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The Deplorables of the Week
The competition was tough, but the choice for Deplorable of the Week turned out to be rather easy. (A reminder that DJT has a Lifetime Achievement Award and is ineligible for these contests.)
In the meantime:
The Gathering Storm at the border: “U.S. sees record migration influx as pandemic border restrictions lift.”
Fiasco fallout: “CNN leadership under fire after ‘disastrous’ Trump town hall.”
Another view from the Thunderdome
We heard the snickering, the laughter, and the applause, but here’s another look inside that Trump townhall. Puck’s Tara Palmieri spoke to a veteran GOP consultant (and Trump Admin staffer) named Matthew Bartlett who was in the room.
What was your takeaway from the whole debate?
There were plenty of people in that room that were ardent supporters of President Trump, and no matter what he said, they were ready to jump out of their seats and applaud. But there were also people that sat there quietly disgusted or bewildered. In a TV setting, you hear the applause, but you don’t see the disgust. So Trump did not have the entire room on his side, make no mistake, even if it certainly came across that way on TV.
When I turned on my phone after the event, the text messages came flying in. You saw the coverage afterwards. People thought it was more of a rally than a town hall—maybe at one point even a debate between Kaitlan Collins and Donald Trump. But in that room, I remember walking out and people in the front row were like, He’s talking some crazy stuff, and I think a lot of these lawsuits are adding up. There was heavy skepticism. He kind of lost the audience at some point when he was rambling about January 6th and the back and forth around the tweets. And then there were some people that were like, This is vintage Trump. I’m so happy to see him stick it to CNN right in their face. So it was a mix.
Unfortunately, I think that when people hear applause on TV, they just assume that the entire room was on his side, but that just wasn’t the case….
Trump vs Law and Order
CNN’s sh*t show, the Santos indictments, the Carroll verdict, and Jack Smith’s timeline… Tim Miller, Ben Wittes, and Roger Parloff join me for a lively, wide-ranging discussion.
1. How Is George Santos Different from Donald Trump?
The charges against Santos, like those against Bannon, are a template for potential charges involving the Trump campaign. While personal profit is a robust motivation, so is maintaining the narcissistic fiction of a stolen election. Whatever the motivation, it is a crime to lie to those from whom you solicit money.
Bannon was pardoned by Trump for that crime. Santos faces criminal charges. Both are Trumpian fraudsters on a smaller scale. And so, perhaps, the Santos case is a trial run for these types of allegations. If so, Trump may yet face fraud charges as well.
2. The GOP’s Failing Politics of Retribution
Bill Lueders writes that heavy-handed attempts to punish dissent are producing unexpected and unwelcome outcomes for Republicans in power across the country.
As is so often the case, Donald Trump set the template. He told the MAGA faithful gathered on March 4 at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, “I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”
Trump has always been animated by a longing to punish his enemies. But now this desire for vengeance seems to be catching on across the Republican spectrum. Retribution is all the rage, not just to punish political opponents but to crack down on internal dissent. The good news is that, in many of these cases, retribution appears to be backfiring thanks to both public aversion to tyrannical overreach and this crazy little thing called law.
Here are some recent targets of retribution efforts that have gone haywire, prompting backlash or even elevating the prospects of their targets in the process….
Who won the week? Deplorable-wise?
As we’ve mentioned there are certain candidates who are generally ineligible for the weekly distinction because they are just so thoroughly deplorable — the Orange Caligula would be one — that they would dominate the list every damn week if we let them. So herewith is our admittedly incomplete weekly list of the worst of the rest:
Lindsey and Mario
In the wake of the jury verdict that found Trump liable for sexually assaulting and defaming E. Jean Carroll, the usual fluffers. fluffed.
“That jury’s a joke. The whole case is a joke,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told reporters on Tuesday.
“If someone accuses me of raping them and I didn’t do it, and you’re innocent, of course you’re going to say something about it … it was a joke,” Rubio added of the defamation findings.
“When it comes to Donald Trump, the New York legal system is off the rails,” declared Lindsey Graham.
Note: Graham makes the list despite the Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed on him by our colleague, Will Saletan, who has written the definitive account of Graham’s long, slow, descent into deplorability.
RFK Jr., like Trump, has swum for decades in the cesspool of conspiracies, lies, baseless accusations, and ginned-up outrage. We hardly pause to note it, because Trump has committed so many other outrages, but he cost tens of thousands of Americans their lives thanks to minimizing the seriousness of COVID.
RFK Jr. too belongs in the select company of major figures who have used their power for harm. Perhaps he isn’t quite right in the head. Who knows? But the fact that he appeals to significant numbers of Americans, and particularly to those who have always been on the other side of the aisle, suggests that he is far from alone in that.
Another mass shooting in Texas, as the death toll mounts in Texas: Allen (8); Uvalde (21); El Paso (23); Sutherland Springs (26); Santa Fe (10); Midland (7); Dallas (5).
