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Pence's Eulogy for a Dead GOP
Plus: Here comes impeachment
Congress is back in session. Hide the children and the faint of heart.
MTG, Seditionist: On 9/11…
But she’s still calling the shots. Via Punchbowl News: “McCarthy will endorse impeachment inquiry this week.”
Speaker Kevin McCarthy plans to tell House Republicans in a closed meeting this week that launching an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden is the “logical next step” in the GOP’s probes of the president and his son, Hunter Biden.
Really, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Via Semafor: McCarthy’s September from hell begins.
Congressional aides have begun talking about a shutdown as an inevitability, and there’s widespread doubt about whether McCarthy can evade one while still holding onto his job.
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Pence’s Trump speech is a eulogy for a party that no longer exists
Former Vice President Mike Pence really wants you to know that he gave a “major address” at New Hampshire’s Saint Anselm College last week. And, indeed, he delivered his harshest rebuke yet to his former boss, his imitators and the rising populism on the right.
Although he devoted some of the speech to rehashing Republican talking points about the Biden administration and waxing nostalgic for the Reagan era, Pence managed to deliver a blistering critique of the Trumpian and populist betrayal of conservative principles. And, unlike some of his previous attacks, he called out Donald Trump by name.
But while Pence intended the speech to be a manifesto for a conservative restoration, it still reads instead like a eulogy for a bygone era. This, ultimately, was a nostalgic dead letter describing a party that no longer exists.
Pence insisted that the choice facing the GOP was existential: “Should the new populism of the right seize and guide our party, the GOP as we have long known it will cease to exist. And the fate of American freedom would be in doubt.”
This choice is also binary, he insisted, because the divide between traditional conservatism and this new Trumpian populist was “fundamental,” and “unbridgeable.”
Even as he faces multiple criminal charges, Trump continues to dominate the GOP primary field, while his former vice president had just 7% of the primary vote in the latest CNN poll.
So, the Saint Anselm speech is unlikely to change the trajectory of the race. Maybe Pence is aware that his campaign is doomed — and maybe he is not. But he is clearly thinking about his legacy. And he has decided the best way to rehabilitate that legacy is by spending what may be his last few months in the spotlight laying out all of the ways the new GOP has abandoned the conservative principles that were once taken for granted in his party.
Conservatives once stood for limited government, a strong national defense, free markets, fiscal responsibility and traditional values, Pence opined. But the new GOP populists — including Trump — now reject free markets, ignore deficits and embrace international appeasement.
These conservatives are no longer defenders of the Constitution. Instead, they are eroding norms, Pence said, alluding to Trump’s role in this erosion, as well as the former president's so-called imitators.
But here again, Pence wants to have it both ways. He took credit for all the accomplishments of the “Trump-Pence administration,” but tried to contrast Trump circa 2016 with Trump in 2023.
“When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016,” Pence said, “he promised to govern as a conservative. And together we did just that.”
Now, he claims, the new right-wing populists are following in the footsteps of long-dreaded progressives like William Jennings Bryan, Huey Long and Bernie Sanders. Worse, Trump and his ragtag group of populist wannabes are actually starting to sound … progressive.
“They argue that we can only end our crises at home by abandoning our allies abroad,” Pence claimed. “Like progressives, the Republican populist government should dictate how private businesses operate.” In a jab at primary rival Ron DeSantis, Pence told the audience at Saint Anselm: “The governor of Florida even used the power of the state to punish corporations for taking a political stand he disagreed with.”
“This is not conservatism,” the former vice president declared. “It is Republicanism that prioritizes power over principles.”
Self-consciously echoing Ronald Reagan’s famous 1964 speech, “A Time for Choosing,” Pence insisted “we have come to a Republican time of choosing.”
But — as Pence knows well — the GOP has already chosen. It chose Donald Trump. It chose populism. It rejected traditional conservatism. And for four years Pence stood at Trump's side and watched it happening around him.
The time for choosing has come and gone. And, on some level, Mike Pence must know that.
Will Saletan: Lying Dog-Faced Pony Soldier
Biden giving a press conference while jet-lagged may not quell rising concerns about his age. Plus, Kamala sticks to the script on abortion, Trump can’t wait to sic his AG on opponents, and Good Nikki faces off with Bad Nikki. Will Saletan joined for our weekly podcast.
Elon Musk Let Russia Scare Him
Anne Applebaum, in The Atlantic, writes about Elon Musk’s decision to limit Ukrainian access to Starlink because he feared it would lead to a major war.
This is a cautionary tale about the arrogance of a billionaire who has come to play a mercurial role in U.S. foreign policy. But it’s also a story about fear, seeded and promoted by the Russians, deliberately designed to shape broader Western perceptions of this war. Musk is not alone: Many people in Washington, and in Berlin, Brussels, and other European capitals, including people who support Ukrainian sovereignty and who want Ukraine to win the war, have also been cowed by conversations with Russian ambassadors, by threats issued by Russian leaders, and by the pictures of nuclear explosions shown on Russian state television. Long before he spoke with any real Russians, Musk likely encountered that same propaganda in the Russian-influenced far-right echo chambers that he frequents. In 2016, Donald Trump probably got the idea to accuse Hillary Clinton of wanting to start World War III in that same social-media milieu.
