the Allied attack was bloody, with soldiers being mowed down by the hundreds, the Germans were ultimately unable to mount a successful defense of the French coast. Allied forces managed to establish a beachhead, and then to commence large-scale operations in northern and western France. The Germans pulled back and eventually launched a massive counteroffensive, which resulted in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. That engagement ended in defeat for Hitler's forces and, at that point, Germany's goose was effectively cooked. Within 6 months of that loss, Hitler would be dead by his own hand and the Germans would surrender. In short, D-Day was a big deal.

This year's commemoration will almost certainly be the last big D-Day anniversary to include actual veterans of the invasion. The last living Civil War veteran to have seen combat was James Hard, who was born in 1843, participated in several battles in 1861 and 1862 (at the ages of 18 and 19), and died in 1953. In other words, he lived about 90 years after his final battle. Obviously, medicine is much improved from the 19th century. However, Hard was one in 3 million veterans of the Civil War, whereas D-Day involved about 150,000 Allied troops. So, a handful of D-Day participants might make it to the 85th anniversary, at which point they will be somewhere between 103 and 110 years old. But even if the young whippersnappers of the bunch make it to 108 years of age, and live to see the 90th anniversary, it is not probable they will be able to travel hundreds or thousands of miles. So an era effectively came to an end yesterday.

And now, back to modern-day politics, Biden delivered a very able 16-minute speech at the main D-Day ceremony. Here it is, if you are interested:

At very least, as you can see in the footage, the veterans in attendance were rapt.

As chance would have it, (Z) wrote a fair bit about speeches exactly like this one in his dissertation. There's something of a one-two step going on: (1) whatever president is speaking makes sure to honor the veterans present and the sacrifices they made, and (2) that president then pivots to the present, and uses the historical event/the veterans to rally support for that president's domestic and/or foreign agenda. Being a Civil War historian, (Z) was writing about the Civil War (and specifically the Battle of Gettysburg), and how anniversary celebrations of that battle were used to rally support for the Spanish-American War (William McKinley), World War I (Woodrow Wilson), and the New Deal (Franklin D. Roosevelt). Biden's speech was about World War II, of course, but it wasn't especially different (and was about as far removed from the actual events as was FDR's 1938 speech at Gettysburg). Biden decreed:

We know the dark forces that these heroes fought against 80 years ago; they never fade. Aggression and greed, the desire to dominate and control... these are perennial. The struggle between dictatorship and freedom is unending.

What, exactly, was Biden alluding to here? Well, you could interpret this as a statement about the war in Ukraine, especially since Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was present in the audience. That is certainly how Politico, to take one example, interpreted it. On the other hand, since the Nazis were fascists, one could also interpret Biden's words as being about Donald Trump. That is how the more lefty outlets like the Daily Beast, to take one example, interpreted it.

And now, a segue. Here is what Fox's Sean Hannity said about Biden's performance yesterday:

He seemed totally, completely out of it. Biden struggled with where to walk, where to sit, where to stand, even appeared to doze off at times and look generally uneasy during the entire trip. As reported, "Biden's perpetual state of confusion on display in Normandy amid rising cognitive questions." This comes just two days after a bombshell report from The Wall Street Journal titled, "Behind Closed Doors, Biden Shows Signs of Slipping." Oh, you're just figuring that out?

Notice that none of this review applies to the actual speech. After all, people can watch the actual speech for themselves (see above) and reach their conclusions. No, the ever-disingenuous Hannity based his conclusions on things that are virtually impossible to find footage of, like Biden walking up on the dais 20 minutes before his speech. So, viewers are pretty much left to take his word for it.

But the real reason we pass along Hannity's comments is the bit about The Wall Street Journal piece, which was indeed headlined "Behind Closed Doors, Biden Shows Signs of Slipping." We were unable to read it because the article, like most content on the WSJ's website, is paywalled, and we will be damned if we ever give so much as one penny to Rupert Murdoch. Yesterday, however, both CNN and Media Matters came to the rescue.