Cue the Texas governor’s latest evasions. This guy:
Back in January, the Austin American-Statesman reported: “During his two terms as governor, [Greg] Abbott has witnessed six mass shootings in Texas shopping centers, churches, and schools, has not used his executive powers to champion ways to reduce access to firearms. This is in stark contrast to how he has wielded his political clout on such issues as abortion, immigration and tighter election rules.”
In the wake of the latest mass killing, Megyn Kelly also has some deep thoughts about who has failed (spoiler, its not the politicians who have fetishized guns.)
Famous welfare fraudster and purveyor of dick pix wanted us to know that he’s all-in for a former Fox employee.
Uber-manly hero of the incel clan had some thoughts:
Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Gordie Howe would like a word.
Need we say more?
Oversight Chair James Comer
Comer has been promising and promising yuuuuge bombshells about the Biden Crime family, but this week the guy was all hat, no cattle. Again.
But the highly anticipated press conference also raised fresh questions about their ability to ultimately capture their white whale: the president himself. And Comer’s already faced plenty of doubt, including from some within his own party, that he can back up his promises to show Biden’s connection to family business dealings.
No link has publicly emerged, and that didn’t change at Wednesday’s press conference.
How bad was it? Comer got dragged by… Fox News: “'You don't actually have any facts': Fox News host stomps on James Comer's Biden investigation.”
“Fox News host Steve Doocy pushed back against Rep. James Comer (R-KY) after the powerful Oversight Committee chairman claimed President Joe Biden and his family were engaged in an influence-peddling scheme.
‘I know the Republicans said that the smoking gun were these financial records that you were able to subpoena and got your hands on,’ Doocy told Comer on Thursday.
‘And your party, the Republican investigators, say that that's proof of influence peddling by Hunter and James [Biden].’ ‘But that's just your suggestion,’ the Fox News host added.
‘You don't actually have any facts to that point. You've got some circumstantial evidence.’ Doocy added: ‘And the other thing is, of all those names, the one person who didn't profit is that — there's no evidence that Joe Biden did anything illegally.’”
CNN’s Chris Licht
Instead of a candidate interview, CNN Chairman Chris Licht apparently thought it would be a great idea to cast Trump in a remake of The Jerry Springer Show, complete with vulgar jokes, hooting fans, and a mild-mannered host—in this case, the CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins—stuck with the thankless of job of trying to intervene in the shouting and angry finger-pointing….
So what, exactly, was CNN’s objective here? According to a transcript obtained by Politico, Licht praised Collins in an editorial call with CNN’s troops this morning: “If someone was going to ask tough questions and have that messy conversation, that damn well should be on CNN.” Collins indeed asked the questions, but there was no conversation. Trump commanded the stage, played to the crowd, and swatted Collins aside as if she were an annoying intern trying to fix his lapels.
Licht then added:
While we all may have been uncomfortable hearing people clapping, that was also an important part of the story, because the people in that audience represent a large swath of America. And the mistake the media made in the past is ignoring that those people exist.
How anyone—especially the head of a news network—can believe that this group of people has been ignored is astonishing.
Winner: Tommy Tuberville
The Senate’s dumbest member took the pole position in this week’s competition, when he weighed in on the jury verdict that found Trump liable for sexually assaulting and defaming E. Jean Carroll.
“It makes me want to vote for him twice,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) told HuffPost when asked about the verdict. “They’re going to do anything they can to keep him from winning. It ain’t gonna work ... people are gonna see through the lies; a New York jury, he had no chance.”
But he sealed the win by rushing to the defense of white nationalists in the military. In an interview published with Birmingham-based radio station WBHM, Tuberville criticized the state of the military and said Democrats were to blame.
"We are losing in the military — so fast — our readiness in terms of recruitment," said Tuberville, a member of the Armed Services Committee. "And why? I can tell you why. Because the Democrats are attacking our military, saying we need to get out the white extremists, the white nationalists, people that don’t believe in [President Joe Biden's] agenda."
Asked whether he believed white nationalists should be allowed in the military, Tuberville said: “They call them that. I call them Americans.”1
Tuberville’s f**kery goes beyond merely saying dumb things. He’s also doing real damage. Our colleague Joe Perticone reports:
Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama has been on a mission this year to block 184 senior military promotions that require the consent of the Senate. Tuberville is doing this over what he believes to be a violation of the Hyde Amendment barring federal funds from being used for abortions: a Biden-era Department of Defense policy that allows leave and limited reimbursements for members of the military who need to travel out of state to obtain abortions. …
Senior DoD personnel have warned about the risks to military readiness that Tuberville is inviting with his stunt. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sent a letter to Warren this week outlining the numerous ways Tuberville’s hold on these promotions is negatively affecting the military:
The failure to confirm leaders in key roles transfers strategic risk down the chain of command and forces our units to operate with less experienced decision makers in charge. By destabilizing the senior military promotion and rotation process, we put our short- and long-term readiness at significant risk.
Congratulations to all of our nominees this week.
His spox said Wednesday: "Sen. Tuberville’s quote shows that he was being skeptical of the notion that there are white nationalists in the military, not that he believes they should be in the military.” We rate this bullsh*t.