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"Falsehood Flies, And Truth Comes Limping After It"
Litter boxes, stolen elections, and the Pelosi attack
“As the vilest writer has his readers, so the greatest liar has his believers: and it often happens, that if a lie be believed only for an hour, it has done its work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it….” Jonathan Swift
Quick programming note: On today’s Bulwark podcast, I chat with the NYT’s Elizabeth Williamson about her book, Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth, which was recently named one of the best books of 2022 by Publishers Weekly.
She describes the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, CT as “a foundational moment in the world of misinformation and disinformation that we now live in.”
“I traced a throughline: from Sandy Hook to Pizzagate to QAnon to Charlottesville and the coronavirus myths to the election lie that brought violence to the Capitol on January 6th,” she told Vox earlier this year. “I started to understand how individuals, for reasons of ideology or social status, tribalism, or for profit, were willing to reject established truths, and how once they’d done that, it was incredibly difficult to persuade them otherwise.”
“The struggle to defend objective truth against people who consciously choose to deny or distort it has become a fight to defend our society, and democracy itself.”
Today’s podcast (which will be posted later today) is worth your time, especially given a news cycle that continues to be dominated by lies about litter boxes, stolen elections, and the attack on the husband of the speaker of the House.
Even as we get new details about the actual facts of the case, the GOP’s fabulist-in-chief Donald Trump “joined a chorus of conservative voices who have shared baseless conspiracy theories about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi.”
“Wow, it’s — weird things going on in that household in the last couple of weeks. Probably, you and I are better off not talking about it. The glass it seems was broken from the inside to the out so it wasn’t a break in, it was a break out. I don’t know, you hear the same things I do,” Trump said.
This is, of course, utter bullshit. While Trump pushes groundless theories, prosecutors continue to try to provide a reality check:
After breaking into the home by slamming his body through a glass door on the back porch, the intruder found Mr. Pelosi, 82, asleep in his bedroom just after 2 a.m., according to the filing. He demanded to see Ms. Pelosi, and when he was told she wouldn’t be back for days, the suspect said he would wait for her.
Mr. Pelosi, sitting on his bed, asked why.
“Well, she’s No. 2 in line for the presidency, right?” the intruder said, according to the police. Soon after, he told Mr. Pelosi that “we’ve got to take them all out.”
At another point, when Mr. Pelosi asked if he could call anyone for Mr. DePape, the suspect “ominously responded that it was the end of the road for Mr. Pelosi,” the authorities said.
The police said that without any questioning, Mr. DePape told them that he was on a suicide mission. The authorities said he believed he had been captured by home security cameras and recorded on the 911 call, but remained undeterred.
The “defendant’s intent could not have been clearer,” the prosecutors wrote as they asked the court to detain Mr. DePape without bail, saying that he forced his way into the Pelosi home intending to take her hostage and “to seriously harm her.”
And yet…. conspiracy theories continue to flood the zone. Writes Annie Karni:
The reaction to the assault on Mr. Pelosi among Republicans — who have circulated conspiracy theories about it, dismissed it as an act of random violence and made the Pelosis the punchline of a dark joke — underscores how thoroughly the G.O.P. has internalized [Trump’s] example. It suggested that Republicans have come to conclude that, like Mr. Trump, they will pay no political price for attacks on their opponents, however meanspirited, inflammatory or false.
If anything, some Republicans seem to believe they will be rewarded by their right-wing base for such coarseness — or even suffer political consequences if they do not join in and show that they are in on the joke.
“LOL,” Representative Claudia Tenney, Republican of New York, who is up for re-election in a competitive district, tweeted on Friday night, circulating a photograph that showed a group of young, white men holding oversized hammers beside a gay Pride flag.
I had some thoughts:
BONUS: Since we start with the quote from Jonathan Swift, it’s worth noting that he was not an optimist about “truth.”
By the time a lie is refuted, he wrote, “it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale has had its effect: like a man, who has thought of a good repartee, when the discourse is changed, or the company parted; or like a physician, who has found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead.'“
So Swift rejected the feel-good cliché that has comforted democracies for more than three centuries.
“Considering that natural disposition in many men to lie, and in multitudes to believe,” he wrote in 1710, “I have been perplexed what to do with that maxim so frequent in every body's mouth; that truth will at last prevail.
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The scariest Halloween reality for House Democrats is the number of seats President Biden carried comfortably in 2020 that are at genuine risk a week out. And if you're looking for House upsets, the best places to watch might be blue states where there's no competitive statewide races driving turnout, Democratic governors are underperforming and GOP candidates have been able to seize on high crime and inflation.
