Finish the deal - then fix the problem
For me, it was an important lesson learned. As a young legislative staffer in Sacramento, I was desolate after my boss's big bill got badly cut before finally getting approved by the legislature. "Hey, don't worry," he reassured me. "We'll go back and get the rest next year!"
You don't always get everything you want. That was a basic but important lesson for me but, surprisingly, one apparently not yet learned by many Democrats in Congress - judging from their loud gnashing of teeth over the debt ceiling deal agreed to by President Biden and Speaker McCarthy.
Granted, there's a lot in this deal to complain about. Blindly cutting spending without adding any new revenue, not even by cracking down on tax cheats, is insane. Forcing work requirements on food stamp recipients as the answer to poverty is a proven non-starter. And pumping more money into an already bloated Pentagon is ridiculous. Funny how there's never enough money to help people in need, but always enough to further fatten defense contractors!
Environmentalists are also right to protest slipping approval of a long-disputed West Virginia gas pipeline into a non-related budget deal. Although it must be acknowledged that this actually reflected an earlier deal made by President Biden with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in return for his vote for the Inflation Reduction Act, which contained over $370 billion for clean energy projects - the benefits of which will far outweigh any greenhouse gases emitting from that pipeline.
But there are also parts of the final deal to feel good about. The debt ceiling is suspended until January 2025, so at least we don't have to go through this circus again next year, in the middle of a presidential campaign. Spending for most domestic programs in 2024 will stay roughly the same as 2023. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security remain untouched. And the $860 billion in cuts agreed to by Biden and McCarthy is far less than the draconian $3.2 trillion package of cuts Republicans originally demanded.
Most importantly, the debt ceiling deal negotiated by Biden and McCarthy, as imperfect as it is, is far, far better than the alternative: the catastrophic economic collapse most members of the House Freedom Caucus were willing to inflict on the country in their zeal to make both McCarthy and Biden look bad.
Bottom line: Was this a perfect deal? No! Did Biden get everything he wanted? No! But neither did McCarthy. And some people seem to have forgotten, or perhaps never learned, that's how governing works. Or is supposed to work. Even the great Eugene McCarthy, as fervent an idealist as any senator before or since, used to say: "Politics is the art of possible."
In the end, there was only one acceptable response to the debt ceiling compromise: To vote for it. Even if you had to hold your nose and vote for it. And, fortunately, in the end, Democrats saved the day. To McCarthy's shame and to Biden's credit, more Democrats (165) than Republicans (149) voted for the deal. Senate passage is assured. Biden will sign it. For now the republic is saved from economic ruin. And bipartisanship sees another day.
But that can't be the end of the story. This manufactured debate over the debt ceiling - which only occurs when a Democrat is in the White House - doesn't have to happen and should never be allowed to happen again because it's fundamentally unconstitutional. Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution clearly states: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."
You don't have to be a constitutional scholar to understand what that means. It's pretty straightforward. The Fourteenth Amendment was adopted after the Civil War to make sure that the United States didn't renege on its debts the way Confederate States had. It means we have no choice. No debate. No bargaining. No political game-playing. No refusing to pay our bills unless we agree to unrelated spending cuts. No holding the entire nation hostage for partisan gains. We have no choice: The United States must pay its debts. Period.
President Biden insists he has the authority to invoke the Fourteenth Amendment. Then he should do so, immediately, without waiting till 2025. That's the only way we can end this annual farce about the debt ceiling once and for all.
(C)2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
DeSantis campaign over before it began
A few years ago, a producer friend of mine raised the funds to bring a play she'd developed and first staged in Los Angeles all the way to Broadway. It was a big deal. A Broadway opening. I flew to New York for the festivities, but the celebration didn't last long. The reviews were so bad that the producer was forced to pull the plug. The play opened and closed on the same night.
I haven't seen another disaster like that until Ron DeSantis' launch of his campaign for president on Wednesday, May 24. For all practical purposes, despite months of planning, his campaign opened and closed on the same night, too.
It was billed as a historic moment when DeSantis, the nation's most competent governor, would sit down with Elon Musk, the nation's most competent businessman. With two people that smart, what could possibly go wrong? Everything!
