Yes yes yes.
And the fight has to go on. I worry already about the midterms, what with all the Republican vote suppression going on.
Yes yes yes.
And the fight has to go on. I worry already about the midterms, what with all the Republican vote suppression going on.
Amen and amen!!
I’m not sure which is a higher priority: The John Lewis Voting Rights Act or stacking SCOTUS. On one hand, 2022 is barreling at us at breakneck speed; OTOH, without stacking SCOTUS, the JLVRA is at immediate risk from the fascist-stacked court.
April 30, 2021 (Friday)
In a hearing today before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee charged with investigating technology and information warfare, cyber policy and national security expert Dr. Herb Lin of the Hoover Institution told lawmakers that in the modern era we are not formally at war, but we are not at peace either:
“Information warfare threat to the United States is different from past threats, and it has the potential to destroy reason and reality as a basis for societal discourse, replacing them with rage and fantasy. Perpetual civil war, political extremism, waged in the information sphere and egged on by our adversaries is every bit as much of an existential threat to American civilization and democracy as any military threat imaginable.”
His warning comes two days after the power of warfare waged with disinformation once again became a top story in the U.S. On Wednesday, federal officials executed a search warrant on the home and office of Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani. To conduct such a search, investigators had to convince a judge that they had good reason to think a crime had been committed.
Investigators appear to be focusing on Giuliani’s successful attempt to get the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, recalled on April 24, 2019. Yovanovitch was one of our very top diplomats. She stood firmly against corruption in Ukraine, earning the fury of oligarchs connected to Russia, especially Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko; the country’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko; and the country’s former prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, who was fired for corruption. They wanted her gone.
On the surface, the case is about whether or not Giuliani was working for Ukrainian oligarchs as well as Trump when he undermined Yovanovitch. But it is really a story about disinformation. Giuliani wanted Yovanovitch out of the way because she refused to enable his attempt to manufacture dirt on the son of then-candidate Joe Biden, an effort designed to make it possible for Trump to win reelection.
A quick recap of the Yovanovitch part of the story: In late 2018, Ukraine-born American businessman Lev Parnas introduced Giuliani to Shokin, who was willing to say that he was fired because he was looking into Burisma, a company on whose board Hunter Biden sat (this was false). In December, Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman attended the annual White House Hanukkah party. Parnas later told people they had a private meeting with Trump and Giuliani, who gave them “a secret mission” to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into the Bidens.
In January 2019, Giuliani tried to get a visa for Shokin to come to the U.S., but Yovanovitch denied it. So Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman interviewed Shokin and Lutsenko where they were.
For the next three months, Lutsenko and Giuliani sparred over the announcement of an investigation into the Bidens, apparently in exchange for the removal of Yovanovitch. Meanwhile, in the U.S., journalist John Solomon, who was in contact with Lutsenko, wrote articles for The Hill attacking both the Bidens and Yovanovitch, and claiming that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.
And then on April 21, Porosheko lost a presidential election to Volodymyr Zelensky.
On April 23, Giuliani announced on Twitter that Ukraine was investigating Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC for conspiring with “Ukrainians and others to affect 2016 election.” And the next day, Yovanovitch was recalled.
The rest is history (sorry!): in the infamous phone call of July 25, 2019, Trump asked Zelensky to announce an investigation into the Bidens before the U.S. would release congressional appropriations to enable Ukraine to fight Russian incursions, a whistleblower complained, the Department of Justice tried to hide the complaint, and the Trump presidency began to unravel.
As the Ukraine scandal worked its way toward the president’s impeachment, Giuliani did not let up on his insistence that Ukraine, not Russia, had tried to undermine the 2016 election, and he continued to push that lie. By late 2019, the FBI warned Giuliani that Russian intelligence was targeting him to circulate lies about Biden. (It also warned One America News.) According to former FBI Special Agent and lawyer Asha Rangappa, officials likely did so both as a warning and to see if he would break away from the disinformation. He did not.
What is at stake in the recent story of the federal investigation of Giuliani is the role of disinformation in our politics. Crucially, Giuliani and Trump did not want an actual investigation of the Bidens: they just wanted an announcement of an investigation. An announcement would be enough for the media to pick up the story, and the fact it was made up out of whole cloth wouldn’t matter. People would believe there was something fishy with the man whom Trump feared (rightly, as it turned out) as his chief rival for the presidency, and his candidacy would be hobbled.