Under the headlines "The Wall Street Journal's story about Biden's mental acuity suffers from glaring problems" (CNN) and "The Wall Street Journal's story about Biden 'slipping' is comically weak" (MM), the two outlets absolutely shred the Journal's reporting. As it turns out, there is only one named source in the entire story, and that is... Kevin McCarthy. This would be the same McCarthy who is a shameless liar when it serves his political needs, and who is currently angling for a post in a second Trump administration. It would also be the same McCarthy who was previously caught on tape saying that Biden is perfectly fine, mentally. Every other source is anonymous, and even most of those are Republican and/or are hearsay.

Meanwhile, the two "reporters" who wrote the piece (and we use that term VERY loosely) decided not to include some of the quotes they got from Democratic sources who were more than happy to be on the record. For example, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she gave an interview to the Journal, and yet she was not included in the piece at all.

Perhaps the best way to think about this comes from the CNN piece we link above, written by the outlet's media analyst Oliver Darcy (who is one of their best staffers):

It is difficult to imagine that the newspaper, or any outlet, would run a similar story declaring that Trump is "slipping" behind the scenes based on the word of top Democratic figures—despite the fact that the Democratic leadership has demonstrated a much stronger relationship with the truth in recent years than their Republican counterparts.

Certainly, if such a piece were written, nobody (including us) would take it seriously, because partisans not only might lie, but even the honest ones are all-but-certain to suffer from confirmation bias.

If we were conspiratorially minded, we might suspect that this story was produced on the orders of certain persons to whom we would not give a penny. We might further suspect that the timing was meant to take some of the attention away from certain ex-presidents' felony convictions. In any event, whatever the agenda was, it was not terribly successful, as the story was almost exclusively picked up by right-wing outlets whose readers/viewers already think Biden is a senile, old fool. (Z)

Legal News: Hunter Is from Venus, Donald Is from Mars

Last month, Donald Trump was on trial. This month, Hunter Biden is on trial. And the two trials have been a study in contrasts.

Certainly, there are some similarities between the two prosecutions, as the cases against both men have their weaknesses, with the defense attorneys trying to exploit those weaknesses as best they possibly can. But importantly, Biden's lawyers are trying the exact case they want to try, and that they (as experts) think has the best chance of securing an acquittal. There have been no obvious situations where the defense's approach to the case has been targeted at the client and his giant ego.

Most importantly, Hunter Biden is behaving in the manner best suited to his needs as a defendant. Yes, his attorneys are trying to make a legal argument for why he should be acquitted. However, there is also a subtext of jury nullification in their case—this is a fellow who lost his mother in a horrible accident, who has been haunted by demons his whole life, whose addictions began with painkillers prescribed for post-accident pain and later for shingles, and who doesn't deserve to be punished now that he's pulled himself together. Biden himself has acted in a manner that is respectful and engaged, and he comes off as very likable, according to those in the room. If a jury is wobbling on the legal questions, or if they are pondering nullification, it helps the defendant if he is a sympathetic figure, and Biden is, by all indications.

The Trump case also had these elements. His lawyers tried to plant the seeds of both "this is a politically motivated prosecution" and "this is a family man who was just trying to spare the feelings of his beloved wife." These sympathetic/nullification subtexts were a harder sell than with Biden, we would say, especially since Biden's family has been showing up to the trial every day while Trump's family was largely absent (and his wife was entirely absent). But beyond that, Trump's body language in court was very poor, except during those times he was falling asleep. Further, the jurors could not help but be aware of his blustering, since he did it right outside the courtroom at the end of each day's testimony. So, unlike Biden, Trump did little to help his lawyers sell their case.

The prosecution is expected to rest today, which means projections of a verdict sometime next week remain plausible. If Biden is acquitted, there is going to be all kinds of carping from right-wing politicians and their media enablers about a two-tiered system of justice. If and when that moment comes, keep in mind that, by all indications, Biden's attorneys, aided by their client, appear to have mounted a much better defense than Trump's attorneys did. (Z)

This Week's Polls: Voters' Reaction to Verdict Is Surprisingly Swift

It's been a week since Donald Trump became a felon, and there are a few interesting polls released in the past couple of days that are worth mentioning.

First up is a poll that will gladden Trump's heart. YouGov, which foresaw which way the winds were blowing, began asking respondents last year whether a felon should be allowed to be president. As recently as April, 58% of Republican voters said that felons should be barred from serving as compared to 17% who said a felony conviction should not be disqualifying. In the latest YouGov poll, released yesterday, only 23% of Republican voters said a felony should be disqualifying versus 58% who said it should not be. In other words, on this question, Republican voters have had a net shift of 76 points (from +41 to -35).

