Needed 1215
Haley 21
Trump 116
Other 12
Remaining 2280
Political Wire logo Nikki Haley Hints She’s No Longer Bound by Loyalty Pledge
Slice of GOP Primary Voters Won’t Vote for Trump
Trump’s Allies Ramp Up Campaign Targeting Voter Rolls
Mike Johnson Opens Door for Ukraine Aid Package
Kamala Harris Marks Anniversary of Bloody Sunday
Biden Tells Ceasefire Negotiators He Wants a Deal
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      •  Saturday Q&A

Saturday Q&A

The question about bumper stickers produced good results, we'd say. Meanwhile, if you're still trying to crack Friday's headline theme, the answer is very well-rounded. Or, at very least, very round.

Current Events

K.G. in Madison, WI, asks: I ask this because I know that many agree with me that SCOTUS has lost its legitimacy and is just carrying water for Donald Trump (in particular) and other fringy arch-conservative causes (in general.)

My question: What happens when the Supreme Court loses credibility with a majority, or even a significant minority of the citizenry? Has this happened before?

(V) & (Z) answer: The Supreme Court has no power to enforce its own rulings, as it commands no troops nor anything more than a token police force. And so, it relies on government and private entities, and on individual citizens, to willingly abide by its decisions.

SCOTUS has lost credibility before, most obviously in the 1850s, following the Dred Scott decision. And the result is that its decisions are more likely to be outright ignored, or if not that, then various forms of pushback and nibbling away around the corners.

And, truth be told, we're already seeing some of that with the current Court. When the Roberts Court makes a decision, the response from others is often not "How can we make this work, consistent with the spirit of the law?" it's "How can we find ways to subvert this, by taking advantage of shortcomings in the letter of the law?" In particular, federal judges have been very willing in the past several years to issue rulings that run directly contrary to existing precedent, including very recent precedent. And they do that because the current Court has indicated that precedent doesn't matter all that much, and that there is no such thing as settled law.

C.F. in Waltham, MA, asks: Now that the SCOTUS Republicans have decided to join their fellow right-wingers in having no shame about being blatantly partisan, do you think they may rule for Trump immunity, but, like Bush v. Gore, state that this ruling cannot be used as precedent in other rulings? Are they finally OK with just abusing their power without any limits, just like Republicans in the House or Senate?

(V) & (Z) answer: First, note that there is an argument that SCOTUS is actually trying to be fair here. That is to say, if this case was being treated like any other, they wouldn't hear it until late this year and they would not rule on it until sometime next year. So, by expediting the timeline some, they could be trying to split the difference between what Democrats want (rule now!) and what Republicans want (rule on the normal timeline!).

Thus far, the Roberts Court has been very right-wing on some issues (abortion, civil rights), but has not been very Trumpy. So while it is possible they could find that Trump, and only Trump, can do as he pleases while president, we seriously doubt that is the conclusion they will reach. If they did, then an already serious legitimacy problem would become a five-alarm-fire legitimacy problem. The Court knows that, and it's hard to believe they'd accept that result just to help a guy most of them don't even like.

D.S. in Boston, MA, asks: Is it possible for a Supreme Court justice (e.g., Clarence Thomas or Samuel Alito) to withhold their dissent in the immunity case beyond the end of the supreme court term, so as to delay the decision until after the election?

(V) & (Z) answer: It is a matter of courtesy and professional decorum that justices hand in dissents on a reasonable timeline. It is also a matter of courtesy and professional decorum that the chief justice wait for all dissents until issuing a ruling.

What this means, then, is that any justice who engaged in egregious foot-dragging would be violating the norms of courtesy and professional decorum, while expecting that John Roberts would continue to honor those norms. And life just doesn't work that way. Thomas or Alito might be able to burn an extra week or two, but at some point Roberts would put his foot down, and tell them that they have until [X date] to finish their work, or the decision will be announced without the dissent included.

S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, asks: The expectation is that the Supreme Court will make their decision about Donald Trump's immunity by the end of June. Knowing that, could Jack Smith get the trial dated now for July or August to not waste more time if they are allowed to proceed?

(V) & (Z) answer: He could try, but in general courts do not block off 4-8 weeks of their calendar for a trial that might or might not happen.

We do think it is well within the realm of possibility, however, that AG Merrick Garland will put aside the DoJ policy about not holding a trial 60 or fewer days before an election, offering one or both of the following arguments: (1) Donald Trump is the one responsible for dragging things out, and/or (2) The American people must know whether or not Trump is a criminal before they cast their ballots.

J.H. in Boston, MA, asks: We heard from multiple times, as well as from other sources, that in order to file an appeal Trump would have to post a bond in the amount of 110% of Engoron's judgment, which likely strains his liquidity.

Now we have the news that his appeal has been filed. But no word about how/whether he paid the bond. Did he? And if so, how?

(V) & (Z) answer: We erred on this. In fairness, we were repeating the words of other outlets, who also erred.

Trump has not put up the bond. Nor is he required to do so. The only thing the bond does for him is guarantee that his properties will not be sold during the appeals process.

Needless to say, it's not so easy to seize and sell a property like Trump Tower or 40 Wall Street. There are some legal niceties that must be observed, and then the actual sales process must unfold (culminating, we assume, in some sort of public auction). What this means is that if any Trump properties are in danger of actually being seized and sold, he'll know about it with weeks (or more) of warning. That's when the clock really starts ticking for him.