It doesn’t matter, Dr. Lin pointed out to the subcommittee today, whether foreign actors are working in concert or in parallel with American actors when they spread disinformation: the destabilizing effect is the same.
May 1, 2021 (Saturday)
In honor of this year’s Kentucky Derby (won today by Medina Spirit), I’m posting a piece my friend Michael S. Green and I wrote together a number of years ago on Ten Famous American Horses. It has no deep meaning… it’s just fun. It remains one of my favorite things I had a hand in writing, and I’m pleased to have an excuse to share it.
I’ll be back on the usual beat tomorrow.
General Robert E. Lee rode Traveller (spelled with two Ls, in the British style) from February 1862 until the general’s death in 1870. Traveller was a grey American Saddlebred of 16 hands. He had great endurance for long marches, and was generally unflappable in battle, although he once broke both of General Lee’s hands when he shied at enemy movements. Lee brought Traveller with him when he assumed the presidency of Washington and Lee University. Traveller died of tetanus in 1871. He is buried on campus, where the safe ride program still uses his name.
Comanche was attached to General Custer’s detachment of the 7th Cavalry when it engaged the Lakota in 1876 at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The troops in the detachment were all killed in the engagement, but soldiers found Comanche, badly wounded, two days later. They nursed him back to health, and he became the 7th Cavalry’s mascot. The commanding officer decreed that the horse would never again be ridden, and that he would always be paraded, draped in black, in all military ceremonies involving the 7th Cavalry. When Comanche died of colic in 1891, he was given a full military funeral (the only other horse so honored was Black Jack, who served in more than a thousand military funerals in the 1950s and 1960s). Comanche’s taxidermied body is preserved in the Natural History Museum at the University Of Kansas.
Beautiful Jim Key was a performing horse trained by formerly enslaved veterinarian Dr. William Key. Key demonstrated how Beautiful Jim could read, write, do math, tell time, spell, sort mail, and recite the Bible. Beautiful Jim performed from 1897 to 1906 and became a legend. An estimated ten million Americans saw him perform, and others collected his memorabilia – buttons, photos, and postcards – or danced the Beautiful Jim Key two-step. Dr. Key insisted that he had taught Beautiful Jim using only kindness, and Beautiful Jim Key’s popularity was important in preventing cruelty to animals in America, with more than 2 million children signing the Jim Key Band of Mercy, in which they pledged: “I promise always to be kind to animals.”
Named for his owner, August Belmont, Jr., who was overseas in WWI, Man o’ War is widely regarded as the top Thoroughbred racehorse of all time. He won 20 of his 21 races and almost a quarter of a million dollars in the early twentieth century. His one loss – to “Upset” – came after a bad start. Man o’ War sired many of America’s famous racehorses, including Hard Tack, which in turn sired Seabiscuit, the small horse that came to symbolize hope during the Great Depression.
Entertainer Roy Rogers chose the palomino Trigger from five rented horses to be his mount in a Western film in the 1930s, changing his name from Golden Cloud to Trigger because of his quick mind and feet. Rogers rode Trigger in his 1950s television series, making the horse a household name. When Trigger died, Rogers had his skin draped over a Styrofoam mold and displayed it in the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in California. He also had a 24-foot statue of Trigger made from steel and fiberglass. One other copy of that mold was also made: it is “Bucky the Bronco,” which rears above the Denver Broncos stadium south scoreboard.
American Marines in Korea bought a mare in October 1952 from a Korean stable boy who needed the money to buy an artificial leg for his sister, who had stepped on a land mine. The marines named her Reckless after their unit’s nickname, the Reckless Rifles. They made a pet of her, and trained her to carry supplies and to evacuate wounded. She learned to travel supply routes without a guide: on one notable day she made 51 solo trips. Wounded twice, she was given a battlefield rank of corporal in 1953 and promoted to sergeant after the war, when she was also awarded two Purple Hearts and a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.
Mr. Ed was a talking palomino in a 1960s television show by the same name. At a time when Westerns dominated American television, Mr. Ed was the anti-Western, with the main human character a klutzy architect and the hero a horse that was fond of his meals and his comfortable life, and spoke with the voice of Allan “Rocky” Lane, who made dozens of “B” westerns. But the show was a five-year hit as it married the past to the future. Mr. Ed offered a gentle homely wisdom that enabled him to straighten out the troubles of the humans around him. The startling special effects that made it appear that the horse was talking melded modern technology with the comforting traditional community depicted in the show.