All those DeSantis supporters or merely curious who tuned in at 6 p.m., the announced launch time, didn't see DeSantis or Musk. Instead, all they saw and heard were mechanical glitches and hot mic moments while technicians wondered out loud how to fix the problem. At times, the entire feed crashed. The total breakdown lasted almost an agonizing 30 minutes, during which time half the original audience of some 650,000 simply tuned out. It wasn't until around 6:30, a half-hour late, that Ron DeSantis was finally able to utter a word - at his own announcement for president!
Rather than a showcase of competence, Wednesday's launch turned out to be an embarrassing display of incompetence: proving that neither man is ready for prime time. DeSantis doesn't know how to run a campaign and Musk doesn't know how to run his own new media operation.
Rather than bask in a glow of high expectations which follows any presidential announcement - even Tim Scott's boring debut earlier in the week - Ron DeSantis' launch sank in a tide of mockery. Like for my friend's play, the reviews were brutal. Donald Trump immediately launched the hashtag #DeSaster. "As presidential announcements go," quipped campaign strategist Stuart Stevens, "this is the three stoned guys who couldn't get a date in their dorm room on Saturday night version." The Bulwark's Charlie Sykes called it "Florida Beta Man" meets "Erratic Oligarch."
Most of the blame, of course, belongs to DeSantis. How could somebody who brags about being so smart be so dumb? He's been planning to run for president for over a year. He's been all over the country, drumming up support. He's hired a campaign team. He's spent weeks planning this moment when he would make it official. And he ends up entrusting the most important event in his campaign to the mercurial Elon Musk?
Ahead of time, some strategists said it was the perfect venue for DeSantis, since he doesn't like people (Trump says he needs a "personality transplant") and he doesn't like traditional media. It turned out to be a disaster, instead. By casting his lot with Twitter, DeSantis made two huge mistakes.
First, he trusted Twitter to deliver, which it didn't. And no surprise. Ever since Musk slashed thousands of employees last year, concerns about Twitter's basic reliability have increased. As reported by the New York Times, in February alone, Twitter experienced four widespread outages, compared with nine in all of 2022.
At least, DeSantis could have counted on cable television not to crash. Roughly 650,000 people tuned into Twitter around 6 p.m. By 6:30, when things finally got underway, the viewers had shrunk to around 250,000. Had DeSantis made his announcement on Fox News, he probably would have reached 3 million people.
DeSantis' second big mistake: trusting Elon Musk. On one hand, he's a brilliant businessman. You have to give him credit for Tesla and SpaceX. On the other hand, he's a total nut job with an ego bigger than Donald Trump's, who's now trying to become the next Rupert Murdoch - turning what he once promised would be a "politically neutral platform" into a bed of right-wing extremism. Musk turned on Biden, turned on Trump, and would turn on DeSantis in a heartbeat.
A presidential announcement is the candidate's best chance to make a good first impression. DeSantis blew it. By choosing Musk and Twitter, DeSantis only managed to obliterate his own message. Of DeSantis' big day, people will not remember anything he said. Instead, they'll only remember what he was not able to say. Which, for DeSantis, is probably a good thing.
(C)2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Whatever happened to Lindsey Graham?
It never fails. Wherever I travel in this country, I'm inevitably asked two questions: Whatever happened to Tucker Carlson? And whatever happened to Lindsey Graham? To which I admit: I have no idea.
Well, now we have the answer to one of those questions. In his new book, "The Corruption of Lindsey Graham," available only on Kindle, the Bulwark's Will Saletan traces Graham's bizarre transition from John McCain's best friend to Donald Trump's best friend. Not only that, he warns that what happened to Graham should serve as a warning to all of us about the insidious appeal of authoritarianism. The South Carolina senator is in fact, Saletan argues, "A Case Study in the Rise of Authoritarianism."
How Graham could go from chief Trump detractor to chief Trump defender? Among GOP 2016 candidates, nobody was more critical of Trump. Among his printable comments, Graham called him a "demagogue," a "bigot," and said he "represents the worst in America." He attacked fellow Republicans for their silence about the danger presented by Trump: "Ignore it and you will live to regret it." Even when the race narrowed down to Trump and Ted Cruz, Graham supported Cruz, famously comparing it to a choice between being shot in the head (Trump) or poisoned (Cruz), because there was always a chance poison might not kill you.