This is not terribly surprising, and it's also not terribly meaningful. Until May, most Republicans who were answering this question thought they were being asked about either Hillary Clinton or about the Biden family. Now that they know that it's about Trump, their views have changed. And this is not mere supposition. YouGov, again foreseeing how the winds would blow, has also been asking "Do you think it is or is not a crime for a candidate for elected office to pay someone to remain silent about an issue that may affect the outcome of an election?" In March of 2023, when most Republican respondents did not realize who this question was about, 73% of them said it's a crime. A month later, by which time Trump had been indicted by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, only 40% said it's a crime. Anyhow, the point here is that Trump has his loyal followers, and they are more than willing to change their definitions of what is a crime, and what is criminal, to exclude him. These people were already voting for him, and they will still be voting for him, so nothing has changed with them.

On the other hand, with the electorate as a whole, the early returns are a little less hopeful for Trump. Our second poll today is the latest from Emerson. According to their numbers, 40% of respondents think Trump should be sent to prison, 25% said he should receive probation, 15% said he should pay a fine and 20% were unsure. Emerson did not break down the numbers by party affiliation, and so we're not entirely sure where the Republicans we describe in the previous paragraph are being reflected in this poll. Did they choose "not sure" because "he should receive no punishment" was not an option? Or did they choose "probation" because they know a punishment is coming (even if they think it unfair), and they want the least onerous option possible? In any case, 80% of people supported some form of punishment and half of those supported prison. Those aren't the kinds of numbers Trump would get if his "this prosecution was a sham" narrative was taking hold.

And finally, there is the latest from The New York Times/Siena. We've had questions about their numbers this cycle, but the latest poll was effectively a tracking poll, which is a different kettle of fish. In short, they did a poll before the Trump trial, and then they contacted the exact same people after the trial. And across the two polls, Trump's support dropped by 2%. The decline was most substantial among young, nonwhite and less engaged Democratic-leaning voters.

At very least, it does not appear that Trump will get a bounce from his conviction, unless you count "his fanatical supporters became a bit more so" as a bounce. And the preliminary indications are that he'll take a hit. It is entirely possible that the effect could dissipate entirely, once the felony convictions aren't so fresh in the mind. And it's also possible that as "Trump as felon" really takes hold, the effect could increase a bit. Our guess, when the verdict was rendered, was that the long-term cost to Trump would be 2%-4% of the vote, which is a BIG deal in a close election. Thus far, we have no reason to reconsider that guess.

One last thing. It is easy enough to find a bushel of opinion pieces that say, in effect "[Scandal X] did not hurt Trump, so why should a felony conviction hurt him?" We would propose that such a formulation is somewhat missing the point. It is true that attacking Gold Star families, mocking a handicapped reporter, tacitly endorsing white supremacists, "grab 'em by the pu**y," getting impeached, participating in 1/6, etc. did not cause a catastrophic collapse in Trump's support. However, you can absolutely find a small segment of the electorate for which the Gold Star stuff was a bridge too far. And you can find a small segment of the electorate for which "grab 'em by the pu**y" was a bridge too far. And you can find a small segment of the electorate for which 1/6 was a bridge too far. And those small segments start to add up. What we're saying here is that the guilty verdict isn't going to slay the Trump dragon all by itself, any more than his other scandals have done. But it very well could be a part of a death by 1,000 cuts. (Z)

The Price of Loyalty: Gosar's New Green Deal

No, that headline is not a typo. Democrats have a Green New Deal. Republicans would never have that, at least not under that name. And certainly, far-right Republicans like Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) would not have such a program, since they are in denial that climate change is real. Heck, Gosar might even be in denial that Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned. After all, it's only been 70 years since Brown v. Board of Education.

Nope, the green in this case is money. At the moment, Trump sycophants are falling all over themselves to demonstrate fealty to the Dear Leader, and Gosar has come up with a... distinctive angle. He has just filed a bill where it's hard to decide what is more ridiculous: The name of the legislation, or its content. It's called the "Treasury Reserve Unveiling Memorable Portrait Act" (in other words, the TRUMP Act), and it calls for the federal reserve to begin printing $500 bills with Trump's portrait on them.