8 ) Black Jack
Black Jack, named for John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, was the riderless black horse in the funerals of John F. Kennedy, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, and Douglas MacArthur, as well as more than a thousand other funerals with full military honors. A riderless horse, with boots reversed in the stirrups, symbolized a fallen leader, while Black Jack’s brands – a US brand and an army serial number – recalled the army’s history. Black Jack himself was buried with full military honors; the only other horse honored with a military funeral was Comanche.
Khartoum was the prize stud horse of Jack Woltz, the fictional Hollywood mogul in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. In one of the film version’s most famous scenes, after Woltz refuses requests from Don Vito Corleone to cast singer Johnny Fontane in a movie, Woltz wakes up to find Khartoum’s head in bed with him…and agrees to use Fontane in the film. In the novel, Fontane wins the Academy Award for his performance. According to old Hollywood rumor, the story referred to real events. The rumor was that mobsters persuaded Columbia Pictures executive Harry Cohn to cast Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity. As Maggio, Sinatra revived his sagging film career and won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Secretariat was an American Thoroughbred that in 1973 became the first U.S. Triple Crown winner in 25 years. His records in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes still stand. After Secretariat was stricken with a painful infection and euthanized in 1989, an autopsy revealed that he had an unusually big heart. Sportswriter Red Smith once asked his trainer how Secretariat had run one morning; Charlie Hatton replied, “The trees swayed.”
May 2, 2021
On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 36 Republicans sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona accusing him of trying to advance a “politicized and divisive agenda” in the teaching of American history. This is a full embrace of the latest Republican attempt to turn teaching history into a culture war.
On April 19, the Department of Education called for public comments on two priorities for the American History and Civics Education programs. Those programs work to improve the “quality of American history, civics, and government education by educating students about the history and principles of the Constitution of the United States, including the Bill of Rights; and… the quality of the teaching of American history, civics, and government in elementary schools and secondary schools, including the teaching of traditional American history.”
The department is proposing two priorities to reach low-income students and underserved populations. The Republicans object to the one that encourages “projects that incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning.”
History teaching that reflects our diverse history and the way our diversity supports democracy can help to improve racial equality in society, the document states. It calls out the 1619 Project of the New York Times, as well as the resources of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History, to note how our understanding of diversity is changing. It notes that schools across the country are teaching “anti-racist practices,” which it follows scholar Ibram X. Kendi by identifying as “any idea that suggests the racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences—that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group.”
The Education Department invited comments on these priorities. The department does not have much at all to do with local school curricula.
McConnell’s letter in response to this call for comments is disingenuous, implying connections between the teaching of a diverse past, the sorry state of history education, and the fact that “American pride has plummeted to its lowest level in 20 years.” There is, of course, no apparent connection between them.
He complains that Cardona’s “proposal”—it’s a call for comments—would “distort bipartisan legislation that was led by former Senators Lamar Alexander, Ted Kennedy, and Robert Byrd.” That legislation was indeed landmark for the teaching of American history… but its funding was cut in 2012.
What McConnell’s letter is really designed to do is to throw a bone to Trump Republicans. On Thursday, Trump called for Senate Republicans to replace McConnell with a Trump loyalist, and embracing their conviction that our history is being hijacked by radicals is cheap and easy.
The prime object of Republican anger is the 1619 Project, called out in McConnell’s letter by name. The project launched in the New York Times Magazine in August 2019 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first landing of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans at the English colony of Virginia. Led by New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, the project placed race and Black Americans “at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country.”
The 1619 Project argued that the landing of the Black slaves marked “the country’s very origin” since it “inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years.” From slavery “and the anti-black racism it required,” the editors claimed, grew “nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional: its economic might, its industrial power, its electoral system, its diet and popular music, the inequities of its public health and education, its astonishing penchant for violence, its income inequality, the example it sets for the world as a land of freedom and equality, its slang, its legal system and the endemic racial fears and hatreds that continue to plague it to this day.”
Their goal, they said, was “to reframe American history,” replacing 1776 with 1619 as the year of the nation’s birth.
The most explosive claim the project made was that one of the key reasons that the American colonists broke away from Britain was that they wanted to protect slavery. Scholars immediately pushed back. Northwestern University’s Dr. Leslie M. Harris, a scholar of colonial African American history, wrote: “Although slavery was certainly an issue in the American Revolution, the protection of slavery was not one of the main reasons the 13 Colonies went to war.” The project tempered its language over that issue but stood by its larger argument.
