Discover more from The Bulwark
"An Olive Branch To A War Criminal"
Dems v. the Progressive Caucus
Breaking this morning: *ssholery has consequences: “Adidas terminates partnership with [Kanye West] following rapper’s antisemitic remarks.”
Adidas said in a statement: “Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech. Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.”
In less edifying news:
Kevin McCarthy signaled last week that “getting additional aid from the House for Ukraine would be difficult,” if the GOP wins control. His comments were widely seen as a potentially ominous crack in the bipartisan support for the struggling democracy — and a deeply unhelpful signal to Vladimir Putin.
The response from House progressives? Hold our beer.
A group of 30 House liberals is urging President Biden to dramatically shift his strategy on the Ukraine war and pursue direct negotiations with Russia, the first time prominent members of his own party have pushed him to change his approach to Ukraine.
It’s hard to say what’s more puzzling here: the timing or the substance. As the Wapo notes, the letter “could create more pressure on Biden as he tries to sustain domestic support for the war effort, at a time when the region is heading into a potentially difficult winter and Republicans are threatening to cut aid to Ukraine if they retake Congress.”
It was also not at all clear what the progressives were actually proposing.
Others pointed out the “costs” of failing to win.
The good news here is that some Democrats pushed back hard, and the Biden Administration made it clear that it had no intention of rewarding Putin with direct negotiations that would cut out Ukraine. “We’re not going to have conversations with the Russian leadership without the Ukrainians being represented,” Biden spox John Kirby told reporters. “Mr. Zelensky gets to determine — because it’s his country — what success looks like and when to negotiate.”
Other congressional Democrats quickly distanced themselves from the Prog Caucus. Here’s Arizona Democratic congressman Ruben Gallego:
And Massachusetts representative Jake Auchincloss:
The letter was also panned by some progressive activists.
(I’ve unrolled the thread:)
Far from shortening the war, I view it as a certainty that this letter will make its way to Russian state media within the next day or two as evidence of fracturing solidarity among politicians in Biden's own party for his support of Ukraine.
It will further encourage Putin that his long-term strategy of keeping the war going until US domestic resolve breaks or a Putin-friendly politician wins the presidency is viable, and Russian propaganda media will work overtime to convince the public that it is viable….
The Progressive Caucus members thought they were trying to shorten the war. But if anything, they just prolonged it It was a baffling, severe foreign policy blunder that risks long-term consequences.
The blowback was strong enough to prompt Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to put out a statement later in the day "clarifying” the group’s position. And former CPC chair Mark Pocan was reduced to a “dog ate my homework” excuse.
Nevertheless. The signal was sent, and it was… unhelpful. My colleague Bill tweeted:
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The Bulwark and its critics
Jesse Singal takes strong issue with a piece in yesterday’s Bulwark, so let’s hear him out:
(Thread partially unrolled:)
What's remarkable about what the Bulwark did here is that "benefits outweigh possible side effects" links to a shoddy article in Science-Based Medicine by a clinician with a direct financial stake in this, rather than, say, Sweden's health system officially finding *the opposite*.
This also comes two days after the NHS signalled it's likely to radically change *its* approach to this stuff in a dramatically Swedenish direction. At a certain point, it's impossible these authors and evidence are oblivious to all this. They intentionally hide it from you….
Signal is referencing this NHS development:
NHS England has announced plans for tightening controls on the treatment of under 18s questioning their gender, including a ban on prescribing puberty blockers outside of strict clinical trials.
The services, which will replace the controversial Tavistock clinic, will be led by medical doctors rather than therapists and will consider the impact of other conditions such as autism and mental health issues…
The proposals say that the new clinical approach will for younger children “reflect evidence that in most cases gender incongruence does not persist into adolescence” and doctors should be mindful this might be a “transient phase”.
Instead of encouraging transition, medics should take “a watchful approach” to see how a young person’s conditions develop, the plans state.
In his critique, Singal makes it clear that he is not endorsing DeSantis’s approach:
None of this means DeSantis is right or that his heart is even in the right place, but for the love of God if a journalism professor refuses to treat this matter journalistically, what is the point of any of this?
