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The Furies of Mar-a-Lago
Plus: Democracy dodges a bullet.
Big week for SCOTUS. But let’s catch up a bit first:
The Humiliation of Kevin McCarthy (Continued).
Well, that didn’t take long.
On Wednesday morning, My Kevin had a rare moment of candor when he suggested that DJT might not be the GOP’s best shot in 2024.
“Can he win that election? Yeah, he can win that election,” McCarthy said on CNBC. “The question is: ‘Is he the strongest to win the election?’ I don’t know that answer.”
Cue the furies of Mar-a-Lago and the absolutely inevitable, eminently predictable cave by the self-gelded speaker. Reports Politico’s Playbook: “We’re told top aides to the former president and allies who know both men quickly traded messages asking, in short: What the f*ck? Some called McCarthy a ‘moron,’ we’re told.”
Brave Sir Kevin responded by executing the by-now-familiar McCarthy Grovel.
McCarthy immediately pivoted into clean-up mode. He called Trump to apologize, according to the NYT’s Annie Karni. He offered Trump-loving Breitbart reporter Matt Boyle an exclusive interview, where he walked the comments back and accused the media of taking them out of context.
“Trump is stronger today than he was in 2016,” McCarthy told Boyle.
Unfortunately for McCarthy, Trump’s wrath is reportedly unassuaged, and McCarthy’s attempt to suck-up may actually have backfired. But we’ve seen this movie before, haven’t we?
The Bravado Defense
First, Trump said that the FBI planted the documents. Then he insisted that he had declassified them with his mind. Then he said that the papers he was talking about on the new bombshell tape were just newspaper clippings.
His new defense? He was just bullsh*tting. We kid you not. Via Semafor:
“I would say it was bravado, if you want to know the truth, it was bravado,” Trump said in an interview aboard his plane with Semafor and ABC News. “I was talking and just holding up papers and talking about them, but I had no documents. I didn’t have any documents.”
It gets better. The secret “plans”? He was talking about plans for his golf course. Not Iran war plans at all. Golf courses.
Asked about his use of the word “plans” during a Fox News interview earlier Tuesday to describe some items he may have highlighted in the 2021 meeting, Trump insisted he was referring to “building plans” and plans for golf courses strewn about his desk.
“Did I use the word plans?” he said. “What I’m referring to is magazines, newspapers, plans of buildings. I had plans of buildings. You know, building plans? I had plans of a golf course.”
This morning? Florida man raging on the heath.
Liz’s Truth Bomb
“Look, I think that the country right now faces hugely challenging and fundamentally important issues,” Cheney responded. “And what we’ve done in our politics is create a situation where we’re electing idiots.”
“And so, I don’t look at it through the lens of, is this what I should do or what I shouldn’t do. I look at it through the lens of, how do we elect serious people? And I think electing serious people can’t be partisan.”
“You know, because of the situation that we’re in,” Cheney continued, “where we have a major-party candidate who’s trying to unravel our democracy — and I don’t say that lightly — we have to think about, all right, what kinds of alliances are necessary to defeat him, and those are the alliances we’ve got to build across party lines.”
Rick Scott Builds a Wall
ICYMI: the Florida senator posted this bit of weirdness yesterday, telling “socialists and communists” and anyone “that believes in Big Government” not to vacation, visit, or move to the “Free State” of Florida. Because “freedom” means keeping out people with different opinions, amirite?
We probably shouldn’t overthink this, because Scott’s video is really just the usual performative assh*lery. He was simply signaling to the base that he hates the right people and wants to punish them, which of course is the erogenous zone of MAGAdom.
But I still have questions:
(1) WTF? There are lots of ways of critiquing socialism, communism and big government. Scott offered none of them. Instead, we got this “warning” not to come to his state to spend money and pay taxes.
(2) What exactly is Scott’s definition of “socialism”? And what specific beliefs in “Big Government” should discourage folks from even thinking of heading to Disney World? How do folks know they are “not welcome”?
(3) What about Nazis? Anti-Semites? Holocaust deniers? Racists? Fans of the Unabomber? Medicare fraudsters? Still welcome? (Rhetorical questions, I know.)
(4) What do the tourism/economic development folks think about this?
The whole idea behind “the Free State of Florida” isn’t freedom. It’s exclusion. It’s the promise that Florida is a place where the in-group has achieved enough power so that it can punish and hopefully expunge the out-group. It’s important to note that the champions of the Free State of Florida try to convince liberals of how much better life is when lived according to conservative values. Instead, they promise that they’re going to get rid of the people who disagree with them.
That’s the promise of “Florida is where woke goes to die.” Which, btw, is the weirdest political formulation I’ve ever heard. Especially in regards to a state which is famously known the place where old people go to die.
The brutality is the point
Stephen Miller, one of Donald Trump’s top immigration advisers, advocated using U.S. predator drones in 2018 to blow up migrant boats full of unarmed civilians, according to an upcoming book by a former administration official.
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Democracy dodges a bullet
In today’s Bulwark, Kim Wehle takes a deep dive into Tuesday’s SCOTUS decision: “Supreme Court Smacks Down Radical ‘Independent State Legislature Theory’.”