We honestly don't know if Gosar is an ignoramus when it comes to civics, or if he knows the facts but he just doesn't care. He does know enough to know that federal law forbids the issuance of currency that bears the likeness of living people; his bill would waive that restriction. However, it is also the case that the $500 bill is not in circulation, and hasn't been for close to 100 years. It is also the case that large-denomination U.S. currency existed to make it easier to transfer large amounts of money between banks (or between businesses), a functionality that is irrelevant in the digital age. And finally, it is the case that the larger the bill, the greater the chances of counterfeiting. There is a reason that $100 bills have many, many more anti-fraud measures built into them than $1 bills.

Obviously, Gosar's proposal isn't going to become law; it's not even going to come up for a vote. Still, the Representative got what he wanted, which is a bunch of headlines speaking to his adoration of Trump. Maybe Gosar thinks he's in the hunt to be VP. Or maybe he's angling for a seat in the Cabinet. Or perhaps he just wants to be a presidential favorite in the next House, in the event that The Donald is returned to the White House. We don't know.

Similarly, House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-KY), House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) and House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith (R-MO) also want to be in good with Trump. So yesterday, they sent a letter to AG Merrick Garland asking him to file criminal charges against First Son Hunter Biden and First Brother James Biden for making false statements to Congress during their respective closed-door hearings earlier this year.

You never know what Garland might do in the name of "fairness," but we think it is exceedingly unlikely that anything will come of this request. Beyond the fact that this is obviously partisan grandstanding, both Bidens knew full well they were walking into the lion's den, and into a potential trap. Recall how insistent Hunter was, in particular, that his session be recorded. It is implausible that either of them would have committed perjury, knowing that was exactly what Jordan, et al. were hoping for.

Anyhow, get ready for an absolutely endless stream of this sort of nonsense in the next several months. First, because many Republican members of Congress are jockeying for position in Trump's orbit. Second, because many Republican members of Congress want their voters to remember how Trumpy their representative or senator is. Third, because there are likely to be a lot of not-good-for-Trump headlines this summer, and anything that suggests that the Bidens are corrupt/evil/criminal/whatever helps to drown those headlines out. (Z)

The Price of Disloyalty: Black Balled

The previous item covers some of the things that Republicans have been doing to please Donald Trump. Now, it's the other side of the coin: the price of deviating from the party line.

The current poster boy here is, of course, Larry Hogan. On the whole, today's Democrats accept that when a Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) or a Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is running for reelection, they might have to say some pretty centrist things to keep the voters of their purple-red states happy. On the other hand, the Trumpublicans do not accept that when a Republican is running in a blue state, they might also have to say some pretty centrist things to keep the voters happy.

A Hogan victory in Maryland would be HUGE for the Republicans, as it would make it nearly impossible for the Democrats to hold onto the Senate. So, the smart thing to do would be to leave Hogan to his own devices, since he knows Maryland better than any other Republican. His message about the Trump trial—delivered before the verdict came down, mind you, and tailored to the fact that he's gotta hold on to independent voters—was "let's respect the rule of law, whatever the outcome is." That would have been entirely acceptable to the Republican Party of Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan. But for the Republican Party of Trump, it's apostasy. Trump campaign manager Chris LaCivita was the first to pounce, and since then other Republicans, including Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) and RNC Co-Chair Lara Trump, have essentially ridden him out of the party. If the Republicans fail to retake the Senate, this kind of shooting-themselves-in-the-foot stupidity (which also includes all the godawful candidates they've nominated in swing states) will be the reason why.

Moving along, here's someone you probably haven't heard of: Courtney Gore. She is a former teacher and a mother of four, and so was very concerned when she began hearing from Moms for Liberty and from Republican politicians about all the brainwashing that is going on in the nation's schools. So, Gore ran for a seat on the board of the 7,700-student Granbury Independent School District and she won. Her goal was to do whatever was necessary to put a stop to all the evils she'd been told about.

