The big question on the minds of all political junkies now is: "How will the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision affect the midterms?" Kyle Kondik over at "Sabato's Crystal Ball" has taken a stab at it as follows:
In short, the issue will certainly help the Democrats, but will it be enough? And where will it be enough? National polls don't matter. What matters is how it plays out in maybe 30 House races and 10 Senate races.
One thing that is already clear is that Democrats won't lack money. In the first week after the Dobbs decision, they raised $80 million for ads. In the coming weeks and months, they will surely raise that amount again and again. The TV stations in swing states are already salivating.
A few times we have said that if some 13-year girl is raped, gets pregnant, and is forced to carry the baby to its birth, the Democrats are going to use her as the poster child for why abortion is needed. OK, we were off by a couple of years. We admit we were wrong. The girl who was raped and was unable to get an abortion in was 10, not 13. The judge said: Stay pregnant. However, this was in Brazil.
But a 10-year-old pregnant girl in Ohio was also denied an abortion. How she got pregnant has not been made public, and doesn't really matter so much (though the Republicans might try to say: "If it was consensual sex, it was her own fault, so tough luck."). After all, it was statutory rape. even if it wasn't forcible rape. Consequently, the Democrats would be correct if they started running ads saying Republicans want 10-year-old rape victims to carry the rapist's baby to term. The ads wouldn't show any specific victim, of course, but could just have short, distant shots of unrecognizable little girls in a playground.
She can probably get an abortion in nearby Indiana, which hasn't updated its abortion law quite yet, so there is a small window of opportunity. But in a few months, that window will be gone in half the states. (V)
California isn't the only state trying to put protection for abortion in the state Constitution. New York is at it, too. In a special session called by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Friday, the state Senate approved an amendment 49-14 with just a couple of minutes' discussion. Some intern then ran the bill over to the Assembly, which approved it 98-43.
However, the amendment has a way to go yet. It must first pass the newly elected legislature next year. If it passes again, it is eligible to be put on the ballot for the voters to decide. That would most likely be on the Nov. 2024 ballot, when turnout is expected to be high. Given how blue New York is, it is virtually inconceivable any future legislature in the state could pull off the trick of getting two consecutive sessions of the legislature to approve an amendment repealing this one. And if it could, the voters would certainly kill it.
The amendment also protects contraception. In addition, it defines many protected classes. In part, the amendment reads:
No person shall, because of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, creed [or], religion, or sex, including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy, be subjected to any discrimination in [his or her] their civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation, or institution, or by the state or any agency or subdivision of the state, pursuant to law.
Did they miss anyone or anything? The amendment could have added that a fetus is not legally a person until it has been born or from its mother's womb untimely ripp'd. That would have been the icing on the cake, but the legislators forgot it.
In Michigan, abortion-rights groups are trying to get a measure on the November ballot that would amend the state Constitution to guarantee the right to an abortion.
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) just signed a bill that would protect people who visit New Jersey for the purpose of getting an abortion. But this is just a law, not a constitutional amendment.
Oh, and while the New York state legislature was busy trying to update the state Constitution, it also passed an amendment that bans carrying guns in subways, parks, hospitals, stadiums, day care centers, Times Square, and a bunch of other places. Also, it makes guns off-limits on all private property unless the owner has expressly allowed them.
In addition, anyone applying for a gun permit must pass all of the following:
And even if the applicant passes them all, local officials still have some discretion and can deny the permit. Supreme Court, here we come. (V)
The Select Committee's Vice Chair, Liz Cheney (R-WY), sat for an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl yesterday. She said the Select Committee might make multiple criminal referrals to the Dept. of Justice after it has finished its work. She also noted that the DoJ doesn't need a referral to bring charges. In fact, it is already looking at the coup attempt and will make its own decision, with or without the Committee's blessing.
The Committee is apparently split on whether to make a criminal referral. Cheney is apparently in favor of it, but other members are not. From a legal perspective, a referral means nothing at all. In essence, it is just a letter from chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) that would read: "Dear Attorney General Garland, My committee thinks Donald Trump might have committed a couple of crimes on Jan. 6, 2021. You might want to look into it. Yours truly, Bennie Thompson." Garland doesn't need Thompson to tell him to investigate the attempted coup. He is already doing so.