J.U. in Surprise, AZ, asks: It has occurred to me that Donald Trump won't post bond. He will just dare the attorney general to seize his personal assets and use that as a campaign issue.

Do you see a possibility that this may happen?

(V) & (Z) answer: We do not. First, the government is under no particular obligation to get the best price for his assets and, according to multiple studies, tends to sell for about 60 cents on the dollar. Second, the government sells the properties it can most easily move, without regard to which ones Trump most wants to sell.

It is inconceivable to us that Trump would allow either of these things to happen. If a property is to be sold, he wants to pick the one(s), and he wants to do everything possible to get top dollar.

W.R.S. in Tucson, AZ, asks: Is there a possibility that Donald Trump's fines, fees and other personal monetary problems become so large that they interfere with his ability to effectively fund his presidential campaign? Or are his fundraising skills great enough that he doesn't have to rely on his personal funds for the election? Is there a possibility that the Republican Party would have to step in to pay for part of his campaign and it could impact downballot races?

(V) & (Z) answer: On the whole, Trump has never funded his own campaigns, excepting a moderate infusion of cash during his first campaign.

That said, his legal problems could have two adverse impacts when it comes to campaign money. First, depending on how successful he is at raiding the coffers of the Republican National Committee to pay his legal bills, it could deprive both his presidential bid, as well as other campaigns, of much-needed support. There have been a bunch of op-eds this week about how he "probably" can't use RNC money to pay his lawyers (see one such op-ed here). However, we've seen him do plenty of things that "probably" can't be done, because he's always been a person who doesn't worry about consequences, legal or otherwise.

The second, and we think more likely, adverse impact—and this one would presumably only affect him—is that donations might dry up substantially if donors think they are paying for lawyers as opposed to rallies, commercials, campaign staff, etc.

C.S. in Newport, Wales, UK, asks: I was surprised by your item on the social media companies' "common carrier or publisher?" case, and specifically that your suggestion that Fakebook and Twatter now want to be deemed to be publishers. I was under the impression that they wanted to have their cake and eat it—that is, wanted both full control over their content, but while not being legally responsible for it. If they are deemed to be publishers, doesn't that mean that they can be sued for all the defamatory stuff that they regularly publish/carry?

(V) & (Z) answer: We're not communications lawyers, but there is some verbiage in the Communications Decency Act and other legislation that protects them from liability. That said, the real dynamic here is that social media is a new kind of platform that existing law doesn't really apply to and, as you have already noticed, the companies are trying to shape the case law to allow them maximum freedom and minimum liability.

B.H. in Greenbelt, MD, asks: I have a question regarding the response of the Alabama legislature to the state Supreme Court's IVF decision. The legislature is reportedly about to pass a law that gives immunity from prosecution to doctors for actions taken during IVF. If this were the federal government, I would think that a law cannot simply overrule a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. Is the situation in Alabama analogous? Didn't the Alabama Supreme Court declare frozen embryos to be persons, with all the accompanying rights? And if a decision can be effectively negated by offering immunity from prosecution, isn't that applicable in other situations?

(V) & (Z) answer: Courts, both state and federal, both supreme and otherwise, merely determine what existing law says. The potential penalties for violating a law are the province of the legislatures.

And so, when a judge sentences someone to 12 years in prison for, say, assault, it is because the legislature in that jurisdiction has set a penalty of 5-20 years for assault. Similarly, it is entirely within the legislature's prerogative to set the penalty for a particular deed at "nothing." For example, every state's laws recognize that some killings are murder (big penalty), some killings are manslaughter (smaller penalty), and some killings are justified (no penalty).

And so, what the new Alabama law would be saying, in so many words, is: "Even if IVF embryos are people, per the state Supreme Court, doctors cannot be punished for any harm that might be done to them."

M.V.E. in Kitchener, ON, Canada, asks: Will the end of Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) time in leadership remove one of the last "adults in the room" when it comes to the GOP? Will this have the potential to leave the party without a meaningful policy and leadership rudder?

(V) & (Z) answer: It's a strange world when Mitch McConnell, a man who has twisted the Constitution so much you'd think he was pulling taffy, is now the bulwark of reason and sober, stable governance in the Republican Party.

The thing about the Minority Leader is that he had already basically lost control of the party. He has shown no ability to influence the far more reckless House Republican Conference, which is why there is not yet a Ukraine funding bill, despite the fact that McConnell badly wants one. He has lost the ability to handpick candidates for most races, which is why he's done so much carping about "candidate quality." And he has no influence over, or relationship with, Donald Trump whatsoever.

We simply cannot say what the next Senate GOP leader will bring. That person could be an institutionalist, like John Thune (R-SD). It could be that a younger man with fewer enemies is actually a more effective leader than McConnell has been for the last few years. On the other hand, the next leader could be a Trump lackey, like John Barrasso (R-WY). In that event, well, heaven help us all.