Once Gore was on the job, however, one small problem presented itself: Everything she'd been told was a lie. She looked very carefully at the curriculum and, in particular, found no trace of critical race theory, or of anything trying to convince children to reject the gender on their birth certificate. She was relieved to learn this, and promptly shared the news with her many Christian/right-wing friends, and with the audience of her right-wing online talk show.

Gore's fellow right-wingers were not relieved to learn that the schools were not the disaster they feared. Instead, she was shunned by people she had previously been close with, and was denounced as a liar and a traitor. She is now attacked, and often threatened, at school board meetings. And when she attends, she has to have a marshal escort her to and from her car, so as to protect against potential assault.

How about another person you probably haven't heard of (unless you're a loyal reader of The New York Times): Cindy Elgan. She has been the clerk of Esmeralda County, NV, for the last two decades. This is a tiny, rural county with only 620 voters. As such, Elgan knows virtually every voter in the county by name. And she has successfully administered dozens of elections over the years.

In 2020, Trump got 82% of the votes in the county, including Elgan's (in fact, she has flown a Trump flag outside of her house). However, some residents thought that total was fishy, and it should have been... even higher. And so, they started demanding answers. Elgan has bent over backwards, sideways, forwards and upside-down to take the complainers through the process, and to assure them that the tally was legitimate. And her reward, as with Courtney Gore in Texas, is that she's now being shunned by people whom she regarded as friends for decades (including her next door neighbor). Oh, and Elgan is also being subjected to a recall election.

Stories like these help explain why so few Republicans break ranks these days, no matter how outlandish Trump's statements are, or no matter how bad his behavior is. Witness, for example, the extent to which nearly every Republican, even the supposed moderates, instantly adopted the "the Trump trial was a politically motivated sham" line. That was literally the only response available that excused Trump for being a convicted felon.

That said, these stories also illustrate a truism about extremist movements: They eventually turn inward, as members accuse each other of not being extreme enough, or being extreme in the wrong way. The useful thing about having a party line is that it helps to maintain extreme loyalty. The bad thing is that you eventually end up purging enough people that your movement ceases to be viable. (Z)

Fascism Alert: DeSantis Still Trying to Woo Right-Wing Voters

As most readers probably know, it's Pride Month right now. Certainly, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) had it circled on his calendar. Not so he could celebrate the occasion, mind you, but so he could use it to do a little virtue signaling.

At issue here is bridges. Actually, it's not even the bridges, it's the lighting on the bridges. Normally, that lighting is some shade of white or yellow, but it's entirely possible to switch to other colors, as occasions dictate. Think red and green for Christmas, or blue and white for Hanukkah. And a number of communities in Florida have gotten in the habit of using rainbow lights during Pride Month.

This is where the Governor comes in. On May 27, which just so happens to be days before the commencement of Pride Month, he ordered that until September 2, the only acceptable colors for bridge lighting are red, white and blue, in celebration of what DeSantis calls "Freedom Summer." Here is how Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue (R) described the new policy on eX-Twitter:

As Floridians prepare for Freedom Summer, Florida's bridges will follow suit, illuminating in red, white, and blue from Memorial Day through Labor Day! Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida continues to be the freest state in the nation.

We would like to remind readers, at this point, that we have been very reluctant to deploy the word "fascism" to describe what's going on with the Trump wing of the modern Republican Party. However, micromanaging things to the point that some color combinations are state-approved and others are state-forbidden? And then having the temerity to declare that this sort of thought policing is actually evidence that Florida is "the freest state in the nation"? We struggle to think of a better example of what George Orwell called "goodthink." In any case, this kind of thing is absolutely, 100%, no doubt about it, right out of Fascism 101.

DeSantis is term-limited, so he's not going to be running for governor again. And yet, he's back to the sort of performative nonsense that characterized his failed presidential campaign. Clearly, the Governor thinks he still has a political future, probably as 2028 presidential nominee of the Republican Party. We think he's delusional, but the point is, he's not going to go gentle into that good night, and he's going to continue to inflict his brand of poison on Florida and on the country as a whole. (Z)

Wheel of Fortune: Time to Turn the Page

An era came to an end in Normandy yesterday. And another one—admittedly one of much lesser significance—comes to an end today. After 41 years and 8,000+ episodes (both records), Pat Sajak will end his run as the host of the game show Wheel of Fortune with today's episode.

