Patterico's Pontifications


Pre-Analysis and GOP Debate Open-Thread

Filed under: General — JVW @ 2:49 pm

[guest post by JVW]

A whole mess of Republicans will take to the stage Wednesday night to argue over which one of them will be the last one to bow out of a primary which Donald J. Trump seems destined to win. (That’s me being snarky: for the record, I believe that there is a very good chance that Trump’s luster diminishes mightily this fall and early winter.) Since I had a bit of fun four years ago comparing the Democrat candidates to the sort of people I encountered in high school, and since it’s an idea appropriated from the late, great humorist P.J. O’Rourke whose writings I revere, I figured I would do the same this time around with the GOP. So, in alphabetical order, here we go:

Governor Doug Burgum
Not particularly well known because he lives out on a large ranch about 40 minutes away from school. Seems like a good enough dude, but his life clearly revolves around ranch work. And while that no doubt has imparted valuable life skills upon him, it also means that he isn’t really a part of the jocks or nerds or go-getters or any of the other school subcultures. You imagine he would be dependable in a school crisis, but you just can’t tell if he can relate to your or your friends.

Governor Chris Christie
Smart and witty loudmouth who is always arguing with someone. Loves the speech and debate team where he excels in extemporaneous debate and Lincoln-Douglas Debate. Plays catcher for the baseball team and is adequate on the defensive end, but only hits .240 at the plate and comes up short in clutch situations. You genuinely like him, though when he’s had a few beers all he really wants to do is find someone and argue with him about trifling matters, and that gets really old quickly. Carries grudges, and forgets nothing.

Governor Ron DeSantis
Solid guy: good student, fine athlete, perceptive, bold, and dependable. On the other hand, he’s not super sociable (especially in large group gatherings) and he has the tendency to pick fights that may have best been avoided, like the time he got the basketball team banned from the weight room because they were practicing dance moves while the football team was trying to pump iron. Seems a bit too serious and focused at times. Everybody at the rival school hates him because he has captained teams which continually beat theirs, but now the BMOC at his own school has become threatened by him and is thus colluding with his obnoxious posse and the rival school to undermine him.

Governor Nikki Haley
Smart, kind, pretty, and dependable. She’s the daughter of immigrants and her family owns a small business, so instead of having a heavy extracurricular life she tends to her family obligations. This means that while she is respected and liked by her peers, they don’t seem to really know her too well. She’s trying to be more socially active, but is having a hard time breaking into the various cliques.

Governor Asa Hutchison
Pleasant guy, pretty goofy, doesn’t seem to have a whole lot on the ball but is likable anyway. Worked hard to get elected president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but then weirdly starting criticizing the group for being too focused on Jesus, of all things. Nobody really loves the guy, but nobody truly hates him either.

Governor Mike Pence
Soft-spoken and friendly stalwart who plays on the offensive line in football, wrestles in the winter, and throws the shot and discus in the spring. Good student, but missed out on finishing in the top ten. Has had only one girlfriend whom he has dated for his last three years. They will almost certainly marry after college. Respected and liked by a diverse group of people, but just doesn’t leave a super-strong impression upon anyone.

Mr. Vivek Ramaswamey
You were confused when suddenly one day your senior year this sophomore guy is seen sitting with the cool kids at lunch. Turns out he’s smart and personable, but he does give off the vibe that he’s trying too hard to flatter you and gain your confidence. And it seems a bit odd that suddenly he expresses the exact same opinions that all the popular boys have and he emulates their mannerisms. For a few months he is a big cheese among the in crowd, but eventually they forget about him and move on.

Senator Tim Scott
Super likable guy, always seen in the halls with a big smile on his face. Says a friendly “Hello!” to everyone and seems somehow to always know their names. Most of the school admires and is genuinely fond of him, not the least because he will call white guys “brother” from time to time, but for some reason he never really distinguishes himself from his classmates in any meaningful way. You always expect that one day he will emerge as a class leader, but that day for whatever reason never seems to come.