Trump Republicans conflated this project with so-called “Critical Race Theory,” a related scholarly concept that argues that racism is not simply the actions of a few bad actors, but rather is baked into our legal system, as well as the other institutions that make up our society. This is not a new concept, and it is not limited to Black Americans: historian Angie Debo’s And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes launched this argument in 1940 when it showed how Oklahoma’s legislators had written discrimination against Indigenous people into the law. But the idea that white people have an automatic leg up in our country has taken on modern political teeth as Trump Republicans argue that Black and Brown people, among others, are at the bottom of society not because of discriminatory systems but because they are inferior.
The former president railed against recent historical work emphasizing race as “a series of polemics grounded in poor scholarship” that has “vilified our Founders and our founding.” Calling them “one-sided and divisive,” he opposed their view of “America as an irredeemably and systemically racist country.” He claimed, without evidence, that “students are now taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but rather villains.” He said that “this radicalized view of American history” threatens to “fray and ultimately erase the bonds that knit our country and culture together.”
On November 2, 2020, just before the election, former president Trump established a hand-picked commission inside the Department of Education to promote “patriotic education” in the nation’s schools, national parks, and museums.
The commission released its report, written not by historians but by right-wing activists and politicians, on Martin Luther King Day, just two days before Trump left office. “The 1776 Report” highlighted the nation’s founding documents from the Revolutionary Era, especially the Declaration of Independence. It said that the principles written in the declaration “show how the American people have ever pursued freedom and justice.” It said “our history is… one of self-sacrifice, courage, and nobility.” No other nation, it said, had worked harder or done more to bring to life “the universal truths of equality, liberty, justice, and government by consent.”
Then–Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that multiculturalism [is]… not who America is.” It “distort[s] our glorious founding and what this country is all about.” Hannah-Jones retorted: “When you say that multiculturalism is ‘not who America is’ and ‘distorts our glorious founding’ you unwittingly confirm the argument of the 1619 Project: That though we were … a multiracial nation from our founding, our founders set forth a government of white rule. Cool.”
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden dissolved the 1776 Commission and took its report off the official government website.
But the fight goes on. The Pulitzer Center, which supports journalism but is not associated with Columbia University’s Pulitzer Prizes, produced a school curriculum based on the 1619 Project; Republican legislators in five states—Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Dakota—filed virtually identical bills to cut funding to any school or college that used the material. Other Republican-led states have proposed funding “patriotic education.” In Mississippi, Governor Tate Reeves called for a $3 million fund to promote teaching that “educates the next generation in the incredible accomplishments of the American Way” to counter “far-left socialist teachings that emphasize America’s shortcomings over the exceptional achievements of this country.” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem proposed a curriculum that explains “why the U.S. is the most special nation in the history of the world.”
May 3, 2021 (Monday)
Since the January 6 insurrection, Democrats have called the Republican adherence to the idea that Biden did not win the 2020 election “the Big Lie.” This term refers to a propaganda technique associated with Nazi politician Joseph Goebbels (although it did not actually originate with him). It refers to a lie told to garner power, a lie that is so big, so monstrous, and so outrageous that people believe it because they cannot imagine someone lying about something so important.
One of the hallmarks of the former president was his ability to turn any accusations against him into an attack on his opponents. True to form, this morning he set out to appropriate the term “the Big Lie” for his own. Rather than meaning his refusal to admit he lost the election, he wants to use the phrase to mean the opposite: that it refers to “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020.”
Trump’s insistence that he was robbed of the 2020 election is pure fantasy, designed at least in part to enable him to continue to raise money (as I’ve written about before), and certainly designed to whip up supporters to believe the Democrats are illegitimate. It has been the driving force behind voter suppression efforts in a number of Republican-dominated states, efforts that, in Florida, were so extreme they had Republican operatives contemplating carving out exceptions for elderly and military voters to make sure those traditionally Republican constituencies will not be hit by the new rules.
The effort to stoke the Big Lie continues to the present day. The Republican-controlled Arizona senate has authorized a private company with deep ties to Trump and his Big Lie to perform yet another recount of the ballots cast in Maricopa County last year. The firm, Cyber Ninjas, has no experience doing such a recount and is running the process without bipartisan observation. The goal appears to be to “prove” that the 45,000 votes Biden won in the county in 2020 were fraudulent, bringing his win of the state into question to “prove” that Biden’s overall win was fraudulent. One of the people performing the recount is Anthony Kern, a former state representative who was part of the January 6 insurrection.
