Editors’ Blog

Should Be Fun

In addition to the prosaic matters of corruption, securities fraud, free home renovations from a donor and obstructing federal investigations, Texas AG Ken Paxton’s upcoming impeachment trial in the Texas state Senate will include evidence that he used a fake Uber account to hide visits to his mistress as well as burner phones and secret personal email addresses.

The Curious Unreality of the GOP Primary Race

Recently we were planning debate coverage. And to do that we went back and watched one of the early 2016 GOP debates. It was striking to me on a number of levels. Only seven years ago — but it was a lifetime ago, truly a different world in politics. A huge amount of the debate was about combating the ISIS threat. You had a bunch of grandstanding about the power and necessity of being willing to say the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” But the biggest difference was that hard-to-quite-capture dimension of nothing Republican presidential candidates say really mattering because of the unspoken presence of Donald Trump.

Trump was on the stage in this debate. But it was early. It was before the only real question was whether or not any of the candidates would be able to stop Trump. Today you might see Nikki Haley, or Mike Pence or Ron DeSantis making a speech or doing an interview. But it doesn’t really matter what they’re saying. Because whatever they’re saying isn’t actually what they’re saying. It’s a way to make an argument or communicate something else about the thing that can’t be mentioned: Donald Trump. It’s like a mime performance where the unseen object they’re reacting against is Donald Trump.

Government By Drama

We’ve been covering different dimensions of this story. But I wanted to highlight what now seems to be the likely government shutdown this fall. We’ve had shutdowns before and by the standards of recent Republican high-wire acts and hostage taking events they’re relatively minor affairs. What is notable about this round of it is that there isn’t really any big budgetary impasse it’s over. We did that during the debt ceiling drama back in May. At some level it’s House Republicans wanting to re-litigate the fight they believe — reasonably enough — that they lost. But even that doesn’t capture the dimensions of it because that agreement has terms that apply to this kind of situation. Kevin McCarthy made them release their hostage.

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The Plutocrats’ Low Energy Bark

Back in the Spring I wrote that I expected Ron DeSantis’s hopeless campaign to eventually be replaced by another GOP candidate memestock, and perhaps a succession of them. By this I mean another non-Trump candidate who gets hosed down with high-roller dollars, gets a lot of media attention and sugar-high narrative buzz like DeSantis did, and then inevitably crashes and burns because GOP voters actually want Donald Trump. The only surprise to me is that there hasn’t been any coalescence behind a new guy, even as DeSantis’s campaign has become little more than a running joke. The inevitable conclusion we can draw from that dog not barking is that the couple dozen or so billionaires who play a dominant role funding GOP campaigns have reconciled themselves to getting back on the Trump Train.

But not so fast?

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Don’t Be Surprised Biden Isn’t Getting Credit for A Good Economy (He’s Got Time)

One of Democrats’ pet peeves is that President Biden has not only overseen a robust economy with almost unprecedentedly low levels of unemployment, his policies actually have some decent claim to responsibility for that record. And yet he gets no credit for it. Not only has Biden been mired in low-40s approval for the last two years, his ratings on the economy are some of his weakest.

This is definitely annoying and certainly unfair (what isn’t?). But it shouldn’t seem new or unexpected. If you’ve been following politics closely for a few decades you’ll remember that Presidents Reagan, Clinton and Obama faced a very similar issue. All three presidents had a significant interval when the economy was demonstrably doing well and yet got zero credit for it or even any clear public recognition that the economy was in good shape.

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Listen To This: Fulton Court Press

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate are joined by TPM investigative reporter Josh Kovensky to talk all things Georgia indictment.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

Plus two bonus pods! 

The Trial Will Be Televised

Josh and Kate do a mini-pod to discuss the fourth indictment of Donald Trump out of Georgia.

Plead the Fifth

Josh and Kate discuss the Fifth Circuit’s newest mifepristone ruling in a mini-pod.

How Wars and Revolutions Change Countries in Unexpected Ways

One of the many interesting details in Josh Kovensky’s podcast interview with independent Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar was the discussion of what often seems like Vladimir Putin’s very American culture war politics. To Americans, these statements by Putin can come off as almost a kind of trolling or part of some common rightist, authoritarian playbook. Zygar argued that they are, for the most part, not aimed at Putin’s domestic audience. In short, Putin decided over the last decade that he needed new international allies. And those allies were less a set of particular countries — or not only that — than the right and far-right in North America and Europe. As an example, Zygar argued that Russia’s recent crackdown on trans rights had very little grounding in Russia’s domestic political dialog. It’s not that Russians are pro-trans rights. It just isn’t something that has much salience either way. The crackdown was more something Putin did to deepen his bond with the global right.

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If the Shoe Fits

From TPM Reader AC who knows quite a bit about the history of the racketeering statutes.

Can I remind people that no president in history has ever acted MORE STEREOTYPICALLY LIKE A GANGSTER than Trump?  He owned casinos.  He has deep connections in the New York City construction industry.  His son-in-law’s father did time for extortion.  He calls people who inform on him “rats.”  He bullies.  He threatens to expose people’s private shame to obtain endorsements.  He filled his administration with pro wrestling magnates and failed movie producers.  His campaign manager’s family made their money building jai alai frontons in Connecticut.  One of his top advisors was Felix Sater, an alleged organized crime figure who has done time for stabbing a guy in the face.  His former personal attorney got his start hanging out at a Russian gangster social club. 

Do I need to go on?  If Trump wants to suggest the law wasn’t intended for men like him, then perhaps he should try acting like a normal politician or businessman rather than a crime lord from a movie

Another Special Episode

For those of you who are subscribers/listeners to The Josh Marshall Podcast, Kate Riga and I just recorded a special instapod on today’s mifepristone decision from the 5th circuit, in addition to today’s regularly scheduled weekly pod. So that special episode should be showing up on your device some time later today if you subscribe.

How Not to Fall for Trump’s ‘What He Believes’ Nonsense

You’ve probably noticed that Donald Trump has announced that he’s holding a press conference Monday in which he’ll release a 100-page report which shows both that the 2020 election in Georgia was “stolen” and that all charges against him and his criminal associates should be dropped. In other words, he’s responding to the charges by doubling down on the Big Lie. This isn’t surprising. Trump only has one gear — all-in and over-the-top. But as Clark Neily says in this post at CATO, “Being an inveterate liar is a major liability in litigation.”

He also has an apt description of who Trump is. These are all points we’ve made before. But it’s a tight and concise run-through.

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