Politically, it is a different story. If a congressional committee were to formally conclude that Trump had committed one or more crimes, it would be extraordinary. It would dominate the news cycle for days. It might even catch the attention of people who didn't watch any of the hearings. It could also affect Trump's decision about if and when to announce a 2024 run (see next item). On the other hand, a recommendation to charge Trump might make Garland inclined not to do it, to avoid looking politically motivated. This is the argument inside the Committee for not making a recommendation.
Cheney also said the Committee has new evidence not yet shown about the former president's intense anger and activities on Jan. 6. That will come out in future hearings.
In addition, Cheney said that the Republican Party would not survive if it nominated Trump in 2024. She was also asked about her 2024 plans. She said she has three things on her agenda now: (1) Her work on the Committee, (2) her reelection campaign, and (3) her job representing the people of Wyoming in the House. She said she has not had time to think about 2024 and will make a decision down the road. Anybody who actually believes she has not thought about her 2024 prospects, please contact us, because we have some excellent oceanfront property in Wyoming for sale at a bargain price. (V)
There are increasingly many stories about how Donald Trump might announce his 2024 candidacy before the midterms, maybe even this summer. For example, see CNN, The New York Times, NBC News and Business Insider. What factors might play a role in his decision to announce now vs. waiting until January or later? We can only guess, but we will consider only factors that he might consider, not factors that the RNC or a potential campaign manager might consider.Trumpworthy arguments for announcing soon:
Of course, no one knows what he is going to do or when—probably not even Trump, as he is very impulsive and tends to listen to the person he last talked to rather than the one who gives him the best advice. (V)
Huh? It is certainly possible that the 2024 presidential campaign will be Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) vs. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), especially if Joe Biden and Donald Trump don't run (and see next item). But for Newsom to be running ads already against DeSantis is maybe putting the cart before the horse. Yet, Newsom just launched his first negative ad hitting DeSantis today, as a tribute to Independence Day. Here it is:
It is only 30 seconds, but worth watching since it is extremely unusual for a sitting governor running for reelection to attack another sitting governor he might be up against 2 years from now. Summarizing it, Newsom talks about freedom and how the governor of Florida is restricting it while California is protecting it. Newsom hits DeSantis, who is shown shaking hands with Trump, as opposing freedom of speech, freedom to choose, and freedom to vote.
Newsom clearly is not addressing Californians who happen to be vacationing in Florida at the moment. Last week he told CNN that DeSantis is already running for president and the ad is clearly intended to take him down a peg or two. He also told CNN that DeSantis is a bully, a fraud, an authoritarian, a fake conservative and a betrayer of Ronald Reagan's legacy.
The two men's styles couldn't be more different. When Newsom was caught without a required mask at a birthday party at a chic California restaurant during the worst of the pandemic, he sheepishly apologized. When DeSantis was caught without a required mask at the 2021 Super Bowl game, he said: "How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?"
If Newsom and DeSantis end up as the 2024 presidential nominees, DeSantis is going to base his campaign on the fact that Florida is gaining population and California is losing it. Newsom could come back, noting that if Florida gets another 20 million people, it will finally catch up to California. It is already clear that the two governors detest each other in a deep and visceral way. Each one is a rising star in his party. Newsom sees the Yale and Harvard Law School graduate DeSantis as a phony populist. DeSantis sees Newsom, who went to Santa Clara University, as a woke jerk. A battle between them for the biggest prize of them all would be as nasty as can be. This spat is just a tame preview. (V)
A new Harvard/Harris poll shows that 71% of registered votes do not want Joe Biden to run in 2024. Only a third of Democrats would vote for him in a primary Among the "please Joe, don't run" set, 45% said he is a bad president, one-third said he is too old, and a quarter said it is time for a change.
However, 61% say that Donald Trump should not run either. Among the "please Donald, don't run" set, 36% say he is erratic, 33% say he would divide the country, and 30% say he was responsible for the coup attempt.
Sixty percent said they would consider a moderate independent if both Biden and Trump faced off again. Don't believe it. Only under extremely unusual circumstances does an independent get 20%, let alone 60%. That won't happen. If it is Biden vs. Trump again, many noses would be held, but most Democrats would vote for Biden and most Republicans would vote for Trump. The way it looks now, though, is that both Biden and Trump will be their respective party's nominees next time unless Biden's approval sinks so low that he thinks he would lose. Then he might call it quits after one term and watch the resulting free-for-all in the Democratic primary.