I’ve been going back-and-forth on whether to include a high school analysis of the one guy who won’t be there on Wednesday to take part in the debate. One the one hand, why should non-participants be included? I really don’t want to have to learn enough about Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami to figure out where he fits in my political Riverdale after all. But I guess this guy will be a looming specter haunting tonight’s proceedings, so here we go:

Former President Donald Trump
A rich kid who became the kingpin of the school early on when his indulgent parents invited all of his schoolchums to annual birthday parties starting in Kindergarten. These parties featured unhealthy food, magicians, pony rides, bouncy castles, cotton candy machines, arcade games, and anything else that captures a child’s attentino. The birthday parties had ceased by the time young Donald reached seventh grade, but they had served their purpose in making him the most popular kid at the school. He hasn’t thrown any kind of social event since then, but he always teases the planning of a huge party with six kegs and three bands that he plans to hold “very soon.” It of course never takes place. He openly mocks his teachers to their faces and then complains that he is being singled-out for punishment when he is sent to detention. Nearly everybody pretends to like and respect him, and there is a strong clique in the school who idolizes him, but there are grumblings that school spirit suffers under him and that it is time that a new BMOC be crowned. But for now, he still rules the school.

There you have it. I don’t know if I am going to watch in real-time tonight; I’m lazy enough to just catch the highlights on YouTube or something. But maybe I will tune in if only to be further disappointed on how horribly we have fallen since the days of true leaders.

Share your reactions to the debate in the comments.


Constitutional Vanguard: In Which I Once Again Stand Up for the New York Indictment of Donald Trump

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:03 am

I continue to demonstrate an exceptional sense of timing, by using the date of the first Republican primary debate to publish another giant legal piece on a Trump indictment . . . the Bragg indictment. What am I doing writing about this again? Well, I finally got around to reading the federal decision rejecting Trump’s efforts to permanently remove the case to federal court — and I found, to my delight, that the decision backs up my previous criticism of two key legal arguments advanced by critics of the indictment.

This is another marathon, with 5200 words of free content and 4100 words of paid content. I’ll warn you: it’s pretty heavy on the legal wonkery. The portion available to all addresses the argument that federal law preempts the crimes Bragg is charging.

The judge gives specific examples of state laws that have been found not to be preempted by FECA. In one case, the state of New York was allowed to bring an action against the directors of a corporation for using the corporation’s money to contribute to federal PACs. The court held that, even though there are laws about donations to federal PACs, New York nevertheless had an interest in making sure that the directors of a corporation “exercise sound judgment in the expenditure of corporate funds.”

In another case, state Attorneys General investigated a PAC for violating state consumer protection laws. The PAC used a combination of pre-checked boxes and fine print that tricked potential donors into making recurring donations that they did not intend to make. (This PAC is the same WinRed racket that peppers me with several texts a day. Probably you get the same texts. The death penalty is too weak a punishment for these people. But I digress.) The PAC sought to enjoin these state AG investigations, arguing that they were subject to FECA only, and that the state AGs had no business trying to investigate their relentless and dishonest scamming. No dice, said the Eighth Circuit. Because FECA preemption is narrowly construed, states can investigate violations of consumer protection laws even though a PAC is soliciting money only for federal elections. A different result would immunize WinRed “from many generally applicable state laws.”

A key factor in these decisions is the fact that the state statutes in question are laws of general applicability and not ones that specifically purport to regulate federal campaign finance issues. The judge cites a long line of cases that find no preemption when the state laws are “tangential to the regulation of federal elections.” These cases stand in contrast to cases involving state statutes that “regulate conduct specifically covered by FECA.” It is this latter category of cases in which preemption doctrine kicks in.

The portion for paid subscribers is probably the more fun of the two, and addresses the argument that Bragg has to show that Trump committed a federal campaign violation. This passage appears, although it serves as something of a teaser for the actual analysis:

When the judge says that “[t]he People need not establish that Trump or any other person actually violated NYEL § 17-152 or FECA,” there are two aspects to this statement: one simple, and one mindboggling.

The first aspect of the judge’s statement—a concept which I have argued before—is very straightforward and easy to understand: the prosecution doesn’t have to show that Trump himself committed a campaign finance violation (or any other crime) himself.

The mindboggling aspect is the claim is the claim that the prosecution doesn’t have to show anyone else committed that other crime either.

You even get a discussion of what the terms “actus reus” and “mens rea” mean. If this kind of legal geekery is your thing, then run, don’t walk, to the post itself. And subscribe here.

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