What does this have to do with politics? Well, we've written a little bit about this before, but Wheel of Fortune draws a fairly large audience—about 8 million people per episode, which would be Nielsen Top 10 territory if it was a primetime network program. It also draws the oldest audience on TV; the average viewer is well north of 65 years of age. And so, the show is very popular with political campaigns. You have a large audience of people who vote and who share many of the same political concerns (Social Security, prescription drug prices, etc.). So, a commercial aired during Wheel of Fortune offers great "bang for the buck"—the best of any show on TV, in fact, according to Republican and Democratic operatives.

More than a decade ago, the most enthusiastic purchaser of ad time on Wheel of Fortune was... Barack Obama, to great effect. Since then, the advertising has skewed much more rightward. The new host will be Ryan Seacrest, who is pleasant and very milquetoast, meaning he's an ideal game show host. However he's different from Sajak in three obvious ways: Seacrest does not have the familiarity that 40 years on TV brings, he's almost 30 years younger than Sajak and he's not an outspoken conservative like Sajak is.

Maybe the show's audience will hold, despite the change (although there was some slippage with The Price Is Right when Bob Barker handed the reins over to Drew Carey, for what it's worth). Anyhow, this is not a story of major importance, but it's still worth noting, because there could be a small but palpable change in the political mediascape. (Z)

Foreign Elections: India's Voters Ding Modi

We had an item on the election in Mexico earlier this week, but there have been two other foreign elections worth mentioning, too.

First, as most readers will have heard by now, Indian PM Narendra Modi won a third term, but his National Democratic Alliance took a serious electoral hit, such that this will be Modi's first coalition government.

Meanwhile, over in South Africa, a similar story played out. After 30 uninterrupted years in the majority, the African National Congress (ANC), which is the party founded by Nelson Mandela, took a beating at the polls, and is going to have to try to form a coalition government. Modi has already dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's; whether the ANC can also do so remains an open question. They have just 10 more days to figure it out.

We wanted to note these stories before they were too far out-of-date. However, we do have some thoughts on how these results might be relevant to American politics. And we are also going to have a reader report from India. If any readers are in a position to share some thoughts from Mexico or from South Africa, please do let us know at We'll have that material next week. (Z)

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Day and Fortnight

The headline theme is finally back! For this one, we gave the hints "you'll need some time to figure it out" and "yesterday you had a week to solve it, but you didn't have a fortnight." And now, here is the answer key from the last time we did it, way back in mid-May, courtesy of reader W.M.H.B in Salamanca, Spain:

The headlines all have units of time in them:
  • Trump Legal News: The Trial (Day 18)
  • In Congress: This Week in Performative Politics
  • The Supreme Court: Just a Minute There, Fifth Circuit
  • Abbott: From 25 Years Down to 1
  • I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Heat of the Moment
  • This Week in Schadenfreude: Giuliani about to Lose a Second Job
  • This Week in Freudenfreude: Living in the 18th Century

The one from the week before this one was very tough, so we tried to make this one a bit more accessible.

Here are the first 30 readers to get it right:

  1. W.M.H.B in Salamanca
  2. E.K. in Arlington, MA
  3. G.K. in Hillsborough, NJ
  4. R.D. in Cheshire, CT
  5. R.S. in Milan, OH
  6. J.D.W. in Baltimore, MD
  7. M.A. in Boston, MA
  8. J.L. in Paterson, NJ
  9. D.C. in South Elgin, IL
  10. S.L. in Wavre, Belgium
  11. M.J. in Oakdale, MN
  12. G.W. in Avon, CT
  13. R.S. in Madrid, Spain
  14. S.G. in Durham, NC
  15. J.S. in Chevy Chase, MD
  16. A.O'N. in Wiesbaden, Germany
  17. M.R. in Concord, MA
  18. J.M. in Eagle Mills, NY
  19. M.Z. in Sharon, MA
  20. M.R. in Washington, DC
  21. J.L.G. in Boston, MA, who adds: "I read the post in the blink of an eye, and wanted to send this off in a jiffy, but am afraid I missed something that I would have seen if I'd just waited a spell."
  22. G.G. in Nottinghamshire, England, UK
  23. J.C. in Long Beach, NY
  24. D.D. in Highland Park, IL
  25. R.L. in Concord, MA
  26. D.W.B. in Waynesville, NC
  27. T.F. in Craftsbury Common, VT
  28. R.W. in Bensenville, IL
  29. N.H. in London, England, UK
  30. J.C. in Daytona Beach, FL

We also had one person who got last week's headline theme correct. That was reader D.S. in Layton, UT, who wrote: "I feel good about this one: Songs written by Crickets that were covered by The Bobby Fuller Four."