It is possible that one or both of them are primaried. The more likely to face a serious opponent is Trump, especially if he is under indictment or is a convicted felon by the fall of next year. We can easily imagine Ron DeSantis challenging him. It seems less likely that Biden would face a serious, well-funded challenger. Too many Democrats remember the last time a Democratic president was challenged in a primary. It was Ted Kennedy challenging Jimmy Carter in 1980. Carter won the primary but was so damaged by it that he was crushed by Ronald Reagan in the general election. Democrats really don't want a rerun of that. (V)
Joe Biden has decided to fill an upcoming vacancy in a U.S. district court in Kentucky with S. Chad Meredith. Meredith, the current Kentucky solicitor general, is a deeply conservative opponent of abortions and then some. He also worked on controversial midnight pardons and commutations for the previous Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin (R), as Bevin slunk out of town after being defeated for reelection.
Democrats are furious. Gov. Andy Beshear (KY) said: "If the president makes that nomination, it is indefensible." Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) said he was strongly opposed. Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker (D) said: "The president is making a deal with the devil and once again and the people of Kentucky are crushed in the process." Has Biden lost his marbles, just as Republicans claim?
Actually, no. With 30 years experience in the Senate, Biden understands how the upper chamber works, especially with a 50-50 split that gives the minority leader a fair amount of power. Biden made a deal with Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that entails his nomination of Meredith to a district court position in Kentucky in return for McConnell not trying to block Biden's future appointments around the country. McConnell didn't get to be the leader of his caucus by double crossing people, so Biden is fairly confident that McConnell will do what he promised. Biden's calculation here is that this appointment is very important to McConnell, but not so important in the larger scheme of things (Meredith's rulings can all be appealed). Biden clearly feels that getting future judicial appointments through without a fight is worth sacrificing one out of 677 district judge positions.
Yarmuth, in particular, should have understood the situation better. He recommended two lawyers as U.S. attorneys. McConnell blocked them. Assuming McConnell keeps his word—something that will be easy to verify fairly soon—Yarmuth will get his suggestions realized quickly. Other Democrats sometimes fail to realize that when dealing with an opponent who has a fair amount of power to block your agenda, compromising with him is sometimes the best available option. (V)
Tim Miller, a gay #NeverTrumper and former GOP hitman, who writes for "The Bulwark" and Politico, and has written a book entitled Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell, has now written a piece on the 11 types of people who have enabled Trump over the years. It makes some good points. Here is a brief summary:
Some people don't fit into a single category neatly and may be in two or more at once. Chris Christie is a little mix, a team player, and a junior messiah all at once. In his own mind, he is Churchill, but to Trump he is a sniveling church mouse. Christie could have walked away, but he desperately wanted to stay in the mix, so he kept coming back for more punishment. Trump picked him to play Joe Biden in his practice debates—even though Trump knew that he (Trump) had tested positive for COVID-19. When Christie ended up in the ICU a few days later, Trump was worried about whether Christie would have the guts to blame him or would he keep silent and stay in the mix. He had risked death to stay in the mix and he wasn't about to give that up now. (V)
One person who is not a Trump enabler is former White House Counsel Pasquale "Pat" Cipollone. Donald Trump thought of him as his personal lawyer. Cipollone himself had a different view. He saw himself as the institutional White House lawyer whose job was to tell the president what was legal and what was not legal. If Cassidy Hutchinson is to be believed, he told everyone who would listen—and some people who wouldn't listen—that having Trump go to the Capitol to help the marchers sack the building and hang Mike Pence would get them charged with every crime imaginable.
Cipollone would be the star witness if he testified in public, even more than Hutchinson. She was just an assistant to the president (of which there are many), just out of college, and not a lawyer. Cipollone has a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School and was the highest-ranked lawyer in the White House. Select Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney has practically begged him to appear before the Committee. So far, he hasn't agreed, though he did informally talk to the Committee behind closed doors. Last week the Committee ran out patience and sent him a subpoena. He hasn't indicated whether he will obey it.
There are several specific topics that would come up if Cipollone testified. First, they would ask him exactly what he told then-chief of staff Mark Meadows when Trump was planning to go to the Capitol. Hutchinson reported what he said, but it is much stronger to get it from the mouth of the horse.
Second, Cipollone was involved in Trump's attempt to fire acting AG Jeffrey Rosen and install yes-man Jeffrey Clark in his place. They met at least once in the Oval Office on Jan. 3 to discuss it. He was in the room and could testify to Trump's state of mind and intentions directly.