The Russians do this for a reason: Fear of escalation is designed to create self-deterrence—and it works. In 2014, Western leaders, fearing escalation, advised Ukraine not to fight back when Russia invaded Crimea. This advice led to misery for the people arrested, imprisoned, and chased away from the peninsula. It also persuaded the Russians to continue their invasion of eastern Ukraine. They stopped only when the Ukrainians fought back.
1. What Do Nikki Haley and Tim Scott Really Want?
IT WAS COMFORTING, for a while, to hope Scott and Haley had a secret pact to ultimately oppose Trump again and fight for the party they still believe in. But if Scott loses donor dollars to Haley and learns that Trump also doubts the viability of having an unmarried man on the ticket—and is sold on Noem—it’s hard to see Scott dropping out and urging the field to coalesce around Haley as the best hope of defeating Trump.
Haley doesn’t seem to be looking for a two-person race against Trump, and neither does Scott. They are more likely working to to bolster their careers or to help Trump win a second term.
Scott and Haley may seem like the heroes the GOP needs, but they aren’t trying to save it. With all of their promise, they are going to let us down—in fact, they already are.
2. POINT: Stop Hid’n Biden
The public’s perception of Biden’s mental decline is out of all proportion to reality. A May NPR/Marist poll found that 69 percent of registered independent voters believe Biden’s mental fitness is a real concern. A more recent CNN poll found that 73 percent are seriously concerned that his physical and mental health might not be adequate for another term. Even among Democrats, only 49 percent say he has the stamina and mental sharpness to serve another term. At dinner parties, people say the president has dementia.
To be clear, it would be better to have a younger president seeking re-election—and I would like to be four inches taller and gifted at the cello. But we got what we got, and part of being a grown-up is accepting reality. An 80-year-old president is less than ideal, sure, but there’s no reason to catastrophize.
There is just no way to watch Biden’s Hanoi press conference and not recognize that his brain is working fine. He responds to questions in appropriate fashion. His words are diplomatically chosen, and his thoughts follow in logical order. He remembers what he just said a few minutes ago and doesn’t repeat himself (or not more than the average politician).
COUNTER-POINT: Someone Tell Biden Not to Riff on John Wayne
Here, again from the White House transcript, is a snippet of Biden’s response, beginning in its 20th paragraph.
And there’s a—my—my brother loves having—there’s famous lines from movies that he always quotes. You know, it’s—and one—one of them is—there’s—there’s a movie about John Wayne. He’s an Indian scout. And they’re trying to get the Ap—I think it was the Apache—one—one of the great tribes of America back on the reservation.
And he’s standing with a Union so—so he’s—they’re all on their—and they’re on their horses in their saddles. And there’s three or four Indians in headdresses, and the Union soldiers—and the Union soldiers are basically saying to the Indians, “Come with me, we’ll take care of you. We’ll—everything will be good.”
And the Indian scou—the Indian looks at John Wayne and points to the Union soldier and says, “He’s a lying, dog-faced pony soldier.”
Well, there’s a lot of lying, dog-faced pony soldiers out there about—about global warming, but not anymore. All of a sudden, they’re all realizing it’s a problem. And there’s nothing like seeing the light.
For—and let’s see. I’m just following my orders here.
Staff, is there anybody I haven’t spoken to?
… All we’ll note here is that the “lying, dog-faced pony soldier” reference is not new to Biden’s repertoire. There was a library’s worth of internet literature about the phrase in 2020, when Biden asked a New Hampshire college student (also known as a “voter”) if she’d ever been to a caucus. She said she had, and Biden responded, “No you haven’t. You’re a lying, dog-faced pony soldier.”
At the end of Biden’s five questions that he was scheduled to take, he said, “But I tell you what, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go to bed.” It’s critical that his reelection team eliminate the phrase “I’m going to go to bed” from his vocabulary, through whatever means necessary.
3. Alabama’s Republicans: Lawless Lawmakers
THE REPUBLICAN-DOMINATED ALABAMA LEGISLATURE is hellbent on constraining the black (read: Democratic) vote in that state—and on doing it illegally.
This is not hyperbole. Not only is the legislature knowingly violating the Voting Rights Act and multiple federal court orders directing it to create two (not one) majority-black voting districts. But in a new and troubling low for Republicans, the state’s GOP lawmakers have also openly and admittedly flouted a June 8, 2023 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court holding that two black districts, not one, are required by law. On Monday, the federal district court overseeing the case responded with appropriate severity to a demand from Alabama’s secretary of state for an extension so that Republicans could continue to defy the law. “All Alabamians,” write the judges,
already have endured one congressional election in this census cycle that the Secretary administered under an unlawful map. We see no reason to allow that to happen again.
My Kevin’s agenda.