By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Category: Politics Page 1 of 74

Mein Gott

From The New York Times: “Trump Posts Video Online With Newspaper Headline About ‘Unified Reich’” (free link)

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A Wall Street Journal poll shows that abortion rights may be decisive this fall

Everybody’s talking about that New York Times poll (free link) showing that President Biden has more or less caught up with Donald Trump. But I think the results of a Wall Street Journal poll (free link) published Friday evening are a lot more significant. It shows that abortions rights are by far the most most important issue for suburban women who live in seven swing states: 39%, with immigration coming in second at 16% and the economy at 7%.

As the Journal puts it in its lead: “Abortion is the most powerful issue driving suburban women who could decide the presidential election.”

Given that the election is almost certainly going to come down to turnout, the Journal poll bodes well for Biden. Of course, if Democrats fail to take back the House and hold on to the Senate, it will be for naught, since the party won’t be able to codify Roe v. Wade as it has promised. But abortion rights will be the major issue in House and Senate races as well, so who knows what might happen?

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A tribute to Mike Dukakis

Michael Dukakis is not only a national treasure, he’s been a treasure at Northeastern University since the early 1990s. On Thursday he was honored by three of his successors.

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Hur lied

Special counsel Robert Hur. Photo (cc) 2021 by Maryland GovPics.

I’m not sure how else we can characterize what happened. Special counsel Robert Hur all but called President Biden senile recently in describing him as “a well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” Hur declined to recommend charges against Biden for keeping classified information in his possession, essentially arguing that it would be cruel to do that to an 81-year-old man in the early stages of dementia. And, of course, the media fell for it.

Now we know that Hur’s report grossly mischaracterized the reality, revealed in the transcripts of Biden’s deposition with prosectors. CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy has a good roundup of the media mea culpas, writing:

The acknowledgement from some, but not all, news outlets on Tuesday about the true nature of Biden’s deposition marked another embarrassing moment for the national press, which has floundered at pivotal moments in the lead up to the crucial 2024 presidential election.

The deposition transcripts not only indicated that Biden appeared fairly sharp during his testimony, joking with investigators and retelling stories with granular detail, but that Hur was misleading in how he presented some of the information included in his report.

It’s like a rerun in reverse from 2019, when then-Attorney General Bill Barr put out a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties that falsely declared Donald Trump had not obstructed justice. It became clear that’s not what Mueller was saying once his full report came out, but truth, boots, etc.

I especially enjoyed this account of Biden’s deposition, from Charlie Savage’s report Tuesday in The New York Times:

“I don’t remember how a beat-up box got in the garage,” he [Biden] said, speculating that someone packing up must have just tossed stuff into it. He added that he had “no goddamn idea” what was in a tranche of files shipped to his house and “didn’t even bother to go through them.”

Who among us?

Now, it has to be said that it was Attorney General Merrick Garland who named Hur, a one-time Trump appointee, as the special counsel. Given Hur’s predictably mendacious performance, I’d say that chances of Garland’s serving in a second Biden administration, should there be one, are nil. And they should be.

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A passionate President Biden delivers the best SOTU address I can remember

Via the White House YouTube channel

President Biden delivered what I thought was the best State of the Union address I can remember. He was energized, passionate, funny and focused. He mixed it up with Republicans on issues ranging from Ukraine to reproductive rights and, aside from unfortunately adopting Marjorie Taylor Greene’s slur while answering back at her (he referred to undocumented immigrants as “illegals”), he escaped unscathed.

For those of us who look back to Barack Obama as the gold standard, well, the SOTU doesn’t often produce a memorable speech. Obama’s two for the ages are his address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 and his eulogy at Mother Emanuel AME Church in 2015. No one remembers his SOTU speeches.

We were also treated an an exceedingly weird performance by House Speaker Mike Johnson, who sat there looking miserable, trying to be impassive, but reflexively nodding from time to time as though he agreed with Biden. I don’t know how to describe Vice President Kamala Harris except to say that she was resplendent and may have improved her political standing through body language alone.

I caught a little bit of the commentary by the “PBS NewsHour” folks afterwards, and the theme they seemed to be settling into was that Biden’s speech was overly political. Good grief. These are the times we live in. Jonathan Capehart put it well, though, calling it “an epic speech” and that Democrats “will be energized by the cranky grandpa.”

Yes, they will. The polling for Biden has been awful lately as the media, and especially The New York Times, have obsessed over the president’s age. Maybe the SOTU will be a turning point.

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How President Biden can overcome the age issue

I talked with the German media outlet DW News about President Biden, the age issue, and how he can overcome it. My answer: Get out there and show the critics that they’re wrong.

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Joe Biden’s news diet

This Washington Post piece (free link) about President Biden’s news and information diet is fascinating — a combination of traditional media, conversations with family and friends, and encounters with ordinary people.

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Did Howie Carr turn on the former MassGOP leadership over unpaid bills?

Howie Carr and Grace Curley, a host on his radio network. Photo (cc) 2020 by Timothy Quill.

During the Massachusetts governor’s race in 2022, Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr strangely turned on his allies in the MAGA wing of the state party and began attacking them in his column and on his radio show. Howie being Howie? Well, maybe. Or maybe not.

Scott Van Voorhis, who writes the newsletter Contrarian Boston, reports that Carr’s motives may have been a lot simpler than that: the state GOP owed him money. With the Democratic candidate for governor, Maura Healey, coasting to victory, Van Voorhis writes that Carr began “savagely” attacking the then-head of the state party, Jim Lyons, and Healey’s Republican rival, Geoff Diehl.