Of course, Graham quickly lined up behind Trump once he won the nomination. Six months later, he was Trump's new best bud and frequent golf partner. Four years later - even after two impeachments and January 6 - Graham was the first Republican senator to endorse Trump for re-election.
As Saletan documents, Graham's transformation didn't happen overnight (and therein lies one of the lessons learned about authoritarianism), it happened gradually. First, he rallied behind Trump because, like it or not, he was the party nominee. Once elected, he made every effort to become part of Trump's orbit - foolishly thinking that, since Trump didn't know anything about governing, he could control Trump and temper his authoritarian impulses. When that failed - anybody who thought they could control Trump didn't know Trump - Graham fell back on the weakest of all arguments. Well, I may not like everything he's doing, but the fact that he won the nomination and got elected proves that democracy works - and we have to respect that.
In other words, according to the Gospel of Lindsey Graham, our democracy demands that we support the man who's trying to destroy it. Go figure.
And when Trump waged open war on democracy by refusing to accept the outcome of the 2020 election, Graham was his strongest ally - falsely claiming massive voter fraud and placing his own call to pressure Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to change the vote count in Georgia. Even after (briefly) condemning the violence on January 6, Graham warned Democrats that more violence would follow if they held Trump responsible by a second impeachment trial. You want to end the violence, end the impeachment, he told them.
It was, according to Saletan, Graham's lowest moment, and a stark contrast to the steadfast courage shown by Congresswoman Lynn Cheney. Cheney became, in Saletan's most-damning phrase in the book, "the man that Graham had once been."
But the real strength of Saletan's book is not the story of Lindsey Graham, but what his story tells us about the lurking danger of authoritarianism in this country. Yes, it can even happen here, in this citadel of democracy, where there's a hidden appeal for the strong man, the fighter, the man willing to "shake things up."
Again, it happens gradually. At first, people reject someone who seems to reject traditional democratic values. Then they slowly begin to accept him, rationalize his behavior, dismiss it as just "normal" for him, and end up defending him or, worse, out of fear or cowardice, remaining silent. The result is the cult-like worship of Donald Trump today by the majority of Republicans. In the end, concludes Saletan, "The more you submit, the more you forget what you first believed in." So true.
Which makes the stakes even higher for 2024. We accepted authoritarianism in 2016, perhaps not knowing what we were getting into. But, after four years of authoritarian rule under Donald Trump, we rejected it in 2020. Now comes the real test. Having seen the difference, do we reject authoritarianism once and for all in 2024, or re-embrace it? It's no exaggeration to say that the future of democracy itself depends on our choice.
(C)2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The worst television show in history
You may remember. In last week's column, I asked the question: Why would CNN give its "avowed enemy, twice-impeached, once-indicted, election-denying, conspiracy-inspiring, serial adulterer, pathological liar, and accused rapist ex-president who's still the subject of four separate criminal investigations" an hour of prime time, largely unchallenged, to spew even more lies?
That was the right question last week, before CNN's Town Hall with Donald Trump from New Hampshire. But it's an even more important question this week, after the fact - and after we've all suffered what will be remembered as the worst hour of prime time in television history. It made "The Jerry Springer Show" look like a picnic.
Why did CNN do it? What purpose did it serve, other than to legitimize Donald Trump as someone who should be seriously considered worthy of a second term - which, by any standards of decency or democracy, he should not.
We knew CNN's Trump Town Hall would be a disaster, and it was.
It didn't take long. Only one minute into the town hall, Trump told his first lie: that the 2020 election was rigged and ripe with voter fraud (it was not). He then proceeded to spit out one lie after another. That Mike Pence had the authority to single-handedly overrule the Electoral College (he did not). That Pence was "in no danger" on January 6 (ask the Secret Service). That under the Presidential Records Act a president has authority to take any documents he wants from the White House and do anything he wants with them (he does not). That January 6 was a beautiful day (it was not) and members of the armed mob who attacked the Capitol were full of love (they were not).
