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Chris Christie Redux?
A debate about the wanna-be Trump slayer
As we head toward the weekend, let’s start by catching up:
After nearly a year of searching, investigators used DNA pulled from a half-eaten burrito to capture the man they believe firebombed a prominent Wisconsin anti-abortion lobbying group's office.
The U.S. attorney's office in Madison announced that police arrested 29-year-old Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury at Boston's Logan International Airport on Tuesday. He was charged via the complaint with one count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive.
Inside the Fox News panic
Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott sounded the alarm inside the company about the financial fallout that the right-wing network would suffer if it continued fact-checking then-President Donald Trump’s lies after the 2020 election, according to messages that became public Wednesday.
In one instance, Scott emailed Meade Cooper, executive vice president of prime time programming, and laced into correspondent Eric Shawn for fact-checking Trump.
“This has to stop now,” Scott said in a December 2, 2020, message.
“This is bad for business and there is a lack of understanding what is happening in these shows,” Scott added. “The audience is furious and we are just feeding them material. Bad for business.”
Wisconsin’s GOP already considering nuclear option.
As Bill Lueders reported in the Bulwark yesterday, next Tuesday’s high-stakes election for Wisconsin Supreme Court has turned ugly. But it may get even worse if liberals manage to win control of the court for the first time in more than a decade.
Republicans are already floating the idea of using their legislative majorities to impeach and remove Judge Janet Protasiewicz from the high court, even before she has been elected.
Republican state Senate candidate Dan Knodl says if his election gives Senate Republicans a two-thirds majority, he would "certainly consider" support launching impeachment proceedings against Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz.
Wisconsin Republicans are defending a two-thirds majority in the state Senate that they achieved in November but quickly lost after the retirement of longtime GOP state Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills. If Knodl replaces Darling, Senate Republicans will have enough members to be able to remove state officials who are impeached by the state Assembly.
The Wisconsin Constitution allows lawmakers to remove state officials "for corrupt conduct in office, or for crimes and misdemeanors," but Knodl said Sunday he would consider launching impeachment proceedings for criminal justice officials "who have failed" at their jobs.
How real is this threat? AYFKM? Have you met these guys? Of course, it’s plausible.
Can’t quit him
Culture war update
Most adults said they oppose laws restricting drag shows or performances as Republicans in several states push to block the shows from being seen by children, according to a new poll.
The results of an NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll, released Wednesday, show 58 percent of respondents said they oppose laws restricting the performances, while 39 percent said they support them. Democrats are the most likely to oppose such laws, with almost three-quarters of them saying they are opposed, but 57 percent of independents and 37 percent of Republicans also said they do not support them.
Who’s up for some rank speculation?
Via Politico: “Manhattan Trump grand jury set to break for a month.”
NEW YORK — The Manhattan grand jury examining Donald Trump’s alleged role in a hush money payment to a porn star isn’t expected to hear evidence in the case for the next month largely due to a previously scheduled hiatus, according to a person familiar with the proceedings.
That means that there won’t be any indictment on the hush money charges until late April at the very earliest.
So what’s going on here?
I think we can dispense with the eye-wash about the “previously scheduled hiatus.” That seems like a pretty flimsy pretext.
Let us speculate.
Worst case scenario: Trump’s campaign of intimidation has taken its toll and Alvin Bragg is getting the willies.
Better case scenario: Everything in on track, but Bragg has listened to critics who said that it would be unfortunate for the porn star case to go first. He’s stepped back to let the Georgia and DOJ prosecutors a chance to go first.1
Bottomline: We don’t really know anything.
Ruy’s Tough Love
On yesterday’s Bulwark podcast, Roy Teixeira had some advice for his fellow Dems about the right way — and the wrong way — to fight the culture wars.
BONUS: the Wapo’s Greg Sargent offers this counterpoint: “In Michigan, an agenda countering the anti-woke GOP frenzy takes shape.”
He writes: “They are figuring out how to talk about *both* economic *and* cultural liberalism. I spelled out this alternative in this piece. This is the playbook Michigan Dems used to take back the state.”
Chris Christie: Trump slayer?
As Nick Catoggio notes, the former NJ governor appears to be planning a kamikaze campaign against Trump.
Increasingly Christie seems to revel in occupying that frank-and-fearless niche. Late last year he sneered at the timidity of other 2024 hopefuls like Mike Pompeo who criticize Trump only in oblique terms. “They say, ‘Leaders who do this or that.’ But they won’t say the name. I think that fails the leadership test,” Christie said to my colleague, David Drucker. “You’re going to run against him? Say his name. You think he did something wrong? Say his name.”…
Like other Never-Trumpers, Catoggio wrestles with his ambivalence about Christie, and he concedes that there is worst case scenario, in which Christie actually helps Trump by blowing up his rivals, as he did with Maroc Rubio in 2016.