It turns out that Lyons’ wrecking crew owed Carr more than $7,000 for ads on Carr’s radio program, which he owns. Lyons’ replacement as party chair, the slightly less MAGA-ish Amy Carnevale, is now paying back Carr at the rate of $500 a month. Van Voorhis is careful to note that it’s not clear if the dispute over those unpaid bills came about before or after Carr began attacking Lyons and Diehl.

And here’s a fun detail: Van Voorhis credits the MassGOP Majority newsletter for breaking the story. But when you click through, you learn that though that may be the URL, the actual name of the newsletter is Kool-Aid Kult Kronicles. Apparently that is some sort of joking reference to something Carr said. There’s more news, too, including WRKO Radio’s supposed decision to ban Diehl from its airwaves because of “the perennial candidate’s repeated, baseless claims that Howie Carr is being paid by the MassGOP to attack him and his slate of candidates for Republican State Committee.”

Now, let’s get serious for a moment. Van Voorhis describes Carr as “not exactly the kind of guy you want to piss off.” True enough. But how far can Carr veer from the ethics of journalism and still manage to write for the Herald? Journalists — even opinion journalists like Carr — are expected to maintain their independence. We don’t give money to candidates. We don’t take money from candidates. And we don’t criticize candidates and party officials who owe us money, whether there is a direct connection between those two facts or not.

Just grotesque stuff from someone who wrote a must-read column back in the 1980s and has long since devolved into a caricature of himself.

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Josh Marshall to Ezra Klein: Biden isn’t going anywhere

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has written a long response to Ezra Klein’s fantasy idea of persuading President Biden to drop out of the campaign and throw the nomination open to the Democratic National Convention this August. The whole thing is worth your time, but here’s Marshall’s bottom line:

In life we constantly need to make choices on the basis of available options. Often they are imperfect or even bad options. The real options are the ones that have some shot at success. That’s life. Klein’s argument really amounts to a highly pessimistic but not unreasonable analysis of the present situation which he resolves with what amounts to a deus ex machina plot twist. That’s not a plan. It’s a recipe for paralysis.

Klein is smart and thoughtful, and his proposal is not a lazy one-off but, rather, well argued and evidence-based. But it’s not going to happen, and it almost certainly shouldn’t happen. Marshall has found the flaws.

Earlier:

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Is Ezra Klein’s call for Biden to stand aside realistic or desirable? Probably not.

Then-candidate Joe Biden. Photo (cc) 2019 by Matt Johnson.

You may have heard that Ezra Klein has called for President Biden to pull out of the campaign and let a younger generation of Democrats compete for the nomination. Klein, who hosts a podcast and writes commentaries for The New York Times, is someone I look to for guidance. This isn’t just the Times being the Times; Klein was a prominent thinker and commentator before coming to the Times, and he will continue to be long after he leaves.

You can listen or read what Klein has to say here. There’s not a lot of analysis I want to add except to say that he’s thought through most of the objections. He believes Biden has been an effective president and could continue to be in a second term, but that his age has become a real obstacle to his re-election — and that the stakes are way too high to take the chance that Donald Trump could return to the White House. Yes, Trump is nearly as old, far more addled, and, unlike Biden, faces 91 criminal charges and has all but pledged to rule as an authoritarian. Klein believes that anything that keeps Trump out of power is worth doing, even if it means somehow persuading Biden to call it a career.

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Probably my main objection to Klein’s idea is that it’s so late. If Biden had pulled out a year ago, we could have had a proper primary campaign. So what is Klein’s alternative? Throwing it to the Democratic National Convention in August, a truly risky move. “There is a ton of talent in the Democratic Party right now,” Klein writes, and he offers a long list that, intriguingly, omits California Gov. Gavin Newsom and includes Georgia Sen. Ralph Warnock. I’m skeptical of Newsom, and I have to say that I like the idea of Warnock.*

Another problem that Klein has given some thought to is what to do about Vice President Kamala Harris. His answer is that she is a better and more appealing politician than she’s generally given credit for, and that she could compete at the convention like everyone else. If she wins, she wins; if she loses, that’s not a reason to believe that the party would be torn apart. I’m not so sure about that, but Klein puts it this way:

Could it go badly? Sure. But that doesn’t mean it will go badly. It could make the Democrats into the most exciting political show on earth. And over there on the other side will be Trump getting nominated and a who’s who of MAGA types slavering over his leadership. The best of the Democratic Party against the worst of the Republican Party. A party that actually listened to the voters against a party that denies the outcome of the elections. A party that did something different over a party that has again nominated a threat to democracy who has never — not once — won the popular vote in a general election.

I’d say my biggest objection is that Klein would reward special counsel Robert Hur, who recently cleared Biden of criminal wrongdoing in his retention of classified documents but then gratuitously smeared him by suggesting that the president is senile. It was a gross example of prosecutorial misconduct. But that doesn’t mean concerns about Biden’s age aren’t real. As Klein notes, he may be sharp and focused in private (just ask Kevin McCarthy), but he’s slowed down in public, and his own campaign seems to be trying to hide him from scrutiny.

The issues involved are difficult to sort out. In addition to Hur’s actions, which ought to be investigated, there is also the media’s wildly disproportionate coverage of Biden’s age. It’s a legitimate story, of course, but it’s gotten far too much attention when compared with more important stories, many of them having to do with Trump’s dangerous and outrageous pronouncements. In addition, the notion that Biden will stand down is almost certainly wishful thinking — that is, if you’re even wishing for it. “The sky is blue and Joe Biden is going to be the Democratic Party’s nominee,” as Josh Marshall puts it.

Anyway, Ezra Klein’s piece is worth a read or a listen at least as a thought exercise. It seems pretty obvious that if we’re going to stop Trump, it’s going to have to be with Biden. But Klein’s counter-factual is pretty interesting.

*Correction: I swear I can’t read. Newsom is on Klein’s list. I’m still skeptical of him, though.

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