N.H. in St. Paul, MN, asks: I live in Minneapolis/St. Paul and am a fairly progressive Democrat. I have lots of Uber-progressive friends who are very unhappy with Joe Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war and I argue with these uber-progressive friends about the war frequently. One of their uber-progressive talking points is that Biden is "responsible" for the war against Hamas and, therefore, is to blame for the "genocide" of the Gazan people. They want Biden to initiate an immediate ceasefire and end the bloodshed. Or else, they warn me, they will vote third-party or simply stay home. Without delving into the efficacy of this "plan" (that could very easily usher in a second Trump term), my question for you is: If Biden had come out 100% against the war from the get-go, what could he/America have done to actually stop the bloodshed in that part of the world? Doesn't Israel have the resources to wage war on the Gazans with no help and/or blessings from Biden/the U.S.?

(V) & (Z) answer: It would neither have been practical nor wise for Biden to come out against the war from the get-go. There were three "audiences," for lack of a better term, that he was keeping in mind as he expressed support for the Israeli government with his words, and with military supplies. The first of those audiences was the American public. Yes, there are some voters who are very loudly denouncing his Israel policy right now. But there are also many more voters who support Israel, and who would not be happy if they believed that Biden had abandoned that nation without cause.

The second of those audiences was the Israeli public. Biden has relatively little power to impose regime change in that nation, and even if he did, the United States' record with that sort of thing is very poor. The people who really have power to impose regime change are Israeli voters. And now that they've seen Benjamin Netanyahu's management of this mess, and perhaps have learned a few things about how he manipulated things prior to the Hamas attack, they are not happy. It is improbable that Netanyahu can remain in leadership following the next Israeli election.

The third audience, and the one that is probably most important, but that gets the least attention, is the other nations of the Middle East. Biden's #1 goal here was to keep this conflict from becoming a broader regional war. That would be far, far worse for both the U.S. and for innocent civilians in the Middle East than what we've got right now. In order to dissuade Hezbollah, or LAAG, or AAB or some other group from taking their shot, the U.S. had to demonstrate muscular support for Israel.

At this point, the various necessary messages have been sent. This will allow Biden to potentially do three things: (1) push for a ceasefire, (2) cease sending military supplies to Israel, and (3) focus on sending humanitarian aid to Israel and Gaza. He's already at work on #1 and #3, and don't be too surprised if there's an announcement on #2 in the near future.

O.Z.H. in Dubai, UAE, asks: I didn't quite understand your response to A.Q. in Ithaca, wherein you stated that the U.S. veto of three U.N. ceasefire resolutions is a foreign affairs issue and unconnected to politics. It seems it is already having a major effect on domestic politics, at least in places like Michigan, as noted by T.B. in Detroit, and acknowledged by you. Are you saying that all the Arab-American and progressive anger over Biden's handling of the Gaza situation will all just blow over by November and so its not worth discussing? That seems like rather wishful thinking to me.

(V) & (Z) answer: Your characterization of our words is not remotely close to what we actually wrote. Here, for reference, is that answer:

We have not written about [the U.N. resolutions] because U.N. maneuvering is extreme inside baseball, and something that the vast majority of the voting public either does not follow, or does not understand, or both. Further, it's still a long time until the presidential election, and this situation is likely to develop substantially from where it is now.

For these reasons, we do not believe that the current bickering about ceasefire resolutions will have a palpable impact in November. So, there's nothing for us to write about, since our focus is politics and not foreign affairs. If this was September, and not February, then we might think differently.

We have never said that the Gaza War is not influencing U.S. politics, nor that voter anger is not worth discussing. What we DID say is that U.N. bickering is rarely on the radar of the American voter, and that even if people do take notice of such bickering right now, they will not remember it in 6 months. There are many other things that will shape their perceptions far more significantly.


J.L. in Richmond, VA, asks: A few months back you guys gave your opinions on whether it would be strategically smarter to vote for Joe Biden in a primary or vote for one of Donald Trump's opponents as a form of ratfu**ing. As I recall, the consensus was it would be better to show your support to Biden by giving him a good showing than try to hurt Trump. Since Virginia votes on Tuesday, I'm curious if your opinions have changed. I feel like Biden has been doing well enough in the primaries that there aren't huge concerns, and Haley winning even one state would anger Trump (which would give me personal joy) and potentially encourage her to keep up her attacks. What do you guys feel is the best strategy for a Democrat this Tuesday in a swing state—bolster the incumbent or ratf*** the competition?

(V) & (Z) answer: You're right that Biden is cruising to the nomination, and that even in those situations where he might display weakness (not on the ballot in New Hampshire, the "uncommitted" option in Michigan), he still crushes all comers.

So, our current thinking is that if you want to help Biden/hurt Trump, you should vote for Nikki Haley. She's not going to slow his march to the nomination, but the longer she stays viable, and the longer she's a thorn in Trump's side, the more likely Trump is to say something really stupid that alienates female voters.

S.C. in Caracas, Venezuela, asks: (Z), in reference to Nikki Haley, wrote: "...if she's really running for the 2028 nomination, well, losing bigly in primary after primary is not the best way to make the case that she should be the Party's future standard-bearer."

Don't you think that the cases of John McCain in 2000/2008 and, especially, Mitt Romney in 2008/2012 can disprove that assertion? I know that the important word in the case of your analysis of Haley is "bigly," but considering she is running against an incumbent of sorts and one that has a huge cult-like following, she is doing better than expected and, therefore, an eventual future candidacy should not be ruled out yet just based on her current performance, don't you think?

(V) & (Z) answer: First, in the foreseeable future, the case for the Republican nomination comes down to "I can win over the MAGA crowd." She clearly cannot.