And goes without saying that any attempt to legislate *social* transition is absolutely insane and will lead to terrible outcomes and nightmarish situations in which the state comes down like a hammer on individual families. It's bonkers any conservatives favor that.
The author of the piece, Alberto Cairo, responds:
I've read all the research Singal uses and much more. I truly hate to use arguments from authority, but I know how to read research and how to weigh potential risks against benefits. I certainly didn't cherry-pick evidence, as he's claimed, even calling me a liar, which is rather insulting and unprofessional, and merited an immediate block. Why would I lie about these matters? Why would I expose my kid to anything that could cause more harm than good?
I made it extremely clear in the article that, even if I do think that current research tentatively points in one direction, there are many uncertainties related to gender-affirming care. Researchers themselves acknowledge that in their papers. But uncertainty alone isn't a reason to ban a series of treatments outright, as DeSantis and Ladapo want to do. It's simply a reason to be careful and cautious, which we parents already are. We don't need to be told that we should. Nobody cares about our children more than we do.
Singal believes that blockers and hormones should be banned.[See CORRECTION below].** I don't. I believe that any treatment is a decision to be taken by parents and patients in consultation with healthcare providers.
Again, as I wrote in the piece, this stuff isn't a Wild West free-for-all. My experience —and the experience of every parent I know— is that it's a long, cautious, individualized process that requires a lot of deliberation, counseling, etc.
If interested in more context, this is the letter I've just sent to the Board of Medicine. I've also made it public:
Nothing I wrote here (or in the article) is particularly controversial, by the way. It aligns with what every single major medical organization in the U.S. says.
Important: I speak about my own experience as a father alone. I have no formed opinion about situations in which parents aren't involved. That's a much thornier issue, and I'm not qualified to discuss it.
Jesse Singal writes: “This is completely false. I do not believe that gender dysphoric youth should be banned from accessing puberty blockers and hormones. In fact I've expressed the opposite view, repeatedly and consistently, because I think such bans are a bad idea.”
[Morning Shots: We apologize for the misinformation and are happy to provide this clarification.]
[Note: An earlier version of this newsletter inadvertently shared part of a private conversation that was not intended for publication. The passage has been removed from this archived version of the newsletter.]
1. COVID Devastated Education. This Is a Chance for Renewal.
The numbers are rolling in now about how much ground our kids have lost academically due to COVID-19 and they are very bad. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known informally as “the nation’s report card,” has released the results of its latest large survey of fourth and eighth graders in reading and math. Reading scores declined in half of the states in the country, and in math, well, as Education Week put it, the 2022 NAEP scores showed the “biggest drop in . . . performance in 4th and 8th grades since the testing program began in 1990,” resulting in two decades’ worth of progress being nearly wiped out.
2. No, ‘Russiagate’ Wasn’t the Hoax That Team Trump Claims It Was
Both Barr and Durham were fairly explicit about the fact that they saw the Trump-Russia investigation, which culminated in the Mueller report, as inappropriate, based on “the thinnest of suspicions,” and politically motivated. Thus, the Durham inquiry had an unmistakable subtext of seeking to vindicate the Trumpian narrative of a “Russia hoax” and a “witch hunt” of which Trump and some of his associates were innocent targets. Inasmuch as it set out to do that, the Durham probe—which is apparently all over except for a final report that will presumably be produced in the next few months—is a bust.
3. The Midterms’ Stakes for Democracy: A Scenario
If the GOP takes over the House and the Supreme Court decides a case called Moore v. Harper as the GOP wants it to, it is entirely possible that Democrats will be locked out of the presidency for the foreseeable future, regardless of the popular vote and the Electoral College vote tally. Republicans will keep control of the White House because Republican state legislatures will say so.
Moore involves the so-called “independent state legislature theory,” which is routinely billed as involving whether state courts and state constitutions can weigh in on federal elections. But that framing obscures the more far-reaching implications of the case. To understand why warrants a brief lesson in the text of the Constitution.