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Meatball’s Musk Moment
What could go wrong?
Well, we have our soundtrack for the day.
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality.
–Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
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Let’s leave aside the rank punditry for a moment, and ponder the bizarre twist that the showrunners of our endless simulation have thrown at us here.
In 2023, a major candidate for president of the United States is paying court to an erratic, decompensating, narcissistic, endlessly needy, petulant man-child, who has spent the past few months posting poop emojis, taking counsel from someone called catturd, and destroying the social media platform he bought on a whim.
Along the way, Musk has opened the door to bigots, crackpots, conspiracy theorists, charlatans, and the insane of every stripe, while displaying his own brainworms on a regular basis.
So, because it is 2023, it was inevitable that he would fancy himself a kingmaker; and that politicians would indulge his fantasy.
Later this afternoon, the man who would be president will say, “Good to be here with you, Elon.”
Why, you ask? Herewith commences the rank punditry.
DeSantis badly needed a reset, and he thinks that this is it. It creates buzz, but also reinforces his status with the extremely online far right. It is also consistent with the Florida governor’s pattern and practice of trying to co-opt the “based” wing of the party. Embracing Musk will create a huge disturbance in the MAGAverse, and will undoubtedly trigger the Orange One.
The venue — Twitter Spaces — has other advantages for DeSantis as well.
“Announcing on Twitter is perfect for Ron DeSantis,” a Trump adviser told NBC News in a text message. “This way he doesn’t have to interact with people and the media can’t ask him any questions.”
But the whole thing raises questions not just about his political skills, but also his judgment.
Consider the risks that come with the rewards. By throwing in with Musk, DeSantis risks being tied to (and regularly asked about) the oligarch’s latest asininity (it’s “immoral” to work from home; the neo-Nazi mass killer wasn’t really a neo-Nazi, etc). As NBC notes:
Musk’s international star power could serve to outshine DeSantis, who — while a heavyweight in Republican political circles — is not nearly as well known. And DeSantis may not want to have to answer for all of Musk’s positions — potentially down to individual tweets — such as his comments about progressive megadonor George Soros that have earned the ire of Jewish leaders.
Meatball is also now at the mercy of Elon’s whims.
Just days ago, Musk was emoting over Tim Scott; and tomorrow he may decide that DeSantis is cold product. He could endorse, unendorse, praise, mock, embrace, and discard the Florida man in one of his 24-hour manic bursts of assh*lery.
Meatball would be well and truly screwed.
One more detail from tonight’s DeSantis-Musk launch: DeSantis’s chat with Elon will be moderated by a guy named David Sacks, who is himself quite a piece of work. Via Puck:
His Twitter feed is an endless stream of provocations that generate tons of heat online. His myriad bête noires include the mainstream media, San Francisco socialists, and neocons that Sacks believes have taken over the G.O.P.; his loves include Elon Musk and his “Twitter Files,” a pseudo-journalistic series that, Sacks believes, demonstrates the corruption of the old Twitter regime under Jack Dorsey and its complicity in government censorship. Sacks has a day job at Craft Ventures, but it is no stretch to say that he is now also a bona fide conservative media sensation, podcasting with the likes of Megyn Kelly, Dave Rubin, Benny Johnson, and Glenn Beck.
Exit take: Great. Just great.
Running Against Reality
On Tuesday’s podcast, I chatted with the Wapo’s Philip Bump about Kari Lake’s endless war against reality, Tim Scott’s candidacy, Biden’s lousy polls on gun violence, and the demographic wave of young voters.
A lack of impulse control
Catching up on Trump’s legal travails:
Trial date set in Trump’s N.Y. criminal case, judge issues contempt warning. Mark March 25, 2024 on your calendar.
Let’s start with the “protective order.” At yesterday’s hearing, the NY judge in Trump’s hush-money case barred Trump from revealing sensitive prosecution evidence,” “including witnesses’ emails, texts and grand jury transcripts — through public statements or on social media. Trump isn't even allowed to personally possess copies of these materials.”
Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen doesn’t think Trump will be able to help himself.
"I have less than zero confidence," Trump's lawyer-turned-nemesis told Insider of the former president's ability to obey a new protective order banning him from attacking prosecution witnesses by disclosing their identities and personal information.
"He gets blinded by his anger," Cohen said Monday, a day before Trump must appear — virtually —in a Manhattan courtroom and agree to the order.
"Rational thought flies out the window when Trump gets angry," Cohen, the key witness in the case, said of his former employer's self control when it comes to his perceived enemies. "He's no different than a petulant child."…
On cue, Trump raged about the hearing on Truth Social:
"Just had New York County Supreme Court hearing where I believe my First Amendment Rights, 'Freedom of Speech,' have been violated, and they forced upon us a trial date of March 25th, right in the middle of Primary season. Very unfair, but this is exactly what the Radical Left Democrats wanted. It’s called ELECTION INTERFERENCE, and nothing like this has ever happened in our Country before!!!"