As to the historical analogues, McCain was fairly competitive with eventual nominee George W. Bush in 2000, winning several states, and dueling him to a near-draw in several others. The same is true of Romney in 2008, excepting that there were multiple serious candidates, with the result that he and eventual nominee McCain were often winning with pluralities rather than majorities. Haley, by contrast, has not come within a country mile of winning a state. The real lesson of her campaign is not that a sizable minority of the GOP likes the cut of her jib, it's that a sizable minority of the GOP wants anyone but Trump.

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, asks: After the Nevada primary/caucus, you wrote: "[T]here's no way the RNC members can look at Tuesday's result and conclude that Haley is the second-best standard-bearer the party has." So who IS the second-best standard-bearer the party has? Since Donald Trump is clearly ahead in the primaries, it has to be a MAGA candidate. But is there any MAGA politician not named Trump who has the charisma to win the presidential election? What about MAGA celebrities like Elon Musk (who isn't a natural-born citizen as far as I know) or Tucker Carlson?

(V) & (Z) answer: Elon Musk is indeed ineligible by virtue of having been born a South African. And Tucker Carlson's turn as president will come right after the Votemaster-Zenger ticket completes its 8 years in the White House.

Thus far, no Republican has shown a particular ability to win over the MAGA crowd. It could be that it's not possible as long as Donald Trump is still around. Or, it could very well be that he is sui generis and nobody can do it period. That said, if you made us choose someone, we would go with Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH), who is considerably more clever than Trump, and considerably more skillful a campaigner than Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Alternatively, it could be someone who is just MAGA enough to get some of those votes, but sane enough to appeal to non-crazy Republicans. For a while, that person appeared to be Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA), but the thrashing he and his candidates took in 2023 would seem to argue against that. Maybe someone like Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL)? Or Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX)?

R.P. in Alexandria, NY, asks: For those of us regular readers of who happen to live in very Trumpy areas, even within blue states, I would like your take on another possible explanation for why TFG has been underperforming the polls. What if the missing factor in the polling models is the shy anti-Trump voter in 2024?

(V) & (Z) answer: We doubt it. The "shy" voter effect, if it's real, happens because one human is embarrassed to admit their true opinion to another human who is collecting poll responses. In the original case (Tom Bradley's gubernatorial run), it was liberal white voters who didn't want to admit they were not voting for the Black candidate. In the Trump case, it was people who didn't want to admit they were voting for someone like Donald Trump.

We can see how people might not be willing to tell their MAGA friends that they've decided not to vote for Trump. But we don't see why anyone would feel compelled to lie to a pollster about it.

L.S. in Ann Arbor, MI, asks: I received an e-mail poll this week from Emerson College promising only a few short questions, so I decided to participate. After I answered the first three questions, it told me I am not eligible to participate in this poll. The questions were: (1) What is my political affiliation (R, D, I)?; (2) How likely am I to vote in my state's primary (several choices ranging from "not voting" to "already voted") and (3) Which primary do I plan to vote in (R, D, and a third option I didn't understand). I believe it kicked me out because I selected (1) D, (2) definitely voting, and (3) R. As it happens, I voted for Haley. I appreciate Michigan having an open primary and I have taken the opportunity to vote for the least offensive Republicans many times over the years. Do you have any idea why Emerson wouldn't want to capture this information? This was a Michigan-specific poll and they should know we have an open primary.

(V) & (Z) answer: It seems a little odd to us. Extra data can never hurt. Surely a team polling primaries understands about open primaries, closed primaries, and the rest. Our best guess is that they were really interested in how Republicans were going to vote and why, rather than doing a simple horse-race poll. For example, they might have been after the demographics of Republicans who favored Haley and weren't interested in the demographics of a bunch of ratf**king Democrats.


G.W. in Minneapolis, MN, asks: Could one or more states decide to revert to the old days of the republic where the state legislature decides how to award electoral votes without having an election? Which states might be most likely to do this? And what do you think the political fallout might be?

(V) & (Z) answer: There is a legal theory, popular in some liberal legal circles, that once legislatures bestow the presidential franchise upon the citizenry, then the legislatures cannot take it away. However, this theory has not been tested in court, and until that happens and the theory stands up, then yes, a state legislature could theoretically reclaim the right to name presidential electors.

As to a candidate for doing so, it would have to be a state where the current majority would accept the loss of its presidential franchise, knowing that they were creating some sort of insurance policy against their EVs going to the other party's candidate. The state that seems to have very little regard for democracy, and where partisan control may soon be in doubt, is... Texas. We could see the Texas legislature clawing back control of the state's EVs, and Texas Republicans accepting that.

T.C. in Danby, NY, asks: In reference to South Carolina, you wrote: "It's just one election, of course, and an election that only involved voters from one side of the political aisle in a medium-sized, not entirely representative state."

What makes a state representative? Swingy-ness and close elections? A fortuitous blend of urban and rural population? Something else? Please try to rate all 50 states on "representative-ness." Or, maybe, just the top 5 and bottom 5?