The list goes on. That Barack Obama also stole classified documents (he did not). That the FBI never raided Joe Biden's home (they didn't have to, Biden invited them in). That Trump never asked Georgia election officials to "find" him a certain number of votes (he did, and it's on tape). That he built hundreds of miles of border wall (he did not). That then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi is responsible for what happened on January 6 because she didn't mobilize the National Guard (she didn't control the National Guard, he did). He even asserted that people in Washington's Chinatown don't speak English (they do).
Throughout the evening, CNN host Kaitlan Collins repeatedly interrupted Trump, denying or fact-checking every lie. She was fearless. She was awesome. But CNN made her job impossible. Under the format, Trump could just ignore her, blather on, repeat his lies, and roll right over her. In the end, he even sneered at her and said: "You are a nasty person." And the audience cheered!
That was CNN's worst move. They not only gave Trump an undeserved, national, hour of prime-time television, they invited an in-house audience of MAGA Republicans to cheer him on. It was not, as promised, a representative group of New Hampshire Republican voters. It was a raucous crowd of 400 Trumpers. Who selected members of the audience? The Trump campaign? Nobody from the audience asked one single critical question.
In fact, it was just another Trump rally. They applauded when he promised to pardon those convicted of violence on January 6. They applauded when he said he'd end the war in Ukraine within 24 hours (how?). They applauded when he insisted that he, not the Supreme Court, overturned Roe v. Wade. Most shamefully, they laughed and cheered when Trump mocked columnist E. Jean Carroll.
That must have been the most disgraceful moment of the entire evening. One day after a Manhattan jury unanimously concluded that they believed Carroll, not Trump, and found him liable of sexually abusing and defaming her, Trump expressed no regrets. Instead, he made fun of her - "what kind of a woman would do that?" - and defamed her even more, calling her a "wack job." Carroll should sue Trump for another $5 million!
One thing the CNN Town Hall did accomplish. It squashed any speculation that Trump might change somewhat to appeal to independent or undecided voters in 2024. No way. No more than he would "pivot" once he became president. Trump is what he is and always was: a totally disgusting, amoral, egotistical, pathological liar and sexual predator who once tried, lest we forget, to overthrow the United States government. The fact that he was once president is a colossal embarrassment. The idea that he should ever again be entrusted with the job is unthinkable.
(C)2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
CNN chooses ratings over democracy - AGAIN!
If you want to know why the media's held in such contempt these days, look no further than the latest move by CNN.
Donald Trump's been indicted in New York City on 34 felony accounts for making hush money payments to a porn star. He's now on trial in New York for allegedly raping columnist E. Jean Carroll. He's under investigation in Georgia for urging state officials to commit election fraud by overturning the outcome of the 2016 presidential election - and in New York State for alleged financial fraud. He's also under investigation by the Department of Justice on two fronts: for stealing classified documents and for inciting an armed mob to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Meanwhile, running for re-election, Trump continues to spread the Big Lie that he, not Joe Biden, won the 2020 election. He's promised to pardon anybody convicted for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6. And in New Hampshire this week, he embraced a Jan. 6 defendant who said former Vice President Mike Pence should be executed for treason.
And for the last seven years Trump has waged an all-out war against CNN. He has not only boycotted the network since 2016, he's repeatedly called the network "fake news" and its reporters "enemies of the American people." He tried to revoke the press credentials of CNN's White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He ordered that CNN's seat in the briefing room be moved to the back row. In 2017, he tweeted a video showing him tackling and punching a figure with the CNN logo over its face. And he's currently suing CNN for $475 million in damages for defamation.
So how does CNN treat this avowed enemy, twice-impeached, once-indicted, election-denying, conspiracy-inspiring, serial adulterer, pathological liar, and accused rapist ex-president who's still the subject of four separate criminal investigations? By rewarding him with an hour of his own in prime-time - a televised town hall from New Hampshire on May 10, hosted by CNN's Kaitlin Collins. Unbelievable! Outrageous!
Think about that. On one score alone, as Charlie Sykes noted in The Bulwark, "it's impossible to imagine that someone with more than two dozen accusations of sexual assault would be able to survive in any other realm of American society: business, entertainment, sports, the military, even politics." Not to mention trying to overthrow an election and destroy our democracy. Yet CNN is giving Trump one hour - worth millions of dollars in free publicity - to spread even more lies.
