Discover more from Morning Shots
Plus: A Bulwark debate about MTP’s Trump interview.
Despite his worst efforts, things are not going well for My Kevin. A quick roundup:
…[Even] including hardline border security provisions wasn’t enough to appease the far-right flank in his Republican House majority.
The speaker is trying to convince his Republican conference that there will heavy political fallout from a shutdown as he plows toward a vote to pass a stopgap measure, called a continuing resolution, that would keep government offices open past the Sept. 30 deadline.
In recent days, Kevin McCarthy’s inner circle — a cadre of aides and allies on and off Capitol Hill — has become convinced that conservative House Republicans are looking to provoke a shutdown in order to push him out of the speakership.
Several of the House Republicans currently blocking their party from passing a budget deal may have their eye on higher office — and that’s causing some gripes among their colleagues.
The embattled speaker could spark a showdown in the coming days, we’re told, under a plan his leadership team discussed yesterday. With 12 days till a government shutdown and more than 15 conservatives lined up in opposition to a proposed GOP stopgap, the plan is simple: Dare them to vote against it.
Exit take. Bring on the World’s Smallest Violin.
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Lordy, another Trump aide speaks
As described to ABC News, the aide, Molly Michael, told investigators that -- more than once -- she received requests or taskings from Trump that were written on the back of notecards, and she later recognized those notecards as sensitive White House materials -- with visible classification markings -- used to brief Trump while he was still in office about phone calls with foreign leaders or other international-related matters.
And then there’s this:
The sources said Michael also told federal investigators that last year she grew increasingly concerned with how Trump handled recurring requests from the National Archives for the return of all government documents being kept in boxes at Mar-a-Lago -- and she felt that Trump's claims about it at the time would be easy to disprove, according to the sources.
Sources said that after Trump heard the FBI wanted to interview Michael last year, Trump allegedly told her, "You don't know anything about the boxes."
Meanwhile, the Democratic freakout continues
A growing number of polls are showing voters concerned about President Biden’s age and energy. Democratic lawmakers have hesitated to offer full-throated endorsements of his running mate. Prominent commentators have ruminated on whether he should drop out of the presidential race.
This series of political vulnerabilities — along with House Republicans announcing an impeachment inquiry and the Justice Department indicting Biden’s son on gun charges — is now sending waves of anxiety through parts of the Democratic Party, as some fret about whether the man who helped oust Donald Trump from the White House may not have the vitality, at 80, to successfully prevent a return.
A Bulwark Debate
Point: Kristen Welker Failed the Trump Test
Yesterday Meet the Press aired its interview with Donald Trump. At best it was inadequate. At worst it was dangerous.
I want to talk about what Kristen Welker, the show’s new host, did right, what she did wrong, and what this particular booking says about how broadcast news is going to treat the insurrectionist who would be president.
Counterpoint: Will Saletan: In Defense of Kristen Welker
IF YOU CAME TO THIS INTERVIEW hoping that Welker or NBC News would refute every lie Trump told, you’ll be disappointed. But I don’t think exhaustive refutation is what we need. In polls, Trump is running even with Biden because many Americans are unhappy with the economy, and most see Biden as old and tired.
These people need to be reacquainted with the reality of Trump. They need to be reminded how recklessly he makes decisions, how poorly he controls his impulses, how ruthlessly he lies, and how impervious he is to correction. They need to be reminded how callously he disregards his oath of office and how little he cares about anyone but himself. They need to be reminded what a psychopath he is.
That’s what Welker accomplished. She has done her job.
Bonus: “Meet the Mess.”
But the interview also speaks to a larger problem that — somehow in 2023 — continues to confound the news media and the well-compensated television anchors tasked with effectively holding power to account. Even after Trump subverted democracy during the 2020 election, inspiring an actual insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, newsrooms continue to struggle with how to cover him.
It's arguable that, at this juncture, there is really no need to interview Trump. After years and years of seeing how he dishonestly operates, what exactly is there to glean from a sit-down? The near-certain result is that the outlet will record a stream of lies rushing out of his mouth, mixed in with absurd grievances about how supposedly unfair the system treats him. Does any of that really serve the public?
See you in Austin?
Our friends at the Texas Tribune are hosting their annual festival of ideas, TribFest, in downtown Austin this weekend—and they’ve invited Mona, Tim, Bill, and me to join the program too.
At TribFest you can expect bright minds with bold ideas across three days of must-see programming. Attendees can expect to hear from leaders, innovators and change-makers from the worlds of politics, government, media, tech and beyond.
Meet the Bulwark: On Saturday, September 23, The Bulwark will be on the stage at St. David’s Church for a morning of politics followed by a meet-and-greet with Bill, Mona, Charlie, and Tim.
9:15 a.m. Charlie will host the panel Trump Ever After with Bret Stephens, Olivia Nuzzi, Alexi McCammond, and Ben Terris. Crail Hall, St. David’s Church
10:45 a.m. Tim will join The Florida Man panel moderated by Jane Coaston and with Molly Ball, Marc Caputo and Nicholas Nehamas. Crail Hall, St. David’s Church
12:30 p.m. No Bull From The Bulwark featuring Mona, Bill, Tim and Charlie and moderated by Evan Smith. Crail Hall, St. David’s Church
1:30 p.m. Bulwark Meet-and-Greet. St. David’s Church.
2:30 p.m. Bill joins the recording of the “Talking Feds” Podcast with Harry Littman and featuring David French, Jason Kander, and Jennifer Palmieri. Omni Hotel Downtown, Trademark Ballroom
Bulwark readers can get $30 off a general admissions ticket with the code BULWARK-TTF23.
