Saturday, 8/13/22

Ya gotta work with what ya got

I once had a law partner who many considered gorgeous and who certainly presented herself well. One day, haggling outside a divorce courtoom with a lawyer who was particularly good at getting under opposing counsel’s skin, he told her he might as well give in, because she would get it anyway by [description of sexy behavior before the male judge omitted]. “Ya gotta work with whatcha got, Lou,” she shot back.

Just so in politics, too:

[Ron] DeSantis’s action-figure approach to his role as governor of Florida is in part about the fact that [Ted] Cruz, [Josh] Hawley and others don’t have the executive authority that he does and can’t make things happen as unilaterally or as quickly. They’re would-be MAGA superheroes bereft of their red capes.

Cruz and Hawley were such hams during the confirmation hearings for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson because, as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, they had a stage that DeSantis, Pence, Pompeo and others didn’t. Might as well pig out on the opportunity.

Frank Bruni, Josh Hawley’s manhood, Mike Pompeo’s midriff and other 2024 teases. Bruni has takes on Nikki Haley, Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, too.

Nellie’s Nuggets

  • Good progressives in England have removed Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” from university reading lists. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2017, which doesn’t say that much necessarily but I add my vote that it’s phenomenal. Why remove it? It has graphic depictions of slavery. Those depictions might upset people. It’s unclear how people are supposed to learn about something terrible like slavery without being upset, but perhaps Mr. Whitehead should consider a gentler sort of Goodnight Moon rendition for the delicate souls in ivory towers.
  • In Sunni v. Shiite violence, which one is the white supremacist? When four Muslim men were murdered in Albuquerque by an alleged serial killer who drove a dark grey sedan, everyone assumed the killer was some white supremacist. Biden came out to say: “My administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. … These hateful attacks have no place in America.” Turns out, the guy arrested and charged with so far two of the killings is a Sunni Muslim, and he may have been partly motivated by anger that his daughter married a Shiite Muslim. Yes, it’s true: Violence also exists outside of Western culture.
  • A lot of liberals basically won’t be happy until Trump is in Shawshank. [At least one conservative, too. (Tipsy)]

Nellie Bowles

Nellie, herself well and truly pregnant, notes this, too:

An abortion case: A hideous story in Nebraska became national news this week as an ominous sign about “post-Roe America.” Here’s what happened: a 17-year-old took pills to induce a a miscarriage, and she planned it in part on Facebook Messenger with her mom. The abortion was exposed in part after Facebook’s parent company handed over her chat history. This is the thing we are supposed to be upset about.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the real outrage here is that the aborted baby was around 23 weeks old and, with modern medicine, could have a 55% chance of survival. (Nebraska outlaws abortions after 20 weeks unless there is danger to the mother’s life). This family allegedly induced an abortion on a viable baby, attempted to burn the body to get rid of evidence, and then buried it. I’m not sure this is the abortion privacy case to hinge the movement on right now.

All Things Trump

Trump’s effective schtick

Why is Donald Trump so powerful? How did he come to dominate one of the two major parties and get himself elected president? Is it his hair? His waistline? No, it’s his narratives. Trump tells powerful stories that ring true to tens of millions of Americans.

The main one is that America is being ruined by corrupt coastal elites. According to this narrative, there is an interlocking network of highly educated Americans who make up what the Trumpians have come to call the Regime: Washington power players, liberal media, big foundations, elite universities, woke corporations. These people are corrupt, condescending and immoral and are looking out only for themselves. They are out to get Trump because Trump is the person who stands up to them. They are not only out to get Trump; they are out to get you.

This narrative has a core of truth to it. Highly educated metropolitan elites have become something of a self-enclosed Brahmin class. But the Trumpian propaganda turns what is an unfortunate social chasm into venomous conspiracy theory. It simply assumes, against a lot of evidence, that the leading institutions of society are inherently corrupt, malevolent and partisan and are acting in bad faith.

It simply assumes that the proof of people’s virtue is that they’re getting attacked by the Regime …

America absolutely needs to punish those who commit crimes. On the other hand, America absolutely needs to make sure that Trump does not get another term as president. What do we do if the former makes the latter more likely? I have no clue how to get out of this potential conflict between our legal and political realities.

David Brooks, Did the F.B.I. Just Re-Elect Donald Trump?

Messy, absurd, uncathartic

When I first heard about the FBI’s raid on Mar-A-Lago, I merely hoped that there was a very, very good reason for it, and that the feds found what they were looking for. Days later, none of us knows the answer to either of those questions.

Donald J. Trump knows, of course. But he won’t tell us — because appropriate official silence allows him to flood the zone with his own bullshit, gin up his fevered base, and burnish his case for returning to power as a triumphant victim of the Deep State (aka the rule of law). All I know is that he is a grotesque liar and will say anything if it wins him a few minutes of news-cycle attention.

… A few more rabid Twitter cycles and every minuscule facet of this story will be pored over, and, in all likelihood, the conclusion, if it ever emerges, will be what it has consistently been: messy, absurd, and without that cathartic “We got him!” moment every Resistance groupie has been dreaming of since 2016.

Andrew Sullivan, Don’t Take The Trump Bait

Be it remembered …

“As he rails against Weaponized Law Enforcement, it’s worth recalling Trump’s chants of ‘Lock Her Up!’” – Charlie Sykes.

The Search Warrant

We’ve now seen the warrant under which Mar a Lago (is that how it’s spelled?) was searched Monday. Having not practiced criminal law, I have no particular comment on it.

But the issuance and execution of the warrant tells us something we hadn’t known and that I missed until Josh Barro and Ken White mentioned it (paywall): the Merrick Garland Justice Department does have the political will to proceed with criminal charges against Donald Trump.

Prosecuting a former President of the United States (FPOTUS, as the warrant has it) is a big deal, and Trump has done his best to make it an even bigger deal. There were (and are) legitimate questions about whether the game is worth the candle. (See David Brooks, above.) But Merrick Garland, with or without (preferably the latter) input from the White House, certainly appears to have decided that it is.

Here’s why I’m glad he did: we can’t let a bunch of domestic terrorists dictate what the government may and may not do. That’s true of the 2020 summer mobs and it’s true of the Proud Boys, playing IRA to the Trumpified GOP’s Sinn Fein. An epidemic of death threats has flipped votes in Congress, and we can’t let that sort of thing go on and, emboldened by success, grow.


"The Frenchman works until he can play. The American works until he can’t play; and then thanks the devil, his master, that he is donkey enough to die in harness …." (G.K. Chesterton)

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