(V) & (Z) answer: There is a company called WalletHub that has basically secured a monopoly on answering this question. WalletHub is not normally in the politics/information business (they're a company that helps people manage their finances), but this is an opportunity to get some publicity, and to show their math skills. So, every year, they publish the Electorate Representation Index. According to this year's list, which just came out a couple of weeks ago, the five states that most closely mirror the demographics of the American electorate are:

  1. Illinois
  2. Florida
  3. Ohio
  4. Virginia
  5. Pennsylvania

And the five that least mirror the demographics of the American electorate:

  1. Vermont
  2. Wyoming
  3. Alabama
  4. Mississippi
  5. Utah

You can click on the link if you would like to examine the full list.

Of course, the political parties don't actually care if a state is "representative." What they really want, ideally, is a state that will predict which of their candidates is most likely to win. On the list above, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania might serve that purpose pretty well, but probably not Illinois and Ohio, since the former is pretty blue and the latter is pretty red.

So, another approach would be to focus on the states that have the best track record of being on the winning side in presidential elections. All-time, the state with the best long-term "win" percentage is New Mexico, which has been on the winning side 89.7% of the time since becoming a state in 1912. If you prefer to limit it to more recent elections, Ohio and Nevada have only been wrong twice in the last 60 years (1960 and 2020 for Ohio, 1976 and 2016 for Nevada).

S.V.E. in Renton, WA, asks: You've brought up in the past how only two people have been elected president when their highest previous elected office was in the House of Representatives. Obviously, a large part of that is difference in stature and visibility between a representative and a senator or governor. But I wonder, how much of that is because of the 2-year terms in the House? It's much safer to run for president as a senator or governor during an off year, when losing the presidential bid doesn't also mean losing your current job.

(V) & (Z) answer: First, note that what we've written in the past is that only one person was elected president FROM the House of Representatives, namely James A. Garfield. There are several others whose highest elected office, before becoming president, was representative, namely James Madison, Abraham Lincoln and Gerald Ford. All three of those men had some interim, non-elected position in between their House service and their election as president (Secretary of State, private attorney, and VP, respectively).

Second, we doubt that the dynamic you note has been particularly important, since "you can't run for more than one office at a time" laws are not universal, and largely didn't exist until the second half of the 20th century. Indeed, when Garfield was elected president, he was ALSO a candidate for the House and the U.S. Senate, and he won all three elections.


B.W. in Easton, PA, asks: Our family vacationed in upstate New York near Ticonderoga. While slavery in New York was less common than in other parts of the country, there were many slaves used upstate in the lumber and other industries that existed there. Apparently, slavery was abolished there in 1827.

The owner of the house we rented also owned a house that had family cemetery on the property. Many of the gravestones were from the 1800s. On one of the gravestones was the cryptic statement (in quotes on the stone) "Friend of the slave." I initially thought this meant "Friend of the enslaved person" but in later years I have started to rethink that. Is it possible that it really means that the deceased supported slavery?

(V) & (Z) answer: We are 100% certain this person was an anti-slavery activist (very possibly a Quaker). Upstate New York was a hotbed of antislavery activism, as it was also a hotbed of liberal religious activity.

If the person had been pro-slavery, and felt strongly enough to put that on their grave, they would not have done so using direct language. Even back then, pro-slavery people were a little embarrassed, even if they wouldn't admit it. So, they invariably spoke in euphemisms (see the Constitution, which did not actually contain the word 'slavery' until 1865). This being the case, the headstone would have read something like "supporter of the natural order" or "friend of states' rights."

B.M. in Providence, RI, asks: There are a number of biographies about William Tecumseh Sherman, and he also authored extensive memoirs. What do you recommend reading for a balanced view?

(V) & (Z) answer: The Scourge of War: The Life of William Tecumseh Sherman, by Brian Holden Reid, is probably the best recent work. Not too far behind is William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life, by James Lee McDonough. Alternatively, if you want a little more context, Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War by Charles Bracelen Flood is less than 20 years old, but is already considered a classic.

B.J. in Arlington, MA, asks: What did Adolf Hitler do while in power besides, you know, waging war and killing people? Did he have other policies and programs? Did he get any legislation passed? etc.

(V) & (Z) answer: He got the sputtering German economy of the Weimar years back on its feet, dramatically reducing unemployment, while also supporting the production of goods (like the Volkswagen, the "people's car") that made some version of a middle-class lifestyle accessible to a much greater percentage of the German population. He also oversaw substantial investments in infrastructure, such as the autobahn.

For these reasons, Hitler had much support in the United States up through 1940 or so. Some of his advocates were unaware of the hateful things he had said about the Jews and other groups (Mein Kampf was published in 1925). Others dismissed his verbiage as empty rhetoric that he only used to gain political support. And still others, notably Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, though his leadership AND his ideas about the Jews were both great.

M.N. in San Jose, CA, asks: In taking a break from nonstop political coverage, I was watching a documentary about the Battle Of The Bulge in World War II (Adolf Hitler's last-ditch effort to divide the westward invading allied forces by seizing and denying the port of Antwerp from the allies). Hitler's gamble failed. Later in the program, the narration stated that had the Nazis been successful, the war may have been extended by several months or maybe a year (this comment does ignore the Russian army rapidly invading from the east).

But that got me thinking. Had the war been extended beyond when the atomic bomb was ready, do you think it would have been dropped on Germany instead of Japan? Bombing Berlin would have likely ended the war with Germany immediately and served the dual purpose of being the demonstration to Japan what would (could) be in store for them if they didn't surrender.