Today’s incarnation of the Big Lie, though, appears to be an attempt of the former president to solidify his power over the remnants of the Republican Party leadership. According to a recent CNN poll, 70% of Republicans do not believe that Biden actually won the election, but a few leading holdouts, including Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), refuse to follow the party line. For her troubles, Cheney is facing a move to push her out of her position as the conference chair of the House Republicans, the third most powerful spot in the House for her party.
As he has consolidated power over the Republican Party after leaving office, the former president has been less and less tolerant of those Republicans who have called out his refusal to recognize the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s election for what it is: a dangerous attack on our democracy. But Cheney is not giving in. After Trump’s announcement this morning, she tweeted: “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”
This fight is a proxy fight over whether Trump will win full control over the Republican Party. His loyalists have vowed to get rid of Cheney from her position in party leadership by the end of the month. An ally of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told Scott Wong and Mike Lillis of The Hill: “She’s a liability, and McCarthy’s as fed up as the rest of us that she is focused on the past rather than winning back the House.”
But Cheney appears to have some key backing, including that of former president George W. Bush, who has recently said that if the party stands for “White Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, then it’s not going to win anything.” Cheney is speaking out and standing firm. In a speech today at the annual retreat for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, in Georgia, she said: “We can’t embrace the notion the election is stolen. It’s a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy…. We can’t whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump’s big lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.”
May 4, 2021 (Tuesday)
In any normal era, the big story right now would be the country’s dramatic economic recovery from the recession sparked by the coronavirus. In the first three months of 2021, the economy grew by 1.6% as economic stimulus measures kicked in and people started to buy things again. Amazon posted profits of $8.1 billion for the first three months of the year; the same months last year brought the company $2.5 billion. Supply chains are still frayed, pushing prices upward, but those problems are expected to ease as the chains heal.
At the beginning of the year, economists predicted just 0.6% growth, because they did not expect vaccinations to go into circulation as quickly as they did, and they expected the recession to linger for months. If the current growth rate holds, it would mean an annual rate of 6.4% (it’s unclear, of course, if it will hold).
For the last three weeks, jobless claims have dropped. Restaurants and service industries are not in as good a shape as consumer goods, but they should recover as more and more people get vaccinated. We are still down about 8.4 million jobs lost during the pandemic, but employment is moving in the right direction.
This economic turnaround is possible because of the administration’s vaccine program. That’s another huge story. Just four months ago, it was unclear how vaccinations would happen, and how long they would take. But Biden clearly considered the vaccination program his top priority, a way to prove that an efficient federal government was indeed vital to the country.
As of Monday, more than 56% of U.S. adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 246 million doses have been administered. Biden is aiming to get 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4 and is trying to make getting vaccines even easier to help persuade everyone to get them. The administration wants pharmacies to give shots to walk-in patients, for example, and is giving more doses to rural areas to cut travel distances. Today, the administration announced that states whose people are refusing the vaccine will be able to decide if they want the vaccines allocated to them as a percentage of their population. If not, they can choose to contribute those they don’t want to a federal pool from which states eager for more could pull.
Biden appears to be betting that Americans of all parties will pay attention to what he is accomplishing and stop listening to Republican lawmakers, who are living in an entirely different political reality than the Democrats.
But it’s hard to get airtime for good, solid, progress when Republican leadership is openly feuding, the former president’s advisor Rudy Giuliani is in front of cameras talking about the Ukraine scandal that led to Trump’s first impeachment, and a federal judge today whacked Trump’s second attorney general, William Barr, for misleading her, Congress, and the public about the Mueller investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
The fight between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) is escalating. To court the Trump base, McCarthy is trying to bring the caucus together behind the former president, but Cheney refuses to overlook the January 6 insurrection. She is adamant that Republicans must push back on the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election, while the Republicans are coming together behind that lie. New York Representative Elise Stefanik, a Trump loyalist, is working to succeed Cheney as the third most powerful Republican in the House. Swapping Stefanik for Cheney will cede the party to Trump once and for all.
