Chronicles of Raw Cynicism
The GOP turns on its own bill.
The King has cancer, the climate apocalypse is coming for California, Toby Keith is dead, and even some of the hardened cynics of the Capitol are dazzled by the speed at which Republicans are caving to Donald Trump’s demand that they kill their own border bill.
So perhaps it’s time to pull out this prophetic nugget:
“As democracy is perfected, the office [of the president] represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. . . . On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright moron.” —H.L. Mencken
Behold the difference between performative politics and actual governance.
Barely a day after it was unveiled, some Republican senators were already saying last rites for the chamber’s bipartisan border bill. “I think this proposal is dead,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. told Semafor’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig as he departed a conference meeting Monday night.
Republican reversal: Senate GOP will slow border bill - Punchbowl News
The Senate’s $118 billion bipartisan border security supplemental stunningly unraveled Monday less than 24 hours after it was released, with top Republicans reversing their previous positions and indicating they’ll block the measure from advancing for the time being.
A number of GOP senators came out against the proposal on Monday. They ranged from the Senate Republican Conference’s most conservative members to defense hawks who want to see Ukraine funded. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership team and some of his closest allies rejected the package.
This wave of opposition prompted McConnell to recommend to Republicans behind closed doors Monday night that they vote against cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill this week, according to multiple attendees — effectively halting the effort in its tracks and throwing new aid to Ukraine into serious jeopardy.
Playbook: ‘Everything is dead’ - POLITICO
Here’s a sobering assessment from one House Democrat of where things stand on the ongoing and intertwined effort to fund Ukraine’s defense against a Russian invasion, funnel new aid to Israel amid its war with Hamas, bolster Taiwan’s defenses against a possible Chinese incursion and forge a bipartisan compromise on border security:
“I’m coming to the notion that everything is dead,” said the Dem lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to render the frank judgment. “All of it.”
Exit take from David Frum in the Atlantic: The Art of No Deal; The Republicans who won’t take yes for an answer.
Donald Trump has sold his supporters the dangerous fantasy that democratic politics can be replaced by one man’s will. No need for distasteful compromises. No need to reckon with the concerns and interests of people who disagree with House Republicans. Just somehow return Trump to the presidency: He’ll bark; the system will obey.
The Fifth Avenue Rapist
In our Monday podcast, Will Saletan and I discuss how J.D. Vance has extended Trump’s Fifth Avenue immunity claim to sexual assault, espionage, RICO, and election stealing—because he’s so desperately thirsty for the VP slot. Plus, the border bill Republicans have always wanted.
You can listen to the whole thing here. Or watch us on YouTube.
The Morning Shots newsletter will be taken over starting next Monday by Bill Kristol and our new White House correspondent, Andrew Egger. You’ll get in-depth political analysis from Bill, a table-setting look at the news to start your day, and reporting from inside the Biden White House. It’s going to be a great product and it should add a lot of value to your mornings.
Tim Miller is taking the helm at our flagship podcast, and you guys know what a stud he is.
Congratulations! And I’ll try to keep the seat warm for the next few days for you guys….
Send in the Clowns
Forgive me if I yawn. I stayed up late last night watching Christopher Hitchens debate William F. Buckley.
I needed to restore some brain cells.
One of the Republican Party's most popular after-dinner speakers, Candace Owens, announced on Monster X (formerly Twitter), "I will tell you that I am a big believer that Hollywood was created by the CIA. I believe that."
"When I think of all the societal ills and how they artificially place people at the top of Hollywood, preaching toxic principles, routinely anti-family principles, definitively Satanic principles, should make you pause and wonder why is that?" Owens said. "Why is that? Why is it that they reject someone like Russell Brand when he is coming up and recognizing that faith and family is turning him into a good person. And yet, adore individuals as they're deep in their addictions. I'm going to leave you guys with that thought."
So the CIA, founded in 1947, used the power of Satan to found Hollywood in 1853 and build the first movie studio in 1911 just to promote addicts until they die, like Matthew Perry, and reject Russell Brand in 2024.
This is not the first, or the dumbest, dumb thing Owens has said. Not even recently. Just ask Candace Owens about the Israel and Hamas conflict or the history of Ukraine.
Owens once claimed the "Ministry of Truth" was in the Harry Potter novels. She said Hitler was only bad because he tried exporting National Socialism. We're not exactly talking public intellectual here.
The real challenge is trying to decide who is dumber: Owens or the idiots at The DailyWire who hired her and now can't fire her. The best part of this spat was when Charlie Kirk defended Owens. No, wait, it was when Owens said she couldn't respond to Ben Shapiro's criticisms of her, "on a level of intellect."
If Owens ever does find herself without gainful employment, don't feel too bad for her. She'll just spend more time on the lecture circuit where she makes $50,000 to $100,000 per speech. She gets paid more if you expect her to use polysyllabic words, and then it's your responsibility to explain to her what "polysyllabic" means.
Despite her intellectual shortcomings, Owens is a favorite of Republican organizations for providing dinner entertainment. Part of her appeal, undeniably, is that Republicans like to have African American speakers at their events to prove that they're not racist. Part of her appeal is that her mere presence at these events is an "in-your-face" to the "mainstream media" and the culture at large that finds Owens contemptible.