(V) & (Z) answer: There is a popular theory, mostly among left-wing scholars, that the U.S. would never have dropped the atom bombs on white people. The resident historian doesn't buy it. The U.S. had no problem firebombing Hamburg and Dresden (the latter being targeted just a few months before the Trinity test), and American leadership drew little to no moral distinction between massive firebombing and atom bombing.

The only question, then, is whether American leadership would have been worried about fallout, and the possibility of it reaching and harming allies in France and the U.K. Maybe that would have been a concern, but maybe not, since understanding of the effects of nuclear bombing was still pretty poor, and since the U.S. was pretty careless about fallout in the 1950s, even when it was its own citizenry that was put at risk (see Test Site, Nevada).

R.C. in Des Moines, IA, asks: I read a recent blog post by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in which he wrote about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Kareem expressed how he has never been able to understand how this could happen. He went on to state that "it was an opportunity to exert out anger and frustration based on ethnicity. If we went to war with England would we imprison people of English descent? Not a chance."

This got me wondering how German Americans were treated. Short of mass internment, which likely would have been impossible given the sheer size of the German American population at the time, how were German Americans treated writ large during World War II? Are there any books you could recommend on the subject?

(V) & (Z) answer: Germans were not often interned, but "not often" is not the same as "never," and it did happen to some people of German descent, both during World War I and World War II, particularly if those people remained German citizens. It was also the case that many Americans of German and Italian descent, while not interned, were required to carry special paperwork that they had to show to authorities on demand (most people who know about this today know it because the parents of baseball player Joe DiMaggio were among the individuals subject to these rules). Finally, some German Americans and Italian Americans who wished to join the military were required to get special permission from the War Department (most famously Patrick Hitler, nephew and fierce critic of Uncle Adolf).

For reading purposes, consider Enemies Among Us: The Relocation, Internment, and Repatriation of German, Italian, and Japanese Americans during the Second World War, which was just published a couple of years ago by John E. Schmitz (it was his dissertation). Alternatively, it's not so easy to find a copy, but you might like Fear Itself: Inside the FBI Roundup of German Americans During World War II by Stephen Fox.

And we commend you for following the work of Kareem. He has a degree in history from UCLA, so you know he's a genius.

S.K. in Drexel Hill, PA, asks: In your item about Russia being the dividing line for Republicans, you mention something you've said a number of times, that Ronald Reagan would be aghast at the support many in his party now have for Russia.

I'm not so sure about this, though. Reagan greatly hated the Soviet Union, for sure, but it seems like the main reason for his hatred was that the country had a communist government. That's completely gone, of course, and the Russian Federation of the 21st century is basically a right-wing capitalist dictatorship—a type of government that Reagan supported in many other nations (especially in Latin America). Is it possible that Reagan might approve of what has become of Russia under Putin?

(V) & (Z) answer: First, we will note that Reagan had many gifts, but one thing he was not was an intellectual. His views on the issues tended to be from the gut, and were much more about feelings than any sort of factual analysis.

Second, Reagan may have been willing to support dictatorial movements, particularly in countries with brown people, when he felt that all he had was two (or more) bad choices. But there is little question that his preference was for democracy and free will, and that he would see neither of those things in present-day Russia. Further, it may not be the U.S.S.R. anymore, but Vladimir Putin is still a former KGB operative, and that most certainly would not have sat well with the Gipper.

T.B. in Leon County, FL, asks: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) wrote: "We've now 86'd: McCarthy, McDaniel, McConnell. Better days are ahead for the Republican Party." What did he mean?

Okay, I looked it up in Urban Dictionary: a cheat or killer being driven 80 miles out and forced to dig his 6-foot grave in the Old West. I didn't know this. Is this a known term in today's politics? Has intra-party politics always been so nasty, and just out in the open now? My mean-spirited self would have said, "They got the dunking they deserved," if I was a MAGAt. Maybe that's why I'm not a politician.

(V) & (Z) answer: To start, 86'd just means "got rid of." It does not carry connotations of murder.

And, in general, we are very leery of folk etymologies, particularly the ones found on Urban Dictionary. It makes no sense that people in the days of horses would travel 80 miles to get rid of a person, since 80 miles was a full day's travel back then, and that's before we factor in the troubles of a resistant live person or a rotting dead person. Surely a mile or two would be more than enough. Even in the automobile age, the mafia took people 5-10 miles to get rid of the corpses, not 80 miles.

B.W. in Grayslake, IL, asks: Along the road today, I saw a custom license plate that said "H 88." Is this a dog whistle or what else could it be?

(V) & (Z) answer: For those who do not recognize the reference, the letter H is the eighth in the alphabet, and so 88 is white supremacist code for HH, or "Heil Hitler."

In most states, when you apply for a vanity license plate, you have to explain what your chosen phrase means. We assume that is also true in Illinois, though we could not verify it without a valid Illinois VIN and license plate number, which we do not have.

As to alternate meanings, 88 is also radio/telegraph code for "hugs and kisses." That meaning dates back to the 1830s, so it precedes the bigots' meaning by close to two centuries. That said, even if Illinois granted the plate on that basis, surely they did so before 88 acquired its new meaning. Otherwise everyone who wanted a nasty plate would come up with some innocent explanation (e.g., "'Siegheil' was just my grandmother's maiden name).