As to this week's headline, thank goodness we don't have to work around the Trump trial headlines anymore, as we were running out of things to do with the words "trial" and "day." Anyhow, it relies on one word in each headline, and the very first headline is not part of it (many people died in the D-Day landings). The theme would probably be in the Trivial Pursuit category History, but don't pay too much attention to that, because it only makes that category by virtue of it being the least bad fit. As to a hint, we will tell you that we originally had the headline "Trump Polls: Voters Reacting to Verdict," but we changed it to "This Week's Polls: Voters' Reaction to Verdict Is Surprisingly Swift." That is because we aren't 100% sure that the first version fits the theme, but we know the second version does.

If you have a guess, send it in at, ideally with subject line "June 7 Headlines." (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: Jones, Bannon Learn that Actions Have Consequences

Donald Trump may be able to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge the consequences of his actions for a seemingly interminable amount of time, but his acolytes are not so lucky. Two of them, in particular, felt the pinch this week.

Steve Bannon, as you might recall, has been sentenced to 4 months in prison for contempt of Congress. Taking a page from the book of the Dear Leader, Bannon appealed, in hopes of delaying his sentence until after the November elections. Initially, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols stayed the sentence. But now that Bannon has lost before a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nichols sees no further reason for delay. And so, yesterday, he ordered Bannon to report by July 1 to begin his sentence.

Bannon is still planning to ask for an en banc hearing of his case, and then to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. And he might be granted cert, and one of those bodies or the other might step in and stay his sentence until they have time to rule. But it's not terribly likely, particularly not on such a tight timeline. And if Bannon ends up in the pokey from July through October, it means his pro-Trump talk show will be off the air for nearly the entire balance of the presidential election cycle. It also means that a pardon won't be a Get out of Jail Free card, since even if Trump is returned to the White House, Bannon will have already served his time.

Meanwhile, far-right talk show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is much, much closer to having to pay the piper. Jones thinks he is much smarter than everyone else, and certainly much smarter than Uncle Sam. So, he took steps to hide his assets, with the notion that he would make himself judgment-proof. He is not much smarter than everyone else, as it turns out. In fact, he might not be smarter than ANYONE else. In any event, the authorities managed to cut right through all of Jones' trickery, and yesterday he was compelled to agree to liquidate his personal assets, so as to satisfy some portion of the $1.5 billion judgment he owes to the families of the Sandy Hook victims.

One of the implications of this development is that Jones will no longer own InfoWars. That outlet could be liquidated, or it could be placed up for sale. If it's the latter, it will probably be acquired by some other right-wing entity and folded into their operation. But wouldn't it be great if some well-heeled left-wing donor bought it, and changed the name to something like "LGBTQ Southerners for Michelle Obama"? Now THAT would be some schadenfreude. (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreude: Bill Walton... Motormouth

It was mentioned in the mailbag this past weekend, but basketball player and announcer Bill Walton passed away last week. He was an admirable figure in a number of ways; in addition to his outstanding basketball career, he was also a generous soul who gave freely of his time, a mentor who helped countless people get started in the announcing business, and a good friend to seemingly everyone in the sports media.

One thing that hasn't gotten quite as much attention is... his stuttering. Up through his late 20s, Walton was often tongue-tied, to use the slang of that era. That made it difficult for him to talk to the media, a source of much angst throughout his legendary college career, and into his pro career.

Eventually, Walton talked to Marty Glickman, himself an elite-athlete-and-stutterer-turned-basketball-announcer. And what Glickman told Walton is that being able to speak properly is not a birthright for everyone, and that some people have to work at it, just as hard as they worked to become an elite athlete (or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a fireman, or a teacher). So, Walton put his nose to the grindstone, and by the time he was 30, he had largely conquered his stutter. Thereafter, he became somewhat legendary for his loquaciousness. Walton himself explained that he became a "motormouth" to make up for all the lost time before the age of 30.