In so doing, political scholar Norman Ornstein charges, CNN "legitimizes a man under indictment, currently on trial, with more indictments to come, who incited a violent insurrection against the country and its constitution and democracy."
There's no doubt why Trump rushed to accept CNN's offer. It gives him a national platform to spew his poison, largely unchallenged (CNN can't fact-check everything he says as he says it). It exposes him to an audience beyond the die-hard MAGA crowd who flock to his rallies. And, by simply showing up on CNN, Trump sends a message to Rupert Murdoch and Fox News: "See? I don't need you, after all."
The real question is: Why would CNN, the network he hates, bow down and give Trump so much attention and so much airtime? Bravely trying to defend the indefensible, CNN's Political Director David Chalian (otherwise, a very astute political analyst), argued it's because Trump's "a unique presidential candidate." Ha! That he is, for sure. The only presidential candidate on trial for rape.
No, CNN's doing this for one reason only: RATINGS! They think Donald Trump can turn around their sinking ratings and attract some of the MAGA Republicans unhappy with Fox for firing Tucker Carlson. Which is ridiculous. After all his attacks against the network, Trump supporters don't trust CNN and never will.
And, of course, this is not the first time CNN embraced Donald Trump. In 2016, they gave him billions of dollars in free publicity, airing every one of his rallies from start to finish. Didn't they learn anything? CNN's one of the primary reasons the totally unqualified Donald Trump ever made it to the White House. Now they're trying to do it all over again.
Make no mistake about it. There's only one winner in this town hall. It's not the American people. They've already heard enough of Donald Trump's lies and they're not going to hear anything new. It's not CNN. They can never out-Fox Fox. The only winner is Donald Trump. Shame on CNN!
(C)2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Mike Pence lays down the marker for 2024
Sometimes, wisdom comes from the strangest people in the strangest places. It happened again this week - when Mike Pence, of all people, speaking at the annual Gridiron Dinner, of all places, set the bar for the defining issue of 2024.
I did not attend this year's dinner, but I've been to three previous dinners, most recently in 2018, the only Gridiron dinner attended by President Donald Trump. Going to the Gridiron is like stepping into a time machine. It's Washington's only white-tie event. It's invitation-only. It's been around since 1885, and I swear some of its founding members are still there. You walk around looking at most guests, politicians or journalists, thinking "Oh, I thought he/she was dead!"
By tradition, club members, all journalists, perform musical skits mocking the politicians they cover. Then one member of the administration, one leading Republican, and one leading Democrat take turns doing their best at stand-up comedy, poking fun at themselves and the opposition party.
The whole point is, for one night in the year, to just have a few laughs and not make any news. Except for this year. When Mike Pence broke the mold.
Pence started out in true Gridiron tradition, joking that he'd heard that "some of the classified documents they found at Mar-a-Lago were actually stuck in the president's Bible. Which proves he had absolutely no idea they were there." He also pledged to "wholeheartedly, unreservedly support the Republican nominee for President in 2024 ... if it's me!"
But then Pence stunned his audience by segueing into a powerful jeremiad on Jan. 6, laying the blame squarely on his former boss. "History will hold Donald Trump accountable for Jan. 6," Pence said, then making it personal: "President Trump was wrong. His reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day."
In a direct slap at Fox News, the former VP declared: "Make no mistake about it. What happened that day was a disgrace, and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way." Repudiating host Tucker Carlson's assertion that rioters on Jan. 6 were actually nothing but "orderly and meek" sightseers, Pence snarled: "Tourists don't injure 140 police officers by simply sightseeing. Tourists don't break down doors to get to the speaker of the House. Tourists don't threaten public officials."
True, Pence waited a long time to say it. But so what? What's important is that Mike Pence did say it. And, in so doing, Pence, wittingly or unwittingly, set the bar for what will be the signature issue of the 2024 campaign. It won't be crime, the economy, abortion, education, foreign policy or climate change. The first test any candidate for any office in 2024 will face is simply this: Do you condemn the attack on the United States Capitol on Jan. 6 and those responsible for it? Yes or no?