But he asks: “Do you want someone onstage with Trump this summer throwing rhetorical roundhouses at him? Well, unless and until Liz Cheney decides to reenter politics, Chris Christie is probably the only game in town.”
He’s a man without anything to lose. Unlike DeSantis and Nikki Haley, he has no future in Republican politics. The only thing he might plausibly achieve by running for president again is legacy-building by distinguishing himself as the rare member of Trump’s party brave enough to criticize the cult leader in unsparing terms and the only member of the party skilled enough to inflict real damage by doing so.
If Christie is sufficiently in touch with reality to know that he has no chance of winning, and if he intends to treat his candidacy as a sort of kamikaze mission to diminish Trump in the eyes of persuadable Republican voters, then his campaign could influence the outcome of this race beneficially.
Mona Charen and I also discussed our mixed feeling on our weekly “Just Between Us” podcast (exclusively for Bulwark + members).
But this seems like a good time for a flashback to what I wrote back in 2021: “My (imaginary) conversation with Chris Christie.”
First a confession: I was once a fan of Chris Christie’s distinctive brand of porcine pugilism. Over the years, he refined his in-your-face bullying style into a kind of performance art. And, in another life, I was very much there for it.
But that was before he turned himself into Trump’s hostage-cum-shine-box-flunky. You remember the scene:
None of that worked out well for him…
Fast forward. Last week, Christie gave a speech that was widely noted for what looked like a pretty decisive-ish break with Trump. "We need to renounce the conspiracy theorists and the truth deniers,” he said. “The ones who know better and the ones who are just plain nuts." He didn’t name names, but the message seemed clear enough to win him permanent exile from the MAGAverse.
His speech, though, left obvious questions: How deep would he wade into genuine independence from Trump?
On Friday’s podcast with Tom Nichols, we discussed the problem of Christie (starting at about 46:15 here). I admitted having mixed feelings. It’s hard to overstate the impact of his sycophantic enabling of Trump’s candidacy, and then of his presidency. He had more than five years to speak out… and didn’t. So the opportunism is unsubtle.
What Christie said is necessary: the GOP has to step away from the crazy. As Nichols noted, Christie’s call was “coming from inside the house,” and it may take someone like Christie to tell the rubes that they are being played. Matt Bai makes a similar point.
Christie can never be fully exonerated for his role in bringing the hateful margins of our politics into the mainstream. But if all those Never-Trumpers can’t do a thing to loosen Trump’s hold on the party, then maybe only a pro-Trumper can.
And maybe it takes a Bully to take on the Orange Bully. If Chris Christie does, in fact, go Full Chris Christie, he could pose a challenge within the GOP that DJT has not faced until now. Trump has climbed to power on the backs of wimps and weaklings. But what if he had to deal with someone who would stick a finger back into his gelatinous chest?
We don’t know, because it hasn’t been tried.
So I tried to imagine how my conversation with Christie might go. Probably something like this:
“Governor Christie, thanks for coming today.
“Fuck you, and everything you did, you pathetic fucking sell-out. What the fuck did you think would happen? What the fuck were you doing standing there like a total asshat? Aren’t you embarrassed?”
But having vented, I’d say:
“I’m listening, and I’m going to watch.”
It was Nichols who added: “All I want to know, when the blowback comes: Are you going to go Liz Cheney, or you going to go Nikki Haley?”
Christie’s third option is to go back to that fucking beach where he sat on the fucking lawn chair.
So… maybe he’ll do the podcast?
As the Russian offensive sputters, writes Cathy Young, Ukraine prepares for its big move.
It seems likely, with the Leopard-2 tanks, MiG-29 jets, and other heavy armor arriving in Ukraine, that the long-awaited counteroffensive is coming soon. A sobering warning came recently from Petr Pavel, the new Czech president and the former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, who said that Ukraine will have only one shot at a major counteroffensive. In Pavel’s view, “the window is closing,” because Western military aid is vulnerable to Ukraine fatigue.
But while Pavel’s warning must be taken seriously, it should not be seen as a prophecy of doom. To be sure, if the counteroffensive is a dramatic failure, it will likely cause NATO countries to rethink their strategy and reconsider negotiations with Russia. However, if the counteroffensive makes real gains—even if they are limited—the prospects for continued assistance are good.
Ron DeSantis, call your office.
The best case scenario: Bragg is actually expanding the indictment to include Trump’s recent threats…. but I would definitely not count on that.