Writer E. Jean Carroll on Monday asked a judge to update her still pending original defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump to add a new claim after he trashed her as a "wack job" during his CNN town hall earlier this month….
Trump made the comments a day after a federal court jury in New York found Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s and then defaming her for calling her claims fraud. The jury awarded Carroll $5 million in damages.
The amended suit seeks a total of at least $10 million in compensatory damages for her defamation claims and additional "punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial."
The new legal action did not stop Trump from bashing Carroll on Truth Social again early Tuesday morning. In a pair of posts, he complained about her “Fake, Made Up Story” and said it “NEVER HAPPENED, IS A TOTAL SCAM, UNFAIR TRIAL!”
And there’s more. On Tuesday, we got this bizarre rant about the Fox/Dominion settlement.
Exit take: No, it’s not just your imagination. He is getting worse: “How Trump's rhetoric has become increasingly radical in 2024 campaign.”
Meanwhile, in Texas…
Things seem to be going well.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas lawmakers revealed Tuesday a monthslong corruption investigation into Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, going public with the probe shortly after Paxton accused the GOP House speaker of being drunk on the job.
Hours after Paxton's claim, House Speaker Dade Phelan announced the House General Investigating Committee has been looking into “alleged illegal conduct” by Paxton, who is already under FBI investigation over accusations of corruption by former staff. Phelan brushed off Paxton's allegation as a desperate attempt "to save face."
1. Tim Scott and the Republican Id
WATCHING TIM SCOTT’S ANNOUNCEMENT SPEECH, I was struck by how differently I would have responded to his message 10 years ago. In 2013, I was a conservative, partisan Republican. In March of that year, commenting on the budget battle then raging between President Obama and the Republicans, I wrote:
It’s to their credit that Republicans are obsessed with getting the government to address its unconscionable and unmanageable debt, freeing up the productive private sector to create economic growth, and maintaining the nation’s military preeminence. But there’s something almost pathetic about the way leading Republicans complain that the president doesn’t negotiate in good faith. Of course he doesn’t. He’s not interested in governing—at least not with Republicans. He’s determined to campaign from now until November 2014 so that he can replace them.
Ten years on, I’m sadder and (hopefully) wiser. As the intervening years have shown, the GOP has abandoned good faith altogether. Some remnants might be found at the McCain Institute or the Jack Kemp Foundation, but Kevin McCarthy and his band of nihilists wouldn’t recognize good faith if it hit them on the fanny. The Republicans who are beating their chests for “fiscal discipline” were obedient lapdogs when Trump increased deficits by 50 percent—and that was before COVID. In total, they grinned along to an additional $7.8 trillion in national indebtedness. Did I mention that they quietly raised the debt ceiling three times during Trump’s term?
2. Making Failure Great Again
Lately, Trump’s losing streak has intensified. The Trump Organization was found guilty of felony tax fraud and fined $1.6 million, and one of its executives was sentenced to prison. Trump was indicted in New York for fraudulent misuse of campaign money to cover up an affair. Most recently, a jury found him liable for “sexual abuse” and for defamation. And there is almost certainly more to come.
But in the face of all of that, something strange happened: Trump’s standing with Republican voters improved. Early this year, Trump was facing a real challenge among the Republican base from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—until the New York indictment. Rather than being the final nail in his coffin, the indictment consolidated Trump’s support. As with the base, so with the alleged leadership: After the sexual abuse verdict, a parade of senators lined up to dismiss the jury's conclusions and proclaim their support for Trump.
The more Trump loses, the more Republicans seem to love him. Why?
3. Trump, DeSantis, and the GOP’s Culture-War Politics
When [George Mason University President Gregory] Washington announced in March that he had asked Youngkin to give the commencement address at the state’s largest and most diverse public university,… [the] invitation provoked an immediate uproar from black students, LGBTQ students, and many others, and a few days later Washington wrote a public letter to the campus community.
The March 27 letter, “What it means to be a Patriot,” is more than a nod to GMU sports teams. I would call it a Patriot Playbook for our times—a free-speech, anti-cancellation instruction manual on how to coexist in a country becoming increasingly diverse. There is no way to reverse that trend; the only way is through it. People are going to have to learn to listen to each other and try to explain where they disagree, why they feel disrespected, disregarded—even erased—as the individuals they are.
DeSantis desperately needs to read it. The liberal Stanford law students who disrupted a conservative federal judge’s speech in March should also read it. Their dean, Jenny S. Martinez, wrote a memo reminding students that as a law school, freedom of speech and association are “core to our educational mission.” In an apology to the judge, Stuart Kyle Duncan, she called freedom of speech “a bedrock principle for the law school, the university, and a democratic society.”
Fascist? Authoritarian? Hold My Beer, says Jesse Kelly. “Pro-Trump Fox News Regular Comes Right Out and Says It: ‘This Country Needs a Dictator’”