Given the overwhelming evidence on Jan. 6 - we watched it on television! - it's amazing we're even having this debate. But House Republicans, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, won't let it go. It was McCarthy who released the entire 41,000 hours of videotape of Jan. 6 exclusively to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, knowing he'd cherry-pick clips of the tapes to make his case that Jan. 6 was no big deal. And it's McCarthy who's responsible for sending a congressional delegation led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to D.C. jails - to make sure that those already convicted and serving time for assaulting the Capitol are being treated properly. McCarthy is speaker. Without his OK, that visit would never take place.
Mike Pence will never be president, and I'd never vote for him. But, no matter what I think of his politics, I give Pence credit for having the guts to tell the truth. He barged in where no other real or potential 2024 GOP contender has yet dared to go, unequivocally condemning what happened on Jan. 6 and placing the blame right where it belongs: on Donald Trump personally.
This should be an easy test. For all Americans. Simply to admit that Jan. 6 was a direct attack on our government and that, starting with Donald Trump, those who inspired, planned or carried it out must be held accountable. It should be a no-brainer. Yet it's stunning how many Republicans still fail what must be the first test for anybody running in 2024.
Here are four words I never thought I'd hear from my own lips: "Thank you, Mike Pence."
(C)2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
No how, no way, No Labels
Twenty-twenty four is already filling a lot of Democrats with fear. They're afraid Donald Trump will get the Republican nomination, and possibly get re-elected. Or they fear Ron DeSantis will be the GOP candidate, who'd be tougher to beat and more dangerous than Trump if, God forbid, he were ever re-elected.
But Democrats are wrong. They're not wrong to worry. They're wrong on what they're worrying about. It's not Trump or DeSantis who pose the greatest threat to Joe Biden in 2024. It's a misguided gang of once-upon-a-time Democrats who've naively set out on a plan that will only guarantee the re-election of Donald Trump.
They call themselves the "No Labels" organization, but "No Clue" might be more apt. In theory, it sounds good. They claim their mission is to support centrist, bipartisan policies and politics, which is something all of us can only hope for in this hopelessly divided political age. They deserve credit for creating the "Problem Solvers Caucus" in the House, where Republicans and Democrats hammer out legislative solutions together.
So far, so good. No Labels has been around since 2010, but I'll admit I never took them seriously. Until now. I always dismissed them as a little nutty but harmless, like those who show up dressed like early-American colonists at Fourth of July parades. But no longer. Because the No Labels crowd now poses a real threat to our democracy. If successful, they will destroy Joe Biden and guarantee the re-election of Donald Trump, the worst and most divisive president in our history.
According to No Labels, the Democratic Party has moved too far to the left and the Republican Party has moved too far to the right, leaving all centrists behind. Therefore, they've long argued, the American people deserve a third choice for president, a "Centrist" candidate. But now they're no longer just pining about how nice it would be to have a third choice, they're determined to make it happen.
No Labels has committed to raising $70 million to put a third-party candidate on the ballot in 2024. They've scheduled a national convention in Dallas on April 23, 2024 to nominate their candidates for president and vice president. They're working to get their third party on the ballot in all 50 states, and they're already making progress. Colorado was first to put them on the ballot. Last week, they also qualified for the ballot in Arizona.
No Labels piously insists that their third-party candidate would only serve as an "insurance policy," giving voters a choice in case either party nominates a candidate who's too extreme. Who do they think they're kidding? It's pretty clear the Democratic Party's going to re-nominate Joe Biden. If Republicans do, in fact, nominate Donald Trump, voters will already have a centrist choice on the ballot: Biden.
As the independent think tank "Third Way" pointed out in a memo last week, first reported by Politico, a third-party candidate would not be an "insurance policy," but a "spoiler" - in effect, handing the election to Donald Trump. And Third Way provides the numbers to back up their claim.
In 2020, Biden won big with those who four years earlier had voted for third-party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson. In 2024, a No Labels candidate could peel away enough voters to hand the election to Trump, especially in a state like Arizona, which Biden only won in 2020 by 10,500 votes.