Given that Walton not only overcame his stutter, but made a living from talking, he became a role model and helper to many other stutterers. To take one example, Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation, spoke to the BBC and said: "People like Bill Walton are so important, because he's like: 'Look, I stutter sometimes, and here I am an announcer on NBC,' If someone contacted us and said they would like to reach out to Bill (for advice), we knew that he would always answer."

Anyhow, rest well, Bill Walton; you've surely earned it.

Also, readers may recall that we solicited questions about stuttering a month or so ago, and got answers from a reader who has experience in the matter. We'll be running those next week. Until then, have a good weekend, all! (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

Arizona, Florida and Nevada are basically equally red? That's a bit hard to accept.

If Virginia really is a toss-up, then Joe Biden is in deep trouble. (Z)

State Joe Biden Donald Trump Start End Pollster
Arizona 46% 51% Jun 01 Jun 04 Beacon + Shaw for Fox
Florida 46% 50% Jun 01 Jun 04 Beacon + Shaw for Fox
North Carolina 43% 48% May 31 Jun 03 East Carolina U.
Nevada 45% 50% Jun 01 Jun 04 Beacon + Shaw for Fox
Virginia 48% 48% Jun 01 Jun 04 Beacon + Shaw for Fox

Click on a state name for a graph of its polling history.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun06 Trump Wants the Gag Order Lifted before the Debate
Jun06 Democrats Are Telling Biden That He Needs to Tell Voters He is Feeling Their Pain
Jun06 Hunter Biden's Trial Got Personal
Jun06 Trump Begins Vetting the Veepables
Jun06 Trump Has a Plan: Jail His Opponents
Jun06 Democrats Are Going to Try to Flip State Chambers in Five States
Jun06 House Republicans Are Trying to Defund Election Security
Jun06 The Washington Post CEO Has Fired the Executive Editor, Sally Buzbee
Jun06 Is Gary Hart Responsible for Trump?
Jun06 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun05 Voters in Five States, DC Head to the Polls
Jun05 Biden Issues Executive Order, Fallout Promptly Commences
Jun05 Trump Legal News: Smooth Criminal
Jun05 The Trump Prosecution Was Not Politically Motivated
Jun05 She's Got the Money
Jun05 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun04 Biden to Issue Executive Order on Mexican Border
Jun04 Biden Lays Out Ceasefire Plan for Israel
Jun04 Senate to Vote on Contraception on Wednesday
Jun04 Newton's Third Law of Ballot Access?
Jun04 First Hunter Biden Trial Begins...
Jun04 ...While Trump's Trials Continue to Idle in Neutral
Jun04 Trump Claims $53 Million Haul after Verdict
Jun04 Trump Allegedly Used THAT Racial Slur on "The Apprentice"
Jun03 Let the Monday Morning Quarterbacking Begin
Jun03 Opinions from Various Experts
Jun03 Let the Grandstanding Also Begin
Jun03 It's Not about Addition, It's about Subtraction
Jun03 Republicans Have an Election Strategy: Try to Win after Election Day
Jun03 We Might Learn Something Tomorrow
Jun03 Manchin Has Registered as an Independent
Jun03 Poll on Verdict Shows Country is Still Badly Split
Jun03 Polling Is Tough
Jun03 Mexico Elects a Woman as President
Jun02 Sunday Mailbag
Jun01 Saturday Q&A
May31 Trump Legal News: I Fought the Law (and the Law Won)
May31 Today's Presidential Polls
May30 Judgment Day
May30 Follow the Money
May30 Biden Will Spend over $10 Million Wooing Black Voters
May30 It's Deja Vu All Over Again
May30 Herschel Walker Still Has $4.3 Million in His Campaign Warchest
May30 Alito to Congress: Go Shove It
May30 Kennedy Opposes Tearing Down Statues of Confederate Leaders
May30 Blue Tent Is Back
May30 Today's Presidential Polls
May29 Trump Legal News, Part I: The Trial (Day 21)
May29 Trump Legal News, Part II: Cannon Takes a Shot at Smith
May29 White House: Red Line Was Not Crossed