E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, asks: I was intrigued to learn that (V) was involved in a European court case involving routers, so I tried looking for more information. Although I found that (V) was one of many highly-accomplished academics who signed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court (Google v. Oracle), I couldn't find anything about the routers case. Can you please tell us more about the case and about how (V) was involved? Is the case still going on? If not, what was the outcome?

(V) & (Z) answer: A big U.S. company that manufactures routers hit a bureaucratic snag when it wanted to import them into Europe decades ago, back when the European phone system was run by government PTTs (Post, Telephone, and Telegraph administrations). The PTTs called the routers telecommunications equipment and wanted the right to place tariffs on them or even block them. In his book on computer networks, (V) had written "a router is a specialized kind of computer." Someone at the company had taken a college course using the book and remembered that remark. He assumed (V) would be a friendly consultant. The company approached (V) and there were several meetings. They wanted a detailed legal brief that could be given to a judge to explain the difference between a computer and telecommunications equipment and show why a router was a computer.

Telecommunications equipment interfaces directly with the phone system—for example, a modem or PBX (Private Branch eXchange)—and has the potential to damage the phone system, hence the rules requiring PTT approval. Routers have CPUs, RAM, disks, and input/output ports, just like normal computers. They simply have more input/output ports than a typical computer. Since routers interact primarily with other routers and only with the phone system at well-defined gateways, they don't come with much danger of damaging the phone system, so there is no real reason to treat them as telecom gear. The amount of money involved was staggering and the company wanted (V) to put in a large number of hours to help write the brief and prepare to be an expert witness in court if it came to that. It meant taking a leave of absence for an indeterminate amount of time. (V) didn't want to leave his Ph.D. and Masters students in the lurch, so he turned it down. In the end, the whole telecommunications industry was deregulated and the power of the PTTs (which tried very hard to ban the Internet in Europe) was broken.

As another aside, also decades ago, Microsoft was once found guilty of being an illegal monopoly in Europe because it bundled its browser, then Internet Explorer, with Windows, making it difficult for other browser companies to compete. It also bundled its media player with Windows. The E.U. decided that it would hire a monitor to ensure Microsoft would comply with the court ruling. Riding herd on a company with tens of thousands of programmers and thousands of lawyers was clearly major job. The E.U. offered the job to (V) and after some discussions in Brussels, he turned that one down as well. Kinda dumb, no?

Then there was the time the Dutch Parliament passed a law saying that the software in the vote-tabulating machines had to be open source, whatever that was. A consultant was needed to help write the tender to allow companies to bid for the contract on the vote-tabulating machines. The tender had to be written in such a way that the winner was assigning all of its intellectual property rights in the software to the Dutch government (which would then publish the code) as soon as it paid the bill and there was no way for it to weasel out. Note that this was the tabulating software, not the counting software. Precincts do their own counting and then call a central office to report the numbers, which get typed into a computer to add up the totals from multiple precincts. The software that added up the precincts was at stake. It was complicated due to the large number of parties (typically 30 but different ones in different cities), rules that allow parties to combine their totals, and how fractional seats are managed. This time (V) did it because he has always been a stronger supporter of (and contributor to) open source. Pity governments don't pay as well as huge multinationals with billions at stake.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, asks: Would you please share the prompt that produced Google's response about Sadie Hawkins Day? Inquiring minds need to know!

(V) & (Z) answer: It was just "Sadie Hawkins Day." Not even a question.

R.C. in Des Moines, IA, asks: I very much appreciate and enjoy the Sunday comments from readers. Sometimes I see a comment, such as Israeli "military leadership is independent from the government." To me a statement like this implies the civilian government has little control over military ops. But I can't seem to verify this. How much vetting of the comments is there? Can I safely assume the veracity of the facts in published comments, whether or not (V) & (Z) agree with conclusions of the writer?

(V) & (Z) answer: It is not practical, of course, for us to vet every assertion made in every comment.

That said, we are both trained academics, and so we're pretty good at identifying things that do not (or might not) pass the smell test. In those cases, we do verify, or else we just don't run that letter.

On top of that, we also know the identities of the letter writers, which means we know if a potentially questionable comment comes from someone we've never heard from before, or someone who's written in occasionally, or someone who's proven to be a regular and reliable contributor. That particular remark is not only from someone in the latter group, it's also from someone we know to have relevant knowledge of this particular area.

Reader Question of the Week

Here is the question we put before readers last week:

K.E. in Newport, RI, asks: What are the best political bumper stickers you've seen?

And here some of the answers we got in response:

P.V. in Kailua, HI: My favorite:

bumper sticker

T.B. in Leon County, FL:

bumper sticker

R.L.P. in Santa Cruz, CA: This one is fairly common. There are other versions for different politics:

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J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: I love how you can do personalized bumper stickers now. So this is what I used to have on my car when I had a car. Definitely got yelled at by angry conservative Christians for these:

bumper sticker

J.L. in Eugene, OR:

bumper sticker

W.W. in Jacksonville, FL: This bumper sticker is from a faux campaign for the presidency in 1972. Launched by the surrealist comedy troupe Firesign Theatre, fictitious candidate George Papoon ran a zany campaign against incumbent Republican president Richard Nixon and Democratic U.S. senator George McGovern.