"I've never seen an election where the signs are this divergent and...lumpy," said one veteran Democratic strategist familiar with polling in a wide array of races. "It's less nationalized than we're accustomed to, and there's more weakness in the blue end of the battlefield," the strategist said, pointing to late-emerging problems in California and New York districts that Donald Trump lost by between 14 and 20 points.
This week, we're moving ten seats in the GOP's direction - all in very blue states and all in districts Biden carried by between eight and 20 points in 2020. Three are open seats where the lack of an incumbent has allowed the GOP to remain
Liz makes her move…
The Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney has now endorsed two Democrats for election in the midterms next week, backing Tim Ryan in his Ohio US Senate race against JD Vance after endorsing Elissa Slotkin for re-election to the US House in Michigan.
In Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday, Cheney told the journalist Judy Woodruff she backed Ryan, currently a Democratic congressman, over Vance, the Hillbilly Elegy author and venture capitalist who abandoned criticism of Donald Trump in order to publicly embrace him.
“I would not vote for JD Vance,” Cheney said.
Asked if she would vote for Ryan if she lived in Ohio, she said: “I would.”
In an unexpectedly tight race, the polling website FiveThirtyEight puts Vance two points up.
1. Stop the Steal: The Sequel
Get ready, writes Amanda Carpenter, it may be coming sooner than you think.
Some data points to consider:
A recent Washington Post tally found that nearly 300 Republicans running for congressional and state offices are election deniers. That means, as a FiveThirtyEight analysis found, 60 percent of Americans will have at least one election denier on their ballot next week.
That all creates the potential for a Stop the Steal sequel. The big mistake people have made is in assuming this could blow up only in an extensive struggle in 2024 and perhaps involving Donald Trump. What seems entirely unanticipated, yet is extremely predictable, is that smaller skirmishes could break out all over the country this year.
2. It’s the Crime, Stupid
In today’s Bulwark, Tim Miller writes that Democrats are losing on "crime" even though they have the most popular policies for dealing with crime: more cops, fewer guns.
To summarize: Voters want to ensure that police are funded, that there are more cops on the streets, that guns are more difficult to purchase, and that people should be able to have police confiscate weapons from loved ones with mental health issues.
How about in bumper sticker form:
More cops. Fewer guns and violent criminals on the street.
Or, in other words, exactly the policies that Joe Biden has tried to enact during his first two years and will continue if left to his own devices!…
Yet somehow Democrats have got themselves in a situation where the head of their party holds the most popular position on guns and crime—and yet they’re getting crushed on the issue because they’ve let GOP campaign ads, the right wing media ecosystem, and assorted progressive big city prosecutors shape the narrative on the issue rather than doing so themselves.
3. The Unglamorous Work of Governing
Biden’s labor secretary, Marty Walsh, shows up to do his job day after unexciting day. It’s a reminder, writes Bill Lueders, of what real government looks like.
It’s actually not that exciting. There is a room with hazmat suits hanging on hooks and one with a large rectangular chute used for Infection Control Risk Assessment, which allows work to go on without potentially dangerous dust and debris seeping out. But aside from a couple of students setting up instrument tripods as the group comes through, there isn’t much action to observe. At one point, Ziegler points out what he calls “our number-one thing for safety”—a pile of duct tape.
Still, Walsh and the congresspeople pay close attention and ask questions. This is what governing is about. It sometimes involves dirt floors. It’s not glamorous. But it’s part of a process whose ultimate purpose is to improve peoples’ lives—to teach them what they need to know to get jobs that pay a family-supporting wage, jobs from which they can, at the end of the day, come home safe and sound.
4. Bernard-Henri Lévy and the Heroes of Ukraine
Cathy Young on a new film that puts the war in the context of Western history.
A new documentary opens with familiar but still gripping footage: aerial shots of a column of Russian tanks being pounded by Ukrainian artillery fire—a moment that has become symbolic of Russia’s military ineptitude in a conflict in which Ukraine at first seemed hopelessly outmatched. Then we see Kyiv, “holding its breath” as the invasion begins, hauntingly beautiful and deserted; and then we go back eight years to where it all began: the “Euromaidan” protests of 2014.
The film is Why Ukraine?, and the filmmaker, the French philosopher, author, and public activist Bernard-Henri Lévy, is explicit about his goal: to make the case to Western audiences for a full and unflinching commitment to backing Ukraine in its battle for freedom and survival. Whether Why Ukraine?, cowritten by Gilles Herzog and codirected by Marc Roussel, will win new hearts and minds to the Ukrainian cause is hard to say. Its primary audience will surely be those who—like the attendees at last week’s American premiere at the U.N. Building in New York—already support that cause. Yet even those already familiar with the last eight months’ events in Ukraine will find the hour-long film engrossing and often shattering.