Third, during the riot, Trump supporters were chanting "Hang Mike Pence." Hutchinson said she heard Trump discussing the matter with Cipollone. He could give direct testimony on what Trump said, including verifying first hand or denying that Trump said: "He deserves it." Hutchinson's testimony was indirect; Cipollone was an eye witness. His word is much more powerful than hers since he was actually there.
Cipollone clearly believes in the rule of law and no doubt talked to Trump many more times than did Hutchinson. On a few occasions, she was in the room when something dramatic was said or done, but she was never a principal, only a silent observer in the background. Cipollone was a major actor in some of the events before, during, and after the coup attempt. He is probably the best witness there is and as a lawyer, unlikely to perjure himself or take the Fifth Amendment during public testimony.
So why won't he do what he knows is the right thing (testify in public)? He is a practicing Catholic and undoubtedly knows the difference between right and wrong. The problem is probably something fairly mundane. Cipollone and his wife, Rebecca, have 10 children, ranging from 13 to 30. Assuming they are roughly evenly spaced, that's a new kid every 20 months or so. Most likely they have 5 or 6 children under 21. Cipollone is 56. This means he needs to work another 6-10 years or so to make sure all his children are through college (and maybe graduate school) without too much debt. Tuition at, say, the University of Chicago is $60,000 per year. With six kids at 4 years each, he's looking at a tuition bill alone of about $1.5 million, plus those already in college and not counting any of them who go to law school or graduate school.
If he were to testify and rat out Trump, he could never work for any Republican organization or candidate again. No future Republican president would appoint him to anything. No one on the right side of the aisle would trust him. He's not trained as a defense lawyer. He wouldn't be an effective lobbyist because he is not a congressional insider. Having helped nail Trump means he would have no chance at winning a Republican primary for any public office. As a conservative Republican, no Democrat would touch him with a barge pole. He would have a hard time finding suitable work that would pay enough to get all of his kids through college. If he stonewalls the Committee and defies the subpoena, every Republican outfit in D.C. would be happy to hire him—except that he would probably be disbarred for defying the subpoena, so that might not work either. This is the bind he is in.
What he might try to do is claim executive privilege. However, panel member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) told Meet the Press yesterday that there are limits to executive privilege, especially when it is in conflict with the legitimate needs of Congress. There is also a clear precedent on Lofgren's side: Former White House Counsel John Dean testified during the Watergate hearings. If Dean could do it, why can't Cipollone?
If Cipollone claims executive privilege and appeals it all the way to the Supreme Court, he might be able to delay the whole matter until after the Committee has been disbanded. However, the Committee might try to expedite the process and get to the Supreme Court much faster than usual, citing the urgency of the case. In any event, Cipollone has a tough choice to make and not much time in which to make it. The pressure being exerted on him now could turn all of in Joe Manchin's coal to diamonds. (V)
It is common in elections these days for Republicans to do well on Election Day, but end up behind in the final tally when all the absentee ballots are finally counted days or weeks later. This is sometimes called the "red mirage," because the Republican winning was really just a mirage and an artifact of the fact that Republicans like to vote on Election Day and Democrats often prefer to vote by mail. Absentee ballots are often counted after Election Day.
Well, the red mirage in Los Angeles' mayoral race dissipated on Friday when the final count in the all-party primary election was released. Rep, Karen Bass (D-CA) got 43% and runner-up Rick Caruso got 36%. On Election Night, Caruso was ahead, but when all the absentee ballots were counted, he tanked.
The two will face each other in November one-on-one. If Bass can get one-third of the 21% of the votes that went to other candidates, she will be the next mayor of Los Angeles. That shouldn't be so hard for her. She is already in general-election campaign mode.
Bass started out as a community organizer and later served six terms in the House in a Los Angeles-based district. If elected, she would be the first female mayor of the city and the second Black mayor, after Tom Bradley. The current mayor, Eric Garcetti, is not running due to term limits. He was theoretically going to be appointed ambassador to India, but that appears to be something the Senate won't sign off on.
The Republican-turned-"Democrat" Caruso had real momentum in the early months of 2022, thanks to a very effective advertising campaign funded by his considerable personal fortune. However, he eventually ran up against the fact that Los Angeles is majority-Democratic and majority-nonwhite, and he is not really either of those things, so his polling numbers stopped rising. At that point, he decided it was necessary to go negative, which was an error. This failed to turn voters against Bass, and at the same time undercut Caruso's message that he was offering something different from "politics as usual." In short, his goose is cooked. (V)