WHEN THE SUPREME COURT HANDED DOWN its decision on Tuesday in Moore v. Harper, the collective exhale among experts in voting rights and constitutional law was almost palpable. The case involved the so-called “independent state legislature theory”—a cynical maneuver by Republican lawmakers and lawyers to essentially immunize state legislatures from any review whatsoever for passing anti-voting legislation, however draconian and however violative of state law. The proposed doctrine gained steam in connection with the sixty-plus Big Lie lawsuits filed in the wake of the November 2020 election. The fact that the Court agreed to entertain the theory in the first instance by granting certiorari in this case was alarming. The fact that Chief Justice Roberts in his majority opinion resoundingly put it to rest once and for all—despite the availability of a ready off-ramp—is very good news.
Writes David French: “The Supreme Court Just Helped Save American Democracy From Trumpism.”
The implications are profound. In regard to 2020, the Supreme Court’s decision strips away the foundation of G.O.P. arguments that the election was legally problematic because of state court interventions. Such interventions did not inherently violate the federal Constitution, and the state legislatures did not have extraordinary constitutional autonomy to independently set election rules.
In regard to 2024 and beyond, the Supreme Court’s decision eliminates the ability of a rogue legislature to set new electoral rules immune from judicial review. State legislatures will still be accountable for following both federal and state constitutional law. In other words, the conventional checks and balances of American law will still apply.
It’s Not Going Back to Normal
On yesterday’s podcast, I chatted with the Wapo’s Ben Terris about his new book, “The Big Break.” Why is DC so weird? Ben describes his hitchhiker’s guide through the backrooms of Washington to show why normal is not coming back after Trump.
BONUS: My weekly pod with Mona Charen for Bulwark+ members. This week we discuss the Trump tapes, other charges Jack Smith is investigating, the Supreme Court's reputation, and why polling shouldn't make us suicidal.
1. Why they booed Christie
Joe Perticone reports on this weekend’s Faith and Freedom Coalition conference. Chris Christie got a mixed reaction.
At least one candidate was not there to make friends: former New Jersey governor and recently evangelized Never Trumper Chris Christie. He made a bid for the audience’s approval early on by mentioning certain acts he took as governor, including his yearly veto of Planned Parenthood funding from the state, and he also highlighted his Catholic faith. But he lost many of his listeners when he suggested that true leaders take responsibility for their actions. In case there was any question about the intended target of these remarks, Christie called him out by name:
Because beware, everybody, of a leader who never makes mistakes. Beware of a leader who has no faults. Beware of a leader who says that when something goes wrong, it’s everybody else’s fault. And he goes, and he blames those people. For anything that goes wrong, but when things go right, everything is to his credit.
Now, there are a lot of people, a lot of people who wonder. After I was the first candidate to endorse Donald Trump in 2016, the very first. After he made me chairman of his transition. After he made me chairman of his Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission. After—and this one will keep you up at night, everybody—after I played Hillary Clinton in debate prep . . .
Why am I running for president of the United States? I’m running because [Trump has] let us down. He has let us down because he’s unwilling: He’s unwilling to take responsibility for any of the mistakes that were made and any of the faults that he has and any of the things that he’s done. And that is not leadership, everybody. That is a failure of leadership.
This gloss prompted booing from the crowd. “You can boo all you want,” Christie said.
Immediately after his speech, I walked to the back of the venue where the candidates exited and a handful of other reporters were staking out. There was a large crowd of younger people—mostly college-aged—waiting for Christie. While security guards were gesturing to clear a path for the candidate, the group was very excited to see Christie and insisted that he pose for a group photo with them.
It was a small group, but their enthusiasm was real. Christie’s actual chances of receiving the nomination are vanishingly small, but he is distinguishing his message from that of every other candidate, focusing his campaign efforts almost solely on one of the most critical early voting states (New Hampshire), and he’s doing it all without any apparent regard for how he’s perceived. (In reply to an interviewer’s question about Trump making fun of his weight, Christie replied, “Oh, like he’s some Adonis?”)
2. What Comes Next for Prigozhin?
Was the mutiny by the Wagner private military company, which brought tanks, armored vehicles, and anti-aircraft guns to Russian highways and cities, staged by Vladimir Putin for some still-inexplicable reason? (Very unlikely.)
Was Prigozhin, the restaurateur nicknamed “Putin’s chef” for his role as the Kremlin’s court caterer, out to depose and replace Putin himself? (Also extremely improbable.)
Was the whole thing merely Prigozhin’s attempt to get the attention of the patron he once referred to as “Papa”? (Possibly.)
Was his real goal to save both his skin and his multibillion-dollar business at a point when the Kremlin was seeking to disband the Wagner Group and fold it into the regular armed forces? (Now we’re getting warm.)
3. Yes, College Is Still a Good Investment
Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Deming found that college graduates generally earn significantly higher wages throughout their careers compared to those without a degree. The “college wage premium” grows substantially with age and work experience, even when adjusted for cognitive skill levels. Those who have diverse work experiences and higher levels of education see compounding skill and wage growth across their working lifetimes.