We hope to see many of you in Austin this weekend for TribFest. We’d love to hear from you if you plan on going—simply reply to the email and drop us a note.
1. The Uncouth, The Shameless and The Perverse
A metaphor that applies to my current political dismay: I am annoyed by Joe Biden but I am appalled by Donald Trump.
Why is that a metaphor? Because I am annoyed, chronically, by the Democratic Party but appalled, mortally, by the Republicans.
Which raises a question: I haven’t toted up the word count, but I suspect that I spend a lot more space criticizing Dems than GOPs. Why is that?
Well, because it seems in these DysTrumpian times, the Democrats are the only hope of saving our democracy, despite their idiot array of indulgences. They are misguided, but not fundamentally irrational. They believe in our institutions, even those—like the Supreme Court and the electoral college—that are weighted against them; even those—like the military—that they really don’t believe in. There is always the hope that a compelling argument made by the Sanity Caucus (which includes members of both parties) will have an impact on rational Dems. But rational Republicans I’ve known—I’m looking at you Lamar Alexander and Rob Portman—have been struck dumb, utter cowards in the face of Trump, even though they’ve retired from politics and have nothing to lose.
Why the silence in the face of an authoritarian who threatens our freedom? Their mute buttons are still turned on, impenetrable and irresponsible. They are a lost cause. So, I tend to write about Biden’s age more than Trump’s sociopathy, and about the Dems’ identity and woke obsessions more than the Republicans’ fundamental corruption. Because the Dems have to find a way to 51%, lest we lapse into Hungary or Russia.
2. Paul Ryan’s Walk of Shame
But the one politician whose conduct was most worthy of the walk of shame is former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Ryan announced earlier this year in an interview with Charlie Sykes of The Bulwark (33:54) that he is refusing to support Donald Trump, even if Trump is the 2024 nominee. Ryan told Sykes that Trump is bad for the Republican Party and, with Trump as the nominee in 2024, the Democrats will win the White House.
When Sykes pressed Ryan on the question of whether there might be other reasons to oppose Trump, like what happened on January 6, Ryan said Republican voters will not listen to those reasons, but they will listen to how Trump will lead the party to defeat.
We learned this past week why Ryan might take a more utilitarian stance towards Trump rather than take a moral stand. During the first impeachment of Trump in 2019, Ryan was tipped that Sen. Mitt Romney (Ryan’s running mate in 2012) was planning on voting to convict Trump.
“Shortly before 2 p.m. on the day of the vote, Romney left his office and walked to the Capitol, where he waited in his hideaway for his turn to speak. Minutes before going on the floor, he received an unexpected call on his cellphone. It was Paul Ryan. Romney and his team had kept a tight lid on how he planned to vote, but somehow his former running mate had gotten word that he was about to detonate his political career. Romney had been less judgmental of Ryan’s acquiescence to Trump than he’d been of most other Republicans’. He believed Ryan was a sincere guy who’d simply misjudged Trump.
“And yet, here was Ryan on the phone, making the same arguments Romney had heard from some of his more calculating colleagues. Ryan told him that voting to convict Trump would make Romney an outcast in the party, that many of the people who’d tried to get him elected president would never speak to him again, and that he’d struggle to pass any meaningful legislation. Ryan said that he respected Romney and wanted to make absolutely sure he’d thought through the repercussions of his vote. Romney assured him that he had and said goodbye.”
By this time, Ryan was no longer Speaker of the House….
Yet when the Republican Party had an “off ramp” to end Trumpism and present a better face to the Republican Party in the 2020 election, Ryan not only opposed removing Trump from office, he actually lobbied against Romney voting to remove Trump from office. Instead of commending Romney for standing up for principle, Ryan was advising the Utah Senator to just go along to get along.
Now Ryan is naked in the public square, exposed by his former running mate, and we’re left wondering, why, Paul, why? What was Ryan’s 30 pieces of silver?
(By the way, Ryan was wrong. Another poll just showed the 2024 presidential election between Trump and President Joe Biden to be nearly tied. I’m looking forward to hearing Ryan’s next reason for not voting for Trump - if Ryan doesn’t change his mind.)
3. Anti-Vaxxers: Give Us Liberty or Give Us Death
In recent weeks, the number of COVID-19 infections has been on the rise. Researchers have forecast that the resurgent virus will claim 45,000 lives between September and April—more than the toll Greene falsely attributes to vaccines since they became available.
An investigation this summer by the New York Times looked at what happened in Florida between July and October 2021, when the Delta variant struck. Republican governor Ron DeSantis had ended mandatory vaccinations and reopened the state’s restaurants, bars, and schools the previous fall. The Times report found that the state, which has less than 7 percent of the nation’s population, accounted for 14 percent of its COVID-19 deaths during this time. That added up to 23,000 Floridians, 9,000 of whom were under age 65.
Anti-vaxxers are literally dying for their beliefs—and for the disinformation that’s being thrust upon them.
4. The Dreamers’ Fate Is Still Uncertain
THEY ARE AMONG THE MOST DESERVING and sympathetic of undocumented immigrants—Dreamers, whose parents brought them over the border when they were mere children—but they may soon lose the temporary legal status they’ve enjoyed for more than a decade. An Obama-era policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allowed Dreamers to remain in the United States and work so long as they had no criminal record, had paid any taxes owed, and graduated from high school or served in the military. Last week, Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas ruled the program illegal.