On her side, Cheney has the fact that there are already 400 federal cases against the January 6 insurrectionists, and those cases will be in the news, with videos and evidence, in the coming months, constantly reminding people that the Trump Republicans are defending that insurrection. And she is calm and measured, while the Trump loyalists are represented by provocateurs like Lauren Boebert (R-CO), fond of parading around with her guns; Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA); and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) who is currently entangled in a sex-trafficking scandal involving minors. Cheney can do a lot of damage to a Trump party if she wants to.
Tying the party to Trump and the Big Lie also means that party leaders will have to weather whatever might come of the federal investigation into Giuliani, who is publicly accusing officials at the Department of Justice of trying to get to Trump through him. But the investigation into Giuliani’s work in Ukraine began not under Merrick Garland, the current attorney general, but under William Barr, Trump’s attorney general. And today, federal prosecutors in Manhattan asked U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken to appoint an outside lawyer, known as a “special master,” to review the evidence investigators took from Giuliani’s home and office to avoid accusations of political bias.
Since the search, legal analysts have been very visible in the media, suggesting that Giuliani is in, as Trump critic George Conway said, “deep s**t.”
Another story today also grabbed headlines away from Biden and kept the focus on the former president. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued a strongly worded opinion ordering the Justice Department to release a 2019 memo connected to whether Trump should have been charged with obstructing justice during the Russia investigation. Jackson accused the DOJ under Barr’s tenure of misleading her, Congress, and the public both about the memo and about the Mueller Report itself.
The DOJ has until May 17 to decide if it will appeal her ruling or release the memo.
This weird dichotomy between the things that are going very right in the new administration and the things that are going very wrong has unusually profound implications. Republican lawmakers in the states are doing all they can to skew the mechanics of government so they can regain control of the country no matter how unpopular they are.
Paying attention to the fireworks on the Republican side of the aisle threatens to drown out the extraordinary things the Biden administration has already accomplished. But ignoring the growing radicalism of the Trump party threatens to downplay just how dangerous it really is.
May 5, 2021 (Wednesday)
With Trump loyalists consolidating their power over the Republican Party, Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) today launched the Republican opposition.
Cheney is currently the House Republican Conference chair, managing committee assignments, media appearances, and certain debates in the House. Her refusal to whitewash the January 6 insurrection and to support the former president has led him to press for her removal from her position as the third most powerful House Republican.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appears to have caved to that pressure. A vote will likely take place next week, and observers expect Cheney to lose. Trump loyalist Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who voted against counting the electoral votes for Joe Biden on January 6, appears to be the front-runner to replace the Wyoming representative.
Cheney laid the stakes of this political moment out starkly in an op-ed in today’s Washington Post. Trump continues to lie that he won the 2020 election and that Biden is an illegitimate president. That language provoked the violent insurrection of January 6 and, according to judges and prosecutors, still threatens to rally his supporters to attack the government.
And aye, there’s the rub: Trump has borne no consequences for the January 6 crisis, and there is every reason to believe he will spur his supporters to make similar efforts to install him as president again in the future. “Trump is seeking to unravel… confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law,” Cheney said. “No other American president has ever done this.”
She called for a bipartisan review of the January 6 insurrection by a commission with subpoena power to dig into what happened, and said that no member of Congress currently serving should participate. Instead, she proposed tapping former officials, judges, and other prominent Americans who can be objective. Rejecting calls of Trump loyalists to muddy the waters with a general commission that looks into the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the insurrection, Cheney wrote that a careful examination of the events surrounding January 6 is imperative to stop the “misinformation and nonsense circulating in the press and on social media.”
Such a commission would almost certainly want to interview a number of Trump loyalists, including McCarthy, who had a phone exchange with the former president during the insurrection that observers say devolved into a shouting match. It seems unlikely that all of those interviewed would come out looking good. Having thrown in their lot with the former president, Republican leadership is now yoked to the testimony about the insurrection—and the videos—that will come out in the future.
“The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution,” Cheney wrote. “History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process.”
Cheney is no Democrat. She voted with Trump nearly 93% of the time (compared with Stefanik’s nearly 78%). It is impossible to argue that her opposition to Trump is partisan, which makes it all the more powerful. She looks to be trying to reclaim the Republican Party from Trump and his supporters, and she has a decent shot at it.
First of all, she is already getting a lot of airtime, and being tossed out of House leadership for refusing to lie will get her even more. She has the backing of the low-tax, no regulation, military hawk, business side of the party, which also happens to be the side with the most money. Corporations have been dragging their feet at supporting the Trump wing; she will offer Republican policies without the overthrow of the government.
