[guest post by JVW and Dana]
Item 1 – The GOP Wins or Not; Who the Hell Knows?
Here’s my take: Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the GOP House did about as well as could be expected given the circumstances. If you thought that the correct strategy was to blow past the June 1 default deadline while holding out for larger cuts or a more stringent spending cap then, well, OK, but the appetite for that in Washington and elsewhere was mighty small. Mr. McCarthy won the battle when the managed to get his House caucus to pass a debt-limit raise measure, which completely obliterated the Biden Administration’s plan of waiting until the House Republicans came to loggerheads and then force them to capitulate. So the perfectionist element of the GOP is sure that Speaker McCarthy could have wrung more concessions out of President Biden in the same vein as the average knucklehead sports fan thinks they could lead their favorite team to a championship if only their sage advice would be implemented. In reality, the GOP has (temporarily, unless they can follow-up effectively) changed public opinion towards the realization that the spending orgy has to come to an end, and that reality is going to cause a deeper fissure in the Democrat caucus in the long term than this current tempest about not cutting the budget more deeply is causing in the GOP caucus.
It’s a win. In basketball, an 86-85 win counts the same as a 120-77 win does. In tennis, a 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-7, 9-7 win counts the same as a 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 win does. Sure the GOP has very little margin for error going forward and shouldn’t read too much into this minor victory, but the Dems know that they are no longer in complete control of the narrative, and we should all take satisfaction in that.
Item 2 – Personal Coda on the Debt Limit Kerfuffle
I’ve mentioned before that Rep. Thomas Massie was a schoolmate of mine in college, and though I can’t say that I know him particularly well, I am friends with another schoolmate of ours who served as his Chief of Staff when he first came to Congress. So that’s my personal disclosure.
With that out of the way, let me salute Rep. Massie. I know he’s not everybody’s cup of tea: he has an iconoclastic Paulish libertarian streak which I think sometimes misses the mark on foreign policy (though I give him lots of credit for being consistent in his views) and perhaps in the past he’s been too in-your-face for most people’s tastes (though to his everlasting credit, he never in any meaningful sense could be considered a Trumpist). But when the House majority’s credibility depended upon passing the debt ceiling bill, first as the aforementioned partisan measure to be used as a starting point for negotiations and then later in the amended compromise version, Rep. Massie sacked up and accepted that he wasn’t going to get 100% of what he wanted, and voted for the acceptable instead of holding out for the perfect.
The bottom line on Thomas Massie is that he operates in the realm of the practical, not in some sort of theoretical world where Big Government has no constituency, and for that he should be duly saluted. Also, he’s actually an interesting and unpredictable legislator in an era where 90% of members of Congress are cookie-cutter party stooges. I have a soft spot in my heart of coal for those who don’t go along with the crowd, irrespective of party. If Cocaine Mitch decides to retire in — take a deep breath — three short years, then I think the good people of the Bluegrass State could do a lot worse than have Thomas Massie as their Senator.
Item 3 – Biden Falls; Has Legitimate Lawsuit Against Federal Government
Oh dear, our elderly President, after teasing us with several near misses at biting the dust, has gone full faceplant in Colorado Springs:
BREAKING: President Biden takes a fall on stage at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduationpic.twitter.com/BLef4F8eby
— The Spectator Index (@spectatorindex) June 1, 2023
Those of us who are of a certain age will remember way back in 1996 (Good Lord: 27 years ago) when Bob Dole fell off the stage at a campaign rally in San Jose. Not, mind you, because he was old and feeble (though arguably he was), but because the stage had been badly constructed and the front part had given way. My recollection is that the news media used that as yet another refrain of “Bob Dole [age 73 at the time] is way too old to be President.” Let’s see if the current 80-year-old Commander-in-Chief, who apparently stumbled over a sandbag, is held to the same standard.
Anyway, Joe Biden is a Democrat and a lawyer, so he should have no problem filing a negligence lawsuit against the United States Air Force Academy and collecting big bucks.
Exit question: How many times do you think he has fallen at home and we haven’t hear about it? Could that be one reason for his elongated absences from the public eye?
Item 4 – The University of California Beclowns Itself Again – What’s New?
The largest American public university system — the one which gave us Professor Angela Davis — has managed to match that level of inanity a half-century later by appointing failed and recalled former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin as the new Executive Director of the UC Berkeley Law School’s Criminal Law & Justice Center. This is yet another data point in the hypothesis that academia is the soft landing for every failed and useless ex-politician (mostly on the left, naturally) who has absolutely nothing of value to offer the private sector.
Coupled with the absolutely wretched student address spewed at the CUNY Law School graduation earlier last month, I don’t think it is entirely out of line to suggest that perhaps all of America’s publicly-funded law schools be closed down permanently and that aspiring attorneys go back to “reading law” for a period of years before making their attempt at the bar exam. If it was good enough for John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, then By God it’s good enough for the dunderheads of this age. Prove me wrong.
Item 5 – FBI’s Wray Blinks First in Showdown with GOP Congress
FBI Director Christopher Wray has agreed to give House investigators access to a document which purports to lay out evidence that the Biden family (including Joe Biden) received $5 million from a representative of a foreign government in a criminal bribery scheme. Republicans suggest that the FBI is purposely slow-walking the investigation into Biden family corruption in order to drag it out beyond the 2024 election. The bureau counters that the investigation is proceeding, but that these matters take time. Director Wray had earlier offered to allow only the chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight to view the document at the FBI offices, even though the document apparently is not marked classified and even though committee chairman James Comer (R-Ky) had threatened holding the director in contempt if he did not produce it. It would seem that Director Wray realized that he has not a leg upon which to stand, and the House should learn more about the status of the investigation sometime next week.