In 2020, Biden won so-called "double-haters," people who don't like either party, by 15 points. Giving them a third choice in 2024 would only take votes from Biden and give them to Trump.
In 2020, Biden won six of seven states where the margin was three points or less: Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Michigan. Even a weak third-party candidate in 2024 would put 79 potential electoral votes for Biden at risk.
And then, of course, there's the ultimate reality: a third-party candidate can't win nationwide. But, as Democrats learned with Ralph Nader in 2000, they can sure do a lot of damage. In 2024, Democratic strategist Paul Begala warns, far from bringing voters together in the center, a No Labels candidate could "reward the most extreme, most divisive, most angry forces in our politics."
Voters beware! Don't be fooled. Heed what Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson says: "No Labels is a Trump Re-Election Committee." No Labels deserves no time, no support, no money, and no votes. Every vote for No Labels is a vote for Donald Trump.
(C)2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Now it's official: Fox is fake news!
From its creation by Rupert Murdoch in 1996, Fox News has always been considered an outsider. Late-night comics mocked its initial slogan "Fair and Balanced" as "Neither." But most people were willing to accept Fox for what it was: a right-wing television network, the conservatives' answer to left-leaning MSNBC, with CNN somewhere in the middle.
In fact, in 2009, when the Obama administration announced they were going to "treat them the way we would treat an opponent" and deny Fox News the same access other news outlets enjoyed, members of the White House press corps, myself included, protested. Fox might lean right, we argued, but they were still fellow journalists reporting the news, and deserved the same access enjoyed by CBS, ABC, CNN and other networks.
But that was then, and this is now. Over the years, Fox devolved into ever more of a right-wing voicebox, in both commentary and news gathering, until, during the Trump years, they became nothing more than the propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee.
Yet now we know it's even worse than we thought. Documents released in the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox show that Fox News was not only repeatedly broadcasting Donald Trump's "Big Lie" about actually winning the 2020 election, they were also trumpeting their own "Big Lie" about rigged voting machines.
Documents filed by Dominion show: that Fox News on-air talent and senior executives knew that claims by Sidney Powell and other Trump attorneys that Dominion voting machines had been rigged (in Venezuela!) in order to switch votes from Trump to Biden were false; that Fox News hosts nevertheless continued to book Powell and others on their programs and directly or indirectly supported their claims; that Fox anchors were privately trashing Powell and others, while publicly lionizing them; that Fox executives knew their on-air talent were lying, yet did nothing to stop them; and that Fox's entire motivation for broadcasting lies and refusing to tell the truth was to preserve their ratings and protect their bottom line. In a nutshell: They knew it was false, but they said it anyway, to stop loyal viewers from changing the channel.
How do we know all of that? From the words of Fox anchors and executives themselves in emails and depositions contained in a 212-page legal brief filed by Dominion in a Delaware state court last week. The evidence is devastating.
Privately, here is some of what Fox personnel were saying about Sidney Powell. Laura Ingraham, in an email to Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity on Nov. 15, 2020: "Sidney Powell is a bit nuts. Sorry, but she is." On Nov. 16, 2020 Carlson to producer Alex Pfeiffer: "Sidney Powell is lying." Senior Vice President Raj Shah to Pfeiffer: "So many people openly denying the obvious that Powell is full of it." Lou Dobbs producer John Fawcett worried that Powell "could be losing her mind" and might also be doing "LSD and cocaine and heroin and shrooms."
Publicly, it was another story. On his program, Lou Dobbs hailed Powell as a "great American" and "one of the country's leading appellate attorneys." Maria Bartiromo welcomed her back with praise: "Attorney Sidney Powell is leading the charge against Dominion and she says she has enough evidence of fraud to launch a massive criminal investigation." Even Carlson, who alone among Fox hosts did question Powell's claims on air, added he was still "hopeful" she would come up with some hard evidence.
And why would Fox executives continue to allow their on-air talent to broadcast conspiracy theories they knew were false? Again, the emails and depositions released by Dominion leave no doubt. Fox was afraid its Trump-crazy viewers would switch to even-more extreme right-wing outlets like One America News and Newsmax.