The anger of Republican lawmakers at corporations withholding money from those who backed the insurrection suggests they are keenly aware that they will have to turn entirely to the Trump base for cash. According to Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham brought this up last night when he spoke at the annual fundraiser for the Georgia Republican Party. Informed that corporations had been reluctant to chip in for the event, Graham said: “I don’t know how much money you lost from these corporate sponsors not giving you money but I’m gonna get on Sean Hannity’s show we’re going to raise every penny of it back—and these people can kiss my ass as far as I’m concerned.”
That quest for money from the grass roots is behind at least part of today’s outpouring of fury from Trump loyalists after Facebook upheld the former president’s ban. Facebook was key to Trump’s power: he used it to gin up his base’s anger and then to get his supporters to send him money. Losing that platform weakens him.
For his part, the former president today attacked Cheney, and also Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump blamed for refusing to stop Biden’s election. Far from abandoning the Big Lie, Trump doubled down on it, insisting that the 2020 election was fraudulent. If only Pence and McConnell had been stronger, he wrote, “we would have had a far different Presidential result, and our Country would not be turning into a socialist nightmare!” He ended with words that proved right the concern that he will continue to back attacks on our government: “Never give up!” he wrote.
Pro-Trump Republican leadership is now tied to that mess. Cheney and those who might rally to her side are not.
While today’s drama played out among the Republicans, Biden and his administration kept moving forward. When asked about his support for Cheney, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said simply, “One-hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration.” Asked about McConnell’s comment at today’s press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “I guess the contrast for people is 100% of our focus is on delivering relief to the people and getting the pandemic under control.”
That pretty much sums up the situation. Now if only the electorate will pay attention!
The fuck? Is that accurate? I guess the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy.
That’s the problem with people like Cheney and Romney taking these “principled” stand about Trump. They helped paved the way. Romney as governor of MA was a relatively moderate Republican, but tacked to the right once he ran for national office. These elements were in party when he ran in 2008 and 2012, and he, like others, played along to get primary votes. Cheney is deeply conservative. The Rockefeller republicans are long gone.
May 6, 2021 (Thursday)
Today President Biden traveled to Lake Charles, in the Republican-dominated state of Louisiana, to build bipartisan support for his $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan. The proposed law is designed to create good jobs while it rebuilds America’s badly neglected infrastructure.
Biden stood in front of the Calcasieu River Bridge, built in 1952 and twenty years overdue for renovation, in a state hit 30 times in the past ten years by natural disasters that cost up to $50 billion in damage. “I’ve never seen a Republican or Democrat road. I just see roads,” Biden said. He called for a once in a lifetime investment in roads, bridges, electrical grids, schools, childcare, job training, broadband, and so on, to make America competitive in the twenty-first century.
Biden has called for funding this investment by raising the corporate tax rate from its current 21% to 28%—still lower than the 35% it was before Trump’s 2017 tax cut—and by making sure corporations can no longer skip out on paying their taxes.
Polls show that the plan is popular with about 56% of Americans, who seem eager to see the federal government invest in ordinary Americans again, particularly after seeing the willingness of Republicans to pass the 2017 tax cut that fueled a projected $1.9 trillion increase in the national debt in its first eleven years and primarily benefited households that made more than $200,000 a year. That bill passed without a single Democratic vote, but Republicans later complained about Democrats’ “irresponsible” refusal to cut spending, saying that “America is driving toward a fiscal cliff….”
Indeed, Republicans seem eager to take credit for the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which passed Congress in March without a single Republican vote. The plan is popular—77% of Americans backed it—and Republicans are touting the help it’s bringing to their constituents without noting that they opposed it. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which supports restaurants hurt by the pandemic, is especially popular.
But while Republican lawmakers are willing to embrace the popular American Rescue Plan now that it’s law, they oppose the American Jobs Plan, saying that higher taxes would hurt the economy. “I’m going to fight them every step of the way,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last week. Yesterday, he said, “100 percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration.”
In Louisiana today, Biden said he was willing to talk to opponents. “I’m ready to compromise,” he said. “What I’m not ready to do is, I’m not ready to do nothing. I’m not ready to have another period where America has another Infrastructure Month and it doesn’t change a damn thing.”
[citation needed, muthafuckas]