Getting Off the Daily Hamster Wheel of Crazy
A personal note.
As you may have seen yesterday, I have some actual personal news:
After five years of daily podcasts and newsletters, I’m leaving The Bulwark. I’m immensely proud of what we’ve done and of my amazing colleagues. Founding and contributing to The Bulwark has been an honor and a privilege.
On Xitter yesterday, Bill Kristol remembered how it all began: “The Weekly Standard had just been closed, but on Dec. 21, 2018, I joined @SykesCharlie to tape a podcast for a hoped-for new publication a few of us thought we might launch.” None of us could imagine then what it would become.
But there’s a season for everything, and this seems a good time to get off the daily hamster wheel of crazy.
As much as I love putting out a 2,000-word morning newsletter and six podcasts a week —and having conversations with the smartest and most interesting people around — there’s always the risk of being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of idiocracy out there.
As I mentioned on yesterday’s podcast, I think it’s easy to lose perspective (and sanity) by tracking every development, hot take, poll, and hair-on-fire outrage.
It turns out that having your face pressed up against the firehouse of hackery, lies, and absurdity is not the optimal way of understanding what is actually happening to us. Losing our minds is not the way to win this fight.
And we have to win this fight, because everything is on the line this year, and it is more important than ever for rational, principled center-right voices to stand athwart the right’s mad rush toward cultism and demagoguery.
Sometimes we can actually get a better perspective by just stepping back a bit.
So, I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be fully engaged in the struggle — and will continue to write and offer commentary — but at a somewhat more measured pace. (I’m also looking forward to accessing that part of my brain that is not TrumpTrumpTrump.)
My last day here — for both Morning Shots and the podcast will be next Friday, February 9. (Since so many of you have asked, I’m staying with MSNBC, so you may catch me there from time to time.)
Finally, a note of gratitude: I’ve been deeply moved and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of responses. Please understand if I am not able to respond personally to all of you but know that they mean a great deal to me.
In the meantime, stay tuned.
Exit take: Eli thinks this means he’ll get more walks.
Joe Klein & John Ellis: Confronting a Torrent of Stupid
On Wednesday’s podcast, I was joined by the legendary Joe Klein and his podcast co-host, John Ellis, for one of the scariest pods ever. MAGA has put Taylor Swift at the top of its enemies list, Greg Abbott is inviting another Jan 6 at the border, and GOP governors are mostly in on ignoring the Supreme Court. Plus, a warning about potential tech disruptors in the upcoming election that will set your hair on fire.
You can listen to the whole thing here. Or watch us on YouTube.
Waiting on the judges. (1) Judge's ruling in Donald Trump's $370M N.Y. fraud case could come at any time. (2) DC Circuit court still mulling Trump’s immunity claim.
It’s almost like actual governing. Bill With Child Tax Credit Advances, but Election Politics Test Its Chances
1. Nikki Haley Just Can’t Quit Trump
HALEY IS TRYING what Nick Catoggio calls the “Half Liz,” a partial adoption of Liz Cheney’s honesty about Trump. Yesterday in The Bulwark, JVL argued that Haley can’t be trusted to follow through on this. I agree, but I’d add one thing: Haley’s maneuver is consistent with what she has done all along. She criticizes Trump, by design, in ways that can be interpreted charitably to the former president. She never commits to a version that would squarely disqualify him. What she’s doing isn’t just the Half Liz. It’s the Full Nikki.
Haley’s current complaint about Trump’s vicious behavior—the tantrums, the “rants,” the threats of retribution, and the corrupt acts for which he has been judged liable or is being prosecuted—isn’t that these things make him unfit to be president. It’s that they’re tiresome and distracting.
At her Sunday rally in South Carolina, she shrugged off the venom of Trump’s victory speech in New Hampshire. “He threw out insults,” she told the crowd. “That’s what he does. I’m okay with that.”
2. Iran Is a Problem. We Should Treat It Like One.
IT’S NOW BEEN NEARLY TWO DECADES since I first drove through Amil District, and Iran is still killing American soldiers. Most recently, Iranian proxies, this time the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, killed three soldiers and wounded another forty in an unmanned aerial system attack on a remote American outpost in Jordan. On Monday, the Justice Department announced charges against an Iranian crime boss (working with Iranian intelligence) for trying to hire two Canadian criminals to murder an Iranian dissident living in Maryland. This plot is eerily reminiscent of the 2011 plot by the Revolutionary Guards to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States at a Washington, D.C. restaurant.
My former commander always told visiting senior officials, “While the pacing threat is Russia and China, the adversary that has consistently killed Americans is Iran.”
3. GOP Women Stand Up to Trump: Nikki Haley & Liz Cheney
After Margaret Thatcher condemned the Soviet Union’s efforts at détente in the early 1980s, President Ronald Reagan waxed anatomical, declaring Thatcher to be “the only European leader I know with balls.”
Today’s GOP is drowning in men who are quick to tell you how masculine they are, just before they cower before Donald Trump like dogs that have taken one too many rolled newspapers to the nose. These men are unwilling to stand up to their reprehensible party leader because they believe he holds their political futures in his fist. They quickly abandon meaningful legislative priorities because it might hurt the former president’s chances for reelection.
Yet among a group of quickly vanquished male presidential candidates, a female emerged who is now willing to stand up to the party’s biggest bully. Even though she’s still a longshot, Nikki Haley is finally running the campaign others wished they could have run against him.