The most damaging testimony came from Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch himself, who admitted under oath that Fox News hosts had not only aired false reports about vote machine fraud, but had "endorsed" them; that "I could have, but I didn't" order Fox hosts to stop spreading the lie; and that he had personally given Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner inside information on ads the Biden campaign would be running on Fox.
I'm no lawyer. I don't know whether Dominion will succeed in winning its lawsuit. But I do know this. Dominion's already succeeded in destroying any shred of credibility Fox News had left. Call it propaganda. Call it Fake News. Call it Pravda. But don't call it a legitimate news organization.
Credit: Tribune Content Agency
Kevin McCarthy flies false flag over Capitol
Ever since, on the 15th ballot, Kevin McCarthy finally rounded up enough votes to become Speaker of the House, we've all been wondering what he promised to give away in order to get the job. Now we know.
This week, McCarthy delivered just what Marjorie Taylor Greene and other crazies demanded. Overriding security concerns of the Capitol Police and others responsible for protecting the Capitol, McCarthy released all 41,000 hours of video of the January 6 attack on the Capitol complex.
Not only that. McCarthy released the tapes, not to the media in general, but only to Fox News. And not even to everybody on Fox News, but only to one prime-time host, Tucker Carlson, who has long suggested - and even hosted a prime-time documentary series "Patriot Purge" which asserted - that the January 6 insurrection was actually a "false-flag" operation staged by the government or leftist agitators to make Trump supporters look bad.
This is not rocket science. By what he did and the way he did it, McCarthy made it clear. His reason for releasing the tapes was pure political payback. And his motive was to perpetuate the insane and very dangerous idea, still spread by several House Republicans, that the armed assault on the Capitol was nothing more than a "normal tourist visit."
Any doubt about who and what was driving McCarthy's action vanished when Marjorie Taylor Greene immediately tweeted: "For all of you that doubted we would release the tapes. Here you go! I'm very happy to be right again in my support for Kevin McCarthy for our Speaker." Which is enough to make you wonder: Who's really the Speaker? McCarthy or Greene?
Yes, this is the same Marjorie Taylor Greene, now de-facto Speaker, who this week suggested that red states should secede from the Union. In response to which Kevin McCarthy, Speaker-in-name-only, said nothing.
There's so much wrong with what McCarthy did, it's hard to know where to begin. But let's start with this: For House Republicans - 21 of whom, remember, immediately after January 6, voted against awarding Capitol Police officers the Congressional Gold Medal - this is one more poke in the eye to those whose job it is to protect the Capitol. There's a good reason why law enforcement did not want these tapes released: Because they're like a blueprint to any other organization which might want to attack the Capitol: showing what areas are vulnerable and which are not.
That's why the January 6 Select Committee only played clips of the tapes that had been first cleared by law enforcement officials. That's why the Justice Department limits what portions of tapes they play in trials of those facing charges for their involvement in January 6. Release of the total tapes jeopardizes the safety of the United States Capitol and everybody who serves there. No Speaker has the right to do that.
Defending his decision, McCarthy piously told the New York Times, "I think sunshine lets everybody make their own judgment." But, of course, that's not what he's doing. Thanks to McCarthy, this sun will only be allowed to shine through the filter of Fox News and what Tucker Carlson and his producers decide to show, out of 41,000 hours of tape, in order to buttress their insane theory, with not one shred of evidence, that those who assaulted the Capitol on January 6 were actually Antifa activists dressed up in MAGA garb. By so doing, as Senate Leader Chuck Schumer warned, McCarthy "will only embolden supporters of the Big Lie and weaken faith in our democracy."
It's still early in his term, but any hopes that McCarthy would rise to the level of his office and exercise independent leadership and judgment have already been quickly forgotten.
To me, it's all so painfully familiar. I remember similar claims made after September 11 that the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were actually a "false flag" operation staged by the Bush administration. As a radio talk show host, I'd immediately cut off anybody who tried to spew such nonsense, refusing to give that garbage any airtime.
But I never thought I'd see the day when the same insane conspiracy theory was raised about the terrorist attack on our Capitol on January 6. The big difference is, those September 11 "false flag" claims were made by a few, nameless, nut jobs. Today's January 6 "false flag" lie is being fed and spread by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. God save the Republic!
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