bumper sticker

D.R. in Louisville, KY: My mom's all-time favorite bumper sticker:

bumper sticker

H.F. in New York City, NY: After the Saturday Night Massacre:

bumper sticker

M.S. in Canton, NY: Here's a favorite that I saw in 1973 or 1974, at the depths of the Watergate scandal. It spawned a zillion obvious imitations, but it's still the most clever of them; you might not even recognize that it is political unless you recall (as, of course, many people would at the time) that in Richard Nixon's blowout win in the 1972 election, George McGovern only carried one state.

bumper sticker

R.H. in Macungie, PA: In the late 1970s, I was living in Boston. I was a proponent of nuclear power and had a bumper sticker on my car that got a heated reaction from some Bostonians:

bumper sticker

H.R. in Pittsburgh, PA: This is from 2002, shortly after Bush 43 found his way into the White House. When I first saw it on the bumper of a car in front of me on the highway, I almost split my sides laughing: thankfully "almost", because I also "almost" lost control of my care and "almost" crashed. Surviving that moment of hilarity, I searched the primitive-but-functional Internet as soon as I got home and bought one for myself.

bumper sticker

P.S. in Gloucester, MA : Just after Citizens United was handed down, I saw this bumper sticker:

bumper sticker

N.F. in Liège, Belgium: Even though I supported Barack Obama the whole time, I got a kick out of this one from about 2010:

bumper sticker

J.L. in Chicago, IL:

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E.A. in Okemos, MI: Everyone needs a MAGA bumper sticker, yes?

bumper sticker

M.B.F. in Oakton, VA:

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S.S. in West Hollywood, CA: A picture of my 2020 primary season journey, unofficially proving Democrats will came around to the nominee even after their first, second, and third choices drop out:

bumper sticker

M.G. in Arlington, VA: Some very inside Jewish baseball seen in D.C., 2020 (ok technically, I saw this in 2021, after the fact):

bumper sticker

B.B. in Little Rock, AR:

bumper sticker

G.H. in North Manchester, IN:

bumper sticker

Here is the question for next week:

P.F. in Fairbanks, AK, asks: If (when?) Donald Trump's life is turned into a movie, which actor do you think would best portray him? You may bend the rules and choose someone no longer living if need be. Bonus: What would you title the movie?

Submit your answers to with subject line "Trump Actor"!

If you wish to contact us, please use one of these addresses. For the first two, please include your initials and city. To download a poster about the site to hang up in school, at work, etc., please click here.
Email a link to a friend or share some other way.

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar01 Shutdown?: Nope, Government Will Kick the Can Down the Road (Again)
Mar01 IVF Bill: Well, That Was Fast
Mar01 State of the Union: Britt Will Serve up This Year's Red Meat
Mar01 Un-Retirement: Once Your Foot Is in the Door...
Mar01 News From Across the Pond: Gaza War Is Wrecking British Politics
Mar01 I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Forged in Fire
Mar01 This Week in Schadenfreude: A Fool and Their Money?
Mar01 This Week in Freudenfreude: Strong Medicine
Feb29 McConnell Will Step Down as Party Leader in November
Feb29 Trump Got Mixed Legal News Yesterday
Feb29 Trump Seems to Be Underperforming the Polls So Far
Feb29 Why Won't Haley Drop Out?
Feb29 Wyoming's County Caucuses Start Saturday
Feb29 Russia Is the Dividing Line for Republicans
Feb29 DeSantis 2028?
Feb29 2020 Isn't Over Yet
Feb29 Demography is Destiny--But It Is Complicated
Feb29 AI Chatbots Are Already Giving Out Dangerous Misleading Information
Feb28 What's Good for the Goose Is What's Good for the Michigander
Feb28 One Last Look at South Carolina
Feb28 The Other Guy Is Out
Feb28 Story Behind AI Robocall Revealed
Feb28 Johnson Says He Doesn't Want a Shutdown
Feb28 IVF Fight Heads to Congress
Feb28 Looking Forward to 2024, Part IV: Reader Predictions, Donald Trump Edition
Feb27 Trump Legal News: Will Your Lawyer Talk to God?
Feb27 The Republicans Are The Nazis' Party
Feb27 Today in Republican Shenanigans
Feb27 Ronna Romney McDaniel Sticks to the Plan...
Feb27 ...And So Does the New York Legislature
Feb27 Biden Sits for an Interview with Seth Meyers
Feb27 Another Week, Another Useless Poll
Feb27 Looking Forward to 2024, Part III: Reader Predictions, Joe Biden Edition
Feb26 What Will Haley Voters Do?
Feb26 What Will Haley Do?
Feb26 Vice Presidential Candidates Exhibit Their Trumpiness at CPAC
Feb26 Nancy Mace Also Wants to Be Trump's Running Mate
Feb26 The Clock Is Ticking for Trump
Feb26 Democratic Groups Are Prepared to Attack Biden on His Possible Border Measures
Feb26 California Senate Race Is Tightening
Feb26 Sherrod Brown Gets Some Good News
Feb26 Is Facebook Like Verizon or Like CNN?
Feb25 Nikki Haley: Good, but Not Good Enough
Feb25 Sunday Mailbag
Feb24 Saturday Q&A
Feb23 IVF Decision: Republicans Are Running for the Hills
Feb23 Biden Impeachment: GOP Hopes Are Shattered
Feb23 Biden Age: Could the Antiques Roadshow Reach a Dead End?
Feb23 Right-Wing Websites in Decline: Breitbart's the Biggest Loser
Feb23 I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: The Big Break