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Chaos. Utter Chaos.
Giving flamethrowers to clowns.
“The House Republican Conference is a mess. Complete and utter mess. They are no closer to picking a speaker. They are a month away from a shutdown. Israel is asking for aid, which needs to pass in the next few weeks. They are completely lost. And have no idea how they will get out.” — Punchbowl editor Jake Sherman after Steve Scalise dropped out the race for House speaker last night.
Check out the headlines today: Chaos. Turmoil. Anarchy. Paralysis. Dysfunction.
“Observing the House GOP electing a speaker is like watching a monkey trying to hump a football,” wrote former GOP strategist Jeff Timmer.
Frankly, I’m not sure what that means. But I have no trouble envisioning it. And it seems like an absurdly apt image for our absurd moment.
But this is what Republicans wanted, isn’t it? They wanted revolution; they cultivated chaos; they embraced dysfunction. They wanted to burn it all down. This is what they asked for. And now they are getting it good and hard.
This is a party that lost its mind, and then lost its way.
Republicans may continue to win elections, and even regain power. But what we are seeing is a political party that has lost the ability to govern even at the most basic level.
For years, Republicans have descended deeper and deeper into their own hermetically sealed silos of outrage and disinformation, and mainlined the politics of demagoguery, insult, and disinformation.
They scoffed at norms, flouted the law, and lost interest in the idea of majority rule. They mocked consensus, compromise, prudence, and bipartisanship, and promoted and empowered political suicide bombers. They handed flamethrowers to clowns.
And, of course, this is a party that took its direction from Donald Trump, swallowing one indecency, insult, and enormity after another.
Look around this morning.
This is very much his party now, and this is what it looks like: a deeply unserious party in deeply serious times.
So, what happens now? Honestly, who the f*** knows?
It could be Jim Jordan. It could be the second coming of Kevin McCarthy. It could be giving the acting speaker, Patrick McHenry, more power. It could be time for the GOP normies to exercise their leverage. And it could be that the GOP will beg the Democrats to bail them out. Or it could a dumpster fire without end.
Meanwhile, the clock runs. And the world burns.
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In the latest episode of the Trump trials: Jack Smith signaled he will be able to prove why Trump held onto the classified documents. Plus, Trump’s claim of presidential immunity, chaos in the House, and the pro-Hamas Left’s justification of murder. Lawfare’s Ben Wittes joins me for our weekly chat.
1. What I Learned from Watching the Israeli Army
The Israeli strategic position is almost incomprehensible to an American. When we think of fighting big wars, we think of shipping huge numbers of people and mountains of supplies overseas. We have commands set up for every part of the world—European Command, IndoPacific Command, Southern Command, etc. In Israel, they fight wars on their borders. Imagine if the United States had to fight a war with Canada or Mexico. So they have units named after local geography, like the Gaza Division and the Golani Brigade. With no geographical margin for error, the IDF relies on world-class intelligence capabilities so they know when threats are coming.
2. The Left Abandoned Me
Stories are still emerging of families burnt alive, of children forced to watch their parents killed before their eyes, of bodies desecrated. How was this taking place last Saturday?
But these stories aren’t what broke me. What did was the distance between what was happening in my head and what was happening outside of it. The people on “my side” are supposed to care about human suffering, whether it’s in the detention camps of Xinjiang or in Darfur. They are supposed to recognize the common humanity of people in need, that a child in distress is first a child in distress regardless of country or background.
But I quickly saw that many of those on the left who I thought shared these values with me could see what had happened only through established categories of colonized and colonizer, evil Israeli and righteous Palestinian—templates made of concrete. The break was caused by this enormous disconnect. I was in a world of Jewish suffering that they couldn’t see because Jewish suffering simply didn’t fit anywhere for them.
The callousness was expressed in so many ways. There were those tweets that did not hide their disregard for Jewish life—“what did y’all think decolonization meant? vibes? papers? essays? Losers”—or the one that described the rampage as a “glorious thing to wake up to.” There was the statement by more than two dozen Harvard student groups asserting, in those first hours in which we saw children and women and old people massacred, that “the Israeli regime” was “entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” And then there were the less explicit posts that nevertheless made clear through pseudo-intellectual word salads that Israel got what it deserved: “a near-century’s pulverized overtures toward ethnic realization, of groping for a medium of existential latitude—these things culminate in drastic actions in need of no apologia.” I hate to extrapolate from social media—it is a place that twists every utterance into a performance for others.
But I also felt this callousness in the real world, in a Times Square celebratory protest promoted by the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, at which one speaker talked of supporting Palestinians using “any means necessary” to retake the land “from the river to the sea,” as a number of placards declared. There were silences as well. Institutions that had rushed to condemn the murder of George Floyd or Russia for attacking Ukraine were apparently confounded. I watched my phone to see whether friends would write to find out if my family was okay—and a few did, with genuine and thoughtful concern, but many did not.
3. The Massacre in Israel and the Need for a Decent Left
This sense of deep betrayal is not limited to New York. Many progressive Jews have been profoundly shaken by the way some on the left are treating the terrorist mass murder of civilians as noble acts of anticolonial resistance. These are Jews who share the left’s abhorrence of the occupation of Gaza and of the enormities inflicted on it, which are only going to get worse if and when Israel invades. But the way keyboard radicals have condoned war crimes against Israelis has left many progressive Jews alienated from political communities they thought were their own.
4. Will Trump’s Bizarre Praise for Hezbollah Hurt Him?
WILL TRUMP PAY A POLITICAL PRICE for his remarks? No doubt we’ll be seeing 30-second ads from the Biden campaign and pro-Biden PACs replaying the clip of Trump expressing admiration for Hezbollah.
But the potential harm to Trump goes beyond that. His remarks may create something of a rift between segments of his supporters. Praise for Hezbollah and criticism of Netanyahu might appeal to the antisemitic faction of his base, but a larger segment, the evangelical Christians who love Israel, will likely find his remarks offensive.
Yet Trump can’t help himself when it comes to seeking vengeance against the friends of his enemy, President Biden.
And what about the voters who can swing general elections—independents? They are not members of the Trump cult willing to suppress their own empathy for victims of murder. Trump’s remarks might cost him support among voters unwilling to back a presidential candidate devoid of human decency.
Ordinary Americans’ repulsion at Trump’s indecency may well be part of what saves American democracy from him.