Mostly, there's the chance that your organization could be the sponsoring organization when Owens says something completely bonkers. The frisson of excitement generated by the possibility that Owens could say something racist, sexist, homophobic, or even just plain fascist, helps sell the tickets necessary to pay for her appearance. Oh, what fun.
Such excitement was once limited to the likes of Lenny Bruce. Would he get arrested? then it was Sam Kinison or Andrew Dice Clay, but they were comedians and therefore unfit for Republican after dinner theater. Besides, they knew what they were doing, and Kinison was even funny.
It was Ann Coulter who gave CPAC its Star Wars cantina reputation. Fired from National Review for suggesting America needed to invade the Middle East and convert everyone to Christianity (so quaint sounding now), Coulter would pack them in just so Republicans could say they were there when she said something like, "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is that he did not go to the New York Times building."
Now we have a whole generation of provocateurs, and none of them are even as literate as Coulter. If Kirk, Owens and Sean Hannity appeared on Jeopardy, none of them would qualify for the final round. Worse, normally intelligent politicians like Scott Walker are in a race to keep up with the stupid.
We're now entering the season of Lincoln Day dinners. Or Lincoln-Reagan Day dinners. Or even Lincoln-Reagan-Trump Day dinners. (They're getting dumber and dumber, too.) Where once your local Republican Party found a prominent party leader who could speak intelligently on an issue, or a prominent public intellectual who could address national affairs, the Republicans will show movies by Dinesh D'Souza explaining how the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Afterwards, Kirk and Owen can explain why we should withdraw from NATO -- if anyone in the audience knows what NATO is*.
Don't you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you'd want what I want
Sorry, my dear
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns
Don't bothеr, they're herе
-- Stephen Sondheim, "Send in the Clowns"
*Note: When I made an appearance at Marquette University last October, Charlie Sykes asked the chairman of the College Republicans at Marquette a question about NATO. The student leader had no idea what Sykes was talking about.
1. Mike Johnson Is Mainstreaming the Spirituality that Gave Us the Capitol Riot
This event has been billed as a more radical alternative to the newly bipartisan and toned-down National Prayer Breakfast. It was designed for Republican politicians—including, most prominently, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson—to meet and pray with right-wing charismatic/Pentecostal and evangelical Christian leaders. This year’s gathering was a somber affair, focused on national penitence and lamenting the many sins of America. It also demonstrated the mainstreaming of the beliefs and values of a new set of insurgent Christian-right leaders—several of whom played major roles in bringing about the violent events of January 6th.
Yes, you read that correctly: This past week, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, second in line to the presidency, spent hours praying with the Christian leaders who did the most to encourage religious participation in what became the Capitol riot.
2. How the Fani Willis Scandal Is Likely to Play Out
ALTHOUGH FANI WILLIS’S RELATIONSHIP with the man she hired for such an important case shows exceedingly poor judgment, it’s unlikely to get her removed from the case—which won’t conclude before the November 4 presidential election anyway. On Friday, Willis filed her 176-page brief in opposition to a motion by one of Trump’s co-defendants, Michael Roman, which Trump and another co-defendant, Robert Cheeley, joined, asking the judge to dismiss and disqualify Willis from the case. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for February 15.
3. Committing to Democracy
In a series of concise topical essays, Guelzo explores the relationship between democracy and the economy, property, race, freedom, elections, war, and inequality. He also considers the unique characteristics of American democracy and its shortcomings, and draws on Lincoln and his times to make his case.
Guelzo offers three basic tenets of American democracy: the rule of law, consent through representation, and majority rule with a toleration of minorities. All democracies must balance majority rule and the protection of minority interests, a balancing act especially complicated in a democracy as large and diverse as the United States. Central to maintaining that balance are citizenship (the participants in the political system are designated as citizens with rights), elections (both majorities and minorities can vote to express their preferences), and public forums (for discussion and association). According to Lincoln (and Guelzo), political participation is indispensable—not a privilege but a duty.
4. Love in an Unjust World
Bill Lueders, with a review of a new book on Medgar and Myrlie Evers, in this morning’s Bulwark:
Myrlie spoke often of Medgar’s life and legacy, saying early on that she hoped that his “supreme sacrifice . . . has shocked the complacent into active participation in achieving the goals for which he died.” In 1976, she married Walter Williams, and became Myrlie Evers-Williams. She ran unsuccessfully for Congress and held a number of administrative positions before being elected board chair of the NAACP in 1995. She would go on to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s second inaugural, in January 2013. This was shortly after Myrlie saw one of her greatest dreams come true: She played piano at Carnegie Hall, at age 79.
For a book teeming with examples of horrifying racial injustice, Medgar and Myrlie manages to be surprisingly optimistic. It provides some of what we need in this perilous moment—reasons to be inspired, and stories to be inspired by. With democracy itself at risk, courage is more important than ever. We need models to guide the way. People like Medgar and Myrlie and Auntie Dolly.