Item 6 – Oh, hello:
Federal prosecutors have obtained an audio recording of a summer 2021 meeting in which former President Donald Trump acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran, multiple sources told CNN, undercutting his argument that he declassified everything.
The recording indicates Trump understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. On the recording, Trump’s comments suggest he would like to share the information but he’s aware of limitations on his ability post-presidency to declassify records, two of the
What this could mean for the current leading Republican:
Make no mistake. This is squarely an Espionage Act case. It is not simply an “obstruction” case.
There is now every reason to expect former President Trump will be charged under 18 USC 793(e) of the Espionage Act.
The law fits his reported conduct like a hand in glove.
(e)Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it; or
Hannity: "News broke yesterday that there might be a tape recording, where you acknowledged that you understood that these were classified documents…Do you know anything about it?"
Trump: "I don't know anything about it. All I know is this, everything I did was right." pic.twitter.com/IxdjHMD8zH
— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) June 2, 2023
Item 7 – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says no peace talks until Russia pulls troops out of Ukraine’s borders and Kyiv is able to defend itself:
“A cease-fire that simply freezes current lines in place,” which would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin “to consolidate control over the territory he has seized, and rest, rearm, and reattack — that is not a just and lasting peace,” Blinken said in a speech during a visit to Finland, which recently joined NATO and shares a long border with Russia.
“Precisely because we have no illusions about Putin’s aspirations, we believe the prerequisite for meaningful diplomacy and real peace is a stronger Ukraine — capable of deterring and defending against any future aggression,” added the top American diplomat.
Russia must also pay a share of Ukraine’s reconstruction and be held accountable for launching its full-scale invasion of its neighbor in February 2022, Blinken said, adding that allowing Moscow to keep the one-fifth of Ukrainian territory it had occupied would send the wrong message to Russia and to “other would-be aggressors around the world,” according to Blinken.
Regarding those fears of provoking Putin and escalating matters: It’s already happening:
— Nataliya Mykolska (@mykolska) June 1, 2023
Ukraine’s allies can either give what is needed to prevent and deter Russian escalation and save innocent lives or wait for Putin to escalate anyway and kill more. His terrorist track record is clear, so his capacity to cause terror must be reduced.
I don't give a damn about my political career.
I want to save our country. pic.twitter.com/KNgABIRQU9
— Kari Lake (@KariLake) June 2, 2023
The MAGA election deniers who wreak havoc against election officials continue to have a negative impact:
Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates, a high-profile election official who has faced heavy scrutiny and harassment in one of the country’s largest counties over the last two cycles, is stepping down at the end of his term…Gates, who, along with his family, has been the target of threats and attacks during his tenure from those trumpeting false election claims, previously said that he suffers from PTSD. He is just one of many election administrators choosing not to run again following years of harassment from conspiracy theorists and a widespread lack of support for their work.
Gates has drawn criticism from defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who tried unsuccessfully to get the county to redo her contest, claiming that “hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots infected the election.”
“Mr. [Gates’] malicious incompetence has been an albatross on Maricopa County,” Lake’s campaign account tweeted in response to the announcement. “We encourage Mr. Gates to never involve himself in representative politics again.”
The county experienced issues with its printers in the midterm elections. But an external investigation completed earlier this year found those problems were due to equipment failure — not intentional misconduct.
Although Lake is not an elected official, with 1.2 million Twitter followers and crowds turning out for her appearances, she continues to influence voters. She is an indicator of what is to come with regard to upcoming elections. The Republican Party remains in the clutches of election deniers and grifters. And while we know that she’s nuts and should not hold public office, it is possible that Arizonans may decide they want her as their next senator, just as Americans may decide that they want Trump as their next president. None of this should not be taken lightly.
Item 9 – It doesn’t look like DeSantis got a bump in polls since making it official:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was surely hoping for a bump from his presidential campaign launch last week. But a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows no sign of improvement.
In fact, the survey of 1,520 U.S. adults, which was conducted from May 25-30, suggests that DeSantis may have actually lost ground against frontrunner and former President Donald Trump since officially entering the race for the 2024 GOP nomination during a glitchy Twitter Spaces event with the platform’s billionaire owner Elon Musk.
Among potential Republican primary voters — registered voters who identify as Republicans or GOP-leaning independents — Trump now leads the full field of seven declared candidates with 53%. That’s up from 48% in early May, before DeSantis threw his hat in the ring. And DeSantis now lags further behind than he did just a few weeks ago; his 25% is down from 28% in early May.
Exit questions: What must DeSantis do in order to bring his numbers up? How does he peel off the MAGA voters? Perhaps a better way of putting that would be: just how far right does he need to go to pull voters away from Trump? What about Independents and moderate Republicans?
[N]o party, no nation, no people can defend and perpetuate a constitutional republic if they accept leaders who have gone to war with the rule of law, with the democratic process, with the peaceful transfer of power, with the U.S. Constitution itself.
–JVW and Dana